20 September 1940 – A southwesterly wind at 5 mph, initially overcast but clearing to variable amounts of cloud, with occasional rain and moderate to good visibility. On account of the weather, Luftwaffe activity was confined to reconnaissance flights by individual aircraft, except between 10:50 and 12:00 when a raid of 100 enemy aircraft took place.
Eleven units were scrambled to intercept them but only 41, 72, 92, 222, 253, and 603 Squadrons succeeded in doing so. For their part, ten of 41 Squadron’s pilots took off at 11:20, led by Flt Lt Norman Ryder, with an order to patrol Manston. Plt Off Eric Lock (X4338) was designated as the spotter. They joined up in the air with fellow Hornchurch based 603 Squadron, and climbed further, but the two units were dived upon by a large number of Me109s and both were hit hard.
It appears they were taken by surprise as one of 603 Squadron’s pilots was killed, a second baled out and a third crashed on landing, though uninjured, for the claims of only two Me109s damaged. 41 Squadron came out of the fight little better, having two pilots shot down, although unhurt, for two enemy aircraft destroyed. It is believed that the two 41 Squadron pilots in question were Fg Off John Mackenzie (R6887) and Plt Off ‘Ben’ Bennions (X4101), but the ORB provides little detail.
Meanwhile, Lock had been over Maidstone by himself as spotter, and was involved in combats of his own. He had climbed to 33,000 feet, and just ten minutes later sighted several enemy bombers crossing in near Dover at 15,000 feet, and reported them to the Controller. A short while later, he spotted three He113s [Me109Es] with orange noses “going round in a circle between Maidstone and Canterbury” just 3,000 feet below him.
He dived towards them but was seen, and the three aircraft split up in all directions. He picked out one that was diving towards Dover, and fired several one-second bursts from ranges of 250 yards down to 100. He had no trouble overhauling the aircraft, owing to his height and speed.
White vapour emanated from under the aircraft’s starboard wing after three bursts, and then flame issued from its engine. They then passed over the Dover Balloon Barrage “with only a few feet to spare”, and the enemy aircraft continued in a shallow dive until it crashed into the Channel approximately 15 to 20 miles northwest of Boulogne.
Lock then climbed back to the cloud base at 2,000 feet and orbited the area. Within a short time, a Henschel Hs126 reconnaissance aircraft “appeared from nowhere” and circled the downed aircraft at an altitude of no more than 50 feet. Grasping the opportunity, Lock dived on it and fired a two-second burst from 75 yards down to point blank range. The Henschel went directly into the Channel, tail first.
Seeing several more Hs126’s flying up and down the Channel below the cloud base, Lock climbed above it and headed home to claim the Me109 and the Hs126 destroyed. They were also Lock’s 15th and 16th claims, and he was now a triple Ace.
[Excerpts from “Blood, Sweat and Courage” (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without permission, please.]
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