All Country Military Readiness 1936-1939

Discussion in 'General' started by spidge, May 10, 2006.

  1. spidge


    A new member who seems to have disappeared due to our "hacker" posted a question requesting prepareness and military numbers for Allied and Axis countries circa 1939 with preference to the years 1936-1939.

    We hope that he comes back:

    These links are predominantly for the British preparedness.

    Preparations for War

    How well prepared for war was Britain in 1939?

    The British Army in 1939 was a small, professional force. It was supported by the Territorial Army. At the outbreak of war the British Expeditionary Force dispatched to France was 12 divisions in size. This was from a total force of 50 full and part-time divisions. In addition to the forces of the british Army, also consider the size of the forces that the British army could draw on from the dominions and British colonies. These included a number of divisions from Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand along with a large armed force of approximately 200,000 stationed on the Indian sub-continent. In terms of immediate preparedness this force was relatively small compared with the forces of other major combatants. The fully trained professional army was limited in size and it would take some time for troops from the dominions to reach Europe.
    The size of the army is only one indicator of military readiness for war, however. The machinery used by these forces also needs to be considered. The British forces had the advantage of having a fully motorised system of troop movement. This enabled relatively fast deployment of forces (The Wehrmacht were not entirely motorised at this stage). British artillery pieces were of high quality, a British 25 pound artillery piece was particularly accurate and successful in destroying enemy tanks, for example. However the armed vehicles of the British army at the time do not compare particularly favorably with those of their opponents. Tanks such as the 'Matilda' were difficult to destroy but lacked the maneuverability to engage in rapid attacks. Other armed vehicles, such as the tanks initially deployed into Northern Africa, had insufficient armour and suffered at the hands of an experienced Panzer commander. Other equipment included the Lee Enfield 303 rifle, the 'Tommy gun' which was a semi automatic sub-machine gun and the Sten gun. There were some problems with the reliability of some of these weapons, the Mark 2 Sten gun has been noted as being susceptible to jamming. However this gun could be easily dismantled and concealed which made it an ideal weapon to provide to resistance forces throughout Europe. The rifles and semi automatic weapons were supported by use of the 40lb Vickers 303 heavy machine gun which was extremely accurate and fired over 400 rounds per minute.
    The RAF in 1939 consisted of 135 squadrons. This comprised 74 bomber and 24 fighter squadrons. In addition to the 'fighting' wing of the RAF there were a number of army support squadrons, reconnaissance squadrons and torpedo bombers. These were assisted by an Auxiliary airforce of some 19 squadrons. Throughout 1939 preparations were made for a possible air war. This included large exercises in Southern France and practice blackouts in parts of England. By the outbreak of war, radar had been fitted to a number of Bleinheim bombers. This increased the chances of the bombers finding their target and provided early warning of enemy attacks.
    The on plane radar was supported by two systems of Radar detection. Chain Home and Chain Home Low were two networks of Radar station built along the south coast of England in the mid to late 1930's. Chain Home could detect formations of aircraft flying over the coast of France. This enabled the RAF to scramble fighter squadrons to intercept bomber formations and would allow the RAF to counter any Luftwaffe movements in the event of an attack on Northern france, the Low Countries or Britain. Chain Home Low provided radar coverage against low flying aircraft. The development of this system of Radar (there were 21 Chain Home stations and 30 Chain Home Low stations operational in 1940) meant that defensive sorties against the Luftwaffe could be easily coordinated. This was of paramount importance during the Battle of Britain.
    The Royal Navy was, in 1939, the largest naval force in the world. The fleet contained 15 Battleships, 7 Aircraft carriers, 66 cruisers, 184 Destroyers, 60 submarines and a number of support vessels. The main Naval base at Scapa Flow was considered to be impregnable and dominated the passage between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally there were navies controlled by British Dominions. Though impressive in terms of size, the Royal Navy in 1939 had several weaknesses. Many of the capital ships were old, only 2 post dated the First World War. The air power of the Royal navy was limited to short range reconnaissance. Many ships of the Fleet were fitted with ASDIC, a radar system that could detect submarines. Again, this suffered from having a short range and was not effective when the submarines had surfaced. This combines to leave the fleet open to attack from German U Boats, with only Depth Charges available as effective means of attacking enemy submarines from onboard the ships - air cover was provided by the Coastal Command and British submarines patrolled the North Sea and Northern approaches.
    British Military Aviation in 1939 - Part 1

    1 January
    On this date, the Royal Air Force consists of 135 squadrons: 74 bomber, 27 fighter, 12 army co-operation, 17 reconnaissance, 4 torpedo-bomber and 1 communications squadron.
    Additionally, the Auxiliary Air Force has grown to 19 squadrons: 3 bomber, 11 fighter, 2 army co-operation and 3 reconnaissance squadrons.
    17 January
    The Auxiliary Air Force Reserve is formed to allow ex-members of the Auxiliary Air Force to serve with Auxiliary flying squadrons in an emergency.
    1 February
    Reserve Command is formed under the command of Air Marshal C.L. Courtney.
    7-9 April
    [​IMG]Italy invades and occupies Albania.
    20 May
    Sixty Royal Air Force Stations and eighteen other airfields take part in the last Empire Air Day, which receives approximately one million visitors.
    24 May
    The Fleet Air Arm reverts to Admiralty control.
    26 June
    The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood, announces that the Royal Air Force will impress civil aircraft in the event of war.
    28 June
    The Women's Auxiliary Air Force is formed, with Miss Jane Trefusis Forbes appointed as the first Senior Controller.[​IMG]
    11-25 July
    Approximately 240 aircraft of Royal Air Force Bomber Command participate in a series of navigational exercises, including training flights over Central and Southern France. These sorties serve as a 'show of strength' and also provide valuable training in long-range overseas operations. At the same time, it is announced that an agreement has been reached with the French to allow such training flights.
    The first airborne interception (AI) radar sets are fitted into 30 Royal Air Force Bristol Blenheim aircraft.
    8-11 August
    The last major British peacetime exercise takes place, with over 1,300 aircraft taking part in south-east of England and at the end of the practice, a civilian 'blackout' is ordered.
    16-17 August
    A smaller Anglo-French air exercise takes place over England with 200 aircraft taking part.
    23 August
    Messages are exchanged between Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain warns that the United Kingdom is willing to use force to aid Poland and Hitler states that he will not renounce Germany's claim to Danzig.
    24 August
    Readiness State 'C' is declared by the Air Ministry and mobilisation commences. Aircraft are placed on 12-hour standby and personnel on special leave are recalled to duty. Auxiliary Air Force and Volunteer Reserve personnel are ordered to report to their mobilisation centres.
    24 August
    No.1 Group of Royal Air Force Bomber Command, is redesignated the Advanced Air Striking Force.
    24 August
    Royal Air Force Coastal Command squadrons begin to fly regular North Sea reconnaissance patrols.
    26 August
    Readiness State 'D' is put into force, aircraft are dispersed on their airfields and all personnel are recalled. 'E'-Class reservists are also ordered to report to their units.
    [​IMG]1 September
    At 0445hrs, German forces launch Fall Weiss (Operation White), the invasion of Poland.[​IMG]
    1 September
    The complete mobilisation of British Navy, Army and Air Force is ordered.
    1 September
    The Air Transport Auxiliary is formed to deliver new and repaired aircraft to Royal Air Force units.

    Aircraft entering military service in 1939

    Bristol Blenheim IV

    No.90 Squadron[​IMG]
    Lockheed Hudson

    No.224 Squadron[​IMG]
    Miles Master
    No.5 Flight Trainging School[​IMG]
    Bristol Beaufort
    No.22 Squadron[​IMG]
    Boulton Paul Defiant

    No.264 Squadron[​IMG]Bristol Bombay
    No.216 Squadron
  2. spidge


    2 September
    [​IMG] [​IMG]The Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) is deployed to France. The AASF initially [​IMG]comprised twelve squadrons, ten equipped with Fairey Battle light bombers and two equipped with Hawker Hurricane single-seat fighters and is commanded by Air Vice Marshal P.H.L. Playfair.[​IMG]
    3 September
    At 1100hrs, an ultimatum issued to Germany by the British Government expires and in a radio address to the nation, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces, "this Country is at war with Germany".
    3 September
    At 1130hrs, air-raid warning sirens sound in the London area for the first time. However, the warning is a false alarm, triggered by the detection of a French aircraft, en route to the United Kingdom, that had not filed a flight plan.
    3 September
    Australia, New Zealand and France declare war on Germany.
    3 September
    A Bristol Blenheim IV (N6215) of No.139 Squadron is the first Royal Air Force aircraft to cross the German frontier after war is declared. Between 1200hrs and 1650hrs the Blenheim, flown by Flying Officer A. McPherson, carries out a photographic and visual reconnaissance of German naval ports. Although the crew, which includes a naval observer, Commander Thompson, sight a number of warships in the Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven, their radio is unserviceable and they are unable to report until they return to Wyton. Flying Officer McPherson is subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
    3 September
    RAF Bomber Command conducts the Royal Air Force's first operational sorties of the Second World War, when eighteen Handley Page Hampdens and nine Vickers Wellingtons of RAF Bomber Command undertake a search for German naval shipping. However, they do not locate any targets and all return safely.
    3 September
    Pilot Officer John Noel Isaac of No.600 Squadron becomes the first Briton to die in the Second World War when his Bristol Blenheim crashes into Heading Street in Hendon at 1250hrs, 1 hour 50 minutes after the British declaration of war.
    3-4 September
    The first propaganda leaflet raid by Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of No.51 and No.58 squadrons drops 5.4 million leaflets over targets included Hamburg, Bremen and the Ruhr.
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    by Gerge Forty page 127.

    I sometimes wonder about the mindset of the Allies during the early stages of WW2 and here's a classic-We (THE British) really had a lot to learn didn't we?

    There was a remarkable reluctance on the part of the Allies to commit what resources they had at their disposal. When, for example, it was suggested to Kingsley Wood, Britain's Air Minister, that incendiary bombs should be dropped in the Black Forest region, where it was known considerable quantities of supplies and ammunition were stored, he is said to have replied, "Are you aware that it is private property? You'll be asking me to drop bombs on Essen next!"
  4. Tab

    Tab Senior Member

    My father was recalled to the RAF on the 19th July 1938 and we did not see him again till the end of 1946, so preparations for this conflict had started a bit earlier than thought

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