Battle of Britain

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain, in World War II, series of air battles between Great Britain and Germany, fought over Britain from Aug. to Oct., 1940. As a prelude to a planned invasion of England, the German Luftwaffe attacked British coastal defenses, radar stations, and shipping. On Aug. 24 the attack was shifted inland to Royal Air Force installations and aircraft factories in an effort to gain control of the air over S England. Failing to destroy the RAF, the Germans began (Sept. 7) the night bombing, or blitz, of London. Heavy night bombings of English cities continued into October, when the attack was shifted back to coastal installations. The Germans gradually gave up hope of invading England, and the battle tapered off by the end of October. Though heavily outnumbered, the RAF put up a gallant defense; radar, used for the first time in battle by Britain, played an important role. The Germans lost some 2,300 aircraft; the RAF 900. The Battle of Britain was the first major failure of the Germans in World War II, and it thwarted Hitler's plan to force Britain to accept peace or face invasion.

See D. Wood and D. Dempster, The Narrow Margin (1961, repr. 1967); A. McKee, Strike from the Sky (1960, repr. 1971); R. Collier, Eagle Day (1966); T. Taylor, The Breaking Wave (1967); P. Townsend, Duel of Eagles (1970); R. Overy, The Battle of Britain (2001); M. Korda, With Wings like Eagles (2009).

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