Batttle of Britain reversed?

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Staff Sergeant
OK, here's one to chew over. How would it have played out if the RAF for some reason went after the Luftwaffe in France instead of the way it happened? As most historians acknowledge the Battle of Britain was a draw in that neither country emerged with a clear superiority over the other. I wrote a couple articles about it several yeras ago and noted-

"Germany lost 1,733 aircraft and some 3,000 air crewmen. The RAF lost 1,265 fighters and bombers along with over 1,500 aircrewmen- some 1,000 from Bomber Command alone. The Luftwaffe could take the lumps of the higher losses since they began with such a superior number. The RAF did not beat them in the classical sense. Their own leaders did using a "let's try this…no, let's try that" strategy of throwing so much manure on the wall to see what would stick. In the end none of it did. It was washed away by the valiant RAF. Bomb assessment damage and recon failed to paint proper pictures for the Luftwaffe high command when they were successful too."

So would Blenheims and Wellingstons have done as well as the Ju 88s and He 111s did? How many RAF personnel would have been captured/lost bailing out over occupied France? Though Spits and Hurricanes had slightly better range than the Bf 109 how would it have played out with them spending only a few minutes over France before the fuel warning light came on with the Luftwaffe over home turf where bail outs meant they'd fly tomorrow instead of being POWs?
I think Britain would have lost. Because the only way was to defender as the German war machine was too strong and easy out numbered the British. Dowding got it right.
The RAF would have not been able to hold up the offensive over France, however the Luftwaffe over France did not have the radar advantage that the RAF had over Britain. Looking at the British raids over the Continent in the next year, it is obvious that the RAF would have fallen to the Luftwaffe over France.
There isn't really any way to reverse it, because the RAF didn't have important targets in France, and the Luftwaffe didn't really have anything they needed to defend.

In the real BoB, there were large numbers of strategic targets the RAF had to defend (most of the aircraft industry was located in the south, important ports, London etc) and they had to defend their own bases so that they could function in the expected invasion.

When the RAF attacked France in 1941/42, and even more so in 1940, there was nothing the Luftwaffe really had to defend. Their own bases could be pulled back, because an invasion was impossible, there were no really important strategic targets. That means the Luftwaffe can do what they historically did, and engage only when they have the tactical advantage.
Hop- The Luftwaffe airfields in France would have been the targets as were RAF fields in England at the beginning before Hitler personally changed the targeting.

I always pondered how the RAF personnel loss would have later been devestating when they bailed out to become POWs over France and not back to the English airfield in time for tea.
A far more powerful RAF of 1941 got chewed up and spat out by the LuftWaffe over France.

I've never really seen any detailed studies of the lean in to France, but my theories on the reasons are as follows

1. The RAF had very poor escort doctrine, worse than the LuftWaffes over Britian. The 'Big Wing' operations were tactically inflexiable in an RAF which was based around the Squadron as an organisational and combat platform rather than the Wing (Gruppen) or Group (Geschwader) .

2. Initially, the LuftWaffe had nothing in France that they NEEDED to defend, apart from thier own airspace. Therefore they could pick and choose their fights for maximum advantage.

3. The RAF didn't really appear to sucessfully force engagements on the Luftwaffe. Daylight attacks on fighter stations appear to be the exception, not the norm. For most of 1941-1942 it appears that the LuftWaffe was fighting the battle of its own choosing.

4. The apperance of the FW-190 in numbers as a fronline fighter, significantly outclassing the Spitfire V from mid 1941 until the rapid introduction of the Spitfire IX in July 1942.

I know this is real 'armchair general' stuff but in my opinion, the RAF should of really taken a leaf out of the LuftWaffes book from their attacks on Malta, which rendered the island impotent against attack for several periods.

A combination of continual daylight fighter and fighter-bomber sweeps against airfields, heavily escorted medium bomber raids on the airbases would of placed far more pressure on the limited numbers of JGs in northern France. The RAF trump card would of been night time heavy bomber operations against German airfields, something that Germany couldn't of replicated.

The '6 Hurribombers escorted by 3 Squadrons of Spitfires' tactics didn't really cut it for the RAF.
The Hurricane couldn't carry a big enough load. I just had a fought the Mossie could have been a medium bomber and used in the way you suggested with the fighters if they could keep up!
Jabberwocky- that seems like a fair assessment of things. Armchair generals are OK it's the armchair pilots I detest. We can only kick around the "what if" or close down all the sites like this since if we only talked about what historically happened there'd be nothing to talk about.

A thought I had was that if the RAF had decided to bring the fight to the Luftwaffe in France and assault their airdromes radar would have been far less important a factor. Sure it could "see" over western France some but the Luftwaffe would have had CAPs generally operative at any time that would show up. There'd be no way to assess defending fighter strengths untill the last minute since until they're in the air at altitude scrambling fighters are invisible.
According to some historians, the Rhubarb fighter sweeps over the continent rarely got the Luftwaffe up to fight. There was no strategic and minimal tactical point in engaging an enemy who won't damage you unless you fly up to fight him. I can't recall my exact source, but one of my (American-written) books states that the massive bomber formations over the continent didn't accomplish the strategic damage they were intended to, but they did bring about the destruction of the Luftwaffe by forcing their fighters to come up to contest the presence of the dickie autos, and bring themselves into the gunsites of Allied fighter escort. Blah blah blah on my part, but fighter sweeps alone would not accomplish much except the aggressor will lose most of the downed pilots and more fuel.
That's correct. The RAF sweeps over France were strategically unimportant, as the Luftwaffe could pick and choose it's combat. Since at that time there was very little in France that the Luftwaffe were required to defend, the RAF flying through their airspace was no problem unless they were going to attack important targets.

Had the RAF concentrated on the airfields in France, and aimed solely at the destruction of the Luftwaffe in the 'field' it would have forced the Luftwaffe up to fight. And they had no radar in France at that time, making the situation much worse for them.

The bomber offensive forced the Luftwaffe into the skies to be swamped and crushed, while bombing them on the ground. The resources used to stop the bomber offensive were immense. The factories , sub-assemblies, synthetic fuel and the actual planes in the sky being destroyed crushed the Luftwaffe.
Yeah that is what most people feel cost Hitler a decisive win in the BoB. When he changed to targets from airfields and radar to civilian urban targets it gave the RAF a reprieve that bolstered them tremendously. As replacement aircraft arrived from factories their airdromes were no longer the targets of marauding Luftwaffe planes. The RAF was able to somewhat recover and carry on. Hitler's meddling in strategy cost him the BoB.
I don't believe the change of targets was the winning factor for the RAF in the BoB. The Luftwaffe were still being shot out of the sky in larger numbers than their RAF counter-parts when attacking the military targets, and they were losing their pilots without a shadow of a doubt either by death or capture.

The Luftwaffe sortie rate over Britain actually fell before they turned on the cities. To me this indicates that the RAF had, in fact, given the Luftwaffe a bloody-nose enough for them to turn away. Unlike on the Continent the RAF were still going up to meet the Luftwaffe at every raid, British cities are important to the RAF. French cities aren't important to the Luftwaffe.

While I agree the turning on cities gave the RAF a massive boost, I don't believe that alone cost the Luftwaffe the Battle of Britain. I think it was lost anyway.
I think two things affected the outcome: first the short range of the German fighters, second the switch to the cities from the airfields/radar. Every study I've seen have called the switch critical to the British in the BoB, there just weren't any British reserves left. The Germans had the resources to continue the bombing of the cities, had they kept at the strategic targets they could have won air superiority at least for the short term.

The landing would have been interesting, the Germans didn't have the proper equipment for a massed landing. On the other hand the British had lost most of their equipment at Dunkirk so they weren't in a position to repell an invasion, how it would have turned out is anyones guess. Air superiority, at least in lower Britain and the invasion area, was an absolute requirement for any invasion attempt.

Longer range fighters could have made a great impact in both arenas and could have made a great impact in the air battle, and might have made the difference in success or loss in any attempted invasion.

The RAF had no reserves? Your study of the Battle of Britain must not be very extensive. The RAF in Southern England still had several squadrons ready for action, and then there were plenty of the RAF left north of the combat zone.

The sortie rate of the Luftwaffe fell before they began attacking bombers. It's simple, the Luftwaffe were losing too many pilots - not too many planes. The Luftwaffe was on the losing side of the battle, this should be credited to radar and lack of German range.
Dowding used the Group system during the Battle of Britain to create quite a large reserve of squadrons. Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commanding Fighter Command 12 Group, actually complained that his squadrons didn't see enough action in the Battle of Britain, that No 11 Group took most of the glory for itself and that No 12 Group was badly under-utilised. No 10 Groups 4 Spitfire and 3 Hurricane squadrons didn't see nearly the combat that they could of and Number 13 Groups fighters were rotated in and out of southern England to relieve pressure on No 11 Groups squadrons.

Apart from squadron operations, there were actually fairly significant physical British fighter reserves for the battle period. At the lowest point of readiness in mid to late August, there were always more than 700 fighters available for operations, which translates to at least 35 squadrons worth of fighters. There were also at least 80 Hurricanes and 40 Spitfires held in operational storage units ready for immediate dispersal to units to replace losses, or another 6 squadrons worth of fighters. In addition to this, they were usually around 20 Hurricanes and 20 Spitfires in storage units that were assesed as 'Equipment in Sight', which meant they were undergoing preparation and would be ready for operations in within 4 days.

Fighter command actually GREW in strength during the battle period. In early July there were 640 fighters available for operations at a squadron level. At the end of October there were 750 fighters available for operations, an increase of about 15%. There were also over 200 Hurricanes and Spitfires in storage units read for dispersal and a further 120 under preparation for issue to squadrons.

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