Reduced activity again with only one large fighter sweep during the afternoon. German invasion cancelled indefinitely.
Night: Heavy attacks against London. Merseyside and Glasgow also raided.
Weather: Squally showers with thunder and bright intervals.
The continued strength of both Fighter and Bomber Commands of the RAF and an adverse weather report for the coming week led Hitler on this day to postpone Operation Seelöwe until further notice and he issued a directive to this effect. A high state of preparedness was, however, to be maintained. The naval staff war diary recorded that an order from the Führer to carry out Sealion was still to be expected at any time, and that if the air and weather situations permitted, the invasion might be got under way as late as October.
The weather was unsuitable for mass raids on London, and in accordance with Göring’s directive of the 16th, Luftflotte 2 sent waves of fighters across, with a few bombers as bait, in the hope of luring 11 Group into an unprofitable battle.
Seven to eight main raids totaling some 250 aircraft built up over France and crossed the coast at Lympne, Dover and Deal at 15,000 feet. Intercepting RAF fighters found that the majority of the formations were Bf 109s and the twenty-eight squadrons put up succeeded in turning them back over Maidstone. A few bombs were dropped, and British losses were only five aircraft (one pilot killed and two wounded) out of the 544 sorties flown. Luftwaffe casualties totaled eight aircraft for the whole twenty-four hours.
By night the German Air Force returned at full strength with 268 bombers over London arriving in a stream via Dungeness and Selsey Bill. Much residential damage was done. It was the turn of the big department stores with John Lewis’s in Oxford Street almost completely burnt out, and both Bourne and Hollingsworth and D. H. Evans hit. By this time 30,000 Londoners had lost their homes.
By way of diversion, a few raiders undertook the long flights to Merseyside and to Glasgow. Fighter Command put up thirty-eight single-engined fighter sorties, but they groped in vain, except for a Defiant of 141 Squadron which shot down a Ju 88 near Barking at 11.30.
While the Germans concentrated on London with the A.A. barrage the only opposition. Bomber Command was out in force attacking the barges, transport and munitions being mustered for invasion. Throughout the Battle and afterwards, in its historical surveys, the Luftwaffe always spoke disparagingly of the RAF’s offensive efforts from July to October 1940. The German naval staff, however, were under no illusions, as they were at the receiving end.
On this night Bomber and Coastal commands, also taking advantage of the full moon, despatched aircraft to Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne, Cherbourg and den Helder. The following morning the German naval staff described losses as ‘Very considerable’. At Dunkirk twenty-six barges were sunk or badly damaged and fifty-eight slightly damaged. A tremendous explosion heralded the detonation of 500 tons of stored ammunition, while a ration depot and dock-handling equipment were destroyed. At the other ports buildings were smashed and a steamer and a torpedo-boat sunk.
Excerpt from The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood & Derek Dempster
Airmen: 14 | Aircraft: 8
Airmen: 3 | Aircraft: 6
Hurricane P3820, No. 501 Squadron
Sgt E.J. Egan killed. Shot down in sudden attack by Bf 109. Aircraft burst into flames. Pilot did not bale out.
Hurricane P3933, No. 607 Squadron
Sgt J. Lansdell killed. Shot down during combat with Bf 109. Failed to bale out.
Hurricane V7529, No. 504 Squadron
Sgt D.A. Helcke killed. Lost control during attacking practice and failed to bale out.
- A wide view of the bomb-damaged shell of the John Lewis department store on London’s Oxford Street, following an air raid on 17 September 1940.
- Shop mannequins are among the debris that litters the pavement outside the John Lewis department store on London’s Oxford Street, following an air raid on London. Windows have been blown out and awnings damaged.
- A scene of devastation in the Docklands area of London attacked by German bombers on 17 September 1940.