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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July 31, 1940: Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz


Wednesday 31 July 1940

31 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Short Sunderland Flying Boat
A Short Sunderland Mk flying boat of No 210 Squadron RAF based at Oban in Scotland. It is patrolling over a Canadian troop convoy on its way to Greenock. 31 July 1940.

Battle of Britain: The skies on 31 July 1940 are clear and temperatures high for a change. It is good bathing weather in England, but many of the best beaches are mined and cordoned off with barbed wire. Despite the fine flying weather, however, activity is light.

At around 11:00, Stukas attack the Channel convoys as usual. The attack is near Yarmouth Roads, but causes little damage. No dogfights result.

At about 16:00, Luftwaffe planes of JG2 conduct a fighter sweep over Dover, soon joined by fighters from JG51. To initiate a response, they attack barrage balloons while they wait for the RAF to come up to meet them. The RAF obliges, and the Germans come off better in the fight, having four planes damaged, while RAF Squadron No. 74 loses three planes and has another badly damaged and likely written off on crash-landing at base. Such damaged planes remain valuable for spare parts, but they reduce the front-line force. This is one of those cases where some historians will count the RAF losses as three, while others will count them as four.

During the night, there are Luftwaffe raids on Swansea, South Wales, Hornchurch airfield, Shoeburyness, Southend, Brentwood, Ipswich, Wattisham, and Martlesham. Many raids are done by solo raiders.

Total aircraft lost in July 1940 (approximation): Luftwaffe 150 RAF 77. Any figures on losses incorporates various assumptions, such as which damaged aircraft are "lost," and some estimates place Luftwaffe losses much higher. British aircraft production during July is 50% above targets at 496 fighters. The government finds that 1200 planes have been made in the previous quarter, more than in Germany and far outstripping losses. Civilian casualties during the month are 258 killed and 321 wounded.

These kinds of figures are an obvious illustration of why, if the Germans want to invade Great Britain via Operation Sea Lion, sooner is better than later. The Kriegsmarine does not believe it can support an invasion before 15 September, so that is the earliest one can be attempted - but that is highly unlikely as well, because none of Hitler's pre-conditions set forth in his 16 July 1940 Fuhrer Directive are being met.

One problem with that reasoning, however, is that German estimates of RAF losses tend to be much higher than the reality - though the reverse often is true as well. This builds a false impression within the Luftwaffe that it is doing better in the battle than it actually is. The Germans, of course, notice the Royal Navy's withdrawal of destroyers from Dover Harbor, and this reinforces their misplaced over-confidence.

I,/JG3 transfers from Grandvilliers to Colembert. IV.(Stuka)/LG 1 gets a new Gruppenkommandeur, Hauptmann Erwin Röde.

31 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Winston Churchill Tommy Gun
The British are ready for an invasion. In this famous picture, Winston Churchill handles a tommy gun while inspecting coastal defence forces near Hartlepool. 31 July 1940.

Battle of the Atlantic: Shortly after midnight, U-99 (Kptl. Otto Kretschmer) sinks 5479 ton British freighter Jamaica Progress a few dozen nautical miles off of Ireland. There are 47 survivors, 8 perish. The sinking at 02:44 takes a second torpedo after the first only damages the ship.

U-99 spots another ship, the 6322 ton British freighter Jersey City, in roughly the same area as the Jamaica Progress. This one only takes a single torpedo. There are 43 survivors, two crew perish. This ship is in Convoy OB 191, and the escorts subject U-99 to sustained depth charging that does not damage it. U-99 continues to stalk the convoy.

German raider Pinguin sinks 5358 ton British freighter Domingo de Larringa in the South Atlantic. There are 30 crew taken prisoner, 8 crew perish.

Norwegian 1298 ton freighter Stalheim hits a mine and sinks in the Bristol Channel.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Whitshed hits a mine while conducting a sweep in the North Sea. Badly damaged (it lost its bow), the ship is towed back to Harwich.

Convoy OB 192 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX 62 departs from Halifax.

Canadian armed merchant cruiser HMCS Prince Robert (F 56, Commander Charles T. Beard) is commissioned

Total shipping losses for July 1940:
  • 134 Allied ships sunk
  • 195,825 tons sunk by U-boat
  •   70,193 tons sunk by aircraft
  •    80,796 tons sunk by surface ships (raiders, etc.)
  •    33,598 tons sunk by mines
  • U-Boats: 28 in operation at end of month, 2 lost in July
Battle of the Mediterranean: The RAF continues raiding Italian positions at Kassala and Macaaca.

Operation Hurry, the convoy ferrying Hurricanes to Malta, begins at 08:00. Force H leaves Gibraltar and proceeds from the west during the day, while a separate convoy to the island, BS.2, departs from Suez. HMS Ark Royal carries the dozen Hurricanes for the island. Operation Spark, a diversionary operation off Minorca, is set in motion as well.

The Regia Aeronautica sends a bomber escorted by 7 fighters over the island at 09:43. It is a classic attempt, not to bomb the island, but to bait the defending fighters into combat, and it works beautifully for the Italians. The RAF fighters rise to intervene, and one of the few remaining defending Gloster Gladiators goes down in flames after the forward fuel tank is hit (very scary, flames would be shooting back into the open cockpit). The pilot, Flight Officer Hartley in fighter "Charity," is badly burned after parachuting out and being picked up from the water. The attacking fighters lose a Fiat CR42 fighter, too.

Malta now has just two Gladiators and a Hurricane to defend the island, so Operation Hurry is just in the nick of time.

Anglo/Japanese Relations: The Japanese release four of the 9-12 Britons arrested on espionage charges.

Anglo/US Relations: By telegram sent by US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy to US Secretary of State Cordell Hull, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill urgently requests the "loan" of dozens of destroyers. He notes that the Royal Navy has lost the services of 11 destroyers during the previous 10 days, including four sunk.

US/Latin American Relations: Cruisers USS Wichita (CA 45) and Quincy (CA 39) continue their "Show the flag" mission at Bahia, Brazil.

31 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF No. 32 Squadron
Pilots of No 32 Squadron RAF leave their aircraft after a sortie from RAF Hawkinge on 31 July 1940. Hurricane Mk I GZ-H in front had been crash-landed in a field a half mile east of the airfield eleven days earlier, but quickly was brought back into service.

German Government: Hitler addresses his military commanders and vows to "smash" the Soviet Union. This will be Operation Barbarossa.

In an odd act of pettiness, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering orders that elite fighter unit JG 53 paint over the unit's emblem, the Ace of Spades (German, "Pik As"), on all of its aircraft. The emblem is to be replaced by a red band. Such emblems are marks of pride for the elite formation, and this is an obvious insult. Goering announces that this is to be done to confuse the RAF. However, the real reason (apparently) is that Obstlt Hans-Jürgen von Cramon-Taubadel, the unit's Geschwaderkommodore, has married a woman with Jewish relatives. Some unit members show their displeasure in various ways, such as by painting question marks on their planes. Luftwaffe pilots and ground crew tend to be quite loyal to their commanders. Goering is a well-known dove in terms of prospective military operations - he is very skeptical of plans to invade the Soviet Union - and Goering may do peculiar things like this to show that he is completely "on board" with the Hitler agenda. Goering later lifts the ban.


31 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ace of Spades logo
The JG 53 "Ace of Spades" logo.

US Government: Secretary of War Stimson states that he wants military conscription, but there is widespread opposition to the draft.

Vichy France: All French servicemen who join a foreign army - including the British Army - are condemned to death.

31 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz
Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz, 31 July 1940.

Holocaust: "Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz." The German repression continues in occupied Poland, as all adult males at Olkusz are forced into the town square and forced to lie face-down on the ground simply to humiliate them while they are counted. Many Jewish Rabbis are pointedly humiliated by shaving their beards, making them strip, and yelling at them. Four men are killed for little or no reason. Of the 4097 Jews in the area counted by the Germans, about 250 survived the war. Many wind up in extermination camps such as Auschwitz.

British Homefront: A pagan festival of the wheat harvest, Lammas Day, occurs on 1 August, and Lammas Eve is a holiday in and of itself. Magicians and spell-casters from around England direct their vital energies toward the destruction of Hitler. The holiday is full of all sorts of symbolism about reaping what you sow and so forth.

31 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz
Rabbi Moshe Hagerman the Dayan -Jewish municipal chief judge, being forced to take off his Talit and Teffilin. July 31, 1940. He is about to join the people lying face-down on the ground next to him.

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


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

2016

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