The Battle of Britain, an aerial campaign over the UK's skies fought tooth and nail between the RAF and Nazi Germany, was one of the pivotal moments of the Second World War.
With the fall of France in June 1940, and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ensuring that the USSR would remain (for the time) neutral, Britain was the only major power in Europe still able to oppose Nazi Germany. Hitler could try to force the British to negotiate peace or prepare his troops to invade. But before an invasion could succeed, he needed to control the skies; so he tasked his air force – the Luftwaffe – to take down the fighters of the Royal Air Force and, with them, Britain's ability to defend its airspace.
The attacks were incessant: July saw German planes target shipping in the Channel, drawing the RAF into combat, before radar stations, communications centres and airfields faced continuous bombing in August at the height of the battle. It seemed to the Germans that the RAF was near defeat, but it succeeded in holding out against the odds. By October, it was clear to both sides that the Luftwaffe had not succeeded in its mission.
The RAF pilots'skill and courage, the sophisticated command and control system, the use of early-warning radar and the success of Britain's aircraft designs and production programme won through in the end for a British victory.
To mark the 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain day on 15 September, the heaviest day of fighting during the air campaign, IBTimes UK spoke to descendants of fighter pilots involved in protecting Britain's skies during that time.