By Luck, or Design?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Waynos, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #1 Waynos, Aug 18, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
    Having just finished watching ‘Piece of Cake’ again for the first time in years it made me think about the Battle of Britain in a way that I haven’t quite done before and I wanted to articulate those thoughts on here to see if it would stir any kind of discussion.

    There have been many BoB debates over the years, and just to establish my point of view here, I do not believe the outcome saved Britain from invasion, but it certainly prevented our defeat and immediate exit from the war. This led, of course, into the flow of WW2 that we are familiar with, by making the UK available as the springboard for the victory of the Western allies.

    But have you ever thought how incredibly lucky this incredibly important first victory was? I don’t mean lucky in the sense that Hitler changed tack allowing Fighter Command to recover, or that he gave up as Fighter Command was at breaking point, or any of that old guff. No. I mean in the way the pieces fell into place in order for that victory to be possible at all.

    I’m not talking about the obvious stuff, ie that we had enough aircraft. So we bloody well should. And trained pilots, and good tactics (eventually!). There is other stuff though that I look back on and just think “How Bloody Lucky Was That!

    Look at Radar. What incredible good fortune was that that Britain alone developed, invested in and deployed the first such fighter control radar system in the world at that exact time? How fortunate that this new and revolutionary system worked first time? How fortunate were we that when Graf Zeppelin came sniffing for just such a system in 1938 that they listened to the wrong frequency and went back a reported that there was no radar? How much more fortunate does it look when you consider the neglect and running down that our defences suffered from 1919 to 1934, and the string of well intentioned, but cancelled projects that litter our defence history ever since? I think that is worth a pause and a think.

    Then we come to the fighters, and one of the most remarkable runs of pure luck in recorded history.
    See how the Spitfire is the ‘racing thoroughbred’, all metal, fast, beautiful, a joy to fly, and deadly. How fortunate that this aircraft was allowed to be built? It did after all come from a company that built its reputation on biplane flying boats and whose only other attempt at a fighter plane, to F.7/30, was an unmitigated disaster! How lucky were we that the Air Ministry recognised the potential of their design, despite Supermarine’s total lack of any sort of track record and ran with it?

    But of course the Spitfire was very labour intensive, used exotic and barely understood construction methods, and was only dribbling off the production lines in very tiny numbers…..
    How incredibly lucky then were we that Hawker lost F/7.30 as well? This meant that instead of being chock-a-block with building their rather feeble ‘Fury III’ (for want of an official designation) they smarted enough from the smack down to develop an advanced fighter of their own. How lucky were we that they decided not to for fancy all metal stressed skin and monocoques to show how clever they are, but to build it along methods that they knew and were familiar with, which meant that hundreds could be built quickly and also that, although not the quickest, it was incredibly tough and manoeuvrable and could give a good scrap to the best that Germany could offer.

    How incredibly lucky (are you getting bored of that line yet?) that, out of all the 8-gun fighter prototypes that were chucking around, it was these two, so perfectly dovetailing with each other, that were selected and produced. In the case of the Spitfire , this extremely high risk plane was selected in preference to aircraft from companies with proven fighter pedigrees such as Bristol and Gloster, who both had operational types in Fighter Commands front line at the time. Of course having seen them both fly you would have to select the Hurricane and Spitfire for service, except that the usual policy was to select one type, and we know with hindsight that the Huirricane alone would have suffered, while there could never have been enough Spitfires for a one-type defence. Neither of these facts would have been apparent at the time, yet, luckily, we broke with policy and ordered both, when an all-Hurricane order was expected.

    You might look back and think it was the obvious choice, but it was far from it at the time.
    So at exactly the right time we had the two most perfect fighters for the job who’s attributes overlapped perfectly for our particular needs and industrial capabilities, and to top it off we had the perfect way to manage them in the battle. Does a country really get that much good luck, or does it just prove that God is British?
    :rolleyes:
     
  2. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    All the things you mention were brought about by the social, industrial and political climate of the time. By 1933 those with enough foresight could see that geopolitics was changing and how the balance of power was shifting in Europe. There was very little luck about it.
     
  3. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #3 Waynos, Aug 18, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
    You seem to be saying that, having decided to rearm in the face of fascism in Europe, the Radar+Hurricane+Spitfire combo was inevitable? I disagree.
    "I say chaps, that Hitler fellow is looking well dodgy, we'd better go off and invent radar and Spitfires, or something" No max, thats not what it is about. I am saying we made lucky choices when it came to rearmament, we could have made other choices and when you look at the facts and other relevant events in our history it is somewhat surprising that we didn't.
     
  4. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    I just get a little sick of this "plucky little island standing alone, ill prepared to hold back the Nazi onslaught, salvation by the grace of God and the valiant Few" myth that's been perpetuated from about twenty minutes after the BoB finished and lasting to the present day. You'd have to be a Daily Mail reader to believe that now. Which is ironic when you think about it...
     
  5. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #5 Waynos, Aug 18, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
    You must have misread my post. I said lucky, not plucky. :)

    But thats exactly the point I was making. We were as *well* prepared as it was possible for us to be - because we made lucky choices on fighter acquisition and were doubly blessed with radar development, things could so easily have been very different. Although 'salvation by the grace of the English Channel' would be more like it, is that another example of our good luck?

    Thats the whole point of my post. What if we had chosen just one fighter? Or two that were not so well dovetailed? Even with the right planes, if we had not had radar fighter commands job would have been impossible. We just happened to have exactly what we needed, Is that a myth?

    My 'God is British' line was very much tongue in cheek, but I find it remarkable that we made so many right choices at this partuicular time, and amazing that it all came together at the exact point where our independance was threatened. If you know British history you will know that making good choices is not one of our strongpoints. Bomber Command could certainly have done with a rub of the green in that area.
     
  6. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    No. It was foresight as I wrote. The only luck involved was that the people with that foresight were in positions of influence and could make the right choices. Dare I say it, that they actually knew what they were doing? Perhaps that's why they were in those positions in the first place? In the case of the Spitfire if it had been left to Supermarine the RAF would have entered the BoB with three and a half aircraft and 200 Rolls Royce Merlin engines still in their packing cases.
     
  7. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #7 Waynos, Aug 18, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
    But was it? Obviously the shadow factory scheme and the rearmament plan in general was foresight, but I already explained that my post does not cover these areas. My first post covers the points I mean, maybe you didn't read it fully?

    For example. The almost symbiotic relationship between the Hurricane and Spitfire could not have been the product of foresight. Did Sid Camm think "What we need is a fighter that is built on old fashioned methods so that we can split the fighter force roughly two third between ours and the Supermarine plane. What I'll do is make mine suitable for going after bombers 'cos the type 300 will be taking on fighters, I need to do this because the type 300 is obviously more advanced and capable overall but they wont be able to build enough of 'em"

    No, of course he didn't. He just designed a fighter to win the contract. It was an entirely fortuitous combination, ie lucky. Was it foresight that deluded the Germans into thinking we had no radar? No, it was their own incompetence, or put another way, our good luck.

    And I covered in my top post why we were lucky that the Spit was selected for production at all

    I did point out that the post was not about the foresight and planning that went into rearming the country with the line "I’m not talking about the obvious stuff, ie that we had enough aircraft. So we bloody well should. And trained pilots, and good tactics (eventually!). "

    Sorry if this is wrong but you don't actually seem to have read the specific points I made?
     
  8. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps Britain got things right because the people in charge werent quite as incompetent as we like to believe

    If it was luck perhaps we got the luck that was meant to go to the French Air Force. If ever an armed service lacked good luck it was the French in the late 30s they had good designs, big factories and excellent pilots just a shame nothing seemed to go right for them.
     
  9. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    Ah, another voice of reason. Thank you. :lol:
     
  10. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #10 Waynos, Aug 19, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2009
    Long answer deleted because of the utter pointlessness of arguing with people who do not even understand the original premise.

    Do you think I do not know about the careful planning, investment and foresight demonstrated by some of the greatest minds available to Britain during the rearmament process? Do you still think that is what the thread is actually about?

    Then there is no point.

    As the saying goes."You can't educate pork", my efforts to get the meaning of this thread understood have felt exactly like that was what I was trying to do :(
     
  11. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I have read your original post 4 times now and I dont understand what your on about. Are you trying to say that divine intervention saved Britain or that the film "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" was a documentary.
     
  12. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    *Crying with laughter*
     
  13. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #13 Waynos, Aug 20, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2009
    Your lack of comprehension is your problem. Max, I'm glad you find it amusing. Smug arrogance is not classy.

    The original intent behind the thread was to discuss what it commonly known as 'the fortunes of war'. That is those elements that go beyond planning which, however hard you try, if they go the other way you are sunk. I quite distinctly highlighted three individual areas in which sheer good fortune combined to make the eventual outcome of the Battle of Britain possible. I was hoping people would raise others.

    I never pretended we were 'guided by thet hand of god' through the battle or whatever other bollocks interpretation you may have read into it, just three areas in which, if the opposite outcome had prevailed, which could quite easily have happened, the Battle may well have been lost. There is no magical power behind this. It is sometimes just the way things work out.

    The literacy of the original post is perfectly clear (I did check in case it was my fault). It is just a shame that I came across two respondants who either are, or at that time decided to be, smug bastards.

    C'est la vie.
     
  14. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    Aid the? Bedknob? Broomstick?
     
  15. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    If you have finished with the gibberish for a bit maybe you could do something constructive and tell me the following, for I do notice that you seem to be careful to avoid specific points.

    1 What was the foresight and planning that made the Hurricane and Spitfire such a perfect combination for the battle.

    I have read this as being a rather fortunate outcome of two disparate design philosophies. Show me different.

    2 What was the foresight and planning that made the Graf Zeppelin search on the wrong frequencies and return to Germany and report that there was no radar screen at all, despite having been tracked by that very screen all the way up and down the east coast? I put this down to luck, show me different.
     
  16. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    I have answered your rather farsical theory twice. Each time you have clumsily redifined your argument in reaction. No one agrees with you and I'm too old and too talented to waste any further time on either you or this thread.
     
  17. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Hey I resemble that remark:lol:

    By the power of Astoroth and his substitutiary locomotion spell I command thee to talk sense :whdat:
     
  18. Coors9

    Coors9 Member

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    Hey, I for one, like your post!!! If you can't be good , be lucky.
     
  19. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    You will find that the points I made in my last post are the same as in the first, only perhaps more succinctly put as I tried to simplify what I was saying so you could understand.

    Clearly you and I have both failed. I agree that the lack of input from other members seems to show that what I was trying to say has not come across a clearly as I would have hoped and I must take responsibility for this.

    I had no idea that suggesting we had a slice of luck in our preparations for war would be so offensive or abhorrent to people or could in any way be seen a 'farcical'. Do you think that there is no such thing as good fortune?

    Maybe I overstated it in my enthusiasm, but in my defence for my previous remarks. You at no stage answered any particlar point, just made a blanket statement which, whilst being 100% true in its own area (ie the reasons we put so much effort into rearmament), did not actually relate to what I had said. You then simply resorted to ridicule whilst I attempted to explain my point and maintain a discussion. If you really are old (from your reponses I thought you were no more 17) then you should have known better. "If you don't understand just ask" is quite a good motto.

    Nevertheless, clearly the original intent of the thread has been completely lost and so is best left alone from now on. In that respect I agree with you completely.
     
  20. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    What I was trying to say is that we were both. But I think it was read as diminishing the efforts of the time.

    Fastmongrel, I do try. Really I do.
     
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