The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival


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For various reasons, the Defiant lacked any form of forward-firing armament, and the heavy turret and second crewman meant it could not outrun or outmanoeuvre either the Bf or Bf By the end of August, after disastrous losses, the aircraft was withdrawn from daylight service. The Luftwaffe's primary bombers were the Heinkel He , 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 was used in greater numbers than the others during the conflict, and was better known, partly due to its distinctive wing shape.

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Each level bomber also had a few reconnaissance versions accompanying them that were used during the battle. Although it had been successful in previous Luftwaffe engagements, the Stuka suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Britain, particularly on 18 August, due to its slow speed and vulnerability to fighter interception after dive bombing a target. As the losses went up along with their limited payload and range, Stuka units were largely removed from operations over England and diverted to concentrate on shipping instead until they were eventually re-deployed to the Eastern Front in For some raids, they were called back, such as on 13 September to attack Tangmere airfield.

The remaining three bomber types differed in their capabilities; the Dornier Do 17 was the slowest and had the smallest bomb load; the Ju 88 was the fastest once its mainly external bomb load was dropped; and the He had the largest internal bomb load. The German bombers required constant protection by the Luftwaffe's fighter force. German escorts were not sufficiently numerous.

Bf Es were ordered to support more than — bombers on any given day. Due to its smaller bomb load, the lighter Do 17 was used less than the He and Ju 88 for this purpose. 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 The twin-engined Bristol Blenheim and the obsolescent single-engined Fairey Battle were both light bombers; the Blenheim was the most numerous of the aircraft equipping RAF Bomber Command and was used in attacks against shipping, ports, airfields and factories on the continent by day and by night.

The Fairey Battle squadrons, which had suffered heavy losses in daylight attacks during the Battle of France, were brought up to strength with reserve aircraft and continued to operate at night in attacks against the invasion ports, until the Battle was withdrawn from UK front line service in October Before the war, the RAF's processes for selecting potential candidates were opened to men of all social classes through the creation in of the RAF Volunteer Reserve , which " By mid, there were about 9, pilots in the RAF to man about 5, aircraft, most of which were bombers.

In addition, more pilots were allocated to squadrons than there were aircraft, as this allowed squadrons to maintain operational strength despite casualties and still provide for pilot leave. The rest were assigned to staff positions, since RAF policy dictated that only pilots could make many staff and operational command decisions, even in engineering matters.

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At the height of fighting, and despite Churchill's insistence, only 30 pilots were released to the front line from administrative duties. For these reasons, and the permanent loss of pilots during the Battle of France alone [38] along with many more wounded, and others lost in Norway , the RAF had fewer experienced pilots at the start of the initial defence of their home.

It was the lack of trained pilots in the fighting squadrons, rather than the lack of aircraft , that became the greatest concern for Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, Commander of Fighter Command.

Replacement pilots, with little flight training and often no gunnery training, suffered high casualty rates, thus exacerbating the problem. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, were able to muster a larger number 1, of more experienced fighter pilots. Despite the high levels of experience, German fighter formations did not provide a sufficient reserve of pilots to allow for losses and leave, [] and the Luftwaffe was unable to produce enough pilots to prevent a decline in operational strength as the battle progressed.

Among those killed were 47 airmen from Canada, 24 from Australia, 17 from South Africa, 35 from Poland, 20 from Czechoslovakia and six from Belgium. Forty-seven New Zealanders lost their lives, including 15 fighter pilots, 24 bomber and eight coastal aircrew. The names of these Allied and Commonwealth airmen are inscribed in a memorial book which rests in the Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster Abbey. In the chapel is a stained glass window which contains the badges of the fighter squadrons which operated during the battle and the flags of the nations to which the pilots and aircrew belonged.

These pilots, some of whom had to flee their home countries because of German invasions, fought with great distinction. The No. It took part in the latter stages of the battle, but achieved limited success. The unit was redeployed in early The high command's indecision over which aim to pursue was reflected in shifts in Luftwaffe strategy. Their Air War doctrine of concentrated close air support of the army at the battlefront succeeded in the blitzkrieg offensives against Poland , Denmark and Norway , the Low Countries and France , but incurred significant losses.

The Luftwaffe now had to establish or restore bases in the conquered territories, and rebuild their strength. These gave crews practice in navigation and avoiding air defences, and set off air raid alarms which disturbed civilian morale. Similar nuisance raids continued throughout the battle, into late Scattered naval mine —laying sorties began at the outset, and increased gradually over the battle period.

Battle of Britain - Wikipedia

On 16 July Directive No. Once the RAF had been defeated, Luftwaffe bombers were to move forward beyond London without the need for fighter escort, destroying military and economic targets. At a meeting on 1 August the command reviewed plans produced by each Fliegerkorps with differing proposals for targets including whether to bomb airfields, but failed to focus priorities. Bombing of military and economic targets was then to systematically extend up to the Midlands until daylight attacks could proceed unhindered over the whole of Britain.

Bombing of London was to be held back while these night time "destroyer" attacks proceeded over other urban areas, then in culmination of the campaign a major attack on the capital was intended to cause a crisis when refugees fled London just as the Operation Sea Lion invasion was to begin. With increasing difficulty in defending bombers in day raids, the Luftwaffe shifted to a strategic bombing campaign of night raids aiming to overcome British resistance by damaging infrastructure and food stocks, though intentional terror bombing of civilians was not sanctioned.

The Luftwaffe was forced to regroup after the Battle of France into three Luftflotten Air Fleets on Britain's southern and northern flanks. Luftflotte 2 , commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, was responsible for the bombing of southeast England and the London area. As the battle progressed, command responsibility shifted, with Luftflotte 3 taking more responsibility for the night-time Blitz attacks while the main daylight operations fell upon Luftflotte 2's shoulders.

This would be followed by a four-week offensive during which the bombers and long-range fighters would destroy all military installations throughout the country and wreck the British aircraft industry.

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The campaign was planned to begin with attacks on airfields near the coast, gradually moving inland to attack the ring of sector airfields defending London. Later reassessments gave the Luftwaffe five weeks, from 8 August to 15 September, to establish temporary air superiority over England. The only alternative to the goal of air superiority was a terror bombing campaign aimed at the civilian population, but this was considered a last resort and it was at this stage of the battle expressly forbidden by Hitler.

The Luftwaffe kept broadly to this scheme, but its commanders had differences of opinion on strategy.

Sperrle wanted to eradicate the air defence infrastructure by bombing it. His counterpart, Kesselring, championed attacking London directly— either to bombard the British government into submission, or to draw RAF fighters into a decisive battle. With more room between them, both pilots could spend less time maintaining formation and more time looking around and covering each other's blind spots. Attacking aircraft could be sandwiched between the two s. Two sections were usually teamed up into a Schwarm , where all the pilots could watch what was happening around them.

Each Schwarm in a Staffel flew at staggered heights and with about metres of room between them, making the formation difficult to spot at longer ranges and allowing for a great deal of flexibility. The Bf s adopted the same Schwarm formation as the s, but were seldom able to use this to the same advantage. The Bf 's most successful method of attack was the "bounce" from above.

This led to the often repeated misconception that the Bf s were escorted by Bf s. Luftwaffe tactics were influenced by their fighters. The Bf proved too vulnerable to the nimble single-engined RAF fighters. This meant the bulk of fighter escort duties fell on the Bf Fighter tactics were then complicated by bomber crews who demanded closer protection.

During this conference, the need for the fighters to meet up on time with the bombers was stressed. It was also decided that one bomber Gruppe could only be properly protected by several Gruppen of s. The Ju 87 units, which had suffered heavy casualties, were only to be used under favourable circumstances.

This decision shackled many of the Bf s to the bombers and, although they were more successful at protecting the bomber forces, casualties amongst the fighters mounted primarily because they were forced to fly and manoeuvre at reduced speeds. The Luftwaffe consistently varied its tactics in its attempts to break through the RAF defences. RAF fighter controllers were often able to detect these and position squadrons to avoid them, keeping to Dowding's plan to preserve fighter strength for the bomber formations. The Luftwaffe also tried using small formations of bombers as bait, covering them with large numbers of escorts.

This was more successful, but escort duty tied the fighters to the bombers' slow speed and made them more vulnerable.

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By September, standard tactics for raids had become an amalgam of techniques. A Freie Jagd would precede the main attack formations. Escorts were divided into two parts usually Gruppen , some operating in close contact with the bombers, and others a few hundred yards away and a little above. If the formation was attacked from the starboard, the starboard section engaged the attackers, the top section moving to starboard and the port section to the top position. If the attack came from the port side the system was reversed. British fighters coming from the rear were engaged by the rear section and the two outside sections similarly moving to the rear.

If the threat came from above, the top section went into action while the side sections gained height to be able to follow RAF fighters down as they broke away. If attacked, all sections flew in defensive circles. These tactics were skilfully evolved and carried out, and were difficult to counter. We had the impression that, whatever we did, we were bound to be wrong.

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Fighter protection for bombers created many problems which had to be solved in action. Bomber pilots preferred close screening in which their formation was surrounded by pairs of fighters pursuing a zigzag course.


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The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival
The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival
The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival
The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival
The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival
The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival The Second Battle - An Ongoing Story of Survival
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