Monday, 30 September saw the last major daylight attack against London. Before noon, the Germans sent two large formations of between 200 and 300 aircraft towards London. Both raids were intercepted by large numbers of RAF fighters. Heavy fighting took place over Kent and both attacks were turned back before they could reach the capital.
With similar debacle of 27 September freshly in the memory, it was another bitterly disappointing day for the Luftwaffe. The superior strength and confidence of the RAF in the air was readily apparent, even to many ordinary pilots. Several of them reported that some of the German fighter escort would not come down to defend their bombers. This despite the fact that the Luftwaffe was putting up 1,000 fighter sorties against 173 bomber that day – a record fighter-to-bomber ratio of nearly 8:1!
Other units of the RAF were not so fortunate. No. 303 (Polish) Squadron from Northolt got separated in the clouds from the “big wing” it was supposed to form with No. 1 and No. 229 Squadrons. Breaking through the cloud, the Poles flew straight into a swarm of 150 to 200 Bf 109s and Bf 110s. In the resulting confusion, the Poles had a greatest difficulty to disengage from the superior enemy. Only the cloud cover saved the squadron from heavy casualties.
Another major onslaught was attempted in the afternoon, when a force of 180 aircraft again tried to reach the capital. Luckily for the defenders, this attack was also repelled – only about 30 German aircraft managed to get through to London.
The Luftwaffe losses for the day were 43 aircraft with 11 damaged, while the RAF lost only 16 with an additional 17 damaged. Even more significantly, the British fighters accounted for the loss of no less than 27 Messerchmitts Bf 109 while losing just seven of their own number. It was the first day of the battle when RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes significantly outperformed their fighter adversaries.
It was now obvious even to the general public that the RAF was winning its decisive battle. Journalist Noel Monks wrote on the pages of Daily Mail:
“The RAF have weather with the passing of September, the ‘crisis month’ of the war. On the first of the month that ends today a high Air Ministry official said to me: ‘As far as the RAF are concerned, this is the critical month of the war: I will be glad when it is past.’
Now it is past. And the RAF, who have hurled back every attack made on them, the airmen who have destroyed more than 1,000 German aircraft for the loss of only 286 of their own fighters, have come out on top.”
Similar realization predominated also on the German side. Adolf Galland told Goering on 27 September:
“In spite of the heavy losses we are inflicting on the enemy fighters, no decisive decrease in their number or fighting efficiency was noticeable.”
After the debacle of 30 September, the Luftwaffe bombing raids steadily decreased. The massed bomber “Valhallas” never appeared over Kent again, being replaced by smaller raids and elusive fighter-bomber assaults. Air Chief Marshal Dowding made a proper analysis of the situation:
“By the end of the month it became apparent that the Germans could no longer face the bomber wastage which they had sustained”.
After another fiery blame on his fighter pilots, Reichsmarschall Goering made the decision to call off daylight operations “because of the deterioration in weather conditions”. The real reason was, however, that the Luftwaffe could not bear any more losses, weariness, deteriorating morale and self-complacent leadership.
So ended the daylight bombing offensive against London which had started three weeks previously.
The Battle of Britain had been finally, and irreversibly, lost to the Luftwaffe.
- Earle Lund: The Battle of Britain – A German Perspective, Campaign Analysis Study, USAF, 1996
- Daily Mail, 30 September 1940, via Airminded
- Adam Zamoyski: The Forgotten Few – Polish Air Force in the Second World War, Pen & Sword, 2009
- Adolf Galland: The First and the Last – The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945, Ballantine Books, 1957