File:The Most Dangerous Enemy.pdf


The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain


Stephen Bungay



Covers Build up to Battle of Britain (WWII), the battle and aftermath


Jul- Nov 1940, Britain won due to better leadership, strategy, and economic factors, not the perpetuated myth of heroics




· Despite his background, Bungay considers him militarily incompetent

· Rhetoric spun Britain into fighting to the last man 12

· Felt there is a fine line between policy disagreements with him and treason 13

· Considered this Battle the end of democracy if it failed

· Felt a shift in balance of power was a struggle for the fate of the world 26

· Engaged in deliberate myth-making

o “The Few” was not a few spitfires against hordes of bombers; it was that the only ones to save Britain were the pilots and their job is so technical no one understands it but them 21

o Stated EVERYONE was in favor of the war (lie) 21

o The PAST is threatened 24


· Held to an odd cult faith

o Dowding was a member of the Fairy Investigation Society[16] and of the Ghost Club. Although he knew that people considered him a crank for his belief in fairies, Dowding believed that fairies "are essential to the growth of plants and the welfare of the vegetable kingdom".[17]

· Sends a consistent message to Churchill not to send fighters to France

· Inskip bought him more fighters, but for defense, not bomber escort 59

· Opposed to Douhet, believed in the deterrence of the fighter

· In charge of Chain Home and Chain Home Low defensive IADS

o Simple structure with clear roles 65

o Enables fighter management 67

o Considered only pilots engaging the enemy were useful

o Weaknesses: unarmored sites and lack of sea-rescue

o Because of his efforts, the Luftwaffe rarely achieved surprise 235


· Not making mistakes is not easy, but easier than coming up with a brilliant masterstroke 117

o Core of Brit strategy

§ Continuous combat until the numbers games plays out 118

§ Took several years, attrition based

§ Carefully chose intercepts and avoid dangerous fighter sweeps 236

§ Use the range and persistence as advantage

§ Opposite of Mallory who wanted big wing-big battle

· Get out there and destroy them

· Puts his faith in the aircraft instead of defense


· Unable to accomplish their role 90

o Able to strike targets across the channel, but at high cost

German populace

· Widespread belief that civilians would panic 56

· Not the Brits though, only the enemy 56

· Italians dropped gas bombs on Abyssinia so Brits should consider it 57

· Believed AAA was more dangerous to you b/c of shells falling on your head 56


Goring 120

· Nazi = did not like competent people around him 38

· Air service had to be loyal to him for promotion etc. 8

· Avoided reality 38

· Just expected Air to be decisive without comprehensive planning 114

· Luftwaffe not run by a team, but individuals for their own glory

o Operation Eagle

§ Fly over England, drop bombs to annoy people, take out fighters on the way 125

§ Failed to agree on targets and tactics

· Failure as a leader

o Felt attacking radio stations was futile

o Felt attacking an airfield one day is all you need 219

o Withdrew Stukas (one of 2 precision bombing instruments as Luftwaffe disposal)

§ Changed bombing strategy]

· Germans miss and hit a church, Brits cry for vengeance and bomb Berlin, Hitler authorizes bombing of London

o Wanted to let each fighter unit fight how he saw fit 233

o Promoted Aces with very little rank 234

§ Scared to lose more old heads as many were dying due to his poor strategy 234


· Based strategy on better pilots and better tactics 125

o But had to get a 5:1 kill ratio to win

§ Needed large daily air battles 126

§ Instead Brits achieved 5:1 rations in their favor

o Some believed Brits would be neutralized in 2 to 4 weeks 152


· Admired British soldiers, statesman, institutions and Empire 27

o Wanted British ally or at least neutrality 30

o Believed in the next war Britain and Germany would fight against Communism 30

o Know that the Brits make friends and influence people to get their way 32

o Could have done a long siege, but opted for the quick decision 32

o Wanted Air Superiority with threat of invasion 32

· Op Sealion 112

o German Navy thought high command were out of their minds. Navy could not execute

§ Recent bombings saw nations capitulate, why not England? 32

· Like a Khong (601), bad analogy

· Didn't want to bomb London populace, but kept it as a Wildcard 217

· Interesting: Ghandi liked Hitler and thought he was a genius

· Wanted France and Russia with the Brits staying out of it 28

· Real goal: kill all Jews and gain Russian living space 29

· IRONIC: Hitler even believed Stalin’s anti-Semite regime was a Jewish plot 29

· 1935 announced the Luftwaffe as split from the Wermacht 37

· Sold lots of Mein Kampf copies, most people never read 29

What the Germans failed to consider

· Overestimation of light flak in England

o Drove the Luftwaffe bombers higher than required 188

· Repair and maintenance

o Factories easily replacing losses 201

· Radar

o Failed to exploit inability to detect low flying A/C 189

o Should have attacked the 10 detection stations on the Isle of Wight 236

· Fighter commands pilot losses relative to replacement rates 192

· Guernica lessons Germans should have learned

o Can't bomb bridges accurately 39

o Actual civil death toll ~300...reported ~2500

§ Useful for Hitler propaganda

o The fact that Germans lacked:

§ In aircraft production to match attrition rates

§ Leadership lacked skills to have industry do better

§ Industry did as they pleased (failure to communicate) 40

§ Industry short on raw materials and no prioritization plan

§ Large # of scientist left Germany for political reasons 41

§ Failed to exploit rockets and jet propulsion 44

§ Hitler cared about #s not size of bombers 45


o Crew training

§ Hitler didn't care, too impatient 40

§ Bomber pilots needed 2 yrs training 41

o C2 was lacking 42

§ Lacked VHF radios

· Tried to steal them from downed Brits 41

· Night flying based on radio comm advocate scoffed

o Caused alienation of the populace, but not a suitable means of breaking an opponent’s resistance

Some in-class notes ------

o Churchill balancing fighting with capitulation

o Why did he send fighter to France?

o As a political move to make it look like they have skin in the game

o Offense is based on who has the choice

o Air power is inherently offensive but can be used defensively


There are considerable limitations of a continental force

- Germany went against their nature and threw down with a weak, indecisive plan

-- Should have taken full advantage of technological advaces

Strategies should be analyzed in comparison with it's enemies strategy

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