Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Readers’ comments: The hand of God and the brain of Dowding


In response to Peter Simpson: The hand of God in the Battle of Britain

Dacorum wrote:

Oliver Cromwell got it right when he said to his men before a battle ‘Trust in God and keep your powder dry.’ God only helps those who help themselves and we, under Dowding, proved this in 1940 in the Battle of Britain.

We won the Battle of Britain not so much because Hitler switched from bombing our airfields to bombing London but mainly because we were building more fighters than the Germans which enabled us to replace all our losses and damaged planes, we rotated our squadrons to quieter areas for rest and for training replacement pilots which the Germans didn’t and because the Germans underestimated our strength whilst we overestimated theirs. The Germans assumed our squadrons had the same number of pilots as theirs but our squadrons had more pilots that theirs so they wrongly assumed they could easily destroy the RAF with the numbers of squadrons they had. They could not understand, despite the losses they inflicted on us, just how the RAF could still put up such a fight. September 15th showed conclusively that the RAF was far from beaten and that the Germans had failed.

We had other advantages as well. Our fighters could stay in combat longer than theirs as theirs had to return to refuel and any of our pilots who managed to bail out unhurt were able to return to duty whereas theirs ended up as PoWs. We also had the advantage of the Polish pilots and other pilots who had escaped from occupied Europe who provided seasoned pilots as a crucial time to bolster our capability.

Edit: Dodgy Geezer’s post below reminds me I failed to mention radar and the observation corps that enabled us to plot the raids in advance and to get the fighters to intercept. This defensive early warning system was crucial in winning the Battle of Britain.

Paul Weston wrote:

It would be nice to think God had a hand in Herr Hitler’s poor decisions. Perhaps the greatest mistake he made was to delay his assault on Russia because he wanted to mop up Greece/Yugoslavia first. The five weeks this took allowed General Winter to stymie his advance on Moscow. The German army was in visual sight of the Kremlin, Stalin had packed his bags and was preparing to flee but General Winter intervened, the mud froze, the soldiers froze, even the fuel in the Panzers froze and that was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany. Thank God. Thank Greek/Yugoslav resistance. Those five weeks lost Germany the war.

Dodgy Geezer wrote:

I detect the hand of Dowding, who alone out of all the air power military thinkers in the 1930s believed that it was possible to set up a defensive air force.

He then created an integrated aircraft tracking and control system – the first and only such example in the world at the time – which enabled his staff to monitor German attacks in real time and allocate appropriate defences in the most effective manner. He did this while being strongly opposed by the Air Ministry, and was sacked shortly after the Battle as a punishment for winning.

His invention of Air Traffic Control enabled us (just) to repel an attack by the most powerful and experienced Air Force in the world.

Sean Toddington wrote:

A bit off topic but does anyone remember Pilot Officer Prune? I remember when I was a kid finding some of the cartoons among my dad’s papers and finding them hilarious – especially the one of Prune coming home on one engine. Or Prune’s maxim a good landing is one you can walk away from. Not much to laugh about then sometimes, but Prune did the trick!

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