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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 21, 1940: Soviets Absorb Baltic States



Sunday 21 July 1940

21 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com captured Bf 110C
A Bf 110C-4 reconnaissance-fighter formerly of 4.(F)/14 that was forced down at Goodwood, England on July 21, 1940. It was subsequently repaired with parts salvaged from another crashed example. Both sides maintained armories of working enemy equipment for testing, spy missions and (often, but not always) use in combat.

British Government: There are some historians who consider 21 July 1940 the day when all possibility of peace talks between Germany and Great Britain was completely eliminated. As such, it may be a seminal date in history that is completely unknown to the public at large, but worthy of knowing about for true students of the war because it reveals the state of play at this critical juncture.

Churchill is at his country estate at Chequers during the morning and is reading through his daily intercepts (courtesy of the Enigma programme at Bletchley Park) when he spots a message to Berlin from the German ambassador in Washington. The ambassador is informing Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop that the British ambassador there, Lord Lothian, had discreetly enquired for Germany's terms for peace.

Churchill is shocked. He supposedly is in charge of the government, and he has authorized no such thing. In the politics of the era, even opening discussions about "terms" is seen as a sign of weakness. Churchill, during the May cabinet crisis along similar lines, had emphatically shown himself to be against all peace initiatives. The British ambassador in Washington is freelancing, and Churchill decides to put a stop to it.

Churchill springs into action. He tells Lord Halifax, in charge of the Foreign Office, that his ambassador to Washington is strictly forbidden to talk to the German ambassador at all. Churchill sends a telegram to Lord Lothian telling him the same thing, to stop all communication. Further investigation reveals that the communications between the two had been clandestine, through a US Quaker (pacifist) intermediary. Lord Lothian is popular and competent, but is acting outside his portfolio.

There also is speculation among some historians that during a later meeting this day with Sir Charles Portal, the Commander-in-chief of RAF Bomber Command, Churchill - with the peace issue directly on his mind - orders Portal to provoke the Germans by bombing Berlin. The objective would be to have the Luftwaffe start bombing London and other English towns in retaliation (which Hitler has been been avoiding because, as stated in his 16 July 1940 Fuhrer Directive about Operation Sea Lion, he would rather get a peace deal). Bombing Berlin, according to the theory, would escalate matters such that no peace talks would ever be possible. However, there is no proof of this rather convoluted conspiracy theory.

21 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com German propaganda leaflet
A German propaganda leaflet dropped on London following Hitler's 19 July 1940 "Last Appeal to Reason" speech to the Reichstag.

Battle of Britain: The Luftwaffe continues its attacks on British shipping during a day of fine flying weather.

In the morning, there is an unsuccessful attack on convoy "Peewit" by bomber squadron KG3, escorted by KG27. The RAF intervenes and loses a fighter, with no shipping damage. There is another raid on the convoy in the afternoon, which again is dispersed by the RAF. During the melee, a Bf 109 of JG27 and a Hurricane of Squadron No. 43 collide and fall into the sea.

Dornier Do 17s attack shipping off of Scotland, with the loss of a bomber.

There are scattered raids on Great Britain itself. A raid over Goodwood produces no results except the loss by the Luftwaffe of a Bf 110 (repaired by the RAF). A Bf 109 shoots down a Hawker Hector biplane and in turn is shot down by RAF No. 238 Squadron.

There also are raids over the West Country, with attacks on Leeds, Church Fenton, Tyneside and nearby areas.

Fighter Command re-positions its forces, sending No. 152 Squadron of Spitfires from Warmwell to Middle Wallop and No. 253 Squadron of Hurricanes to Turnhouse.

While the RAF fighters are holding their own, the losses at this point in the battle are difficult to replace. No. 603 Squadron is down to three Hurricanes, and No. 263 Squadron is down to four.

The Luftwaffe, meanwhile, also is shifting fighters around. The remainder of JG26, the II and III groups, join the advance party at Calais. They are using old British World War I airfields. I,/JG52 moves to Bayreuth, further strengthening Luftflotte 2, the air fleet carrying the main attack on England.

Luftwaffe boss Hermann Goering is confident. He tells the commanders of the three Luftflotten facing England that convoys remain the priority, small attacks over wider areas are preferred, and that he does not want critical British installations destroyed which might be of use after an invasion. Goering centralizes where and what to attack.

The strategy at this point is to lure the RAF fighters into the air, where they can be gradually eliminated through combat. The Luftwaffe needs to destroy Fighter Command for an invasion to be possible, and it can't do that if the fighters remain hidden on the ground. The Achilles Heel of the RAF, meanwhile, is not planes, but pilots.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks oil installations at Rotterdam and Bremen, factories at Wismarj, Bremen, Rotenburg, Kassel, and airfields all along the Channel coast.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-30 (Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp) stops 712 ton British timber freighter Ellaroy about 180 miles west of Cape Finisterre, Portugal at 16:00. After disembarking the crew, the U-boat sinks the freighter at 22:39. All 16 aboard survive after being picked up by passing Spanish trawler Felix Montenegro.

The Luftwaffe sinks 2318 ton British freighter Terlings 10 miles southwest of St. Catherine's Point. There are 18 survivors, 10 crew perish. The Luftwaffe also damages Norwegian tankers Kollskegg and Nina Borthen in the same general area.

British submarine HMS Rorqual lays mines off Cyrenaica en route to Alexandria. It also sinks Italian freighter Cello.

Troopship Gibraltar departs from Gibraltar carrying evacuees headed to Madeira.

Convoy OB 187 departs from Liverpool, Convoy FN 228 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 227 departs from the Tyne, Convoy HG 39 (18 ships) departs from Gibraltar.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Regia Aeronautica bombs and sinks 3600 ton Finnish freighter SS Whirl about 20 miles southwest of Malta. The 26 survivors (no casualties) reach the island and request asylum.

At Malta, there are air raid alerts in the morning, with the the attackers driven off by anti-aircraft fire without any bombs being dropped. The Regia Aeronautica mounts many of these half-hearted attacks throughout the campaign. One Italian plane is damaged and presumed by the British to be lost. The RAF loses a Swordfish torpedo plane sent up to investigate the incident. A London flying boat sent later on the same mission spots the downed Italian bomber, but in turn is attacked by CR 42 fighters. The flying boat shoots one of the fighters down and escapes.

Housing on Malta is growing short. Some residents return to their bombed-out homes near the harbor after finding nothing acceptable anywhere else.

21 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Fiat CR 42
A Fiat CR 42 Falco 156G379SA 379, based at Comiso, Sicily.

Romanian/Bulgarian Relations: Under pressure from Berlin, King Carol and the Romanian government cede Southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria. Tensions between Romania and its northern and southern neighbors are steadily brewing, but there is little that Romania can do about the situation - yet.

Soviet/Baltic States Relations: With puppet governments in place, Molotov has them vote for a union with the USSR, to become sister Republics. The Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics are established. Latvian President Ulmanis tries to flee to Switzerland, but is apprehended by Soviet authorities and sent to Siberia.

British/Czech Relations: The British grant official recognition to a provision Czech government-in-exile, headed by Dr. Edvard Benes as President and Jan Sramek as Prime Minister.

Latin American Relations: Foreign Ministers of the 21 American Republics arrive in Havana, Cuba for the start of talks about regional political and economic cooperation.

German Government: Hitler again mentions during an army (OKH) conference that the Soviet Union is a potential target at some point in the future. With Hitler's prestige enormous after the victory over France, nobody challenges him. Army Commander-in-chief Walther von Brauchitsch begins to work up some preliminary ideas for further discussion. During the conference, he states that England's situation is "hopeless" and that victory over the USSR would be "easy, easier than France." This can be considered the true start of planning for Operation Barbarossa.

British Homefront: Evacuation of schoolchildren continues, today from Eastbourne. The children are being sent to what amount to boarding houses, with many children staying with the same families in the countryside. Parents visit as they can on weekends, but travel is difficult in wartime England.

21 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Lord Lothian Archibald MacLeish
Head of the Library of Congress Archibald MacLeish with British Ambassador Lord Lothian (right) posing in front of the Magna Carta, being maintained in Washington during hostilities in part due to the latter's negotiations.


July 1940

July 1, 1940: Vichy France
July 2, 1940: Arandora Star
July 3, 1940: Operation Catapult at Mers El Kébir
July 4, 1940: Romania In Crisis
July 5, 1940: The Five Freedoms
July 6, 1940: Hitler's High Point
July 7 1940: Dakar And Ringo
July 8, 1940: Tea Rationing in England
July 9, 1940: Battle of Calabria
July 10, 1940: Battle of Britain Begins
July 11, 1940: "Nous, Philippe Petain"
July 12, 1940: Enter Laval
July 13, 1940: German Surface Raiders Attack!
July 14, 1940: Bastille/Mourning Day
July 15, 1940: Tallest Man Dies
July 16, 1940: Plans for Sea Lion
July 17, 1940: Burma Road Closed
July 18, 1940: FDR Runs Again
July 19, 1940: Last Appeal To Reason
July 20, 1940: First Night Fighter Victory
July 21, 1940: Soviets Absorb Baltic States
July 22, 1940: First RAF Night Fighter Victory
July 23, 1940: Invasion False Alarm
July 24, 1940: The Meknés Incident
July 25, 1940: Black Thursday for RAF
July 26, 1940: Capture The Duke?
July 27, 1940: What's Up, Doc?
July 28, 1940: Destroyers Pulled From Dover
July 29, 1940: Barbarossa On The Burner
July 30, 1940: Hitler Delays Sealion
July 31, 1940: Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz


2016

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