HMS Iron Duke bombed in Scapa Flow

Four Ju 88s from Sylt approach Scapa Flow at 11,000 ft in line astern and, diving out of the sun, bomb the ship. One crashes on Hoy as a result of shore based AA fire.

Moored off Lyness, HMS Iron Duke is the only vessel left in Scapa Flow after the sinking of HMS Royal Oak three days earlier. It was serving as the flagship of the Admiral Commanding Orkney and Shetland. Damaged in the raid it is towed to a nearby sandbank to prevent it from sinking and remains beached for the rest of the war.

HMS Iron Duke was a dreadnought battleship which served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet during the First World War, including at the Battle of Jutland. Sold for scrap in 1946.

Ju 88 shot down by AA over Hoy

4D+EK of 1/KG25 Crashes at Pegal Burn and is the first enemy aircraft to fall to anti-aircraft fire as it is claimed by gunners of 226 Battery on Hoy before it can release its bombs - William Rendall Seatter, was one of the gunners.

UFF2 Fritz Ambrosius, Wireless Operator, the only surviving member of the crew is taken prisoner. Pilot OB/Lt. Walter Flaemig, and Air Gunners UFF2 Attenburger and Obergefr. G R Faust are killed. They are reputedly buried in Lyness Cemetery on Hoy in graves marked as unknown German combatants, although as their names were known at the time, this seems odd.

The aircraft was one of a number taking part in an attack on the fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow, the crews had been briefed to attack only ships at anchor in open water, one of these was HMS Iron Duke which was attacked. Very early in the attack, before dropping any bombs this aircraft was fired upon by anti aircraft guns on Rysa Little (a small island off Hoy). The aircraft was hit and caught fire almost immediately, the rear gunner was almost certainly killed by this AA fire as his compartment was virtually destroyed. Unteroffizier Ambrosius released the upper escape hatch which was dragged away from the aircraft by the slip stream, with him still holding onto the release handle. Once clear of the aircraft he was able to open his parachute.

Battery No 1 gun fired and its 4.5 inch shell blew the glazed nose clean off. The nose landed by the gun crew

In his statement made to RAF Air Intelligence personnel he said that he could not understand why the Pilot and Observer had not abandoned the aircraft as he thought they had sufficient time to do so. The crew had taken part in the previous day's attack on the Firth of Forth.

Camouflage: brown and green on upper surfaces, light blue underside.

Armament: three MG15 and 21 drums of ammunition: six top rear, 11 lower rear, four observer. Two 500 kg bombs, no armour or bombsight.

Fritz Ambrosius had been a telegraphist at the General Post Office in Berlin and had signed up for twelve years' service. He had attended the wireless school at Halle then to KG257 before being posted to Rechlin where he joined KG25.

According to the RAF Museum, the bombs exploding on Hoy were considered to be the first enemy bombs to explode on British soil.

Denys Felkin records of Ambrosius: "The interrogator realised that this man was a born talker and kept him under interrogation – with excellent results for 103 days."

(AIR 40/2636 quoted in "The Walls Have Ears")

On 12 January 1940 Ambrosius was asked about photographs of military installations. When returned to a (bugged) room with fellow Luftwaffe PoW Erich May he told him:

"They must have poor apparatus. I told them so. They were taken from a height of 7 to 8 thousand metres. Our photos are better: when they are taken from, say, 4,000 metres, you can see every house on them." He then went on to speculate that the R.A.F. would not be able to bomb German installations and runways based on photos of this quality.

Führer conference mentions Ju 88s bombing England

Halder's diary records a discussion of the plans for Fall Gelb after the Mechelen Incident of 10 January 1940.

Air effort to destroy enemy aviation is of prime importance. Present clear weather spell is not long enough. Better chances nor before March.

  1. Hence: Air Force must deliver first blow; orders not until the night before.
  2. Other missions: Enemy command organisation must be smashed. Headquarters. All must be attacked at the same minute, and with heaviest bombs. Other points of strategic importance.

Maastricht bridges must be captured intact: Occupation of Holland. Offensive must attain maximum penetration of enemy territory: Ju 88* England thus will not be attacked from the air in the first days. From third day onward, small groups of Ju 88 can attack England.

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

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

KG 51 bomb Ventnor radar and Portsmouth harbour

Escorted by 120 Bf 110s of III/ZG 76 and 25 Bf 109s of JG 53 as top cover are picked up by Polling radar at noon: a large formation approaching Brighton from due south before crossing the coast they turn west. As they cross in front of Polling and behind Ventor they are tracked by the ROC, splitting as they come to Spithead.

15 specially selected crews (II/KG 51) dive bomb droping 500kg bombs on Ventnor radar station taking it out of action for three days.  15 of the 74 bombs land in the complex.

A second formation of 70(68?) Ju 88s attacks Portsmouth harbour with horizontal and diving bomb runs in the face of 50 barrage balloons and intensive AA fire from guns on shore and ships. The bombers take advantage of the corridor through the barrage balloons at the harbour entrance.

The Hurricanes and Spitfires of 10 Group (152 , 213 & 609 Sqns) scrambled to intercept are vectored in by controllers in small groups and focus on the bombers whilst their escort, circling at 3,000m, wait for a large fighter group to arrive. As more and more bombers are shot down the escort realise that no large formation is going to present itself as a target and engages in the combat.

In the ensuing melee - that involved nearly 300 fighters in total - 13 RAF fighters are shot down and four are damaged, and five Bf 110s and two Bf 109s are lost.

More Bf 109s - the escort for the return leg - are seen heading west but Fighter Command vectors 615 Sqn's Hurricanes between them and the battle over the Isle of Wight.

12(9?) Do 17s were lost including that of the Geschwaderkommodore Oberst Dr Johnan-Volkmar Fisser who lead the attack on Ventnor.

Later German reconnaissance of Ventnor reports craters in the vicinity of the masts and station quarters on fire.

KG 76 bomb Hawkinge

At Hawkinge the personnel on the base are taken by surprise as the Do 17s (KG 2 and KG 76) and Bf 110s (EprGr 210) come in over Folkestone at medium height and the AA crews aren't able to man their guns - with the exception of two Hisapnios.

Number three hanger at Hawkinge receives direct hits and the iron doors come off their runners killing one airman and two civilian employees - Brisley and McCaister. Inside the hanger two Spitfires under repair were wrecked and two others seriously damaged. Four airmen are killed and six seriously wounded.

The workshops, clothing store and two married quarters were destroyed and the main store was on fire and the ammunition there was exploding.

Luftwaffe records state that Hawkinge was attacked in two waves, with 280 110-lb bombs being dropped first, followed by 16 1100-lb and eight 551-lb bombs.

64 Sqn's Spitfres engaged the Do 17s over Hawkinge and remarked on the lack of AA fire. American PO Donahue bailed out of his burning Spitfire over Sellinge.

Hurricanes from 32 Sqn returning to the airfield to refuel have to negotiate the 28 craters on the landing field. Flt. Lt. Michael Crossley requests permission to land, the response from the controller being "Hello Jacko Red Leader. We've had a spot of bother here. Permission to pancake granted. Good Luck." Sgt. Lacey's undercarriage collapses and F/Lt Gibson's aircraft ends up on it's nose. PO Barton opts to crash-land in a nearby field. The aircraft are refuelled and returned to Biggin Hill.

Firemen from Folkestone arrive to help out at the airfield. Section Leader R. R. Fry is accompanied by his team of Bill Willis, Percy Sutton, Ted Beeching, George Rumsey and George Kelly are fighting the multiple blazes at No 3 hanger where saving the aircraft isn't possible.

49 MU lost a number of vehicels, including a Ford V8 staff car and a Commer low-loader.

Fry said of the incident:

A chaotic scene greeted our arrival. There were fires in several places. The water tower, supplying pressure for the hydrants, had been holed by splinters in may places and water cascaded from it, reducing our mains supply to a trickle as we watched.

The main priority was getting the landing field operational and soldiers, airmen and civilians worked through the night filling in craters, sustained by a mobile canteen serving tea and sandwiches.

OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK of (Unit or Formation) RAF. Station Hawkinge

Place Date Time Summary of Events References to Appendices
Hawkinge August 1940
12th
WEATHER. fine. The I.G. of the R.A.F, Sir E.A LUDLOW-HEWITT, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C. inspected the Station. An Enemy Bombing attack by J.U. 88's against the Station was carried out at 17.30 hours and lasted for approximately 10 minutes. One hanger, No. 3, was almost completely wrecked whilst on other, No. 5, was partially wrecked. A number of Bombs of heavy caliber, including incendiary, were dropped. The aerodrome and buildings were machine-gunned during the attack. The main stores were partly damaged by fire, the clothing store almost completely. The fire was quickly brought under control by R.A.F. personnel aided by local A.F.S. The Station Workshops were wrecked. Two houses in the Airmen's Married Quarters , occupied by airmen, were destroyed. Twenty-eight craters were made on the aerodrome, the largest being 76' x 72' x 28' deep, and the smallest 10' x 10' x 8' deep, but the aerodrome was not rendered completely unserviceable. Repairs to the surface were immediately commenced by the R.E.s. already attached for such work. Ground Defenses were surprised and no guns, except two HISPANO were fired. The altitude of the attacking aircraft was such that it was impractical for the P.A.C.U. to be brought into action. Two civilians, MR. BRISLEY and MR. CAISTER, employed by contractors of the Works Directorate, were killed and three airmen, CORPORAL Mc. COLL attached from R.A.F. Station, YEADON, A.C.2. SYMES attached from R.A.F. Station, KENLEY, and A.C.1. LANGDON of R.A.F. Station, HAWKINGE, were killed. Six airmen received severe injuries and were admitted to the KENT and CANTERBURY HOSPITAL, CANTERBURY. TheCasulaties occurred to personnel employed in No 3 hanger. Two SPITFIRE aircraft, under repair, were seriously damaged, whilst one or two others were struck by splinters. The two non-operational aircraft on charge were damaged but repairable. P.O. N.G. DURHAM reporting on posting from R.A.F. Station, WICK for duty at A.M.E.S., DOVER. F.O. J.D. GABB and F.O. J.H. READ reported on posting for operations room duties.
AIR RAID WARNINGS.
RED 08.35, WHITE 09.25, RED 11.38, WHITE 12.37, RED 23.37, WHITE 23.59

The identification of the attackers as Ju 88s seems incorrect.

KG 54 and JG 2 cross the channel

Radar picks up a formation approaching the coast between Hastings and Bognor. 11 Group scrambles four squadrons with 43 Sqn making first contact with a fighter sweep of Bf 109s and Bf 110s of JG 2. As the fight moves westward more Bf 109s join and RAF fighters return to base with their ammunition expended. 238 Sqn (10 Group, Hurricanes) climb to meet the incoming fighters.

KG 54's Ju 88s are behind the fighter sweep aiming for Odiham and RAE Farnborough and they are spotted by 601 Sqn's A flight, who were climbing to meet the fighter sweep. 43 Sqn, 601 Sqn and 64 Sqn all join the attack. Unable to navigate due to the cloud cover and attacked by fighters they turn back 10 miles after crossing the coast.

F/O McMullen encounters He 113s and Bf 109s escorts over Folkestone and Dover

Sector Serial No (A) D.1.
Serial No. of order detailing patrol (B) -
Date (C) 24.8.40
Flight, Squadron (D) 12 a/c 54 Squadron
Type of Enemy Aircraft (F) 30 JU 88's
20 - 30 ME 109's
HE 113's & ME 110's
Time Attack was delivered (G) 0950 - 1120
Place attack was delivered (H) Dover - Folkestone.
Height of Enemy (J) 20,000 ft - 25,000 ft
Enemy Casualties (K) Destroyed. 1 Me 109
Probable. -
Damaged. -
Our Casualties Aircraft (L) Nil
Personnel (M) Nil
Searchlights (N) (i) N/A
A.A. Guns Assistance (ii) Nil
Fire for Fighters
(Measured or Estimated)
(P) Range opened )
Length of Burst ) see attached sheet
Range closed )
No. of rounds fired)
F/O McMullen (2303 rounds)

I encountered 4 M E 109's circling at 26,000 feet above the coast at Dover. I thought that they were waiting for the bombers to come back so that they could form the protective escort. I followed these round until one became separated from the flour and let him get well away. I then followed.

The ME 109 could not have seen me because I attacked from above and astern (range 100 yards closing to 50 yards), and enemy aircraft took no evasive action. Large pieces fell off the 109 and black smoke poured from the engine. I followed it down and it crashed into the sea just short of the French Coast near Calais.

DAP McMullen F/o

(AIR/50/21/49)

P/O Karol Pniak

Polish P/O Karol "Cognac" Pniak (76707, born 26/1/10 Szczakowa) of 32 Sqn flying from Hawkinge bails out of his burning Hurricane after it is shot down by a Bf 109. The aircraft lands on Longage Hill between Lyminge and Rhodes Minnis and Pniak lands nearby with injuries to his ankle and knee.

He may have been in combat with Bf 109s from III./JG 3 escorting 20 Ju 88s from III./KG 4 on their way to attack Hornchurch.

There are many sources that state he was shot down twice in one day but the evidence I have found does not support this account.

His combat record contains the following (AIR 50/16/25):

Sector Serial No (A)
Serial No. of order detailing patrol (B)
Date (C) 24/8/40
Flight, Squadron (D) Flight: B Sqdn.: 32
No. of Enemy Aircraft (E) 12
Type of Enemy Aircraft (F) Me. 109
Time Attack was delivered (G) 1?001 hrs
Place attack was delivered (H) near Dover
Height of Enemy (J) 20,000'
Enemy Casualties (K) 1 Me 109, probable
Our Casualties Aircraft (L) 1 Hurricane
Personnel (M) 1 Slightly injured
Searchlights: (Did they illuminate enemy if not, were they in front or behind?) (N.1) N/A
A.A. Guns: (Did shell bursts assist Pilot intercepting enemy?) (N.2)

N/A
Range at which fire was opened in in each attack delivered, together with estimated length of bursts. (P) 150 yds.
4 two second bursts.
Total No. of Rounds fired --

1280
Name of Pilot (Block Letters) -

P/O Pniak.
General Report (R) See Over.
Signature Pniak P/O
Section
O.C. Flight
Squadron
blue
B.
Squadron No.32
I was flying No 3 of Blue Section when we met 12 Me. 109's at about 2000' they were above us and attacked us. I was attacked by a Me 109 from head on and above. I circled round on this tail and closing to 150 yards gave him 2 two second bursts, he started to smoke from the engine, I followed him and gave him two more bursts, much black smoke came from the aircraft and he was diving. Just after this I felt my machine vibrating and saw smoke coming from the engine and right wing, flames also appeared from the right wing, I switched everything off and put my aircraft into a dive to land, but when I reached 5,000' the flames were so big, that I turned my plane on one side and jumped. I landed very fast because my parachute was not properly open and full of big holes, I landed 3 miles N.W. of Hawkinge, my ankle and knee were injured and I was taken to hospital.

1. On the original this is a 5 and 6 overtyped.

The casualty record for P/o Pniak (AIR 81/257) contains two telegrams - one from Hawkinge and one from 32 Sqn. at Biggin Hill:

NME
6559

Telegram en clair.

To: A.M. (C.1.Accidents and P.4.Cas.), A.M. (D.M.D.) Repeated H.Q.F.C., 11 Group, 43 Group, and Biggin Hill.

From: Hawkinge

Received M.M.C.S. 0210 hrs. 25.8.40

Z NR16 NOT W/T
AM WHI
Pass to AM Depts
GR68
A.256 24/8.
F.B. Casualty.
(A) Hurricane number unknown
(B) 32 Squadron
(C) Sibton Park, Lyminge 585605 24/8/40. Approx 1530 hours.
(D) P/O Pniac (Polish) slight foot injury after bailing out
(E) Unknown
(F) N/A
(G) N/A.
(H) Cat. three.

Time of Origin 2010 hrs. 24.8.40

Advance copies passed to:- P.4.Cas. D.R.M. M.A.P. Millbank.

Crash Circulation.. + D.A.A.C.

HPP B
GR68?? CC R0132 DT KK

CGN
6512

Telegram en clair.

To :- A.M. (C.1.Accidents, P.4.Cas) Repeated H.Q.F.C, 11 Group, 43 Group, Polish Embassy.

From:- 32 Squadron. Biggin Admin

Received A.M.C.S. 2310 hours.
24.8.40

Biggin Admin NR8 IMEDIATE SECRET NOT WT
AM WHI
Pass to (C1 Acc and P4 Cas) Polish Embassy.
GR77

A.359. 24/8.

FB
(A) Hurricane V.6572
(B) 32 Squadron
(C) Over Hswkineg Hawkinge area at approx. 1600 hours 24/8. Aircraft one mile north of Lyminge
(D) P/O K.Pniak (Polish) slight foot injury after bailing out
(E) Returning to Biggin Hill
(F) N/A
(G) Enemy action
(H) Cat three.
(J) N/A.

Time of Origin:- 2224 hours 24.8.80

Crash Circulation. D.A.A.C. (for Polish Emb:)
Advance copies passed to :- P.4.Cas. D.R.M., M.A.P. Millbank.

DF B PIP
IMI WA OVER (C) CC WA OVER ...HAWKINGE +
R....2250....R.A....AV+....K+

Local resident Arthur Wootten said of the incident:

It was one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen.

The pilot hit the ground heavily in a corn field near Ottinge, the silk canopy settling over the prostrate figure. After a pause, the hump sprang into life and a flailing man, cursing in Polish, struggled to get into the sunlight. Being Sunday, people appeared very quickly until there were about a hundred attending the tall Pole who spoke very little English and gesticulated wildly in an endeavour to explain that he'd baled out over the district the previous day. When a car came to take him back to Hawkinge, the local people formed a passage for him to reach the car and spontaneous clapping broke out - just as if he were a batsman returning to the pavilion after a spirited innings.

Shot down twice in one day

The Battle of Britain - Then and Now records the following details:

Huricane [unknown serial no]. Shot down in combat with Bf 109s and believed crashed in Dover Harbour 3.15pm. Pilot officer K. Pniak bailed out slightly injured. Aircraft lost.

Hurricane V6572. Shot down in combat with Bf 109s over Folkestone 4.20pm. Crashed at Rhodes Minnis near Lyminge. Pilot officer K. Pniak bailed out and injured ankle and knee in heavy landing. Admitted to hospital. Aircraft a write-off.

Excavated in October 1979 by the Brenzett Aeronautical Museum, which recovered a propeller boss and reduction gear and other minor components.

Hawkinge 1912-1961 records a story of Pinak being shot down into Dover harbour:

Plt Off Pniak was shot up by a Bf 109 and was forced to abandon his Hurricane over the town [Dover]. His aircraft dived into the sea just outside the breakwater. He floated down to splash into the harbour, where he was found by the crew of a naval launch, calmly sitting astride a buoy. An extremely confident and determined young man, Pniak, a Polish pilot who had joined the squadron only sixteen days before, was back at Hawkinge within the hour and was flying that afternoon when the squadron scrambled. By 16.20 hrs he had been shot up again over Lyminge and fell out of his inverted Hurricane before it crashed on the outskirts of the village. But this time he was wounded and spent the remainder of the month in hospital.

Counter arguments

His combat record only has an account of one combat on 24 August in which he was shot down. However, not all combats in which pilots participated are in the archives so the lack of a second combat is not conclusive.

Karol Pinak RAF

Subsequent actions

Ju 88 Shot down over Orkney

Grumman Martlet, piloted by Lt. L.V. Carver and Sub/Lt. T.R.V. Park, from 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, based at RNAS Skeabrae, shoots down a Ju 88 which crash lands near the farm of Flotterston in Sandwick, on the West Mainland of Orkney. Lt. K. Schipp, Fw. H. Schreiber, Uffz. J. Spoertl and Oberfefr. K. Rotter all taken prisoner. This is the first kill of the war by a UK pilot in a US aircraft. Aircraft salvage complete by 15/3/41 and stored in a hanger at Skeabrae for some time.

Ju 88 crash landed at Flotterston, Sandwick, West Mainland, Orkney on Christmas day 1940