Did the RN win the Battle of Britain?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Sep 15, 2006.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Saw this article.

    Personally I think its a crock. RN without air cover vs German navy with air cover would be a disaster of monumental proportions.

    Telegraph | News | Battle of Britain was won at sea. Discuss

    The Battle of Britain was not won by the RAF but by the Royal Navy, military historians have concluded, provoking outrage among the war's surviving fighter pilots.

    Challenging the "myth" that Spitfires and Hurricanes held off the German invaders in 1940, the monthly magazine History Today has concluded that it was the might of the Navy that stood between Britain and Nazi occupation.

    The view is backed by three leading academics who are senior military historians at the Joint Service Command Staff College teaching the future admirals, generals and air marshals.

    They contend that the sheer numbers of destroyers and battleships in the Channel would have obliterated any invasion fleet even if the RAF had lost the Battle of Britain.

    The idea that a "handful of heroes saved these islands from invasion" was nothing more than a "perpetuation of a glorious myth," the article suggests.

    "Many still prefer to believe that in the course of that summer a few hundred outnumbered young men so outfought a superior enemy as solely to prevent a certain invasion of Britain. Almost none of which is true," reports Brian James, the author.

    Dr Andrew Gordon, the head of maritime history at the staff college, said it was "hogwash" to suggest that Germany failed to invade in 1940 "because of what was done by the phenomenally brave and skilled young men of Fighter Command".

    "The Germans stayed away because while the Royal Navy existed they had not a hope in hell of capturing these islands. The Navy had ships in sufficient numbers to have overwhelmed any invasion fleet - destroyers' speed alone would have swamped the barges by their wash."

    Even if the RAF had been defeated the fleet would still have been able to defeat any invasion because fast ships at sea could easily manoeuvre and "were pretty safe from air attack".

    While admitting it was an "extremely sensitive subject", Dr Christina Goulter, the air warfare historian, supported the argument. "While it would be wrong to deny the contribution of Fighter Command, I agree largely that it was the Navy that held the Germans from invading," she said.

    "As the German general Jodl put it, so long as the British Navy existed, an invasion would be to send 'my troops into a mincing machine'." Any challenge to the long-held theory that the 2,600 pilots of Fighter Command defeated the might of Germany would be subject to "more than a modicum of hostility", she added.

    The Battle of Britain was "a sacrosanct event" for the RAF, like Waterloo for the Army and Trafalgar for the Navy.

    It inspired Churchill to say: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

    Although six destroyers were lost during the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 this was due to them being stationary as they picked up troops.

    Tackling capital ships would have been an even greater task because at the time the Luftwaffe, unlike the Japanese during the destruction of the fleet at Singapore, did not have armour-piercing bombs, the article says.

    It has been argued that German minefields strung across the Dover Straits would have prevented the Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow, from destroying slow troop barges.

    But Dr Gordon disputed this saying that Britain had 52 minesweepers and 16 minesweeping trawlers arrayed against four German minelayers.

    The disparity between the navies was huge with Britain having 36 destroyers close by and a similar number two days away. The Navy also had five capital ships on hand, whereas the Kriegsmarine had lost or had damaged their battleships.

    "Anyway, in an emergency, the Royal Navy steams straight through minefields as they did when pursuing the Scharnhorst," Dr Gordon said. "They have a drill, following line astern. 'Each ship can sweep one mine' is the rather grim joke."

    Can you imagine the RN's targets? An invasion fleet of Rhine barges, moving at about two knots over the water, with a freeboard of a few feet. . . an absolute field day for our navy. So that was the nightmare for the German navy. They knew it just couldn't happen."

    Prof Gary Sheffield, the JSCSC's leading land warfare historian, said while some Germans might have got ashore it would have been near impossible for them to be re-supplied with the Navy so close by.

    The article also argues that while the RAF had 644 fighters to the Luftwaffe's 725 at the beginning of the battle by October 1940 Britain was far out-producing the enemy.

    It also said that after the defeat in France in early 1940 it was vital for Britain to have a victory to reassure the public it was winning the war and the RAF fighter pilots were an obvious choice. "In 1940, the total acceptance of the story's simple broad-brush strokes was very necessary," the historian Richard Overy said.

    Dr Gordon added: "The RAF's was a substitute victory - a substitute for the certain victory over Sealion, had the Germans been mad enough to attempt invasion."
     
  2. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    11,985
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    To some extent, it's true. The RAF did win the battle, but the Royal Navy could have held off the invasion. The Luftwaffe wouldn't have been able to sink the entire Royal Navy.
     
  3. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    41,767
    Likes Received:
    684
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    A&P - Aircraft Technician
    Location:
    USA/Germany
  4. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    Messages:
    41,730
    Likes Received:
    517
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Doctor
    Location:
    Portsmouth / Royal Deeside, UK
    Home Page:
    Yep, I agree as well pD, the Germans would of been hard pressed to sink the whole of the RN, especially with the determination they would of had to stop the invasion.
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    I disagree.

    As events in the PTO proved (and the MTO as well), any type of ship without aircover was a ship waiting to be sunk.

    The Repulse and POW are classic examples of it.

    When you consider that shipboard AAA was woefully inadequate in 1940, there is little chance the RN (or USN or IJN or KM for that matter) could have held off a determined air force with plenty of aircraft to throw into the battle.
     
  6. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2005
    Messages:
    2,240
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Manager
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    Well I have to agree with both syscom and PlanD on this one. Let me explain.

    RN with no aircover would of been hit hard, very hard by the Luftwaffe. See the Mediterranean area of operation as an example. LW there did very well vs RN and part of the time RN had aircover.

    Now LW did not have alot of units trained vs ships, like the Japan did when they sunk so many ships. LW would of still been able to sink ships just not at such a high % as the Japanese or the LW anti shipping units did.

    But the RN had soooo many ships that LW would not have been able to sink them all in a short amount of time fast enough to stop them from sinking the landing craft or from destroying the beach heads. The landings would of still failed I think with a high cost to the RN.

    Plus what is not mentioned is this....how many ships in the RN would they use? If the RN used her whole fleet from around the world well damn that was huge. Or are we talking that RN only used her home fleet to defend the landings.

    I think obviously if the UK viewed Germany as a actual threat to invade she would of drawn all her available ships to defend her homeland. Had UK done that I don't think German would of been able to simply sink them fast enough to win the battle. RN would of lost alot of ships, but won and the LW would of lost her fleet and a fair amount of planes also.

    Damn it would of been one bloody fight and alot of men would of died on both sides. Both sides would of been badly hurt from the battle, these wounds would of seriously hindered their ability to fight the rest of the war like they actually did in WW2.
     
  7. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Messages:
    19,980
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    38
    let me put my thoughts accross............

    it was the RAF that stopped the Invasion, without destroying our air force Jerry knew he couldn't carry out an invasion as we'd use our planes and Navy to stop it in the channel. if the RAF had been defeated and an invasion were attempted then the remainer of the RAF simply wouldn't just not show up, there'd still be some fighters, which would be called on simply to defend our capital ships from the LW, or atleast the few units that were able to attack ships, often just Ju-87s, remembering syscom the English channel aint like the med or pacific, it's very narrow meaning fighters can patrol its entire width, providing cover for ships, which the remaining RAF, however small, would be trying to do, the LW would've sunk some of our ships of that there can be no doubt, but they wouldn't be totally unchallenged, and besides that the Navy would be so quick in making mince meat of the invasion it wouldn't be in the channel long, to conclude, the RAF won the battle, but the Navy also could have if the RAF hadn't..................
     
  8. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2005
    Messages:
    2,240
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Manager
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    Agreed
     
  9. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    41,767
    Likes Received:
    684
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    A&P - Aircraft Technician
    Location:
    USA/Germany
    Well when put the same way as Hunter put it, I have to agree with syscom as well. That is a good point, without aircover any Navy is vulnerable. I dont care whos Navy it is.
     
  10. trackend

    trackend Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Messages:
    4,039
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Retired tech support railway engineer
    Location:
    Ipswich, Suffolk
    My opinion is that the RAF proved beyond doubt that an invasion was untenable. The invasion of Briton was never a real proposition in the first place although the German airforce would have undoubtedly caused catastrophic losses amongst the naval fleet it would only have required a few vessels even destroyers or smaller to survive just a short time to decimate what was after all a hoch poch of improvised landing vessels that where to even the most poor gunnery officers very easy slow targets add to this the Raf who would be out in force it was doomed to failure. The Raf however stopped it from getting to this stage by proving the Luftwaffe in capable of ruling the sky's over the channel and thus making the chance of a successfull invasion impossible.
     
  11. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    6,160
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Consellor
    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    I think we agree that to invade the Germans would have had to destroy the RAF and then beat the RN.
    They didn't destroy the RAF and didn't get to the second hurdle, taking on the RN. I am with Lanc in my belief that the Germans wouldn't have destroyed the RN.

    The Germans didn't have many dive bomber squadrons trained for attacking ships. When they did attack the RN in 1940 they didn't do very well. I believe the RN and French lost eight destroyers off France, all of them stationary when picking up survivors.
    In the period leading up to and including the BOB itself the Germans attacked a number of convoys of colliers that sailed up the Channel to deliver coal to the power stations of London. No convoy was ever turned back. If you cannot hit on a regular basis a collier in daylight with a max speed of around 3-4 kts that is unable to manoeuver or fight back, then how are you going to decimate a number of destroyers intent of death and destruction?
    Off Norway we lost a number of ships but again normally when stationary.

    There is no doubt that in the Med after the Germans had been through the required training they were deadly, no question at all, but not in 1940 off the coast of the UK.

    On point that is often missed. Navies operate 24 hours a day, airforces (in 1940) daylight hours only. The Channel at night belonged to the RN.
    Remembering that the Germans had eight operational destroyers and the RN forty on anti invasion duty (plus reserves), plus seventy MTB's operated by RN reserve captains who were often experienced amature yachtsmen who knew the channel well. The odds are definately in the favour of the RN. .
     
  12. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    273
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Freelance gun and ammunition writer and editor
    Home Page:
    Agree with Glider's summary.

    The invasion force would have consisted of a very large number of small and extremely slow vessels, spread out over a large area, and taking a very long time to get to their objective. Their crossing would have to have been partially at night, when the RN could have operated at their leisure. The RN destroyers wouldn't even have had to sink them all by gunfire - just passing close by a low-freeboard river barge at high speed would have swamped it.

    If Fighter Command had clearly been losing, they just would have withdrawn to bases out of reach of the German fighters, and waited for the invasion to be committed before returning in force. The Luftwaffe would have had a serious headache, since they did not have a big advantage in fighter numbers. If the RAF fighters had concentrated on providing cover for the RN ships, then the Luftwaffe fighters would have had to concentrate on providing cover for their bombers attacking the ships - leaving the sky clear for Bomber Command to attack the invasion fleet. Alternatively, the Luftwaffe fighters could have protected the invasion force, resulting in their unescorted bombers being chewed up by Fighter Command as they tried to attack the RN. The Luftwaffe couldn't be everywhere at once, and if they tried to be they would be spread too thin to be very effective.

    There is nothing new in this article, it's just a mixture of hype and misunderstanding. The Battle of Britain was the air war and that was won by the RAF, but the main deterrent to invasion was the RN. That was well known at the time, and is beyond dispute.

    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion forum
     
  13. mosquitoman

    mosquitoman Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2005
    Messages:
    2,990
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    student
    Location:
    Saffron Walden/Sheffield
    Home Page:
    But... if Sea Lion did go ahead and the RN was called in, it would have lost a lot of ships- ships that would've been urgently needed elsewhere for convoy escort- meaning that the Battle of the Atlantic would've been a much more close-run thing or it might have even been lost by the Allies
     
  14. 102first_hussars

    102first_hussars Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2005
    Messages:
    2,214
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Service Truck Driver For Fountain Tire's Farm And Fleet Service
    Location:
    Edmonton,Alberta
    With all do respect to the Royal Navy, but during that time perioud i think the RCN and those peice of sh*t Corvettes did more and suffered the most too, now when i learned that the RN had completely wiped out the German Destroyers of of Scandinavia before the BOB i was f*cking ipressed
     
  15. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    6,160
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Consellor
    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    They would have lost some ships and no doubt taken damage on a number of others but there are two key points.

    1 Tactical Situation
    We couldn't take the chance of letting the Germans gain a bridghead in the UK. It would have been a situation where to all intents and purposes our losses wouldn't matter if the german landings could be beaten. The RN proved a number of times that they would take considerable risks to close and destroy the enemy.
    In the battle of Narvik the Battleship HMS Warspite took on destroyers in the fjiords at almost suicidal ranges considering that the Germans had torpedo's well within range.
    When the Germans broke through the Channel the British Destroyers went through known minefields to close.
    Its a question of priorities and defeating the invasion would come first on the list.

    2 Types of Ships
    The destroyers, cruisers and MTB's to be used in the Channel are not the best convoy escorts.
    The destroyers cannot use their speed, they don't carry large numbers of anti submarine depth charges, they lack range and LA guns are of no use against aircraft.
    Cruisers cover convoys from surface attack but the Germans would have been tied up with the invasion.
    Most of the convoy escorts would have been retained as a 16kt escort with 1 x 4in would have been of limited value in taking on an invasion.
    I agree that the convoys would have been less well protected and losses would have increased but I don't think the Battle of the Atlantic would have been lost because of it.
     
  16. daishi12

    daishi12 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2006
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    It must also be remembered that the RN did not just have Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers and Corvettes. There were also large numbers of trawlers that could and would have been converted to armed trawlers. Armed trawlers would have had the duty of laying and clearing mines which would have meant that the Kriegsmarine would have suffered losses before they could get to the beach heads.

    If the Germans had attempted to invade, remember there would have been a change of priority with the Luftwaffe, they would have needed to change from bombing the mainland to trying to defend the invasion barges and surface ships from aerial attack, this means that bombers attacking RN surface ships would by default be lightly or unescorted.

    The English Channel would have been red with blood for months.

    I agree that the RAF won the BoB, but the RN prevented the invasion.
     
  17. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    41,767
    Likes Received:
    684
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    A&P - Aircraft Technician
    Location:
    USA/Germany
    The RN played a big part but the RAF kept it all a very distant thought to begin with.
     
  18. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Still a student
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    If Fighter Command had clearly been losing, they just would have withdrawn to bases out of reach of the German fighters, and waited for the invasion to be committed before returning in force. The Luftwaffe would have had a serious headache, since they did not have a big advantage in fighter numbers. If the RAF fighters had concentrated on providing cover for the RN ships, then the Luftwaffe fighters would have had to concentrate on providing cover for their bombers attacking the ships - leaving the sky clear for Bomber Command to attack the invasion fleet. Alternatively, the Luftwaffe fighters could have protected the invasion force, resulting in their unescorted bombers being chewed up by Fighter Command as they tried to attack the RN. The Luftwaffe couldn't be everywhere at once, and if they tried to be they would be spread too thin to be very effective.


    That's true but if both sides had almost the same amount of fighters couldn't they do half and half? If the Luftwaffe had divided itself with one half to defend the bombers, and the other half to defend the invasion fleet, the RAF would also have to divide itself to attack them both at once. And if the RAF decided to concentrate itself to attack just one half, say just the Luftwaffe bombers, with odds of maybe 2 to 1, then the German fighters guarding the invasion fleet could come right back to support fighters guarding the bombers. If the RAF switched all it's fighters then to the Invasion fleet the Luftwaffe could have backtracked and ect, ect, ect.

    It would have been a bloody wild goose chase of the two fighter sides and it's likely the RAF would find one part of the German Invasion force unprotected but they would. But it's also likely the Luftwaffe would find one part of the RN unprotected as well!

    But the English have the advantage of defending a beach head and battle ships, while the German had the Landing Craft and Bombers. It's more likely the German Bomber would be shot down by flak attacking the RN fleet than the RAF fighter would have been in shooting down the transport boats. And the German fleet would have sunk faster than the RN fleet simply because it was vulnerable to both the RAF Fighters and Navy. Amid this almost even sided hail storm the poor seasick German infantry would have had slim chance of hoping to break through the RN to the beach. Perhaps with an Air Path provided by the Luftwaffe they could do it. Still, on both sides the RN would be pounding the surviving german invasion fleet going single file through their ranks. And having to navigate through the sinking RN ships in their path their chances wouldn't be good.

    And the English soldiers on the beach would likely be drinking tea since the Luftwaffe would be too busy to bomb them. The few surviving germans who made it onto the beach head would surrender and join them under guard.

    I agree, the germans would have lost.:oops:
     
  19. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2006
    Messages:
    2,934
    Likes Received:
    105
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    retired avionics engineer
    Location:
    Southern California
    I think this topic is deeper than what has been discussed. First of all, with the demise of the RAF in eastern Britain, the entire focus of both forces would have been on the invasion. Germany would not have to defeat the RN, only prevent its incursion into the English Channel. Since the battle of the Atlantic would be irrelevant with the demise of Britain, the entire U-boat fleet would have been made available to intercept RN forces as they approached the area. Also, I don’t know much about the depth of the English Channel other than an average of 120 meters, but I suspect that heavy mining could have severely hindered the movement of RN ships into the channel. And that is not even talking about the German airpower.

    At the beginning of WWII, Japan was, without a doubt, the most knowledgeable nation in regards to air-sea warfare and fully understood the impact of air power on naval warfare, specifically unprotected warships. With this understanding, it must be noted here that Yamamoto was not willing to engage the forces surrounding Midway after his loss of air power. This, in spite of fact that he knew that only two carriers and no more than 200 combat aircraft was available to the Americans and that he had destroyed all reinforcements at Pearl Harbor. His remaining fleet, by the way, consisted of 11 battleships (including the Yamato), 12 cruisers, 1 light carrier and 45 destroyers. Now it is true that German pilots did not have the anti-shipping skills of the Japanese or probably the Americans, but they would learn fast. And, while the Dauntless was better than the Stuka, it would certainly be effective in that environment. I don’t know about German torpedo planes but they certainly had the light bombers that could adapt. Of course, the RAF planes from west Britain would have been thrown into the mix with desperation.

    All in all, it would have been a ferocious fight that was completely avoided by the BOB. And yes, it was the RN that would have prevented any invasion for certain with RAF air cover, without RAF air cover, it is not so obvious.
     
  20. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Messages:
    19,980
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    38
    i think you're giving jerry a bit too much credit, the RAF wouldn't allow itself to be totally wiped out anywhere, if things got so bad they were about to be destroyed they would pull back a bit and bought in fighters from all over the country, the BoB wasn't just fought over Kent and there were plenty of other squadrons around, all of which could be used to defend the Navy, so do not be fooled into thinking the navy would've got no air cover, they would have at the very least a bare bones defensive cover..............

    next quite how do you propose the Germans keep the Navy out of the channel, two of Britain's biggest naval dockyards Plymouth and Portsmouth are already in the channel! There were known routes through the mine feilds and as demonstrated by Dunquirke (i think that's the French spelling :?: ) they posed little problem once known, next to the issue of how jerry lays the mines? in the original article Dr. Gordon says they had only 4 minelaying vessels, and that the navy had 52 minesweepers! and there's only so many arial mines you can drop, but you cirtainly wont drop enough to completely block off the east end of the channel, and any ships coming from the north/east coast would be escorted by, amoung other vessels, minesweepers!

    and as for the air power would i be correct in saying that at this point in the war the German's didn't have the ability to air drop torpedos? even if they could there's not much room in the channels to use them anyway, and as for arial bombing crews had little or no training against ships and during dunquirke stukas only really managed to sink stationary ships, furthermore the key to defeating the invasion would not be so much in the big capital ships but more with the smaller, faster vessels that're harder to hit from the air anyway..............
     
Loading...
Similar Threads
  1. acerus
    Replies:
    1
    Views:
    1,021
  2. pinsog
    Replies:
    74
    Views:
    7,080
  3. v2
    Replies:
    0
    Views:
    2,000
  4. report2me4
    Replies:
    4
    Views:
    2,584
  5. RAGMAN
    Replies:
    12
    Views:
    5,572

Share This Page