Few tales from history have held as much fascination as that of the Battle of Britain. The notion of the RAF fighting against the might and power of the Luftwaffe, and winning, has captured the imagination of generations. Yet few people know who the man responsible for the victory really was. Most of the time, Prime Minister Winston Churchill is portrayed as the man who saved Britain. To some extent, this is true. If Churchill had not kept up the spirits of the British people, and had not refused to give in to Germany, then the battle would have been lost. But the man who actually kept the Germans from taking control of Britain was Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding. He not only won the ...view middle of the document...
This tension was escalated by the contempt that was shown toward Fighter Command by the rest of the Air Council. In the minds of the rest of the Air Council, the bombers were the ones who would win the war, if war came. This tension with Dowding's colleages led to his premature retirement after the battle.
Dowding's relationship with Prime Minister Wintson Churchill was also rather strained. The root of this tension lies with the Fall of France. In May of 1940, Hitler invaded France. A distraught Prime Minister of France pled Churchill for more fighters. Dowding, however, knew that the number of fighters sent to France meant that much fewer available for the defense of Britain. Dowding only wanted what was best for the defense of Britain; in order to defend England, Dowding needed as many fighters that he could possibly have. He therefore wanted to send as few fighters as possible. Yet Churchill loved the French people, and was friends with Paul Reynaud, the Prime Minister of France at the time of Hitler's invasion. This difference in opinions led to friction between these two great leaders, at a time when it was critical for them to get along.
Radar was crucial during the Battle of Britain. It allowed Fighter Command to predict with a great deal of accuracy the strength and time of a German attack. One of the men responsible for installing radar throughout the British coast was Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Fascinated by the possibility of seeing your enemy before he could see you, Baldwin was an avid supporter of Robert Watson-Watt's research of radar beams as a mechanism for defense. Although Watson-Watt did not discover radar, he was the first to realize that it could be used for identifying enemy aircraft. Dowding was also extremely interested in the idea. He knew that if Watson-Watt's theories about radar proved correct, then the ability to see German fleets before they got to the British coastline would give the RAF a huge edge. He energetically backed Watson-Watt's experiments, and encouraged Prime Minister Baldwin to install radar towers up and down the coast of England.
Dowding implemented an efficient, yet somewhat complex system of relaying information gleaned from the radar signals to his officers in the field. First, the signals were picked up by the radar towers. These signals were then relayed to receivers at Bentley Priory, the headquarters of Fighter Command. The signals were then interpreted by the Woman's Auxilary Air Force (WAAF) or the "Beauty Chorus," as they were commonly called. These young women relayed these messages to the pilots, informing them of altitude, number of enemy planes, and the distance from the pilots.
Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production This was when Fighter Command consisted of fabric-covered biplanes left over from World War I.
The new fighter planes were built under commisission of the Air Ministry, specifying top speeds of around 300 miles an...