Luftwaffe vs RAF

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the Luftwaffe air units and general discussions on the Luftwaffe.
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Joined: 03 Aug 2015 10:06
Location: London

Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby ivanlazic » 07 Aug 2015 09:46

Thank you for your responses, all - they've been very helpful. I'll pass the information onto my producers for consideration - we have indeed been looking at Bomber Command as another story so hopefully we can do something on that.

I take your other comments on board. At this stage the films and specific topics haven't been finalised, but we are also thinking of looking at other planes too. Just to be clear, our programme isn't *just* about the Spitfire! That would be really one-sided. But I'll be honest, there is a section which will focus on it.

sitalkes (and anyone else for that matter) - I don't suppose you have John Vasco's contact details? It would be great to speak to him further.

Thanks again - this is all much appreciated.

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Joined: 06 Dec 2016 12:31
Location: GB

Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Rescue193 » 06 Dec 2016 18:02

The point about the loss ratios between RAF vs Luftwaffe and fighter vs fighter in the BoB is interesting.

Obviously the RAF's primary goal was to prevent the bombers from reaching their targets (and the best way to do that was to shoot them down) and/or break-up their formations to disrupt and reduce the effectiveness of any particular raid. The Hurricanes (which formed the bulk of RAF Fighter Command and 11 Group assets anyway) tended to be tasked with intercepting the bombers. The effort devoted to counter the fighters covering the bombers was of secondary importance and tended, certainly in the later stages of the battle, to be handed to Spitfires which could meet the BF109s on more-or-less equal terms, although the Bf109s were generally able to engage with tactical advantage of height and speed.

At the risk of making a few sweeping generalisations German fighter pilots tended to have more hours on type, more combat experience, were better shots and German tactics were, until later on in the battle and the RAF began to catch-up, far superior. The relative merits of the Spit and the 109 have been much discussed and my gut feeling about it is that, probably, it was the relative skills, abilities and experience of the pilots in the cockpits that was more likely to decide the outcome of an engagement rather than performance the aeroplanes they were flying.

I remember, from many years ago, hearing an RAeS Historical Branch lecture where the speaker analysed, compared and contrasted, the 'weight of broadside' - i.e. the amount of lead it could throw at a target - of a Mk1A Spit vs the Bf109E. Surprisingly (at least to me) they were virtually the same but the telling point was that the 'broadside' of the 109 was much more concentrated. In other words, a Spitfire might hit a Messerschmitt but escape but if the Messerschmitt hit a Spitfire the latter was more likely to be shot down. I throw that in to the pot just to let it simmer and see what thoughts and reactions it might provoke.

The other point in the debate that I think might be relevant is that, whereas the RAF had both bombers and fighters to shoot at, apart from the odd Defiant or Blenheim unlucky enough to wander into an engagement, the Luftwaffe (bombers and fighters) were only shooting at fighters and that must have some bearing on the numbers shot down.

(Oh! Are Me110 losses counted as downed fighters?)

Dupplin Muir
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Joined: 18 Jun 2010 13:13

Re: Luftwaffe vs RAF

Postby Dupplin Muir » 28 Dec 2016 16:48

One problem with comparing losses between different air-forces is that they used different conventions. In the Luftwaffe (and the USAAF and USN) the attitude was 'We will assume all missing aircraft were lost to flak or non-combat causes, unless we have good reason to believe otherwise'. In the RAF, by contrast, the approach was 'We will assume all missing aircraft were lost in air combat unless we have good reason to believe otherwise'. This naturally led to the Germans seriously understating losses to enemy fighters, and the British seriously overestimating such losses. As a rule-of-thumb I usually increase German air-combat losses by 50% and reduce British losses by 25% before making such comparisons.

Secondly, research into Ultra intercepts (notably by the excellent Nick Beale) is demonstrating that the official German loss-lists are far from complete. On one occasion during the Battle of Britain, 54 Squadron clashed with JG26, claiming six 109's. The official records only include two losses, but intercepts show that the Germans lost at least four fighters, and possibly the whole six. Similarly, on Adlertag, the official records claim that I/KG54 lost two Ju88's and II/KG54 another two - but Ultra shows that actually I/KG54 lost four aircraft and II/KG54 lost three. Some people set up a strawman by claiming that the Germans could not under-report losses because they wouldn't get replacements, but this is assuming that the Luftwaffe used the same system as the RAF. In reality, the system for reporting losses in the Luftwaffe, and the system for obtaining replacements had become 'decoupled' and units could obtain new aircraft without having to detail losses. Indeed, in another Ultra intercept, JG2 were rebuked for doing precisely this.

Lastly, Polish pilots tended to overclaim more than their RAF colleagues. One Polish historian showed that the Polish squadron which was allegedly the top-scoring unit during the BoB would drop to eighth place, even if you assumed that they had shot down every aircraft they might have shot down. The problem is that people get fixated on one thing and don't want to share credit - Don Caldwell did much the same with JG26: assuming all claims by 'his' unit were accurate and all the over-claiming was being done by other units.

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