Royal Mail has announced that six Special Stamps to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be issued on 16 July.The Battle of Britain took place over the summer and autumn of 1940 and saw the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe contest the world’s first independent and decisive air campaign in the skies over southern England. The Battle of Britain would change the course of the Second World War – and with it, the course of history.The six stamps feature photographs from this period, showing some of the many aspects of the battle and the service personnel involved, including pilots, ground crew, observers and Operations Room staff.
The miniature sheet border features an image of Prime Minister Winston Churchill at a coastal defence position on 31 July 1940, alongside the famous quotation from his speech about the battle; ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’
The Battle of Britain began in early July with German attacks on Channel convoys and ports. On 1 August, having probed Britain’s defences, Hitler ordered the rapid defeat of the RAF prior to the launch of an invasion, eventually set for 15 September. The Luftwaffe sought to overwhelm Fighter Command in the air and on the ground. The main targets were 11 Group’s airfields in the south and south-east, which were heavily bombed. The RAF’s fighter command had 715 serviceable aircraft, against the Luftwaffe’s 2550.The RAF responded well, but the air raids intensified. Between 24 August and 6 September, 300 Hurricanes and Spitfires were lost and the airfields and communications network were severely damaged. Worryingly, 230 pilots were killed or wounded and there were insufficient replacements. With the pilots of 11 Group exhausted, reserves of aircraft low and Fighter Command seemingly on the verge of defeat, the Germans changed tactics.
Impatient to see the RAF beaten and angered by British raids on Berlin, Hitler ordered attacks on London. On 7 September, 300 German bombers, escorted by 600 fighters, raided the capital. The bombers caused serious damage and killed 400 civilians, but with the change of target, pressure was taken off 11 Group’s airfields, allowing the RAF to recover and regroup.On 15 September, the Luftwaffe launched two massive raids on London, but both were fiercely repulsed by the RAF pilots, who shot down 60 enemy aircraft. This day is now commemorated as Battle of Britain Day. It was clear that the Luftwaffe could not defeat Fighter Command, and on 17 September 1940 Hitler postponed the invasion plan ‘indefinitely.The German raids on Britain continued, and the night ‘Blitz’, lasting into May 1941, would cause widespread destruction and over 40,000 deaths. Nevertheless, the Battle of Britain had been won by the RAF in the fighting over London in September 1940. Fighter Command’s decisive victory represented the first check to Hitler’s ambitions for world domination. It also ensured that Britain would survive as a rallying point and strategic base from which the invasion and eventual liberation of Europe could be launched.Royal Mail vans in a selection of locations close to RAF bases will feature a stamp from the set.The anniversary will also be marked with a special postmark on all stamped UK mail between 16 and 18 June, reading ‘75thanniversary Battle of Britain’.
Andrew Hammond, Director, Stamps and Collectibles, Royal Mail said: “Our new stamps pay tribute to the men and women who helped protect Great Britain from the formidable threat of the Luftwaffe 75 years ago. It is fitting that these stamps will help us remember the debt that we will forever owe them.”
The stamps will be on sale from 16 July June 2015 at www.royalmail.com/battleofbritain and from 8,000 Post Office branches across the UK, and by calling Royal Mail Tallents House on 03457 641 641