BATTLE OF BRITAIN

Battle of Britain Campaign

Our next campaign was a recreation of The Battle of Britain – the reason the 'Tangmere Pilots' was first formed. This featured day to day coverage of the Battle and was as historically accurate as possible...

Royal Air Force

Hurricane preparation

INTRODUCTION

For this campaign we revert to our original four squadrons and wear their codes or those of our partner Spitfire squadrons – even though we will fly from different airfields and squadrons that took part in the Battle.

The vast majority of missions will of course feature the Hurricane & Spitfire; although we also plan to cover the role played by Bomber Command Blenheim squadrons attacking invasion barges and Luftwaffe airfields in France. Our hope is to also cover the Blitz flying night fighters, and the initial stages of the Allied counter offensive in 1941 – the start of Circuses & Rhubarbs.

The campaign will feature a variety of mission styles- sometimes flying with just your squadron, sometimes on a traditional wing op and sometimes all together in the same game but possibly on different parts of the map, adding a new dimension to our missions. We also plan to experiment with the use of a Ground Controller when we feel it could improve the mission.

For now, a brief background to set the scene... more content to follow as the campaign progresses.

crown Winston Churchill

WINSTON CHURCHILL : 18th June 1940

"What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin...

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say... THIS WAS THEIR FINEST HOUR."

signature crown Hitler giving his 'Last Appeal to Reason' speech

OVERVIEW

The Battle of Britain is generally regarded as falling into five somewhat overlapping phases, brief summaries of which now follow, details further down...


PHASE 1:  10th July to 7th August was dominated by German attacks on British convoys in the Channel. In Britain, 10th July is regarded as the official start of the Battle.

PHASE 2:  From 8th to 23th August, saw the Luftwaffe attempt to destroy Fighter Command by attacking coastal targets, including ports, the aircraft industry and RAF airfields.

PHASE 3:  The most dangerous phase of the battle lasted from 24th August to 6th September and saw the Luftwaffe attack Fighter Command's inland stations in great strength, threatening to disrupt the carefully constructed control system based around the Sector Stations. Just as Fighter Command was beginning to be worn down by this approach the Germans changed their plan again.

PHASE 4:  From 7th September to the end of the month, saw the Luftwaffe carry out a series of massive daylight raids on London in the hope that this would force Fighter Command to commit it's last reserves to the battle.

PHASE 5:  Finally during October the Luftwaffe abandoned large scale daylight bombing raids. Instead it carried out large scale fighter bomber raids during the day while it's bombers operated at night. After the end of October even the fighter bomber raids ended and the Germans concentrated instead on the Blitz, the night time bombing raids over Britain's cities.  

crown Hugh Dowding

THE TACTICAL SITUATION IN 1940

The German occupation of Denmark and Norway in April caused the weakening of home fighter defences as squadrons had to be dispersed across Northern Britain to counter any possible threat from Scandinavia. In May and June, the especially the intensive action during the Dunkirk evacuation, had taken a heavy toll with 477 fighters lost and 284 pilots killed. All but three of Fighter Command's squadrons had been engaged, in rotation in the battle area, sustaining wastage in aircraft and personnel far in excess of the rates anticipated.

On 3 June, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, AOC-in-C Fighter Command, told the War Cabinet that, if the expected German offensive came at this moment, he could not guarantee air superiority for more than 48 hours. Nevertheless, he was optimistic that a reasonable respite from intensive operations would help to restore his Command to full strength. On 18 June the last fighter squadrons still in France returned to this country. Measures were taken to extend the air defences to cover the west of England, west coast ports and western manufacturing districts.

German fighter production

After the Battle of France, in which it had suffered heavy losses, the Luftwaffe needed time to recover and re-equip and to consolidate its position on all the new airfields it had captured in France and the Low Countries. It suffered from supply problems as German fighter production was 40% below target by the summer of 1940.

The respite given to Fighter Command was well used. Sharply-rising production between June and early August more than made up for the heavy losses in France. On 19 June, 520 aircraft were ready for operations. By 9 August, shortly before the launch of the full-scale German offensive, the number was 715, with a further 424 in storage units, available for use the next day.  

crown Heinkel He.111H-3

PHASE 1:  Attacks on Coastal Shipping

The Luftwaffe had attacked British shipping from the beginning of the war. In the first few days of July 1940 there were sharp encounters over the English Channel and North Sea as British coastal convoys came under increasingly heavy attack. This led to the biggest and most sustained action yet on 10th July - the day later designated as the start of the Battle of Britain.

By selecting shipping in the Channel, the Luftwaffe hoped to stretch Fighter Command’s resources by forcing the British to commit valuable fighter aircraft to close escort of this important economic traffic. Some light raids were also made on south coast ports.

However, the Germans did not succeed in wearing down the defences. They had not planned their attacks to make the most of Fighter Command's weak spots as they did not appreciate the roles played by radar and the which orchestrated the defending squadrons. In fact the opposite happened as experience of the battle allowed technical improvements to be made to the radar stations and those directing the fighters to hone their skills in order to ensure that squadrons were airborne more quickly and deployed more economically than before.

Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park

The German attacks gave Fighter Command practice responding to a number of threats simultaneously convincing Air Vice Marshal Park, commanding 11 Group, to deploy his fighters in small formations in case some attacks were feints or might be followed by successive waves of aircraft. Park's policy conserved his squadrons, but often meant they joined battle on greatly inferior terms.  


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