The Daily Telegraph
How the Battle of Britain changed everything
sir – Lt Col IR Bercham (Letters, September 15) is right about the crucial role played by sailors in the Battle of the Atlantic, which took place from the first to the last day of the European conflict in the Second World War.
It is, however, natural that the Battle of Britain is held in such high regard – for it was the first time Hitler’s all-conquering war machine had failed. Unlike in the Battle of the Atlantic, this was not just down to the bravery of young men; it was the result of major government investment in aerial defence and very effective forward-planning by the Royal Air Force.
The training and equipment programmes of the late 1930s enabled the RAF and the Observer Corps to defeat a superior force with a sophisticated secret early-warning system, sufficient high-performance aircraft, and highly trained and motivated young men. Looking through my father’s logbook from the time, I see that he and his colleagues were protecting convoys as well as engaging enemy bomber formations.
It took the Royal Navy nearly three years to counter the submarine threat in the Atlantic. Had the RAF been as unprepared in 1940, the Battle of the Atlantic would have been much shorter and our lives irretrievably altered. This is why the Battle of Britain remains so important.
Incidentally, if casualty statistics must be used as a comparator, more bomber than fighter aircrew were lost during the Battle of Britain in their attacks on German invasion preparations – like the sailors in the Atlantic, forgotten heroes all.
Dr Michael A Fopp
sir – It was originally argued that the Battle of the Atlantic was won by more and better escorts, convoy tactics, the increasing range of aircraft, and escort carriers in the mid-atlantic. Then, after decades of silence, we were told that it was won by Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park codebreakers.
I asked a long-retired admiral which was more important. He replied that, without the physical resources, they could not have used the code-breaking; and without the intelligence, the ships and aircraft would not have known where to look.
When shall we see a book which tells the whole story of the battle that draws the two strands together? Mike Keatinge