JG54West 40Aug18

August 18, 1940

1245 – 1345 Hours

Although there was clear weather on August 17th, Goring gave his commanders 24 hours to prepare for another large scale attack on the 18th.  The goal of this attack was to deal another "knock-out" blow to the sector stations of Biggin Hill and Kenley, which went unscathed during the intense battles of August 16th.

Also, Goring used the interlude to summon Werner Molders of JG 51 and Adolf Galland of JG 26 to his hunting lodge east of Berlin.  There he informed the two fighter aces of the higher than expected Luftwaffe losses and attributed it to the German fighters not being used aggressively.  The two pilots expected the Reichsmarshall to launch into a viscious rebuke of the German Jagdwaffe.  Instead, Goring informed Molders and Galland that he wanted to infuse the fighter arm with younger, aggressive leaders, men such as they.  Goring had already installed Molders as Kommodore of JG 51 and that unit's results had improved dramatically.  The Reichsmarshall expected similar results when he announced the promotion of Galland as commander of JG 26.

A week after this meeting, a 28-year old Major Hannes Trautloft replaced Major Martin Mettis and assumed command of JG 54.  Mettig was in agreement with Goring's decision according to Bergstrom's Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited: "...the replacing of five Geschwaderkommodores in the fighter aviation came about because the heavy combat demanded a rejuvenation at senior command level. With my 37 years I was the fighter aviation's second-youngest Geschwaderkommodore at that time. The new aim was that our Staffelkapitans would be less than 27 years, our Gruppenkommandeurs under 30 years, and our Geschwaderkommodores under 32 years of age. I maintain that it was a correct measure."

The events of August 18 didn't materialize in full force until the early afternoon hours.  The weather was beautiful and the skies were clear; perfect weather for the massive, large-scale attack. Kenley and Biggin Hill were once again the focus of the main attack.  It was the Luftwaffe's plan to knock these two bases out since the escaped with only light damage two days earlier.  III Gruppe dispatched its 109's as escort to the 60+ He-111's of KG 1.

Fighter Command scrambled 13 fighter squadrons from across south-east England to counter the large raid.  The bombers of KG 1 went unmolested as the RAF struggled to react to the various prongs of the Luftwaffe attack.  JG 54 provided a protective fighter umbrella.  Major Mettig reported that the He-111 formation was widely scattered because of what he called "bad formation flight".  He estimated the formation was 35 kilometers long from first bomber to last. This forced the escorting 109's of JG 54 to zig-zag back and forth across the bombers, which drained their fuel.  The 109's reached the target but with fuel for only 10 minutes to spend with the bombers before having to return home.  Fortunately for the bombers, two other fighter units arrived to relieve JG 54 of escort duty.  The bombing accuracy of KG 1 left much to be desired and damage was negligible to Biggin Hill.

Oblt. Ekkehard Schelcher, Ltns. Hans-Ekkehard Bob and Hans-Erich Henibockel each claimed a Hurricane.  These might have been the Hurricanes of 615 Squadron, who rose up from Kenley to engage the bombers and fighters of JG 54 at altitude.  615 Squadron reported the loss of F/lT L M Gaunce (WIA), P/O P H Hugo (WIA) and Sgt. P K Walley (KIA) all shot down by 109's.

No losses were reported for III Gruppe.

Sources:

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.
Battle-of-Britain-Diary.org.uk.

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.