10th July 1940 is considered by historians nowadays as the first day of the Battle of Britain. This initial phase saw the harassment of Allied convoys in the English Channel by Luftwaffe bombers.
The first blibs on the radar were the reconnaissance planes, followed by 26 Dornier-17s, 26 Bf-109s & 40 Bf-110s.
The RAF were protecting the convoys by 6 Hawker Hurricanes, but were later supported by 5 fighter squadrons. Fighter pilot and Group Commander Werner Kreipe of III./KG 2 described the attack on the convoy:
“The convoy had been sighted between Dover and Dungeness. Our briefing took only a few minutes, and within a half hour of being airborne we had sighted the coast of Kent. The Channel was bathed in brilliant sunshine . . . A light haze hung over the English coast, and there, far below us, was the convoy, like so many toy ships with wispy wakes fanning out behind. As soon as we were observed, the ships of the convoy dispersed, the merchantmen maneuvering violently and the escorting warships moving out at full speed. Anti-aircraft shells peppered the sky. Our fighters now appeared. We made our first bomb run, and fountains leapt up around the ships . . . By now the fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force had joined in, and the sky was a twisting, turning melee of fighters . . . My wing was in the air for three hours in all. We reported one heavy cruiser and four merchant ships sunk, one merchant ship damaged and eleven British fighters shot down or damaged. We had lost two bombers, two twin-engined fighters and three single-engined fighters during the course of this engagement.”
At the end of the day, 13 Luftwaffe aircraft and 7 RAF aircraft were lost, in addition to one coastal ship sunk.