12th August 1940

Attack on Fighter Command's radar and fowards airfields

The Luftwaffe began a systematic assault on Fighter Command's forward airfields and radar stations. In striking at Manston, Lympne and Hawkinge aerodromes and radar installations in Kent, Sussex and on the Isle of Wight, the German Air Force struck its first real blow at Fighter Command's ground organisation.

The operations on 12 August displayed certain features which were also to be characteristic of the days ahead. Bombers, including Junkers 87s or "Stuka" dive bombers, were heavily escorted; several major raids, involving aircraft numbered in the hundreds, were undertaken and attacks were timed to coincide or closely follow one another, often on widely dispersed targets.

As these were on or near the coast, defending fighters were hard pressed to intercept incoming aircraft, although none of the major attacks escaped detection and combat. Some bombing was successful, but in other instances it was interrupted and the retreating bombers harassed.

The three airfields attacked suffered in varying degrees, but all were serviceable by the following morning. Such was the importance of keeping them open that Manston had had 350 men assigned to it to carry out repairs.

Of the six radar stations, five incurred no lasting damage and were back on air within a few hours, but the sixth, Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, was put out of action and, after further damage on 16 August, was not replaced until a new station opened at Bembridge on 23 August.