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The Secret Weapon that Helped Winston Churchill Win the Battle of Britain

October 13, 2018 Topic: History Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RadarBritainNazi GermanyMilitary HistoryWorld War II

The Secret Weapon that Helped Winston Churchill Win the Battle of Britain

One word: Radar.

But all was not yet ready. On September 6, just three days after Britain declared war on Germany, an electronic glitch showed groups of intruder planes coming from the Continent. Squadrons of RAF fighters were scrambled. In fact, there were no intruders and the RAF pilots fell upon each other. Two RAF fighters were shot down and one pilot was killed.

Fortunately, the blitzkrieg in the west was eight months off, time enough to get the kinks worked out of the system until it functioned with gratifying efficiency. Then, the deluge was upon them. The Wehrmacht steamrolled across France, whose leaders begged for British fighters. Dowding resisted to the best of his ability. He feared for his fighters in France. Indeed, without radar, many British fighters were destroyed on the ground. Others could not locate German planes with the accuracy needed for effective interception. RAF losses in France were staggering.

After June, however, from behind a screen of electromagnetic pulse radiation, the fighters could be up in the air and know exactly where and how many German planes were flying. Although outnumbered by the German bombers and fighters, the Hurricanes and Spitfires of the RAF could always pounce, destroy, and fight another day. Fed into the battle judiciously and being used sparingly and efficiently, they demoralized German airmen while harboring their own strength. Expecting any day for the RAF fighters to be wiped out from so much combat, the German pilots were dismayed week after week to see the small formations of swift RAF planes come at them with guns blazing.

This article by Brooke C. Stoddard originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.