Account for Britain’s Failure to Prevent the Channel Dash (Op Cerberus)
The Channel Dash was one of the fiercest engagements that occurred during World War II. The operation was mainly conducted by the Germans, who successfully passed the blockade set by the British. It was composed of naval ships that had escorts from Germany, and the fleet originated from Brest in Brittany to Germany. However, the British mainly failed to stop the German ships because of poor time prediction, low confidence, poor coordination, and loss of crucial time.
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Failure to predict the right time the Germans would leave in Brest. After several successful attacks, the British believed that the Germans ship would leave Brest during the day and complete the dangerous part of their transit of the Dover Straits (The Channel Dash – Operation Fuller, n.d.). As a result, they channeled all their resources for the night attack, and this left them with a lot of exposure during the day. But, on the contrary, the Germans left Brest during the night and reached the narrow waters during the day, almost undetected.
Second, the British bomber force had low confidence due to a lack of anti-shipping training. Third, due to a lack of confidence, their ability to inflict maximum damage to the enemy was abysmal. As a result, they relied on the torpedo bomber force that was not suitable for causing damage to the naval ships that were heavily armed. Additionally, only a few Beauforts were made available for this dangerous mission, and they were also short of torpedoes. Additionally, two squadrons that could have been used for the task were on transit to the Middle East when the German operation was expected.
Third, poor coordination of the three coastal command units led to the failure of the British in the Channel Dash. The first command system provided surveillance from the evening to the morning. The second unit surveyed the north while the third monitored between Le Havre and Boulogne (The Channel Dash – Operation Fuller, n.d.). However, during the night of the expected attack, the first unit’s radar failed to operate, forcing the aircraft to abort the mission. However, the replacement aircraft came late after the German ships had evaded the narrow area, and its radar also failed to pick the German ships. However, the plane was never replaced, which made it easy for the Germans to evade the British. In addition, the poor weather that engulfed the third unit of the coastal command center was affected by the bad weather, forcing the commander to stop surveillance one hour earlier before the intended period.
Lastly, a lot of crucial time was lost, which highly contributed to the failure of the Brits to prevent Channel Dash. During the night of the expected attack, the British rarely expected fighter command to detect the German ships (The Channel Dash – Operation Fuller., n.d.). As a result, a lot of time was wasted reporting to the bomber command and the royal navy. Furthermore, the air attacks had minor damage on the ships, which became a significant British failure.
Succinctly, Britain failed to prevent the Channel Dash (Op Cerberus) because of their incapability to determine the Germans’ Brest departure time, low confidence in the bomber force, poor coordination, and loss of time. The British underestimated their enemies and only believed that the Germans would complete the dangerous part of the day. Additionally, the bomber force had inadequate training, and therefore they were unprepared to tackle the highly trained Germans. Also, the poor coordination of the coastal units made it easy for the germ fleet to penetrate the waters almost undetected.
The Channel Dash – Operation Fuller. (n.d.). Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum. Web.
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