July 1940

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Week 1: Start of the Battle: Kanalkampf
Week 2: The Problems of the First Phase
Week 3: Trouble with the Enemy’s Seaplanes

August 1940

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Week 4: Pilots from Overseas – “He Died for England”
Week 5: Adler Tag is Launched
Week 6: Crystal Trouble
Week 7: Flawed Intelligence

September 1940

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Week 8: The Churchillian Spell
Week 9: Operation Sealion
Week 10: The Poles become Operational
Week 11: The Empire Group

October 1940

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Week 12: Pilot Shortage
Week 13: Trouble in the Command
Week 14: The Denouement
Week 15/1: New Pilots Training
Week 15/2: The end in sight
Week 16: The Significance of the Battle

31st October being the last day of the Battle of Britain we have come to the end of this day to day record of the Battle.

We have enjoyed doing this as much as we hope you have appreciated it. It has been a great experience. As many have remarked it brings home both the length of the Battle and the huge devotion to continued fighting shown by the participants.

We are particularly grateful to the many of you who have written comments on the Battle. They have added enormously to the interest of the whole thing and thank you very much for sending them.

That’s it for now, all the very best to all our followers.

Tony, Zoe, James and Harriet

 Weather: cloud and widespread drizzle

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 40
  • Spitfire – 227
  • Hurricane – 399
  • Defiant – 10
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 684

It seemed that the weather was putting an end to the battle by day. This was in fact, officially, the last day of the Battle of Britain. The effort put in by the enemy that day seemed half-hearted. However, October as whole was far from representing a gradual decline in enemy activity. On the contrary, it had put RAF fighters to perhaps the sternest test of the whole encounter. The switch by the Luftwaffe to attacks by fighters and fighter bombers and its abandonment of the twin-engined bomber as its main weapon increased the odds against the RAF. Furthermore, the tactic of sending many of the attacks at what was in those days extreme altitude put a serious extra strain on RAF pilots. All this had resulted in many more fighter-to-fighter combats. The physical strain on pilots of this new form of combat was beginning to tell on RAF capacity to hold their own. The Battle had also taken its toll on the civilian population with the total casualties from the bombing in October being 6,334 civilians killed and 8,695 seriously injured.

However, the RAF kept up its ability to absorb the lessons of every new tactic employed by the Luftwaffe. Whatever the Luftwaffe threw at them, RAF pilots always rose to the challenge. They were doing so on the last day of the Battle as they had done on the first day on July 10th.

73 Squadron Operational Record Book -31 October
Weather terrible – impossible to do any flying, everyone getting ‘brassed off’ with the mud and general bad conditions.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 31st October 1940):

*  Enemy: 0 confirmed, 0 probable, 0 damaged
*  Own: Nil.

Today’s theme: The Final Story – Thank you, but no thank you 

Weather: drizzle

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 39
  • Spitfire – 213
  • Hurricane – 391
  • Defiant – 11
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 662

Luftflotte 3 joined the action sending a force of over 100 aircraft consisting of fighters and fighter bombers which reached London and bombed a number of targets. However, Kent and Sussex were the main targets that day. The Armstrong Siddeley factory was also hit. North Weald was attacked in the early evening.
The tally that day was 8 German aircraft lost against 5 RAF fighters destroyed.
There were few attacks that night due to the bad weather.

85 Squadron Operational Record Book – 30 October
Night flying training. Sqdn Ldr Townsend and Flt Lt Marshall carried out night patrols.

1 Squadron Operational Record Book -30 October
Blue Section (B Flight) took part in an Army co-operation movement. This section was ordered to scramble base. Personnel: POs G.E. Goodman, R.G. Lewis and Sgt V. Jicha. E/a sighted. Goodman mistook it for a Blenheim. Lewis and Jicha recognised it as a Junkers 88 and shot it down. Sgt J. Dygryn crashed when landing, plane written off.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 30th October 1940):

*  Enemy: 9 confirmed, 8 probable, 7 damaged
*  Own: 5 aircraft with 4 pilots killed or missing.

Today’s theme:  Top Gun Gallery – The final word on the pilots

Statistical summary, Week 16:

* Total Fighter Command Establishment: 1727 planes
* Strength: 1735 planes
* Balance: over strength 8 planes
* Weekly Aircraft Production: 9 Beaufighters, 16 Defiants, 69 Hurricanes, 42 Spitfires

The fact that the RAF had emerged apparently intact from nearly 4 months of day to day battle against a concerted attack by three Luftflotten of the Luftwaffe was of enormous significance. Against every expectation, to have won this victory meant that the rest of the world saw that Britain was a serious contender in the war against Hitler. The country was, after all, the only one in Europe still at war with Hitler. It meant that the many governments who had already sought refuge in London knew now that they were safe here. They wouldn’t have to move again in a hurry. From Churchill’s point of view it meant above all that he could show America that Britain was worth supporting.

For Britain itself, the victory meant that the Germans would not, after all, be marching down Whitehall in a repetition of their victory parade down the Champs Elysees. It meant also, that Britain would not have to experience the nightmare of invasion with the Gestapo making lists of thousands of English people whom they wanted to eliminate. We were to face some appalling dangers in the rest of the war and it would be over two years before we would be able to celebrate a victory on land against German forces. Indeed, we would be in for five years of strife. But we had won our spurs and had not been defeated right at the start, as we might well have been. Our deliverance was, in fact, due to two circumstances. First, the preparation which we had put in before the war so that we were in a position to defend ourselves. Secondly, the small band of young fighter pilots who threw themselves into the fight with such determination. As might have been remarked at the time, it had been a good show.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 40
  • Spitfire – 211
  • Hurricane – 403
  • Defiant – 13
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 675

This day represented the last major daylight assault by the Luftwaffe in the Battle but the honours went to the RAF. Notably 602 City of Glasgow Squadron managed to shoot down 8 Me109s in almost as many minutes. Unsurprisingly the enemy aircraft turned around and flew for home but this only further exposed them to another attack in which they lost 4 aircraft.

Meanwhile, enemy aircraft attacked Portsmouth and Southampton. However, the Italians put in a further appearance by attacking Ramsgate. The final tally that day was 19 enemy aircraft destroyed for a loss of 7 RAF aircraft.

Coventry, Portsmouth, Dover and London were the main targets for this night’s raids.

Cyril Shoesmith, 14 years old, Bexhill on Sea – Diary – Tuesday 29 October
At 4.05pm another raid began. Many planes were heard and about 5 o’clock we saw a plane dive and drop 2 bombs. Not long after this we saw about thirty planes at a great height. And then three low two-engine planes flying singly. They were fired at by the Lewis guns and were believed to be Dornier bombers or Messerschmitt 2 engine fighters. Fighters were seen in pursuit. The raid ended at 5.30, but the night raid came some time later.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 29th October 1940):

*  Enemy: 27 confirmed, 8 probable, 10 damaged
*  Own: 7 aircraft with two pilots killed. Of these, 2 aircraft were destroyed and one pilot killed by bombs when taking off from North Weald aerodrome.

Weather: cloudy with large patches of fog

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 44
  • Spitfire – 219
  • Hurricane – 385
  • Defiant – 18
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 674

There were a number of incursions by groups of enemy aircraft with between 50 and 100 aircraft in each group. Their targets were the same as before. The main object being attacks on London and the South East. The RAF were up in strength this day intercepting these attacks. They flew 639 sorties, losing 2 aircraft in the process but destroying 11 German aircraft.

At night, Birmingham was once again attacked and the cathedral was hit. Incendiary bombs were showered on Biggin Hill without much damage being done while in London a public shelter in Southwark was hit causing many casualties.

242 Squadron Operational Record Book – 28 October
Visit to Squadron by AOC who congratulated pilots on efficiency of Squadron which he said was equal, if not superior, to any Squadron in RAF. Operational patrols carried out over London.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 28th October 1940):

*  Enemy: 5 confirmed, 7 probable, 8 damaged
*  Own: Nil.

Today’s theme:  Unsung Heroes – Bomber Command and its part in the Battle

Weather: cloudy with a few bright intervals

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 46
  • Spitfire – 215
  • Hurricane – 393
  • Defiant – 15
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 677

In the morning formations of up to 50 aircraft attacked targets in Kent and in London itself. In the afternoon, an attack was launched by Luftflotte 3 on Southampton. Martlesham Heath was also hit. The RAF that day flew 1007 sorties with the RAF losing 10 fighters as against 15 German aircraft destroyed.

At night, Coventry was hit heavily. The Armstrong-Siddeley factory and the Royal Naval Ordnance Store were both heavily damaged. London, Liverpool and Bristol were also bombed.

85 Squadron Operational Record Book – 27 October
Day and night patrols. At 18.00 hours Heinkel III suddenly appeared over Caistor aerodrome flying very low and proceeded to machine gun it. Sqdn Ldr Townsend, PO I.E. La Bouchere and Flt Lt Marshall rushed to their machines and took off. Flt Lt Marshall chased e/a west. Orbiting Kirton Lindsey at 1,000 ft he sighted e/a to the South West some 2,000 ft above him flying West. He climbed to attack and fired 2 one second bursts at 300 yds from slightly below and to the starboard quarter. MG fire was opened at him from the Dorsal turret at 500-800yds but it was low and to the right.

E/a turned right and made for cloud cover to the East. Flt Lt Marshall put in a 3 second burst as he entered cloud and another of 3 seconds from slightly above and astern at 250yds as he emerged. E/a entered second cloud but the next cloud it entered was thin and Flt Lt Marshall was easily able to follow and finished his ammunition with a 6 second burst at 250 yds closing to 200 from astern and to the port quarter allowing ¼ deflection. This burst was particularly effective and he could see bullet holes being torn in e/a’s fuselage. E/a dived for cloud heading east and Flt Lt Marshall being out of ammunition returned to Caistor at 18.20
The e/a was subsequently confirmed as being destroyed, a searchlight near Salt Fleet having reported an e/a down in the sea at approximately 18.10 hours.

Before being engaged by Flt Lt Marshall the e/a dropped 6 sticks of bombs on and near Kirton Lindsey aerodrome. 1 stick fell on no. 7 hangar and demolished the Squadron Orderly room and Adjutant’s Office. Fg Off Molony and the orderly room clerks were not in the office at the time. A runner (AC2 Jordan) who was in the Orderly Room escaped with a shaking.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 27th October 1940):

*  Enemy: 10 confirmed, 7 probable, 9 damaged
*  Own: 8 aircraft with 4 pilots killed or missing.

Today’s theme: Captains and Commanders – Henry Tizard

Weather: cloudy with some bright intervals

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 46
  • Spitfire – 216
  • Hurricane – 405
  • Defiant – 10
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 685

While the daylight fighter bomber attacks on London were maintained it was evident that the main effort of the Luftwaffe was taking the form of night bomber attacks on London and countrywide cities. Throughout the day, a number of intruder groups flew over Kent with some penetrating to London where the Royal Chelsea Hospital was hit. The RAF flew 732 sorties, 10 German aircraft being destroyed while 2 British fighters were shot down.

Arrangements were now in hand whereby the Duxford wing informed 11 Group of its day’s intentions so that operations of the two groups could be coordinated. Certain aircraft were nominated to act as the line of communications between the 2 groups, meaning that they were furnished with the correct crystals for the task.

Once more the night time raids hit London and Birmingham heavily. New Street station in Birmingham had to be closed due to an unexploded bomb.

85 Squadron Operational Record Book – 26 October
Pilots flew to Kirton Lindsey in morning for visit to the station of Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair) and the AOC (Air Vice Marshal T Leigh-Mallory, CB, DSO) who spoke to them on the fine records of the squadron. Sqdn Ldr Townsend had a long talk with Sir Archibald at lunch on the subject of night fighting. Pilots returned to Caistor. Flt Lt Marshall carried out night patrol (19.00-20.00).

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 26th October 1940):

*  Enemy: 5 confirmed, 4 probable, 8 damaged
*  Own: 2 aircraft with both pilots missing.

Today’s theme:  The Airfields – RAF Coltishall

Weather: dry but overcast

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 38
  • Spitfire – 232
  • Hurricane – 413
  • Defiant – 12
  • Gladiator – 8
  • Total – 703

Dornier 17s came back into battle this day. These twin-engined bombers were, however, heavily protected by a number of Me109s. In the early morning there were raids over Biggin Hill, Maidstone, Kenley, Hastings and London. This was followed later that morning with a raid from 100 aircraft over Maidstone. In the afternoon there were attacks on central London, Kenley and Tangmere.The RAF flew 809 sorties against the considerable number of enemy raids over Kent and London. 20 enemy aircraft were destroyed at a cost of 10 RAF fighters.

This was the day that the Italian Air Force finally joined the battle. It proved to be more of a political gesture than a serious act of war. 16 of these Italian aircraft took off that night to bomb Harwich. Milch complained that this Italian initiative caused more trouble than it was worth.
At night London and Birmingham were the main targets.

1 Squadron Operational Record Book – 25 October
Air firing at Sutton Bridge. Searchlight co-operation. Dusk landings. The night readiness section had to scramble base for 15 mins but no enemy aircraft was sighted.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 25th October 1940):

*  Enemy: 14 confirmed, 12 probable, 16 damaged
*  Own: 10 aircraft with 3 pilots killed or missing.

Today’s theme:  Squadrons – 1 Squadron

Themes

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