The Chronology: Page-24
SUNDAY AUGUST 11th 1940
What had been 'Warfare over the Channel' during the month of July, was really just a prelude as to what was to happen and was planned for August. Goering had masterminded the operation named Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack), this was to be an all out assault on the Royal Air Force. In reality, the Luftwaffe had failed to draw Fighter Command into the air on previous attacks over the Channel. Something now had to be done to destroy the RAF both in the air, and on the ground.
But was the RAF ready and prepared, in just a short space of time, Lord Dowding, known as "Stuffy" to those that knew him, had built Fighter Command into an impressive fighting machine. He insisted that concrete all weather runways be built, and he got this wish granted to six of his airfields. He insisted that for added protection for his pilots, bullet-proof windscreens be incorporated into the canopies of all fighter aircraft, and with his very close friend Lord Beaverbrook, he had fighter aircraft production increased to nearly 500 per month. But Dowding was far from satisfied, was he requesting more assistance from the Air Ministry, or was he the hard to please negative thinker that many thought him to be:
Fine and clear during the morning, but high cirrus cloud moving in by midday thickening during the afternoon. Dry all day.
Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft that were daily flying on meteorological flights out into the Atlantic Ocean, reported back on August 11th that the barometric pressure was building up in the mid-Atlantic south-west off the Spanish coast and with the wind speed and direction were very confident that fine weather would prevail over the next few days in the Channel area, and in particular over the designated target areas. Goering lamented that provided the weather was in their favour, that the Luftwaffe would destroy the RAF within fourteen days. He had nearly 2,000 serviceable aircraft at his disposal, which consisted of some 800 medium range bombers, 700 Bf109s, 250 Ju 87 dive bombers, and 160 Bf110 twin engine fighters plus a number of reconnaissance aircraft. His pilots were well trained with even the newer pilots going through a strenuous training program, but the events of the previous month during Kanalkamph the battle over the Channel, but the battle had taken its toll.
After France, the Luftwaffe thought that the RAF with its morale at an all time low, the aircraft which many they thought were antiquated and the pilots that flew them even though many may have been experienced pilots, lacked the knowledge needed for fighting in combat. But they were caught by surprise at the skill of the RAF fighter pilots and the performance of the machines that they flew, (Since returning from France, most of the Spitfires and Hurricane underwent a number of modifications that increased the maneuverability and their overall performance. It was also thought that unbeknown to the pilots the British Air Ministry instructed that Hurricanes and Spitfires use 100% high octane fuel instead of the 87% octane that both the RAF and the Luftwaffe were using at the outbreak of the war. Richard Hough and Denis Richard's mention in their book that in September 1939 the U.S Congress invoked the Neutrality Act that prohibited the use of 100% octane fuel, but after some anxious moments, the British Government and the Roosevelt Administration had reached a compromise where the supply of this fuel could be used on a 'dollar on the barrel-head' basis . Funny how we must still abide by the rules, even when at war) in contrast, many of the Luftwaffe pilots were not only tired, but many of them were near to exhaustion.
This type of story is confirmed by the statement of Heinrich Meyer of 3/JG26;
In comparison, the RAF had just 650 fighter aircraft, and approximately 1,250 pilots and many of these lacked the proper training, in fact many of them had to complete their training on an operational airfield due to the fact that the RAF drastically needed....more pilots. But the pilots, it did not matter whether they were experienced or not, displayed great courage and determination in the July dogfights over the Channel, but in the proposed next phase of the Battle of Britain this determination would be very much put to the test.
In the meantime, Fighter Command had rearranged its squadron allocations so as to strengthen its defences of the southern coast. Biggin Hill had its Defiant 141 Squadron transferred to Turnhouse in Scotland and was reinforced by 501 Squadron from Kenley, Kenley was allocated a Canadian Squadron in place of 501, 266 Squadron at Wittering in the Midlands was transferred to Hornchurch, Debden received 85 Squadron from nearby North Weald and the Blenheim 604 Squadron at Northolt was transferred to Middle Wallop and 303 Squadron a new squadron since July was allocated to Northolt.
0830hrs: The 11th of August was a Sunday, and the port of Dover in south-east Kent was just like any other Sunday morning. It was early, but many people were either getting ready to go to church or for those non-believers, were having their usual sleep in while the rest looked forwards to the usual good Sunday breakfast. That is until they heard the drone of bombers coming from the direction of the Channel. Many thought it unusual, others who had been making a study of the war so far stood in wonderment as up until now, all of Germany's attacks had been over the sea lanes, why now were they heading towards Dover and the coast of England. It was not long before they found out, most thought that the enemy planes were on their way to the industrial centres along the Thames or even London itself. They were quite surprised when explosions started to erupt in the harbour, tall fountains of water spouted into the air as bombs landed, and many surrounding houses fell victim to the bombing. People ran screaming and shouting and running in all directions, even though the siren had sounded when the aircraft were first heard many ignored the fact that this could well be an air raid because so far the Luftwaffe had not yet resorted to attacking land bases in Britain.
Fighter Command had been warned of the small build up that was moving in towards the coast at Dover, radar had supplied the position and direction of the enemy formation, and the Observer Corps reported the type and strength. Park was informed that the formation consisted of 30+ Bf110 and an equal number of Bf109s.
So the 110s from EprGr 210 and a couple of Bf109 fighter sweeps had Dover all to themselves. Well, for a while anyway. A number of Luftwaffe Squadrons can over in quick succession and it looked as though something could be building and Park had no alternative but to allow some of his fighters from Hawkinge and Manston to "scramble". 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) operating out of Manston and 64 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires) were the squadrons released to cover Dover. Official records state that only a few skirmishes took place and that Dover Harbour was the prime target of the German attack. But the Luftwaffe plan was to attract as many of the British fighters into the air as possible at Dover while the main strike of the day was to be concentrated much further west near Portland, this operation being laid on in place of the mass Adler Tag assault which had been postponed. 
0945hrs:But again, Keith Park was proved to be absolutely correct in his judgment, because soon after the attack at Dover had ceased, Ventnor radar detected an excessive build up across the Channel just outside of Cherbourg. Park immediately put all of his squadrons in stand-by mode. The AOC of 10 Group AVM Quintin Brand was notified and he too placed all his squadrons at standby. As time went on, it appeared that the build-up was getting bigger and bigger but it now looked as if was the biggest armada of air power yet sent across the Channel. But fortunately the only build-up was coming in from the direction of Cherbourg. This now, was not an assortment of Ju87s or 110s, but 56 Ju88 heavy bombers from I and III /KG 54, 20 Heinkel He 111s of KG27, 67 Bf110s from II and III/ZG2 and about 30 Bf109s of III/JG2. In total, about 170 German aircraft.
1030hrs: Now the plots that had been tracked by Dover radar were now being picked up by Ventnor CH and detected a large formation heading towards Portland. The radar and the work of the Observation Corps informed Fighter Command that the formation consisted of He 111 and Ju 88 bombers escorted by Bf109s and Bf110s, in total there were 150+ enemy aircraft. Fighter Command relayed the information to the Operations Room at 10 Group and 145 Squadron Westhampnett (Hurricanes), 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires), 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes), 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes), 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) and 609 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires) were scrambled to intercept.
Off the coast, and out over the Channel, the dogfights were fierce and numerous. Spitfires in high speed chases weaving over or under other dogfights that were in progress, were either chasing Bf109's or being chased by them, sometimes a pilot would abort an intended attack because once within identification range he found it to be a British fighter.
The attack on the formation that was heading towards the Portland Naval base and Weymouth was the biggest of the day, with destruction of a number of factories, the gasworks and oil storage tanks, all others being fairly minor and were really of nuisance value more than anything else, the days losses were high. The Luftwaffe lost a total of 38 aircraft made up of 2 Heinkel He 59s, 2 Ju 87s, 6 Ju 88s, 3 Dornier 17Zs, 10 Bf110s and 15 Bf109s. Further to that some 15 aircraft either made forced landings or managed to make it back to their bases with considerable sustained damage. The RAF fared no better with six Spitfires and twenty-one Hurricanes shot down, one Spitfire and five Hurricanes making forced landings and one Spitfire and nine Hurricanes damaged. This did not please Fighter Command especially Keith Park, and when they were informed that 26 RAF pilots were missing Park was ready for a confrontation.
For the squadrons too, it had been a hard day. No sooner had they landed to refuel and rearm, they were up again repeating the performance all over again. Operations Rooms had been stretched to the limit, as the casualties mounted, fresh squadrons were brought to readiness. They didn't know it then, but with Adler Tag yet two days away, that this was only the beginning. Typical of the days events was 74 Squadron Hornchurch:
Pilot Officer Stephenson was one of the lucky ones, many did not live to tell their stories:
Park complained to Dowding that the new pilots were lacking the proper training required that would prepare them for combat. They were taking too many chances, unnecessary chances that not only put their own lives in danger but the lives of all those in the squadron. He told Dowding, "...that if we can lose this many pilots in unimportant minor skirmishes, how many are we expected to lose in a major battle....and that battle is yet to come". he started to raise his voice, "...at the moment they are only picking off convoys, soon they will be attacking our cities.....what are they going to do then".
Hugh Dowding, in his usual soft spoken voice almost giving one the impression that he was taking everything in his stride assured Park that these young pilots are giving it all they can, and admitted that they were not spending enough time in basic training, but of all the pilots that they were producing, the four weeks that they had in training was all that they could afford. He told Park that with Goering's planned all out attack on England which had yet to commence, time, was the all important factor....time that we haven't got. We are producing pilots and we are producing planes.
During the early afternoon the Dorniers of 9/KG2 were sent to attack a merchant convoy off Harwich on the Essex coast and again escorted by the Bf110s from EprGr 210. Another battle ensued as fighters from 17 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 85 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) fought in heavy combat. The convoy code named "Booty" suffered no damage but the RAF lost three aircraft just off of the East Coast while there is no record of German casualties.
Meanwhile, another build up of enemy aircraft was forming in the Thames Estuary, this was picked up by radar, and again the Luftwaffe was heading towards another convoy. This time a medium convoy that had just left the docks in London. The formation consisted of 45 Dorniers of II and III/KG2, 10 Ju 87 Stukas, and about 15 Bf109s. 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) were redirected south to make an interception along with 54 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes). But by all accounts, the weather started to deteriorate rapidly and the mission was aborted.
MONDAY AUGUST 12th 1940
Fine and clear during the morning, after early morning mist. Light cloud in the north giving way to lengthy sunny periods. Dry all day.
0840hrs: The day before the official Adlertag was due to commence, radar detected enemy aircraft approaching from the direction of Calais, it was not unusual for German bomber formations to fly directly overhead en route to their target area. But this time it was different, this was a highly skilled Bf110 operation that now attacked the high towers of the British radar stations. Each of the Bf110 carried a single 500kg bomb, and this elite squadron commanded by Hauptmann Walter Rubensdoerffer who split his gruppe into four groups of four Bf110s. At first, he led the section on a westerly course, flying low in an effort to avoid detection, then just south-east of Beachy Head swung northwards and headed towards Eastbourne and the white cliffs of Dover that were now becoming more visible as the warmth of the morning burnt off the haze that was enveloping the British coast. At a pre-determined point, the raiders started to gain height so as to effectively dive bomb their targets, the British radar suddenly picked up the German formation but became bewildered as to where they had suddenly appeared. An excellent descriptive is given by Richard Hough and Denis Richards and is worthwhile quoting here:
The Bf109 and 110 formation was flying directly for Dover, then, as soon as they flew over the coast they suddenly turned and immediately attacked the tall towers of the radar installations. In a swift and precise move Dover CH was damaged and put off the air. The formation continued on to Pevensey, then Rye and then Dunkirk. Then Rye radar station also reported the sighting and reported it to Fighter Command. Immediately it was given an "X" code, a code that was used if a sighting was of doubtful origin or could not be properly ascertained. Later, when Fighter Command wanted to know what was happening down there, the radio operator radioed Pevensey and asked the question, to which a gentlemanly voice said "...your bloody unknown origin is kicking the shit out of us, that's what". The same question was put to Rye, where the WAAF telephone operator in a rather pleasant tone of voice simply said "....actually, your "X" code is bombing us "All these radar stations suffered considerable damage and were put out of action. (Dunkirk suffered minor damage but the other three were back on the air after just a few hours).
The radar stations dotted all along the southern English coastline, easily picked out by the Luftwaffe pilots as the tall lattice-work towers stand out predominately along the coast, so visible, yet at the same time, so vulnerable, but they seemed almost immune to the high explosive. Although considerable damage was done, and the attack played havoc with the communications, but again, the Luftwaffe onslaught did not attain the success that it had anticipated. Dunkirk continued to transmit as did Pevensey and Dover, after only a brief interruption to communications. This was due to emergency stand by systems that had been included in the design of the radar stations. Standby diesel engines were started up to provide the power, while after any line breakage's had been repaired all stations were soon back on the air again. But with the downed towers, the advance warning system had lost a considerable amount of effectiveness, with the Observer Corps doing most of the work.
Then came something very different, it was at Dover, suddenly the silence was broken by a dull whistle getting louder and louder, then a big bang with bricks, framework, dirt and dust going everywhere, military personnel as well as locals in the town nearby were stunned, there was not an aircraft to be seen.....anywhere. These were the first rounds of Germany's long-range artillery fire. These big guns, located on the coast of France, projected their shells twenty-one miles across the Channel and landed right on target.
1145hrs: Rubensdoerffer reported that the mission was seventy-five percent successful, and Kesselring, to make sure that the RAF radar network was in chaos, sent out Ju87 Stukas to attack several small convoy's in the Thames Estuary. Although Fighter Command communications were stretched to the limit, Foreland CHL for some reason escaped the early morning attack by Rubensdoerffer and reported back to HQ that 50+ enemy aircraft had been picked up, with another force of 12+ that although separate from the main force were possibly intending to link up and attack the convoys of "Agent" and Arena" that were cruising in the Estuary. Hornchurch dispatched their 65 Spitfire squadron and Biggin Hill sent out the Hurricanes of 501 Squadron to intercept. It was not a good day for Fighter Command. Convoy "Agent" was attacked by the Ju87s, and the Hurricanes that were trying to stave them off paid a high price. Four of them were shot down and two RAF pilots were killed.
Poling radar detected a large force of raiders over the Channel south of Brighton. This turned out to be a bomber force of Ju88s of KG 51, escorted by Bf110s of ZG 2 and ZG 76. Cover for the formation was provided by twenty-four Bf109s of JG 53. In all, a total of 200+ aircraft. They kept to their westerly course following the coastline of Sussex until they were south of the triangular shape of the Isle of Wight, then the Kommodore of KG51 Oberst Dr Fisser kept his formation on a heading for Portland giving the RAF the impression that he was going to repeat the bombing of the Dorset town as he had done the previous day. But as the balloon defences of Portsmouth came into view on his starboard side, he turned his formation northwards.
But there was still other radar stations operating, notably the important one at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, and this was to become the next target for the Luftwaffe, and at the same time, because of the major towns of Portsmouth and Southampton were nearby, attacks could be made on these at the same time. Richard Hough and Denis Richards continue:
Dowding, with Keith Park and Leigh-Mallory were on the mezzanine level of the operations room at Fighter Command HQ at Uxbridge, and were looking down on the huge map below. They looked eagerly at the situation and watched intensely as the WAAFs slowly moved the enemy markers towards the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth. Dowding remarked that '.....it's obvious that they are trying to knock out our radar and communications', no one acknowledged, they just kept their eyes glued to the map below. The action continues as KG51's Kommodore Oberst Dr Fisser led his Geschwader west, some fifteen miles off the flat west Sussex coast with the triangular configuration of the Isle of Wight dead ahead:
........... Then he ordered his armada sharply to starboard, just as a man o'war might do, in order to enter Portsmouth harbour through a gap in the balloons. Fisser and fourteen of his crack crews had other plans, though, and as he circled he watched his bombers going in like a huge serpent in line-astern .
The anti-aircraft fire, from every ship in the harbour, firing for once from a steady gun platform, and from the Army's guns ashore, was in its intensity like nothing Fisser, or any of his crews, had seen before - 4·7 and 4.5 inch, 3 inch, 2 pound pom-poms, Bofors and even 20mm filled the sky with black puffs and criss-crossing tracer. Now Fisser himself turned south-west, losing height and gaining speed rapidly as he raced at 300 mph and at 5,000 feet over Foreland, the eastern tip of the Isle of Wight, heading for the little seaside resort of Ventnor.
There, on a strip of high-level ground close to the town, were sited the tall towers of the CH station which covered the whole mid-Channel area, and whose screens were now scarred with the blips from Fisser's main force and, more ominously, the detachment coming directly for the Station . Fisser wasted no time. Like Rubensdoerffer, he wanted to get in and out as fast as possible, and he aimed the nose of his Ju 88 at the towers and the buildings, all connected by a criss-cross pattern of white concrete paths which would have given away the target in much less favourable visibility. Like most 88 commanders, he favoured the shallow dive approach which gave his bomb-aimer the best visibility and more time to make last split-second adjustments than in the 45 degree or steeper approach. Fisser saw no anti-aircraft fire, and it was almost impossible to miss with the four 250 kg, delayed-action, high-explosives they all carried.
Lighter by a ton, he pulled up steeply above the scattered boarding- houses and small hotels of the seaside resort, over the chalk cliffs and the breakers on the shore, and watched the bombs explode. Fisser was a veteran of the Polish and French campaigns, had dropped bombs across half of Europe (or so it sometimes seemed), but he could never have seen such concentrated devastation. The whole target was engulfed by white-and-black clouds, with more exuding from the inferno as he turned away and ordered his planes to close in, climbing at full throttle, to escape the avenging wrath of the British. But already the first reports were coming in from behind that still distant Hurricanes were diving towards them. And, belatedly, the Bofors anti-aircraft fire had burst into action - or perhaps it had been firing when they were all too preoccupied with their run-in. It was accurate firing, too, and as Fisser continued his turn overland north of Ventnor, he suddenly realised that his whole detached force was in a dangerous position, with a height disadvantage and only a scattering of Bf 110s to give them any support before they could clear the area.
McGregor's Hurricanes were first on the Ventnor scene, as he had predicted, but 152 Squadron's Spitfires came in seconds later, and a whirling fight ensued before Fisser could get his 88s away. McGregor himself got on the tail of a 110, ignoring the rear-gunner's fire, and despatched it with a single burst. Then two more of his squadron began harassing Fisser's 88 and were joined by two more of 152's Spitfires. The Kommodore was killed at the controls. The Junkers, trailing flames, dived towards the ground, was pulled up violently, presumably by one of the crew, and headed towards Godshill Park, yawing and only partly under control. It struck the ground heavily, sending up a cloud of pale earth, and slid to a halt, its back broken but the fire self-extinguished. Leutnant Schad and Oberleutnant Luederitz, both wounded, staggered from the wreckage, and their captors succeeded in extricating the fourth crewman, badly burned, a few minutes later. Most of Fisser's Geschwader were still attacking Portsmouth at 12.25 p.m. as he lay dead in this pleasant park on the Isle of Wight a few miles away. The anti-aircraft fire remained intense and accurate throughout the Portsmouth attack. Ten more 88s fell to the RAF fighters' guns, or the ground gunners (most likely both) besides McGregor's 110 victim, which went into the sea off Foreland. By a curious freak of the tides in these uncertain waters, the body of Fritz Budig was washed ashore near Gosport, while his pilot's body was found on the beach near Boulogne five weeks later. 
Portsmouth was hit hard in this battle, shops, buildings and factories were destroyed, fires broke out in many parts of the city and falling walls and masonry became a hazard. This was the first major attack on an English populated area, and to the British, it was a sign of things to come. 100 civilians died, but as far as the air war was concerned, the British were still losing less than the Luftwaffe.
But Ventor radar was a shambles, it was now completely out of action. Dunkirk, Pevensey, Rye and Dover radar stations had suffered damage enough to put them out of action temporally, and this was a plus for the enemy, as both Kesselring and Sperrle were convinced that now the radar station attacks had achieved their purpose and that the RAF was now 'without it's eyes'. The Luftwaffe could now impose the next phase of the battle, and that was the destruction of the RAF airfields in southern England. The first three on the list was, Lympne, Hawkinge and Manston.
1325hrs: The airfield at Manston was the first to be hit. Rubensdoerffer's Erpro210 was back again after the earlier damage it had done to Dover and Dunkirk radar stations. This time dropping bombs and machine gunning the satellite airfield just as 65 Squadron (Spitfires) were taking off on a routine patrol.
Manston, or 'Charlie 3' as this airfield was known, was the real prime target, it was the most easterly of all the airfields in the south, and another of the all grass airfields which allowed entire squadrons to take off together thus they were in the air and reaching the enemy quicker than if they had to take off in single file on any of the concrete runways.
54 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) witnessed the whole of the attack from the air. The telephone rang outside dispersal at Hornchurch. "Okay fellas 'scramble'....angels one-five Manston". The same was to happen at Rochford, a satellite station of Hornchurch. A flight from 54 Squadron were lazily sleeping, reading or chatting outside dispersal when the telephone rang. 'Jumbo' Gracie turned and made a grab for the receiver, there was a silence as he listened, then at the same time as he banged the handset down he yelled "Scamble....seventy plus bandits approaching Manston...angels one five." In those few short words of pilots jargon, it painted a vivid picture to the scrambling pilots as to what to do and what to expect. Angels, in pilots language was thousands of feet, bandits was enemy aircraft and scramble was 'drop everything and get to your waiting aircraft'. So the message was clear, get to your aircraft as quickly as possible, start engines, take off, and head in the direction of Manston in Kent where anything between seventy and eighty German aircraft were approaching at fifteen thousand feet.
Flight Lieutenant Al Deere who had been leading a flight out of Manston, a New Zealander was flying at about 20,000 feet when he spotted the attack. He immediately broke radio silence and called Pilot Officer Colin Gray, another New Zealander who was Blue Section leader, 'Do you see them', Gray was looking earthwards 'Too bloody right,' they were preparing to go in. Then, just as 54 Squadron was within striking distance of the mixture of Bf109s and 110s, Deere saw that Blue leader was no longer with them. Gray had sighted a second formation that was approaching Dover and had already engaged them. Deere yelled over his radio, '...where the hell are you?' Then he saw plumes of white smoke that was spiraling upwards from the aerodrome, he thought that the whole airfield was on fire, where instead it was only the white chalk dust from the many craters that were appearing all over the Manston airfield.
54 Squadron had managed to get off safely before the Erpro210 Bf110s and Bf 109's arrived and began an interception of the German formation, but 65 Squadron had an hair raising experience taking off as bombs exploded around them. Only P/O K.G.Hart in Spitfire R6712 was injured and his aircraft damaged in the attack. No sooner had 54 and 65 Squadrons pushed the Bf110s and Bf 109's back over the Channel, a formation of Dorniers from KG2 led by Oberst Fink came in over the Straits of Dover and headed for Manston. The airfield was now a shambles. It is estimated that 150 high explosive bombs fell, destroying hangars, workshops and damaging two Blenheims and the airfield finished up with more holes in the ground than an eighteen hole golf course.
Hawkinge suffered a similar fate with hangars and huts destroyed and twenty five large, and numerous small craters appearing all over the airfield, enough to put Hawkinge out of action for three days. Lympne also suffered in the attack.
Dowding and Keith Park again were in the operations room at Fighter Command HQ watching with great concern as the battle unfolded, they saw the WAAFs move the 'enemy indicators' from the Channel and in the Estuary across the coast and towards the airfields. Park complained that 501 Squadron that had just been 'scrambled' and that 64 Squadron who had already taken off were not yet in a position to attack them '....they're not getting up quick enough, they'll have to do better than that' he said, 'at least we know now what he's after - my bloody airfields'. Dowding took the news on a more serious note, '...gentlemen, I think the battle has begun'.
1350hrs: What happened next in the life of a pilot, was typical of a scramble that could have taken place at any of Fighter Commands airfields, this is how Pilot Officer Geoffrey Page of 56 Squadron attacked the situation:
56 Squadron started to close in on the departing bombers, as Geoffrey Page later put it, like "an express train overtaking a freight train" and they started to attack. Unfortunately, Page's Hurricane was hit and his aircraft exploded in a ball of flame. He managed to bale out, but badly burned was rescued by the Margate lifeboat.
Geoffrey Page was one of Fighter Command's experienced pilots, that was to be out of the battle for a long time, like many others who had sufferred burns, he was to have a long, long road to recovery. But, survival from severe burns is never going to be an easy one. But it is through such pilots as Geoffrey Page that we can learn what it is really like to experience what every pilot fears most, the thought of being trapped inside a burning aircraft.
This was the first major attack on a British airfield. For two solid hours Manston had been under constant bombardment. Len Deighton outlines the attack:
Further to the attack on Manston, Mike Spick in Richard Townshend Bickers book Battle of Britain, mentioned that after the Bf110s attacked Manston, it was followed by an attack by Dorniers of KG 2 which done considerable damage. These were recorded in the station diary as being as being wrongly identified as Heinkel's.
It had been a busy day for both the Luftwaffe and the RAF, and maybe it was a sign of things to come. After the bombing of Manston, the Luftwaffe diverted their attacks on the airfield of Lympe and Hawkinge where they were bombed by Ju88s of II/KG76. All the airfields bombed that day were classed as heavy, but was not recorded as officially being critical. The days events were finalized with some heavy bombing raids on a few coastal towns of Kent.
It now seemed that the stage had been set. The Luftwaffe knew of the importance of the British radar, but they knew little about the basic fundamentals of how it was working for Fighter Command. They knew that the radar was the 'eyes' of the RAF, and that before making any attempt at engineering raids on RAF installations and facilities this radar had to be knocked out. They had tried, but only to find out that within hours, the radar stations were back in operational status once more. Even Ventor, where they thought had been totally destroyed, it was much to their surprise that Britain had it back in operation within four weeks.
So, the plan was, that on August 12th they would knock out the radar installations at the key points of Dover, Pevensey, Rye, Dunkirk and Ventor so that the RAF would not be able to see that the next move was to destroy the RAF on the ground by bombing the airfields. With no radar to detect their approach, the way was was clear for them send formations across the Channel, and the only way that they could be detected was by visual sightings, which by the time that this was made, it would be too late for the RAF to muster the aircraft needed to stop them before they had reached their targets.
Thirty-one German aircraft on this day were shot down, but it was not a day that favoured the RAF as twenty-two fighter planes were destroyed and eleven pilots were killed.
Hough & Denis Richards Battle of Britain Hodder & Staughton
|Document 29. A Burning Inferno - A Pilots Worst Nightmare|