Monday, 22 December 2014

Bader enters the "Big Wing Controversey"

While Douglas was happy with the number of aircraft that had been shot down by the Duxford Wing, he was not at all  happy with the way things had gone during the afternoon. In his usual dogmatic way he forcibly expressed to the AOC that he felt let down in that the squadrons had been called into the air too late. He also complained that in his opinion the policy of letting 11 Group squadrons fight the battle, while keeping 12 Group squadrons in reserve, was fundamentally flawed.
Douglas’s theory was that as soon as the Luftwaffe began to assemble on the other side of the Channel, the12 Group squadrons should be scrambled and then head south. This would enable the Luftwaffe to be attacked while 11 Group squadrons were getting off the ground and gaining height.
This was contrary to Fighter Command’s established and carefully thought-out plan, but Douglas saw his Big Wing theory as being complementary to the squadrons of 11 Group rather than in opposition.
In Douglas’s mind there was also another important factor that needed to be taken into consideration to ensure success and as ever, he was not at all reluctant to share his opinion. Control, he felt, had to come from the centre at Fighter Command Headquarters in Stanmore rather than from Group controllers.
  It was only the C-in-C who had a complete picture of what was going on. Group commanders were limited to their own areas, but  incoming raids often overlapped Group boundaries. This presented problems when squadrons from one Group crossed into the territory of another. Douglas of course was not the only one to identify the flaw in the plan, but he was one of the most vocal in his criticism of it.
Dowding, however, did not see the need for a comprehensive Command control until very late on, by which time the differences between Park and Leigh-Mallory had festered to the point where they were effectively beyond redemption. In hindsight early intervention by Dowding could and should have defused the situation, but early intervention did not happen. 

from "Douglas Bader" by Michael Evans

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