WWII–-75th ANNIVERSARY POLLS--#13 AUGUST 1940


  • The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England, literally “Air battle for England”) is the name given to the Second World War air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces,[18] and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date.

    The objective of the Nazi German forces was to achieve air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially its Fighter Command. Beginning in July 1940, coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth, were the main targets; one month later, the Luftwaffe shifted its attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in World War II aircraft production and ground infrastructure. Eventually the Luftwaffe resorted to attacking areas of political significance and using terror bombing strategy.[nb 10]

    By preventing Germany from gaining air superiority, the British forced Adolf Hitler to postpone and eventually cancel Operation Sea Lion, a planned amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain. However, Germany continued bombing operations on Britain, known as The Blitz. The failure of Nazi Germany to achieve its objective of destroying Britain’s air defences in order to force Britain to negotiate an armistice (or even surrender outright) is considered by historians to be its first major defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point in the conflict.[20]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain

    Question:  Would you have done anything different during the Battle of Britain if you were Germany, or do you think it wouldn’t have mattered what you did differently…the UK was going to win the campaign anyway?


  • Perhaps Germany “wins” the Battle of Britain, but I think the Brits would withdraw their planes to Scotland, and they would still be easily able to contest Sealion.

  • '19 '17 '16 '15 '13

    I would have taken out the UK’s radar stations. I think Germany grossly underestimated the effectiveness of those.


  • Von Manstein wrote about this in his book Lost Victories. Given that von Manstein was the best general of WWII, on either side, I take his opinion on these matters very seriously.

    Von Manstein pointed out that the farther away a plane fights from its own airbase, the more of a disadvantage it has. This worked very much against Germany during the Battle of Britain. German fighters would use most of their available fuel flying to and from targets in Britain. They’d only have a small amount of fuel available for dog fighting. Whereas, British fighter planes fought very close to their own air bases. They could use most of their fuel for dog fighting, because very little of it was required to get to or from the place of conflict. Therefore, the RAF was able to exert a much stronger air presence than mere numbers of planes might suggest.

    Von Manstein’s proposed solution to all this was to not bother with fights deep inside Britain. Instead, German aircraft would stay relatively close to their own airbases. On the other side of the equation, preparations for a land invasion of Britain would proceed very quickly. He had no objection whatever to invading Britain even before the completion of land operations against France. (As an aside: had von Manstein’s plan been followed in its entirety, the Dunkirk evacuation would never have happened.)

    Von Manstein pointed out that Britain had a negligible defensive army defending its own island during the summer of 1940. (Though that army would have been even more negligible, had the Dunkirk operation been avoided.)

    Once the Luftwaffe got airbases set up near the English Channel, then–at least for air battles over the English Channel–the range factor would not particularly have favored either the RAF or Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe could therefore have exerted a much stronger air presence over the English Channel than the RAF, due to sheer numbers. The strength of the Luftwaffe air presence would have it impossible for the British to defend the English channel with surface naval units. The Japanese attacks on British battleships at Singapore, and the later American attacks on Japanese battleships such as the Yamato, demonstrate what happens when one side controls the air and the other controls the surface of the water.

    With the Germans controlling the sky above the English Channel, and with them using that control to sink any British warship wandering too close to the planned invasion route, most of the German transports would have gotten through. Once German troops landed in Britain, they would soon have discovered that the British Army was in no position to resist a serious land invasion.

    Von Manstein’s plan did, however, contain an element of risk. The plan Hitler chose involved pitting the Luftwaffe against the RAF over a period of months, to see which one was stronger. Only after the Luftwaffe had won this contest would Hitler go forward with a land invasion. The heart of von Manstein’s plan involved postponing the contest of aerial strength until the invasion itself, confident that the Luftwaffe would win. The contest of aerial strength von Manstein envisioned would have taken place on terms much more favorable to the Luftwaffe, than the contest Hitler ultimately chose.

    While von Manstein admitted his plan contained an element of tactical risk, he stated that the strategic risk of allowing Britain to continue to participate in the war was much, much greater. He was right. In 1940, Britain produced more military aircraft than did Germany. In addition, Britain received an enormous amount of American military aid. British politicians had no interest in negotiated peace, so the war against Britain needed to be won in 1940 or not at all.

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16

    Been waiting to read other contributions before casting my vote.

    The received wisdom has been that the Battle of Britain was being won by Germany before the change of focus from attacking RAF facilities to “terror bombing”.

    In another thread, though, both wittman & CWO Marc raised doubts as to whether the Luftwaffe ever had enough fighters. In which case Kurt’s post seems to make sense.

    Whether the focus should have been the English Channel or the RAF, the bombing of British cities certainly did not achieve its aims.

  • '16 '15 '14 Customizer

    I would not have even pursued a Battle of Britain. I would have kept all my German fighters at home, built more and more radar and fighters, and pursued peace with England while making it more and more expensive and unpopular for them to continue with war.


  • @Der:

    I would not have even pursued a Battle of Britain. I would have kept all my German fighters at home, built more and more radar and fighters, and pursued peace with England while making it more and more expensive and unpopular for them to continue with war.

    ….then, you don’t know the Brits…


  • After learning of the Me-110 faults, I would have used the Luftwaffe to it’s strengths, attacking the channel convoys with Ju-87 and 88s supported with 109s. Attack only coastal targets where bombers would have escort cover.

    Force the RAF to fight over the Channel.

    Night bomb the western Lend Lease ports.

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @ABWorsham:

    After learning of the Me-110 faults, I would have used the Luftwaffe to it’s strengths, attacking the channel convoys with Ju-87 and 88s supported with 109s. Attack only coastal targets where bombers would have escort cover. Force the RAF to fight over the Channel.  Night bomb the western Lend Lease ports.

    The Luftwaffe did actually start its campaign by attacking merchant traffic in the Channel area with the aim of drawing out the RAF.  The problem was that Sir Hugh Dowding, the head of Fighter Command, could see exactly what the Luftwaffe was trying to do and he refused to take the bait: he only committed a bare minimum of his fighter strength to this phase of the campaign.  As for night bombing, it would have been ineffectual as a way to destroy Fighter Command because most WWII fighters couldn’t operate at night: the RAF would have sent up few (or no) fighters to meet the German bombers, and the Luftwaffe itself would have had few (or no) accompanying fighters in the air to engage them.


  • @CWO:

    @ABWorsham:

    After learning of the Me-110 faults, I would have used the Luftwaffe to it’s strengths, attacking the channel convoys with Ju-87 and 88s supported with 109s. Attack only coastal targets where bombers would have escort cover. Force the RAF to fight over the Channel.  Night bomb the western Lend Lease ports.

    The Luftwaffe did actually start its campaign by attacking merchant traffic in the Channel area with the aim of drawing out the RAF.  The problem was that Sir Hugh Dowding, the head of Fighter Command, could see exactly what the Luftwaffe was trying to do and he refused to take the bait: he only committed a bare minimum of his fighter strength to this phase of the campaign.  As for night bombing, it would have been ineffectual as a way to destroy Fighter Command because most WWII fighters couldn’t operate at night: the RAF would have sent up few (or no) fighters to meet the German bombers, and the Luftwaffe itself would have had few (or no) accompanying fighters in the air to engage them.

    I heard that Dowding in fact didn’t want to defend the Channel convoys at all (and suggested that ships not use the Channel), but his government or the RN wanted to preserve prestige and so forced him to defend the convoys?

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @calvinhobbesliker:

    I heard that Dowding in fact didn’t want to defend the Channel convoys at all (and suggested that ships not use the Channel), but his government or the RN wanted to preserve prestige and so forced him to defend the convoys?

    I hadn’t heard about that, but I can well believe that such pressures were applied on Dowding from those sources.  Dowding was a tough character, so perhaps his “bare minimum fighter commitment” approach was a bare minimum in more ways than one: the smallest amount to which he was willing to compromise.

    Incicentally, one problem with using Ju-87 Stukas to attack merchant ships is that, as far as I know, Stuka pilots were trained to attack fixed targets on land rather than moving targets at sea.  The Kriegsmarine, which in principle would have been better suited for the job, didn’t have a naval aviation arm, and the Luftwaffe was primarily a land-attack force intended to provide tactical support to the Army.  Admittedly, most merchant ships don’t move or maneuver very fast, and I think I’ve seen footage of Stukas attempting to bomb moving trains (allowing of course of the fact that they move on fixed railroad tracks, which helps with the aiming of bombs), so the Stuka wouldn’t have been totally unsuitable for the job (cannon-armed versions were even used later in the war to attack Soviet tanks), but it still would have been a case of improvising an unplanned new capability at the last minute – similarly to the whole concept of using river barges as amphibious landing craft for Sea Lion.


  • Had the Thames River commerce been shut down, the Germans would have been on the way to a victory-however a very long economic war.

    Hitler would have share the bed with Stalin longer than 1941.


  • @ABWorsham:

    Had the Thames River commerce been shut down, the Germans would have been on the way to a victory-however a very long economic war.

    Hitler would have share the bed with Stalin longer than 1941.

    Moving the Channel traffic around Scotland shouldn’t be a problem…


  • Had the Channel been abandoned, I would then focus on mining the trade routes around Scotland. Then step up bombing the western port cities.

    Would be nice to have a four engine bomber fleet.  😢


  • @ABWorsham:

    Had the Channel been abandoned, I would then focus on mining the trade routes around Scotland. Then step up bombing the western port cities.

    Would be nice to have a four engine bomber fleet.  😢

    How would you mine the routes around Scotland? They could just keep going around them…

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