World War II: The Battle of Britain


In the summer and autumn of 1940, Germany's Luftwaffe conducted thousands of bombing runs, attacking military and civilian targets across the United Kingdom. Hitler's forces, in an attempt to achieve air superiority, were preparing for an invasion of Britain code-named "Operation Sea Lion." At first, they bombed only military and industrial targets. But after the Royal Air Force hit Berlin with retaliatory strikes in September, the Germans began bombing British civilian centers. Some 23,000 British civilians were killed between July and December 1940. Thousands of pilots and air crews engaged in battle in the skies above Britain, Germany, and the English Channel, each side losing more than 1,500 aircraft by the end of the year. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the British pilots in an August speech, said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." The British defenses held, and Hitler quietly canceled Operation Sea Lion in October, though bombing raids continued long after. (This entry is Part 4 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Stephanie Keith / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 1/14–1/20

    Preparations for the Inauguration in Washington, DC, a sea lion kisses Princess Stephanie of Monaco, a volcanic eruption in Mexico, and much more.

  • AFP / Getty

    Iranian High-rise Collapses in Huge Fire, Killing Dozens

    A fire engulfed a landmark building in Tehran, Iran, this morning, leading to a complete collapse that may have killed as many as 30 people, including many firefighters.

  • Raul Arboleda / AFP / Getty

    FARC Guerrillas Demobilizing in Colombia

    AFP photographer Raul Arboleda recently spent time at a FARC camp, observing daily life as the rebels demobilize and prepare to move into the next phase of their lives.

  • Mark Makela / Reuters

    The Selling of the Presidents 2017

    The Hall of Presidents and First Ladies in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, recently closed down, auctioning off its collection of life-size wax figures of U.S. presidents.

Join the Discussion