The Chronology: Page-35
Thursday September 5th - Friday September 6th 1940



After a clear night, the morning period all over Britain should be clear with good to excellent visibility and temperatures slightly above average. Cloud was expected to increase over the eastern coast north of East Anglia during the afternoon. The north of England and Scotland should have six tenths cloud cover and was expected to increase during the afternoon although this was to be high cloud with no rain expected. The Channel areas were expected to remain clear and fine for most of the day.


The day proved to be an ideal day for combat, the weather was clear with only a slight breeze. Conditions for flying were ideal, although Fighter Command were praying for rain and inclement weather. Dowding wanted some breathing space, some respite for the fighter airfields, especially those of 11 Group. Just a few days would relieve the pressure on the British pilots.
Although the directive had gone out that the Luftwaffe were to bomb the British cities, it was no doubt that this day, arrangements were already being made for the annihilation of London and the industrial centres of the Midlands. But in the meantime, the Luftwaffe were resting many of their heavy bombers and quite a number had been moved from airfields further south to more strategic airfields closer to the French coast. For the time being, the Luftwaffe would continue its attacks of RAF airfields and aircraft factories in an effort to wear down Fighter Command.

1000hrs: German bombers are detected approaching at two points, one wave crosses the coast between Dover and Folkestone while the other comes in from the Thames Estuary, both formations are from Kesselrings Luftflotte 2. It is estimated that the whole attack is represented by no less that twenty separate small formations.

41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) which had spent a considerable amount of time at Catterick had now been moved down to Hornchurch and they were immediately sent to the satellite station at Manston and were despatched to intercept the enemy over the Thames Estuary. 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) had an early "scramble" and were directed to intercept at Dover. 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) were also despatched as was 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires).

The Manston based 41 Squadron immediately make their presence felt. F/L J.T. Webster comes hard down on a Bf109 over South London who was about to engage one of the Hurricanes. A couple of short bursts miss, the Bf109 takes evasive action but F/L Webster weaves and sways keeping the 109 in his gunsight. Another short burst and smoke trails from the Messerschmitt and it glides down finally making a forced landing just outside the village of Adlington Kent. F/L J.T. Webster is also thought to have shot down another Bf109 while over the South London area. The Bf109 (6+) withdrew and losing height and finally made a forced landing near Faversham in Kent. The Bf109 of Oberlt Franz von Werra Gruppe Adjutant of Staab II/JG3 was shot down over Marden in Kent by P/O B.G. Stapleton of 603 Squadron Hornchurch, although it is believed that the Bf109 sustained original damage after being hit by gunfire from the Spitfire of P/O G.H. Bennions of 41 Squadron Hornchurch.
Oberlt Franz von Werrra was captured and taken to the authorities and finally transferred to a prisoner of war camp in Canada where he made good his escape by making his way to the USA and finally by boat to Europe where he re-joined his unit and flew again against Fighter Command.

This man is believed by many to be the German ace, Oblt Franz von Werra. The bravado von Werra displayed as a fighter ace among his comrades remained with him as a POW. He proved difficult to hold and made numerous escape attempts.

With other prisoners, he was transferred to Canada. In Nova Scotia the prisoners were transported by rail from Halifax to their new camp and en route von Werra forced open a window and jumped from the moving train. This time he was not recaptured and made good his escape by crossing the nearby border into the United States which was still neutral.
He was the only German aviator to escape from British custody and return to fight for his country again.

Concerning the combat which resulted in von Werra's fall into British hands, there is confusion. That he crash landed on 5th September at Winchet Hill is not disputed but other circumstances surrounding the incident are open to question.

After returning to Germany, von Werra eventually became commanding officer of 1/JG 53 on the Russian front. He shot down 13 Russian planes to bring his tally to 21 but on 25 October 1941 the engine of his Bf109 failed and it plunged into the sea near Vlissingen. He was drowned.

Denis Newton A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial Canberra 1990 p157
1030hrs: Croydon was attacked, as was Biggin Hill, Eastchurch, Lympne and North Weald. More damage is sustained, but only Biggin Hill again gives cause for concern. 79 Squadron (Hurricanes) is the only squadron operating from Biggin, 72 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) is told to remain at Croydon for the time being.
A formation of Do17s and Bf109 escorts come in from the Thames Estuary and head in the direction of South London. Too far to the south to be targeting London, for some reason the target is again that of.....Biggin Hill. 79 Squadron is scrambled and with some miraculous flying breaks up the Dorniers and they drop their bombs well off target.

Most of the mornings raids were confined to the north Kent coast, the aerodromes of Biggin Hill and Croydon with Hornchurch and scattered raids across Essex as far as Harwich. Other areas that came under attack were targets of no importance across mid Kent where it is believed that German bombers dropped their bomb loads at random on the return journey. Biggin Hill is again a shambles and Group Captain Grice states that he now has only one hangar left standing, and even that is nothing but a burnt out shell and the commander issues orders to place explosive charges in it and destroy it at the next raid. [1]

1225hrs: Another huge formation is detected, again coming in from the Thames Estuary. The are at high altitude, some 20,000 feet, and quite a number of formations were so high that the were undetected by both radar and the Observer Corps.

1300hrs: One of the formations is intercepted by 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) it is found that the formation consists of about 50 plus Ju88s and Heinkel 111s escorted by about 100 Bf109s as escorts. The main target is the oil storage tanks at Thameshaven causing serious damage. Giant palls of thick arid black smoke can be seen for miles. 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) is joined by 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), and both squadrons are attacked by a recently arrived formation of Bf109s. Some of the Hurricanes are jumped on by surprise and four of them are shot down with one of the pilots killed. 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) operating out of Kenley also mixes it with the Bf109s with only one Bf109 being shot down.

1400hrs: Many of the bomber formations manage to get through Fighter Commands defences although a number of Bf109s were casualties of the afternoon battle. Many of the airfields and towns along the Thames were still cleaning up after the mornings raids when now, almost mid-afternoon they were witnessing German bombers making their way to their targets and the tell tale spirals of fighter dogfighting high above.

1500hrs: The afternoon raid was almost a couple of hours old and still damage was being recorded and aircraft were being shot down, but this last hour of the battle was the most active of the afternoon. Most squadrons were either only recently arrived replacing those that had returned to their bases to refuel and rearm or had been recalled back into the skirmish. 41 Squadron Manston (Spitfires) were now back into the affray, as was 66 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires) that had been called in to relieve squadrons returning to base. One of the squadrons that had been in the thick of the action since just after midday was 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) and they were just about to return to base to refuel and rearm, 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) were despatched to the Essex coast after a formation of Ju88s had been detected, 111 Squadron Croydon and 253 Squadron Kenley, both equipped with Hurricanes became involved in combat over the Thames Estuary.

In the meantime, S/L Zdzislaw Krasnodebski's 303 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) was in action over the south coast even though the squadrons actions was deemed 'questionable' even by AVM Keith Park since they had commenced an impressive record from August 30th when the squadron  had made their first claim.

Even the Northolt Commander Group Captain Vincent was a little wary of the number of claims being made by the Poles, and told the base intelligence officer to 'treat the Poles claims very carefully and go through them with a fine tooth comb.' Vincent was beginning to believe that each of the Poles were organising false and fake claims, and when the squadron was despatched to Tilbury and Thameshaven he decided that he, along with S/L Ronald Kellett who had assisted in the formation of the squadron, go up and see the Poles in action for themselves.

What Vincent saw, at 21,000 feet over Thameshaven, astern of the Poles and 1,000 feet below, was a sight he would remember till he died — tier upon tier of glinting, well-drilled Dorniers, two Hurricanes, poised 1,000 feet above, suddenly crash diving into space with near-suicidal impetus, a sudden ripple of agitation running through the mighty horde as the leading Dorniers, foreseeing head-on collision, turned and broke. This was the spearhead. As the bombers scattered, Pole after Pole was diving — holding their fire until twenty yards distant, accepting the awful risk that the last great explosion would destroy them, too. Amazed, Vincent saw planes and parachutes fluttering like charred paper through the sky. Kellett, an Me 109 and Sergeant Kazimierz Wunsche fought only 100 yards apart, the sergeant closing to sixty yards to save Kellett’s life. Flying Officer Waclaw Lapkowski baled out with a broken arm. Polish fighters angrily nosed Vincent’s Hurricane aside, grudging him so much as one chance shot at a crippled bomber. Back at Northolt, fevered with excitement, Vincent sent for the intelligence officer: My God, they are doing it; it isn’t just imagination.’
Richard Collier Eagle Day-The Story of the Battle of Britain Hodder & Staughton 1966 p177
1600hrs: As the German bombers made their way home, Staffels of Bf109s came out across the Channel to provide escort on a day that although it may have seemed impressive, was not all that claimed to be by the Luftwaffe. Thameshaven was the only target which they claimed was a success, and just about the last nail had been hammered home in Biggin Hill's coffin, but other than that any damage done was not to have any effect on Fighter Command. The Hawker factory at Brooklands was hit, but damage was only slight and the casualties were few. Maidstone was hit and demolished a part of one street and the attacks on Detling and Eastchurch were by no means going to affect Fighter Command. For those that were keeping score, it was 23 German planes down for 20 RAF fighters, a fairly even score sheet in reality.
Hitler had ordered "crush" the RAF, it was evident that the RAF was so far uncrushable. Fighter Command was attacking Berlin and lashing out nightly against the German invasion fleet - to the discomfort of the Kriegsmarine which Hitler counted on to transport his invasion troops to England's shores.
Peter Townsend 85 Squadron from his book The Odds Against Us

Will not the British ever learn. Their bombers come and kill innocent German people, and I have given them fair warning. We have told you before, that the nights when the British bombers do not attack our capital, our glorious Luftwaffe has forcibly stopped the British bombers in their tracks and they have had to turn for home. But now, the time is right, the British air force is down to its last reserves, they cry for pity, and I will give them pity for I will wipe London from the face of the earth. I want fire everywhere, thousands of them and then they will unite in one gigantic area of conflagration.
Adolph Hitler September 1940 on deciding that London should be bombed.

The statement of the High Command obviously forced upon it by Hitler himself--he often takes a hand in writing the official army communiqués deliberately perpetrates the lie that Germany has only decided to bomb London as a result of the British first bombing Berlin. And the German people will fall for this, as they fall for almost everything they’re told nowadays. Certainly never before in modern times — since the press, and later the radio, made it theoretically possible for the mass of mankind to learn what was going on in the world — have a great people been so misled, so unscrupulously lied to, as the Germans under this regime.

And so tonight the High Command, which all good Germans believe tells only the gospel truth, issued a special communiqué saying that as reprisal for the British raids on Berlin, London was attacked with strong forces for the first time today As a result of this reprisal attack, it says, “one great cloud of smoke tonight stretches from the middle of London to the mouth of the Thames.”

To give American radio listeners an idea of the kind of propaganda (though I couldn’t label it as such) which the German people are being subjected to now, I read in my broadcast tonight the following quotation from today’s Berlin newspaper, the Biirsen Zeitung: “While the attack of the German air force is made on purely military objectives this fact is recognized by both the British press and radio — the RAF knows nothing better to do than continually attack non-military objectives in Germany. A perfect example of this was the criminal attack on the middle of Berlin last night. In this attack only lodging-houses were hit; not a single military objective.”

The German people have no inkling — because the Nazi press and radio have carefully suppressed the story — that in August alone more than one thousand English civilians were killed by the Luftwaffe's attacks on British "military objectives."

William L. Shirer The Rise of the Third Reich 1940-41 p214
As the darkness of night closes in on the evening of September 5th, British radar tracks a large formation of bombers heading towards the city of London. The night fighters of the RAF are not up to the task of attacking the bombers, the British are not experienced in night fighting. Hundreds of searchlights light up the night sky and the bombers are lit up like small white specks. Anti-aircraft fire follows but the bombers maintain their course.

Other formations attack Manchester and Liverpool causing damage, but all cities receive only the one air raid to which by now, most of the residents are getting used to the hit and run tactics of the night attacks. Numerous other towns were placed under a Red Alert and scattered attacks were made by German bomber formations.

But RAF Bomber Command are busy too. On one mission 85 bombers spent two hours over Berlin causing considerable damage, which I daresay did not please the German High Command one bit.
Other targets for Bomber Command were the oil refinery at Stettin, and although they were inconvenienced by some very accurate anti-aircraft fire, the mission was a success.

Because of the attacks being made on the aircraft factories and assembly lines, Keith Park was to take the necessary steps to provide cover for these establishments. Following a recommendation from AVM Hugh Dowding, Park was to give maximum protection possible to the Hawker factories at Kingston and Brooklands, and to the Supermarine works at Southampton. 12 Group was informed, that if 11 Group was to provide additional cover for Weybridge and Brooklands, he would need the support of 12 Group and that they would be called upon at short notice. The same was passed on to 10 Group, that they provide patrols from Brooklands to Croydon whenever there was heavy enemy activity in the area, although Park new that 12 Group was fairly heavily committed by having to cover the Essex and Norfolk coasts where a number of enemy formations had recently been keeping 12 Group busy.

Knowing that 12 Group would hastily respond to his request, AVM Quintin-Brand made available four extra squadrons that could cover the Southampton-Portsmouth area as soon as heavy raids had been detected. Park also brought down 504 Squadron who had been resting at Catterick and posted them to Hendon.

1015hrs: Birling Kent. Spitfire P9432. 19 Squadron Duxford
S/L P.C. Pinkham killed. (Shot down by Bf109 while in combat over Channel. Pilot went down with Aircraft)
1425hrs: Eltham. Spitfire N3093. 72 Squadron Croydon
Sgt M. Gray killed. (Crashed after combat with Bf109s. Aircraft seen to crash into Eltham Park Wood)
1425hrs: Eltham. Spitfire X4013. 72 Squadron Croydon
P/O D.C. Winter killed. (Shot down by Bf109 and tried to abandon aircraft at too low an altitude)
1525hrs: Thames Estuary. Spitfire R6635. 41 Squadron Hornchurch (based at Manston)
F/L J.T. Webster killed. (Collided with P9428. Pilot baled out but killed. Aircraft crashed at Laindon Essex)
1525hrs: Thames Estuary. Spitfire P9428. 41 Squadron Hornchurch (based at Manston)
S/L H.R.L. Hood listed as missing. (Collided with R6635. Aircraft disintegrated over Wickford)
1530hrs: Burnham Essex. Hurricane P3234. 73 Squadron Debden
Sgt A.L. McNey listed as missing. (Shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed at Nth Fambridge)
Crash site has been excavated and although portions of pilots harness and remains of parachute silk were discovered in aircraft remains there was no evidence of a human remains at crash site.
1600hrs: Rochester. Spitfire R6885. 66 Squadron Kenley
F/O P.J.C. King killed. (Shot down by Bf109s. Pilot baled out but parachute failed to open)



The fine weather of the previous days was expected to continue with the cloud in the north dispersing overnight and bringing fine weather to all areas. Temperatures could be a little lower, but still slightly above average.


The success of Bomber Command on the previous night would no doubt raise anger in the German halls of officialdom. Hugh Dowding and Keith Park knew by instinct that the overnight raids on Berlin especially, would bring about instant retaliation.

0300hrs: During the early morning darkness, a German aircraft drops a parachutist in Nottinghamshire. No one hears or sees the aircraft or notices the parachute silently gliding earthwards.

0800hrs: Radar and observation detected a number of single Bf109s over factories and industrial areas.
Park requests that Air Vice Marshal Brand of  10 Group to cover the number of factories at Weybridge and the upper reaches of the River Thames with a squadron of fighters. Brand gives this task to 609 Squadron Warmwell (Spitfires). 609 patrol the area, without incident but while they return to refuel, a formation of Bf110s get through and manage an attack on Brooklands. This time their aim is accurate and the Hawker factory it hit but only minor damage is caused.

0845hrs: Thameshaven, still ablaze from the previous days bombing is again the target for another attack, but although 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) intercepts, they are engaged by the escorting Bf109s with P/O H.W. Eliot being hit by gunfire from one of the Bf109s and he is forced to bale out leaving some of the bombers add fuel to an already burning Thameshaven.

0910hrs: A number of squadrons had now been despatched into combat areas in the south. 1 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes), 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) were busy over the north Kent coast and the Thames Estuary. 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 303 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) and 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) were kept busy  in engagements over the aerodromes of Kenley and Biggin Hill, while 249 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) and 601 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) were kept busy over Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and Rochester.

Dover is also hit once again, and fifteen Bf110s escorted by twenty-five Bf109s are intercepted by 234 Squadron Middle Wallop (Spitfires).  Sgt M.C. Boddington comes in astern of a Bf109 and gives chase, and it is not until over Ashford that the Bf109 is brought down by Sgt Boddington. F/L Pat Hughes tags onto a weaving Bf109 that had been escorting a damaged Bf110 and fires a short burst. The 109 still banks and weaves trying to escape from the Australian but Hughes sticks to him like glue. Smoke emits from the enemy fighter over Beachy Head as Pat Hughes next burst finds its target, but Hughes is forced to disengage as he himself comes under fire from other Bf109s. P/O J. Zurakowski takes over and it is uncertain if he managed to hit the Messerschmitt but it crashed in flames near Old Romney.

British troops were quick to get to the burning Bf109 finding the pilot still in the blazing cockpit. The heat was so intense that there was no way that they could get at the German pilot and pull him clear. Instead, they pulled their rifles and shot the pilot as an act of humanity so as to stop any undue suffering.

There is a grave at the New Folkestone Cemetery marked "Unknown German Airman" This is probably the remains of that pilot who was shot by British troops. Research has discovered that the burnt remains were taken to the New Folkestone Cemetery, but as the German authorities claim that only two pilots did not return that day who were on operations in that area with the unit. They were Gefr Karl Bieker and Gefr Peter Holzapel, although the latter in German records state that his death occurred on January 7th 1941. So it is still not certain as to who lies in the grave dedicated to an "Unknown German Airman" at Folkestone.

Hugh Dowding felt that now the situation was critical and called for Park and Leigh-Mallory. He informed them of the situation to which it was of no surprise that they were fully aware of that. But Dowding said that we are now at a stage where we have squadrons who are tired, others are just about out to it, while we have others up north who could relieve many of these exhausted pilots.

He explained that he must now categorise all squadrons. "A" will consist of all those squadrons in the front line of defence which would include all squadrons in 11 Group plus those in 10 and 12 Groups that would most likely find themselves also in the front line. "B" would be those squadrons that were not in the front line but were prepared and ready to be transferred to a front line airfield, and "C" would be all those squadrons that have reached exhaustion or have not yet reached the level required for operations in the front line.

"We have squadrons that have been involved in combat from first light right through until dusk, they have operated like this for days on end," said Dowding, "and that includes many of our experienced squadrons. These men are not immortal, they are human beings, day after day of prolonged combat has made them tired and they are exhausted." He went on to say that these men must be replaced by men who are fresh. We cannot win if we have pilots who cannot even stand up.

By now, the British commanders were at their lowest ebb, exhausted pilots and squadrons, Spitfires and Hurricanes were still being lost at a far greater rate than they were being replaced. In just two weeks Fighter Command had lost 295 planes with 171 badly damaged. 103 pilots had been killed while 128 had been wounded. Squadrons were now weakened by only having 16 pilots attached instead of the normal 26. As far as the airfields were concerned, Lympne and Manston were out of action while Biggin Hill which had suffered immensely could only operate one squadron at a time. Radar stations were being patched up the best that they can, and communications was only at 75% efficiency.

They knew that once they stopped intercepting the German formations, Göering would immediately know that he had achieved his first objective, that he had destroyed the RAF and that there was no stopping now, the cities could be bombed and the invasion could commence.

As the Group leaders left, Dowding said quietly, "...we must pull together.....we must win".
That night, from the office of the War Ministry, the Home Forces HQ issued its preliminary Alert No.3, "Invasion probable within three days".

At a railroad siding between Calais and Boulogne, in his special train, Göering gave a
banquet for his air fleet commanders. He offered them the choicest of French wines and
they ate the finest of French table food. He told his guests, that from this day, he would
be taking personal command of the battle, and that he would settle for nothing less than victory.
We will find out next, that on the 7th September, Göering will stand on the forward
observation post at Cap Gris-Nez and watch as wave upon wave of German bombers
roar across the English Channel........their destination......London.

0900hrs: Ashford. Hurricane V6612. 501 Squadron Gravesend
P/O H.C. Adams killed. (Shot down during combat and crashed at Eltham)
0900hrs: Ashford. Hurricane V6646. 501 Squadron Gravesend
Sgt O.V. Houghton killed. (Shot down during combat and crashed at Charing)
0900hrs: Ashford. Hurricane P3516. 501 Squadron Gravesend
Sgt G.W. Pearson killed. (Shot down in combat and crashed at Hothfield. Originally unidentified. Crash site now certified)
0910hrs: Hadlow Down (Kent). Spitfire X4036. 234 Squadron Middle Wallop
P/O W.H.G. Gordon killed. (Shot down by Bf109 and crashed on farm at Hadlow Down)
0915hrs: Kingsnorth (Kent). Hurricane P3032. 253 Squadron Kenley
S/L W.P. Cambridge killed. (Circumstances unknown. Baled out of aircraft but dead when found)
0930hrs: Tunbridge Wells. Hurricane P3363. 601 Squadron Tangmere
F/L C.R. Davis killed. (Shot down by Bf109. Crashed and burnt out in back garden of cottage)
0930hrs: Tunbridge Wells. Hurricane P8818. 601 Squadron Tangmere
F/L W.H. Rhodes-Moorehouse killed. (Crashed at Southborough after combat with Bf109s.)
1330hrs: Calais. Spitfire X4260. 603 Squadron Hornchurch
P/O J.R Caister Captured and made PoW. (Shot down by Bf109. Force landed behind Calais)

[1] Dennis Newton A Few Of The Few Australian War Memorial p156

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