August 1941

Sep

30

1941

An airman’s first and last operational flight

The crew of a Whitley bomber preparing for an operation. The Whitley was the backbone of RAF Bomber Command until more modern four engined bombers acme into service.

During the early morning of the 30th of September 1941 the crew were well into their return leg of the flight and was more or less on course for their home base at Topcliffe. They crossed the Yorkshire coast at around 03.30hrs in the Middlesbrough area and a course was set for base at Topcliffe, at a height of 2000 feet to avoid striking the high ground they would have to cross over. There were no problems up to then in the flight.

Aug

31

1941

German treatment of Soviet POWs

Many camps were no more than barbed wire enclosures in the open.

But these were not animals, they were men. We made haste out of the way of the foul cloud which surrounded them, then what we saw transfixed us where we stood, and we forgot our nausea. Were these really human beings, these grey-brown figures, these shadows lirching towards us, stumbling and staggering, moving shapes at their last gasp, creatures which only some last flicker of the will to live enabled to obey the order to march ?

Aug

30

1941

Optimism over RAF Bomber Offensive

The RAF had stepped up attacks on the continent. But accurate daylight bombing came at a cost - the attack on Rotterdam on the 28th saw seven out of eighteen Bleinheims shot down.

For the last three months our bombing offensive has been mainly directed against transportation and morale in Western Germany. Some of the most important objectives in the system of communications serving the Ruhr and Rhineland are precision targets which can only be attacked under favourable weather conditions on moonlight nights, and, since the offensive started, the number of suitable nights has been very small indeed.

Aug

29

1941

Dogfight over the Libyan desert

A Messerschmitt Me 109 from JG 27, based in North Africa, receives a new coat of paint .

In the first attack Caldwell suffered bullet wounds to the back, left shoulder, and leg. In the next pass one shot slammed through the canopy, causing splinters which wounded him with perspex in the face and shrapnel in the neck. Two cannon shells also punched their way through the rear fuselage just behind him and the starboard wing was badly damaged. Despite damage to both himself and the aircraft, Caldwell, feeling, as he remembers, “quite hostile” turned on his attackers and sent down one of the Bf 109s in flames.

Aug

28

1941

Training in the jungles of Malaya

Vickers machine gun in Malaya

In this hodge-podge of nature gone slightly mad, where the British and Japanese will one day fight, it is dank and steaming, all right – nearly asphyxiating. Hardly a whisper of air, and there’s the musty smell of wet places and the piercing scents of decaying matter, animal and vegetable. The sweat pours off our faces and streams down the middle of our backs as though we’re in a downpour.

Aug

27

1941

Coastal Command aircraft captures U-Boat

U 570 photographed from one of the circling aircraft as the Anti Submarine Warfare trawler approaches her.

At 1050 the captain decided to surface again and brought the U-Boat up from a depth of approximately 90 ft. What happened next can only be attributed to the lack of training of the Commander. Rahmlow entirely forgot to make any observation for hostile aircraft before exposing his ship. It so happened that a Hudson aircraft “S” belonging to 269 Squadron, and piloted by Squadron-Leader Thompson, was almost immediately overhead. “U 570″ perceived her danger too late and, while she was attempting to crash dive, the aircraft dropped a stick of four 250 lb. depth charges, at an angle of 30° to the U-Boat’s track.

Aug

26

1941

Attack on a Ju 88 over the Irish Sea

A Junkers Ju 88 bomber in flight, pictured over North Africa later in 1941.

The moment of action came. He was to port of me. A rapid turn in that direction, followed by a steep diving turn to starboard and I found myself in a dead straight vertical dive upon the Boche. The speed became incredible. The swastikas grew bigger and bigger in my sights. I opened fire. I just had time to avoid a collision.

Aug

25

1941

The Spitsbergen Raid

The radio mast at Spitsbergen being blown up by Royal Engineers - false weather reports sent while the raid was under way kept German reconnaissance planes away.

Spitzbergen was being occupied. I listened uncomprehendingly to my English-speaking countrymen who were now chatting with the newcomers. I watched, wondering, until Marie suddenly said that she was hungry. We went back home. Then an excited friend told me “The Canadians have come to take us away. They are going to free our beloved Norway.”

Aug

24

1941

Churchill – the power of the English speaking peoples

U.S marines had arrived on Iceland to relieve British troops of garrison duties during July 1941.

Would it be presumptuous for me to say that it symbolizes something even more majestic, namely, the marshalling of the good forces of the world against the evil forces which are now so formidable and triumphant and which have cast their cruel spell over the whole of Europe and a large part of Asia?

Aug

23

1941

Night fighter interception over the North Sea

Bristol Beaufighter in flight

As we came out of the turn, the pressure eased, and I could see that we had the other aircraft cold. John’s handling of the Beaufighter had clinched that.Oosing head-on at nearly seven miles a minute on a dark, hazy night with no moon and no horizon, he had started to wheel a heavy and rather unstable aircraft around when only a mile away, and yet he had pulled out of that turn little more than that distance behind.