Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-56f9d74cfd-nww4m Total loading time: 0.54 Render date: 2022-06-27T10:15:58.350Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

9 - Dowding and the British strategy of air defense 1936–1940

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2014

Colin Gray
Affiliation:
University of Reading
Williamson Murray
Affiliation:
Ohio State University
Get access

Summary

There was a distinct difference between the objectives of the opposing sides. The Germans were aimed to facilitate an amphibious landing across the Channel, to invade this country, and so to finish the war. Now, I wasn’t trying with Fighter Command to win the war. I was trying desperately to prevent the Germans from succeeding in their preparations for an invasion. Mine was the purely defensive role of trying to stop the possibility of an invasion, and thus give this country a breathing spell. We might win or we might lose the war, or we might agree on a truce – anything might happen in the future. But it was Germany’s objective to win the war by invasion, and it was my job to prevent an invasion from taking place. I had to do that by denying them control of the air

Hugh Dowding

From its inception with an Observer Corps in 1915 to its culminating trial in 1940, the air defense of Britain offers one of history’s most enthralling examples of successful strategy. The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Fighter Command applied its strategy at what today is known as the operational level of war, but its success literally under fire in 1940 was a critically essential enabler for much else that followed. A leading scholar of Britain’s air defense in the years 1915 to 1940, John Ferris, has woven a compelling tale positing that the RFC/RAF enjoyed a systematic superiority in its approach to, and performance in, home air defense. In his studies of Fighter Command and its predecessor organizations, Ferris neither suggests explicitly nor implies that Fighter Command of 1936–1940 represented a force that performed beyond reasonable expectations.

Type
Chapter
Information
Successful Strategies
Triumphing in War and Peace from Antiquity to the Present
, pp. 241 - 279
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Wright, Robert, Dowding and the Battle of Britain (London, 1969), p. 146.Google Scholar
Ferris, John, “Achieving Air Ascendancy: Challenge and Response in British Strategic Air Defense, 1915–40,” in Cox, Sebastian and Gray, Peter, eds., Air Power History: Turning Points from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo (London, 2002)Google Scholar
Dockrill, Michael and French, David, eds., Strategy and Intelligence: British Policy during the First World War (London, 1996)Google Scholar
Murray, Williamson, Luftwaffe (Baltimore, MD, 1985), p. 47Google Scholar
Murray, , “Net Assessment in Nazi Germany in the 1930s,” in Murray, and Millett, Allan R., eds., Calculations: Net Assessment and the Coming of World War II (New York, 1992), p. 84.Google Scholar
Two biographies by Orange, Vincent are excellent: Dowding of Fighter Command: Victor of the Battle of Britain (London, 2008)Google Scholar
Wood, Derek and Dempster, Derek, The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Britain and the Rise of Air Power, 1930–40 (London, 1967).Google Scholar
Beyerchen, Alan, “From Radio to Radar: Interwar Military Adaptation to Technological Change in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” in Murray, Williamson and Millett, Allan R., eds., Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 265–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
von Clausewitz, Carl, On War, ed. and trans. by Howard, Michael and Paret, Peter (Princeton, NJ, 1976), p. 75.Google Scholar
Porter, Patrick, Military Orientalism: Eastern War Through Western Eyes (London, 2009), p. 193.Google Scholar
Murray, Williamson and Grimsley, Mark, “Introduction: On Strategy,” in Murray, Williamson, Knox, MacGregor, and Bernstein, Alvin, eds., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War (Cambridge, 1994), p. 20.Google Scholar
Brown, Peter, Honour Restored: The Battle of Britain, Dowding, and the Fight for Freedom (Staplehurst, 2005)Google Scholar
Ray, John, The Battle of Britain: Dowding and the First Victory, 1940 (London, 2000).Google Scholar
Howard, Michael, The Causes of Wars and Other Essays (London, 1984), pp. 215–217.Google Scholar
Bungay, Stephen, The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain (London, 2001)Google Scholar
Probert, Henry and Cox, Sebastian, ed., The Battle Re-Thought: A Symposium on the Battle of Britain (Shrewsbury, 1991), p. 56.Google Scholar
Zimmerman, David, Britain’s Shield: Radar and the Defeat of the Luftwaffe (Phoenix Mill, 2001).Google Scholar
Buderi, Robert, The Invention that Changed the World: The Story of Radar from War to Peace (London, 1998).Google Scholar
Corum, James, The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918–1940 (Lawrence, KS, 1997), p. 207.Google Scholar
Air Historical Branch, Air Staff (RAF), The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, 1933–1945 (London, 1948), chs. 1–2Google Scholar
Gray, Peter W., “Dowding as Commander, Leader and Manager,” in Gray, and Cox, Sebastian, eds., Air Power Leadership: Theory and Practice (London, 2002).Google Scholar
James, T. C. G., The Growth of Fighter Command, 1936–1940 (London, 1942–43), chp. 1Google Scholar
Murray, Williamson, The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938–1939: The Path to Ruin (Princeton, 1984)Google Scholar
Calvocoressi, Peter, Top Secret ULTRA (Kidderminster, 2001), pp. 90–95Google Scholar
Twigge, Steven, Hampshire, Edward, and Macklin, Graham, British Intelligence Secrets, Spies and Sources (Richmond, UK, 2008), pp. 176–179Google Scholar
Jones, R. V., Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence, 1939–1945 (London, 1979), esp. pp. 139–150, 177–185.Google Scholar
Murray, , Military Adaptation in War: With Fear of Change (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 167–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hanson, Neil, First Blitz: The Secret German Plan to Raze London to the Ground in 1918 (London, 2009), pp. 326–327.Google Scholar
Higham, Robin and Harris, Stephen J., “Conclusion,” in Higham, and Harris, , eds., Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat (Lexington, KY, 2006), p. 355.Google Scholar
Holland, James, The Battle of Britain: Five Months that Changed History, May–October 1940 (London, 2010), pp. 606–607.Google Scholar
Ritchie, Sebastian, Industry and Air Power: The Expansion of British Aircraft Production, 1935–1941 (Abingdon, 2007)Google Scholar
Edgerton, David, England and the Aeroplane: An Essay on a Militant and Technological Nation (Basingstoke, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sinnoff, Colin, The Royal Air Force and Aircraft Design, 1923–1939: Air Staff Operational Requirements (London, 2001).Google Scholar
Overy, Richard, The Battle of Britain: Myth and Reality (London, 2010), p. 8.Google Scholar
Sarkar, Dilip, ed., The Spitfire Manual (Stroud, UK, 2010)Google Scholar
James, T. C. G., The Battle of Britain (London, 1944)Google Scholar
Mason, Francis K., Battle over Britain (London, 1969)Google Scholar
Bishop, Patrick, The Battle of Britain: A Day-by-Day Chronicle, 10 July 1940 to 31 October 1940 (London, 2009)Google Scholar
Boog, Horst, “German Air Intelligence in the Second World War,” in Handel, Michael I., ed., Intelligence and Military Operations (London, 1990), pp. 350–424Google Scholar
Price, Alfred, The Hardest Day: The Battle of Britain, 18 August 1940 (London, 1990), pp. 225–226Google Scholar
Budiansky, Stephen, Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas that Revolutionized War from Kitty Hawk to Iraq (London, 2005), pp. 237–238.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×