RAF daylight strategic bombing campaign results

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wiking85, Feb 22, 2015.

  1. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    How would the RAF have faired if they had gone for a daylight strategic bombing campaign from 1941 on? Let's say the choice to go for a daylight campaign means they adopt the long range Spitfire variant for service as a escort. In 1941-42 the Luftwaffe was only fielding two Wings of fighters in the West, though I imagine the night fighters would have ended up as daylight bomber destroyers without a night campaign. Do the British go for high altitude bombing too?

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  2. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    This is the key.
    No escort = LW racks up the score. Escorts = yes, RAF will get bloody nose sometimes, but will grind down what LW has in the West. LW can/will call back fighter units from Soviet union or/and MTO, but that worsens the situation on those fronts.
    Bombers will have easier time to navigate to their targets and to hit something other than field, or meadow, or wrong part of Europe. However, the heavy Flak will have had an easier task during the day than during the night, especially in 1941 with so few fire-control radars.
    A determined 'push' towards escorted daylight campaign should also mean more internal fuel in up-coming fighters, like Spitfires with 2-stage engines and Typhoon. Another interesting thing might be a greater emphasis on the Mustang to get wing racks ASAP, shortly followed by a better engine (not yet a 2-stage Merlin, though).
     
  3. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Would this result in a heavier loss rate for the RAF to the point that it becomes unsustainable? Would it affect bombing impact if its harder to get through and loss rates are higher than they were at night?
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    That would depend on how great the loss rate is for the RAF, and how great is the loss rate of LW (that would roughly determine how many days the RAF will be sustaining increased losses). Eg. if the RAF can trade a fighter and a bomber per each LW fighter they kill, say during a couple of weeks, the LW is loosing the battle, since it is less numerous after June 1941. RAF sending 250 LR fighters and 500 bombers, supported by 250 fighters on 'ingress' and 'egress' is bound to put LW in problems. Not just of numerical nature (that is a big problem on it's own), but it mandates the LW to kill bombers, meaning they left the initiative to the RAF fighter escort. If LW decides to kill escorts, it is still a fight vs. a big numerical superiority, and the bombers are free to do as they are pleased.
    With the fighters based in France and Netherlands occupied with daylight bombers escorts, that leaves whole shore, stretching from Netherlands to Spain, without meaningful fighter protection, so Coastal Command can have an easier time to interfere with subs their harbors, drop mines etc.
     
  5. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    The answer to this is already well known and you only need to look at Sholto Douglas' 'Leaning into France' to witness RAF losses over the continent at that time. It was a roundly criticised campaign with high losses for Fighter Command at the hands of mainly Bf 109Fs, which were superior to Spitfire Vs. The appearance of the Fw 190 compunded the problem. Night bombing offered protection against German fighters, until the Nacht Jagd became numerous and effective enough.
     
  6. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    To bomb in daylight you need to escort a formation, the RAF didnt have a fleet of bombers to make such a formation for much of the war. Even in 1944 the Halifa and Lancaster were dissimilar and so the formation must be all of one type or perform at the level of the worst.
    The first 1000 bomber raid on Cologne 30/31 May 1942 had the following aircraft

    Resources committed[8]
    No. and type of aircraft Number of aircraft Total
    No. 1 Group RAF 156 Wellington medium bombers 156
    No. 3 Group RAF 134 Wellington
    88 Stirling heavy bombers 222
    No. 4 Group RAF 131 Halifax heavy bombers
    9 Wellington mediums
    7 Whitley medium bombers 147
    No. 5 Group RAF 73 Lancaster heavy bombers
    46 Manchester medium bombers
    34 Hampden medium bombers 153
    No. 91 (Operational Training) Group 236 Wellington
    21 Whitley 257
    No. 92 (Operational Training) Group 63 Wellington
    45 Hampden 108
    Flying Training Command 4 Wellington 4

    Info from Wiki

    As a daylight formation that would be ariel comedy
     
  7. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    British didn't actually have a whole lot of bombers for most of 1941 compared to what they had later. The first 1000 bomber raid wasn't until May of 1942. They had 88 Stirlings, 73 Lancasters, 46 Manchesters and 131 Halifaxes. The Bulk of the planes were Wellingtons. 79 Hampdens were used. And a dribble of Whitleys.
    These early British heavies also leave a LOT to be desired from the defensive armament perspective. Not all had top turrets and the ones that did had, for the most part, two gun turrets (two .303s). Belly turrets were already on the way but could be fitted for daylight use ( at the cost of speed, none too great to begin with).

    Unless you go hog wild redesigning the Spitfire, any 1941/42 long range variant is going to be doing good to escort to the Ruhr.
     
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  8. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    To be fair that was because the Germans were able to pick their battles and only fight when it was favorable, because they didn't care if British bombers hit France; the question is how would it have been had the RAF been hitting Germany instead, forcing them to fight to stop the bombers?
     
  9. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    I don't see the result being any different, to be honest, Viking. There's a reason why Bomber Command switched to night bombing in the first instance.
     
  10. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Bombers such as the Stirling were vulnerable to flak at night in daylight I doubt Germany would need much in the way of fighter defence, they flew very low and slow. A US Bomber group without escort briefly was exposed but not completely defenseless. Bombers such as the Wellington and Hampden were completely defenseless to a beam attack or anywhere underneath.
     
  11. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    True, in that time period however, German night fighter arm was not as effective as it was to become, so switching to night bombing was the only real option for keeping losses at acceptable levels. Also, German industrial targets were not as heavily defended in 1941 as they were to become later. Comparatively, Stirlings weren't all that 'slow' compared to other bombers of the era, but of course against fighters its another story. They did have a reputation of being surviveable and also able to withstand violent manoeuvres in order to evade fighter attacks. Again, however, you have to ask what option the RAF had and what is going to minimise losses using the equipment at hand. Defensive armament wise, British bombers were better off than anyone else's (apart from the Hampden). Look at the guns of the He 111, Do 17, Ju 88, SM-79, G4M etc. They were no more surviveable against fighter attack than British bombers. Only the British had power operated turrets on their principal heavy bombers in 1941 (although the Do 217E had one); a far superior means of tracking and accurately shooting at enemy fighters than free mounted guns at that time and from 1942 on, turrets were mandatory on heavy bombers.
     
  12. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    You have to have enough escorts to get that idea to work. It is also around 250-300 miles from practical British bases to much over the German border. Forget Bremen, Hanover or Frankfort. Even for a raid on the Ruhr you are going to need 3 sets of fighters. One to escort the bombers in, one to rendezvous with the bombers near the target and the last set to rendezvous with the bombers after they drop bombs and get them home. For 1941 and a lot of 1942 that means long range MK V Spitfires. There were only 4 squadrons of MK IXs at Dieppe in Aug of 1942 ( and the kill to loss ratio on that operation was none too good.)
     
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  13. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    I doubt even then that is going to make much of a difference to the end result, SR, but I support your point. Certainly, until more bombers are available, such raids would be pointless and a waste of resources. Harris had the right idea with the 1,000 bomber raids, despite the polyglot of aircraft types; the raids were a propaganda triumph and did much to restore public and military confidence in Bomber Command's performance in the war to date, which was at a real low before him. Ludlow Hewitt, ever the realist and pessimist was not the man for the wartime Bomber Command and Peirse was out of his depth. Harris injected new life and vigour into Bomber Command.
     
  14. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    The biggest hindrance to escort fighters in the RAF wasn't the aircraft designs, but Portal, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Portal,_1st_Viscount_Portal_of_Hungerford who strenouously resisted attempts to introduce long range escort fighters into the RAF, Why? Who knows, but he got into arguments with seniors about it on occasion. His argument was that fighters would not be able to match the performance of interceptors over the target areas (I have quotes, but my books are packed away since I'm moving house). Harris was all for the idea and used to flick pointed memos to Portal on a regular basis about all kinds of things, which Portal got to the point of ignoring, rather than dealing with the issues Harris was raising.
     
  15. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    A couple of the daylight Lancaster raids in '42 were done at low level. There was the Augsburg raid, which wasn't very successful and another, the target I can't recall, which was quite successful, including a side raid by Guy Gibson and a couple others to destroy a transformer, or some such.

    The advantages of low level raids for Lancaster include the reduced range of detection by radar and the underside is protected from attack due to the proximity from the ground, the upper, front and rear areas being covered by the three turrets.
     
  16. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    I agree on every point, Stirling pilots were happy that they could out turn a Ju88 (presumably without bombs). Short Sunderlands made many heroic actions and took out many twin engined fighters being free to maneuver, however a formation of bombers gives up that possibility. You cannot start taking violent evasive action in a formation. I think the Stirling bombed within reach of 20mm fire?
     
  17. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    And in the Lancaster the RAF had the aircraft with which it could conduct the kinds of raids that the command required. It was flexible enough for the job, but in 1942, the type was just entering service in useful numbers. The Halifax had yet to find its mojo (in the Mk.III, which was still a year or so away) and was still suffering numerous issues and a diffident array of variants all with differences to each other. That leaves the Stirling, Wellington, Whitley, Hampden and Manchester to carry the can for the interim.
     
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  18. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    {quote]You cannot start taking violent evasive action in a formation.[/quote]

    Generally not adviseable, but night formations were looser than during the day.
     
  19. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, night missions were with a bomber stream not so tight but some did collide. On the later larger missions no one wanted to be flying against the stream, 1000 bombers hit the target in a very short space of time.
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #20 stona, Feb 23, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015
    Not as loose as sometimes imagined. Hundreds of aircraft passed over the target in minutes. It was a vital prerequisite of a successful area raid that the bombing be concentrated both in space and time. Nonetheless, an attacked or coned bomber would make the most violent evasive manoeuvres.

    Even returning the stream was supposed to be maintained. I remember one late war account in which the teller was terrified, on receiving orders for the returning bombers to turn on navigation lights due to visibility problems, to see just how many and how close his colleagues were. This on return when many more experienced crews did not maintain the stream. Some of the Canadians gained something of a reputation for arriving home unfeasibly early with dubious explanations.

    If a bomb aimer missed his run in for any reason the aircraft was supposed to go around and try again. Some did, but many did not, well aware of the risk of flying across or against the incoming stream.

    A lot of statistical analysis was done to estimate the probability of collisions and the risk was deemed acceptable. Aircraft were also struck by bombs dropped from aircraft above them over the target. The true number of aircraft lost to these causes will never be known.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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