Airfield attacks in south-east; Manston evacuated. Heavy raid on Portsmouth.

Night: Heavier attacks over wide area. Minelaying.

Weather: Fine and clear in the south, drizzle in the north.

Main Activity:

The early part of the Saturday morning was cloudless and fine and the controllers in 11 Group watched anxiously for the inevitable signs of a built-up over France. At 0900 hours a big raid began to boil up around Cap Gris Nez and some 100 fighters and bombers of Fliegerkorps II advanced on Dover, stepped-up from 12,000 to 24,000 feet. Two formations broke away from the mass in mid-Channel and attacked Dover itself from the north. Eleven fighter squadrons were despatched and the raid broke up at about 1100 hours.

An hour and a half later a series of feints developed, from which one raid was detached to attack Manston, as No. 264 Squadron’s defensive patrol for the airfield landed. The nine Defiants took off before the first bombs were dropped, and were then joined by a Hurricane squadron. The force was driven off with a loss of five bombers and two fighters but not before extensive damage had been done.

At 1530 hours another big raid stacked up over Le Havre, and flew to Manston and Ramsgate. The Manston attack was to be the last straw for the station. The living quarters were now badly damaged, hardly any buildings remained intact, all telephone and teleprinter lines were cut and the field was littered with unexploded bombs.

Before the afternoon raid, at 1415 hours, all communication between Manston and 11 Group ceased. The controller at II Group contacted No. 1 Observer Group at Maidstone to see if the Corps could find out what was going on. A mile from Manston was Post A.1, and Observer Foad volunteered to cycle to the airfield and obtain information. Coastal airfields had been reduced to dire straits.

When the cable maintenance inspector at Manston was informed that all lines had gone he took two jointers and went to the particular crater despite the continuing explosion of delayed action bombs. Working like beavers, and with only an occasional glance at a large bomb adjacent to them, the three men got the essential circuits (out of 248 severed) restored in two hours and completed permanent restoration the following day.

As soon as word got through of the state of the station Fighter Command decided to evacuate it, except as an emergency airfield. Administrative personnel were transferred permanently to Westgate while the remainder of No. 600 Squadron’s Blenheims were moved to Hornchurch.

Part of the raiding force split before reaching Manston, and one section attacked the small aerodrome at Ramsgate. The town itself was heavily hit and whole rows of seaside villas were wiped out with a number of casualties.

Concurrently with the south coast attacks, another raid flew to targets north of the Estuary, especially Hornchurch and North Weald, where high-altitude techniques were used. The No. 264 Squadron Defiants, withdrawn from Manston to Hornchurch earlier in the day, found themselves once more in the fray at 1545 hours, and just airborne as bombs began to rain down.

At North Weald nearly fifty Dorniers and He 111s escorted by Bf 109s dropped 150 to 200 bombs. The airmen’s and officers’ married quarters suffered severely, and the power house was badly damaged. Nine people were killed and ten wounded.

No. 12 Group were called upon to assist over North Weald and Hornchurch, but the Duxford wing was flown in too late to have any major effect.

With the raiders approaching London, the city registered its 11th, 12th and 13th air raid warnings, but the population did not seem unduly perturbed. In Regent’s Park, where A Midsummer Night’s Dream was being performed, few of the audience moved. They seemed to find very appropriate Titania’s wish ‘To each word a warbling note’.

While the sector stations were under fire a formation of 100 Luftflotte 3 fighters and bombers from North of the Somme headed for Portsmouth and Southampton. They managed to get well towards the coast before their targets were deduced from radar, which was cluttered with other tracks.

At Portsmouth only one fighter squadron was near enough to intercept, and that was still climbing when fifty bombers were heavily fired on by the anti-aircraft guns. The aircraft jettisoned their loads broadcast over the city, causing much damage and killing 100 civilians.

Excerpt from The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood & Derek Dempster

German Losses
Airmen: 46 | Aircraft: 41

British Losses
Airmen: 10 | Aircraft: 20

Hurricane P3141, No. 501 Squadron
P/O P. Zenker listed as missing. Failed to return to base after combat with Do 17s and Bf 109s.

Defiant N1535, No. 264 Squadron
S/L P.A. Hunter listed as missing.
P/O F.H. King listed as missing.
Last seen chasing Ju 88 out to sea after attack on Manston.

Defiant L6966, No. 264 Squadron
P/O J.T. Jones listed as missing.
P/O W.A. Ponting listed as missing.
Last seen in combat with Ju 88s & Bf 109s over the Channel.

Defiant L7027, No. 264 Squadron
F/O I.G. Shaw listed as missing.
Sgt A. Berry listed as missing.
Possibly shot down by Bf 109 into Channel after raid on Manston.

Defiant L6965, No. 264 Squadron
Sgt W.H. Machin died of wounds.
Shot down by Bf 109 over base. Pilot was slightly injured.

Blenheim T1804, No. 235 Squadron
P/O D.N. Woodger listed as missing.
Sgt D.L. Wright killed.
Shot down by Hurricanes of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron and crashed into Bracklesham Bay.

Photo Descriptions:

  1. Six Boulton Paul Defiant Mark Is of No. 264 Squadron flying in loose ‘vic’ formations. © IWM (CH 889)
  2. Soldiers and police inspect Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (W.Nr. 5587) flown by Ofw. Fritz Beeck of 6./JG 51, which force landed at East Langdon in Kent while escorting an attack on Manston, 24 August 1940. © IWM (HU 73433)
  3. A member of the Home Guard stands by the rear fuselage of Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (W.Nr. 5587) ‘Yellow 10’ of 6./JG 51 ‘Molders’, which crash-landed at East Langdon in Kent, 24 August 1940. The pilot, Oberfeldwebel Beeck, was captured unhurt. Note the II Gruppe emblem of a weeping bird with an umbrella tucked under its wing and the inscription “Gott Strafe England“. © IWM (HU 88402)
  4. Soldiers pose with Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (W.Nr. 5587) ‘Yellow 10’ of 6./JG 51 ‘Molders’, which crash-landed at East Langdon in Kent, 24 August 1940. © IWM (HU 67704)
  5. The remains of Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (W.Nr. 5587) ‘Yellow 10’ of 6./JG 51 in a scrapyard in Kent. Note the hole in the fuselage where the ‘weeping bird’ badge of II Gruppe has been removed as a souvenir. © IWM (H 4222)
  6. Heinkel He 111 bombers of Kampfgeschwader 1, Summer 1940.
  7. The remains of Stanley Street in Portsmouth following the third Luftwaffe raid on the city on 24 August 1940.