1940

Nov

21

1940

Night Bombing of Britain intensifies

A Heinkel He III Bomber undergoing maintenance using a captured RAF airfield crane, November 1940.

During the week the enemy made a greater number of long-range nightbomber sorties than during any other week of the war. On the 19th/20th. approximately 500 aircraft were employed; this is the highest number recorded in operations on any night against this country. Attacks also showed greater concentration, and on the nights of the 14th/15th, 15th/16th and 19/20th heavy attacks were made on Coventry, London and Birmingham respectively; 350 aircraft attacked Coventry, under ideal weather conditions, and 340 were used against Birmingham.

Nov

20

1940

German ‘E Boat’ sunk off Southwold

A German 'Schnellboot' or fast boat is loaded with torpedoes - they were called 'E' boats by the British.

Prisoners stated that their vessel was hit on the port side seven or eight times. “S 38″ attempted to escape, tried to lay a smoke screen but, owing to the damaged steering-gear, could only go round in a curve. One engine was put out of action and a fire started in the fuel tank. Some men jumped overboard immediately the fire broke out. A seaman ran aft with the intention of dropping depth charges in the course of the pursuing destroyer, but a burst of machine-gun fire from the British discouraged this attempt.

Nov

19

1940

Leicester hit by the Blitz

Bomb damage in Leicester following the raid of 19th November 1940.

Back at my house we heard a lone bomber approaching. We put in our gum shields (these were rolled up pieces of old innertube rubber) and bombs began to fall. Previous to this I had found events rather exciting (I was 9 years old) but as the bombs got closer and closer, like giant’s footsteps, I suddenly realised that above my head were the gas and electricity meters and I reasoned (in those fleeting milliseconds which felt like minutes) that if a bomb hit the house, even if we were not killed outright, we could be gassed, electrocuted, or burnt alive!

Nov

18

1940

Greeks successfully resist Italians

A stick of bombs falls on the port of Valona in Italian occupied Albania. RAF bombers were contributing to the Greek counterattack against the Italians.

During the past week the force of the Italian attack on Greece has been stemmed, and the Greeks have been able to advance along the whole front. The principal opposition to their advance has been from the air, and dive-bombing and machine-gunning has considerably retarded their progress.

Nov

17

1940

Operation White ends in disaster

Hurricane aircraft

Operation White sought to bring the aircraft carrier HMS Argus within close enough distance of the island for twelve RAF hurricanes to be flown off to make their way to Malta. The advice to Admiral Somerville was that the 400 miles was within their range and in due course the planes, escorted by two Fleet Air Arm Skua aircraft, took off. Eight of them were lost making the journey.

Nov

16

1940

Secret British Magnesium production

A settling tank, used to extract magnesium from seawater, under construction at Harrington, Cumbria 16th November 1940

Magnesium was a vital component in aircraft production but the war ended imports of mined magnesium ore from Austria and Greece. An alternative process was established to extract magnesium from seawater by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The finished product cost over twice as much as that from conventional sources but it was essential to the war effort.

Nov

15

1940

The Warsaw ghetto is closed

Children begging on the streets of the Warsaw ghetto

Four hundred thousand Jews, a third of the Warsaw population, were finally sealed off in their ghetto on the 15th November 1940. They were imprisoned behind newly erected brick walls, sealing them off in the poorest part of the city. Ordinary Poles were not allowed to enter. Suddenly even illicit access to food and other resources became much more difficult. Now, hidden from witnesses, the German persecution became even more murderous.

Nov

14

1940

Coventry devastated by firestorm

The ancient Cathedral was one of the landmark buildings destroyed. The shell of the building remains to this day as a memorial to the bombing.

When eventually the ‘All Clear’ sounded we emerged and the family from Berry Street returned home. During the night a delayed action bomb had landed in their garden and during the morning it exploded destroying a block of six houses. No trace of the family was ever found.

Nov

13

1940

Leonard Cheshire wins the DSO

Damaged Whitley bomber

He decided to attack the railway marshalling yards at Cologne instead and while he was approaching this target his aircraft was suddenly shaken by a succession of violent explosions. The cockpit filled with black fumes and Cheshire lost control of the aircraft, which dived about 2,000 feet, with its fuselage on fire. Cheshire regained control, the fire was extinguished and the Whitley, with a gaping hole in its fuselage, was brought safely back to base after, being in the air for 8 1/2 hours.

Nov

12

1940

Nazi-Soviet talks: Molotov in Berlin

Molotov meets Ribbentrop in Berlin

Allegedly Molotov was treated to a long monologue by Ribbentrop on why the British were ‘finished’, leading Molotov to comment: “If that is so – then why are we in this shelter – and whose are those bombs that are falling?”