From the Library: The Battle of Britain

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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