back to article The Battle of Britain couldn't have been won without UK's homegrown tech innovations

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, where Britain saw off Nazi Germany's air force and briefly stood alone against Hitler's military might. Yet while the occasion is marked by flypasts and parades, it's important to remember that tech also played a part in Britain's victory. Fought over the skies of …

  1. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The Spitfire is maybe the most beautiful warplane of WW2.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Remove maybe

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Remove "of WW2"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The war is over, the empire is gone

    get over it.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

      "You started it"

    2. Blane Bramble

      Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

      Only a fool ignores history, good or bad.

    3. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

      Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

      >the empire is gone

      And because Britain stood up to them, so are the Nazis

      1. tojb

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        Nazis are everywhere... worldwide more and more people are held in camps under appalling conditions for the sake of the political capital to be made by abusing them, or the fortunes to be made (in some cases) by appropriating their territory and assets. Uighurs, Mexicans, Sirians, Rohinga, Palestinians, I can't even be bothered to list them. Tyrranical and racist police states never went away and are in resurgence right now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          Dammit! Two downvoters of six of Jury?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        Nazis? Gone? For Crysake, where to? They are alive and kickin and hoping they have chances to break through.

        Empire? Calling Mothership.

    4. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

      The Empire is gone for two primary reasons:

      1 - We gave it back, because we support self-determination of well governed nations

      2 - We bankrupted the world's largest ever Empire to defeat the Nazis

      You don't have to thank us. We did it as a matter of principle.

      1. Adair Silver badge

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        We did it as a matter of principle. - while it's nice to believe that, it was, in fact, done as a matter of necessity. The principled part was a comforting justification, but rest assured if circumstances had been otherwise hell could have frozen over and those motivated by greed, entitlement and arrogance would still have maintained their grip on the right to plunder and oppress, however dressed up in 'principles' it needed to be in order to salve the consciences of all those who benefited.

        Don't kid yourselves. An individual can be principled and willingly take the hit of being so, but make it two people, and keep adding to the group, and that willingness and ability to be truly principled, and to act accordingly, goes down in proportion. The temptation to greed and power grabbing is just too much for too many of us, and those of us who 'follow the money' as our highest aim in life are sure to gather where money, and power, are to be had. And fight tooth and nail to hang on to the entitlement for as long as possible.

        Don't imagine it has stopped. The UK is where it is now in large part because of the ongoing actions of the greed, entitlement and arrogance of 'the few'.

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          > while it's nice to believe that

          :D "believe"

          :D

          Who needs to "believe"?

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

            All those who want to believe the the 'British Empire' was a nice cuddly thing implemented and sustained by people of high principles with a burning need to encourage the well being of their fellow human beings. Whereas, in fact, the BE grew largely out of: a. the rapacious greed of people who already had more than they needed, plus those whose burning desire was to become like them; and b. the geo-political needs of maintaining an island nation just off-shore from a huge continental political mass.

            Most of us don't generally like behaving like shits, so when we do we tend to try and find high-minded justifications for our shitty behaviour, whilst pursuing it. A few of us manage to step back and quite literally 'repent' of our shitty ways, and turn to leave them behind, hence John Newton's writing of 'Amazing Grace'.

      2. aki009

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        If one looks at the costs of WW1 and WW2, it's pretty clear that Britain could have handled either one of the wars by itself, but not both. At the end of WW1, there were strong voices suggesting not to push all fault for the war, and massive war reparation payments on Germany, for various reasons, including to avoid the rise of characters like Hitler.

        While it's debatable if a Hitler would have emerged had the Versailles Treaty been less harsh, and while one can't "blame" WW2 on those who penned the Treaty's key provisions -- i.e. France and England -- they certainly had a hand in forging one of the key links that made WW2 possible.

        So perhaps one might say, "You don't have to thank us. We broke it, so we did our best to fix it as a matter of principle."

        1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          Reference to reparations after WW1 almost always ignore the historical precedent - that Germany forced reparations on France after the Franco-Prussian war.

          They also tend to ignore that the Nazis were politically insignificant in the 1920's, despite the problems caused by reparations (particularly in the early part of the decade).

          It was the Wall Street Crash that triggered the economic crisis in Germany that enabled the Nazis to achieve some degree of power, and then internal German politicking that brought the Nazis fully to power in the early 1930's.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          While it's debatable if a Hitler would have emerged had the Versailles Treaty been less harsh, and while one can't "blame" WW2 on those who penned the Treaty's key provisions -- i.e. France and England -- they certainly had a hand in forging one of the key links that made WW2 possible.

          Who can say? The psychological damage done by the defeat of WWI was also pretty heavy. Versailles didn't help, but as someone else has said - it's what Germany did to France in 1870.

          Also Versailles was far less punishing than what Germany imposed on Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, and is also far less punishing than the settlement Germany was planning to impose on France in 1914 if they'd won.

          Versailles cause the early 20s inflation crisis - that lead to all the stories of people taking money round in wheelbarrows. But that was more-or-less sorted by 1924, and most of the Versailles debt had been forgiven or inflated away rather than paid back under the Dawes Plan.

          It was the Great Depression that directly led to the Nazis achieving power. And the fact that German society was so polarised. Between them the Nazis and the Communists could block legislation, so one side or t'other had to be brought in to cooperation. But maybe if the politicians in the centre had stopped political parties with violent military wings from being allowed to stand in democratic elections - they'd have had less of a problem.

          Also if Britain and France had been more willing to fight, they may not have had to. But to be fair to their leadership, having just been through the horrors of World War I - they really didn't want a war. So they did what they saw as the moral thing to avoid one. But that morality was useless in the face of the immorality of the Axis powers. Even as late as 1938 - going to war for Czechoslovakia may have brought Hitler down. Or not of course... Both sides would have been much less prepared for war, but the Germans weren't then in a position to blitz there way to Paris in a few weeks.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        We gave it back

        For rather loose values of 'give', as that verb is not commonly associated with armed conflict against independence movements.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          "For rather loose values of 'give', as that verb is not commonly associated with armed conflict against independence movements."

          You're right, it wasn't given back. Nor was it taken away. It was both. And other reasons too. There was also huge pressure from the USA too as they were feeling a bit adventurous after WW2 and didn't want the competition.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        Cederic...

      5. Keythong
        Big Brother

        Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

        The Empire is gone because

        1. Vain and earlier bankrupt Churchill, stupidly sought the gory, glory of war, and because he was told to make war by the 'elite' great game masters funding him.

        2. The gangster USA government demanded massive rip-off prices for supplies, to intentionally dry up the funds of the British Empire and enrich the USA, then demanded that valuable Imperial assets were sold to them at heavy discounts. Only later did that idiot glory-seeker Churchill realise and admit this mistake!

        Anyone who starts an offensive war, without the clear intention of significant net gains, to offset the cost of the war, is an blithering idiot, who will, at best, get a Pyrrhic victory, which is an effectively a defeat; as the UK and some other allies discovered!

        It was the USA which actually won the war, with both Britain and the Axis losing, as was intended by this deadly game of the 'elite'. The USA because it became very wealthy from weapons/supplies trade and graft, allowing it to pillage/replace the British Empire with the USA Empire, so replaced the UK Pound with the US Dollar as the global reserve currency.

        The Spitfire was apparently a vanity project, not a great aircraft; other UK and US aircraft were better value and more effective.

        Radar was apparently more widely known about and used than just by the UK and allies.

        Even Bletchley park was only successful, and give the time to develop, because of astonishing 'mistakes' by the Nazis, which were not surprising when you discover that the Nazi elite were also game pawns directed by the same 'elite' game masters.

        Did you know that the "James Bond" story concept was formed as a result of a top secret, compartmentalised British operation executed to covertly sneak out Hitler and Martin Borman out of German by river in mini-subs and boats at the end of WW2, because the same 'elite' game masters told them too!

        1. Death_Ninja

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          The wealth of the Old Empires of Europe had already ended up in the USA by 1918.

          WW2 just finished off what had already started, but it was certainly *by design*.

          American superpower post WW2 industrial and military dominance wasn't by accident and those behind it saw it as a continuation of the founding of the USA, to have come full circle and finally crushed the "enemy" of a free America - the old Empires - without having to fight them!

          1. Jaybus

            Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

            ...you mean without having to fight SOME of them.

        2. vogon00

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          At time of writing you have 0 up and 14 down votes, which I find interesting....so...

          "The Spitfire was apparently a vanity project, not a great aircraft" - Bull. At the time, it was absolutely a great aircraft. Apart from looking good, it worked very well and actually intimidated Luftwaffe pilots as, at that point in time, it could at the very least compete with Luftwaffe fighter aircraft performance wise, and usually bested them. OK, the Hurricane may have been a slightly better gun platform and doesn't get anywhere near the recognition it deserves, but there was damn all wrong with the Spit. My source? A very elderly ex-neighbour, who was a WW2 fighter command *and* bomber command pilot (I've seen hist original logbooks), and who had more marbles and humility left when he died than you and I have together now. Not to mention much bigger balls.

          "because of astonishing 'mistakes' by the Nazis". You are correct, however how is that different from today? So many times, encryption failure is down to failure of the implementation rather than the design. They say 'don't roll your own encryption' for a reason. Also, you didn't mention that BP was also successful due to the knowledge/experience of those who had come before us, especially our Polish allies, who gave us a head start with the techniques necessary to 'break' the Enigma and Lorenz traffic. My source? Less impressive than above, but based on several books published 1950-1990 i.e. before revisionism and distortion took serious hold. BP was bloody good at what it did, but like everything else it learnt, and then improved on, someone else's preceding work. Remember, they didn't have the resources we do now - no published CVE info, or POC code available..

          "James Bond story concept was formed". Come on, then - I've cited sources...care to explain how you came about that startling piece of 'knowledge'?

        3. macjules Silver badge

          Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

          What a remarkably inflammatory and idiotic comment to write.

          Troll icon: because I simply can not believe you are that ignorant.

    5. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: The war is over, the empire is gone

      You never forget or it will happen again.

  3. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Lets hear it for the girls

    The schoolgirl who helped design the Spitfire

    The Woman Whose Invention Helped Win a War — and Still Baffles Weathermen

    My dad still hates the Germans, I had to ask a German girlfriend to claim she was Swiss. But it means I've been seeped in war documentaries. The tech invention I think had the greatest effect on the outcome was the proximity fuse.

    1. tony2heads

      AND the our Polish allies working on Enigma

      Rejewski, Zygalski, Różycki and their 'Bomba' - known in the UK as a 'bombe'

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AND the our Polish allies working on Enigma

        Ha, I remember Kwinto, "Ucho od śledzia", a remarkable fillm, one of my favourite ones. Thanks. tony2h

    2. swm Silver badge

      Re: Lets hear it for the girls

      I don't see any mention of the magnetron which was another British invention. The early RADAR frequency was in the OH (water) band and didn't perform as well as it could have. This is perfect for a microwave oven though. The Germans captured some magnetrons but couldn't get them to work very well because they made them perfectly symmetrical.

      England also set up several "fake" radio transmitters outside of London to try to mislead the Germans.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lets hear it for the girls

      > My dad still hates the Germans

      I've been in bars in France in the 90s and early 2000s where they've "closed" early, the barman's handed me my "last drink" with a "drink it slowly - you can stay" in English, then once the crowd has thinned out things would get going again "Too many Germans in here". The staff were younger than I, so not veterans. Societies can have long memories.

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    They haven't gone away, you know .... Immaculately Resourceful Assets

    Boffins haven't gone away today, they have just morphed into another intelligence norm/phorm and are still advising government leaders .... which/whom you are best served believing are not necessarily in the guise of any media hosted politician ..... with news of and proposals for novel developments/Great Game Changing Operations.

    The abiding initial difficulty that probably will always remain in the sub-prime human realm, by the very nature of the advanced information delivered advising leaders of Great Game Changing Operations, is an incredulous doubt that such be in any way possible, simply because they and/or their colleagues are neither able nor enabled to successfully achieve and deliver the proposals and matters under development discussions. Fortunately though, that is just a faux problem which has been resolved with solutions to be easily delivered by A.N.Others to those who and that which would require them ....... for to imagine that there be any choice to deny such developments or prevent their escape into future consciousness and universal presentation, is to suffer and confine oneself in a monumental delusion ........ which is a bitterly cold comfort blanket of zero great worth.

    1. Tail Up

      Re: They haven't gone away, you know .... Immaculately Resourceful Assets

      They haven't. See or, better say, remember the start of the Discussion @ #65. Not Anon.

  5. Death_Ninja

    Y Service

    You talk about BP, but not about the RAF's Y Service who actually provided the raw intel - plus did a lot of analysis themselves.

    In fact German speakers in Y were really crucial during the Battle of Britain. They listened to German chit chat and were able to provide a lot of useful tactical intelligence as raids built - given the way that the Luftwaffe spent ages assembling these massive formations of bombers before heading across the channel.

    Y also were the ones to report that the Germans were packing up their kit in France, Sealion was abandoned and the Battle of Britain was actually over.

    So lets hear it for the boys and girls of Y!

    1. Death_Ninja

      Re: Y Service

      I should have also mentioned Y's involvement in countering "Headache" - the Lorenz/Knickebein beam guidance for Luftwaffe night bombing.

      And then later the X-Gerät and Y-Gerät systems which improved on Knickebein.

      But its just another example of quite how high tech WW2 became vs WW1.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Y Service

        In order to hide the fact that they'd cracked it they couldn't take advantage of it all the time. Unfortunately one of the ones let go was the Coventry raid. To make matters worse it's possible that Dresden was seen as a reprisal.

        1. swm Silver badge

          Re: Y Service

          Dresden was a reprisal.

          1. Death_Ninja

            Re: Y Service

            Dresden reprisal?

            Hamburg maybe was a reprisal, Dresden was almost certainly a warning to Stalin.

          2. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Y Service

            "Dresden was a reprisal."

            I was in Dresden before the GDR fell. Not nice. A surprising amount of neo-Nazis.

            A year ago I gave my Edinburgh flat to a female student from Dresden, free of charge. We didn't interact much but we had an awkward hour discussing the whole "SlaughterHouse 5" thing. We agreed I wasn't to blame for the firebombing, and she wasn't to blame for Nazism.

            She said she came to Edinburgh to study because there were too many nationalists in Dresden. I told her I was a nationalist, but not that sort.

            I am, or was, a peace protester. I'm also an antifascist. I am utterly torn about the bombing of Germany, but secretly I think they deserved it due to their failure to respect democracy, human rights and international laws. But Dresden was hellish.

            1. Mooseman Silver badge

              Re: Y Service

              "But Dresden was hellish."

              No more so than any one of a dozen cities bombed in the closing stages of the war. I assume you are still clinging to the fake death toll created by Goebbels, who simply took the official German figures for the raid (they were always good at record keeping) and multiplied it by 10.

              By the way, there is a huge difference between a nationalist and a patriot.

        2. Dazed and Confused

          Re: Y Service

          > Unfortunately one of the ones let go was the Coventry raid.

          I'd be interested in any citations for that other than Winterbotham . Everything I've read makes it very clear that Coventry was one that got away not one was "let through". There is no way that anyone would have let through a raid like Coventry if there had been anyway to stop it. Never mind the scale of the raid, Coventry's position in the heartland of industrial Britain would have meant it was far to valuable to be allowed to act a decoy. Ultra, especially that early in the war wasn't perfect. They never knew everything. Neither were the electronic countermeasures. The night fighter force was in its infancy, Spitfires weren't good night fighters, Hurricanes were only marginally better.

          The Wiki has a good summary, the enumerable books on BP and Enigma as well as those on the RAF cover this in a lot more detail. RV Jones' Most Secret War covers the countermeasures aspect. Coventry was the one that got away.

          Dresden wasn't particularly "the" reprisal, in many ways the whole of Bomber Harris' campaign was the reprisal.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Y Service

        "But its just another example of quite how high tech WW2 became vs WW1."

        Oh, I dunno. Think of the horse drawn vehicles, and mounted cavalry of the start of WWi compared to the tanks, fighter aircraft and heavy bombers by the end.

        1. Vometia Munro

          Re: Y Service

          Yeah; I've seen historians remark how the technical changes in WW1 were more profound than WW2. It surprised me at the time because I was thinking "but WW2 saw the beginnings of computers, radar, nuclear weapons, jets, rockets..." but the progression from what started in 1914 as basically Napoleonic-era warfare to modern, mechanised warfare over the course of just four years was a much bigger eye-opener.

        2. Death_Ninja

          Re: Y Service

          What most often fail to understand is that WW1 and WW2 are continuation wars.... and I don't mean from just 1 to 2....think of all of this as continuation wars from the break up of the Holy Roman Empire.

          And then look at the technical advances...

          When you see things massively shift though is in line with the arrival of the industrial revolution. It increases technology both civillian and military from the late 19th century. Even the technology of the 1870 Franco Prussian war is not the same as the Napoleonic war in many many ways.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Y Service

      "So lets hear it for the boys and girls of Y!"

      I'm just imagining them singing and dancing :-)

  6. PhilipN Silver badge

    Poles

    Alongside other nationalities (as mentioned). There were a couple of kids at my school whose names ended in “...owski”. Good chance it was because their Dads stayed on. Thanks, guys.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Poles

      I remember an interview with a veteran from a documentary a few years ago. He was talking about killing and saying how he didn't like to think about it. "I was shooting at aeroplanes. That was my job, and it was how I preferred to think about it. A Polish pilot I was friends with was different. He was killing Germans." Which is of course understandable, having just fled from losing a war to defend their country.

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Poles

        My father joined the RN after a spell in the pioneer corps. He was a German, and was quite happy to sink uboats.

    2. Man inna barrel

      Re: Poles

      A documentary about the war in the air (Battle of Britain) showed that a major problem for Britain was that it was running out of pilots. There were plenty of aircraft, but nobody to fly them. The Poles stepped in to save the day. As far as I know, before WW2, there was not much of a relationship between Britain and Poland.

      Now, at my place of work, there are many Polish workers. My Polish engineer colleague tells me that Polish workers tend to apply for jobs in clumps. So you do not get just one Polish production worker, you get half a dozen. I am not complaining. Good hardworking people, the Poles. Their beer is not bad, too.

      A Polish joke. Who do you hate most, the Germans or the Russians? Um, let me see, what day is it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poles

        I thought the Polish joke was "German or Russian, which do you fight first? German... business before pleasure" ;-)

  7. Chris Miller

    Polish Air Force War Memorial

    If you look left from the A40, travelling into London, just after passing Northolt, you can glimpse the eagle on top of the Polish Air Force War Memorial. At the end of the war, many settled in England, there's been a thriving Polish Club in Amersham since the 50s.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Polish Air Force War Memorial

      There's a memorial to General Sikorski in St Andrews, Fife. A local man taught me some Polish, amusingly he had no respect for recent Polish immigrants. I asked him why he'd come here and he said, "The Nazis murdered our village and all my family, only my mother escaped".

      Weirdly in Scotland we also have a large Italian community that mostly came from prisoners of war that didn't want to return to Italy after the war. That left us a thriving network of ice cream cafes, and Paolo Nutini.

      1. albaleo

        Re: Polish Air Force War Memorial

        I think the Italian community in Scotland mostly arrived long before World War II started. Many were interned during the war (and many died on the Arandora Star sinking).

        Regarding Italian POWs, my mum used to tell me of a POW camp for Italian soldiers near where she lived in Kendal. No locks on the premises, and many girls cycling up there in the evening (for the cultural enhancements no doubt).

        There are also many Polish descendants in Scotland from during the war.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Polish Air Force War Memorial

        Paulo Nutini and Tom Conti.

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Polish Air Force War Memorial

          Ha! I didn't know that about Conti, yet another good-looking talented Paisley Italian.

          Ur ye gallus? Do ye come from Paisley? Then yer gran shagged an Italian.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jingoistic Juices are flowing

    Wow, this piece should get the gammon chests puffing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

      Well, I'd consider myself a mainly-left-of-centre, liberal, open-minded, partially hippy, chilled snowflake and it has to be said: if it wasn't for the RAF, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Radar, pilots, ground crews, lookouts, crypto-decoders and tons of other very committed (and I guess desperate) people standing up in their darkest hour against the 'bad guy facist invaders', we'd have been seriously stuffed. So yes, the sound and sight of a Spit does bring up a few emotions... you don't have to be a modern-day Gammon to appreciate it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

        There was no concerted effort by the British government to invest in military technology. Quite the contrary. Military spending was woefully inadequate in the lead up to WWII.

        To suggest otherwise detracts from the real reason that battle was not lost: Sacrifices by British, Commonwealth and Polish pilots. Flag waving jingoism and the chance to rave over military hardware porn always ends up brushing over the reality.

        1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

          Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

          Well, British military spending in the early to mid 1930's was inadequate. However, it ramped up in the late 1930's, as the deficiencies (and probable war with Nazi Germany) became clear. And it did so early enough that the RAF had Spitfires and Hurricanes in relatively large numbers.

          However, the main reason that Britain won the Battle of Britain is that contrary to the national stereotypes, the British were exceptionally competent and professional, whereas the Germans were ill-prepared and making it up as they went along.

          Not mentioned in the article is that the RAF had an integrated control network, linking radar to observer corps to sector control rooms to squadrons, meaning that, broadly, the battle was controlled at every stage, whereas the Germans took off on a planned mission and then could only react to what the British did with the forces on the spot.

          The British rotate their squadrons to avoid pilot fatigue (the Germans didn't).

          The British had reasonably good intelligence overall, the German intelligence was atrocious.

          The British fought a battle they had been preparing for for about 4 years, the Germans didn't.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Facepalm

            whereas the Germans were ill-prepared and making it up as they went along.

            Even the competent ones who were capable of planning were hampered by having a Führer who considered himself way more competent than he actually was, with very few staff capable of steering him away from disastrous actions. Resulting in him regularly biting off (more curtains) than he could chew.

            There was also a lack of coordination between the Heer, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe about inventions they were presented with, quite often developing similar stuff separately as well as just going with the totally bonkers because someone higher up was married to the inventor's niece or something.

            whereas the Germans took off on a planned mission and then could only react to what the British did with the forces on the spot.

            Also, a German plane shot down over England was lost, including its crew. RAF pilots and planes had a decent chance of getting refurbished and return to action if they were still reasonably intact.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: whereas the Germans were ill-prepared and making it up as they went along.

              "Even the competent ones who were capable of planning were hampered by having a DONALD who considered himself way more competent than he actually was, with very few staff capable of steering him away from disastrous actions. Resulting in him regularly biting off (more curtains) than he could chew."

              Donald Trump?????

          2. Holtsmark

            Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

            The British, much thanks to the US and Doolittle, could fuel their spitfires with higher octane fuels, yielding higher power rates than available to the Germans.

            It is my impression (which might be incorrect) that the German engine technology in a number of ways was more advanced than allied technolog. The superior allied fuel negated this edge.

            Still.. I am convinced that the British would have lost the battle of Britain were it not for support from allies, and future allies, occupied or unoccupied.

            You have much to be proud of, but you should also be humble about it.

            1. CliveS

              Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

              "The British, much thanks to the US and Doolittle, could fuel their spitfires with higher octane fuels, yielding higher power rates than available to the Germans."

              The RAF had been researching 100 octane fuel since 1935, with trials commencing in 1937 (3 Squadrons; Nos. 90, 98 and 201). In March 1939 it was decided that 16 fighter squadrons would receive 100 octane fuel, and that a reserve of 250 million gallons would be required. By 1940 the RAF didn't have that volume of reserves, but it had sufficient. And the fuel came from not only the USA, but also Trinidad, Aruba and Abadan along with the plant at Stanlow. If you're going to mention Doolittle, then don't forget Eugene Houdry or Harry Ricardo, both of whom were far more important than Doolittle. As for the Germans, they had GM-1 and MW-50 as performance booster for their engines.

          3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

            EvilDrSmith,

            Go to the Battle of Britain Bunker and museum in Uxbridge. You get a tour of the bunker where Fighter Group 11 was commanded from - and it's an eye-opening experience.

            Having read a bit about it (mostly in more general histories of the war), it wasn't until I went there that I realised quite how extraordinary Dowding's system was. It was a massive network designed to populate one map (plus backups) with all the information needed to allow one person to process all the information to make effective decisions. And then to issue orders back down the chain to be carried out. It's a robust system designed to route round damage and with several backup sensor systems integrated to give the most accurate possible info.

            When I say huge, we're talking something like 12,000 people in the Observer Corps posts, scattered round the country phoning in height, direction and speed of raids. They worked as a backup if radar failed - and also to give info on raids once past the radar picket. Also integrated was of course radar and radio direction finding. There's also a section of the control room for the anti-aircraft command, so they can know where to expect attacks and where to expect RAF planes, to avoid shooting at them.

            So everyone passes info up the chain to these few HQs, who then make decisions and send them out again for the local command at sector, airfield and squadron to deal with.

            it's a massive analogue network, I think they had 200 people on the telephone switchboards in the bunker. Here's a nice link to a piece with pictures.

            It's a fascinating system that merits an El Reg article, given this is an IT publication. I can't think of anything else at the time that worked that way. Trains were still run from timetables and signal boxes, not central control offices. Obviously the forces had the intel officers of their units reporting up the chain of command so that all their HQs had up-to-date maps - but they weren't doing that linked into networks of modern sensors (plus 12,000 mark I eyeballs).

            Contrast this with the Luftwaffe who didn't have radar. So as well as flying all those sorties across the Channel without getting the kind of rest periods the RAF got, they were also having to sit in their cockpits for days on alert to defend against Bomber Command raiders trying to bomb their airfields.

            I think this is why the Luftwaffe so badly underestimated the time it would take to defeat the RAF. In Poland and France it was easy to hit lots of planes on the ground, but that was much harder in attacking Britain - because the RAF aimed to intercept every raid (even if only to disrupt them with a few attackers) - and there was warning and time to get planes off the ground. And that time didn't have to gained by having vast numbers of units on combat air patrol.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

              Oh, one last point. Britain had been rapidly re-arming by the late 30s. Those countries that re-armed later often ended up being at an advantage - as technology was changing so fast that what was cutting edge in 1934 was obsolescent in 1937 and a death-trap by 1939. Not so much at sea, but in the air and in mechanised warfare.

              Britain had been busily building a bunch of aircraft factories. So by 1940 we were actually out-producing the Germans in numbers of planes every month. Something that Luftwaffe intel missed.

              We also had a working and well-organised spares logistics system. The Germans could only do light repairs at the airfields, and so had to send planes back to the factory for major works. Which made the factories less efficient and meant they were often short of planes at the squadron (staffel) level. Whereas the RAF had new or repaired planes ready for pilots the next day. This was a problem that continued throughout the war, and the Germans would often have loads of unserviceable planes lying about their airfields waiting to be shipped back to the factories for repairs that would be done locally by the RAF ground crews.

              Our shortage was pilots. This also gets to the main intelligence failure of the battle.

              An RAF fighter squadron fought with a strength of 12 planes in the air. But actually should have about 20 planes and pilots on the books. This meant that barring a horrible day, it should still be able to field a full strength sqadron at 5pm - even if it had been up two or three times in the day. They were regularly sent up North for rests and re-training and got replacement pilots (sometimes) and planes and spares regularly.

              A Luftwaffe staffel had a fighting strength of 9, but should have about 20 pilots and say 14 aircraft. They weren't getting many replacement pilots or spares or planes. And certainly not on a regular basis. So more-and-more ended up fighting under strength.

              Worse, German intelligence assumed that the RAF were the same. The number of squadrons was known - so they simply multiplied that by 14, and took away their pilots claims of shot down enemy planes to work out that the RAF would be out of planes and pilots if they just attacked for a few more days. Of course, they couldn't count the wrecks, which the RAF leadership could, so they couldn't work out how much their pilots were exaggerating their numbers of kills. If one poor sod gets hit by 4 different pilots, that's one kill, not 4. And that's before you factor in wishful thinking and young men being boastful. The Germans claimed to have shot down a third of Fighter Command's entire strength on one day in August!

              The British mistake was the opposite. We counted the number of Luftwaffe squadrons and multiplied by 20 to get their numnber of planes. So they underestimated the RAF's strength by about a third and the RAF overestimated theirs by about the same. This made the RAF too worried and the Germans complacent. Having Goering in command didn't help. He'd been a good fighter pilot in WWI, but I don't think he was up on the modern technology and tactics and he was a lazy, boasful, arrogant arse as a commander. Fortunately. I can't remember if he was on the opium at this point in the war, or whether that was later. That didn't help his abilities as a commander, either...

          4. Man inna barrel

            Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

            The Germans being "ill-prepared and making it up as they go along". That is news to me, They were fucking unstoppable in the early stages of WW2. It was stupid management that did for them. Like wasting resources trying to kill all the Jews, and fighting on too many fronts: e.g. Russia and Africa.

            If the Nazis had been led by a sane dictator, we would all be Nazis now. Luckily for us ordinary folk, dictatorship appears to cause insanity. This could be an ancient self-regulating mechanism.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

              Man inna barrel

              The Germans being "ill-prepared and making it up as they go along". That is news to me, They were fucking unstoppable in the early stages of WW2.

              The above directly contradicts this:

              and fighting on too many fronts: e.g. Russia and Africa.

              If you read Eric von Manstein's book, 'Lost Victories' - he's very clear about the lack of strategic direction. And it wasn't just down to Hitler being useless - it was also structural. The Germans (Prussians at the time actually) had invented the modern General Staff in the 19th Century. This not only meant formal training for staff officers and therefore much better staff work, but also involved proper peacetime planning and wargaming.

              However they didn't go to the next step when they got involved in WWI. The army, navy and airforce commands were separate, and remained so. There was no overall body in charge of strategic direction, such as the Imperial General Staff in Britain. They were all under the nominal command of the Kaiser, and later the President.

              When Hitler created OKW (Oberkomando der Wermacht) they weren't really there as an equivalent of an overall joint service body - because Goering was running the Luftwaffe and wasn't going to be told what to do. The Kriegsmarine pretty much ploughed it's own furrough as well. Plus Hitler's leadership style was to set up lots of rival power centres and get them all to compete to please him, not to cooperate with each other.

              In effect OKW were Hitler's lapdogs because he could never fully control the leadership of the army. Hence, later in the war you got the bizarre situation that OKW (Oberkommando der Heeres - army HQ) was only really in charge of the army on the Eastern Front and OKW was commanding the army in France facing the Allied invasion - but not even in command of the navy or airforce in France - despite being in nominal charge of all Germany's armed forces.

              Leaving the structural problems - you also have the strategic ones. This is partly because Hitler wasn't telling people his long-term plans in advance, so they couldn't be prepped for. But also because Germany wasn't planning to start a war until at least 1941 - some of the Navy's plans were assuming no war before 1944. Hitler had convinced himself that France and Britain would violate their guarantees to Poland, despite the fact that they specifically made them because of not having given them to Czechoslovakia before Munich.

              Also Germany didn't have the tanks to invade France in 1939. Hence they chose to take on Poland first and give themselves time to build more and finish the training of more panzer divisions. The plan for the invasion of France, Belgium and Holland was only made in Winter 1939. The army wanted to do soemthing like WWI, it was junior generals like Guderian who persuaded Hitler to overrule them and go for a tank breakthrough on the junction between the French defences and the allied units advancing into Belgium.

              There was no plan for the invasion of Norway, that was done at the last minute and bodged. The Germans managed to bodge better/faster, than the Allies, hence they won, but the Kriegsmarine lost about a third of its destroyer force in the process.

              There was also no plan for the invasion of Britain. They didn't start serious invasion planning until after defeating France. Because they didn't expect to beat France that quickly - but also because they didn't really have the resources to do it properly anyway.

              Basically what happened is that Hitler gambled continuously, always upping the stakes, and from 1936-1941 always rolled 6s. They continually got lucky in close-run things, until they didn't.

              If the Nazis had been led by a sane dictator, we would all be Nazis now

              If you're sane, you're unlikely to try and conquer the world. But also I don't see how the Germans could have successfully invaded Britain. Even a victory in the Battle of Britain only made an invasion marginally possible - there would have still been a viable RAF in the Midlands and North - and the German invasion forces would have been eventually cut off from supply and destroyed. Not only did the Royal Navy have ships to destroy the invasion fleet, admittedly at heavy casualties from the Luftwaffe, but was also had loads of submarines - that would have turned the Channel into a deathtrap for German supply ships. Particularly as the Germans didn't have the anti-sumbarine technology to match the Royal Navy's either.

      2. vogon00

        Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

        "tons of other very committed (and I guess desperate) people". How true, and how sad that more people are not students of history.

        Quite a long time ago, I was sitting in my local pub reading R.V. Jones' "Most Secret War" and hoping to pick up a few tips, when another patron saw the 1970s(?) photo of him on on the dust jacket with a comb-over and said <sarcasm>"Well, HE looks interesting"</sarcasm>.... at which point I said something along the lines of "He's one of the many, many reasons you don't speak German, so show some respect".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

      As opposed to yourself who appears to hate Britain?

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

        "s opposed to yourself who appears to hate Britain?"

        Stupid comment of the day. Congrats.

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

      I am guessing you are a cotton wool wrapped ignorant millenial or gen xer who understands little or nothing of what that war means to Britain and the world.

      I'm a boomer, when I was a kid all of our parents had fought in the war, either in the forces or played their part in the civilian life of the country,nearly every family had lost members or friends due to combat or bombing, certainly no-one was unaffected by the war.

      As a kid up until the sixties we played on bomb sites in and around London, it wascommon for bombs and ordnance to be dug on most construction sites, I remember watching a group of Paddies digging a trench, pulling out dozens of small incendiary bombs and chucking them into an oil drum full of water.

      The North bound entrance to the Blackwall tunnel under the modern cladding still has the 20mm cannon shell marks from where an Me 190 strafed the traffic.

      So it has feck all to do with gammons and everything to do with the fact you are able to make your vacuous comments here.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

        If you played on London bombsites, then you were part of "The Bulge". "Boomers" were nearly unknown until Trivial Pursit, Boomer Edition crossed the Atlantic

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

          If you played on London bombsites, then you were part of "The Bulge". "Boomers" were nearly unknown until Trivial Pursit, Boomer Edition crossed the Atlantic

          Are you sure? I was born in the early 70s, and I pretty much always remember the phrase "baby boom" being used from the 80s onwards. And I was an unusual kid, in that I was listening to the Today Program on Radio 4 at the age of 12 - I've been fascinated by politics since.

          I had a very nice twin casette deck with radio in bright yellow (proper 80s!), with chunky black rocker switches, on my Captain's bunk (again very 80s). And I used to wake up to Radio 4's Today with Brian Readhead. 30 minutes of news and comment with 2 1/2 hours of time-checks and trailers...

          1. Vometia Munro

            Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

            I was born a few years earlier and for me, "baby boom" has a strong association with 1950s America's glory days; though I'm afraid I can't recall specific examples of why I still have that lasting impression.

            I remember playing in bomb sites in the north east as late as ~1980ish: the large crater next to my cousins' house is where their neighbours used to be. Looking on Google Maps' satellite view it's still possible to see where the bombs dropped because of the different-coloured roofs of the new-builds that have popped up in what had been left as empty spaces for decades amongst the neat rows of Victorian and Edwardian terraces.

          2. Jan 0 Silver badge

            Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

            @I ain't Spartacus

            Well the Boomer edition came out in 1983, so I guess Brian Redhead and his associates were trying to sound trendy.

      2. Man inna barrel

        Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

        A few years ago, I commuted from England to Northern Ireland a few times a month. This was just at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. When being driven from the airport at Belfast, we went past piles of rubble and Army checkpoints. That was a police station that the IRA blew up. This hotel here has been bombed twice. I will just take you down this road now, so you can see the terrorist murals. And just around the corner, the locals paint the lamp-posts in red white and blue stripes.

        The silly and sad thing is, I found most of the people I worked with in N Ireland to be sane and kind, as most people generally are. There is nothing inherently wrong with German people. The thing you really have to work out is how nice people are forced to do horrible things.

        1. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

          " The thing you really have to work out is how nice people are forced to do horrible things."

          Or more accurately how normal people are convinced doing horrible things are necessary and that those they do them to don't matter. Nobody forced anyone to murder millions in WW2, nobody forced anyone in the IRA or UDF to murder people either.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

      "Wow, this piece should get the gammon chests puffing."

      Why? Do you say the same when we get worldwide coverage from the US on 4th July? Bastille Day in France? Any other countries independence days or celebrations of defeating an attacker?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Jingoistic Juices are flowing

        4th July and 14th July were not really external wars celebration but successful rebellions, no?

        Still jingoism, but maybe less triumphalism and rank hatred towards external former foes?

  9. MJI Silver badge

    Heard a funny last night.

    David Jason visited the BOBMF.

    One of the personel was commenting that some kit was like Trigger's Broom without realising the connection.

    Finished with 1 Lancaster 3 Spitfires 1 Hurricane in formation.

  10. Hairy Spod

    you could read that two ways...

    "it is important to remember that had Britain not invested in the science and technology capability to come up with such innovations, it is probable that the Battle of Britain may have gone the other way."

    We didnt invest enough or at least invest in the right places. If they had invested in Mr Whittle's ideas or put money into some of the other Rolls Royce engines we would have had a wider variety of aircraft that easy surpassed rather than matched their Luftwaffe counterparts.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: you could read that two ways...

      @Hairy Spod

      "We didnt invest enough or at least invest in the right places."

      It is unfortunate that we dont know what we need to invest in until the time arrives or even has gone. Not wanting trench warfare like WW1 informed a lot of the decisions, but that was the war to end all wars. Instead of military the money was spent other ways.

      I do wonder if we are doing the same now in Europe. How many countries are prepared under NATO? When Russia kicked off I seem to remember seeing assumptions that the Russians (should they invade Europe) would make great gains before meeting resistance. Watching the worry in Germany that Trump moved US troops from there to Poland.

      1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

        Re: the Russians (should they invade Europe)

        I'm not sure they'd bother, given all those open SCADA systems.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: you could read that two ways...

        "It is unfortunate that we dont know what we need to invest in until the time arrives or even has gone."

        Especially "has gone". Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    2. Mark Billenness

      Re: you could read that two ways...

      We were fotunate that there was strong opposition to the governments' austerity policies at the time and money did eventually go to the RAF.

      https://www.historynet.com/winston-churchills-prewar-effort-to-increase-military-spending.htm

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: you could read that two ways...

        @Mark Billenness

        "We were fotunate that there was strong opposition to the governments' austerity policies at the time and money did eventually go to the RAF."

        Apparently the Germans practised tank manoeuvres on bicycles which I thought was an impressive act, considering the USSR churned out much better tanks with much better armour and still lost to panzers.

        I recall Freeman Dyson mentioning how Brits invested in air power, but found that day raids got them shot down and at night the smallest target they could hit was a City. Not sure how correct the book is but Blood, Sweat and Arrogance (https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sweat-Arrogance-Churchills-Phoenix/dp/0304367389) was a very interesting read of how limited our capability was.

        Interestingly the same guy writing about WW1 heaped a lot more praise on how the Brits conducted the war compared to how WW2 was conducted.

        1. Mark Billenness

          Re: you could read that two ways...

          "Apparently the Germans practised tank manoeuvres on bicycles which I thought was an impressive act, considering the USSR churned out much better tanks with much better armour and still lost to panzers."

          Training + Tactics.

          Before rearming, in the 1920's the Gernan army was prohibited from having tanks, so they worked around the issue. By 1928 they had dummies using sheet metal, according to Guderian.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_Leader_(book)

          They got a lot of their ideas from the British tank pioneers.

          That said, bicycle troops are a thing:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_infantry

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: you could read that two ways...

            The Finns had ski-bicycle battalions! I like to imagine them pedalling furiously with their skis occasionally getting caught in the spokes of their wheels, or on railings by the side of the road. But I'm guessing that they actually took them off while cycling, and then strapped the bikes to their backs when skiing. Spoilsports!

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: you could read that two ways...

          "Apparently the Germans practised tank manoeuvres on bicycles which I thought was an impressive act, considering the USSR churned out much better tanks with much better armour and still lost to panzers."

          Large amounts of German logistics was carried out by man and horse power too, but their press and propaganda were under very strict instructions to never show this.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: you could read that two ways...

      Hairy Spod,

      Not investing in jets was a deliberate choice. Which probably turned out to be correct. It's possible that we could have had good numbers of jets much earlier in the war, but it's also possible that the R&D wouldn't have borne fruit in time and that useful resources would have been wasted on having the best technology rather than tech that was good enough.

      The RAF chose to concentrate on what was working now or what would be working soon. Churchill did the same at the Admiralty in 1939, where he cut a whole bunch of ships that were building, but wouldn't be ready until 1943-44 in order to concentrate on bashing out loads of cheap escort ships that could be at sea within 6 months to a year.

      Both choices were almost certainly the correct ones. Germany never got serious numbers of Me262s deployed - and the ones they did needed an engine rebuild every 10 hours! Else the engines exploded - which can really ruin your day.

    4. Man inna barrel

      Re: you could read that two ways...

      I think one of the fundamental mistakes the Nazis made was thinking that superior weapon technology would win the war for them. The Nazis had superior tank technology compared to Russia, but Russia's clunky tanks still won. The V2 weapon deployed against Britain did not defeat us. And I am still not sure that the war against Japan was won by destroying two of their major cities with nuclear bombs. There was bad shit going on, but it might have been nearing its end anyway. It is easy to be wise in hindsight.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: you could read that two ways...

        Ignoring the Soviets, where the T34 was closer to parity with German tanks. US and British ones were simply not as good. But they were easier to maintain - and the western allies had a proper logistics program to fix them when they were broken. Plus there were just more of them. And I mean a lot more.

        Churchill gives figures in his book, that are out of date given modern research but good enough. Germany produced something like 27,000 tanks of various types throughout the war. Britain only built about half that, but the US built another 50,000 and the Soviets another 100,000.

        The difference was even starker with aircraft. Britain alone overtook German aircraft production early in 1940. By 1941, British production was double that of Germany. And then the Americans started producing insane numbers of the things.

        A final oddity was that Britain finally got it right with tanks in 1945/46. At which point we produced the Centurion - which from what I've read was the best tank of its generation, and its replacement the Chieftain probably had a decent claim to that title too. Bit late chaps!

        1. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: you could read that two ways...

          "the Centurion - which from what I've read was the best tank of its generation"

          Indeed - The Israelis made good use of it against the Soviet made T54s used by the Syrians

  11. macjules Silver badge

    Tizard?

    If you are going to mention radar then you should include Sir Henry Tizard in that as well. It is also worth noting that the Frisch–Peierls memorandum came about as a result of both Frisch and Peierls being excluded from work on radar due to their German nationality. Tizard was sceptical of the likelihood of an atomic bomb being developed, reckoning the odds of success at 100,000 to 1, and gave Frisch and Peierls this project to see if they could prove him wrong.

  12. Fr. Ted Crilly

    Fighter Control & raid plotting...

    What's often overlooked and taken for granted is the established air raid plotting with the sector/central fighter control systems (and the requiired dedicated telephonic commos) were put in place well before the Chain home radar was stood up which increased the 'seeing' distance of incoming raids, the radar could watch raids being assembled over France giving more reaction time to get squadrons into position to intercept etc. Before Chain home the system was entirely human sensed by volunteer sky watchers at many points alond the south coast and inland to track raiders across inland areas.

    The planning and established raid precautions were put in place well before radar was a going proposition (work was begun right at the end of WW1 to track Gotha bombing raids but the end of the first war took the build out of the system away as a priority), previously sound location was attempted for dectection of incoming raids but even at the time the limitations of sound location were well known and recognised as being obsolecent at best due to the increased speeds of aircraft rendering plotting innacurate and untimely leading to more confusion.

    Interestingly the contrast with continental work on this problem is revealing where French/German/Belgian arrangements were much more piecemeal, mostly consisting of local contacts to airforce officers attached to ground forces HQ's passing on to higher airforce for direction and orders to put aircraft aloft to try to intercept often on a 'enemy aircraft seen over Ostend heading north/south/east/west, no infomation as to numbers, types, or age of infomation etc' which gives the advantage to the attacking raiders. The raid plotting and control allowed by sector/central control backed up by Observer corps & volunteers skywatchers and the increasingly effective Chain Home Radar rebalanced to a certain extent the tactical advantage of the attacking force.

    1. Death_Ninja

      Re: Fighter Control & raid plotting...

      Yes, the Dowding System.

      Churchill himself gave credit to this as the key to victory:

      "All the ascendancy of the Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been fruitless but for this system which had been devised and built before the war. It had been shaped and refined in constant action, and all was now fused together into a most elaborate instrument of war, the like of which existed nowhere in the world"

      1. Fr. Ted Crilly

        Re: Fighter Control & raid plotting...

        Yes but the thing is fighter control was being thought about without the enabler of Radar, it didnt appear fully formed there was a background of thinking which is mostly overlooked sadly.

    2. Conrad Longmore

      Re: Fighter Control & raid plotting...

      Indeed, our efficient fighter control was a force multiplier. We could get our fighters to where they needed to be more often, we could prioritise high risk attacks and we knew exactly what resources were available at any one time. All the available data for the battle area effectively got pumped into one location and could be analysed and acted upon.

      Like a 1940s version of Splunk..

  13. lee harvey osmond

    ... and a few things the British Empire didn't invent

    ... such as 100 octane aviation spirit, which the Air Ministry began buying in large quantities from US refiners. A month or two on from Dunkirk, same fighter aircraft, same engines, MORE POWER!

  14. batfink Silver badge

    Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

    I'm getting kinda peeved these days with this repeated "Britain stood alone" crap. No it fucking didn't. It would be much more accurate to say "the British Empire stood alone". The contributions of us colonials keeps getting forgotten amongst all the jingoism.

    Cue the downvote storm...

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

      No downvote here. Not just the Empire either, the Hungarians, the Poles, Free French and other Europeans both in the UK and in their own countries also supported Britain during that bleak period.

      1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

        Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

        upvoted, but not entirely correct - Hungarians were on the other side (along with Finns, Slovaks, Bulgarians and Romanians)

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          Ah, good spot. I wonder why I got that one wrong - perhaps the contributions of Von Neumann and friends led me astray.

          1. Joe Gurman

            Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

            It's OK, Leo Szilard alone (who convinced Einstein to write a certain letter to Roosevelt) has a profound effect on the war's outcome, too.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

              Not to mention Leo was wearing an British made timepiece, convincing someone to use his research to kill "civilians" isn't my idea of heroism.

              "Civilians" here because early on it was obvious that the hugely expensive nuclear weapons were too costly to use against spread out military target. Civilian in citys on the other hand are nicely bunched up so as to demonstrate to those fighting what they would have to come back to even if they "won".

              Before the boer war civilians were typically ignored by warring parties other than the usual rape, murder and pillage that was the reason for many joing an army, once weapons increased their potency and cost then civilians became the most cost effective target and have remained so ever since.

              War was always a stupid waste of resources and everyone in the UK is still paying for our love of war, that a few made their fortunes at the expense of their countrymen is not something I think deserves celebrating

              1. Man inna barrel

                Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

                Deliberately attacking civilians has got to be one of the worst aspects of war. That is, demonstrating massive strength to make the other side surrender. I guess it is OK for soldiers to battle it out, but leave us ordinary folk out of it.

        2. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          In defence of the Finns, they were most worried about the Russians (check up on the Finno-Russian wars) and took any ally they could get.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

        and not to mention Stalin's contribution that caused Germany to be distracted and so gave the Normandy landings et al a much better chance of success...

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          The murdering shit Stalin invaded Poland in coordination with Nazi Germany and was very much not supporting Britain until the Germans invaded Russia in 1941 - indeed, bringing an end to the 'Britain [and Empire, and various refugees from invaded countries, and a few brave people standing up for what is right even though their countries were officially neutral] standing alone' period.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

            >The murdering shit Stalin invaded Poland in coordination with Nazi Germany and was very much not supporting Britain until the Germans invaded Russia in 1941

            Remember, the US wasn't really supporting Britain at the outset of the war either, as that would have spoilt trade with Germany...

        2. Death_Ninja

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          "distraction" for Normandy?

          I'd argue quite the reverse actually. Go look at Operation Bagration.. The largest rolling counter offensive in military history.

    2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

      Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

      But that's because we've all seen the cartoon by Lowe: "Very Well, Alone!"

      That is, of course, Lowe, the New Zealander....

      "Britain stood alone" seems to fit most people's prejudices (and there are equally inaccurate popular viewpoints of the US and USSR contributions that gloss over their less positive bits).

      It also avoids the slight inconvenience that Britain was fighting for freedom and democracy and at the same time had the world's largest empire.

      And of course, when you stop to think about the size and resources available to the Empire (The Indian army was huge, and was all volunteer, as just one example), the popular myth of the Nazi giant being faced down by plucky Britain fighting for its survival suddenly becomes the Nazi bully meeting the first team rugby squad (Britain + commonwealth +empire) and doomed to getting a beating.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

        All true, the long term war outlook for Germany was bleak (hence blitzkrieg).

        It's just that in the summer of 1940 all of the commonwealth & empire armies were small and under equipped, no significant help was likely to arrive before any German invasion attempt. (The Indian army had under 100k troops available for overseas deployment in 1940 and all countries were in the process of rapidly building up their forces)

        There was also the worry that the NAZI/Soviet treaty would lead to the red army moving through Afghanistan into India (modern Pakistan) and the Persian oilfields following the successful joint invasion of Poland.

        The original Luftwaffe plan was to force the RAF away from airfields in the south-east and gain total air supremacy over the channel, these were the only conditions that the Kriegsmarine would dare sail an invasion force. They knew that with constant RAF fighter cover from nearby fields the Royal Navy would be able to arrive at the invasion beaches in overwhelming numbers and sink everything in the channel (quite literally & regardless of cost) cutting off the troops already landed, without air cover half of the Royal Navy would have been sunk by bombing before arriving and most of the rest soon after.

        While it’s a vast simplification to say that the ‘few’ determined the course of history, had they (and all the supporting organisations) failed I’d not like to guess at what the current world order would look like now.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          IIRC the 1st Canadian Division was the largest remaining force in the UK after Dunkirk, having been there since late 1939. The 2nd arrived in August 1940. But yes, not originally all that well equipped.

          1. Wellyboot Silver badge

            Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

            All assistance was very much appreciated at the time, and still is by anyone here who has read any decent history books.

        2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          Broadly I agree, but the Royal Navy wouldn't have been sunk in anywhere near such numbers.

          'Defeat' for the RAF means that the fighters are pushed back north of the Thames. (The pilots were tired and numbers of pilots was a concern, but it was the damage to the airfields that was the critical factor).

          At this distance from the south coast, the single engined German fighters can't reach to escort the bombers. When the Germans tried bombing raids from Norway (escorted by twin-engined long range fighters) the raids got shot to pieces, and those raids were quickly discontinued.

          So the Germans can't destroy the RAF, since they can't hit the airfields in the midlands and the north.

          The RAF fighters pushed back to north of the Thames still means full RAF air cover to the Royal Navy down the majority of the east coast. Any German air attacks on the navy in transit are coming form Norway, and will suffer largely the same fate as the historical bombing attacks.

          With the RAF fighters operating from north of the Thames, they can still contest the air space over the south coast, so the German's can under no credible scenario achieve the level of air superiority the allies had over Normandy - and even in the 1944 Normandy landings, the Germans were able to put up some sorties.

          During Dunkirk, the German sank about half a dozen destroyers through air attack. Here, the Allied fighter cover was flying from Britain, and the Germans were probably based closer to their target than the British air cover was. Also the ships were typically stationary or moving slowly close to shore. In an anti-invasion scenario, the RN's destroyers are coming through the Channel at speed and manoeuvring sharply: much harder to hit.

          The effectiveness of air-power in the anti-shipping role achieved from mid-war onwards, particularly in the Pacific (generally with aeroplanes and weapons specifically designed for the task, with aircrew trained for the task) masks the much more limited effectiveness of air attack in anti-shipping operations achieved earlier in the war, when the attackers had been trained and equipped primarily to attack land targets.

      2. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

        > the Nazi bully meeting the first team rugby squad (Britain + commonwealth +empire) and doomed to getting a beating.

        Don't you think it strange that, later in the war, most of the German forces fought on the Eastern Front?

        1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

          Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

          No, not at all.

          Hitler's aim was ultimately always to the east. He tried to defeat Britain (+Empire, dominions, 'free' forces et al) before attacking east and failed. So he attacked east anyway.

          The armies of two genocidal dictators fighting a brutal war over a very long front line rather requires very large man power in the armies.

          But what the calculation of armies fighting on the Eastern front ignores is factors like the circa 300,00 troops that the Germans kept in Norway (including quite a few mountain troops, equipped and trained to fight in freezing conditions, who would have been really quite useful to have on the eastern front), who where there from 1940, a year before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, right until the end of the war, because Hitler feared (not unreasonably) that Britain (et al) would liberate Norway and cut of an important (possibly critical) supply of iron ore (coming from Sweden).

          Britain et al were waging a war of economics and industrial production: hardly surprising, it's what Britain has historically done.

          1. Man inna barrel

            Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

            That was a nice rational analysis of history. And possibly total bollocks. I am not sure what Adolf Hitler really intended out of the war he started. Rational is not a term I would apply to Adolf Hither.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

              Man inna barrel,

              Hitler may not have been rational. But his plan was always to conquer Russia and get living space in the east. It's not like he hid it, it's plain to read in Mein Kampf. Or as plain to read as anything is in that book, which is a mess - and not the easiest thing you'll ever read.

              He doesn't seem to have had anything against Britain. France had to be punished, and then it was off to conquer the "sub-human" slavs and build a thousand-year empire for Germany. At which point he retired to his private art gallery / model city of Linz, turned Berlin into some insane giant concrete nightmare and lived happily ever after.

              1. Man inna barrel

                Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

                Thanks for the history details. I just do not have time to read nasty stuff like Mein Kampf. It would just upset me. I am reading "The Open Society and Its Enemies", by Karl Popper. This is essential reading to prevent being infected by loony ideas. I thought I needed a booster injection.

                I have been reading stuff about Nietzsche's philosophy. He had this idea of the Ubermensch, or Superior Man. This was not a new idea of his. I believe the Superior Man idea exists in Confucian philosophy. I think the Nazis particularly perfected the idea of the Untermensch, or sub-human. The push towards the East could be seen as a rational military strategy, to gain more living room, and viewing slavic people as sub-human might make that easier to sell.

                The idea of the wicked Jews scheming against us does look like madness. In my very cosmopolitan part of Birmingham, I do not come across many Jews. I probably do meet Jews, but we do not make a fuss about it. I am happy with that.

                The concept of the sub-human is fundamental to slavery. Slavery is the use of your fellow humans as mere beasts, like dogs or cows or horses. This is still happening.

                1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                  Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

                  Man inna barrel,

                  Don't read Mein Kampf. Life's too short. Read Kershaw's book on Hitler instead, if you feel the need. Or Joachim Fest's.

                  One thing you've got to admire about Hitler, he used to have black forrest gateau for breakfast...

                  Some of the extreme racism was a product of its time. There was quite a lot of mainstream "science" in the 19th and early 20th Century that was trying to prove some kind of racial superiority. And that was one of the enabling factors. Hitler was also a bit of conspiracy loon - something that seems to be increasingly in fashion now. In his case it may have been a product of his various failures in his early life - or just the way his brain was wired.

                  But maybe it's also a function of always playing the victim card? Rather than saying I failed as an artist because I'm not actually that talented, why not blame a Jewish conspiracy. Or rather than saying that Germany got punished by Versailles for starting a massive destructive war and then refusing to make peace even though winning was looking increasingly (and bloodily) unlikely - you could complain about all its enemies being unfair and nasty. And rather than admitting Germany lost said massive war, why not blame the jews and the communists for "stabbing us in the back"? The conspiracy theories are much less painful - and require much less self-examination.

                  To go from there's a jewish / Bolshevik conspiracy to let's kill all the jews and communists in Europe is far beyond what my mind can comprehend - and no amount of reading on the subject seems to help me there. But then I struggle with the idea of casually accepting slavery as a normal thing - and yet humanity has practised slavery pretty uncontroversially for thousands of years. In Rome you could be a slave yourself and yet own property, including other slaves. Humans are weird.

          2. Mooseman Silver badge

            Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

            "ut what the calculation of armies fighting on the Eastern front ignores is factors like the circa 300,00 troops that the Germans kept in Norway (including quite a few mountain troops, equipped and trained to fight in freezing conditions, who would have been really quite useful to have on the eastern front), who where there from 1940, a year before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, right until the end of the war, because Hitler feared (not unreasonably) that Britain (et al) would liberate Norway and cut of an important (possibly critical) supply of iron ore (coming from Sweden)."

            And the vast number of soldiers etc he kept in Denmark to offset any invasion from the North.

      3. Man inna barrel

        Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

        I think Britain stood alone is fair. The Nazis conquered continental Europe with their highly effective blitzkrieg. Britain was next on the list. Who was there to help us? Yes, I appreciate that soldiers from India and other parts of the Commonwealth were very valuable to fight the Nazis, but the world has changed now. I actually do not mind living in a small country. Empires are a bloody nuisance, if you ask me.

    3. Death_Ninja

      Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

      True, but in summer 1940 the Common Wealth wasn't about to come under heavy air attack or stood waiting for a seaborne invasion.

      At that critical moment, everything hinged on the island holding out and critically the very moment hung on what Downding described as "Our young men will have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one."

      The power of the Empire would come to play later and ultimate wartime victory in Europe was only possible because of the weight, plus of course the industrial might of the USA and the sheer military muscle of the USSR.

      Allied victory is what was achieved, not British, not British Empire, not USA, not Soviet.

      Allied.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

        Precisely the critical moment. The domino that didn't fall & went on to create the greatest alliance of nations in history.

    4. Mark Billenness

      Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-British_personnel_in_the_RAF_during_the_Battle_of_Britain

      In a pretty factual acticle the second to last para makes some pretty bold statements about non-british personnel motivations. I'd like to see some justification, otherwise I'll assume that this was just pulled out of your a**.

      I'll assume that they risked (and some lost) their lives on the principle of opposing fascism/nazism.

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

      batfink,

      Tis true of course. And it's not like the Dominions were forced into it. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa got consulted as to whether they wanted to join the war. Although it should be pointed out that they were a lot further away that Britain.

      Also the largest volunteer army in history is the Indian Army of WWII.

    6. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Will you kindly stop with the "Britain alone" myth?

      I can definitely see how the citizens of the various dominions would be a bit cheesed about the "Britain stood alone" narrative. They were certainly not as strong individually or even together as Britain was, but Britain was not alone and the Dominions could have chosen not to join in the war. And of course there was the Empire, who got committed to war without the ability decide for themselves but definitely made big contributions.

  15. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Let's not forget the civilians

    It's certainly right to honor the various RAF and affiliated casualties, but lets also remember the many thousands of civilians in London and elsewhere and the couple hundred merchant mariners running convoys through the English Channel who died during the Battle of Britain.

    Fun story, my grandfather was doing some secret radio work as part of the British Post Office in London during the Battle of Britain and The Blitz. This was more for marine and aerial navigation than for the ULTRA effort. I'm not sure it was during the Battle of Britain or The Blitz, but early one morning he was alerted that the building his team was in had taken a bomb hit on the roof overnight. He rounded up his group and came in early and found that the bomb had cracked the walls, thrown furniture and glass around, knocked out the utilities and made a mess of the roof and top floor or two, but the building was still standing. Due to his group's involvement in the war effort, they just kind of matter-of-factly removed all their materials and equipment and carried it across the street to another building, and kicked the existing tenants out. I have cassette tapes about his war experiences that he left me and my siblings.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Let's not forget the civilians

      "I have cassette tapes about his war experiences that he left me and my siblings."

      I suggest you offer copies to the Imperial War Museum.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: Let's not forget the civilians

        Yes, I probably should. His brother got a copy of the tapes, and he donated those to the University of New Brunswick I believe.

    2. Man inna barrel

      Re: Let's not forget the civilians

      My father was an electronics wizard in WW2, building RADAR kit. I think he got the rank of Major in the Army. As far as I know, my Dad never shot any Germans, but maybe he knew where they were. I have still got some of Dad's valves. EF50: an RF pentode in an aluminium can. Do not use this valve in your electric guitar preamp, It his hopelessly microphonic.

  16. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    Most Secret War

    Anyone interested in WWII boffinry should track down a copy of "Most Secret War" by R.V. Jones:

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1127842.Most_Secret_War

    1. Death_Ninja

      Re: Most Secret War

      Mr Jones was indeed the most legendary "British backroom Bofin".

      Anyone who aspires to be a techno-geek should learn of his work.

  17. steamnut

    Post-War mistakes...

    After the war we ended giving away much of our precious IP as payment to the US for helping us. The jet engine, radar and computing were our inventions and we should have profited from them but we didn't.

    The computing knowledge we had was wrapped in the Official Secrets act for many years past their usefulness. Sadly this also prevented us recognising those heroes.

    Before the war we didn't even want Whittle's engine and allowed the Germans to exploit it. Later we traded jet engine IP to allow the flawed Comet to continue to fly but it was too late to save our aeroplane businesses.

    As we could not manufacture the magnetrons required for UHF radar, we lets the Americans make them which meant they has the IP yo exploit for themselves after the war.

    Then, the French, as ever, did not thank us for saving their asses again. They even spent years preventing us from joining the EU; unfortunately we persisted.

    We should have made the Germans pay; after all, as John Cleese said, "they started it!". Instead we helped them rebuild VW - go figure!

    1. Death_Ninja

      Re: Post-War mistakes...

      "We should have made the Germans pay"

      Oh that worked out so well previously didn't it.... or did you miss the compulsory school lesson on the origins of WW2?

    2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

      Re: Post-War mistakes...

      May I suggest you track down the recently shown 'War Factories' on Volkswagen and the VW beetle? (Assumes you have access to UK freeview).

      The VW factory /Beetle offered to both UK and US car manufacturers who rejected it. So factory put back into operation by the British Army to provide (i) German people with work to aid rebuilding the country and reduce risk of instability (ii) the British Army with a cheap and reliable vehicle for post-war occupation duties.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Post-War mistakes...

        Major Ivan Hirst I think. Started the modern Volkswagen.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Post-War mistakes...

        It is also educational to understand that the German industrial reconstruction was overseen by military personnel and not UK/US industrialists (think upper-class twits), who used the textbooks written by UK/US researchers, resulting in the creation of a very different ethos to that which has prevailed in the UK and USA...

        I seem to remember when Japan rebuilt, it too read the US/UK textbooks and implemented them...

    3. Joe Gurman

      Re: Post-War mistakes...

      It were all about not wanting them to go communist, weren't it?

      Then again the same argument was used in the highest counsels of the US government in 1954 about aiding the French in their debacle in Vietnam. "If Indochina falls, France will go communist." *Cough*

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Post-War mistakes...

      @"The jet engine, radar and computing" were also German inventions, I believe that Whittle made his jet engine in response to the German one, German ships had radar but on a different frequency (meaning that when they listened for the UK remote radio detaction they concluded, incorrectly, that they didn't. Computing, Germany also had although admittedly not the electronic implementation the UK learnt from valve based telephone exchanges.

      All in all it was a close thing that the Allies actually won, without the US and Hitler's dream of the UK being allowed to come in on their side at the start of the war given that both had fascism common.

      Hitlers dream was based upon the UK royal family and uppercrust, who were also fascists, saying that the UK would indeed join them at the right time. It was only Churchill's bombing of German civilians that changed Hitler's mind and caused the Germans to finally start attacking the UK troops marooned for weeks at Dunkirk, up until then Hitler apparantly was waiting for the UK to surrender as promised so he could recruit UK troops to his side.

      It cannot be said that Germany wanted to kill UK troops at the start of the war, it was only through Churchill's atrocities against Germans that forced Hitler to write the UK off.

      It has always been funny to me how Hitler was bad but churchill was good, at the start of the war Hitler was an idealist but Churchill was always a Cnut to anyone below him. Now the same policies that Hitler stood for (xenophobic hatred and cull the weak) are what the current Government and the tabloids used to push Brexit though. Thus whilst you say Hitler was bad you like his polices well enough

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Post-War mistakes...

        "It has always been funny to me how Hitler was bad but churchill was good, at the start of the war Hitler was an idealist but Churchill was always a Cnut to anyone below him."

        Oh please. Grow up you sad sack. Hitler was an "idealist"? Yes, if your ideals are mass murder, the oppression of millions of people and causing the deaths of millions more people. Idiot.

  18. M7S

    Appreciating and acknowledging some American help as well

    The Eagle Squadrons seem to have formed about the time the battle ended, so I am not able to inform you of their involvement however there is this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-British_personnel_in_the_RAF_during_the_Battle_of_Britain#United_States

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Appreciating and acknowledging some American help as well

      Prior to the eagle squadrons being formed a number of "Canadians" with very non canadian accents were scattered through regular RAF & RCAF units.

      1. Joe Gurman

        Re: Appreciating and acknowledging some American help as well

        "Premature antifascists" to a man.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Appreciating and acknowledging some American help as well

      The US did very well out of WW2, first selling to both sides and then profitting from the destuction of the European colonies. Add on getting dibs on pretty much anything they wanted from defeated Germany as well as raiding the Allies.

      I would say they pretty much thanked themselves to whatever they wanted during the period after the war going from great depression to the only Western Superpower in a couple of decades.

      ta for that pal

  19. John Jennings Bronze badge

    Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

    The BoB was fought (mostly) over land - and in inshore waters. British pilots could be rescued, German fighter pilots could not, usually. Britian had about 1000 active fighter pilots, versus around 1300 german fighter pilots (plus another 2000 bomber crews). A shot down plan had around 70% of british pilots ready to fly again within a week. on the German side - closer to 30%. Coastal rescue played a decisive role for the RAF.

    to add to this, the BF109 was fighting outside its effective range. a german fighter could remain on station in Kent for about 15 minutes provided it saw no action. Spitfires were designed round less effective range and carried less fuel - making it generally a little more agile. This agility was offset by the BF109 low level engine performance, with a superior supercharger and fuel injection system giving more than 200 HP prop power. The Spitfire excelled at high level anti-bomber work where the Rolls Royce engine could excel against medium bombers. The ME110 had the range, and straight line speed, but no manuverability worth a damn - being a twin engine boemoth of a fighter.

    The Hurricane, on the otherhand, was the mainstay of the RAF and polish forces - and accounted for more than half of the german fighters shot down. Not as pretty, though.

    Radar really played a role where the RAF could be targetted at bombers - avoiding fighter screens - while german fighter sweeps usually went unanswered.

    1. Death_Ninja

      Re: Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

      Radar could determine the difference between a bomber and a fighter in 1940?

      I didn't think it could actually.

      Actual enemy aircraft type identification was done by the Observer Corps - once it had come into sight.

      And both the Spit and the Hurricane were interceptors.... big type difference there - as they were to learn when Allied bombers needed fighter escorts later. Interceptors need to climb fast and be agile but be short ranged.

      "Fighter" is a generic term and not everything labelled such is useful for multiple air to air warfare types.

      Me110's were lousy air surpremacy fighters for example, but excellent night fighters. Same with the Mossie.... or even the Ju88!

      1. Mark Billenness

        Re: Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

        "Radar could determine the difference between a bomber and a fighter in 1940?"

        I can't find a reference, but I believe they could tell by the speed, as fighters flew faster on their own.

        1. Death_Ninja

          Re: Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

          Yes, I believe they could determine speed in some way, but that assumes someone wasn't flying slowly like a bomber...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

        > Actual enemy aircraft type identification was done by the Observer Corps - once it had come into sight.

        My dad was in the Observer Corps, aged 16. Office boy during the day; observer before and after work. Most times the planes could be identified by sound alone with visual sighting providing confirmation plus numbers, direction and altitude. Once he reached 18 he was conscripted into the Army and sent to North Africa, only to be shot while on patrol in no-mans-land after just a couple of months. He spent 18 months in hospital recovering and was invalided out.

        He claims that while in the field hospital, a US Major came round handing out Purple Hearts and he was all set to say "Thank-you sir" in his best American accent but the sergeant accompanying him realised in time that my dad was a "limey', so all he got was a "Get well soldier" or some such. ;-)

        Later he volunteered as a glider pilot for Arnhem but was rejected because of a partial paralysis in his foot. (He pointed out that Douglas Bader was allowed to fly but that didn't go down very well, apparently.)

        1. Man inna barrel

          Re: Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

          I am pretty sure that all RADAR could do in WW2 was spot aircraft of some kind, as distinct from a flock of birds, for example. This was very valuable, because fighter aircraft could get up into the air earlier, and shoot down the Luftwaffe bombers before they reached our shores.

    2. Joe Gurman

      Re: Battle of Britian - some of the forgotten bits.

      Weight alone didn't disqualify a twin-engine plane from being an effective fighter. Consider the P-38 Lightning, which weighed > 30% more than the Bf 110.... yet did a very creditable job of air-to-air combat, ground attack, and even bomber escort (that last until more appropriate/easier to fly at altitude aircraft were available). And P-38s killed Yamamoto.

  20. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Ironic Obit

    Wilhelm Messerschmitt died on 15/9/1978 - the anniversary of Battle of Britain day. I am confident Britain's armed forces are fully prepared to take on Germany when they start WWIII.

    When Gavin Williamson was defence secretary he threatened to deploy our aircraft carriers to intimidate China, despite having no aircraft. I suggested putting our remaining Spitfires on them as a gesture.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Ironic Obit

      Actually that freedom of the seas patrol in the Pacific was a cunning wheeze to borrow a couple of squadrons of US Marine aircraft.

      The plan was to have 2 RAF squadrons fully operational at that point, and then to borrow some Marines to do joint excercises / training. Seeing as they've been using the aircraft in carrier operations for longer, that's some good operational experience to be shared. Meanwhile we do them a favour in the Pacific, which is also good for our relations with Japan and Australia who have also been doing freedom-of-the-seas patrols in the South China Sea for the last year or so.

  21. Joe Gurman

    Technological edges

    They weren't all in the RAF's favo[u]r. The Spitfire in 1940 still had a simple carburetor[t]or rather than fuel injection, and so could suffer loss of power in high-g maneuvers such as.... a straight, node-down dive; the contemporary Luftwaffe fighters had fuel injection. Improved pressure carburetor[t]ors for the Spitfire were introduced in 1942.

    The use of carburetion was allegedly to produce more power at the supercharger. Someone must have licked that problem with fuel injection in the intervening decades, as my, er, Mexican-built "German" car has both fuel injection and a turbocharger.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Technological edges

      The Bf109, Spitfire and Hurricane were all similar in ability. Each had advantages and disadvantages. The Germans had cannon, which was probably their biggest plus - something the RAF didn't get in numbers until later.

      If you read about the air war in Europe advantage would swinging around wildly for the next couple of years. Both sides would make a new version of their plane, chuck it into service and give the enemy a nasty surprise when it could suddenly do things they'd learned weren't possible.

      1. Man inna barrel

        Re: Technological edges

        The Spiftire was without doubt a work of art, but my history tells me that the Hurricane was the real warhorse in WW2.

        The geometry and and design of the Spitfire are lovely, but did all that curvature make it a better warplane? There is an American warplane, called the A10, I think. It is ugly, old, heavy. and slow. But it does the business.

        I think there is a serious risk of military porn here, so I will stop now.

  22. WolfFan Silver badge

    Jamaica was not a dominion

    IIRC it was a Crown Colony. A large number of Jamaicans did fly in the RAF, but relatively few in Fighter Command (a prominent Fighter Command pilot was a future Prime Minister of Jamaica, another a prominent journalist, and one more a prominent academic) and of those few again relatively few in the BoB. A rather considerable number were in Bomber Command, though zero in 139 (Jamaica) Squadron, 139 got the tag after the Gleaner newspaper ran an appeal and raised the money to buy enough aircraft to form a squadron. And yes, the prominent journalist noted above worked for the Gleaner. The most famous Jamaican in Bomber Command would later defend Jomo Kenyatta in court and go on to be Minister of National Security in Jamaica. He’s still a hero in Kenya, not so much in Jamaica due to certain events while he was Minister, notably when several young men from the Prime Minister’s constituency made contact with people in the Army to get serious weapons, including two General Purpose Machine Guns. The young men and the soldiers went to an Army shooting range outside Kingston, allegedly to demonstrate the weapons. They were demonstrated, alright: on the young men. Oops. The Minister remarked, on the record, that, and I quote, “No angels died” at the range. This did not go down well. The Minister was also still in charge when a prominent ‘community activist’ (a major figure in the grass roots support of the party then in opposition) was killed by police. The autopsy showed 42 bullet wounds in his body, several located in places indicating that he had had his hands up when he was killed. That didn’t go down well either.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Magnetrons

    This may or may not be true!

    When I was doing my Radar training at RAF Locking in the 60s we had a couple of very entertaining civilian instructors. One was quite theatrical in his lectures.

    I remember one of his tales as to the reason the Brits got radar working properly before the Germans was that of German thoroughness and efficiency.

    He explained that as the Magnetron heated up it reached a point where it could go into thermal runaway and explode, and often did.

    He went on to say that the Germans lost several of their boffins because of exploding Magnetrons in the labs. All down to the fact (?) that the heater was soldered/welded/bolted to the heater supply.

    Here in Blighty, we only had crocodile clips.

    Once morning while the boffins were hiding behind their blast screens waiting for the bang, Gladys came in with the tea trolley and accidentally knocked one of the croc clips off.

    Drinking their tea afterwards and wondering why the big bang didn't happen, it was only then they realised the heater was only needed to get the thing to start. Once it was going it would run until its HT supplies were removed.

    English tea wins the war.

    At least that's what he told us - and we were only teenagers so what did we know?

    1. swm Silver badge

      Re: Magnetrons

      "the heater was only needed to get the thing to start"

      That is correct. Some of the electrons crash into the cathode and keep it warm. I have an old 1946 RADAR book from MIT that explains this.

  24. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Robert Watson-Watt

    Perfect name for a boffin.

  25. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Although Watson-Watt's Chain Home was important, it would have been useless without the Dowding System, an astonishingly efficient system for getting radar information to fighters in a matter of minutes. We've all seen it, possibly without knowing what was going on. Those young women were pushing around models showing enemy radar contacts. Meanwhile, other young women in a gallery were passing the information on to RAF bases. Of course both the Dowding System and Chain Home depended on each other, but it's arguable that the Dowding System was more truly innovative.

  26. Ivan Headache

    Spitfires and that engine sound

    From where I live in north-west London I can see Bentley Priory from my upstairs windows.

    Every year until a couple of years after RAF sold it (it's now an estate of executive houses), at about 1800 on 16th September I would hear that wonderful sound. Looking out, there would be a lone Spitfire performing aerobatics over the priory for about ten minutes.

    Did't hear anything today.

  27. Cynical Pie
    Pint

    Both or my grandfathers had involvement of sorts in the radar boffinry.

    One was an engineer/draughtsman who worked for Drayton (best known now for thermostatic radiator valves) in a reserved occupation making the valves and components for the radar sets that were handmade.

    The other was a radar operator in the RAF based in N France prior to Dunkirk. As the allies retreated towards Dunkirk he had to go behind enemy lines to help destroy radar equipment left behind and remove various components so that the Germans couldn't use them to reverse engineer their own versions of allied kit.

    He had to go was he was the only operator who understood how it actually worked and which bits to remove/destroy.

  28. Tempest

    There were some imports from the USA - Decca Navigator

    The Decca Navigator was the brainchild by an American, W (Bill). J. O'Brien as a method of measuring the ground speed of aircraft and he worked on the system independently from 1936 to 1939. Unsuccessfully interesting the US military, or the civil authorities, the concept lapsed until 1939. Not dissuaded, O'Brien contacted a fellow American, his friend H. F. Schwarz, who was resident in London, who contacted the War Office.

    O'Brien and Schwarz, with financial support from Decca, refined and proved it's viability. The British military expressed interest in the multi-frequency Decca system which, at this time, employed the GEE system and suffered from jamming.

    The concept of radio hyperbolic navigation was common knowledge in the 1930s, The GEE, Decca, Omega, Loran, CHAYKA & Alpha were all hyperbolic navigation systems.

    After the war Decca was to be found in aircraft and boats, both military and civilian. There were 2 Decca transmitter chains is use during the American War in VietNam. There remains only remnants of two of the original 6 transmitter station sites existent in VietNam (where I reside) today. During the Cold War tests with Decca, surreptitiously mounted in BOAC aircraft, were conducted on their Moscow routes for potential use in bombers.

    The Global Positioning System, and the EU, essentially killed off Decca. (See http://www.jproc.ca/hyperbolic/decca.html for more WW2 information on Decca)

  29. Man inna barrel

    Mad scientists.

    I grew up in Malvern, that was quite influential in the development of RADAR. My father worked on the electronics. There were some serious mad scientists. One was Dr Nichols (sp?). His usual attire was a green mini-skirt, purple tights, and a basket on his head. The thing is, this was all entirely rational. Skirts are more practical than trousers, he believed. A basket on the head avoids strain on the spine. It is possible that Dr Nichols may have suffered some brain damage from his RADAR research. I am told that he used to tune waveguides by looking down the tube, and filing the bits that made sparks.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020