Saturday 20 December 2014

Douglas Bader in Action over France, 1941

In fact the weather that year was so bad that it was June before conditions had  improved sufficiently for the Tangmere Wing to begin the new offensive and to operate en masse. Once again the enemy fighters kept out of the way of these large formations and as before they were content to just pick off the occasional stray. Limited fuel capacity meant that the RAF fighters could not fly very far inland and consequently were unlikely to inflict much damage.
Douglas was frustrated by the lack of action and was furious when other Wings, such as Sailor Malan’s Biggin Hill Wing, managed to score successes while the Tangmere Wing ended up with nothing. This all changed somewhat after 22nd June following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa.
New tactics raised the level of RAF aggression and in addition to the major goal of destroying as many enemy aircraft as possible, it was also hoped that this increased aggression by the RAF would not only limit the number of enemy aircraft being transferred to Russia, but would actually encourage the Luftwaffe to withdraw fighters from Russia to meet the increasing attacks in the West.
Circus operations became more complex and the Wings were in the thick of things from late June right through July. The fighter Wings flew in close-escort with small formations of bombers, giving close-support and providing top cover. The aim was to draw up enemy aircraft before the main force of the escort wing started to run short of fuel and had to turn for home. If all went according to plan, the target-withdrawal wing would arrive to engage the enemy just as the fighters of the escort wing were beginning to leave.
If the weather was favourable, there would generally be two or three sweeps almost every day. On days when the weather was bad, Douglas was in the habit of mounting unauthorised Rhubarb flights. Ostensibly he and his section would be engaging in ‘local flying’ but in reality he would lead them across the Channel in search of trouble. 

from "Douglas Bader" by Michael Evans
Get your copy HERE

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