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What was the main reason..........

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

What was the main reason..........

Postby Sgt.Steiner on 25 Aug 2005 20:30

why the Luftwaffe lost the battle of Britain? They were much more superior and had good pilots. Was it the men or the commanders?
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B-o-B

Postby SES on 25 Aug 2005 21:17

Hi,
What a short, but precise question, which could start an avalance. Let me start a snowball.

ULTRA: RAF Intel was reading the Air tasking Order to the Luftflotten. Fighter Command knew when they were comming, in what numbers against what targets.

Radar: Enabled tracking of enemy raids and intercept control.

The SOCs: Key nodes in the fighter control system.

Morale: The entire UK nation was fighting with the back to the wall, incredible sacrifices were made by the civilan population and the military.

Poor Luftwaffe intelligence: Lack of understanding of the importance of the SOCs, underestimating the RAF, overclaiming which led to incorrect assessment of RAF strength.

Inappropriate targeting: The attacks on the radarstations were abandoned far too early. Lack of understanding of the importance of the SOC resulted in that they were never specifically targeted. When they were hit, it was collateral damage, because they were situated on the major airfields.

A switch to Counter Population bombing in the (forlorne) hope of erroding civilian morale. This diverted the effort away from more profitable targets.

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Postby iwh on 25 Aug 2005 22:18

Use of fighters....Told to protect the bombers rather than staying high and bouncing the RAF fighters.

Lack of fighter time over the target area. ME109s had short flight time over English airspace.

to add but 2 more to the list.
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Postby JonS on 25 Aug 2005 23:28

Lack of depth of resources. It was a battle of attrition - the RAF knew it, and prepared for it. The GAF didn't, so didn't.

OTOH, Huck'll probably be along shortly to tell you - in no uncertain terms - that the GAF actually won the BoB :lol: :roll:
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Postby SES on 26 Aug 2005 06:16

Hi JonS,
Could well be so, I'm eagerly looking fwd to the arguments. :wink:
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Postby Hop on 26 Aug 2005 13:57

ULTRA: RAF Intel was reading the Air tasking Order to the Luftflotten. Fighter Command knew when they were comming, in what numbers against what targets.


Ultra was of little use during the BoB. For a start, many Luftwaffe messages were going by telephone lines, so weren't intercepted. And of those that were intercepted, most wouldn't have been decoded in time to provide advanced warning of a raid.

Dowding, head of Fighter Command, wasn't informed about Ultra until mid October 1940, the daylight battle is generally considered to have ended by the end of October, and had already been decided long before October began. Without being informed about Ultra, Dowding would not have access to Ultra decrypts, so could not have known in advance of raids.

The historical records back that up, as well.

On the 15th August the Luftwaffe launched their first (and last) daylight raids against the north of England. That area was covered by 13 Group of Fighter Command. The raids were detected well out to sea, and the Luftwaffe losses were so high they didn't try raiding the north in daylight again. But the commander of 13 Group, Air Vice Marshall Richard Saul, was on leave on 15th August, and didn't direct the battle personally. It's inconcievable that if the RAF had advanced warning of the raid he wouldn't have been there for the first combat his group had seen.

On 7th September the Luftwaffe made their big change in tactics and attacked London in daylight. Keith Park, commander 11 Group (the group covering SE England that did most of the fighting) was at a scheduled meeting with Dowding on 7th September. Again, it's inconcievable that Park would have been away from his command for such a major change, if it had been known in advance.

Use of fighters....Told to protect the bombers rather than staying high and bouncing the RAF fighters.


This is a myth, I'm afraid.

It wasn't until the battle was all but over that the Luftwaffe tied it's fighters more closely to the bombers, although perhaps it would have been better if they had, as their losses went down once they switched to more close escort.

In fact, Goering issued the following instructions on 19th August:

In the actual conduct of operations, commanders of fighter units must be given as free a hand as possible. Only part of the fighters are to be employed as direct escorts to our bombers. The aim must be to employ the strongest possible fighter forces on free-lance operations, in which they can indirectly protect the bombers, and at the same time come to grips under favourable conditions with the enemy fighters.
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ULTRA and B-o-B.

Postby SES on 26 Aug 2005 14:37

Hi,
I.a.w. "The ULTRA Secret" by F.W Winterbotham, London 1974 ISBN 8600 7268 I special liason teams were located with both Fighter Command and 11 Group in early AUG 1940. Please see Chapter 6.

Many of the messages were transmitted by radio from the Lft. to the JG and KG. The signal for Adler Tag 13 AUG was intercepted, decoded, read and exploited on 12 AUG by FC. On 13 AUG OKL transmits a delay-message to all Luftwaffe units, but not all units receive it in time. FC does, and there is some confusion over wether or not the Germans actually are comming. :)

The alert state of the fighter squadrons and the redeployment was to a large extend based on ULTRA.

I would be happy to have the refences to "The historical records :? back that up, as well".

Here are some of mine additional sources:
http://www.afterthebattle.com/bobrit.html

http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/article-9384340

You may also care to consult: "Most Secret War" R.V. Jones, London 1978, ISBN 0 241 89746 7. Chapter 15.

I fully well know that a number of sites on www expresses a different picture, but the 2 gentlemen above were directly involved in the exploitation of ULTRA and I have no reason to believe that they are wrong in their descriptions. F.W Winterbotham has a number of precise cases where ULTRA was exploited directly in the 10 JUL - 15 SEP 1940 period.

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Postby iwh on 26 Aug 2005 20:56

Use of fighters....Told to protect the bombers rather than staying high and bouncing the RAF fighters.

This is a myth, I'm afraid.


My reference says not.

The Battle of Britain...Richard Townshend Bickers, P.70

..however by September,they had largely lost their freedom of action, being asigned to close escort of bombers, and were severely handicapped in being no longer permitted to persue the tactics best suited to the BF 109E
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Postby Milorg on 30 Aug 2005 16:27

Organization: The RAF had a fairley good Infrastructure, airfields, command(radar and so on) senters as mentioned before.
RAF was led by millitary leaders which knew theyr jobb and the jobb of others.

The Luftwaffe flew from more or less prepared fields, Litle C3(as in no help from the ground) many(not all) of the leaders where young with little experiense in managing a large fleat of aircrafts.
A overstretched support component, there also young leaders. Young go-ahead spirit not always making up for long experience.
Topp leaders also politicians, neading to guarde theyr piece of the cake.

Just my impression from several books, and i agree with most statements on this tread.

Cheers from Norway
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Postby Andreas on 30 Aug 2005 16:30

Hop - according to Neitzel Luftwaffe code could be read from May 1940. That Dowding was not informed of ULTRA does not mean that he did not get intel through it.

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Postby SES on 30 Aug 2005 16:45

and as I described SLUs were established in both FC and 11 Group in the first week of AUG 1940. Dowding and Park had direct access.
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Postby Hop on 31 Aug 2005 00:44

I.a.w. "The ULTRA Secret" by F.W Winterbotham, London 1974 ISBN 8600 7268 I special liason teams were located with both Fighter Command and 11 Group in early AUG 1940. Please see Chapter 6.


The problem with Winterbotham is that he was a man in his 70s writing about events more than 30 years earlier, almost entirely from memory. Winterbotham wrote his book before Ultra was declassified, and so had no access to official documents.

Winterbotham's description of the events surrounding the bombing of Coventry, for example, has been pretty thouroughly debunked, see for example what RV Jones has to say on the matter, and http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pag ... pageid=107

From The Battle of Britain by John Ray:
Did Dowding receive information directly from Enigma? The fallacy, based first on Group Captain Winterbotham's claim, was that a soundproof cubicle was installed at Headquarters, Fighter Command, and that the C-in-C had immediate information. According to Winterbotham, who was a senior Air Intelligence officer, both Dowding and Park benefited from a foreknowledge of German intentions, a claim supported by historians as emminent as Ronald Lewin and John Terraine. However, this record was set straight by Martin Gilbert, who showed that not until 16th October 1940 was the C-in-C added to the list of those privy to enigma.1 Hinsley states of Enigma "the deductions were of no operational value to the C-in-C of Fighter Command" and that Dowding had to depend on "his own strategic judgement" without help2

Wing Commander H Ironside, Dowding's Personal Assistant in October and November, can recollect no soundproof cubicle, although he was close to the C-in-C every day. Yet Lewin, relying on Winterbotham's failing memory, claims that Dowding received advanced warning of German attacks the north of England on 15 August. This is higher improbable. Sir Kenneth Cross, then on the staff of 12 Group, remembers that on that day, Leigh Mallory was not at his headquarters, but was visiting an aerodrome when the raids took place. It is difficult to believe that, if Dowding had received forewarning of these raids, he would not have advised his Group Commander, who then would have stayed at his headquarters. Similarly, on 7th September Park was in conference with Dowding when the first heavy daylight raids were made on London. It is unlikely that the meeting would have been held if they had known the Luftwaffe's intentions. Edward Thomas suggests that Winterbotham's fabrications stemmed from a lack of access to papers, his poor memory, as "he was over 70 years old", and the fact that "he made up a good deal"3.


1 Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill VI, His Finest Hour (I think, the credits just note Gilbert, but I believe it's the correct volume. Other sources say that Gilbert based his claim on papers released by the PRO, showing that Churchill instructed Dowding be given access to Ultra on 16th October)
2 Hinsey et al, British Intelligence in the Second World War
3 Probert & Cox, The Battle Re-thought

Hinsey's book, British Intelligence in the Second World War, is the official history of British intelligence, written just after Ultra was declassified, with full access to the archives on the matter.

Stephen Bungay, The Most Dangerous Enemy, has a fairly detailed description of the meeting between Park, Dowding, Sholto Douglass etc on 7th September, which took place only hours before the Luftwaffe launched their mass raids on London, later the same day. There is no mention of the change in Luftwaffe strategy, indeed the whole meeting was about how to continue facing a campaign Dowding believed could go on for months longer at it's current intensity, and how to cope with the damage being inflicted on airfields.

Many of the messages were transmitted by radio from the Lft. to the JG and KG. The signal for Adler Tag 13 AUG was intercepted, decoded, read and exploited on 12 AUG by FC. On 13 AUG OKL transmits a delay-message to all Luftwaffe units, but not all units receive it in time. FC does, and there is some confusion over wether or not the Germans actually are comming.


This actually highlights the problem of what would happen even if Dowding was given access to all Enigma decrypts. How could Fighter Command be better informed, given that they can't guarantee to intercept all traffic, and can't guarantee to decode all traffic in time?

Ultra was very good at informing about enemy intentions, strategic buildups, etc. It could never provide complete information to base a battle plan on. What if a particular raid wasn't mentioned?

Certainly Fighter Command seems to have been pretty vulnerable against the low level attacks of Epo 210, they never seemed to be in a position to intercept them, because they were coming in under the radar. If Ultra was giving advanced warning of their raids, FC would have made a special effort to intercept them, because they were very damaging.

The alert state of the fighter squadrons and the redeployment was to a large extend based on ULTRA.


What redeployment?

The only changes being made were the regular rotations of squadrons, with tired or depleted squadrons from the SE (mainly 11 Group) being sent north, and fresh squadrons from the north being sent south to replace them.

145 squadron, which had lost 11 pilots, was sent to Drem (Scotland, I think) , 602 squadron was sent from Drem to 11 Group to replace them. 74 squadron, which had lost 5 pilots, was sent to 12 Group at Wittering, 266 sqadron was sent from 12 Group to 11.

The only arrivals I can see between 12th and 15th August for 11 Group are:

257 squadron moved from Northolt to Debden on the 15th
266 moved from Eastchurch to Hornchurch on the 14th
602 moved from Drem to Westhampnett on the 12th

That hardly shows major redeployments in the face of the Luftwaffe launching Aldertag.

I would be happy to have the refences to "The historical records Confused back that up, as well".


That Saul and Leigh Mallory were away on the 15th August, and that Park was not in 11 Group on the 7th September?

See Bungay for a description of the meeting Park was attending on the 7th, John Ray for Leigh Mallory's abscence on the 15th. Saul is rather harder to pin down, because 13 Group played such a peripheral role in the Battle, only getting involved on 1 day, but see for example the following article by Air Vice-Marshal Sandy Hunter CBE AFC, as part of the Defence of Britain project by the Council of British Aercheology:

On 15 August 1995, I visited the Operations Room in the company of Roger Thomas of RCHME whose excellent photographs illustrate this brief account. It was strange to be standing on the very spot where, 55 years before to the minute, decisions were made which resulted in a major tactical and strategic defeat for the Luftwaffe. They also resulted in Watson-Watt's well-deserved verdict on the days work by the controllers of No 13 Group in the Kenton Bar bunker. It would be nice to record that AVM Saul was at the helm throughout the engagement, but I cannot: he was absent on leave!

http://www.britarch.ac.uk/projects/dob/ ... unker.html


(ac.uk is the British university domain space)

You may also care to consult: "Most Secret War" R.V. Jones, London 1978, ISBN 0 241 89746 7. Chapter 15.


I can't see any references there to the effectiveness of Ultra in the BoB, or to Dowding being cleared for Ultra.

I fully well know that a number of sites on www expresses a different picture, but the 2 gentlemen above were directly involved in the exploitation of ULTRA and I have no reason to believe that they are wrong in their descriptions. F.W Winterbotham has a number of precise cases where ULTRA was exploited directly in the 10 JUL - 15 SEP 1940 period.


Winterbotham has been proved wrong on several counts, it's not wise to rely on the recollections of a 70 year over the actual historical documents. If Winterbotham had access to the archives on Ultra when he wrote his book it would be much more valuable.

As to Jones, he doesn't seem to say anything on whether Fighter Command was receiving daily intelligence about Luftwaffe attacks during the BoB, although iirc his account of Coventry directly contradicts Winterbotham's.

So, Winterbotham might claim Dowding was receiving Ultra information, the historical record shows he wasn't, the recollections of his aide show he wasn't, and there don't seem to be any instances where it's possible to point to a move by Fighter Command and say they must have had advanced warning. In fact, just the opposite.

I've no doubt Ultra was providing some advance information, along with much that was delayed by a few hours, making it useless, and advanced warning of raids that were later cancelled, and never came at all, but that very ambiguity in the intelligence is probably the reason Dowding wasn't cleared for it earlier. If the information had been completely accurate and reliable, Dowding would probably have been cleared earlier.

As it was, radar provided timely and accurate information about actual raids, not planned ones that might be cancelled, postponed, brought forward, reinforced or reduced after the information had first been intercepted.

I don't think Ultra was ever an accurate enough source to fight a battle like the BoB on. If you planned your day's responses to the planned enemy raids, and they shifted the timetable at the last minute, or added extra raids, where would the defences be?

Hop - according to Neitzel Luftwaffe code could be read from May 1940. That Dowding was not informed of ULTRA does not mean that he did not get intel through it.


Oh, the codes could be read, but not always on time, and they didn't always give a complete picture, because some went via telephone, and weren't intercepted.

And if Dowding wasn't cleared for Ultra, he wouldn't have received much information from it, because very little info was passed to those who weren't cleared. As I said, it's hard to point to any actions of FC during the BoB and say they must have know about X in advance.

and as I described SLUs were established in both FC and 11 Group in the first week of AUG 1940. Dowding and Park had direct access.


This is contradicted by the evidence (as opposed to Winterbotham's memory)

It's interesting that the records show Dowding was cleared for Ultra in mid October, by which time the night raids were far more important than the daylight raids. Ultra would be far more informative for the night raids, because the Luftwaffe typically attacked only one target in strength at night during the Blitz, unlike during the BoB where there would be multiple raids against multiple targets.

If Ultra provided details of the main target for the night, it would be safe to focus the defences on it, the same would not have been true for daylight raids, where if Ultra had revealed 3 targets it might have missed 2.

To quote the official history of British Intelligence (British Intelligence in the Second World War, Hinsely etc)
From time to time it could be deduced from the Enigma decrypts that a change in
the GAF's intentions was to be expected, but the deductions were of no operational value. For one thing, there was no
knowing how widely they applied - for not all the forward GAF formations used W/T. For another, they were too vague. Thus
the decrypts made several references to "Aldertag" between 9 and 13 August, and it was obvious that some new development
must be expected, but neither GC and CS nor AI could unravel what the code word "Aldertag" stood for. For all his major
decision C-in-C Fighter Command accordingly depended on his own strategic judgement, with no direct assistance from
Enigma.


My reference says not.

The Battle of Britain...Richard Townshend Bickers, P.70

..however by September,they had largely lost their freedom of action, being asigned to close escort of bombers, and were severely handicapped in being no longer permitted to persue the tactics best suited to the BF 109E


They certainly started to change in September, due to heavy losses amongst the bomber crews. But the battle was decided by then, the RAF had built up their strength and inflicted too many losses on the Luftwaffe.

From The Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay:
Nevertheless, it was to Goering that the bomber leaders complained when he came to the Channel in early September. Having listened to their complaints, he summoned the fighter leaders, hauled them over the coals for their lack of agression and the bomber's losses and demanded that they devote more resources to close escort.


To blame this decision for close escort for the Jagdwaffe's failure, is to ignore the fact that for most of the main part of the battle, and for the whole of the decisive phase, the Luftwaffe were not tied to close escort. It's only after they'd already failed that the policy was changed, so how can the policy be to blame for the failure?
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ULTRA and BoB

Postby SES on 31 Aug 2005 07:17

We must not forget to add Sir John Slessor to the people suffering from a bad memory and false recollections. Please see attachments.
One from the foreword of The ULTRA Secret and two from R. Lewin ULTRA goes to War.
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Postby iwh on 01 Sep 2005 11:19

Hop wrote:
They certainly started to change in September, due to heavy losses amongst the bomber crews. But the battle was decided by then, the RAF had built up their strength and inflicted too many losses on the Luftwaffe.


The battle was far from over. German planes were in the process of crippling fighter command. There seemed to be no solution to the problem, until Hitler stepped in and diverted his attacks from fighter command to the attack on London. The RAF, given the respite, was able to build up its strength again within one week.


during the second half of August and the beginning of September, the RAF was bleeding very severely. It was bleeding to the extent that its ability to prevent the Luftwaffe from acheiving air superiority over SE England was slipping away.


P165...The Battle of Britain.


Hop wrote:To blame this decision for close escort for the Jagdwaffe's failure, is to ignore the fact that for most of the main part of the battle, and for the whole of the decisive phase, the Luftwaffe were not tied to close escort. It's only after they'd already failed that the policy was changed, so how can the policy be to blame for the failure?



In my opinion, German policy had not failed. The German High command in the form of Goering failed to realise how close the RAF was to collapse. Indeed, the German bomber force had lost many aircraft, but they had the numbers to lose, and Fighter command was almost on its knees. Goering made the error of pandering to his bomber pilots, rather than support his fighter pilots, and so hamstrung his fighters by linking them to the bomber support role. Linking fighter aircraft to the bombers was just one mistake that the German high command made, but it was not the main one. That mistake ocurred on September 7th when german luftwaffe started its mass attacks on London.
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Postby Topspeed on 01 Sep 2005 12:18

I recently borrowed the DVD called Battle of Britain.

The additional CD tells that the movie is accurate in all detail but it leaves out the fact that RAF command knew beforehand the Luftwaffe targets.

Possibly this is related to the Polish captured ENIGMA cypher machine in 1938.
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