Their Finest Hour: Aug I, 1940
It’s that time again. After a little discussion, Alan and I decided to reset the game. Not because of major errors, but because we both saw things that we could do better. Plus an occasional error here and there.
The German coastal artillery was supposed to go in the hex to the west of Calais, not Calais itself. This posed a major problem for me, as the Germans, because those coastal defenses were central to my plan.
We also discovered the RAF bombing of the two German destroyers on the move occurred out of sequence. The non-phasing player is to fly their naval patrol missions prior to the phasing player doing their air movement, then not return until the next friendly air return step, on their turn. The non-phasing player has to anticipate any naval movement.
And finally, it just wasn’t that interesting. There was really nothing going on. The Germans would bomb a few things while the British watched. Yay. Hopefully, this go around will be a tad more interesting.
What’s changed as far as setup goes?
The Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is all sitting at Scapa Flow (with the exception of 2 submarines) instead of being split between the North Sea and the Irish Sea, and no submarines are patrolling the English Channel. Antiaircraft defenses at Scapa Flow, Edinburgh and Belfast have been increased.
Seems that the Luftwaffe was (slowly) damaging the psyche of the Royal Navy, although Alan will never admit it, I think the amount of damage being inflicted surprised him, slow as it may have been. Why else would he increase AA, fighter coverage over Scapa (he put a Blen1-F in Aberdeen on the edge of interception range, possibly hoping I wouldn’t notice it), and put all ships together for mutual protection?
Royal Air Force & Luftwaffe
Neither air force suffered much in the way of losses. I tried, but the British simply refused to fight because of the lack of perceived advantage. Never mind that they have home field, but it is not up to me to tell Alan how to run his army.
In southeastern England, the air defenses are a bit more spread out than they were, tightening up the air defenses. Radar sites have more air coverage and defense than they did before.
One of the factories has crept south. In the first game, they were located at Bristol, Coventry, Northampton and Oxford. For this game, the factory in Northampton has moves south to North London.
Four points of AA, the most in London, the coverage by the RAF and Alan’s feelings about the Spitfire, I would have to guess that the north London factory is, indeed, the Spitfire factory. Of course, the RAF has been spread out a bit to tighten up the loose defenses, and to make it look like they aren’t there. It looks to me like the British think they have a trap prepared.
Scapa Flow is out of normal range of the Luftwaffe, even the Ju-88s, based in Benelux and France.
However, basing them in Denmark brings Scapa back into range. The map has been extended to use Denmark as a base of operations.
Fighter Command disposition has a net over SE England. Any air mission through the area will be patrolled. All British fighters in the area have a patrol and interception range of 4 hexes, except for the Blen-4 night fighters based in north London and Norwich. The other two long range fighters, the Blenheim 1-Fs are north, defending Scapa Flow, Belfast and Edinburgh.
The turn starts, not with Luftwaffe movement, but with British air movement. A pair of British bombers are sent to sea zone 14 to patrol just in case the Kriegsmarine moves. They are there patrolling until the British air return step.
The bombing missions begin. As I expected, the British were surprised that I did not target Scapa Flow. Obviously I have some skill in deception.
What are the targets? Radar sites and factories.
Coventry, Bristol, and the North London factories are targeted by Ju-88 bombers and He-111s. The mission to north London is led by He-111H night bombers as pathfinders. Because this mission is at night, only the night fighter in north London can patrol attack it.
Radar sites along the southern coast are targeted by Ju-87s and Do-17Z bombers, escorted by Me-110s and Me-109s. Doubtful the RAF will make an appearance beyond making patrol attacks, which is no risk to them.
Overall, the RAF is only able to abort a single Me-110C and a Ju-88A.
As expected though, the Stukas have difficulty reaching their targets. None are shot down, but of the 400 Stukas sent on the attack, only 50 reach the target area. A group of Ju-87B’s carrying a full bomb load, manage to tear up and abort a group of Hurricanes before returning to base.
Scared of the Me-109s? The British should be scared of the Stukas. And this.
Attacked by a group of Blenheim 4 night fighters over a radar installation at Great Yarmouth, Ju-88s shoot down the Blen 4s.
That’s right. A group of medium bombers shot down a British night fighter. KIA. Bye-bye!
One radar installation that was supposed to be bombed wasn’t because of highly accurate AA fire that chased the bombers off. Factories, though, suffered for the lack of RAF defense. The factory at Bristol took 3 hits, the factory at Coventry took another 2. The factory in north London was spared because after the He-111H night bombers herded the rest of the daytime He-111s to the target, they were chased off by antiaircraft fire. The results are misses to the factory, but lots of leaflets flying through the air.
Four radar installations were attacked. The one furthest west was missed completely, the one at Southampton took a single hit, and the one at Eastbourne chased away all Stukas in patrol attacks. It seems kind of silly (to me, anyway) that escorts in a given hex do not and cannot impact patrol attacks. Further east, in Great Yarmouth (where the British fighter was shot down by German bombers. Just had to mention that again), AA fire is ineffective, but all bombers miss the mark.
On return, two He-111s crash land at Lille. The night bombers land safely.
I ran these specific missions for a reason, and that is to show that while some factories and a radar site were damaged, the problem of the Royal Navy has not been addressed. The point is that not a single factory has been knocked out, and repairs are made every turn at no cost to the British. Radar sites cost equipment points, but with only a single hit made this turn, that’s not going to cost them much. The Luftwaffe just does not have the capacity to attack everything that needs to be attacked.
In the case of factories, it takes 7 hits to knock one out, and 1 hit is repaired automatically each turn. This means that in order to keep the factories inoperative (after they are shut down due to bombing), they have to be revisited, turn after turn.
I’m not suggesting attacking the factories or radar sites are not worthwhile, but the aim of that is to defeat the Royal Air Force, not the Royal Navy. Certainly, radar repair costs the British equipment points, as can the factories, but this does nothing to advance the invasion.
The great barrier is the Royal Navy, not the English Channel. The English Channel had been described as a giant tank trap, but Peter Fleming described it as something more:
“Over the Channel and the Narrow Seas, the Home Fleet in its northern bases was suspended like the blade of a guillotine.”
Certainly the RAF did their duty (historically), and caused enough damage to the Luftwaffe that the Germans eventually lost interest and turned their attention to the East, but it is the British Isles where they lost the war.
No invasion of the British Isles is possible until the Royal Navy is defeated, and that objective was not advanced during this turn. The RAF still chose to sit on the ground while their factories were hammered and radar sites had leaflets dropped on them.
From Operation Sea Lion, by Peter Fleming:
“The safety of the islands depended ultimately, as it always had, on the Royal Navy’s ability to exert command of the surrounding seas; it was only by successfully challenging this command that the Germans could hope to carry out their invasion.
They never did challenge it.”
Meanwhile in France, the three engineer regiments throw up some temporary airfields. The hardest part about bombing the southern coastline is that there is only a limited area the Me-109s can reach.
But, in order to defeat Fighter Command, a method must be found to draw them out to fight. A method I intend to find.