Crucial points of the Battle of Britain?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Ascent, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. Ascent

    Ascent Member

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    I'm trying to help my daughter with her homework which has asked her for crucial turning points during the Battle of Britain.

    Now I have a fair idea of how the battle flowed but I'm not really sure that I can locate the crucial points when the British won and the Axis lost.

    What would you say are the standout points in the battle?

    Would you say the poor assesment of British losses could be one? It meant the Germans believed they were causing much more damage then they were?
     
  2. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    One of the key events to look at, is the change of policy by the Luftwaffe when they went from bombing military targets to civilian targets.

    The British were feeling the pressure of the Luftwaffe's attacks on military targets such as airfields, munitions/fuel depots and factories in spite of the Luftwaffe's lack of total air superiority.

    Once the Luftwaffe switched to attacking cities, such as London (the Blitz), it bought the RAF a little time and lost what little initiative the Luftwaffe had over the RAF.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There is really only one turning point. The Luftwaffe failed to break Fighter Command throughout June and August 1940 in support of a threatened invasion. This gave the rest of the Wermacht, and particularly the Kriegsmarine, a perfect get out from mounting an actual invasion which they were ill prepared and unequipped to do.
    In pursuance of the real objective of the battle, which was to force some kind of negotiated settlement on the British, the Germans switched the weight of their attacks to London, the so called Blitz.
    About 5 pm on 7th September 1940 was the turning point. At precisely this time Dowding was discussing, at Bentley Priory, with Evill, Park and Douglas, how to manage his diminishing resources. 11 Group was on the point of collapse. Six of its seven sector stations had been badly damaged and Fighter Command as a whole was running out of operational pilots. The Luftwaffe launched a huge attack on London. During the next hour and a half 348 bombers, escorted by 617 fighters, set fire to docks, warehouses and oil tanks along both banks of the Thames to the east of the city. They also blasted numerous densely populated streets. It was by far the most powerful attack ever launched by any air force against any target to date, but it was a new target. It was not Fighter Command and its infrastructure.
    Battle of Britain day is of course 15th September, a day on which the Luftwaffe suffered substantial losses. Hitler's cancellation of Operation Sealion followed on the 17th, but the man fighting the tactical battle, Keith Park, always regarded the 7th, when the Luftwaffe switched its attacks from sector airfields to London, as the turning point. Who are we to disagree?
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  4. Greyman

    Greyman Active Member

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    Chruchill said:
    - changing target to London
    - failure of germans to attack command and control networks
    - changing from concentrated to dispersed attacks
    - fighting over England and the channel favoured the RAF
    - Beaverbrook's aircraft production/Bevin's labour laws
    - Dowding's management
    - poor german intelligence
    - comparable fighter performance (Hurr/Spit vs. 109)

    Dowding said:
    - poor target selection by germans
    - radar
    - recalling Hurricanes from France/Beaverbrook and shadow factories/improvised fighter repair system
    - fighting over England and the channel favoured the RAF
    - flexibility of AA command and effect of AA guns

    Milch said:
    - late 1939 Luftwaffe was still developing and not ready for large scale operations
    - Luftwaffe incorrectly organized at top level
    - cancellation of four-engine bomber programs
    - inadequate range for escort fighters/poor drop tank design

    Galland said:
    - poor leadership, changing orders, constant criticism
    - British radar and fighter control
    - inadequate range for escort fighters
    - inadequate bombers for the mission
    - poor target selection
    - fighting over England and the channel favoured the RAF
     
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  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    What turning points? RAF daytime air superiority was never seriously in doubt at any time during WWII.
     
  6. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    From what I have seen, read etc it would seem that poor intelligence was a factor for both forced.
    The RAF thought that the LW was under the impression that the RAF was weaker than it was, and the RAF thought the LW was stronger than it was - both based on their own squadron make up!
    Also important was the LW did not properly understand the significance of the radar stations - if they had, they would have bombed them to dust!
    Good leadership by Dowding and Park also helped - eg not always sending fighters to engage raids over the Channel - especially if it was judged to be a lure to engage RAF fighters by greater LW escorts.
    Not adopting the Big Wing - as others were pushing for.
    Poor leadership by LW - especially when their fighters were tasked with close escort rather than being able to gain height and dive on RAF squadrons from an advantageous position an break them up before they could engage the bombers.
    Other things that may have affected the fight - change of Vic to Finger Four formation, closer harmonization of RAF machine guns for greater hitting power. Addition of armour plate to RAF fighters.
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Easier said then done. RAF and USAAC had far more assets then Luftwaffe yet failed to bomb German radar stations and fighter control centers to dust.
     
  8. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    I have read that a cruical point was the accidental bombing of London (or dropping of bombs to lighten load) led to a retaliatory raid on Berlin which provoked Adolf to order the bombing of London. This took the load off fighter commands hard pressed squadrons in the South East. However I also read that the Luftwaffe was equally hard pressed.

    Intelligence was important estimates of original strength and capacity to replace losses as well as the losses themselves led Germany to underestimate its opponent and Britain and commonwealth to overestimate. While Goering was convinced the RAF was down to its last 50 fighters the RAF was able to deploy 50 fighters in a "big wing" as a single unit. The big wing was a bad fighter tactic in my opinion but the psychological effect on the Luftwaffe was profound, the pilots involved knew they were no nearer winning in August than at the start in May June
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Late 1940 Germany attempted to interdict British seaports via bombing. As previously discussed, WWII era Port of London was essentially in the center of town. So bombing the seaport with 1940s technology means some bombs will hit the city accidently. However London per se wasn't the target.
     
  10. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Dave, the biggest was the switch from military to civilian targets. This allowed the RAF to rebuild.
     
  11. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    Not forgetting the bombing and rocketing of German radar stations into dust for pre D-Day preparations, while deliberately excluding enough of them to fool the Germans into believing the invasion was taking place elsewhere.
     
  12. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #12 nuuumannn, Mar 17, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
    Actually, it was. Even if the LW had done so much damage to RAF airfields, part of the pretext to invading the UK would have been bombing London. The LW was going to do it anyway and this highlights one of the failures of the LW from the start of the battle; a lack of understanding of what damage the bombers were actually doing. There was no intelligence reporting back how effective the bombing of RAF airfields was, nothing to quantify results. Photo recon aircraft were being frequently shot down. This was a major failure of the Germans since they had no idea of where they were up to. Even once the wholesale bombing of London began, the Germans were still none the wiser as to how much damage they were doing to the capital.

    Here is a quote from the excellent assessment of the battle called "The Battle of Britain" by Richard Hough and Denis Richards;

    "Even after the news spread among Fighter Command squadrons of the fearful bombing of London on the night after the first great day battles over the capital, most pilots registered in their minds only an intensification of the battle as a preliminary to invasion. At a higher level of command the switch in German tactics was seen as the possible salvation of 11 Group. It also caused a certain amount of bewilderment. There had been plenty of evidence over the past weeks that enemy intelligence was weak and ill-informed, so the failure to recognise how close to breakdown the command and communications structures of 11 Group had become might account for the folly of not giving it the coup-de-grace.

    "Clearly the invasion threat remained real. But why bomb London as a preliminary? There was little military advantage in setting fire to a lot of warehouses and killing a few thousand civilians. On the other hand, the invasion of Poland and of Holland had been accompanied by intimidating attacks on Warsaw and Rotterdam, presumably to cow the population. Did Goering really believe that a few thousand tons of bombs on the capital would lead the British to succumb to the threat of invasion? Yet early morning recce flights on 8 September showed no sign of an invasion fleet. it was all very puzzling."
     
  13. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    Yet the USAAF did target cities and in doing so decimated the Luftwaffe.
     
  14. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Pretty simplistic view, though, Milosh, considering the USAAF was targeting specific targets within the cities, not just the cities themselves - they didn't just swan over and attack Cologne for the hell of it to achieve victory - also, the USAAF had better recon, far greater resources and better management of the campaign on their side, things that the Germans lacked in 1940.
     
  15. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Another thing that the Luftwaffe lacked that the USAAF (and RAF) had to their advantage, was heavy bombers.

    Something that Wever had envisioned for the Luftwaffe but his plans were derailed by his premature death in 1936.
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Some very intersting and inciteful comments. Id say the turning point came about 1938 or so. Germany's decision to focus on tactical support made the LW unsuited to sustained air operations, in which direct support of the armies was not the focus. The things the LW did well were related to support of the army, whether that be CAS, air superiority over the battlefield or tacair ops just behind the front. Later in the war they were able to adaprt enough to make a decent showing of air defence issues, but on the offensive, they were simply out of their depth as far as taking and holding air superiority over a wide and deep area like SE England.

    Germany's production priorities and pre-war preparations also failed to anticipate what they might do if faced with England not prepred to surrender. this should have been a battle problem well thought out and prepred for well before going to war. It wasnt.

    Conversely, for the British, they never lost sight of their primary mission. tjough untested, a major part of the RAFs resources were devoted to air defence over England. throughout the phoney war and even during the BOF, Dowding never lost sight of what the main game was going to be, though the politicians put enormous pressure on him to bend and "compromise". Thankfully he had the drive and conviction to resist, ands was able to achieve that.

    So, in the end, it gets down to the degree of focus each side had. the Germans in their prewar and pre-battle prearations showed a distinct lack of focus on the defeat of Britain, the RAF dedicated huge proportions of their resources to denying the LW controlover England, and were working on that very problem for a long time. everything just came together, the engine development, airframe design, radar, commuications, command structures, production finally tactics and training. It was far from an effortless or mistake free process, but it was far better than anything the germans did. individual elements of the german effort were comparable to the British, but it just all lacked the cohesion that the British put into their effort. And that, in my opinion, made the difference ultimately. Focus, versus lack of focus
     
  17. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    The target might have been a specific industrial complex but the weather in Europe was not exactly great to 'pickle barrel' targeting. RAF BC at night had a better CEP than the 8th AF during the day.

    The strategic bomber objective defined in the Pointblank directive 'Quebec conference' and applied in the CBO plans in 1944 for the Argument, were absolutely clear about the main goal of the bombardment > destroy the Luftwaffe.
     
  18. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Yep, and like I said, the USAAF had better resources and management to do so. The Luftwaffe was not in the same position to enact victory against the RAF by bombing London. Certainly not by bombing the civilian population.
     
  19. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    IF anything, the switch to bombing London pulled the British out of a mood of doubt and concern to a mood of steeled resolve.

    The Blitz worked the exact opposite of what Berlin was counting on...
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The government's agents, eavesdropping on the civil populations conversations in pubs and other public places reported in November 1940 that the thing that Londoners were complaining most about was the weather. In this case things really don't change :)
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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