Monday 8 December 2014

Douglas Bader gets it right - again

Douglas was very critical of the tactics that Fighter Command had developed. These tactics were based on the assumption that any attack on Britain would be in the form of a bomber force coming from the North Sea. There would be no fighter escort, partly because the North Sea crossing was beyond fighter range, but also because it was considered that the defensive armament of a bomber did not require an escort.
As a result, RAF tactics were effectively a series of highly choreographed attack formations designed to intercept approaching unescorted enemy bomber formations.
 Any combats between fighters were expected to involve RAF aircraft flying from French air fields. At that time it was regarded as being inconceivable that France would ever be overrun by invading forces following the building of the massive fortress line that the French had built along their border with Germany.
Douglas had studied the aerial battle techniques of fighters during the Great War and he was convinced that instead of these carefully choreographed formations the best form of attack was as he put it, for everyone to "pile in together from each side as close to the Hun as they can and let him have the lot".
As ever, Douglas was not slow in voicing his opinions, but as Geoffrey Stephenson pointed out to him in March 1940, there was no way of telling if the Air Ministry had got it wrong. Admittedly there was a chance that Douglas had actually got it right, but as Geoffrey said: "you don't know do you?"
When Geoffrey was shot down on his very first mission, he found out to his cost that there had actually been a lot of truth in the views that Douglas had been putting forward.

From "Douglas Bader" by Michael Evans


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