Thursday, 2 December 2010

RAF EASTCHURCH

With around 18" of snow here on Sheppey today I haven't bothered to go out and so what could I write about. Well, as you may know from previous blogs, I have in my past researched and written up the complete history of aviation here on Sheppey. Today I will give you a tiny and much abridged flavour of the beginning of the Second World War at Eastchurch. (Sorry about a line of rubbish by one photo, which I couldn't correct)

There had been an airfield there since 1910 and an RAF one since 1918, when the RAF was formed. Prior to 1940 Eastchurch had merely seen a succession of various training schools but by mid-1940 and the imminent threat of attack by the Germans these Schools had been sent away and after just one day under the command of Fighter Command, Eastchurch had been transferred to No.16 Group - Coastal Command and in came a squadron of Blenheim bombers and two squadrons of Fairey Battle light-bombers, for cross-channel operations.
Jumping forward now to the 13th August 1940, this was the day that Germany made its first proper attack on England. After taking off from French airfields at 05.10 that morning several German bomber squadrons joined up and headed across the Channel. Almost immediately attempts were made to recall them due to bad weather but this was not totaly successful and so 74 Dornier bombers continued towards Kent without their fighter escort. To avoid detection one Gruppe skirted round the Kent coast and came in from the Thames Estuary and headed in towards Eastchurch at 10,000 feet. At 06.45 they were attacked by Spitfires of 74 Squadron, with little success and the Gruppe split up with one party heading to Sheerness Docks and the other to Eastchurch.
The Station Commander at Eastchurch was woken up by a phone call from the Royal Observer Corps at Bromley saying " we think that there may be some bandits bound for you" and no sooner had he pulled on his boots when the bombs came raining down from 9,000 feet. At 07.00 two vics of fifteen Dorniers had begun bombing the airfield from south to east and also strafing the airfield with machine guns and by 07.20 it was all over, with more than one hundred high explosive bombs dropped.
As people began emerging from hangars, sleeping quarters and shelters there was a scene of shocked carnage and this was to be repeated several times over the next few weeks with even worse effects.

Below is a photo of three Armourers at the airfield during June 1940 and before it all kicked off.


Two of the above guys - Richard Moss and a friend - having a snack in front of the camouflaged hangars in June 1940


The same hangars after the raid


Some of the airmen's quarters after the raid.

a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/__asx1auORMQ/TPexEcu8O2I/AAAAAAAAAO0/i1gRWWJgOO4/s1600/AUG404.JPG">
More of the airman's quarters


The body of a shot down Dornier's crew member being recovered from the mudflats off I believe Herne Bay/Seasalter.

2 comments:

  1. All very interesting Derek, feel sorry for the poor bugger in the last photo.

    More sorry than I would if the bombs had killed a few wildfowlers :-)

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  2. Warren,
    At the time both would of been on level pegging re. the lack of sympathy vote.

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