Defiants and Spitfires over Western Brabant, 13th may 1940

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Marcel, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    #1 Marcel, Jul 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
    Because of a small discussion about Defiants somewhere else in on the forum, I thought it would be nice to tell something about what happened here, right above the place where my house now stands.
    This is in no way meant to prove that the Defiant was bad or trying to suggest anything else, just history that might be interesting to some.
    Most of this comes (although not literally) from the Dutch book "Luchtgevechten boven West Brabant en de Biesbosch" by Jan Jolie and from the magazine "'40-'45 toen en nu" no. 134.

    It's 13th of May 1940. The Dutch airforce has been overwhelmed by the massive numbers and quality of the German Luftwaffe. In order to give some protection the the British- and French forces and also help the Dutch, the RAF decides to fly a patrol over The Hague.
    The order is given to flight B of 264th squadron, 6 Boulton Paul Defiants fighters. They would perform the mission together with flight A of 66th squadron, which were 6 Spitfire mk.I's. The Defiant was one of the few turret fighters used and had as a major flaw that it could not fire to the front.

    According to the General Fighter Command Report, the Aircraft took off at 0415h from Martlesham Heath. They made landfall over the Dutch coast at Ijmuiden. They are immediately shelled by Dutch AA guns, which is very accurate. Fortunately the Dutch understand the friendly aircraft signall and the shelling stops. The Spitfires fly to Rotterdam, while the Defiants take a course sourth-east, towards Dordrecht. Over Albasserdam, Stuka's of
    12./LG.1 are spotted, while divebombing. They Defiants claim 2 Ju-87's shot down, after which they are attacked by 27 Bf109's. The last number seems to be exagerated, as only 9 bf109's of II./JG 26 got the order to escort the Ju87's. The fight dispersed to become spearate fights. 5 of the 6 Defiants are shot down.
    The 6 Spitfires also took part in the fighting, claiming 8 Ju-87's and 2 Bf109's. One of the Spitfires was shot down, the rest could escape.

    British claims: Conclusive: 5 Ju-87's, Inconclusive: 5 Ju-87's an 2 Bf109's
    Real German loss: 4 Ju87's

    German claims: 8 Spitfires, 1 Defiant
    Real British loss: 5 Defiants, 1 Spitfire.

    Pictures, source the Internet:
    Defiant Blue3 crashed in the Biesbosch. On the wreckage we can se the policeman of the small vilage of Made, an official and a guard from Drimmelen.
    def1.jpeg

    Blue1 crashed into the river near Geertruidenberg. Wreckage stayed there untill well into 1941.
    def2.jpeg

    I guess this is also Blue1 with some soldiers posing on the tail.
    def3.jpeg

    Defiant Green1 salvaged by the Germans, here at Breda. Bullet impacts can be seen.
    def4.jpeg

    Green2 made a crashlanding and burned.
    def5.jpeg

    Stuka L1+?W crashed near Waardhuizen
    stuka1.jpg
     
  2. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    Hi Marcel. Always nice to read your contributions.

    When you mentionned in another thread, the clash between Defiants and Stuka over where your house is now, I gathered the Defiantes were slaughtered by Stuka. Glad to see that did not happen but the Defiants performance is less than glittering.
    It seems to me that there was also something lacking in cooperation between the Defiants and the Spits. If there was any.
     
  3. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. You're absolutely right. The lack of cooperation counted for both sides. The Germans didn't perform so well either. Actually a few of the Defiants might have been shot down by Stuka's as the bombers were really dogfighting the Defiant. A few surviving pilots mention being chased by Stuka's, but it's vey difficult to find out who shot down who.
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Not to mention the Dutch flak...
     
  5. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    Considering the fact that in peacetime the Dutch gunners could not fire live ammo because of economic reasons, the things they did managed to do are no less than an absolute miracle.

    And I'm pretty sure that nobody bothered to inform them that there were friendly planes approaching, if they had any radio. The first german strikes were coming from the west aswell.
     
  6. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting
    Thanks Marcel!

    Juha
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You don't need ammunition to practise aircraft identification.
     
  8. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    The Dutch government was very persistent in staying neutral (and making a buck by selling to both sides) so Dutch gunners only needed to know the Dutch types (CV, CX, DXVII, D21, G21, TV). The rest they could shoot at ;)

    But seriously, aircraft indentification was not something they excelled in. The first JU88's crossing the Dutch borders om May 10th were indentified as Blenheims
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That worked during WWI. Not sure what went wrong during 1940 as Germany and the Netherlands got along well.
     
  10. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Maybe because Germany invaded?
     
  11. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    #11 Marcel, Jul 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
    Sorry that I put the part of the flak in the story, it clearly diverts from the main story. Having said that, I will say one thing about the matter:
    Davebender, if you study stories of WW2 carfully, you'll see that most aircraft were being shot at by their own AAA. British bombercrews quite often complained about this and not a few were sadly shot down that way. The fact that the Flak stopped after the signal is actually a sign of good coordination, as this did not always happen during the war, most AA gunners would have kept pounding away. Aircraft are sometimes difficult to identify. Yes, the gunners were also trained on recognising RAF aircraft, but it's not always as easy as you might think. And when a small country like the NL is attacked by 1200 odd Luftwaffe aircraft, the chance is very great that the silouettes in the sky belong to the LW. Further more, above The Hague, the Dutch took no chances. Dutch flak was actually very good. Of the 1200 aircraft deployed by the LW over The Netherlands, about 450 were shot down, around 50 of them by the Dutch airforce, and a big part of the rest by the AAA gunners.

    And could we now please leave the discussion about the Flak?

    I will not be commenting on how friendly the Dutch were to Germany and the reason why they were invaded, that could deserve another thread, in which I will be happy to share my views. You can start that if you like, but leave it out of this thread, please.
     
  12. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #12 nuuumannn, Jul 3, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
    Fascinating information, Marcel. Excellent pictures as well. Just a note about that combat, this was only the second combat outing of the Defiant, the first was the day before, when a Ju 88 was claimed by 264 Sqn. A further Defiant was damaged on 13 May, when whilst forwarding to Manston by 264 Sqn the aircraft's pilot retracted his undercarriage instead of his flaps on landing! According to the account I have the Defiants claimed 4 Ju 87s. Ironic that the Spits and Daffys didn't co-ordinate their attacks since that was always part of the Daffy's game plan in cooperation with single seaters.

    As for the Stukas dogfighting with the Daffys; an urban myth, I'm arfraid. Bf 109s shot the Defiants down, which explains the Messerschmitt pilots' claims of 8 Spits: that whole thing about not admitting to shooting anything down except Spitfires also occurred against Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain. Sadly, all that combat did was prove how unsuited the Defiant was against single seat fighters, something that 264 Sqn's CO, Sqn Ldr Philip Hunter warned against as early as December 1939.
     
  13. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    That might have something to do with it.
     
  14. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Hi nuuuman, thanks and also for the additions.
    Actually there is some clues of Stuka's dogfighting in the crew's reports, although I agree that the bf109's probably shot down most if not all of the Defiants. I translated this back from the Dutch translation, so appologies for any mistakes I made:

    From the report of P/O Hatfield, gunner of Blue 1:
    P/O Thomas pilot of Blue2:
     
  15. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #15 nuuumannn, Jul 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
    Being chased or following and dogfighting are two different things. There's no doubt the Ju 87s got onto their tails (if I was a Ju 87 pilot and I saw my comrades being shot at I'd want to do what I could to get back at the attackers), but I doubt they were dogfighting. According to the loss records for the aircraft involved, they were shot down or damaged by the Bf 109s.

    Here's the serials of the Daffys that took part:

    L6958: Damaged by Bf 109s and crashed 25 mls SE of Rotterdam, 13.5.40; PO Thomas bailed out, LAC J.S.M. Bromley killed.

    L6960: Shot down by Bf 109s 15 mls SE of Rotterdam, 13.5.40; PO G.E. Chandler, LAC D.L. McLeish killed.

    L6965: Shot down by Bf 109s over Manston 24.8.40; Sgt W.H. Machin killed, PO R.S. Gaskell injured. (This is clearly a mistake since three Defiants were lost in one action over Dunkirk on 24.8.40, but this one wasn't one of them, having being brought down on 13 May.)

    L6969: Damaged by Bf 109s and crashed in the Netherlands, 13.5.40 Flt Lt G. Skelton and PO Hatfield baled out.

    L6974: Shot down by Bf 109s off Folkestone, 12:45pm 19.7.40, PO J.R. Kemp, Sgt R. Crombie missing.

    L6977: Shot down by Bf 109s over Dunkirk, 13.5.40, PO Greenhous, Sgt Greenhalgh missing but evaded capture.

    Interesting information, Marcel. From where did you acquire the combat reports if they were in Dutch?
     
  16. merlin

    merlin Member

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    It's a pity the inquiry that followed this, didn't result in:

    - Defiants being restricted to beyond Me 109 range, even in the BoB dispite further disasters they were still used on 'patrol' in 11 Group! Better to act as sweepers perhaps to finish off the damaged aircraft returning from a raid.

    - convert Squadrons to night-fighters, even before radar - with the extra pair eyes available to scan the sky, they would help,

    - and an earlier (than the P.94) single-seat prototype - shouldn't take long to fare over the turret aperature, add guns to the wings, and a new control stick - to fire them. Seems possible to have dual version production line, until the s/s (Defoe) takes over, with the Mk ll version with the Merlin XX.
     
  17. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Yes indeed, Merlin. On only the second combat outing by the only (at that time) Defiant squadron, you'd think they'd have done something.

    My thoughts are that the Daffys should have been station in the north east of England and Scotland (13 Group) to attack the German bombers flying from Norway. During the Battle of Britain, 264 was already flying night fighter sorties.

    I guess that part of the problem is our perception of things compared to theirs at the time. If combat reports were to be believed, then the Daffys were attacked by 27 Bf 109s, an overwhelmingly superior number. The fact that there weren't that many wouldn't have occurred to them. A part of our perception of the Defiant has been built up on misinformation; unfortunately it was only with the end of the war that the general perception of them was poor; Defiant losses and successes between May and end of August 1940 - again based on combat reports lodged at the time show that the aircraft performed very well indeed.

    88 claimed enemies shot down by Defiants versus 32 lost from all causes. Not bad really. Post war research confirms that the number of kills was lower, though. It was only after 141's action on 19 July that caused people to sit up and take notice when six Defiants were shot down in one action, mind you they were up against 30 Bf 109s. Even then, it wasn't until late August that Dowding recast the Defiant sqns as night fighter units only. Quite opposite to what we are led to believe these days, the 264 Sqn pilots were astonished and dismayed by the move and made repeated requests for the order to be rescinded.
     
  18. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, maybe my definition of a Dogfight is not totally correct.
    Were did you get those loss records? In the reports, there's not always a clue to which aircraft shot down what. I guess the Bf109's were presumed as the crews claimed there were about 30 of them, quite a lot. The positions are mostly not correct, distances from Rotterdam, I mean. F.i it seems like L6960 was shot down 10 miles closer to Rotterdam (15 miles) then L6958 (25 miles) while they fell down in the same area (Biesbosch, see below)
    L6965 (Green 2) flown by McLeod and Cox crashlanded near Zevenbergen.

    L6958 (blue 2) was found in 1994 in the Biesbosch. Quite a story. I'll see if I still have the newspaper articles about that.

    They are translations by the writer Jan Jolie, I just translated them back. He got them from the Public Record Office in London.

    Map of crashes near in the Biesbosch. I actually live in Sterrenburg, in the north west of the map. I also included a map to locate the Biesbosch for you.
    kaart.jpeg
     
  19. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Not sure what the single-seat version would have added to the 2 already excellent fighters Spitfire and Hurricane.

    Why nothing was done? According to claims, the Defiant didn't do so bad. They claimed to have been attacked by 30 bf109's. Of these, they claimed 2 Bf109's shot down in addition to 4 Stuka's while loosing 5. Considering the overwhelming odds, this seems like a reasonable result. In fact they were only attacked by 9 Bf109's and none were shot down, but this they didn't know at the time.
     
  20. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Hi Marcel, thanks for posting those maps, they are quite interesting. The information came from a book on the defiant that lists every individual one and its subsequent fate. The information was drawn from official RAF sources. As for accuracy of locations of crash sites, there's no surprise that these are not accurate; without work by individuals such as yourself, it's pretty hard for precise locations to have been found during wartime, especially if in enemy territory or even since the war, unless someone knows the territory well.

    That's a good point; there was some delay in fitting a turret to the prototype K8310, so it flew without one for awhile, also, in August 1940 the turret was removed and it was considered as a stop-gap single-seat fighter, the P.94, but in the end it was not needed. Spit and Hurri production was as such that losses were able to be met on the production lines. Performance wise the P.94 was impressive, with a top speed of 364 mph at 23,500 ft and armed with no less than 12 .303s in the wings, it was faster and more heavily armed than the Spitfire Mk.I, although less manoeuvrable.
     
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