It's been 76 years since the Battle of Britain — here are 15 photos of the Nazi onslaught in the skies of England

76 years since the Battle of Britain
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76 years since the Battle of Britain
Winston Churchill As Prime Minister 1940-45, Winston Churchill viewing activity in the Channel from an observation post at Dover Castle during his tour of defences, 28 August 1940. Enemy air attacks were in progress at the time, and two German bombers were seen to crash into the sea, 28 August 1940. (Photo by Capt. Horton/ IWM via Getty Images)

By mid-1940, Nazi Germany had swept over Western Europe, conquering France and holding territory from the English Channel north to Norway.

Late that summer, Hitler and the German Luftwaffe turned their attention to England, with the Nazi dictator aiming to use his air forces to soften up Great Britain for an eventual ground invasion — codenamed Operation Sea Lion.

In its way stood Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the recently formed RAF Fighter Command, which could field the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire, some of the best fighter aircraft in the world at the time.

The Battle of Britain raged in the skies above southern England from late June to October 1940. Nazi fighters and bombers raked the English countryside, cities, ports, and airfields with bullets and bombs over this period.

On September 15, the RAF achieved a seminal victory, downing 56 Luftwaffe planes while losing 28.

Two days later, Hitler postponed Sea Lion "until further notice." He kept invasion forces at high readiness, but Sea Lion was finally scrapped in February 1942.

Even with the invasion looking less likely, Nazi Germany continued to launch attacks on England — some of which would claim thousands of lives in and around London in a night — carrying out the Blitz from late 1940 to mid-1941, when Hitler redeployed his air forces to participate in the invasion of Russia.

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