Monthly Archives: May 1940

Tuesday, 28 May 1940

Belgium

King Leopold had asked for an armistice on the 27th, and orders the Belgian armed forces to surrender. The armistice comes into effect at 0400 on 28 May.

Henri Leeanerts somehow makes his way to the coast, and during the following days is evacuated to England.

Monday, 27 May 1940: 7 p.m.

56 Squadron and 610 Squadron

Late in the afternoon S/Ldr Knowles leads half his squadron, a mixed bag from ‘A’ & ‘B’ Flights, on a patrol with 12 Spitfires from No. 610 Squadron. They are to patrol between Gravelines and Furnes (now called Veurne). At about 7 p.m. (other sources say 6.45), in the skies above Dunkirk they see ten Me110s at about their height, 20,000 feet. They attack immediately.

Knowles attacks one Me110 from beneath and almost directly behind, in the blind area for the Me110’s gunner. He gives it a five-second burst from 200 yards: ‘He burst into flames and went down in a steep spiral.’ He doesn’t see the Me110 hit the ground but has no doubt that it did.

Knowles finds another Me110 and attacks it in the same way, giving this one a 7-to-8-second burst from 250 yards. Flames and smoke appear from underneath, and it starts to go down. Knowles doesn’t see this one go down at all, for he sees a Spitfire coming directly at him. He turns away suddenly, but has no doubt about this Me110’s fate.

Knowles’s report indicates that there have been a total of between 40 and 50 enemy aircraft in the area, including others much higher. 610 Squadron’s log indicates that a solitary Heinkel was the initial object of the attack, but Knowles does not mention it in his report. This has been 610 Squadron’s first major encounter with the Luftwaffe, so the more experienced 56 Squadron Hurricanes may have been along to provide a bit of leavening.

In his report Knowles notes one Hurricane and its pilot missing: this was F/O ‘Fish’ Fisher, who turns up at Margate hospital.

Monday, 27 May 1940: 4.15 p.m.

56 Squadron

At about 4.15 p.m. Squadron leader E.V. Knowles is leading the twelve Hurricanes of No. 56 Squadron on an ‘offensive patrol’ between St Omer and Ostend. It is the second day of the Dunkirk evacuation, and the squadron has temporarily moved base from North Weald to Manston, less than 50 miles from the action. As they approach Ostend they sight ten Heinkel 111s at 10,000 feet, indicated by bursts of anti-aircraft fire around them.

Knowles keeps one section of three aloft as protection, and leads the rest of the squadron in attacking the Heinkels from behind. He selects the left-most Heinkel and sets its port engine quickly ablaze; it peels away and down and eventually crashes. The other Heinkels jettison their bombs into the sea.

John Coghlan, now promoted Acting Flight Lieutenant and leading the second section, attacks the right-hand Heinkel. He gives it a five-second burst at 100 yards, then two more as he closes in. The fuselage is now on fire, but Coghlan has fired all his ammunition. Two other Hurricanes tear in to finish the job: P/O ‘Fish’ Fisher and F/O ‘Minnie’ Ereminsky. Fisher’s windscreen becomes covered in oil from the blazing Heinkel, which goes down and crashes. Coghlan breaks off and heads home to Manston.