Seven common myths about the legendary aerial clash
The Luftwaffe could never have won the Battle of Britain.
In terms of the quality and quantity of equipment and pilots, Germany and Britain were on a relatively even playing field. Germany’s failure to overcome the RAF was ultimately a result of British radar, mistaken changes in strategy and Göring’s weak leadership.
The Battle of Britain saw the end of German bombing over Britain.
Though the 31 October 1940 saw the generally accepted end of the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe continued to bomb Britain for several more years. Most intensively was the bombing of London and other major cities in the Blitz, the dates of which stretch from 7 September 1940 to 10 May 1941.
Hitler’s insistence that the new Messerschmitt 262 should be designed for offensive use as a bomber, rather than defensive use as a fighter, severely delayed its introduction.
It was, in fact, technical issues with the new jet engine that prevented it from reaching operational status until the summer of 1944.
The Fairey Swordfish planes flew so slowly that naval anti-aircraft guns couldn’t lock onto them to shoot them down.
These antiquated planes became famous after an impressive display in the famous Battle of Taranto, in which they sank the battleship Littorio and two others. However, all six attacking Swordfishes involved in the February 1942 ‘Channel Dash’ were shot down, mostly by anti-aircraft fire.
Upper-class former public schoolboys made up the bulk of the RAF fighter pilots.
The rapid expansion of the RAF in the 1930s saw the formation of the Volunteer Reserve, and with it the rise of the non-commissioned officer (NCO).
The lure of learning to fly for free in the VR proved potent for young working men – resulting in a large number of VR ‘Sergeant Pilots’ making up the wartime RAF.
It should also not be forgotten that 20% of the 2,936 Battle of Britain fighter pilots were of foreign nationality – including Czechs, Poles, Barbadians and Americans.
The Battle was fought – and won – primarily by Spitfires.
The Spitfire might have been more glamorous than the older, larger, slower Hurricane, but the latter was the true workhorse of the Battle of Britain. More easily repaired, there were also far more of them: 35 Hurricane squadrons compared to 19 Spitfire.
Had the Germans succeeded in breaking the RAF, they could have successfully invaded Britain in Operation Sea Lion.
Many argue that whilst the RAF played an invaluable role in the Battle of Britain, the Royal Navy would have proved an insurmountable challenge to a German invasion of Britain. The German’s simply didn’t have the naval resources to take it on.
This is an article from Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.