Media reported that the question of whether The Luftwaffe could win Britain in 1940 was almost a point of contention from the moment the first shot was fired. Now, a team of mathematicians from the University of York has decided to answer this question using a statistical technique. The Battle of Britain was one of the decisive battles of the Second World War.
Between May and October 1940, Britain was still struggling with the fall of France and the Great Retreat of Dunkirk, while the German Air Force had fought overwhelmingly over Britain by destroying the wings of RAF fighter jets to clear the way for its invasion of the country.
However, it was later thought that many of the factors – some of which were still a mystery – were still a mystery, and that The British had succeeded in repeling German bombers and fighter jets, so Hitler had to abandon his invasion plans. And since then, the question has been that if the Germans had made a better decision, would they have won the battle and eventually occupied the British?
Of course, this is a classic example of an unproven hypothesis, but the York team has come up with a new computer model that calculates the statistical probability of different scenarios by using “weighted self-lifting”.
What if Hitler decided not to bomb London? What if the Air Force, commanded by Reich Marshall Goring, focused only on ground-based strikes against RAF airports and fighter jets? What if the operation had been fully launched earlier?
The researchers compared weighted self-lifting techniques with placing balls representing daily combat events in a Lotto draw machine. When balls are taken out, read, and replaced, they calculate alternatives for battles, but events are processed in different order, some more frequently and some are not happening at all.
While the study still can’t give a definitive answer, it does suggest that if the Luftwaffe started bombing earlier and insisted on attacking the airport, they would have won much more likely. In other words, if The UK has a 50 per cent chance of winning, the two decisions will reduce the odds to 10 per cent. If 98 per cent of people support the UK, it is 34 per cent.
Niall Mackay, of the University of York’s Department of Mathematics, says weighted self-raising can provide historians with a natural and intuitive tool for investigating unrealized possibilities and providing information for historical disputes and debates.