A Weak Link in the RAF in 1940????

witchbottles

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"Rolls-Royce facilities at Osmaston, Derby"

"Rolls-Royce started building work on a new factory at Crewe"

The former factory produced all but 400 of the Rolls Royce Merlin engines used by all models of the Hurricane, Spitfire, and Defiant up to September 13th, 1940.

The second factory produced the remaining 400 engines delivered to the RAF from the beginning of the war until September 13th, 1940.

No other factory began production of the engines used by RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain until the Glasgow "shadow factory" stood up for production on October 1st, 1940, after "Seelowe" was no longer a viable option.

Derby was out of range of most of the Luftwaffe's available bombers.

Crewe was likewise out of range of most of the Luftwaffe's available bombers.

These two factories, if both disabled from production for more than 2 weeks, would have resulted in a shortage of available engines that would have stopped assembly of all planes going to RAF Fighter Command by September 1st, 1940 (when the surplus in supply ran out). If either one was seriously damaged and out of action for more than 30 days, RAF Fighter Command would have only received 140-150 aircraft per week up to October 1st, 1940.

The attack range one way for the Do-17 bomber, loaded for long-range bombing, was 740 km. The Derby factory was 495 km from the Abbeville France Luftwaffe airfield, and for the Crewe factory, the range one way from Abbeville Luftwaffe airfield was 579 km.

both factories were within range of the Do-17s of the Luftwaffe. If these had been concentrated in the first week of widespread air attacks on British targets in August - against one target and then the other, the RAF would have run out of available planes by September 1st, 1940, without any way to put more in the air until the Glasgow factory came online and the other two were repaired and re-operating at peak output.

Luftwaffe production of Do-17 models up to July 1st 1940 are rather reliably listed at +/-1100 total aircraft, with only 16 confirmed lost in action. That meant the LW had about 1,080 bombers to launch in two successive massive waves that first week of widespread bombing in August, 1940, certainly enough to flatten both factories at Derby and Crewe.

with enough diversionary raids from JU-87s, Ju-88s and HE-111s all over any other area of England in a "shotgun" effect defense saturation - RAF would not have been able to stop Derby or Crewe factories from being obliterated thusly.

Did the Luftwaffe miss the "golden Egg" in August 1940, that could have ended RAF air superiority over southern England in September, 1940 in time for "Seelowe"?
 

R Hooks

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I did a lot of work on the old Battle of Britain computer air game from back in the 80's, there were a number of ways to overwhelm British air defenses. I'm sure this was tried and it might have worked, I just don't recall. My favorite one was massive fighter air sweeps between a lot of short small bomber runs, with fighter bombers coming in at the end to catch British planes landing. Very hard to defend against, but required good coordination.
 

jrv

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It has long been a puzzle as to why Rolls-Royce's Derby works, where the Merlin aero-engine was manufactured, escaped so lightly during the Second World War. Simple geography is one answer; Derby is fairly low-lying. The town's wartime smokescreens is another.

One myth that can be debunked is that the British could somehow "bend" the Germans' navigational beams and send the Luftwaffe to other cities instead. It was possible to jam both the X-Verfahren and Knickebein beams, but not to bend them.

Decent anti-aircraft defences and several strokes of good fortune are the probable reasons why Rolls-Royce largely escaped. By late 1940, Derby was defended by 28 3.7-inch AA guns, stationed on sites like the Racecourse and Markeaton Park, eight Bofors and 26 Lewis machine-guns. In addition, around 30 barrage balloons flew over the town.

JR
 

witchbottles

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it does seem the RAF were aware of the value of Derby with its aa defenses in place and smokescreen generators. The only raids that would have managed were the ones launched August 19,20 and 21..

It was not a target of value much after Sept 1st, as the stockpile of engines would have carried the RAF through the danger period of a Sea Lion invasion in late September.


It also seems superficially at least, the Luftwaffe failed to understand this point of logistics and press home the destruction, and their photo recon failed to locate the "backup" factory at Crewe at all.

Both would have had to eat it in August with complete shutdowns for at least 2-3 weeks, in order to logistically stop the RAF Fighter Command cold.

and the Do-17 models were well within range of both factories with combat loadings.

the He-111 raid attempted on Sept 29 put that bomber at its maximum limit of effectiveness one way on a bombing mission. It stands to reason those 111s were loaded with lightweight incendiaries primarily, and very few, if any HE bombs.

Better intelligence, photo recon, and a coherent plan to coordinate efforts of all three Luftflottes to shut down this weak link early in August 1940, may well have been the missed Achilles' Heel of Fighter Command.
 

Vinnie

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The whole story of the Battle of Britain is one of poor planning and woeful execution on the last of the Luftwaffe. To be fair to them, they were never designed as a strategic strike force.
 

witchbottles

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The whole story of the Battle of Britain is one of poor planning and woeful execution on the last of the Luftwaffe. To be fair to them, they were never designed as a strategic strike force.
Agreed. Perhaps the most critical failure was in the pre-war fostering of such a competitive spirit where individual performance was valued so highly over any other criteria, that by the time of the BoB some 5-7 years later, those in higher command positions were now unwilling to cooperate with each other in more operational-level planning, making for the BoB being a battle of three subordinate commanders without clear higher authority, vs one single integrated air defense system working completely as a team, fighting the exact battle they had been designed, developed and trained for during the same 5 year period.

Still ,there was definite chinks in the Fighter Command armor, logistics, largely ruled out in most histories, appears that it could have played a much larger role.
 

Craig Benn

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Any bombing of Derby or Crewe would have been beyond fighter escort range. Given how inaccurate Luftwaffe level bombing was - very unlikely sufficient damage would have been done before attrition rates stopped such an aeriel offensive dead.

Sealion was never really a viable option for a large number of reasons. Worth bearing in mind the Luftwaffe had no torpedoes or AP bombs in 1940. And the Kriegsmarine had taken horrendous casualties in the Norway campaign. And the German troop transports were Rhine Barges which had to be towed, were slower than the Channel currents, and 10% of which were sunk by bomber command while massing in the invasion ports.
 

Yuri0352

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Sealion was never really a viable option for a large number of reasons. Worth bearing in mind the Luftwaffe had no torpedoes or AP bombs in 1940. And the Kriegsmarine had taken horrendous casualties in the Norway campaign. And the German troop transports were Rhine Barges which had to be towed, were slower than the Channel currents, and 10% of which were sunk by bomber command while massing in the invasion ports.
All of which are valid points. Nevertheless, there some individuals within the ASL community who have mentioned their longing for the production of a Sea Lion HASL.

No thanks, especially when Kohima has yet to see the light of day.
 

Eagle4ty

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All of which are valid points. Nevertheless, there some individuals within the ASL community who have mentioned their longing for the production of a Sea Lion HASL.

No thanks, especially when Kohima has yet to see the light of day.
Maybe we could include orcs, goblins and trolls! Me I'll pine away for Ponyri, Kohima & CdG releases.;)
 

witchbottles

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Any bombing of Derby or Crewe would have been beyond fighter escort range. Given how inaccurate Luftwaffe level bombing was - very unlikely sufficient damage would have been done before attrition rates stopped such an aeriel offensive dead.

Sealion was never really a viable option for a large number of reasons. Worth bearing in mind the Luftwaffe had no torpedoes or AP bombs in 1940. And the Kriegsmarine had taken horrendous casualties in the Norway campaign. And the German troop transports were Rhine Barges which had to be towed, were slower than the Channel currents, and 10% of which were sunk by bomber command while massing in the invasion ports.
9329

This guy had the range even without the drop tanks(invented in 1938 btw), at 850 km one way combat loaded, 1,093 km one way combat loaded when using drop tanks.

Given Derby and Crewe were not in Park's Group Command Area, but in Leigh-Mallory's - one still ponder s if even massed Do-17/Bf-110 escorted bombing raids would have gotten through enough to do the job.

The weakness in the Luftwaffe's plan lay in a complete lack of coordinated, single command structure with clearly defined, well interpreted, based on all available intelligence, goals for a bombing offensive.

If the He-11s and Ju-88s went in with Bf 109 escorts on low level raids to hit the airfields in a shotgun strategy designed ot overwhelm Park's Group interception capabilitites, the Ju-87s and the experimental Bf 109 fighter-bombers went dive bombing on the Chain Home and Chain Home Low stations at the sam time to swamp any capability for other RAF Group assets to intervene, then a timed to arrive for the period after the available RAF assets had intercepted those raids and not much was left, sending in a massive armada of over 1,000 Dorniers escorted by hundreds of Bf-110's in a single mass raid, (it didn't take the RAF that long to create the 1,000 bomber raid over Cologne- it wasn't an unheard of thought), - first on Derby, then on Crewe, both timed for the second week of August, 1940 - back to back.

THAT is the logistical key. Strategic bombing interrupts flow of critical war materials, but only temporarily. The critical war material shortage for RAF Fight Command and all three of its main airframes, (Spitfires, Hurricanes and Defiants), was the use of the same Rolls Royce engine and there were only limited stocks and a SERVERLY limited capacity to make more of them. Time the strikes in order to cripple the stocks at the precise moment when a landing had the best possible chance - early September, 1940 - then once the factories are pounded release all luftwaffe assets to a strict bomb any enemy airfield occupied by RAF fighter assets (forcing the fight).

A window opens in early to mid-September of about 10-14 days where the Luftwaffe would have established air superiority over Southern England and the lower Channel.

enough time for Sealion? Doubtful ,it faced many more difficulties beyond the Luftwaffe's control to any chance of success.

Enough time for a beach landing near Dover or Portsmouth, to divert British ground forces attention long enough for 7th Flieger and 22nd Luftlande div's to hit London and capture the King and Royal Family at the Palace and Churchill at 10 Downing Street? That was the best plan to force a negotiated peace. Capture and hold the Royals hostage, as had worked in Norway, and almost worked in Holland.

Airborne coups de main require local air superiority over the approach, resupply and escape routes.

a 10-14 day window of opportunity could have been manufactured.

Now, all that does not take into account the excellent job British Intelligence did with obscuring the locations of Churchill and the royal family members during all of 1940.

good carefully collected and examined intelligence is the key to any strategic air offensive. The Luftwaffe would never have that capability, due to both its structure and its higher commander's personalities.
 

The Purist

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There are no scenarios that can realistically be devised that would have had the Germans, a) gain air superiority, or, b) successfully launch Sealion as planned, much less a scaled down version. The British recognised the need for pilots and replacement aircraft and, even at the worst moments, were never threatened in either category. When you crunch the numbers behind the myths you see Fighter Command's strength increase ij both pilots and serviceable fighters after 21 Sep while German strength had decreased quite markedly.

The Germans, on the other hand, as so many probably already know, were not logistically prepared for a battle such as the one they faced over southeast England in Aug-Sep 1940. The simply could not replace the losses suffered in men and aircraft and the LW was bleeding out. The doctrine, training and weapons available were simply not suited to the needs and the high command was correct to call the enterprise off after four weeks of being on the wrong end of the numbers game.

As for a parachute and glider landing in London,.... wasn't possible. I think the German parachute commanders would have called it suicide. The Germans were short of JU-52s, something like just over 220 available (after other requirements were met), and gliders (especially gliders). A single squadron of Hurricanes could have slaughtered the transports. Those not shot out of the sky would have been scattered across the the southeast.
 

witchbottles

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There are no scenarios that can realistically be devised that would have had the Germans, a) gain air superiority, or, b) successfully launch Sealion as planned, much less a scaled down version. The British recognised the need for pilots and replacement aircraft and, even at the worst moments, were never threatened in either category. When you crunch the numbers behind the myths you see Fighter Command's strength increase ij both pilots and serviceable fighters after 21 Sep while German strength had decreased quite markedly.

The Germans, on the other hand, as so many probably already know, were not logistically prepared for a battle such as the one they faced over southeast England in Aug-Sep 1940. The simply could not replace the losses suffered in men and aircraft and the LW was bleeding out. The doctrine, training and weapons available were simply not suited to the needs and the high command was correct to call the enterprise off after four weeks of being on the wrong end of the numbers game.

As for a parachute and glider landing in London,.... wasn't possible. I think the German parachute commanders would have called it suicide. The Germans were short of JU-52s, something like just over 220 available (after other requirements were met), and gliders (especially gliders). A single squadron of Hurricanes could have slaughtered the transports. Those not shot out of the sky would have been scattered across the the southeast.
Don't be so sure of the general historical narrative.


Ansel, Walter. Hitler Confronts England. Durham: Duke University Press, 1960.

Ash, Bernard. Norway: 1940. London: Cassell, 1964.

Baumbach, Werner: The Life and Death of the Luftwaffe. New York: Coward-McCann,
1960.

Bryant, Arthur (ed). The Turn of the Tide: A History of the War Years Based on the
Diaries of Field-Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1957.

Halder, Franz. The Halder War Diary: 1939-1943. Trans. Charles Burdick and HansAdolf Jacobsen. Novato: Presidio Press, 1988.

Megargee, Geoffrey P. Inside Hitler’s High Command. Lawrence, KS: University Press
of Kansas, 2000.

Suchenwirth, Richard. Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort.
USAF Historical Studies, No. 189. Research Studies Institute, Air University,
1959

Wheatley, Ronald. Operation SEA LION: German Plans for the Invasion of England,
1949-1942. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1958.


Silent Skies: Gliders at War 1939-1945
Tim Lynch
Pen and Sword, Aug 30, 2008


Those resources provide direct proof that Churchill and Dowding and Park and Leigh-Mallory were all aware of the critically acute shortage of Merlin engines required for all three intercept aircraft of the RAF fighter Command.

Perhaps they could have used Gladiators or Fairey Battles or Blenheims if the engine supply had run out temporarily, but I doubt those airframes would have withstood the rigors of front line fighting with Bf-109s and Bf-110's. They certainly failed to measure up throughout the war on that note.

Those references will also indicate that the Luftwaffe and OKH were devising a plan to seize the royals in a surprise landing and spirit them off first to a Channel Island, and then by boat to France and then Germany. The logistics never got too far in that planning, true.

But that does NOT mean it was never on the table.

the 7th Flieger and 22nd Luftlande tried and succeeded in Yugoslavia to grab the government, tried and succeeded in Norway to do the same, and tried and almost succeeded in Holland to do the same, and they had detailed plans to grab France's government if the armistice had not been accepted.

Grabbing KGV and his wife and/or old Winnie in a coup de main was never "off the table".

The RAF could have been forced into a 10-14 day window with no operational single engine fighters capable of dueling with the LW assets. It never happened because the LW and the OKH and OKH did not have the logistical foresight to prepare a working plan to pull it off, and frankly, were too jealous of each other to work together.
 
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