The BBC and the myth of the Battle of Britain

Discussion in 'History' started by Naval_Gazer, Oct 23, 2012.

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  1. Elsewhere in this forum is this thread containing a tribute to a Battle of Britain flyer who has recently died. It would be inappropriate to add my post below to that thread but the linked BBC article contains the following passage:

    I have huge respect for the deceased Battle of Britain veteran and his wartime colleagues who came from various armed services (e.g. the FAA) of several nations. My beef is with the BBC for using this death to help perptuate the myth that, despite the Royal Navy's overwhelming dominance of our coastal waters at the time, the RAF was solely responsible for preventing a German invasion in the Autumn of 1940 and that air superiority was the only factor involved.

    This article is also relevant:

    The Battle of Britain Debate by Christina Goulter, Andrew Gordon and Gary Sheffield
    To illustrate what the unseaworthy and weakly defended German invasion barges would have been up against, here is the Royal Navy's surface ORBAT (noting that a FAA aircraft shot down the first (and last) enemy a/c of the war) in Home Waters for June 1940 courtesy of

    The Battle of Britain was fought in August and September 1940. The Battle of the Atlantic was fought between September 1939 and May 1945. Neither of them was 'won' by a single service or resulted in decisive victory but I would contend that the latter is at least as significant as the former.
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  2. Whole heartedly agree my thoughts on posting were the same as marking the end of a gallant bunch of men from all the services in that conflict. I will mark the passing of our other gallant survivours of such conflicts if given the priviledge.
  3. Had it not been for the Churchillian 'So many - by so few' speech they, (RAF) may not have achieved the notoriety.
  4. tiddlyoggy

    tiddlyoggy War Hero Book Reviewer

    I've got to agree wasp. Churchill bigging then up was the start of the myth. I don't want to detract from their achievement, but they weren't the sole reason for preventing invasion. I have heard an historian comment before that the rn had already won the battle of Britain long before the phrase had ever been coined.
  5. I wanna be the last survivor of Aurora I was the youngest ****** on board.
    They gave me the flag at the end of the commission, they must of known I was down to one sheet.
  6. Self same flag still in existence, if so is it pristine or covered with jissom stains from your myriad conquests?
  7. "myriad conquests" Who? ... Rummers? ........ really? ..........wah hahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhawahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahwahoh dear, {wipes eyes} that was funny.
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  8. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Last I heard, you were "three sheets to the wind", so what happened to the other two?
  9. Notoriety? Blimey, might not be fond of the crabs, but that's a bit harsh.
  10. Anyone remember the lessons of Jutland ?
    Anyone remember "theres something wrong with our bloody ships today" ?
    Anyone remember Force Z and their lack of air superiority ?
    Anyone know why the RN couldn`t defend the coastal convoys running round Dover from Stuka`s ?

    Bloody hell lads come on. If the Kreigsmarine had launched an offensive it would have resulted in valiant action from our destroyers, racing in, assaulting the defences, but being mown down by the big boys, Scharnhorst, etc. Would the admiralty send in the battleships ? I doubt it, too vulnerable a target for the dive-bombers.
    And remember, it was a time in the war when the admiralty had absolutely no clue how to use what they had, sending aircraft carriers out on their own, with half a squadron of outdated fighters and half a squadron of Swordfish anti-subs. Do you really think they`d have a Eureka moment and gain divine inspiration ?
  11. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    I feel a bit sorry for the bomber command lads, after all this time it doesn't matter what Jack says he's not going to get a look in for Battle of Britain glory, the Bomber boys have good reason to have the hump with the fighter pilots within there organisation. The Bombers were nightly bombing the invasion ports and a feat of superb RAF navigation resulted in a bomber dropping its bombs on Berlin (I think the target was in Norway)thus stopping the successful German bombing of the fighter airfields as they bombed London in retaliation and gave the fighter defenses some breathing space.
  12. Rocket-Ron, you're talking bollocks. WB, the Luftwaffe cocked up and bombed London first when they got a bit lost, we bombed Berlin in retaliation and so it went on.
  13. My thanks to Rocket_Ron for at least having the decency to post a proper reply instead of trying to derail yet another serious thread on RR by crayoning irrelevant rubbish.

    Yes, despite our losses, the German High Seas Fleet was given such a bloody nose it never dared leave harbour again.

    Yes, but how is the vulnerability of battle-cruisers' upper decks to high-angled shells or bombs in the North Sea relevant to hundreds of fast-moving cruisers, destroyers, patrol craft and armed auxiliaries having a field day among slow, lightly defended troop transports wallowing in rough autumnal seas in the confines of the English Channel?

    Glad you mentioned Force Z. HMS REPULSE and HMS PRINCE OF WALES were sunk in Dec 1941, over a year after the Battle of Britain and more than two years after the start of the Battle of the Atlantic. These vessels were totally bereft of air cover thousands of miles from the UK when they were saturated by Japanese aircraft that had taken a leaf out of the Fleet Air Arm's book and specialised in attacking ships. For all that, only six (possibly eight) of the 49 torpedoes launched against them hit their target (link).

    Interestingly, the initial wave of 25 Japanese aircraft dropped 17 x 500 kg bombs and 16 x 250 kg bombs on the two ships but only achieved a single hit with a 250 kg bomb. This started a small fire on the hangar deck of REPULSE. Several high level bombers also straddled the battleships during the later torpedo attacks but, again, only achieved a single hit with a bomb that fell amongst the wounded gathered in POW's hangar and caused extensive casualties. Neither of these bombs succeeded in penetrating the battleships' armour.

    Nine other Japanese aircraft mistook one of the three escorting destroyers for a battleship. They each dropped a 500 kg armour-piercing bomb but all missed their target. The destroyer went unscathed and subsequently helped rescue the survivors from the battleships. In the absence of RAF air cover, a supporting carrier might have made all the difference, especially as the Japanese bombers had no fighter escort owing to the distances involved.

    Why bother trying when it was possible to run the coastal convoys at night in relative safety? Although Ju-87 (Stuka) dive bombers were useful against static targets in a relatively benign environment, they were still relatively ineffective against moving ships. It wasn't even a role for which their pilots were trained. Throughout the nine days of the evacuation from Dunkirk, they only managed to sink four RN destroyers, all either stopped in the water or moving slowly off the beaches.

    As for high level bombers, the B-17s were to show their ineffectiveness against moving ships later in the war which is why the USN concentrated on TBDs and dive bombers. There were no PGMs in those days and most will be aware of the CEPs of dumb bombs.

    The Germans only possessed around 28 torpedo-carrying aircraft (He 115 seaplanes) at the time. On 9 Apr 1940 these had been employed on sweeping the area between Bergen and the Orkneys during the Norwegian campaign but none of them ever hit anything. Subsequent attacks by up to 88 He 111s of KG 26 and Ju 88s of KG 30 plus further heavy raids only succeeded in sinking one destroyer and damaging a few other ships. None of this prevented the Royal Navy from sinking two of the ten German destroyers and several transports at the First Battle of Narvik the next day or putting the remaining eight German destroyers out of action at the Second Battle of Narvik three days after that. This left the entire German Navy with only eight intact destroyers for the remainder of the year.

    What "big boys"? GRAF SPEE had been fought to a standstill at the Battle of the River Plate and scuttled herself in Dec 1939. SCHARNHORST was in dock in Kiel from Jun to Dec 1940 with a 14m x 6m hole in her hull after being torpedoed in a "valiant action" by the destroyer HMS ACASTA. GNEISENAU was in dock in Kiel from Jul to Dec 1940 after being torpedoed by the submarine HMS CLYDE. BISMARCK and TIRPITZ weren't even operational until 1941 and neither could be said to have had a long and illustrious life thereafter.

    See my earlier comments regarding the poor success rate of bombers against moving battleships (or any other vessel).

    Many people (including you) appear to underestimate the number of Allied naval units the Luftwaffe would have been forced to neutralise for any beach landings to succeed. Even MTBs, MLs, armed yachts and the dozens of armed trawlers with 12 pdrs, 4 inch, 20mm and Lewis guns would have posed a significant threat to any German invasion barges but they could easily have achieved the job by capsizing such vulnerable craft with their wakes or ramming them. Moreover, how effective do you think the Luftwaffe would have been once the RN cats were in among the German pigeons, particularly given the likely cloud cover and surface visibility as the year wore on?

    In some ways, it is interesting to consider how the war might have developed if the cream of Hitler's Wehrmacht had ended up at the bottom of the English Channel in the Autumn of 1940 with whatever materiel it had managed to embark.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
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  14. A far better reply than mine NG, but at work I can't do replies within quotes or even paragraphs for some reason.
  15. But thats in hindsight N_G, knowing the dispositions of the major capital ships, and just how few U-boats were actually operational. The Admiralty (of the time) were fighting a previous war, of big set piece battles between fleets of battleships. They were dominated in the higher echelons by the `guns` branch, who believed that war was waged over 12 miles, when in actual fact they had the war winner at their disposal already, the aircraft carrier, that proved war was waged over 200 miles. Just read any contemporary account from the FAA about how badly they were commanded. Look at how badly the Courageous was used, they wouldn`t have sent a battleship out with no protection.

    Its fair to say the RAF didn`t win the BoB, but its essential that they didn`t lose. If they had have lost air supremacy over the South Coast, it would have freed up the Luftwaffe to hit (among other things) the MTBs and MGBs bases, with them at home. If the German army had got just about anything into a bridgehead, it could be argued that they`d be beyond shifting, what with by the majority of our tanks/artillery/heavy weapons being abandoned in France. And then your into the same scenario as the rest of Europe suffered, with the Channel being effectively just a wide river.
  16. I dont think that sufficient thought was given by the German High Command as to the difficulty the channel posed.
    up until Dunkirk the German supply lines were at full stretch, most of the German thought was of air superiority and thats where the majority of their resources were put. They got to Dunkirk and stopped, i believe that we almost made a similar cockup in italy. As NG postulates what would be the use of air superiority once the cat was amongst the saurkraut. The evidence of how a few gun boats couuld have wreaked havoc was ably demonstrated by the E Boats off Slapton Sands. As always QED.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012
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  17. Indeed QED. (I`ve never used it.)
    Our MGBs were plywood, with high-octane petrol and machine gun armed. The E-boats were steel, diesel, and cannon armed. Which would be more effective among an invasion convoy is pure speculation.
  18. There is a surviving E boat being totally restored in Cornwall. Will try to post any pictures of it if i can find some. The MGB's used to operate with a destroyer escort such as HMS Stayner. Our MGB's and MTB's were very effective at clearing th channel in the run up to D Day, but am very aware of the situation of the different operational scenario between 1941 and 1944. My father served on Stayner as a gunner and did state that once you could get a good strafe along the upper deck it generally finished the boat.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  19. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    The Germans got amongst the Yanks pre D Day. It didn't go so well.
  20. There used to be an MTB hull and most of the superstructure in Penryn boatyard just above Falmouth.
    Wonder what happened to that.

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