The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England, literally "Air battle for England") is the name given to the Second World War air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The name is derived from a famous speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons: "... the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin."
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. The German objective was to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. From July 1940, coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth,
were the main targets; one month later, the Luftwaffe shifted its
attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. As the battle progressed,
the Luftwaffe also targeted aircraft factories and ground infrastructure. Eventually the Luftwaffe resorted to attacking areas of political significance and using terror bombing strategy.
By preventing Germany from gaining air superiority, the battle ended the threat that Hitler would launch Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain. However, Germany continued bombing operations on Britain, known as The Blitz. The failure of Germany to achieve its objectives of destroying Britain's air defences, or forcing Britain to negotiate an armistice or an outright surrender, is considered its first major defeat and a crucial turning point in the Second World War.
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during and after the Second World War.
The Spitfire was built in many variants, using several wing
configurations, and was produced in greater numbers than any other
British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in
continuous production throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be a
popular aircraft, with approximately 55 Spitfires being airworthy, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums all over the world.
The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928). In accordance with its role as an interceptor, Mitchell designed the Spitfire's distinctive elliptical wing
to have the thinnest possible cross-section; this thin wing enabled the
Spitfire to have a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters,
including the Hawker Hurricane. Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith took over as chief designer, overseeing the development of the Spitfire through its multitude of variants.
During the Battle of Britain (July–October 1940), the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the RAF fighter, though the more numerous Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe.
However, because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a lower
attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying
After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian
theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several
roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and
trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlin and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW); as a consequence of this the Spitfire's performance and capabilities improved, sometimes dramatically, over the course of its life.
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