Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26, 1940: Bananas Be Gone

Tuesday 26 November 1940

26 November 1940 Lord Woolton
Lord Woolton: Yes, we have no bananas. But eggs are fine.
Italian/Greek Campaign: Greek III Corps on 26 November 1940 continues advancing slowly toward Lake Ohrid. The Greeks are on foot, which makes their advance slow, but also steady, as they do not have to rely on vehicles that break down in the snowy conditions. The Greeks capture half a dozen aircraft abandoned by the Italian Regia Aeronautica. The Greek 2nd Infantry Division is approaching Sucha Pass.

The RAF presence in mainland Greece begins to make its presence noticed. It bombs Valona Harbor, a major Italian supply port in Albania. The raid is successful and causes extensive destruction.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command hits Cologne hard, focusing on armament factories. It also raids Antwerp, Berlin (railways), Boulogne, Calais, Flushing, Rotterdam, and Turin (an arsenal). Coastal Command contributes attacks on the U-boat pens at Lorient, Ghent oil installations, shipping in the North Sea, and various Luftwaffe airfields.

The Luftwaffe does little during the day aside from raid Bristol again as well as Plymouth. After dark, it continues targeting Bristol and also bombs London. The Luftwaffe loses four planes.

Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering orders a halt to Kriegsmarine use of Luftwaffe torpedo bombers (all planes in Germany are under Luftwaffe control, no exceptions). He furthers orders a halt to the production of the F-5 air torpedo that they use. Goering, it is widely assumed, is simply protecting his own turf and, in the process, hurting the German war effort.

RAF ace James Lacey receives a Bar to his Distinguished Flying Medal.

26 November 1940 James Lacey
James Lacey.
Battle of the Atlantic: French 1166 ton transport Medoc, which is operating under three flags and with a Polish captain (thus many mistakenly think this was a Polish vessel), is on patrol in the English Channel off Rame Head, Cornwall when it sinks in the late afternoon. A lone Luftwaffe plane strafes the plane, then on its second pass torpedoes and sinks it. All 41 crew (all but three British) on board perish. This has become a popular dive site known as the "Halfway wreck," but is rather deep (150 feet, 50 meters) for casual divers.

In one of those mysteries of the sea, 642-ton Nicaraguan freighter Grijalva departs from Playa Del Carmen for Veracruz but then vanishes with its crew. It is unknown if this loss is war-related.

Dutch 496-ton freighter Walenburg hits a mine and is damaged in the North Sea.

Convoy OB 250 departs from Liverpool, Convoys FN 343 and FN 344 depart from Southend, Convoys FS 345 and FS 346 depart from Methil.

Canadian corvette HMCS Snowberry (K 166) is commissioned at Quebec City. This is a popular ship for many people because Revell made a 1/72 scale model kit of it.

26 November 1940 HMCS Snowberry
HMCS Snowberry.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The British War Cabinet is busy planning Operation Compass, the attack in Egypt against the Italian forces. Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a telegram to Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell:
Re:- Operation Compass... am having a Staff study made of possibilities open to us, if all goes well, for moving troops and also reserve forward by sea in long hops along the coast, and setting up new supply bases to which pursuing armoured vehicles and units might resort.
Churchill's idea of seaborne landings behind enemy lines will become a common theme during World War II, particularly in the Pacific. However, in the Mediterranean theater, the concept produces decidedly mixed results and proves much better in theory than in practice.

Operation Collar is at its climax. As part of the elaborate fleet operations that always accompany convoys to Malta during this period, Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and accompanying ships raid Rhodes and the Italian seaplane base at Port Laki, Leros at 06:00. The RAF loses one Swordfish. The ships then sail to join Convoy ME 4.

In another diversionary attack, eight Swordfish from HMS Eagle raid Tripoli at 05:20. This is Operation Tripe.

Convoy MW 4 (four freighters and two battleships) reaches Malta at 08:13. The ships are unloaded quickly and depart from Malta as Convoy ME 4 at 16:13. Italian torpedo bombers attack the departing Royal Navy ships after dark, but they score no hits.

The Italian fleet, which has dispersed from Taranto to Naples and Messina, sorties to an area south of Sardinia. This includes two modern battleships, the Vittorio Veneto and the Giulio Cesare. Depending upon how quickly they get there, that would place them near Royal Navy Force H from Gibraltar.

New Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Formidable embarks RAF Nos. 826 and 829 Squadrons. The carrier's first mission will be a patrol to the South Atlantic.

In North Africa, training for Operation Compass, the attack on the Italians in Egypt, continues for a second day. The troops are not told what they are training for. The men, in fact, are training in how to attack replicas of Italian positions at Nibeiwa and Tummar. After this, the rank and file are told there is another set of exercises planned in December as deception in case word leaks out, but there will not be.

26 November 1940 Medoc
The Medoc, sunk today with great loss of life.
Battle of the Pacific: German raiders Komet and Orion, still acting in concert, sink New Zealand 16,712 ton New Zealand troopship Rangitane (Captain Lionel Upton RNR). There are 16 deaths (8 crew and 8 passengers), the rest (296 passengers and crew) of those aboard becoming POWs. The New Zealand Royal Navy receives a distress call from the vessel before shelling puts out its wireless. They send out light cruiser HMNZS Achilles and Monawai and aircraft to intercept the two German ships. The Rangitane carries  £2 million in silver bullion (1940 prices) in addition to other cargo. Two of the crew receive British Empire Medals for assisting with the evacuation. Most of the prisoners eventually are released on Emirau, New Guineau, but some wound up in German POW camps.

Anglo/US Relations: The sixth and final tranche of US Navy destroyers delivered to the Royal Navy as part of the September destroyer-for-bases deal is handed over. The following ships are decommissioned today at Halifax and renamed as follows:

  • USS Bailey (DD 269), commissioned as HMS Reading
  • USS Meade (DD 274), commissioned as HMS Ramsey 
  • USS Shubrick (DD 268), commissioned as HMS Ripley  
  • USS Swasey (DD 273), commissioned as HMS Rockingham )
  • USS Fairfax (DD 93), commissioned as HMS Richmond 
  • USS Claxton (DD 140) commissioned as HMS Salisbury
  • USS Tillman (DD 135) commissioned as HMS Wells
  • USS Ringgold (DD 89) commissioned as HMS Newark
  • USS Robinson (DD 88) commissioned as HMS Newmarket
  • USS Sigourney (DD 81) commissioned as HMS Newport.
British Military: The British 1st Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade is converted into the 27th Armoured Brigade. It is under the command of Brigadier C.W. Norman.

British Government: The issue of Jewish settlement in Palestine has risen to become a major issue due to the terrorist bombing of the transport Patria in Haifa Harbor on the 25th. British Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Lloyd bemoans those who illegally transport refugees to Palestine, calling them "foul people who had to be stamped out." This comment is widely viewed as being anti-Semitic and outrageous, and perhaps it is. However, Lord Lloyd appears to be concerned about the fact that many of the people being transported illegally are perishing somewhere along the way, and thus this is a very dirty business where unscrupulous people are profiting at the expense of people they are leading to their deaths.

26 November 1940 Governor-General Ryckmans Belgian Congo
Governor-General Ryckmans.
Belgian Congo: Governor-General Pierre Marie Joseph Ryckmans, against the feelings of some in the colony but with the approval of the Belgian government-in-exile in London, declares war on Italy. He states that his purpose is "to continue the closest collaboration with Britain and her allies."

The Belgian Congo is not of much value militarily or strategically. However, the move helps the rump Belgian government in London to establish its credentials and burnish its claim to be the legitimate post-war government. The Belgian Congo also provides some logistical help to the coming British East Africa campaign. However, this is significant for a much more subtle reason which cannot yet be appreciated except by some very specially placed scientists: the Belgian Congo is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including extremely high-quality ores of an as-yet obscure metal called uranium.

China: The Japanese advance in central Hupei along the Han River continues. The Japanese 11th Army advances and captures Hsienchu. There is heavy fighting around Liuhouchi, Lichiatang, Peinchai, Wangchiaho, Yunanmen, Chinchi Shan, and Chingmingpu.

26 November 1940 Adolf Hitler Lord Rothermere
Lord Rothermere and Adolf Hitler.
British Homefront: Lord Rothermere (Harold Sidney Harmsworth), a media baron (The Daily Mail, etc.) whose newspapers engaged in a cynical jingoistic campaign advocating war before World War I, passes away at age 72 in Bermuda (many English plutocrats ride out the war in the Bahamas and Bermuda). Rothermere is widely regarded as a champion of Neville Chamberlain's campaign of appeasement and at times has displayed some sympathies to Hitler's fascist regime (they were friends in the 1930s). To be fair, however, Rothermere also raised the alarm in the mid-1930s London press about Germany's rapid rearmament.

26 November 1940 Lord Rothermere
Lord Rothermere, the Rupert Murdoch of his day. Actually, he was much more powerful in England ca. 1940 than Rupert Murdoch is today.
Turning to another event today, it is a simple fact of life that Britons like their bananas. There is nothing wrong with that, so do I. Bananas are great! Their love for bananas, in fact, was just as true during the early part of World War II as always.

Unfortunately, though, by late 1940 several banana boats have been torpedoed, and shipping space is needed for other goods. In addition, fast banana boats (they need to be fast because bananas spoil so rapidly) fare poorly in slow convoys and occasionally become "rompers," or ships that outrun their convoys and become vulnerable. In short, banana boats are becoming more trouble than they are worth.

Food Minister Lord Woolton, a very popular fellow, thus takes the controversial and unpopular decision to discontinue the wartime importation of bananas in favor of oranges. Oranges are more convenient because they take up less space (particularly as concentrated orange juice) and do not spoil as quickly (and can be refrigerated, though freezing is a little trickier). As part of this decision to ban bananas, a subtle campaign - what we might now call a whisper campaign - is launched in England to disparage bananas as unhealthy and unnecessary. This is both to create a "sour grapes" attitude among consumers and to prevent the Germans from thinking they have achieved a moral victory by depriving English consumers of something that they love. Bananas virtually disappear from Great Britain for exactly five years, until the holiday season in 1945; and the banana trade does not recover to pre-war levels for a full decade. Many English children grow up not even knowing what bananas are or how to eat them.

However, since the war, the UK banana market has recovered, and in the 21st Century it is the second-largest in Europe behind only... wait for it... Germany.

American Homefront: There is a major snowstorm in the Northeast, with up to 8 inches of snow in Boston and over 2 inches in New York City.

26 November 1940 Hans Baur
Adolf Hitler's personal pilot, SS-Oberführer Hans Baur. Picture published 26 November 1940 in a German newspaper. He appears to be standing in front of a Junker Ju 52, which Hitler stopped using at the beginning of the war (in favor of a faster Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor), so they may be using an old file photo.
November 1940

November 1, 1940: Hitler Irate
November 2, 1940: U-31 Sunk - Again
November 3, 1940: Kretschmer's Master Class
November 4, 1940: Spain Absorbs Tangier
November 5, 1940: Jervis Bay Meets Admiral Scheer
November 6, 1940: San Demetrio Incident
November 7, 1940: Galloping Gertie
November 8, 1940: Italian Shakeup in Greece
November 9, 1940: Dutch Fascists March
November 10, 1940: Fala and Doc Strange
November 11, 1940: Taranto Raid
November 12, 1940: Molotov Takes Berlin
November 13, 1940: Molotov Foils Hitler
November 14, 1940: Moonlight Sonata
November 15, 1940: Warsaw Ghetto Sealed
November 16, 1940: France Keeps Battleships
November 17, 1940: Malta Hurricane Disaster
November 18, 1940: Hitler Berates Ciano
November 19, 1940: Birmingham Devastated
November 20, 1940: Hungary Joins Axis
November 21, 1940: Dies White Paper
November 22, 1940: Italians Take Korçë
November 23, 1940: U-Boat Bonanza!
November 24, 1940: Slovakia Joins In
November 25, 1940: Molotov's Demands
November 26, 1940: Bananas Be Gone
November 27, 1940: Cape Spartivento Battle
November 28, 1940: Wick Perishes
November 29, 1940: Trouble in Indochina
November 30, 1940: Lucy and Desi Marry


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