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Did the RAF save Britain in 1940?

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1939 - 1942' started by harolds, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Peter Schenk's book.
     
  2. green slime

    green slime Member Patron  

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    Right, and the KM would just wander over whenever, without any preparation whatsoever or noticeable co-ordinated embarkation of thousands of troops, nor regard to tides, and weather.

    "Any number" it wouldn't be. All of them would never be engaged too far away while the risk was high.

    Its not a matter of if the Germans can get a force ashore; they most assuredly could. What they couldn't do, was keep it supplied (whether by air or sea) and widen the bridgehead in any meaningful way, before the full force of RN, RAF, and the British army slaughtered the fools. This was not a surprise attack against a neutral Nordic country armed with friendly smiles and a few outdated aeroplanes.

    So in conclusion; there would've been enough RAF and RN forces available to wreak havoc on the absolutely necessary supply chain the German ground forces would've needed to make any headway. In the end, they would've starved, run out of ammunition, surrendered, or died.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    At Leros the British failed to allocate enough long range range fighters and the RN by itself was incapable of stopping a makeshift force of Germans from retaking the island just as it could not prevent them from taking Northern Norway in 1940 (to get to Southern Norway they could go through the relatively protected Baltic so there was little the RN could do about that). Leros was at a time where there were practically no axis surface forces to speak of left in the theater, the LW had gotten better at anti shipping attacks in 1943 than it was in 1940 but it still makes you wonder what would have happened in the Channel if the Germans had achieved air control, it doesn't take that many mines to create a protected channel.

    Give the Germans control of the air and anything they land will be nearly impossible to dislodge, Dietl at Narvik showed that pretty well, the Ju 52 fleet had not yet suffered the battering it got at Crete so probably could supply a couple of divisions by itself and the Germans had much better infantry doctrine in 1940. Getting enough forces and supplies to push inland may be a different story, but once the Germans have a beachead keeping a naval force operating close enough to interfere with resupply is going to be hugely expensive for the RN without air cover.

    So IMO the RAF did save the British Isles from invasion.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  5. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    My understanding is that there was only three areas that could take a "landing" everywhere else was cliffs or unsuitable for other reasons...the British knew this and placed/moved artillery and machine gun posts to those three locations...I have little doubt the Poms would also drop whatever they were doing and take up arms at a moments notice if a German foot touched old blighty...so long as their were Enfields and ammo, the ranks would be never ending to get some Germans...
    I don't agree that a successful landing could be made even if they got past the RN and what was left of the RAF (they still could have mustered plenty of old aircraft to simply straff shipping...) With the RN, RAF and the British Army/People it would have been a bloodbath...I think the Germans were well aware of this and simply continued preparations as a bluff and last ditch effort to get Britain to come to the table...Fortunately Churchill knew ALL of this and stood firm...Good call old man!
     
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    First of all...there was no guarantee of spotting the embarkation or departure. The Royal Navy certainly weren't confident of doing this, and warned the Joint Chiefs of Staff on several occasions. Most likely the first confirmation of the invasion flotillas departing would be the first P-R Spitfire flights over the embarkation ports revealing all those harbour basins suddenly empty of barges; then it would be everyone going potty to find out where they were now...

    No, "all" would not be sent off into the Western Approaches on escort duty - but wherever they are....one day's steaming, or two, or three away...they're going to have to be recalled, brought home, re-oiled and THEN sortie in strength. OR be thrown piecemeal into attacking the invasion flotilla. Given that those in Portsmouth and Plymouth have to negotiate the KM u-boat screen planned for mid-Channel, and paths for them cleared through the minefields, then a few losses or major damagings are going to lose the defenders BOTH a night or two's action against the invasion shipping and cost the RN destroyers or future use.

    In many cases, depending on exactly when in the summer of 194 Sealion had been carried out, several Nordic countries were almost better armed than the British Army for its job of defence. As for a few outdated aeroplanes - given Hitler's requirement of at least local air superiority, Sealion would not have been ordered until the RAF had been weakened to the point it couldn't have provided an effective defence at all....OR been forced to fly from so far to the rear that ITS fighters would have suffered from the same difficulty as the Luftwaffe's over London in September - only 20 mins or so over the invasion beaches.

    Bomber Command's night force would have been bombing embarkation ports and rail links etc. to hamper the resupply of the invasion force on land, and more barge/shippingbusting...while its daylight medium and light forces...what remained after France...would have suffered in short order in the first few days of an invasion. it would also be "attrited" by seven Blenheim squadrons being handed over to Army control for what passed for close air support in the autumn of 1940...

    Hence the British plans for exactly what you describe above - its' outdated aeroplanes ;) The Op BANQUET plans for RAF and FAA training, advanced training and conversion units and aircraft to be converted to makeshift bombers and sent in against the invasion beaches.
     
  7. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Especially not when those minefields are only stringing the BRITISH ones together; even when marked by buoys in daylight, these would have to be navigated carefully by night. Not all the British fields were the electrically-controlled type like the Dover Barrage, which could be switched off-on for work inside the fields or for British shipping passing through. And there was the large area of the narrows covered by Grman artillery...and all the natural navigation hazards in the Channel as previously mentioned. No, the German fields did not need to be large.

    However - the Ju52 fleet had in fact suffered HORRENDOUS losses - a total of some 180 in the whole duration of the Norway campaign...and the hundreds of losses in Holland on the morning of May 10th; some of these had already been recovered and repaired/reassembled by September 1940, and there was some 2.5-3 months' of new builds coming off Junkers' production line. The numbers were/would have been IIRC back up to just over 400...somewhere from 410 to 425...compared to c.540 on the eve of WESERUBUNG.

    As for fighter protection for the RN....no; there's a memo surviving listing exactly Fighter Command's priorities in the event of invasion...and given that as above Fighter Command would have been severely attrited before Sealion began, the surviving fighters couldn't be everywhere at once. IIRC protection for the Royal Navy was not among the listed priorities.
     
  8. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    ...except some of those locations, like the whole length of the sea front on the east side of Romney Marsh, were over ten miles long :( The REAL issue was places where the Germans could actually get off the beaches afterwards, through awkward places like Rottingdean Cleft, a geographical feature that generated its own whole thread on AHF lol

    Thing is - WE now know that the Germans only intended landings along three (3) longish seafronts; but in the summer of 194, every possible and suitable landing location had to be protected. And for several months the East coast of Norfolk and Essex looked far more attractive to the Germans. The British actually sent a pair of Army officers on a long tour of the ENTIRE coast of the United Kingdom in the summer of 1940, to identify any and all suitable landing locations...and the Emergency batteries and protecting bunkers/pillboxes were sited according to the findings of that survey ;)

    Actually, there weren't enough then, or for some time afterwards, that's why the Home Guard came to be armed with a mishmash of weapons and makeshift ones in the summer of 1940, "standardising" eventually on the imported .300 Eddystone/Remington/Winchester P14. Some of those units that DID get issued SMLEs got them taken off them again as soon as .300s were available! Even some issued with .303 P17s had these taken off them and given over to regular units, there are some surviving pics of troops in the UK with P17s, and at least one brief film clip from the Western Desert of Tommies using P17s in combat.

    As for the Brits flocking to "bag a Jerry"....that's exactly why the Home Guard was set up - and equipped and badged ASAP, to give them whatever protections were available under the Hague Rules of land Warfare regarding armed civilians...and whatever ones the Germans chose to respect ;) Briefly - armed civvies could be summarily shot after the briefest of courts martial...and had ben, with or without courts martial, in Norway etc. "Francs-tireurs"/resistors/ armed civilians had to wear military insignia and equipment/uniforms, be marshalled under military discipline and regular army NCOs and officers, an obey the Hague Rules themselves. hence the drive to outfit and equip the Home guard roughly along the same lines as the regular Army...perhaps even FASTER than the drive to arm them properly!!!
     
  9. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    I think if one's country is being invaded, The Hague would be far from my mind...it's difficult to factor in some of what you say because they invasion was never really imminent...that is to say...what would happen if the invasion actually took,place? For a start Australians would be rushed by sea and air to England...I'm talking a couple of days to arrive...so too large caches of weapons and rifles would be on the way very soon...The US would have played a part in getting Canadians and weapons over there...
     
  10. green slime

    green slime Member Patron  

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    From the text linked to by Takao in post #44.

    Basically, there were only two periods of opportunity considered by the Wehrmacht, one was written off as being far too early (they were nowhere near ready with their preparations), the other, in September. For the plan to go ahead in September the destruction of the RAF was needed to even have a slim possibility, in the face of the RN. Without the destruction of the RAF, there was absolutely no point in challenging the RN. The foremost concern was the RN's ability to interdict supply. The LW never even got to the point of seriously trying to harm RN ships.

    Not one of the responsible persons was inclined to take a clear-cut stand against the operation... Yet all felt relieved when, failing to gain air supremacy, they had a valid
    reason which justified calling off the operation.
    Vice Admiral K Assman, German Naval Staff


    You make much ado about the u-boat screen and minefields; but the KM had a completely different analysis;

    "Naval Staff also appreciated clearly that air supremacy alone could not provide permanent security against vastly superior enemy naval forces in the crossing area."
    MOD NID 24. GHS/1, Feb. 1947 `German Plans For the Invasion of England in 1940: Operation "Sealion"', p. 51



    operational problems that Sealion entailed:
    a) The troops must be transported from war-damaged harbours, installations and adjoining canal systems or are otherwise inadequate.
    b) The Army's plan involves landing on a particularly difficult part of the Channel with regard to weather, tides and rough seas.
    c) Strongly defended harbours mean the initial waves of troops must land on beaches with complications from swells, currents and tides.
    d) The enemy can mine the coast; the position of such minefields cannot be determined day-to-day.
    e) The restricted area in which the Navy will work requires air supremacy.
    f) The Royal Navy will treat the situation as life-or-death and will throw all units into the fight. Weather uncertainty alone means the Luftwaffe cannot guarantee keeping the enemy fleet away. German minefields flanking the crossing zone must supplement the Luftwaffe efforts, but as minefields are not absolute barriers, the enemy may cut the supply line of the first wave.
    g) Despite previous Luftwaffe success in negating enemy installations, the enemy has made long-term preparations and the lack of conventional artillery support makes German ability to disable coastal defences doubtful.


    Blumentritt noted that the Navy lacked `sufficient mines for viable barriers and every eight to fourteen days the mines would break away and need replacing'.

    Vice Admiral Ruge, a former C-in-C Minesweepers West commented; `flanks were poorly guarded' and could `provide only partial protection because of the strong tides and the big rise and fall',

    The KM did not believe it could get any level of surprise, given the level of RN activity in the channel, and the 3 knot speed of the barges.

    .. the only harbours large enough for loading the essential panzer divisions in the short embarkation timetable were within the Antwerp area. Given the landing area along the Kent and Sussex coast, these transports, he believed, were particularly vulnerable on the long `flank-march' with the inadequate naval protection available.

    Ruge clarified the tidal current problems in (c) by explaining the effect on the proposed barge convoys. These convoys comprised mainly un-powered barges needing tugboats that could make up to three knots in speed. Unfortunately, these were likely to meet currents of up to five knots, but assuming these could be avoided, Ruge estimated the convoys would need to travel forty or fifty miles taking a minimum of fifteen hours. As he correctly surmised, any advantage of surprise would have been lost, bearing in mind the large assortment of small craft that had been posted by the British in the Channel to watch for any unusual activity.



    The difficulties faced by the KM in its role were enormous; they were unable to transport the amount of troops the army wanted. They were unable to land on as wide a front as the army wanted. They were unable to secure the flanks. The transports were too slow, the weather too unpredictable; the huge risk of failing to keep the initial force supplied:

    A frustrated Halder stated `I might just as well put the troops that have been landed through the sausage machine!'

    That the LW failed to achieve air supremacy was the perfect excuse.They had air superiority over the channel, but still had no answer to the RN. Trying to get a British submission through the expedient of bombing London, meant they didn't have to go ahead with a most perilous undertaking. The failure of Sea Lion would more than likely encourage the Bear to get yet more adventurous and contrary in the East.
     
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  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    First of all - Hague couldn't afford to be ignored; in the event of a successful lodgement, there would be...to the defenders' eye...every chance of a prolonged land campaign to reduce it - with POWs taken on both sides, and a prolonged presence of the Germans in the south of England and a significant number of civilians in their hands. In the short, medium or long term....if the germans were successfully expelled, Britain's war would have continued, with the need to broadly respect the Hague and Geneva Conventions on BOTH sides.

    And don't forget - there were already a considerable number of Australian and New Zealand troops in the UK in the summer of 194, although the majority of the AEF and NZEF were in the Middle East, with a good part of what remained in the UK being sent overseas at the very end of August. As for any more reaching the UK from the Antipodes - I doubt days and maybe not even weeks; bulk air travel wasn't a real possibility yet at those distances...which reduced the speed of any reinforcements arriving to the speed of fast steaming.

    What large caches of weapons and ammunition? It took a lot of time and effort and negotiation to get what we had got by the start of September 1940, and all of it paid for in some way under the "cash and carry" scheme. Nothing was shipped for free...and likewise it took time to assemble cargos and convoys. The chances of anything meaningful departing a U.S. arsenal, being crated, loaded, the ship(s) leaving the U.S. and arriving in the UK and reaching the hands of defenders from the moment an invasion was detected but before it was resolved one way or another were minimal....IF they were sent; don't forget that FDR was under considerable private and public pressure not to "throw good money after bad" and weaken potential U.S. defences by shipping its arms across the Atlantic as he was himself inclined and also under pressure to help the "plucky brits".

    And as for the Canadians - they too were already here! The Canadian 1st Div was referred to often as "the only fully equipped division in the UK" after Dunkirk at the time, with a second infantry division en route but unequipped, likewise an armoured division. For several months the Canadian 1st Div was the core of the defence in the south east corner of Britain.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Assuming you mean the summer of 1940 (is your keyboard malfunctioning? noticed several "194"s instead of "1940"s in recent post), could it have happened in the summer at all? Certainly not in August and the first half of September was pretty questionable as well. That leaves a pretty narrow window.
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Lou, yes it is :( Whole plot needs replaced - but not THIS year LOL

    Thing is - WE might know there was little chance of it happening at all let alone early in the summer...but in 194 the chance of a rapid attack when we were at our weakest in the weeks immediately after Dunkirk and the later evacuations in June were looming all too large in the minds of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In fact, it REALLY worried them - and had done ever since the outbreak of war, a single "Large raid" sized invasion - at most maybe a fully motorised/mechanised division...dropped somewhere on the EAST coast could motor down onto London through what very VERY thin defences he had right then.

    It was actually a "large raid"-sized attempt at a decapitation strike that worried the hell out of Gen. Kirke, GOC Home Defence from 1939 until he was replaced by Ironside in the late spring of 1940 more than anything else. When you read David Newbold's thesis, the first impression is that Kirke's 2-3 division reaction force seems pathetically small - but not against an equally small "raid" ;)

    Roll forward to June/July 1940...and the state right then of the British Army cannot be overestimated. We were really up sh1t creek right then. Yes we recovered the ...ten?...divisions of the original BEF but we all know what state they came home in - and in fact IIRC two were broken up completely and used to plug empty files in others. Another was lost with BEF II...Victor Fortune's 51st (Highland division - and of course all ITS equipment lost at St. Valery-en-Caux.

    We had no idea how quickly the Germans could recover enough strength to mount a big raid; we had no idea except the thinnest of estimations their TRUE losses in the men and materiel vital to such an enterprise or raid. As Peter Fleming notes - in the summer of 1940, once the last british tommy had left France we lost ALL visibility of events over there except what aerial recce, and tertiary intelligence gathering - senior officers' and Hitler's movements as reported in German newspapers got out through Switzerland and Sweden etc. The French resistance was non-existent...except at the level where amateurs and individuals were sheltering troops left behind after Dunkirk and trying to get them out via Spain and Vichy, and establishing the interpersonal links that would turn into the FIRST escapers' lines. In fact - at that point in time a lot of french were actively hostile to Britain until the Germans began slowly to blot their copybook down at the town and village level of Occupation ;)

    Peter Fleming also does a good job of portraying the "invasion panic" period of June/July 1940, when Germans were expected to pour out of the sky in their thousands any minute...in the popular consciousness. Up at command and government level things were no better, really. In fact they were worse - because they very rapidly became aware of the TRUE state of Britain's weakness; this is the time that Winston's approval of the manufacture and stockpiling of mustard gas dates from, right in the middle of the "panic" period - the last weekend of June.
     
  14. freebird

    freebird Member

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    Was Ironside still GOC Home Defence during (possible) Sealion?
    I thought Brooke was placed in command, or was that only of ground forces?
     
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    No, Ironside was swapped out in mid-July.

    Brookie had the whole shebang; in the event of invasion he would technically have been the single most powerful individual in the country. Winston got himself shoehorned early onto the Joint Chiefs committee, but that would have been bypassed in the event of Sealion and Brookie would have had overall command. Up to him then how much he listened...or not...to Churchill. The other staff chiefs would have reported to Brooke, but their individual chains of command would mean that that was the only cross-over point - except much further down the line at the joint control rooms created in each defence area to handle/control/direct those RAF squadrons given over to Army tasking.

    Thankfully, Brooke would have been a bit too savvy to try the sort of micromanaging Hitler attempted more and more.
     

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