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The two men who fought the Battle of Britain were Air Chief Marshal Dowding and Reichsmarchall Hermann Göring. No such two people could have been more different. Dowding was a quiet, reflective man who planned everything ahead. He was not exactly affable, not even very friendly, but totally devoted to the job. He thought of little else. He was the supreme technician. Göring on the other hand was flamboyant, jovial and very sociable. He had been a front line fighter pilot in the First World War and was very successful at it. In 1923, he became addicted to morphine, something which he battled with for the rest of his life. The problem was that Göring, when he became all powerful with his unique rank, enjoyed the trappings of power enormously. He built himself a huge pile south of Berlin, a vast hunting lodge, Carinhall. He also had furnished himself with a special train built with all kinds of facilities, especially in the eating and drinking department. He was to conduct much of the battle shuffling around in his train. He was also liable to hold conferences locally, several at The Hague. But best of all, he liked summoning his commanders back to Carinhall. Administration of the Luftwaffe was conducted from the large Air Ministry building in Berlin, but Göring wasn’t often seen there. Administration wasn’t really his thing.

Göring approached the battle from the point of view of a First World War Commander. When he didn’t get the results he wanted he was apt to grow impatient with his pilots. He and those he commanded in the First World War had been successful. He didn’t see why these new young men shouldn’t be equally so. It could be said that, whereas Dowding ran a very professional business, Göring was relatively the amateur. To some extent this was made up for by the professionalism down the line of command, as, for instance, with Kesselring and Sperrle, two of the Luftflotte Commanders, but the Göring touch remained part of the Luftwaffe’s efforts in the battle.


July 2010
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