Rising casualties at home, Mediterranean fleet bombed

HMS Eagle
HMS Eagle carried Swordfish aircraft in 1940 when she was based at the British Naval base at Alexandria.

Throughout the war the Cabinet Office in Britain prepared weekly resumes of the incidents taking place in the war, shared with members of the War Cabinet and with the heads of the Commonwealth nations. Cumulatively they present a detailed history of most aspects of the war as seen from the British perspective.

At this point only two theatres dominated thinking – the Germans were attacking Britain and the Italians were trying to make their mark in the Mediterranean:

Extracts from the

WEEKLY RESUME of the NAVAL, MILITARY AND AIR SITUATION up to 12 noon July 18th, 1940



General Review.
APART from air attacks on shipping, which have continued at about the same intensity, there has been little enemy activity at sea, U-boat activity continues to be slight. Aircraft minelaying has continued on an increased scale. Indifferent weather conditions have hampered our air reconnaissance in home waters to some extent.


5. During the operations in the Eastern Mediterranean last week the Fleet and the slower of the two convoys from Malta to Alexandria which the Fleet was covering were continually bombed without success. Eight heavy air attacks were made on H.M. Ships Royal Sovereign, Malaya and Eagle between 1100 and 2100 on the 11th July, and on the 12th July H.M.S. Warspite was attacked 22 times, a total of 260 to 300 bombs being dropped. Fighters from H.M.S. Eagle shot down 4 or 5 bombers with the loss of one machine rendered unserviceable. During the week Alexandria, Gibraltar and Malta have all been attacked by aircraft but no naval damage has been reported.

The aircraft carrier HMS Eagle.
The aircraft carrier HMS Eagle.



25. British activity has been confined to offensive action by units of the Armoured Division which have prevented the Italians from restoring an adequate line of communication to Fort Capuzzo. On the 13th July British units engaged a supply column and inflicted casualties while, on the 17th July, the enemy lost 5 Field guns, 3 Anti-tank guns and 12 lorries.

26. The Italians now appear to be moving part of their North African Garrison from the West to the East. This, and the presence of Marshal Graziani in Libya, suggest that they contemplate greater offensive activity against Egypt.

General Review.

31. Weather conditions have again generally restricted air operations during the week. Our bombing attacks continue to be directed against the German Air Force and shipping concentrations, while those of the enemy, which have considerably decreased in intensity, were again chiefly on ports and shipping. Apart from Italian attacks on British naval units, the character of air operations in the Mediterranean and Middle East remained unchanged.

Great Britain.

32. The intensity of enemy air attacks was reduced from the beginning of the week and, towards the end, was probably further curtailed by adverse weather. They were chiefly concentrated by day on shipping in the Channel and off the East Coast, and on certain ports in South Wales and in the south of England. The heaviest attacks were made on Portland and Portsmouth on the 11th July, and on the Channel Convoy on the 14th, about fifty enemy aircraft being engaged on each occasion. The damage done to the two ports was slight, but one ship in the Channel Convoy was sunk and two were damaged.

The most serious raid on land objectives was on the 12th, when the Aberdeen Iron Works were damaged and considerable casualties inflicted. During the week 88 people were killed and about 300 injured. By night the enemy was mainly engaged in minelaying, usually on the East Coast, between the Forth and North Foreland, though on two nights aircraft reached Liverpool Bay.

33. Fighter Command flew 984 patrols, involving 3,288 sorties, over this country, and destroyed 37 enemy aircraft confirmed and 25 unconfirmed. Our fighter losses totalled 17.

See TNA :cab/66/9/49

Spitfire pilots pose beside the wreckage of a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, which they shot down as it was attacking a Channel convoy, 1940.
Spitfire pilots pose beside the wreckage of a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, which they shot down as it was attacking a Channel convoy, 1940.

Meanwhile in Germany Hitler and the Nazi Party were at the peak of their popularity. The stunning defeat of France had obliterated the German humiliation of the defeat in 1918 and the postwar settlement. On the 18th July they celebrated with a victory parade in Berlin:

Massed crowds watch a Wehrmacht victory parade through Berlin
General Fromm with Propaganda Minister Goebbels beside him, takes the salute.
General Fromm with Propaganda Minister Goebbels beside him, takes the salute.