"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." - These were the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the critical days of August 1940, when less than 1,000 British airmen were engaged in the first shattering phase of the Battle of Britain, as the formidable onslaught of the German Luftwaffe shook the southern parts of the United Kingdom.
LV. PAN DOWN RAF MONUMENT ON EMBANKMENT, LONDON.
CU. EAGLE ON TOP OF MONUMENT.
LV. WAR-TIME RAF PILOTS SITTING AROUND AT BIGGIN HILL, IN FLYING KIT.
CU. PILOT LAUGHING.
CU.PAN.TWO PILOTS SMILING.
CU. ANOTHER PILOT SMILING.
GV. FORMATION OF GERMAN PLANES APPROACHING DOVER.
SV. PRESSMEN ON ROOF WITH CAMERAS.
LV. SHOWING SMOKE TRAILS OF GERMAN PLANES IN AIR.
GV. BOMBS DROPPING IN AND AROUND HARBOUR, (DOVER).
NEARER V. GERMAN PLANES FLYING OVERHEAD IN DOVER AREA.
GV. BOMBS BURSTING AROUND SHIPS IN CHANNEL.
CU. BOMBS BURSTING NEAR SHIP.
GV. ACK-ACK BURSTS AROUND GERMAN PLANES IN AIR.
LV. PARACHUTE FALLING.
SV. DAMAGED PARACHUTE FALLING.
CU. 'KLAXON' WAILING ON BIGGIN HILL AERODROME.
LV. PILOTS RUNNING TOWARDS HURRICANES ON FIELD.
SV. PILOT INTO HURRICANE PLANE.
SV. CHOCKS PULLED FROM WHEELS.
LV.PAN.HURRICANE PLANES TAKE OFF.
GV. DOVER HARBOUR PAN UP TO BARRAGE BALLOONS.
SV. GERMAN PLANE ATTACKS BARRAGE BALLOON SETTING IT ON FIRE.
PAN.SHOT...FORMATION OF NINE SPITFIRES IN DOVER AREA.
LV. WRECKAGE FALLING IN FLAMES.
CU. TWO SPITFIRES FLYING INTO BATTLE.
LV. GERMAN PLANE LOSING HEIGHT.
SV. PARACHUTE FALLING.
GV. GERMAN PLANE LOSING HEIGHT VERY LOW OVER WATER NEAR CLIFF.
LV. SMOKE RISING FROM CRASHED PLANE BEHIND HOUSES.
GV. PLANE WRECKAGE FALLING LEAVING TRAIL OF SMOKE.
LV. PLANE WRECKAGE IN STREET.
GV. PEOPLE OF DOVER IN STREET, WRECKED HOUSE IN BG.
NEARER V.WRECKED HOUSE.
GV. ANOTHER ENEMY PLANE WRECKAGE IN STREET.
LV. GERMAN PLANE IN FIELD.
CU. SHOWING BULLET HOLES IN FUSELAGE.
SV. WRECKAGE OF ANOTHER GERMAN PLANE AMONGST TREES.
GV. WRECKAGE OF ANOTHER GERMAN PLANE, HOUSES IN BG.
GV. ANOTHER WRECKED GERMAN PLANE IN FIELD.
LV. WRECKAGE OF ANOTHER GERMAN PLANE.
GV. WRECKAGE OF ANOTHER GERMAN PLANE.
CU. SIGN 'ST. GEORGE'S CHAPEL' PAN TO CHAPEL AT BIGGIN HILL.
SV. ALTAR (IN THE SHADOW OF THE WINGS WILL I REJOICE) PAN TO PILOTS' NAMES ON HONOUR BOARD.
CU.PAN.DOWN NAMES ON HONOUR BOARD.
CU. RAF FLAG FLYING.
Initials XJ/V/CW AHS
EDITORS: This film is serviced because we feel you may wish to make comment on Aug 8 - 20th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain's opening phase.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." - These were the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the critical days of August 1940, when less than 1,000 British airmen were engaged in the first shattering phase of the Battle of Britain, as the formidable onslaught of the German Luftwaffe shook the southern parts of the United Kingdom.
Three German air fleets, based in Belgium, Holland, France, Norway and Denmark, with a total of 3,500 aircraft including dive bombers, long-range bombers and fighters, flew in ceaseless attacks against the British Isles to "smash the Royal Air Force in two to four weeks." Operation "Sealion" - the invasion on Britain - was being hastily prepared, the bombing of British towns had started late in June, the pounding of Britain's air defences had continued throughout July, and the first all-out assault was scheduled for August 13 - "Eagle Day".
"Eagle Day" turned out to be a failure. 45 German aircraft were lost, as against 13 of Fighter Command. Two days later all three German airfleets were thrown into the battle. An attack mounted from Scandinavia tried to split the British defences by ranging over north-east England, Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe paid their heaviest toll in the Battle - 75 aircraft against half that number lost by Fighter Command - and never again was a daylight attack from Norway risked during the Battle.
Further assaults by the Luftwaffe showed no better results: their losses remained in the same proportion in which they outnumbered the RAF - sometimes two to one, sometimes even three to one. The fighting spirit of the Royal Air Force was backed by the then secret radar chain. British pilots fought above their own soil for their own soil.
On Sept 7, London was to face its greatest test. Attacks switched to the capital and over 250 bombers made their way to the target, causing havoc along the Thames. These assaults increased until Sept 15 - Battle of Britain Day - when sustained fighting took place over the capital and the south of England. Damage and suffering was tremendous, but German losses were heavier than ever. As the RAF Bomber Command stepped up counter-attacks, the German invasion fleet started to crumble away at its coastal moorings. Finally, on Sept 17, the German HQ War Diary recorded: "The enemy air force is still by no means defeated; on the contrary, it shows increasing activity...The Fuehrer therefore decides to postpone "Sealion" indefinitely."
Although the imminent danger of an invasion faded away, the pounding of Britain continued for the rest of the year. Nov 14 marked the opening of a new phase in the Battle: more than 500 planes combined in a single operation to raze to the ground almost the entire city of Coventy. In the next few weeks, similar attacks with incendiaries and high explosives shattered Southampton, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool. London was ablaze after the terror of Dec 29 and the year ended with a staggering civilian toll: 23,081 killed, 32,296 wounded.
Then the tide turned quickly. Gaining in strength and striking power, the RAF started to blast incessantly German air and submarine bases from Bergen to Bordeaux, night bombings struck deep into Germany and across the Alps into Italy. Now the Luftwaffe was busy defending German soil, and the German armies left the shores of the English Channel for other battle-fields. The Battle of Britain had been won.