Monday, March 9, 2015

Summer 1940

A Messerschmitt bf 110 over the cliffs of Dover. Some Bf 110s carried bombs during the Battle of Britain for attacks on precision targets, but were very vulnerable in this role.

Although it was summer, unsettled weather still exerted a huge influence on the day-to-day course of the Battle. After the hectic pace of Thursday 4 July, Friday dawned with heavy cloud and some mist. A number of German formations lumbered into the air, and were detected by Chain Home, but only small numbers of aircraft actually crossed the Channel. A single Heinkel He IIIH was shot down into the Channel off Dover after being intercepted by the nine Spitfires of No.65 Squadron at 0630, and a three-aircraft section ofNo.64 Squadron engaged the enemy when it undertook an evening reconnaissance over the Pas de Calais. One Spitfire was shot down, and one had a forced-landing at Hawkinge with combat damage, and the third made it safely back to Kenley. But the mission was symptomatic of the cross-Channel fighter recce sorties, in that it achieved little (the pilots being too busy to provide worthwhile information on enemy ground dispositions), cost aircraft, and confused the radar picture. Fortunately for the RAF's score-keepers, No.611 Squadron had earlier caused such damage to an LG 1 Bf 109E off Spurn Head that it was completely written off after crashing at Limoges.

Even before the Battle, Fighter Command had started to prepare itself for an attack from French airfields, establishing No.10 Group and building a satellite aerodrome at Warmwell. On Saturday 6 July, Dowding moved No.609 Squadron from Northolt to Middle Wallop, and No.87 Squadron from Church Fenton to Exeter, while a Blenheim night-fighter unit, No.236 Squadron, was moved to Thorney Island to provide a night defence for Portsmouth and Southampton. With poor weather in the south of England, most of the action took place in the north. The RAF suffered no combat losses but shot down a reconnaissance Bf 110 over the North Sea, 161km (100 miles) east-north-east of Aberdeen, while a recce Do 17P force-landed in Sweden and was interned. Despite the poor weather, the Luftwaffe mounted a number of night raids, and bombs fell on Aldershot, Farnborough, Godalming, and Haslemere, killing 62 people and temporarily blocking four railways. All this was before the Battle of Britain had officially even started. The intended military targets of the bombers were unharmed.

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