Battle of England
During the Second world war, the battles of England ( Battle off Britain ) was an air width campaign great carried out by the German air force to destroy the British air force with for intention the invasion of the the United Kingdom (Opération Sea lion). The short-term objective was to destroy the British air potential, by destroying the production of planes, by destroying the airport infrastructures and by intimidating the British nation to force it with the Neutralité or the capitulation.
With dimensions English, the weight of the battle will rest almost exclusively on two types of hunters: Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane which have the same engine Rolls Royce Merlin and an identical armament 8 Browning machine-guns of 7,7mm. Solid and robust, Hurricane is better a platform of shooting but is slower and modern that Spitfire, however the two hunters are more handy than Me 109 German. Enough early in the battle, from their characteristics Hurricanes will be firstly assigned to the destruction bombers whereas Spitfires deal with the German hunters.
German side, the principal hunter is the Me 109, been driven by an engine Daimler Benz with direct injection which does not cross during certain violent operations contrary to Rolls-Royce " Merlin" British, another difference it has 2 guns of 20mm and 2 machine-guns of 7,92 mm, but its assets are counterbalanced by its lack of handiness. Moreover, it will be very handicapped by its weak autonomy, which will bridle the German pilots and will make them less effective. The twin-engine heavy hunter Me 110 has a higher autonomy but, in spite of are powerful armament of 2 guns and 4 machine-guns in the nose, it is outclassed by the English hunters good more operating.
Three types of twin-engine bombers the Heinkel He 111, the Junkers Ju 88 and the Dornier C 17 rather modern especially the 2 first, are used by the German army. They suffer however from a lack of defensive armament. Finally the bomber in piqué single-engined aircraft Ju 87 Stuka although effective against terrestrial targets is very vulnerable because of its slowness and its lack of defensive armament.
Approximately 600 Hurricane and Spitfire face has 2500 planes German and as private individuals with approximately 1200 Me 109 and Me 110.
Organization of Royal Air Force in 1940The chain of command of the RAF is double. There is on the one hand an organic structure, and on the other hand a geographical structure. Foreign units integrated into the RAF fight at the sides of the soldiers of the British empire: many Poles, Czechs and Slovak, French…
They know that the United Kingdom is the last piece of ground to fight.
The geographical structure
The RAF was divided into 4 " Groups" (Groups, in French rather " Areas aériennes") covering the whole of the United Kingdom:
- the 10 Group, ordered by the Air Vice Marshall Sir Christopher Quintin-Brand, covered the Wales and the west of the England
- the 11 Group, ordered by the Air Vice Marshall Keith Park, covered the South of England and London
- the 12 Group, ordered by the Air Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory, covered the Midlands of England
- 13 Group, ordered by the Air Vice Marshall Richard Saul, covered the Scotland and the Northern Ireland
Each Group comprised a more or less significant number of " sectors" (sectors) (7 for Group 11)
The organic structureThe organic structure, although copied on the geographical structure, obeys an operational logic. The planes are gathered in " Commands" (Commands) according to their missions:
- To bend It Command is responsible for all the units of bombardment
- Coastal Command is responsible for all the units of maritime patrol
- Training Command is responsible for the training of the new pilots
- Fighter Command gathered all the units of hunters
As Fighter Command had the most significant part in the battle, here its organization. In 1940, the commander of Fighter Command is the Air Marshall Sir Hugh " Stuffy" Dowding. Craftsman of the victory of the RAF, it opposes Churchill which wanted to send more planes on the continent. The general headquarter of Fighter Command was located at Stanmore, in the suburbs of London. Each " sector" a " sheltered; wing" (Flotilla), distributed between a base of sector and satellite aerodromes. The wing was composed of 2 or several " squadrons" (Squadron) of 12 Plane S.
At July 10th, 1940, nearly 570 Spitfire S and Hurricane S are ready to face the German attacks.
The coverage radar and procedure of interceptionThe Radar is invented in 1935 by Sir Robert Watson-Watt. The staff of the RAF immediately seizes the importance of such a system. A total of 60 installations is built on the whole of the British coasts.
The procedure of interception was done in the following way:
- a group of planes is located on the screens of the radars
- the data are interpreted by the operators and transmitted to the general headquarter of Fighter Command
- the General headquarter synthesizes information and according to the threats, it transmits orders to the various sectors
In 1940, the system is ground, even if there are always possible errors. In July, a formation of 3 apparatuses sent to intercept a single apparatus is found vis-a-vis 20 German hunters.
Organization of Luftwaffe in 1940Luftwaffe is officially announced in 1935. The structure is identical in 1940. The Commander-in-chief of Luftwaffe was Hermann Göring. Luftwaffe is divided into Luftflotten (air fleet) of approximately 1000 planes each one. Luftflotten gathered of Fliegerkorps (air army corps) for the bombers and of JagdFührer (Command of hunting) approximately cash 500 planes. The apparatuses were gathered in Geschwader (flotilla) of identical composition:
- JadgGeschwader (fighter squadron) made up of 94 Messerschmitt Bf 109
- ZerstörerGeschwader (flotilla of heavy hunters) made up of 94 Messerschmitt Bf 110
- StukaGeschwader (flotilla of bombers in piqué) made up of 94 Junkers Ju 87 Stuka
- Kampfgeschwader (flotilla of combat) made up of 94 bombers Ju Junkers 88, Dornier C 17, Heinkel He 111.
Each Geschwader comprised a " Stab" (staff) of 4 planes and 3 " Gruppen" (Groups) from 30 to 40 planes approximately.
At the time of the battle of England, 3 Luftflotten are committed (on 5):
- Luftflotte 2 of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring is based in the North-East of the France, in Belgium and with the Netherlands
- Luftflotte 3 of Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle is based in the West of France
- Luftflotte 5 of Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen Stumpff is based in Denmark and in Norway.
Course of the battleOne can coarsely distinguish three phases during this bataille :
- bombardment of the British convoys (at the beginning of July 1940 - at the beginning of August), called " Kanalkampf" (Combat in the English Channel) by the Germans
- the attempt at destruction of RAF (of beginning August to the September 7th 1940);
- bombardments of London and the big cities (until October 1940), known under the name of " Blitz " (Flash) which continued until spring 1941.
During the first phase, German aviation was devoted to the attack of the British convoys of supply. The purpose of this tactic was to insulate the United Kingdom, and to force the apparatuses of the RAF to the combat. After one month of attack of the not very effective convoys (1% of tonnage under cast British house), the German staff decided to directly face the RAF on his ground. With this intention, the attack of the British military aerodromes and the factories of the aircraft industry is ordered. This period started the August 13rd 1940, day baptized Adler Tag (Day of the Eagle), the bad weather having pushed back one day the release of the operations.
August 15th, persuaded that the RAF lost nearly 300 apparatuses (that is to say half of its theoretical manpower), and that the planes based in the North of the United Kingdom were moved more in the South, Luftwaffe launches in the battle its Luftflotte 5, based in Norway and with the Denmark. This one was to tackle objectives in Scotland and in the the Midlands, but the hunters of the RAF are always there and inflict severe losses (20%) with the force of attack. Luftflotte 5 is withdrawn from the battle, and its apparatuses are sent in reinforcement for Luftflotten 2 and 3. August 15th being one Thursday, it is called " Thursday noir" by Luftwaffe.
The August 18th is the most terrible day for the two camps, which record the most losses. The losses of bombers in piqué Stuka are such this day that the German staff decides to withdraw them while waiting for better days.
The August 24th, occurs an event which will change the course of the battle. A bomber Heinkel He 111, believer to attack the Refinery of Thameshaven, releases its bombs by error on London, an objective which was to be attacked only on the personal order of Hitler. In reprisal, in the night of the August 25th 1940, RAF managed to release some bombs on Berlin. Hitler launches out in a violent diatribe against the British " If they bombard our cities, we will shave their, if they release hundreds of bombs we will release thousands " of them;. The bombardment of Berlin is a personal failure for Göring, which had sworn that " If a bomb falls on Berlin, you can call me Maier " (current German expression to say that something will not arrive). Hitler modified its strategy and decided to bombard the civil populations of the British cities and more particularly of London as reprisals.
The September 7th, a raid of more than 100 bombers escorted by nearly 400 hunters is sent on London. Believer who the target of this raid is in fact the aerodromes of the RAF, control on the British ground lets hunters RAF cover it those, leaving the free field to the German bombers. This change made it possible a RAF at the edge of the rupture to blow. While making weigh the weight of the offensive on the civil populations, the Germans allowed the RAF to reconstitute themselves.
The September 15th, a massive raid is sent on London. In its headquarters, Hugh Dowding sees the charts filling of symbols representing the enemies in approach. Asking whether all the planes are in the air, one answers him by the affirmative. With the question about the existence of reserves, one answers him in a negative way. At this hour, more than 370 British planes cover London. At the end of the day, the British lost nearly 40 planes, the Germans more than one hundred (disputed figures). This result explains why the September 15th remains in the memories like the " Battle off Britain Day" , the day of the battle of England.
One can say that this second phase of the battle ended in the current of October.
At this time, the Operation Sea Lion was deferred sine die , and the German effort against the United Kingdom was reduced. The British bombardments of cities continued nevertheless, but with a generally less intensity, until the spring of 1941 when Hitler brought back the large one of the Luftwaffe towards the east, in preparation for the invasion of the the USSR. However, some important bombardments still took place on the British cities, in particular at the beginning of the month of November with the attacks on Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton for example.
Causes of a failureThe German failure is explained by many reasons:
- a constant change of objectives: ships initially, then air bases and factories, and finally cities.
- It not taken into account of the importance of the radar, true eye of the RAF. Radar tracking stations were punctually attacked, but they were given in operation rather quickly
- Of the shouting failures of the German intelligence services, which over-estimated the British losses.
- the obstinacy of Hitler and Göring to want to shave London
- the losses undergone by Luftwaffe at the time of the Battle of France, 20% of Messerschmitt-109 aligned in April 1940 were cut down
- the weak autonomy of Messerschmitt 109, which did not enable him to escort sufficiently a long time the attacks of the bombers. The version " F" equipped with releasable tanks arrived too late. Only the true hunter with long operating range, Messerschmitt-110 was as for him too not very manoeuvrable.
- lack of initiative left to the German pilots. Even if they were overall better than their British colleagues (the ace of the German ace Helmut Wick cut down 53 planes, the Sergeant Josef Frantisek (Czech flying for the RAF) cut down 17 of them (score called into question because of the nonconventional tactics of Frantisek), the German fighter pilots were to escort the bombers, a tactic penalizing for them.
- the too weak and operating range of the German bombers which did not make it possible to attack the factories of Spitfire Huricane in Scotland.
- the place of the engagements. The German pilots who jumped in parachutes were made prisoners. The British pilots could turn over to the combat on a new plane.
The human account and material of the battle of England east lourd : 40 000 died, of which many civilians, and 2 million destroyed hearths. The official figures advance +-900 lost planes British side against +-1700 for German. However, are not taken again English side the many apparatuses of drive, helps, of reserve, obsolete, as well as the civil apparatuses. If all those are included, one can reasonably speak about a total of 1200 destroyed English planes. The German losses seem rather complete and precise.
True distorts battle?An important controversy remains as for the real objectives of this battle. So much that this battle was decisive in the history of the Second world war in Europe, some regard consider today that this battle was especially political, without real military intention on a side as other.
For the partisans of this thesis, if it acted for English, to defend against the air incursions, for German, the goal was to maintain the pressure on the British public opinion, to force the British government with an armistice and it was by no means a question of preparing a programmed invasion of Great Britain, considering this one impossible from a logistic point of view. The concentrations of ships in the French ports sometimes evoked and often bombarded were in fact made up of river barges and other trawlers. Difficult under these conditions of making cross the English Channel with an army, which was besides in large logistic difficulty after the countryside of France. This army had indeed only 15% of the equipment while carburizing and ammunition necessary to another countryside. Moreover, according to some account-returned, Hitler admiration for the Britannique empire (a model for supposed Reich rather seemed to express to last 1000 years) and did not wish its loss. Its priority once the face of the disappeared west (what is the case at summer 40), was the preparations of the invasion in the East and the territorial extension of Reich, against the only enemy " véritable" in its eyes: the Soviet Russia. To invade England would not have been whereas a waste of time and means. On the other hand, Hitler wished more than all to force it with peace (offers in this direction having been sent current of the summer 1940). He thought that the tensions between partisans of the war and peace (represented by Lord Halifax) in England would see the victory of the latter under the threat of German aviation. And Luftwaffe was found without precise directive, with order to make fold the British. partisans of this thesis " politique" advance for proof the number of operations which they consider badly coordinated, in particular those of the Adlertag , which turn to amateurism! They propose also the absence of a strategic air command, Luftwaffe being equipped only with hunters with weak average bomber and operating range.
According to this thesis, the Britannique government was with the current of these German difficulties and knew that its country did not risk large thing, even if their leaders affirmed the opposite with their people, to reinforce them in the idea that the evil was represented in Europe by Germany, and also to prove the need to them for leading this war until its end.
Moreover, although the successes offered by the radar are undeniable, it is advisable to demystify them and bring back them to their right value. The majority of the German communications were deciphered at that time by equipment Ultra of the English. This system thus held those with the current of the difficulties of the Germans, their lack of real objective as well as targets and composition of the raids of bombers and hunters of Reich. In fact this system offered priceless information to the English concerning the intentions of the enemy. And it allowed much more interceptions than the radar, arms " miracle" allies. But it was held secret not to reveal with German who their communications were not sure any more. Successes were thus allotted initially to the radar, vision still transmitted nowadays by certain historians.
- the Battle of England (film)
- outstanding Stages of the Second world war:
- before: Battle of France
- Battle of England: kanalkampf | attacks airfields | Blitz
- afterwards: Battle of the Atlantic (intensification)
- Chronology: June 1940 - July 1940 - August 1940
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