*** war and social upheaval: World War II air campaign -- Battle of Britain the Blitz climax

Figure 1.--

World War II Air Campaign: Battle of Britain--the Blitz Climax (September 15, 1940)

"The odds -- great. The margins -- small. The stakes -- infinite."

-- Winston Churchill

The Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack on London (September 15). The change in Luftwaffe strategy at first caught the RAF off guard (Septemver 7). The British quickly adjusted for the defense of London. In contrast to other Luftwaffe terror attacks, London was not an unprotected target. The climax of the Battle of Britain came appropriately in the skies over London on a Sunday (September 15). The massive Luftwaffe attacks were meant to settle the Luftwaffe's daylight campaign. Göring based on Luftwaffe intelligen assessment was confident of victory. he Lufwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack on London in the hope of both destroying the spirit of the now battle hardened citizery and to draw up what was left of Fighrer Command so the coup de grace could be delivered in a battle of annialtion. The main target was the London docks again. This would be the same tactic that American fighters would use to destroy the Luftwaffe (early-1944). The outcome over London was very different. Some 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles that took place over London and southeast England and would continue until dusk. [Bungay, p.319.] The Luftwaffe bomber pilots had been told that Fighter Command was down to its last remnants of a defeated force--less than 200 opeational fighters. Fighter Command had 650 front-line fighters. The Germans were horrified to find RAF Fighter Command intercepting them in large numbers and because they were attacking London, the fighters with a more limited range, could not give them much protection. The longer flight times to London meant that Luftwaffe fighters had little fuel with which to engage the RAF fighters. 11 Group committed all of its squadrons. Prime-Minister Churchill who was at Fighter Command Headquarters with 11 Group commander Keith Park asked "Where are the reserves?" He was told, "Sir, there are none." The attacks on London rather than the forward RAF air fields in Kent and along the coast brought the Luftwaffe bombers in range of 12 Group's and Lee Malory Big Wing which had not been weakened by previous Luftwaffe attacks. By attacking London, Lee Malory had time to form 12 Group's Big Wing, bringing more fighrers into the fight over London. Many German bomber formations had been broken up and savaged by RAF fighters. Some German formations dropped their bombs before getting to London and turned back. Some bombers got theough and encountered swarms of RAF fighters. Helping Londoners was a cloudy sky making it difficult to target the city. Thus the damage on London was minimal. In the aftermath of the raid, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion. Having been defeated in daylight, the Luftwaffe turned its attention to The Blitz night campaign which lasted until May 1941. [Murray, p. 54.] The result was the climatic day with huge German losses. RAF fighters destroyed almost one quarter (57) of the attacking German bomber force and more were badly damaged. Londoners observed the desperate fight in the sky over the city. Previously, the fight had beenn primarily to the southeast of the city over Kent ans Sussex where the Fighter Command 11 Groupn air fields were located. The Battle of Britain would shift from a daylight campain targeting RAF Fighter Command into a nighttime campaign targeting British cities and civilians. This meant that a NAZI invasion was no longer eminent. With the Royal Navy in the Channel and the RAF in tact, Operation Sea Lion was no longer possible. Hitler did not formally postpone Operation Sea Lion until the following month (October 12). September 15 is today celebrated as Battle of Britain Day--the annual commemoration of the battle in Britain.


Bungay, Stephen. The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain (London: Aurum Press, 2000)

Murray, Willamson. Strategy for Defeat. The Luftwaffe 1935–1945 (Princeton, New Jersey: University Press of the Pacific, 1983).


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Created: 10:00 AM 8/4/2020
Last updated: 5:12 AM 8/4/2020