The Chronology: Page-43
Monday September 16th 1940

Newspaper headlines. One of the British newspapers highlights the efforts of the RAF

But even though the figures were more often than not quite considerably very much overestimated by newspapers, the radio and the authorities, it gave a sense of security to the people that even though they had to bear the discomfort of days and nights of bombing, the British forces still had the upper hand and winning the war.
The true figure was 56 German aircraft had been shot down to the RAF's 27, and not as shown by this newspaper.

By the time that most people had either emerged from their Anderson's or had risen after another rather uncomfortable nights sleep, the daily newspapers were busy informing them of the events of the previous day. The 'Daily Telegraph' stated that "Of the 350 to 400 enemy planes launched in two waves against the capital and south-east England, 175, or nearly 50 per cent were shot down according to returns............The Germans loss yesterday was their highest since Aug 15, when 180 were shot down. On Aug 18 they lost 153. In personnel their loss yesterday was over 500 airmen against 20 RAF pilots.' The 'Daily Herald' told a similar story, but added that AA gunfire had brought down four of the 175 German planes. On the subject of the RAF victory, they went on to say that in both of the raids, the gallant pilots and squadrons of the RAF harassed the bombers so much that those that were not shot down, were harried and chased right back to the Channel. The Germans had encountered their most gruelling reception so far.

Of course, the figures had done wonders for British morale, newspapers and radio had a field day, but just like their German counterparts, all the figures had been completely blown out of all proportion. We have now learned that the true figure was that 56 German aircraft had been shot down and the Royal Air Force lost 27 Hurricanes and Spitfires. But if the British public really wanted proof that day, they only had to go down to the open fields of Kent and Sussex to see the scattered remains of bent and broken aircraft, and most of them were German.

But at the meetings held this morning, on both sides of the Channel, two completely different attitudes were emerging over the analysis of the previous days combat actions.

Keith Park, the C-in-C of 11 Group, even though the success of the previous days events had exhilarated him, he still felt that improvements could be made, he was not going to rest on his laurels as there was always the chance that Goring would send his Luftwaffe over again with an if not stronger force. He was concerned that individual squadrons were failing to rendezvous at the right times at given vectored positions. That paired squadrons were meeting up with each other far early and too low for that matter. And he also showed concern that paired squadrons were not committing themselves to the task that paired squadrons were supposed to do. 'In paired squadrons' he said, ' Hurricanes are to go after the bombers and the Spitfires must attack the fighter top cover.' Reports had got back to the 11 Group commander many Spitfires had been seen attacking the bombers while in other instances Hurricanes had been struggling with Bf109s.  But this was not always possible:

The philosophy of taking on German bombers and fighters was based on the fact that the Hurricanes should attack the bomber formations and the Spitfires the fighter cover. Of course it never worked out like that. Either you weren't together with the Spitfires when the raid happened or, by the time the first flight went in to attack the bombers, the fighters were already coming down—so one of you had to play rear guard action and take on the fighters. This usually fell to my lot, although I did get mixed up with bombers on occasions.

If you had the time and the height, you got into a favourable position up-sun—but again that didn’t usually work out, because one was always scrambled on the late side. This was because, until the controllers were certain that it was a raid and not a spoof to draw you into the air, there was no point in launching you. If it was a spoof, by the time you were refuelling, the main raid would come—and this was what the controllers were trying to avoid.

Flight Lieutenant P.M. Brothers 32 Squadron Fighter Command
The new instruction sent to squadrons was that Spitfire squadrons, especially those at Biggin Hill and Hornchurch should rendezvous in pairs, at height if the weather was clear and below the cloud base if the weather was overcast, then increase altitude to meet and attack the enemy high fighter screen. He wanted several pairs of these Spitfire squadrons to be put up, while there should be ample Hurricane squadrons to be assembled in pairs close to the sector airfields. Further to this, the Northolt and Tangmere squadrons should be dispatched as three squadron wings to intercept the second and third waves of the attacking bombers. With instructions like this, do we see a hint of a smaller version of the 'Big Wing' that Park and Dowding were so very much against. [1]

In Germany, if Göring was disappointed, Hitler was furious. London, on the 15th, was supposed to have been decimated, the capital was supposed to have been flattened and in flames and the people were supposed to have been bombed almost into submission. The fighters of the Royal Air Force were to have been knocked out of the sky, after all, the Luftwaffe had send more than enough aircraft to put an end to Fighter Command once and for all. In actual fact, London did not receive the full scale bombing that was intended, but, compared with the number of German aircraft that had orders to bomb London, damage was only slight. The German fighters had no chance of destroying Fighter Command because they were met with far more fighters than they anticipated, and pilots that, after the lull of the previous week fought with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. Couple this with the attack on the night of the 15th and 16th by Bomber Command who repeated their raids of the previous night and sent 155 bombers to attack all the Channel ports along the French, Belgian and Dutch coasts including a large attack on the docks at Antwerp where the hundreds of barges were docked in preparation for the planned invasion of England. [2]

Göring called a meeting of his Luftflotten commanders on this day. "The British air force is far from finished, their fighters proved that yesterday. Their bombers are continually attacking our barge installations and although we must admit they have achieved some form of success, but I will only say  and repeat what I have said before, and that is our orders to attempt full scale attacks on London, instead of the destruction of their air force will not achieve the success we need, it will only act as our demise." A thought that was indeed shared by one of Germany's best fighter pilots:

Our greatest mistake was not keeping the pressure up on the airfields of southern England. Göring thought that he was master when he said that he was now in charge of the battle. He thought he was losing too many aircraft in attacking the RAF airfields, they were always there, not in great numbers, but they were always there. He thought that by trying to bomb London by night, he knew that Britain had no night fighter squadrons, he could devastate London and the people of Britain would be crying for mercy. This was his greatest mistake. He himself gave the RAF room to breathe, time to reorganize, time to rebuild. The result was, we were losing the Battle of Britain.
Major Adolf Galland III JG/26 referring to the battle on September 15th 1940
But it was always the fact that 'someone else was at fault' Adolf Hitler placed the blame on Goring for the way that the attacks had been implemented. Göring in turn gave criticism to his fighter pilots because they did not give adequate protection to the bomber force, and in turn both fighter and bomber forces of the Luftwaffe initiated bitter arguments between each other. The bomber forces argued that much of the time forming up over the French coast was because the fighter escort failed to rendezvous at the correct time, while the fighter units claimed that it was the time that the bomber units took to form up over the airfields and that they had wasted precious time and most importantly precious fuel which shortened the amount of time that they could spend over England. [3]

Göring decided that further daylight attacks on the British capital (and other British cities and towns) was right out of the question. His conversation with the Führer that morning was one that Hitler displayed his disappointment of the events of the previous day, there was no mention of future plans. His decision now, was to continue where he had left off prior to Hitler's intervention with his directive No.16, only his task was now made even harder because Fighter Command was now stronger than ever before, and the success of September 15th had given the leaders and the pilots of 11 Group renewed confidence. He would continue with daylight bombing of RAF fighter aerodromes and fighter production factories, this way, as before he could hope to destroy Fighter Command on the ground as well as in the air, just as he had planned in early July. To keep Hitler happy, he would mount a campaign of night attacks on London for as long as possible, knowing full well that the British fighters had no answer to night fighting. (London was continued to be bombed for a further fifty-seven consecutive nights).



Much cooler conditions coming in from the North Sea. Most areas can expect heavy cloud cover and rain in all districts that was expected to be heavy at times. The forecast was general for all areas.


The thought of any major raid on Britain was obviously out of the question. Conditions were in fact disastrous and only a few small feints were intercepted and the odd reconnaissance aircraft. The largest was an impending raid towards North Kent targets, but nothing really developed.

0730hrs: Radar picked up a medium plot coming in from the Channel and spread out along the Kent coastline. This was confirmed as 100 plus, but turned out to be Bf109s, probably looking for targets of opportunity rather than any pre-planned raid.

0745hrs: Hurricanes of 605 Squadron Croydon are scrambled to intercept, but most of the enemy fighters had turned back and the squadron engaged in combat with the last remaining Bf109s. 605 Squadron appear to damage two of the German fighters, but Major Werner Molders attacked the Hurricane of P/O E.J. Watson and causes enough damage for it to make an emergency landing at Detling.

1020hrs: A few German aircraft had been detected off the Suffolk coast, but made no attempt to cross. One of these was a Junkers Ju88 that had been chased by a Spitfire of 616 Squadron Kirton-in-Lindsay, who after damaging the enemy bomber by gunfire, aborted the chase because of a critical fuel situation. The Spitfire ran out of fuel about 20 miles north of Cromer and Sgt T.C. Iveson was forced to abandon the aircraft. While the Spitfire sank in the North Sea, the pilot was picked up by a Navy motor torpedo boat and brought ashore at Great Yarmouth.

73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), 257 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) and 504 Squadron Hendon (Hurricanes) were ordered to patrol the north Kent coast in the vicinity of Gravesend. They returned after about one hour and the official record book of 257 Squadron stated that there was no contact made with the enemy.

It is hard to ascertain as to who shot who down on this day. Besides a few squadrons on training flights, only two RAF squadrons were reported to have flown on operational duty. Yet statistics indicate that nine German aircraft were shot down. John Foreman's "Fighter Command War Diaries" claims that a 616 Squadron Spitfire damaged a Ju88 and that the pilot was F/L Colin MacFie and his Spitfire was a write off. In Winston Ramsay's "Battle of Britain - Then & Now Vol 5" the incident is the same, but the pilots names differ. John Foreman also bears out the fact that only two squadrons were on operational duty. Both pilots incidentally did serve with 616 Squadron.

Ten German aircraft did crash while on operation sorties, but who takes the credit for their destruction?

Heinkel He111H  ?: Crash landed at Dreux airfield after combat operations over the Channel.
Heinkel He115 8L+GH: Believed to have lost bearings after operational sortie, Crashed at Aberdour.
Heinkel He115C S4+CL: Ditched in North Sea after suffering engine failure during operational sortie.
Junkers Ju88 F6+HM: Failed to return after operational sortie over English coast.
Junkers Ju88A 9K+AH: Shot down by ground defences over southern England during night operation.
Junkers Ju88A B3+HH: Crashed in flames near Coventry after hitting balloon cable.
Junkers Ju88A  ?: Crashed and burst into flames at Evreux after combat operation.
Junkers Ju88A  ?  Crashed with severe damage after night operation at Melun-Villaroche.
Junkers Ju88A F1+BM: Crew baled out of aircraft over Arlon that was damaged during combat operations.
Junkers Ju88C R4+AH: Failed to return after night sortie over eastern England.

1940hrs to 0430hrs on Tuesday: A number of night bombing raids took place starting a little earlier than normal. Wave after wave approached the city of London with very little respite. In all, 170 German aircraft dropped over 200 tons of high explosive. The targets followed a pattern very similar to that of the early bombing raids, and that was the London dock area, the residential districts of West Ham, East Ham, Hackney, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. Others dropped their loads on the southern boroughs of Southwark, Bermondsey and Brixton, and in the west at Finchley, Willesden and Stanmore.

More formations of German bombers made their way to Liverpool and Manchester, while others targeted Coventry, Birmingham and Bristol. The people of Britain were now to take the night bombing in their stride, from now on, the evening movement down to the shelter was to become a part of the daily ritual, for it was in these often cold and damp places, often cramped that people were to spend as much time down in their 'Anderson' as they did in their home. In London itself, the deep underground stations of the 'tube' became the night time mecca for thousands. Beds and bunks lined the station platforms, and this too became so much a ritual for thousands, many of the voluntary services brought down pots of tea and plates of food, and as time went on entertainers and bands joined in and many an enjoyable concert was held deep down below the surface of London. In other towns and cities, the story was very much the same. The lifestyles of the people was now beginning to change, but the thing was now, for how long could the people last. The period of the "Blitz" was about to begin.

There were no British deaths recorded on this day.

[1] Wood and Dempster The Narrow Margin McGraw-Hill 1961 p355-6
[2] Middlebrook and Everitt The Bomber Command War Diaries Midland 1995
[3] Peter Flint Dowding and Headquarters Fighter Command Airlife 1996 p136

The Battle of Britain - 1940 website © Battle of Britain Historical Society 2007