Once again four main phases of airfield attacks.
Night: Scattered raids on Liverpool, the Midlands and South Wales.
Weather: Continuing fine and warm. Early-morning mist and fog patches.
Once again the early morning was warm and hazy, although there were occasional patches of low cloud.
The Luftwaffe stepped up the tempo, determined to eradicate the southern airfields as a source of RAF defence. The day’s operations were divided into four main phases intended to stretch No. 11 Group to the maximum. Over 750 aircraft were despatched and the German Air Force mounted 972 daylight sorties—332 more than the previous day.
Instead of the early-morning reconnaissance aircraft which usually preceded attacks later in the morning formations of 30 +, 40 +, etc., to the tune of 100 aircraft were building up over Calais at 7.15 a.m. These resolved into 40 bombers escorted by about 60 fighters stepped-up from 12,000 to 20,000 feet east of Dover. The formations split and separate raids attacked Eastchurch, North Weald, Rochford and Biggin Hill. 11 Group despatched eleven squadrons, but of these only five made contact.
The problems of dealing with low raids were again brought out during these sorties and special orders were issued from Sectors to the Observer Corps giving priority to low-flying aircraft. The Bromley Observer Centre diary recorded: ‘Biggin Hill was caught by a low flight while everybody’s attention including our Corps was absorbed by heavy work in dealing with high flights.’
The second attack began to form up over France at noon and at about 12.35 some 250 fighters and bombers converged on Dover and then split up. All the raids were accurately tracked by the Observer Corps over the Isle of Sheppey and the Thames Estuary, but one of them severely damaged Debden aerodrome.
By 3.15 yet another build-up was shown on the radar screens over Calais. Two hundred and fifty German machines transitted Dover and then spread fanwise over Kent. One raid penetrated to Biggin Hill, Kenley and Brooklands. At Detling a hangar was hit and damage was caused at both Eastchurch and Hornchurch. At the latter, successful interceptions broke up the raid to such an extent that only six out of a hundred bombs dropped fell within the airfield boundary. Bombs fell at random on other places including Herne Bay, where one crater measured 200 feet across.
Finally at five o’clock in the afternoon a large raid and several small diversions appeared over Dungeness, their targets again being airfields.
Damage to airfields had been considerable with Detling and Eastchurch the worst hit. At Detling thirty aircraft wrecked ‘C’ Flight hangar and rendered the aerodrome unserviceable for several hours. Eastchurch received two attacks, the first by eighteen aircraft which exploded a dump of three hundred and fifty 250 lb. bombs, wrecked the NAAFI and admin, buildings, smashed water mains and sewers, destroyed five aeroplanes and put most of the communications out of action, including the Defence Teleprinter Network. In the second raid another hangar was hit, and it was decided on the following day to remove GHQ and the accounts section. The camp was transferred to Wymswold Warden and the sick quarters to Eastchurch village. Total casualties for the day at the station were four killed and twelve wounded.
To meet this phased effort against its stations, 11 Group had put up 751 sorties and had lost thirty-one aircraft to the Luftwaffe’s thirty-five, eight RAF pilots had been killed and seven wounded. Once again ErprobungsGruppe 210 had suffered, with eight Bf 110s destroyed. On one bomber shot down were found supplies of hand grenades intended to be thrown out at pursuing fighters. A coastal raid in the north left two steamers off Aberdeenshire damaged, one of which was burned out.
Excerpt from The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood & Derek Dempster
Airmen: 31 | Aircraft: 37
Airmen: 4 | Aircraft: 14
Hurricane P3875, No. 111 Squadron
Sgt. Sgt W.L. Dymond. Listed as missing. Shot down while in combat. Body never found.
Hurricane V7420, No. 43 Squadron
P/O C.A. Woods-Scawen killed. Aircraft caught fire after combat with Bf 109 and pilot baled out too low.
Hurricane L1578, No 501 Squadron
F/O A.T. Rose-Price Listed as missing. Failed to return to base after combat action.
Hurricane P3067, No. 46 Squadron
P/O J.C.L.D. Bailey killed. Shot down while engaged in combat with enemy. Was not seen to bale out.
- Heinkel He 111 bombers over the English Channel, 1940. Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-0678 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.