Battle of Britain ends
The 15th of September 1940 AD
It was Churchill who coined the phrase The Battle of Britain in anticipation of the Nazi attack switching to these islands after the end of the Battle for France. There remains much confusion about the German aims in the period following the crushing of France: did Hitler want to invade? Was the invasion idea a last minute one? Was the true goal destroying the British will and capacity to inflict damage on Germany as the Reich was consolidated? Were the Germans distracted by the real future aim of invading Russia? It matters little: from mid-July 1940 the resources of the Luftwaffe were directed at destroying British morale and the capability of the RAF to defend the country from invasion across the Channel.
Although British and allied planes took a heavy toll of the German attackers – the German fighter cover was limited by distance, and the British Hurricane and Spitfire planes technically superior – the greater axis numbers meant that Britain came close to losing the battle. Several factors prevented this from happening: the German leadership failed to recognize the significance of the radar stations controlling British fighter response to their raids, and so did not push for their total destruction; Hitler, incensed by allied bombing of Berlin, on September 7 switched the Luftwaffe’s focus from military targets such as airfields to civilian centres, when by some estimates the RAF was a day or perhaps two away from being broken.
Events of September 15 1940 in effect ended the Battle of Britain. Germany sent over two linked attacks by planes in great numbers, but 60 of them were lost at the cost to the RAF of 26 machines. A further change of tactics was decided on by the German command shortly afterwards, the cover of night sought for raids on major civilian and strategic targets. Night attacks against small targets like airfields were impossible. The RAF had survived; British morale was boosted; and crucially for the future conduct of the war, America realised Germany would not walk over the British as it had done the French.
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