ONE SPITFIRE = £5,000 NINE SPITFIRES = 40 MESSERSCHMITTS GIVE AS MANY PENNY...– Placard for the London Transport Spitfire Fund, circa Summer 1940
…a single British plane [a Spitfire] suddenly dived into [a formation of seven...– George Prior, in a letter to the Air Ministry, describing the death of Pilot Officer Noel J. V. “Broody” Benson of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron on August 28, 1940. He was twenty-one. Benson’s younger brother, Captain Brian Benson, Royal Army Service Corps, was killed in action...
I have always loved England. But now I am in love with England. What a people!...– Harold Nicolson, diary entry for 31 July 1940
Since England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, shows no signs of...– Adolf Hitler, “Directive No. 16: On preparations for a landing operation against England”, 16 July 1940
Combat Losses for July 12, 1940
RAF - five planes and four pilots. Luftwaffe - Nine planes and twenty-eight aircrew.
Combat Losses for July 11, 1940
RAF - six planes and three pilots. Luftwaffe - seventeen planes and 41 aircrew.
July 10: The Battle of Britain Begins
RAF - 2 fighters and 2 pilots lost to enemy action. Luftwaffe - 11 aircraft and 29 aircrew lost to enemy action.
Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: ...– Thomas Babington Macaulay, Lays of Ancient Rome, “Horatius”, XXVII
The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler...– Winston Churchill, address to the House of Commons, 18 June 1940
If it is thought best for France in her agony that her Army should capitulate,...– Winston Churchill to Paul Reynaud, 13 June 1940
What General Weygand called the battle of France is over. I expect that the...– Winston Churchill, speaking to the House of Commons, 11 June 1940
No. Bury them in caves and cellars. None must go. We are going to beat them.– Winston Churchill, responding on 1 June 1940 to a suggestion from Sir Kenneth Clark (director of The National Gallery) that famous British art be shipped to Canada.
May 21, 1940: Counterattack at Arras
In an effort to stop the 7th Panzer Division and buy time for the BEF, two battalions of the Durham Light Infantry and the 4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiments, with 74 tanks (only sixteen equipped with anything heavier than machine guns) counterattacked near Arras. Though heavily outnumbered, they set the SS-Totenkopf regiment to flight, and sent Rommel into hysterics. The British were beaten back...
But none the less the fire became heavier and heavier and there were shells...– Brigadier P A L Vaux OBE, 4th Royal Tank Regiment
May 21, 1940: Spitfires Over France
With the situation in France now critical, and the BEF’s back to the English Channel, it was now in range of British fighters based in Southern England. The Royal Air Force decided to commit its Spitfires — at that time the best fighter aeroplane in the world — to the air battles over France. On the morning of May 21, Spitfires from 54 and 610 (County of Chester) Squadrons began...
May 20, 1940: The Germans Reach The Channel
On May 20, German tanks took Amiens and Abbeville, and pressed on to reach the English Channel. The British Expeditionary Force and the French First Army, as well as the Belgian Army, are now trapped in a corridor sixty miles long by no more than twenty-five miles wide, their backs to the sea. If the BEF was destroyed, there would be no reserve of trained men to replace them; it represented the...
Our task is not only to win the battle - but to win the war. After this battle...– Winston Churchill, May 19, 1940, his first radio address to the nation while Prime Minister. As he said “all that Britain means,” he paused, momentarily overcome by emotion.
May 18, 1940: The Situation Deteriorates
Generalmajor Erwin Rommel, formerly the commander of Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard and now leading the 7th Panzer Division, has reached Cambrai, only ninety miles from the English Channel. The British and French forces retreating from Belgium are now in serious danger of being trapped in a triangular pocket of land centered on the port of Dunkirk.
May 17, 1940: The British Expeditionary Force...
The British Expeditionary Force had been fighting German forces in Belgium when the main German attack broke through French lines and crossed the Meuse. Now in danger of being cut off by a vast German pincer movement, the BEF began to withdraw from Belgium into France. The Royal Air Force in France had suffered heavy losses, particularly in bombers. Hoping to counter the Luftwaffe, Churchill...
May 16, 1940: A Lone French Tank Makes a Stand
On May 16, a French Char B1 heavy tank, Eure, engaged and destroyed thirteen German Panzer III and IV medium tanks and two anti-tank guns deployed for an ambush. Eure was hit over 140 times but remained fully operational. The awesome power of the big French tanks was rarely effectively employed in 1940; had better use been made of them, the Battle of France might have ended differently. Pierre...
About half-past seven in the morning of the 15th I was woken up with the news...– Winston Churchill, Their Finest Hour
May 14, 1940: The French stand at Gembloux
The powerful German Sixth Army, commanded by the tough, ardently pro-Nazi Walther von Reichenau, had by May 14 pushed into the central plains of Belgium, the Gembloux Gap. There, they were met by the French First Army, under the command of Rene Prioux, the IV Corps of which, commanded by General Henri Aymes, temporarily stopped the Germans between Wavre and Gembloux from May 14 to May 15. French...
May 14, 1940: The Attack on the Sedan Bridges
The Royal Air Force sent seventy-one bombers to make a maximum effort attack on the Sedan bridges; at the target, they encountered a massive barrage of anti-aircraft fire, as well as large numbers of Luftwaffe fighters. Forty of the bombers were lost; the German advance was not slowed. When Air Vice-Marshal Patrick Playfair, the commander of the RAF’s bombers in France, received reports of...
Concentrate everything on Sedan. Priority between Sedan and Houx is at 1,000,000...– General Marcel Têtu, French Armée de l’Air, ordering a maximum effort attack on the German-held bridges spanning the Meuse River at Sedan, 14 May 1940.
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many,...– Winston Churchill, his first speech to the House of Commons as Prime Minster, May 13, 1940
May 13, 1940
On May 13, 1940, three German armoured divisions, supported heavily by Stuka dive-bombers, smashed through French forces protecting the Meuse River in three places.