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Historical Background

In 1918 Great Britain emerged victorious from the First World


War. She had reached the zenith of her imperial power and global
influence not only through the acquisition of the Mandated Territories, but
also through the disappearance from the world stage of her German,
Russian and American rivals. However, this strength was illusory. The
Empire had become far too large, even before 1914 British statesmen had
realised that the extent of their world-wide commitments was too much.
After 1918, Britain had a larger Empire to defend with even fewer
resources. The only post-war difference was that internal collapse, rather
than from external pressure seemed to be the biggest threat. The
Dominions of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand,
conscious of the role they had played in the war, became more determined
to assert their autonomy from London by refusing to blindly follow it
into the next European conflict. Nationalist tension from Ireland to India,
Egypt to Mesopotamia threatened trouble that would demand serious
military intervention. After four long years of war, it would do nothing to
help Britain restore her civilian economy back to the prosperity of the
pre-war years.
Four years of war had done more than drain Britain of her
international economic power. The horrors of the Western Front had left
an indelible psychological imprint both upon the minds of the politicians
and the public. Never Again was the response to the idea of another
continental commitment. As Michael Howard has written Unfortunately,
it was to be more than an epitaph; it was to be a policy - and one which
was to have disastrous results.1 So quick were politicians to bend to
1 M. Howard, The Continental Commitment: The Dilemma of British

Defence Policy in the Era of the Two World Wars (The Ford Lectures in the
University of Oxford, 1971), (Harmondsworth, 1972), pp.74-75

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domestic pressure for cutting back taxation and military spending, there
was no attempt to remember the painful lessons that Britain had learnt in
the early stages of the war due to her unpreparedness. The necessary civil
and military administrative measures for a rapid and sustainable
expansion of the national war effort were forgotten overnight, something
which would have a significant bearing upon the foreign policies of
British Governments in the 1930s.2 The Ten Year Rule formulated that
all three branches of the Armed Forces had to calculate their defence
requirements on the assumption that there would be no major war for the
next ten years. Defence spending was slashed, creating the appearance
that almost nothing was spent, though considering the balance of power in
the immediate post-war world, there were no real heavyweight powers
threatening the security of Britain and her Empire. In effect Britain was
thoroughly disarmed in the 1920s, not only in terms of actual weapon
stockpiles, but also in the lack of an adequately funded institutional
structure that each branch of the Armed Forces needed to function
properly. The Ten Year Rule was only dropped in 1932 because the
Japanese attack upon Manchuria had revealed just how precarious
Britain's world-wide position had become after years of chronic
under-funding.3 This did not mean the beginning of rearmament. On the
contrary, British policy was still to maintain a course away from playing a
military role in international affairs if she could help it, but by dropping
the restrictions she indicated that she would not be an easy target for
aggression.
On 30 July 1934 Stanley Baldwin rose in the House of Commons
to defend his five year expansion programme for the RAF. In his defence
2 B. Bond, British Military Policy between the Two World Wars (Oxford,

1980), p.6
3 COS 310 Imperial Defence Policy, October 1933, CAB 53/23

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he stated that Britain had tried to set an example to the world by spending
very little on military requirements and, thereby, preserve peace. This
policy had failed. Other nations were returning to rearmament, especially
in regard to strategic air power which was symptomatic of a general
trend towards the adoption of a definite air strategy, in which aircraft is
contemplated as the primary offensive arm.4 Even Germany, which was
formally forbidden under the Versailles Settlement to have a military
airforce, was probably rearming, though secrecy was making this difficult
to assess. What Britain could be sure of was that when Germany felt free
to rearm she would pay great attention to strategic air power.
There is [Baldwin continued] a situation of potential gravity ... which it
would be foolish to ignore ... If armaments are to be of any value in collective
security, the forces must be properly equipped. Shop window defence forces
will deceive nobody in Europe to-day.5

Only serious rearmament will deter those who want to disturb the
international equilibrium to achieve their aims. Aerial rearmament had to
start now because it would take many years before the results were
noticeable. The longer Britain hesitated the longer she would need to
make good the difference: the longer Britain would be vulnerable. There
is no defence. The truth is that the bomber will always get through,6 but,
Baldwin asserted, only the creation of a credible deterrent will prevent
this from occurring. That was Britain's policy.
Since the day of the air, the old frontiers are gone. When you think of the
defence of England you no longer think of the chalk cliffs of Dover, you think
of the Rhine.7

4
5
6
7

Parliamentary Debates, Fifth Series, Volume 292, col.2329


Ibid., col.2329-2330
Ibid., col.2336
Ibid., col.2339

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The speech was a clear warning to Nazi Germany that if she unilaterally
renounced the air disarmament clauses of Versailles Britain would not sit
idly by and be threatened with the destructive consequences from the
application of a strategic bombing campaign.

Strategic Bombing: A Definition, its Origins and the


Response to
The official history of the RAFs strategic bombing campaign in
the Second World War defined such an offensive as:
a means of direct attack upon the enemy state with the object of depriving it
of the means or the will to continue the war.8

The theory of strategic bombing evolved out of the attempts to avoid


(and understand) the four years of carnage and strategic impasse that had
characterised the Western Front. The war had done much to confirm the
pre-war beliefs that the Great Powers had developed the industrial staying
power to withstand continuous military onslaughts. War had ceased to be
a conflict between armies, and had begun to assume aspects of a leviathan
struggle between the economies and societies of opposing states. Victory,
therefore, did not lie on the battlefield: rather it was to be found in the air
space over factories, industrial complexes, and residential areas.9 The
disruption and perceived public hysteria that accompanied the punitive
British and German air raids in the war were taken as proof that the
technological determinism of airpower was all-conquering. If airforces
were to increase the size of their bomber fleets, their power of destruction
8 Sir C. Webster and N. Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive against

Germany, 1939-1945: Volume I: Preparation (London, 1961), p.6


9 M. Smith, The Allied Air Offensive, Journal of Strategic Studies (March-i),
Volume 13, 1990, pp.68-69; U. Bialer, The Shadow of the Bomber: The Fear of Air
Attack and British Politics (London, 1980), p.2

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would rise in direct proportion. Strategic airpower was to be the


strategic stiletto which would pierce the tough and complex armour which
sustained advanced industrial nations in war.10
Such ideas, nevertheless, were aberrations inspired by excessive
optimism or excessive depression,11 and they gave rise to a
disproportionate sense of terror.12 It was not known at the time, but the
impact of airpower in the First World War had been greatly exaggerated.
It simply did not possess the organisational framework, the financial
resources, nor the technological or strategic capabilities to make a
difference. It was an immature weapon, and there were no empirical
studies comparable to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (after
the Second World War) to measure the effectiveness of campaigns.
Strategic theory was far outstripping the pace of technological reality.
Giulio Douhets The Command of the Air, first published in 1921, did
most to foster these illusions. Douhet's work - often cited, little read, and
understood even less - took this runaway technological determinism to its
ultimate, if not illogical, limits by advancing the idea that airpower (in the
shape of the bomber) would dictate the development of future wars.13
Suddenly, it appeared, airpower had made all conventional attitudes to
strategic thought completely out of date ... airpower would, indeed, bring
about nothing less than a cataclysmic change in the nature of war ... the
bomber appeared to have heralded an epoch in which the fate of nations could
be decided by one quick, decisive strike.14

10 Ibid., p.69
11 Webster and Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive, p.10
12 U. Bialer, Elite Opinion and Defence Policy: Air Power Advocacy and

British Rearmament during the 1930s, British Journal of International Studies


(April-i), Volume 6, 1980, p.36; Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber, pp.12-16, 46-47
13 C.G. Segre, Giulio Douhet: Strategist, Theorist, Prophet? Journal of
Strategic Studies (September-iii), Volume 15, 1992, p.355
14 Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber, p.37; R.J. Young, The Use and Abuse of
Fear: France and the Air Menace in the 1930s, Intelligence and National Security
(October-iv), Volume 2, 1987

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Many hoped that a weapon of so terrible a potential would in fact act as a


deterrent,15 yet the fear of a national heart-attack as a result of massive
surprise air bombardment retained its hegemonic grip.16 It was
commonly believed that immediately after the declaration of war a huge
armada of bombers would suddenly appear over the enemy capital to
deliver a decisive air strike of high explosives, incendiaries, and chemical
weapons, in particular gas. It was hoped (as well as feared) the
psychological shock of this promiscuous massacre of civilians would
provoke, through the collapse of national morale, the catastrophic
eventuality of capitulation, defeat and revolution. There was no defence
except possession of superior airpower.
There were, and still are, two problems with Douhets ideas.
Firstly, it was neither a strategy nor a theory. Secondly, it was not based
on any empirical evidence.17 Douhets The Command of the Air was an
attempt to intuitively grasp future trends in the development of warfare not scientifically predict them.18 Yet, despite this fact, politicians had
no other benchmarks to measure atrocity and devastation than science
fiction and gloomy military prognosis.19 The image Douhet had helped to
conjure up and popularise to politicians and public alike was a strong one:
biblical wrath.20

15 R.J. Overy, Airpower and the Origins of Deterrence Theory before 1939,

Journal of Strategic Studies (March-i), Volume 15, 1992, esp. pp.74-80


16 M. Smith, A Matter of Faith: British Strategic Air Doctrine before
1939, Journal of Contemporary History (July-iii), Volume 15, 1980, p.425;
Williamson Murray, The Luftwaffe before the Second World War: A Misson, A
Strategy?, Journal of Strategic Studies (September-iii), Volume 4, 1981
17 Segre, Giulio Douhet: Strategist, Theorist, Prophet?, pp. 355, 356;
Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber, p.3
18 Ibid., p.358
19 Overy, Airpower and the Origins of Deterrence Theory before 1939,
p.88
20 Segre, Giulio Douhet: Strategist, Theorist, Prophet?, pp.358-359

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What is Intelligence?
Intelligence is information concerning foreign powers that is
collected by clandestine or non-clandestine means, and is then analysed.
These means encompass a variety of methods from the highly
sophisticated world of code breaking and interception of radio traffic and
satellite communications and photo-reconnaissance; to the popularly held
conception of the recruitment of spies and fifth columnists, as well as
employing ones own; to the more mundane areas of carefully reading the
foreign press and specialist journals, to questioning businessmen who visit
foreign factories, and merely being observant when travelling abroad.21 In
short, intelligence is information that is not freely given away by
governments because of its potentially damaging nature. But what is its
purpose? Michael Handel sees the function of intelligence to illuminate
the decision making process:
The proper use of accurate, timely intelligence can significantly reduce
uncertainty, thereby enabling political and military leaders to improve the
quality of the decisions, develop more effective strategies, or conduct more
successful military operations. The information provided by intelligence is thus
only a means to an end.22

The Organisational Framework of British Intelligence


(a) The Foreign Office
Although it was nominally in charge of the SIS and GC&CS, the
FO had no intelligence department of its own, and did little to concern
itself with the running of its two dependants. The FO did not consider
21 S. Gazit., Intelligence Estimates and the Decision-Maker, Intelligence

and National Security (July-iii), Volume 3, 1988, p.261; W. Laqueur, World of


Secrets: The Uses and Limits of Intelligence (New York, 1985), p.vii; Morton to
Ryan, 5 November 1937, CAB 47/1
22 M.I. Handel, Leaders and Intelligence, Intelligence and National
Security (July-iii), Volume 3, 1988, pp.3, 10; R.K. Betts, Analysis, War, and,
Decision: Why Intelligence Failures are Inevitable, World Politics (i), Volume 31,
1978, p.65

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intelligence to be a distinct activity, but then it did not think that about its
advisory or executive functions either. The vast amount of information it
received from its embassies was never considered to be intelligence, and
therefore was never examined by specialist analysts. The FO had no
arrangements of any sort to share its information or conclusions with any
other ministry: it had no inclination to.23 This stemmed from two factors.
Firstly, it had the largest and most continuous supply of information; and
secondly, it had no rivals because of their inability to do this. All service
attaches were posted in the embassies. They had to send their reports via
the embassy, to the FO, which then passed them on to the ministry
concerned. It never commented upon reports unless asked, but it did form
opinions on them. If opinions differed to those of the Service ministries,
as will be seen, it often acted without permission from the relevant
ministry because it assumed the right and duty to do so.24

(b) The War Office


This office did possess its own intelligence department, yet before
1914, and after 1918, intelligence was subordinated to operations.25 This
should have allowed greater use of intelligence in decision making, but in
practice it meant that the views of intelligence did not reach a wider
audience in the WO, which meant that decisions were often taken without
consideration of the intelligence perspective. It also meant that
intelligence in the WO was working in isolation from the other services. It
was only in September 1936 that this situation was resolved with the
creation of a separate Deputy Director of Intelligence.26
23 F.H. Hinsley, et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its

Influence on Strategy and Operations: Volume I (London, 1979), p.6


24 Ibid., p.7
25 Ibid., p.9
26 Ibid., p.11

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(c) The Air Ministry


When the Air Staff was set up in 1918 it also subordinated its
intelligence department to operations, and therefore faced the same
problems as that in the WO.27 This was ended in 1935 when the head of
the AID was promoted to Deputy Director of Intelligence. This placed on
an equal footing with the Deputy Director of Operations in the combined
Directorate of Operations and Intelligence.28 It was also at this time when
the Treasury finally began to give money to the Air Ministry for
intelligence purposes.29

(d) The Special Intelligence Service


The SIS was not made responsible for all overseas espionage until
1921. It was funded by the Foreign Offices Secret Vote, and supplied
information to all ministries that had overseas interests. Although it was
under FO control, it had internal liaison departments with the Services. It
supplied political intelligence to the FO only: the FO did not want the
Service ministries to encroach on its area of responsibility.30 This meant
that the Services had to waste time and money collecting their own
political intelligence. The SIS was allowed to receive orders from the
Service ministries and report straight to them. Yet the fact that the FO
was only nominally in control meant that the SIS was not strong enough
to resist demands for tasks that were beyond its resources, nor decide
which requests had priority.31 It was not efficient enough for the Service
ministries who relied largely on their own intelligence services.32 Conflict
27 C. Andrew, Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence

Community (Sevenoaks, 1987)


28 Ibid., p.12
29 Ibid., p.485; AIR 2/1688
30 Andrew, Secret Service, p.17
31 Ibid., p.18
32 Ibid.; P. Knightley, The Second Oldest Profession: The Spy as Bureaucrat,

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of users interests had prevented its incorporation with the other


intelligence services into a unified and independent body.33

(e) The Government Code and Cipher School


Like the SIS, the GC&CS was a product of the immediate
post-First World War world. Its functions were to advise Britain on the
security of her codes and ciphers, and to attack those of foreign states. It
was also controlled by the FO, but was funded by its non-secret vote.34
As with the SIS, the FO took little interest in the running of the GC&CS:
it was the adopted child of the FO, and the poor relation of the SIS.35

(f) The Industrial Intelligence Centre


The Service ministries and the FO came to realise that after World
War One economic intelligence was necessary to broaden the horizons of
their assessments. In 1925 the CID set up the ATB Committee to organise
the administrative measures necessary for placing economic pressure
upon an enemy. It soon became involved in economic intelligence. In
May 1933 it set up the EP sub-committee for additional reporting upon
economic intelligence for the CID.
In 1929 the secretaries for state for the WO and the Air Ministry
demanded the creation of a body to study economic mobilisation in
foreign countries. The CID created the FCI sub-committee, but
unfortunately this new organisation, and the two which preceded it, had
no research staff at all. This led to the creation of the IIC.36

Partiot, Fantasist, and Whore (London, 1986), p.95


33 Hinsley, British Intelligence, pp.18-19
34 Ibid., p.20
35 A.G. Denniston, The Government Code and Cipher School between the
Wars, Intelligence and National Security (January-i), Volume 1, 1986, p.50
36 Hinsley, British Intelligence, p.25

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The IIC was to collect, interpret, and distribute industrial


intelligence, and then pass it on to the Service ministries and the
aforementioned sub-committees.37 The IIC was to receive any industrial
intelligence they collected. From 1937 onwards the IIC was the sole
authority on economic intelligence, and did most of the work for the ATB
and the FCI.38

(g) The Committee of Imperial Defence


It was created in the early twentieth century to ensure that the
appreciations of foreign policy and of strategy were more fully integrated.
It included members of the Cabinet and the COS under the Prime
Minister, together with a permanent secretariat to ensure that the meetings
were fully prepared for, and issues raised were followed up. Yet upto
1939, its existence, like that of the JIC, did little to prompt active
inter-service/departmental collaboration. The Services put little faith in
peace-time intelligence, and were therefore disinclined to collaborate. The
FO reserved the right to comment on military intelligence of political
significance, and believed its opinions to be sound. The Services ignored
the military aspects of political developments, and of information from the
FO as it did not want to be accused of doing the FOs job.39

(h) The Joint Intelligence sub-Committee


Its function was to assist the JPS by acting as a clearing-house for
intelligence matters that were not the preserve of one service. Unlike its
37

R.J. Young, Spokesmen for Economic Warfare: The Industrial


Intelligence Centre in the 1930s, European Studies Review (October-iv), Volume 6,
1976, pp.473, 476, 477; D.C. Watt, British Intelligence and the Coming of the
Second World War in Europe, in E. May (ed.) Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence
Assessments before the Two World Wars (Princeton, N.J., 1984), pp.244-245
38 Hinsley, British Intelligence, pp.31-32
39 Ibid., p.8

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premature predecessor, the Inter-Service Intelligence Committee, the JIC


could enlist the help of the IIC. In fact, even the FO and MI5 consulted
the JIC.40 Despite its contacts and frequent meetings, the JIC remained a
peripheral body as much of the intelligence work was done by the
Services own intelligence departments, and the FCI and IIC. The JIC was
asked its opinion only on routine matters, or on subjects in which
intelligence was hard to come by. It never offered its opinions voluntarily
as this practice was not appreciated. However, its existence showed that
greater amounts of intelligence and better inter-service co-operation were
needed.41 The latter did not happen as the Services produced their own
intelligence estimates for the JPS, which then knitted them together.
The JIC was considered to be a time-wasting diversion even though the
Services had called for its creation.42

40 Ibid., p.36
41 Ibid., p.37
42 Ibid., p.38

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The rise of Adolf Hitler and the beginning of German rearmament


together caused greater government interest in intelligence than at any time
since the breach of Anglo-Soviet relations in 1927.1 The identification of
Germany as the prime target did not do much to satisfy this need for
information on her rearmament programme. It was known that Germany had
done much to evade the de-militarization clauses of Versailles.2 It was also
well known to Britain that she had done much to organise her munitions
industry in the 1920s for an emergency,3 and that her engineering industry, if
sufficiently organised, had the potential capacity to produce a great supply of
armaments.4 The fact remained that in 1933 Germanys plans for rearmament
were largely on paper, and even so, were camouflaged by great secrecy. As
Wesley Wark correctly points out, British intelligence would not have an
easy task in assessing the growth of Germanys aerial rearmament when it
started ab initio and had access to almost unlimited financial backing and to
one of the worlds most powerful economies.5

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1933


The first AID paper of 1933 argued that, in the light of evidence on
Germanys aerial rearmament that had come to their attention since March

1 C. Andrew, Secret Intelligence and British Foreign Policy, 1900-1939, in C.

Andrew and J. Noakes (eds.), Intelligence and International Relations, 1900-1945


(Exeter, 1987), p.22
2 COS 310 Imperial Defence Policy, October 1933, CAB 4/22; CP184(33)
Indications of Germany's Disregardment of Part V of Versailles, Annex II, July 1933,
AIR 2/1353
3 CID 1106-B Foreign Armaments Industries: Note by Chairman, Principal
Supply Officers Committee, 27 March 1933, CAB 4/22
4 ATB(EP)8 Some Notes on German Industry and Industrial Capacity, 1 April
1933, CAB 47/8; IIC Memo., 9 June 1935, C4687/4687/18, FO 371/18882
5 W. Wark, The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany,
1933-1939 (London, 1985), p.37

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1932, German plans for the formation of airforces in Germany were almost
complete.6 For this they cited the number of aircraft believed to exist (at
least 127), their non-civilian (i.e. military) specifications, their location at
government controlled training schools, the number of pilots trained therein
(far in excess of civilian needs), the placing of orders for airframes and
engines by the German Ministry of Defence, and the fact that an aviation
ministry was about to be created. The AA in Berlin expected that Germany
would have established 7 reconnaissance and 21 fighter squadrons by the
end of that year. The AI4s review paper in May further added to this picture
when it reported that the rise in the industrial budget of rearmament had risen
from 15 million Reichsmarks to 57 million, and commented that it was
phenomenal as only 11 million Reichsmarks had been allocated in
1932-1933.7 The scale of illegal subsidies was believed to be considerable.8
The basis of these reports and the fact that the German Defence Ministry,
and Gring, a leading Nazi chosen for the post of Reichskommisar for
aviation, were closely co-ordinating all aspects of aviation in Germany led
the Air Ministry to state that every facility would appear to exist for the
accommodation of airforce of considerable size.9 Although it was only a
few months later, the AI4 section of the AID stated that there were no plans

6. AI4 Preparations for the establishment of a German Air Arm (1), 18

February 1933, ibid.; MI3b Recent Evidence Regarding the Accelaration of German
Rearmament and Organization, 23 February 1933, WO 190/174
7 AI4 Preparations for the establishment of a German Air Arm (2), 4 May
1933, ibid.
8. Annex I of CP184(33), AIR 2/1353; French paper Principle Breaches of the
Military and Air Clauses of Versailles and Subsequent Agreements, August 1933,
C6942/254/18, AIR 2/1354
9 Infrigements of the air clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, 5 July 1933, AIR
2/1353

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existed for wartime mass production methods to be implemented as of yet. It


believed that only 400 planes of all types would exist by the end of 1933.10
It was not until 1934 that intelligence on the emergent Luftwaffe was
digested by anyone outside the Air Ministry. This was because that although
the machinery for intelligence had become mobilised in early 1933 it still had
to pick up pace, and had to do its best against the excessive secrecy that the
Nazis covered their rearmament programme with.

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1934


The first paper presented to the CID on German aircraft production
noted that since Hitler and the Nazi Party had come to power in Germany,
the aircraft industry had expanded by 50% in one year, and that this
expansion was in no sense a natural industrial development. Its justification
lies solely in orders placed on behalf of the Reich, or Nazi organisations ... in
direct defiance of the [Versailles] Treaty.11 It argued that once production
measures were fully utilised Germanys capacity to construct military
aircraft will reach formidable proportions, but concluded that the factor
limiting the creation of an airforce would be the lack of trained personnel,
staff and leaders, not output.12
This mirror-imaging of values did not solely extend to the strategy of
the Luftwaffe, and nor was the Air Ministry the only culprit. The civilian
consumers of air intelligence also viewed the organisational build-up and
framework of the Luftwaffe from the RAF perspective of the 1920s. Maurice
Hankey wrote:

10 AI4 Memo., 28 November 1933, AIR 2/1355


11 CID 1134-B German Industrial Measures for Rearmament and Aircraft

Production, 22 March 1934, CAB 4/22


12 Ibid.

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In a few years time Germany might have as many first-line aeroplanes and pilots
as we have; but pilots and airplanes do not make an airforce. It takes years of
intensive effort and training to build up an airforce to a state of efficiency with the
RAF ... The Germans are efficient people, but they are not supermen.13

The DCAS wrote that only one German air division would be
established by 1 October 1935, and that only two more would be established
by 1939. That appears to me to be more than Germany would probably
attempt to do if she were aiming at efficiency.14 An Air Staff memo a week
later reiterated this plan of slow and efficient expansion by Germany when it
said:
This must be regarded as the maximum rate since it must not be assumed that a
nation so admittedly thorough as Germany will be content with a mere window
dressing of aircraft and pilots ... we can assume that they will go to great lengths
to realise their plans at the earliest possible moment. But they cannot achieve the
impossible.15

Germany would be unlikely to surpass the first line strength of 820


planes. The AID was so dismissive of Germanys plans for expansion that,
although she had 1000 planes of all types, she did not yet have the
organisational framework to make these planes truly efficient. The AID
claimed, therefore, that no real German units existed,16 despite the
Secretary of State for Air admitting that British information on German
rearmament was very incomplete.17

13 Hankey to Vansittart, 5 March 1934, CAB 21/434


14 DCAS to CAS, 22 May 1934, AIR 9/69
15 Air Staff Memo Estimate of the Requirements for the Security of Great

Britain against air attack from Germany, 29 May 1934, original emphasis
16 Answer by AI to CAS instructions. re: German air strength, November 1934,
AIR 9/24
17 DC(M)(32)115, Note by Secretary of State for Air, 29 May 1934, CAB
16/111

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Despite being accused by the FO of minimising the danger,18 the


picture of efficiency governing the growth of the Luftwaffe continued. The
CIDs Imperial Defence Policy paper estimated that, by 1 October 1935,
the total strength of the Luftwaffe would be 504 planes of all types.19 It
claimed that the ultimate intention of the Luftwaffe was to form three, or
possibly four, air divisions. The CID paper said that evidence in support of
this came from a Luftwaffe war-game staff exercise which envisaged such a
line-up at the outbreak of war. At best, such a conclusion for intelligence
purposes is dubious because the scenarios of war-games are hypothetical and
in no way necessarily correspond to the aims, intentions and strategic
appreciations of a military leadership. Yet the further comment of this paper
shows again the uncritical attitude of intelligence consumers at this early
stage:
Further assumptions leading to this conclusion are that the first air division in
process of formation is numbered the First Air Division, thereby disclosing an
apparent intention to create others; and, in addition, to the fact that the German
plans are to deal in multiples of three.20

This was reaffirmed by a AID memo presented as a CID paper.21 This


CID paper, which commented upon the expansion of the German aircraft
industry, said that its picture of expansion last March had been confirmed by
intelligence since received. It noted that reserves were being accumulated,
and although the exact level was not known, the important fact to note was
that German productive capability was enough to supply reserves as well as
front-line craft. Output was believed to have risen by at least 50% since the
start of 1934, although the estimated potential capacity of the industry was

18 Vansittart Minute, 19 June 1934, C3511/31/18, FO 371/17712


19 CID 1148-B "Imperial Defence Policy," 23 October 1934, CAB 4/23
20 Ibid.
21 CID 1150-B "German Rearmament," November 1934, CAB 4/23

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not believed to have risen since the last AID-IIC paper.22 The paper
concluded by stating that Germany, by December 1935, planned to have
900-1000 planes of all types, and that these plans appeared to be in the
process of fulfilment. Two days later, the MA in Paris reported that Germany
was aiming for 1300 front-line planes by October 1936.23
The second AID/IIC paper reaffirmed this picture of expansion. It
stated that although recent evidence was conflicting in detail, the wider view
of the German aircraft industry leaves little doubt that considerable
expansion of output and capacity has taken place since the beginning of last
year and is continuing.24 It was estimated that employment figures had risen
by 90% since December 1933, and that although estimates vary
considerably output of engines was believed to be 210-250 per month, and
frames, 140-175. If these figures were correct, then in the ten months from
January to October of 1934, Germany had built 850 planes of all types. This,
therefore, pushed Germanys figures to 2300, though it was believed that
only 550 were pure military types, with 250 civil-military convertibles. This
was only 100 planes above the French intelligence estimate of 450 purely
military types.25 The General Staff felt that they were not in a position to
comment on the facts of this paper.26 The CID was told at the discussion
that, due to information received in the last four weeks, output showed a
substantial increase. The figures for frames had to be revised upwards to
160-180, and for engines, 250-300.27 The MA and AA in Berlin were still
warning about the impenetrable cloak of secrecy in Germany.28

22 Ibid.; Vide supra, note 11


23 MA Paris Dispatch, 24 October 1934, AIR 2/1355
24 CID 1151-B "German Aircraft Industry," 5 November 1934, CAB 4/23
25 AA Paris Dispatch, 15 November 1934, FO 371/17713
26 WO 190/275
27 CID 266th meeting, 22 November 1934, CAB 2/6
28 German Rearmament, 26 November 1934, C8126/20/18, AIR 2/1355

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A forecast on the expansion of the Luftwaffe shortly appeared on the


basis of these CID papers, the contents of which were deemed to be upto
date and reliable in the first meeting of the Cabinet Committee on German
Rearmament,29 and it was used as a supplement to the AID memo.30 The
AID memo had said that the ultimate aim of Germany was to possess three
to four air divisions, which would roughly equal a first-line strength of 1500
planes. Information received since its compilation indicated that a second
stage of aerial expansion was underway. By 1 October 1936, Germany, it
was estimated, would possess a front-line strength of 1368 planes, 1296
reserves, 400 trainers and 200 reserve trainers: in short, 3264 planes of all
types.31 The WO had no information on which to criticise these
forecasts;32 the CID merely took note of its existence.33

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1935


In late March 1935 Hitler announced to Sir John Simon and Sir
Antony Eden that the front-line strength of the Luftwaffe was equal to that of
the RAF. Confusion initially reigned as to what Hitler had actually said and
what he had meant by this statement of front-line parity. The AA in Berlin
knew that Hitlers figures for the RAF, as well as those for the Luftwaffe
were exaggerated.34 After a conversation with Wenninger of the RLM, the
AA concluded that Hitlers statement was not an exact or carefully prepared
announcement but a more or less loose statement with no very close

29 GR(34) Minutes of 1st

meeting of Cabinet Committee of German

Rearmament, CAB 27/572


30 Vide supra, note 21
31 CID 1159-B Position of German Air Rearmament, 20 November 1934, 30
November 1934, CAB 4/23
32 Position of German Rearmament, 18 February 1935, WO 190/300
33 CID 268th meeting, 25 February 1935, CAB 2/6
34 AA Berlin to Courtney (DCAS), 28 March 1935, AIR 2/2708

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relationship to actual figures.35 The Air Staff, once again mirror-imaging


their values, said:
If this claim is interpreted as meaning that Germany has already created an
airforce of that size [800-850 planes] consisting of fully organised, trained and
equipped front-line squadrons ... it is a serious overstatement of her present
position.36

Unimpressed, Cresswell wrote:


The Air Ministry shirk the issue of front-line strength. This is no doubt because
they do not know the figure exactly ... it seems to me that [the] Air Ministry
should be asked to provide at once a clear, brief categorical statement of what
they think the state of German armaments to be.37

In an effort to find out the truth, the AA in Berlin, had a conversation


with Milch, the German State Secretary of Aviation. Milch confirmed that
Hitler had been referring to the front-line strength of the RAF and the
Luftwaffe. Parity with the RAF was merely a stage on the way to achieving
parity with French land and air forces. Germany, therefore, was aiming for a
front-line strength of 2000 planes.38 Sir John Simon wrote a day later, saying
that I can see no likely motive for the German Air Ministry to deliberately
exaggerate to our AA the figure of their present air armaments.39
The first AID-IIC paper to follow this estimated that on 1 April 1935,
the German aircraft industry employed 28,000 workers (an 83% increase),
and an output of 200 frames and 500 engines per month. The Luftwaffe
possessed a total of 3000 airplanes of all types, of which 1320 were
35 Don to DAI, 3 April 1935, AIR 2/1356; Bullock to the FO, 5 April 1935, AIR

2/2708
36 German Air Expansion and its effects on the Security of this Country, April

1935, AIR 9/24


37 Cresswell, C2881/55/18, FO 371/ibid.
38 AA Berlin to Courtney (DCAS), 9 April 1935, AIR 2/1356
39 Simon to MacDonald, 10 April 1935, C3087/55/18, FO 371/18835

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front-line types.40 The Air Ministry believed that the Luftwaffe had reserves
of 550 planes, and that from the 220 produced every month, 90 were military
types. By spring 1936 output was thought likely to increase to 1300 per
month of all types, although any estimate of German first-line strength
beyond the Spring of 1936 is pure guess-work, the Air Ministry see no
reason why Germany should not have 2000 first-line machines by 1939 if she
wished.41 It was said at the first meeting of the Air Parity Sub-Committee
that unless information was received to the contrary Hitler's statement of
parity would have to be accepted, even though the German squadrons could
in no way be as efficient as those of the RAF.42 One week later this was
reaffirmed when the Sub-Committee said to what extent these aircraft have,
in point of fact, been organised into squadrons is a matter of speculation.43
It argued that:
from the profession point of view it would be unsound to allot as much as 850
[of the 1425 planes of all types in existence] to the squadrons and to keep only
125 in reserve, but it is quite possible that the Germans have actually taken this
step.44

The Air Ministry was reported as doing all in its power to obtain accurate
information, yet as the report further stated:
On the important question of intelligence ... the Air Ministry have informed us
that a larger provision of money will be required for the purpose of its collection,
failing which it will be difficult to acquire information in any increased degree. We

40 CID 1172-B German Aircraft Industry 11 April 1935, CAB 4/23;

Londonderry to PM, 17 April 1935, AIR 8/186


41 Comparative Strengths of Air Forces in Germany, France and the UK, 14
April 1935, AIR 8/186
42 Minutes of Air Parity Sub-Committee (1st Meeting), 1 May 1935, CAB
27/518
43 DC(M)(32)141 Report by Sub-Committee on Air Parity for Ministerial
Committee on Defence Requirements, 8 May 1935, ibid.
44 Ibid.

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are of the opinion that an enlarged provision should be made for this highly
necessary work.45

This appears not to have been acknowledged by the sub-committee,


nor any other body. An earlier request to increase the SIS budget had been
refused.46
Preconceptions about efficiency continued into June when the Air
Staff reported upon the AAs conversation with Gring. An overview of the
interview led the Air Staff to conclude that the principles of efficiency which
were observed in Britain, were not in Germany. For example, Gring said
that entire squadrons were trained in one go, so they can be transferred to
aerodromes in toto, where the AA commented, they appeared to undergo
further training. In other words, a proportion of the first-line strength, exists
only on paper.47 Gring said that in the event of war he would cut into his
own flying schools to mobilise aircraft. The AA said:
On his own admission, therefore, General Gring is forced to admit that he
would today have to cut into his own training establishments in order to provide
for his own service units. This can only indicate that personnel for some of these
units at any rate do not exist.

Gring also claimed that some of the pilots who immediately graduated
became instructors. Summing up, the AA wrote:
these statements and explanations by General Goring during the interview leave
little doubt that the original assertion that Germany possessed 800-850 first-line
aircraft had been forced upon the German Air Ministry by political circumstances
... Whilst Germany is undoubtedly making every effort to expand as quickly as
possible and is making remarkable progress, there is considerable doubt whether
she has yet attained the actual first-line strength claimed by her in March.

45 Ibid.
46 CP100(35), 13 May 1935, CAB 24/255
47 CID 1180-B Air Staff Appreciation of the Position in June 1935, 14 June

1935, CAB 4/23

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The Air Staff argued that Germany could possess 2000 first-line
aircraft at the end of the year, but it would be at the cost of having to
sacrifice her reserves, and therefore, she would still have no real first-line
strength as defined by Britain in terms of reserves, back-up and
organisation.48 The IIC said that by April 1937 Germany could well have
1500 front-line planes, but if her rate of expansion maintained the same
speed as it had done in the last six months, it could well be 2000.49 The Air
Ministry confirmed the IICs first figure of 1500 by April 1937 one month
later to the CID.50 Two months later, in September, the AID estimated that
Germany possessed 1730 military types together with 200 civil-military
convertibles.51 Output had now risen to about 225 frames and about 560
engines a month; employment was 35,000.
In view of these events the DRCs Third Report had called for more
spending on the SIS. It wanted 500,000 a year to prevent Britain from being
seriously disadvantaged on the intelligence picture of Germany.52 It was not
agreed upon until February 1936, and then in principle only. The SIS only
received the sum of 500,000 in 1939.53

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1936

48 Ibid.
49 IIC Memo., 9 June 1935, C4687/4687/18, FO 371/18882
50 DRC 23 Summary of the latest information available regarding the expansion

of the German and Japanese Forces, Air Ministry letter to the Secretary of the CID, 16
July 1935, CAB 16/112
51 CID 1186-B German Aircraft Industry, 9 September 1935, CAB 4/23
52 DRC 37 Programmes of the Defence Services: Third Report: Volume I,
November 1935, CAB 24/259
53 DPR(DP)9 Programmes of the Defence Services, 12 February 1936, CAB
24/259; Cf: Appendix A

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In early 1936 the Air Ministry received intelligence from a secret


source in Germany. This intelligence is of particular interest to the historian
for two reasons. Firstly, it is one of the few intelligence reports from a secret
source (who came to be known as X) in the Air Ministry files which was
sent in its original form, i.e. that it was not summarised by any assessor.
Secondly, and far more importantly, the whole episode of the X documents
helps to reveal how the Air Ministry worked when assessing reports.
The first paper was received in February 1936. It argued that between
1 April 1933 and 1 April 1936 German had built 9800 planes, of which 4132
were trainers. This, therefore, left 5688 pure military types, if those, X
argued, built in or in existence in 1933 were excluded from consideration. X
further said that if Britain wished to calculate Germany's first-line strength on
1 April 1936 they should ignore the 1933 figures and also deduct 30%, from
the 5688, to allow for wastage. If this was done the first-line strength was
3780. X further stated that Germany had planned to build 11800 planes
between 1 April 1933 and 31 December 1938, and that of this total, 6132
military types remained to be built. German productive capacity, he stated,
was to be 6000 types per annum on a three shift basis.54
The CAS wrote to the Air Minister saying that these figures were not
supported by the evidence the Air Ministry possessed. For example, 9800
planes built in three years equalled a monthly output of 270 planes. The
Germans were believed not to have reached this figure and would not to be
able to do so by 1 April 1936. Xs figure of 9132 planes to be built from this
date to 31 December 1938 again equalled an output of 270. The CAS
argued that X appeared to be assuming that output on 1 April 1933 was
already 270 a month was it was not.55

54 X Doc. Present Strength and Future Development of the German Air Force as

Revised in December 1935, AIR 40/2102


55 CAS to Air Minister (Minute no.2), 13 February 1936, ibid.

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Detailed questions were sent to X wanting him to specify his


contentions more clearly. The three most important questions were as
follows.

Firstly,
It is stated that 9800 aircraft have been built in the three years from 1 April
1933. This is equivalent to an average monthly output of slightly over 270 a
month. Is it contended that the aircraft industry was in a position to produce this
output as early as 1933?

Secondly,
A considered [RAF] estimate of the output of the aircraft industry on 1 April
1933 was about 50 a month. If this is correct, and the industry has expanded
steadily since then, and in order to achieve a total of 9800 aircraft by 1 April
1936, the monthly output must have been approximately 490. Is it suggested that
this is the correct figure?

Lastly,
How do you calculate the 33% wastage factor between 1 April
April 1936?56

1933 and 1

X replied as follows. Firstly, No: it is not so contended. Secondly,


he said that there were no exact figures for monthly output available, and the
(RAF) estimate for 1 April 1933 was considerably below the mark. Many
built were small trainers, about 40% of the figure by 1 April 1936. These
were built quicker, and therefore, boosted the output figures faster than
military types. Lastly, he considered the 33% figure for wastage to be ample.
X also stated that all squadrons have 15 front-line planes. Therefore, on 31
December 1938 the Luftwaffe would possess 2970 planes. He stated that
This is entirely correct according to the official German methods of
calculating.57

56 Questions arising out of a Secret Document, Organization of the German Air

Force, December 1935 , ibid.


57 X replies, [n.d], ibid.

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The Air Ministry responded. They disagreed with X on his methods of


counting planes in squadrons, i.e. he counted those held as reserves. Official
German statements and AA information said that each squadron had 12
planes: nine front-line and three immediate reserve. Only X and the French
intelligence services counted 15: nine front-line, three immediate reserve,
and three non-squadron reserve.58 The Air Ministry also disagreed with Xs
information on the expansion of squadrons. He had originally said that the
Luftwaffe would possess 99 by 1 April 1936. The Air Ministry replied: if
anything, Germany is behind this programme and not, as this document
suggests, six months ahead.59 They reaffirmed this by arguing that it would
not be completed before 1 October 1936 even if Germany had only 9 planes
per squadron. They further disagreed upon the capacity of the German
aircraft industry. Xs replies were unconvincing ... [and] we consider his
arguments are unsound in view of the industry's small beginnings in
1932-1933. The German aircraft industry must have been built up steadily,
and had not been subject to a large expansion, then consolidation. Also, Xs
figures of 33% for wastage over three years were too small. The Air Ministry
considered it more likely that it was 33% per annum, therefore Xs figures
for front-line strength were still too high.60
X replied to these comments. He said that the Luftwaffe and the
RAFs conceptions of front-line strength were different. The RAF calculated,
what X called, Frontstarke (front-line) figures - 9, whilst the Germans
calculated Flugzeuge erster Linie (first-line) figures - 15. He also stated that
Britain was also underestimating the speed of squadron fulfilment, and
reaffirmed his statement about the output of the aircraft industry.61

58 Notes on Xs replies, [n.d.], ibid.


59 Vide supra, note 54
60 Notes on Xs replies, op.cit.
61 Xs replies to Notes on Xs replies, ibid.

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The final Air Ministry reply was complacent considering the


interactive relationship that had sprung up. The Air Ministry refused to
accept any of Xs statements. They refused to accept Xs statement of
first-line strength by saying their definition had been confirmed too many
times. They also refused to accept his statement on the squadron expansion
to 193. The Air Ministry refused to accept Xs information on the squadron
programme, and his information on the output of the aircraft industry. We
do not believe that Germany with her ability and her love of good
organisation would adopt the methods which X has stated ... We are
reasonably sure of the present rate of output. The comments on X
concluded that the Air Ministry was having a fruitless argument.62 The Air
Ministry was satisfied with the quality of its information, but if X had new
information it would be accepted, but the Air Ministry would still maintain a
cautious distance as he has neither revealed his sources, nor his identity for
the purpose of verification.63
The first AID-IIC paper of 1936 wrote that whilst employment had
risen to almost 35,000 and monthly output of frames and engines was 270
and 640 respectively, Germany's rearmament programme per se was
beginning to enter into difficulties due to the faltering supply of raw
materials. Despite this acknowledged problem, the paper went on to state
that many factories were being forced to work only one shift a day, not
because of this problem, but in order to expand their existing plant, and
therefore increase production capacity. Visitors were reporting that factories
were being built and equipped in less than twelve months. Although a
slowing down in rearmament from the scarcity of raw materials, the biggest
stop on output was more likely to be the shortage of skilled labour in many

62 Replies, to above
63 DDI to CAS, 25 March 1936, ibid.

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areas of Germany.64 At the CID meeting Ramsay MacDonald asked if the


increases could be sustained, and Crowe (FCI) affirmed this by saying that
German rearmament was progressing in all spheres. There was no evidence
of raw material shortages affecting aerial expansion according to Swinton.65
In June of that year, the Air Staff received information from the
French intelligence services. The French had estimated the strength of the
Luftwaffe to be 1356 first-line planes and 950 (70%) reserves. They argued
that an estimate of 2000 by December 1936 would not be an exaggeration if
Germany continued to speed up the programme that had originally envisaged
2280 front-line planes, 1500 reserves, and 216 auxiliaries by December
1938. The Air Staff commented upon this document for the CID, as the Air
Staff believed it to be misleading. Firstly, the French calculated 12 front-line
craft per squadron, the RAF counted only the 9 front-line and ignored the 3
immediate reserve. Secondly, the AA in Berlin has visited 23 Luftwaffe
stations, whilst his French counter-part has visited none. When one
subtracted the 3 immediate reserve figures from each squadron, there is
actually little difference between the current French and RAF estimates: 920
and 870 respectively. As for the end of 1936 estimate the AA in Berlin had
informed the Air Staff that there was no speeding up of this programme,
especially that of putting two years expansion into seven months. Germany
was believed to be aiming for 1500 first-line planes by April 1937, but no
plans had been received suggesting the level for 1938.66
A similar instance occurred in July of that year with French
intelligence again. The AA in Paris reported that French Intelligence believed
the Luftwaffe to have 158 squadrons (even if they had not identified 24 of

64 CID 1218-B German Aircraft Industry, 11 March 1936, CAB 4/24


65 CID 275th meeting, 26 March 1936, CAB 2/6
66 CID 1238-B German Air Strength Annex I and II, 9 June 1936, CAB 4/24

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them), and this was a first-line strength of 1500 planes.67 The FO minuted
that any comparison with the RAF must deduct the three immediate reserve,
and ignore the French inclusion of 17 trainer squadrons.68 The Air Ministry
replied to the FOs minute by reassuring them that in no way was the French
information as good as Britains. The RAF had superior military and
industrial contacts.69 The AID-IIC paper of that month did not support the
French figures, as the paper showed only a small increase in output since the
last review.70 Skilled labour shortages, not those of raw materials, were once
again the bottle-necks.
On October 5 1936 two CID papers were circulated by the Air
Ministry. The first was a report on the level of the front-line strength of the
Luftwaffe. It comprised of two sets of figures. The first was the official
German claim of 88 squadrons, and the second was the Air Ministry estimate
of 90 derived from secret and non-secret information.71 The next paper was a
forecast of growth which did not go down so well. The paper estimated that
Germany would possess 1500 front-line aircraft by 1 April 1937. Signs for
this level of growth came from expansion of production, and of training.
However, information from public statements and private conversations
indicated that Germany eventually wanted aerial parity with the Soviet
Union, which, at that time, had the largest airforce in the world. Germany
claimed that it was 4000 planes, whilst the RAF estimated 3500. The Air
Ministry added that:

67 AA Paris Dispatch, 7 July 1936, C4949/3928/18, FO 371/19946


68 FO Minute, 9 July 1936, ibid.
69 Medhurst (Air Ministry) to Wigram (FO), 10 July 1936, C5083/3928/18, ibid.
70 CID 1250-B German Aircraft Industry, 24 July 1936, CAB 4/24
71 CID 1264-B Progress in German Rearmament, 5 October 1936, CAB 4/25

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it would appear that Germany is intending to provide for the greatest possible
expansion and that the relation of this to Russia is a convenience rather than an
indication of military intention.72

As regards this expansion, the Air Staff noted that many pupils were
sent to squadrons to train, as well as keeping the schools fully booked, which
was doing much to dilute the overall quality of squadrons. The war efficiency
of the Luftwaffe would suffer until this process was ended.
This forecast of parity with the Soviet Union, indicating the large scale
expansion of the Luftwaffe, was in part due to the X documents finally
making an impact on Air Ministry thinking. The figure of a German
expansion to at least 3500 front-line planes did not please the FO. Wigram
minuted: The cat seems to be out of the bag at last, the Germans are going
to have the biggest airforce they can irrespective of Russia.73 The FO, so
upset by the apparent inability of the Air Ministry to make any forecast about
the Luftwaffe last with any certainty, prepared their own paper to shame the
Air Ministry.74 The FO paper stated that the latest Air Ministry estimates
(CID 1264-B and 1265-B) said that Germany possessed about 1100 planes
and would, by 1 April 1937, possess 1500. This was to compared to an Air
Ministry forecast of November 1934 which, although forecasting 1296
planes by October 1936, forecast 1500 for January 1939. The Air Ministry
had now said that this would be reached almost two years earlier, and that
the ultimate aim of Germany was now three times this figure: 4500. The Air
Ministry did not respond.
The last AID-IIC paper for 1936 was presented in late November. The
monthly output of frames and engines was now believed to be 320 and 850
respectively, with employment now at 57,500. The paper noted that the real
72 CID 1265-B Future of German Rearmament, 5 October 1936, CAB 4/25
73 Wigram Minute, 9 October 1936, C7044/3928/18, FO 371/19947
74 FO Memo Air Ministry Estimates of German Air Strength, 1933-1936, 27

October 1936, C7640/3928/, FO 371/19947

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increase in capacity and output was continuing to rise. If the bottle-necks in


the supply of raw materials and skilled labour were removed Germany could
go for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week output, and produce 1000
planes a month. In reality, however, it was unlikely that they could be
removed as the skilled labour did not exist unless the rearmament
programmes for the other services were scaled down to release the labour.75

75 CID 1284-B German Aircraft Industry, 28 November 1936, CAB 4/25

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The rise of Adolf Hitler and the beginning of German rearmament


together caused greater government interest in intelligence than at any time
since the breach of Anglo-Soviet relations in 1927.1 The identification of
Germany as the prime target did not do much to satisfy this need for
information on her rearmament programme. It was known that Germany had
done much to evade the de-militarization clauses of Versailles.2 It was also
well known to Britain that she had done much to organise her munitions
industry in the 1920s for an emergency,3 and that her engineering industry, if
sufficiently organised, had the potential capacity to produce a great supply of
armaments.4 The fact remained that in 1933 Germanys plans for rearmament
were largely on paper, and even so, were camouflaged by great secrecy. As
Wesley Wark correctly points out, British intelligence would not have an
easy task in assessing the growth of Germanys aerial rearmament when it
started ab initio and had access to almost unlimited financial backing and to
one of the worlds most powerful economies.5

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1933


The first AID paper of 1933 argued that, in the light of evidence on
Germanys aerial rearmament that had come to their attention since March

1 C. Andrew, Secret Intelligence and British Foreign Policy, 1900-1939, in C.

Andrew and J. Noakes (eds.), Intelligence and International Relations, 1900-1945


(Exeter, 1987), p.22
2 COS 310 Imperial Defence Policy, October 1933, CAB 4/22; CP184(33)
Indications of Germany's Disregardment of Part V of Versailles, Annex II, July 1933,
AIR 2/1353
3 CID 1106-B Foreign Armaments Industries: Note by Chairman, Principal
Supply Officers Committee, 27 March 1933, CAB 4/22
4 ATB(EP)8 Some Notes on German Industry and Industrial Capacity, 1 April
1933, CAB 47/8; IIC Memo., 9 June 1935, C4687/4687/18, FO 371/18882
5 W. Wark, The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany,
1933-1939 (London, 1985), p.37

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1932, German plans for the formation of airforces in Germany were almost
complete.6 For this they cited the number of aircraft believed to exist (at
least 127), their non-civilian (i.e. military) specifications, their location at
government controlled training schools, the number of pilots trained therein
(far in excess of civilian needs), the placing of orders for airframes and
engines by the German Ministry of Defence, and the fact that an aviation
ministry was about to be created. The AA in Berlin expected that Germany
would have established 7 reconnaissance and 21 fighter squadrons by the
end of that year. The AI4s review paper in May further added to this picture
when it reported that the rise in the industrial budget of rearmament had risen
from 15 million Reichsmarks to 57 million, and commented that it was
phenomenal as only 11 million Reichsmarks had been allocated in
1932-1933.7 The scale of illegal subsidies was believed to be considerable.8
The basis of these reports and the fact that the German Defence Ministry,
and Gring, a leading Nazi chosen for the post of Reichskommisar for
aviation, were closely co-ordinating all aspects of aviation in Germany led
the Air Ministry to state that every facility would appear to exist for the
accommodation of airforce of considerable size.9 Although it was only a
few months later, the AI4 section of the AID stated that there were no plans

6. AI4 Preparations for the establishment of a German Air Arm (1), 18

February 1933, ibid.; MI3b Recent Evidence Regarding the Accelaration of German
Rearmament and Organization, 23 February 1933, WO 190/174
7 AI4 Preparations for the establishment of a German Air Arm (2), 4 May
1933, ibid.
8. Annex I of CP184(33), AIR 2/1353; French paper Principle Breaches of the
Military and Air Clauses of Versailles and Subsequent Agreements, August 1933,
C6942/254/18, AIR 2/1354
9 Infrigements of the air clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, 5 July 1933, AIR
2/1353

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existed for wartime mass production methods to be implemented as of yet. It


believed that only 400 planes of all types would exist by the end of 1933.10
It was not until 1934 that intelligence on the emergent Luftwaffe was
digested by anyone outside the Air Ministry. This was because that although
the machinery for intelligence had become mobilised in early 1933 it still had
to pick up pace, and had to do its best against the excessive secrecy that the
Nazis covered their rearmament programme with.

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1934


The first paper presented to the CID on German aircraft production
noted that since Hitler and the Nazi Party had come to power in Germany,
the aircraft industry had expanded by 50% in one year, and that this
expansion was in no sense a natural industrial development. Its justification
lies solely in orders placed on behalf of the Reich, or Nazi organisations ... in
direct defiance of the [Versailles] Treaty.11 It argued that once production
measures were fully utilised Germanys capacity to construct military
aircraft will reach formidable proportions, but concluded that the factor
limiting the creation of an airforce would be the lack of trained personnel,
staff and leaders, not output.12
This mirror-imaging of values did not solely extend to the strategy of
the Luftwaffe, and nor was the Air Ministry the only culprit. The civilian
consumers of air intelligence also viewed the organisational build-up and
framework of the Luftwaffe from the RAF perspective of the 1920s. Maurice
Hankey wrote:

10 AI4 Memo., 28 November 1933, AIR 2/1355


11 CID 1134-B German Industrial Measures for Rearmament and Aircraft

Production, 22 March 1934, CAB 4/22


12 Ibid.

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In a few years time Germany might have as many first-line aeroplanes and pilots
as we have; but pilots and airplanes do not make an airforce. It takes years of
intensive effort and training to build up an airforce to a state of efficiency with the
RAF ... The Germans are efficient people, but they are not supermen.13

The DCAS wrote that only one German air division would be
established by 1 October 1935, and that only two more would be established
by 1939. That appears to me to be more than Germany would probably
attempt to do if she were aiming at efficiency.14 An Air Staff memo a week
later reiterated this plan of slow and efficient expansion by Germany when it
said:
This must be regarded as the maximum rate since it must not be assumed that a
nation so admittedly thorough as Germany will be content with a mere window
dressing of aircraft and pilots ... we can assume that they will go to great lengths
to realise their plans at the earliest possible moment. But they cannot achieve the
impossible.15

Germany would be unlikely to surpass the first line strength of 820


planes. The AID was so dismissive of Germanys plans for expansion that,
although she had 1000 planes of all types, she did not yet have the
organisational framework to make these planes truly efficient. The AID
claimed, therefore, that no real German units existed,16 despite the
Secretary of State for Air admitting that British information on German
rearmament was very incomplete.17

13 Hankey to Vansittart, 5 March 1934, CAB 21/434


14 DCAS to CAS, 22 May 1934, AIR 9/69
15 Air Staff Memo Estimate of the Requirements for the Security of Great

Britain against air attack from Germany, 29 May 1934, original emphasis
16 Answer by AI to CAS instructions. re: German air strength, November 1934,
AIR 9/24
17 DC(M)(32)115, Note by Secretary of State for Air, 29 May 1934, CAB
16/111

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Despite being accused by the FO of minimising the danger,18 the


picture of efficiency governing the growth of the Luftwaffe continued. The
CIDs Imperial Defence Policy paper estimated that, by 1 October 1935,
the total strength of the Luftwaffe would be 504 planes of all types.19 It
claimed that the ultimate intention of the Luftwaffe was to form three, or
possibly four, air divisions. The CID paper said that evidence in support of
this came from a Luftwaffe war-game staff exercise which envisaged such a
line-up at the outbreak of war. At best, such a conclusion for intelligence
purposes is dubious because the scenarios of war-games are hypothetical and
in no way necessarily correspond to the aims, intentions and strategic
appreciations of a military leadership. Yet the further comment of this paper
shows again the uncritical attitude of intelligence consumers at this early
stage:
Further assumptions leading to this conclusion are that the first air division in
process of formation is numbered the First Air Division, thereby disclosing an
apparent intention to create others; and, in addition, to the fact that the German
plans are to deal in multiples of three.20

This was reaffirmed by a AID memo presented as a CID paper.21 This


CID paper, which commented upon the expansion of the German aircraft
industry, said that its picture of expansion last March had been confirmed by
intelligence since received. It noted that reserves were being accumulated,
and although the exact level was not known, the important fact to note was
that German productive capability was enough to supply reserves as well as
front-line craft. Output was believed to have risen by at least 50% since the
start of 1934, although the estimated potential capacity of the industry was

18 Vansittart Minute, 19 June 1934, C3511/31/18, FO 371/17712


19 CID 1148-B "Imperial Defence Policy," 23 October 1934, CAB 4/23
20 Ibid.
21 CID 1150-B "German Rearmament," November 1934, CAB 4/23

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not believed to have risen since the last AID-IIC paper.22 The paper
concluded by stating that Germany, by December 1935, planned to have
900-1000 planes of all types, and that these plans appeared to be in the
process of fulfilment. Two days later, the MA in Paris reported that Germany
was aiming for 1300 front-line planes by October 1936.23
The second AID/IIC paper reaffirmed this picture of expansion. It
stated that although recent evidence was conflicting in detail, the wider view
of the German aircraft industry leaves little doubt that considerable
expansion of output and capacity has taken place since the beginning of last
year and is continuing.24 It was estimated that employment figures had risen
by 90% since December 1933, and that although estimates vary
considerably output of engines was believed to be 210-250 per month, and
frames, 140-175. If these figures were correct, then in the ten months from
January to October of 1934, Germany had built 850 planes of all types. This,
therefore, pushed Germanys figures to 2300, though it was believed that
only 550 were pure military types, with 250 civil-military convertibles. This
was only 100 planes above the French intelligence estimate of 450 purely
military types.25 The General Staff felt that they were not in a position to
comment on the facts of this paper.26 The CID was told at the discussion
that, due to information received in the last four weeks, output showed a
substantial increase. The figures for frames had to be revised upwards to
160-180, and for engines, 250-300.27 The MA and AA in Berlin were still
warning about the impenetrable cloak of secrecy in Germany.28

22 Ibid.; Vide supra, note 11


23 MA Paris Dispatch, 24 October 1934, AIR 2/1355
24 CID 1151-B "German Aircraft Industry," 5 November 1934, CAB 4/23
25 AA Paris Dispatch, 15 November 1934, FO 371/17713
26 WO 190/275
27 CID 266th meeting, 22 November 1934, CAB 2/6
28 German Rearmament, 26 November 1934, C8126/20/18, AIR 2/1355

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A forecast on the expansion of the Luftwaffe shortly appeared on the


basis of these CID papers, the contents of which were deemed to be upto
date and reliable in the first meeting of the Cabinet Committee on German
Rearmament,29 and it was used as a supplement to the AID memo.30 The
AID memo had said that the ultimate aim of Germany was to possess three
to four air divisions, which would roughly equal a first-line strength of 1500
planes. Information received since its compilation indicated that a second
stage of aerial expansion was underway. By 1 October 1936, Germany, it
was estimated, would possess a front-line strength of 1368 planes, 1296
reserves, 400 trainers and 200 reserve trainers: in short, 3264 planes of all
types.31 The WO had no information on which to criticise these
forecasts;32 the CID merely took note of its existence.33

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1935


In late March 1935 Hitler announced to Sir John Simon and Sir
Antony Eden that the front-line strength of the Luftwaffe was equal to that of
the RAF. Confusion initially reigned as to what Hitler had actually said and
what he had meant by this statement of front-line parity. The AA in Berlin
knew that Hitlers figures for the RAF, as well as those for the Luftwaffe
were exaggerated.34 After a conversation with Wenninger of the RLM, the
AA concluded that Hitlers statement was not an exact or carefully prepared
announcement but a more or less loose statement with no very close

29 GR(34) Minutes of 1st

meeting of Cabinet Committee of German

Rearmament, CAB 27/572


30 Vide supra, note 21
31 CID 1159-B Position of German Air Rearmament, 20 November 1934, 30
November 1934, CAB 4/23
32 Position of German Rearmament, 18 February 1935, WO 190/300
33 CID 268th meeting, 25 February 1935, CAB 2/6
34 AA Berlin to Courtney (DCAS), 28 March 1935, AIR 2/2708

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relationship to actual figures.35 The Air Staff, once again mirror-imaging


their values, said:
If this claim is interpreted as meaning that Germany has already created an
airforce of that size [800-850 planes] consisting of fully organised, trained and
equipped front-line squadrons ... it is a serious overstatement of her present
position.36

Unimpressed, Cresswell wrote:


The Air Ministry shirk the issue of front-line strength. This is no doubt because
they do not know the figure exactly ... it seems to me that [the] Air Ministry
should be asked to provide at once a clear, brief categorical statement of what
they think the state of German armaments to be.37

In an effort to find out the truth, the AA in Berlin, had a conversation


with Milch, the German State Secretary of Aviation. Milch confirmed that
Hitler had been referring to the front-line strength of the RAF and the
Luftwaffe. Parity with the RAF was merely a stage on the way to achieving
parity with French land and air forces. Germany, therefore, was aiming for a
front-line strength of 2000 planes.38 Sir John Simon wrote a day later, saying
that I can see no likely motive for the German Air Ministry to deliberately
exaggerate to our AA the figure of their present air armaments.39
The first AID-IIC paper to follow this estimated that on 1 April 1935,
the German aircraft industry employed 28,000 workers (an 83% increase),
and an output of 200 frames and 500 engines per month. The Luftwaffe
possessed a total of 3000 airplanes of all types, of which 1320 were
35 Don to DAI, 3 April 1935, AIR 2/1356; Bullock to the FO, 5 April 1935, AIR

2/2708
36 German Air Expansion and its effects on the Security of this Country, April

1935, AIR 9/24


37 Cresswell, C2881/55/18, FO 371/ibid.
38 AA Berlin to Courtney (DCAS), 9 April 1935, AIR 2/1356
39 Simon to MacDonald, 10 April 1935, C3087/55/18, FO 371/18835

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front-line types.40 The Air Ministry believed that the Luftwaffe had reserves
of 550 planes, and that from the 220 produced every month, 90 were military
types. By spring 1936 output was thought likely to increase to 1300 per
month of all types, although any estimate of German first-line strength
beyond the Spring of 1936 is pure guess-work, the Air Ministry see no
reason why Germany should not have 2000 first-line machines by 1939 if she
wished.41 It was said at the first meeting of the Air Parity Sub-Committee
that unless information was received to the contrary Hitler's statement of
parity would have to be accepted, even though the German squadrons could
in no way be as efficient as those of the RAF.42 One week later this was
reaffirmed when the Sub-Committee said to what extent these aircraft have,
in point of fact, been organised into squadrons is a matter of speculation.43
It argued that:
from the profession point of view it would be unsound to allot as much as 850
[of the 1425 planes of all types in existence] to the squadrons and to keep only
125 in reserve, but it is quite possible that the Germans have actually taken this
step.44

The Air Ministry was reported as doing all in its power to obtain accurate
information, yet as the report further stated:
On the important question of intelligence ... the Air Ministry have informed us
that a larger provision of money will be required for the purpose of its collection,
failing which it will be difficult to acquire information in any increased degree. We

40 CID 1172-B German Aircraft Industry 11 April 1935, CAB 4/23;

Londonderry to PM, 17 April 1935, AIR 8/186


41 Comparative Strengths of Air Forces in Germany, France and the UK, 14
April 1935, AIR 8/186
42 Minutes of Air Parity Sub-Committee (1st Meeting), 1 May 1935, CAB
27/518
43 DC(M)(32)141 Report by Sub-Committee on Air Parity for Ministerial
Committee on Defence Requirements, 8 May 1935, ibid.
44 Ibid.

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are of the opinion that an enlarged provision should be made for this highly
necessary work.45

This appears not to have been acknowledged by the sub-committee,


nor any other body. An earlier request to increase the SIS budget had been
refused.46
Preconceptions about efficiency continued into June when the Air
Staff reported upon the AAs conversation with Gring. An overview of the
interview led the Air Staff to conclude that the principles of efficiency which
were observed in Britain, were not in Germany. For example, Gring said
that entire squadrons were trained in one go, so they can be transferred to
aerodromes in toto, where the AA commented, they appeared to undergo
further training. In other words, a proportion of the first-line strength, exists
only on paper.47 Gring said that in the event of war he would cut into his
own flying schools to mobilise aircraft. The AA said:
On his own admission, therefore, General Gring is forced to admit that he
would today have to cut into his own training establishments in order to provide
for his own service units. This can only indicate that personnel for some of these
units at any rate do not exist.

Gring also claimed that some of the pilots who immediately graduated
became instructors. Summing up, the AA wrote:
these statements and explanations by General Goring during the interview leave
little doubt that the original assertion that Germany possessed 800-850 first-line
aircraft had been forced upon the German Air Ministry by political circumstances
... Whilst Germany is undoubtedly making every effort to expand as quickly as
possible and is making remarkable progress, there is considerable doubt whether
she has yet attained the actual first-line strength claimed by her in March.

45 Ibid.
46 CP100(35), 13 May 1935, CAB 24/255
47 CID 1180-B Air Staff Appreciation of the Position in June 1935, 14 June

1935, CAB 4/23

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The Air Staff argued that Germany could possess 2000 first-line
aircraft at the end of the year, but it would be at the cost of having to
sacrifice her reserves, and therefore, she would still have no real first-line
strength as defined by Britain in terms of reserves, back-up and
organisation.48 The IIC said that by April 1937 Germany could well have
1500 front-line planes, but if her rate of expansion maintained the same
speed as it had done in the last six months, it could well be 2000.49 The Air
Ministry confirmed the IICs first figure of 1500 by April 1937 one month
later to the CID.50 Two months later, in September, the AID estimated that
Germany possessed 1730 military types together with 200 civil-military
convertibles.51 Output had now risen to about 225 frames and about 560
engines a month; employment was 35,000.
In view of these events the DRCs Third Report had called for more
spending on the SIS. It wanted 500,000 a year to prevent Britain from being
seriously disadvantaged on the intelligence picture of Germany.52 It was not
agreed upon until February 1936, and then in principle only. The SIS only
received the sum of 500,000 in 1939.53

The Intelligence Picture on the Luftwaffe, 1936

48 Ibid.
49 IIC Memo., 9 June 1935, C4687/4687/18, FO 371/18882
50 DRC 23 Summary of the latest information available regarding the expansion

of the German and Japanese Forces, Air Ministry letter to the Secretary of the CID, 16
July 1935, CAB 16/112
51 CID 1186-B German Aircraft Industry, 9 September 1935, CAB 4/23
52 DRC 37 Programmes of the Defence Services: Third Report: Volume I,
November 1935, CAB 24/259
53 DPR(DP)9 Programmes of the Defence Services, 12 February 1936, CAB
24/259; Cf: Appendix A

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In early 1936 the Air Ministry received intelligence from a secret


source in Germany. This intelligence is of particular interest to the historian
for two reasons. Firstly, it is one of the few intelligence reports from a secret
source (who came to be known as X) in the Air Ministry files which was
sent in its original form, i.e. that it was not summarised by any assessor.
Secondly, and far more importantly, the whole episode of the X documents
helps to reveal how the Air Ministry worked when assessing reports.
The first paper was received in February 1936. It argued that between
1 April 1933 and 1 April 1936 German had built 9800 planes, of which 4132
were trainers. This, therefore, left 5688 pure military types, if those, X
argued, built in or in existence in 1933 were excluded from consideration. X
further said that if Britain wished to calculate Germany's first-line strength on
1 April 1936 they should ignore the 1933 figures and also deduct 30%, from
the 5688, to allow for wastage. If this was done the first-line strength was
3780. X further stated that Germany had planned to build 11800 planes
between 1 April 1933 and 31 December 1938, and that of this total, 6132
military types remained to be built. German productive capacity, he stated,
was to be 6000 types per annum on a three shift basis.54
The CAS wrote to the Air Minister saying that these figures were not
supported by the evidence the Air Ministry possessed. For example, 9800
planes built in three years equalled a monthly output of 270 planes. The
Germans were believed not to have reached this figure and would not to be
able to do so by 1 April 1936. Xs figure of 9132 planes to be built from this
date to 31 December 1938 again equalled an output of 270. The CAS
argued that X appeared to be assuming that output on 1 April 1933 was
already 270 a month was it was not.55

54 X Doc. Present Strength and Future Development of the German Air Force as

Revised in December 1935, AIR 40/2102


55 CAS to Air Minister (Minute no.2), 13 February 1936, ibid.

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Detailed questions were sent to X wanting him to specify his


contentions more clearly. The three most important questions were as
follows.

Firstly,
It is stated that 9800 aircraft have been built in the three years from 1 April
1933. This is equivalent to an average monthly output of slightly over 270 a
month. Is it contended that the aircraft industry was in a position to produce this
output as early as 1933?

Secondly,
A considered [RAF] estimate of the output of the aircraft industry on 1 April
1933 was about 50 a month. If this is correct, and the industry has expanded
steadily since then, and in order to achieve a total of 9800 aircraft by 1 April
1936, the monthly output must have been approximately 490. Is it suggested that
this is the correct figure?

Lastly,
How do you calculate the 33% wastage factor between 1 April
April 1936?56

1933 and 1

X replied as follows. Firstly, No: it is not so contended. Secondly,


he said that there were no exact figures for monthly output available, and the
(RAF) estimate for 1 April 1933 was considerably below the mark. Many
built were small trainers, about 40% of the figure by 1 April 1936. These
were built quicker, and therefore, boosted the output figures faster than
military types. Lastly, he considered the 33% figure for wastage to be ample.
X also stated that all squadrons have 15 front-line planes. Therefore, on 31
December 1938 the Luftwaffe would possess 2970 planes. He stated that
This is entirely correct according to the official German methods of
calculating.57

56 Questions arising out of a Secret Document, Organization of the German Air

Force, December 1935 , ibid.


57 X replies, [n.d], ibid.

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The Air Ministry responded. They disagreed with X on his methods of


counting planes in squadrons, i.e. he counted those held as reserves. Official
German statements and AA information said that each squadron had 12
planes: nine front-line and three immediate reserve. Only X and the French
intelligence services counted 15: nine front-line, three immediate reserve,
and three non-squadron reserve.58 The Air Ministry also disagreed with Xs
information on the expansion of squadrons. He had originally said that the
Luftwaffe would possess 99 by 1 April 1936. The Air Ministry replied: if
anything, Germany is behind this programme and not, as this document
suggests, six months ahead.59 They reaffirmed this by arguing that it would
not be completed before 1 October 1936 even if Germany had only 9 planes
per squadron. They further disagreed upon the capacity of the German
aircraft industry. Xs replies were unconvincing ... [and] we consider his
arguments are unsound in view of the industry's small beginnings in
1932-1933. The German aircraft industry must have been built up steadily,
and had not been subject to a large expansion, then consolidation. Also, Xs
figures of 33% for wastage over three years were too small. The Air Ministry
considered it more likely that it was 33% per annum, therefore Xs figures
for front-line strength were still too high.60
X replied to these comments. He said that the Luftwaffe and the
RAFs conceptions of front-line strength were different. The RAF calculated,
what X called, Frontstarke (front-line) figures - 9, whilst the Germans
calculated Flugzeuge erster Linie (first-line) figures - 15. He also stated that
Britain was also underestimating the speed of squadron fulfilment, and
reaffirmed his statement about the output of the aircraft industry.61

58 Notes on Xs replies, [n.d.], ibid.


59 Vide supra, note 54
60 Notes on Xs replies, op.cit.
61 Xs replies to Notes on Xs replies, ibid.

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The final Air Ministry reply was complacent considering the


interactive relationship that had sprung up. The Air Ministry refused to
accept any of Xs statements. They refused to accept Xs statement of
first-line strength by saying their definition had been confirmed too many
times. They also refused to accept his statement on the squadron expansion
to 193. The Air Ministry refused to accept Xs information on the squadron
programme, and his information on the output of the aircraft industry. We
do not believe that Germany with her ability and her love of good
organisation would adopt the methods which X has stated ... We are
reasonably sure of the present rate of output. The comments on X
concluded that the Air Ministry was having a fruitless argument.62 The Air
Ministry was satisfied with the quality of its information, but if X had new
information it would be accepted, but the Air Ministry would still maintain a
cautious distance as he has neither revealed his sources, nor his identity for
the purpose of verification.63
The first AID-IIC paper of 1936 wrote that whilst employment had
risen to almost 35,000 and monthly output of frames and engines was 270
and 640 respectively, Germany's rearmament programme per se was
beginning to enter into difficulties due to the faltering supply of raw
materials. Despite this acknowledged problem, the paper went on to state
that many factories were being forced to work only one shift a day, not
because of this problem, but in order to expand their existing plant, and
therefore increase production capacity. Visitors were reporting that factories
were being built and equipped in less than twelve months. Although a
slowing down in rearmament from the scarcity of raw materials, the biggest
stop on output was more likely to be the shortage of skilled labour in many

62 Replies, to above
63 DDI to CAS, 25 March 1936, ibid.

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areas of Germany.64 At the CID meeting Ramsay MacDonald asked if the


increases could be sustained, and Crowe (FCI) affirmed this by saying that
German rearmament was progressing in all spheres. There was no evidence
of raw material shortages affecting aerial expansion according to Swinton.65
In June of that year, the Air Staff received information from the
French intelligence services. The French had estimated the strength of the
Luftwaffe to be 1356 first-line planes and 950 (70%) reserves. They argued
that an estimate of 2000 by December 1936 would not be an exaggeration if
Germany continued to speed up the programme that had originally envisaged
2280 front-line planes, 1500 reserves, and 216 auxiliaries by December
1938. The Air Staff commented upon this document for the CID, as the Air
Staff believed it to be misleading. Firstly, the French calculated 12 front-line
craft per squadron, the RAF counted only the 9 front-line and ignored the 3
immediate reserve. Secondly, the AA in Berlin has visited 23 Luftwaffe
stations, whilst his French counter-part has visited none. When one
subtracted the 3 immediate reserve figures from each squadron, there is
actually little difference between the current French and RAF estimates: 920
and 870 respectively. As for the end of 1936 estimate the AA in Berlin had
informed the Air Staff that there was no speeding up of this programme,
especially that of putting two years expansion into seven months. Germany
was believed to be aiming for 1500 first-line planes by April 1937, but no
plans had been received suggesting the level for 1938.66
A similar instance occurred in July of that year with French
intelligence again. The AA in Paris reported that French Intelligence believed
the Luftwaffe to have 158 squadrons (even if they had not identified 24 of

64 CID 1218-B German Aircraft Industry, 11 March 1936, CAB 4/24


65 CID 275th meeting, 26 March 1936, CAB 2/6
66 CID 1238-B German Air Strength Annex I and II, 9 June 1936, CAB 4/24

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them), and this was a first-line strength of 1500 planes.67 The FO minuted
that any comparison with the RAF must deduct the three immediate reserve,
and ignore the French inclusion of 17 trainer squadrons.68 The Air Ministry
replied to the FOs minute by reassuring them that in no way was the French
information as good as Britains. The RAF had superior military and
industrial contacts.69 The AID-IIC paper of that month did not support the
French figures, as the paper showed only a small increase in output since the
last review.70 Skilled labour shortages, not those of raw materials, were once
again the bottle-necks.
On October 5 1936 two CID papers were circulated by the Air
Ministry. The first was a report on the level of the front-line strength of the
Luftwaffe. It comprised of two sets of figures. The first was the official
German claim of 88 squadrons, and the second was the Air Ministry estimate
of 90 derived from secret and non-secret information.71 The next paper was a
forecast of growth which did not go down so well. The paper estimated that
Germany would possess 1500 front-line aircraft by 1 April 1937. Signs for
this level of growth came from expansion of production, and of training.
However, information from public statements and private conversations
indicated that Germany eventually wanted aerial parity with the Soviet
Union, which, at that time, had the largest airforce in the world. Germany
claimed that it was 4000 planes, whilst the RAF estimated 3500. The Air
Ministry added that:

67 AA Paris Dispatch, 7 July 1936, C4949/3928/18, FO 371/19946


68 FO Minute, 9 July 1936, ibid.
69 Medhurst (Air Ministry) to Wigram (FO), 10 July 1936, C5083/3928/18, ibid.
70 CID 1250-B German Aircraft Industry, 24 July 1936, CAB 4/24
71 CID 1264-B Progress in German Rearmament, 5 October 1936, CAB 4/25

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it would appear that Germany is intending to provide for the greatest possible
expansion and that the relation of this to Russia is a convenience rather than an
indication of military intention.72

As regards this expansion, the Air Staff noted that many pupils were
sent to squadrons to train, as well as keeping the schools fully booked, which
was doing much to dilute the overall quality of squadrons. The war efficiency
of the Luftwaffe would suffer until this process was ended.
This forecast of parity with the Soviet Union, indicating the large scale
expansion of the Luftwaffe, was in part due to the X documents finally
making an impact on Air Ministry thinking. The figure of a German
expansion to at least 3500 front-line planes did not please the FO. Wigram
minuted: The cat seems to be out of the bag at last, the Germans are going
to have the biggest airforce they can irrespective of Russia.73 The FO, so
upset by the apparent inability of the Air Ministry to make any forecast about
the Luftwaffe last with any certainty, prepared their own paper to shame the
Air Ministry.74 The FO paper stated that the latest Air Ministry estimates
(CID 1264-B and 1265-B) said that Germany possessed about 1100 planes
and would, by 1 April 1937, possess 1500. This was to compared to an Air
Ministry forecast of November 1934 which, although forecasting 1296
planes by October 1936, forecast 1500 for January 1939. The Air Ministry
had now said that this would be reached almost two years earlier, and that
the ultimate aim of Germany was now three times this figure: 4500. The Air
Ministry did not respond.
The last AID-IIC paper for 1936 was presented in late November. The
monthly output of frames and engines was now believed to be 320 and 850
respectively, with employment now at 57,500. The paper noted that the real
72 CID 1265-B Future of German Rearmament, 5 October 1936, CAB 4/25
73 Wigram Minute, 9 October 1936, C7044/3928/18, FO 371/19947
74 FO Memo Air Ministry Estimates of German Air Strength, 1933-1936, 27

October 1936, C7640/3928/, FO 371/19947

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increase in capacity and output was continuing to rise. If the bottle-necks in


the supply of raw materials and skilled labour were removed Germany could
go for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week output, and produce 1000
planes a month. In reality, however, it was unlikely that they could be
removed as the skilled labour did not exist unless the rearmament
programmes for the other services were scaled down to release the labour.75

75 CID 1284-B German Aircraft Industry, 28 November 1936, CAB 4/25

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