It's now 20th August and somehow, Fighter Command has got through another hard day. In the critical south-eastern area, 11 Group is pretty well smashed, unless and until its battered airfields can be repaired and aircraft strength built up again. The whole burden of the defence now rests on the relatively smaller forces of 12 Group to the north and 10 Group to the west. The airfields of these Groups have become the main focus of the Luftwaffe's efforts, with raids ranging far and wide. Often they are un-intercepted, as I try to concentrate what squadrons I have on selected raids.
The first contact with one of this morning's many raids is made by 'B' Flight, No. 3 Squadron. I drop into QO-L, the Hurricane flown by the leader of its second 3-plane section.
The raid we've have come here to greet, just south of London, is ahead and still above us, closing diagonally from left to right. There's about thirty bombers, with as many escorts in two groups above them. The nearest bunch of escorts has already started loosening formation, indicating they are alert and reacting to our approach. Anyhow, the boss orders us to get stuck into them, so onwards and upwards it is.
The Hun fighters aren't diving straight down at us. Wisely, they seem to be keeping their height and manoeuvring for position, which they have plenty of time to do.
Below us is the distinctive presence of the airfield at Kenley. The base looks relatively undamaged apart from a scattering of visible bomb craters, but I know that it is currently out of action. At any rate, the raid is headed somewhere off to the west, probably going for one of 10 Group's airfields.
I pull up in anticipation of a tussle with the higher Hun fighters, leaving the other five Hurricanes climbing more slowly and lagging behind a little. I don't notice the lone Hurricane with the standard black spinner; it looks like our white-spinnered squadron is not entirely on its own in this little enterprise of martial kind.
I curve around after the raid, momentarily and dangerously losing sight of the manoeuvring escorts. The sudden warning over the R/T, directed at Blue 1 by Blue 3, tells me the Huns haven't lost sight of us.
I tighten up my gentle right-hand turn and look for the developing air battle. It's rather hard to find, considering that there's likely about twenty aircraft involved and they can't be that far off. There's a handful of aircraft milling about some distance away, further right, but they start going down long before I can get anywhere near them. I'm in no hurry to lose precious height investigating further.
Always conscious that it's the one you don't see that gets you, I keep changing course while I look around. There's quite a lot to see, like clouds of Ack Ack fire off to the north-west of London and some aircraft here and there, but it's all a long way off.
I'm not too bothered if the fight has gone low, but I am a bit worried about those fading Ack Ack bursts up above.
The gunners are tracking a target that's flying roughly east down the line of the Thames. I can't see what they're shooting at, so it's possibly an individual aircraft, a solo fighter being more likely in the circumstances.
Suddenly there's another, closer outbreak of Ack Ack bursts, lower down on the opposite side. They're tracking a small group of fast-moving aircraft that's going the other way and is now behind me. Three of them, 109s probably.
I really should ask the others where they've got to and re-join them, but they're clearly some way off. Three seemingly-unsuspecting 109s close at hand seems worth having a pop at, first. So after them I go.
I start to have second thoughts when I notice there's actually now four of them and they're closing in behind another group of similar fighters.
Before I can change my mind, the 109s begin a turn to the right. It’s now a bit late to run for it, so I fly on, like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
The Huns level out, heading back in my direction, but do not drop down. I’m now underneath their noses and sense they haven’t seen me, or at least, aren’t interested. It’s still a bit unsettling, though.
The 109s slip behind and change course again, but still heading away. The Ack Ack boys are banging away, but their rounds seem to be bursting between me and the Huns. At any rate, it looks like I’ve had a narrow escape!
Up ahead is a large raid flying in roughly the same direction, maybe thirty bombers with two groups of escorts slightly below. The Ack Ack directed at them is bursting rather low.
Frustrated at my inability to earn my crust so far, I go for the low escorts on the right of the raid. They aren’t weaving, just holding position. I catch them up quite quickly, glancing in the mirror at intervals to check that someone else isn’t sneaking up on me. Ahead of these Huns is yet another raid, with the escorts above, this time. There’s no sign of any friends, just enemies. Lots of them. I must be off my rocker, trying to sneak up on this bunch. It's not as if I'm Albert Ball and this is 1916.
The tension mounts as I gain steadily on the Huns.
Finally the 109s I'm going after come into range and I start shooting, getting hits right away on my unsuspecting target.
I keep up my speed and basically blast my way through the 109s on the right of the bunch. They scatter wildly, some going left…
…and others going right. I haven’t shot down anyone, I’m sure, but I’ve hit at least one and shaken up a few more. This is more like it, and actually quite fun!
I hold off patting myself on the back, though…better wait to see if I survive the next few minutes.
A quick look around shows my tail is clear, although there is an impressive array of imperturbable Teutonic airpower sailing overhead...
Then it's off I go, after the two 109s who have broken right.
I get a good burst into one of them, who drops like a brick, damaged and hopefully scared, if not actually shot down.
Next, I waste no time in chasing off his friend.
After he too goes down, I make my escape, as planned. This takes me in the general direction of another large raid.
But I'm not feeling that brave anymore. So when a handful of 109s come in contrailling from my right, I take the opportunity to slip in behind them, instead.
The Huns are fast if not going at full tilt, and a bit higher, so I close only slowly...
...until they start a turn to the right, which enables me to cut across the circle in the approved fashion.
They get the same treatment as the other 109s, Basically, I carve my way through their formation, snapping out short bursts as I go. The Huns seem suitably impressed and keen to get to know me better, but I don't hang around.
Unfortunately my ammo runs out at this point, a bit earlier than I was expecting. So I take a leaf out of the Huns' own playbook, roll inverted, and dive away.
Apparently, 109s were seen to do this more often than nose over, despite the fame attributed to that escape manoeuvre. Possibly because the latter was more uncomfortable, one reason Erich Hartman (as described in Edward H Sims' 'Fighter Exploits') often favoured the negative G diving turn to get away - being an uncomfortable manoeuvre to follow. But I digress...
The morning's raids are far from over and my next show soon beckons...flying Hurricanes again, now with 145 Squadron. As seen here near Corydon, with some of its buildings looking rather blackened from recent visits by the Luftwaffe.
This time, the 109s will turn out to be in rather better form!
Again, there's just six of us on this hop. This the view of my kite from Green 3, on my left. We're south of the Thames and to the west of the capital.
There are Huns about but the closer ones are a lot higher up. Fighter sweeps, sweeping hither and thither, possibly.
I'm not really sure what to do for the best, but a bit more height to do it seems indicated. I pull up a little, taking my own section with me and keeping a wary eye on the nearest contrails. Are they just changing course, or circling around after us? Hard to say.
Safe enough - the contrails recede out to the west. On either side, my numbers two and three are keeping up nicely...
...but the next moment, they are gone. Down below me, as it happens; you can just about make them out down in front, in the next pic. What are they playing at?
The whine of a passing Daimler Benz engine above the noise of my own Merlin provides a clue. Looking left, I can see a couple of 109s zipping past.
Instinctively, I bank around after the nearest one. Who isn't that near. But he's turning, and I try to cut across him
Next thing I know, I'm being shot at from behind. Serves me right from taking my eyes off the second 109. Who's now sitting on my neck.
I somehow manage to get out of his way and turn the tables. At the same time the Ack Ack boys join the party. The 109 twists and turns like a snipe.
Suddenly it's me who has to take violent evasive action again, as a beggar with a yellow nose comes up from below and behind. I fling my kite over to the left to get out of his line of fire....
...but have no sooner recovered than I have to dodge again as another 109 puts in a head on attack and flashes past.
I recover and go after the Hun with the yellow nose. He's out to the east over London and turning hard. I seem to be on my own out here, but I'm rather annoyed and determined to get these two.
Before I can get anywhere near the 109, rounds whack into me. Hit hard, I roll over and go down.
The Hun with the plain markings has wasted no time in coming after me. This pair is co-operating very well. Sadly for me. For the first time, I begin to feel trapped - the hunted, no longer the hunter.
I'm now quite low and head for the deck, twisting around as I go.
Despite the plentiful Ack Ack fire, the Huns won't let go. Yellow Nose is now back on my tail, too, and my kite is leaving a pronounced smoke trail.
By now I'm more or less back where I started, with Croydon visible in the middle distance. Except that I'm on my own...apart from two Huns who are determined to bag me.
I contemplate trying to get down at the requisitioned airport but know I'll never make it that far. So I slide back the canopy and start gaining height in a turn. Time to hit the silk! But the nearest 109 is now breathing down my neck.
I should maybe have tried a forced landing in those fields, but I doubt I'd have made it even that far.
Somehow I manage to shake off the Hun. But I'm still not high enough to bail out. I need to take a chance and start climbing again.
But it's not to be. Yellow Nose clobbers me from behind and my elevator control goes, leaving me going down instead of up.
The ground rushes up to meet me and before I can do anything else, it's good-night, Vienna!
About lunchtime on the 20th, 43 Squadron arrives south-east of London. It's come across from 10 Group's airfield at Middle Wallop as I manually scrambled it to intercept Hostile 201, a thirty-plus raid. The Ops Room map view below shows the squadron later, nearly home, with one aircraft less than the six it started with. How that came to pass, I will now relate.
Here I am in FT-K, leading the flight's second section. The morning's many raids are homeward bound by now, and at first, the skies look rather empty, apart from our six Hurricanes.
Somebody comes up on the R/T reporting tanks half empty, and soon after, the boss orders us to turn about and return to base. His section begins a turn to the left and is soon going home.
In frustration, I look at my own gauges. We might be pushed to regain Middle Wallop if we go much further and get into a fuel-hungry scrap, and many airfields in this area are still unserviceable. But I feel hopeful we could get down somewhere.
So I delay turning for home a little longer and instead, bank gently left and right, looking for Bandits.
And there they are! A raid of about thirty in three groups - unescorted bombers, I think.
Worth having a closer look, I decide, and lead the section after them. The closer we get, the surer I am that they are bombers on their own. If only we'd had the whole squadron up!
As the range winds down, the Huns begin a turn to the left, which helps me close in, and identify the enemy. They're bombers, all right - Dornier 17s.
I pick out one in the left-hand group and make an attack from astern. I take a few hits but I set one of the Dorniers smoking before having to break.
Pursued by Hun tracers but still in business, I realise the rest of the section isn't with me.
I end out well out to the right of the raid. From here, I can see that the Dornier I attacked is still trailing smoke, but still maintaining formation. For the time being.
Meanwhile, my numbers 2 and 3 are rejoining. Perhaps I've been too harsh on them and just didn't notice their attack.
Anyway there's still no Hun fighters anywhere to be seen, so in we go again. Rather than cross all the way over to the left for the sake of going for the bomber I damaged, I attack one on the near side of the formation, this time.
I start getting hits, closing in quickly. This looks promising!
But with the smoke from the bomber suddenly increasing, I lose a clear view of him and break too late, The first I know about it is when my Hurricane lurches violently and starts rolling left. Very fast. Looking out on that side, I can see the wing is no longer there! I chop the throttle and slide back the hood. Somehow, I also manage to make it out of my doomed fighter.
Up above, the Dorniers are sailing on, and my numbers 2 and 3 are no-where to be seen. Also missing is the Dornier I collided with - there are now nine aircraft I the right rear group, instead of ten.
There he is! Spiralling down and pretty clearly doomed. Problem is, so am I, unless my canopy withstands the sudden shock of opening, which is always in doubt in high-speed bailouts.
But all is well, and in another second I find myself dangling serenely under the silken canopy as the raiders rumble on, up above.
Evidently, everyone else made it back to Warmwell - hence the five aircraft showing on the 43 Squadron marker on the plotting table, in the first pic on the previous post. And in the pic below. This shows the dialogue boxes opened for the Mission Folder, Warmwell airfield, and the 43 Squadron 'Diary'. The latter has the 'Single' box ticked so it shows the results of that unit's last action. It seems somebody else saw Messerschmitts, but as we claimed none and lost nobody to them, they were probably far away - 109s can be very hard to spot unless they are close to a raid.
The Dorniers I damaged and shot down (all right, rammed!) were the only damage done to Hostile 201 (which per the Mission Folder, was making sure the fighter base at Duxford, further north-east, stayed 'critically damaged'). But for six Hurricanes up against that lot and many 109s not too far away, it could have been far worse.