May 1941

May

22

1941

Charles Upham wins his first V.C.

A German aerial view of the airfield at Maleme, Crete littered with the wrecks of Ju-52 troop carrying planes.

He was then sent to bring in a company which had become isolated. With a Corporal he went through enemy territory over 600 yards, killing two Germans on the way, found the company, and brought it back to the Battalion’s new position. But for this action it would have been completely cut off.

May

21

1941

The hunt for the Bismarck is on

The confirmation that Bismarck was trying to break out into the open seas. Taken by Flying Officer Michael Suckling from No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit in a unarmed, high altitude, long range Spitfire

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

1941

Parachute assault on Crete

The airborne invasion of Crete started very badly for the Germans with very heavy casualties amongst the parachute troops and attempting to land by transport plane.

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

1941

Sergeant Leakey wins the Victoria Cross

The Duke of Aosta, in command of Italian troops in Ethiopia, requested an 'honourable surrender' for his 19,000 men. South African troops presented arms as they marched into captivity.

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

1941

Petty Officer Sephton wins the Victoria Cross

The Anti-Aircraft guns on a Royal Navy warship

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

1941

Low level air attack in Iraq

A Hurricane Mk II b with long range tanks, from No 79 Squadron based at Swansea, used for convoy escorts.

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

1941

U.S. Navy attacks U-Boat

The USS Arizona - the watch officer on board U-109 believed he had seen the distinctive masts of a US battleship of the same class. The USS Arizona was based in the Pacific at this time.

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

1941

Relief of Tobruk attempted

German Mk III panzer in the desert, May 1941.

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

1941

Second ‘Eagle Squadron’ formed

The Spitfire VBs of No 92 Squadron in MaY 1941, based at Biggin Hill, one of the front line stations in the south. The Mk V Spitfire now usually had the B armament - two 20mm cannons and four machine guns after reliability problems with the cannons had been resolved. Had cannons been available during the previous summer Fighter Commands success rate would have been even better.

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

1941

Hess escapade amuses Britain

The Home Guard on dawn patrol, 'somewhere in Britain'. As the weather improved during the spring an invasion was still widely expected.

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.