The Hardest Day. 18 August 1940

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Peter Clare, Aug 18, 2007.

  1. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    After their major exertions on 15 and 16 August the Germans paused to recover on 17 August but returned in force the next day with 750 sorties.
    Just after midday the heaviest formations of enemy aircraft yet seen during the battle stimulated 11 Group to bring every serviceable aircraft it had to readiness. Two consecutive raids hit Biggin Hill before the sector station at Kenley came under heavy attack from co-ordinated waves at low and medium level. Both formations were intercepted but severe damage was caused as all ten hangars and twelve aircraft, including ten Hurricanes, were destroyed. The runways were heavily cratered, although still usable, and the communications network was so badly affected that the Sector Operations Room had to be moved to an emergency location off the airfield. For the rest of the battle, Kenley could accommodate only two squadrons instead of three. At Croydon one of the previously undamaged hangars was hit and West Malling was also bombed.
    Shortly after 2.00pm four separate formations approached the Isle of Wight from the south. The most significant target was Poling radar station which was put out of action for the rest of the month. Its loss was serious, but it was the last to be heavily attacked during the battle. At 5pm another large-scale attack converged on Kent, but an attempt to bomb Croydon by some aircraft was blocked by fighters from North Weald and Hornchurch.
    The losses of Junkers 87 "Stuka" dive bombers during the day were so severe that this type of aircraft was withdrawn from the main battle by the Germans, apart from a few later isolated sorties. It has been asserted that 18 August was the "hardest day" of the Battle of Britain. However, the intensity of air activity was greater on 15 and 16 August and the number of Fighter Command aircraft in combat was exceeded on at least half a dozen other days.
     
  2. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    It is really hard to decide what was the actual hardest day in the battle of britain.
     
  3. 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.

    Between lunchtime and teatime, three big Luftwaffe raids were attempted, the first and third by mixed groups of Dornier Do 17, Junkers Ju 88 and Heinkel He 111 bombers, escorted by Messerschmitt Bf 109 and B 110 fighters, and a second by Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers, also escorted by Bf 109s. The targets were the airfields at Kenley, Biggin Hill, Gosport, Ford, Thorney Island, Hornchurch and North Weald, and the radar station at Poling. Although the last wave failed to reach its targets, which were obscured by cloud, the fighting was no less fierce along the route.

    The RAF and Fleet Air Arm lost altogether 68 aircraft, 31 in air combat. 69 German aircraft were destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

    It was vital to re-arm and refuel the British fighters as quickly as possible as their pilots might be called on to fly several sorties each day.

    No 504 Squadron had been mauled by the Luftwaffe in the Battle of France and when it returned to the United Kingdom it was sent to Wick in Scotland to rebuild its operational strength where this photograph was taken.

    From the 5 September the unit was based at the RAF Museum London.

    The armourer on the right is of interest not only for the ribbon bar he wears but also the Observer badge - an 'Old Sweat' from an earlier war.

    The Germans had high hopes for the twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf110 but it proved inferior to both the British Hurricane and the Spitfire. I Gruppe/ZG 26 lost six of their aircraft on this day 18th August 1940.

    Southern England was littered with Luftwaffe wrecks. This Dornier Do 17 of 9/KG76 was shot down on 18 August by Hurricanes of 111 Squadron and it crashed at Leaves Green near Biggin Hill in Kent.

    A Dornier 17Z of 9th Staffel/Kampfgeschwader 76 is manhandled back into its dispersal point at Cormeilles-en-Vexin.

    Nine Dorniers from this unit had been involved in a low level attack on RAF Kenley on the 18th August and had suffered heavy casualties; four had been destroyed, two seriously damaged and the rest had suffered minor damage.

    At the end of the day of the forty men who had set out eight had been killed, five taken prisoner, three returned wounded and seven were floating in the English Channel. The Luftwaffe was bleeding to death.



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

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

  5. 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.
     
    Chris C likes this.
  6. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    A Time-Lapse video of the day from The Operations Room:

     
    HAARA and Chris C like this.
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Thank you hucks216. I enjoyed watching that.
     

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