Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4

Black 6, flown Hauptmann Ernst Wiggers, 2./JG 51, St. Inglevert/France, 6 September 1940

From August 24 to September 6, two weeks of fighting the RAF Fighter Command had lost a staggering 250 fighters batteling the Luftwaffe over England. During the same period, they had written off no less than 231 fighter pilots, of whom 103 KIA and 128 WIA, depleted by almost a quarter of their pilots on hand. These huge losses could not be covered by the addition of newly trained pilots, as only around 130 pilots were issued to the various Squadrons during this period. In fact their numbers dropped drastically from the end of July 1940, when the British had 1430 pilots, down to just 840 during the first week of September. Many Squadrons had to be taken out of the battle due to heavy losses and the fighting spirit among the pilots had reached rock bottom. Wing Commander Fuller-Good, who commanded the sector base Debden, recalled: "I was absolutely convinced that we were defeated, that we had lost the battle. I was incredibly tired and deeply depressed". One example is the pilots from 257 Sqn. that by this time were described as: "a sad crowd, shabby, listless and leaderless, quarreled with each other for the slightest trifle. They drank copiously but without joy". It was noticed that RAF pilots by now started to avoid missions, complaining of a variety of ailments. This period was later described as the "critical period" by the RAF Fighter Command.

This day, on 6 September the Luftwaffe fighter pilots filed claims for no less than 53 enemy aircraft shot down, for an own loss of 19 Bf 109s and 4 Bf 110s and an additional seven bombers. RAF on the another hand claimed 36 Bf 109s and three Bf 110 and another seven Luftwaffe aircraft shot down (the British AA claimed another four bombers downed) all for the loss of 39 fighters, 29 Hurricanes and 10 Spitfires. Hauptmann Ernst Wiggers, the leader of 2./JG 51 flying in this "Black 6" downed a Spitfire this day, one of three that was claimed by the first Gruppe of JG 51, all without any own losses.

The next day, September 7, Hermann Göring arrived at the canal front to monitor the next phase of the air war against England, the attack on London. Göring, who had personally opposed the attack on the British capital, was however forced to bow to Hitler, who after Churchill initiated the RAF bombings of Berlin had promised the Germans a powerful retaliation. This would result in a respite for Fighter Command, especially their bases which at this time were more or less bombed out of the battle.

Park in a later report to Downing concluded that one more week of Luftwaffe airbase attacks, crippeling its installations would have resulted in that London had been left without air defenses.

Note that this particular profile with parts of this caption would be published in Profile book No 11

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