June 1940

Jun

19

1940

Churchill’s speech is welcomed

The Ministry of information had the difficult task of keeping the public informed without causing unnecessary alarm.

On the other hand there was widespread comment on his delivery and his references to France have brought a recrudescence of anti-French feeling. The latency of anti-French feeling must never be forgotten. A few days ago sympathy swamped it but it found indirect expression in a common phrase ‘At last we have no Allies, now we fight alone’.

There has never been much sympathy with the French point of view but there are some indications that the present wave of anti-French feeling is bringing to the surface antagonism against ‘French politicians’.

Jun

18

1940

Churchill 'The battle of Britain is about to begin …'

Winston Churchill: appointed Prime Minister on 10th May 1940

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’

Jun

18

1940

De Gaulle declares that the fight goes on

A subsequent propaganda poster for the Free French

It is true that we were overwhelmed by the strength of technical power, both on land and in the air, of the enemy. More than their numbers, it has been the tanks, the planes and the tactics of the Germans that have forced our retreat. It has been the tanks, the planes and the tactics of the Germans that took our leaders by surprise and led them to where they are today. But has the last word been said? Should we give up hope? Is the defeat definitive? No!

Jun

17

1940

The Lancastria bombed and sunk, thousands dead

HMT Lancastria at sea

Although I had a lifejacket on, I still had my doubts about being in the water as I was a non-swimmer. We were all saturated with oil. I kicked off from the side of the Lancastria on my back. I kept thinking “got to escape the suction of the ship”. The Lancastria continued to roll over to port. Hundreds of men were now clinging to the upturned hull. Some of those standing on the turning hull started to sing “Roll out the Barrel”.

Jun

16

1940

Civilians continue to flee the War

French refugees flee

Half conscious, but curiously alert to danger, I flung myself into ditches all through the day. It is impossible to judge the trajectory of machine-gun bullets striking from the air; sometimes when the aircraft seemed overhead they went wide, sometimes inexplicably close and once, I felt them thudding into the earth a few inches from my head.

Jun

15

1940

The RAF bomb Italy

A high level RAF aerial reconnaissance flight photograph of Genoa taken June 1940.

On the 15th/16th June eight Wellingtons were despatched from aerodromes in Southern France to bomb Genoa. Heavy local thunderstorms were encountered and only one aircraft bombed the target; several hits were registered.

Jun

14

1940

The Germans enter Paris – Americans diplomats remain

This famous photograph from the United States National Archives is dated 14th June 1940 and often used to illustrate the fall of Paris - he is apparently watching the German troops march in.

It is argued that the woman next to the man is clapping, which would be consistent with support for those that the crowd is viewing, rather than welcoming the invaders. Others attribute it to when French troops left Marseille in 1941. Others maintain the film was taken on 14th June in Paris.
Remarkably, given the huge publicity that the image has received, no-one appears to have identified the man or those around him.

Jun

13

1940

New fronts opened as Italy joins the War

German propaganda in France sought to blame the British for the war.

Extracts from the Naval, Military and Air Resume for the week up to 13th June 1940 as reported to the War Cabinet: NAYAL SITUATION. General Review. ITALY entered the war against us at midnight 10th-11th June. The evacuation of Narvik has been completed and the bulk of the forces have now reached the United Kingdom. […]

Jun

12

1940

51st Division surrender at St Valery-en-Caux

Rommel and Fortune at St. Valery

As St Valery was a picking up point for the wounded, a lifeboat was stationed there. This was brought into action to ferry the wounded out of the harbour in spite of the fact that no hospital ship was stationed outside the harbour. A brisk fire fight was now taking place across the harbour and a German machine gunner made the lifeboat his target. A row of bullet holes appeared on the side of the boat and it drifted away – the rowers, being wounded, were no longer able to manoeuvre the boat.

Jun

11

1940

RAF bomber crew find welcome in gloomy France

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV L4842 being flown by test pilot Bill Pegg near Filton, 29 May 1939. The aircraft served with No. 53 Squadron and was shot down on 17 May 1940 over France.

We were nonplussed by being asked if we thought our government would seek peace terms from Hitler when we were on our own. Our obvious astonishment at such an idea caused general laughter, but, when we were asked penetrating questions about how we thought we would beat the Germans, even if we succeeded in preventing them from over-running us, we found ourselves giving vague, broad—brush answers. In truth, we had no idea.