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Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:
- Blenheim – 54
- Spitfire – 212
- Hurricane – 417
- Defiant – 13
- Gladiator – 4
- Total – 700
This day proved seriously expensive for the RAF. Airfields including North Weald, Duxford and Debden were attacked in the first wave. But this was followed by a second wave of enemy aircraft numbering roughly 100 and once again launched a very damaging attack on Biggin Hill and Croydon. The raid on Croydon caused a certain amount of damage to the hangars. The raid on Biggin Hill which was from high flying aircraft did further damage to this hard pressed RAF station. However, the Biggin Hill raiders were attacked, as they retreated, by 253 Squadron.
Another wave of raiders targeted Hornchurch. A group of 54 Squadron Spitfires were taking off just as the raiders started to release their bombs. Three of the Spitfires were caught by the blast just as they were leaving the ground. Two of the aircraft were tossed in the air and the third, which was being piloted by that eternal survivor, Alan Deere, skidded along upside down. By enormous luck, none of the three pilots were seriously hurt and were all flying the next day.
The last raid of the day was that afternoon and was targeted on Hornchurch and Biggin Hill which suffered more damage to hangars and telephone lines that were brought down. However, both Biggin Hill and Hornchurch were serviceable the next day.
This day proved seriously expensive for the RAF. The home team lost 37 aircraft as against 39 German shot down.
That night Liverpool suffered another heavy raid. A direct hit on a shelter killed 20 people.
Cyril Shoesmith Diary, Aged 14, Bexhill on Sea – Saturday 31 August
In 1st air raid, 8.50-9.30, I saw 11 planes. 9 of these were high up. Next air raid was from 5.40-7.30. Heard planes and explosions. Saw 3 planes, then 5 planes came over fighting. Heard machine gun fire, and later we found a bullet clip each. 3 of the planes were German and 2 were Hurricanes.
PO DH Wissler Diary – 31 August
We did four patrols today ending up with one on which we intersepted [sic] about 30 Do17s and 20-30 Me109s. I got onto a Me109s tail, after an ineffectual attack on the bombers, and got in several long bursts at about 300yds, however nothing was observed in the way of damage. Another got on my tail and I had to break away. I succeeded in throwing him off in a steep turn but not before he had put an explosive bullet through my wing. Sgt Stewart was shot down, but was safe. I burst another tail wheel today.
54 Squadron Operational Record Book – 31 August
A really amazing day. Hornchurch bombed; the miraculous escape of 3 of our pilots who were bombed out of their planes; the station bombed a second time. The squadron was ordered off just as the first bombs were beginning to fall and 8 of our machines safely cleared the ground; the remaining section, however, just became air borne as the bombs exploded. All 3 machines were wholly wrecked in the air. The survival of the pilots is a complete miracle.
56 Squadron Operational Record Book – 31 August
The Squadron went up to intercept enemy bombers approaching the aerodrome which they did near Colchester. They became involved with the fighter escort and F/Lt Weaver was shot down and killed. He had been given the DFC this very day and he was a great loss to the Squadron. F/O Westmacott and P/O Mounsdon were also injured but not seriously, their a/c being lost. Sgt Whitehead was shot down by an unseen a/c. He baled out and was unhurt. Weather cloudless, wind westerly 10 to 15mph.
Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 31st August 1940):
* Enemy: 85 confirmed, 34 probable, 33 damaged
* Own: 37 aircraft with 12 pilots killed or missing.
Todays’s theme: The Airfields – RAF Hornchurch