The last Dornier

by Miro Barič

The wreck was carefully laid down on the stand-by barge using the crane.

More than 2100 Do 17 bomber aircraft were built in several versions. Only a couple survived The World War II and the last one seemed to have

been scrapped in Finland in 1952. It looked like not a single one survived afterwards. It all changed in June 2013 however when almost complete wreck of this aircraft, shot down during the Battle of Britain, was recovered from the sea bottom in Goodwin Sands area.

Monday, August 26, 1940 initially did not look like a day of the major operations.

British Isles were covered with thick clouds but in the south the clouds were hanging higher and there were no precipitations so the visibility below clouds was

pretty good. Shortly before midday the first strong Luftwaffe formation was headed

towards Kent and Essex. The British radar captured 150 aircraft strong formation approaching from Lille direction. KG2 and KG3 had launched their Dornier Do

17s against British airports Debden and Hornchurch. It was not a massive raid

however, the majority of the formation consisted of Messerschmitt Bf 109s. The

main objective was to lure British fighters into a dogfight. The intention brough

success-Fighter Command launched six squadrons against the incoming enemy.

616 Squadron fared the worst, its Spitfires were taking off while Bf 109 were right

overhead. The unlucky squadron lost seven Spitfires with two pilots killed.

Chaotic combat caused the bombs to fall in rather wide area. Under the British

attack the Dorniers were getting rid of their bomb loads aiming at the closest sui-

Do 17Z from an unidentified unit in 1941. Note that armament consisted of 8 machine guns.

INFO Eduard - March 2021

table targets. Consequently the airports Kenley and Biggin Hill, cities Dover and

Folkestone and sea resorts Margate and Broadstairs suffered from the bombing

as well. Flying somewhere in this melee was the 7. Staffel, III. Gruppe/KG 3 Do 17

formation, which had taken off from Belgium St. Trond. In the area Margate-Herne

Bay it became a target of 264 Squadron flying gun turret equipped Boulton Paul Defiants.The attack was led by F/Lt Banham launched from Hornchurch homebase.

The squadron combat report gives a very detailed description of events.

At 11:42 British fighters received orders to scramble and patrol in Dover area where the approaching enemy bombers were expected. At the altitude of 11000 feet

(3350 meters) twelve Do 17s flying in V-formation were spotted. Defiants started to

climb towards them and in Herne Bay-Deal area attacked them from below while

taking the shape of the same V-formation.Dorniers did not perform any evasive

manoeuvres and were defending themselves by their machine guns cross-fire.

Defiant crews noted that the defensive fire was not only coming from the aircraft

noses and tails but also from the fuselage side positions. Dorniers were armed

with six machine guns then. In its report 264 Squadron rather euphemistically stated that during the combat with Do 17s they were bothered by at least 50 Bf 109s

which continued diving on them but according to the document were not really

engaging. The mentioned „bothering“ and „ not engaging“ actually resulted in two

Defiants shot down in very quick sequence, almost at the same time. In another

aspect were the 264 Squadron crews lacking the sharp eye. They stated that besides Bf 109 He 113 fighters sporting yellow wing tips were also present. He 113 was

just product of the German propaganda.

Successes and losses

Defiants landed at 13:00 and their crews claimed six Do 17s and one Bf 109 shot

down. Another Do 17 was supposedly damaged. P/O Hughes and Sgt. Gash reported two Dorniers going down in flames with pieces of the airframe flying off. Sgt.

Thorne and Sgt. Barker also reported two Do 17s crashing in flames into the forests

near Herne Bay. They added one Bf 109 crashed in flames as well. F/Lt Benham and

Sgt. Baker claimed another Dornier whose crash in flames was witnessed by Sgt.

Thorne. The last bomber was claimed by P/O Goodall and Sgt. Young. Last time they

spotted their victim it was burning with two crew members bailing out. As mentioned earlier for these successes 264 Squadron paid a price with three aircraft

destroyed and another Defiant landed seriously damaged. At 12:26 after being hit

by Bf 109 the aircraft L6985 crashed into the sea near Herne Bay. Its pilot survived

but the gunner, Sgt. Baker remains missing. L7025 shared exactly the same fate.

At 12:26 after being hit by Bf 109 it also crashed into the sea near Herne Bay. Its pilot