1941

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.

May

12

1941

HMS Ladybird sunk off Tobruk

The river gunboat HMS Ladybird pictured during the First World War.

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”

May

11

1941

Hitler learns of Hess’s flight to England

A rare official image of Rudolf Hess, Hitlers Deputy in the Nazi party, taken in 1933. Every effort was made to remove any trace of him from the official records after his flight.

F. came down at about 11 o’clock. I was speaking when Albert Bormann came in and reported that Pintsch, adjutant to Herr Hess, had arrived and wanted to speak to the Fuhrer about a most urgent matter. F., annoyed, threw B. out with the words: ‘Can’t you see that I am in the middle of a military conference and do not wish to be disturbed?’ After one minute B. was back, rather pale, and said, P. would not go, it was very urgent and there was danger.

May

10

1941

Huge raid on London

Fire fighters tackling a blaze in Victoria Street, East London on the night of 10th/11th May 1941

We were taken to neighbours for the night and Dad returned to what was left of the house, but it had already been looted, mostly food, but also some cutlery and cut glass. One particular piece was a wedding present to my parents from an uncle who had recently been killed. Dad pulled back the debris-covered bedclothes and went to bed, remarking that Mr Hitler was not going to deprive him of his bed.

May

9

1941

Enigma machine captured

The boarding party led by   approaches U-110

Also the coding machine was found here, plugged in and as though it was in actual use when abandoned. The general appearance of this machine being that of a type writer, the telegraphist pressed the keys and finding results peculiar sent it up the hatch. This W/T office seemed far less complicated than our own-sets were more compact and did not seem to have the usual excess of switches, plug holes, knobs, ‘tally’s’ etc on the outside.

May

8

1941

The Italian retreat in East Africa

British forces advancing across the plains of Africa, Abyssinia 1941.

We are awakened by the sound of rifle fire from the rebels [local tribes- men supporting the British] and we can see them advancing hidden from sight of those on the crest of the road. Then rifle fire is opened up by our soldiers, all belonging to different units, who are without control and without orders. The officers, as usual, are all sheltering in the grottos, unaware of their responsibility at the present time …

May

7

1941

Ambulance duty during the Hull Blitz

The search for survivors after one of the numerous raids on Hull.

When the road was cleared we took the dead, each with a printed form attached to them, saying where they were found, to Alber Ave Mortuary. The injured, who had been given morphine, and the letter ‘M’ marked on their foreheads to say so, we took to the Western General Hospital on Anlaby Road, and laid them on the floor on their stretchers.