. Rapidly. A couple of more Hurricanes joined in, but decided to attack another 110 that was also trying to make it back to base, this left Rubensdorffer alone, who stayed courageously with his crippled plane that eventually crashed into trees, then as the fuel tanks burst, the whole plane was engulfed in flame killing both crewmen. Was this justice for a man who had violated Hitler's personal orders. Maybe it was.....maybe.
It was by a sheer miracle that 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) managed to take off under such circumstances, but by the time that they had turned and reached the required height, the damage had been done. But just as the Bf110s broke away and began their return, ironically flying over Kenley the airfield that they originally intended bombing, 111 Squadron was reinforced by 32 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) who had been diverted to give assistance. One by one the Bf110s were hit as they had no time to go into their defensive circle pattern, their only means of defence against the fighter. The German fighter bombers were riddled with bullets, sparks and glowing yellow star shapes running horizontally along their long fuselages. Many tried in vain to keep altitude and head for home, others, victims to the marauding British fighters spiraled and crashed, unfortunately into the heavily populated suburbs around Croydon and Purley. One such factory that sustained a direct hit was the Bourjois perfume factory. Sixty people died and over 180 were injured in the twisted mangled remains.
The news shattered Londoners. These were the first bombs to fall on their city, and to many it brought home there worst fears, all these dead and injured in one raid at one location. They did not know it then but 60 innocent people dead and 180 badly injured because of a mistaken target by the Germans.
One by one the Bf110s fell, they were not only engaged in combat with 111 and 32 Squadrons, but they were being held back, using up valuable fuel that was required to get them back to base. A number of them were shot down crashing into the fields of Kent and Sussex, while others struggled to make it back to their base, many of them crashing into the Channel.
Back at Fighter Command HQ, Churchill, Dowding, Lord Ismay and Lord Beaverbrook stood in silence as they watched the tangled mess of the huge map board below them unravel. They watched the wall as squadron after squadron came in to land, refuel and rearm then take off again. They stayed until they at last saw what was left of the German formations head back across the Channel. With Adler Tag not being able to commence as planned for the Luftwaffe, August 15th 1940 could be said to have been the opening phase. Another directive [ Document 33 ] had been issued by Göring, this time regarding new methods of attack, but no mention yet of a definate plan of invasion. So far, this had been the largest air battle so far during the period known as "The Battle of Britain". Combat action were seen from beyond Newcastle in the north, to Dover in the south and across to Portland in the west. The Luftwaffe had lost officially seventy-six aircraft while Fighter Command lost thirty-four. Out of the seventy-six German aircraft lost, thirty-seven were bombers, and with four crew to each plane that was one hundred and forty-eight aircrew that would not take part in operations again.
John Frayn Turner in his book "Battle of Britain" states that AVM Hugh Dowding, in his direction of Fighter Command deserves high praise and continues:
......but even more remarkable had been the restraint and the exact measurement of formidable stresses which had reserved a fighter force in the north through all these long weeks of mortal conflict in the south. We must regard the generalship here shown as an example of genius in the art of war.
John Frayn Turner Battle of Britain Airlife 1998 p48
Winston Churchill turned and left the room at 11 Group HQ, he was to head silently back to Chequers near Amersham to the west of London. Lord Ismay followed, as tried to talk to a concerned and upset Churchill "Don't talk to me" bellowed the Prime Minister, " Never before have I been so moved". They sat silently as the staff car made its way to the ministerial residence, then in an emotional tone of voice, Churchill said, "Never, Never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few". It was these few words, giving praise to the courage and the esteem of the fighter pilots that fought that day, that were to become amongst the most famous words spoken by Britain's leader.
Many Station Commanders put 'red tape' and 'going by the book' to one side to welcome back their pilots, others got caught up in the excitement and themselves in their own way became part of the Battle of Britain. One pilot said "...that it was always good to know that after exhausting combat, it was good to know that you would be welcomed home by your commander, most commanders were not bad, they showed their admiration for their pilots in so many ways." Group Captain Richard Grice at Biggin Hill airfield threw all books out of the window and ordered crates of beer for all pilots returning after combat, at Hornchurch Wing Commander Cecil Bouchier often gave a running commentary over the station loudspeaker system from the Ops Room so that all members of the ground crew and administrative staff would know what was going on. He would yell out in excitement like a commentator at a football match that 'Blue Leader has got a Dornier' or "Blue One has a 109 on his tail, he's diving....yes he's left... now right....a Spit....yes a Spit has got the 109...yes Blue One has gone back into action" and a loud cheer would go up as all the listeners joined in the excitement.
Another story is that a young pilot from North Weald, his Hurricane badly shot up, trailing smoke and with his controls damaged was fighting to keep altitude, yet all the way in, he was singing 'Maisey don'ts and daisy don'ts a little lambsey divey' only to interrupt his singing with a message to base that they should keep the kettle boiling as he was getting close.
But not only did the fighter pilots have a light hearted attitude to the task that was at hand, they also showed courage and determination. Like the case of Flying Officer Ostazewski flying a Spitfire from 609 Squadron out of Middle Wallop. Engaged in combat at 8,000 feet, he picked out a Bf110 that was breaking away, he followed with the intent of getting the Zerstorer into his sights and determined to chalk up a 'kill'. Richard Collier in his book has this account:
Typical were the last desperate moments of young Josef Birndorfer, an Me 110 pilot, seeking vainly to shake 609 Squadron's implacable Flying Officer Ostazewski off his tail. Diving steeply for the ground in a series of S-turns, Birndorfer found himself curving, at 300 miles an hour, round a church spire ... snaking perilously through the steel cables of Southampton's balloon barrage, cheating the grey, motionless sixty-foot-long porpoise-shapes by a hair's breadth . . . now at hedgetop level, a dark speeding shadow across the lavender shadows of evening ... onwards over the Solent's laden waters, with Ostazewski closing relentlessly from 300 yards. Then the Pole was down to 100 yards, still firing, and white stars were winking and dancing along the Zerstorer's fuselage. At Ashley Down, on the Isle of Wight, it struck a metalled road head-on, and suddenly it was a plane no longer but a fiery, skidding projectile ripping itself apart.
Still the Germans were coming: Oberst Deichmann's onslaught had reached juggernaut pitch by now. At 6.28 pm, the Spitfire pilots of 54 Squadron, slumped on the grass at Manston airfield, were dreaming wistfully of beer and supper at their home base, Hornchurch, when the telephone's jangle sent their hopes plunging.
Another seventy-plus German aircraft were in mid-Channel, surging for a landfall between Dover and Dungeness.
Richard Collier Eagle Day-Battle of Britain 1996 Hodder and Staughton p89
1930hrs: The days events were slowly drawing to a close with 54 Squadron engaging a large German formation near Dover on August 15th 1940 the final engagement of the day, perhaps a day that will go down in many a history book. The first daylight raid on the English mainland in north eastern England, the first fall of bombs on a London suburb, Churchill emotionally gives Dowdings fighter pilots due credit with his now famous words, and every squadron in south east England was in operational combat at the same time, someplace, somewhere. These fighter squadrons were:
151 Squadron North Weald who had chased the Dorniers out into the Thames Estuary and the North Sea, 17 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) in action off the coast at Clacton, 1 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) also in action off of Clacton, 151 Squadron North Weald (Hurricanes) in action in North Kent, Dover and at Rochester, 32 Squadron Biggin Hill (Hurricanes) who had a busy day off of Clacton, then over Croydon and Kent in the early evening, 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) who earlier saw combat near Portsmouth then over their own airfield in the early evening, 54 and 266 Squadrons Hornchurch (Spitfires) who were engaged in combat all day over the Kent coast, 64 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires) who also spent the day in combat over the Kent coast.
Other squadrons operational on this day were 43 Squadron Tangmere, 601 Squadron Tangmere, 234 Squadron Middle Wallop, 152 Squadron Warmwell, 87 Squadron Exeter 213 Squadron Exeter and 238 Middle Wallop.
The sound was unthinkable, you never heard anything like it, and there, out of the sky planes were falling blazing to the ground, parachutes with little men hanging helplessly underneath drifted towards earth, even flying boots and pieces of aircraft came down hitting the tin shelter with a terrific thud. I think it was now that this war was so close to home, that we suddenly became proud of these pilots, men and young men, who we didn't even know, yet we cheered them on in every dogfight that we saw.
Mrs Joanna Thompson, housewife Kent England.
I was in the garden of our new home in Luton with my foster mother (Auntie Sarr) when she exclaimed, 'Arn't they beautiful', pointing to some silver coloured planes flying high in the clear blue sky. A series of violent explosions followed and we discovered later that planes were German.
1205hrs: Deal. Hurricane P2801. 615 Squadron Kenley
Sgt D.W.Halton Listed as missing. (Aircraft crashed and burnt out. No sign of pilot)
1500hrs: Harwich. Hurricane R4075. 1 Squadron Northolt
P/O D.O.M.Browne Listed as missing. (Last seen in combat with enemy fighters over North Sea)
1500hrs: Harwich. Hurricane P4043. 1 Squadron Northolt
Sgt M.M.Shanahan Listed as missing. (Last seen in combat with enemy fighters over North Sea)
1520hrs: Dungeness. Spitfire R6990. 64 Squadron Kenley
F/O C.J.D.Andreae Listed as missing. (Last seen in combat with Bf109s over Channel)
1525hrs: Calais. Spitfire K9664. 64 Squadron Kenley
P/O R.Roberts Taken prisoner. (Forced landing after combat with Bf109s over Channel)
1715hrs: Dunkirk. Spitfire N3189. 266 Squadron Hornchurch
Sgt F.B.Hawley Listed as missing. (Believed crashed into Channel after destroying He115)
1745hrs: Portland. Hurricane V7227. 213 Squadron Exeter
P/O S.M.H.C.Buchin Listed as missing. (Failed to return to base after combat over Channel)
1751hrs: Selsey Bill. Hurricane P3944. 111 Squadron Croydon
F/O B.M.Fisher Killed. (Shot down by Ju88 and exploded. Pilot baled out of burning plane)
1800hrs: Portland. Hurricane P3215. 87 Squadron Exeter
S/L T.G.Lovell-Gregg Killed. (Aircraft damaged by enemy gunfire. Crashed attempting to reach Warmwell)
1805hrs: Portland. Hurricane P2872. 87 Squadron Exeter
P/O P.W.Comeley Listed as missing. (Shot down by Bf110 off coast and crashed into the sea)
1815hrs: Cherbourg. Spitfire N3277. 234 Squadron Middle Wallop
P/O R.Hardy Taken prisoner. (Forced landed on beach after combat over Channel off Swanage)
1815hrs: Bournmouth. Spitfire R6988. 234 Squadron Middle Wallop
P/O C.H.Hight Killed. (Collapsed and died by his aircraft after being shot down and crashing)
1850hrs: Rochester (Teston). Spitfire N3168. 266 Squadron Hornchurch
P/O F.W.Cale Killed. (Baled out over River Medway but was dead when found in the river)
1915hrs: Dymchurch. Hurricane P3941. 151 Squadron North Weald
P/O J.T.Johnstone Killed. (Shot down into Channel by Bf109. Was dead when picked up by rescue boat)
1920hrs: Dover. Hurricane V7410. 151 Squadron North Weald
P/O M.Rozwadowski Listed as missing. (Failed to return to base after combat over Channel)
Erewash Branch No 884
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