Here's how to watch the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight this weekend to celebrate its 80th anniversary

Friday, 10th July 2020, 3:12 pm
Updated Friday, 10th July 2020, 3:13 pm
(Photo: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The weekend of 10 July 2020 marks 80 years since the Battle of Britain, one of the most defining moments in the conflict of the Second World War.

A momentous occasion for war historians and military buffs alike, the anniversary may otherwise have been marked my exciting events.

But in the year of coronavirus, things are a little different.

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Here's everything you need to know:

What was the Battle of Britain?

The Battle of Britain was a World War II military campaign in which the Royal Air Force defended the United Kingdom against attacks from Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe.

The battle is notable for being the first major military campaign fought entirely in the air, and is recognised as beginning on 10 July 1940.

Until this point in the war, attacks on British soil had been muted, but Germany stepped up its offensive in an effort to move Britain towards a peace settlement, targeting coastal points of interest like ports and shipping centres (such as Portsmouth).

By August 1940, Germany’s air force was ordered to achieve air superiority over the RAF, and attacks began to occur further inland, on RAF airfields and infrastructure like aircraft factories.

The thought behind crippling Britain’s air defences was two-fold. Nazi Germany had hoped their assumed victory would lead to Britain’s surrender, but even if it didn’t, a crippled RAF would be unable to defend the Royal Navy from Hitler’s proposed seaborne invasion strategy, Operation Sea Lion.

Eventually, Germany began using “terror bombing” tactics on areas of political and civilian significance, but were unable to assert dominance over British forces.

The Luftwaffe's failure to overwhelm the RAF forced the postpone and eventual cancellation Operation Sea Lion, and with Germany unable to sustain daylight raids, their bombing operations moved under the cover of darkness – the Blitz.

Historians regard the failure to destroy Britain's air defences as the first major German defeat in World War II, and a crucial turning point in the conflict.

How is the 80th anniversary being marked?

Usually, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust in Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, would be throwing open the doors of its visitor centre and laying on an array of special events to commemorate the battle’s 80th anniversary.

Unfortunately, 2020 has been far from a ‘usual’ year, and the trust was forced to close shop at the start of Britain’s coronavirus-battling lockdown.

Instead, the Trust has curated a virtual, stay-home experience to remember the battle and honour the dead.

Chairman Richard Hunting said: “This year’s virtual event will clearly not be the same as a ‘real’ Memorial Day, but it will still be a great occasion.

“We have put together an exciting online event, including previously un-broadcast 2020 footage of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, but it has all been recorded already and nothing will be happening at the site.”

The event – which will be streamed online – includes music from the Band of the RAF Regiment, as well as an introduction from Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.

The commemorative package will also feature a film of Flight Lieutenant William Walker reading his poem ‘Our Wall’ in front of the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall.

How can I get involved?

Despite the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain falling on 10 July, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust’s online celebration will instead be streamed on Sunday 12 July.

You will be able to watch the entire virtual event through the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust’s YouTube and Facebook page from 11am.