We're off ops for the rest of the 16th due to a shortage of aircraft. Unlike pilots, supply from the factories via the Maintenance Units seems rarely to be able keep us up to anything like full strength. On the next day, we manage to put up seven, for a scramble against a raid, once again with an interception point NE of London, well outside our Sector's area.
We're soon getting away and leaving Tangmere behind. The weather is clearer than of late, so there's that to be grateful for,
I slide the cockpit canopy forward, turn onto our assigned Vector to the north-east, and begin to climb.
I ease off to allow the boys to catch up. Red 2 and 3 slip ahead briefly...
...but are soon sliding back into position.
I have to allow a bit longer for a pair who are lagging a bit, noting that there's a bit more cloud the further we go. It doesn't much hamper our visibility, but if it gets any worse it could hamper visual observation of raids from the ground, which we rely on over land as the RDF coverage is only out to sea.
Before long, we're beginning to cross London, at about fifteen thousand if I recall right.
We've been vectored to the other side of the capital - we have a way to go yet. The skies are clear above us, so the risk of us being caught by surprise from on high - 'bounced' - should be low.
A check with the Controller confirms we are still on the right track for the raid, now about 18 miles ahead...
...so on we go. By now, we've crossed the Thames and are over London's north-eastern suburbs. Not long now...I hope...!
We're now at just shy of seventeen thousand feet, slightly above the raid's last reported height.
We should be minutes away from running into them. I bank left and right to see past and under my nose - but there's no Huns to be seen.
I check with the Controller who admits he's either decided we're no longer in a position to intercept, or has lost track of the raid. This seems to happen a lot.
Well, we've reached the area NE of London to which we were vectored, so I start to orbit...
...and round we go.
Below and left in the pic below is, I think, the western end of the so-called Isle of Grain, which lies on the southern side of the Thames Estuary. To the extreme right is part of the docks at Tilbury. There's plenty of landmarks visible, just no Huns.
That's about to change, though. Another check with the Controller back at the Ops Room at Tangmere reveals we have trade after all, nearly thirty miles to the south.
This time there's no mix-up and it all comes together. There are the Bandits, an escorted raid for sure, thirty to forty strong. It looks like we're the only defenders on the scene so it's just the seven of us against that lot.
As with the last time this happened, I decide we’ll tackle the escorts, hopefully leaving the bombers vulnerable to the next squadron to arrive. At first, I order the attack while still having Blue 1 targeted (to take the previous screenshot via an inverted player-target view) which may be why he is calling for help, long before the scrap has begun!
This time, half the Hun escort breaks aggressively right into us and the fight is on. They’re Me 110s, clearly, so I take a chance and break early, to avoid a head-on encounter with their heavy forward-firing batteries.
Formation is quickly lost and aeroplanes are suddenly all over the sky. I latch onto a solitary 110 and quickly chase him down. These fellows can be impossible to catch in a tail chase, if they just run away at full tilt. But here, I can cut across his turn. Which of course is what I do.
I slip in behind him rather than go for a deflection shot. After a couple of bursts from near dead astern...
...a large section of his starboard wing breaks off and down he goes!
I break right to clear my tail and get my bearings. I must be a good few miles south of the Thames Estuary. I think the airfield on the left is Rochester - in real life, site of the Short Stirling production line, wrecked by eighteen Dorniers of II/KG3 in a low-level raid on 15th August - which would mean that the base on the right is the Coastal Command station at Detling.
Looking around, can see an air fight in the distance. I turn towards it. The airwaves are filled with the usual calls, so our boys are obviously still involved – our squadrons do not share radio channels. My priority when re-joining a fight is always a Hun chasing one of ours, but the action is widely scattered and no such target presents itself. Instead, I latch onto another 110, conscious that a couple of his friends are not far away.
I get some hits on the 110…
…but am suddenly hit myself. I noticed some return fire from the 110, but I’ve a nasty feeling that the hits came from behind, from one of those other Messerschmitts. So in a bit of a funk, I get out of there, quickly. It doesn’t help that some Ack Ack, presumably directed at my target, is bursting very close to me.
As if this business isn’t dangerous enough!
But I quickly confirm that there’s no Hun chasing me. Angry that my timidity has cause me to lose ground, I resume the chase.
If the 110 wasn’t sufficiently damaged in my first pass, he’s probably got the speed to get away, now. But I manage to catch him up and the chase is on again.
I try a long range burst, in an effort to keep him turning. This has unexpected results - the Hun suddenly flips over, out of control! Maybe I winged the pilot.
Down he goes, with me watching warily. This could well be some underhand trickery, for which the wily Hun is of course well-known.
Sure enough, the 110 recovers and tries to get away again. Naturally, I go after him, having checked my tail is still clear. The Hun is going down in a gentle dive and as he passes across a bank of cloud, I notice that he’s leaving a faint trail of smoke. This looks more promising!
At his current rate of descent, there’s no way the 110 is going to reach the coast, let alone get back across the Channel. But that’s apparently what he’s trying to do. So I decide to have another crack at him.
This has the desired effect. One of his engines was already stopped; now, the prop on the other one is whirling to a halt, too.
That’s enough, I decide. Any further shooting on my part would be unsporting; indeed, it would be downright gratuitous violence, and just not done.
Sadly, the 110’s forced landing goes badly, for no obvious reason. This seems to happen a lot, which is one reason I’m always reluctant to force land myself. People ‘spiking’ open fields in the invasion zone with obstacles designed to hamper glider landings, however well-intentioned, doesn’t help friend or foe, in such circumstances. I do wish somebody would put a stop to it.
I’m disappointed my opponent didn’t fare better, but ‘rather them than me’ is my parting thought, as I look back at the site of their prang.
I head for home and call off the pack, to find that they are already doing likewise.
In fact, I remember hearing a couple of them announcing as much during the air fight. So it’s no surprise when I get back to find that two other Spits besides my own were slightly damaged. But none of the boys was hurt and Red 3 is claiming a Hun; to which I quickly add my own two claims. Three for no loss will do nicely.
It was after this fight that I was told by the CO (presumably the Station Commander, as I’m actually leading the squadron in action) that I’ve been awarded the Military Cross (which is generally for derring-do on the ground, not in the air). I’d have been much better pleased if they had delivered the half-dozen or more Spitfires we need to get back up to something like full strength. Word is, the factories are churning out fighters at a rate of knots, so why are we are perennially short of them? Somebody up the chain of command needs to get the finger out. Come on, you people – ‘exdigitate’!
Well, today was very nearly the day they got me. It all started relatively harmlessly, but it didn't stay like that.
And this was the way of it...
We've hardly had time for breakfast when just after 6, we're briefed for a patrol over the docks in the East End of London. A couple of replacement aircraft have arrived but this is just about keeping pace with what's lost or under repair. So we can only put up six Spitfires.
There's a bit more cloud about too, and more where we're going, if the 'met' people are to be believed. To our left as we leave Tangmere there's a low moon...
...while to our right, the sun is also low in the sky.
As we reach London, we find out from the Controller that this patrol is not going to be uneventful. We're vectored to intercept a raid to the east, about thirty miles away, and I turn onto the indicated heading.
This time, I have resisted the temptation to push the throttle all the way forward the moment the raid is announced. So the boys have no difficulty in keeping up. I don't want us running into the Huns if we're spread out all over the sky. It's a slow, painful process, but I'm learning!
I level out and settle onto the new course. Far below, you can see Tower Bridge and next to it on the far bank of the Thames, the Tower of London.
Another check with the Controller confirms that the Huns haven't pulled one of their disappearing tricks. They're now under twenty miles ahead, somewhere in the glare of the early morning sun. At least we should be somewhat above them, if the gen we're getting is right.
The boys are still keeping up nicely...
...so we're as ready as we'll ever be for whatever it is, that's heading our way.
I spot the raid at about the same time that one of the others reports them on the R/T. Looks like about twenty bombers, with maybe half that for close escort. No sign of anyone else hanging around, friend or foe. This is it!
One group of escorts – I can see that they’re Me110s - splits up and comes straight at is. The others stay together and slip off to our left. It’s like they’re trying to block any attack on the bombers, while also threatening us from a different direction. These Huns are no clearly duds – aggressive, but also tactical.
I order an attack, having selected a bomber - a mistake I don’t have time to correct, since the escorts have pre-empted us.
The familiar chaos of a dogfight quickly develops, with what looks like a mid-air collision with two 'chutes nearby. The bombers get away. The formation in the distance on the right could be them, or another raid, I’m not sure. Either way, we’ve got our hands full with the 110s.
I pick out one of the Huns and go for him.
Two of the boys are calling for help but I reckon I need to attend to this fellow first, while I can.
I manage to get into my favourite position for a no-deflection shot from astern, and let the Messerschmitt have it. I take some hits from return fire but this time don’t break in a panic.
I use up quite a lot of rounds on this Hun. My own fault, for I really should map the screenshot and pause keys (the latter to line up for an external screenie) to my joystick - looking away at the keyboard doesn’t do much for your aim!
Finally, down he goes and I break away. I see two ‘chutes appear. The crew's going down well away from water, so they’ll be safe enough. I hope I’ll be as lucky, if any when the time comes.
However - winding the story back a second or two to when I started my firing pass - I miss an important piece of information – I’ve got them, but they’ve got me too.
In the info text, amongst the rest, I didn't notice the warning that I am ‘bleeding profusely’. So I'm blithely unaware that I’m on my way out.
To digress, I invariably leave onscreen text aids turned firmly off; labels likewise. Hate the stuff with a passion. IMHO, there is little in the virtual world that’s worse that Youtube flightsim videos displaying battles between differently-coloured flying labels. Yuk, yuk, a thousand times yuk! You know who you are - cease and desist! I’ll take an element of uncertainty, any day.
There are exceptions of course, and in WotR, I turn the top-of-screen text display on when I want to ask the Controller for an update. This a necessity, really. You can’t hear the reply at all in the external view (a setting I hope will change) and even in the cockpit, you hear static when it comes to the details of the enemy – the audio can’t state the bearing and altitude, which only available in the text display. Which latter shows underneath the tactical display if the TAC is enabled, atop the screen if not.
Having turned on text display for my last Controller update request and left it on, I simply turned it off again when the pesky damage display announced that return fire had hit me (having heard the impacts). Not noticing the warning that I’ve been seriously wounded. I’d have expected to see blood spatter on my goggles in this situation, but for some reason, there is none, despite being enabled in the WotR Workshop settings.
So - I'm a casualty and I need to get down somewhere, fast. Instead, I carry on, a flying, ticking biological time bomb.
However, I see at once that this fellow has no intention whatever of becoming my next victim. He throws his big kite about the sky like it’s a single-seater. At one point, I spin out and it looks like he'll get away...
...but I spiral up after him and the hunt is on again.
The Hun makes the mistake of turning tightly; perhaps he's lost sight of me. I cut across the circle to close the range.
But no sooner do I get my sights onto him, than he’s off again. Clearly, a fellow who knows the ropes. Down he goes, twisting onto a different heading as he pulls out. We’re getting a bit too close to Mother Earth for my liking and I’m careful not to pull back too hard on the stick. The last thing I want is to spin out at low level – the Pilot Notes for my Spit say don’t start a spin below ten thousand, and don’t delay starting recovery below five.
I regain position on the Hun after he’s had to pull up – the 109s in particular may be able to out-dive us, but this is when we can usually catch them. I let fly, and trade hits with his rear gunner. With one gun against eight, the Hun is soon the loser and the evasive action stops. But just when he’s a sitter, out of options and running for home, my ammo runs out, and I’m forced to give up!
I turn for home and tell the boys to do the same. I’ve lost sight of them, but the R/T chatter has died back and it seems like the battle is over, anyway.
The Hun also runs for home, pursued now only by some desultory Ack Ack fire. A hot shot, certainly, but I know, and he knows, that I got the better of him. I'm just glad he wasn't flying a 109.
It’s about this time that I get, or notice, another text message warning me of my wounds...and this time, I read it!
Oh crikey! I’m going to die! ‘Profusely’ is obviously no mere scratch. Why didn’t I notice any blood? How long have I got before I pass out? Can I get down in time? Should I bail out?
Even though one half of my brain is panicking, the other half is still thinking clearly, or trying to. I remember that Rochester airfield is behind me and not far away – I saw it clearly, on the last hop. I’m still tempted to hit the silk rather than risk collapsing from blood loss trying to get there. But desperate as I am, I recoil at the idea of sacrificing my lovely Spitfire. A forced landing I also decide against, as too risky. Rochester is nearby, so Rochester it is.
Thank goodness the Spit and her trusty Merlin are in better shape than I am! I turn about and look anxiously ahead, to where I expect the airfield to be. And there it is!
I should probably have made a straight-in approach and landed on the east-west runway. But while perspectives may be misleading me, the north-south one looks longer. So I drift out to the right to give myself elbow room for my approach. I’m realise I’m too fast and fret for what seems like forever until the speed slowly drops below the 160 indicated when I can begin to drop gear and flaps.
By the time the speed is down and everything is hanging, I’ve missed my turn onto finals and am well out of position to the right of the runway. I’m making a real mess of this one, but I’m determined to get down now - I might not last long enough to put in a circuit. It looks like I’m going to kill myself in a botched landing, instead of bleeding out! I really, really wanted to survive this campaign, but this looks like the end!
My Spit touches down, makes a couple of low bounces, sways a bit, then settles onto the runway. She's going very fast, so I tap the brakes on and off, expecting a nose-over and fireball. But no – I lurch to a halt, and we’re down safely!
That was close! I could so easily have flown on until I passed out. And I very nearly did kill myself getting down. But I’m still in business!
I mess up reviewing the debriefing and thus also miss out on putting in a claim. But I’m past caring about that, glad only to be still in the virtual land of the living. And a check of the squadron personnel, via the Duty Room screen, reveals that we lost no-one on the trip. So good news there, too. If I have to spend a while in hospital, so be it. It was nearly a whole lot worse!
Evidently, my wounds on the last show were more imagined than real, since I'm back on ops immediately! We're scrambled again to the north east and the same six stalwarts take to the air, with Yours Truly in the lead, as usual.
The boys are keeping up well today. Or perhaps I've just got better at not racing ahead regardless.
We're soon crossing London, with the famous 'U' bend in the Thames an unmistakeable landmark.
There's quite a lot of cloud about, and I find myself hoping rather desperately that the Controller will not lose the raid we're supposed to intercept. Not now that we're nearly there.
I check and all is well - we're still on course to intercept.
Except that there's no sign of the beggars. He's lost them - again! Which he freely admits, when I call him up to check.
So round and round we go.
To be fair, the extent of cloud cover in this neck of the woods is going to make life difficult for the most eagle-eyed of Observer Corps people. So I orbit patiently, knowing that we might soon be back in business.
Those Doctors at Tangmere are real crackers. Severed artery, no problem, just a couple of minutes, they will have you patched up. They send you home with two aspirin and back on the flight line at sparow chirp.
I'm not disappointed - within a few minutes, we're vectored to a fresh raid, out to the east. But the first aircraft we see are from another RAF squadron. I watch them closely just in case, and in the hope they too are tasked to intercept the same raid. With just the six of us, we'll need all the help we can get.
The newcomers are actually Spitfires from 66 Squadron...
...but they swing around and fly away, to the south-west. I bank to keep them in view, but they hold their course....
...and are soon slipping abreast and then astern of us. A pity!
Up ahead, the ground haze obscures visibility beyond a handful of miles, but at the raid's reported height, conditions are relatively clear.
Another check with the Controller confirms we are still in play and have just over twenty miles to go.
A glance behind confirms that the boys are neatly stacked up, mostly to my left rear. I'm cruising now, we'll be there soon enough. As the old saying goes, no man rushes to a market where there is nothing to be bought but blows.
By now, we're crossing the Thames Estuary diagonally and headed towards the broad estuary of the Medway, to the south. There's still no sign of the Huns, and I scan the skies ahead anxiously.
There's the Huns! Twenty-plus bombers, with maybe a dozen escorts above, on a roughly reciprocal but offset course. I give the order to attack the latter and bank towards them. The escorts ease their formation and turn into us. The recommended drill is to split your force, half each for escorts and bombers, but we can hardly afford to spread the jam so thinly.
This time, the Huns are 109s, with the common yellow noses. The two formations come together untidily...
...then I'm around and onto the tail of one of the beggars. I'm tempted to shoot him out of the way and then carry on after the bombers whom I can see beyond the 109. But no, we need to stick together and deal with the fighters.
I hose down the 109 and can see that I'm getting hits. I pull up hard at the last moment, by which point the Hun has levelled off and is obviously in trouble.
As I'm coming around to deliver the coup de grace, smoke trails from tracer fire flash past just to my left. I break wildly and end up spinning down and out, having collected some hits on the way. A pretty ropey performance!
The new Hun certainly isn't impressed. Nor has he finished with me.
The next few seconds are a bit of a jumble. Fleeting glimpses of two 109s who won't let go. The view going crazy again, when I lose it and spin out a second time. Then there's a violent crunching sound and my Spitfire lurches. Fragments fly, and I realise the closest 109 has run into me, the clot!
My Spit seems to have come off an awful lot better than the 109, despite being briefly in the centre of a large cloud of debris laced with burning aviation spirit.
Clearly we're going down. My poor Spit begins to burn and it's time to get out. I try to push back the cockpit canopy. It won't move. I try to bail out. I can't! No controls are answering. Burning furiously, my aircraft settles into a slow descent which can only have one ending.
Last hope is that she comes down gently on level, open ground, away from buildings or trees. But it's not to be. This is the end!
So ended my campaign with 65 Squadron. My logbook records thirteen confirmed victories from around two dozen sorties, to which could be added the Hun who ran into me. We lost another aircraft to those 109s but its pilot had better luck. If only the replacement aircraft had come thicker and faster, I'd have had a fighting chance, instead of being consistently and considerably outnumbered by the escorts, let alone the bombers. But no matter now - someone else will be leading Sixty-five into its next battle with the Luftwaffe!
As to what's next...well I backed up my pilot files right before this mission and might resume the campaign based on the premise that careless Huns ought not to be allowed to spoil such things. And the fact that I was enjoying myself/the immersion factor was high, which I hope comes across from the reports.
As for future WotR AARs, I've no objections in principle to flying for the Dark Side. But I dislike escort missions for either side at any period in the war, so we shall see. Also the RAF WotR campaign seems the more mature, with more realistic missions eg no anti-ship ops in 109s with ship killing Oerlikons. So I'm tempted to fly another RAF campaign for a squadron represented in memoirs I've got on the bookshelves in front of me, like 'Gun Button to Fire' by 249's Tom Neil, or 'Spitfire Pilot' by David Crook of 609 (not read yet but soon to be). Just like this campaign was inspired by reading Olive Gordon's excellent 'Spitfire Ace'.
I Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 26, Audembert, 10 July 1940
The first operation with a new unit can always turn out a tad confusing, and this one was no exception.
I've just arrived with I/JG26, chosen not for its subsequent fame but for its proximity to the coast, so we'll have less far to fly than many others. Thereby minimising one of my main objections to flying a campaign based on escorting (as opposed to intercepting) bombers.
The first sign that all is not well is our stated objective. It's 'to attack the enemy's ships in the English Channel.' The Ops Officer must have badly overdone the schnapps. For one thing, unless he has really messed up the map, our objective is in the Thames Estuary, not the Kanal. And for another - well, we jagdfleiger may be very flexible people, but we don't, and indeed can't, sink ships for a living. Not unless and until - perish the thought! - they find a way to hang bombs under our bellies as in that experimental fighter bomber unit that's now operating on the Channel Front. Until then - one for the Stukas or the other bomber boys. I decide to interpret the job as a fighter sweep.
This I get to do, because I'm in charge. We seem to have a lot of Oberleutnants in the unit, but I must be the senior one since I'm leading our eight Messerschmitts (or maybe it's because I set 'Always lead' in Workshop screen!).
My next problem is of my own making. I select a different skin, and by mistake pick one from JG2 which is labelled as JG2 6, not realising the gap isn't a typo. So this is the aircraft with which I start. I still have glossiness turned down, incidentally, as it better suits early to mid war RAF aircraft.
Everybody else is in proper JG26 colours complete with the unit's emblem, a black 'S' (for Leo Schlageter, the Nazi hero) on a white shield. However, they have a mix of gruppe symbols (after the fuselage cross) and staffel colours (white for a gruppe's first staffel, red or black for the second, and yellow for the third). So I'm not the only one who's improperly dressed, just the worst offender. Yellow motor cowlings are widespread, though they only came in from about early August, I believe.
Next problem is the airfield. The technical officer probably deserves the blame for putting us slap in the middle of a forest, with rather tall trees awaiting anyone who doesn't get off the ground smartly enough. Which nearly includes me, giving a fine impression of Quax the Crash Pilot (although that film was not made until later - I have a pic somewhere of a captured French AT-6 that was used in its making).
Anyhow, a miss is as good as a mile (or 1.6 kilometres if you like) and I'm soon skimming over the French countryside in fine style.
It's a bit galling, though, when only a short way from Audembert, I find myself flying past the sort of airfield they should have put us on - Marquise West, apparently. No forests in the way of either take-off or landing.
It's as we're coming around in a wide sweep towards the French coast that I realise there's more than eight of us.
In fact I think we've put up twelve aircraft, in three fours. Eight would have been fine, as the German staffel was smaller than the RAF fighter squadron. And the gruppe could have put up two 8-aircraft staffeln instead, which would have been more realistic (the gruppe being the normal Luftwaffe flying unit, not staffel). It would have helped if they'd mentioned it at the briefing. In high enough concentrations, schnapps must do terrible things to a fellow's concentration.
Never mind - we're soon climbing out over the Channel. The briefed height is about 5,000 metres if I recall right and I don't want to be too far short of that height by the time we cross the English coast, near Dover. Which is not very far away.
We make a fine sight in the fine weather.
Hopefully, the Tommies will also be impressed - one way or another.
There's a fair bit of cloud about initially, casting dark shadows on the steely-blue water down below...
But we climb up and through or around it...
...and can soon clearly see the famous white cliffs of Dover. I don't see any blue birds over them, but there are certainly fewer clouds.
As we come in over the port we attract some flak.
Uncertain how much of a threat this poses, I throw in a bit of a course change to put them off, while continuing to climb.
We're soon in the clear again...
...so it's a good time to check my fuel gauge. No worries there yet, but consumption has been appreciable and we've a way to go yet. This is something I'll need to get used to watching more closely than I'm used to.
We're now crossing Kent...
...with the airfield at Manston below us, at the base of the North Foreland. A fighter base, the intelligence people say, but there's no sign of enemy fighters in the air or on the ground. Not yet, anyway.
We come in for another barrage from unseen gunners on the ground and again, I change course a bit, so as not to make it too easy for them.
They soon give up and I level out again.
By now, we are out over the Thames Estuary, a wide body of water in this vicinity. The clouds are a bit thicker now, too. We're well above them, so are unlikely to be caught by surprise on their account.
As for the sun, it's nearly vertically above us - not too much of a risk from that direction, especially as we're at nearly 6,000 metres ourselves.
To the west is where the main threat lies, as does the enemy capital. The skies out there are clear and I can see a long way. So far, so good!
There's still no sign of the RAF as we near the spot we're supposed to find the enemy shipping. Well, attack it, really, but no, not on my watch.
There's no shipping visible, anyway...
...although I have a clear view as far north as the Blackwater Estuary and Mersea Island, beyond it. Definitely no ships out there, though. Not that I'm trying too hard to locate them. I'm here to watch for enemy aircraft, as far as I'm concerned. Not that there's any of them around either, at the moment.
We've reached the patrol area so round and round we start to go.
With all these 109s, I'm practically daring the RAF to show up. Unfortunately they can choose to ignore fighter sweeps, so it's a pity the brain boxes back at HQ who dreamed up this operation didn't send some bombers along for the ride.
Suddenly, a pilot in the third schwarm announces on the radio that he's attacking ground targets. I assume he means surface tagets - ships in fact - because that's what's now showed up!
I immediately order formation to be rejoined, to be turned down on account of some being otherwise engaged, already. To make matters worse, the rest of the formation now abandons me, falling away below. What are these people doing?
Not much, seems to be the answer. So I fly along behind them, to see what they do next. Are they going to join in on the attack on those ships?
It doesn't look like it. In between ignoring my repeated orders to rejoin formation, they start to wheel around the sky.
Down below, it looks like somebody has sunk the last ship in line!
I orbit the patrol's beat for a while, waiting to see if the others go down or the RAF arrives. Neither of these things happens.
Finally, I've spent the allocated time on station and turn for home. It's at this point that the other 109s decide to rejoin me.
They are not just following the same route - they are now following me again. Most of them, anyway. The third schwarm - the ones who seem to have decided they were ship killers - don't show up.
Crossing Dover on the way out, with no enemy aircraft upon which to vent my frustration, I'm tempted to drop down and attack the Dover balloon barrage. Which apparently 109s did from time to time, in real life.
But I decide not to, and am glad I didn't when the port's flak greets us with a short but particularly accurate barrage.
We escape unscathed and the White Cliffs are soon falling astern.
Out over the Channel and with the RAF now unlikely to catch us, I throttle back and put the nose down, leading the boys back to Audembert.
On return, I learn that we have lost one aircraft from the second schwarm and no less that three from the ship-killing third. Their surviving pilot is claiming not one but two ships sunk, from just under 800 rounds fired, only 120 of which could be from his two 2 cm cannon.
I don't care what I saw; and propaganda value be damned, they can say what they like on the Deutsche Wochenshau. But there's no way I'm going to be adding my support to those claims. I value my unit's credibility, if nothing else.
Maybe that schwarm had been secretly modified to carry invisible bombs, so secret that nobody told me about them. Maybe their claims are rubbish. Maybe the ship I saw sinking was actually one or more of the missing 109s going in. I don't think so, though. If they had survived, I'd have had the lot of them transferred to Stukas, and that's being kind. They should really all be up before the same court martial as the dummkopf who assigned us this mission.
This is more like it! The Ops Order is a bit vague, but it's clearly a fighter sweep, to cover bombers attacking shipping in the Thames Estuary.
The bad news is that after yesterday's debacle, the unit is now only able to put up eight aircraft.
This time, I've managed to select a skin from the right unit. The lack of a marking behind the fuselage cross indicates this 109 is from I Gruppe, The white individual aircraft letter indicates 1 Staffel, which being '1' is probably a machine usually flown by the staffelkapitan, who also seemed often to sport white rudders and/or fins. The red devil emblem is I think usually associated with 2 Staffel.
We're soon crossing the coast...
...and heading out over the Channel. Not quite as many of us as last time, but at least today, we have nobody with ship killing aspirations. I hope. They certainly won't be getting any encouragement from me, in that direction.
The kamaraden having got into formation, I begin a serious climb. The briefed height is nearly 6,000 metres, so we need to get cracking.
This time, we're not crossing the coast anywhere near Dover. I have no objection to this, having already decided I really don't like the port's flak defences. Not nice people, down there.
Our track takes us just seaward of the eastern coast of Kent, towards the headland known as the North Foreland. I'm not quite at the briefed height but level out. As the weather forecast indicated, the clouds are thicker up here. Before I go any higher, I would prefer to be able to see the bombers and their close escort, if they have one.