Massed German formations return attacking airfields in the south and south-east.
Night: Light bombing in Bristol, East Anglia and South Wales. Minelaying.
Weather: Fine and fair early, cloudy for rest of day.
The Luftwaffe’s all-out efforts to destroy Fighter Command in one week ended with a final flourish on this Sunday. The main objectives were once again airfields with a lesser effort against radar stations.
The first of the massed formations crossed the coast about midday in the Dover area and attacked airfields to the south and south-east of London, including Kenley, Croydon, Biggin Hill and West Mailing.
At Kenley two raids of Do 17s with Bf 109 escort came in simultaneously at 1.30 p.m., one of about fifty aircraft at altitude and the other low down at 100 feet with nine machines. The Kenley sector controller had detailed all his squadrons – No. 615 to a raid over Hawkinge, No. 64 to intercept the high raid over base, and No. 111 to intercept the low raid.
Both raids were met, but 111 Squadron could not effectively deal with the low-flying machines as they themselves were too low and too close in over Kenley. As the approach was masked by trees and hangars, the A.A. guns were unable to open fire until the raiders were directly over the camp. Nevertheless the combined efforts of Parachute and Cable and A.A. brought down two aircraft. Both 615 and 64 Squadrons intercepted the high fliers, causing several casualties.
Intense anti-aircraft fire and the P.A.C. barrage, with the help of the fighters, accounted for two Dorniers straight away and damaged five to such an extent that two fell in the Channel and three force-landed in France. Two aircraft returned safely out of the whole Staffel, one being flown back by the flight engineer with the pilot dead on the floor.
Altogether 100 bombs fell on Kenley aerodrome and buildings, destroying four Hurricanes, one Blenheim, two Magisters and a Proctor and damaging six other aircraft. Ten hangars were total wrecks and many of the camp buildings demolished.
Most of the operations-room communications were cut, nine people were killed and ten injured, including one of the medical officers killed by a hit on a shelter trench near the hospital. Fire broke out and so many local fire brigades answered the SOS that they blocked the roads leading into the airfield. The operations block was moved into a shop and within two and a half days 90 per cent of the lines had been restored by the G.P.O.
While the station was temporarily out of action No. 615 Squadron was ordered to land and refuel at Croydon and No. 64 to go to Redhill. Due to lack of ground staff at Redhill, No. 64 in fact returned to Kenley, landing on a strip marked out between the craters.
Croydon received nineteen bombs, which further damaged hangars and buildings, and some hits were scored at West Mailing.
The attack on Biggin Hill was to be carried out in a similar way to that at Kenley with Ju 88s at high level and Do 17s lower down, both formations from KG 76. The high-level strike was delayed due to rendezvous difficulties over France, and the Dorniers came in on their own. The airfield defences were fully prepared and on his own initiative the station commander, Group Captain Grice, scrambled Nos. 610 and 32 Squadrons. Group orders did not come through until after the raid, due to the mass of plots on the situation map.
As the firing died down the high-level raid came in and added its quota of bombs, although during both attacks the main damage consisted of airfield craters. KG 76 flew back to France minus four Ju 88s and six Do 17s.
The second major assault also came in the early afternoon, when Luftflotte 3 concentrated on airfields and a radar station in the Hampshire-West Sussex area.
Gosport was still being cleared from the raid on the 16th, when at 2.30 p.m. twenty-one Ju 88s in three groups of seven dive-bombed the airfield, wrecking buildings, engineering shops, aircraft and motor transport, but causing no casualties.
Twenty-five Ju 87s and a flight of Bf 109s had Thorney Island, Hampshire, a 16 Group airfield, as their objective. Two hangars were hit, one aircraft destroyed and one damaged.
Ford, a Fleet Air Arm station in Sussex, was heavily bombed, with workshops and a hangar destroyed and thick smoke rising from punctured fuel stores.
The only radar station hit was Poling, between Arundel and Littlehampton. Ninety bombs were dropped, including many delayed action. The station was so badly damaged that a mobile unit had to be set up to cover the gap. The Poling radar masts have long since been dismantled, but to this day there is at least one unexploded bomb annually sinking deeper into the soil on the site. In these actions two squadrons, Nos. 43 and 152, between them shot down twelve Stukas, all from St.G 77. A Blenheim accounted for two Ju 87s near Thorney Island.
In the late afternoon the third and last major attack developed when aircraft from Luftflotte 2 approached via the Thames Estuary and again attacked Croydon. Twelve Bf 109s sneaked into Manston at ground level, and destroyed two Spitfires on the ground, killing one airman and injuring fifteen others. There was also heavy air fighting over Essex.
Excerpt from The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood & Derek Dempster
Airmen: 97 | Aircraft: 67
Airmen: 10 | Aircraft: 33
Hurricane L1921, No. 17 Squadron.
P/O N.D. Solomon killed. Shot down by Bf 109 off Dover.
Spitfire R6713, No. 65 Squadron.
F/O F. Gruszka killed. Aircraft crashed at Westbere, near Canterbury, during a flight patrol.
Hurricane P2923, No. 85 Squadron.
F/O R.H.A. Lee. Reported as missing. Last seen in pursuit of an enemy formation thirty miles off the east coast. Failed to return.
Hurricane R4181, No. 151 Squadron.
P/O J.B. Ramsay. Reported as missing. Failed to return from an engagement with enemy aircraft over Chelmsford.
Hurricane R4187, No. 111 Squadron.
F/Lt. S.D.P. Connors. Killed. Shot down by anti-aircraft fire whilst attacking Do 17s bombing Kenley.
Hurricane P3208, No. 501 Squadron.
P/O J.W. Bland. Killed. Shot down by Bf 109 over Canterbury, Kent.
Hurricane P2549, No. 501 Squadron.
F/Lt G.E.B. Stoney. Killed. Shot down by Bf 109. Aircraft crashed near Stile Farm, Chilham.
Hurricane R4191, No. 601 Squadron.
Sgt L.N. Guy. Killed. Shot down by Bf 109 off Sussex coast.
Hurricane L1990, No. 601 Squadron.
Sgt R.P. Hawkings. Killed. Shot down by Bf 109 over the Sussex coast
Hurricane P2768, No. 601 Squadron.
Sgt P.K. Walley. Killed. Shot down by Bf 109s near Sevenoaks, Kent.
- A Dornier 17Z of 9.Staffel/Kampfgeschwader 76 is manhandled back into its dispersal point at Cormeilles-en-Vexin.
- RAF Kenley under air attack as seen from a Dornier Do 17 of 9./KG 76 on 18 August 1940. A Spitfire of No. 64 Squadron can be seen in a blast pen.
- A Miles Magister is completely wrecked inside a bombed and collapsed hangar at RAF Kenley following a Luftwaffe raid on 18 August 1940.
- A Hurricane of No. 615 Squadron badly damaged by a bomb blast at RAF Kenley following a Luftwaffe raid on 18 August 1940.
- The burnt-out wreckage of a Dornier Do 17Z-2 of 9./KG 76 at Leaves Green, near Biggin Hill in Kent, 18 August 1940. The aircraft was shot down by ground defences and Hurricanes of No. 111 Squadron during a low-level attack on Kenley aerodrome. © IWM (HU 70021)
- RAF aircraftmen guard the remains of Dornier Do17Z-2 (F1+HT) shot down during the low-level attack on Kenley aerodrome, 18 August 1940. The aircraft crashed in Golf Road, Kenley at 1:20pm. © IWM (HU 70268)
- The final moments of a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka of I/StG 77, before it crashed at West Broyle near Chichester on 18 August, 1940. The crew, Unteroffizier August Dann and Unteroffizier Erich Kohl, were both killed. This aircraft was one of ten Stukas shot down during an attack on Thorney Island.