Why did the RAF win the Battle of Britain?
Lots of really valuable activities are very short – and no less memorable for being short. Here Jo Norton, who teaches on the Isle of Man, describes how she helps her KS3 classes to understand the advantages held by British planes during the Battle of Britain.
I get two pupils with outstretched hands in front of them (filled with paper ball bullets), one as a Messerschmitt, one as a Spitfire.
The rules of combat are:
- They can only throw when their guns and bodies are facing the target.
- The Messerschmitt can turn 90 degrees in 5 steps, the Spitfire can turn 90 degrees in 1 step
- The Messerschmitt moves at normal pace, the Spitfire can only move in slow motion.
I send the Messerschmitt pupil to the outer edge of the room and the Spitfire to the inner part. The planes "take off" and can fire at each other when ready (although they only have limited ammunition!) The Messerschmitt can walk quickly, the Spitfire only slowly however the German has much further to cover (make sure they know not to run).
The Spitfire can get off many more shots (if they are on target depends on the pupil) ... it quickly gets across the fact that the slower plane with a smaller turning circle could shoot more and therefore defeated the much quicker, more technologically advanced planes.
To introduce Radar both "planes" are then blindfolded. Neither can then see to shoot at each other. Introduce a third pupil - Radar - who will give verbal instructions to Spitfire. The battle commences (be sure to have placed both pupils in an area free of obstruction) and Radar gives a great advantage to the British plane.
In this way the class has demonstrated the two advantages the RAF had over the Luftwaffe.
- Did students enjoy the nature of the activity and what impact did this have on their learning?
- Who did you choose to be the planes and were they good choices – and why?
- Can what they learned about technology and warfare be applied more generally within their course?
Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.