Why We Fight: The Battle of Britain

Why We Fight: The Battle of Britain


♪ [instrumental music] ♪ – [Narrator 1] The shadow of the
conquering German armies covered Western Europe. The self-styled master race was riding high. ♪ [instrumental music] ♪ Now Adolf Hitler stood, just as Napoleon
had stood more than a 100 years before, and looked across the English Channel to
the one fighting obstacle that stood between him and world domination. The chalk cliffs of Britain rose sheer and white out of the choppy waters. And beyond, a little island, smaller than the state of Wyoming. Crush that little island and its stubborn
people and the way was open for a world conquest. The fall of Austria, Czechoslovakia,
Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, had given him more than
100 million slaves to work for him or starve. The preliminaries were over.
It was time for the main event, the Battle of Britain. ♪ [instrumental music] ♪ Hitler and his generals feverishly drafted
their plans for the conquest of Britain. Every detail must be anticipated, a slip
now might wreck the whole timetable of world conquest. Six weeks of final
preparation went into those plans, six weeks to determine the history of a
thousand years. The thing was foolproof. See for yourselves how simple the whole
operation was to be, look. – [Narrator 2] German plan for invasion of
England, phase one, Knock out the Royal Air Force and its bases, get control of the air and the sea lanes across the channel, follow the Blitz plan that had
wiped out Poland, the low countries, and France, destroy communication and
transport lines. Above all, get command of the air. ♪ [music] ♪ Phase two, pulverize the
coastline with dive bombers. [roar of airplanes] Drop parachute troops to take over the air
fields and establish beachheads. ♪ [music] ♪ Phase three, actual invasion. Pour the
German Panzer divisions across in high-speed barges under an umbrella
protecting fighter planes. ♪ [music] ♪ Then, send spearheads of armed might to
divide, surround, destroy all opposition. That’s all there was to it. ♪ [music] ♪ Conquer Britain, force the surrender
of the British fleet. Then, with the combined sea power
of Germany, Britain, Italy, France, and Japan, he could control the seas, and
tell us where to head in. ♪ [music] ♪ The torch of freedom flickered low. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Narrator 3] On the channel invasion
coasts, more than a hundred fully equipped German
divisions were singing the Nazi theme song, “We are
sailing against England,” as they waited the word from Hitler. ♪ [music and singing] ♪ Here, for weeks, all the
supplies and weapons of the Nazi war machine had
been turned toward Britain. ♪ [music] ♪ The jaws of the Nazi whale
were set to swallow Jonah. [Male Narrator 4] And what about Jonah? How was he doing? Well, Britain also had an army, but it was an army
dragged from the sea of Dunkirk. ♪ [music] ♪ [aircraft noise] [gunfire] ♪ [music] ♪ An army without weapons, these had been
left behind on the roads of France. Tanks, guns, motorized equipment, all abandoned to save the one priceless item, men. ♪ [soft instrumental music] ♪ In all of Britain, there was not
enough equipment for one modern division. Only one tank for every 1,000 square miles
of territory, only one machine gun for every 1,500 yards of beach. Britain had a navy, too, but it was scattered all over the globe, guarding vital food and supply
lines. And the British knew it would be suicide to use their fleet in the narrow
waters of the English Channel with The German Air Force in
control of the air. Britain also had an air force. An air force outnumbered 10 to 1 by the enemy, both in men and machines. And then there
was Britain herself, the people of Britain, the people who were to be
terrorized and forced to surrender. They knew that every
man, woman, and child, in uniform or out, would be Hitler’s
target in the onslaught that might come at any moment. They knew they had a job to do, and not much time to do it in. The young, the not so young, and the old. The clerk, the butcher, the farmer, the Member of Parliament, they
formed a civilian army, Britain’s Home Guard. They started from scratch. ♪ [music] ♪ Experience, equipment… [gunfire] …supplies, all were scarce. [gunshot] Only one shell
to fire at each practice. The women of Britain refused to be left out. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Female] We’ll enlist, too. We’ll put up the barrage balloons. ♪ [soft instrumental music] ♪ Man the ack-ack guns. ♪ [music] ♪ We’ll run the railroads and
get the trains through on time. ♪ [music] ♪ [train engine] Ferry the planes, carry the dispatches, drive the ambulances and run the buses and we’ll see that our men are
fed and don’t go hungry. ♪ [music] ♪ [sounds of plates clinking together] – Others worked, men and women alike. [noises of machinery] They worked full-time, overtime, double-time, 40 hours a week, 50, 60, 70. Hours meant nothing, fatigue meant nothing. Until the government forced
them to cut down hours because overfatigue
was hurting production. ♪ [music] ♪ And when they weren’t working,
the men patrolled the moors for parachutists,
blocked the roads, rehearsed invasion defenses. [men screaming] ♪ [music] ♪ For something had happened here the
Germans could never understand. In a democracy, it is not the government
that makes war, it is the people. ♪ [music] ♪ To lead them, the people had chosen
Winston Churchill as their prime minister. [people cheering] And he spoke the words in every British
heart when he said… – [Winston] We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets, and on the hills. We shall never surrender. – This was Britain in its darkest hour. The people knew they were in for the worst the Nazi mind could invent, yet they
didn’t panic or run away. They patrolled and waited, they drilled and waited, they worked and waited. Waited for the terror
they knew was coming. ♪ [music] ♪ [raid siren] Then, it came. [siren echoing in distance] That’s the sound that became
part of the life of every man, woman,
and child in Britain. [baby crying] [siren echoing] – August 8th, 1940, and
the battle for Britain is on. – [Soldier] Thirty enemy air troupe
over the channel, flying due west. ♪ [music] ♪ – Here comes the Luftwaffe. In dozens of
flights, hundreds of planes, bombers, fighters, dive bombers. Across that 21 miles of travel, that 8 short minutes of water. Their first tactics were
to bomb convoys in the channel. Convoys loaded with food and munitions,
bound for the great Port of London. [aircraft engines roaring] [distant explosions] [airplane engine noise continues] [distant explosions] German fighters waited overhead for the
defending planes of the Royal Air Force, the RAF, to appear.
They didn’t have long to wait. [bell clanging] [aircraft engines] [explosion] The RAF came facing odds of 6, 8, 10 to 1,
and dove in, shouting the old hunting cry, “Tally-ho.” [plane engines] [guns firing] [explosion] Phase one of the Nazi plan called
for the RAF to be knocked out of the air, but the men of the
RAF hadn’t read the Nazi plan. [plane engines] [guns firing] [explosion] In the first four days, the RAF knocked
182 German planes out of the sky. ♪ [music] ♪ – For the next week, the Germans attacked
the coast cities from the Thames River to Weymouth. ♪ [music] ♪ [plane engines] [explosion] [explosion] [distant airplane noise] – [Man] Mister Jerry, take cover. [plane engines] [gunfire] – [Man] Spitfire. [gunfire] – And Hitler paid off
with 180 more planes. ♪ [music] ♪ Then the Luftwaffe battered the
great port towns of Southampton, Plymouth. Trying for a knockout before the flow of supplies from overseas became more than a
trickle. The ports took a terrible pounding, but they couldn’t be knocked
out. Cargoes went on being unloaded with the protection of the RAF overhead. Battling the Spitfires and Hurricanes in
the air wasn’t panning out, so Göring switched his main attacks to
the fighter airfields Dover, Deal, Parking. Maybe he could destroy the
planes on the ground. He bombed the airfields and the fields
were hit, but the planes were saved. For Britain, unlike Poland and the low
countries, didn’t make the mistake of bunching its planes on the runways. The planes of the RAF were scattered and hidden. Only a few on any one field, and
those in the far corners. The Spitfires still went up to meet the
enemy. In the first 10 days of the Battle of Britain, Göring launched 26 major
attacks to get command of the air and lost 697 aircraft. The British lost 153, and 60
British pilots bailed out. ♪ [music] ♪ [boat engine] [plane engine] ♪ [music] ♪ Valuable trained men were saved and ready
to fight again, but the crews of Göring’s planes were lost to him forever. ♪ [music] ♪ The pace was too hot, something was going haywire. The Nazis had to call timeout. On a 2,000-mile front, from Norway to
France, the whole Nazi Blitz program was being stalled because the RAF was still in
the air. The shocked troops were getting hoarse from singing, “We
are sailing against England.” ♪ [music and muffled singing] ♪ The long-range German
guns were getting hot… [explosion] …from throwing shells
across the channel. [explosions] In public, Hitler assured the Germans,
“Mr. Churchill tells his people that England will win, but I tell you that
victory will belong to Germany.” [cheering] [applause] But in private, he sent for
Göring, the boss of the Luftwaffe, and put him on the hot seat. Göring was told to
do something and do it quick. So on August 30th, he ordered all-out
attacks on inland air drones and industrial centers. Maybe he could knock
out the RAF on the assembly line. And he adopted new tactics, too, more fighters and fewer bombers, or maybe he just had fewer bombers to send. Anyway, those he did send were well-protected. Fighters above at high altitudes, fighters
on both sides, fighters in the front and in the rear, fighters weaving in and out
of the bomber formations. ♪ [music] ♪ – Britain, winner of the first round, was
ready. With higher morale and sharper defense, improved listening posts were
set up all along the coast and warned of the enemy’s approach before he left the
continent. A quick flash from the control station to the fighter station, and pilots
were on their way to meet the enemy while he was still over the channel. ♪ [music] ♪ Day after day, out of sight and almost out
of sound of the watchers on the cliffs. Four, five, and six miles above, the
battles raged over the Dover area. ♪ [music] ♪ The Dover area became known as hell’s corner. By sheer way of [inaudible],
the enemy again and again broke through the coastal defenses… [explosions] ♪ [music] ♪ and reached inland to the air drop. ♪ [music] ♪ Aircraft plants… [explosions] …munition factories
and machine shops… [explosions] ♪ [music] ♪ – [Man] Hello, gunfire in the
southeast. Right. [alarm blaring] ♪ [music] ♪ [sirens] [whistles] ♪ [music] ♪ [explosions] ♪ [music] ♪ – But the workers kept on working,
and the RAF kept on flying. These few men with wings alone in the sky,
behind their motors and machine guns, were shooting down more
than the Luftwaffe. [aircraft engines and gunfire] They were smashing the whole
Nazi plan of world conquest. ♪ [music] ♪ [aircraft roaring] – [Man] Any claims, Johnny? – [Johnny] Uh, a 109
destroyed, buddy, yes. – Oh, good show. – [Man] How did you get on, sir?
– [Man] Oh, I had a wonderful party, thanks. [car revving] – [Man] Are you all right?
You get any of the baddies? – [Man] Yes, I got a Messerschmitt
109 and the Dornier. – Between August 24th and September 5th,
35 major attacks were launched. They cost the Germans 562 planes, while
the British lost only 219 planes and saved 132 pilots. Invasion plans were going
completely haywire. The Nazis were blind with rage. The German mind has never
understood why free people fight on against overwhelming odds. Hitler now knew
he was superior in every weapon except the weapon of spirit. So he told Göring,
“Break that spirit, crush the people, crush the spirit of democratic life
itself.” Invasion now would have to wait. The Nazis would avoid the RAF, and smash
the great city of London into the rubble heap they had made
of Warsaw and Rotterdam. – Could London take it? Even the people
themselves didn’t know the answer. The defenses they trusted in where
London’s hastily-assembled anti-aircraft, the ack-ack guns, the balloon barrage
which kept the raiders of high altitudes, the Royal Air Force now down to its last
reserves, and the plain downright guts of the people. ♪ [music] ♪ They sent more
children out of the city… ♪ [music] ♪ …tightened air raid precautions, stationed more aeroplane spotters, rehearsed firefighters, moved into bomb shelters. ♪ [music] ♪ They blacked
out their city and carried on. ♪ [music] ♪ [knocking] – The first blow aimed to crush the
British spirit came on September 7th. [distant raid sirens] – [Woman] Hello.
– [Man] Troop reports planes coming in. Control room speaking. Customers and staff will now
take cover in the basement. Please do not run, but keep moving. – Down the stairs or
you can use the escalator. Third floor clear. – Second floor clear. – First floor clear. – That day, when 375 German planes came
rolling up the Thames River, the Battle of Britain became the Battle of
London. The Germans broke through the charge of Hurricanes and Spitfires that
went out to meet them. [gunfire] Gone was any pretense of aiming at
military objectives. This was just savage destruction. ♪ [music] ♪ [planes whizzing by and explosions] [explosions] [explosions] Bombs fell alike on the homes of the East
End poor and the Mayfair rich, on shops, hospitals, churches. ♪ [music] ♪ – For 28 days, the Nazis were to drop
everything in the book on the city of London. Tons upon tons of high explosives, delayed-action bombs that exploded days later, torpedoes that sheared away whole
buildings, and underneath the war in the air, the war of the man
in the street went on. ♪ [music] ♪ He learned to exist
with very little food. ♪ [music] ♪ He forgot what it meant to have a
night’s sleep, spending most of his time underground in the damp, and dark, and cold. – [Man] Hello, Mrs. Potts,
you’re here early tonight. – [Mrs. Potts] Well, I’m
on the safe side, aren’t I? – [Man] I think that’ll be all right now.
– [Woman] Yes, that’s grand. – Anyway, I’ll be back
in a few minutes if you want. – Now, how are we
gonna get you up there? – Get a young man
to lift you up. Barney? – [Barney] Hello?
– Come, give this young lady a lift up. – Try that one, Honey… ♪ [music, man playing harmonica] ♪ [distant bombing] – The air raid warden stayed at their
posts, [bombings] doctors and nurses worked on steadily as the bombs crashed all around
them. Rescue squads labored night and day. – [Man] Hey, warden, I found one! – [Warden] Is she dead? – I’m afraid so. – Firemen said, “Nuts to the bombs,” and
battled to put out fires. This was life in the Blitz. Against all the rules of Nazi
warfare, Britain was refusing to topple up. ♪ [music] ♪ – Across the channel, the enraged Göring
took personal command of the operations. ♪ [music] ♪ And on September 15th, he sent the
Luftwaffe into one of its greatest attacks. ♪ [music] ♪ [airplane engines] ♪ [music] ♪ Five hundred German bombers and
Messerschmitt fighters roared over the English coast – [Man] Snowmass calling, planes
heard three miles southwest. – [Man] The hostile planes
approaching from southwest. – The British met the challenge by
throwing in everything they had. ♪ [music] ♪ A historic three-dimensional battle took
place inside an area 60 miles long, 38 broad, and from 5
to 6 miles high. [plane engines] [guns firing] [explosion] Two hundred individual dog fights took
place within the first 30 minutes of the raid. [plane engines and gunfire] – [Man] Right on our own doorstep!
– [Man] Oh, what is that? [planes whizzing and gunfire] [engine noise and gunfire continue] [explosion] – [Man] Center calling London One. – [Man] Thank you, Center. We’ll keep a
lookout for them. Hostile formation to the south. – Some of the German bombers broke
through London’s defenses… [planes roaring and gunfire] and reached the
center of the city. [distant raid sirens] – [Man] You find
anything nice, Dougie? Dougie, hey!
– [Dougie] Oh, the [inaudible], okay. [explosions] – Dougie? Dougie, where are you?! [distant explosions] Blimey, I thought they’d got you. – Who? Me? Nah, I had
me fingers crossed. ♪ [music] ♪ [plane engines] [gunfire] ♪ [music] ♪ [typewriter clicking] – [Man] Air Ministry Communique, the biggest bag yet, 185 enemy aircraft shot down. End of message. – Of the 500 German planes that came over
that day, more than one-third were shot down. – In the 28 days of terror, from September
7th to October 5th, the Nazis dropped 50 million pounds of bombs on the city,
killed 7,000 helpless civilians, and wounded 10,000 more. Bombs fell on
Buckingham Palace. ♪ [music] ♪ Westminster Abbey. the Houses of Parliament. ♪ [music] ♪ Fleet Street,
the center of the news. ♪ [music] ♪ St. Paul’s Cathedral. ♪ [music] ♪ Bombs blasting the historic past
out of the lives of Englishmen. ♪ [music] ♪ But in these 28 days, the Nazis lost 900
planes and their crews. The more they sent over, the more were shot
down. The British Spitfire had proved to be one of the deadliest weapons ever put
in the hands of men. If this kept up, pretty soon, no more Luftwaffe. – The frantic Nazis had
to pull a new one. They did. On October 6th,
they changed to night attacks. Maybe that way they could
avoid those deadly Spitfires and Hurricanes. Maybe that way
they could crush the stubborn British spirit. Never mind control of the air,
never mind phase one, phase two, phase three. Now to concentrate on bombing the
people themselves into submission and make them cry for mercy. ♪ [music] ♪ [plane engines] [quiet] [piano playing] [clack of balls on pool table] [distant planes] – [Man] A hostile raid, sir. [alarm blaring] [playing stops] ♪ [music] ♪ [explosions] – The RAF wasn’t much help at night. This
was just German bombs against British guts. [singing] – [Jay] Harvey.
– [Jay] Hello, Jay. – Someone happy enough down there
tonight, aren’t they? – Yes, they’re all right. [explosions] ♪ [music] ♪ – The great docks of London
were left roaring infernos. ♪ [music] ♪ Homes were destroyed by
incendiaries. Business blocks were aflame. – And still, the people of London took it.
Night after night they burrowed underground. And morning after morning, they
dug themselves out of the wreckage. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Ms. Ein] Good morning, Mrs. Potts.
– [Mrs. Potts] Good morning, Ms. Ein. – See you tonight?
– Righty-o. – Come on, Betty. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Woman] Would you
like to sit down? Thanks. – [Man] Morning, Ms. Ein. Sleep well?
– Fine, thanks. Was it a quiet night? – [Man] What about the one that
came down about two? – I didn’t hear it, did you?
– [Woman] No. – Well, they’re getting used
to ’em ’round here. ♪ [music] ♪ [sound of glass being shuffled] – [Man] Don’t you think you better
go away from this for a bit? – [Woman] Of course, not. It’d take more than
this to get me out of my home! Now go on, you’ve
got to get to work! – Okay. – The Battle of London was the battle of
the people of the city. In spite of bombs and fire and death, they
got to their desks and workbenches to spend another 10 or 12 hours working,
working, working. The British spirit was stronger than ever, and the RAF was flying higher than ever. Not only higher, but farther. – [Man] SIO? Operations for tonight. -[Man] GP1562, EP781. 10 aircraft. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Monty] You’ll find, I think, a decent
photograph of the submarines yards, then? – No, the really good one was
taken the other night, Monty. – Uh-huh. [inaudible]
– [Woman] This is the one. – That it, that’s…there’s the submarine
yards. It’s there. – Yes. – Poor chaps, this is your target for
tonight. It’s in submarine and shipbuilding yards at Bremen. It’s a vitally important
target and it’s got to be hit hard. – In the midst of this life-and-death
struggle, the British found strength not only to defend but to counter-attack with
what few bombers they could get together. ♪ [music] ♪ [plane engine noise] ♪ [music] ♪ – [inaudible] Charlie airborne, sir. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Skipper] Hello, rear gunner,
can you hear me? – [Rear Gunner] I’m okay, Skipper. – Hello, operator. Everything okay? – [Operator] Well, it seems
to be all here, sir. ♪ [music] ♪ [alarm blaring and men yelling] [explosions] – [Pilot] Stand by, I’m
going in in a glide. [plane engine roaring and explosions] – Steady [distant aircraft] [explosions and gunfire] – [Man] I got the
bull’s-eye with the last one! [explosions] – Here was the RAF giving it back. ♪ [music] ♪ Hitler cried, “Night gangsters!
For this crime, I will exact a thousand-fold revenge.” All the available German night bombers were put into the air. ♪ [music] ♪ [planes whizzing by and explosion] ♪ [music] ♪ [planes whizzing by and explosions] ♪ [music] ♪ – The thousand-fold revenge was Coventry. On the night of November 14th, a million pounds of bombs
were dropped on the city. ♪ [music] ♪ Coventry was smashed to stratus,
Warsaw, and Rotterdam. ♪ [music] ♪ The people of Coventry dug their loved
ones over the blasted ruins, saw them to their last resting
place, in a common grave. ♪ [instrumental Auld Lang Syne] ♪ – Hitler could kill them, but damned if he
could lick them. They went back to their laves and machines, for they knew the
machine bench was as deadly a weapon as the rifle, and in their hearts was a grim
determination that this enemy must be destroyed. That the day was coming when
they would strike back, and how they would strike back. ♪ [music] ♪ – Christmas 1940. [choir singing, O Come All Ye Faithful] Christmas, season of peace on Earth,
goodwill toward men, was the ironic quiet before Hitler’s great burst of rage
against a people who couldn’t be licked. [distant siren] – [Man] Plane! ♪ [music] ♪ [gunfire] – He couldn’t bomb them into submission,
so he would burn them to ashes. ♪ [music] ♪ [explosions] ♪ [music] ♪ – Millions of fire bombs rained down on
the great city of London. ♪ [music] ♪ [crackling of sparks and fire] In a matter of minutes, more than 1,500
different sections of the city burst into roaring flames. Flames that swiftly merged
into the greatest fire in recorded history. [explosions] ♪ [music, instrumental O Come All Ye Faithful] ♪ In the midst of all the fire and
destruction, vital water mains were shattered. Water pressure was almost
entirely cut off. Heroes of the night were men of the London Fire Brigade who
stretched temporary hose lines out to the center of the Thames River, struggling
through mud and slime, for the Nazis had carefully picked the night on which the
Thames River had one of the lowest ebb tides on record. ♪ [music] ♪ And while London burned above them, the
people of the city held on, chin up and thumbs up. They knew this was
the people’s war and they were the people. ♪ [music] ♪ And the people that couldn’t be
panicked couldn’t be beaten. ♪ [music] ♪ [sound of building crumbling] In the months to come, the British would
have suffered many such bombings and burnings, but a nation that calls on cold
courage when hot courage runs thin may die, but it can’t be defeated. ♪ [music] ♪ [gunfire and explosions] The Battle of Britain was
won, but not by Hitler. [people cheering] ♪ [music] ♪ Hitler had lost the battle. He had lost 2375 German planes
and their crews. For the first time, it was the Germans who ate the bitter dirt
of defeat. Gone was the legend of their invincibility. For a solid year, the Nazis
struck Britain with all their might. They leveled thousands upon thousands of
homes and damaged millions of others. They killed more than 40,000 men, women,
and children, and seriously wounded 50,000 more. but not one single Nazi
soldier set foot on British soil. ♪ [music] ♪ But Hitler couldn’t stop, and in our next
film, we will show how he had to turn to the east again. Why did the Nazis lose the
Battle of Britain? First, because a regimented people met an equally
determined free people, and the free people made them quit cold. – [Woman] We’ve been bombed, dive-bombed,
high-level bombed, machine-gunned. Been through two invasion scares. The last
lot we had we had the house down about our ears, but we are still sticking it and
we are going to stick it. – Second, because this was a new kind of
war, and the RAF were the men who could fight it. These were the men who belong to
what Hitler called “those weak, soft democracies.” The British did more
than save their country, they won for the world a year of precious
time. It was not only for the people of Britain, but for the people of the world,
that Winston Churchill spoke when he said. – Never in the field of human conflict was
so much owed by so many to so few. ♪ There’ll always be an England, ♪ ♪ And England shall be free, ♪ ♪ If England means as much to you ♪ ♪ As England means to me ♪ ♪ [music] ♪

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