Here are some of my general thoughts on the effectiveness of the RAF during the raid on Dieppe. If I was to pull out one general point it would be that unlike what Mountbatten argued i.e that Dieppe provided vital lessons for OVERLORD, for the RAF Dieppe is one pillar of development that feeds in to 1943 but that it had to be understood in context with developments from other theatres.
In the build up to and during JUBILEE, the RAF showed the degree to which as a service it was willing to integrate into Combined Operations. The fact that in the inter-war years the RAF called for a holistic Combined Operations doctrine illustrates that the RAF was aware of the need to consider inter-service cooperation on operations. That this did not happen was largely down to the other services, especially the RN which wished to keep the focus on amphibious operations. The RAF was aware of the key role it was to play in any Combined Operation and by the start of the war the pre-requisite of air superiority was accepted by all the services. By 1942, the RAF had made a vigorous attempt to integrate itself into the Combined Operations organisation with the setting up of No. 1441 Flight at the CTC. This would eventually become No. 105 Wing, which would have an important role in controlling the crews required for the HQS and FDTs from 1943 onwards. This organisation from 1942 onwards would train squadrons from Fighter, Bomber and Army Co-Operation Commands in the principles relating to the support of Combined Operations. This occurred alongside their normal operations with which they were tasked. That this occurred despite the protestations of Harris, illustrates the importance that the Air Staff placed upon integration and co-operation.
During the course of JUBILEE Leigh-Mallory, as the senior RAF officer, played a full part in the advising and operational decision-making process and during the course of the battle sought to control air operations with a representative onboard the HQS. That Leigh-Mallory was not on board himself highlights the difficulty of commanding air power and the need to be at a central command node to effectively control air assets. This would still be the overall situation in 1944, though eased by the development of the FDT. Leigh-Mallory also illustrated a willingness to work with Mountbatten on future operations when it showed the opportunity to attain his primary goal of air superiority, even though these would become strategic dead end.
The parallel development of Combined Operation doctrine and the operational objectives of Fighter Command merged to give that command its primary mission during JUBILEE. Normally viewed as a selfish act by the RAF, an understanding of Combined Operations doctrine shows that the opposite is actually the case. That the RAF’s view of the role of air superiority had developed to include fighter operations by the time of JUBILEE helps to explain its role. The fact that it aided its Fighter Command’s role in 1942 should not be seen negatively. It illustrates the flexibility of air power in the face of changing operational conditions. The need for air superiority from fighter aircraft had been illustrated in numerous campaigns before JUBILEE, prevented German attempts to gain air superiority in 1940.
That the RAF’s modus operandi during JUBILEE fitted in with Fighter Commands role should as be noted viewed positively. The RAF was seeking to do its best to prevent the Luftwaffe from interfering with the operation. In this, it was generally successful. That the RAF suffered more than the Luftwaffe is not an indication that it was out fought on the day as the detailed analysis above illustrates that many of the airframes were returned to service and many pilots were rescued. This would be a telling factor for the Luftwaffe whose inability to replace losses would cost them in the air battles of the 1943 and 1944. However, the RAF was able to maintain and effective strength in 1943 with a well-trained cadre of pilots. The Luftwaffe was not able to do from 1942 onwards due to poor training and the high rate of losses it was suffering on all fronts.
Possibly the one area where problems occurred in the aftermath of JUBILEE was in the belief held by Leigh-Mallory and Mountbatten that a similar operation could be launched in order to wear down the Luftwaffe by forcing it to fight, even the RAF was forced to admit that the method was a one shot strategy and without the actual landing of significant forces there was unlikely to be a repeat performance. However, given the strategic situation of late 1942 and early 1943 it was perhaps not wrong for it to be tried. Both AFLAME and COLEMAN were strategic dead ends and this was realised by members of the Air Staff who vetoed the operations as far as they could. That they stayed on the agenda may well be explained by Mountbatten’s attempts to garner more power for COHQ, as was seen in the preparation for JUBILEE. However, Leigh-Mallory must not be excused for not seeing the fallacy of this strategy. Despite the failures of late 1942 the strategy was revived as part of deception plans in 1943, however, once again it did not succeed in the aim of bringing the Luftwaffe to battle.
In terms of the direct impact of air power on JUBILEE, it can be argued that with the exception of the loss of HMS Berkeley and some landing craft the cover provided by Fighter Command was useful in preventing the full weight of the Luftwaffe attacking the beaches. It was noted by eyewitness that some of the losses, while regrettable, were not the fault of the RAF as in the midst of battle craft were arriving late and caught in the maelstrom. The loss of HMS Berkeley was primarily the fault of the failure of command and control systems then in place to deal with RAF aircraft flying below three thousand feet. This meant that Luftwaffe aircraft under this height became the RN’s responsiblity, therefore, the loss must be put down to the RN’s AA defences. In general, the direct support provided was very useful. For example, the attacks on the Hess Battery aided No.4 Commando’s operation. Smoke laying was found to be very useful and was most welcome in the withdrawal phase of JUBILEE. The most disappointing aspect was the provision of Tac R which were left with little to do, as the Germans did not send in reserves. However, the battle was costly for the RAF, with aircraft on the direct support mission suffering the most. Nevertheless, the RAF was willing to accept these losses.
Traditional arguments relating to the effectiveness of JUBILEE usually relate to its importance in providing lessons that contributed to the success of OVERLORD. This is certainly the argument made by Mountbatten in his later life and supported by Hughes-Hallett. From an air power perspective, it is hard to support this position. That JUBILEE served a purpose is certainly true. It fitted in with the prevailing view of air power in support of Combined Operations and aided Fighter Command’s key operational objectives; however, these lessons did not last into 1944. By 1943, it became apparent to the Allies that the battle for air superiority in preparation for OVERLORD would have to be fought closer to Germany and due to the technical limitation of Fighter Command’s equipment; this battle would be primarily fought by the 8AAF.
Therefore, if the lessons of JUBILEE were not important in the preparation for OVERLORD, were they as useful elsewhere? The answer to this is that JUBILEE’s importance lay in the impact it had upon events in 1943. JUBILEE acted as an enabler of change. It illustrated problems that had to be resolved if air power was to be fully effective in Combined Operations. The problems the occurred in the command and control of air power during JUBILEE, noticeably the loss of HMS Berkeley, led to the development and refinement of a command and control system that played a useful role in the Mediterranean and come to fruition at Normandy. Had the war gone on beyond 1945 it is also likely that the further development of the FDT concept into ocean going FDS would have been useful to SEAC. The ability to control air power within the area of fleet AA defence during OVERLORD overcame the primary problem encountered during JUBILEE.
JUBILEE also illustrated the need for some form of aerial bombardment in support of Combined Operations, though its exclusion was for valid reasons. In order to deal with this contentious issue, as illustrated by Harris’ unwillingness to allow Bomber Command aircraft to bomb civilian targets in France, the formation of the inter-service committee on fire support was encouraged by discussions emanating from JUBILEE. This committee, led by the RAF examined the issue and made suggestions that would aid the planners of OVERLORD where aerial bombardment was used fully. Indeed the choice of Graham as chair was a perceptible one due to his pre-war experience in Combined Operations doctrine. However, as JUBILEE was an enabler it should be recognised that much practical experience in this issue and the development of the FDT concept came from the Mediterranean, which proved to be a training ground for ideas being developed. The Graham Report that appeared in December 1943 would form one source of information for the planners of OVERLORD. In providing this source of information the RAF illustrated its flexibility and willingness to work with other services on joint issues.
The thesis has sought to re-frame the debate surrounding the RAF at Dieppe by taking a progressive examination of both its operational and doctrinal context. Then it has sought to examine what impact JUBILEE had on air power in Combined Operations. Generally, it can be argued the RAF performed well on the day and that while losses were high these were either replaceable or repairable. Its impact upon on the Luftwaffe is more difficult but it can be said that their losses were more difficult to replace. While losses to the assault force occurred, it can be argued that had the RAF not been fighting for air superiority, thus, providing air cover, they would have been worse. The impact of JUBILEE on future operations is more difficult to assess. Certainly JUBILEE enabled discussions to occur but whether this had a direct link to OVERLORD is debatable given the vast amount of experience be gained in the Mediterranean. Thus, this thesis has hopefully refocused the debate on JUBILEE to an examination of the operational effectiveness of the RAF and the impact on developments in 1943 not 1944.