Kent area organiser arranges an LDV meeting

A meeting is arranged in Ashford by the Kent Organiser. Major General A.L. Forster, CB accepts the appointment as Group Organiser for East Kent, and Lieutenant Colonel J.C. Pethrick, MC, is appointed Group Organiser for West Kent. Brigadier General H.A. Verson, DSO, joins as Staff Officer (G) to the Zone Organiser. Admiral Sir Studholme Brownrigg, KBE, CB, DSO, accepts an invitation to organise the North Kent Group which includes the Chatham Military Area.

Dowding writes to the Under Secretary at the Air Ministry

HEADQUARTERS FIGHTER COMMAND
ROYAL AIR FORCE,
BENTLEY PRIORY,
STANMORE,
MIDDLESEX.

SECRET

May 16, 1940

Sir,

I have the honour to refer to the very serious calls which have recently been made upon the Home Defence Fighter Units in an attempt to stem the German invasion on the Continent.

I hope and believe that our Armies may yet be victorious in France and Belgium, but we have to face the possibility that they may be defeated.

In this case I presume that there is no-one who will deny that England should fight on, even though the remainder of the Continent of Europe is dominated by the Germans.

For this purpose it is necessary to retain some minimum fighter strength in this country and I must request that the Air Council will inform me what they consider this minimum strength to be, in order that I may make my dispositions accordingly.

I would remind the Air Council that the last estimate which they made as to the force necessary to defend this country was 52 Squadrons, and my strength has now been reduced to the equivalent of 36 Squadrons.

Once a decision has been reached as to the limit on which the Air Council and the Cabinet are prepared to stake the existence of the country, it should be made clear to the Allied Commanders on the Continent that not a single aeroplane from Fighter Command beyond the limit will be sent across the Channel, no matter how desperate the situation may become.

It will, of course, be remembered that the estimate of 52 Squadrons was based on the assumption that the attack would come from the eastwards except in so far as the defences might be outflanked in flight. We have now to face the possibility that attacks may come from Spain or even from the North coast of France. The result is that our line is very much extended at the same time as our resources are reduced.

I must point out that within the last few days the equivalent of 10 Squadrons have been sent to France, that the Hurricane Squadrons remaining in this country are seriously depleted, and that the more Squadrons which are sent to France the higher will be the wastage and the more insistent the demands for reinforcements.

I must therefore request that as a matter of paramount urgency the Air Ministry will consider and decide what level of strength is to be left to the Fighter Command for the defences of this country, and will assure me that when this level has been reached, not one fighter will be sent across the Channel however urgent and insistent the appeals for help may be.

I believe that, if an adequate fighter force is kept in this country, if the fleet remains in being, and if Home Forces are suitably organised to resist invasion, we should be able to carry on the war single handed for some time, if not indefinitely. But, if the Home Defence Force is drained away in desperate attempts to remedy the situation in France, defeat in France will involve the final, complete and irremediable defeat of this country.

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,

Air Chief Marshal,
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief,
Fighter Command,Royal Air Force.

Source: Dowding Papers

A covering letter from Newell states:

I believe that the point has how been reached where sending more fighter squadrons to France will not affect the outcome of the battle.

Hitler reacts negatively to Seelöwe plan

When presented with it, Hitler's reaction to Seelöwe is unfavourable. This is probably the first time he has been presented with plans to invade England as it has not been presented to the OKW. At this stage the plan is a landing on the East coast.

Raeder:

The Führer and the Commander-in-Chief, Navy, discuss in private details concerning the invasion of England, on which the Naval Staff has been working since November.

Seeking guidance on U-boat strategy Raeder asks Hitler if the war was going to be decided quickly, or was it wiser to assume that it would "last some time"? Hitler favours the second assumption.

Hitler promises that, after the "main operations in France" are finished he will concentrate on the submarine and Ju 88 construction programs.

Raeder names air superiority over the Channel as the first condition of any invasion:

Rader:

I named absolute mastery over the Channel by our air forces as the first condition of any landing attempt.  Furthermore, this German air superiority had not only to achieve mastery of the air, but also would have to damage the British Fleet tremendously even if it could not completely prevent its appearance on the scene.  Anything less than this would make the risk too great and the invasion unjustified.  The diversion of a huge percentage of Germany's ocean, coastal and river shipping for transport of the invasion troops, I pointed out, would greatly impair Germany's domestic economy.

Hitler listed to all that I said, but expressed no views of his own at the time except to order that for the time being no preparations for a landing be made. But in any case Hitler had now been warned that any landing in England would have to be carefully studied first, and then just as carefully planned.

Reader brings the invasion plan to Hitler to forestall it being suggested by "some irresponsible person" and Hitler jumping to the idea which would mean the Kreigsmarine would be faced with impossible tasks.

All my experience with Hitler had convinced me of the importance of giving him our own opinions of a situation before less qualified people could gain his ear.

Furthermore, we had just completed a most successful amphibious operation, over wide waters, against Norway, and many people might get the idea that a similar move could be equally successful against England.

At first glance, the jump across the Channel, whose opposite shore could easily be seen from France in good weather, would seem far less dangerous that the Norwegian landings. But any experienced naval leader would know that just the opposite was true. A long and careful preparation was absolutely necessary.

Such a landing would be extremely difficult and attended with the gravest risks. However, the development of the aeroplane for both combat and and transport purposes had brought a new element not present in previous wars, and hence the possibilities of a successful invasion were not so infinitesimal as formerly. A powerful and effective Air Force might create conditions favourable for an invasion, whether it could was not in the Navy War Staff's province.

Generals Keitel, Jodel, Commander von Puttkamer (Hitler's naval adjutant) were present at the conference.

Halder records in his diary:

The overall picture of the day shows that the big battle is in full swing.

Hydrofoils and floating bunkers with caterpillar tracks that could climb beaches are mentioned as landing craft by Raeder.

Admiralty surveyors looking at airfield sites in Orkney

One month later (date unknown) Twatt is chosen to be the location of a station to accommodate one reinforcing fighter squadron. This is later changed to be one and a half squadrons.

At the start of construction the farm of Hyval is demolished, followed by Festigarth, Skogar, Newhall and North Newhall.

The airfield is very close to RAF Skeabrae which causes some concern that with the wind in north-westerly or south-easterly directions aircraft taking off from one might get in the way of aircraft landing at the other. Inter-service cooperation is difficult as the Navy would not allow an RAF controller to overrule a Fleet Admiral who might want to immediately embark aircraft onto his carrier, they also rejected the RAF's suggestion that they locate the station at Grimsetter.

Slessor summarises a Joint Planning Committee paper

We had been asked whether Britain could hold out until help from the Empire and the United States became effective, and whether we had any chance of defeating Germany.

In his view the crux of the answer to the first question is the capacity to replace fighter wastage, which would bring - or lose - air superiority. On the second point, he believes that Germany might be defeated by three factors: attack from the air, economic pressure, and revolt in the defeated countries.

Chiefs of Staff report to the Prime Minister

The main conclusion is that, while the RAF was in existence, the Royal Navy and Air Force in unison probably have the power to prevent seaborne invasion. If, however, the Germans gain air superiority, the navy would not be able to stop landings ‘for an indefinite period’. Then, German land forces would get ashore and the British Army would be ‘insufficient to deal with a serious invasion’.

Source: COS Paper No 168 of 1940