fighters

Sep

20

1941

Escape from occupied Europe

One of the fast launches employed by the RAF for the rescue of pilots who had to ditch in the Channel.

I turned, leading my three comrades. I was surprised to see men on board it. There were five of them, all on their feet, at the risk of upsetting the frail skiff waving everything they had, handkerchieves, coats, etc. One whom I saw distinctly was wearing a mackintosh and waving a soft hat as high as he could.

Sep

14

1941

Hurricat attack on a Focke Wolfe

A Hurricat - a catapult adapted Hurricane fighter is prepared on the launch rail of a CAM ship in port. The pilot had to be prepared to launch at very short notice, whatever the sea condition. If he was far out at sea he could only expect to ditch the aircraft or parachute out and then hope to be picked up by one of the convoy escorts.

12:00 – The aircraft turned towards the convoy and appeared to be coming in for attack, so a Hurricane was flown off. The pilot, Sub Lt. C. Walker, R.N.V.R. saw the enemy immediately as he left the ship and went straight to meet it, carrying out a head-on attack until at point blank range. He saw that his ammunition entered the nose of the German aircraft.

Aug

29

1941

Dogfight over the Libyan desert

A Messerschmitt Me 109 from JG 27, based in North Africa, receives a new coat of paint .

In the first attack Caldwell suffered bullet wounds to the back, left shoulder, and leg. In the next pass one shot slammed through the canopy, causing splinters which wounded him with perspex in the face and shrapnel in the neck. Two cannon shells also punched their way through the rear fuselage just behind him and the starboard wing was badly damaged. Despite damage to both himself and the aircraft, Caldwell, feeling, as he remembers, “quite hostile” turned on his attackers and sent down one of the Bf 109s in flames.

Aug

26

1941

Attack on a Ju 88 over the Irish Sea

A Junkers Ju 88 bomber in flight, pictured over North Africa later in 1941.

The moment of action came. He was to port of me. A rapid turn in that direction, followed by a steep diving turn to starboard and I found myself in a dead straight vertical dive upon the Boche. The speed became incredible. The swastikas grew bigger and bigger in my sights. I opened fire. I just had time to avoid a collision.

Aug

23

1941

Night fighter interception over the North Sea

Bristol Beaufighter in flight

As we came out of the turn, the pressure eased, and I could see that we had the other aircraft cold. John’s handling of the Beaufighter had clinched that.Oosing head-on at nearly seven miles a minute on a dark, hazy night with no moon and no horizon, he had started to wheel a heavy and rather unstable aircraft around when only a mile away, and yet he had pulled out of that turn little more than that distance behind.

May

17

1941

Low level air attack in Iraq

Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No. 14 Squadron RAF in flight over desert, possibly in Iraq where the Squadron was based from August to October 1941. The nearest aircraft is Z5860, which was shot down during a raid on an enemy vehicle convoy on the Derna-Bardia road on 14 December 1941, all its crew being killed.

In any case, a really low cross-country flight is a wonderful experience. It is the only time one can get the feeling of an aeroplane’s terrific speed. The ground streaks past under the wings unbelievably fast. Different coloured patches of sand flow by; it’s like running your hand across a patchwork quilt. You lift your machine gently upwards to clear hummocks, and then ease her down again the other side to stay low, low, low. As one approaches the target, the adrenalin starts to pump, giving a tingling sensation between the shoulder-blades, and maybe some sweat trickles down.

May

14

1941

Second ‘Eagle Squadron’ formed

The Spitfire VBs of No 92 Squadron in MaY 1941, based at Biggin Hill, one of the front line stations in the south. The Mk V Spitfire now usually had the B armament - two 20mm cannons and four machine guns after reliability problems with the cannons had been resolved. Had cannons been available during the previous summer Fighter Commands success rate would have been even better.

By day, the usual enemy reconnaissances were flown, and defensive fighter patrols were maintained over the Dover Straits and over coastal areas. A number of small-scale offensive daylight sweeps covered Kent and South and South-West Coastal regions; our fighters destroyed eighteen Me. 109’s, and probably destroyed six others. We lost six aircraft, but four of the pilots were saved. Ten Me. 109’s dived from 29,000 feet to 100 feet to attack Rochford aerodrome, and destroyed the control office.

Feb

28

1941

RAF fighters go on offensive

A posed shot of a Hurricane being re-armed with the 3,990 rounds of .303 ammunition that each plane carried, 28th March 1941

Our fighter patrols operated over Northern France on five days. Few enemy aircraft were encountered, but A.A. fire was generally heavy and accurate. On the 25th and 26th, an escort and screen was provided for a small bomber force which attacked shipping targets at Dunkirk and Calais. About 100 fighters were employed on each occasion.

Dec

28

1940

RAF and RAAF control the skies over Libya

RAAF Gladiators return to their base in the Desert.

Our fighters have continued to maintain their ascendancy over the Italian Air Force. On the 26th Gladiators of the Royal Australian Air Force shot down without loss two, and probably six, of a number of C.R. 42 fighters “which were escorting a bomber formation, and on the 28th Hurricanes shot down three bombers and a fighter, again without loss.

Nov

24

1940

Hugh Dowding is retired from the RAF

Hugh Dowding, official portrait

Yet the reserved uncharismatic, Dowding, nicknamed “Stuffy”, was not popular amongst the higher echelons of the RAF. Some argued that he was not a sufficiently personable leader and should be spending more time visiting the front line Squadrons. There was no evidence that any fighter Squadron needed any form of inspiration – but this was just an alternative view of military leadership.