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Statistical summary, Week 8:
- Total Fighter Command Establishment: 1558 planes
- Strength: 1422 planes
- Balance: understrength 136 planes
- Losses: 81 Hurricanes (+ 10 damaged), 47 Spitfires (+6 damaged), 7 Defiants
- Aircraft Production: 5 Beaufighters, 3 Defiants, 54 Hurricanes, 37 Spitfires
No account of the Battle of Britain would be complete without mentioning the spell which Winston Churchill’s personality had thrown over Britain that summer. The way the country accepted Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” as their lot was the product of the Prime Minister’s remarkable capacity to fire up the mood of the people of Britain. Churchill’s character had a great deal to do with it. He had become every inch the wartime leader to whom Britain would respond.
On the face of it, Dowding wasn’t really the kind of character who Churchill naturally warmed to. But he had been quick to realise that Dowding was the supreme professional who was perfectly fitted to his role as head of Fighter Command. Churchill’s response was generous indeed. It was after spending the day at 11 Group’s headquarters at Uxbridge, on August 16th, watching Keith Park and his team handling one of the busiest days of the Battle, that he told the General who was with him, when they left and got into their car, not to speak to him for a few minutes. He had been so moved by the experience, he said. He wanted a few minutes to reflect. He then spoke the sentence which will forever be associated with the Battle of Britain “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”.
Churchill was to make many speeches during the war but none became more famous than this tribute to the fighter pilots as they fought the battle, which he made the centrepiece of his speech in the Commons on 20th August. It resonated heavily during the following weeks, just at the moment when the RAF’s pilots faced the most intense effort yet by the Luftwaffe to smash them.
Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:
- Blenheim – 53
- Spitfire – 221
- Hurricane – 400
- Defiant – 25
- Gladiator – 8
- Total – 707
The day began as before with a build up of mixed groups of bombers and fighters forming up behind Calais and appearing on British radar screens. The targets turned out to be North Weald, Hornchurch and Debden. However, interceptions made by 249 and 603 Squadrons were successful and were followed by confused dogfights. Out of this melee a force of some 30 Do17s reached North Weald. The bombing there led to substantial damage with 2 hangars set on fire and 4 RAF personnel killed. Communications were damaged and a number of other administrative buildings were wrecked including a direct hit on the ops room. As the bombers withdrew they were attacked by 303 and 46 Squadrons.
The afternoon featured a second phase of the attack which was aimed at the same area as the first attack. This was however successfully intercepted with the Czech squadron, 310, playing a major part and shooting down 4 Me110s. Significantly though, the tally of losses of the two sides was equal at 16 for each force with the RAF losing 8 pilots.
303 Squadron Operational Record Book – 3 September
Patrol – Maidstone/Dover. Sgt Frantiszek, Green 2 rearguard, descended from 22,000 feet to investigate aircraft above cloud and found Spitfires, then below cloud saw solitary He 113 over sea. He dived and closed to 100yds firing 2 seconds into cockpit. Enemy aircraft dived slowly and disappeared into sea mid channel from Dover.
249 Squadron Operational Record Book – 3 September, North Weald
09:00 hours Squadron ordered to patrol Chelmsford, Eastchurch, nothing seen, ordered to land by sections after 1 hour’s patrol, and immediately after refuelling the Squadron was ordered off again to intercept a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching from the NE. Owing to being ordered off too late, the Squadron was unable to gain height in time to intercept this force, and we all had the most unsatisfactory experience of seeing North Weald being heavily bombed and being unable to do anything about it. The enemy carried out a pattern bombing attack from approx. 15,000 feet, which was very accurate, but it is interesting to record that although between 200 and 300 bombs were dropped on the buildings the damage to the buildings etc… did not in any way hinder the operation of the squadrons from North Weald. From the air, this attack appeared to have been far more effective than it actually was and no doubt the enemy pilots reported, quite justly, that they had knocked out North Weald. The Squadron brought to readiness during the afternoon, patrolled Eastchurch, Canterbury and Dover. 3 Me109s were seen well above but they sheared off towards France. We were fired at by AA from the Dover guns and Sgt Rowell’s aircraft was apparently hit. He was unaware of this however, until his aircraft caught fire just before he landed on return to North Weald. He was slightly concussed but otherwise uninjured.
PO D.H. Wissler Diary – 3 September
We did 2 patrols, on the first we intersepted [sic] about 100 e/a (Do215 and Me110). F/Lt Bayne and I got on a Me110s tail and firing together sent it down in flames. We then attacked a Do215, P/O Hearny finishing the attack and the bomber crashing in a field just north of the River Crouch. I collected a bullet in the radiator and got covered with glycol, force landing at Castle Camps. I collected a Hurricane of 111 Squadron, flew back to Debden and got my own plane back. We did one more patrol over the Thames. Then in the night I was aerodrome control pilot.
Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 3rd September 1940):
* Enemy: 25 confirmed, 11 probable, 10 damaged
* Own: 20 aircraft with 10 pilots killed or missing.