Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 19, 1940: Disperse the Barges


Thursday 19 September 1940

19 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com invasion barges
Reconnaissance photo of invasion barges assembled in Dunkirk Harbour after attacks by RAF bombers, 1940.

Battle of Britain: Adolf Hitler on 19 September 1940 continues his gradual retreat from Operation Sealion (a process that takes almost two years). He reviews the large overnight attack by RAF Bomber Command and makes a decision. With 214 of the 1918 barges assembled having been destroyed, and 21 of 170 transports sunk, he orders them dispersed because "under the present circumstances" he cannot "contemplate" an invasion. Much of the German economy relies on barges, so their loss is no small matter. Operation Sealion remains on the docket, but will never again come under serious consideration.

It is extremely unlikely that the Wehrmacht can expect the British not to notice these changes, somewhat diminishing the value of the Ultra decrypts of the 17th. This, of course, will release the British bombers to resume strategic attacks on Germany, Italy and the occupied countries.

The troops assembled for Sealion are dispersed as well except for those necessary to dismantle the invasion preparations. Some head to the East in preparation for Operation Barbarossa. For the vast majority of them, this will be the last quiet winter of their lives.

The poor weather continues, with occasional rain. In the morning, the Luftwaffe stages some small-scale raids on Liverpool and London, without much success. The Germans lose two Junkers Ju 88s to the Hurricanes of RAF No. 249 and 302 Squadrons.

19 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com invasion barges
A Panzer III Tauchpanzer being hoisted onto an invasion barge in 1940 as a test. One of the main problems with the German preparations for Sealion is that they have not had time to design and produce purpose-built landing craft. (Engelmeier Federal Archive).

Other raids during the day are light. Since the invasion is off, there is no real reason for the Luftwaffe to extend itself. Lone raiders come across now and then, with very little success. The Luftwaffe conduct some mine-laying. Several air raid alerts are sounded, but the Germans apparently get lost in the foul weather and make few attacks. London suffers some small raids around 21:00. One of the few successful raids is an attack on Heston airfield in Middlesex, where several buildings are destroyed and 13 aircraft damaged or destroyed.

One of the raiders over London drops its bombs on a large air raid shelter at Tottenham, killing or wounding 70 people. Unlike earlier nights, when the raids lasted almost until first light, the night's raids are pretty much over by midnight.

Overall, it is a quiet day. Luftwaffe losses are in the single digits, and the RAF apparently does not lose any planes in the sky. Such figures, of course, ignore planes destroyed or damaged on the ground and when you factor those in, the day was pretty much a wash.

Waterloo Station is reopened after being repaired from the attack of 7 September.

RAF No. 71 Squadron forms at RAF Church Fenton. It is composed of Brewster Buffaloes, which the British Purchasing Committee ordered during the darkest days of the summer. The pilots immediately notice that they are inferior to Spitfires and Hurricanes.

19 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com invasion barges
Invasion barges at Wilhelmshaven, Germany (Federal Archive).

European Air Operations: During the night, RAF Bomber Command continues aggressively targeting invasion barges in the Channel ports. In the largest attack yet, it sends 194 bombers to attack them. The British lose a Hampden bomber (other bombers in the attack are Wellingtons and Whitleys). After dark, the RAF experiences the same weather problems as the Luftwaffe and makes only scattered attacks on the French ports.

Battle of the Atlantic: The Italian submarine fleet gets another "victory" when the Guglielmo Marconi torpedoes and sinks 330 ton neutral Spanish fishing trawler Almirante Jose De Carranza about 16 miles northwest of Cape Villano. Italian submarines are playing with fire in sinking Spanish ships, as Hitler is trying to woo Francisco Franco over to the Axis. The Marconi is en route to Bordeaux, its new BETASOM base. There is only one survivor.

Another Italian submarine, Comandante Faa Di Bruno, is operating about 700 miles west of Gibraltar and spots another Allied ship, but misses.

The RAF bombs and sinks 833 ton torpedo boat T3 at Le Havre. There are 12 survivors (almost all wounded) and 9 men perish. The ship sinks in shallow water and is recoverable.

British 1025 ton coastal tanker Shelbrit 1 hits a mine and sinks in the Moray Firth about 3 miles off the Cromarty Firth. All 21 aboard perish.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages British freighter West Kedron in the North Channel.

At Dakar, the Vichy French land some troops. They apparently have gotten wind of Free French plans to invade the port with the British in Operation Menace. British Convoy MS, composed of 5 transports, departs from Freetown with escorts as part of the operation.

Convoys OA 217 and MT 174 depart from Methil, Convoy OB 216 departs from Liverpool, Convoy FN 285 departs from Southend, Convoy OL 3 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HG 44 departs from Gibraltar, Convoy SC 5 departs from Sydney (Nova Scotia).

19 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com invasion barges
British aerial reconnaissance of German invasion barges in Boulogne harbour.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Italian submarine, Serpente fires on fellow Italian submarine Marcantonio Colonna about 60 miles south of Leuca, Italy, but misses.

The British Mediterranean fleet, which has been active against the new Italian positions in western Egypt, returns to Alexandria.

With Malta increasingly isolated due to the Italian advance into Egypt, the British send a Short Sunderland flying boat from Alexandria with replacement parts for a damaged Sunderland. Governor Dobbie telegrams the War Office to complain that the military presence on the island would be insufficient to repel an invasion. There are five infantry battalions guarding the beaches, and eight companies on guard at the airfields. Dobbie requests two additional battalions from England, noting that the locals cannot provide the necessary soldiers.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: British Convoy BN 5, 23 ships with New Zealand and Australian escorts, departs from Bombay, India. The Italians have two submarines (Archimede and Guglielmotti) and four destroyers (Leone, Pantera, Battisti, and Manin) in the Red Sea to track down British Convoy BN-5. So far, no luck finding it.

German/Italian Relations: German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop meets with Mussolini and his counterpart, Count Ciano, in Rome. His message from Hitler: leave Greece and Yugoslavia alone. Mussolini, of course, is casting a covetous eye on ancient enemy Greece. He vows to finish off Egypt first (which, in retrospect, would have been much wiser). Obviously, Mussolini is lying through his teeth to his ally.

Japanese/Vichy France Relations: Dropping the pretense of negotiations, Japan formally notifies the authorities in French Indochina that more troops are going to cross the border from China.

19 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF pilots Duxford
Pilots of No.19 Squadron between sorties at their crew room at Manor Farm, Fowlmere, near Duxford, September 1940.

British Military: Orde Wingate departs from England for Khartoum, taking the long-way around via Cape Town and Cairo. Middle East commander General Wavell, an old friend, has invited him to stir up opposition to the Italians in Ethiopia. Wingate will create the Gideon Force, a guerrilla force composed of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian soldiers.

Major General Richard O'Connor, Commander of the Western Desert Force, gets a new chief of staff, Eric Dorman-Smith. Their goal is to push the Italians out of Egypt.

US Military: Battleship USS Oklahoma collides with tug Goliath in Puget Sound, Washington. The Oklahoma is in port for minor upgrades at the Puget Sound Navy Yard

Japanese Government: Not everybody in the Japanese government is on board with all the war-mongering going on in the military. Prince Hiroyasu of Fushimi notes his own doubts during an Imperial Conference about where an alliance with Germany might lead.

German Homefront: German state media denounces the RAF bombing attacks, harping on a claim that a bombing attack killed 21 special needs children at Bethel. Germany is portrayed as acting correctly, while the British are portrayed as acting with savage impunity for human life.

British Homefront: British Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin releases the number of British conscientious objectors as of August 1940: 51,261.

American Homefront: Not everybody is happy with President Roosevelt's decision to seek an unprecedented third term. The concerns extend across the aisle. Democrat John W. Davis, the party's nominee in 1924, proposes a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the practice. It is perhaps the first real call for term limits, as he calls for Presidents to serve only one term lasting six ears. "Six years is long enough in which to do all the good one man is likely to accomplish, if he thinks first of his country and not of himself." This is an issue which is percolating throughout the 1940s and actually does result in something similar to what Davis proposes, with Presidents limited to two four-year terms.

Future History: William Thomas Medley is born in Santa Ana, California. During the 1960s, he joins with Bobby Hatfield and forms The Righteous Brothers. Phil Spector notices the during an event at the San Francisco Cow Palace in 1964 and signs them to his label, Phillies Records. The Righteous Brothers embark on a string of classic hits, including "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Unchained Melody." He has another big hit in a duo with Jennifer Warnes in 1988 with "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Bill Medley remains active and has talked of reviving The Righteous Brothers with a new singing partner to replace the deceased Bobby Hatfield.

19 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com invasion barges King George Queen Elizabeth Madame Tussauds
Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth inspect bomb damage at the cinema attached to Madame Tussaud's on September 19, 1940.


September 1940


September 1, 1940: RAF's Horrible Weekend
September 2, 1940: German Troopship Sunk
September 3, 1940: Destroyers for Bases
September 4, 1940: Enter Antonescu
September 5, 1940: Stukas Over Malta
September 6, 1940: The Luftwaffe Peaks
September 7, 1940: The Blitz Begins
September 8, 1940: Codeword Cromwell
September 9, 1940: Italians Attack Egypt
September 10, 1940: Hitler Postpones Sealion
September 11, 1940: British Confusion at Gibraltar
September 12, 1940: Warsaw Ghetto Approved
September 13, 1940: Zeros Attack!
September 14, 1940: The Draft Is Back
September 15, 1940: Battle of Britain Day
September 16, 1940: italians Take Sidi Barrani
September 17, 1940: Sealion Kaputt
September 18, 1940: City of Benares Incident
September 19, 1940: Disperse the Barges
September 20, 1940: A Wolfpack Gathers
September 21, 1940: Wolfpack Strikes Convoy HX-72
September 22, 1940: Vietnam War Begins
September 23, 1940: Operation Menace Begins
September 24, 1940: Dakar Fights Back
September 25, 1940: Filton Raid
September 26, 1940: Axis Time
September 27, 1940: Graveney Marsh Battle
September 28, 1940: Radio Belgique Begins
September 29, 1940: Brocklesby Collision
September 30, 1940: Operation Lena

2016

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