Londoners watch as Battle of Britain rages above – Battle of Britain 76th Anniversary
Londoners watch as Battle of Britain rages above – archive
16 September 1940: Friday 16 September 2016 –
Thousands in the centre of the capital cheered wildly as they watched the Spitfires send a big German bomber hurtling to destruction…
Cheers for Fighters’ and A.A. Successes
German bombers and escorting fighters were sent crashing yesterday in fierce air fighting over the South-east and the London area during two daylight raids. Londoners saw them falling at Victoria, Kennington, and Streatham. In the first attack, which developed at noon, at least fifty planes were zooming in battle high over London. Thousands in the centre of the capital cheered wildly as they watched the Spitfires send a big German bomber hurtling to destruction. Roof-watchers reported that they saw fragments of one or two raiders, blown to pieces apparently by A.A. fire.
As the fight went on at least three Nazis were seen to “bale out” and descend in the inner London area. One who drifted down in a London suburb was watched by a large crowd. When soldiers had taken him away men and women tore his parachute to pieces – for souvenirs.
Another Nazi airman who landed near a small police station had his arms outstretched and was shouting, “Kamerad, kamerad.” He could speak little English, but he repeatedly murmured to the police and soldiers who formed a cordon round him, “I am an officer.” He had been wounded in the battle and was taken to hospital.
As one raider, aided by cloud-banks, wormed its way over Central London a fierce A.A. barrage opened up, but ceased as the clouds drifted away. Then a flight of six Spitfires were seen. One attacked the Nazi plane, which, like a sitting bird, seemed incapable of attempting escape. The Spitfire poured a deadly lead stream into the raider and it spiralled down, smoke pouring from its tail. The Spitfire rolled victoriously and the crowds below cheered madly and danced with joy as the bomber fell. One eye-witness of the dog fights said: “I saw a Spitfire attack a formation of enemy bombers. The fighter fastened on to one of the enemy and fought a hot duel. Presently the German began to leave a trail of black smoke behind him. One of the crew ‘baled out’ and then the bomber went into a steep dive and burst into flames. Suddenly it broke into a thousand pieces in mid-air.”
About a dozen high-explosive bombs dropped in one south-western suburb, considerably damaging house and shop property, bursting gas mains, and starting small fires, but there were no serious casualties. Some casualties, at least one of them fatal, were caused by half a dozen high-explosive bombs dropped in another part of the same district. Several shops, a public-house, and some private houses were demolished. A bomb which exploded in another residential area made a number of houses uninhabitable and caused some fatal casualties.
THE SECOND ATTACK
It took our fighters and guns just over an hour to clear the skies, and the ‘‘All clear’’ sounded at 12 56 p.m. But at 2 15 the sirens wailed again, and a few minutes later the heavy drone of the German bombers could again be heard in the London area. Again our fighters roared up and ripped into the enemy formations, their guns blazing. One watcher said, “Two planes certainly came down and I saw one parachutist descending.”
About 400 German planes are believed to have crossed the East Coast heading for London. At one point in South-east England 36 German planes flew over in formations of six and were immediately engaged by A.A. guns.
The first two squadrons broke up. One of the planes dived to earth and two parachutes floated down after the crew had “baled out.” Two planes from another squadron, surrounded by bursting shells, were also seen to fall to the ground, evidently as the result of A.A. fire. A German bomber which dropped two bombs in a London district made a forced landing and burst into flames. The clouds were low at the time, and the presence of the machine was first indicated by two bluehost falling bombs. Shortly afterwards the bomber – a large black machine – appeared from the clouds, flew in a slow half-circle, and dived straight to the ground. A few seconds later it burst into flames. Immediately after other German aircraft dropped bombs in the same neighbourhood. Just before the German bomber crashed A.A. guns had put up an intense barrage, but it was not known whether the machine fell to the anti-aircraft gunners or to Spitfires, which had been wheeling round.
BRITISH PILOT “BALES OUT” AFTER A VICTORY
One British sergeant pilot “baled out” over a London district and landed at the back of a house where a pressman has his home. He told the reporter, “I managed to get him before they got me.”
The reporter introduced himself and shook hands. The airman exclaimed: “I am a pressman, too, in civil life. Tell my father I am all right. He is your correspondent at —’’ [naming a famous seaport city].
The airman telephoned to his home aerodrome, and when he emerged into the street a great cheer went up from the crowd, many of whom rushed forward to shake him by the hand.
The machine which the sergeant pilot is believed to have shot down was a bomber, which watchers saw falling to pieces in the air. The two wings were seen floating down separately. Seconds afterwards the fuselage followed the wings, descending surprisingly slowly in the same direction. The wreckage was strewn over an area of about two hundred yards. The fuselage burst into flames, but there was no explosion. During the fight a number of parachutes were seen descending some distance away.