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The Battle of Britain

Page 7 – Aftermath

The toll

Both sides lost heavily during the Battle of Britain. More than 1700 Luftwaffe (German air force) planes were destroyed. The 2662 German casualties included many experienced aircrew, and the Luftwaffe never fully recovered from the reverse it suffered in August-October 1940.  

The Royal Air Force (RAF) lost 1250 aircraft, including 1017 fighters. In all, 520 men were killed serving with Fighter Command. But with more than 700 fatalities during the period of the battle, Bomber Command suffered even more heavily. Another 200 men were killed flying with Coastal Command. 

New Zealand's 'Few'

Of the 135 New Zealanders who served in RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, 20 lost their lives. Another 29 New Zealanders died serving in Bomber Command and eight in Coastal Command. In all, 57 New Zealand airmen died during the course of the battle. See the New Zealand Fighter Command Roll of Honour

Others suffered grievous wounds. Men often found themselves enveloped in flames in their cockpits before managing to bale out. Many of these badly burned men ended up in the plastic and jaw injury centre at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex.

Yet another New Zealander was prominent in the treatment of these unfortunate men - plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. He pioneered the treatment of severe burns by saline baths - a method that reduced the scarring that resulted from such injuries. McIndoe was also instrumental in establishing the ‘Guinea Pig Club’, which gave moral support to hideously disfigured men.

The significance

The Battle of Britain was the first serious setback experienced by the Germans during the Second World War. This in itself was significant at a time when the German military forces seemed to be unstoppable, and it gave hope to conquered Europeans. But the long-term significance was even greater: Britain was preserved as a base for offensive action against Germany. Bombers operating from its bases would devastate German industry and infrastructure later in the war. As a springboard for the deployment of American power, it was vital to the eventual liberation of Western Europe.

The failure to achieve air superiority over Britain, or later to terrorise the British into submission, encouraged Hitler’s desire to move east. Even before the climax of the Battle of Britain, he had signalled his intention to attack the Soviet Union at an early date. Hitler expected an easy victory over the Russians, after which he could again turn his attention to the problem of forcing Britain’s submission. But his decision sealed the fate of the Third Reich.

How to cite this page

Aftermath, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated