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Western Europe 1939-1945: Battle of Britain

Why did Britain win the Battle of Britain in 1940?

Extracts from a pilot's logbook, August 1940

Catalogue ref: AIR 4/58

Extracts from a pilot logbook, August 1940; AIR 4/58
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What is this source?

These pages come from a logbook that a pilot used to record his flights.


One of the main aims of the logbook was to record the number of hours flown. It was a balance between gaining experience by flying hours and becoming too tired to fight effectively.

What’s the background to this source?

By the summer of 1940 Britain and its empire stood alone against Hitler's Germany. The Germans had serious plans to invade Britain. Their problem was crossing the English Channel against the Royal Navy. They thought that they might achieve this if they controlled the air and could attack Royal Navy ships. As a result, the first stage of the German invasion plan, Operation Sealion, was to try and destroy the Royal Air Force.


The first stage of the campaign was to try and destroy airfields and aircraft factories. This proved unsuccessful and so bombing raids then switched to important towns and cities. There is no definite beginning or end to the Battle of Britain but it is generally agreed that it ran from July to October 1940.

It’s worth knowing that...

The pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain became known as 'The Few'. This was because of a speech by Winston Churchill who said: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."


The RAF pilots did not just come from Britain. Out of about 2300 over 500 came from other parts of the world.

What conclusions can you draw from this source?

  1. What proportion of time seems to be spent fighting enemy aircraft?
  2. Which of the following factors are mentioned in the source: enemy aircraft; friendly aircraft; problems of cloud, weather; mechanical troubles?
  3. Does this source give you a sense of the chaos and confusion of air battles during the Battle of Britain?
  4. Consider the general tone of this log. What impression do you get of the pilot who wrote it?
  5. Look at the plan for your TV documentary.
    • Do you think you will give some time in the documentary to the experiences and qualities of the pilots?
    • How much of the 30 minutes do you think you will give?

Use this storyboard framework to plan your documentary.