Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Battle of Britain

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In the summer and autumn of 140 British people saw something that they had never seen before, mass destruction of buildings and an air war like none other. The Battle of Britain was an attempt by Germany to weaken Britain to the point that German forces would be able to invade the British isles and force Great Britain to surrender. On the other hand, newly elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill was not going to sit back and let this happen. The air was quickly filled with Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire front line fighters.1 One night a German bomber was flying from Norway en route to Britain when it got lost and accidentally dropped its bombs on a suburb of London. In response, Winston Churchill ordered an attack on Berlin. This made Hitler very angry and as a result he ordered bombers to specifically target civilian buildings. The Royal Air Force was at one point reduced to approximately thirty-six planes and it looked as though Britain would loose their entire force. Although, they came close, the Royal Air Force did not loose their entire force and they actually rebuilt to their original size soon after. And after that they grew even more. Hitler was very surprised at this sudden growth and decided to try two large bombing raids of London. But the Royal Air Force caught the Germans off guard with the help of a newly developed system called radar. The Royal Air force intercepted the bombers and destroyed many of them and this somewhat served as the turning point of the battle. Kill ratios were three to one in favor of the British and the Luftwaffe lost numerous planes. Soon after the Luftwaffe was depleted so much that Hitler was forced to give up on his goal of invading Britain. Many things contributed to the loss of the Germans. Was the idea of softening Britain for an invasion too much? And did this loss contribute to their eventual loss in World War II? Both of these questions are matters of controversy among many historians.

According to historians, Germany may have lost the battle of Britain because of their air force. The Luftwaffe encountered many problems throughout their fight in Britain. First of all, the Luftwaffe was not ready for well-trained and well-equipped British forces. The British had technologically advanced planes and ground defense systems, which were a big struggle for the German Luftwaffe to prevail against. The recent battles with other countries took their toll against the numbers of the German Luftwaffe. With fewer planes available for battle, the German Luftwaffe had to settle for what they had, and that may have cost them. The German Luftwaffe fighter pilots were way better trained than those of the British Royal Air force, but the Royal Air Force had many more pilots than the Luftwaffe. The British also had the advantage of being able to recycle their pilots because if they were shot down but were able to survive, then they could be used again. “Reports so far received show that at least 46 enemy aircraft have been destroyed in attacks on this country yesterday. Fifteen of our aircraft were lost, but the pilots of 11 are safe.”8 This newspaper article talks about how British pilots were often saved and able to fly again where as the Germans were not able to do that. Also, unlike the British, the German Luftwaffe had no way of knowing where British Royal Air Force fighters were. The British, on the other hand had a new device called radar. Although it was very primitive, the British radar could give them enough notice to send up fighter planes or prepare for a bombing. This does not mean that the British radar caught every single plane and gave them enough time to prepare or react. Also, the Germans were sometimes able to jam the radar signal, but overall this provided the British with a big advantage over the Germans.4 “It was a day in marked contrast to September 7. For Fighter Command, on the 15th, just about everything went right. Despite ominous signs, a few days earlier, of successful German jamming, the radar screen gave full warning of the coming attacks.”6 This journal entry explains the advantage of radar and how despite the Germans’ attempt to jam it, it still gave the British plenty of warning.

Poor planning on the part of the Germans is also often blamed for their loss of the Battle of Britain. Even at the start of the battle the German Luftwaffe had very few reserve planes and as the battle went on the number of planes significantly decreased. If you don’t have enough planes to start with, why charge into battle knowing that you are bound to loose some forces? Many think that it was a poor decision to go into battle because Germany did not have enough planes to suffice in the first place and they were bound to loose more as the battle went on so maybe they should have waited longer until they could build their forces up. Another thing that the Germans did not plan for was their pilots not following orders. A statement issued by General Officer Commanding I Air Corps Grauert, containing his plan of attack on the destruction of London, it is said that, “5. To achieve the necessary maximum effect it is essential that units fly as highly concentrated forces during approach, attack, and especially on return.”5 But in a journal entry a British man says, “The stupidity of large formations sorting themselves out in full view of British radar was not yet realized by the Luftwaffe.”6 By this account it is said that instead of flying as highly concentrated forces like they were ordered to do, the German Luftwaffe forces were scattered about and easily seen. Since these pilots did not follow orders the British could easily see them and prepare or respond accordingly. One of the goals of this order may have been to make the British think that there are fewer planes coming than there actually were. If small fighter planes fly closely together it may be possible to come up on radar as a bigger object. The British might have thought that it was a bigger plane and by the time that they would have find out it was not, it would be too late. But since the German Luftwaffe did not do this, they were easily detected and easily prepared for. This also could have easily cost the Germans the Battle of Britain because it caused many planes to be shot down, causing the German Luftwaffe to weaken.

August of 140 was a bad month for the German Luftwaffe. They lost many planes, pilots, and crewmembers. Although, the casualty and aircraft destroyed figures were significantly lower for the month of July. Why was this? The answer is that German Luftwaffe fighter pilots were fighting over Britain itself, where as in July they fought over the English Channel. More German Luftwaffe fighter pilots were fighting over Britain itself because they wanted to hit more targets in London and such.7 But if they could have stuck to drawing the Royal Air Force out to the English Channel and bombing major sea ports and such they could have stood a better chance against the British.

Custom Essays on The Battle of Britain

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The high numbered casualties and aircraft loss during the Battle of Britain may have also affected Germany’s later war efforts. Historians believe that if the Battle of Britain never took place, Germany may have won World War II. Since the Battle of Britain took away so many of German Luftwaffe planes and pilots, they had little to work with in later war campaigns. A nation’s air force is one of its most vital tools in war, without it, it is almost impossible to win.

On paper the plan to soften up Britain for invasion is a good idea, but with Britain’s technology and unwillingness to give up, it is more unlikely for that to be achieved. Radar played a huge role in the Battle of Britain and certainly helped The British to defeat the Germans. When orders were not followed in the air, often dire consequences were paid. For example, the order to stay in high concentrated groups, and how when it was not followed by German Luftwaffe pilots, many pilots and aircraft were lost. I feel that in a political standpoint for the German’s, the Battle of Britain was not a good idea. First of all, Germany’s Luftwaffe was not to full strength and it did not even have a sufficient amount of reserves. And Britain was showing no sign of invading Germany anytime in the near future. So use that time to build up an air force and prepare for an invasion just in case. Hitler was too impatient and it ended up costing him and Germany. The Battle of Britain tremendously hurt Germany’s later war efforts because Germany was left only with a small air force, and they did not even accomplish what they wanted to in Britain. The Battle of Britain was a failure and for the Germans and it is possibly the reason that they did not win the war. Many things caused Germany to loose the Battle of Britain and almost all of them could have been prevented. Bibliography

1. Alan L. Putland, 000. online. http//www.battleofbritain.net/contents-index.html April, 00

. Wake, Daymon. Personal Interview. April 15, 00

. online. http//www.iwm.org.uk/online/battle%0of%0britain/luftwaffe.htm April, 00

4. Marconi Corporation plc. 001. online. http//www.marconicalling.com/museum/html/events/events-i=64-s=7.html April,00

5. Statement Issued by General Officer Commanding I Air Corps Grauert. Online. http//www.battleofbritain.net/section-5/appendix-46.html April, 00

6. Wood & Depster pg. 1

7. Murray Williamson, Strategy for Defeat. (Chartwell Books 186)

8. “46 Down,” London’s Daily Mail (August 7, 140) front page

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