|SUNDAY SEPTEMBER8th 1940|
To many Londoners' this had been the first time that they had really experienced the effects of saturation bombing. It had been a sleepless night for most as the bombing attacks that commenced during the afternoon of the previous day carried on through the night. Anderson shelters rocked as each bomb exploded, dust managed to find its way into every hole and crack, children were screaming and crying, mothers were doing their best to comfort them. It had been a night that 'terror ran amoke' and by the early morning light of September 8th after the last of the enemy bombers had returned back to their bases, most would have said.....'We never want to go through another night like that....ever'. Little did they know that soon, London would come under heavy bombardment for fifty-seven consecutive nights, just like what they had just experienced on the night of September 7th - 8th.
But as the first light of Sunday emerged, a strange phenomenon took place, quite different from that of the previous twelve hours as London's "Daily Telegraph" reports:
But for those at Fighter Command, and at the sector and satelite stations, today was to be just 'another day at the office'.
After a clearnight, clouds were expected to develop over most of Britain and remainat eight tenths for most of the day. Although cloudy, it was antcipatedthat the day would remain dry with only far northern Scotland expectinga shower or two. Temperatures were expected to be a little cooler becauseof the cloud cover but this cloud was expected to break up late in theafternoon.
After almost twelve hours on nonstop continuous bombing, the people emerge from from shelters, basementsand underground stations, wherever they thought that may have been safe.Many had heard on the radio overnight that "German Military forces havebeen reported to have landed on the south coast of England....." and thatmany were afraid to emerge. But on the early morning news broadcasts itwas confirmed that no enemy paratroop sightings had been made, nor hadany German ships or barges crossed the Channel during the night and thatit was perfectly safe with no need to confine oneself into an air raidshelter.
From the outcome of the meeeting onthe previous day with Hugh Dowding, Parks issued fresh orders that wereto be efective immeadiately. Figures stated at the meeting was that duringthe last four weeks, pilot casualties amounted to 348, although Keith Parkstates that pilot casualties in 11 Group amount to nearly 100 per week.One of the problems is that because of pilot shortage in 11 Group, manypilots straight out of OTU (Operational Training Units) are being postedto fully operational squadrons that are in some of the busiest areas of11 Group. Keith Park makes the suggestion that pilots straight out of OTUshould be posted to squadrons that are in the north where they can be drawninto combat operations slowly. This way they would receive additional trainingwith a squadron rested from top combat duties.
Squadrons would also be re-classified.Up until now, Park has been able to call upon squadrons that have beenlocated at the most suitable locations for any given attack. It was quitefeasible that one of those squadrons called on may have not had the combatoperational experience required and therefore they would be going intoan attack very 'green' and not only putting themselves at risk, but themore valuable and experienced pilots as well. The re-classification ofsquadrons is as follows:
During the night of September 7thand 8th 1940, while London was under its first constant day and nightattack, Bomber Command sent 92 aircraft including the Fairy Battle to varioustargets along the Channel coast attacking many targets that were basesfor numerous invasion barges and barge installations. Other attacks weremade in many of the forest areas and to the Ruhr Dam area. Dunkirk andCalais come under heavy attack from Bomber Command. They return just priorto daybreak without loss.
Clouds started to roll in on thisday, and this was possibly the reason that Lufwaffe activity was relitivelyquiet. Park also issued the order that paired squadrons would be used forthe purpose of intercepting the enemy. The first squadrons using this pairingwas 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) and 605 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes).They had intecepted a small formation that approached from the Thames Estuaryand although West Malling and Detling were attacked, no serious damagewas done.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
0430hrs: The last of the Germanbombers leave London and head for home hoping to cross the Channel beforethe first light of day emerges. With the exception of the hour just before2000hrs, London had been subjected to nealy twelve hours of continuousbombing. The departure of the bombers was observed by radar, but Park wasto let them go and no squadrons had been despatched.
Daylight revealed more than was firstthought. Reports now came in that three of London's main railway terminiwere out of action, London Bridge, Victoria and Waterloo stations wereclosed until further notice. Ironically, all these three railway stationswere on the same Southern Railway network. Reports came in that at leastten of Londons other railway stations had been damaged, but after clearingoperations they were seen fit to operate. One of the two road tunnels underthe River Thames, Rotherithe suffered considerable damage on the northenapproaches and the tunnel would be closed for an indefinate period of time.
0930hrs: Air Vice Marshal KeithPark taxis his personal Hurricane across Northolt, takes off and headstowards the other side of London to see first hand the damage done to theEast End and to other areas that sustained damage the previous night. Heis astounded to what he saw. Warehouses and stores from Tower Bridge toa point as far east as Woolwich were still burning. He saw streets flattenedas a result of the attack, but he could not help himself from thinkingthat if the Luftwaffe keep up these attacks on London and not his vitalairfields, it would give him the time that he needed to rebuild aerodromesand restock his fighter supply.
1030hrs:43 Squadron departs from Tangmere. They had been under pressure for anextraordinary length of time, and their involvement on September 7th overKent and South London did not help their cause. Like many other squadrons,they were tired, and Park ordered them to make haste and make for Usworthfor a rest. One of their Hurricanes, during the ferry flight north, hadthe engine seize up over Gedney Dye in Lincolnshire. Pilot Officer C.K.Graymanaged to make a forced landing and saved the aircraft from desruction.
607 Squadronflying Hurricanes is based at Usworth, and is ordered to exchange placeswith 43 Squadron. 607 Squadron, although having seen action in France duringMay 1940, and also the attacks on North-East England by Luftfotte 5, hadnever seen action in the south of England during the Battle of Britainwere now to see for themselves at Tangmere why so many squadrons were beingsent back north. Other squadrons on the move during the morning were 111Squadron who were to move from Croydon to Drem, 79 Squadron who were alsobusy the previous day are moved from Biggin Hill across to the South Walesairfield at Pembrey. 92 Squadron, who had been having a rather busy timefor an isolated aerodrome, were moved closer to the action at Biggin Hill.
1130hrs:Radar detects a formation over the Channel as it heads on a north-westerlycourse crossing the coast near Deal. 41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires)already on routine patrol are vectored towards the Dover area, while 46Squadron Stapleford (Hurricanes), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and605 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) were scrambled to intercept. Target isidentified as 20 plus Do17 bombers with 30 Bf109s as escort.
1215hrs:41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) is first on the scene as the formationbegin crossing the coast at Deal. They dive in to attack the bombers butthe Bf109s are soon onto them and they are forced to engage combat withthe 109s while the bomber formation continues across Kent. One of the Bf109stakes a hit but does not crash. One Spitfire is seen to leave a trail ofsmoke, although it is not close enough to establish any identidy, and disappearsfrom the scene. Soon, they will be forced to leave the combat because oftheir fuel situation.
1230hrs:41 Squadron Hornchurch were hopelessly outnumbered fighting the Bf109son their own, but they were relieved when 46 Squadron Stapleford (Hurricanes)arrived followed soon after by 605 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes). One ofthe Hurricanes of 46 Squadron receives damage caused by a Bf109 and isforced to break off and return to base. Within minutes while over the Isleof Sheppy another Hurricane of 46 Squadron is shot down, the pilot managesto bale out but is dead when found by wardens, his aircraft crashed atBearsted. One of the Hurricanes of 605 Squadron Croydon becomes involvedwith a Bf109 over Tunbridge and is on the wrong end of its canon fire.the pilot manages to bale out and the aircraft crashes and explodes inflames at Trottiscliffe. The Bf109s sweep again, and in quick successionclaim two more Hurricanes of 46 Squadron.
1240hrs:Although badly mauled, 46 Squadron keeps up the attack, and together with222 Squadron and 605 Squadron chase one of the Bf109s and shoots it downnear Sevenoaks while two Hurricanes move in and finally bring down oneof the Do17s over Maidstone. Forcing the scattered Dorniers inland, manycome under attack by AA gunfire in which it is claimed that two more ofthe bombers are brought down, both near Maidstone.
REST OF THEDAY:
The formation fail to reach their target which was thought tobe London, and are turned back. Things were not good for the Staplefordsquadron losing two aircraft and damaging two others, but only one pilotwas posted as missing.
The afternoonperiod was quiet, with no activity at all. Personnel at all of the aerodromeswere now working in far more pleasant circumstances to repair damaged airfields.It had been two whole days, and not one of Fighter Commands aerodromeshad suffered any enemy attack, it was just what Park wanted. Airfield damagehad been repaired, damaged buildings were being made habitable and aircraftwere either being repaired or undergoing minor servicing thus buildingup squadron strength.
But it was afar different story in bomb raged London during the day. There was a mixtureof frustration, helplessness, sorrow and heartbreak, but one could nothelp to notice the inner feelings of most people. despite their own ordeals,they would bend over backwards to help neighbours , friends or even strangerswho may have lived in the next street. They may have lost their homes andpossessions, but not their morale.
Hundreds ofpeople, especially in the East End were still looking for cherished possessionsand piling them into carts and perambulators and were making their wayto friends or relatives. While streets had been destroyed and they searchedthrough the debris to gather whatever they could. Some broke down besidethe roadway, many cried, but as soon as they found friends and loved ones,a sudden change came over them and they walked away from demolished homeslaughing and joking some of them making long journeys across London.
Those that stayed,made the most of what they had, improvisation was the key. It was Sunday,and in the East End, Sunday isn't Sunday without the Sunday roast. So thewomen went on preparing the Sunday dinner, there was no water or gas, themains had blown the previous night, but a couple of streets away someonemay have been lucky enough to have their water still on, so they shared.There was plenty of demolished houses now, and plenty of firewood, so theymade fires, rumaged through what may have been somebody's kitchen once,and they cooked. The children, what there was of them, had a ball as well.They were told to go and search for some salt shakers or maybe a bottleof sauce, scrumping the kids called it, but once the treasure was found,it was shared by one and all.
One licenseeof one of the dockland pubs, although most of the windows had been blownin invited anybody who had lost their home to come to the pub as he closedtwo of the bars, collected matresses, lined, beds and housed whoever wanteda roof over their head, and he still continued to collect for the SpitfireFund!! But where most articles and books often depicts the brave a generousside to the civilians, there were also stories of horror and despair.
The air raid sirens sound again as London is placed under a Red Alert.Hundreds flock to whatever shelters they could find, anything that seemedto provide a strong cover over your head was regarded as safe, but of course,nowhere was safe if a direct hit occurs. It is now almost dark, too latefor Fighter Command to do anything about it, as bombers from Luftflotte3 including Do17s, He111 and Ju88s. Again, as it was the previous nightall loaded with high explosive bombs, delayed action bombs and incediaries.The poeople were subject to the steady, dull drone of the engines of some250 bombers overhead, then, the drone was broken by the sudden shrill whistlingsound as sticks of bombs came down, the whistle getting louder as the bombsgot to a few hundred feet above them.
Many of thewarehouses along the Thames again became targets, and buildings that werestill burning were re-stoked, the inferno was to light up once again, hundredsof fires, many joining together to become one. The damage was to be morewidespread on this night as bombers targeted more inland residential areas,while others again went for railway stations and city buildings. The casualtyrate on this night totalled 412 people dead with 747 injured. Comparedto the previous night, that was more people killed, but the injured listwas much lighter.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER9th 1940
Cloud overnight becoming showerywith the possiblity of a thunderstorm in the east. Rain periods in thewest while the north and Scotland should remain cloudy but dry. Showerswere expected to clear from Channel areas by midday.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The operations being carried outby Bomber Command during the hours of darkness are more inclined to beto the advantage of the Battle for Britain rather than the Battle of Britain.Although in the past many attacks have been made on German airfields, butthese are numerous and putting one out of action really has no effect onthe efficiency of the Luftwaffe. Fighter Command at present is doing farmore damage to the Luftwaffe than is Bomber Command. But now British bombersare venturing further inland. As well as bombing Berlin, they are now targetingHambourg, Bremen and Emden. Overnight a total of 133 bombers crossed intoenemy territory to drop bombs on a number of towns and cities regardedas ports where Germany has vital shipping activity. The heaviest raid wasby 49 Hampdens on the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hambourg where considerabledamage was done. But it was not without loss. Two Wellingtons of 149 Squadronand five Blenheims of were shot down over Boulogne and Ostend, while oneHampden of 61 Squadron was lost over Hambourg.
It was now obvious to Dowding andPark that the Luftwaffe was going to leave the 11 Group aerodromes alone,well, for the time being anyway. Already damaged airfields were just aboutback to any reasonable sort of order, the personnel that had been toilingboth night and day busily rebuilding to make all airfields fully operationalagain could ease off a little. Aircraft and supplies had been replenishedand although Fighter Command was nowhere yet back to full strength, theywere a lot stronger than they were just seven days ago. Again, no enemyformations were detected during the morning or the early and mid afternoonsessions. Park shared with his chief controller Willoughby de Broke andalso so Dowding by telephone, that the Luftwaffe tactics when targetingthe aerodromes, commenced generally with a morning attack, with the lastfew days, when his aerodromes had been left alone, there had been no earlymorning attacks. It seemed that bombing raids on London seemed be be forminga pattern of commencing a few hours after midday. Park issued the orderthat Hornchurch, Biggin Hill and Kenley push some of their squadrons forwardto their satelite stations.
1620hrs: All the radar stationsalong the Kent coast picked up signals on their CRTs of formations thatwere located in different areas, but most of them were massing in the Calais-Boulognearea. The information was immeadiately sent to Fighter Command and theGroup Headquarters. Park exclaimed to his controllers, "When will theyever learn.....same time, same course and the same target I would say."Immeadiately he called a number of squadrons to 'readiness' This time hewas going to be ready for them. He knew just how long it would take thento cross the coast, he knew just how long it would take them to manouverto get into place for their run to the target.
1650hrs: At the various ObserverCorps posts along the Kent coast from Folkestone to Margate, all eyes wereglued out to sea and across the Channel looking high into the sky for anyhint of enemy formations. The weather was now clear so they would havelittle trouble, although Bf109s at high altitude was always to pose a problem.One by one, the formations were detected. A number of Bf109s this timewere slightly ahead of the main bomber force, obviously hoping that theywould draw British fighters into the air. Park instructed that the advanceparty of Bf109s were to be left alone. The observer Corps reported thatthere were four groups of 50 plus, 30 plus, 20 plus and 12 plus, the fighterescort cover was estimated at 60 plus, but were too high for an accuratereading.
1700hrs: With the German bombersfollowing a similar course as they did just two days previous, it seemedobvious that the target was again London. 66 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires)and 92 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) were ordered to patrol over SouthLondon keeping both aerodromes within sight. 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires),253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) and 605 Squadron (Hurricanes) were tocover the northern section of Kent, while later 303 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes)were ordered to patrol from Tonbridge to Folkestone. From Tangmere, 607Squadron (Hurricanes) were ordered towards Guildford to cover the areaover Surrey as far as Biggin Hill. Up at 12 Group, Douglas Bader kept anear to the radio listening to what was going on down south. He got to apoint of no return and telephoned Woodall at Duxford requesting in no uncertainterms that we (the 12 Group squadrons) should be airborne and on the waydown. Finally Duxford released 19 Squadron Duxford (Spitfires), 242 SquadronColtishall (Hurricanes) and 310 Squadron (Hurricanes) and they were vectoredto a point between Hornchurch and North Weald and at 20,000 feet providingclose protection in the absence of the 11 Group fighters.
Again Bader was to ignore orders.the late afternoon sun would be setting in the west by the time they wouldbe near London, and he wanted to make any attack with the sun behind himso he ordered the squadrons to the west of London and climb to 22,000 feet.
1730hrs: 607 Squadron Tangmere(Hurricanes) were one of the first squadrons to make contact. A leadingformation of He111s and Do17s with Bf109 escort were just to the east ofGuildford heading towards Weybridge and Brooklands. They lined up the formationand went in before the escorts could get down at them. Coming in just intime was 605 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) who also commenced an attackon the bombers. One Do17 was brought down by 607 Squadron, but one of theHurricanes of 605 Squadron collided with a He111 shearing off a portionof wing while taking evasive action in trying to avoid gunfire from boththe 607 Squadron Hurricanes and the bombers and Bf109s. The Heinkel wasbelieved to have crashed at Alton in Hampshire. Another Hurricane of 605Squadron was hit by crossfire and the pilot baled out safely. The Germanraid was aborted.
1745hrs: A number of Germanbomber formations were approaching London from the east when they wereintercepted by 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 242 Squadron Coltishall(Hurricanes). The German formation consisted of Do17s and Bf110s with Bf109escorts. 222 Squadron make their attack and claim a damaged Do17 but P/OTim Vigors is attacked by Bf109s and finds his engine shattered when hitby canon fire and is forced to crash land his aircraft. Douglas Bader takeshis squadron into his first attack for the day, he calls on 19 SquadronDuxford to fillow him in line astern, but 19 Squadron had been scattered.
By now, both 19Squadron had reformed and was joined by 310 Squadron and the "Big Wing"was now in place and was about to show how 33 fighter aircraft could causehavoc amongst the Germans. Between them, they were to claim 21 German aircraftdestroyed with many others damaged and a few claimed as probables. If Baderhad adhered to orders, they would have been flying helplessly around NorthWeald and Hornchurch which neither was attacked because German formationshad turned back under relentless defence from Fighter Command. Park wouldhave lodged an official complaint for the Duxford Wing disobeying orders,but in light of its success, no complaint was ever lodged.
1800hrs:While the combat action by the Duxford Wing over South London was stillin progress, most of the squadrons were still in the air scattering thebomber formations from Thames Haven to West London. But the great significenceof the day was that very few bombers got through to their targets. Theremnant of the formations made the most of their retreat back across theChannel and although Fighter Command did sustain a number of losses, itcould only be claimed as being not only a tactical victory for the RAFbut a morale boosting one as well.
Evening:The after dark attacks continued. What Kesselring's Luftflotte 2 had failedto do during the day, Sperles Luftflotte 3 succeeded at night. By 2000hrs,250 bombers again came over and attacked the city. Fires were burning aroundSt Pauls and buildings on both sides of Ludgate Hill were ablaze. The areaaround the Guildhall and the Bank of England suffered considerably, whilea womens hospital suffered many casualties when it was hit. In the EastEnd again bombs fell on the dockland area and a number of nearby residentialhouses were destroyed including a school which was being used as a temporaryshelter to homeless families. Altogether, over 400 people were killed onthis nights attacks and 1,400 people were injured. The toll was steadilymounting.
The people ofLondon were now experiencing the heaviest raids of the entire war whichwas now just a few days over a year old. All the precautions and trainingby the defence forces were now being put into practice, but at a cost.Police, firemen, civil defence workers, nurses, gas and electricity workerswere all now being put to the test.
[ Document 47. Heroesof the Civil Defence ]
It was not knownat the time, but this was to be the commencement of a fifty-seven day longonslaught by the German bombers on London. They were determined to crushthe city and its people. Communal shelters, whether it was the large concreteones built along the sides of many of London's streets, Underground Stations,large shelters built underneath departmental stores, were to be the meccaof activity in the nights that followed. Many people made arrangementsto meet at the shelter the following night knowing full well that anotherair raid 'would be on'.
For FighterCommand, the Battle of Britain was going through a lull. The only combataction taking place was during the late afternoon when the first wavesof German bombers crossed the Channel with sights set on the London docksand surrounding industrial targets. Most of these had to be aborted becauseFighter Command was well up to the task. But Parkknew, that night bombing could only be done discriminately, they wouldbe guided in by the fires still burning as a result of previous raids,but sooner or later, Göring would have to turn to daylight raids whichwould allow him far more accurate bombing of British targets. Keith Parkwas willing to wait, while in the meantime his airfields and men were slowlynearing full operational strength, which in Parks view would be "his greatestmistake, and one that would cost him the Battle of Britain." 
Although recordsshow that only six pilots lost their lives, there were quite a number ofaircraft that were damaged or lost in combat operations where pilots managedto survive. They are:
19 SquadronDuxford. 2 Spitfires damaged and both repairable.
 Vincent OrangeSir Keith Park Methuen 1984