Statistical summary, Week 6:
- Total Fighter Command Establishment: 1558 planes
- Strength: 1379 planes
- Balance: understrength 179 planes
- Losses: 29 Hurricanes (+ 5 damaged), 10 Spitfires (+8 damaged), 76 unidentified (not categorised in the reporting)
- Aircraft Production: 5 Beaufighters, 11 Defiants, 43 Hurricanes, 31 Spitfires
When the great assault which it was hoped would bring Britain to its knees began, it was beset by a very un-German dose of “finger trouble”. There are two theories about why this happened. The bombing force that day, August 12th, consisted of dozens of Dornier 17s and was led by a senior officer, Johannes Fink. He had been appointed Commander of the Kanalkampf. Fink had set up his headquarters in a bus on the cliffs of Cap Gris Nez where he could actually see through his binoculars the defences of Dover.
This day he had deserted his bus for a pilot’s seat in the lead bomber. His fleet of Dornier 17s were to be accompanied by an equally large armada of Me109s. The trouble that day was that his radio broke down. One explanation is that the wavelength had been altered. But his radio had not been fitted with the new crystals required. Either that or his radio communications just didn’t work.
However, the accompanying fighters had radios which were fully operational. The problem was that the weather that day turned out to be less good than expected. Goering, back in Karinhall, his comic opera pile south of Berlin, got the disappointing news about the weather and duly cancelled the operation.
By then, the massive group of Fink’s air armada was on its way. The cancellation was radioed to them. The fighters received the message and turned back. Fink didn’t get it and pressed on. One of the fighter pilots saw what was happening. His group had turned back. Why hadn’t Fink done so too? On his own initiative he flew just ahead of Fink’s armada gesticulating, trying to send some kind of signal to them, that the operation had been postponed. But to no avail. Fink’s group pressed on. They duly bombed their target in Kent.
But as they turned for home, the inevitable happened. Spitfires and Hurricanes intercepted them. Undefended, they immediately lost five of their number shot down. The mistake had proved costly. When he landed, Fink was so furious that he rang Kesselring, the Commander of Luftflotte 2 in Brussels to complain. Fink was extremely angry. One thing the Germans had was an unrivalled expertise on staff work. But this day had been a disaster.