Sunday, 25 August 1940

Observer, 25 August 1940, 5

These are the headlines from the Observer (5). Yesterday was another good day for the RAF, which on Air Ministry figures shot down 45 German aircraft with 10 of its own missing. There were 'Battles all day long':

Until mid afternoon the attacks were concentrated on aerodromes in East Kent. Then large numbers of German bombers and fighters were flung into two new mass raids.

While some of them were attacking aerodromes almost up to the outskirts of London, others were raiding the Portsmouth area.

The Portsmouth raiders were largely turned back by 'an intensive A.A. barrage' assisted by fighters. Casualties 'are believed to be relatively few in view of the number of bombs dropped', though a cinema was hit during a showing, burying some patrons in rubble.

Like many Sunday papers, the Observer tries to present a perspective on the week's events, particularly in the editorial section on page 4.

Since Sunday, when 144 German aircraft were brought to grief, there have been no further attacks on the same scale, although the environs of London were menaced on Friday and civilian Kent was made a target yesterday. As our AIR MINISTER has warned us, the enemy has ample strength for launching still larger fleets of bombers against us if he thinks it expedient. There are only the most trivial of military achievement to balance his losses, and as for his frequently deliberate slaughter of civilians, it only imparts a deeper determination to the whole community. But can the Nazis afford to disillusionise [sic] their own people by refusing to double the stakes?

As J. L. Garvin (one of the great conservative journalists, editor of the Observer since 1908) argues in a separate, signed editorial, the longer the war goes on, the more it will swing in Britain's favour, and nowhere is this more true than in the air war.

Unless they can smash our air-force and air-industry they never can deal a fatal blow to Britain by any means [...] Even now our counterstrokes inflict much more damage than we receive. With increasing effect our bombers rain their blows upon vital points of German production and operations.

Garvin's optimism is supported by the Observer's air correspondent, Oliver Stewart. On page 6, he suggests that even though the Luftwaffe's 'first raiding programme [...] was wrecked against our defences', it will be forced to try again on an even larger scale, not least because Bomber Command (with Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm) 'continues to hit at enemy bases and sources of supply with mounting force and frequency' -- leading to what Stewart calls a 'battle of the bombs'. But there is every reason to think that Fighter Command will continue to hold, thanks to 'the excellence of the defence design'.

We have the most carefully worked out air defence system ever devised [...] The complex system of information gathering through the Observer Corps, of communications and interchange of plans between the operations rooms, has been invented and perfected in this country, and there is no indication that any other country has a comparable system. Our air defences derive much of their efficiency from the ground.

Turning to the offensive, Stewart is enthusiastic about the new heavy bomber types soon to be added to Bomber Command's arsenal (until last week these were strictly secret; even now they can only be 'mentioned', not named or described), though they are only part of what is needed:

At night, and possibly in cloudy and foggy conditions, they will be able to develop a terrific and hitherto unattainable striking power.

By day, in clear weather, bombing can be done without excessive casualties, either by giving the aircraft very high performance, with a top speed nearly that of the interceptor fighters, or by giving them strong fighter escorts. High performance is a more efficient form of defence for day bombers than fighter escorts.

Development of 'very high performance day bombers' should therefore be given priority.

When we have these machines we can institute the twenty-four-hour bombing offensive which will lead to the collapse of Germany's air power.

Stewart closes by quoting the speech made by the Prime Minister last Tuesday, which promised the intensification of the bombing of 'military targets in Germany' to 'dimensions hitherto undreamed of': 'one at least of the most certain, if not the shortest, of all the roads to victory'.

Creative Commons License
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at airminded.org.

3 thoughts on “Sunday, 25 August 1940

  1. Erik Lund

    Attempts to reach London beaten back? Wow. Imagine if a major German raid were to reach the Docklands in good order and set a million tons of cargo alight. Fighter Command sure would have some egg on its face.

  2. Pingback:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>