May 1941

May

21

May 1941

The hunt for the Bismarck is on

It was a secret radio message from B-Dienst headquarters in German, according to which early that morning a British radio transmission had instructed the Royal Air Force to be on the lookout for two German battleships and three destroyers that been reported proceeding on a northerly course.

May

20

May 1941

Parachute assault on Crete

Shortly afterwards a fighter arrived and started to roar up and down the main street of Galatos firing bursts at anything it could see. This struck me as a bit unusual so I hurriedly finished shaving and looked with some caution out of my first-floor window. Other fighters were swooping over the Canea road and there was a great deal of noise from aeroplane engines.

May

19

May 1941

Sergeant Leakey wins the Victoria Cross

With complete disregard for his own safety, and in the face of withering machine gun and rifle fire from the enemy’s ground troops, and from more tanks in front, Sergeant Leakey leaped on top of the tank which was coming in from behind our position and wrenched open the turret. With his revolver he shot the Commander of this tank and the crew with the exception of the “driver whom he forced to drive in to cover. Having failed to get the cannon of this tank to fire he dismounted, calling out ” I’ll get them on foot,” and charged across ground which was being swept by machine gun and shell fire from the other enemy tanks which were advancing and causing casualties to our infantry.

May

18

May 1941

Petty Officer Sephton wins the Victoria Cross

Sephton reported to the Control Officer that he had been hit but could carry on. He continued to carry out his duties admirably, although obviously in great pain. Sephton knew that owing to the cramped space in the director and the difficulty of access he could not be relieved until the end of the action. His heroism in carrying on under these conditions set a magnificent example to A.B. Fisher who was also able to carry on, thus maintaining the efficiency of the director.

May

17

May 1941

Low level air attack in Iraq

In any case, a really low cross-country flight is a wonderful experience. It is the only time one can get the feeling of an aeroplane’s terrific speed. The ground streaks past under the wings unbelievably fast. Different coloured patches of sand flow by; it’s like running your hand across a patchwork quilt. You lift your machine gently upwards to clear hummocks, and then ease her down again the other side to stay low, low, low. As one approaches the target, the adrenalin starts to pump, giving a tingling sensation between the shoulder-blades, and maybe some sweat trickles down.

May

16

May 1941

U.S. Navy attacks U-Boat

The Captain yelled down for even more revolutions and the diesels began to hammer furiously, plunging the bows deeply into each wave; then the alarm bells rang and the watch came tumbling down to land in a heap on the control room grating. Fischer slammed the tower hatch lid shut as the submarine went down at a steep angle. Through the loudspeakers the calm voice of the boatswain, Maureschat, ordered the bow caps closed and stated the trim depth as 180 feet.

May

15

May 1941

Relief of Tobruk attempted

The operations in the Tobruk area took the form of an advance by our fighting patrols and tanks in the Medawar salient, the western extremity of the defensive perimeter, a position which was recently occupied by the enemy. The enemy counter-attacked vigorously during the following night and recovered some of the ground which he had lost, but by the 16th of May our position in the salient had been consolidated with an average gain of about 600 yards.

May

14

May 1941

Second ‘Eagle Squadron’ formed

By day, the usual enemy reconnaissances were flown, and defensive fighter patrols were maintained over the Dover Straits and over coastal areas. A number of small-scale offensive daylight sweeps covered Kent and South and South-West Coastal regions; our fighters destroyed eighteen Me. 109’s, and probably destroyed six others. We lost six aircraft, but four of the pilots were saved. Ten Me. 109’s dived from 29,000 feet to 100 feet to attack Rochford aerodrome, and destroyed the control office.

May

13

May 1941

Hess escapade amuses Britain

There can be only one topic of conversation in all the country today and that’s the amazing, almost unbelievable, event of last Saturday, the 10th. At 6 p.m. that day, Rudolf Hess, the third man in Germany and Hitler’s deputy, started from Augsburg in a Messerschmitt 110 and later landed in Scotland. It has now been established that he is here definitely as a refugee and the rumours which immediately sprang up, that he had brought peace proposals, are denied.

May

12

May 1941

HMS Ladybird sunk off Tobruk

The planes swarmed around us, dropping more bombs. By this time wounded men were helping to feed the guns as the planes swarmed around us. We got two of them. Rescue boats arrived front shore and took aboard the first of the wounded. We still kept firing our forward guns, but Ladybird was sinking fast with the water sweeping closer to tile bridge every moment. Even then the sailors, gunners and officers, with fire all round them, and half the guns under water, said to me : “Carry on, sir, please”