The Chronology: Page-47
Friday September 20th 1940

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.

WEATHER:
The morning would be reasonably fair with scattered cloud with showers expected by midday and these would continue throughout the day.

OPERATIONS:
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.

Two further 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.

1050hrs: 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.

Fighter Command 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.

I remember 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 disappeared.

Pamela Watson - Reading. Talking of childhood memories.

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 their objective.

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.

We 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 important.
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.

CASUALTIES
1020hrs: Canterbury. Spitfire X4410. 72 Squadron Biggin Hill
P/O D.F.Holland Killed. (Baled out after being shot down by Bf109s. Died on admission to hospital)
1115hrs: Rochester. Spitfire N3203. 222 Squadron Hornchurch
P/O H.L.Whitbread killed. (Shot down by Bf109s and crashed at Pond Cottage. Thrown clear but dead)
1130hrs: Amesbury. Hurricane L1595. 56 Squadron Boscombe Down
Sgt C.V.Meeson killed. (Crashed during formation flying practice)
1134hrs: West Hougham. Spitfire X4417. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
P/O H.P.Hill. Killed. (Shot down by Major Moelders in Bf109 and burst into flames on crashing)
1134hrs: Dungeness. Spitfire N3248. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill
Sgt P.R.Eyles Posted as missing. (Crashed into the Channel after being shot down by Major Moelders)



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