Operation Sealion Figure 3: German Order of Battle mid September 1940: Luftwaffe and Navy

Operation Sealion Figure 3: German Order of Battle mid September 1940: Luftwaffe and Navy

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Operation Sealion Figure 3: German Order of Battle mid September 1940: Luftwaffe and Navy

Diagram showing the German Order of Battle for Operation Sealion as it stood in mid-September 1940, showing the Luftwaffe and Navy forces allocated to the plan


Adolf Hitler had decided by early November 1939 on forcing a decision in the West by invading Belgium, the Netherlands and France. With the prospect of the Channel ports falling under Kriegsmarine (the German Navy) control, and attempting to anticipate the obvious next step that might entail, Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) Erich Raeder (head of the Kriegsmarine) instructed his operations officer, Kapitän Hans Jürgen Reinicke, to draw up a document examining "the possibility of troop landings in England should the future progress of the war make the problem arise." Reinicke spent five days on this study and set forth the following prerequisites: [ 2 ]

  • Elimination or sealing off of Royal Navy forces from the landing and approach areas.
  • Elimination of the Royal Air Force (RAF).
  • Destruction of all Royal Navy units in the coastal zone.
  • Prevention of British submarine action against the landing fleet.

In December 1939, the German Army issued its own study paper (designated Nordwest) and solicited opinions and input from both the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe (the German Air Force). The paper outlined an assault on England's eastern coast between The Wash and the River Thames by troops crossing the North Sea from Low Country ports. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, responded with a single-page letter in which he stated: ". a combined operation having the objective of landing in England must be rejected. It could only be the final act of an already victorious war against Britain as otherwise the preconditions for success of a combined operation would not be met." The Kriegsmarine response was rather more restrained but equally focused on pointing out the many difficulties to be surmounted if invading England was to be a viable option. [ 3 ]

Later in the spring of 1940 the Kriegsmarine became even more opposed to invading Britain after its Pyrrhic victory in Norway. After Operation Weserübung, as the invasion of Norway had been code-named, the Kriegsmarine had only one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers, and four destroyers available for operations. [ 4 ] Admiral Raeder was strongly opposed to Sea Lion since almost the entire Kriegsmarine surface fleet had been either sunk or badly damaged in Weserübung, and his service was hopelessly outnumbered by the ships of the Royal Navy. [ 5 ]

On 16 July 1940, following Germany's swift and successful occupation of France and the Low Countries and growing impatient with Britain's outright rejection of his recent peace overtures, Hitler issued Führer Directive No. 16, setting in motion preparations for a landing in Britain. He prefaced the order by stating: "As England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, still shows no signs of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary to carry out, a landing operation against her. The aim of this operation is to eliminate the English Motherland as a base from which the war against Germany can be continued, and, if necessary, to occupy the country completely." [ 6 ]

Hitler's directive set four conditions for the invasion to occur: [ 7 ]

  • The RAF was to be "beaten down in its morale and in fact, that it can no longer display any appreciable aggressive force in opposition to the German crossing".
  • The English Channel was to be swept of British mines at the crossing points, and the Strait of Dover must be blocked at both ends by German mines.
  • The coastal zone between occupied France and England must be dominated by heavy artillery.
  • The Royal Navy must be sufficiently engaged in the North Sea and the Mediterranean so that it could not intervene in the crossing. British home squadrons must be damaged or destroyed by air and torpedo attacks.

This ultimately placed responsibility for Sea Lion ' s success squarely on the shoulders of Raeder and Göring, neither of whom had the slightest enthusiasm for the venture and, in fact, did little to hide their opposition to it. [ 8 ] Nor did Directive 16 provide for a combined operational headquarters under which all three service branches (Army, Navy, Air Force) could work together under a single umbrella organisation to plan, coordinate and execute such a complex undertaking (similar to the Allies' creation of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) for the later Normandy landings). [ 9 ]

Upon hearing of Hitler's intentions, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, through his Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano, quickly offered up to ten divisions and thirty squadrons of Italian aircraft for the proposed invasion. [ 10 ] Hitler initially declined any such aid but eventually allowed a small contingent of Italian fighters and bombers, the Italian Air Corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano or CAI), to assist in the Luftwaffe's aerial campaign over Britain in October/November 1940. [ 11 ]


The photos have been supplied by Ernst Grossmann's family for publication in Iron Cross magazine (pictured is the cover of the magazine)

German crew braced for the harsh weather conditions of the English Channel. Plans for a German invasion of Britain were first mooted in November 1939, two months into the war

Craft tied up in the harbour at Antwerp. The chilling photographs show the Germans preparing to invade Britain during the Second World War

The chilling site Brits would have seen if the invasion had taken place with landing craft powering toward the beaches of England

Waves break over the craft at sea. Plans for a German invasion of Britain were first mooted in November 1939, two months into the war

German crew stand below the heavy guns fitted to one of the landing craft that Adolf Hitler had made in readiness for a seaborne invasion in 1940

Andy Saunders, the editor of Iron Cross, added: 'The Germans had a real challenge on their hands if they were to attempt a cross-Channel invasion because they didn't have the landing craft to get across the sea.

'This invention was the key to achieving that. It is an astonishing invention considering how quickly they solved that problem.

'The only trouble was by the time they went into production it was too late.. By that time the Allies had air superiority after the Battle of Britain which meant Germany couldn't invade.

'These pictures offer a bit of a 'what if?' What if they had produced these a lot sooner would they have tried to invade?'

Plans for a German invasion of Britain were first mooted in November 1939, two months into the war.

Meal time aboard one of the landing crafts where the Germans were preparing to invade Britain during the Second World War in 1940

One of the heavy guns overhangs the wake of the powerful craft. The Siebel Ferries that were built were later used by the Germans in other theatres of war, such as in the Norwegian fjords

A landing craft passing a ship at anchor. Chilling photographs show the Germans preparing to invade Britain during WW2 in 1940

The Zeiss Ikon camera used by Ernst Großmann to photograph the landing craft tests that were happening off the coast in 1940

German crew cleaning hardware onboard one of the landing crafts. The black and white images highlight the fleet of armoured landing craft

Plans involved tug boats (pictured) towing the craft across the channel, the landing craft would then use their own engines to make the final beach assault

Troops on the deck of one the invasion crafts making its way through broken ice in freezing conditions as they prepared for a possible invasion

A Sibel Ferry tied up at Antwerp Haven. They were called the Siebel Ferry, named after Major Friedrich Siebel who was tasked with designing them

Plans involved tug boats (pictured) towing the craft across the channel, the landing craft would then use their own engines to make the final beach assault

Operation Sealion was presented to Hitler in June 1940 and after that Maj Siebel designed the Siebel Ferry landing craft.

Successful tests were carried out on a lake near Berlin in July 1940 and the sea exercises took place off the Belgian coast in autumn that year.

The Siebel Ferries that were built were later used by the Germans in other theatres of war, such as in the Norwegian fjords.

Maj Siebel rose to the rank of colonel and was captured by the British in 1945. He died in April 1954.

Ernst Grossman, a dentist before the war, surrendered to Polish forces in 1945. He died in 1998.

The latest edition of Iron Cross magazine is out now.

What was Hitler's Operation Sea Lion and why do many historians think it could have been a disaster?

Operation Sea Lion was Hitler's code name for an invasion of the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War.

It was planned for September 1940, when Hitler hoped to land 100,000 troops at five points on the English coast between Ramsgate, Kent, and Selsey Bill, West Sussex.

He prefaced the order by stating: 'As England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, still shows no signs of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary to carry out, a landing operation against her.'

Operation Sea Lion was Hitler's code name for an invasion of the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War

The first wave of the 'exceptionally bold and daring attack' would also feature 650 tanks and 4,500 horses.

He would then deploy another 500,000 soldiers to fight inland once the Nazis had a foothold.

The Germans were confident that such an onslaught would have led to the 'rapid abandonment' of the British defences south of London.

Their first operational objective was to occupy a huge swath of south east England - from the mouth of the River Thames down to Southampton - 14 days after the invasion.

Brighton was earmarked to be the main landing area for transport ships bringing in more troops, armour and supplies during the occupation.

And just like the Allied invasion of Normandy, the Germans would have attempted to fool the British into believing the main landings were to take place elsewhere.

A diversionary attack was planned between Aberdeen and Newcastle on the North East coast. Hitler believed Operation Sea Lion would have led to a 'rapid conclusion' of the war.

But crucially the invasion was entirely dependent on the Luftwaffe gaining air superiority over the British by the middle of September.

The RAF won the Battle of Britain between July and October 1940, scuppering Operation Sea Lion.

Modern historians have since suggested that plans for Sea Lion were fatally flawed and would have failed spectacularly, possibly hastening the end of the war.

The Nazis were planning to use river barges which would be towed over the Channel in tugboats, despite these being unseaworthy.

Furthermore, the crossing would have taken hours, during which time the powerful Royal Navy could have destroyed the armada.

Operation Sealion Figure 3: German Order of Battle mid September 1940: Luftwaffe and Navy - History

The German triumph over Czechoslovakia in September 1938 misled not only Hitler but his military as well and created the psychological preconditions that contributed heavily to the decision to attack Poland the following year--a decision that precipitated the Second World War. Almost immediately after the signing of the Munich agreement, Hitler regretted that he had backed away from a limited war against Czechoslovakia. Further aggravating his displeasure was the fact that the Sudetenland's inclusion within Germany did nothing to relieve the Reich's serious economic problems. Göring admitted in November 1938 that economic difficulties had reached the point where no more workers were available, factories were at full capacity, foreign exchange was completely exhausted, and the economy was in dire straits. 1 These economic troubles meant that in early 1939, the regime had to reduce the Wehrmacht's steel allocations by 30 percent, copper by 20 percent, aluminum by 47 percent, rubber by 30 percent, and cement from 25 percent to 45 percent. 2

Under these conditions, the temptation to seize the remainder of Czechoslovakia and gain control of its industrial resources as well as its considerable holdings of foreign exchange was overwhelming. In March 1939, using Czech political troubles as an excuse, Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to complete what Munich had begun. He threatened the Czech leader, Dr. Emil Hacha, by declaring that if Czechoslovakia refused to accede to German demands, "half of Prague would be in ruins from bombing within two hours, and that this would be only the beginning. Hundreds of bombers were waiting the order to takeoff, and they would receive that order at six in the morning, if the signatures were not forthcoming." 3

But the seizure of Prague in March 1939 was one of the last of Hitler's peaceful conquests. (Several weeks later, the Nazis browbeat Lithuania into surrendering the port city of Memel.) The diplomatic explosion, resulting from the seizure of Prague, finally forced the British government to make a serious commitment to the continent and to alter the "business-as-usual" approach that they had taken towards rearmament. Yet, the new British course was due more to internal political pressure, precipitated by the British public's outrage, than of a basic change in the government's attitude. Great Britain now attempted diplomatically to bolster Europe against further Nazi aggression. However, British leaders did not yet regard war as inevitable and, as a result, did not seek to create military alliances against

that eventuality. The slow and hesitant approach towards Russia in the summer of 1939 hardly indicated serious preparation for war. Also during this period, the British offered the Germans a major economic loan if they behaved themselves--hardly the sort of policy to deter Adolf Hitler. 4

The Führer's reaction to British criticism and diplomatic activity was at first outrage and then contempt. As he told his staff, he had seen his opponents at Munich and they were worms. 5 After hearing that the British had extended a guarantee to Poland at the end of March, he shouted: "I'll cook them [the British] a stew they'll choke on." 6 But as the summer progressed, Hitler seems to have convinced himself that Britain would not intervene in a military campaign against Poland. Both the aforementioned inadequacies of British diplomacy and the skill with which Hitler manipulated the European powers led him to conclude that he could get away with a small war on Poland. By signing the Nazi-Soviet Non Aggression Pact, thus removing the Soviet Union from the list of possible enemies, Hitler, in effect, isolated the Poles more thoroughly than he had the Czechs the previous year.

Further confirming Hitler in his small war thesis was the consensus among the Luftwaffe that the threat of "strategic" bombing (or terror bombing) would serve to keep the Western Powers out of an eastern war. 7 Ironically, the unpreparedness of the Luftwaffe in the fall of 1938 played a role in Hitler's decision not to push the Czech crisis into a direct military confrontation but rather to negotiate at Munich. However, the spectacle that the British managed to make out of themselves that late September as they dug slit trenches and passed out gas masks played an important role in shaping Hitler's as well as the Luftwaffe's strategic thinking in 1939. As mentioned earlier, when speaking to his senior commanders, General Felmy, commander of Luftflotte 2, had speculated in May 1939 on the moral pressure that a terror bombing campaign against London might offer. The events in Britain in the fall of 1938 suggested to Felmy that a high degree of war hysteria already existed in Britain and that the Third Reich should take full advantage of such a state of affairs in contrast to the hesitant behavior of Germany's World War I government. 8

That same month, the Fifth Section (intelligence) of the general staff echoed such sentiments. It reported that in every respect, compared to other European air forces, the Luftwaffe was the best prepared.

Germany is, on the basis of all reports, the only state that in respect to equipment, organization, tactics, and leadership has advanced to a total conception of preparation and leadership of an offensive as well as defensive air war. This fact indicates a general advance in military preparedness and with it a strengthening of the whole military situation.

As proof of the value of air superiority, the intelligence experts pointed to the Italian success in Abyssinia and particularly to Germany's diplomatic triumph the previous autumn. They argued that panic in London and Paris over the threat of air attacks had contributed directly to the Munich surrender and suggested that the parliamentary systems of the Western Powers gave Britain and France considerably

less flexibility in strategic policy than an authoritarian Nazi Germany. This line of reasoning led to the dangerous suggestion that it was "quite possible that in spite of [Western] pacts and promises to Eastern Europe, a conflict in that region would remain localized." 9

In early July, both Hitler and Göring visited the Luftwaffe's test station at Rechlin to examine the latest in research and development. The technical experts did a thorough job of implying that aircraft and equipment in the design and test stages were close to production. Although this was not the case, the demonstration provided one more confirmation to the Führer that the Luftwaffe not only possessed current superiority over its opponents but would maintain such superiority for the foreseeable future. In 1942, Göring recalled: "The Führer took the most serious decisions on the basis of that display. It was a miracle that things worked out as well as they did and that the consequences were not far worse." 10 While the Rechlin demonstration did not aim at supporting Hitler's inclination for a military solution to the Polish question but rather at convincing him that the Luftwaffe should receive more of the defense budget for the coming years, it undoubtedly helped to push Hitler towards the precipice.

On August 22, 1939, Hitler met with senior military officers to announce the reasons behind his inclination to settle accounts with Poland. 11 He gave pride of place to his historical uniqueness and the danger that he could "be eliminated at any time by a criminal or a lunatic." Second in importance was the fact that Germany's economic situation was precarious. "Because of the constraints on us, our economic situation is such that we can only hold out for a few more years." Four days later, Hitler summed up his general evaluation of the strategic situation in a letter to Mussolini:

As neither France nor Britain can achieve any decisive successes in the west, and as Germany, as a result of the agreement with Russia, will have all her forces free in the east after the defeat of Poland, and as air superiority is undoubtedly on our side, I do not shrink from solving the eastern question even at the risk of complications with the West. 12

What is interesting in the above calculation of risks is that the Luftwaffe played a role in two out of three factors the Führer cited. The belief in the short war against Poland, of course, rested on the army as well as the Luftwaffe, but clearly the German air force contributed to a belief that Poland would not take long to destroy. The emphasis on air superiority undoubtedly represented a miscalculation that the Luftwaffe could deter the Western Powers by the mere threat of major air attacks against their population centers. As we now know Hitler was wrong, not so much in his estimate of Western leadership, for that remained cautious, overpessimistic, and unwilling to take risks, but rather in his failure to recognize that Western popular opinion was so incensed at German actions that Chamberlain and Daladier had no choice but to declare war in response to a German invasion of Poland. 13

Hitler's remarks in August 1939 to his generals just prior to the invasion of Poland raise an interesting historiographical question as to the nature of the war that

the Germans expected to fight. Since the war, a number of Anglo-American historians have argued that before the war Hitler and the German high command deliberately developed a "Blitzkrieg strategy" which they then applied on the battlefields of Europe from 1939 to 1941. 14 The heart of this strategy supposedly was the close cooperation of tactical air and armored formations in the accomplishment of deep armored drives into enemy rear areas. By choosing such a strategy, the Germans, the argument runs, escaped the necessity of rearming in depth. On the armored side of the argument, several major difficulties exist with such a theory. First, the German army did not emphasize the establishment of an armored force in its rearmament program, and there is no evidence that Hitler interfered in the formulation of army doctrine before the war. 15 As the previous chapter suggests, there are also problems relating to airpower. Close air support developed in Spain with little urging from the Luftwaffe's high command in Berlin, while many German air force leaders and general staff officers remained enamored with the concept of "strategic" bombing. Hitler's emphasis on airpower in his August speech to the generals suggests that at the beginning of the war, he placed higher reliance on the deterrent value as well as the actual capabilities of airpower in the coming war than most historians have allowed. The impact of the Polish campaign on German air strategy and the initial strategic response of Hitler to the war in the west provide further support for such a thesis.


In the early morning hours of September 1, 1939, German bombers and fighters delivered heavy attacks on targets throughout Poland. Unlike the previous year when the Czechs had fully mobilized by the end of September, the German attack caught the Poles in the process of mobilizing. 16 Interestingly, the Luftwaffe considered launching an all-out attack on military installations and armament factories in Warsaw to paralyze Polish resistance. But bad weather prevented the launching of such a "knockout" blow. By the time the weather had cleared, the interdiction and close air support aspects of operations were going so well that the general staff hesitated to shift the emphasis. 17 One must also note that at the conclusion of the Polish campaign, the Luftwaffe launched massive air assaults against military targets in Warsaw. In these raids, the Germans were not adverse to any collateral damage inflicted on the civilian populace.

Complicating Poland's strategic difficulties at the beginning of the campaign was the fact that her high command had not separated operational from political requirements. To defend those areas regarded as politically essential, the Poles had distributed their forces in indefensible regions such as the Corridor and Silesia. As a result, their army was unable to defend itself and to carry out a prolonged resistance. 18

Within the first days of the campaign, panzer units from General Walther von Reichenau's Tenth Army had broken out into the open, thereby achieving operational freedom. By September 6, tank units were halfway to Warsaw, the

Corridor had been closed, and the Polish army was disintegrating. The Polish air force put up substantial resistance in the first days of the war its pilots, as they would do in the Battle of Britain, not only proved themselves tenacious and brave but highly skilled as well. Overwhelming German superiority, however, soon told. 19 On the ground for the first time in modern war, the combination of armored mobile formations supported by aircraft proved devastatingly effective. 20 Interdiction strikes made it impossible for the Poles to move large bodies of troops in the open, while efforts by Polish troops to fight their way out of encirclements, especially along the Bzura River, collapsed in the face of Luftwaffe bombing. These air attacks so demoralized the Poles that some troops threw away their weapons. 21

After the fall of most of Poland, the Germans faced the problem of forcing the capital to surrender. Richthofen, in charge of the air assault on the city, requested permission to destroy Warsaw completely as "it would, in the future, be only a customs station." Operational orders from the OKW for the attack on the city were more restrained and only required that the bombardment aim at eliminating those installations judged essential for the maintenance of life in the city. 22

By the end of September, not only had the Germans managed to destroy the Polish army and air force but Poland had ceased to exist as an independent nation. The Wehrmacht had won this victory at a surprisingly low cost. Polish losses were 70,000 dead, 133,000 wounded, and 700,000 prisoners against the Germans while German losses were only 11,000 dead, 30,000 wounded, and 3,400 missing. 23

Despite the overwhelming nature of the victory, serious problems remained for the Germans to resolve in the areas of high strategy, the national economy, and the Wehrmacht's actual versus anticipated military performance. In particular, the army high command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) was most dissatisfied with the level of performance of even active duty regular formations. Serious shortcomings had shown up throughout the regular army, while reserve and Landwehr units were well below the standards acceptable to senior army commanders. 24

But the largest problem confronting Hitler was the fact that Germany faced a major European war. The Luftwaffe had not succeeded in deterring the West from honoring its obligations to Poland. Moreover, Hitler had calculated that the combination of the Nazi-Soviet Non Aggression Pact, supplies from the Balkans, and autarkic measures taken in the 1930's would mitigate the effects of an Allied blockade. He had assured his generals before the outbreak of war that Germany had little reason to fear a blockade, since it would "be ineffective due to our autarky and because we have economic resources in the East. We need have no worry . . . . The East will deliver us grain, cattle, coal, lead and zinc." 25 Reality, however, proved quite different. Import tonnage fell 57 percent. By January 1940, the value of imports had fallen to RM 186 million as compared to RM 472 million in January 1939, while import tonnage declined from 4,445,000 tons the previous year to 1,122,000 tons. 26 With such problems, the long-term outlook appeared exceedingly dangerous. Moreover, petroleum reserves declined from 2,400,000 tons at the

  1. An offensive will be planned on the northern flank of the western front through Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland. This offensive must be launched at the earliest possible moment and in the greatest possible strength.

  2. The purpose of this offensive will be to defeat as much . . . of the French army and . . . the forces of the allies fighting at their side, and at the same time to win as much territory as possible in Holland, Belgium, and northern France to serve as a base for the successful prosecution of the air and sea war against England and as a wide protective area for the economically vital Ruhr. 31

Hitler's order that the armed forces launch a fall offensive in the west caused an enormous row with the generals. On the basis of "after action" reports from Poland and the western front, army leaders argued that their troops could not meet the demands that a western campaign would place on them. 32 In retrospect, the generals were correct: The fall and winter of 1939-40 provided the necessary time to bring regular, reserve, and Landwehr divisions up to the same high standard of performance.

Generally, the Luftwaffe seconded the army's efforts to postpone the western offensive. 33 Weather conditions in central Europe, however, probably played a greater role in Luftwaffe calculations. The air staff was happier with the performance in Poland than was the army high command and, of course, the air force did not face the problem of training enormous numbers of reservists. Still, the pause between the end of the Polish campaign and the beginning of air operations against Norway allowed the Germans to augment considerably their air strength. On September 2, 1939, the Luftwaffe possessed 4,161 aircraft: 604 reconnaissance, 1,179 fighters, 1,180 bombers, 366 dive bombers, 40 ground attack, 240 coastal, and 552 transports. By the beginning of April 1940, the number had increased to 5,178 aircraft: 671 reconnaissance, 1,620 fighters, 1,726 bombers, 419 dive

bombers, 46 ground attack, 230 coastal, and 466 transport. 34 In addition, the general quality of the bomber force rose somewhat with the widespread introduction of the Ju 88 into its squadrons.

Hitler's approach to Germany's strategic problems in the fall of 1939 further suggests a belief at the top level that the Luftwaffe could and would be the decisive weapon in the coming struggle. Historians, as well as the German generals of that time, have noted that the fall offensive did not aim to achieve a decisive success against the French army. Rather, as Hitler's directive made clear, its fundamental aim, while crippling as much of the Allied armies as possible, was "to win as much territory as possible in Holland, Belgium, and northern France to serve as a base for the successful prosecution of the air and sea war against England" [my emphasis]. Such territorial gains would allow the German air force to strike at the heart of English power and also serve as a buffer against air attacks on "the economically vital Ruhr." 35

The Luftwaffe's chief of intelligence, "Beppo" Schmid, argued in late November 1939 for an exclusive air strategy. The Wehrmacht, he suggested, should not carry out any operations against the French, but rather the entire strength of the Luftwaffe, with whatever help the navy could provide, should concentrate against English imports. German air strategy would emphasize attacks on English ports and docks, and Schmid noted that, "Should the enemy resort to terror measures--for example, to attack our towns in western Germany--here again [retaliatory] operations could be carried out with even greater effect due to the greater density of population of London and the big industrial centers." 36 While elements from Schmid's memorandum were present in an OKW Directive of November 29, Hitler was unwilling to go quite so far and risk all on an air-sea war against Britain before certain preconditions had been met. The OKW stated that an attack on British imports could not occur until the army had either defeated the Allied armies in the field or until it had seized the coast opposite Britain. 37

The great fall campaign never took place. Hitler himself does not seem to have abandoned the idea of such a campaign until January 1940 when an aircraft carrying the plan crash-landed in Belgium. However, the weather, one of the worst winters in memory, resulted in repeated postponements until January. Thereafter, Hitler, supported by Army Group A, forced the OKH to alter the plans for the western campaign to a massive armored thrust through the Ardennes. The new strategy aimed not at creating the strategic basis for an air and naval offensive against Britain but rather at the strategic overthrow of the Allied position on the continent. While many army commanders doubted the operational feasibility of a deep penetration armored drive, Hitler supported the radicals urging a rapid exploitation across the Meuse. 38 Almost concurrently, German planning turned towards Scandinavia. The Altmark affair convinced Hitler that the British would not respect the neutrality of Scandinavia and that Germany must move to protect the critical ore imports from northern Sweden that moved through Narvik. Thus, the decision to attack Norway in the spring. 39

Map 1
The Invasion of France 1940: The Plans

Within the framework of these two great operations, the strategy of the three services was integrated rather than separate. While there were instances where the Luftwaffe acted as an independent force, its basic mission in both campaigns lay within the carefully structured framework of overall German strategy. As one of Hitler's directives for the fall offensive in the west suggested, "the air force will prevent attacks by the Anglo-French air forces on our army and will give all necessary direct support to the advance." 40 It was not a case of the Luftwaffe being subordinated to the dictates of the army or the navy (in the case of Norway) but rather that overall air strategy fit within the conceptual design of the campaign's strategy. Thus, the Luftwaffe's role followed closely Wever's thoughts on air strategy and the role of airpower in future wars. The general strategic conception and military purposes of the campaign had determined how the Germans would use their air resources.


On April 7, 1940, German sea, land, and air forces struck Denmark and Norway. Within the first hours, Danish resistance had collapsed. In Norway, despite almost complete surprise, the Germans were not as successful. The occupation of Bergen, Trondheim, and Narvik went without serious difficulty, even though the landings were dangerously exposed to countermoves by British naval forces. 41 At Oslo and Christiansand, the Germans ran into serious opposition, and at both locations intervention by the Luftwaffe turned the scales. In the latter case, German bombers silenced forts guarding the harbor entrance so that the navy could land troops. At Oslo, the forts protecting the capital, despite their ancient equipment, shelled and sank the heavy cruiser Blücher and, for most of the day, denied German landing forces access to the city. However, German paratroopers seized the airport, and reinforcements rushed in by air overawed the Norwegian population. The breathing space provided by the defenders of the Oslo fjord did allow the Norwegian government to escape and set in motion measures of resistance. Nevertheless, by the end of the first 24 hours, the strategic situation from the Norwegian perspective was hopeless. With all important harbors and airfields in German hands, the Luftwaffe dominated Norwegian resistance and prevented the intervention of the Royal Navy except against Narvik. In the course of operations, the German air force played a crucial role in maintaining air superiority, in providing support to advancing ground forces, and in supplying widely scattered forces. 42

No matter what the tactical successes of the Norwegian campaign might have been, the impact of the campaign on Germany's strategic situation was negative both for the short as well as the long haul. In the latter case, Norway proved a strategic drain throughout the Second World War. Moreover, the conquest of the Lorrain ore fields in the campaign against France mitigated the need for Swedish iron ore. Those imports, while useful, were never decisive. 43 The short-range strategic impact was even more dubious. By the time that naval operations in Norwegian waters had concluded, the German navy had ceased to exist as an effective surface force. By mid-June, Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander in Chief

of the navy, was down to one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers, and four destroyers the remainder of the fleet was either at the bottom of the ocean or in drydock undergoing repair. 44 The naval staff compounded the inevitable naval losses that went with such a campaign by what can only be categorized as strategic incompetence. In late May and early June, afraid that the war would end before its two battle cruisers had significantly engaged enemy forces, the naval high command risked the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in strategically pointless operations in northern waters. As a result, both were seriously damaged and did not return to service until December 1940. 45 Considering that Raeder had already broached the possibility of an invasion of Britain with the Führer as early as the 20th of May, such a frittering away of naval strength in the north is quite surprising. 46

With initiation of operations against Scandinavia, the Germans completed preparations for a move against the West. On May 10, 1940, the Wehrmacht began an offensive aimed at the strategic overthrow of its opponents. Operations against Holland and northern Belgium by Army Group B confirmed Allied expectations as to German strategy and fixed their attention away from the decisive threat. Meanwhile, German armor moved through the Ardennes until it hit the Meuse. By the evening of the 13th, Panzer Group Kleist had three bridgeheads across the river. Within less than two days, the Germans achieved operational freedom and were rolling towards the English Channel. At that time, Germany's opponents believed that the Wehrmacht enjoyed overwhelming superiority. As we now know, except in the air (and even here German superiority was not overwhelming), the Germans did not enjoy a significant, quantifiable advantage. 47 Their victory was due to an operational plan whose serious risks were more than offset by corresponding advantages that would not have been present in a more conventional operation. Second, German training and doctrine were more realistic and demanding than those of their opponents. Third, the army and the Luftwaffe had closely integrated their plans to meet the overall demands of German strategy.

German air attacks that accompanied the start of the offensive aimed at achieving air superiority over the Low Countries and northern France. In the first hours, a significant portion of the Luftwaffe's effort struck at Allied air forces and their ground organizations. Neither the Dutch nor the Belgians were capable of serious opposition as most of their equipment was obsolete. The British had stationed a significant force of bombers and fighters ("Hurricanes") in northern France to support the British Expeditionary Force. 48 The French air force, unfortunately, was in great disarray as it was transitioning to a newer generation of aircraft (as had the Luftwaffe in 1937-38 and the RAF in 1938-39 with similar results). The French were, in fact, having considerable difficulty in equipping squadrons with new aircraft as well as maintaining operational ready rates. In early 1940, some French squadrons ran in-commission rates of barely 40 percent, and the pressure of operations only compounded their difficulties. 49 The Allies' defeat in the campaign should not obscure the fact that the French air force fought well, and its experienced pilots, often in inferior equipment, fought tenaciously. 50

The first German air strikes against the Belgians and Dutch virtually eliminated their air forces as possible factors in the campaign the British and French also suffered heavy aircraft losses on the ground and in the air. But the first day's operations did not come lightly. On May 10, the Germans lost 83 aircraft (not including Ju 52's), including 47 bombers and 25 fighters, equalling the worst losses for a day in the Battle of Britain. On the following day, the Germans lost a further 42 aircraft, including 22 bombers, 8 dive bombers, and 10 fighters. 51

Significantly, the Luftwaffe launched few attacks on Allied forces advancing into Belgium to meet Army Group B's drive. Rather, it shielded General Gert von Rundstedt's forces moving through the Ardennes from the prying eyes of Allied reconnaissance aircraft. By the 12th, Luftflotte 3 reported general superiority over its opponents, and German aircraft now turned increasingly to attacks on the Allied transportation network and to supporting the advance of ground forces. Reinforcing the impression made by air attacks in the early days of the campaign went the psychological impact of German paratrooper operations. Luftwaffe airborne forces seized strategic bridges throughout Belgium and Holland, while German glider forces captured the supposedly impregnable fortress of Eban Emael. Such successes created an impact out of all proportion to German paratrooper strength. 52 By materially aiding Army Group B's advance, they furthered the impression of Allied commanders that the Wehrmacht's offensive weight lay in the north.

Like the German army, the Luftwaffe had prepared for the coming campaign with ruthless efficiency. Richthofen had honed his "Stukas" to a fine edge. 53 Now on the banks of the Meuse, the work paid off. On the 13th, German infantry (an integral part of the panzer divisions) began to cross the river. Guderian had carefully worked out plans with his air counterpart, General Bruno Loerzer, Commander of Fliegerkorps II. The two had decided that the Luftwaffe would provide continuous support rather than a massive, one-shot attack. It would thus force French artillerymen and infantry to keep their heads down while German infantry made the crossing. Despite interference at higher levels, the plan went like clockwork. 54 Continuous "Stuka" attacks on French reservists holding the line had a devastating effect. 55 By nightfall, the Germans had established a secure bridgehead by the next day, tanks were across and by the 15th, the panzers were in the open with a clear run to Abbeville. The use of dive bombers to support the Meuse crossings played a major role in one of the most decisive strategic victories in the military history of the 20th century.

In the north, Dutch resistance collapsed in the face of the German assault. By the third day, the 9th Panzer Division had reached the outskirts of Rotterdam. On May 14, the 54th Bomber Wing shattered the center of that city and killed over 800 and rendered 80,000 homeless despite the fact that negotiations were already in motion to surrender the town. After the war, quite naturally, there was a paucity of individuals willing to accept responsibility. Whether or not the bombing was a deliberate act of terror, as Telford Taylor suggests, it "was part of the German pattern of conquest--a pattern woven by Hitler and the Wehrmacht." 56 To avoid the possibility that the Luftwaffe would destroy another city, the Dutch Commander in

Chief surrendered all his forces in Holland on the next day. At that time, the Germans were not hesitant to note the connections. 57

Exploitation by German armored formations proceeded with utmost dispatch. What is remarkable is the speed with which short-range fighter and dive bombers moved forward to support ground forces that were rapidly drawing out of range. By the 17th, within 24 hours of the French evacuation, German fighters were establishing their operational base at Charleville, west of the Meuse. For several days, fuel, ammunition, parts, and ground personnel flew in by Ju 52's since the army's movement into the ever-deepening pocket had choked the Meuse bridges. The forward operating base was so short of fuel that ground personnel siphoned all but the minimum amount of gasoline from every noncombat aircraft landing at Charleville. This rapid deployment forward was due entirely to an air transport system of Ju 52's. 58 The system supported the army as well as the air force in its drive to the Channel and shortly after the fighters had moved to Charleville, the Luftwaffe flew in 2,000 army technicians to establish a tank repair facility at the same location. 59

The next stage of the campaign led to one of the more controversial episodes in the war, the famous "stop order" that resulted in the eventual escape of most of British Expeditionary Force and large numbers of Frenchmen through Dunkirk. Available evidence contradicts the well-publicized post-war testimony of German generals that Hitler was responsible for halting the movement of German tank forces short of Dunkirk. The most careful reconstruction suggests that Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt and Hitler, supported by a number of other senior officers, stopped the armor before it could cut Allied forces off from Dunkirk. 60 Given the extent of German success and their understandable nervousness, as well as a desire to protect their armored forces for the anticipated conquest of France, the stop order made sense at the time. Interwoven with this German caution was a considerable underestimation of how swiftly the British could organize and conduct a withdrawal operation. On May 25, Göring compounded what was in retrospect a serious strategic mistake by suggesting to Hitler that the Luftwaffe could by itself destroy what was left of Allied armies in the Low Countries. 61 Hitler found Göring's proposal sufficient to delay further the ground offensive against the Dunkirk perimeter. By the time the army moved forward, the opportunity had been lost the enemy had entrenched and had begun a full-scale evacuation.

Over Dunkirk, the Luftwaffe suffered its first serious rebuff of the war. As Galland has noted, the nature and style of the air battles over the beaches should have provided a warning as to the inherent weaknesses of the Luftwaffe's force structure. 62 Admittedly, the Germans fought at a disadvantage. Although positioned forward at captured airfields, the Bf 109 was at the outer limits of its range and possessed less flying time over Dunkirk than did the "Hurricanes" and "Spitfires" operating from southern England. German bombers were still located in western Germany and had even farther to fly. Thus, the Luftwaffe could not bring its full weight to bear so that when its bombers hammered those on the beaches or

embarking, the RAF intervened in a significant fashion. German aircraft losses were high, and British fighter attacks often prevented German bombers from performing with full effectiveness. Both sides suffered heavy losses. During the nine days from May 26 through June 3, the RAF lost 177 aircraft destroyed or damaged the Germans lost 240. 63 For much of the Luftwaffe, Dunkirk came as a nasty shock. Fliegerkorps II reported in its war diary that it lost more aircraft on the 27th attacking the evacuation than it had lost in the previous ten days of the campaign. 64

The destruction or forced evacuation of the entire Allied left wing in the Low Countries (consisting of the most mobile and best trained divisions) made the defense of France hopeless. Nevertheless, the remaining French forces put up a creditable defense in early June, suggesting what they might have accomplished with better leadership in May. Their hopeless military position made defeat quick and brutal. To a certain extent, the strategic collapse of the entire western position has obscured the significant attrition of German armored and air forces that took place during the fighting. At the beginning of the western offensive, the army possessed 2,574 tanks. 65 By the armistice, the Germans had lost 753 tanks or nearly 30 percent of their armored forces. 66 Luftwaffe losses of aircraft were on a similar scale (see Tables III, 67 IV, 68 V, 69 and VI 70 ).

Tables III through VI underscore the extent of German aircraft losses in the Battle of France. They suggest that the tendency to view the Battle of Britain as a separate episode from the defeat of France does not do justice to the resistance of Allied air forces in the spring of 1940 and distort the fact that for five months, from May through September, the Luftwaffe, with only a short pause, was continuously in action. The break in morale of bomber pilots, reported over London in mid-September 1940, thus was the result not only of the strain of fighting over Britain but of operations that had been continuous from the previous May.


Serious German aircraft losses from the spring campaign greatly weakened the Luftwaffe before the Battle of Britain. Had that been the only disadvantage under which the Luftwaffe operated, German strategic problems would have been daunting enough, given the difficulties of mounting a major combined arms operation. Unfortunately for the Germans, the strain that recent battles had imposed on their military structure represented only a small portion of the problem a whole host of strategic, economic, tactical, and technological problems had to be faced and surmounted before the Reich could solve the "British question."

What made an inherently complex task impossible was the overconfidence that marked the German leadership in the summer of 1940. Hitler, basking in a mood of preening self-adulation, went on vacation. During a visit to Paris after the signing of the armistice, tours of World War I battlefields, and picnics along the Rhine, the last thing on Hitler's mind was grand strategy. 71 The high command structure, however, was such that without Hitler there was no one with either the drive or

German Aircraft Losses (Damaged and Destroyed)--May-June 1940

Table IV
German Aircraft Losses 1940 (All Types)

Table V
German Fighter Losses 1940

Table VI
German Bomber Losses 1940

strategic vision to pick up the reins--a state of affairs precisely in accord with the Führer's wishes.

Until mid-July 1940, Hitler believed that England would sue for a peace that he would have happily extended to her. As early as May 20, Hitler had remarked that England could have peace for the asking. 72 Nothing in British behavior in the late 1930's suggested that Hitler's expectation was unrealistic. In fact, there were still some within the British government who regarded Churchill's intransigence with distaste. In late May, Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, expressed his alarm at the relish with which Churchill approached his task, while "Rab" Butler, Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, told the Swedish minister in London that "no opportunity would be neglected for concluding a compromise peace if the chance [were] offered on reasonable conditions." 73

But the mood in Britain had changed. Churchill, furious at Butler's indiscretion, passed along a biting note to Halifax. Butler's whining reply that he had been misunderstood and had meant no offense indicates how much things had changed since Churchill had assumed power. 74 But one must stress that Churchill's toughness as the nation's leader reflected a new mood in Britain. In late June 1940, Admiral Dudley Pound told the French liaison officer at the Admiralty that "the one object we had in view was winning the war and that it was as essential for them [the French] as for us that we should do so . . . . All trivialities, such as questions of friendship and hurting people's feeling, must be swept aside." 75 Indeed they were, when for strategic reasons, the British government ordered the Royal Navy to attack and sink the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. 76

The Germans missed the new British resolve almost completely, and Hitler's strategic policy from the summer of 1940 though 1941 sought a method, whether it be military, diplomatic, or political, to persuade the British to make peace. The mood in Berlin was euphoric, since the Germans believed that the war was nearly over. All that remained, from their viewpoint, was to find the right formula for ending hostilities. Confirming this perspective was a strategic memorandum of late June in which Alfred Jodl, the number two man in the OKW, suggested that "the final victory of Germany over England is only a question of time." 77 Jodl's approach to the English "problem" reflected a general failing within the officer corps of all three services. As the campaign in the west in 1940 had shown, the tactical and operational performance of German military forces was without equal. The problem lay on a higher level: that of strategy. The Germans, if they had mastered the tactical and operational lessons of World War I, had not mastered the strategic lessons of that terrible conflict. While the French failure to learn from the last war had immediate consequences in May 1940, in the long run German unwillingness to face that war's strategic lessons had an even more catastrophic impact on their history.

German strategic planning and discussions throughout the summer of 1940 reflect, in glaring fashion, a failure to grasp the essentials of strategy. The navy had squandered its battle cruiser assets in strategically meaningless operations off

Norway in the late spring. The army drew up a plan for the proposed cross-channel invasion, code named "Sea Lion," that one can charitably describe as irrelevant to and ignorant of the general state of available naval strength. The Luftwaffe throughout the summer, following Göring's lead, paid minimal attention to the operational problems of a channel crossing by the army in the belief that its victory over the RAF would make an invasion unnecessary. 78

Jodl's June memorandum posed two possibilities for German strategy against England: (a) "a direct attack on the English motherland (b) an extension of the war to peripheral areas" such as the Mediterranean and trade routes. In the case of a direct strategy, there existed three avenues: (1) an offensive by air and sea against British shipping combined with air attacks against centers of industry (2) terror attacks by air against population centers and (3) finally, a landing operation aimed at occupying England. The precondition for German success, Jodl argued, must be the attainment of air superiority. Furthermore, attacks on British aircraft plants would insure that the RAF would not recover from its defeat. Interestingly, Jodl suggested that air superiority would lead to a diminishing capacity for the RAF bomber force to attack Germany. It is in this context that German attacks in the coming struggle on Bomber Command's bases must be seen. By extending the air offensive to interdict imports and to the use of terror attacks against the British population (justified as reprisal attacks), Jodl believed that the Luftwaffe would break British willpower. He commented that German strategy would require a landing on the British coast only as the final blow ("Todesstoss") to finish off an England that the Luftwaffe and navy had already defeated. 79

On June 30, 1940, Göring signed an operational directive for the air war against England. After redeployment of its units, the Luftwaffe would first attack the RAF, its ground support echelons, and its aircraft industry. Success of these attacks would create the conditions necessary for an assault on British imports and supplies, while at the same time protecting German industry. "As long as the enemy air force is not destroyed, it is the basic principle of the conduct of air war to attack the enemy air units at every possible favorable opportunity--by day and night, in the air, and on the ground--without regard for other missions." What is apparent in early Luftwaffe studies is the fact that the German air force regarded the whole RAF as the opponent rather than just Fighter Command. Thus, the attacks on Bomber Command bases and other RAF installations partially reflected an effort to destroy the entire British air force rather than bad intelligence. Parenthetically, the losses in France directly influenced Göring's thinking. He demanded that the Luftwaffe maintain its fighting strength as much as possible and not allow its personnel and matériel to be diminished because of overcommitments. 80

In retrospect, the task facing the Germans in the summer of 1940 was beyond their capabilities. Even disregarding the gaps in interservice cooperation--a must in any combined operations--the force structure, training, and doctrine of the three services were not capable of solving the problem of invading the British Isles. The Norwegian campaign had virtually eliminated the Kriegsmarine as a viable naval force. Thus, there were neither heavy units nor light craft available to protect

amphibious forces crossing the Channel. The lack of escorting forces would have made "Sea Lion" particularly hazardous because it meant that the Germans possessed no support against British destroyer attacks coming up or down the Channel. The Admiralty had stationed 4 destroyer flotillas (approximately 36 destroyers) in the immediate vicinity of the threatened invasion area, and additional forces of cruisers, destroyers, and battleships were available from the Home Fleet. 81 Even with air superiority, it is doubtful whether the Luftwaffe could have prevented some British destroyers from getting in among the amphibious forces the Navy certainly could not. The landing craft that circumstances forced the Germans to choose, Rhine River barges, indicates the haphazard nature of the undertaking as well as the tenuous links to supplies and reinforcements that the Germans would have had across the Channel. Just a few British destroyers among the slow moving transport vessels would have caused havoc.

Air superiority itself represented a most difficult task, given Luftwaffe strength and aircraft capabilities. Somewhat ironically, the strategic problem confronting the Germans in the summer of 1940 represented in microcosm that facing Allied air forces in 1943. Because of the Bf 109's limited range, German bombers could only strike southern England where fighter protection could hold the loss rate down to acceptable levels. This state of affairs allowed the RAF a substantial portion of the country as a sanctuary where it could establish and control an air reserve and where British industrial power, particularly in the Birmingham-Liverpool area, could maintain production largely undisturbed. Moreover, the limited range of German fighter cover allowed the British one option that they never had to exercise: Should the pressure on Fighter Command become too great, they could withdraw their fighters north of London to refit and reorganize then when the Germans launched "Sea Lion," they could resume the struggle. Thus in the final analysis, the Luftwaffe could only impose on Fighter Command a rate of attrition that its commanders would accept. The Germans were never in a position to attack the RAF over the full length and breadth of its domain. Similarly in 1943, Allied fighters could only grapple with the Germans up to a line approximately along the Rhine. On the other side of the line, the Luftwaffe could impose an unacceptable loss rate on Allied bombers. Not until Allied fighters could range over the entire length and breadth of Nazi Germany could Allied air forces win air superiority over the continent.

The rather long preparatory period between the end of the French campaign and the launching of the great air offensive against the British Isles was due to more than just German confidence that the war was over and that Britain would accept peace. The losses suffered in the spring and the extensive commitments of aircraft and aircrews in the May-June battles demanded considerable time for rest and recuperation as well as the integration of fresh crews into bomber and fighter units. Moreover, the speed of the German advance had caused several major redeployments of air units to keep up with ground operations. The attack on Britain now required another major redeployment and the preparation of permanent

airfields and facilities for an extended campaign. The logistical difficulties involved in establishing a new base structure far from Germany were considerable.

Further complicating the Luftwaffe's tasks was an inadequate intelligence system. While the gap between the British and the Germans was not yet wide, the British were on the way towards gaining a decisive edge in intelligence collection. 82 Already the British had enjoyed their first successes in breaking into the German "enigma" coding system, and poor signal discipline by the Luftwaffe throughout the war provided the British with easy access to German air force communications traffic. The impact of "Ultra" (the comprehensive generic term for intelligence based on intercepted and decoded German messages) on the Battle of Britain is not entirely clear. The official historian of British intelligence in the war claims that it had no direct impact on the battle, while another historian argues that "Ultra" indicated German targets for the August 15 attacks early enough for Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander in Chief of Fighter Command, to use the decrypts in his conduct of that day's air battles. 83 What is clear is that "Ultra," in combination with 'Y' Service intercepts of German radio traffic, gave the British an increasingly accurate picture of the German order of battle as air operations continued into September. 84 Finally, the Battle of Britain witnessed the integration of British scientists directly into the intelligence network. The combination of scientists with signals and other intelligence gave the Allies a detailed picture of German scientific advances as well as the enemy's tactics and operations. Conversely, the picture of Allied developments remained almost opaque to the Germans. 85 The first clear break in scientific intelligence came when the British--on the basis of a few scraps of information drawn from crashed aircraft, the interrogation of captured aircrews, and several "Ultra" messages--deduced the nature of the German blind bombing system, the so-called "Knickebein" method. 86 This was the first of many triumphs.

The undervaluing of intelligence and a concomitant underestimation of enemy capabilities marked Luftwaffe operations throughout the war. 87 These defects showed up in appreciations written by the Luftwaffe's intelligence section for the air offensive on Britain. However, given the successes of May and June and the overestimation of airpower capabilities then current in the air forces of the world, it is perhaps understandable that the Germans misjudged their opponents. In a study dated July 16, Luftwaffe intelligence estimated the "Hurricane" and "Spitfire" well below their actual performance capabilities, made no mention of Britain's radar-controlled air defense system, and ended on the optimistic note that "the Luftwaffe, unlike the RAF, will be in a position in every respect to achieve a decisive effect this year." 88

The initial Luftwaffe estimate on the duration of the coming campaign was four days for the defeat of Fighter Command in southern England, followed by four weeks during which German bombers and long-range fighters would mop up the remainder of the RAF and destroy the British aircraft industry. 89 On July 21, Göring intimated to his commanders that beside the RAF, the British aircraft industry represented a critical target for winning air superiority. Above all, the initial strategic goal must aim at the weakening of the morale and actual strength of British

fighter units. Interestingly, Göring suggested that his fighter forces exercise maximum operational latitude, and to this end commanders should not tie them too closely to the bombers. Such a strategy would allow the fighters to use their speed and maneuverability. 90 Three days later, Fliegerkorps I delineated four direct missions for the Luftwaffe in the coming battle. The first and most important was to win air superiority by attacks on the RAF and its industrial support, particularly the engine industry second, to support the Channel crossing by attacks against the enemy fleet and bombers, and eventually through direct aid for the army third, to attack British ports, supplies, and imports and finally, independent of the first three tasks, launch ruthless retaliatory terror attacks on major British cities. 91

The first phase of the battle, July through early August, involved exploratory operations over the Channel as the Germans, preparing for a major offensive in August, sought to draw Fighter Command out and to close the Channel. Neither side came out a clear winner, but one can perhaps criticize the Admiralty for continuing coastal convoys in the face of the air threat from across the Channel and the Air Ministry for accepting an additional responsibility for Fighter Command to protect a relatively unimportant movement of ships. By the end of July, despite losses, both sides were stronger numerically than at the end ofJune. 92

Even before the Germans launched their aerial assault, code-named "Eagle Day," distressing tactical problems had appeared over the Channel. The bombers and "Stukas" had proven as vulnerable to British fighter attack as they had over Dunkirk, while the Bf 110 proved unable to defend itself adequately against "Hurricanes" and "Spitfires." Only the Bf 109 showed itself equal to the "Spitfire" and superior to the "Hurricane." Thus, the single-engine fighter force had to provide protection to all bomber sorties and Bf 110 missions, as well as conduct its own campaign against Fighter Command. The helplessness of German bombers faced with British fighter opposition was reflected in Göring's early August directive that German fighters flying cover should stick close to the units they were protecting and not allow themselves to be deflected from their primary mission by the appearance of single enemy aircraft. 93

The air battles in mid-August underlined the weakness of the Luftwaffe's force structure. On August 15, RAF fighters based in central and northern England decimated German bombers and Bf 110's flying unescorted from Scandinavia and proved once and for all that unsupported daylight bomber operations against Britain were nearly impossible. RAF opposition in the north also disproved the German view that Dowding would concentrate his entire strength in the south to meet the air threat from across the Channel. In that area, the contest for air superiority lasted for a little over a month. Flying up to three sorties a day, the Bf 109 force could not be everywhere and as bomber and Bf 110 losses mounted, the fighter squadrons unfairly came under criticism from Göring and his staff for insufficiently protecting the bombers. 94 The fuel supply of the Bf 109 limited the arena within which the Luftwaffe grappled with Fighter Command, as well as the time that fighter formations could remain with the bombers. Surprisingly, the Condor Legion had successfully experimented in Spain with drop tanks that extended the Bf 109's

range by upwards of 125 miles none were available for use in 1940--a state of affairs quite similar to what was to occur in the US Army Air Forces in 1943. 95

On August 15, an easily discouraged Göring questioned the promising attacks that the Luftwaffe had made on radar installations. 96 Thereafter, the Germans left the British radar network alone and concentrated on Fighter Command, aircraft bases, and sector stations in southern England. The pressure that these attacks placed on the air defense forces has received justifiable attention from historians, and Dowding's conduct of the air battle, supported by the Commander of 11 Group, Keith Park, ranks among the great defensive victories of the war.

What has not been so clear is that these air battles placed a comparable, if not greater, strain on the Luftwaffe's resources. For the week beginning with "Eagle Day" on August 13 and ending on August 19, the Germans wrote off approximately 284 aircraft, or 7 percent of their total force structure, or approximately 10 percent of all aircraft deployed in the three air fleets facing Britain as of July 20. 97 For August, aircraft losses were 774 from all causes, or 18.5 percent of all combat aircraft available at the beginning of the month. 98

Such a high attrition rate had an obvious impact on crew strength and morale. As Table VII 99 indicates, pilot losses for August were disproportionately high compared to aircraft losses, undoubtedly reflecting the fact that most of the air fighting occurred over the Channel or British territory.

Aircraft and Crew Losses--August 1940

The attrition of experienced aircrews in the battle is indicated by a steady drop in the percentage of operational ready crews present in the squadrons over the summer (see Table VIII 100 ).

Table VIII
Percentage of Fully Operational Ready Crews,
July--September 1940

The figures in Tables VII and VIII only hint at the problem. Not only had the Germans lost many of their most experienced combat crews but by September 1940, the percentage of operational ready crews against authorized aircraft had dropped to an unacceptable level. On September 14, Luftwaffe Bf 109 squadrons possessed only 67 percent operational ready crews against authorized aircraft. For Bf 110 squadrons, the figure was 46 percent and for bombers, it was 59 percent. One week later, the figures were 64 percent, 52 percent, and 52 percent, respectively. 101

Conversely, aircraft losses for July through September give the impression that the Germans were running out of aircraft as well as aircrews! (See Table IX. 102 ) Table X 103 indicates the cumulative effect of losses from May through September. These losses indicate the Luftwaffe's heavy commitment for the period.

The impact of losses over southern England combined with inclinations already present in Luftwaffe doctrine to induce a change in German air strategy early in September. Attacks on Britain's air defense system through September 6 had given no indication that Fighter Command was weakening. As a result, Göring--at Kesselring's urging and with Hitler's support--turned to a massive assault on the British capital. This all-out effort, directed at London's East End and the Thames docks, accorded well with Douhet's theories and the German's own belief that ruthlessness could pay extra dividends.

Hitler's conversion to the assault on London reflected a predilection that would haunt the Luftwaffe in the coming years: his insatiable fascination with a retaliatory air strategy in reply to enemy bombings. On September 4, the Führer declared in Berlin: "When they declare they will attack our cities in great measure, we will eradicate their cities . . . . The hour will come when one of us will break, and it will not be National Socialist Germany!" 104

The results of the great September 7 raid on the London docks were indeed spectacular. Over the night of September 7-8, London firemen fought nine fires that they rated over 100 pumps, and one fire on the Surrey docks of over 300 pumps. 105 The attack of September 7 did not entirely step over the line into a clear terror bombing effort since the primary target was the London docks, but there clearly was an assumed hope of terrorizing the London population. The relief to Fighter Command provided by this change in German strategy benefited not so much the exhausted fighter crews who still faced considerable fighting but rather the ground infrastructure of the British air defense system (the maintenance personnel, airfields, and sector stations needed to keep the aircraft flying).

The heavy night bombing and daylight probes of the next week put heavy pressure on both London's inhabitants and German bomber crews. However, not until September 15 did the Luftwaffe launch the next massive daylight attack on London. This strike represented the climactic moment of the battle. While on earlier occasions the Germans had lost more aircraft, the stunning impact of a Fighter Command that was rested and prepared by a week of less critical operations

Aircraft Losses--July-September 1940

Aircraft Losses--May-September 1940

broke the back of the attack. Unlike the previous week when the Luftwaffe had devastated the Thames docks, the bombers now scattered over London and ran for the coast. As a consequence, there was no concentrated pattern to the bombing. 106

The failure of the daylight offensive in September led to the cancellation of "Sea Lion" and to a rethinking of German air strategy against Britain as part of an overall reassessment. The Germans now turned to a night bombing offensive. The strategic problem that faced the Luftwaffe was how exactly it could conduct this campaign. As with the air superiority battle of August and early September, this problem was, in many ways, similar to that facing those directing the Allied "strategic" bombing campaign of 1943 and 1944. German planners had to decide whether the Luftwaffe should deliver the weight of its attack against a specific segment of British industry such as aircraft factories, or against a system of interrelated industries such as Britain's import and distribution network, or even in a blow aimed at breaking the morale of the British population. The bombing offensive against London, referred to as the Blitz, attempted to achieve simultaneously all three strategies, none of which proved decisive. 107 As with the daylight attacks, the Luftwaffe did not possess the strength or the capabilities to achieve these objectives, but these direct attacks on British military industrial targets and population centers only spurred British desires to repay the Germans in kind. 108

One aspect of the German night bomber offensive deserves closer scrutiny. The switch to night bombing resulted from a realistic appreciation that German fighters were not sufficiently numerous to protect the bombers from devastating British fighter attacks. The night effort led to a drastic falloff in bomber losses due to combat and through the winter of 1941, British night fighter and antiaircraft defenses were generally ineffective against German intruders. While combat-related losses were low, the accident rate remained high. Luftwaffe crews flew these combat missions at night and in bad weather, or trained in less-than-perfect conditions to achieve the flying proficiency required. Thus, to list only combat losses considerably understates the attrition taking place. From October to December 1940, bomber losses due to noncombat causes ran well over 50 percent of all losses each month while for the whole period, 63.5 percent of bomber losses resulted from noncombat causes. (See Table XI. 109 )

Luftwaffe Bomber Losses--October-December 1940

As with most wars, those who participated in or who observed the Battle of Britain and the Blitz drew conclusions compatible with their own views on force structure and doctrine. Nevertheless, in every sense, those directing the Luftwaffe came off least well in the "lessons learned" analysis. Although the Germans had suffered the hardest psychological knocks, since it had been their air offensive that had failed, their reaction seems best represented by Jeschonnek's remark shortly before the invasion of Russia: "At last, a proper war!" 110 Before going on to examine the full implications of such a statement, one should note that Jeschonnek and the general staff paid minimal attention to the attrition that had taken place not

only in the Battle of Britain but in the land campaign that had preceded it. Thus, willfully and confidently, they embarked on a campaign to conquer the largest nation in the world with an air force that quantitatively was virtually the same size as it had been the previous year and that was arguably weaker in terms of crew experience and training. Moreover, industrial production of aircraft had stagnated for the third consecutive year.

For the British, the Battle of Britain confirmed what operations over the Heligoland Bight had indicated the previous December--daylight bomber operations in the face of enemy fighters were not possible. Surprisingly, German night operations, which often did not achieve either concentration or accuracy in bombing, did not raise the obvious question of the RAF's bombing accuracy over German territory. Not until the summer of 1941, on the basis of Bomber Command's own operations, did the British recognize that only one-third of their bombs were falling within 5 miles of the target (a target circle equal to 78.54 square miles). 111 Nor did the fact that massive German bombing of London had not diminished but rather strengthened British morale make much impression. On this very point, Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Commander in Chief of the RAF, remarked at that time that the Germans surely could not take the same level of pounding as had the British people. 112

The American assessment of the tactical lessons was equally dubious. Army Air Forces' observers attributed the high loss rate of German bombers at the hands of British fighters to inadequate defensive armament and airframe size, to flying missions at too low a level, and to poor formation discipline under attack. 113 The Army Air Forces' plan of employment, drawn up in August 1941 for America's possible entrance into a European war, argued that "by employing large numbers of aircraft with high speed, good defensive power, and high altitude," its bombers could penetrate deep into the heart of Germany in daylight without unbearable losses. 114 The impediment that the Bf 109's lack of range placed on German bomber operations did not receive proper recognition until the disaster over Schweinfurt in October of 1943 had again underscored the need for long-range fighter support. According to American official historians, such an oversight "is difficult to account for." 115

In one critical respect, however, the British and American air forces drew the correct lesson from the Battle of Britain. Both air forces concluded that the German force structure had been inadequate to meet the demands of the battle. Encouraged by an overestimation of actual German air strength, both air forces set targets for their industrial production and force structure that demanded enormous increases in air strength. Thus, at the same time that the Germans continued a minimum program of air armament, Britain and the United States set in motion preparations that gave them a decisive quantitative edge in the later years of the war. The air struggle of those years, as with the 1940 battles, rested on numbers of aircraft, industrial capacity and production, and availability of trained aircrews. The basis of Allied superiority, thus, would rest on the production programs drawn up in 1940 and 1941 by both sides.


1. IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXXII, Doc. #3575, p. 413.

2. Jost Dülffer, Weimar, Hitler und die Marine, Reichspolitik und Flottenbau 1920-1939 (Düsseldorf, 1973), p. 504.

3. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York, 1960), pp. 446-47.

4. For a fuller discussion of this criticism of British policy, see my soon-to-be-published study The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938-1939, Chapters X and XI. This is a fundamentally different view than that expressed by Gerhard Weinberg in The Foreign Policy of Nazi Germany, Vol. II (Chicago, 1981). Readers interested in the subject are invited to compare the differing interpretations.

5. IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXVI, Doc. #798PS, p. 338.

6. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 467.

7. I am indebted to Oberstleutnant Dr. Klaus Maier of the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt for this line of argument.

8. BA/MA RL 7/42, RL 7/43, Luftflottenkommando 2., Führungsabteilung, Nr. 7093/39, 13.5.39., "Schlussbesprechung des Planspieles 1939."

9. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, pp. 63-64.

10. Quoted in David Irving, The War Path, Hitler's Germany, 1933-1939 (New York, 1978), p. 225 for further discussion of this visit, see Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, pp. 73-74.

11. Documents on German Foreign Policy (DGFP), Series D, Vol. VII, Doc. #192, 22.8.39.

12. Ibid., Vol. VII, Doc. #307, 26.8.39.

13. See the outstanding article on the real attitudes within the Chamberlain Cabinet by Peter Ludlow, "The Unwinding of Appeasement" in Das "Andere Deutschland" im Zweiten Weltkrieg, ed. by L. Kettenacker (Stuttgart, 1977).

14. For the economic side of such a strategy, see Burton Klein, Germany's Economic Preparations for War (Cambridge, 1959), and Alan Milward, The German Economy at War (London, 1965). On the military side of the argument, see Larry Addington, The Blitzkrieg Era and the German General Staff, 1865-1941 (New Brunswick, 1971). For a recent restatement of the theory, see F. H. Hinsley, E. E. Thomas, C. F. G. Ransom, R. C. Knight, British Intelligence in the Second World War, Vol. I (London, 1979), Chapter 1.

15. For a fuller discussion of these issues, see Murray, "The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938-1939," Chapter 1.

16. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 117.

17. "The Luftwaffe in Poland," a study produced by the German Historical Branch (8th Abteilung), 11.7.44., AHB, Translation No. VII/33.

18. For a fuller discussion of the planning and conduct of operations in the Polish campaign, see: Robert M. Kennedy, The German Campaign in Poland 1939 (Washington, 1956) and Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, Part IV.

19. For an interesting discussion of the Polish campaign in the air, see J. S. Orworski, "Polish Air Force Versus Luftwaffe," Air Pictorial, Vol. 21, Nos. 10 and 11, October and November 1959.

20. In fact, it can be argued that it was only in Poland that the Germans integrated armored formations and close air support into a coherent operational concept. It was only in Poland that a significant body within the German army's high command became convinced that an armored exploitation strategy was in the offing.

21. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 124 for a detailed account of the battle along the Bzura, see Rolf Elbe, Die Schlacht an der Bzura im September 1939 aus deutscher und polnischer Sicht (Freiburg, 1975).

22. "German Bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam," Air Historical Branch, Translation VII/132.

23. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 133.

24. For a fuller discussion of the state of the German army after the Polish campaign and its efforts to correct its deficiencies, see my article in Armed Forces and Society (Winter 1981), "The German Response to Victory in Poland: A Case Study in Professionalism."

25. IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXVI, Doc. #798PS, pp. 342-43.

26. Schlesisches Institut für Wirtschafts- and Konjunkturforschung, "Zahlen des deutschen Aussenhandels seit Kriegsbeginn," August 1940, pp. 2-7, NARS T-84/195/1560551.

27. Bericht des Herrn Professor Dr. C. Krauch über die Lage auf dem Arbeitsgebiet der Chemie in der Sitzung des Generalrates am 24.6.41., "Treibstoff-Vorräte," NARS T-84/217/1586749.

28. In particular, see Harold C. Deutsch, The Conspiracy Against Hitler in the Twilight War (Minneapolis, 1968), who regards Hitler's desire for a western offensive in the fall as completely irrational.

29. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 267.

30. OKW files: "Denkschrift und Richtlinien über die Führung des Krieges im Westen," Berlin, 9.10.39., NARS T-77/775.

31. H. R. Trevor-Roper, ed., Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Hitler's War Directives (New York, 1965), Directive #6 for the Conduct of the War, 9.10.39., p. 13.

32. For a fuller discussion of these "after action" reports and their impact on army thinking, see my article "The German Response to Victory in Poland: A Case Study in Professionalism."

33. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 242.

34. Air Historical Branch, Translation No. VII/107, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945 (compiled from the records of VI Abteilung Quartermaster General's Department of the German Air Ministry). Dates for the figures are September 2, 1939, and April 6, 1940.

35. Trevor-Roper, Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Directive #6 for the Conduct of the War, 9.10.30., p. 13.

36. "Proposal for the Conduct of Air War Against Britain," made by General Schmid of the German Air Force Operations Staff (intelligence), 22.11.39., AHB, Translation No. VII/30.

37. Trevor-Roper, Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Directive #9, "Instructions for Warfare Against the Economy of the Enemy," 29.11.39., p. 18.

38. See, in particular, Guderian's description of the major argument in the March conference between himself and Generals Halder and Busch. Heinz Guderian, Panzer Leader (London, 1952), pp. 90-92. For fuller accounts of arguments within the German high command over the proper strategy for the coming campaign, see: Telford Taylor, The March of Conquest (New York, 1958) Alistair Home, To Lose a Battle, France 1940 (London, 1969) Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Fall Gelb. Der Kampf um den deutschen Operations plan zur Westoffensive 1940 (Wiesbaden, 1957) Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Dokumente zur Vorgeschichte des Wesfeldzuges 1939-1940 (Göttingen, 1956).

39. Taylor, The March of Conquest, p. 90.

40. Trevor-Roper, Blitzkrieg to Defeat, Directive #6 for the Conduct of the War, 9.10.39., p. 14. These instructions for the immediate operational employment of the Luftwaffe do not contradict the thesis that the purpose of the campaign was to create the conditions for a strategic offensive (air and naval) against Britain. For a fuller description of Luftwaffe tasks, see: ObdL, Führungsstab Ia Nr. 5330/39, 7.12.39. Weisung Nr. 5, Luftkrieg im Westen. AFSHRC: K 113.306.2.

41. The misreading of these German naval operations by the Admiralty and by Churchill in particular must be counted as one of the great British failures of the Second World War.

42. The clearest account of the campaign in English is contained in Taylor, The March of Conquest see also T. K. Derry, The Campaign in Norway (London, 1952) S. W. Roskill, The War at Sea, 1939-45 (London, 1954) and Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II.

43. For the best discussion on the importance of Swedish iron ore imports to the Reich, see: Rolf Karlbom, "Sweden's Iron Ore Exports to Germany 1933-1944," Scandinavian Economic History Review, No. 1 (1965).

44. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 224.

45. Ibid., 221-24. It should be stressed that the navy risked these ships partially to gain an advantageous position for the post-war budget debates.

46. Raeder claims in his memoir that he only raised the issue of a possible invasion to pre-empt the topic. His strategy thereafter indicates that from the start, he never considered an invasion a serious possibility. See Erich Raeder, Struggle for the Sea (London, 1952), p. 331.

47. For a numerical comparison of the forces employed in this campaign, see in particular R. H. S. Stolfi, "Equipment for Victory in France in 1940," History (February 1970). There is, of course, another aspect and that is the qualitative difference. See also my article in Armed Forces and Society, "The German Response to Victory in Poland: A Case Study in Professionalism."

48. For the disposition of RAF forces in France at the start of the 1940 campaign, see Major L. F. Ellis, The War in France and Flanders, 1939-1940 (London, 1953), map between pages 34 and 35.

49. See, in particular, Patrice Buffotot and Jacques Ogier, "L'armee de l'air française dans la campagne de France (10 mai-25 juin 1940)," Revue historique des Armées, Vol. II, No. 3, pp. 88-117.

50. For an interesting discussion of the relative experience level of pilots in the French and German air forces, see: J. Curry, "Hawk 75 in French Service," American Aviation Historical Society Journal, Vol. II, No. 1 (Spring 1966), pp. 13-30.

51. "Der Einsatz der deutschen Luftwaffe während der ersten 11 Tage des Frankreichfeldzuges," Ausüge aus den täglichen Lagemeldungen des Oberbefehlshabers der Luftwaffe, Abt. Ic., AFSHRC: K 113.306-3, v. 2.

52. Seventy German paratroopers ended up on top of Eben-Emael and were sufficient to force the surrender of the fort with its 1,200 defenders. "Der Handstreich auf die Werk-Gruppe Eben-Emael am 10. Mai 1940," NARS T-971/35/1019.

53. KTB VIII Fl. Korps, BA/MA RL 8/45.

54. For Guderian's account, see Panzer Leader, pp. 79-82. See also "Der Bericht der Luftwaffe über die Durchführung," Auszug aus den täglichen Luftlagemeldungen des Oberbefehlshabers der Luftwaffe-Lagebericht Nr. 251, 14.5.40, AFSHRC: K 113.306-3, v. 2 and KTB VIII Fl. Korps, BA/MA RL 8/45.

55. For the collapse of the French infantry under "Stuka" attack, see Home, To Lose a Battle, France, 1940, pp. 290-92.

56. Taylor, March of Conquest, p. 203.

57. See the diary entry for General von Waldau's diary: Auszugweise Wiedergabe aus dem persönlichen Tagebuch des Generals von Waldau vom März 1939-10.4.42 Chef des Luftwaffenfführungstabes. AFSHRC: K 113.306-3, v. 2.

58. "Das Jagdgeschwader 27 des VIII. Flieger-Korps im Frankreichfeldzug, 1940," Generalmajor a. D. Max Ibel, 25.6.53., BA/MA, RL 10/591.

59. Generaloberst Halder, Kriegstagebuch, Vol. I, ed. by Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (Stuttgart, 1964), diary entry for 16.5.40.

60. See the carefully worked out argument in Taylor, The March of Conquest, pp. 255-63.

61. Testimony by former Chief of Intelligence Schmid on 18.6.54., AFSHRC: K 113.306-3, v. 3.

62. Adolf Galland, The First and the Last (New York, 1954), p. 6.

63. Ellis, The War in France and Flanders, p. 246. The German losses, it should be noted, were for the entire western theater of operations, but most of the Luftwaffe's effort was concentrated in this time period over Dunkirk.

64. "Einsatz des II. Fliegerkorps bei Dünkirchen am 27.5.40.: Schwerer Tag des II. Fliegerkorps," AFSHRC: K 113.306-3, v. 3.

65. Guderian, Panzer Leader, p. 75.

66. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 294.

67. These two tables are drawn from two major compilations of the Air Historical Branch. They are AHB, Translation VII/107, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945" and Translation VII/83, "German Aircraft Losses, September 1939-December 1940." These tables, in turn, were compiled from the German Quartermaster records then in the hands of the AHB.

68. BA/MA RL 2 III/1025, gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (III A), "Front-Flugzeug-Verluste," 1940.

69. Ibid.

70. Ibid.

71. For Hitler's mood after the defeat of France, see Telford Taylor, The Breaking Wave (New York, 1967), pp. 53-54.

72. IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXVIII, Jodl diary entry for 20.5.40.

73. The Earl of Birkenhead, Halifax (Boston, 1966), p. 458 and Llewellyn Woodward, British Foreign Policy in the Second World War (London, 1962), p. 53.

74. For the British files on this incident, see PRO FO 371/24859 and FO 800/322.

75. PRO ADM 205/4 undated and unsigned memorandum.

76. For a full discussion of the British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, see the thoughtful study by Arthur Marder in From the Dardanelles to Oran (London, 1974), Chapter V.

77. Chef WFA, 30.6.40., "Die Weiterführung des Krieges gegen England," IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 301-03.

78. Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, pp. 378-79.

79. Chef WFA, 30.6.40., "Die Weiterführung des Krieges gegen England," IMT, TMWC, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 301-03.

80. BA/MA RL 211/27, "Allgemeine Weisung für den Kampf der Luftwaffe gegen England," ObdL, Führungsstab Ia Nr. 5835/40, 30.6.40.

81. Roskill, The War at Sea, Vol. I, pp. 248-49.

82. For the intelligence advantage that the British enjoyed, see: R. V. Jones, The Wizard War (New York, 1978) Hinsley, et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War, Vol. I Ronald Lewin, Ultra Goes to War (New York, 1978) and Brian Johnson, The Secret War (London, 1978).

83. Hinsley, et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War, Vol. I, pp. 176-77 and Harold Deutsch, "Ultra and the Air War in Europe and Africa," Air Power and Warfare, pp. 165-66. For the German view on Ultra's impact, see Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, p. 384.

84. For the contribution of "Y" Service, see Aileen Clayton, The Enemy is Listening (London, 1980).

85. See, in particular, Jones, Wizard War and Solly Zuckerman, From Apes to Warlords (London, 1978).

86. In particular, see PRO AIR 20/1623 Air Scientific Intelligence Report No. 6, "The Crooked Leg," 28.6.40., for R. V. Jones' initial report and estimation of the "Knickebein" system.

87. See particularly, Boog, "Higher Command and Leadership in the German Luftwaffe, 1935-1945," Air Power and Warfare, p. 145.

88. Mason, Battle Over Britain, Appendix K, OKL, 16.7.40., Operations Staff Ic.

89. Basil Collier, The Defense of the United Kingdom (London, 1957), p. 160.

90. BA/MA RL 2 II/30, "Besprechung Reichsmarschall am 21.7.40."

91. BA/MA RL 8/1 Generalkommando I. Fliegerkorps Abt. Ia Nr. 10260/40, 24.7.40., "Gedanken über die Führung des Luftkrieges gegen England."

92. Basil Collier, The Battle of Britain (New York, 1962), pp. 62-75.

93. BA/MA RL 2 II/30, H. Qu., 2 August 1940, Aktenvermerk.

94. See Galland, The First and the Last, pp. 24-29.

95. Ibid., p. 24.

96. BA/MA RL 2 II/30, Besprechung am 15.8.40.

97. The figures of Luftwaffe aircraft written off (60 percent or greater damage) comes from the loss tables in Mason, Battle Over Britain, pp. 241-43, 247, 263-64, 272-73, 274, 281-84, 286-87 the 7 percent figure represents total Luftwaffe aircraft types involved in the Battle of Britain as of August 10 based on AHB, Translation No. VII/107, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945" while the 10 percent figure represents aircraft deployed in the three air fleets as of July 20, Mason, Battle Over Britain, p. 128.

98. Figures based on: AHB, Translation No. VII/107, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945" and AHB, Translation VII/83, "German Aircraft Losses, September 1939-December 1940."

99. This table is drawn from the Luftwaffe loss reports in Mason, Battle Over Britain. With the exception of the Bf 109 figures in which, with only a pilot air crew, losses directly reflect pilot losses, this table estimates pilot losses as pilots are not directly identified among crew losses. The Mason tables only concern air fleets involved in the battle so that losses in the Reich or in OTUs (Operational Training Units) are not counted. The figures for pilots killed, captured, injured, uninjured, or missing are not directly equivalent to aircraft written off since, in some cases, pilots were killed or injured in accidents in which the aircraft was not written off. In other losses, aircraft were destroyed with no aircrew losses involved (i.e., enemy bombing, ground accident). However, since only those pilots who were uninjured returned to duty, the extent of pilot losses is obvious. Finally, the high number of missing aviators indicates that many pilots were captured by the British.

100. Based on figures in the quartermaster returns in BA/MA RL 2 III/708 and 709.

101. Based on figures drawn from BA/MA RL 2 III/709 for 14.9.40. and 21.9.40.

102. AHB, Translation VII/83, "German Aircraft Losses, September 1939-December 1940."

103. Ibid.

104. Quoted in Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Vol. II, p. 386.

105. Mason, Battle Over Britain, p. 363.

106. Ibid., pp. 387-91.

107. For an excellent discussion of various arguments over target selection and strategy in the post-September 15 period, see: Maier, et al., Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, pp. 388-96.

108. Air Marshal 'Bert' Harris recalls taking Sir Charles Portal up to the roof of the Air Ministry to watch the spectacular results of one of the December raids on London. Harris interview, RAF Staff College, Bracknell, England.

109. Table drawn from AHB, Translation No. VII/83, "German Aircraft Losses, September 1939-December 1940" and AHB, Translation No. VII/107, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945."

110. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 123.

111. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. IV, Annexes and Appendices, p. 205.

112. Dennis Richards, Portal (London, 1979), p. 146. The similarity between Portal's comment and Knauss' argumentation is indeed striking. See Chapter I of this book, p. 10.

113. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr., The Air Plan that Defeated Hitler (Atlanta, 1972), pp. 53-54.

114. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. I, p. 149.

115. Ibid., p. 604.

General Walther Wever, First Chief of Staff
(Photo Credit: AFSHRC)

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring and Generaloberst Hans Jeschonnek
(Photo Credit: AFSHRC)

Ernst Udet and Willi Messerschmitt
(Photo Credit: AFSHRC)

Mainstay of the fighter force: the Bf 109G
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)

The flawed fighter: the Bf 110
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)

The "fast" bomber: the Ju 88
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)

The interim bomber: the He 111
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)

The cancelled "strategic" bomber: the Do 19
(Photo Credit: AFSHRC)

The flawed "strategic" bomber: the He 177
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)

Re: Operation Sea Lion

Post by alecsandros » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:12 pm

Between what I write and what you understand, it seems to be a gap. because you read and post in a hurry.

"Merchants were hardly "plentifull". If they had been then barges wouldn't have been chosen as the transport for most of the German troops"

A merchant can NOT disembark equipment/troops on a beach! You need specialised landing crafts for that. That's why I stressed the importance of capturing a harbor.

"Because it's over 30 km just to Dover. If you look at the distances to the invasion beaches you will find they are well out of range. Then there's the problem even when they are in range of targeting enemy vessels and not hitting friendly ones."

The point of the coastal guns is NOT to bombard enemy shores, but to hit enemy SHIPS. Given the way most of the naval battles were fought in WW2 (ranges of at least 5km or more), the German gunners needed to be severely incompetent "to hit their own ships".

"Furthermore the actual weather data isn't as important as the historical. The Germans wouldn't have had the actual data before hand they would have had to look at the historical trends and they suggest that after mid October the weather becomes increasingly risky as it did indeed near the end of October."

Exactly how incompetent do you think meteorologists were ? Of course they did not "have the actual data before hand", but they were certainly in the ballpark with some estimates!

"Those number seem a bit off. In August they have slightly

1,250 bombers, and 1,000+ fighters but the BoB resulted in a deficit of over 500 planes (depending on source up to nearly 800) and serviceablity rates would have been even worse given the high optempo required. Your numbers suggested of 1,200 bombers and 1,400 interceptors are thus rather problematic. Not sure what's included in your transport catagory."

The numbers you posted are for only 3 Luftfotts (2,3, and 5)! They had 2 more at the time (1 and 4)!

About the RAF: "Older history books assert this period was the most dangerous of all. In The Narrow Margin, published in 1961, historians Derek Wood and Derek Dempster believed that the period from 24 August to 6 September represented a real danger. According to them, from 24 August to 6 September 295 fighters had been totally destroyed and 171 badly damaged, against a total output of 269 new and repaired Spitfires and Hurricanes. They assert that 103 pilots were killed or missing and 128 were wounded, which represented a total wastage of 120 pilots per week out of a fighting strength of just fewer than 1,000. They conclude that during August no more than 260 fighter pilots were turned out by OTUs and casualties in the same month were just over 300. A full squadron establishment was 26 pilots whereas the average in August was 16. In their assessment, the RAF was losing the battle.[174]"

Again, Dowding had to take 68 pilots from Royal Navy carriers in late Sept, for lack of fighter pilots.

Thus, the number of produced planes is irrelevant, as there were not enough pilots to man them.

He-111 could also be used as transports and even as paratroop transports.

"The German paratroopers force, the Fallschirmjager, was established in January 1936, with the enthusiast Student as its commander. It began as a single battalion of paratroopers and kept growing rapidly, becoming a division in 1938 and later a Corps, including paratroopers, glider troops, and elite infantry. It was a large and independent elite force of selected and very highly trained volunteers. They developed new tactics and techniques which improved their performance, such as the parachute-opening cord tied to the aircraft, which made parachuting safer and enabled them to jump from lower altitude and reduce exposure to enemy fire. The Fallschirmjager force belonged to the German Air Force. The concept was that they will be used to achieve what air bombardment can not, mainly capturing strategic positions behind enemy lines instead of destroying them.

Their transport aircraft were the common Junkers 52, which carried 17 paratroopers, and the DFS 230 glider, which carried over a ton of heavier weapons and equipment, or troops, and could be towed by an empty Junkers 52 and released over the landing zone. "

The official German maintenance handbook for the Ju-52 lists no fewer than 37 different uses and loadings, of which the following are examples:

1. Troop transport -- carries 15 to 20 fully-equipped men
2. Freight transport -- maximum pay-load, 5,260 lbs
3. Ambulance aircraft -- accomodation for 12 stretchers
4. Parachute troop carrier -- 12 fully-equipped men
5. Glider tug -- can normally tow one Go-242 with 23 men or 3 small gliders carrying 10 to 12 men each
6. Flying classroom -- especially for training in night flying

The Germans hadn't demonstrated the ability to launch such "massed air attacks" particularly at night.

The battle for Crete should be at least interesting, if not clear proof, in these aspects. We've already discussed that only a fraction of the bombers available in the BoB managed to sink 5DDs, 3 cruisers, and to damage other large ships. And that in only 2-3 days!

At night. I already said that a strong RN force could and would do severe damage to the merchants (I strongly doubt they could get to the landing crafts). BUT after that, they would not have the time to get back to bases beyond the range of HE111 and JU88s. And they would be plastered with bombs.

Re: Operation Sea Lion

Post by alecsandros » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:22 pm

I feel we've written to long for such a dry endeavour: neither Germany nor Britain expected a real invasion.
And the more I look into it, the stranger it seems:

- The Dunkirk escape (btw, Lutfwaffe started the attacks 7 days after the withdrawal began)
- Luftwaffe did not use all 5 Luftflotten during BoB, but only 3, out of which 1 severely understrength.
- Plans for real landing crafts were not developed
- Rudolph Hess. and many other "curious things".

Re: Operation Sea Lion

Post by lwd » Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:03 pm

"Merchants were hardly "plentifull". If they had been then barges wouldn't have been chosen as the transport for most of the German troops"

A merchant can NOT disembark equipment/troops on a beach! You need specialised landing crafts for that. That's why I stressed the importance of capturing a harbor.

"Because it's over 30 km just to Dover. If you look at the distances to the invasion beaches you will find they are well out of range. Then there's the problem even when they are in range of targeting enemy vessels and not hitting friendly ones."

The point of the coastal guns is NOT to bombard enemy shores, but to hit enemy SHIPS. Given the way most of the naval battles were fought in WW2 (ranges of at least 5km or more), the German gunners needed to be severely incompetent "to hit their own ships".

"Furthermore the actual weather data isn't as important as the historical. The Germans wouldn't have had the actual data before hand they would have had to look at the historical trends and they suggest that after mid October the weather becomes increasingly risky as it did indeed near the end of October."

Exactly how incompetent do you think meteorologists were ? Of course they did not "have the actual data before hand", but they were certainly in the ballpark with some estimates!

1,250 bombers, and 1,000+ fighters but the BoB resulted in a deficit of over 500 planes (depending on source up to nearly 800) and serviceablity rates would have been even worse given the high optempo required. Your numbers suggested of 1,200 bombers and 1,400 interceptors are thus rather problematic. Not sure what's included in your transport catagory."
The numbers you posted are for only 3 Luftfotts (2,3, and 5)! They had 2 more at the time (1 and 4)!

. "Their transport aircraft were the common Junkers 52, which carried 17 paratroopers, and the DFS 230 glider, which carried over a ton of heavier weapons and equipment, or troops, and could be towed by an empty Junkers 52 and released over the landing zone. "

The official German maintenance handbook for the Ju-52 lists no fewer than 37 different uses and loadings, of which the following are examples:
4. Parachute troop carrier -- 12 fully-equipped men

The Germans hadn't demonstrated the ability to launch such "massed air attacks" particularly at night.

The battle for Crete should be at least interesting, if not clear proof, in these aspects. We've already discussed that only a fraction of the bombers available in the BoB managed to sink 5DDs, 3 cruisers, and to damage other large ships. And that in only 2-3 days!

Re: Operation Sea Lion

Post by alecsandros » Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:10 am

Wikipedia sums up our conflicting data:

" The effect of the German attacks on airfields is not straightforward. Stephen Bungay's research tells us that Dowding, in a letter to Hugh Trenchard[165] accompanying Park's report on the period 8 August – 10 September 1940, states that the Luftwaffe "achieved very little" in the last week of August and the first week of September.[166] The only Sector Station to be shut down operationally was Biggin Hill, and it was non-operational for just two hours. Dowding admitted 11 Group's efficiency was impaired but, despite serious damage to some airfields, only two out of 13 heavily attacked airfields were down for more than a few hours. The German refocus on London was not critical.[166]

Air Vice Marshal Peter Dye, head of the RAF Museum, discussed the logistics of the battle in 2000[167] and 2010,[168] dealing specifically with the single-seat fighters. Dye contends that not only was British aircraft production replacing aircraft, but replacement pilots were keeping pace with losses. The number of pilots in RAF Fighter Command increased during July, August and September. The figures indicate the number of pilots available never decreased. From July, 1 200 were available. In 1 August, 1 400 were available. Just over that number were in the field by September. In October the figure was nearly 1,600. By 1 November 1800 were available. Throughout the battle, the RAF had more fighter pilots available than the Luftwaffe.[167][168] Although the RAF's reserves of single seat fighters fell during July, the wastage was made up for by an efficient Civilian Repair Organisation (CRO), which by December had repaired and put back into service some 4,955 aircraft,[169] and by aircraft held at Air Servicing Unit (ASU) airfields.[170]

Richard Overy endorses Dye and Bungay. Overy asserts only one airfield was temporarily put out of action and "only" 103 pilots were lost. British fighter production produced 496 new aircraft in July and 467 in August, and another 467 in September (not counting repaired aircraft), covering the losses of August and September. Overy indicates the number of serviceable and total strength returns reveal an increase in fighters from 3 August to 7 September, 1,061 on strength and 708 serviceable to 1,161 on strength and 746 serviceable.[171] Moreover, Overy points out that the number of RAF fighter pilots grew by one-third between June and August 1940. Personnel records show a constant supply of around 1,400 pilots in the crucial weeks of the battle. In the second half of September it reached 1,500. The shortfall of pilots was never above 10 percent. The Germans never had more than between 1,100 and 1,200 pilots, a deficiency of up to one-third. "If Fighter Command were 'the few', the German fighter pilots were fewer".[172]

American historian James Corum points out that it was unlikely that the Luftwaffe was ever able to destroy the RAF. If British losses became severe, the RAF could simply withdraw northward and regroup. It could then deploy when and if the Germans launched an invasion. Corum doubts that the Luftwaffe could have defeated the RAF in the limited time available before the weather window closed in October. Corum also argues that the Sea Lion would have failed because of the weaknesses of German sea power.[173]

Older history books assert this period was the most dangerous of all. In The Narrow Margin, published in 1961, historians Derek Wood and Derek Dempster believed that the period from 24 August to 6 September represented a real danger. According to them, from 24 August to 6 September 295 fighters had been totally destroyed and 171 badly damaged, against a total output of 269 new and repaired Spitfires and Hurricanes. They assert that 103 pilots were killed or missing and 128 were wounded, which represented a total wastage of 120 pilots per week out of a fighting strength of just fewer than 1,000. They conclude that during August no more than 260 fighter pilots were turned out by OTUs and casualties in the same month were just over 300. A full squadron establishment was 26 pilots whereas the average in August was 16. In their assessment, the RAF was losing the battle.[174] "

I would add my info from Liddell Hart's "History of the Second world war" (1971), from which I often quoted above.

Operation Sealion – Summary of an exercise held at the Staff College, Sandhurst in 1974.

The full text is in ‘Sealion’ by Richard Cox. The scenario is based on the known plans of each side, plus previously unpublished Admiralty weather records for September 1940. Each side (played by British and German officers respectively) was based in a command room, and the actual moves plotted on a scale model of SE England constructed at the School of Infantry .

The panel of umpires included Adolf Galland, Admiral Friedrich Ruge, Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, Rear Admiral Edward Gueritz, General Heinz Trettner and Major General Glyn Gilbert.

The main problem the Germans face is that are:

  1. the Luftwaffe has not yet won air supremacy
  2. the possible invasion dates are constrained by the weather and tides (for a high water attack) and
  3. it has taken until late September to assemble the necessary shipping.

FJ = Fallschirmjaeger (German paratroops)
MTB = Motor Torpedo Boat (German equivalent, E-Boat)
DD = Destroyer
CA = Heavy Cruiser
BB = Battleship
CV = Aircraft Carrier

22nd September – morning
The first wave of a planned 330,000 men hit the beaches at dawn. Elements of 9 divisions landed between
Folkestone and Rottingdean (near Brighton). In addition 7th FJ Div landed at Lympne to take the airfield.

The invasion fleet suffered minor losses from MTBs during the night crossing, but the RN had already lost one CA and three DDs sunk, with one CA and two DDs damaged , whilst sinking three German DDs. Within hours of the landings which overwhelmed the beach defenders, reserve formations were despatched to Kent. Although there were 25 divisions in the UK, only 17 were fully equipped, and only three were based in Kent, however the defence plan relied on the use of mobile reserves and armoured and mechanised brigades were committed as soon as the main landings were identified.

Meanwhile the air battle raged, the Luftwaffe flew 1200 fighter and 800 bomber sorties before 1200 hrs. The RAF even threw in training planes hastily armed with bombs, but the Luftwaffe were already having problems with their short ranged Me 109s despite cramming as many as possible into the Pas de Calais.

22nd – 23rd September
The Germans had still not captured a major port, although they started driving for Folkestone. Shipping unloading on the beaches suffered heavy losses from RAF bombing raids and then further losses at their ports in France.

The U-Boats, Luftwaffe and few surface ships had lost contact with the RN, but then a cruiser squadron with
supporting DDs entered the Channel narrows and had to run the gauntlet of long range coastal guns, E-Boats and 50 Stukas. Two CAs were sunk and one damaged. However a diversionary German naval sortie from Norway was completely destroyed and other sorties by MTBS and DDs inflicted losses on the shipping milling about in the Channel. German shipping losses on the first day amounted to over 25% of their invasion fleet, especially the barges, which proved desperately unseaworthy.

23rd Sept dawn – 1400 hrs.
The RAF had lost 237 planes out 1048 (167 fighters and 70 bombers), and the navy had suffered enough losses such that it was keeping its BBs and CVs back, but large forces of DDs and CAs were massing. Air recon showed a German buildup in Cherbourg and forces were diverted to the South West.

The German Navy were despondant about their losses, especially as the loss of barges was seriously dislocating domestic industry. The Army and Airforce commanders were jubilant however, and preperations for the transfer of the next echelon continued along with the air transport of 22nd Div, despite Luftwaffe losses of 165 fighters and 168 bombers. Out of only 732 fighters and 724 bombers these were heavy losses. Both sides overestimated losses inflicted by 50%.

The 22nd Div airlanded successfully at Lympne, although long range artillery fire directed by a stay-behind
commando group interdicted the runways. The first British counterattacks by 42nd Div supported by an armoured brigade halted the German 34th Div in its drive on Hastings. 7th Panzer Div was having difficulty with extensive anti-tank obstacles and assault teams armed with sticky bombs etc. Meanwhile an Australian Div had retaken Newhaven (the only German port), however the New Zealand Div arrived at Folkestone only to be attacked in the rear by 22nd Airlanding Div. The division fell back on Dover having lost 35% casualties.

Sep 23rd 1400 – 1900 hrs
Throughout the day the Luftwaffe put up a maximum effort, with 1500 fighter and 460 bomber sorties, but the RAF persisted in attacks on shipping and airfields. Much of this effort was directed for ground support and air resupply, despite Adm Raeders request for more aircover over the Channel. The Home Fleet had pulled out of air range however, leaving the fight in the hands of 57 DDs and 17 CAs plus MTBs. The Germans could put very little surface strength against this. Waves of DDs and CAs entered the Channel, and although two were sunk by U-Boats, they sank one U-Boat in return and did not stop. The German flotilla at Le Havre put to sea (3 DD, 14 E-Boats) and at dusk intercepted the British, but were wiped out, losing all their DDs and 7 E-Boats.

The Germans now had 10 divisions ashore, but in many cases these were incomplete and waiting for their
second echelon to arrive that night. The weather was unsuitable for the barges however, and the decision
to sail was referred up the chain of command.

23rd Sep 1900 – Sep 24th dawn

The Fuhrer Conference held at 1800 broke out into bitter inter-service rivalry – the Army wanted their second echelon sent, and the navy protesting that the weather was unsuitable, and the latest naval defeat rendered the Channel indefensible without air support. Goring countered this by saying it could only be done by stopped the terror bombing of London , which in turn Hitler vetoed. The fleet was ordered to stand by.

The RAF meanwhile had lost 97 more fighters leaving only 440. The airfields of 11 Group were cratered ruins, and once more the threat of collapse, which had receded in early September, was looming. The Luftwaffe had lost another 71 fighters and 142 bombers. Again both sides overestimated losses inflicted, even after allowing for inflated figures.

On the ground the Germans made good progress towards Dover and towards Canterbury, however they suffered reverses around Newhaven when the 45th Div and Australians attacked. At 2150 Hitler decided to launch the second wave, but only the short crossing from Calais and Dunkirk. By the time the order reached the ports, the second wave could not possibly arrive before dawn. The 6th and 8th divisions at Newhaven, supplied from Le Havre, would not be reinforced at all.

Sep 24th dawn – Sep 28th

The German fleet set sail, the weather calmed, and U-Boats, E-Boats and fighters covered them. However at daylight 5th destroyer flotilla found the barges still 10 miles off the coast and tore them to shreds. The Luftwaffe in turn committed all its remaining bombers, and the RAF responded with 19 squadrons of fighters. The Germans disabled two CAs and four DDs, but 65% of the barges were sunk. The faster steamers broke away and headed for Folkestone, but the port had been so badly damaged that they could only unload two at a time.

The failure on the crossing meant that the German situation became desperate. The divisions had sufficient
ammunition for 2 to 7 days more fighting, but without extra men and equipment could not extend the bridgehead. Hitler ordered the deployment on reserve units to Poland and the Germans began preparations for an evacuation as further British attacks hemmed them in tighter. Fast steamers and car ferries were assembled for evacuation via Rye and Folkestone.

Of 90,000 troops who landed on 22nd september, only 15,400 returned to France, the rest were killed or captured.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 04 May 2017, 13:20

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 05 May 2017, 09:49

To compare with the map on the previous page, here's Philson's order of battle of Fighter Command as of 30 Sept. 1940. I believe Philson is a serious author who did his homework carefully, yet this list puzzles me a bit as the totals for available and serviceable aircraft seem to be quite a bit higher than many other sources/authors claim for this period.

It is claimed that the RAF had about 1,500 "fighter pilots" by the end of Sept. but I suspect that includes the pilots in the three Operational Training Units listed here. They were part of Fighter Command, and having been through Elementary Flying Training School and Service Flying Training School they could (presumably) fly their fighters, but should not be counted as fully operational I think. If we put their number at let's say 250, that would leave 1,250 pilots for 65 fighter squadrons, or 19 per squadron on average.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 05 May 2017, 19:12

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.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 06 May 2017, 13:17

Another nice little map, this time from W. Dierich, Chronik Kampfgeschwader 51 Edelweiss. No date but it seems to represent the situation at the end of September, roughly. As discussed above, at the end of August all Jagdgeschwader were transferred to Luftflotte 2, but in the second half of Sept. JG 2 returned to LF3 (airfields Beaumont-le-Roger and Octeville). 65 planes and 81 pilots operational as of 28.9.

JG 54 is shown here as based in the Netherlands (airfields Waalhaven and Vlissingen), where it was for a time, but by the end of Sept. this JG was also at Pas-de-Calais (Campagne-lès-Guines/Guines-Sud) : 60 planes, 51 pilots (only Stab plus two Gruppen I. Gruppe had been withdrawn 23.9 and was defending the German Bight).

Zerstörergeschwader 2 is on the map but had been disbanded early or mid-Sept., the remainder to be retrained as night fighters.

At this point Luftflotte 3 had only a handful of fighters apart from JG 2 with its 65 serviceable Bf 109 the Stab & III./ZG 76 at Laval, with perhaps 20 Bf 110, which casts doubt on the Luftflotte's ability to protect landing zones D and E of the Ninth Army.

In fact there was a Planspiel at the HQ of Ninth Army (AOK 9) where the Luftwaffe (Fliegerkorps I) declared that fighter cover would be available for only about a quarter of the time during daylight.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 06 May 2017, 15:32

Note also how on this map KG 26 and KG 30 (Fliegerkorps X) have been moved from Denmark and Norway to the southern Netherlands/Belgium/northern France.

KG 26 (He 111) – moved from Stavanger to France Aug./Sept. (Beauvais, Amiens, Poix). III. Gruppe became Zielfindereinheit (pathfinders using the Knickebein navigation system) for Fliegerkorps I

KG 30 (Ju 88A) – September: Stab Eindhoven, I. Gruppe Aalborg-West, II. Gilze-Rijen, III. Amsterdam-Schiphol.

These two Geschwader had experience in operating against naval targets and it looks as if their task would have been to protect the right flank of the invasion, in cooperation with KG 4 of the 9th Fliegerdivision.

It seems that Luftflotte 5 had no bomber units left by this time, and very little else.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 14 Jun 2017, 10:42

Interesting book about the Fairey Battle by Greg Baughen: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fairey-Battle- . ds=Baughen

The Battle was ordered in large numbers (1,900+) but then the RAF decided the plane wasn't really what was needed after all and senior RAF officers started referring to it as "obsolete" long before deliveries were complete.

Baughen argues that the Battle wasn't really as bad as its reputation. Its performances were no worse than those of the feared Ju 87 Stuka, and the high losses it incurred (from the first 60 combat missions flown in May 1940, 30 planes did not return) were largely attributable to poor planning of operations. Although the technology was available, the RAF was in no hurry to install self-sealing tanks on the Battle. Sets of armour plating to protect the crew were manufactured and sent to France, but never installed. Plans to fit four .303 MGs in the wings, instead of just one, were likewise never carried out. That might have helped to suppress some of the ground fire so many Battles fell victim to.

What is interesting in the context of Seelöwe is that besides the 170 or so Battles with operational squadrons (including four Polish squadrons) in Sept. 1940, and a similar number used as trainers and target tugs, 300 unused Battles were standing around in storage units. It seems peculiar that these planes are not mentioned in the plans for "Operation Banquet" AFAIK, while older aircraft such as the Hawker Hind are. The Battle really was the unloved child of the RAF bomber family.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 14 Jun 2017, 11:04

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Bergedorf » 15 Jun 2017, 02:54

There were some Battles in "Operation Banquet".

Per 01.09.1940:
Banquet Training: 23 Battles
nad Banquet 6th and 7th Group: 65 Battles

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 15 Jun 2017, 09:34

Yes, but those were aircraft already in use for training (I suppose), not the Battles in storage.

I see that Philson in his OOB of the RAF as of 30.9 lists only six Battle squadrons as operational with No. 1 Group: 12, 103, 142, 150, 300 (Polish) and 301 (Polish). However,according to Baughen, 304 and 305 (both Polish) had also become operational by 22 Sept.

Philson also does not list No. 61 Group in Northern Ireland, a composite force with two Battle squadrons (88 and 226), an army co-operation squadron with Lysanders, and a long-range CC reconnaissance squadron (Sunderlands?).

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by sitalkes » 21 Jun 2017, 05:14

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 23 Jun 2017, 11:42

The Battle could dive-bomb at an angle of up to 80°- although this was a theoretical value as there were no dive brakes, and 60° was about the maximum that could be done safely - and this was practiced in training, but in May 1940 there was no agreement on the best mode of attack.

Baughen, p. 72, on operations on the 12th of May:

"Fg Off. Garland, Fg Off. McIntosh and Sgt Marland had the metal Veldwezelt bridge as their target, while Fg Off. Thomas, Plt Off. Davy and Fg Off. Brereton were to tackle the concrete Vroenhoven bridge. As they prepared to set off, Garland and Thomas were involved in a 'heated discussion' about the best way of attacking the bridges. Garland was adamant that the low-level approach was best, while Thomas insisted that dive-bombing was more likely to succeed." In the event, both were shot down, Thomas was captured and Garland was killed (posthumous VC) damage to both bridges was minimal.

Baughen also mentions the interesting fact that the 250 lb bombs used in these and other such attacks were fused with an 11-second delay. This gave the attacking plane plenty of time to get away, but it also meant a fairly long interval before the following planes could attack the same target, giving the defenders more time to shoot at them.

In general, I'm not convinced dive-bombing had very great advantages at the moment of pulling out of the dive, the plane decelerated sharply, almost "standing still" in the air that made it an easy target for ground fire, assuming of course the gunners were determined and kept firing instead of diving for cover.

Depending on the circumstances, (low) level bombing might be safer, if the pilot knew exactly where the target was and came roaring in at treetop level, giving AA gunners only a second or two before he was gone again.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 14 Nov 2017, 15:56

Frontline Books has recently published a report drawn up in 1948 by a captain G.C. Wynne of the Historical Section of the Cabinet Office, under the title Stopping Hitler. An Official Account of how Britain planned to defend itself in the Second World War.

Some interesting stuff in the appendices here is a list attached to a "Chiefs of Staff Review of the Prospect of Invasion After the Fall of France". It gives the strength of the home based air force as of 17 May. We need to approach all "official data" of this period with some caution of course, given the chaotic circumstances at the time.

A few days later there were still about 120 Hurricanes, 15 Gladiators, 52 Battles and unknown numbers of Blenheims and Lysanders in France or in the process of being withdrawn. 18 Hurricanes and 16 Gladiators were (supposed to be) returning from Norway.

Again, it seems as if the RAF had many more aircraft - in various states of repair - than one would assume on the basis of most accounts of the BoB. The numbers of Battles and Ansons are surprisingly high, but do in fact tally with aircraft deliveries over the preceding 2-3 years, after accounting for combat losses and general wastage. Even the numbers of modern single-engine fighters (Spitfires, Hurricanes and Defiants) are higher than I would have thought: 491 operational first line aircraft (serviceable within 7 days), 134 in reserve immediately available to fly, and 528 not immediately available, makes 1153. There are 365 Blenheim fighters listed as well.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by OldBill » 15 Nov 2017, 03:14

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 05 Dec 2017, 18:44

On that subject: at the start of the war new pilots who had passed through Elementary Flying Schools, and had been selected as future fighter pilots, then received advanced training on Miles Masters or Harvards. They did not get to fly any fighters until they were posted to an operational squadron, which was then responsible for teaching them how to fly and fight their Spitfires or Hurricanes (or Defiants/Blenheims/Gladiators).

This was clearly not an ideal arrangement in wartime, and early on 11 and 12 Groups of Fighter Command formed “Group Pools” with surplus aircraft to give these new partially trained pilots a short operational conversion course. This caused some confusion about the division of responsibilities between Training and Fighter Command, and a more formal structure was set up as No. 5 Operational Training Unit in February 1940 at Aston Down (Gloucestershire), followed by No. 6 OTU in March and No. 7 soon after. New pilots would clock up some forty hours in these OTUs before being posted to a squadron at the height of the BoB this was in some cases reduced to twenty hours, still an improvement over the situation a year before.

Re: Operation Sealion - RAF and Luftwaffe Plans & Preparations

Post by Knouterer » 07 Dec 2017, 18:58

On the subject of the training of Luftwaffe fighter pilots:

The rapid expansion of the Luftwaffe from a very small base in the 1930s meant that there were never enough qualified instructors for the flying schools, and this problem was aggravated by the Luftwaffe High Command, which ruthlessly and repeatedly stripped the training system of aircraft and pilots to meet various emergencies. Flying training came to a standstill during the campaign in Poland in May 1940 training activity had to be reduced because the limited supply of aviation fuel was needed at the front. Later in the war, the fuel shortage caused the number of flying hours in training to be cut again and again. Broadly speaking, before the war it took two years to train a combat pilot, three years for officers (reduced to a year and a half in 1942)
The offensive orientation of the Luftwaffe was reflected in the training system: in 1937 there were four flying schools training bomber pilots, but only one Jagdfliegerschule. A second one was set up in April 1939, three more (JFS 3, 4 and 5) followed until the end of the year. A separate Zerstörerschule (ZS 1) for Bf 110 pilots was set up in January 1940 by splitting off part of JFS 2 Schleissheim.

As in RAF Fighter Command, operational units had to provide final training up to August 1939 the Jagdgeschwader received semi-trained (halbfertige) pilots from the JFS and had to bring them up to operational standard. Usually one or two Staffel (of the nine) specialized in this task. Just before the start of the war the JGs were relieved of this responsibility, which was entrusted to four new Ergänzungsjagdstaffel or replacement flights. In February 1940 these were combined in the Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Merseburg.
However, during the BoB the Jagdgeschwader on the Channel front were not satisfied with the standard of the replacements they received – some had never even fired their 20 mm guns – and from October set up their own Ergänzungsstaffel again (later expanded to a whole Gruppe per JG), which were based on airfields in France a bit further back from the coast. This meant that some experienced pilots had to be detached as trainers and were not available for combat on the other hand, the combat experiences of the JG could be directly fed into the training (frontnahe Ausbildung).

The Italian Navy and Operation Sealion 1940

Post by taylorjohn » 29 Jan 2008, 20:41

Most skepticism regarding the chances of a successful German invasion of the British Isles in 1940 is related to the enormous disparity in size between the RN and the KM.

However, the Italian Navy at this time was the fourth largest in the world.

As an alternative historical scenario, for the period June to Dec 1940, supposing, for the sake of argument, that Hitler had persuaded Franco to allow German forces to enter Spain and capture Gibraltar in the Summer of 1940.

If this had happened the Straits for Gibraltar would have been opened to Axis shipping and this, in turn, would have enabled the Italian Navy to provide the naval protection which the German invasion fleet needed.

If this had happened could operation Sealion have succeeded?

Post by LWD » 29 Jan 2008, 21:07

The Italian Navy and Operation Sealion 1940

Post by taylorjohn » 29 Jan 2008, 21:40

I disagree - I see, no reason, why the Germans, at the beginning of July 1940, could not have thrown together a scratch force to take Gibraltar if they had wanted to do so, provided, Franco had allowed the passage of German ground and air forces through Spain.

The numerous French ports along the Atlantic coast and in Brittany should have been in a position to accommodate the Italian Navy (or at least part of it).

Perhaps, in the above scenario, I should also have mentioned earlier German invasion preparations say around the beginning of July.

In this case, ‘Sealion’ would then have been ready by the beginning of September when the Luftwaffe was starting to gain the upper hand during the BOB.

At this time, the British Army was still in the process of reequipping after its heavy losses in material at Dunkirk and was widely dispersed throughout the British Isles.

If you add in the Italian Navy to the existing the defensive measures the Germans had in place to protect their invasion fleet (mine belts, submarines, the Luftwaffe, coastal guns, KM naval escorts, diversionary measures etc) I believe, Sealion might well have succeeded.

Re: The Italian Navy and Operation Sealion 1940

Post by LWD » 29 Jan 2008, 22:33

Re: The Italian Navy and Operation Sealion 1940

Post by JonS » 29 Jan 2008, 23:25

On the other hand, what, really, was in the way of the Italian Navy just blowing through the Straits? I'm genuinely curious about this - all these what if's are founded on the presumption that Gibralter had to be taken in order for the RM to get out into the Atlantic, but is that really the case?

AFAIK there was no mine barrage across the strait, and the RAF presence in Gibralter can't - I think - have been very strong. Useful for recon, but not so great for attacking. OTOH, the RM would have essentially no air cover, so maybe a small RAF/FAA force there could be quite effective.

I suppose the RN units - Force H - would have been a nuisance, but the point isn't to engage and defeat Force H, it would be to get through to the other side and leg it off to France. Besides, how big was Force H in Aug-Nov 1940 anyway? Sure there'd be losses, but in the larger scheme of thinsg the purpose of the Navy is to fight.

I guess, from Italy's POV that approach - blowing through the straits - would be a non-starter since it would denude the Med of RM force, and bring the RM back into the Med in the event that SEALION failed would be a rather more difficult challenge. Also, there isn't a lot of incentive for Italy to risk its fleet in support of a German operation in Britain . although if successful it would have given them a much freer hand in the Med.

. is granted. Even a successful blow-through wouldn't have mattered. Which also goes to the grave risk that participating in SEALION would have represented to the RM and Italy.

Still would, or perhaps could a blow-through have succeded?

The Whale and the Elephant<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Dr Andrew Gordon is Reader in Defence Studies, King’s College London, and Maritime Warfare Historian on the Higher Command and Staff Course, Joint Services Command and Staff College, Defence Academy of the UK.

As a maritime historian, my problem with Battle of Britain culture rests on just one specific point: the often stated and always implied [1] claim that ‘nothing stood between <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Britain and Nazi occupation except Fighter Command.’ This is quite untrue. Among other things, the largest operational fleet in the world stood between. Whatever opinions may be held elsewhere about operation SEALION (the vaunted German invasion), it was the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) that was going to have to sign the chit for a logistical, resources, force-protection and seamanship nightmare, and the more they studied the daunting obstacles facing them, the more anxious they became to be let off the hook.

There was so much wrong with the materiel and methods available for SEALION, that it is difficult to know where to start.

The basic order-of-battle facts are that, having lost ten destroyers in Norway, the Germans now had only ten to protect four beach landing areas. At the beginning of September the Admiralty had disposed sixty-seven (plus six cruisers) for immediate response to an invasion alarm. The first warning of the invasion’s sailing would come, it was hoped, from RAF reconnaissance over the assembly ports. But in case – as was likely – the Germans waited until after dark before commencing their 12-hour [2] toil across to England, the Royal Navy had a pool of 700 armed patrol craft (requisitioned motor yachts and trawlers) of whom around 200 were on picket duty “off the north coast of France” [3] every night. So, owing to either the air reconnaissance or the trip-wire patrols, there was a high likelihood that the German invasion armadas would have found British destroyers [4] between them and their intended landing-beaches when they approached on the morning of D-Day. As well as torpedoes and guns, each destroyer carried 40 depth-charges filled with 600-800lbs of Amatol (depending on Mk) which could have demolished the tows of wallowing barges packed with soldiers and horses.

The second tranche of RN interventions would have been the thirty-four corvettes and sloops, and the MTBs, employed on East Coast and Channel convoy routes. Then, within twenty-four hours of the alert, the cruisers and capital units of the Home Fleet would have started to arrive from the far north and west. 165 minesweepers of varying pedigree were at hand to maintain swept channels. Finally, many of the thirty-five submarines based in home waters would have headed for the Channel to disrupt the shuttling back and forth of barges required by the German build-up for the next ten days.

The RN would have taken casualties – it’s never baulked at that. But to inflict serious losses the Luftwaffe would have had to discover capacities it had yet to demonstrate and yet to train for. Off Norway, the Home Fleet had been bombed for days on end, but only two of its destroyers (out of an inventory of over eighty) were sunk. During Dunkirk, many destroyers were damaged by air attack, and for a while the most valuable ones were withdrawn (in the manner of Fighter Command from France), but none of the four sunk [5] by the Luftwaffe were in open water and free to manoeuvre at speed when fatally attacked. In brief, the war so far had provided no evidence that, in extremis, air-power – German or British [6] – was a naval operations show-stopper. In 1940, the Luftwaffe’s Stukas were specialists in Army close-support, and the anti-shipping skills which they were to display in the Mediterranean in ‘41 (starting with Fliegerkorps X’s attack on Illustrious in January) cannot be retro-fitted to the previous summer.

The ‘Brief Statement of Reasons for Cancellation of Invasion of England’, prepared by the German Naval Historical Staff in 1944, [7] states:

As the preliminary work and preparations proceeded, the exceptional difficulties became more and more obvious. The more forcibly the risks were brought home, the dimmer grew faith in success… just as in Napoleon’s invasion plans in 1805, the fundamental requirement for success was lacking, that is, command of the sea. This lack of superiority at sea was to be compensated for by air superiority. But it was never even possible to destroy enemy sea superiority by use of our own air superiority… The sea area in which we were to operate was dominated by a well prepared opponent who was determined to fight to the utmost of his ability. The greatest difficulty was bound to be that of maintaining the flow of supplies and food. The enemy’s fleet and other means of naval defence had to be considered as a decisive factor. Owing to the weakness of our naval forces there could be no effective guarantee against the enemy breaking into our area of transports, despite our mine barrages on the flanks and despite our air superiority.

Grand Admiral Raeder (head of the Kriegsmarine in 1940) said much the same, in almost the same words, after the war and had tried to dodge out of the invasion as early as July 11th. [8] The last sentence quoted above appears to mean that, even if the Luftwaffe had won the air battle of Britain, the Kriegsmarine would still not have wanted to attempt SEALION.

The same Kriegsmarine document acknowledges that “there was an air of relief among leading [naval] personalities when sufficiently solid grounds were found to warrant postponement and finally cancellation.” And it is obvious that in August-September 1940, [9] the best outcome for the Kriegsmarine would be for the invasion to be cancelled and for someone-else to take the blame. Thanks to Fighter Command’s victory over the Luftwaffe, that is what they got – their get out of gaol card. But that is not at all the same thing as there being nobody but the RAF ready, willing and able to defeat Operation SEALION.

Whether the air battle was the cause or the occasion for the cancellation of SEALION is therefore a moot point. Hitler’s order on the 17th September to ‘postpone’ the invasion appears directly consequent on the Luftwaffe’s losses of the 15th, held to be the climactic day of the Battle of Britain. But as Ian Kershaw tells us, “Hitler had never been convinced that the German air offensive would successfully lay the basis for the invasion of which he was in any case so sceptical.” And

between 10 and 13 September there were signs that Hitler had gone utterly
cold on the idea of a landing. On 14 September he then told his commanders
that the conditions for 'Operation SEALION' had not been attained. The
military chiefs themselves did not believe that a landing at that stage could be successfully carried out. 'I had the impression at this discussion,' wrote Nicolaus von Below many years later, 'that Hitler had given up hope of a successful invasion of England the following spring. In autumn 1940 the great unknown, the fairly improvised crossing over the sea, frightened him. He was unsure.' [10]

No doubt the result of the air battle on the 15th assisted this attack of cold feet –– but so too may have the deployment of the Home Fleet southwards from Scapa Flow to Rosyth on the 13th, bringing the heavy ships eight hours closer to the invasion arena. Further, to launch a laborious and protracted invasion into the equinoctial gales would have been inviting disaster. The German High Command had actually been warned way back in July that “the weather in the North Sea and Channel during the second half of September is very bad and… the main operation would therefore have to be completed by September 15.” [11] The pencilled-in date kept slipping, but by mid-month Hitler’s mind was diverting to the bombing of London and (covertly) to Russia. To borrow a Napoleonism, he was learning that an elephant cannot easily kill a whale.

The first misconception about the summer of 1940 is that German planning was a thing of Teutonic rigour and logic. In fact they had no coherent game-plan for prosecuting the war against Britain after the collapse of France, and it took them some time to realise that the war was not over. Then, Goering boasted that he would bring Britain to heel through a campaign of shock and awe, which would include the destruction of the RAF, making an invasion unnecessary. Partly as a Psy-Ops ploy against British morale, Hitler ordered SEALION to be prepared, but executed only as a last resort [12] and if necessary [13] (which logically meant: if Goering failed to fulfil his boast).

Local air superiority would have sufficed for invasion, but within Goering’s grand scheme was the desideratum that the Luftwaffe somehow achieve air supremacy over England, from airfields in France. Partly because the other German Services were anxious to raise the ‘air’ bar to an improbable height, the invasion project became illogically linked with this sweeping precondition which could most plausibly be attained from airfields in England after an invasion. An obvious parallel is the Allies’ invasion of Sicily in ’43: given the distance from fighter bases in Tunisia and Malta, it would have been daft to make air supremacy over the island a condition for invading. Instead, the Allies exploited air superiority over the landing areas until airfields ashore, from which supremacy could be contested, were up and running. Ditto Normandy.

German leaders were thus unfocused and irrational about the linkages between the air-campaign and a mooted invasion and they were hopelessly disunited. Goering remained dismissive of SEALION and never bothered to attend a planning meeting, possibly because the project anticipated the Luftwaffe’s failure to defeat Britain single-handedly.

Long before the air battle started, Dowding understood that defence against invasion was going to be a joint business, as his famous letter of 16th May, calling for Fighter Command to be withdrawn from France demonstrates. The conditions he specified were: “…if an adequate fighter force is kept in this country, if the fleet remains in being , and if Home Forces are suitably organised…” This seminal letter is commonly quoted by Battle of Britain celebrants, but the words underlined here by me, and the bit about the Army, never seem to get mentioned.

A most telling piece of evidence, and one whose implications cannot be evaded, is discussed below by Gary Sheffield: the War Cabinet’s despatch in mid-August of an armoured brigade to fight the Italians in North Africa. Given the British Army’s shortage of such assets, this seemingly bizarre decision must have been permitted by one of two possible ‘home defence’ assumptions: either Churchill was already taking for granted a decisive RAF victory in the developing air battle or he (First Lord of the Admiralty until three months ago) did not really believe that SEALION would get ashore, irrespective of the air battle.

Perceptions of SEALION’s prospects varied between, and within, every Service, British and German, with varying degrees of bias, and none can be validated. In the analysis of Wing Commander H.R.Allen (himself one of The Few):

It was seapower that ruled the day in 1940, and fortunately Britain had a sufficiency. The air situation was, of course, important, but by no means fundamental. Without doubt the five hundred or so section, flight and squadron leaders of Fighter Command earned their laurels. But the real victor was the Royal Navy, the Silent Service… [14]

In reality, the issues are impossible to separate so categorically. But clearly the Home Fleet, along with Bomber Command, Costal Command, the Army, the weather (worse, that summer, than remembered), Goering’s grandstanding, disunity in the German high command, and the huge practical obstacles facing SEALION all went into the witches’ stew which cursed the project.

In summary, the link between the air battle and the non-event of SEALION is much less direct and exclusive than commonly wished by Battle of Britain celebrants. Certainly, the RAF added daytime command of the air to the indisputable command of the sea which Britain already possessed, but the airspace over southern England did not thereby become the last court of appeal against invasion. None of the above is new but the sailors have been silent for too long, and popular understanding of the ‘whole-picture’ needs to be adjusted so that credit for strategic effect may be shared (belatedly) where credit is due.

To some extent, there is a parallel with Trafalgar (thank you Private Eye!). Let us suppose that Napoleon had remained intent on invading England. The Channel Fleet under Nelson’s senior, ‘Billy Blue’ Cornwallis, had been blockading the main French fleet in Brest for months, and to it was expected to fall the task of defeating the invasion. To assume (as some still do) that if Nelson’s Mediterranean Fleet had failed to find Villeneuve’s Franco-Spanish fleet, or been beaten by it, the British would soon have been speaking French, is a leap of mythology which vaults over the very existence of the main British naval force. It also makes the security of Britain look a more hand-to-mouth affair than it actually was. In due course the ships of the Channel Fleet dispersed to other duties, their role in deterring Napoleon’s invasion overlooked by popular history. To point out that the public in time of war (like the Press in August) demands simple, iconic images, painted in primary colours, detracts nothing from the bravery of Nelson and his men, or their extraordinary victory off Cadiz.

All that having been said, t he air Battle of Britain, and the marvelous rhetoric which Churchill wove around it, very likely saved Britain in a less direct way: by persuading neutral America that we were worth backing. With our engineering industries diverted from exporting to war production, we were fast running out of the gold and dollar reserves with which to buy food and raw materials. Unglamorous as it sounds, balance-of-payments meltdown was the real, if invisible, danger in late 1940, and Churchill’s real gamble. If Congress had not solved Britain’s 'dollar problem' in early ‘41 by passing the Lend-Lease Bill, we would soon have had to make peace or starve. A succession of events - the 'Deliverance of Dunkirk’, the sinking of the French fleet, the 'Battle of Britain', the Blitz, our military support for Greece – combined to tip the scales in favour of Lend-Lease. But of this list, the Battle of Britain presented the most powerful image: the first positive, media-visible, strategic-scale defeat of Hitler’s armed forces. [15] An ambient fleet-in-being victory could not possibly have had such an impact on its own.

Planned occupation of Britain


According to the most detailed plans created for the planned post-invasion administration, Great Britain and Ireland were to be divided into six military-economic commands, with headquarters in London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and Dublin. [ 84 ] Hitler decreed that Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Winston Churchill, was to serve as the overall headquarters of the German occupation military government. [ 85 ] A certain source indicates that the Germans intended to occupy Southern England only, and that draft documents existed on the regulation of the passage of British civilians back and forth between the occupied and unoccupied territories. [ 86 ] Some Nazi planners envisaged the institution of a nationalities policy in Western Europe to secure German hegemony there, which entailed the granting of independence to various regions. In the British Isles this involved detaching Scotland from the United Kingdom, the creation of a United Ireland, and an autonomous status for Western England. [ 87 ]

The OKW, RSHA, (the Reichsicherheitamt) and Foreign Ministry compiled lists of those they thought could be trusted to form a new government along the lines of that in occupied Norway. The list was headed by Oswald Mosley. The RSHA also felt that Harold Nicolson might prove useful in this role. [ 88 ] OKW also expected to face armed civilian resistance.

After the war rumours also emerged about the selection of two candidates for the "viceregal" office of Reichskommissar für Großbritannien (Reichskommissar for Great Britain), which in other occupied territories (such as Norway and the Netherlands) actually entailed the granting of near-dictatorial powers to its officeholders (Josef Terboven and Arthur Seyss-Inquart, respectively). [ 89 ] The first of these was Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister and previously an ambassador to Great Britain, the second was Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, an undersecretary in the Foreign Office and the Gauleiter of the NSDAP/AO. [ 89 ] However, no establishment by this name was ever approved by either Hitler or the Reich government during the Second World War, and was also denied by Bohle when he was interrogated by the victorious Allies (von Ribbentrop not having been questioned on the matter). After the Second Armistice at Compiègne with France, when he expected an imminent British capitulation, Hitler did however assure Bohle that he would be the next German ambassador to the Court of St. James's "if the British behave[d] sensibly". [ 89 ]

British monarchy

A Channel 5 documentary broadcast on 16 July 2009 claimed that the Germans intended to restore Edward VIII to the throne in the event of a German occupation. [ 90 ] [ 91 ] Many senior Nazi officials believed the Duke of Windsor to be highly sympathetic to the Nazi government, a feeling that was reinforced by his and Wallis Simpson's 1937 visit to Germany. However, it was revealed that (despite German approaches and implications that 'some harm' might come to him otherwise) the former king had willingly allowed himself to be 'smuggled' (at personal risk) aboard a US warship to take up his new post as Governor of the Bahamas – and therefore beyond Hitler's reach. Despite rumours, the British Foreign Office later issued a statement to the effect that, "The Duke never wavered in his loyalty to Great Britain during the war". [ 92 ]


Had Operation Sea Lion succeeded, Einsatzgruppen under Dr. Franz Six were to follow the invasion force to Great Britain to establish the New Order. Six's headquarters were to be in London, with regional task forces in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh. [ 84 ] They were provided with a list (known as The Black Book) of 2,820 people to be arrested immediately. The Einsatzgruppen were also tasked with liquidating Britain's Jewish population, which numbered over 300,000. [ 93 ] Six had also been entrusted with the task of securing "aero-technological research result and important equipment" as well as "Germanic works of art". There is also a suggestion that he toyed with the idea of moving Nelson's Column to Berlin. [ 94 ]

The RSHA planned to take over the Ministry of Information, to close the major news agencies and to take control of all of the newspapers. Anti-German newspapers were to be closed down. [ 95 ]

It appears, based on the German police plans, that the occupation was to be only temporary, as detailed provisions for the post-occupation period are mentioned. [ 96 ]


According to captured German documents, the commander-in-chief of the German Army, Walther von Brauchitsch, directed that “The able-bodied male population between the ages of 17 and 45 will, unless the local situation calls for an exceptional ruling, be interned and dispatched to the Continent”. This represented about 25% of male citizens. The UK was then to be plundered for anything of financial, military, industrial or cultural value, [ 97 ] and the remaining population terrorised. Civilian hostages would be taken, and the death penalty immediately imposed for even the most trivial acts of resistance. [ 98 ]

The deported male population would have most likely been used as industrial slave labour in areas of the Reich such as the factories and mines of the Ruhr and Upper Silesia. Although they might have been treated less brutally than slaves from the East (whom the Nazis regarded as sub-humans, fit only to be worked to death), living and working conditions would still have been severe. [ 99 ]

In late February 1943 Otto Bräutigam of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories claimed he had the opportunity to read a personal report by General Eduard Wagner about a discussion with Heinrich Himmler, in which Himmler had expressed the intention to kill about 80% of the populations of France and England by special forces of the SS after the German victory. [ 100 ] In an unrelated event, Hitler had on one occasion called the English lower classes "racially inferior". [ 101 ]