The London Gazette, September 14th 1948 - Supplement

5596 SUPPLEMENT t o the LONDON GAZETTE, 20 OCTOBER, 1948 of co-operation between gunners and pilots which had been steadily built up in the past. 81. I came to the conclusion that the only solution was to give guns and fighters freedom each in their own sphere. On the ioth July, therefore, I decided to prohibit fighters from entering the gun-belt, whatever the circum­stances, after the 17th July. At a conference held to discuss this change, General Pile outpointed that an obvious corollary to it was to move all the guns inside the belt, so as to have them all in one place and provide both guns and fighters with clearly-definedr spheres of opera­tion. The logic of this argument was irre­futable and I agreed to examine detailed pro­posals for moving all the guns into the belt except a few which would remain on the coast to act as “markers 82. The great advantage of the principle of separate spheres of operation for guns and fighters was that it would lessen the chances of misunderstanding by creating a clear-cut situation. It would also ease the task of the gunners by giving them a freehand in their own territory. Not the least important point was that when not inaction they would always be free to train, whereas under the existing arrangements when gunfire was restricted and fighters were operating they were condemned by the presence of our aircraft to an enervating inaction. At the same time the change would reduce the field of action open to the Infighters. order that the necessity for making this sacrifice might be clear to pilots, I instructed my Deputy Senior Air Staff Officer, Air Com­modore H.G. Ambler, C A.B.E., .C.F .,to pre­pare an explanation which could be circulated to lower formations At this stage no question of changing the geographical position of the gun-belt had been raised. (d) The Re-deployment of the Guns (mid- July). 83. Nevertheless, there were strong arguments in favour of such a move. Originally we had deployed the guns on the North Downs largely because the“ Overlord/Diver ”Plan had been drawn up at a time when jamming of our radar by the Germans was a threat which could not be neglected. The desire to reduce this threat or minimise its effects if carried out had done much to dictate this choice of situation. Now, as we have seen, by D-Day successful bombing of German wireless and radar stations had virtually removed the possibility of jam­ming. This fact and its significance had not become fully apparent until after deployment had begun.* Consequently we had carried out the deployment as planned, though shortly afterwards, as already related, General Pile had taken advantage of the absence of jamming to move some of the heavy-gun radar sets to better and more exposed positions within the original deployment area. 84. B)/ the middle of July what had been a reasonable hope a month before had become a practical certainty. Clearly, little danger from jamming need be feared. Consequently *It is true that b y aD-D y a t the latest we knew that heavy damage had been done to the German transmitters. But until experience had shown that in consequence the Germans were manifestly unable to jam ,General Pile and I would not have been justified in departing from the plan on that account. there was no need to hide the guns and their radar sets away infolds of the Downs if abetter position could be found for them. Was there such abetter position, and where was it? 85. These questions were far from simple. The guns could not really be considered in isolation they were part of a defensive system which also included fighters, searchlights, and balloons. If, nevertheless, the subject was approached from the sole viewpoint of the operational effectiveness of the guns, there was much to be said for moving the gun-belt away from the Downs and putting it on the coast. In this position the gunners would get abetter view of their targets the hampering effect of ground echoes on their radar sets would be reduced to a minimum and they would be able to use shells fitted with “proximity fuses ”,which were potentially more effec­tive than normally-fused shells, but could not be used inland because they were dangerous to life and property. toAdded this was the im­portant point that if the guns were on the coast the majority of the bombs that they brought down would fall harmlessly into the sea. 86. From a more general aspect there was one weighty argument against moving the guns to the coast. To do so would split the opera­tional area of the fighters into two, and thus, to all appearances, infringe the principle of separate and clear-cut spheres of operation for guns and fighters which I was anxious to establish. Up till then the fighters had been by far the most successful 'weapon against fly- ing-bombs out of 1,192 bombs which had been destroyed or brought down up to sunrise on the 13th July, they had accounted for 883. No move which threatened to impair their effec­tiveness was to be undertaken lightly. Still, to a great extent interpeption over the sea and interception over the land were already separate problem*. Hence in practice the disadvantage of having three spheres of operation for guns and fighters instead of two would not be so great as it looked at first sight. 87. These considerations struck Air Com­modore Ambler with great force when he sat down to write the explanation of the new rules for engagement which I had instructed him to prepare. The correctness of the decision to banish fighters from the gun-belt was not in question nor did he dissent from the proposal to put all the guns in one place. But he felt that to bring this about by moving the guns already on the coast to the North Downs was only going half-way. What was wanted was to put all the guns together in the place where they could function best. In his considered view this meant adopting the opposite course, and sending forward the guns already on the Downs to join those on the coast. The dis­advantage of splitting the operational area of the fighters would, he bethought, more than outweighed b they increase ineffectiveness of the guns in the latter position. 88. To clarify his mind, Air Commodore Ambler incorporated his arguments in a formal appreciation. Armed with this document, he came to see me on the morning of the 13th July and put his views before me. 89. His arguments convinced me that unless discounted by some faulty technical assump­tion, the tactical theory behind the case for
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