J.C.S. Files

Memorandum by the Chief of the British Air Staff (Portal)1

most secret
Enclosure to C.C.S. 309


1. I annex an appreciation by Air Intelligence of the trend of development and disposition of the German Fighter Force in relation to “ Pointblank ”.

The salient points are:—

The German Fighter Force has increased by 22% since 1 January 1943.
Its strength on the Western Front has been doubled since the same date.
The increase on the Western Front has absorbed the entire expansion under a.
Fighter units and experienced fighter pilots have nevertheless had to be withdrawn from the Mediterranean and Russian Fronts as well, in spite of the critical situation on those fronts.
In spite of the present strain on the German night fighters they are being used by day to counter the deep daylight penetration of “ Pointblank ” into Germany.

2. The build-up of the Eighth Bomber Command as required in the “ Pointblank ” plan approved by the C.C.O.S. at Trident 2 should have been 1068 aircraft on the 15th August. The comparable figure of the actual build-up achieved on that date was 921 (including 105 detached to North Africa).

3. The present strength of the G.A.F. Fighter Force is 2260 aircraft in first line units compared with a strength of 2000 which it was hoped would not be exceeded if “ Pointblank ” could have been executed as planned. Thus the G.A.F. Fighter Force is 13% stronger than had been hoped, and this in spite of increased successes in Russia and the Mediterranean which were not taken into account in the “ Pointblank ” plan.

4. I do not set out the above information in order to make a criticism of an inability to have achieved complete fulfillment of “ Pointblank ”. My object is to bring out the fact that, in spite of some shortfall in the build-up, Germany is now faced with imminent disaster if only the pressure of “ Pointblank ” can be maintained and increased before the increase in the G.A.F. Fighter Force has gone too far.

There is no need for us to speculate about the effect of “ Pointblank ” on Germany. The Germans themselves, when they weaken the Russian and Mediterranean fronts in the face of serious reverses there, tell us by their acts what importance to attach to it.

5. The daylight “Battle of Germany” is evidently regarded by the Germans as of critical importance and we have already made them throw into it most, if not all, of their available reserves.

If we do not now strain every nerve to bring enough force to bear to win this battle during the next two or three months but are content to see the 8th Bomber Command hampered by lack of reinforcements just as success is within its grasp, we may well miss the opportunity to win a decisive victory against the German Air Force which will have incalculable effects on all future operations and on the length of the war. And the opportunity, once lost, may not recur.

6. I, therefore, urge most strongly that we should invite the U.S.C.O.S. to take all practicable steps at the earliest possible date to [Page 1020] increase the striking power of the 8th Bomber Command as much as possible during the next two months.


British Intelligence Appreciation

G.A.F. Single-Engined Fighter Reinforcement of the Western Front, January—July, 1943

1. Strength and Disposition, The Initial Equipment (I.E.) of the G.A.F. single-engined fighter force as a whole increased by 245 aircraft from 1,095 to 1,340 between 1 January and 1 August 1943. The disposition of this force in the main operational areas on the respective dates was as follows:

1–1–43 1–8–433 Difference
Western Front 305 600 +295
Mediterranean 320 295 –25
Russian Front 430 395* –35
Refitting  40  50  +10
Total 1,095 1,340 245

2. It will be seen that the fighter force on the Western Front has been doubled during the period under review and that this increase has in effect more than absorbed the entire expansion which has occurred; it has in addition entailed a weakening of both the Mediterranean and Russian Fronts notwithstanding the important military campaigns in those areas where the Axis forces have suffered serious reverses since the beginning of the year.

3. Sources of Increased Strength. The raising of S.E. fighter strength on the Western Front has been accomplished in two ways:

a. As a result of the defensive strategy forced on the G.A.F. since the end of 1942 in face of growing Allied air power on the Western Front, in the Mediterranean and in Russia, Germany was forced to adopt the policy of achieving the maximum possible expansion of fighter production.

The outcome of this policy is clearly seen in the formation of new fighter units and of the expansion of others; in addition there has been a noticeable tendency to maintain the actual strength of many fighter units well in excess of I.E., particularly on the Western Front.

b. By the withdrawal of units from the Mediterranean and Russia.

[Page 1021]

4. The reinforcement of the Western Front as a result of the above measures can be analyzed as follows:

Newly formed units } 165
Expansion of existing units
Transferred from Russia 90
Transferred from Mediterranean  60
Gross Total 315
Loss [Less?]:
Fighter units transferred to fighter-bomber Category  20
Net Total Increase 295 aircraft

5. Redisposition on the Western Front. A most striking change in the disposition of the G.A.F. fighter force on the Western Front has taken place since 1 January in order to secure the greatest possible defensive strength to cover the approaches to Germany. Prior to that date, the German fighter dispositions were mainly to cover the North coast of France, Belgium and the Low Countries against R.A.F. fighter sweeps in these areas and against such daylight bombing of occupied territory as then took place.

The comparative dispositions are shown as follows:

Area I.E. at 1–8–43 I.E. at 1–1–43 Differences
France (West of the Seine) 95 95 0
France (East of the Seine and Belgium) 105 70 +35
Holland 150 40 +110
N.W. Germany 180 35 +145
Denmark and S. Norway 50 35 +15
Trondheim and N. Norway  20  30  –10
Total 600 305 +295

The salient points which emerge are:

The greatly increased defenses of Northwest Germany have absorbed 50% of the total increased fighter strength on the Western Front.
The balance of this increase has gone mainly to the Belgium–Holland area.

A point not clearly revealed by the above figures has been the movement eastwards of French based units and the bringing of others from Norway to Northwest Germany; there has therefore been a strong tendency to concentrate the maximum possible forces into the area [Page 1022] between the Scheldt and the Elbe. Nevertheless it is certain that the present fighter strength defending Northwest Germany and its approaches is still inadequate for its purpose; this is supported by the increasing use of night-fighters for daylight interception especially against deep penetration into Germany where the resources of the G.A.F. are inadequate to maintain S.E. day fighter forces.

7. Reason for Increased Defenses. The doubling of the German S.E. fighter force on the Western Front and the allocation of virtually the whole of this increase to Belgium, Holland and Northwest Germany are attributable solely to the development of Allied day bombing of Germany. The defense of Germany against these attacks has in fact become the prime concern of the G.A.F. and is being undertaken even at the expense of air support for military operations on other fronts. There is no reason to suppose that this will not continue to constitute the main commitment of the defensive fighter forces of the G.A.F.: if anything this commitment is likely to increase and the transfer of further units to the Western Front from other operational areas cannot be excluded.

8. Strain on Crews. Despite their strength and flexibility the fighter defenses of Germany are liable to be subject to extreme strain over periods of sustained day and night attacks on Germany: this was particularly noticeable during the last week in July when day fighters were extensively employed as night fighters in addition to their day operations and conversely night fighters had to be employed for day interception. The effects of such continued activity on crews must inevitably have been severe and there is evidence that in the later raids during this period opposition was less determined and Allied losses noticeably reduced. There is no doubt that during this period the German fighter defenses were subjected to the most severe test they have yet experienced.

9. Transfer of Experienced Pilots to Western Front. The urgent necessity of the defense of Germany has not only deprived the Russian and Mediterranean Fronts of units, let alone reinforcements; it has also entailed a deterioration in quality of the fighter pilots employed in those fronts, notably Russia since there is strong evidence that the most experienced pilots are being transferred to the Western Front and replaced by others of inferior skill.

10. Conclusions

a. There can be no doubt that Germany regards the defense of the Reich against daylight air attack as of such supreme importance that adequate support for military operations in Russia and the Mediterranean has been rendered impossible. In Russia, the fighter force actually engaged on the entire front is now little more than half that [Page 1023] on the Western Front; this fighter weakness has unquestionably been an important contributory factor to the German failure in Russia this year.

Similarly in the Mediterranean despite the wide areas exposed to Allied air attack from Sardinia to Crete and the need for support of Italy no reinforcement whatever has been forthcoming; consequently Allied air operations have been carried out with the maximum of success and minimum loss against negligible opposition, thereby largely contributing to present conditions in Italy.

b. The Western Front with a fighter strength almost equal that of the Mediterranean and Russian Fronts combined constitutes the only source from which reinforcements needed elsewhere can be provided unless further new units are formed; this however appears unlikely in the immediate future. Consequently in the event of South Germany becoming exposed to air attack by day, it seems inevitable that such fighter defenses as may be set up must be derived almost exclusively from the West; the defense of South Germany against air attack on a scale equivalent to that now existing on the Western Front would necessitate the reduction of the fighter force in that area by up to 50% dependent on the then existing commitments of the G.A.F. in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

  1. Circulated under cover of the following note by the Secretaries of the Combined Chiefs of Staff (C.C.S. 309), August 15, 1943: “In order to save delay, the enclosure, prepared by the Chief of the British Air Staff, is presented direct to the Combined Chiefs of Staff for their consideration.” For the discussion of this paper at the 109th Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, August 16, 1943, see ante, p. 871.
  2. See ante, p. 241.
  3. August 1, 1943.
  4. Including 30 I.E. in Rumania newly formed since 1–1–43. [Footnote in the source text.]