Thursday, 3 November 2016

The death of the Advanced Air Striking Force

The 9 May 1940 started for Air Vice Marshal Barratt in a very inauspicious way at 2:15 a.m. with a call from London to warn him that Germany had issued an ultimatum to the Dutch, however there was no confirmation from the attaché in The Hague though it seemed like another “flap” like November and April. The squadrons were again brought to standby in readiness and although nothing came to pass that day they were held in a state of preparedness.
A formation of Fairey Battles
 Early the following morning the Luftwaffe made the first move with small groups of bombers attacking airfields at Bethenville, Mournelen, Berrey-Au-Bac and Reims-Champagne dropping high explosives and incendiaries but despite destroying hangers and tool sheds only three of the AASFs Battles were lost with a further two damaged. 142 Squadron received their visitors at 4:35 a.m. with six He 111 Bombers attacking between 600 and 1000 feet but causing minor shrapnel damage to one Battle and a clutch of German ordinance which failed to explode at all! They received another attack at 6:00 a.m. with incendiaries dropped causing no damage. In total forty-three French, ten Dutch and eight Belgian airfields were hit on the first day destroying 210 aircraft though the German crews claimed up to 829 aircraft destroyed on the ground. Had the Luftwaffe intelligence been sharper then the casualties in the North of France could have been a lot worse with only twenty one of ninety one airfields being attacked with half of them not holding first line squadrons and Luftflotte 3s crews failed to find any targets.

   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
      As the day unfolded and the news of a widespread German assault on the low countries was reported the AASF were called to attack targets ten times but it was not until midday that eight Battles of 142 squadron, who had been on standby for two and a half hours, took off to attack a German column on the Luxembourg to Dippoch road. The formation had six Hurricanes flying as top cover as the low flying Battles approached the target but the danger was not coming from Messerschmitts above them this time and as soon as the Battles were close enough the German Flak opened up filling the sky with shards of hot metal that eviscerated the lightly armoured Battles at point blank range. The two sections came in at 250 feet and dropped their four 250lb bombs, set with eleven second delayed fuses. Of the seven Battles who reached the target (P/O Chalmers had returned following a problem with his landing gear) three failed to return. Sgt Spears and his crew managed to escape the Germans following their crash landing at Colmey whereas F/O Roth and his gunner were not so lucky and were taken away to the rear of the German advance and P/O Laws’ Battle crashed killing his crew. Other aircraft were severely holed with crewmen like LAC Cave, who was hospitalised on the return to base. P/O Corbett received a DFC for bringing his Battle back with an injured ankle and his observer, Sgt Irvine, dead. Despite these loses the Squadron’s record of events records proudly; “No. 142 Squadron was the first Squadron in the AASF to carryout operations on enemy columns.”
   Barratt was to dispatch other squadrons throughout the day to harass the columns with 150 squadron taking off in two sections of two and one of three taking off between 2:45 and 3:57p.m. Like 142 squadron they had had five aircraft on standby since 5:30 a.m. which was increased to eight at 9:45 a.m. and didn’t receive their preliminary orders until 1:10 p.m. The first wave led by F/Lt Weeks bombed the column found between Neufchateau and Bertrix attracting a similar hail of fire but Weekes and Sgt Andrews’ two Battles returned with P/O Campbell-Irons disappearing. The second wave also were never seen again after their take off whereas the third wing led by F/O Blom whose aircraft had been hit over Differdange by Flak which ruptured a petrol tank filling the cockpit with petrol fumes which impaired the crew’s vision and caused “Intense discomfort.” They failed to find a target between Luxembourg and Echternach but managed to find one near Gevenmacher and attacked at 100 feet and strafed with forward and rear guns but Sgt White’s Battle disappeared not long after the attack. Blom would later receive the DFC for attacking the column with his damaged aircraft despite the four missing aircraft only F/Lt Parker was killed with five men taken prisoner and Sgt White’s crew making a delayed evasion arriving on the 13 May.
   The crews of 103 squadron suffered quite extensively with three of the four bombers shot-down
F/Lt E Parker's wrecked Battle under guard
with P/O Drabble, Sgt Smith and LAC Lamble were all killed as were Sgt Poole and LAC Hutchinson of Sgt Lowne’s crew whereas P/O Wells and his crew as well as Lowne were all captured.

   The 10 May’s sorties showed that not only were the mobile columns easy targets as Allied planners had hoped but also that the Fairey Battle and indeed low flying Blenheims from Bomber Command, were exceptionally vulnerable to concentrated Flak. It was not just mobile flak batteries firing at the RAF but even German infantry firing rifles and motorbike and sidecar riders firing their mounted MG 34s! The AASF report stated:
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.
   A further raid was authorised in the early evening when it was hoped that the failing light would mean there was less chance of being caught by marauding Messerschmitts especially as there were no Hurricanes or French fighters available for escort duties. Two half sections totalling four aircraft from 12 Squadron took off between 4.50 and 5.05 p.m. Although they did not encounter the Luftwaffe they did encounter “heavy crossfire” which severed F/lt Hunts bomb control cable and he retired to Piennes whilst Sgt Young, P/o Hulse’s observer was wounded in the shoulder.
   Through the fire F/lt Simpson dropped his four bombs and pulled away but was quickly informed by his observer, Sgt Odell that petrol was streaming from the tanks and he soon noted that the engine was starting to stutter as they crossed the frontier. Knowing that they would not make it back to their base Simpson decided to put the Battle down in a field in a controlled crash at 6:15 p.m. Odell and LAC Thomlinson pulled themselves free of the now burning wreck only to realise that Simpson was still in the cockpit and hurried to save their pilot. Although Tomlinson received burns to his hands pulling a similarly burnt Simpson between the two of them they managed to get 150 yards away before the Battle blew up. For their bravery Tomlinson and Odell received the DFM and Simpson the DFC. The only other aircraft not to come back was P/O Matthews who was reported last seen landing in a field at 6:00 p.m. but the whole crew were captured.
   Other squadrons had also engaged during the day with 105 squadron losing P/O O’Brien’s Battle and 218 Squadron whose aircraft reaped a similar level of flak killing LAC Baguley in the turret of L5402. Battles from 226 squadron joined the evening raids on a convoy taking off from Reims at 5:00 p.m.. Sgt McLoughlin reported anti-aircraft batteries on the surrounding hills north and west of Luxembourg and machine guns firing yellow tracer from railway cuttings. Despite being unable to pinpoint the troop concentrations Mcloughlin dive bombed but was unable to report specific damage whilst AC Russel emptied half a pan of his Vickers ammunition into targets. Sgt Barron bombed a convoy of thirty to forty vehicles not far from a large wireless station leaving a crater in the road and a near miss some fifteen yards away. But Barron was struck y anti-aircraft fire with a German bullet passing straight through his left leg but still managed to get his craft and crew home reporting seeing F/O Kerridge’s Battle in flames south west of Luxembourg. Kerridge was killed and Corporal Dixon badly burnt as the aircraft crashed into the northern suburbs of Faubourg de Luxembourg. F/O Cameron suffered a similar fate with ground fire shooting him down leaving his crew to join Kerridge’s in a POW camp and him ding in Diekirch hospital as the surgeons operated to save his arm.
   Of thirty-two Battles to go into action on 10 May thirteen were lost and the majority of the aircraft that returned were holed and damaged. The following day saw the AASF faced similar action against German columns with French reconnaissance pinpointing one consisting of important German units on the road from Prum to Echternach on its way towards Luxembourg. Six Hurricanes were sent to cover the target area above Prum at 9:45 a.m. but they returned having seen no Battles over the target area.
   Two half sections had taken off from both 218 squadron and 88 Squadron but none made it through with all four of 218s Battles being shot down. F/O Crews was brought down by ground fire which killed his observer Sgt Jennings and left Crews and Sgt Evans POW joining F/O Hudson and his crew. P/O Murray was badly burnt but similarly captured with his gunner and his observer hospitalised by the Germans at Limberg having lost his little finger. Only P/O Ridder of 88 Squadron returned as the sole survivor albeit heavily damaged and reported that:
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
   The Blenheims of the Air Component were faring no batter in their reconnaissance duties with two
Bristol Blenheim Mk IVs
of the four sorties sent to the Albert Canal being lost with Sgt Voi lost at 3:30 a.m. and F/O Ballis failed to return from the 8:30 p.m. patrol. The other squadron to see action was 53 Squadron which returned three of four Blenheims with no footage due to low cloud but lost P/O Alistair Panton who was bounced by six Messerschmitts whose concentrated fire shattered the control panel and caused the starboard engine to explode in flames whilst Sgt Bence in the rear turret cried out that he was hit and Sgt Christie collapsed from a head wound over the navigators table. Having brought the burning Blenheim down into a meadow. Panton pulled Christie free of the burning wreck before returning to pull Bence free whilst ammunition and fuel exploded around them and the Luftwaffe fighters making strafing runs at them. Panton managed to load his crew into a commandeered car and dodge a German column and Stuka attack to get his crew into a Belgian hospital. Bence lost his left leg due to his injuries but Christie and Panton managed to escape back to British lines.
   The RAF headquarters made the decision made the decision at midday that no reconnaissance flights should be made in the Maastrict area as the Luftwaffe had gained superiority and it was too dangerous and by 1:45 p.m. the Germans had taken the Canal and occupied Tongres whilst the Belgians retired to the Gotte river and the Wehrmacht continued to grow in strength in the Belgian Ardennes and Maastricht.
   The Reconaisance information gained by the French and the Lysanders of the Air Component showed that the Belgian airforce had been decimated with thirty burnt out aircraft seen at Wunche and Tirlement airfield. Other reports had left the planners stumped as to where the German strike was going to come from with the continuing build-up of forces in the Belgian Ardennes and the powerful thrusts that had already taken Paliscul, Bouillon and Givonne with their apparent target being Sedan. The quandary came as to whether this was to draw off attention from the Low Countries or the main thrust that would bypass Maginot into the French Hinterland but the “unpleasantly strong” forces in Belgium left them unsure. Barratt signalled GQG that he was;

Not yet able to decide which of the two following enemy threats is the main attack, general axis Maastricht – Gembloux with secondary thrusts on axis Bois-le-due – Tilbery or attack in the Ardennes in general direction Mézières with purpose turning the Maginot line.
   The decision was made for them by the Belgians who on the night of 11 May had sent an urgent
Crews boarding their Fairey Battle
request stressing the need to destroy two remaining bridges over the Albert Canal situated three miles to the south west of Maastricht. The Belgians had sent a team of engineers to destroy them but they had failed to do so because they had encountered stiff German opposition which led to the decapitation of the commanding officer by shell fire which also cut all means of telephone communication.
   The two bridge, one near Veldwezelt and the other near Vroenhoven on the M-Tongros line, were being fortified by German troops with flak emplacements and with all probability an umbrella of Messerschmitts. With such staggering odds an all-out attack by the whole AASF was ruled out and a smaller formation of volunteer crews was to be sent instead.
   When the assembled crews of 12 Squadron were asked for six volunteer crews they all volunteered and lots had to be drawn. Barratt did what he could to give these men a fighting chance and coordinated with Bomber Command to attack other crossings in the Maastricht area and German columns to draw off the Luftwaffe whilst also providing ten Hurricanes as escort.
   The Battles took off at 8:18 a.m. with three under F/O Garland heading for Veldwezelt and two under F/O Norman Thomas for Vroenhoven. The sixth aircraft flown by P/O Brereton suffered from a faulty wireless set so a second aircraft was quickly appropriated but that one had a mechanical fault with the hydraulic gear on the bomb rack failing. It was too late for them to get a third aircraft ready and with disappointment the crew returned to await the results of the raid unknowing that the faults had spared their lives that day.
   F/O Thomas and P/O Davey continued with their three Hurricane escort towards Vroenhoven but encountered a sweep of around thirty Messerschmitts when they were still twenty miles from the target. The Hurricanes, though outnumbered ten to one charged into the Germans and distracted them long enough for Thomas and Davy to make their attack runs on the bridge through a fierce barrage of anti-aircraft fire and small arms. The two Battles dived from six to two thousand feet and dropped a total of eight 250 lb bombs and striking the target. Sgt Mansell, Davey’s observer reported that “On looking down we saw that one bridge now matched the other” and the escorting Hurricanes saw bombs bursting on or near the target.
   The fire was too thick though and F/O Thomas’ Battle came down in flames and crash landed next to the target with the crew quickly captured. Davy was hit quite badly and he was also quickly attacked by a 109 which made two passes before diving away through a gap in the clouds trailing smoke following a blast from AC1 Patterson’s Vickers. Mansell contacted Davy down the intercom to tell him that the port fuel tank was leaking, trailing white smoke. Davy took the decision and try and bring L5241 back but not risk the lives of his crew and whilst over Maastricht he ordered Mansell and Patterson to bail out whilst he attempted to nurse the Battle home.

Fairey Battles attacking a German column (IWM C1737)
   Garland’s formation encountered the same level of flak but Garland did not hesitate and brought
his formation down on the bridge whilst German trucks snaked across it. One of Sgt Grey’s bombs send a column of water into the air showing a near miss but others struck home with one German truck bursting into flames whilst another struck the first span but Garland was seen to immediately burst into flames and crash. As the other two aircraft pulled out of their attack runs they were set upon by the Luftwaffe with one aircraft crashing into the river and the other into a field. P/O McIntosh, despite severe burns had dropped his bombs and managed to bring the burning wreck into a landing in a field within German territory. When his crew were interrogated the German officer was incredulous that the British had allowed them two days to fortify the bridge before attacking. Sgt Marland’s was last seen climbing out of control and claimed the lives of the whole crew.  Only Davy returned to base that day out of fifteen men who left that morning. Sgt Mansell returned having evaded German patrols but AC1 Patterson broke a bone in his foot on landing and was unable to escape the German held territory.

   Although the losses were high the crossings had been destroyed which had been the main objective of the mission and the German advance slowed. Garland and Grey were both awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously whilst Davy was rested but on his return to duty he was far from enthusiastic about being back on Battles.
   Holding the Germans at the Albert Canal was to prove fruitless as Holland surrendered on the following day and reconnaissance flights, although hampered by low cloud, which caused four sorties to be aborted and enemy fire which damaged two with another failing to return, reported the Germans had crossed the Meuse. When reports of German soldiers on the left bank were reported the AASF requested permission to attack but it took the BAFF HQ three quarters of an hour later it was decided that no attack would be carried out on this occasion with the official history recording that;
 The reason for returning a negative was not recorded; probably the targets were considered unsuitable, or else action was left to the French who operated with a few bombers in this area before midnight.
   The Germans were throwing their weight against the Meuse at where their main Schwehrpunkt would be and Guderian’s combat engineers brought up the last of their bridging equipment whilst the Panzers of Army Group A began to access and the flak detachments under the command of Oberst von Hippel began to dig in around the area having been brought to the front with all due haste. The Luftwaffe were also operating over the bridgehead attacking French positions and providing an umbrella of fighter cover for the vulnerable German soldiers in rubber dinghies and combat engineers struggling to construct pontoon bridges. By the morning of 14 May the Germans had occupied a front from Vringne-sur-Meuze to Mouzon with a depth of ten miles to Vendressa-la Nelville. Despite the order the day before not to engage the AASF had been put on standby with operations planned for the morning with three half sections to attack pontoon bridges at Sedan and two half sections at the Dinant sector. The situation was fairly fluidic though and during the night French Bomber forces claimed the Dinant bridges destroyed and the AASF raid scrubbed. By first light six Battles from 113 squadron were detailed to attack four bridges over the Meuse and at Chiers and four from 150 squadron took off at 7:35 a.m. to attack pontoon bridges at the island north of Villers and between Romilly and Allincourt. Both raids reported intense anti-aircraft fire from German positions but no fighters. Both formations were given fighter escorts with Hurricanes escorting the former and the French the latter and despite one of 103s pilots being injured all of the crews returned and reported success except for the island bridge which could not be located and so instead the two Battles attacked German troops in the village of Moliry.
   The results of these early raids were encouraging especially considering the levels of loss experienced on the previous days. As the crews debriefed and supplied the Intelligence officers with fresh reports on the German disposition plans were being drawn up for attack on German columns near Breda. By 12:15 p.m. the French contacted Barratt and pleaded for all of the help he had available to stop the German advance. There was a major thrust developing in the Dinant sector but more importantly the Sedan bubble was expanding and in need of checking with the French position being attacked before they themselves could launch a counterattack. General Gamelin and General Georges requested as much help as could be mustered with Barratt contacting the Chief of the Air Staff and ordering every possible bomber to be ready from 2:05 p.m. at the shortest possible notice.
   A plan was devised in coordination with the French to see them alternate attacks with three hour intervals with the AASF up first as the French had launched an attack of forty bombers escorted by a similar number of fighters at 12:30 p.m.. Barratt’s plan was for a wide spread of five brides to be attacked by eleven Battles each attack lasting over forty-five minutes with twenty minutes between attacks. Columns were also to be attacked in the same raids from Bouillon through Givena to Sedan with all seventy seven aircraft in the air at the same time.
   As with all plans there were two minor hitches with the orders reaching 76 wing, who were due to lead the attack, not getting their orders until 3 p.m. and not getting airborne until 3:25 p.m. and, although of little impact, only seventy-one aircraft took off.
   The delay in orders meant the Battles did not arrive in order and it is difficult to say who arrived first but 12 squadron were part of the first wave sending five aircraft to attack columns and lost four including Acting F/o Clancy who was also the acting commander of B-flight who came down at Pourn-St Rémy where Clancy was taken prisoner and his crew buried. A-Flight’s Commander, F/O Vaughan faired little better despite dropping his bombs on the road between Sedan and Givonne he was brought down and killed along with his observer Sgt Shelton-Jones. Vaughn’s gunner, J. D. Wright along with Sgt Winkler’s crew were taken prisoner. The soul survivor, P/O McElligott returned to base at 4:24 p.m. having witnessed Vaughan’s attack and the German flak emplacements following his successful bombing run.
   The eight Battles of 142 squadron led by Squadron Leader Hobler were met by not only a hail of anti-aircraft fire but also standing patrols of Messerschmitts from Jg 26, Jg 27 and Jg 53 which proceeded to engage the helpless British aircraft quickly claiming F/Sgt Spears’ P2333 which came down at Choloy killing two of the crew but were repulsed by AC Greenall manning F/O Reed’s gun who claimed to have shot down one of the German fighters. Hobler also fell to the Bf 109s and was badly burnt but was assisted by his crew, Sgt Kitto and Cpl Barbrooke who helped him to evade capture. On his return the gallant Squadron leader was hospitalised and eventually evacuated. F/Lt Wight and P/O Chalmers attacked the bridges with success and returned to Berry-au-bac reporting that they had seen fresh bridge works being built on both sides of the river. They were eventually joined by Sgt Spears and P/O Oakley and his crew who had managed to escape from a forced landing at Eely leaving the only unaccounted for aircraft being F/Lt Rogers who was posted as missing but was in fact killed with his whole crew. With the high numbers of crews returning it could be argued that 147 squadrons losses were less severe than others as aircraft were easily replaced but with the pressure building on the AASF both were rapidly becoming short supply.
   The last wave from 76 wing was 226 squadron who were similarly mauled with all of the aircraft sustaining damage with Sgt Annau having to abandon his attack having had his bomb release gear shot away by flak along with his left aileron and tail plane! Squadron Leader Lockett was seen crashing in flames with only one parachute spotted and was swiftly followed by P/O Dawn and Sgt Moseley. Two Battles hit the target and returned having absorbed a lot of fire from ground forces and in the pilot’s opinion, possibly from the French!
The worst losses were felt by 105 squadron’s Battles who took off from Villeneuve-les-Vertas at 3:40 p.m. to attack three bridges over the Meuse and encountered intense flak with five Battles falling in ten minutes with four of the crews killed and fifth returning by car to the airfield later that day whilst P/O Murray’s forced landing in a heavily damaged bomber on the airfield but perhaps the luckiest escape was that of F/O Gibson who came down behind enemy lines and finding himself and his crew captured by the Germans. Seizing on an opportunity he slipped away from his guards and made it back to French lines where due to his injuries he was admitted to hospital which is where his luck ran out as he was still being treated when the Germans overtook him and he re-joined his men in captivity. The Battles of 150 Squadron who had had such relative success in the morning engaged again and dispatched four aircraft to attack the pontoon bridges but all were lost in quick succession After the first bloodless sorties carried out by the squadron the four afternoon sorties were wiped out with one survivor, LAC Summerson. The other eleven men were all killed and buried in Choloy, Douzy and Donchery cemeteries.
   The German fighter patrols were growing in number with fighters of JG 26 and 53 operating in
Hans-Carl Mayer as a Hauptman
large numbers escorting their own bombers, of which Stg 3 flew some 300 sorties a day at geschwader strength, and engaging the British as they approached piecemeal. The Blenheims of 114 and 139 squadron (flown by 114 crews) lost five of their eight strong formation with Oberleutnant Hans-Carl Mayer (1/Jg.53) claiming two of them on top of two Battles whilst his wingman Oberleutnant Ohly claimed two more Blenheims and a Battle. They approached a pair of Blenheims with Meyer taking the right-hand side one and Ohly the left and making their passes leaving one burning and then finding another pair and doing the same thing. This time Mayer pressed home his attack and claimed his fifth victory of the war. Feldwebel Stark also attacked one of the Blenheims but following a burst of fire the bomber seemed to stay airborne. Much to his wingman’s surprise Stark got closer to his victim as the Blenheim exploded engulfing the pursuing White 3 leaving no trace of either aeroplane or crews. Unteroffizier Heinrich Hönisch, Stark’s wingman also put in a claim for two Battles and a Hurricane that day.
   One of the Blenheim pilots, Sgt Marcus Potter, was attacked by four 109s with one attacking from in front and three from behind. The German fire forced Potter to jettison his anti-personnel bombs and despite attempting to strike the bridge at Sedan was forced to withdraw with severe damage to the aircraft panels, propeller, cockpit and control panel. Although during their briefing he’d been assured that there would be fighter cover over the target area he did not see a single British fighter while he overflew the target area. He was left with no illusion of the strength of the Luftwaffe over the river.
We expected them to be defending the crossing coming into France they had to come through Sedan. Obviously they were going to defend it.
   The other Battle squadrons suffered just as heavily with 218 squadron losing seven of ten aircraft with only the injured P/O Harris returning, 88 squadron lost only Sgt Ross’ Battle with all killed and L5233 was heavily damaged. The men of 103 squadron lost three of their eight attacking aircraft with P/O Cunningham receiving a direct hit from and anti-aircraft shell causing the Battle to explode mid-air killing all aboard whilst despite injury F/O Fitzgerald pressed home his attack before crashing due to damage. The injury did not slow him down as he and Cpl Madkins evaded back to Allied lines as did the other aircraft’s crew flown by Sgt Beardsley who had been pounced upon by a Bf 109.
   It was the hardest battle the AASF would ever fight and despite the heroism of the pilots flying into what they would call “Hell on the Meuse” they were slaughtered by the overwhelming German opposition. Guderian would later praise his gunners describing the battle in his memoirs:
   There was now a most violent air attack by the enemy. The extremely brave French and English pilots did not succeed in knocking out the bridges, despite the heavy casualties that they had suffered. Our anti-aircraft gunners probed themselves on this day, one and shot superbly. By evening they calculated that they had accounted for 150 enemy aircraft. The regimental commander, Oberst von Hippel later received the Knight’s Cross for this.
   Whilst crews were buried, marched to captivity or made desperate attempts to evade captivity including one wounded pilot swimming the Meuse, an observer and gunner evading sitting with their mortally wounded pilot until the he died the following day and then evading, Barratt took the news of forty aircraft lost of seventy-one and went into shock. It is reported that he went back to his office and hung a “Do not disturb sign” on the door and crying at his desk for the loss of his men.
   Within four days the AASF had been not only been blunted but decimated as a fighting force.