The Battle of Britain: 75 Years On

Sev­en­ty-five 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 and 7pm Pacif­ic Time (7pm and 3am 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.

The head­er image shows Hur­ri­cane Mk1, RAF ser­i­al R4118, squadron code UP‑W, UK civ­il reg­is­tra­tion G‑HUPW, at the Roy­al Inter­na­tion­al Air Tat­too, Fair­ford, Glouces­ter­shire, Eng­land. The air­craft was deliv­ered new to 605 (Coun­ty of War­wick) Squadron in August 1940. It flew 49 com­bat sor­ties from Croy­don, Eng­land, destroy­ing 3 ene­my air­craft and dam­ag­ing 2 oth­ers. Still paint­ed in its orig­i­nal mark­ings, R4118 is the only Hur­ri­cane from the Bat­tle of Britain still fly­ing. Pho­to by Arp­ing­stone (Wiki­me­dia, pub­lic domain)

Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin. If you are in the Unit­ed States or Cana­da, please click here to launch the Stream Licens­ing play­er. To lis­ten from out­side North Amer­i­ca, click here to start your play­er .

This pro­gramme is also avail­able in enhanced-qual­i­ty AAC. Tune in here:

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