Royal Navy and the Battle of Britain, The
Anthony J. Cumming
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This persuasive study attacks the key myths surrounding the Battle of Britain to revise the relative status of maritime and aviation factors in the defense of Britain. Without denigrating the heroism of the fighter pilots, Anthony Cumming challenges the effectiveness of the Royal Air Force in 1940 and gives the Royal Navy much greater prominence than others have. He vigorously asserts the ability of British warships to frustrate German plans for Operation Sea Lion and to repel Luftwaffe attacks.
The author argues that the RAF took the lion’s share of the glory only because its colorful image could easily be used manipulate American opinion. Cumming contends that the 70th anniversary of Battle of Britain should celebrate the contributions of the many rather than focusing on the pilot elite, an assertion certain provoke discussion.
junior officer, he was appalled to see how a radio-controlled Queen Bee target aircraft was able to fly straight and level through the fleet’s barrage and emerge unscathed on the other side during a 1939 exercise.7 An important reference book on naval weaponry has categorized naval anti-aircraft guns of a medium caliber to be within the range of 3 inches to 5.25 inches, firing explosive shells with timed fuses, and further supplemented by anti-ship guns to provide barrages often timed to burst at
civilians. Even then, the Luftwaffe showed its ability to bomb targets at night with minimal Fighter Command interference for the rest of 1940. Third, if subsequent campaigns by air forces of other nations to break civilian morale with heavier bomb loads and more sophisticated technology have invariably failed, then it is hard to blame the supposed shortcomings of the Luftwaffe for the failure to force a political solution in favor of Germany. Surprisingly then, it is the Luftwaffe that emerges
to the press and public. Though by now out of the Admiralty, Churchill also suffered (and allegedly accepted) some public criticism over Jutland for failing to appreciate the value of aircraft as spotters for the fleet when he was First Lord.4 This is not to say the British had lost touch with their maritime tradition in 1940, as is said to have happened in the second half of the twentieth century. The Royal Navy was still a source of pride but since Jutland, German Gotha bombers had bombed
verification of people’s suffering. However, disquiet was raised about a possible public “revolt against making an exhibition of our sufferings from air raids.” It was finally agreed that more facilities be granted to the Americans but not without expressions of concern over the potential loosening of control over the British press.81 Fortunately, since the Anschluss crisis, the Foreign Office recognized that “a large part of the [American] press is very sensible and there is widespread genuine
methods that might have engendered an efficient military expansion during the years immediately preceding 1940 were those of totalitarian governments and these would not have reflected Britain’s democratic tradition. The British committee system was the time-honored method of managing operational development and while this was reasonably effective in the long term there were short-term disadvantages. Well-run committees comprised of strong “team-players” represent thorough mechanisms for