We've hardly rearmed and refuelled when we're sent up again, this time to patrol over a Vickers factory to the west of London. Incidentally, this is the first time I used the 'Alternative mission' option, since the original one was a patrol to an area further away to the north-west. I hoped to get a scramble, but ended up with another patrol. Anyhow it's not so far to fly. And being close to the capital, we're maybe more likely to bump into some Huns. My enthusiasm for such activities seems to have returned, although my priority remains survival rather than accolades.
We can muster nine aircraft for this show, six flying in A Flight with me at its head, the other three flying as B Flight, though at Section strength.
I'm a bit slower than usual in getting off the ground - unlike the AI, I don't use the War Emergency Power setting. So I end up behind a couple of the others as we pass over the village which gives our base its name.
Visibility is quite good, despite a certain amount of low cloud.
As the boys begin to form up, I check in with the Controller, but he has nothing for us.
We end up at nearly twenty thousand feet. That's a few thousand higher than briefed, but after last time, I'm keen to have the extra few seconds to plan my moves. If we run into any Huns, that is.
Up ahead are the reservoirs west of London, near where Heathrow is today. They're close to our patrol area and will make excellent landmarks.
There's still nothing doing, so round we go...
...and round again. I check regularly with the Controller, but nothing's doing.
If like me you use the Tactical Display/TAC for navigation, you'll find that after a few orbits, your next waypoint will be back to base. When this happens I take it as a sign that I've done my bit and can go home, rather than continuing to patrol. Would the Huns have showed up if I had stayed longer? Perhaps, but I'll never know. I lead the boys back to Tangmere, keeping our height initially, just in case the air situation changes.
But it stays quiet, and down we go. It's not long before I can see our airfield up ahead.
We didn't shoot anything down, but we didn't lose anyone, either. Bringing my boys home is always important to me, and with consistent flight make-up, WotR now encourages players who fly as leaders to look after their people.
I fly over the airfield so that I can give the 'land (here)' order, but I don't need to, as the Spits are already peeling off...
...leaving me plenty of time and room to make my own approach.
Our chat with 'Spy', the Squadron's Intelligence Officer, will be a short one, but hopefully we'll then get a bit of a rest, before the next call to arms.
Our next call comes at ten the following morning. We're scrambled to the north-east, intercept a raid reported headed for London. We've had no replacement pilots so far, so we again, nine Spitfires is all that we can put up.
We've got over seventy-five miles to go, so I waste no time getting away and climbing hard.
The weather today is a good deal clearer than yesterday...
...and I climb for a while with the cockpit canopy still locked back.
I ease off briefly until the others are in formation...
...then onwards and upwards we go!
Nearing London, we've levelled out just shy of twenty thousand feet...
...and a check with the Controller confirms we just need a slight course correction to intercept the enemy just to the north-east of the capital.
By now, we're crossing London from south-west to north-east...
...and I'm maintaining a keen look-out towards the Thames Estuary, from which I expect the enemy to be approaching. Technically, the Vectors we are given should be not the relative bearing of the enemy, but the interception course calculated by the Controller. So I'm expecting the Huns to be coming in from somewhat to our right.
Another check confirms we're still on the right track, with the range down to just eight miles.
By this time, we're over London's north-eastern outskirts. The Royal group of docks can be seen under my port wing and off the wingtip, the Isle of Dogs and the West India Docks...
...while Tilbury Docks, distinctive but looking a bit rural, lies to our right, on the northern banks of the Estuary.
So lots of dockland, but no Huns. Which the Controller confirms. Has the system have lost track of the raid, in these clear conditions? Or have they bombed and turned back? Was it a feint? Whatever the explanation, we have now reached our patrol area and I start to orbit, feeling more than a little frustrated at the unwelcome turn of events.
Suddenly, I see a small gaggle of aircraft down below, emerging from under my nose to the right. They aren't drawing any ground fire, and no-one has reported them (your pilots don't report friendlies, in WotR, from what I've seen). Our boys, by the look of it.
Each fighter squadron is on its own radio frequency so we can't talk to each other. I watch them go till they slip behind and I'm certain they must be friendly aircraft. At least I spotted them!
But they aren't the only aircraft in the vicinity, after all. A re-check with the Controller reveals we have Bandits thirty miles to the south, at fourteen thousand feet.
I make quite a tight turn to the south, determined not to miss the party for a second time. Below lies what I take to be the important sector station at Hornchurch, which like Tangmere has its own Ops Room and ground controller.
The boys manage to keep up quite well and we're soon bearing down on the as-yet-unseen Huns.
One of the others reports the raid on the R/T about the same time as I spot them for myself. They're coming our way, offset a bit to the right and a couple of thousand feet below. Twenty plus, I would say, in a single bunch.
I order the squadron to go for them and roll in after the tail end of the formation. I can soon see that they're bombers, as I was expecting - Dorniers, in fact. What I don't see is any escort.
The Huns rumble onwards. If they're at all alarmed by the sight of a Spitfire squadron coming down on them like bats out of Hell, they show no sign of it...yet.
I weave in behind the bombers to avoid their return fire, which is pretty intense.
I take some hits but get some of my own on my chosen target, before having to break. Which I do upwards. This is a bad move, for it provides a lot of the Hun air gunners with a nice target, of which they take full advantage.
So many rounds hit my kite that it feels like I've been physically swatted out of the sky. Next thing I know, I've keeled over drunkenly into a nose-dive.
By the time I've recovered, the Huns are well above and ahead, under Ack Ack fire. I climb up after them, thoroughly chastened by the experience. Serves me right for rushing in so fast, ahead of everyone else.
Back up at the raid's level, I close from behind once more. Oil suddenly splatters onto my windscreen. My engine's still going, but not for too much longer; the revs are already beginning to drop off. If I'm lucky, I'll get in one more pass. Hopefully, this time I'll not be the only attacker.
And indeed I'm not! As I watch, a veritable wave of Spitfires slips past just above me, heading straight for the Huns! Go get 'em, Sixty-five!
It's a fine sight, as the boys charge the Dorniers, a seemingly-irresistible phalanx of Spitfires going straight in.
I've singled out a Hun who is straggling a little behind the rest. Somehow, he survives the mass attack, but several of his friends aren't so lucky. A couple of Dorniers on the left of the bunch are already falling damaged out of formation, while others have also been hit hard.
My own Dornier breaks right after my first burst, and I go with him
I break away after another another burst, and pull up only when safely out of range of the formation - lesson learnt! Now, where is my man?
There he goes! Both props have stopped turning and the crew hatch in the belly is open, ready for bailing out. He's a goner, clearly.
By now, the Hun formation has been pretty well shattered. Down over the Estuary, a couple - the first two to be hit, probably - are going down smoking. Up ahead of them, another pair looks like they're turning for home. The rest are carrying on, but we have severely whittled them down. Whatever they're attacking will catch a lot less bombs, courtesy of No. 65 (Fighter) Squadron.
No point in pushing my own luck, I decide. One wing is pretty well sieved and my poor Merlin is failing. Time to get down somewhere. Hopefully, Hornchurch is still close by
And so it is! I ease off on the throttle and begin to spiral down.
Lower down, the Dornier I attacked is doing likewise, but is in rather worse shape.
I keep an eye on my victim and have the satisfaction of seeing him hit the ground before I land.
My engine conks out before I get down but I'm more than close enough to Hornchurch when it happens.
It's been a red letter day for the squadron! Including mine, we're claiming no less than nine Dorniers destroyed - nearly half the formation - for no losses. Several Spits, including my own, have suffered various degrees of damage, but only one pilot has been wounded and then, only slightly. It's an outstanding performance, even if not all our claims are confirmed. Certainly, the absence of 109s had something to do with it, and we mightn't be so fortunate next time, in that regard, but for now, our tails are well and truly up! [The only negative was serious stuttering during the squadron attack - maybe not quite as bad as pre-update 1.19, but still enough to make flying and shooting almost impossible for the few seconds it was happening.]
We've barely had time to refuel and rearm when we're scrambled against a raid reported heading for London from the south-south-east. Our nine Spitfires waste no time in getting away, forming up and setting course.
Conditions are rather better than earlier in the day. We climb hard...
...and are soon cutting across London itself.
A check with the Controller confirms we're getting close - eleven miles to go!
As we cross the Thames, I scan the skies to my right for any sign of the enemy, but the skies remain obstinately clear.
By this time we've levelled off at about seventeen thousand, just above the reported height of the raid.
We go from the Huns being supposedly just a couple of miles ahead, to there being nothing for us. They can't have lost the raid in these fine conditions. A feint, perhaps?
There's nothing for it but to begin orbiting and await developments.
I race after the Huns, who are really taking a pasting.
This one is going down vertically, less some important parts of his airframe...
...while this one...
...and this one...
...are just making a run for it. The boys are practically queuing up to knock the hapless Dorniers out of the sky.
This one looks like getting away, though, so I go after him. Can't have that!
But long before I get in range, another Spitfire drops onto him like a crow onto carrion.
For the second time, I pull aside and let my squadron-mate get on with it.
Which he duly does, forcing another Dornier crew to hit the silk.
The abandoned bomber goes down quite gently. I seem to recall reading that they had a primitive autopilot which could inter alia be used to keep the plane steady for a bail out.
One after another, the bombers go down. One of the boys announces he’s going home, but apart from that, we don’t seem to come to any serious harm, in return. We seem to have wiped out the Huns! The boys begin to reform. So I'm quite surprised when I hear Yellow 3 reporting he's making an attack.
Has he spotted a surviving Dornier? No, he hasn’t! Above and right, I see a bunch of Heinkels.
Not for the first time, I spin out in a desperate effort to get out of the line of fire. And not for the first time, it works. Better still, the Hun leaves me alone and runs for home, chased by some Ack Ack fire. And by me.
I catch him up without difficulty and come in from behind and below. Now it's his turn to lurch wildly as my rounds hit home.
He recovers a bit lower down though, and I have to repeat the performance. Which plays out the same way. By now I can't have much ammo left so after his latest recovery, I decide this time will be the last time - for the Hun.
When the range looks about right I get the 109 nicely centred in my sights and fire one long, last burst.
The Hun does a sort of slow, wide, lazy barrel roll and noses down, inverted. Got him!
I watch him go - you can't really see him in the pic below, but he's trailing a thim streamer of pale smoke and looks to be about to smash into the middle of the grass landing area at Hornchurch. Which would be nice.
However, the Hun recovers, seemingly just in time, and levels out. I hesitate, not sure what ammo I have left, but knowing it won't be much. The 109 is moving slowly in a straight line, and I fancy he might be gliding. As it happens, I'm right.
He manages, narrowly, to avoid running into some housing, but the forced landing which follows goes rather less well.
The road he crashed by runs past Hornchurch, only about a mile away. If they come out to have a look, I doubt there'll be much left to pick over for souvenirs.
Time to go home! The boys begin to form up again as I set a course back over the Thames Estuary on the way back to Tangmere.
It's always a worry at this stage, how many we might have lost - and I do like to bring all my boys home. Back at base, I find we've lost my Number 2, who was standing in for my first one who was wounded during August. Red 2 is killed this time, sadly. But on the other side of the balance sheet, the boys are claiming no less than ten Huns.
I add three to this, forgetting that the first one, the Dornier, was actually finished off by someone else. How many claims will be confirmed remains to be seen, but it's been a pretty good trip. I'm hoping we'll now get a rest, though, because nearly everybody's kite has been damaged and I don't want to go up again with less than a flight, at worst.
As for the Huns, somebody over there needs to get a grip on the tactics. Fewer raids, but bigger ones, is what they should be doing. Six Dorniers, I mean to say! Nine Heinkels wasn't much better, even though there were some 109s sweeping the area. It was like they were feeding Oxo Cubes to a lion one at a time, as somebody reportedly said of the Battle of Arnhem. So much for Concentration of Force!
I sort of get my wish for a rest. We're sent up again, but on a patrol which turns out to be uneventful. With no Huns in the sun...
...it's all rather peaceful, and it stays that way.
On that pleasant note, business for 14th September concludes. The next day starts with good news - I've had two claims confirmed, and though another two were rejected, I've been awarded another gong - the DFC, to be precise! It's a good start to what will later be commemorated as Battle of Britain Day.
During the early morning, we're scrambled to meet a raid north of London. We can still put up only five aircraft, so I'm not exactly overcome with confidence about this show.
We're soon approaching the capital at about seventeen thousand.
A check with the Controller indicates a change of course is required. The Bandits are now coming in from the east, probably more or less straight down the Thames Estuary.
There they are! Looks like twenty plus below, bombers very likely, with ten plus above - they'll be the escorts. So there'll be no chance of easy meat, this time.
I order the attack and turn to meet the escorts, which are breaking into us. The good part is that two of them are going down already, a mid-air collision it must have been.
The boys start peeling off and the fight is on.
I quickly see that the escorts are Messerschmitt 110s. Had they been 109s, this imminent battle at odds would have been well-nigh suicidal.
Well chastened, I go wide and return to the fray, cutting across the Hun's turn without difficulty.
I slip in behind him and give him a good hosing down. He rolls over onto his back and goes down, obviously damaged. But not all the way down. Rather than lose height to go after him, I settle for knocking him out of the fight.
Looking around, there are now no aircraft nearby. In the middle distance, Spits and 110s are wheeling around, while I can see two formations off in the distance. I hope the smaller, higher one is another RAF squadron chasing down those Junkers 88s. Their escort has certainly done a god job of keeping us away from them. But then, there's only five of us.
I pick out another solitary 110 and cut across his turn.
He levels out and runs for it. Even with full power - plus 12 boost, thanks to that 100 Octane petrol - I can't catch him. I settle for a long-range burst and am pleasantly surprised to get some hits. The Hun flips into a vertical dive.
At that point, I become aware of another 110, out to my right rear. He's not showing any interest in me - probably heading for home, given we're now flying south east.
Taking no chances, I let the other 110 go and easing back on the boost, come around in a wide, fast 360 degree turn behind the newcomer. Rolling out wings level, I find myself behind several 110s, widely scattered and all apparently headed back to France.
Try as I might, I can't catch any of them. They're obviously quite fast machines and in a bit of a hurry. By this time I'm out over the Channel - somewhere between Dover and Dungeness I think, though it's a bit hazy. I'm not doing any good out here on my own and don't fancy getting my feet wet if things turn nasty, so turn for home.
I tell the boys to return to base as I go. I remember a couple announcing they were going home during the air fight, so I'm hoping things haven't gone too badly, despite the odds of five to about thirty-five.
Back at base, I find it's bad enough - two pilots killed, including my Number 2 again - this Red 2 slot is beginning to look like it's jinxed! I claim a 110 damaged and the others have claimed two Huns destroyed, so we have given as good as we got, despite the appalling odds.
With some pilots just returned from rest or hospital, the squadron roster is now looking slightly healthier, though. We'll be able to put up a full flight of six, although that's still only half what we're supposed to manage.
This is proving to be a real battle of attrition. Obligatory patriotic bravado aside, who will crack first, I'm beginning to wonder?
To be perfectly honest, I am delighted when it is announced that we haven't enough aircraft and have been taken off ops for the remainder of the fifteenth. But the very next day we can muster six again, and are once more on the slate. It's late morning when we are scrambled to meet a raid north of London. You might think that Sector Ops would direct us to catch the raiders well before they got that far, or scramble squadrons from closer airfields. But warning times can be short and beggars can rarely be choosers, I suppose.
Ours not to reason why, and all that, so off we go, myself at the head of a not very grand total of six Spitfires.
Over London I check back with the Controller...
...and make the slight course adjustment to put us on course for the interception.
Soon, we're down to six miles from the raid. As we get close I like to check at frequent intervals, just in case.
This doesn't stop us missing these particular Huns. The Controller reports they're a mile away, straight in front, and at nearly our altitude. No, they're not, actually. The skies are clear.
I check one more time before resigning myself to a missed interception and a long series of orbits. Suddenly, there are Huns nearly thirty miles to the south-east. Or so the man now says.
There's nothing to be gained by trying to work out the whys and wherefores. So we turn right onto the indicated bearing...
...which takes us towards the regular Hun stomping ground of the Thames Estuary.
Whether or not the enemy will still be stomping out there when we arrive, I'll shortly find out.
That DFC will sure look good on your uniform 33lima. Your reports here are exciting to read and yes the enemy can be elusive but carry on good Sir. Her majesty needs you blokes to clear the skies of The Empire and take the fight back to the skies of the continent!
...there they are! A small group of specks appears amidst the increasing cloud cover. They’re a bit further left than I was expecting and seem to be heading away from us.
I soon realise I'm almost certainly watching one of our own squadrons! Glancing to my right, I suddenly notice the real raid – a gaggle of twenty-plus bombers with maybe eight close escorts above.
I turn toward the Huns, tempted to go for the bombers. But that will only bring the fighters down on our necks, so I order the escorts attacked. Those odds are nearly even and we have a slight positional advantage.
The Huns sail through some Ack Ack fire, apparently oblivious to the fact we're coming over to set about them.
Both sides flit in and out of cloud. I briefly lose sight of the Huns and get a shock when a neat formation of aircraft suddenly appears and crosses just below, from left to right. At first, I think they’re the bombers, but quickly realise they’re our boys, probably the other squadron I saw earlier.
I’ve drawn a bit ahead of my own companions and regaining sight of the Huns, I slow down slightly while they catch up and I plan my attack. As I watch, one of the escorts turns away from the others, who fly on. My first thought is that he’s been winged by the ground fire and is going home. But I can’t exclude the possibility he’s a hot shot who’s aiming to come around behind us as we go for his friends. So I decide to tackle him and leave the rest to the boys.
I quickly close with the Hun and can soon see for myself that he’s a 109. He’s just flying away, so it looks like my first impression was right.
I close in and give him a couple of zero deflection bursts from dead astern.
The Hun suddenly rears up in front of me and although I don’t notice any impact, I see aircraft parts flying and fear I can’t have completely missed a collision.
However, my kite flies on normally, while the 109 drops like a brick.
In fact, he’s lost a large part of one wing! No doubt about that one.
Time to find out how the others are getting on. Behind me, I can see an air fight in progress. My presence is obviously required!
I wheel around and head for the scene of the action. I can’t initially tell who’s who, so I steer more or less for the middle of the fight. I could have climbed above it and chosen a target more carefully, but with the odds in the Hun’s favour, I feel time is of the essence. Already, Red 2 is reporting he’s having to break off
As I bore in, a fighter flashes past, going the other way. That’ll be Red 2 departing, I expect. I get a brief glimpse of his yellow nose as he zips past.
But hang on! Spitfires don’t have yellow noses - Messerschmitt 109s have yellow noses.
Looking behind, I see not one, but two yellow-nosed Messerschmitts, the closest clearly about to open fire. My heart drops! It's the end of the line. Just when I was beginning to think I might make it through.
Instinct takes over and I break violently. No point worrying about tearing the wings off - I’ve nothing to lose. By some miracle, I escape the vicious burst of tracer which whips past.
Unsurprisingly, my Spitfire spins out and down I go. Rounds whack into my airframe somewhere as I struggle to recover. I halt the spinning and end up in a near vertical dive. The hits have stopped. To keep it that way, I open the throttle again and begin to roll into a turn, while keeping the nose well down. I may still get the chop, but there’s no point making it easy for the b***tards.
Suddenly, one of the Huns is right behind me again and I tighten up the turn. I begin to black out, and am hit again.
I end up in a steep climbing turn, and take yet more hits.
Rolling inverted, I go down again, vertically. I'm rapidly running out of options - and now height. If the Huns don’t get me, it looks like terra firma will.
I ease off the dive and begin to roll into a turn. I want to get right down on the deck, in the hope of scraping that Hun off my back. If that doesn't work, I really am out of options.
The rooftops rush up to meet me as I finally run out of height.
I’ve lost sight of the closest Messerschmitt but he’s still going down very steeply, maybe now focussed on survival rather than victory. Those heavy elevators in a dive doomed many a 109, they say.
Whatever happened, I suddenly realise that my tail is clear! However, a fresh danger looms – I’m running into a balloon barrage! Perhaps that’s why my tormentors seem to have left me.
Those blasted blimps hem me in on both sides.
But my some miracle, I seem to have come down in a spot where there’s a gap in the barrage, right ahead!
Not wanting to push my luck, I start to climb, while re-orienting myself. And keeping an eye out for any 109s which fancy having another go.
But all seems clear and I head for home, ordering the boys to do likewise. From the response, it seems they are already headed back to base.
A check of my instruments shows nothing amiss. Despite all the holes I've collected in my kite's wings and fuselage, no critical damage has been done. 'Luck' isn't the word!
More of those darned balloons loom ahead so I put on a bit more height. It would be really stupid if I let one of them get me, when the 109s couldn't.
Flying home, I feel like one reprieved from a sentence of death. My relief is all the greater when, back at Tangmere, I discover that we have two aircraft slightly damaged, including my own, but no casualties. And we’re claiming two Huns, again including the one I knocked down. Despite the odds, we drew those 109s away from the bombers - hopefully giving that other squadron I saw a clear run - and roughed them up, good and proper.
We’re still woefully under strength, but morale is actually holding up well. And we’re still more than able to give the more numerous Huns a jolly good pasting. Maybe we can get through this battle - and win it - after all!
Well I got another gong, but only after another air battle, which will be the subject of the next report:
I do wonder, though, if someone at the Air Ministry is trying to palm me off onto the Army, awarding me an MC instead of a bar to my DFC, or even a DSO. It's not like the pen-pushers in Whitehall to make a boob like issuing a RAF type like me a medal intended for the Brown Jobs, or at least, for ground-based efforts. Still, mustn't complain - at least it shows my efforts are appreciated!