Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The German

A Kampfgeschwader of He-111s Approaches Dover
After the surrender of France to the Germans in June of 1940, there was nothing between the mighty German Wehrmacht and the British Isles save two things: the English Channel and the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The Channel could be crossed if the Germans could gain air superiority. This would allow them to drive the Royal Navy from the Channel while the Wehrmacht crossed over from France to England.

In order to gain air superiority, the Luftwaffe had to neutralize RAF Fighter Command, which in August of 1940, had a strength of roughly 800 front line fighter aircraft, one-third of which were Spitfires, the remainder Hurricanes.
By the time of the fall of France, the Luftwaffe (the German air force) had 3,000 planes based in north-west Europe alone including 1,400 bombers, 300 dive bombers, 800 single engine fighter planes and 240 twin engine fighter bombers. At the start of the battle, the Luftwaffe had 2,500 planes that were serviceable and in any normal day, the Luftwaffe could put up over 1,600 planes. The RAF had 1,200 planes on the eve of the battle which included 800 Spitfires and Hurricanes - but only 660 of these were serviceable. The rate of British plane production was good - the only weakness of the RAF was the fact that they lacked sufficient trained and experienced pilots. Trained pilots had been killed in the war in France and they had not been replaced. (Source)
So the RAF was outnumbered. However, skilled pilots in well-designed aircraft can make a huge difference. Those boys who stood against the Luftwaffe in 1940 got the job done.

British Pilot: Welcome to England Jerry!
German Pilot: Scheisse!

Now I may have posted this short film The German by Nick Ryan before, perhaps I saw it on someone else's blog a while back. Doesn't matter. I watched it again last night and decided to post it here for you today. I thought it was extremely well done.

It also taught me a little known fact that I had not known before.

I won't tell you what that was though, you'll need to watch the film for that!


Kampfgeschwader, German Bomber Wing
Wehrmacht, German armed forces
Luftwaffe, German Air Force


  1. This fact always makes me catch my breath: September 15, 1940, a date that is now designated `Battle of Britain Day`. At the height of the air battle that day Churchill was at RAF Uxbridge, the command centre, and with the days fighting at its most intense, Churchill asked Air Vice Marshall Park, "What other reserves have we?" Park replied, "There are none."

    1. As the Duke might have said, "It was a close run thing!"

    2. Apropos o' not much... Back in the day (that would be 1980 - '83) the bunker at Uxbridge was THE lead item of "stuff I want to see" among visiting American dignitaries to the 2119 Comm Sq, RAF Uxbridge, which isn't as easy as it sounds because the bunker wasn't open to the general public. The RAF did give tours upon request, but it took a little time. The RAF kept the bunker "as is" for all those years after the Big One; I have no ideer what's become of it now that Uxbridge has closed.

    3. One would hope that it will be preserved in perpetuity. According to Wikipedia: Battle of Britain Bunker remains open. Hillingdon House, the HQ of 11 Fighter Group, to be refurbished as restaurant. Article in Wikipedia is "List of Battle of Britain airfields"

  2. I think it was about that time that FDR was having his secret meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister to discuss what to do once Britain was defeated and how to look after the Royal Navy. Can't blame him for exploring the contingencies I suppose. My Dad was being trained in guerrilla warfare tactics at that time, so we were all a bit concerned.

    1. One can only wonder what would have happened if the Germans had managed to establish air superiority over the Channel for just a few days. Thank God it didn't come to that!

  3. If you haven't, you might enjoy reading "The Luftwaffe Diaries".

    The Luftwaffe was poorly managed and Germany had piss-poor intelligence about the British radar system and the fighter factories. As I recall this, the Germans couldn't even imagine that the radar towers were manned above ground. They were easy targets knocking out and although relatively easily rebuilt in small numbers they probably couldn't have survived repeated attacks. And there were, again IIRC, only 3 fighter factories in England. Sustained attacks against them would have crippled the British air defense.

    There are so many small storied of the "great wars". I am fond of such stories. Here is one I discovered purely by chance while out walking.

    and a followup a few years later.

    I hope you enjoy.

    1. Oh indeed I have read that book (which reminds me, I need a new copy of it, the old one is very ragged and smells funny!)

      That was an awesome story.

  4. Yep Switzerland wasn't the ONLY neutral country that actually enforced the laws... And the bunker is still open for tours!

    1. Indeed.

      Good to know the bunker is still there and open to the public. Thanks for the link Cajun!

  5. You really make history come alive. Your recent one on The Revolution, and this one, have been the best history reads in ages for me (although I suppose "reads" isn't quite right, as this one relies much on the excellent film.)

    1. Thanks Suldog!

      I have a great love of history and try to convey that when I post about it. And that is a superb short film isn't it?


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