August 15, 1940
1830 – 1930 Hours
The weather cooperated again to allow Luftwaffe operations to continue in earnest this Thursday. Luftlotte 2 along with Luftlotte 5 (from bases in Norway) launched no few than 7 separate raids designed to knock Fighter Command out of the war. Luftwaffe historians would later refer to this day as "Black Thursday".
III Gruppe's participation started with an early evening escort mission. Visibility was clear above 10,000 feet, but hazy underneath that top layer. The Gruppe was tasked with sheperding the Dorniers and Junkers of I./KG 76 and II./KG 76 to Biggin Hill. This was one of two major thrusts towards the interior of Kent.
Once again the British responded to the plotted threats with small numbers of aircraft. No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron sent up 8 Spitfires and No. 151 Hurricanes, count of twelve, were vectored to clash with JG 54 escorted raid over Dover. No. 266 was one of the Rhodesian gift squadrons.
The Spitfires of No. 266 Squadron was the first to engage the Biggin Hill attack. Their pilots' combat report noted that 109's were about 3,000 feet above the bombers. The Spitfires were heavily outnumbered and yet rushed in to blunt the attack.
Spitfire “UO-A” of 266 Squadron, Wittering airfield, circa July 1940.
Uffz. Joachim Schreckenberg of 8./JG 54 and Ltn. Hans-Ekkehard Bob of 9./JG 54 each filed claims over Spitfires in the ensuing melee. 266 Squadron lost two Spitfires on this day. P/O F W Cale might very well have been Bob's victory. Cale's Spitfire crashed in flames near the river Medway at Teston. Unfortunately, Cale did not survive. He was later found in the river with his parachute straps burned. Schreckenberg's claim could be linked to a Hurricane of No. 151 Squadron. Sub/Lt Beggs' Hurricane "DZ-G" was shot down over Dover with heavy damage from cannon fire to its tail surfaces.
Despite JG 54's best efforts to protect the bombers, West Malling was misidentified by the bombers and hit instead of Biggin Hill. All bombers returned to base; the extent of battle damage suffered by KG 76 is beyond the scope of this narrative.
III./JG 54 lost Uffz. Friedrich Niedermaier of 9./JG 54. His machine crashed into the woods at Bullwood Farm, near Cranbrook. After reviewing RAF claims on this day, Niedermaier may have been the victim of a 54 Squadron Spitfire, who filed several claims for damaged and destroyed 109's near Maidstone, which is north of Cranbrook.
The Luftwaffe suffered grievous losses:
The RAF claimed 158 Luftwaffe aircraft. Meanwhile, the returning Luftwaffe pilots filed victories for 101 British machines. In actuality, the RAF lost 12 Hurricanes and 12 Spitfires.
III Gruppe Verlustliste:
Christer Bergstrom / Claes Sundin, Hans-Ekkehard Bob (Ace Profile 1: The Men and Their Machines).
Christer Bergstrom / Claes Sundin, Max Hellmuth Ostermann (Ace Profile 2: The Men and Their Machines).
Christer Bergstrom, The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revised.
Nigel Parker, Battle of Britain Combat Archive: Volume 3.
Gunther Rosipal – JG 54 Loss List.
Tony Wood – Luftwaffe Aerial Claims.
Jerry Scutts, Jagdgeschwader 54: Aces of the Eastern Front.
Werner Held, Hannes Trautloft, Hans-Ekkehard Bob, JG 54: A Photographic History of the Grunherzjager.