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Statistical summary, Week 5:

  • Total Fighter Command Establishment: 1558 planes
  • Strength: 1396 planes
  • Balance: understrength 162 planes
  • Losses: 33 Hurricanes (+ 3 damaged), 12 Spitfires (+10 damaged), 3 Blenheims
  • Aircraft Production: 5 Beaufighters, 10 Defiants, 64 Hurricanes, 37 Spitfires

By early August, the German attitude to Britain had hardened. After the fall of France, most of the world had expected Britain one way or the other to fall out of the war, either because it was pushed out or it opted out. This is certainly what Hitler had hoped for. But when that didn’t happen, Hitler had to think again. On July 19th, in a speech to his assembled top brass, who were there to receive their decorations and promotions, following the French campaign, Hitler made what was to be called his ‘last appeal to reason’. What he said was that he’d never wanted to make war on the British Empire. He urged London to reconsider its attitude.

A few days later, when Halifax made it quite clear that Britain wasn’t in the least interested in falling into line with Hitler’s policies, Hitler set in motion a new strategy. He decided to unleash attack from the air.

Britain was surrounded by sea. This meant that the only way to force Britain to accept a German settlement was by attacking it from the air. The RAF had to be neutralised. This is where Goering came in. He was delighted that “his” Luftwaffe had been chosen as the instrument to bring Britain to terms. So the orders were given. Adler Tag, Eagle Day, was to be fixed very shortly with the exact day to be decided according to the weather. After a postponement from the original date, August 8th, it was finally launched on August 13th – though not without some confusion, as our previous post examines.

The following weeks were to see an intense and concentrated effort to smash the RAF.

Adler Tag (Eagle Day)

Weather: Fine; some patchy cloud over Channel.

Adolf Hitler, Directive No. 17 (1st August, 1940)
The Luftwaffe will use all the forces at its disposal to destroy the British air force as quickly as possible. August 5th is the first day on which this intensified air war may begin, but the exact date is to be left to the Luftwaffe and will depend on how soon its preparations are complete, and on the weather situation.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 71
  • Spitfire – 226
  • Hurricane – 353
  • Defiant – 26
  • Gladiator – 2
  • Total – 678

There was some mist at first but this later cleared. Early in the morning, a large force of Do17s had taken off under the leadership of Commander Johannes Fink. But the fighters who were meant to accompany the bomber stream had turned back. Goering, back in Karinhall, had been told that the weather wasn’t, after all, all that good. He decided to postpone the opening of the new campaign, that had been scheduled for today, codenamed ‘Adler Tag’, or ‘Eagle Day’.. He personally ordered those aircraft, which had already taken off, to be recalled. The recall signal reached the fighters, but not the bombers. The former turned for home, leaving the bombers to forge on alone.

However, the bombers’ target was an RAF station in Surrey, Eastchurch. This wasn’t a fighter command station at all, as it belonged to Coastal Command, although 266 Squadron Spitfires were there having just been moved down from the Midlands. No fighters were permanently stationed there. The raid on Eastchurch turned out to be very damaging and destructive, wrecking a number of aircraft, killing several personnel, and it gave the impression to Fink and his men that they had completely destroyed a fighter command station, together with 10 Spitfires. In fact, only 1 Spitfire was destroyed, although 16 ground crew were killed and 5 Blenheims were destroyed. Despite this damage, the station was back in service the next day.

On the way home, flying across Kent, five Do17s of Fink’s group were shot down with several more being damaged by 111 and 151 Squadrons. On return to base Fink was furious. What had happened to his fighter escort?

Yet the most serious error made that day was mistaking Eastchurch, a coastal command station for a fighter command one.

A second German group had not received details of Eagle Day’s postponement and a sizeable force of Ju88s was heading for Odiham and the research establishment at Farnborough. But they were intercepted by 601 Squadron and forced to return to their base.

In the afternoon came a series of raids from Luftflotte 3 from the Cherbourg peninsula which were aimed at Portland and other south coast ports including Southampton. Several interceptions were made by RAF squadrons on this latest incursion. However, several German aircraft managed to get through to Southampton and did serious damage.

At the same time, Luftflotte 2 were also in action. Detling was hit and the Commanding Officer was killed. The day had given Fighter Command a taste of the much more intensive battle which was about to take place over the next few weeks. Cumulatively, it was to put the Command under severe strain. The RAF lost 13 aircraft with the Germans losing 45.

That night the Nuffield works near Birmingham were hit.

54 Squadron Operational Record Book, 13 August
A respite with only 1 patrol over Hornchurch for an hour early in the morning.

19 Squadron Operational Record Book – 13 August – Eastchurch

Eastchurch Aerodrome (and “B” Flight) most thoroughly bombed. Approximately 220 bombs dropped in 20 minutes. The personnel were also machine-gunned by low-flying enemy aircraft. Fortunately “B” Flight sustained no damage or injuries. The dispersal of the aircraft would help considerably to this end.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 13th August 1940):

*  Enemy: 78 aircraft destroyed, 33 probable, 49 damaged.
*  Own: 11 Hurricanes, 2 Spitfires

Todays’s theme: Historical Documents – Hitler’s Sea Lion Directives and Invasion Plans

Diana Barnato Walker climbing into the cockpit of a Spitfire whilst serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary

Weather: Fine.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 60
  • Spitire – 248
  • Hurricane – 363
  • Defiant – 24
  • Gladiator – 4
  • Total – 699

Operations began in the morning over Dover as usual. Then followed attacks on radar stations in the vicinity of Dover. Despite a number of bombs being dropped, no serious damage was done. The radar station by Dover itself was slightly damaged, but that at Rye suffered considerable damage as did the station at Pevensey. However, Rye was back on air by noon. The radar station at Pevensey took longer to repair.

An hour later, an attack by Ju87 dive bombers took place on a convoy in the Thames Estuary followed by a heavy raid on Portsmouth which resulted in the destruction of the pier and damage to the railway station. While this was occurring a serious raid was launched on the radar station at Ventnor on the east coast of the Isle of Wight. Numerous direct hits were scored on Ventnor which put it out of action for 3 days.

At lunchtime, switching back to the east coast, a heavy attack was launched by a large force of Dorniers on the airfield at Manston. Over one hundred bombs were dropped on the airfield, but happily without heavy casualties being caused. Hawkinge was also attacked and a considerable amount of damage done. The station was, however, serviceable the next day. Lympne airfield, also in the south east, which had been the subject of an attack that morning, was once again visited with a number of bombs being dropped. Most fell on the airfield but some also fell in surrounding fields. Small raids by German bombers that evening attacked Hastings and Dover.

Back in Germany, the day’s raids were assessed as having been very successful. Wildly exaggerated estimates were made of the number of planes destroyed on the ground. A number of the airfields visited that day were duly crossed off as irreparably damaged. However, there was more realism concerning the radar stations. The Head of Signals reported that attacks had not put the radar stations out of action for long. It was all part of the process by which the Luftwaffe, within the next few weeks, estimated they had virtually wiped out Fighter Command. Nothing could have been more disappointing to the German fighter pilots, who on their raids over Britain, went on being met by an undiminished number of Spitfires and Hurricanes. German losses that day totalled 31 as against the RAF losses of 22.

54 Squadron Operational Record Book, 12 August
The squadron engaged the enemy twice during the day – once in the morning and again in the evening when Flt Lt Deere added still further to his personal score with one Me 109 and one Me 110 both destroyed. One of our Polish Sergeants (Sgt Klozensky) vented his wrath on the Hun to the extent of one certain Me 109 and one probable Me 109.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 12th August 1940):

*  Enemy: 62 planes confirmed destroyed, 36 probable, 39 damaged
*  Own: 9 Hurricanes, 6 Spitfires

Todays’s theme: Unsung Heroes – the Air Transport Auxiliary

Weather: mainly cloudy.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 60
  • Spitfire – 247
  • Hurricane – 373
  • Defiant – 24
  • Gladiator – 2
  • Total – 706

The day began with a feint in the east with the real attack coming in over the west country. A substantial raid developed on Portland and Weymouth with well over 100 aircraft involved. Several squadrons intercepted. Dogfights ensued. Over 70 bombs were dropped and damage was done to property and the railway line. This was the biggest battle so far during the Battle of Britain.

Meanwhile, in the east, there was continuous activity around Dover and the Straits. 74 Squadron flew no less than four sorties from Manston. Several more squadrons were engaged before hostilities ended. It was indeed a busy day for Manston. Losses were heavy on both sides. Over 30 German aircraft were shot down in return for losses to the RAF of 27 aircraft. There had been much fighter to fighter combat, hence the losses.

Adler Tag had now been set for August 13th.

19 Squadron Operational Record Book – 11 August

New Spitfire equipped with 2 cannon and 4 Browning Guns delivered today. Is slightly overweight but in the general opinion is a step in the right direction. Possibly another step in the same direction would be the re-equipping with the old eight-gun machines.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 11th August 1940):

*  Enemy: 37 confirmed, 47 unconfirmed.
*  Own: 20 Hurricanes, 5 Spitfires

Todays’s theme: Captains and Commanders – Sir Christopher Quintin Brand

Weather: Unsettled with some bright intervals.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 60
  • Spitfire – 245
  • Hurricane – 382
  • Defiant – 22
  • Gladiator – 2
  • Total – 711

German reconnaissance aircraft were active. There were also some sporadic raids including an attack on West Malling. 116 patrols were flown but no contact was made.

There were no losses on either side.

PO DH Wissler Diary, 10 August

I had the day off today but what a day! I attended P/O Britton’s funeral at 1.30 and this was the most harrowing affair I have ever come upon. Having finished with this I flew Fl/Lt Bayne to Wittering and returned in a Magister. I had a good time in the evening when I went to Cambridge to see a flick and then went to an Indian restaurant and had a fine curry, getting back to Debden at 12.30 approx.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 10th August 1940):

*  Enemy:  – nil.
* Own: – nil

Todays’s theme: The Airfields – RAF Tangmere

Weather: cloudy with bright intervals.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 64
  • Spitfire – 228
  • Hurricane – 370
  • Defiant – 23
  • Gladiator – 2
  • Total – 687

Sporadic raids were undertaken against suitable targets, for example the remains of the convoy attacked on the 7/8 August was targeted by a Ju88 which was subsequently shot down by 234 and 601 Squadrons. 1 RAF aircraft was lost and 1 of the enemy was shot down. The RAF flew 409 sorties. That night Wiltshire was bombed and the landing ground was hit at the Marston Aircraft Factory.

The Germans had spent much of the day planning for Adler Tag which was due to be launched on the following day. However, by the evening this had to be cancelled because of bad weather.

249 Squadron Operational Record Book, 9 August

Friday morning boredom relieved at the sound of shots being discharged during the pay parade in the Squadron hangar, as a result of which no. 566614 Cpl Parry Jones of B Flight grasped his side and fell to the ground. He was found to have been wounded by a bullet and was taken to York Military Hospital by Ambulance. On subsequent investigation, it was found that a Hurricane aircraft of no. 73 Squadron was being loaded whilst in the flying position, pointing towards our hangar and 2 rounds had inadvertently been fired. This incident did a lot towards fostering the already excellent competitive spirit between the 2 squadrons on the station.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 9th August 1940):

*  Enemy: Enemy: Fighters – nil, Bombers – 1 He111 confirmed (by No 79 Squadron).
*  Own: – nil

Todays’s theme: The Squadrons – 257 Squadron

Weather: showers and bright intervals.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 66
  • Spitfire – 257
  • Hurricane – 370
  • Defiant – 20
  • Total – 713

On the previous evening a substantial convoy, code named Peewit, had set out from the Thames. As it passed through the Straits of Dover it was picked up by the newly installed Freya radar on the French coast. The Germans saw that the convoy consisted of more than 20 ships. It was soon attacked by several E-boats which sank 3 ships in the convoy and damaged several others.

A second raid was then launched on this convoy by a force of Ju87 dive bombers accompanied by fighters. They attacked the ships off the Isle of Wight. They had orders to sink the whole convoy. Despite resistance from a number of squadrons of RAF fighters, further casualties were inflicted on the ships.

Nevertheless, a third attack, this time also from Cherbourg was launched. These enemy aircraft were intercepted near Swanage by seven squadrons from 10 and 11 Groups. In an intensive and prolonged series of engagements, with some squadrons flying as many as three sorties, substantial numbers of aircraft, particularly the Ju87s, were shot down. The remains of the convoy finally made Portsmouth Harbour with only 4 out of the 21 ships undamaged. It proved to be the most intensive attack on a convoy during that summer. The RAF lost 19 aircraft as against 31 German aircraft destroyed. Churchill duly sent a congratulatory note on the day’s performance to the Secretary of State for Air.

54 Squadron Operational Record Book, 8 August, Hornchurch

No enemy aircraft seen – very quiet day.

74 Squadron Operational Record Book, 8 August

Flt Lt A G Malan DFC appointed to the rank of Acting Squadron Leader and assumes command of no. 74 Squadron. Malan awarded bar to DFC.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 8th August 1940):

*  Enemy: 52 confirmed, 14 unconfirmed
*  Own: 13 Hurricanes, 4 Spitfires, 1 Blenheim

Todays’s theme: The Planes they Flew – the JU87 ‘Stuka

Weather: cloudy with some bright intervals.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 66
  • Spitfire – 256
  • Hurricane – 368
  • Defiant – 24
  • Total – 714

Enemy activity was largely confined to convoy reconnaissance. Preparations by the Luftwaffe for Adlertag were accelerating. In raids by Bomber Command on Haamstede Aerodrome several Me109s on the ground were damaged. Fighter Command flew 393 sorties at no cost to themselves.

266 Squadron Operational Record Book, 7 August
Warm – bright and cloudy intervals – visibility good. “B” Flight at readiness. “A” Flight available. Practices included sector tactical exercise – affiliation exercise with Blenheim aircraft of no.110 Squadron from West Raynham. Night Flying Tests.

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 7th August 1940):

*  Enemy: – nil.
*  Own: – nil.

Todays’s theme: Top Gun Gallery – ‘Ginger’ Lacey

US citizen William 'Billy' Fiske, copyright RAF Museum Hendon

Statistical summary, Week 4:

  • Total Fighter Command Establishment: 1558 planes
  • Strength: 1434 planes
  • Balance: understrength 124 planes
  • Losses: 4 Hurricanes, 4 Spitfires, 0 damaged
  • Aircraft Production: 3 Beaufighters, 13 Defiants, 68 Hurricanes, 48 Spitfires

Of the near 3000 pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain, roughly a fifth came from overseas to help the RAF win this encounter. Of these, about half came from British Dominions, of what was then the British Empire. The largest contingent came from New Zealand, but the man who turned out to be the best shot in Fighter Command came from South Africa. He was called “Sailor” Malan.

The rest of the contingents of overseas pilots came from countries already overrun by Hitler’s legions. Of these, the largest number came from Poland.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting an all-important fact. This is that the contribution of so many nationalities to the RAF’s efforts that summer led to the feeling that this was not just a battle, but a crusade, not just a purely national struggle, but something much more significant. The pilots who flew in this battle had come from half way round the globe. A pilot who typifies what might be called the ‘chivalry’ involved, was a young American, Billy Fiske.

America was not yet a participant in the War. That country was very much in the neutral camp. Furthermore, the American Ambassador in London, Joe Kennedy, father of John F. Kennedy the future President, was deeply sceptical about Britain’s chances of survival. Nevertheless, Fiske threw in his lot as a participant in the fight. He paid with his life in doing so.

Billy Fiske came from a banking family and was, in fact, a banker himself working for Dillon Read. He’d made his name heading the US bobsleigh team in the 30s representing his country in the Olympics. He was apparently a superb pilot. He was also very charming and had become an extremely popular member of 601 Squadron, nicknamed the ‘Millionaires Squadron’. Additionally, he was the owner of a 4.5 litre open racing Bentley. In action, flying his Hurricane on August 16th from Hornchurch, he took a hit from an Me 109 while chasing a pack of Stukas, a number of which were shot down. Instead of bailing out, he nursed his damaged plane back to his airfield and despite a substantial wound and burnt ankles and hands, landed his plane safely. But he had to be helped out of his cockpit and taken to hospital when he landed.

Later that day, when the Adjutant of the squadron visited him in hospital he appeared in great form, but the next day he died from surgical shock. There is a memorial plaque to him in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral which reads “He died that England might live”. He tombstone in the graveyard of a small English country church reads simply ‘He died for England’.

There weren’t many Americans who flew in the Battle of Britain that summer – ten in all. On the other hand, the selfless sacrifice by this very attractive young man typified the spirit of the many young men who came from far and wide to join in the Battle.

William Meade Lindsley "Billy" Fiske III Stain Glass Window in St Mary and St Blaise in Boxgrove, Sussex. The inscription on his gravestone reads simply: 'He died for England'.

Weather: cloudy.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 67
  • Spitfire – 257
  • Hurricane – 370
  • Defiant – 23
  • Total – 717

A quieter day with minimal activity. Three Spitfires from 616 Squadron were damaged as a result of return fire from Ju88s which they were attacking off the north east coast near Flamborough. The score was one all.

249 Squadron Operational Record Book, 6 August, Church Fenton

During the last few days a considerable amount of practice flying has been carried out and much attention paid to beam attacks and dog fighting practice. There seems to be very little activity in the North now, but things are boiling up in the South of England and attacks are being carried out by large numbers of e/a on convoys and South Coast ports. We are all hoping to get a move South.

William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) speaking on German Radio, August 6th 1940
“I make no apology for saying again that invasion is certainly coming soon, but what I want to impress upon you is that while you must feverishly take every conceivable precaution, nothing that you or the government can do is really of the slightest use. Don’t be deceived by this lull before the storm, because, although there is still the chance of peace, Hitler is aware of the political and economic confusion in England, and is only waiting for the right moment. Then, when his moment comes, he will strike, and strike hard.”

Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 6th August 1940):

* Enemy: Fighter – nil; Bombers – 1 Do17 confirmed (by No 85 Squadron)
* Own: Nil.

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