Battle of Britain: Outcome


Figure 1.--At the time of the Blitz no one knew the potential impact of bombing in warfare. Hitler assumed that bombing civilian populations would crack any opponent. London and other British cities were desestated by the Blitz. Thousands of civilians were killed. Civilian morale, however, never cracked. The British war effort was not significantly damaged. Neither was the Luftwaffe seriously crippled.

The Luftwaffe batter the Royal Air Force and cane close to breaking it. Yet some how the young British pilots managed to pull it off. To a frightening degree, thefate of Britain and perhaps Western Civilization turned on an amazingly small number of young pilots--Chruchill'd 'Few". And even after Hitler turned to terror bombing, at the worst of the Blitz--British morale and society never came close to collapsing. The Battle involved reltively small numbers in comparison to the massive air campigns to come. The Battle had, however, very significan consequences affecting the outcome of World War II. It not only prevented a German invasion, but transfomed the Royal Air Force. After the Battle, the Luftwaffe would no longer have a decided advantage when tangling with British fighters. This first became apparent in the Western Dessert.

Civilian Casualties

Hitler after seeing the devestation the Luftwaffe accomplished in Warsaw, told his generrals, "I can do this to any city in Europe. He was close to the truth. The difference was thar Warsaw was an undefended city and London was not. The Luftwaffe wreaked death and destruction in London and major British cities. The Luftwaffe killed over 40,000 Britains in the first 9 months of bombing--the peak of the Blitz. This was actually less than a tenth of the casualties that the Air Ministry had anticipated, but thousands were homeless. What the Luftwaffe did not accomplish was its mission. They did not destroy the RAF and establish air superority ovwr souther England. Neither did they crack civilian morale or impair British war industries.

The RAF

Fighter Command before the Battle of Britain consisted of large numbers of young fighter pilots with little combat experience and far from optimal tactical diocrines. The Battle of Britain changed this. Not only was the RAF not destroyed as the Germans had planned, but the RAF emerged from the battle of Britain a larger and more battle hardened force. The output of British plants meant that the Luftaffe could no longer threaten Britain by weight of numbers. The RAF had been beaten in the Battle of France. Never again was the Luftwaffe able to score a decisive victory over the RAF. The cost, however, had been high. The British had the planes to needed defend their island. The did not, however, have the trained pilots needed. As a result, a lot of poorly trained young men had to be thrown into the fray against the bttle-hardened pilots of the Luftwaffe. The Britishhad put a lot into preparing their air defenses suring the 1930s. Unfortuntely, training a substantial body of fighter pilots was not one of them. More than a fifth of British and Allied fighter pilots would lose their lives during the Bsttle. [Arthur] One pilot wrote, "I certainly felt ... for the youngsters tht didn't really have a chance. We had to commit them to battle before they were really ready.... It wasn't their lack of kneeeness--they just lacked operational training, particularly in using their guns." [Morgan]

Civilian Morale

World War end before military avialtion had developed to the point that a strategic bombing campaign could be waged. German Zephlin attacks on Britain were ineffective. Both sides were preparing bombing campaigns in 1919, but the war ended before they were launched. Milutary strategists debated the potential impact of strategic bombing.- At the time of the Blitz no one knew the potential impact of bombing in warfare. Hitler assumed that bombing civilian populations would crack any opponent. The British people demonstrated that a prepared civilian population supported by an effective air force would not crack. It would be a lesson that the British and Americans would take some tgime to learn over the skies of northern Europe.

War Production

British war production continued to increase during the Blitz as the British rushed to rearm the forces that managed to escape from Dunkirk. And the British all hrough the Battle of Britin were outproducing the Germans in the number of planes constructed. The Germans were unable to significantly impact British war industries. The Germans were able to strike at cities. At night even finding a city was not an easy indertaking. But, because they could not continue day light raids, they could not effectively target war industries. They used incendiaries as a secondary armament. Just as the Allies would do in the initial stages of the strategic bombing campaign, they preferred high explosives. This combined with the necessity to conduct night raids meant that the bombing had little affect on British war industries.

Lufwaffe Losses

The Luftwaffe over Britain suffered significant casulties for the first time. TNe British at the time overstated the losses, but they were still substantial. The Germans in the main phase of the battle lost 1,562 planes (July-October 1940). More than half were fighters (ME-109s and 10s). The rest were various types of light and medium bombers (Junkers, Dorniers, Heinkels, and Henschels). Unlike the British, almost all of the Germans air crews were lost to the war effort, even if they survived being shot down. The number of British and German planes shot down were comparable, with about 1,087 British planes shot down. Many of the British air crews, mostly fighter pilots, were not lost to the war effort. Both the losses in the Western Offensive (May-June) and the losses over Britain (July- October l940) affected the size of the circe deployed for Barbarossa (June 1941). Construction and pilot training mnore than made up for the losses, but it meant that that the Germans went into the Soviet Union with a smaller force than might have been possible. The Luftwaffe at the onset of their Western Offensive had 1,711 bombers (May 11, 1940). This had declined for the Battle of Britain to 1,380 bombers (June 29, 1940). By the end of the Battle of Britain, the Germnans had more than made up the losses over Britain and had 1,423 bombers (November 2, 1940). But at the time of Barbarossa an almost unchanged 1,511 bombers (June 21, 1941). It seems incredible that the Germans would have polunged into the Sovier Uniin with a smaller air component that that which they lost the Western Offensive. The German victory was achieved in large part by concentrating the Luftwaffe at the Schwerpunkt (critical point of the battle), crossing the Meuse. After that it was a straight shoot to the Channel. The Lufwaffe could not in the vastness of the East begin to play the same critical role that it had played in France. The size of the invading force for Barbarossa was much larger than the great Western Offensive, but the Luftwaffe was actually smaller.

America

American public opinion changed decisively during the Blitz. Before the Battle of Britain, most Americans not only wanted no part of the European War, but many did not detinguish between the participants. Many believed this was just a fatal flaw in Europe, another instance of incessent European wars. Most believe that it was a mistake to have entered World war I and were determined not to make the same mistake again. There was no realiziation of the depravity of the NAZIs and the mortal danger to America. All through the Blitz, American correspondents report home during aiur raids. Americans tuned into Edward R. Murrow who began his CBS reports with "London calling ..." The Blitz showed with out question the menance posed by the NAZIs. Americans were not yet ready to enter the War, but pub*lic opinion swung decisively pro-British. This gave President Roosevelt the ability not only to expand aid to Britain and proceed with a massive rearmament campaign. It also gave him the political support to fight the isolationists. The Blitz was conducted during an American election campaign. It was a factor in Rosevelt winning a president breaking third term.

Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign

More importantly the German failure to subdue Britain left a mortal foe that would serve as unsinkable aircraft carrier in the North Sea that would in 1942 provide an base for the greatest air campaign in history aimed at the heart of Germany. The intensity of the Blitz had removed the moral qualms about strategic vombing in Britain as well as cured the British of their timidity in the phase of the War. The British were now determined to answer the Germans in kind and then some and fight the next air campaign over Gernman cities. A new commander for Britain's Bomber Command--Bomber Harris set out to do just that. Also in 1942, with the entry of America into the War, the Amerivan 8th Air Force begin to arrive in Britain and would join the air war over Germany in 1943.

D-Day

Britain's survival meant that in 1942 with the entry of America that a torrent of men and material flooded Britain to prepare for the invasion of Hitler's "Fortress Europe". Britain in 1944 was to be the launching pad for the D-Day invasion and the liberation of Europe. Without the British, D-Day would have been impossible.

Sources

Arthur, Max. Last of the Few: The Battle of Britain in the Words of the Pilots Who Won It (2011).

Morgan, Flight Lieeutenant Tom. 43 Squadeon, quoted in Arthur.







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Created: 4:45 AM 9/27/2005
Last updated: 1:40 AM 3/26/2013