Their Finest Hour…
On this day, 18th June 1940, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, gave a speech over the radio – a repeat of one he had made earlier in the day in the House of Commons. It was now clear to everyone that the German war machine had driven France out of the fight and that Britain was now alone against Germany, and recently Italy who had declaired war on the UK.
“What General Waygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization…the whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the War. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
Any invasion of Britain by Hilter’s Wehrmacht would not be as simple as the river crossings it had summounted in mainland Europe. Although Britain was just 22 miles away from France across the Channel, the miles were made wider by the power of the Royal Navy.
For those invasion barges to sail safely across the sea – and to arrive un-molested by the Royal Navy – the Germans needed one essential condition checked. The German Navy was never strong enough to take on the Royal Navy, however the Luftwaffe and the Navy together could neutralise the RN, and launch an invasion. Put simply, the Germans must win total control of the air.
Standing in their way was the Royal Air Force, and in particular the ‘Fighter Boys’ of Hugh Dowding’s Fighter Command. Bearing the brunt of the attack would be No. 11 Group in the South East of Englad, with 10 Group to the South West, and 12 Group in the Midlands. 13 Group defended the UK to the North of the Islands.
Facing the hordes of German fighters (Messerschmitt Me109 and Me110) and the vast fleets of bombers (Junkers Ju87 Stukas, Dornier DO17’s, Heinkel He111’s and Junkers Ju88’s) were the British Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and a few Bristol Blenheim fighters of the Royal Air Force.
2600 German aircraft faced some 670 British.
The scene was set for the greatest air battle in history.
The Battle of Britain.