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First Major Attack Against British Targets in Southern England
On 4 July 1940, the Luftwaffe launched the first major attack against shipping and ground targets in southern England. From the British perspective, the Battle of Britain started on 10 July 1940, so this battle is usually not covered.
First, Ju 87 B-1 from III./St.G 51 (redesignated II./St. G 1 two days later) escorted by Bf 109 and Bf 110 bombed the Portland naval base causing severe damage to the installations and sank HMS Foylebank, an anti-aircraft cruiser of 5500 tons and a crew of 290. 176 RN sailors lost their lives in the attack.
Later, the same Gruppe and I./St.G 2 (the picture depicts Ju 87 B-2 from this unit taken the following year before an attack on Malta) dive-bombed convoy OA 178 (Outbound Atlantic convoy # 178), sinking one ship (Dallas City) and damaging 3 more that had to return to port.
At night, four E-boats (called Schnell Boote or fast boats by the Germans) attacked the convoy one more time and sank another ship (Elmcrest, 16 KIA), and damaged two more.
The cost to the Germans was small. Two Ju 87 were shot down by anti-aircraft fire (the crew of one Ju 87 was rescued by the Germans), and one Bf 109 crash landed upon returning to its base (pilot unhurt).
Despite radar, Fighter Command failed to make an interception. After this episode, two changes took place. Fighter Command procedures to respond faster to German raids improved, and outbound convoys were re-routed to depart from Methil (Scotland) to prevent attacks. However, channel convoys continued operating since it was necessary to transport coal to cities in southern England, and railroad and road capacity was insufficient.

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