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  • The Battle of Britain occurs at sea.

    In this scenario, the Germans following the fall of France decide that the way to defeat Britain is a concentrated effort to strangle the islands from the sea. The Luftwaffe to that end puts about 500 bombers, mostly Ju 88 and He 111, with some Ju 87, into attacking and sinking British merchant shipping. The aircrew are told to focus on the merchants with the escorts being secondary.
    A concerted effort is made to produce workable aerial torpedoes with Italian, French, Dutch, Norwegian, or other torpedoes being a stop gap. Bombers are equipped with bombs suitable for anti-shipping attacks.
    The Luftwaffe starts to range into the Atlantic from Gibraltar to Iceland and into the Med attacking Commonwealth shipping. Big or small, they seek to sink ships.
    Now in mid 1940, British merchant shipping is all but defenseless against aerial attack so these aircraft can press home their attacks to point blank range almost always without retaliation. More aircraft are used to fly maritime patrols to find targets for the bombers.
    Even the RN is not really prepared for an air war. The Luftwaffe mounts repeated large strikes on harbors like Scapa Flow to attack RN ships in port.

    The remainder of the Luftwaffe seeks to maintain an aerial war of attrition against Britain but limits their offensive operations to ones where they can cause heavy casualties to the RAF. Defensive operations against Bomber Command rapidly mount too. This puts the RAF in a spot where they can't afford to put lots of production into defeating the Luftwaffe at sea. Then there's the politics of it. The RN and RAF are at odds, the FAA is equipped with almost all obsolescent or obsolete aircraft. They lack the carriers and means to defend shipping from air attack.
    Worse, U-boat operations are every bit as effective, possibly more so, as they historically were.

    If the Luftwaffe put about 500 bombers into maritime attack operations I estimate they would sink 1.5 to 2 million tons of shipping by early 1941 in addition to what U-boats sink. That is crippling to the British economy. The only way the US can really make a difference is enter the war, and that isn't likely to happen.
    With Britain on the ropes, it is possible the Germans and Italians win in North Africa early on further hurting the British economy.

    The Spitfire and Hurricane are all but useless in these circumstances and CH radar makes little difference. The lack of means to build carriers and shipboard AA systems quickly means that the British are caught flatfooted at sea.

  • #2
    They tried that in the initial phases - the Germans lost quite a few bombers.

    There's also the fact that many espoused the view that cargo could've been moved by rail - rendering a lot of people and vessels redundant (an argument that prevailed at the time, but in the face of mounting losses, who knows ?), but denying the bombers a target, and forcing them to move inland, leading the battle to develop along similar lines as it did historically.

    For a true naval, "Battle of Britain," look at Camperdown in 1797 - although largely forgotten now, the Batavian (now Dutch ) navy was so comprehensively smashed, that the next time the two sides met (Vleiter, 1799), the Dutch surrendered to the RN before a shot was fired.

    I'd like to think that subsequent events in the Napoleonic Wars and the stunning victory at Trafalgar, meant that Camperdown was overshadowed, but I can't shrug the sneaking suspicion that it isn't fashionable because Admiral Adam Duncan - the victor of Camperdown - was a Scot.
    Last edited by the ace; 08 Nov 15, 04:09.
    Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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    • #3
      I see a number of problems with your scenario, that make me think it wouldn't be as straightforward as you think.

      Firstly, if there's no credible threat of invasion, then the 30-40 destroyers and other craft tied up on anti-invasion duties will be available to reinforce the Atlantic escorts. Given that the Germans were already using all their U-boats against the convoys, this suggests fewer merchant ships lost and more submarines sunk.

      Secondly, how far out into the Atlantic can the German bombers fly? They can't cross Britain without being slaughtered by Fighter Command (no escorts for most of the way), so they'd have to go either north-about or south-about, keeping at least 100 miles from the coast of Britain to stay out of radar range (and if they fly low they'll use more fuel). If the British base fighters in Northern Ireland they can cover the convoys out to 100-120 miles in the case of Spitfires and Hurricanes, and 300-400 miles in the case of Blenheims and (later) Beaufighters. Even the Blenheim can catch a Ju88 or He111 when it's lugging a torpedo.

      Thirdly, the British could set up AA escort groups, each consisting of a couple of the old 'C' class AA cruisers and 3-4 escorts with good AA ('Wairs' and the 'Hunts' that are just entering service). These could escort convoys out to 200-250 miles, which would put them beyond the range of all the German bombers except the handful of FW200's. They could then pick up an inbound convoy and escort it to a British port.

      Lastly, again if there's no threat of invasion, all the machine-guns issued to the Home Guard and those used for airfield defence would become available to beef-up the armament of the merchant ships and the AA groups.

      You say:

      The remainder of the Luftwaffe seeks to maintain an aerial war of attrition against Britain but limits their offensive operations to ones where they can cause heavy casualties to the RAF.
      Given that they tried everything they could think of in OTL, what else could they do?

      Defensive operations against Bomber Command rapidly mount too.
      Bomber Command were almost entirely nocturnal at this time, and the Germans didn't get airborne radar until 1942, so I'm not sure how they're going to ramp up operations against the RAF attacks.

      Beyond all this, there is a more fundamental issue with your strategy. It basically commits the Germans to a war of attrition against Britain, which is not going to end well for them, since Britain can out-produce them without difficulty (eg Britain was producing twice as many aircraft with about half as many workers) The Germans need to win quickly or they're not going to win at all.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
        Then there's the politics of it. The RN and RAF are at odds,
        Goering and Raeder were also at odds, and effected air/sea cooperation significantly.
        "It's like shooting rats in a barrel."
        "You'll be in a barrel if you don't watch out for the fighters!"

        "Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease."
        Sergei(son of Igor) Sikorsky, 'AOPA Pilot' magazine February 2003.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by the ace View Post
          They tried that in the initial phases - the Germans lost quite a few bombers.
          They tried a Kanalkampf to shut down Channel traffic. Here that's not the case. In this scenario they are ranging well out to sea, into the Bay of Biscay and North Atlantic, outside the range of RAF fighters unlike their original effort. There is no defense for ships that have no guns and none available to mount on them for the most part.

          There's also the fact that many espoused the view that cargo could've been moved by rail - rendering a lot of people and vessels redundant (an argument that prevailed at the time, but in the face of mounting losses, who knows ?), but denying the bombers a target, and forcing them to move inland, leading the battle to develop along similar lines as it did historically.
          How does a cargo of oil, rubber, whatever, coming from the Middle East, Asia, the US, or elsewhere move by rail? The British economy is heavily dependent on imports of virtually everything. That is what the Luftwaffe (along with U-boats) are targeting.


          For a true naval, "Battle of Britain," look at Camperdown in 1797 - although largely forgotten now, the Batavian (now Dutch ) navy was so comprehensively smashed, that the next time the two sides met (Vleiter, 1799), the Dutch surrendered to the RN before a shot was fired.

          I'd like to think that subsequent events in the Napoleonic Wars and the stunning victory at Trafalgar, meant that Camperdown was overshadowed, but I can't shrug the sneaking suspicion that it isn't fashionable because Admiral Adam Duncan - the victor of Camperdown - was a Scot.
          This is more akin to Drake's plundering the Spanish main or the Confederacy raiding Union shipping. It is what the US did to Japan in WW 2. The sinking of more merchant ships than can be replaced to a point that resources become not just in short supply but actually scarce to the point the economy begins to contract big time, would be crippling to Britain just as it was to Japan.

          The British would be starting in a much worse position than Japan in trying to stop such a campaign. The FAA is small and mostly equipped with crap. Coastal Command gets the left overs. The RAF is focused on home defense and enlarging Bomber Command.
          They have 7 carriers scattered over half the planet. Building a few CAM ships or MAC ships won't fix the problem since these lack the number of defending fighters necessary to do something about a squadron or three of Ju 88 or He 111 making attacks on a convoy or independent sailing merchant ship.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
            They tried a Kanalkampf to shut down Channel traffic. Here that's not the case. In this scenario they are ranging well out to sea, into the Bay of Biscay and North Atlantic, outside the range of RAF fighters unlike their original effort.
            If your scenario was possible why were no Atlantic convoys ever attacked by Luftwaffe torpedo bombers during the war.

            Unless they fly directly over the British Isles the medium bombers of the Luftwaffe don't have the range to intercept the Atlantic convoys far out to sea.
            Last edited by redcoat; 08 Nov 15, 15:35.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by redcoat View Post
              If your scenario was possible why were no Atlantic convoys ever attacked by Luftwaffe torpedo bombers during the war.

              Unless they fly directly over the British Isles the medium bombers of the Luftwaffe don't have the range to intercept the Atlantic convoys far out to sea.
              Some were like PQ 17. Individual ships were too by He 111 and Ju 88 as early as mid 1940. The problem was the Luftwaffe had little interest in a major air campaign against Allied shipping. Their focus was "strategic" and to a lesser degree supporting the Wehrmacht on land.

              Thus, at the time I'm proposing this campaign there were less than 100 aircraft, well less, involved in maritime strikes on anything close to a sustained basis. The 12 or so Fw 200 and a relative handful of mostly He 111 (maybe 20 to 30 at most) along with a few Ju 88 historically sank about 365,000 tons of shipping.
              (Digressing for a moment. That number varies some to between 360,000 to 370,000 tons depending on the source. It includes sinkings by Fw 200 and by other aircraft in KG 26, 40, 200, and other units not just Fw 200)

              If the Luftwaffe ups their campaign to about 500 aircraft, given the original success I can predict about 1.5 million tons of shipping, maybe more, goes to the bottom as a result of air attacks by early 1941.
              The RN can't put a MAC carrier to sea in under about 6 months. Escort carriers take a year to year and a half to build. A CAM ship with a single Hurricane aboard is useless against squadron strength bomber attacks. Yes, it might get one or two but that won't stop the bombers from pummeling the merchant ships it's trying to guard.
              A few machineguns or some antiquated AA gun with open sights won't stop such an attack either. There aren't enough escorts or AA ships to do the job.
              U-boat sinkings were a serious problem at that time. Add in aircraft that are matching the U-boats and it is a major crisis for Britain. It is also one that they can't counter for many months.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                Some were like PQ 17.
                That was a convoy on route to the Soviet Union in the Arctic ocean.
                Individual ships were too by He 111 and Ju 88 as early as mid 1940.
                None of which were on the main Atlantic convoy routes.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by the ace View Post
                  I can't shrug the sneaking suspicion that it isn't fashionable because Admiral Adam Duncan - the victor of Camperdown - was a Scot.
                  How do you manage to walk in a straight line with that massive chip on your shoulder.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by redcoat View Post
                    That was a convoy on route to the Soviet Union in the Arctic ocean.
                    None of which were on the main Atlantic convoy routes.
                    It makes no difference. Sinking a ship is sinking a ship. If the Germans put far more aircraft into attacking ships they will sink more ships. Many of the ones the Luftwaffe did sink in late 1940 were sailing between Gibraltar and the UK.
                    It really doesn't matter where the ships are being sunk. More tonnage lost means less supplies arrive and there are fewer ships in the future for carrying supplies.

                    Going back to PQ 17, one finds that the Luftwaffe's contribution was a number of air strikes against the convoy typically with 6 to 10 aircraft each. Most of the planes were torpedo bombers. They had a few successes but mostly failed to get hits.
                    Triple that number of attacking aircraft and convoy losses will rise substantially. More aircraft mean not just more hits but make defending the merchants far more difficult. It splits AA fire lessening its effects. It makes dodging attacks more difficult too.

                    For the Luftwaffe to range further into the Atlantic they'd need longer ranged aircraft. The few Fw 200 could manage that, modifying Ju 88's into the H model with much longer range would work too. That would take some time to accomplish but could be done.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                      It makes no difference. Sinking a ship is sinking a ship.
                      It makes a huge difference, because it's a simple matter of range. A convoy to Murmask has no alternative but to run the gauntlet of the bottleneck between the Northernmost German airfield in Norway, and the Southernmost point of the Svalbards. It's some 450 miles, and the only friendly aircraft there will be naval ones.

                      On the contrary, a convoy heading from Halifax for the West coast of Britain, once it is some 450 miles to the NW of Finistere (France), it also is within 250 miles from Northern Ireland, and under 100 miles from the West coast of Ireland (as you'll remember, the British had bases in Ireland, too).

                      If the Germans put far more aircraft into attacking ships they will sink more ships. Many of the ones the Luftwaffe did sink in late 1940 were sailing between Gibraltar and the UK.
                      So what the Germans can achieve is to cause longer convoying times while the British make a wider circle around France; and to have more British fighters based in say Cornwall, which is not going to be a problem for the British if the Germans aren't carrying out the historical Battle of Britain. After all, even during the actual Battle, in September 1940, there were four single-engine fighter Squadrons between St. Eval, Exeter, and Pembrey, and one of Blenheims.

                      It really doesn't matter where the ships are being sunk.
                      So let me put it this way. Say the US Navy builds more subs in the Atlantic and keeps them there. Will that mean more Japanese ships are sunk?

                      There is a reason if the "eyes" of the submarines chiefly were the Fw 200s. It is that everything else largely lacked the range to roam the Atlantic beyond the range of land-based British aircraft.

                      All that said, the first CAM ship was operational by mid-1941. In this scenario, with much less real pressure on the RAF in the skies of Southern England, and more pressure at sea, these will happen sooner. One Hurricane could be enough of a deterrent for a Fw 200 scout or a couple of torpedo armed He 111s.
                      Michele

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Michele View Post
                        It makes a huge difference, because it's a simple matter of range. A convoy to Murmask has no alternative but to run the gauntlet of the bottleneck between the Northernmost German airfield in Norway, and the Southernmost point of the Svalbards. It's some 450 miles, and the only friendly aircraft there will be naval ones.

                        On the contrary, a convoy heading from Halifax for the West coast of Britain, once it is some 450 miles to the NW of Finistere (France), it also is within 250 miles from Northern Ireland, and under 100 miles from the West coast of Ireland (as you'll remember, the British had bases in Ireland, too).



                        So what the Germans can achieve is to cause longer convoying times while the British make a wider circle around France; and to have more British fighters based in say Cornwall, which is not going to be a problem for the British if the Germans aren't carrying out the historical Battle of Britain. After all, even during the actual Battle, in September 1940, there were four single-engine fighter Squadrons between St. Eval, Exeter, and Pembrey, and one of Blenheims.



                        So let me put it this way. Say the US Navy builds more subs in the Atlantic and keeps them there. Will that mean more Japanese ships are sunk?

                        There is a reason if the "eyes" of the submarines chiefly were the Fw 200s. It is that everything else largely lacked the range to roam the Atlantic beyond the range of land-based British aircraft.

                        All that said, the first CAM ship was operational by mid-1941. In this scenario, with much less real pressure on the RAF in the skies of Southern England, and more pressure at sea, these will happen sooner. One Hurricane could be enough of a deterrent for a Fw 200 scout or a couple of torpedo armed He 111s.
                        It sure is when you consider that just one bullet in the wrong place and that He111 is going down in the drink perhaps 1000 miles from home,there is no rescue organisation out there for anybody.

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                        • #13
                          All that happens is the North Atlantic convoys get routed a little farther north and west to stay out of range. I'm pretty sure they did that anyway in the OTL. The coastal convoys that run in the channel may be postponed for a while.

                          You've also forgotten one key thing: the luftwaffe bomber pilots of 1940 were not trained for anti shipping work. Their accuracy will be abysmal and the results correspondingly poor.

                          There will NOT be a significant increase in British merchant losses.

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                          • #14
                            No, ...

                            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                            It makes no difference. Sinking a ship is sinking a ship. If the Germans put far more aircraft into attacking ships they will sink more ships. Many of the ones the Luftwaffe did sink in late 1940 were sailing between Gibraltar and the UK.
                            It really doesn't matter where the ships are being sunk. More tonnage lost means less supplies arrive and there are fewer ships in the future for carrying supplies.

                            Going back to PQ 17, one finds that the Luftwaffe's contribution was a number of air strikes against the convoy typically with 6 to 10 aircraft each. Most of the planes were torpedo bombers. They had a few successes but mostly failed to get hits.
                            Triple that number of attacking aircraft and convoy losses will rise substantially. More aircraft mean not just more hits but make defending the merchants far more difficult. It splits AA fire lessening its effects. It makes dodging attacks more difficult too.

                            For the Luftwaffe to range further into the Atlantic they'd need longer ranged aircraft. The few Fw 200 could manage that, modifying Ju 88's into the H model with much longer range would work too. That would take some time to accomplish but could be done.
                            ... what would take time is training the Luftwaffe for maritime warfare, in 1940. It takes a long time to train airmen to navigate over water, maritime navigation translates well over land, but it doesn't work the other way around; FAA airmen/aircraft stranded in North Africa while their carriers were repaired, were assigned pin-point targets in the desert, targets that the RAF weren't likely to find much less bomb. The Luftwaffe was trained for relatively short range army support, as it was bombers needed the likes of Knickebein to find London, toss in the mid-Atlantic Fall/Winter 1940-41, searching for veritable needles-in-haystack convoys that are routed around Iceland and air support, or Brazil anyway and the rest is academic. Historically, the British expected far worse from German bombing in almost every respect, than what they got, and you're gonna make it even easier.
                            "I am Groot"
                            - Groot

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                            • #15
                              The Battle of the North Atlantic was Germany's attempt to stop the convoys that supplied Britain and Russia and the Germans did great damage with thier U-boats and had some succsess with air craft and surface raiders.
                              But the Germans did not invest heavily in long range heavy bombers, they built a few four engine aircraft with range, but they just did not build the numbers needed, thankfully.
                              Dispite our best intentions, the system is dysfunctional that intelligence failure is guaranteed.
                              Russ Travers, CIA analyst, 2001

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