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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September 2, 1940: German Troopship Sunk


Monday 2 September 1940

2 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com searchlights Fleet Street
Time-exposure shot at Fleet Street of searchlights. 2 September 1940.

Battle of Britain: The Battle of Britain indisputably is reaching its climax on 2 September 1940. The Luftwaffe has found its groove, and it is driving the RAF into the ground with effective, relentless attacks. With the seasons moving along, this provides at least the possibility that Hitler will approve Operation Sea Lion for later in the month. However, it is not just a question of air power, the state of the Kriegsmarine versus the Royal Navy also is a huge part of the equation (as shown by today's sinking of a German troopship by a Royal Navy submarine with the loss of 1,000 lives). Hitler is still considering his options, and nobody knows what he will decide, but the decision must be made soon.

Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering meets with the fighter commanders in France, including Major Adolf Galland of JG 26 and Major Werner Mölders of JG 51. When Goering asks Galland what he needs, Galland makes the famous response:
Ich bitte um die Ausrüstung meines Geschwaders mit Spitfire. (I should like an outfit of Spitfires for my squadron).
Goering recognizes the implied insult, but he has just enough of a sense of humor to let it pass and get even later in a clever way. When the Luftwaffe captures an intact Spitfire due to a disoriented RAF pilot landing by mistake in France, Goering has it sent to JG 26:
He wanted Spitfires – Hah! Here is his first, let us see what Galland can do with it!
Flying a Spitfire for the Luftwaffe at this point would be tantamount to suicide. Galland, for his part, has the Spitfire given Luftwaffe markings and sends a thank you note to Goering. It is unclear, though, if Galland ever actually used it in combat. More importantly, Galland and Goering now have established a relationship, each taking the measure of the other. Goering - a former fighter pilot himself - shows in later interactions with Galland that he actually likes this kind of swaggering machismo.

The Luftwaffe gets an early start again today. The first major operation is at around 08:00 over Dover. One arm of the force heads for RAF airfields at Eastchurch, North Weald, Rochford and Biggin Hill - the usual targets. The other arm of the raid heads toward RAF Hawkinge. The RAF has slightly changed its tactics and is focusing more on protecting the airfields than looking for bombers to attack. Fighter Command disperses many of the attacks, but the Short Brothers aircraft works at Rochester is hit, and a Wellington factory on the grounds of the former racetrack at Weybridge takes damage. RAF Gravesend is hit with 11 high explosive bombs which sever all utilities.

The next formation crosses the Kent coastline around noontime, and it is a big one, well over 200 planes. The Luftwaffe fighter escorts successfully occupy the RAF fighters, and the bombers get through. They attack RAF airfields at Biggin Hill, Hornchurch, Croydon, North Weald, Debden, Detling, Eastchurch and Hawkinge, with Debden taking the most damage. As with Biggin Hill in recent days, the operations center has to be moved outside under the sky when the building housing it is destroyed. There are other bombs dropped at random which destroy numerous civilian residences.

A third major raid develops at around 16:00, again crossing at Kent. Hornchurch airfield takes damage from Dornier Do 17s, Detling loses a hangar, and there is random damage at Eastchurch.

An hour later, yet another formation crosses near Calais. This leads to a massive dogfight over the Thames estuary, but the bombers get through and hit RAF Eastchurch and Detling again. Detling takes the worst of it, receiving 100 bombs and putting the station out of operation for the rest of the day. The attack on Detling has a lucky strike when a bomb dump explodes, causing a tremendous explosion. This puts Eastchurch out of operation, and the Germans notice.

RAF Hornchurch also takes damage. RAF No. 603 Squadron, defending the airfield, disrupts the attack on this vital airfield and causes many of the bombers to turn back.

Yet another raid develops about an hour later around Dungeness at 18:00, but it turns out to be either reconnaissance or a feint, and they head back to France without bombing anything in particular.

The German attacks continue into the night. The Luftwaffe conducts mine-laying operations in the Thames estuary, and attacks are made on Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Sheffield. While many bombers pass over London, they do not bomb it. The attacks are scattered far and wide over the length and breadth of England. An attack on freighters off of Kinnairds Head, Scotland around 22:30 leaves two of them damaged.

RAF Bomber Command bombs oil plants at Flushing and Ludwigshafen, Ostend Harbour, munitions plants at Leverkusen and Cologne, the Bosch auto parts plant at Stuttgart, the Dortmund Ems canal, U-boat installations at Lorient, military targets in Genoa, and the German coastal guns at Cap Gris Nez. The British drop incendiaries on the Black Forest in an unsuccessful attemp to start forest fires.

The day is terrible for the RAF, one of the worst of the entire battle. Estimates place the losses for both sides in the 30s, with slightly more Luftwaffe losses. The Bf 110s again take a beating, with elite formation Epr.Gr. 210 losing eight planes. The RAF, though, loses a number of very scarce experienced pilots.

Luftwaffe pilot Hans-Joachim Marseille gets his second kill over Kent, England, but then runs out of fuel and barely makes it back to crash-land on a beach near Calais. Czech pilot Josef Frantisek gets his first victory while serving in the RAF.

A Bf 109 of III,/JG54 piloted by Oblt. Ekkehard Schelcher is shot down over England. His body is found in 1979 and helps lead to passage of the Protection of Military Remains Act of 1986. Schelcher is buried in the German war cemetery at Cannock Chase.

RAF Nos. 25 and 29 Squadrons receive deliveries of the new Beaufighter fighters.

2 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Dornier Do 17 night fighter
The cockpit of a Dornier Do 17 Z-7 of 2/NJG, operating as a night fighter, 2 September 1940.

Battle of the Atlantic: British submarine HMS Sturgeon scores a huge success with possible widespread ramifications. The submarine is patrolling as dusk settles when it spots 3624 ton Kriegsmarine troopship Pionier, complete with torpedo boat escorts, northeast of Skagen, Denmark. The ship appears to be a standard transfer of troops between Norway and Denmark. Sturgeon pumps three torpedoes into the troopship and it goes down quickly, assisted by exploding ammunition. There are roughly 1,000 deaths. This sinking comes at a propitious time, as Hitler is in the latter stages of deciding whether to risk his troops on troopships heading to England. The sinking becomes a central story in the later history of the Battle of Britain, "Their Finest Hour."

The Kriegsmarine's troubles do not end there. Submarine chaser UJ-121 "Jochen" hits a mine and sinks as she approaches Ostend Harbour, West Flanders, Belgium. There are 13 deaths. The sunken ship blocks the Channel used by the 2nd S-Flotilla and has to be cleared.

German raider Widder uses its deck guns and a torpedo to sink 6317 ton British tanker Cymbeline hundreds of miles west of the Canary Islands. The Widder takes 26 of the crew prisoner, but the Captain, First Officer and Third Engineer escape in a lifeboat to be picked up two weeks later by another passing tanker. There are seven deaths. One of the crew, a 14-year-old deck-boy, later joins the Waffen SS unit "British Free Corps."

U-46 (Kptlt. Engelbert Endrass) torpedoes and sinks 4261 ton British collier Thornlea around 22:00 about 200 miles northwest of Ireland. There are 34 survivors, 3 crew perish.

U-47 (K.Kapt. Günther Prien) is on its seventh patrol in the North Atlantic south of Iceland when it spots 7,463 ton Belgian passenger ship (either no passengers or very few, carrying food as cargo) Ville de Mons. Prien fires three torpedoes and one hits, sinking the Ville de Mons at 17:01. All 54 on board survive.

Canadian 987 ton sailing vessel Legatus runs aground off Parrsboro Road, Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy and is lost. Everybody survives.

In the Bay of Biscay, the Germans scuttle Norwegian freighter Tropic Sea to avoid capture by British submarine HMS Truant. The Tropic Sea was captured by the German raider Orion in the Pacific.

British submarine Tigris spots U-58 off the coast of France but its torpedoes miss. The British know that the U-boats are operating out of the French ports and target them while they are transiting from there to the Atlantic.

Convoys OA 208 and MT 158 depart from Methil, Convoy FS 270 departs from the Tyne, Convoy SC 3 departs from St. Johns, Nova Scotia.

2 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Valiant Malta
HMS Valiant enters Grand Harbour, Malta on 2 September 1940 (NWMA).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Hats, the involved serious of operations to re-supply Malta, is at its climax. Three supply ships (Cornwall, Volo, and HMS Valiant) of Convoy MF 2 make port at Grand Harbour, Malta and are quickly unloaded in case of air attack, with the men of the volunteer infantry brigades helping. The supplies include anti-aircraft guns, personnel and related supplies, and more general supplies such as food and fuel. After taking 4 hours to unload, the three cargo ships leave harbour and rejoin the fleet, which has been waiting offshore to the south.

Force H launches a second air attack on Caligari as a diversion early in the morning, but poor weather aborts the strike.

Force F (led by battleship HMS Valiant and carrier HMS Illustrious) heads southeast to make contact with the Mediterranean Fleet heading west from Alexandria. Together, they plan to make strikes on targets in the Aegean. This concludes the bulk of Operation Hats.

2 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Italian battleships Vittorio Veneto Caio Duilio Giulio Cesare
Italian battleships Vittorio Veneto, Caio Duilio and Giulio Cesare at sea during British Operation Hats. They did not give battle and returned to port.

Italian aircraft shadow the proceedings throughout the morning, and in the afternoon attack the fleet south of Malta. HMS Illustrious launches its defending fighters, and they shoot down one SM 79 bomber and chase the others away. There are other attacks during the afternoon, but no ships are hit.

At Malta, there is a raid around noontime, but the bombers drop their bombs in the sea. The Hurricanes on the island scramble a few times to assist the fleet during its air attacks, but make no contact.

The RAF bombs Assab, Eritrea.

2 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Labor Day Ellensburg Washington
Ellensburg, Washington Rodeo parade, 2 September 1940.

Anglo/American Relations: U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and British Ambassador Lord Lothian conclude their agreement to exchange 50 old US destroyers to the UK in exchange for 99-year leases on British bases. These are in the Bahamas, Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Jamaica, and British Guiana. The bases at Newfoundland and Bermuda are permanent transfers.

German/Romanian Relations: Hitler sends a military mission to Romania.

German/Spanish/Portuguese Relations: Hitler meets with the Spanish and Portuguese ambassadors.

German/Iranian Relations: Hitler meets with the Iranian ambassador.

Free France: The French Settlements in Oceania (Polynesia), led by Tahiti, announces support for Free France.

British Homefront: The government cuts the butter ration from 6oz. to 4oz. This does not affect margarine.

American Homefront: It is the Labor Day holiday in the States. Workers have the day off, and there are public celebrations and events. President Roosevelt presides at a ceremony dedicating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Byron Nelson wins the PGA Championship. This completes his "Career Grand Slam."

Future History: Hans-Joachim Marseille's Bf-109 E-1 was recovered from the beach by the Luftwaffe and later flew operations in the Soviet Union. It was abandoned there, found in the 1990s, restored to flying condition, and occasionally goes up for sale (a few years ago for $4.5 million). It is the only flying example of this version of the plane, powered by a Daimler Benz DB601 engine. It currently is in private hands in Europe.

2 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com President Roosevelt Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


September 1940


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


2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

September 1, 1940: RAF's Horrible Weekend


Sunday 1 September 1940

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com London Blitz
An errant German bomber drops incendiary bombs in London, 1 September 1940. 

Battle of Britain: This is the climax of the RAF's famous "Bad Weekend." Beginning on Friday, 30 August,, the "Bad Day" for the RAF, the Luftwaffe began launching major, relentless raids which have achieved unprecedented success in wearing the RAF down. However, it is often overlooked that this effort also is weakening the Luftwaffe, as on 1 September 1940 it is suffering right alongside the RAF and losing many veteran and highly valued pilots and other flight personnel over England.

It is good flying weather again, so the Germans don't wait until the afternoon to attack as they did so often in August. Shortly before 11:00, a massive formation moves across the Channel at Dover, then, as usual, it splits up to attack multiple different targets. RAF airfields at Biggin Hill, Eastchurch, Detling, Rochford, Gravesend, Hornchurch, North Weald and Kenley are the German visitors' destinations, but nobody is on these flights to land and go through customs to see the sights and tour the palace. All of these airfields are in RAF No. 11 Group's territory, and soon it has 14 fighter squadrons in the air in defense - virtually its entire inventory.

Numerous dogfights break out, particularly over eastern Kent. The German Dornier Do 17s and Heinkel He 111s have numerous escorts, and both sides take losses. The bombers, however, get through, or at least many of them do. Biggin Hill takes massive damage - the telephone and radio equipment that survives has to be taken out into the parking lots to use because their buildings are destroyed. The vital field at Hornchurch also takes some damage at about 11:40, but not nearly as much as Biggin Hill.

The London docks also are a prime target. The German tactic of close escorts is working, but the Luftwaffe still hasn't perfected it: on this attack, for instance, there are many more fighters than bombers, and much more damage could have been accomplished with a better ratio. However, give the Luftwaffe staff some slack here: they are groping their way forward without any precedents. This is a new mode of warfare, and the Germans are learning lessons and implementing procedures which eventually will become standard air force doctrine around the world.

The raids are incessant and continuous. The British fighters land to refuel and re-arm, and as they do more bombers come across and attack through the seams in the defense. RAF Kenley and Biggin Hill take more damage in the early afternoon, with a full Luftwaffe effort shortly before 14:00. Bf 110s sail in low over British airfields, dropping their bombs more accurately than level bombers, then help defend the vertical bombers from the RAF. While the Bf 110s are vulnerable, there is higher air cover from Bf 109s, which can come to their rescue. The Luftwaffe, having suffered many hard lessons, is using its assets efficiently for once.

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com WAAF Sgt. Helen Turner
WAAF Sgt. Helen Turner keeps things running at Biggin Hill as long as she can. She is the switchboard operator. Turner only leaves with the building ablaze after receiving a direct order to do so. Turner receives the Military Medal. A funeral service for 50 people just like Turner is interrupted during the day at the airfield.

Another raid crosses the coast near Dover around 15:30, and it splits into formations that bomb RAF Hawkinge, Lympne, Detling and Chatham. Perhaps as much for sport as anything else, the Bf 110s once again take down all the Dover barrage balloons, just as Bf 109s shot them down on the 31st of August.

Around 17:30, another Luftwaffe raid vectors in on RAF Biggin Hill. This is the seventh raid in three days, and it is the capper. A direct hit on the operations building severs all the telephone wires and destroyers the Teleprinter Network machines. At least four Spitfires are destroyed on the ground, and the airfield is completely out of action -  no qualifications this time. Biggin Hill is dead for the time being. Things are so bad that a funeral service for the 50 dead men from the previous day can't be conducted - the Luftwaffe also pays its respects of a different sort at the same time.

The night is fairly quiet over England. There are isolated raids on Liverpool, Kent, Bristol Channel/South Wales, and the Tyne area. The RAF airfields hit during the night are Detling and Rye, with the Detling communications tower damaged. The Germans now are using former Lufthansa employees to assist with navigation to the larger cities such as Liverpool, with which they are well familiar. Targets hit during the night include oil installations at Llandarcy and the Newdown Downs airfield at Porthcawl, Wales.

RAF Bomber Command raids the Fiat factory in Turin and other installations at San Giovanni again, and also the BMW factory and railway installations in Munich for the first time. Other targets include engine factories at Stuttgart, the docks at Emden in northwest Germany, railway installations at Mannheim and Soest, a Kassel electrical plant, munition plants at Ludwigshafen and Hanover, and oil installations in Nordenham.

The total losses usually given for the day are deceptive and virtually worthless. Many accounts give the RAF a decided edge in terms of losses, but those figures don't factor in the planes destroyed in the air and the extensive damage to RAF (and other) infrastructure. Six RAF pilots are killed or missing, and RAF losses now exceed production. Luftwaffe fighter pilots report that fighter opposition over England is diminished from mid-August, though still fierce over key points.

In short: right now, as of 1 September 1940, the Luftwaffe is winning the Battle of Britain and accomplishing its objectives. That is not an exaggeration, that is reality. Whether that is being done quickly enough to satisfy the more strategic requirements of the entire campaign, i.e. setting up Operation Sea Lion before the weather forecloses it for the year, remains to be seen. This will be decided by Adolf Hitler in coming days. What can be said is that the Germans finally, after much trial and error, have learned how to utilize their numerical air force advantage to best advantage. The overriding questions are whether the Germans will keep at it, and whether the British can devise effective counter-measures.

RAF No. 54 Squadron is put out of action. Several other squadrons, such as Nos. 111 at Croydon and No. 151 at Stapleford are down to only a handful of operational planes and/or pilots. RAF North Weald remains operational, but it has virtually no planes left to put in the air.

During the day, Adolf Galland at JG 26 gets his 27th victory, while his friend Hptm. Gerhard Schöpfel of Stab III./JG 26 also gets a victory. Oblt. Josef ‘Jupp’ Bürschgens of 7,/JG26 is shot down by a Bf 110 who mistakes his Bf 109 for a Spitfire. Jupp retires with 10 victories to see the sights and tour the grounds of a Canadian POW stockade.

Two German pilots, Oblt. Wilhelm Herget and Oblt. Hans-Joachim Jabs of 6,/ZG76, each file claims for three planes shot down - somewhat restoring the honor of the Bf 110 Zerstörers. Oblt. Gustav Rödel of 4./JG 27 files claims for two.

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Sunday Express
The London headlines are not quite as bombastic as in mid-August. Sunday Express, 1 September 1940.

German Military: The Luftwaffe Operations Staff, Section 1A, issues instructions to Luftflotten 2 and 3 in France regarding quality targets. It includes a list of 30 factories in England thought to be involved in aircraft production. In fact, this list includes some factories that have nothing to do with anything war-related - the Luftwaffe appears to be consulting guidebooks and the like.

Battle of the Atlantic: Italian submarines have been operating off the Azores and Canary Islands for about two months with results that have under-performed expectations but still hold promise. For submarines based in Italy, these patrol stations require passage through the Straits of Gibraltar, which the British are trying to close down. Aside from the British presence, this also involves a lengthy, tiring and time-consuming transit to and from patrol stations in the Atlantic.

To avoid the dangers of such transits and coordinate training of the under-performing Italian submarine crews, the Regia Marina Italiana now establishes a base at Bordeaux capable of holding up to 30 submarines at a time (with 1/3 of submarines in port, 1/3 in transit to or from patrol stations, and 1/3 on patrol stations, this works out to supporting a fleet of up to 90 submarines, which is roughly how many the Italians have operational). This operation goes under the acronym BETASOM.

As usual with Axis joint operations, there is an involved command structure that places ultimate control over the BETASOM project in a German officer, in this case Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral) Karl Dönitz. Doenitz now is the effective "Commander of the Submarines" (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote) for both the German and Italian submarine fleets in the Atlantic - and the Italian fleet there potentially is even larger than the German one. This has the potential of tipping the scales of the Battle of the Atlantic decidedly in favor of the Axis. However, the effectiveness of the Italian submarines must be increased substantially for them to make a worthwhile contribution to the war effort. As part of that effort, the Italian Navy also establishes a frogmen training academy at Livorno, commanded by Lieutenant Wolk.

In the day's battle itself, results are slightly better than many recent ones for the Royal Navy, but hardly wonderful. The Texel Disaster concludes with the scuttling of the destroyer HMS Ivanhoe during the afternoon and recovery of the badly damaged HMS Express, which has lost its entire bows. It will require major repairs, a virtual reconstruction of a third of the ship.

U-101 (Kptlt. Fritz Frauenheim), on her third patrol and first out of Lorient, finds a straggler from Convoy OB 205 northwest of Ireland. It is 3867 ton Croatian (maybe now Greek?) freighter Efploia. Frauenheim puts a torpedo into the Efploia which badly damages it. The ship is later scuttled by destroyer HMS Anthony, which rescues the entire crew.

U-32 (Oblt.z.S. Hans Jenisch) torpedoes British cruiser HMS Fiji northwest of Ireland, near Convoy HX 67. The Fiji, seriously damaged, proceeds back to base at Greenock in the Clyde at a reduced speed of 10 knots, escorted by several destroyers. HMS Fiji has been participating in the opening stages of Operation Menace and is replaced by cruiser HMAS Australia.

British submarine HMS Tigris torpedoes and sinks Vichy French trawler Sancte Michel in the Bay of Biscay.

British submarine HMS Sunfish collides with Royal Navy launch HMML Mesme at Grangemouth, Stirlingshire. All three men aboard perish.

Royal Navy trawler HMT Royalo hits a mine and sinks off Penzance, Cornwall. All seven men aboard perish as the small ship explodes.

Royal Navy cruiser HMS Galatea hits a mine off the Humber as it is returning to port. The explosion beside B-turret is against the gunbelt and causes only minor damage.

British submarine HMS Tuna spots what it believes is a submarine in the North Sea and attacks, but without results.

Convoy FN 269 departs from Southend, Convoy MT 157 departs from Methil, Convoy FS 269 departs from the Tyne, Convoy OB 207 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX 70 departs from Halifax, Convoy BHX 70 departs from Bermuda, Convoy SLS 46 departs from Freetown, Convoy BS 3A departs from Suez.

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Amsterdam military parade Wehrmacht
Germans troops on parade on Dam Square in Amsterdam, 1 September 1940.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Hats, the intricate Royal Navy operation to run ships to Malta, continues.

At 03:25, Royal Navy carrier HMS Ark Royal launches nine Swordfish to attack Caligari as part of the deception operations (Operation Squawk) to draw attention away from the Malta convoy. The planes attack at 06:00 - Swordfish are very slow, particularly in a headwind - and are back on the carrier by 08:00. After some evasive maneuvers, Admiral Somerville takes Force H toward the Sicilian Narrows (between Sicily and Tunisia). Late in the, he splits his fleet, half turning back toward Caligari and the rest (Force F) continuing eastward for a junction with the Mediterranean fleet coming from Alexandria.

The Mediterranean fleet coming from Greek waters, for its part, has had its reconnaissance planes spot the Italian fleet off Taranto. The Italians, however, apparently unaware of the British dispositions, heads back to base.

A British flotilla led by Cruisers HMS Orion and HMAS Sydney bombards Dodecanese islands of Scarpanto (now Karpathos) and Stampalia (now Astypalea) as part of the overall deception plan. Italian motor torpedo boats MAS 536 and 537 respond by attacking the Royal Navy ships. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Ilex, operating with Admiral Cunningham's force out of Alexandria, rams and sinks Italian motor torpedo boat MAS 536 in the Aegean, but the other Italian attack boat gets away (some accounts place this on 3 September).

At Malta itself, a Hudson on reconnaissance is spotted by aircraft from HMS Illustrious, part of Force H coming from Gibraltar. Rather than a happy meeting, the Illustrious Fairey Fulmars mistake the RAF plane for an enemy one and attack the Hudson. They force it to crash-land in Tunisia, where the Vichy French intern the crew. Malta reconnaissance planes also shadow the Italian fleet returning to Taranto. The arrival of the convoy coming from Gibraltar is expected with eagerness on the morrow.

Kenya: A minor Italian offensive occupies Buna in northeast Kenya.

German/Soviet Relations: Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov remains furious about the Second Vienna Award - suggesting that the Soviets itself had further plans for Romania. He privately remonstrates with the Germans, but can't go public with his aggravation because his complaint is that the German interference in eastern Europe is contrary to the secret protocols of the August 1939 Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact.

German Military: Otto Skorzeny receives a promotion to Oberscharführer (senior squad leader, roughly equivalent to a Sergeant 1st Class in the US) and joins 2nd SS Division "Das Reich." Skorzeny is a former civil engineer who has become a promising SS officer, gaining some renown for designing ramps to load tanks on ships - a potentially very useful invention should Operation Sea Lion proceed.

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Joseph Goebbels Otto von Wachter
Otto von Wachter, an Austrian politician and here Governor of the Cracow district, shakes hands with Joseph Goebbels on September.1, 1940. Wachter's son is alive as of this writing and denies his father was a criminal.

US Military: The House of Representatives passes the conscription bill, reinstating the draft once President Roosevelt signs it. There is furious grass-roots opposition to the draft in peacetime, a first in American history.

The Navy institutes a small force at Midway Island, part of the Hawaiian Island chain, called the the US Marine Corps Midway Detachment of the Fleet Marine Force.

Soviet Military: Lieutenant General Ivan Vasilievich Boldin, who led the 9th Army during the occupation of Romanian Bessarabia, is promoted to Deputy Commander in Chief, Special Western Military District.

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Vogue Magazine
Vogue (US) Magazine, 1 September 1940.

Romania: The fascist Iron Guard, which until recently was outlawed, agitates for the abdication of King Carol II.

Ecuador: The new President is Carlos Alberto Arroyo.

Holocaust: A coke-fired two-retort furnace for the incineration of corpses goes into service at Auschwitz.

American Homefront: It remains hurricane season along the Atlantic coastline. The Category 2 1940 New England Hurricane passes by Cape Hatteras, North Carolina headed toward the New Jersey/New York area.

1 September 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Popular Science
"Can Man Survive Robot Warfare?" Popular Science, 1 September 1940. Good question.

August 1940


August 1, 1940: Two RN Subs Lost
August 2, 1940: Operation Hurry
August 3, 1940: Italians Attack British Somaliland
August 4, 1940: Dueling Legends in the US
August 5, 1940: First Plan for Barbarossa
August 6, 1940: Wipe Out The RAF
August 7, 1940: Burning Oil Plants
August 8, 1940: True Start of Battle of Britain
August 9, 1940: Aufbau Ost
August 10, 1940: Romania Clamps Down On Jews
August 11, 1940: Huge Aerial Losses
August 12, 1940: Attacks on Radar
August 13, 1940: Adler Tag
August 14, 1940: Sir Henry's Mission
August 15, 1940: Luftwaffe's Black Thursday
August 16, 1940: Wolfpack Time
August 17, 1940: Blockade of Britain
August 18, 1940: The Hardest Day
August 19, 1940: Enter The Zero
August 20, 1940: So Much Owed By So Many
August 21, 1940: Anglo Saxon Incident
August 22, 1940: Hellfire Corner
August 23, 1940: Seaplanes Attack
August 24, 1940: Slippery Slope
August 25, 1940: RAF Bombs Berlin
August 26, 1940: Troops Moved for Barbarossa
August 27, 1940: Air Base in Iceland
August 28, 1940: Call Me Meyer
August 29, 1940: Schepke's Big Day
August 30, 1940: RAF's Bad Day
August 31, 1940: Texel Disaster


September 1940


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

2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 31, 1940: Texel Disaster


Saturday 31 August 1940

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Express Texel Disaster
HMS Express after losing her bow to a mine. Photo taken from HMS Kelvin. © IWM (A 537).

Battle of Britain: This is known as the "Bad Weekend" for the RAF. On 31 August 1940, the heat is on the Luftwaffe, as Hitler is on the cusp of making a decision about Operation Sea Lion. If results are to to gained that mean anything, they have to be gained soon. Changes in strategy by the Luftwaffe, and some occasional strokes of luck, also are giving new life to the German effort.

The main Luftwaffe tactic remains to destroy the RAF in the air and its installations on the ground. Radar stations are subject to attack, but they are a distinctly secondary priority. While cities such as Liverpool are receiving damage, London for the most part has been spared.

As the day dawns, all of the RAF airfields are operational - though Biggin Hill just barely. The raids begin around 08:00, an unusual hour for the Luftwaffe to mount major operations in recent weeks. The RAF gets its fighters into the air earlier than on the 30th, when being too cute with trying to time the raids so that they could be attacked only after the fighter escorts were low on fuel led to a large percent of the bombers getting through to their targets. Two RAF Squadrons head out into pursuit.

However, the first Luftwaffe attack turns out to be a "freie jagd" - fighters without bombers. Air Vice Marshal Keith Park realizes quickly that he has been conned and tells his fighters to return to base - he isn't going to waste them on dogfights. RCAF No. 1 Squadron, though, does not receive the message and loses three planes in a pointless encounter. The Bf 109s, meanwhile, have free reign of the skies otherwise and destroy all 23 barrage balloons over Dover.

A little later, the bombers do appear. This time, Park of No. 11 Group decides to get almost everything he has into the air - he sends up 13 squadrons to attack the formation and keeps three squadrons at home to protect the airfields. Previously, nearby No. 12 Group would have protected his airfields, but after the problems in that area on the 30th, Park is taking no chances.

As is usually the case, the large Luftwaffe formation splits up into numerous smaller formations to attack different targets. Several airfields receive damage, including the vital field at Hornchurch. Duxford is another target, but the tables turn today and No. 12 Group has to call on Park at No. 11 Group for assistance. Park sends over No. 111 Squadron, and they break up that attack.

A third Luftwaffe formation, however, gets through unscathed and hits RAF Debden. Over 100 bombs drop on it, causing extensive damage and 18 casualties.

About an hour later, the Luftwaffe sends more planes over the Thames estuary. Eastchurch is hit, along with RAF Detling.

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF pilot James Coward
Pilot James Coward has his foot blown off after his guns jam on 31 August 1940. He manages to bale out, ties a tourniquet around his leg, then has his his leg amputated below the knee.

Another 100 bombers head over around noontime. This formation splits up and one part heads for Biggin Hill, where the bombers cause extensive damage on top of that of previous days. While the RAF maintains the fiction that Biggin Hill remains operational, in fact it is cut off from the outside world and fighters are instructed not to land there.

The other part of the formation attacks Hornchurch again. The defending fighters get a late start again, and the bombers destroy numerous planes on the ground and in the process of taking off.

Another raid an hour or two later targets radar station at Foreness. This raid does not get any lucky hits, as on the 30th, so the stations remain operational.

At 15:15, another attack comes across over the Thames estuary. Hornchurch suffers again, and Biggin Hill takes more damage. The Dornier Do 17s are carrying heavy 1000lb bombs. A direct hit on the Operations Room roof destroys the plotting room, and there is extensive damage elsewhere.

The attacks continue into the night. Liverpool is hit again, Bristol receives some damage, but the damage to Liverpool is significant (20 civilians killed in a shelter that gets a direct hit). A trawler in the harbor is hit, the gas works at Birkshaw Lane is damaged, and numerous shops and flats are destroyed.

During a Luftwaffe attack on Birkenhead, Royal Navy battleship Prince of Wales is damaged by a near miss. British tanker British Energy also is damaged there, while British tanker Athelviscount is damaged in the River Mersey near Liverpool.

This is considered to be the nadir for the RAF during the Battle of Britain. More flying personnel are killed or wounded, and the RAF loses its greatest number of planes in one day (30-40). The Luftwaffe loses roughly the same number of planes. More ominously for the RAF, it loses 14 pilots.

This rate of exchange highly favors the Luftwaffe, particularly when you add in all the damage being caused to RAF infrastructure and the country at large. The British media, of course, is full of its usual wild tales of Luftwaffe losses approaching triple figures. If all such claims over the month of August 1940 were tallied and reflected reality, the Luftwaffe would be out of planes already. As it is, Luftwaffe losses are higher than RAF losses when everything is accounted for - but not by much.

As a result of the day's events, RAF No. 610 Squadron is transferred out of Biggin Hill to Acklington for a rest, and No. 72 Squadron replaces it.

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF pilot Gerard Maffett
RAF Pilot Officer Gerard H "Gerry" Maffett, KIA 31 August 1940.

Battle of the Atlantic: It is a bad day for the Royal Navy. Already desperately short of convoy escorts, the situation gets worse. After dark, a British flotilla of five destroyers (Destroyer Flotilla 20) is sailing not far off the Dutch coast near Texel to lay a minefield (CBX 5). After reports are received of an enemy convoy heading westward - invasion forces? - the flotilla jettisons the mines and heads to intercept. The destroyers run into a German minefield shortly after 23:00.

The invasion scare turns out to be a false alarm, but the damage to the destroyer is about as bad as if it had turned out to be real. Destroyer HMS Express is the first one to hit a mine off Texel. The mine hits near "B" gun forward, and it blows off the entire bow. The Express losses 59 crew in the explosion

Destroyers HMS Esk and Ivanhoe then close to help the Express, while the remaining two destroyers retrace their route out of the minefield. Esk then hits a mine, then Ivanhoe hits one. There now are three destroyers dead in the water. Esk then hits another mine that detonates her magazine, sinking the ship quickly. There are 136 dead and two survivors.

The Express and Ivanhoe now are left, badly damaged, in the middle of the minefield. Express, saved only by watertight doors underneath the bridge, goes into reverse to get out of the minefield and relieve pressure on the strained bulkhead - the only thing keeping her afloat.

The Admiralty dispatches motor torpedo boats, which take off the crew of the Express. After resolving several problems with the tow, the Express makes it to Hull for repairs at Chatham Dockyard. The Ivanhoe attempts the same maneuver as the Express, but something happens to her propeller or drive shaft and she is dead in the water.

Eventually, the Luftwaffe takes an interest, and the British have to scuttle the Ivanhoe. Thus, the British lose two destroyers and have a third out of action for an indefinite, but obviously very long, period. The Luftwaffe rescues 24 men from the Ivanhoe and makes them POWs.

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Express Texel Disaster
HMS Express, her bows blown clear off by a German mine, as seen from HMS Kelvin. © IWM (A 534).

Elsewhere, the day is not much better for the British.

U-59 (Joachim Matz) continues its successful patrol northwest of Ireland. At 02:06, it sends two torpedoes into and sinks 4616 ton British collier Bibury. All 39 men on board perish. The Bibury had just dispersed with two other ships from Convoy OB 205. The ship sinks in five minutes. This sinking remained a mystery for some time due to the lack of any survivors - it just vanished.

U-38 (Kptlt. Heinrich Liebe), toward the end of her sixth patrol and operating out of Wilhelmshaven, stalks Convoy OB 225 as it departs the British Isles for the United States. Spotting a straggler - always easy prey - northwest of County Donegal, it torpedoes and sinks 2508 ton British fertilizer freighter Har Zion. There is only one survivor, seaman Osman Adem, and the other 35 men on board perish. After this, U-38 heads for her new home port of Lorient.

U-60 (Oblt.z.S. Adalbert Schnee) is on her eight patrol several hundred miles off Malin Head, Northern Ireland. While not an unlucky boat, she has few kills under her belt, and that string continues. At around 2300, Schnee sends two torpedoes at 15,434 ton Dutch passenger liner Volendam. One of the torpedoes explodes, but the large liner survives likely due to watertight doors. After the crew and passengers (878 total on board) are taken off (one death), she is towed to the Clyde by the salvage tug Salvonia. During repairs, the workers find the second torpedo in the hull, unexploded - a very lucky break for the liner.

U-46 (Kptlt. Engelbert Endrass) stalks Convoy OB 205 about 100 miles northwest of Barra Head, Scotland. It torpedoes and sinks the 7461 ton Belgian freighter Ville de Hasselt. Everyone on board survives.

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Express Texel Disaster
A British motor torpedo boat goes to the assistance of HMS Express after it has had its bow blown off due by a German mine. © IWM (A 535). 

Vichy French naval trawler Vivagel hits a mine and sinks in the Bay of Biscay near Royan.

Dutch 175 ton freighter Marne, carrying a load of ammunition and copper pipe, hits a mine and sinks off the Tyne. The mine blows the ship to pieces and it sinks completely within three seconds with the loss of three crewmen in the hold. Two other men, Captain Stam and the mate, are thrown clear and survive.

Royal Navy 43 ton armed yacht HMY Emelle disappears. This is one of those mystery sinkings about which virtually nothing is known.

The Kriegsmarine lays minefield SW 3 in the western Baltic.

A major troop convoy departs from Britain for Freetown under heavy escort. It carries 8,000 British and French troops for undetermined operations in Africa. The ultimate destination turns out to be Dakar, but this is not known yet - Dakar remains under Vichy control. These are the opening moves of Operation Menace.

Convoys OA 207 and MT 156 depart from Methil, Convoy FN 268 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 268 departs from the Tyne.

U-95 (Kapitänleutnant Gerd Schreiber) is commissioned.

For the month of August, shipping losses are:

84 Allied ships lost 353,004 tons in the Atlantic;
8 Allied ships lost 44,225 tons in the Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific Oceans;
4 Axis ships 10, 064 tons in the Mediterranean;
3 U-boats lost, 28 remain in the Atlantic.

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com downed Stuka Ju 87
A Stuka brought down on 31 August 1940.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Hats is in full swing, with Force F heading east from Gibraltar and Admiral Cunningham bringing his big ships west from Alexandria. The objectives are to re-supply Malta and cause the Italians problems in the process.

As part of the diversionary scheme, Royal Navy aircraft from HMS Ark Royal bomb Sardinia. Destroyers are sent in that direction (Operation Squawk) to mislead the Italians into thinking that an attack on Genoa is the objective.

The Italians lightly damage Polish destroyer Garland.

Admiral Cunningham's force meets up with Admiral Tovey and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron off the southern coast of Greece.

A convoy (MF 2) of three merchant ships with a destroyer escort makes a break for Malta. The Italian air force attacks and damages British refrigerated ship Cornwall. Despite fierce fires caused by three bombs, the crew gets the engines running again and it continues on toward Malta.

Aircraft carrier HMS Eagle spots the Italian battle fleet about 180 miles away from Cunningham's ships in the Aegean. Cunningham heads toward them, but no contact is made during the day. There is a heavy storm during the night.

Elsewhere, the RAF bombs Derna and other Italian positions in Libya.

Italy: The Caproni Ca.331 Raffica (Fire Burst) prototype takes its first flight at Ponte San Pietro at the hands of test pilot Ettore Wengi. The Italians are developing both jet aircraft and biplane planes like this at the same time, but the Raffica is a good design.

Soviet Union: Upon learning of the Second Vienna Award that resolves territorial disputes between Romania and Hungary, Moscow, apparently miffed at not being involved, launches a diplomatic protest.

China: Chiang Kai-shek appoints Chen Cheng as the new head of the political bureau (propaganda arm) of the Nationalist armed forces.

British Homefront: It is reported that, as of the end of August, over 51,000 British civilians have registered conscientious objection to serving in the military.

American Homefront: Using his newly granted legal authority, President Roosevelt calls up 60,000 men of the National Guard to serve in the US Army.

A Douglas DC-3 of Pennsylvania Central Airlines crashes near Lovettsville, Virginia. All 25 aboard perish, including US Senator from Minnesota Ernest Lundeen.

The Tizard Mission continues its journey across the Atlantic, while Sir Henry himself is in Washington to coordinate the technology exchange.

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh marry at San Ysidro Ranch, California.

31 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Queen Wilhelmina birthday celebration
Queen Wilhelmina's birthday parade near the Esplanade in Porthcawl, Wales, 31 August 1940. That is a Dutch anti-aircraft truck.

August 1940


August 1, 1940: Two RN Subs Lost
August 2, 1940: Operation Hurry
August 3, 1940: Italians Attack British Somaliland
August 4, 1940: Dueling Legends in the US
August 5, 1940: First Plan for Barbarossa
August 6, 1940: Wipe Out The RAF
August 7, 1940: Burning Oil Plants
August 8, 1940: True Start of Battle of Britain
August 9, 1940: Aufbau Ost
August 10, 1940: Romania Clamps Down On Jews
August 11, 1940: Huge Aerial Losses
August 12, 1940: Attacks on Radar
August 13, 1940: Adler Tag
August 14, 1940: Sir Henry's Mission
August 15, 1940: Luftwaffe's Black Thursday
August 16, 1940: Wolfpack Time
August 17, 1940: Blockade of Britain
August 18, 1940: The Hardest Day
August 19, 1940: Enter The Zero
August 20, 1940: So Much Owed By So Many
August 21, 1940: Anglo Saxon Incident
August 22, 1940: Hellfire Corner
August 23, 1940: Seaplanes Attack
August 24, 1940: Slippery Slope
August 25, 1940: RAF Bombs Berlin
August 26, 1940: Troops Moved for Barbarossa
August 27, 1940: Air Base in Iceland
August 28, 1940: Call Me Meyer
August 29, 1940: Schepke's Big Day
August 30, 1940: RAF's Bad Day
August 31, 1940: Texel Disaster


September 1940


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

2016

August 30, 1940: RAF's Bad Day


Friday 30 August 1940

30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com German POW
A captured German crew member on 30 August 1940.

Battle of Britain: In some ways, 30 August 1940 is the most encouraging day of the entire Battle of Britain for the Luftwaffe. There are several rays of sunshine in what has been a bleak campaign for it to date.

The Luftwaffe Luftflotten commanders in France (Sperrle and Kesselring) are changing tactics on a daily basis. Their orders are to destroy the RAF, but they can't do it if the British fighters stay on the ground. The British, for their part, are wise to this game and refuse to offer combat (as on 29 August) unless there are bombers operating over British targets. The Luftwaffe knows that the bombers are vulnerable, so Sperrle and Kesselring are trying to minimize their operations during the day but still draw up Spitfires and Hurricanes to be shot down. It is an intricate dance that requires "baiting" the RAF fighters into battle - something they won't do unless there is sufficient "bait."

The weather is bright and clear, but the Luftwaffe gets a late start as it increasingly has done as the battle has proceeded. The morning is devoted to minor shipping raids in the Thames estuary, one of the convoys from Methil, with no significant results on either side. RAF Vice Marshal Keith Park, in charge of the sector, considers this a "bait" operation and only sends up minimal forces to intercept.

Later, Kesselring sends over JG 26 on a "freie jagd" (no bombers), but again the British fighters stay on the ground.

At 10:30, the Luftwaffe sends across a large force from the Pas de Calais region. This time, there are bombers (Heinkel He 111s). The Luftwaffe has slightly new tactics, a close escort and another group of fighters much higher (25k feet). The RAF gets a little too cute and keeps its fighters on the ground as long as possible, waiting for the escorts to run low on fuel and turn back. Partly as result, the bombers get through and cause great damage to RAF airfields at Biggin Hill, Detling, Kenley, Rochford, Shoreham, and Tangemere. There are 40 deaths at Biggin Hill, and there are casualties all across the area.

30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com East Hull
Bomb damage in East Hull, 30 August 1940. This raid was at 01:05 and saw 9 high explosive bombs dropped, damaging docks, railway tracks and various buildings.

In addition, a lucky hit on a power station deprives several radar stations of power (Beachy Head, Dover, Foreness, Pevensey, Rye, and Whitstable). While they are only offline for a few hours, this leaves the RAF blind and provides an opening for the Luftwaffe. It also shows what might be accomplished but for Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's insistence that the radar stations are not worthwhile targets.

RAF Nos. 43, 79, 85, 111, 253, 603, 610 and 616 Squadrons make a belated entry. This leads to massive dogfights over much of eastern England.

Another wave of bombers approaches at 11:15, heading for Kent. The fact that the radar chain is down causes massive confusion on the British side, and they have to rely on observers. Once again, the RAF gets a late start on intercepting the bombers, and more and more keep coming across. Biggin Hill and Kenley are among the targets, and poor bombing aim rains bombs everywhere nearby. There are many RAF planes on the ground with battle damage, and these further attacks just add to the damage.

30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Jumbo Gracie DFC
28-year-old Flight Leader Edward J "Jumbo" Gracie exhausts his ammunition downing one Heinkel He 111 and damaging another on 30 August 1940. He then lands his Hurricane Mk 1 at RAF in a field near Halstead when his engine seizes. He returns to base and, two days later, is diagnosed with a broken neck. He later receives the DFC for his gallantry.

The conflict between Keith Park at No. 11 Group and Leigh-Mallory at No. 12 Group flares into the open again, this time during the actual battle. The latter is supposed to be supporting Park's effort against the bombers by protecting his airfields - a subsidiary role. However, instead, Leigh-Mallory's fighters go looking for targets themselves - and leave Park's airfields unprotected. Park is furious and gets on the phone shortly afterwards, demanding to know:
...where in the hell were your fighters that were supposed to have protected my airfields?
The damage has been done, however, and the Luftwaffe bombers that cratered the fields are long gone by this time.

Kesselring at Luftflotte 2 is not done yet. With both sides having spent their main efforts in the morning, he sends over smaller forces at 13:00. The radar stations being down (unknown to the Germans), these forces attack Hawkinge and Manston, badly damaging them. The Luftwaffe roams over southern England at will, with the defending RAF squadrons virtually blind.

The Luftwaffe then sends over yet more bombers - most likely the ones from the morning, re-fueled and re-armed - at 16:00. The RAF is full of damaged aircraft, refueling aircraft, and damaged fields. Virtually every RAF plane is in the air. Park once again calls No. 12 Group and tries to take over the entire RAF effort, directing Leight-Mallory where to send his fighters (this time to attack the bombers rather than defend the airfields). The day is full of chaos and fury, and many bad feelings.

The Luftwaffe target now is Luton's industrial region, with many bombs dropped erroneously on Vauxhall. The Vauxhall Motor Works is hit, killing 53 workers and 140 casualties. Due to the lack of radar warning, the air raid sirens have not sounded, leaving people above-ground and vulnerable.

The attacks continue throughout the afternoon. RAF Biggin Hill, Detling, and surrounding areas are badly hit. Junkers Ju 88s are carrying unusually large bombs - 1000lbs - and drop them right on target at Biggin Hill.

After dark, the Luftwaffe attacks Liverpool again with a massive force of Heinkel He 111s from KG 27 and Junkers Ju 88s from LG1 and KG 51. Bristol, London, Manchester and Portsmouth also are hit.

Almost lost in the day's events, the British attack Berlin again with No. 149 Squadron. However, they cause little damage, attacks on Berlin at this point are more nuisance raids than anything else. RAF Bomber Command also attacks oil installations near Rotterdam and other targets in Belgium and Holland with over 80 Hampdens, Wellingtons, and Whitley bombers.

Overall, while not a completely catastrophic day for the RAF, it is perhaps the worst of the entire campaign. The one silver lining for it is that the Germans don't really understand their good fortune, and why it happened. Fighter Command can only hope that things return to "normal" on the morrow and that there are no more lucky hits on the power plants supplying the radar chain.

Losses for the day are estimated at around 41 for the Luftwaffe and 39 for the RAF - an almost equal score for one of the very few times in the entire campaign. Some accounts even give the Luftwaffe the absolute advantage. If one factors in the RAF planes lost on the ground and on the raids over Europe during the night (four bombers), the day almost certainly is a big win for the Luftwaffe in terms of planes lost - let alone the ground damage.

More troubling for the RAF, well over 50 of its men died during the day and numerous badly wounded period and other casualties. Biggin Hill is all but out of action and its operations transferred to RAF Hornchurch - already hard-pressed in its defense of the Thames estuary.

RAF No. 303 Squadron (Polish) begins operations.

RAF Flight Officer Anthony "Tony" Eyre is awarded the DFC for numerous victories with his No. 615 Squadron Hurricane Mark I operating out of RAF Kenley.

30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Tony Eyre DFC
22-year-old Flight Officer Tony Eyre (left), DFC.

Battle of the Atlantic: The British Admiralty is on high alert, because military intelligence suggest that the Germans will be invading today. Cruisers Birmingham and Manchester put to sea with a flotilla of destroyers, but it is a false alarm. The Admiralty is torn between defending against an invasion and defending the convoys. Having to defend against threats in opposing directions causes an intolerable strain, as the Royal Navy has only so many ships at Scapa Flow to divert to flash points.

Partly as a result, two U-boats have big days today. It is a demonstration that the Royal Navy escorts for convoys are inadequate, and illustrates why British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is so covetous of the 50 US destroyers that he is trying to get. It also is an illustration that any attempted German invasion could have unforeseen beneficial results for them, as it would weaken already poorly defended convoys as scarce ships are diverted to the east. Even the mere threat of an invasion is helping the U-boats.

U-32 (Oblt.z.S. Hans Jenisch) stalks Convoy HX 66A just off the Isle of Lewis and attacks at 02:20. It gets three quick victories in less than half an hour and damages a fourth. The feat is similar to U-boat ace Joachim Schepke's sinking of four ships in another convoy on the 29th.

U-32 torpedoes and sinks 4804 ton British freighter Chelsea. There are 11 survivors and 24 perish.

U-32 torpedoes and sinks 4318 ton British freighter Mill Hill. There are no survivors, all 34 aboard perish.

U-32 torpedoes and sinks 3971 ton Norwegian freighter Norna. There are 11 survivors and 17 perish.

U-59 (Joachim Matz), meanwhile, is on her 11th patrol west of Scotland. He is stalking Convoy OB 205 about 70 miles off of Scotland. He strikes at 09:34.

U-59 torpedoes 4943 ton Greek freighter San Gabriel. There are 22 survivors and 2 crew perish. The ship stays afloat long enough to be towed to land, but the ship is a blazing wreck and is beached near Cardross in the Clyde and forgotten. This incident shows one of the rare advantages of attacking convoys, because Matz was shooting at one ship, but missed and hit the San Gabriel instead.

U-59 torpedoes and damages 8009 ton British tanker Anadara. Tankers are notoriously difficult to sink due to their construction, and the HMS Schelde manages to tow it into the Clyde.

The Luftwaffe adds a ship to the day's losses at 21:30. Sailing in one of the local convoys, WN.11, 1832 ton Norwegian freighter Marstenen goes down in the northeast part of the Moray Firth by the Scottish Highlands about 22 miles southeast of Duncansby Head. The vessel is struck by an aerial torpedo and sinks by the stern in only 10 minutes. Everybody survives when picked up by an escort. This leads to an inquiry, because the ship has watertight doors that might have prevented the sinking, but the master abandoned the ship quickly while it was still afloat and without knowing whether the doors were closed. While his quick action perhaps saved some lives, he also might have been able to save the ship with a little due diligence.

Convoy FN 267 departs from Southend, Convoy MT 155 departs from Methil, Convoy FS 267 departs from the Tyne, Convoy OB 206 departs from Liverpool.

U-93 is commissioned.

British armed merchant cruiser HMNZS Monowa (F 59, Captain Hubert V. P. McClintock) is commissioned.

30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Illustrious
HMS Illustrious.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Hats is a huge, complex Royal Navy operation which involves ships going in contrary directions (technically, it refers only to the forces heading out of Gibraltar, with subsidiary operations elsewhere). Force F is heading east from Gibraltar, while Admiral Cunningham's fleet based at Alexandria is heading west pursuant to Operation MF2. The joing operations have several objectives:
  1. Run supplies to Malta, which is the main reason for the operation in the first place;
  2. Provide multiple distractions for the convoy to Malta;
  3. Attack Italian shore targets in Libya, Italian and the Aegean.
The overall Royal Navy forces in operation are extremely powerful and illustrate the enduring scope and might of that service throughout the world. Force H includes the aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and Illustrious (fitted with new radar gear) and battlecruisers HMS Renown and Sheffield. Admiral Cunningham's fleet, meanwhile, has the battleships (HMS Warspite and Malaya), aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, and numerous supporting ships. The Italians spot the ships moving out of Alexandria by 14:30, but there are no interceptions yet.

At Malta itself, there are no air raids or alerts. Governor Dobbie sends a telegram to the War Office expressing his concern that the island's air defenses remain inadequate to repel attacks that might occur if Malta is chosen to lead heavy offensive operations against Italy.

Hungarian/Romanian/Italian/German Relations: The events of the Second Vienna Award are unique. It is one of the only times when Adolf Hitler intervenes to prevent a war (between Hungary and Romania), rather than to start one.

Hungary has been demanding territory from Romania. Romania, on the other hand, has been losing territory to seemingly everyone (the Soviet Union and Bulgaria have grabbed big chunks recently), and resents any more loss of territory. This sets up the (Second) Vienna Award.

The Hungarian argument goes like this: the Treaty of Trianon which ended World War I in the East had split Hungary apart, and these divisions did not reflect ethnic reality. Hungary feels that it has been given a raw deal by the victors of World War I - a very common feeling during that time - and wants some of its former territory now lying in northern Romania back. This particular territory is the province of Transylvania.

Romania, for its part, is trying hard to ingratiate itself with Germany to protect itself from the colossus to the northeast, the Soviet Union, which already has extorted large portions of its territory. Romania knows that it stands no chance against the USSR without German help. Thus, they have consented to binding arbitration by Germany and its Italian ally over the Transylvanian question. The Germans, it need hardly be said, are no fans of any of the agreements that ended the Great War, so the whole issue presents itself as an open question with no regard to the Treaty of Trianon, the "Victors' Peace."

Foreign Ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany and Galeazzo Ciano of Italy meet at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna and decide to strike a compromise. Hungary has been demanding 69k km², but Ribbentrop and Ciano cut the area down to 43,492 km². Significantly, there are no population transfers. This is the Second Vienna Award.

Neither the Hungarians nor the Romanians are happy, because Hungary does not achieve its wish of scooping up all the Magyars to the south, and Romania loses well over a million Romanians in the north. These latter people are particularly unhappy, as they fear the Hungarian government under Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy, which fulfills those qualms by quickly committing various atrocities against their new Romanian subjects.

The Romanian government, however, quickly approves the decision during the night, realizing that it has no choice and that half a loaf is better than none at all. The Romanians get the one thing that the absolutely require: a promise from the Germans to defend their borders from here on out. Given that the Soviets have been aggressive with their territorial seizures lately, this creates a potentially unstable situation in a very critical part of Europe. It also shows how confident the Germans are and that they are willing to give guarantees in the face of Soviet power.

The Second Vienna Award is hardly forgotten in years to come. It remains a huge issue in the region throughout the war. A common joke within the Wehrmacht with a large element of truth is that the Romanians and Hungarians would rather fight each other than fight the Soviets and need to be separated. This mutual hatred and resentment causes a detrimental affect on troop dispositions, particularly during the Stalingrad campaign.


30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Vickers tanks
Vickers Mk VI light tanks pass through the village of Linton in Cambridgeshire, 30 August 1940 (Puttnam (Mr), War Office official photographer, Imperial War Museum).

German Military: Adolf Hitler sets 10 September as his own personal deadline for making a decision on Operation Sea Lion (with an actual operation to follow at least a week later). The day's successes against the RAF are breathing just a modicum of life into the dormant plans for the operation. The OKM (German Naval Command) tells him that they can't be ready before 20 September anyway.

US Military: The new commander of the 13th Naval District and Commandant of the Puget Sound Navy Yard is Rear Admiral Charles S. Freeman.

Australia: Lt. General Vernon Sturdee (rank restored from Major General) becomes the new Chief of the General Staff. He replaces General Sir. Brudenell White, who perished in the tragic airplane crash near Canberra on 13 August.

Troop Convoy US 4, another in the series of troop transfers to Egypt, departs.

Gabon: The Vichy French government, alarmed at recent successes by the Free French in Africa, dispatches submarine Sidi Ferruch from patrol to Libreville to shore up the Vichy authorities there.

China: The Japanese and Vichy French sign the Matsuoka-Henry Pact. This allows the Japanese transit rights in French Indochina (Vietnam) and base rights there. The Japanese are permitted to station 6,000 troops there and begin occupying key points in the country immediately. From here on, the Vichy French are only in nominal control of the country.

30 August 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Heinkel He 111 bomber crash landed
A Heinkel He 111 shot down during an attack on Biggin Hill, 30 August 1940 (Getty Images).

August 1940


August 1, 1940: Two RN Subs Lost
August 2, 1940: Operation Hurry
August 3, 1940: Italians Attack British Somaliland
August 4, 1940: Dueling Legends in the US
August 5, 1940: First Plan for Barbarossa
August 6, 1940: Wipe Out The RAF
August 7, 1940: Burning Oil Plants
August 8, 1940: True Start of Battle of Britain
August 9, 1940: Aufbau Ost
August 10, 1940: Romania Clamps Down On Jews
August 11, 1940: Huge Aerial Losses
August 12, 1940: Attacks on Radar
August 13, 1940: Adler Tag
August 14, 1940: Sir Henry's Mission
August 15, 1940: Luftwaffe's Black Thursday
August 16, 1940: Wolfpack Time
August 17, 1940: Blockade of Britain
August 18, 1940: The Hardest Day
August 19, 1940: Enter The Zero
August 20, 1940: So Much Owed By So Many
August 21, 1940: Anglo Saxon Incident
August 22, 1940: Hellfire Corner
August 23, 1940: Seaplanes Attack
August 24, 1940: Slippery Slope
August 25, 1940: RAF Bombs Berlin
August 26, 1940: Troops Moved for Barbarossa
August 27, 1940: Air Base in Iceland
August 28, 1940: Call Me Meyer
August 29, 1940: Schepke's Big Day
August 30, 1940: RAF's Bad Day
August 31, 1940: Texel Disaster

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