The Chronology: Page-33
Monday September 2nd - Tuesday September 3rd 1940



Areas of early morning mist with scattered areas of fog inland was expected to clear giving way to clear skies which was to continue for the rest of the day. Temperatures expected to be higher than average. Cloud was expected to drift in from the North Sea later in the afternoon in Northern England and Scotland.


0715hrs: Up until now, the CRT screens at radar stations had remained clear of any activity. Normally, the Luftwaffe tactics was sending single early morning reconnaissance aircraft patrolling the southern and eastern coastlines. Instead, now what looked like a large build up of aircraft was taking place in the Calais and Cap Griz Nez areas. The reason that the reconnaissance aircraft did not show was probably due to the fact that the Luftwaffe was going to take advantage of the perfect conditions.

0730hrs: Radar stations from Foreness to Rye reported to Fighter Command HQ that two separate formations were heading towards Dungeness and the Thames Estuary and soon after the Observer Corps confirmed that 40 plus and 30 plus Do17s had crossed the coast both with 50 plus Bf110 aircraft in close escort and Bf109s at higher altitude.

72 Squadron (Spitfires) Croydon which earlier had been stationed up north at Acklington were at Croydon for the time being were immediately into action over the northern coast of Kent and followed the Dornier bombers towards Biggin Hill. 92 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) were also sent to assist 72 squadron but fail in protecting Biggin from yet another attack but this time the British fighters done enough to put the Do17s off their bombing run and little further damage was done.

222 and 603 Squadrons Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 249 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) engage the Dornier formation that head north-west inland from the Thames Estuary. Two of the Hurricanes are damaged by gunfire from Me110s and one is shot down in flames from gunfire from a Bf110 but one of the Do17s is shot down and another peels away belching smoke, but again, North Weald sustains only slight damage. One of the Spitfires of 603 Squadron engaged a Bf110 over Hawkinge and had difficulty in lining up the 110 enough to get a clear aim, but the aircraft was hit by gunfire from the German fighter that smashed the perspex hood and the upper fuselage, but the pilot managed to return to base.

Of the two raids, only two targets sustained damage. Enough bombers managed to escape the marauding British fighters to make a strike on the Short Brothers aircraft factory at Rochester where a number of buildings were destroyed and a number of civilians were killed. Another formation managed to attack the old motor racing circuit of Brooklands near Weybridge where Vickers Wellington bombers were being produced.

Sources mention that Fighter Command put up eleven squadrons this morning, but records indicate that only the squadrons listed above made contact with the enemy. 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) took the honours in this first combat action of the day when they took on the Bf109s and after a spiralling, twisting dogfight over the North Kent coast they chased the 109s out to sea where they managed to shoot down four of them.

1300hrs: With many aircraft at Fighter Commands airfields still rearming and refuelling after the morning raid, another large formation was detected on the radar. The first detection was while the enemy was still over the French coast, but as they approached the Channel more smaller formations joined in and soon a contingent of over 225 bombers were approaching the Kent coast. Park gave the order for his squadrons to "get up" as he was not going to be caught napping as he was earlier in the day. "Get to them before they split....." he ordered, in the hope that his fighters could spread-eagle the bombers before they had a chance to form individual groups and head off in different directions.

Again, 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) are back in action and sight the enemy to the north of Rochester. 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) also find no rest as they too are "scrambled" and they make contact with the enemy just east of Sheerness and they are surprised when they get caught up in a dogfight with over 70 Messerschmitt Bf109s. Other squadrons are released. 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) are brought in from their Sussex base, 111 squadron Debden (Hurricanes) recently moved from Croydon and 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes), but all a little late to stop the German bomber formations from splitting up over the coast near Dover.

One of the Bf109s piloted by Oberlieutnant Ekkehard Schelcher in combat with 603 Squadron over the Isle of Sheppy, was shot down possibly by P/O J.S. Morton and crashed near Chilham. His body lay in the wreckage of his aircraft for 37 years which was classified by the German authorities as a recognised war grave before the body was interred at the German war cemetery at Cannock Chase.

1330hrs: The Observer Corps estimate some 250 plus aircraft in total and keep track of them as they break into separate groups. 43 squadron Tangmere and 253 Squadron Kenley are vectored to cover the Dungeness area while 613 Squadron was vectored a little more to the east. 72 Squadron Croydon, and 111 Squadron Debden are vectored to cover the Thames Estuary.

72 Squadron is one of the first to make contact. Intercepting a formation of Do17s and Bf110s over the Isle Of Thanet a fierce combat takes place over the towns of Margate and Herne Bay. For nearly twenty minutes, the twisting and spiralling shapes of aircraft weaving this way and that fill the skies. It is now nothing new to the residents below. They were now used to the dogfights that were occurring almost daily above their towns.

F/L E. Graham of 72 Squadron swings around to line up a Dornier in his gunsight, suddenly a Bf110 comes in from the side firing at the Spitfire. The Flight Lieutenant breaks off the engagement with the bomber and takes evasive action, pulling hard up as the 110 flies past below him and he pulls the stick hard to starboard and now finds himself hard on the heels of the twin engined fighter bomber. The Bf110 weaves left and then right but the Spitfire, more manoeuvrable sticks to him like glue and closing in starts a series of three to four second bursts. Pieces start to fly off the doomed 110 then another short burst and the bomber sheds smoke and descends sharply. The gunner is seen to bale out, but the pilot manages to make a crash landing at Hougham just north of Dover and sets fire to the aircraft before he is captured by the authorities.

In the meantime, one of the Spitfires is damaged by gunfire from one of the Dorniers. The action now is over Herne Bay. Another of 72 Squadron's Spitfires is attacked by a Bf110 and shot down, but this time is crashes into the ground and burst into flames. The dogfighting grows in intensity as more than 80 Bf109s swoop down and into the combat over Herne Bay and Margate. 603 Squadron arrives to assist. By now, most of the action is between the fighters, the bombers managed to carry on leaving the fighters to break up into their own small groups and a series of individual dogfights emerged.

1345hrs: The German fighters managed to hold the fighters of the RAF even though the casualty rate on the German side was the greater. Some started to retreat, and one of them was tailed by F/L R.H. Hillary back across the Channel and it is not until reaching the French coast that Hillary manages to damage the 109. Then on the way back he runs into a dozen patrolling Bf109s. He come down at full throttle and opens up hitting one 109 sending it blazing down into the Channel before he makes a quick exit back to base.

When five miles off Sheppy I saw a formation of 109s. I chased one over to France and  fired at it. I saw the EA's perspex hood break up but as it was a head on attack I was unable to see anything more of it. I then saw a squadron of 109s at the same height as myself, 23,000 feet.....I attacked the outside Bf109 with three short bursts and saw it spin down emitting black and white smoke. After a few seconds it caught fire.
P/O R.H. Hillary 603 Squadron Fighter Command RAF
But there was still no let up. Another 200+ bombers were detected, and again Fighter Command and its tired pilots went into battle. Eastchurch, Detling, Kenley and Hornchurch were targeted and sustained minor damage. But it was the airfield at Brooklands that caused the gravest concern to Keith Park. Although not a Fighter Command airfield, the aircraft factories of Vickers and Hawker were based there, and any damage caused here would delay fighter and bomber production at a time when they could not afford it.

According to Park, the attack on Brooklands should never have happened. Dowding and Park had for some time thought that the Luftwaffe may turn from bombing the RAF airfields and turn their attention on aircraft factories. For this reason orders had been given for squadrons from Tangmere to patrol a line from Guildford to the south-west of London as far as the south coast. On this day, it was 234 Squadron St Eval (Spitfires) who were patrolling the line, but they were instructed to move forwards to engage the enemy over Dover and Margate leaving the way clear for Do17s to fly direct towards Brooklands. Fortunately for Fighter Command, although the bombers were supposed to destroy the Hawker factory which was producing Hurricanes, they hit the Vickers factory instead and delayed temporarily the production of Wellington bombers.

The intense fighting was having a serious effect on both German fighter and bomber crews. Like the pilots of Fighter Command, no sooner had they landed, refuelled and rearmed, they were up again having to prolong the long journey across the Channel before the RAF could be engaged. The Bf109s, although operating from just across the narrowest part of the Channel, pilots were still staying too long in combat with the British that many ran out of fuel before reaching the coast of France, and the result was a crash landing in the choppy waters of the Channel.

For the first time, British losses were heavier than the Germans, but Germany could afford this as they had more planes and for a while, it seemed that victory was not in sight for the British and that Germany was at last getting the upper hand of the battle.
Biggin, Hornchurch, Croydon, North Weald, Debden, Detling, Eastchurch and Hawkinge were all damaged, and although still operational they were not at full capacity or working with the efficiency that was hoped, only Tangmere and Kenley had escaped much of the constant bombing.

Goering, Sperle and Kesselring could now see that, at long last the tide was turning in their favour. German intelligence reports had stated that a number of the British airfields were now, because of the constant bombing, non-operational.

The tactics that we have now implemented in the last month, that is moving our fighter squadrons to the Pas de Calais so that they will have more time over enemy territory with our bombers. The culmination of larger formations of heavy bombers, that we have drawn from different advanced airfields and Gruppes. The added support of out Bf110 squadrons that are doing damage in their bombing role as well as that of the fighter. All this, must be a formidable sight to the British as they, with a deteriorating Air Force try to penetrate our attacks.

My fellow commanders, we are now on the brink of victory. An assault and an invasion of England is now more promising than ever before. Our intelligence has now informed us that the RAF is now down to less than a hundred fighter aircraft, the airfields protecting London are out of action because of the superb and accurate bombing of our bomber forces, their communications are in disarray, and now we are told, their air commanders are arguing with each other.

Gentlemen, another phase is now almost complete. The RAF is now no longer the great threat that it used to be, and we can now draw every available fighter plane that the RAF has into the air, because the next target must be London itself.......

Generalfeldmarschal Herman Goering at The Hague, September 3rd 1940
Time, at this stage, was running out for the planned 'Operation Sea Lion'. Early estimates were that the Royal Air Force would be knocked out of the air and on the ground within two or three weeks. But that was over two months ago, and still Fighter Command, Dowding and Park were managing to hold on and fight back.
Kesselring agreed with Goering and accepted the reports of the German Intelligence. He had been all in favour of an all out attack on London for some time, but Hitler's instruction that London was not to be attacked curtailed any plan of bombing missions on the English capital. But since the bombers of RAF Bomber Command had bombed Berlin, the ban on London had now been lifted.
If they send over a hundred bombers to bomb our cities.....then we shall send a thousand planes to bomb theirs. And if they think that they can destroy our cities.......then we shall wipe theirs from the face of the earth.
Adolph Hitler addressing a rally after the bombing of Berlin
Goering also stated to his commanders, that the time was right for a preparation to the forthcoming invasion. We must now continually bomb London and the surrounding aircraft factories, and the London Docks.
Kesselring gave his enthusiastic support to Goering's plan; he had been pressing for some time for an all out attack on London. But General Sperle, commanding Luftflotte 3, disagreed as usual with Kesselring. 'Continue to attack their fighter bases by day', he argued, 'and by night, the London Docks'. His strategy, had it been followed, might well have given the Luftwaffe victory over the RAF fighters. But Goering, who had already made one fatal error in sparing the RAF's radar stations, and Kesselring, an ex-soldier ill versed in air strategy, prevailed. London was to be the Luftwaffe's new target; plans for the Zielwechsel (target change) now went urgently ahead.

The attack on London was code-named Loge, after the god who forged Siegfried's sword. It only remained for the Fuhrer to put the new offensive across to the German public.

Peter Townsend - Duel in the Dark (Harrap London 1986)

....Two further pilots have come to us straight from a Lysander squadron with no experience whatsoever 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 funny way to run a war.......
Squadron Leader A.V.R.(Sandy) Johnstone 602 Squadron Fighter Command RAF *

1700hrs: Radar at Dover, Pevensey and Foreness picked up a number of formations building up across the Channel near Calais. As is often the case, the accumulate into one large formation then break away into smaller formations again with each going to its own designated target. 46 Squadron Stapleford (Hurricanes) are vectored to the Thames Estuary as is 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires), 111 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), 222 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires), 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) and 616 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires).

1715hrs: A large dogfight started to develop over the Thames Estuary, but not before some of the bombers managed to get through the defences and make their attack on the aerodromes of Detling and Eastchurch. Damage at Detling was considerable with an estimated 100 bombs being dropped on the airfield causing many craters and wrecking one of the main hangars. Detling was non-operational for the next three hours. Eastchurch, which earlier had administration buildings damaged, the NAAFI destroyed and water and sewage pipes ruptured, now came under another attack and this time another hangar was destroyed as well as more buildings. Suffering severe damage, Eastchurch was later declared non-operational and while most of the station was moved to Wymswold Warden, the base hospital and sick bay was transferred into the village.

1725hrs: Some 50 bombers and an escort of about 40 Bf109s  managed to get through to Hornchurch. 603 Squadron are pulled back to protect the airfield. Under the harassment, many of the bombs drop wide of their target and damage to the aerodrome is only minimal. P/O R.H. Hillary with already two destroyed, and one damaged lines up yet another and fire a series of short bursts, but is forced to return to base and can only claim it as a probable. 72 Squadron, already having become involved in the combat lands, refuels and rearms and is back again in the action calling it "a hell of a day" but squadron records show that it claims 18 victories.

303 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) have been pulled into the combat to assist tired and weary squadrons already in the air and are vectored to the Dover/Deal area. Many of the enemy aircraft have decided to turn back and 303 Squadron meet them on their return. The manage to damage a couple of Bf109s and a Do17 but one their own receives damage and has to make a forced landing in open ground outside Dover.

It had not been a kind day to Fighter Command. Just about every squadron in 11 Group had been airborne, some had been up three or four times, and in all over 750 sorties had been flown. But the price was heavy. even though 35 German aircraft had been shot down, 33 RAF fighters had been shot down with 13 of these destroyed. But the day brought two remarkable achievements. That of P/O Richard Hillary that has been described above, and that of F/O Harborne Stephen flying with 74 Squadron who managed to claim five enemy shot down in one morning. At daybreak, he managed to shoot down to Bf109s, then landed and went and had breakfast. An hour later he was involved with an attack on a formation of Bf110s over the Channel where he claimed one more to his days tally. By mid morning he downed another Bf110 which was making an attack on a Spitfire. Then just prior to midday, he made an attack on Bf109s escorting Ju87s on a Channel raid and sent one crashing onto a south coast beach.

But all was not yet finished. The evening brought a little relief, but just after midnight the bombers came over in small formations, first over the Essex coast, then later on the south coast. Swanage was attacked, bombs fell at Leighton Buzzard, and in the north Merseyside was attacked and in the Midlands the areas of Birmingham and Wolverhampton failed to escape bomb damage.

1250hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane P3875. 111 Squadron Debden
Sgt. Listed as missing. (Shot down while in combat. Body never found)
1330hrs: Ivychurch (Kent) Hurricane V7420 43 Squadron Tangmere
P/O C.A. Woods-Scawen killed. (Aircraft caught fire after combat with Bf109 and pilot baled out too low)
1630hrs: Dungeness. Hurricane L1578. 501 Squadron Gravesend
F/O A.T. Rose-Price Listed as missing. (Failed to return to base after combat action)
1730hrs: Thames Estuary. Hurricane P3067. 46 Squadron Stapleford
P/O J.C.L.D. Bailey killed. (Shot down while engaged in combat with enemy. Was not seen to bale out)



After early morning mist, especially in low lying areas, the south and south-east should experience a warm and fine day. Possibility of haze in many Channel areas. In the north, most areas can expect low cloud and drizzle with scattered heavy falls along the north-east coast and southern Scotland.


0830hrs: A large build-up is forming over the Pas de Calais. Again, Bf109 fighters advance ahead of the Dornier Do17s and Messerschmitt Bf110 bombers. Again Fighter Command refuse to engage the leading fighters, instead timing their take offs to engage the main bomber force at the latest possible moment, this way, the leading Bf109s have used up valuable fuel and it would not be long before they had to return back towards their bases.

0930hrs: The bombers are flying up the Thames and just off of Canvey Island make their turn north-west. It becomes obvious, that the targets would be North Weald or Debden, although Park was taking no chances that the German bombers could come in towards London from the north.

603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) was given the order to "scramble", and it was clear now that the German formation consisted of 50+ Dornier Do17s, 80 Bf110s and 40+ Bf109s. 249 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) and 17 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) were also "scrambled" and between them done all in their power to abort any attack by the German bombers.

Squadron Leader Richard Hillary of 603 Squadron had just had a new canopy fitted to his Spitfire and for some reason as the "scramble" call sounded, he and a Corporal on the ground staff tried desperately to free it by grinding, filing and oiling, but it was stuck fast. But with sheer determination, they manage to get it open halfway, Hillary climbed in, took off and flew the rest of the sortie with the canopy half open.

In another incident. Two Blenheim's, returning to North Weald were accidently mistaken for Bf110s by a couple of Hurricane pilots. They opened fire on the helpless fighter bombers only to shoot down and destroy two of their own aircraft.

It is estimated that over 150 bombs fell on North Weald, many of them delayed-action which caused substantial damage. The hangars belonging to 25 and 151 Squadrons were severely damages by bombs and the fire that broke out afterwards. A  number of buildings were hit also the main stores depot. The new sector operations room got a direct hit and although suffering severe damage managed to continue operations. Communications with the Observer Corps was severed with the exception of just one line. In the attack, four personnel on the ground are killed with twenty injured. [1]

After the bombing, we heard machine guns firing off and thought that they had got the ammunitions dump. The decontamination centre proved to be far from bomb-proof. The M.T. Yard was ablaze. The Ops block had been hit, but not much damage had been done. The was a D-A bomb outside the telephone exchange. In fact, except the officers' mess, which survived both raids, there was hardly any building that hadn't been damaged. They got some of the hangars, but all our aircraft were up, except a few which were being serviced.

I and two other plotters climbed into a civilian lorry and went off to Emergency Ops. All the service transport in the yard had been blown up. On the way, we thought there was another attack coming, but it was our aircraft returning.

We ran Ops from Emergency Ops, and worked all that day and through the next night. We had to cook for ourselves and the airmen.

Aircraftwoman Cooper then stationed at North Weald
0945hrs: Hornchurch and Debden also received considerable damage, but all stations remained operational. From Duxford, 310 Czech Squadron encountered a formation of Bf110s of 1Z/G2 and surprised the German pilots with outrageous manoeuvres and daredevil antics. They screamed in for the kill with throttles wide open, calling and shouting excitedly in their own language. On their return to base, they were all given a dressing down by their station commander, who stated that their rather unusual methods of attacking not only caused a danger to themselves, but to all those that shared the sky with them. They were also told that such unconventional methods must cease immediately. The station commander then finished off by reading a memorandum from Fighter Command who congratulated them on their actions and in the shooting down and destruction of 4 Bf110s and their crews.

Park had ordered as many as eleven squadrons up. Including assistance from 12 Group who sent the Czech 310 Squadron (Hurricanes) to provide assistance cover at North Weald. Coming in from the north east they were immediately thrown into the action. They met the Bf110s of I/ZG2 and as the fighter bombers weaved, intent on completing their attack on the airfield, the Czech squadron managed to claim four Bf110s.
In total, five Bf110s of ZG2 were destroyed. The first was when a Bf110 (3M+EK) collided with another Bf110 (3M+HL) and crashed and exploded in flames at Harlow north of North Weald at 1045hrs. The Bf110 (3M+HL) was at the time being pursued by Hurricanes of 310 Squadron and trying to take evasive action when it collided with 3M+EK. Although 310 Squadron made a claim for this Bf110 it really could not be accepted. It crashed at Epping south of North Weald. Also at 1045hrs, prior to attacking North Weald, a Bf110 (3M+BK) was attacked by Spitfires of 222 Squadron Hornchurch and shot down at Reculver. Both crew baled out and were captured by motor boat crew off Herne Bay. At 1100hrs, P/O J.M.V. Carpenter of 222 Squadron Hornchurch, Sgt. B. Furst of 310 Squadron Duxford and Sgt. G.C. Unwin of 19 Squadron Duxford all laid claims for the destruction of Bf110 (3M+CB) which crashed at Stowmaries. Finally, at 1118hrs, a Bf110 (3M+EL) was shot down possibly by F/O Count M.B. Czernin of 17 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) and crashed at Canewden Essex.[2]

It is interesting to note regarding this last mentioned crash of Bf110 3M+EL.that excavators in the 1970's had to dig to a depth of 35 feet before both engines were recovered, as well as six propeller blades, a tail wheel that was still inflated and undercarriage struts. Also found were instruments from the cockpit, the control column, a first aid kit, a gunners tool kit, and pieces of the tailfin that still bore markings of the Swastika.

In addition to the above, Bf110s of ZG26 also on escort duty to Do17 bombers, came under attack over the southern coast of Essex. One of them was damaged by British fighters over Southend where it had to make a crash landing. P/O Count Czernin of 17 Squadron claimed another when he shot down another Bf110 over Wickford at 1030hrs, although claims for this aircraft was also made by Sub Lt J.C. Carpenter of 46 Squadron. Then Spitfires of 54 Squadron attacked another Bf110 over the Thames Estuary at 1038hrs and partially disabled it. It was finally shot down by F/O B. van Menz of 222 Squadron over Southend where it crashed at North Shoebury House.

1000hrs: With the damage done, and North Weald in a shambles, Hornchurch damaged but only regarded as minor and parts of Tilbury and the London Docks also damaged by H.E and I.B, the raiders began their retreat back eastwards. 19 Squadron Duxford (Spitfires) and 310 Squadron Duxford (Hurricanes) managed to intercept about 50 Do17s with about 100 Bf109s returning after their raids on East London. S/L P.C. Pinkham had taken 19 Squadron up to 20,000 feet and managed to look down on the returning enemy with a still burning North Weald as a backdrop. Three of the aircraft that swooped down on the enemy formation suffered with jammed guns. Green section fared better and managed to down two Bf110s and another was seen to be trying to escape by flying at about 50 above the waters of the Thames Estuary towards Whitstable.

Meanwhile, 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) are warned by the Hornchurch controller that they have about 50 plus bandits above them. 603 Squadron decide to go in line astern and at the same time the 109s dive towards the Spitfires. The British fighters have no time to gain height, and the climb is aborted so as to attempt to gain speed. But the Bf109s in their dive already have the momentum and their speed is far greater than that of the Spitfires. With defensive actions, 603 Squadron turn and meet the 109s and a dogfight that means every man for himself. P/O R.H. Hillary lines up a target and fire short bursts, but the Messerschmitt fails to go down. How much more punishment can it take. Hillary gives it another four second burst, smoke starts to appear, it gets thicker then suddenly the 109 explodes into flame and falls towards the sea.

Just as the Bf109 exploded, Hillary's Spitfire vibrates as he himself has taken a hit. In an instant, the cockpit of the Spitfire bursts into flames, Hillary tries to open the cockpit hood, but it is stuck fast. The new hood has given nothing but trouble ever since it was fitted. He undoes his harness in an attempt to gain better leverage. Flames are now licking all over him. He gives every ounce of his strength to open the jammed canopy and it slides slowly,  he has to release his hold as he is near exhaustion. He tries to grab the control column to turn the Spitfire on its back, but the heat is far too intense and raises his hands over his face for protection but faints in the process. The Spitfire starts to spin and somehow as it rolls over on its back during an uncontrollable roll, P/O Richard Hillary, still in an unconscious state falls from the plane at about 10,000 feet.

He free falls, how many feet he does not know, but the cold air slowly brings him out of unconsciousness. He realizes where he is, out of the burning plane and free falling. He pulls the ripcord, and his body suddenly comes to a thump as the canopy of silk takes effect and he glides slowly down towards the sea off the town of Margate. Many observe him coming down in the sea, but the Margate lifeboat has difficulty in locating him and searched for three hours. Eventually he is picked up, suffering serious burns to his face and body, and never to see action in the Battle of Britain again. [3]

In his book The Last Enemy Richard Hillary thought about the pilots that he was to maim or kill during the battle:

I wondered what he was like, this man I would kill. Was he young, was he fat, would he die with the Führers name on his lips, or would he die alone, in that last moment conscious of himself as a man? I would never know. Then I was being strapped in, my mind automatically checking the controls, and we were off.
P/O R.H. Hillary 603 Squadron RAF in his book The Last Enemy
For Richard Hillary the tables had been turned. We can now wonder if Hauptmann E. Bode of II/JG26, the man who shot him down had the same thoughts and feelings as his victim had.

1030hrs: Hermann Göring had arranged a meeting with his Air Fleet Commanders and it was at the Hague that they all met, with the usual introductions of wine, delicacies and light hearted humour before getting down to the serious business of discussing the current situation as it stood at the moment. (Göring was a lover of good food and wine and nearly all meetings organized commenced or ended with a fine banquet).

The Luftwaffe Commander-in-Chief told his commanders that there were a number of reasons that progress had been slow and that he makes no apologies that Adlerangriff had not yet been completed. He told the commanders that the attacks on the RAF airfields had not been heavy enough, that they had made concentrated attacks on Biggin Hill and that although it was still operational, its efficiency had been greatly reduced. We cannot ease up on these attacks he stated, and that we must continue with our unleashing power to continue, with greater number of aircraft, make more use of the Bf110 because of its greater range than the Bf109, which should be used as an advance fighter do draw the British fighters into the air.

Göring stated that he believed that he was under pressure to make preparations for an all out attack on British cities including London itself. But, the British air force is still giving London full protection, and Germany would be foolhardy to yet make any attack on the capital. "We must," he emphasised, "completely demoralise and destroy the British Royal Air Force before any major raids can be launched. And that, we have almost achieved, as the reports that I have at hand state that the enemy is now down to its reserves." To  continue these attacks the way will soon be open for all out raids on their cities in safety.

Albert Kesselring commander of Luflotten (Air Fleet) 2 while in agreeance with his commander that the Royal Air Force was low on machines and pilots as he agreed with German intelligence that the RAF had very few fighter aircraft left, but believed that the raids on British cities including London should commence at once. On the other hand, Hugo Sperle, commander of Luftflotten 3 based in Paris was a little more apprehensive. He stated that he could not agree that the RAF was down to its last reserves, and that his sources state that the British Royal Air Force still had in excess of 600 aircraft based on operations in the southern portion of England and that a further reinforcement of 400 aircraft could be called upon from areas in the north and west bringing a total of 1000 fighters. Sperle was really closer to the truth than Göring or Kesselring.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, they saw things differently. AVM Keith Park (Commander of 11 Group) was concerned about the lack of serviceable aircraft, but even more so, the lack of fully trained pilots to fly the aircraft. At Bentley Priory, ACM Hugh Dowding agreed, stating that the situation was grim and that things may get worse before they get better. Regarding the number of serviceable aircraft available, both Göring and Sperle were way off of the actual and true figure. Throughout the month of August 1940, the number of aircraft that was available for operations remained steady in number even accounting for some terrible losses, and thanks must surely go to Canadian Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Aircraft Production for the effort in continuing being able to produce aircraft under strenuous circumstances. But for Park and Dowding, the figures were not good. The month of July 1940 produced more aircraft than was planned, but during the following months, even though a considerable number of aircraft rolled off the production lines, it was still below the number of aircraft planned. We can again look at the number of aircraft planned and the number produced in [ Document 42 ]

1400hrs: After the success of the mornings attack, the Luftwaffe attempted another series of raids, and following the same course and pattern as they had done just five hours previously. However, this was a light-hearted affair in comparison with the morning raids. Fighter Command put up the usual strong opposition once the attackers had crossed the coast. More squadrons, and a request for 12 Group to give protection to North Weald again, were put up and this time Keith Park was prepared. But most of the raids were aborted and many of the RAF fighter squadron began chasing the enemy back towards their own coastline. No damage was recorded.

AVM Keith Park was concerned by the number of aircraft that he did have available, and of course the number of trained pilots he had to fly them. According to Parks biographer Vincent Orange Keith Park knew that the ultimate target for Germany.....London was not too far off. But as he had informed Hugh Dowding and Lord Beaverbrook, as long as we can show strength and dominance in the defence of southern England, be can hold off, but if a high attrition rate occurs, the time left that would be available to them will be drastically shortened.

In these first few days of September, Park brought to the attention of Hugh Dowding, that he believed that the squadrons transferred to 11 Group from 12 Group were not highly trained pilots and compared these with those that had been transferred from 13 Group. He made a comparison that showed that squadrons transferred from 13 Group had been credited with forty-three aircraft destroyed at a cost of two pilots missing and two wounded, while those transferred from 12 Group had brought down only seventeen aircraft and had lost a total of thirteen pilots for the same period. Park claimed that AVM Richard Saul always chose experienced squadrons to be transferred to units in the south, where AVM Leigh-Mallory did not.

Park wrote about the state of affairs of 11 Group that had occurred over the last few days:

"Contrary to general belief and official reports, the enemy's bombing attacks by day did extensive damage to five of our forward aerodromes, and also to six of our seven sector stations." Manston and Lympne were unfit for operations 'on several occasions for days' and Biggin Hill was so severely damaged that for over a week it could operate only one squadron. Had the Luftwaffe continued to attack these sectors, 'the fighter defences of London would have been in a parlous state during the last critical phase when heavy attacks have been directed against the capital."

Sector operation rooms suffered both from direct hits and damage to landlines. They all had to use emergency rooms, though these were too small and poorly equipped to cope with the normal control of three squadrons per sector.

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, C-in-C 11 Group
On the German side, even though no was prepared to admit it, the state of affairs was in reality even worse. The RAF claims at the time regarding the number of enemy aircraft shot down was well above the actual true figure. This was partly due to the antiquated way of establishing a days tally. If many of the pilots were a little more truthful about their claims a more realistic figure may have been reached. Pilots were asked at the end of a mission if they had any 'kills' to report, many pilots claimed for enemy aircraft that they shot at, went down bellowing smoke, but did not see them actually crash, often due to the fact that they had become locked in combat with another enemy aircraft. Many were honest and claimed it as a probable, but it was often the case that is was claimed as a 'kill'. In a number of cases pilots were asked to describe any markings, and when these were given, they were told that two other pilots had also claimed that aircraft. Was there another way, possibly not, but the high figure given done wonders for public morale.

According to Williamson Murray, the author of "Strategy for Defeat - The Luftwaffe" the Luftwaffe possessed on June 29th 1940, a total aircraft strength of 4,482 aircraft. During the period July-September 1940 the total destroyed both on operations and on non-operations was 1,636 that is 37% of the total strength destroyed. Of these, the highest casualty rate was for the Bf110 twin engined fighter which at June 29th had a total of 357 and in the July-September period lost 235 in total and of this 214 were due to enemy action, 66% of all Bf110s had been destroyed. Next highest on the list was the Bf109. Out of 1,107 aircraft, 518 were destroyed, that is 47% of their original number.

Then if we quickly look at the number of aircraft damaged, we find that things do not get any better. Of the original 4,482 aircraft available on June 29th 1940, 697 aircraft had been damaged in some way. That is a staggering 52% if we combine the destroyed and damaged totals together of the original total.

If we look at the figures just for the month past, that is August 1940, we find the following table:


The attrition rate as seen from the above table was exceptionally high, and this must have had some sort of impact on crews and on morale. As the table indicates, the pilot losses for August were disproportionally high compared to actual aircraft losses, undoubtedly reflecting the fact that most of the air fighting occurred over the Channel or over British territory. [4]

1035hrs: River Crouch (Poss). Hurricane P3064. 46 Squadron Stapleford
Sgt G.H. Edworthy Listed as missing. (Believed to have crashed in River after combat over Essex coast)
1045hrs: Ingatestone Essex. Hurricane P3518. 257 Squadron Debden
P/O C.R. Bon Seigneur killed. (Shot down by EA. Baled out but fell dead soon after landing)
1055hrs: Foulness Island. Hurricane P3539. 17 Squadron Debden
F/O D.H.W. Hanson killed. (Shot down but baled out of aircraft at 100 feet. Killed on impact)
1115hrs: North Weald. Blenheim L1512. 25 Squadron North Weald
P/O D. Hogg killed (Thought to have been Bf110 and shot down by Hurricane. Sgt E. Powel baled out unhurt)
1130hrs: Chart Sutton (Kent). Hurricane P3782. 1 Squadron Northolt
P/O R.H. Shaw Listed as missing. (Crashed from unknown circumstances. Pilot killed in aircraft)
1130hrs: Location unkown. Hurricane P3044. 1 Squadron Northolt
F/Lt H.B.L. Hillcoat Listed as missing. (Failed to return from standard squadron patrol)

* Later Air Vice Marshal A.V.R. Johnstone.
[1] John Frayn Turner The Battle of Britain Airlife 1998 p86
[2] Details from The Blitz Then & Now Vol1 edited by Winston S.Ramsey p304
[3] Dennis Newton A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial 1990 p152
[4] Williamson Murray Strategy For Defeat Quintet 1986 pp48-50

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Document 42.   Aircraft production during the Battle of Britain

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