So it Began.....Their Finest Hour

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Gage, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    The RAF's victory over the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 made a German invasion of Britain all but impossible. In his book Bomber Offensive, published in 1947, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris wrote that all the credit for preventing the invasion of Britain had been given to Fighter Command. He felt that the influence and importance of Bomber Command's role in the Battle of Britain had been largely overlooked. Germany's failure to defeat the RAF and secure control of the skies over southern England convinced Hitler to indefinitely postpone the planned invasion of Britain. While this victory was decisively gained by Britain's fighter defences, other organisations also contributed.


    How Bomber Command Helped Win The Battle Of Britain
     
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    During the first few days of August 1940 the pilots of both the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe were taking each day as it came, and one day was not that different as the day previous. Up until now it appears that Germany had no real plan of action, Goering, Raeder, Kesselring and Hitler all had their own ideas regarding the preparation of an invasion of England and likewise the time that it should take place.
    Not being stretched to any sort of limits the pilots had periods when they had time to themselves, pilots of Fighter Command usually having two days on duty and one day off, while those on standby saw only a few scattered operational combats, as we have seen, most of these were over the Channel with the Luftwaffe content on attacking the British convoys that were constantly plying the Channel route. Bomber Gruppes were quite content on mine laying duties along the eastern and southern coastline of Britain, while usually during the hours of darkness, the odd Heinkel or Junker's penetrated inland to bomb a factory or industrial target.


    Goering gave instructions to his commanders for prosecution of the air war against England. Attacks on shipping in the Channel and off the East Coast were to be carried out by all three Air Fleets engaged in the campaign and, where possible, damage to the Royal Navy should be inflicted. Strong action against British fighters should be undertaken and seeking out targets in the aircraft industry was essential. While this was in progress, other units were to prepare for the air campaign in the coming weeks. Early success was necessary against targets in the areas allotted to Luftflotten 2 and 3 (south and southeast England) making it easier to send in low level attacks on particular targets. The combined strength of Luftflotte 2 and Fliegerkorps VIII and including fighters from Luftflotte 3 were to be used against enemy fighters based around London. By this time, forays against aircraft factories would be of secondary importance.
    Basically the tactics were to concentrate on weakening British fighter strength to pave the way for the use of heavy bombers. Mass attacks using bombers with fighter escort could then be made while smaller raids could operate to draw off British aircraft; attacks by bombers and Stuka dive bombers on ground installations could also be achieved more easily at this stage. Goering in his instructions was emphatic that early destruction of the enemy fighter force was of paramount importance. At this time, effort was being directed on to shipping and much use was made of the Stuka, the aircraft which had earlier proved to be very successful in support of ground operations.

    John Ray Dowding and Headquarters Fighter Command 1996 Airlife Publishing p102



    The outline of the air attack against England was given by Goering as early as July 21st, when Hitler had placed all his confidence in the Reichmarschall in the destruction of the RAF prior to the invasion at a date yet to be fixed. Admiral Raeder, the commander of all German Naval operations had little to do in actual operations during the Battle of Britain, but played an important part in German naval aggression in the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. The three Luftflotten commanders, Albert Kesselring (Luftflotten 2), Hugo von Sperle (Luftflotten 3) and Hans-Juergen Stumpff (Luftflotten 5) responsible for their own Air Fleets and areas, and had to take all orders from their superior, the Reichmarschall Herman Goering. The only person who could make any decision regarding the actual date of the invasion was Adolph Hitler himself.
    The day previous July 31st, Hitler informed Goering to have all his Air Fleets ready at twelve hours notice for air attacks on England. This was a sign that plans were now under way for the impending invasion and that Hitler had made a decision. his was done through his Directive No.17 in which he states:



    "In order to establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England...... to overpower the English air force with all the forces at its command, in the shortest possible time .....primarily against flying units, their ground installations, and their supply organizations, also against their aircraft industry, including that manufacturing anti-aircraft equipment....in view of our own forthcoming operations.....I reserve to myself, the right to decide on terror attacks as measures of reprisal.....The intensification of the air war may begin on or after 5 August. The exact time is to be decided by the air force after the completion of preparations and in the light of the weather"
    Adolph Hitler Directive No.17 [ Document 27 ]



    On August 1st 1940, Goering called an urgent meeting with his Luftflotte commanders at The Hague. It is believed that Goering stated at the meeting, that in the recent attacks on Channel convoys the Luftwaffe had failed to draw the British fighters into the air. The RAF was prepared only to send small waves of fighters and replenish them with new waves when the others returned to refuel and re-arm. He went on to say that our intelligence sources have informed him that Britain has only 500 fighters available to defend their island in the south, and that the air offensive against England would be nothing but a simple operation. (What happened at the meeting, and what was actually said is relied upon only by accounts of those present as the official transcript of the meeting has either been lost or destroyed). It is true that Park was only to send in small numbers of aircraft to defend the convoys, and later it was revealed that Dowding was to back Keith Park in sending fighters up in small numbers instead of large waves as in Bader's "Big Wing" theory. But in stating that Fighter Command only had 500 fighters to defend themselves with was rather an under estimation. They had not taken into account that Dowding could call on nearly as twice that many in total from his other groups.
    The lead up to the planned invasion begins............


    THURSDAY AUGUST 1st 1940



    WEATHER: Although it was fine in the west and in the north, there was 8/10ths low cloud over the Channel and in the Thames Estuary regions during the morning, but this was to clear by afternoon and becoming warm.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    The morning period was exceptionally quiet, but thick overnight mist in low lying regions aborted most of the minelaying that the Luftwaffe usually carried out during the hours of darkness. But a Spitfire from one of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units, on patrol over the north of France notices heavy aircraft concentration at Cherbourg. He circles round capturing the airfield on film and heads back to base. Fighter Command are notified at once of the build up, and they decide that the German held airfield should be bombed before they are committed in any offence against Britain.


    1145hrs: The task is given to 59 Squadron (Coastal Command) based at Thorney Island using Blenheim IV bombers, and these would be escorted by 236 Squadron Thorney Island (Long range Blenheim fighters). Ground crews begin to load up the 13 Blenheim bombers with the required bomb loads while 10 Blenheim fighters are prepared and placed at readiness.


    1250hrs: Radar picked up enemy aircraft in the north when a formation was detected approaching two shipping convoys "Agent" and "Arena" just off of the Yorkshire coast. The sector controller at Church Fenton is alerted and dispatches 607 Squadron Usworth (Hurricanes) and 616 Squadron Leconfield (Spitfires) to be scrambled to intercept.


    1310hrs: Both squadrons take a little time in locating the enemy bombers but eventually visually sight a Junker's Ju88 and a Dornier Do17 out to sea just below cloud base. It is not known whether the two aircraft are alone, or a part of a larger formation using the cloud as cover. The RAF fighters are observed and the enemy bombers gained height and disappeared into the protection of the cloud after a short exchange of gunfire from both sides.
    Reports state that about this time a Junker's Ju88 of 9/KG4 crashed into the North Sea while on operational duties, but there are no records of 607 or 616 Squadrons claiming a Ju88 damaged in this combat. One Spitfire of 616 Squadron Leconfield is damaged by gunfire from the Ju88 but lands safely at base.


    1430hrs: Radar at Pevensey detects enemy aircraft over the Channel heading for the south coast. In clearing conditions, 145 Squadron Westhampnett (Hurricanes) is scrambled to intercept. This is done about eight miles off the coast from Hastings where Hurricanes engage a Henschel Hs126 shooting it down into the sea. Other Hurricanes engage a Ju88, and one of the Hurricanes that attacked the Hs126 was seen to crash into the Channel. The Junker's tried to make good his escape, but became damaged in doing so. It managed to land at its base, but Feldwebel Kohl was seriously injured and was to die two weeks later of these injuries.


    1500hrs: The Blenheim's of 236 Squadron (Thorney Island) that were being prepared earlier, were now taking off. The Blenheim bombers of 59 Squadron had taken off a little earlier and the Blenheim fighters were to rendezvous with them just prior to the French coast and strafe the Cherbourg aerodrome after the bombs are dropped by the bombers. The forecast given to the crews was that conditions would be fine with good visibility. The Blenheim fighter escort was to take off in three waves, with five minutes separating each wave and the last wave of four is to stay clear of the target area and stay off the French coast covering the withdrawal of the others. But all was not to go according to plan. The forecasters had got it all wrong as heavy low cloud covers the entire French coast around Cherbourg. The leading three Blenheim's led by F/Lt R.M.Power miss the Cherbourg Peninsular completely and unaware overtake the Blenheim's of 59 squadron and fly deeper into enemy territory before deciding to return to base.


    1540hrs: A break in the cloud appears just as the Blenheim's of 59 Squadron near the coast. They are on course and the aerodrome on the peninsula can be seen and they commence their bombing run. Not far behind are the second wave of three Blenheim fighters led by S/L P.E.Drew. 59 Squadron manage to drop their bombs successfully causing considerable damage amidst heavy AA and machine gun fire from aerodrome gun emplacements. S/L Drew leads with Australian P/O B.M.McDonough and Sgt R.C.Smith at about 50-70 feet strafing the airfield and gun batteries. Many of the batteries are hit, fires start to follow explosions as hangars and buildings are hit, aircraft in the open are either destroyed or damaged, for the RAF the mission seemed to be a success. But it was short lived.


    1715hrs: Some of the Blenheim bombers of 59 Squadron are hit as they pull out of their bombing run, Sgt Smith's aircraft receives a number of hits as his low level strafing run endows further damage to the aerodrome, he pulls out on completion, turns and heads back across the Channel losing contact with the others.


    Returning to Thorney Island, the crews are briefed about the mission, and it undergoes scrutiny. Itself, it was a success, considerable and severe damage had been done, but at a price. One of the Blenheim's of 59 Squadron fails to return, it was piloted by the squadron commanding officer Wing Commander Weld-Smith. Two Blenheim's of 236 Squadron also fail to return. A number of Bf109's of III/JG27 got into the air and could have been responsible for shooting down the Blenheim's of P/O McDonough and S/L Drew, or they may have been hit by gunfire from ground defences.


    1530hrs: While a number of combat actions were taking place up and down the Essex coast, 30 He 111 bombers approach the Norfolk coast and for some reason no RAF fighters were sent to intercept them. They continued on towards the city of Norwich where the attacked Norwich Railway Station inflicting minor damage, but doing far greater damage at the Boulton-Paul Aircraft Works on the outskirts of the city. Also receiving direct bomb hits were a timber yard, and a factory. A total of 6 people were killed and nearly 60 injured in this bombing raid.


    Two Dornier's were intercepted of the east coast near Harwich during the day. One was shot down while the other headed home trailing thick smoke. Two Spitfires got entangled with a small skirmish over the Channel just off the Sussex coast near Worthing. By night, mine laying continued in north east Scotland and near Scapa Flow and also in the Thames Estuary. German bombers dropped "Last Appeal to Reason" leaflets over many parts of southern England and South Wales. Some authors have made mention of the fact that most of the leaflets fell in the open pasturelands of Hampshire and Somerset, amongst grazing cattle and sheep. We know that English beef and lamb is amongst the finest, but it is going a bit far to expect them to be educated as well.
    THE CASUALTIES:
    1500hrs. Hastings. Hurricane P3155. 145 Squadron Westhampnett (Lost at sea)
    Sub/Lt I.H. Kestin. Missing. (Shot down by gunfire from Hs126 and crashed into Channel)
    1715hrs. Querqueville (France). Blenheim IV. N3601. 236 Squadron Thorney Island (Aircraft destroyed)
    S/L P.E. Drew. F/O B.Nokes-Cooper. Both killed. (Shot down on bomber escort by ground fire)
    1715hrs. Querqueville (France). Blenheim IV. R2774. 236 Squadron Thorney Island (Aircraft destroyed)
    P/O B.M. McDonough. Sgt F.A.P.Head. Both killed. (Shot down on bomber escort by ground fire)



    FRIDAY AUGUST 2nd 1940

    WEATHER: Similar to the previous day, fine in the north and west but low cloud persisting over the Channel with rain and mist in the Thames Estuary and Dover areas.

    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    A generally quiet day, mostly because of very low cloud and drizzle over much of the southern part of the country but there were a few shipping convoys in the Channel and along the east coast that were attacked. One of these was on the east coast and one small ship was sunk.


    The Luftwaffe made scattered bombing attacks, but no serious damage was recorded. One attack was made on an area near to the Forth Bridge in Scotland. while Halton and Christchurch in Hampshire suffered small bombing raids. Mine laying and reconnaissance along the east coast continued and a number of German bombers failed to return from their missions, while most of the RAF casualties were non combat related. Two Spitfires were destroyed as pilots crashed on take off at Hornchurch, a Hurricane of 504 squadron Castletown came in too fast and it flipped over on landing. Then a Blenheim of 219 Squadron Catterick overshot the runway and needed minor repairs.
    [​IMG]

    The most interesting and unusual event of the day was when a formation of German bombers attacked the steamship Highlander. In trying to defend herself, the Highlander managed to hit one of the Heinkel's and it crashed into the sea. Earlier bombs had missed the ship and by all accounts they started to come in low and began to strafe the ship. One of them, a Heinkel He 115 came in, just above the waterline and with a banking turn one of the wings almost touched the white capped waves of the sea. The gunners on the Highlander tried desperately to fire at the sweeping aircraft, when it tried to pull up and one of its wings hit one of the lifeboat davits in the deck. It is unclear as to whether the Highlander had hit the bomber with gunfire, but as it hit the davits, it swung round crashing onto the deck of the ship. According to German records, two He 115 bombers failed to return to their base, and all crew were reported as missing. English records do not state whether the crew were killed or were taken prisoner. The Highlander, obviously only suffering minor damage sailed into the harbour at Leith Scotland delivering the wrecked Heinkel to the authorities.
    THE CASUALTIES:
    2335hrs. Rochford Airfield. Spitfire R6799. 65 Squadron Hornchurch. (Burnt out)
    S/L H.C. Sawyer. Killed. (Crashed on take off on night patrol and exploded in flames)





    The Battle of Britain - 1940 / August 1st - August 10th 1940
     
  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    [​IMG]


    For its day, the Gloster Gladiator was not only pretty to look at, but was a beautiful aircraft to fly, providing that you were not being chased by a Messerschmitt Bf109 at the time. Also, the sound from the Mercury radial engine was a delight to the ear.

    The Gladiator was manufactured by the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company who, back in 1920 acquired the design rights to the French Nieuport Nighthawk fighter aircraft after that company closed down. With this acquisition came numerous spare parts and component stocks of the aircraft. In 1921, The Gloucester Aircraft Company received a contract to construct 50 of the Nighthawks for the Imperial Japanese Navy modified for use as a naval aircraft, plus an additional 40 aircraft that would be supplied in component form to the Yokosuka Air Arm. This order was fulfilled and completed within six months and although the original designation of this aircraft was known as Mars II, it was given the name Sparrowhawk at a later date.

    The Gloucester Aircraft Company went on to bigger and better things as the years went by. The Sparrowhawk gave way to the Nighthawk in 1921, the Nightjar powered by a Bentley engine was first delivered to the RAF in May 1922, the Grouse trainer in 1922 followed by the Grebe in 1923, the Gamecock in 1925, the Gorcock in 1927, the Guan in 1926 the same year that the Gloucester Aircraft Company changed its name to Gloster Aircraft, the Gambit in 1927, the Gnatsnapper in 1928 and the Gauntlet in 1929.

    It was a derivative of the Gauntlet that the Gladiator was built, being a private venture to specification F.7/30 and first flew as a prototype on 12th September 1934 and then only known as the SS37. It began series production to Specification F.14/35 in July 1935 and the first flight of the Gloster Gladiator was made in the January of 1937.

    Because of the outbreak of the second world war, production of the Gladiator was only short lived. It never did prove itself as a fighting machine and were classed as death traps against the Luftwaffe Bf109s very early in W.W.II. Only two marks were made, the Mark I and Mark II.

    The Mark I was powered by a single 830hp Bristol Mercury radial engine of nine cylinders. Armament was four Browning .303 guns. two mounted in the fuselage and two mounted on the wings. Only 378 Mark I's were built.

    The Mark II varied little from the Mark I, except that the Bristol Mercury was of improved design and put out an extra ten horsepower and designated the VIII AS. A number of the Mark II's were constructed to naval specifications and were known as Sea Gladiators. Many Gladiators found their way overseas both air force and naval use. In all, a total of 749 Gladiators were manufactured. The table below shows the number of Gladiator Mark I and II's exported.

    The Gloster Gladiator
     
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    THURSDAY 15th AUGUST 1940



    WEATHER:
    Cloud covered much of the south and south-east during the morning. This was to disperse before noon where a ridge of high pressure right across Britain would insure a fine and warm day.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    Because of the fact that the weather forecast predicted poor conditions and that all operations were postponed, Göring had summoned all his top commanders for a conference at Karinhall. Albert Kesselring, Hugo Sperle, General Bruno Lorzer of Fliegerkorps II and Generalmajor Joachim Coler of Fliegerdivision XI were all included. He put it to his commanders that they were having no impact on the RAF, he wanted to know the failures that had taken place, he wanted to know why they were suffering so many casualties, he wanted the commanders to explain. "We must have bigger impact in our attacks" said Göring, "our missions must consist of more bombers, bigger formations, more escorts that will fly with greater skills than they have done before". He also made one of his greatest mistakes when he instructed his commanders that the bombing of the radar stations was having no effect on the British, they were not being destroyed and that bombing them was not going to destroy any of their aircraft.
    German High Command could not resist the break in weather conditions by mid morning, and the order went out that planned operations be commenced. At the HQ of the 2nd Flying Corps, Oberst Paul Deichmann who was Chief of Staff of II Fliegerkorps already had 1,000 fighter planes and more than 800 bombers all ready with full compliments of bombs in their bays and fuelled up just waiting for the order to commence the operation. With no word from his superiors, he decided that the opportunity was too good to miss, and took it upon himself to launch an attack.

    The planned operation was that the Ju87s of II/StG 1 and IV (St) /LG 1 loaded with 500 and 250 kilo bombs would lead out first, Dornier bombers from the 3rd Bomber Group would head out over the Channel then turn and head in the direction of Eastchurch, and the Bf110s of 2/ZG76 would head through the Dover Straits then turn inland and attack Manston once again. In the centre of all this, 100 plus Me 109s would provide cover for the formations to left and right of them.

    Radar stations all along the south coast could not help but pick up the huge formations that were heading between Lympne and Manston. There were so many aircraft heading across the Channel that many of them were not even on the radar screens, while the different formations could not be distinguished. The Luftwaffe were coming over in force, a mass of 1,120 aircraft were coming across the Channel.



    There was no doubt about the intentions of the Luftwaffe on August 15th, they would follow the path of previous missions that attacked the airfields and airfield installations of Fighter Command, but this time, by coming over in larger numbers their plan was to entice more RAF fighters into the air


    August 14th - August 15th 1940
     
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  5. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

  6. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    The Hardest Day
    18th August 1940

    Sunday 15th September is celebrated officially as the climax of the Battle of Britain, when London had become the Luftwaffe's main target.

    However post-war studies of British and German records have shown that the hardest fought day of the Battle was Sunday 18th August. On this day the Luftwaffe tried its utmost to destroy our fighter airfields flying 850 sorties involving 2200 aircrew. The RAF resisted with equal vigour flying 927 sorties involving 600 aircrew.

    The Hardest Day | History of the Battle of Britain | Exhibitions & Displays | Research | RAF Museum.
     
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  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Sergeant (Pilot )HAWKINGS, REDVERS PERCIVAL
    Service Number 748627

    Died 18/08/1940

    Aged 22

    601 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

    Son of Redvers Arthur and Emily Ada Hawkings, of Filton.


    INSCRIPTION
    IN LOVE AND GRATITUDE TO OUR DEAR SON WHO WAS KILLED IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN. MOTHER

    Buried at FILTON (ST. PETER) CHURCHYARD

    Location: Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Number of casualties: 4

    Cemetery/memorial reference: N.E. of church. Row 17. Grave 3.

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  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    WEATHER:

    Much improved conditions would prevail throughout the British Isles. Temperatures should be slightly higher than the previous days and conditions are expected to remain fine with cloud periods in all Channel areas.
    OPERATIONS:

    This day, Germany launched a total of 1,310 sorties against Britain. It appeared that Kesselring was intent on attacking with everything that he had. One direct hit on the power supply line took out the radar stations at Dover, Rye, Pevensey, Foreness, Beachy Head and Whitstable and they were off the air for a critical three hours. Biggin Hill was attacked twice by 109s and Ju88s within a few hours and major damage was done with the result that some 40 people were killed. Kenley, Shoreham, Tangmere and Rochford were also targeted where the story was much the same. Hangars, buildings and the airfields themselves receiving devastating damage.
    Many times, fighter sweeps by Bf109s failed to attract Fighter Command into the air, Park was not going to be drawn into unnecessary fighter combat. So Kesselring sent over fast Ju88 bombers and working in conjunction with the Bf109s was adamant that somehow he would get the RAF fighters into the air. At one time, a mass formation of over 200 bombers droned over the Kent coast only to break into separate formations with each one targeting the RAF airfields. Biggin Hill was attacked again, as was Kenley, Gravesend, Hornchurch, Debden, North Weald, in fact every RAF airfield from Duxford to the south coast was attacked in one way or another.

    Fighter Command was forced to get some of its fighters into the air. The selective targets were to 'get the bombers'. The skies over the south coast became a pattern of vapour trails as some of the RAF fighters got tangled up with 109s, it was impossible to avoid them. Most of the fighters tried in vain to straffe the bombers, but it all became a melee of all sorts. The casualties started to fall from the sky, Spitfires, Bf 109s, Hurricanes, Heinkels and Dorniers. Many were badly shot up, others just collided into each other.

    "I saw his contortions, then I saw him straighten and fly straight into the German aircraft; both crashed and Percy was killed. I was close enough to see his letters, as other pilots must have been and who also confirmed this incident, which in itself caused me to realize my young life and its future, if any, had jumped into another dimension"
    Sgt. G. Pallister 249 & 43 Squadrons on P/O P. Burton ramming a German aircraft.


    August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940

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    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
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  10. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    It is a wonderful thing to see our nation at war, in its fully disciplined state. This is exactly what we are now experiencing at this time, as Mr Churchill is demonstrating to us the aerial night attacks which he has concocted. He is not doing this because these air raids might be particularly effective, but because his Air Force cannot fly over German territory in daylight. Whereas German aviators and German planes fly over English soil daily, there is hardly a single Englishman who comes across the North Sea in daytime.
    They therefore come during the night — and as you know, release their bombs indiscriminately and without any plan on to residential areas, farmhouses and villages. Wherever they see a sign of light, a bomb is dropped on it. For three months past, I have not ordered any answer to be given, thinking that they would stop this nonsensical behaviour. Mr Churchill has taken this to be a sign of our weakness. You will understand that we shall now give a reply, night for night, and with increasing force.

    And if the British Air Force drops two, three or four thousand kilos of bombs, then we will now drop 150,000, 180,000, 230,000, 300,000 or 400,000 kilos, or more, in one night. If they declare that they will attack our cities on a large scale, we will erase theirs! We will put a stop to the game of these night-pirates, as God is our witness. The hour will come when one or the other of us will crumble, and that one will not be National Socialist Germany. I have already carried through such a struggle once in my life, up to the final consequences, and this then led to the collapse of the enemy who is now still sitting there in England on Europe's last island.


    Portion of Adolph Hitler's speech at the Sportsplast September 4th 1940

    September 4th 1940
     
  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    MONDAY SEPTEMBER 9th 1940

    WEATHER:

    Cloud overnight becoming showery with the possiblity of a thunderstorm in the east. Rain periods in the west while the north and Scotland should remain cloudy but dry. Showers were expected to clear from Channel areas by midday.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    The operations being carried out by Bomber Command during the hours of darkness are more inclined to be to the advantage of the Battle for Britain rather than the Battle of Britain. Although in the past many attacks have been made on German airfields, but these are numerous and putting one out of action really has no effect on the efficiency of the Luftwaffe. Fighter Command at present is doing far more damage to the Luftwaffe than is Bomber Command. But now British bombers are venturing further inland. As well as bombing Berlin, they are now targeting Hambourg, Bremen and Emden. Overnight a total of 133 bombers crossed into enemy territory to drop bombs on a number of towns and cities regarded as ports where Germany has vital shipping activity. The heaviest raid was by 49 Hampdens on the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hambourg where considerable damage was done. But it was not without loss. Two Wellingtons of 149 Squadron and five Blenheims of were shot down over Boulogne and Ostend, while one Hampden of 61 Squadron was lost over Hambourg.
    It was now obvious to Dowding and Park that the Luftwaffe was going to leave the 11 Group aerodromes alone, well, for the time being anyway. Already damaged airfields were just about back to any reasonable sort of order, the personnel that had been toiling both night and day busily rebuilding to make all airfields fully operational again could ease off a little. Aircraft and supplies had been replenished and although Fighter Command was nowhere yet back to full strength, they were a lot stronger than they were just seven days ago. Again, no enemy formations were detected during the morning or the early and mid afternoon sessions. Park shared with his chief controller Willoughby de Broke and also so Dowding by telephone, that the Luftwaffe tactics when targeting the aerodromes, commenced generally with a morning attack, with the last few days, when his aerodromes had been left alone, there had been no early morning attacks. It seemed that bombing raids on London seemed be be forming a pattern of commencing a few hours after midday. Park issued the order that Hornchurch, Biggin Hill and Kenley push some of their squadrons forward to their satelite stations.

    September 8th - September 9th 1940
     
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  12. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    The Support Services of Fighter Command



    Every pilot that flew his fighter aircraft into battle, and every aircraft that flew in the skies against this formidable enemy was supported by thousands of civilian and military personnel in the support teams. Without them, these fighter aircraft and their pilots would never have left the ground on operational duties. For every Spitfire or Hurricane to become airborne and fly of into battle, nearly two hundred people would have been responsible for keeping it in the air and getting it safely back to its base. These support teams were the unsung heroes of the Battle of Britain. They worked behind the scenes, many of them throughout the nights to keep Britain's defence system working.
    Some of these support teams are:

    • The designers and engineers at Supermarine, Hawker and Rolls Royce
    • The radio designers and technicians who strove to improve communications
    • The fitters and engineers of the RAF ground staff
    • The refuellers of the RAF ground staff
    • The armourers of the RAF ground staff
    • The CRT operators at the radar stations
    • The servicemen of the Observer Corps
    • The radio operators and plotters in the filter rooms
    • The personnel of the Anti-Aircraft Regiments
    • The RAF Intelligence
    • The Air Transport Auxiliary
    • The doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers
    • Civilian gas, electricity and water technicians
    • The many civilians who helped crash-landed pilots get back to their bases
    All these people in some way or another assisted to keep the aircraft flying and in the air. Women too, were to play their part. Many preferred women as radar operators and plotters because they appeared to be far more sharp and accurate than their male counterparts. Women also drove cars, trucks and even flew aircraft in a ferrying capacity, but they were never allowed to fly on combat operations.
    Listed below, are some of the factors that were to play a very important part in Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.

    Support Services of Fighter Command
     
  13. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Other Commands
    "They also serve who only stand and wait."

    John Milton "On His Blindness" (1665)

    The significance of other commands in the Battle of Britain is often overlooked. [​IMG]

    The Army's Anti-Aircraft Command manned around 4000 searchlights, 1280 medium, and 517 light anti-aircraft guns in July 1940. Despite being significantly under their recommended numbers the guns claimed approximately 300 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down during the Battle.

    RAF Balloon Command operated Britain's barrage balloon defences, [​IMG] which in July 1940 consisted of 1466 balloons, including some 450 over London. The balloons played a significant role in Britain's anti-aircraft "umbrella" defences as they restricted the freedom of Luftwaffe aircraft often forcing them to fly different routes to a particular target or at higher altitudes and therefore within the range of anti-aircraft artillery. Along with the anti-aircraft guns their highly visible presence boosted the morale of the civilian population. [​IMG]

    RAF Coastal Command's maritime reconnaissance patrols maintained a continuous watch over German preparations for the invasion of Britain and provided a defence of British merchant shipping from attack by German aircraft, submarines and surface vessels.





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  14. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Sunday September 15th 1940
    Details of the mornings action



    The "hour of destiny" was September 15th, a date thereafter commemorated as "Battle of Britain Day". The title has been disputed; Alfred Price, for one, says that September 15th "has singularly little to commend it.....the day when the British victory claim was furthest from the truth....." Yet, forgetting the "numbers game", it is hard to dispute Churchill's verdict that it was, in fact, "the crux of the Battle of Britain". He made that judgment in the light of his knowledge of what happened to Operation SEALION - which was, of course, from beginning to end, what the Battle of Britain was really about. The Official History sums up with clarity:
    "If 15th August showed the German High Command that air supremacy was not to be won within a brief space, 15th September went far to convince them that it would not be won at all."


    John Terraine The Right of the Line Hodder & Stoughton 1985 pp210-211
    Sunday September 15th 1940, was not only the turning point of the Battle of Britain, it was the turning point of the whole war. Every Fighter Command aerodrome in 11 Group was in some way involved, every squadron within 11 Group participated as well as the Duxford Wing from 12 Group and a number of squadrons in 10 Group were called upon to protect areas in the south west. Ground crews at all 11 Group airfields had to make efficiency a top priority in getting aircraft refueled and rearmed in between sorties, while at 11 Group Headquarters Air Vice Marshal Keith Park busily controlled the situation drawing on all his experience and expertise under the watchful eye of visiting Winston Churchill who saw first hand the development of activities on this important day. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding remained at Fighter Command Headquarters keeping silent vigil over the large map below indicating to him the events and the unfolding battle that was taking place over the south-east of England.
    For Adolf Hitler and the German commanders, time was now running out. If an invasion was to take place on September 17th as planned, the lead-up would have to commence no later than today.....September 15th. The weather had shown, just how quickly it can turn at this time of year, and with winter not too far away, the German forces would have to take advantage of the better conditions that now seemed to prevail. Göring had sent out the instructions the day previous to all bomber and fighter bases that preparations for an all out assault on England was to be made on this day September 15th, bomber units were given times and flight paths of their attack. Over the last few weeks, the Luftwaffe had experimented with different flying formations, needless to say, none had really been successful, losses had still been high, but they had discovered that on the occasions that they had kept at high altitudes, they had on a number of occasions surprised Fighter Command.

    This was mainly due to the fact that the British radar was ineffective above 20,000 feet, and by flying at a height above this level they could cross the Channel undetected, but, the Germans did not know this. All that they were aware of, was the fact that those formations that flew at higher altitudes were not intercepted until they were usually well over the English coast. The most logical reason for this, thought the Germans was due to the fact that it took the British fighters much longer to gain the required height to intercept.

    The sending of advance Ju87 and Bf110 units to bomb the radar stations along the southern coastline was, in the opinion of the Luftwaffe, a waste of time. As fast as they seemed to be destroyed, they were back in operational use again, and mobile units too were brought in to replace any radar station damaged. Over the last few days, the Germans had practiced at electronic jamming, this, they believed was successful and plans were made to intensify the jamming procedure in an effort to further reduce detection.

    The spirit of the German aircrew, was still far from high. Time and time again, they had been told that the 'Glorious Luftwaffe' is ready to strike the final blow. But they had been told that in July, and again in August when Adlerangriff had been announced, and it was to be repeated yet again this September 15th. Early in the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe aircrews were told that the Royal Air Force would be wiped out in two or three weeks, now, whenever they fly over the British countryside they are still met with masses of British fighters in the hands of pilots that were gaining in skill and techniques. Many firmly believed that they were no nearer victory than they were two months previous.

    Failure to achieve any notable success, constantly changing orders betraying lack of purpose and obvious misjudgment of the situation by the Command, and unjustified accusation had a most demoralising effect on us fighter pilots, who were already overtaxed by physical and mental strain.
    Adolph Galland Commander

    In Britain, things were slightly different. Most of the pilots were relatively fresh unlike their German counterparts. Combat action had been very infrequent, with only one really heavy day. As mentioned previously, Fighter Command was now stronger than it had been for weeks, aerodromes repaired, planes and personnel had replaced many that had been shot down and the radar stations were all functioning at 100%.
    Park meanwhile, was prepared. He had learnt just a few days previous that there was to be a large scale attack prior to the impending invasion, only that he was unsure as to the exact date or time. Whatever attack that the Germans planned, he was sure, that 11 Group was ready even though the Luftwaffe commanders could not agree as to the actual strength of Fighter Command at the time.

    I think one of the problems with German intelligence was, was that it simply did not help the Germans to fight the battle, partly because of the problems we've mentioned with their inability to tell the truth even when they knew it, but the results of this can be seen only in September when there is a conference for senior German commanders attended by Göring himself, and Bepo Schmidt. And you have the commander of one Luftwaffe unit giving his opinion that there are at least one thousand RAF fighters left in Fighter Command, and the commander of another Luftwaffe unit giving his opinion that Fighter Command is beaten.
    So the degree of confusion in the German High Command as to what was actually happening is quite obvious whereas the British, at least they knew what they were trying to achieve. The British had a slightly simpler problem. Their main objective was survival. Both intelligence organizations seriously overestimated the number of enemy aircraft they shot down, the Germans by a factor of between three and four. The British right towards the end of the battle did get slightly puzzled by the fact that they could only find the wreckage of some eight hundred aircraft whereas the numbers claimed were far in excess of that. Instead of drawing the correct conclusion which was that the fighter pilots for quite understandable reasons were over claiming the number of enemy aircraft lost.

    They tried to work out where the missing, in inverted commas, aircraft might be, and that is to why did they crash in France or in the English channel or wherever. They didn’t correctly identify the problem which was that a German aircraft shot down was often claimed by more than one pilot in the confusion of the air fighting.


    Sebastian Cox Air Historical Branch regarding the Battle of Britain
    To survive any intense attack that may be instigated by the Luftwaffe, Keith Park had, in the last few days rearranged some of his squadrons, carefully placing them in the best strategic position to provide the best defence of London that he possibly could. Of course, we must remember, that the pilots of Fighter Command had no idea of any large scale attack being made by the Luftwaffe. This information was only known by a selected few in radio interception (the "Y" Force) and the Air Ministry and of course, Dowding and Park himself. To the pilots, any change they thought was the usual relieving of tired squadrons.
    [ 1] Vincent Orange Sir Keith Park Methuen 1984 pp109-110
    [2] Michael G.Burns Bader- A Man and his Men Arms and Armour 1990 p89
    [3] John Frayn Turner Battle of Britain Airlife 1998 p128
    [4] Michael G.Burns Bader- A Man and his Men Arms and Armour 1990 p90
    [5] John Foreman Fighter Command War Diaries Air Research Publications 1998 pp25-26

    September 15th 1940 (morning)
     
  15. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Sunday September 15th 1940 (Afternoon)


    This is the date after which I believe Hitler's chances will rapidly dwindle. The weather holds good in a miraculous manner but there are faint premonitory puffs of wind from the South- West and a chill in the air. Dispatches received through Switzerland say that there are the beginnings of a press campaign in Germany breaking the news to the people that England is to be subdued by blockade and bombing. If this is true, Hitler is on the downgrade. I can’t for the life of me puzzle out what the Germans are up to. They have great air power and yet are dissipating it in fruitless and aimless attacks all over England. They must have an exaggerated idea of the damage they are doing and the effects of their raids on public morale. . . . Just as I finish writing this, the heavy guns commence giving tongue and the little Irish maid comes in to turn down the bed. She went over to Victoria to see the plane which crashed there and is very pleased because she saw the dead German crew extracted from the wreckage.
    RAYMOND LEE, United States Military Attaché in London, 15th September 1940SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 15th 1940 (afternoon)
    WEATHER:


    The fine conditions of the morning was expected to give way to incoming cloud although it was expected to remain dry. This cloud was expected to be strato-cumulus providing about 8/10ths cover at a height of 5,000 feet. Wind was expected to be slight and from the north-west.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    1300hrs: The radar stations along the Kent coast pick up movements across the Channel. It was the commencement of German bombers busily forming up for yet another raid on the British capital. Fighter Command are notified, but as there is no indication yet that the bombers are heading across the coast, it was just a 'wait and see' game, and Keith Park was content at this stage just to know the various squadron strength after the mornings combat action.

    1330hrs: It is now evident that there is a massive build up west of the Calais-Boulogne area, and it seemed that this was to be a repeat of the Luftwaffe's morning performance. The question here was......would the Luftwaffe use a greater number of bombers for this second raid. After all, the mornings raid was nothing short of a disgraceful attempt, although one must give full credit to Fighter Command in forcing the Luftwaffe to submit and return back to their bases.
    If the Luftwaffe was to use greater numbers in the afternoons raid, they would have to use a maximum fighter escort not only all the way on the outward journey, but on the homeward leg as well. They should stay in position higher and behind the bombers for the duration of the raid at the expense of the usual feints that were normally carried out as this would only consume additional fuel which, for the Bf109s was a precious commodity. The German shortage of fighters compelled the division of the attack, so that some would be used twice and so that the second attack could, and with lick, catch many of Park's fighters on the ground, re-arming and refuelling. [1]

    All squadrons that had been involved with the mornings action, were again placed at readiness and this included the Duxford Wing and the two squadrons from 10 Group. As time progressed, radar had reported that the formation had broke up into three distinct groups, and that it was possible that each group was following a short distance behind another.

    1400hrs: Even though all the squadrons had been brought to readiness, some squadrons, especially those some distance from London were still being re-armed and refuelled, and quite a few pilots were not with their squadrons. These had been shot down or baled out of their stricken aircraft and had made their way to other airfields and had telephoned in to their home bases, while some were being ferried back but had not yet arrived. Those that had got back, found the time to have a bit of lunch while their aircraft were in the hands of the ground crews. This was one of the reasons that the Luftwaffe had made this second raid so soon after midday, as they knew that it would take Fighter Command to take at least two hours to get all their squadrons back to full strength. The hoped that by the time that they crossed the English coast that most of the RAF fighters would still be on the ground.

    The German formations that were approaching the Kent coast was made up of three distinct formations. All consisted of Dornier Do17s, Heinkel He111s and Dornier 215s from KG/2, KG/53 and KG/76. Smaller gruppes came from KG/1, KG/4 and KG/26 which made up a total bomber force of 170 aircraft. These were supported by Bf110 and Bf109s as escorts and their number was in excess of 300. [2]

    Most of the bomber formations had come from airfields in the Beauvais and Antwerp areas.

    Park scrambled squadrons in almost the same order as he had done so only three hours earlier, but because the German formation had taken less time in 'forming up' the 11 Group commander had less time to get his fighters into the air, coupled with the fact that some squadrons were still re-arming and refuelling, the efficiency was not as good as it had been during the morning period.

    1410hrs: Keith Park could see the incoming raid building up quickly and immediately his sector controllers of the afternoon raid. The station controllers then notified the squadrons who were placed on "standby". 12 Group were called up by 11 Group who again requested maximum assistance just as they had done during the morning period. The same applied to 10 Group. Within a couple of minutes, following a similar pattern that had proved so successful during the morning, 11 Group "scrambled " eleven squadrons and placed the rest on "standby". At the same time, Wing Commander Woodall at Duxford, "scrambled " his Duxford Wing which comprised 19 Squadron (Spitfires), 242 Squadron (242 Squadron (Hurricanes), 302 Squadron (Hurricanes), 310 Squadron (Hurricanes) and 611 Squadron (Spitfires). The only change that Park made that differed from the morning attack, was that he held more of his fighters back giving orders that they patrol areas to the east, south and west of London. The squadrons that were vectored to the forward areas were mainly instructed to attack the enemy fighters. This was probably due to the fact that by forcing the enemy escorts into combat early, they would use up far more fuel, and the morning raid had showed him that the bombers were far more vulnerable when the reached the outskirts of London, and the net result was that Fighter Command inflicted far more damage to aircraft over London than over the Kent coast.

    1415hrs: The first of the bomber formations crossed the Kent coast between Dungeness and Dover, with the other formations behind and flying at 15 minute intervals. The actual times of the bombers crossing the coast was at 1415hrs, 1430hrs and 1440hrs. The combined formation was mainly He111s, Do17s and Do215s. The Observer Corps estimated that the total enemy bomber force was between 150 and 200 bombers. The escorts, flying as close escort and high altitude cover were the usual Bf110s and Bf109s and it is estimated that these numbered approximately 400. In total, a combined force of 600 plus aircraft heading north towards London on a front some thirty miles wide.

    1430hrs: The first engagements took place over Kent. Squadrons from Hornchurch intercepted a large formation of Dorniers south of Canterbury. Diving down in line astern they managed to destroy two of the bombers and another couple were wheeling away leaving behind a trail of thick black smoke. But they were jumped upon by Bf109s and intense combat took place between the fighters of both sides allowing the Do17s to continue their journey. Two aircraft of the Hornchurch squadrons were damaged.

    Another formation consisting of Dornier Do17s and Heinkel He111s was detected south of Maidstone, and without any Bf109 protection, they became the targets for 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) who managed to destroy three of the bombers without loss to themselves. West of this attack near Dartford, 66 Squadron Gravesend (Spitfires) and 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) intercepted another column of enemy aircraft where again, as with the others the combat action was intense. The Spitfires weaved in and out of the bombers managing to avoid collision in the huge traffic jam that was forming. Bombers started to take evasive action by banking either left or right. Just as another bomber formation was approaching from the south, the mêlée was joined by 249 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) and 504 Squadron Hendon (Hurricanes) and the large colossus of enemy bombers went into a frantic flight pattern. 73 Squadron who had engaged the formation from the outset, had now been entwined into the huge dogfight as well as 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes).

    The western flank saw Do17s, He111s and Ju88s which numbered about eighty curve right from Kent, across the outskirts of Surrey and heading towards the western side of London. A terrific battle ensued as fighters from 213 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) and 607 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) which had been vectored to cover Biggin Hill intercepted the large formation. Again, Bf109s were seen to the south of London, but decided not to come to the aid of the bomber formation which managed to get mauled by the Hurricane squadrons. This was one of the most intense battles. The British fighter tore into the enemy like hungry cats to a flock of wounded birds.

    I started to chase one Dornier which was flying through the tops of the clouds. Did you ever see that film "Hells Angels?" You'll remember how the Zeppelin came so slowly out of the cloud. Well, this Dornier reminded me of that. I attacked him four times altogether. When he first appeared through the cloud—you know how clouds go up and down like foam on water —I fired at him from the left, swung over to the right, turned in towards another hollow in the cloud, where I expected him to reappear, and fired at him again. After my fourth attack he dived down headlong into a clump of trees in front of a house, and I saw one or two cars parked in the gravel drive in front. I wondered whether there was anyone in the doorway watching the bomber crash. Then I climbed up again to look for some more trouble and found it in the shape of a Heinkel III which was being attacked by three Hurricanes and a couple of Spitfires.
    I had a few cracks at the thing before it made a perfect landing on an RAF aerodrome. The Heinkels undercarriage collapsed and the pilot pulled up, after skidding 50 yards in a cloud of dust. I saw a tall man get out of the right-hand side of the aircraft, and when I turned back he was helping a small man across the aerodrome towards a hangar.


    Squadron leader John Sample 501 Squadron Kenley
    1450hrs:
    Even though most of the attacking bombers had been thrown off their planned flight path, many of them managed to get through to the southern areas of London. If they thought that most of Fighter Commands fighters were behind them and still engaged in combat over Kent and Surrey, they were in for a big surprise. Now, as in the morning session, they were met by 49 fighters of Bader's "Duxford Wing". Combine this with a number of other squadrons that had followed the leading bombers and two other squadrons that had just joined the action, a total of some 150 more fighters awaited them.
    Every squadron in 11 Group had intercepted, and at that moment I saw Douglas Bader's wing of five squadrons coming in from Duxford. This was the day that Goering had said to his fighters the RAF was down to their last 50 Spitfires. But they'd run up against twenty-three squadrons for a start, when they were on their way in, and then, when they got over London, with the Messerschmitt 109s running out of fuel, in comes Douglas Bader with sixty more fighters....."
    Flight Lieutenant R.W. Oxspring 66 Squadron Fighter Command

    Again, Bader ordered the Spitfires to attack the Bf109s, who for some strange reason had not left their bombers early as on previous occasions, while the Hurricanes attacked the bombers. They were at a disadvantage as they were still climbing and had not had the time to get into position. The "Duxford Wing" leader complained later that it was the case again of being called on far too late, but the real reason this time was that the Germans had formed up much quicker this time that almost caught even Keith Park off guard.
    But this was not to be the best of afternoons for Bader:

    ......the Wing was scrambled again to patrol North Weald, and Bader led them through a gap in the clouds.
    At 16,000 feet, flak bursts ahead, and in moments he saw the bombers; about forty of them, some 4,000 feet above the Hurricanes. Damn! Everything risked again because they were scrambled too late. Throttle hard on, the thundering Hurricane had her nose steeply lifted, nearly hanging on her propeller at about 100 m.p.h.
    A voice screamed: “109’s behind.”

    Over his shoulder the yellow spinners were diving on them and he yelled as he steep-turned, “Break up!” Around him the sky was full of wheeling Hurricanes and 109’s. A yellow spinner was sitting behind his tail, and as he yanked harder back on the stick an aeroplane shot by, feet away. Bader hit its slipstream and the Hurricane shuddered, stalled and spun off the turn. He let it spin a few turns to shake off the 109 and came out of it at 5,000 feet. All clear behind.

    Far above a lone Dornier was heading for France, and he climbed and chased it a long way, hanging on his propeller nearly at stalling speed again. Near the coast he was just about in range and fired a three-second burst, but the recoil of the guns slowed the floundering Hurricane till she suddenly stalled and spun off again. He pulled out and searched the sky but the enemy had vanished.


    Paul Brickhill Reach for the Sky Collins 1954 pp221-222
    When Bader had first spun out, he almost collided with P/O Denis Crowley-Milling, and it was while in Crowley-Milling's slipstream that he went into the spin and did not pull out until 5,000 feet. Bader was annoyed, possibly only with himself that it had happened, but not being able to gain height to attack another bomber only rubbed salt into the wound.
    The combat action over the southern and south western areas of London was intense. The formation that had been intercepted as far away as Maidstone somehow managed to straggle through, many of the Bf109s managed to stay as long as they could, but with fuel tanks getting into the danger zone, they had to break off and leave many of the bombers at the mercy of the British fighters. The German bombers, who had intended to drop their bomb loads on London itself, had jettisoned them in scattered areas in London's eastern and southern suburbs that suffered most. The most severe damage was done in West Ham, East Ham, Stratford, Stepney, Hackney, Erith, Dartford and Penge. Fighter Command now had everything that they possessed in the air, even the Station Commander of Northolt Group Captain S.F. Vincent.

    1500hrs: 303 Squadron had been ordered up at Northolt at 1420hrs and were vectored to cover the north Kent coast along the Thames. The squadron consisted of nine Hurricanes and was led by S/L R. Kellett when they sighted a large formation coming towards them. Interception was made over Gravesend. The Squadron Intelligence Report describes the action on this day:

    S/L Kellett was ordered to patrol Northolt at 20,000 ft. and took off with the nine serviceable machines. The other Squadrons had left sometime previously and 303 operated throughout alone. On reaching a height of 6000 ft. the Squadron was vectored 100 degrees and climbed over the l.A.Z. When still 2,000 ft below their patrol level, they sighted coming head on from the southeast a very large formation of bombers and fighters. The Bombers were in vics of three sections line astern with Me11Os in sq formation between the vics of Bombers. To the flanks and stepped up above to 25,000 ft. were many formations of Me1O9s. Blue Section had got rather in front of the others, and wheeling round to let them come up. S/L Kellett had to deliver a quarter frontal attack instead of head on. This he did initially with only the other two members of Blue Section - Sgt. Wojciechowski and P/O Zak. Probably as there were a lot of clouds about, the enemy imagined that this was the advance guard of a large force and began to wheel towards the east, and when the other two sections came in they turned completely to the east. After the first rush the Me11Os and the 109s fell upon the nine Hurricanes which were compelled to defend themselves individually as best they could, and escaped destruction in the clouds. As it was, four of the aircraft which returned were slightly damaged by enemy fire, one, Sgt Adruszkow’s, was destroyed, the pilot baling out unhurt at Dartford, and Sgt Brzezowski is missing.
    Intelligence Report of 303 Squadron Northolt 11 Group Sept 15th 1940

    303 Squadron was in the air just one hour and ten minutes before they returned back to Northolt. In this time, they had destroyed three Dornier Do215's, two Messerschmitt Bf110's and one Bf109. One Do215 was seen to break away from the combat action trailing smoke and losing altitude, but its fate is not known and the squadron was also credited with a probable. But only seven of the nine Hurricanes returned, with one pilot missing and another Hurricane crashing near Dartford with the pilot managing to bale out of his aircraft.

    Flying Officer R.H. Oxspring of 66 Squadron Gravesend (Spitfires) said later that every squadron in 11 Group and the five squadrons from Duxford had in some way intercepted raiders and engaged combat. For the enemy bomber crews, it was now a no win situation. They were outnumbered over their target area, so much so that accurate bombing was virtually impossible. More and more squadrons were moving into areas to cut off any retreat so that when they did decide to abort, trying to get into the protection of the cloud cover would be their only hope of survival. Group Captain Vincent wrote in his report:

    I was climbing over Northolt to watch the Northolt Wing in action, and saw approximately five miles S.W. and west of base, streamers from very high enemy fighters. When at 20,000 feet, I saw approaching from the south I saw a formation of about 18 He111s at approx. 17,000 feet with a very large number of Me109's, on each side, above and behind, mostly about 2,000 feet above the bombers.
    I was therefore able to carry out a head on attack on the bombers, breaking away below, and then one from vertically below and stalling away - I was unable to see any possible result of either attack owing to the Me109's. The bombers then turned back to the south.

    I climbed up towards the sun and tried to attack a Me109 but had to leave it owing to others coming down onto me from above, but saw three Me109's chasing a Hurricane at right angles to me from left to right, and when the Hurricane dived away (straightening out 5,000 feet below) and the Me's turned back onto their course. I was able to get in a good position on the tail of the third one. Before I opened fire I saw No.1 burst into flames, and the pilot jump out in a parachute; he had obviously been shot down by No.2 who was close in astern of him.

    I gave one very short burst of about one second at No.3 at about 200 yards and immediately pieces came off from the port side of his fuselage, I estimate, to the south of Farnborough. I could not then see No.2 as my attention was diverted by the two parachutes.

    All Me109's had light blue undersurfaces and dull grey mottled top surfaces with black crosses on fuselages.


    Group Captain S.F. Vincent Station Commander Northolt 11 Group Sept 15th 1940


    One of the Luftwaffe pilots who had to make a rather ungracious landing was the veteran Professor von Wedel. Like most of the Bf 109 pilots, they stayed with the Dorniers as long as possible, but the fuel situation forced them to leave early leaving the bombers in a very vulnerable position. On the return journey, his flight of Bf 109s were attacked by 605 Squadron Croydon, 1 RCAF Squadron Northolt and 229 Squadron Northolt all flying Hurricanes. It is believed that one of the Hurricanes of 1 RCAF Squadron followed von Wedel down, the veteran not being able to out manoeuvre the Hurricane, was hit and his Bf 109 had lost its controls. He tried in vain to make a landing on Romney Marsh, but the controls did not respond, and he made a heavy wheels up landing at a farmhouse, destroying a shed in which a mother and daughter were sitting in a car awaiting the father who was about to take them out on a Sunday drive. Both mother and daughter were killed instantly. A local policeman arrived on the scene to find a battered and bruised von Wedel wandering around in an almost tearful state, and as he apologized to the policeman for what he had done, the constable simply asked " would you like a cup of tea sir !!!!".
    Sgt P.R Eyles 92 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) picks up a Do17 heading south and attacks. A short burst at first has no impact and he has to circle round and decides to have another attack. He gains a little height then sweeps down preparing to make an astern attack. Another short burst and pieces fly off the starboard side of the bomber and the tell tale smoke from the starboard engine indicates damage. As the Spitfire banks away he jumped on from above by Bf109 but the Biggin Hill pilot reacts quickly and take evasive action. He starts to climb and has lost sight of the German fighter, and looks for the crippled Dornier below. It continues its journey and could not have suffered too much damage as it is still flying straight and level.
    The sergeant lines up his Spitfire to make another attack when he spots the Bf109 on his port side coming at him. He turns and attempts a beam attack on the 109. As they close in at an impact speed of something over five hundred miles an hour, both seem to fire at the same time, the Spitfire vibrates slightly, but does not seem to be damaged too severely, it is still responsive and all dials and controls seem to be behaving normally. Smoke poured from the engine area of the Messerschmitt and it starts to lose altitude in graceful fashion then levels out. Sgt Eyles pulls back on the stick and gains altitude. The recognizable wake of smoke heading out over the Kent coastline indicates the Dornier is making progress. The Spitfire heads in that direction, gaining height all the time. No other aircraft seem to be in the area to impede his next attack.

    His combat report states that he was well across the Channel before he caught up with the bomber where he made another attack and saw more pieces fly off the fuselage and the other engine catch fire, but seeing a number of small specs coming at him from the French coast, decided to call it a day and head back towards base only claiming the Do17 as a probable.
    Sgt Eyles was to try a similar action three days later, but was shot down by Major Moelders off the coast near Dungeness and was never seen again.

    The bulk of the fighting took place over London and its outskirts from Dartford westward, where five pairs of squadrons from 11 Group and the wing from 12 Group were all in action between ten minutes to three and a quarter past, mainly with the third formation but probably also with survivors of the other two. In the course of the action the enemy distributed a big bombload over London and its outskirts, scoring several lucky hits on public utilities and railways. At East Ham a gas-holder and a telephone exchange were wrecked; and considerable damage was done to a variety of targets on both banks of the river at West Ham and Erith. Many other riverside boroughs reported hits; but the harm done was nothing like as great as that sustained eight days before in the first of the big daylight raids on London. Again retiring by two distinct routes, the attackers were engaged on the way out by another four squadrons, including two from 10 Group. Guns of the inner artillery zone and the Thames and Medway defences were also in action and claimed a number of successes."
    Basil Collier, The Defence of the United Kingdom, HMSO, 1957

    Meanwhile, Flight Lieutenant W.G. Clouston of 19 Squadron Duxford (Spitfires) took the two sections of his squadron to attack a formation of Do17s over Shoeburyness. Making their attack in line astern they made their attacks before any Bf109s arrived. F/L Couston lined up one, and gave a series of short bursts, one of the engines of the Dornier exploded in flame and smoke. Before he lost sight of it, ten feet of the bombers wing broke away and fell earthwards causing the bomber to roll over and spiral down to a watery grave below.
    1600hrs: As the last of the bombers were being chased back across the Channel, and many of the squadrons who has fought one of the heaviest air combats of the Battle of Britain retired to their respective aerodromes, another small raid had been detected and was approaching the Dorset town of Portland. It was just a small force of about ten He111s and 10 Group scrambled 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires), 607 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) and 609 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires). The enemy target was the Woolston Spitfire factory which was hit, the bombing was not accurate and severe damage was kept to a minimum. 602 and 609 Squadrons both intercepted after the bombers attacked their target, and both claimed that they had destroyed two aircraft each.

    1800hrs: A small formation of Bf110s from Erpro 210, once the crack dive bombing gruppe of the Luftwaffe, made an attack again on the Woolston factory complex. Most of the British fighters that had been up on constant sorties during the afternoon had returned to their bases and by this time were busy being rearmed, refuelled and many were undergoing their usual repairs from damage sustained during the hectic afternoon. Therefore the Bf110s were free from any attack or interception by Hurricanes or Spitfires. The task of defence was by the AA gun batteries who put up a tremendous fight in defence with accurate gunfire, which although they did not shoot down any enemy aircraft, the barrage that they put up was so aggressive that not a single bomb was dropped onto the Spitfire factory.

    As the afternoon attack came slowly to an end, one by one the often tired and exhausted pilots returned to their bases. It had been a long and hectic day, Many of the pilots stated that 'they had very close to buying it' but such was their determination that saw them through, yet each one still had to remember that he was not invincible, the thought of death was still a reality, but many put it to the back of their minds.

    Some of us would die within the next few days. That was inevitable. But you did not believe that it would be you. Death was always present, and we knew it for what it was. If we had to die, we would be alone, smashed to pieces, burnt alive, or drowned. Some strange, protecting veil kept the nightmare thought from our minds, as did the loss of our friends. Their disappearance struck us as less a solid blow than a dark shadow which chilled our hearts and passed on.
    Squadron Leader Peter Townsend 85 Squadron RAF (later Group Captain)

    But the day belonged to Royal Air Force Fighter Command, they were unaware of it then, but they had achieved something on September 15th 1940 that would go down in world history. Their guts, determination and courage was at long last to pay off, they would turn the tide in controlling the skies over south-east England. This day was to belong to them, and in future years was to become known as "Battle of Britain Day".
    "This time, for a change, we outnumbered the hun, and believe me, no more than eight got home from that party.
    At one time you could see planes going down on fire all over the place, and the sky seemed full of parachutes. It was sudden death that morning, for our fighters shot them to blazes.
    Squadron Leader Douglas Bader 242 Squadron RAF Fighter Command


    CASUALTIES:
    For this day only, to indicate the severity of the days combat actions the full casualty list is displayed.
    Aircraft shown in red are those that were lost or destroyed

    1140hrs: Croydon. Hurricane L2122. 605 Squadron Croydon
    P/O R.E. Jones unhurt. (Shot down in combat with Do17s and Bf109s. Pilot baled out of damaged aircraft)
    1150hrs: Sevenoaks Kent. Hurricane N2537. 229 Squadron Northolt
    P/O G.L.D. Doutrepont killed. (Crashed onto Staplehurst Railway Station after being shot down by Bf109s)
    1200hrs: Sevenoaks Kent. Hurricane V6616. 229 Squadron Northolt
    P/O R.R. Smith wounds to leg. (Baled out after combat with Do215 and Bf110s)
    1210hrs: Tunbridge Wells. Hurricane P3080. 1 RCAF Squadron Northolt
    F/O A.D. Nesbitt wounded. (Shot down by Bf109. Baled out)
    1210hrs: Tunbridge Wells. Hurricane P3876. 1 RCAF Squadron Northolt
    F/O R. Smither killed. (Attacked and shot down by Bf109. Pilot failed to bale out)
    1215hrs: London. Hurricane P2725. 504 Squadron Hendon
    Sgt R.T. Holmes unhurt. (Baled out after aircraft damaged by Bf109 crashed in Buckingham Palace Rd)
    1215hrs: Canterbury. Spitfire R6767. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
    Fl/Sgt C. Sydney unhurt. (Returned to base with damage to wing after combat with Bf109s)
    1220hrs: Maidstone. Hurricane P3865. 73 Squadron Debden
    P/O R.A. Marchand killed. (Crashed into farm at Teynham after being shot down by Bf109s)
    1225hrs: London. Hurricane L1913. 504 Squadron Hendon
    F/O M.E.A. Royce unhurt. (Returned to base with oil cooler problem after combat action)
    1230hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane P3642. 257 Squadron Debden
    P/O C.F.A. Capon unhurt. (Made forced landing at Croydon after combat action)
    1230hrs: London. Spitfire R6690. 609 Squadron Warmwell
    P/O G.N. Gaunt killed. (Crashed in flames near Kenley after being hit by gunfire from Bf110)
    1230hrs: London. Hurricane N2599. 46 Squadron North Weald
    Sgt C.A.L. Hurry unhurt. (Returned to base with damage to mainplane)
    1230hrs: Thurrock Essex. Spitfire P9324. 41 Squadron Hornchurch
    P/O G.A. Langley killed. (Crashed into building after being shot down by Bf109s)
    1230hrs: Middle Wallop. Spitfire K9997. 609 Squadron Warmwell
    P/O E.Q. Tobin unhurt. (Crashed into airfield truck on landing approach)
    1235hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane P3620. 257 Squadron Debden
    Fl/Lt P.M. Brothers unhurt. (Landed at Biggin Hill for safety check with damage sustained in combat)
    1235hrs: Ashford. Hurricane V7433. 501 Squadron Kenley
    S/L H.A.V. Hogan unhurt. (Damaged in cooling system after combat with Bf109s. Made forced landing)
    1245hrs: London. Hurricane V6576. 242 Squadron Coltishall
    Fl/Lt G.E. Ball unhurt. (Made forced landing with damaged aircraft after combat action)
    1245hrs: Ashford. Hurricane P2760. 501 Squadron Kenley
    P/O A.E.A von den Hove d'Ertsenrijck killed. (Aircraft exploded in mid-air after hit by gunfire from Bf109)
    1245hrs: Kent. Hurricane P2903. 303 Squadron Northolt
    P/O W. Lokuciewski leg wounds. (Returned to base after receiving damage by Bf109)
    1258hrs: South London. Hurricane N2481. 504 Squadron Hendon
    P/O J.T. Gurteen killed. (Shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed at full throttle into residential house)
    1430hrs: Marden. Hurricane L2012. 605 Squadron Croydon
    P/O T.P.M. Cooper-Slipper injured. (Hit by gunfire from Do17. Collided with E/A losing wing. Pilot baled out)
    1430hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane R4087. 310 Squadron Duxford
    Sgt J. Hubacek slight injuries. (Baled out after aircraft was hit by Bf109 gunfire)
    1435hrs: S.E. London. Hurricane V6566. 249 Squadron North Weald
    P/O K.T. Lofts unhurt. (Crash landed at West Malling after attacked by Bf109 while attacking He111)
    1440hrs: Rye Kent. Hurricane P2884. 242 Squadron Coltishall
    Fl/L G. ff Powell-Sheddon slight injuries. (Shot down by Bf109 while attacking Do17 and baled out)
    1445hrs: North Weald. Hurricane P2954. 302 Squadron Duxford
    Fl/Lt T.P. Chlopik killed. (Shot down by enemy aircraft. Baled out but died on landing)
    1445hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane R4085. 310 Squadron Duxford
    P/O A. Hess unhurt. (Shot down in flames by enemy aircraft and pilot baled out safely)
    1445hrs: S.E. London. Hurricane N2705. 504 Squadron Hendon
    F/O M. Jebb died of injuries 19.9.40. (Crashed at Dartford after combat with enemy aircraft)
    1445hrs: South of London. Hurricane L1973. 1 RCAF Squadron Northolt
    F/O A. Yuile wounded. (Returned to base with severe damage after combat with He111 and poss Bf109s)
    1450hrs: Ashford. Spitfire R6606. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
    P/O R.H. Holland slight injuries. (Injuries sustained on landing after baling out of damaged aircraft)
    1450hrs: S of London. Spitfire II P7303. 611 Squadron Digby
    F/O T.D. Williams unhurt. (Returned to base with severe damage after combat with He111)
    1500hrs: Dartford. Hurricane P3939. 303 Squadron Northolt
    Sgt T. Andruszkow unhurt. (Baled out after being hit by gunfire from Bf109)
    1500hrs: Ashford. Spitfire P9513. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
    P/O A.C. Bartley unhurt. (Returned to base with damage after combat with Do17)
    1500hrs: Over Channel. Spitfire R6991. 19 Squadron Duxford
    Sub/Lt A.G. Blake unhurt. (Made forced landing in Kent after combat action)
    1500hrs: Maidstone. Hurricane P3515. 242 Squadron Coltishall
    Sub/Lt R.J. Cork unhurt. (Made landing at Rochford. Damage to cockpit and wings in combat with Bf109)
    1500hrs: North Kent. Hurricane R2685. 303 Squadron Northolt
    P/O M. Feric unhurt. (Returned to base after aircraft damaged by gunfire from Bf109s)
    1500hrs: North Kent. Hurricane V7465. 303 Squadron Northolt
    S/L R.G. Kellett unhurt. (Returned to base with damaged aircraft after action with Bf109s)
    1500hrs: Hawkhurst. Hurricane P3113. 213 Squadron Tangmere
    Sgt R.T. Llewellyn badly wounded. (Shot down in combat with Bf110s and baled out)
    1500hrs: Kenley. Hurricane P2836. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop
    Sgt L. Pidd killed. (Baled out after being shot down by enemy aircraft but was dead on landing)
    1500hrs: Kenley. Hurricane L2089. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop
    P/O V.C. Simmonds unhurt. (Returned to base with damage to aircraft tailplane after combat)
    1500hrs: Off Gravesend. Hurricane V6673. 303 Squadron Northolt
    Sgt M. Wajciechowski unhurt. (Returned to base after aircraft damaged by gunfire from Bf109s)
    1505hrs: West Malling. Hurricane P3920. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop
    Fl/Lt M.V. Blake unhurt. (Aircraft damaged in combat and had to make a forced landing)
    1505hrs: Gravesend. Hurricane P3577. 303 Squadron Northolt
    Sgt M. Brzezowski Listed as missing. (Believed crashed in Estuary after combat with Bf109s)
    1505hrs: North Weald. Hurricane P3935. 302 Squadron Duxford
    Sgt J. Kowalski unhurt. (Aircraft damaged by enemy aircraft and returned to base)
    1505hrs: Kingswood Kent. Spitfire X4324. 603 Squadron Hornchurch
    F/O A.P. Pease killed. (Shot down by unknown enemy aircraft. Pilot did not bale out)
    1505hrs: Over Channel. Spitfire X4070. 19 Squadron Duxford
    Sgt J.A. Potter taken POW. (Ditched damage aircraft off French coast and captured by German military)
    1505hrs: Gravesend. Hurricane V6684. 303 Squadron Northolt
    F/O W. Urbanowicz unhurt. (Returned to base after aircraft damaged by gunfire from Bf109s)
    1505hrs: Gravesend. Hurricane L2099. 303 Squadron Northolt
    F/O W. Zak unhurt. (Returned to base after aircraft damaged by gunfire from Bf109s)
    1510hrs: Kenley. Hurricane P3462. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop
    F/O C.T. Davis unhurt. (Managed to return to base with damaged aircraft)
    1510hrs: Kent. Spitfire R7019. 603 Squadron Hornchurch
    S/L G.L. Denholm unhurt. (Hit by gunfire from Do17. Baled out of damaged aircraft)
    1510hrs: Rye Sussex. Spitfire R6922. 609 Squadron Warmwell
    F/O J.D. Dundas unhurt. (Returned to base with severe damage after combat with Do17)
    1510hrs: Over Channel. Spitfire P9431. 19 Squadron Duxford
    Sgt H.A.C. Roden slight injuries. (Crash landed after combat with Bf109)
    1515hrs: Appledore. Hurricane V6688. 607 Squadron Tangmere
    P/O P.J.T. Stephenson injured. (Collided with E/A after attack on Do17. Pilot baled out)
    1520hrs: Beachy Head. Spitfire X4412. 602 Squadron Westhampnett
    Sgt C.F. Babbage unhurt. (Made forced landing at Shoreham with damage by gunfire from Do17)
    1530hrs: Over Channel. Hurricane V6698. 253 Squadron Kenley
    P/O A.R.H. Barton unhurt. (Damaged in combat with Do215s. Forced landing at Hawkinge)
    1635hrs: Kenley. Hurricane P3833. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop
    P/O A.R. Covington unhurt. (Exhausted fuel tank and made forced landing near East Grinstead)
    Unknown time: Boscombe Down. Hurricane P3660. 56 Squadron Boscombe Down
    Sgt T.R. Tweed killed. (Failed to come out of spin during dog fight practice over base)



    Document 51
    SEPT 15th 1940
    ( THE CONCLUSION )

    September 15th 1940 (Afternoon)
     
    TTH likes this.
  16. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Wednesday September 18th 1940



    It now appeared that the Royal Air Force were starting to gain the upper hand, but even though London suffered serious damage and hundreds of casualties from September 7th onwards, the battle was far from being over, although the turning point could be said, happened on September 15th. Adolf Hitler may have postponed the invasion once again, but the intensity of day and especially night raids were about to increase.
    Göring was under instructions to continue bombing attacks on the British capital although personally, he would have like to revert back to destroying the fighters, the airfields and ground support installations of the RAF, but unlike the British chain of command, he was under instructions from Hitler personally. Daytime attacks would still continue, and by increasing Bf109 and Bf110 escort duties to the bombers, he could hopefully destroy at least some of Fighter Command by forcing them to send fighters into the air, but with instructions to concentrate on the industrial areas of London's East End and bombing London itself, it was going to be a big ask if the targets were not the fighter aerodromes themselves. Night time bombing would continue, and this was to become more widespread with greater intensity and with more high explosive bombs followed by thousands of incendiary bombs.

    Keith Park was now under pressure to pursue the tactics of flying his squadrons in pairs. The instruction was given by the Air Ministry, mainly under pressure by those in favour of the "Big Wing" theory and as it had turned out, that the British tactical position had improved greatly. [1]

    The flying of squadrons in pairs was more of a compromise on the part of Park who refused to send up the number of squadrons as Douglas Bader and Leigh-Mallory had wanted, although it must be admitted that Bader's "Big Wing" was destroying large numbers of enemy aircraft when given the opportunity. The combination of the "Big Wing" and other squadrons flying in pairs proved how successful the method was during the British victory on September 15th. We were not to see the last of paired squadrons yet.

    During the early hours of the morning, Bomber Command flew a number of sorties which comprised of some 194 aircraft. Seventy-five per cent of the bombers were attacking the Channel ports as they had done throughout September, with special emphasis on Antwerp targeting the barges that would be used in any impending invasion. 187 of the bombers despatched reported successful missions with only two Hampdens being lost during the night operations. [2]



    Page 45: September 18th 1940
     

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