Battle of Britain diary

stona

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Wednesday 16 October

The weather closed in again, fog blanketing airfields in France and southern England severely limited daytime operations.

Had they flown operations today 11 Group’s pilots would have received another revision of tactics from Keith Park. Park decided to abandon the tactic of letting his squadrons operate rigidly in pairs, or even in Wings.

“Controllers will see the importance of ordering pairs or Wings to rendezvous over a point at operating height in order that they can climb quickly, singly, and not hold one another back by trying to climb in an unwieldy mass…Bitter experience has proved time and again that it is better to intercept the enemy with one squadron above him than by a whole wing crawling up below, probably after the enemy has dropped his bombs.”

It was one of Park’s great strengths, that he was never rigid in the way he operated his squadrons and was always prepared to react to changes in the enemy’s tactics.

Corporal Bob Morris, who we met earlier, had a chance to examine a downed Bf 109 today. He was not overly impressed.

“I looked in the cockpit and by our standards it was nowhere near up to the Spitfire’s instrumental standards. It was very bleak.”

The Luftwaffe lost three of its bombers on operations against England today with another two damaged. 3 more bombers were lost on operations tonight, one a rare victory for a Defiant night fighter. This was an He 111 of 2./Kgr. 126 shot down by a No 264 Squadron Defiant, crashing on Creasey’s Farm, Hutton at 02.00. Two of the crew managed to bale out and survived, the other two were killed. The CEAR states that the aircraft was completely destroyed and this photograph, taken the following morning would confirm that.

IMG_2362.JPG

Fighter Command suffered no operational losses today. Just one of No 249 Squadron’s Hurricanes was damaged by return fire from a Do 17 and made a forced landing. P/O K T Lofts was unhurt. Both sides suffered a number of accidents, a reflection of the poor weather.

Tonight, an estimated 150 Luftwaffe aircraft raided the London area with the rest of the country being visited by 50 more. Birmingham was heavily bombed, with other bombing reported in the South West, Liverpool and isolated places across the UK.

Bomber Command despatched 73 sorties to targets in Bremen, Kiel, Merseburg and Bordeaux. 3 aircraft failed to return and 10 Hampdens and 4 Wellingtons crashed on their return when their bases were fogged in.
 

stona

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Thursday 17 October

Cloudy but with a high enough base for the airfields in the south east to be clear. Marginal weather in some areas. A No 603 Squadron report recorded ‘Cloud 8/10 at 2,000 feet with haze below’.

Today the Germans dispatched 110 fighter-bombers against London, divided into four different raiding groups. The first two, involving, among others, III./ZG 76, hardly led to any air combat. The third raid against London, shortly after 15.00, was met by fourteen British squadrons. Park’s new tactic was put into action, and with good results. Nos 41, 66, 74 and 222 Squadrons engaged the Bf 109s. No 74 Squadron’s ‘Sailor’ Malan was one of the first into the action.

“We suddenly saw some yellow-noses (Me 109s) crossing our bows, and surprised them from the sun. I gave the right-hand one a two-second burst with quarter deflection from 200 yards and closed to 150 yards astern and delivered another two-second burst. I then closed to 100 yards and delivered a four-second burst which appears to damage elevator controls, as his nose went vertically downwards very suddenly instead of the usual half-roll. My engine naturally stopped when I followed suit, but it picked up again and I closed to 150 yards on half-roll and gave another four-second burst. I found myself doing an aileron turn to keep direction and delivered another four-second burst. He then started to smoke, but I blacked out completely and lost consciousness for a couple of seconds.”

Three Bf 109s, all from JG 53, and all with unit commanders at the controls, were shot down in this action. Hauptmann Hans-Karl Mayer, who led I./JG 53, crashed in the Thames Estuary, probably a victim of P/O Edward Wells from No 41 Squadron whose combat report described this action.

“I noticed a single Me 109 returning from the London area and heading towards the Channel. I immediately gave chase; as my height was only about 2,000 feet more he took some time to overtake. He seemed unaware of my presence and took no evasive action, so I closed until he exactly filled the sight bar, range 250 yards. I gave what I considered a preliminary burst of about 2 seconds and glycol smoke immediately poured away in large quantities and the machine started a shallow dive which he continued until about 7,000 feet, when he suddenly dived very sharply straight down into the sea. No pilot attempted to leave the machine at any time. I circled over the spot on the sea at 500 feet. Nothing came to the surface.”

Other accounts make Mayer a victim of one of the Spitfires of No 603 Squadron, which engaged the same formation from a lower level than No 41 Squadron. We will never know for sure.

Mayer’s body washed ashore ten days later. With 30 victories in in the Second World War and another nine in the Spanish Civil War, he was the most successful fighter pilot to be killed in the war so far.

The pilots of JG 53 would also claim three Spitfires in this fight. In fact, two had been shot down. P/O Hugh Reilley, an American volunteer, was killed when his Section was attacked at height by Major Molders’s flight, becoming Molders’s 48th victory.

Bombs from the ‘Jabos’ fell at random across London. In one incident five bombs struck Wilkins Street, killing three people, wounding ten and burying dozens of others in the collapsed houses.

The Luftwaffe had lost four of its fighters today with another damaged. More worryingly it had lost seven bombers with another damaged, several to London’s improving anti-aircraft defences. Lt Sven Schulte from KG 54 wrote in his diary:

“The strange thing is that the defence of London has grown stronger. Tonight, I was caught by the light beams from ten searchlights simultaneously. But our newspapers tell us that there are no more searchlights in London.”

Fighter Command had lost 4 aircraft in combat with another 5 damaged, two by bombs on their bases. There were also aircraft damaged in accidents caused by weather and poor visibility.

The Luftwaffe flew 254 sorties tonight, London being the principal target. Bombs fell on many parts of the Capital and several large fires resulted. Merseyside and Birmingham were also bombed and there were isolated reports of bombs falling in Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire.

Bomber Command did not operate tonight. This was probably due to a weather forecast which predicted that bases would be fogged in when the bombers returned at around first light.
 

stona

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Friday 18 October

Autumn weather with fog and heavy cloud.

The weather prevented almost all of Fighter Command’s operations today. A very small number of enemy aircraft operated over the country today but interception was almost impossible. One Luftwaffe bomber, a Ju 88 of II./KG 76 reported an attack by fighters after making a forced landing at Calais, causing 60% damage.

The Luftwaffe suffered an astonishing number of accidents and losses as aircraft attempted to land in the bad weather or were even abandoned due to it. At least 18 aircraft were lost or damaged in this way. KG 54’s Lt Sven Schulte wrote:

“Once again we encountered searchlights, barrage balloons and heavy anti-aircraft fire. On the return flight my air base and the entire surrounding area was covered by thick clouds. For over two and a half hours, I tried to find a gap in the clouds, while my radio operator called various aerodromes to inquire about landing opportunities. After five hours in the air, I found a suitable location. Several other crews from my air base had to bale out because their aircraft ran out of petrol.”

Fighter Command suffered no losses at the hands of the Luftwaffe, but it too suffered a number of accidents as aircraft became lost or disorientated in the bad weather, were forced to make unplanned landings, ran out of fuel or collided on aerodromes in the fog. In all at least 12 aircraft were lost or damaged in this way. No 302 Squadron lost 4 Hurricanes and had another damaged as they became lost in the weather and attempted forced landings. Two came down on Kempton Park race course, both pilots were killed. F/O P E G Carter was so disorientated that he was seen to attempt to bale out from an estimated 50 feet, with inevitable and fatal consequences.

In spite of the appalling weather the Luftwaffe made 129 sorties tonight. The bombing was understandably widely scattered. Bombs again fell on London, Merseyside and Birmingham.

Bomber Command’s operations were also curtailed, just 28 sorties were flown to Hamburg docks and the Lunen aluminium works. Hamburg reported that four people were injured, so some of the bombers found the right city. All the aircraft returned safely.
 

stona

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Saturday 19 October

Poor weather continues with heavy cloud and morning fog

Operations were again limited by the weather. There was one ineffective raid by ‘Jabos’ of 3./LG2 on London, during which one of 92 Squadron’s Spitfire’s may have been shot down by Bf 109s. Sgt L C Allton was killed in a crash landing, though the British recorded the circumstances as ‘unknown’.

Two Ju 88s were claimed as damaged by No 10 Group, off the coast, along with one claimed destroyed by fighters of No 11 Group. The latter must in fact have returned to its base as no losses are recorded in German records, though several Ju 88s were damaged for various reasons.

This was still a battle of attrition, slowed by the autumn weather. When the weather was good enough, some of Fighter Command’s pilots were flying two, three or even four sorties in a day, but their German counterparts were flying even more. On one day Ulrich Steinhilper flew seven cross-Channel sorties, in his words,

“…running with the practiced efficiency of the Deutsche Reichsbahn and just like passengers waiting for their scheduled service, the Spitfires would be on station waiting for the next wave.”

Today he wrote to his father.

“All the young pilots we get have so much to learn, we just can’t take them along without taking a 50% risk of losing them on their first mission. In our Gruppe there are only twelve left from the old crew. We frequently fly missions with only eight or nine aircraft mustered from the whole Gruppe*, a small force, but still full of fight. If we are to rebuild Then a certain critical nucleus is required as a core and for this our Gruppe shouldn’t get any smaller.

The British have, in part, a new engine in their Spitfires and our Me can hardly keep up with it. We have also made improvements and have also some new engines, but there is no more talk of absolute superiority. The other day we tangled with these newer Spitfires and had three losses against one success. I got into deep trouble myself and my ‘Rottenhund’
[wing man], Sigi Voss, was shot down.”

*To put that into perspective, a 1940 Luftwaffe fighter Gruppe would normally be able to muster 35-40 aircraft, including the Gruppenstab (roughly ‘staff flight’).

The Luftwaffe did not lose any aircraft on operations against Britain today, but four bombers were damaged on their return to base, all crashing. Fighter Command’s only possible operational loss was Sgt Allton’s Spitfire.

The Luftwaffe resumed intensive operations tonight, flying 282 sorties. Bombs fell on London, causing serious disruption to the railways, and also on Merseyside, Coventry, Leamington Spa. Random loads were scattered across south eastern counties.

Bomber Command despatched 120 sorties to five targets in North Germany, to Ambes oil refinery in France, airfields in Holland, Belgium and France, and minelaying. 2 Blenheims and 1 Whitley failed to return.
 

stona

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Sunday 20 October

Improved weather with broken cloud over the Channel and SE England.

Today saw a resumption of the ‘Jabo’ missions heading for London. Six large raids crossed the coast during the day, two of which dropped their bombs in the London area. Elements of JG 2 were escorting the ‘Jabos’ of 3./LG 2 when they tangled with No 41 Squadron. Two Bf 109s were shot down, including that of Fw Bielmaier who baled out unhurt. P/O Peter ‘Sneezy’ Brown later visited his victim, ‘liberating’ his Luftwaffe Schwimmveste. This was a much superior piece of kit to the standard RAF ‘Mae West’, and Brown subsequently wore his prize on operations.

Two other well known Fighter Command pilots also scored today. F/Lt McKellar (605 Squadron) and F/O Mungo Park (74 Squadron) both shot down Bf 109s.

The Luftwaffe lost 7 aircraft on operations against Britain today, with another 3 damaged. Fighter Command lost 3 aircraft in the fighting today, plus 2 Blenheims lost off the coast of Norway. Another 6 aircraft were damaged.

The Luftwaffe came back in force tonight, flying 298 sorties against Britain. London was heavily bombed in the early part of the night, the last raiders departing shortly after 03.00. Coventry received its heaviest raid of the war so far. Bombing was reported in Liverpool, Birkenhead, Leamington Spa (maybe mistaken for Coventry) and across the South-East.

Bomber Command despatched 139 sorties to various targets, the largest raid being by 30 Whitleys on Berlin. 5 aircraft were lost, including 3 Whitleys that ran out of fuel and were forced to ditch in the North Sea. Of note was the loss of a Whitley of No 58 Squadron, shot down by a German intruder, killing all but one of the crew. This was the first British bomber shot down by the enemy over mainland Britain. The victorious pilot was Hauptmann Karl Hulshoff of I./NJG 2, a specialist intruder unit at the time. All its previous victims had been shot down over the sea.
 

Allen Dewire

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Hi Steve,

I'm sure I can speak for everyone following this interesting and most excellent blog when I say "Thank you ever so much for your hard work and dedication in making this a "must" read every day"...

I have more than once stared out my window and tried to imagine what the folks saw coming at them in waves, upon waves. One cannot fathom or visualize 200 or more aircraft approaching at once over the coast of let's say Folkstone. Even trying to visualize 30 aircraft is difficult. The drone of the engines and knowing what they were going to do must have been hell on earth...

Thank you once again Sir!!!

Prost
Allen
 

adt70hk

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Hi Steve,

I'm sure I can speak for everyone following this interesting and most excellent blog when I say "Thank you ever so much for your hard work and dedication in making this a "must" read every day"...

I have more than once stared out my window and tried to imagine what the folks saw coming at them in waves, upon waves. One cannot fathom or visualize 200 or more aircraft approaching at once over the coast of let's say Folkstone. Even trying to visualize 30 aircraft is difficult. The drone of the engines and knowing what they were going to do must have been hell on earth...

Thank you once again Sir!!!

Prost
Allen
Very well said indeed Allen.
 

stona

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Monday 21 October

Heavy cloud, fog and rain over the South East.

The poor weather again severely affected flying today. This was becoming something of a pattern for the month. An estimated 40-45 aircraft crossed the coasts of Britain, mostly single bombers on nuisance raids (Storflug).

A Ju 88 of I./KG 51 was the only enemy aircraft definitely shot down, by two Spitfires of No 609 Squadron flown by F/Lt Howell and P/O Hill, who shared the victory. German reports show several other bombers returning with damage and one failing to return, assumed shot down by the British, though there is no corresponding claim.

The Ju 88 shot down by No 609 Squadron was that unit’s 100th official victory. Oblt Fabian Maximilian and his crew had made a low level attack against the RAF base at Old Sarum. Howell and Hill received orders from their controller to fly to Salisbury, and they arrived at Old Sarum just in time to see Oblt Fabian’s Ju 88 leave. The British pilots took up the chase. Oberleutnant Fabian’s mistake was to try to escape at low altitude instead of climbing up into the low clouds. Hit by both Spitfires the Junkers crashed near Lymington. No one in the crew survived. Being the first squadron to 100 victories demanded a celebration and F/Lt David Crook remembered just that:

“We trooped into the writing-room and there found a couple of waiters behind the bar and almost hidden by the large stock of champagne and brandy that had been installed for the occasion…We toasted practically everything we could think of, in round after round of champagne cocktails”.

Today the Luftwaffe had lost two aircraft on operations against Britain with four more damaged. It had lost or damaged several more in accidents. Fighter Command suffered no operational losses today, just two were written off and one damaged in accidents.

Luftwaffe operation tonight were reduced by comparison with previous nights and it is likely that this was due to the poor weather. Coventry was heavily bombed in two raids, London was on alert for nine hours, enduring sporadic bombing. Bombs were also dropped on Chesterfield, Birmingham, Swansea and Hull.

Bomber Command despatched 42 sorties tonight, to targets in Cologne, Hamburg, Reisholz and Stuttgart. Wellingtons sent to Hamburg attempted an attack on the Bismarck. They did not hit the ship but started 12 fires, 8 of which were described as ‘large’ in the Hamburg civil defence report.

Tonight, a Do 17 of Kustenfliegergruppe I./606 (a remnant of Germany’s naval aviation) took off from Lanveoc-Poulmic on a night reconnaissance raid. Lt. Walter Stirmat and his crew should have flown up the Irish Sea, turning east towards Liverpool along the north coast of Wales. They seem to have crossed the Welsh coast too soon, near Aberdovy, and flown on to the Shrewsbury area. They encountered adverse weather and a ‘magnetic storm’ which disrupted their navigational equipment. They flew on becoming increasingly unsure of their position. Now thoroughly lost but believing that they were over France, Stirnat engaged the auto pilot and he and his crew all baled out. They were not over France but over Salisbury plain. All four men survived the jump to become prisoners of war. Incredibly, the aircraft seems to have decided to attempt a return to Germany and flew on for nearly 150 miles before running out of fuel and making an almost perfect belly landing on the mud of Ness Point, near Shotley, between Felixstowe and Harwich, in Suffolk

IMG_2377.JPG

You couldn’t make that up!
This picture was taken sometime on the 22nd, it gives an idea of the weather this week.
 

adt70hk

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Steve

As always thank you so much for this. Seems like today's weather is much like that of 80 years ago, at least where I am.

As for the belly landing, completely amazing!

Thanks again.

Andrew
 

Tim Marlow

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Thanks for this one...Love the Do-17 story. I suppose autopilot is designed to keep the aircraft straight and level, and that’s what it did, even after the fuel ran out. Still a remarkable story though.
 

yak face

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Brilliant stuff as always , cheers steve . I wonder what happened to the almost complete do17 , would have made a great museum piece.
 

stona

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Brilliant stuff as always , cheers steve . I wonder what happened to the almost complete do17 , would have made a great museum piece.
It looks like it could be easily recovered with a tractor or two, plenty of those in Suffolk :smiling3:
This would have been the responsibility of the RAF Maintenance Unit responsible for that area. They would not have been bothered about keeping it in one piece if it was easier to cut it up where it came down. Ultimately, assuming it was recovered, it would have been broken up for salvage. The aluminium would probably have ended up being re-processed at the Alcan works in Banbury.
 

yak face

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It looks like it could be easily recovered with a tractor or two, plenty of those in Suffolk :smiling3:
This would have been the responsibility of the RAF Maintenance Unit responsible for that area. They would not have been bothered about keeping it in one piece if it was easier to cut it up where it came down. Ultimately, assuming it was recovered, it would have been broken up for salvage. The aluminium would probably have ended up being re-processed at the Alcan works in Banbury.
Probably ended up as pie tins then , shame .
 

stillp

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I wonder who'll be the first to make a dio of that downed Do17?
Pete
 

stona

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Not necessarily, might have ended up as parts of a Lancaster.....but you’re probably right.
Aluminium from Alcan definitely found its way into the British aircraft industry. It's the main reason why wrecks were considered worth recovering, though how economically viable that would have been in peacetime is another question. Aluminium was a strategically important material, so its use in things not of vital importance would have been limited at the very least.
There must have been a stock built up, because later 'German' aluminium was cast into victory bells. They were made by the Buckinghamshire Die-Casting Co. of Burnham, Bucks using aluminium alloy from German aircraft destroyed during World War II. They bear the heads of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in low relief with a large 'V' on the handle. Sale proceeds went to the RAF Benevolent Fund. My grandparents had one of these (I think my brother may have it now) but we were not allowed to ring it. Of course we did, and it doesn't, I remember a clonk rather than a ring!

Here's an example, picture from the internet.

victory-bell.jpg
 
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stona

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Tuesday 22 October

Heavy cloud, rain and fog over much of England today. At least some airfields in the south east began the day fogbound.

Once again, the weather restricted offensive daylight operations by the Luftwaffe. Single bombers, using the cloud as cover, flew nuisance raids. Some casualties were caused at Eastbourne, Deal and New Romney, few aircraft penetrated far inland. The only bombs to fall in the London area fell on Epsom Downs. A few ‘Jabo’ attacks were attempted, leading to fighting between the Luftwaffe’s Bf 109s and the fighters of Fighter Command.

Fighter Command managed some interceptions. Uffz. Arp of 2./JG 26 was killed when his Bf 109 was shot down by No 257 Squadron’s F/O Coke. No 257 Squadron lost Sgt R H B Fraser who was shot down and killed in return. We have Coke’s Combat Report.

“I was flying Yellow 1 doing rear section lookout to 257 Squadron who were escorting 46 Squadron. At 22,000 feet above New Romney I saw about nine Me 109s above and behind, manoeuvring to up sun of us. I warned 257 Sqdn leader, turned towards the enemy aircraft and saw two of them come down at us. I got in one short burst from quarter ahead at the second one but observed no result. I then saw a dogfight in progress south of me over the sea and below and flew west and then turned and flew towards it down sun. However, at 19,000 feet I sighted 7 Me 109s in wide Vic slightly below and flying straight towards me. I don’t think they saw me. I carried out a ¾ head-on attack on the right-hand Me 109 of the Vic; I could see my bullets hitting him from the engine right through to the tail. I passed about 50 yards from him and turned but lost them in the sun.”

Arp was flying as Galland’s wing man, his aircraft exploded in mid-air, giving him no chance of escape.

Fhr. Mueller of 3./JG 51 tangled with S/Ldr ‘Sailor’ Malan and F/O Mungo-Park of No 74 Squadron, coming of worse and being shot down into the Channel. The nineteen year old Mueller survived to become a prisoner of war. In this action 74 Squadron’s F/O P C B St John was shot down and killed. He was almost certainly another victim of Werner Molders and holds the dubious honour of being the first victim of the new Bf 109 F-1, which Molders was flying for the second time in combat today.

The Luftwaffe had lost four aircraft today on operations against England with two more damaged. Once again several more were written off or damaged in accidents. Fighter Command had lost six aircraft, including an own goal when a Hurricane of No 257 Squadron was shot down by Folkestone’s anti-aircraft artillery, killing P/O N B Heywood. Two other aircraft were damaged.

Luftwaffe activity tonight was again on a comparatively small scale. Most bombs were dropped before midnight, though a few fell on south west London soon after 01.00. Apart from a few districts in South Wales, Devonshire and Cornwall, no air raid warnings were given after 01.30. Coventry was the most heavily bombed, suffering its fourth successive night of raiding.

Bomber Command did not operate tonight.
 

stona

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Wednesday 23 October

Very bad weather, heavy cloud, rain and fog covering airfields in France and England.

The weather had deteriorated from marginal to impossible for flying in most areas. There were few daylight operations, a few single aircraft dropping bombs in the London area. There were no interceptions today and no aircraft were confirmed shot down in aerial combat.

The Luftwaffe may have lost one aircraft in operations against Britain, a Ju 88 of III./KG 77 which failed to return from a mission to bomb London, though the cause of its loss is not certain. The Luftwaffe lost or damaged another six aircraft in accidents, a reflection of the marginal flying weather.

Fighter Command, for the most part, stayed on the ground. There were no operational losses, but a No 600 Squadron Blenheim from Catterick crashed into a hill side killing all on board and a No 616 Squadron Hurricane from Kirton-in-Lindsey was badly damaged when Sgt Wilson misjudged his approach.

A few Luftwaffe bombers penetrated inland in the early part of the night and some bombs fell in London. The ‘All Clear’ was given very early, at 01.50, as enemy activity ceased.

Bomber Command despatched 79 sorties, presumably confident that its airfields would be clear when they returned in the early hours. The biggest effort was to Embden and Berlin. Two Wellingtons were lost.
 

stona

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Thursday 24 October

Weather slightly improved.

Conditions improved enough to allow the ‘Jabos’ to operate again over England. Most raids were carried out by single aircraft.

421 Flight’s Sgt Don McKay claimed a Bf 109 damaged over Ashford. This was probably a Bf 109 of 8./JG 27 which finally crashed into the sea off Cap Gris Nez, killing Unteroffizier Ulrich Linke.

A Do 215 of 3./Augkl.Gr.Ob.d.L. was shot down during a reconnaissance of Birmingham and Coventry, crashing at Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire. The crew baled out very low and three of the four were killed. In an unfortunate accident tomorrow, the jib of a crane used for the recovery of this wreck touched an overhead powerline, causing three men to be electrocuted, two fatally. One of the men killed, A.C. Harry Clack, was just sixteen years old, one of the ‘Trenchard brats’ whose apprenticeships were accelerated at the beginning of the war. He had been sent from RAF Halton to join No. 54 MU, which was responsible for wrecks in this area. It was his second day with the unit. There was a severe shortage of men with the skills required to maintain the RAF’s aircraft. Men (and it was men in 1939/40) with the necessary skills working in the aircraft industry were badly needed where they were and could not be transferred to the RAF. It was this that led to the accelerated training programmes and apprenticeships which saw very young men, like Clack, posted to the RAF’s Maintenance Units in 1940.

Clack_Headstone.jpg

Most losses were again to accidents. The Luftwaffe lost three aircraft on operations against Britain. Fighter Command suffered no operational losses.

An estimated 120 Luftwaffe aircraft were over Britain tonight. 50 raided the London area with others attacking Birmingham, Bristol and targets in East Anglia. London was under a red warning from 19.17 until 00.52 and then again from 01.30 to 04.12. Birmingham was under alert from 19.46 until 23.13, though the actual raid only lasted for half an hour and did far more damage than that caused by the scattered bombing in London. Bombs fell on Birmingham city centre, Hockley, Lee bank, Kings Heath and Moor Green.

Bomber Command despatched 113 aircraft to targets in Germany and Holland. The heaviest raid was on Hamburg where several large fires were started and 217 people bombed out of their homes. All the aircraft returned safely.
 
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