Squadron Leader Hetherington – Smythe, CO 602 Sqn – Tangmere
The squadron was scrambled along with Hurricanes from 213 Sqn to intercept a raid into southern England. We were vectored onto the raiders numbering some 18 bombers with numerous escorting fighters.
We climbed to high altitude with two flights providing top cover. The Hurricanes were at lower altitude to the west. The raiders were in two more or less equal groups. The Hurricanes went for the western group, whilst 602 moved to engage the Eastern group. Initial contact with this group was on our 11:00 someway below us. The initial contact made interception tricky as we would approach nearly head on. Using our height and speed advantage the squadron moved to the SW with a view to engaging from the beam and stern of the group. However, the loose escorting fighters were going to be a problem. Therefore, the squadron was kept concentrated and focused on the escorting fighters. We managed to overwhelm them destroying seven and damaging one for two damaged Spitfires. This took time and the bombers were able to reach their target with minimal losses, one destroyed and one lightly damaged. The Hurricanes trying to concentrate on the bombers suffered at the hands of the escorting fighters.
It is suggested that the Duxford Big Wing concept is developed so that our fighters engage both the escorts and the bombers. I considered joining the Hurricanes in engaging the western group, at the time going for the closer group seemed the way ahead. On reflection the Spitfires concentrating on the western fighters would most likely have allowed the Hurricanes to deal with the bombers more effectively.
Paul had to leave early so Andy took over 602 Sqn.
The squadron continued to attack the Do17s and their escorting Me109s as they turned for home, eventually shooting down the last Me109 and three of the nine Do17’s. Part of the Squadron headed west to assist the Hurricanes of 213 Sqn. Only one plane from 602 Sqn was shot down, LO-J.