Battle of Britain

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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Rodger Herbst
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Battle of Britain

Post by Rodger Herbst » Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:38 am

This is not to belittle part the RAF played in the BoB, but I think the RN has been "short changed." I don't think the Germans had a hope in hell of invading UK as long as the RN was intact. A lot of people think bombers would have zeroed in on the RN and that would keep them in safe ports away from air power, BS, those people think of that old Billy Mitchall bombing runs on a bunch anchored uncrewed battle ships, but as the war proved, ships under way with crews was a whole different story. Dive bombing and torpedo planes were a different story, that's where the RN would need RAF cover.
If a German invasion was successful, how to sustain it? You need to keep an army supplied, not by sea with the RN intact, air drops, we all know how those were not very successful by either the Allies or the Germans. IMO

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Andy H » Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:19 am

The Germans reckoned they needed 3 weeks to complete the conquest of Britain.

There is no doubt that the Germans could have invaded/landed but there is little doubt that they didn't have the means to substain there forces once ashore given the ever increasing RN numbers.

Numerous threads on various websites have all come to the same conclusion.Obviously there are those that believe in all things German equates to victory, and no matter what you will never convince them otherwise. Even when the most lopsided What Ifs have been put forward, the lack of KM logistical assets proves a major failing.

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by phylo_roadking » Wed Aug 13, 2008 8:14 am

Events in the Aegean and Easter Med in the first half of 1941 proved a nunber of things...

On first sight, the RN losses in the Aegean and off Crete in April-May 1941 would make you think that the theory is in fact true - that combat ships ARE highly vulnerable to air attack. However - if you drill down closely enough- most of the main Crete histories do provide a lot of detail on the naval events, but I've aolso recently come across a strnage little "touristy" paperback, in English but published in Greece - the sort of thinbgs supermarkets on Crete are lousy with..."Crete 1941 the battle at sea" by David A. Thomas, and this has confirmed what I read elsewhere...

"Small ships" CAN operate under air attack given the following circumstnaces;

1/ they're fighting "at their correct weight" - able to manouver and not weighed down with a 1,000 or so soldiers on board!

2/ fight as an integrated force with AA cruisers etc.

3/ get resupplied with AA ammunition of all types when they run low.

Off Crete - on various occasions and combinations of circumstance - one or all of the above weaknesses doomed a large number of RN destroyers and AA cruisers. BUT...where ships entered the combat zone with a full stock of AA ammunition they were able to support each other and keep off the precision attacks needed to damage/sink them.

This didn't happen off Crete - where Cunningham's destroyer squadrons hung about a number of days south of the island and heading NORTH into the Aegean looking for the German invasion flotillas by night. This means that they didn't have a chance to rearm in Alexandria when they should have. This was the same problem later in the operations where circumstances forced Cunningham to send ships back into the combat zone for the evacuation...short of AA ammunition.

THIS would not happen in the Channel. The RN would be operating almost witihin sight of its home ports, and able to rearm at will. They wouldn't be weighed down with extraneous personnel and their equipment, or stocks of food and ammunition for anyone ashore. AND they'd apart from anything else be operating in the melee of breaking into the invasion fleet; the LW's precision attacks would have to be VERY precise to prevent their own bombs overshooting onto their own hundreds of barges/ferries/lighters/tugs in the Narrow Sea.
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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Rodger Herbst » Wed Aug 13, 2008 10:36 am

Hi you guys, glad to see someone agrees that the RN deserves some credit.

The air bombing of ships, i was referring to hi altitude bombing, you know how they could drop a bomb in a pickle barrel at 20,000 ft. Lot of people believed that and you can't convince them it was way-way overstated. I know in the Pacific our navy wasn't afraid of the hi level bombers, but the torpedo, dive bombs and kamakazes scared hell out of them, and i don't blame them.

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Glyndower » Thu Sep 04, 2008 11:09 am

It is something of a myth that if the Germans had attempted an invasion the RN would have steamed in to destroy this invasion attempt. The diary of Field Marshall Allenbrooke makes clear that the RN did not intend launching a major operation in the event of a German landing.

If Germany established air control any large British ships moving toward the Dover straits would be subjected to air attack well before they reached the area. There was nowhere near to the area the RN could base its large units without subjecting them to continuous air attack it was thought that only Liverpool and Plymouth were suitable. To move units from Scapa Flow down the east coast of Britain would invite continuous air attack from Norway. For large units to operate in the narrow waters of the straits would invite if not their destruction then severe damage from air attack.

With air superiority the Germans would be able to bring their large ships into the channel to support the smaller ones. British destroyers and other craft would be operating without support from their large ships and be under air attack. It was not known for sure how badly the German Navy had suffered in Norway nor how near completion the German battleships Bismark and Tirpitz were which were more powerful than any British ships.

The RN had lost up to this period 16 destroyers sunk and 42 damaged about half of their strength in home waters. The number of destroyers available in home waters was thought to be too few for the task. If control of the western approaches was lost because of severe losses in the Dover straits area Britain would probably lose the war.

Allenbrooke wrote that the RN “did not appear to be able … to offer the required interference with German landing operations.”

Taken from - The Turn Of The Tide by Arthur Bryant - A Study based on the Diaries and Autobiographical Notes of Field Marshall The Viscount Allenbrooke

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by phylo_roadking » Thu Sep 04, 2008 11:35 am

The RN certainly wouldn't have brought the capital ships of the Home Fleet into the Channel. - until, as per the Sandhurst wargame, the Channel had been cleared first and the RAF re-established air superiority.

The RN's anti-invasion fleet was INSTEAD historically thirty-six destroyers and three cruiser "command ships" organised in three flotillas, two on the South Coast and one in the Medway.

This MAY sound like a very paltry force...BUT you have to remember that as of the summer of 1940, the KM had literally only a handful of destroyers themselves available - either 5 or six IIRC - after Norway.

Now - the USUAL comeback to that is - the KM's uboat force would have blocked the Channel against any RN action....

I'm afraid they wouldn't. I was discussing this last week with a Feldgrau member off the forum - and there is one EXCELLENT example of what would have happened....the Channel Dash two years later!

For THAT operation - the RN mustered a total of THIRTY-ONE SUBMARINES to block the Western Approaches and the Channel...EXACTLY as the KM would have in 1940 versus the RN's "small ships"....

And just HOW many ships of the KM Flotilla did these submarines sink or damage...or even engage???

:shock: :evil:

Destroyers have the combination of speed and manouverability to avoid air attack WHEN not loaded down as off Dunkirk or Crete will hundreds of evacuated Tommies and their kit, their weight crammed unevenly belowdecks, interfering with actually "fighting" the ship. AND of course, get them in among the line of barges and converted ferries and they're relatively safe from aeriel attack. THEN just look at the Crete example for the level of damage that RN destroyers can make of makeshift troop transports...
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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Andy H » Thu Sep 04, 2008 11:46 am

Phylo has already mentioned the DD & CL assets that were available, and I will add in the 600 odd smaller vessels operating in Plymouth, Dover and Nore Commands. In addition to clear the British minefields it was agreed that the Germans required 3 whole days of clear weather without interference to make the sea lanes safe :roll:

The forming up of the various German invasion fleets would take over 8hours, with a further 4-16hours crossing time depending on route. :shock:

Again on several others sites information has been posted showing that Western Approaches would divert all its assets to counter the invasion. Instructions were issued to Force H and the Med Fleet to make there way at all haste to counter the invasion. Now these assets would take a few day to arrive but you have to remember that the Invasion force needed 24/7 support over some 3weeks (if it went to plan), thus these assets would get there in time. :wink:

In addition the RN could operate at night when LW activity would be almost zero, yet German supply ships, barges and tugs would still be plying there way back and forth from UK/France. :wink:

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by phylo_roadking » Thu Sep 04, 2008 12:32 pm

Andy - here's a question...

Could the southern Commands LAY mines at night faster than the Germans could clear them by day under air attack???

Do we have a figure for the number of KM minehunters of all types available intheatre...compared to the number of RN and Patrol vessels capable of laying mines???
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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Andy H » Fri Sep 05, 2008 4:02 am

phylo_roadking wrote:Andy - here's a question...

Could the southern Commands LAY mines at night faster than the Germans could clear them by day under air attack???

Do we have a figure for the number of KM minehunters of all types available intheatre...compared to the number of RN and Patrol vessels capable of laying mines???
Hi Phylo

I dont have the exact figures to hand but the RN Minelaying/Sweeping force in the region outweighed the KM assets several times over, and this doesn't include other such assets the RN could ship in. The latter wasn't a meaningful option for the KM as there reserves were negligable.

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by lwd » Fri Sep 05, 2008 4:45 am

Over on the axis history board there are several threads on this with a fair amount of detail. One of the problems the Germans had was that it wasn't just the LW that was suffering from too many tasks. For example the German mine sweepers also need to be laying mines and escorting the invasion convoys. The laying mines part wasn't as big a deal as they didn't have nearly enough mines on hand to lay any where close to the fields the plans called for. I've also seen documents where the KM is complaining in mid September that they are already way behind in their minesweeping due to the lack of LW support. Now the part about lack of support may or may not be true but the part about being behind pretty clearly is. As for crossing times keep in mind that a good part of the invasion fleet was barges whose top speed were less than 8 knots (it may have been 6) and that's without accounting for currents, tides, wind, and wave. Another factor at night was that the Fleet air arm did practice night attacks.

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by villain73 » Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:08 pm

if u want to try a cross channel invasion ,try operation fortitude and higgins boats!!!!

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Rodger Herbst » Sun May 16, 2010 10:04 am

I think the RAF didn't have a shortage of planes but of pilots, in some of my reading i've come to the conclusion was the RAF's own fault. When the RAF was formed the pilots were to be the elite of the air service, so they were given all the staff jobs.
When the war started they were all behind a desk and the RAF had a pilot shortage, Churchill and others tried to make the RAF shake the tree and get some of them into squadrons but didn't have much luck, so it was the short timers and the foreign pilots not the career officers who made up the bulk of the pilots in the BoB. There were exceptions of coarse, this is my opinion and I'm sure someone at Feldgrau has made a study of plane mannings , i would like to know if my conclusion is correct or if I need to go back and read my material over again.

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by PaulJ » Sat Aug 14, 2010 1:51 pm

Roger,

Well, yes and no. A few responses I would make:
Rodger Herbst wrote:When the RAF was formed the pilots were to be the elite of the air service, so they were given all the staff jobs.
I would suggest that it's misleading to try and describe pilots as meant as the "elite" of the RAF. In one sense this is true -- they constituted the leadership, certainly. But that simply reflected the philosophy that the leadership should be drawn from those who actually fought, rather than service support types and what-not. (Or at least, had fought or been in the position to do the fighting as younger men.) Note that the army did the same thing -- staff officers were drawn from combat arms officers (infantry, artillery, cavalry/armour, engineers).
Rodger Herbst wrote:When the war started they were all behind a desk and the RAF had a pilot shortage, Churchill and others tried to make the RAF shake the tree and get some of them into squadrons but didn't have much luck, so it was the short timers and the foreign pilots not the career officers who made up the bulk of the pilots in the BoB.


Well, two points here:
(1) Which is more combat effective -- putting a forty-something staff officer who used to be a pilot in a fighter cockpit, or training a fit young buck? The answer, of course, is that it depends (how much training time is available, how desperate the situation is etc), but maintaining an air war means maintaining a flow of aircrew training, and the optimal answer is not obviously to always put the middle aged chap into the air.
(2) Secondly, if you are trying to rapidly expand your air force to fight a total war, which makes more sense -- putting all of your experienced officers into the front line right away, or using them to form the cadre of your mobilized wartime force? Once again, the optimal answer is obviously a balance, weighing the various factors against one another.

Its worth bringing up some wider points here. Firstly, as alluded to above, one of the critical functions for an air force attempting to fight a total war is to maintain a steady production of air crew. It is clear that the Anglo-Americans excelled at this (see, for example, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which produced a steady flow of litterally tens of thousands of aircrew), whereas the Germans did not. Indeed, lack suitably trained replacement aircrew is generally considered one of the most significant factors in the decline of the Luftwaffe.

Now, having said all of that, I certainly agree that
Rodger Herbst wrote:the RAF didn't have a shortage of planes but of pilots
Indeed, Dowding was clear on this at the time, and I would suggest that it is also the consensus view of essentially every historian of the battle since.
Rodger Herbst wrote:... [it] was the RAF's own fault
This is where I would part company with you, or at least ask -- what do you mean by "fault"? As I have been attempting to outline above, the RAF had to balance multiple competing imperatives, under it must be admitted, some pressure. It is not clear to me that they did an egregiously bad job of that. That did (1) win the Battle of Britain, (2) simultaineously continue the other air power functions, while (3) successfully mobilizing a massive air force, and (lastly) win the war, did they not?

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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by phylo_roadking » Sat Aug 14, 2010 2:32 pm

There were exceptions of coarse, this is my opinion and I'm sure someone at Feldgrau has made a study of plane mannings , i would like to know if my conclusion is correct or if I need to go back and read my material over again
Roger, not that I'm aware of....BUT you can do no better than taking a look at John James' The Paladins on this :wink: James' MA work on the development of the RAF from 1933 to 1939, with information taken from the Air Force Lists of the period up to 1938 (when they suddenly became Secret!)

Interestingly - Dowding regarded flying and commanding in the air as a young man's job - in 1940 there were NO Fighter Command squadron leaders over 26 IIRC.
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Re: Battle of Britain

Post by Rodger Herbst » Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:13 pm

Most of my info came from Max Hastings Bomber Command,his point seems to be that the RAF wanted to be like the army with it's officers mess etc. and a lot of money was spent on frills, there seemed to be a caste system that only gentlemen flew aircraft,others need not apply, then came the war. Max has a reputation of looking behind the front and looking at the nuts and bolts, this was not only Bomber command but the whole RAF and it's attitude.

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