At this point Fighter Command was desperately short of experienced pilots, with plenty of those who remained nearing exhaustion. Replacements, lacking combat expertise, were vulnerable. Nonetheless, in the days ahead, the Luftwaffe would still find Hurricanes and Spitfires diving to attack.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN 80th ANNIVERSARY - FIVE KEY DATES
BLACK SATURDAY 7th September
After a quiet start to the day, the Luftwaffe launched its first mass attack on London and thus began “the Blitz”.
With the RAF controllers not realising immediately that the capital was the target, many bombers got through and the East End was hit very badly. The oil tanks at Cliffe and Thameshaven, Beckton gasworks and the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich were all bombed. The fire service found itself faced with a number of conflagrations (enormous fires out of control) and crews from a wide area of the country raced to help.
The Luftwaffe suffered too with German radio referring to “heavy sacrifices”. Highly successful were the Poles of No 303 Squadron who dived into a large, heavily escorted, bomber formation, already under attack, and opened fire, “only breaking away when we could see the enemy completely filling the gunsight,” according to one participant'