Battle of Britain strength & losses

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Hiryu-
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Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Hiryu- » 10 Mar 2018 17:37

Hello,

What was the respective strength of the Luftwaffe and RAF when the Battle of Britain started? What were the losses?
It's difficult to find precise numbers about this because it seems that the literature & the internet are riddled with apples to oranges comparisons, i.e. "Total Luftwaffe strength vs Fighter Command only", "Total number of aircraft vs serviceable aircrafts only", "Date x vs date y", ect...
The wikipedia article gives 1,963 "serviceable" planes for the RAF vs 2,550 for the Luftwaffe. The number of 1,963 comes from Bungay ("The most dangerous enemy"). Problem is, Bungay states that "1,963" is the total number of aircraft and that the number of "serviceable" planes is lower :|

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Richard Anderson » 10 Mar 2018 18:05

When did it "start"?
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Hiryu-
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Hiryu- » 10 Mar 2018 21:32

Richard Anderson wrote:When did it "start"?
I guess that any data for July will do the trick...

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by MarkN » 10 Mar 2018 23:25

Hiryu- wrote:
Richard Anderson wrote:When did it "start"?
I guess that any data for July will do the trick...
July was a long month. At least 31 days.

From the OH, during July, a total of 1,665 aircraft of all types were produced in Britain - 496 were fighters. Similar for June: 1,591 and 446 respectively. Given those numbers, the RAF had the capacity to virtually replace itself within 5 weeks if the 1,963 number has any meaning.

Image

Knouterer
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Knouterer » 15 Mar 2018 11:54

I put some relevant data in this thread: https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic ... 4&t=226227
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by gracie4241 » 25 Apr 2019 16:19

A loss figure that has caught my eye was total RAF fighter losses of @1000 for july-october as against @1700 for the germans.The latter included @around 200 from anti-aircraft fire, leaving air-air 3-2(1500/1000).Of the german losses only 600 or so were single engine fighters.Thus simple math suggests in fighter v fighter combat the ME-109 more than held its own, which is not a common perception(nor one reflected in movies to this day).It also appears that from late 1940 to 1942 over Western Europe the new Me 109F model basically made mincemeat of the Spitfire.In other words the Me 109 and its pilots were qualitatively much better than conventional history "wisdom"suggests

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Knouterer » 11 Jun 2019 15:03

That math is a bit too simple. Many fighters on both sides were lost in accidents of all kinds, a number of Luftwaffe fighters ditched in the Channel when they ran out of fuel on the return trip, and about 12% of Fighter Command's combat losses were attributable to the defensive fire of bombers.
In one of the more authoritative works on the BoB Stephen Bungay calculated that in pure fighter-to-fighter combat German pilots shot down 1.2 RAF fighters for each Bf 109 lost. More recently, Christer Bergström has gone over the records of both sides again and arrived at a slightly higher success rate for the Bf 109, namely 1.4 to 1, and 1.7 to 1 for the Bf 110.

Many accounts of the BoB concentrate on the "scores" in aerial fighting, but apart from combat losses, accidents of various kinds caused a steady drain of aircraft and pilots. Officially 2,069 Luftwaffe frontline aircraft were lost or written off as total losses from July to the end of October, of which 1,385 caused by enemy action. Bergström (p. 280) believes the latter number is slightly too low and calculates 1,411 combat losses, which still means that about 650, or 30% of total losses, were due to collisions, engine failure, empty fuel tanks, and other mishaps.
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Sheldrake
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Sheldrake » 11 Jun 2019 19:56

gracie4241 wrote:
25 Apr 2019 16:19
A loss figure that has caught my eye was total RAF fighter losses of @1000 for july-october as against @1700 for the germans.The latter included @around 200 from anti-aircraft fire, leaving air-air 3-2(1500/1000).Of the german losses only 600 or so were single engine fighters.Thus simple math suggests in fighter v fighter combat the ME-109 more than held its own, which is not a common perception(nor one reflected in movies to this day).It also appears that from late 1940 to 1942 over Western Europe the new Me 109F model basically made mincemeat of the Spitfire.In other words the Me 109 and its pilots were qualitatively much better than conventional history "wisdom"suggests
The issue was not whether the Luftwaffe were better than some subjective perceptions but whether the Luftwaffe could achieve a kill ratio good enough to take account of

#1 The return of RAF pilots bailing out over the UK compared to the total loss of German pilots shot down.
#2 Repair of RAF airframes "written off after combat" by the civilian aircraft repair organisation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_ ... ganisation compared to the total loss of German airframes lost over the UK
#3 Relative rates for replacing aircraft and pilots

Bungay calculated that the Germans would need to shoot down three times as many aircraft as they lost themselves to win a battle of aerial attrition. They never came close to that figure.

Between 1941-43 the ratios worked the other way in favour of the Luftwaffe, with the added bonus that there were no targets close to the French coast that the Germans HAD to defend. The outnumbered Luftwaffe fighter force could choose to engage only on superior terms, with the advantage of height and surprise. I am not sure this proves much about the relative merits of the Spitfire V and Me109F., which, on paper were comparable. The Fw190 A4 however, had a big advantage over the Spitfire VC as it was significantly faster, only addressed by the introduction of the Spitfire IX in 1942.

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Knouterer » 11 Jun 2019 20:46

The first Bf 109F arrived at the front in October, but there were early production problems and only about fifty were delivered up to the end of 1940. Initially many pilots were critical of the limited firepower: 20 mm MG-FF (in the F-1, 15 mm MG 151 in the F-2) plus two MG 17 in the nose, or only half the firepower of a Spitfire Mk V.
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Pips » 12 Jun 2019 01:52

Sheldrake wrote:
11 Jun 2019 19:56

The issue was not whether the Luftwaffe were better than some subjective perceptions but whether the Luftwaffe could achieve a kill ratio good enough to take account of:

a) The return of RAF pilots bailing out over the UK compared to the total loss of German pilots shot down.
b) Repair of RAF airframes "written off after combat" by the civilian aircraft repair organisation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_ ... ganisation compared to the total loss of German airframes lost over the UK
c) Relative rates for replacing aircraft and pilots

Bungay calculated that the Germans would need to shoot down three times as many aircraft as they lost themselves to win a battle of aerial attrition. They never came close to that figure.
Don't want to hijack the thread, but I find that a really interesting comment. If that held true in 1940, did the same hold true for the 8th Air Force in 1943/1944? Did they too have to reach a 3:1 kill ratio to gain air superiority over Europe? If so, at what point in time was that reached in 1944? Several books claim "Big Week" as that point. I find that off, given that the Luftwaffe only lost 100 odd pilots in that period.

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Sheldrake » 12 Jun 2019 08:53

Pips wrote:
12 Jun 2019 01:52
Sheldrake wrote:
11 Jun 2019 19:56

The issue was not whether the Luftwaffe were better than some subjective perceptions but whether the Luftwaffe could achieve a kill ratio good enough to take account of:

a) The return of RAF pilots bailing out over the UK compared to the total loss of German pilots shot down.
b) Repair of RAF airframes "written off after combat" by the civilian aircraft repair organisation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_ ... ganisation compared to the total loss of German airframes lost over the UK
c) Relative rates for replacing aircraft and pilots

Bungay calculated that the Germans would need to shoot down three times as many aircraft as they lost themselves to win a battle of aerial attrition. They never came close to that figure.
Don't want to hijack the thread, but I find that a really interesting comment. If that held true in 1940, did the same hold true for the 8th Air Force in 1943/1944? Did they too have to reach a 3:1 kill ratio to gain air superiority over Europe? If so, at what point in time was that reached in 1944? Several books claim "Big Week" as that point. I find that off, given that the Luftwaffe only lost 100 odd pilots in that period.
The last of the three points in my list relates to this.

There was a big disparity between the rates at which the US and Germans could replace lost aircraft and pilots. The US turned out aircraft and trained pilots at a faster rate than the Germans. The US could afford their losses in the aerial battle of attrition The Germans could not. Even though German aircraft industry was turning out lots of aircraft, they could only sustain the numbers of pilots by reducing training time. By summer 1944 the fighter force comprised a diminishing band of experten and a lot of novices.

Big week marked the start of the aerial battle of attrition. D Day the end. I don't think you can pick an exact date pofd the turning point any more than you cvap pick the date in 1916 when the Somme became the "muddy grave of the pre-war German army."

Relating this back to the Battle of Britain, the key may have been the relative strength of the aircraft industries, repair and pilot training organisations. The Germans had not invested enough in these to sustain the battle of Britain beyond September.

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Knouterer » 12 Jun 2019 09:41

Some optimists in the Luftwaffe believed, initially at least, that Britain could be brought to its knees by air attack alone, but most people, in Britain as well, saw it as a prelude to invasion.
In that context, the problem for the LW fighter force was that it had to defeat Fighter Command decisively, and still preserve the minimum strength necessary to protect the invasion forces against air attack during daylight. Given the limited endurance of the Bf 109 that would require a lot of fighters, and some on the German side were well aware of that. Oberst Theo Osterkamp, then commander of Jagdgeschwader 51, told his pilots in July that they would have to shoot down five enemy planes for every one they lost. That looks like a pretty good estimate, IMHO.
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Stiltzkin » 13 Jun 2019 01:20

S/E fighter losses (all causes), are listed in BArch RL 2-III/950, (peak fighting, july to sept. 1940), 1,636 aircraft of all types lost. Casualties: 521 fighter pilots (KIA+WIA+MIA). From Sept. 39 to mid 41, the LW lost 11,068 aircrew personnel (866 Figher pilots, 317 officers amongst the crews) and 6,732 aircraft (of these 1,683 S/E fighters, 2,443 bombers). Strength of Fighters: 1,758 on the 4th May, 1,464 in June. Front strength of aircraft was held at approx. 4,200, 5,568 total (for May).

British figures are available in AIR 40/1207, refer to the 2nd day of each month:

May
Establishment/Serviceable:
Spitires 264/129
Hurricanes 272/168

June
S: 272/181
H: 184/102

July
S: 304/243
H: 368/282

August
S: 328/245
H: 540/341

September
S: 328/208
H: 638/405

or slightly different figures (date, AIR 20/4174):
Image

The Hurricanes were more numerous, dedicated to interception, while the Spitfires were probably focusing on the air combat.

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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by Stiltzkin » 09 Jul 2019 05:15

Here is more on the BoB http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/AAF ... .html#cn68 (Murray) listing BA/MA RL 2 III/1025, gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (III A)

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EKB
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Re: Battle of Britain strength & losses

Post by EKB » 13 Jul 2019 05:17

gracie4241 wrote:
25 Apr 2019 16:19
It also appears that from late 1940 to 1942 over Western Europe the new Me 109F model basically made mincemeat of the Spitfire. In other words the Me 109 and its pilots were qualitatively much better than conventional history "wisdom"suggests

The Spitfires and Messerschmitts were evenly matched. The pilots could have traded equipment without changing the outcome.

On either side of the Channel, the defender had the important advantage of early warning radar and observation posts. German fighter pilots used better tactics in the 1940-1942 time period. This too, was a more significant source of misery for the RAF next to minor upgrades in machinery. Google Fighting Area Tactics, Big Wing and Finger-Four.

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