Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Battle of Britain

I’m a couple of days late here….I’ve been busy! However, we should remember those incredible times when so many young men, on both sides, were killed during the summer of 1940.

Thursday was the 68th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain. It began on 10 July on that everyone agrees. However, there has been debate ever since amongst historians as to how long it lasted and how many phases of battle there were. Most agree that the first stage of the campaign was very much a - testing the enemy phase - by the Luftwaffe. By attacking ships in the channel, mounting small raids on the North of England and sending over reconnaissance aircraft the Germans were able to probe and test the preparedness of the RAF fighters; it also allowed them to partially test the RAF’s tactics. For the Germans there was the bonus of every RAF fighter lost was one less with which Britain could defend herself come the main attacks. The attacks on Merchant Navy convoys in the channel were helping to rob Britain of valuable food and materials supplies.

10 July 1940 was very cloudy, with intermittent showers, and shortly before 2 p.m. a large German formation showed up on the radar; it was just west of Calais heading towards the Kent coast. There were close to 80 aircraft in all, including 24 Dornier 17s and the rest being a fighter escort of around 30 Me.110s and a similar number of Me.109s. Initially it was mostly Hurricanes that were scrambled from Manston, Biggin Hill and Croydon, along with Spitfires of 74 Squadron from Hornchurch; later on around half a dozen Spitfires were also sent up from Kenley.

While the Hurricanes of 111 Squadron from Croydon attacked the Dorniers, who themselves were busy attacking the convey, the remaining fighters engaged the escorting fighters. With so many aircraft the sky quickly became a mass of vapor trails and soon aircraft were going down. Later that day a force of around 70 bombers attacked both Swansea and Falmouth. During the night bombs were dropped in a number of locations in the south, and on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. RAF losses for the day amounted to eight aircraft, with two pilots killed.
Luftwaffe lost 20, including badly damaged, aircraft, and lost 23 aircrew either killed or missing as well as ten more wounded; one of the ships in the convey was sunk. That was not how German Radio reported the day’s events.

“Our bombers yesterday achieved effective successes on an airfield in South Eastern England, and on harbour installations on the South and South¬ West Coast, and upon armament works. Especially at the munitions depot near Pem¬broke, and in the harbours of Plymouth and Swansea heavy explosions and large fires were observed. The oil storage tanks at Pembroke and Portland were also set ablaze. Further, in the course of an attack on a convoy in the Channel, ten enemy fighter 'planes were shot down in air battle. During the air battle yesterday 35 enemy 'planes and one barrage balloon were shot down. Seven of our own 'planes are missing.”

German Radio 11 July 1940

Not so much a case of this is my truth; tell me yours - as our propaganda’s better than your propaganda.


Colin Campbell said...

As I get older I am more interested in this period of history. We didn't learn much about it in High School. I am curious why they would bomb Mull. What would the target be other than sheep and Whiskey Distilleries?

r morris said...

Lest we forget. Never was so much owed by so many to say few, as the late great WC stated.
God bless the fighter boys of the B of B.

Cassandra said...

Fascinating stuff. Regret I missed it this year.