As the first light of September 8th 1940 started to break through, the picture of the experiences of the late afternoon bombing and the continued onslaught throughout the night began to emerge. The East End probably suffered the worst, but serious damage was done to areas south of the River Thames as well as the outer city areas between Aldgate and Ludgate Hill.
Fires were still raging in bond stores and the dock areas around North Woolwich, nothing escaped the tons of bombs and incendiaries that were dropped. The Royal Albert Dock, Queen Victoria Dock and King George V Dock were burning infernos, ships were damaged and the industrial areas of Custom House, Silvertown and Canning Town were still burning fiercely as raw materials added fuel to the timbers and structure of the many buildings. Places like John Knights (Soapworks), Tate and Lyles (Sugar refiners) and Silvertown Rubber Works were among the factories badly hit. Others included an ink factory, a tarpaulin company and a fuel depot. On the other side of the road, now called Silvertown Way that separates the industrial factories from the residential areas, homes were demolished and others so badly damaged that they became uninhabitable. The damage went as far inland as Barking, East Ham, West Ham and Bethnal Green, areas that were highly populated and classed as residential.
South of the Thames, the situation was almost as bad, and what made this worse, was the fact that most of the south side was residential until reaching Deptford. Again, as north of the Thames, houses were demolished, others became unrecognisable as walls and roofs lie in shambles in back gardens and in roadways.
The huge pall of smoke bellowing from the warehouses and docks could be seen for miles. Fires raged right up to London's Tower Bridge where the St. Katherine's Dock which lies almost adjacent was engulfed in flame. The area of Wapping where hundreds of bond stores and shipwright stores are built on top of each other separated only by a network of narrow streets. Firemen and ambulance men had a terrible time in this area as many of the streets had been blocked by fallen brick walls and burst water mains.
After a sleepless night, while their Anderson shelters rocked with the explosion of bombs and the crash of guns, the people of East London carried on to-day with their usual amazing spirit. Several hundred began their search for new homes as soon as the “all clear” sounded. Whole streets had been destroyed and many other houses demolished. But people gathered their possessions together and piled them into perambulators. With children in their arms, they started their walk to friends or relatives.
Their morale was astonishing. As they were walking to their new homes many were laughing and joking among themselves. Some families took care of children whose parents were dead or injured, and made long journeys across London to escort them to the homes of relatives. Women went on preparing the Sunday dinner, even though they had no water or gas. They borrowed water from more fortunate neighbours and lit fires to roast the joints. One of them, Mrs. W. Johnson, who had spent the night in a shelter, was preparing her meal in a house where the dividing wall between dining-room and drawing-room lay in chunks across the floors.
In a dockland tavern, where every window had been blown out by a bomb which fell across the road, they were collecting for a Spitfire fund. The licensee of a hotel gave up his saloon bar for housing people whose houses were no longer tenable. In several streets neighbours were making a whip-round for those who had lost their belongings.
“It was an experience far worse than the Silvertown explosion in the last war,” Mrs. Cook, who with her husband and five children escaped injury, said to me. “The heat from the fires was terrific. We do not intend moving from the district, despite this ghastly raid.” The morale of the people was summed up in the words of one Mayor, who said: “They have taken it on the chin.” 
Tulip Street between Custom House and Silvertown, was a street that housed the typical working family. Most were regarded as poor and lived from one day to the next. The houses could only be regarded as slums, being with earshot and sight of the industrial dockland area. A number of houses had been hit during the earlier raids in late August, but this September day was the last that was to be heard of Tulip Street. The long rows of terraced houses stood as nothing but empty shells, roofs had disappeared leaving a wall standing alone with a broken staircase rising leading to nowhere. Upstairs floors were dangling in space being only fastened to one of the half demolished walls. Beds and bedroom furniture hung precariously waiting for the floor to give way, up the street bedroom furniture and long tin baths littered the roadway amongst the rubble and debris. Not one house was left standing and soon Tulip Street would be gone forever, never to be rebuilt.
There would be thousands of stories to come out of London on the first day of intense bombing. Stories of courage, and stories of hardship. Some would tell of bravery while others could only mention despair. What wonderful deeds and acts of courage were performed by members of the Civil Defence, the Ambulance Service which then came under the London County Council, the Auxiliary Fire Brigade and the London Fire Brigade. But courage and determination was also shown by those in the air. The pilots of Fighter Command.
THE DAY AS SEEN BY FIGHTER COMMAND
Squadron Leader A.V.R (Sandy) Johnstone who was flying out of Tangmere with 602 Squadron was one of those brought up from the south coast to give protection to London. He had the surprise of his life when he first saw the vast armada of bombers heading for the capital:
All day, Squadron Leader D.R.S. "Douglas" Bader had waited for action as he had done on many occasions before. But it looked like that on this bright sunny Saturday he was not to see much action at all. Like most other squadrons scattered around southern England, he had resigned himself to the fact that the Saturday was to be a 'no contest'.
It was at 1655hrs that the Op's room telephone rang at Coltishall. "Scramble" came a voice out of the window and a body of pilots ran towards their waiting Hurricanes including S/L Douglas Bader. The aircraft thundered across the grassy airfield and as they pulled their sticks back the noses of the Hurricanes started to point skywards and the Duxford station commander Wing Commander A.B.Woodhall called over the radio "Hello Douglas. There's some trade coming in over the coast. Orbit North Weald. Angels ten, and if they come your way, go for them." . Bader thought that 10,000 was a little too low and disobeyed Woodhall's instructions and made 15,000 feet as "100 bandits to your 10 o'clock" message came through. The enemy was coming from the River Thames and heading north at about 5,000 feet higher and Bader instructed the 'wing' to gain height at full throttle then requested permission to engage the enemy. There was a mixture of Do17s and Bf110s in a mixed formation with Bf109s at higher altitude waiting to pounce.
Squadron Leader B.J.E.Lane led 19 Squadron towards North Weald where anti-aircraft gunfire indicated enemy action was evident. Soon, the Spitfires of 19 squadron were weaving and twisting amongst a number of Bf110s.
The 'Wing" was trying in vain to gain height, most of the Spitfires were lagging a little behind as they did not climb as well as the Hurricanes. Only Sub-Lieutenant R 'Dickie' Cork was up front, and this is what happened as soon as they closed in on the enemy formation:
When Bader met Leigh-Mallory the next day he stated that "...it didn't come off yesterday" even though between them they claimed eleven enemy aircraft, he explained that they were too low. "Again" he told Leigh-Mallory "we got the call too late, if we had got the call earlier we would have had time to get the bombers while the Spitfires covered us from the 109s." Bader told his CO that it was no good, that they have to be scrambled when the enemy bombers are first detected over the French coast and not after they had passed the south coast of England. But Leigh-Mallory informed Bader that the call was by 11 Group, they make the decision and they think that we should wait until the Germans begin to move in.
But while Douglas Bader was displaying his anger towards 11 Group, in the south some twenty of Parks squadrons were engaged in combat with the enemy. 249 Squadron who earlier had flown out of North Weald, the airfield that Bader and his "Wing" had been instructed to patrol were in the thick of the action over Maidstone:
Off of Folkestone, 43 Squadron who had been one of the first squadrons to take off were scrambled with Squadron Leader C.B."Caesar" Hull leading and Fl/L R.C.Reynell and Fl/L J.Kilmartin as his section leaders. By all accounts, the controller had the squadron flying all over the place. They spot about thirty Do17s with an escort of over eighty Bf109s. S/L Hull instructs Fl/L Kilmartin to engage the escort while Fl/L Reynell and himself attack the Dorniers. They climb until they are some 1,500 feet above the enemy, and as Kilmartin continues the climb towards the Bf109s Hull and Reynell take their sections down approaching the bombers from astern and each aircraft firing all Brownings. Then as the Dorniers take evasive action each of the Hurricanes pick out their individual targets. They weave in and out of the enemy formation as it makes its way across the countryside of Kent, a couple of the Do17s fall victim, but Kilmartins section is not having the best of luck as they are hopelessly outnumbered and many of the Bf109s continue to protect the bombers.
At 1645hrs as they were approaching South London, a couple of Bf109s come down on both Caesar Hull and Dick Reynell. the Squadron Leader takes a hit and his Hurricane goes out of control, it spirals earthwards but there is no sign of the pilot baling out and it finally crashes into the grounds of Purley High School near Croydon. Dick Reynell also takes a hit and a long tail of smoke bellows behind the stricken aircraft. Dick manages to get out of the cockpit and jumps moments before the Hurricane explodes into flames, but his parachute fails to open. His aircraft crashes just south of Woolwich and Dick Reynell, believed to have been wounded in the attack and may have lost consciousness as he jumped, and this could have been the reason for his 'chute failing to open. His body crashed to the ground at Blackheath.
234 Squadron goes into a deep silence when it learns that the squadrons inspirational force, Flight Lieutenant Pat Hughes had failed to return. Over Folkestone his squadron runs into about thirty Do17s and forty Bf109s. They are in front an below and Pat orders his Blue section down onto the leading bombers. He is well in front of the rest of his section when he sees one of the Dorniers lagging behind, so he makes a slight turn and with his number two behind him makes a quarter attack on the enemy bomber. Large pieces start to fly off the Dornier and as it begins to fall sideways, one of the wings crumples and tears away from the body of the bomber.
No one sees the incident except Hughes wingman who saw the bomber start to break up and then sees a Spitfire spinning out of control with half of one of its wings missing. With the rest of the section going in after the main force of the enemy formation, the wingman can only assume that it is his leader Pat Hughes. There is no sign of anyone baling out and the Spitfire crashes into the ground at Bessels Green. Nothing can really be certain in a dogfight when there are so many enemy and friendly aircraft in the air, all seemingly crammed into one little piece of sky. Dennis Newton in his book "A Few of the Few" states that the wingman inferred rather than stated that Hughes collided with the Dornier, which we can only regard as a submission, or rather it was his belief as he did not see any actual collision. Was there another aircraft in the air at the same time? or was it just Pat Hughes and his wingman? When the crash site was excavated in 1969 by the Halstead War Museum it is believed that fragments of 303 bullets, the same as those that were used by Hurricanes and Spitfires were found in the cockpit and in the seat. So this leads us to another question, was Pat Hughes shot down by a friendly aircraft? and if so.....who?
Many of the squadrons stationed way out of London had been brought in to combat the onslaught. Tangmere had released 43 Squadron and vectored them to the Folkestone area and they finished up in combat over South London. 609 Squadron based at Westhampnett was also brought up to give protection to the aircraft factories at Weybridge and Brooklands and they too became engaged in the combat over South London and the Thames Estuary. One of these pilots tells us:
Out of the day came many stories of pilots experience, as more and more pilots got back to their bases, even more stories unfolded. They told of how they saw many of their comrades go down, crashing to earth without a chance, or they had seen someone make a crash landing, but thought that they were alright. 'Sandy" Johnson of 602 Squadron had said that he had never seen such a blanket of aircraft in the sky all at once, another stated that he did not know how the sky could hold up so many of the blighters!!!, but most of them saw at least once, the great inferno that was unfolding from the East End to the city. Many told of how, even at great height they were flying through thick black smoke, and they described how scarlet flames were exploding within the tall plumes of acrid black smoke.
Whether or not Keith Park knew about the impending attack, he still decided to go to Bentley Priory to meet Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. The raid commenced about forty-five minutes before the scheduled time of the meeting, but after a short conference with his C-in-C they went to the operations room and watched at the German onslaught continued during the late of the afternoon. Park was in communication with Willoughby de Broke at 11 Group headquarters who was doing an exceptional job there, but then as Park mentioned in his autobiography later, that ".....there was none better than him to be able to leave in charge, I had every confidence in him."
It was on the stroke of 1830hrs, the sun had gone down and while most on Britain settled down to a night of darkness, an eerie red glow hung over the eastern end of London with docks, bond stores and warehouses still burning. The next wave of German aircraft need not have worried about flight paths or compasses as the were guided to their target by the raids only four hours earlier that left London burning. 250 more heavy bombers, this time there was no need for a fighter escort, made for London's East End again, targeting areas that had already been bombed. With the light now gone, only two Hurricanes of 213 Squadron that was based at Tangmere were scrambled to patrol their own airfield. The night raid was to last until 0530hrs the next day. Wave after wave of bombers came across the Channel, as one wave went back, another was coming in. During the night, a total of 330 tons of high explosive bombs had been dropped, 440 incendiary bombs added to what could only be described as a huge land based fireball. Hough & Richards in "Battle of Britain - A Jubilee History" state that 13,000 incendiaries were dropped.
Fighter Command only released a few night fighters to engage the bombers, but this was only a spasmodic affair. Just two Blenheims were dispatched from Martlesham, and a further two aircraft from the Fighter Interception Unit were also dispatched. The Blenheims of 600 Squadron at Hornchurch could not take off because of the thick black smoke that was drifting in from the London docks covered the aerodrome like a thick smelly fog.
By morning, the situation could be summed up. Thick clouds of belching dark grey and black smoke hung over the whole of the East End, fires were still raging and in the area where the Thames loops around like a huge horseshoe, the area in the middle known as the Isle of Dogs it was estimated that not a single building was not on fire, the truth was that at least 50% was still burning by morning. Even though this was an industrial area, it was still heavily populated and many people suffered as a result. A worker describes one situation:
In total, 306 people had been killed that night and 1,337 was the figure given as those seriously injured. Most were civilians, but many were firefighters, wardens and civil defence workers. But we can only ask ourselves, was the bombing of London a good move on the part of Germany. The Berlin press and propaganda machine stated that the attack on London was a reprisal attack for the British bombing of Berlin. They stated that the air raids on London of the 7th/8th September was a great success and that the British people would now be frightened into submission now that the glorious Luftwaffe not only caused a great firestorm from the city to the edge of the Thames Estuary, but during the afternoon an already depleted British Air Force was overcome by the might of the Luftwaffe.
The truth was, that although the Royal Air Force did suffer, 28 aircraft had been destroyed or crashed into the sea and about twenty had been damaged and were able to undergo repairs, the Luftwaffe suffered even worse. Even though the British press claimed that over a hundred German aircraft had been brought down, the truth was that only 45 bombers and fighters of the Luftwaffe were destroyed. It may have been a moral victory to the Germans, but there was still one thing that Germany still had to do if they wanted victory, and that was to break the will of the British people. This task would be far greater than setting fire to the dockland areas of London.
As the evening wore on, the German bombers made up from Gruppes from Hugo Sperle's Luftflotte 3, most of the daytime bombers had landed back at their bases. The commanders made out their reports which were more than favourable. The result were immediately posted to Göring, who for once felt satisfied when he learnt of the devastation that his bombers had done, and that most of London was ablaze with the report also that the East End and the London docks had been totally destroyed.
So pleased with himself, that Göring immediately telegraphed his wife Emmy and told her that "....the English have had enough, London is on fire from the city to the Thames Estuary". He also broadcast on German radio to the German people, that this being the first blow while he had been in charge of the battle, and over half of London now lay in ruins and that he had struck a serious blow...straight at the enemy's heart.
During the evening, and probably because of the heavy bombing, the signal for invasion went out. The signal for this alert is "Cromwell", a code name that was used only by the Army. And one of those Army battalions that were alerted was the 18th Australian Infantry that was based at Amesbury Abbey. The report came through at about 9.30pm. The 18th Infantry Brigade was at this time, only at about half strength because half of the brigade was on leave, many of them now trapped in London because of the bombing. But was hard to keep such a secret, church bells started to peel, road blocks were set up and even plans were put in place for the blowing up of some of the bridges.
For those that were on duty, they were told to stand by for an immediate move. By midnight, no further information or orders had been received so the men were allowed to return to their billets, but were to be prepared to move at one hours notice should the invasion be confirmed.
 The London Daily
Telegraph September 8th 1940