No. 318 NAI DFA 2006/39

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No.58) (Secret) (Copy)

London, 25 October 1940

I learned from a well-informed friend that the danger of an invasion of Britain is regarded as remote. As a factor in the development of the war he thinks it now almost negligible. A neutral Ambassador in London told him that Goering recently urged a colleague of his – the Ambassador's – not to refer to the invasion when speaking to the Fuehrer. Their failure to invade Britain was a constant grief to him. They were bothered about the Fuehrer's health and they didn't want him to be aggravated by any reference to the invasion.

Notwithstanding what the newspapers might say he felt confident that America would not enter the war. This view was strongly held by the American Ambassador who is now on his way to Washington.

On the question of the defence against German air raids my friend said that from the reports of the experts the British Cabinet felt that they were now in a strong position about the daylight raids – 'Although an occasional raider may get through, in the daytime fighting we have the Germans whacked'. A deafening explosion and huge columns of smoke about 100 yards from this office (12.00 noon today) with women falling in Piccadilly from fright, no warning until 12.05, suggest that my friend was indulging in undue optimism in his use of the world 'Whacked'.1

The night raids presented of course a difficult problem, but the latest types of Spitfires, Hurricanes,2 and Defiants3 would be much more effective. The guns on the Spitfire and the Hurricane are in the forepart of the machine and can only fire frontwards. The Defiants have their guns in the tail and cannot therefore fire frontwards but the gun is movable and can fire backwards in rather more than a semi-circle from left to right, and, what is very important, can fire upwards or downwards. Their principal hope however is in the important technical developments for detection of enemy planes. This is done by radio projection. If the projection reaches nothing no indication is made on the dial in front of the pilot but if it does reach an aeroplane it returns to the pilot making a luminous spot about the size of a pocket watch on the dial in front of him. This is a definite location of the plane and the pilot is then able to follow it however dark the night and fight his adversary. I asked what would happen if this detector located a friendly instead of an enemy plane. The answer was that it shows a different kind of luminous sport on the pilot's dial. They were getting these radio detectors into their planes as quickly as possible and in a few months time they hope to have most of their planes so equipped. At present the radio projector was bringing down on an average an enemy plane once a week. By the turn of the year they hoped to see that number greatly increased. This week a British plane – Defiant – was able by its radio apparatus to detect a German bomber, followed it for 150 miles and by shooting from below brought it down near Liverpool.

These developments were the result of several years research and were only now coming to fruition. Had the fall of France taken place six or nine months later than it had the history of aerial warfare for the British would have been very different, and far more favourable for them. They had, he thought, not done badly but a good deal of their night fighting had been worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. They are now confident that before long they will have the mastery in night fighting.

I reminded my friend of the fecundity of resource which the German scientists had shown in the last war – was it not likely that they were developing these highly technical devices? He thought not. From their experience in night flying over Germany they thought that the Germans had not even started on the problem of night interception by scientific measure. A German plane could start from Dieppe and be over London in twenty minutes. A British plane had to travel over an immense part of German territory before raiding their targets and the losses in the night trips were very small indeed.

There were however other ways in which the Germans were much better than the British. I asked him for an example. He said that their rubber boats were far ahead of anything the British had. When a German airman bales out of his machine over the sea he has attached to his back not only a parachute but a folded rubber boat. The latter on impact in the sea by some chemical action immediately opens and the pilot is comfortably seated in a boat which will stand even rough seas. It is painted yellow, the best colour for detection from the air, and in addition it emits a vapour. The colour of the boat and the vapour enable a German airman to see his colleague in the water with ease.

My friend said that it would probably sound monotonous to the uninformed listener to hear of repeated visits by the British air force to comparatively unknown places in Germany. Our tactics he said are to pick the eyes out of German industry. We went recently to the biggest ball-bearing producing centre in all Germany and the photographs show that we put it completely out of action.

On the point of avoiding hitting civilians the photographs of Hamburg revealed that whilst the residential parts were practically intact, save for one small bit, there was scarcely a brick left standing on a brick of the warehouses at the docks.

I asked him about the economic position of this country. He said he thought the picture given by Maynard Keynes4 in a recent broadcast and recent articles was painted in much too optimistic a colour.

He was called away suddenly to a meeting and I had not the opportunity to ask him about the Mediterranean which of course again looks as though it might be the decisive theatre of the war.

1 Handwritten sentence inserted in the margin by Dulanty.

2 Hawker Hurricane, a British fighter aircraft, which entered service in 1937, and which was the workhorse of the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

3 Boulton-Paul Defiant, a British fighter-bomber aircraft used as an interceptor in the early years of the Second World War. The sole-armament of a rear turret was found to be a considerable drawback.

4 John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), British economist, author The General theory of employment, interest and money (1936) and a founder of modern macroeconomics.

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