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Battle of Britain


Before the Battle of Britain, no country had succeeded in stopping the Nazi army. The Germans sped through France in two weeks and looked across the English Channel expecting an easy victory. The Germans did not anticipate the superiority of British air power and its successful new radar technology, nor the interception of the German code device Enigma. These advantages and the British resolve held the Germans back despite the constant bombings on London, civilian targets, and military sites. By October, Hitler called off Operation “Sea Lion,” and the planned invasion of England was thwarted. The British won a small victory by holding out and staying strong.


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Bently Priory, England


Pictures & Records (9)

Aircraft spotter on the roof of a building in London. St. Paul's Cathedral is in the background. 306-NT-901B-3.
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Children of an eastern suburb of London, who have been made homeless by the random bombs of the Nazi night raiders, waiting outside the wreckage of what was their home." September 1940.
"Two bewildered old ladies stand amid the leveled ruins of the almshouse which was Home;

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The Dowding System—How Britain Kept the Nazis at Bay

Bently Priory, England

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The air defense strategy used by the Royal Air Force came from Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. The Dowding System contained the elements of detection, command, and control, and through these principles, Dowding ran every battle. Dowding divided British airspace into four groups: Wales and the West Country; Southeast England; the Midlands and East Anglia; and North England, Scotland, and Ireland. The first warning of an attack came to these groups through the newly created radar system, Radio Direction Finding, RDF. These facilities were located up and down the British coast. Once they located a grouping of planes, the information was sent to Fighter Command Headquarters at Bentley Priory where Dowding and his team assessed the threat. Along with the radar, radio transmissions were monitored and messages decoded with the German Enigma machine that the British had previously captured. All this information allowed Dowding and other advisors to see exactly where the fighting squadrons were going, predict possible targets, and make quick decisions. The information and orders were then passed to each group and the intelligence would again go through a filtering and reviewing process. This allowed each group to determine its role in the coming fight and perform its actions correctly. The Dowding System turned the Royal Air Force into successful foe of the Nazi Luftwaffe, and is the main reason the British stood with strength against their Nazi enemy.

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Event Details

Leaders of British Royal Air Force (RAF):
Hugh C. T. Dowding: Air Chief Marshall 1
Keith Park: Air Vice-Marshall 1
Richard Saul: Air Vice-Marshall 1
Sir Quintin Brand: Air Vice-Marshall 1
Trafford Leigh-Mallory: Air Vice-Marshall 1
Winston Churchill: British Prime Minister 1
Leaders of German Luftwaffe:
Albert Kesselring: Field Marshall, Commander Air Fleet 1 1
Hans-Jurgen Stumpff: Commanded several Air Fleets 1
Hermann Goring: Commander of the Luftwaffe-German Air Force 1
Hugo Sperrle: Major General, Commander Air Fleet 3 1
Bombing of London begins:
07 Sep 1940 1
France surrenders to Nazi Army:
22 Jun 1940 1
Great Fire Raid on London:
29 Dec 1940 1
Hitler postpones Operation “Sea Lion” until 1941:
12 Oct 1940 1
Major air-raids stopped:
31 Oct 1940 1
The RAF launched its first air raid on Berlin:
25 Aug 1940 1
Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister:
May 1940 1
Battle of Britain begins:
10 Jul 1940 1
Phase 1, The Channel Battles—Kanalkampf:
July 10, 1940—August 11, 1940 1
Phase 2, Eagle Attack--Adlerangreff:
August 12, 1940—August 23, 1940 1
Phase 3, The Luftwaffe targets the airfields:
August 24, 1940—September 6, 1940 1
Phase 4, Attacks on British cities and towns:
September 7, 1940--October 31, 1940 1
Location: London, England 1

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