The Germans call it Luftschlacht um England, but to the rest of the world it is better known as the Battle of Britain, unique in the history of warfare to that point in time in that it was fought entirely in the air. The campaign which followed the fall of France in June 1940 was simply for control of the skies over England. If it won, the German war machine would be able to press home its advantage with an attempted invasion.
Between July and October, 1940, Britain suffered bombing on a scale never experienced by any country before, as Coventry, Clydebank, Southampton, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and London were subjected to an aerial bombardment in which 23,081 were killed.
But Hitler’s Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force, which defended itself well and shot down increasing numbers of enemy planes.
It was hardly a decisive victory. In fact, when the statistics of aircraft downed on both sides were revealed many years later it was apparent how close Britain had come to defeat. Nevertheless, it was a watershed in the war. Although the bombing continued, Hitler was forced to abandon the invasion plans and turn his attention to Russia in 1941.
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