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World War II. The Commonwealth alone. With France’s surrender, Britain and its Commonwealth stand alone against the Axis powers Operation Sea Lion Germany’s plan to invade England Required “complete air dominance” over the English Channel

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the commonwealth alone
The Commonwealth alone
  • With France’s surrender, Britain and its Commonwealth stand alone against the Axis powers
  • Operation Sea Lion
    • Germany’s plan to invade England
    • Required “complete air dominance” over the English Channel
  • This job fell to the Luftwaffe’s commander Herman Goering
    • Begins in July 1940, continues through until September
    • Bombing of London never stops until the war ends

German Luftwaffe

    • 3000 planes based in NW Europe
    • 1400 bombers, 300 dive bombers, 800 single engine fighters, 240 twin-engine fighter bombers
    • 2500 planes serviceable
    • Could field up to 1600 planes on any given day

Royal Air Force

    • 1200 planes
    • 800 fighters, 400 bombers
    • 660 serviceable fighters

Britain was not totally without help

  • The use of RADAR warning stations allowed the British to know the Luftwaffe was coming well ahead of visual warning stations could, at what altitude and in what numbers
  • The Luftwaffe initially bombed a number of these stations but Goering redirected them to airfields, believing RADAR to be unimportant

Initially, Hitler ordered bombers to only attack British airfields and industry

  • Near the end of August, the Luftwaffe accidently bomb London, Portsmouth and several other cities
  • The RAF responds by trying to bomb industrial targets near Berlin and end up bombing the city
  • Hitler orders the direct bombing of London in retaliation
    • This began the period called the Blitz
    • Sept. 7 – 400 bombers attack London
  • Total war
  • “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Germany ultimately is unable to destroy the RAF by September when the weather turns and Hitler calls off Operation Sea Lion

  • Instead, he turns to Operation Barbarossa; the invasion of the Soviet Union
    • This will ultimately prove to be one of the biggest military blunders of the war
  • June 22, 1941 Germany launches an invasion through Poland into the Soviet Union
  • Stalin initially refuses to believe the reports and fails to respond until the German forces have broken through
  • German advance stalls on the outskirts of Moscow when suddenly…
  • Italy attempts to invade Egypt and struggles
  • Germany sends the Africa Korps under Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox”
  • Italy is eventually defeated and the Africa Korps escape back to Europe with significant losses
  • The Allies find the “weak spot” in Fortress Europe

Japan has been suffering under American blockade

  • They want to establish an empire in the south Pacific and all that stops them is Britain and the U.S.
  • December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy”
    • Japan launches a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour
    • Also attacks across the South Pacific, including Hong Kong
    • 1975 Canadians deployed in Hong Kong killed or captured
      • of the 555 killed, half died as P.O.W’s during the war due to terrible conditions

Allies invade Italy in 1943

  • Canadian forces take part in the invasion of Sicily on June 10, 1943
  • In September, the Allies move into Italy itself
  • Fighting is fierce against both Italian and German forces
  • House to house combat
  • In the village of Ortona, 1372 Canadian soldiers are killed in one month before the Germans withdrew
  • American forces reach Rome on June 4, 1944
operation overlord
Operation Overlord
  • A second front has been opened in Europe and the Allies believe it is time to launch the invasion of France
  • They choose a stretch of land in Normandy near Caen
  • Taking lessons learned at great cost at Dieppe, the Allies hide their preparations and fake a landing near Calais
  • On June 6, after being cancelled twice due to weather, the largest invasion fleet (156,000 soldiers plus 195,000 naval personnel) ever assembled crosses the English channel and lands on the beaches of Normandy

There are 5 separate landings, the Americans land at “Omaha” and “Utah” beach, while the British land at “Gold” and “Sword”

  • Canadian forces are assigned to attack a stretch codenamed “Juno” beach
    • 30,000 Canadians hit the beaches
    • 359 Canadians killed, 715 wounded
    • Casualties estimated to be at least 12,000