Dowding Letter, May 16th 1940

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by CL1, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    SECRET May 16, 1940

    I have the honour to refer to the very serious calls
    which have recently been made upon the Home Defence Fighter'Units
    in an attempt to stem the German invasion on the Continent.

    2, I hope and believe that our Armies may yet be
    victorious in France and Belgium, but we have to face the
    possibility that they may be defeated.

    3. In this case I presume that there is no-one who will
    deny that England should fight on, even though the remainder of
    the Continent of Europe is dominated by the Germans.

    4. For this purpose it is necessary to retain some
    minimum fighter strength in this country and I must request that
    the Air Council will inform me what they consider this minimum
    strength to be, in order that I may make my dispositions

    5. I would remind the Air Council that the last estimate
    which they made as to the force necessary to defend this country
    was 52 Squadrons, and my strength has now been reduced to the
    equivalent of 36 Squadrons.

    6. Once a decision has been reached as to the limit on
    which the Air Council and the Cabinet are prepared to stake the
    existence of the country, it should be made clear to the Allied
    Commanders on the Continent that not a single aeroplane from
    Fighter Command beyond the limit will be sent across the Channel,
    no matter how desperate the situation may become.

    7. It will, of course, be remembered that the estimate
    of 52 Squadrons was based on the assumption that the attack
    would come from the eastwards except in so far as the defences
    might be outflanked in flight. We have now to face the
    possibility that attacks may come from Spain or even from the
    North coast of France. The result is that our line is very
    much extended at the same time as our resources are reduced.

    8. I must point out that within the last few days the
    equivalent of 10 Squadrons have been sent to France, that the
    Hurricane Squadrons remaining in this country are seriously
    depleted, and that the more Squadrons which are sent to France
    the higher will be the wastage and the more insistent the
    demands for reinforcements.

    9. I must therefore request that as a matter of
    paramount urgency the Air Ministry will consider and
    decide what level of strength is to be left to the
    Fighter Command for the defences of this country, and will
    assure me that when this level has been reached, not one
    fighter will be sent across the Channel however urgent
    and insistent the appeals for help may be.

    10. I believe that, if an adequate fighter force is
    kept in this country, if the fleet remains in being, and
    if Home Forces are suitably organised to resist invasion,
    we should be able to carry on the war single handed for
    some time, if not indefinitely. But, if the Home Defence
    Force is drained away in desperate attempts to remedy the
    situation in France, defeat in France will involve the
    final, complete and irremediable defeat of this country.

    I have the honour to be,
    Your obedient Servant,

    Air Chief Marshal,
    Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief,
    Fighter Command,Royal Air Force.
    Document-7: Battle of Britain - 1940 / Dowdings Letter
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  2. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    That was a very important memo which contributed greatly to the outcome of the Battle of Britain....most significant in RAF history perhaps...thought to have moderated WSC thinking since the French were requesting more and more Hurricane squadrons,a further 10 being the last request. Dowding could see that if the drain on fighter squadrons were allowed to continue that the British home defence was in danger of being "bled white".

    The Battle for France from 10 May to 3 June cost the RAF dear with almost a 1000 aircraft lost, 432 were fighters in addition to the ones lost over Dunkirk.Moreover it also took a tranche of experienced pilots to be lost, such by 28 May 1940 the UK pilot establishment was 1268 but the actual strength was down to 932....a deficiency of over 300.

    On 4 June 1940,Dowding sent the following short note to fighter squadrons that had been engaged in the Battle for France.

    My dear Fighter Boys.

    I don't send many congratulatory letters and signals,but I feel that I must take this occasion,when the intensive fighting in Northern France is for the time being over,to tell you how proud I am of you and the way which you have fought since the "Blitzkrieg" started.I wished that I could have spent my time visiting you and hearing your accounts of the fighting,but I have occupied myself in working for you in other ways.I want you to know that my thoughts are always with you and that is you and your fighting spirit which will crack the German Air Force,and preserve our Country through the trials which yet lie ahead. Good luck to you.

    (Dowding resisted any planning that Spitfires should be sent to France as an element of the BEF.)

    Per Ardua Ad Astra
    kopite, SteveDee, PackRat and 3 others like this.

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