"The Royal Navy, Not the RAF, Won the Battle of Britain"

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Negative Creep, Jan 8, 2009.

  1. Negative Creep

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    Ok, I admit that was a sensationalist headline. But I have been reading this RUSI Battle of Britain: The Naval Perspective and it seems it provoked quite a debate when published. The author is calling for a reassessment of the role the Royal Navy played, which some people took as meaning they won the BoB. I should point out that he later reiterated his point that the RN only played a part of the victory. RUSI The Battle of Britain Debate author does claim that the main reason Sealion was postponed was that the Royal Navy was redeployed to nearer the channel and that even with air superiority, an invasion fleet would not get through. The fact armoured divisions were deployed to the Middle East is seen as further proof that the threat of invasion was lowered than often thought.

    So even if Fighter Command had been wiped out, could the Germans have invaded? The general consensus seems to be that the Royal Navy would have been able to stop them, or at least inflict grievous losses before the Germans even landed. However, the Pacific showed that even the biggest battleships were vulnerable to air attack. Even then, could the remaining fighters not simply be deployed outside of 109 range? Until an airfield was established the invasion beaches would have been open to attack.

    There is also the question of the Fleet Air Arm. However, I can't see Skuas, Sea Gladiators or Rocs outfighting ME109s, and as a result Swordfish would have been ineffective. Fulmars were just coming into service, but again could not match the performance of single seat fighters. The best fighter was the Martlet, but were any available and could they have been bought into service in time? In short, I doubt the FAA would have been able to protect its own and inflict substantial losses.

    I know the theoretical invasion has been argued long and hard, but the role of the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm, Coastal and Bomber Commands seem rather overlooked. Popular perception is that we won with a handful of posh guys in Spitfires, but even more detailed histories focus on Fighter Command and its leaders.

    So, any opinions?
     
  2. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Personally, if the Germans had launched an invasion, I doubt the Royal Navy could hold back the Kriegsmarine, and the Luftwaffe. Without fighter cover, the ships would be subjected to attack from Stukas, Ju88s, etc. On the other side of the spectrum, even if the Germans had established a beachhead, I doubt they could hold it. I don't believe the whermacht had the logistics to support the invasion.
     
  3. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    A nice set of articles all three of them are worth reading.

    There was a tread which for some reason I cannot find on this. Certainly my belief was that the night would belong to the RN when the beachhead would be wide open to attack. During the day the points raised by the RUSI were ones that were raised dring the debate, in particular:-
    a) With only 10 destroyers Germany was in no condition to invade anyone
    b) The Luftwaffe were not as good at that time at sinking ships. They even failed to stop a convoy of colliers, they sank a few and damaged a lot but didn't stop them.
    c) The RAF would be able to support the RN, a sort of channel dash in reverse.
    d) The German plans for the moving of troops were simply dreadful. Tugs towing barges loaded with troops across the channel, it would never work.
    e) Your right, if they did manage to land and form a beachead, they would never hold it.
     
  4. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    Glider:
    A) True, If I can recall, Germany lost a good chunk of their destroyer fleet in the Norway campaign.
    B) That I did not know about.
    C) True also, but the 109's would have more time to engage the RAF, being over the channel.
    D) Hmm, didn't know about the tugs.
    E) Yeah, I'm pretty sure the Germans didn't have the logistics to supply the beachhead.
     
  5. Kurfürst

    Kurfürst Banned

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    The latest gem of British revisionist history writing I suppose.... this floats around a lot lately (helping you to identify its nature based on this physical property), but its still so bizarre that its difficult to believe one would give voice to such view, that was so bloodily refuted at Dunkerque, the Channel and at Crete.
     
  6. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Kurfurst
    The fact remains that they did fail to stop a convoy of colliers. You may not like it but they didn't.
    Crete was a whole different ball game, this was after the Germans had learnt their lessons and after receiving training, they were deadly. In the Med the Germans were very dangerous but this is not Crete.
    As for Dunkerque, considering they had days to bomb the ships either stationary or slow moving whilst picking up the reatreating troops, how many did they actually sink? Even you must admit that picking up troops from the beach and going home loaded with many hundreds of men isn't quite the same as a fully operational fleet intent on attacking an invasion upon which the life of the country depends.
    At least you didn't disagree with A, C, D and E.
     
  7. merlin

    merlin Member

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    Neither of which hold up to analysis!
    Dunkirk (Dunkerque) - any destroyers that were hit, were overloaded with troops, unable to manoeuvre - so were sitting targets - only surprise more were not hit.

    The Channel - the Luftwaffe attacks were mainly against slow merchant ships, some warships may have been hit - but again they were restricted to the speed of the convoy.

    Crete, not relevant - by then the Lw had larger bombs, that were not available in 1940. Moreover, by then the Stuka pilots had had more training in anti-ship attacks.

    Note too, the Luftwaffe didn't have the skill or the supplies to make any torpedo attacks.

    How would the Lw attack the RN destroyers at night? The invasion convoy will take a long time to reach the beaches - the Army wanted to attack at daybreak. The Channel was on constant patrol by RN vessels - Sealion would not have been a surprise.
    The RN didn't need any line of Battleships to come to the rescue, it had plenty of Destroyers available - they would be all that was needed.

    The Lw was making little effort to bomb RN facilities, rather it was attempting to force Britain to surrender by itself.
     
  8. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    I wrote in an earlier thread a little bit about this. In order to smash the invasion fleet the RN would hardly even have had to fire its guns. A destroyer at full steam would create such a bow wave as to utterly swamp the tiny barges that were to be towed, very slowly, by tugs across the channel. The Channel currents alone would have made this task extremely difficult to accomplish even without RN intervention. The disparity in fleet sizes between the British and German fleets meant that the Germans could not hope to successfully support the invasion fleet.

    This is not the same as winning the Battle of Britain, but it is why losing the BoB would not have automatically led to invasion.

    This is not the same either as Hitler not being serious about invading Britain as many have written. He was deadly serious, but the Admirals knew it wouls be impossible to carry out. Goering was disinterested, but thats not quite the same thing.

    The way in which the BoB was crucial to the eventual outcome of the war was in that, had the RAF been defeated there was a very strong possibility that Churchill would have been removed from office and replaced by Lord Halifax who had been calling for a negotiated peace with Germany ever since the fall of France and with considerable support in the Commons, this would have resulted in the British Empire becoming a de facto arm of Greater Germany and removed any possibility of US involvement in the European war wich would have raged on entirely on the Eastern front.
     
  9. Kurfürst

    Kurfürst Banned

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    Not all destroyers were hit at Dunkerque while standing still, and there were a great number of other vessels sank at there, including French ones.

    Nope, they had the pretty much same bombs, and pretty much the same bomber types, only that they deployed less bombers in the Balkans than they did deploy in France in 1940.

    I am not sure if there was any difference in training, but the fact is that they were hitting and sinking ships regularly before, during and after Dunkerque. Note that the Ju 88 (nicked the 'Big Stuka') was capable of dive bombing as well.

    Appearantly level bombers too achieve success in the field of anti shipping, notably KG 26 Ju 88 and KG 30 He 111 sinking the destroyer Gurhka and damaging the BB Rodney in 9 April 1940. The Norwegian destroyer Æger suffered the same fate on the same day, and later in the month the Garm was also sunk, along with two Trygg class torpedo boats and the British sloop HMS Bittern.

    Naval losses to aerial attacks did not stop, between the 1 May and 10 of May the Luftwaffe sunk three more RN ASW trawlers, the French Bison, the HMS Afridi and the Polish Grom and the dutch Van Galen destroyers were sunk. And the worst was yet to come...

    Actually they did have aerial torpedoes already at the start of the war, and were using them in considerable numbers during the Battle of Britain.

    As of January 1939, 76 F 5b and F 5W types were reported on stock. By the end of the year, this has risen to 129, and the level remained stable, with apparently only 12(??) being used up to the end of July 1940.

    From August 1940, torpedoes were used in increasing scale, 22 in August, 70 in September, then the use slowed down (26 in October, 41 in November). Obviously anti shipping operations featured heavily in this period. So far they have seem to have use up stocks, and a result, stocks fell,but from October replacement torpedoes were regularly received and stocks were increasing/stable.

    I am not arguing these points, in fact I quite agree (and so did the German command in 1940) that because of the difficulties you listed and others, the Luftwaffe would not be able to give an effective shield for the 'invasion fleet'.

    OTOH, its undeniable that they had plenty of experience, capability- and success - in anti-shipping operations, which I believe the naval article linked in the first posts tends to downplay quite a bit.
     
  10. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    In fact the problem of attack ships by a/c being very ineffective in the early years was felt by both sides. The RAF wasn't so good at it either.
     
  11. claidemore

    claidemore Member

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    HEHE, I'm just glad we never see German revisionist history writing 'floating' around. That would just be silly.

    Marcel?, wasn't Taranto in 1940? 2 Swordfish lost while crippling the Italian fleet, would seem to indicate the British (RAF/FAA)were pretty good at anti-shipping airborne strikes in the early war. And lets not forget the Bismark in early 1941.
     
  12. Negative Creep

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    But would the Swordfish have been effective against fighter opposition? I think the reason it was so successful is that for most of it's operations fighter oppositions was conspicuous by its absence. The channel dash is a stark illustration of it's limitations against modern opposition. I also doubt the Skuas or Fulmars would have afforded adequate protection to any anti shipping craft
     
  13. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Taranto was indeed 1940 (night November 11th/12th). This was a surprise attack and if they were to attack the German fleet they would know they were coming and likely it would be daylight(?). Also I read during about the Bismark attack that the Bismark guns couldn't track the Swordfish as they were too slow (a fallacy?). This was a moving target and they only managed a lucky hit on the rudder/steering mechanism. This for me isn't great success against moving targets - as any German ships during an invasion would likely be - and I think this kind of success would be repeated in the invasion and also the air defences would be great with enemy fighters present as well.

    Overall the Royal Navy was a good deterrent against any German invasion and had an invasion happened I see it as being quite capable of halting/impeding the invasion to a large degree. This could be with large losses but when compared to the size of the Kriegsmarine it shouldn't hurt their operational capacity. Together with the RAF, the Navy where the main factors preventing an invasion being mounted and had one been mounted the main weapons in insuring its failure with the army although present not at a capacity that could be relied on as a key feature in repelling any invasion force.
     
  14. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    An amphibious invasion is a 24/7 affair. The RN could operate at night while the LW couldnt. (for 1940)
     
  15. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Aside from the fact that Hitler was never serious about Sea Lion, if the RAF fighter command had been close to collapse they would have with drawn the fighters west, out of range of the BFs and if the bombers had followed them west, they would have been undefended. Then, if an invasion had been begun and it would have been impossible to conceal, the RAF fighters and the RN would have dealt with it. Much was made of the "victory" of the BOB by the RAF by the British for propaganda purposes which can't detract from the great effort made by Britain but it was not as close as portrayed.
     
  16. bigZ

    bigZ Member

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    Luckly the FAA were better at hitting the Bismark than HMS Sheffield.:oops:
     
  17. glennasher

    glennasher Member

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    I think the REAL way the RN helped win the BoB was by keeping the sea lanes open and fuel flowing to the RAF, and of course, food and materiel to everyone. Without that, nothing would have mattered anyway.
     
  18. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Did/would Germany have the ability to give proper training to enough soldiers to make a invasion possible? Did they have the foresight to train their soldiers for a year, or how ever long it took to prepare their troops for a amphibious assault?
     
  19. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The way the RN "helped" the RAF in BOB and kept the Germans from invading was called "a fleet in being" The Germans knew that they could not match the RN in the channel, especially if the landings were on a broad front. Same reason the High Seas Fleet in WW1 only came out when the thought they could catch a piece of the Grand Fleet at sea..
     
  20. Negative Creep

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    In a similar vein, when they talk about the 'invasion barges' were they being literal? Did the Germans have any landing craft, amphibious vehicles etc?
     
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