Friday, August 12, 2016

August 12, 1940: Attacks on Radar

Monday 12 August 1940

12 August 1940 Portsmouth Harbour
Portsmouth Harbour on 12 August 1940.
Battle of Britain: For some time, the date for the start of Adlerangriff ("Operation Eagle Attack") has been set for 13 August, and it has depended upon the weather. With forecasts of excellent flying weather in the coming days, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering on 12 August 1940 instructs his Luftflotten 2 and 3 in France to be ready to commence the operation on the morning of the 13th. The codeword is Adler Tag and the operation is to commence at 07:00.

Today's mission is to soften up the defenses for tomorrow's knockout blow. The idea is to deprive the RAF of its eyes. The day's events include a major redirection of the Luftwaffe strategy with mixed results. Viewed from the perspective of the Luftwaffe, it is a promising start to the next stage of the campaign, but by themselves, the day's events do not accomplish much of lasting value.

British radar reports a stream of Luftwaffe planes heading in from Calais at 07:20. Instead of attacking shipping as is normal, the Luftwaffe planes attack the British radar chain itself. The planes are Bf 110s from Epr.Gr 210 carrying 500kg bombs. After a feint to the west, they break into different directions and hit the radar stations near Dover, Rye, Pevensey, and Canterbury. Bf 110s are manned by elite crews, with the best officers being sent to crew them.

To test the raid's results, Field Marshal Kesselring sends 60 Stukas to attack shipping in the Thames estuary. These are convoys Agent and Arena. Another radar station, at Foreland, picks the raiders up and vectors in Spitfires of RAF Nos. 65 and 501 Squadrons. Contrary to later depictions of Stukas as being defenseless and easy prey, this time they all make it back to base, and it is the Spitfires who lose four planes.

The Luftwaffe returns to attack shipping later, with JG 26 serving as the main cover. When RAF Nos. 501 and 151 Squadrons arrive, the Bf 109s pounce on them. Once again, the battle is one-sided, and the RAF loses five fighters to none for JG 26. However, there are other Luftwaffe fighter units that do suffer severely, losing 9 fighters.

The battle turns into another wild melee reminiscent of the battles on the 8th and the 11th. The Luftwaffe continues feeding formations into the battle, with a large new raid over Brighton composed of medium bombers. They conduct several feints and ultimately bomb the two radar stations at the Isle of Wight (Foreland and Ventnor) and nearby Portsmouth and Southampton Harbours. The attacks completely wipe out the radar stations and also cause devastation to Portsmouth Harbour. The attack, while successful, puts the German Ju 88s and other bombers in a vulnerable position, and many are shot down.

12 August 1940 British radar masts
British radar aerials during the Battle of Britain.
The Portsmouth attack is notable because it is the first major intentional attack on an English populated city area. There are 100 civilian deaths. As for the radar stations, Ventnor is put out of action indefinitely, but the others are back up and running within days or even hours.

The Luftwaffe then throws attacks at RAF Manston. The Bf 110s accompanied by Bf 109s return and bomb the field, which once again is a first: the first major attack directed solely against a British airfield. The attack is highly successful and destroys the infrastructure of the base and guts the field itself, putting the base out of operation for three days.

The Luftwaffe sinks trawlers HMS Pyrope and Tamarisk in the Thames Estuary, with a total of 13 deaths.

The Luftwaffe damages British trawlers Ermine, River Ythan and  Karneval off the Welsh coast.

The Luftwaffe lightly damages destroyer HMS Watchman with near misses north of Ireland.

Overall, it is another rough day for both sides. The Luftwaffe is estimated to have lost 31 planes, the RAF 22. Worse for the RAF, 11 pilots are killed. The best that can be said about the day's events for the RAF is that most of the radar stations are functioning by the morning sufficiently to cover the gaps caused by the ones that were hardest hit and will take longer to repair.

There is another invasion alert that brings the Home Fleet to 2-hours readiness at 22:17, but it is a false alarm.

Bristol Beaufighters are delivered to Tangmere. They are the first fighters equipped with their own experimental radar.

After much consideration, Hitler finally accepts Mussolini's offer to send air units to assist with the Battle of Britain.

12 August 1940 bomb damage Gosport
Bomb damage at the corner of Spring Garden Lane and Grove Avenue in Gosport, Hampshire on 12 August 1940. The vicarage on the corner was destroyed.
Battle of the Atlantic: Italian submarine Alessandro Malaspina torpedoes and sinks British 8406-ton British tanker British Fame about a hundred miles east of the Azores. The submarine is extravagant with its use of torpedoes, firing six, but tankers are notoriously difficult to sink. The Italians then spend hours towing one of the lifeboats toward shore.

Convoy FN 250 departs from Southend, Convoy MT 138 departs from Methil, Convoy FS 250 departs from the Tyne, Convoy OB 197 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX 65 departs from Halifax.

Corvette HMS Anemone (K 48, Lt. Commander Humphry G. Boys-Smith) is commissioned.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends eleven Handley Page Hampden bombers to attack the Dortmund-Ems Canal with delayed-action bombs. The bombs close down the canal for 10 days by destroying the bridge that carries the canal over the Ems river. The canal is a key route for the passage of invasion barges. Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd wins the Victoria Cross for this action when he takes his bomber in at treetop level, drops his bombs on target despite heavy flak that almost destroys his plane, and makes it back to base.

RAF Bomber Command also attacks the Gotha airplane factory and the airbase at Borkum. They also bomb the Black Forest with phosphorus and other incendiary bombs in an attempt to start fires which will burn away the cover from hidden bases there. This is called "razzle" and often ignites the planes themselves.

Battle of the Mediterranean: RAF bombers again attack Tobruk.

At Malta, there is a bombing raid at 21:00 by two bombers that attack Hal Far airfield. There also are several other raids, with bombs dropped near Grand Harbour. Italian bombing aim is extremely poor, as many of their bombs land in the water. It is the first major raid since 26 July.

Italian submarine Iride, which carries human torpedoes on its deck, departs from La Spezia, Italy for Libya. The plan is for it to transport the human submarines to Alexandria to sink British ships.

British Somaliland: The Italians resume their attacks in the Battle of Tug Argan against the remaining five hills occupied by the British that overlook the vital coast road to Berbera. They take one of the hills, Mill Hill, from the Northern Rhodesia Regiment, including two 3.7 inch howitzers. The Italians already have successfully leveraged the British out of the south side of the defenses in the Assa Hills.

The British remain firmly entrenched to the north of the road. The odds are firmly against them, as 20,000 well-equipped Italian soldiers face about 4,000 colonial troops.

Abyssinia: The British send men from Sudan into Abyssinia under Colonel Sandford to prepare the way for the return of King Haile Selassie. Sandford's men train guerrilla forces.

Belgium: The Belgian Government-in-exile opens a recruiting office in London.

12 August 1940 Chungking bombing raid
A 1940 Japanese air raid on Chungking.
Soviet Military: The Soviet Red Army slightly reduces the power of the political commissars which accompany each unit. Heretofore they have had equal authority over military operations, but now they are restricted to other matters. Military ranks are restored.

Soviet minesweeper T-103 hits a mine and sinks in the Baltic.

US Military: President Roosevelt continues his tour of New England naval stations aboard the Presidential yacht HMS Potomac, visiting the submarine facilities and Electric Boat Construction company at New London, Connecticut.

British Homefront: The government has been encouraging "Victory Gardens" and the like for months due to the growing food shortage. Now, it takes a different tack and simply makes the wasting of food illegal.

American Homefront: The issue of starvation in Europe has been brought to the public's attention by Ambassador Cudahy's recent statements (for which he was recalled). Now, former President Herbert Hoover, who made his reputation in similar circumstances during World War I, begins a new war-relief program to send hundreds of thousands of tons of food to Europe.

12 August 1940 President Vargas Brazil Time Magazine
President Vargas of Brazil makes the cover of today's Time Magazine (cover photo credit: John Phillips). Brazil remains neutral.

August 1940

August 1, 1940: Two RN Subs Lost
August 2, 1940: Operation Hurry
August 3, 1940: Italians Attack British Somaliland
August 4, 1940: Dueling Legends in the US
August 5, 1940: First Plan for Barbarossa
August 6, 1940: Wipe Out The RAF
August 7, 1940: Burning Oil Plants
August 8, 1940: True Start of Battle of Britain
August 9, 1940: Aufbau Ost
August 10, 1940: Romania Clamps Down On Jews
August 11, 1940: Huge Aerial Losses
August 12, 1940: Attacks on Radar
August 13, 1940: Adler Tag
August 14, 1940: Sir Henry's Mission
August 15, 1940: Luftwaffe's Black Thursday
August 16, 1940: Wolfpack Time
August 17, 1940: Blockade of Britain
August 18, 1940: The Hardest Day
August 19, 1940: Enter The Zero
August 20, 1940: So Much Owed By So Many
August 21, 1940: Anglo Saxon Incident
August 22, 1940: Hellfire Corner
August 23, 1940: Seaplanes Attack
August 24, 1940: Slippery Slope
August 25, 1940: RAF Bombs Berlin
August 26, 1940: Troops Moved for Barbarossa
August 27, 1940: Air Base in Iceland
August 28, 1940: Call Me Meyer
August 29, 1940: Schepke's Big Day
August 30, 1940: RAF's Bad Day
August 31, 1940: Texel Disaster


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