20 July 1940

20 July 1940

The day begins calmly with a series of training sessions over the Leysdown-on-Sea firing range. Around 17:30, Pilot Officer Keith T. takes off to shoot down some drifting barrage balloons.

Shortly afterwards, however, No.615 Squadron was ordered to intercept a German formation.

Convoy CW.7 (twenty-nine merchant ships and three escort ships) left Southend harbour in the morning to reach Falmouth. The ships are then attacked between Fokestone and Dover by a formation of about thirty-five Junkers Ju.87 of II/StG.1, protected by Bf.109s of I./JG 51 and II./JG 51 and Bf.110s of 2./ErprGr.210. The Germans are able to attack the ships before the arrival of the RAF and sink two steamships (Pulborough and Westown) and seriously damage the destroyer HMS Brazen (scuttled the next day).[1]

Protection of convoy CW.7 are provided by several sections of No.32 (RAF) Squadron whose Hawker Hurricanes (nine) took off from Hawkinge between 17:05 and 17:44. They are joined shortly afterwards by nine Spitfires from No.610 (County of Chester) Squadron and six others from No.32 Squadron.

In the case of No.615 Squadron, eleven aircraft take off from Kenley at 17:50.

According to Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo (P2963) :

« At 18:20 I was No.2 in Red Section sent to intercept E/A off Dover. Sighted a large number of Bf.109s which attacked us. After firing about four of five short bursts at 109s, I had a very good deflection shot at one 109, the attack developing into line astern. Lenght of burst – 5 secs. Distance – 150 yards. The E/A poured forth grey smoke, turned over and spun down. Later I saw a parachute nearby, but do not know whether it was pilot of the machine. A few seconds alter I spotted a 109 gliding down with engine apparently stopped. I attacked from above, and after firing about 3 – 4 secs at a range of 300 yards to 50 yards, E/A emitted black smoke and turned on its back. Later engaged two more 109s and used all ammunition. »[2]

Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo claims two Bf.109s off Cap Gris-Nez (18:20).

According to Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings (P2801) :

«I see the convoy is bombed and I order my Blue Section to go down, but we are separated. I see a Ju.87 Junkers flying low over the water, and when it is only about eight kilometres from the French coast, I open fire. After a second burst the rear gunner stops attacking and black smoke starts to escape from the German aircraft. As I fired one last time I noticed two Bf.109s in the distance and decided to turn back. I am only two kilometres from the French coast. I go back over our ships. I think the Junkers Ju.87 has been damaged.»[3]

Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings claims a Junkers Ju.87 off the coast of Boulogne (18:20).

At the same time, and without further detail, we can note several other calims from the pilots of No.615 Squadron. Flight Lieutenant Lionel M. Gaunce, for example, claims to have attack a Bf.109 off Cape Gris-Nez (French coast) and observed it crash into flames. Pilot Officer Sydney J. Madle (Yellow 3) attacks a Bf.109 over water, but is unable to observe the results of the attack. Pilot Officer Anthony Eyre claims a destroyed Bf.109 south-east of Dover, which was reportedly observed from the English coast.

All the pilots return to the base with no particular damage to report.

Pilots and Aircrafts : Flight Lieutenant Lionel M. Gaunce (P2966) ; Pilot Officer Cecil R. Young (N2337) ; Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo (P2963) ; Flying Officer John R.H. Gayner (P3380) ; Flying Officer Peter Collard (P2768) ; Pilot Officer Sydney J. Madle (P3160) ; Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings (P2801) ; Pilot Officer Ralph Roberts (P3161) ; Pilot Officer David Evans (P3162) ; Flying Officer Anthony Eyre (P3151) ; Pilot Officer Douglas H. Hone (P3158).

[1] PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.110.

[2] Combat Reports. Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo (20/07/40). Kew : The National Archives, AIR 50/175/13 ; PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.112.

[3] Combat Reports. Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings (20/07/40). Kew : The National Archives, AIR 50/175/8.

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