10:29 PM, 11 January 2009
The Battle of Britain? This must be a joke. The Battle of Britain was not at all a decisive victory. It was actually a strategic stalemate. Neither side ever gained the upper hand, the front lines never moved, neither empire was wounded or seriously hurt, and it really had no significant effect on the overall outcome of the war. As renowned historian Richard Overy once said, the Battle of Britain was "...a victory, of sorts..." The victory was NOT a military victory, but a political and psychological one. Why political? Because it invigorated American faith that the British empire was salvageable, and that they could realistically help them. Why psychological? Because prior to the battle, Britain was reeling from a serious of humiliating defeats. Public morale was very low. People were doubtful that their nation could survive. However, they did survive. The true victory for the RAF was simply continuing to exist, and not being wiped out.
Also, German planning for the battle was not taken seriously at all. They made no attempt to build the ships and landing craft they would have needed, they never trained an invasion force, they never developed a true strategic bomber, or took any necessary steps that an invasion force would have to do. Had they been serious, they would have done these things. Even Hitler admitted he did not want to invade, conquer, or destroy the British empire. He said, "Britain will be allowed to keep her empire...once she recognizes Germany's global dominance..." Hitler was also a very deluded racist, and he wanted to preserve what he considered the "Aryan race". The Germans and British share a very close racial and ethnic background and a common ancestry. Hitler often called them "our English cousins". He did not hate or want to destroy Britain. What he hated was Churchill and his defiant attitude. The battle, called "Operation Sealion" by Hitler, was designed simply to scare the daylights out of the British people, and destroy Churchill's reputation as a leader and politician. His goal was to scare them just enough to force them into an unwanted peace treaty. Hitler looked at the conflict as his way of "teaching Churchill and Britain a lesson", and likened himself to an older brother "putting his sibling in his place".
Winston Churchill was a brilliant orator. The British government worked with him in creating what they called "The Battle of Britain" (probably first called such when, in a famous speech, Churchill said, "...the Battle of Britain has begun!") as an epic saga of conflict, in which the fate of the entire world was at stake. What was really at stake was Churchill's reputation and a potential peace treaty with Germany. But through this ingenious, and much needed, campaign of propaganda, they were able to bolster public morale and win the support of the people for the war effort. Though it was a great move in its day, the propaganda campaign has trickled over the course of time and, sadly, infiltrated its way into history books. It has now become patriotic mythology, and a large part of British national identity.
The RAF Spitfire is also something that has achieved mythological status. It is one of the most over-glorified aircraft of all time, and possibly only second to the North American P-51 Mustang. The Spitfire is often credited with British successes during the battle, but the reality is that the good ol' Hawker Hurricane scored the vast majority of air victories. There were also far more Hurricanes than Spitfires. The Messerschmitt Bf-109 totally outclassed the Hurricane, but was fairly evenly matched with the Spitfire. But on closer examination, the 109 enjoyed several distinct advantages over the Spitfire. It had much greater firepower due to its 2X 20mm cannons, it was faster, and had a fuel injection system. Having fuel injection meant that the 109 could go into a very steep and fast dive, whereas the Spitfire's engine would sputter and die due to the negative G force. Cont