14th AUGUST 1940
What Göring and the German Luftwaffe
wanted to do on the opening day of Adler Tag was seriously disrupted by
the weather. Hoping that the weather would clear enough for his bomber
formations to commence operations on the 14th, was again doomed to failure,
the weather was almost a carbon copy of the day previous but with this
uncertainty prevailing, it was impossible to launch any full scale operation
with the magnitude that Göring hoped for. The day continued with just
spasmodic attacks, nothing of any great scale, actions were scattered and
could be more rightly termed as nuisance attacks than anything else. It
appears that the real Adler Tag would have to wait another day.
Early morning to have low cloud with drizzle patches. Promise of clearing
later with possible sunny periods. Some cloud returning during evening
but clearing overnight.
summer continued with what could only be termed as poor weather conditions.
A cloud base of only 2,000 feet meant that it would be highly improbable
that the Luftwaffe would attempt any attack in huge numbers.
proved correct, it was quiet and most of the fighter pilots just lazed
around waiting for the scramble call that never came.
Radar picked up a contact off the Kent coast which was later identified
as a Do17 possibly on reccon mission. A flight from 151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) was dispatched to intercept.
One Hurricane was hit by gunfire from the Do17 at 0700hrs with the
pilot Sgt G.Atkinson baling out and being rescued from the sea.
1130hrs: The low cloud started to disperse and looked like clearing conditions.
A large build up of enemy aircraft was forming over Calais and was detected
by Dover and Pevensey radar at 1140hrs. Park brought to readiness
four squadrons. 32 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes), 65 Squadron Hornchurch
(Spitfires), 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) and 615 Squadron Kenley
(Hurricanes). The enemy build up seemed to change direction a number of
times while over the Channel in an effort to confuse the RAF, but the plotters
were kept constantly informed of the situation by the radar stations.
Eventually, the enemy formation straightened up and took a course that
would take them just to the north of Dover. 11 Group Fighter Command HQ
at Uxbridge gave the command to the sector operation rooms of Biggin Hill,
Kenley and Hornchurch to scramble the squadrons and vectored them towards
what was known as "Hell Corner". meanwhile, as the enemy formation neared
the coast, the Observer Corps reported that the formation consisted of
80+ Ju87 Stuka dive bombers from Luftflotte 2 with a heavy concentration
of Bf109 escorts in the cloud cover. At the same time, two Staffeln of
Bf110s of Rubensdorffer's Epr. G1 210 had taken off from their base at
Calais-Marck and were headed towards Dover. It was 65 Squadron that intercepted
them first and as they tried to break up the Ju87s the Bf109s came down
from the clouds. A twisting network of vapour trails started to develop
as the other squadrons started to arrive with aircraft twisting and turning
this way and that.
led to 'a hell of a donny' over Dover, with some 200 aircraft milling about
in numerous dogfights. In this area, the Luftwaffe were little more distant
from their bases than the RAF squadrons, and for once were prepared to
mix it instead of making the one pass and then diving for home, waiting
for the red-light blink warning of fuel shortage. No. 615 Squadron lost
two pilots, and three of 32 Squadron's pilots, unhurt themselves, made
forced landings, while JG26 and JG52 each lost a 109 in the męlée.
Hough & Denis Richards Battle of Britain Hodder &
Staughton 1989 pp163-4
Most of the action is centred over the town of Dover and just out to sea.
65 Squadron that had taken off from Manston ten minutes earlier and were
attracted to the Dover area by burning barrage balloons that had been shot
up by the Bf109s, were already heavily engaged in a serious dogfight. On
the ground at Manston airfield, the ground crews are still barricaded in
their below ground shelters refusing to come out since two days previous.
Many aircrew have to refuel and rearm the fighters as a result of this.
While the męlée is taking place over Dover, Rubensdorffer's
crack Erpr 210 comes in low and almost unnoticed arriving over the Manston
airfield with split second timing. They have no opposition from the air,
and are greeted only by the station Bofors 40mm gun manned by the Royal
Artillery, and the machine guns that were manned by crew members of 600
Squadron. Manston takes a battering for the second time. Accurate bombing
destroys another four hangars, three Blenheims of 600 Squadron, the dispersal
huts are smashed to pieces and again numerous craters appear over the airfield.
One of the Bf110s,
piloted by Uffz.H.Steding sustains a hit by a 40mm shell from the Bofors
and has its tailplane dismembered from the fuselage. Gefr. E.Schank manages
to bale out, but because of the planes low altitude sustains injuries on
landing. Uffz. H.Steding stays at the controls of the Bf110 and is killed
as it crashes and cartwheels across the airfield. Gefr. E.Schank lands
right in front of trenches that some RAF personnel were seeking safety.
He was dragged back to the trench bleeding and concussed from his impact
with the ground. On interrogation, it is said, that he informed that the
all out attack was about to come. Richard Collier in his book says that
the injured man said in poor English, 'The big lick' over and over again.
'very soon...the big lick'. Richard says that the phrase was plain enough
- but just how long before the big lick came. Another Bf110 is hit by gunfire
from the Manston ground defences and on its way down, it clips another
aircraft and spirals earthwards exploding before it reaches the ground.
Both its crew are killed.
In the west, a few small blips were picked up coming in from over the Channel
and heading close to Southampton. Many thought it to be recon aircraft,
or maybe just a few scouts. It turned out that the aircraft was 1/.
a lone Ju 88 piloted by Oberst Alfred Bulowius according to Richard Collier
- Eagle day Battle of Britain 2/. Three Heinkels from KG
55 according to Len Deighton - Battle of Britain, or 3/. Three dive
bombing machines mentioned by Wood & Dempster Narrow Margin.
Small blips were often seen on the radar on the screens in the west, usually
by single aircraft used to inflict confusion to the defences of Fighter
As the suspected formations cross the south-western coast, 10 Group sends
up a number of squadrons. At Middle Wallop, 234 Squadron (Spitfires) is
placed at readiness as is 609 Squadron (Spitfires). Within half an hour,
one flight of 234 Squadron and one flight of 609 Squadron are scrambled,
while it is another ten minutes before 'B' Flight of 234 Squadron led by
F/L Pat Hughes is scrambled.
Three He111 bombers come in over the airfield from the south and unload
their cargo of bombs. As the Spitfires of both squadrons attack the Heinkels,
a second flight of 609 Squadron attempts a hairy take off dodging both
bombs and exploding craters in an effort to get airborne. Just as this
was happening, a Ju88 came in from a slightly different angle, unmolested
by any of the RAF fighters ready to make its attack on the airfield.
went into a steep dive, its nose pointing at the business end of Middle
Wallop. A few of 609 Squadrons Spitfires were still trying to get off the
ground just as at 1,200 feet the bomber let its bomb glide gently from
its bomb bay. The bomber then pulled out of its dive, levelled then with
engines at full throttle went into a steep climb away from the blast that
was just about to happen.
The bomb hit
Hangar No.5 blasting out doors and the roof, sides were ripped open like
a knife through a tomato. Bodies lay everywhere, both intact and in pieces;
was spinning, it felt as though I had a permanent ringing in my ears, I
felt the blast go over me as I lay there flattened on the ground. I got
up and my instinct was to run towards the hangar. It was carnage, I saw
one overalled person with his foot and half a leg blown off, another had
a great red patch on his chest with a load of mess hanging from it, another
was rolling in agony with one of his arms missing.
E.Q. (Red) Tobin (American) 609 Squadron Middle Wallop
of the hangar was only half closed and just inside I could see the bodies
of four overalled men on the ground with one seemingly splattered against
the edge of the door. I felt sick, I almost threw up there and then, but
as other air force personnel came into the hangar, they just seemed to
go about their business in a respectable and calm manner with no sign of
panic. Then I remembered what I was told about the British, 'no matter
how bad the situation, they will always keep that stiff upper lip'.
In the meantime,
Sergeant Alan Feary of 609 Squadron (Spitfires) banked sharply, his wing
almost ninety degrees to the ground, then with miraculous precision, levelled
off to see the climbing bomber heading for the clouds. The Spitfire had
a perfect view of the bombers underbelly, then, within perfect range he
hit the firing button to see a stream of tracer go straight into the whole
length of the bomber. It exploded with parts flying off in all directions,
its climb halted momentarily then it seemed to hang in the sky then beginning
the descent in an uncontrollable manner before hitting the ground.
The Ju88 crashed
at North Charford near Romsey. The crew, Oberlt. W.Heinrici, Gefr. H.W.Stark
and Gefr. F.Ahrens were all killed instantly except for Gefr.Ahrens who
suffered severe injuries and died the following day. One of the Heinkels
were also shot down by 609 Squadron. The other two managing to escape and
return to their bases.
So far, any
attempt to wipe the RAF out had been nothing but a farce. "They're playing
games at the moment" said Dowding trying to summarise the situation, "they're
not going to achieve anything by these scant and random attacks....I believe
that something is building." 11 Group Commander Keith Park agreed. "What
damage they have done to the airfields has been a setback but they're still
operational." Dowding asked him about the condition of Manston and Middle
Wallop, "like I said, just a setback, I believe that Middle Wallop is at
full strength and that Manston will be at 100% strength in twelve hours.
In that time we will be ready for them."
And in twelve
hours Manston and Fighter Command was ready....and waiting. August 15th
dawned to be overcast and gloomy. The latest forecast was sent to the German
High Command who postponed any operations for that day. By mid morning,
Manston had been cleaned up and the signal went out that it was fully operational,
and the peace and tranquillity of the morning allowed Fighter Command to
further strengthen its forces. Additional aircraft were flown in, many
bases received new pilots even though they were still rather untrained.
But by 1030hrs the clouds dispersed to give way to empty blue skies with
not a breath of wind, it was an ideal situation for an attack.
Dover. Hurricane P3109. 615 Squadron Kenley
Killed. (Shot down over Channel. Believed
body washed ashore in France)
Dover. Hurricane P3160. 615 Squadron Kenley
Killed. (Failed to return to base. Believed
shot down over Channel)
Bournmouth. Spitfire N3024. 609 Squadron Warmwell
Goodwin Killed. (Shot down off coast by
unknown enemy aircraft)
Beachy Head. Hurricane L1739. 43 Squadron Tangmere
Killed. (Last seen in combat with He111.
Failed to return to base)
15th AUGUST 1940
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Luftflotte 5 in Norway release 63 Heinkel He111 bombers from I and III/KG26
based at Stavanger and Sola. These bombers were given a 20 minute start
before 25 Bf110s of I/ZG76 based at Stavanger/Forus take off to escort
the Heinkels to their targets which were the British airfields at Asworth,
Dishforth, Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesborough. The Bf110s are equipped
a 1,000 litre drop tank that will allow them to fly well beyond their normal
At the same
time as the Bf110s depart from Norway, 50+ Ju88 bombers from KG30 in Denmark
begin their journey north also to bomb British airfields in the north of
The RAF "scrambled" 54 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 501 Squadron
Gravesend (Hurricanes) to intercept the foreboding onslaught that was coming
across the Channel. The Observer Corps had reported 60+ Ju87 Stuka dive
bombers and an undisclosed number of Bf110 as escort. But this was a numbers
game, it was going to be obvious that two squadrons were not going to be
enough. The order went out from Fighter Command to Kenley and 615 Squadron
(Hurricanes) was "scrambled" to join the other two squadrons already on
their way towards Dover.
Radar stations and the Observer Corps along the far north east coast of
England and southern Scotland reported that an estimated 30 enemy aircraft
had been detected coming in from the North Sea. A few moments later, this
was changed to 50+ aircraft. A number of squadrons in the north had already
proved their worth, but generally most of the squadrons in the north were
newly formed squadrons or training units. Little did the Luftwaffe know
that a number of experienced fighter squadrons were at this time up north
on a rest, including 72 and 79 Squadrons.
13 Group of
Fighter Command scrambled 72 Squadron Acklington (Spitfires) to meet the
enemy. Not too many large or frequent sightings had been made in this part
of Britain as most of the action so far had taken place in the south with
11 Group, hence the radar operators were not as experienced as the radar
operators in the south. The formation that they had estimated as being
30 aircraft, was in fact a formation of 65 Heinkel III bombers of KG 26
and 34 Me 110s from I/ZG 76 based in Norway (Len Deighton puts this
figure at 72 He IIIs, 21 Me 110s and a decoy of Heinkel 115C Floatplanes
coming in from the north) and a formation of 50 Ju 88s from KG 30 based
of figures are correct, it has been verified that 13 Group did only estimate
that the formation consisted of only 30 aircraft which later was corrected
to 50+, which now turned out to be a mammoth task for 72 Squadron to undertake.
Squadron Leader Collins ( Richard Collier claims this to be a Flight
Lieutenant Ted Graham and this is backed up by Denis Newton) headed
his squadron past the estimated vector point seeing the German formation
well to his left, then turned through the broken cloud towards the direction
of the formation from the sun. Approaching the enemy, a voice came over
the radio " Haven't you seen them ?" to which a reply was forthcoming "Of
course I've seen the bbbbbbastards, I'm trying to wwwwwwork out wwwwhat
to dddddo." It wasn't that the leader had a sudden touch of bad nerves,
but under strain it is said he stuttered badly.
In the meantime,
corrections to the original estimate had been corrected and 605 Squadron
Drem (Hurricanes) and 41 Squadron Catterick (Spitfires) had been
dispatched to join 72 Squadron. It was a bad start for the Luftwaffe after
their long journey across the North Sea. 23 German aircraft were shot down
which included 8 He111s, 8 Bf110s and 7 Ju88s. It was a high price
to pay for a little damage done to two airfields, although the German airman's
account below states that the airfield at Driffield had been destroyed
and 'was no more.' Records show that a number of Whitely's of Bomber Command
at Driffield in Yorkshire were damaged. No other daylight raids on the
north coast have ever been recorded.
An excellent description
of this battle in the north is described in "North-East Diaries" [ Document-32
The initial point. No time left for thinking - there lay England,
the lion's den. But the eagles were going to attack the lion in his
lair and wound him grievously.
Oberleutnant Rudolf Kratz Stab/KG
30 stationed at Aalborg
to starboard..." Three specks overflew us, disappeared to the rear, and
after a diving turn, hung behind us." "Your turn now". The words
disappeared in the rattle of our machine guns. In short bursts the
volleys flew towards the first fighter. He turned away and the second
one took his place. This one's fire is ineffective as well and both
passed below and were shot at by our ventral gunner. Like hornets
they swooshed through our formation, the roundels on their fuselage looking
to port above." reported the wireless operator calmly. "Dammit," the pilot
said, but did not get agitated. We kept on flying towards our target.
Staring before us we tried to locate the airfield amidst the ragged clouds.'
"There, the field, below us." ......
at last - the fighters were beginning to be a real nuisance. The
time had come now. I did not give a single Pfennig for the life of
those below - drop the HEs, away with the blessing! The aircraft
went into a dive, speed rapidly building up, and the wind roared and howled
around us. The hangars grew and grew. They were still standing.
The AA guns were firing away at us, but they were too late.
'A jolt -
the bombs were free, the steel bodies out whistling down. Below all hell
was let loose. Like an inferno, steel hit steel, and stones.
Bomb upon bomb exploded, destroying and tearing apart what they hit.
Hangar walls and roofs crumpled like tin sheets, pieces flying through
the air. Aircraft were shattered by a hail of splinters. Barracks
tumbled down, enormous smoke and dust clouds rose like mushrooms.
Here and there explosions and flames shot up. The airfield and the
hangars were already badly hit but bombs kept falling from the bombers
that followed us, kept raining down in a horrible shower. Fire from
exploding ammunition burst upwards like torches. The English AA artillery
had been eliminated, their firing positions turned into craters.
shone into our cabin. The enemy fighters had been got rid of.
Below us lay the wide sea. How beautiful the Earth can be. Hands
loosened their grip on the machine guns. What happened just a few
minutes ago lay behind us and we relaxed. The engines were running
evenly, we were flying home. The airfield didn't exist any more;
that was the result." ...
Back down with
11 Group, 54 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes)
and 615 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) were airborne and on course towards
the massive formation of German bombers and fighters that were heading
towards the Kent coastline.
The Bf109s were successfully fending off the defending 54 and 501 squadrons
while the Ju87s of II/StG 1 dive bombed Hawkinge and Lympne airfields causing
severe damage that put both of them out of action for about three days.
The Ju87s then concentrated on the radar stations at Rye, Dover and at
Foreness, demolishing buildings at will, severing main power supply lines
and completely obliterating the towers. All the radar stations were put
out of action and the RAF were now blind, their 'eyes' gone, observation
was now left to the Observer Corps alone which could only see as far as
it was humanly possible.
Twelve Bf110s manage to get through and again make a hit and run attack
on Manston airfield. No bombs were reported having been dropped, but they
did straffe the airfield with cannon and machine gun fire destroying two
Spitfires and it is reported that 16 personnel are killed.
South coast radar picks up further large concentrations of aircraft forming
up over Calais. But with most of the main radar stations out of action
it is difficult to determine which way the German formations are heading.
Urgent messages are relayed to the Observer Corps to be on the lookout
for formations coming in from the Channel and off the North Sea. The whole
of the south-east corner of Britain is now virtually running blind.
16 Bf110s from the EprGr 210 Group and Ju87s with an escort of Bf109s manage
to cross the Essex coast and make an attack on Martlesham Heath which put
them out of action for one day. The Stuka's made the first attack
on the signals station that had not yet been completed. The bombing was
not accurate and the signals station suffered only broken windows and a
damaged water supply tank. The Bf110s targeted the administration side
of the airfield and destroyed some workshops and the Officers Mess. Two
hangars were seriously damaged with a Fairy Battle being destroyed. The
attack ruptured the water mains and telecommunications was disrupted.
The large formation that had previously been detected over Calais appeared
coming in from across the Straits of Dover. At the time, Fighter Command
had only four squadrons patrolling the area. At Uxbridge, on receiving
a report from the Observer Corps Keith Park releases another three squadrons.
Observers on the coast wonder how on earth Fighter Command could hold off
this huge concentration of German aircraft coming in. Eighty-eight Dornier
Do17s of KG3 and 130+ Bf109s cross the coast near Deal while nearly 70
Bf109s cross between Dover and Folkestone. 1 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes),
17 Squadron Debden Hurricanes), 32 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes), 64
Squadron Kenley (Spitfires), 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 151 Squadron
North Weald (Hurricanes) and 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) have to
all that they can to drive off nearly 290 German aircraft, almost an impossibility.
The sheer number
of Bf109s managed to keep the British fighters at bay until the huge formation
was over the coast near Faversham in Kent, then they broke into two distinct
groups, each with a target in mind. One group headed for the airfield at
Rochester where the new Short Stirling bomber is under construction. The
Do17s drop nearly 300 H.E. bombs on the airfield destroying hangars, large
storage sheds, spare parts blocks and six planes nearing completion are
destroyed. The Popjoy factory at the airfield is also hard hit. The other
group target Eastchurch once again, and damage is severe, but one cannot
wonder as to why these two targets were chosen as neither of them were
associated with Fighter Command and the damage caused did nothing to setback
the Battle of Britain.
The combat areas now switched the west. Some 60 Bf109s and 25 Bf110s were
escorting a formation of 40 Ju87 dive bombers and were detected to the
south of Portland. 10 Group despatch 87 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) and
213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) to intercept. Soon after, now realizing
the size of the enemy force, 234 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires) were
scrambled while 609 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires) were placed at readiness
in case they were needed.
fighters engaged the formation over the Channel well south of Portland
and the notorious Solent, the graveyard for both British and German aircraft
alike. The combined strength of the British fighters was about 20 aircraft,
while the German force boasted a combined strength of 125. That worked
out at a ratio of one RAF fighter to five Germans. F/L Ian Gleed who was
commanding the five Hurricanes of 87 Squadron and in a good position to
attack, instructed his flight " Okay chaps.....let's go and surround them!!!!!"
But despite the odds against them, The RAF fighters managed to halt the
progress of the raiders and a number of Bf110s were brought down. Records
show that three were shot down and crashed into the Channel, while two
limped back to base, one crashing in a field in France, while the other
caught fire after crash landing at its base.
With the British
fighters vastly outnumbered, it was always on the cards that they would
suffer casualties. 234 Squadron lost three pilots. One was shot down over
Bournmouth, another was badly damaged well out to sea and headed towards
France where the pilot crash landed on a beach near Cherbourg and was taken
prisoner and another became a prisoner after he crashed his Spitfire off
the French coast. Three of the five 87 Squadron Hurricanes were shot down.
S/L Lovell-Gregg was killed as his aircraft crashed in a wood, P/O P.W.Commeley
was posted as missing after he crashed into the sea south of Portland while
Sgt Cowley received injuries after making a forced landing near Bridport.
While the dogfighting continued over Swanage and Portland, some 60 Ju88s
of LG1 with their escort of 40 Bf110s managed to slip through and seemed
to be heading towards the airfield at Middle Wallop. 609 Squadron were
still at readiness on the airfield when the message came through for them
to "scramble". Just twenty miles away from the airfield, the Junkers formation
split up, with one section heading for the other aerodrome at Worthy Down.
The last of 609's Spitfires are still tearing across the airfield at Middle
Wallop when the Ju88s appear overhead and start to release their bombs.
With the exception of a few more craters appearing at Middle Wallop, very
little damage is done compared to that of the previous day. Worthy Down
was also bombed but again, no serious damage was done. Odiham was also
a target, but miscalculations saw that Andover was bombed instead.
manage to turn the attackers around and they head out towards the open
sea, but not before they manage to shoot down one Ju88 and four Bf109s.
three Ju88s are reported as probables.
It had been a long day for Fighter Command, but as evening approached it
was not over yet. Without the radar that had been destroyed earlier in
the day, a small formation of Do17 bombers crossed the coast headed for
Biggin Hill. Here, 610 Squadron (Spitfires) and 32 Squadron (Hurricanes)
are scrambled and 610 who were dispatched first meet the German bombers
about 10-12 miles to the south-east of the airfield. The tired pilots of
both squadrons who had been in action most of the day managed to shoot
down a couple of the Dorniers. Both squadrons turn their attention to the
Bf109 escort and in doing so allowed the bombers to continue towards their
target, but instead of hitting Biggin Hill, they attacked West Malling
by mistake. As the escort decides to make a turn for home, 32 Squadron
decides to chase after the bombers, but as they do so, they are vectored
back towards Biggin Hill, where from the high altitude the Hurricane pilots
can see a huge pall of smoke from the south London area.
Me 110s of EprGr 210 were not detected until too late, they had come in
north of the Dornier formation and as the Do17s attacked West Malling,
the Bf110s continued towards London. Escorted by only eight Bf109s, the
German formation was flying into the low setting sun, and although their
target was Kenley, they mistook the South London airfield of Croydon which
was an ex-civil airport now being used by the RAF as being the target and
then, coming down from 2,000 feet commenced their bombing run just as 32
Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) and 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes)
arrived on the scene. For some reason, at this stage, the Bf109 escort
departed and escaped with only the odd one being attacked by British fighters.
the 9 Hurricanes of 111 Squadron had taken off moments before the bombing.
They claw for height and counter-attack the German fighter bombers which
immediately form a defensive circle.
A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p106
At the same
time 32 Squadron takes on the Bf 109s. John Pain sees 6 Messerschmitts
diving from 1 500 feet (450 m) above. He avoids them by breaking his Hurricane
into a tight turn just as they open fire. Completing his circle he lines
up the last machine and presses the button. The 109 begins to trail smoke.
Closing right in to 50 yards (45m) he fires two more bursts. In the same
instant he realizes that he is alone with 6 enemy fighters so he turns
away to rejoin his squadron.
the Bf 110s decide to make a run for it and break out of their circle
into small groups to head for cloud cover. It is the chance that 111 Squadron
has been waiting for and they dive to attack. Seven Bf 110s are shot down.
formation had spotted Croydon and began diving and unleashing a mass of
bombs at the silent red brick buildings below. The suburb of Croydon shook
as one by one the explosions shattered the airfield. Surrounding houses
felt the full impact as blast waves tore holes in walls, hoardings and
even one house had its roof shifted. The blasts were felt as far away as
Woolwich on the Thames and at the Houses of Parliament in Central London.
It was almost as if Croydon was handed to Rubensdorffer on a plate. Now,
was Rubensdorffer aware that Croydon was a suburb of London, and that on
the explicit orders of Adolph Hitler, London including its dockland area
and its suburbs were not to be attacked or bombed, and anybody violating
this order would be ordered to stand for a court-martial if he ever survived
any such attack.
who had lead his crack 210 Bf110s on this raid on Croydon, had been hit
and was desperately trying to get his crippled plane back across the Channel.
But he had had a Hurricane on his tail all the way from Croydon. Slowly
the Hurricane was within striking distance over the tiny village of Crockham
Hill in Kent. The Bf110 started to catch fire as ruptured fuel tanks spread
burning fuel over the wings and along the body of the aircraft. Still the
Hurricane fired at Rubensdorffer who was by now losing height rapidly.
A couple of more Hurricanes joined in, but decided to attack another 110
that was also trying to make it back to base, this left Rubensdorffer alone,
who stayed courageously with his crippled plane that eventually crashed
into trees, then as the fuel tanks burst, the whole plane was engulfed
in flame killing both crewmen. Was this justice for a man who had violated
Hitler's personal orders. Maybe it was.....maybe.
It was by a
sheer miracle that 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) managed to take off
under such circumstances, but by the time that they had turned and reached
the required height, the damage had been done. But just as the Bf110s broke
away and began their return, ironically flying over Kenley the airfield
that they originally intended bombing, 111 Squadron was reinforced by 32
Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) who had been diverted to give assistance.
One by one the Bf110s were hit as they had no time to go into their defensive
circle pattern, their only means of defence against the fighter. The German
fighter bombers were riddled with bullets, sparks and glowing yellow star
shapes running horizontally along their long fuselages. Many tried in vain
to keep altitude and head for home, others, victims to the marauding British
fighters spiraled and crashed, unfortunately into the heavily populated
suburbs around Croydon and Purley. One such factory that sustained a direct
hit was the Bourjois perfume factory. Sixty people died and over 180 were
injured in the twisted mangled remains.
The news shattered
Londoners. These were the first bombs to fall on their city, and to many
it brought home there worst fears, all these dead and injured in one raid
at one location. They did not know it then but 60 innocent people dead
and 180 badly injured because of a mistaken target by the Germans.
One by one the
Bf110s fell, they were not only engaged in combat with 111 and 32 Squadrons,
but they were being held back, using up valuable fuel that was required
to get them back to base. A number of them were shot down crashing into
the fields of Kent and Sussex, while others struggled to make it back to
their base, many of them crashing into the Channel.
Back at Fighter
Command HQ, Churchill, Dowding, Lord Ismay and Lord Beaverbrook stood in
silence as they watched the tangled mess of the huge map board below them
unravel. They watched the wall as squadron after squadron came in to land,
refuel and rearm then take off again. They stayed until they at last saw
what was left of the German formations head back across the Channel. With
Adler Tag not being able to commence as planned for the Luftwaffe, August
15th 1940 could be said to have been the opening phase. Another
directive [ Document 33 ] had been issued by Göring, this time regarding new methods
of attack, but no mention yet of a definate plan of invasion. So far, this
had been the largest air battle so far during the period known as "The
Battle of Britain". Combat action were seen from beyond Newcastle in the
north, to Dover in the south and across to Portland in the west. The Luftwaffe
had lost officially seventy-six aircraft while Fighter Command lost thirty-four.
Out of the seventy-six German aircraft lost, thirty-seven were bombers,
and with four crew to each plane that was one hundred and forty-eight aircrew
that would not take part in operations again.
John Frayn Turner
in his book "Battle of Britain" states that AVM Hugh Dowding, in his direction
of Fighter Command deserves high praise and continues:
even more remarkable had been the restraint and the exact measurement of
formidable stresses which had reserved a fighter force in the north through
all these long weeks of mortal conflict in the south. We must regard the
generalship here shown as an example of genius in the art of war.
Turner Battle of Britain Airlife 1998 p48
turned and left the room at 11 Group HQ, he was to head silently back to
Chequers near Amersham to the west of London. Lord Ismay followed, as tried
to talk to a concerned and upset Churchill "Don't talk to me" bellowed
the Prime Minister, " Never before have I been so moved". They sat silently
as the staff car made its way to the ministerial residence, then in an
emotional tone of voice, Churchill said, "Never, Never in the field of
human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few". It was these few
words, giving praise to the courage and the esteem of the fighter pilots
that fought that day, that were to become amongst the most famous words
spoken by Britain's leader.
Commanders put 'red tape' and 'going by the book' to one side to welcome
back their pilots, others got caught up in the excitement and themselves
in their own way became part of the Battle of Britain. One pilot said "...that
it was always good to know that after exhausting combat, it was good to
know that you would be welcomed home by your commander, most commanders
were not bad, they showed their admiration for their pilots in so many
ways." Group Captain Richard Grice at Biggin Hill airfield threw
all books out of the window and ordered crates of beer for all pilots returning
after combat, at Hornchurch Wing Commander Cecil Bouchier often gave a
running commentary over the station loudspeaker system from the Ops Room
so that all members of the ground crew and administrative staff would know
what was going on. He would yell out in excitement like a commentator at
a football match that 'Blue Leader has got a Dornier' or "Blue One has
a 109 on his tail, he's diving....yes he's left... now right....a
Spit....yes a Spit has got the 109...yes Blue One has gone back into action"
and a loud cheer would go up as all the listeners joined in the excitement.
is that a young pilot from North Weald, his Hurricane badly shot up, trailing
smoke and with his controls damaged was fighting to keep altitude, yet
all the way in, he was singing 'Maisey don'ts and daisy don'ts a little
lambsey divey' only to interrupt his singing with a message to base that
they should keep the kettle boiling as he was getting close.
But not only
did the fighter pilots have a light hearted attitude to the task that was
at hand, they also showed courage and determination. Like the case of Flying
Officer Ostazewski flying a Spitfire from 609 Squadron out of Middle Wallop.
Engaged in combat at 8,000 feet, he picked out a Bf110 that was breaking
away, he followed with the intent of getting the Zerstorer into his sights
and determined to chalk up a 'kill'. Richard Collier in his book has this
were the last desperate moments of young Josef Birndorfer, an Me 110 pilot,
seeking vainly to shake 609 Squadron's implacable Flying Officer Ostazewski
off his tail. Diving steeply for the ground in a series of S-turns, Birndorfer
found himself curving, at 300 miles an hour, round a church spire ... snaking
perilously through the steel cables of Southampton's balloon barrage, cheating
the grey, motionless sixty-foot-long porpoise-shapes by a hair's breadth
. . . now at hedgetop level, a dark speeding shadow across the lavender
shadows of evening ... onwards over the Solent's laden waters, with Ostazewski
closing relentlessly from 300 yards. Then the Pole was down to 100 yards,
still firing, and white stars were winking and dancing along the Zerstorer's
fuselage. At Ashley Down, on the Isle of Wight, it struck a metalled road
head-on, and suddenly it was a plane no longer but a fiery, skidding projectile
ripping itself apart.
Collier Eagle Day-Battle of Britain 1996 Hodder and Staughton p89
Germans were coming: Oberst Deichmann's onslaught had reached juggernaut
pitch by now. At 6.28 pm, the Spitfire pilots of 54 Squadron, slumped on
the grass at Manston airfield, were dreaming wistfully of beer and supper
at their home base, Hornchurch, when the telephone's jangle sent their
seventy-plus German aircraft were in mid-Channel, surging for a landfall
between Dover and Dungeness.
The days events were slowly drawing to a close with 54 Squadron engaging
a large German formation near Dover on August 15th 1940 the final
engagement of the day, perhaps a day that will go down in many a history
book. The first daylight raid on the English mainland in north eastern
England, the first fall of bombs on a London suburb, Churchill emotionally
gives Dowdings fighter pilots due credit with his now famous words, and
every squadron in south east England was in operational combat at the same
time, someplace, somewhere. These fighter squadrons were:
North Weald who had chased the Dorniers out into the Thames Estuary and
the North Sea, 17 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) in action off the coast
at Clacton, 1 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) also in action off of Clacton,
151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) in action in North Kent, Dover and
at Rochester, 32 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) who had a busy day off
of Clacton, then over Croydon and Kent in the early evening, 111 Squadron
Croydon (Hurricanes) who earlier saw combat near Portsmouth then over their
own airfield in the early evening, 54 and 266 Squadrons Hornchurch (Spitfires)
who were engaged in combat all day over the Kent coast, 64 Squadron Kenley
(Spitfires) who also spent the day in combat over the Kent coast.
operational on this day were 43 Squadron Tangmere, 601 Squadron Tangmere,
234 Squadron Middle Wallop, 152 Squadron Warmwell, 87 Squadron Exeter 213
Squadron Exeter and 238 Middle Wallop.
was unthinkable, you never heard anything like it, and there, out of the
sky planes were falling blazing to the ground, parachutes with little men
hanging helplessly underneath drifted towards earth, even flying boots
and pieces of aircraft came down hitting the tin shelter with a terrific
thud. I think it was now that this war was so close to home, that we suddenly
became proud of these pilots, men and young men, who we didn't even know,
yet we cheered them on in every dogfight that we saw.
Thompson, housewife Kent England.
I was in
the garden of our new home in Luton with my foster mother (Auntie Sarr)
when she exclaimed, 'Arn't they beautiful', pointing to some silver coloured
planes flying high in the clear blue sky. A series of violent explosions
followed and we discovered later that planes were German.
Waiting for the All Clear. Bloomsbury 1990 p48
Deal. Hurricane P2801. 615 Squadron Kenley
Listed as missing. (Aircraft crashed and
burnt out. No sign of pilot)
Harwich. Hurricane R4075. 1 Squadron Northolt
Listed as missing. (Last seen in combat
with enemy fighters over North Sea)
Harwich. Hurricane P4043. 1 Squadron Northolt
Listed as missing. (Last seen in combat
with enemy fighters over North Sea)
Dungeness. Spitfire R6990. 64 Squadron Kenley
Listed as missing. (Last seen in combat
with Bf109s over Channel)
Calais. Spitfire K9664. 64 Squadron Kenley
Taken prisoner. (Forced landing after
combat with Bf109s over Channel)
Dunkirk. Spitfire N3189. 266 Squadron Hornchurch
Listed as missing. (Believed crashed into
Channel after destroying He115)
Portland. Hurricane V7227. 213 Squadron Exeter
Listed as missing. (Failed to return to
base after combat over Channel)
Selsey Bill. Hurricane P3944. 111 Squadron Croydon
Killed. (Shot down by Ju88 and exploded.
Pilot baled out of burning plane)
Portland. Hurricane P3215. 87 Squadron Exeter
Killed. (Aircraft damaged by enemy gunfire.
Crashed attempting to reach Warmwell)
Portland. Hurricane P2872. 87 Squadron Exeter
Listed as missing. (Shot down by Bf110
off coast and crashed into the sea)
Cherbourg. Spitfire N3277. 234 Squadron Middle Wallop
Taken prisoner. (Forced landed on beach
after combat over Channel off Swanage)
Bournmouth. Spitfire R6988. 234 Squadron Middle Wallop
Killed. (Collapsed and died by his aircraft
after being shot down and crashing)
Rochester (Teston). Spitfire N3168. 266 Squadron Hornchurch
Killed. (Baled out over River Medway but
was dead when found in the river)
Dymchurch. Hurricane P3941. 151 Squadron North Weald
Killed. (Shot down into Channel by Bf109.
Was dead when picked up by rescue boat)
Dover. Hurricane V7410. 151 Squadron North Weald
Listed as missing. (Failed to return to
base after combat over Channel)