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Battle of the Britain

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    Posted: June 11 2008 at 10:38pm

The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England)is the name given to the sustained strategic effort by the German Luftwaffe during the summer and autumn of 1940 to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The name derives from an 18 June 1940 speech in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, "The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin..."

Had it been successful, the planned amphibious and airborne landings in Britain of Operation Sealion would have followed. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces. It was the largest and most sustained bombing campaign attempted up until that date. The failure of Nazi Germany to destroy Britain's air defence or to break British morale is considered its first major defeat.

Neither Hitler nor the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht  (OKW) believed it possible to carry out a successful amphibious assault on Britain until the RAF had been neutralised. Secondary objectives were to destroy aircraft production and ground infrastructure, to attack areas of political significance, and to terrorise the British people into seeking an armistice or surrender. Some historians, such as Derek Robinson, have argued an invasion could not have succeeded; the massive superiority of the Royal  Navy over the Kriegsmarine would have made Sealion a disaster and the Luftwaffe would have been unable to prevent decisive intervention by British cruisers and destroyers, even with air superiority.

British historians date the battle from 10 July to 31 October 1940, which represented the most intense period of daylight bombing. German historians usually place the beginning of the battle in mid-August 1940 and end it in May 1941, on the withdrawal of the bomber units in preparation for the attack on the USSR.

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