Fought during the summer and early fall of 1940, the Battle of Britain was one of the most pivotal stages of World War II. But what if the RAF had been defeated?
Would a German invasion soon follow? Would he have succeeded? Dr Charlie Hall at the University of Kent predicts what might have happened next.
The Battle of Britain was one of the most important and dramatic events of WWII.
Fought in the skies over Kent and southern England between the German Luftwaffe, which sought to secure air supremacy over the British Isles, as a necessary precursor to the invasion, and the Royal Air Force .
The RAF was ultimately victorious and forced the Luftwaffe to change tactics, moving away from targeting airfields and aircraft factories and instead starting the heavy bombardment of large cities, known as the Blitz.
Many see it as a turning point in the war.
The Battle of Britain marked the first serious defeat Germany had suffered on the ground and it enabled Britain to live on to lead the fight against the Nazis in due course.
But what would have happened if the battle had not resulted in a British victory?
Had the Luftwaffe achieved air supremacy over Britain, it would have allowed serious preparations for an invasion of the United Kingdom.
This was reportedly initiated from sites in northern France and Belgium, with key beachheads established at four locations along the south coast of England: between Folkestone and New Romney, between Rye and Hastings, between Bexhill and Eastbourne, and between Beachy Head and Brighton.
German paratroopers are said to have landed north of Hythe to seize Lympne airfield and the bridges over the Royal Military Canal.
This was reportedly followed by vicious fighting throughout Kent and Sussex as German forces sought to capture the main ports of Folkestone and Newhaven, so that more troops and supplies could be brought ashore to support the invasion.
If they had been able to seize these vital entry points, a growing German force would then have moved towards London as the British Army, backed by the Home Guard, fought to prevent them.
It would have been all the more terrifying since the Luftwaffe had full control of the air and could attack ground targets at will.
Major urban centers, such as Canterbury and Maidstone, would likely have suffered heavy shelling and bombardment, followed by intense street fighting.
It is, however, possible that German forces made efforts to avoid damage to important cultural sites, such as Canterbury Cathedral.
Beyond these first objectives, it becomes very difficult to imagine what would have happened next.
If German military victories elsewhere in Europe during this period were anything to say, it is quite possible that they would have progressed well towards London, but the capture of the city itself would have posed a colossal challenge.
It’s even harder to visualize what Germany’s final victory in Britain would have looked like.
Britain may have surrendered and become a German ally, or it may have been split in two, as France was, with an occupied south and an unoccupied north.
Churchill and his colleagues would have been removed from their posts and a British government could well have been formed under Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Rumors suggest that Edward VIII, who had abdicated in 1936 and had shown possible Nazi sympathies in the past, would have been returned to the throne, but this is highly unlikely.
However, it should also be noted that, even with air supremacy assured, a sea invasion of Britain would have been extremely difficult, especially given the size and power of the Royal Navy guarding the English Channel.
Coastal defenses in Kent and the tenacity of the local defenders would have made it doubly difficult.
Instead, the German forces, now unopposed in the air, could have opted for a more comprehensive bombing campaign, which, by focusing on ports and other logistical objectives, could have brought Britain out of the war. by starvation and lack of vital supplies.
In either case, with Britain defeated, American entry into the war against Germany would have become even less likely and German forces would have been free to devote more resources to the invasion of the Soviet Union, perhaps leading to a different result on this theater.
As such, victory in the Battle of Britain allowed the nation and its empire to continue fighting at a critical time and building the Grand Alliance that ultimately destroyed the Nazi regime.
This is the second of our What If features on KentOnline. Last week we took a look at what would have happened if Thomas Becket had not been assassinated, and next Monday we’ll explore what would happen if the Romans hadn’t arrived in Kent.
Dr Charlie Hall is Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Kent. His research focuses on
on Britain’s relations with the Third Reich and British interpretations of Nazism from the Beer Hall putsch to the present day.
Read more: All the latest news from Kent