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Subject: The Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy - Telegraph Online Article
Exemplo Ducemus    8/24/2006 3:41:31 AM
The Battle of Britain was not won by the RAF but by the Royal Navy, military historians have concluded, provoking outrage among the war's surviving fighter pilots. Challenging the "myth" that Spitfires and Hurricanes held off the German invaders in 1940, the monthly magazine History Today has concluded that it was the might of the Navy that stood between Britain and Nazi occupation. Spitfires and Hurricanes have previously been held responsible for preventing a German invasion The view is backed by three leading academics who are senior military historians at the Joint Service Command Staff College teaching the future admirals, generals and air marshals. They contend that the sheer numbers of destroyers and battleships in the Channel would have obliterated any invasion fleet even if the RAF had lost the Battle of Britain. The idea that a "handful of heroes saved these islands from invasion" was nothing more than a "perpetuation of a glorious myth," the article suggests. "Many still prefer to believe that in the course of that summer a few hundred outnumbered young men so outfought a superior enemy as solely to prevent a certain invasion of Britain. Almost none of which is true," reports Brian James, the author. Dr Andrew Gordon, the head of maritime history at the staff college, said it was "hogwash" to suggest that Germany failed to invade in 1940 "because of what was done by the phenomenally brave and skilled young men of Fighter Command". "The Germans stayed away because while the Royal Navy existed they had not a hope in hell of capturing these islands. The Navy had ships in sufficient numbers to have overwhelmed any invasion fleet - destroyers' speed alone would have swamped the barges by their wash." Even if the RAF had been defeated the fleet would still have been able to defeat any invasion because fast ships at sea could easily manoeuvre and "were pretty safe from air attack". While admitting it was an "extremely sensitive subject", Dr Christina Goulter, the air warfare historian, supported the argument. "While it would be wrong to deny the contribution of Fighter Command, I agree largely that it was the Navy that held the Germans from invading," she said. "As the German general Jodl put it, so long as the British Navy existed, an invasion would be to send 'my troops into a mincing machine'." Any challenge to the long-held theory that the 2,600 pilots of Fighter Command defeated the might of Germany would be subject to "more than a modicum of hostility", she added. The Battle of Britain was "a sacrosanct event" for the RAF, like Waterloo for the Army and Trafalgar for the Navy. It inspired Churchill to say: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Although six destroyers were lost during the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 this was due to them being stationary as they picked up troops. Tackling capital ships would have been an even greater task because at the time the Luftwaffe, unlike the Japanese during the destruction of the fleet at Singapore, did not have armour-piercing bombs, the article says. It has been argued that German minefields strung across the Dover Straits would have prevented the Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow, from destroying slow troop barges. But Dr Gordon disputed this saying that Britain had 52 minesweepers and 16 minesweeping trawlers arrayed against four German minelayers. The disparity between the navies was huge with Britain having 36 destroyers close by and a similar number two days away. The Navy also had five capital ships on hand, whereas the Kriegsmarine had lost or had damaged their battleships. "Anyway, in an emergency, the Royal Navy steams straight through minefields as they did when pursuing the Scharnhorst," Dr Gordon said. "They have a drill, following line astern. 'Each ship can sweep one mine' is the rather grim joke." Can you imagine the RN's targets? An invasion fleet of Rhine barges, moving at about two knots over the water, with a freeboard of a few feet. . . an absolute field day for our navy. So that was the nightmare for the German navy. They knew it just couldn't happen." Prof Gary Sheffield, the JSCSC's leading land warfare historian, said while some Germans might have got ashore it would have been near impossible for them to be re-supplied with the Navy so close by. The article also argues that while the RAF had 644 fighters to the Luftwaffe's 725 at the beginning of the battle by October 1940 Britain was far out-producing the enemy. It also said that after the defeat in France in early 1940 it was vital for Britain to have a victory to reassure the public it was winning the war and the RAF fighter pilots were an obvious choice. "In 1940, the total acceptance of the story's simple broad-brush strokes was very necessary," the historian Richard Overy said. Dr Gordon added: "The RAF's was a substitute victory - a substitute for th
 
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Exemplo Ducemus    RE:The Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy - Response by author Patrick Bishop   8/24/2006 3:45:12 AM
It takes a brave man to mess with the Battle of Britain myth, and Dr Andrew Gordon is due some respect for his courage. Whether he is right or not to contend that it was the Navy rather than the air force that prevented Germany invading in 1940 is another matter. Even if the RAF had been wiped from the skies, the fleet would have had a field day sending the troop-carrying barges to the bottom as they wallowed in the Channel. So the efforts of Fighter Command were gallant but insignificant. They make for a great story. But it was the Senior Service wot won it. This interpretation might make him the toast of wardrooms but will be regarded elsewhere as a bit one-eyed. Dr Gordon is right that the Navy's deterrent role has been overlooked, but then people do not remember engagements that did not take place. He is surely wrong to place such confidence in the Navy's ability to win a Battle of the Channel had it happened. Belief in the Navy's powers was strong at the time of the crisis. Churchill in his June 18 speech predicted to a cheering Commons that a German invasion force would be spotted long before it hit our shores and "all the men drowned in the sea". Dr Gordon asserts that the Navy had little to fear from the Luftwaffe even if it had total air superiority. The picture forming in his crystal ball shows German bombs falling harmlessly in the sea, foxed by the Navy's nimble manoeuvres. Those that did hit were unlikely to deliver a knock-out blow. This scenario is contradicted by the events of May 1941. During the Crete disaster, the Navy suffered a devastating tactical defeat at the hands of the German air force. Three cruisers and six destroyers were sunk and 17 damaged in a few days. Technical hypotheses of the type Dr Gordon is advancing can be argued endlessly and achieve little apart from upsetting a dwindling number of brave old men. His approach completely fails to appreciate the global importance of the Battle of Britain. Whether or not the RAF alone prevented a German invasion is irrelevant, though the damage inflicted on the Luftwaffe was by its own commanders' admission immense and would have hampered any landing operation. The point is that for the first time in the war Hitler had been defeated. There is no doubt that the Fighter Boys achieved a great military success. But above all, the Battle of Britain was a moral victory that showed the world that Germany could be bested and bolstered the belief among people at home that the war could be won. What if Fighter Command had lost? We will never know how serious were Hitler's invasion plans. But it is easy to see the shape of how a defeat would have affected the mood in Britain. Churchill was still on probation with a section of the Establishment who regarded him as a dangerous chancer. Defeat would have dealt a possibly fatal blow to his reputation, opening the way to the appeasers. • Patrick Bishop is the author of Fighter Boys: Saving Britain 1940. Published by HarperCollins
 
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Exemplo Ducemus    RE:The Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy - It's Baloney say RAF Aces   8/24/2006 3:48:21 AM
The suggestion that the Royal Navy was the real victor in the Battle of Britain was met with guffaws, incredulity and then oaths by RAF pilots who protected the country in 1940. Air Cdre Peter Brothers, 88, who shot down nine enemy aircraft while flying Hurricanes in the battle, said: "The first thing that won the Battle of Britain was radar; the second, the people who produced the aircraft; third, the ground crew who maintained them; and finally the pilots who flew them. "The Navy did not do very well at Dunkirk where they got hammered by Stuka dive bombers - I saw them do it with my own eyes." Wg Cdr Paul Farnes, also 88, who downed eight German aircraft while flying Hurricanes, said: "Had we not won the Battle of Britain they [the Navy] might well have been able to hold back an invasion. "But the point is they did not have to because we had already done it. "Hitler knew he needed air support to invade and we stopped him but I don't see where the Navy came into it. In fact, I never saw any Navy during the fighting." Wg Cdr Thomas Neil, who flew both Spitfires and Hurricanes in shooting down 13 German planes during the Battle of Britain, said: "The Royal Navy were scared of bombers. "This is all baloney. The Navy was up in Scapa Flow during the fighting where they might have acted as a deterrent but they did not take part in preventing the invasion. The Germans also kept them at bay with submarines and mines. "But believe you me, the Navy would not have trusted their battleships to have been in range of German bombers. "They did not like any planes - they shot at anything in the sky including our own fighters!"
 
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Yimmy    RE:The Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy -    8/24/2006 11:44:34 AM
A question which strikes me, is if not for the Royal Navy, why exactly didn't the Germans send out their invasion force? It is all well and good that air superiority would allow their Stukas (and substitute for army artillery) to operate far more effectively when the land battle started, however I do not believe the RAF was of much threat to the invasion fleet. At the time, the RAF had very few aircraft suitable for engageing the German small ships and barges. All the Spitfires and Hurricanes would have been near useless, having to resort to straffing, while our bombers of the time were mostly of the level type, such as the Blenheim, and equally useless. We had no Typhoons etc at that point.
 
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joe6pack    RE:The Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy -    8/24/2006 12:00:15 PM
A question I'd have is could the Royal Navy have held the channel if the Luftwaffe had gained complete air superiority? I'd have thought the lessons of what air power could do were made clear during WWII.
 
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Yimmy    RE:The Battle of Britain was won by the Royal Navy -    8/24/2006 12:24:34 PM
All the same, neither the Germans had many aircraft capable of anti-ship operations at the time. Stukas would have been of some value, but I do not think their twin engined medium bombers would have been that great, unless they were capable of mounting torpedos at the time (I know they did later in the war).
 
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The Lizard King    The Battle of Britain was won by   8/24/2006 1:05:54 PM
The British People & Luck, everything else is semantics...
 
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Bigfella2       8/28/2006 11:41:05 PM
I wanted to reply to this days ago, but I couldn't get in after the format changed. The article is essentially correct. Had Germany 'won' the battle of Britain it wouldn't have meant the destruction of the RAF, it would simply have meant that fighter command was taking bad enough losses that Dowding withdrew the squadrons further Nth & West, out of Luftwaffe range. The idea was that amy invasion would still have to fight for control of the air. More importantly, the Germans simply lacked the ability to control the Channel for the week or two necessary to get its army over & keep it supplied. Much is made of the power of aircraft against shipping, but this igonres a couple of facts: at the time the Luftwaffe had very little training against shipping, 2)The only German planes that were really much good against shipping were Stukas, and all of these would be needed to support the troops, since there was to be no other artillery support (apart from a few tanks) until the second wave, 3)Much of the German invasion fleet's transit time would be at night, when air power was useless against shipping anyway. Put simply, against the dozen or so surface units the germans had, the RN & Coastal Command (which had hundreds of torpedo boats, sloops, minesweepers etc., all capable of sinking barges) would have barely slowed down in its charge to sink the barges. Remeber, these river barges were mostly towed by other ships. Kill that ship & they just wallow. Speed past them in a destroyer & they flip. Those barges that got to the coast were to be released to float to shore. Somehow they were to be reconnected & dragged back across the channel for the second wave. So, those ships & barges not destroyed in the forst crossing than had to go back over the channel & return (a process covering close to a week in some cases) to get the second wave & some supplies for the first ashore. In fact, very little transport was assigned for supplies, so quite what the handful of tanks were going to run on & the men shoot when the supplies they'd carried ashore were gone was not certain. Then there were the thousands of horses that were to be brought ashore in the first wave. Imagine thousands of horses running around on the beaches on D-Day! Even if the RN could be held off for several days to allow most of the first wave ashore, it beggars belief that a second wave of any size could ever have landed. Given the size of the operation, Germany could easily have lost 50,000 dead in a day or two, with the remainder quickly rounded up. The Battle of Britain was a fine & brave endevour, and it certainly prevented Hitler from attempting invasion. Ultimately, however, it had little impact on how successful that invasion would have been.
 
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Panther       9/4/2006 9:20:25 PM
Funny. This same type of thinking is what got Britain's far eastern fleet sunk in the opening stages of war in the Pacific back in 41'. Maybe that was all an hallucination!
 
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Bigfella2       9/5/2006 8:36:32 AM

Funny. This same type of thinking is what got Britain's far eastern fleet sunk in the opening stages of war in the Pacific back in 41'. Maybe that was all an hallucination!


If you're referring to the loss of the Repulse & Prince of Wales you are way off base. The Brits were well aware of the need for air cover, they just didn't have it to provide. There was a carrier assigned to the taskforce, but it ran aground in the West Indies & was unable to participate. The RN being what it was the mission was felt too crucial to be abandoned. I'm not sure if it was seen as a 'sucicide mission', but those at the top must have known that it would be pretty risky. I think they felt the need to do SOMETHING, tough I'm not sure if anyone really believed it would work.
The other point where the comparison breaks down is the opposition. In this instance the RN faced the best naval airforce in the world at the height of its powers. The Japanese had trained for years to get up the skill required to sink ships under steam & had the right planes & equipment to do it. What is more, given the woeful preparedness of the US at Pearl & the Phillippines, and the even more woeful state of British airpower in the Far East (Brewster Buffaloes anyone?), the Japanese were practically at peak strength. The Luftwaffe didn't have the trained pilots for naval warfare, torpedo bombers or air launched torpedoes. Further, the only aircraft they had that were really up to the task (Stukas) were required to support the artilleryless troops on the beaches. There would have been RN losses, but faced with invasion, they would have been considered acceptable.
 
There is also the issue of just how long the invasion fleet would be spending on the water at night - when air power is useless. To gove you an idea of just what I mean, throughout the buildup to Sealion the RN staged raids almost nightly on Channel ports. The units involved included ships up to light cruiser size, and on several occasions penetrated harbours,including the inner harbour at Calais. Damage wasn't serious, but it was apparently 'great sport, wot!'. Put simply, the Germans couldn't even protect their invasion fleet from the RN when it was docked, ie. when circumstances most favoured them. What hope did they have of protecting it at sea?
 
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Panther       9/5/2006 6:58:06 PM
"If you're referring to the loss of the Repulse & Prince of Wales you are way off base. The Brits were well aware of the need for air cover, they just didn't have it to provide. There was a carrier assigned to the taskforce, but it ran aground in the West Indies & was unable to participate."
 
 The force i had in mind was "Force Z" based in Singapore. According to this link it was a strong, yet unbalanced task force: http://www.odyssey.dircon.co.uk/Morison.htm ;
 
To have had the aircraft carrier for air-cover might have saved the Repulse & Prince of Wales from destruction, without the said aircover, their destruction was virtually garunteed! Still it took courage and bravery to do what they did, in light of the circumstances under which they sailed.
 
Yes, given the battle of Britain a little over a year before this, i think the British leadership well realized the risk that this was going to take, but felt the perstige of her empire required some show of force in area, especially in reassuring the Australian government of British commitment in the region! The effect of the outcome of this in The Pacific and Indian ocean saw to it that the British wouldn't return in any sizeable naval force or strength til' late 44'-45' and definitely with air-cover this time. By then, the Japanese navy, primarily aircraft carriers, was virtually non-existant. It's navy, a shell of it's former self... Japan was exposed to American aircraft (Especially Bombers), who could fly anywhere over Japan at will & do to Japan what the Germans had in mind for the British isle's, IMHO!
 
 "The other point where the comparison breaks down is the opposition. In this instance the RN faced the best naval airforce in the world at the height of its powers. The Japanese had trained for years to get up the skill required to sink ships under steam & had the right planes & equipment to do it. What is more, given the woeful preparedness of the US at Pearl & the Phillippines, and the even more woeful state of British airpower in the Far East (Brewster Buffaloes anyone?), the Japanese were practically at peak strength. The Luftwaffe didn't have the trained pilots for naval warfare, torpedo bombers or air launched torpedoes. Further, the only aircraft they had that were really up to the task (Stukas) were required to support the artilleryless troops on the beaches. There would have been RN losses, but faced with invasion, they would have been considered acceptable."
 
That is a very good point, well done! As Japan had the best in naval aircrafts & trained aviators at the onset of war in the Pacific, the Germans were considered to have had the best airforce in europe at that time. Even without experience in aircraft carriers operations, the fall of France made the threat of an invasion of Britain a very real possibilty (The narrowness of the channel at some places meant the Germans spent as little as minutes over water til' they reached land), with aircover supplied by land based German fighters and bombers based primarily in France and the low countries, which served as unsinkable aircraft carriers. Furthermore.... In regards to the Stukas, most Japanese Naval ships were sunk or wrecked by American dive bombers & a little later American Submarines; With a little proper training of Stuka pilots at hitting moving targets at sea & the strengthening of it's airframe against the heavier calibre of munitions it would've found itself going up against in anti-aircraft guns from sea based ships, could have been enough too force the RN to move the Bulk of her channel fleet to safer area's away from the dive bombers, til' it was vitally necessary too engage any actual invasion attempt; Also, in regards to torpedos... with American torpedo bombers not having as great of an effect on the Japanese Naval units through out most of the war in the Pacific, the dive bombers were proven too be extremely more effective against heavily armored ships. Sure most of the reason was due to a design flaw's with the torpedo itself and not the training of the individual American torpedo pilots themseleves. The Stuka would have been found too be ideal in the task that American dive bombers found themseleves in in the Pacific.
 
 Therefore... The defeat of fighter command in the air, in my opinion, could have opened the way to constant and unmolested German figther & bomber penetration within the British Ilse and particulary the south of Britain, while not neglecting in destroying any British capital ships as they came upon them, with terror attacks on civillian cities at the sole discretion of Hitler, in a prelude
 
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