Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Battle of Britain by Miro Sarić

Introduction

 The Battle of Britain  is the name given to the Second World War air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date.
Air battles and bombing runs was fought mostly around southern England and English Channel, with defending side was RAF (Royal army force)  and RCAF (Royal Canadian air force)  mounting some 1900 planes at the peak of conflict.
And from attacking side Luftwaffe (German air force)  and Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force)  mounting some 2500 planes at the peak of conflict.
The objective of the Nazi German forces was to achieve air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially its Fighter Command .
Even tho the strategic goal of conflict was clear,  dispute between Göring and Hitler lead to constant shifting between primary targets.
Beginning in July 1940, coastal shipping convoys and shipping centers, such as Portsmouth , were the main targets; one month later, the Luftwaffe shifted its attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe again shifted to infrastructure . Eventually towards the end,  the Luftwaffe resorted to attacking areas of political significance and using terror bombing strategy.
The Battle of Britain has an unusual distinction in that it gained its name prior to being fought. The name is derived from a famous speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons on June 18, more than three weeks prior to the generally accepted date for the start of the battle:
"... What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire."
-Winston Churchill.


Background

After the miracles success of Fall Gelb,  and fall of France,  only thing standing between Germany and Continental control was lonely Britain and her Commonwealth allies,  After a series of military victories, Germany took control of huge territories in central, northern, and western Europe that mainly corresponded to the boundaries of the defeated countries of Poland, France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In addition to these conquests, the boundaries of Germany itself had already been swelled considerably by the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. Germany's position thus seemed invincible to many Europeans Although the British Foreign Secretary , Lord Halifax , and certain elements of the British public favoured a negotiated peace with an ascendant Germany, Churchill and a majority of his Cabinet refused to consider an armistice . Churchill  raise to power and refusing of piece threat. 
Stunned and enraged Hitler turn his attention towards British isles,  and planing of operation See Lion began.
Lead by example of Imperial Japan experience in pacific front,  Grand Admiral Erich Raeder , Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy), told Hitler that an invasion of Britain could only be contemplated as a last resort, and only after full air superiority had been achieved.
The Kriegsmarine had been nearly crippled by the end of  Norwegian Campaign , with many of its ships sunk or damaged, while the Royal Navy still had over 50 destroyers, 21 cruisers and eight battleships in the British
Home Fleet .
Goring was com fiend in easy victory since Britain empire, after the end of W.W. I and economy crises in 30's has drastically cut the budget of air and land forces, keeping most of budget focused on navy.
And from the other hand, one of a first thing Hitler made after his raise of power, was big investment and reorganization of Luftwaffe that  had been disbanded in 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force.
In fact, only advantage that Axis had over Allies during Fall Gelb was air force.

Opposing forces

Fighters

Axis:
Most numerous fighter type in German fleet was Me, bf-109 type E. And towards the end of a conflict, small numbers of FW-190 flew.
Allies:
On the British side, RAF's workhorse Hurricane Mk I and the less numerous Spitfire Mk I; Hurricanes outnumbered Spitfires in RAF Fighter Command by about two to one when war broke out.

 Bombers
Axis:
The Luftwaffe's primary bombers were the Heinkel He 111, Dornier Do 17, and Junkers Ju 88 for level bombing at medium to high altitudes, and the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka for dive bombing tactics. The He 111 was used in greater numbers than the others during the conflict
Allies:
On the British side, three bomber types were mostly used on night operations against targets such as factories, invasion ports and railway centres; the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, the Handley-Page Hampden and the Vickers Wellington were classified as heavy bombers by the RAF, although the Hampden was a medium bomber comparable to the He 111
German Heinkel He 111 bombers over the English Channel 1940


 International participation
Allies:
British called in they time of need from they Commonwealth allies.
The Royal Air Force roll of honor for the Battle of Britain recognizes 595 non-British pilots (out of 2,936)
These included 145 Poles, 127 New Zelanders, 112 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovak's, 10 Irish, 32 Australians, 28 Belgians, 25 South Africans, 13 French, 7 Americans, 3 Southern Rhodesian's and one each from Jamaica and Mandatory Palestine
 Axis:
An element of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) called the Italian Air Corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano or CAI) first saw action in late October 1940.
They flew in mostly outdated and outclassed Fiat CR.42
They  took part in the latter stages of the battle, but achieved limited success. The unit was redeployed in early 1941.

Comparison of opposing forces
In general, by the words of ,  Alfred Price in his book,  The Spitfire Story:
„. the differences between the Spitfire and the Me 109 in performance and handling were only marginal, and in a combat they were almost always surmounted by tactical considerations of which side had seen the other first, which had the advantage of sun, altitude, numbers, pilot ability, tactical situation, tactical co-ordination, amount of fuel remaining, etc“
Pro ergo, Bf and Spitfire where in a same foot, decisive advantage was in pilot and in situation.
So, even tho German field much more planes with more experienced pilots (elite Kondor legion) , and was attacking force, Britain's Spitfires proved to be match to bf-109, they pilots where determine to defend they home, and early radar warning system and defending side (re-use of grounded pilots) proved to be decisive advantage on British side.

Phases of the battle


The battle can be roughly divided into four phases:

10 July – 11 August: Kanalkampf ("the Channel battles")

12–23 August: Adlerangriff ("Eagle Attack"), the early assault against the coastal airfields

24 August – 6 September: the Luftwaffe targets the airfields. The critical phase of the battle.

7 September onward: the day attacks switch to British towns and cities.
Channel battles. The Kanalkampf comprised a series of running fights over convoys in the English Channel. It was launched partly because Kesselring and Sperrle were not sure about what else to do, and partly because it gave German aircrews some training and a chance to probe the British defenses.
In 25 of July a coal convoy and escorting destroyers suffered such heavy losses to attacks by Stuka dive bombers that the Admiralty decided convoys should travel at night: the RAF shot down 16 raiders but lost 7 aircraft. By 8 August 18 coal ships and 4 destroyers had been sunk, but the Navy was determined to send a convoy of 20 ships through rather than move the coal by railway. After repeated Stuka attacks that day, six ships were badly damaged, four were sunk and only four reached their destination. The RAF lost 19 fighters and shot down 31 German aircraft. The Navy now canceled all further convoys through the Channel and sent the cargo by rail. Even so, these early combat encounters provided both sides with experience, hese battles off the coast tended to favor the Germans
Main assault
The main attack upon the RAF's defenses was code-named Adlerangriff ("Eagle Attack").
Adlertag opened with a series of attacks on coastal airfields used as forward landing grounds for the RAF fighters, as well as 'satellite airfields' (including Manston and Hawkinge) As the week drew on, the airfield attacks moved further inland, and repeated raids were made on the radar chain. 15 August was "The Greatest Day" when the Luftwaffe mounted the largest number of sorties of the campaign. Luftflotte 5 attacked the north of England. Believing Fighter Command strength to be concentrated in the south, raiding forces from Denmark and Norway ran into unexpectedly strong resistance. Inadequately escorted by Bf 110s, bombers were shot down in large numbers. North East England was attacked by 65 Heinkel's  escorted by 34 Messerschmitt 110s, and RAF Great Driffield was attacked by 50 not escorted Junkers 88s. Out of 115 bombers and 35 fighters sent, 16 bombers and 7 fighters were destroyed. ] As a result of these casualties, Luftflotte 5 did not appear in strength again in the campaign.
18 August, which had the greatest number of casualties to both sides, has been dubbed "The Hardest Day". Following this grinding battle, exhaustion and the weather reduced operations for most of a week, allowing the Luftwaffe to review their performance. "The Hardest Day" had sounded the end for the Ju 87 in the campaign. This veteran of Blitzkrieg was too vulnerable to fighters to operate over Britain.
Raids on British cities:
Hitler's No. 17 Directive on the conduct of war against the United Kingdom, issued on 1 August 1940, specifically prohibited the Luftwaffe from conducting terror raids on its own initiative, and reserved the right of ordering terror attacks as means of reprisal for the Führer himself.
„The war against England is to be restricted to destructive attacks against industry and air force targets which have weak defensive forces ... The most thorough study of the target concerned, that is vital points of the target, is a per-requisite for success. It is also stressed that every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary loss of life amongst the civilian population“
-Adolf Hitler

But seeing British unloving to give up, Hitler change his mind and order the Lufftwafe in targets of political significance and terror bombing champagne.
Resulting in some 10 000 civilian casualties, (dead or wounded) with many more left homeless.

Aftermath

The Battle of Britain marked the first defeat of Hitler's military forces, with air superiority seen as the key to victory
The battle also significantly shifted American opinion. During the battle, many Americans accepted the view promoted by Joseph Kennedy, the American ambassador in London, who believed that the United Kingdom could not survive. Roosevelt wanted a second opinion, and sent "Wild Bill" Donovan on a brief visit to the UK; he became convinced the UK would survive and should be supported in every possible way.
Both sides in the battle made exaggerated claims of numbers of enemy aircraft shot down. In general, claims were two to three times the actual numbers, because of the confusion of fighting in dynamic three-dimensional air battles. Postwar analysis of records has shown that between July and September, the RAF claimed 2,698 kills, while the Luftwaffe fighters claimed 3,198 RAF aircraft downed. Total losses, and start and end dates for recorded losses, vary for both sides. Luftwaffe losses from 10 July to 30 October 1940 total 1,652 aircraft, including 229 twin- and 533 single-engines fighters In the same period, RAF Fighter Command aircraft losses number 1,087, including 53 twin-engines fighters To the RAF figure should be added 376 Bomber Command and 148 Coastal Command aircraft conducting bombing, mining, and reconnaissance operations in defense of the country.
There is a consensus among historians that the Luftwaffe simply could not crush the RAF-
The British victory in the Battle of Britain was achieved at a heavy cost. Total British civilian losses from July to December 1940 were 23,002 dead and 32,138 wounded, with one of the largest single raids on 19 December 1940, in which almost 3,000 civilians died. With the culmination of the concentrated daylight raids, Britain was able to rebuild its military forces and establish itself as an Allied stronghold, later serving as a base from which the Liberation of Western Europe was launched.