FROM REICHMARSCHALL GOERING TO ALL UNITS OF AIR FLEETS 2, 3, AND 5. WITHIN A SHORT PERIOD YOU WILL WIPE THE BRITISH AIR FORCE FROM THE SKY. HEIL HITLER.
With the issuance of this vague, yet unmistakable order, Britain found itself alone and fighting for its very existence against the most powerful military power on earth: Germany. Although the Battle of Britain, as it would come to be known, is remembered as an air battle between Britain's RAF and Germany's Luftwaffe, its real importance lies in the message that it sent to the rest of the world. At the conclusion of the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe's illusion of military invulnerability would be shattered and the world would finally see a fallible German military machine.
In the summer of 1940, it was easy to view the German armed forces as an unstoppable force. The Germans won a quick victory in Poland and went on to occupy Norway and Denmark. In May they overran the Low Countries, broke into France, and swept to the English Channel. On 22 June, France surrendered (although a Free French force continued to fight). Britain, under Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was left to fight alone. The only question that remained was: Would England continue to fight, or would they concede and pursue peace with Germany?.
Hitler, believing England's military position to be hopeless, had not even drawn up a plan for her conquest. Instead, Hitler had sent peace-feelers to London through several neutral sources. The Vatican sent an inquiry by way of its Papal Nuncio in Switzerland. From Sweden, the King himself urged a settlement with Germany. In Spain, Nazi emissaries were having direct talks with the British Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare. Churchill, in an attempt to gain more time, encouraged both appeasers in parliament and intermediaries in neutral countries in the belief that his government would not be unwilling to come to an arrangement with the Nazis.