Bentley Priory


When the Germans defeated France in June 1940, Hitler expected Britain to seek peace, but this was not the case. Although some British political circles discussed the possibilities of peacemakers via Italy, Churchill was adamant and refused to even consider peace negotiations. When this became clear to Hitler, he ordered the German Luftwaffe to launch an air offensive against Britain, an offensive aimed at crippling the industrial and military capabilities of the British and also crippling the British will of defence and simply forcing the British government into peace negotiations. Thus began what has been called the battle of Britain and which from the british side began on 10 july 1940 and lasted until 31 october 1940 (according to the germans it lasted until may 1941). A high priority target of the Luftwaffe was the airfields from which the British air force (Royal Air Force, RAF) sent up fighters to meet the German bombers and their hunting escorts.

These British fighter jets were subordinated to what was known as the Fighter Command, founded in 1936 and headquartered in Bentley Priory, north London. The head of the Fighter Command was air marshal Hugh Dowding. In may 1940, when the risk of German aggression over Britain was deemed likely, a bunker was built under the mansion where all activities were located. At Bentley Priory, information was received from radar facilities warning that German air casualties were heading for targets in Britain. The information was analyzed and, if necessary, orders were sent to the relevant airfields to meet the German planes. RAF had developed a radar method that allowed them to detect German bombers largely when they lifted off the ground, something the Germans never seemed to understand the width of. In this way, the RAF was often able to meet up with the German bombers long before they reached their targets.

Current status: Preserved with museum (2020).

Address: Mansion House Drive, Stanmore HA7 3FB.

Get there: Metro to Stanmore station and then bus to the museum.

My comment:

At the same Luftwaffe and RAF fighting an air war, the planning and far-reaching preparations for an invasion of the British mainland (operation Seelowe) were also in progress from the German side. An invasion that assumed the Germans had air domination. The Germans, however, had a hope that Britain would realize the futility of continued resistance and request peace negotiations before an invasion became necessary. The Germans also felt that an invasion was fraught with many difficulties and would also require enormous resources, resources that the Germans really needed elsewhere.

But the RAF was not defeated and it is still doubtful if the Germans could have carried out an invasion. The British navy (Home Fleet) was in the English channel and it was far superior to the German naval forces (Kriegsmarine) and had posed a great threat to a possible invasion armada. An invasion was therefore considered too risky and therefore Hitler decided in September 1940 to postpone the invasion indefinitely, but the bombings would continue. At the end of October 1940, the british also made the assessment that a German invasion was unlikely but that the sea and air war continued, in particular the terror bombings (Blitzen) of British cities.

The RAF remained there until 2008 and since 2013 it is a museum. In addition to general information, not only about the battle of Britain but also about the history of the manor, the operating room has been recreated with both maps and models. Unfortunately, the bunker is not there. In the early 1980s, the original bunker was replaced by a new reinforced bunker that in the spirit of the cold war was strong enough to receive a nuclear charge. When the cold war ended, the bunker became redundant and in 2010 it was sealed and will never be opened.

Follow up in books: Holland, James: The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History; May-October 1940 (2011).