Skip links

Facts for Kids About The Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain was a crucial air campaign in the history of World War II. It was fought by the Royal Air Force (RAF) against the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) for control of British airspace, especially over London and industrial areas, with bombing raids in 1940 and 1941.

  • The RAF had been preparing itself with great secrecy, training for this moment with their 10,000 aircraft fleet-a number that would match that of the Germans in what would be one of the largest dogfights in history.
  • On 10 July 1940, Hitler ordered his high command to prepare Operation Sea Lion as it became apparent to him that France was nearing defeat.
  • The German plan was to attack British military bases and airfields on the home islands, thus disrupting the Royal Air Force’s ability to engage in air battles over Europe.
  • In August 1940, Hitler declared that he was determined to invade Great Britain.
  • In mid-August, the Luftwaffe began a relentless aerial campaign of bombing British cities and destroying British airplane production. One of the main objectives of this campaign was to destroy the RAF’s fighter planes and prevent them from being used in combat against Nazi Germany.
  • By September 1940, Britain had been overrun by German troops under General Erwin Rommel on 10 September. That same day, Winston Churchill became Britain’s Prime Minister again at war with Nazi Germany.
  • The RAF had many pilots considered the best in their field, but they were outnumbered and outgunned by the now superior skills and numbers of German pilots. Aircraft manufacturers such as Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 proved relatively easy targets for the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.
  • Aircraft of these types were capable of flying high-altitude missions without refueling, making them very maneuverable. They were also equipped with powerful cannons, which increased their recon value on enemy aircraft. In addition, German fighter planes could often fly lower to pick off enemy aircraft on the ground, thus increasing their chances to survive for an additional mission.
  • The Battle of Britain was critical in establishing British air superiority.
  • Germany had lost more than 3,000 planes and 300 of their best pilots by the end of the battle. The RAF had lost nearly 2,700 planes and 300 pilots.
  • While this was a major blow to the Luftwaffe’s offensive, they still maintained a strong presence and superior numbers. They were able to continue bombing raids on London and other major cities, which would lead up to Operation Sea Lion.
  • Germany continued to bomb Britain throughout 1940 and 1941 as it waited for its navy to build up its amphibious landing forces for an invasion against Britain’s shores as Hitler prepared his troops on the French coast for what he called “Operation Sealion.”
  • The Battle of Britain did not end the aerial campaign against Britain, however. The “Luftwaffe” switched to night-time raids in an attempt to avoid RAF fighter planes. The British government also fled London for the safety of remote country areas.
  • On 31 May 1941, Sir Winston Churchill coined the term “The Few” when he addressed members of Parliament about the British people’s distinction in fighting off Germany’s air assaults on London during this dark time in history.