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The Air Battle of Britain: First Phase Opens

Discussion in 'Battle of Britain' started by Jim, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim Active Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    In the six days August 8th -13th the German air attack on our south and south - eastern coasts, airfields and certain harbours, including Dover and Portsmouth, developed with such fury that British and American observers declared that the Battle of Britain had opened. In four days of massed attacks the Nazis are known to have lost 265 machines against 70 R.A.F. casualties.

    Here are some highlights in this epic of defence.

    From the outbreak of war it has been expected that Germany, sooner or later, would launch massed aerial attacks upon Britain, by hundreds of aircraft; these assaults would precede some said they would supersede attacks by land and sea forces. Thus when, on August 8, there opened a large-scale bombing raid on British shipping in the Channel it was suspected that Hitler might have a more important objective, and that now, in fact, the Battle of Britain was about to begin.
    It was preceded by an attack before daylight by enemy motor torpedo boats; three coasting vessels in the convoy were hit by torpedoes, but one E-boat was sunk and another damaged. Between 9 and 9.30 a.m. came the first air attack, by Junkers 87 dive-bombers escorted by fighters. Six bombers and three escorts were destroyed by one Hurricane squadron, which, before the day was out, was to account in all for 21 enemy aircraft.

    The squadron leader said;

    “We climbed to 16,000 ft. and, looking down, saw a large formation of Junkers 87’s approaching from the sun with Messerschmitt 109’s stepped up behind to 20,000 ft. we approached unobserved out of the sun and went in to attack the rear Junkers 87s before the enemy fighters could interfere. “I gave a five seconds burst†to one bomber and broke off to engage two Messerschmitt 109’s. There was a dogfight. The enemy fighters were half rolling and diving and zooming in climbing turns. They were painted silver.
    "I fired two five seconds†bursts at one†and saw it dive into the sea. Then I followed another up in a zoom and caught him as he stalled.â€

    This leader of a Hurricane Fighter Squadron was shot down over the North Sea, but luckily rescued by a minesweeper. By six o'clock next morning he was in the air again.


    At 11.30 a.m., in still larger formation, the enemy renewed his attack. Three Hurricanes of the squadron already mentioned encountered ten Me 110’s and shot down three, together with an Me J09. The latter was a decoy, and when it had drawn off the Hurricanes the Me 110’s were intended to take the R.A.F. machines by surprise. But in the words of one of our pilots, “the Messerschmitt overacted the part.â€
    At 4 p.m. the enemy made his final attempt, this time throwing in nearly 150 bombers and fighters. He was no more successful, and by 5 0 'clock, when he relinquished the battle, had lost 60 aircraft, 24 being dive bombers. Some 400 enemy machines were sighted by our pilots, but it is probable that the number in use that day was considerably less, since the Nazis could so readily fly back to their base in France to refuel, and renew the attack.
    British losses were 16 fighters, and the pilots of three were saved. During the second phase of the battle a Spitfire squadron off the French coast had chased seven Me 109’s over the sea and destroyed six of them.

    Another of the Fighter Pilots taken just after action, he was awarded the D.F.C., awarded for bringing down five Nazi aircraft in a single day.


    Thus the Nazis lost at least fifteen per cent of their aircraft engaged in the struggle. Now let us see how little they gained. By the light of flares dropped by aircraft, while it was still dark, their E-boats had been able to torpedo and sink three vessels of the convoy which consisted of twenty small ships totalling about 18,000 tons. The combined tonnage of those lost was about 2,500. To these must be added two ships sunk by bombers (2,450 tons), making in all just under 5,000 tons of shipping destroyed. Smarting, doubtless, under their defeat, the Nazis claimed to have sunk by E-boat three vessels totalling 17,000 tons, and to have bombed to destruction a further twelve, totalling 55,000 tons! Later claims were still more grotesque.

    Sergeant pilot of a Hurricane was photographed as he landed after a successful encounter with Messerschmitts. Like his colleagues above, he was typical of our defenders.


    On Sunday, August 11, 400 Nazi aircraft made a series of attacks on Channel ports and lost another 65 machines. From 7.30 a.m. until nearly eleven O'clock Dover was the objective, and out of some sixty enemy machines engaged our Spitfires destroyed ten and the gunners shot down three. Meanwhile, at 10 O'clock, a force of 200 bombers and fighters made a fierce attempt to get over Portland, and about 150 actually reached the coast. Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons broke up the enemy formations and picked them off in a long series of dog-fights that lasted until well after midday. Forty of the raiders crashed into the sea or on the land, two being brought down by A.A. gunners.

    An R.A.F. auxiliary squadron destroyed ten Messerschmitts; the Hurricane squadron which had got so fine a bag on the previous Thursday shot down five. Minor damage was done to two naval vessels by splinters, while bombs that fell on shore damaged a hospital and other naval buildings.
    Next the Nazis attacked East of Dover, towards the North Foreland. Going into battle now for the fourth time, the squadron of Spitfires which had begun the day's fighting encountered thirty Me 109’s at 4,000 feet up, dodging in and out of the clouds. Four Spitfires gave chase and shot down two of the enemy. The same squadron an hour before, when ordered to patrol over a convoy off the East Anglian coast, came up against 40 Me 110 Jaguar bombers about to dive down on to the ships. The enemy was taken by surprise and was too late to form a protective circle; ten of them were shot down into the sea. With the attack on the Foreland the enemy's assault petered out, though in the evening there was a mild flare-up, which ended in his losing a Dornier 17 and a Junkers 88. Thus in this day's operations he had lost 65 aircraft, and had gained nothing of consequence. Our own losses were 26 fighters, two pilots being saved.

    After the engine of an R.A.F plane has been carefully overhauled, as shown in the photograph further down, it is run on the ground at full throttle. Here a Spitfire is being put to this final test, with men leaning on the tail planes to steady the Machine. The engines of Spitfires were Rolls Royce Merlins II or III.


    Monday morning (August 12) saw the beginning of a further assault on our Channel ports. The attacks began over the Kent coast, on a bigger scale even than before, hundreds of aircraft being engaged. Later they extended to the Isle of Wight and to Portsmouth. Two hundred machines are said to have set out for the Dockyard town, but only about 50 got through the barrage. They dive-bombed on to the dockyard, but met with little success. Two small harbour service craft were sunk, a jetty was damaged, and a store was set on fire. In the town itself a railway station was hit and other buildings set on fire.
    In the evening about seventy bombers and fighters attacked a town on the S.E. coast, dropping bombs in pairs. Little damage was done, and casualties were few. In this day's battles the Germans lost 61 aircraft, while 13 of our own fighters failed to return.
    Early on Tuesday, August 13, the air battle was renewed. From the Thames Estuary to the Sussex coast waves of bombers and fighters came over. In the afternoon the attack concentrated on the Southampton region and the coast of Kent. At the rate of one a minute, enemy machines were sent crashing down by our fighters. Some bombs were dropped on a district of Hampshire.

    The ground staffs (were known to themselves by the mysterious name "lrks"), ensured that our bomb e r s and fighters took to the air in perfect trim which was a vital factor in the success of British planes. Below, a mechanic checks the engine of a medium bomber; and, one below this , an armourer loads up magazines for the eight-gun fighters.


    In the evening several R.A.F. aerodromes in S.E. England were attacked; bombs were also dropped in the Isle of Wight and in country districts of Berkshire and Wiltshire. This day's operations cost the Luftwaffe 78 aircraft; only 13 of our own machines were destroyed, and only three of our pilots killed.
    In four forays the Nazis lost at least 265 aircraft, while the R.A.F. casualties were 70 fighter machines. The R.A.F was remarkably successful in intercepting the raiders. With incomparable courage and magnificent elegance our fighter pilots tackled the enemy as always, at great odds-and upset his plans.


    As far as the blockade is concerned, our convoys still sail up the Channel to home ports, undeterred by E-boat attacks or aerial savagery. A novel feature was the towing of their own barrage of balloons by ships of the convoy as a defence against dive-bombing. How effective in this respect is the balloon barrage was indicated by the fact that raiders have sought to shoot down the balloons. Observers in a southern region witnessed what looked like a dress rehearsal of smoke-screening by an enemy formation flying high up over the coast.
    Whether the Nazi air assaults in mass were part merely of an intensified war on our shipping, whether they were a test of our air strength; or whether they might turn out to be the prelude to the Battle of Britain, were questions raised in many minds. Morale of citizen and armed forces alike could not have been higher
  2. Jim

    Jim Active Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    German & British aircraft losses
    German to April 30, 1940
    Total announced West Front, North Sea,
    Britain, Scandinavia ... = 195
    Unofficial estimate of additional planes damaged in Norway: = 200

    May 1940: German losses = 1.990
    May 1940: British losses = 258
    June 1940: German losses = 276
    June 1940: British losses = 177
    July 1940: German losses = 245
    July 1940: British losses = 115
    Aug 1st-13th 1940: German losses = 280
    Aug 1st-13th 1940: British losses = 109
    Grand Total, May to Aug 1940: German = 2,791
    Grand Total, May to Aug 1940: British = 659

    Daily Results, August 1-13
    Aug: 1-7 = 10 - 15
    Aug 8 = 62 - 18
    Aug: 9 = 1 - 1
    Aug: 10 = 1 - 4
    Aug: 11 = 66 - 29
    Aug: 12 = 62 - 17
    Aug: 13 = 78 - 25

    Totals 280 109

    Notes: Figures for May cover Dunkirk operations and include aircraft destroyed by French. Probable number of enemy aircraft brought down by British during that month is 1,500 out of the total 1.990.
    June-July figures include results of mass raids on Britain beginning June 18.
    August figures include the four large scale attacks on convoys and southern ports.
    British losses include operations over German and occupied territory.
    None of the figures include aircraft bombed on the ground or so damaged in combat as to be unlikely to reach home.
  3. brianw

    brianw Member

    Sep 6, 2011
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    Bridgend, Mid Glam.
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    Winston Churchill said "What General Weygrand called the Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin".

    The RAF records now conclude that the Battle of Britain started with initial Luftwaffe raids against costal targets such as ports, RDF (radar) installations and channel convoys on 10 July 1940. Some of the first raids were on the docks at Cardiff, a major coal port on the 3rd and 10th of July, and are now widely considered as the "opening shots" of the battle. There was also a sustained "Blitz" on the city and docks between early January and May 1941.

    Aldertag, or "Eagle Day" was on 13 August when the Luftwaffe mounted massive air raids against the RAF Fighter Command airfields of 11 group, basically those airfields to the south and east of London.

    Following the bombing of London and the resulting escalation by the RAF Bomber Command, the Luftwaffe shifted its strategy to continue the attacks on the Capital, consequently bringing the raiders into the range of 12 group to the north of London.
    By September 15 the Battle of Britain was effectively won, but the night time bombing of London and other cities and towns continued well into 1941.

    Hitler postponed (effectively cancelled) the invasion of Britain on October 17 and turned his attention towards the East and the invasion of Russia.

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