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18 August 1940 'The Hardest Day'


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#1 the gunners dream

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Posted 18 August 2002 - 08:53 PM

Hi Guys,

Right for a start I want you to remember this day. On the 18 August 1940 the Germans launched two massive raids.

The first was directed at the RAF sector stations in southern England, primarily RAF Kenley and RAF Biggin Hill. The second was targeted at lesser airfieleds on the south coast and also RAF Hornchurch.

The basics of this raid was that the German high command had told its' aircrews that the RAF was on its'last legs. However, the German aircrews met with a furious attack by determined RAF fighter pilots. In one German aircrew's words:

'In Poland and France it had been easy to bomb our targets, but over England it was always different. The British fighter pilots fought back hard, but always with chivalry.'

The Germans lost 69 aircraft the RAF lost 68.

The RAF lost 11 pilots killed, 19 wounded.

The Germans lost 94 aircrew killed, 25 wounded and 40 were captured.

The Germans were hit so hard, espcially in Dive Bomber Geschwader 77 which lost 17 JU 87s from various staffels. All Stukas were pulled out of the battle and were only used in small attacks, if any in the ensuing battle.

The 9th Staffel of Bomber Geschwader 76 launched a daring low level raid on RAF Kenley, 7 of the 9 were either shot down or dso badly damaged that they were written off, but all suffered damage in one way or another.

Niether Kenley or Biggin Hill was put out of action although Kenley did suffer heavy damage. Hornchurch was not hit at all because the raid was repulsed. The other stations were hit, but none were put out of action for any length of time.

So what am I getting at? Well my argument here is that I do not think the Germans altering their strategy onto London made one blind bit of a difference.

They did not hit the RAF stations as hard as thought. I say this becasue they never had a heavy load out to put the whole base out of action and they never hit the stations in any massed numbers.

Those bases that were put out of action had the Sqns moving to other airfieleds, be it RAF or private. Buildings that were put out of action just had the personnel moved to various locations.

Radar was never put out of action fully, thus we always knew one way or another, using the ROC as well.

Lines of communication were never lost for any great length of time because most of the important telephone lines were underground. Those that were put out of action were repaired quickly.

The Germans never attacked the factories producing vital planes and equipment, until it was too late.

And most importantly, at that time we were shooting down German aircrews at a rate of 5-1. Those Luftwaffe pilots that were not killed, for the most part went into captivity. Those RAF pilots not killed went straight back into the cockpit. I believe that the Luftwaffe was not only losing expierenced crews, it was also fighting a battle that it could not sustain for any great length of time.

So what are your views? This is not about the land invasion. This is whether the German Luftwaffe could have won air superiority before the land invasion without altering its' tactics.

I think that it could not.

As I footnote, if this has gone before, please humour me, I am interested in your views. And I apologise if some of you feel this should be in the 'What Ifs?'

I am really just trying to remember a very important day in WWII.

[ 18 August 2002, 06:04 PM: Message edited by: the gunners dream ]
If you are able,
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And take one backward glance,
When you are leaving,
For the places than can,
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#2 dasreich

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Posted 18 August 2002 - 09:21 PM

What-ifs concern the possible effects of actions that never happened. This topic concerns the possible outcome of an action that DID happen, so its in the right place. smile.gif

I think Germany COULD have won air superiority. They would have had to first try to wipe out the radar before anything else. If they achieved a reasonable success in this regard, then RAF bases would be next. At the time of the Battle of Britain, Germany was preparing for Barbarossa. They were not engaging as many of their fighter craft as possible. Germany had the ability to win air dominance over Britain, but did not because of a flawed strategy and switching to city bombing. This wasted bombs and aircraft only to harden British resolve.
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#3 Martin Bull

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Posted 18 August 2002 - 10:49 PM

Luftwaffe intelligence throughout the Battle was also of very poor quality.

This led to spectacular but wasteful attacks on non-Fighter Command airfields such as Ford and Detling. With their limited aircraft range and bombloads, the Luftwaffe would have needed vastly superior intelligence to alter the outcome - and at that time it just wasn't available to them.
"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#4 Jumbo_Wilson

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Posted 19 August 2002 - 10:27 AM

Turning on London gave the RAF several advantages.

The enemy were in range of 12 Group and Bader's "Big Wing" from Duxford.

The Me109's had even less time over the combat zone.

The Longer flight to and from the target meant that the RAF had a better chance of interception.

Certainly Kieth Park was very relieved that his airfields were not being plastered, and despite poor German intelligence about the structure of Fighter Command, airfields were being hit.

Jumbo
"Capital! We're nearly out of ammunition! Now we can get at them with the bayonet!" General Paddy Gough, 1st Sikh War

#5 Friedrich

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 03:54 AM

Hey! Finally some topic related to air-war that I do know a bit of! :D

Absolutely. It was very, very plausible that the air superiority over the British Isles would have been acomplished. The Luftwaffe had big flaws, such as bad leadership (come on! It's leaders had been pilots, not officers!)

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These other men had more experience:

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Beside, the bad intelligence, the radars against it and the guys at Betchley Park...

However, there were 4 German aeroplanes and pilots for every British. And the British pilots were very few and were exhausted. By the first days of September you most remember that the invasion was being expected within the next 24 four hours because Dowding had told Churchill that his boys could no longer deal with the job. By this time, the RAF's losses were amlost as big as the Luftwaffe's. Some times they were equal and even bigger. The attack on the air fields were the hardest part of the battle of Britain. If Göring would not have bombed London on September 7th but go on with this tactics, the RAF would have been TOTALLY smashed.
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#6 Jumbo_Wilson

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 09:24 AM

Friedrich

Air superiority over Southern England - possibly. But not over the rest, the Me109 sans drop tanks did not have the range.

It's interesting that in the BoB the RAF were being asked to do exactly what Fighter Command was designed to do: defence of Great Britain. The Luftwaffe had been honed by Udet and Jeschonnek in particular to be a Tactical Air Force based on Condor Legion experiences. It was being asked by Goring to achieve a strategic objective. The RAF was almost the reverse. Trenchard and his acolytes still held sway over RAF policy and the RAF saw itself as being a campaign-decisive instrument through the medium of strategic bombing. Fighters were grudgingly accepted as necessary, but tactical support was looked down on: hence those wretched Battles expected to fulfill army support roles.

I always felt sorry for the Luftwaffe because they could never really win the BoB. The RAF pretty much held all the cards. The possibility of withdrawing north of the Thames would have been a setback, but what happens then? Striking at invasion beaches was still possible, most bomber squadrons were this far north anyway!

I like the picture of Sperrle!

Jumbo
"Capital! We're nearly out of ammunition! Now we can get at them with the bayonet!" General Paddy Gough, 1st Sikh War

#7 the gunners dream

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 05:32 PM

Even with the might of the Luftwaffe they just couldn't win.

The load out of a German bomber was between 60 to 80 tons. They never hit the bases in any great numbers. This typeof load was really ineffectual to knock out the southern air bases.

And as Jumbo says, the further they went, cos they had to hit those fighter bases too. The less support they would have had.

For instance the Biggin raid on the 18th was by about 60 HE 111s. They did not touch the actual runway and very little damage was caused to put the runway or the base out of action.

This was typical of what happened a lot in the battle.

Yes the pilots were tired, but they were also being replaced by the ones defending the northern areas.

The Germans also failed to ever knock out the radar sites on mass. Even when radars were put out, such as Poling on the 18th, they had another seven along the coast to plot the bombers advance.

The ratio was being won by the RAF. Look at what I stated in the first bit. We shot down the German crews at a rate of 5-1 on that day alone. It was never beaten, even on the 15th Sep 40.

The Germans could not hope to keep up that type of loss rate and still contiue to send experienced crews over the channel.
If you are able,
Save for them,
A place inside of you.
And take one backward glance,
When you are leaving,
For the places than can,
No longer go.

#8 Friedrich

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 06:40 PM

Air superiority over Southern England - possibly. But not over the rest, the Me109 sans drop tanks did not have the range.

True. But you are forgeting that on the first days of September it was ordered that all the vanguard air fields should be abandoned. That meant that if an invasion occured they would have been captured and all the fighters and dive bombers would have been very close to the action, as well as in France.

Of course we hit hardly the British. Their landing bases have been severely damages and actually, some British aeroplanes crashed because of the damaged landing strips. Many aeroplanes had been destroyed on the ground. The British pilots were exhausted and were been shot down more rapidly every time. They could not be replaced, because the new pilots took a long time to get ready, and when they reached the front they were shot down very quickly. And those pilots of Keith Park's group 11 were not being helped too much by Trafford Leigh-Mallory's 12 group. He was keeping his men and aircraft for himself. Until in late August Dowding yelled him and asked to help group 11.

Yes, not smashing the radar stations indeed gave the British a tremendous advantage, as I said, the ULTRA messages also helped. Becuase they knew exactly what, where and how we were going to do.

However, you are overrating the strenght of the RAF in late August 1940. An invasion was very plausible. Because if Göring would have remained pushing the British by bombing the air fields the air superiority could have been achieved for sure.
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#9 PzJgr

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 07:50 PM

The Luftwaffe did accomplish air superiority for a while over the channel and parts of Southeast England. Air superiority was only needed over the channel from where the amphibious landings would take place.

The Luftwaffe had a plan to defeat and keep air superiority over those areas had it not been for the change of tactics, the bombing of London. Here, Hitler fell for the oldest trick in the book. Eye for an eye. Once Churchill started bombing Berlin, Hitler wanted retaliation. He got distracted from the military goal and thus lost the battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe was already forcing the RAF to abandoned airfields close to the coast and other parts of Southeastern England. The radar sites would give them advanced notice but it would take the RAF the same amount of time to reach the coast as it would for the Luftwaffe. Had the Luftwaffe continued the attacks on the airfields and radar sites, the RAF would have lost more pilots than it could replace and in a battle of attrition, the Germans would have been the winners. It could have been the other way around but again the interference of the greatest warlord of all time put an end to it.
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#10 Friedrich

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 09:29 PM

Totally agree with you, PzJgr! Good points! smile.gif
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#11 Martin Bull

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Posted 21 August 2002 - 06:45 AM

On 6 July, 1940, RAF Fighter Command's operational strength stood at 1,259 pilots. On 2 November, it stood at 1,796 - a 40 percent increase In a lecture held in Berlin on 2 February 1944, Hauptmann Otto Bechtle ( intelligence officer of KG2 ) showed that, from August to December 1940, Luftwaffe fighter strength declined by 30 percent.

To bring the 'effectiveness' of the airfield attacks into focus, less than twenty RAF fighters were destroyed on the ground.

The only main airfield to be abandoned to flying was Manston. Lympne was a grass, private airfield and the North Weald squadrons dispersed to a satellite airfield four miles away which was never attacked by the Luftwaffe.

The Luftwaffe's turn on London was a relief, but it was not critical. Even if the Luftwaffe had continued to pound the airfields, the counter-measures put in place and the robustness of the defence system would have ensured its' survival. In fact, some of the Luftwaffe's most successful days of air fighting ( 11, 14 and 28 September ) came after London had been targeted.

A few random quotes : -
' The actual battle sector represented not even a tenth of the total area of Britain. In the other nine-tenths, the RAF could build aircraft, train pilots, form new squadrons and build up reserves without interference. This state of affairs could only have been changed by an efficient German long-range bomber. The Luftwaffe, alas!, had no heavy strategic bombers... For us there was only a frontal attack against the superbly organised defence of the British Isles, conducted with great determination...During the first weeks ... it was already apparent that in spite of our good bag of enemy planes, this was not the way to achieve air superiority. The Ju87 losses could not be supported...the Me110 could not escape the British fighters..it came to the point that we even had to give protection to the 'pursuit' planes - a really farcical situation. The Me110 should have been taken out of service altogether....the British fighter pilots..fought bravely and indefatigably. They undoubtedly saved their country in this crucial hour'.
Adolf Galland, 'The First and the Last'

Sources for the other information come from Price ( 'Air Battles' ), Kaplan & Collier ( 'The Few' ) Mason ( 'Battle over Britain' ) Ramsey ( Battle of Britain : Then & Now ') and Bungay ( 'The Most Dangerous Enemy' ).
"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#12 Jumbo_Wilson

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Posted 21 August 2002 - 09:40 AM

Although quite a lot of criticism has been levelled at the Luftwaffe leadership and handling of the battle, the criticisms levelled at Park and Dowding in particular are often overlooked. Although Dowding had, in effect, built Fighter Command from scratch since 1936, with the New Zealander Park as his ardent disciple, his actual handling of the battle has been criticised.

The deployment of squadrons, the structure of leave and replacements, and particularly Dowdings inability to impose some form of order and co-ordination between his squabbling AVM's (notoriously Park and Leigh-Mallory)were all highlighted as weaknesses. Equally Dowding was already unpopular in the Air Ministry, and his enemies used this evidence, and his handling of night defence to eventually bring him down in October 1940.

We hear little of this because we won, and the myth that surrounds it blots out much analysis. Equally Leigh-Mallory died before the war ended and so nobody told his side of the story, consequently he gets a poor press in popular histories.

Jumbo
"Capital! We're nearly out of ammunition! Now we can get at them with the bayonet!" General Paddy Gough, 1st Sikh War

#13 PzJgr

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Posted 21 August 2002 - 03:22 PM

I would discount that 40% increase because even the RAF complained that they were pretty much useless and did not provide the relief needed to the more experienced pilots. So in effect, their operational strenght has deteriorated because those pilots being fatiqued are no longer as sharp and more likely to get shot down or killed. The Luftwaffe's losses were permanent because they got shot down over enemy territory whereas the RAF got shot down and next day go back up. But they would go back up fatigued. Numbers don't give an accurate picture.
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#14 Martin Bull

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Posted 21 August 2002 - 07:17 PM

By this stage the Battle was one of attrition. Don't forget that the Luftwaffe were also losing one or two experienced pilots, people such as Rubensdorffer, Wick, etc. Read Galland for his opinion on the Luftwaffe's own inexperienced replacements.
With Barbarossa looming, the Luftwaffe couldn't afford this rate of attrition.

They lost.
"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#15 Kai-Petri

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Posted 22 August 2002 - 06:49 AM

Sorry Gunner´s dream,

I just found this place. I had not noticed you guys were through the same thing over here, as I checked the What if´s through. Otherwise I would not have started the new subject.
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#16 Friedrich

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 11:44 PM

Then to hell with me.

Then all I have read about the battle of Britain is false... bla, bla, bla!
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#17 the gunners dream

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Posted 25 August 2002 - 06:51 PM

Now Now no teddy losing!

Sorry I have been away for a bit.

I still feel that as i stated initially an as Martin has backed me up on, the Luftwaffe could not hope to stamdup to the rate of attrition.

A good book to read on this subject is:

The Hardest Day by Alfred Price.

He has some excellent evidence and I reckon a sound argument to state that the BofB was won on this day.
If you are able,
Save for them,
A place inside of you.
And take one backward glance,
When you are leaving,
For the places than can,
No longer go.

#18 Friedrich

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 12:50 AM

Why is the battle of Britain so famous then? Because it was a critical point of its History! It could have fallen! And Hitler, Dowding and all of them knew it! The battle of Britain is as serious as Phillip II's try of invading the Isles or as Naopleon's try. It was a serious menace. The country could have been destructed.
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#19 Friedrich

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 12:54 AM

Perhaps not destroyed (where the hell did I came up with destructed... stupid Friedrich...), that would only apply on the USSR and Germany. But Great Britain could have suffered the first and greatest military defeat on its History and would have been more humilliated than France was. Perhaps because this posibility is a real one, you are playing too deffensive... Now you know how I feel in the other threads when I stand for Germany. ;)
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun




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