2 posts • joined 21 Apr 2007
Just another dumb yank
But as a lad in the '60's and 70's I did have an interest in the history of this conflict. I haven't read Dr. Cummings paper, so will not comment. But I will add a bit of what I remember of my own reading. First and foremost, WWII was a battle of attrition, as was no place better exemplified than by the Battle of Britain. Here a critical name eludes me: "Lord North" sticks in my mind, but it is probably wrong and I'll gladly be corrected. Anyway, an elderly gentleman -- I use the term loosely -- who directed RAF during the early years (1939 - 1940) of the war. During the earliest days, RAF ground facitlities were heavily and effectively targeted by Luftwafte, and there was despair of being able to ever field fighter aircraft in sufficient simulateous number to avoid bloody rout. So RAF studiously avoided flying fighter aircraft, and flew bombers only at night when fighter conflict was essentially impossible (at that time) and fighter escort unnecessary. But still fighter and logistical production could not be sustained.
Until Goering bragged on public radio that "Berlin would never be bombed."
It was of course, the following night. Four Lancasters dropped as many tonnes of ordinance somewhere near Reichstag, effecting minimal damage and casualties. But an enraged Goering redirected Luftwafte from military targets to civilian, which was RAF's intent. Your city folk took in very hard, but bought a breather for RAF buildup. And for their pains Luftwafte took steady loss from groundfire AA and barrage balloons. As was duly noted by your lads at Blenchly, along with intercepted radio ciphers detailing the continued deleterious effects on German logistics. Still RAF kept fighter forces largely grounded, leading Germain intel to the erroneous conclusion they weren't much, and Goering to promise he could anhiliate BEF at Dunkirk by sheer airpower alone.
(It might be noted that even a priori, this assessment did not find universal agreement within Wermacht. Von Runstadt in particular comes to mind...)
Dunkirk was exceptional, but RAF felt the reward there worth risking their true position. In that operation actually killing enemy fighters was not as important as disrupting their attacks on boats and beach. And Channel weather once again failed to dissappoint.
RAF director was sacked over his failure to fly fighters in civilian defence. Coventry was a particularly sore point. Churchill's parting words to him in private were different than in public; both understood why.
Signal (and human) intelligence indicated by late summer 1941 that German air logistics were at their breaking point, and the continued nightly loss to AA was no longer sustainable. Notably, intel also revealed Goering's September 1941 offensive was indeed intended to be a devasting psychological blow to British public. Forewarned, RAF set their battle plan to induce just the opposite -- but on Luftwafte moral, not public. Knowing both that RAF could not long sustain the losses they would of necessity take, but that the Luftwafte could at this point afford even less, RAF fighters flew full force during daylight hours and inflicted devasting losses on Luftwafte bombers. 1200 some odd aircraft lost in something like three battles is considerable, and Luftwafte literally didn't know where all those Spitfires and Hurricanes came from, or how many were left.
Also (as others have mentioned), RAF rules of engagement were to remain over Britain. Pilots who were shot down but healthy enough to bail were to be recovered by Brits, not strafed in the Channel or captured.
Such was the Battle of Britain as I remember my early reading. It was very, very, very grim.
All too easy, and too sad.
One bloke goes on deck before dinner to "shoot the breeze". Manages to trip over his Docker laces and slip in the drink. "Halp!" he cries. "Halp!" Both his mates simultaneously dive in after him: "Line? What line? I thought *you* brought the line..."
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