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Key to RAF Silk Escape Map, Sheet D

Key to RAF Silk Escape Map, Sheet D


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Key to RAF Silk Escape Map, Sheet D

Here we see the key for one of the RAF's silk escape maps, in this case sheet D, covering the Belgium-German border, the south-east of France, south-west of Germany and most of Switzerland.

Donated by Mitchell Walters , son of Ian


The Second World War maps held at The National Archives were used by the War Office and other government departments in their record keeping.

Many of them are annotated or show other signs of use and wear.

Most of our Second World War maps form part of operational records or other files.

We hold very few separate sets of maps from the Second World War comparable to the trench maps and other operational map series from the First World War.

Most of these records are not viewable online. To view records which are not online you will need to visit The National Archives at Kew or pay for research.

Many other archives and libraries also hold Second World War military maps. See the section on maps held elsewhere.

Most of the maps used by British land and air forces were made by the Geographical Section, General Staff (GSGS). At the time, these maps were given reference numbers starting with the letters GSGS. Other sources may refer to specific maps by these GSGS numbers. Read more about GSGS in the background information section.

The National Archives holds many GSGS maps but we do not have complete or discrete sets of GSGS mapping from the Second World War period.


Blitzkrieg and the Allied collapse

The immediate context of the Dunkirk evacuation was Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries and northern France in May 1940. On May 10 the German blitzkrieg attack on the Netherlands began with the capture by parachutists of key bridges deep within the country, with the aim of opening the way for mobile ground forces. The Dutch defenders fell back westward, and by noon on May 12 German tanks were on the outskirts of Rotterdam. Queen Wilhelmina and her government left the country for England on May 13, and the next day the Dutch army surrendered to the Germans.

The invasion of Belgium also began on May 10, when German airborne troops landed on the fortress of Eben Emael, immediately opposite Maastricht, and on bridges over the Albert Canal. On May 11 the Belgian front was broken, and German tanks ran on westward while Belgian, French, and British divisions fell back to a line between Antwerp and Namur.

The German invasion of France hinged on Gen. Paul Ludwig von Kleist’s surprise advance through the hilly and dense Ardennes Forest. On May 10 German tanks crossed Luxembourg to the southeastern border of Belgium, and by the evening of May 12 the Germans were across the Franco-Belgian frontier and overlooking the Meuse River. The next day they crossed the Meuse, and on May 15 they broke through the French defenses into open country, turning westward in the direction of the English Channel. That same day, Gen. Henri Giraud assumed command of the French Ninth Army and drew up a plan for a counteroffensive on a line 25 miles (40 km) west of the Meuse. On May 16 Giraud found that the forces for such an undertaking were not available, while the Germans had advanced in strength far beyond that line. He now decided to withdraw to the line of the Oise, 30 miles (48 km) farther back, and to block the Germans there. Once again he was too late, for the German panzer divisions outran his retreating troops and were across that barrier on May 17.

Even if the French had been able to mount a counteroffensive, they would not have found it easy to crush the invader. Kleist’s southern flank was progressively lined by his motorized divisions, which in turn were relieved by the infantry corps that were marching on as fast as possible. This lining of the Aisne had an important indirect effect of playing on the most instinctive fear of the French. When, on May 15, French commander-in-chief Maurice Gamelin received an alarming report that the Germans were crossing the Aisne between Rethel and Laon, he told the government that he had no reserves between that sector and Paris and could not guarantee the security of the capital for more than a day. After Gamelin’s startling message, French Premier Paul Reynaud hastily decided to move the seat of government from Paris to Tours. By evening more reassuring reports had come from the Aisne, and Reynaud broadcast a denial of “the most absurd rumours that the government is preparing to leave Paris.” At the same time, he seized the opportunity to replace Gamelin and for that purpose summoned Gen. Maxime Weygand from Syria. Weygand did not arrive until May 19, and thus for three critical days the Supreme Command was without direction.

While Allied leaders were still hoping for an attack that would cut off the expanding “bulge,” German armoured forces raced to the Channel and cut off the Allied forces in Belgium. The remaining obstacles that could have blocked the advance were not manned in time. After crossing the Oise on May 17, German Gen. Heinz Guderian’s advance troops reached Amiens two days later. On May 20 they swept on and reached Abbeville, thus blocking all communications between north and south. By the next day motorized divisions had taken over the line of the Somme from Péronne to Abbeville, forming a strong defensive flank. Guderian’s corps then turned north up the coast in a drive for Calais and Dunkirk on May 22. Gen. Georg-Hans Reinhardt swung south of the British rear position at Arras, headed for the same objective—the last escape port that remained open for the British.


Contents

At the time of the formation of Bomber Command in 1936, Giulio Douhet's slogan "the bomber will always get through" was popular, and figures like Stanley Baldwin cited it. Until advances in radar technology in the late 1930s, this statement was effectively true. Attacking bombers could not be detected early enough to assemble fighters fast enough to prevent them reaching their targets. Some damage might be done to the bombers by AA guns, and by fighters as the bombers returned to base, but that was not as effective as a proper defence. Consequently, the early conception of Bomber Command was as an entity that threatened the enemy with utter destruction, and thus prevented war.

In 1936, Germany's increasing air power was feared by British government planners who commonly overestimated its size, reach and hitting power. Planners used estimates of up to 72 British deaths per tonne of bombs dropped, though this figure was grossly exaggerated. As well, the planners did not know that German bombing aircraft of the day (not quite 300 Junkers Ju 52 medium bombers) did not have the range to reach the UK with a load of bombs and return to the mainland. British air officers did nothing to correct these perceptions because they could see the usefulness of having a strong bombing arm. [4]

At the start of the Second World War in 1939, Bomber Command faced four problems. The first was lack of size Bomber Command was not large enough effectively to operate as an independent strategic force. The second was rules of engagement at the start of the war, the targets allocated to Bomber Command were not wide enough in scope. The third problem was the Command's lack of technology specifically radio or radar derived navigational aids to allow accurate target location at night or through cloud. (In 1938, E. G. "Taffy" Bowen proposed using ASV radar for navigation, only to have Bomber Command disclaim need for it, saying the sextant was sufficient. [5] ) The fourth problem was the limited accuracy of bombing, especially from high level, even when the target could be seen by the bomb aimer.

When the war began on 1 September 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the neutral United States, issued an appeal to the major belligerents to confine their air raids to military targets. [6] The French and British agreed to abide by the request, provided "that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents". [7] British policy was to restrict bombing to military targets and infrastructure, such as ports and railways which were of military importance. While acknowledging that bombing Germany would cause civilian casualties, the British government renounced deliberate bombing of civilian property (outside combat zones) as a military tactic. [8] The British abandoned this policy at the end of the "Phoney War", or Sitzkrieg, on 15 May 1940, one day after the Rotterdam Blitz.

The British government did not want to violate its agreement by attacking civilian targets outside combat zones and the French were even more concerned lest Bomber Command operations provoke a German bombing attack on France. Since the Armée de l'Air had few modern fighters and no defence network comparable to the British Chain Home radar stations, this left France powerless before the threat of a German bombing attack. The final problem was lack of adequate aircraft. The Bomber Command workhorses at the start of the war, the Vickers Wellington, Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Handley Page Hampden/Hereford, had been designed as tactical-support medium bombers and none of them had enough range or ordnance capacity for anything more than a limited strategic offensive.

Bomber Command became even smaller after the declaration of war. No. 1 Group, with its squadrons of Fairey Battles, left for France to form the Advanced Air Striking Force. This action had two aims: to give the British Expeditionary Force some air-striking power and to allow the Battles to operate against German targets, since they lacked the range to do so from British airfields.

In May 1940, some of the Advanced Air Striking Force was caught on the ground by German air attacks on their airfields at the opening of the invasion of France. The remainder of the Battles proved to be horrendously vulnerable to enemy fire. Many times, Battles would set out to attack and be almost wiped out in the process. Due to French paranoia about being attacked by German aircraft during the Phoney War, the Battle force had actually trained over German airspace at night.

Following the Rotterdam Blitz of 14 May, RAF Bomber Command was authorized to attack German targets east of the Rhine on 15 May the Air Ministry authorized Air Marshal Charles Portal to attack targets in the Ruhr, including oil plants and other civilian industrial targets which aided the German war effort, such as blast furnaces (which were visible at night). [9] [10] The first attack took place on the night of 15/16 May, with 96 bombers setting off to attack targets east of the Rhine, 78 of which were against oil targets. Of these, only 24 claimed to have found their targets. [11]

Bomber Command itself soon fully joined in the action in the Battle of Britain, Bomber Command was assigned to bomb invasion barges and fleets assembling in the Channel ports. This was much less public than the battles of the Spitfires and Hurricanes of RAF Fighter Command but still vital and dangerous work. From July 1940 to the end of the year, Bomber Command lost nearly 330 aircraft and over 1,400 aircrew killed, missing or captured.

Bomber Command was also indirectly responsible, in part at least, for the switch of Luftwaffe attention away from Fighter Command to bombing civilian targets. A German bomber on a raid got lost due to poor navigation and bombed London. Prime Minister Winston Churchill consequently ordered a retaliatory raid on the German capital of Berlin. The damage caused was minor but the raid sent Hitler into a rage. He ordered the Luftwaffe to level British cities, thus precipitating the Blitz. [12]

Like the United States Army Air Forces later in the war, Bomber Command had first concentrated on a doctrine of "precision" bombing in daylight. When the German defences inflicted costly defeats on British raids in late 1939, a switch to night bombing was forced upon the Command. The problems of enemy defences were then replaced with the problems of night navigation and target-finding. It was common in the early years of the war for bombers relying on dead reckoning navigation to miss entire cities. Surveys of bombing photographs and other sources published during August 1941, indicated that fewer than one bomb in ten fell within 5 miles (8.0 km) of its intended target. One of the most urgent problems of the Command was thus to develop navigational aids.

Bomber Command comprised a number of Groups. It began the war with Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Groups. No. 1 Group was soon sent to France and then returned to Bomber Command control after the evacuation of France. No. 2 Group consisted of light and medium bombers who, although operating both by day and night, remained part of Bomber Command until 1943, when it was removed to the control of Second Tactical Air Force, to form the light bomber component of that command. Bomber Command also gained two new groups during the war: the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadrons were organised into No. 6 Group and the Pathfinder Force was expanded to form No. 8 (Pathfinder) Group from existing squadrons.

Many squadrons and personnel from Commonwealth and other European countries flew in Bomber Command. No. 6 Group, which was activated on 1 January 1943, was unique among Bomber Command groups, in that it was not an RAF unit it was a Canadian unit attached to Bomber Command. At its peak strength, 6 Group consisted of 14 operational RCAF bomber squadrons and 15 squadrons served with the group. [13] [14] No. 8 Group, also known as the Pathfinder Force, was activated on 15 August 1942. It was a critical part of solving the navigational and aiming problems experienced. Bomber Command solved its navigational problems using two methods. One was the use of a range of increasingly sophisticated electronic aids to navigation and the other was the use of specialist Pathfinders. The technical aids to navigation took two forms. One was external radio navigation aids, as exemplified by Gee and the later highly accurate Oboe systems. The other was the centimetric navigation equipment H2S radar carried in the bombers. The Pathfinders were a group of elite, specially trained and experienced crews who flew ahead and with the main bombing forces and marked the targets with flares and special marker-bombs. No. 8 Group controlled the Pathfinder squadrons.

A number of other groups were part of the command, including, in June 1944, No. 26 Group RAF, three operational training groups - No. 91 Group RAF at Moerton Hall, Swinderby, which was merged into No. 21 Group RAF, part of RAF Flying Training Command, on 1 May 1947 [15] Nos 92 and 93 Groups and No. 100 Group RAF [16] (of which last was responsible for development, operational trial and use of electronic warfare and countermeasures equipment).

In 1941, the Butt Report revealed the extent of bombing inaccuracy: Churchill noted that "this is a very serious paper and seems to require urgent attention". [17] The Area Bombing Directive of 14 February 1942 ordered Bomber Command to target German industrial areas and the "morale of. the industrial workers". The directive also reversed the order of the previous year instructing Bomber Command to conserve its forces – this resulted in a large campaign of area bombardment against the Ruhr area. Professor Frederick Lindemann's "de-housing" paper of March identified the expected effectiveness of attacks on residential and general industrial areas of cities. The aerial bombing of cities such as the Operation Millennium raid on Cologne continued throughout the rest of the war, culminating in the controversial bombing of Dresden in 1945.

In 1942, the main workhorse-aircraft of the later part of the war came into service. The Halifax and Lancaster made up the backbone of the Command – they had a longer range, higher speed and much greater bomb load than earlier aircraft. Stirling and Wellington bombers were not taken out of service, but used on less demanding tasks such as mine-laying. The classic aircraft of the Pathfinders, the de Havilland Mosquito, also made its appearance. By 25 July 1943, the Bomber Command headquarters had come to occupy "a substantial set of red brick buildings, hidden in the middle of a forest on top of a hill in the English county of Buckinghamshire". [18]

An offensive against the Rhine-Ruhr area ("Happy Valley" to aircrew) began on the night of 5/6 March 1943, with the first raid of the Battle of the Ruhr on Essen. [19] [20] [21] The bombers destroyed 160 acres (0.65 km 2 ) of the city and hit 53 Krupps buildings. The Battle of Hamburg in mid-1943 was one of the most successful Bomber Command operations, although Harris' extension of the offensive into the Battle of Berlin failed to destroy the capital and cost his force more than 1,000 crews in the winter of 1943–44. In August 1943, Operation Hydra, the bombing of the Peenemünde V-2 rocket facility opened the secondary Operation Crossbow campaign against long-range weapons.

By April 1944, Harris was forced to reduce his strategic offensive as the bomber force was directed (much to his annoyance) to tactical and transport targets in France in support of the invasion of Normandy. The transport offensive proved highly effective. By late 1944, bombing such as Operation Hurricane (to demonstrate the capabilities of the combined British and US bomber forces), competed against the German defences. Bomber Command was now capable of putting 1,000 aircraft over a target without extraordinary efforts. Within 24 hours of Operation Hurricane, the RAF dropped about 10,000 tonnes of bombs on Duisburg and Brunswick, the greatest bomb load dropped in a day during the Second World War.

The peak of Bomber Command operations occurred in the raids of March 1945, when its squadrons dropped the greatest weight of bombs [ quantify ] for any month in the war. Wesel in the Rhineland, bombed on 16, 17, 18 and 19 February, was bombed again on 23 March, leaving the city "97 percent destroyed". The last raid on Berlin took place on the night of 21/22 April, when 76 Mosquitos made six attacks just before Soviet forces entered the city centre. By this point, most RAF bombing operations were for the purpose of providing tactical support. The last major strategic raid was the destruction of the oil refinery at Vallø (Tønsberg) in southern Norway by 107 Lancasters, on the night of 25/26 April.

Once the surrender of Germany had occurred, plans were made to send a "Very Long Range Bomber Force" known as Tiger Force to participate in the Pacific war against Japan. Made up of about 30 British Commonwealth heavy bomber squadrons, a reduction of the original plan of about 1,000 aircraft, the British bombing component was intended to be based on Okinawa. Bomber Command groups were re-organised for Operation Downfall but the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred before the force had been transferred to the Pacific.

In Europe Bomber Command's final operation was to fly released Allied prisoners of war home to Britain in Operation Exodus. [22]

Allied bombing of German cities killed between 305,000 and 600,000 civilians. [note 1]

  • Of the 600,000 about 80,000 were children in Hamburg, Juli 1943 in Der Spiegel Online 2003 (in German)
  • Twentieth Century Atlas – Death Tolls[23] lists the following totals and sources:
    • more than 305,000 (1945 Strategic Bombing Survey)
    • 400,000 Hammond Atlas of the 20th Century (1996)
    • 410,000 R. J. Rummel, 100 percent democidal
    • 499,750 Michael ClodfelterWarfare and Armed Conflict: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1618–1991
    • 593,000 John KeeganThe Second World War (1989)
    • 593,000 J. A. S. Grenville citing "official Germany" in A History of the World in the Twentieth Century (1994)
    • 600,000 Paul JohnsonModern Times (1983)</ref> One of the most controversial aspects of Bomber Command during World War II was the areabombing of cities. Until 1942 navigational technology did not allow for any more precise targeting than at best a district of a town or city by night bombing. All large German cities contained important industrial districts and so were considered legitimate targets by the Allies. New methods were introduced to create "firestorms". The most destructive raids in terms of casualties were those on Hamburg (45,000 dead) in 1943 and Dresden (25,000–35,000 dead) [24][25] ) in 1945. Each caused a firestorm and left tens of thousands dead. Other large raids on German cities which resulted in high civil casualties were Darmstadt (12,300 dead), Pforzheim (17,600 dead) [26] and Kassel (10,000 dead).

    Regarding the legality of the campaign, in an article in the International Review of the Red Cross it was held that,

    In examining these events [aerial area bombardment] in the light of international humanitarian law, it should be borne in mind that during the Second World War there was no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property, as the conventions then in force dealt only with the protection of the wounded and the sick on the battlefield and in naval warfare, hospital ships, the laws and customs of war and the protection of prisoners of war. [27]

    Bomber Command crews also suffered an extremely high casualty rate: 55,573 killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew (a 44.4 percent death rate), a further 8,403 were wounded in action and 9,838 became prisoners of war. This covered all Bomber Command operations including tactical support for ground operations and mining of sea lanes. [ clarification needed ] [28]

    A Bomber Command crew member had a worse chance of survival than an infantry officer in World War I more people were killed serving in Bomber Command than in the Blitz, or the bombings of Hamburg or Dresden. [28] By comparison, the US Eighth Air Force, which flew daylight raids over Europe, had 350,000 aircrew during the war and suffered 26,000 killed and 23,000 POWs. [28] Of the RAF Bomber Command personnel killed during the war, 72 percent were British, 18 percent were Canadian, 7 percent were Australian and 3 percent were New Zealanders. [29]

    Taking an example of 100 airmen:

    • 55 killed on operations or died as a result of wounds
    • three injured (in varying levels of severity) on operations or active service
    • 12 taken prisoner of war (some wounded)
    • two shot down and evaded capture
    • 27 survived a tour of operations [30]

    In total 364,514 operational sorties were flown, 1,030,500 tons of bombs were dropped and 8,325 aircraft lost in action.

    Harris was advised by an Operational Research Section (ORS-BC) under a civilian, Basil Dickins, supported by a small team of mathematicians and scientists. ORS-BC (under Reuben Smeed) was concerned with analysing bomber losses. They were able to influence operations by identifying successful defensive tactics and equipment, though some of their more controversial advice (such as removing ineffectual turrets from bombers to increase speed) was ignored. [31]

    The very high casualties suffered give testimony to the dedication and courage of Bomber Command aircrew in carrying out their orders. Statistically there was little prospect of surviving a tour of 30 operations and by 1943, one in six expected to survive their first tour and one in forty would survive their second tour. [32] The overall loss rate for Bomber Command operations was 2.2 percent, but loss rates over Germany were significantly higher from November 1943 – March 1944, losses averaged 5.1 percent. [33] The highest loss rate (11.8 percent) was incurred on the Nuremberg raid (30 March 1944). [34] The disparity in loss rates was reflected in the fact that, at times, Bomber Command considered making sorties over France only count as a third of an op towards the "tour" total and crews derisively referred to officers who only chose to fly on the less dangerous ops to France as "François". [35] [36] The loss rates excluded aircraft crashing in the UK on return, even if the machine was a write-off and there were crew casualties, which amounted to at least another 15 percent. [37] Losses in training were significant and some courses lost 25 percent of their intake before graduation 5,327 men were killed in training from 1939 to 1945. [38]

    Bomber Command had an overwhelming commitment to the strategic bombing offensive against Germany, and it seems appropriate to judge its contribution to the Allied war-effort primarily in that context. The ostensible aim of the offensive, breaking the morale of the German working class, must be considered a failure. The scale and intensity of the offensive was an appalling trial to the German people and the Hamburg attacks, particularly, profoundly shook the Nazi leadership. However, on balance, the indiscriminate nature of the bombing and the heavy civilian casualties and damage stiffened German resistance to fight to the end. In any case as Sir Arthur Harris put it, the Germans living under a savage tyranny were "not allowed the luxury of morale".

    Sir Arthur Harris himself believed that there was a relationship between tonnage dropped, city areas destroyed, and lost production. The effect of Bomber Command's attacks on industrial production is not so clear cut. The much better provided US survey was little concerned with the RAF area bombing campaign. It pointed to the great success of the USAAF's attacks on Germany's synthetic oil plants starting in the spring of 1944 – this had a crippling effect on German transportation and prevented the Luftwaffe from flying to anything like the order of battle that the aviation engine plants, parts and sub-assembly fabrication and final assembly manufacturing facilities Luftwaffe training and logistics could have otherwise sustained. Further, in going for targets they knew the Germans must defend, the new American escort fighters were able to inflict crippling losses on the Luftwaffe's fighter force. The RAF also made a great contribution to the oil offensive as its abilities to attack precision targets had greatly improved since the arrival of new navigation and target-finding instruments by mid-1944 it was also mounting huge bombing raids in daylight.

    Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister of Armaments, noted that the larger British bombs were much more destructive. 15 years after the war's end, Speer was unequivocal about the effect,

    The real importance of the air war consisted in the fact that it opened a second front long before the invasion in Europe . Defence against air attacks required the production of thousands of anti-aircraft guns, the stockpiling of tremendous quantities of ammunition all over the country, and holding in readiness hundreds of thousands of soldiers, who in addition had to stay in position by their guns, often totally inactive, for months at a time . No one has yet seen that this was the greatest lost battle on the German side.

    In terms of production decrease resulting from the RAF area attacks, the US survey, based upon limited research, found that in 1943 it amounted to 9 percent and in 1944 to 17 percent. Relying on US gathered statistics, the British survey found that actual arms production decreases were a mere 3 percent for 1943, and 1 percent for 1944. However they did find decreases of 46.5 percent and 39 percent in the second half of 1943 and 1944 respectively in the metal processing industries. These losses resulted from the devastating series of raids the Command launched on the Ruhr Valley. A contrasting view was offered by Adam Tooze (2006) that by referring to contemporary sources rather than post-war accounts

    there can be no doubt that the Battle of the Ruhr marked a turning point in the history of the German war economy . [41]

    and that in the first quarter of 1943 steel production fell by 200,000 tons, leading to cuts in the German ammunition production programme and a Zulieferungskrise (sub-components crisis). German aircraft output did not increase between July 1943 and March 1944.

    Bomber command had stopped Speer's armaments miracle in its tracks. [41]

    This apparent lack of success is accounted for in several ways. The German industrial economy was so strong, its industrial bases so widely spread, that it was a hopeless task to try and crush it by area bombing. Further, up until 1943 it is undoubtedly the case that Germany was not fully mobilised for war, Speer remarked that single shift factory working was commonplace, and so there was plenty of slack in the system. It has been argued that the RAF campaign placed a limit on German arms production. This may be true but it is also the case that the German forces did not run out of arms and ammunition and that it was manpower that was a key limiting factor, as well as the destruction of transport facilities and the fuel to move.

    Some positive points should be made. The greatest contribution to winning the war made by Bomber Command was in the huge diversion of German resources into defending the homeland this was very considerable indeed. By January 1943 some 1,000 Luftwaffe night fighters were committed to the defence of the Reich – mostly twin engined Bf 110 and Ju 88. Most critically, by September 1943, 8,876 of the deadly, dual purpose 88 mm guns were also defending the homeland with a further 25,000 light flak guns – 20/37 mm. Though the 88mm gun was an effective AA weapon, it was also a deadly destroyer of tanks, and lethal against advancing infantry. These weapons would have done much to augment German anti-tank defences on the Russian front.

    To man these weapons the flak regiments in Germany required some 90,000 fit personnel, and a further 1 million were deployed in clearing up and repairing the vast bomb-damage caused by the RAF attacks. This diversion to defensive purposes of German arms and manpower was an enormous contribution made by RAF Bomber Command to winning the war. By 1944 the bombing offensive was costing Germany 30 percent of all artillery production, 20 percent of heavy shells, 33 percent of the output of the optical industry for sights and aiming devices and 50 percent of the country's electro-technical output which had to be diverted to the anti-aircraft role. From the British perspective, the RAF offensive made a great contribution in sustaining morale during the dark days of the war, especially during the bleak winter of 1941–42. It was the only means that Britain possessed of taking the war directly to the enemy at that time.

    Bomber Command acquired B-29 Superfortresses – known to the RAF as Boeing Washingtons – to supplement the Avro Lincoln, a development of the Lancaster. The first jet bomber, the English Electric Canberra light bomber, became operational in 1951. Some Canberras remained in RAF service up to 2006 as photo-reconnaissance aircraft. The model proved an extremely successful aircraft Britain exported it to many countries and licensed it for construction in the United States [43] and in Australia. The joint US-UK Project E was made nuclear weapons available to Bomber Command in an emergency, with the Canberras the first aircraft to benefit. The next jet bomber to enter service was the Vickers Valiant in 1955, the first of the V bombers.

    The Air Ministry conceived of the V bombers as the replacement for the wartime Lancasters and Halifaxes. Three advanced aircraft were developed from 1946, along with the Short Sperrin fall-back design. Multiple designs were tried out because no one could predict which designs would be successful at the time. The V bombers became the backbone of the British nuclear forces and comprised the Valiant, Handley Page Victor (in service in 1958) and Avro Vulcan (1956). [44] [45]

    In 1956 Bomber Command faced its first operational test since the Second World War. The Egyptian Government nationalised the Suez Canal in July 1956, and British troops took part in an invasion along with French and Israeli forces. During the Suez Crisis, Britain deployed Bomber Command Canberras to Cyprus and Malta and Valiants to Malta. The Canberra performed well but the Valiant had problems, since it had only just been introduced into service. The Canberras proved vulnerable to attack by the Egyptian Air Force, which fortunately did not choose to attack the crowded airfields of Cyprus (RAF Akrotiri and RAF Nicosia holding nearly the whole RAF strike force, with a recently reactivated and poor-quality airfield taking much of the French force). Over 100 Bomber Command aircraft took part in operations against Egypt. By Second World War standards, the scale of attack was light.

    Between 1959 and 1963, in addition to manned aircraft, Bomber Command also gained 60 Thor nuclear intermediate-range ballistic missiles dispersed to 20 RAF stations around Britain in a joint UK-US operation known as Project Emily. During the following twelve years, Bomber Command aircraft frequently deployed overseas to the Far East and Middle East. They served particularly as a deterrent to Sukarno's Indonesia during the Konfrontasi. A detachment of Canberras had a permanent base at Akrotiri in Cyprus in support of CENTO obligations.

    Britain tested its first atomic bomb in 1952 and exploded its first hydrogen bomb in 1957. Operation Grapple saw Valiant bombers testing the dropping of hydrogen bombs over Christmas Island. Advances in electronic countermeasures were also applied to the V bombers over the same period and the remaining V bombers came into service in the late 1950s. [46] During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, Bomber Command aircraft maintained continuous strip alerts, ready to take off at a moment's notice, and the Thor missiles were maintained at advanced readiness. The Prime Minister did not disperse Bomber Command aircraft to satellite airfields, lest that be viewed as an aggressive step.

    By the early 1960s doubts emerged about the ability of Bomber Command to pierce the defences of the Soviet Union. The shooting down of a U-2 spyplane in 1960 confirmed that the Soviet Union did have surface-to-air missiles capable of reaching the heights at which bombers operated. Since the Second World War the philosophy of bombing had involved going higher and faster. With the supersession of high and fast tactics, ultra-low-level attack was substituted. Bomber Command aircraft had not been designed for that kind of attack, and airframe fatigue increased. All Valiants were grounded in October 1964 and permanently withdrawn from service in January 1965. Low-level operations also reduced the lifespan of the Victors and Vulcans.

    Bomber Command's other main function was to provide tanker aircraft to the RAF. The Valiant was the first bomber used as a tanker operationally. As high-level penetration declined as an attack technique, the Valiant saw more and more use as a tanker until the retirement of the type in 1965 due to the costs of remediating metal fatigue. With the Victor also unsuited to the low-level role six were converted to tankers to replace the Valiants, before the later conversion of the majority of Victors to tankers. The Vulcan also saw service as a tanker, but only in an improvised conversion during the Falklands War of 1982. Ironically, in the tanker role, the Victor not only outlived Bomber Command, but also all the other V bombers by nine years.

    In a further attempt to make the operation of the bomber force safer, attempts were made to develop stand-off weapons, with which capability the bombers would not have to penetrate Soviet airspace. However, efforts to do so had only limited success. The first attempt involved the Blue Steel missile (in service: 1963–1970). It worked, but its range meant that bombers still had to enter Soviet airspace. Longer-range systems were developed, but failed and/or were cancelled. This fate befell the Mark 2 of the Blue Steel, its replacement, the American Skybolt ALBM and the ground-based Blue Streak programme.

    However, attempts to develop a stand-off nuclear deterrent eventually succeeded. Britain procured American Polaris missiles and built Royal Navy submarines to carry them. The modern form of the British nuclear force was thus essentially reached. Royal Navy submarines relieved the RAF of the nuclear deterrent mission in 1969, but by that point, Bomber Command no longer existed.

    RAF Fighter Command and Bomber Command merged in 1968 to form Strike Command. RAF Coastal Command followed in November 1969.

    Bomber Command took time to attain full effectiveness in the Second World War, but with the development of better navigation and aircraft it proved highly destructive. The massed attacks of Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force compelled Germany to devote considerable resources to air defence instead of pursuing its primary war aims. Postwar, it carried Britain's nuclear deterrent through a difficult period.

    At any one time several air officers served on the staff of Bomber Command and so the overall commander was known as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, the most well-known being Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris. The Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief are listed below with the rank which they held whilst in post.


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    Civilization describes a complex way of life characterized by urban areas, shared methods of communication, administrative infrastructure, and division of labor.

    Arts and Music, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, Civics, World History

    Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie

    Cradle of Civilization
    The southern part of the modern country of Iraq is called the "Cradle of Civilization." The worlds first cities, writing systems, and large-scale government developed there.

    World Powers
    The so-called "Group of 7" (G7) is an organization of the seven wealthiest democracies in the world. Seven of the eight countries are part of Western civilization: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. The only G7 member from outside Western civilization is Japan. Japan is usually considered its own civilization.

    Representatives from the G7 usually meet once a year, and discuss international issues, including the spread of disease, economic development, terrorism, and climate change.

    to desert or leave entirely.

    sudden or quickly changing.

    to oversee, manage, or be in charge of.

    responsibilities and policies of the executive branch of the United States government, led by a president, his or her cabinet, and his or her advisers.

    the art and science of cultivating land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    system of writing in which each symbol ideally represents one sound unit in the spoken language.

    organism from whom one is descended.

    civilization founded on the Mediterranean Sea, lasting from the 8th century BCE to about 476 CE.

    to add or incorporate land into an existing parcel, state, or nation.

    person who studies cultures and characteristics of communities and civilizations.

    a pipe or passage used for carrying water from a distance.

    numeric symbols 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, introduced to Western Europe by Arabic scholars in the 12 th century.

    style and design of buildings or open spaces.

    rectangular reservoir or artificial lake that is a key feature in Khmer architecture.

    carving or sculpture in which figures project slightly from a flat background.

    statement of money owed for goods or services.

    natural or artificial line separating two pieces of land.

    time period between the Stone Age and the Iron Age. The Bronze Age lasted between 3000 BCE and 500 BCE.

    person who follows the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).

    city where a region's government is located.

    group of people who travel together for safety and companionship through difficult territory.

    program of a nation, state, or other region that counts the population and usually gives its characteristics, such as age and gender.

    physical, cultural, or psychological feature of an organism, place, or object.

    religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

    division in society based on income and type of employment.

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

    dark, solid fossil fuel mined from the earth.

    design consisting of a shield, supporters, crest, and motto, representing an individual, family, state, or organization.

    sharing of information and ideas.

    to work against someone or something else for an award or acknowledgment.

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    Spanish explorer or conqueror of Latin America in the 16th century.

    maintaining a steady, reliable quality.

    one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

    to prepare and nurture the land for crops.

    sharing and communication between cultures, resulting in the adoption of new or borrowed behaviors.

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    written language developed by Sumerians and common throughout ancient Mesopotamia, made up of different collections of wedge or triangle shapes.

    money or other resource that can be used to buy goods and services.

    having to do with the social characteristics and statistics of a population.

    to become smaller or less important.

    harmful condition of a body part or organ.

    period of greatly reduced precipitation.

    possibly fatal disease with severe, bloody diarrhea.

    performing a task with skill and minimal waste.

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    the art and science of building, maintaining, moving, and demolishing structures.

    data that can be measured, observed, examined, and analyzed to support a conclusion.

    study and investigation of unknown places, concepts, or issues.

    rare and severe events in the Earth's atmosphere, such as heat waves or powerful cyclones.

    spread over a great distance.

    the art, science, and business of cultivating the land for growing crops.

    to overflow or cover in water or another liquid.

    to thrive or be successful.

    food that can be prepared, stored, and eaten throughout the year.

    region at the intersection of four states in the U.S. Southwest: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

    time between an organism's birth and the time it reproduces.

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    large island in Western Europe consisting of the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales.

    food or other goods sold at a general store.

    eight wealthiest nations in the world: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, and Canada. The European Union is also included in the G8.

    period in the year when crops and other plants grow rapidly.

    sometimes-lethal viral infection (including dengue, Ebola, and yellow fevers) characterized by fever, chills, and malaise followed by bleeding.

    written language using images to represent words.

    religion of the Indian subcontinent with many different sub-types, most based around the idea of "daily morality."

    confrontational or unfriendly.

    the study of the way human communities and systems interact with their environment.

    science and methods of keeping clean and healthy.

    wages, salary, or amount of money earned.

    wages, salary, or amount of money earned.

    landmass in south-central Asia carried by the Indian tectonic plate, including the peninsula of India.

    structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.

    cleverness or resourcefulness.

    starting and stopping, not consistent.

    an attack or move to take possession.

    watering land, usually for agriculture, by artificial means.

    religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

    (600-1200) time period when science and art flourished in north Africa and the Middle East, where the Islamic religion is widely practiced.

    hard, white substance that forms the teeth or tusks of some animals.

    group of people selected to determine facts in a specific case.

    knotted cord used by the ancient Incan Empire to record events, census data, and accounts. Also spelled quipu.

    type of government with a king or queen as its leader, or the land ruled by that king or queen.

    language of ancient Rome and the Roman Empire.

    material, ideas, or history passed down or communicated by a person or community from the past.

    animals raised for sale and profit.

    fertile soil rich in sand, silt, and smaller amounts of clay.

    region in North Africa made of five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania.

    having to do with the ocean.

    having to do with the Middle Ages (500-1400) in Europe.

    land that surrounds the Mediterranean Sea.

    person who sells goods and services.

    ancient region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, today lying mostly in Iraq.

    people and culture characterized by incomes between the working class and the wealthy.

    to move from one place or activity to another.

    to move from one place or activity to another.

    movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

    incorrect or ignorant use of resources.

    trench around a castle, filled with water, to prevent or delay attack or invasion.

    seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing winds of a region. Monsoon usually refers to the winds of the Indian Ocean and South Asia, which often bring heavy rains.

    large structure representing an event, idea, or person.

    very large, serious, and important.

    legend or traditional story.

    an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.

    black glass formed as lava cools above ground.

    settlement or station located in a remote area.

    layers of partially decayed organic material found in some wetlands. Peat can be dried and burned as fuel.

    carving or drawing on rock.

    having a belief in many gods and goddesses.

    people and culture characterized by very low income.

    settlement with many residents, often an urban area.

    branch of life science that studies patterns in the size and age of specific populations.

    style of loud, energetic music.

    three-dimensional shape with a square base and triangular sides that meet in a point.

    to stand for a person, community, or idea.

    system of government where power rests in citizens who vote and representatives who stand for those citizens. The United States is a republic.

    the act of opposing something.

    spoken and written forms of communication that share a root in the Latin language: Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, and Romanian.

    legal system of ancient Rome, mostly associated with the emperor Justinian, and adapted by most of Europe through the 18 th century.

    regions with low population density and large amounts of undeveloped land. Also called "the country."

    promotion of hygiene, health, and cleanliness.

    overflowing of a body of water from its banks, usually predicted by yearly rains or storms.

    type of slave forced to work on land owned by others in return for protection.

    place of worship or spiritual devotion.

    soft, strong fiber spun by some moth larvae, spiders, and other animals.

    ancient trade route through Central Asia linking China and the Mediterranean Sea.

    top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

    to study, work, or take an interest in one area of a larger field of ideas.

    tasty and aromatic plant substances used in cooking.

    more than what is needed or wanted.

    money or goods citizens provide to government in return for public services such as military protection.

    the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

    land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.

    to develop and be successful.

    person who travels for pleasure.

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    path followed by merchants or explorers to exchange goods and services.

    stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.

    ocean waves triggered by an earthquake, volcano, or other movement of the ocean floor.

    having to do with city life.

    developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.

    seafaring people and culture native to Scandinavia between the 7th and 12th centuries.

    having to do with volcanoes.

    an opening in the Earth's crust, through which lava, ash, and gases erupt, and also the cone built by eruptions.

    armed conflict between two or more groups of people, usually representing different nations or other political organizations.

    transported or carried by water.

    civilizations of European origin.

    area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

    location recognized by the United Nations as important to the cultural or natural heritage of humanity.

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    Mesopotamia

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    Silk Road

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    Chimú 101

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    Contents

    In September 1939, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the United Kingdom sent the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to aid in the defence of France, landing at Cherbourg, Nantes, and Saint-Nazaire. By May 1940 the force consisted of ten divisions in three corps under the command of General John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort. [10] [11] Working with the BEF were the Belgian Army and the French First, Seventh, and Ninth Armies. [12]

    During the 1930s, the French had constructed the Maginot Line, a series of fortifications along their border with Germany. This line had been designed to deter a German invasion across the Franco-German border and funnel an attack into Belgium, which could then be met by the best divisions of the French Army. Thus, any future war would take place outside of French territory, avoiding a repeat of the First World War. [13] [14] The area immediately to the north of the Maginot Line was covered by the heavily wooded Ardennes region, [15] which French General Philippe Pétain declared to be "impenetrable" as long as "special provisions" were taken. He believed that any enemy force emerging from the forest would be vulnerable to a pincer attack and destroyed. The French commander-in-chief, Maurice Gamelin, also believed the area to be of a limited threat, noting that it "never favoured large operations". [16] With this in mind, the area was left lightly defended. [13]

    The initial plan for the German invasion of France called for an encirclement attack through the Netherlands and Belgium, avoiding the Maginot Line. [17] Erich von Manstein, then Chief of Staff of the German Army Group A, prepared the outline of a different plan and submitted it to the OKH (German High Command) via his superior, Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt. [18] [19] Manstein's plan suggested that panzer divisions should attack through the Ardennes, then establish bridgeheads on the Meuse River and rapidly drive to the English Channel. The Germans would thus cut off the Allied armies in Belgium. This part of the plan later became known as the Sichelschnitt ("sickle cut"). [19] [20] Adolf Hitler approved a modified version of Manstein's ideas, today known as the Manstein Plan, after meeting with him on 17 February. [21]

    On 10 May, Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands. [22] Army Group B, under Generaloberst Fedor von Bock, attacked into Belgium, while the three panzer corps of Army Group A under Rundstedt swung around to the south and drove for the Channel. [23] The BEF advanced from the Belgian border to positions along the River Dyle within Belgium, where they fought elements of Army Group B starting on 10 May. [24] [25] They were ordered to begin a fighting withdrawal to the Scheldt River on 14 May when the Belgian and French positions on their flanks failed to hold. [26] During a visit to Paris on 17 May, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was astonished to learn from Gamelin that the French had committed all their troops to the ongoing engagements and had no strategic reserves. [27] On 19 May, Gort met with French General Gaston Billotte, commander of the French First Army and overall coordinator of the Allied forces. Billotte revealed that the French had no troops between the Germans and the sea. Gort immediately saw that evacuation across the Channel was the best course of action, and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest location with good port facilities. [28] Surrounded by marshes, Dunkirk boasted old fortifications and the longest sand beach in Europe, where large groups could assemble. [29] On 20 May, on Churchill's suggestion, the Admiralty began arranging for all available small vessels to be made ready to proceed to France. [30] After continued engagements and a failed Allied attempt on 21 May at Arras to cut through the German spearhead, [31] the BEF was trapped, along with the remains of the Belgian forces and the three French armies, in an area along the coast of northern France and Belgium. [32] [33]

    Without informing the French, the British began planning on 20 May for Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the BEF. [29] [30] This planning was headed by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay at the naval headquarters below Dover Castle, from which he briefed Churchill as it was under way. [34] Ships began gathering at Dover for the evacuation. [35] On 20 May, the BEF sent Brigadier Gerald Whitfield to Dunkirk to start evacuating unnecessary personnel. Overwhelmed by what he later described as "a somewhat alarming movement towards Dunkirk by both officers and men", due to a shortage of food and water, he had to send many along without thoroughly checking their credentials. Even officers ordered to stay behind to aid the evacuation disappeared onto the boats. [36]

    On 22 May, Churchill ordered the BEF to attack southward in coordination with the French First Army under General Georges Blanchard to reconnect with the remainder of the French forces. [37] This proposed action was dubbed the Weygand Plan after General Maxime Weygand, appointed Supreme Commander after Gamelin's dismissal on 18 May. [38] On 25 May, Gort had to abandon any hope of achieving this objective and withdrew on his own initiative, along with Blanchard's forces, behind the Lys Canal, part of a canal system that reached the sea at Gravelines. [39] Sluice gates had already been opened all along the canal to flood the system and create a barrier (the Canal Line) against the German advance. [40]

    Battle of Dunkirk Edit

    By 24 May, the Germans had captured the port of Boulogne and surrounded Calais. [32] The engineers of the 2nd Panzer Division under Generalmajor Rudolf Veiel built five bridges over the Canal Line and only one British battalion barred the way to Dunkirk. [42] On 23 May, at the suggestion of Fourth Army commander Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge, Rundstedt had ordered the panzer units to halt, concerned about the vulnerability of his flanks and the question of supply to his forward troops. [43] [44] [45] [46] He was also concerned that the marshy ground around Dunkirk would prove unsuitable for tanks and he wished to conserve them for later operations (in some units, tank losses were 30–50 per cent). [47] [48] Hitler was also apprehensive, and on a visit to Army Group A headquarters on 24 May, he endorsed the order. [47] [46]

    Air Marshal Hermann Göring urged Hitler to let the Luftwaffe (aided by Army Group B [49] ) finish off the British, to the consternation of General Franz Halder, who noted in his diary that the Luftwaffe was dependent upon the weather and aircrews were worn out after two weeks of battle. [50] Rundstedt issued another order, which was sent uncoded. It was picked up by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Y service intelligence network at 12:42: "By order of the Fuhrer . attack north-west of Arras is to be limited to the general line Lens–Bethune–Aire–St Omer–Gravelines. The Canal will not be crossed." [51] [52] Later that day, Hitler issued Directive 13, which called for the Luftwaffe to defeat the trapped Allied forces and stop their escape. [53] At 15:30 on 26 May, Hitler ordered the panzer groups to continue their advance, but most units took another 16 hours to attack. [54] The delay gave the Allies time to prepare defences vital for the evacuation and prevented the Germans from stopping the Allied retreat from Lille. [55]

    The halt order has been the subject of much discussion by historians. [56] [57] Guderian considered the failure to order a timely assault on Dunkirk to be one of the major German mistakes on the Western Front. [58] Rundstedt called it "one of the great turning points of the war", [59] and Manstein described it as "one of Hitler's most critical mistakes". [60] B. H. Liddell Hart interviewed many of the generals after the war and put together a picture of Hitler's strategic thinking on the matter. Hitler believed that once Britain's troops left continental Europe, they would never return. [61] [ page needed ]

    26–27 May Edit

    The retreat was undertaken amid chaotic conditions, with abandoned vehicles blocking the roads and a flood of refugees heading in the opposite direction. [62] [63] Due to wartime censorship and the desire to keep up British morale, the full extent of the unfolding disaster at Dunkirk was not initially publicised. A special service attended by King George VI was held in Westminster Abbey on 26 May, which was declared a national day of prayer. [64] [65] The Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers "for our soldiers in dire peril in France". Similar prayers were offered in synagogues and churches throughout the UK that day, confirming to the public their suspicion of the desperate plight of the troops. [66] Just before 19:00 on 26 May, Churchill ordered Dynamo to begin, by which time 28,000 men had already departed. [29] Initial plans called for the recovery of 45,000 men from the BEF within two days, at which time German troops were expected to block further evacuation. Only 25,000 men escaped during this period, including 7,669 on the first day. [67] [68]

    On 27 May, the first full day of the evacuation, one cruiser, eight destroyers, and 26 other craft were active. [69] Admiralty officers combed nearby boatyards for small craft that could ferry personnel from the beaches out to larger craft in the harbour, as well as larger vessels that could load from the docks. An emergency call was put out for additional help, and by 31 May nearly four hundred small craft were voluntarily and enthusiastically taking part in the effort. [70]

    The same day, the Luftwaffe heavily bombed Dunkirk, both the town and the dock installations. As the water supply was knocked out, the resulting fires could not be extinguished. [71] An estimated thousand civilians were killed, one-third of the remaining population of the town. [72] RAF squadrons were ordered to provide air supremacy for the Royal Navy during evacuation. Their efforts shifted to covering Dunkirk and the English Channel, protecting the evacuation fleet. [73] The Luftwaffe was met by 16 squadrons of the RAF, who claimed 38 kills on 27 May while losing 14 aircraft. [71] [74] Many more RAF fighters sustained damage and were subsequently written off. On the German side, Kampfgeschwader 2 (KG 2) and KG 3 suffered the heaviest casualties. German losses amounted to 23 Dornier Do 17s. KG 1 and KG 4 bombed the beach and harbour and KG 54 sank the 8,000-ton steamer Aden. Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers sank the troopship Cote d' Azur. The Luftwaffe engaged with 300 bombers which were protected by 550 fighter sorties and attacked Dunkirk in twelve raids. They dropped 15,000 high explosive and 30,000 incendiary bombs, destroying the oil tanks and wrecking the harbour. [75] No. 11 Group RAF flew 22 patrols with 287 aircraft this day, in formations of up to 20 aircraft. [76]

    Altogether, over 3,500 sorties were flown in support of Operation Dynamo. [74] The RAF continued to inflict a heavy toll on the German bombers throughout the week. Soldiers being bombed and strafed while awaiting transport were for the most part unaware of the efforts of the RAF to protect them, as most of the dogfights took place far from the beaches. As a result, many British soldiers bitterly accused the airmen of doing nothing to help, reportedly leading to some army troops accosting and insulting RAF personnel once they returned to England. [41]

    On 25 and 26 May, the Luftwaffe focused their attention on Allied pockets holding out at Calais, Lille, and Amiens, and did not attack Dunkirk. [72] Calais, held by the BEF, surrendered on 26 May. [77] Remnants of the French First Army, surrounded at Lille, fought off seven German divisions, several of them armoured, until 31 May, when the remaining 35,000 soldiers were forced to surrender after running out of food and ammunition. [78] [79] The Germans accorded the honours of war to the defenders of Lille in recognition of their bravery. [80]

    28 May – 4 June Edit

    The Belgian Army surrendered on 28 May, [81] leaving a large gap to the east of Dunkirk. Several British divisions were rushed in to cover that side. [82] The Luftwaffe flew fewer sorties over Dunkirk on 28 May, switching their attention to the Belgian ports of Ostend and Nieuwpoort. The weather over Dunkirk was not conducive to dive or low-level bombing. The RAF flew 11 patrols and 321 sorties, claiming 23 destroyed for the loss of 13 aircraft. [76] On 28 May, 17,804 soldiers arrived at British ports. [68]

    On 29 May, 47,310 British troops were rescued [68] as the Luftwaffe ' s Ju 87s exacted a heavy toll on shipping. The British destroyer HMS Grenade was sunk and the French destroyer Mistral was crippled, while her sister ships, each laden with 500 men, were damaged by near misses. British destroyers Jaguar and Verity were badly damaged but escaped the harbour. Two trawlers disintegrated in the attack. Later, the passenger steamer SS Fenella sank with 600 men aboard at the pier but the men were able to get off. The paddle steamer HMS Crested Eagle suffered a direct hit, caught fire, and sank with severe casualties. The raiders also destroyed the two rail-owned ships, the SS Lorina and the SS Normannia. [83] Of the five major German attacks, just two were contested by RAF fighters the British lost 16 fighters in nine patrols. German losses amounted to 11 Ju 87s destroyed or damaged. [84]

    On 30 May, Churchill received word that all British divisions were now behind the defensive lines, along with more than half of the French First Army. [78] By this time, the perimeter ran along a series of canals about 7 miles (11 km) from the coast, in marshy country not suitable for tanks. [85] With the docks in the harbour rendered unusable by German air attacks, senior naval officer Captain (later Admiral) William Tennant initially ordered men to be evacuated from the beaches. When this proved too slow, he re-routed the evacuees to two long stone and concrete breakwaters, called the east and west moles, as well as the beaches. The moles were not designed to dock ships, but despite this, the majority of troops rescued from Dunkirk were taken off this way. [86] Almost 200,000 troops embarked on ships from the east mole (which stretched nearly a mile out to sea) over the next week. [87] [88] James Campbell Clouston, pier master on the east mole, organised and regulated the flow of men along the mole into the waiting ships. [89] Once more, low clouds kept Luftwaffe activity to a minimum. Nine RAF patrols were mounted, with no German formation encountered. [90] The following day, the Luftwaffe sank one transport and damaged 12 others for 17 losses the British claimed 38 kills, which is disputed. The RAF and Fleet Air Arm lost 28 aircraft. [90]

    Of the total 338,226 soldiers, several hundred were unarmed Indian mule handlers on detachment from the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, forming four of the six units of Force K-6 transport. Cypriot muleteers were also present. Three units were successfully evacuated and one captured. [91] [92] [93] Also present at Dunkirk were a small number of French Senegalese soldiers and Moroccans. [5] [94]

    The next day, an additional 53,823 men were embarked, [9] including the first French soldiers. [95] Lord Gort and 68,014 men were evacuated on 31 May, [96] leaving Major-General Harold Alexander in command of the rearguard. [97] A further 64,429 Allied soldiers departed on 1 June, [68] before the increasing air attacks prevented further daylight evacuation. [98] The British rearguard of 4,000 men left on the night of 2–3 June. [99] An additional 75,000 French troops were retrieved over the nights of 2–4 June, [68] [100] before the operation finally ended. The remainder of the rearguard, 40,000 French troops, surrendered on 4 June. [99] Churchill made a point of stating in his "We shall fight on the beaches" address in the House on 4 June that the evacuation had been made possible through the efforts of the RAF. [41]

    Evacuation routes Edit

    Three routes were allocated to the evacuating vessels. The shortest was Route Z, a distance of 39 nautical miles (72 km), but it entailed hugging the French coast and thus ships using it were subject to bombardment from on-shore batteries, particularly in daylight hours. [101] [102] Route X, although the safest from shore batteries, travelled through a particularly heavily mined portion of the Channel. Ships on this route travelled 55 nautical miles (102 km) north out of Dunkirk, proceeded through the Ruytingen Pass, [103] and headed towards the North Goodwin Lightship before heading south around the Goodwin Sands to Dover. [101] [102] The route was safest from surface attacks, but the nearby minefields and sandbanks meant it could not be used at night. [104] The longest of the three was Route Y, a distance of 87 nautical miles (161 km) using this route increased the sailing time to four hours, double the time required for Route Z. This route followed the French coast as far as Bray-Dunes, then turned north-east until reaching the Kwinte Buoy. [105] Here, after making an approximately 135-degree turn, the ships sailed west to the North Goodwin Lightship and headed south around the Goodwin Sands to Dover. [101] [102] Ships on Route Y were the most likely to be attacked by German surface vessels, submarines, and the Luftwaffe. [106]

    You knew this was the chance to get home and you kept praying, please God, let us go, get us out, get us out of this mess back to England. To see that ship that came in to pick me and my brother up, it was a most fantastic sight. We saw dog fights up in the air, hoping nothing would happen to us and we saw one or two terrible sights. Then somebody said, there's Dover, that was when we saw the White Cliffs, the atmosphere was terrific. From hell to heaven was how the feeling was, you felt like a miracle had happened.

    Ships Edit

    The Royal Navy provided the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Calcutta, 39 destroyers, and many other craft. The Merchant Navy supplied passenger ferries, hospital ships, and other vessels. Britain's Belgian, Dutch, Canadian, [2] Polish, [108] and French allies provided vessels as well. Admiral Ramsay arranged for around a thousand copies to be made of the required charts, had buoys laid around the Goodwin Sands and down to Dunkirk, and organised the flow of shipping. [104] Larger ships such as destroyers were able to carry about 900 men per trip. The soldiers mostly travelled on the upper decks for fear of being trapped below if the ship sank. [109] After the loss on 29 May of 19 British and French navy ships plus three of the larger requisitioned vessels, the Admiralty withdrew their eight best destroyers for the future defence of the country. [110]

    Little ships Edit

    A wide variety of small vessels from all over the south of England were pressed into service to aid in the Dunkirk evacuation. They included speedboats, Thames vessels, car ferries, pleasure craft, and many other types of small craft. [112] The most useful proved to be the motor lifeboats, which had a reasonably good capacity and speed. [112] Some boats were requisitioned without the owner's knowledge or consent. Agents of the Ministry of Shipping, accompanied by a naval officer, scoured the Thames for likely vessels, had them checked for seaworthiness, and took them downriver to Sheerness, where naval crews were to be placed aboard. Due to shortages of personnel, many small craft crossed the Channel with civilian crews. [113]

    The first of the "little ships" arrived at Dunkirk on 28 May. [109] The wide sand beaches meant that large vessels could not get anywhere near the shore, and even small craft had to stop about 100 yards (91 m) from the waterline and wait for the soldiers to wade out. [114] In many cases, personnel would abandon their boat upon reaching a larger ship, and subsequent evacuees had to wait for boats to drift ashore with the tide before they could make use of them. [115] In most areas on the beaches, soldiers queued up with their units and patiently awaited their turn to leave. But at times, panicky soldiers had to be warned off at gunpoint when they attempted to rush to the boats out of turn. [116] In addition to ferrying out on boats, soldiers at De Panne and Bray-Dunes constructed improvised jetties by driving rows of abandoned vehicles onto the beach at low tide, anchoring them with sandbags, and connecting them with wooden walkways. [117]

    Analysis Edit

    Troops landed from Dunkirk
    27 May – 4 June [68]
    Date Beaches Harbour Total
    27 May 7,669 7,669
    28 May 5,930 11,874 17,804
    29 May 13,752 33,558 47,310
    30 May 29,512 24,311 53,823
    31 May 22,942 45,072 68,014
    1 June 17,348 47,081 64,429
    2 June 6,695 19,561 26,256
    3 June 1,870 24,876 26,746
    4 June 622 25,553 26,175
    Totals 98,671 239,555 338,226

    Before the operation was completed, the prognosis had been gloomy, with Churchill warning the House of Commons on 28 May to expect "hard and heavy tidings". [118] Subsequently, Churchill referred to the outcome as a miracle, and the British press presented the evacuation as a "disaster turned to triumph" so successfully that Churchill had to remind the country in a speech to the House of Commons on 4 June that "we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations." [9] Andrew Roberts comments that the confusion over the Dunkirk evacuation is illustrated by two of the best books on it being called Strange Defeat and Strange Victory. [119]

    Three British divisions and a host of logistics and labour troops were cut off to the south of the Somme by the German "race to the sea". At the end of May, a further two divisions began deploying to France with the hope of establishing a Second BEF. The majority of the 51st (Highland) Division was forced to surrender on 12 June, but almost 192,000 Allied personnel, 144,000 of them British, were evacuated through various French ports from 15 to 25 June under the codename Operation Ariel. [120] Remaining British forces under the Tenth Army as Norman Force retreated towards Cherbourg. [121] The Germans marched into Paris on 14 June and France surrendered eight days later. [122]

    The more than 100,000 French troops evacuated from Dunkirk were quickly and efficiently shuttled to camps in various parts of south-western England, where they were temporarily lodged before being repatriated. [123] British ships ferried French troops to Brest, Cherbourg, and other ports in Normandy and Brittany, although only about half of the repatriated troops were redeployed against the Germans before the surrender of France. For many French soldiers, the Dunkirk evacuation represented only a few weeks' delay before being killed or captured by the German army after their return to France. [124] Of the French soldiers evacuated from France in June 1940, about 3,000 joined Charles de Gaulle's Free French army in Britain. [125]

    In France, the unilateral British decision to evacuate through Dunkirk rather than counter-attack to the south, and the perceived preference of the Royal Navy for evacuating British forces at the expense of the French, led to some bitter resentment. According to Churchill, French Admiral François Darlan originally ordered that the British forces should receive preference, but on 31 May, he intervened at a meeting in Paris to order that the evacuation should proceed on equal terms and that the British would form the rearguard. [126] In fact, the 35,000 men who finally surrendered after covering the final evacuations were mostly French soldiers of the 2nd Light Mechanized and the 68th Infantry Divisions. [127] [128] Their resistance allowed the evacuation effort to be extended to 4 June, on which date another 26,175 Frenchmen were transported to England. [68]

    The evacuation was presented to the German public as an overwhelming and decisive German victory. On 5 June 1940, Hitler stated, "Dunkirk has fallen! 40,000 French and English troops are all that remains of the formerly great armies. Immeasurable quantities of materiel have been captured. The greatest battle in the history of the world has come to an end." [a] [129] Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (the German armed forces high command) announced the event as "the greatest annihilation battle of all time". [130]


    Primary Sources

    (1) Adolf Hitler, Directive No. 16 (16th July, 1940)

    As England, despite her hopeless military situation, still shows no sign of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary to carry out, a landing operation against her.

    The aim of this operation is to eliminate the English motherland as a base from which war against Germany can be continued and, if necessary, to occupy completely.

    (2) Adolf Hitler, Directive No. 17 (1st August, 1940)

    The Luftwaffe will use all the forces at its disposal to destroy the British air force as quickly as possible. August 5th is the first day on which this intensified air war may begin, but the exact date is to be left to the Luftwaffe and will depend on how soon its preparations are complete, and on the weather situation.

    (3) Charles Gardner, BBC Radio report (10th July, 1940)

    There's one coming down in flames - there somebody's hit a German - and he's coming down - there's a long streak - he's coming down completely out of control - a long streak of smoke - ah, the man's baled out by parachute - the pilot's baled out by parachute - he's a Junkers 87 and he's going slap into the sea and there he goes - smash. Oh boy, I've never seen anything so good as this - the R.A.F. fighters have really got these boys taped.

    (4) Geoffrey Page joined the RAF two weeks after the start of the Second World War. Page took part in the Battle of Britain until he was shot down on 30th September, 1940.

    Slowly we overhauled the Domier bombers. Momentarily reassured that nothing lethal was sitting behind my aircraft, I settled down to the task of firing at one of the leading machines. Then the enemy rear gunners started firing. The mass of fire from the bomber formation closed in as I fired desperately in a race to destroy before being destroyed. The first bang came as a shock. For an instant I couldn't believe I'd been hit. Two more bangs followed in quick succession, and as if by magic a gapping hole suddenly appeared in my starboard wing. Surprise quickly changed to fear, and as the instinct of self-preservation began to take over, the gas tank behind the engine blew up, and my cockpit became an inferno.

    Fear became blind terror, then agonized horror as the bare skin of my hands gripping the throttle and control column shrivelled up like burnt parchment under the intensity of the blast furnace temperature. Screaming at the top of my voice, I threw my intensity of the blast furnace temperature. Screaming at the top of my voice, I threw my head back to keep it away from the searing flames. Instinctively the tortured right hand groped for the release pin. Fresh air suddenly flowed across my burning face. I tumbled. Sky, sea, sky, over and over as a clearing brain issued instructions to outflung limbs.

    Realising that pain or no pain, the ripcord had to be pulled, the brain overcame the reaction of the raw nerve endings and forced the mutilated fingers to grasp the ring and pull firmly. It acted immediately. With a jerk the silken canopy billowed out in the clear summer sky. Quickly I looked up to see if the dreaded flames had done their work, and it was with relief that I saw the shining material was unburned.

    (5) Richard Hillary, flew with 603 Squadron during the Second World War. He was shot down on 3rd September, 1940.

    I was peering anxiously ahead, for the controller had given us warning of at least fifty enemy fighters approaching very high. When we did first sight them, nobody shouted, as I think we all saw them at the same moment. They must have been 500 to 1000 feet above us and coming straight on like a swarm of locusts. The next moment we were in among them and it was each man for himself. As soon as they saw us they spread out and dived, and the next ten minutes was a blur of twisting machines and tracer bullets. One Messerschmitt went down in a sheet of flame on my right, and a Spitfire hurtled past in a half-roll I was leaving and turning in a desperate attempt to gain height, with the machine practically hanging on the airscrew.

    Then, just below me and to my left, I saw what I had been praying for - a Messerschmitt climbing and away from the sun. I closed in to 200 yards, and from slightly to one side gave him a two-second burst: fabric ripped off the wing and black smoke poured from the engine, but he did not go down. Like a fool, I did not break away, but put in another three-second burst. Red flames shot upwards and he spiralled out of sight. At that moment, I felt a terrific explosion which knocked the control stick from my hand, and the whole machine quivered like a stricken animal. In a second, the cockpit was a mass of flames: instinctively, I reached up to open the hood. It would not move. I tore off my straps and managed to force it back but this took time, and when I dropped back into the seat and reached for the stick in an effort to turn the plane on its back, the heat was so intense that I could feel myself going. I remember a second of sharp agony, remember thinking "So this is it!" and putting both hands to my eyes. Then I passed out.

    (6) Douglas Bader compared the performance of the Spitfire, Hurricane, Messerschmitt Bf109, Focke Wulf Fw 190 and Messerschmitt Me 262 in his autobiography, Fight for the Sky (1974)

    The advantage of the Spitfire and the Hurricane in individual combat with the Me 109 was that both British aeroplanes could out-turn the German one which was why, when surprised from behind, the enemy's defensive manoeuvre was to push the stick forward into a dive which, in 1940, we could not follow. If we were surprised, our defence was to turn quickly and keep turning because the Me 109's radius of turn was bigger than that of a Spitfire or Hurricane and thus he could not keep you in his sights. If he was inexperienced enough to try, he would find the British fighter behind him after a couple of circuits.

    Nevertheless, the Me 109 was a good fighter in which the pilot and rear-gunner sat in tandem. It took little punishment and was easy to shoot down, because it was lightly built for performance. A burst from eight machine guns destroyed it quickly. It wasn't anything like so manoeuvrable as a single-engined, single-seater fighter and relied entirely on surprise to shoot us down.

    The Focke-Wulf 190 certainly gave the British a shock. 1941 had ended with the Me 109 with the Spitfire (two cannons and four machine-guns fighting it out on fairly even terms. Then, without warning from British intelligence sources, this startling aeroplane appeared in March 1942. A radial-engineered fighter, it out-climbed and out-dived the Spitfire. Now for the first time the Germans were out-flying our pilots. Instantly Rolls and Supermarine retaliated with the Spitfire IXa which equalled the 190, followed at the spring of 1942 with the IXa which equalled the 190, followed at the end of 1942 with the IXb which outflew it in all respects. The Spitfire was unchallenged for the rest of the war, except in the last few months by the Messerschmitt 262 jet which arrived too late to make a significant contribution.

    (7) Joyce Storey, Joyce's War (1992)

    There had been that day when two planes had appeared from behind a feathery, frothy white cloud. The sun was glinting on the wing tips, making both planes look as though they had been shot with silver. We stood there by the harbour walls with our eyes shaded against the sun to watch this drama being enacted over the water: the attacker and the attacked. As one streaked away, veering sideways to avoid the staccato burst of gun fire that could be plainly heard by those standing below on the ground, the other again zoomed upwards. There was a moment when both planes blotted out the sun so that they seemed like a purple shadow against the sky. In that momentary silence there was a tiny cough and a splutter as if the engine of that plane was emitting a half-strangled death cry before finally bursting into flames and beginning its dizzy spiral descent into the cold waters below.

    Witnessing this tragic episode affected me deeply. I watched the bystanders who were beginning to disperse, some shaking their heads sadly before walking on to attend to their own affairs. I felt suddenly very cold and empty. I wanted an answer to all this insane killing and aggression. I was very aware of being pregnant and creating life, while men were wasting it.

    (8) Jonathan Hills was a child living in Forest Row, Sussex in 1940.

    15th September 1940 was a Sunday. Because of the noise of the battle overhead, normal Sunday School activities were impossible everyone was exited rather than frightened, and there being no air raid shelter I thought it safer to be outside rather than inside. So we all lay on the Churchyard grass and had a thrilling view of the twists and turns of those marvellous men in their flying machines engaged in single combat above us.

    (9) Statement issued by the Air Ministry (15th September, 1940)

    6.30 a.m. This morning a large number of enemy aircraft crossed the coast near Dover in two waves. They were promptly met by strong formations of our fighters and an air battle ensued. In the course of this two small enemy formations succeeded in penetrating to the London area.Bombs were dropped and amongst them enemy objectives, Buckingham Palace was again hit. The Queen's private apartments were damaged by a bomb which did not explode.Elsewhere in London area houses were hit, some fires broke out and damage was done to gas and water mains. From preliminary reports it is clear that the number of casualties was small.At least fifty enemy aircraft were shot down in this raid.9.00 p.m. Up to 8 p.m. it is known that 165 enemy aircraft have been shot down today. Thirty of our fighters have been lost, but ten of the pilots are known to be safe.In addition to the 165 German planes shot down by our fighters, four more were brought down by anti-aircraft fire, making the total 169.

    (10) Richard Hillary was saved by the Margate Lifeboat when he was shot down on 3rd September, 1940. He was immediately taken to the Queen's Victoria Burns Unit in East Grinstead.

    Gradually I realized what had happened. My face and hands had been scrubbed and then sprayed with tannic acid. My arms were propped up in front of me, the fingers extended like witches' claws, and my body was hung loosely on straps just clear of the bed. Shortly after my arrival in East Grinstead, the Air Force plastic surgeon, A.H. McIndoe, had come to see me. Of medium height, he was thick set and the line of his jaw was square. Behind his horn-rimmed spectacles a pair of tired, friendly eyes regarded me speculatively. "Well," he said, "you certainly made a thorough job of it, didn't you?" He stated to undo the dressings on my hands and I noticed his fingers - blunt, captive, incisive. By now all the tannic had been removed from my face and hands. He took a scalpel and tapped lightly on something white showing through the red granulating knuckle of my right fore-finger. "Four new eyelids, I'm afraid, but you are not ready for them yet. I want all this skin to soften up a lot first."The time when the dressings were taken down I looked exactly like an orang-utan. McIndoe had pitched out two semi-circular ledges of skin under my eyes to allow for contraction of the new lids. What was not absorbed was to be sliced off when I came in for my next operation, a new upper lip.

    (11) Geoffrey Page was sent to the Queen's Victoria Burns Unit in East Grinstead when he was shot down on the 30th September, 1940.

    One of the prettiest girls I'd seen in my life came into the room to help with the dressings. She was unable to hide the expression of horror and loathing that registered on her lovely face at the sight of my scorched flesh. Following her hypnotized stare, I looked down watery-eyed at my arms. From the elbows to the wrists the bare forearms were one seething mass of pus-filled boils resulting from the disturbed condition of the blood. From the wrist joints to the finger tips they were blacker than any Negro's hands.Richard Hillary paused at the end of the bed and stood silently watching me. He was one of the queerest apparitions I had ever seen. The tall figure was clad in a long, loose-fitting dressing gown that trailed to the floor. The head was thrown right back so that the owner appeared to be looking along the line of his nose. Where normally two eyes would be, were two large bloody red circles of raw skin. Horizontal slits in each showed that behind still lay the eyes. A pair of hands wrapped in large lint covers lay folded across his chest. Cigarette smoke curled up from the long holder clenched between the ghoul's teeth. There was a voice behind the mask. It was condescending in tone. "Bloody fool should have worn gloves." Hillary's hands were equally badly burned and for the same reason - no gloves.

    (12) Johnnie Johnson, Wing Leader (1956)

    It is fascinating to watch the reactions of the various pilots. They fall into two broad categories those who are going out to shoot and those who secretly and desperately know they will be shot at, the hunters and the hunted. The majority of the pilots, once they have seen their name on the board, walk out to their Spitfires for a pre-flight check and for a word or two with their ground crews. They tie on their mae-wests, check their maps, study the weather forecast and have a last-minute chat with their leaders or wingmen. These are the hunters.

    The hunted, that very small minority (although every squadron usually possessed at least one), turned to their escape kits and made quite sure that they were wearing the tunic with the silk maps sewn into a secret hiding-place that they had at least one oilskin-covered packet of French francs, and two if possible that they had a compass and a revolver and sometimes specially made clothes to assist their activities once they were shot down. When they went through these agonized preparations they reminded me of aged countrywomen meticulously checking their shopping- lists before catching the bus for the market town.

    (13) E. B. Haslam, Journal of Strategic Studies (June, 1981)

    It was estimated in the summer of the battle that every pilot kept in action for more than six months would be shot down because he was exhausted or stale, or even because he had lost the will to fight. In terms of flying hours the fighter pilot's life expectancy could be measured at eighty-seven.

    (14) The German flying ace Adolf Galland, wrote about the Battle of Britain in his book The First and the Last (1970)

    The colossus of World War II seemed to be like a pyramid turned upside down, and for the moment the whole burden of the war rested on the few hundred German fighter pilots on the Channel coast.

    (15) Basil Embry, a sector commander in Flight Command, wrote about the Battle of Britain in his autobiography, Mission Completed (1956).

    Active air defence by day or night is a question of identifying the enemy, tracking his flight path and then intercepting and destroying him. At the start of the Battle of Britain we could identify and track the enemy by radar as far as the coast, but once he crossed it we had to depend entirely on visual observation reports from the Royal Observer Corps. Under clear-day conditions the track reports were accurate, but at night and in bad weather by day when cloud obscured visual observation, tracking and height finding were bound to be inaccurate and interception under such conditions a matter of luck. Guns and searchlights depended on sound locators to indicate the enemy's height and position. With slow-flying aeroplanes at medium altitude, this worked reasonably well but the higher-performance aircraft of 1939-40 meant there was little or no possibility of successful engagement with guns at heights of 20,000 feet and above.

    (16) General Werner Kreipe, a member of the Luftwaffe wrote about the Battle of Britain in Fatal Decisions (1956)

    Though the air battles over England were perhaps a triumph of skill and bravery so far as the German air crews were concerned, from the strategic point of view it was a failure and contributed to our ultimate defeat. The decision to fight it marks a turning point in the history of the Second World War. The German Air Force was bled almost to death, and suffered losses which could never again be made good throughout the course of the war.

    (17) George Orwell, BBC radio broadcast (19th September 1942)

    Four days ago, September 15th, was celebrated throughout this country and the world as the second anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Between August and October 1940, after the fall of France, the Germans made an all-out effort to conquer Britain by air and loudly boasted that they would be able to do so within a few weeks. They started off in August and September with daylight raids aimed at destroying the Royal Air Force, and when this had evidently failed, switched over to night raids directed chiefly at the working-class areas in the East End of London, aiming at terrorising the civilian population. The whole manoeuvre however was a failure and in about two months of air warfare the Germans lost between two and three thousand planes, with some thousands of irreplaceable airmen.

    September 15th is celebrated as the anniversary because on that day the Royal Air Force shot down no less than 185 German planes, and it was about that date that the failure of the Germans to overwhelm the British defences by daylight bombing became apparent. Now that we can look back and see the events in better perspective it is becoming clear that the Battle of Britain ranks in importance with Trafalgar, Salamis, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and other battles of the past in which the invading forces of a seemingly invincible monarch or dictator have been beaten back and which have formed a turning point in history.

    (18) Edward Heath, The Course of My Life (1988)

    When the Battle of Britain began in the middle of August 1940, we were in the front line. We watched day after day as the planes fought overhead. As many of them crashed, we went off to find them, and to provide any help we could for survivors, whether they were British or German. At night, the searchlight batteries stationed alongside the camp were operating through the darkness, and we would often get called out again for the same purpose. All too often there was little that could be done.

    (19) Clive Ponting, 1940: Myth and Reality (1990)

    On 31 August Goering held a conference with his Luftwaffe deputies. They knew that they had not yet established air supremacy but faulty intelligence suggested that the RAF was running out of planes. The Germans believed that Fighter Command had only 420 aircraft left (the true figure was about 750) and that reserves were down to 100 aircraft (in fact they were double the German estimate). Goering decided to shift the attacks from RAF bases to London itself. (Hitler had given permission for the docks to be attacked after the British bombed Berlin.) Goering confidently believed that this change of tactics would force the RAF to commit the remains of its strength in a last battle to defend the capital. In fact the Germans made a fundamental miscalculation and were committing themselves to the most hazardous of all possible operations - daylight mass bombing - against a still intact and well-organized defence.

    The Luftwaffe began to implement the new tactics on 7 September, when they launched a massive raid on the London docks that marked the start of the third phase of the campaign. The RAF badly misjudged the situation and thought the attack was still aimed at RAF bases. In the confusion the fighters did not attack the bombers until they were returning from London after inflicting major damage. The Germans lost only slightly more aircraft than the British and when the raid was repeated on 11 September suffered fewer losses than the RAF. Superficially, the German change of tactics seemed to be working, but during this phase the RAF bases were able to recover from previous damage and remain operational in the vital area of south-east England. It was at this point that Hitler had to make the crucial decision about whether an invasion should go ahead.

    Hitler's lack of enthusiasm for any invasion that would amount to more than a straightforward occupation of an already defeated Britain had not altered by early September. For the previous month he had been content to wait and see if the Luftwaffe could defeat the RAF, and had made no effort to direct operations in the way he had during the attack on France. He was making it quite clear that he was not personally involved in what he saw as a highly dubious undertaking. Meanwhile the ramshackle invasion forces were slowly gathering in the Channel ports, where they came under attack from RAF Bomber Command, but preparations were far from complete. The German military had decided that the last possible date for an invasion, taking into account weather and tides, was 27 September. They needed ten days' warning to launch the attack and so a final decision was required by 17 September. On 13 September Hitler was still hopeful that an invasion would not be needed and that the Luftwaffe would be able to force Britain to make peace, although how still remained unclear. On 14 September he put off a final decision on an invasion for three days, until the last possible moment. The next day the Luftwaffe launched its biggest, and what it hoped would be its decisive attack against London. It only demonstrated that daylight bombing was too difficult, even with fighter cover, against a competent defence. Waves of bombers, heavily escorted by fighters, were launched in the morning and afternoon against London. The Germans made the mistake of not undertaking diversionary raids, and so the RAF was able to concentrate all its resources (twenty-three squadrons in the morning and thirty in the afternoon) against the attack. The result was a heavy defeat for the Luftwaffe, which lost about sixty aircraft to the RAF's twenty-six.

    On 17 September, with a final decision on invasion required that day, Hitler held a meeting with his military planners. The events of 15 September demonstrated all too clearly that the RAF was still a potent force, and Hitler, deciding that his own scepticism about invasion was well justified, postponed the plan indefinitely. He was now free to turn his attention to his ultimate aim: the destruction of the Soviet Union. Three days after the meeting the dispersal of shipping was ordered but desultory activity was maintained in an attempt to confuse the British (without success). The Luftwaffe kept up its attacks, but apart from a few isolated raids on aircraft factories it concentrated more and more on night raids on cities, especially London. By the end of September the British government knew that an invasion was only a remote possibility, that the daylight raids had not defeated the RAF and that it could now probably expect a long winter of continued night-time bombing. Britain had survived.

    Both at the time and since, Britain's survival has been attributed solely to the efforts of `The Few': the pilots of Fighter Command. There can be no doubt that their skill and courage, maintained over a long period of intense combat, was essential in ensuring the defeat of the Luftwaffe. But the Germans too had highly skilled and dedicated pilots and modern battles are decided by more than individual heroism. After Dunkirk and the defeat of France, Britain had not only to survive but also to create a myth that would sustain the nation for the long and difficult period after immediate defeat had been avoided. The myth-creation process was strongly at work in the summer of 1940. British success was greatly exaggerated at the time and many of the misleading statistics issued in 1940 have since become accepted facts. For example, on 15 September, the date still celebrated as Battle of Britain day, the British claimed 185 German aircraft destroyed. The true figure was sixty. During the crucial phase, from 16 August until 6 September, the British people were given an unjustifiably optimistic picture of progress. Figures broadcast by the BBC gave British losses as 292 aircraft compared with an actual figure of 343, an underestimate of fifteen per cent. More important, German losses for this period were reported as sixtytwo per cent higher than the real figure (855 instead of 527). The reality of combat was also very different from the stirring picture painted at the time and subsequently. Only half of the Spitfires and Hurricanes scrambled to intercept attacks ever engaged the German bombers and fighters, and only fifteen per cent of pilots were credited with shooting down any Luftwaffe planes at all. Real "aces" were extremely rare: only seventeen pilots in the RAF accounted for more than ten aircraft each. The most successful squadron (No. 303) was not British, but manned by Polish pilots, and the two most successful individual pilots were a Czech and a Pole.

    The real reasons for British survival in the summer of 1940 are more deep-seated than the courage of individual pilots, important though that was. The most significant factor was geography. The German army might dominate the continent, but it lacked the capability to launch an invasion. Such an operation was highly risky and required meticulous planning, as the Allies demonstrated before the Normandy landings in 1944. Hitler was right to be extremely cautious about launching an attack across the Channel without the British being on the point of defeat. The German navy was too small to control the sea in the area and therefore everything turned on whether the Luftwaffe could defeat the RAF and establish local air supremacy. If they had done so, an invasion might have been feasible. The Royal Navy would have found it very difficult to operate in the Channel under German air attack and if the German army had landed then the poorly equipped British army was probaby too weak to do more than delay its advance. As the chiefs of staff told the war cabinet in May: "Should the enemy succeed in establishing a force, with its vehicles, firmly ashore, the army in the United Kingdom, which is very short of equipment, has not got the offensive power to drive it out." Resisting the Luftwaffe attack on the RAF was therefore the key to survival. The RAF came perilously near to losing the Battle of Britain through its stubborn adherence to tradition and hidebound procedures even at a time of supreme national emergency. Under a more flexible system `The Few' could have been more numerous. Victory in the air was achieved through two factors which in the end gave Britain a vital advantage. The first was Britain's ability to produce more aircraft than Germany. Here the advantages of unorthodox and makeshift methods in response to a national crisis were apparent. The second was rooted in German failings: although superior in numbers the Luftwaffe was hopelessly ill-equipped for the task of defeating the RAF over Britain, and this weakness was compounded by the erratic direction of the campaign, whereas fortunately for Britain the pre-war policy-makers had taken the right decisions.

    The fall of France, followed by the threat of invasion, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz on British cities in the autumn and winter of 1940, for the first time brought the war to bear directly on the civilian population. How much did the war alter the nature of prewar British society and how well did the civilian population stand up to these new strains? Just as important, how did the government view the task of controlling the country?


    Contents

    Following joint military operations during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Qatar and the United States concluded a Defense Cooperation Agreement that has been subsequently expanded. In 1996, Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base at the cost of more than $1 billion. The U.S. first used the then-secret base in late September 2001, when the Air Force needed to get aircraft in position for its operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. has nearly 40,000 military personnel in the Middle East. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is in Bahrain and has 28,000 military personnel in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. Kingdoms, including Qatar, cover 60 percent of the costs, around $650 million. [7]

    The official acknowledgement of the base came in March 2002, when Vice President Dick Cheney stopped there during a trip to the region with a group of reporters. In April 2003, shortly after the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Combat Air Operations Center for the Middle East moved from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia to what was then a backup headquarters built a year prior in Qatar that was viewed as a more congenial location for basing U.S. troops. [8]

    Al Udeid and other facilities in Qatar serve as logistics, command, and basing hubs for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations, and oversees U.S. air operations in countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. [9]

    Royal Air Force history Edit

    Between 2005 and 2009 the airbase was used by the British Royal Air Force with transport and fast-jet aircraft to support Operation Telic (Iraq War) and Operation Herrick (War in Afghanistan).

    These included 6 to 8 Tornado GR4 aircraft drawn from different parts of the Royal Air Force as well as multiple Vickers VC10 from the No. 101 Squadron RAF. British Tornados were equipped with a range of stores, including the Vicon Recce Pod, LITENING targeting pod, 1000 lb HE bombs, Paveway II and Paveway III laser-guided bombs, and the RAPTOR Recce Pod. They were chosen for their currency and up-to-date modification state. [10]

    The RAF aircraft were accompanied by nearly 400 personnel, of which approximately 130 were aircraft engineers while the remaining 270 were active in support and operation management roles. Squadron personnel were on a two-month rotation at RAF Al Udeid with the remainder of the force on a four-month rotation. Support personnel were on varying rotations but not as often generally as the squadron personnel. The RAF operated from what was known as the "Southern QRA" buildings. Aircraft were housed in canvas shelters to protect them and the personnel working on them from the heat of the sun. RAF Al Udeid was used as a staging post for personnel en route to Iraq (in particular, Basrah) with personnel transferring from passenger aircraft, such as the RAF-operated Tristar and VC10, to the tactical transport Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The Hercules transit was in the region of two hours and mostly in tactical black-out conditions.

    Royal Australian Air Force operations Edit

    As part of Australia's contribution to coalition forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, fourteen F/A-18 Hornet fighters from No. 75 Squadron RAAF were based at Al Udeid, along with two P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and three C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft. During the early phases of the war, the Hornets flew long missions escorting and protecting coalition AWACS Early warning aircraft and tanker aircraft used for air-to-air refueling. Later, when the threat to aircraft was reduced, the Hornets switched to the ground attack and combat support roles and were used to attack Iraqi ground forces with laser-guided bombs. The Orions flew long endurance missions over the Persian Gulf tracking vessels, curbing smuggling and guarding against the threat posed by suicide boats. The deployed Hercules flew supplies and equipment into Iraq, and later flew some of the first humanitarian aid into Baghdad. The fourteen Royal Australian Air Force Hornets flew over 670 sorties during the war, including 350 combat sorties over Iraq.

    Following Australia's formal withdraw of forces from Iraq and to upon Afghanistan in 2008, the air bridge for operations in the Middle East was re-located to Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.


    Why were the Allies at Dunkirk?

    The Second World War had begun in western Europe on 1 September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. In Belgium and France there was a long winter of waiting as German and Allied forces, including the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), faced each other along the border defences.

    Then on 10 May 1940, two German armies moved eastward. A smaller one swept through Holland and Belgium into northern France, drawing the main Allied forces north to meet it. The other, main German force advanced through Luxembourg, broke through the French lines at Sedan, and sliced across northern France to the coast. Moving rapidly with armoured columns, these armies trapped the Allies in an ever-decreasing pocket.

    The Germans took Boulogne on 25 May and Calais the next day, leaving Dunkirk as the only viable port from which the BEF, part of the French army and the remains of the Belgian army could escape.


    Key to RAF Silk Escape Map, Sheet D - History

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