Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 26, 1940: Capture The Duke?

Friday 26 July 1940

26 July 1940 British armoured car
Officers of the 11th Hussars use a large umbrella to give shade during a halt, while out patrolling on the Libyan frontier, 26 July 1940. The vehicle is a Morris CS9 armored car, which would be quite hot in the mid-day sun.
Battle of Britain: Poor flying weather returns on 26 July 1940, with a low cloud ceiling and heavy rain. Operations over England are limited, and the few that are sent are turned back by RAF interceptors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 July 1940 NY Times
The NY Times highlights the decision by President Roosevelt to ban the sale of oil and scrap metal to Japan. The ship referred to in the headline is the  Meknés, which sank on the night of 24/25 July.
Battle of the Atlantic: The convoy escorting the partially repaired Gneisenau back to Kiel is rounding Stavanger, Norway when it is spotted by the British submarine HMS Thames. It fires a torpedo at the ship that instead hits torpedo boat Luchs which unexpectedly crosses in between at extremely close range to the submarine, blowing it up. The Thames is never heard from again and is assumed to have been destroyed by depth charges or by hitting a mine shortly after this incident. Another possibility is that the nearby explosion of the torpedo itself caused some kind of damage to the submarine, or the sinking Luchs fell on it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 July 1940 Bristol Blenheim bomber
The crew of a Bristol Blenheim Mk IV of No. 40 Squadron exit their aircraft at Wyton, July 1940.
German/Romanian Relations: Hitler concludes his talks with the Romanian Premier and Foreign Minister, who then leave for Rome to see Mussolini. A topic of conversation is two Romanian tankers detained in Port Said by the British. Hitler also advises them to give Hungary the territory it wants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 1940: Vichy France
July 2, 1940: Arandora Star
July 3, 1940: Operation Catapult at Mers El Kébir
July 4, 1940: Romania In Crisis
July 5, 1940: The Five Freedoms
July 6, 1940: Hitler's High Point
July 7 1940: Dakar And Ringo
July 8, 1940: Tea Rationing in England
July 9, 1940: Battle of Calabria
July 10, 1940: Battle of Britain Begins
July 11, 1940: "Nous, Philippe Petain"
July 12, 1940: Enter Laval
July 13, 1940: German Surface Raiders Attack!
July 14, 1940: Bastille/Mourning Day
July 15, 1940: Tallest Man Dies
July 16, 1940: Plans for Sea Lion
July 17, 1940: Burma Road Closed
July 18, 1940: FDR Runs Again
July 19, 1940: Last Appeal To Reason
July 20, 1940: First Night Fighter Victory
July 21, 1940: Soviets Absorb Baltic States
July 22, 1940: First RAF Night Fighter Victory
July 23, 1940: Invasion False Alarm
July 24, 1940: The Meknés Incident
July 25, 1940: Black Thursday for RAF
July 26, 1940: Capture The Duke?
July 27, 1940: What's Up, Doc?
July 28, 1940: Destroyers Pulled From Dover
July 29, 1940: Barbarossa On The Burner
July 30, 1940: Hitler Delays Sealion
July 31, 1940: Bloody Wednesday of Olkusz


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