The Battle of Britain was the greatest aerial battle ever fought, and played a crucial role in the Allied victory. Britain's triumph in this momentous gigantomachy of the skies would restore their lost confidence, and play an important role in helping them to defeat Hitler. In May of 1940 Germany invaded France. The French army and its British and Belgian allies were overpowered by the German blitzkrieg. Toward the end of May, Allied troops were backed up to the coast of France in the town of Dunkirk. In a daring rescue attempt that ensued, an armada of ships from England picked up the soldiers and brought them across the English Channel to safety. France fell into German hands however, and only the English Channel separated Great Britain from the enemy. At this time, Hitler was planning operation Sealion, which would be an attempt to invade Britain. As ever, the Royal Navy was Britain's first and last line of defense. The German's smaller navy hardly stood a chance against the determined British forces. Consequently, Hitler relied heavily on the powerful Luftwaffe, the German air force, to control the English Channel and destroy the Royal Navy.
The Germans had one great advantage: they had many more aircraft. Also, the Royal Air Force was desperately in need of fighter pilots, as they had little more than 800 of them. This meant that the British pilots would be forced to rely on skill luck and valiance to a greater degree perhaps than any force since those Spartans at Thermopylae did battle with the forces of Xerxes, which would make for the greatest and most surprising aerial battle ever fought. No words can better express this desperation than those of an anonymous RAF pilot on September 28th 1940:.
"Now the pilots, you could see that they had enough of it at times, as some started to stutter, and others got a twitch; it didn't matter if you were a damn good pilot, it was pure luck if you came through it at all.