Second phase—August 8th–23rd

While the Luftwaffe operations staff anxiously awaited a good weather forecast for the opening of the Adlerangriff, it was not yet committed to an all-out attack on the R.A.F. fighter defence system. For Fighter Command across the Channel a new and serious phase of the battle opened on August 8th when bombing was intensified. Fierce air fighting developed with higher losses to both sides and a month of attrition began in which the British system was strained to the utmost.

To Göring the day held no great significance as he waited impatiently for the belt of high pressure from the Azores which would give him the fine weather required to gain air superiority in ‘four days’. He was convinced this aim could be achieved, and outwardly the convoy attacks of July had done nothing to change his views. On the contrary the operations staff and intelligence reports showed heavy British shipping and fighter losses without prohibitive cost to the Germans.

The Reichsmarschall could not know that Dowding on the other side of the Channel was holding his forces in check, and refusing to commit large numbers of fighters to a battle over water where warning time was short, and the enemy usually had the advantage.

By husbanding his resources, Dowding could show a moderate but steady build-up in personnel and surprising increases in aircraft strength and reserves. On August 3rd he had 708 fighters available for operations, and 1,434 pilots, a marked improvement over June 30th, when the respective figures were 587 and 1,200.

On July 10th Fighter Command possessed fifty-two squadrons, but by August 8th three more had been added and six others were under training including No. 1 R.C.A.F. During July the three new squadrons formed were 302 Polish, 303 Polish and 310 Czech.

Most units in the groups rotated through satellite airfields for short periods and the 609 Squadron diarist Flying Officer Dundas recorded:

By the beginning of August 609 were working to a settled operational programme with 238 and 152 Squadrons—609 and 238 Squadrons being based at Middle Wallop, 152 at Warmwell. The routine went as follows—a day on 15 minutes availability at Wallop—a day of release off camp. A day of readiness at Warmwell where we kept a servicing party of thirty airmen under Flight-Sergeant Agar and Sergeant Fitzgerald.

At this time Warmwell possessed, though in rather irregular proportions, the two chief characteristics of a forward station— action and discomfort. Every third day at mid-day the pilots were to set off from Wallop in squadron formation, their cockpits bulging optimistically with sponge-bags, pyjamas, and other articles of toilet which they got very litte opportunity of using.

Sleeping accommodation was provided for visiting squadrons in the sergeants’ quarters, but after some experience of this pilots preferred to accommodate themselves as best they could in the dispersal tent, which was furnished with beds, dirty blankets, and an assortment of unreliable telephones.

August 8th

Day Three major attacks on a Channel convoy.

Night Small raids and minelaying.

Weather Showers and bright intervals. Channel cloudy.

The weather in the morning was well suited to German tactics, with visibility six to eight, miles and clouds at 2,000 feet giving good cover for enemy aircraft operating from the coast only thirty miles distant.

On the previous night Convoy C.W.9, code-name ‘Peewit’, had sailed from the Thames Estuary with twenty ships. Its passage did not, however, go unnoticed by operators of the Freya radar set on the cliffs at Cap Blanc Nez, and steps were speedily taken to deal with it. Before dawn on the 8th a pack of E-boats attacked, sinking three ships and damaging others.

At nine o’clock a force of Stukas from Fliegerkorps VIII escorted by Me 109s from JG27 approached from Cherbourg, but was successfully intercepted and broken up by five squadrons from No. 11 Group and one from No. 10 Group.

The bombing was resumed by fifty-seven Ju 87s on a twenty-mile front at 12.45 when the scattered ships were steaming east of the Isle of Wight. Casualties were caused despite the intervention of four and a half British fighter squadrons. Some ships survived, and were duly noted by the departing aircraft. The orders were to sink the convoy completely, if possible, and so a further raid of eighty-two escorted Stukas from Cherbourg moved into the Swanage area at 5 p.m.

Fully alerted, Nos. 10 and 11 groups between them were able to put up seven squadrons, several of which found themselves in excellent positions for attack.

Squadron Leader J. R. A. Peel, commanding No. 145 Hurricane Squadron from Westhampnett, Sussex, reported:

We climbed to 16,000 feet, and, looking down, saw a large formation of Ju 87s approaching from the south with Me 109s stepped up behind to 20,000 feet. We approached unobserved out of the sun and went in to attack the rear Ju 87s before the enemy fighters could interfere. I gave a five-second burst to one bomber and broke off to engage two Me 109s. There was a dogfight. The enemy fighters, which were painted silver, were half rolling, diving and zooming in climbing turns. I fired two five-second bursts at one and saw it dive into the sea. Then I followed another up in a zoom and got him as he stalled.


An Me 110 flying along the Sussex coast near Bexhll during one of the August raids

A flight-commander of the same squadron brought down two Ju 87s although his own engine had stopped. Despite the engine failure he dived on one Ju 87 which crashed into the sea. His engine re-started and he proceeded to attack another 87 which, instead of bombing a ship, went straight on into the water. After this the engine stopped completely and he glided back to base. No. 145 Squadron was in action three times over the convoy and with No. 43 Squadron caused most of the enemy’s losses.

The remains of the battered convoy ploughed its way on, having lost four merchantmen sunk, six badly damaged, with six armed rescue vessels damaged during the day, and three ships sunk by the E-boats. It was the greatest effort made against a single convoy during the whole battle.

While the raids had been going on, German reconnaissance aircraft concentrated on airfields and harbours, the former including Lee-on-Solent, Gosport and Farnborough, and the latter Portsmouth, Portland and Dover. The photographs brought back from these flights and the ensuing four days led to the heavy raids on Lee and Gosport on the 16th and 18th.

The R.A.F. claimed twenty-four German bombers and thirty-six fighters shot down, while the Luftwaffe decided they had shot down forty-nine British fighters. In the upshot the actual losses were nineteen R.A.F. (and one at night) and thirty-one German. These were the highest figures on both sides since the Battle started on July 10th, and Churchill was moved to send a congratulatory message to the Secretary of State for Air.

At night, Fliegerdivision IX laid mines in the Thames Estuary and off the east coast, while small numbers of bombers dropped their loads on Cardiff, Hull, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Birmingham and the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s factory at Filton.

August 9th

Day Quiet. Isolated raids and attacks on the east coast shipping.

Night Minelaying and attacks off east coast.

Weather Cloud and rain showers. Some bright intervals. Channel cloudy.

The Luftwaffe Command staff were preoccupied with the date for Adler Tag. After some discussion, and with Göring’s approval, preliminary orders were issued for the commencement of large-scale operations on the 10th. By nightfall, however, these had been cancelled and the action postponed pending the arrival of more favourable weather.

After the dog-fights off the Isle of Wight the previous day, the 9th was quiet. One enemy aircraft reached Sunderland and dropped bombs on the shipyard, causing some damage. Scattered raids were made by Fliegerkorps X on east coast convoys, and two Me 109s attempted to destroy balloons of the Dover barrage without success. Over Plymouth a Ju 88 from 2./LG1 was shot down, also an He 111 from 7./KG26 off the north-east coast.

During the day Fighter Command flew 409 sorties, many of them against ‘X’ or unidentified raids, which turned out to be mainly reconnaissance patrols. Three R.A.F. fighters were lost (and one at night); five German machines were destroyed. After dark mine-laying continued in the same areas as the previous night. Bombers from the Continent hit targets in East Anglia and north of London while Luftflotte 5 attempted to interfere with east coast convoys.

August 10th

Day Shipping and overland reconnaissance.

Night Minelaying.

Weather Squally and thundery, some bright intervals. Channel cloudy.


Senior German officers watching the British coast through binoculars on August 21st, 1940. From left to right: Generaloberst Lörzer, Generalfeldmarschall Milch, Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring and Generalleutnant Wenniger


A very battered Ju 87 B of St.G.2 fascinates onlookers of all ages at Bowley Farm, South Mundham, near Chichester, on August 16th. This Stuka was caught by R.A.F. fighters after the strike on Tangmere Aerodrome. Both pilot and observer were hit in the head by bullets, one being dead and the other dying as the aircraft virtually landed itself. The outer wing was ripped off by trees

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A German reconnaissance camera on August 18th recorded the naval airfield at Ford with hangars smashed and fuel stores burning. The River Arun can be seen on the right of the picture. The other photograph shows the scene on the ground at the same time; outlined against the pall of smoke are rows of Blackburn Shark biplane torpedo bombers

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The Sector Station at Middle Wallop, Hampshire, in August. In the first picture a 609 Squadron Spitfire is wrecked and on fire. In the second, three Spitfires of 609 Squadron are seen scrambling to intercept a raid

German activity was limited to shipping reconnaissance off the south and east coasts, eleven bombs from a Dornier 17 falling near West Mailing, and a surprise raid being made on Norwich. Fighter Command searched for the elusive raiders in the course of 116 patrols but made no interceptions. There were no losses on either side, although some raiders had tried to find the Boulton Paul factory at Norwich and others flew over Odiham.

Once again at night Fliegerdivision IX laid mines, extending its activities from Harwich and the Thames Estuary to the Bristol Channel. A raid was sent to the Rolls-Royce works at Crewe, but did not find the target.

August 11th

Day Heavy attack on Portland, feints by fighter formations over Dover. Convoy attacks in Thames Estuary and off East Anglia.

Night Harassing attacks on Merseyside. Minelaying.

Weather Fair in morning. Cloudy most of day.

Compared with the lull on the 10th, this Sunday morning started with considerable activity. From 7 to 10.30 a series of probing attacks developed against Dover. First two formations of fifteen + fighters and Me 110 fighter bombers from Gruppe 210 attacked the Dover balloon barrage, followed by a threat to Channel convoys at 8.30 a.m. No sooner had this died down than thirty + of the enemy returned to Dover and were engaged by anti-aircraft fire and by fighters from Nos. 74, 34, 42 and 64 squadrons. The German formation was not really looking for action and only served to draw off British aircraft.

The Luftwaffe plan was to attract as many fighters as possible to the Dover area, while the main strike was delivered much farther west, at Portland. This operation being laid on in place of the mass Adler Tag assault, which had again been postponed.

While three squadrons were hotly engaged over Dover, the radar stations, in particular Ventnor, picked up a large raid heading for the Weymouth area, and Nos. 145, 238, 152, 601, 213, 609 and 287 Squadrons were scrambled to intercept. They found some 150 aircraft, Ju 88s and He 111s escorted by Me 109s and Me 110s. Fierce dog-fights developed as the bombers pressed home their high-level and dive-bomber attacks against docks, oil-tanks, barracks and gasworks at Weymouth and Portland. A resident of one of the houses attacked described the formations as being ‘like a swarm of bees in the sky. I counted up to fifty and then stopped.’


Hurricanes of No. 501 Squadron taking off past the hangars at Gravesend Aerodrome, Kent, on August 16th

When the situation maps showed Portland clear, more fighters appeared off Dover to shoot at balloons from the long-suffering No. 961 Balloon Squadron. A further force attacked the convoy ‘Booty’ off the Norfolk coast and seriously damaged two ships. A destroyer and two minesweepers off Margate were attacked. They put up a spirited defence but one minesweeper suffered several casualties and the ship was finally beached under the North Foreland.

A typical example of the work of the fighter squadrons involved on the 11th was No. 74 at its forward base at Manston.

The squadron took part in no less than four separate combats from dawn to 2 p.m. and accounted for a number of German aircraft with the loss of only two pilots. The first operational order was received at 7.49 a.m. to intercept a hostile raid approaching Dover. The squadron with twelve aircraft, led by Squadron Leader Malan, climbed to 20,000 feet, and surprised approximately eighteen Me 109s flying towards Dover. Pilot Officer Stevenson’s aircraft was hit by enemy fire and he baled out and came down in the sea. He attracted the attention of a motor torpedo-boat by firing his revolver. The second combat took place between 9.50 and 10.45 when twelve aircraft again took off to intercept enemy fighters approaching Dover. Several small groups of Me 109s were sighted in mid-Channel. Owing to R/T difficulties, part of the squadron did not engage.

The third combat started at 11.45 when eleven aircraft took off to patrol the convoy ‘Booty’ about twelve miles east of Clacton. Forty Me 110s were sighted approaching the convoy from east in close formation just below cloud base. Enemy aircraft formed a defensive circle on sighting the fighters, but Pilot Officer Freeborne led the squadron in a dive into the middle of the circle. Aircraft landed back at Manston at 12.45. The squadron took off for the fourth time at 1.56 with eight aircraft, to patrol Hawkinge at 15,000 feet and subsequently north-east of Margate where enemy raids were reported. Ten Ju 87s were sighted passing through cloud at 6,000 feet and twenty Me 109s at 10,000 feet. Fighters attacked the 109s, who dived for cloud and a dog-fight ensued.

No. 604 Squadron found a Heinkel 59 rescue seaplane afloat off the French coast with its engines running, and destroyed it, despite interference from the Me 109 escort.

The rest of the afternoon was quiet and that night a few harassing attacks were aimed at Merseyside and more mines were laid in the Bristol Channel.

In the confused fighting, the honours of the day were nearly even—thirty-eight German and thirty-two British losses. This was not the kind of tally sheet which 11 Group liked, or could afford. Fighters had clashed heavily with fighters and thirteen Me 109s had been destroyed (six from JG2) and ten Me 110s. Of the latter two were from the fighter-bomber unit Epr.Gr.210 operating off Harwich.

August 12th

Day Sharp raid on Portsmouth. Convoy in Thames Estuary, radar stations and coastal airfields attacked.

Night Widespread harassing raids.

Weather Fine except for mist patches.

To the harassed staff of the O.K.L., Göring’s headquarters, the 12th was an important day. The meteorological forecast showed the first movement of a high-pressure belt in the Azores which would give good clear weather over the United Kingdom on the following day. The operations branch, IA, issued orders to Luftflotten 2 and 3 to be ready for the big attack at at 7 a.m. on the 13th.

In preparation for this the 12th was to be devoted to the first raids on British fighter airfields and radar stations while maintaining pressure against shipping and harbours. The battle area now moved forward over the island itself, and Fighter Command had its most intensive day since the war began.


The attacks were divided into five phases moving pendulum fashion backwards and forwards along the south coast. Feints began over Dover at 7.30 a.m., and at nine o’clock five radar stations were attacked. Dunkirk radar had two huts destroyed and a 1,000 lb. bomb near the concrete transmitting block moved it inches. No vital damage was done and plotting continued.

At Dover the aerial towers were slightly damaged and huts inside the compound were smashed, while at Rye all huts were destroyed, but miraculously the transmitting and receiving blocks and the watch office were unharmed. A stand-by diesel put the station back on the air by noon. At Pevensey eight 500 kg. bombs were dropped and damage included a cut in the electric main. The airfield at Lympne was also bombed.

After an hour’s respite the second phase opened with a formation of Ju 87s attacking convoys ‘Arena’ and ‘Agent’ in the Estuary, while Ju 88s from Luftflotte 3, with heavy escort, were flying in towards the Southampton area. Some aircraft diverted to bomb convoys ‘Snail’ and ‘Cable’, but the main target was Portsmouth, which received a heavy attack, despite the concentrated fire of every ship and landborne A.A. gun in the harbour. At Margate the lifeboat crew were sitting watching a film of the B.E.F. evacuation from Dunkirk in the town hall when the siren sounded. The crews hurried to their station and the motor lifeboat J. B. Proudfoot was launched in time to pick up the survivors of two Admiralty trawlers, Pyrope and Tamarisk, which had been sunk.

The enemy had approached the target by flying up the Channel in a westerly direction from Spithead and then turned through the gap in the balloon barrage formed by the harbour mouth. Several fires were started in the docks and the city itself, and the harbour station was burnt out. As they saw no fighters over the A.A. area, the citizens of Portsmouth felt that the Germans had been allowed too liberal a use of their air-space.

While Portsmouth was being hit, fifteen Ju 88s dive-bombed the long-range C.H. radar station at Ventnor in the Isle of Wight. Fires were started, and because of lack of water on the site most of the buildings were destroyed and other serious damage done. A German reconnaissance later in the day noted ‘craters in the vicinity of the wireless station masts, and the station quarters on fire’.

Shortly after this the coastal airfield at Manston received the first of many raids. A formation of Dorniers came in low at 1.25 p.m. and dropped about 150 high-explosive bombs, pitting the airfield with craters, destroying the workshops and damaging two hangars, all in the space of five minutes. Only one casualty was recorded, but the airfield was unserviceable until the 13th.

No. 54 Squadron had striven to deflect the bombers from Manston, but could not penetrate the heavy escort. On the ground No. 65 Squadron’s Spitfires were taxi-ing out for take-off when the first bombs hit. Most of them managed to get into the air and joined in the mêlée of 109s and No. 54 Squadron aircraft above. When the Dornier formation from KG2 turned for home it was without its main escort and came in for a determined attack by the Hurricanes of No. 56 Squadron.


At lunch time on August 18th two groups of Dornier 17s attacked the sector airfield at Kenley, Surrey. One formation of nine bombers came at tree-top height while the other bombed from high altitude. The first picture taken from a low-level Dornier shows bombs bursting in the dispersal area, just missing a lone 64 Squadron Spitfire standing in its blast pen. The second picture shows the fate of one of these low-level raiders, a Do 17. Hit by a parachute and cable device, A.A. fire and fighters, it crashed in a field at Leaves Green, near Biggin Hill. The pilot, Oberleutnant Lamberty, was injured as were his crew. Out of nine low-level aircraft only one returned intact to base.


The third picture was taken from the high flying Dorniers a few minutes after the first attack. Just below is another Dornier (4) while bomb hits are shown (1, 2 and 3). 2a is marked by the Germans as British wreckage, but is, in fact, believed to be a shot-down Dornier. The Kenley runways have been carefully painted to merge with the surrounding countryside


The hangars at Tangmere sector station, Sussex, smashed and burning after a Stuka attack at mid-day on August 16th. Three aircraft were destroyed and eleven damaged. Alongside the hangars can be seen a Blenheim 1 fighter and a Blenheim IV bomber

Hawkinge, another advance airfield on the coast, was seriously damaged by Ju 88s which smashed two hangars, destroyed the station workshops and damaged stores. Despite twenty-eight craters on the airfield, Hawkinge was not completely unserviceable and became fully operational again on the morning of the 13th. Four aircraft had been badly damaged, five people killed and seven seriously injured.

Lympne, which had received 141 bombs in the morning, was the subject of a second attack in the fifth phase of the day commencing at 3 p.m. Two hundred and forty-two bombs were dropped in two runs and the airfield rendered unserviceable, although seventy of the bombs fell into surrounding fields. The remainder of the force from Luftflotte 2 bombed Hastings and Dover.

As evening came, the Luftwaffe were jubilant. German radio stations spoke of very heavy damage on the British mainland and claimed seventy-one R.A.F. aircraft, including the whole of No. 65 Squadron at Manston. The German headquarters report of the 13th claimed that forty-six Spitfires, twenty-three Hurricanes and one Morane 406 had been destroyed on the 12th. In fact the Germans had lost thirty-one machines and the R.A.F., in the course of 732 sorties, had suffered twenty-two casualties.

The attacks had been severe and they provided a foretaste of the main August battle pattern. Of the six radar stations attacked, only one had been knocked out, Ventnor, but this was not apparent to German signals intelligence.

These initial strikes at radar had brought out two important points. First, the aerial towers themselves consistently deflected dive-bombing attacks away from the vital operations rooms underneath. Second, the W.A.A.F. plotters showed courage of the highest order under fire and the ability to keep on reporting a raid until it bombed their own station.

The airfields received many tons of bombs but survived. While it was clear to the R.A.F. that very heavy concentration at frequent intervals would be required completely to wreck a particular field, the Luftflotten staffs in France had already begun the foolhardy process of deleting units and stations on the map after each attack.

That night widespread harassing raids developed overland in addition to the normal crop of minelaying. Small numbers of aircraft dropped bombs on many towns and villages, including Stratford-upon-Avon,


Me 109s of JG53 lined up on a Belgian airfield in September 1940. In the foreground lie the remains of a Belgian Air Force Fairey Fox biplane


Luftwaffe officers confer at the forward headquarters at Cap Blanc Nez. Second from the right is Oberst Theo Osterkamp, a first World War veteran, who commanded JG51 and began fighter escort for the Stukas over the Channel in July

August 13th

Day Opening of ‘Eagle Day’ misfires. Heavy raid on East-church followed by afternoon raids on Portland, Southampton and airfields in Hampshire and Kent. 1,485 German sorties.

Night Light raids on midlands, Wales and the west.

Weather Mainly fair, early-morning mist and slight drizzle in places. Channel, some cloud.

Luftflotten 2 and 3 were keyed up for the great attack and at dawn all was ready for the opening of the air battle which would crush Britain. Airfield, harbour and shipping targets had been minutely detailed, and the air fleet staffs had worked overtime producing up-to-date photographic maps from films brought back by the reconnaissance groups. Unfortunately, some very poor analyses were made and certain photographic aircraft were shot down with the result that coverage was not complete. Fleet Air Arm, Training Command and Coastal Command airfields were included as fighter stations and many attacks were made on them, the results being overestimated and attributed to Fighter Command.

Typical of the poor reconnaissance interpretations made was contained in the O.K.L. situation report for August 13th. In covering the naval air stations at Ford, Gosport and Lee, twenty-four Hawker Demons and ten Spitfires were identified although no such aircraft were based there. Tangmere was credited with no less than fifty-five Hurricanes at the dispersals, a considerable exaggeration.


A Dornier 17Z of KG2, based on Cambrai, delivers its load over England


Dornier 17Zs of Stabstaffel/KG3 head out across the Channel for southern England

The incorrect assessment of British control and radio techniques by Schmid at Intelligence IC* had resulted in the assumption that mass attacks would confuse the defences as much as multi-pronged raids over a wide area.

In the morning, formations began to take off to execute the plan, but at the last moment a personal signal from the Reichsmarschall postponed Adlerangriff until the afternoon, when the weather would clear. Three units were, however, already on their way above the cloud-base of 4,000 feet, one headed for the East-church area, another for Odiham, and the third to provide a diversion off Portland.

The main force, seventy-four Dornier 17s from KG2, at Cambrai and St Leger, lost its escort of Me 110s over the coast shortly after 5.30 a.m. Kesselring’s headquarters had been frantically radioing instructions to cancel the operation following Göring’s message, but only the Me 110s picked it up, and returned to base.

In two separate formations, KG2 made for Eastchurch aerodrome and Sheerness. Because of poor estimating on the part of radar operators and difficulty in plotting by the Observer Corps due to low cloud, the assessments of strength were wrong and insufficient fighters were put up.

No. 74 Squadron, from Hornchurch, found the Dorniers over Whitstable at 7 a.m. as they emerged from cloud. A fierce fight developed with this, the rear formation, but the leaders with General Fink, the commodore of KG2 in command, went on unmolested to Eastchurch. The bombing there was very heavy with a direct hit on the operations room, five Blenheims of No. 35 Squadron destroyed by incendiary bullets, 12 people killed and 40 injured. The Luftwaffe claimed 10 Spitfires destroyed on the ground.

Nos. 111 and 151 squadrons joined in the fight just after Eastchurch had been hit and between them the three squadrons shot down four Dorniers and damaged four more as they dodged between the clouds. East-church had been severely damaged and was written off by Luftflotte 2 as a fighter airfield destroyed. In fact it belonged to 22 Group Coastal Command, and housed a composite anti-shipping force of fighters and light bombers. It was operational again ten hours after the raid, despite wrecked buildings, broken communications and fifty bomb craters.


Blenheim IF twin-engined fighters were outpaced by German fighters and in certain cases even by Lutwaffe bombers. Despite this, Blenheim-equipped units fought hard; they also bore the brunt of fighting before the advent of the Beaufighter. Shown here is a Blenheim 1 of 604 Squadron based at Middle Wallop

To the west, the Ju 88s of KG54 headed for the airfield at Odiham and the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, in Hampshire, in two sections with escort. They were engaged over the coast by No. 43 Squadron and a section from Northolt, these being shortly joined by Nos. 601 and 64 Squadrons. Harried by fighters and disorganised by thick cloud, the two attacks missed their targets.

At 11.40 radar picked up twenty + raiders about eighty miles distant and they were tracked in towards Portsmouth.

The raid on Portland by KG 54 completely misfired as the bombers did not put in an appearance and their escort of Me 110s were picked up by radar over Cherbourg. They were hotly engaged by two R.A.F. squadrons, who dived on them and destroyed six in the space of five minutes, the remainder going flat out for the protection of the French coast.

The real opening thrust of the ‘Attack of the Eagles’ developed in the afternoon, despite continued poor weather. Mass attacks were made from 3.45 to 5 p.m. on Portland, Southampton, Kent and the Thames Estuary.

After the incursions of the morning, No. 10 Group prepared to put up strong forces to meet formations of 20+, 50+, 30+ and 30+ which showed up on the radar screens as coming in from Jersey. No. 152 from Warm-well was over the coast and was joined by Nos. 238 and 213 from Middle Wallop and Exeter respectively, while No. 609 Squadron from Warmwell patrolled over Weymouth. Tangmere sector provided No. 601 Squadron to cover the Isle of Wight.

German bomber formations in three waves were drawn from Lehr Geschwader 1 in the Orleans Bricy area with Ju 88s and Fliegerkorps VIII with Ju 87s. First on the scene was a heavy forward sweep of German fighters which became involved in a fight with Nos. 231 and 152 squadrons, while No. 238’s Hurricanes fell in with a force of Me 110s supposedly guarding Ju 87s.

Most of the Ju 88s got through to Southampton where serious damage was done and large fires started in the warehouses and docks.

No. 609 Squadron found a golden opportunity and took it. Thirteen Spitfires found a formation of Ju 87s below them with half the escort well above, and the other half deeply involved with No. 238.

Attacked out of the sun, the Stukas made a perfect target. On the way the Spitfires dived through five Me 109s, breaking them up. Pilot Officer D. M. Crook sending one spinning down into a field on fire. The whole Stuka formation broke up with nine falling in flames or with the crews dead. For once the Spitfires had altitude, position and surprise and they used it to deadly effect. One member of the squadron remarked that he rather missed the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ this year— ‘but the glorious thirteenth was the best day’s shooting I ever had’.

The remaining Ju 87s missed their main target, Middle Wallop, and scattered their bombs over three counties. They hit Andover airfield, but this was not a fighter station and little damage was done.

Away to the east the other prong of the divided German attack was coming in in waves from Luftflotte 2 with Detling (near Maidstone) and Rochester as its main targets. The bombers were heavily escorted, and while No. 65 Squadron was engaged with the fighters, a bomber force slipped through and got to Detling. Due to cloud, Rochester was not discovered and as the force for this target returned home they were caught by No. 56 Squadron from Rochford and bomb loads were jettisoned over Canterbury. Other bombs fell on Lympne and Ramsgate.


Nine Spitfires of 610 Squadron from Biggin Hill on patrol during August

At Detling the commanding officer was killed by dive-bombing and the hangars set on fire. The operations room, the messes and the cookhouse were all destroyed, but essential services, including communications, were working by noon on the 14th.

At the end of a day of severe fighting on both flanks of 11 Group the final score was thirteen R.A.F. fighters lost on 700 sorties and forty-five German aircraft brought down, a definite victory for Fighter Command to which the vulnerable Ju 87 contributed in no small measure.

The Luftwaffe had flown its greatest number of sorties to date—1,485—and it claimed that seventy Spitfires and Hurricanes and eighteen Blenheims had been destroyed, exaggeration by nearly 700 per cent.

At night while thirty-six British bombers flew 1,600 miles to bomb the. Fiat and Caproni works at Turin and Milan, German aircraft from Luftflotte 5 raided northern Scotland and machines from the Continent flew to Wales, the West Country, the midlands and Norwich. The main target was the Spitfire shadow factory at Castle Bromwich where eleven bombs were dropped. One of the British bombers returning from Italy crashed in the Channel in the early morning following. A fishing boat picked up two of the crew and a third was rescued by a Miss Prince who rowed out in a small canoe.

August 14th

Day Targets, south-east England, airfields and communications. Airfields in the west.

Night Little activity.

Weather Mainly cloudy with bright patches. Channel cloudy.

After their efforts of the previous day, the Luftwaffe put in a third the number of sorties with ninety-one bombers and 398 fighters.

O.K. L.IA staff had issued orders to Luftflotten 2 and 3 for attacks on aircraft industry and R.A.F. ground organisation targets. Accordingly at 11.40 formations of bombers and escorts built up over Boulogne and Calais in full view of the coastal radar stations. By noon the attack had developed over Dover and the Kentish airfields in successive waves, mainly consisting of fighters looking for combat. At 1 p.m. a dozen Me 110 fighter bombers from 210 Gruppe slipped through, while Spitfires were occupied with a feint off Dover, and bombed Manston airfield destroying four hangars but losing two machines, one to an Army Bofors gun and one to an R.A.F. aircraft-type Hispano cannon temporarily fitted to a ground mounting.


This Me 110 was brought down in one of the August battles. To stop the machine falling into British hands, a Ju 88 dropped bombs on the field but only succeeded in throwing up great lumps of turf

Three and a half squadrons of 11 Group fighters were in the area, but mainly above cloud dealing with Me 109s and 110s, the Me 109s coming from JG26. Shortly afterwards the main enemy force, which had held back, came in over Folkestone and Dover, shooting down eight barrage balloons and sinking the Goodwin Light Vessel.

In the afternoon it was the turn of Luftflotte 3 and Sperrle’s policy was to send in small raids over a wide area in the hope of upsetting the defences. Eight airfields and various railway lines were the main targets.

At Middle Wallop sector station a dive-bombing raid by three machines set on fire the No. 609 Squadron hangar and killed three airmen, while offices were hit and ten airmen at the station headquarters injured. The Luftwaffe, however, reported that it had bombed Netheravon.

Maintenance Command had its first share of the battle at 30 M.U. Sealand, Cheshire, when a Heinkel 111 flew in at 1,000 feet and dropped eight high-explosive bombs and one incendiary in a line, but caused no serious damage. A second Heinkel followed up to more purpose, smashing the sergeants’ mess and causing one fatal casualty. Despite water failure and a cut in the main high-tension cable, the station reported a full working day ‘with two hours’ overtime’ on the 15th. Colerne was also attacked but to no good effect. Of the railways, the worst hit was Southampton where the main line was blocked by debris.

Despite hits on various airfields and the problems of bad weather, 10 and 11 Group could show a ratio of over 2:1 in their favour as regards losses, with nineteen German aircraft down against eight R.A.F. fighters.

Although the operational training units were not involved in the struggle, No. 7 O.T.U. at Hawarden, Flintshire, formed a battle flight to deal with emergencies. On the 14th, after hearing explosions and machine-gun fire in the vicinity, Wing Commander Hallings-Pott accompanied by Squadron Leader J. S. McLean and Pilot Officer P. V. Ayerst, took off in Spitfires and intercepted a Heinkel 111, shooting it down near Chester.

Night brought the usual series of small raids over the south of England and Wales. The defences were keyed up for a heavy attack following interception of German radio messages threatening a raid on Liverpool, but nothing developed.

The first week of the second phase had now passed although Fighter Command had no inkling of it and could only see a vista of continued attacks perhaps for six months or more. There were no decisive highs or lows, only more or less fighting.

As the controllers watched the last raids out and awaited first light, they did not know that the morning would bring the combined strength of three Luftflotten against Britain and that all four fighter groups would be in action to score probably the most notable victory of the whole battle.

August 15th

Day Decisive; heavy raids by all three Luftflotten, their greatest effort of the battle. Seventy-five German aircraft lost. Airfields main target.

Night Little activity.

Weather Ridge of high pressure over Britain. Fine, warm weather. Some cloud over Channel.

With clear weather forecast the Luftwaffe exerted its greatest effort of the campaign, throwing in every available fighter, and major portions of the dive-bomber and bomber forces.


Hurricanes of 32 Squadron coming in to land at Biggin Hill after one of the big raids on August 15th. In the right background is a typical blast pen for fighters

The German plan of attack—outlined in a command paper of the previous day—was to produce a series of raids on a wide front—aimed at wrecking airfields and radar and bringing as many British fighters into battle as possible. Luftflotte 5 was to use most of its force to attack targets in the north-east, where it was presumed that fighter defences had been greatly weakened in order to reinforce the south.

The whole perimeter of the German line from Norway to Brittany was a hive of activity at first light, with final briefings, bombing up, and last-minute adjustments to engines and equipment.

In Britain the early hours seemed quiet enough apart from reconnaissance flights but from eleven o’clock onwards five main attacks developed.

First about 100 enemy aircraft, made up of forty Ju 87s with a heavy escort, attacked the forward airfields at Hawkinge and Lympne. At the latter a heavy dive-bombing attack cut all water and power supplies, caused a direct hit on the station sick quarters, and damaged several other buildings. Various sections had to be evacuated to nearby houses and the field was not serviceable for forty-eight hours.

At Hawkinge the damage was far less with one hangar hit and a small barrack block destroyed. One of the most serious consequences in the area was the shut-down of Rye and Dover C.H. stations and Foreness G.H.L. which suffered a power failure when the electric mains were hit.

Nos. 54 and 501 squadrons met the force, 54 attacking out of the sun on to the dive-bombers, but the devastation at Lympne could not be prevented.

Then followed an attack which was to be the most interesting of the whole day. Banking on tactical surprise and conveniently forgetting the radar chain, Luftflotte 5 launched two simultaneous thrusts in the north and north-east. They expected little opposition and their reception came as a painful surprise.

At eight minutes past twelve radar began to plot a formation of twenty + opposite the Firth of Forth at a range of over ninety miles. As the raid drew closer the estimates went up to thirty in three sections flying south-west towards Tynemouth.

At Watnall the approach of No. 13 Group’s first daylight raid was watched on the operations table with particular interest. With an hour’s warning the controller was able to put squadrons in an excellent position to attack, with 72 Squadron Spitfires in the path of the enemy off the Farne Islands and 605 Squadron Hurricanes over Tyneside. Nos. 79 and 607 were also put up, but while the latter was right in the path of the raid, No. 79 was too far north.

No. 72 Squadron trom Acklington was the first to make contact and it came as a distinct shock when the thirty materialised as I and III/KG26 with sixty-five Heinkel 111s, and the entire I/ZG76 from Stavanger with thirty-four Me 110s. After a brief pause in which to survey the two massive groups flying in vic formation, Squadron-Leader E. Graham led No. 72 straight in from the flank, one section attacking the fighters and the rest the bombers.


In late August Hurricanes of A Flight, No. 87 Squadron, en route from Exeter to Portland to intercept a raid

The Me 110s formed defensive circles, while the Heinkels split up. Some of them jettisoned their bombs in the sea and headed back for Norway, leaving several of their number in the sea. The separate parts of the formation finally reached the coast, one south of Sunderland and the other south of Acklington. No. 79 intercepted the northern group over the water while a flight from No. 605 squadron caught it over land. Most of the bombs fell harmlessly in the sea.

The group off Sunderland found Nos. 607 and 41 squadrons waiting for it and they too bombed to little effect apart from wrecking houses. The raiders turned back to Norway, the Me 110s having already departed some minutes before. Of a total force of about 100, eight bombers and seven fighters were destroyed and several more damaged without British loss. The airfield targets such as Usworth, Linton-on-Ouse and Dishforth went unscathed. One Staffel of III/KG26 lost five of its nine aircraft in the course of the fighting.

Farther south, an unescorted formation of fifty Ju 88s from I, II and III/KG30, based on Aalborg, was heading in to No. 12 Group off Flamborough Head. Full radar warning was given and 73 Squadron Hurricanes, 264 Squadron Defiants and 616 Squadron Spitfires were sent to patrol the area, the force being supplemented later by Blenheims from 219 Squadron in 13 Group.

Both No. 616 and a flight of No. 73 engaged, but the enemy split into eight sections. Some turned north to bomb Bridlington where houses were hit and an ammunition dump blown up. The main force, however, flew to the 4 Group Bomber Station at Driffield, Yorkshire, where four hangars were damaged and ten Whitleys were destroyed on the ground. Heavy antiaircraft fire was directed against the bombers and one was brought down. Altogether, six of KG30’s Ju 88s were shot down, representing about 10 per cent of the force sent over.

In all, the northern attacks Tost sixteen bombers out of a serviceable Luftflotte 5 force of 123, and seven fighters of the thirty-four available.

In the south at noon it was the turn of Manston once again. Twelve Me 109s attacked with cannon and machine-gun fire, destroying two Spitfires and causing sixteen casualties.

This was followed at 3 p.m. by a force of Ju 87s, Me 110 fighter bombers and Me 109s attacking the fighter station at Martleshan Heath without being intercepted. The Ju 87s concentrated on an incomplete signals station to the west, while the 110s hit the airfield. The signals station escaped with broken windows and a punctured water tank, but Martlesham itself had workshops and officers’ mess wrecked, a burst water main and cut telephone wires. A visiting Fairey Battle blew up, smashing two hangars, the watch office and the night-fighting equipment sheds. The station was engaged on repair work throughout the following day.

Simultaneously about 100 aircraft were approaching Deal to be followed by 150 over Folkestone at 3.30. Only four fighter squadrons were on patrol to deal with this influx, although followed by three more (Nos. 1, 17, 32, 64, 111, 151 and 501) and they were warded off by the escorts through sheer weight of numbers. The German formations broke up to deal with separate targets, one being the Short Brothers and Pobjoy factories at Rochester. The production of four motor Stirling heavy bombers at Rochester suffered a severe set-back due to six complete aircraft and the finished parts store being destroyed. This was a real victory for the Luftwaffe but it had no effect on Fighter Command. Several German machines attacked East-church and the radar stations at Dover, Rye, Bawdsey and Foreness, although without useful results.


Worn out, Sgt. G. Booth, of No. 85 Squadron, fast asleep after a day’s operations in August. He is still wearing his Mae West and his air maps are stuffed into the top of his boot. Sgt. Booth was killed later in the Battle

Two further attacks were made in the early evening, the first—a feint—in the south-west and the second against Kent and Surrey. Some 250 aircraft from Luftflotte 3 moved towards the Isle of Wight in two groups at 5 p.m. and spread out over Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Ju 88s with Me 110 escort attacked Middle Wallop but did less damage than the three aircraft of the previous day. No. 609 Squadron got off just before the dive-bombing started, and harried the stragglers out to sea. This raid had been intercepted at intervals by no less than eight R.A.F. squadrons and one section of it which reached Worthy Down caused little damage, while another dropped bombs on Portland. In their combat reports the crews who raided Odiham claimed to have hit Andover instead.

Out of the whole German force twenty-five aircraft were lost against sixteen by Fighter Command. Thirteen Me 110s were brought down of which three fell to the guns of Belgian Lieutenant J. Phillipart of 213 Squadron. Altogether eleven R.A.F. squadrons were put up against these raids, being Nos. 32, 43, 111, 601, 604, 609, 87, 152, 213, 234 and 266.

At 6.15 over seventy aircraft were plotted coming in from Calais, and as most of his forward squadrons were refuelling and rearming, Park switched four squadrons from the eastern sectors following up with four and a half more as they became available.

Intercepted over the coast by two squadrons, including No. 501, which was almost at the end of its fuel, the Germans split up and missed their primary targets of Biggin Hill and Kenley. Instead they spotted West Mailing, Kent, from high altitude and damaged runways and buildings.

Other bombers wandering over Surrey decided to deliver their loads on Croydon, the home of No. 111 Squadron, which unit was officially not yet operational.

Me 110s from Gruppe 210 with Me 109 escort came in at 2,000 feet just after 6.50 p.m. to drop their bombs, which destroyed the Rollason and Redwing factories, together with many trainer aircraft, and a radio component works. Over eighty casualties were caused and it was the first recorded raid on Greater London.

Over the airfield on patrol at 10,000 feet were 111 Squadron’s Hurricanes which promptly dived on the raiders and together with 32 Squadron from Biggin Hill shot down four as they went flat out for the coast. This made Gr.210’s losses eight Me 110s in five days.

During the day No. 151 Squadron took delivery of the first Hurricane with four 20 mm. cannon which had been rebuilt from a crashed machine. No. 151 already possessed a two-cannon Hurricane, but like 19 Squadron with Cannon Spitfires, the problems of mechanical failure and ammunition feed were not overcome before the end of the Battle.

That night there was no relaxation of German activity with some seventy bombers hitting Birmingham, Boston, Kirton, Beverley, Southampton, Crewe, Yarmouth, Harwich, Bristol and Swansea.

At the time the R.A.F. claimed to have shot down 182 German aircraft in the course of its 974 sorties, but the records show that the actual figure was 75. British losses were less than half, with 34 aircraft lost, 17 pilots killed and 16 wounded. The Luftwaffe claimed 82 Spitfires and Hurricanes, 5 non-existent Curtiss Hawks and 14 miscellaneous types.


The railways suffered continuously right through the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Here workers repair the down-line at St. Denys, Southampton, after one of the afternoon trains had been bombed on August 14th

The day’s losses for the Luftwaffe covered practically every basic type in operational use—Do 17, He 111, Ju 88, Ju 87, Me 109 and Me 110. In addition an Arado 196, an He 59 and an He 115 (all floatplanes) were destroyed. The He 115 was found wrecked on the coast near Arbroath.

The revised figures in no way detract from the significance of August 15th, which altered the whole course of the Battle. The Luftwaffe had put up 1,786 sorties in the twenty-four-hour period of which 520 were bombers. Practically every available fighter had been used in an attempt to destroy Fighter Command in the air while the ground facilities were being wrecked by bombing. The attacks had covered all four fighter groups and yet despite some airfield damage no success was achieved.

The German Air Force could have committed its whole bomber force to the operation but instead it put in less than half, a tacit admission that all-out bomber operations could not be carried on over Britain until air superiority had been achieved. The full force was in fact never employed on any day throughout the Battle.

The German losses were far heavier than anticipated, and the 15th had three lasting effects on the outcome of the conflict:

1 First and foremost, Luftflotte 5 was to all intents and purposes finished in the daylight battle apart from reconnaissance. Towards the end of August most of its bomber strength and some of the fighters were transferred to France to swell the ranks of Luftflotte 2.

2 The spirited opposition in the north swung the battle back to the south-east of England where heavier loads could be carried over the short ranges and where the Me 109 had sufficient tankage to provide escort.

3 The Stuka and the Me 110 were confirmed as unsuitable for their tasks, and in the latter case it meant that escorts had to be provided for the twin-engined fighters themselves.

From the 15th onwards the Me 109s were allowed less free run over the battle zone, and were brought in closer to the bomber formations. This was the complete antithesis of the purpose for which they were built and instead of bringing the R.A.F. to combat, they had to sit and wait for the attack to come to them.

During the day, while the assault was at its height, Göring was in conference at Karinhall with his senior staff and the Luftflotten commanders.

The Reichmarschall opened his address with a warning against Stuka losses:

The fighter escort defences of our Stuka formations must be readjusted as the enemy is concentrating his fighters against our Stuka operations. It appears necessary to allocate three fighter Gruppen to each Stuka Gruppe, one of these fighter Gruppen remains with the Stukas and dives with them to the attack; the second flies ahead of the target at medium altitude and engages fighter defences; the third protects the whole attack from above. It will also be necessary to escort Stukas returning from the attack over the Channel.

He stressed that ‘Operations are to be directed exclusively against the enemy air force including the targets of the enemy aircraft industry.… Our night attacks are essentially dislocation raids, made so that the enemy defences and population shall be allowed no respite.’

After directing that the pathfinder unit K.Gr.100 should be thrown into the general attack, Göring proceeded to save the all-important British radar chain from destruction by saying: ‘It is doubtful whether there is any point in continuing the attacks on radar sites, in view of the fact that not one of those attacked has so far been put out of action.’


British soldiers remove machine guns, parachute and other equipment from a Dornier 17Z of KG2, brought down at Stodmarsh, Kent, on August 17th. Additional armament was being fitted to all Luftwaffe bombers at this time. The makeshift machine gun position in the rear window has been equipped with a metal safety rail to restrict the field of fire and stop the gunner from shooting holes in his own aircraft

Technicians toiling to repair Ventnor C.H. station on the Isle of Wight would hardly have agreed with these last words, but the R.A.F. could be thankful that its opponent’s commander-in-chief understood neither science nor engineering.

Later in the day Göring issued an order prohibiting the presence of more than one officer in any single air crew. This was an attempt to reduce the officer casualties on bombers, which had reached serious proportions.

August 16th

Day Airfields in Kent, Hampshire and West Sussex attacked. Widespread damage. Ventnor radar out of action. Other targets in Oxfordshire, Essex and Suffolk. Göring in conference.

Night Many light attacks.

Weather Mainly fair and warm. Channel haze.

This Friday was a sunny summer day with just the amount of haze that German pilots appreciated. The plotting tables were quiet until 11 a.m. when a series of raids were levelled against Norfolk, Kent and the Greater London area with airfields as the main targets, including Manston. West Mailing, an 11 Group station, was again hit while clearance was still going on after the previous day’s attack. Some eighteen bombers dropped high explosives and incendiaries, destroying one aircraft on the ground and putting the station out of action until the 20th. Twelve fighter squadrons were up.

Things were quiet again until midday when the radar screens showed three heavy raids coming in. The first of fifty headed for the Thames Estuary, the second of 150 appeared off Dover, while the third of 100 massed over Cherbourg and proceeded to the Portsmouth-Southampton area. In all, radar was plotting about 350 aircraft simultaneously between Yarmouth and Portland. There was some cloud about, and, despite the despatch of twelve squadrons by Nos. 10, 11 and 12 Groups, many of the bombers succeeded in getting through and causing considerable damage.

London suburbs were bombed, including Wimbledon and Esher, where shops and houses were hit. Bombs on Maiden, Surrey, railway station killed staff and passengers and put both lines out of operation. To the north, Gravesend and Tilbury were attacked, and bombs fell on Harwell and Farnborough aerodromes.

The raid off Portland split up and sections arrived over Ventnor, Tangmere, Lee-on-Solent and Gosport. Twelve Ju 88s with Me 110 escort dived out of the sun on Gosport, damaging buildings, killing four people and seriously injuring two. At Ventnor five Ju 87s in a six-minute raid added to the destruction of the 12th. The only habitable buildings left were the diesel house, the receiving block and the protected rooms. Ventnor was thus out of action from August 12th to 23rd, and service was only resumed when a mobile station was rigged nearby at Bembridge. A number of Fleet Air Arm aircraft and hangars were destroyed by fire at Lee-on-Solent.

Tangmere, with its satellite Westhampnett, was an important sector station. The Ju 87s approached from the east and had a clear run up over the airfield dropping a pattern of bombs which destroyed all the hangars, workshops, stores, sick quarters, pumping station and the officers’ mess. The Tannoy broadcasting system, all light, power, water and sanitation were temporatily out of action. Losses in aircraft were heavy, with three Blenheims destroyed and three Blenheims, seven Hurricanes and one Magister damaged. Ten service personnel and three civilians were killed, while twenty others were injured.


This Junkers 88 of KG54 was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed at Portland Bill during the heavy raid on Weymouth and Portland on August 11th

The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hants, was attacked by 8 Ju 88s doing extensive damage to the motor transport yard. The last delayed-action bomb from this raid did not explode until 49 hours afterwards.

In the evening, two Ju 88s carried out the most destructive raid of the day, on Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, a training station and Maintenance Unit in No. 23 Group. Thirty-two bombs burned out forty-six trainer aircraft in the hangars of No. 2 Service Flying Training School, wrecked other buildings and caused ten casualties.

In the twenty-four hours of the 16th, the Luftwaffe put up 1,715 sorties for the loss of forty-five aircraft. The R.A.F. had twenty-two fighters shot down in which eight pilots were killed. The large number of British aircraft destroyed on the ground altered this picture somewhat, but most of them were not fighters. Eight airfields had been hit, but only three of them belonged to Fighter Command, proving that Schmid’s intelligence assessments were still wrong.

During the attack on Gosport, Flight Lieutenant J. B. Nicoison of 249 Squadron won Fighter Command’s first V.C. of the war. Hit by cannon shells and with the cockpit on fire, he succeeded in shooting down an Me 110 before baling out. Burned and wounded, his immediate reward on reaching the ground was to be shot in the seat by a trigger-happy Home Guard.

The English Channel had by this time become a sort of no-man’s land where German seaplanes and British boats competed to pick up survivors. On this day the motor lifeboat Canadian Pacific, off Selsey, Sussex, found a German seaplane and a British naval speed boat on the water—the latter unable to move because of a rope round her propeller. The lifeboat passed two dead German airmen to the seaplane which took off, while the lifeboat towed the speedboat into harbour.

The two hectic days of effort by Luftflotten 2 and 3 called for a rest for the weary German crews, repairs to damaged aircraft and replacement of lost machines and personnel. Thus the night raids were on a much reduced scale with small attacks on Bristol, Newport, Swansea, Portland, Worcester, Chester, Tavistock, Farnborough and various aerodromes.

In a summary of operations put out by the Luftwaffe Command Staff on the 16th, it was confidently stated that 372 Spitfires, 179 Hurricanes, 9 Curtiss Hawks and 12 Defiants had been destroyed in the period July 1st to August 15th. By a series of extraordinary calulations it was computed that at 10 a.m. on August 16th Fighter Command possessed only 300 serviceable aircraft whereas in fact there were over 700.

August 17th

Day Activity limited to reconnaissance. Fighter Command faces pilot shortage.

Night Light raids midlands, Merseyside, South Wales.

Weather Fine in Channel, haze and some cloud in the east.

The lull continued throughout the day. Reconnaissance flights were plotted and, although Fighter Command flew 288 sorties, Luftwaffe losses amounted to only three machines. The R.A.F. lost none.

At night, raids were scattered and light, the targets being industrial centres in the midlands, Merseyside and South Wales. One raid at 2 o’clock in the morning, first plotted at Hucknall and tracked to Newark, Lincoln and Duxford, was finally shot down off Lincolnshire by a Blenheim night fighter from 23 Squadron.

The serious drain on fighter pilot resources was recognised by the Air Ministry on the 17th. Dowding had been pressing for Fairey Battle pilots to fill the gaps, but the Air Staff felt that wholesale withdrawals from the remaining light bomber squadrons might affect striking power on invasion day.

Finally they agreed to five volunteers each from the four Battle squadrons and three each from Lysander Army co-operation squadrons in No. 22 Group. These were sent for a six-day O.T.U. course at Hawar-den and some carried out their first operational patrol within a fortnight of volunteering.

If the unnecessary wastage of the Battle squadrons in France had not occurred there would have been many more first-class pilots available to Dowding without involving a serious strain on Bomber Command’s forces.

August 18th

Day Massed formations return. Airfields in south and south-east attacked. Luftflotte 3 against Sussex and Hampshire.

Night Light bombing, Bristol, East Anglia and South Wales. Minelaying.

Weather Fine and fair early. Rest of day cloudy.

The Luftwaffe’s all-out efforts to destroy Fighter Command in one week ended with a final flourish on this Sunday. The main objectives were once again airfields with a lesser effort against radar stations.

The first of the massed formations crossed the coast about midday in the Dover area and attacked airfields to the south and south-east of London, including Kenley, Croydon, Biggin Hill and West Mailing.

At Kenley two raids of Do 17s with Me 109 escort came in simultaneously at 1.30 p.m., one of about fifty aircraft at altitude and the other low down at 100 feet with nine machines. The Kenley sector controller had detailed all his squadrons—No. 615 to a raid over Hawkinge, No. 64 to intercept the high raid over base and No. 111 to intercept the low raid.

Both raids were met, but 111 Squadron could not effectively deal with the low-flying machines as they themselves were too low and too close in over Kenley. As the approach was masked by trees and hangars, the A.A. guns were unable to open fire until the raiders were directly over the camp. Nevertheless the combined efforts of Parachute and Cable and A.A. brought down two aircraft. Both 615 and 64 Squadrons intercepted the high fliers, causing several casualties.

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Out of control, a Ju 87 dives to destruction at White House Farm on the outskirts of Chichester, Sussex, on August 18th. The observer baled out but the pilot was killed. All that remained of the aircraft is shown in the second picture where the local Fire Brigade are seen putting out the flames


Sergeant H. J. Mann of 64 Squadron landed this Spitfire at Kenley in mid-August. The nose of a cannon shell had jammed the control column causing a landing on one wingtip and starboard wheel

One machine, piloted by Oberleutnant Lamberty, crashed in flames in a field, and the following day it was attributed to rifle-fire by the Home Guard. In fact it is doubtful whether any of the Home Guard hit the aircraft as it was already beyond hope, riddled with Bofors shells and machine-gun bullets.

Intense anti-aircraft fire and the P.A.C. barrage, with the help of the fighters, accounted for two Dorniers straight away and damaged five to such an extent that two fell in the Channel and three force-landed in France. Two aircraft returned safely out of the whole Staffel, one being flown back by the flight engineer with the pilot dead on the floor.

Altogether 100 bombs fell on Kenley aerodrome and buildings, destroying four Hurricanes, one Blenheim, two Magisters and a Proctor and damaging six other aircraft. Ten hangars were total wrecks and many of the camp buildings demolished.

Most of the operations-room communications were cut, nine people were killed and ten injured, including one of the medical officers killed by a hit on a shelter trench near the hospital. Fire broke out and so many local fire brigades answered the SOS that they blocked the roads leading into the airfield. The operations block was moved into a shop and within two and a half days 90 per cent of the lines had been restored by the G.P.O.

While the station was temporarily out of action No. 615 Squadron was ordered to land and refuel at Croydon and No. 64 to go to Redhill. Due to lack of ground staff at Redhill, No. 64 in fact returned to Kenley, landing on a strip marked out between the craters.

Croydon received nineteen bombs, which further damaged hangars and buildings, and some hits were scored at West Mailing.

The attack on Biggin Hill was to be carried out in a similar way to that at Kenley with Ju 88s at high level and Do 17s lower down, both formations from KG76. The high-level strike was delayed due to rendezvous difficulties over France, and the Dorniers came in on their own. The airfield defences were fully prepared and on his own initiative the station commander, Group Captain Grice, scrambled Nos. 610 and 32 Squadrons. Group orders did not come through until after the raid, due to the mass of plots on the situation map.

As the firing died down the high-level raid came in and added its quota of bombs, although during both attacks the main damage consisted of airfield craters. KG 76 flew back to France minus four Ju 88s and six Do 17s.

The second major assault also came in the early afternoon, when Luftflotte 3 concentrated on airfields and a radar station in the Hampshire-West Sussex area.

Gosport was still being cleared from the raid on the 16th, when at 2.30 p.m. twenty-one Ju 88s in three groups of seven dive-bombed the airfield, wrecking buildings, engineering shops, aircraft and motor transport, but causing no casualties.

Twenty-five Ju 87s and a flight of Me 109s had Thorney Island, Hampshire, a 16 Group airfield, as their objective. Two hangars were hit, one aircraft destroyed and one damaged.

Ford, a Fleet Air Arm station in Sussex, was heavily bombed, with workshops and a hangar destroyed and thick smoke rising from punctured fuel stores.


An Me 109E of 1./JG52 brought down at Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, on August 24th following a dog-fight over Ramsgate

The only radar station hit was Poling, between Arundel and Littlehampton. Ninety bombs were dropped, including many delayed action. The station was so badly damaged that a mobile unit had to be set up to cover the gap. The Poling radar masts have long since been dismantled, but to this day there is at least one unexploded bomb annually sinking deeper into the soil on the site. In these actions two squadrons, Nos. 43 and 152, between them shot down twelve Stukas, all from St.G77. A Blenheim accounted for two Ju 87s near Thorney Island.

In the late afternoon the third and last major attack developed when aircraft from Luftflotte 2 approached via the Thames Estuary and again attacked Croydon. Twelve Me 109s sneaked into Manston at ground level,, and destroyed two Spitfires on the ground, killing one airman and injuring fifteen others. There was also heavy air fighting over Essex.

At night bombs were dropped on East Anglia, South Wales and Bristol, while mines were laid in the Thames Estuary and the Bristol Channel.

So ended a day which was almost as decisive in its results as August 15th. Fighter Command in 766 sorties, together with A.A., had accounted for seventy-one German aircraft, of which thirty-seven were bombers and eleven were Me 110s. K.Gr.100, the pathfinder unit operating in daylight for the first time, at Göring’s behest, also suffered its first loss, a Heinkel 111.

Twenty-seven R.A.F. fighters had been destroyed, with ten pilots killed.

The Luftwaffe had pressed home attacks on airfields using high- and low-level techniques. By far the more dangerous was the hedge-hopping raid which was difficult to plot overland and was often missed by the radar screen. Instead of correctly assessing the value of this type of approach, the German operations staffs felt the losses on the 18th were too great and thereafter formations mainly flew higher and higher with a close fighter escort.

August 18th was the virtual death-knell of the Ju 87s over Britain. Losses had been mounting at an alarming rate and, apart from a few isolated sorties, they were pulled out of the battle.

In Fighter Command the week had shown up a number of serious problems in defence and in control layout.

In a report after the Kenley raid it was recommended that more Bofors guns and mountings should be provided for the southern approaches to the airfield; the operations room should be removed from the station; new V.H.F. radio buildings and the sick quarters be sited away from the main camp; and that more personnel be made available at unoccupied satellite airfields for refuelling and rearming.

These requirements were put in by one station, but they applied to the whole of Fighter Command. Key sector operations rooms were on the airfields themselves, and while protected from blast and shrapnel at the sides, were wide open to a direct hit on top. The same applied to radio buildings. At Middle Wallop, for instance, the sector control was housed in a hut and the blast of bombs moved the whole building until finally the squadron ‘tote board’ and its lights collapsed from vibration.

The operations rooms and radio stations should not have been built on the airfields, but as they were, construction should have been underground and in reinforced concrete.

It was only due to German Intelligence’s lack of information on the sector layout and on the sites themselves that so many vital buildings and their crews survived the battle.

August 19th

Day Göring again confers. Isolated raids on Britain. Heavy reconnaissance activity.

Night Widespread harassing raids. Minelaying.

Weather Mainly cloudy. Occasional showers in the east.

From August 15th to 18th, inclusive, the Luftwaffe had lost 194 aircraft, and this showed conclusively that, despite the high British casualties claimed, Fighter Command was by no means beaten.


For this Me 109E of 2./JG52 the battle was over. On August 12th it was shot down in a cornfield near the Sussex village of Berwick, midway between Lewes and Eastbourne

When Göring met his fighter commanders at Karinhall on this Monday morning, he stated that: ‘Until further notice the main task of Luftflotten 2 and 3 will be to inflict the utmost damage possible on the enemy fighter forces. With this are to be combined attacks on the ground organisation of the enemy bombers conducted, however, in such a manner as to avoid all unnecessary losses.’

The reference to Bomber Command targets was obviously the result of complaints by the other services and by the O.K.W. over the continued attacks by British aircraft. The demand for raids on bomber airfields was nevertheless almost beyond the Luftwaffe’s capabilities as most of them were outside the operational radius of action of escorting Me 109s.

Göring concluded by saying: ‘There can no longer be any restriction on the choice of targets. To myself I reserve only the right to order attacks on London and Liverpool.’ This gave the Luftflotten and Fliegerkorps virtually a free hand and each followed its own particular pattern for target selection.

It was indicated that heavy raids would continue on the R.A.F. ground organisation and that British aircraft production must be disrupted, even to the extent of using single raiders in cloudy weather. Luftflotte 3 was ordered to plan for a night raid on Liverpool and Luftflotte 5 for one on Glasgow.

The Reichsmarschall felt far from happy about the performance of the fighter groups following rising bomber losses. He attributed this to a lack of aggressiveness on the part of pilots when in fact it was nothing of the sort. The Me 110 was a failure but remained in use, while the Me 109s were too few for massive escort and suffered at all times from lack of range.

As occurred throughout the Battle, Göring endeavoured to attribute failures to the operational units instead of to the manifest shortcomings of Luftwaffe Command planning.

In order, as he thought, to boost morale among fighter pilots, he promoted Mölders and Galland, two of his ‘star’ pilots, each to command of a fighter Gruppe. This was part of a belated policy of promoting younger operational officers to senior rank in place of those who were too old and lacked proper experience. It was a good idea, but it was to have no effect on the outcome of the Battle.

No. 11 Group, meanwhile, had been reassessing the situation in the light of a week’s heavy fighting and on the 19th Park issued Instruction No. 4 to his controllers to meet changed requirements.

He began with a note that attacks had been switched from coastal shipping and ports to inland objectives, particularly airfields. His instructions were as follows:

(a) Despatch fighters to engage large enemy formations over land or within gliding distance of the coast. During the next two or three weeks we cannot afford to lose pilots through forced landings in the sea. (Protection of all convoys and shipping in the Thames Estuary are excluded from this paragraph.)

(b) Avoid sending fighters out over the sea to chase reconnaissance aircraft or small formations of enemy fighters.

(c) Despatch a pair of fighters to intercept single reconnaissance aircraft that come inland. If clouds are favourable, put a patrol of one or two fighters over an aerodrome which enemy aircraft are approaching in clouds.


Dornier 17Z bombers of II/KG3 (Gruppe Finsterwalde) prepare for take-off from Antwerp/Deurne for a raid on Britain

(d) Against mass attacks coming inland despatch a minimum number of squadrons to engage enemy fighters. Our main object is to engage enemy bombers, particularly those approaching under the lowest cloud layer.

(e) If all our squadrons around London are off the ground engaging enemy mass attacks, ask No. 12 Group or Command Controller to provide squadrons to patrol aerodromes Debden, North Weald, Hornchurch.

(f) If heavy attacks have crossed the coast and are proceeding towards aerodromes, put a squadron, or even the sector training flight, to patrol under clouds over each sector aerodrome.

(g) No. 303 (Polish) Squadron can provide two sections for patrol of inland aerodromes, especially while the older squadrons are on the ground refuelling, when enemy formations are flying over land.

(h) No. 1 (Canadian) Squadron can be used in the same manner by day as other fighter squadrons.

For a few days cloudy weather was to lose 11 Group the opportunity of trying out the new tactics on a large scale. On the 19th large numbers of the enemy made threatening moves in the Channel and estuary areas, but only isolated raids came through. The most intense Luftwaffe activity was put up by the long-range reconnaissance Gruppen who carried out photographic sorties.

At 12.30 p.m. sixty+ aircraft were off the coast between Dungeness and North Foreland at 20,000 feet and at 12.50 a further fifty left Calais. Dover was the main target but the formations consisted largely of fighters. A few bombers penetrated to outer London.

Between 2.30 and 3 p.m. a small secondary attack came over Dover while raids approached Portsmouth and the Southampton Docks from Luftflotte 3. One raid succeeded in setting fire to oil-tanks at Pembroke Docks. Three hours later fifty + approached the east coast between Dungeness and Harwich and bombs fell on houses and airfields, although without much effect on the latter.

Fighter Command flew 383 sorties, losing three aircraft and destroying six German machines of which two were He 111s from K.Gr.100.

During the night there were continual small raids which operated over a wide area, to the extent that at some times almost three quarters of the country was under a yellow or red air raid warning. Bombs were dropped on Liverpool, Southampton, Hull, Derby, Wolverhampton, Sheffield, Bristol, Leicester and Nottingham. Eight airfields were attacked and at Driffield a hangar was set on fire.

August 20th

Day Scattered raids in morning. Kent and Essex airfields attacked in afternoon.

Night Negligible activity. One or two raids in south-west.

Weather Cloudy generally, rain spreading from north. Channel mainly fine.

The weather was autumnal, with low clouds, strong winds and intermittent rain which restricted German operations. The Luftflotten planning staffs spent the day digesting Göring’s requirements outlined on the 19th. These were contained in orders put out by the Luftwaffe Command Staff IA which covered ‘the weakening of enemy fighter forces, attacks on the enemy ground organisation, the aircraft industry, and aluminium and steel rolling mills’.

Activity over Britain in the morning was limited to small raids on Cheltenham, Oxford and Southwold, while reconnaissance aircraft surveyed Duxford, Debden, North Weald, Hatfield, Northolt and Hornchurch airfields. At 11.24 bombs were again dropped on the oil-tanks at Pembroke Docks, still burning from the previous day.

During the afternoon several waves of aircraft came in from Calais, starting just after 2 p.m. Objectives were the balloon barrage at Dover and the airfields of Eastchurch, Mansion and West Mailing. There were also isolated raids on convoy ‘Agent’ off the east coast and on S.S. Orford off Anglesey. Twelve fighter squadrons were despatched to intercept, but due to bad weather only accounted for six enemy aircraft in the course of 453 sorties, although one was a four-engined FW 200 over Ireland. Two R.A.F. aircraft were lost during the day. The Polish Air Force had its first success over Britain, No. 302 Squadron destroying a Junkers 88.


Production of Britain’s first four-motor heavy bomber, the Stirling, suffered a serious set-back on August 15th when the Short Brothers factory at Rochester was hit. Here wrecked Stirlings stand on the final assembly line after the raid


Exeter airfield, Devon, in August 1940. A Hurricane of No. 213 Squadron has crashed into the dispersal area of B Flight, No. 87 Squadron, after an air battle over Portland. In the background are Hurricanes of 87 Squadron

By night German activity was negligible with a few single bombers off the south-west coast.

August 21st

Day Small raids in, the east and south. Targets airfields.

Night Slight activity, some in Scotland.

Weather Cloudy, occasional rain.

The bad weather continued throughout the day, and the Luftwaffe resorted to ‘tip-and-run’ raids round the east and south coasts. Instead of mass attacks, small formations or single aircraft were used in some cases, while others had groups of three divided into two at low level and one stepped up.

Fighter Command had difficulty in meeting this type of attack but 599 sorties yielded thirteen German aircraft destroyed for the loss of one British fighter.

Airfields attacked or threatened were Exeter, St. Eval, Horsham, St. Faith, Bircham Newton, Ford, Coltishall, Stradishall and Watton. Bombs were also dropped on Grimbsy, Norwich, Canterbury, Southampton, Newmarket, Bournemouth and Pembroke.

After dark, raiding was again slight with bombers off Harwich, the Humber Estuary and the Firth of Forth.

During the day the operators at Dover radar station would have been intrigued to know that their tall aerial masts were the subject of close scrutiny by a small group of officers on Cap Gris Nez.


A typical Form ‘F’ or Combat Report from the Battle of Britain. This one was completed by Pilot Officer J. A. Phillipart, a Belgian pilot with No. 213 Squadron who, as shown, shot down no less than three Me 110s on this sortie on August 15th. P/O Phillipart was killed later in the Battle

It was the occasion of Göring’s first visit to Luftflotte 2’s forward headquarters, and with him were Milch, Kesselring, Sperrle, Lörzer and Wenniger, who had been the air attaché in London.

A pair of very high-powered naval binoculars had been set up through which the Dover masts were clearly visible. The sight does not, however, have appeared to have influenced the Reichsmarschall to change his orders of the 15th abandoning heavy attacks on the radar chain.


August 22nd

Day Shipping reconnaissance and attacks on two Channel convoys.

Night Increased activity. Industrial targets in Midlands, north and west. Minelaying.

Weather Cloudy and squally.

At nine o’clock in the morning the convoy ‘Totem’ was passing through the Straits of Dover and reported being under air attack. Investigation showed that it was in fact being shelled by the German heavy batteries near Cap Gris Nez. The first bombardment lasted eighty minutes and 100 shells were fired without effect.

Failure of the guns brought the Luftwaffe into action and at 12.40 some forty aircraft attacked the convoy, but were beaten off by Nos. 54 and 65 squadrons.

Apart from a few reconnaissance flights, the day remained quiet until 6.50 p.m. when a series of raids developed against Dover during the course of which Mansion was again hit.

Five R.A.F. aircraft were lost for the destruction of two German—a poor repayment for 509 Fighter Command sorties, which were again hampered by bad weather.


After an initial success due to surprise, the Boulton Paul Defiant two-seat turret fighter proved very vulnerable. Units equipped with the type were withdrawn to the north. In the autumn Defiant squadrons returned to southern airfields in a night fighter role. These Défiants of No. 264 Squadron were airborne from Kirton-in-Lindsey on August 9th

The toll of fighter pilots killed through drowning after being shot down in the sea had been rising steadily during August. The situation became so serious that on the 22nd Air Marshal Harris called a meeting at the Air Ministry to draft some organisation for rescue craft.

It was decided to combine the skeleton rescue service of Coastal Command with the boats of the Naval Auxiliary Patrol and to place R.A.F. launches under the operational control of the local naval authorities.

The R.A.F. retained the responsibility of air search, and twelve Lysanders originally borrowed from Army Co-operation Command were placed under the direction of Fighter Command. The aircraft were stationed at various fighter airfields along the coast and special liaison officers appointed to Nos. 10 and 11 Groups to assist in general handling. It had taken nearly twelve months of war to bring about even this meagre effort.

That night German activity showed a marked increase, with inland bombing, minelaying and shipping attacks. The convoy ‘Topaz’ was attacked off Wick by aircraft from Luftflotte 5 and the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s works at Filton were bombed including the airfield. Other stations visited were Manston, St. Eval, Northcoates and Wick. In the early hours of the morning one raider flew over and dropped his load on Wealdstone, Greater London. The aircraft was plotted in and the incident duly noted by 17 Group Observer Post D.3 at Harrow.

August 23rd

Day Single raids in the south. Reconnaissance.

Night Main targets South Wales.

Weather Showers and bright intervals. Cloud in Straits, Channel and Estuary.

Low cloud and rain continued throughout this Friday, limiting operations once again to guerrilla warfare by single, or occasionally flights of two or three machines.

Outer London, Tangmere, St. Albans, Portsmouth, Maidstone, Cromer, Harwich, Southampton, Colchester, Biggin Hill and Abingdon reported small attacks, while the east coast convoys were bombed. Of the raiders attempting to penetrate the London defences, several jettisoned their bombs in the suburbs—houses, a bank and two cinemas being hit. Fighter Command’s 482 sorties showed five German aircraft destroyed without British loss.

After nightfall twenty-two raids penetrated inland, mainly to South Wales, while the convoy ‘Draga’ was also bombed. Among the targets hit were Pembroke Dock and the Dunlop Rubber Company’s works at Birmingham.

As daylight came, the weather had improved and the Luftwaffe was about to execute its orders of the 20th for the destruction of British fighters and bases. Unknowingly, Dowding’s Command was entering upon the third and most critical phase of the Battle of Britain.

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