untitledIn August, the Luftwaffe stepped up their campaign launching Unternehmen Adlerangriff (Operation Eagle attack). Targeting RAF airfields and RDF stations (later renamed RADAR), the Battle entered a crucial stage when on the 15th Aug 1940 the aftermath of one particular raid brought the war uncomfortably close to the inhabitants of Rotherfield.

This critical day played a part in influencing the outcome of the entire Battle and was referred to afterwards as “Black Thursday” by the Luftwaffe. One of the units involved was the elite Erprobungsgruppe 210 (ErPro210). Led by Swiss born Hptm Walter Rubensdörffer, a decorated veteran of the Spanish Civil War, the unit specialised in low level precision bombing attacks. They flew twin engine Messerschmitt Bf110c Zerstörer’s (Destroyer’s), a two seater heavy fighter used in a ground attack role as well as utilising bomb carrying Messerschmitt Bf109e’s. ErPro210 had already carried out a successful attack on the 15th, when in the early evening they made their way towards another target, RAF Kenley.

Walter Rubensdorffer

Walter Rubensdorffer

Around 6.30pm, 24 Bf110’s & Bf109’s approached Dungeness. Flying into an early evening mist it was not until they reached Sevenoaks that they discovered they had lost their fighter escort. Undeterred, Rubensdörffer lined up to attack what he could just perceive as hangars in the distant haze. What he didn’t realise was that he was about to attack Croydon aerodrome by mistake.

On the ground, 9 Hurricanes of 111 Sqn that had just refuelled after an earlier sortie were hurriedly scrambled. Frantically opening their throttles to achieve height a pilot spotted the German airplanes below diving on the aerodrome. As Rubensdörffer led the attack the RAF fighters pounced and a vicious dogfight ensued. Many of the bombs fell well wide of their mark as the Bf110’s formed a defensive circle. Despite German propaganda claiming the Bf110 was invincible, they were no match for nimble modern single engine fighters that were faster and more manoeuvrable. More Hurricanes this time from 32 Sqn arrived and with fuel beginning to run low, the Germans broke formation and raced hell for the Coast.

(c) London Borough of Sutton Museum and Heritage Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Pauke-Pauke” Oberleutnant Habisch’s Bf110D commences his bomb run on Croydon aerodrome. Like his CO and 5 others, he would soon be shot down, taken prisoner this time at Hawkhurst.

They left behind a scene of utter carnage, despite not being able to attack as they had wished, the Terminal building, hangars, workshops, the armoury and Officer’s Mess were all ablaze or wrecked and the airfield was heavily pockmarked. On the Purley Way civilian buildings had also been damaged, the Bourjois Perfume factory taking a direct hit. Tragically 68 people perished, 62 were civilian and over 185 were wounded. Now it was time to pay the bill. Harried by the RAF, Erpro210 aircraft were shot down at Nutfield, Hooe, Horley, Ightham and Hawkhurst. Rubensdörffer’s aircraft (serial S9+AB) was also damaged over Croydon, Sqn Ldr John Thompson reporting in his AAR “I fired a five second burst…climbing vertically from astern and observed bits of cowling, fuselage, etc. flying off in all directions”.

Rubensdörffer was escorted by Lt Horst Marx’s Bf109 attempting to protect him as he headed south, however at Crockham Hill near Chartwell, Rubensdörffer was attacked again possibly by Plt Off Byron Duckenfield’s Hurricane of 501 Sqn who hit the fuel tanks rupturing them and setting the aircraft on fire. Over the intercom Rubensdörffer informed Marx he was wounded and his radio operator OGefr Ludwig Kretzer dead or unconscious. At Frant, with the Hurricane still on his tail, his escort was shot down, crashing at Lightlands Farm. Marx managed to bale out and on landing flagged down a police car heading towards an ominous pall of smoke 4 miles south…

Now alone, Rubensdörffer’s luck gave out. Flying at tree top level as he approached Rotherfield he just managed to clear the spire of St Denys before dropping low over Yewtree Lane looking for a place to land. At Bletchinglye Lane he finally lost control and ploughed headfirst into a tree lined bank. The impact was so violent that the aircraft cartwheeled bursting into flames causing the ammunition to explode and sending pigs from the piggery at Bletchinglye farm squealing for cover. Both crewmen would have died instantly. When they arrived on the scene, all that was left for Marx (in police custody) was to identify the bodies. Rubensdörffer and Kretzer, were buried at Tunbridge Wells cemetery before being re-interred at the German Military Cemetery at Cannock Chase, Staffs after the War.

An interesting postscript to this story is that Rubensdörffer was posthumously awarded the Knights Cross for his bravery. Had he survived he may instead have been court martialled for going against Hitler’s strict order forbidding the bombing of any London targets.

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Official dig in 1988 where a few fragments including this saddle drum magazine were unearthed. Some relics are also on display at Newhaven Fort.

 

Readers should note that the crash site is on private land although  visible from the roadside on Bletchinglye Lane. I would like to acknowledge the help from John Vasco and Simon Parry who managed to confirm so much of the detail.

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                 Crash site visited by the author in 2014. L-R Looking from crash toward Piggery and Bletchinglye Lane, gradient of field, not the best place to try a landing & from Bletchinglye Lane looking toward crash

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Final resting place of the crew of S9+AB at Cannock Chase visited by the author in 2014

 


The first of 2 dead rubbers after Hawthorn (Ferrari) had wrapped up the championship at the last race at Nurburgring saw Farina (Ferrari) take his second successive win. Although another victory for the all conquering Ferrari team it further strengthened the opinion of what could have been if he had not had such a disastrous start to the season not finishing in the first four races and finding himself 25 points behind the leader at the halfway stage.

Result

1st – Giuseppe Farina (IT) Ferrari – 8 points

2nd – Alberto Ascari (IT) Ferrari – 4 points (6 points minus 2 dropped points)

3rd – Luigi Villoresi (IT) Ferrari – 4 points

4th – Juan Manuel Fangio (ARG) Maserati – 0 points (3 points minus 3 dropped points)

5th – Onofre Marimon (ARG) Maserati – 2 points

Lap Leader bonus point  – Felice Bonetto (IT) Maserati – 0 points (1 point minus 1 dropped point) 

Championship standings

1st – Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 35 points (4 wins) – 1953 CHAMPION

2nd – Farina (It) Ferrari – 22 points (2 wins)

3rd – Fangio (Arg) Maserati – 21 points (0 wins)  

4th= – Lang (Ger) Maserati – 19 points (1 win)

4th = – Ascari (It) Ferrari – 19 points (0 wins)                                                                    

NEXT – Season finale and celebrations for Ferrari in front of the Tifosi – Monza ITALY

Fangio (Maserati) returned but his title challenge was now over. Only Lang (Maserati) could stop Hawthorn (Ferrari) from the championship title and that would be a tall order requiring him to win all the remaining 3 races as well as claiming all the bonus lap leader points in each race. Macklin returned for HWM as it was confirmed that both de Graffenreid (Maserati privateer) & Galvez (Maserati) would miss the rest of the season.


LAP 1 – A wet start and a closely packed grid led to inevitable consequences at the first chicane Castrol “S”. It began when Moss (Cooper) slid into Prince Bira (Maserati privateer) and was quickly followed by Schell (Gordini) colliding with Brown (Cooper) who crashed out heavily. It was confirmed post race that Brown would miss the rest of the season and possibly never race again. Macklin (HWM) only just returned from injury was next to go clipping Marimon (Maserati) who luckily escaped without damage. Other retirements at the same corner were McAlpine (Connaught) hitting a stationary Macklin, also Claes (Connaught privateer) suspension, Collins (HWM) , Wharton (Cooper privateer) and Marimon (Maserati) collisions. At the front Lang (Maserati) and Bonetto (Maserati) set the early pace exchanging the lead with Lang getting the bonus lap leader point to send the home fans wild. His mission impossible chances of taking the championship from Hawthorn still just alive. Ascari (Ferrari) chose not to pit which allowed him to move up to second but with worn tyres. Fangio (Maserati) further back chose to do the same but Hawthorn languishing near the back after a lack lustre first lap did come in for fresh tyres.       


End of lap. 1st – Lang (Maserati), 2nd – Ascari (Ferrari), 3rd – Fangio (Maserati), 4th – Bonetto (Maserati), 5th – Villoresi (Ferrari)


LAP 2 – 10 runners were left, a solitary Gordini and Connaught at the back behind the big guns of Ferrari and Maserati. Ascari moved ahead of Lang and into the lead early on at the Castrol “S” but further damaged his tyres in the process. Fangio was also a man on the move passing Lang at the 2nd corner and moving up to 2nd. Lang’s supreme effort to hold the lead was now beginning to flag as perhaps he began to accept that his task was a hopeless one. Farina made the most progress of all storming through the field to challenge for the lead halfway round the lap. This was achieved at cost as a catalogue of errors between Ascari and Farina meant both drivers would have to pit for running repairs if they made it to the end of the lap. Less lucky was plucky Brit Salvadori in his Connaught which gave out at the unforgiving Castrol “S”. At the end of the lap, Lang was foundering while Bonetto (Maserati) had caught the front runners and with his car in better condition, just moved ahead. 


End of lap. 1st – Bonetto (Maserati), 2nd – Farina (Ferrari), 3rd – Ascari (Ferrari), 4th – Fangio (Maserati), 5th – Lang (Maserati)


LAP3 – Farina quickly retook the lead at the dreaded Castrol “S” after pitting but again damaged his tyres exiting the corner. Bonetto managed to stay with his illustrious countryman and going into the final corner bravely dived past him. Farina however was in no mood to let his chances of a win go begging and using all of his experience managed to pass Bonetto exiting the curve to take his first victory of the season. Ascari took the final podium place but Lang who had led at the end of the first lap could only finish 5th behind Fangio’s Maserati and only pick up a single point. The result confirmed Hawthorn as champion who cruised home in party mood in 6th, world champion with 2 races to spare. 

Result

1st – Giuseppe Farina (IT) Ferrari – 8 points

2nd – Felice Bonetto (IT) Maserati – 6 points 

3rd – Alberto Ascari (IT) Ferrari – 4 points

4th – Juan Manuel Fangio (ARG) Maserati – 3 points 

5th – Hermann Lang (GER) Maserati – 1 point (2 points + 1 point for 1st lap leader  minus 2 dropped points)

Championship standings

1st – Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 35 points (4 wins) – 1953 CHAMPION

2nd – Fangio (Arg) Maserati – 21 points (0 wins)  

3rd – Lang (Ger) Maserati – 19 points (1 win)

4th – Ascari (It) Ferrari – 15 points (0 wins)

5th= – Farina (It) Ferrari – 14 points (1 win)

5th= – Bonetto (It) Maserati – 14 points (0 wins)     

                                                                                   
NEXT – A dead rubber with nothing but pride at stake for the challengers trying to shorten the points gap between themselves and champion  Hawthorn –  Bremgarten SWITZERLAND  

Fangio (Maserati) remained absent meaning that Lang would lead the Maserati challenge against the Ferrari’s of championship leader Hawthorn and the improving Ascari.  


LAP 1 – No less than 5 cars stalled at the start including Lang (Maserati) in 2nd, Ascari (Ferrari) 3rd & de Graffenried (Maserarti Privateer) 4th. Hawthorn (Ferrari) took full advantage and pulled away while the rest of the field concertinaed. Ascari who had looked to be Hawthorns chief rival during Fangio’s absence retired on the start line when he was unable to start his engine. De Graffenried’s Maserati violently crashed as the field bunched up, (he will play no further part in this seasons championship after sustaining a back injury). Wharton (Cooper Privateer) was next to got hitting Villoresi (Ferrari) who survived the impact with no damage. Other retirements were Brown (Cooper) with suspension failure, Marimon (Maserati) who collected Schell (Gordini) at Chappell. At Abbey Curve Moss (Cooper) crashed into Bira (Maserati privateer) as well as damaging Galvez’s Maserati. Claes (Connaught privateer) retired shortly after with damage received driving over the debris from the earlier collision. At the front, Hawthorn after being put under some pressure by Lang began to pull away for a second time and took the bonus lap leader point. The British fans were even happier as both Salvadori (Connaught) and Collins (HWM) were following at the head of the chasing pack.   


End of lap. 1st – Hawthorn (Ferrari), 2nd – Salvadori (Connaught), 3rd – Lang (Maserati), 4th – Collins (HWM), 5th – Bonetto (Maserati)


LAP 2 – Almost immediately, at Copse corner Marimon (Maserati) hit Collins (HWM) taking both cars out and  promoting Farina (Ferrari) the forgotten World Champion to 4th.  Further on at Abbey curve a struggling Galvez (Maserati) came to grief when his car ran over the debris from the last lap. He lost control in 4th gear and crashed heavily into the hay bales on the trackside. Although conscious, it would appear that his injuries may preclude him from the next few races if not the entire season. The Connaughts of Salvadori & McAlpine were still running at the end of the lap giving the British fans even more to cheer about on top a near faultless display by Hawthorn at the front.


End of lap. 1st – Hawthorn (Ferrari), 2nd – Lang (Maserati), 3rd – Salvadori (Connaught), 4th – Farina (Ferrari), 5th – Villoresi (Ferrari)


LAP3 – Only 8 runners were left which very soon became 7 when Rosier (Ferrari privateer) retired at Maggotts from 7th place. Sadly McAlpine’s race soon came to an end when forced wide at Chapel attempting to overtake the stricken Ferrari of Rosier his suspension gave out on the dirty part of the track. Hawthorn continued to maintain his healthy lead but 2nd place was being keenly fought over by Lang, Salvadori and Farina. Lang spun as Salvadori gambled with an audacious move half way round the lap. But they were unable to catch the near perfect Hawthorn who took the chequered flag for an historic 4th consecutive win. Watching from the winners pavilion there was a small chance he could be crowned world champion if events went his way. They almost did when Lang desperate to keep in the championship drove recklessly into the back of 2nd place Salvadori taking the pair out. Salvadori had to be restrained from confronting Lang although his colourful use of old Anglo-Saxon expletives would not have fallen on deaf ears. Farina was thus gifted an undeserved 2nd place with Villoresi making it a 1,2,3 for Ferrari on the podium. Trintignant (Gordini) was the only other finisher and so the final 5th place 2 points went to Lang who had completed the greatest part of the race amongst the non-finishers. He would have to win all the remaining 3 races and claim the lap leader bonus point in every race if he was to stop Hawthorn taking the title.

Result

1st – Mike Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 9 points (8 points for win plus 1 bonus point for 1st lap leader) 

2nd – Giuseppe Farina (IT) Ferrari – 6 points

3rd – Luigi Villoresi (IT) Ferrari – 4 points

4th – Maurice Trintignant (FRA) Gordini – 3 points

5th (DNF) – Hermann Lang (GER) Maserati – 2 points

Championship standings

1st – Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 35 points (4 wins)

2nd = Lang (Ger) Maserati – 18 points (1 win)  

2nd= Fangio (Arg) Maserati – 18 points (0 wins)

4th – Ascari (It) Ferrari – 11 points (0 wins)     

                                                                                   
NEXT – Can the Hawthorn make it 5 in a row and seal the title? –  Nurburgring WEST GERMANY 

Britain’s Kenneth McAlpine (Connaught) and Argentina’s Roberto Mieres (Gordini) were debutant drivers replacing the injured Fangio (Maserati) & Behra (Gordini). Both qualified respectively in 10th & 11th. (nb. Monterrey used to represent Rheims)  


LAP 1 – All cars got off the line without incident with Hawthorn (Ferrari) powering away early on. At the first corner “Andretti”, Collins (HWM) crashed out quickly followed by the second HWM of Macklin who was taken to hospital as a precaution. McAlpine’s (Connaught) 1st race also came to an abrupt end with suspension damage running over debris from the earlier collisions with Rosier (Ferrari privateer) following suit soon after. Next to go was Prince B Bira’s privately entered Maserati with a collapsed suspension and then another British marque went when Brown (Cooper) crashed out.  Meanwhile Hawthorn continued to extend his lead picking up the bonus 1st lap leader point with a huge margin over nearest rivals Villoresi (Ferrari) & Lang (Maserati) . More woe beset the remaining British teams as Galvez collected Moss (Cooper) at the Corkscrew leaving just Wharton’s privateer Cooper remaining with only half of the first lap completed. Also to go at the Corkscrew were Marimon (Maserati) & Mieres (Gordini) who came together leaving a corner littered with detritus.


End of lap. 1st – Hawthorn (Ferrari), 2nd – Villoresi (Ferrari), 3rd – Lang (Maserati), 4th – Ascari (Ferrari), 5th – de Graffenried (Maserati privateer)


LAP 2 The second lap began much like the first with all drivers throwing caution to the wind despite the first lap warnings showing how unforgiving the circuit was in the wet. Early on Villoresi appeared to have adapted best and began to pull clear of the chasing pack but still some margin behind Hawthorn. Lang spun at the second corner further helping Villoresi’s quest for his first points of the season. Hawthorn pitted well ahead at the end of the second lap although his car was showing signs of wear. Ascari (Ferrari) & Farina (Ferrari) both began to move through the field and into the points positions. Then disaster struck for Farina. Ascari held the best line going into the corkscrew forcing Farina onto the dirty part of the track. As he rumbled over the debris his cars suspension gave out and he was forced to retire still without any points or even a finish this season. His shambolic defence of the championship title was now surely gone. Trintignant (Gordini) also had to retire when he overshot the preceding corner and destroyed his tyres. De Graffenried (Maserati privateer) was next to go at the corkscrew from 5th place.     


 

End of lap. 1st – Hawthorn (Ferrari), 2nd – Ascari (Ferrari), 3rd – Villoresi (Ferrari), 4th – Lang (Maserati), 5th – Wharton (Cooper privateer)


LAP3 – 7 runners began the final lap as once more the fragile cars struggled to meet the demands on a tricky circuit. Despite his huge lead Hawthorn had to take the last lap carefully as his cars handling deteriorated and by the halfway point he was forced to run in lower gears. Lang spun at the 3rd corner as did Ascari ahead who was trying to close the gap to Hawthorn. Hawthorn spun at the last corner  when about to lap Schell’s Gordini but with such a huge margin he still took the chequered flag with a commanding margin. The hat-trick of victories now placed him frimly at the top of the championship race. Ascari continued to improve taking 2nd and now looked to be the main rival to Hawthorn while Fangio remained side-lined with injury. Villoresi made it a Ferrari podium lock-out in third. Mention also goes to Ken Wharton’s privately entered Cooper who took his first points of the season so although the Works team continue to struggle there is a glimmer of hope for the British marques.  

Result

1st – Mike Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 9 points (8 points for win plus 1 bonus point for 1st lap leader) 

2nd – Alberto Ascari (IT) Ferrari – 6 points

3rd – Luigi Villoresi (IT) Ferrari – 4 points

4th – Hermann Lang (GER) Maserati – 3 points

5th – Ken Wharton (GB) Cooper (Privateer) – 2 points

Championship standings

1st – Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 26 points (3 wins)

2nd – Fangio (Arg) Maserati – 18 points (0 wins)

3rd – Lang (Ger) Maserati – 16 points (1 win)     

                                                                                          
NEXT – Can the Hawthorn seal the title at home before Fangio returns – Silverstone GREAT BRITAIN 

Argentine’s Oscar Galvez and Onofre Marimon both returned putting for the third race of the season at the daunting Belgian circuit of Spa. 


LAP 1 – Despite some slow starts (notably Fangio Maserati) everyone got off and there were no retirements until a series of collisions at Les Fanges threatened to reduce the field to a mere handful for the third consecutive race. Wharton (Cooper privateer) and Salvadori (Connaught) collected each other quickly followed by Claes (Connaught privateer) and then Behra (Gordini) took himself and Galvez (Maserati) out. Macklin (HWM)  then collided with Behra’s stricken car and also crashed out. Behra was taken to hospital with concussion and a broken hand ruling him out of the next few races.  The amount of debris on track now accounted for some of the more fragile cars with Marimon (Maserati) Bira (Maserati privateer), Rosier (Ferrari privateer) & Moss (Cooper) all failing to complete the first lap.

De Graffenried  (Maserati privateer) at the front was the first to pit in the lead followed by Hawthorn’s heavily damaged Ferrari. Villoresi (Ferrari) completed a tidy lap and not needing to pit closed dramatically on the leaders. 


End of lap. 1st – de Graffenreid (Maserati privateer), 2nd – Hawthorn (Ferrari), 3rd – Villoresi (Ferrari), 4th – Bonetto (Maserati), 5th – Lang (Maserati)


LAP 2 – Villoresi seamlessly passed the 2 front runners with the remaining 9 cars all still in contention for at least a points finish. Hawthorn and de Graffenried vied for 2nd and third, both cars probably too damaged to be able to catch Villoresi. The Maserati’s of Bonetto and Fangio battled with the Ferrari’s of Farina and Ascari as the leading chasers. Although driving a car with less damage than Hawthorn, Villoresi drove a conservative lap allowing Hawthorn to pass before the Bus Stop. Both pitted, while a fading de Graffenreid and current world champion Farina (Maserati) chose not to and managed to pass Villoresi arriving on the shoulder of Hawthorn at La Source. Fangio and Ascari both looked to have a lot in reserve but would have to make up a lot of ground on the final lap if they were to get onto the podium.  Current leader Lang (Maserati) came to grief driving over the debris at Les Fanges. He was followed by Trintignant (Gordini) leaving a field of 8 (4 Ferrari’s, 3 Maserati’s and a distant Gordini) to contest the last lap      


End of lap. 1st – Hawthorn (Ferrari), 2nd – de Graffenreid (Maserati privateer), 3rd – Farina (Ferrari), 4th – Villoresi (Ferrari), 5th – Bonetto (Maserati)


LAP3


Farina powered ahead but drove over oil at Radillon causing him to skid dangerously. He managed to bring the car under control but not before driving over more oil on the Kemmel straight damaging his tyres as well as dropping more oil on the track. Hawthorn also damaged his tyres exiting Radillon too hot but kept Farina in his sights. But for the third time Les Fanges chicane proved to be the undoing again of some of the drivers. First from the lead Farina’s suspension broke driving over the detritus. Then Villoresi (Ferrari) who had been in 4th and lastly Schell (Gordini) all retired with suspension issues. Hawthorn now in the front had a respectable lead although De Graffenreid and moving through the field a resurgent Fangio (Maserati) were still in with a shout. At the Bus Stop, Hawthorn just kept his car on the track and despite the engines complaints he managed to nurse it over to take his second win in what he would describe as his best result to date. More drama was to follow as Fangio desperate to claim second, clipped de Graffenreid just before the finish line. Both cars crashed over the line with Fangio taking 2nd but in doing so he was injured and despite taking a single point lead in the championship, will miss the next 2 races. Ascari (Ferrari) came in a distant 4th, his title challenge fading.

Result

1st – Mike Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 8 points 

2nd – Juan Manuel Fangio (Arg) Maserati – 6 points

3rd – Emmanuel de Graffenried (Swi) Maserati (privateer) – 5 points (4 points for third plus 1 for the 1st lap leader)

4th – Alberto Ascari (IT) Ferrari – 3 points

5th – Felice Bonetto (IT) Maserati – 2 points

Championship standings

1st – Fangio (Arg) Maserati – 18 points (0 wins)

2nd – Hawthorn (GB) Ferrari – 17 points (2 wins)

3rd – Lang (Ger) Maserati – 13 points (1 win)     

                                                                                          
NEXT – Who will the Champagne flow for at Rheims? – FRANCE 

Geekritique

Image taken from DeviantArt.

At the Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s longest tales, is haunting yet familiar. Familiar in that, since it’s publication, we’ve seen many knockoffs and themes stolen from its premise. The story made popular the concept of ancient astronauts, or those who came to earth and interacted/interfered with pre-human history. And using Antarctica as a means to explore horror is nothing new today either. It’s films like Prometheus that make it very unlikely we’ll see an adaption of this story onscreen any time soon, which is a shame. But at the time of this novella’s writing, in 1931, all of these notions were essentially unheard of, making this a true classic.

The story is told in first person, following a chronicling of a previous expedition undertaken by the narrator himself, Geologist William Dyer. This previous expedition was one of drilling down into the ice of…

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