World War Two Daily: October 15, 1940: Mussolini Targets Greece

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 15, 1940: Mussolini Targets Greece

Tuesday 15 October 1940

15 October 1940 BBC House
Damage to the 7th floor of the BBC House in central London by a 500 lb bomb on 15 October 1940. At first, the bomb does not detonate, but when men arrive to move it, the bomb goes off, killing four men and three women.
Battle of Britain: Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering continues with his perpetual tinkering of the Luftwaffe operations over England on 15 October 1940. In this case, he basically just codifies what has been the program for weeks now anyway. He orders that there be three priorities in descending order:
  • London;
  • aircraft factories;
  • factories in the Midlands and air bases.
More importantly, the weight of the offensive from now on is to be at night, something that already has been the case throughout the month. With the nights getting longer, this makes good tactical sense, although not so much strategic sense. The British night fighter force composed of Bristol Beaufighters is still embryonic, and the only real defense to the bombers is the fierce anti-aircraft ring defending inner London and some other major cities. Recent raids have been tactically devastating but strategically almost worthless, as they destroy random buildings in the cities while leaving the RAF's growing power unchecked.

The RAF also is tinkering with its strategy. While the British do not have the initiative at the moment - fighter operations by RAF fighters at this stage over the Continent are rare and usually accidental - their decisions greatly affect the course of the battle because the Luftwaffe repeatedly has shifted its own strategy in response.

Number 11 Group today issues new instructions to its units. From now on, there are to be standing patrols at 20,000 feet or higher. This is considered necessary due to the new Luftwaffe tactic of using fighter-bombers (Jabos) during the day rather than the slower (and lower-flying) bombers. This allows for an interception on somewhat equal terms, as the British fighters do not need ten minutes to get up to altitude. It also, however, somewhat plays into the Luftwaffe's own strategy of desiring air battles in order to continue harvesting Fighter Command's assets.

The weather is unsettled, cloudy over the Channel and France but clearing from the west. The day begins with a "pirate raid" at 06:10 by a lone Heinkel He 111 of III,/KG 55 upon the British Aeroplane Company located at Filton. Another attack at 07:00 targets Birmingham and RAF Ternhill, destroying two Blenheims and some other aircraft. Thereafter, the raids are almost continuous, of small scale but coming from all directions.

At 08:00, the Luftwaffe sends a Jabo raid against southern England. As is often the case with the Jabos, the initial group reaches its targets before the RAF can respond. Their target is London, and King George V Dock in West Ham, Waterloo Station and south London, in general, take the brunt of the attack.

Another attack crosses at 09:45. This time, the RAF is waiting and the Jabos don't reach their targets.

Around noontime, the day's major raid occurs when sixty fighters, including Jabos and Bf 110s, cross near Folkestone with London as their target. The RAF performs a successful interception, chasing away the Bf 110s and forcing the Bf 109 Jabos to drop their bombs at random in the Ashford/Gravesend/Maidstone region. Both sides use the clouds to their advantage, which reduces the number of losses on both sides.

Another large formation crosses the Isle of Wight around the same time. This time, the RAF has a clear-cut victory, attacking out of the sun and shooting down several Bf 109s and leading to more dogfights. The Germans, though, have a numerical advantage in this engagement, so some of the Jabos get through to their target of Southampton.

JG 26, perhaps the premier Luftwaffe formation at the time, bounces some Hurricanes east of London during the afternoon as the Luftwaffe continues raids on the Maidstone/Ashford area. Just as the RAF earlier had a clear-cut victory, this battle goes to the Germans. They shoot down several RAF planes.

15 October 1940 RAF No. 310 Squadron
Sergeant Alois Dvořák welcomed by pilots of RAF No. 310 Squadron at RAF Duxford. He joins the unit on 15 October 1940.
The skies clear completely during the day, and there is a bright moon. After dark, the Luftwaffe mounts another major effort against London. 400 bombers pound the financial district (City of London) with 530 tons of bombs, starting 900 fires and killing hundreds of people. There is extensive damage that severs rail and road communications at five main railway stations. Oxford Street is blocked, as well as the road above Balham Underground Station from the night before. Damage also is caused to key installations such as the Royal Docks, Beckton Gasworks, Battersea Power Station, and a Handley Page aircraft. The vital water pipeline at Enfield is severed, shutting off a 46-million Imperial gallon per day pipeline.

An especially noticeable incident occurs when bombs fall on the BBC during its 21:00 news broadcast. Seven people lose their lives after the bomb crashes through the exterior wall into an interior library, causing extensive damage. However, the equipment still functions. Broadcaster Bruce Belfrage, sitting in the basement with Hell itself breaking loose above, carries on throughout the broadcast despite being covered in plaster. The home audience never suspects a thing. "Keep calm and carry on" indeed.

Birmingham, Kent, and Bristol also are hit during the night but don't receive nearly the attention as does London.  The Luftwaffe loses only one bomber, as the British night fighter force remains ineffective.

Overall, it is another reasonably good day for the Luftwaffe. The score is usually given as 14 losses for the Luftwaffe and 15 by the RAF - and that generally does not include either RAF bombers lost over Europe over planes destroyed on the ground. The Luftwaffe has found a workable strategy against the British, but the question, as previously, is how long they will stick to a good thing. In the past, the answer has been... not long enough.

It is a big day for the big names of the Luftwaffe. Major Werner Mölders of Stab/JG 51 downs a Hurricane during the morning for victory number 47. Adolf Galland of Stab/JG 26 gets his 45th victory, a Spitfire during the afternoon battles, staying hot on the heels of Mölders. Hauptmann Walter Oesau of Stab III./JG 51 also claims a Hurricane for his 37th victory. "Pips" Priller also gets two victories, and Hauptmann Helmut Wick downs a Spitfire for victory no. 42. When the Experten rack up the scores, you know the Luftwaffe is having a good day - for those who return to base.

On the English side, Section Commander George Walter Inwood of the Home Guard pulls two unconscious men from a gas-filled center but perishes on his third go-round. He posthumously receives the George Cross.

Lieutenant Eric Charles Twelves Wilson previously has received the Victoria's Cross for actions in Somaliland during the Italian invasion, but there is a twist. At first, it is believed that the award is posthumous, but today he turns up in a POW camp. Wilson really earned the award, maintaining a machine-gun post-operational from 11-15 August despite being wounded... and having malaria. The stiff upper lip and all that.

General Alexander Holle replaces Generalmajor Robert Fuchs as Kommodore of KG 26.

With all the other big Luftwaffe names in the news today, there's also another one who does something important. This Luftwaffe legend, however, is still unknown. Erich "Bubi" Hartmann joins the Luftwaffe Military Training Regiment 10 at Neukuhurn near Koenigsberg in East Prussia.

15 October 1940 BBC House
Another view of the BBC House damage.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command concentrates on the German-held ports tonight. This includes Kiel, Hamburg, Boulogne, Flushing, Lorient, Brest and Terneuzen. The Fleet Air Arm chips in with attacks on Dunkirk.

Battle of the Atlantic: It is a good day for the U-boats and a bad one for the convoys. As usual, it is a lottery for the merchant marine sailors: sometimes the crew all live, sometimes most or all of them perish. There's no way to predict what will happen, the variables include the weather, the ship's cargo (ships with heavy and dense cargos tend to sink faster), the distance from shore, the presence of other ships nearby, the type of ship you are on (tankers are much harder to sink), any assistance offered by the U-boat itself, and whether you even survive the initial explosion intact. Even if you make it to the lifeboats, they may get swamped or spring a leak or you may die of starvation before you make land or are found. Many lifeboats, seen by the U-boat to depart intact, are never seen again. Serving on the North Atlantic trade routes is so disliked that some crews transfer to the navy, which in some ways can be safer.

U-138 (Oblt.z.S. Wolfgang Lüth) stalks Convoy OB 228 northwest of the Butt of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (about 80 km northwest of Rockall). At 05:10 Lüth fires a torpedo at the Bonheur, and at 05:15 another at the British Glory.

U-138 also torpedoes and sinks 5327-ton British freighter Bonheur. All 39 crew survive, taken off by HMT Sphene.

U-138 then torpedoes and damages 6993 ton British Glory. The torpedo hits in the aft section engine room, killing three men there and disabling the ship. The ship is towed to Kames Bay, then to the Clyde for repairs.

U-103 (Kptl. Viktor Schütze), toward the end of her first patrol, also stalks Convoy OB 228. It torpedoes and sinks 4747-ton British freighter Thistlegarth. There are 9 survivors and 30 crew perish. After this, U-103 heads to its new base at Lorient.

U-93 (Kptlt. Claus Korth) stalks Convoy OB 227 northwest of the Outer Hebrides. Just after midnight, it torpedoes and sinks 9331-ton British cargo freighter Hurunui. There are 73 survivors and 2 crew perish.

Italian submarine Comandante Alfredo Cappellini, operating off the Azores, uses its deck gun to sinks Belgian freighter Kabalo. There are 42 survivors and one man perishes.

Royal Navy patrol boat HMT Mistletoe hits a mine and blows up in the Humber Estuary near Spurn Point, Yorkshire. There are two survivors and six men perish. Several ships have been succumbing to this minefield.

British drifter Apple Tree (19 tons) gets the worst of a collision with RAF Pinnace No. 50 in Oban Harbour and sinks.

British 477 ton collier Bellavale runs aground in a storm at St. John's Point, Rossglass, County Down. It is a total loss.

Royal Navy submarine L 27 (Lt R. E. Campbell) reports attacking a German convoy off Cape Barfleur and scoring three hits on a 7000-ton freighter. However, in one of those mysteries of the sea, the German records make no mention of any such incident.

U-65 (Kptlt. Joachim Hoppe) reports being attacked by a Royal Navy submarine while transiting through the Bay of Biscay from its base at Lorient. However, it is undamaged and continues out to the Atlantic.

Operation D.H.U. is set in motion. Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Hood departs from Scapa Flow as part of a force to attack Tromso, Norway in a few days. Several destroyers also depart and will conduct exercises in the interim.

Minelayer HMS Teviotbank and destroyer HMS Intrepid lay minefield BS 41 in the North Sea.

Convoy OB 229 departs from Liverpool, Convoy FN 309 departs from Southend, Convoy 310 departs from Methil, Convoy SC 8 departs from St John, Nova Scotia.

15 October 1940 Beach defenses England
"Posed portrait of a soldier with rifle and bayonet standing watch behind beach defenses' somewhere in Southern England', 15 October 1940." © IWM (H 4733). 
Battle of the Mediterranean: In a rare gunbattle between submarines, Italian submarine Enrico Toti sinks Royal Navy submarine HMS Triad (Lt.Cdr. G.S. Salt) off Calabria (50 miles south of Cape Colonne in Otranto Strait). Encountering each other on the surface at 01:00, the Triad fires first but misses, and also fires a torpedo that misses. Using its machine gun, the Toti then forces the Triad gunners to seek shelter and closes at full speed. The Toti then sinks the Triad with a torpedo as the British submarine attempts to dive. The submarine pops out of the water vertically stern first, then sinks straight down. There are no survivors of the 50-man crew. The Triad is often mistaken for HMS Rainbow, which sank on 4 October in a collision.

At Malta, a French Loire 130 reconnaissance aircraft with three aboard unexpectedly lands (after being shadowed by three Hurricanes) at Kalfrana from Bizerta. It is a crew of Vichy airmen switching sides. The pilot has never flown a Loire before, but he brings the plane down in a manner described as "a bit shaky" by ground observers. The men provide valuable intelligence about aircraft at Bizerta. It is a solid victory for the propaganda service, as the men are carrying a leaflet dropped by the RAF.

German/Soviet Relations: The German embassy in Moscow is still translating Ribbentrop's massive mission to Stalin about a New World Order. It will take a few more days.

Italian/Bulgarian Relations: Italy asks Bulgaria to assist the projected invasion of Greece. This would require the Italians to defend two fronts rather than one.

Italian Military: Benito Mussolini, after much thought and consultation, decides to use the Italian occupation of Albania to invade Greece. Mussolini obtains permission from the Italian War Council (Ciano, Badoglio, Jacomoni, Visconti-Prasca, Roatta, Cavagnari, and Pricolo), which is a mere formality (despite misgivings they almost all privately have). He does not tell German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, who complains around this time that there is a strange "inability" of Germans to learn the Italian plans. Marshal Badoglio, no fan military adventures with a weak army, succeeds only in gaining a postponement of two days for the start of the invasion, which will have to go through the mountains in northern Greece.

The planned attack date of the invasion is 26 October. The Commando Supremo projects a quick two-week operation to defeat the Greeks. This is a decision of far-reaching ramifications - some say it directly affects the outcome of World War II itself by a direct chain of events - that will not become fully apparent for some time.

US Military: The US Marine Corps mobilizes its reserve battalions. They are to be assigned to active duty by 9 November 1940.

Fighters ordered by Sweden are requisitioned by the US Army Air Corps and the order is canceled.

15 October 1940 69th Regiment New York
The storied US 69th Regiment (New York) is inducted into the Federal Armory during a ceremony held at the drill shed. 15 October 1940.
Japanese Military: Captain Sadayoshi Yamada becomes commanding officer of the aircraft carrier “Kaga.” Captain Matsuji Ijuin becomes commanding officer of “Naka.”

British Government: Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a message to all ambassadors via the Foreign Office that "nothing can compare with the importance of the British Empire and the United States being co-belligerent." This, of course, is not the official policy of the United States - at least openly.

Holocaust: Adolf Hitler expounds upon his vision for Czechoslovakia, which has been incorporated into the Greater Reich as the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. His view is that half the population will assimilate, and the rest is expendable. Naturally, the usual groups - intellectuals, Jews and other minorities such as the Gypsies, clergy - fall into the latter category.

American Homefront: The government announces that, pursuant to the new peacetime draft, 16 million already have registered for the peacetime draft.

Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" premieres in New York City. This is a pet project of Chaplin's which he has been working on for years. A very political film due to its obvious parodies of Hitler and Mussolini (who is portrayed like a delicatessen butcher in a hilarious performance by Jack Oakie) and others, "The Great Dictator" is seen by just about everyone as a propaganda tool. It is favored in the UK and banned in some Latin American countries.

15 October 1940 Charlie Chaplin The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator," released today.
October 1940
October 2, 1940: Hitler's Polish Plans
October 3, 1940: British Cabinet Shakeup
October 4, 1940: Brenner Pass Meeting
October 5, 1940: Mussolini Alters Strategy
October 6, 1940: Iron Guard Marches
October 7, 1940: McCollum Memo
October 8, 1940: Germans in Romania
October 9, 1940: John Lennon Arrives
October 10, 1940: Führer-Sofortprogramm
October 11, 1940: E-Boats Attack!
October 12, 1940: Sealion Cancelled
October 13, 1940: New World Order
October 14, 1940: Balham Tragedy
October 15, 1940: Mussolini Targets Greece
October 16, 1940: Japanese Seek Oil
October 17, 1940: RAF Shakeup
October 18, 1940: Convoy SC-7 Catastrophe
October 19, 1940: Convoy HX-79 Catastrophe
October 20, 1940: Convoy OB-229 Disaster
October 21, 1940: This Evil Man Hitler
October 22, 1940: Aktion Wagner-Burckel
October 23, 1940: Hitler at Hendaye
October 24, 1940: Hitler and Petain
October 25, 1940: Petain Woos Churchill
October 26, 1940: Empress of Britain Attack
October 27, 1940: Greece Rejects Italian Demands
October 28, 1940: Oxi Day
October 29, 1940: US Draft Begins
October 30, 1940: RAF Area Bombing Authorized
October 31, 1940: End of Battle of Britain


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