Luftwaffe vs RAF

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the Luftwaffe air units and general discussions on the Luftwaffe.
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Imad
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Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Imad » 18 Oct 2011 17:50

Hello

Certain historians are wont to cite casualty figures from the Battle of Britain and France 1940 in order to draw a comparison between the qualities of British and German pilots. In most of these battles it does seem that the Germans lost rather heavily in comparison with their foes, but one thing these statistics do not clarify is how many of the shot down Luftwaffe aircraft are bombers and how many are fighters.
Granted German bombers were not totally defenceless but I think it would be safe to say most of the execution of British planes was done by German fighters in that conflict, not bombers. I think it would be fairer to draw a comparison between British and German fighter pilots by comparing RAF/Luftwaffe fighter losses in aerial combat in those battles.
What are everyone's thoughts on this issue?

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby phylo_roadking » 18 Oct 2011 18:03

Imad - pick up a copy of Patrick Bishop's Battle of Britain:Day-By-Day Chronology. There you can trace the evolution of the 1940 air battle...

And you'll see some stange things; specifically, that the RAF didn't actually do so well for a number of reasons in the first part of the battle. A combination of outmoded tactics, fighters based too close to the coast (no time to gain an altitude advantage), being jumped by free-hunting LW fighters, and sheer mistakes - such as intruding (fatally) into the box formation of Dorniers on two occasions when they'd been ordered not to...meant that in the early weeks of the air battle - July and the first part of August - the LW comes out ahead of the RAF!
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Imad » 18 Oct 2011 18:38

@ Phylo: Aha! Sounds like what I'm looking for. Good stuff. I knew you'd be one of the first to come up with something :)

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby phylo_roadking » 18 Oct 2011 18:54

If you pick up John Ray's BoB :New Perspectives, or anything by Price - tho' they're brilliant, they start with the premise of the victory and then discuss how it came about, so to speak. A chronology of events lets you spot trends far better...
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Panzerkampfwagen
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Panzerkampfwagen » 16 Nov 2011 14:32

Richard Overy's "Battle of Britain" will give you exactly what you are looking for. It is a small, yet concise book that tends to squash the "myths" of the "Battle of Britain".

Since, i do not have the book with me now, i cannot recollect the exact figures. But most of the time, i can recollect that the Germans had more total losses than the RAF Fighters, but in Fighter Vs Fighter numbers, the Luftwaffe's losses were lesser.

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Imad
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Imad » 17 Nov 2011 00:16

Thanks. I'll look that one up too. I only read one of Overy's books - on the Eastern front - and wasn't too impressed. I'll check out this one anyway.

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Beau sabreur » 21 Nov 2011 23:29

I don't remember/know the figures of bombers/fighter planes shot down on both sides. However there are two issues that should be taken into account to gauge "traditional" reasults:

1) I don't think the LW fighter planes had much time to engage in long dogfights and have enough fuel to get back to Germany.

2) German fighter plane aces counted their victiories in the dozens and even hundreds....and those allied fighter planes shot down were russian AND british/americans. If memory serves, there was only one allied ace who had about 30-31 german planes shot down........

Considering the above facts, it would be exceedingly interesting to read some honest, real analysis of the Battle of Britain beyond what you traditional find, conventional wisdom type of publications..
Cheers!

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Panzerkampfwagen » 22 Nov 2011 04:30

" I don't think the LW fighter planes had much time to engage in long dogfights and have enough fuel to get back to Germany."

This is largely true only for the single engined fighter Bf109.

"German fighter plane aces counted their victiories in the dozens and even hundreds....and those allied fighter planes shot down were russian AND british/americans. If memory serves, there was only one allied ace who had about 30-31 german planes shot down"

This is because Allied Pilots had a rotational system of pilots, where as the German Luftwaffe Pilots had a "fly until you die", approach.

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Panzerkampfwagen
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Panzerkampfwagen » 22 Nov 2011 04:31

" I don't think the LW fighter planes had much time to engage in long dogfights and have enough fuel to get back to Germany."

This is largely true only for the single engined fighter Bf109.

"German fighter plane aces counted their victiories in the dozens and even hundreds....and those allied fighter planes shot down were russian AND british/americans. If memory serves, there was only one allied ace who had about 30-31 german planes shot down"

This is because Allied Pilots had a rotational system of pilots, where as the German Luftwaffe Pilots had a "fly until you die", approach.

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Sid Guttridge » 22 Nov 2011 16:34

Hi Imad,

Comparison of casualty figures doesn't necessarily tell us who was best.

If I remember rightly, the Luftwaffe lost slightly less single engined fighters than the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

However, the main aim of the British fighters was to get through to the German bombers, whereas the main task of German fighters was to prevent them. This gave the German fighters some advantage in the accumulation of purely fighter v. fighter scores, because engaging enemy fighters was only a secondary British fighter task, whereas engaging enemy fighters was the primary German fighter task.

Generally, it would be rather surprising if most experienced Germans (victory in Spain, Poland, Scandinasvia, Low Countries, France) weren't a bit better than their generally less experienced RAF opponents (defeat in France). Where they lost out was in the terms of battle. These were generally disadvantageous to the Luftwaffe, particularly because almost all combat took place over Britain. As a result, most downed British aircrew were recovered, but vitually all downed German aircrew were captured.

Thus, although slightly more British single engined fighters were lost than German, I would bet that more German single engined fighter pilots wrere lost than Britons. What is more, the German losses were more serious, because they generally consisted of more experienced pilots than their British opposite numbers.

I would suggest that by the end of the battle, the difference in quality between the RAF and the Luftwaffe was somewhat less than it had been at the beginning, which was bad news for the Luftwaffe that could not be quantified merely in terms of aircraft lost.

However, if one looks at British fighter losses over France on "Rhubarbs" in the following years, it is seems clear that German fighter pilots still held a qualitative advantage in 1941-42.

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby phylo_roadking » 22 Nov 2011 17:46

However, the main aim of the British fighters was to get through to the German bombers, whereas the main task of German fighters was to prevent them. This gave the German fighters some advantage in the accumulation of purely fighter v. fighter scores, because engaging enemy fighters was only a secondary British fighter task, whereas engaging enemy fighters was the primary German fighter task.


Sid - eventually; in the Kanalkampf and the first couple of weeks of the BoB, the LW fighter units held rigidly (and gave up with bad grace) their strategy of "free hunting" - LW fighter pilots believed they weren't there to escort/protect bombers, they flew much more loosely along with bomber formations, to engage and attrit RAF fighters that were brought up by the incoming LW formations I.E. in a separate air battle. The concept and intent was that they fough a fighter-to-fighter battle without being tied down by the speed and manouvering limits of close escort...while the bombers' close formations provided themselves with protection. Eventually however, increasing bomber losses forced the order be given for close escort - but it took the LW some time to shake off the idea that the bomber would always get through, and continued flying escortless raids for some weeks, as they had done in Poland and France as well as escorted ones.

And the tactic never fully went away anyway; ErprobungsKommando 210 kept up its Bf110 snap bombing raids throughout the daylight campaign, and low-level sneak Dornier raids on RAF airfields remained a problem into mid-September.

Generally, it would be rather surprising if most experienced Germans (victory in Spain, Poland, Scandinasvia, Low Countries, France) weren't a bit better than their generally less experienced RAF opponents (defeat in France). Where they lost out was in the terms of battle. These were generally disadvantageous to the Luftwaffe, particularly because almost all combat took place over Britain. As a result, most downed British aircrew were recovered, but vitually all downed German aircrew were captured.


See Bishop; I too was suprised by the number times in the first weeks of the BoB that the LW engaged the RAF on terms that were anything but advantageous for the defenders...with the LW flying larger numbers of fighters than tasked against them, and remarkably often with a height advantage.

The survivability rates and return-to-combat rates of downed aircrew was indeed a strategic advantage for the RAF - but not a combat/tactical advantage as such. Not as long as they kept getting tasked against raids without enough time to get to altitude, or against superior numbers of fighters.

Qualitatively - no skill or aircraft advantage was ever going to make up for being tasked from the coastal dispersal fields without time to get a height advantage on the incoming LW, or one or two flights being sent up against twice the number of LW fighters 8O

What is more, the German losses were more serious, because they generally consisted of more experienced pilots than their British opposite numbers


This was discussed a few weeks back on another forum; Fighter Command was as you know in a parlous state for pilot replacements by the time the LW turned on London...whereas the LW had a reserve of up to 10,000 trained aircrew if needed. The RAF was combing out Coastal Command, and the OTUs, for pilots who could convert to fighters as well as making the foreign-piloted squadrons active - but there was still due to be a considerable hole until the first large shipments of aircrew from the Empire Flying Schools arrived; on the other side, if necessary the LW had Stumpff's Luftflotte 5 sitting virtually redundant in Scandanavia as far as the conduct of the BoB went after "Black Thursday", the 15th of August.

1) I don't think the LW fighter planes had much time to engage in long dogfights and have enough fuel to get back to Germany.


Beau -

1/ ten minutes at full war power over London...when 109s only carried 18-20 seconds'-worth of ammunition? :wink:

2/ they weren't flying from fields in Germany; the furthest-away they flew was from Brest/Dinan/Rennes/Laval in IV and VII Fliergekorps in Brittany and Normandy... and the furthest East was Coquelles/Guines/St Omer in Belgium.
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 23 Nov 2011 00:00, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby ljadw » 22 Nov 2011 22:07

For the moment,Coquelles,Gunes,St Omer are still in France

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby phylo_roadking » 22 Nov 2011 22:17

Quite right about St Omer...tho' Bishop's map on P51 of his Chronology places Coquelles on the Belgian side of the frontier, and the symbol for Guines astride it.

But the important point is that none of the LW's fields as used by Luftflotte 2 or 3 during the BoB were in Germany; the closest to Germany were Luftflotte 2 bombers flying from Eindhoven.
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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Sid Guttridge » 23 Nov 2011 11:53

Hi Phylo,

I was surprised to read that the Germans had a reserve of 10,000 trained aircrew during the Battle of Britain.

They must have accumulated them very fast, because two years before, at the time of the Munich Crisis, their air units were experiencing some aircrew shortages due to the rapid rate of the Luftwaffe's expansion.

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Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Urmel » 23 Nov 2011 12:10

phylo_roadking wrote:
Eventually however, increasing bomber losses forced the order be given for close escort - but it took the LW some time to shake off the idea that the bomber would always get through, and continued flying escortless raids for some weeks, as they had done in Poland and France as well as escorted ones.


Interestingly in North Africa, they often used a combined escort tactic. The less well performing Italian fighters Fiat G.50 and Macchi 200 (and sometimes the Fiat CR 42) as close escort, and the high-performance 109s and Macchi 202s as distant escort. That seems to have worked for them most of the time, at least until early 42.
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