Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 10, 1940: Battle of Britain Begins

Wednesday 10 July 1940

10 July 1940 Spitfire
A No. 19 Squadron Spitfire, 10 July 1940.
Battle of Britain: Today, 10 July 1940, is considered by the British to be the first day of the Battle of Britain. This is despite the fact that there have been growing Luftwaffe attacks since mid-June, and that the "official" Luftwaffe operation did not begin until 13 August. The intensity of the Luftwaffe raids definitely do pick up today, with more mass attacks as opposed to scattered penetrations by small groups of bombers at individual targets.

Up to now, losses of aircraft have been fairly even. On many days, the Luftwaffe has shot down more planes than it lost. However, the scales begin to tip against it now with its new aggressive tactics. This is a day of massive dogfights with the sky full of planes.

A single Luftwaffe Dornier Do 17 escorted by 10 Me109s attacks a convoy off Manston at about 11:00 but is driven off by the RAF. This may be some sort of decoy operation.

There is a Luftwaffe raid by about 25 Dornier Do 17s at about 13:30 on a convoy near Dover. They sink one ship in Convoy "Bread." There is a massive fighter presence by both sides, the RAF sending 5 squadrons to the defense against about dozens of Bf-109Es (sources vary). British lose seven fighters, the Luftwaffe 13 (sources vary, Luftwaffe losses may be significantly lower). There is some cynical belief that this big (and unusual given past results) RAF victory leads to the 10th of July being chosen by the British as the start of the Battle of Britain. Another factor is a change in the weather to clear skies, leading to increased opportunities for attacks.

Another raid sends 60 Junkers Ju 88 bombers against the Falmouth and Swansea docks and the Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey in South Wales. The raid kills 60 people. This is a large escalation in the Luftwaffe's land attacks against England.

The Falmouth raid is particularly successful. The damage to the key Falmouth docks is extensive and disrupts merchant operations. 7085-ton British freighter British Chancellor is badly damaged at Falmouth, eventually sinking. The 6499-ton British tanker Tascalusa is sunk at Falmouth, and freighter Mari Chandris, alongside the blazing Tascalusa, apparently was damaged or sunk.

There also is an attack on Martlesham airfield, near Ipswich.

RAF Squadron 310, which is composed of the First Free Czech fighter squadron, forms at Duxford. It will become operational on 17 August, led by Squadron Leader František 'Dolly' Dolezal.

10 July 1940 New York Times headline
The New York Times, 10 July 1940; "Massed German Planes Raid Britain." Due to the time difference, US publishers can get the "same day" events of Europe into their papers, especially in "Late City Editions" such as this one.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks airfields at St. Omer and Amiens during the day.

The British examine the Bf 109Es which landed in England on the 9th and learn about their armament (they have 2, not 3, cannon as originally thought).

Battle of the Atlantic: U-34 (Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Rollmann) torpedoes and sinks 4,596-ton Finnish freighter Petsamo just off the Irish coast near Cork at 14:26. There are 34 survivors, and 4 stokers perish in the explosion. The U-boat spends 6 hours getting into firing position and does so just in time before the ship makes landfall.

U-61 (Oberleutnant zur See Jürgen Oesten) fires two torpedoes and sinks 4,533-ton Dutch freighter Alwaki about 10 miles northeast of Cape Wrath, Scotland. All 51 aboard survive. The U-boat is positioned in the middle of two columns of Convoy OA-180. The torpedoes do not explode because the target ship is only 200 meters away, but the inertia of the torpedoes sends them through the hull anyway. Due to the odd nature of the attack, with the U-boat's presence masked by passing ships, the convoy does not even realize that the ship was torpedoed. Sabotage is put down as the likely cause of the holes created in the ship's side.

German raider Widder sinks 6333-ton British freighter Davisan in the middle of the Atlantic about 500 miles off Guadalupe. The Widder takes the crew captive.

The Luftwaffe sinks 1905 ton British freighter Waterloo about three miles off Smith's Knoll Buoy in the North Sea. All aboard survive.

The Luftwaffe damages Dutch freighter Bill S. a few miles from Dungeness. It later sinks. All aboard survive.

British aircraft carrier Hermes collides with AMC HMS Corfu about 130 miles northwest of Freetown. The Hermes had recently been participating in Operation Catapult, the destruction of the French fleet in North Africa. Everybody survives, the Hermes continues on to Freetown, and the Corfu is towed into Freetown. Hermes is put out of action and must be repaired.

The Orkneys-Iceland-Greenland is established by the Royal Navy. This is to narrow the key breakout point to the North Atlantic by German raiders.

Five U-boats leave for patrol from Bergen, which has become a major U-boat hub.

German raider Pinguin meets up with U-UA and resupplies it.

Convoy OA 182 departs from Methil, Convoy OB 181 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HG 38 departs from Gibraltar.

10 July 1940 Helen Donath
Helen Donath, a US soprano with a career spanning fifty years, on 10 July 1940.
Battle of the Mediterranean: HMS Eagle launches an air attack by 9 Swordfish against Augusta, Sicily. They sink Italian destroyer Leone Pancaldo in shallow water (later refloated). They also damage an Italian oiler and sink a hulk used as a storeship.

Italian submarine Scirè sinks French ship Cheik, then rescues the crew. Just who is on whose side is getting very tricky to figure out in the Mediterranean.

At Malta, there is an air raid against Grand Harbour at 07:45. There is one death, three wounded. The attackers lose three aircraft. Another raid at 21:55 near the entrance to Grand Harbour and nearby locations also causes some damage.

The convoy which had sailed from Malta and which led to the Battle of Calabria on the 9th reaches Alexandria. A second, slower convoy departs from Malta today at about 21:00, escorted by HMS Kirkland, Masirah, Novasli, Tweed, and Zeeland.

North Africa: The Italians continue their air raids on the King's African Rifles at Moyale, Kenya.

The Italians also continue their air raids on Sidi Barrani, this time with a dozen SM-79 bombers.

The RAF sends Blenheim bombers against Tobruk, hitting oil storage tanks. The British also attack Macaac airfield.

Western Front: British Lieutenant Hubert Nicolle returns to England from his spy mission on Guernsey. He has accumulated valuable intelligence about the estimated 469 Wehrmacht troops on the island, most of whom are concentrated in St. Peter Port. Gubbins begins planning a commando raid (Operation Ambassador) for a few days hence.

10 July 1940 HMCS Assiniboine
2-pounder anti-aircraft gun aboard HMCS Assiniboine firing in exercise en route between Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and Britain, 10 Jul 1940.
Spy Stuff: Highly placed sources in a neutral country report to the British that the German High Command is growing leery about an invasion of Great Britain. One of the problems is the successful attacks by RAF Bomber Command on the invasion barges being assembled in Holland and Belgium. This intelligence, in hindsight, appears accurate but perhaps a bit premature.

British Prime Minister Churchill, of course, is right on top of this. In a "secret" memorandum to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, circulated to the War Cabinet, he concludes that the prospects of a German landing depend upon the strength of the Royal Navy. In the memo, he notes that the battleships HMS Nelson and HMS Barham would soon be ready for sea and would enable the creation of further battle groups that could break up any invasion force. He further states that the largest German ships are under the close surveillance of the RAF and would be unable to stage a surprise breakout. For these reasons, he concludes that an invasion is unlikely. His only worry is the need for the ‘strong air support’ necessary to protect the Royal Navy during daylight hours.

Churchill, as a 2x former First Lord of the Admiralty, knows the overwhelming dominance of the Royal Navy prevents an invasion. That and the protection afforded by the RAF - a bit less certain - are the keys to the kingdom which Hitler does not have. However, Churchill tells his cabinet that he does not want to downplay the chances of invasion to the public, but rather wants war fears to remain strong so that the people remain motivated.

War Crimes: 2,542 persons, including Italian and German POWs and British citizens suspected of being German sympathizers and aliens interned in England, are sent on British troopship Dunera to Australia for internment. Among the 2,542 are 2,036 anti-Germans, mainly Jewish refugees. During the trip, the British guards mistreat the passengers savagely, leading to numerous court-martials. Conditions on the overcrowded ship are abysmal and lead to dysentery and other illnesses.

This is a very serious matter. It is easy for POWs to get word back to their own governments about mistreatment through the International Red Cross. Proper treatment of POWs is of intense interest to both sides throughout the war, and it is easy for one side to take reprisals against the other for violations of the Geneva Convention and other international agreements. As a general matter, POW treatment is one of the few areas where the warring sides (at least in the ETO) maintain close and continuing contact throughout the war, with generally satisfactory and humane results.

German/Hungarian Relations: Hitler and new Hungarian Prime Minister Count Teleki meet. Hitler agrees to support Hungarian territorial claims against Romania. Teleki has no desire to pursue those claims or enter the war at this time but instead is more concerned with establishing his own credentials back home as someone acceptable to the Germans. In return for German support and protection, though, Hitler wants a full alliance.

China: Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighters (pre-series of 15 A6M2) go into operation with the 12th Rengo Kōkūtai in China on about this date.

French Government: Marshal Petain becomes a virtual dictator when the French National Assembly votes 569-80, with 17 abstentions, to grant him extensive plenary powers. This officially ends the Third Republic. After the vote, the Marshal adjourns the National Assembly.

US Government: President Roosevelt goes back to Congress for more defense appropriations. He sets an objective of 1.2 million men in the US Army and desires the procurement of an additional 15,000 planes for the USAAC and 4,000 for the Navy.

Republicans Henry L. Stimson becomes the US Secretary of War and Frank Knox the Secretary of the Navy.

Captain Laurence Wild relieves Captain Edward W. Hanson as Governor of American Samoa and Commandant of the Naval Station, Tutuila, Samoa.

British Government: The government bans the British Union Party, which is fascist.

Not everybody in the UK is certain about the wisdom of fighting the Germans, though of course, later accounts portray public opinion as monolithic. England is a land of long-standing class divisions, and some question fighting to preserve such privilege. The recent bans on spreading false rumors and defeatist talk are partially aimed at worries about this issue. A clerk, for instance, is sentenced to a year in prison for saying, "We are fighting to provide dividends for the ruling class." Free speech rights take a serious hit everywhere during the war.

This clerk conviction supports a pet theory of Hitler's, that the "plutocrats" are mistreating the workers who will rise up against their rich masters. There is a kernel of truth to this view, but only a kernel. Hitler wildly overestimates the degree of this sort of sentiment and plans bombing raids to heighten a sense of disproportionate sacrifice, such as by targeting worker tenements and not the mansions of the rich. This is detrimental to the overall Luftwaffe campaign.

The British government is aware of this undercurrent of sentiment and does not want to publicize this potential issue at all by passing laws directly aimed at it. Instead, it takes subtle steps to combat the appearance of privilege and excess, such as the ban on "false rumors." One of these is a new law that bans "luxury eating" at restaurants, which remain outside the ration limits. For instance, restaurant meals may have only one meat/fish course, and no iced cakes. This may seem petty, but there is a larger purpose behind such restrictions.

In a comment on this general topic that seems uncannily prescient for political rhetoric in the 21st Century, George Orwell comments about the wealthy that "Nothing will ever teach them that the other 99% of us exist."

American Homefront: The first group of British child evacuees arrives in New York.

10 July 1940 The New Yorker
The New Yorker, 10 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


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