The Anniversary of The Channel Dash - 1942 - and the wider RN Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War

Daz

LE
With respect to anti aircraft gunnery, how did land based anti aircraft artillery of the same period compare? In the days before radar and the proximity fuze?



As I recall later marks of Spitfire were cannon armed. If the same was true for the Seafire then it might explain their anti Kamikaze role?



No conspiracy theories here. The fact is the RAF had to be given priority when it came to aircraft design and production. I once read something on ARRSE from a dark blue type, @alfred_the_great I think, that at BRNC he had been taught nothing of the wartime role of the FAA save Taranto.

This thread started simply as a tribute to the Swordfish crews who died during the Channel Dash. Unfortunately it got hijacked by those who seek to demean their efforts as their aircraft was not US made, and others blaming the failure of Operation Fuller on the RAF, and ignoring the fog of war.

The dark blue lobby always runs the risk of not identifying or learning lessons by automatically blaming the RAF, or old school Admirals.

ABNRedleg was correct.

The C Wing of the Spitfire could mount 4 X 20mm Cannon. He was correct with his description of the E Wing Armament.

The R.A.F. belatedly realised that the .303 Machine Gun was proving useless in both Air To Air and Air To Ground work.
I never said it was incorrect, I pointed out that it could be fitted for both setups depending on the role required - again, the main upgrade was not .303 to .50 in the UK, it was .303 to 20mm*


* For fighters, bombers were slightly different, however, that's another discussion
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
With respect to anti aircraft gunnery, how did land based anti aircraft artillery of the same period compare? In the days before radar and the proximity fuze?

The Admiralty was absolutely 100% aware its directors couldn't hit a plane moving in 3 axes.
Written representations were Admiralty in 1936 that its directors had no ability to hit dive bombers.
It was happy with that, it had decided the only threat it would face would be slow torpedo bombers that only changed rate in 1 axis, so their 2 axis director was mega.
 

Yokel

LE
....you run with what you've got and improve it as quick as is practical.

An almost perfect response to @PhotEx and his insistence that the Fleet Air Arm was useless in the early years of the war, as the aircraft, weapons, tactics, and the ships they flew from were not as good in 1939/1940 as they were in 1944/1945.

Also why be dismissive of the contribution of escort carriers in the critical Atlantic and Arctic battles in favour of dismissing the RN as its fleet carriers were less suited to Pacific operations than American ones designed for that theatre?
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Not entirely a fair comment really, the .303 as a pack of 8 was good enough in 1939 and won the Battle of Britain.
The RAF was aware of it's shortcomings but didn't consider .50 the right answer.

It's a bit like the 2lb'r v 6lb'r argument isn't it, you run with what you've got and improve it as quick as is practical.

I read that none other than A.V.M. Keith Park was in favour of fitting .50 Cal Heavy Machine Guns to R.A.F. Fighters as soon as possible.

Luftwaffe Bomber Losses would have undoubtedly been more severe had R.A.F. Fighters been fitted with harder hitting weapons in the summer of 1940.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
I never said it was incorrect, I pointed out that it could be fitted for both setups depending on the role required - again, the main upgrade was not .303 to .50 in the UK, it was .303 to 20mm*


* For fighters, bombers were slightly different, however, that's another discussion

The E Wing on the Spitfire could not be fitted with 4 X 20mm Cannon.

The earlier Universal C wing could but there were constant problems keeping the guns suitably heated at higher altitudes so 2 cannon and 4 machine guns became the standard Spitfire armament until the E wing was introduced.
 
I read that none other than A.V.M. Keith Park was in favour of fitting .50 Cal Heavy Machine Guns to R.A.F. Fighters as soon as possible.

Luftwaffe Bomber Losses would have undoubtedly been more severe had R.A.F. Fighters been fitted with harder hitting weapons in the summer of 1940.


Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that .50 would have been better then .303
What I am trying to say is that in 1939 8x .303 in a fast agile fighter was considered pretty potent. I am also saying that it was an effective weapon system and not as entirely useless as some would like to portray.

As I understand it (and I am no expert on fighter aircraft at all) the concentrated fire of 8x .303 was not exactly throwing feathers at enemy aircraft.

There is also the question of whether sufficeint .50's would have been available to refit the entire RAF fighter force had the option been chosen.

Some people are of the opinion that .303 was an ill informed or lazy choice
I would contend that the motives for staying with it until 20mm could be added were quite legitimate and valid for the time.
Otherwise we are only a short stretch from demanding to know why the RAF wasn't opposing the Luftwaffe with Meteors over Kent. Already on this thread we are comparing aircraft available in 1939 to aircraft available in 1944 and demanding to know why the early ones weren't as good as the later ones.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that .50 would have been better then .303
What I am trying to say is that in 1939 8x .303 in a fast agile fighter was considered pretty potent. I am also saying that it was an effective weapon system and not as entirely useless as some would like to portray.

As I understand it (and I am no expert on fighter aircraft at all) the concentrated fire of 8x .303 was not exactly throwing feathers at enemy aircraft.

There is also the question of whether sufficeint .50's would have been available to refit the entire RAF fighter force had the option been chosen.

Some people are of the opinion that .303 was an ill informed or lazy choice
I would contend that the motives for staying with it until 20mm could be added were quite legitimate and valid for the time.
Otherwise we are only a short stretch from demanding to know why the RAF wasn't opposing the Luftwaffe with Meteors over Kent. Already on this thread we are comparing aircraft available in 1939 to aircraft available in 1944 and demanding to know why the early ones weren't as good as the later ones.

Agreed on all points.
 

Yokel

LE
From a technical and system integration point of view, naval aviation and how the ship and aircraft operate together, and how the aircraft work with other ships and aircraft, is fascinating.

The link I posted about the campaign in the Mediterranean and the Malta convoys made reference to ships equipped with radar passing information to the carrier. Later the carriers had radar, and I presume other warships could direct the fighters. The Malta Convoy operations also revealed the need to coordinate fighters, long range fire from anti aircraft cruisers, and short range self defence fire from high value units. That sounds like defence in depth to me. @jrwlynch and @Not a Boffin would you agree?

As for the ASW side against the U boats, escort carriers would fly from escort carriers ahead of the convoy, and dissuade the U boats from approaching on the surface, attacking any sighted U boats, and providing a long range warning. The frigates and other escorts had things like radar and HF direction finding, so they could direct aircraft to them. Sounds a bit like modern ASW!

Many of the Royal Navy's carrier woes lost war have been due to these things being forgotten, including, shamefully if you ask me, some senior RN Officers.
 
Having just re-read MacCleans HMS Ulysses for the first time in years it puts a different perspective on some parts of this argument.
Entirely fiction about artic convoys but written by a man who served on artic convoys on HMS Royalist, a Dido/Bellona Class cruiser. The basis for his novel was a fictional Bellona Class anti aircraft cruiser
1614535022869.png

Picture added just because its a cool picture....


One of the things that we should really remember is that even putting a Hurricane in the air from CAM ships or escort carriers was a game changer at the time. The Seafire was an even greater asset. Both provided effective defence from the Luftwaffe and the humble Swordfish was higely effective at ASW

Again it comes back to the same thing, you use the tools you have.
 

Yokel

LE
This page on the BAE Systems website says that the Seafire did have cannon, which would explain why Winkle Brown described it as being 'well armed'. The cannon armament would explain an anti Kamikaze role. It also explains why the Navy was able to forgive its foibles.

Vickers Supermarine Seafire

The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was an urgent development of the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire to generate a high performance carrier-based fighter aircraft. Somewhat compromised in service by an undercarriage that was not designed from the outset to handle the the rigours of carrier landings, the Seafire nevertheless gave valuable service throughout its operational life.

The Vickers Supermarine Seafire Mk IB was a conversion of the land-based Vickers Supermarine Spitfire VB with the conversions being carried out by Air Service Training (AST) and by Vickers Supermarine with the main modifications being the introduction of a retractable arrester hook and local fuselage strengthening.

The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was produced in 8 marks, with total production of 14 prototypes, 538 Spitfire conversions and 2,094 new-build aircraft, giving a total of 2,646 aircraft (see the table below summarising production quantities from the various manufacturers involved).
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
This page on the BAE Systems website says that the Seafire did have cannon, which would explain why Winkle Brown described it as being 'well armed'. The cannon armament would explain an anti Kamikaze role. It also explains why the Navy was able to forgive its foibles.

Vickers Supermarine Seafire

The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was an urgent development of the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire to generate a high performance carrier-based fighter aircraft. Somewhat compromised in service by an undercarriage that was not designed from the outset to handle the the rigours of carrier landings, the Seafire nevertheless gave valuable service throughout its operational life.

The Vickers Supermarine Seafire Mk IB was a conversion of the land-based Vickers Supermarine Spitfire VB with the conversions being carried out by Air Service Training (AST) and by Vickers Supermarine with the main modifications being the introduction of a retractable arrester hook and local fuselage strengthening.

The Vickers Supermarine Seafire was produced in 8 marks, with total production of 14 prototypes, 538 Spitfire conversions and 2,094 new-build aircraft, giving a total of 2,646 aircraft (see the table below summarising production quantities from the various manufacturers involved).
Virtually all Seafires were armed with at least 2 X 20mm Cannon if l am not mistaken.

By the time the Seafire was conceived R.A.F. Spitfires had Cannon as standard and thus so did the Seafire.
 
With regard to the .50 calibre Browning in the early part of the war, Belgium's Fairey company had fitted four of them to their Hurricane 1s and they were used in action so the knowledge was certainly there and available to the Air Ministry and RAF. Imagine if the Spitfires and Hurricanes of 1940 had had them, in time for the Battle of Britain. They would have brought down a whole lot more of the enemy than they did.
 

Yokel

LE
With regard to the .50 calibre Browning in the early part of the war, Belgium's Fairey company had fitted four of them to their Hurricane 1s and they were used in action so the knowledge was certainly there and available to the Air Ministry and RAF. Imagine if the Spitfires and Hurricanes of 1940 had had them, in time for the Battle of Britain. They would have brought down a whole lot more of the enemy than they did.

On the other hand, and very much in keeping with the theme of this thread, how much more expensive would producing them be in terms of metals etc, and hours taken, and the same with the ammunition? The situation in 1940 was desperate, France had fallen, the BEF had lost virtually everything larger than a rifle, and things like lend lease had not started.
 
With regard to the .50 calibre Browning in the early part of the war, Belgium's Fairey company had fitted four of them to their Hurricane 1s and they were used in action so the knowledge was certainly there and available to the Air Ministry and RAF. Imagine if the Spitfires and Hurricanes of 1940 had had them, in time for the Battle of Britain. They would have brought down a whole lot more of the enemy than they did.

Presumably the Belgian Hurricane fitment was FN produced guns?
That option would have gone with the fall of Belgium so would have been a dead end
 

Yokel

LE
Virtually all Seafires were armed with at least 2 X 20mm Cannon if l am not mistaken.

By the time the Seafire was conceived R.A.F. Spitfires had Cannon as standard and thus so did the Seafire.

Would it be fair to say that the Seafire it replaced the Fulmar as the main RN carrier based fighter? Fast and well armed, but difficult to land on deck.

I have no idea how numbers compared with the Sea Hurricane, or if the latter had cannon?
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Would it be fair to say that the Seafire it replaced the Fulmar as the main RN carrier based fighter? Fast and well armed, but difficult to land on deck.

I have no idea how numbers compared with the Sea Hurricane, or if the latter had cannon?

I do believe later variants of the Sea Hurricane did indeed have 4 X 20mm Cannon. Dickie Cork one of the handful of F.A.A. Fighter Aces used and preferred a Cannon armed Sea Hurricane during Operation Pedestal.

I am fairly certain that the Seafire was the most numerous fighter used by the F.A.A. in WW-ll with the F4U Corsair in second place.
 

PFGEN

GCM
Not entirely a fair comment really, the .303 as a pack of 8 was good enough in 1939 and won the Battle of Britain.
The RAF was aware of it's shortcomings but didn't consider .50 the right answer.

It's a bit like the 2lb'r v 6lb'r argument isn't it, you run with what you've got and improve it as quick as is practical.

Somebody had calculated that 8 x .303 was going to be enough ergo Hurri and Spit were armed with 8x .303. If I remember correctly they were ranged at around 800ft, however a shotgun approach (a spread) was considered the best method of hitting something that might be vital. By all accounts it wasn't very effective and German aircraft would just fly on after being hosed. The canons on the 109s carried a nasty punch however if the shells hit a Hurricane there was a chance that they'd just pass straight through without too much damage. Our Polish friends on the other hand zeroed their guns to 400 feet. Eight .303s zeroed together had the effective power of a canon and could cause serious damage.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Somebody had calculated that 8 x .303 was going to be enough ergo Hurri and Spit were armed with 8x .303. If I remember correctly they were ranged at around 800ft, however a shotgun approach (a spread) was considered the best method of hitting something that might be vital. By all accounts it wasn't very effective and German aircraft would just fly on after being hosed. The canons on the 109s carried a nasty punch however if the shells hit a Hurricane there was a chance that they'd just pass straight through without too much damage. Our Polish friends on the other hand zeroed their guns to 400 feet. Eight .303s zeroed together had the effective power of a canon and could cause serious damage.

I believe that the South African Fighter Ace/Fighter Leader Adolph Gysbert Malan who boresighted his guns to 250 yards which led to it being adopted as standard by Fighter Command.
 
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PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
I read that none other than A.V.M. Keith Park was in favour of fitting .50 Cal Heavy Machine Guns to R.A.F. Fighters as soon as possible.

Luftwaffe Bomber Losses would have undoubtedly been more severe had R.A.F. Fighters been fitted with harder hitting weapons in the summer of 1940.

I heard it mentioned in one programme, it was reckoned Luftwaffe losses would have been doubled if the RAF fighters had heavy calibre guns,, many bombers going home just full of little holes.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
Somebody had calculated that 8 x .303 was going to be enough ergo Hurri and Spit were armed with 8x .303. If I remember correctly they were ranged at around 800ft, however a shotgun approach (a spread) was considered the best method of hitting something that might be vital. By all accounts it wasn't very effective and German aircraft would just fly on after being hosed. The canons on the 109s carried a nasty punch however if the shells hit a Hurricane there was a chance that they'd just pass straight through without too much damage. Our Polish friends on the other hand zeroed their guns to 400 feet. Eight .303s zeroed together had the effective power of a canon and could cause serious damage.

A major pilot grumble was that the Bf109E had 2 x 13mm (.50”) calibre guns as well as a 20mm cannon.
This meant that getting in the sights of a B109E was a certain silk letdown, there firepower was orders of magnitude heavier.
 

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