I promised to do some digging and come up with a summary of what I found on this topic which is the following. First of all I must thank a number of you for helping me track down the relevant documentation, there are too many to name but you know who you are and the assistance is much appreciated.
I will do this in two stages:-
a) First of all a ‘dry’ account based on the original documentation with a comparison of this compared to the view as laid out by Kurfurst
b) Various other sources that support the position as put forward in the original documentation.
In addition I will try to keep the timeline clear.
16th March 1939 Meeting held to consider the question when 100 Octane Fuel should be brought into use in the RAF and the number and type of squadrons involved.
There are three main parts to this.
i) It is true that at this meeting authorisation was given for 16 fighter squadrons and two twin engined bomber squadrons be converted to be use 100 Octane fuel by September 1940. The change over to start at the end of 1939 and the ACAS would select the squadrons.
ii) It was anticipated that these units would use 10,000 tons of fuel over a twelve month period and this would slow down the aim of achieving an 800,000 ton reserve.
iii) The AMPD asked that he should be kept informed as to the progress of the production of the 100 Octane fuel in order that the change over of squadrons could be kept under review in the light of any acceleration or diminution in Supplies.
Compared to the position held by Kurfurst
A number of differences are apparent.
- Clearly this is a peace time plan, the war hadn’t started, 18 squadrons would use a lot more than 10,000 tons over twelve months when at war. It is certain that when war started there would be changes.
- It covers both fighters and bombers
- They were not defined as being Blenheim just twin engined bombers of which the RAF had a number of types.
- The 18 squadrons wasn’t a fixed number, it was open to change.
- To the best of my knowledge the 18 squadrons in question were never identified. This is not a surprise, as you would only nominate the units when you start preparing to use the fuel, to allow for training and other preparatory work.
14th November 1939 letter re the tests of 100 Octane in the Hurricane and Merlin
In this letter it mentions:-
i) That the tests were successful
ii) The policy of immediately going over to the use of 12 lbs boost is being strongly urged by Fighter Command
iii) The decision is dependent on the availability of sufficient stocks of 100 Octane but that it is understood that there are adequate reserves for this eventuality
7th December 1939 Letter from FC Admin to HQ
This letter starts going into the nuts and bolts of how the change from 87 to 100 Octane would need to be handled. It’s the sort of information any change of this magnitude will need.
The most interesting part is that it lists the operational stations at which the fuel will be required in the first instance.
Difference to Kurfurst Position
- Kurfurst still believes that the reference to relevant stations means only those that were hosts to the 18 squadrons mentioned in March but never identified, when the list contains 21 stations all of which are likely to have more than one squadron.
12th December 1939 Letter from Director Of Equipment re Issue of 100 Octane FuelLetter confirms that 100 Octane Fuel is approved for use in Spitfire, Hurricane and Defiant aircraft. Issue to be made as soon as the fuel is available at the distribution depots servicing the fighter stations concerned. Some bomber units may be given priority.
The date of use is dependent on when the fuel can be put down in bulk at the distribution sites and the relevant stations. Re the latter as a station empties a tank of 87 Octane it will be replaced with 100 Octane.
Clearly this is a change to the March notes. Certain aircraft are included and other aircraft in Fighter Command are excluded, no Blenheim fighter units are included or are any Gladiator units.
There is no limit set to the number of squadrons or area such as 11 Group, or any reference to specific squadrons. The RAF decided to use the 100 Octane and instead of limiting it to a number of squadrons, have decided to limit it by type of aircraft.
In my opinion, the statement of relevant stations can only mean those with Hurricanes, Spitfires or Defiants as defined as needing the fuel in the first instance.
It’s fair to mention that Gavin Bailey says that the authorisation came in February 1940. I suspect he may have been in error as the source is the original letter confirming a decision that had been made. It could be that original authorisation referred to in this letter might have had some conditions applied referring to February, I simply don’t know.
Difference to Kurfurst Position
- Kurfurst believes that the reference to relevant stations means only those that were hosts to the 18 squadrons mentioned in March but never identified.