The Chronology: Page-50
Monday September 23rd 1940

WEATHER:
Mist and fog patches were to be expected in most areas but this would give way to a mainly fine day. Some patchy cloud could be expected, but generally mainly fine weather should prevail over most areas.

OPERATIONS:
The rather peaceful periods that the aircrews had experienced over the last few days was about to end, much like the cloud and rain periods as the bright ball of the sun could be seen above the low lying mist and fog layers. Some aircrews may have been thrown into a false sense of security as the month's combat actions had melted down to almost nothing.

But by 0840hrs radar stations from Foreness to Rye had detected four separate formations close together coming in from the Channel towards Dover. As they approached the Kent coastline they appeared to fan out with the outer formations coming in from Ramsgate and Brighton while the centre ones came in over Deal and Folkestone. Again, as in the previous few days, they were Geschwaders of Bf109s and the Observer Corps estimated their numbers as two hundred plus. Fighter Command is said to have released twenty-four squadrons, although later authorities have revised this to fourteen. Again the problem of The British fighters not being able to get to the desired height and position because of the time taken to gain height in a Bf109 attack as they approached at a much faster rate than the bombers.

The formations of Bf109s crossed the coast at about 0915hrs and eight of 11 Group squadrons managed to make an interception of the enemy when they were over North Kent. 257 Squadron (Hurricanes) Debden and 92 Squadron (Spitfires) Biggin Hill were among the first to intercept and a fierce dogfight took place off the coast near Herne Bay and Margate. One of the other formations were intercepted by 73 Squadron (Hurricanes) Church Fenton, 229 Squadron (Hurricanes( Northolt and 303 Squadron (Hurricanes) Northolt.

1000hrs: An area from Dartford to Margate became a mass of twisting, whirling white vapour trails as the fighters from both sides weaved and spiraled against the backdrop of now bright blue sky. A spitfire of 92 Squadron Biggin Hill piloted by P/O A.J.S.Patterson, engaged in aerial combat over Gravesend was hit, forcing the pilot to break away from the action. He tried to make for the aerodrome at West Malling, but in an attempted forced landing the Spitfire crashed into the ground wounding P/O Patterson in the upper leg. Sgt D.J.Aslin of 257 Squadron Debden suffered burns when his Hurricane sustained a hit from one of the Bf109s and caught fire over the Thames Estuary. He managed to bale out with his aircraft crashing near Eastchurch.

1100hrs: The action continued as other British pilots come to grief. were four Hurricane's from 73 Squadron (Church Fenton) had engaged combat over the Thames between Sheppy and Southend being jumped on by Bf109s of IIJG/26 which were shot down in flames over the Isle of Sheppy and Thames Estuary, a Spitfire of 72 Squadron which crashed at Sittingbourne, a Spitfire II of 74 Squadron Coltishall which was shot down while in single combat with a Bf109 and a Spitfire flown by P/O W.Beaumont of 152 Squadron but it is not known if he was engaged in combat over north Kent.

Over London my Schwarm met a formation of Englishmen, around sixty fighters .......... I made a head-on attack on a Spitfire. The enemy tracer flew past my canopy, but the Englishman went spinning down in flames. Perhaps he had lost his nerve. Now a wild dogfight began. It was best to break away. Now I had four Spitfires on my tail. I was 18000 metres, and I pushed the stick forward and dived away at full speed, pulling out at ground level with my wings fluttering. No British fighter could have followed my wild dive. I looked behind me. Damn! There were two Spits on my tail again. There was no time to draw breath. My only chance of escape lay in my flying ability at low level, hedgehopping to the Channel over houses and around trees. It was no use, one of them was always there and I couldn’t shake him off. He hung a hundred metres behind me. Then we were over Dover. I thought: He can’t keep this up as I fled out over the wavetops but the Spitfire stayed behind. I jinked to right and left as the pilot opened fire and the bullets splashed into the water in front of me. I blinked the sweat out of my eyes. The French coast was now in sight. My fuel was getting low. I kept squinting behind so as not to miss the moment when he broke away. Wait, my friend, I thought. ‘You must return soon, and then I will be the hunter. Cap Gris Nez loomed up in front, and I skimmed over it one metre above. Suddenly the Tommy climbed steeply and slowed down. . . . At once I turned my Me 109 and zoomed up in a tight bank, engine howling, straight at him. I fired one burst from close range I nearly rammed him and the Spitfire went straight into the sea. He flew fantastically.
WILHELM BALTHASAR,III/JG3, 23 September 1940

But is was not just the fighters of Fighter Command that were having a bad day. The Luftwaffe suffered just as bad. F/Lt Brian Kingcombe of 92 Squadron Biggin Hill managed to score a direct hit on a Bf109 near Maidstone. The pilot baled out and was captured. Another of the 92 Squadron Spitfires being flown by P/O J.F.Drummond damaged the cooling system of a Bf109 north of Maidstone and it was forced down finally finishing up in a pond where the pilot also was taken prisoner. 72 Squadron also claimed credit for destroying a Bf109 that was to dive into the Channel off Folkestone. The Poles of 303 Squadron also increased their tally by another two when they claimed two Bf109s over the Thames Estuary while 257 Squadron and 605 destroyed one each. In all, ten Bf109s either crashed on English soil, or crashed on landing due to battle damage and were all destroyed while four managed to return back to their French bases with sustained battle damage.

A lone Ju88 on a photo or weather reconnaissence mission was detected over the Channel south of the Isle of Wight and 234 Squadron from Middle Wallop sent one flight to intercept. The Junkers was shot down and made a belly landing in the sea. All the crew managed to get out of the sinking aircraft and were captured by British authorities.

Another small number of enemy aircraft got through and according to the station records book at Fowlmere, they came under attack at 1530hrs. One Spitfire was destroyed and a number were damaged. There was no damage to any buildings or to the airfield. There is a possiblity that the attack on Fowlmere, was by the Bf109s that were detected earlier over London, but this cannot be said for any certainty.

The afternoon was again peacefull after a busy morning, much to the delight of the aircrews, although one station commander stated to one of his squadron leaders "....that if things remain this quiet, you sure you won't get bored?" But during the evening, as usual, things started to change. Wave upon wave of Heinkels, Junkers and Dorniers threw everything at London. The city had many heavy nights of bombing, but this was by far the heaviest. By midnight, it looked as if there was a sunset over London, the night sky was that red.

Fighter Command sent up a number of Defiant and Blenheim night fighters, but with Britain night fighting ability still in its infancy, and about a dozen 'nighties' up against an estimated 125 bombers, their task was almost an impossiblity. After forty five minutes they returned to their bases.

But the night time attacks on the British capital and other major centres around Britain, the intensity of the night attacks remained heavy. The British War Cabinet decided to retaliate and ordered indisciminate attack on Berlin with parachute mines. But, the Air Staff issued the directive that only targets that comprised any military value should only be attacked and that areas of civilian and residental areas should not be targeted.

CASUALTIES
1100hrs:Over Channel. Spitfire R6896. 234 Squadron St Eval
P/O T.M.Kane Confirmed P.O.W. (Was flying routine patrol but believed crashed in Channel off French Coast)
1130hrs:Over Channel. Spitfire P9371 74 Squadron Coltishall
Sgt D.H.Ayers Listed as missing. (Chased Bf109 to French coast but was shot down and crashed into sea)
Unknown Time: Spitfire R7016. 152 Squadron Warmwell
P/O W.Beaumont Listed as missing. (Failed to return from operational sortie. Last seen over the Channel)

The above casualty list does really not reflect on the combat action of the day. In total, eleven Hurricanes and Spitfires were lost due to combat action. Four pilots managed to bale out of their damaged aircraft, while four crash landed. Of the eight, six pilots received burns or severe wounds.




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