September 15th, 1940 fell on a Sunday. Hitler actually believed that the RAF were at breaking point. On this day, the Luftwaffe launched two large bombing raids on London, and smaller attacks were planned for Portland and Southampton. Since the 7th September, the Luftwaffe had moved away from bombing RAF bases and radar stations to focus on Britain's capital. This gave RAF Fighter Command the chance to recoup, and so by the 15th they were in a far stronger position, with rested, fresher pilots and aircraft.
|German Heinkel HE 111s head to London. Image via Wikimedia Commons.|
|Churchill at Fighter Command, Uxbridge. Image via Wikimedia Commons.|
An hour later, Park was informed of a Luftwaffe force forming up between Calais and Boulogne. By 1100hrs, radar detected a large number of bombers with a fighter escort, and it was estimated that it would cross Dungeness around 1145hrs. Twelve fighter squadrons were scrambled. They were to fight in a range of sky stretching 80 miles long by around 38 miles wide.
|London shows her battle scars. Image via Wikimedia Commons.|
|Contrails in the skies over London from a dog fight. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.|
|Geoff is on the right here|
|Tom Neil on the right, pictured with his ground crew|
The RAF shot down 61 German aircraft, but suffered only 31 losses themselves. Thousands of people stood out on the streets of London and in and around Kent, their faces turned to the sky as they watched the greatest dog fights between Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe. A Dornier fell on the forecourt of Victoria Station in London after numerous RAF attacks.
An extract from the poem For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Do watch this video clip - it also features the role of women during the war and life on the home-front.