The Chronology: Page-29
THE SITUATION AFTER EIGHT WEEKSOF BATTLE
Denis Richard's tells us, that thefirst phase of the battle was now over and that Fighter Command had morethan held its own. A total of 363 German aircraft had been shot down anddestroyed between August 8th and the 18th, compared with 211 British fighteraircraft. This comprised of 181 in the air and a further 30 on the ground.Two important German decisions had also been made during this period. Theyhad learnt from their mistake on daylight attacks across the North Seawhere the distance was too great for German bombers to have a fighter escort,therefore daylight missions from Luftflotte 5 were withdrawn. They alsorealized that the 'Stuka' Ju87 dive bomber, although inflicting considerabledamage to the British defences, was also easy prey for the Spitfires andthe Hurricanes of Fighter Command. Ju87 casualties were high and was costingthe Luftwaffe dearly. Regular missions by the Luftflotte 2 Ju87 squadronswere also withdrawn.
But although it did appear that FighterCommand was more than holding its own on these figures, there was stillsome concern at the Air Ministry.
In that same tenday period Aug 8th - Aug 18th, with total losses at 211 aircraft, the figurethat had been presented to Dowding indicated that aircraft replacementsbetween those dates was only 171, they had lost 40 more aircraft than hadbeen produced. Another important factor was that again during this firstphase of the battle, Fighter Command had lost 154 pilots, many of themexperienced, while the number of pilots that had come out of the RAF trainingschools numbered only 65, and all of these had never experienced combatexperience before, so they were far less skilled than the pilots that theywere replacing. This was a slightly different picture to that of only threemonths prior.
But what went onbehind the scenes was of no importance to the people of Britain. They carefullystudied the newspapers every day and listened to the radio for the 'latestscore', almost as if the battle was a football match. The media of theday always seemed to inflate the latest result. The British were alwayswinning. But then they had too, for the press were conducting a propagandawar against its own peoples in an effort to maintain morale.
MONDAY AUGUST19th 1940
By this time,Fighter Command as well as the Luftwaffe were looking into the reasonsas to why very little progress was being made, things now seemed at a stalemate.Both sides called important meetings and conferences as they entered thenext phase of the battle. Air Chief Marshal Keith Park told a staff groupconference of 11 Group that utmost priority must be given to the defenceof the airfields. He informed the meeting that Sector Airfields were undercontinuous attack and that he had no doubt the Luftwaffe would continueto bomb them especially those in his group which are still the main threatto the German Air Force. He made it quite clear that we must avoid airfieldsfrom the devastating attacks like the ones on Kenley and Biggin Hill ofthe last few days. He pointed out to the conference that '....now Göringknows that he can penetrate our inland airfields, there will be no stoppinghim from continuing.'
Air Vice MarshalLeigh-Mallory still insisted that more use should be made of the 'big wing'theory, and Leigh-Mallory was now gaining more supporters of this. ButPark still stood firm, stating that a statement of figures had been placedbefore them regarding the losses and replacements, and that he would stillobject to the 'big wing' theory;
".....butwe are at moment in no position to implement it anyway".
Park at this timestill had the support of Dowding who agreed that the area 11 and 10 Groupshad to cover on the south coast was too great for a 'big wing' to be successfulat this time. The idea of sending anything up to five squadronsto attack the same formation, would be nothing short of catastrophic, remarkedDowding, his thinking was that the more planes you sent into battle, meantthat the possibility of losing more pilots would be greater than ever.Fighter Command could not afford to lose more pilots than absolutely necessary.
Keith Parkalso brought to the notice of the meeting that he had become aware thatmany pilots were still chasing the 109 escorts, probably because of thethrill of high speed combat and inexperience. But he went on to add, thatnow that the Luftwaffe were now concentrating more on bombing missions,that it is imperative that these bombers must be regarded as priority targets.He went on to add that the escorts had only limited fuel once over Englishsoil, and that they would have to return back to their bases, but the bombershad a far greater range, and not only that, could cause far greater destruction.So the order was to be given, "Prime targets are the bomber formationsand that fighter to fighter combat must be avoided if such bomber formationsare present". Dowding also agreed to Parks request that immediate assistancebe given to 11 Group by 10 and 12 Groups when requested.
When the pilotsheard of the order that attacks be given to the German bombers insteadof the fighter escorts, they were far from happy about this. The tacticof selected squadrons attacking the escorts above while other squadronsattacked the bombers was working and was far easier to control becausethe combat would be broken into two different combat actions. If greaterpriority was given to the bombers, then;
But it was notonly Fighter Command that were indulging in important conferences. Acrossthe Channel, Göring realizing that at the moment his Luftwaffe wasnot gaining the upper hand against the RAF was holding an importantconference with his commanders at Karinhall also. It was from thismeeting, that a number of important changes to strategy would be made.
First, he confirmedthat the Ju87 and the StG Staffels would cease front line operations againstBritish targets and that only two Staffeln would be maintained. This wouldbe for reasons that some operations may require the services of the Ju87for pin-point bombing accuracy that only the Stuka could be used to greatesteffect. They would also be used for attacks on any British merchant convoythat would be passing through the Channel.
Another instructionwas that because RAF Bomber Command could possibly engage in counter attackson German airfields and towns, he instructed his Air Fleet Commanders tomake continued attacks on airfields of Bomber Command.
Another decision made by Göring,was that fighter crews be given the chance to 'get to know' the bombercrews that they were to escort. They should meet, build up friendships,and work together like brothers. This was further highlighted when thecommander stated that all bomber crews should always have the same escorts.A view that was not received with the same enthusiasm by fighter and bombercrews alike. If anyone wanted to do something that would bind the two crewstogether, they said, then we should be given radio communication with eachother, our radios should also be on the same frequencies making for easier and less confusing understanding of radio messages. [ Document36 ]
Overcast and dull during the morning.Forecast was for showers to develop my midday, which they did turning mainlyto rain periods especially in the east. In the west, although overcast,it was brighter, although the midday drizzle periods ceased by early afternoonand it remained dry.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
1230hrs: After a very quietmorning, a formation of approximately 100 Bf109s, in two waves, 60plus being detected just off the coast of Dungeness while forty plus weresighted to the north of Dover and flew along the south coast of Englandon a 'free chase' mission but the RAF were not to fall for such a tacticand ignored them allowing them to return to their bases. (Free Chase isan operation where enemy aircraft patrolled close to the coast in the hopethat they would lure the RAF fighters into the air).
1300hrs to 1600hrs: Spasmodicattacks by Bf109 fighters from Calais airfields during the course of theafternoon made strafing attacks on many of the British coastal airfields.These included Manston, Lympne, Hawkinge and a number of airfields in thesouth-west. Manston received the most serious damage once again, but wasnot recorded as being serious.
1430hrs: 602 Squadron Westhampnett(Spitfires) were dispatched to intercept a formation of Ju88s detectedoff the Sussex coast. One Ju88 was shot down off the coast near Bognorwith all four crewmen killed. One of the Spitfires was also shot down about15 minutes later by return gunfire from a Ju88. The pilot managed to baleout although sustaining burns to both hands and landed near Arundel. AllJu88s aborted the mission and returned to their bases in Northern France.
1500hrs: Bilbury airfield,a satellite aerodrome of Pembury was attacked by what was thought to beJu88s, possibly the same that attacked the oil tanks later at Pembroke.A number of Spitfires were damaged on the ground, but all were repairable.
1520hrs: Believed to be twoJu88 bombers managed to cross the south-west counties of England withoutinterception by British fighters and cross the River Severn and head forthe oil storage tanks at Llanreath close to the Pembroke Docks in SouthWales. Two tanks received direct hits and eight tanks of the fifteen totalexploded and burst into a flaming inferno. The fire was not brought undercontrol until the early hours of the next morning.
N.B. Richard Hough and Denis Richard'sin their book The Battle of Britain claim that 302 Squadron, a newly formedPolish squadron claimed their first victory on this day when they destroyeda Ju88 who's target was the airfield at Thornaby (Yorkshire). This engagementwas in fact the next day August 20th 1940.
1130hrs: Norwegian Coast. BlenheimL9497 248 Squadron Sumburgh
TUESDAY AUGUST20th 1940
Overcast and dull during the morning.Cloud base was very low in the north with rain in many places. As the morningprogressed, the rain moved further south. London and the Thames Estuaryremained cloudy and overcast, but the Channel area was fine with sunnyperiods.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The orders given by Göring inhis Luftwaffe Command Orders Staff 1A (described in full in Document36) were in part put into action during the night of the 19th/20th.In this document we see that Göring mentioned that the weather conditionsexpected in the next few days was cloud over much of Britain, and thatwe (the Luftwaffe) must take full advantage of the situation.
But these amounted to only small raids,between 12 and 15 He111 bombers attacked Liverpool and the Merseyside Docksand some dropped more bombs in the Midlands on the way back. Damage wasonly minimal and one He111 was shot down on the return journey over CountyDurham. These were some of the first bombs to be dropped on the City ofLiverpool.
A Large formationof 100 plus aircraft was detected coming in from the North Sea into theThames Estuary. They seemed content in maintaining their altitude and startedto take in a circular pattern and their flight path seemed to be over Rochford,Hornchurch, North Weald and turning back along the North Kent coastline.No attempt was made to bomb any of the areas and Hurricanes from 32 SquadronBiggin Hill and 56 Squadron North Weald chased them back out to sea. Itis believed that the German formation was on a reconnaissance flight.
The most serious of the days actionswere during the mid-afternoon.
1530hrs: Another raid was madeon the airfield at Manston. Bombs were dropped and the airfield strafed.Damage was only minimal although a hangar was damaged, a couple of buildingshit by debris and a Blenheim aircraft of 600 Squadron was damaged, butthere were no casualties during the incident.
1545hrs: The oil tanks at Llanreathat Pembroke Docks which were still burning from the previous days bombingwere again attacked. Defence was by anti-aircraft gunfire that failed tohit any of the German bombers, but they did manage to hit a Blenheim of236 Squadron St Eval, that although damaged, managed to return to base.
WEDNESDAYAUGUST 21st 1940
Cloud and winds continuing to comedown from the north, much cooler and conditions expected top deteriorateduring the day. Rain periods are expected in the south during the afternoonespecially in coastal districts.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The weather, which was slowly gettingworse from the previous day was expected to continue. Fighter Command knewthat large scale operations would be out, but they were not stupid enoughto acknowledge the fact that the Luftwaffe would not attempt the occasionalmission to possibly airfields and/or industrial targets.
This was borne out just after middaywhen the days events started to unfold.
1215hrs: Radar picks up a smallto medium formation out over the North Sea off Norfolk. The formation istracked for a while before Fighter Command dispatched any aircraft. Thiswas due to the possibility that the formation may have been on a reconnaissancemission and not causing any particular threat. The formation breaks intotwo groups. One comes inland and flies on a south-westerly course, theother continues north past the Wash and the Humberside region. Newly formed302 Squadron Leconfield (Hurricanes) and 242 Squadron Coltishall (Hurricanes)were instructed to intercept.
The Dorniers are from KG2 and headtowards Norwich crossing the coast near Great Yarmouth. The other formationalso consisted of Do17s were from KG3 and continued their flight path alongthe east coast towards Hull.
1230hrs: 242 Squadron Coltishall(Hurricanes) make first contact and throw the Dornier formation into disarray.As the bombers twist and turn, Blue Section led by Fl/Lt G.F.Powell-Sheddon,tear into the front part of the formation and with two of his section hitone of the Dorniers. The Do17 of KG2 goes down and crashes in flames inNorfolk. Many of the formation seek cover in the low cloud and abort themission. 302 squadron, a new Polish squadron was returned to base.
1235hrs: As the other portionof the formation flying north-west pass Hull, they are closer to the coastand Fighter Command release 611 Squadron Digby (Spitfires) and interceptionis made just off the coast at Skegness.
1240hrs: The next casualtyis one of the Spitfires of 611 squadron, when P/O M.P.Brown launches into attack a Dornier, but as he pulls away his Spitfire his hit by gunfirefrom the Do17 which damages the tailplane and one of the ailerons on hisstarboard wing and he is forced to return to base with a very unresponsiveSpitfire. More Spitfires go into the attack, F/O D.H.Watkins lines up aDornier in his gunsight and gives it a five second burst. Smoke trailsfrom the stricken bomber and it goes down crashing into the sea off ScottsHead killing all the crew.
1245hrs: Within five minutes,his Spitfire is hit, but damage is only minor. The pilot, F/O D.H.Watkinstries to stay with the combat but his crippled aircraft is just a burdenin the affray so he decides to return to base.
1300 hrs: A section of 242Squadron led by S/L D.R.S.Bader was coming in to land at Coltishall justto the north of Norwich from a normal practice flight when Bader heardover the R/T that an enemy aircraft had been spotted near Yarmouth. Thecall was actually not for 242 Squadron, but for 66 Squadron also basedat Coltishall. Bader could not resist the temptation, Yarmouth was onlyminutes away and he could be there within minutes.
S/L Douglas Baderlost the aircraft in the cloud, he stayed just under the cloud base twistingand turning, but the Dornier eluded him. Bader returned to base exceptionallyannoyed and in a state of rage.
1305hrs: The combat actioncontinues and moves off the coast at Skegness, the Dorniers have been foiledin their attempt in attacking a coastal convoy coming down the coast. Manyof the bombers try to gain height and take cover in the cloud. The Spitfireof P/O J.W.Lund takes a hit from gunfire from a Dornier and decides toreturn to base only to crash on landing with the pilot escaping any injury.
1320hrs: Another Spitfire takesa hit in the glycol system and it is believed that he also sustained damageto the hydraulic system, and returned to base. With 611 Squadron losinghalf of its aircraft the rest attempt to block access to the cloud coverforcing many of the Dorniers to take evasive action.
1330hrs: In a desperate attemptto seek the safety of the clouds, one Do17 collides with another receivingdamage that forces the bomber to make a forced landing between Skegnessand Maplethorpe. The crew were believed to have been captured. The otherDo17 is immediately attacked by 611 Spitfires and crashed in the vicinityof Maplethorpe.
In the south west, German bombersmade several attacks targeting 10 Group airfields and oil installations.
1425hrs: 234 Squadron MiddleWallop (Spitfires) intercepted and attacked a Ju88. Possibly shotdown by P/O R.F.T.Doe. The bomber crashedand burst into flames killing all on board.
1615hrs: An attack was madeon Brize Norton airfield and also at Middle Wallop. 17 Squadron Tangmere(Hurricanes) intercepted a formation of Ju88s making the attacks. One ofwhich was shot down, the Junkers crash landed at Earnley and the crew captured.17 Squadron sustained no casualties. One Blenheim bomber was damaged atMiddle Wallop during the raid.
THURSDAYAUGUST 22nd 1940
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The weather again was to be a decidingfactor in the course of the days events. Most Luftwaffe units had beengrounded for the day, although the RAF reported over 500 sorties. By day,the action was very light for the obvious reasons, but the Luftwaffe steppedup night bombing operations to a number of areas. But the first actionof the day was during the morning.
0900hrs: The convoy code named"Totem" was battling heavy seas through the Straits of Dover when theyreported that they were under attack. The report was forwarded to FighterCommand, but no reports had come through from the radar stations of enemyactivity in the Channel. As it turned out, the convoy was under attackby German gun batteries based at Cape Griz Nez. The convoy later reportedthat most of the shells were wide and no damage was done to the ships.
The convoy continued on after theeighty minute bombardment without any further enemy attack. But their positionhad been reported and with the weather postponing any air attacks on theEnglish mainland, it presented a target for the Luftwaffe.
1230hrs: Radar picked up aformation of enemy aircraft coming across the Channel. The plot showedthat it was heading towards convoy "Totem". 11 Group released 54 SquadronHornchurch (Spitfires), 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) and 615 SquadronKenley (Hurricanes).
1300hrs: Both 54 Squadron and610 Squadron arrive over the convoy in time to see the raiders approaching.They go into action immediately, and just as they approach the Ju88s, theyare attacked by Bf109s. They manage to turn the bombers back, but not beforeone of the 54 Squadron Spitfires was shot down and crashed into the Channeloff the coast of Deal. One Ju88 was damaged and is thought to have crashlanded in France.
1900hrs: With the afternoonover, the raids continued. On a number of occasions, the Luftwaffe sentover waves of Bf109 fighters, usually to strafe aerodromes and landingstrips. This raid, seemed to be one of those.
Possibly the most notable, and ina way controversial was the bombs that were dropped on the township ofHarrow and the adjoining Wealdstone. Records have always shown that at0330hrs on the morning of August 22nd 1940, the first bombs to be droppedon London were at Harrow. Geographically, in 1940 Harrow was in the countyof Middlesex, the Greater London area did not extend as far as either Harrowor Wealdstone. But as far as the Civil Defence was concerned, Harrow wasincluded and was within the boundaries of Civil Defence Area No.5 whichwas classed as the London area. To take the matter further, Harrow andWealdstone also come under the durestriction of the London MetropolitanPolice. Yet look in any gazetteer, and you will most certainly see Harrowand Wealdstone listed as being in Middlesex.
The Luftwaffe also dropped bombs onAberdeen in Scotland, Bristol in the west and on South Wales industrialareas during the night of August 21st-22nd. It is believed that Bradfordand Hull was also bombed during this night, but this cannot be confirmed.
The heaviest attack came during thenight of August 22nd - 23rd when Ju88s dropped more than sixteen tons ofhigh explosive on the aircraft works at Filton seriously disrupting production.
FRIDAY AUGUST23rd 1940
Bright intervals were expected withthe possibility of showers over most of Britain. Cloud and overcast couldpersist over the Channel and the south coast.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The typical English summer was behavingin its usual unpredictable way which again meant that any major assaultwas out of the question. Overnight, the Luftwaffe targeted Filton againand up to sixteen tons of high explosive fell on the airfield causing somedamage, but although hangars and machine shops were hit it was not enoughto put them out of action. An occasional German patrol aircraft was detectedoff the coast, but Fighter Command was not going to waste time on these,and those enemy aircraft that did cross the coast and penetrate inlandmanaged to avoid interception in the low cloud cover.
The afternoon was still clear of anyenemy activity due to the inclement weather. A few single aircraft managedto cross the coast, but they stayed very close to the cloud base and theydone little or no damage. Again, with combat operations virtually non existent,Attention was given to the repair of airfields and tele communications.
SATURDAYAUGUST 24th 1940
Since August 18th, things generallywere relatively quiet, the lull of the last five days had allowed bothsides to regroup and re-establish themselves. So far, all the Luftwaffehad been doing was to cause inconvenience to Fighter Command. The radarstations had been damaged, but in nearly all cases they were back in operationwithin 24 hours. Some airfields had been damaged, but again, the damagewas not enough to make them non-operational. Both sides were losing bothpilots and aircraft, and with the Battle of Britain now over two monthsold, the Luftwaffe had not yet achieved the advantage that it had hopedfor, and Göring's plan that the Royal Air Force would be wiped outin two weeks were hopelessly dashed.
Another directive was issued by Göring:
Göring wenton to add that concentrated attacks were to be made on Royal Air Forceairfields. The tactic of trying to lure the fighters of Fighter Commandinto the air would continue, as "...these fighters must be destroyed ifwe are to succeed." German fighter pilots were still opposed to the factthat they were not being given 'free hunt' instructions and that they couldfly above the bombers that they were escorting. The instruction to stayclose to the bombers thus giving them full protection continued.
At 11 GroupFighter Command, the controllers were instructed by AVM Keith Park:
It seemed now,that it was going to be a battle of tactics. Previously, the bombing hadbecome far more widespread. In the early stages bombing was only concentratedon the radar stations and some of the production factories in the Southamptonand Portsmouth areas with an occasional attack on the midlands, but nowdestruction by bombing was getting far more intense. Most of the airfieldshad received some sort of damage, bombing was getting closer to Londonand in some cases the suburbs had been hit, inland towns and cities inthe industrial midlands were now sustaining bomb damage. The air Ministryand the War cabinet were very concerned at the close proximity the bombingwas on the capital itself. Göring had issued instructions that Londonwas not to be bombed except only upon his orders which was a directivethat had been passed down from Adolph Hitler.
London was ringedby the Sector Stations that were there to protect it. These were Kenleyto the south in the county of Surrey, Biggin Hill also in the south inthe county of Kent both just a short drive away from London. Hornchurchto the east, which was a vital airfield because it protected the LondonDocks, the Thames and the Thames Estuary as well as the large factoriesat Dagenham and Tilbury. North Weald to the north-east protected much ofthe Home Counties as well as providing back up for the busy Hornchurch.Northolt in the west of London completed whatever protection London needed.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
It was witha tired and exhausted German Air Fleet, that Göring unleashed a savageall out bombing attack on Britain. August 24th was to be the start of acampaign of sustained bombing, sending over the Channel more aircraft thatthe RAF could cope with. On the night of 23rd/24th August, over 200 heavybombers made a night raid on the Dunlop Fort rubber works at Birminghamin the midlands seriously affecting tyre production.
0830hrs:The radar at Pevensey and Dover picks up an enemy formation off the coastof Calais. A short pause as they try to ascertain its flight path, FighterCommand HQ are alerted and the Observer Corps are ordered to keep a sharplook out. The formation consisted of over 40 Do17s and Ju88s with 60 plusBf109s as escort.
There is no accountof bomb damage in this area at the time and it is presumed that the formationwas turned back on another unsuccessful mission.
1130hrs:Sgt R.F.Hamlyn and the rest of 610 Squadron had barely had enough timeto have breakfast after touching down back at Biggin Hill, when the callwent out for 610 Squadron to 'Scramble'.
An enemy formationhad been detected coming across the Channel from Cape Griz Nez which consistedof Ju88s and an escort of Bf109s. 264 Squadron Hornchurch (Defiants) hadalso been deployed as was 151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) and 501Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes). Deploying the Defiant squadron wasa devastating move, especially as 141 Squadron (Defiants) had almost beendecimated about a month previous.
At the time,264 squadron was at Manston, now after so many attacks was being used mainlyas a refueling station rather than a base. 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires)had been vectored to Dover, where they saw nothing for the first 40 minutes.
1215hrs:The Defiants made contact with the bombers who made their first attackon Manston airfield. Although they managed to claim one Ju88 shot downand another damaged, they suffered in the usual way, even in combat withthe Ju88s. Three Defiants were destroyed while two others sustained damage.610 Squadron managed to intercept a flight of six Bf109s, but they turnedaway and headed back towards France having a head start on the pursuingSpitfires. 610 Squadron broke off the engagement, except for Sgt R.F.Hamlyn,who chased one back across the Channel, despite orders not to chase enemyaircraft back across the Channel. Most of the way he was too far distantto open fire, until reaching the French coast where at a range of 150 yardshe sent two short bursts of machine gun fire into the Messerschmitt andwatched it dive out of control into the ground below.
Although Manstonhad many tunnels and underground shelters, it was now rapidly becominguseless, the result of regular and constant bomb attacks. In threedays, 264 Squadron had lost some twelve Defiants, fourteen pilots and gunnersincluding the Commanding Officer were killed with most of the others beingwounded. (Just as the Ju87 was withdrawn from the Luftwaffe, FighterCommand decided that the end had now come for the Defiant as a front linefighter, and what was left of 264 Squadron was transferred back to Kirton-on-Lindsay.)
1500hrs - 1630hrs: The combataction continued throughout this period over the Thames Estuary and thenorth coast towns of Kent. Manston had taken the brunt of the attack, buta number of German bombers managed to get through to their targets of NorthWeald and Hornchurch where, although considerable damage was done, operationswere not affected. Damage to North Weald and Hornchurch sufferedconsiderable damage, but not enough to make them un-operational. But withthis attack, and the other raids around south-eastern England, the tollonce again began to mount. The RAF was to lose 20 aircraft and 18 of thosedamaged were repairable, to the 39 destroyed of the Luftwaffe.
1700hrs: The day wasnot over yet. Most of the action during the morning was in the Dover, Ramsgate,Thames Estuary and East London area, but by mid afternoon although VentnorRadar was not in operation, a formation of 50+ heavy bombers were detectedeast of Cherbourg. Another formation was also detected coming from thesouth-east. Several squadrons were scrambled, but only 609 Squadron MiddleWallop (Spitfires) found contact with the enemy in most unpleasant circumstances.They spotted the bomber formation 5,000 feet above them, just as the AAcoast guns started to fire at the bombers. It was like being caught between'the devil and the deep blue sea' except in this case it was the thickcloud of a bomber formation and the chilly waters of a cold and bleak EnglishChannel.
The Spitfireof American, Pilot Officer Andy Mamedoff was hit and fighting with brokencontrols just managed to land the plane in a field. (Andy was to losehis life later in the war after dying from sustained wounds.) Withonly a single squadron against 70+ bombers, it was too much to ask that609 force the bombers into retreat, and the formation continued on to theCity of Portsmouth where the let loose over 200 250 kg bombs. This raidresulted in the largest amount of casualties so far in a single raid duringthe Battle of Britain. Over 100 people in the city were killed on thatafternoon, and 300 sustained serious injuries. Houses, shops, factories,the Naval barracks and the dockyards were all seriously damaged, and forthe first time, the newspapers had to print the grim reality of truth intheir headlines. For months previously Britons were reading newspaper headlines,"144 down out of 1,000", 25 Spitfires stop 70 Bombers" and "115 Raidersout of 600 Destroyed" figures were very much exaggerated. Now the headlineswere to read "Portsmouth Suffers Heavy Bombing", simply that, in an effortto maintain morale the amount of dead and injured was only placed in smallprint.
2250hrs:But the bad news was not to stop there. No sooner had the bombers begantheir return journey, another radar station detected another large formationbuilding up off the Cherbourg Peninsular. This was joined by another formationfrom the south east again and radar tracked them across the Channel. Butby this time darkness had fallen and it was an impossibility for any squadronto be 'scrambled'. With the small amount of night fighters that FighterCommand possessed it would be a disaster to allow them to go up and flythe flag for the RAF. Instead, Britain's only defence for the oncomingbombers would be the searchlights and AA groundfire. This time, the targetwas London itself. A target that was not to be attacked unless orderedto do so by Göring himself from instruction direct from Adolph Hitler.
2300hrs:So far for the period of the war, Londoners although often hearing localgunfire, seeing vapour trails of dogfights in the sky and hearing aboutthe war in newspapers and on the radio, and the only experience of bombingwas when Croydon was mistakenly identified as Kenley and just a coupleof bombs dropped on nearby Croydon and Purley, the target hear was naturallythe aerodrome at Croydon. The other instance was earlier in the morningwhen bombs were dropped on the docks and outskirts of East London. Butthat was in daylight. This was to be a new experience, a frightful experience,for this was the first time that London would be bombed at night. Londonhad never been bombed since the Gotha bombing raids of 1918, and this wasto be far more frightening, and spectacular than anything Londoners hadseen before. Bombs fell at Aldgate in the city, at Bloomsbury, BethnalGreen, Finsbury, Hackney, Stepney, Shoreditch and West Ham. Fires coveredthe whole of London's East End, the night sky glowed blood red, fountainsof flame bellowed out of factory windows, and wall structures came crashing down.
On this first nightof night bombing by the Luftwaffe, had one experienced not only what theysaw, but the sounds, terrible human sounds, cries of despair and terror.For the people of not only London, but Birmingham, Portsmouth and Manchesterand many other cities.....their battle was just about to begin. The seasidetown of Ramsgate suffered badly this day. A broad mixture of people, wardens,policemen and civilians were amongst 24 people killed in the town in whathas been described as 'the worlds worst assault from the air'when 1,200houses were destroyed and damaged.
Churchill knewof Hitler's instruction, '......that London was not to be bombed...unlesson my sole instruction'. This attack on the August 24th 1940, wasthis another blunder by the Luftwaffe bombers. Most reports state thatthe bombing of London was an accident, and that it was not a plannedraid. The explanation was that the Luftwaffe bomber crews that were involved,were to bomb the storage oil tanks at both Rochester and at Thameshaven,but they had overshot the target area and continued on towards the Cityof London. While most of the bombs landed in the dockland area ofEast and West Ham and others fell in North London and as far west as Esherand Staines, one of the Heinkels left his release of bombs far too late, and it was these that landed in Central London that was to have immediateconsequences in the days following.
But can we reallyaccept the fact that it really was an accident? Let us look at some ofthe facts that have risen from the night of August 24th-25th 1940.
It is pleasingto note that Winston S.Ramsey of After the Battle series has pickedthis up and published his findings in "The Blitz - Then and Now Volume1"
Within twentyfour hours Bomber Command was to launch its first attack on the city ofBerlin. This was a reprisal raid for the sudden attack on London. We wondernow as to whether this was a good move or not, for the bombing of Berlinonly provoked the Luftwaffe into a series of regular night raids on theBritish capital. This was to be the warning that the Blitzkriegon London had now begun.
 Len DeightonFighter p180
|Document 36. Goring's document of August 19th 1940 |
Document 37. Map showing bomb damage August 24th 1940