Battle of Britain - Day 37

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Battle of Britain - Day 37

Mensagem por Winston Churchill em Seg Ago 19, 2013 8:14 am


Day 37 – August 15th 1940

August 15, 2010 in 17 Squadron, 54 Squadron, 610 Squadron, 73 Squadron, August 1940

Weather: Fine.
Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

Blenheim – 61
Spitfire – 233
Hurricane – 351
Defiant – 25
Gladiator – 2
Total – 672

The fine weather was what Goering had been waiting for. Earlier that morning the 3 Luftflotten were busily preparing for a major coordinated attack on the RAF. The intention was to hit as many RAF airfields as possible and to bring up as many British fighters as they could which could then be shot down. For a new map of the airfields and where they were situated, see our Battle of Britain map.

The first attack came from airfields in northern France where hundreds of German aircraft were detected as they came across the Channel. They were divided very roughly between Ju87 dive bombers and protecting Me109s. They were aiming at Lympne which suffered considerable damage. The airfield was put out of action for 2 days. Hawkinge was also attacked but much less damage was done. The radar stations at Rye, Dover and Foreness were hit by the Ju87s and subsequently had to be shut down.

The next phase of the day’s battle saw a major attack by German aircraft from Luftflotte 5 from its bases in Denmark and Norway. This attack was the brainchild of German Intelligence. They were presuming that the Luftwaffe’s continued attacks on southern England would have led Dowding to concentrate all his fighter resources on protecting the area south of London. He would have drained away all fighter protection from the north of England. They therefore concluded that targets in the North would now be undefended. How wrong they were.

An attack by several groups of bombers, He111s and Ju88s, as well as some He115s duly came in from across the North Sea to the Northumberland coast whilst a second wave of bombers headed south. But they had been picked up by the local radar. They were intercepted by squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires. Many German bombs were dropped into the sea. Some German aircraft immediately turned for home. As these interceptions proceeded, the whole Luftflotte 5 attack proved to be a costly failure.

In the south of England, Manston suffered heavy damage that afternoon. 16 men were killed and two Spitfires were destroyed on the ground.

At 3.15 pm a force of Me109s, led by Rubensdoerffer, attacked Martlesham Heath causing fairly widespread damage and leaving the airfield out of action. Repair work continued for the next 2 days.

At the same time, two large concentrations of German aircraft were observed crossing the coast at Deal and at Folkestone, each wave consisted of over 100 aircraft. The aircraft then broke up to attack individual targets including factories in Surrey working on Short Stirling bombers near Rochester, where approximately 300 bombs were dropped. The other targets included the radar stations at Dover, Bawdsey, and Foreness.

In the early evening, there were further attacks by Luftflotte 3 flying over from Brittany. 100 aircraft attacked airfields including Middle Wallop. More action was to follow. Another 70 plus German aircraft were now proceeding from the area behind Calais. But this attack was intercepted by RAF squadrons and was broken up leaving the German aircraft to seek individual targets. Attacks were delivered on airfields at West Malling and at Croydon. The latter had been mistaken for Kenley. The attackers’ bad luck continued with Rubensdoerffer, their famous Commander, being shot down and killed. The final action of the day was when a mixed force of Me109s and Me110s, which were looking for targets amongst the suburbs south of London, were caught by two RAF squadrons when on their way home. 4 German aircraft were shot down.

After what had been a hugely busy day, the RAF announced that they had shot down 182 enemy aircraft. Subsequently, this was paired down to a more accurate figure of 75 German losses from 974 sorties flown. This compared with 30 RAF losses. The outcome for the day nevertheless represented a considerable success for the RAF, particularly their performance in the north of England.

As it was, the day put Luftflotte 5 out of the battle. It was also clear that the Me110 and the hitherto invincible Stuka dive bomber could only operate effectively given massive fighter cover.

Back in Karinhall, Goering was lecturing his commanders that day. He ordered that Stukas should be given protection by Me109 fighters in front, above, and behind the dive bombers. Goering had also come to the conclusion that the Luftwaffe’s attacks on radar installations were just not paying dividends and should be abandoned. The Reichmarschall never quite got his head round the part played by radar in the British defences.

For his part, Churchill congratulated Dowding on his “generalship” in his success in eliminating the attack by Luftflotte 5 in the north of England.

54 Squadron Operational Record Book – 15 August
4 patrols during the day resulted in 2 clashes with the enemy. By now the order “patrol behind Dover and engage enemy fighters” is becoming as familiar as the old convoy patrols.
Flt Lt Deere claiming a Me 109 destroyed (11:18 hours).

18:28 hours: Flt Lt Deere 2 He 113s. 1 probable was gained for the loss of Flt Lt Deere’s machine when he was shot down in Kent after a flight which has taken him (unwittingly) over Calais Marck! He suffered only a sprained wrist after a parachute jump at 15,000 feet.

17 Squadron Operational Record Book – 15 August
The Squadron carried out convoy patrols from 05:25 to 16:00 hours. At 15:10 hours the aerodrome was attacked by Ju87s and Me110s and was dive bombed. About 18 bombs fell on the aerodrome causing damage, but none of our personnel or aircraft suffered. Meanwhile Flt Lt Harper, Sgt Griffiths and PO Pittman had taken off to intercept and climbed to attack Me109s at 20,000 feet over aerodrome. Flt Lt Harper was seen to go down with smoke pouring from his engine, but was later reported to have force-landed near Felixstowe, wounded in the leg and face. He is in Felixstowe Hospital and claims 1 Me109 confirmed. FO Hanson and PO Pittman took off during the raid. Convoy patrols were continued until 18:10 hours.

610 Squadron Operational Record Book – 15 August, 18:43 hours
8 aircraft ordered to intercept e/a approaching Biggin Hill, about 10 miles to the SE, they met about 25 Do215s escorted by many Me109s. The bombers flying at 14,000 feet and the fighters at 16,000 feet. Flt Lt Warner attacked a Me109, gave it 3 long bursts, smoke came from the fuselage and it dived down vertically. Sgt Arnfield fired several bursts at a Me109 which began to smoke badly. PO Cox fired 3 short bursts at a Me109 which went into a vertical dive with engine on fire. Sgt Corfe fired 3 short bursts at a Me109, the tracer appeared to hit him about the rear of the fuselage and wings.
Enemy casualties: 1 Me109 destroyed, 1 Me 109 probable, 2 Me109s damaged.

73 Squadron Unofficial War Diary – 15 August 1940
Today the Squadron drew its first blood in England. “A” Flight who were at Leconfield at the time were ordered off towards Flamborough Head at 19,000 feet. The enemy were encountered and being unescorted in wide formation. “A” Flight “went to it”. P/O Carter got two Ju88s and a possible third. Others were shot down by Sgt Griffin, Sgt McNay, P/O Scott and Flt/Lt Lovett. Sqn/Ldr Robinson shot up everything within sight and it is thought he must have accounted for at least three of the enemy. “B” Flight are now eagerly awaiting an opportunity to come to grips again but as the days pass it seems as if this is unlikely as long as the Squadron remains at Church Fenton.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 15th August 1940):

* Enemy: 161 confirmed, 61 probable, 58 damaged
* Own: 34 destroyed, 18 pilots killed or missing

_________________
"Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may distort it; but in the end, there it is."

"Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be."

"I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and France has suffered even more than we have....the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course."
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Winston Churchill

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