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Weather: another day of mixed weather in the Channel.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 62
  • Spitfire – 243
  • Hurricane – 282
  • Defiant – 12
  • Total – 599

A relatively quiet but successful day. 2 enemy aircraft were shot down in combat over convoys but this was without loss to the RAF.

PO DH Wissler – Diary, 23 July
We went over to Martlesham and did a hell of a lot of flying. Two patrols one of 1.05hrs and one of 1.45hrs, at about 7pm we were told to take off for Debden, but having got half way home we were recalled and brought to readiness again. Eventually we were released at 9.15 and arrived to make a dusk landing. I shall sleep very well tonight, given half the chance.
(Reproduced with kind permission of the Imperial War Museum and Copyright holder)

Weather: cloudy but with some bright intervals.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 63
  • Spitfire – 228
  • Hurricane – 357
  • Defiant – 21
  • Total – 669

That day enemy aircraft were elusive. Only one was shot down. Bombs were dropped in east Yorkshire and in Scotland on Leith. The day was also marked by Lord Halifax’s dismissal of Hitler’s Last Appeal to Reason.

266 Squadron Operational Record Book, 22 July
Warm, visibility very good. Flying 5 hours 30 minutes. B Flight at readiness. Ac Flight available. Practices included cloud penetration, blind take offs and landings. Sector reconnaissance by night.

Today’s Theme: Unsung Heroes – The WAAFs

Weather: fine in the morning and fine in the evening but with cloud in the middle of the day.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 65
  • Spitfire – 236
  • Hurricane – 309
  • Defiant – 21
  • Total – 620

Three squadrons of 11 Group clashed with 50 Me109s and Me110s as well as a gruppe of Dorniers over a convoy threading its way through the Straits of Dover. An Me109 was shot down. Then a British fighter was shot down by an Me109 which in turn was shot down by a Spitfire. The RAF that day flew 571 sorties and lost 6 aircraft which was just less than the German losses of 7 planes.

266 Squadron Operational Record Book, 21 July
Average temperature, bright and cloudy periods, visibility moderate. Flying 10 hours 20 minutes. B Flight at readiness, Ac Flight available. Practices included Beam attacks, formation, aerobatics, cine camera gun and local flying. Spitfire I aircraft R.6768 delivered to Squadron by Ferry Pool.

Today’s theme: Captains and Commanders – Sir Keith Park

Weather: Thunderstorms in the Channel, patchy clouds over Dover.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 62
  • Spitfire – 224
  • Hurricane – 308
  • Defiant – 11
  • Total – 605

A large convoy was attacked opposite Dover. In a dogfight above this convoy, 2 Hurricanes were lost and 4 damaged. There was a major dogfight when 50 Me109s and Me110s clashed with some 24 Hurricanes and Spitfires. The RAF lost that day 3 aircraft against 9 German aircraft destroyed which included 5 Me109s. The day’s performance made up for the previous day’s disappointing tally.

PO DH Wissler – Diary, 20 July
It was my evening off and Brigid managed to get a pass so we went out to the “Red Lion” near Duxford and had dinner together in F/L Quinn’s car. A very nice evening.
(Reproduced with kind permission of the Imperial War Museum and Copyright holder)

Today’s theme: The Airfields They Flew From – Kenley

The weather: improved with bright intervals.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 62
  • Spitfire – 227
  • Hurricane – 331
  • Defiant – 22
  • Total – 642

This was the day that the RAF fielded a force of Defiants. The Defiant was a single engined aircraft but with a very distinctive feature, namely a Boulton Paul power operated four gun turret complete with air gunner to operate it, situated behind the pilot and firing backwards. The aircraft had no forward firing guns. This odd design proved a disaster in combat. 12 of these aircraft, from 141 Squadron, had taken off from Hawkinge, near Folkestone, to patrol the Channel at 5000ft. They were almost immediately attacked by a force of 20 Me109s. In minutes, 5 Defiants had been shot down into the Channel and a sixth aircraft crash landed in fields around Dover. The remaining three were saved by the appearance of the Hurricanes of 111 Squadron. The Luftwaffe had lost one Me109 in this disastrous engagement. They subsequently claimed they had shot down 12 Defiants which was not far from the truth. Following this baptism of fire, 141 Squadron of Defiants was moved to Prestwick in Scotland. The other Defiant squadron number 264 was sent to an airfield near Manchester. However, the squadron was, in due course, sent south again where a couple of days later it was in the thick of the fighting.

In the afternoon, radar reported a large body of aircraft forming up behind Calais. Three squadrons from 11 Group were vectored to intercept. Outnumbered nearly two to one they did not in the event achieve a score. The German aircraft, however, managed to destroy a boy’s school near Fowey in Cornwall. RAF losses for the day were put at 11 aircraft downed. This compared with only 4 German aircraft shot down. This four to one ratio coincided with Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag which included the famous “Last Appeal to Reason” overture to Britain. It was the German leader’s most overt reference to a possible cessation of hostilities.

266 Squadron Operational Record Book, 19 July
Cool and squally. Slight rain showers during evening. Visibility moderate. Flying 14 hours 30 minutes. B Flight at readiness, Ac Flight available. Local flying, target practice – night flying circuits and landings.

Today’s theme: The Squadrons – 74 Squadron

Weather: continuing poor

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 62
  • Spitfire – 232
  • Hurricane – 323
  • Defiant – 23
  • Total – 640

The only major engagement was an attack by 28 Me109s over the Straits of Dover which was met by Spitfires from 11 Group. The RAF lost 3 aircraft but failed to shoot down any of the enemy. Early that afternoon the coastguard station at St Margaret’s Bay was bombed and the Goodwin Lightship was sunk. 4 houses were destroyed during an afternoon attack on Gillingham.

266 Squadron Operational Record Book, 18 July
Average temperature, visibility very good. Flying 17 hours 25 minutes. B Flight at readiness. Ac Flight available. Practices included interception and attacks, target and cine gun practice. Spitfire aircraft N.3170 collided with tractor on aerodrome whilst taxiing and badly damaged. Pilot PO D.G. Ashton uninjured. Spitfire aircraft N.3244 force landed in a cornfield at Heckington, Lincs., owing to engine trouble. Pilot PO R.J.B. Roach uninjured.

Today’s theme: The Planes they flew – the ME109

Weather: another dull day.

Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:

  • Blenheim – 67
  • Spitfire – 237
  • Hurricane – 331
  • Defiant – 20
  • Total – 659

The day was relatively quiet with just a few desultory attacks both in the Channel and the North Sea. There were 253 sorties during which the RAF lost 1 fighter and managed to shoot down 2 Luftwaffe aircraft.

PO DH Wissler – Diary, 17 July
The weather was filthy again this morning so we stayed in bed as long as possible. We did nothing all day although “A” flight were called to readiness about lunch time. We are going to lose S/L Mcdougal as our CO today, in place S/L Williams, and first impressions of the latter aren’t good. We all went to the Mead Hall and a terrific party ensued. Everyone got plastered and I did not get to bed until 2, having helped bring the ex-CO home.
(Reproduced with kind permission of the Imperial War Museum and Copyright holder)

Today’s theme: Top Gun Gallery – Alan Deere

Weather: mainly poor with fog extending from northern France across the Channel.

In a number of isolated encounters the Luftwaffe lost 5 aircraft while the RAF lost 2 fighters. The RAF flew 313 sorties.

It was on this day that Hitler issued his directive for the preparations for Sealion, the invasion of Britain. Thus ended the first week of the Battle. The RAF had performed reasonably well in combat against their adversary. Their pre-war tactics of flying in close formation and attacking according to a formula had soon to be abandoned. They had seen the loose German formations, in pairs with the leader flying slightly ahead of his wing man who flew slightly behind and above. This gave German pilots a serious advantage. The pair was called a rotte with two pairs being called the schwarm. The RAF was to adapt this formation into what they would call a “finger four”, in which the index finger would represent the leader. The German pilot, Werner Mölders, who had worked this formation out during his service in the Spanish Civil War, was to become the originator of the standard for air fighting, which lasted almost until the present day.

54 Squadron Operational Record Book, 16 July, 23:00 hours
For the first time during our stay at Rochford the majority of the squadron relaxed after release at a dance organised for the squadron by the doctors and nurses of the Southend General Hospital. This gesture was greatly appreciated and full advantage taken of it.

This first confrontation between the Luftwaffe and the RAF arose from the persistence of the Admiralty in continuing with a traditional coastal trade, forming merchant ships into convoys. They arranged for protection both by convoy escorts, usually destroyers, and by air cover in the form of standing patrols by Fighter Command.

This turned out to be too much for the Germans, who could not resist attacking such a juicy target. From July 10th onwards, these convoys were under continuous attack by the Luftwaffe, who targeted the whole coastal trade with a view, presumably, to eliminating it. Certainly the Luftwaffe had its successes here. Several destroyers were sunk and the Navy was forced to withdraw them entirely from Dover to Harwich and Sheerness. From the RAF’s point of view the campaign was not what Fighter Command had prepared for. Inevitably pilots involved in the dogfights risked drowning when they took to their parachutes, and a number were lost in this way. The RAF had no air sea rescue service to put into operation, whereas the Germans had their float planes for this very purpose. Indeed, during the Battle over land in August and September, Park issued orders hoping to prevent pilots being lost over the sea.

Some of the pilots during this first phase did question what they were doing fighting the Luftwaffe for this purpose. It is possible to ask even at this distance why the goods transported by sea at such cost to life continued. However, there are some who maintain that without this coal supply such vital industries such as aircraft construction would have been unable to continue to operate in the south of England.

Weather: overcast in the Channel.

The Luftwaffe sent out a force of 15 Do17s which spotted a convoy passing along the south coast. However, the attack was turned back by a force of Hurricanes, but which did not manage to score.

Further to the west a small force of Luftflotte 3 aircraft attacked the RNAS airfield at Yeovil dropping some bombs on the runway and went on to attack the Westland works nearby. They also targeted further sites in the west of England including the local railways. The RAF flew that day 449 sorties. 1 Hurricane was lost but 3 enemy aircraft were shot down, including an He111.

266 Squadron Operational Record Book, 15 July – Wittering
Warm, visibility very good. Flying 17 hours 40 minutes. Ac Flight at readiness. B Flight at available. Practices included Beam attacks, and air fighting, night fighting circuits and landing. Spitfire aircraft N.3245 damaged after landing heavily during night flying practice. Pilot Flt Lt S.H. Bazley uninjured. Aircraft of Ac Flight carried out air raid investigation.

615 Squadron Operational Record Book, 15 July
Pilot Officer Mudie died from his wounds in Dover hospital.

Today’s theme: Unsung Heroes – The Ground Staff

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