7 September – On this day
The ‘Blitz’ begins:
The Germans alter the tactics of their air offensive and send a major daytime raid against London. This gives the RAF a welcome respite from the airfield attacks which have been so damaging during the last few days.
The German attack on London follows from a suggestion of Hitler which coincides with Goering’s own theories. The German tactic is that the RAF will be forced to commit its carefully hoarded reserves and that they can then be destroyed.
Kesselring’s 2nd Air Fleet is to attack London by day with its 500 bombers (including some brought from Norway and Denmark) and 600 fighters. Sperrle is to attack by night with about 300 bombers, as all his fighters have been switched to Kesselring. In addition there are about 100 Me 110’s and over 200 Stukas.
The British have about 350 aircraft in their front-line squadrons with more in reserve. Park is modifying his tactics slightly to cope with the bigger German formations and now intends pairing his squadrons where possible. In the afternoon the Germans send 300 bombers and 600 fighters to attack targets in the London dock area. The British interceptions are not well-managed because the change of tactics comes as a surprise. The bombing is very effective. During the night Sperrle follows up the attack with 250 bombers with the still blazing fires to guide them to their target. The damage is again very serious. There is little the RAF can do at night to achieve interceptions although the first airborne radar sets are coming into operation.
Losses for today:
Despite the damage done it is clear that the casualties and the disruption of civilian life are not as great as prewar fears suggested. There is no question of the Germans achieving a decisive result in these operations. These attacks become known as ‘The Blitz’ by the British people.