Today in 1940 The Battle of Britain raged in the skies over the UK, with Hitler using his air force to try and weaken Britain ahead of an invasion.18 August became known as the 'Hardest Day' as the Luftwaffe sought to completely destroy RAF Fighter Command, resulting in some of the largest aerial battles in history.
Throughout the day and night, German bombers, fighters and reconnaissance aircraft flew 970 sorties over the British Isles, but met unexpectedly strong resistance from the RAF, who flew 927 sorties, meaning their aim of destroying command centres, radar stations, aircraft factories and airfields was largely unsuccessful.
In all, 63 aircraft from the RAF were destroyed, compared with 71 Luftwaffe aircraft, so neither side was able to claim a victory. Looked at as part of the larger aerial offensive that formed the Battle of Britain, Germany was unable to maintain these high levels of attrition, so when no swift victory was achieved, a strategic defeat was struck for Hitler, the first of the war. Unable to gain air superiority over the RAF, he was forced to put his plans for an invasion of Britain on hold, thereby halting the westward march of the German army across Europe.