Once France surrendered on the 17th of june, and britain rejected the negotiated surrender put forward by Hitler in july 1940, it was clear that Hitler would try to invade Britain, and that air superiority would be the key to this. Without air superiority Hitler could not safely transport his troops across the channel, but if Britain retained air superiority they could easily prevent the German Blitskreig land attack from taking place. Hitler set the date for ‘operationsealion’ on the 15th of september, and the Battle of Britain began.
Hitler gathered together a huge fleet of ships and special barges to transport the army across the channel as well as gigantic gliders to airlift his paratroops. His airforce, the luftwaffe,consisted of 1,100 effective fighters, mostly messerschmitt 109s and 110s. The 109s were second only to the British spitfires. He also commanded 1,600 bombers, mostly derniers ad heinkels. The Britsh RAF had about 850 fighters made up of spitfires and hurricanes. The spitfire was the best fighter of all, the hurricanes were the third best.
The popular myth of the Battle of Britain was first developed at the time of the battle and during the later stages of world war two. Most interpritations which were created during the war reflect the popular myth. Thepopular myth consists mainly of two facts; The Battle of Britainwas important, and was britains salvation and her “finest hour”, it was also a great contributor to making sure the right side won the war. the second point it enforces is that the victory was due mostly to the efforts of the pilots who took part, they were “the few”.
This myth was widely accepted as the truth by most people and is still held strongly today. The myth was established quickly in the early part of the war, it was used to unite people in the war effort and to raise morale. the government popularised this view through propoganda, it was a reflection of the popular mood at the time which the government put to use for its own purposes. the popular myth is shown by a great variety of credible sources. An example of the influence of the popular myth is the speeches given by churchill on the events of the Battle of Britain at the time of the war.
Churchil gave this famous speeech to the house of commons on the 18th of june 1940, and remade the speech on the radio later that evening. Most people today are familiar with the words “their finest hour” which were said by churchill in this speech. These speeches were made to not only show the importance of Britains survival in saving the rest of the world from Nazi conquest, but it also shows that this victory rested on the efforts of “the few”. These speeches are good examples of wartime propoganda as they describe to the people the great strenght of their own nation and assurre them that the war will be won.
This piece is also important as it shows how the British people were trying to appeal for American support. The way in which Churchill says that if they fail the world will “sink into the abyss of a dark new age”, and makes specific reference to America “including the United States” as though to remind them of their involvement in the war, even if they were far away. this interpritation is very baised as its main agendaseems to be the rallying of American support and the strenghtening of morale.
The time at which these speeches were made, was too soo to the war to be able to give an accurate overview and so would not be accurate in a larger context. It also seems that Churchill gives more importance to the Battle of Britain than is necesary and omits many facts such as the casualties that Britain suffered as a result of the Battle of Britain, and the other factors which helped Britain to win the battle. Although this is a piece of propoganda, it is first hand , and was written by the prime minister which gives it a fair amount of credibility.
The Prime minister would have been very well informed and he is known to be very good at capturing the mood of the people at wartime. he is also very popular and this means that he is relating what the public either believes or wants to hear. The third interpritation is an extract from The last Enemy by Richard Hillaryin 1942. The extract was written about two years after the Battle of Britain, and the main point seems to be to emphasize the role of the pilots in triumphing over the evil of the nazis.
This is a first hand account of the bob, and he captures the mood of the time very well. This autobiography is obviously very baised and is a personal view of the events. He concentrates only on the pilostand mentions no other contributing factors. This book was a bestseller and is regarded as one of the best autobiographies, in order for this to be true, it must have been very interesting and the facts may be altered to this end. The fourth source is a collection of newsreels from 1940. These newsreels were shown before every performance, and were very popular.
They used actual images of the war to show the news, and in this way they can be used effectivley to show the events at the time, and they were a very great influence on what people thought during the wartime. These newsreels were prodced by the movietone film company, who worked very closely with the ministry of information, the government ministry incharge of propoganda. These newsreels are very baised as they are designed with the intention of boosting morale at this time in the war. They omit many important facts such as losses and external influence in Britains victory.
They reflected the mood of the peopel at the time, and were ver popular and influencial. All of the films were very nationalistic and anti nazi. many of the clips show the pilots and focus on their superiority, showing only their victories, the newsreels very closely perpetuate the myth of “the few” being superior to the enemy in every way. the fifth interpritation is an extract from the Daily Express on august 13th 1940. The daily express was owned by lord beaverbrook, who was a good friend to Winston Churchill during the wartime.
The newsapaper was mainly used to boost morale and unify the people in a time of war, and it was very sucessfull at doing so. The main topic in this extract of the newspaper is that the people can help their country and effectivley win the war by producing guns and supplies in garages, and by teaching their fellows how to destroy tanks with dynamite. The newspaper also uses Hitler as a figure for the people to focus their hate on as it portrays the attacks to be made by him in person.
The newspaper spends a great deal of time describing the herioc and superior nature of the RAF and “the few” and further encourages the myth in the people. The extract is from a newspaper and though it would be intensley baised due to beaverbrooks friendship with churchill and the need for morale during the war, it is essentialy conveying true facts to the people about the victories of their country in the best possible light. In truth, if the German army had invaded, the people with their dynamite and garage tommy gun factories would have put up a spirited but fitile resistance.
The famous wartime poster from 1940 (interpritation 6) is one of the most widespead and effective pieces of propoganda at the time. This poster would have been seen by most people at the time of the war, and the quote from one of winston Churchill’s speeches: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” sums up the battle of britian almost completely. This poster represents the propoganda at this time, it shows the pilots looking confident and happy out into a clear sky.
It was made by the ministry of information to familiarise the idea of “the few” with the general public, it is intended to boost morale and also act as a remembrance of the sacrifice the pilots and their families made to save the country, and strenghten the people’s resolve to fight on. The quote is one of the most widely known quotes from this time and was continuously used to sum up this period. Many interpritations differ from the popular myth of the battle of britian, and most of these were written at least a few years after the battle was over.
There are many reasons why these views of the events could differ from eachother; There was the need for propoganda during the war, the jingoistic attitude of many of the British at this time and the political position of the writer, or even less obvious factors such as upbringing and age. As the sources get further from the time of the battle of britain, there becomes less need for propogada , and the writer is also able to take a view in retrospect. the first interpritatin which differs from the popular myth of the bob is interpritation number 7, an article by sir arthur bryant in the Daily Graphic in 1944.
Ath this point, the war was not yet over, but after the D-day landings the allies new they were goin to win the war, and so propoganda was much less important. This extract mentions the popular myth, as this was the largely supported view of the battle at the time and would have been against the publics view to omit this factor of the battle. It also mentions other factors which contributed to Britains vicory such as the use of radar and the well organised ground staff.
This article was written by Arthur Bryant, who was known to be very traditional and patriotic in his views, this may have caused the interpritation to be baised, but probably would not have been much of a factor as he is a historian and so he owuld have wished to show a fair and even handed account of the events in order to maintain his reputation as a credible author. This article was very popular, and so must have refected the popular mood of the people at the time and appealed to their ideas, we know this because it was reprinted as a pamphlet later on.
This article shows great differences to those of a few years before in that it brings in factors other than the importance of the pilots and also mentions the severe civilian casualties. The extract from Grand Strategy, an official history of the war authorised bythe government and written by JRM Butler in 1957. By this time the war had been over for years and so it would not need to be influenced in any way towards propoganda. This interpritation mentions the popular interpritation of the bob, including Churchills quote.
It also introduces for the first time, the issue of Russia and questions the importance of the bob to hitlers plans, suggesting that it may have been a sideshow. it also discusses German failures in helping to allow Britain to win the bob. It is an official istory, so it may be influenced to reflect a positive view of the battle, but it was well after the war so there would be no need for propoganda, and new evidence which was not previously available may have been taken into account, it would also be able to give an overview.
The information would have been well researched and detailed, in order to prevent bais on the part of the historian, however there are still hints of bais present due to the omission of the mention of General Dowding close to the war. David Thomson was the author of Europe since Napoleon in 1957, which is used as interpritation number 9. This interpritiation mentions the importance of russia to Hitler, and that hitler may have just wanted to beat us into peacefull surrender. he also mentions the other factors such as radar which helped the british win. This interpritation focuses more closely on the popular myth than the previous two sources.
This book was very popular and distinguished which strengthen its credibility, but it is a book about Europe between 1815 and 1950 so it has limited time dedicated to this particular issue, which lessens its strength. Winston Churchill’s ‘Memoirs of the second world war’ written in 1959 were largely popular, and is the extract used for source 10. The information which churchill conveys has changed quite a lot since his speeches during the war. This is probably largely due to the fact that propoganda is no longer needed, and he now has extra information which was not available to him previously.
He mentions the popular myth, but also brings in factirs such as the efficient organisation of the ground crew and the importance of the Russian campaign. The major weakness of this interpritation is that Churchill would have wanted to make his own orders and commands seem correct and would probably be very nationalistic. Churchill also omits any mention of Dowding, this is probably because of the many disagreements they had during the war. Though Churchil had no need to perpetuate the popular myth for the sake of propoganda, he would probably have felt the need to honour the pilots who died.
Churchill stresses Beaverbrooks importance, this may be because he is a friend, this shows bais and questions the reliability of the source. Source 11, the popular film ‘The Battle of Britain’ form 1969, starred well known actors and was a great sucess. This film was made a very long time after the war, and so there was absolutley no need for propoganda, it was made at a time when Britain was no longer a great world power. The film concentrated greatly on the role of the pilots, but also mentions in some detail, the role of the ground crew and the role of Dowding.
The main aim of the film is to attract audiences and make a lot of money for the producers and actors, for this reason, many of the aspects of the bob would have been dramatised and made more interesting. Things may have been added in order to make the film more interesting, and this could cause confusion between fact and fiction. In order to be popular the film presented a very nationalistic view of the events in the bob which probably means that it is very baised, in order to make the film interesting, they stuck to the popular myth.
The film was also produced in britain and aimed at a british audience, so it would have been very nationalistic. Interpritation 12 is the only interpritation i have from a German source. Written by Klaus Schulz in 1971, from Germanys past, provides an insight into the other side of the war. This source does not even mention the bob, instead it concentrates on the Russian campaign and the entrance of America into the war as being the reasons for Germany’s downfall. this source does not even mention Britains role in the war, this makes it seem as though Britain is unimportant when compared to Russia.
This interpritation maybe baised because it was written by a German, and Germany lost the war, it is also a general history of Germany so it does not focus in detail on this aspect of the war. It also omits the events in stalingrad, which many see as a very important factor, which may mean that the author is not mentioning great German defeats in an attempt to make the book more appealing to the German audience, and may gloss over some facts. This interpritation howver is still usefull as it conveys the general view of the German public.
AJP Taylor is the author of source 13, it is an introduction to a book called ‘Fighter’ by L. Deighton written in 1977. It outlines the nature of the bob, in that it describes the hastily prepared attackon britain, and that the main focus of Germany was Russia. Taylor does mention ‘the few’ and considers the relevance of the battle of Britain.
The source was written for a book and so, would have been historicaly accurate. AJP Taylor was a famous historian and well respected, so he would have wanted to avoid discrediting himself by putting forward an unbaised and accurate account. lthough the book does focus on planes and pilots, so some political and military factors may be otmitted. This piece of evidence may be misinformed, but would probably have been well researched. Interpritation 15, an article entitled “The Battle of Britain – her finest hour or Hitler’s greatest hoax” written in march 1997 is the most recent interpritation available to me. This article questions the importance of the battle of Britain, and suggests that the Germans were not very serious in their plans to invade Britain.
It was written for history students, and is very popular so it would probably be very well informed and thoroughly researched. As this article is so recent, it has almost no need to conform to the popular myth of the bob, as it is written for a new generation of A level students. It is designed to make students question ideas which exist, and so is not necesarily very reliable. It presents a controversial view, which is designed to draw readers with its shock factor. It is intended to be thought provoking rather than solid facts, and it omits events in which Britain played a role and does not mention German losses as a result.
It was written a very long time after the events, and so may be misinformed as it is almost certainly not primary evidence. Though the advantage of being so far after is that the political issues surrounding the bob are not as important, and he can view events with heinsight. The sources from the period during the war, all perpetuate the populare myth, and to a great extent, leave out vital factors in Britains survival. The sources are all extremely influenced by bais and the need for propoganda at the time especialy Chrchills speeches, this lessens their credibility significantly.
To discount the wartime interpritations entirely would not give an accurate picture of events as these did reflect the popular mood of the people and were all first hand evidence. The bob was important in the survival of britain, which allowed them to facilitate the D-day landings, their survival was largely due to the RAF, as this was well organised and far superior to the Luftwaffe. the interpritations also fail to mention the aid of the people from other nations in the commonwealth, for example the first and third top scoring pilots were from checoslovkia and newzealand.
The later interpritations are more even handed with no need for bais or propoganda, so they portray a more accurate picture of the events. I believe that although Hitler was intent on atacking Russia, the attack on Britain was still very important. I believe that German miscalculation was the main factor in ensuring Britains survival, as the British were near defeat, but the Germans did not know this so they halted the attack. I do not believe that the bob was totaly unimportant as sources 12 and 15 suggest.
The British did not win a victory at the bob, they merely, aided by German miscalculation and preocupation with Russia, managed to fend off invasion and survive by the skin if their teeth. The military commanders such as Dowding were a great help in organising a defence, and the ground forces including radar helped slightly. though the pilots won many air battles, this was mainly due to their superior planes, as some of the pilots had as little as two weeks training it cannot be said that they were experienced or any more skilled than the German pilots.