Wednesday, 10 July 1940

The Battle of Britain is deemed to have been started on July 10 with large-scale attacks on convoys in the English Channel. There had been smaller-scale convoy attacks before, but historians will later require the Battle of Britain to have a neat beginning and end.

English Channel, ten miles south of Lydd

At about 2.30 p.m., John Coghlan is in ‘A’ Flight — it’s not clear whether he is leading the Flight — when they encounter about 50 enemy aircraft above the Dover Straits, a mix of Do217s, He111s, Me109s and Me110s. Coghlan’s narrative is worth reading verbatim:

“I sighted a number of bombers, Do.215 and He 111’s and a fighter escort of Me 110 and 109’s. The bombers were attackin a convoy. Before attack commenced the Me 110’s formed a large circle at 10,000 feet and the me 109 formed a similar circle at 14,000 ft. I attacked one of the Me 110’s from 1000 ft above, but some Me 109’s came down, and after a short dog fight I eluded them. I then again attacked one of the Me 110’s which had by now broken up. I saw bullets burst on fuselage and wing between pilot and rear gunner and the port engine burst into flames, and the e/a broke away downwards and to the right. I was then attacked by a number of the Me 109’s and I became aware of their presence behind me by red cannon shots over my port wing. I pulled up and throttled back and they shot underneath me and I then dived down on two of them and got a good three second burst in on each, from 50 to 30 yards range. I saw my bullets, in each case, enter the fuselage in front of the pilot. I was then attacked head on by a Me 109. After this, all the Me 109’s had disappeared and I feel certain that the engines of the two Me 109’s attacked by me must have been severely damaged. I found that I could better out-manoeuvre the Me 109’s and 110’s with 5 to 10 degrees of flap lowered. The loss of speed to my Hurricane was not appreciable Engine revs were 28.00 on my rotol airscrew.”

TNA AIR 50 / 22
Coghlan claims one Me110 (confirmed) and two Me109s damaged.

No. 2 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), RAF Brize Norton

Sergeant John Austin takes up Airspeed Oxford No. 1932 for a 40-minute flight, with Sgt Blair as crew, for Exercise No. 10 – ‘Air to Air’. Later his logbook is marked, his training is complete, and he is signed out of No. 2 SFTS with an ‘Average’ Rating. (For readers used to present-day school assessment gradings, an RAF pilot’s rating of ‘Average’ was a solid pass. ‘Above the average’ was rare, and ‘Exceptional’ really was.)