All Our Yesterdays: September 17 1940 - Hitler "Postpones" Plans To Invade England

Operation Sea Lion, (German: Unternehmen Seelöwe), was Nazi Germany's code name for the plan for an invasion of the United Kingdom during the early part of the Second World War. The plan was, however, dependent upon the destruction of the Royal Air Force, and things did not quite work out as the German Fuhrer had intended.

The failure of the Luftwaffe to defeat the RAF in what Winston Churchill named 'The Battle of Britain', and which ended on September 15th -'The Hardest Day' - put an end to Hitler's ambitions to invade Great Britain.

On that day the Luftwaffe began by attackingeBattersea railway station in South West London. The tracks were 12 abreast in some places and linked London to the heavy industries of the West Midlands and other industrial cities on the north and south-east of Britain. 

The conglomeration of lines included rail-over-rail bridges which were vulnerable to air attack. This was what air planners had correctly identified as 'choke points', which if cut could erode enemy communication efficiency.

Larger attacks followed on the warehouses of the East End of London, Surrey Commercial Docks, south of the river, and Royal Docks (Royal Victoria Dock, West India Docks, Royal Albert Dock and King George V Dock). This was 'terror bombing' at its worst.

Battle Britain Sky


The success of these attacks relied on the belief that the RAF was on its knees. However, 'The Few' responded with fury, flying, fighting, landing, refuelling and rearming, and then taking off again without leaving their cockpits even for a moment. At one point, every available fighter was in the air. There were no reserves.

The RAF won the day, Hitler ordered his aerial forces to be redeployed, and the Battle of Britain was won. Operation Sea Lion was off.

If Hitler had realised that the RAF was only hours away from collapse he would have taken a different decision, and Europe would be much different to the peaceful and democratic continent it is today. 

Read also:

All our Yesterdays: September 3rd 1939

All Our Yesterdays: The Great Escape

All Our Yesterdays: Warsaw Uprising 74 Years On

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today. 

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

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