LEANING INTO FRANCE

Leaning into France

Our next campaign re-enacted the RAF’s first attempts to hit back at the Germans after the conclusion of the Battle of Britain. This involved sweeps from the British mainland against targets in Northern France and the French coastal areas.

Royal Air Force

Hurricane rearmed

INTRODUCTION

For this Campaign we will be utilising 2 of the existing Tangmere Squadrons, namely No. 1 and No. 601. The vast majority of missions will of course include the Hurricane and Spitfire, but the role played by Bomber Command will also be covered using the Bristol Blenheim squadrons to attack the targets while under escort.

The campaign, as always will feature a variety of mission styles flying as individual squadrons and as a wing, covering roles such as fighter sweeps, escort, ground attack, bomber attacks and so on. A brief background to the historical beginning of the campaign can be found below to set the scene.

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EVENTS LEADING TO START OF THE OFFENSIVE
Lord Trenchard

No sooner had the defensive victory of the Battle of Britain been won then the more ardent spirits in and around Fighter Command began looking for new laurels. Lord Trenchard had said that the time had come for Fighter Command to go on to the offensive. He thought that we should now “lean towards France” and he advocated a system of offensive sweeps of fighters across the Channel which was along the same lines as that used by us in our operations over the Western Front in the First World War.

Sholto Douglas

Air Marshal Sholto Douglas took over the Command on November 25th 1940. At first he had considerable doubts about the Leaning into France idea, fearing that “casualties would be too severe for the results that would be likely to achieve". However he soon changed his mind.



Leigh-Mallory

No such doubts vexed No.11 Groups new Commander Trafford Leigh-Mallory.

So the institution of "Rhubarbs" – which were sweeps of massed fighters - began; the Germans were largely unimpressed. However they paid far more attention and often reacted when the fighters were accompanied by bombers. Bomber Command it must be said did not greatly care for their role as bait.

These joint operations became known as "Circuses". Between January and June 1941 they involved 190 bomber sorties and the "Rhubarbs" and "Circuses" together involved 2,700 sorties by fighters.  

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OBJECTIVES OF OPERATIONS

The three objectives of these "Rhubarbs" and "Circuses" operations was to;

Cause damage to valuable military objectives.
As a prelude to gaining air superiority over France destroy enemy fighters where ever they can be found in the air or on the ground and force the Luftwaffe to concentrate their forces in the Pas-de-Calais area.
Allow Bomber Command to make sneak attacks on Germany herself.

The theatre of this struggle became an air space over Belgium and northern France, contained within the arch stretching from Ostend, through Lille, Lens, Amiens, Rouen and through to Le Havre. That was the arch denoting the maximum range of British fighters. Numerous units of Luftwaffe fighters, located mainly near St. Omer and Amiens were engaged almost daily with Allies fighters over their own territory. They cooperated extremely well with German AA artillery, which in 1941 became very potent being great in numbers and very accurate at all ceilings. The "deck" was littered with machine guns.

Engines starting...

Thus the scene is set on 9th January 1941, a freezing cold day. The RAF fueled and armed their fighters and sent off the first fighter sweep to mark the return of Offensive Operations to France...  

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