The Chronology: Page-22.
Thursday July 25th  - Wednesday July 31st 1940

Filter Room at Bentley Priory          RAF groundcrew at work

THURSDAY JULY 25th 1940

WEATHER:

Overnight rain periods expected to clear and give way to a fine day with only a thin layer of cloud. Still cool for the time of year but winds expected to be light. Heavier cloud was expected by evening with the possibility of rain periods.

OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

The weather had improved enough during the early morning for German Stuka and E-boat attacks on a convoy working its way through the Dover Straits. It was a disaster for the convoy as they were pounded by heavy guns from the French mainland as well. Eleven merchant coal ships of convoy CW8 out of twenty-one were sunk in the Straits as well as two Royal Navy destroyers. A new tactic was used by the Luftwaffe, the escorting Bf109's came in at sea level to be met by the Spitfires of 65 Squadron (Hornchurch) while the Ju87 Stuka's came out of the sky the dive bomb the convoy. 32 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) and 615 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) came in to assist the sea level dogfight with fifty Bf109's. 54 Squadron Rochford (Spitfires) answered the call for assistance from the escorting naval vessels and engaged Bf109's that had arrived to assist the Ju87's. Like the previous day, 54 Squadron was to suffer badly, but with one Spitfire to every five Bf109's, they were lucky not to lose more than three aircraft.

1430hrs, The convoy only just past Folkestone, and the Luftwaffe sent another forty Ju88's with an escort of over fifty Bf109's to make a final attack on the convoy. Although the British pilots pressed for more fighters in combat areas, their request was dismissed as command stated that "....if we try to meet them on a one to one basis, then Fighter Command would have no fighters left after a couple of weeks." Only eight Spitfires of 64 Squadron (Kenley) were scrambled to meet the ninety German fighters and bombers, twelve Spitfires of 54 Squadron (Hornchurch) and a flight of Hurricanes from 111 Squadron (Croydon). THe Hurricanes and Spitfires were vastly outnumbered by five to one, almost impossible odds, but the RAF pilots were equal to the task.

The 109s coming at us from above as we still struggled for height — Way* being hit and falling away out of sight [he was dead]. I remember the 109 attacking me from the port side, my trying to turn in towards him, the loud bangs of his cannon-shells striking my Spitfire as he hit me from an almost full deflection angle; and even through the pounding fear that I felt, admiring his marksmanship. A few seconds later, with my aeroplane miraculously still answering apparently normally to the controls, finding myself behind two Me 109s, aligning my sight on one, pressing the gun button — and the guns failing to fire; then diving out of the fight to return to base.’
*F/L B.H.(Wonky) Way 54 Squadron Hornchurch
Pilot Officer D.R.Turley-George 54 Squadron RAF [1]
After this days fighting, 54 Squadron Hornchurch was north for a brief rest. They had been constantly in action for the past three weeks, had flown in excess of 800 flying hours, had 506 operational sorties to their credit, had lost five experienced pilots and had twelve of their aircraft destroyed.
The tactic here was to meet the bombers head on at full throttle then as they dispersed they pulled upwards to meet the oncoming Bf109's. The tactic worked, and both fighters and bombers withdrew. With 64 Squadron and 111 Squadron returning to refuel, the German formation, strengthened by another staffel circled and returned to the convoy. Here they sank a further five merchantmen and seriously damaged four others. (Only 2 out of 21 were to reach their destination of Portland.)

AVM Keith Park was all in favour of attacking the bombers "head on". He maintained that they were very vulnerable from the front, very poorly armed, had very little armour protection and often flew in tight formations which meant that they had very little chance of maneuvering for fear of hitting another bomber. "Attack the ones in front" he urged, "If you shoot them down, the formation will break up in confusion, then you can take your pick."
But such tactics could be dangerous. It called for accurate shooting and one must pull away sharply to avoid collision. ACM Hugh Dowding would not approve such tactics, it was too dangerous for our young pilots to adopt, but many brave and skillful pilots responded to Keith Parks instruction. [2]
I will say, the old Hun certainly tried hard, but they did not like that head-on business. One could see the leader carrying on straight, but the followers wavering, drawing out sideways to the flanks, and in some cases just plain leaving the formation.
F/L R.M.B.D.Duke-Wooley 253 & 23 Squadrons RAF.
THE CASUALTIES: (July 25th)
1455hrs: Dover. Spitfire P9451. 64 Squadron Kenley. (Lost at sea)
F/O A.J.O.Jeffrey. Killed. (Was last seen crashing into the Channel) (Body washed up on Dutch coast)
1500hrs: Off Dover. Spitfire R6707. 54 Squadron Rochford. (Lost at sea)
F/Lt B.H."Wonky" Way. Presumed drowned. (Shot down by Bf109 and crashed into Channel)
1540hrs: Hawkinge Airfield. Spitfire R6693. 610 Squadron Biggin Hill. (Aircraft destroyed)
S/L A.T.Smith. Killed. (Crashed and burnt out after stalling on landing. Previously in combat with Bf109)
1745hrs: Off Folkestone Kent. Spitfire L1035. 64 Squadron Kenley. (Lost at sea)
Sub/Lt F.D.Paul. Died of Injuries. (Shot down by Bf109, captured by Germans but died 30.7.40
1810hrs: Dover. Spitfire R6816. 54 Squadron Rochford. (Aircraft destroyed)
P/O A.Finnie. Killed. (Hit by gunfire from Bf109 and crashed at Kingsdown, nr Dover)
2345hrs: Porthtowan Cornwall. Spitfire P9493. 234 Squadron St Eval. (Aircraft destroyed)
P/O G.K.Gout. Killed. (Crashed just outside town. Circumstances not known)


FRIDAY JULY 26th 1940

The weather was disastrous. Low dark cloud and heavy rain all over Britain made any flying almost an impossibility, but still the Luftwaffe persisted with spasmodic bombing attacks by Fliegerkorps VIII. Their targets were channel shipping south of the Isle of Wight. Fighter Command alerted Tangmere to send a flight to meet the raiders. 601 Squadron Hurricanes responded and managed to shoot down two German bombers although one Hurricane was shot down and crashed into the Channel and another flown by F/O J.H.Riddle was damaged by gunfire but managed to return to base. A few attacks were made along the Channel coast at midday, and 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes) responded, one Hurricane was damaged just off the coast at Swanage but the pilot managed to return to base but otherwise it was a quiet day in the south.

OTHER AREAS OF CONFLICT:
Hastings Kent. A number of bombs were dropped and casualties were recorded.
Weymouth Devon. Bombs fell in the vicinity, but no other details are known.
Bristol. Again shipping in the Channel was recorded to have been hit as well as some land based areas.
Aberdeen, Scotland. Bombing was recorded in the area with little or no serious damage.
London. N.E. Estimated 120 bombs fell as well as incendiaries. Only a few civilians were killed.

THE CASUALTIES:
1000hrs: St Catherines Point. Hurricane P2753. 601 Squadron Tangmere. (Aircraft lost)
P/O P.Chalenor Lindsay. Posted missing. (Shot down by Bf109 over Channel and crashed into sea)
 

A number of aircraft were damaged upon landing at various airfields in heavy rain. These included a Spitfire of 266 Squadron Wittering, and a Hurricane of 601 Squadron Tangmere. A Spitfire of 603 Squadron Turnhouse went nose first into mud upon landing. All aircraft were repairable.


SATURDAY JULY 27th 1940
 

The summer of 1940 was as unpredictable as ever, as again by July 27th 1940 the weather partially cleared although the cloud base remained over the English Channel. Fliegerkorps VIII again made attacks along the southern coast. Radar had detected them over the Channel 0925hrs and 609 Squadron was ordered to the Portland area to cover a medium convoy (Codenamed Bacon) off the coast at Swanage. One enemy aircraft was destroyed and another limped away to the south trailing smoke. 609 Squadron lost one aircraft in the combat off the coast at Weymouth. Other attacks were made on convoys off the east coast near Harwich and later in the afternoon, Dover Harbour again came under attack as German raiders bombed naval destroyers and the barracks.

With the navy losing three destroyers this day, the Admiralty decided to withdraw all naval ships from Dover and cease using the harbour as an advanced base. This was to place a further burden on the RAF as they would have to provide additional protection of the Channel convoys, something that Dowding and Park did not want to do, but with convoys having no destroyer protection the task was presented to the RAF.


SUNDAY JULY 28th 1940
 

On July 28th 1940 the weather was a carbon copy of the previous day, and Fighter Command expected stronger attacks by the Luftwaffe. But the morning proved to quiet and allowed the pilots of 11 Group to take a breather. The people in the towns and villages took advantage of the fine Sunday morning and while many took to whatever beaches were accessible, other went to their morning church services. For a few hours at least, the war was a million miles away.

1200hrs: Dover, Rye and Pevensey radar picked up a plot over Calais. A large formation was detected to the west of the town, and moments later another formation was picked up on the other side. But for some unknown reason the amalgamating formations seemed to hold their pattern, then when part way across the Channel turned back.

1330hrs: The radar stations again detected a large build up in the vicinity of Calais and headed towards Dover. Fighter Command HQ and 11 Group HQ were put on alert. Slowly the German formation made its way towards the English coastline. As soon as the formation was detected, Park put many of his squadrons "at readiness" and watched the armada of hostile aircraft on the table below him. As the German bombers with their escort approached the Kent coast, the Observer Corps reported 60+ Heinkel's and 40+ Messerschmitts. Fighter Command release  41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) and 257 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) to intercept.

1400hrs: The formation is just about over the coast when 74 Squadron which was at Manston was first on the scene, the other squadrons arriving moments later. As was usual practice, the Hurricanes attacked the bombers while the Spitfires engaged combat with the Bf109 escort. 'Sailor' Malan the South African ace who was leading 74 Squadron took on first one, then another of the Messerschmitts, one of these was the German ace Major Werner Molders:
"Sailor” Malan was leading twelve Spitfires of 74 Squadron from Manston. As they closed, Malan chose a victim in the leading flight, fired, and watched him go down. Molders was leading that formation; he turned and shot down a Spitfire. For Molders this was his 129th combat mission of the war and his twenty-sixth victory (not including the fourteen aircraft shot down in Spain). He came round again, looking for his twenty-seventh.

Both Molders and Malan were fast, but Molders was split-seconds faster. Even as Malan was scoring his victory, Molders was already on his tail. Malan turned in towards the attack—the classic reaction of the fighter pilot—and kept turning tightly enough to bring Molders into his sights. His machine-gun bullets raked the Messerschmitt. Had Spitfires been armed with cannon, Molders would not have been able to nurse his badly damaged machine back to his base at Wissant. When he landed, his leg wounds were bad enough to put him into hospital. It was to be another month before Molders could claim victim number twenty-seven.

Len Deighton Fighter 1977 Jonathon Cape pp141-142
Controversy will always abound when it comes to claims. I find no record of "Sailor" Malan making any claims in this combat. Mike Spick in "Battle of Britain" describing the height of the battle, claims that it was F/L John Webster of 41 Squadron Hornchurch who shot down Major Werner Molders, and this is backed up by the German records in "Battle of Britain - Then & Now Vol V" mentioning that Molders of Stab JG51 was hit and his Bf109 damaged by F/L J.T.Webster at 1500hrs, with Molders making a belly-landing near the French coast.
 
It turned out to be a disastrous day for the Luftwaffe. Their losses started at 0500hrs Ju88 of 3/KG51 on a mission to bomb Crewe in Lancashire lost its bearings and became hopelessly lost, then ran out of fuel and made a forced landing at Bexhill Sussex. Then at 0525hrs, 10 Group released a flight from 234 Squadron St Eval (Spitfires) to intercept Ju88's approaching the Devon coast south of Plymouth. F/L P.C.Hughes, P/O K.S.Horton and P/O P.W.Horton all contributed in shooting down one Ju88. In the combat off Dover,  a total of five Me109's were shot down and as well as the Me109 of Major Werner Molders, F/L J.T.Webster was also successful in claiming another Bf109 at 1450hrs. P/O G.H.Bennions also of 41 Squadron damaged a Me109 at 1500hrs that successfully made it back to its base at Wissant.
Because a number of German rescue and Red Cross planes [ Document-25 ] had been detected on observation, photographic and possibly other missions as well as carrying out their primary roll as search and rescue aircraft, the Air Ministry on July 14th 1940 gave instructions for them to be shot down if they were seen near to allied shipping or close to the English coast. One of these Heinkel 59 rescue planes was spotted by 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) and shot down. Whether they were in their rights to do so is a debatable question as they were about 10 miles to the east of Boulogne off the French coast. The time would have been at around 1500hrs as they had taken off at 1435hrs. As the crew of the He59 scrambled in the water another He59 made a landing closeby to rescue them and a Hurricane of 111 Squadron Croydon flown by F/O H.M.Ferris strafed the second He59 causing damage, but it managed to take off and make for safety. Another He59 was also shot down by 111 Squadron whilst on a search and rescue mission at approx 1530hrs.

In all, a total of 18 German aircraft had been shot down, and the shooting down of He59 search and rescue planes caused Hitler to proclaim that the RAF in attacking unarmed aircraft with defenceless and injured personnel on board nothing but cold blooded murderers.


MONDAY JULY 29th 1940

On July 29, the weather was fine and it was expected that more attacks would be made by the Luftwaffe as flying conditions were as perfect as one could get. Slow to make their presence felt, it was not until 0700hrs that the first enemy formations were detected coming in across the Channel towards Dover. The observer Corps reported that the formation consisted of 30+ Ju 87 Stukas and 50 + Bf109s. Fighter Command sent up more squadrons than usual including 41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 56 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes), 64 Squadron Kenley Spitfires) and it is believed 43 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) although there is no mention of attacking Ju 87s over Dover, although they were airborne at the time.

The massed formations of Spitfires and Hurricanes arrived over the town of Dover just as the Ju 87s were making their first attacks at 0730hrs and the skies above the town became a swirling mass of weaving aircraft and vapour trails as an estimated number of 200 aircraft engaged in combat. Four Ju 87s were reported to have been shot down into the sea while Fighter Command received a number of damaged aircraft including five Spitfires from 41 Squadron. Two RAF fighters were lost.

During the afternoon, formations of He 111 and Do 17s were intercepted by 66 Squadron Coltishall (Spitfires), 17 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes)  and 85 Squadron Martlesham (Hurricanes) off the Essex coast near Harwich and shot down two He 111's while 151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) attacked a formation of Me110s off the coast at Orfordness. Two Hurricanes were damaged by accurate gunfire from the Bf110s and both made forced landings at Martlesham and Rochford respectively.

During the early hours of the morning, a He 111 en route to bomb the Bristol works at Filton was detected by searchlights and came under fire from AA gun batteries which managed to hit and damage the bomber. A fire started to engulf one of the engines believed to be the port engine, and soon the other engine began to lose power and the crew decided to abandon the aircraft. All baled out and were eventually captured. Two of the crew were at large for some 48 hours, but one crew member, Fw J Markl, managed to evade capture for nine days, [ Document-26 ] believed to be the longest period of time that a German airman was "at large" before being captured.

The weather again restricts flying operations on July 30th, although Fighter Command managed to fly over 680 sorties. The morning saw very low and threatening cloud that with the exception of general patrol and a few observation duties there was no combat action.

But arguments continued within the Wehrmacht regarding an invasion of Britain and how best it could be implemented. The Luftwaffe were deciding on the best method of action and the targets that would best hit hard on the  Royal Air Force. The German Army and the Navy shared great differences as to where the invasion landings should take place. The Navy stating that to tranship hundreds of barges, invasion craft and transport carrying craft the narrow area of the Dover Straits would be best suited for this purpose. But the Army disagreed wanting the wider fronts of a number of landing beaches between Dover in the east through to Lyme Regis and Portland in the west.


TUESDAY JULY 30th 1940

On July 30th, after a number of possible invasion dates that had come under heated debate and discussion, Hitler now had made it quite clear that no invasion could take place before September 15th, although it is believed that he personally did not want an invasion until at least early 1941. All his Generals did not favour this, the waiting period was too long, it would also give Britain time to be better prepared and although at this stage the United States showed no signs of becoming involved with the war in Europe. But the question always remained, could Winston Churchill persuade Roosevelt to supply air and land forces to assist the British. If this happened, then Germany's chance at a successful invasion would be seriously hampered.

It had been announced on German radio by Dr Joseph Goebbels who denounced the statement by the German Secretary of War that Britain would be overpowered in a short time and that British military forces would come under German control. "Britain" he said, "was already weakening, it cannot muster the number of planes required to conquer our glorious Luftwaffe, they are losing a battle that they are intent on prolonging." He went on to say that even the United States now have no intention on attempting to save Britain, and that soon, an invasion of Britain will be successful. Of course, Goebbels, Minister for Propaganda, was doing just that, trying to impress the German people that Germany was well under way in winning the war and that the German government would be taking up residence in Whitehall maybe by Christmas.

Adolph Hitler had decided that before any such invasion take place, the British Royal Air Force must be eliminated both in the air and on the ground, and sent a message to Goering stating that he must have his forces in readiness to commence the great battle of the Luftwaffe against England within twelve hours notice.


WEDNESDAY JULY 31st 1940
 

On July 31st, the day dawned as a typical summers day with clear skies and higher temperatures and even a number of people braved the consequences and a number of seaside resorts reported bathers on many of their beaches. The first combat operation of the day was at Plymouth at 0855hrs when it not Fighter Command that were involved, but a Short Sunderland flying boat of the 10 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force based at Mount Batten. It was flying escort to the merchant cruiser Mooltan that was departing Plymouth after a refit. Three and a half hours out of Plymouth the Sunderland sights a Ju 88 and intercepts and providing the necessary cover for the Mooltan. The German bomber breaks off the engagement and departed the scene.The only other morning combat was over the Channel at 1100hrs, when Ju87's attacked small convoys and soon after midday, a number of German reconnaissance aircraft were detected just off the south coast. No aircraft on either side were shot down.

At 1530hrs, a formation was detected off the coast off Dover. Fighter Command despatched 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) to intercept. The raiders turned out to be a small formation of Bf109's and a dogfight ensued over the Dover area. Four Bf109's were damaged in the combat and were believed to have crashed on their way back to their bases. 74 Squadron lost two aircraft, with one badly damaged and crashed on landing, but the pilot was unhurt.

CASUALTIES:
July 27th 1940.F/O P.A.N.Cox. 501 Sqn Gravesend. Hurricane P3808. Shot down over Dover. Killed.
July 27th 1940.P/O J.R.Buchanan. 609 Sqn Warmwell. Spitfire N3023. Shot down Weymouth. Missing.
July 28th 1940.P/O J.H.R.Young. 74 Sqn Hornchurch. Spitfire P9547. Crashed in Channel off Ramsgate.
July 29th 1940.F/O D.R.Gamblen. 41 Sqn Manston. Spitfire N3038. Disappeared over Dover. Missing.
July 29th 1940.P/O K.C.Campbell. 43 Sqn Northolt. Hurricane L1955. Crashed and burnt out. Killed.
July 29th 1940.F/Sgt C.J.Cooney. 56 Sqn Nth Weald. Hurricane P3879. Exploded in Channel off Dover.
July 31st 1940.Sgt F.W.Eley. 74 Sqn Hornchurch. Spitfire P9398. Shot down off Folkestone.
July 31st 1940.P/O H.R.Gunn. 74 Sqn Hornchurch. Spitfire P9379. Shot down off Folkestone.

[1] Richard Hough and Denis Richards Battle of Britain - A Jublilee History 1989 Hodder & Staughton
[2] Vincent Orange Sir Keith Park 1984 Methuen pp96-97


SUMMARY FOR JULY

By the time that the Battle of Britain officially commenced, the embarrassment of the withdrawl of the B.E.F from France and the success of the subsequent evacuation from Dunkirk had almost been forgotten. Once Germany had marched into Paris and France had fallen, it was a case of which way would Hitler order his armies. Churchill announced that "The battle of France is over, I expect that the Battle of Britain will begin". But Hitler had his eyes on Russia as well, this was his prime target even though Germany had earlier signed a non-aggression pact with them.

Churchill was correct, Hitler decided that he would attempt to make an invasion of Britain, a country that he stated that he had no argument with. The month started rather quietly, with the Luftwaffe making numerous sorties along the southern and eastern coastlines mainly of reconaissence value. The first major raid was on the naval base at Portland but this was just prior to July 10th. It was on this day that the Luftwaffe made their plan of attack known. They were going to attack all British shipping in the Channel and in doing so attempt to draw Fighter Command into the air and wage combat over the Channel.

Throughout most of the month, it seemed that the Luftwaffe were content on attacking convoys in the Channel and an occasional town along the coast. Night activity seemed to be devoted to minelaying along the east coast, the south coast and even off the welsh coast. It was not until July 24th that the Luftwaffe got close to London when it attacked shipping in the Thames Estuary, but a single Ju88 did manage to get through and bomb the aircraft factory at Brooklands. Most of the attacks were spasmodic with the weather taking control on most days and determining many of the Luftwaffe raids.

In general, the attacks on the Channel shipping would not only disrupt the food and raw materials that Britain relied upon, but Göring was hoping that Fighter Command would be drawn into combat over the Channel, but Keith Park could forsee this and would not be tempted. But the Luftwaffe was to sustain a high casualty rate even so. Where Göring thought that he could wipe out the Royal Air Force in a matter of weeks meant that he had to do more serious thinking. The figures below show that the Luftwaffe casualties were more than twice that of the R.A.F.

CASUALTIES FOR JULY

R.A.F. Fighter Command
Hurricane: 33 destroyed, 17 damaged
Pilots: 23 killed, 0 missing, 11 wounded

Spitfire: 34 destroyed, 24 damaged
Pilots: 25 killed, 0 missing, 9 wounded

Blenheim: 4 destroyed, 1 damaged
Crew: 9 killed, 0 missing, 1 wounded

Defiant: 6 destroyed, 1 damaged
Crew: 10 killed, 0 missing, 2 wounded

TOTAL AIRCRAFT: 77 destroyed, 43 damaged
TOTAL PERSONNEL: 67 killed, 0 missing, 23 wounded

The Luftwaffe
Dornier Do 17: 39 destroyed, 13 damaged
Personnel: 30 killed, 74 missing, 19 wounded

Heinkel He 111: 32 destroyed, 3 damaged
Personnel: 52 killed, 85 missing, 6 wounded

Junkers Ju 88: 39 destroyed, 11 damaged
Personnel: 52 killed, 67 missing, 11 wounded

Junkers Ju 87: 13 destroyed, 11 damaged
Personnel: 10 killed, 12 missing, 3 wounded

Messerschmitt Bf 109: 48 destroyed, 14 damaged
Personnel: 17 killed, 14 missing, 13 wounded

Messerschmitt Bf 110: 18 destroyed, 4 damaged
Personnel: 13 killed, 17 missing, 2 wounded

Other: 27 destroyed, 1 damaged
Personnel: 19 killed, 33 missing, 15 wounded

TOTAL AIRCRAFT: 216 destroyed, 57 damaged
TOTAL PERSONNEL: 193 killed, 302 missing, 69 wounded
Peter G. Cooksley The Battle of Britain Ian Allan 1990


Have you checked out all the documents linked from this page
Document 25.   Luftwaffe Red-Cross aircraft 
Document 26.   A German Luftwaffe aircrew evaded capture for nine days 


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