Friday, 4 November 2011

October 4th, 1940

4th October, the 87th day of the Battle of Britain, started with bad weather; mist, rain and poor visibility. During the month of September, the Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses in the large scale battles over Southern England, and therefore changed its policy, switching to night attack, the socalled Blitz, and sending small formations by day.

Daily operations had a brief start in early morning, when the Luftwaffe bombed indiscriminately in Kent, Surrey and East Anglia, without inflicting significant damage. At 11:00 a significant number of single enemy aircraft crossed the Channel, entering British airspace between Beachy Head and Dover and heading towards London. Crossings went on for all the daylight hours, and reached its peak at 15:00. The targets hit were Outer London, Kent, Surrey and Suffolk. 
The RAF fighters intercepted the enemy raiders, and at the and of the day two bombers were confirmed destroyed, three others were considered as probable and four as damaged. Fighter Command losses were of three fighters, with one pilot missing. By 17:00 enemy activity ceased, and all fighter squadrons were grounded due to deteriorating weather.

Night operations started at about 19:00, when radars detected a stream of enemy aircrafts coming from the Abbeville region. The raiders crossed the Channel in lines ahead spaced at 3 to 5 mile internals. Smaller formations were also detected passing from Baie de Seine to Shoreham. The Abbeville stream was used by the main bombing force, and an estimated 100 bombers passed over the route in two hours. Both streams had London as their target.

Between 21:00 and 23:00 further bombers headed for Southern England, with 50+ bombers entering the airspace over Southern England, eight of them heading toward the central zone, while the others dispersed over South West and North West London.

After 23:00 12 more bombers entered South East England with the usual route, and 16 others came from the Dutch Coast, entering the airspace between Cromer and Harwich.

The sky was clear by 1:00, but small activity recommenced and ten raiders from Dieppe headed directly to London and reached it by 2:45. This was the last air activity for the night, and by 03:30 the sky was clear again, and it remained so until the following morning.

At the end the operations, the Luftwaffe had sent at least 200 bombers in different waves over England. London was the main target, but the Kent region also sufferd considerably. Several factories were hit and damaged: The Fairey Aviation was hit at 23:55, with a hangar and several aircraft destroyed or damaged. Hawker's factory was hit by an HE bomb which caused a fire. Enfield Rolling Mills Cable Co was hit at 21:00 by HE bombs, which curtailed water supply and interrupted the production.
In London, the New Cross Telephonic Exchange was hit, railway traffic had to be stopped due to damages inflicted again at Enfield near Crews Hill Staion.

Luftwaffe bombers operated undisturbed for the entire night: bad weather prevented any interception, but even with good weather, the Bristol Blenheims and Bolton Paul Defiants used for night operations were unable to effectively intercept and engage the German bombers. The RAF was desperate to find a fast, well armed, powerful and radar equipped night fighter, which came in the form of the Bristol Beaufighter at the end  of that October.

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