The battle of britain

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The Battle of Britain
In June 1940, France was defeated by Nazi Germany. This caused the British forces in France to retreat to defend Britain. Hitler planned to invade Britain after defeating the RAF – how important were the RAF in changing the course of the Second World War?

The Battle of France is over; the Battle of Britain is about to begin.” Winston Churchill

Bombs falling from a Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber

© IWM (GER 18)

Read the information boards at the front of the hangar.
When did the Battle of Britain happen?

Why did Hitler need to defeat the RAF?

Make a list of some of the targets the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) bombed.

In this hangar are two British Battle of Britain fighters, the Hurricane and the Spitfire. Can you find and compare the two aircraft?

u:\my documents\my pictures\© iwm (ch 5291) spitfire.jpg

Supermarine Spitfire © IWM (CH 5291)

How fast can the Spitfire fly?

How many guns does the Spitfire have?

Hawker Hurricane © IWM (HU 104482)

How fast can the Hurricane fly?

How many guns does the Hurricane have?

If you were in charge of the Battle of Britain but could only use one of the fighters, which would you keep?

Why did you make that choice?

Close your eyes and listen to the Battle of Britain film.

How do you think pilots would feel when flying in the battles?

An ME 109 after it crash landed in 1940 © IWM (HU 67701)

The hangar also contains one of the German Battle of Britain aircraft, the Messerschmitt 109E. This aircraft was taken on a Bundles for Britain tour of America to raise money after it crash landed. Have a look at the fuselage and tail of the ME 109.

Can you find proof of what happened to the aircraft whilst it was in America?

Have a look at the information board near the nose of the aircraft. How does the Messerschmitt compare with the Hurricane and Spitfire?

During the Battle of Britain, cities like London were bombed. Fighter planes were used to try to stop the Luftwaffe from reaching their targets.

The bombing during the Battle of Britain is known as the Blitz. What it ‘Blitz’ short for?

Prime Minister Winston Churchill visiting bombed houses in London © IWM (H 3978)

What ground defences were used to try to help the fighter planes stop the bombers?

Did you know?
Hitler’s invasion plan for Britain was called Operation Sealion. In the summer of 1940, Britain was placed on ‘Alert Number 2’, which meant an invasion was expected in three days.

Winston Churchill in 1939

© IWM (HU 5547)

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Winston Churchill

Discuss in your group what you think Churchill meant.

Teachers’ notes and answer sheet
Using the trail

We have tried to highlight the areas of the museum which are relevant to your talk and provide activities for the pupils to do there – there is no expectation that any one class or group will complete the whole trail!

This trail focuses around Hangar 4, the Battle of Britain and is a 10-15 minute walk from the Visitor Centre.
If you would like to visit other hangars or cover topics outside your talk, please feel free to explore our other sessions and trails. You are welcome to use images and ideas from these trails to create your own trail – please keep copyright numbers with images where appropriate.

From the British perspective, the Battle of Britain happened during July to October of 1940 (from the German perspective, it is between 13th August 1940 and June 1941). Hitler needed to defeat the RAF because he was going to invade by sea and saw the RAF as too much of a threat to his ships. The Luftwaffe bombed communication lines and airfields first and then military and civilian targets during the Blitz.
The Spitfire flies at 357 mph (575 kph) and has two cannons and four machine guns. The Hurricane flies at 340 mph (544 kph) and has twelve machine guns. Which is the best fighter plane is a matter of opinion! The Spitfire came to represent the British efforts in the Battle of Britain and is probably the more popular amongst the public at the time, however the Hurricane shot down more enemy aircraft than all the other defences combined.
The ME 109E went on a tour of America and people who donated to Bundles for Britain could scratch their names on the fuselage. The Spitfire is comparable to the Messerschmitt.
Blitz is short for ‘Blitzkreig’. Ground defences used to stop the German bombers were anti-aircraft guns, search lights and barrage balloons.
When discussing Churchill’s quote, it may help to point out that 544 pilots from Fighter Command died during the Battle of Britain.

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