Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. 80 Years Ago Today: ‘The Battle of Britain’

 

Today is the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Day. After France fell on June 22, 1940 Hermann Gőring promised Hitler that all that he needed was four intensive days of bombing Britain to be able to support an invasion. Britain had been bombed since July, but the big day for the knockout blow was to be on September 15, 1940. Goering came to the cliffs of Cap Blanc-Nez near Calais to watch his bombers and fighters fly to Britain. In the morning Germany sent hundreds of its bombers and fighters and the RAF fought them off. That was only a prelude. In the afternoon, Germany sent even more of its bombers and fighter against southern England.

Winston Churchill was observing the dispatching RAF from Fighter Command operations center in Uxbridge. He asked, “What other reserves have we?” The understated response was “There are none.” The RAF had committed all of its planes to defend Britain. That day, the report was that Britain had shot down 186 German planes at a cost of only 26 planes. The bombings continued, but the RAF had broken the back of the German bombing of Britain as a prelude to invasion. Never again could the Germans throw so many planes at England; the RAF would match them plane for plane. The planned invasion of 1940 was put off until the next year, but after “Lend Lease” was passed by Congress and FDR was re-elected, in 1941 Germany instead attacked the Soviet Union, taking all of Hitler’s attention. The RAF had saved Britain from invasion.

Churchill said of the RAF, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”

Today is the 80th Anniversary of that turning point in the war, which is celebrated in the UK as The Battle of Britain Day. God bless Winston Churchill and the RAF and their undaunted courage.

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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins

    This is a summary from the best book I have read this year, “The Splendid and the Vile.” https://ricochet.com/790562/the-splendid-and-the-vile/

    • #1
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins

    In retrospect, the number of German planes shot down was found to be inflated. However, what was important was that it was far greater than the number of RAF planes shot down.

    This was one of the first days that England felt that it had not only survived, but had improved its position.

    Invasion was seen as a likely next step by the Germans who had successfully invaded Norway despite the great distances involved.

    • #2
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks for this post. I’d like to send a shout-out to “The Kosciuszko Squadron,” the Polish fighter pilots who “helped save England during the Battle of Britain and of their stunning betrayal by the United States and England at the end of World War II.” (Very sad, that.)

    The preceding quote comes from the flyleaf of the book, A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron; Forgotten Heroes of World War II, by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud.

    More than a decade ago, when this book was first published, Mr. She had the opportunity to meet both of its authors at a Pittsburgh event. Being of 100% Polish extraction and, as he used to say, a “pre-war model” (born 1938), he was eager to do so, and when he did (being a retired English Professor, someone he used to say “talked for a living),” he told both of them the story of Auntie Betty.

    The relevant portion of the post I just linked to (from more than five years ago; Lord, I’ve been here a long time), goes as follows:

    Early in the war, Betty met Stefan, a Polish flyer who had escaped Poland through France, and who, like hundreds of his compatriots and fellow flyers, had come to England to join the RAF. Before he left Poland, Stefan’s wife had been rounded up by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. He heard that she had died there.

    Stefan and Betty fell in love. Betty’s family, and their friends, expected them to marry when the war was over.

    Finally, the war was over.

    And Stefan learned that his wife had survived the concentration camp. Although terribly damaged in both body and spirit, she was now free.

    Soon thereafter, Stefan and his wife left England to begin a new life in Canada, and Betty never saw him again.

    She never married.

    The authors of this book were charmed by the story (how could they not be?), and asked Mr. She to send Betty a personally signed copy, which he did. She treasured it for the rest of her life.

    Thanks to the heroes of all nations who helped save Britain in her hour of direst need.

    • #3
    • September 15, 2020, at 10:13 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. Ekosj Member

    Remember too that the skill, courage and sacrifice of the RAF pilots depend on the skills of a vast number of unsung others whose combined efforts put the aircrews in the right place at the right time with enough fuel to do the job. From scientists to radar operators and ground observers, armorers and mechanics…Thanks for a job well done!

    https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-was-the-dowding-system

    • #4
    • September 15, 2020, at 11:19 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  5. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    In retrospect, the number of German planes shot down was found to be inflated. However, what was important was that it was far greater than the number of RAF planes shot down.

    Also important was that British pilots shot down over Britain (who survived) could climb into another plane and be back in the air the same day.

    German pilots shot down over Britain were killed or captured and didn’t fly again.

     

    • #5
    • September 15, 2020, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    She (View Comment):

    Thanks for this post. I’d like to send a shout-out to “The Kosciuszko Squadron,” the Polish fighter pilots who “helped save England during the Battle of Britain and of their stunning betrayal by the United States and England at the end of World War II.” (Very sad, that.)

    The preceding quote comes from the flyleaf of the book, A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron; Forgotten Heroes of World War II, by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud.

    More than a decade ago, when this book was first published, Mr. She had the opportunity to meet both of its authors at a Pittsburgh event. Being of 100% Polish extraction and, as he used to say, a “pre-war model” (born 1938), he was eager to do so, and when he did (being a retired English Professor, someone he used to say “talked for a living),” he told both of them the story of Auntie Betty.

    The relevant portion of the post I just linked to (from more than five years ago; Lord, I’ve been here a long time), goes as follows:

    Early in the war, Betty met Stefan, a Polish flyer who had escaped Poland through France, and who, like hundreds of his compatriots and fellow flyers, had come to England to join the RAF. Before he left Poland, Stefan’s wife had been rounded up by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. He heard that she had died there.

    Stefan and Betty fell in love. Betty’s family, and their friends, expected them to marry when the war was over.

    Finally, the war was over.

    And Stefan learned that his wife had survived the concentration camp. Although terribly damaged in both body and spirit, she was now free.

    Soon thereafter, Stefan and his wife left England to begin a new life in Canada, and Betty never saw him again.

    She never married.

    The authors of this book were charmed by the story (how could they not be?), and asked Mr. She to send Betty a personally signed copy, which he did. She treasured it for the rest of her life.

    Thanks to the heroes of all nations who helped save Britain in her hour of direst need.

    There’s a pretty good rock song about this, by a Swedish band called Sabaton. The song is “Aces in Exile,” and it mentions the heroism of Polish, Czechoslovak, and Canadian pilots. Of course, there were plenty of heroic Brits, too.

    • #6
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    I don’t know how it’s taught nowadays (if it’s taught at all), but when I was a kid, we pretty much learned that World War II began with Pearl Harbor. I guess it’s understandable that we learned a US-centric view of the war, but it skips right over the amazing and inspiring story of Britain’s lonely stand against Germany. From a British point of view, Pearl Harbor was the beginning of the end of the war (Churchill famously wrote that he slept like a baby that night, because he knew without doubt that America’s entry into the war made victory certain).

    I’ve always been amazed by the spirit that the British showed during that time. Hitler made many miscalculations, but one of the greatest was his failure to recognize that his bombing campaign against the Brits would not weaken or demoralize them, but would rather have the opposite effect, pulling them together, stiffening their spines (and their upper lips) and inspiring even greater resolve. It didn’t matter that no one had yet been able to withstand the Third Reich. They believed that they were special, and it seems they were right about that.

    I wonder sometimes if there is any of that spirit left. Brexit suggests maybe there is.

    • #7
    • September 15, 2020, at 12:32 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVeyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The 1969 film Battle of Britain was made at a time when there were still many, many people who remembered the real events, and earned praise for its aerial photography–all real; no models or (needless to say a half century ago) CGI. Try to imagine how hard it was to arrange and film, all with vintage warplanes. RAF veterans gave the film mostly good marks; like Patton, roughly our equivalent WWII movie, it came along at just the right time to spark a national discussion: would we have the strength to do that today?

    One thing I’ve always disliked about it, though: they overdramatize the real threat that Britain faced with fake scenes of the Germans preparing a D Day-style invasion of the UK. There were no hundreds of thousands of Nazi troops waiting to climb into landing craft in 1940, ready to sail. At the end of the movie, the invasion force packs up and leaves. Fake, and too bad; the film did just fine with the truth.

    The film has an unusual ending. No drama, no climax: one day the English wake up and there are no more German planes.

    A mildly funny side note: the film’s catchy musical theme for the Germans, Aces High, sometimes called the Luftwaffe March, became a cult hit for modern-day Nazis, no doubt unaware that despite its authentic sound, it was recorded for the film and written by an English Jew, Ron Goodwin.

    • #8
    • September 15, 2020, at 1:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    I don’t know how it’s taught nowadays (if it’s taught at all), but when I was a kid, we pretty much learned that World War II began with Pearl Harbor. I guess it’s understandable that we learned a US-centric view of the war, but it skips right over the amazing and inspiring story of Britain’s lonely stand against Germany. From a British point of view, Pearl Harbor was the beginning of the end of the war (Churchill famously wrote that he slept like a baby that night, because he knew without doubt that America’s entry into the war made victory certain).

    I’ve always been amazed by the spirit that the British showed during that time. Hitler made many miscalculations, but one of the greatest was his failure to recognize that his bombing campaign against the Brits would not weaken or demoralize them, but would rather have the opposite effect, pulling them together, stiffening their spines (and their upper lips) and inspiring even greater resolve. It didn’t matter that no one had yet been able to withstand the Third Reich. They believed that they were special, and it seems they were right about that.

    I wonder sometimes if there is any of that spirit left. Brexit suggests maybe there is.

    The other leader of the Tories was Lord Halifax and he was willing to negotiate with the Germans, who were offering that the UK could keep her empire. It was the steel will of Churchill to hold off Halifax.

    • #9
    • September 15, 2020, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank God for Churchill

    • #10
    • September 15, 2020, at 3:04 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  11. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    The 1969 film Battle of Britain was made at a time when there were still many, many people who remembered the real events, and earned praise for its aerial photography–all real; no models or (needless to say a half century ago) CGI. Try to imagine how hard it was to arrange and film, all with vintage warplanes. RAF veterans gave the film mostly good marks; like Patton, roughly our equivalent WWII movie, it came along at just the right time to spark a national discussion: would we have the strength to do that today?

    One thing I’ve always disliked about it, though: they overdramatize the real threat that Britain faced with fake scenes of the Germans preparing a D Day-style invasion of the UK. There were no hundreds of thousands of Nazi troops waiting to climb into landing craft in 1940, ready to sail. At the end of the movie, the invasion force packs up and leaves. Fake, and too bad; the film did just fine with the truth.

    The film has an unusual ending. No drama, no climax: one day the English wake up and there are no more German planes.

    A mildly funny side note: the film’s catchy musical theme for the Germans, Aces High, sometimes called the Luftwaffe March, became a cult hit for modern-day Nazis, no doubt unaware that despite its authentic sound, it was recorded for the film and written by an English Jew, Ron Goodwin.

    It is quite hokey, but like the curate’s egg, very good in parts.

    I’m partial to The Dam Busters myself (talk about a catchy tune!). However, I understood from people who knew him that Wing Commander Guy Gibson could be an absolute so-and-so.

    Although it’s about a different aspect of the war, we’ll always have Casablanca.

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    I don’t know how it’s taught nowadays (if it’s taught at all), but when I was a kid, we pretty much learned that World War II began with Pearl Harbor.

    Yes, I had to set Mr. She straight on that at the beginning of our relationship. (Kidding. A bit. Because when he did used to refer to himself as a ‘pre-war’ model, he was using Pearl Harbor as the baseline. I was not. Fortunately, having been born even before Hitler invaded Poland, he could get away with it.)

    But BXOJr’s comment above did remind me of Casablanca, because I don’t know how many times I’d watched it before I saw the significance of this little exchange and what it said about exactly when the movie was set–only a day or six before Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into the War.

    Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?
    Sam: What? My watch stopped.
    Rick: I’d bet they’re asleep in New York. I’d bet they’re asleep all over America.

    Not for long.

    • #11
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:03 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    In retrospect, the number of German planes shot down was found to be inflated. However, what was important was that it was far greater than the number of RAF planes shot down.

    This was one of the first days that England felt that it had not only survived, but had improved its position.

    Invasion was seen as a likely next step by the Germans who had successfully invaded Norway despite the great distances involved.

    During the short time I lived in the coastal community of Stavanger Norway, this was one of the more interesting WWII accounts I heard: the German soldiers, wearing their full Nazi military uniforms and gear, arrived via military landing craft at the coast line right outside of Stavanger proper, hiked up the hill, waited for the local bus to arrive, paid with Kronen or the actual bus tokens, took their seats and waited til the bus driver dropped them off inside the city. Mission accomplished.

    • #12
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  13. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There is a good movie, ‘Dark Blue World’, about Czech fighter pilots who fought with the RAF.

    I reviewed it here. (a few spoilers)

    • #13
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Battle of Britain might well have turned out differently had it not been for Britain’s very effective use of radar. It was not foreordained that this system would receive the focus it in fact did; the decision involved some very contentious bureaucratic maneuvering, the story of which is relevant to our current issues about science and expertise. See my post Radar Wars.

    • #14
    • September 15, 2020, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    In retrospect, the number of German planes shot down was found to be inflated. However, what was important was that it was far greater than the number of RAF planes shot down.

    Also important was that British pilots shot down over Britain (who survived) could climb into another plane and be back in the air the same day.

    German pilots shot down over Britain were killed or captured and didn’t fly again.

     

    Except for one who got away. He jumped a train in Canada, and fled to a then Neutral USA.

    • #15
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:01 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Here is the trailer. The movie was on Netflix, about the Polish squadron.

    The British treated them shabbily at the end of the war.

    • #16
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:05 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    She (View Comment):
    Thanks for this post. I’d like to send a shout-out to “The Kosciuszko Squadron,” the Polish fighter pilots who “helped save England during the Battle of Britain and of their stunning betrayal by the United States and England at the end of World War II.” (Very sad, that.)

    My favorite scene in the movie.

    • #17
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:42 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    One thing I’ve always disliked about it, though: they overdramatize the real threat that Britain faced with fake scenes of the Germans preparing a D Day-style invasion of the UK. There were no hundreds of thousands of Nazi troops waiting to climb into landing craft in 1940, ready to sail. At the end of the movie, the invasion force packs up and leaves. Fake, and too bad; the film did just fine with the truth.

    The Germans didn’t have the sealift capacity to move enough men across the Channel and keep them supplied, particularly considering the savaging that they would have suffered at the hands of the Royal Navy.

    • #18
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Germans didn’t have the sealift capacity to move enough men across the Channel and keep them supplied, particularly considering the savaging that they would have suffered at the hands of the Royal Navy.

    Questionable how effective the RN could have been if the Germans had established air superiority over the Channel.

    • #19
    • September 15, 2020, at 5:48 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Germans didn’t have the sealift capacity to move enough men across the Channel and keep them supplied, particularly considering the savaging that they would have suffered at the hands of the Royal Navy.

    Questionable how effective the RN could have been if the Germans had established air superiority over the Channel.

    The Germans were running out of airplanes faster than the RAF was. Air superiority was what the Battle of Britain was supposed to get them.

    • #20
    • September 15, 2020, at 6:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    It was impossible for the Germans to cross the channel with all the losses they took in Norway. The naval battle of Narvik destroyed there invasion capability.

    • #21
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:05 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVeyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Some flaws in the movie: love affairs happened during the war–it happened, sure–but not as casually as here (or Dark Blue World, for that matter). As usual for movies, the women’s hairstyles are closer to present-day (in this case, late 60s) than to the actual period. 

    There’s a long aerial battle with very few sound effects, just silent planes shooting each other to Sir William Walton’s fine music, and it comes across as a little too artificially “cinematic”. 

    The film does acknowledge something that rarely appears in WWII movies, that the German Army wasn’t synonymous with the Nazi party. 

    Some virtues: the bombing run on East London feels very believable. No exciting score, no zooming, just a slow ride over a burning landscape while someone on the crew exclaims, “So where is the Royal Air Force?”

    The film is unusually restrained in its use of Hitler. You never see him close up. You perceive him the way the Germans did, as a distant deity shouting into a microphone. 

     

    • #22
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:30 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. ToryWarWriter Thatcher

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Some flaws in the movie: love affairs happened during the war–it happened, sure–but not as casually as here (or Dark Blue World, for that matter). As usual for movies, the women’s hairstyles are closer to present-day (in this case, late 60s) than to the actual period.

    There’s a long aerial battle with very few sound effects, just silent planes shooting each other to Sir William Walton’s fine music, and it comes across as a little too artificially “cinematic”.

    The film does acknowledge something that rarely appears in WWII movies, that the German Army wasn’t synonymous with the Nazi party.

    Some virtues: the bombing run on East London feels very believable. No exciting score, no zooming, just a slow ride over a burning landscape while someone on the crew exclaims, “So where is the Royal Air Force?”

    The film is unusually restrained in its use of Hitler. You never see him close up. You perceive him the way the Germans did, as a distant deity shouting into a microphone.

     

    Its way better than the movie Allied. That movie is a crime against history.

    • #23
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:40 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    There’s a long aerial battle with very few sound effects, just silent planes shooting each other to Sir William Walton’s fine music, and it comes across as a little too artificially “cinematic”. 

    Yes. I watched a few more clips after the “Repeat please” clip. That one is in YouTube entitled “Last Battle.” The music is fine, but it seems almost shoehorned into that scene. Maybe they edited the visuals around the music.

    • #24
    • September 15, 2020, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary,

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #25
    • September 15, 2020, at 8:52 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Randy Webster Member

    She (View Comment):
    Yes, I had to set Mr. She straight on that at the beginning of our relationship

    I assume you told him that it began in 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge.

    • #26
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:02 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Gary,

    Regards,

    Jim

    “Final Battle” not “Last Battle.” Thanks, Jim.

    • #27
    • September 15, 2020, at 9:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Yes, I had to set Mr. She straight on that at the beginning of our relationship

    I assume you told him that it began in 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge.

    No, but perhaps I should have. Come to think of it, I probably should have used June 28, 1919, the day the Treaty of Versailles was signed, as my starting point. That would have fixed his wagon!

    • #28
    • September 16, 2020, at 4:52 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Stad Thatcher

    Gary, I think you’ve just picked our movie for tonight:

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064072/

    • #29
    • September 16, 2020, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Jason Obermeyer Member

    The idea that German would have invaded Britain was more fanciful than fact. Most of their strategists thought they would have to establish naval as well as air superiority, which was not going to happen in the near term and probably not the long term. The Battle of Britain was more about getting Britain to sue for peace than a conquest plan. 

    • #30
    • September 16, 2020, at 8:57 AM PDT
    • 4 likes