51 The Psychological Impact of Airborne Warfare & the British Response

I was reading the British Journal for Military History and an article caught my eye titled The Psychological Impact of Airborne Warfare & the British Response to the Airborne Threat by Dr Tim Jenkins.

In 1940 the Germans achieved stunning successes with the use of airborne troops, the Fallschirmjäger.  The first recorded attack by parachutists was in Denmark against the fortress at  Masnedø. The reputed impregnable fortress at Eben Emael in Belgium would surrender to just 78 German airborne troops who had landed on top in Gliders.

Traditionally Britain was safe beyond the English Channel, protected by the Royal Navy, this new threat from the air caught the public imagination. There was a clamour in the press, questions were raised in Parliament… What to do?

The Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment: The Development of British Airborne Technology 1940-1950 (Wolverhampton Military Studies)
Price: $69.95
4 new from $65.951 used from $869.56

The evolution of British airborne warfare cannot be fully appreciated without reference to the technological development required to convert the detail contained in the doctrine and concept into operational reality. Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment is a detailed investigation of the Britision of the British technological investment in an airborne capability and analyses whether the new technology was justifiable, or indeed, entirely achievable.

The book combines the detail contained in the original policy documentation for airborne warfare and the subsequent technological investigations to determine whether sufficient strategic requirement had been demonstrated and how policy impacted upon the research program.

Without clear research parameters technological investment could not achieve maximum efficiency and consequent military effectiveness. The allocation of resources was a crucial factor in the technological development and the fact that aircraft suitability and availability remained unresolved throughout the duration of the war would suggest that the development of airborne forces was much less of a strategic priority for the British than has previously been suggested.

Ultimately, despite the creation of a dedicated research institution in 1942 (Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment), and the development of specialist hardware such as the assault glider, the British did not possess the material resources required for the large-scale deployment of airborne troops. Analysis of the technology has revealed that the development of airborne warfare was as much for the purpose of psychological warfare and British morale as it was for offensive operations.

The result would be thousands of sign posts removed to confuse enemy parachutists, golf course would be ploughed up to prevent glider landings and of course the Home Guard would be formed.

It’s a brilliant article and I suggest you give it a read, you can find it here. Tim agreed to come on the podcast and have a chat.