Remembering ‘The Few’: Photos of the Young Pilots Who Saved England

Discussion in 'Aircraft Pictures' started by Snautzer01, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. Snautzer01

    Snautzer01 Well-Known Member

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  2. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Great pics, I read that filming the battle of Britain movie they couldnt get experienced actors who were actually the age of the people they were playing. At very least those young men saved the Great Britain and Ireland.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Ireland ????????

    I think that the completely untrue stories of Irish priests lighting candles on the railway line from Dublin to Belfast to help the Luftwaffe navigate to the latter, and fears of U-Boats using Irish bases more accurately reflect the attitudes of the British public to the Republic at this time :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  4. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Not really, I had a choice of UK and Northern Ireland or GB and Ireland, there were people who supported both sides. There were 50,000 Irish nationals who fought in the British armed forces one of whom was Brendan Finucane.
    Brendan Finucane - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Whatever the position of Ireland in 1940, if the BoB had been lost by the RAF and the UK invaded then Hitler would have invaded Ireland whether it was neutral or not.
     
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  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    If the BoB had been lost, in the sense that the Luftwaffe established air superiority over the Channel and Southern England, which is the best it could have hoped for, there would have been no successful invasion.
    To make a successful invasion the Germans would have to fight a naval battle, not an aerial one, and it was one they had NO chance of winning.

    I won't even go into the woeful preparations that the Germans made for the invasion. Suffice to say they had no specialised landing craft of any type in the late summer/autumn of 1940. The barges would be towed across in pairs, one powered behind a tug on two lines and another powered on a single line behind that. A 'pusher boat' was towed at the rear. Signalling between the vessels was to be by whistle. Here's how the landing would be accomplished. The entire tow approached the beach head on. Just before the tugs grounded, at about the 4m mark, the tugs would turn into the current an anchor. The motorised barge aft cast off and beached under its own power. The towed pusher boats also cast off and then tied up aft of the unpowered barge. Just before the shore, when the draught of the pushers dictated, they dropped their lines, the barge dropped its stern anchor about 20m from shore and its bow anchor about 10m from shore. Four lines would be run ashore to steady the vessel, and keep its head. Preparations for unloading could now begin, though before any vehicles could be unloaded there would be a wait for the tide to ebb and the water level to drop. For some formations this was going to be as long as 90 minutes!
    The transport vessels also towed two barges, but side by side, despite the army's reservations about these creating larger targets. The transports had to unload onto barges. Trials were run in Ostend Harbour and to unload one transport, 26 barge loads, in ideal conditions, with four barges continually alongside, took 14 hours.
    This was a plan for a disaster, and the KM knew it.

    The biggest myth is that the Luftwaffe, as well as carrying out other tasks, landing airborne forces, supporting the army (its flak units were to be the primary artillery for the landing, mounted on 'Herbert Ferries' essentially two pontoons with a wooden platform making a catamaran!), would have been able to keep the Royal Navy away from the invasion fleet for several days. Remember the KM had just 7 destroyers available, its heavier assets(also pretty minimal, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, light cruisers Nurnberg, Koln and Emden were all that was available in late September) were to be used in a North Sea diversion, hoping to draw off substantial elements of the Home Fleet. We know now, but the Germans didn't then, that the British would not have fallen for this.
    But the Luftwaffe would have sunk the destroyers is the claim. Really? At Dunkirk, over several days, the Germans, not just the Luftwaffe sank 5 of a fleet of about 40, and damaged about half of them. These destroyers were not in open water, manoeuvering with sea room, they were laying off the beaches to take the Army on board, an entirely different scenario.
    The KM's plan to keep the RN away involved mine fields (never completed and anyway admitted by the KM to be less than effective) and some U-Boats (7 Type IX, 12 Type VII, 20 Type II, 7 'Front Line' boats and 13 training boats). Subsequently Doenitz withdrew the 7 Type IX boats from the plan. There were various lighter elements, E-boats, armed fishing vessels etc. There were also some coastal batteries in France, in which one German commander, Hitler, placed much hope. His Admirals begged to differ.
    The British could mount a defence, if they so wished, with three battleships, two battle cruisers, two aircraft carriers, eight heavy and twenty light cruisers and seventy six destroyers, all in home-waters, waiting for the Germans to attempt the crossing.
    The effect of even a handful of destroyers on the fleets of barges and their pusher boats, being towed at 2-3 knots across the Channel doesn't bear thinking about if you are German.
    It's why, in every scenario played out (they do it at Sandhurst fairly regularly) using the historically available forces the best the Germans ever do is get a few divisions ashore, only to have them cut off from support over the next two to three days. Eventually they surrender.

    Sorry to diverge from topic, but I still find it surprising, with all we know about both German and British preparations in 1940, that the invasion was considered possible. The myth of the BoB is just that. It was consciously constructed at the time by the British and their press and taken up, importantly, across the Atlantic. None of this detracts in any was from the heroism of the men who fought the battle, the men who fought the Luftwaffe to a standstill, which, given its objectives, was its first and very real defeat. It was an important victory, not just at home but as seen from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It showed unequivocally that Britain was not about to be defeated. There was no clear way she was going to win the war, but she also wasn't about to lose it. What the victory didn't do was save us from invasion, in a larger sense it did more than that. It was the first step in saving the world from sinking "into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science" as someone once said :)

    Vice Admiral Assmann, German Naval Staff.

    "Not one of the responsible persons was inclined to take a clear cut stand against the operation... yet all felt relieved when, failing to gain air supremacy, they had a valid reason which justified calling it off."

    Admiral Charles Forbes.

    "He told me, he himself [Churchill] had never believed an invasion was possible. To which I replied that he had camouflaged it very well."

    Churchill (to the House of Commons).

    "Give me the facts, and I will twist them the way I want to suit my argument."

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  6. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Dear me Steve, all I was questioning was the headline in the link, it is impossible to save England without also saving all the rest of the British isles. I agree with wht you say about the military situation whether the British would continue to fight is an age old question I personally think they would have.
     
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  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    They would with an undefeated Navy, and the Germans couldn't defeat it and just like Napoleon facing Nelson's wooden walls, they couldn't invade while it remained undefeated.
    What were Germany's other options? Isolate us? Starve us out? They tried both of those too, and it didn't work. An attempt to reduce the Soviet Union didn't go as planned and, at the risk of another massive diversion, I don't believe that the Battle of the Atlantic was as close run a thing as some would have us believe either :) Dangerous? Yes, at certain times the Germans managed to inflict dangerously high losses, but they never sustained this. Critical? Never, they just couldn't sink enough ships for long enough and consistently enough.

    We should not forget the efforts of those German submariners either. More than 28,000 lost or missing, roughly 3 out of 4 who served.
    U-Boat commanders were a bit like fighter pilots! Of the 1,171 officially commissioned boats just 325 made successful attacks (sinking or damaging shipping) between 1939 and 1945. 846 had no success or saw no action. About 3,000 merchant vessels were sunk by U-Boats in all theatres throughout the war, and an astonishing 800 of these were sunk by the 30 most successful commanders. In other words 27% of sinkings were achieved by 3% of U-Boat commanders.....sound familiar?

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  8. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    The other option is a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Churchill government after the RAF loses air superiority over the British Isles. The replacement Govt may not have been as pugnacious as Churchill's - in May/June 1940 there were still loud calls, in certain quarters, to reach an accommodation with Hitler. It wouldn't even require the RAF to "lose" the BoB - it would simply require the denial of a suitable operational environment to 11 Gp, thus leaving London relatively (and, in the perception of many) exposed and undefended.

    There's a lot of myth built up around Britain standing alone, one of which is that the entire country was united in standing up to "that bully Hitler." The truth is far more complex, and there were many people, often in lofty positions within government and/or society, who were still in favour of suing for peace well into 1940. Had the BoB gone down a different path, I can quite see a replacement for Churchill's government striving to secure some kind of peace accord. I agree invasion was not practical, but there are other ways to achieve strategic objectives.
     
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  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I think those are valid points, but by late 1940 I think the dice were cast. Something that haunted some in the KM was the effect a failed invasion might have on both German prestige and British attitudes.
    The principal reason the BoB myth was spun was to manipulate public opinion in the US. It worked even while the fighting raged, as the results of various polls testify.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  10. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Before the start of the BoB things were not clear. Imagine a scenario where Someone not nearly as competent as Dowding set up the RADAR and defence network, Leigh Mallory was in charge of 11 group and promoted people with Baders mentality to squadron leader while Polish and Czech pilots did not escape to the UK to continue to fight (after all they outnumbered the French pilots in the RAF of whom almost all could have come to UK.). In that situation the young pilots of the RAF would have been just as brave but probably swept from the skies in a couple of weeks. If that happened it is possible that the UK government would have used the Royal Navy as a chip to get a deal with Hitler rather than fighting.
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'm not really into what ifs, but I would say that after the disaster in France, when Hitler certainly thought the British would be open to negotiation, history shows that they were not.
    The Luftwaffe could never have swept Fighter Command from the skies for the simple reason that it couldn't get at most of it. In a worse case scenario it overcomes 11 Group and forces Dowding, despite his historic insistence that he would do no such thing until a successful landing had been made, to withdraw at least North of the Thames. Would the British see this as a worse scenario than the debacle in France? An invasion was still a long shot for the Germans, it was a bluff that I think would still have been called (as it was historically) and given the serious reservations about the entire Sealion plan, particularly in the KM, I don't think it would have been launched, even given 11 Group's defeat. The KM would have had to find another excuse if it couldn't blame the Luftwaffe, as it did, but it knew the operation would be very likely to end in disaster. Crucially, so did the British. All that stuff about fighting on the beaches made for wonderful theatre on the world stage, for which it was really intended, but I don't believe Churchill thought it would come to that.
    It was in the British government's interest to stimulate 'invasion fever' and establish the myths of the BoB and Blitz (which go hand in hand). Reports to the USA, think of Ed Morrow, very much helped the cause, millions listened and they demonstrably had a favourable impact on public opinion, from a British point of view. Within a couple of years Americans would be treated to an awful series of films (Why We Fight) to explain precisely that. Britain's salvation lay across the Atlantic, not with the Soviet Union, and everyone knew it. Behind her Navy, having weathered the defeat in France and even assuming a partial defeat in the BoB, I don't believe that the appeasers and negotiators in the British establishment could have had their way. The process of marginalising them began before Churchill became Prime Minister, and was on going.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  12. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    I agree in the most part but you are quoting what actually happened. After Park had won the BoB Leigh Mallory war gamed the scenario with his tactics and lost it, this despite being in command of a group himself. If Leigh Mallory was in charge he ws quite stupid enough to use the RAF as the LW was used in Bodenplatte, losing huge numbers of ircraft and experienced pilots in a last ditch mad effort.
     
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  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I don't know that Leigh-Mallory gamed the BoB. In pre-war exercises he managed not only to fail to intercept attacking bombers but also left his various bases uncovered and liable to attack. I think this was one of the 'Westland' versus 'Eastland' exercises, at least one of which was reported in the Times! Luckily Bomber Command actually cooperated and participated, providing more than 100 aircraft for the one reported.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  14. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    from "The most dangerous enemy" P362

    "On 29 January Leigh Mallory ran an exercise reproducing the airfield raids FC had experienced in early September.His fields were bombed while planes were still on the ground. He remarked that he would do better next time".

    The man went through the battle and yet learned nothing, if he was in charge from the start we would have lost, and probably lost the lot. Park would have minimised losses and pulled back, Leigh Mallory would have gone gung ho fo a decisive victory thinking that the LW was down to its last 50 planes, he did believe and distribute the ridiculous claims of the big wing despite there being almost no crashed aircraft to support them.
     
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  15. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Steve,

    I would agree with your statement regarding late 1940 based on events as they transpired. Had 11 Group encountered significant losses or been pushed westwards from their operational area in July or early August then the casting of the die may have been very different. I agree a maritime invasion would be ugly for the Germans (but also for the RN if the RAF couldn't provide decent air cover), but my whole thrust is that an invasion may not have been necessary to remove Britain from the war. A simple "no confidence" vote and change of leadership to a more appeasing approach would have sufficed to give Hitler all the strategic and political room for manoeuvre he needed.

    Cheers,
    Mark
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'd forgotten that, so thanks.
    You are quite correct about his inflexibility, he had just about the same results in pre-war exercises too!
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #17 stona, Oct 14, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
    I do think this is a valid point. I just think that if there was ever a time when Britain might have been pushed into discussion and compromise it would have been after the Fall of France. It is impossible to overstate just what a catastrophic event this was. France was generally considered the pre-emminent continental military power. Nobody in their wildest imaginings, and certainly not in any prewar planning, imagined that France would capitulate, never mind so quickly after the real shooting started.
    This was the chance for a change of leadership, possibly by the mechanism you suggest, and it was not taken. It's what I mean when I say that the dice were cast by the time the Germans could mount an invasion, and that wasn't before mid September 1940, whatever the Luftwaffe did. Those dice were cast in June/July 1940, maybe even 10th May, the same day the Germans opened their western offensive and the same day Churchill became Prime Minister. It was a reaction to earlier defeats, and obviously Chamberlain's resignation and subsequent support, that saw Churchill elected. There was a hardening of attitude in British political circles after Dunkirk. There were of course a substantial number who felt that to continue the war was folly, but it was not such a popular view, harder to voice and harder to make heard.
     
  18. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    He made it a hatrick of failure in Northern France. Losing at a ratio of 5-1 while thinking he was doing something useful.
     
  19. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Please also bear in mind ny political decision would be based on what the UK thought the Germans had and could produce not what we now know. The British massively overestimated German strength and production in aircraft.
     
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  20. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Great shots!
     
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