Friday, August 17, 2018

Psychology and The Battle of Britain

Originally published 10 July 2015

Today, July 10, marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. German Luftwaffe attempted to destroy the British Royal Air Force (RAF) before invading Britain in 1940. Timeline.

The failure was a turning point in the war. Many have analysed the event in terms of German air superiority-planes, pilots and experience. There are mentions of British radar as helpful.

I take a look at psychological factors.

People make mistakes. Germans underestimated the number of British planes. The British overestimated the number of German planes. It’s always better to underestimate an enemy.


Defending your family, friends, and homeland is much more motivating than risking your life to attack an enemy-especially one you expect to defeat later in the year.

EMOTION trumped cognitive strategy

By all accounts Hitler was angry over British counterattacks on German towns. He began pummeling London (minor damaged to my own house in North London). Whilst this can put fear into a civilian population, it spared the RAF planes and personnel and allowed them to repair and increase their capacity.

Germans were led to believe they were winning-- the war would soon be over. It’s hard to keep up such deception when the RAF just burned your capital city. Berlin was bombed 25 August, 1940. Luftwaffe head, Hermann Goering was embarrassed – Berlin would never be bombed, he had promised.


Churchill’s speeches included fiery rhetoric in tune with the anger of the civilians. Of course this is linked to motivation.

WINNING support

It would be more than a year until the United States entered the fray. Churchill had to communicate a delicate balance of needing help but not looking like a losing cause. The Battle of Britain showed resolve and strength against a powerful German military that had wiped out the large country of France in a little over one month.

Churchill's famous phrase--

"Never, in the field of human conflict 
was so much owed by so many to so few."


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