Weather: fine with occasional mist
Fighter Command Serviceable Aircraft as at 0900 hours:
- Blenheim – 64
- Spitire – 216
- Hurricane – 345
- Defiant – 24
- Gladiator – 4
- Total – 653
German raids began mid-morning with yet another attack on West Malling which succeeded in putting the place out of action until the 20th.
At noon, 3 further raids developed comprising of over 350 aircraft. Two waves of aircraft were headed for the Thames Estuary and Dover. A third wave was coming across from Cherbourg and making its way towards Portsmouth and Southampton aiming in particular for Tangmere. Many of the bombers managed to avoid contact with the RAF fighters sent up to intercept them and pressed on to their targets. A number of London suburbs were hit. Established airfields such Harwell and Farnborough were attacked. Meanwhile, the aircraft from Cherbourg had reached the south coast and headed in separate directions towards targets such as Tangmere, Lee on Solent and Gosport. Tangmere was badly damaged and twenty people lost their lives and several aircraft on the ground were destroyed. Ventnor was once again a target, this time by 5 Ju87s which made a pinpoint bombing attack. This attack put Ventnor out of action till 23rd August.
However, numerically, the most damaging attack that afternoon was on a training command airfield, Brize Norton. Over 50 aircraft were destroyed, several hangars were completely obliterated and a number of casualties were caused. This damage was the work of 2 Ju88s.
The Luftwaffe that day put up just over 1700 sorties for the loss of 45 aircraft. The RAF lost 22 planes and a large number of aircraft destroyed on the ground which included over 10 Hurricanes. Although the Luftwaffe had hit 8 airfields, their intelligence had been inaccurate as only three of them were Fighter Command airfields.
54 Squadron Operational Record Book – 16 August
Another engagement with the enemy when a large formation of Do 215s escorted by He 113s and Me 109s was encountered very near Hornchurch. 2 Me 109s (by Colin Gray in celebration of his DFC) and 1 He 113 (FO McMullen) all destroyed and 2 bombers and a fighter damaged for no loss on our part was a most satisfactory hour’s work.
249 Squadron Operational Record Book – 16 August, Boscombe Down
A formation of Me109s were seen and Red Section, Flt Lt Nicholson, PO MA King, Sqdn Ldr King were ordered to investigate. Red Section unfortunately bought it, being heavily attacked by fighters. Flt Lt Nicholson, Red I was hit by a cannon shell and his aircraft caught fire. Flt Lt Nicholson remained in the cockpit in order to get a burst at a Messerschmitt 110 which appeared in front of him. He was then forced to abandon aircraft owing to the heat. He made a successful descent, but when about 40 feet from the ground he was fired at by a member of the LDV. He was very badly burnt and taken to Royal Southampton Hospital. PO MA King, Red 2 was attacked at the same time, and also abandoned his aircraft. His parachute had been severely damaged however by a cannon shell, and collapsed during the descent. Pilot Officer King was killed. Sqdn Ldr King’s aircraft was hit in several places but he was able to return to base.
Note – Flt Lt Nicholson was subsequently awarded the VC – the only member of Fighter Command to receive this honour.
Reported Casualties (RAF Campaign Diary 16th August 1940):
* Enemy: 75 confirmed, 29 probable, 41 damaged
* Own: 22 aircraft of which 14 pilots are safe
Todays’s theme: The Squadrons – 249 Squadron