Friday, 6 September 1940

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Blitz of 1940-41 and the Baedeker Blitz of 1942. See here and here for introductions to the series, and here, here and here for conclusions.

This week's issue of the Spectator, an influential commentary from the right, has a number of editorial comments and columns about the course of the war. The leading paragraph, on page 234, discusses Hitler's recent speech ('bombast [...] lies [...] threats'), focusing on one of his statements which suggests that 'the German Air Force is at present is exerting all its efforts in reply to the R.A.F.'s attacks on Germany.

There is no obvious reason why the Luftwaffe should be refraining from doing its utmost at this moment, but if what we are experiencing is, in fact, its utmost we can afford to be very well content.

It also notes that it was the 'official German news agency' which called the speech 'powerful and moving', not the Reuter news agency as The Times reported yesterday. Sorry, Reuters!

The next paragraph is entitled (a little prematurely) 'Victory in the air' and lauds the RAF's 'astonishing record of success against the German massed daylight air-raids', which began on 6 August. The ratio of aircraft losses is a bit less in Britain's favour so far in September, which 'is probably due to a diminished use by the Germans of the slow and clumsy Junkers machines'. The battle as a whole may one day be regarded as one of the 'world's decisive conflicts':

That Hitler had worked out a perfectly serious plan for invading and conquering Britain this autumn seems fairly certain. That it rested, like all his military and naval plans, on the assumption of a crushing German air superiority, may be taken for granted. The defeat of his aeroplanes means the collapse of his plan and the returning prospect of a long war, such as he knows Germany cannot face.

Then, on page 236, there's a long editorial essay on 'The second year' of the war, though it also goes into the first year. Hitler has missed the bus when it comes to invasion: if it had any chance of succeeding it was eleven weeks ago, just after the French armistice. Britain's defences were swiftly strengthened to the point that

it was certain that if ever invasion were attempted it would fail dramatically. For that reason it has not been attempted, and in all likelihood never will be

(though in some ways this is a shame, because a failed invasion 'would have been the swiftest and surest blow at his power and prestige').

The debt we owe is triple -- to the Army, which as Hitler knew could fling against him forces superior to any he could hope to land; to the Navy, which reduced to something approaching zero his prospects of achieving any effective landing at all; and above all to the Royal Air Force, whose incomparable prowess brought to nothing the work and preparation without whose successful accomplishment the Germans could not attempt to despatch a single motor-boat across the Channel.

Still, 'We may not have seen the worst of the Blitzkrieg [...]' The Spectator goes on to canvass such issues as whether 'Hitler's downfall [can] be compassed by defeating him in the air' (hard to say, but it will certainly help so Lord Beaverbrook 'must expand our air-force to the point of utter irresistability') and whether the expeditionary force now being raised by Lord Gort will able to retake and restore France (a 'Fifth Column behind the German lines' is predicted).

Finally, the Spectator's regular war column, by Strategicus (Herbert Charles O'Neill), starts on page 238. Strategicus is less confident than the editor that an invasion is now unlikely. The air battles raging overhead divert attention from the overall purpose of the whole campaign, which is to prepare for invasion. True, the RAF has 'gravely disarranged the German time-table; but the plan remains the same'. And the nightly bombing of Germany may even force it to intensify its own aerial bombardment of British cities. At the moment it is fairly indiscriminate and so fairly harmless. But remember that

German achievement is founded upon sheer hard work, and she will practice until she brings her night bombing to at least some semblance of the deadly accuracy of the British attacks.

For the moment the Luftwaffe is trying to do what it did at the opening of the Polish offensive, i.e. smash the defending air force. At first it tried overwhelming force, then more methodical attacks against aerodromes and aircraft factories.

For a successful invasion they need to push back the R.A.F. concentration as far west as they can [...] At present, over an area south and east of a line drawn from Severn to Humber the Germans can use their fighters; and if they could count on engaging the Royal Air Force somewhere near that line they would have secured one of the initial and vital conditions for a successful invasion.

So far, of course, the Germans have failed to defeat Britain's air defences (Strategicus also notes the lower ratio of tallies in recent days, but attributes this to a higher proportion of German fighter escorts, which 'of course, means that there is a smaller volume of bombing'). Will they just give up the attack and the invasion then?

They cannot for several reasons [...] The R.A.F. are nightly invading Germany and destroying her carefully advertised invincibility [and] striking at the German war potential [...] And there is a further and decisive reason. However bad the raids are at present, Germany knows that they are certain to be much worse as time goes on unless Britain can be knocked out of the war. It is obvious that there is only one way to do this in any measurable time.

So if Hitler is coming, when will he come? On the following and concluding page, Strategicus points to the next few weeks as the danger period, as 'the weather favourable to an invasion will deteriorate rapidly after the end of the month [of September]'. On the other hand, Norway was invaded 'in weather which was almost as bad as can be'. On the other other hand, 'there is no cause to fear the issue'. I wonder if Strategicus was an academic?

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7 thoughts on “Friday, 6 September 1940

  1. Erik Lund

    On the other hand, Hitler won't just need a window of good weather during the invasion period. He will need it for weeks thereafter. Far better at this point to put off the invasion to the spring. It's not like the Wehrmacht has anything else to do in June of 1941. Right?

    Also, now that we've seen just how overrated the Luftwaffe threat is, maybe we should think about reopening the Port of London?

  2. 'Slow and clumsy Junkers', eh? Seems an odd way of discussing the Ju 88, given it was - and remained - one of the most effective, fast and manoverable (stressed for dive-bombing) multi-role types of the war. But propaganda is all, eh?

    But maybe not. If all you knew of Junkers pre-war, slow, steady transports cum mediums was the norm. Think Ju 86 Only then was there the 87 and 88.

  3. Christopher

    Propaganda of course but with an element of truth in it. A cursory examination of the German invasion plans shows that they were impracticable and would have resulted in a massive defeat for the attacking forces. The fear of invasion though was very real and this is what the propaganda seems to have been focused on dealing with.

  4. Neil Datson

    Was the reference to slow and clumsy Junkers really meant to be to the 88? I assumed (before I clicked on the link) that the Stuka was intended.

    But of course the Dornier was the terrible 'flying pencil,' and when it comes to information / propaganda there's a great deal in a name. A Junker is, after all, a feudal landlord. Hardly a whizzy image.

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  6. Good point Neil. The Ju 87 makes a lot more sense. Like Brett (I think), though, I'd expect the usual British reference to 'Stukas' for the Ju 87. However over-precise it was pretty universal; but maybe the house style didn't alow such catchy terms?

    As to names, Hugo Junkers was a pacifist, very ironic given what his name is remembered for - and after his removal from his own company.

  7. Post author

    Hmm, it was my inference that 'Junkers machines' meant Ju 88s, pretty much as JDK -- in common parlance a Ju 87 would be a Stuka, a Junkers would have meant a Ju 88. But it was known that the Ju 88 was the fastest of the main German bombers, so it wouldn't make sense to describe them as slow. And of course Ju 88s weren't withdrawn from the Battle, whereas Ju 87s were -- although that happened in mid-August, so it wouldn't help explain any change in kill ratios beginning in September. Overall I'd say Ju 87 does make more sense, though there's always the possibility that whoever wrote it was just confused!

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