Days of destiny: 5 key moments of the Battle of Britain

Kate Moore picks out five key moments from that fateful summer when a group of Allied pilots were engaged in desperate battles with their German foes, hoping to secure control of the skies and prevent a Nazi invasion of Britain

London burns behind Tower Bridge on 7 September 1940, the day of the first mass air raid on the capital. Some 448 Britons were killed in the raid.  (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images)

Following the collapse of France, the Luftwaffe had spent most of the latter half of June and early July 1940 preparing for the coming battle with the British. As Churchill electrified the nation with his soaring oratory, strengthened the resolve of the embattled British people and gave them hope, a small band of fighter pilots – just over 700 in total – would indeed act as that thin blue line of defence.

Tentative plans had been made for an invasion of England, codenamed Operation Seelöwe (Sea Lion), but Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, believed that his air force alone could bring Britain to her knees. Göring, however, failed to recognise that the campaigns in the Low Countries and France had taken their brutal toll, and the Luftwaffe could now only muster 1,380 bombers and 428 dive-bombers, nowhere near the 5,000 he liked to boast of in his propaganda.

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