AHC: Peerless Air Ministry

Yes, as per earlier posts at least one of the two prototypes has been moved out of the Woolston factory, mind you this does not necessarily mean it will ever be completed!
10.41 The War Goes Elsewhere And Cannot Be Neglected
10.41. The War goes elseware and cannot be neglected.

Iceland, to most of the British population it would have come as a bit of surprise to find this remote north Atlantic Island on the edge of the Artic Sea as being a priority for the Air Minister in the midst of the current air battle over England. However, it was, simply because since the invasion of Demark by Germany in the spring and the subsequent occupation of Iceland by the British in conjunction with the fall of France the island was now strategically very important for the British. With the basing of long range aircraft and U-boats in western France the ability of Nazi Germany to interdict the trans-Atlantic convoys as well as those to the rest of the empire had been greatly enhanced. As a counter the basing of Very Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (VLRMPA) in Iceland was an obvious move. Therein lay a problem, VLRMPA either require sheltered waters and extensive shore facilities if they were flying boats or large, long all weather runways if they were large land aircraft. Both types of facilities were to all intents and purposes none existent on Iceland in the early Summer of 1940.

With the invasion of Iceland on the 10th of May by a force of Royal Marines planning had immediately started for the construction of base facilities and especially a large airfield.

As it would take some months for these facilities to be built an interim solution was sought and for a limited time Short Sunderlands and other seaplanes could be operated from sheltered waters such as Reykjavik harbor with the aid of a Seaplane tender but this would not be viable through the long harsh winter of the near artic. To set up a temporary base the services of HMS Pegasus had been requested from the Admiralty. This course of action had been quickly agreed upon and after a short refit HMS Pegasus was loaded with stores to support not only the Sunderland Flying boats but also all the various types of catapult launched aircraft that the ships of the Northern patrol carried. In the short term the accommodation of the RAF maintenance and administrative personnel would be resolved by using a requisitioned small cargo liner that could also double up as a stores ship. It proved harder to get the cargo liner from the Ministry of Supply than it had been to get HMS Pegasus from the Navy. In the end the impasse was resolved when the Navy stepped in again and reminded the Ministry of Supply of two pertinent facts,

1 the temporary reassignment of one ship could and probably would result in saving multiple ships from permanent loss.

2. There were currently several cargo liners that had been earmarked for conversion to AMC’s that had not yet been requisitioned by the Navy perhaps now was the time for the RN to exert their prerogative and insist on having one of these ships delivered to the nearest naval dockyard before sending it to Iceland.

Sir Phillip was always thankful for the good relationship between the Admiralty and the AM/RAF that had been forged since the decision to return the FAA to the RN and the passing of Operational control of Maritime Command to a joint RN/RAF staff.

The long term solution was to complete all weather airfield at strategic locations on Iceland. Here was where Sir Phillip and the Air Ministry ran into a major problem. Just as plans were being made with the Ministry of Supply to send the necessary materials to Iceland, France fell and all priorities changed. Suddenly every ton of concrete and reinforcing steel was required for the building of anti-invasion defenses in the UK. With All weather airstrips required by the RAF for Fighter Command, Bomber Command and others the AM was struggling to ensure construction supplies for domestic airfields let alone those on a faraway island.

Some times Sir Phillip felt very frustrated by the inability of certain civil servants and their political bosses to see the bigger picture. It would not be the first or last time such a conflict of interest would occur in wartime. Heaven forbid that Sir Phillip or anyone else in the Air Ministry might suggest that at this precise moment in time certain Whitehall mandarins might be more concerned with protecting their own skins from a potential invasion rather than protecting the lives of Merchant seaman struggling to supply the vary materials required to repel that feared invasion.

The solution had proved remarkedly easy, a request to Canada House resulted in a meeting with the deputy High Commissioner Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson. Mike Pearson had been recruited by Sir William Samuel Stephenson the Canadian born spymaster to act as a ‘Kings’s Messenger’, Sir William had been a fighter pilot in the Great war and was a confidant of both Sir Phillip and Sir Hugh Dowding. It also helped that Sir William’s mother was Icelandic. The meeting held at Sir Phillips club one evening discussed the problem of building all weather airfields in Iceland, Sir Phillip enquired whether the Canadian Government could be of assistance by supplying and shipping materials to the Island. Lester’s response had been that he thought he could do better than that and not only arrange supplies and shipping but also the construction crews and machinery required. This meeting had taken place in July shortly after the arrival of Canadian troops to take over the Garrison of the Island. By this simple expedient the building of the Islandic airfields particularly at Keflavik and Kaladarnes was back on the agender. Still with the short summer construction season it would still be a race against time to have these airfields ready before the onset of winter. Now in Late September that race was drawing to a close and it would be ‘nip and tuck’ whether the runways would be ready or not. As for the rest of the facilities, using prefabricated Nissan huts and hangers had greatly speeded up construction of the base facilities which whilst crude they would at least be serviceable.

The next problem was finding the squadrons and aircraft to send out to Iceland. The first aircraft sent was a detachment of Sunderland MkIs from 210 squadron of Maritime Command. This detachment would rotate back to the squadron base at Oban for major maintenance and leave. It was the allocation of a greater air component to Iceland that was currently vexing Sir Phillip. So what was needed? The Naval appreciation that had been passed to him was that there was a requirement for a wing of Long range RDF equipped maritime patrol aircraft, a wing of medium range RDF equipped Maritime Patrol Aircraft and a further wing of Coastal patrol aircraft. So in the first category were the short Sunderland and the Short Sterling, of which the Sterling had the longer endurance and range. In the medium range category there was the Wellington and the Consolidated Catalina (the first squadron of which was being raised). The Blackburn B20 was entering series production at Dunbarton and should be on Squadron service by late winter. In the Coastal category there was the Flamingo. Pulling together these resources would all take time. Currently a single squadron of Sunderland’s were on station and carrying out patrols.

The MAP were juggling production between manufacturers and factories. For instance Saunders Roe had been incensed when the Lerwick had been cancelled after just a few flights of the prototype. The test team had condemned it as unfit for service and unlikely ever to be. On the other hand when Blackburn’s B20 was almost lost due to uncontrollable aileron flutter the pause in testing required to remedy this had been used also to swap the RR Vulture engines for the Fairy Monarch. This had necessitated a redesign of the engine Nacelles and all the engine control and instrument cable runs. Blackburn had achieved this in time for the first production/prototype to be modified. The MAP had taken the decision to instigate full production with the central float pontoon and the wing floats being built by Saunders Roe at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, they would then be mated with the Blackburn built wings and Fuselage at Dunbarton. Remaining capacity at Saunders Roe Cowes was being used to flesh out Sunderland production. Whilst it was considered risky to go with the B20’s unusual design the performance gains were considered worth it. When the problems with both of the next generation medium size Flying boats became apparent early in 1939 the AM had acquired a commercial model 28-5 flying boat for trials to see if it would be suitable for RAF use. This had resulted in an order being place in early 1940 for delivery in late 1940 early 1941. Therefore for the time being the only option was for Sunderlands to be based at Reykjavik harbour until the all weather airfields were ready for operations. Then LRMPA Sterlings, Wellingtons, and Flamingos would be sent.
10.42 As The Battle Goes On, The Devil Is In The Detail
10.42 As the battle goes on, the devil is in the detail

September 25th.

Day Bristol and Plymouth Bombed.

Night, London, North Wales, and Lancashire attacked.

Weather, Fair to fine in most districts. Cool. Channel cloudy with bright intervals: Hazy. (1)

The early morning was quite, just the usual German reconnaissance flights and a diversionary build up over France around half past eight. The mornings main assault commenced shortly after eleven o’clock when a large formation crossed the channel further west than normal, whilst a diversionary attack consisting of fighter bombers attacked Portland drew the attention of No 10 Groups ready squadrons. A force consisting of Heinkel 111’s from Three Gruppen of KG5 total sixty air craft accompanied by Me110’s of ZG26 successfully evaded the defending fighters to attack the Bristol Aircraft factory at Filton. Nearly one hundred tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs caused extensive damage to the plant and killed two hundred and fifty people. Full production was curtailed for several weeks. Having sent two squadrons to defend Portland a further three Squadrons had been scrambled by 10 group to intercept the main attack. Un fortunately these defending fighters had been sent by the group control to orbit Yeovil as he had anticipated that the aircraft factories there were the main target. Once the true track of the raid had be ascertained these squadrons were vectored towards Filton and managed to intercept prior to the bombing but were engaged by the Me110’s enabling the bulk of the sixty Heinkle 111’ to carry out a measured and largley unopposed attack. The two squadrons that were using Filton as a sector station had been dispersed to Exeter and Bibury to counter coastal attacks. The retreating bombers were harried all the way to the coast and losses were inflicted.

Later that afternoon eighty seven Squadron flying from Exeter intercepted a dozen bombers with another dozen Me 110’s as escort near Plymouth and forced them to break off their attack. At the same time three squadrons of fighters from Eleven Group were at twenty thousand feet over London to intercept another bomber attack.

By the time darkness had fallen the day fighters had flown over six hundred and fifty sorties, destroying twenty enemy aircraft (as confirmed by wreck counts and verified observation by multiple witnesses) NIghtime again saw large attacks on London with widely dispersed smaller formations trying to distract the night fighters. Despite far from perfect conditions for the defenders again a steady tole of the attacking bombers was taken both by the fighters and the ever improving AA guns. The new gun laying and ranging RDF sets using the fifty centimetre transmitters were beginning to prove their worth. Especially with the big four inch calibre AA guns in the London sector.

Tonight the Civil Defence organisations recorded the highest number yet of people seeking shelter in the deep tube stations. Despite wide spread fears of panic, it would seem that Londoners could take it and that the cockney gallows humour was thriving as the populace went about their daily lives. (2).

(1) Daily summary quoted verbatim from the The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster
(2) Based upon a weekly report from the Eastend, Home Security operations Room.

September 26th.

Day, Supermarine factory at Southampton attacked and wrecked.

Night, London and Merseyside.

Weather, Mainly fair to cloudy in the south. (1)

Just as Sir Phillip had surmised the German reconnaissance photographs had clearly showed that the Supermarine works had been undamaged and today the Luftwaffe were determined to rectify that failure. So that afternoon after a quite morning the Luftwaffe sent a fleet of seventy six bombers and fighters consisting of Ju 88’s, He 111’s and Me109’s left the French coast and using the available cloud cover and diversionary missions to both east and west plus judicious use of jamming managed to evade any major interception by RAF fighters until they had delivered a highly accurate and devastating attack consisting of seventy tons of high explosive bombs that completely devastated the Supermarine Factory. Only as the Luftwaffe aircraft turned for home did the fighters of 10 and 11 group successfully intercept them with two squadrons from each of the groups engaging in a running fight that lasted almost to the French Coast. This resulted in more than a dozen of the enemy aircraft being shot down whilst two Spitfires and a single Defiant were shot down in return. One British pilot bailed out and fortuitously landed on the beach at Whitsand bay on the Isle of Wight, another was rescued by an MTB in mid channel along with an even dozen very damp and disgruntled Luftwaffe air crew. The fact that their two seriously injured comrades were receiving medical aid and the MTB headed for Halslar at high speed was did not go unnoticed by the others, who’s demeaner improved visibly. Unfortunately the third pilot RAF was lost.

The success of this raid would result in a major post-mortem at Bentley Priory involving both Ten and Eleven group. The fact that in just a few days two raids had managed to evade interception and attack the same major target was a cause of great concern for all at Fighter Command. Factors examined included, the fact that Southampton was close to the boundary with Ten Group and that fighters from that group were often called in to reinforce Eleven Group which was still causing problems with coordination. This was exacerbated by the fact that the nearest GCI/PPI was in Ten Groups area at Sopley. The RDF team at Sopely was the most experienced and successful of the GCI Stations so for them to have had problems was an unpleasant surprise. The GCI coverage of Sopley in Ten Group overlapped with the GCI coverage of Durrington to the East in Eleven Group. Southamton was right on the edge of the GCI coverage of Durrington, so any attack or enemy aircraft approaching from the east had to be passed to Sopley just prior to it arriving at a Target in Southampton. Though there was direct communication between Sopley and Ten Group HQ and between Durrington and Eleven Group HQ there was no direct connection from the sector stations to GCI/PPI stations though there was a direct line between Sopley and Durrington. In fact every GCI/PPI station had a direct line to each GCI/PPI station it overlapped with. It appears that one major problem encountered in this instance was the delay in information flow between the GCI/PPI stations and the sector stations via the Group HQ’s. Keith Parks and Quinton Brand also sought answers to the problems highlighted by this failure, not to apportion blame, as some would expect but to avoid recurrence and further loss. The first decision made was to install direct lines from all GCI/PPI stations to their nearest and adjoining sector stations.

(1) Daily summary quoted verbatim from the The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster
You Got It, having visited Iceland some years ago I was familiar with the story and problems with RAF Kaldadarnes, this being the PAM steps are being taken in mid to late 1940 to get proper concrete runways and hard standings built. The PAM aim is to get LRMPA (four engine Stirlings and twin engine Flamingos) by wintertime, ITTL despite the best efforts that is not quite going to happen and that is in the story to reflect OTL ground conditions and weather on the base,
10.43 Lessons Learnt And Action Taken
10.43. Lessons learnt and action taken,

September 27th.

Day. Heavy attacks on London and one on Bristol.
Night. London, Merseyside and the Midlands.

Weather, Fair in extreme south and south-west. Cloudy in the Channel with haze. Slight rain in southern England. (1)

The day’s activity started early as at 8.AM the plots appeared on the table at the Uxbridge headquarters of Eleven Group. This raid consisted of bomb carrying Me110’s with an escort of Me109’s. Intercepted by squadrons from Biggin Hill the attack was broken up with bombs scattered from the beach at Dungeness to the suburbs of London. The Me 109’s pushed on further into London to the extent of their fuel duration. The reason for this became apparent as a second attack composing Ju88 and Do17 bombers approached the coast on route for London. Attacked by successive Squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes as well as the Defiants with their bomber-smashing four cannons the nice neat formations of German bombers were quickly broken up, jettisoning their bombs and high tailing back across the channel. The now isolated Me109’s were soon facing overwhelming odds and were left no option but to dive to the deck and make a low level escape to the coast.

The morning’s attempt to clear the way for a bomber formation by sending a fighter sweep ahead of it had abjectly failed so after lunch the Luftwaffe reverted to their usual practice of sending a mixed formation to two divergent targets. In this instance three hundred bombers with escort targeting London whilst a further eighty bombers with fighter escort headed for the aircraft factories at Bristol. Today there was no confusion between the various stations and controllers, Ten Group controlled the defense against the attack on Bristol and Eleven group took on the larger raid on London. Twelve Group was warned to stand by to reinforce whichever of the two forward Groups might require assistance.

Ten Group set the pace with the attacking formation being continually attacked from the coast just to the west of the Isle of Wight all the way across the West Country as it headed north. By the time the formation reached the suburbs of Bristol no less than seventy of the attackers had either been destroyed or forced to flee. The remaining ten Me 110’s and 109’s dumped their bombs and fled when they were attacked by a full wing of fighters sent down from Twelve Group. The enemy fighters and bombers were harried and chased all the way to the French coast before the fighters were recalled.

Further south the larger formation faired no better. Park had sent entire wings to attack the large formations and the first of these coming in from Tangmere in the west stripped away the fighter escort, allowing the squadrons from Biggin Hill and Debden to climb virtually unopposed to the bomber fleet. Furthers squadrons from the eastern stations then entered the fray at high altitude. By the time the bombers approached the London suburbs they were scattered and in disarray. A small formation of twenty aircraft penetrated as far as the city center only to meet the full wing strength of the PAC. The Polish Pilots flung themselves at the enemy with such ferocity that in the ensuing melee they actually impeded each other’s attacks and thereby enable a few surviving aircraft to flee south.

The Majority of allied pilots who were shot down either crash landed or parachuted down onto English soil. However the channel was dotted with the white jelly fish of German parachutes and the yellow dye of aircrew markers. A second battle was fought as the RN, Air Sea rescue service and Maritime Command aircraft did their utmost to bag as many as the enemy airman as was possible. By night fall the tally was that for the loss of twenty eight allied aircraft and seven pilots killed, the confirmed losses to the Luftwaffe were counted as being fifty five aircraft, of which twenty eight were twin engined bombers. At the time the RAF and the British government had no way of knowing how many further aircraft had been lost or written off beyond the channel. However the Germans manipulated the propaganda, there was no hiding the facts from their own high command that on this day their much vaunted air force had been roundly trounced.

As the dark of night gathered around the country like a cloak, the Erks on the RAF fighter fields continued their work of preparing and repairing as many of the fighters in their charge as possible, in anticipation of the renewed onslaught after sunrise. In some cases even on the same airfields, the night fighter crews were preparing to pick up the mantle of being the Nations defense. The night lived up to the mayhem of the day, with concerted attacks on London from virtually dusk till dawn and smaller raids spreading death and destruction around the country but with Merseyside and the midlands again receiving the bulk of the bombload. The night fighters had a busy night with contacts taking place in all GCI/PPI covered areas other than in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Out of the thirty two active stations only nine did not have maggots on their screen before dawn. Fighter Command at Bentley Priory took the decision shortly after midnight to release the night fighter squadrons based at Ballyhalbert, Ayr, Drem and Acklington so that they could be sent south to reinforce the Liverpool, Merseyside and Midlands. This was required as night fighters committed earlier had to land to rearm and refuel. Also as the bombers turned back from their targets in the north of England they tended to draw the night fighters south leaving fewer fighters orbiting the northern beacons and hence available to intercept later raids. Here the importance of Fighter Command HQ at Bentley Priory was clearly demonstrated as the control room there was able to see the ‘Bigger Picture’ and make adjustments to the defensive posture accordingly.

1) Daily summary quoted verbatim from the The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster
2:1 losses for the Luftwaffe does not look very good. Worse, the RAF is identifying and addressing its shortcomings very quickly in this fast-paced aerial war. Has the UK managed to bag any high-profile German aces?
Reading about Keith Park and his Command of Eleven group it quickly becomes apparent that he was a master of reading the tactical changes being made by the opposing force and implementing changes in his own forces tactical deployment and actions to provide a viable counter stroke. He really was a thinking commander and most adaptable.
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I hate that even though i'm following this threat I miss the updates! Thats good news RE Iceland being used earlier as well as the Stirling being used as a LR-MPA every U-boat they scare off means more convoys getting through with less losses. The Germans are loosing aircraft at a rate of about 2-1 even on their attacks now and that's going to hurt them if they try keeping it up and the RAF's night figters keep taking a comparatively small, but no-less important toll on the German forces. That new flyingboat sounds intresting too, was it really a design?
Yes, as shown by the pictures kindly posted by Peg Leg Tom. The B-20 was an amazing design and was bet fast for it's size and weight. The loss of the only prototype in an accident during testing unfortunately doomed it OTL. Apparently the aircraft was given the name "the Nut Cracker".
I'll give you that one but I was referring to late thirties to late forties. So Skua, Roc, Botha, Firebrand and Firecrest.
Are they all that bad?

Skua isnt bad in 38 as a DB? What's in service D1A and BT1s.......?

Are Firebrand and Firecrest bad or not just to late to bother with in a jet world?


Are they all that bad?

Skua isnt bad in 38 as a DB? What's in service D1A and BT1s.......?

Are Firebrand and Firecrest bad or not just to late to bother with in a jet world?
There's the core of another thread - good planes that came out a year or two too late.
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In the period 199 to 1949 that would be quite a long list. As to the PAM there will still be a few aircraft that miss the bus, so to speak.