Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 23, 1940: Seaplanes Attack

Friday 23 August 1940

23 August 1940 Heinkel He 115
Heinkel He 115 seaplane.
Battle of Britain: The poor weather that has characterized the entire summer continues on 23 August 1940. Strangely, the Luftwaffe tends to do better on such days despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that flying operations are restricted. As usual, during such days, there is only limited reconnaissance in the morning, but things pick up during the afternoon.

A Luftwaffe raid on RAF Manston at 13:25 and Thorney Island around the same time. There are several other attempted penetrations that either can't find their targets in the clouds or abort their missions before they even reach the coast.

After dark, the Luftwaffe once again attacks the Bristol and South Wales sector, with Cardiff and RAF Filton taking damage. There are solo raids all along the coast up to York, with a raid on Aberdeen as well.

Heinkel He 115 seaplanes of Küstenfliegergruppe (KGr) 506 (based at Stavanger, Norway) torpedo and sink 5035 ton British cargo ship Llanishen in the Moray Firth and 6680 ton Makalla in the Pentland Firth.  There are eight deaths on the Llanishen. Both the Llanishen and Makalla have been travelling with Convoy OA 203. This is a change in tactics by the seaplanes, which heretofore have been dropping bombs to little purpose. Using torpedoes seems to be a much more effective plan. Heinkel He 115 seaplanes are the largest in action during the war (as opposed to flying boats, which are much larger).

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks ferry HMS New Royal Sovereign at Bridlington, Yorkshire. There are no casualties as nobody was aboard.

Kriegsmarine trawler No. 13 "Düsseldorf" hits a mine off Dieppe and is beached where it can be salvaged.

During the day, the RAF raids the big German coastal guns at Cap Gris Nez again, without success. After dark, there are scattered raids by Bomber Command against airfields, railway installations at Mannheim and the Ruhr industrial valley.

The Luftwaffe drops mines in the Thames estuary and outside ports along the eastern coast. RAF Bomber Command also sends 40 planes on mine-laying missions.

Friendly fire incidents continue to bedevil the RAF. Anti-aircraft fire downs a Hurricane of RAF No. 73 Squadron operating out of Church Fenton. It crashes west of Beverley, Yorkshire at 01:30, but the pilot bails out safely. Another Hurricane force-lands at Withyham, Kent after running out of petrol, and that pilot is ok as well.

The score for the day shows minimal losses for both sides, between 1-5 planes for both sides. Exactly how many planes each side loses depends on whether or not you count things like the friendly fire incidents, planes lost on the ground and so forth, and when you don't count those, the RAF figures tend to improve substantially.

Pilot Officer Petrus Hendrik Hugo, of RAF No. 615 Squadron is awarded the DFC for downing five Luftwaffe planes in June and July.

RAF No. 304 (Polish) Squadron forms at RAF Bramcote. This takes the name "Land of Silesia" and is led by Wing Commander William Graham.

RAF No. 307 (Polish) Squadron forms to fly night fighters.

RCAF No. 1 Squadron is operational and sorties against some Luftwaffe planes today, but has no victories or losses.

Reichsmarschall Goering continues his purge in the Luftwaffe fighter units (so far, other units have been spared):
  • Hauptmann Hannes Trautloft becomes Geschwaderkommodore of JG 54;
  • Walter Oesau replaces Trautloft as Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 51;
  • Leutnant Wolfgang Kosse was appointed Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 26.
The British Purchasing Commission takes over a French order for 53 Grumman G-36a Martlet Is, and 6 Grumman G-36a Martlet IIIs. They now will go to various RAF units when they arrive in the UK in the following months.

23 August 1940 London bombing
On August 22, 1940, some bombs fell on neighborhoods inside the London Civil Defense Area, though technically not in London proper. Here, on the 23rd, a sailor from a destroyer holds up a bicycle found at a bombed cinema. Many consider this the first raid upon London of World War II, but this was not an intentional attack on London. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Battle of the Atlantic: U-37 (Kapitänleutnant Victor Oehrn) torpedoes and sinks 5242-ton British cargo ship Severn Leigh about 500 miles west of Ireland around 13:00. There are 33 deaths and ten survivors who sail two lifeboats to the Outer Hebrides in a harrowing journey that takes almost two weeks. The Severn Leigh was sailing with Convoy OA 200. This is an instance where the U-boat really skirts the law of committing a war crime, as it uses its deck gun to keep the Severn Leigh from using its radio to send a distress call, and in the process sinks 2 lifeboats.

U-37 also sinks 1,718-ton Norwegian freighter Keret in the same convoy. Some sources place this sinking on the 22nd, others on the 23rd. There are 10 survivors and 33 crew perish.

Battle of the Mediterranean: British destroyer HMS Hostile hits a mine at 03:17 and eventually sinks (torpedoed by HMS Hero to avoid it falling into Italian hands) in the Strait of Sicily off Cape Bon. This is where the Italians recently laid a minefield. There are 141 survivors and five crew perish.

The Italians cautiously return to Fort Capuzzo, which they evacuated after a recent Royal Navy attack.

Admiral Cunningham in Alexandria has a flotilla led by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney attack the Italian seaplane base at Bomba, Libya.

23 August 1940 First Lord of the Admiralty
The First Lord of the Admiralty A.V. Alexander during an inspection of the Western Approaches Command on 23 August 1940. © IWM (A 266)
Battle of the Pacific: The British know there is a raider somewhere in the Tasman Sea, but it is a big area. Several warships search, but there are no sightings.

US Military: Cruisers USS Wichita and Quincy continue their "Show the flag" cruise along South America and make port in Montevideo, Uruguay. Meanwhile, destroyers USS Wake and Wainwright depart Pará, Brazil for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Destroyer USS Allen (DD-66) is recommissioned (originally commissioned on 24 January 1917) as part of the Pacific fleet now based at Pearl Harbor. It is the oldest destroyer in the fleet.

British Government: British Prime Minister Churchill officially changes the name of the local volunteer defense forces to Home Guard. The Home Guard now (finally) is receiving uniforms, weapons, ammunition, and some training to make it a somewhat more professional force.

King George VI issues a proclamation striking all Italians and Germans from the lists of British titles and decorations. This deprives Italian Duce Benito Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel II of decorations.

Greece: The Greek army, alarmed by recent Italian provocations such as the sinking of the light cruiser Helle, takes anti-invasion precautions.

American Homefront: Shirley Temple's final film for 20th Century Fox, "Young People," premieres at the Roxy in New York City.

23 August 1940 Antarctic snow cruiser
Sergeant Felix Ferranto, a radio operator, uses his Primus torch to thaw out the wheel motors of the Snow Cruiser in the Antarctic on August 23, 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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