Wednesday 10 January 1940
Western Front: The "Mechelen Incident" occurs on 10 January 1940 when a German Bf 108 liaison aircraft flies, against very strict regulations, on the Belgian side of the border with an officer carrying Fall Gelb (Invasion of France) plans. Major Erich Hoenmanns, the pilot, loses his way while flying from Loddenheide to Cologne due to fog banks. He fails to see the Rhine River, which is frozen over, and flies all the way to the River Meuse. He then accidentally cuts off the plane's fuel supply, and it crash-lands in a Belgian field at Mechelen-sur-Meuse. His passenger, Major Helmuth Reinberger, is a paratrooper carrying plans to the 7th Air Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) Division in Cologne detailing the dropping of paratroopers at Namur (somewhat ironically, on the Meuse) to seize bridges there. The plans carry the current (much postponed) date for Fall Gelb of 17 January 1940.
Reinberger attempts to burn the documents, but fails. The two men are taken by Belgian border guards to a border guardhouse. Still somehow in possession of the papers, Reinberger tries to stuff them in a burning stove, but one of the border guards seizes them (and badly burns his hands in the process).
Enough of the papers survive for the Belgians to see that they are copies of a secret plan to invade their country, along with Holland and France. The countries involved study the plan and adapt their defenses accordingly.
The Germans, of course, quickly learn of the loss of the plans (the Belgians helpfully tell them for some reason) and the invasion finally (and quite fortuitously, because it would have been a terrible time to launch an offensive) is postponed indefinitely - right after Hitler tells his three service chiefs (Goering, von Brauchitsch and Raeder) that this time the 17th of January was a firm date.
Winter War: Some 350 Hungarian men begin military training. They are to be formed into the Hungarian Volunteer Detached Battalion. It will be commanded by Lieutenant Imre Kémeri Nagy and have 24 officers, 52 NCOs, 2 doctors and 2 padres.
Winter War Army Operations: The Soviet command is consumed with recriminations about the defeats suffered to date. It is not a time for grand operations. Much of the rest of January is consumed with court martials, command changes and replacement of lost troops.
European Air Operations: The RAF mounts a bombing raid on the German seaplane base at Sylt. There is a running battle with Bf 109s over the North Sea that costs each side one plane, with damage to two other German planes.
Battle of the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe sinks the British freighter Upminster.
The Kriegsmarine lays mines along the Channel coast.
Convoy OG 14F forms at Gibraltar.
British Homefront: The Railway Executive responds to passenger complaints about untimely departures and arrivals. He claims that it is the fault of the blackout, which makes loading and unloading more difficult and causes other delays. Troop movements and the commandeering of trains for vital food shipments also are blamed.
British Military: General Sir Alan Cunningham becomes commander of the 66 Infantry Division.
General Freyberg leaves New Zealand by air and proceeds to Egypt in advance of the troop convoy leaving New Zealand and Australia.
Australia/New Zealand: New Zealand and Australian troop convoys join and head for the Suez Canal. Convoy is US 1.
Sweden: The government passes new laws giving it sweeping authority in the event of an invasion. It also responds in the negative to the Soviet accusation that it is not acting in a neutral fashion.
China: Chinese 4th War Area captures Chingyuan. Chinese 9th War Area attacks to the rear of Japanese positions and cuts their communications. At the Battle of South Kwangsi, the Japanese 18th Infantry Division and Konoye Division move to assist the Japanese 5th Infantry Division near Nanning.
|The Mechelen incident plane.|
January 1940January 1, 1940: Finns Carve up the Soviets
January 2, 1940: Finnish Counterattacks Continue
January 3, 1940: Soviets Trapped
January 4, 1940: Soviet Breakout Attempts Fail
January 5, 1940: Dicing Up the Soviets
January 6, 1940: Soviet 44th Division Runs
January 7, 1940: Shakeup in Soviet High Command
January 8, 1940: Ratte Road Battle Ends
January 9, 1940: British Submarines in Peril
January 10, 1940: Mechelen Incident
January 11, 1940: Finns Surround More Soviets
January 12, 1940: New Soviet Attacks at Taipale
January 13, 1940: Fall Gelb Postponed
January 14, 1940: Japan's Government Falls
January 15, 1940: Soviets Prepare More Carefully
January 16, 1940: German Atrocities Uncovered
January 17, 1940: Bletchley Park in Action
January 18, 1940: New Hope for Allied Shipping
January 19, 1940: Finnish Attacks at Salla
January 20, 1940: Churchill Urges Cooperation
January 21, 1940: Asam Maru Incident
January 22, 1940: Dissension Within British Government
January 23, 1940: Dissension in South Africa
January 24, 1940: NKVD Blocking Detachments
January 25, 1940: Auschwitz Site Selected
January 26, 1940: Millionaire Bunker Destroyed
January 27, 1940: U-20 Sinks Four Ships
January 28, 1940: Softening Up the Finns
January 29, 1940: Moscow Willing to Talk
January 30, 1940: Hitler Throws Down the Gauntlet
January 31, 1940: Timoshenko Is Ready