In the summer of 1940, when the Nazi war machine marched its way through Europe and turned its sights to Britain, the RAF braced itself for the worst.
Young men, in their late teens or early twenties, were trained to fly Spitfires and hurricanes for the upcoming Battle for Britain, while others flew Blenheims, Beaufighters and Defiants and the & # 39; aces & # 39; who would secure the freedom of the country for Hitler.
But the resistance of Great Britain was accompanied by a prize. Of an estimated 3,000 pilots, about half survived the four-month battle, with 544 Fighter Command pilots and crew among the dead, more than 700 from Bomber Command and nearly 300 from Coastal Command who fell to Britain's sky to secure.
The losses were heavy, but the Germans, who thought they could exterminate the RAF within a few weeks, lost more.
2500 Luftwaffe crews were killed in the battle, forcing the German air command to reconsider how easily Britain would fall for an invading Nazi occupation force.
The pilots who gave everything in the air fight for British freedom were & # 39; The Few & # 39; named after a speech by Sir Winston Churchill who said: & # 39; The gratitude of every house on our island, in our empire, and indeed all over the world, goes out to the British pilots who, fearless by opportunities, tireless in their constant challenge and deadly danger, the tide of the world war their bravery and dedication.
& # 39; Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed to so few. & # 39;
& # 39; Never in the field of human conflict was so much due to so little & # 39; (photo: an aerial photo of Spitfires)
After the fall of France on the axis in May 1940, the German Supreme Command considered how the fight over the English channel could best be driven to remove Britain from the fight.
Until mid-July, the German campaign consisted of relatively small-scale air attacks during the day and & night, aimed at cities, airports, ports and the aircraft industry.
But the Luftwaffe was completely ready, ready to step up attacks on ships and ports and eliminate the RAF in the air and on the ground.
After defeating the Allies on western mainland Europe, the German Air Force established bases near the Channel to make it easier to tackle Great Britain and quickly set up the infrastructure needed to deal with an air conflict with coordinate the UK.
When the Battle of Great Britain began, the Royal Air Force consistently took down more Axis planes than they lost, but British hunters were often overwhelmed by the larger number of enemy planes.
Pictured: one of the most iconic images of the summer of 1940 and the battle over Dunkirk, with F / Lt Ellis of Squadron 610 pictured at the head of his section in DW-O, Sgt Arnfield in DW-K and F / O Warner in DW-Q
Fighting in France and Norway had weakened British squadrons because it was now time to defend the homeland against the Nazi occupation, but as the year progressed, the RAF's strength increased with more pilots, planes and operational squadrons available .
The Luftwaffe started an increasing campaign of daylight bombing, focusing on strategic targets such as convoys, ports and airports – probing inland to force RAF squadrons to participate in an effort to exhaust them.
German air units also carry out night-time attacks on the West, Midlands and East Coast, aimed at the aircraft industry with the aim of weakening the British Home Defense system, in particular that of Fighter Command, to prepare for a large-scale air raid in August.
Heavy losses were suffered on both sides.
The most important Luftwaffe attack on the RAF, named & # 39; Adler Tag & # 39; (Eagle Day), was postponed from August 10 to three days later due to bad weather.
Hawker Hurricane aircraft of No 111 Squadron RAF based on Northolt in flight formation, circa 1940
Depicted: fighter pilots of the Squadron 610, a unit that witnessed some of the most intensive aerial combat in World War II (taken in RAF Acklington, in Northumberland, between 17-19 September 1940)
The plan of the Germans was to have RAF Fighter Command leave South East England within four days and completely defeat the British Air Force in four weeks.
The Luftwaffe fought relentlessly in an attempt to deplete Fighter Command by incessant attacks on ground installations that were moved further inland, with airports in Southern England confronted with intense daylight attacks while night attacks were aimed at ports, shipping targets and the aircraft industry.
But despite heavy damage in the south, Fighter Command continued to push back against the Germans in a series of aerial battles, which caused critical losses to the enemy who thought the RAF would be exhausted at this point.
Both parties feared being exhausted by the constant involvement.
Pictured: German plans to invade Britain when the navy and air superiority were achieved
The focus of the German attacks then shifted to London, where the RAF would lose 248 and the Luftwaffe 322 would lose between August 26 and September 6.
By September, London had become the main target of aggression with Luftwaffe, with large-scale 24-hour attacks carried out by large bombers with hunters.
The German Air Command had still not exhausted the RAF as it had hoped, and British troops continued to fight against their German counterparts, with Fighter Command pushing back Hitler's troops, postponing German invasion plans.
In October, it became clear to the Germans that the RAF was still very intact, and the Luftwaffe struck Britain with a motor-modified fighter-bombers that were difficult to catch upon entry and still dangerous on the way out.
By the middle of the month, the German strategy had shifted from depleting the RAF to a relentless bombing of the government, the civilian population and the war economy – with London still the primary target.
But from November, London became less of a target, with the Battle of Britain turning into a new conflict – the Blitz.
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