804 Sqn. scrambled to intercept raid over Scapa Flow

Shetland radar picks up a raid approaching Orkney from the east. Ten minutes later they arrive in two groups, one over Hatston and the other over Scapa Flow. Estimates put the number of aircraft at 35 He 111 (KG 26?) but the twilight makes identification difficult.

One hundred high explosive and incendiary bombs fell on land, half in error at Brig of Waithe in the parish of Stenness where James Isbister becomes one of the first civilian to be killed by bombing in the war. Most of the other bombs fall near Hatston creating eight foot wide craters and narrowly missing the bomb dump. The only casualty is one of 800 Sqn. ground crew hit by shrapnel whilst taking a walk a mile from the airfield.

The attack on Scapa Flow is more successful with the cruiser HMS Norfolk hit and holed with the loss of three of her officers and six ratings injured.

The whole of 804 squadron is scrambled from Hatston. They fail to make contact with any enemy aircraft and have difficulty returning to their own base.

Both the Royal Navy and the RAF blame inadequate radar coverage from Nethebutton on Orkney which is poorly situated.

Major R T Partridge recalls in his book Operation Skua:

The whole squadron (804) got airborne but, in the gathering darkness, no contacts were made and we all had a hell of a job landing back at the airfield as there were no flares or runway lighting.

Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney
One of these cottages was hit by a bomb during the raid on 16 March 1940 killing its occupant James Isbister

Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney in 2020
Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney in 2020

Hurricanes intercept He 111s over Orkney

Hurricanes from Wick intercept 6 enemy aircraft 40 miles E of Copinsay. Formation broken up, one shot down into sea. Heinkel 111 lands at Wick, 2 crew dead, pilot & wireless operator taken prisoner. Great difficulty for pilots - planes attacking from West, no light.

HMS CURLEW estimates 24 planes in attacks, 6 turned away by fighters. "the objective appeared to be the Hoxa and Switha booms. High level bombing against a floating boom could hardly be expected to achieve success. No bombs fell particularly close to the target."

The raid is made up of He 111 and Ju 88.

War Diary Appendix 3 showing times of raid on 8.4.1940

Source: @Ness_Battery

804 and 43 Sqn intercept He 111 over Orkney

Red Section of 804 Sqn. (Gladiators from Hatston) are patrolling between Copinsay and Burray when they see an He 111K ten miles east which is being chased by 43 Sqn. Hurricanes from Wick.

804 Sqn's diary, quoted in Sky over Scapa, reads:

At 16.45 hours Red Section was sent to patrol between Copinsay and Burray. As soon as it got there, Carver saw a Heinkel 111K about ten miles east going north-east. Hot pursuit was begun and as the Section followed, Hurricanes could be seen on the cloud dodging Heinkel's tail. After a few minutes the enemy aircraft began climbing, twisting and diving. By the time Red Section arrived and got within range, 43 Squadron had done their job. The enemy aircraft's motors were idling and he dived down to 20 feet over the sea. For two or three miles, he held at 20 feet with a dark oil streak trailing behind him on the sea and finally flopped, port wing first. Six Hurricanes and Red Section few around the wreck as three of the crew swam for it.

Main air raid on Orkney starts

Estimates vary, possibly as many as 60 aircraft, Junkers 88s and Heinkel 111s, 7-10,000ft. One wave approaches from the east and another from the south-east.

605 Sqn. Hurricanes are scrambled from Wick and 804 Sqn. Gladiators are scrambled from Hatston.

OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK of (Unit or Formation) No. 605 Squadron.

Place Date Time Summary of Events References to Appendices
WICK. 10.4.40. Fine day with little wind. No activity in the morning and patrols were ordered over South going convoy from Kirkwall. At approx. 1545 hours P/O.Muirhead while on convoy patrol sighted enemy aircraft and carried out two attacks before losing him in cloud. An hour later F/O. Leeson leading red section saw two enemy aircraft at 14000 ft. climbed and brought the one down and two of crew jumped with parachute. It is unknown for certain whether the first machine encountered by F/O. Muirhead was brought down or not. For the next six hours there was intense activity far greater than anything seen previously. The released Squadron was brought to Stand-By; at one time we had three sections at Stand-By and it was still said there there were not sufficient fighter aircraft. Four pilots fired rounds at enemy aircraft and made out reports. F/O Lesson P/O. Carter, P/O. Muirhead and Sgt.Moffatt. Red section were available for 2¼ hours. "A" Flight were supplying the night phase pilots at at approx. 2045 hours Wick Air Raid Warning sounded; two of Red and Yellow section took off together with others from 43 and 111 Squadrons there were about 10 aircraft in the air after dark to encounter a raid on Scapa of about 40 enemy aircraft who came over in successive waves. Anti-Aircraft fire was intense and there were one or two loud reports of bombs one on the Pentland Skerries but no damage at all was reported. P/O. Edge and Flying Officer Austin P/O Currant and Sgt Mainland took part; F/O. Edge attacked three separate enemy aircraft and P/O. Current used all his ammunition on one enemy aircraft but neither pilots was able to say definitely with what results. It was reported that this station together with Hatston and anti-aircraft had accounted for seven enemy aircraft during the day.

Source: @Ness_Battery

Orkney air defences open fire on raiders

Ness Battery: Single Heinkel 111 approaches from E, 800ft over Battery. Ness Battery's 5 Bren guns open fire. No hits.

Flotta - Stanger Battery's Brens open fire on low flying aircraft, which fire back. No casualties.

Map of Flotta defences

At least 2 waves of bombers turn away when faced with HAA barrage fire and fighters, but ~20 press on and ~15 250kg and 500kg bombs dropped, mostly on Flotta. Luftwaffe targeting the Hoxa and Switha booms again. Buchanan Battery hit - no casualties.

Diagram of Orkney raid 10.04.1940

Ness Battery: 2nd plane low over huts. Brens open fire. Plane 'disappeared over Black Craig, swerving violently'. Ness Battery makes tentative claim as a 'kill' - thought unlikely to have made it back to base.

Sketch of aircraft downed near Stromness 10.04.1940

HMS SUFFOLK hit during air raid on Scapa Flow - but not badly damaged. SUFFOLK took part in occupation of Faeroe Islands three days later and sank German tanker "Skagerrak" off Norway on 14th.

Twin 4-inch Mk XVI guns HMS SUFFOLK © IWM (A 4194)

During the raids two AA gunners killed in explosion at gun site in S Ronaldsay ('R3' manned 178 HAA Bty at Herston). Gnr Thomas COCKBURN & Gnr Alfred SAYERS, both aged 39, buried at St Peter's, South Ronaldsay. OSDef CO Brig. Kemp at funeral on 13 April 1940.

Diagram of Hoxa defences

Source: @Ness_Battery

He 111 Ditches off Lydden Spout

An He 111 of 8/KG 1 ditches off Lydden Spout, the crew of 5 swim ashore and are picked up by an AA gun crew. They are taken to Hawkinge and locked up in the guard room by the main gate and become objects of curiosity for people on the base.

Ramsgate airfield bombed

20 He 111 (or 30+ Do 17) drop 13 tons of bombs onto Ramsgate's civilian airfield, a quater of the estimated 210 bombs fall on the airfield - the rest causing extensive damage to the town.

151 Sqn. (Hurricanes) intercept the Bf 109 escorts from III./JG 26 on the right flank over Manston and 610 Sqn. (Spirfires) engage the left flank escorts of III./(J)LG 2 over Ramsgate. The bombers are not engaged.

"To Defeat the Few" says it was He 111 but the "Battle of Britain Combat Archive" says Do 17s.

II./KG 1 bomb Biggin Hill

Yesterday evening the Gruppe was briefed for another daylight raid on Biggin Hill. At 1736 hrs this afternoon we took off and formed up over Calais. We crossed the Channel in close formation, heading directly for the target area. Our fighter escort did an excellent job. They prevented the English fighters from getting anywhere near us, allowing us to lay a carpet of bombs right across the airfield. Despite the heavy flak my navigator, Oberleutnant Heinrich Prinze ze Sayn-Wittgenstein, managed to take several photos of our stick of bombs "walking" across the target. At 2010 hrs we landed back at Rosieères. We had suffered no casualties, just some minor flak damage.

KG1 bomb the Shorts factory at Rochester

On 4 September the Gruppe carried out a daylight raid on the aircraft works at Rochester. Although lasting only 150 minutes (from 1240 hrs until 1510 hrs), it was a tough mission at the target lay at the very limit of our Me 109s' effective escort range.
The Spirfires first attacked from out of the sun, each picking a target before diving away. Some then climbed back up again to make a second attack from below. We were very much reliant on our own collective defensive fire. The few Me 109s that were still hanging on to us could do little. If they became involved in a dogfight they would either be shot down or use up their last remaining fuel and be unable to make it back across the channel.
For us it was most unpleasant to have to watch the English roundels wheeling about at close range right in front of our noses. But we were lucky. The presence alone of our few escorting fighters, however passive their behaviour, seemed to have a deterrent effect and stopped the enemy from mounting a coordinated attack - presumably they were unaware of the Me 109s' problems. Once again we all returned safely to base with nothing but flak damage. But other units were not so fortunate.

"other units" refers to the fighters as the only He 111 casualty was one from 4./KG 26 that was lost over the North Sea.