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Friday, 21 August 2015

209) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain ( or “Luftschlacht um England” in German) by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint U.K. in 2015:

209) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain ( or “Luftschlacht um England” in German) by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint U.K. in 2015:

The circumstances leading to the Battle of Britain:

By end June 1940, during World War II, Germany and her Allies had conquered or dominated the rest of Europe all the way from Norway to Sicily and a British Expeditionary Force and its Allies had undergone a humiliating retreat across the English Channel under a mission nicknamed “Operation Dynamo”.

In July 1940, Adolf Hitler targeted Britain, the last stronghold of European Democracy, with a strategy of using blockade, bombing or as a last resort, invasion of Britain. It was vital that Britain’s defences were weakened prior to any German invasion.

 Hitler also planned to have unopposed control over the British skies, in case heavy bombing of British cities was required to be carried out or an invasion force was to be sent across the English channel. Hitler knew that the Royal Navy would pose a severe threat to a German invasion force, but it did not have the capability to prevent German aerial attacks on British ports, industries or citizens.

An Air Battle for the control of the skies over Britain was going to be waged. On the fate of this fiercely fought Air Battle, rested the fate of Britain as well as the freedom of Europe and the outcome of the Second World War.

It was a battle for national survival for Britain fought in the skies over Britain. Fighting for Britain in the summer and autumn of 1940, were a few young pilots both from Britain and Overseas (drawn from 13 other countries), some as young as 18 years of age, and their crews.

Far from the carefree, hot-headed young men who were later glamourised in air combat/dogfight legends, flying the advanced fighting aircraft of the 1940s required a calm, composed and focussed mind.

The Belligerents:

The belligerents were United Kingdom and Canada on one side against Germany and Italy on the other side. The Units involved were the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), with 1963 serviceable aircraft in all against the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica having 2550 serviceable aircraft.

The German Air Force “Luftwaffe:

The German Air Force called the “Luftwaffe” consisted of three “Luftflotten” (or “Air fleets”) which were placed in an arc from the Normandy Peninsula to the south of Britain, through northern France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway in the North. Between them they had about 3000 battle-worthy aircraft – about 2000 bombers and about 1000 fighter planes and could also depend upon large scale support from Reserve squadrons placed in Germany.

The Luftwaffe had defeated the Air forces of Belgium, France, Netherlands, Poland as well as the Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons stationed in France. The German pilots had among them several combat-experienced veterans and “flying aces” with several “kills” to their name, including those who had served during the Spanish Civil War. Their commander, Reichsmarshal Herman Goering had full faith in the capabilities of his men and machines and was highly optimistic that victory over Britain in a few days was a foregone conclusion.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF):

On the other hand, the Royal Air Force depended on their Bomber Command and Coastal Command to play a key role in retaliating by attacking German invasion forces preparing for the invasion as well as airfields across the English Channel.

The British Army also had several Anti-Aircraft batteries (nickname “Ack-Ack” Guns) which would take their toll on the German Aircraft.

The Fighter Command’s fighter Squadrons which could engage the German Luftwaffe head on, initially had about 650 aircraft and 1300 pilots. The fighting strength of many RAF squadrons had been depleted as the RAF had taken huge losses on the Continent. The RAF could also count on volunteers from other RAF Commands, the Fleet Air Arm, pilots from Overseas from Allied countries and by replacements passing out of training schools. The biggest challenge before the RAF was to have adequate number of men and machines to take on the Luftwaffe juggernaut.  

The British Air Defence System (BADS) offered a significant advantage, with radar stations along the coast giving advanced warning of German air attacks with Squadrons scrabbling to take to the air to meet the Luftwaffe head-on.

At various levels, Operations Rooms collated information from Radar sites, volunteer Observers, aircraft in the air etc. to get a near accurate picture of the situation in the skies above, allowing Air Commanders to direct their meagre resources to areas where they were most needed rather than patrolling the empty skies.

The Battle of Britain was fought in four distinctive Phases:

In the first phase (10.07.1940): “Kanalkampf” (or the “Channel Battles”):

The Battle of Britain began on 10.07.1940.

The Luftwaffe began attacking shipping in the English Channel for a few weeks and attacking Britain’s coastal supply lines so as to draw the RAF’s fighter aircraft into battle over the Channel where their numbers would be severely depleted.

On 16.07.1940, Hitler issued Directive No. 16 calling for preparations for “Operation Sealion” (or “Operation Sealowe”), for the invasion of Britain. He wanted the British Air Force to be destroyed in a manner that they would not be in a position to inflict substantial damage to the invading German forces.

With limited German successes, on 01.08.1940, Hitler issued Directive No. 17, ordering the Luftwaffe to overpower the British Air force with all the resources at its command in the shortest possible time, but not later than 15.09.1940.

The second phase (12.08.1940 – 23.08.1940): “Adlerrangriff” (or “Eagle Attack”) the early assault against coastal airfields: of the Battle of Britain began on 13.08.1940.

German aircraft now began to hit the British mainland with scattered attacks on airfields and attempted to destroy the string of coastal radar stations (known as “Chain Home”) as well.

The main targets were the radar sites to blind the RAF and airfields in southern England so as to cripple the RAF. Many air-fields suffered substantial damage and many aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The RAF and the Women’s Auxiliary Air force ground staff showed great dedication and strove to keep stations open despite the continuing attacks.

Several RAF squadrons were being rotated with those suffering substantial damage being rested, regrouped and then again being thrown in the thick of battle.

Nevertheless, contrary to the German expectations, the British defences refused to crumple at the speed that Hitler had intended and was in turn taking a heavy toll of the German Air Force.

The third phase (24.08.1940 – 06.09.1940): the Luftwaffe targeted the airfields, a critical phase:

The main targets during this period were the airfields so as to decisively cripple the RAF and prevent its aircraft from taking to the air in large numbers, leaving the Luftwaffe the undisputed masters of the skies over Britain.

Meanwhile, on 24.08.1940, a lost Bomber formation of the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London by mistake (contrary Hitler’s express orders not to bomb London).

The RAF retaliated by sending out aircraft to bomb Berlin.

On 25.08.1940, about 70 RAF aircraft – Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, Handley Page Hampdens and Vickers Wellingtons – targeted armament factories in North Berlin and Tempelhof Airport. The ferocity of German anti-aircraft fire in Berlin forced the RAF planes to fly too high to aim their bombs accurately. Consequently, the bombs fell in fields, woods and some residential areas. Damage was slight and no one was killed, neither was a single plane brought down by the German anti-aircraft fire. Nevertheless, it was an embarrassment to Hermann Goering who had boasted that Berlin would never be bombed.

 Hitler was infuriated and on 04.09.1940, he promised retaliation by razing British cities to the ground. He also lifted his prohibition of the bombing of London.

The Luftwaffe had estimated that only about 150-300 fighter aircraft were left at the RAF’s Fighter Command’s disposal and were hoping to engage and destroy the last few fighters in the RAF’s defence of London. The Luftwaffe intelligence was erroneous, because, at this point, there were around 1000 fighters available across the country.

The Fourth Phase (07.09.1940 onwards): the Day attacks began on British towns and cities, including London):

of the Battle of Britain started on 07.09.1940, as the 1000 Aircraft – 400 bombers escorted by 600 fighters – of the German Luftwaffe began what would become a nine-month long campaign against London.

 The massive raids on 07.09.1940 caused widespread damage and continued into the night. These concentrated raids on London relieved some of the pressure on the Fighter Command and the RAF squadrons which regrouped to the north of London to bear against German attacks.

By 15.09.1940, Hitler’s deadline to clear the skies of RAF aircraft was far from met. The Fighter Command was still giving the aircraft participating in the  heavy Luftwaffe raids a bloody nose. The Luftwaffe launched two huge bombing raids on London believing that the RAF was close to breaking point. Smaller formations of German planes also attacked Portland and Southampton.

On 15.09.1940 itself, the most decisive confrontation of the Battle of Britain took place above London. Every available RAF aircraft was scrambled, with no squadron left in reserve to engage up to 500 German bombers and several escort fighter aircraft who flew 2000 sorties over England, and came in two waves of attacks with specific plans to bomb the whole of London.  The Luftwaffe had lost 61 aircraft destroyed and 20 damaged, to the RAF’s 31 aircraft. These were the highest losses the Luftwaffe had suffered for over a month and is described as “Black Thursday” within the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe now realised that they were far from mastering the British skies.

While the Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses, it seemed at this stage that Britain would run out of resources to fight the German juggernaut in a war of attrition in which 24 hour raids by wave after wave of German aircraft had reduced several British cities to rubble. The Luftwaffe even resorted to attacking factories involved in World War II aircraft production and ground infrastructure and areas of political significance and using terror bombing strategy.

Nevertheless, German morale fell drastically, for neither had they bargained for such a fierce resistance from the anti-aircraft batteries, but the RAF was far from being vanquished & taking a heavy toll on the raiding German aircraft as well.

Notwithstanding these huge losses, on 17.09.1940, 300 German bombers stormed across the Channel for bombing British cities as a measure of retaliation against the humiliation faced by the much vaunted Luftwaffe on 15.09.1940 over British skies.

Nevertheless on 17.09.1940 itself, Hitler suspended “Operation Sealowe” (or “Operation Sealion”) Lion indefinitely. Instead he now concentrated on “Operation Barbossa” – a German invasion of the Soviet Union. Operation Sealion was finally abandoned in February 1942.

By October 1940, it was clear that the Battle of Britain had been won by the British Allies.

The German fighters and bombers continued to raid British cities and towns on hit and run raids across the Channel for many days until May 1941.

The flaws and miscalculations in German strategy & what went against the Germans:

Around summer in 1940, there were about 9000 pilots in the RAF to man about 5000 aircraft most of which were bombers. When British casualties mounted and there was a serious shortage of fighter pilots, several overseas pilots – Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Czechoslovaks, Irish, Polish, French, Belgian, South Africans, Americans, South Rhodesians, Jamaicans and Mandatory Palestine – steadily joined the depleted RAF ranks.

Ultimately, the RAF fielded 1796 pilots during the Battle. Fighter Command was never short of pilots but there was a problem of finding sufficient numbers of fully trained fighter pilots by mid-August 1940. Around this time, aircraft production was running into 300 planes each week, but only 200 pilots were trained during this period. In addition, more pilots were allocated to squadrons than the number of aircraft, which allowed squadrons to maintain operational strength despite casualties and leave.

On the other hand, the Luftwaffe was able to muster only about 1450 of more experienced fighter pilots. Despite the high levels of experience, German fighter formations did not provide for a sufficient number of reserve pilots to allow for losses and leave. The Luftwaffe was unable to provide enough pilots to prevent a decline in operational strength as the battle progressed, leading to an ultimate failure in the Luftwaffe’s effectiveness.

Casualties of the Battle of Britain:

Both sides took heavy casualties during the Battle of Britain.

Between 10.07.1940 and the end of October 1940, it is estimated that the Luftwaffe lost 1887 aircraft and 2698 aircrew were killed and 967 captured.

On the other hand the RAF Fighter Command lost 1547 aircraft with 544 pilots killed (about one in six of those who fought) with 422 aircrew wounded.

Bomber and Coastal Commands also took heavy losses, but their raids on German airfields, invasion barges, supply dumps and German cities severely hampered preparations for “Operation Sealowe” (or Operation Sealion”). On several occasions attacking formations suffered 100% casualties and both commands lost a total of 1000 aircrew. The civilian casualties were around 90000 (40000 killed & 50000 wounded), although this figure is sometimes exaggerated to about 400000. Nevertheless, no German invasion force was sent to Britain during 1940 and the RAF had cleared the skies of German raiders, barring a few stray cases.

The Aircraft:

The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the lasting symbols of the Battle of Britain considered by many to be the hero of the hour. At the same time, twice as many “Hawker Hurricanes” as Spitfires played their part, the rugged, reliable aircraft was able to withstand far more battle damage as the Spitfire.

The pairing of the powerful, agile, hard-hitting Spitfire with the robust Hurricane, along with smaller numbers of the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, the Handley page Hampden, Vickers Wellington, Boulton Paul Defiant, Bristol Blenheim, Gloster Gladiator etc. helped defeat the vast array of Dornier, Heinkel, Junkers (Stuka “dive bombers”) and Messerschmitt aircraft etc that the Luftwaffe threw into the battle.

The Messerschmitt aircraft had a better climb rate and was upto 20 to 40 kmph faster in level flight than the Hurricanes.

The Aftermath:

The victory in the Battle of Britain, saved the United Kingdom from German invasion and for the first time, a country had stood up to the might of Nazi Germany and the vaunted Luftwaffe had tasted defeat in battle.

When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Britain was able to lend support to the Soviet Union through armaments and supplies.

When the USA entered the War in December 1941, the United Kingdom acted as a launch pad from which the war was taken back to Germany, first through a combined bomber offensive and later the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy which spearheaded into and broke the backbone of Nazi Germany.


A National Memorial to the Battle of Britain stands at Capel-le-Ferne near Dover in Kent. The Memorial has as its centre-piece, a sculpture of a seated airman looking across the Strait of Dover. Also built at the site are replicas of a Hurricane and a Spitfire aircraft from the Battle.

In 2005, a Battle of Britain monument was unveiled on Victoria Embankment near RAF Memorial in London in memory of all who took part in the Battle – both civilian & military. The names of all the aircrew who were awarded the Battle of Britain clasp are recorded.

 Also 15th September, (the day when the RAF inflicted the largest ever losses to the Luftwaffe in the defence of London), is commemorated as Battle of Britain Day. 

Battler Britton:

Wing Commander Robert Hereward “Battler” Britton (DSO “Distinguished Service Order”, DFC “Distinguished Flying Cross” and the “Croix de Guerre” beam) is a fictional British cartoon character.

“Battler” Britton is a pilot-ace, former Peruvian Navy Lieutenant and a Foreign Legion Captain. The middle name “Hereford” was a Norman name for soldiers who fought like heroes. Battler Britton likewise refers to the main character’s martial skills in the air war in the Battle of Britain. His military rank is mostly a Major or Lieutenant Colonel.

The comic created by Mike Butterworth and his chief artist Geoff Campion, first appeared in the daily series in the newspaper “Sun” in January 1956 and later in the journals “Thriller Picture Library” (TPL) and “Air Ace Picture Library” (AAPL). It was published in two hard-bound covers between 1960 and 1961, with the first volume being published in Finland. The Finland Battler Britton stories were published in the “High Tension Series”, the “Pilot Magazine” (1971-1975) and Wings Magazine.

Battler Britton stories were thrilling and fictional wild adventures, the hero of which displays almost supernatural/superhuman flight skills.

The cover of the coin album showing a formation of four aircraft flying out to take on the Luftwaffe. On the right is the fifty pence coin issued to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The Reverse of the Fifty Pence coin showing assorted bomber and fighter/escort aircraft in the sky and pilots scrambling to their aircraft. Inscribed on this face is “THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN” and the year in which the Battle began “1940”.

The pilots seen running towards their aircraft as ungraved on the Reverse face of the coin. Also seen on this face is the Obverse of the coin with Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy shown facing right.

The Obverse of the Fifty Pence coin showing a portrait of the Queen facing right. Inscribed on the periphery of this face is “ELIZABETH.II.D.G REG. F.D.” (meaning “Elizabeth II By the Grace of God Queen, Defender of the Faith”). The initials of the Queen’s Portrait designer Ian Rank-Broadley (IRB) can be seen below the Queen’s neck. The year of issue is shown as “2015”, the 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain.

The specifications of this coin are:

Denomination: 50 Pence; Alloy: Cupro-nickel; Weight: 8.00 gms; Diameter: 27.30 mm; Obverse Designer: Ian Rank-Broadly; Reverse Designer : Gary Breeze; Coin Quality: Brilliant Uncirculated.

(This coin is from the collection of Ankit Agarwal. Post researched and written and coin album scanned and placed by Rajeev Prasad).


British Crown Dependencies:

1) Specimen Banknotes from the States of Jersey

2) Coinage and Currency from the States of Jersey

3) Currency & Coinage of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

4) Currency & Coinage of Gibraltar : An Overseas Territory of Great Britain

5) Coinage of Gibraltar: (A British Overseas Territory): An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by the Tower Mint, UK in 2010
6) The Isle of Man: An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by Pobjoy Mint, UK in 2015

7) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15.04.1912 - 15.04.2012): An Alderney Five Pound Coin Commemorating the Maritime Legend

8) "Man of Steel": A Superman Movie: A set of stamps brought out in 2013 by Jersey post, the States of Jersey, commemorating Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill who played Superman in the Movie

9) Coins & Currency of Bermuda

10) The Bailiwick of Jersey - Presently circulating coinage - Pounds and Pence 

11) St. Helena & Ascension Islands: An Uncirculated Coin Set from 2003 

12) The Legend of the "HMAV Bounty" is interwoven with the heritage of the Pitcairn Islands: An uncirculated coin set from Pitcairn Islands in 2009 depicting the icons/relics of the Bounty minted by the New Zealand Mint 

Famous Battles

1) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to St. Helena: (Part I): A One Crown Commemorative coin issued by the Ascension Island (minted by Pobjoy Mint UK) 

2) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to st. Helena: (Part II) 1) A 5 GBP Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK. 2) A"Drie Landen Zilverset" ( ot the "Three Lands Silver set") containing coins issued by the Royal Dutch Mint including coins of Netherlands, Belgium and UK

3) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint UK

Gold Coins:
1) Gold Sovereigns issued in 2013 & 2014 by MMTC-PAMP in India under licence from the Royal Mint, UK, carrying the "I" Mint Mark

2) Gold Half-Sovereigns minted by MMTC-PAMP in India in 2014 under licence from the Royal Mint UK bearing the "I" Mint Mark 

Silver Coins:

1) A 20 Pound Silver coin minted for the first timr by the royal Mint UK: reverse design carries the famous St. George slaying the dragon design found on Gold Sovereigns 

British India Coinage:

 1) East India Company Quarter Anna Copper Coin which is one of the first issues under the Coinage Act 1835

2) Victoria Coinage: When she was Queen and afterwards Empress

3) Edward VII: King & Emperor  Coinage

4) George V King Emperor Coinage

5) George VI: The last of the British India Emperors Coinage 

Other British Royalty: 

1) Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (1952-2012): A Five Pound Commemorative coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK

2) Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953: A Five Pound Coin minted by the Royal Mint UK in 2013, depicting the Imperial State Crown

3) The Royal Coat of Arms of the UK: Great British 2012 Coin Set (Uncirculated) issued by the Royal Mint UK

4) Prince George's Christening Ceremony celebrated with coins issued by the Royal Mint UK in 2013

5) The British Empire:  A Case of Numismatic "segregation": (Guest Post by Rahul Kumar)

6) 1) The Portrait Collection: Various Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II on Coinage 2) The Fourth & Final Circulating coinage of the Portrait designed by Ian Rank-Broadley and the First Edition of the portrait of the Queen made by Jody Clark

 British Coinage:

1) The contribution of the Great British One-Pound coins in keeping alive the historical legends/emblems/heritage of the UK (1983 onwards)

2) Transformation of a Five shilling Coin (Crown) into the UK Twenty-five Pence & then the Five Pound Coin

3) Transformation of the Two Shilling Coin (Florin) Coin into the UK Ten Pence

4) The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea: A Two Pound Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK celebrating the milestone

 Commemorative British Coinage:

 1) Commemorating the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens: A Two pound coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian Era

 2) Commemorating 50 Years of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - presently called the World Wide Fund for Nature by issue of a Fifty Pence coin by the Royal Mint, UK

3) Coins commemorating London Olympics & Paralympics (2012)

4) Commemorating 150 Years of the London Underground : Two pound Coins minted by the Royal Mint UK, showing the "Roundel" logo and a train emerging from a tunnel 

5) Commemorating the 100th Birth anniversary of Christopher Ironside with his" Royal Arms" design on a 50 Pence coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK 

6) 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta - the Universal Guidepost to Liberty and Freedom

Inspirations from Scottish History: 

1) The Legend of King Bruce & the Spider on Banknotes

Banknotes from Scotland:
1) Commemorating Sir William Arrol and his creation the Forth Rail Bridge by issues of Britain's first ever 5 Pound Polymer Banknote


  1. A pretty detailed account of the battle of britain.. I guess you missed mentioning that this coin does not carry any denomination... the 50 pence is implied by design but not mentioned explicitly on the coin itself :-)

    1. Yes, Rahul. With so many planes - both bombers and fighters - looming over the upper periphery, I guess there was simply no space left for writing 50 P anywhere on the coin surface. I guess it is like having the Battle of Britain all over again.

  2. Jayashree Mukherjee has commented:
    "Very interesting".