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Old 08-11-2017, 08:52 AM
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WW2 Discussion

Thought I'd start a specific thread, as this has been a refreshing off-topic debate recently within other threads.

Some questions raised thus far;

1) was Great Britain actually in danger of being successfully invaded in 1940?

2) who had the most powerful naval forces?

Feel free to widen the debate.

I'll start by adding my post re the Battle of Britain.

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Originally Posted by Chief Brody View Post
Try James Holland.

In-Exile is quite right that the Home Fleet was a significant concern of the Germans in preventing invasion. Without air superiority, an invasion fleet would have been seriously compromised.

To begin, RAF fighters (Hurricanes and Spitfires) were being built in increasing numbers in 1940 and were at least the equivalent of the Bf109e & Bf110c. German intelligence underestimated GB fighter production badly.

By Dunkirk, Fighter Command had also gained valuable experience in combat with the Luftwaffe, causing it significant losses.

More importantly, the infrastructure set up by the 'Dowding System', was an incredibly effective strategy in winning air superiority and exacerbated the operational problems faced by Luftflottes 2 (South) and 5 (North).

Intelligence was critical to our success. Enigma for strategic understanding of composition of Luftwaffe.

Whilst in combat, the Dowding System operated thus - Chain Home (radar) and Observer Corps reports went to Bentley Priory, were distilled and communicated to Group HQs and thus Sector Stations. On the ground, Group Commanders would select Squadrons to attack respective targets. Sector Ops would guide fighters to intercept with a 75%+ chance of success throughout the Battle.

In contrast, German intelligence was largely poor and they often went in blind or with limited info. They lost many a/c on recon missions that were easy prey for RAF. Ensuring the limited info was maintained.

The operational and production strengths of the RAF though, were undermined by poorer, inflexible tactics. The Germans were far superior in that regard (as, was often the case in other Arms too). A German mistake was believing the Dowding System was as inflexible and rigid as RAF tactical doctrine. It wasn't.

One reason why RAF tactics were so poor was that they expected bombers over GB, not fighters too. Outdated thinking from '30s. Tight 'vic 3' formation etc ('rows of idiots' according to LW pilots) and easy prey for LW 'finger four' of x2 pairs. RAF doctrine was straight jacket like in comparison to flexibility of LW combat style.

Squadron Leader Sailor Malan copied the LW formations that was adopted more widely by the RAF, so imitation and flattery etc helped reduce a key strength of the LW Geschwader.

Other well known issues for the LW other than poor intelligence and inferior a/c production was the loss of aircrew over the UK and Channel. The RAF lost over 200 pilots in the Channel, let alone German losses.

Summary of BoB phases;

1) Kanalkampf (Channel Battles) 10 Jul - 11 Aug
2) Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack vs coastal airfields) 12 Aug - 23 Aug
3) Phase 3 interior airfields attacked 24 Aug - 06 Sep
4)* Phase 4 attacks switch to towns and cities 07 Sep onwards

*The period 13-19 September saw Bomber Command sink 200+ invasion barges.

By mid August the LW had reviewed the Battle and withdrew JU87s and reduced Bf110s. A clear sign of RAF fighter superiority. (Luftflotte 5 (North) were mauled around this time and did not re-appear in strength after this.)

That's why Phase 3 had the most ferocious attacks against our airfields, as the LW had to break Fighter Command and the integrity of the Dowding System. The key element to defeat was the supply of RAF fighter pilots. Hence, newly trained guys had as little as 9 hours flying time with no combat training. Foreign pilots and transfers from Coastal Command and Fleet Air Arm helped the bloodflow of men. A/c production and the quality of its machines meant this we were never in danger of being second to the LW in this regard. It was the one real opportunity for the LW, but given the previous detail provided, this was increasingly unlikely to succeed.

So, in hindsight, no, we were never really in danger of German invasion, but at the time, and given Dunkirk, it's understandable it was a concern.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:53 AM
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:59 AM
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Errol Flynn, we wouldn't have won without him
I would have said the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy and Richard Todd.

Unfortunately, Errol failed his medical due to venereal disease and other ailments!
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:16 AM
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I'm reading Jock Colville's diaries. He was Churchills private secretary through the war and after and basically saw masses of cabinet papers etc. Its incredible stuff - amazing anecdotes. One thing I noted was that 1. The blitz was obviously terrible ! 2. He never seemed to doubt we would defeat Germany.

Thoroughly recomend
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:24 AM
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I'm reading Jock Colville's diaries. He was Churchills private secretary through the war and after and basically saw masses of cabinet papers etc. Its incredible stuff - amazing anecdotes. One thing I noted was that 1. The blitz was obviously terrible ! 2. He never seemed to doubt we would defeat Germany.

Thoroughly recomend
Thanks, don't tend to touch this element of WW2. I will get a copy.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:29 AM
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Thanks, don't tend to touch this element of WW2. I will get a copy.
I only got it since I suddenly realised that just about every war documentary seemed to have him in it and he featured massively in the Churchill museum. Apparently he'd been sneakily keeping notes/diary and his family persuaded him to write it up in the 1980s. He was initially Chamberlain's PPS and the first few months he's absolutely roasting Churchill saying he'd be an absolute disaster as PM etc which I think was a fair reflection of the Establishment opinion at the time ie the people seemed to love him but the Establishment didn't ! There's then a long bit written in 1980 where he says he completely changed his mind after working with him etc.

Also noticed he figured quite a lot in The Crown I watched the other day. Obviously had an interesting life !
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Old 08-11-2017, 10:10 AM
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1) Yes and No: The Germans had the military power to invade, but Hitler wasnt enthusiastic, he thought Britain would sue for peace.

2) Royal Navy was the largest. Most powerful is hard to say because the different navies were for different purposes.


Counterfactual history are a funny thing. On the one hand, battles are sometimes won by the lucky underdog. Then the historians turn up and tend to turn the fluke into An Inevitability due To These Fundamental Factors. The counterfactualist is a useful corrective.

On the other, a lot of WW2 counterfactuals are based on 'Hitler not being a mad ****' in which case WW2 doesnt happen, so, er. bollocks.
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Old 08-11-2017, 11:13 AM
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I would have said the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy and Richard Todd.

Unfortunately, Errol failed his medical due to venereal disease and other ailments!
No he didn't, i've seen the films
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Old 08-11-2017, 11:44 AM
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Apparently if there was an invasion The Home Guard would have been more of a danger to themselves than anyone else. It seems 'Dad's Army' was quite an accurate representation.
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Old 08-11-2017, 11:55 AM
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1) Yes and No: The Germans had the military power to invade, but Hitler wasnt enthusiastic, he thought Britain would sue for peace.
You say they had the military power to invade, yet they didn't. The Luftwaffe fought hard, and sustained significant losses in the Battle of Britain. They were out-produced, out-intelligenced, out-operated and out-re-cycled on personnel.

During the hard fighting of August 1940, the high Luftwaffe losses had an affect on morale, to the point that 'Kanalkrankheit' (Channel sickness) was being reported at Geschwader level.

The effectiveness of Phase 3 of the Battle of Britain by the Luftwaffe was reported by Dowding as having little effect in terms of knocking out our interior airfields. Biggin Hill (a Sector Station) was shut down for two hours and only two of 13 airfields that were attacked, were down for a lengthy period. It was critical this Phase was won by the Luftwaffe. They were squarely beaten.

The Kriegsmarine were no match for the Home Fleet, let alone the RN as a whole. They suffered significant losses prior to the opening of the Battle of Britain and could not effectively defend an invasion force on that basis. let alone not having air superiority.

The Heer was superior to our Army at that time, not in question, but without protection in the crossing, it was going to be severely mauled, or defeated wholly.

Your second point re Hitler's lack of conviction is fair, but they did not have the overall military superiority to achieve a successful invasion. They never, ever did.
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Last edited by Chief Brody; 08-11-2017 at 12:21 PM. Reason: Added anecdote re German morale and Dowding letter
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Old 08-11-2017, 12:00 PM
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Apparently if there was an invasion The Home Guard would have been more of a danger to themselves than anyone else. It seems 'Dad's Army' was quite an accurate representation.
The only VC winner of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain was shot twice by the Home Guard after bailing out following his action. Given he was already badly burned and wounded by shrapnel, it was an unpleasant final flourish....

Anecdotal, but illustrative. Unsurprising too.
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Old 08-11-2017, 12:15 PM
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Here's a question... If the Channel wasn't there:

1) Would the Nazis have ever ever invaded Belgium, Holland and France?

2) If so, would the Nazis have attempted to take over Britain at the same time too?

3) Either way, would they ever have successfully invaded Britain?
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Old 08-11-2017, 12:38 PM
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Here's a question... If the Channel wasn't there:

1) Would the Nazis have ever ever invaded Belgium, Holland and France?

2) If so, would the Nazis have attempted to take over Britain at the same time too?

3) Either way, would they ever have successfully invaded Britain?
I don't believe that stretch of water was part of German military thinking re Western European conquest. The BEF was in France and Belgium, the RAF was operating there. So the British were an active adversary, as in WW1. Germany accepted that.

Yes, the Germans (IMO) would have tried to knock all potential enemies out of the War on their Western Front. And I believe they would have suceeded.
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Old 08-11-2017, 12:49 PM
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Old 08-11-2017, 12:50 PM
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1) was Great Britain actually in danger of being successfully invaded in 1940.[/QUOTE]

This was on tv recently, with modern war games and old files. They said the Germans would have been allowed as far up as around Maidstone, then the home fleet would sail down from Scotland and retake the channel.
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:18 PM
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@ ChelmsfordEagle

Two books recommended re the Battle of Britain -

The Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay

The Battle of Britain by James Holland
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:29 PM
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Was a treaty between Britain and the Nazis ever properly discussed a high level during the Battle of Britain by the cabinet? If you believe documentaries and films, it's almost as if Churchill would have seen that kind of talk as treasonous. But there must have been at least even a brief discussion at some point, no?
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:37 PM
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Was a treaty between Britain and the Nazis ever properly discussed a high level during the Battle of Britain by the cabinet? If you believe documentaries and films, it's almost as if Churchill would have seen that kind of talk as treasonous. But there must have been at least even a brief discussion at some point, no?
Towards the end of the war, Churchill held secret talks with Stalin regarding the 'percentages agreement' where they basically carved up Europe. Which is interesting, as he had warned the Americans to be more afraid of Stalin than they ever should have been about Hitler.

From what I've read, I don't think Churchill would have entertained any deals with Hitler unless our cause was well and truly lost, and this was never in doubt once he finally persuaded the Americans to enter the theatre of Europe
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:40 PM
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@ ChelmsfordEagle

Two books recommended re the Battle of Britain -

The Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay
I'd second this one, it's an excellent book.
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:42 PM
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The only VC winner of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain was shot twice by the Home Guard after bailing out following his action. Given he was already badly burned and wounded by shrapnel, it was an unpleasant final flourish....

Anecdotal, but illustrative. Unsurprising too.
Interesting, my source was 'Horrible Histories'.
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