The Advantage of Being An Island with Superior Naval Power • Churchill talks about the incredible advantage of superior sea power: enemy might be able to sneak across, but even then, how can it defend its supply lines? • Necessities of weather for a good invasion… high tide (why?), half moon (why?), clear weather (why?)… the problem is that the enemy can calculate these dates as well… may be prepared… • For this reason, he argues that Britain has always been safe from invasion… even more so in the industrial age when steam power took away the ability of the aggressor to wait for favorable winds to help them but drive the defender away. • However, in WWII there is a new intangible… air power.
Basic German Invasion Plan… Operation Sea Lion • create a cordon in the shortest straight line between France and Britain… • line it with minefields and subs, and ferry the German army across… • Churchill claims that Britain could have torn this minefield up, destroyed the subs, and crushed this invasion… he also says that this was the most heavily fortified section of the British coast…
Churchill estimated that at the beginning of the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe forces outnumbered the RAF 3-1, but there was considerable home field advantage for the British • Why? fuel… Luftwaffe only had about 10 minutes of fighting time over England before having to head back to refuel. • Also, Enigma (bigger story here) and radar • Churchill describes the need to defend a long coastline in Britain meant to set up forces on the perimeter that would stall the enemy and then the largest possible reserve for quick counterattack… (what he accused the French of not doing in the Battle of France… )
RAF Planes • Hurricane… first RAF plane with a top speed of over 300 mph… • 8 machine guns in the wings… (gets rid of synchronizing gear) • 1,715 Hurricanes flew with Fighter Command during the period of the Battle • It is estimated that its pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the period July-October 1940.
Spitfire Spitfire • “The Spitfire has always attracted more attention than the Hurricane, and is undoubtedly one of the most famous aircraft ever built. Its graceful lines combined with outstanding handling qualities to produce a "dream plane" extremely fast, and in comparison to contemporary types was second to none.” • 8 machine guns in wings
Luftwaffe • Messerchmitt 109 • 2 machine guns in the nose and two in the wings • The various strengths and shortcomings of the Messerschmitt, the Hurricane, and the Spitfire largely cancelled out in combat.
“The Hurricane's comparative weakness in acceleration was offset by its extreme strength and ruggedness. There was little to choose between the Spitfire and the Me109 between 12,000 and 17,000 feet, but above 20,000 feet the Messerschmitt was undoubtedly the better machine. It dived faster than its opponents, but required much more physical effort to fly. The weak, narrow undercarriage caused many accidents, but despite this and the cramped cockpit, the aircraft was popular with its pilots.”
Stuka Dive Bomber • Won great success in battles of Poland and France, but in the Battle of Britain proved to be almost helpless without fighter cover
Battle of Britain • Luftwaffe attempt to shoot down RAF in dogfights and to destroy Britain’s air command (runways, air traffic control towers, radar stations, etc.) • late summer and fall of 1940… Operation Sea Lion would have to be launched by late September or it would have to wait through the winter… RAF started to crack because of damage to its fighter command…. • I’ve read one historian who claims England came within one week of losing the air war • Churchill, in desperation, bated the Germans by bombing Berlin • Hitler had promised never to bomb London if German cities were not bombed • Goering (head of Luftwaffe) had promised that German cities would never be bombed
The London Blitz • The bombing of Berlin caused a change in tactics… tried to bomb the Brits into submission through terror bombing of London .. • London was bombed after this for 57 consecutive nights… • British hid in subway and in basements • Problem of running underground to shelter… Germans used incendiary… roof was better
Primary Source Readings… • Then, scene 4 from World at War ‘Alone’ (disc #2) (32 min- 42 min.) • My primary source readings are borings- better ones can be found- • I should also include Churchill’s speech promising to fight them everywhere and New World will eventually redeem the old
The Bombing of London a ‘Relief’ to Churchill • “London can take it.” • Hitler had made a tactical error by changing his focus, allowing RAF to recover • By October, Hitler gave up on the bombing of Britain • Too late to launch sea lion • Instead, would deal with England via the War in the Atlantic (Wolf Packs) • Starve the British out
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”