German bombing of Britain intensifies

A Dornier 17 begins its bombing run, summer 1940.

Winston Churchill had just sent out a secret memo to senior commanders putting the threat of invasion into perspective, but even those right at the top thought that a surprise attack might come any day now. It was becoming increasingly clear that the crucial issue was how Britain’s air defences stood up to the Luftwaffe.

General Sir Edmund Ironside, formerly Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was now Chief in Command Home Defence, responsible for preparing the response to any invasion. His diary shows that he believed that an attack could come at any time, but that intensive air attack was likely to come first:

July 13

It is curious how one goes to bed wondering whether there will be an attack early the next morning. As we have done all we can in the way of preparation, it doesn’t worry me much. I merely give thanks that we have another day of preparation and issue of defence material.

The attack upon us by air is intensifying. Chiefly against aerodromes, ports, shipping and aircraft factories. But so far the attack has been badly directed and not carried out in great strength.

The R.A.F. say that that is what happened before the German attack in France. Desultory bombing and then one morning a very heavy attack on everything. It may be coming again.

The seemingly desultory bombing may be a method of testing our defences. Certainly the Germans have never been up against such a good fighter defence, such A.A. fire, and such a warning system.

I am inclined to think that Germany will try to wear down our air defence before she tries any invasion. It seems the natural thing to do…

See Time Unguarded: The Ironside Diaries 1937-1940

Royal Artillery gunners manning a 6-inch coastal defence gun at Sheerness, November 1939.

Royal Artillery gunners manning a 6-inch coastal defence gun at Sheerness, November 1939.

Working a 6 inch Coast Gun, the gunner sets the range from instructions received by telephone from range-finders, who also communicate corrections during the raid, July 1940.

Working a 6 inch Coast Gun, the gunner sets the range from instructions received by telephone from range-finders, who also communicate corrections during the raid, July 1940.

A shell being loaded into the breech of a 6 inch Coast Gun, July 1940.

A shell being loaded into the breech of a 6 inch Coast Gun, July 1940.

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