Attacking the Luftwaffe head-on


The 15 September 1940 again dawned bright and sunny, but this time the Luftwaffe were up early with decoys and feints. Then, around 10.40am, the radar picked up what was clearly a major formation gathering over Calais. At 11.15am No.253 and No.501 Squadrons were scrambled from Kenley and ordered to attack a formation of German aircraft coming in over the Kent coast.


The commander of No.253 Squadron, Squadron Leader Gerry Edge (who had been awarded a DFC only two days earlier), had developed the theory that attacking bombers head on was the best form of assault. The closing speed was nerve-wracking, but the tactic did make the German formation break up so that the individual bombers were easier targets. On this occasion he decided to put his plan into effect using the entire squadron.


As they raced toward Germans, the pilots of No.253 saw that the enemy formation was composed of 28 Dornier Do17 bombers with an escort of over 100 fighters. Hoping for the best, the Hurricane fighters roared in with guns blazing. As predicted the bombers began to weave and peel off as they were attacked. In all 17 bombers were hit and fell out of the formation. How many were actually shot down is unclear as the Hurricane pilots were speeding away with throttles wide open to escape the 100 fighters that were coming down fast. When No.501 Squadron arrived, the remaining German bombers jettisoned their bombs and turned for home.