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Thread: Heads Up. Dunkirk: The New Evidence

  1. #31
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    Might I point out that the July issue of Britain at War magazine, now on sale, carries three Dunkirk-related features.

    First, a feature by Joshua Levine (historical consultant to Christopher Nolan on the Dunkirk film), second, a feature on Admiral Ramsay and, third, a feature by Norman Franks on the RAF at Dunkirk: 'Where's The Bloody Air Force?'

    I think the latter feature will be of interest to some of those who have posted here.
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  2. #32
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    Whilst undertaking some basic searches of the RLM General Quartermaster Returns for entries on the 10 May 1940 there are 460 reported incidents of varying percentages of damage on this day alone. Obviously these have a very wide and varied scope in the actual circumstances of the loss. Of these losses reported 228 were Ju52 transport aircraft.

    9 May: 21 (1 x Ju52)
    10 May: 460 (228 x Ju52)
    11 May: 124 (5 x Ju52)
    12 May: 88 (2 x Ju52)
    13 May: 65 (0 x Ju52)
    14 May: 113 (2 x Ju52)
    15 May: 93 (1 x Ju52)

  3. #33
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    For myself, the main disappointment of 'Dunkirk: the Lost Evidence' was the reasoning that it was the Spitfire, and the Spitfire alone, that had made all the difference between the evacuation being a success and a failure. Supported by interviews by former Spitfire pilots and with some nice footage of a rebuilt Dunkirk-veteran Spitfire. I'm sure the fact that the Spitfire was available at the time helped but if every Spitfire had been replaced by a Hurricane I'm sure the outcome would have been little different.

    In terms of the RAF tactics during the evacuation from Dunkirk, much was made of the interception of raids before they reached the beaches and harbour. Much was also made of the dive-bombing abilities of the Stuka. I wonder whether it would have done the RAF any harm to have some squadrons of fighters operating over Dunkirk itself so that the Stuka dive-bombers could be attacked as they entered and exited their dives; surely that wouldn't have helped the accuracy of their bombing in addition to being good for the morale of the BEF below?

    I've also wondered why no serious attempt was made by the RAF to operate light transport aircraft in ferry flights from the beaches themselves; the numbers evacuated in this way would probably have been quite small compared to the Royal Navy effort but in the early desperate days of the evacuation I'm not sure why it wasn't tried?
    WA$.

  4. #34
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    A brief search of the Luftwaffe aerial claims where the location specifically states "Dünkirchen" from 26 May 1940 to 4 June 1940 brings up the following totals for the Hurricane and Spitfire. Obviously, due to the nature of aerial claims, the precise number and location need to be treated with caution, but they offer a general overview of what the Luftwaffe pilots thought they were seeing and shooting at in the skies over Dunkirk during the evacuation period. There are many more claims for Hurricanes and Spitfires listed with either no location recorded or other areas of the French coastline during this period, but as previously stated these entries specifically list "Dünkirchen" as the general location/area of the claim.

    LW claims, 26 May 1940 - 4 June 1940 (Dünkirchen area)

    Hurricane: 51
    Spitfire: 74

    Regarding using light transport aircraft to help with the evacuation. Looking at photos of the beaches during this period they were strewn with wreckage, craters and all sorts of obstacles that would need to be cleared for an aircraft to have any hope of landing/taking off. I fear any attempt to do so would have resulted in the total loss of the aircraft/crew and minimal evacuated troops. Just too risky in my opinion...

    Regarding the Ju87 'Stuka'. Approximately 15 are listed as having been lost to either fighter action or flak (presumably naval) during the evacuation period over Dunkirk. Again the location specifically recorded as Dunkirk. Some of those specifically listed as shot down by Spitfires, Hurricanes and Defiants.

  5. #35
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    I wonder if anyone else noticed the name of one of the RAF pilots MIA, when they were at the National Archives ?
    Paul Klipsch, whose Spitfire was the subject of a Time Team dig in France. I imagine one of the researchers must
    have made a point of finding the reference ?
    Engine Failure:.... A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.

  6. #36
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    On the subject of Spitfires during the Dunkirk era, it is worth noting (as an example) that 92 Sqn alone claimed 23 enemy aircraft, including 17 Me 110s in the afternoon of 23 May (from memory) and called it a 'glorious day' for the squadron. During the morning engagement that day they also claimed six Me 109s.

    In fact, they lost their CO (Bushell) and three other pilots that 'glorious' day.

    Only two 109s can possibly be tied to the morning claims by 92 Sqn as I recall (although Aviart may have more detail?) and of the Me 110s (of ZG76) claimed in the afternoon, I could identify none - only three damaged with crews wounded. But this is largely from memory when I looked into the history of P9374.

    I would also add that the forthcoming book by Red Kite on the air battle of Dunkirk will be well worth waiting for - and will answer a good many questions as to claims and losses.
    Last edited by Tangmere1940; 3rd July 2017 at 16:22.
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  7. #37
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    A brief search on that date I have the following:

    Bf 109

    Hans Strehl, 1./JG 51, Dünkirchen, Luftkampf mit Hurricanes, Bauchlandung
    Unknown, 1./JG 1, Calais (südwestl.), Luftkampf mit Hurricanes, 54.Sq (12:00)
    Paul Widmer, 2./JG 1, Cambrai (nördl.), Absturz nach Luftkampf, 242.Sq (13:20)
    Unknown, 2./JG 1, Cambrai (nordöstl.), Luftkampf mit Hurricanes, 242.Sq (13:20)
    Fritz Keller, 2./JG 27, Hirson (bei), Luftkampf mit Hurricanes, 253.Sq, Notlandung (14:15)
    Hans-Wedig von Weiher, 2./JG 27, Ypern (östl.), Luftkampf mit Hurricanes, 253.Sq, Absturz (09:00)
    Albert Pötsch,1./JG 27, Boulogne - Dünkirchen, Luftkampf mit Spitfires, 92.Sq (11:30)
    Werner Ahrens, 1./JG 27, Boulogne - Dünkirchen, Luftkampf mit Spitfires, 92.Sq (11:30)
    Heinz Gillert, 1./JG 1, Boulogne (Raum), vor dem Strand, Absturz nach Luftkampf, 54.Sq (12:00)
    Emil Kaiser, 2./JG 27, Ypern (östl.), Luftkampf mit Hurricanes, 253.Sq, Notlandung jenseits (09:00)

    Bf 110

    Günther Specht, (Bf) Fritz Fischer, Stab I./ZG 76, (Boulogne - Calais), (Gr.Adj.) Luftkampf mit Spitfires (18:15), 92.Sq, Flzg zurück
    Unknown, (Bf) Willi Kirberg, 3./ZG 26, (Calais, vor), Luftkampf mit Spitfires (18:15), 92.Sq, Flzg zurück
    Werner Guth, (Bf) Kurt Niedzwetski, 6./ZG 76, Calais (vor), Luftkampf um 18.15 Uhr mit Spitfire, 92.Sq, Flzg zurück

    From GQMs and additonal information from Prien, Ring/Girbig, Cornwell, Vasco, but all may have updated thier records regarding who claimed... if anything has come to light since publishing.

  8. #38
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    In fact, they lost their CO (Bushell) and three other pilots that 'glorious' day.
    I noticed this name crop-up during the documentary...

    ...it is, of course, Roger Bushell (Big 'X') of 'The Great Escape' fame.
    WA$.

  9. #39
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    I'm wondering why you wrote 'glorious day' in inverted commas ?

    As mentioned, I've got a dozen or more books written by aviation and military historians from Stephen Bungay, James Holland, Max Arthur, Tim Clayton, Patrick Bishop, Robin Prior, to name a few. What new facts will Red Kite reveal ? I find it hard to believe that there are other questions related to variations of additional claims and losses.

  10. #40
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    Re: #39
    One possibility might be because of potentially flawed research or flawed interpretation of the data?
    Not that I am saying that to be the case in any of the esteemed authors mentioned, but sometimes claims are supported by one historian, that information is then used by others reinforcing the story but subsequently shown, through unearthing more information not originally available or more thorough analysis, to have been in error.
    Last edited by trekbuster; 3rd July 2017 at 20:00.

  11. #41
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    Isn't the problem the RAF had at Dunkirk the same one the American escort fighters had over Germany.
    That is, if you are over the beaches (or near the American bombers) you are tactically at a disadvantage and ultimately ineffective?
    Good for morale, bad for tactics.

  12. #42
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    Clarification doesn't actually require much in the way of 'new' facts, just some stringent checking and interpretation of all the old ones.

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

  13. #43
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    I'm wondering why you wrote 'glorious day' in inverted commas?
    Obviously, as far as 92 Squadron was concerned, because that squadron lost four Spitfires (including that of their CO) and, at best, shot-down two Bf109, and damaged a few Bf110, in return...

    ...two more 'glorious days' like that and 92 Squadron would cease to exist!
    WA$.

  14. #44
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    What new facts will Red Kite reveal?
    Well, as co-author of the new Dunkirk Air Combat Archive book, what I would say is that the RAF did massively over claim during Dunkirk but this is almost entirely due to the pilots never having been in combat before and presuming that the enemy aircraft were more damaged than they were. As with our Battle of Britain Combat Archive series, all we do in this book is present the claims and actual losses for both sides along with relevant combat and intelligence reports so that the reader can form their own opinions.
    I think what is true is that RAF Fighter Command was heavily engaged over Dunkirk, sometimes in patrols of 30+ fighters (months before the 'Big Wing' concept) and during Op Dynamo the pilots were basically tasked with flying a continuous patrol line from Calais to Ostend. One thing that the programme didn't mention was the terrible weather which prevailed during a lot of the evacuation. This not only hid the RAF fighters from the soldiers on the beaches but also hid the soldiers from the Luftwaffe.

    Mark P

  15. #45
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    Terrible weather? I think the Royal Navy described the Channel as being 'like a mill pond'?
    WA$.

  16. #46
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    That is, if you are over the beaches you are tactically at a disadvantage and ultimately ineffective? Good for morale, bad for tactics.
    You could be right but I would have thought that the evacuation vessels were at their most vulnerable when stationary while loading in Dunkirk itself? Who knows? Also I wonder how RAF fighters were finding the Luftwaffe bombers over France; standing patrols?
    WA$.

  17. #47
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    Hi All,
    The documentary was average with all to often used footage and the title was misleading IMHO, the first 25/30mins dedicated to the 'Dunkirk'
    history with 15/20mins about the so called new evidence and 10mins about the recovered/restored spitfire N3200 and the legend that was the plane and
    details about the pilots who flew at the time sadly.

    I was expecting some revelations of what really happened but like some on here disappointed with the finished article...

    Geoff.
    Last edited by 1batfastard; 4th July 2017 at 18:43.

  18. #48
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    At least I am not totally alone in my disappointment...
    Under my gruff exterior lies an even gruffer interior...

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  19. #49
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    CD

    It is entirely possible to have a sea like a 'mill pond' coupled to poor weather flying conditions eg. low cloud, mist, drizzle etc.

  20. #50
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    Terrible weather? I think the Royal Navy described the Channel as being 'like a mill pond'?
    Yes, indeed a millpond with visibility down to a few hundred yards in places, low cloud, mist, and the smoke from the oil tank fires making a thick hazy soup above the beaches. Stukas tended to need more than 500ft to dive from so to be more precise, terrible dive bombing weather!

  21. #51
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    "Glorious day ?"

    These guys were nineteen and twenty year olds looking for an aerial 'punch-up'. Almost irrespective of losses, what could be more glorious than an opportunity like that. Events crystalized and concentrated into primal matters of life and death. Wonderful !

    All the old #arts on this forum presently engaged in re-writing history would do well to remember that.

  22. #52
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    Clarification ? I can't wait. If, after seventy years, the dozen or so illustrious authors on my shelves can find little common ground on the subject of numbers of aircraft destroyed on both sides during the Battle of France, what hope is there for more accuracy to be gained from the re-interpretation and re-examination of the known facts ?

    I will certainly buy a copy.

  23. #53
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    So the weather was more-or-less perfect for the evacuation; calm seas but with very restricted visibility.
    WA$.

  24. #54
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    I think maybe its worth thinking about the retreat and the losses of both machines and air/groundcrew by the RAF in the months before Dunkirk.
    I imagine the aircrew viewed ops over Dunkirk not as 'glory' but a last ditch effort by tired and battle hardened crews to give the BEF a chance of escape.

  25. #55
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    Claims and loss reports were not always entirely accurate. On both sides, especially the Luftwaffe. It's only after investigating the information in other international archive sources, linking claims to actual known losses, and painstakingly cross referencing everything to iron out the errors do we get a more accurate picture. In recent years eBay has opened up a massive treasure trove of unpublished photographic material that the authors of old would not have had available to them with which to base their conclusions. These photos are gold dust because not only do they allow us to add additional information to the losses like markings and serial number information, but they often had other unknown snippets of information scribbled on the back. Precise locations, dates etc... This has helped to prove that some aircraft previously attributed to losses were in fact entirely different aircraft and in the heat of the battle what was recorded on the period documents was simply not correct. The internet has opened up a whole new world of collaboration between respected authors all over the planet with their own personal photographic archives and documents/research who are able to amalgamate everything to get a more refined picture of the situation. The amount of additional material which can be used to add to the research has literally skyrocketed since the internet has grown. There is so much becoming available that it is blindingly obvious to those that are involved that a fresh new interpretation needs to be undertaken of every aspect of what has previously been published. It is possible to take things much further than what is currently known.

    The forthcoming "Eagles Over Europe" publishing project will go a long way to tying up a lot of the unknowns and loose ends that are currently under discussion. Some of the world's most respected authors on the air war over Europe (Invasion of Poland to the end of 1940) are involved and the outcome is certainly going to be like nothing that has ever been or likely to ever be published on this period of World War 2. The scale and detail of the new information that will be presented is simply phenomenal. More on that in time...

    With regards to losses during the Battle of France (10 May - 25 June 1940). During this period the Luftwaffe officially reported 2535 losses. This number is certainly lower than reality as we have found in many cases that some incidents were simply not reported due to the minimal levels of damage.

  26. #56
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    A watchable programme, the repeatings after each ad break annoyed SWMBO! I was disappointed that the focus was on Spits and not Hurris....nice to see Simon P, Steve V and John R. Highlight for me and SWMBO were the cracking Vets, heroes the lot of them

  27. #57
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    The programme couldn't cover everything, but I was disappointed that the other hero/saviours of the 300,000+ never got a mention.

    The rearguard.

    Moggy


    For the evacuation to be a success a rearguard had to be formed, these men had to resist the blitzkreig at all costs and do everything they could to slow the German advance. The chilling reality was that for these men there was only two options... death or capture. Some did manage to get to the Dunkirk beaches and got taken home on the last few boats. However, for every seven men taken home from Dunkirk, one would be taken prisoner of war. Tens of thousands of troops were taken east to the Stalag camps where they would spend five long years working as slave labour down mines and in fields and factories, ending in a terrible march of hundreds of miles in freezing winter in late 1944 as the Allies began to advance. This final tribulation would be a test too far and many died of sheer exhaustion and malnutrition, collapsing in the snow. Others paid the ultimate sacrifice as they defended the evacuation. In the town of Esquelbecq near Dunkirk, 80 lads were captured in the rearguard and were massacred after being put in a barn by the SS and attacked by machine gun and grenade. In Dunkirk Town Cemetery lie the bodies of 793 Allied servicemen. At the entrance is the Dunkirk Memorial with the names of more than 4,500 brave souls who have no known grave.
    Last edited by Moggy C; 4th July 2017 at 12:28.
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

  28. #58
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    This is what Robert Kershaw had to say on the matter in his book, "Never Surrender". Page 92.

    "Unpredictable weather was the primary impediment to cross Channel traffic at this time of the year. Anxiety about the outcome was matched by wonder at the extraordinary calm weather that appeared to mythically protect the evacuation. For almost nine days a sluggish southerly airflow covered the British Isles and France. At the end of May the sea was so calm it was like a mirror."

    There followed a brief period as a weak front came thru' to be replaced by: "a large high pressure system generating only light winds and slight seas during the first four days of June".

    "Veterans recall a Meditteranean like opaque hue to the sea which was beautiful but enabled German bombers to track ships along sparklingly luminous homeward wakes".

    Kershaw goes onto comment that just over 400 RAF aircrew, primarily pilots, were killed or, became PoWs during the Battle of France. In addition, almost 1,000 British aircraft were destroyed.

  29. #59
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    A goodly portion of the defending troops being resolute French.

  30. #60
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    DB

    There wasn't any 'months before Dunkirk'. There was the 'phoney war' then the Germans attacked on the 10th May. A little more than three weeks later the German army was sitting on the beach at Dunkirk enjoying their coffee and schnapps.

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