Hitler’s Attack on Britain • Hitler expected Britain to surrender after the fall of France. • When Britain refused, Hitler planned to subdue Britain. He cannot allow an anti-Nazi Britain…(why not?)
Operation Sea Lion Defeat of the Royal Navy in the invasion area required control of the air Hitler’s conditions for Sealion: The RAF is to be "beaten down in its morale and in fact, that it can no longer display any appreciable aggressive force in opposition to the German crossing".
Basic German Invasion Plan… Operation Sea Lion • Construct a Naval corridor • cordon off 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 • Doubtful it would have worked
The Odds • 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 • Partly this is because of fuel… Luftwaffe only had about 10 minutes of fighting time over England before having to head back to refuel. • Also, Radar and Enigma (bigger story here) • 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… )
Battle of Britain Air Order of Battle RAF Lufwaffe • Single-seat fighters 754 1,107 • Twin-seat fighter 159 357 • Bombers 560 1,300/428* • Maritime patrol 500 233 • *Dive Bombers
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) • 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.
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
German Bombers Heinkle He 111 Junkers Ju 88
Comparison “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.”
Battle of Britain: Phase I • Attacks on Channel Ports and Shipping • 12 July – 10 Aug.
Battle of Britain: Phase II • Attack on Fighter bases and Radar • 12 Aug to 6 Sept.
ChurchillLuck? • Air battles (Phase I and Phase II) between the Luftwaffe and the RAF occurred through the late summer and fall (1940) • Operation Sea Lion would have to be launched by late September or it would have to wait through the winter…would the RAF hold out • RAF started to crack because of damage to its fighter command….then, • Luftwaffe mistakenly bombs London • RAF retaliates • Hitler infuriated, changes focus to civilian bombing • Significance: Gives RAF breather
Battle of Britain: Phase III Daylight Attacks on Cities & Industrial Areas 7 Sept – 5 Oct.
The London Blitz • The bombing of Berlin caused a change in tactics • The Germans altered their focus from an attack on British air power to an attack on England’s civilian population • tried to bomb the Brits into submission through terror bombing of London .. • London was bombed after this for 57 consecutive nights… • Problem of underground shelters during incendiary bombings? Solution? – To the roof! • Many children moved to countryside (Narnia)
Turning Point Sept 15, 1940 Massive daylight raid on London • Largest to date 56 German aircraft lost versus 28 RAF fighters RAF used every fighter in 11 Group (no reserves) Germans switch to night raids on cities Considered the turning point of the battle
Battle of Britain • The Battle of Britain had two Main phases • The attack on the RAF (was working/putting extreme pressure on British RAF) • And • The attack on London, known as the London Blitz (actually turned the tide in favor of RAF)
The Bombing of London were a ‘Relief’ to Churchill • “London can take it.” • RAF is being reconstituted • By October, Hitler gave up on the bombing of Britain • Too late to launch Sea Lion • Instead, Hitler decided to deal with England via the War in the Atlantic (Wolf Packs) • Starve the British out using U-boats • Hitler will now turn his attention East! Will violate the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.
Battle of Britain 1940 Losses RAF Luftwaffe Single-seat fighters Twin-seat fighter Bombers Maritime patrol } 1,023 376 148 520 1,107 357 1,014 2,600+ Pilots Lost
Battle of Britain Factors British use of radar (command & control) German underestimation of RAF strength British “home field” advantage German loss of focus (Change of Objective)
First Law of Modern War First of all, you must win the battle of the air. That must come before you start a single land or sea engagement. Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1943
Battle of Britain • “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”