RAF pilots who won the ‘Battle of Britain’ couldn’t shoot straight

November 14th, 2007 - 8:06 am ICT by admin  
The shortage of pilots forced the government to deploy barely-trained Spitfire and Hurricane crew into battle.

The crew had never fired their guns, and were unable to “shoot straight” due to “completely inadequate” gunnery training, Dr Anthony Cumming in his latest edition of BBC History Magazine.

He said the Air Ministry “skilfully marketed” the legend that “a handful of brave fighter pilots” prevented a German invasion by denying the Luftwaffe control of the skies in the summer of 1940.

He said the pilots’ role in the nation’s “finest hour” was a myth deliberately built up by the Air Ministry to help its own battle for more resources.

An inadequate training programme meant many pilots were sent into battle with just ten hours of solo flying under their belts, he said.

He said it was the firepower of the Royal Navy that prevented Hitler from going ahead with Operation Sealion, the full-scale plan for the invasion of Britain.

He said, in reality, only one in seven pilots could actually claim credit for shooting down an enemy aircraft.

He said during the initial phase of the Battle of Britain, the RAF Fighter Command allowed the Luftwaffe to gain “the upper hand” over the South Coast for several weeks.

The RAF was unable to stop hugely destructive bombing of British towns and cities at night by the Luftwaffe Bomber fleet, he said.

As for the RAF’s two top aces during the Battle of Britain, Sergeant J Frantisek and Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz, both of them were trained in foreign air forces, he said.

He said Britain’s “primitive” radar systems were also not as effective as was claimed at the time, but its potency as an effective tool was “exaggerated” to gain more funding from the Government.

However, not everyone seems to be convinced with Dr. Cumming’s analysis.

Military historian Correlli Barnett dismissed his arguments as “clever but silly”.

“This betrays a lack of understanding of the reality of combat, and what makes a victory or defeat. It’s well known that the RAF faced a critical lack of trained pilots. That happens in a battle of attrition. Britain’s radar was primitive, yes, but it gave far better advance warning of German raids than we would have had without it,” said Barnett.

“You could measure any military force against some ideal standard and find them wanting, but that’s meaningless.

“What made Britain’s air defences in 1940 so strong was that they brought together all the elements - radar, observers on the ground, plotters and commanders in the operational HQ and, of course, the aircraft and pilots.

“In the final analysis who won the battle? The Luftwaffe suffered twice as many losses as the RAF and could not sustain them. Fighter Command did just enough to win,” he added. (ANI)

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