The Battle of England in the images of Science & Society Picture Library

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

Winston Churchill, 20 August 1940


The photo exhibition consists of about 50 images - digital reproductions printed on photographic paper - taken from the archives of the Science & Society Picture Library, which preserves the iconographic materials of the National Museums of Science and Industry of London (London's Science Museum, National Railway Museum and National Media Museum). The exhibition recounts the daily life of the British under German bombing during the Second World War, focusing in particular on the so-called Battle of England which sees the British air forces confront the Nazi squadrons trying to prepare the ground for the sea invasion of German troops. The invasion never happens, the British resist, but the bombing continues for many years, bringing death and destruction.


In June 1940, France surrends to Nazi troops. Their allied British troops, defeated by Hitler's armies, return to England by any kind of civil and military means from Dunquerque beach, under the constant fire of the German air forces, in a biblical and bloody exodus. Berlin believes that Britain will give up soon. it is not wrong: a part of the English does not want to continue the conflict. But the prime minister of His Majesty's British Government takes away all hope of short-term victory for Germany. In fact, Winston Churchill rejects any peace proposal and, announcing his decisions on June 18, 1940 in the House of Commons, says: "What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect now that the Battle of England is about to begin ”. And the Battle of England starts.


From the summer of 1940 until May 1941, Herman Goering's Luftwaffe unleashes an hell of iron and fire on southern Britain. Objectives: to destroy the Royal Air Force to gain the supremacy of the skies before invading the island and to bombard the civilian population relentlessly to sap its spirit. The plan fails. The British air forces hold up the impact by repelling the attacks of German fighters and bombers. In another famous speech in the House of Commons, thanking the British fighter pilots, Winston Churchill states: "Never, in the field of human conflicts, was so much owed by so many to so few". Also the population heroically resists bombing as bloody and ruinous they are in terms of human lives lost and buildings destroyed. The battle ends but the bombing of England does not, continuing until almost the end of World War II and the defeat of Nazism.

Curated by:

Alessandro Luigi Perna

A production of:

Eff&Ci - Facciamo Cose (We Do Things)


Pictures of:

SSPL – Science & Society Picture Library

background photo of the page © S.S.P.L. - Science & Society Picture Library