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Modern Mysteries

Could Hitler have won the Battle of Britain ?

By T.K. Randall
January 11, 2020 · Comment icon 25 comments

The Spitfire was a staple of the RAF's defense efforts. Image Credit: PD - Royal Air Force
Mathematicians have used statistical models to calculate how different WW2 strategies would have played out.
The Battle of Britain - which saw a relatively small number of Royal Air Force (RAF) planes defend the skies over the UK against the much larger force of Germany's Luftwaffe - is often regarded to be one of the most pivotal moments of the Second World War.

But what if Hitler had tried a different tactic - would it have ever been possible for him to win ?

Now in a renewed effort to answer this question, mathematicians from the University of York have used statistical models to determine the likely outcome of various alternative strategies.

"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said Dr. Jamie Wood.
The results of the analysis suggested that if the Luftwaffe had started its attack 3 months earlier and had focused on Britain's airfields instead of its cities, the outcome would have been very different.

If the likelihood of the RAF's success was 50% in the real battle, these changes would have reduced the chances of a victory over the Luftwaffe to a mere 10%.

"It demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were," said Professor Niall Mackay.

"Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."

Source: | Comments (25)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #16 Posted by hetrodoxly 4 years ago
'If' there hadn't been a counter attack 'the 2nd battle of Arras' stopping Rommel and causing him to make the decision to wait for his stretched out supply lines to catch up the troops wouldn't have been rescued.   
Comment icon #17 Posted by Tom1200 4 years ago
If... late July 1888... there'd been something better on Austrian telly that night... Alois and Klara might have stayed up later and then been too tired to make babies.
Comment icon #18 Posted by South Alabam 4 years ago
Hitler constantly ignored the advice of his Generals, so it is doubtful there could have been a different outcome.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Jon the frog 4 years ago
Japan and Germany were unable top win a long war... and engaged themselves in a long war. The only way for them to win is that others nation throw the towel and turn their head.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Habitat 4 years ago
Well, the generals did like to promote that idea, after the war, I think it fair to say Hitler had a lot better military smarts than say, Churchill, for who some senior military people believed it was a matter of "limiting the damage" from being pushed into his schemes. We have been told innumerable times that prioritizing taking Moscow would have won the war for Germany, but given how Stalingrad turned out, that seems rather doubtful.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Alchopwn 4 years ago
Germany had a lot of little things against it.  For example Wilhelm Carnaris, the German Admiral and head of the Abwehr was a British Agent.  Then there was the fact that German fighters didn't use drop tanks.  And the problem with the allied discovery of an intact German magnetic sea mine.  Then there was the cracking of enigma.  Oh, and of course Hitler's "military genius", especially his insistence that bombers attack civilian targets after the provocative Aug 25th 1940 RAF raid on Berlin. I have played thru various Operation Sea Lion scenarios in wargames over the years, and it is qui... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by RoofGardener 4 years ago
Unlikely. It is more likely that the Russians would have won it. Most of Europe - possibly eventually including the UK - would have fallen to Stalin. 
Comment icon #23 Posted by Essan 4 years ago
Not sure.  Depends on how/when the US enters the war and how they support Russia.   Without the Arctic convoys, and with Germany fighting only on the one front, they might very well have won in Russia.    And with Britain defeated they would have had a free hand in North Africa and the Middle East as well. The Battle of Britain was probably the defining moment of WW2 for that reason. 
Comment icon #24 Posted by RoofGardener 4 years ago
Indeed. If the UK had fallen to Germany, then the USA would not have been able to base its invasion fleet here. So whether Russia or Germany where ultimately victorious (and my betting is on the Russians), then the USA would be relegated to the role of spectator. 
Comment icon #25 Posted by hetrodoxly 4 years ago
Without the north Atlantic fleet feeding and arming Russia, Without the German war machine being bombed, Monty kicking Rommel out of Africa denying it all the fuel it needed, without the Royal Navy keeping the waterways open, without the commandos destroying the deep docks in Nazaire, Hitler would have taken his time, it was the Russian winter that beat the Germans has it had done Napoleon over a 100 years before, Germany would have developed nuclear weapons first, Russia fought on one front, we fought in every theater of war, not to mention the RAF stationed in Russia.

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