Why Britain was able to continue to hold between June 1940 and the end of 1943
There were many reasons in why Britain was able to hold out against Germany in the battle of Britain for so long with no allies, but the main reason was that they maintained air superiority. To maintain air superiority Britain developed a system called “Chain-Home”. This was a system of aerial defences, which had been put into place between the times of “The Munich Agreement” and the defeat of France (Oct 1938). Radar (or RDF) stations were placed on the southern border of Britain and would detect incoming planes.
Then men in observation towers would see what type of planes were attacking and transmit it back to fighter command where they would send the appropriate type and number of planes to shoot down the opposition. British planes also had another advantage; they were fighting over their home country. If a pilot survives a crash they can land in Kent or Sussex and head back to fighter command to take off again, pilots were much more needed than planes. The German pilots however would be kept as prisoners of war. The British planes could also land and refuel but the German planes could only spend 10 minutes over Britain before refuelling.
The planes that fought in the battle were the ME bf 109, ME bf 110, Ju 87 Stuka, Spitfire and Hurricane. The Messerschmitt BF 109 was the spitfire’s greatest opponent in the battle for air superiority in World War two; it was the standard fighter of the Luftwaffe and could outmanoeuvre any fighter of its time, except for the Spitfire. Equipped with two 7. 9 mm machine guns and two 20 mm cannons it did not match the firepower of the Spitfire either. The ME 110 was not a good fighter due to its weight; it was a two-man fighter so it weighed 1000 lbs more than the ME 109, it was easily shot down and when destroyed two crewmembers were lost.
The spitfire could outturn and outrun every enemy aircrafts of its time. The Spitfire had a “Roll-Royce Merlin engine” which gave the aircraft more power but less weight, it had eight machine guns and two 20mm cannons, and you could quite easily say the Spitfire was a key element in the victory of the Battle of Britain. During the Battle of Britain most of the RAF fighter squadrons were equipped with Hurricanes, although not as manoeuvrable as the Spitfire they could still easily beat a ME 110.
Although it would seem that Britain had the upper hand they were overwhelmed by masses of fighters and night-raids on fighter command and landed fighters. Hitler might have won air superiority if he hadn’t sought for revenge. Due to Britain’s bombing of Berlin Hitler wanted to bomb London. Although at a great cost, fighter command had time to recover. On September 15th 1940 a German daylight air raid suffered great losses, this was considered the end of the “Battle of Britain”. The German defeat cannot be solely based on Hitler’s idiocy the British had another advantage. The German code machine called the Enigma’s code was cracked.
The British had the ability to decode German messages and without the Germans having a clue that the enemy was intercepting their most important battle strategies. The British were fully aware of the German goals, strategy, and often even tactics due to their ability to read the German Enigma cipher, which was used for most high-security German military radio communications. This fact, not revealed until the 1970s, was crucial in forming British tactics. The Enigma machine’s cracked codes helped in preparation for attacks such as “Operation Sea Lion”. Goering sent 1700 bombers and 1100 fighters to fight 600 British fighters in this attack.
A steady daily amount of over 200 messages gave British intelligence, hour-by-hour, detailed knowledge of German advance plans as well as last moment changes. This gave Britain a more than an equal chance to make the most of its very limited resources and to avoid over commitment and risk of defeat from the very large German Air Force. The actual order to start massive bombing was given by Goering. It was intercepted, decrypted and immediately passed to W. Churchill. It read: ” Within a short period of time you will wipe the British Air Force from the sky. Heil Hitler” but bad weather delayed the German attack for several days.
In the first wave the Germans made attacks against airfields and defence positions, losing 75 planes. As the amount of bombing was continuously increasing, Fighter Command was able to engage the enemy in the most effective way. The British intelligence’s methods were highly criticized by those who did not have access to Enigma’s information. In the Battle of Britain the German Air Force dropped over 40,000 tons of bombs on towns such as London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Coventry. British bombing losses were 20,325 wounded and 14,280 killed. The German aircraft losses were, 2,700 air craft destroyed and 600 damaged.
British losses were about 900 pilots. The critical day came on the September 15th 1940 when Goering ordered a massive attack of 328 bombers and 769 fighters to deliver the final blow. With a force of 300 fighters Britain was able to destroy 187 German planes and to break the offensive. Two days later, on the 17th of September 1940, Bletchley Park (ultra’s HQ) decrypted Hitler’s order to abandon operation “Sea Lion” and to end the Battle of Britain. Throughout the whole period of the Battle of Britain W. Churchill had detailed advance knowledge of German battle orders.
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