The Battle of Britain began in July of 1940 shortly after Churchill became Prime Minister
The Battle of Britain began in the summer of 1940 just a few months after Winton Churchill first became Prime Minister. It was fully expected that the Battle was a prelude of Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the British Isles (Operation Sea Lion). The Battle was fought entirely by air with the German Luftwaffe eventually being successfully fought off by Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).
Nearly a month before the Battle of Britain began, Winston Churchill gave one of his most famous speeches. In the House of Commons on 18 June 1940 Churchill gave his famous ‘Finest Hour’ speech.
Listen to a clip and read the full text of the speech here.
On the 20th of August 1940, as the battle raged on, Winston Churchill give another of his famous rousing speeches. Paying tribute to the fortitude of the Royal Air Force, he coined one of his most famous lines, ”Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’
‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’
In 2010 on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, actor Robert Hardy, who portrayed Churchill in several feature films, read his ‘The Few’ speech. Click the image below to watch.
Read the full text of Churchill’s ‘The Few’ speech here.
For more information on this subject, visit Churchill Central’s Battle of Britain page.
C. Brian Kelly’s book The Best Little Stories of Winston Churchill includes a section on the Battle of Britain. Follow this link to read an excerpt.
Learn more with these Battle of Britain resources:
On 18 June 1940, Churchill gave a rousing speech to the British people, announcing: ‘… the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.’ Four days later, France surrendered to Germany and Hitler turned his attention to Britain.
As early summer gave way to July and August, the threat of invasion loomed over Britain and the Luftwaffe (German air force) began attacking shipping in the English Channel, coastal towns, airfields and Royal Air Force (RAF) bases. All the resources of Fighter Command in the South were used to combat the attacks and, in August, the RAF managed to inflict heavy casualties on the Luftwaffe.
On 20 August, Churchill made what was to become one of his most famous speeches to the House of Commons, in which he stated that ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ The speech made clear the huge significance of the battle undertaken by the under-resourced RAF.
By September, it was clear that the RAF were successfully fighting the attacks, and the Luftwaffe switched their attention from the coastal towns and airfields to London. In early September a massive series of raids involving nearly four hundred German bombers and more than six hundred fighters targeted docks in London’s East End. On 15 September 1940, which became known as ‘Battle of Britain’ day, the RAF destroyed a huge formation of Luftwaffe over London and the South, forcing Hitler to postpone plans to invade Britain.
The Battle of Britain had been won – even if only by a small margin – and the threat of invasion averted.