The Battle of Britain Begins

  August 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm by

The Battle of Britain (the “Eagle Day”) began on August 13, 1940 with the Luftwaffe launching a series of attacks on British fighter bases and radar installations.

View the image at CBC

Shortly before the Battle was to commence, Winston Churchill gave one of his most famous morale-boosting speeches (during the Battle of France) where he braced the nation for the war, saying: “…that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’.”
The name of the battle derives from another famous speech of Churchill’s, given in the House of Commons, where he stated that “…the Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin…”

Following the French surrender and evacuation of British soldiers from Dunkirk, Hitler thought that the British, alone and without allies, would either have to surrender or negotiate an armistice. The failure to destroy Britain’s air defences and launch a full-scale invasion is considered Germany’s first major defeat in the World War II and a turning point in the course of the entire war.

At the height of the Battle of Britain, on August 20, 1940, Churchill gave arguably his most famous speech, during which he highlighted the bravery of British troops: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

An important factor in keeping the public morale high was the refusal of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) to leave London: they stayed in the city throughout the war, even after the Buckingham Palace was repeatedly bombarded. During one of the hits, the Royal Couple were mere 80 yards from where the bombs burst. When the Cabinet advised the King and Queen to send their daughters to Canada, Queen Elizabeth famously said: “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.”

Queen Elizabeth’s resolution, moral support to the British public and her role as propaganda tool made Hitler call her ‘the most dangerous woman in Europe’.

Filed under Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
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