Winston Churchill on Strategic Bombing

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,049
Italy, Lago Maggiore
In the fall of '41 the Air Staff was gearing up for an expanded bombing campaign against Germany and were making promises about the effectiveness of that bombing campaign, possibly the RAF Air Staff was promising to win the war all by themselves without any ground fighting. Churchill is warning the Air Staff not to make promises they probably won't be able to keep. In the Battle of Britain Germany's bombing campaign had been mostly ineffective, and Churchill was predicting that the RAF's bombing campaign would similarly fail to live up to pre-war expectations.
The two aspects are related: it was because of a reasoning like that the UK [with the important aid of US ...] run well wider bombing campaigns on Germany [and focusing the attention on the usage of fire bombs as well].

Just a data:

during the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe deployed about 1,700 bombers of several kinds a about 1,100 fighters [losing about 1,900 planes].
During the air strikes on Germany the allies deployed well more planes [there are estimates around, anyway they lost about 6,400 planes, more than the double of the planes deployed by the Luftwaffe to attack the United Kingdom].
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,308
during the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe deployed about 1,700 bombers of several kinds a about 1,100 fighters [losing about 1,900 planes].
During the air strikes on Germany the allies deployed well more planes [there are estimates around, anyway they lost about 6,400 planes, more than the double of the planes deployed by the Luftwaffe to attack the United Kingdom].
????????

That's a wildly inflated figure for RAF losses. They didn't have that many aeroplanes to begin with, perhaps around 2000 available aircraft of all types at the beginning. I understand losses for the RAF stood at something like 1700 for the BoB.
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,545
Amelia, Virginia, USA
2. Why did the British invest so many resources into their strategic bombing campaign if they were already skeptical of its results in 1941, before the bombing campaign really got going?
In late August, 1941, the Butt Report, commissioned by the Cabinet to learn the effectiveness of the bombing campaign determined that few bombs were hitting even within 8km of the target.
This was quite startling. Bomber Command issued its own rebuttal report in September which claimed that 4000 bombers would win the war in 6 months.
That explains the timing of Churchill’s comments, the debate was still raging.
They settled on burning cities (“dehousing”) as a good compromise.
The bombing campaign had its critics, mostly because the vast resources devoted to it didn’t seem to achieve much at all.
 
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Sep 2012
1,633
London, centre of my world
When Churchill was writing this, the new 4-engined Stirling and Halifax bombers had just started operations, and these aircraft had not begun to be effective in the way the bombing offensive would become. The USA was still neutral, so only the RAF could attack Germany at this time.
I think Churchill was being pragmatic; at the time the Atlantic convoys would have been a more pressing concern.

As for the questions -
1. Yes. Churchill says so here, though 'surrender' is probably a disputed term.
2. There was no other way of hitting back at Germany at the time. The Blitz had ended in May 1941, so in the absence of any other offensive actions, bombing Germany would be a morale-booster.
 

hop

Jun 2012
794
2. Why did the British invest so many resources into their strategic bombing campaign if they were already skeptical of its results in 1941, before the bombing campaign really got going?
I'm not sure that "so many resources" is accurate. According to the post-war British Bombing Survey Unit report (the UK equivalent of the USSBS), Bomber Command absorbed about 7% of the UK war effort (more towards the end, less towards the beginning).
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,745
USA
I'm not sure that "so many resources" is accurate. According to the post-war British Bombing Survey Unit report (the UK equivalent of the USSBS), Bomber Command absorbed about 7% of the UK war effort (more towards the end, less towards the beginning).
Bomber Command KIA was 17% of total British dead in WW2, and that considers EVERYONE, including non-combat deaths and those from Crown Colonies. Since when we're discussing RAF Bomber Command we're essentially discussing many of the best and brightest of British recruits, officer and enlisted, I'd say that is a pretty serious "resource" used up. Among others.
 

M9Powell

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
4,448
appalacian Mtns
Bomber Command KIA was 17% of total British dead in WW2, and that considers EVERYONE, including non-combat deaths and those from Crown Colonies. Since when we're discussing RAF Bomber Command we're essentially discussing many of the best and brightest of British recruits, officer and enlisted, I'd say that is a pretty serious "resource" used up. Among others.
Quite right any countries most precious resource is its young men in uniform.
 

hop

Jun 2012
794
Bomber Command KIA was 17% of total British dead in WW2
British military deaths in combat were 384,000, civilians killed by enemy action 70,000. Bomber Command lost 55,573 aircrew.

However, British military deaths in combat excludes those killed in training accidents, who died of disease etc. The Bomber Command figure for deaths on operations is 47,268.

Bomber Command wasn't just a British force, either. 69% of total casualties were RAF crew, the rest from RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF, PAF etc. Applying the same percentage to deaths on operations, and assuming nationality equates to the particular air force, gives a figure of 32,615 British Bomber Command aircrew killed on operations.

That's 8.5% of British military deaths, 7.2% of total British war dead.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,745
USA
British military deaths in combat were 384,000, civilians killed by enemy action 70,000. Bomber Command lost 55,573 aircrew.

However, British military deaths in combat excludes those killed in training accidents, who died of disease etc. The Bomber Command figure for deaths on operations is 47,268.

Bomber Command wasn't just a British force, either. 69% of total casualties were RAF crew, the rest from RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF, PAF etc. Applying the same percentage to deaths on operations, and assuming nationality equates to the particular air force, gives a figure of 32,615 British Bomber Command aircrew killed on operations.

That's 8.5% of British military deaths, 7.2% of total British war dead.
Wrong. You pulled a wikipedia stat that showed total UK deaths, including crown countries, and are now trying to play them off as only British and not anyone else. And the number isn't killed in action, its total military deaths, period. And civilians has nothing to do with this discussion, its about military use of manpower.

I get what you want to do. Do it better.
 

hop

Jun 2012
794
To begin with, you compared all Bomber Command deaths to UK military casualties, even though substantial numbers of Bomber Command aircrew came from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and are not included in the "British dead" figure you compared it to. You also excluded UK civilian deaths (which as most were caused by German bombing, is somewhat ironic)

You pulled a wikipedia stat
No, UK parliament. The Fallen

that showed total UK deaths,
It certainly doesn't show total deaths. Hundreds of thousands of British people died every year, war or no war. 9,000 died of road accidents alone in 1940. Many of them would have been in the military.

including crown countries,
I presume you mean crown colonies. Yes, some of those figures are included in overall "British" casualties. But they are included in the Bomber Command total as well. By including them in one, and not in the other, you are drawing a false comparison.

and are now trying to play them off as only British and not anyone else.
I am comparing the nearest definition of "British" I can get. You do understand that Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc were not crown colonies and not included in the British military deaths, don't you? And that many other countries, such as India, were not included either? So why would you compare Bomber Command's death toll including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Poland, to British military deaths EXCLUDING those countries? It's a completely false comparison.

And the number isn't killed in action, its total military deaths, period.
Source? The UK parliament disagrees with you. The is the one point of yours that has some validity because I am not sure that the parliament site is correct. If the figure also includes accidental deaths, then the correct figure is 8.4% of British war dead were in Bomber Command. That's still half your claim.

And civilians has nothing to do with this discussion, its about military use of manpower.
Your original claim:

Bomber Command KIA was 17% of total British dead in WW2, and that considers EVERYONE, including non-combat deaths and those from Crown Colonies.

You are now claiming that civilians are not included in the category of "total British dead" or "EVERYONE"?

I get what you want to do. Do it better.
What's so bad about your original post is you seem to know the difference between British, Commonwealth and other countries, but you compared a figure for Bomber Command (which had very large numbers from outside Britain) to total British casualties. Bomber Command was made up of many nationalities, comparing it's death toll to the total of only British deaths gives an incredibly inaccurate figure (which is why your claimed percentage is double the real figure).
 
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