Battle of Britain

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.

The Dowding System—How Britain Kept the Nazis at Bay

  • Bently Priory, England

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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