Adsense Large Leaderboard

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 29, 1940: Barbarossa On The Burner


Monday 29 July 1940

29 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF No. 610 Squadron
Spitfire pilots of No. 610 Squadron between sorties at "A" Flight dispersal at Hawkinge, 29 July 1940.

Battle of Britain: Another invasion alert at 21:00 on 29 July 1940 brings the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow to readiness, but once again it is a false alarm.

The Luftwaffe continues its attacks on Channel ports and convoys. Danish 1264 ton freighter Gronland and 197 ton yacht Gulzar sink at Dover Harbour.

The Stukas also catch destroyer HMS Delight off Portland at 17:00 and sink it. This attack is based on Freya Radar operating 60 miles away. There are 12 deaths and 59 other casualties.

To solidify the defense of Dover, from which all destroyers have been withdrawn, the Royal Navy sinks 5183 special service vessel Umvotti as a blockship.

The Admiralty expands upon its decision to take destroyers out of Dover Harbour. Now, destroyers are forbidden from any operations during daylight hours in the eastern English Channel. Minesweepers remain in action at great risk to themselves.

The Luftwaffe continues its mine-laying around the Thames estuary and nearby ports after dark.

Overall, it is another poor day for the Luftwaffe, which loses 8 planes to the RAF's 3 fighters.

29 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Polish pilot
P/O Kazimierz "Bonkin" Łukaszewicz takes his first familiarisation flight on 29 July 1940, 3 days after joining No 302 "Polish" Squadron. KIA 12 August 1940.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command continues its daylight raids over Occupied Europe. This includes raids on barges being collected at Channel ports for a possible invasion and airfields in northwest Europe. The RAF is being aided in these raids by Free French airmen. Other targets of opportunity are infrastructure such as railway marshalling yards and oil installations.

Battle of the Atlantic: Otto Kretschmer in U-99 continues his rampage in the mid-Atlantic. He picks off independent 7336 ton British freighter Clan Menzies about 150 miles off of County Clare, Ireland. Kretchmer misses with a torpedo, then stalks the ship for five hours until finally maneuvering into firing position. There are 88 survivors, 6 crew perish.

British 1262 ton freighter Moidart hits a mine and sinks off Felixstowe, Suffolk. All 11 crew perish.

British 44 ton trawler Leach's Romance hits a mine and sinks 10 miles south of Kemptown, Brighton. All four crew perish.

British 5952 ton freighter Clan Monroe hits a mine near Harwich. She remains afloat with a broken back for a few days, but sinks while under tow.

British 5601 ton freighter Ousebridge hits a mine in Queen's Channel on the entrance to Liverpool. It blows her bow off and breaks her back. There are two deaths.

British submarine HMS Sealion spots U-62 on the surface in the North Sea heading back to Bergen and shoots 3 torpedoes at it. The crew of the U-boat spots the British submarine, however, and evades the torpedoes. Sealion then surfaces and attacks with its deck gun, but U-62 dives and manages to escape.

British submarine HMS Triton sights an unidentified U-boat off Korsfjord, Norway heading out to sea but is unable to attack.

British submarine HMS Porpoise lays a minefield (FD.23) off of Norway, then heads south to the Bay of Biscay.

British corvette HMS La Malouine (K 46, Lt. Commander Ronald W. Keymer, is commissioned.

Battle of the Mediterranean: HMS Eagle, based at Alexandria, escorts a convoy in the eastern Mediterranean. Its Sea Gladiators shoot down an Italian SM.79 lurking in the vicinity.

Italian bombers raid Aden without much effect. Regia Aeronautica planes also attack Royal Navy ships north of Bardia, but do not score any hits.

Malta is being bombed almost every day, and people have begun practically living in the larger shelters. Many of these underground chambers were created centuries ago by the Knights of Malta. During the day, there are two air raid alerts, but no bombs are dropped.

29 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Walter von Hippel
Walter von Hippel receives the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 29 July 1940 for services as Oberstleutnant and commander of Flak-Regiment 102.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: The Royal Navy blockades Vichy French Madagascar.

German raider Atlantis rendezvouses with Kriegsmarine freighter Tirranna and takes on board ample fuel and other supplies.

War Crimes: The British Air Ministry justifies the fact that it has shot down four Luftwaffe Heinkel He 59 search and rescue planes that are clearly marked with the Red Cross symbol by stating that any plane that acts "suspiciously" is fair game. In point of fact, the RAF has been shooting down such planes while in the very act of rescuing downed crewmen in the Channel when there was nothing suspicious about them.

German Government: OKW Chief of Operations Colonel-General Alfred Jodl briefs top military personnel on Hitler's decision to attack the Soviet Union. "The collision with Bolshevism is bound to come. Better to have it now, when we are at the height of our military power," he says. The decision, of course, is not up for debate.

The timing given for the attack is spring 1941, which pretty much everyone believes will give the Wehrmacht plenty of time to settle matters with Great Britain. Eventually, the codename Operation Barbarossa will be given to this invasion.

While there have been off-handed rumination by some that the attack would occur as early as the fall of 1940, this is the first time a specific time frame has been officially established. In fact, while treated very matter-of-factly, this is first real communication from Hitler to the Wehrmacht, aside from off-handed comments, that an attack on the USSR will occur at all. After this, the idea of an attack on the USSR will be an accepted, in fact almost obvious and inevitable, idea among the top military leadership.

Hitler is at the absolute peak of his popularity following the fall of France, and while many have misgivings about attacking the Soviet Union - with very good reason - it is impossible to oppose his next move absent some intervening event. Among the many who oppose the idea to one extent or another is Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, but there really is nothing that he or anyone else can do within the chain of command once Hitler has made a decision.

The OKL (Kriegsmarine high command) issues a memo urging that Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Great Britain, be postponed until 1941. The OKL does, however, state that an invasion is feasible and could succeed even in September 1940 as seems the most likely possible start date.

With Great Britain about to fall into its hands, the Nazis set up an economic board to oversee the exploitation of British industry after Operation Sea Lion succeeds.

29 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com General George Marshall
George Marshall, Time Magazine, 29 July 1940.

Spanish/Portuguese Relations: The two governments sign the Iberian Pact.

Anglo/Romanian Relations: The Romanian government having recently nationalized a Dutch Royal Shell subsidiary, the British government formally protests via a diplomatic note.

German/Belgian Relations: Germany annexes Belgian provinces Eupen, Malmedy, and Moresnet. Speaking French/Flemish there now is banned. There is a large ethnic German population in this region, and many already tend to view themselves as German in nationality as well as by origin.

Vichy France: With trials scheduled for former Prime Minister Daladier and other "traitors," the Vichy government sets up a special Supreme Court to try former officials of the Third Republic. This becomes known as the Riom Trial.

Japan: One of the 9-12 British nationals (sources vary) imprisoned by the Japanese recently on spying and other charges (they claim), a Mr. Melville Cox, commits suicide at the police station.

China: The Nationalist government rejects a semi-serious Japanese peace offer which would assure Japanese hegemony in the region.

American Homefront: A poll in Life Magazine shows that 36% of the public thinks that Germany will beat Great Britain, versus 24% who see the reverse outcome. There is 70% support for a a draft.

29 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com girl lifeguard
"Girl Lifeguard," Life Magazine, 29 July 1940.

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

2016

July 28, 1940: Destroyers Pulled From Dover


Sunday 28 July 1940

28 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Hitler Tiso
Hitler greets Monsignor Tiso at Berchtesgaden, 28 July 1940.

Battle of Britain: The weather on 28 July 1940 remains overcast but good enough for most operations. Air Marshal Dowding shifts his Fighter Command Squadrons closer to the Channel to face the increased Luftwaffe pressure from Albert Kesselring's Luftflotte 2. The RAF has had the better loss ratio since the beginning of the air battle, but it is being worn down by the constant Luftwaffe attacks and the strain of having to defend the Channel convoys. The larger strategic question of who will establish control over the Channel and the potential invasion beaches remains open.

The Luftwaffe gets an early start that doesn't turn out well. At 05:00, the pilot of a Junkers Ju 88 of 3,/KG51 becomes disoriented and crash-lands at Bexhill, Sussex. At 05:25, Junkers Ju 88s cross the coast near Plymouth, losing one of their number.

The Luftwaffe makes a more successful attack on Glasgow an hour later, bombing the Hillingdon district and causing casualties. An hour after that, at 07:30, another Junkers Ju 88 goes down while attacking shipping at Portcawl. These piecemeal attacks are proving problematic for the attacking forces.

Around noontime, the real battle begins. Forty fighters of JG 26 and 51 assemble over Calais and cross over towards Dover, escorting 60 Heinkel He 111s. RAF Nos. 41, 74, 111 and 257 Squadrons rise to intercept. Hurricanes attacked the bombers, and Spitfires the fighters. The bombers immediately turn back to France as part of a pre-planned strategy, while the fighters mix it up. Losses are even, both sides losing five fighters.

Newcastle is bombed heavily during the day by 25 bombers, killing several female civilians.

The Luftwaffe steps up its attacks after dark, with intense minelaying in the Thames estuary. Small raids take place across southern England. Shortly before midnight, Heinkel He 111s of III,/KG55 bomb the Rolls Royce plant at Crewe in Cheshire, and also bomb Kent and Sussex. Later at night, the Sealand airfield, south Wales, railway tracks at Neath, and areas near Swansea are bombed.

The Luftwaffe continues shifting units toward England. III,/JG2 moves from Frankfurt-Rebstock to Evreux-West, and III,/JG77 leaves Berlin-Tempelhof for Wyk auf Föhr in the Frisian Islands.

The Royal Navy destroyers based at Dover are withdrawn to Portsmouth. This reduces convoy defense, antiaircraft defense at Dover, and also creates an opening for a possible invasion.

Overall, it is a mediocre day for the Luftwaffe, which is estimated to have lost around a dozen planes. However, driving the destroyers away from Dover is a major strategic victory - if it is followed up. Otherwise, it is a pointless and ephemeral victory, like gaining "control" over airspace that nobody else needs anyway.

Major Werner Mölders, the new Kommodore of JG 51, gains his twenty-sixth victory by shooting down a Spitfire. However, he takes a bullet to the leg, however, and with great difficulty manages to get back to base in Wissant, France.

A legend later grew that British pilot Adolph "Sailor" Malan, a British war hero from South Africa, was the one who wounded Werner Mölders. Malan claimed credit for the incident, but another Luftwaffe pilot who observed the incident thought another British pilot, a Lt. Webster, did the deed. There is no binding proof of who did what, but the odds are that Mölders probably was tangling with RAF No. 41 Squadron, not Malan who headed No. 74 Squadron.

As a general matter, and this applies to both sides, there often is a tendency to assign credit for celebrity shoot-downs to a popular pilot in order to create a propaganda "hero." Just as often, the celebrity victim may have been shot down by some no-name anti-aircraft gunner, a stray bullet, or some completely unknowable cause (see the Red Baron during World War I, for instance). Myth-building is common on both sides. In any event, in this incident Mölders brought his Bf 109 back to base, so there was no victory, and Mölders returned to action after a month of convalescence.

28 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Spitfire Mk I
Spitfire Mk I EB-O is inspected at RAF Manston, after F/O Anthony DJ "Tony" Lovell of No 41 Squadron RAF crashed the aircraft on landing on 28 July 1940. In combat off Dover, the 20-year-old pilot was attacked by a Bf 109 reportedly flown by Maj Werner Mölders of JG51. Lovell nursed the fighter back to base despite being wounded in the thigh, after which he was admitted to Margate Hospital. Mölders himself also was wounded in the leg during the battle.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command continues its strategic campaign against industrial targets, including Cherbourg oil installations, numerous airfields all along the coast, and the like.

Battle of the Atlantic: German raider Thor encounters British armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara off southern Brazil near Trindade island. It is a fairly evenly matched encounter. Thor hits the British ship with three shells and severely damages the Alcantara, forcing it to make port in Rio de Janeiro with 9 casualties. Thor takes two shells and also needs repairs.

U-99 (Kapitänleutnant Otto Kretschmer) torpedoes and sinks large 13,212 ton British freighter Auckland Star about 80 miles west of Ireland. All 47 crew survive by sailing their lifeboats to shore.

The Luftwaffe finds and sinks British freighter Orlock Head in the North Sea.

Norwegian freighter Argo hits a mine and sinks. The mine was laid by French submarine Rubis.

Italian submarines leave the Mediterranean for the first time and begin operating off the Azores.

Convoy OA 191 departs from Methil, Convoy SL 41F departs from Freetown.

28 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Sailor Malan
Acting South African Flight Lieutenant Adolph "Sailor" Malan.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Free French pilots operate with the RAF in Egypt and carry out reconnaissance over Diredawa, Abyssinia. The Italians carry out scattered bombing raids without much success.

Royal Navy cruisers HMS Neptune and Sydney intercept Italian tanker Ermioni near the Dodecanese Islands and sink it.

At Malta, Italian fighters jump a Short Sunderland flying boat carries out reconnaissance over Sicily (it spots five flying boats at Augusta) and drops some bombs without causing any damage. The Italians quickly get fighters in the air which use the explosive ammunition previously identified from downed Regia Aeronautica planes, which may violate international law. The Sunderland sustains heavy damage and several of the crew are wounded, but it shoots down one or two of the attackers and returns to base under continued attack, barely making it.

There is only one air raid alert on Malta, shortly before noontime. Heavy anti-aircraft fire drives the bombers off before they drop their bombs, and the Italians lose one plane.

War Crimes: Pursuant to an Air Ministry directive of 14 July 1940, Hurricanes of RAF No. 111 Squadron shoot down a Heinkel He 59 air rescue plane in the middle of the Channel off Boulogne. Later, the same Squadron shoots down another Heinkel He 59 nearby and strafes a third which is trying to rescue the crew of the first.

Incidents like this tend not to be mentioned in the history books touting the glorious, heroic RAF defense of England. However, pilots on both sides know exactly what is going on and vengeance is usually meted out at some point, if not immediately. The British rationale is that any German rescue plane near the British coastline is engaging in aerial reconnaissance and thus a fair target, but planes obviously trying to rescue downed pilots also are shot down indiscriminately. Hitler issues a statement calling the RAF pilots downing rescue planes "cold-blooded murders," which is not far from the truth even though the pilots are acting "under orders." There are many such murderers during wartime, it is a part of war.

28 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Hotel Diner
Hotel Diner, 41 Federal Street, July 28, 1949, Worcester Massachusetts. Photograph by George Cocaine.

German/Vichy France Relations: At 05:00, the Germans in occupied France close rail lines to Vichy France without warning. The choke point is Moulins. The reason given is invasion fears - by the British.

German/Slovak Relations: At Berchtesgaden, Hitler meets with President (Monsignor) Jozef Tiso, Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka and Hlinka Guard leader Alexander Mach of the Slovak Republic in his continuing series of discussions with Germany's eastern neighbors. This is a pattern that continues throughout the war: Hitler will meet with his most important ally - Italy or Finland or whoever it is - and then hold subsequent meetings with other, lesser powers. It is an easy way to see who is at the top of his pecking order - and who is at the bottom.

Hitler broadly hints to the Slovak leaders that they have little choice if they wish to remain free. "Slovakia should adhere loyally and unequivocally to the German cause in her domestic politics," he says. The Slovaks agree to set up a Nazi-style state that represses Jews.

Soviet/Afghanistan Relations: The two nations sign a commercial trade agreement.

US/Brazilian Relations: To promote inter-American relations, the US grants Brazil a $20 million loan that likely will never be repaid. Foreign Affairs Minister Osvaldo Aranha, a former Ambassador to the US, notes that "We should erect a statue to Hitler - he made the USA finally notice us." Aranho typically represents Brazil at pan-American conferences such as the recent Havana Conference and is a strong proponent of pan-Americanism.

German Government: Discussions take place within the German army about the plans for Operation Sea Lion, which is considered unrealistic as proposed by the Kriegsmarine.

Denmark: Art Nouveau artist Gerda Wegener passes away.

China: Japanese bombers make 100 sorties against Chungking, Chiang Kai-shek's capital, losing one bomber.

28 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Jones Beach
Throngs fill Jones Beach on July 28,1940. At that time this section was called East Beach, but that tower later became the Robert Moses Water Tower and this section of the beach itself the Robert Moses State Park. (Credit: New York State Parks, Recreation).


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

2016

July 27, 1940: What's Up, Doc?


Saturday 27 July 1940

27 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bugs Bunny


Battle of Britain: The weather clears sufficiently on 27 July 1940 for most air operations, though a persistent cloud layer hangs over everything with scattered rainstorms. The Luftwaffe resumes its massive attacks against the Channel convoys. Today, 50 Stukas find Convoy "Bacon" and sink destroyers HMS Codrington and Wren, the latter off Aldeburgh (Suffolk).

General Wolfram von Richthofen's Fliegerkorps VIII is in the air and over the convoy by 09:45. There are several convoys in the vicinity, two forming up in the Thames estuary. Heinkel He 111s of KG 53 join the attack and sink the Wren (37 deaths) of the 18th Destroyer Flotilla whilst also damaging HMS Montrose (lost her bow, had to be towed to Harwich).

The RAF gets several squadrons in the air (RAF Nos. 145, 238 and 609) to defend. The RAF shoots down at least one Stuka and Bf 109, with additional possible victories, at a cost of one Spitfire from 609 Squadron.

The Luftwaffe launches massive attacks against Dover as well. There, HMS Codrington goes down and destroyer HMS Walpole is badly damaged. The attack is notable because for the first time, Bf 109s are equipped with bomb racks that enable them to operate as ground-attack ("Jagdbomber" or "Jabo") fighter-bombers. This type of raider is particularly dangerous because, once the German fighters drop their bombs, they can basically out-run the pursuing RAF fighters back to France - unlike the much-slower Stukas.

The Admiralty concedes defeat and withdraws all destroyers from Dover. This accomplishes a prime objective for Operation Sea Lion, but it is only a benefit if followed up properly - the Admiralty can always bring the destroyers back. The withdrawal places more weight on the RAF to defend convoy ships against both Luftwaffe and German torpedo boat attacks. In addition, the damage to Dover port itself is mounting, and Fighter Command makes protecting it a top priority. Protecting the forward airfields at Manston and Hawkinge becomes more vital than ever.

There are a few more raids during the day, including an attack on Belfast and scattered attacks on shipping. During the night, the Luftwaffe attacks Swansea Docks, Upton-upon-Severn and Kidwelly (Carmarthen). The Luftwaffe also conducts minelaying operations around Portland and elsewhere on the Channel coast.

The RFA War Sepoy, which has been converted into a blockship at Dover after its extensive damage on the 19th by the Luftwaffe, is still very visible. The Luftwaffe pilots see it and, perhaps thinking it is still operational, pound it repeatedly.

Total losses for the day are said to be four Luftwaffe planes and one RAF plane.

The Luftwaffe gets a little more coordinated by the appointment of a "fighter leader" of Luftflotte 2, the main formation facing England. Luftflotte 2 has the following fighter formations in action:
  • JG 3
  • JG 26
  • JG 51
  • JG 52
  • JG 54
  • ZG 26
Generalmajor Theo Osterkamp takes on the job, giving up his leadership of JG 51. Major Werner Mölders takes over command of JG 51, and Mölders is replaced as Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 53 by Hauptman Harro Harder.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 15 bombers to attack various targets in Holland and northwestern Germany, primarily shipping facilities, oil depots and airfields.

RAF Fighter Command begins evaluating the first prototype Beaufighter IF fighters.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-34 (Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Rollmann) continues stalking convoy OB 188, which is now about 350 miles out into the Atlantic west of Scotland. To add to its totals of the 26th, the U-boat torpedoes and sinks 5,260 ton British freighter Sambre at 02:58 and 10,364 ton British tanker Thiara at 03:13. There are 25 dead on the Thiara, while 36 survive; everybody on the Sambre (48 crew) survives.

British freighter Salvestria hits a mine and and sinks in the Irish Sea.

British corvette HMS Clematis (K 36, Commander York McLeod Cleeves) is commissioned.

Convoy OB 190 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HG 40F departs from Gibraltar, Convoy HX 61 departs from Halifax.

U-73 is launched.

27 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com U-73
The crew of U-73, launched today at Bremer Vulkan of Bremen-Vegesack, Germany.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Malta needs better air defenses, so Whitehall begins plans to send a dozen heavy guns and ten light anti-aircraft batteries to the island via the Suez Canal. Operation Hurry, the convoy past Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, is confined to the transport of Hurricane fighters and is not carrying any extraneous materials. The ships are not intended to actually dock at the island, but rather to fly the Hurricanes off once within range.

The Italians send a reconnaissance raid over the island at 11:10, losing a fighter to anti-aircraft fire. At 16:40, a couple of Short Sunderland flying boats on patrol engage some fighters and shoots down three of the Italian planes. One of the Sunderlands is damaged but makes it back to base.

The incessant air raids are seriously affecting productivity in the dockyard. The government begins pondering moving some operations underground so that the workers do not have to stop for each air raid alert, many of which are either false alarms or for enemy planes that wind up not attacking.

German/Spanish Relations: While there is not much enthusiasm on the Spanish side, the two countries' military staffs begin preliminary planning for Operation Felix: the invasion of Gibraltar. Taking Gibraltar would effectively bottle up the Mediterranean and force all British ships to take the long way around Africa to supply British forces in Egypt.

German/Bulgarian Relations: Adolf Hitler meets with the Bulgarian Premier and Foreign Minister at Berchtesgaden. Hitler tells them that he supports their claim on Romania in southern Dobruja province.

Italian/Romanian Relations: The Romanian Premier and Foreign Minister, having talked with Hitler on the 26th, meet with Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Ciano in Rome.

British/Japanese Relations: The Japanese detain eleven British citizens. Such detentions invariably result in diplomatic protests.

27 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com The Illustrated London News incendiary bombs
An illustration from today's The Illustrated London News about Nazi bombings.

German Resistance: Another victory parade for the defeat of France is scheduled for today in Paris. Count FritzDietlof von der Schulenberg, a member of the German Resistance, later claims to have had plans to shoot Hitler at the event. In addition, Captain Graf Schwerin Von Schwanenfeld, Major Hans Alexander Von Voss, and Captain Graf Von Waldersee have plans to both shoot Hitler and also toss a grenade at him. Hitler, however, cancels the parade.

Italian Government: Mussolini sets his eyes on expanding his African empire. He and Commando Supremo decide to invade British Somaliland on 3 August. Coordinating with Vichy France, which now is a nominal ally, Mussolini has them withdraw French forces from the key Jirre pass into the country.

British Government: The Admiralty appoints a board of enquiry to look into the reasons why destroyer HMS Effingham hit a rock and sank on 18 May 1940 while performing escort duties near Bodø, Norway.

Barrage balloons and Home Guard observers now cover London. The balloons are raised from parks and other open spaces.

The government imposes a curfew in the restricted zone on the south coast: everyone must be indoors from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Cars are allowed only one headlight, the other must be covered.

Australian Government: Australian radio reports that 125,000 men have volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force.

US Government: President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and Naval Affairs Committee chairman Carl Vinson board the presidential yacht Potomac for a trip to the Norfolk Navy Yard.

Colonel George S. Patton, Jr. takes command of the 2nd Armored Brigade at Fort Benning.

Japanese Government: Prime Minister Konoye's government continues its militaristic stance by deciding to establishing military ties with Germany and Italy.

Latin America: The Pan-American conference in Havana, Cuba results in an agreement to protect any European colonies in the region that are attacked by Axis forces. This is known as the Act of Havana.

British Homefront: The Illustrated London News publishes a pictorial guide to Nazi bombing and how to survive it. This is quite timely, because, while London has not yet been bombed, it soon will be.


27 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert Sinatra in 1940.

American Homeland: It is a big day for Warner Bros: Bugs Bunny is born. Warner Brothers releases "A Wild Hare," directed by Tex Avery. Bugs introduces his classic catchphrase, "What's up, Doc?", which Avery says was just a typical saying back home in Texas, nothing special at all. The short is nominated for an Academy Award (but loses). Earlier incarnations of Bugs actually appeared in several shorts starting in 1938, but everyone considers "A Wild Hare" to be Bugs' debut as his ultimate character. This is the wabbit's second meeting with Elmer Fudd, who hunts him down in "A Wild Hare," unsuccessfully of course.

Incidentally, while he is not yet given a screen name, Bugs in fact already has been named by his creator, though nobody knows it yet. Ben "Bugs" Hardaway first started drawing a generic rabbit in 1938 and, without thinking about it too much, filed him under "Bugs' Bunny" - as in, his own drawing of a rabbit. The name stuck, and is first used in Bugs' next film in 1941, "Elmer's Pet Rabbit."



Bugs Bunny becomes iconic during World War II for his wiseguy, purely American attitude. He represents freedom and is embraced by Allied servicemen worldwide - and not just Americans. Bugs becomes the official mascot of Kingman Army Air Field in the U.S. and of the 530 Squadron, 380th Bombardment Group of the Royal Australian Air Force, among other outfits. The US Marines make Bugs an honorary Master Sergeant because, at the end of Super-Rabbit (1943), Bugs wears the dress blues of the United States Marine Corps.

In other Hollywood news, Warner Bros. releases the classic "They Drive By Night" starring Humphrey Bogart, George Raft and Anne Sheridan.

Also, Billboard Magazine publishes its first list of top records for the week (there have been other services charting how records perform, but this is the beginning of the "Billboard Top 100"). Topping this initial list is Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra's "I'll Never Smile Again." It features Frank Sinatra singing vocals with the Pied Pipers. The song is written by a Canadian woman, Ruth Lowe, who had just lost her husband on the operating table.




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

2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 26, 1940: Capture The Duke?


Friday 26 July 1940

26 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com British armoured car
Officers of the 11th Hussars use a large umbrella to give shade during a halt, while out patrolling on the Libyan frontier, 26 July 1940. The vehicle is a Morris CS9 armoured car, which would be quite hot in the mid-day sun.

Battle of Britain: Poor flying weather returns on 26 July 1940, with a low cloud ceiling and heavy rain. Operations over England are limited, and the few that are sent are turned back by RAF interceptors.

The few attacks that do get through cause little damage. At first light, a lone wolf attacker bombs Mayfield and Hastings.

A large formation of Bf 109s flying south of the Isle of Wight is intercepted by Hurricanes of RAF No. 601 Squadron. The German planes shoot down a Hurricane and damage another but sustain damage to several of their own planes.

Another raid on Portland is turned back around noontime, with the Luftwaffe losing a Bf 109 from II,/JG 27 and one from III,/JG27.

During the afternoon, another large force of Luftwaffe planes approaches the Isle of Wight, but again is turned back. The RAF is maintaining standing patrols in the area which are effective.

After dark, the Luftwaffe sent over several solo raiders. The Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton, Bristol proper, some Channel shipping, Kent and Brentwood, Essex all suffer some damage.

German E-boats are not troubled by the weather and attack a convoy off of Shoreham. They sink 821 ton British freighter Lulonga, 1,013 ton cargo ship Broadhurst, and 646 ton freighter London Trader.

Losses for the day are light, with the Luftwaffe losing three fighters and the RAF a Hurricane.

Some help for the weary RAF planes arrives in the form of Canadian-built Hurricanes manned by Canadian pilots.

The Admiralty prohibits ships from venturing past Dover during daylight hours due to the strain that such convoys are putting on resources.

26 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Hurricane Mk I
F/O Derek H Ward of No 87 Squadron RAF with a Hurricane Mk I LK-M deployed to RAF Hullavington to extend the night defences. The aircraft was flown by P/O John R "Johnny" Cock on the night of 26 July 1940 to score his sixth victory. In one of the first successful nocturnal interceptions performed by No 10 Group, the 22-year-old Australian succeeded in knocking out a mine-laying He 111 in the glare of Bristol's searchlights.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends a risky daylight raid against the Dortmund power station. Operations during the daylight hours are more precise, but they invite fighter interception and more accurate anti-aircraft fire. Today, though, the weather is so poor that it is almost like bombing at night anyway. Not much damage is done.

Other RAF raids are launched on airfields in Holland at Amsterdam/Schiphol and Waalhaven. Attacks are made on Hamm and Ludwigshafen. Night raids are launched on ports such as Cherbourg, St. Nazaire, and Nantes.

RAF Bomber Command sends a dozen planes on minelaying operations during the night.

The Axis raids Gibraltar during the night without causing much damage at all.

Air Intelligence reports that the German high command is concerned about RAF raids on Germany because they are causing substantial damage. Delayed action bombs also are causing concern.

26 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com NY Times
The NY Times highlights the decision by President Roosevelt to ban the sale of oil and scrap metal to Japan. The ship referred to in the headline is the  Meknés, which sank on the night of 24/25 July.

Battle of the Atlantic: The convoy escorting the partially repaired Gneisenau back to Kiel is rounding Stavanger, Norway when it is spotted by British submarine HMS Thames. It fires a torpedo at the ship that instead hits torpedo boat Luchs which unexpectedly crosses in between at extremely close range to the submarine, blowing it up. The Thames is never heard from again, and is assumed to have been destroyed by depth charges or by hitting a mine shortly after this incident. Another possibility is that the nearby explosion of the torpedo itself caused some kind of damage to the submarine, or the sinking Luchs fell on it.

U-34 (Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Rollmann) sinks 9,337 ton British liner Accra about 320 miles west of Ireland at 14:47. There are 465 survivors and 35 perish. The Accra is with Convoy OB 188, so picking up the survivors happens quickly.

U-34 also torpedoes 4,359 ton British freighter Vinemoor in the same convoy. Everybody on board, 32 crew, survives, and the ship is wrecked and sinks on the 27th.

British 1,189 ton cargo ship Haytor strikes a mine in the North Sea and sinks.

Convoy OA 190 departs from Methil, Convoy OG 39 departs from Liverpool.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The RAF bombs the Italian airfield at Derna, Libya, damaging or destroying half a dozen aircraft. The Italians bomb Mersa Matruh, causing four casualties, and armoured cars at Sidi Rezegh.

A raid on Malta at 02:37 causes damage at Valletta, Grand Harbour, Marsa Creek, Kirkop, and Ta Silch. The bombs hit a power station which puts the local electrical supply out of operation.

At Malta, hotels now are advertising that passersby may shelter in them during air raids.

The Italian Stefani news agency asserts that Malta has been destroyed as a British military base, though it remains active as an air base.

Spy Stuff: German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop remains hopeful that he can use the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as pawns in negotiations with the British. Under orders from Hitler, he dispatches SS officer Walter Schellenberg to the neutral city of Lisbon, Portugal to see if the pair, who have refused Ribbentrop's attempts to have them return to German voluntarily, can be kidnapped. Schellenberg hopes to lure the couple back to Fascist Spain, where presumably Franco will play along and arrest them on some pretext. Schellenberg begins spreading rumors that the British secret service has orders to kill the couple due to their pro-Nazi leanings.

The Duke and Duchess are staying near Estoril while they await passage to the Duke's new posting as Governor-General of the Bahamas. They are in a villa owned by the banking brothers, Espirito Santos. They have been travelling in a small party of three cars, a trailer and a truck. It is unclear at this point if the Royal Navy will send a destroyer to take them, or they will fly the Clipper. Their presence in Portugal is well-known around the world and news of them appears in society pages everywhere.

26 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bristol Blenheim bomber
The crew of a Bristol Blenheim Mk IV of No. 40 Squadron exit their aircraft at Wyton, July 1940.

German/Romanian Relations: Hitler concludes his talks with the Romanian Premier and Foreign Minister, who then leave for Rome to see Mussolini. A topic of conversation is two Romanian tankers detained in Port Said by the British. Hitler also advises them to give Hungary the territory it wants.

German/Bulgarian Relations: Next on Hitler's diplomatic list are the Bulgarian Premier and Foreign Minister, who arrive in Salzburg ready to make the drive up to Berchtesgaden.

League of Nations: Joseph Avenol, the French Secretary-General of the League of Nations, resigns effective at the end of August. He is considered sympathetic to Vichy France. The League of Nations itself has dwindled to about 100 employees of all kinds as Avenol has sanctioned the firing of the British employees.

Soviet Government: General Golikov becomes Deputy Chief of the General Staff (Stavka), while General Nikolai Vatutin becomes Head of the Operations Directorate.

British Government: Home Guard chief Sir Alan Brooke confides that he is growing pessimistic about the prospects of heading off an invasion. The power of the Royal Navy, in his opinion, diminishes greatly in value as the Luftwaffe becomes more ascendant.

Brooke, of course, is right. The feasibility of a successful German landing with the forces available is probably at its height during this period. However, on the German side, Hitler's preconditions for Operation Sea Lion as set forth in his Fuhrer Directive of 16 July are not being met. Those preconditions, such as sealing off the English Channel with mines, are extremely unrealistic in any event, but they underscore the fact that nobody in the Wehrmacht really wants to make the attempt. One problem is that the German invasion plan envisages a landing where the British are strongest, in the south, rather than in the north where perhaps Scapa Flow could be neutralized with a quick assault and a sustainable beachhead grabbed nearby.

At the heart of the matter, Hitler's complete ignorance about naval operations and unbridled German pessimism about the Kriegsmarine's abilities is the ultimate barrier to any attempt. It is easier to simply punt and wait for the completion of the battleships Tirpitz and the Bismarck and perhaps the aircraft carriers, with the shaky assumption that they will make a difference, rather than risk everything on a weak navy and a Luftwaffe which is showing distinct weaknesses operating over the Channel. Meanwhile, the British are scrambling successfully to upgrade their defenses with each passing day, though the RAF's attrition remains a serious matter.

Australia: The government forms the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service (RAAFNS).

Japan: Prime Minister Konoye announces a new, more aggressive policy. He plans to step up efforts to isolate China from supply. Konoye also focuses on the Dutch East Indies to replace the oil and metal supplies denied to Japan by President Roosevelt's ban on such exports to Japan of the 25th.

China: The Japanese have been so successful at cutting off supply routes over the Himalayas and through French Indochina that the Nationalists resort to trading with the Soviet Union. This requires using pack mules and camels to cross the roadless deserts.

Latin America: Light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL 46) departs from Callao, Peru, ending its "Show the Flag" mission. It returns to base.

American Homefront: "Pride and Prejudice," starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, is released. While the film is very well received by critics, it produces a loss of $241,000 for MGM. There is criticism that Garson is too old for the part and that the entire thing has been "Hollywoodized" by changing the time period of the original Jane Austen novel and overly compressing the narrative.

Future History:  Mary Jo Kopechne is born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She becomes famous in 1969 when she perishes in a car accident while driving with future Senator Ted Kennedy.

26 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF bomb trolley
RAF Fordson tractor towing a bomb trolley at No. 10 Operational Training Unit, RAF Abingdon, Berks. 26 July 1940.


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


2016

July 25, 1940: Black Thursday for RAF


Thursday 25 July 1940

25 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Beaverette reconnaissance car
Searching the skies for for Nazi paratroopers, a soldier stands in a standard armoured Beaverette reconnaissance car of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, Royal Armoured Corps, 25th July 1940.

Battle of Britain: The Luftwaffe, specifically General Kesselring's Luftflotte 2, continues pressing its attacks on the Channel convoys on 25 July 1940. They are proving successful in their mission to both destroy ships and draw the RAF up to combat. The Luftwaffe has installed some radar on the French coast, and it is making shipping attacks and air interceptions more precise. The Germans also have a wireless intercept station at Wissant that is proving useful. The beauty of the strategy from the German point of view is that the RAF fighters, acting on the defensive, must climb to meet the attacking Luftwaffe fighters which already are at altitude, leaving the Spitfires and Hurricanes vulnerable.

Sixty Stukas (II,/StG1 and IV StG1), assisted by S-boats, use the radar information to sortie against a convoy at first light. Convoy CW 8 "Peewit" loses five small freighters (Corhaven, Polgrange, Leo, Portslade and Henry Moon), while five other freighters are damaged and two destroyers - HMS Boreas and Brilliant - are as well. Spitfires of RAF Nos. 54 and 65 arrive late, and the Bf 109s are waiting for them. JG26, still smarting from recent losses, escorts the Stukas. Adolf Galland of III,/JG26 pounces, and the British lose three planes in a hurry. The Stukas are vulnerable after their dives, and the RAF planes shoot two down. The action continues all afternoon, with both sides sending swarms of planes. During the afternoon, Ju 88s attack. The raids continue until 19:30.

After dark, it is fairly quiet. Most of the Luftwaffe activity is minelaying in the Firth of Forth, Newcastle and the Thames estuary.

Overall, it is a bloodbath at sea which appears to justify Luftwaffe chief Goering's strategy.. Only 2 out of 21 ships of the convoy make it to Portland. It is estimated that the Luftwaffe lost about 16 planes and the RAF 8. This sounds like a big RAF victory, but all of the British losses are fighters, and the RAF fighter defenses are getting ground down. RAF No. 54 Squadron has been mauled over since the start of the Battle of Britain, losing five pilots and twelve airplanes. It is pulled from the line and sent north to regroup. Hugh Dowding of Fighter Command admits that "If we try to fight the Germans on a 1-to-1 basis, we'd soon have no fighters left."

Adolph Galland of JG 26 gets his 16th victory.

The Admiralty bows to the inevitable and orders that future convoys be conducted at night. This is difficult, since the ships can't make it all the way down the coast during darkness.

25 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Spitfire Mk 1
Spitfire Mk I KL-O from No 54 Squadron. On 25 July 1940, it was flown by 22-year-old acting F/L Basil H "Wonky" Way from RAF Hornchurch. It crashed into the Channel at 15:00 after Way had been credited with a BF 109 destroyed 10 miles east of Dover. Way's body later washed up on a Belgian beach.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command raids northwest Germany and Holland, including Hamburg and the Ems canal.

Battle of the Atlantic: German battlecruiser Gneisenau completes temporary repairs (torpedoed by HMS Clyde on 20 June) at Trondheim and heads south to Kiel for permanent repair. She is escorted by a large task force lead by cruiser Nürnberg and destroyers Galster, Jacobi, Lody and Ihn.

Convoy SL 41 departs from Freetown.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Italian Regia Aeronautica attacks Alexandria and Haifa.

Convoy Hurry, the plan to ferry a dozen Hurricane fighters to Malta, is now projected to reach the vicinity of the island on 31 July. Submarines HMS Pandora and Proteus will bring in supplies need by the planes.

On Malta, it is a quiet day with no air raids. Governor Dobbie appoints Lt Col Vella of King’s Own Malta Regiment to the position of Administrative Command of all Maltese infantry and volunteers. This new position is designed to integrate Maltese peoples into the armed forces.

25 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Pilot John Shepherd
Sgt John B Shepherd leans on the 1932 Aero Minx (which appears to have one headlight blacked out) of P/O Geoffrey K Gout, both of No 234 Squadron RAF based at RAF St Eval. A keen motorist who raced at Brooklands before the war, the 24-year-old pilot crashed to his death on 25 July near Porthowan in Cornwall during a night patrol. Records indicate that he was disorientated when returning to the blacked-out base and pitched in a field close to a farm near Maval.

German/Romanian Relations: Hitler meets with the Romanian Premier and Foreign Minister at Berchtesgaden.

German/Italian Relations: Hitler agrees to allow Italian planes to participate in the Battle of Britain, which does not really seem necessary at this point as the battle is going reasonably well.

German Government: Nazi Economics Minister Walther Funk gives a long speech entitled "The Economic Reorganization of Europe." It revolves around the idea of a "Greater Europe" which he admits "does not yet actually exist." He discusses a European currency union (led by Germany) free from any gold standard and notes that the "raw material situation of Greater Germany has improved immensely during the war." The Reichsmark will be the dominant currency, with all other currencies tied to it by fixed exchange rates. In fact, Germany already is doing this with Vichy France on draconian exchange rate terms.

Many of Funk's ideas sound quite similar to the later European Economic Community. It is an optimistic speech that looks forward to a seemingly early end to the war, which is the prerequisite for any of his ideas actually happening. The underpinning of the entire idea, however, is, as William Shirer points out, that the "Germans will abandon the gold standard and substitute their worthless Reichsmark, making US gold reserve useless."

25 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Blenheim night fighter
Blenheim Mk IF of No. 25 Squadron taxiing at Martlesham Heath, watched by air- and ground crews, 25 July 1940. The squadron was used for night fighter operations.

US Government: The government ratchets up the pressure on the Japanese by banning the export of oil and scrap metal without license. The Americas and Great Britain are excluded from this ban. This measure removes a major source of Japanese oil imports, and there are very tempting oil fields just to the south.

Heavy cruisers USS Wichita (CA 45, Rear Admiral Andrew C. Pickens) and USS Quincy (CA 39) depart Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for Bahia, Brazil on their "Show the flag" mission.

British Government: The RAF announces that it has made over 1000 raids into occupied Europe since the start of the war.

Free French: Philippe de Hauteclocque aka Captain Leclerc joins the Free French in London.

Switzerland: While the Swiss are tilting toward Germany, they still fear an invasion. Commander-in-chief General Henri Guisan delivers an impassioned address to the Swiss Officer Corps on the Rütli (Ruetti Meadow), a field of great military tradition. He exhorts the officers to be prepared to resist a Nazi invasion and to fight to the last man in an Alpine redoubt sealed off by dynamiting mountain passes.

Luxembourg: The Royal Family arrives at the Navy Academy in Annapolis, Maryland aboard the USS Trenton (CL 11).

25 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Pilot Brendan Funucane
P/O Brendan EF "Paddy" Finucane took off in Spitfire Mk I YT-W with B Flight under F/L William H "Bill" Franklin for his first scramble on the morning of 25 July 1940, the day after No 65 Squadron RAF had moved to the satellite airfield at RAF Rochford. During the patrol, the aircraft developed a glycol leak, filling the cockpit with vapour from the cooling liquid condensing on the engine. After the R/T went dead, the 19-year-old Irishman made a wheels-up landing back at base.

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



2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 24, 1940: The Meknés Incident


Wednesday 24 July 1940

24 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Spitfires Mk. !
Supermarine Spitfire Mark Is of No. 610 Squadron based at Biggin Hill, flying in 'vic' formation. 24 July 1940. [© IWM (CH 740)].

Battle of Britain: The Luftwaffe attacks against shipping in the English Channel ramp up on 24 July 1940, with a number of successes. It also makes several minor raids onshore. The day is a real slugfest, with both sides taking heavy losses, and when you take into account the British shipping losses, it was not a bad day for the overall German strategy.

The day's highlight is a succession of massive air battles off of Margate which collectively are called the Battle of the Thames Estuary. The melee begins at 07:55. It is an attack by Dornier Do 17s on a British convoy in the Thames estuary. RAF Nos. 54 and 64 Squadrons send their Spitfires up. The RAF loses three Spitfires to no losses by the attacking bombers.

Another attack on the same convoys (there are two convoys in the same area) has quite a different result. It begins at 11:00, again by Dornier Do 17 bombers escorted by JG26 and JG 52. Some Dorner Do 215s also showed up. RAF No. 54 Squadron goes up again. This is a massive formation including some 40 Bf 109s, so the RAF also scrambles RAF Nos. 64  and 610 Squadrons - all Spitfires.

This time, the RAF gets the better of the Germans. The Dorniers are under intense pressure, fleeing every which way out to sea and over Margate at rooftop level. There are intricate dogfights marked by fighter contrails.

JG 26, one of the elite Luftwaffe squadrons, has a very bad day. Most of it has just returned to the French coast from Germany, and it appears to be a bit rusty. JG 26 loses three pilots, including the Gruppenkommandeur of II Gruppe, Hauptmann Erich Noack.

The British claim 16 fighter victories, but actual Luftwaffe losses are much lower. The Germans lose four III,/JG52 fighters, three JG26 fighters, and one from III,/JG27.

Karl Ebbinghausen, a top ace, is promoted to replace Noack. Hauptmann Adolph Galland of III,/JG26, who gets a victory, remembered this day as the final evidence that "the RAF would prove to be a formidable opponent." The attrition strategy is wearing on the Germans, too.

In the evening, the Luftwaffe sends another small attack against the Channel convoys at 17:27. Once again, the bombers - Dornier Do 215s - acquit themselves well, shooting down two Spitfires for the loss of one of their own number.

Aside from the air battles, it is a good day for the German bombers. The Luftwaffe sinks 356 ton minesweeping trawler HMS Fleming in the Thames estuary. There are three survivors, and 19 crew perish.

The Luftwaffe sinks Royal Navy trawlers HMS Kingston Galena (350 tons) and Rodino (230 tons) off of Dover. There are 16 deaths on the former and 4 on the latter.

British freighter Alert is bombed and damaged by the Luftwaffe near South Goodwin Light Vessel.

On land, there are scattered bombing raids on Walton-on-Thames, aircraft factories at Weybridge, and the Brooklands airfield. The last is an odd attack, as the solo Junkers Ju 88 bomber pretends to be an innocent visitor, circling the airfield seemingly in a holding pattern preparatory to landing. It allows several RAF planes to land, then comes in for a landing itself with wheels down - only to drop a dozen bombs and scoot off.

After dark, there are minor Luftwaffe bomber attacks on Glasgow and New Brighton, with the Luftwaffe perhaps losing a bomber during the latter action.

24 July 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF pilot Alan Eckford No 32 Squadron Biggin Hill
P/O Alan F "Shag" Eckford, 21 years old, is posted today from No 242 Squadron RAF to No 32 Squadron RAF at RAF Biggin Hill. He flies three missions during the day, 24 July 1940. Here, he does what real fighter pilots do between missions.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends in another attack against the incomplete Tirpitz at Wilhelmshaven. 14 Whitley bombers cause no damage to the ship. There are other raids on the usual nearby targets such as Emden and Hamburg.

Battle of the Atlantic: Finnish freighter Trio (1451 tons) hits a mine near Borkum and sinks. Everybody survives.

Convoy FN 231 departs Southend, Convoy MT 119 departs Methil, Convoy FS 231 departs from the Tyne.

German raider Widder takes on supplies from aptly named freighter Rekum.

The Kriegsmarine continues its minelaying operations in the North Sea which the Admiralty on 23 July thought was an invasion force.

U-139 is commissioned.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Liner Celio (3864 tons) hits a mine and sinks about 10 miles off the eastern Libyan coast. The mine had been laid by British submarine HMS Rorqual on 21 July.

The situation on Malta is growing critical, so the Admiralty sets in motion a convoy to reinforce the dwindling fighter defenses on the island. Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Argus sets off from Portland carrying a dozen Hurricane fighters, accompanied by destroyers Gallant and Greyhound, bound for Gibraltar. There, the plan is for them to rendezvous with other ships to form Convoy Hurry bound for Malta. They will bring only the most urgently needed supplies, as they face air attacks from Vichy France and Italy, as well as Italian submarine and surface vessel attacks.

Separately, supply ships set out to make the long trip around Africa to Suez. Aside from the very few and highly risky missions "up the gut" through the Pillars of Hercules, all supplies sent to Malta take the long route, which takes weeks.

On the island itself, there are some minor attacks on Grand Harbour which cause no damage because, as is often the case, the Italian pilots simply drop their bombs in the sea and then scramble for home.

Elsewhere, the RAF bombs Bardia and Macaaca, causing damage to infrastructure.

War Crimes: The Meknés: While a lot of illegal things happen in the fog of war that are true mistakes, sometimes an action crosses the line due to the circumstances. It is always a judgment call what is a "crime," but I put things (such as the British regularly shooting down clearly marked German rescue and recovery planes) in this category when circumstances appears to cross that line. Invariably, the offending government finds some flimsy excuse to justify the clearly illegal action. In the British case, it is that the German planes actually are serving as scouts for later Luftwaffe attacks. Here, the excuse appears even flimsier, but that, again, is a judgment call, and all too often nobody with the ability to do anything is empowered to make that call.

French liner Meknés (6127 tons) is repatriating French sailors captured during Operation Catapult on 3 July to Marseilles when Kriegsmarine S-Boot (fast torpedo boat) S.27 sinks it off Dieppe. Of the 1277 Frenchmen on board, 383 perish (sources vary), while 33 of the 104 crew also perish. There would be more deaths, but destroyers HMS Viscount, Wolverine Sabre and Shikari are nearby and quickly rescue whoever they can. The Meknes is flying the French flag and was sailing with lights on at 22:30, so the attack is either mistaken or misguided. The British lodge a diplomatic protest, and the excuse ultimately given is that the British should have notified the Germans of the ship's departure.

The true explanation is simply that the German commander, an Oberleutnant Klug, is being overly aggressive. The ship, operating in peacetime conditions, sticks out like a sore thumb, with every other ship operating in darkness. As a surface ship, the S-boot crew must have a good look at the liner, and the night is clear, so there are few valid excuses.

It is highly unlikely that the very traditional and often quite reasonable higher officers of the Kriegsmarine want incidents like this to happen (your opinion may vary). This incident illustrates that the war is being fought by individuals with power to destroy and cause problems on their own initiative, not by governments that always have absolute control over what their people do (and, to be fair, individuals on both sides sometimes act in a humane fashion that their governments disapprove of, see the later Laconia incident for example). A steady succession of incidents like this - and failure by the governments of both sides to take true responsibility - is what turns the war toward an ever-more barbarous course. The French have no way to retaliate against the Reich... yet.

This incident is well-remembered in France, not so much in the English-speaking countries. An association to remember the incident was formed in 2009, and commemorative ceremonies take place in France every 24th of July.


Actress Dolores Del Rio and Orson Welles go fishing off Catalina Island and have a huge catch of barracuda and yellowtail. July 24 1940

Palestine: The Italians bomb Haifa again. The objective is British oil refineries. Four civilians perish because the bombers miss their target and hit houses instead.

Kenya: South Africa increases its war presence by shipping the 1st Infantry Brigade to Mombasa.

Romanian Government: Romania nationalizes Royal Dutch/Shell Oil Company) subsidiary Astra-Romana Oil Company on the flimsy excuse that it has not been transparent about its production.

British Government:  Member of Parliament Will Thorpe raises perhaps the most novel approach for ending the war ever proposed. During the Minister's Question Time, Thorpe remarks that the war would end quickly once "Hitler married a sensible woman." Eva Braun may be thinking the same thing, and, in point of fact....

Winston Churchill finally lifts the media ban on the sinking of the Lancastria of 17 June 1940. In that action, some 1,738 people were killed (sources vary) during the evacuation from France, one of the greatest naval disasters in Royal Navy history. Until now, there only have been rumors, fed by the increasingly obvious absence of the victims. Now, there is certainty, and many sad relatives who at least now have closure.


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

2016