May 1940

May

11

1940

Belgian refugees clog the roads

German Panzers and Belgium refugees near the Albert Canal, 11th May 1940

About 8 to 10 men then left the wood and opened fire. More men from the wood also fired on us. One man advanced towards us but was severely hit in the stomach, At least two more were hit by grenades as we heard them screaming. The enemy threw stick grenades, one landing near my bearer and me cutting us both and temporarily blinding me with, blood owing to a cut above the eye.

May

10

1940

Churchill becomes Prime Minister

Winston Churchill: appointed Prime Minister on 10th May 1940

“…let pre-war feuds die; let personal quarrels be forgotten, and let us keep our hatreds for the common enemy. Let party interest be ignored, let all our energies be harnessed, let the whole ability and forces of the nation be hurled into the struggle, and let all the strong horses be pulling on the collar.”

May

10

1940

Britain occupies Iceland

In 1940 Iceland trained 60 police officers with a view to creating a Reserve Army. Once the British occupied the country it was disbanded.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities there was evidence of extensive investigations carried out by Germans, who penetrated even to the remoter districts of Iceland, in the guise of fishermen, entymologists, mink farmers and meteorologists. There was also very considerable propaganda activity, and visits of submarines, cruisers, &, to judge by the length of their stays, made possible a thorough survey of all fiords suitable for military disembarkations or sheltering submarines.

May

10

1940

The Germans attack in the West

German Ju-52 troop transport planes at Rotterdam Airport

“The hour has come for the decisive battle for the future of the German nation. For three hundred years the rulers of England and France have made it their aim to prevent any real consolidation of Europe and above all to keep Germany weak and helpless. With this your hour has come. The fight which begins today will decide the destiny of the German people for a thousand years.”

May

8

1940

Japanese Army advances in China

Japanese infantrycross river in China

While Europe was preoccupied watching anxiously to see what Hitler’s next move was, the Japanese continued their aggression in China. The war had started in July 1937 and the relative weakness of the Chinese forces had led them to adopt a long term strategy where they traded ‘space for time’.

May

7

1940

The Norway Debate

British and French Commanders waiting to greet troops returning from Norway.

“While we may catch up on her presently if only we do what we ought to, there is no doubt that during these eight months, thanks to Germany’s flying start and our slowness off the mark, the gap between the German forces and ours has widened enormously as far as troops, their equipment, tanks, guns and all the paraphernalia of land war are concerned.”

May

6

1940

Attention switches to Narvik

German mountain troops in Narvik, north Norway

With Anglo-French forces withdrawn from central Norway, the only remaining war zone was Narvik in the far north. The Germans continued to occupy the town while the Allies dominated the sea, albeit under constant threat from German planes.

May

5

1940

Royal Navy submarine HMS Seal is captured

HMS Seal showing battle damage

Two ratings just managed to escape from the flooded rear compartments before the watertight doors were sealed. The seriously damaged submarine now lay with her aft end wedged in the mud unable to surface, despite frantic efforts from the crew. After nearly 24 hours submerged the whole crew were seriously affected by lack of oxygen and some were nearly comatose.

May

4

1940

Polish destroyer Grom sunk

The Polish Destroyer 'Grom' sunk on the 4th May 1940

In May 1940 the Grom was assisting with operations to land troops and supplies at Narvik when she was bombed by German planes, one bomb hitting one of her loaded torpedoes causing an explosion that broke her in two.

May

3

1940

The British withdraw from central Norway

British troops celebrate their safe return from Norway

The hastily improvised Anglo-French campaign to assist Norway by retaking Trondheim had achieved nothing. The dominance of German air power that had crippled the short campaign was in evidence up to the last moment. On the 3rd May the last troops were embarked at Namsos.