This is a preliminary assessment that aims to show the impact of operations on plane availability. Wastage. This does not just cover combat losses, but also cases where planes have been ‘pranged’ during non-combat operations. The loss reports are on a weekly basis, and formed part of a set of statistics also including enemy losses. Taken together they provided Royal Air Force planners with a running picture of comparative air strength.
Blenheim on water-logged Gambut landing ground east of Tobruk, December 1941. IWM
Losses are being defined as write-offs (Cat. E) and need for return to base workshop (Cat. B) – see the explanation here. The loss figures extend to week ending 13 February but do not include the week 6 February, which is missing, although given the very high losses in the week 13 Feb it is possible that it includes both. The ratio calculated is planes lost compared to planes available at the start of the battle.
The brunt of the losses in the battle was borne by the single-engine fighters, which accounted for 61% of total losses, and the light bombers, which accounted for another 19%. 11% of the losses were Wellingtons, and the rest is accounted for by various types.
While the tables contain more detailed information, the below calculations only cover the most common types.
Losses by type
- Hurricanes 74%
- Tomahawks 112%
- Blenheims 60%
- Wellingtons 49%
- Beaufighters 58%
It is also of interest to compare the ratio of lost to severely damaged planes. For example, the Beaufighter has the highest ratio of Cat.B (serious but repairable) casualties, at 43%. By comparison, the Blenheim has only 24%. This could be an indication of a plane’s toughness, i.e. how much damage it could absorb and still limp home.
Sample sheet of weekly losses. Rommelsriposte.com Collection
Odds and Sodds
A single Caproni (captured Italian transport used as a hack), two Whitleys (what on earth were they doing in North Africa?), a single Wellesley, a single Sunderland with a very interesting story behind the loss – scroll down halfway on this page.