Bringing Vintage Aircraft to Life since 2010

Battle of Britain Timeline

Home  >  Articles  >  Battle of Britain Timeline

Over the skies of Britain during the summer months of 1940 the first battle to be fought in the air took place between the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe. Known as the Battle of Britain this was to be a pivotal moment in the Second World War as with the failure to gain air superiority the Germans suffered their first major defeat and were unable to launch an invasion. This timeline covers the period from 10th May 1940 to the 31st October 1940 and includes a number of Battle of Britain facts.

When war broke out in September 1939 after the German invasion of Poland and subsequent occupation by Germany and the Soviet Union there then followed a period of relative calm as no major land operations were undertaken by either side, known as the 'Phoney War'. This ended abruptly on the 9th April 1940 with the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, followed the next month by the German advance west into France and the Low Countries. This is where our timeline begins.

Jump to
Prelude to Battle (10th May 1940 - 9th July 1940)
Phase One – Channel Shipping Targeted (10th July 1940 - 11th August 1940)
Phase Two – The Royal Air Force are Targeted (12th August 1940 - 6th September 1940)
Phase Three – The Blitz Begins (7th September 1940 - 5th October 1940)
Phase Four – The Battle Reaches Its Conclusion (6th October 1940 - 31st October 1940)
The Aftermath (1st November 1940 - 10th May 1941) and Useful Resources

Prelude to Battle
10th May 1940 - 9th July 1940

10th May 1940

Neville Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister and is replaced by Winston Churchill, who at that time is First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. On the same day France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg are invaded by Germany, with Luxembourg occupied the same day. This was the first phase of the invasion plan devised by Germany for Western Europe and was known as Fall Gelb (Case Yellow).

During the invasion of the Netherlands 55 Junkers Ju 52 troop transports are intercepted by a flight of Fokker D.XXIs of the Dutch Army Aviation Brigade who shoot down 37 of the Ju 52s.

11th May 1940

In the morning the Belgian Air Service is in action when nine Fairey Battles, with an escort of six Gloster Gladiators, target a number of bridges over the Albert Canal in north east Belgium.

12th May 1940

Whilst attacking the Veldwezelt Bridge, Netherlands a Fairey Battle of No. 12 Squadron is shot down. This sees two of the three man crew, Flying Officer Donald Garland (pilot) and Sergeant Thomas Grey (observer) become the first Royal Air Force recipients of the Victoria Cross during the Second World War (1939 - 1945) when they are posthumously awarded one (read the full citation). Leading aircraftman Lawrence Reynolds (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) was also aboard the aircraft and died.

The Boulton Paul Defiant performs its first operational sortie when No. 264 Squadron are in action over the Netherlands. The Supermarine Spitfire is also used over Europe in the fighter role for the first time.

Fairey Battle Mk I which was part of the Advanced Air Striking Force sent to France by the RAF

13th May 1940

Queen Wilhelmina, her family and the Dutch cabinet evacuate to London. For the next five years they will be the Government in exile, meanwhile Winston Churchill makes his first speech to the House of Commons as Prime Minister offering "Blood, Toil, Tears & Sweat".

14th May 1940

The French front at Sedan, in the north of the country, is broken by the Germans. In response the RAF sends its last 71 Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims to attack troops and pontoon bridges in the area, 41 aircraft are lost. After 60 of the 118 Battles sent on sorties on the previous four days are lost the type is to mainly operate at night from now on.

On the same day the Dutch Government orders Major Henri Gerard Winkelman, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Netherlands, to surrender Luftwaffe bombers are on their way to Rotterdam, despite calling off the raid some aircraft don't get the order and as a result 814 civilians are killed as 57 Heinkel He 111s bomb the city.

In his first speech as Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden issues an appeal asking for people to volunteer to join the Local Defence Volunteers on the same day the Ministry of Aircraft Production is formed and Lord Beaverbrook is appointed its minister it takes control of the Civilian Repair Organisation.

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV as used by Nos. 114 and 139 Squadron when in France, May 1940

15th May 1940

At 10:15 the Royal Netherlands Army surrenders. Later that evening a force of 99 RAF Vickers Wellingtons and Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys bomb the Rhur, Germany and the industrial targets there.

16th May 1940

Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command writes to the Prime Minister Winston Churchill requesting that no more fighter squadrons are sent to France.

The decision is taken that de Havilland Tiger Moths and North American Harvards of Training Command will be fitted with bomb racks in case of invasion.

The Tiger Moth was used by the RAF to train its pilots

17th May 1940

Twelve Blenheims from No. 82 Squadron are sent to Belgium to attack German troops, eleven are shot down.

19th May 1940

As the German advance continues Allied Comander-in-Chief Maurice Gamelin is replaced in the role by Maxime Weygand whilst any Royal Air Force aircraft in Belgium are ordered to leave. It will be squadrons of Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires operating from airfields in Southern England who carry out sorties over the battlefield.

Lord Gort, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, issues an order requiring troops to withdraw towards port cities such as Dunkirk, France.

Winston Churchill broadcasts to the British public for the first time as Prime Minister.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IA - This variant was extensively used during the battle

20th May 1940

With the military situation in Europe worsening plans, lead by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay, begin to be drawn up to evacuate troops from Dunkirk, France, codenamed 'Operation Dynamo'.

21st May 1940

Gloster Gladiators of No. 263 Squadron flying from HMS Furious (47) return to Norway and will be based at Bardufoss along with six Supermarine Walrus flying boats of No. 701 Naval Air Squadron.

Adolf Hitler brings up the possibility of invading the United Kingdom.

Gladiator Mk I - This was the last bi-plane fighter ordered by the Royal Air Force

23rd May 1940

No. 92 Squadron becomes the first Spitfire squadron to come up against the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in combat. During the engagement, which also includes Messerschmitt Bf 110s, two Bf 109s and two Bf 110s are shot down for the loss of three Spitfires, one of which belonged to Squadron Leader Roger Bushell who would be involved in the 'Great Escape'.

Equipped with Gloster Sea Gladiators No. 804 Naval Air Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm arrives at RNAS Hatston where it will serve as part of Fighter Command until September. One of two Fleet Air Arm squadrons loaned to Fighter Command for the battle.

24th May 1940

The process to begin the evacuation of Allied troops still in Narvik, Norway known as 'Operation Alphabet' begins.

25th May 1940

No. 82 Squadron Bristol Blenheims attack German columns in Marke, Belgium.

26th May 1940

The order is given to implement 'Operation Dynamo' and begin evacuating Allied troops from Dunkirk, France. Ships from the Royal Navy as well as civilian ships, later known as the little ships of Dunkirk, will take part. In the air a total of 32 Squadrons from the Royal Air Force will take part in providing cover.

No. 46 Squadrons Hawker Hurricanes arrive in Norway. They will operate from Skanland.

27th May 1940

No. 46 Squadrons Hurricanes join No. 263 Squadrons Gladiators at Bardufoss, Norway.

28th May 1940

After eighteen days fighting King Leopold III orders the Belgian army to surrender, this comes into force at 4:00am.

29th May 1940

Over Dunkirk, France the RAF control fighter operations for the first time using VHF radiotelephone.

30th May 1940

As the evacuation of Dunkirk, France enters its fourth day 134,000 troops have been rescued. Far in excess of the anticipated 45,000 that could be rescued before the expected German advance stopped further rescues.

31st May 1940

Fairey Albacores of No. 826 Naval Air Squadron attack E-boats at Zeebrugge, Belgium and transport links at Westende, Belgium. Meanwhile nine Blackburn Skuas of No. 801 Naval Air Squadron are tasked with destroying pontoon bridges which have been built over the Nieuwpoort–Dunkirk Canal, north east of Dunkirk, France. On their return to base III./JG 26 Messerschmitt Bf 109Es, operating from Chievres, Belgium, intercept the aircraft shooting down two whilst losing one aircraft.

1st June 1940

Eight Fokker T-VIIIW sea planes from the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service reach the UK. These would form the basis of No. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron based at RAF Pembroke Dock. This would be the first Dutch squadron within the Royal Air Force.

2nd June 1940

Over 300,000 troops have been evacuated as 'Operation Dynamo' enters its sixth day.

3rd June 1940

Codenamed 'Operation Paula' the Luftwaffe launch an attack to destroy the Armee de l'Air but British Intelligence tip off the French about the operation leading to the attack failing.

No. 71 (Bomber) Wing forms an expeditionary force to attack Italian targets if they declare war on Britain.

The Luftwaffe also bomb Paris, France killing 194 people.

Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 - Used by the Armee de l'Air, these were outclassed by the Bf 109

4th June 1940

As the evacuation of Dunkirk, France ends a total of 338,226 Allied troops have been rescued. During this same period the RAF suffer heavy losses with 177 aircraft destroyed for 262 enemy aircraft claimed.

In an address to Parliament Prime Minister Winston Churchill speaks of Britain's intention to fight on.

We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

5th June 1940

Germany begins Fall Rot (Case Red) which sees them attack across the Aisne and Somme rivers for the second part of their invasion of France. Meanwhile the Luftwaffe perform small raids targeting the east and south east of Britain, with the first recorded bombs falling on Coventry. Whilst Coastal Command start patrolling French ports for signs of invasion.

7th June 1940

The British Government takes the decision to evacuate remaining troops and aircraft currently in Norway.

8th June 1940

As 'Operation Alphabet', the evacuation of Allied troops still in Narvik, Norway, ends the remaining aircraft of Nos. 46 and 263 Squadron in Norway board HMS Glorious (77) which is attacked and sunk by the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. Over 1,200 people die and only two aircraft survive.

9th June 1940

The French Government leaves Paris.

10th June 1940

After fighting for sixty two days Norway surrenders to Germany whilst Italy declares war on Britain and France, invading France the same day.

The evacuation of Allied troops from Le Havre, France, 'Operation Cycle', begins.

11th June 1940

Prime Minister Winston Churchill flies to France whilst the French Government arrives in Tours. The Fiat headquarters and manufacturing plant in Turin, Italy are bombed by Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of the Royal Air Force, they miss the target and kill 14 civilians.

13th June 1940

On the same day Paris is declared an open city by the French military governor there General Hering 'Operation Cycle' ends with 3,321 British and French soldiers evacuated but over 6,000 are taken prisoner.

14th June 1940

German troops enter Paris, France, whilst equipment and personnel begin to be evacuated from the Channel Islands by Jersey Airways and No. 24 Squadron.

No. 610 Squadron Spitfires in Vic formation ©

15th June 1940

The evacuation of civilians and Allied forces from ports in Western France, known as 'Operation Aerial', begins. The remaining Fairey Battles of the Advanced Air Striking Force carry out a final attack, after this they will return to Britain.

Operating from airfields in Southern France eight Vickers Wellingtons, comprising aircraft from Nos. 99 and 149 Squadron, bomb Genoa, Italy.

16th June 1940

Paul Reynaud is replaced as French Prime Minster by Marshal Henri-Philippe Pétain who announces his plans to seek an armistice with Germany.

17th June 1940

France request peace negations with Germany begin. On the same day the Lancastria is sunk whilst evacuating Allied troops and civilians. More than 4,000 people die of the estimated 6,000 aboard. This is Britain's greatest ever maritime disaster and news of the sinking is kept hidden from the British public until after the war.

18th June 1940

In the House of Commons Prime Minister Winston Churchill warns of the upcoming Battle of Britain meanwhile General Charles de Gaulle in a broadcast on the BBC to the people of France calls on his fellow countrymen to continue the war by joining him in Britain.

For the Luftwaffe's first major night raid they target Canvey Island and its oil storage facilities as well as a number of airfields and other targets. This results in the first British civilian casualties of the Second World War.

19th June 1940

On the same day No. 501 Squadron are the last Hurricane squadron to leave France for Britain Hull is bombed by the Luftwaffe for the first time.

21st June 1940

Armistice negotiations between France and Germany begin, whilst five Blackburn Rocs and four Blackburn Skuas attack gun positions at Cap Gris-Nez, France.

22nd June 1940

After 6 weeks and 4 days of fighting the Battle of France ends as France agrees an armistice with Germany. During this period the Royal Air Force lose 931 aircraft to the Luftwaffe's 1,428 aircraft.

No. 14 Group, part of Fighter Command, is disbanded.

175 Westland Lysanders took part in the Battle of France, 118 were lost

23rd June 1940

Armistice talks between Italy and France start.

24th June 1940

France signs an armistice with Italy.

25th June 1940

The armistice between France and Germany/Italy comes into force at 00:35. This would see three fifths of France under occupation with a free zone in the South governed from Vichy. Some small sections of Southern France near the Italian border would be occupied by Italy. There would also be a 31 mile demilitarised zone established on the border of Italy and Switzerland.

'Operation Aerial' ends. Combined with 'Operation Dynamo' and 'Operation Cycle' a total of 558,032 people were evacuated to safety from France.

Group Captain Philip F. Fullard will head the re-formed No. 14 Group, Fighter Command which will provide cover for most of Scotland.

14 Group (Fighter Command) is re-formed

27th June 1940

German forces reach the French border with Spain meaning France is now completely occupied, whilst the Luftwaffe raids Liverpool, Newcastle and Southampton.

28th June 1940

Guernsey and Jersey are bombed by the Luftwaffe, killing 43 people and injuring 44.

30th June 1940

Hermann Goring, Reichsminister of Aviation, issues a directive with the aim of destroying the RAF as a precursor to the invasion of Britain.

German forces begin their occupation of the Channel Islands as the Luftwaffe takes control of Guernsey airfield.

1st July 1940

No. 808 Naval Air Squadron equipped with Fairey Fulmar Mk Is is formed at RNAS Worthy Down and is the second Fleet Air Arm squadron to serve with Fighter Command.

Jersey, part of the Channel Islands, surrenders.

2nd July 1940

Hitler orders preliminary plans for the invasion of Britain to be drawn up.

3rd July 1940

'Operation Catapult' is carried out by the Royal Navy, this saw two battle-cruisers and six battleships of the French fleet based at Mers-el-Kébir attacked to stop them failing into German hands. The attack saw one sunk and five damaged and the loss of 1,297 French servicemen.

Bomber Command starts targeting invasion barges and the Luftwaffe bomb Cardiff for the first time.

6th July 1940

Plymouth comes under attack from the Luftwaffe for the first time.

8th July 1940

No. 11 Group, Fighter Command which covers the South of England is split into two groups with the newly re-established No. 10 Group, Fighter Command, headed by Air Vice-Marshal Sir C J Quintin Brand, responsible for covering the South West of England and South West Wales.

10 Group (Fighter Command) is formed

Phase One – Channel Shipping Targeted
10th July 1940 - 11th August 1940

Aircraft available at the beginning of the battle
Fighter Command (656)
Luftwaffe (Over 2,000)
Hurricane Mk I (29 squadrons) Bf 109E
Spitfire Mk I (19 squadrons) Bf 110
Blenheim Mk IF (6 squadrons) Ju 88
Defiant Mk I (2 squadrons) Do 17
He 111
Ju 87

10th July 1940

The Battle of Britain begins as coastal targets and shipping come under attack from the Luftwaffe, which they call Kanalkampf (Channel Battle).

No. 310 Squadron is formed at RAF Duxford, they will use the Hawker Hurricane.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 29 airmen | 41 aircraft

11th July 1940

Coastal areas start to come under attack as Portland, Poole and other areas in the south of Britain are targeted.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 41 airmen | 17 aircraft

13th July 1940

Mine laying operations are started by the Luftwaffe. Whilst instructions are issued to Training Command to get ready as many aircraft as possible to be used on anti-invasion sorties.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 5 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 11 airmen | 6 aircraft

14th July 1940

Winston Churchill addresses the nation, Britain would continue fighting.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 3 airmen | 3 aircraft

15th July 1940

The Westland Aircraft factory in Yeovil is bombed.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 6 airmen | 5 aircraft

16th July 1940

Directive No. 16 is issued by Adolf Hitler which calls for 'Operation Sealion', the invasion of Britain, preparations to begin. One of the conditions for invasion stipulates that:

The English Air Force must be so reduced morally and physically that it is unable to deliver any significant attack against the German Army.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 4 airmen | 4 aircraft

17th July 1940

The Luftwaffe attack British shipping convoys off Aberdeen and the Isle of Wight.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 15 airmen | 4 aircraft

19th July 1940

On the day that Hitler delivers a speech with a peace offer for Britain more shipping is attacked in the English Channel. Boulton Paul Defiant's of No. 141 Squadron enter the battle but Hurricanes of No. 111 Squadron are sent to cover No. 141 Squadron after six of the nine sent on convoy patrol near Folkestone are shot down. This was No. 141 Squadrons only daylight operation during the battle.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 11 airmen | 10 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 13 airmen | 5 aircraft

20th July 1940

Kent, Suffolk, Bristol and the Isle of Wight all come under attack from the Luftwaffe as do convoys off Dover and Swanage.

Air Vice-Marshal Malcolm Henderson takes over command of No. 14 Group, Fighter Command.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 7 airmen | 9 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 18 airmen | 12 aircraft

21st July 1940

Six Fairey Battles attack oil storage tanks in Rotterdam, Netherlands whilst Adolf Hitler declares that the 15th September 1940 is the latest date for 'Operation Sealion' to take place.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 19 airmen | 12 aircraft

22nd July 1940

On the day Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax dismisses Hitler's peace offer a Bristol Blenheim Mk IF, of the Fighter Interception Unit based at RAF Tangmere, equipped with Airborne Interception radar becomes the first Royal Air Force aircraft to shoot down another using this system when a Dornier Do 17 is attacked.

Further attacks by the Luftwaffe on convoys off the south and east coast.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 6 airmen | 4 aircraft

Bristol Blenheim Mk IF - One of the RAF's first night fighters

25th July 1940

Portland is attacked as is Convoy CW8 near Dover, five ships are sunk.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 7 airmen | 9 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 19 airmen | 19 aircraft

26th July 1940

Due to heavy losses all daylight movements of merchant ships through the Straits of Dover are stopped by the Admiralty.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 9 airmen | 5 aircraft

27th July 1940

HMS Wren (D88) is sunk and HMS Montrose (D01) damaged after coming under attack from He 111s, whilst the South West is bombed during the night.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 12 airmen | 5 aircraft

29th July 1940

Royal Navy ships are to stop daylight movements in the Straits of Dover under new Admiralty orders.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 25 airmen | 11 aircraft

30th July 1940

Shipping is attacked off Ordforness, Clacton and Harwich.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 21 airmen | 9 aircraft

1st August 1940

No. 247 Squadron is formed with a flight of Gloster Gladiator Mk IIs whilst Norwich station and the nearby Boulton Paul Aircraft Works came under attack whilst propaganda leaflets entitled 'A Last Appeal to Reason' by Adolf Hitler with his speech made on the 19th July are dropped over parts of the UK. That same day Hitler orders the destruction of the RAF to begin on or after the 5th August with the issuing of Directive No. 17, stating:

The German Air Force is to overpower the English Air Force with all force at its command, in the shortest possible time. The attacks are to be directed primarily against flying units, their ground installations, and their supply organizations, but also against the aircraft industry, including that manufacturing antiaircraft equipment.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 5 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 19 airmen | 13 aircraft

7th August 1940

The Luftwaffe raid a number of areas across the United Kingdom including Aberdeen, Poole and Liverpool.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 4 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 5 airmen | 3 aircraft

8th August 1940

The Luftwaffe starts to target British ports and harbours.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 20 airmen | 21 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 30 airmen | 24 aircraft

9th August 1940

Birmingham is bombed by the Luftwaffe for the first time.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 3 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 13 airmen | 6 aircraft

11th August 1940

Kanalkampf (Channel Battle) ends.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 25 airmen | 28 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 48 airmen | 38 aircraft

Phase Two – The Royal Air Force are Targeted
12th August 1940 - 6th September 1940

12th August 1940

In an effort to entice Royal Air Force fighters into combat, airfields mainly in No. 11 Group, Fighter Command, headed by Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, come under attack from the Luftwaffe. Radar stations also come under heightened attack.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 11 airmen | 18 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 52 airmen | 32 aircraft

Hawker Hurricane Mk IA - Alongside the Spitfire the pair formed a formidable partnership

13th August 1940

Around 1,500 German aircraft take part in Adler Tag (Eagle Day) as the Luftwaffe attack radar stations and airfields. This would be the first of a number of large raids with the intention of stopping the Royal Air Force being an effective fighting force.

On the same day twelve Blenheims of No.82 Squadron are dispatched on a daylight raid to Denmark targeting Aaalborg airfield. Eleven of the Blenheims are shot down whilst one had returned to base with technical problems. Only 13 of the 33 airmen survive as prisoners of war. In the space of three months No. 82 Squadron has effectively been destroyed twice.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 15 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 66 airmen | 39 aircraft

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the main Luftwaffe fighter used during the battle. Pictured is a E-3 variant

14th August 1940

RAF Middle Wallop and RAF Warmwell are bombed as part of the Luftwaffe's continuing effort to destroy the Royal Air Force.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 9 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 35 airmen | 20 aircraft

15th August 1940

Prime Minister Winston Churchill is at Bentley Priory, Fighter Command's headquarters, alongside Hugh Dowding, as further large scale raids are undertaken by the Luftwaffe. With 75 aircraft lost this was the most costly day for the Luftwaffe during the battle and they would later refer to the day as 'Black Thursday'.

The Short's factory at Rochester is bombed. The damage inflicted means production of the Short Stirling is hampered for three months.

No. 302 is the first Polish Fighter Squadron to be given operational status and serves as part of No. 12 Group, Fighter Command operating from RAF Leconfield at the time.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 11 airmen | 35 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 128 airmen | 75 aircraft

Bentley Priory as it looks today

16th August 1940

Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson of No. 249 Squadron flying a Hurricane Mk I (P3576) is awarded Fighter Command's only Victoria Cross (read the full citation) of the war.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 11 airmen | 24 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 55 airmen | 44 aircraft

17th August 1940

On the day that Liverpool suffers its first bombing raid the Air Ministry orders that airfields in occupied Europe where the Luftwaffe are attacking from come under heavier attacks from Bomber Command.

No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force becomes the first operational Canadian squadron in the Royal Air Force.

In an attempt to weaken Britain, Hitler orders a total blockade.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 0 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 6 airmen | 5 aircraft

18th August 1940

Further large scale attacks take place by the Luftwaffe as RAF airfields come under attack in the South and South East. These include RAF Kenley, RAF Biggin Hill and RAF West Malling leading to huge loss of aircraft on the ground. These attacks were designed to immobilise Fighter Command once and for all. The Luftwaffe also attack Sheffield for the first time.

This day would see the highest combined losses for the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe during the battle and would lead to Britain calling it 'The Hardest Day'.

The Luftwaffe's Junkers Ju 87 Stuka had been suffering heavy losses over Britain and as a result operations with the aircraft began to be scaled back.

No. 310 Squadron is declared operational.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 10 airmen | 33 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 97 airmen | 67 aircraft

19th August 1940

A change in tactics is issued by Keith Park, from now on fighters are to operate over land or within gliding distance and prioritise bombers.

With losses of aircrew mounting the time fighter pilots will spend in Operational Training Units is cut from 6 months to 2 weeks.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 5 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 23 airmen | 11 aircraft

20th August 1940

In a speech to the House of Commons Winston Churchill praises the pilots of the Royal Air Force, not just Fighter Command but also Bomber Command.

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 11 airmen | 8 aircraft

21st August 1940

Abbeville airfield in France attacked by Bristol Blenheims of No. 53 Squadron.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 4 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 29 airmen | 14 aircraft

23rd August 1940

On the day the Local Defence Volunteers is renamed the Home Guard South Wales comes under attack.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 20 airmen | 8 aircraft

24th August 1940

The Luftwaffe increase the pressure on the RAF as over 500 aircraft take part in a number of raids, including on Portsmouth, Ramsgate, which killed 29 people, and a devastating raid on RAF Manston which kills a number of personnel and leads to the airfield being evacuated.

Night time attacks by the Luftwaffe start to increase leading to a major turning point in the battle when the centre of London is accidentally bombed against Hitler's orders.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 10 airmen | 20 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 46 airmen | 41 aircraft

25th August 1940

After the bombing of London over 70 bombers comprising Vickers Wellingtons, Handley Page Hampdens and Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys are sent to raid Berlin, Germany for the first time.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 13 airmen | 18 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 20 airmen | 23 aircraft

26th August 1940

Campile in County Wexford, Ireland is bombed by the Luftwaffe killing three people. A protest to Germany is made by Ireland.

No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force engage the Luftwaffe, the first RCAF squadron to do so, over Southern England, whilst No. 310 Squadron are in action for the first time.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 7 airmen | 29 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 44 airmen | 42 aircraft

28th August 1940

During the day London, the Midlands and the North East Coast come under attack, whilst during the night Liverpool suffers a heavy attack. This day would also be the Defiant's last as a day fighter as it would now operate as a night fighter.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 10 airmen | 15 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 46 airmen | 32 aircraft

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I - As a night fighter the Defiant would prove more successful

29th August 1940

Once again Liverpool comes under attack at night whilst the Midlands is attacked during the day.

Ireland receive an apology from Germany over the bombing of Campile in County Wexford.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 10 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 46 airmen | 24 aircraft

30th August 1940

The South Coast came under attack from the Luftwaffe. In the afternoon the Vauxhall car factory in Luton is bombed, 39 people are killed. For the third night in a row Liverpool is bombed.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 9 airmen | 25 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 57 airmen | 40 aircraft

31st August 1940

As the air battle intensifies Fighter Command losses 41 aircraft, this will be the highest daily loss for it during the battle. Once again Royal Air Force airfields in the South and South East Coast come under attack. During the night Liverpool suffers its fourth consecutive day of bombing.

No. 303 Squadron become operational flying the Hurricane Mk I. This is thanks in part to Flying Officer Ludwik Paszkiewicz who shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 the previous day. They would operate from RAF Northolt to begin with and would go on to become the highest scoring squadron of the battle with 126 victories.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 9 airmen | 41 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 21 airmen | 39 aircraft

1st September 1940

The airfields of Fighter Command come under heavy attack with RAF Biggin Hill being damaged so much it would be classed as non-operational for a short period. During the night Liverpool was targeted again.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 6 airmen | 13 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 15 airmen | 16 aircraft

2nd September 1940

The Luftwaffe once again targets Royal Air Force airfields in the South East, including RAF North Weald, RAF Gravesend and RAF Biggin Hill. During the night Liverpool comes under attack.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 14 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 31 airmen | 37 aircraft

3rd September 1940

Airfields across Britain are attacked with night time again bringing the Luftwaffe to Liverpool for the sixth night in a row.

The 21st September is set as the date for 'Operation Sealion' by Adolf Hitler.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 6 airmen | 15 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 21 airmen | 20 aircraft

4th September 1940

During the afternoon the Vickers factory at Brooklands suffers a heavy attack which destroys a number of buildings and kills 88 people and injures over 400.

Adolf Hitler says he will erase British cities in a speech in response to the Royal Air Force raid on Berlin, Germany the previous month.

And if the British Air Force drops two, three or four thousand kilos of bombs, then we will drop 150,000, 180,000, 230,000, 300,000 or 400,000 kilos, or more, in one night. If they declare that they will attack our cities on a large scale, we will erase theirs!

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 12 airmen | 17 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 24 airmen | 28 aircraft

5th September 1940

No. 312 Squadron is made operational operating Hawker Hurricane Mk Is from RAF Duxford.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 8 airmen | 20 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 36 airmen | 27 aircraft

The operations room at Duxford as it would have looked like during 1940

6th September 1940

As a result of intelligence obtained by the Royal Air Force showing preparations for invasion were continuing, an alert to prepare for invasion is issued.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 7 airmen | 20 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 36 airmen | 33 aircraft

Phase Three – The Blitz Begins
7th September 1940 - 5th October 1940

7th September 1940

The Luftwaffe makes its first co-ordinated raid on Central London when just after 17:00 around 965 aircraft attacked the Dockland areas, Woolwich and Purfleet. Further raids followed on the East End and Central London and when the attack ended at 4:30 the following morning 430 people had been killed. This would be the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing on the capital.

The first use of the 'Big Wing' tactic championed by Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Commander of No. 12 Group, Fighter Command and Acting Squadron Leader Douglas Bader occurs. This sees the Duxford Wing, which consists of Nos. 242, 312 and 19 Squadrons sent to patrol RAF North Weald.

That night twelve Fairey Battles from Nos. 103 and 150 Squadron attack barges at Calais Harbour, France.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 16 airmen | 25 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 52 airmen | 41 aircraft

8th September 1940

During an air raid the shelter housing people and visitors from the Peabody Estate, Whitechapel suffers a direct hit, killing 78 people.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 5 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 29 airmen | 16 aircraft

9th September 1940

Targets across London come under attack during the day and into the night.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 6 airmen | 17 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 38 airmen | 30 aircraft

10th September 1940

Italy's Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) will take part in the Battle of Britain. Operating from Belgium around 200 aircraft will become part of the Regia Aeronautica air expeditionary force which is formed for this purpose and called the Corpo Aero Italiano (Italian Air Corps).

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 0 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 11 airmen | 13 aircraft

11th September 1940

Hitler postpones the decision on whether the invasion of Britain will go ahead until the 14th September.

During the day London, Portsmouth and Southampton are raided by the Luftwaffe whilst during the night London is attacked again.

Winston Churchill tells the nation in a radio broadcast that the German invasion “if it is to come, will come soon”.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 18 airmen | 29 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 35 airmen | 29 aircraft

13th September 1940

No. 966 Balloon Squadron scores a balloon barrages first victory when a Heinkel He 111 crashes near Newport, Wales.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 3 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 10 airmen | 7 aircraft

14th September 1940

For the second time Adolf Hitler delays the decision on invading Britain, this time until the 17th September.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 13 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 19 airmen | 13 aircraft

15th September 1940

The Luftwaffe launch an attack in a bid to finally overcome the Royal Air Force and win the battle for air superiority. London would be attacked twice, first at 11:00 when two waves of aircraft totalling around 250 bombed the capital. Then at 14:00 two waves of aircraft, again around 250, attacked London. Southampton and Portland were also targeted, whilst during the night a further raid on London occurred.

Meanwhile dogfights took place in the skies as both sides suffered heavy losses with the RAF losing 31 aircraft and 16 aircrew whilst the Luftwaffe lost 61 aircraft and 93 aircrew. After failing to inflict a decisive blow to the RAF the Luftwaffe would start to reduce attacks.

This day would later become known as 'Battle of Britain Day'.

The Fairey Battle, which had suffered horrendous losses during the Battle of France, carries out its last sortie as a bomber by a UK based squadron.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 16 airmen | 31 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 93 airmen | 61 aircraft

Spitfires of No. 222 Squadron take off ©

16th September 1940

No. 9 Group, Fighter Command is formed. This will cover Northern Ireland and the North West of England and will be headed by Air Vice-Marshal W.A.McClaughry.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 14 airmen | 10 aircraft

17th September 1940

'Operation Sealion' is postponed until otherwise ordered by Hitler.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 14 airmen | 8 aircraft

18th September 1940

London again comes under attack during the day and night.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 12 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 36 airmen | 20 aircraft

19th September 1940

Raids take place across the UK as London again is bombed as are targets along the Essex and Sussex coast. During the night the South West, Midlands and London come under attack.

Invasion barges are once again targeted by the Royal Air Force.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 0 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 22 airmen | 10 aircraft

24th September 1940

Tilbury and Southampton come under attack during the day whilst at night London is attacked again.

To recognise acts of bravery by civilians and military personal during the battle and the Blitz King George VI initiated the George Medal and George Cross “for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 12 airmen | 11 aircraft

25th September 1940

The Bristol Aircraft Company based at Filton, Bristol is bombed. 92 people are killed.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 5 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 25 airmen | 16 aircraft

26th September 1940

Southampton comes under attack twice during the day and as a result the Supermarine factory at Woolston is put out of action and 110 people are killed.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 8 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 18 airmen | 9 aircraft

27th September 1940

The Tripartite Pact is signed by Germany, Italy and Japan, whilst in Britain bombers on anti-invasion standby are freed up.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 20 airmen | 28 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 81 airmen | 57 aircraft

30th September 1940

London again comes under attack by the Luftwaffe during the night.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 8 airmen | 21 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 59 airmen | 47 aircraft

1st October 1940

The Luftwaffe start to change tactics with bombers attacking at night and fighter-bombers during the day.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 6 airmen | 7 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 16 airmen | 9 aircraft

3rd October 1940

The de Haviland Aircraft Company factory at Hatfield is attacked by a sole Junkers Ju 88. As a result 21 people are killed and 70 injured with some materials for de Havilland's new Mosquito aircraft destroyed. The Ju 88 was later shot down by anti-aircraft fire with the crew ending up as prisoners of war.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 21 airmen | 9 aircraft

5th October 1940

Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse replaces Sir Charles Portal as Bomber Command's Air Officer Commander-in-Chief.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 7 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 15 airmen | 14 aircraft

Phase Four – The Battle Reaches Its Conclusion
6th October 1940 - 31st October 1940

6th October 1940

Coastal towns and targets of interest come under attack during the day from Luftwaffe fighter-bombers. Meanwhile the RAF target barges at Dutch ports amongst other targets.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 19 airmen | 9 aircraft

7th October 1940

No. 80 (Signals) Wing is formed at RAF Radlett and is the first electronic warfare unit of the Royal Air Force. They will be used to interrupt any aids used to help the Luftwaffe pinpoint their targets.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 9 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 11 airmen | 19 aircraft

8th October 1940

Sergeant Josef Frantisek DFM of No. 303 Squadron who, with 17 victories, was the highest scoring Allied Battle of Britain pilot dies in a flying accident at the age of 27.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 8 airmen | 8 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 32 airmen | 17 aircraft

10th October 1940

Weymouth, Kent and London come under attack during the day. At night airfields are targeted as well as Manchester and London.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 6 airmen | 8 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 13 airmen | 12 aircraft

12th October 1940

In an effort to keep the pressure on Britain to seek peace Hitler wants invasion preparations to continue, but postpones the invasion until spring 1941.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 5 airmen | 11 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 7 airmen | 13 aircraft

14th October 1940

During a raid on London a bomb explodes at Balham Tube Station where a number of people are sheltering. In total nearly 70 people die.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 1 airmen | 4 aircraft

15th October 1940

104 people are killed when a trench shelter in Kennington Park, Lambeth suffers a direct hit.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 6 airmen | 15 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 12 airmen | 16 aircraft

19th October 1940

Liverpool, The Midlands, London and Bristol are all attacked during the night.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 4 airmen | 6 aircraft

20th October 1940

138 aircraft from Bomber Command attack a range of targets in Germany and Italy.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 5 airmen | 5 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 11 airmen | 11 aircraft

21st October 1940

The West Country, Liverpool and London come under further daytime attacks.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 2 airmen | 2 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 10 airmen | 7 aircraft

22nd October 1940

During the night the Luftwaffe bombs London, Liverpool and Coventry.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 6 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 28 airmen | 12 aircraft

23rd October 1940

In the day attacks are made by aircraft flying alone in the South East and Midlands whilst at night Glasgow is bombed as is London again.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 1 airmen | 1 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 5 airmen | 4 aircraft

24th October 1940

The Corpo Aero Italiano join the battle when 18 Fiat BR 20s take off from airfields in Belgium to raid Felixstowe and Harwich during the night.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 3 airmen | 3 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 21 airmen | 12 aircraft

26th October 1940

Fighter-bomber attacks are made on London and Kent whilst a number of major cities are bombed.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 4 airmen | 8 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 19 airmen | 10 aircraft

29th October 1940

The Corpo Aero Italiano again attacks Britain as during the day 15 BR 20s, escorted by Fiat CR.42 Falcos and Fiat G.50s, bomb Ramsgate.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 5 airmen | 12 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 30 airmen | 28 aircraft

Fiat CR.42 Falco

31st October 1940

After 3 months and 3 weeks the Battle of Britain ends. With the Luftwaffe's failure to gain air superiority over Southern Britain the invasion cannot take place during 1940. Although the Blitz will continue over the coming months as cities across the UK are bombed.

  Daily losses
Fighter Command - 0 airmen | 0 aircraft
Luftwaffe - 0 airmen | 2 aircraft

Total aircrew losses during the battle (10th July - 31st October)
Royal Air Force
Fighter Command
Killed or Missing
Bomber Command
Coastal Command
Fleet Air Arm
Ground Crew

Total aircraft losses during the battle (10th July - 31st October)
Royal Air Force
1,023 1,733

The Aftermath and Useful Resources
1st November 1940 - 10th May 1941

With the battle now over and the Luftwaffe unable to overcome the Royal Air Force and daylight attacks proving costly in both aircrew and aircraft the Luftwaffe would turn to night operations targeting cities with the intention to weaken civilian morale as a continuation of the Blitz. This would also see the rise of a new tactic adopted by the Germans of attacking cities on consecutive nights.

During the six months that followed the UK would suffer 135 major or heavy attacks with London being targeted the most, suffering a particularly devastating attack on the 29th December 1940, then Liverpool and Birmingham. Wherever there were factories vital to Britain's war industry the Luftwaffe would attack those cities, including Manchester with its A V Roe factory, Sheffield with its armament factories, Cardiff and its docks were bombed as were Hull's, the industrial area of Clydebank and Glasgow and the docks and shipyard at Belfast also come under attack.

One of the worst raids of the Blitz occurred on the 14th November 1940 when the Luftwaffe launched 'Operation Mondscheinsonate' ('Operation Moonlight Sonata') targeting Coventry. On that night 568 people were killed and the Cathedral destroyed when 437 aircraft bombed the city. This would lead to a new word by the Germans "to coventrieren" (to Coventrate). The 23rd saw Southampton attacked heavily for the first time as well. November would also see Air Marshal Sir William Sholto Douglas replace Hugh Dowding as Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command on the 25th. Four days later on the 29th November Liverpool was attacked again and 166 people died when the shelter at Edge Hill Training Centre received a direct hit from a parachute mine, whilst former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin had died at the age of 71 on the 9th November.

December 1940 would see No. 66 Squadron perform the first Rhubarb fighter sweep over Europe on the 20th as Fighter Command started to go on the offensive.

One of the last major bombing raids of this period was on the 10th May 1941 when London was attacked by over 500 aircraft with 1,486 people killed. When the Blitz officially ended five days later on the 16th May it brought to an end 8 months and 10 days of attacks which saw 43,500 people lose their lives. Although Adolf Hitler turned his attention to the invasion of the Soviet Union this wasn't the end of attacks on the UK as over the coming months and years the Luftwaffe would return.

Useful Resources
Losses for aircrew and aircraft day by day
Map showing an overview of the battle
How Bomber Command Helped Win the Battle of Britain
8 Important Dates in the Battle of Britain
Support from the Ground in the Battle of Britain
RAF Museum - History of the Battle of Britain

Back to articles

Click here to view a range of Spitfire experiences

Click here to view a range of flying experiences

Quick Search

Spitfire Messerschmitt Fairey Bristol Avro North American Hawker Curtiss Grumman

New on Classic Warbirds


Spotted an error? Or just have a comment or suggestion about Classic Warbirds? Please let us know.

Click here to view our museum guide