Battle of Britain campaign 2014 – 22nd-24th Aug – Ferocious battles decimate RAF as 111 Sqn gets baptism of fire

Posted: August 25, 2014 in Battle of Britain, RAF, wargames, West End Games
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22nd Aug – Cloudy – German Effort – Normal – Unexpectedly frequent large raids continue from the day before.  RAF gamely contest in large numbers but despite heaviest Luftwaffe losses in a single day to date, they fail to stop the raids from inflicting further misery. 

Losses RAF 14, Luftwaffe 59

23rd Aug  Clear becoming cloudy around midday – German Effort – Light – Rare single raid by escorted Ju87’s on Foreness RDF as Luftwaffe rests fatigued pilots from previous days efforts.  RAF fail to engage. 

Losses RAF 0, Luftwaffe 0

24th Aug Cloudy becoming clear around midday – German Effort – ALL OUT – Heaviest attacks to date with Luftwaffe committing almost 1000 aircraft in a concerted effort to finally destroy RAF and infrastructure. Fighter escorts typically over 100 strong result in Luftwaffe almost achieving their aims. RAF lose 1/3rd of all aircraft committed, frontline Spitfire and Hurricane Sqns reduced to 50% operational effectiveness. Extreme pressure on Churchill administration as US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and the Duke of Windsor (the abdicated Edward VIII) speaking from France confirm that the monarchy (under Edward) and British Empire interests will be preserved if the country ceases military action and dissolves its Government in favour of a Fascist led Union under the nominal control of Sir Oswald Mosley answerable only to Berlin. 

Losses RAF 47, Luftwaffe 26

111_Squadron_RAFA Flight 111 Sqn

Red Section – Sqn Ldr JM Thompson (claim 1Ju87), Fg Off M Kellett (claim 2Ju87), Sgt O Kestler (Cz) (shot down & wounded

Yellow Section – Fg Off HM Ferriss, Plt Off Stegman (Pol) (shot down parachuted safely), Sgt CW MacDougal (claim 1Ju87)

B Flight 111 Sqn

Blue Section – Flt Lt DC Bruce, Plt Off JA Walker (Can) (shot down parachuted safely), Sgt PH Waghorn

Green Section – Plt Off JK Kay, Sgt J Robinson, Sgt EE Croker (Nz) (claim 2 Ju87)

As the situation deteriorated, it was now the turn of 111 Sqn to enter the eye of the storm.  Detailed to intercept a German formation targeting Biggin Hill they formed up alongside the 3 remaining fresh Sqns in Sector 11, (54 Spitfire, 264 Defiant & 615 Hurricane) unaware of the catastrophic losses inflicted on 4 Sqns a hour earlier over Foreness. Arriving at their destination, they were redirected to the Sussex coast where the enemy was thought to have diverted to. At a distinct height disadvantage the Sqns changed course to discover that waiting in readiness for them were no fewer than 5 half strength Me109 Gruppen and a further 2 Me110 Gruppen (125 fighter aircraft) escorting a small force of 24 Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers. 

Czech pilot Oldrich Kestler had both legs broken when he attempted to belly land his Hurricane on the beach in order to avoid abandoning his Hurricane to crash over the populated town.

Czech pilot Oldrich Kestler suffered broken legs and back attempting to belly land his Hurricane on the beach in order to avoid abandoning it to crash over the populated town. Photo courtesy – Excellent Czech RAF pilot resource website

The RAF Sqns were caught in an ambush and another massacre began to unfold.  Only 111 Sqn managed to break through the Messerschmitt cordon and engage the Stuka’s.  16 of the 48 RAF fighters were shot down including 2 pilots from 111 Sqn, Blue 2 Plt Off Walker and Red 3 Sgt Kestler. Walker bailed out safely but Kestler attempting to land his machine on the beach suffered 2 broken legs and a broken back as his aircraft somersaulted on impact.  Fortunately he survived the crash but will never fly again.

Finally the Sqn set about the vulnerable Stuka’s, Red section’s two remaining aircraft commenced the attack led by Red 1 Sqn Ldr “Tommy” Thompson shooting up one Ju87 before Red 2 Fg Off Kellett issued the coup de grace sending the Stuka down in flames into the sea. Kellett got a second when he manoeuvred onto the tail of one that had broken formation. Letting rip from just 100 yards the tailplane of the Stuka crumpled under withering and accurate fire causing the aircraft to spin uncontrollably towards the sea.  Yellow Section followed up the attack, Yellow 3 Sgt MacDougal shooting down his first enemy of the campaign.  Yellow 2 Plt Off Stegman was less successful as he closed on the tail of another Stuka. only to receive a number of hits on hit engine cowling from the Stuka’s tail gunner. Stegman’s Hurricane immediately lost power, breaking off, he was forced to bail out as his machine stalled, he landed safely on the shoreline. The remaining Stuka’s had now completely given up any hope of attacking their designated target (Shorncliffe Bks) and had dispersed dropping their bombs indiscriminately. B Flight now commenced their attack with Blue Section going in first and roughing up a number of enemy aircraft. Green section followed up with Green 3 New Zealander Sgt Croker getting on the score board with his first attack from dead astern, the Ju87 exploding in mid air. Chasing another Ju87 just feet above the sea, the pilot of the Stuka attempting to evade his attention flew too low, clipped the sea with his fixed undercarriage and cartwheeled before rapidly sinking.

jm thompson

Commanding Officer of 111 Sqn – Sqn Ldr John Marlow “Tommy” Thompson who joins the elite group of Aces with his 5th kill of his career and first in the Battle of Britain on 24th Aug

Finally as the Messerschmitt fighters began to menace 111 Sqn having broken up the others, the CO Red 1 Sqn Ldr “Tommy” Thompson instructed his unit to head for home.  Seeing a lone damaged Ju87 below him he decided to have one last attempt to register a kill.  With Red 2 Kellett providing cover, Thompson made a dangerous head-on attack emptying his remaining ammunition into the Stuka from 200 yds down to less than 100. As he passed by he saw the pilot was hunched forward. With no other signs of damage coming from the Stuka, the aircraft slowly entered a shallow dive exploding on impact when it crashed into a small copse just off the beach. Significantly this was Thompsons 5th kill of his career earning him “ace” status.

For the finer things in life & a truly stiff upper lip

The Sqn returned to Croydon wildly enthusing about the action and toasting Thompson’s success by presenting him with a jar of his favourite “Captain Fawcett’s gentlemen’s stiffening sandlewood moustache wax” all the while blissfully unaware of the fate of the other Sqns and the critical situation the country was now in.

Such was the ferocity of the battle, that nearly all their surviving Hurricanes required repairs resulting in at least a day off for the pilots while the ground crew made good the damage.

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