Dowding's Costly Blunder in the Battle of France




 
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November 19th, 2011  
samneanderthal
 

Topic: Dowding's Costly Blunder in the Battle of France


At the outset of the Invasion of Holland, Belgium and France the Germans had overwhelming bomber superiority but had inferior numbers of fighter planes: 836 Bf 109s and 187 Bf-110 (1.023 fighters) against 62 Dutch, 81 Belgian, 261 British and 764 French fighters (1,168 fighters). However, most of the Allied fighters were inferior MS.406s, H-75s, Hurricanes with inferior two blade, two pitch propellers, Gladiators, Fokker D.XXIs and G1s, only 36 Dewoitine.520s, etc, because Hugh Dowding decided to keep hundreds of 3 blade Hurricanes and Spitfires in Britain.

Moreover, Dowding had to waste over 100 of his precious, best fighters based in Britain (including dozens of Spitfires) just to evacuate during operations Dynamo and Ariel, instead of using them when most needed, before and during Guderian's Sickle cut.

RAF bomber command sent mostly useless Fairey Battles, which were lost by the hundred without destroying a single objective (losing a crew of 3 with every plane). Inexplicably, the British used superior 3 blade propellers in the useless, doomed Battles for the same Merlin engine that the invaluable Hurricanes used with 2 blade props). Grounding the battles and installing their props in the Hurricanes would have helped considerably.

During the dismal performance of the obsolete allied air force, hundreds of bad planes and excellent pilots were lost, so that by the time of the BoB, Dowding was left with more of his excellent planes than he had pilots. Britain was only saved by Poles, Czechs, Norwegians, Dutchmen, Canadians, New Zealanders, South Africans, a few Frenchmen (most French pilots refused to fight for Britain out of anger for the British not sending to France their best planes, some going to Africa or preferring even to fight for the USSR much later in the war). These foreign pilots were not familiar with the British planes, yet fought wonderfully in the BoB. Most importantly, the loss of France deprived Britain of hundreds of inferior planes and excellent pilots and a huge army and navy.

Had Dowding sent to France 250 more Hurricanes (with 3 blade, variable pitch propellers), 200 Spitfires and Radar stations during the ample months of the Sitzkrieg, the expensive but clumsy Bf-110s would have been promptly dispatched and the Bf-109s would have suffered severe losses rapidly. Most importantly, the other, inferior allied fighters would have survived much longer and could have concentrated on shooting down hundreds of Stukas and other bombers, inflicting unacceptable losses on the LW and crippling ground support for the Blitzkrieg, greatly boosting the morale and strength of the allied army, which was completely demoralized by the almost unopposed Stukas, etc, Without ground support the very inferior German tanks (mostly Pz I and II) would have been wiped out, because they were very susceptible to the allied antitank artillery (even to the inexpensive Hotchkiss 25 mm gun) and the allied tank guns.

Moreover, had the Germans not dominated the air, the allied navy could have brought its formidable naval artillery to shell the wimpy German tanks near the coast, so that Guderian could not have gotten within 30 km of the coast.

Had France survived longer, there were many H-75s, P-40s, etc, on the way from the US that would have helped considerably as would the Dewoitine.520s, Spitfires, Hurricanes, French and British tanks coming out of production in ever increasing numbers, while German airplane and tank production was still very low.

As an example of how deficient the allied air force was, during the invasion the Germans caused the greatest traffic jam in European history, so they were extremely vulnerable to attack by allied planes, yet German air superiority saved the army. Otherwise, it would have been a much worse Highway of Death than the one in Desert Storm.
November 19th, 2011  
LeEnfield
 
 
We did not make blunder as the two bladed fighters were pretty standard around that time and the three bladed props were only just coming in from the US. Also there was a problem on airfield security as the aerodromes kept getting bounced by the German fighters and if we had moved every fighter from the RAF into France the result would have still been the same. Now instead of blaming the RAF for the fall of France you could be asking what the French airforce was doing during this time
November 20th, 2011  
samneanderthal
 
Hi LeEnfield,
Even the Sworfish had 3 bladed props at this time and like I said, the useless Fairey battle. There were plenty of 3 blade Hurricanes and Spitfires in GB but Dowding decided to send his best pilots with the worst planes (he valued more the planes and the pilots!). If France was a lost cause, he should not have sent the invaluable pilots, but since he sent them he should have provided them with the best weapons.

The French and expeditionary air forces fought quite well, given their inferior planes. Had the best planes been there and more plots, Göring would have lost his 187 Bf-110s in weeks and hundreds of Bf-109s, which would have allowed the inferior planes to wipe out the slow STukas, He-111, Do-17s, etc, There was no shortage of excellent pilots and mediocre planes in France (including Polish pilots, etc,) to wipe out the bombers, there was just a desperate need for Spitsfires and Hurricanes to face the German fighters. Even with the Curtiss H-75 and the even worse MS.406, the French shot down a few Bf-109s.
Dowding made the most basic military mistake, he divided his forces and sent the weakest part to the slaughter while he left the largest number and the best planes in reserve. You either send everything to save Britain and France or don't send anything and leave them all to fight Germany alone. But you don´t sacrifice the best pilots with the worst planes.
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November 20th, 2011  
LeEnfield
 
 
The aircraft were sent to France in Squadrons and there is no record of pilots being pulled from those Squadrons and posted else where. Now certain experience pilots would have been sent to form new Squadrons in the UK as aircraft came available. Yes the Swordfish had a three bladed propeller but I can't remember if it was of the variable pitch kind. Also the RAF had 600 fighter aircraft at this time the losses in France were huge, during the BoB many of the fighter pilots had just a few hours of flying time on Spitfires when they joined the squadrons which hardly made them experienced.
November 20th, 2011  
Alan P
 
Thanks to the strategy of Dowding and Winston Churchill by withdrawing precious fighter planes from France. The Battle of Britain would have been lost.
November 20th, 2011  
BritinAfrica
 
 
Dowding was spot on, he knew the Battle of Britain was coming and couldn't afford to lose any of his latest fighters or pilots. It was a foregone conclusion that the Battle of France was lost.
November 20th, 2011  
samneanderthal
 
It was not Churchill's Strategy, He took charge on the day France was invaded and wanted to send planes, but it was too late. There was no time to send in the mechanics, radar, train foreign pilots, etc,

Like I said, if Dowding knew that France was lost he should not have sent any planes. But France, Belgium and Holland were far from lost. The combination of the allied air force, army and navy was formidable. The problem is that the most valuable assets were kept in reserve, dooming the rest.
It's as if instead of sending Wellington to Waterloo, he had been kept in reserve, because his troops were too valuable and Napoleon could invade Britain if he were not available. Or as if Nelson were kept away from Trafalgar or Abukir, lest Britain be invaded. Britain always won because it used aggressively its best assets. Had Dowding sent in time the best planes and allowed the best Polish, French, Belgian and British pilots to use them, Hitler's Bf-110s, Bf-109s, Stukas, tin tanks, etc, would have been wiped out.

It is precisely my point that Dowding was left with excellent Spitfires and lousy pilots (the worst possible situation), because the good pilots were sacrificed flying mediocre planes or lost when France, Holland and Belgium capitulated.

The BoB was not won because of Dowding's strategy, but because of Göring's and Hitler's stupidity. Göring sent only small waves initially with disastrous consequences, allowing the few British pilots to defeat each small wave at a time thanks to Radar. Had he sent in 600 planes at a time from the beginning, he would have wiped out the Radar stations, planes, pilots quarters, aerodromes, etc, in a large enough area to invade. The RN could not have done much against German planes in the strait of Dover. Hitler then ordered bombing London, etc, in reprisal for the bombing of Berlin and wasted any oportunity of winning the BoB.
November 20th, 2011  
captiva303
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by samneanderthal
It was not Churchill's Strategy, He took charge on the day France was invaded and wanted to send planes, but it was too late. There was no time so send in the mechanics, etc,

Like I said, if Dowding knew that France was lost he should not have sent any planes. But France, Belgium and Holland were far from lost. The combination of the allied air force, army and navy was formidable. The problem is that the most valuable assets were kept in reserve, dooming the rest.
It's as if instead of sending Wellington to Waterloo, he had been kept in reserve, because his troops were too valuable and Napoleon could invade Britain if he were not available. Or as if Nelson were kept away from Trafalgar or Abukir, lest Britain be invaded. Britain always won because it used aggressively its best assets. Had Dowding sent in time the best planes and allowed the best Polish, French, Belgian and British pilots to use them, Hitler's Bf-110s, Bf-109s, Stukas, tin tanks, etc, would have been wiped out.

It is precisely my point that Dowding was left with excellent Spitfires and lousy pilots (the worst possible situation), because the good pilots were sacrificed flying mediocre planes or lost when France and Belgium capitulated.

The BoB was not won because of Dowding's strategy, but because of Göring's and Hitler's stupidity. G¨ring sent only small waves initially with disastrous consequences, allowing the feww British pilots to defeat each small wave at a time thanks to Radar. Had he sent in 600 planes at a time from the beginning, he would have wiped out the Radar stations, planes, pilots quarters, aerodromes, etc, in a large enough area to invade. The RN could not have done much against German planes in the straight of Dover.
Even so it makes more sense for Britain to with hold its best in reserve as it would be to large a gamble. Even if successful in halting the Germans, then what? they would not be able to press on into Germany... And if they lost they the game would be over in one go. And the war would be lost.
November 20th, 2011  
samneanderthal
 
Did Dowding's brilliant strategy factor in the number of Poles, Czechs, etc, that saved Britain? Had these men been tired of fightig a losing war, the BoB would have been lost, despite having excellent planes

How can it be a good strategy to waste a large number of pilots and mediocre planes so that the best planes have to fight alone, instead of using them all together? With the best pilots using the best planes and newer or less talented pilots the mediocre planes.

If France stayed in the war, Germany was bankrupt and could not fight a long war. It was Czech and Austrian resources that kept the German economy going, then Polish resources and then French, Dutch and Belgian resources. Moreover, Stalin was selling fuel, grain and metals to Hitler on credit, had Hitler´s invasion failed, then Stalin would not have continued financing a loser. Fighting against France, Belgium, Holland and Britain, with a very low production and limited resources would have driven German Generals to overthrow Hitler (many wanted to do it before the invasion of France, but changed their minds when France fell so rapidly).

Had the German invasion stalled, Mussolini would not have declared war on the allies and may have even joined them (Italy switched sides on WW I and joined the allies). With Germany busy in France, etc, Stalin would not only have stopped supplying Germany, but could have invaded the rest of Romania (he had invaded Bessarabia) and Poland, depriving Germany of their resources.
November 20th, 2011  
MontyB
 
 
Once again I think people are simply looking at numbers rather than an overall picture, one of the primary reasons France collapsed was that there was no stomach left in either France or Britain to fight another war, sure they had the numbers but no real heart for the fight until it became a life or death matter but by then it was too late for France (and would have been for Britain to had it not been for the channel).

As to whether more fighters should have been shipped to France I am not sure it would have been feasible given the logistical issues they had just supplying the BEF.
 


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