Volume 3, Chapter 42
“War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts.”
-George S. Patton
“Red 16, watch your behind!”
“I can’t see him, where is he?”
“Haha, go to hell those damn Brits… Ah! One’s trailing! Shit, I need assistance!”
“Pay attention to the squadron in front. I’ll take the lead, watch the left!”
“This is Blue 7. My plane’s knocked, I need to withdraw. Those damn Brits.”
“Keep the pace, loosen up! Hell, Green Squadron, where are you?”
“Two Spitfires! Incoming!”
These conversations blared into the ears of the German pilots. In the chaos, no one took care slowly communicate their situations. Rhodes was one of the Germans pilots listening to all of this. Slamming the stick forcefully to the right. Sending the plane into a beautiful roll as a few strings of bright tracer fire whizzed past.
“Damn, this person is really difficult.” Rhodes cursed. The British plane had been following him tightly for a minute already. No matter how he maneuvers, he still can’t throw him off. The gunfire was ever so close to shooting him down. The pilot must be as sensitive as a reindeer.
The airspace of Dunkirk escalated into pandemonium. The lead plane, the wingman, unit formations, squadron formations, they were all thrown out the window. Both the British and German pilots all forgot the basic tactics of organized warfare. Only scrambling and shooting about at the nearest enemy plane. There was no cooperation, no trickery, only killing. If the plane was good, victory. If poor, hell.
Whether it be the Spitfires, Defiants, Skuas, or Hurricanes. Each was fighting to hold the last of the honor and prestige of the Royal Air Force. Leaving the German Messerschmitt 110 pilots to face the enemy’s unprecedented madness and stubbornness. Although the German fighters had the greater firepower and numerical advantage, it was still a very difficult fight.
The Hurricanes, especially, were of no match to the Germans. However, they still raged as they struggled with the German fighters. The white phosphorus incendiary rounds played their deadly role. A fireball could be occasionally seen streaking across the sky. The British pilots who were hit in the cockpit were even more miserable. Most often burning alive in their seats.
The most pitiful of them all were the three squadrons of Skuas. They were by no means a fighter plane. Their original purpose was to destroy the slow-moving German bombers. Where their four machine guns could still be effective. But they did not expect their opponents to all be elite fighters. Fifteen minutes later, only three of the planes were still in the air. The entire harbor was filled with the debris and corpses of the Skua dive-bombers.
[MD: The RAF squadron (24-32 planes) is different than a Luftwaffe squadron (9-12)]
The Defiants also suffered heavy losses. The German pilots were trained to recognize the plane from a thousand meters away. Taking the proper measures, the planes were torn into pieces or burst into flames within seconds.
The only obstacle in front of the Germans were the infamous Spitfires. No matter from which point of view, the Spitfire outperforms the German fighters in almost every category. Although the gap was not enough to crown a victor immediately, it was enough to pose a serious threat to the Me109s.
However, the Germans still maintained the overall advantage. This was mainly because their airport was nearby, had adequate fuel, and withdrawal was an option at any time. Whereas, the British were taking off from airfields across Britain and flying all the way to Dunkirk, causing some fatigue among the pilots. This was but another psychological obstacle of fighting on enemy territory. The long flight distance also greatly reduced the time each plane could fight. The pilots were always reminded to pay attention of their fuel. After all, their goal was to always fly back safely to Britain.
And so, in the beginning of the battle, the British pilots were in a passive state. In the next engagement, more than a dozen fighters were shot down. The blood of their fellow pilots finally threw the pilots out of their trance. Finally coming to the realization that fuel and airspace were not really so important. If they don’t fight desperately now, then they will be annihilated by the German air force.
The training of the Royal Air Force was very strict and rigorous. Being quite experienced in practical dogfight tactics and maneuvering. When the RAF began to seriously fight, the German losses began. The British fighter sections were skilled in cooperating and managed to strike a series of blows to the Germans.
During the beginning, both sides took to regular, neat formation battles. However, the good times didn’t last more than a couple minutes. Because the area was too small, those tactics soon became useless. As any lone fighter acting as bait would quickly be crushed by the enemy’s formation. Soon, the goal of both sides evolved to breaking the other’s formation with brute force. The two sides both paid a considerable price. However, that was only the start of the carnage. The actual battle was only just starting.
The pilots of both sides had bloodshot eyes as they gazed at the near wall of circling fighters. Even the squadron commanders began to act rashly. Intense fighting, scattered wreckage, planes exploding into fireballs, hot tracer rounds passing by. The massive amounts of adrenaline became so much the pilots could hardly contain their bloodlust. Their minds blurred with the desire to survive and kill. Wielding their cold and merciless machines, they continued to circle the sky. However, their minds were focused calculating how to destroy their opponents. They shouted to their companions furthering the intense atmosphere. Their bloodthirsty eyes shining a cold glint as they looked at their targets. In the eyes of the pilots, the enemy was only a target, the target being the plane. The enemy pilots were no longer pilots but instead part of that hulking beast.
As the battle raged, the knight’s honor was cast away and trampled upon. Both sides aiming directly towards the enemy cockpit. The Germans sometimes firing at the enemy fuel tanks, causing great fireballs to engulf the plane. The fighting grew more and more intense as each second ticked by. From each of the pilot’s headphones came the helpless screams of their companions. Further stealing their resolve, they fired their guns recklessly any enemy that passed.
There was no fear, no mercy. No justice nor evil, only the primal urge to kill.
The illusion of honor was only means to comfort themselves. All of the pilots understood this. That is why they quickly discarded it for the subsistence of fire and blood. Only they could bring comfort to their minds. Giving a crazy roar, the cannons were firing seemingly without end. The enemy soon became drowned in a hail of bullets. Tearing at its metal body and ripping the plane into tatters. Then with a sudden explosion, the whole plane would become like a burning torch as it fell out of sight. A burst of excitement and extreme satisfaction would fill the pilot before he turned to look for his next target. Then this is repeated before he encounters another like-minded enemy.
When the first of the German reinforcements arrived at the battlefield, it only contributed to the chaos. These new forces have not yet understood the flow of this crazy battle. In the beginning, the newly joined squadrons wanted to keep formation and use standard tactics. After two minutes, the commanders realized that it was a mere fantasy. As the losses to the squadrons piled up, the fighters were given free reign and enthusiastically joined the massacre.
Arguably, the new pilots were even crazier than the previous ones. Perhaps because of the anxiety fueling the hatred of the British. Ironically, the British Spitfire pilots adopted a successful strategy of singling out and hunting down individual Me109s. At the time, one of the Spitfires managed to strike the Me109’s engine as it tumbled into low altitude. Both sides quickly utilized this strategy, however, little did the British know that this tactic further inflamed the young, hot-headed German pilots. Causing the battle to become even crueler and bloodier than before.
Finally, the British Royal Air Force’s second wave of fighters arrived. The result was that they also behaved similarly to the German reinforcements. This crazy, vicious cycle continued. As the battle dragged on, and planes ran low on fuel, ammo, or were injured. Pilots on both sides, in their crazed bloodlust, abandoned the option of the parachute. Not hesitating to collide head-on with nearby enemy planes. This was because parachuting would mean certain death. As the enemy would not hesitate to shoot those who jumped.
Now the battle of Dunkirk became a contest of the two air forces. The Germans had to destroy the Royal Air Force to show their dominance. Whereas, the British had to defeat the Germans and gain control over the airspace to cover the evacuation. The whole situation became an unexpected one for Dowding. Although he had anticipated being intercepted by the Germans; he would never expect the German Air Force to completely counter him. Sending only the most elite, battle-hardened fighter planes. The German bombers that he expected have not even appeared. Furthermore, he didn’t expect that his pilots would lose their sense of control as they entered the bloody battlefield. They are now tangled with the Germans and forgot their original purpose. Even the squadron commanders have lost their heads in this madness.
At that time, the German bombers have not yet arrived. In order to seize the skies above Dunkirk, Churchill strictly ordered for another batch of elite fighters to be sent into battle. Currently, this new wave of reinforcements is still over the English Channel. By waiting until the reinforcements arrive, the battleships would have been long sunk by the Germans. The debris floating like dead fish on the surface. The German bombers would have long since left the scene.
Dowding really despised the Navy to the bone. The Navy was busy ordering him to send more planes to protect their wounded battleships, yet they didn’t know how to do anything except waste his precious pilots and planes. Now they’re demanding for him to prevent their ships from being sunk. As if that was a possibility at this point. The German bombers have been sighted. It would only be a minute or two until contact. If worse comes to worse, the Navy wanted him to sink the warships to prevent the Germans from towing them away for their own use.
Thus, two more elite Royal Air Force squadrons were dispatched to Dunkirk. However, this time it was not to cover the evacuation. The moment the Navy’s warships were destroyed, the British Expeditionary Force was effectively abandoned. Their new task was to cover those seriously damaged warships.
As the fighter squadrons gradually disengaged and withdrew, reports started to come in. From them, Dowding could get an accurate representation of the German’s strength. Initial estimates state that only 30% of his fighters made it out. Furthermore, the only planes that survived the carnage were Spitfires and Hurricanes. All other models were effectively wiped out.
Several surviving squadrons reported to him of the bloodiness of the battles. As well as the insanity and fierceness of the German pilots. From the initial reports, there were over sixty German fighter squadrons. Showing that they were fighting against two whole German Fighter Corps.
His heart has been made keenly aware of the RAF’s inability to capture the port. Thinking in the long-term, the Royal Air Force suffered too much damage in this operation. Although new aircraft can be added, the loss of elite pilots was a whole different matter. Dowding was just hoping to quickly throw away this burden and be free from this damn trap.
Biting his teeth, he sent new orders to the two elite Hurricane squadrons. Dowding was prepared to use their sacrifice to block the retreat of the main force. By sacrificing two squadrons, he could potentially save the remaining dozens of fighter squadrons. In the end, it would still be worth it. Even if it meant sending them to die a forever dishonorable death, forever shrouded in the name of defeat.
An hour later, over the harbor of Dunkirk, the last Hurricane was shot down by a similarly ragged German air force.
The Luftwaffe had won the final victory over Dunkirk in the battle for air supremacy.
Although they also paid a heavy price, it was insignificant. Because at that moment, in the eyes of all European powers, a crowning achievement was accomplished. The pride of the British Empire, the Royal Air Force was decisively defeated. Their title as the strongest eagle in the sky sank into the English Channel along with the remains of the solemn Hurricanes.
MD: Final chapter of the actual battle. The four chapters until the end of the volume are all of the battle’s aftermath. I’ll be taking a 1 day break to do some TL’ing of the other series.