What was the secret to winning the Battle of Britain?

Open navigator
  1. Our finest hour
  2. Battle of the skies
  3. CLICKABLE: Brave pilots
  4. INTERACTIVE: Winning a dogfight
  5. How did Britain support "The Few"?
  6. Where next?

1. Our finest hour

The Battle of Britain was one of the most pivotal moments in the country's history. It marked a turning point when Britain stood alone against Hitler's seemingly unstoppable military power.

In the summer of 1940 – after Hitler swept through France and drove the British army out of the European mainland - the people of Britain made ready for a Nazi invasion. But before Hitler could conquer the country he needed to gain air superiority. The Luftwaffe launched a large scale attack, intent on wiping out Britain's air defences. The pilots of the RAF, who became known as "The Few", stood up to wave after wave of German fighters and bombers sending a clear message to Hitler that Britain would never surrender.

By October 1940 the RAF was victorious. Hitler called off his invasion plans and the Luftwaffe switched to bombing British cities. Britain now stood as the last bastion of resistance against Nazi Germany.

2. Battle of the skies

Battle of Britain

Although RAF Fighter Command was outnumbered in July 1940, Britain ramped up factory production and by October Fighter Command had more fighter planes than the Luftwaffe.

3. CLICKABLE: Brave pilots

Click on the pilots below to find out about their roles in the battle.

This content uses functionality that is not supported by your current browser. Consider upgrading your browser.

Churchill referred to the pilots of the Battle of Britain as “The Few”. The RAF was able to call on pilots from a variety of backgrounds and countries. As well as plucky Brits, there were many volunteers from the British Empire and refugees from Nazi-occupied countries in Europe. Each played an important role in the battle.

4. INTERACTIVE: Winning a dogfight

Scrub back and forth below to see a Battle of Britain dogfight in action.

This content uses functionality that is not supported by your current browser. Consider upgrading your browser.

In the air battles of the Battle of Britain - speed and surprise were the key to victory.

5. How did Britain support "The Few"?

The pilots of the Battle of Britain were supported by a huge number of workers on the ground. Without their help the battle would not have been won.

Ground crew

You selected

Ground crew

Each RAF fighter plane had a two man ground-crew, responsible for repairing, rearming and refueling it.

Radar operators

You selected

Radar operators

The chain of cutting edge radar stations along the south and east coast gave the Air Defence Network up to an hour's warning of an enemy approach.

Anti-Aircraft Command

You selected

Anti-Aircraft Command

The Anti-Aircraft Command manned 1,795 anti-aircraft guns in July 1940, and shot down 300 Luftwaffe aircraft during the Battle of Britain.

Aircraft factory workers

You selected

Aircraft factory workers

In the summer of 1940 monthly production increased by 60%. 1,743 new fighter aircraft were produced.