Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 28, 1940: Call Me Meyer

Wednesday 28 August 1940

28 August 1940 Liverpool church bombed
Mossley Hill Parish church in Liverpool (the Church of St. Matthew and St. James) It is bombed during the night of 28/29 August 1940 - the first church bombing in England.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe continues to avoid bombing London. However, that doesn't mean they are completely avoiding English cities, as discussed below, and the British have been "triggered" (to use a 21st Century idiom) into bombing German cities themselves. The slippery slope toward unrestricted aerial warfare is getting greasier on a daily basis as of 28 August 1940.

The RAF raids Berlin for the second time, killing 8-10 civilians and injuring 21-29 others. Among other things, they bomb the Görlitzer railway station. This kind of obvious damage to public infrastructure is causing the government to lose face, and Hitler is still deliberating about how to respond. People are starting to recall Luftwaffe boss Hermann Goering's words at the start of the war in September 1939:
Wenn auch nur ein englischer Bomber die Ruhr erreicht, will ich nicht mehr Hermann Göring, sondern Hermann Meyer heißen. (If even one British bomber reaches the Ruhr, I don't want to be called Hermann Göring any more, but rather Hermann Meyer.)
Note that, contrary to every legend about Goering, he never said anything about Berlin not being bombed. However, this statement invariably is mistranslated and bastardized to, "If the enemy ever bombs Berlin, you may call me Meyer," which is a lot pithier (This is similar to Captain Kirk never actually saying "Beam me up, Scotty" on Star Trek, but that is how it comes down in history). Loosely interpreted, Goering has been boasting in his usual bombastic fashion that his Luftwaffe is so powerful and almighty that he stakes his entire reputation on completely overwhelming and destroying the RAF before it can strike back and hurt Germans.

Incidentally, let's clear one other thing up while we're at it. Goering was not making an anti-Semitic reference here, though that is claimed far and wide now. Meyer was and is a common German name. "Panzer" Meyer would have been highly offended if you claimed that "Meyer" was a Jewish name. Goering simply was intimating that he was staking everything on the claim - which makes the whole incident more ironic in retrospect.

While this jest (using a common German idiom) explicitly refers to the industrial region of the Ruhr, virtually everyone in Germany interprets it as really meaning Berlin. Since Berlin is now being bombed, it becomes a catchphrase for the failures of the Luftwaffe (of which there is an increasing number). It is one of the classic ill-fated predictions of the war. This phrase will haunt Goering to the last days of the war, but among much of the public, he remains a popular figure. Despite all of his other many and varied faults, Goering is perhaps the only top German with any kind of sense of humor, which is badly needed during the dark days of World War II. People already are starting to call the ubiquitous air raid sirens "Meyer's trumpets" with typical German sardonic wit as a way to poke fun at the fat man and his farcically bellicose rhetoric.

28 August 1940 Hermann Goering
"Call me Meyer."
Battle of Britain: Air Vice Marshall Keith Park of No. 11 Group continues to ride the whirlwind. The Luftwaffe is singling out his airfields in southeastern England for devastation, and his forces are weakening though not breaking. Some of his jealous fellow commanders (No. 11 Group is the most prestigious command in England) are secretly delighting in Park's discomfiture (though they would never admit any such thing, would deny it to the death, and the regular history books would never even hint as such an interpretation).

There are three major Luftwaffe raids against England forces during the daylight hours:
  1. At 09:00, raids against various points in Kent;
  2. Around 11:00, raids targeting RAF Rochford;
  3. During the afternoon, a massive fighter sweep swooping down from Kent to the Thames estuary.
The first raid results in massive dogfights between JG 51 and RAF Nos. 79, 85 and 264 Squadrons. Dornier Do 17s of I,/KG 3 bomb RAF Eastchurch with 100 bombs, while Heinkel He 111s from KG 53 bomb RAF Rochford. The damage is significant in both airfields, particularly Eastchurch.

The second raid by KG 2 Dorniers hits RAF Rochford again with about 30 bombs. However, the damage to the airfield is slight despite it being hit for the second time, and it remains operational. There is some fancy flying, with a Bf 109 heading for home and the pursuing Spitfires of No. 54 Squadron flying so low themselves that one of them returns to its base with leaves and branches stuck in its wing.

The third raid is a standard Luftwaffe fighter sweep, or Freie Jagd, over a large swathe of England from north to south. It is a massive sweep, including elements of JG 2, 3, 26, 27, 51, 54 and Epr.Gr 210 (Bf 110s). The Luftwaffe fighter pilots love these opportunities to act unrestricted by escort obligations, and, having the initiative, they generally begin the battles with the altitude advantage. Both sides lose 16 fighters in this action, which somewhat vindicates the fighter pilots' argument that the Freie Jagds are a good way to wear down the RAF. Keith Park, meanwhile, is furious that his weary fighters are being baited like this and forbids any similar interceptions in the future.

After dark, another slide down the slippery slope toward all-out bombing occurs when the Luftwaffe raids Liverpool for the first time. KG 27, LG 1 and KGr 806 send across about 160 bombers. The raid experiences navigational errors and bombs land seemingly everywhere in the general vicinity. Another raid by 23 Dorniers hits Bristol, but Bristol gets hit every night and that raid is barely noticed. The bombs dropping on houses in Liverpool do get everyone's attention.

28 August 1940 Morris Quad 25-pdr field gun
A Morris Quad towing a 25-pounder field gun, 28 August 1940.
The day's losses sum up to about 30 Luftwaffe losses and 20 RAF ones. There are clear signs of frustration on both sides to just get on with it and move on to the next stage, but Hitler continues to ponder a decision to resort to outright mass terror bombing.

In addition, RAF Fighter Command is forced to come to some hard truths about part of its force which is completely inadequate. During the afternoon raid, the remaining Boulton Paul Defiants are like sitting ducks, and one after another - five in all - goes down in flames. Along with the planes, nine crew perish. At long last, Fighter Command transfers the remaining planes to night operations. In this way, there is a parallel to the Bf 110s, but they remain at least viable during the daytime, if not particularly threatening.

Luftwaffe top-scoring ace Werner Mölders gets two victories but loses his wingman, who is captured. His new wingman is Oberleutnant Georg Claus.

In a weird "wrong way Corrigan" type of flight, a Luftwaffe Gotha Go 145 biplane (not a World War I plane as often claimed, these were built starting in 1935) used for communications gets seriously lost and, instead of flying east from Cherbourg to Strasbourg, somehow flies north to England. It lands at Lewes horse track and becomes an odd exhibit in the "Rafwaffe," the RAF No. 1426 Squadron of captured enemy aircraft.

British Prime Minister Churchill watches the afternoon air battles over Dover from Dover Castle, where he inspects "Hellfire Corner." Afterward, he visits some bombed buildings in Ramsgate, then tours a nearby bombed airfields and, concerned about the damage, orders more manpower devoted to airfield repairs. This has not really been an issue for the RAF, and bomb craters are easily filled in. It is an instance of Churchill's good intentions leading to intervention that would have been better off avoided.

28 August 1940 Churchill Ramsgate bomb damage
Winston Churchill inspects air raid damage at Ramsgate in Kent, 28 August 1940.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-101 (Kptlt. Fritz Frauenheim), operating out of Kiel, stalks Convoy SC 1 west of Ireland. At 04:25, it torpedoes and sinks 3868-ton Finnish freighter Elle. There are 27 survivors and 2 crew perish. The ship doesn't sink right away, so sloop HMS Leith sinks it with gunfire.

U-28 (Kptlt. Günter Kuhnke), on its fifth patrol, is about 200 nautical miles west of the Outer Hebrides stalking Convoy HX 66. At 21:00, it torpedoes and sinks 3946-ton British freighter Kyno. There are 32 survivors and 5 crew perish.

Dutch grain freighter SS Driebergen is sailing with the daily food convoy from Methil to the Tyne when it sinks off Northumberland in the North Sea after colliding with British freighter Port Darwin, perhaps trying to avoid Luftwaffe attack. Everybody survives, and the damaged Port Darwin makes it to port.

British 202 ton trawler Flavia goes missing in the North Sea, perhaps hitting a mine - both sides are heavily mining the area.

Convoy FN 265 departs from Southend, Convoy MT 153 departs from Methil, Convoy FS 265 departs from the Tyne, Convoy HX 69 departs from Halifax and other ports,

British minelayers HMS Plover and Willem van der Zaan lay minefield BS 36 in the North Sea, while four other minelayers put down a field in the St. George's Channel.

U-94 is commissioned.

Destroyer HMS Eglington (L 87, Commander Emile F. V. Dechaineux) is commissioned.

28 August 1940 crashed Junkers Ju 88
This Ju 88 A-1 of I/KG 54 just made it back to France and crashed near Dieppe on August 28, 1940.
Battle of the Mediterranean: British submarine HMS Pandora, which has been delivering supplies to Malta, torpedoes and sinks Italian cargo ship Famiglia about just east of Haniya, Libya.

Italian bombers raid  El Qantara and Port Said during the night.

At Malta, there are two air raid alerts, but, as is often the case, the Italian planes turn back before getting close to the coastline. In other news, Governor Dobbie and the War Office continue wrangling over additional anti-aircraft guns for the island, with the War Office dragging its feet despite hinting at big plans for upgraded air forces there.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British know there is a German raider operating in the Indian Ocean - one of its victims' recent distress signal was even picked up in New York - but they don't know which one or exactly where it is. Ships are out looking for it, without success so far. The Italian Navy also has destroyers Pantera and Tigre operating in the Red Sea.

German Government: Adolf Hitler is keeping a close eye on Romania, which has been seething over losing territory to its neighbors such as the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, and Hungary. He cautions the Wehrmacht to be prepared to intervene if necessary as the situation develops and perhaps occupy the country.

Vichy France: The government broadcasts that laws providing special protections to Jews - such as there are any - have been revoked. Marshal Petain has complete power and discretion over the entire government, but Pierre Laval is actually running day-to-day operations.

28 August 1940 Winston Churchill crashed bf 109
In between stops at Dover and then Ramsgate on 28 August 1940, Winston Churchill noticed a crashed plane and asked to stop and visit. It is a Messerschmitt Bf 109E on Church Farm at Church Whitfield near Dover. His personal bodyguard, Inspector W H Thompson, is on the right.
French Cameroon: Captain Leclerc, who occupied the Presidential Palace on the 27th, travels by train to Youande to accept the country's surrender from the nominal Vichy authorities. This is a major coup for Charles de Gaulle's "Free France" movement, which has not been accomplishing much recently.

Oubangui (Central African Republic): At French-controlled Bangui, Governor de Saint Mart follows Captain Leclerc's lead in Cameroon and announces for Free France also. He promises the local Vichy garrison that they will be taken to the Vichy base at Dakar if they wish.

Finland: Famed sniper Simo "Simuna" Häyhä, horribly injured on 6 March 1940 during the closing stages of the Winter War, receives a promotion direct from Marshal Mannerheim. He is elevated from alikersantti (Corporal) to vänrikki (Second lieutenant). Häyhä is still recovering from his disfiguring wounds but improving.

Latin America: Heavy cruisers USS Wichita and Quincy continue their "Show the flag" mission and depart Montevideo, Uruguay for Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is the area that ignited the request for the mission in the first place.

Burma: The British lock up radical nationalist Ba Maw.

American Homefront: The last refugee ship from Petsamo in northern Finland arrives in New York City. It carries Crown Princess Martha and a 40mm Bofors gun which the Finns did not wish to fall into Soviet hands.

28 August 1940 Mary Martin Bing Crosby Rhythm on the River
"Rhythm on the River" starring Bing Crosby and Mary Martin (the mother of Larry Hagman of "Dallas" who at this time is 8 years old) opens today.

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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