The Chronology: Page-25
Adler Tag (Eagle Day) Begins
AUGUST 13th 1940
FIGHTER COMMAND SECTOR STATIONS AT THIS TIME [ Document-30 ]
WEATHER: Early morning low cloud base, rain easing during morning but clearing to a fine day with lengthy sunny periods by afternoon.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
Göring's heralded 'Eagle Day' was launched in confusion on 13th August, renewed in massive strength by a staff officer's unauthorized decision on 15 August, and thereafter continued in fierce fighting into September.
If the Luftwaffe had learned something during the last few months it was that Britain had 'eyes' out there that detected their fighter and bomber formations coming across the Channel. Many of their convoy attacks had either to be aborted or they were attacked by British fighters before they had a chance to rendezvous with the target. The Germans knew of radar, in fact they had a radar system of their own, but in the late thirties when radio direction finding was in its infancy, Britain continued with experiments and made full use of the fact that electronics could warn them of any impending attack, whereas Germany decided not to follow it through.
They therefore had to destroy these seeing 'eyes' of Britain before any idea of a major attack on British cities could be made otherwise half of there bombers and fighter escorts would be wiped out before they could reach their targets. An alternative to this was to let their heavy bombers fly in across the Channel at low altitudes so that they flew below the radar beams. But this was a tricky method of operation and only specially trained crews could accomplish this low altitude flying. Another problem was that fighter escort was very ineffective at low altitudes so these low altitude missions meant that the bombers only means of defence was trying to remain unobserved, a very tricky situation.
But the attacks on the radar stations at Dover, Pevensey and Rye the previous day, although temporarily put out of action, emergency back up systems allowed all these stations to be 'back on the air' within six hours. Ventnor radar was the main problem as it had been hit hard and was the main radar in the Portsmouth/Southampton area.
The way was now clear for them to implement Adlerangriff.
Before we continue with August 13th, let us take a look at the Order of Battle of August 8th [ Document-31 ],and how it had changed since the Order of Battle of July. 11 Group had been given additional strength by moving more squadrons from the north to reinforce those that were already in the south. Some squadrons had been rested and sent to Scotland and they were replaced by other squadrons from 12 Group.
When Göring first made his announcement to Luftflotte (Air Fleets) 2, 3 and 5 that Operation Adler (Eagle) would commence and that they would wipe the British Air Force from the sky in early August, the message was quickly deciphered and was in the hands of the British Chiefs of Staff, the Prime Minister and Hugh Dowding within an hour indicating that Adlerangriff (Eagle day) would commence on August 10th. but because of the unfavourable weather conditions was delayed until now, August 13th
But it seemed that the weather had not heard of the Göring plan of attack. Instead of the fair to good weather conditions that were predicted, the morning of the 13th loomed very overcast with low cloud over the French coast and Channel.
0510hrs: The German bombers began to take off from various airfields and the first major assault on Britain was about to begin. Most of them were airborne and were beginning to form their respective formations, when a last minute message was sent to all units that this first assault had been postponed, and that all aircraft were to return to their bases. The message was not received by the 74 Dornier bombers of KG 2 led by Oberst Johannes Fink, and he was to be escorted by 60 Bf110's of ZG 26 commanded by Oberstleutnant Joachim Huth. The weather started to deteriorate further, the forecast had been for clear and fine conditions but a blanket of low cloud covered both the French and the English coasts and the order went out for Angriff beschrankin (Attack Cancelled) owing to the weather, with the possibility of a resumption in the afternoon should the weather clear. This message was received by Huth, who relayed the message to the rest of his 60 fighter-bombers. However, Fink's Dornier had a malfunction in its long-range radio that he did not know about and was therefore unaware that the operation had been cancelled. To compact the situation, there was no radio communication between the Bf110's and the Dorniers, and as the bombers were flying in heavy cloud Fink's Dorniers did not realize that the Me 110's had returned to base. Approaching the English coast, the Dorniers broke up into two separate formations. One headed for Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppy, while the other headed towards the Coastal Command station at Eastchurch.
0557hrs: It does appear that the radar stations at Dover and Rye that were now back in action, had detected and followed the progress of the Dornier formation, but as to the final destination of the Dorniers no one knew or could estimate their target. The formation had taken a wide berth around the Kent coast, then entered the Thames Estuary where a number of targets would be available to them. The Observer Corps at Bromley asked of Fighter Commands liaison officer, "Have we a large number of aircraft forming near Rochford?". The immediate reply from HQ was a definite 'No'.
0630hrs: Radar had also picked up an enemy formation coming in from the Channel between Hastings and Bognor and Fighter Command dispatched 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes), 64 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires), 87 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) . 601 Squadron head east towards their vectored position gaining height when a formation of Ju88s who's mission was to bomb the aerodromes at Odiham and Farnborough (Hants) are spotted on their port side.
0640hrs: P/O H.C.Mayer's who is leading "A" Flight of 601 Squadron reports a tiered formation of Bf109s and Bf110s at high altitude, and orders his flight to gain position and attack the bombers.
The Ju88 that P/O Mayer's shot down could possibly have been attacked by Sgt. Hallowes of 43 Squadron. The Ju88, from 1/KG54 crashed and exploded at Treyford with the pilot's body never being found and the other two crew members being captured after baling out of the aircraft. Another Ju88 was shot down by both 601 and 43 Squadrons and crashed near Arundel (Sussex) while another Ju88 which came under fire from the Hurricanes of 601 Squadron aborted the mission early after its engines began giving trouble. Two Hurricanes of 43 Squadron were shot down with F/Lt T.P.Dalton-Morgan baling out of his aircraft and being wounded and P/O C.A.Woods- Scawen escaping from his burning Hurricane after it crash landed. One of the aircrew baled out of a Ju88 thinking the worst was going to happen and landed in a field in the region of Tangmere. He was captured and taken to the aerodrome.
87 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) was also dispatched to intercept the formation but being scrambled late arrived after the Ju88s had decided to return to France, but they did intercept a lone Ju88 about 0800hrs south of Chichester and in the ensuing combat, one Hurricane was hit by gunfire from the enemy bomber and crashed south of Selsey Bill. Other Hurricanes of 87 Squadron continued the combat with the Ju88 receiving damage and crashing into the Channel.
0645hrs: 74 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), under the command of "Sailor" Malan, were ordered to patrol the Thames Estuary as a precautionary measure. The radar stations at Dover and Pevensey, not being at 100% strength because of the previous days bombing could not give a definite fix only to say 'that we are definitely picking up a signal' and any fix could only be estimated. As the Dorniers were using the low cloud as cover, the Observer Corps had difficulty in locating any formation. At 0655hrs, enough enemy aircraft could be seen coming out of the cloud to confirm that an enemy formation was coming in from the Thames Estuary and flying in a westerly direction.
0702hrs: The call went out again from Bromley. this time with a definite report "Raid 45 is bombing the Eastchurch drome." Park released 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) and vectored them towards Sheppy.
By this time, 74 Squadron had located the Dorniers between Whitstable and Margate and managed to dive in to attack the rearward section of the enemy formation. A number of Dorniers peeled off and trued to get back into the cloud cover. The forward section of the German formation continued and completed their bombing attack on Eastchurch believing it to be one of Fighter Commands stations. Considerable damage was done. Two hangars were severely damaged. The operations room received a direct hit, and a number of Blenheims of 35 Squadron Coastal Command were destroyed. German records state that 10 Spitfires had been destroyed that were at Eastchurch, but RAF records indicate that only one was damaged and that it was able to be repaired. (266 Squadron [Spitfires] had been using Eastchurch at the time)
0720hrs: The bombing of Eastchurch had finished, and the German bombers turned and headed for home. But the clouds had started to disperse and now they were flying with brilliant sunshine. Kenley had scrambled 111 Squadron (Hurricanes) based at Croydon to intercept the bombers, but not in time to divert the attack away from Eastchurch. 151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) were also dispatched. With no fighter escort, the Dorniers were like sitting ducks. 111 squadron claimed four Dorniers, while one of the canon equipped Hurricanes of 151 Squadron damaged another. One of the Dorniers had crashed and its crew captured and taken prisoner. Fink himself made it back to his base at Arras and was fuming that he had been allowed to continue the raid without proper fighter cover, and that because of no proper communication he had five of his bombers shot down and a further five so badly damaged that three of them were beyond repair.
On returning to Arras, Fink circled the airfield then made a slow and gentle touchdown. But on alighting from his plane, he stormed towards the operations room and immediately grappled for a telephone and demanded a priority link to Kesselring's Cap Blanc Nez HQ. It was only a few days earlier that Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring had given them a lecture on Channel crossings, combat and safety. Fink felt that what had happened that day was sheer criminal negligence on the part of High Command. It was this negligence that had cost him five valuable crews, a total of twenty experienced and highly trained men, either killed or possibly taken prisoner.
He spoke to Kesselring personally, and constantly raised his voice in a manner that
did not worry him that he was talking to a person of higher authority.
"Where the hell were those dammed fighters then, just tell me that." Kesselring
done his best to calm down the irate Fink, but all that happened was that
Fink grew even angrier.
But although there was good weather in the Thames Estuary, it was not as good over the Channel and more confusion was experienced by the Luftwaffe in an effort to get Adlerangriff started.
This was just another case of errors in German intelligence. As in the raid in the Thames Estuary, Sheerness and Eastchurch were not Fighter Command airfields, neither were Odiham and Farnborough. Farnborough being an airfield of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. These errors came about because of the fact that German Intelligence relied on older ordinance survey maps of England and were trying to bring them up to date with information brought back by reconnaissance aircraft. Bad analysis of the situation and poor interpretation meant that they did not have a complete picture of the overall situation.
1140hrs: A build up of a small formation was picked up by radar off the French coast off Cherbourg. It turns out to be 20+ Bf110s who were to escort Ju88s of KG54 on a raid on Portland Harbour. KG54 had received the message that the raid had been cancelled and they returned to their base, but the message was not conveyed to 1/ZG2 and the Bf110s continued their path across the Channel.
1230hrs: 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) engaged the Bf110s and a one sided air battle commenced. 1/ZG2 lost five Bf110s in quick succession and what was left aborted any raid on Portland and headed for the safety of the French coast. 43 Squadron had one Hurricane damaged, while 601 Squadron lost one Hurricane, that of P/O H.C.Mayers who baled out of his damaged aircraft with injuries to his legs. While dangling from his parachute, a Bf110 fires a short burst at him but misses and P/O Mayer's lands in the Channel. Two other Hurricanes of 601 Squadron are damaged, but manage to return to base.
Word had got around to the Luftwaffe airfields that Adlerangriff had been postponed until the weather became more favourable. But this was quickly thwarted when the order went out at:
1300hrs: that Eagle Day was definitely "on" and that because of a weather improvement there would be considerable bomber and dive bomber attacks on a large scale on the British airfields across the southern portion of England. It appeared that the German plan was to make simultaneous attacks from Weymouth to Portland, Southampton and Portsmouth, and targets in north Kent.
1500hrs: A number of formations were detected off of the French coast near Cherbourg and from the direction of the Channel Islands. The information was conveyed to Fighter Command HQ. They watched the WAAFs push and pull the enemy markers across the board with their long rakes. The command HQ at 10 Group was informed and from here a number of squadrons were brought to readiness. Park at 11 Group was also informed of the situation as his squadrons at Tangmere and Westhampnett may be called in to provide assistance should the enemy formation turn and head towards Southampton.
1510hrs: 10 Group headquarters brings the following squadrons to readiness. 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires), 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes), 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes) and 609 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires). 11 Group brought 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) to readiness. The large formation is detected heading in a straight line towards Portland, but they were still far enough out over the Channel to alter course and head for various selected targets. The squadrons of Fighter Command lie in wait.
1530hrs: The large formation is now on radar just out from the Dorset coast and was approaching to the west of the Isle of Wight. It seemed as if this was to be a massive attack, and the German formations were heading in the direction of Portsmouth and Southampton. As predicted, the formations were now broken into groups, and consisted of 120 plus Ju88s from KG 54 and LG 1, these were escorted by 40 plus Bf109s from V/LG 1 that were coming in from the western end of the Channel. To the east came 77 Ju 87s from II/StG 2 and StG 77 and were escorted by 50 plus Bf109s from JG 27. Flying slightly ahead of the bomber formations were 35 Bf109s of II/JG 53. This was a total of about 450 German aircraft that was approaching the English coast.
First to be released were 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires) and 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) who were vectored to a position west of the Isle of Wight over the Solent. Soon after, one by one the other squadrons are "scrambled". 152 Squadron are first on the scene and engage a formation of Bf109s and within a few minutes are joined by 213 Squadron Exeter (Spitfires). Between them, they engage the full force of the Bf109s and Bf110s and in the ensuing combat draw the German escorts away from the Ju88 bombers. But the Bf109s are in that critical stage of fuel shortage, the long haul across the Channel and now in combat situation they had to conserve fuel for the return journey home.
1600hrs: With the weather improving the first of the Ju88 bombers crossed the coast and set course for Southampton. 609 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires) engaged the bombers but were swooped on by the Bf109s who could engage combat for only a few minutes before turning back because of their fuel situation. It appears that Fighter Command were getting to realize that coming across this wider part of the Channel, the Bf109s had restricted time to engage combat because they would only have enough fuel for the return journey back to base.
This now allowed 609 Squadron to attack the bombers. They found the Ju88s and some Ju87s below them and an escort of Bf109s just above the Stukas. To the west, another group of Bf109s were involved in a dogfight with 238 Squadron Middle Wallop (Hurricanes).
1605hrs: The Ju88s that continued managed to do considerable damage to Southampton docks and to the city itself before continuing on to Andover airfield which they mistook for Middle Wallop, where again they done a fair amount of damage. The formation was allowed to continue to Andover free of RAF fighter attacks because 609 Squadron had to return to Middle Wallop because they were low on fuel and ammunition. But, nearing base, they made contact with a formation of Ju87s that were in fact heading for Middle Wallop as well, but with different intentions to that of 609 Squadron. (Some reports state that the aircraft that attacked Andover and Middle Wallop were Ju88s that had just prior bombed Southampton)
Being close to the airfield, it was possible for 609 to engage combat. The Ju87s who had lost its Me 109 escort were vulnerable to the Spitfires and they too aborted their attack and Middle Wallop escaped unscathed.
1630hrs: The Ju88s of KG 54 that were coming in from the west made their attack on Portland, but as they were making their approach they were intercepted by 152 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires), 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes), many of the bombers were damaged but some got through and dropped bombs on Portland causing minor damage. The bombers seemed to make for Southampton after the attack on Portland, but the RAF fighters were swarming in front of them and forced them to abandon any further attack and they headed out to the open Channel and home to base.
Although the RAF lost a number of fighters in this combat, it was obvious that the Luftwaffe had lost an even greater number, mainly due to the fact that the fighter escorts had to return back to their bases because of the fuel situation, this paved the way for the RAF fighters to attack the Stukas and the heavier bombers who were now at their mercy.
1700hrs: another sighting was made of a formation of enemy aircraft coming in across the Channel. This seemed to be made up of two separate formations. The larger coming across the coast near Dungeness that were identified as Ju87s from II/StG I, while a smaller group came in over Dover, these were identified as Ju87s of IV(St) LGI with both groups escorted by Me 109s.
56 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) were dispatched to intercept. No sooner had they started to disperse the Stukas, when they were suddenly attacked by the Me 109s. The Hurricanes then started to mix it with the German fighters allowing the Ju87s to continue veering north towards the Thames Estuary. One Hurricane from 56 Squadron North Weald received damage and although managing to stay airborne, was losing height and trailing smoke. He eventually made a pancake landing at Hawkinge.
The Ju 87s were making for Rochester in north Kent. The target here was the Short Brothers aircraft factory but had difficulty in finding the target so decided to return to their base. In their plans of attack, it was the Luftwaffe intention now to hit the RAF on the ground as well as in the air, and the Ju 87s of IV/LG 1 were instructed to bomb Detling airfield just outside Rochester. Here some of the Me 109 fighter escort broke away from combat with 56 Squadron to provide cover for the Ju87s. 56 Squadron was instructed to follow the 109s and some of the Hurricanes made attacks on Ju 87s as well as the Me 109s over the target airfield.
1716hrs: Coming in from the Thames Estuary, following the Kent coastline past the seaside towns of Margate and Whitstable, past the Isle of Sheppy then an immediate turn to port into the River Medway and once past the unmistakable city of Rochester and Detling lies just beyond. Although not belonging to Fighter Command, Detling would present itself as an impressive target. A large expanse of open airfield.
Detling was badly damaged in the attack. The operations block was totally destroyed, most of the hangars were completely flattened and all the contents destroyed. A total of 68 airmen in the station mess hall were killed as it scored a direct hit, the fuel dump exploded in flames, the Commanding Officer of the station was killed instantly by the entrance of the HQ building, and a number of Blenheims that had been bombed up and ready for the evenings mission exploded destroying them completely. But again, this was another blunder by Luftwaffe Intelligence who had reported Detling as a major British airfield. But Detling was only a Coastal Command airfield that was used for look-out and observation patrols for German naval vessels and the occasional air-sea rescue and was not a Fighter Command airfield. This was really a wasted effort by the Luftwaffe the only bright side to their mission was that they did not lose any aircraft in the Detling attack, but 56 Squadron (North Weald) although three pilots escaped injury and one baled out with severe burns, they lost four Hurricanes.
The 13thAugust could only be summed up as a total disaster for the Luftwaffe. We know of three occasions where communications had broken down allowing the attackers to be hit at will by the RAF because missions were incomplete. This naturally led to the Luftwaffe sustaining a great number of casualties. And the blunder by German Intelligence regarding Detling as mentioned, was a complete waste of time, and again because of the high casualty rate was also a waste of valuable aircraft and pilots. The total for the day was that the Luftwaffe had lost some 53 aircraft (another reference states that this figure was only 34) and nearly two hundred aircrew, while although not including the 68 airmen killed at Detling, the RAF lost 15 fighter aircraft and miraculously only three pilots were killed, but it was still a day of intense fighting.
Dowding said of this day '....it's a miracle'. He had been looking back on the days events and considered that it had been very busy all round, and that the fifteen planes that had been lost would be very easily replaced. Adlerangriff was to be an all out attack on the RAF and its fighter bases, but as yet all the wrong targets had been hit, causing no immediate concern to Fighter Command.
From Keith Park's view:
'No one could be foolish enough to think that we can send in any amount of fighters against the large formations that the Luftwaffe were sending across the Channel and not receive any casualties' he said, 'but with careful placement of my squadrons it is hoped that we can keep this to a minimum.' He had told his squadron commanders on many an occasion, that no-one is going to win a game of chess without losing any of his pieces, it's just that with some games, you lose more than you do with others. Park too was satisfied with the outcome of August 13th, he kept the German fighters at bay over the Channel and close to the English coast and by comparison with the previous day, his casualties were light with only three killed or missing, two that sustained injuries that were to put them out of action for a while and six returning to their squadrons after being shot down.
2200hrs: August 13th was not finished yet. major towns, cities, factories and the rail network became the target of the German night bombers. The Short Brothers aircraft factory in Belfast in Ireland, and at Castle Bromwich where the new Spitfire Mk II was being produced and other targets were: Aberdeen in Scotland, Liverpool in north west England and Swansea in Wales all became targets, but only reports of 'damage sustained, but only minor' were conveyed to the War Office.
The commencement of Adler Tag was, not for the Luftwaffe a successful one. A combination of poor weather conditions and a number of 'bungles' on their part did not even put the RAF to the test. First, the airfields that the Luftwaffe were targeting, Eastchurch, Detling, Odiham and Farnborough were not Fighter Command airfields, during the morning the German bombers lost their fighter escort and during the afternoon a fighter escort had left their French base without the bombers that they were supposed to escort. Now, Göring was under the impression that all fighter squadrons in 10, 12 and 13 Groups had been sent south to 11 Group and informed Luftflotte 5 in Norway to prepare for attacks on the English north and Scotland as the time was now right.