Battle of Britain in August 1939

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Profile picture for user Dave Homewood

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17 years 3 months

Posts: 5,511

Edited to add more articles:
I just found this series of interesting articles of a massive bomber and fighter offensive on London in August 1939, as part of a war games exercise. I reckon people here may find this 'forgotten battle' of interest. It's interesting how much of a forboding it seems to have been for one year later!

Auckland Star, Volume LXX, Issue 181, 3 August 1939, Page 11



British Official Wireless. (Received 1 p.m.) RUGBY, August 2.

This year's exercises of the Royal Air Force—from next Tuesday until the following Friday—will be on a larger scale than ever before. In the manoeuvres, which will include important night operations, there will be engaged more than 1000 aeroplanes of different types —bombers, fighters and scouting machines—and a ground staff of 20,000 men. The latest methods of attack and defence will be tested in operations of a magnitude never before possible. Coinciding as they will with the Territorial camp season, the exercises will enable members of the anti-aircraft and observer corps to co-operate.

A black-out over 27 counties, including London, in the early hours of August will he incidental to the manoeuvres. Approximate!y 1300 'planes will participate in the exercise which will commence on Tuesday next. They will test air and ground defences of Britain and the efficiency of the Air Force.

Then this:


Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 34, 9 August 1939, Page 12





(British Official Wireless.)
(Received August 9, 1.30 p.m.)
RUGBY, August 8. VI

Air "warfare" broke out at 8 o'clock tonight for "Westland"—an imaginary state comprising over twenty counties' to the east of the southern half of England, and including London.

"Westland" fighter squadrons and their ground organisations were anxiously on watch, as the time and objectives of the first attacks by the "Eastland" bombers were unknown. "Eastland", with 500 of the most modern bombers was expected to launch wave after wave of its planes across "Westland's" frontier, which was defended by 800 aeroplanes, including the world's fastest fighters, reconnaissance machines, and bombers ready to retaliate on the "Eastland" bases. "Westland" also had1 15,000 Territorials to man the anti-aircraft guns and searchlights, ten squadrons of the London balloon barrage, and fifteen groups of observer corps equipped with secret apparatus stretching invisible feelers into the night sky to seek out high-flying raiders.

This is the greatest mimic war in the history of the Royal Air Force.

Despite low visibility and intensive activity by the air raiders, the observer system worked perfectly, detecting and reporting all aircraft crossing the coast. Many squadrons of "Westland" bombers made counter raids against "Eastland.

Then this

Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 35, 10 August 1939, Page 14




(British Official Wireless.)
(Received August 10, 2.30 p.m.)
RUGBY, August 9

The signal for the opening of the mock war over England was an announcement by the War Ministry that relations between "Eastland" and "Westland" were very strained, "Eastland" being an imaginary territory somewhere in the North Sea and "Westland" certain areas in the east and south-east of England.

Soon after zero hour last night Royal Air Force "Eastland" bombers crossed the French coast and swept back towards the English coastline, where the ground defence and aircraft were ready to receive them. There the "Eastland" bombers kept up a continuous series of raids. The aeroplane crews waited in relays to take over their planes as soon as they had refuelled.

From one "Eastland" aerodrome Fairey Battle planes flying to the French coast and returning at a high altitude in many cases avoided the defending planes. The corps of observers, however, noted nearly every raid and flashed a warning to the antiaircraft batteries, whereupon the "Westland" air positions immediately sent up their fighters.

During the flight the weather was in "favour of the defenders, but this morning low cloud and rain spread from the west, enabling the "Eastland" planes to pass over the coast and get very close to their targets without being identified. Occasional raids of "Eastland" bases by "Westland" bombers were reported by the look-outs at the aerodromes, and the entire personnel, donning gas masks as they ran, sheltered in gas-proof trenches. Decontamination squads were at work immediately after the raids.

An official account of the air exercises states that soon after 9 a.m. numbers of raiders began to converge on London. Eight formations moved up the Thames Estuary and some swept up from the south-eastern counties. They met a sturdy defence by fighters and anti-aircraft batteries. Some of the raiders succeeded in circling round London to the west, where they had a hot reception in the neighbourhood of Uxbridge and Surbiton.

It was officially announced that a black-out which was to have taken place tonight in the area comprising London and the Midland, Eastern, and Southern counties has been postponed for twenty-four hours, since the weather forecasts indicate widespread low cloud, which would make satisfactory observation impossible. The blackout will be definitely carried out tomorrow night between the hours originally fixed—from midnight until 4 a.m., except in London, where it will begin at 12.30 a.m. Every effort has been made in connection with the air exercises to reproduce war conditions, and for the great black-out covering twenty-eight counties an appeal has been issued for the co-operation of all, so as to ensure that the authorities get full value from the exercises towards complete preparedness.

Then This

Auckland Star, Volume LXX, Issue 188, 11 August 1939, Page 7



Battles Between Raiders And Defenders.


British Official Wireless. (Received 10.30 a.m.) RUGBY, August 10.

Eastland conducted a heavy offensive against Westland during the hours of darkness, says the official report of the progress of the R.A.F. exercises up to 1 a.m. The enemy had concentrated on targets around the Thames Estuary, while Kent, Surrey, Sussex and South London were also heavilv attacked.

In the early hours the attack swung back to the northern and eastern areas, where cloudy conditions hampered the defenders during the night. Nearly 100 raids were made by Eastland bombers in the southern area of Westland.

More than 60 defending fighter patrols were dispatched to attack them and a number of interceptions were made.

In the northern area Eastland made 60 raids during the early morning and about 40 fighter patrols went up to meet them. A number of these raids were intercepted and Westland bomber squadrons continued a counter-offensive during the night. The observer corps continued to work smoothly in spite of heavy activity and low clouds.

The barrage balloons of the Auxiliary Air Force were flown at the war station for the first time during the night. Towards dawn this morning the Eastland attack slackened, but soon after seven o'clock observer posts detected bomber activity some miles off the south coast, and between 8 and 9.a.m. bombers raided Worthing.

A small flight of battle 'planes was intercepted over Southampton Water soon after 8 a.m. A large force of bombers again attacked Southampton half an hour later, but was intercepted by fighters.

Eastland bombers then began to attack on a wider front. Raiders were intercepted two miles north of Skegness. Twelve enemy bombers were intercepted by defending fighters five miles northwest of Maidstone. Three battle 'planes were intercepted near Tollbridge. Eleven battle 'planes were met by fighter squadrons over Southend-on-Sea.

Soon after 9 a.m. a number of raiders began to converge on London. Eight formations moved up the Thames Estuary and some swept up the front of the south-east counties, where they met sturdy defence by fighters and anti-aircraft batteries. Some of the raiders succeeded in circling round London to the west, where they had a hot reception in the neighbourhood of Uxbridge and Surbiton.

In the northern area of Westland a lull continued until 9.30 a.m. when bomber movements were detected by the observer corps some miles from the coast. Between 10 and 11 a.m. raiders came over Chelmsford, and others over points east of Cambridge. An enemy squadron, making for the north-east of London, was beaten off by fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft batteries.

Action over the east coast near the Wash began again between 10 and 11 a.m. Two raids converged on a point near Lincoln, and another penetrated as far as Burton-on-Trent. Interception fighters were active throughout the operation.

The weather was by that time fair or fine over Westland, apart from local fog or ground mist. Visibility was good, but limited to about 1000 yards near industrial areas.

Sadly this

Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 37, 12 August 1939, Page 9



(Independent Cable Servico.) (Received August 12, 9 a.m.)
LONDON, August 11

Two pilot officers, Messrs. A. Buchanan Wollaston and Harold Stewart Olding, were killed when their single-seater fighters, while engaged in the air exercises, crashed near Biggin Hill early this morning.

A Royal Air Force bomber participating in a raiding test struck a high tension cable at Cranfield and caught fire. Two occupants were killed, including an Australian, Flying Officer William Kinane.

Lastly this

Evening Post, Volume CXXVIII, Issue 42, 18 August 1939, Page 10



(British Official Wireless.) (Received August 18, 2.30 p.m.)
RUGBY, August 17.

The Air Ministry stated that the French air force manoeuvres over England were executed according to plan in war conditions. The French attack met the British defence, which was very active and efficient. The French raids did not approach the system and spectacular effects of last week's Royal Air Force raids. The French planes, almost without exception, were intercepted and engaged or, if battle was not given, they were spotted by ground organisations. A surprise party of raiders suddenly swooped on the Hornchurch Aerodrome, which could be considered blotted out, but intercepting planes later took toll of the raiders.



(Received August 18, 2.30 p.m.)

PARIS, August 17. The Air Ministry issued a statement that the manoeuvres were a contribution to air co-operation between England and France which daily becomes closer and more efficacious. The English and French detector services worked in perfect liaison and obtained most interesting results.

Original post
Profile picture for user adrian_gray

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21 years 5 months

Posts: 3,022

There might be a piece on this in Charles Sims' book "Camera in the Sky", though it might not be the same year.

(as I don't have the book to hand, I can't check title, author, etc, so apologies if I've got it wrong)

Profile picture for user Dave Homewood

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17 years 3 months

Posts: 5,511

I wonder if the "battle 'planes" it refers to are actually Fairey Battles.