Thesis: Where the British better, or did the Germans blunder?
War, the terrible reality that is a seething manifestation of human darkness, often ends with terrible repercussions. War, was and is the three-letter word that in most situations, is not enough to illustrate the wretchedness of the turmoils of man. Indeed many a times, the timeline depiction of human existence had been marred by war and conflict throughout history. It seemed man was not complacent enough to forgive, but rather, egoistically, wished to seek revenge on those that had rose to defile him. WWI had gone by, with countless sufferings that had placed a botch mark on history. It had been a harsh reminder, the red-hot iron of despair imprinted on the minds of the many war torn individuals that had survived. The screams of pain, the sights of mutilations, dismemberments, the moans, the cry for mothers were all an agonizing tablet that had summed up the First World War. Unfortunately, man learns lessons, and forgets them in an instant, and that very man, Adolf Hitler, with his maniacal ideas sparked the fuse for WWII. It was an exact mirror replication of the previous one, except that this time, the stakes were higher, with many more lives at stake. It seemed the devil himself had chosen to be imbued within Hitler, his fiery red eyes that had instilled pain and fear amongst all of Europe. The only souls left that could extinguish his visions were the Britons, and they waged war on Germany. That war was to be known as the Battle of Britain, and the eventual outcome saw Britain as the victor. Germany had lost this war, adding a sour note to its commendable collection of previous victories. Was it Britains collective might that had toppled its opposition, or had it been the result of miscalculations, and other blunders on the German side? On a comparative analysis, it did eventually seem clear that the errors on Germanys side ultimately lead to the demise of their air force in this war. There was little organization in their plans to attack targets, and to that, there were no specific targets whatsoever that the pilots could refer to so that target bombing be carried out. The bombers were escorted heavily; a waste of resources, and the timings were off their attacks, ceasing to strike when the iron was hot, and vice versa. Ultimately, the war was to grant the wreath of victory to the valiant Britons. A closer examination of these errors will ensue.
The previous battle, The Battle of France, had been crucial, but was a crushing blow to the British, for the plan to stop the Germans from making any advance into France had been a failure. The only outstanding success that had been noted would have been the immediate evacuation of thousands of troops from Dunkirk, France. After the incident, British troops were extremely exhausted. Germans had the upper hand in this situation, and the iron was hot. That had been the ideal moment to strike, at the Achilles hilt of Britain, when they were at their weakest. Unfortunately, the Germans, shortsighted as they were, decided to let victory again slip from their grasp. With the British Army still trying to gather themselves from the defeat at Dunkirk, and the remnants of the RAF making a hasty retreat from France, this would have been the ideal time to commence on the invasion of England. They had struck the first blow, but didn’t follow it through. It appeared that Germany was their own worst enemy. While the Germans held back, it gave Britain time to re-group. More fighter planes arrived at the airfields adding further strength to Fighter Command. More pilots were being assigned to squadrons all over England and new combat tactics were being taught to pilots old and new. A lot of lessons were learnt in France and in fact it has been quoted, that ‘…what we experienced in France, was only a taste of what was to follow in the defense of England’. If only Germany had used its wits to realize, that like Blitzkrieg, it should have attacked the flank of Britain when their guard was at its lowest. Unfortunately, it was not to be so.
Britain had the equivalent of a secret weapon in their arsenal for aiding them in their battle against Germany. They had an early form of radar, known as Radio Direction Finding. The southern and eastern coasts of Britain were lined with Radar stations that detected the presence of incoming aircraft and intercepted them. Germany also had a highly sophisticated system to direct anti-aircraft guns, but the method of coupling the radar plots to an interception system and thereafter directing the fighters was unique. Unfortunately for the Germans, they failed to realize the importance of radar in assisting the air force in their continued struggles to rein supremacy. The Germans foolishly undermined the abilities of the Britons to quickly gather information about incoming planes and then rely them to Group and Sector Operations Rooms for action. The Nazi wave of terror bypassed the radar stations, and unknowingly they determined the fate of this war. Some German observation aircraft had picked up sightings of radio masts on Britains shores. Unfortunately, the Germans were under the impression that the masts were used in the detection of shipping, and paid no further attention to them until they really know what they were. Had the Germans not overseen this fact, and targeted the radar stations as potential threats, the outcome of this war might have been extremely different.
The Luftwaffe, due to their disorganization was put to a task that would demand expertise beyond any that Germany had. This task was codenamed Operation Sealion, and it called for the Luftwaffe to cross the English Channel, take out the RAF bases, and gain supremacy over the Channel. The Luftwaffe was totally unprepared for this task, giving the RAF a chance in which to succeed in holding the Germans off. The Channel was the only body of water that lay between Germany and victory. However, crossing the relatively large body of water with only airplanes proved risky, for precious fuel was lost in the process, fuel which would later be required in battle. The large body of water was not only guarded well by the RAF, it was also far from Germanys air bases compared to Britains. When a German plane was shot down while over the Channel, it was extremely hard, if not impossible to recover, and repair it, but if the same were to occur upon a British plane, it could more easily be recovered and repaired due to the Channel being more easily accessible to Britain. The RAF posed another problem for the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe leaders greatly underestimated the strength of the RAF and were thus attacked with unexpected force, diminishing the strength of the attacks. The Channel was possibly one of the most challenging problems Germany faced, and most likely contributed greatly to the blunder of the German army.
Hitler realized how incredibly powerful his Luftwaffe was and how deadly and unstoppable it had the potential to be. This organization of air fleets composing of deadly bombers and other supporting aircraft made Britain look exceedingly weak in comparison. It was, as stated before, under the command of Hermann Goering, and Hitler. The Luftwaffe could have had a very real chance to defeat Britain, but this is where one of the biggest mistakes was made. Hitler and his personnel unwisely abused the real power they had created in the form of their Luftwaffe. Pilots in the Luftwaffe were not given sufficient training and thus lacked the experience to bring the Luftwaffe success. To compound this problem, these fresh, and inexperienced pilots were given confusing instructions as to specifically how, when and where they were to attack. Pilots sometimes received vague instructions and were forced to take the situation upon them themselves. There was no specifically stated objectives or priorities for the whole mission. The Luftwaffe was also made ineffective due to the spontaneous change of targets made by Hitler and his personnel. The constant change never gave the Luftwaffe any real target they could focus on and permanently destroy. The German strategists also miscalculated the long and hard struggle the Luftwaffe would have to endure to gain air supremacy over the English Channel due to the lack of ground support as well as sufficient air support, further disadvantaging the Luftwaffe.
The Luftwaffe had another subtle weakness that had also proved to be their undoing. In previous wars, the Luftwaffe had always been in support of ground forces, and thus, they did not work alone to ensure victory. They were specifically designed for the concept of Blitzkrieg, which brought them rapid successes in Continental Europe. The attacks were of short periods of time, intended to catch their targets by surprise, and to eliminate them before they had a chance to fight back. In the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe was on a solo mission to eradicate the RAF of Britain. It was not backing any other land forces, and was on its own. Furthermore, regarding the bombers of Germany, range and carrying capacity were sacrificed in favor of speed and maneuverability. Fighter aircraft did not have the range necessary to provide adequate escort. Nor was there any cohesive plan as to how bombers could best be escorted. Indeed, there were no stated objectives or priorities at all for the whole operation. The bombing force had the range but not the carrying capacity to inflict lasting damage on selected targets and follow-up operations were randomly assigned.
The vulnerability of the bombers of also resulted in changing tactics by Germany, with no specific targets being allocated to the pilots. The Bf109s were allowed to freely roam and rein the southern coasts, which enabled RAF pilots to intercept them. The ensuing loses that occurred to Germans made them want to pull their hair in frustration. This led to a series of unwise moves that would see them ultimately waste their resources for an unworthy cause. Gring, the leader of the Luftwaffe, frustrated at the continued losses, deemed it proper to demand larger and yet closer fighter escorts on a ratio of three fighters to each bomber, a total waste of resources. Later, more and more Bf109s were taken from Luftflotte 3 to strengthen Luftflotte 2 while the medium bombers were gradually withdrawn from daylight operations. This resulting decision allowed RAF to intercept and take down the bombers. Had the Germans modified the bombers for larger weapon holding capacities, maybe the outcome of the battle would have been different.
Hitler, the supreme leader of Germany at the time, greatly confided in his army and its members to achieve and maintain leadership in Germany and the rest of Europe. Hitler shaped his army into his ideal combatant force. In doing this he naturally bestowed his values and characteristics upon those in command in his army. One of Hitlers characteristics (the one that most likely attributed to his political success in Germany) was his ability to lead others around him into a state of overconfidence. Hitler invoked overconfidence and pompousness on his army and even his citizens. Hitler and his military leaders formed a plan to cross the English Channel that would involve them using their bombers to take out the RAF airports around coastal England. Hitler believed that his bombers would not encounter many problems from the RAF and would easily follow through with the mission; in fact Hermann Goering, commander of the deadly Luftwaffe, believed the mission (Operation Sea lion) would take no more than 3 weeks. Due to this obviously inaccurate assumption, Hitler had to postpone the date for the mission, which he had planned to commence some time before mid August 1940. All this over confidence led Hitler to believe that the plan (already rushed into action) did not need any further research and information gathering on the defending forces of Britain. This obvious error led Germany to attack Britain almost blindly. This lack of research leads us into the next point as to why Germany blundered.
As explained the above paragraph, Germanys overconfidence led them to believe that they knew everything they needed to about the defending forces of Britain. Hitler believed that Operation Sealion was already postponed enough and should not have to endure further research in order to set it into action. However most of the army intelligence personnel and generals claimed that more information was needed on the lay out of the British coast, their layout of defense, and crucially, their fighter command. Germany totally disregarded the fact that Britain was at the same technological level as them. It failed to consider the radio towers stationed all over Britain as much of a threat, when, in fact, those towers were part of the highly effective radar system in Britain. Hitler thought he knew everything there was to know about Britain, which could be accounted for by his overconfidence. This most likely inhibited the further development advancements of Germanys own version of the radar, which was primitive, compared to Britains. This proved to be yet another fatal mistake made by Germany. Naturally, one who is too confident often believes everything will turn out ideally and perfect, even if they do not contribute much to achieve that desired outcome. This was true for Hitler and his personnel in regards to the leadership of the Luftwaffe, which they did not organize too well.
It was at the outset of the battle that the Germans truly summed up their errors in one tumultuous event. Goring had planned a massive counter-attack named Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack). It was to give a strong knockout blow to the British and was intended to bring them to their knees. However, again there were no target priorities and the poor weather made an already confused situation worse. Later in the day, when the weather had improved, military targets were specified, particularly fighter airfields, but the Luftwaffe could not distinguish between fighter and bomber fields. On August 15, the Luftwaffe coordinated another massive attack, but again, confused orders and misunderstandings blunted the attack. In spite of the errors in Luftwaffe management, the RAF losses started to skyrocket. In the last week of August, Group 11 sector airfields were targeted and the Fighter Command of the RAF was now in serious trouble. If the attacks continued, the RAF would have no airstrips to launch and land their planes from, and would have to concede defeat. Then, on 7 September, Hitler permitted the bombing of London and the Luftwaffe was diverted from bombing the airfields. Suddenly, the outset of the battle had changed, and it seemed like a miracle for the British. It was a massive blunder by the Luftwaffe who never knew how close they came to a victory. Unfortunately for them, they themselves stole it from right under their very own noses, unable to even take a whiff of the fragrant scent of triumph.
In this eventual analysis of the famous Battle of Britain, it is clear that the military tactics favored by the Germans had ultimately led them to lose grasp of yet another triumphant conquest. The Germans, seemed the heavy favorites, but their heads were bloated with pride, and eventually, were unable to see realitys harsh misgivings. Had they accepted humility, and taken to heart that underestimation led to failure, maybe, the outcome would have been very different. They were poorly organized, and so, the victors were the Britons. In the arena of war, the gladiators strike with precision, and thoughtfulness, with full consideration of the consequences. Britain had wielded its lance and shield to its advantage, while Germany, drunk from the wine of pride, had stumbled, bleary eyed, and had eventually been speared. Let the spoils of the victory go to the victor, for Britain indeed had deserved it. The blunders of Germany will never be forgotten, and for that, let this essay be the eternal testimony to its fate.