|A formation of Fairey Battles|
By 6:00 a.m. news of German soldiers crossing the borders and paratroopers landing from Ju 52s reached the RAF and the Battle squadrons were brought up from Standby to Alert No.2 and very quickly Alert No.3 but by 10:30 a.m. when Barratt took control of the situation at Chauny the Battles were still on the ground. The Blenheims of the Component and AASF were sent on reconnaissance flights and spotted smoke over the Ruhr which obstructed most of their field of vision but vehicle columns a mile long were sighted heading north west from Kaldenkirchen. Three reconnaissance sorties in the norther sector were lost including P/O Thomas’ Blenheim of 57 squadron which came down at Echtveld at 11:30 a.m. with the crew all killed. F/Lt Wyatt of the same squadron was also injured in the arm by enemy fire
|F/Lt E Parker's wrecked Battle under guard|
Even at this early stage of operations the difficulties of operating against fleeting targets became evident. The Columns against which raids had been dispatched proved to have dispersed or to have moved elsewhere by the time the raid reached the area of operations.
This was the same problem encountered by Bomber Command over Heligoland coupled with murderous anti-aircraft fire and the threat of aerial superiority from German fighters.
his leader force-landed near Bastogne, and that he lost the remaining two aircraft near St Vith from ground fire. He was himself unable to drop his bombs because his bomb gear had been damaged and he returned followed by an Me 109. Of the remaining four aircraft there was no news at all.
None of the other crews returned or had landed in Allied controlled territory with F/Lt Madge’s Battle crashing on the Bastogne to Neufchâteau road with Sgt Whittle killed. Of the missing Battles P/O Mungovan and Sgt Robson were captured but all of P/O Skidmore’s crew and AC1 Maltby were killed. The combination of accurate ground fire and Messerschmitt patrols was starting to prove a deadly combination
|Bristol Blenheim Mk IVs|
|Crews boarding their Fairey Battle|
|Fairey Battles attacking a German column (IWM C1737)|
|Hans-Carl Mayer as a Hauptman|