Battle of Britain diary

stona

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Friday 25 October

Weather much improved with a bright and sunny start to the day.

the Luftwaffe dispatched 634 fighters, including 186 fighter-bombers, most of them towards London. It was the highest number in three weeks, but Fighter Command responded with a total of 776 fighters. There were four major raids, three of which succeeded in reaching London.

At about 10.00, JG 26 attacked No 603 Squadron, which was on patrol above Maidstone, and shot down two of its Spitfires. P/Os Frank Soden and Peter Olver survived by bailing out. A third pilot, P/O Ludwik Martel was hit and forced to make an emergency landing. The aircraft was damaged but repairable.

Martel later gave this account.

“Having escaped from Poland, during the Battle of Britain I flew with 603 Squadron from Hornchurch. On that day I was flying Spitfire Mk IIA P7350, which was damaged. That aircraft is still flying today, in fact, with the battle of Britain Memorial Flight!”

No 66 Squadron’s eight victory ace F/O Robert Oxspring was also shot down, though he survived by baling out. He was credited as a victim of JG 51’s Werner Molders.

Shortly after 15.00r, JG 51 clashed and fought a vicious battle with No 501 Squadron. Two Hurricanes and two Bf 109s were shot down but another two Hurricanes were lost in a mid-air collision.

One of the many Bf 109s that came down in England today was Gefr Karl Raisinger’s ‘Red 13’. This was a Bf 109 E-3 of 3./JG 77. Raisinger made an excellent landing on Harvey’s Cross farm in East Sussex. Here the aircraft is on display at the Rootes car showroom in Maidstone. You could look in the cockpit for a bargain 6d, but not, it seems, sit in it.

IMG_2378.JPG

There had been fighting and steady losses on both sides throughout the day. The Luftwaffe lost 15 aircraft, of which 13 were Bf 109s, with 8 more damaged. Fighter Command had lost 9 of its fighters with 6 more damaged. The weather had improved bringing a higher number of operations against Britain and this led, inevitably, to higher losses on both sides. From a British perspective it is easy to see that these were incurred in defence of British air space, the reason that Fighter Command existed and the reason its pilots fought. It is difficult to see what the Germans hoped to achieve for their losses. Scattering 250Kg bombs ineffectively across London and the south eastern counties was not going to turn the tide in a campaign that was already lost and to that extent their losses were pointless. This was not lost on the Luftwaffe airmen doing the fighting and dying, and it had a depressing effect on their morale.

Tonight, the Luftwaffe sent at least 100 sorties against Britain. London was kept under continuous alert for most of the night by a procession of single aircraft. Birmingham was bombed again. The Carlton cinema in Balsall Heath was hit shortly after 20.00, killing 20 people who were watching ‘Typhoon’ starring Dorothy Lamour and Robert Preston.

carlton-cinema.jpg

The Luftwaffe effort was less concentrated (or more widespread, depending on your point of view) and incidents were reported across England as well as in Scotland and Wales.

Bomber Command despatched 94 sorties tonight. The targets were in Germany and occupied countries, mostly oil and ‘harbour’ targets. 1 Hampden, which was attacking Kiel, was lost.
 

stona

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Saturday 26 October

The weather closed in again, though slightly brighter in the afternoon.

Despite the weather the day saw almost continuous raids, including some high flying incursions by the Bf 109 ‘Jabos’ and their escorts.

Several bombers were intercepted throughout the day, though none were shot down. At 09.00 No 74 Squadron tangled with Bf 109s losing Sgt J Scott, who was shot down and killed.

The next raiders were intercepted at about 10.30, by No 92 Squadron, who shot down two of JG 53’s Bf 109s, severely damaging another two whilst suffering no losses themselves.

F/O James Hayter, a Kiwi flying with No 605 Squadron had a lucky escape at about tea time this afternoon.

“In 605 Squadron’s Hurricane “UP-D”, a borrowed aircraft, I was flying over Kent, Gravesend. We had attacked a bunch of ‘109s. I got separated on my own and saw a formation of eight or nine ‘109s in tight formation above me. I was creeping up behind them, hoping to take them by surprise. Then I myself got shot down by a ’109 behind me, he had crept up on me, at about 15,000 feet. My rudder controls were shot away from my feet, leaving a big hole, and something hit the armour plate behind my seat as I got shrapnel in my head and in my side. I opened my hood and tested my ailerons and I was flicked out when it turned over suddenly. I opened my parachute and was spinning as I was hit on the way out.”

Hayter had been shot down by JG 26 and became Adolf Galland’s 46th ‘official’ victory. He made a successful parachute jump and he landed in Mayor Victor Castlet’s garden in Staplehurst where a cocktail party was going on! The partygoers offered the shot down RAF pilot refreshments, while someone called a doctor who bandaged the pilot’s wounds. Then Hayter called his fiancée, who lived not far from there, and asked her to come by and pick him up with her car. On a happy note, Hayter survived the war as a nine victory ace before leaving the RAF after an eventful career in September 1945. He returned to New Zealand and resumed farming. He died at Takaka on 3 October 2006.

The Luftwaffe lost seven of its aircraft on operations against Britain, with three more damaged. One of the seven was an He 59 engaged in air sea rescue operations, shot down by Sgt Ommaney of No 229 Squadron. The RAF had been shooting down these unarmed aircraft since the beginning of the Battle, but they were still attempting to save downed airmen of both air forces. Fighter Command had lost four of its aircraft, with two more damaged.

The Luftwaffe made a big effort tonight, with more sorties than on the previous few nights. Raids were most intense in the first half of the night, up to about 01.30 with an estimated 150 aircraft over London, 20 over Birmingham and 20 in the Liverpool/Manchester area. After 01.30 activity was restricted to the London area, but by no more than 20 aircraft. Fifty London Boroughs reported incidents tonight. The Birmingham raid was the third in a row and did the most damage so far.

Bomber Command sent 84 sorties to targets in Germany and occupied countries. The largest raid was by 17 Hampden’s on a power station in Berlin. All the aircraft returned safely.
 

Bobthestug

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While the wonderful men were defending our country the toffs were having a cocktail party. Cannot fault it lol
 

stona

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Sunday 27 October

Slight improvement in the weather, but still overcast.

The Luftwaffe mounted six major raids during the day, between 07.40 and 16.30 with the ‘Jabos’ and their escorts making for London. Two of these raids succeeded in dropping some bombs on the capital.

Nos 66, 74, 145, 222, 603, 605 and 609 Squadrons all engaged enemy aircraft over Britain today. Nos 74 and 605 Squadrons scored some notable successes, one of which was the shooting down of our friend Ulrich Stenhilper, whose letters home have contributed to this diary. Steinhilper was a victim of several Spitfires of No 74 Squadron which managed to bounce his formation which was flying escort for I.(J)/LG 2. Unusually we can piece this action together with accounts from both sides.

Steinhilper.

“I made a steep turn, full throttle, rudder bar hard round and the stick against my leg, the engine turning at 2800 rpm – 400 too many! We had to make as much speed as possible, the British fighters were diving towards us.”

Steinhilper and his wingman Feldwebel Lothar Schieverhofer desperately sought to evade the attacking Spitfires. F/O William Nelson, an American flying with No 74 Squadron, explained.

“Two of the ‘109s came across my bows, heading into the sun. I followed and closed to 150 yards on the port side of the enemy and opened fire with a three-second burst which caused the ’109 to smoke badly and half-roll down.”

Steinhilper and his wingman were now in a very bad situation.

“The first Spitfire already had red flames dancing along the leading edge of his wings as his guns fired. I dived away and saw that the engine was now turning at 3300 rpm, the throttle fully open. I couldn’t risk the engine blowing up, so at 7,000 metres I levelled out.”

P/O Nelson.

“I followed easily and the enemy, after a sharp dive, pulled steeply into the sun. I could only follow him with the smoke trail. After two minutes I closed once more in the climb and gave a continuous burst of fire at point-blank range. The ’109 shed bits of machine which hit my aircraft and damaged the spinner and propeller.”

Steinhilper.

“Bang! There was an explosion at the left side of my fighter, near to the front. The control column shook as something hit the elevators in the tail,”

P/O Nelson.

“The enemy then wallowed in a shallow dive, and I formatted on it down through the clouds”

Or in Steinhilper’s words.

“I put the nose down and glided down towards the cloud layer below.”

Eventually Steinhilper baled out slightly wounded, to become a prisoner of war. He did not make a forced landing, as his colleagues believed.

Oberleutnant Kuhle, L 07141, Lg. P.A.Brussel

To:

Herrn Wilhelm Steinhilper’

Heutingheim

b-Stuttgart


Dear Herr Steinhilper,

As Deputy Group Commander I have to inform you that your son, Ulrich Steinhilper, did not return from a sortie against England on 27 October. There is hope that he is a Prisoner of War because I was in radio contact with him shortly before his emergency landing. At this moment his loss is irreplaceable for the Gruppe. As squadron leader I fought many air battles with your son and I estimate his capabilities as an officer and a fighter pilot as exceptional. Not forgetting his own individual carefree vigour which brought him very close to me.

We all hope with you that soon there will be information about him being in English custody.

I greet you and Frau Steinhilper, Heil Hitler,

Helmut Kuhle.”


Steinhilper was not I./JG 52’s only loss today. Two others, including his wingman (who did make a forced landing) were also shot down. The unit would not fly again in the Battle of Britain and was withdrawn, first to Antwerp and then to Krefeld in Germany. The Gruppe war diary was frank.

“In mid-October, the combat strength of our Gruppe had dropped so much that we flew our missions with an average of ten aircraft. After those three losses on 27 October, seven pilots is all that remains of the unit.”

When I./JG 52 started the Battle of Britain it comprised thirty six pilots, none of whom had less than three years experience. Now, just four of them remained. There were many Luftwaffe units at the Channel front in similar states, worn down by constant attrition and the low rate and poor quality of replacement pilots.

Today the Luftwaffe lost 11 aircraft on operations against Britain with a further 7 damaged. Fighter Command had lost 12 aircraft, 3 in forced landings following combat when they ran out of fuel rather than directly to enemy action, with a further 3 damaged.

An estimated 200 Luftwaffe aircraft operated over Britain tonight. Again, the heaviest raiding was in the first half of the night, up to about 01.30, but the effort was more evenly distributed between London, the Midlands and the North West of England. Coventry was the main target in the Midlands.

Bomber Command 82 aircraft to targets in Germany and occupied countries. 76 reported bombing their targets and none were lost. 5 Hampden’s went minelaying off Lorient and 1 of these failed to return.
 

adt70hk

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Steve

Thanks yet again. Thanks especially for the way you alternated the two pilots' own versions of the encounter.

ATB

Andrew
 

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Great stuff Steve. You're nearing the end of you marathon, keep going.
 

stona

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Monday 28 October

The autumn weather continued.

The weather was having a debilitating effect on air operations. The Luftwaffe continued to send over its reconnaissance flights, nuisance bombers, usually flying singly, and to mount its fighter bomber operations and Fighter Command continued to detect them and attempt interceptions. A pattern had been established over the last three weeks and continued today.

One of the first in action today was No 257 Squadron’s P/O Franek Surma, who, judging by this account, must have been something of a crack shot.

“When I was about three hundred yards behind the enemy aircraft, and He 111, the rear gunner opened up from below me. I gave a short burst to un-nerve them. When I was about 150-200 yards behind the enemy aircraft’s tail, on the port side, I gave a three-four second burst at the cockpit. Passing over him I fired at the starboard engine from about 80 yards. He continued to fly on level and I gave him another burst of about four seconds from about 100 yards at the starboard engine. Seeing no results, I followed up the attack with another burst at the starboard engine. I noticed a small explosion from the engine and saw grey smoke pouring out…We went into cloud at about 4,500 feet. I levelled out, came out of the layer and searched above and below. As I came below cloud I saw that I was directly above the coastline, I looked for the enemy aircraft but did not find it.”

Surma was credited with a probable for this action.

A larger formation attempted to reach London in the afternoon, but in the bad weather and determined opposition dropped their bombs in the neighbourhood of Banstead, Coulsdon, Reigate and several other places in Kent.

Today the Luftwaffe lost 7 aircraft in operations against Britain, including 4 Bf 109s shot down by RAF fighters. Another 2 aircraft were damaged. Fighter Command suffered no operational losses and just 2 aircraft damaged in accidents.

An estimated 140 Luftwaffe aircraft operated over Britain tonight, half of which attacked London. The rest raided Birmingham (for three hours) and bombs fell in scattered places across the country. The attacks on London were not concentrated and once again more than fifty boroughs made incident reports.

Bomber Command sent off 97 sorties to Germany, Belgium and France. The largest raid, by 20 Hampdens, was to Hamburg where one person was killed. 2 aircraft failed to return.
 

adt70hk

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Another informative report Steve!
 

stona

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Tuesday October 29

A break in the weather, though still with cloud and overcast.

The Germans took advantage of the weather to launch six separate raids today, more than 400 sorties being flown against Britain. There were successes and failures for both sides today, which saw the last significant action of the Battle.

At about 11.00 Park’s new tactics brought about an unequivocal victory over the fighter-bombers and their escorts. Nos. 229 and 615 squadrons were ordered to take off, followed by Nos 602 and 222. Two German formations with a total of fifty Messerschmitts had been sighted heading towards Dover. The first clashes cost one fighter on each side. But that was only the beginning. When the fighter-bombers from I. and II./LG 2 and 3./Erprobungsgruppe 210 (3 Staffel flew Bf 109s), and their escort from Stab, I. and II./JG 51 came in over Kent, they spotted a Spitfire section which reported their altitude. Four British squadrons were by then already airborne and vectored to the raid. While the Hurricanes from two squadrons attracted the attention of the Germans by climbing a bit in front of them, No 222 Squadron’s Spitfires came in from behind. Meanwhile, twelve Spitfires from No 602 Squadron waited at 30,000 feet, right on the edge of the altitude where they would start leaving revealing contrails behind. They would bounce the Bf 109s unobserved from this superior position. No less than 11 Bf 109s were shot down in the space of six minutes, all by No 602 Squadron, which accurately reported 11 Bf 109s shot down. No. 602 Squadron suffered only some slight damage to one of its Spitfires. Then No 222 Squadron’s F/Lt Eric Thomas and Sgt John Burgess joined the game. They pursued and shot down the Bf 109 of Oberleutnant Otto Hintze, the commander of 3./Erprobungsgruppe 210.

After returning to France the extent of the defeat was clear for Major Molders. His JG 51 had lost five pilots, including aces Leutnant Heinz Tornow (10 victories) and Oberleutnant Ernst Terry (8 victories), who also was adjutant of I./JG 51. The loss of fighter-bomber veteran Oberleutnant Hintze weighed even heavier. Finally a report came from II.(S)/LG 2 that three pilots were missing, including Oberleutnant Bruno von Schenck, the commander of the 5./LG 2, and from 6./JG 52 Leutnant Gerhard Barkhorn was forced to ditch in the Channel. This had been achieved by two British squadrons fighting with a 5 to 1 disadvantage in numbers, but from an advantageous tactical position, almost always a deciding factor in such fighting.

The next raid was led by JG 2, now under the command of Helmut Wick. The raid was first reported by the RDF station at Ventnor. The Hurricanes from Nos 145 and 213 squadrons climbed to engage the enemy. In the ensuing clash the Germans claimed to have shot down six British fighters. The British had lost two of their fighters in exchange for a solitary Bf 109.

Next off were the Bf 109s of III./JG 3 led by Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar. Having reached the English coast, they were attacked by ‘Sailor’ Malan’s 74 Squadron. F/O John Colin Mungo-Park and the American volunteer pilot F/Lt William Nelson shot down two Bf 109s. One was that of Oberleutnant Egon Troha of 9./JG 3, who became a prisoner of war.

This evening II./JG 51 tried its luck, but was also intercepted, losing three of its aircraft The unit had just returned, revitalised, to the Channel after being removed from the battle in late August. At the same time the Ju 87s of II./StG 1 were sent to make a diversionary attack on Folkestone. It was the first time that the ‘Stukas’ had flown against England for two months. The entire JG 26 was out, with Major Galland in the lead, along with II.(S)/LG 2, heading for North Weald. What followed is one of the controversial actions of the entire Battle and one glossed over in many accounts.

The fighter-bomber pilots from II.(S)/LG 2 made an exemplary dive-bombing attack against North Weald’s airfield. They struck just as the aircraft from Nos 249 and 257 Squadrons rolled out for take-off and destroyed one Hurricane as it took off and damaged another. Then they followed up with several strafing runs over the airfield, killing nineteen and wounding forty-two people on the ground. The British fighters that managed to get up in the air were attacked by Bf 109s and scattered, though one was shot down. This was the Hurricane of crack shot Polish pilot Franek Surma who we met yesterday. He survived with a black eye and was more concerned that in baling out he lost both his flying boots!

The controversy is not that the Luftwaffe executed a text book attack but that it should have been prevented. S/Ldr Bader was up with the Duxford Wing, but the 11 Group controller was unable to communicate with him because of the constant R/T chatter between Bader and Wing Commander Woodhall. P/O Dennis Crowley-Milling remembered that,

“Douglas always kept up an incessant stream of chatter over the R/T, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, organising squash and golf games and so on. It was inspiring.”

Inspiring it may have been to his young pilots, but it was also unprofessional and another indication of Bader’s failure to understand how the British air defence system, of which he was one small part, worked. Moreover, had the Duxford Wing been patrolling the north bank of the Thames, where it was supposed to be, it would have been in a good position to intercept this raid and prevent the bombing of North Weald. In this case a combination of Bader’s insouciance and wireless chatter literally cost lives. They didn’t put this bit in ‘Reach for the Sky’.

Incidentally, all the Ju 87s had landed safely back at St Pol by 18:30.

The Luftwaffe had lost 18 aircraft today, 15 of which were fighters, with 3 more damaged. Fighter Command had fared better but still lost 7 aircraft with a further 8 damaged.

The Luftwaffe flew 140 sorties tonight, 90 against London, 40 to targets in the Midlands and the remainder to the North West. Twenty London Boroughs reported incidents and Birmingham and Coventry were both bombed. A number of bombs fell across Sussex and Kent, probably jettisoned by aircraft failing to identify their targets.

Bomber Command sent 98 sorties against targets in Germany and Holland. The biggest raid was by a mixture of 30 Wellingtons and Hampden’s to Berlin. Only 4 of these aircraft reported finding the target and bombing. 5 Hampden’s were sent to lay mines off Copenhagen, 1 of which failed to return.
 

Neil Merryweather

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Super stuff, Steve.
I have really enjoyed reading these, thanks so much for all the hard work, and you have a very readable writing style
 

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Tuesday October 29

A break in the weather, though still with cloud and overcast.

The Germans took advantage of the weather to launch six separate raids today, more than 400 sorties being flown against Britain. There were successes and failures for both sides today, which saw the last significant action of the Battle.

At about 11.00 Park’s new tactics brought about an unequivocal victory over the fighter-bombers and their escorts. Nos. 229 and 615 squadrons were ordered to take off, followed by Nos 602 and 222. Two German formations with a total of fifty Messerschmitts had been sighted heading towards Dover. The first clashes cost one fighter on each side. But that was only the beginning. When the fighter-bombers from I. and II./LG 2 and 3./Erprobungsgruppe 210 (3 Staffel flew Bf 109s), and their escort from Stab, I. and II./JG 51 came in over Kent, they spotted a Spitfire section which reported their altitude. Four British squadrons were by then already airborne and vectored to the raid. While the Hurricanes from two squadrons attracted the attention of the Germans by climbing a bit in front of them, No 222 Squadron’s Spitfires came in from behind. Meanwhile, twelve Spitfires from No 602 Squadron waited at 30,000 feet, right on the edge of the altitude where they would start leaving revealing contrails behind. They would bounce the Bf 109s unobserved from this superior position. No less than 11 Bf 109s were shot down in the space of six minutes, all by No 602 Squadron, which accurately reported 11 Bf 109s shot down. No. 602 Squadron suffered only some slight damage to one of its Spitfires. Then No 222 Squadron’s F/Lt Eric Thomas and Sgt John Burgess joined the game. They pursued and shot down the Bf 109 of Oberleutnant Otto Hintze, the commander of 3./Erprobungsgruppe 210.

After returning to France the extent of the defeat was clear for Major Molders. His JG 51 had lost five pilots, including aces Leutnant Heinz Tornow (10 victories) and Oberleutnant Ernst Terry (8 victories), who also was adjutant of I./JG 51. The loss of fighter-bomber veteran Oberleutnant Hintze weighed even heavier. Finally a report came from II.(S)/LG 2 that three pilots were missing, including Oberleutnant Bruno von Schenck, the commander of the 5./LG 2, and from 6./JG 52 Leutnant Gerhard Barkhorn was forced to ditch in the Channel. This had been achieved by two British squadrons fighting with a 5 to 1 disadvantage in numbers, but from an advantageous tactical position, almost always a deciding factor in such fighting.

The next raid was led by JG 2, now under the command of Helmut Wick. The raid was first reported by the RDF station at Ventnor. The Hurricanes from Nos 145 and 213 squadrons climbed to engage the enemy. In the ensuing clash the Germans claimed to have shot down six British fighters. The British had lost two of their fighters in exchange for a solitary Bf 109.

Next off were the Bf 109s of III./JG 3 led by Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar. Having reached the English coast, they were attacked by ‘Sailor’ Malan’s 74 Squadron. F/O John Colin Mungo-Park and the American volunteer pilot F/Lt William Nelson shot down two Bf 109s. One was that of Oberleutnant Egon Troha of 9./JG 3, who became a prisoner of war.

This evening II./JG 51 tried its luck, but was also intercepted, losing three of its aircraft The unit had just returned, revitalised, to the Channel after being removed from the battle in late August. At the same time the Ju 87s of II./StG 1 were sent to make a diversionary attack on Folkestone. It was the first time that the ‘Stukas’ had flown against England for two months. The entire JG 26 was out, with Major Galland in the lead, along with II.(S)/LG 2, heading for North Weald. What followed is one of the controversial actions of the entire Battle and one glossed over in many accounts.

The fighter-bomber pilots from II.(S)/LG 2 made an exemplary dive-bombing attack against North Weald’s airfield. They struck just as the aircraft from Nos 249 and 257 Squadrons rolled out for take-off and destroyed one Hurricane as it took off and damaged another. Then they followed up with several strafing runs over the airfield, killing nineteen and wounding forty-two people on the ground. The British fighters that managed to get up in the air were attacked by Bf 109s and scattered, though one was shot down. This was the Hurricane of crack shot Polish pilot Franek Surma who we met yesterday. He survived with a black eye and was more concerned that in baling out he lost both his flying boots!

The controversy is not that the Luftwaffe executed a text book attack but that it should have been prevented. S/Ldr Bader was up with the Duxford Wing, but the 11 Group controller was unable to communicate with him because of the constant R/T chatter between Bader and Wing Commander Woodhall. P/O Dennis Crowley-Milling remembered that,

“Douglas always kept up an incessant stream of chatter over the R/T, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, organising squash and golf games and so on. It was inspiring.”

Inspiring it may have been to his young pilots, but it was also unprofessional and another indication of Bader’s failure to understand how the British air defence system, of which he was one small part, worked. Moreover, had the Duxford Wing been patrolling the north bank of the Thames, where it was supposed to be, it would have been in a good position to intercept this raid and prevent the bombing of North Weald. In this case a combination of Bader’s insouciance and wireless chatter literally cost lives. They didn’t put this bit in ‘Reach for the Sky’.

Incidentally, all the Ju 87s had landed safely back at St Pol by 18:30.

The Luftwaffe had lost 18 aircraft today, 15 of which were fighters, with 3 more damaged. Fighter Command had fared better but still lost 7 aircraft with a further 8 damaged.

The Luftwaffe flew 140 sorties tonight, 90 against London, 40 to targets in the Midlands and the remainder to the North West. Twenty London Boroughs reported incidents and Birmingham and Coventry were both bombed. A number of bombs fell across Sussex and Kent, probably jettisoned by aircraft failing to identify their targets.

Bomber Command sent 98 sorties against targets in Germany and Holland. The biggest raid was by a mixture of 30 Wellingtons and Hampden’s to Berlin. Only 4 of these aircraft reported finding the target and bombing. 5 Hampden’s were sent to lay mines off Copenhagen, 1 of which failed to return.
Thanks Steve as always. A lot of work must have gone into this post given all the action.

Interesting too to see just how much of an advantage height was, even with such an extreme number disadvantage.

Although slightly off topic I remember reading something similar about about the one of the Arab-Israeli wars where a small number of Israeli Centurions (8 I think) took on a large number (c.40) of Syrian or Egyptian tanks and destroyed around half for no loss simply because they were able to get the first shots in.

Thanks as always.

ATB

Andrew
 

stona

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Interesting too to see just how much of an advantage height was, even with such an extreme number disadvantage.
Andrew
Most, if not all of the Bf 109s shot down in those few minutes probably never saw the Spitfire(s) that attacked them. When caught at a disadvantage it was surprisingly difficult to evade a skilful and determined attack, even for a skilled and experienced pilot. Just look at some of the Luftwaffe pilots who were shot down today, they were anything but green. Of course the same applied when it was the German pilots who held the initial advantage.
 

adt70hk

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Most, if not all of the Bf 109s shot down in those few minutes probably never saw the Spitfire(s) that attacked them. When caught at a disadvantage it was surprisingly difficult to evade a skilful and determined attack, even for a skilled and experienced pilot. Just look at some of the Luftwaffe pilots who were shot down today, they were anything but green. Of course the same applied when it was the German pilots who held the initial advantage.
Indeed. That was quite a list.
 

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Wednesday October 30

The autumn weather returned. A belt of heavy rain moved slowly eastwards across the country. Anyone looking out of their windows over the last couple of weeks will have seen weather not dissimilar to that in which the Battle of Britain staggered towards its conclusion.

Most raiding was done by single aircraft and most bombing was confined to the south east of England. A few raiders managed to reach London and bombs fell on some suburbs. Some of the Luftwaffe fighter commanders had enough of fighter-bombing raids and decided to mount true ‘Freiejagd’, fighter sweeps, over southern England. One such was Major Trautloft, who recorded in his diary

“As the Tommies proved quite aggressive towards our Jabos the past few days, we take off without any bombs for a real free hunting mission”.

Of the 150 Bf 109s from JG 26 and JG 54 which flew in over England at noon, only ten were carrying bombs. Park scrambled ten squadrons to meet this raid. Southeast of London six Spitfires from No. 222 Squadron’s ‘A’ Flight dived on thirty Bf 109s of JG 26. Six other Spitfires from ‘B’ Flight remained higher up, and even higher up 41 Squadron lay and waited. One Bf 109 was hit and exploded but P/ O Alfred Davies from 222 Squadron was shot down and killed.

III./JG 51 clashed with No 249 Squadron. Australian ace P/O William Millington, with 10 victories, was shot down and killed by Feldwebel Werner Bielefeld. JG 51 escaped unscathed.

A similar intrusion, again with about 150 Bf 109s was made in the evening. This time No. 602 Squadron tangled with JG 26 losing P/O Douglas Gage and Canadian Sergeant William Smith in exchange for one of its Bf 109s.

Sending out more fighters and fewer fighter-bombers proved to be a good tactic for the Luftwaffe’s fighter units, but it is difficult to see how this would change the course of events.

A significant loss today was that of a Ju 88 of 8./LG1, which made a forced landing at near Ely in Cambridgeshire at about 14.50. Two of the crew had baled out, the other two remained aboard. The cause of the crash was not clear, but .303 strikes on the aircraft showed that it had been attacked by British fighters and one engine was seized. None of this is remarkable. Remarkable were the documents found in the aircraft, which included a diary which gave the position of the transmitters and frequencies of the ‘Knickebein’ VHF directional beams. RAF Intelligence Officers gleaned a lot of information from documents, letters etc. found on Luftwaffe crew and in their aircraft. Luftwaffe discipline was very poor in this respect. A lot of documents that should never have been carried over enemy territory were routinely taken, but this was a valuable and unexpected bonus.

The Luftwaffe had lost 5 aircraft in operations against Britain today, with another 3 damaged. Fighter Command had lost 6 of its aircraft with another 5 damaged. Several aircraft on both sides were damaged or written off following accidents, many caused by the increasingly bad weather.

Tonight the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Visibility was very bad and the erratic courses of aircraft tracked over the Midlands reflected their struggles to find their targets. No more than sixty aircraft flew against Britain tonight and about forty of these attacked London. Enemy activity decreased after 22.00, a reflection of the deteriorating weather.

Bomber Command’s operations were also curtailed by the weather. 28 sorties were despatched, to targets in Germany, Belgium and Holland. Most failed to find their targets but all returned safely.
 

adt70hk

I know its a bit sad but I like quickbuild kits!!!
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Thanks as always Steve. Only one more day to go.

ATB

Andrew
 

stona

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Only one more day to go.
Andrew
Yep, and I'll give you a clue, that weather front was what the met office likes to call 'slow moving'. Tomorrow won't be a day of frenetic action :smiling3:
 

stona

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Thursday 31 October

The front that had swept across the UK yesterday brought gloomy and wet weather. Low cloud and heavy rain.

There was no action over South East England today and there were no operational combat losses on either side. The Battle of Britain petered out with a whimper, it certainly did not go out with a bang.

Tonight an estimated 30 Luftwaffe aircraft operated over Britain, bombs fell on London, East Anglia and Kent.

Bomber Command despatched just 14 Blenheims tonight, only 5 of which found and attacked their targets in France. There were no losses.

The Air Ministry, in its wisdom decreed that today was the last day of the Battle of Britain. It’s an arbitrary date, as is the start date of 10 July. The dates have more to do with defining the Battle for administrative purposes than they do with any historical events. For example the award of the Battle of Britain Clasp was dependent on these dates, as laid out in AMO A.544/1946.

“…a clasp to the 1939-45 star may be made to flying personnel who flew in fighter aircraft engaged in the Battle of Britain between 10th July 1940 and 31st October 1940…The clasp is not available for personnel who flew in aircraft other than fighters, notwithstanding that they may have been engaged with the enemy during the qualifying period.”

BOB_Clasp.jpg

The British were ostensibly fighting to prevent a seaborne invasion of Britain and the OKW had postponed such plans until 1941 on 12 October, a far more sensible date to call the end from a British perspective. The fighting did not suddenly stop today. The fighting continued into 1941. German historians will argue that the battle, or campaign as they see it, did not end until May 1941 which saw the end of the night blitz as the Luftwaffe withdrew to prepare for the invasion of the USSR.

As far as this narrative is concerned, the Battle of Britain ended today.

There are as many opinions about the result of the Battle as there are books written about it! The Luftwaffe had not achieved any of its objectives, least of all establishing air superiority over the Channel and southern England, which would have had the Kriegsmarine scrambling for another excuse NOT to mount Operation Sealion.

We can only look at the figures. These vary in different sources, but the best I have are that the RAF had lost 1,172 aircraft (631 Hurricanes, 403 Spitfires, 115 Blenheim fighters* and 23 Defiants) to the Luftwaffe’s 1,887. The Luftwaffe had won the fighter vs fighter exchanges, losing 845 of its fighters, 235 of which were Bf 110s, but that’s hardly the point.

These figures come with a human cost. 537 RAF airmen had been killed but the Luftwaffe had lost 2,662 of its aircrew. Many, many more would spend the rest of the war in PoW camps and take no further part in the German war effort.

This image is of the men who flew with the 1./Erprobungsgruppe 210. All those marked with a cross were killed in the Battle of Britain. They were the cream of German airmen, almost all with at least two or three years’ flying experience. They were irreplaceable.

IMG_2379.JPG

Of course, Fighter Command had suffered its own losses, but the Air Ministry figures show that it had not been degraded in the same way as the Luftwaffe.

BoB_Numbers.jpg

Before someone asks, I.E. is ‘Initial Establishment’ or ‘Initial Equipment’. The I.R. which is noted as not shown is the ‘Immediate Reserve’, which in this context could refer to reserve squadrons or the number of reserve aircraft at a squadron (usually just two or three).

There is some debate about how operational some of the operational pilots really were, but the RAF had the luxury of posting such men to the Class B and C squadrons, where they could complete their training without a significant risk of meeting the enemy. Both Park and Dowding took public exception to assertions made in the Air Ministry’s Battle of Britain pamphlet to the effect that Fighter Command was stronger at the end of the Battle than it had been at the beginning. As many as one third of the pilots within Fighter Command were not operational in their sense of the word when the stabilisation system was finally abandoned in November 1940.

The Luftwaffe’s losses, not just in the Battle of Britain, but in the campaigns it fought in Poland and across the Low Countries and France, meant that it started its campaign against the USSR in June 1941 with 4,882 aircraft, barely stronger than it had been in May 1940 when it fielded 4,782 aircraft. In crucial areas it was very much weaker. The invasion of the USSR started with 200 fewer bombers than had the Battle of France. German bomber production had failed to keep pace with the Luftwaffe’s losses. The quantity and more importantly quality of its aircrew never recovered. It had been defeated. It was the first major defeat for German arms during WW2, we know now that it was not the last.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this little diary as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If nothing else, it should show the cost of war. More than 3,000 of the best young men from Britain and her Allies as well as from Germany had perished during the last four months as well as many on the ground. What a waste.

Lest we forget.

*These aircraft are ignored in many accounts, which is why a figure of around 1,050 is often given.
 

adt70hk

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Steve

Thank you, thank you very much indeed for your efforts.

A most excellent effort. You have my deepest appreciation for all the work you have put in.

ATB

Andrew
 
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