80 Years Of A True Legend Of The Skies

March 5th 2016 marks an incredible 80 years since the first flight of the Supermarine Spitfire. The first prototype, K5054, designed by Reginald J. Mitchell, took off from Eastleigh Aerodrome on March 5th 1936 and while it may have looked a little rough around the edges it was unmistakably a Spit’ with its beautiful wing shape and […]

https://defenceoftherealm.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/80-years-of-a-true-legend-of-the-skies/

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2 thoughts on “80 Years Of A True Legend Of The Skies

  1. Wonderful reminder…

    I am curious to hear of your thoughts on what I believe: that while the Battle of Britain was a mostly deadly time, my belief is that the situation was not as bad as Chrchill and the Allies made it sound.

    I base it on a bullet point basis:
    1. Intel on each other’s strengths ( British vs. Nazi Germany) was noticeably flawed although the error favored the British, i.e., the Nazis greatly underestimated the air strength of the British while the British overestimated.
    2. Because Churchill and other leaders properly focused manufacture of Spitfires and the obsolete Hurticanes, more were actually being produced than were being destroyed or damage (not addressing pilot reserves).
    3. Because of the cross channel bombing hops by the British, some fear proliferated amongst the Nazis. In fact, many Nazi pilots spent the entire days sitting in their cockpits waiting for scramble alerts.
    4. Goering’s strategy (radar installations and such) and associated stupidity to have arguably superior fighters lumber along as escort with the bombers heading across the Channel, thereby negatively affecting their operational efficiency. Because of the fuel usage, many fighter craft had only about ten minutes over England. A number ran out of fuel and crashed into the Channel.

    Diverting offensive attacks against London is after the crisis so it is not included in my thoughts. Your beliefs?? I’d be curious unless you’ve written about it already… ☺

    Regardless, the Rools-Royse / Merlin engines were the ultimate weapon against enemy aircraft as you write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Koji, you raise some interesting point. First of all I must point out that Tony from Defence of the Realm actually wrote the original article, I merely reblogged it. But, and I’m no expert, I believe that in many cases you are right. Certainly the Intel was in error and strengths were underestimated by the Germans, whilst the British over estimated the German strength. Much of this information was gathered through unofficial channels, pre war visits and the like. Intelligence on both sides was not as accurate as they had us believe. That being said, intelligence did improve and by the time the battle started figures were marginally more accurate and realistic.
      2 As for production, yes you are right. At the worst point of the battle the RAF had 127 aircraft in storage a mix of both Spitfires and Hurricanes. Production was spread out and utilised a unique civilian repair organisation (CRO) to deal with damaged aircraft. This effectively increased the number of flyable aircraft. Aircrew was the limiting factor.
      3 I’m not sure about this one. Certainly at the beginning of the battle much activity centred around coastal patrols by the RAF and anti shipping attacks by the Luftwaffe. This progressed to attacks on coastal areas, Dover, Portsmouth etc. poor weather at the start restricted any major attacks and so only small forces were sent out; the Germans believing it not necessary to send full formations at once. This may have led to units being on standby as you describe.
      4 the tactics employed by the Luftwaffe changed during the battle. Initially airfields and strategic targets were the focus. Many of these were along the south coast and counties in southern. England. At the start, German fighters were allowed ‘freedom’ to attack the RAF. But as the numbers of bomber shot down increased, Goring instructed the fighters to stay closer to them thus losing the ability to strike at the RAF. This also meant that the escorts (109s) could not fly to their strengths. By changing the target to London, he increased the range that the fighters had to go and as such gave them a shorter time over the target area. This meant fuel was at a premium and there were cases of Luftwaffe aircraft landing at UK airfields out of fuel. I think the change of target was the defining factor in fuel shortage rather than the escort duties themselves.

      Whilst the spitfire was definitely the ultimate fighter of it’s time, the Hurricane inflicted more damage in the battle. A harder wearing and easier aircraft to repair it very much lives in the shadow of it better looking partner. I hope this goes someway to answers your interesting questions. Thanks Koji.

      Like

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