17 September

Although the Battle of Britain did not officially end until 31 October, and indeed there were still some fierce clashes to come, it was effectively over after 15 September.

This was one of the most significant battles of the early war period. While the Luftwaffe lost some 1880 aircraft, and 2660 aircrew as opposed to RAF Fighter Command’s 1020 aircraft and 537 pilots killed, it was not mere numbers that marked the victory. The significance was that the RAF had prevented the Germans from achieving their aim rather than inflicting a wholesale defeat on the Luftwaffe.

While there was little to choose between the quality of the Luftwaffe’s main fighter, the Me.109, the RAF’s Spitfire and Hurricane or their aircrews, there were clear-cut reasons why the Luftwaffe failed. Because of the distance involved, the German fighters had only limited loiter time over England compared with their RAF counterparts f;lying from their airfields directly into battle. The RAF tactic of concentrating on the German bombers rather than their fighter escorts also paid off, and the German bombers themselves had only a limited bomb-load being medium tactical machines. The German conduct of the battle was also fatally flawed in two respects. The first was their failure to maintain their attacks on the radar stations, which were Fighter Command’s ‘eyes’; and the second, the switch from attacks on airfields to an offensive against London.