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.