Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940
“It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.” Peggy Jane Skinner’s Schoolgirl diary, Friday 16 August 1940
The Battle of Britain now forms part of the New National Curriculum primary history unit, such as this interesting Year 6 unit from Cornwall Learning studied by many Cornish schools Inspire Curriculum Year 6 unit The Battle of Britain Bombs Battle and Bravery. The 75th anniversary year 2015 is being marked by many memorial events, especially around Battle of Britain Day 15 September 1940. Now commemorated as “Battle of Britain Day”, 15th September was the day people in Kent and London witnessed large battles between Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe. German casualties were heavy, although not nearly as heavy as was claimed at the time.
There is an interesting Wikipedia entry on this other claimant to the “Hardest Day” (18th August is also cited as a very tough day): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain_Day
It’s interesting to see the Royal Mail Battle of Britain commemorative stamps , as we did a whole schools stamp project / blog (blending history and science) with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo on Darwin and the Victorians through stamps 2009.
The Battle of Britain and Blitz seen through a teenager’s diary, Summer 1940 My collection of mostly civilian WW2 wartime diaries is the source for many blogposts and anecdotes for teaching our wartime zoo history workshops.
Amongst my favourite is that of teenager Peggy Skinner (1924-2011). Peggy was a London schoolgirl who was studying in Glasgow as her engineer father was on war work there, probably in the Hillington Rolls Royce or other Clydeside war-related engineering works). We wrote about her in the past on what would have been her 90th Birthday in 2014: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/happy-90th-birthday-peggy-jane-skinner
Here in a new selection of diary entries from her Letts Schoolgirl Diary 1940, Peggy recalls the bombing in Glasgow / Clydeside and the air battles down South over Surrey and London, where the rest of her family live. I have included some of my research in the Editor’s Notes on what is happening in the diary and the wider war. I have put these dairy entries online to be available to teachers and students; Copyright remains with the Mark Norris /World War Zoo Gardens collection if you quote from or publish these elsewhere. Please contact me via the comments form if necessary.
Peggy Skinner’s diary , Renfrew, Glasgow 1940 Tuesday 11th June 1940 – Nice early on today but very cloudy and dull later on. The news is very black now with I [Italy] against us, but we’ll win.
Saturday 13th July 1940 – Lovely afternoon but raining this morning. I went to tennis this afternoon, had one game a singles with Bunty. An air raid warning last night which I slept through, this is the second we’d had.
Sunday 14th July 1940– Went to church this morning, a terrible lot of people came in late. I went for a walk this afternoon right round the factories. Editor’s Note: ‘factories’ – Hillington, to the southeast of Peggy’s house, was home to an industrial estate built in the late 1930s, including the Rolls Royce aero engine factories, protected by Anti-Aircraft (AA) batteries on Renfrew golf course. This area was bombed again on 24th July 1940.
Friday 19th July 1940– A bomb was dropped in Yoker which hit a tenement and killed five people (three of them children) and injured a lot of others, and one was dropped in Hillington this morning. No warning was given but the aeroplane and bombs were heard. Editor’s note: The Yoker bombing is widely covered on various Glasgow blitz websites.
Saturday 20th July 1940– Went to Ninotchka this afternoon with Bunty. It was very funny in parts but it was inclined to be sloppy. We had an air raid last night I slept during [it], time bombs were dropped, but woke up later on.
Tuesday 23rd July 1940– Had a raid warning just after dinner time, lasted about an hour. Nothing happened, very disappointing.
Wednesday 24th July 1940 – I was woken this morning about 6 o’clock because bombs were being dropped and there was a lot of noise from A-A guns. Factories at Hillington hit. No warning.
Thursday 25th July 1940 – Went with Bunty to see damage done at Industrial Estate. Not much at all, one factory or block of factories pretty badly damaged, nothing else except broken windows.
Saturday 10th August 1940 – Rotten day, very windy tonight. Finished giving book-case first coat of paint, barely enough. Played table tennis at Bunty in afternoon. Editor’s Note: What was to become known as ‘The Battle of Britain’ was beginning far to the south above the skies of Peggy’s family and old home area of Surrey on this date.
Friday 16th August 1940 – We listened to Haw-Haw, just as he said Britain never attacked he suddenly closed down, just as though the RAF had decided to pay him a visit.
[Additional note in Memoranda section:] It is marvellous the way the RAF are adding to their cricket score. We put on the wireless at every news to hear how many more Jerries they’ve added to their score. Yesterday it was 180 for 34 of ours (from whom many pilots are safe). Since the beginning of the week excluding today they have brought down over 400.
Editor’s note: German propaganda radio such as William Joyce (‘Lord Haw Haw’) was broadcast from major cities like Berlin or Hamburg and often shut down when an RAF air raid was in progress in order to avoid the planes homing in radio signals to find the cities – a form of radio blackout – see Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War 1939-1945. It’s interesting too how Peggy picks up what seems today slightly callous but then popular, media approach of sporting ‘scores’ of planes and lives lost, still represented in the modern infographic (below).
Sunday 18th August 1940 – Went to church, saw all the soldiers marching down both from Renfrew and from Moor Park afterwards. Lot more raids along the South Coast.
Editor’s note: These south coast raids and next day’s German losses are during what is often called the ‘Hardest Da’y of the ‘Battle of Britain’ 18th August 1940 – see inforgraphic below for 18th August 1940.
Monday 19th August 1940 – Quite a nice day, though chilly towards evening. 140 Jerries brought down yesterday. Walk in evening.
Friday 6th September 1940 – Air Raid Practice yesterday, fire drill today. Played table tennis at Bunty’s tonight. Latin was terribly boring. Made an awful lot of smells in Chem.
Editor’s Note: Air Raid practice for Peggy and her classmates was timely as down South on September 7th 1940, the London Blitz bombing began. From September 1940 to May 1941 40,000 civilians were killed out of the overall 65,000 civilian casualties.
By 27th September, Mrs Skinner is thinking of asking Peggy’s cousins or young relatives up to the relative safety of Glasgow. The bombing of Glasgow continued but the devastating Clydebank Blitz was not to take place until March 1941; sadly we don’t have another of Peggy’s Diaries until 1943.
Sunday 15th September 1940 – Communion, Bible class, evensong. Was round [church] hall this evening when sirens went so I just had to trot home. Warning didn’t last long.
Thursday 19th September 1940 – There have been two short raid warnings so far this evening. There was a lot of gun-fire and we think some bombs dropped as we had to get up last night although there was no warning. Four warnings night before last.
Editor’s Note: The 18th September marked, according to some, the first serious night raid on Glasgow, destroying a building in Royal Exchange Square and setting fire to a cruiser in Yorkhill docks. The nearby Yorkhill hospital had to be evacuated. http://yoker.eveningtimes.co.uk/area/the-dark-days-of-world-war-two.html
Friday 27th September 1940 – An awful lot of planes have been brought down today, over 120 so far, I hope it goes past the 200 mark by tomorrow. Mum is thinking of asking Peter and Madge up. Peggy’s diary (which I am currentlyediting) gives a little glimpse of the civilian experience of the air raids. Peggy went on to work after graduation from Glasgow University in 1944 at RAE Farnborough aircraft research on radio and electronics.
Somebody mentioned to me that similar fundraising Spitfire lapel pins are still made from real Spitfire metal “crafted of Duralumin originating from Spitfire X4276” http://www.poppyshop.org.uk/spitfire-x4276-lapel-pin.html
Flying over the skies of London by day and night, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz affected the life of many in the South. London Zoo, Chessington Zoo, Kew Gardens and the London museums were amongst some of the venues affected by the 1940/41 Blitz.
In future blogposts this autumn we will update what happened to these venues in the Blitz and WW2. https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/remembering-the-start-of-the-blitz-7-september-1940-and-a-happy-new-school-term/
Battle of Britain Day remembered 15 September 1940
Further Battle of Britain sources:
- https://www.rafa.org.uk/battleofbritain RAFA website
- http://www.battleofbritainmemorial.org/the-battle-of-britain-as-it-happened/ Timeline Day by Day
- http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/ RAF Museum Hendon
- https://www.airfix.com/uk-en/project-airfix/ Airfix Schools clubs including discount class bundles of Spitfire kits
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.