Battle of Britain Day: Fascinating Facts for Children and Teachers
The 15th September 2020 is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Here are some fascinating facts about this significant event of WWII, including what happened on Battle of Britain Day.
What was the Battle of Britain?
The Battle of Britain was a decisive air battle between Britain and Germany in WWII, which took place between July and October 1940.
How did the Battle of Britain begin?
Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, had invaded much of Europe, and Britain was the only country left to conquer. Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe, Germany's air force, to fly over and bomb towns and army defences on the south coast of England, hoping to weaken the British defences before invading by land. The first bombs were dropped on 10th July 1940.
How did Britain respond?
Hitler did not anticipate the strength of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and Britain's determination to fight back. He decided to focus the attack on the air force bases of Britain instead, bombing airport runways and radar stations, hoping to weaken the RAF. Hitler became impatient at how long it was taking to defeat Britain, so he also ordered the bombing of large cities such as Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast and London.
What was ‘The Hardest Day’?
18th August 1940 was named 'The Hardest Day' after a particularly fierce air battle fought between the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Germany aimed to destroy RAF Fighter Command, the control centre of Britain's fighter aircraft. Both sides suffered heavy losses. Despite shooting down twice as many German planes in the sky, the RAF lost many of their aircraft when they were destroyed on the ground.
What happened on ‘Battle of Britain Day’?
The Germans felt that they were getting close to victory. On the 15th September, a huge bombing attack was launched upon London. Immediately, RAF pilots took to the sky in their fighters, shooting down many German aircraft. This was a key turning point in the Battle of Britain - although more air raids occurred after this date, they became fewer and further in between, as the Germans realised that the RAF was too formidable an opponent to beat. After the significant events of this day, the 15th September was officially named 'Battle of Britain Day'.
How did it end?
At the end of October 1940, Hitler abandoned his plans to invade Britain. After the Battle of Britain, the RAF had seriously weakened the Luftwaffe, and caused Hitler’s first major defeat during WWII.
Download these free Battle of Britain worksheets, posters and activity cards to use in your class on Battle of Britain Day!
Fascinating facts about the Battle of Britain:
- The name, 'Battle of Britain' came from a speech that Winston Churchill, the then Prime Minister of Britain, made. Speaking after Germany had defeated France, he said,
…the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.
- The name Hitler gave to his seaborne invasion plans for Britain was 'Operation Sea Lion'.
- The leader of the RAF was Sir Hugh Dowding. The leader of the Luftwaffe was Hermann Göring.
- Despite the Luftwaffe having more aircraft, the RAF had the advantage of radar - this gave them advance warning of where and when German aircraft were approaching.
- The Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire were the main fighter aircraft that the RAF flew. The Hawker Hurricanes were responsible for 60 per cent of German losses.
- The Messerschmitt bf 109 was the most dangerous German fighter plane. The Heinkel He III was the Luftwaffe’s most numerous bomber, capable of carrying large bombs up to 250kg.
- At the beginning of the Battle of Britain, the RAF had 1,963 aircraft, and the Luftwaffe had 2,550 aircraft. By the end, the RAF had lost 1,744 aircraft, and the Luftwaffe had lost 1,977 aircraft.
- After the Battle of Britain Day, Winston Churchill concluded,
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.It is due to this line that pilots who fought in the battle became known as ‘The Few’.