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
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.
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:
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............
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
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
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
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.
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)
Querqueville (France). Blenheim IV. N3601. 236 Squadron Thorney Island
S/L P.E. Drew.
F/O B.Nokes-Cooper. Both killed. (Shot down
on bomber escort by ground fire)
Querqueville (France). Blenheim IV. R2774. 236 Squadron Thorney Island
P/O B.M. McDonough.
Sgt F.A.P.Head. Both killed. (Shot down on
bomber escort by ground fire)
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.
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.
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)
AUGUST 3rd 1940
There was widespread
fog over most of Southern and Eastern England and in the Midlands during
the morning. Once this cleared it gave way to heavy low cloud which would
be down to 3,500ft in places with restricted visibility.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
All recorded incidents took place
in the north of England and in Scotland. Bradford, Liverpool. the Firth
of Forth near Edinburgh and Crewe were bombed and suffered slight damage.
Because of the weather only a few enemy aircraft were detected and these
were mostly over the Channel. A few raids took place over Falmouth and
Swansea but generally because of the weather it was a quiet day for both
Even though the weather was fine
early and the could was higher with sunny breaks, there were no recorded
incidents. It was a very quiet day for both sides.
Kirton-on-Lindsay. Spitfire N3271. 616 Squadron Leconfield. (Aircraft destroyed)
Sgt J.P. Walsh.
Killed. (Spun out of control from 5,000ft during combat practice)
WEATHER: Fine, with light
high cloud and much warmer.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
Quite a number of enemy aircraft
were patrolling the Channel in search of British shipping. 65 Squadron
Hornchurch (Spitfires) engaged five Bf109's over the Channel off Dover
during the early morning, as did 64 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires) who were
pounced upon by Bf109's over the Channel off the French coast, while in
the afternoon, 41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 151 Squadron North
Weald (Hurricanes) engaged 30+ enemy aircraft over the Channel looking
for any shipping that may become targets of oppertunity. There were a few
combat missions where both sides lost one aircraft each.
Folkestone. Spitfire L1029. 64 Squadron Kenley. (Aircraft lost)
Sgt L.R. Isaac.
Missing. (Presumed shot down by Bf109
over Channel. Failed to return to base)
Still reasonably quiet. This day
was almost a repeat performance of the previous day. The weather was of
strong winds, and fairly heavy low cloud that even the Luftwaffe decided
to stay at home.
Debden. Hurricane N2456. 17 Squadron Debden. (Aircraft destroyed)
Britton. Killed. (Crashed after taking
off from Debden and burnt out)
AUGUST 7th 1940
More German patrols in the Channel,
Hornchurch engaged a Heinkel formation attacking a convoys off the east
coast. It is reported that four Heinkel 115s were shot down.
Leconfield. Spitfire R6696. 616 Squadron Leconfield. (Aircraft destroyed)
P/O D.S. Smith
Killed. (Crashed and exploded during night
The quiet of the last few days was
an uncanny quiet. Pilots roamed about their dispersal huts doing nothing
in particular, reading papers and magazines or playing the odd game of
chess or draughts. Occasionally they welcomed a new arrival, as the lull
in combat operations allowed Fighter Command to stock squadrons with fresh
aircraft and pilots. Three new squadrons are formed, 302 and 303 which
were Polish squadrons and 310 which was a Czech squadron and it is this
lull in operations that allows Fighter Command to build up its strength.
720 fighter aircraft were now available to squadrons compared with 587
on July 30th and aircrew was now 1,465 compared with 1,200 on July 30th.
In Germany, Goering was busy preparing
for the planned air attacks on England. This could be the reason for limited
activity, as more and more squadrons were moved closer to the French coastal
airfields. Already on August 6th at Goering's Prussia mansion Karinhall,
he had set out plans in the presence of his three Luftflotte commanders
and Milch the inspector general of the Luftwaffe. Goering explained that
the main thrust would come from Kesselring's Luftflotte 2 operating from
bases in north-eastern France, Belgium and Holland. The task of Luftflotte
2 was to concentrate the attacks on the eastern coast of England, the Estuary
ports and the south coast. Sperle's Luftflotte 3 would concentrate its
activities on an area west of Portsmouth and up into Bristol and South
Wales. Goering knew that Fighter Command had bases in the north and in
Scotland and that these should not be given any rest. Stumpff's Luftflotte
5 operating from Norwegian bases would attack targets in the north of England,
Scotland and in and around the area of Scapa Flow. All Luftflotte's were
to attack targets further inland during night operations.
He explained to his commanders that
the bombing of targets was only the second priority, the first priority
was still to draw the RAF fighters out into combat and destroy them. "It
is imperative that the RAF be destroyed" he told them, "the invasion of
England cannot go ahead until England is without its air force, and for
this reason, all fighter escorts will be doubled in number and will fly
at staggering levels of height." Adlerangriff was beginning to take
AUGUST 8th 1940
ORDER OF BATTLE - AUGUST 8th 1940
[ Document-28 ]
It was back on August 1st
that Hitler had issued his Directive No.17 stating that the Luftwaffe shall
use all its forces to destroy the British air force, the exact date being
left to the Luftwaffe who shall take preparations and the weather into
consideration. The word that was given to the operation of destroying the
Royal Air Force was Adlerangriff meaning "Attack of the Eagles"
and the day that the operation would commence was to be known as Adler
Tag meaning "Eagle Day."
As soon as Goering received word that
he had been placed in charge of Adlerangriff all the necessary arrangements
were made at once, meetings were called to plan operations, and more and
more Bf 109's were moved closer to the Calais region. The final meeting
of the Generals took place on August 6th where they were informed of Goering's
plans, and it was on this day, August 8th 1940 that he issued the official
order that the first phase of the invasion of Britain was about to begin.
All our Gruppes are ready, all our attacking and defence forces are in
place, "The Day of the Eagle" has come. The following order was issued
to all commanders and officers.
GOERING............... TO ALL UNITS OF LUFTFLOTTES 2, 3 & 5,
OPERATION ADLER. WITHIN A SHORT PERIOD YOU WILL WIPE THE BRITISH ROYAL
AIR FORCE FROM THE SKY..........HEIL HITLER.
With most of
the German messages and directives being intercepted with the use of 'enigma'
it was not very long before the staff in the filter room at Fighter Command
HQ were busy decoding the scrambled assortment of letters. Within the hour
it was on Hugh Dowding's desk at Bletchley Park, at the offices of the
Air Ministry and in the hands of Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the
War Cabinet Rooms in Whitehall. The only question now was, how long was
this short period to be.
Goering delivered his message, the date of August 10th was in his mind.
But for the following few days the natural enemy of both sides, the weather,
was to delay any major assault on Britain until August 13th, but even then,
no commencement could be made until midday when the weather cleared enough.
It was not until August 15th that any major attack could be made, and Goering
send across the Channel the concentrated numbers of bombers and fighters
that he wanted to open what was to be known as "Adler Tag" Eagle Day.
Cloudy in the morning with the possibility
of showers in the south-east. Cloudy inland but remaining dry. Cloud cover
should break up during the afternoon. Visibility good with cloudy periods
with bright intervals in the west.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The quiet of the last few days helped
both Dowding and Keith Park as well as the pilots, it enabled the necessary
repairs to be made to the many damaged aircraft sustained during the months
of June and July. The aircrew enjoyed a more relaxed and enjoyable period
of peace and tranquility, no doubt either in the mess or down at the 'local'.
Park told Dowding "....it's too quiet, but at least I've managed to re-establish
my airfields, but the blighters are up to something". A saying that Park
Across the Channel, the story was
very much the same, as the German pilots rested and relished the quiet,
almost balmy situation that precede the orders that were soon to come through
from Luftwaffe HQ. Close to the Normandy coast, the Luftwaffe No.2 Wing
of the 27th Fighter Group that was based at Crepon were soon to receive
news that the tranquility of the last few days were over and that the next
day, August 8th the Wing was given
orders that they would be placed on 24 hour standby.
reason, all of us had a gut feeling that something was now about to break.
During the previous month we had all been engaged in heavy combat, but
by the end of the month all operational missions became few and far between,
many squadrons were only going out on spasmodic attacks. We enjoyed the
comfort and relaxation of that first week of August, we almost behaved
as if there was no war on, although many were asking the question....why.
Hans Joachim Jabs No.2 Wing 27th Fighter Group
Word had got around that the Fuhrer had endorsed a plan of invasion of England and
we all believed that this to be somewhere on or about the 10th or 12th
of August and I think that this period of quiet that we were experiencing
was to get all our aircraft in 100% operational condition. Many trucks
were seen arriving at the base and we could only assume that they were
bringing in fresh supplies of fuel and ammunition, everyone seemed to know
that the planned invasion of England was near. When we were given orders
to stand down for 24 hours, we then knew that it must be the next day that
the invasion was to start"
Hitler down to the Luftwaffe aircrew had their own opinion as to how long
it would take to knock out the British and how soon it would be before
we could see contingents of German personnel walking the country lanes
of the English countryside. Germany had a swift and easy victory in France
and it was felt that they would have a similar ambition and success in
first time in modern history the people of England are now to feel the
full and direct impact of war on their own soil. Their morale is expected
to deteriorate in consequence"
Goering spoke with
his Chief of Air Staff Hans Jeschonnek, a forty-two years old who had a
sarcastic and facetious attitude that infuriated Generals and officers
alike in the Luftwaffe. Jeschonnek was confident of a victory against England
and Goering asked him if in his opinion that all out attacks on Britain
would be successful and how long he thought it would take to achieve victory.
Jeschonnek replied that with the Luftwaffe proven air superiority, the
immense strength of the German Panzer Divisions and the combined strength
of the German armies that the he though that the air attacks would be successful
and that it would only be a matter of about six or seven weeks to complete
and understood the British, he knew of their courage and determination
and he knew only too well that their strategy must not be underestimated.
He replied to Jeschonnek that he very much doubted that they would be walking
on English soil with six weeks.
understand, a German will fight on even if Berlin was totally destroyed,
and an Englishman is not to be any easier than a German. No......he will
fight on, even if London is destroyed, the British were not like the French
who, when we marched into Paris and occupied their capital, simply gave
up the struggle to fight for their country. An Englishman is like a wounded
bull, he is most dangerous when he is injured"
Herman Goering to Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Hans Jeschonnek
Had Adolph Hitler
devoted more time and interest into the intended invasion of Britain, it
outcome may have had different consequences. Instead Hitler seemed more
intent on what was going on in Eastern Europe. Other than his maniacal
ideas on driving out all Jews from the face of the earth, he was afraid
that communism would take over and destroy him and his power. In reality
it was left to Herman Goering and other Luftwaffe Generals to figure out
a way in which Britain could be invaded. But Goering was not a strategic
genius, he had ideas, he laid down plans, and even his major plans was
discarded as being strategically impossible by Hitler. When Hitler finally
issued his Directive No.16, if we look closely at it, the directive had
many similarities to the original plan of invasion as set down by Goering.
was the Channel, a large expanse of water that separated the French coast
from England. It was at its narrowest at the Straights of Dover, just 21
miles across, but as one went westwards the Channel got wider and wider.
The task was easier on the European mainland when Germany could use the
might of their Panzer Divisions backed up by Luftwaffe aerial attacks and
the hundreds of German Infantry Divisions that could march into such countries
as Poland, Belgium and France. This method of invasion could not be used
against Britain. The idea of using thousands of landing craft with Luftwaffe
protection could also not be used as Britain had a powerful navy and as
up till now the Germans had realized the RAF were not to be taken lightly.
The possibility of using paratroopers although it had merit because one
of the plans was a mass paratroop landing all across southern England and
into the midlands, but the large aircraft needed to take the paratroopers
across would have been slow and cumbersome and the fighters of Fighter
Command would be able to pick them off like flies, Germany could ill afford
to do that as each German troop carrier shot down would have cost at least
a hundred military personnel that would have been on board.
before any thought be given to any planned invasion of England get control
of the skies, they must reduce the RAF to shreds. They had tried it up
until the July of 1940 but had not succeeded, now after a few weeks of
only spasmodic attacks with the Luftwaffe almost in relaxed holiday mood,
Germany had managed to rest and refresh its aircrew and at the same time
build up its strength of airpower. In the late spring of 1940 the Luftwaffe
had lost some 2,600 planes, and the British almost as many, but what Germany
underestimated was that Britain was by now manufacturing far more
planes than they were. Germany's intention now was to repeat the combat
missions as they had done previously, but this time they would do it with
advanced numbers and attack much harder than before.
of attack would this time be in far greater numbers than before. We still
did not want to engage in aerial combat over English soil because that
would mean a shorter stay in actual combat, and we had to make sure that
we had enough fuel to get back to our bases. By engaging combat in mid
channel it meant that we could dogfight for more than twice the time and
not only was it only a short distance back to base, but if we ditched,
our rescue would be guaranteed.
If we attacked
in large numbers, then we know that the RAF would detect this and we would
draw greater numbers of fighters from their bases, then we would bring
in a second wave that would give us an absolute advantage.
speaking on the onslaught of the August attacks.
So, was Keith Park correct when he said
"...the blighters are up to something". Little did he know that this time
he was to be proved correct. The lull of the last few days was not to happen
for a long while to come, but like the Luftwaffe the pilots and aircrew
had been rested and aircraft production had been increased and Park had
now many planes at his disposal. Soon, on this day August 8th, the first day of the second phase of the battle,
seven squadrons from 11 Group and two from 10 Group would be engaged in
fierce combat that would prove costly to the RAF, said by many as the first
day of the 'real Battle of Britain'.
August 7th Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring had earlier called
a top level meeting at his headquarters. "Things are from now on going
to very different" he said obviously quite excited after returning from
an all important Karinhall conference, "we are now going to attack their
airfields". But any plans for an attack on British airfields on August
8th were thrown out of the window.
One of the reasons for a period of
lull in the last few weeks was because of the lack of British shipping
in the Channel. But the 8th of August saw
a huge British shipping convoy of about 25 merchant ships with armed
Royal Navy escort being detected coming through the Straits of Dover and
heading westwards towards the Atlantic Ocean. This was to be the first
time for two weeks that a merchant convoy was going to attempt passage
through the English Channel. The convoy had assembled at Southend the previous
evening ready to pass through the Dover Straits during the hours of darkness
en route for Swanage in Dorset. But the German radar Freya had picked them
up, and it was a gift that was not to be missed. German torpedo boats attacked
first in the half light of dawn, then out went the order to the 8th Flying
Corps at Abbeville to send out all available Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers and
the fighters based at the Luftwaffe 27 Group at Carquebut and Crepon and
all aircraft to set course for the British convoy CW9 codenamed "Peewit"
by the RAF. In all, some 300 Ju87's and 150 Bf109s took to the air and
planned to attack the convoy during the early morning.
British sailors who died this day were the victims of two aspects of stupidity.
Firstly, the coastal convoys, carrying domestic cargoes, were still
being sent through the dangerous waters of the Channel (instead of the
goods going by railway, as they did later). Secondly, the Admiralty, in
spite of endless evidence, refused to allow for the fact that the Germans
might have excellent radar.
Fighter 1977 Pluriform Publishing p147
Fighter Command of the RAF could see
what was happening through the 'eyes of the defence system' the radar.
On the large table that lay before them, Dowding and Park could see that
something was 'brewing', the number that the girl in WAAF uniform placed
a large number next to the position in the channel off the French coast.
It was a larger number than usual, "I wonder what the bastards are up to"
came the remark, "Alert Kenley and Biggin" said Park with enthusiastic
authority "we need at least four or five squadrons at least". So the nerve
centre at Fighter Command became the height of activity and under the circumstances
we shall disturb them no further.
41 Squadron down in the south from
Catterick (Spitfires), 64 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires), 65 Squadron Hornchurch
(Spitfires) and 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) scrambled immediately
and headed for the Channel to intercept the German formation. The torpedo
boats had sank three ships and damaged another three before full light
of the morning. The RAF managed to meet the Luftwaffe onslaught before
they reached the convoy, and the ensuing dogfight cost the RAF four Spitfires
with all pilots killed except one who managed to bale out, two others were
damaged and were forced to return to base while another is reported to
have crash landed on the Kent coast. The German losses were only one Bf109
shot down and its pilot failing to bail out, four others tried to make
it back to base but crash landed in Northern France while another did manage
to get back to its base but with considerable damage. Only one ship received
damage by one of the Ju87 Stukas that managed to get through, but with
the onset of low cloud and the defences of the Royal Navy and the Spitfires
that circled above the 70,000 ton convoy "Peewit" continued its journey.
Further down the coast, the convoy
ran into better weather, the low cloud had dispersed and the waters of
the Channel were bathed in brilliant sunshine. Sperle had ordered Stuka
and Bf109 Squadrons from his Luftwaffe 3 bases to attack and destroy "Peewit"
just off the Isle of Wight. The order went out to attack, and the Ju87's
caused severe damage to the large convoy. Fighter Command picked up the
action and immediately sent 145 Squadron Westhampnett/Tangmere (Hurricanes),
257 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes), 609 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires)
and 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes) to meet the Luftwaffe who were
already engaged with the convoy. By the time that the RAF fighters arrived,
the Stukas were low on fuel and ammunition and had to return to their bases,
but in the ensuing dogfight that followed between the Bf109's and the Spitfires
and Hurricanes of the RAF was intense.
climbed to 16,000 feet, and looking down, saw a large formation of Ju 87s
approaching from the South with Me 109S stepped up behind to 20,000 feet.
We approached unobserved out of the sun and went in to attack the rear
Ju 87s before the enemy fighters could interfere. I gave a five-second
burst to one bomber and broke off to engage two Me 109s. There was a dog-fight.
The enemy fighters, which were painted silver, were half rolling, diving
and zooming in climbing turns. I fired two five-second bursts at one and
saw it dive into the sea. Then I followed another up in a zoom and got
him as he stalled.
Peel 145 Squadron Westhampnett describing the action off the Isle of Wight
Many of the pilots that took to the skies
that day could only be classed as 'green', once upon a time it took at
least six months to train a fighter pilot, in these hard fought days when
Dowding needed every pilot and aircraft that he could lay his hands on,
a pilot training period was just four weeks. Many missed out on essential
training in navigation, hence after many a dogfight they became so disorientated
that they didn't know which way was the way home. Others had no proper
training as to take off's and landings and were ridiculed by the more experienced
pilots. This was typical of 238 Squadron based at Middle Wallop who were
scrambled to intercept the "Peewit" mission, the Squadron was formed so
quickly and with much haste that the pilots had never even flown a training
flight together and this was to be their inauguration into fighter combat,
that's being thrown in at the deep end for sure. What happened was that
as soon as the German formation was spotted over the Channel, they immediately
opened fire and dashed in guns blazing, yet the enemy was still three quarters
of a mile away.
"I was hit
in the instrument panel and in the engine, thick white steam and plumes
of black oil rushed past the canopy of my aircraft and much of it managed
to enter the cockpit, maybe my controls had been shattered also as I had
no control over the now fast descending aircraft. The waters of the Channel
were fast coming towards me, I knew that the situation was hopeless. I
managed to throw back the cockpit hood and took all the necessary precautions
for a crash landing in the water. It was my good fortune that I was approaching
the water at an angle so as to make a belly landing, had I been diving
straight down, it would have not been possible to survive. I prepared myself
for the impact, then suddenly I was pushed forwards and my arms cushioned
the impact as a wall of white water engulfed my 109 and the icy waters
seemed to cut me in half. I jumped from the aircraft almost before it had
come to a standstill, and within one minute the tail of the aircraft rose
dramatically and the Bf109 slid head first to the bottom.
By the time
I was hit, I estimated my position at about thirty miles to the north west
of Cherbourg, so I fumbled for the fluorescine marker dye that would disperse
a yellow green dye around me making it easy to see for our rescue craft.
Werner Andres No.2 Wing 27 Fighter Group
Many of the Bf109's
started to return to base, low fuel and ammunition being a prime consideration,
we must remember that both Stukas and the fighter cover had earlier attacked
the convoy off Weymouth. But by this time at about 1630hrs,
more than 89 Ju87 Stukas had arrived on the scene that were escorted by
70 Bf109's and Me110's to destroy "Peewit". Goering was now true to his
word, he would be sending aircraft in vast numbers to attack, and to draw
out the RAF. With some aircraft of 145 Squadron returning to base to refuel
and rearm, they were again scrambled along with 43 squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes)
and headed to the south of the Isle of Wight to engage the reassembled
Stukas and fighters.
RAF had sent out more aircraft than usual, they had not put into the air
the amount of aircraft that Goering had expected, in fact for every two
German planes, there was only one RAF fighter. For the Merchant Navy, it
was a disastrous result, as the Spitfires and Hurricanes were forced to
dogfight with the Bf109's, only the occasional one managing to make an
attack on a Stuka. Therefore, the Ju87's constantly bombarded the convoy
almost at will. Debris from the convoy scattered the Channel for miles,
burnt out hulks of the merchantmen bellowing palls of thick black smoke
that could be seen for miles. Further explosions came from the ships as
they were left to die where they were, life jackets bobbed up and down
in the chilly waters and many men, clinging to pieces of debris, life jackets
and life rafts tried desperately to avoid the many slicks of burning oil
that lay on the surface.
The RAF had
lost 13 Hurricanes in defending "Peewit", five others suffered damage including
one that was to make a forced landing. Only one Spitfire was destroyed
while two others sustained damage. But the action saw 13 RAF pilots killed
with three sustaining severe injuries. It was 145 Squadron from Westhampnett
in the Tangmere Sector that suffered the worst for the day, five pilots
were killed and their aircraft destroyed.
fared no better, they too had a high attrition rate. They lost a total
of 8 Bf109's, one Bf110, and 7 Ju87 Stukas although two 109s, five 110s,
and eleven Ju87's sustained damage many of them being past repair and they
became spare parts for the Luftwaffe. But it was the convoy Peewit that
had suffered most. Of the 23 ships that had commenced the journey the previous
night, only four had managed to limp into either Poole and Portsmouth harbours
It was a costly
business for both sides in the "Peewit" battle, especially as it was an
unplanned battle, it was really just that "Peewit" was a target of opportunity
that the Luftwaffe could not resist and that Fighter Command were obligated
0905hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P2955. 145 Squadron Westhampnett. (Crashed in Channel)
P/O L.A. Sears
Missing. (Last seen in combat with Bf109's, failed to return
0915hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3381. 145 Squadron Westhampnett. (Crashed in Channel)
Sgt E.D. Baker
Missing. (Last seen in combat with Ju87's and Me110's, failed
to return to base)
1140hrs. Manston. Spitfire
K9911. 65 Squadron Hornchurch. (Aircraft destroyed)
Sgt D.I. Kirton
Killed. (Hit by gunfire from Bf109 and crashed in flames near
1145hrs. Manston. Spitfire
K9905. 65 Squadron Hornchurch. (Aircraft destroyed)
F/Sgt N.T. Phillips
Killed. (Shot down by Bf109 and crashed in flames)
1155hrs. Ramsgate. Blenheim
L8665. 600 Squadron Manston. (Went down in flames off beach)
F/O D.N. Grice,
Sgt F.D.Keast, AC1 J.B.W.Warren. All killed after pilot avoided
town and crashed into sea)
1200hrs. St Catherines Point.
Hurricane R4094. 257 Squadron Northolt. (Presumed crashed into Channel)
Sgt K.B. Smith.
Missing. (Failed to return to base after action over Channel
protecting convoy CW9)
1200hrs. St Catherines Point.
Hurricane P2981. 257 Squadron Northolt. (Crashed into Channel)
F/Lt N.M. Hall
Killed. (Hit by gunfire from Bf109, crashed into sea)
1205hrs. Dover. Spitfire L1039.
64 Squadron Kenley. (Aircraft destroyed)
P/O P.F. Kennard-Davies
Died of Injuries. (Hit by enemy gunfire, baled out but sustained
1205hrs. St Catherines Point.
Hurricane P3058. 257 Squadron Northolt. (Presumed crashed into Channel)
D'Arcy-Irvine Missing. (Last seen in combat with Bf109's over
Channel, failed to return)
1245hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3823. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop. (Crashed in Channel)
(Shot down while
engaging enemy over convoy CW9, failed to return to base)
1250hrs. Off Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3617. 238 Squadron Middle Wallop. (Crashed into Channel)
F/O D.C. MacCaw
Killed. (Shot down while engaging enemy over convoy CW9, crashed
1640hrs. Off Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P2957**. 145 Squadron Westhampnett. (Crashed in Channel)
P/O E.C.J. Wakeham
Missing. (Last seen in combat with Ju87's and Me110's, failed
to return to base)
1640hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3163. 145 Squadron Westhampnett. (Crashed into Channel)
R.U.P Kay-Shuttleworth Missing. (Failed to return after combat
over convoy CW9)
1645hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3545. 145 Squadron Westhampnett. (Crashed into Channel)
S/Lt F.A. Smith
Missing. (Shot down in attacking Ju87's but possibly hit by
gunfire from by Bf109)
1645hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3781. 43 Squadron Tangmere. (Crashed into Channel)
P/O J. Cruttenden
Missing. (Hit by enemy gunfire and crashed into the sea)
1645hrs. Sth of Isle of Wight.
Hurricane P3468. 43 Squadron Tangmere. (Crashed into Channel)
P/O J.R.S. Oelofse
Killed. (Hit by enemy gunfire and crashed into the sea)
9th and SATURDAY AUGUST 10th 1940
and bad weather
caused the postponement of many planned operations, there was just the
odd reconnaissance flight by both sides but as the days wore on it was
decided that getting back to base and enjoying a few good ales would be
(August 9th 1940)
Dunbar Coast (Scotland). Hurricane L2103. 605 Squadron Drem. (Crashed into
Sgt R.D. Ritchie
Killed. (Crashed into sea after aircraft
had glycol leak. Rescued by boat, pilot dead)
The were no listed casualties on August 10th 1940