From the Library: The Battle of Britain

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by Elrik Merlin on Monday, 16 August, 2010

An Observer Corps spotter scans the wartime skies over London
from a rooftop, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background.
Photo courtesy of the US National Archives & Records Administration

Seventy years ago this week, the Battle of Britain was at its peak, characterised by the most intense period of Nazi Luftwaffe bombing of Britain that took place between 10 July and 31 October 1940. The name derives from a speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “The Battle of France is over… the Battle of Britain is about to begin”.

HMSO poster echoing Churchill’s
famous words of August 20, 1940
“Never in the field of human conflict
was so much owed by so many
to so few”

Initially, from around July 1940, the target was British ports and shipping; the Luftwaffe then moved on to target RAF airfields and infrastructure in an attempt to take control of the air; and finally London and other major cities were targeted. The objective was to defeat the Royal Air Force and establish air supremacy, and thus either force British surrender or make an invasion (“Operation Sealion”) possible. Hitler’s failure to achieve this was a major turning point in the Second World War.

Today we’ll be remembering the Battle of Britain with music of the war years, extracts from famous speeches and news broadcasts, and actuality recorded at the time including interviews with pilots, along with classic film music from movies depicting the events, including scores by both Sir William Walton and Ron Goodwin for the 1969 film The Battle Of Britain.

Then at 11am Pacific Time (7pm UK time) we’ll be broadcasting the moving hour-long documentary based on the poem  For Johnny by John Pudney, and first broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1965, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

You can read more about the events of this critical period in European history here.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin and produced by Radio Riel in association with the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium of Second Life. You can listen now at

For more information on the Alexandrian Free Library, current exhibits and the work of Consortium members in general, please visit the Alexandrian Free Library website, or one of their branches in-world.

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