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Thread: Heads Up. Dunkirk: The New Evidence

  1. #1
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    Heads Up. Dunkirk: The New Evidence

    "...the story had been forensically examined and was deeply impressive. I knew that the whole story was a load of myth and baloney…"

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    I have the medals/paperwork of Henry Peter Dixon of 607 and 145 Squadrons. He was very active during the Battle of France and his letters back home describe how busy they were, he ended up an 'Ace' but was sadly shot down and wounded over Dunkirk on 1.6.40. flying a Hurricane. He managed to get out using his parachute
    (and was seen floating down by his brother, a Major in the Army who was on the Mole, not realising it was his brother).
    Sadly Henry Dixon died on the Mole, and is buried in Dunkirk. Name:  607 Squadron Group Photos 003.jpg
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    So, the main topic of this documentary is to quash the myth that the RAF were lacking in aerial support for the troops on the beaches. A myth not helped by the otherwise excellent 1958 movie about the evacuation, showing no aircraft other than German.
    Even the flag waving wartime American movie, "A Yank In The RAF" showed our air force in a better light than our own home grown product.
    That's why I was so glad to see Spitfires and Blenheims were going to feature so prominently in Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk". Nolan clearly intending to remind people that the RAF was always there, for each of the 9 days the evacuation took place. And the message behind this forthcoming documentary.
    Last edited by sgt pilot andy; 1st July 2017 at 01:20.

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    180 Hurricanes had to be left behind, so how can anyone suggest the RAF were not there?
    pb::

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    A myth not helped by the otherwise excellent 1958 movie about the evacuation, showing no aircraft other than German.
    And the film Eagles Over London. Not sure about Atonement, mind.

    Even the flag waving wartime American movie, "A Yank In The RAF" showed our air force in a better light than our own home grown product.
    Very true. Not the greatest movie, mind, but its Dunkirk scene is pretty good!
    Daren Cogdon

    Spitfire fanatic

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    RAF absent from the skies over Dunkirk ?

    On, or about May 10th, 1940, i.e. on one day, the Luftwaffe lost (destroyed) more than 350 aircraft plus about 900 aircrew killed.

    Source: "The War in the West", James Holland,

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    The Germans took a hell of a lot of casualties in France, considering how little equipment we had. We would have a years worth of ammo and suppliesstored, when that ran out it would have changed the situation.
    pb::

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    Thought they lost a lot in earlier campaigns as well.
    "If the C.O. ask's you to be Tail End Charlie...just shoot him!!!....A Piece of Cake.
    http://spitfirea58-27.blogspot.com.au/

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    I was privileged to meet an RAF (ground crew) veteran at Dunkirk in 2015. (Dynamo +75).

    He remembers clearly being given an army greatcoat to wear over his uniform by an British Army officer for fear he would be less than warmly received by the evacuating brown jobs.

    Moggy
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

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    At the conclusion of the Battle for France, the Luftwaffe had lost/destroyed approximately 2000 aircraft.

    The RAF lost approximately 1,000.


    Same source.

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    I think the figure for 350 Luftwaffe aircraft lost on one day is incorrect.

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    If we had 550 fighters, thats a hell of a lot of loss! lack of spares and accidents would write a/c off.
    pb::

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    The scale of these losses certainly interfered with the operational efficiency of the Luftwaffe in the early part of the Battle of Britain, altho' not if you believed the forecasts of Beppo Schmidt, Intelligence Officer of the Luftwaffe.
    Last edited by John Green; 2nd July 2017 at 16:44.

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    DB

    Let me allay your suspicions.

    Page 232. Chapter: "Germany triumphant". "War in the West", James Holland. Transworld Books.

    Quote:

    ".... Yet the Luftwaffe had suffered horrendously that opening day (May 10) with 192 bombers and fighters lost and damaged plus a staggering 244 transport aircraft. In all, 353 German aircraft and 904 pilots and crew would never fly again. After one day of battle. These were substantial losses."


    The RAF were in the skies over Dunkirk with a vengeance !

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Green View Post
    DB

    Let me allay your suspicions.

    Page 232. Chapter: "Germany triumphant". "War in the West", James Holland. Transworld Books.

    Quote:

    ".... Yet the Luftwaffe had suffered horrendously that opening day (May 10) with 192 bombers and fighters lost and damaged plus a staggering 244 transport aircraft. In all, 353 German aircraft and 904 pilots and crew would never fly again. After one day of battle. These were substantial losses."


    The RAF were in the skies over Dunkirk with a vengeance !
    Recent research showed that the luftwaffe lost a staggering 361 aircraft in The Netherlands alone on May 10th 1940. 275 of these were Junkers Ju52, some of which were later compiled into 'new' aircraft. The numbers quotes are not that unlikely.

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    The RAF may well have been in the skies over Dunkirk - or at least around Dunkirk - but that had nothing to do with the losses the Germans suffered on May 10th, a fortnight or more earlier.

    Some French authors have argued that the Germans lost 1000 aircraft in the Battle of France, which I believe excludes losses in the Netherlands. Whether the precise total is correct or not, only a minority could have been due to the RAF. However good they were.

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    The figure that I have shows that approximately 1850 Luftwaffe aircraft were destroyed during the Battle for France.

    Whatever the revisionists might argue, I believe that the victory of the RAF during the Battle of Britain was largely a consequence of the quite astonishing victory of the RAF over the Luftwaffe during the Battle of France.

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    For a programme supposed to lay to rest the myth that the RAF were absent from Dunkirk, it felt like only about 10 minutes actually touched on what they were really doing….
    Under my gruff exterior lies an even gruffer interior...

    行雲流水

    Warbirdskies Blog

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    I'm not sure the evidence was especially 'new' but it was nice to see some relatively unseen footage to go along with it.

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    It was a workmanlike canter through the well known story with some evidence to support the "RAF was fighting out of sight of the troops on the beaches" explanation.

    Better than another dollop of Strictly Factor.
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

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    GB

    "only a minority could have been due to the RAF.."

    Which begs the question: whom do you think was responsible for the destruction of a significant portion of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of France including those losses sustained on or about 10th May ?

    It must have been whatever remained of the French Air Force after t had been largely destroyed on the ground !

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    Recent research showed that the luftwaffe lost a staggering 361 aircraft in The Netherlands alone on May 10th 1940. 275 of these were Junkers Ju52, some of which were later compiled into 'new' aircraft.
    Quite so but of the Ju52 transports not that many were shot-down; the intention had always been to land these aircraft, laden with troops, at captured airfields in the Netherlands. Something went awry with the plan but the Ju52 crews took the decision to put their aircraft down wherever they could: on fields, roads or beaches. As you say, many of these transport aircraft would have been recovered and rebuilt later, and few of the aircrew would have become casualties.

    While the Luftwaffe may have suffered some serious losses it cannot be denied that the operations over France and the Low Countries, that led to the Dunkirk evacuation, were staggeringly successful.
    WA$.

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    Whatever the revisionists might argue, I believe that the victory of the RAF during the Battle of Britain was largely a consequence of the quite astonishing victory of the RAF over the Luftwaffe during the Battle of France.
    Not sure I'd term it a 'victory' by the RAF exactly!

    Fighter Command gained some useful experience at the cost of a lot of aircraft and some irreplaceable pilots; these would have been better employed in the more favourable circumstances of the Battle-of-Britain but it was important, politically, for the RAF to be seen fighting alongside the French in France. Of course they didn't know what the outcome of the Battle-of-France would be in 1940!

    The RAF Light-Bomber and Army Co-Operation squadrons were given an absolute drubbing by both the Luftwaffe and the German Flak forces; again, lessons were learned, but at a terrible cost.
    WA$.

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    " (Luftwaffe) operations over France and the Low Countries that led to the Dunkirk evacuation..."

    What led to the evacuation of Dunkirk was the slowness and vacillation of the French command structure and the inability of the French to deal with, what was then, a new concept of warfare we know as Blitzkrieg.

    Whichever historical account you accept and I agree that there are differences in the estimation of the numbers of aircraft destroyed on both sides, the fact is, that the RAF were very much in attendance in the skies over Dunkirk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Green
    It must have been whatever remained of the French Air Force after it had been largely destroyed on the ground !
    The official The official tally of the French Fighter Arm and its myth of the "thousand" victories

    11 There is a great deal of confusion about this, and there is an important difference between the claimed victories and the actual destruction. A first source of confusion is the chronological delimitation of the period in question. In the estimation of the victory of the Air Force, the "phoney war" (3 September 1939-9 May 1940) is included in the great majority of cases, which constitutes a notable and significant source of confusion: The "thousand victories" of French aviation (naval aeronautics included, as weak and marginal as its contribution was) is insensibly passed in 1939-40 to the "thousand victories" of the fighter aviation of the Army of the " Air during the Battle of France, which is not quite the same.

    {snip}

    After critical re-evaluation, and to stick to more meaningful round numbers, it appears that the "thousand victories" claimed for the loss of about 500 combat aircraft turn into around 500 actual victories for loss of about 1,500 to 2,000 aircraft. We then pass from a positive loss / victory ratio of one to two favorable to the Air Force at a negative rate of three or even four to one. From then on, the interpretation of the role of the Air Force during the French campaign, the assessment of the scope and effectiveness of its action, changed radically.
    http://histoiremesure.revues.org/4040?lang=fr

    From this I get the picture that some of the claims made last night for the RAF contribution were profoundly optimistic.

    Moggy
    Last edited by Moggy C; 3rd July 2017 at 10:39.
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

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    Exaggerated claims made during the heat of battle are understandable. The dozen or so aviation historians on my shelves do not at all match with their various tallies.

    What is indisputable is that the RAF were very much in attendance at Dunkirk.

    The RAF were still contesting the battlefield up until withdrawal on the 4/5th June.

    Despite Goering's claim that the Luftwaffe would annihilate the BEF and prevent evacuation, this did not happen because of the continuous intervention of the RAF.

    Thru' out the Battle of France the RAF lost one aircraft for every two they destroyed.

    These are the reasons why the RAF left the battlefield as victors.

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    "If the C.O. ask's you to be Tail End Charlie...just shoot him!!!....A Piece of Cake.
    http://spitfirea58-27.blogspot.com.au/

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    What led to the evacuation of Dunkirk was the slowness and vacillation of the French command structure and the inability of the French to deal with, what was then, a new concept of warfare we know as Blitzkrieg.
    I cannot disagree with that but a major component of the success of that Blitzkrieg campaign was its use of tactical airpower; the Luftwaffe didn't achieve the victory alone but from their point of view, losses aside, I cannot see how their campaign could have been judged in any other way than as a brilliant success.
    WA$.

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    The RAF were still contesting the battlefield up until withdrawal on the 4/5th June. Despite Goering's claim that the Luftwaffe would annihilate the BEF and prevent evacuation, this did not happen because of the continuous intervention of the RAF. Thru' out the Battle of France the RAF lost one aircraft for every two they destroyed.

    These are the reasons why the RAF left the battlefield as victors.
    Although I wouldn't use the term 'victors' I think that the RAF certainly had nothing to be ashamed of in their conduct of the Battle-of-France; the loss-ratio and the suicidal bravery shown by the Light Bomber force should attest to that.

    I don't think anybody today thinks that the RAF weren't a major contributor in the success of Operation Dynamo.

    All in all, considering the size of the RAF contingent and the size of the BEF compared to the French forces, I think it is safe to say that both made a contribution well above that which their numbers would suggest was possible; unfortunately the escape of the BEF has left them as something of a convenient scapegoat for the French defeat in French eyes.
    WA$.

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    You're absolutely correct but, aided and abetted - by the French !

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