The Battle of Britain was the term used by Winston Churchill to describe the contest for air superiority between the RAF and Luftwaffe over the skies of Britain during late 1940.
With France out of the war at the end of June the German leaders turned their attention to the problem of Britain and how to deal with it.
After the virtual destruction of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk the only thing preventing the Germans from occupying Britain was the English Channel, and in order to cross it Germany had to secure air superiority over the South East coast of Britain.
Goering was as confident as ever that it could be achieved. In July 1940 the Luftwaffe had around 1,600 bombers and 1,000 fighters based in Norway, Holland, Belgium and France.
Dowding, the RAF Commander in Chief, had deliberately saved vital fighter squadrons to protect Britain so that in September 1940 RAF Fighter Command could muster about 630 fighters against the Luftwaffe.
The Royal Air Force had lost 1,029 aircraft during the fighting in France.
The RAF could replace it's destroyed aircraft relatively easily but suffered from a shortage of pilots. However, unlike the Luftwaffe, many pilots that were forced to abandon their aircraft over Britain could return to duty after landing in friendly territory.
Ground defences included radar, batteries of anti-aircraft guns, search lights and barrage balloons. These were backed up by a sophisticated communications network, that included a Corps of Observers, relaying information back to controllers, which managed all the defences at their disposal in a cost efficient manner.
The German campaign began in July 1940 with attacks on shipping in the English Channel. It developed with massed attacks on RAF airfields during August and attacks on London and other cities during September. Finally, due to heavy losses, the Luftwaffe switched to night attacks, especially on London, which became famously known as 'The Blitz'.
During the Battle of Britain the Spitfire and its stable mate, the Hawker Hurricane, were responsible for opposing the fighters and bombers of the German Luftwaffe.
After the Battle of Britain the Spitfire became the mainstay of Britain's fighter force and continued in development throughout the war.
The main German fighter was the modern Messerschmitt bf109/E.
Many of the best Luftwaffe pilots had seen action using an earlier version of the bf109 in the Spanish Civil War.
They used this invaluable experience to develop tactics to suit the new high-speed aircraft, that initially gace them an advantage of the British pilots, who were still using and outdated 'V' formation.
The German fighters had only sufficient fuel for a few minutes combat over England.
They were forced to provide cover for the bombers in shifts, some covering the outward bound bombers and some covering the bombers coming home, meaning they could not commit all their fighters at once.
Radar was used to identify German bomber streams and help the RAF command guide aircraft to intercept them, which meant that the RAF didn't have to maintain constant patrols, reducing wear and tear on both pilots and aircraft.