So it Began.....Their Finest Hour

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Gage, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Between September 7th and September 30th, Fighter Command had lost 242 aircraft compared with the Luftwaffe loss of 433. Nearly twice that of Britain.

    The Battle of Britain has been under the intense scrutiny of historians and others for half a century. Aided by hindsight, they have been able to raise various controversial issues. Criticism is all too easy for those who come after. To touch on but one issue, it is known that both sides overclaimed by a considerable amount. (The British claimed that they had destroyed 2,698 aircraft. The German claimed they had shot down 3,058. Post war investigation proved that the RAF had actually shot down 1,733 German aircraft and that the Luftwaffe had shot down 915 British fighters.) No-one who has not experienced air fighting can possibly imagine the confusion. Neither can they judge. Relative scores are an effect, not a cause. What is clear is that the Battle of Britain was won by Fighter Command because it defeated the Luftwaffe in the battle to control the air over southern England.
    Mike Spick. The Height of the Battle/Battle of Britain Salamanda 1990And the aircrew, Dowdings "chicks" - a term which delighted him when Churchill used it, though one he would have been far too reserved to coin for himself - what more should be said of them? Nothing, perhaps, except that without their skill, their transcendent courage, their devotion and their sacrifice, the scientific system would have been designed in vain. Together, they enabled Britain to escape the devastating clash of armies and the horrors of Nazi occupation.
    Hough & Richards. The Battle of Britain. Hodder & Staughton London 1989

    List of Website Contents
     
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Not all of the pilots were British
    Nearly 3,000 men of the RAF took part in the Battle of Britain – those who Winston Churchill called ‘The Few’. While most of the pilots were British, Fighter Command was an international force. Men came from all over the Commonwealth and occupied Europe – from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Belgium, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia. There were even some pilots from the neutral United States and Ireland. Two of the four Group Commanders, 11 Group’s Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park and 10 Group’s Air Vice-Marshal Sir Quintin Brand, came from New Zealand and South Africa respectively. The War Cabinet created two Polish fighter squadrons, Nos. 302 and 303, in the summer of 1940. These were followed by other national units, including two Czech fighter squadrons. Many of the RAF’s aces were men from the Commonwealth and the highest scoring pilot of the Battle was Josef Frantisek, a Czech pilot flying with No. 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron. No. 303 entered battle on 31 August, at the peak of the Battle of Britain, but quickly became Fighter Command’s highest claiming squadron with 126 kills.




    8 Things You Need To Know About The Battle Of Britain
     
  3. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    I have recently read that apart from the VC awarded to Flt Lt James Nicolson the highest gallantry awards awarded during the Battle of Britain to Fighter Command were DFCs. Is this correct? I would have expected to see at least a couple of DSOs to Wing Commanders or Squadron Leaders.
    Tim
     
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    The Few' were supported by many
    Many people in addition to Churchill’s ‘Few’ worked to defend Britain. Ground crew – including riggers, fitters, armourers, and repair and maintenance engineers – looked after the aircraft. Factory workers helped keep aircraft production up. The Observer Corps tracked incoming raids – its tens of thousands of volunteers ensured that the 1,000 observation posts were continuously manned. Anti-aircraft gunners, searchlight operators and barrage balloon crews all played vital roles in Britain’s defence. Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) served as radar operators and worked as plotters, tracking raids in the group and sector operations rooms. The Local Defence Volunteers (later the Home Guard) had been set up in May 1940 as a ‘last line of defence’ against German invasion. By July, nearly 1.5 million men had enrolled.8 Things You Need To Know About The Battle Of Britain
     
  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  6. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

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  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    “The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. ”
    —Tribute to the Royal Air Force, House of Commons, 20 August 1940.



    Battle of Britain - 20 August 1940: 'The Few' - RAF Association
     
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  10. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    FRIDAY AUGUST 23rd 1940

    WEATHER:

    Bright intervals were expected with the possibility of showers over most of Britain. Cloud and overcast could persist over the Channel and the south coast.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    The typical English summer was behaving in its usual unpredictable way which again meant that any major assault was out of the question. Overnight, the Luftwaffe targeted Filton again and up to sixteen tons of high explosive fell on the airfield causing some damage, but although hangars and machine shops were hit it was not enough to put them out of action. An occasional German patrol aircraft was detected off the coast, but Fighter Command was not going to waste time on these, and those enemy aircraft that did cross the coast and penetrate inland managed to avoid interception in the low cloud cover.
    The afternoon was still clear of any enemy activity due to the inclement weather. A few single aircraft managed to cross the coast, but they stayed very close to the cloud base and they done little or no damage. Again, with combat operations virtually non existent, Attention was given to the repair of airfields and tele communications.

    CASUALTIES:
    There were no casualties on August 23rd 1940
    August 19th - August 24th 1940
     
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  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    WEDNESDAY AUGUST 28th 1940

    WEATHER:

    Cloud was expected to clear overnight giving way to clearer conditions over most of Britain. Cloud was expected to persist over the south east corner of England and over the Channel. Most areas could expect colder conditions throughout the day as southerly winds should keep temperatures down.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    Dowding and Park were hoping that the tranquillity of the previous day would continue. But the day began fine, with scattered cloud, the rain and drizzle of the previous day completely gone.
    "........when the weather was fine, and conditions ideal for flying. It concerned us if the enemy decided not to launch an attack upon us. We would wonder as to what they were up to, everyone would come up with suggestions as to why it was so unusually quiet, but no one really knew"
    Air Vice Marshal Keith Park

    August 25th - August 29th 1940
     
  12. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    THURSDAY AUGUST 29th 1940

    WEATHER:

    Low cloud and showers would persist for most of the morning in most areas, but was expected to clear and most of the country could expect some cloud with sunny periods with the exception of the Channel areas where cloud was expected to continue. Most areas were to expect a continuation of cooler temperatures.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    Because of the weather, enemy activity was very light with only the occasional reconnaissance aircraft along the east coast and Fighter Command decided to leave them alone leaving the map boards at both headquarters completely clear.


    1445hrs: A radar plot was picked up by south coast radar of a formation that again was coming in from the Channel towards the Kent coast. A mixture of Bf109s and Bf110s from JG3, JG26, JG51, ZG26 and ZG76. At first, the radar sent through the message of 700 plus bandits approaching, and Park ordered no less that 13 fighter squadrons of 11 Group into the air. This figure was later amended and confirmed by the Observer Corps that it was in fact a formation of some 650 aircraft.
    1530hrs: 85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) was the first on the scene and straight away got caught into combat with the Bf109s. Three of their Hurricanes were shot down with two of them destroyed although no pilots were lost. 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) were also on the scene and two of these were damaged by German fighters. 610 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) also lost two aircraft with one of their pilots killed. Park immediately saw that the British fighters would have no choice that to mix it with the huge number of 109s and could see no point in fighter to fighter combat and called for all Squadrons to abort.

    1915hrs: Again a number of squadrons were dispatched to intercept German fighters again trying to lure RAF fighters into combat. Again, Keith Park would not fall to the bait and sent only minimal squadrons to meet the German fighters. 85 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes), 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) were involved and although all squadrons suffered casualties, four Bf109s were shot down.

    F/L Richard Hillary of 603 Squadron made his debut with the squadron in spectacular fashion by destroying one Bf109 over Manston and claiming a probable Bf109 over Deal. Unfortunately, losing sight of his own squadron he came upon a formation of Hurricanes of 85 Squadron and decided to tag along as a "tail end Charlie", but an unseen Bf109 fired a volley of shots at him and damaged his engine. He tried to make it to Lympne, but with smoke pouring out of his engine and missing badly he decided to make a forced landing in a field in Kent.

    2430hrs: The usual night raids over many parts of Britain including The Tyneside area, Hartlepool, Swansea in South Wales and the Merseyside cities of Manchester and Liverpool but no serious damage was recorded. In an attempted raid on Liverpool, a Heinkel He111 was shot down by a Spitfire of 92 Squadron stationed at Pembrey. It is believed that the bomber crashed into a house in or near Fordingbridge.

    CASUALTIES:
    1815hrs:
    Rye Sussex. Hurricane V6623. 85 Squadron Croydon
    F/L H.R. Hamilton killed.
    1600hrs:
    Hurst Green Spitfire R6629. 610 Squadron Biggin Hill
    Sgt. E. Manton killed. (Shot down during combat with Bf109s over Hurst Green and crashed)
    August 25th - August 29th 1940
     
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  13. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    SATURDAY AUGUST 31st 1940

    WEATHER:

    Fair conditions were expected to prevail over most of the country with higher temperatures. Clear and fine in the south with hazy conditions in the Thames Estuary and Channel areas near Dover.
    OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:

    It was now felt that the Luftwaffe really now meant business. The forward airfields of Hawkinge, Lympne and Manston had received considerable damage the day before, but they were regarded as still being operational. The main airfields of Gravesend, Croydon, Kenley, Biggin Hill, Hornchurch and Duxford also had received serious damage. Biggin Hill, who had the day before, made a statement that they were temporarily out of action, but with an all out effort by the ground crews (and some pilots) overnight and in the early hours of the morning, they declared themselves operational.
    Movements within Fighter Command were 610 Squadron (Spitfires) who had been operation out of Biggin Hill were transferred north to Acklington where it was hoped they would indulge in a well earned rest. 72 Squadron (Spitfires) under the command of S/Ldr A.R. Collins moved down from Acklington to Biggin Hill.

    August 30th - Saturday August 31st 1940
     
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  14. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    MONDAY SEPTEMBER 2nd 1940

    WEATHER:

    Areas of early morning mist with scattered areas of fog inland was expected to clear giving way to clear skies which was to continue for the rest of the day. Temperatures expected to be higher than average. Cloud was expected to drift in from the North Sea later in the afternoon in Northern England and Scotland.

    When five miles off Sheppy I saw a formation of 109s. I chased one over to France and fired at it. I saw the EA's perspex hood break up but as it was a head on attack I was unable to see anything more of it. I then saw a squadron of 109s at the same height as myself, 23,000 feet.....I attacked the outside Bf109 with three short bursts and saw it spin down emitting black and white smoke. After a few seconds it caught fire.
    P/O R.H. Hillary 603 Squadron Fighter Command RAF


    September 2nd - September 3rd 1940


    Woods-Scawen Brothers (Battle of Britain)
     
  15. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Every pilot that flew his fighter aircraft into battle, and every aircraft that flew in the skies against this formidable enemy was supported by thousands of civilian and military personnel in the support teams. Without them, these fighter aircraft and their pilots would never have left the ground on operational duties. For every Spitfire or Hurricane to become airborne and fly of into battle, nearly two hundred people would have been responsible for keeping it in the air and getting it safely back to its base. These support teams were the unsung heroes of the Battle of Britain. They worked behind the scenes, many of them throughout the nights to keep Britain's defence system working.
    Some of these support teams are:

    • The designers and engineers at Supermarine, Hawker and Rolls Royce
    • The radio designers and technicians who strove to improve communications
    • The fitters and engineers of the RAF ground staff
    • The refuellers of the RAF ground staff
    • The armourers of the RAF ground staff
    • The CRT operators at the radar stations
    • The servicemen of the Observer Corps
    • The radio operators and plotters in the filter rooms
    • The personnel of the Anti-Aircraft Regiments
    • The RAF Intelligence
    • The Air Transport Auxiliary
    • The doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers
    • Civilian gas, electricity and water technicians
    • The many civilians who helped crash-landed pilots get back to their bases
    All these people in some way or another assisted to keep the aircraft flying and in the air. Women too, were to play their part. Many preferred women as radar operators and plotters because they appeared to be far more sharp and accurate than their male counterparts. Women also drove cars, trucks and even flew aircraft in a ferrying capacity, but they were never allowed to fly on combat operations
    Support Services of Fighter Command
     
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  16. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    It is a wonderful thing to see our nation at war, in its fully disciplined state. This is exactly what we are now experiencing at this time, as Mr Churchill is demonstrating to us the aerial night attacks which he has concocted. He is not doing this because these air raids might be particularly effective, but because his Air Force cannot fly over German territory in daylight. Whereas German aviators and German planes fly over English soil daily, there is hardly a single Englishman who comes across the North Sea in daytime.
    They therefore come during the night — and as you know, release their bombs indiscriminately and without any plan on to residential areas, farmhouses and villages. Wherever they see a sign of light, a bomb is dropped on it. For three months past, I have not ordered any answer to be given, thinking that they would stop this nonsensical behaviour. Mr Churchill has taken this to be a sign of our weakness. You will understand that we shall now give a reply, night for night, and with increasing force.

    And if the British Air Force drops two, three or four thousand kilos of bombs, then we will now drop 150,000, 180,000, 230,000, 300,000 or 400,000 kilos, or more, in one night. If they declare that they will attack our cities on a large scale, we will erase theirs! We will put a stop to the game of these night-pirates, as God is our witness. The hour will come when one or the other of us will crumble, and that one will not be National Socialist Germany. I have already carried through such a struggle once in my life, up to the final consequences, and this then led to the collapse of the enemy who is now still sitting there in England on Europe's last island.


    Portion of Adolph Hitler's speech at the Sportsplast September 4th 1940


    September 4th 1940
     
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  17. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  18. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    8th September 1940

    1930hrs:
    The air raid sirens sound again as London is placed under a Red Alert. Hundreds flock to whatever shelters they could find, anything that seemed to provide a strong cover over your head was regarded as safe, but of course, nowhere was safe if a direct hit occurs. It is now almost dark, too late for Fighter Command to do anything about it, as bombers from Luftflotte 3 including Do17s, He111 and Ju88s. Again, as it was the previous night all loaded with high explosive bombs, delayed action bombs and incediaries. The poeople were subject to the steady, dull drone of the engines of some 250 bombers overhead, then, the drone was broken by the sudden shrill whistling sound as sticks of bombs came down, the whistle getting louder as the bombs got to a few hundred feet above them.

    Many of the warehouses along the Thames again became targets, and buildings that were still burning were re-stoked, the inferno was to light up once again, hundreds of fires, many joining together to become one. The damage was to be more widespread on this night as bombers targeted more inland residential areas, while others again went for railway stations and city buildings. The casualty rate on this night totalled 412 people dead with 747 injured. Compared to the previous night, that was more people killed, but the injured list was much lighter.


    September 8th - September 9th 1940
     
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  19. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Not all of the pilots were British
    Nearly 3,000 men of the RAF took part in the Battle of Britain – those who Winston Churchill called ‘The Few’. While most of the pilots were British, Fighter Command was an international force. Men came from all over the Commonwealth and occupied Europe – from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Belgium, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia. There were even some pilots from the neutral United States and Ireland. Two of the four Group Commanders, 11 Group’s Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park and 10 Group’s Air Vice-Marshal Sir Quintin Brand, came from New Zealand and South Africa respectively. The War Cabinet created two Polish fighter squadrons, Nos. 302 and 303, in the summer of 1940. These were followed by other national units, including two Czech fighter squadrons. Many of the RAF’s aces were men from the Commonwealth and the highest scoring pilot of the Battle was Josef Frantisek, a Czech pilot flying with No. 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron. No. 303 entered battle on 31 August, at the peak of the Battle of Britain, but quickly became Fighter Command’s highest claiming squadron with 126 kills.




    8 Things You Need To Know About The Battle Of Britain
     
  20. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 12th 1940

    WEATHER:

    Cloud cover could be expected in all areas and showers turning to rain for most of the country. Low cloud would persist over the Channel areas and most of the south coast could expect showers that could be heavy at times.
    OPERATIONS:

    The morning period is virtually a non-event as far as combat action is concerned. Radar reports that a number of lone aircraft are detected well offshore both over the Channel and the North Sea. Fighter Command decide to leave these aircraft well alone as they are probably reconnaissance patrols and not doing any harm and that valuable fighters should not be placed at risk even to lone aircraft.
    By midday, a few small formations are detected, some of these break up into individual raids sometimes consisting only of one or two aircraft. In 10 Group, Warmwell despatches just one section of 152 Squadron (Spitfires) to intercept a sighting out from Swanage, the bandit is recognised a lone Ju88 but it makes full use of the low cloud and disappears.

    Shortly after, another enemy sighting is made and 238 Squadron at St Eval (Hurricanes) are scrambled. The squadron records show that one Ju88 is destroyed and another had been damaged.

    605 Squadron (Hurricanes) stationed in the north at Drem also claim one enemy aircraft destroyed, possibly a reconnaissance aircraft that had ventured too close to the coast. 213 Squadron Exeter (Hurricanes) and 602 Squadron Westhampnett (Spitfires) both claim to have damaged at least one enemy aircraft in spasmodic and isolated actions. Looking at these figures, it can be seen that the Luftwaffe at this time was keeping well clear of London and all these isolated incidents took place either in the west country or up north in Scotland.

    One unfortunate incident that happened was with Wing Commander J.S. Dewar who was commander of the airfield at Exeter. Taking advantage of the lull in combat activity, he was to fly over to Tangmere to visit friends there. He never arrived and it seems obvious that his Hurricane had been shot down after he had encountered some enemy aircraft and he decided to bale out. On the way down he was strafed by German plane or planes and shot to pieces as he dangled helplessly underneath his descending parachute.

    The bombers of III/KG51 and I/KG54 did not attack London until late in the evening, and even then was on a far reduced scale than on previous occasions. The night bombers on previous attacks often numbered between two and three hundred, but this time barely fifty made the dismal trek across the Channel in rather murky conditions. No serious damage was done, although bombs fell in the commercial area of Aldgate, Mansion House and Holborn, but the most serious threat was a H.E. delayed action bomb which fell just to the north of St Pauls Cathedral. It buried itself some thirty feet into the ground and the two officer who defused the bomb, Lieutenant R. Davies and Sapper J. Wylie of the Royal Engineers became the first military personnel to receive the George Cross for their actions.

    Other spasmodic and isolated raids occurred at Hull in Yorkshire, an area north of Wolverhampton, Liverpool and a number of small ports along the east coast of Suffolk and Essex.

    CASUALTIES:
    Time not known: Over Channel. Hurricane V7306. 213 Squadron Exeter
    W/C/J.S .Dewar killed. (Circumstances not known. Body washed ashore at Kingston Gorse Sussex 30.9.40)
    September 12th - September 14th 1940
     
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