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Saturday, August 13, 2016

August 14, 1940: Sir Henry's Mission


Wednesday 14 August 1940

14 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com crashed Heinkel 111
In this colorized photo, 11-year-old cousins Wendy Atherton and Cathie Jones stand with Heinkel He 111P-2 of 8./KG27 near their home  at Border House Farm near Chester in Cheshire, August 14th 1940. The German plane had been targeting RAF Sealand along with two other planes and was shot down (along with the other two planes) by Spitfires from RAF Hawarden after bombing the airfield.

Battle of Britain: The fickle weather once again turns against the Germans on 14 August 1940, with clouds and rain. This gives the British a chance to repair some of the damage wrought to airfields and radar stations in recent days before another massive Luftwaffe onslaught.

Operations do not even begin until noontime, when Bf 110 Zerstörers of Epr.Gr 210 attack RAF Manston. Despite the absence of RAF fighter cover (above the low-hanging clouds dealing with the German escort), the British anti-aircraft fire is deadly and downs several of the attackers. The attack accomplishes little, only damaging some Blenheim bombers and destroying some hangars. Emblematic of the Luftwaffe problems is a collision between two of the Bf 110s over the airbase which kills three of the four men in them.

Another raid at the same time takes place further north, where approximately 300 Luftwaffe planes cross the coast near Dover and split off into multiple groups with different targets. One detachment sinks the Gate Light Vessel, another attacks Hawkinge. JG 26, Adolf Galland's unit, once again demonstrates that it is an elite formation by protecting the Stukas competently and allowing only one to be shot down.

Another major raid occurs at 17:07, when medium bombers attack RAF Middle Wallop, RAF Andover and the railway at Southampton. These attacks are reasonable effective, with hangard destroyed at Middle Wallop and radio equipment destroyed at Andover.

There are other, smaller raids of less consequence that still result in losses. British sloop HMS Kingfisher and tug Carbon are damaged in Portland Harbour. Once again, the Luftwaffe attacks the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton and nearby industrial targets. Other raids target various railway and air installations, such as Whitchurch airfield and the station at Westons Mare. A major air battle develops over Dover during the afternoon, with JG 51 aces Hauptman Walter Oesau and Oblt. Josef "Pips" Priller getting victories.

Oberst Alois Stöckl, Gruppenkommandeur of KG 55, is killed in his Heinkel He 111 near Wallop and replaced by Oblt. Hans Körte.

After dark, the Luftwaffe sends over a few lone raiders, but nothing major develops. The score for the day once again is lopsided, with most accounts giving the losses as about 20 for the Luftwaffe and around 5 for the RAF. Accounts vary widely, especially on the Luftwaffe side.

14 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Daily Herald headlines
The British newspapers are full of glorious feats of derring-do by the British military which have only a slight semblance to reality. It is all about "smashing" Italian attacks and wild estimates of Luftwaffe losses, not so much about crumbling British defenses in British Somaliland and RAF bombing raids with catastrophic losses.

European Air Operations: There is an unusual air raid alert in Berlin around midnight, only the fourth of the war, but it appears to be a false alarm. The British in fact raid oil installations, airfields and railway targets at Bordeaux, Cologne, and other typical targets in northwestern Europe.

Western Front: The final informal Royal Navy evacuations from southern France, which have been continuing clandestinely at Mediterranean ports since June, conclude. This terminates Operation Ariel. It is estimated that 191,870 people have been evacuated in Operation Ariel, which excludes the other two major evacuations, Operations Dynamo and Cycle.

German Government: The debate and confusion about Operation Sea Lion continues within the German high command. Admiral Raeder yesterday told Hitler that the Kriegsmarine cannot protect and supply any landings on a broad front. Today, army Commander-in-chief Field Marshal Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch, who is the projected leader of the operation, has his say. Von Brauchitsch proposes just the opposite of what Raeder suggested was feasible, namely, landings on a broad front with multiple landing sites (similar to what the Allies later did on 6 June 1944). This makes perfectly good sense from an army perspective, stretching out the British defenses and creating multiple opportunities for success. However, it makes no sense whatsoever from a naval perspective because the Kriegsmarine simply doesn't have the ships to supply and defend multiple beachheads.

This illustrates that none of the branches of the Wehrmacht have the slightest understanding of what the others need and are capable of delivering. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that there is little communication between the German army, navy and air force and even less cooperation (the Luftwaffe, for instance, absolutely blocks the creation of a separate marine air force as an infringement on its own powers). Hitler is fine with all of this - part of his managerial style is to create warring fiefdoms within the Nazi state, with himself as the only one who has all the information and the ability to coordinate solutions - the ultimate arbiter. It is a variant on the Shakespearean "I want around me men who are fat" dictum from "Julius Caesar," and it enables him to maintain absolute power within the Nazi state (Hitler also follows the dictum to the letter with crony Hermann Goering).

The larger planning flaw is that nobody has anticipated being placed in this situation so quickly, with France vanquished and England the next step. The Germans are not used to or comfortable with planning major strategic naval operations - something they had difficulty with during the First World War, too. Wehrmacht staff planning is concentrated in the Heer (army) because Germany by tradition is primarily a land power (not necessarily by choice in 1940, but the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles had eviscerated the navy). The naval staff and resources are simply inadequate for the job. In essence, the Germans have no idea what they are doing regarding a cross-channel invasion, and they are building castles in the sand with their vapid plans that are pure abstractions without any grounding in experience or reality. It is little wonder that Hitler is casting about for new victims in other directions that he can ravage on good old reliable terra firma.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-59 (Kptl. Joachim Matz) torpedoes and sinks 2,339 ton British rice freighter Betty about 25 miles north of Ireland at 20:34. There are 4 survivors and 30 crew perish in the night.

British destroyers HMS Malcolm and Verity, accompanied by three torpedo boats, attack a German convoy of six Kriegsmarine armed trawlers and three S-boats off of Texel Island, Holland. The German lose a trawler and one of their own S-boats, and also suffer damage to other ships.

The Kriegsmarine conducts minelaying in the North Sea.

Battle of the Mediterranean: British submarine HMS Rorqual sinks Italian freighter Leopard.

On Malta, there are no enemy air raids. Governor-General Dobbie complains to the War Office that he has insufficient men to man his anti-aircraft artillery and requests reinforcements. The War Office, for its part, inquires about two celebrity Italian pilots, General Cagna and Prince Pallavicini, who apparently were KIA.

Battle of the Pacific: German raider Orion is operating off of Nouméa, New Caledonia. It launches its Arado Ar 196 floatplane, but the plane has mechanical issues and lands far away. The Orion eventually finds and recovers it, restoring the raider's "eyes."

British Somaliland: Major General Godwin-Austen watches the Italians side-stepping his defenses along the coast road to Berbera. With the enemy almost in position to cut the vital road, he bows to the inevitable. He requests permission to evacuate not just from that position, but from the country altogether. General Wavell of Middle East Command does not return an immediate decision.

Evacuations from Berbera, the capital of the British government, commence. The British and Australian warships take off 5700 troops and 1500 "non-essentials" (civilians and wounded) across the gulf to Aden.

14 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Sir Henry Tizard
Sir Henry in 1940.

Applied Science: Sir Henry Thomas Tizard leaves Great Britain on a disguised ocean liner (some sources say he flew) ahead of the rest of his team (popularly known as the "Tizard Mission," officially the British Technical and Scientific Mission) headed for Ottawa, Canada. Whether or not he has with him the famous "box of secrets" (including plans for the Supercharger, Gyroscopic gunsights, and the Cavity Magnetron, among other things) as stated by many sources is unclear and probably false; some reliable sources state that the box came across with the rest of his team on a later date.

The RAF supposedly is trying to use wire nets called "spaghetti shells" to drop on Luftwaffe planes and destroy them, but this idea does not go very far.

Terrorists: One of the German preoccupations is inciting a revolt by the Irish against the British as a distraction, and perhaps even converting them into a military ally. To this end, they send IRA Chief of Staff Sean Russell to Ireland aboard a U-boat, where it is hoped he will coordinate an uprising. Today, however, he perishes unexpectedly of a perforated ulcer aboard the U-boat and is buried at sea.

Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt and his advisors continue wrangling over the proposed destroyers-for-bases deal with Great Britain. The destroyers will all be Clemson-class and Wickes-class destroyers built circa 1917-1922, manned solely by British seamen. The US Navy already is coordinating with the Royal Navy for their transfer, though nothing is official yet.

14 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com USS Pope destroyer
USS Pope (DD 225), a typical Clemson-class destroyer which served in the Far East during World War II.

US Military: The US military always maintains military plans that seem arcane and improbable - for instance, plans for the invasion of Canada always are locked away in the files - and they go by the designation "Rainbow." Today, President Roosevelt reviews and approves "Rainbow 4," a comprehensive plan to defend the Americas by using every armed man in the United States, including the National Guard, the Reserves, and everyone who can be drafted.

Rainbow 4 assumes the fall of France (already done) and of the UK (still prospective) and a combined German/Italian/Japanese offensive. The initial US response would be to occupy British, French, Dutch and Danish possessions in the Western Hemisphere while trying to avoid conflict in the Pacific. The US fleet would be concentrated in the Caribbean, and the US army would protect only North America and the most northern parts of South America.

Outside the realm of planning and in actual reality, destroyers USS Wake and Wainwright continue their "Show the flag" operation in South America and depart Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for Bahia, Brazil.

Admiral Hart makes it to Shanghai aboard the submarine USS Porpoise and transfers his flag to yacht USS Isabel.

Luxembourg: Nazi Chief of the Civil Administration Gustav Simon bans all opposition parties, rips up the nation's constitution, and makes German the only authorized language. Even the term "Grand Duchy" is prohibited in official documents. Simon is setting a precedent for future occupations, where the occupying military authorities are relatively benign (save for Einsatzgruppen and the like), but the follow-up civil administrations enact draconian and punitive laws which quickly stoke local anger.

British Homefront: As the day dawns, local citizens in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and southern Scotland awaken to find large numbers of parachutes on the ground with cryptic military messages and German equipment attached. There also is a report from Creswell Farm of enemy parachutists, which proves false.

This all results from a German propaganda effort to sow confusion and dissension among the British populace by air-dropping items in the British rear which have the appearance of being related to an actual invasion - though to what end is a bit unclear, as there is no follow-up. If you make a feint, but don't use that diversion to actually attack anywhere... what's the point? It also may be counter-productive in the long run, making you look like all talk and no action. For a day or two, though, the operation does create massive fear and even panic among the locals.

14 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Flugsport
German flying magazine Flugsport, 14 August 1940.

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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