Sunday, March 11, 2018

June 12, 1941: St. James Agreement

Thursday 12 June 1941

HMS Sheffield attacking tanker Friederich Breme 12 June 1941
"Shells from HMS SHEFFIELD hitting the German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME." 12 June 1941. © IWM (A 4392).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: The Australian 21st Brigade continues pushing up the key coastal road towards Sidon on 12 June 1941. The Vichy French assemble six battalions, including two French Foreign Legion, and a large group of tanks between Mount Hermon and the desert. The Vichy French also send three Tunisian battalions in the Jebel Druse sector.

The Australian 25th Brigade splits its forces, leaving a skeleton force to hold Merdjayoun (Medjayun) while sending the bulk as flank support for the 21st Brigade on the coast.

Free French troops capture Deraa, Sheikh Meskine, and Ezraa on the road to Damascus in southwestern French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon. They finally are held up Kissoué (Kiswe). During the battle to take Kiswe, General Paul Legentilhomme of the Free French is wounded and replaced by Lloyd of the Indian 5th Brigade.

The RAF torpedoes 1105-ton French tanker Adour off Syria. The tanker makes port in Turkey, which interns it.

Back in Cairo, the British are surprised at the fierce Vichy French defense of Syria and Lebanon. Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell orders the 16th British Brigade to Syria to add some force to the invasion.

Dover bombing 12 June 1941
Damage on Randolph Road, Dover, from bombing on 12 June 1941 (Dover).

European Air Operations: During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends a dozen bombers against coastal targets. RAF Fighter Command conducts more Rhubarb and Roadstead operations. These include RAF No. 11 Group sending 24 fighters of RAF No. 74 and 92 Squadron along with 12 fighters of No. 611 Squadron against Gravelines. As bait to draw the Luftwaffe fighters up, the RAF fighters escort three Blenheim IV bombers from No. 2 Group.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 91 aircraft to attack Soerst, 84 to bomb Schwerte, 61 to attack Osnabruck, 82 to bomb Hamm and 18 to bomb Huls. The German civil defense authorities finally begin to realize the scale of the threat and warn people to seek shelter during raids.

The Luftwaffe has most of its assets in the East. Before dawn, they send one Heinkel He 111 of 1,/KG 28 to bomb Birmingham. The Lufwaffe also raids Dover, killing 16 people.

Hauptmann Herbert Nebenfuhr takes over as Gruppenkommandeur of Erg. Gruppe./JG 27 from Hptm. Erich Gerlitz.

HMS Sheffield attacking tanker Friederich Breme 12 June 1941
"One of the lifeboats from the German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME, full of prisoners, comes alongside the SHEFFIELD." 12 June 1941. © IWM (A 4402).

Battle of the Atlantic: The Royal Navy continues its sweep of the Atlantic Ocean for German supply ships. Cruiser HMS Sheffield finds 10,397-ton German tanker Friederich Breme and sinks it. There are 88 German survivors (two of 12 wounded crew later die as well). Eliminating these supply vessels intended to support (now sunk) battleship Bismarck has the benefit of crimping U-boat operations.

German heavy cruiser Lützow passes out of the Skagerrak on her way to Norway and a later breakout to the North Atlantic. This is Unternehmen Sommerreise (Operation Summer Trip).

The Royal Navy is keeping a close eye on Lutzow's progress and sends battleship King George V and light cruisers Arethusa and Aurora to reinforce the Northern Patrol. Just before midnight, the British Ultra service decodes German messages indicating where the German ships are. To intercept them, the RAF launches five Bristol Beaufort Mk I torpedo bombers of No. 22 Squadron from Wick and nine Beaufort Mk I machines of No. 42 Squadron from Leuchars in Scotland. Just after midnight on the 13th, a Bristol Blenheim of RAF No. 114 spots the German ships and reports their position.

U-48 (Kptlt. Herbert Schultze), on its 12th patrol operating Lorient and operating north of the Azores, at 02:51 torpedoes and sinks 7005-ton British Empire Dew. There are 23 deaths. The 19-20 survivors, including the master, are picked up on the 13th by destroyer KNM St. Albans.

This is U-48's final victory of the war. After this, it will return to Kiel and become a training vessel. During its career, it has sunk 51 ships for a total of 306,875 tons, plus one warship of 1060 tons and three ships damaged totaling 20,480 tons.

U-371 (Kptlt. Heinrich Driver), on its first patrol out of Kiel and operating south of Iceland, at 03:26 torpedoes and sinks 6373-ton British freighter Silverpalm (the identity of the ship is assumed from British records but officially is undetermined). In any event, everybody on the Silverpalm perishes - 68 people - and a lifeboat containing 8 bodies is found on 15 July.

U-552 (K.Kapt. Erich Topp), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire and operating 370 nautical miles (690 km) northeast of the Azores (south of Ireland), at 04:14 torpedoes and sinks independent 8593-ton British freighter Chinese Prince south of Rockall. There are 45 deaths, while 19 survivors (including the master) are picked up by Royal Navy corvettes Arbutus and Pimpernel.

HMS Sheffield attacking tanker Friederich Breme 12 June 1941
"The German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME on fire after gunfire from HMS SHEFFIELD." © IWM (A 4399).

U-553 (Kptlt. Karl Thurmann), on its second patrol out of St. Nazaire and operating north of the Azores, stalks Convoy OG-64 and sinks two ships in quick succession:
  • 5590-ton Norwegian tanker Ranella (sinks in 90 seconds)
  • 2355-ton British freighter Susan Maersk (breaks in half)
The U-boat surfaces and uses its deck gun to finishes off the Ranella at 17:06. Everybody on the Ranella survives, though the Ranella's crew has to endure 12 days at sea in two separate lifeboats before Figueira Figueria da Foz, Azores. All 24 on the Susan Maersk perish.

U-557 (KrvKpt. Ottokar Arnold Paulssen), on its first patrol and operating with Wolfpack West south of Iceland, is spotted by Royal Navy ships off St. John's, Newfoundland and attacked. The U-boat survives without damage.

Royal Navy auxiliary minesweeper HMT Sisapon hits a mine and sinks in the North Sea off Harwich, Essex.

Royal Navy escort ship HMS Sennen, a former US coast guard ship, collides with 88-ton drifter Animate in the Clyde. The Sennen continues with its duties.

At 01:27, Royal Navy light cruiser Arethusa, on its way to reinforce the Northern Patrol, intercepts 6537-ton Finnish freighter Kronoborg near the Scottish coast and sends it to Kirkwall for inspection. Light cruiser Aurora, accompanying Arethusa, also stops 1831-ton Finnish freighter Rolfsborg at the same time and also sends it to Kirkwall.

Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk departs from Freetown carrying 181 German prisoners taken from sunk German supply ships Esso Hamburg (9849 tons) and Egerland (9789 tons).

Royal Navy submarine HMS Unshaken is laid down, destroyer HMS Ulster is ordered.

US destroyers USS David W. Taylor and Capps are laid down.

U-574 (Oberleutnant zur See Dietrich Gengelbach) and U-575 (Kptlt. Günther Heydemann) are commissioned, U-135, U-581, and U-582 are launched, U-518 is laid down.

HMS Sheffield attacking tanker Friederich Breme 12 June 1941
"Captain Otto Schultze, the Captain of the German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME being interrogated on board HMS SHEFFIELD by Royal Marine officers." 12 June 1941. © IWM (A 4408).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine Torbay sinks 239-ton Italian schooner Gesù e Maria off Skiros Island.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Taku torpedoes and sinks Italian 1367-ton freighter Silvio Scaroni about 70 miles off Benghazi. Italian torpedo boats Pallade and Polluce attack the Taku, but it escapes undamaged.

Dutch submarine O.24 torpedoes and sinks 6660-ton Italian tanker Fianona south of Vada.

During the night, O-24 then attaches demolition charges to 143-ton Italian auxiliary patrol trawler Carloforte about 36 miles from Gorgara.

At Malta, an unusual naval action results when Royal Navy trawler HMS Jade goes out early in the morning to rescue a missing RAF pilot about 17 miles off the coast of Sicily. Two E-boats come out to confront the Jade and fire torpedoes. The torpedoes miss, and Jade opens fire, which returns fire. One man is killed on the Jade and the two E-boats take serious damage. The downed pilot, meanwhile, is never found.

The Italians send a formation over Malta from north to south and lose five fighters. The RAF loses two fighters, with one pilot killed and the other badly wounded. A third RAF fighter is damaged. Flight Commander Thomas Francis Neil of RAF No. 249 Squadron claims a Macchi MC-200 Thunderbolt fighter.

The South African Air Force conducts its first combat missions in North Africa.

HMS Sheffield attacking tanker Friederich Breme 12 June 1941
"A wounded prisoner from the German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME being interrogated on board HMS SHEFFIELD." © IWM (A 4421).

Battle of the Pacific: US freighter Iowan runs aground on a reef a few hundred yards off Government Point, near Point Conception, California. The Iowan is towed off the reef late in June and repaired.

War Crimes: While this incident isn't intended as a war crime, it illustrates how even good intentions can go awry. At Malta, two Hawker Hurricanes are sent up to intercept enemy planes approaching the island. They fire on one of the planes, a flying boat, in the darkness. The plane turns out to be a Red Cross plane. The RAF pilots break off the attack when they realize their mistake, but it is too late - the Cant plane crashes into the sea, with unknown casualties.

This kind of incident resulting from the fog of war builds up hard feelings and leads to later incidents. The Italians, of course, don't know anything about good intentions and mistakes, they only know that the RAF shot down a Red Cross plane. Each side very much notices and keeps score of these types of incidents.

Spy Stuff: The Japanese Vice-Consul in Hawaii, Takeo Yoshikawa (a Japanese military intelligence operative under the assumed name Tadashi Morimura), continues spying on US fleet and freighter movements in Pearl Harbor. Today, he reports that transport President Pierce has sailed for the Philippines with about 900 soldiers and 100 pilots on board.

German/Romanian Relations: Hitler concludes his meetings with Romanian leader Ion Antonescu in Munich. They reach an agreement for Romania to participate in Operation Barbarossa. Hitler then prepares to return to Berlin.

Anglo/US Relations: RAF Air Marshal Arthur Harris arrives in the United States. He is head of the RAF purchasing mission.

St. James Conference 12 June 1941
Representatives at the St. James conference. Visible are King George VI, Polish leader Wladyslaw Sikorski, Polish Foreign Minister Zaleski, Winston Churhill, Anthony Eden, South African High Commissioner Sidney Waterson, New Zealand Commissioner W.J. Jordan, Australian Commissioner S.M. Bruce, Canadian Commissioner Vinzent Massey, and Yugoslave minister Ivan Soubbotitch (Federal Archive Bild 183-M1023-508).

Allied Relations: An inter-allied meeting is held in London at St. James' Palace. Present are representatives of the governments of  the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the Government of Belgium, the Provisional Czechoslovak Government, the Governments of Greece, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Nonvay, Poland and Yugoslavia, and the Representatives of General de Gaulle, leader of Free Frenchmen.

Prime Minister gives a speech to the delegates, stating in part:
Hitler may turn and trample this way and that through tortured Europe. He may spread his course far and wide and carry his curse with him. He may break into Africa or into Asia. But it is here, in this island fortress, that he will have to reckon in the end. We shall strive to resist by land and sea.
The governments agree in the "St. James Agreement" on the following points:
  1. That they will continue the struggle against German or Italian aggression until victory has been won and they will mutually assist each other in this struggle to the utmost of their respective capacities;
  2. There can be no settled peace and prosperity so long as free peoples are coerced by violence into submission to domination by Germany or her associates or live under the threat of such coercion;
  3. That the only true basis for enduring peace is the willing cooperation of the free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security; and that it is their intention to work together with other free peoples both in war and peace to this end. 

Notably absent from the conference is an American representative.

Exeter Airfield Devon 12 June 1941
"Oblique aerial view of Exeter airfield, Devon, from the north-east. Damage caused by the severe night air raids mounted against the airfield in April and May 1941 is still apparent among the buildings of the technical site on the left, including the large pre-war civilian hangar used by the Royal Aircraft Establishment. In the foreground repairs to the grass surfaces have been carried out by filling in bomb craters with rubble from bombed houses in Exeter. Aircraft, many of which belong to the Gunnery Research Unit, are dispersed around the airfield and in the adjoining fields. Boulton Paul Defiants of No. 307 Polish Night Fighter Squadron RAF can be seen parked in the double aircraft pens constructed around the dispersal loop track (lower right), which cuts across fields and hedge boundaries of land requisitioned from nearby Treasbeare Farm." © IWM (HU 91898).

US Military: The US Navy calls up the Naval Reserve to active duty who are not in a deferred status (e.g., married).

German Military: Hitler's adjutant, Rudolf Schmundt, travels to a pine forest near Rastenburg in East Prussia. Hitler has ordered him to check to make sure that a forward military headquarters is being built for him there.

The OKW distributes the infamous "Kommissarbefehl" [Commissar order] of 6 June 1941 under the innocuous title "Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia."

The Wehrmacht is in the final stages of assembling 130 divisions on the border with the Soviet Union. There also are allied forces in Finland and Romania preparing to take part.

Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler begins a three-day conference of senior Schutzstaffel (SS) men (SS-Gruppenführer rank and higher) at Schloß Wewelsburg in Büren, Germany. The SS has been building up SS fighting (Waffen) forces in anticipation of Operation Barbarossa.

HMS Sheffield attacking tanker Friederich Breme 12 June 1941
"German prisoners from the German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME going on board HMS SHEFFIELD." 12 June 1941. © IWM (A 4404).

Holocaust: It is Anne Frank's 12th birthday. The family now lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her father Otto has had to transfer his shares in his company, Pectacon (a wholesaler of herbs, pickling salts, and mixed spices) to a non-Jew, Johannes Kleiman. The company was then liquidated. The family still lives openly on the Merwedeplein, but Otto's income has been greatly reduced.

In the Warsaw Ghetto, 15-year-old Mary Berg writes in her diary:
The ghetto is becoming more and more crowded; there is a constant stream of new refugees. These are Jews from the provinces who have been robbed of all their possessions. Upon their arrival the scene is always the same: the guard at the gate checks the identity of the refugee, and when he finds out he is a Jew, gives him a push with the butt of his rifle as a sign that he may enter our Paradise. […] These people are ragged and barefoot, with the tragic eyes of those who are starving. Most of them are women and children. They become charges of the community, which sets them up in so-called homes. There they die sooner or later.
She concludes her entry: "The community is helpless."

Madjayun Syria donkey 12 June 1941
Members of C Company, 2/33rd Battalion loading up a donkey with rations and ammunition to supply troops occupying a strategic position overlooking one of the mount roads to Merdjayoun [Australian War Memorial AWM 008205]. 

American Homefront: President Roosevelt nominates Harlan F. Stone to be the 12th Chief Justice of the United States, and also James Byrne as an associate justice. Stone will be confirmed on 28 June, and Byrne on 8 July.

In his weekly radio address, Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron states that the Los Angeles Police Department has done a good job handling the recent North American Aviation Strike. He claims that the police were unable to handle the violent confrontation, requiring the presence of US Army troops to secure the plant and return it to operation pursuant to President Roosevelt's recent executive order.

Future History: Marvin Philip Aufrichtig is born in Brooklyn, New York. As Marv Albert, he becomes a broadcaster who serves for 37 years beginning in 1967 for the New York Knicks NBA team. He also becomes the lead play-by-play broadcaster for the NBA on NBC in the 1990s. As of this writing, Marv Albert continues to serve as a broadcaster for the NBA, NCAA, TNT and in other venues.

Armando Anthony Corea is born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. As Chick Corea, he becomes a legendary jazz pianist, keyboardist, and composer. He continues to perform as of this writing.

Reginald Maurice Ball is born in Andover, United Kingdom. Adopting the stage name of Reg Presley, he becomes the lead singer and composer with 1960s rock and roll band The Troggs. He is best known for classics "Wild Thing" and "With A Girl Like You." Reg Presley passes away on 4 February 2013.

War Hospital Sandleford Priory 12 June 1941
A nurse with a patient at Sandleford Priory, a country house at Sandleford in Berkshire. Sandleford is one of many taken over by the Joint War Organization (of the British Red Cross and Order of St John) to provide convalescent care and rehabilitation for injured servicemen, 12 June 1941.


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