SW1In juxtaposition to SW2And British leaders? SW3Evidence? SW4But

juxtaposition to

British leaders?

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at Dunkirk the navy were powerless, they could not move as the Germans
controlled the air?

the blitz it was different as they had air-superiority, Stuka was not so good
against fighters.

what this is

by RAF to bomb Berlin might have played a part – Goring said this would never
happen and Hitler got angry

Poles Canadians too etc might be interesting. Also how close was the RAF to
running out of planes and pilots?












Overall, it
is evident that North adopts an overly critical analysis of the events over the
skies of Britain in 1940, in an attempt to belittle the achievements of the
pilots in order to credit the often-forgotten roles played by the “many” not
the “few”. In doing so his text often proves factually incorrect, but is
effective in highlighting the jobs played by other sections of wartime Britain.
This is clearest as he describes the pilots as “co-defenders” at best, and
rather operated as part of a wider national effort to survive the German
onslaught, and refers to the glamorized popular story as a myth throughout.
Butler on the other hand uses more factual language rather than the deeper
analytical and critical language seen in North’s text. Due to the fact it was
produced in 1957, it is more likely that at the time there had been less
critical analysis of the events, as it was in a more recent history and the
victory over the Germans was in fresher memory so the “myth” had not yet
received as much criticism as it had at the time of North’s publication.  Butler provides the most factually detailed
coverage of the Battle, offering in depth knowledge to support the claims he
makes which leads me to the conclusion that his text is the most reliable
source from the three texts.

This being said, the pilots of
fighter command SW8 with the tactics laid out by their
leaders ultimately were the ones who fought off the Luftwaffe pilots to defend
Britain. Holland speaks very highly of Fighter Commands leader, Air Marshall
Hugh Dowding who he claims created a “superb defensive system” which allowed
for the valiant airmen to effectively combat a larger force by ordering to
attack the enemy whilst “they turned back home”. He goes on to say “unlike
Luftwaffe command” Dowding had a “very clear picture both operationally and
tactically to make the post of their potential” and without this the “Luftwaffe
would have sill prevailed, no matter how skilled or valiant the pilots”. North 11directly
opposes this by claiming that “Dowding had presided over a failure”, however
this is disproved by the fact that the British often downed many more aircraft
than their opponents as Butler describes how on one day 60 Germans were shot
down compared to only 26 British. 

Although it
has been established the overall role and importance of the RAF during the
Battle of Britain, the extent to which Fighter Command’s pilots were
responsible for this success is debated by all three historians. Even though
the pilots of the fighter planes were the face of the resistance they by no
means operated alone. They were supported by a complex institution comprising
of various departments fulfilling various tasks in assisting the efforts of the
pilots, making their victories possible. Butler mentions the “colleagues bellow
who guided and served them (the pilots) had foiled the German strategy in its
first phase”, and these “colleagues bellow” consisted of factory workers, RADAR
operators and  the Observer Corps. The
importance of RADAR is discussed by Butler, who stresses its importance as
“potent weapon of defence” in which its effectiveness was “not expected by the
enemy”. However, Richard North rubbishes this point by claiming that Britain’s
lead in RADAR was “yet another myth of the Battle” and goes on to state the
“great achievement of the British was not so much the technology… but other
intelligence inputs such as the Observer Corps”. According to BBC History,
RADAR 10played
a crucial role in the Battle of Britain, and despite being in the early stages
of development which often lead to difficulties and inaccuracies, it placed the
RAF one step ahead of the Luftwaffe and meant that the fighters could
effectively intercept the attacking forces of Germany with the required numbers
of aircraft deployed to the location in which they were needed most.

Despite this,
it is ridiculous to claim that the Luftwaffe’s tactics were the main cause of
the outcome of the battle of Britain, as it had established itself as a force
to be reckoned with earlier on in the war, most notably during the invasion of
France in which it destroyed opposition and helped Germany to achieve victory
in just 6 weeks. This is where the achievements of the British come into play,
most notably those of the RAF’s Fighter Command. As the direct opponents of the
Luftwaffe, it is obvious that the RAF pilots played a pivotal role in the
defence of their own organisation, and Butler highlights how their bravery and
skill prevented Operation Sea Lion from taking place. He pinpoints this down to
one date (although the total tally portrays a similar picture), the  15th of September 1941, a day in
which the German loses totalled “60, as against 26 British fighters lost”. He
calls this a “glorious achievement” and explains how since results such as
these were seen throughout the battle, the invasion date had been pushed back
far enough as that it had to be postponed due to weather conditions in sea and
air over the winter period, which is clearly stated as the “risk of invasion
had been greatly diminished” due to “the German’s own losses and the prospect
of broken weather”. This meant that the next window for invasion was 1941, and
by then Hitler had his sights set on Russia, and after that an invasion attempt
upon Britain would have been suicide for Nazi Germany as a second front had
been opened. It is therefore inferred that due to the inability to destroy the
RAF before the winter of 1940 the battle of Britain had been won and operation
Sea Lion was no longer viable. Butler claims that this point is backed by Hitler’s
decision to change bombing targets from the RAF to civilian targets in the same
month as “a confession of failure” as the destruction of the SW7 RAF was no longer a “necessary
precondition for invasion”, because from then on, a possible invasion ceased to
exist. Now the brunt of resistance lay upon the British public’s will to carry
on fighting through the Blitz, and although it still had a major position to
play in the war, the RAF had successfully defended Britain from Nazi invasion.

Goring’s personal blunders had a significantly less of an impact than the
mistakes made in the offensive tactics deployed by the Luftwaffe, upon the
Battle of Britain and the protection of the British Isles. “Tactically the
thinking was faulty”, Holland writes, “as the high command failed to use either
bombers or fighters to their best capability”, which is a reference to the
decision to force fighters to stick to the bombers which they were escorting,
as bomber pilots feared abandonment and the results which this could bring. The
primary role of the German fighter was no longer to shoot down enemy fighters
but to protect bombers, and what “Luftwaffe high command had failed to realise
was that by shooting down Spitfires and Hurricanes their fighters would have
been protecting the bombers”. To clarify this point, a Stuka dive bomber could
reach around 160mph while fully loaded with fuel and bombs, while the ME 109
(who normally flew at around 300mph) could barely stay in the air at that speed
and made easy targets for the pilots of Fighter Command. Holland refers to this
as “forcing them to fight with their hands tied behind their backs” and
“unforgivable mistake” which helps to highlight the importance this decision
made upon the battle. This therefore proves that the Nazis played a large part
in their own failure to complete their goal of gaining air superiority over the
skies of Britain as a result of the tactics which they deployed, and therefore
their unintentional role in protecting Britain from their own invasion plans.

Butler and
Holland discuss how Luftwaffe high command contributed to its own demise,
Butler referencing the “decisions and indecisions of the German high command”
forming the background of the battle. Holland’s text makes clear the main
internal issue which the Luftwaffe faced was poor choices in leadership, and
decision making, which possibly cost Germany the war. One example of this is
the use of the ME BF 110, heavily advocated and promoted by Goring, took a
heavy toll on the Luftwaffe’s war effort. The twin-engine fighter proved itself
during the early campaigns of the war as a fast and powerful fighter, and
because of this Goring adopted the fighter as his “pet project”, in which he
invested many of his best pilots such as Walter Rubensdoffer. However once
faced with an opposition in possession of single-engine fighters their lack of
manoeuvrability was exposed and exploited. As a result of “tactical short-sightedness”
many skilled pilots were lost to the Luftwaffe, pilots who could have made a
significant impact upon clashes if equipped with single-engine fighters.

To fully
understand and assess the Fighter Commands role in the defence of Britain, it
is vital to therefore assess how they achieved overall victory in this “air
war”, as well as external factors including those who supported the fighters,
the enemy which they faced and other sections of wartime British society.
Despite the showboating
demonstrations of airpower throughout the 1930s, being a world leader in
aviation technology and the initial whitewash victories achieved by Germany,
the Luftwaffe was riddled with faults. James Holland explores how these flaws
contributed as much to the British victory as did the skill of any fighter
pilot and the tactical minds of Fighter Command’s leadership. He starts off by
claiming that “the Luftwaffe was not big enough to do what it set out to achieve”
which would suggest that the RAF possessed more or superior fighters, however
Butler offers evidence contradictory to this, stating that on 10/08/1940
Luftwaffe planes numbered 2,227 which included 702 single-engine fighters and
261 twin-engine fighters, while the RAF Fighter Command could not have put into
the air more than 600-700 aircraft”. Butler’s point is partially backed by
North, who notes there was 675 RAF fighters consisting of Blenheim Fighters,
Spitfires, Hurricanes and Defiants, although he counts the Luftwaffe aircraft
at 1,700 (a figure still far greater than that of the RAF). ThisSW5 
points us towards the fact that although the German forces outnumbered their
British counterparts, the Luftwaffe was not big enough “to achieve what it set
out to do”, destroy Fighter Command, which suggests that it wasn’t the numbers
which let down the attacking side. Furthermore, the superiority of the spitfire as an aircraft
and therefore its contribution to the victory is scrutinised when compared to
the ME 109SW6  which, according to James Holland,
was the “best fighter in the world in the summer of 1940”.

The argument
against North’s claims belittling the importance of air-superiority is
supported by Butler’s quotations from the ultimate leader of the Nazis himself;
Adolf Hitler.  On July the 31st
1940 he talked of the “air war” which was about to rage over southern England
and stated that “if the results were not satisfactory, invasion preparations
would be stopped”.  In addition to this,
Butler also counters North’s statements in relation to the Royal Navy’s ability
to defend against an invasion of Britain, declaring that although “in the view
of British naval strength the risk was very great” on behalf of the Germans “a
landing was practicable if above all Germany had superiority in the air”. Not
only does this conflict with the points made by North but reinforce the
statements made about the importance of the role played by Fighter Command in
the defence of Britain.

This then
raises the question; why did the RAF superiority impose enough of a threat to
an invasion as to cause it to be postponed indefinitely while the force was
still operational? The importance of air superiority is often doubted by North,
who writes “the RAF cannot claim credit for preventing an invasion”, and “even
if the Germans had judged the air battle a success the invasion would still not have gone ahead.” He
bases this on the fact that the Royal Navy, at the time the most powerful naval
force in the world, acted as the main deterrent for a naval invasion of Britain. Due to a fleet of over 1000 vessels, the
Royal Navy would create “great difficulties of landing troops on open beaches,
unloading sufficient equipment and then keeping troops supplies” due to
superiority in numbers (as well as training and experience) across the 24 mile
stretch of ocean positioned between the two forces. To further this argument,
North refers to a 1974 hypothetical wargame carried out at Sandhurst Military
Academy, which concluded that despite RAF supremacy the German forces would
have been able to “establish a beachhead by using a minefield screen to hold off
the Royal Navy” while SW4 troops
cross the Channel waters, however, shortly after the Royal Navy once again
imposed its supremacy and cut off supplies to the beachhead shortly later
leading to a German surrender. This however fails to consider the annihilation
of the Royal Navy that would have occurred at the hands of the Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka”
dive bombers if there was a successful destruction of the RAF. The nature of
naval ships made them extremely easy pickings for precision bombing aircraft;
slow moving, clear targets with inadequate defensive systems against aircraft.
This would have allowed the Luftwaffe to bring the navy to its knees in the
absence of friendly aerial support, and furthermore highlights the importance
of the RAF’s role in the defence of Britain.

To a large
extent, North backs Holland’s claims and offers further evidence that there was
less of a direct threat of invasion than there is commonly perceived. The UK
was never one of Hitler’s main targets and this is seen through his push for
peace, as North declares his “immediate priority was nit the invasion of
England. He was thinking of Russia.” This highlights the unwillingness to
launch a naval invasion of Britain, as the Nazis were aware of the toll which
this would take upon the German war effort. This subsequently lessens the
importance of the role which the RAF were playing in the so called “defence” of
Britain, as it could be said there was less of a threat as the movies would
have one believe. However, it is of paramount importance to understand that had
the Luftwaffe gained air superiority, the risks on behalf of the Nazis would
have been significantly lessened, and therefore it is fair to assume that peace
would have seemed less appealing than it once had for the warmongering
leadership of Nazi Germany. This, to some extent, weakens the arguments pushed
by North and Holland, who discredit the achievements of the RAF in the sense
that since the threat of invasion was lesser than commonly believed, the
consequences of their action are, in turn, lessened as well. This fails to
address the role in which Fighter Command played in the lessening of this
threat of invasion, and how in its absence the balance of power would have been
shifted, and with it the context of the whole invasion, and why the Nazis
pushed for peace, rather than to continue the rolling momentum they had built
up across continental Europe.

 Holland however, claims that Hitler intended
to force the British “to sue for peace by blockade and heavy air attacks” 7and
the proposed invasion was to be a bluff or a back-up option. This push for
peace is supported by his claim that Germany was, as Holland states, “not ready”
for a war with Britain and this was known by Nazi leadership including head of
the Luftwaffe, Herman Goring, who on finding out about the war reacted angrily,
telephoning fellow Nazi von Ribbentrop exclaiming “you’ve got your f******
war”. 8This
shows how even before the Battle of Britain there was already doubt amongst German
high command and is represented in the push for a peaceful solution to the conflictSW2  (much to the dislike of Josef Goebbels). A peaceful
outcome was also backed by Hitler himselfSW3 , who was more concerned with
defeating the USSR, however it became clear that “Britain would not now roll-over”9,
and more drastic actions would be required.

Despite the
obvious preparations for invasion there still lies some evidence to back the
claim that an invasion of Britain was not the preferred outcome for the Nazis.
All three historians support this to some extent, Butler claiming it was possibly
a “gigantic bluff intended to force the dispersion of our energies and to wear
down morale”5 but
goes on to claim that this was an attempt to deplete the enemy before an
eventual attack if no peace agreement was reached, made clear by his reference
to matador not facing the bull “until its strength had been reduced by the
attentions of his forerunners”.6

Butler, on
the other hand, directly opposes the statements made by North, claiming “it
seems against mere reason to suppose that Hitler never intended to invade
with extensive in-depth plans for an invasion of Britain supporting this claim,
consisting of 120,000 troops 3″to
get ashore, complete with their equipment in three days and “250 amphibious
tanks … were ready for use in September”. 4Holland
offers further evidence for the preparation of operation Sealion, since German
naval planners “worked out 1,133 naval barges were needed for the first
crossing” and by the 21st of September there were 1,491. This proves
not only the true intentions of the German forces but also highlights how despite having the
means of invasion at their fingertips, German high command faced other factors
deterring an invasion attempt on the United Kingdom.

Since the
Battle of Britain was fought to protect the British Isles from Nazi invasion it
may be considered a success, but North uses this point to scrutinise the
battle, claiming that an invasion was never truly a priority of the German
forces, and that “the only way operation Sealion could be made to succeed is by distorting
the evidence, or by ignoring it altogether”. He supports this point whilst
discussing the condition of the German invasion force in detail, including the
fact that to unload the landing craft would take up to 15 minutes due to the
fact the doors were manual (as opposed to the mechanical doors used during
D-Day), resulting in “great difficulties of landing troops on open beaches” as
well as” keeping troops supplied”1.
He goes on to claim that these problems were “unsolvable with the resources
available” to the invasion force. This directly opposes the traditional story
of the battle, which he refers to as a “myth” and gives weight to his argument
that the RAF were not the protectors of Britain, as an invasion attempt was
unrealistic and the threat was not as great as commonly thought.

The term the “Battle of Britain” comes
from another speech by Churchill, and refers to the unsuccessful attempt of
Nazi Germany to conquer the United Kingdom, and lasted from July to October of
1940. What separates this battle from any other before it is the fact that this
battle was fought purely by conflicting air forces. The German air-force (or
Luftwaffe) operated under Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring, a flamboyant WW1
pilot veteran with a thirst for power, fuelled by strong Nazi beliefs. The
RAF’s fighter command was the branch of the air-force responsible for air to
air combat and was
a major thorn in the side of Goring, his Luftwaffe and the Nazi campaign, as without
air superiority no invasion of Britain could take place.

On the 20th
of August 1940 British prime minister Winston Churchill made his famous speech,
in which he claimed, “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by
so many to so few”, subsequently securing the RAF’s fighter command’s place in
British military history. When mentioned today, the Battle of Britain often
provokes imagery of the iconic Supermarine Spitfire clashing against the
Luftwaffe’s offensive forces, acting as Britain’s last line of defence against
the unstoppable Nazi war machine. This view is greatly contested by historian
Richard North, who seeks to shatter this “myth” of Fighter Command’s role in
the defence of Britain, which
juxtaposes SW1 J.R.M Butler’s views in support of
the “myth”. On the other hand, whilst recognising RAF achievements, James
Holland investigates the role in which the enemy played in their own demise, as
well as the wider picture of the battle away from the dog fights romanticised
in British popular culture.

“The Battle of
Britain was won by “the few” of RAF Fighter Command, thus preventing Nazi
invasion”. Historians have disagreed on this point, discuss.


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