Friday, 21 November 2014

Sir Hugh Dowding has a problem, April 1939

Sir Hugh Dowding has a problem, April 1939

But as the countdown to war began, Dowding suddenly found all his careful preparations put at risk. In April 1939 the British and French military held a conference to discuss detailed plans of how to behave if war broke out with Germany. New and more accurate estimates of Luftwaffe strength were available, and they badly worried the French. France had expanded her airforce in the previous two years, but not to any great extent. They feared being overwhelmed by the modern and numerous aircraft of the Luftwaffe and demanded that the British send four squadrons of Hurricanes immediately war broke out, with a further six squadrons sent to France within three months.

Sir Keith Park, Dowding’s deputy who attended the conference, prevaricated. He knew that Dowding was deeply worried by the fact that Germany had over 1,400 bombers able to fly from Germany to bomb London and other cities in eastern England. Dowding believed that he would be stretched to defend Britain as it was and had been relying on the French to defend France. In the event the politicians stepped in. They instructed Dowding that he would have to send four squadrons of Hurricanes to France as soon as war broke out, but assured him that these aircraft would be used only to protect the British army in France from air attack. The question of the further six squadrons was left open.

from "Heroes of RAF Fighter Command in Sussex" by Rupert Matthews

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