What If…? A Nightmare Scenario for the Battle of Britain…
Back in 1940, last night an event happened that has been identified as one of the major events of the Second World War. 81 twin engined bombers from the Royal Air Force flew to Berlin in a revenge attack for 10 German bombers dropping their bombs on London.
This was a major embarrassment for Göring who had earlier said, “If ever bombs fall on Berlin, you can call me Maier” (which is a German term for something that is impossible)…and so he had to respond. And respond he did.
For so far during the Battle of Britain the German Airforce – the Luftwaffe – had been pounding the Royal Air Force, and whilst in the air the RAF was giving as good as it got, it was on the ground that it was struggling. The bases where they flew from were however suffering. Many RAF squadrons had been dispersed to remote grass strips, often taking off from flying clubs and small aerodromes simply because their parent airfields had been to great a target for the Luftwaffe’s bombers. But because of the raid of the 25th August, the Luftwaffe was ordered to shift it’s priority for targets.
And that major target now became London and other population centres. The RAF was given time to breathe and regroup. It was Hitler and Göring’s biggest mistake in the Battle of Britain. It effectively lost them the battle, for the RAF was able to come back against the enemy and eventually cause enough losses to the Germans to limit daylight operations and go over to the night time bombing that would last for the next few months – the Blitz of London.
And this got me to thinking. This was a major turning point. The RAF and Britain had dark days to follow that, but it was the shift that changed the battle. But did it change the war? Was it the moment of departure?
And it got me to thinking. What if…? What if Göring had explained to Hitler that he was winning the battle and that in just a few days the RAF would be beaten in the south of England. If he had kept bombing and hitting the RAF, what could have happened.
And here is my ‘What If…?’
The Germans continue pounding the RAF, so much so that in just a few days the RAF’s ability to operate from the ground south of the Thames is untenable. Dowding, the leader of Fighter Command, much against Churchill’s wishes has to pull back No 11 Group to north of London. They can still operate fighter sweeps, but the ability to respond to Luftwaffe attacks it greatly diminished. More importantly this gives the control of the air over the English Channel to the Germans, forcing the Royal Navy out to operate, to support British shipping. Britain was a trading nation and needed 55 million tons of imports a year to survive, and so the control of the sea and ports was vital. However with this lost and with the RN forced to operate without air cover, the German Stuka dive-bomber that had been mauled by the RAF were now able to fly without fear again. These turned their attention against the British Navy destroying many ships.
The American Ambassador, Joe Kennedy, who had earlier said that the British government was likely to fall, re-iterated this point of view, saying that Churchill’s government was losing popularity and that it had less than six weeks left in it. This was re-inforced by two things. Firstly the Luftwaffe bombed the Bristol docks, and also hit the population centre of the city there as well. Hitler promised the British that he would level the British towns and cities one after another unless they surrendered. Churchill gave another of his brave speeches talking about the British spirit of defiance triumphing against the odds, but his position was weak as the Italians had attacked the British forces in the Horn of Africa. Here, they were forced back, and the Italians entered Egypt, aiming to sever the Suez Canal.
The Americans were worried by the British position, worried enough to send troops to occupy Iceland to protect their northern flank against aggression. They then annexed Bermuda and sent their Marine Corps into the Caribbean to occupy British colonies and protectorates there.
This was the last straw for Churchill and his position became untenable. With the prospect of London being hit in a similar way to Bristol and food shortages already starting to bite he had to go. His replacement, the only one in the War Cabinet with any level of authority who was not directly associated with Churchill was Lord Halifax. He immediately made approaches to the Germans for a cease fire. His negotiating position was that in return for no German occupation he would limit the size of the British Army, disband the RAF and hand over the bulk of the Royal Navy to the Germans. The British Army would be a defence force only – roughly the same size of the German army after the imposition of the Treaty of Versailles, and would not be capable of any offensive operations.
Hitler gratefully accepted this position, allowing the British some semblance of pride and more importantly no occupation forces. He wanted his troops to be available for his next and greatest prize – the ideological destruction of the Russia. With the British governments collapse in support of the Italian campaign in North Africa German troops land and sweep through into Palestine and Trans-Jordan. Rommel and Heize Guderian take Panzers into Iraq and secure the oil-fields. Meanwhile other German forces occupy the Balkans and pause before they launch into the 1941 operation of the invasion of the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa is launched in May 1941 and makes the massive inroads into Russia. But instead of the three army groups that attack in the real events of WW2, there is a fourth army group led by Guderian who strikes up from Iraq into the Caucasus aiming due north for Moscow. By October the German advance into the hinterland of Russia was well made and the Caucasus army group of Guderian had cut off a huge amount of supplied that the Russians had tried to send to fight the main front in the west. Stalin sat in the Kremlin and considered his position, but late November the Germans were outside Moscow and Stalin knew he had to leave. He retreated his government to behind the Ural mountains, and attempted to re-group his army to counter attack in the Russian winter. However the Germans had by now captured Moscow and dug in for the winter.
The offensive by the Russians was weak and the German army repelled it, forcing the effective defeat of the Red Army. The Urals became the de-facto border of the German Empire with a long slow guerrilla war underway in the vast spaces of Siberia.
The defeat of the Red Army meant that Hitler’s position at the top of Europe was impossible to match and his antecedence was complete. The world 70 years later would look a lot different…
And this was, in my mind all down to the ability of the RAF to defeat the Germans in the Battle of Britain. The Few of the RAF fought and defended not only Britain, but also western civilisation as we know it…for Churchill’s own words would have come true…if they had failed… “then the whole world…will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”
It is my conjecture that if the Germans had beaten the Royal Air Force in 1940 – as it was so close to doing – then the British government would have fallen; the course of the war, and of history would have been much, much different…
But over to you, what do YOU think?