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'Dowding should go': changes in leadership, strategy and tactics at Fighter Command, July to December 1940, with special reference to the Big Wing controversy

Ray, John Philip (1992) 'Dowding should go': changes in leadership, strategy and tactics at Fighter Command, July to December 1940, with special reference to the Big Wing controversy. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86150) (KAR id:86150)


Between July and December 1940 three contests were fought in British skies. The first was a battle for aerial supremacy between the Luftwaffe and the RAF. The second was a struggle inside the Luftwaffe to plan and follow a coherent strategy of attack. Third was a controversy among senior RAF commanders over the tactics required for daylight defence. Until mid-September, the Luftwaffe attempted alone to defeat Britain first by overwhelming Fighter Command, then by heavy bombing. It failed, partly, by starting too late and waging an unprepared campaign with unsuitable equipment. Fighter Command, possessing the world's best aerial defensive system, fought a tenacious battle for which it had been designed, namely the protection of the Home Base. From mid-September the Luftwaffe changed largely to night bombing, confronting Britain with an offensive more difficult to counter. For some months the RAF, lacking a suitable night fighter, appeared impotent in defence. This weakness was a catalyst for reservations felt by the Air council over the leadership, strategy and tactics employed by Sir Hugh Dowding, C-in-C, Fighter Command, who, in their eyes, had been uncooperative since pre-war days. When Churchill and Beaverbrook, previously his champions, appreciated that new leadership was needed in Fighter Command, more in tune with the aggressive role anticipated for the RAF in 1941, Dowding was replaced. With him went his protege, Keith Park, AOC No. 11 Group, who had borne the main burden of the daylight battle. Both later claimed that their removal stemmed from the Big Wing controversy over day fighting tactics, but other causes emerge from an examination of Dowding's career after 1936. Valid reasons can then be appreciated for his replacement; nevertheless, his later treatment by the Air Ministry and politicians was less, than honourable.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86150
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Uncontrolled keywords: History; Royal Air Force; World War II
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:30 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2021 14:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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