The capture of Sedan and reports of the crossing of the Meuse finally galvanised the French Command, who called for a total effort against the bridgehead and the panzers, urging that the bridges be destroyed by air attack at all cost.
The AASF launched early morning sorties with squadrons of Fairey Battles and for the first time in combat Avro Manchester MkII’s. The Luftwaffe was conspicuous by its absence, and even though the Germans had a total of 303 anti-aircraft guns included in the massed forces at Sedan many were still in transport. As the AASF aircraft arrived over Sedan the German forces from both the 1st and 2nd Panzers were queuing their armour to cross multiple pontoon bridges at Gaulier, with the 10th crossing armour on bridges at Wadelincort.
The initial attacks by the Battles achieved no success with 1 aircraft being lost to groundfire. The unblooded Manchesters followed, with the lead aircraft’s crew earning the first RAF Victoria Crosses in the War. Running in over the pontoon bridges at Gaulier the lead Manchester was seen to cause damage to several of the bridges. Following the attack, the aircraft continued at low level over the German positions, drawing fire from the German gunners. With no bombs remaining the gunners turned the Manchester’s cannons onto the German positions and assembled vehicles, while the lone Manchester orbited overhead Sedan. The following Manchesters now pressed home the attack, knocking out all the pontoon bridges at Gaulier and causing significant damage to those at Wadelincort. The lead aircraft continued over Sedan even after its ammunition was exhausted, continuing to draw fire until the other aircraft of the force completed their attacks and returned to base. The aircraft was eventually brought down by the damage it had received, with the loss of the crew.
While the British aircraft were rearming, a diverse French bomber force of the survivors of the battles over the Belgium escorted by an equally ragtag collection of fighters attacked Sedan. Included were obsolete Amiot 143 night bombers, pressed into daylight action for the first time. By the time the French aircraft arrived over Sedan the Luftwaffe had arrived in force, and after serious losses by both ground and air fire for negligible effect, the French bomber force was effectively eliminated.
On the ground the German crossing was thrown in to a state of confusion. The bridging at Donchery had not been completed, which is what had forced 2nd Panzer to cross to the east at Gaulier. Significant damage had been done at Gaulier, most importantly to the Panzer III and IV’s which had been waiting to cross, with the shattered tanks and burning fuel impeding efforts to impose order. East at Wadelincort the crossing of the Meuse continued. The German forces had planned to push forward from their bridgehead towards the town of Bulson, but with the knocking out of the bridges the Germans were deprived of the bulk of their heavier armour, having mainly Panzer I and II’s in the attacking force. Knowing they were not strong enough to push forward, the Germans delayed until more armour could be crossed from 10th Panzer.
After having refuelled and rearmed the AASF Manchesters returned to Sedan after the French bomber force had been mauled. This time the British force included Hurricanes, but the Luftwaffe fighters were defending the bridgehead in significant numbers. The Hurricanes threw themselves in to the defence of the bombers, but were heavily outnumbered by the more experienced Messerschmitt pilots and suffered heavy losses. Likewise the Blenheims and Battles took heavy casualties, with few aircraft returning to base. The Manchesters though held their own against the Luftwaffe fighters, with the concentrated fire from their cannon turrets identifying them as dangerous targets and largely immune to attacks by single fighters.
The Manchesters pressed home their bombing attacks and effectively destroyed the remaining massed armour of 1st and 2nd Panzer. Damage to the German pontoon bridges was now sufficient to isolate the German bridgehead over the Meuse. With air superiority gained over the bridgehead, the Manchesters followed the lead of the first Manchester over Sedan and descended to low level to strafe the still massed German forces at Sedan. With the momentum of the advance broken, the remaining German forces in Sedan adopted a defensive posture and started digging in.
In the bridgehead, the isolated German forces consolidated into the forest on the Marfée Ridge between Bulson and Sedan, with the thin-skinned German armour hiding from the Manchesters under the trees. The French brought forward their slower but heavier Hotchkiss and Char B1-bis tanks to enter combat late in the afternoon. Meanwhile the airwar seesawed again as the British aircraft returned to their bases and the Luftwaffe arrived, this time with both fighters and Stukas. The exposed advancing French armour was hammered by the Stukas, and the French counterattack halted. As darkness fell and airpower left the battlefield, the isolated German troops dug in in preparation for further attacks the following day.