Possible targets in the United Kingdom include armament factories and docks in London. The Channel ports and airfields in eastern England are also selected, the latter showing the Luftwaffe are planning raids that will be made by unescorted bombers flying across the North Sea from aerodromes in western Germany.
His subsequent report admitts that the strength of Luftflotte II would fail to bring a quick decision.
This expands on several points and suggests that continuous attacks should be made by day and night in widely separated areas. The RAF would then have to retain aircraft in the United Kingdom and even withdraw some of those already in France. The targets which are to be attacked by a force which numbered fewer than 400 medium bombers of Fliegerkorps X are listed. They include warships at sea and in port, the naval dockyards of the Tyne, Clyde, Birkenhead and Barrow-in-Furness, harbour installations at Liverpool, the Manchester Ship Canal, Avonmouth, Cardiff, Swansea and ‘the important military target’ of Billingham.
The "key is to paralyse the British trade" by blocking imports and attacking sea ports.
HEADQUARTERS FIGHTER COMMAND
ROYAL AIR FORCE,
May 16, 1940
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,
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.
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.
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:
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.
The restriction on bombing trade routes and ports is lifted and they are now "authorised to attack the English homeland in the fullest manner". They are to start with "an annihilating reprisal" for Bomber Command’s attacks on the Ruhr.
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.
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
He points out the risk of sending fighters abroad now that the French Army is in a parlous condition. He produces a graph showing that, on each of ten days during May, 25 fighters were lost, while only four replacements were received.
He recommends that Britain should be immediately invaded, adding that if left in peace for four weeks "it will be too late".
Warlimont (Jodel's deputy chief of the OKW's Operations Staff) notes that:
With regard to a landing in Britain, the Führer … has not up to now expressed such an intention, as he fully appreciates the unusual difficulties of such an operation. Therefore, even at this time, no preparatory work of any type has been carried out at OKW.
Only the Kriegsmarine has begun provisionally earmarking shipping and collating topographical intelligence about the coast between The Isle of Wight and the Wash.
The war will "almost certainly turn upon our ability to hold out during the next three months". Their next words reinforce the importance of Fighter Command, whose efforts, they claimed, should be "concentrated on taking all steps necessary to meet the imminent threat with which we are now confronted".
Source: CAB 66/ 8, W.P. (40) 213
First, troop-carrying aeroplanes should be attacked, and then bombers. Cover should be offered to RAF bombers raiding enemy ground targets. Diversionary sweeps made by the Luftwaffe should not be met by too great a strength because "the main objective of the fighters is to assist in repelling the invasion".
Source: AIR 16/ 347; AIR 20/ 2061;
Armed Forces High Command
WFA/Abt. L Nr. 33124/40 g.Kdos.Chefs.
2 Jul. 1940
Re: Warfare against England
The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander has decided:
- A landing in England is possible, provided that air superiority can be attained and certain other necessary conditions fulfilled. The date of commencement is therefore still undecided. All preparations are to be begun so that the operation can be carried out as soon as possible.
- The High Commands of the branches of the Armed forces are to supply the following information promptly:
- Estimate of the strength of the British army in view of the planned objectives. Probably losses, especially of equipment, and the expected condition of the army after partial rearmament during the next few months.
- Possibilities of using artillery from the Continent for additional protection of ship concentrations and transports against British naval forces (in cooperation with the Navy).
- Analysis of the landing possibilities for large numbers of Army troops (25 to 40 divisions) and antiarcraft units, with a description of the coastal topography of southern England and of the British naval and land defences.
Statement as to which routes and what equipment could be used for troops and supply transports on such a scale with adequate safety.
It should be kept in mind that a landing on a broad front will probably facilitate the further penetration of the Army.
- Information as to the type and amount of shipping pace available and the time required to make it ready.
- Opinion on whether and when we can reckon with achieving decisive air superiority. In this connection information of the comparative strength of the British and the German Air Forces.
- Which airborne forces can be used to support the operation and in what way. Transport planes should be assembled for this purpose, regardless of all other tasks.
The High Commands should jointly examine all organisational questions pertaining to the landing troops arising from the necessity to limit and utilise the naval and air transport space in the best manner possible.
The forces to be landed should be greatly superior in numbers to the British troops, especially as regards tanks; they should also be largely motorised and protected by strong antiaircraft forces.
- All preparations must bear in mind that the plan to invade England has not taken any sort of definite shape as yet, and that these are only preparations for a possible operation. As few people as possible of these plans.
The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces High Command
5th Abteilung (Air Intelligence Department of the Luftwaffe General Staff under 'Beppo' Schmid) report fails to mention radar, although 3rd Abteilung (Luftwaffe Signals and Cypher service under Wolfgang Martini) were aware of its existence and - before the war - had attempted to determine the frequencies used.
GERMAN INTELLIGENCE APPRECIATION OF THE R.A.F. AND COMPARISON WITH CURRENT LUFTWAFFE STRENGTH
Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
Operations Staff IC
16th July 1940. 7
I. THE MILITARY VALUE OF THE R.A.F
A. Strength and Equipment
1. Fighter Formations
With 50 fighter squadrons each having about 18 aircraft, there are 900 first line fighters available of which approximately 675 (75 per cent) may be regarded as serviceable.
About 40 per cent of the fighters are Spitfires and about 60 per cent are Hurricanes. Of these types the Spitfire is regarded as the better.
In view of their combat performance and the fact that they are not yet equipped with cannon guns both types are inferior to the Bf 109, while the individual Bf 110 is inferior to skilfully handled Spitfires.
In addition to the above formations Blenheim squadrons are available for night fighter tasks as auxiliary heavy fighters and operate in cohesion with particularly intense searchlight defence.
2. Bombing Formations
Assuming the average squadron strength to be 20 aircraft, the 55 to 60 bomber squadrons contain about 1,150 first line bombers of which about 860 (75 per cent) may be regarded as serviceable.
This strength is divided among four types of aircraft of various series, approximately as follows:
Comparison of these types shows that the Hampden has the best qualities as a bomber.
In addition, there is a large number of Blenheim bombers available. Most of these are in training schools but there are also some in operational units. However, in view of its performance, this type can no longer be considered a first line aircraft.
In comparison with German bombers all these types have inadequate armour, and poor bomb-aiming equipment. However, they usually have strong defensive armament.
3. Other Formations
These include coastal formations equipped with Lockheed Hudsons (reconnaissance) and flying-boats and various obsolescent types of aircraft — close reconnaissance and low-level attack aircraft designed for co-operation with the army.
These need not be taken into consideration in this report.
4. Anti-aircraft Artillery
In view of the island’s extreme vulnerability to air attack and the comparatively limited amount of modern equipment the number of heavy and light A.A. guns available (1,194 plus 1,114) is by no means adequate to ensure the protection of the island by ground defences.
The large number of efficient searchlights available (3,200) constitutes an advantageous factor in defence at night.
Only limited importance should be attributed to the numerous barrage balloons, as these can be used only at low altitudes (1,000 to 2,000 metres) owing to the medium wind velocities prevailing over the island. The balloons cannot be raised at all at appreciable wind velocities.
B. Personnel and Training
At present there are no difficulties regarding the number of men available.
From the outset the training is concentrated on the production of good pilots and the great majority of the officers in particular are trained solely as such. By comparison tactical training is left far in the background. For this reason the R.A.F. has comparatively well-trained fighter pilots while bomber crews are not up to modern tactical standards. This applies to the bomb-aimers in particular, most of whom are N.C.O.s and men with little service experience. Although there are deficiencies in equipment the comparatively low standard of bombing accuracy may be attributed to this factor.
In the ground organisation there is a considerable number of air-strips in the southern part of the island and in some areas in the north. However, only a limited number can be considered as operational airfields with modern maintenance and supply installations.
In general, the well-equipped operational airfields are used as take-off and landing bases, while the numerous smaller airfields located in the vicinity serve as alternative landing grounds and rest bases.
There is little strategic flexibility in operations as ground personnel are usually permanently stationed at home bases.
D. Supply Situation
As regards aircraft, the R.A.F. is at present almost entirely dependent on home production. American deliveries will not make any important contribution before the beginning of 1941.
If deliveries arriving in Britain in the immediate future are supplemented by French orders these aircraft may be ready for operations by the autumn.
At present the British aircraft industry produces about 180 to 300 first line fighters and 140 first line bombers a month. In view of the present conditions relating to production (the appearance of raw material difficulties, the disruption or breakdown of production at factories owing to air attacks, the increased vulnerability to air attack owing to the fundamental reorganisation of the aircraft industry now in progress) it is believed that for the time being output will decrease rather than increase.
In the event of an intensification of air warfare it is expected that the present strength of the R.A.F. will fall and this decline will be aggravated by the continued decrease in production.
- Unless an appreciable proportion of present stocks is destroyed, the fuel situation can be regarded as secure.
Bombs. Bomb production is limited by the method of manufacture (cast casings). However there will be no difficulty in the supplies of bombs so long as present stocks are not used and operations continue on a moderate scale. It is believed that these stocks will be adequate for intensive operations lasting several weeks.
Most of the bombs available are of medium calibre (112 and 224 kilogrammes), of which a large proportion are of an obsolete pattern with unfavourable ballistic qualities (bombs with fins).
The Command at high level is inflexible in its organisation and strategy. As formations are rigidly attached to their home bases, command at medium level suffers mainly from operations being controlled in most cases by officers no longer accustomed to flying (station commanders). Command at low level is generally energetic but lacks tactical skill.
II. THE OPERATIONAL SCOPE OF THE RAF.
For its operations the R.A.F. has at its disposal an area of only 200 to 300 kilometres in depth. This corresponds approximately to an area the size of the Netherlands and Belgium.
There is little possibility of Ireland being used in the system of depth owing to the lack of ground organisation and the fact that once R.A.F. units have been transferred there they cannot restore their serviceability.
In contrast the Luftwaffe has at its disposal an area extending from Trondheim, across Heligoland Bay and along the North Sea and Channel coasts to Brest with a practically unlimited zone in depth.
In view of the inferiority of British fighters to German fighters, enemy bomber formations even with fighter escort are not capable of carrying out effective daylight attacks regularly, particularly as escort operations are in any case limited by the lack of long-range single-engine or heavy fighters.
The R.A.F. will therefore be obliged to limit its activity primarily to night operations even in the advent of intensified air warfare. These operations will undoubtedly achieve a nuisance value but will in no way be decisive.
In contrast, the Luftwaffe is in a position to go over to decisive daylight operations owing to the inadequate air defences of the island.
The Luftwaffe is clearly superior to the R.A.F. as regards strength, equipment, training, command and location of bases. In the event of an intensification of air warfare the Luftwaffe, unlike the R.A.F., will be in a position in every respect to achieve a decisive effect this year if the time for the start of large-scale operations is set early enough to allow advantage to be taken of the months with relatively favourable weather conditions (July to the beginning of October).
(Quoted in Battle over Britain; Appendix K.)
Hitler makes a long speech to the Reichstag which, in the peroration makes what comes to be known as his "peace offer". As this comes too late for the early editions of the London papers they report on the more threatening language of the start of the speech.
The BBC's late news bulletin is recorded by the American correspondent William Shirer in his diary as: "The announcer heaped ridicule on Hitler's every utterance."
The destruction of the RAF, especially Fighter Command, is high on the agenda, together with attacks on the aircraft industry. He asks Kesselring and Sperrle to let him know how aerial supremacy can be achieved.
If the results of air warfare are unsatisfactory invasion preparations will be stopped.
First of all, success is to be achieved within the target areas of Luftflotten 2 and 3. Only a complete victory over the RAF in southern England can give us the possibility of further attacks on enemy forces stationed in the depth of the country.
[Hitler] admitted that the invasion of England would be an extremely daring enterprise. He agreed that we could not expect to effect a surprise landing, and that we would be facing a most resolute opponent who controlled the water area we had to cross. Also he conceded that to keep the invasion force of approximately 40 divisions supplied after they had landed would present the utmost difficulty. An absolute prerequisite for the whole operation would be the complete supremacy in the air and an effective minefield protection along both flanks of the crossing channel, plus the added protection of a barrage from heavy guns installed on the French side of the Straights of Dover. He concluded by saying that owing to the lateness of the seasons, the main operation would have to be completed by 16 September, and therefore if all preparations had not been completed in time for the landing to begin by the first of September, then other plans would have to be considered.
Speaking on the Home Service, Lord Halifax rejects Hitler's Peace Offer.
Churchill does not make the statement due to his "not being on speaking terms with [Hitler]".