Today, like most mornings the pilots
on all the forward sector and forward aerodromes woke up wondering just
what the day would bring. The day previous was exceptionally quiet, but
this did not place anybody into a sense of false security. Yesterday, operations
were relitively easy, spasmodic attacks by lone aircraft during the day
while more concentrated attacks occurred after dark as would be expected.
But even though the Luftwaffe only lost some six or seven aircraft, Fighter
Command did not lose a single aircraft or pilot which shows the inactivity
of the day.
The morning would be reasonably fair
with scattered cloud with showers expected by midday and these would continue
throughout the day.
It was another of those mornings
where there was an abundance of blue sky and scattered cloud, but the radar
screens at the south coast radar stations were totally clear. Pilots at
most of the airfields had checked out their aircraft and waited patiently
lazing around. Some flights from individual squadrons made routine patrols
of the south coast.........but nothing. But it is in these quieter moments
that many of the newer pilots are given further training by the more experienced
pilots. Fighter Command had taken the opportunity in reinforcing many of
the squadrons with fresh aircraft and an influx of new pilots. New pilots
maybe, but with very little experience.
pilots have come to us straight from a Lysander squadron with no experience
on fighter aircraft. Apparently demand has now outstripped supply and there
are no trained pilots available in the Training Units, which means that
we will just have to train them ourselves. However it remains to be seen
whether we can spare the hours, as we are already short of aircraft for
our own operational needs. It seems a very funny way to run a war.
Sandy Johnstone 602 Squadron -
a comment made during early September.
The queit of the early morning was broken at 1030hrs when radar had picked
up a German formation that was coming across the Channel from the direction
of Calais and by 1100hrs a formation of 20 plus Bf109s at 15,000
feet crossed the coast at Dungeness, with other formations of 50 plus Bf109
aircraft crossing the coast in the region of Dover. The radar at Foreness
picked up another formation that had stayed out to sea and came in through
the Thames Estuary. This was another change of tactic by the Luftwaffe,
although it was not the first time that they had sent in Bf109s en masse
on daytime attacking raids.
released fifteen squadrons including 72 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires),
92 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires),
253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) and 605 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes).
The Luftwaffe in this attack had the upper hand by sheer weight of numbers.
|It was always
exciting watching the dogfights over the Kentish fields and the English
Channel, I suppose little did we realise then that men were up there fighting
for their lives and many of them were being killed or seriously wounded.
The long twisting white vapour trails left a messy woven pattern in the
skies, while most of those that were going to crash trailed columns of
black smoke although there were times when you saw just a single dot slowly
get bigger and bigger going straight down to crash into the sea with a
giant plume of white spray.
- Reading. Talking of childhood memories.
on this occasion the mellee commenced just as the planes of both sides
came over the cliffs, they were high and the vapour trails started to get
more and more intense. One plane dived straight down going round and round
with little puffs of smoke that appeared to be coming from the back of
the plane, then it crashed into the ground with an almighty bang. Then
a German plane came down from a great height and levelled out just above
the ground. He was closely followed by a Spitfire, a plane that we all
got to know. The German plane weaved left and right but the Spitfire seemed
to stick to him like glue, and we had to duck as we felt that they were
so low that they would have taken our heads off. Then they turned and flew
out to sea, we waited to see if the German was going to crash but they
Is was a possiblity
that both waves of German fighters were targetting London, but over the
Kentish countryside, what the RAF fighter pilots lacked in numbers they
made up for in skill even if they did sustain many casualties. The combat
action was sustained over the fields of Kent and at the mouth of the Thames
near Southend and Sheppy with neither formation making much progress towards
One of the first
aircraft of Fighter Command to go down was the Spitfire of P/O H.L.Whitbread
of 222 Squadron Hornchurch at 1115hrs. A Bf109 came from above and
took him by surprise and the Spitfire crashed at Higham near Rochester
killing the pilot. At about 1130hrs, 253 Squadron Kenley had three
Hurricanes shot down between Ashford and Maidstone. All three pilots, P/O
A.R.H.Barton, Sgt A.R.Innes and an unnamed pilot all escaped serious injury.
P/O W.J.Glowacki was unhurt as his Hurricane of 605 Squadron Croydon was
hit by gunfire from a Bf109 but was one of the lucky ones in being able
to return to base. By 1135hrs, 92 Squadron Biggin Hill lost two
pilots when they became seriously involved in combat in the Dover/Dungeness
area. One Spitfire crashed at West Hougham and another crashed in the Channel,
both the victims of Major Moelders.
It should be
noted here that although mass daylight attacks had occurred with the use
of Bf109 fighters only, they were causing more than a headache for Fighter
Command. The sheer weight of numbers were causing all sorts of headaches
for both Hurricane and Spitfire squadrons. The techniques involved when
fighter was against fighter and were quite different to those when the
German Bf109s were involved with providing escort.
in JG52 were very inexperienced. In two months our strength fell from thirty-six
pilots to just four. We relly wasted our fighters. We didn't have enough
to begin with, and we used them in the wrong way, for direct close escort.
We were tied to the bombers, flying slowly - sometimes with flaps down
- over England. We couldn't use our altitude advantage nor our superiority
in a dive. Of course, the Spitfire had a marvellous rate of turn, and when
we were tied to the bombers and had to dogfight them, that turn was very
Gunther Ball 8/JG52,
The mornings attack
was the only main combat of the day. But is had been a terrible blow to
Fighter Command. Of the five pilots killed in the attack, four of them
at least were experienced seasoned pilots, pilots that were still badly
needed. The Bf109 pilots, whether experienced or not had this day gained
a slight advantage by downing more British fighters than they had lost
themselves. Maybe the Luftwaffe would learn by this result, and that in
the days to follow, more Geschwaders of Bf109s would make the daylight
attacks and try to make up for the disaterous losses that they had so far
they experienced. We will have to wait and see.
Canterbury. Spitfire X4410. 72 Squadron Biggin Hill
Killed. (Baled out after being shot down by
Bf109s. Died on admission to hospital)
Rochester. Spitfire N3203. 222 Squadron Hornchurch
killed. (Shot down by Bf109s and crashed at
Pond Cottage. Thrown clear but dead)
Amesbury. Hurricane L1595. 56 Squadron Boscombe Down
killed. (Crashed during formation flying practice)
West Hougham. Spitfire X4417. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
Killed. (Shot down by Major Moelders in Bf109
and burst into flames on crashing)
Dungeness. Spitfire N3248. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
Posted as missing. (Crashed into the Channel
after being shot down by Major Moelders)
The Battle of Britain - 1940
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