Decisive raids by German aircraft during their most intensive period of the battle to date. Seventy-five aircraft are lost during the day with airfields as their main targets.
Night: Little activity.
Weather: High pressure giving fine, warm weather although some cloud remained in the Channel area.
In Britain the early hours seemed quiet enough apart from reconnaissance flights but from 1100 hours onwards five main attacks developed.
First about 100 enemy aircraft, made up of forty Ju 87s with a heavy escort, attacked the forward airfields at Hawkinge and Lympne. At the latter a heavy dive-bombing attack cut all water and power supplies, caused a direct hit on the station sick quarters, and damaged several other buildings. Various sections had to be evacuated to nearby houses and the field was not serviceable for forty-eight hours. At Hawkinge the damage was far less with one hangar hit and a small barrack block destroyed. One of the most serious consequences in the area was the shut-down of Rye and Dover C.H. stations and Foreness C.H.L. which suffered a power failure when the electric mains were hit. Nos. 54 and 501 squadrons met the force, 54 attacking out of the sun on to the dive-bombers, but the devastation at Lympne could not be prevented.
Then followed an attack which was to be the most interesting of the whole day. Banking on tactical surprise and conveniently forgetting the radar chain, Luftflotte 5 launched two simultaneous thrusts in the north and north-east. They expected little opposition and their reception came as a painful surprise. At 1208 hours, radar began to plot a formation of twenty + opposite the Firth of Forth at a range of over ninety miles. As the raid drew closer the estimates went up to thirty in three sections flying south-west towards Tynemouth. At Watnall the approach of No. 13 Group’s first daylight raid was watched on the operations table with particular interest. With an hour’s warning the controller was able to put squadrons in an excellent position to attack, with No. 72 Squadron Spitfires in the path of the enemy off the Farne Islands and No. 605 Squadron Hurricanes over Tyneside. Nos. 79 and 607 were also put up, but while the latter was right in the path of the raid, No. 79 was too far north. No. 72 Squadron from Acklington was the first to make contact and it came as a distinct shock when the thirty materialised as I and III/KG 26 with sixty-five Heinkel 111s, and the entire I/ZG 76 from Stavanger with thirty-four Bf 110s. After a brief pause in which to survey the two massive groups flying in vic formation, S/L E. Graham led No. 72 straight in from the flank, one section attacking the fighters and the rest the bombers. The Bf 110s formed defensive circles, while the Heinkels split up. Some of them jettisoned their bombs in the sea and headed back for Norway, leaving several of their number in the sea. The separate parts of the formation finally reached the coast, one south of Sunderland and the other south of Acklington. No. 79 intercepted the northern group over the water while a flight from No. 605 squadron caught it over land. Most of the bombs fell harmlessly in the sea. The group off Sunderland found Nos. 607 and 41 squadrons waiting for it and they too bombed to little effect apart from wrecking houses. The raiders turned back to Norway, the Bf 110s having already departed some minutes before. Of a total force of about 100, eight bombers and seven fighters were destroyed and several more damaged without British loss. The airfield targets such as Usworth, Linton-on-Ouse and Dishforth went unscathed. One Staffel of III/KG 26 lost five of its nine aircraft in the course of the fighting.
Farther south, an unescorted formation of fifty Ju 88s from I, II and III/KG 30, based on Aalborg, was heading in to No. 12 Group off Flamborough Head. Full radar warning was given and No. 73 Squadron Hurricanes, No. 264 Squadron Defiants and No. 616 Squadron Spitfires were sent to patrol the area, the force being supplemented later by Blenheims from No. 219 Squadron in 13 Group. Both No. 616 and a flight of No. 73 engaged, but the enemy split into eight sections. Some turned north to bomb Bridlington where houses were hit and an ammunition dump blown up. The main force, however, flew to the 4 Group Bomber Station at Driffield, Yorkshire, where four hangars were damaged and ten Whitleys were destroyed on the ground. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was directed against the bombers and one was brought down. Altogether, six of KG 30’s Ju 88s were shot down, representing about 10% of the force sent over.
In all, the northern attacks cost sixteen bombers out of a serviceable Luftflotte 5 force of 123, and seven fighters of the thirty-four available.
In the south at noon it was the turn of Manston once again. Twelve Bf 109s attacked with cannon and machine-gun fire, destroying two Spitfires and causing sixteen casualties.
This was followed at 1500 hours by a force of Ju 87s, Bf 110 fighter bombers and Bf 109s attacking the fighter station at Martlesham Heath without being intercepted. The Ju 87s concentrated on an incomplete signals station to the west, while the Bf 110s hit the airfield. The signals station escaped with broken windows and a punctured water tank, but Martlesham itself had workshops and officers’ mess wrecked, a burst water main and cut telephone wires. A visiting Fairey Battle blew up, smashing two hangars, the watch office and the night-fighting equipment sheds. The station was engaged on repair work throughout the following day.
Simultaneously about 100 aircraft were approaching Deal to be followed by 150 over Folkestone at 1530 hours. Only four fighter squadrons were on patrol to deal with this influx, although followed by three more (Nos. 1, 17, 32, 64, 111, 151 and 501) and they were warded off by the escorts through sheer weight of numbers. The German formations broke up to deal with separate targets, one being the Short Brothers and Pobjoy factories at Rochester. The production of four engine Stirling heavy bombers at Rochester suffered a severe set-back due to six complete aircraft and the finished parts store being destroyed. This was a real victory for the Luftwaffe but it had no effect on Fighter Command. Several German machines attacked Eastchurch and the radar stations at Dover, Rye, Bawdsey and Foreness, although without useful results.
Two further attacks were made in the early evening, the first—a feint—in the south-west and the second against Kent and Surrey. Some 250 aircraft from Luftflotte 3 moved towards the Isle of Wight in two groups at 1700 hours and spread out over Hampshire and Wiltshire. Ju 88s with Bf 110 escort attacked Middle Wallop but did less damage than the three aircraft of the previous day. No. 609 Squadron got off just before the dive-bombing started, and harried the stragglers out to sea. This raid had been intercepted at intervals by no less than eight RAF squadrons and one section of it which reached Worthy Down caused little damage, while another dropped bombs on Portland. In their combat reports the crews who raided Odiham claimed to have hit Andover instead.
Out of the whole German force twenty-five aircraft were lost against sixteen by Fighter Command. Thirteen Bf 110s were brought down of which three fell to the guns of Belgian Lieutenant J. Phillipart of 213 Squadron. Altogether eleven RAF squadrons were put up against these raids, being Nos. 32, 43, 111, 601, 604, 609, 87, 152, 213, 234 and 266.
At 1815 hours over seventy aircraft were plotted coming in from Calais, and as most of his forward squadrons were refuelling and rearming, Park switched four squadrons from the eastern sectors following up with four and a half more as they became available. Intercepted over the coast by two squadrons, including No. 501, which was almost at the end of its fuel, the Germans split up and missed their primary targets of Biggin Hill and Kenley. Instead they spotted West Malling, Kent, from high altitude and damaged runways and buildings. Other bombers wandering over Surrey decided to deliver their loads on Croydon, the home of No. 111 Squadron, which was officially not yet operational. Bf 110s from Erprobungsgruppe 210 with Bf 109 escort came in at 2,000 feet just after 1850 hours to drop their bombs, which destroyed the Rollason and Redwing factories, together with many trainer aircraft, and a radio component works. Over eighty casualties were caused and it was the first recorded raid on Greater London. Over the airfield on patrol at 10,000 feet were No. 111 Squadron Hurricanes which promptly dived on the raiders and together with No. 32 Squadron from Biggin Hill shot down four as they went flat out for the coast. This made ErprGr.210’s losses eight Bf 110s in five days.
Excerpt from The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood & Derek Dempster.
Airmen: 128 | Aircraft: 76
Airmen: 15 | Aircraft: 35
Hurricane P2801, No. 615 Squadron.
Sgt D.W. Halton. Listed as missing. Aircraft crashed and burnt out. No sign of pilot.
Hurricane R4075, No. 1 Squadron.
P/O D.O.M. Browne. Listed as missing. Last seen in combat with enemy fighters over North Sea.
Hurricane P4043, No. 1 Squadron.
Sgt M.M. Shanahan. Listed as missing. Last seen in combat with enemy fighters over North Sea.
Spitfire R6990, No. 64 Squadron.
F/O C.J.D. Andreae. Listed as missing. Last seen in combat with Bf 109s over Channel.
Spitfire K9964, No. 64 Squadron.
P/O R. Roberts. Taken prisoner. Forced landing after combat with Bf 109s over Channel.
Spitfire N3189, No. 266 Squadron.
Sgt F.B. Hawley. Listed as missing. Believed crashed into Channel after destroying He 115.
Hurricane V7227, No. 213 Squadron.
P/O S.M.H.C. Buchin. Listed as missing. Failed to return to base after combat over Channel.
Hurricane P3944, No. 111 Squadron.
F/O B.M. Fisher. Killed. Shot down by Ju 88 and exploded. Pilot bailed out of burning plane.
Hurricane P3215, No. 87 Squadron.
S/L T.G. Lovell-Gregg. Killed. Aircraft damaged by enemy gunfire. Crashed attempting to reach Warmwell.
Hurricane P2872, No. 87 Squadron.
P/O P.W. Comeley. Listed as missing. Shot down by Bf 110 off coast and crashed into the sea.
Spitfire N3277, No. 234 Squadron
P/O R. Hardy. Taken prisoner. Forced landed on beach after combat over Channel off Swanage.
Spitfire R6988, No. 234 Squadron.
P/O C.H. Hight. Killed. Collapsed and died by his aircraft after being shot down and crashing.
Spitfire N3168, No. 266 Squadron.
P/O F.W. Cale. Killed. Baled out over River Medway but was dead when found in the river.
Hurricane P3941, No. 151 Squadron.
P/O J.T. Johnstone. Killed. Shot down into Channel by Bf 109. Was dead when picked up by rescue boat.
Hurricane V7410, No. 151 Squadron.
P/O M. Rozwadowski. Listed as missing. Failed to return to base after combat over Channel.
- A formation of Heinkel He 111H bombers of 7./KG 1 over the English Channel, 1940. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-385-0593-05 / Dahm / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
- A pilot of No. 64 Squadron running towards his Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I as the Squadron is scrambled at Kenley, 10.45 am, 15 August 1940. © IWM (HU 54420)
- Hawker Hurricanes (P3059 and P3208) of No. 501 Squadron take off from RAF Hawkinge on a squadron patrol, 15 August 1940. Three days later, both these aircraft would be shot down and destroyed in combat between Canterbury and Whitstable.
- Troops guard the burning remains of a Junkers Ju 88 of the KG 30, one of seven aircraft shot down during attacks on airfields in Yorkshire on 15 August 1940. Spitfires of No. 616 Squadron and Hurricanes of No. 73 Squadron intercepted the enemy formation as it approached the coast near Scarborough. © IWM (HU 63859)
- A Junkers Ju 87B (L1 + EV) of 10 Staffel./Lehrgeschwader 1 lies wrecked in a garden at Shorncliffe Crescent, Folkestone. The Stuka was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on 15 August 1940. The crew, Uffz. H. Weber and Uffz. F.H. Kraus, were killed. In the far distance, a group of Hurricanes can be seen – probably returning to their home airfield at nearby RAF Hawkinge.
- Messerschmitt Bf 110 D-0/B (S9 + CK) W.Nr.3341 of 2.Staffel/Erprobungsgruppe 210. It was shot down following the raid on Croydon airfield in the early evening of 15 August 1940. The pilot, Oberleutnant Alfred Habisch, belly-landed the aircraft at Hawkhurst in Kent. He and rear gunner/radio operator Unteroffizier Ernst Elfner were taken into captivity.
- Crowds watch as officials inspect the cockpit of Messerschmitt Bf 110 D-0/B (S9 + CK) W.Nr.3341 of 2.Staffel/Erprobungsgruppe 210, brought down nearly intact by anti-aircraft fire on August 15, 1940. The plane was put on street display in London, then shipped to the U.S. in April 1941 for evaluation.