Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Operation Loge

The bombing of London on 24 August 1940 had led to the censuring by Goering of the crews involved. A mere twenty-four hours later, the first of eighty-one RAF bombers took off for Berlin, having been briefed to bomb several key industrial sites within the city. This was an optimistic prospect at best, in view of the lack of technical navigational and bombing equipment currently mounted in the Hampdens, Whitleys and Wellingtons. A minimal amount of physical damage was visited upon the Reichskapital and its citizens, but the psychological impact was out of all proportion to this. Continued raids over the next week or so inflicted no more damage than the first, but the emotive 'die' had been cast in the Fuehrer's mind. At a speech given at the Sportpalast on 4 September he ranted: 'If the British declare that they will attack our cities on a grand scale, we will eradicate theirs!' By 'theirs', Hitler had in mind the British equivalent to Berlin - namely, London. Sure enough, clearance was immediately issued for unrestricted attacks on the city, and the course of the Battle of Britain was set to the growing advantage of the Luftwaffe's aerial adversary.

The codename for the initial attack on London was Loge, the ancient God who had forged the sword for Siegfried, and had been chosen by Goering. The eerie absent of enemy 'plots' on the board during the morning and well into the afternoon of 7 September must have grated on the defenders' nerves. Why was there such an extended delay in mounting attacks in the face of what was a perfect autumn day) Across the Channel the answer was being assembled in the form of over 600 bombers and a similar number of escorts. As Goering stood on the cliffs at Cap Gris Nez and made a bombastic speech into a recording-van microphone, the first elements of the aerial armada coursed out overhead. The first radar 'plots' caused confusion as to the likely intentions of the attackers. The natural assumption that the single massive force would fan out at some stage of its approach and strike at Keith Park's airfields was only revised when no such split occurred as the force advanced inexorably up the Thames. Consequently, the eleven squadrons sent up to intercept it, from airfields as far away as Tangmere and Middle Wallop, some of whom established contact as far east as the Isle of Sheppey, could do little to prevent the bombers from lining up to bomb the docks on the U-bend of the Thames. A total of twenty-nine Luftwaffe aircraft were MIA in the course of Operation Loge, of which only seven were bombers, and a further twenty-one aircraft were damaged compared to twenty-two RAF fighters shot down - an arithmetic equation still favouring the Luftwaffe.

With the pressure off their airfields, and Goering's insistence on London being the primary focus of attack around the clock, Dowding and AVM Keith Park, in particular, could maintain a more relaxed state of overall 'readiness'. Park also felt confident enough to initiate the practice of despatching squadrons in pairs, although he resisted the concept of larger scale formations, exemplified by the notorious Duxford 'Big Wing' of AVM Leigh-Mallory's creation. Between 8 and 14 September, the Luftwaffe daylight operations displayed an uncertain momentum as well as a varied scale of activity. Variable weather conditions restricted operations in this situation on the 10th/11th; but the few operations flown on the 12th, for example, cannot be explained away in this manner.

In the afternoon of the 9th, twin raids were mounted, the Ju 88s of KG 30 heading for London in the company of He III and Do 17 units, while a separate strike was being launched further west by KG 1. A total of over 200 bombers were covered by Bf 109s and Bf 110s. Rendezvous was over Lille, and target approach was made over Sussex strangely rather than Kent. Unteroffizier Peter Stahl recalled having to fly a worn-out bomber in place of his regular aircraft. During the target approach, AA burst occurred uncomfortably close - apparently close enough to disperse the formation after it had bombed, with individual pilots seeking to join up within the other Geschwader formations!

According to Stahl, it was at this point of the sortie that Hurricanes of No. 253 and 303 (Polish) Squadrons truck to inflict sizeable losses on the bombers, and four of KG 30's number went down. (Contemporary record reveal that the unit's [asses largely occurred on the route up to London.) Oberleutnant Heil force-landed his Stab/KG 30 aircraft near Horsham, and his crew were captured; and a second forced landing in the region killed the pilot, Unteroffizier Deibler. A second Stab Ju 88 from III/KG 30 'ditched' off the coast, killing Major Hackbarth (Gruppenkommandeur) and his crew; and similarly, the crew of Unteroffizier Hettinger from 8/KG 30 were killed when they were shot down.

RAF losses on the 11th exceeded that of the Luftwaffe, although the figure included aircraft lost while attacking the Channel ports and their concentrations of landing barges. A slackening of activity over the next two days did not affect the Ju 88s of LG1 and KG54, with the former unit in particular making 'nuisance' raids off the south coast on both days. On the 13th an aircraft belonging to Stab III/LG 1 returned so heavily damaged from an encounter with fighters that it was 'written off'.

Battle of Britain – An Overview

Date: From July 10, 1940, to October 31, 1940 

Definition: A series of aerial bombings made by the Germans over British cities during World War II. 

Significance: The Battle of Britain, designed to completely demoralize the British by destroying the nation's industrial and military infrastructure, was the first major battle to be fought almost entirely in the air. 

By the end of June, 1940, the German army had conquered almost every country that had opposed it. Only Great Britain, protected by the English Channel, remained in the fight, even though it had lost much of its army on the Continent in fruitless support of its allies. Thus, when German chancellor Adolf Hitler offered peace to Britain, much of the world thought his offer would be accepted. When Britain refused, Hitler issued orders for an invasion, a vital preliminary to which would be the elimination of the British Royal Air Force (RAF). 

To carry out the destruction of the RAF, the German Luftwaffe had 1,050 fighter aircraft and 1,600 bombers, based on airfields from Norway to the Atlantic coast of France. The actual number of these craft that were serviceable and available for operations varied from day to day. Against these, the RAF could field 550 single-seat fighters immediately available and serviceable, in about fifty squadrons stationed on airfields from the north of Scotland to the west of England. The figures of available aircraft for both sides varied as the battle progressed, but the proportions remained much the same. 

Although the German bombers were the Luftwaffe's main agents of destruction, the fighters were the most important, because they could sweep away the RAF fighters to allow the bombers clear passage. Similarly, the fighters in service with the RAF were the only weapons that could stop the German bombers from ranging over the country. 

The Luftwaffe's main fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf- 109E, could reach a speed of 355 miles per hour and an altitude of 36,000 feet, but it had an operating range of little more than 400 miles. This limitation meant that the Bf- 109E could spend a very small amount of time over the target area if it was to have sufficient fuel to return to base. The Luftwaffe also used the Messerschmitt Bf-110, a large twin-engine aircraft that was designed to fly long distances but could also take on defending fighters like its single-engine cousin, the Bf-109. However, the Bf-110 was quickly found to be more of a liability than an asset when confronted by the RAF's more nimble Spitfires and Hurricanes. 

In defense of Great Britain, the RAF employed two types of single-engine fighter, the Spitfire and the Hurricane, of which the latter made up about three-fifths of the total. The Hurricane had a top speed of 330 miles per hour and could reach altitudes of 34,000 feet. It had a range of 500 miles and could absorb a great deal of battle damage while serving as a good, steady gun platform. The Spitfire was a slightly younger aircraft and benefited in its construction from slightly newer technology. It could reach a speed of 360 miles per hour and an altitude of 32,000 feet and had a range of 400 miles. Possessing great maneuverability, the Spitfire was armed much like the Hurricane, with eight 0.303-inch machine guns. Although these were perhaps outclassed by the armament of the Bf-109 and Bf-110, which carried 20-millimeter cannon, they were sufficient to shoot down Luftwaffe bombers. The range of the British fighters was not as critical as that of the Bf-109, because the Spitfires and Hurricanes had a critical advantage in the RAF's advanced and efficient fighter control system. 

Fighter Control
The best fighter aircraft flown by the finest pilots would have been to no avail if they had not known where their enemy was. The RAF, however, relied upon a combination of radar to warn of enemy formations approaching the coast, an observing organization to track the enemy over land, a system of control rooms, each responsible for a certain area, with radio communications between them, and the airborne pilots themselves to make the most efficient use of its resources. In this way, the outnumbered Spitfires and Hurricanes were able to intercept the incoming Luftwaffe directly, without wasting their efforts in flying patrols simply looking for the enemy. 

The English Channel, one of the busiest waterways in the world, in 1940 served innumerable convoys carrying materials and supplies along the British coast. In early July, the Luftwaffe began attacking these convoys to force the RAF into battle to protect them. Over the next four weeks, the Spitfires and Hurricanes were in combat almost daily with the Luftwaffe. After a month, losses were almost two to one in favor of the RAF. However, the Luftwaffe's large superiority in numbers meant that it could hold out longer than the RAF, which would eventually lose. Shipping in the Channel was reduced, but never completely halted, in order to remove the potential target from the Luftwaffe's sight. 

Attack of the Eagles
To some extent, the Luftwaffe's convoy battles had been merely a means of distracting the RAF while the Luftwaffe prepared and positioned its resources for the main battle. On August 13, called Eagle day by the Germans, the main attacks started, beginning four weeks of concentrated bombing designed to destroy the RAF and generally weaken the country's ability to resist an invasion. Attacks on airfields, ports, and dockyards by large formations of German aircraft set the scene for the next weeks and betokened hard, intense fighting for both sides. At the end of the day, the Luftwaffe had lost forty-six aircraft; the RAF had lost only thirteen fighters, but many of the fighter squadrons' airfields and communications were damaged. The Luftwaffe hit more and more airfields and also damaged several radar stations but, apparently not realizing the importance of the radar system, failed to follow up on these particular attacks. 

The airfield damage, however, was soon felt by the RAF squadrons, and a reduction in their fighting strength and efficiency became apparent. It was clear that if the Germans continued to attack in this fashion, they might achieve victory, an outcome which had not previously been considered by the British. The RAF continued to shoot down German aircraft at a greater rate than it lost its own aircraft and achieved notable success on some occasions. German bombers based in Norway attacked northern England without a fighter escort, on the assumption that all RAF fighters would have been drawn south to the Channel coast. At a cost of fifteen bombers, the Germans discovered they were wrong. 

After another month, the Luftwaffe had lost some 670 aircraft, and the RAF had lost about 400 fighters. Damage to British airfields increased, whereas production of Spitfires and Hurricanes began to fall behind their losses. Pilots also were being injured and killed faster than the training system could replace them. It could be only a matter of time before the RAF became exhausted. 

Air Raids on London
On September 7, the Luftwaffe changed tactics, turning their bombers away from British airfields and factories and heading for London. Nearly 1,000 German aircraft crossed the Channel and headed for the capital, to be met by some 250 British fighters that struggled to break through the fighter escort and attack the bombers. Many German bombers did get through, however, and heavily bombed London's East End, starting many fires in the docklands area. The RAF fighters had some success, shooting down thirty-six of the German raiders, but they also lost twenty-six Spitfires and Hurricanes of their own. Similar raids continued for another week, and the RAF used the time to repair and strengthen itself while intercepting the Luftwaffe at every opportunity. Then, on September 15, the Luftwaffe attacked with the largest number of aircraft ever, more than 1,000 aircraft headed for London once more, only to be intercepted and their formations broken up before they reached the city. In the fighting, the RAF again lost twenty-six fighters, but the Germans lost sixty aircraft. This date was the high point of the battle for the RAF and has since been known as Battle of Britain Day. Two days later, Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain indefinitely. 

Later Stages
The battle continued through the remainder of September and most of October, as the Luftwaffe increasingly turned its efforts toward night bombings. From time to time, it mounted large raids during the day but mainly flew small, high-altitude raids, often with bomb-carrying Bf-109's rather than bomber aircraft. These stood a much greater chance of hitting their targets and flying away again without being shot down, but their effect was minimal. Finally, at the end of October, the battle fizzled out as autumn rain set in, but the people of Britain still had months of night bombing to endure. The German effort to defeat the RAF, however, had failed. 

As the air battle progressed, the Germans prepared finally to invade Britain. As part of this effort, they had gathered from the canals of Europe a vast number of barges in which to transport their troops across the Channel. These barges, assembled in the Channel ports of France, were quickly spotted by RAF bombers, who regularly attacked them, causing considerable damage both to the barges themselves and to the port facilities that would be needed to mount the invasion. The bombers were also active against the Luftwaffe, attacking airfields from which the German aircraft flew, often at considerable loss to themselves. 

From the beginning of July to the end of October, the two air forces had fought a massive battle, which neither had anticipated and which only the RAF had been designed to fight. Although both sides suffered severely, the Luftwaffe's losses were sufficient to make it realize it could not achieve its objectives. The RAF was able to absorb its losses and inflict upon the Germans their first defeat of the war. 

The RAF lost 1,023 aircraft, including aircraft destroyed in air raids, and 537 men. The Luftwaffe's losses were much higher: 1,887 aircraft and 2,662 men. The differing ratios of aircraft to men is accounted for by the fact that the RAF losses were almost exclusively single-seat fighters, whereas the Luftwaffe losses included many bombers carrying crews of four or five. Also, an RAF pilot who bailed out unhurt was over his own country and might be back in the air the next day, whereas any Luftwaffe airman who bailed out was inevitably taken prisoner. 

Bibliography Bungay, Stephen. The Most Dangerous Enemy. London: Aurum Press, 2000. A modern history that examines new information together with a fresh interpretation of old sources. Mason, Francis K. Battle Over Britain. London: McWhirter Twins, 1969. Probably the best overall account of the battle to be compressed into one book with a good background to developments in scientific aids used. Overy, Richard. The Battle of Britain: The Myth and the Reality. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001. A modern debunking of some of the popularly held notions of the Battle of Britain and celebrating the very real accomplishments of the RAF. Ramsey, Winston G., ed. The Battle of Britain: Then and Now. London: Battle of Britain Prints International, 1989. A very detailed, day by day diary of the battle showing losses for both sides with, in many cases, photographs of the men concerned

Imperial War Museum in the UK - the 70th anniversary of 1940

All branches of the Imperial War Museum are commemorating the 70th anniversary of 1940 - the year which saw the introduction of rationing; Winston Churchill come to power; the evacuation of Dunkirk; the Battle of Britain; and the Blitz - with a range of special exhibitions, events and engaging online content.

Whether you’d like to attend an air show at Imperial War Museum Duxford, want to review the new Explore History 1940 display at Imperial War Museum London, or are simply seeking background information on the momentous events of 1940, members of the press can find all relevant information on this page.

Press releases
For information on any of the 1940 anniversary events or exhibitions taking place at the Imperial War Museum, please refer to one of the press releases below:

The Imperial War Museum Commemorates 1940, ‘Britain’s Finest Hour’
Imperial War Museum Duxford Commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain
Duxford in May: Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (Saturday 15 May) and Spring Air Show (Sunday 16 May)
A Snapshot of Life at Duxford: Duxford in the Battle of Britain Photography Exhibition
Explore History at Imperial War Museum London, from 21 May 2010
1940s Activities at the Churchill War Rooms

Images and Film
A selection of high-resolution images, complete with captions and copyright information, is available to download from Pictures for Press.
For broadcast-quality film, get in touch directly with one of the Museum’s press offices who can provide a selection of archive and contemporary content on DVD.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for above, please contact one of the Museum’s press offices: 
Imperial War Museum London, Ellie Farrell: 020 7416 5497, efarrell@iwm.org.uk
Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast, Nicola Osmond-Evans: 020 7416 5316, nosmond-evans@iwm.org.uk
Imperial War Museum Duxford, Esther Blaine: 01223 499 320, eblaine@iwm.org.uk
Imperial War Museum North, Alex Knight: 0161 836 4040, aknight@iwm.org.uk

Spitfire Paddy, the Battle of Britain's youngest air ace

"This is it, chaps", the final words of Wing-Commander Brendan "Paddy" Finucane, the Dublin-born RAF fighter ace, were remembered this month on the 70th anniversary of his death. The much-decorated Finucane, who at 21 was the youngest wing-commander in the Royal Air Force's history at the time of his death, became a much-written about hero in the first years of the Second World War and was one of nine Irish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain.

Last Wednesday the Daily Telegraph devoted its Britain at War column, which prints contemporaneous accounts of the hostilities, to the final flight of Finucane. He was born on October 16, 1920 in Rathmines attending Synge Street and O'Connell Schools until 1936 when he moved with his family to London. Among his classmates in O'Connell's were two famous sports commentators, Micheal O'Hehir and Philip Greene. Thomas Finucane, his father, had fought beside Eamon De Valera at Boland's Mill in 1916.

Brendan Finucane, who was soon given the epithet Paddy and had a shamrock painted on his Spitfire, joined the Royal Air Force in May, 1938. He claimed his first victory in the Battle of Britain on August 12, 1940, a Messerschmitt Bf 109.

By the time of his death near Pointe du Touquet, France on July 15, 1942 he had shot down at least 32 enemy planes and had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross and two bars (each signifying a repeat award).

Finucane's fame spread beyond RAF ranks and model airplanes of his Spitfire with the vivid green shamrocks were sold in London. He became the youngest Wing Commander in the RAF on June 27, 1942, leading the Hornchurch Wing.

According to the report in the Daily Telegraph printed on July 18, 1942 his last words were "This is it, chaps". The report goes on ". . . these were the last words, spoken in a quiet self-possessed voice of Wing Cmdr Brendan "Paddy" Finucane, Fighter Command's 21-year-old ace, before he crashed in the sea off the coast of France."

The report continues: "The pilot of the following machine watched Finucane struggling with his harness as the plane came down and saw the machine sink as it crashed on the water. Finucane was unable to extricate himself.

"It was not the Luftwaffe who ended the career of the young Irishman who in two years fighting had shot down at least 32 enemy planes. To the end he was unbeaten in aerial combat.

"In the words of his comrades it was a "million to one" chance shot from a German machine gun on the beach."

"'Paddy did not know he had been hit until his No 2 called up to tell him', said a station commander.
"He went on to attack his target and I heard him say to his wing 'Take the right target, chaps. Here we go'.

"As he was coming home he continued to talk calmly over the radio. He was self-possessed and his last message --probably as his engine stopped was, 'This is it chaps'."

A rose -- the Spitfire Paddy -- grown by horticulturalist Sean McCann, was named in Finucane's memory. In November, 2004, the rose was planted in the memorial garden in Baldonnel Aerodrome in Dublin beside the garrison church. And toymakers Corgi created a model in 1/72 scale of his Spitfire -- complete with shamrock.

Finucane's name is inscribed on the Air Force Memorial at Runnymede in England. The memorial commemorates airmen who were lost in the Second World War and who have no known grave. The Battle of Britain Memorial on London's Embankment also includes his name as one of The Few. His flying logbook can be viewed in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, on loan from the Finucane family. His uniform is on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London.

According to Father Sean Coyle, who has written a tribute to the airman, when Finucane returned from a sortie, he would say the rosary for any German whose plane he had shot down. In a programme on RTE Radio 1 broadcast in 2004, In Search of 'Paddy' Finucane, one of his brothers, Raymond, speaks of Brendan being "a good Catholic", taking after their father whom he describes as "a very keen Catholic indeed".

Campbell Spray

Sunday Independent

Battle of Britain 1940

Battle of Britain, July 1940. Spitfires of 609 Squadron returning to their satellite station airfield at Warmwell to re-arm and re-fuel, following an intercept mission against enemy aircraft trying to disrupt shipping along the South Coast of England. Like many other RAF Squadrons, No 609 the (West Riding) Auxiliary Squadron distinguished itself in many great air battles with honour and courage.

The very visible French failure on the Western Front was followed by the glories of the Battle of Britain. From the summer into the early autumn, RAF fighters based in southern England destroyed 50 per cent more enemy bombers and fighters than they lost. The resulting defeat of the Luftwaffe by the RAF in the summer of 1940 was in many respects the culmination of steady planning in air defence over many years. One crucial aspect was completely unexpected and unprepared for – the famous dog-fights between Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmitt 109s and 110s. Fighters were expected to intercept bombers, not deal with other fighters. Dog-fights were regarded as things of the past, specifically of the Western Front in the Great War. Otherwise it was a triumph of system and organization, of radar, of observers, of command and control systems. British victory was not, however, the result of what are usually taken as British values triumphing over what are taken to be German or Nazi values. If any air force conformed to the usual image of how British fighters operated – a matter of improvisation and individualism – it was not the RAF but the Luftwaffe. If one of the forces was organized with Teutonic efficiency and regimentation, it was the RAF, not the Luftwaffe.

The pacifist writer Vera Brittain noted in 1940 that ‘The bombers have a heavy, massive hum, quite different from the lighter, more casual-sounding British machines. All the difference between the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon temperaments seemed to lie in those two familiar noises.’ For all the propagandistic image of the Germans destroying Warsaw and then Rotterdam from the air, the commitment to the bombing of cities was a British rather than a Nazi phenomenon. British bombing of Germany was not in retaliation for the Blitz, a case of the Germans reaping the whirlwind they had sown. It predated not only the Blitz, but also the Battle of Britain. Bomber Command launched the first general bombing offensive against cities in the war on 11 May 1940. The Luftwaffe was prohibited from bombing cities not in the front line. It was not till September 1940 that Hitler allowed the Luftwaffe to start British-style bombing of Britain, following the bombing of Berlin.

There was no shortage of new aircraft in Britain in 1940. Modern types had been in production for years, and just as importantly gigantic new factories were ready to increase production. In 1940 Britain out-produced Germany in aircraft, just as the propagandists stated. Even the high level of production before May 1940 was not deemed enough. One of Churchill’s very first acts on becoming Prime Minister was to create a new Ministry of Aircraft Production, under Lord Beaverbrook. Beaverbrook wanted a rapid increase in production, and issued appeals to workers and managers. More importantly he decided to give special priority to five types already in quantity production. On 15 May representatives of the Ministry of Aircraft Production agreed that at least until the end of September 1940 all efforts were to be concentrated on the production of Wellingtons, Whitley Vs, Blenheims, Hurricanes and Spitfires. We may note that three of these types were bombers, instruments of offence. The priority was over by October 1940. Indeed, we have the testimony of the Director of Engine Production that ministry officials and people from industry were pushing Beaverbrook hard to rescind the order. At a meeting on the matter in late June an unmovable Beaverbrook was called away to Downing Street to be told of the French capitulation. He returned to the ministry late at night and agreed to the plan to reintroduce production of new types, such was the continuing confidence in victory.

One of the main aims of the rearmament programmes was to build up a powerful air force which could bomb Germany. Big twin-engined bombers like the Wellington, Whitley and Hampden were built, aeroplanes at least as powerful as the Heinkels and Junkers of the Germans. Despite enormous efforts and expenditures these programmes were, as of 1940–41, failures. The British bombers soon discovered they had to fly at night because air defence was more effective than had been envisaged. Flying at night meant they rarely found their targets. Far from being capable of delivering a knock-out blow, they caused minimal damage to Germany. It is difficult to find a similar example of such a catastrophic failure of a new technical system on this scale. For the enthusiast for counterfactuals this raises the question: what if all the effort that had been devoted to the bombers had gone into tanks or rifles? A prescient prime minister might have done exactly that in the late 1930s. It is sometimes in effect suggested that the British government of 1938 was indeed prescient in anticipating 1940, but not in this sense. The idea is that Chamberlain wisely appeased and delayed war until Britain had enough Spitfires and radar gear to win the Battle of Britain. But using Spitfires and radar in the summer of 1940 stemmed from the military disaster which might not have happened if other policies had been followed.