The Chronology: Page-31
FridayAugust 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940

Boulton Paul Defiants of 264 Squadron          An early model Hurricane before squadron letters were allocated

WEATHER:

Much improvedconditions would prevail throughout the British Isles. Temperatures shouldbe slightly higher than the previous days and conditions are expected toremain fine with cloud periods in all Channel areas.

OPERATIONS:

This day, Germanylaunched a total of 1,310 sorties against Britain. It appeared that Kesselringwas intent on attacking with everything that he had. One direct hit onthe power supply line took out the radar stations at Dover, Rye, Pevensey,Foreness, Beachy Head and Whitstable and they they were off the air fora critical three hours. Biggin Hill was attacked twice by 109s and Ju88swithin a few hours and major damage was done with the result that some40 people were killed. Kenley, Shoreham, Tangmere and Rochford were alsotargeted where the story was much the same. Hangars, buildings and theairfields themselves receiving devastating damage.

Many times,fighter sweeps by Bf109s failed to attract Fighter Command into the air,Park was not going to be drawn into unnecessary fighter combat. So Kesselringsent over fast Ju88 bombers and working in conjunction with the Bf109swas adamant that somehow he would get the RAF fighters into the air. Atone time, a mass formation of over 200 bombers droned over the Kent coastonly to break into separate formations with each one targeting the RAFairfields. Biggin Hill was attacked again, as was Kenley, Gravesend, Hornchurch,Debden, North Weald, in fact every RAF airfield from Duxford to the southcoast was attacked in one way or another.

Fighter Commandwas forced to get some of its fighters into the air. The selective targetswere to 'get the bombers'. The skies over the south coast became a patternof vapour trails as some of the RAF fighters got tangled up with 109s,it was impossible to avoid them. Most of the fighters tried in vain tostraffe the bombers, but it all became a melee of all sorts. The casualtiesstarted to fall from the sky, Spitfires, Bf 109s, Hurricanes, Heinkelsand Dorniers. Many were badly shot up, others just collided into each other.

"I saw hiscontortions, then I saw him straighten and fly straight into the Germanaircraft; both crashed and Percy was killed. I was close enough to seehis letters, as other pilots must have been and who also confirmed thisincident, which in itself caused me to realize my young life and its future,if any, had jumped into another dimension"
Sgt. G.Pallister249 & 43 Squadrons on P/O P.Burton ramming a German aircraft.
Deliberate, or accidental, the rammingand/or colliding with aircraft was a common occurrence, especially whenmany of the pilots were adopting the head on attack attitude. Carried outcorrectly, it was a successful method of attack. Mostly used on attackon bombers, it was also used frequently in fighter combat.
There areseveral advantages to the frontal attack when in combat, providing thatyou can get into the right position. You avoid the concentration of firefrom a bombers rear gunners and as the twin engined aircraft has no gunsfiring forward, the pilot and crew are more vulnerable from the front,and perhaps above all it makes it very difficult for the escorting fightersto carry out their protective role. Of course, the disadvantage is thatthere is so little time. The relative closing speed would be somethingapproaching 600 mph this is almost nearly 300 yards per second. The optimumrange of our guns was about 300 yards, so if you could effectively getyour sights on the target at 600 yards, you could press the button forone second and this would leave you with one second to break away, manyhad this tactic down to a fine art, many didn't, but the effect on theenemy formation was devastating.
Flight LieutenantD.L.Armitage 266 Squadron
Despite the fineweather of the morning period, the only raids were on shipping in the ThamesEstuary. These shipping strikes had been left alone for the last coupleof weeks and Fighter Command regarded them as once again being lures toattract RAF fighters into the air. Park was in no way going to be tempted,sending up squadrons of fighters would weaken his defences of his airfieldsthat seemed to be the targets of enemy action of the last few days. Thefirst sign of action took place during mid-morning.

OPERATIONSIN DETAIL:

1030hrs:First sign of activity occurred when a formation was picked up offthe coast near Cape Griz Nez. Three separate groups were detected whichturned out to be separate formations of He111s and in all totaled about120 aircraft. The cloud base was down to about 7,000 feet and the ObserverCorps had difficulty in estimating their numbers as the German formationwas flying at about 14,000 to 15,000 feet, and reported a small escortof Bf109s. The Luftwaffe were now, for the first time using a smaller numberof Bf109s as close escort, and with a larger number flying at about 25,000feet.

1050hrs:43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes), 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes),85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 111 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), 222Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes), 603 SquadronHornchurch Spitfires), 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) and 616 SquadronKenley (Spitfires) were released by Fighter Command cope with the incomingformations.  Park dispatched his squadrons in two waves, as the Germanbombers were coming across the Channel in three separate formations.

43, 79, 253,and 603 Squadrons went in first to intercept the first wave of bombersjust prior to them reaching the English coast between Deal and Folkestone.85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) met up with the leading Heinkels and decidedon a head on attack. This was a maneuver that AVM Hugh Dowding did notagree with, stating that it was far too dangerous and that many of themore novice pilots would want to copy their more experienced counterpartswith possible fatal results. But nevertheless, squadron commanders generallyencouraged it, because performed properly, it allowed the bomber formationto scatter in all directions, while at the same time a squadron followingwould then attack the bombers while they were pre-occupied with avoidinghitting the first squadron that caused them to scatter in the first place.

South Africanpilot, Pilot Officer E.J.Morris went into a head on attack with a Heinkel.He knew this form of attack although he himself had never tried it. 79Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) engaged a formation of Heinkel 111s andwhile some peeled of to exhert their attack from above, many decided tomake a head on attack. Morris was one of them. He pressed the firing button,banked sharply only for the Heinkel to ram the underbelly of his Hurricane.His aircraft was cut to pieces, but Morris, still strapped in his seatmanaged to pull the ripcord and parachuted to safety. His injuries werejust a broken leg...and a bit of confidence. He said afterwards, "I thoughtthey were supposed to break formation if we pressed home a frontal attack".He was told that '...not if the pilot is dead, you are supposed to makeallowances for that'. Morris replied, "Then how the hell are you supposedto know if he is dead or not?" The way you did, he was politely told.

S/L Tom Gleaveof 253 Squadron was another who saw action this day. At 32 years of age,Gleave wanted to command the squadron, but was told politely that RAF regulationsdid not permit commanding officers above the age of 26. But somehow, TomGleave managed to get part of his way by smooth talking his way into sharingthe command with the newly appointed commanding officer. It seemed thatthis day Tom Gleave was 'Hun Hungry';

Detachedfrom the rest of the squadron, his vee of three aircraft was vectored onto an enemy formation. Ahead of him and about 500 feet above Gleave sawline-astern formations of Bf109s riding above the haze, well spaced outand stretching as far as the eye could see. It was the culmination of allGleave’s ambitions. Unhesitating, he flew right through the enemy fighters.
He rememberedthe scene clearly, and described the smell of the cordite, the hiss ofthe pneumatics, and the way the Hurricane’s nose dipped as the guns recoiled.

He gave thefirst Bf 109 a four-second burst and saw his bullets hitting the engine.He saw the Perspex of the hood shatter into fragments that sparkled inthe sunlight. The Bf109 rolled onto its back, slewed, and then dropped, nose down, to the earth. Another enemy aircraft cameinto his sights. Gleave turned with him, firing bullets that brought blacksmoke from the wings before theBf109 droppedvertically, still smoking. Gleave narrowly missed colliding with his thirdvictim, and then gave him a three-second burst as the Messerschmitt pulledahead and turned into the gunfire. The cockpit seemed empty; the pilotslumped forward out of sight. The Messerschmitt fell. The German pilotswere trying to maintain formation and by now there was so much gunfirecurving through the air that Gleave had the impression of flying througha gigantic golden bird-cage. A fourth Messerschmitt passed slightly aboveGleave, and he turned and climbed to fire into the underside of its fuselage.But after two or three seconds’ firing Gleave heard the ominous clickingthat told him he had used up all his bullets. But already the fourth victimwas mortally hit, and rolled on its backbefore fallingaway.

In spiteof his age and rank, Gleave possessed the one quality that distinguishedthe ace pilots on both sides. It was something more important than flyingskill, more important than keen eyesight, even more important than quickreaction times and the ability to “aim off” for the correct deflection.Such men as Gleave had the nerve to fly on collision courses (that forward-facingguns require) very, very close to the enemy. Gleave was 175 yards fromhis first victim (very close by 1940 standards) and 120 yards from thesecond one. But the third and fourth Messerschmitts were hit from only60 and 75 yards respectively. At such close quarters the eight machineguns did terrible damage.

Len DeightonFighter Jonathan Cape 1977 p200
Afterwards TomGleave learned of the RAF hierarchy "Bullshit" for want of a better wordas he calls it. When he made his claim for the four Bf109s, they statedthat it was an impossibility to shoot them down in as many minutes. Asa compromise, they allowed his claim as four probables.

1115hrs:Observer Corps further reported that 40 plus Heinkel He111s and 30Do17s escorted by 100 plus Bf109s and Bf110s were approaching the coast.By now, the first wave over bombers had pushed on over Ashford still incombat with the British fighters. With the first wave of He110s and Do17scrossing the Kent coast, what radar was working was picking up sightingsthat stretched right back to the French coast. Keith Park at Fighter CommandGroup HQ decides to act, and places nearly sixteen squadrons at readinesswith two squadrons from 12 Group sent in to give cover to Biggin Hill andKenley.

1130hrs: One of the first squadronsto intercept the enemy formation is 79 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes).Green section and Blue section move in to attack the Heinkel's:

Green sectionfrom Biggin Hill attacks an estimated 30 Heinkel He111s, one of which isshot down. The four Hurricanes of Blue section are led by F/O Ted Morrisand Blue 2 is Bill Milligan. Instructing Blue 3 and Blue 4 to keep thefighters off, Morris leads Millington down into a vertical dive throughanother bomber formation to split it up. Millington opens fire as a Heinkellooms up in front of him but at the edge of his vision he sees a collision- Morris has crashed into a Heinkel. There is no time to watch as he hurtlesthrough, narrowly missing a collision himself. As he pulls out of his divethe Australian can see that the Heinkels have split up and over the radioBlue 4 calls that he has seen Morris bale out. To one side, a Heinkel goesdown with both engines on fire.
Dennis NewtonA Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p135
1145hrs: The second wave of Germanbombers and their Bf109 escorts were now entangled with more RAF fighters.85, 111, 222 and 616 Squadrons, just like the first squadrons to engagethe bombers they were to have their hands full. Keith Park now had to act,and dispersed sixteen squadrons. But by the time that they managed to takeoff and gain height, the German bomber formation was well over Kent andheading towards London. The He111s and the Do17s break into two formations,and once again Park is quick to realize that his Sector Stations are underattack once more. One eyewitness said of this day, that no matter whereyou looked over Kent, Surrey or South London, you could see nothing butbombers and fighter planes fighting it out. Vapour trails were everywhereand it was believed that Germany had sent over the whole dammed Luftwaffe.S/Ldr Tom Gleave of 253 Squadron achieved the remarkable feat of destroyingfour Me109s in just a matter of minutes.

1200hrs: With squadrons engagingthe first wave of bombers, and also the second wave, reports were stillcoming in to Fighter Command that more formations were over the Channeland heading for the Kent coast. Park had no option but to put all his squadronsinto the air. Two squadrons that had been covering Biggin Hill were movedforward into the attack, and Park called on 12 Group to send squadronsdown covering Biggin Hill and Kenley.

1215hrs: Once again, BigginHill was hit, the two squadrons from 12 Group fail to sight the Ju88s comingin from the south, but only few of the bombs actually fall on the airfieldsdoing damage to a hangar and putting the telephone system out of action.Many of the bombs fall wide and the town of Biggin Hill suffered as didthe village of Keston. Kenley suffered much the same fate with many buildingshit and many stationery wounded aircraft on the ground received furtherdamage. 79 Squadron  Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) along with 74 SquadronHornchurch (Spifires) are pulled back to guard the aerodromes of Bigginand Kenley because once again, the 12 Group squadrons had failed to show.Two sections of Hurricanes try to keep the Bf109s occupied, while two sectionsengage the bombers. One Hurricane is lost as it fails to pull out of adive on its target and collides with a He111 which goes down in flames.The pilot of the Hurricane was seen to bale out. 79 Squadron, as well as610 Squadron, both from Biggin Hill between them, claim 10 enemy aircraftshot down. As well as Biggin Hill and Kenleysuffering badly in the raid, the airfields of Croydon and Detling werealso hit.

1300hrs: It had been one ofFighter Commands busier days, every squadron in 11 Group had at least beencalled up for one sortie. Again Keith Park was on the phone to 12 Groupasking '...where in the hell were your fighters that were supposed to haveprotected my airfields." The answer was that the 12 Group fighters couldnot find the enemy, to which Park 'politely' told them that they were notsupposed to be going looking for the enemy, they were supposed to be atthe South London airfields waiting for the enemy to come to them.

1315hrs: Many of the originalHe111s, Do17s and Bf109s were heading for home, that is, if they hadn'tbeen shot down, as another wave of bombers crossed the coast between Dealand Dungeness again. This time, their strength was much smaller. Comingin in three waves ten minutes apart, they all veered into different directiononce over the Kent coastline heading for their own particular target. Theseattacked the forward airfields of Hawkinge and Manston. 43 Squadron Tangmere(Hurricanes) engaged the bombers and many of the British fighter pilotssee the He113 fighter for the first time. Although the airfield receivedminor damage, all the bombers made just the single run before turning backover the Channel. F/L R.C.Reynell of 43 Squadron is caught between fiveHe113 fighters who have the advantage of height. Reynell evades the Germanfighters with an extraordinary display of combat aerobatics with more maneuverableHurricane, but because the German tactics was to send one He113 into acombat dive after Reynell's Hurricane, the others positioned themselvesto block any exit Reynell may have had in mind. This cat and mouse actioncontinued for eight to ten minutes before the enemy had to break off theengagement because of their fuel situation and return for home, and a relievedReynell flies back to base.

1600hrs: More waves of heavyGerman bombers came across the Kent countryside and from the directionof the Thames Estuary. 56 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes), 79 SquadronBiggin Hill (Hurricanes), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) 253 SquadronKenley (Hurricanes), 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 603 SquadronHornchurch (Spitfires) were among the squadrons dispatched to intercept,many of these squadrons had been in combat practically non stop since 1030hrs.Now for the first time, as Keith Park for the second time this day hadevery one of his squadrons airborne, called in 12 Group and this time requestedthem to engage in combat and not just protect 11 Group airfields. One ofthe squadrons to be sent down in the combat area was 242 Squadron Duxford(Hurricanes) led by S/L Douglas Bader who had just brought his squadrondown from Coltishall that morning. Bader, had been longing for action formonths, but up until now had not seen any, well, with the exception ofintercepting a lone aircraft while on patrol, but according to DouglasBader, "....that is not action, my twelve Hurricanes against fifteen orso of theirs, that's what I call action." So if Bader called fifteen enemyaircraft action, then he was now going to be thrown right into it, because,being vectored close to North Weald there were seventy enemy aircraft tobe met. [ Document 40 ].

1800hrs: For the second timethat day, Biggin Hill was bombed and almost put out of action  Detlingairfield was the first to get hit by at least fifty H.E. bombs. Oil tankswere hit and set ablaze, the main electricity cable was hit and cut thepower to all buildings and with hangars and roadways cratered it was anticipatedthat the airfield would be out of action for at least two days. Nine Ju88bombers manage to get though the British defences and took everybody bysurprise and struck Biggin Hill with a low level bombing attack dropping1000 lb bombs causing mayhem. The transport yard was destroyed, storerooms,the armoury and both officers and sergeants messes were severely damaged,two hangars were wrecked earlier in the day and now another hanger wasalmost flattened, and on top of all that telephone and communication lineswere severed, gas and water mains were ruptured. Casualties amounted tothirty-nine personnel killed and thirty five injured.

At 4.00p.m., again without pause, the third and perhaps heaviest group of raidsis plotted building up. During the next two hours large and small formationsof enemy aircraft flood in over Kent and the Thames Estuary. The JunkersJu 88s which appear over Biggin Hill at 6.00 p.m. only number nine butthe havoc caused by their bombs is far worse than that of any previousattack. The airfield is taken completely by surprise. Six of 79 Squadron'sHurricanes manage to scramble before the bombs start falling but 610 Squadron,already up, is too far away to help defend its own base.

There iswholesale destruction as workshops, cook houses, the sergeants' mess andWAAF quarters are wrecked and 90% of the station's transport is damagedor destroyed.
All electricity,water and gas mains are cut: and two parked aircraft are reduced to scrap.The airmen's shelter is pulverized by a direct hit and all those who hadcrammed in a few moments earlier are killed. Another bomb hits the airwomen'sshelter and the concrete walls cave in, crushing and smothering those inside.
Everyoneoutside pitches in and digs furiously to free the trapped women. Ambulanceand stretcher parties stand by. One-by-one the women are carried out: someare barely recognizable because of dirt and blood on their faces. Othersare dazed and bruised but all, except one, are alive. Lena Button fromTasmania is the only casualty. Altogether, 39 personnel have been killedand 26 injured.

Dennis Newton.A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p136
It had been a busyday for Fighter Command, over 22 squadrons had been in action for mostof the day, many of them doing up to four sorties. But as night fell, therewas to be no let up. Göring this time had meant business. It appearedthat this was an all out effort to destroy Fighter Command in one way oranother.

130 plus Ju88sand He111s of Luftflotte 3 made a night attack on the City of Liverpool,Do17s and He111s made raids on London and Portsmouth, Manchester was bombedas was Worcester and Bristol. In another unexpected raid, the VauxhallMotor Works at Luton was hit resulting in over fifty people being killed.

It had beenone of the worst days for the RAF, 39 aircraft were destroyed, eight ofthese were Spitfires from 222 Squadron Hornchurch, over 50 RAF personnelhad been killed (39 of these at Biggin Hill) with nearly 30 seriously injured.Some 200 civilians had been killed in the air raids and along with theradar stations of Pevensey, Beachy head and Foreness sustaining damage,Biggin Hill was made virtually unoperational, and the control of its sectorwas transferred over to Hornchurch.

On the Germanside, a total of 41 fighters and bombers had been destroyed. But they too,during the hours of darkness felt the brunt of an Bomber Command offensiveas well. More that 80 Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys attack citiesin Holland and Belgium. Berlin is attacked by 149 Squadron Bomber Command.50 Squadron attacked oil refineries near Rotterdam. Of these, only fourRAF bombers are lost.

CASUALTIES:
1115hrs: W of Maidstone. HurricaneL1965. 253 Squadron Kenley
P/O C.D.Franciskilled. (Shot down during combat with Bf109 )
1120hrs: Redhill. HurricaneP3921. 253 Squadron Kenley
P/O D.N.O.Jenkinskilled. (Baled out when aircraft hit by gunfire from Bf109,but shot at by enemy)
1150hrs: Nr Bognor. HurricaneP3179 43 Squadron Tangmere
Sgt. D.Noblekilled. (Shot down by Bf109 in combat over Sussex coast. Crashednear Brighton/Hove)
1151hrs: Stroud (Kent). HurricaneV7369. 151 Squadron Stapleford
S/L E.B.Kingkilled. (Crashed and exploded in flames during routine patrol.No cause known
1202hrs: West Malling. SpitfireX4248. 616 Squadron Kenley
F/O J.S.Bellkilled. (Shot down during attack on Bf109. Crashed and aircraftburnt out)
1715hrs: Dungeness. HurricaneP3213. 253 Squadron Kenley
Sgt. J.H.Dickinsonkilled. (Shot down by Bf109, baled out but was killed)
1735hrs: Woodchurch (Kent).Hurricane V6548. 43 Squadron Tangmere
S/L J.V.C.Badgerdied of wounds 30.6.1941 (Shot down by Bf109 over Romney Marshes)
1802hrs: Bishopsbourne. SpitfireR6628. 222 Squadron Hornchurch
Sgt. J.I.Johnsonkilled. (Shot down by Bf109. Crashed and burnt out)


SATURDAYAUGUST 31st 1940

WEATHER:

Fair conditionswere expected to prevail over most of the country with higher temperatures.Clear and fine in the south with hazy conditions in the Thames Estuaryand Channel areas near Dover.

OPERATIONSIN DETAIL:

It was now felt that the Luftwaffereally now meant business. The forward airfields of Hawkinge, Lympne andManston had received considerable damage the day before, but they wereregarded as still being operational. The main airfields of Gravesend, Croydon,Kenley, Biggin Hill, Hornchurch and Duxford also had received serious damage.Biggin Hill, who had the day before, made a statement that they were temporarilyout of action, but with an all out effort by the ground crews (and somepilots) overnight and in the early hours of the morning, they declaredthemselves operational.

Movements within Fighter Command were610 Squadron (Spitfires) who had been operation out of Biggin Hill weretransferred north to Acklington where it was hoped they would indulge ina well earned rest. 72 Squadron (Spitfires) under the command of S/LdrA.R.Collins moved down from Acklington to Biggin Hill.

0755hrs: Radar picked up oneplot over the Thames Estuary, another plot was picked up over the Channeland heading towards the Dover and Dungeness area and within a few minutesit was confirmed that three formations were approaching from the ThamesEstuary while the fourth was approaching over Dover and many a remark wasmade, "...they just don't give up do they." and ".......blimey, not again."But Park, realizing that he had dispatched his fighters far too late theprevious day, was taking no chances this time.

Two squadrons were "scrambled" andwere vectored to the Margate and Thames Estuary area. This first wave ofenemy aircraft was identified as Bf109s and flying at some 25,000 feetwhere their performance was better than that of the Spitfire. Park sentout the order for them to return to their bases as he was not wanting toinvolve fighter to fighter combat. 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) receivedthe message and headed for home. But the other squadron 1st Canadian SquadronRCAF (they had not been allocated a RAF Squadron number at this time)did not receive the message and got caught up with the Bf109s and threeof their aircraft were destroyed. F/O G.C.Hyde baled out of his aircraftbut sustained severe burns, F/Lt V.B.Corbett suffered the same fate. Thereis no information on the third Canadian pilot. Realizing that Fighter Commandwas not to be tempted, the Bf109s decided to attack the barrage balloonsaround the Dover area.

0815hrs: Three more waves ofenemy aircraft had been detected by radar approaching the Thames Estuaryagain. The Observer Corps reported them to be a formation of 200+ enemybombers, which consisted of a mixture of He111s and Do17s escorted by 60Bf110s. Keith Park makes the decision to "scramble" 13 squadrons from 11Group in the London area, leaving only two or three squadrons to guardthe city. But reaching the mouth of the Thames, the German aircraft breakand go into several formations, each heading for a separate target. NorthWeald was hit and sustained considerable damage, Hornchurch also receiveda few hits, the RAF fighters here doing a swell job at keeping most ofthe bombers away from the airfield.

0825hrs: A formation of 40Do17s heads towards Duxford with the escorting Bf110s as protection. 12Group is taken by surprise and the Group Controller there sends out anurgent appeal to 11 Group for assistance. Park responded immediately anddiverted 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) to make an interception. 111Squadron flew due north-east in an effort to cut off the formation, thenturning south met the Dornier Do17s head on. They managed to scatter theformation but could only destroy only one bomber.

With most of the RAF fighters holdingthe bombers at bay around the London area, and 111 Squadron already dispersingthe other formation from attacking Duxford, it left a third formation completelyunopposed at attacking Debden airfield which suffered badly where over100 bombs fell causing serious damage to three barracks, storerooms andpot holing the airfield badly. 18 personnel were injured in this attackas well as a number of aircraft parked on the base.

The returning Dorniers and Heinkelsran into 19 Squadron Fowlmere (Spitfires) where two enemy bombers are shotdown at the expense of two of the Spitfires. One pilot, F/O J.B.Coward had his aircraft shot up by an Bf109 and had his leg torn off just belowthe knee, but he managed to bale out and was safely taken to a base hospital.

0900hrs, The Luftwaffe launchanother attack, this time two waves approach from the Thames Estuary again.One Dornier formation diverts to Eastchurch where the airfield receivesminor damage, as does Detling airfield which was attacked by Bf110s.

By this time, Fighter Command wasfeeling the strain of many days of hard combat. Fighters were being lostin greater numbers than they were being replaced, but what was more importantwas the fact that the pilots were becoming tired. Many were going up onfour sorties a day and at the moment with 11 Group under constant attackthey were not in a position to be given the rest that was so badly needed.From Group Headquarters, AVM Keith Park issues another order further cementingthe order that no fighter aircraft are to be sent to intercept formationswhere the Observer Corps have recognized the enemy as being only formationsof German fighter aircraft.

1215hrs: 100 bombers with aheavy escort was detected coming across the coast at Dungeness. Breakinginto two separate formations but both seemed to be taking different routestowards London. Confirmation comes through that one of the formations consistsof Dornier Do17s while the other is made up of Heinkel He111 which alsosplits up into two more formations. In this attack, Biggin Hill is againattacked just after 79 Squadron (Hurricanes) is "scrambled". Hornchurch"scrambles" 603 Squadron (Spitfires) which had just recently come downfrom Scotland.

One sectionattacked Croydon and Biggin Hill. At the former airfield twelve bomberscame in at 2,000 feet demolishing a hangar, damaging other buildings andcausing casualties. At Biggin Hill, the bombing came from high altitudeand to the long suffering occupants of the airfield it seemed that theymust be the A1 priority target for the whole Luftwaffe. Further extensivedamage was done to hangars and buildings, the married quarters and theofficers' mess were bombed and the operations block received a direct hit,extinguishing the lights and filling the rooms with acrid fumes, dust andsmoke from the fires which broke out. The temporary telephone lines andpower cables put in after the raid on the 30th were destroyed.
Wood andDempster The Narrow Margin Hutchinson 1961 p315
Of the action over Hornchurch, DennisNewton writes of an action of this combat:
Similarly603 Squadron is scrambled from Hornchurch. The squadron is still usingsections of three planes with Red Section leading and Blue and Green Sectionsto right and left. The last three machines form a rearguard section aboveand behind. Richard Hillary is Blue 2.

By 12.40p.m. the squadron is at 28,000 feet (8,500 m) and searching. Someone calls'Tally ho' as 20 German fighters are spotted below. For once the Spitfireshave a height advantage but: they have obviously been seen because theGermans form a defensive circle. Hillary picks out one machine and seeshis tracer bullets converging on the Messerschmitt's nose but: then hehas to pull back on the control column.

When he looksagain the German circle has broken up but: he cannot see the plane he hadattacked. Seconds later the sky is empty.

Hillary isof two minds. He realizes that to fly about alone in a hostile sky is toask for trouble but he is still carrying ammunition which might be putto good use. Over Dungeness about 40 Hurricanes are on patrol and he climbsto join them. Suddenly he realizes that there are too many planes . . .Looking closely at the aircraft in front of him he discovers to his horrorthat there is a swastika on its tail. He is alone with 40 MesserschmittBf 109s! Luckily the Germans do not know that he is there and, seizingthe chance, he closes in on the last 109 and fires.
The strickenplane flicks over and spins down our of sight. Hillary heads as fast ashe can for Hornchurch and supposed safety.

Dennis Newton A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p139
79 Squadron BigginHill (Spitfires) is ordered to patrol over Biggin Hill and to expect araid by Heinkels on the airfield again. This time they cannot get to thebombers because of the strong cover by the fighter escort. Three Bf109sare shot down, during the fierce combat but the bombers get through andagain Biggin Hill suffers considerably. The airfield was crateredso badly that squadrons that had previously taken off there had to be divertedto Kenley and Croydon. Now, all the telephone lines at Biggin Hill hadbeen put out of action.

The attack on Hornchurch continued.A squadron managed to take off before the approaching Dorniers droppedtheir first bombs, but three Spitfires didn't make it:

We wereinformed that a large enemy formation approaching our airfield, I lookedout but could not see them. The Spitfires of 54 Squadron were scrambledand they just managed to get airborne and start to gain height before thefirst of the bombers became visible. I could see them now, it was likea lot of dots in the sky like a swarm of regimented bee's coming straightfor the aerodrome. It was still quiet when three more Spitfires began togain speed across the airfield, I watch them as slowly and one by one theyclear the ground almost at the same time as the Dorniers who were now aboveus had let their bombs go.

There wereterrific explosions and vibrations as the bombs made contact with the ground,and one of the bombs must have fell just in front of the leading Spitfirebeing piloted by Flight Lieutenant Alan Deere, because a huge explosionseemed to erupt directly below them. They all got caught up in the blastof this bomb, and I saw all of them being blown in different directions.Alan's aircraft had one of its wings blown off and I saw his propellerspinning off in another direction as the Spitfire crashes to the ground.Another of the planes spins around as his wing tip hits the ground andhe lands headfirst into the grass on his airscrew, while the other Spitfirehad both wings completely sheered off. Luckily all three of the pilotswere only slightly injured.

The airfieldis full of craters, and the station commander orders that the airfieldbe repaired at once. Everything is covered in dust and dirt including myaircraft that had been standing stationary, and after inspection foundeverything to be okay."

F/Lt RichardHillary 603 Squadron Fighter Command
1300hrs:During the afternoon, waves of Bf110s come over the coast from Cape GrizNez and attack the radar stations once again. Foreness CHL also came underattack, but although damage was caused, it was not enough to put any ofthem out of action and by nightfall, all radar stations were working asnormal. The Observer Corps report that some 150 plus enemy aircraft andcross the coast between Dover and the Thames Estuary. Fighter Command wereto release 85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes),
310 SquadronDuxford (Hurricanes), 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 601 SquadronDebden (Hurricanes).

Squadron LeaderTom Gleave of 253 Squadron Kenley, who had the previous day shot down fourenemy aircraft in as many minutes was now a casualty himself. When thesquadron was scrambled, Tom Gleave led what was left of his squadron, justseven serviceable Hurricanes and attacked a formation of Ju88 bombers.He was just about to return to Kenley, when a Bf109 dived down behind him,then pulled up firing at the Hurricane. Gleaves machine was hit underneaththe fuselage and in the tail section. Tom Gleave stated later that:

It was allvery quiet as I was returning back to base when suddenly the whole instrumentpanel disappeared with a terrifying crash, I knew at once that I had beenhit.
S/L T.P.Gleave253 Squadron RAF Fighter Command
At the same time,the reserve fuel tank which was between the instrument panel and the engineburst into flames and some twenty-eight gallons of high octane fuel splashedall over Tom Gleaves body. With his clothing alight, and flames lickingevery part of the cockpit of the Hurricane, he rolled the aircraft overon its back and managed to unbuckle his harness and fall out of the opencanopy which luckily was in the locked open position as he had been inthe process of preparing to land. With his clothes on fire, he chose notto open his parachute in case the chute caught fire, and fell for at least2,000 feet before deciding to pull the ripcord. His body had been badlyburned, so too his face. His eyelids had practically been melted togetherand he was falling blind as he heard the closing sound of a Messerschmitt,then the sound of the Merlin engine of a Spitfire followed by the rat-atat of Browning machine guns, and he knew he was safe as the Bf109 pulledaway. He landed in a wood, and with his eyelids now peeled open and histrousers burnt away he saw that his legs had terrible burns with the skincoming away like sheets of wafer thin pieces of paper. His gloves too hadbeen burnt off revealing a pair of skinless hands and bloodstained flesh.

1515hrs:All available aircraft at Biggin Hill and Hornchurch are scrambled as anotherlarge formation makes its way in from the Thames Estuary. Hornchurch receivesonly slight damage and one of the personnel is reported killed. But asit had been in the past, heavier attacks seemed more prevalent at BigginHill where again the damage was more serious.
The operationsroom is hit and once again the telephone system is out of action. The concreteroof of the ops room caves in and the plotting table is smashed to pieces.Two hangars, the officers mess and a number of workshops are destroyed,as well as concrete runways and roads that had received direct hits.
Squadron LeaderPeter Townsend of 85 Squadron (Hurricanes) was shot down on this day andhe writes in his book:

While theLuftwaffe were attacking more and more strategic targets under the coverof darkness, during daytime it was throwing everything it could into anall out effort to destroy the RAF day-fighter bases defending London. Onthe 30th and 31st August the day battle reached an unprecedented ferocity.The 31st was our blackest day.........

I was oneof the casualties on the 31st. As Dornier bombers swept over Croydon, demolishinghangars and technical buildings, I led my squadron off through the smokeand dust against the attackers. Twenty minutes later, after a sharp cutand thrust combat with a swarm of escorting Messerschmitts, my Hurricanewas hit. So was I. Once again my parachute saved me. That night in CroydonGeneral Hospital, the surgeon took a 20mm cannon-shell out of my foot,As I passed out under the anesthetic I could faintly hear the sirens wailing.The Luftwaffe were closing in on London.

Group CaptainPeter Townsend Duel in the Dark Harrap, London 1986
This same incidentis mentioned in Dennis Newtons book:
Peter Townsendof 85 Squadron has been shot down. Now he is transported to Hawkhurst CottageHospital and then to Croydon General Hospital but on the way, as demandedby some newly-made tradition, his driver conducts him to to the Royal OakTavern where the locals toast him as a hero and raise their tankards tothe damnation of the enemy. Later a short, chubby Australian in his darkblue uniform, is brought in and, despite the obvious discomfort of burnsand a wounded thigh, he introduces himself as 'Bill Millington'* and immediately has a pint thrust into his outstretched hand. The airmenare warmed by the hospitality of the people.
Dennis NewtonFew of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p142
* Pilot OfficerW.Millington 79 Squadron RAF

Later that evening,some 160 bombers again attacked the Merseyside cities of Liverpool andBirkenhead, this being the fourth successive night of bombing. There werea number of nuisance raids around the country. Duxford also was attacked,but with no serious damage.

In all, it hadbeen a terrible day for the RAF. Since first light, the airfields of 11Group had been under relentless attack. But the already tired pilots werehanging out, and as one pilot had said,".....thisis about as bad as it can get, because after today, it just cannot getany worse."

By evening,the sun went down closing another month and Fighter Command was takinga rather grim view of the situation. The last couple of days had takena toll on pilots, including many experienced commanders and now many squadronswere being led by junior officers and even in some cases by non-commisionedofficer pilots. Sgt J.H (Ginger) Lacey of 501 Squadron was one of them.S/L P.W.Townsend of 85 Squadron was another experienced pilot that wasa casualty of the battle, his place being taken by P/O G.Allard. Sgt A.(Archie)McDowell had his moment of glory when he took command of 602 Squadron.151 Squadron that had lost six pilots in three days was now down to twelvepilots to fly ten serviceable aircraft and was withdrawn from 11 Groupduties. 43 Squadron lost two of its commanders and by early September athird, S/L C.B.Hull, a South African was killed. From now on, it seemedthat the Royal Air Force was to rely heavily on the young and inexperiencedpilots of Fighter Command.

In all, theGermans had lost over sixty aircraft that had been shot down, and withmost of them being fighters the amount of personel killed, injured or takenprisoner was a serious blow to the Luftwaffe.The German pilots like theBritish were becoming tired, and by now disillusionment was setting in.They had been promised by German High Command that the attacks on the BritishFighter Command would be a swift action, and that to knock them out inthe air as well as on the ground would be nothing but a formality. Butthe Luftwaffe had found that this was not to be so, they felt that on manyoccasions they were being misinformed by their own intelligence servicebecause they were constantly underestimating the strength both in pilotsand aircraft of Fighter Command. They also felt that the RAFs strengthas the war progressed was in the skill of the fighter pilot, the youngBritish pilots were learning tactics fast. But, the number of lossesin the Luftwaffe was now causing great concern, not only to the GermanHigh Command, but to the pilots themselves. [ Document41 ]

But even movingthe Bf109s to Calais so that they could spend more time escorting the bomberswas a good tactical move, it still did not allow them the amount of timeover England as they would have liked. Buy the time that they had crossedthe coast of England, and including take off, they had used up over a thirdof their fuel. If they had engaged in a dogfight and with throttles wideopen excessive fuel would be used and this was one of the main reasonsfor having to break away and retreat from combat because they had to allowfor enough fuel for the return journey. Many German fighters were shotdown trying to get back to their bases because they could not afford toget involved in any more dogfights.

They knew, thatin the last couple of days in August 1940, they had pounded the RAF airfieldsalmost to oblivion, and they were being given figures that indicated thatthey were destroying more and more RAF fighters every day, but each timethat they went in on a mission escorting the bombers, there always seemedto be more Hurricanes and Spitfires than ever before.

Many Germanfighter pilots had by now grown to "hate' the Channel, they started tocall it the 'sewer' because any more time spent in combat than ten minutes,then they knew that a forced landing in the Channel was inevitable.

But even ifthey were tired and morale was at an all time low, they were to prove inthe month ahead that they still had enough strength to practically 'setEngland alight' with constant day and night raids that would, as Goeringstated "for once and for all we will now pound them into submission".
September willdecide if an invasion of England would at all be possible.

CASUALTIES:
0825hrs: Grove Ferry. HurricaneL1830. 253 Squadron Kenley
S/L H.M.Starrkilled. (Shot down by Bf109s. Died beside crashed aircraft inbrickworks at Eastry)
0850hrs: Fowlmere. SpitfireR6912. 19 Squadron Duxford
P/O R.A.C.Aeberhardtkilled. (Crashed and burnt out on landing after flaps were damagedin combat)
0845hrs: Colchester. HurricaneV7378. 56 Squadron North Weald
F/L P.S.Weaverlisted as missing. (Crashed into River Blackwater after beinghit by Bf109 gunfire)
0856hrs: Clacton. HurricaneP3175. 257 Squadron Debden
P/O G.H.Maffettkilled. (Engaged in combat and shot down by Bf110. Aircraftcrashed at Walton-on-Naze)
1330hrs: Thames Estuary. HurricaneP3159. 310 Squadron Duxford
P/O J.Sterbaceklisted as missing. (Shot down by Bf109 while attacking a Do215)
1335hrs: Thames Estuary. HurricaneR4215. 601 Squadron Debden
F/O M.D.Doultonlisted as missing. (Shot down by Bf109 and crashed into sea)
1600hrs: Kenley. HurricaneV7200. 79 Squadron Biggin Hill
Sgt H.A.Boltonkilled. (Crashed making forced landing with battle damage aftercombat action)
1830hrs: S.E.London. SpitfireX4273. 603 Squadron Hornchurch
F/O R.M.Waterstonkilled. (Shot down by Bf109 and aircraft broke up before crashingin Woolwhich)
1910hrs: Staplehurst. SpitfireP9457. 72 Squadron Biggin Hill
F/O E.J.Wilcoxkilled. (Shot down by enemy aircraft over Dungeness)

The above casualty list does reallynot reflect on the ferocity of the days fighting. In addition to thosekilled are:

41 Hurricanes and Spitfires eitherwritten off of lost at sea.
11 Pilots who baled out of theiraircraft suffered from burns.
22 Pilots in total had to bale outof their damaged aircraft.
19 of the aircraft hit by enemy gunfireeither returned to base of made a forced landing.


SUMMARY FOR AUGUST

The first few days of the month were a continuation of the July raids by the Luftwaffe. The weather controlled most of the activities but the raids continued onthe Channel convoys. Hitler issued his famous Directive No.17 in which he stated that he has decided to wage war against Great Britain. The plan was that an all out air attack against Britain was planned for August 13th, but in the meantime the convoy attacks continued through until August 12th.

The day that "Adler Tag" was implimented, August 13th, got off to a clumsy start for the Luftwaffe. Some of the bomber formations had taken off before the actual order had reached their respective units. Some of these until managed to rendezvous with their fighter escort only to find that after a short period the fighters peeled away and returned to base. A communication breakdown had caused the bomber formations not to receive radio signals because the wrong frequency had been given to them. They continued their attack and a misunderstanding by British radar which advised of "a few bandits approaching" so only one fighter squadron was sent up. The Dorniers made a successful attack on Eastchurch aerodrome. The attacks on Fighter Command airfields was under way, although a large planned attack was supposed to have been made on the afternoon of the 13th, weather conditions did not permit this and Adler Tag was delayed.

Night activity was also increased by the Luftwaffe. Up until now they had been quite content with minelaying operations. Now they were venturing further and with more purpose. Attacks commenced on merseyside, in the Midlands, and towns along the east coast. By August 15th, formations of bombers from Luftflotte 5 based at Stavanger in Norway attempted an attack on the north east of England with disastrous results, so much so that no further attempts were made to attack from Scandinavia again. But during the afternoon, radar sations anong the southern coast as well as Lympne, Hawkinge and Manston airfields. It was clear by August 15th, that the Luftwaffe plans were to make all out attacks on Fighter Command airfields.

By the 18th of the month, the Battle of britain was on in earnest. Biggin Hill, Kenley and Croydon were almost devastated. Poling radar station was almost destroyed, Coastal Command and naval aerodromes suffered damage, as was many areas in north Kent. Casualty figures started to rise on both sides. Göring thought that he would have inflicted enough damage to Fighter Command that the way would be clear for Hitlers planned invasion, but this was not to be so. They thought that this would be an easy victory, but after the days events, their moral lowered and such a high loss rate the invasion date was set back until September 17th.

Through until the end of the month, the Luftwaffe maintained its pressure on the RAF airfields. Hardly any of the aerodromes escaped severe bombing attacks. Fighter Command was losing pilots as well as aircraft, and Dowding acknowledged that he was losing pilots and aircraft quicker than they could be replaced. The Luftwaffe continued to make blunders that were to cost them more bombers as well as aircrew. They had not learned from earlier mistakes and a number of occasions saw fighter escorts ordered to turn back without notifying the bomber formations. Now Fighter Command were losing not only new and inexperienced pilots, they were losing pilots with many years experience and who held high rank. On a number of occasions junior officers were given command of squadrons because of the loss of squadron commanders.

CASUALTIES FOR AUGUST

R.A.F. Fighter Command
Hurricane: 211 destroyed, 44 damaged
Pilots: 85 killed, 1 missing, 68 wounded

Spitfire: 113 destroyed, 40 damaged
Pilots: 41 killed, 3 missing, 38 wounded

Blenheim: 13 destroyed, 10 damaged
Crew: 6 killed, 3 missing, 0 wounded

Defiant: 7 destroyed, 3 damaged
Crew: 7 killed, ? missing, 4 wounded

TOTAL AIRCRAFT: 344 destroyed, 97 damaged
TOTAL PERSONNEL: 139 killed, 7 missing, 110 wounded

The Luftwaffe
Dornier Do 17: 71 destroyed, 30 damaged
Personnel: 70 killed, 129 missing, 57 wounded

Heinkel He 111: 89 destroyed, 15 damaged
Personnel: 113 killed, 204 missing, 35 wounded

Junkers Ju 88: 89 destroyed, 32 damaged
Personnel: 94 killed, 182 missing, 19 wounded

Junkers Ju 87: 57 destroyed, 16 damaged
Personnel: 35 killed, 58 missing, 19 wounded

Messerschmitt Bf 109: 217 destroyed, 45 damaged
Personnel: 54 killed, 91 missing, 39 wounded

Messerschmitt Bf 110: 119 destroyed, 40 damaged
Personnel: 80 killed, 113 missing, 22 wounded

Other: 27 destroyed, 4 damaged
Personnel: 17 killed, 27 missing, 10 wounded

TOTAL AIRCRAFT: 669 destroyed, 182 damaged
TOTAL PERSONNEL: 463 killed, 804 missing, 201 wounded
Peter G. Cooksley The Battle of Britain Ian Allan 1990


Have you checked out all the documentslinked from this page
Document 40.   Enter Douglas Bader and 242 squadron 
Document 41.   Luftwaffe aircraft and pilot losses for August 1940 

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