How did the Luftwaffe lose the Battle of Britain?


The Battle of Britain was a pivotal moment in World War II. It took place from July to October 1940 and was the first major campaign fought entirely by air forces. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom against large-scale attacks by the German Luftwaffe. It was the first time that the British people had to face the full force of the Nazi war machine on their home soil. The battle resulted in the RAF's victory, which is considered one of the turning points of the war.

The fall of France

Following the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk on the beaches of northern France, the British people were feeling very vulnerable. The fall of France to the Nazis in June 1940 left Britain as the only country still fighting against Hitler. It had only taken the German army ten months to control most of Western Europe.


By May 1941, Hitler planned to assemble a large invasion force on the coast of France, ready to invade Britain. On the 16th June 1940, Hitler issued the Führer Directive No. 16, which outlined his plans for the invasion of Britain, codenamed Operation Sealion.


Hitler began assembling his air forces, the Luftwaffe, on the airfields in Belgium and France. The Luftwaffe was tasked with preparing the way for a future landing of German troops by trying to nullify British air defences. Before the war, the Luftwaffe had 2,500 aircraft, while the British had 1,200. In addition, German pilots were much better trained.

British radar defences

In the months prior to the Battle of Britain, the British had been developing their radar system. This system was able to detect incoming enemy aircraft and direct British fighter planes to intercept them. By Spring of 1940, there were over 50 radar bases built around Britain. The Luftwaffe soon realised that they would need to destroy these radar stations if they were to stand any chance of success in Operation Sealion.


A new, sophisticated system of defence was built around these new radar sites, known as the Dowding System. The Dowding System, named after the British Chief Air Marshall Hugh Dowding, was the name given to the British air defence system during the Battle of Britain. It was a network of radar stations, anti-aircraft guns, and fighter aircraft controlled by the Royal Air Force (RAF). British success against the German attacks relied predominantly on the air force.

The Channel Battles

However, in order to defeat the Royal Navy and gain air superiority, the Germans needed to control the English Channel. The Luftwaffe began a campaign of attacks on British ships and shipping convoys in the Channel. These attacks were known as the ‘Channel Battles’.


The first German raids took place on 12th August 1940. These were small-scale raids targeting British shipping convoys in the English Channel. The purpose of these raids was to test British defences and gather intelligence on Britain's air defence capabilities.


Between 16th August and 23rd September 1940, the Luftwaffe launched a series of large-scale attacks on British shipping convoys in the English Channel. This period of heavy fighting became known as the 'channel battles'. 


However, despite suffering heavy losses, the Royal Navy remained in place and prevented any German troops from crossing. The Luftwaffe then turned their attention to trying to destroy the Royal Air Force and their airfields. This marked the beginning of the Battle of Britain.

The early raids by the Luftwaffe

In order to win the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe needed to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF). The RAF was based on a network of airfields around Britain. On 13th August 1940, the Luftwaffe launched its first major raid against British airfields. This raid targeted RAF Tangmere in Sussex. The following day, another raid targeted RAF Manston in Kent.


These raids continued throughout August and September. By early October, most of the RAF's front-line fighter squadrons had been destroyed or severely damaged. However, the British Spitfire fighter plane became a reliable and effective combat aircraft during this time. It was able to consistently out-manoeuvre the Luftwaffe's Messerschmidt fighters and get to the larger bombers.


The German air forces were limited by the number of aircraft they could bring to bear and the amount of fuel they needed to use to simply reach their targets and begin their attacks. This meant that they had to carefully select their targets. The Luftwaffe focused their attacks on British airfields and radar stations in the south of England.

The attack on the Royal Air Force airfields

From 13th August to the 6th of September, the Luftwaffe launched a major offensive against British airfields. This offensive was known as 'Adlerangriff' (Eagle Attack). The aim of this offensive was to destroy the RAF's ability to defend Britain.


During the Adlerangriff, the Luftwaffe targeted a number of key RAF airfields in southern England. These attacks continued for several days. However, they failed to achieve their objectives and the RAF was able to continue fighting.


Between July and September, the percentage of allied pilots that had died was four times higher than that of the Germans. However, the Luftwaffe consistently lost huge numbers of expensive planes, which their factories had to replace. In September, the Luftwaffe switched tactics and began targeting British cities in night-time raids. These raids were known as the 'Blitz'.

The Blitz

From the 7th of September to the 31st of October 1940, the Luftwaffe began a new offensive against Britain. This offensive was known as the 'Blitz'. The Blitz was a campaign of night-time bombing raids against British towns and cities.


The first night of the Blitz, on the seventh of September, saw raids on London, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, and other cities. These raids continued for 57 consecutive nights.


Over the course of the Blitz, more than 43,000 British civilians were killed and millions more were left homeless. Despite this, the British people remained defiant and determined to defeat Hitler. Over these three months, the RAF lost 792 planes and over 500 pilots.


The Luftwaffe targeted London in a series of attacks that came to be known as the ‘Greatest Raids’. These raids took place on the nights of 15th/16th September 1940, 17th September 1940 and 29th/30th September 1940. More than 400 bombers took part in these raids and they caused widespread damage to London.


These raids continued for 57 consecutive nights. During this period, more than 18 thousand civilians were killed and over one million homes were destroyed or damaged. Despite this, the British people remained defiant and determined to defeat Hitler.


The Luftwaffe also targeted other cities during the Blitz. Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool, and Bristol were all heavily bombed. However, London remained the main target of German attacks.

The end of the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain ended on 31st October 1940. This date is considered to be the end of the Blitz. The Luftwaffe failed to achieve its objectives and suffered heavy losses. In November 1940, Hitler postponed Operation Sealion indefinitely. The Battle of Britain was a significant victory for the Allies and a major turning point in World War II.


The Battle of Britain was a significant victory for the Allies and a major turning point in World War II. The Luftwaffe failed to achieve its objectives and suffered heavy losses. This led to Hitler postponing Operation Sealion indefinitely. The Battle of Britain was also important because it showed that the Luftwaffe could be defeated. This gave the Allies confidence that they could win the war.


The Battle of Britain is remembered as one of the most important battles of World War II. It was a turning point in the war, and it showed that Nazi Germany could be defeated. The bravery and determination of the British people during this time is remembered with great pride. The Battle of Britain is also remembered for the courage and skill of the RAF pilots who fought in it. They played a vital role in defeating the Luftwaffe and protecting Britain from invasion.