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Thread: Heads Up. Dunkirk: The New Evidence

  1. #61
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    To answer the much earlier question about why the inverted commas around 'glorious day' - I had intended that this should reflect the fact that these are the exact words used in the squadron's Operations Record Book.

    Others, subsequently, might take a view that this day was anything but glorious for 92 Squadron, of course.
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  2. #62
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    In considering the RAF fighter actions covering Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo, one has to also take into account the fact that squadrons were operating completely on their own in regards to any form of command and control. Quite simply, there was none. They were also operating with dreadfully inadequate TR9D radio sets, which were bad when they were working well, and when squadrons were operating together as a 'wing' then individual squadrons in that wing could not communicate with other squadrons - only with aircraft in their own squadron.
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  3. #63
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    You missed out:

    Others might take the view that 'one swallow does not a summer make' and that any opportunity to have a go at the Hun in the circumstances prevailing was very glorious.

  4. #64
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    Dunkirk and Dynamo are considered to be one and the same. It's of more than passing interest to note that the Luftwaffe had problems of control and communication akin to those of the RAF.

  5. #65
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    Operation Dynamo commenced at 18.57 on 26 May when the operational order was given.

    The air operations over the general Dunkirk area to which I referred in relation to 92 Squadron, and which seem to have been referenced in the TV documentary, took place a few days beforehand. Thus, they were not part of Dynamo. Hence: Dunkirk and Dynamo.

    I'm not entirely sure that the Luftwaffe problems of command and control over Dunkirk were anything like the problems being encountered by the RAF. The Luftwaffe were (generally) being sent out on specific sorties to attack specific targets, or targets of opportunity on the beaches, at sea and in Dunkirk Harbour etc. and often with fighter escorts. The problem the RAF had in countering these raids were that there was no early warning (ie radar or OC) and squadrons only encountered Luftwaffe aircraft 'by chance' and were never controlled or vectored onto targets.
    Last edited by Tangmere1940; 4th July 2017 at 19:06.
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  6. #66
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    For those interested in further reading on the topic:
    Attached Images Attached Images  
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  7. #67
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    Two books, two authors...but only one cover image.

    Confusing, so I will buy both and hope there is an image of the Spitfire landing on the beach in at least one of them.

    MarK





    PS

    ...I better get this one while I am at it.

    Last edited by Mark12; 4th July 2017 at 16:35.
    "...the story had been forensically examined and was deeply impressive. I knew that the whole story was a load of myth and baloney…"

  8. #68
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    There's another book about the actual making of the film.

    Amazon lists it as out of stock just now, though.
    Daren Cogdon

    Spitfire fanatic

  9. #69
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    I'm sure you know that Dynamo was the code word that referred to the evacuation of primarily British troops from primarily tho' not exclusively, the port of Dunkirk. Other points/ports of embarkation for the BEF were Calais, Sangatte, Bray, La Panne and Nieuport. Between these places, others became marshalling areas.

    Dunkirk, over time became a generic title. It is the one that to-day is in popular use when referring to this phase of the war.

    You're not entirely sure that the Luftwaffe problems of command and control were anything like the problems encountered by the RAF.

    James Holland tells it differently. Milch and Kesselring had used the weather to explain away the Luftwaffe failure at Dunkirk. Luftwaffe pilots were sometimes spending all day sitting in their cockpits at readiness, all because the Luftwaffe had not set up their radar. Nor were pilots supported by air to ground radio or any direction finding system.

    In the air, aircrew could communicate with their own units but fighters could not talk to bombers. Crews were briefed on the ground and then expected to get on with it. Ulrich Steinhilper was the communications officer of Gruppe JG 52. His opponent in the matter of communications was no other than Adolf Galland who considered radio communications a waste of space.

    According to Holland, most other pilots in the Luftwaffe thought that radio was not only a waste of time but also merely added extra weight. Even after Dunkirk, when the Battle of Britain had started, the Luftwaffe had a very poor radio communications policy.

    So, it is plain that the Luftwaffe had their comms problems as did the RAF.

  10. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moggy
    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
    Maybe they will get a ten minute mention in the next "Dunkirk: The Newer Evidence" documentary...
    Under my gruff exterior lies an even gruffer interior...

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  11. #71
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    The point I was making was that RAF Fighter Command had an entirely different set of problems than any that may have been encountered by the Luftwaffe. And I am sure that the latter were not exactly lacking in their own problems.

    However, RAF Fighter Command was operating a long way from its area of command and control and all they could do, in effect, was put up patrols and hope to encounter the Luftwaffe. There is also anecdotal evidence (suggested by Norman Franks) that ground observers were able to alert the Luftwaffe as to when patrolling RAF aircraft had departed.

    As for German pilots sitting at readiness all day in their cockpits 'because the Luftwaffe hadn't set up their radar'. Really? I think I might take issue with James Holland on that. I'll ask him when I next speak with him!

    The Luftwaffe may well have had air-to-air communications problems, too, but it was command and control for RAF fighters over Dunkirk to which I was specifically referring. As I mentioned, the TR9D radios then in use were pretty useless, anyway. But even had they worked properly, and pilots been able to communicate with 'home', then there was no command and control system available to help them over Dunkirk! For the Luftwaffe, they were merely briefed as to the target, and off they went - with or without fighter escort. Their problems were surely far less than those of their opponents.

    This from my Haynes Manual RAF Battle of Britain Operations Manual explains some of the specific RAF radio issues and may be of interest:

    "The key to effectively communicating with fighter squadrons in the air during the Battle of Britain clearly rested on a single route; radio. Or, to more accurately describe the system then in use, Wireless Telephony or W/T. However, the equipment being used during the summer of 1940 proved to be less than adequate for the task expected of it, with the W/T apparatus in use by RAF Fighter Command being the High Frequency (HF) T.R.9D set. In fact, it had been intended that by 1940 all fighter aircraft would have been converted to the Very High Frequency (VHF) T.R.1133 sets. (T.R. in both cases stood for Transmitter/Receiver)

    In practice it was found that the range of the T.R.9D set was too short and its performance too variable to give efficient air-to-ground communication for Fighter Command’s interception system. Thus, experiments and arrangements were put in place as early as 1935 to develop a VHF set. At that time it was anticipated that the new VHF sets would be available ‘in five years’ time’. In other words, by sometime in 1940. Part of the problem with the HF sets, apart from range, was that the number of users of the high frequency band had increased dramatically (even in wartime) from when it had been adopted twelve years earlier. These users included civil, military and foreign stations and a real possibility existed that the sets might be jammed from stations two or three hundred miles away and for all of these reasons it was desirable that a replacement system should work in another frequency band. However, delays in development and production of a new VHF set persisted but eventually it appeared that eight sectors in No 11 and 12 Groups, involving up to 300 fighters, could be equipped with the new sets by September 1939 and by October service trials of the new T.R.1133 sets were being undertaken by Spitfires of 66 Squadron. The results were dramatic, and exceeded all expectations with an air-to-ground range of 140 miles and an air to air range of 100 miles. Speech was clearer, pilot’s controls simpler and quicker to operate, direction finding was sharper and in every way the T.R.1133 was beyond any comparison with the T.R.9D. Unfortunately, however, the first stage of the re-equipment plan did not work out as quickly as had been hoped although it was further planned that by May 1940 an improved version of the VHF set, the T.R.1143, would be coming into use although, at that stage, only partial re-equipment with the 1133 set had been achieved and the majority of aircraft still had the old H.F. T.R.9D sets. Production and supply of the 1133 or 1143 had failed the RAF at its very hour of greatest need. Further, the operation of a force equipped partly with one type of W.T. equipment and the other part of the force with the T.R.9D was unworkable. It was a dire situation for RAF Fighter Command to be facing on the very eve of battle, and it led to Air Chief Marshal Dowding to signal the Air Ministry and No 11,12 and 13 Groups:

    ‘In view of the necessity for maintaining flexibility in operation of all Fighter Squadrons at present time, and limited wireless apparatus available, all VHF equipment in aircraft is to be replaced by the HF T.R.9D sets forthwith.’

    An angry Dowding then wrote to the Air Ministry on 1 June 1940 deploring the inadequacy of supplies which had forced him to abandon this the most successful form of fighter communication. Only by reverting to the old H.F. sets could anything like a workable R/T organisation be maintained and losing the advantages of the new VHF sets was a retrograde step and a bitter disappointment. This retrograde step certainly affected the operating efficiency of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain and there are many examples of poor R/T communications recorded in the operational narratives of squadrons during the Battle of Britain illustrating how unsatisfactory the High Frequency T.R.9D sets were. For example, over Chelmsford on 18 August 1940 only one section of a squadron came into action against a German formation. The other sections in the squadron failed to hear an order addressed by the squadron commander owing to loud interference by a German transmission in which conversation between enemy pilots could be plainly heard. There had also been similar experiences over Swanage on 15 August, for example. Sometimes, the T.R.9D sets worked well, but in general too much of the pilot’s time and attention was taken up in the sheer effort of passing and receiving messages, with interference a frequent distraction. As a case in point, one RAF Battle of Britain fighter pilot, Plt Off Ken McGlashan of 245 Sqn, was subsequently scathing of the ineffectual T.R.9D sets. Talking of his own experience over Dunkirk in May 1940 he said: ‘We still waged war with the primitive T.R.9D radio as well as doing battle with the enemy. Selecting a frequency could be likened to finding a TV channel through a sea of white hash and interference. And one had to constantly keep tuning and re-tuning if one was to have any hope at all of communicating or receiving information. Of course, in the midst of combat a pilot had limited free hands with which to attend to such a job but suddenly a screech came over the ineffectual radio and filled my helmet with an awful deafening, squawking cacophony of static. I learned later that it was another pilot trying to warn me of five Me 109s diving on us, but I was none the wiser. On this occasion, I was shot down. Later, in June 1940, whilst on patrol over Cherbourg I spotted three enemy aircraft climbing rapidly below us. I tried to warn our leader several times, as it was obvious he hadn’t yet seen them. Unfortunately, the T.R.9D was true to form yet again.’

    The T.R.9D, however, remained the wireless set in operational use throughout the Battle of Britain but its failings were a desperate and daily worry for both fighter pilots and controllers alike. It would be impossible to say on how many occasions this ineffective piece of equipment led to the loss of pilots, the breakdown of air-to-air communications between pilots or the inability of controllers to pass intelligible information to their squadrons and the resulting failure to intercept raids.'
    Last edited by Tangmere1940; 4th July 2017 at 17:59.
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  12. #72
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    A fulsome reply; very analytical. It did not tho' answer your own statement concerning whether or not the Luftwaffe were any worse off than the RAF.

    The answer has to be, they were - considerably so ! As bad as the RAF's communication system was, at least they had a system. Thanks to Adolf Galland and his reputation, the Germans had few radios and therefore no working system. The reference for this opinion does not lie with just James Holland. Other distinguished aviation historians have commented similarly.

    How on earth did I come to be defending the bl#ody Luftwaffe ?? Your last sentence could equally apply to the Luftwaffe.

  13. #73
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    I think 'who was worse off at Dunkirk - the RAF or Luftwaffe' is somewhat subjective.

    Both sides could communicate with each other in the air; the RAF only to other aircraft in their own squadrons (or to ground stations within range), the Luftwaffe could communicate fighter-to-fighter (in unit) and bomber-to-bomber (in unit) but not fighter to bomber and v-v. So, pretty much a level playing field there, notwithstanding the limitations of the Fug. radio sets and TR9Ds, that is.

    The RAF were beyond any command and control system and were operating at will and quite randomly, really.

    The Luftwaffe were being sent out on specific bombing attacks to specific targets, the fighters sometimes escorting or sometimes on free-hunts. Again, like the RAF, the Luftwaffe had no command and control system once the aircraft were in the air.

    For RAF pilots downed over the action area, they faced an uncertain situation. They either had to come down in a hostile area with no certainty of eventual escape, face a ditching or face a trying journey back across the Channel. For Luftwaffe crews, if they could get back to the not too far-distant lines they stood a good chance - and even if they came down in the 'hot' area it was likely that captivity might be short-lived.

    On balance, I'd say that the odds were considerably in favour of the Luftwaffe crews at this time and that they couldn't possibly be 'considerably worse-off' than the RAF. Indeed, that view was certainly pretty much borne out by some Luftwaffe fighter and bomber veterans from the period whom I interviewed way back in 79 and 80. And I recall sitting with Alfred Price (at Biggin Hill) talking to German bomber veterans about their Dunkirk experiences. I don't recall any speaking of the difficulties they faced then. On the contrary.

    But that is just my opinion.
    Last edited by Tangmere1940; 4th July 2017 at 19:05.
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  14. #74
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    Hi All,
    I read 'Walter Lord's-The miracle Of Dunkirk' that gives a wide coverage of the events leading up to the operation including the rear-guard that was
    left to fend off any 'German' attacks, all the info and quotes are from a wide range of ranks and all services and I recommend it to anybody
    interested in the subject.

    I think a fact often missed by many at times is there was an unseen army from all services and countries that stayed put on the ground knowing
    they would either be killed or spend the rest of the war as a POW to enable the evacuation. Those are the real heroes in my book they gave the rest
    a chance to regroup and fight again whenever and wherever till the end.

    All armed services played their part at that time and all should be remembered for their actions as a whole in that pivotal operation.

    Geoff.

  15. #75
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    Aside from all the 'ifs' 'buts' and 'maybe's' we have one rather solid piece of information derived, interestingly, from Generals Kesselring and Milch. Their admission, that Luftwaffe operations specifically over Dunkirk were a failure contradicts your assertion that 'the odds were considerably in favour of the Luftwaffe crews and that they couldn't possibly be worse off than the RAF'.

    Either, as I tend to believe, the RAF pulled out the stops which belies the notion that they were not in evidence over the evacuation or, the Luftwaffe were handicapped in some way that hasn't been exposed. Some German opinion was that the weather was a factor adversely affecting their performance.

    Whatever the interpretation, a truly absorbing slice of history.

  16. #76
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    General Kesselring and Milch were opining from the point of view of the overall success or failure of the air operations over Dunkirk. I have the full transcript, here, of Kesselring's interrogation post war. A weighty tome, in itself!

    What I thought we were talking about, here, were the odds being in favour (or not) of the respective aircrews involved, or who was 'worse off', and the operational considerations which hampered or helped them. That is a different thing altogether to the Luftwaffe commanders considering that their air operations were a failure. You suddenly seem to be talking about something else other than 'who was worse off'!

    As to the RAF's role, that really is a matter of fact rather than of opinion. That is, that RAF Fighter Command did all it possibly could under the most trying of circumstances. Remember, too, that there were only a limited number of squadrons operating from a limited number of airfields within effective operational range.
    Last edited by Tangmere1940; 4th July 2017 at 20:23.
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  17. #77
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    The original point addressed the question of the growth of the myth concerning the appearance/non appearance of the RAF in the skies over Dunkirk. As is usual, the script widened a little to take in other, perhaps peripheral, matters. As for the answer to the central question it is best answered by reference to squadron records.

    I think that the totality of my argument is summarised at #75

  18. #78
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    Am I confused or something, but I can no longer find this topic in the public area?

  19. #79
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    Arrr, it's back! (Moderation I suppose?)

  20. #80
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    Now I'm confused. How did you post on it when you couldn't find it?

    Moggy

    No moderation on this thread that I can detect
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

  21. #81
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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.
    'Claims' for aircraft shot-down are usually highly inaccurate.

    This sort of forensic examination of aircraft claims and losses is fascinating to me; the difference between what actually happened and the perception, of those involved (and those not), of what was happening.

    Of course, it isn't going to change the outcome of the battle, the BEF were still successfully evacuated and the Luftwaffe still failed to effectively interfere with that evacuation, and it isn't going to change the perception of those that were involved (those still living anyway), but it will give an insight into what losses led to the eventual outcome of the battle (and those perceptions of it).

    And it is possible for two conflicting perceptions to both be correct. The weather for example: the same weather can be 'terrible' for dive-bombing but very good for evacuating troops under fire!
    WA$.

  22. #82
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    ...we have one rather solid piece of information derived, interestingly, from Generals Kesselring and Milch. Their admission, that Luftwaffe operations specifically over Dunkirk were a failure contradicts your assertion that 'the odds were considerably in favour of the Luftwaffe crews and that they couldn't possibly be worse off than the RAF'.
    Why can't both statements be true?

    The odds could have been in favour of the Luftwaffe.....and they could still have failed. (And they did fail.)

    Even the perception of why they failed, from those involved, could be different and yet still both could be 'correct'; the Luftwaffe could, in their eyes, have failed because of the weather, and the RAF could, in their eyes, have believed that failure was because of the interference of Fighter Command.
    WA$.

  23. #83
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    There is only a loose correlation if any between the effectiveness of air operations covering a land/sea operation and either a) visibility of aircraft immediately overhead the troops and b) 'kill ratios'. It is very easy to get caught up in this and loose sight of the actual measure of effectiveness, which is to compare how many aircraft the luftwaffe would have hypothetically have been able to get to the beaches with how many did.

    A bit like CD, though, I find the difference between percieved effectiveness and what actions did or didn't actually make a difference fascinating. For me this extends to our ground-attack ops over France 41-43 as well as the bomber offensive.

    British ground troops may not have been entirely up to speed on the best tactical use of air power in May 1940. While the RAF were learning fast, it was only the German forces who grasped that the point was never tying your aircraft to the patch of sky low down over the army and waiting for a combat there. Hence their success up to this point.
    Last edited by Beermat; 5th July 2017 at 09:31.

  24. #84
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    Seriously, for the life of me I could not locate this topic via the "Historic Aviation" front page even after several attempts. I was only able to find it and reply via my account and clicking "My content". (then again it was late...)

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