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Battle Of Britain (Enemy Losses)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the total number of enemy aircraft shot down during the Battle of Britain, according to contemporary R.A.F. estimates and German official records, respectively; and whether he will give the figures for the biggest days of the battle.

Yes, Sir, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the statement for which the hon. Member has asked showing the number of enemy aircraft which the R.A.F. claimed at the time to have been destroyed during the Battle of Britain, and the actual losses recorded by the German High Command. Between 10th July, when the action began, and 31st October, when the Germans broke it off, the R.A.F. estimated that 2,692 enemy aircraft had been destroyed. The German records show that, in fact, 2,376 of their aircraft had been put out of action; of these, 1,733 were destroyed and 643 were damaged. The figures I am circulating show that during the opening and concluding phases of the battle, while the numbers engaged were relatively small, and the fighting less continuous and intense, the losses actually inflicted on the enemy were higher than the numbers claimed by the R.A.F. When very large forces were in action, and when the battle raged without respite for many days, the estimates were well above the losses which the Luftwaffe sustained.

I am sure the House will agree that this retrospective correction of claims which were honestly put forward, does nothing to diminish the achievements or to dim the glory of the men who fought so bravely against great odds. As the Chief of the German General Staff in the West said in a confidential lecture in November, 1943, the German Army could not invade England until the British Air Arm had been completely beaten; and this, he said, "we were not able to do." There is abundant confirmation of this spontaneous statement in the German records; they show that Hitler's High Command fully recognised that the R.A.F. had inflicted a decisive defeat on their forces, and that, in consequence, their plan for the invasion of Britain could not even be launched, although a great army had been assembled and had been waiting for many days. Looking back to 1940, it is impossible to doubt that one of the decisive battles of history had been won.

As the Polish Air Force took a considerable part in the Battle of Britain, will the Minister, in fairness to them, say what they did?

Yes, Sir. There were Poles and nationals of many Allied countries in the R.A.F. at that time, and, of course, from the Dominions also. If the hon. and gallant Member cares to put down a Question, I will try to particularise.

Does my right hon. Friend intend to publish corrected figures for other air operations?

Yes, Sir. We shall publish all the figures for the operations of the R.A.F. right through the war. We shall do that when the picture is complete, and we can publish the history.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that this victory was won not only by Fighter Command, but also to a large extent by Bomber and Coastal Commands, and that this glorious victory not only saved us from invasion, but made England a secure base for future Allied operations by land, sea and air?

Yes, Sir. The hon. Member may have noticed that I did not mention any particular Command. As he says, other Commands took part with Fighter Command in the battle, and there is evidence from the German naval records that the work of Bomber Command, particularly in attacking the invasion ports, was a very important factor in the German decision.

Will my right hon. Friend say a word about the way in which this very important news was communicated to the Press? Is he aware that these details were released to the Press confidentially two days ago, and that that confidence was honoured by all the newspapers except one?

I thought it had been honoured by all. I greatly regret that it was not.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these battles would not have taken place had the Royal Air Force not been increased for five years before the war, in spite of every opposition by the party opposite?



Date.R.A.F. Estimate.German Losses.
Preliminary Phase of the Battle188192 (63)77
Attack on Coastal Targets 755430 (213)127
Attacks of Fighter Command Airfields643378 (243)127
Daylight attack of London chiefly by Heavy Bombers846435 (134)163
Daylight attack of London chiefly by Fighter Bombers260325 (134)163

Date.Days Most Intensive Fighting.
German Losses
R.A.F EstimateDestroyed.Damaged
15TH AUGUST18376 (32)9
18TH AUGUST15571 (36)23
31ST AUGUST9439 (32)14
2ND SEPTEMBER6634 (23)12
7TH SEPTEMBER10040 (26)13
15TH SEPTEMBER18556 (43)21
27TH SEPTEMBER15355 (38)12

NOTE: Figures in brackets show the losses admitted in communiques issued at the time by the German High Command.