Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 10 Mar 2017 20:50

I'm trying to work out a halfway plausible scenario in which the Luftwaffe gains the upper hand and the invasion is launched, but it's not easy.

The Luftwaffe had done very well in the lightning campaigns against Poland and in the West, but was not really prepared or equipped for a prolonged slugging match against a strong opponent, in the sense that there were practically no reserves of pilots and aircraft to replace losses, and the supply of new planes and new pilots was rather limited. At the time, training a LW fighter pilot took 13 months (20 months for bomber pilots), meaning that new pilots joining the Jagdgeschwader in Aug./Sept. 1940 were from the peacetime contingents that had started training before the war.

Furthermore, the LW did not really have a coherent strategy for this campaign. The Germans tried first this, then that - attacks on shipping in the Channel, attacks on radar stations, fighter sweeps over south-east England (Freie Jagd), then attacks on airfields and aircraft factories - and when none of it produced the expected results, they tried something else again.

As Kesselring later admitted, destroying the RAF was not practically possible because nine-tenths of the British Isles and most of the RAF airfields were beyond the effective range of the Bf 109, so Fighter Command always had the option of refusing battle and withdrawing to regroup and await more favourable conditions.

The LW was also hamstrung by poor intelligence, both at the top in Berlin where colonel Josef "Beppo" Schmid consistently underestimated RAF strength, and locally at Luftflotte level. Richard Hough and Denis Richards note in “The Battle of Britain” (1989, p. 214-215) that by August the Luftwaffe had found that the cost in men and machines of low-level reconnaissance was too high. From 10 July to 12 August, RAF fighters are known to have shot down 13 recon aircraft and damaged another four, mostly Do 17 it seems. Five more were lost to unknown causes. The LW then switched to using Ju 86P with special supercharged engines and pressurised cabins, which could not be intercepted (until special high-altitude Spitfires became available later in the war):

“On the other hand, at these altitudes, even superb German optical equipment was unable to reveal detail with any accuracy; and that was the reason why Sperrle’s Luftflotte 3 had been informed by intelligence that the Coastal Command airfield at Thorney Island, and the naval air stations at Ford and Gosport, were important front-line Fighter Command airfields: the parked aircraft appeared to confirm it.”

From mid-August to mid-September the Luftwaffe carried out 67 attacks against airfields, but 27 of these attacks, about 40%, were against stations that were not Fighter Command airfields.
On 12 August German photographic reconnaissance identified 18 Spitfires at Gosport when in fact there were none. Similarly, 16 Hurricanes were mistakenly spotted at Thorney Island and 10 Spitfires at Ford when neither airfield had any single-engine fighters (Prior, p. 215). The attacks based on such faulty intelligence were largely a wasted effort. The attack on Ford (HMS Peregrine, used by training units of the Fleet Air Arm) by StG 77 on 18 Aug. destroyed, besides a few Albacores and Swordfishes, five obsolete Blackburn Shark torpedo bombers and damaged about ten more, which may have slowed down the training program of the FAA a bit but did not seriously degrade the air defences of Britain.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 18 Mar 2017 11:50

Just came across an impressive multi-volume work, Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945, by Jochen Prien et al., sadly not in print. Volumes 4/I and 4/II concern the action on the Channel front and over Britain from 26 June 1940 to 21 June 1941, and contain a wealth of data from official German reports, including the actual strength of all Geschwader and Gruppen on various days.

Establishment strength (Sollstärke) of a Jagdgeschwader at that time was 4 planes in the Stabsschwarm and 39 in each of the three Gruppen (3 HQ plus 12 per Staffel), with the same number of pilots, making 121 in all.

(for comparison, a RAF Hurricane or Spitfire squadron at full strength had 18 planes and 26 pilots, and was expected to put 12 planes into the air when scrambled)

JG 2 “Richthofen” for example reported its plane strength on 24 August as 4 + 32 + 31 + 29 = 96, of which serviceable: 4 + 29 + 25 + 25 = 83.
By the 28th of September, plane strength was 4 + 36 + 32 + 26 = 98, of which serviceable: 3 + 29 + 22 + 11 = 65. I have found no particular explanation for the low serviceability rate of the IIIrd Gruppe; perhaps several aircraft had their worn engines replaced on the same day.

In general, by the end of September the shortage of pilots was becoming a bigger problem for the Luftwaffe than the shortage of aircraft, although JG 2 was still in reasonably good shape by 28 Sept. : 4 + 39 + 36 + 41 = 120 pilots, of which however only 81 were listed as operational (einsatzbereit). It may be that there were many new replacements who needed additional instruction before they could be sent on combat missions.

Other JG had fewer operational pilots on that same date: JG 3 had 67, JG 26 had 71, JG 27 had 64. These numbers explain why Osterkamp (see previous post) put the strength of a JG at 75 for his calculations concerning air cover over the invasion beaches.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 18 Mar 2017 12:04

A (fragment of) a map from Vol. 4/I of the abovementioned work, a bit overloaded with info perhaps but it shows how by the end of August not just the Stukas of Fliegerkorps VIII but (almost) all the fighter units as well had been assigned to Luftflotte 2 and moved closer to the Pas de Calais area.

It also shows how limited the (practical) range of the Bf 109 was.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 20 Mar 2017 11:24

Robin Prior's When Britain Saved the West (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0300166621/ ... _dp_review ) is a useful account of the period. However I came across a statement which perhaps bears correction, as it is fairly central to the author's analysis of the Battle of Britain, namely on page 234: "If we examine those days during the battle when the Germans managed to fly over 1,000 sorties, we find they only amounted to eight days out of 113 - on 13, 14, 15, 16, 30 August and 7, 8, 30 September." As appears from the accompanying table from the abovementioned Volume 4/I of Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945, those were the days (more or less ...) when the number of fighter sorties exceeded 1,000; taking bombers and fighters together, the number of sorties was over 1,000 on nine days in August, nine days in Sept. and four days in October by my count. That being said, I still have to agree with the author's conclusion that the Luftwaffe was just to small to accomplish the tasks it had been set.

This table is really interesting; the first column shows the number of sorties or combat missions flown by fighters (Bf 109 and Bf 110), the second the bomber sorties by day and the third the bomber sorties by night. The next two column are the British estimates of LW sorties by day and by night. The next columns show the number of sorties flown by Fighter Command by day, the number of aircraft that made contact with the enemy (Feindberührung), and finally the number of sorties flown by night.

In the popular imagination, and in a fair number of books and movies, the pilots of FC took off day after day during a long unbroken string of glorious summer days to do battle against overwhelming odds. While that certainly happened on a number of occasions, this table shows that there were also many days when FC flew (almost) as many sorties as the Luftwaffe, and also that on many days there was relatively little activity due to bad weather. It also shows how after the big air battle on 15 Sept. (BoB day) the emphasis shifted to night bombing and that during the day bombers flew with very strong escorts, up to five fighters per bomber, as per Göring's orders.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 25 Mar 2017 11:35

According to the above table, on the 22nd of September the Luftwaffe flew 44 (fighters) plus 43 (bombers by day) plus 143 (bombers by night) combat missions, makes 230.
Fighter Command flew 158 by day plus 45 by night. Comparison with the report on RAF activity on the previous page shows that on this day the British sent almost as many bombers across as the Germans: not much activity during the day, but at night Coastal Command sent 26 aircraft to bomb and lay mines, while Bomber Command sent 14 Whitleys all the way to Berlin and Dresden while 96 Wellingtons, Blenheims and Hampdens attacked Channel ports.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 25 Mar 2017 21:46

As noted in my initial post, the RAF showed little inclination to make use of the newly arrived American planes, even those that had been fitted with British instruments and guns, but otherwise all kinds of expedients were tried. About two dozen Miles Master advanced trainers were converted to M.24 Master Fighters by installing six .303 MGs in the wings. Maximum speed (Mk I version) was 229 mph (368 km/h) at 14,500 ft and 195 mph at sea level, not so impressive compared with “real” fighters.

The RAF had a number of 37 mm Coventry Ordnance Works (C.O.W.) guns in store, which had been developed towards the end of WWI. This gun weighed about 90 kgs and fired 1.5 lbs (0.68 kg.) shells from a five- or ten round hopper at a cyclic rate of 60 rpm, and had been installed experimentally on a variety of bombers, flying boats and even single-seat fighters, but had never been officially adopted. Portal helpfully suggested that these could be fitted to obsolete bombers such as the Vickers Virginia or Boulton Paul Overstrand. These bombers would then be fitted with as much armour as they could lift and fly at treetop level to hunt down German tanks (Baughen, The RAF in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, p. 161). When it was found that only three Virginias and six Overstrands were in flyable condition, and that the 10,000 rounds of ammo in store were old and possibly unsafe to use, the idea was abandoned again, and the sixty or so guns were fitted to armoured trucks, so-called Armadillos, to defend RAF bases against ground attack.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 25 Mar 2017 21:50

In case of invasion, the RAF aircraft of reserve and training units would be sent into battle in stages, a plan known as “Operation Banquet”. The first stage would be the absorption of as many as possible of the 600 or so (688 according to Philson’s OOB for the RAF as of 30 Sept., excl. communication flights) Whitleys, Wellingtons, Hampdens, Blenheims, Battles, Ansons and ancient Herefords of No. 6 and No. 7 Bomber (Training) Groups, flown by instructors and students, into the operational striking force (Groups Nos. 1 to 5) of Bomber Command. It is of course likely that many of those aircraft would lack defensive armament and other essential equipment. The idea was that one or two flights would be attached to each operational squadron, and more later on to replace losses.

Next, the same would happen to the 150 or so Lysanders of No. 22 Group, that is those that were not already carrying out tactical reconnaissance and close support for the ground forces.

If the situation required it, the next stages would be “Banquet Training” and “Banquet Alert” when aircraft of Training Command and training units of the Fleet Air Arm, manned by instructors as well as those students who had reached "a reasonably satisfactory standard of training”, would be thrown into the fray. This would include many obsolete aircraft such as Hawker Hinds.

Finally, as a last desperate measure - “Banquet Light” – some 350 Tiger Moths and other light aircraft of the Elementary Flight Training Schools, flown by student pilots and fitted with racks for eight 20lb bombs, would take off to meet their fate.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby JAG13 » 26 Mar 2017 06:37

Knouterer wrote:I'm trying to work out a halfway plausible scenario in which the Luftwaffe gains the upper hand and the invasion is launched, but it's not easy.



You would have to get rid of Göring and Jeschonek, to clear the production and training fuck ups, then use the high fighter losses in Poland to stress the need for a further increase in fighter production so there are new aircraft and at least the hope of more pilots come Sep 1940.

Put some cameras on Bf 110s to improve recce and avoid targeting mistakes.

Very good info, keep up the good work.

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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 01 Apr 2017 12:44

JAG13 wrote: Very good info, keep up the good work.


My pleasure :milwink:

To continue the numbers game regarding the strength and reinforcements of the Luftwaffe fighter units: production numbers per month as often quoted in various works can be misleading, because it should not be assumed that all Bf 109 fighters leaving the factory in August 1940 (for example) were with frontline units by the end of next month. After an airplane left the factory, there was a prolonged period of testing, and before final acceptance by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium it was often sent back to the factory for corrections, sometimes more than once. Vajda & Dancey, German Aircraft Industry and Production 1939-1945, quote the example of the Do 217; production of this type officially ceased in September 1943, but the last ones were delivered to the Luftwaffe in May 1944 (p. 134).

Production of the Bf 109 was 230 in June, 180 in July and 220 in August (according to Vajda & Dancey, p. 145).
The abovementioned Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945 (Vol. 4/II) has tables showing the actual allocation (Zuweisung) of fighters (Bf 109) per month:

– In July, the combat units of the LW received 159 single-seat fighters (Bf 109E) Of these, 91 went to Luftflotte 2, 35 to Luftflotte 3, 1 to ErPro 210, and 32 (including 30 E7 fighter bombers) to II.(S)/LG 2, which latter unit, as mentioned above, was in the process of converting from Hs 123 ground attack aircraft.
– In August, 238 single-seat fighters were allocated. Of these, 3 went to Luftflotte 1, 169 went to Luftflotte 2, 51 to Luftflotte 3, 6 to III./JG 26, and 9 (E7) to II.(S)/LG 2.
– In September, the number was 337 (including one Curtiss Hawk): 14 to Luftflotte 1, 274 to Luftflotte 2, 30 to Luftflotte 3, 8 to III./JG 26, and 11 to Erg.(S)/JGr.

The increases in August and September are it seems in part attributable to factory-repaired/rebuilt aircraft rather than new production. Indeed the total delivered went down again to 239 in October, 139 in November and 130 in December, reflecting the fact that aircraft lost over England and the Channel could not be recovered and either repaired or cannibalized, although new production also went down during the latter part of the year.

Different sources and authors give (slightly) different numbers, but it is clear enough that the general development of the situation was not in favour of the German fighter units: their strength dwindled continuously, many Gruppen received no new aircraft or pilots for weeks on end even as losses mounted. By the end of September, Britain was producing twice as many fighter planes per month as Germany and FC also had twice as many operational fighter pilots (around 1,500) as the Luftwaffe.

And there was no improvement in sight. Taking the 30th of September, a day with good flying weather and much activity, as an example: 28 Bf 109 were lost and 7 damaged, of which 4 had to be written off (over 60% damage). One damaged Bf 110 was also written off. Bomber losses were 12 plus 12 damaged, of which three >60%. British fighter losses on that day were 17 Hurricanes, 3 Spitfires and 1 Blenheim lost, plus 14 Hurricanes and 6 Spitfires “wrecked beyond the unit capacity to repair”. Other aircraft lost included 1 Albacore, 1 Hudson, 2 Blenheims, 1 Hampden (crashed on return, crew safe), 3 Wellingtons and 2 Whitleys. Taken together, losses were about equal, meaning that the Luftwaffe was still getting no nearer to achieving air superiority, rather the contrary.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 01 Apr 2017 13:08

Bomber strength and production were more or less comparable; Germany produced in July-Dec. 1940 360 He 111, 1211 Ju 88, 105 Do 17, 15 Do 217 and 465 Ju 87.

Bomber deliveries to the RAF in that same time span: 663 Wellingtons, 206 Whitleys, 252 Hampdens, 913 Blenheims, 174 Battles (mostly fitted as trainers or target towers by this time), 11 Stirlings, 22 Manchesters and 6 Halifaxes, plus some two hundred American aircraft (Bostons, Marylands, Nomads) which the RAF had no immediate use for.
Other aircraft with an offensive capability delivered in the second half of 1940 included 138 Albacores, 134 Beauforts, 140 Fulmars, 99 Hudsons and 384 Lysanders.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 04 Apr 2017 09:36

Knouterer wrote: As Kesselring later admitted, destroying the RAF was not practically possible because nine-tenths of the British Isles and most of the RAF airfields were beyond the effective range of the Bf 109, so Fighter Command always had the option of refusing battle and withdrawing to regroup and await more favourable conditions.


This little map illustrates the difficulties the Luftwaffe faced in defeating the RAF. It shows the Groups of Fighter Command as of 30 Sept.; 9 Group had been formed recently, by splitting the territory of 12 Group, and had only two squadrons under command, No. 308 (Polish) and No. 312 (Czech), both still “working up”, to borrow a naval term. 14 Group had likewise been split off from 13 Group, taking two squadrons with it: Nos. 145 and 232 (both Hurricanes).

As the map also shows, Dowding had the possibility to rotate battered squadrons from the battle zone to quieter sectors for a week or so of rest and recuperation – which he did to some extent - while the German fighters remained continuously in the front line.

The blue circles indicate, roughly, where the airfields of the five operational groups of Bomber Command were. Clearly, when (most of) the sites were chosen, the expectation was that the bombers would be flying east, not south, towards their targets. BC strength as of 30 Sept. 1940 (according to Philson's OOB):

No. 1 Group: 107 Fairey Battles (86 serviceable) – bases in south Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire
No. 2 Group: 245 (207) Blenheim IV – Norfolk area (except No 21 Squadron at Lossiemouth in Scotland),
No. 3 Group: 149 (128) Wellingtons – Cambridge and Huntingdon area
No. 4 Group: 108 (72) Whitleys and 5 (1) Stirlings– Yorkshire
No. 5 Group: 125 (101) Hampdens – south Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire

Makes 595 serviceable aircraft as of 30.9; Lofting (p. 359) counts 573 operational aircraft as of 19 Sept.
In addition there was the “Army Co-Operation Group” with 162 (153) Lysanders.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 04 Apr 2017 10:20

11 Group bore the brunt of the fighting and was by far the strongest; according to Philson, its 23 squadrons had the following serviceable aircraft available as of 30.9: 108 Spitfires, 205 Hurricanes, 29 Blenheim NF, 10 Beaufighters.

The 11 squadrons of 10 Group to the west had available 45 Spits, 82 Hurricanes, 7 Gladiators, 12 Blenheims and 1 Beaufighter.

The 16 squadrons of 12 Group to the north had available on that day 95 Spits (incl. Spitfire II), 111 Hurricanes, 33 Defiants (night fighters), 15 Blenheim NF and 1 Beaufighter.

The 12 squadrons of 13 Group finally had available 51 Spits, 113 Hurricanes, 13 Defiants (night fighters), 15 Blenheim NF and 5 Whirlwinds

The most the Germans realistically could have achieved (assuming a coherent strategy based on better intelligence) was to concentrate their attacks on 11 Group, and notably the seven Sector Stations (Tangmere, Kenley, Biggin Hill, Hornchurch, Northolt, North Weald and Debden), which formed the lynchpins of the whole air defence system, until they became untenable and communications broke down, making control of squadrons in the air impossible and forcing evacuation of those airfields. This was precisely the fear expressed by Park in a memo of early September, quoted in most books about the Battle of Britain. Dowding was not quite so pessimistic.

In that case, what remained of the 20+ squadrons of 11 Group would have been withdrawn to the neighbouring Groups, which would have caused some overcrowding of airfields, presumably, and would have posed a command & control problem, in that Sector Stations (12 and 10 Group had five each) could control and guide no more than three squadrons in the air at the same time.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 02 May 2017 17:40

Knouterer wrote:

The abovementioned Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945 (Vol. 4/II) has tables showing the actual allocation (Zuweisung) of fighters (Bf 109) per month:

– In July, the combat units of the LW received 159 single-seat fighters (Bf 109E) Of these, 91 went to Luftflotte 2, 35 to Luftflotte 3, 1 to ErPro 210, and 32 (including 30 E7 fighter bombers) to II.(S)/LG 2, which latter unit, as mentioned above, was in the process of converting from Hs 123 ground attack aircraft.
– In August, 238 single-seat fighters were allocated. Of these, 3 went to Luftflotte 1, 169 went to Luftflotte 2, 51 to Luftflotte 3, 6 to III./JG 26, and 9 (E7) to II.(S)/LG 2.
– In September, the number was 337 (including one Curtiss Hawk): 14 to Luftflotte 1, 274 to Luftflotte 2, 30 to Luftflotte 3, 8 to III./JG 26, and 11 to Erg.(S)/JGr.



For direct comparison, the following fighters were delivered to the RAF in the same period (Baughen, p. 263):

- July: 160 Spitfires and 288 Hurricanes, makes 448
- August: 163 Spitfires and 275 Hurricanes, makes 438
- September: 156 Spits and 253 Hurricanes, makes 409

Considering that the German numbers included many repaired rather than new aircraft, the Brits were clearly outproducing them by a factor of two or more.

In addition, in the same three months 43 Beaufighters, 135 Defiants and 7 Whirlwinds were delivered, plus American Buffaloes, Martlets and Mohawks.
Reserves in storage units included about 200 Spitfires and Hurricanes all through the BoB period, with a low point of 127 in early Sept.
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby Knouterer » 02 May 2017 19:40

Unlike the British, the Germans could not afford to be fastidious about foreign products; like the army and navy the Luftwaffe made as much use as possible of captured equipment, given that the German armaments industry was not remotely able to meet all the demands made upon it.
The Austrian air force was not much of a catch, it was small and the most modern fighter was the Fiat CR.32. The Czech haul was much more interesting and included a capable aviation industry. Polish aircraft did not survive in appreciable numbers, they were mostly either destroyed or flown to Romania. The Armée de l’Air was the big bonanza, it is estimated that 800-1000 French planes captured in 1940 served with the Luftwaffe (some very briefly).
All of these were used for training, general transport and liaison duties, target towing etc. Only rarely did captured aircraft serve with frontline units. On three occasions German fighter units were equipped with foreign planes: Avia B.534 in 1939 (3./JG 70), French Curtiss H75 in 1940 (III./JG 77), and Macchi 205s in 1943 (II./JG 77). In all three cases the experiment lasted weeks rather than months it seems.
At least III./JG 77 could use its Curtiss fighters to play the enemy in the propaganda movie Kampfgeschwader Lützow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QhvhQgIIls
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Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Postby sitalkes » 04 May 2017 00:13

How many of those French planes were transport aircraft?


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