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Why did countries in Europe need a long range heavy fighter, and what could realistically have been achieved with late 1930s aero engines?

Why indeed? For a time it seemed bombers could outrun fighters. Not in 38/39 any more but air forces had still faith in the defensive armament of bombers and last but not least fuel adds weight.

 

Interestingly 109, Spitfires and Hurricane had a similar fuel capacity, with the Spitfire on the low end and the Hurricane on the high.

 

So both designed interceptors that could escort bombers into the Hinterland of the battle field but not deep into enemy territory.

 

 

To get bomber escorting range with late 30s aero engines you're going to need two of them and that's not going to be competitive with single seat fighters, so what's the point?

 

 

 

But let's mention the exceptions from the rule.

 

US fighters carried 130-140 US gal once self sealing was retrofitted. WAG: Because of the greater distances in the USA and thus the less dense network of airfields.

 

The French De.520 carried 157 US gal of fuel and the French HS 12Y was weaker than the Merlin and DB 601. WAG: In mid 1940 the HS 12Z was getting ready for production. With 1,500 hp it had to be more thirsty.

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Thank you ! That´s the same number for 1940 (66000) so it is probably the same source.

 

I have problems finding a German number - the statistics discern between privately owned tractors and - obviously such owned by a co-operative etc - without stating numbers for both, just for privately owned - IIRC ( two hours ago) the number ist low (ca. 15000) but at a later date (1949) there are numbers for both, and the co-operative number is much higher than the private number, so I conclude that - for the time being - that the numbers for GB and G in 1940 are similar, as they probably are for France and Holland and Belgium etc, but not for US and communist SU.

So, probably no great difference in mechanization between GB and G at the time.

 

 

Missed this, so sorry for the late reply. The only figures I have found are there were only 57,700 tractors in Germany in 1939, a substantial increase from 1933 when there were 25,100...in the US in 1935 there were 1,048,000 tractors, increasing to 1,567,000 in 1940.

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Thank you ! That´s the same number for 1940 (66000) so it is probably the same source.

 

I have problems finding a German number - the statistics discern between privately owned tractors and - obviously such owned by a co-operative etc - without stating numbers for both, just for privately owned - IIRC ( two hours ago) the number ist low (ca. 15000) but at a later date (1949) there are numbers for both, and the co-operative number is much higher than the private number, so I conclude that - for the time being - that the numbers for GB and G in 1940 are similar, as they probably are for France and Holland and Belgium etc, but not for US and communist SU.

So, probably no great difference in mechanization between GB and G at the time.

 

 

Missed this, so sorry for the late reply. The only figures I have found are there were only 57,700 tractors in Germany in 1939, a substantial increase from 1933 when there were 25,100...in the US in 1935 there were 1,048,000 tractors, increasing to 1,567,000 in 1940.

 

 

 

Yes, something sililar I have "seen" also (not scientific, I know). I also "found" (Wiki somewhere, if I have to I will find it again and quote it) whereby the concern was postwar, and the comment was: " at the end of the war 1945 there were about 70000 tractors (Schlepper) left, all in bad shape.

So, Assuming a number were lost during the war to random hit by bombing, and a number were lost to strafing at the end, and the Wehrmacht probably confiscated and then lost a good number, one can assume a slightly higher max number. Let´s just say 80000.

Then, yes the UK has more. But my point was the comment " in Germany farming was backward and mechamzistion poor " .

For me "farming is backward" is like in 1939 Ruanda-Urundi , and poor mech. is like 2000 tractors opposed to 100000.

 

While I am at it, because I am very lazy and shouldn´t begin this stuff, everyone knows the economic potential of Allies to Axis is about 2,5 to 4 to 1, and this is before the US stepped ion the gas pedal.

 

And then in any discussion about production outputs . . . . this is forgotten.

 

and all kinds of strange explanations come up, like: they had the wrong road wheels on their tanks, the women aren´t working, the women aren´t working the right jobs, they don´t have any tractors, and so forth. A strange mixture of hoping they (the Nazis) win somehow and let´s accuse them of any and every critiscim possible.

(Next we see a comparision of the dry cleaning business; the Nazis wasting too much resources on cleaning officers uniforms by hand scrubbing and ironing.)

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To get bomber escorting range with late 30s aero engines you're going to need two of them and that's not going to be competitive with single seat fighters, so what's the point?

But let's mention the exceptions from the rule.

 

US fighters carried 130-140 US gal once self sealing was retrofitted. WAG: Because of the greater distances in the USA and thus the less dense network of airfields.

 

FAF considered P-36 an excellent escort fighter (compared to much more short ranged Fiat, Fokker, Morane-Saulnier etc) in all other respects, except for a slight flaw - it had problems keeping up with Blenheims.

Zero, of course, had P-51 -like range with less than 1000 hp. Though they had to give up protection to achieve that.

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Missed this, so sorry for the late reply. The only figures I have found are there were only 57,700 tractors in Germany in 1939, a substantial increase from 1933 when there were 25,100...in the US in 1935 there were 1,048,000 tractors, increasing to 1,567,000 in 1940.

 

 

Yes, something sililar I have "seen" also (not scientific, I know). I also "found" (Wiki somewhere, if I have to I will find it again and quote it)

 

 

The figures are drawn from the Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich for 1933 and 1939, not from Wiki.

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Thank you ! That´s the same number for 1940 (66000) so it is probably the same source.

 

I have problems finding a German number - the statistics discern between privately owned tractors and - obviously such owned by a co-operative etc - without stating numbers for both, just for privately owned - IIRC ( two hours ago) the number ist low (ca. 15000) but at a later date (1949) there are numbers for both, and the co-operative number is much higher than the private number, so I conclude that - for the time being - that the numbers for GB and G in 1940 are similar, as they probably are for France and Holland and Belgium etc, but not for US and communist SU.

So, probably no great difference in mechanization between GB and G at the time.

 

 

Missed this, so sorry for the late reply. The only figures I have found are there were only 57,700 tractors in Germany in 1939, a substantial increase from 1933 when there were 25,100...in the US in 1935 there were 1,048,000 tractors, increasing to 1,567,000 in 1940.

 

 

Stop and think about that for a moment. How much bigger is Germany than the UK? And how many farms are there in the UK, with how much acreage, compared to Germany? Something that only got worse the larger Germany got post 1939.

 

I bet, if you were willing to do the maths (and im not) you would end up with a far higher ratio of tractors to agricultural land than in Germany. And thats only because we organized, because we were on the brink of being starved out. Again.

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I don´t mind doing math. It often is the only way for a non- historian to come up with a different / new / meaningful aspect of a matter, without having access to sources, when others just repeat things.

 

In this case I do expect the UK to have a better ratio of tractors to agricultural land than Germany.

 

My matter is the generalisation of " poor mechanisation " , which was delivered without any numbers. I just thot, well how many tractors did each have, for a start.

If this were important enogh one can further look into the ratio (which makes more sense), but then would have to start looking into the necessity also.

 

No one wants the British to starve, and it was a wise agricultural policy was pursued.

Edited by Martin M
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How many tractors did Germany produce in WW2 as a matter of interest?

 

I dont believe German agriculture was mechanized as you think. If it was, there is the question of why they were still using Horses in the Wehrmacht. Even the British Army was fully mechanized by 1940, even allowing for the use of horses in agriculture and even on certain roles on the railway.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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Thank you.

 

So I make that 164599 according to those figures. Thats overlooking any that might have been made prewar obviously That is against the 100000 Fordsons we built by 1943 (and obviously overlooks any we might have imported from America. More on that figure later.

 

So I divide that by total area of Germany (modern Germany is obviously smaller than wartime Germany, but lets roll with that)

 

165599 divided by 138062 square miles gives us 1.1922 tractors per square mile.

 

For the UK I dont have figures for the entire war, all I have is they made 100000 Fordsons by 1943, and were turning out 100 a day.

https://agriculturaltrainee.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/the-tractor-that-won-the-war/

 

so assuming they kept that production up till 1945, we have

173000 total.

 

 

 

173000 divided by 93628 square miles gives us,

1.8477 tractors per square miles.

 

Now the caveats. Obviously not ALL that land was agricultural land (though in the UK they were even ploughing up village greens and golf courses). Also, it takes no account of how many tractors had prewar, and how many they might have captured, particularly in the case of Germany. But it looks to me if those figures are correct, we worked harder to mechanize than Germany. Which if true, supports the idea Germany just was not prepared for a long war. Its getting on for nearly 2 tractors for every 1 in every square mile.

 

I dont claim that is authoritative, Its just a quick once over, but if anyone can pick flaws in it, please do.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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1919 - 408

1920 - 622

1921 - 1165

1922 - 1737

1923 - 2377

1924 - 3216

1925 - 4352

1926 - 4731

1927 - 8128

1928 - 9882

1929 - 6246

1930 - 3524

1931 - 2900

1932 - 1923

1933 - 3414

1934 - 5372

1935 - 8930

1936 - 12510

1937 - 18752 total 100189 up to and including 1937

1938 - 30210

1939 - 35307

1940 - 35786

1941 - 35039

1942 - 27263

1943 - 18205

1944 - 12502

1945 - 494 total 294995

 

 

 

Stuart:

" we worked harder to mechanize than Germany "

agree

 

 

general:

" Germany was poorly mechanized "

not agree

 

 

Edited by Martin M
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Neither am I!

 

From Tooze:

 

1.jpg

 

Germany had the lowest ratio of arable land to farmer of any major Western nation besides Italy. This doomed German agriculture to low efficiency and the rural peasants to a life of crushing poverty. An obvious solution would have been to consolidate small farms into larger ones but Nazi ideology stressed the idea of a sacred connection to the soil and other such bollocks and the idea of kicking peasant farmers off their land was very much verboten. The other obvious solution of course is to go and get more land and to give to the peasants...

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1919 - 408

1920 - 622

1921 - 1165

1922 - 1737

1923 - 2377

1924 - 3216

1925 - 4352

1926 - 4731

1927 - 8128

1928 - 9882

1929 - 6246

1930 - 3524

1931 - 2900

1932 - 1923

1933 - 3414

1934 - 5372

1935 - 8930

1936 - 12510

1937 - 18752 total 100189 up to and including 1937

1938 - 30210

1939 - 35307

1940 - 35786

1941 - 35039

1942 - 27263

1943 - 18205

1944 - 12502

1945 - 494 total 294995

 

 

 

Stuart:

" we worked harder to mechanize than Germany "

agree

 

 

general:

" Germany was poorly mechanized "

not agree

 

 

 

 

Well if you look at that post I put up earlier, namely this one,

https://agriculturaltrainee.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/the-tractor-that-won-the-war/

there would appear to be 56000 tractors in Britain Prewar. So the final total by 1945 would be something like

229000 tractors.. Giving an a tractor to land ratio of about,

2.44 per square mile.

 

So accepting your figures (I see no reason to disbelieve them) then we have,

294995 divided by 138062 gives us 2.13. Not bad, but it still means that Britain actually caught up spectacularly from a slow start. If you take those figures I have, it means the UK tripled the number of tractors in service by 1946.

 

Then bear in mind German started with more territory than it has today (I cant find any figures for prewar Germany) and as it expanded it would have got worse. Im not sure how mechanized Poland and France were prewar, but again, figures would be interesting.

 

 

Neither am I!

 

From Tooze:

 

1.jpg

 

Germany had the lowest ratio of arable land to farmer of any major Western nation besides Italy. This doomed German agriculture to low efficiency and the rural peasants to a life of crushing poverty. An obvious solution would have been to consolidate small farms into larger ones but Nazi ideology stressed the idea of a sacred connection to the soil and other such bollocks and the idea of kicking peasant farmers off their land was very much verboten. The other obvious solution of course is to go and get more land and to give to the peasants...

Yes, that supports some of what I learned on the industrialization of Europe. One of the supporters of the Nazi party were supposedly the Junker Class that wanted protection for their agriculture, as they had got under the Kaiser If I understand correctly. So there may have been less interest in mechanizing, and hence, smaller farms. One of the drivers in the UK for mechanization was the influx of the population into the cities. We simply had to do more with less manpower.

 

Did they ever go in for this in Germany?

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Well all this fancy machinery has to be paid for, and to a peasant barely eking out a living on a 5-10ha smallholding, getting hold of the kind of cash needed to buy even a volkstraktor just wasn't an option.

 

Another little nugget from Tooze:

 

 

 

The fact that more women were not mobilized for war work is some- times taken as one more symptom of the inability of the Nazi regime to demand sacrifices from the German population. In this respect it has often been contrasted to Britain, where an increase in female partici- pation in the workforce was the key to sustaining the war effort. Such comparisons, however, are completely misleading, since they ignore the fact that the labour market participation of German women in 1939 was higher than that reached by Britain and the United States even at the end of the war.111 In 1939, a third of all married women in Germany were economically active and more than half of all women between the ages of 15 and 60 were in work. As a result, women made up more than a third of the German workforce before the war started, compared to a female share of only a quarter in Britain. A year later, the share of German women in the native workforce stood at 41 per cent, compared to less than 30 per cent in Britain. Not surprisingly, over the following years Britain caught up. But even in 1944 the participation rate for British women between the ages of 15 to 65 was only 41 per cent, as against a minimum of 51 per cent in Germany already in 1939. In large part, this difference was accounted for by the structural differences in the British and German economies. Of Germany's 14 million women workers in 1939, only 2.7 million worked in industry. By far the largest sector of women's work was peasant agriculture, which in 1939 employed almost 6 million women. By contrast, of Britain's 6 million working women fewer than 100,000 were employed on farms. As we have seen, the burden of maintaining the small peasant farms that dominated German agriculture fell disproportionately on women's shoulders. And as farm men were recruited away for the war, this burden grew ever more arduous. In areas such as Wuerttemberg and Bavaria, with dense populations of peasant farms, female workforce participation rates already exceeded 60 per cent in 1939. It goes without saying that by sustaining the food supply, Germany's farm women provided an indispensable service to the Nazi war effort.
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Well all this fancy machinery has to be paid for, and to a peasant barely eking out a living on a 5-10ha smallholding, getting hold of the kind of cash needed to buy even a volkstraktor just wasn't an option.

 

Another little nugget from Tooze:

 

 

 

The fact that more women were not mobilized for war work is some- times taken as one more symptom of the inability of the Nazi regime to demand sacrifices from the German population. In this respect it has often been contrasted to Britain, where an increase in female partici- pation in the workforce was the key to sustaining the war effort. Such comparisons, however, are completely misleading, since they ignore the fact that the labour market participation of German women in 1939 was higher than that reached by Britain and the United States even at the end of the war.111 In 1939, a third of all married women in Germany were economically active and more than half of all women between the ages of 15 and 60 were in work. As a result, women made up more than a third of the German workforce before the war started, compared to a female share of only a quarter in Britain. A year later, the share of German women in the native workforce stood at 41 per cent, compared to less than 30 per cent in Britain. Not surprisingly, over the following years Britain caught up. But even in 1944 the participation rate for British women between the ages of 15 to 65 was only 41 per cent, as against a minimum of 51 per cent in Germany already in 1939. In large part, this difference was accounted for by the structural differences in the British and German economies. Of Germany's 14 million women workers in 1939, only 2.7 million worked in industry. By far the largest sector of women's work was peasant agriculture, which in 1939 employed almost 6 million women. By contrast, of Britain's 6 million working women fewer than 100,000 were employed on farms. As we have seen, the burden of maintaining the small peasant farms that dominated German agriculture fell disproportionately on women's shoulders. And as farm men were recruited away for the war, this burden grew ever more arduous. In areas such as Wuerttemberg and Bavaria, with dense populations of peasant farms, female workforce participation rates already exceeded 60 per cent in 1939. It goes without saying that by sustaining the food supply, Germany's farm women provided an indispensable service to the Nazi war effort.

 

 

That maybe true, but wouldnt it be fair to say that the mobilization towards a war effort in Germany started prewar, whereas in Britain and elsewhere, it only started in 1939?

 

Does there exist figures for that pre 1933?

 

I take the point about smallholdings though, that clearly would utilize more women than in the British agricultural sector. As said, there was sharp decline in the British agricultural sector in employment from the start of the industrial revolution. We never protected our agricultural sector, which is part of the reason why we imported so much.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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I'm not sure that number would have changed a great deal in the previous years TBH. The implication I think is that many women were working on small farms because the only way to keep those going was for everybody to pitch in, so I don't see that being much different before war mobilisation started. What did change was the gradual replacement of men with PoWs and slave labour.

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Why did countries in Europe need a long range heavy fighter, and what could realistically have been achieved with late 1930s aero engines?

 

One answer in the context of the 1930s would be to both enable and defend against air forces attempting to turn Douhet's theories into reality.

So the thing is that in the pre-war time period, most aero engines were getting 800-1000hp tops. The P-51's Merlin was chucking out around 1,600hp, so to get Mustang-like range in the 1930s you need twin engines. A fighter like that is going to be less use in a defensive role than a more nimble single seat fighter and a twin engined design is probably not going to be competitive against the best single seat designs - see the P-38 and Bf-110's mediocre performance when used in the escort role.

 

A pre-early war heavy fighter would be something like the Beaufighter. Aircraft like these were excellent for long range patrols and going places where single seat fighters weren't. They were death for flying boats and maritime patrol aircraft, and could take on bombers out of range of single seat fighters. A good example would be Beaufighters patrolling the Bay of Biscay to shoot down German Fw-200s and Ju-88s operating in the maritime patrol role. Their size and heavy armament also made them ideal for conversion to night fighters or ground attack aircraft.

 

Yes, aircraft like Mosquito, Beaufighter (I forgot there was a Merlin variant of Beau as well, though it was not a success), Pe-3 and Ju-88C were basically interdictor aircraft, meant to roam remote areas and attack 'soft' targets of opportunity. In that role, second crew member was genuinely useful, to provide extra set of eyes, handle navigation and keep the pilot from falling asleep or getting disoriented on a long monotonous flight.

But if we are looking at escort role, where you fly directly at the teeth of the heaviest enemy air opposition, then any crew beyond the pilot only furtherly handicaps the aircraft which is already disadvantaged against single-engined fighters because of its mass. In this regard, only twin which was (somewhat) successful was P-38 because it had performance to match the singles.

 

I don't understand why Germans never pursued a single-seat version of Bf-110. It could not have been very difficult conversion and avoided the pitfall of disruption production to the extent like adopting a whole new design (like Fw-187) would have done.

 

With the benefit of hindsight it is of course easy to criticize decisions made by air arms. Progression of aviation technology in the late '30s was insanely fast. Up until 1935, fighter aircraft had changed only a little since WW1. They were armed with just 2 rifle calibre machineguns and primitive sights. Even Bf-109 was designed for this armament and it was considerable trouble for Willy Messerchmitt to update the design when Luftwaffe wanted heavier armament. It is easy to see why people would think that modern bombers would be difficult targets for fighters. There was a school of thought that single-engined fighters were waste of money, and that bomber fleets could be only stopped with two-engined 'aerial cruisers'. While single-engined fighters remained dominant, many air forces hedged their bets and built both types. Of course, progress was rapid and by 1939 singles suddenly sported heavy armament, armour, enclosed cockpits, reflector gunsights...

Before the war, not many air forces thought about building dedicated escort fighters. Twins were expensive, so why not just build more bombers?

 

Id be the first to admit the the 110 was disenfranchised by Goerings close suppose of the bombers doctrine, it may have done better from higher altitude swooping down to attack. But its worth remembering, the 109's DID use that doctrine successfully. The 110 didnt, and I think a large part of it was, it was too damn draggy for its own good.

'Close escort doctrine' was not Görings brainwork. It was a phenomenon which nearly all air forces experienced at some point during the war. Basically, bomber crews did not want to feel left alone when flying over enemy territory. They felt safe when they saw their own fighters in close proximity. Unfortunately, this was not the most efficient use of escort fighters, particularly true with planes which weren't so nimble up close (many late war fighters fall into this group). With the 'free hunt' doctrine, always some enemy fighters got through and inflicted serious losses on some bomber units, creating illusion of fighter escort being absent. So bomber units requested close escort and frontline commanders complied, even if in the big picture it was counterproductive.

Edited by Yama
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" rural peasants to a life of crushing poverty. " Another one to deal with. mayby

 

 

 

anyway:

from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrarwirtschaft_und_Agrarpolitik_im_Deutschen_Reich_(1933%E2%80%931945)

 

Germanys self sufficiency rate at the beginning of WW2 was 84 %

is ok

 

 

 

 

random quote from a discussion :

https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Britain-rely-on-food-convoys-in-WWII-How-did-we-manage-before

 

Why did Britain rely on food convoys in WWII? How did we manage before?

Britain was not self-sufficient in food before WWII; a great deal of food was imported. When the War began, the newly-formed Ministry of Food focused a great deal of energy on encouraging the entire country to work very hard at increasing the amount of food it produced, in order to minimise the dependence on vulnerable shipping of imports, and to free up shipping capacity for the delivery of other essential goods.

So huge areas of land that had never before been farmed were ploughed up for the very first time, to grow food, and the entire country was exhorted to Dig for Victory. Since the OP comes from Southampton, I would recommend that he visits Manor Farm at Upper Hamble, to see the exhibition there relating to the changes in farming that came about during this time (the television series The Wartime Farm was actually filmed at Manor Farm), and that he picture areas like Southampton Common as being suddenly covered with allotments. Even the moat of the Tower of London became allotments.

But the convoys were still essential. They came in bearing cargoes of meat and butter, tea, sugar and bread flour, having survived nightmare voyages of other ships being dive-bombed or torpedoed around them, to deliver these essential goods to docks around the coast. And even then, the risks were not over; areas like the docks of ports like Liverpool, Bristol and Southampton were heavily and repeatedly bombed.

bold line by me

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" rural peasants to a life of crushing poverty. " Another one to deal with. mayby

 

 

 

anyway:

from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrarwirtschaft_und_Agrarpolitik_im_Deutschen_Reich_(1933%E2%80%931945)

 

Germanys self sufficiency rate at the beginning of WW2 was 84 %

is ok

 

 

 

 

random quote from a discussion :

https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Britain-rely-on-food-convoys-in-WWII-How-did-we-manage-before

 

Why did Britain rely on food convoys in WWII? How did we manage before?

Britain was not self-sufficient in food before WWII; a great deal of food was imported. When the War began, the newly-formed Ministry of Food focused a great deal of energy on encouraging the entire country to work very hard at increasing the amount of food it produced, in order to minimise the dependence on vulnerable shipping of imports, and to free up shipping capacity for the delivery of other essential goods.

So huge areas of land that had never before been farmed were ploughed up for the very first time, to grow food, and the entire country was exhorted to Dig for Victory. Since the OP comes from Southampton, I would recommend that he visits Manor Farm at Upper Hamble, to see the exhibition there relating to the changes in farming that came about during this time (the television series The Wartime Farm was actually filmed at Manor Farm), and that he picture areas like Southampton Common as being suddenly covered with allotments. Even the moat of the Tower of London became allotments.

But the convoys were still essential. They came in bearing cargoes of meat and butter, tea, sugar and bread flour, having survived nightmare voyages of other ships being dive-bombed or torpedoed around them, to deliver these essential goods to docks around the coast. And even then, the risks were not over; areas like the docks of ports like Liverpool, Bristol and Southampton were heavily and repeatedly bombed.

 

 

bold line by me

 

Yes, but I dont think ive ever suggested otherwise.

 

There isnt enough agricultural land in the entire UK to keep the population going, and that was before we started importing US Servicemen and digging up half the country to build airfields. We had larger farms, but that didnt mean we had enough farms for the population. I think that point had been departed in the 1870's when the US Freezer ships came in with cheap meat. From that point on there was no need to be self sufficient.

 

What the agricultural effort did was reduce the number of hulls bringing in foodstuffs, and even then certain items, such as banana's, were unavailable virtually till postwar. It freed up the amount of hulls we could bring in raw materials and war equipment. And in that respect it was valuable. Indeed, I doubt we could have undertook the bombing campaign, let alone support the war in North Africa, without it.

 

Basically, the agricultural effort made the hulls we had go a lot further than they would. Which by 1941-42 with the U Boat effort at crisis point, was obviously important.

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But the convoys were still essential. They came in bearing cargoes of meat and butter, tea, sugar and bread flour, having survived nightmare voyages of other ships being dive-bombed or torpedoed around them, to deliver these essential goods to docks around the coast. And even then, the risks were not over; areas like the docks of ports like Liverpool, Bristol and Southampton were heavily and repeatedly bombed.

 

 

bold line by me

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/sep/24/fighting-fit-britain-second-world-war

 

 

In December 1939, Britain had been at war with Germany for three months. U-boat attacks threatened incoming food shipments. And, armed with bicycles and walking boots, a group of medical researchers headed to the Lake District to conduct a secret study: if Britain was totally cut off from food imports, would starvation hand victory to Germany?

 

This was an important medical question. Could the public stay fighting fit if food was rationed to what Britain alone could produce? If the ration was too low in protein, people would get "famine oedema" (swelling from fluid build-up). Before the war, Britain imported half its meat, more than half its cheese and a third of its eggs. Much of the protein in the British diet would therefore be lost if a shipping blockade succeeded. Anaemia (insufficient iron) and scurvy (lack of vitamin C) could also become a problem.

 

 

Happily, the gloomy spectres of famine oedema, scurvy, and anaemia did not arise. The guinea pigs felt fit and well on the ration and could do their usual work. But there were two main difficulties. One was that meals took a long time to eat. Wholemeal bread without butter took ages to chew. The sheer quantity of potato needed to make up calories also took time to eat. All the fibre in the diet caused 250% bigger poos. They measured it.

The other problem with eating all that starch was the amount of flatus – gas – that it produced. The consequences could be, in Widdowson and McCance's description, "remarkable".

 

To simulate the hardest physical work that might be expected of people during the war, some of the team headed to the Lake District for an intensive fortnight of walking, cycling and mountaineering. It was tough going with snow and ice on the paths. But other than a sore knee for Elsie, the team did well enough that a professional mountaineer rated their performance "distinctly good". And this was on the diet that might be the lot for all Britain if shipping imports failed.

In 1940, the British government rationed bacon, butter and sugar, just as the team finished their trial. Their report and its conclusion – that Britain could stay fighting fit even if all food imports were lost – was circulated to government departments. But the study was kept secret until after the war.

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But the convoys were still essential. They came in bearing cargoes of meat and butter, tea, sugar and bread flour, having survived nightmare voyages of other ships being dive-bombed or torpedoed around them, to deliver these essential goods to docks around the coast. And even then, the risks were not over; areas like the docks of ports like Liverpool, Bristol and Southampton were heavily and repeatedly bombed.

 

 

bold line by me

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/sep/24/fighting-fit-britain-second-world-war

 

 

In December 1939, Britain had been at war with Germany for three months. U-boat attacks threatened incoming food shipments. And, armed with bicycles and walking boots, a group of medical researchers headed to the Lake District to conduct a secret study: if Britain was totally cut off from food imports, would starvation hand victory to Germany?

 

This was an important medical question. Could the public stay fighting fit if food was rationed to what Britain alone could produce? If the ration was too low in protein, people would get "famine oedema" (swelling from fluid build-up). Before the war, Britain imported half its meat, more than half its cheese and a third of its eggs. Much of the protein in the British diet would therefore be lost if a shipping blockade succeeded. Anaemia (insufficient iron) and scurvy (lack of vitamin C) could also become a problem.

 

 

Happily, the gloomy spectres of famine oedema, scurvy, and anaemia did not arise. The guinea pigs felt fit and well on the ration and could do their usual work. But there were two main difficulties. One was that meals took a long time to eat. Wholemeal bread without butter took ages to chew. The sheer quantity of potato needed to make up calories also took time to eat. All the fibre in the diet caused 250% bigger poos. They measured it.

The other problem with eating all that starch was the amount of flatus – gas – that it produced. The consequences could be, in Widdowson and McCance's description, "remarkable".

 

To simulate the hardest physical work that might be expected of people during the war, some of the team headed to the Lake District for an intensive fortnight of walking, cycling and mountaineering. It was tough going with snow and ice on the paths. But other than a sore knee for Elsie, the team did well enough that a professional mountaineer rated their performance "distinctly good". And this was on the diet that might be the lot for all Britain if shipping imports failed.

In 1940, the British government rationed bacon, butter and sugar, just as the team finished their trial. Their report and its conclusion – that Britain could stay fighting fit even if all food imports were lost – was circulated to government departments. But the study was kept secret until after the war.

 

Thank you, thats priceless. :D

 

I seem to recall from one documentary that it as felt in 1941 (or was it 42?) we had about 2 weeks of food left in the country. But we muddled through. I also have to question whether that report took account of the thousands of US servicemen that were latterly in the country which also had to be supplied. Judging by the date obviously not.

 

Could we have kept going if we lost all those hulls? Perhaps. Although the problem of the lack of raw materials to make steel or aluminium, let alone armaments, would clearly have made it a somewhat moot point within a short period of time.

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