BLUFThe innovation, insight and leadership of Air Chief Marshal Dowding, supported by AVM Park, who commanded 11 Group—responsible for the defence of London— enabled the UK to win the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940 and prevent Hitler from invading the UK.
This article in Military History Matters makes the following points:
- Even small technological edges (i.e. an extra 25mph for aircraft) win battles.
- In modern air warfare, strategy and tactics are useless without cutting–edge technology and mass production keeping pace with losses.
- Until 1937, the RAF favoured bombers over fighters.
- An independent RAF Fighter Command was only formed in 1936.
- Air Chief-Marshal Hugh Dowding was its head at the beginning of the Battle of Britain.
- Dowding mastered modern industrialised warfare, introducing a crucial new air-defence system- a chain of radar stations along the coast and 1500 observer posts.
- Dowding opposed the newly-designed two-seater Boulton-Paul Defiant fighter with its four-gun turret that lacked fixed forward-firing guns preferring battle-winning Spitfires and Hurricanes instead.
- As the Germans overran France, Dowding resisted calls for reinforcement squadrons being sent, arguing Britain could defeat Hitler and so needed them at home.
- Churchill agreed with him.
- Dowding’s command-and-control system allowed fighter squadrons to be scrambled within minutes by the Operations Room using a large map table with movable counters.
- Radar systems picked up both high and low flying aircraft.
- Aircraft were protected by dispersal around airfields.
- AVM Park commanded the South-East of Britain based No. 11 Fighter Group.
- His mission was to parry enemy attacks and minimise bomb damage, but without exhausting his strength.
- Operations over the English Channel were limited to preserve pilots and aircraft.
- A strategic reserve allowed squadron rotation.
- Focussing on economy of force and concentrating on bombers were key tactics allowing one or two squadrons to act as aerial guerrillas.
- In contrast, Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory’s 12 Group used ‘big wing’ tactics, which Park thought were ineffective.
- Despite this, Park was moved to Training Command, and Dowding retired.
- The Battle of Britain was won by Britain having an integrated air defence system, effective air warfare tactics, fighting over its territory, good technology, numbers, and the courage of its aircrew.
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