The Battle of Britain Paper
As the great battle for the English Channel drew nearer, the British were alone in their fight against Nazism. The French had already been forced to surrender to the Germans, however the British refused to surrender to the Nazi’s after been given the chance. This meant that Hitler and his men had no choice but to begin his invasion of Britain. Most had foreseen that Britain would be the next victim of Blitzkrieg attacks and that the actual Battle would take place in the Air. Even if Britain had lost most of its equipment at Dunkirk, Hitler knew that if they tried to embark across the sea from France they would be annihilated.
However the RAF had about 850 fighters including the best Plane in the world, ‘the Spitfire’. Sir Hugh Dowding encouraged the development of Britain’s radar system and believed interception would be the most useful tactic, especially when fuel was so scarce. It his hard to pin point the start and end to the Battle of Britain, but late July 1940 was when Hitler ordered his Luftwaffe to bomb British Shipping and to destroy as many British fighters as possible. This was to make way for ‘Operation Sea lion’, which would be the full frontal assault of Britain.
It was now in the hands of the RAF pilots to defend their homeland. Britain’s RAF emerged victorious from the battle and Hitler was forced to call off his proposed ‘Operation Sea Lion’. The Nazi’s could not invade Britain and this saved them from the dreaded Blitzkrieg. Hitler realised he would not be able to defeat Britain and concentrated his efforts on Russia and (foolishly) on America, since Britain was still available for Hitler’s enemies use, America used it as a pathway to Germany; it was the launching pad for the second front.
American and British soldiers attacked Germany from the west, whilst Russia attacked from the east. We can question, would this have been possible if Britain was under Nazi control? The Battle of Britain definitely had long-term significance in the fall of Hitler. The Early War-time Interpretations World War II was a time of great loss, and Britain had had its fair share of death and destruction. Churchill was constantly trying to convince the civilian population to be optimistic, especially since he was a newly appointed priminister.
The Dunkirk spirit campaign had brought Britain together in the way it looked upon the battle against Nazism, and Britain were very high in morale. Churchill’s propaganda wasn’t really a lie but more of an exaggeration of the truth. During the Battle of Britain, the British were preparing for a textbook example of Blitzkrieg defeat, and most people had realised that the situation was quite simple. If the RAF held off the incoming Luftwaffe, the Germans could not carry out their land assault on Britain. All civilians could do was to put their trust in to the few pilots that were willing to fight.
This was essential, there were very few pilots around to fight and most of these were young and inexperienced. During the battle a myth began to form, the Luftwaffe was not penetrating the RAF defences. The few, young pilots became heroes as they held of the German bombers for day after day. Propaganda was put up everywhere saying that if it weren’t for ‘the few’ that were fighting a large proportion of the German air force, the Nazi’s would be on British soil already. People’s morale was boosted, and most of the population felt that they owed their lives to these brave pilots that had saved them.
Many people still believe that if it wasn’t for this vital win from the Pilots, the outcome of the war might have been different. For example the Americans would have had to fight the Nazi’s out of Britain before it could get to Europe, and it had very far to travel across the Atlantic Ocean. Before I looked at the written interpretations, I interviewed an elderly lady who was 23 at the time of the Battle of Britain. She saw and heard many of Churchill’s speeches and she commented ‘Winston was the perfect priminister to lead Britain’.
Her husband was a paratrooper captured by the Japanese, and was a prisoner of War in Japan. She was praying for his life and said that the young men who fought in the Battle of Britain were heroes, especially since many of them had returned from Dunkirk in a state. She sincerely believes that if Britain had been invaded the War may have had a different outcome, but she also mentioned the fact that if Hitler hadn’t bombed pearl harbour, the Americans would have kept to themselves. But since they did, America joined the allies, and with the massive American force and Britain’s exceptional Navy, the war was won.
Her husband was later released after Japan was defeated. Despite being fed propaganda everyday, she stuck by the fact that if America hadn’t joined the war Hitler would have won. However, she said she felt great admiralty for those pilots that defended their country to the bitter end. She did comment ‘It was selfish the way America wouldn’t join the war until they got attacked, they knew Hitler was evil, but failed to do anything about it. If it wasn’t for our pilots, Germany would have been in Britain before America could do anything’.
She agreed it was Britain’s finest hour, because Britain had always been labelled ‘nothing but a Navy’ but the air fight was the first official British win. She said she had heard Churchill constantly go on about the pilots, but she felt there should have been more than just ‘a few’ in the first place. Churchill made many speeches during the war and they got more powerful and moving as time progressed. One of his speeches during 1940 described the Battle as ‘Britain’s finest hour’. The speech came in two parts. The first part was read on the 18th June, and the second on the 20th August.
This was during the middle of the battle, when many pilots were practically sacrificing themselves. The basic message of this interpretation is that this Battle saved the world from Nazism (‘Finest hour’) and the young pilots won that battle, in which many perished (‘The few’). The purpose of this speech was mainly propaganda. It was used to boost the morale of the civilians and especially the pilots. The speech was made at a time when Churchill needed to show he was up to the job of leading the British people. Churchill knew that people would relate to and therefore sympathize with such young men.
The sacrifice of ‘the young’ is a powerful image, which is why it is partially an attempt to draw America into the war on Britain’s side. Churchill had realized even if they won the battle of the air, Britain would never be able to defeat the Nazi’s without the help of another ally. This speech secretly made the American people feel guilty for not helping out Britain, and make them realize that Churchill believed they were the right side and those pilots were willing to sacrifice themselves for this cause. The speeches made by Churchill are primary pieces of evidence, which reacted to the times events, that makes it very well informed.
However, this is propaganda, which makes it unreliable but its very effective propaganda that got through to its target audience and indeed got America’s backing. This is still a very nationalistic piece of evidence and omits the destruction and casualties faced by the pilots. It is very selective and a biased view of the battle- ‘Christian civilization’, which suggests that any country such as America is at risk if the Germans won the war. Richard Hillary was one of the first pilots to write about his experiences during the Battle of Britain. He wrote about his job in the battle while recovering from severe wounds which he almost died from.
He required painful and extensive plastic surgery, which offered only trauma. The date of this interpretation is very important, it was written whilst he was actually in his hospital bed. The general message is that the Germans were ‘the evil’ and it was essential that they should defeat Hitler and his merciless ideas of megalomania. However, Richard Hillary seems to have almost enjoyed the war, and he looked upon his opposition not as people, but simple targets that were just as bloodthirsty as he was. He reflects the attitudes that most of the young pilots had, that as long they were occupied they didn’t really mind.
He also liked the way he and is friends were national heroes for the jobs they were doing, and this almost makes him naive. The surprising thing about this interpretation is that it completely demonstrates the way pilots were being injured or killed; yet it was released as a source of propaganda. This is because Churchill’s whole propaganda campaign was trying to spread the ‘sacrifice’ of the pilots, and Britain were trying to prove that they wouldn’t let Hitler take their island. Human tragedy played a big part in making anybody not fighting in the war feel guilty that they weren’t up their helping these young men.
The main reason for him to write this interpretation was because he was terribly injured and was trying to justify his injuries, and also he was trying to come to terms with what he had experienced. This was written at a time when the outcome of the war was not known, and this book suggests a sense of unity he had with his friends, and being a pilot made him feel superior to a typical war fighter. This source is a typical wartime interpretation in the way it has a strong essence of propaganda, but it is one of very few interpretations that are autobiographical.
This is an insight into the battle itself and later became a powerful book, which suggests at least some truth. This is however, written by a person who remembered very little of his encounter and was still very bitter because it was so soon after the battle. Richard Hillary may say how terrible his injuries were, but he doesn’t regret anything and doesn’t mention a hint of defeat in the way the war was going. This was inevitably a vital piece in Churchill’s propaganda crusade, especially the way in it suggests this war was down to ‘the few’ and mentions no other factors which were contributing to Britain’s survival.
During the Battle of Britain various newsreels were produced to give people an idea of what was happening in the air. They were shown in cinemas during 1940 and many people would go out to see these because not all had a T. V. They were visual images often with a commentator, and very rarely showed the whole picture of the Battle. The main message of these newsreels during the battle was that it was ‘the few’ young pilots that were keeping the Germans out of Britain. I witnessed a Movie tone newsreel from 1940 and it suggested that this battle was a desperate fight and Britain was only defending itself, but the whole world from Nazism.
The up-beat music and nationalistic tone accompanies the essential information, this Battle was supremely important in the eyes of the British. Its main reason for saying this was for propaganda purposes and was designed to reassure people and to justify the pilots’ hardships. This was a British assessment of what was going on, and often the film companies worked closely with the Government. The whole film is very dramatised but is real film of real people in a real war, which cannot be ruled out or forgotten. This is why the interpretation must be reasonably accurate and authentic.
These films showed events as they happened not someone else’s account, and millions received this message that also made it very effective. However this video shows only Nazi airships being shot down and not one British plane. There is a very militaristic tone about the whole film, and a biased commentary from a very patriotic speaker. No British causalities are mentioned and they make the Germans out to be ‘beasts’ with no emotion or feeling. The importance of the battle is stressed because the memory is still very fresh, especially for families of those who died in this battle.
It would be insensitive to say that their loved ones died for no reason in a not important battle. There is also a constant ‘Good vs. Evil’ emphasis on the whole war. To aid the campaign on propaganda war posters were placed on walls everywhere and quickly became a common sight. These were put up shortly after the battle had taken place. These were optimistic posters when people knew the outcome of the battle. The basic message is that every civilian owed their lives to these pilots, but still a request for more people to join the war effort. Also the fact that they won the last air battle encouraged many pilots to join the war.
It emphasises the sacrifice of Britain’s youth, but fails to mention any factors contributing to their victory. For example the radar system aided their win and the many other nationalities of pilots that helped Britain in the air. The main reason it fails to mention such factors is that propaganda is all about the people relating to what they see. A complex radar system is not the type of thing civilians relate to, but young pilots across the country touched the hearts of many. The date of the poster has a great significance; it was produced at a time when Britain had no real allies.
So was yet another attempt at drawing America onto their side into the war. It shows pilots looking to the sky, which is visually effective, and they are all smiling. It makes a young man feel like it’s his duty to help their fellow men and be one of the few. This interpretation is a primary piece of evidence that is photo evidence and was very effective at the time. It has a core of truth and shows a typical example of the people sacrificing themselves for the British beliefs. This is a very selective view though, and is particularly patriotic and nationalistic.
This poster fails to mention the death and makes the battle out to be a ‘clean fight’ and doesn’t portray the true reality of war. The failure to mention such factors as the radar system makes it rather unreliable. The Daily Express constantly fed news to the civilian population as well as asking for more recruits within the articles published. The article relating to the battle of Britain was written on the 13th August 1940. This was during the actual Battle, and the owner of the express was Lord Beaverbrook, who was also minister of aircrafts (as well as being a great friend to Churchill). The message was very particular and subtle.
All men should help, the few young people were winning the Battle, and that this battle would determine Britain’s place in the rest of the war, and possible the outcome of World War II. It is very similar to the propaganda posters in its aims, especially since it is trying to involve more people in the war (i. e. More pilots, America). This was published when things were not looking very good from a British perspective, and is not a newspaper to satisfy readers, but more to satisfy the Governments ideas. This newspaper also says what people wanted to hear as a way of boosting morale and improving preparation for a long-term war.
Newspapers written at this time were probably under close surveillance from the government and edited articles that discredited Churchill’s leadership or Britain’s war effort. Newspaper articles are very good at revealing the mood of the time and it suggests great optimism for the battle. It links well with Churchill, which means is should be moderately well informed. The interpretation is very effective at reaching it’s target audience and is primary evidence. However, there is a strong sense of bias within the writing and is rather selective in omitting desperation and death of pilots.
Interpretations like this often exaggerate and dramatize the Pilots role in the war, it may have been an important role but Hitler had never been too worried about capturing the United Kingdom. All of these early time interpretations tend to say the same thing, and every one of them say that the pilots won the battle by themselves. The interpretations suggest that this battle had a significant effect on who went on to win the war. The myth shines out in all of these interpretations and most if not all, of them have been used as propaganda to some extent.
Most of these sources were responding to the mood of the British people, and this legend boosted morale considerably. Britain was suffering many losses at the time, and Churchill could not afford to let people know the real situation until it was certain. Factors such as radar may have helped the battle, but it wouldn’t have made a difference to morale of everyday troops and civilians. A lot of families would have been affected by these deaths of pilots, and to simply talk about the battle as ‘unimportant’ would be insensitive, and memories were still very fresh if not raw in people’s minds.
The myth could not be contradicted for at least a few years and therefore there is a definite trend in the way most of these interpretations describe the battle. The Later Interpretations Stories always tend to change as time progresses, and the later these interpretations were written, the less sensitive they are to the importance of the battle, and the exact reasons for their victory. Originally it seemed that this was one of the most important battles of the Second World War, and that the few pilots representing Britain had won it.
These next interpretations say that the Battle of Britain wasn’t even that important and that Hitler’s fall was always going to happen with the majority of the world against him. They also mention the advanced radar system Britain had, which was systematic and effective in alerting all allied aircrafts during the battle. One other important fact is that various other nationalities of pilots fought in that battle on Britain’s side. From the Czech and Polish, to the Belgian and French. They all wanted revenge against Hitler, he had after all destroyed their homes.
Churchill said ‘Never in the filed of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few’. The later interpretations say that a lot was owed to the pilots for taking down 1,244 German aircrafts and crews, but we should take into consideration that it was not a battle Hitler had spent a long time thinking about. The first that began to introduce new factors for Britain’s victory was the Daily Graphic in 1944. Written by Sir Arthur Bryant. It was written after the war so the outcome was certain. The Daily Graphic was one of the most popular newspapers and was widely read at the time.
Sir Bryant suggests that there was more to Britain’s “finest hour” than the traditional few brave pilots. The popular myth is still mentioned but he mentions Britain’s advanced radar system and Hugh Dowding’s leadership. The aircrafts owned by Britain were the best in the world (especially the Spitfire, with it’s exceptional manoeuvrability). The spitfire was equipped with eight . 303 machineguns which means, combined with their speed they were a formidable force. Britain’s radar system gave their troops the essential ‘edge’ over the Germans, not the pilots.
After all, the air ministry had refused Dowding’s idea of yearlong training, so these pilots had very little experience so it would be very unlikely for them to win in a straight fight. Sir Hugh Dowding was ultimately devoted to his work, which made him an important figure during the battle, but he was disliked in the RAF for being unsociable and sarcastic, so Churchill did not use him as a propaganda figure. The reason the newspaper begins to mention the new ideas was that the war was essentially over and now it was time to present the facts not the propaganda.
However it does show sensitivity by not mentioning it wasn’t as important as Churchill said, and holds back things that might dishonour those dead or dying as a result of the war. After all, the memories were still fresh in people’s minds and now were not the time to completely anger the nation. This newspaper was read by the majority, which is why it holds back such information. These newspapers still had an essence of propaganda and that is evident ‘Never had men been so superbly trained to exercise it’.
This interpretation was written by a well-known historian and this is evident by the way he specifically mentions certain planes and tactics, which make the text much more informed. It has elements of truth and was written very close to the event, but still expresses the popular view of the battle of Britain. However, it takes into account other factors for their victory. This interpretation could well have been used as propaganda and still is very nationalistic (‘Britain stood alone’) which is almost misinformation since it had the help of other countries pilots.
The second interpretation is dated 1957, written by J. R. M Butler for the ‘Grand Strategy’. This was published fifteen years after the event, but is still relatively close to the War. There may be more freedom of speech regarding the war at this time, but some sensitivity had to be shown because many families had suffered losses during the War. This interpretation sticks to the famous myth that the Battle of Britain was the turning point in the war, that lead to Hitler’s eventual demise. However this interpretation begins to mention Germans indecisiveness as a major factor influencing their defeat.
For example when Hitler’s pilots accidentally bombed London, which resulted in the bombing of Berlin. It describes the Battle of Britain, ‘could not be Hitler’s sole preoccupation’. His mind was set on conquering the mighty Russia, since this was the only country left who posed any threat at all. He knew all Britain could do was hold off any invasion. One of the most controversial things J. R. M Butler says, which makes it unique is that Hitler never really did plan to invade England; it was just a bonus to Hitler if he could. In this interpretation there is far less sensitivity and Mr.
Butler has realised that many people were beginning to forget about the battles, and he puts more emphasis on the aggressive tactics and decisions instead of the young pilots. J. R. M Butler shows no sympathy to Dunkirk at all and describes it as ‘Crumbling Morale’. This contradicts a lot of background knowledge regarding Dunkirk for example ‘Dunkirk Spirit’, but this was written for an ‘official’ British history, which means this should be very close to the truth. This re-enforces the fact that Churchill’s speeches were nothing but part of his Propaganda campaign to boost morale and to boost his own leadership.
This interpretation shows good background knowledge and it is written by ‘distinguished’ Historians, so it should be very well informed. Another one of its strengths is that there is less censorship and sensitivity so it is easier to find out the true story. This interpretation has less of a propaganda purpose and more of an informational purpose on telling people the true reality of World War II. It is still biased towards the Allies though, since it is an allied official history and is no longer a primary piece of evidence since it was written in 1957.
In 1957, the Battle of Britain had begun to fall to the back of people’s minds and this is when David Thomson published ‘Europe Since Napoleon’. It was still relatively close to the War though. The Battle is said to be won by the few in this interpretation but it states that the Battle wasn’t as important as Russia. Which is a very sensitive way of saying ‘The Battle of Britain was not as important as Churchill lead us to believe’. There are two sides to this interpretation, one that repeats the myth, and another that regards Russia as far more significant.
This is why the interpretation is aimed at two audiences. The myth is aimed at the general public, and the more detailed factors like Russia are aimed at students to give a historical point of view. The interpretation was written enough after the battle to bring in factors like Russia into it, but too close to the event to dismiss the Battle of Britain entirely. This is condensed information for a general history of Europe so it probably didn’t want to go into the Battle in too much detail. Another reason is has this message is it is writing for a mass audience, and some sensitivity is compulsory.
It is quite a balanced interpretation for evidence that is written only 15 years after the event and should be very well researched, since it is for a textbook and written by a well-respected historian. However, the evidence is very brief and is directed purely at a British audience, which is why the popular interpretation is still used in places. Winston Churchill was constantly trying to boost his reputation, but by 1959 he was no longer in office or worrying about any wars. This is when he published his official memoirs on World War II.
It was written over 20 years after the battle. He still sticks to the popular interpretation that the pilots won the battle, but recognises Hitler was preoccupied with invading Russia. He admits that Hitler was never serious about the war with Britain, which contradicts his famous speech ‘never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few’. He mentions all of the other factors that helped Britain win, apart from the leadership of Hugh Dowding. This is because he had a very poor relationship with him, and is still very bitter even 20 years after.
Churchill is far more open in this interpretation because he no longer carries the responsibility of priminister, but he does however still stick to the popular view. The reason why he mentions factors such as Russia is he know longer worries (or cares) about other opinions because he is no longer looking for votes. This is a very strong interpretation in terms of reliability, because Churchill is the best person to write about it. He made most of the decisions, and was ‘the leader’ in the direction Britain’s war effort went. For once, this is not propaganda and realises what a difference Russia made during Britain’s Battle.
It should be exceptionally well informed, and he is reflecting on all that had happened over the 20 years. However, the evidence shows Churchill in the best light possible, which makes it slightly biased and there is an essence of nationalism. The fact that he doesn’t mention Hugh Dowding who was head of command almost makes it misinformed. The British were not the only ones to write about World War II. Klaus Schulz published a general history of Germany called ‘Germany’s Past’. It was published in 1971. This interpretation suggests that the fall of Germany was entirely due to Hitler’s Error.
It explains of how Germany broke the Russian-German agreement, and then Japan bombed Pearl Harbour so Germany could not compete. Klaus Schulz suggests that Russia was the main factor in the final months of World War II. During the Battle of Britain, many German pilots suffered from chronic channel sickness and sever fatigue. The main reason for this message is that this was post-war and Germany had a lot to deal with. Most Germans wanted to blame the entire war on Hitler alone, and move on. From a German point of view, they didn’t regard the Battle of Britain as significant in anyway, and Russia’s force was defeating Germany.
This is a general history for a broad German audience, so it is very brief. This interpretation tends to illustrate a German reluctance to write about defeat, especially since it summarises six years of mass death, destruction and tragedy in twelve lines. It is rather one sided towards the German error and mentions nothing else. There is also no mention of the Battle of Britain. Which we know for a fact involved quite a large-scale air conflict between the two countries. Its briefness makes it rather unreliable but it does give a German viewpoint, and a common viewpoint at that.
It is moderately balanced in terms of victory and defeat and doesn’t try to say that they didn’t lose the war. This interpretation does contradict a lot of knowledge and sources I have which suggest the Battle of Britain as Hitler’s first major setback, yet there is no mention of it at all. However it is an important interpretation because it gives us a losing point of view. AJP Taylor was on of the most well respected historians of his time and he decided to publish his own book on World War II in 1977. Entitled ‘Fighter by L. Deighton’. This was published long after the war and the main focus was on the planes of the Battle.
AJP Taylor says how the Germans were not serious about Britain nor was it on their agenda. A very bold statement is made in this interpretation that the Battle of Britain would never have been won without the exceptional British Aircrafts, such as the incredible Spitfires and Hurricanes. This evidence suggests that when Hitler failed to carry out operation Sea Lion, he did not see it as a set back. AJP Taylor considers a range of factors but ‘the few’ is barely mentioned. This is the first interpretation that is truly open with no compassion for anybody who was family of those Pilots that sacrificed themselves.
It is an attempt at producing the first Historical piece that is completely unbiased. To make this evidence unique, AJP Taylor makes controversial statements and it’s almost like he is trying to be different. Also, this source is aimed at a specific audience, mainly at those who are interested in finding out about the battle from another point of view-not the general public. This deliberate controversy makes it slightly unreliable but apart from that it is mainly quite accurate. It is a large detailed account and mentions all of the factors contributing to Britain’s success, including Sir Hugh Dowding.
It is written much further on after the event, which gives way to more freedom of speech and is written by a very well respected historian. The interpretation is generally balanced and reliable, and at last, it is an interpretation that is 100% not propaganda. Over the last half-century, hundreds of interpretations have been written regarding the Battle of Britain. Christopher Ray has written one of the most up-to-date ones, published in 1997. He wrote an “A” level History review for students, which addresses the Battle of Britain. This is over forty years after the battle and is aimed at people who had no part in World War II.
The general message is that the German aims had been misinterpreted, and that Hitler had never wanted to invade Britain. He labelled it ‘a fake’, Germany really wanted to invade Russia and the Battle of Britain was a simple diversion, and tales of ‘the few’ is nothing but a myth. The reasons for writing such bold statements is that Christopher Ray is not bothered about hurting peoples feelings, since many had either moved on, or never been involved in the war. There were now very few people that might get offended from statements like these, and the wartime generations were now deceased or very old.
Its purpose is to teach “A” level students the truth behind the battle of Britain, without the influence of propaganda or nationalism. It is aimed at a much younger audience therefore aimed at a generation that were not touched by the war. It creates a new impression of the battle of Britain, as a result of new findings and research. The interpretation is a piece of historical work for A-level students, so it should be balanced, and indeed it seems quite reliable. The source generally, is quite interesting and is very thought provoking, which makes it effective and gives it some truth.
However the source goes out of its way to be ‘sensational’ and controversial. It ignores the sacrifice of pilots entirely, even if they did a good job or not, the pilots were still sacrificed. The interpretation is very similar to AJP Taylor’s interpretation in 1977 in the way it describes the battle as a ‘small affair’. These later interpretations all drift away from the popular myth that a handful or Pilots saved the world from Nazism by winning the battle of Britain. Mot of these later interpretations are aimed at those who want to know more about the Battle of Britain unlike the earlier interp
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