The Battle of Britain is an iconic air campaign fought in 1940 in the skies over England and the English Channel. Nazi Germany had won the Battle of France, and kicked the Allies out of continental Europe. The Germans focused their attention to the invasion of England next. To do so, they would have to send their soldiers and tanks across the English Channel, but they would be extremely vulnerable to England’s Royal Navy, the largest fleet in the world at the time.
To counter this navy threat, the Germans decided that they had to have air superiority for the ground force landing. This would be difficult while England’s Royal Air Force (RAF) was still effective. The slow moving transport ships would be easy targets for British planes. So the Germans, themselves with a powerful air force (called the Luftwaffe), started an air campaign against the Royal Air Force in the summer of 1940, with the goal to sweep them from the skies and clear the way for the invasion.
Many 3d STL files for the Battle of Britain fighter and bomber aircraft are available on Thingiverse.Com. Some notable exceptions aren’t easily sourced, but enough aircraft STL files are available for both sides to make a reasonable model collection. The models are small in scale in most cases (the size of a typical small model kit) but well suited to collecting or printing for air wargaming.
The battle (or really, air campaign), ran from July 9, 1940 to May 21, 1941. But essentially, September 17, 1940, the day Hitler called off the invasion of England (but continuing the air battle) was the day England counted itself safe (although, at the time, they didn’t know it). By the end of May, 1941, the air attacks against England diminished considerably, as the main German forces were all moved East to prepare for and execute the invasion of Soviet Russia.
Phase 1 – The Channel Raids – July 9 to August 11, 1940
The first phase of the battle was the Luftwaffe attacks against British shipping in the English Channel, both against Royal Navy warships and merchant vessels. The idea was to sweep the English navy from the seas and starve England a little more by denying it shipping-in supplies. The Germans felt that they won this phase of the campaign.
Phase 2 – The Radar Raids (also known as Eagle Attack) – August 12 to 23, 1940
England had a rudimentary radar system in place along the coast. The Royal Air Force knew when, where and how many German aircraft were coming, and thus could send appropriate fighter planes to contest them. Germany knew this, and decided to attack the radar stations, but failed to do significant damage to the system. While they were attacking these sites, the Royal Air Force were attacking German bombers and fighters, causing high casualties to both sides.
Phase 3 – The Airfield Raids – August 23 to September 16, 1940
The Germans decided that to win against the Royal Air Force, they would have to target them directly. Attack their aircraft in the air, and attack their bases on the ground. This was the darkest period for the Royal Air Force, and on several occasions, they were down to very little in reserve, or no reserves at all!
It was during this time, that the audacious Royal Air Force bombed Berlin on August 25/26. This infuriated the German High Command (Hitler especially) and he ordered the Luftwaffe to target British cities instead.
Phase 4 – The Blitz – September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941
Bombing of the cities commenced alongside airfield raids, and became exclusive to the cities after September 16, 1940. The suffering of the British people went up, but the pressure on the Royal Air Force lessened, and they were able to hold on, and even grow after this point. On September 16, 1940, Germany suffered so many aircraft and crew destroyed that Hitler called off the invasion of England.
Bombing continued into the late spring of 1941, but the Royal Air Force were growing in strength and confidence. By Summer of 1941, the Germans were concentrating on Soviet Russia, and the pressure was off (although it didn’t fall to near-zero until the US joined the air war over England and France in the summer of 1942).
Battle of Britain Aircraft Models
Each STL designer makes his designs in the scale he desires. You may have to rescale your STL models in your slicer before printing to make them all consistent.
The main fighters for the English Royal Air Force were the Spitfire and the Hurricane. These two monoplane fighters were modern, sleek and got the job done. Both are represented in STL file format.
British RAF Fighters For Battle of Britain
Some describe this aircraft as the most beautiful of all World War II fighter planes. It not only looked good, but had eight weapons and was every bit a modern fighter aircraft in its day. When you think of the Battle of Britain, you think of Spitfire.
- 660: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:914512
- Ryanskiiiiiiii: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2900993
This was the slightly-less-sexy monoplane fighter for the Royal Air Force. Where the Spitfire got all the headlines, more Hurricanes flew and fought in the Battle of Britain than Spitfires. But together, they were a formidable wall of fighter defense against the Luftwaffe in 1940.
Boulton Paul Defiant
This was a novel concept of an aircraft, taking a larger single-engine plane and putting a bomber-style four-weapon turret on it to attack bombers. It did not do that well as a day fighter, but had a little more success as a night-fighter. It was withdrawn part way into the Battle of Britain
The only obvious fighter (that saw very limited service) that’s missing from Thingiverse.Com is the Gloster Gladiator. It was a biplane fighter that was well outclassed by the time of the Battle of Britain. Still, it did fly some sorties, but I wasn’t able to find an STL file for it.
German Luftwaffe Fighters for Battle of Britain
This is the mainstay German fighter plane. It was used from the first day to the last day of World War II. It was at its heyday during the Battle of Britain. If you’re into models and marks, look for the ME-109E (or Emil). This was the correct model for the Battle of Britain.
- Kolo33: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:184594
- DrDanielJThomas: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:579135
Even by 1940, this dual-engine fighter plane was nearing the end of its life. It had exceptional armament, but it was slow and not as maneuverable as other fighters, so it was at a considerable disadvantage.
German Luftwaffe Bombers for Battle of Britain
Junkers JU-87 Dive Bomber
Even though this dive bomber was mostly outdated by the Battle of Britain, variants of it still flew all the way to the end of the war. It was slow, but it was very precise in its bombing. Against a Spitfire or Hurricane, though, it didn’t stand much of a chance.
This was the mainstay bomber for the German Luftwaffe throughout most of the war. It’s glassed-in canopy out front is an easily identified distinguishing mark of this aircraft. Germany relied on two-engine bombers for most of the war, while the Allies went over to four-engine heavy bombers by the middle of the war.
This was a fast, lighter bomber, that relied on speed rather than armament to defend itself. It wasn’t very successful and was not seen much after the Battle of Britain.
The Junkers JU-88 was a very common German Luftwaffe bomber that took part in the Battle of Britain. It was the most advanced bomber design of the battle. I can’t find anyone who makes an STL file of the JU-88 anywhere on Thingiverse.Com. It seems like an odd omission for such a common bomber type.
Gaming With STL Files For the Battle of Britain
There are several good rulesets available for playing games with model aircraft. Here are three good examples that are fun to play. Both require a large table surface, some airplane models in the same scale as each other (that’s where us crafty 3d printer people come into play) and some measuring sticks, dice and the rules themselves.
- Check Your 6! Game: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/30958/check-your-6
- Bag the Hun Game: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/22126/bag-hun
- Blood Red Skies: https://store.warlordgames.com/products/blood-red-skies (comes with some plastic model aircraft, too)
These three are by no means the only offerings out there. There are quite a few Mom & Pop shops that have their own games, and I bet they’re quite fun. I haven’t tried them, but I have tried these three and can vouch for the fact that they play well. You could certainly do worse!
Where can I find STL files?
I have a great table in this article: https://home3dprints.com/3d-printing-and-preparing-gaming-figurines-for-the-tabletop/. It covers a lot of places to find STL files for 3d printing. I start with https://thingiverse.com first, and if I can’t find it there, I then look to the other sources listed.
Can I print STL files?
Some might answer “of course!” But not so fast! Not all STL files are good for printing. STL files are used as the 3d models for computer games, too, and many of these just have to look good on screen. They won’t necessarily print correctly. Have a look at this article: https://home3dprints.com/3d-printing-and-preparing-gaming-figurines-for-the-tabletop/ for places where you can find printable STL files rather than made for the computer screen.