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Battle of Britain Day
Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:
- Blenheim – 47
- Spitfire – 192
- Hurricane – 389
- Defiant – 24
- Gladiator – 8
- Total – 660
Weather wise this was finally the opportunity the Luftwaffe had been waiting for. Accordingly, in mid-morning the radar along the south coast picked up evidence of mass raids which duly appeared over southern England heading for London. All three groups, 10, 11 and 12 in southern England now played their part in intercepting the incoming armada. There were no less than 30 squadrons who were engaged in intercepting and contesting the progress of this vast fleet of German bombers. Furthermore, the latter was accompanied by a very strong force of Me109s. Naturally, despite the aerial battles which developed, substantial damage was done to London. This was partly due to the manner in which the German bombers jettisoned their bombs when under attack.
Bombs fell again on Buckingham Palace. One sergeant pilot who shot down a Do17, from which the German crew managed to parachute to safety, was himself shot down and managed to bale out ending up in a dustbin in Chelsea. Proceedings that day demonstrated beyond doubt that Fighter Command, far from being on the verge of collapse, was on vigorous form. Despite the RAF claiming that it had shot down no less than 183 aircraft, when the actual figure was 56, for a loss of 26 aircraft, the result was almost three to one in the RAF’s favour. For the Germans it was the sheer experience of having to fight their way to London and back when they had been assured that the opposition was almost at an end, that so riled them.
Meanwhile, in the early evening there had been an attack on the Supermarine Spitfire factory near Southampton but this had been driven off by intense anti-aircraft fire.
The significance of this day was, that in terms of publicity, the British had got a wonderful boost to their morale. Everybody in the land had listened to the nine o’clock news on the BBC that night. Although the day had been fine, the weather was in fact breaking up. It was going to be too late to mount an invasion. The Germans had missed the boat. Yet despite the events of these couple of days, Goering was not giving up. Indeed a new plan was announced. It would be a renewed attack on Fighter Command airfields carried out mainly by hoards of Me109s. The RAF, he confidently asserted, would be finished within 4 days. That was what everyone had heard at the beginning of Adler Tag. The weather would last another 6 weeks but the decisive day, which has gone down in history as Battle of Britain day, was on this date the 15th September. Britain had survived the onslaught.
249 Squadron Operational Record Book – 15 September
Squadron patrolled with no. 46 Squadron at 12:00 hours and intercepted 20 Do215s South of London, and carried out a beam attack. Enemy casualties: 1 destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Our casualties: nil. At 13:40 hours, Squadron again ordered to patrol and intercepted 15 Do215s over South London. A beam attack cracked this formation wide open, the result being that 5 ½ bombers were destroyed and 8 ½ probables and 3 damaged. One reason for this success was that the German fighters failed to do their stuff, probably due to their attention already being diverted by being attacked from above by Spitfires. Further patrol with 46 Squadron carried out over Shellhaven during the evening; nothing seen. This was by far the most successful day in the Squadron’s history.Total to date 185 enemy aircraft destroyed.
Enemy casualties: 8 ½ destroyed, 9 ½ probable, 4 damaged.
73 Squadron Unofficial War Diary – 15 September
At 1445hrs our five serviceable machines took off to investigate an “X” raid near Maidstone. Over 100 EA nearly all bombers, were contacted and the boys waded in. P/O Langham-Hobart set about a Me110 and saw one engine on fire. Sergt Ellis tackled a He111k and damaged it, both of these were highly probable, Sergt Garton damaged a Do17.
News came through later that P/O Roy Marchand had crashed at Sittingbourne, Kent, and was unfortunately killed. No details are available…The task of breaking the news to Mrs Marchand. Roy’s wife, fell to F/Lt Beytagh and P/O Hoole. The whole Squadron mourns the loss of this popular, cheery, happy-go-lucky, but gallant pilot.
Cyril Shoesmith, 14 years old, Bexhill-on-Sea, Diary – Sunday 15 September
The 1st air raid today was from 11.40am-1.10pm. Saw a Hurricane about 12.30, and just before the “all clear” went we saw a squadron of “Hurricanes” and a squadron of “Spitfires”. At 2.45pm the “take cover” was sounded. We saw a German bomber being attacked by 3 Spitfires. Also about 30 German planes in one formation heading towards the sea. A big number of English planes headed towards Eastbourne. The raid lasted 1 hour.
Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 15th September1940):
* Enemy: 186confirmed, 42 probable, 72 damaged
* Own: 25 aircraft with 13 pilots killed or missing.
Today’s theme: Captains and Commanders - Winston Churchill