The Chronology: Page-40
Thursday 12th September - Saturday 14th September 1940

The last main attack imposed on Britain, and especially the City of London itself was on September 7th, and since then attacks had now turned out to be rather spasmodic although the night bombing raids now seemed a regular occurence. The air war of the last week or so had developed into a rather dull sort of plan. It did not matter what the weather conditions were, the days were relatively quiet and to many of the once exhausted fighter pilots, they found time to relax and enjoy time amongst themselves as longer gaps between sorties developed. Each afternoon, as if trying to keep to a weekly timetable, formations of German aircraft would show up on the CRT screen at the coastal radar stations generally around 1400 or 1500hrs and it was time to repeat the performance of the previous day. These three days were to prove no different. The weather was not the best for combat, conditions being as unpredictable as ever, but at this time of the year it was only to be expected that unsettled conditions would prevail as the summer had just about passed and the often wet and dull days of autumn would be coming in.

The threat of invasion was still a high priority with the War Office but as on many other occasions, the Luftwaffe had failed to follow up after the main attack. Why, they thought, throw everything at us as they did on September 7th and fail to continue. The leaders in all the various departments knew that Britain was still managing to hold out, with the Luftwaffe turning its attention to London itself gave Fighter Command the breathing space it so badly needed. By September 12th most of the airfields were back to at least 85% fully operational with the exception of maybe Biggin Hill that had taken a severe hammering. Lord Beaverbrook who was the minister in charge of aircraft supply had managed to replace many of the aircraft that had been lost, and personel, although still young and possibly undertrained had replaced many of the pilots that had been killed or injured. If the German air force had continued to apply the pressure on Fighter Command airfields, the Battle of Britain may have had a far different outcome. Because of this change in tactics, and we can only surmise that it was a decision by Hitler himself, that it was a case of "an eye for an eye" that Germany in the end would have to pay the supreme sacrifice.


THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 12th 1940

WEATHER:

Cloud cover could be expected in all areas and showers turning to rain for most of the country. Low cloud would persist over the Channel areas and most of the south coast could expect showers that could be heavy at times.

OPERATIONS:

The morning period is virtually a non-event as far as combat action is concerned. Radar reports that a number of lone aircraft are detected well offshore both over the Channel and the North Sea. Fighter Command decide to leave these aircraft well alone as they are probably reconnaissence patrols and not doing any harm and that valuable fighters should not be placed at risk even to lone aircraft.

By midday, a few small formations are detected, some of these break up into individual raids sometimes consisting only of one or two aircraft. In 10 Group, Warmwell despatches just one section of 152 Squadron (Spitfires) to intercept a sighting out from Swanage, the bandit is recognised a a lone Ju88 but it makes full use of the low cloud and disappears.

Shortly after, another enemy sighting is made and 238 Squadron at St Eval (Hurricanes) are scrambled. The squadron records show that one Ju88 is destroyed and another had been damaged.

605 Squadron (Hurricanes) stationed in the north at Drem also claim one enemy aircraft destroyed, possibly a reconnaissence aircraft that had ventured too close to the coast. 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) and 602 Squadron Westhampnett (Spitfires) both claim to have damaged at least one enemy aircraft in spasmodic and isolated actions. Looking at these figures, it can be seen that the Luftwaffe at this time was keeping well clear of London and all these isolated incidents took place either in the west country or up north in Scotland.

One unfortunate incident that happened was with Wing Commander J.S.Dewar who was commander of the airfield at Exeter. Taking advantage of the lull in combat activity, he was to fly over to Tangmere to visit friends there. He never arrived and it seems obvious that his Hurricane had been shot down after he had encountered some enemy aircraft and he decided to bale out. On the way down he was straffed by German plane or planes and shot to pieces as he dangled helplessly underneath his descending parachute.

The bombers of III/KG51 and I/KG54 did not attack London until late in the evening, and even then was on a far reduced scale than on previous occasions. The night bombers on previous attacks often numbered between two and three hundred, but this time barely fifty made the dismal trek across the Channel in rather murkey conditions. No serious damage was done, although bombs fell in the commercial area of Aldgate, Mansion House and Holborn, but the most serious threat was a H.E. delayed action bomb which fell just to the north of St Pauls Cathedral. It buried itself some thirty feet into the ground and the two officer who defused the bomb, Lieutenant R.Davies and Sapper J. Wylie of the Royal Engineers became the first military personel to receive the George Cross for their actions.

Other spasmodic and isolated raids occurred at Hull in Yorkshire, an area north of Wolverhampton, Liverpool and a number of small ports along the east coast of Suffolk and Essex.

CASUALTIES:
Time not known: Over Channel. Hurricane V7306. 213 Squadron Exeter
W/C/J.S.Dewar killed. (Circumstances not known. Body washed ashore at Kingston Gorse Sussex 30.9.40)


FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 13th 1940

WEATHER:

No sign in an improvement in the weather, and it was expected to remain unsettled with rain periods in all areas. In areas in the south and east there was a possiblity that there could be breaks in the cloud to give sunny periods. Over the Channel, the heavy cloud and rain should give way to lighter higher cloud during the day.

OPERATIONS:

Many of the German commanders are pushing for an exact date for 'Operation Sealion' to commence. Already the weather seems to be closing in and with these deteriorating conditions it appears that any chance of a successfull invasion may be out of the question if Hitler cannot make up his mind. Already, the date previously set for September 11th had been postponed, and Hitler had said that he favoured September 24th at the most likely date, but if conditions continued as they are, it would be an impossiblility for the barges to cross the Channel should the expected winds that are prevalent at this time of the year accompany the heavy cloud and rain squalls.

A meeting had been called in Berlin to commence at lunchtime, and as was usual a banquet was organised prior to the serious meeting between Hitler, Göring, Milch, Kesselring and Jodl being the most notable commanders in attendance. The Führer outlined the present situation. He made mention of the fact that the Luftwaffe still had not yet attained air superiority over the Royal Air Force, which was a rather hypocritical statement being as he had ordered Göring to concentrate his attacks on London earlier in September at the expense of continuing the raids on RAF airfields. He also made mention that more and more barges were being unloaded along the Dutch and Belgian coasts in readines. Soon, he said, we will be moving our armies to these northern ports, armies of specially trained men, all will be ready. But, he stated, our bombers have justly tore the heart out of the British populace. London is a city burning night after night and the British air force is still terribly weak and we can continue to hit the British where it so terribly hurts.......at their beloved capital.

The Führer spoke at length on the bombing of London, and only outlined to preparations of any forthcoming invasion and the commanders started to think that Adolph Hitler was now more concerned with the total destruction of London and that they were beginning to think that their leader was having second thoughts about any invasion of England. By the time that the meeting was over, all that the commanders had learnt was the thoughts that were coming out of the mind of the Führer, there were no fresh orders, he failed to ask for any reports on the current situation.

In Britain, the radar operators lay in wait for the tell tale blips that would indicate enemy intrusion across the Channel. Pilots sat around waiting for the telephone to ring, but it was the same story of the last few days. A small piece of action occurred high over Hornchurch and Biggin Hill, but these were recognised as weather reconnaissence aircraft when the British "Y" Service picked up their conversations. No action was taken against these aircraft and Fighter Command allowed them to return back across the Channel without any interception.

A Focke-Wolfe 200 is detected over Northern Ireland, the first time that the enemy has penetrated this area and proof that Ireland is not free of the war situation. The aircraft managed to drop bombs on the steamship 'Longfort' just off the coast at Belfast and also submitted an unidentified vessel to gunfire but there were no reports of damage. [1]

For both sides, there were further tactical developments within this period. Now that the Luftwaffe had decided to abort any serious attacks on Fighter Command airfields and turned its attention on inland targets as well as London, Park had more time to assess the situation and gave them greater time to intecept the enemy. Keith Park had also sent out the instruction that squadrons should as far as possible work in pairs. The original order of this instruction went out as early as September 5th.

On the other hand, Kesselring's views on this move by Fighter Command was that he agreed that Park's order was actually working. Not only that, Fighter Command was a much stronger organisation than the tattered remnants of a defeated defence as German sources had earlier imagined. Because of this, formation leaders had now been given the instruction, that should they meet up with what they would consider stiff opposition, they may decide and order the formation to disengage. This oder was given by the German High Command.

Again, as on the day previous, air activities were hampered by bad weather, and the Luftwaffe took advantage of this by sending single aircraft deeper into Britain than they had done during other daylight attacks on the enemy. The Air Ministry buildings at Harrowgate were attacked, so was an alluminium factory at Banbury in Oxfordshire. The large railway junction just outside Reading had been bombed the previous day causing disruptions on the Great Western line, and as previously mentioned, the first raids on Northern Ireland had occurred. [2]

Small raids did occur during the morning period when two German bombers flying single missions towards London and coming from different directions penetrated the defences and dropped a small number of bombs which fell on Whitehall and a part of Downing Street while the other aircraft dropped bombs on the Chelsea Hospital and another fell in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the third time the Royal Palace had been attacked and this time damaged had been sustained to the Royal Chapel.

1200hrs: Keith Park at 11 Group Headquarters had been alerted from a message that originated from the Radio Interception Unit that German weather reconnaissence aircraft had radioed back to their bases that there was seven tenths cloud at 1,500 metres and stated that attacks could be made possible between 1,500 and 2,500 metres. The assessment that Park made, was that under the circumstances, he believed that the Luftwaffe would make spasmodic raids and have the advantage of using the cloud as a cover. He alerted the commanders of selected airfields to place at least one squadron at readiness.

1330hrs: A number of squadron had been scrambled after reports came through that radar had picked up enemy aircraft, and that the general direction was London. Using the cloud to their advantage, it was difficult for the Observer Corps to keep track, but it did appear that the target were either Biggin Hill, Kenley or Croydon. One of the squadrons scrambled was 501 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) who intercepted a small force of He111 bombers and attacked. Most decided to abort but not before one of the Heinkels was shot down.

At the same time, another small raid was centred on Tangmere. One enemy bomber was shot down by 609 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires). Again, the raid was aborted and no damage was sustained on Tangmere aerodrome.

It had not been a good day for the Luftwaffe. Although only a small number of aircraft were destroyed, there ws no real reason that, under the circumstances they need not have made any missions at all. The first aircraft lost was at 0330hrs while on a raind on South Wales that a He111 hit the cables of a barrage ballon and crashed in the town of Newport. A He111 of 2/KG1 was badly damaged during an operational mission over England that it crashed on landing back at its home airfield. Another He111 crashed on German soil after a bombing mission, due to serious damage cause by AA gunfire and from an attack made by a British fighter. One of the Ju88s that attempted to attack Tangmere was badly damaged and crashed into the ground on landing at its home base. As well as these aircraft destroyed and two others that crashed on English soil, twenty German aircrew were killed. The only British casualty during the German attacks was one of the Hurricanes of 501 Squadron, and then, the pilot Sgt J.H.Lacey baled out and was unhurt.

CASUALTIES:
0700hrs: Norwegian Coast. Blenheim L5491. 248 Squadron Sumburgh
Sgt W.J.Garfield Listed as missing.
Sgt A.Kay. Listed as missing.
Sgt B.W.Messner. Listed as missing. (Failed to return from reconnaissence flight over Norwegian coast)
Night Sortie: Calais.  Blenheim Z5721. F.I.U. Shoreham (Time not known)
F/L R.G.Ker-Ramsey. Taken PoW.
W/O E.L.Byrne. Taken PoW.
W/O G.Dixon. Taken PoW. (Baled out near Calais. Exact circumstances are not known)


SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 14th 1940

WEATHER:

Again no sign in an improvement in the weather, and it was expected to remain unsettled with rain periods and a chance of thunderstorms in all areas.  Over the Channel, the heavy cloud and rain should give way to lighter higher cloud during the day, but the chance of showers should persist.

OPERATIONS:

Keith Park and Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding confer (by telephone as there is no record of any meeting between them on this day) and they discuss the constant postponements of the intended invasion by Germany. Park again points out that he could not understand why the switch to bombing London was made when the situation at the time was a critical one for Fighter Command, and there was every chance that the Luftwaffe could have finished off with the continued bombing of the airfields. The only thing standing in the way between Germany and the invasion was Fighter Command, now, Fighter Command was almost back to full operational strength and Göring would have to start all over again if he wants to destroy the Command. Dowding mentions, that the bombing of London was his biggest mistake, and one that could cost him the war.
By mid-September the Germans had assembled about 1,000 assorted invasion craft in the Channel ports, with some 600 more in the Scheldt. RAF bombing crippled about 12 per cent of this armada; what remained was still sufficient for the first stage of invasion as planned, but the combination of the bombing, and a sharp riposte by Fighter Command to a renewed attempt at a daylight attack on London on September 9, forced Hitler to yet another postponement of SEALION. It was deferred until the 24th, which meant that a final decision should have been made on September 14 (ten days’ notice was the German Navy’s very reasonable stipulation). With Hider, however, nothing was ever normal; the decision he actually took on that day was to bring forward SEALION to the 17th. He had been misled again by Goering, himself in turn misled by the Luftwaffe’s faulty Intelligence.

It was not so much the evidence that was at fault — rather the ability to interpret it correctly. The 9th had shown that Fighter Command was still very much a force to be reckoned with; the 11th & 14th, however, spoke with equivocal voices. On each of these days Fighter Command and Luftwaffe losses were equal, though this was not appreciated by the Air Ministry at the time. On the 14th, particularly, to the Luftwaffe the opposition appeared scrappy and uncoordinated, and they felt that during the last few days Fighter Command had begun to collapse. This news was, of course, conveyed to the Reichsmarschall, and via the situation reports to Hitler. Both felt that the hour of destiny was approaching.

John Terraine The Right of the Line Hodder & Stoughton 1985 p210
In Berlin, Hitler called a rush conference ordering all his naval, air force and army commanders-in-chiefs to attend. This time, he made little mention on the bombing of London of the last seven days. Instead, he presented to them his plans for the all-out invasion of Britain. At last, Operation Sealion looked as though it was all systems go. The Führer was excited and full of eagerness, but nothing was said that was not already known.....except the exact date of any planned invasion.

Hitler pointed out that the naval preparations for "Operation Sealion" was now almost complete. "All our barges are now in place, and we have more held in reserve along river banks," he said which was borne out by one of the British Observer Groups which had the day previous seen up to ten large enemy transport ships town a number of barges from Calais to Cape Griz Nez. Spitfires of the PRU had also flown over the belgian and Dutch coasts and had also reported and photographed the collection of barges. But there again, based on the PRU intelligence, Bomber Command had bombed many of the barge installations at an average of every second night, so what ws Hitler trying to pull when he said that "All our barges are in place." Maybe he forgot to add that at least one third of them were submerged at their moorings.

"If we plan now," he went on, ".....the invasion date can be set for one week from now, given that we need five days of good weather to achieve the desired results." But then, haven't we heard that before, from Hermann Göring just prior to Adler Tag in early August. "All I need," he said, "....was five days preparation and we will be ready for the day of the Eagle."

Hitler then went on to state that in the preparation we must make sure that the Luftwaffe has complete air superiority over the Channel and over southern England. But again, a remark that had been heard before, when issuing the order to Göring prior to Adler Tag, "Before any invasion can be mounted against England, we must first destroy the RAF both in the air and on the ground." This was the whole concept of the task given to Göring, to eliminate the British Royal Air Force.

Finally, the on again, off again "Operation Sealion" was at last given as September 17th, which again, if we want to be critical, should have been September 19th if Hitler estimated that it would take five days of preparation. Orders were given for a full scale attack to be made prior to the lead up of the invasion, and again this was placed in the hands of Hermann Göring. An alternative date, as was mentioned earlier by the Führer could be given as September 27th. But is does seem that there was a chain of misleading eventsas shown above from the work by John Terraine.

1200hrs: The Germans do what they could in an attemp to jam the British radar with electronic interference. A few aircraft managed to cross the Channel on weather reconnaissence missions. One or two raiders bombed some of the coastal resorts in the vicinity of Eastbourne and Brighton where some sixty civillians were either killed our seriously hurt. A small formation was detected over Selsey Bill and one German aircraft is reported to have been shot down. Others probed the areas of South London and bombs fell on residential areas of Croydon and Mitcham killing over fifty people.

1515hrs: German raiders were detected corssing the coast at both the Thames Estuary and in the Deal and Folkestone areas. Bf109s escorting Do17s, He111 and Ju88 bombers. The enemy strength did not exceed 100 in both areas and a mini aerial combat session developed within 30  minutes.

1545hrs: Again, as was becoming a common occurence, people along the coastal stretches from Folkestone, round 'Hell Corner' to Margate saw the twisting and snaking black dots against the grey overcast with many cheered if they recognised a German plane spiral down into the sea.

Park had reshuffled a number of his squadrons during the lull of the last few days so that Hurricanes and Spitfires could work in pairs. With most of the German raids following a similar pattern whenever crossing the Channel on a bombing mission, Park was now better prepared than ever for any raid coming in from the Thames Estuary or over the Channel between Dungeness and Ramsgate. This, coupled with the fact that most aerodromes had now been repaired and were 95% operational, radar stations were all back to normal, and all telephone lines connecting the radar stations, Observer Corps, Fighter Command HQ and 11 Group HQ were all repaired and functioning properly.

Vectored to the Thames Estuary were 41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 66 Squadron Gravesend (Spitfires), 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 504 Squadron Hendon (Hurricanes) and 1RCAF Northolt (Hurricanes).

Vectored to the Kent coast near Deal were 72 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires), 92 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires), 229 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) and 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes).

1600hrs: Most of the action took place over the Estuary or over north Kent near Maidstone by the time that the British fighters made contact with the enemy. Even though the raids were small by previous standards, it was noticed that there were more Bf109s than usual indicating that the Luftwaffe were trying to draw as many fighters in the air as possible. A number of Do17s were shot down but also quite a few Bf109s also suffered. I/KGr.606 was to suffer most when two Dorniers were classed as write offs, while two others were damaged.

For Fighter Command, 73 Squadron Debden (Huirricanes) was to suffer most after losing three aircraft and four others were damaged but were repairable, but only one pilot was killed. There were casualties amongst other squadrons.

1800hrs: There had been a sighting over Bournmouth just prior to the evening attack, but they turned back before any British fighters could intercept. Now a number of separate raid seemed to be approaching the coast in formations of 10+, 12+, 15+, 20+ and 30+. All aircraft were detected at between 17,000 and 20,000 feet. Many of Fighter Commands squadrons had only been back a short while after the afternoon raids when they were scrambled again. The formations were intercepted just as they crossed the southern coastline and a running battle took place as far as London, but many of the raiders had turned back before their destination had been reached.

CASUALTIES:
1605hrs: Tonbridge. Hurricane P2542. 73 Squadron Debden
Sgt J.J.Brimble killed. (Shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed at Parkhurst Farm Chart Sutton)
1615hrs: Rochford. Spitfire X4275. 222 Squadron Hornchurch
Sgt S.Baxter killed.(Badly damaged by gunfire from Bf109s and crashed attempting to land)
1620hrs: Orsett (Essex). Spitfire R6625. 19 Squadron Duxford
Sgt F.Marek killed. (Crashed during routine patrol. Possibly oxygen failure. No other details)
1800hrs: Bredgar. Hurricane P5184. 253 Squadron Kenley
Sgt W.B.Higgins killed. (Shot down in flames after combat with Bf109. Pilot did not bale out)

2 x Hurricanes of 253 and 610 Squadrons shot down but no details are known except the pilot of the Hurricane of 610 Squadron is listed as missing. The Hurricane of 253 Squadron was shot down near Faversham Kent.

[1] Wood & Dempster The Narrow Margin McGraw-Hill 1961pp347-8
[2] Hough & Richards The Battle of Britain-A Jubilee History Hodder & Stoughton 1989 p272



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