HMS Grenville sunk, the Russians attack again in Finland

From the Naval, Military and Air Situation up to noon on 25th of January 1940 as reported to the War Cabinet:

Naval Situation – Home Waters

1. The Northern Patrol has been maintained at full strength, supported by a force of heavy ships which have also provided cover for the convoys to and from Norway.
Two further sweeps carried out by our light forces off the Dutch coast have resulted in two Norwegian, two Dutch and two Swedish ships being sent into the Downs for examination.

On 19th January, while returning from the first of these sweeps, H.M.S.Grenville (flotilla leader) struck a mine and sank 23 miles east of the Kentish Knock Light Vessel. The destroyers in company picked up the survivors, but 75 men lost their lives. Grenville was blown in two by the force of the explosion, which occurred at the junction of the engine room and her after boiler room. All the personnel in these two compartments must have been killed. The bow of the ship floated for some time, with the stem pointing upward and the bridge submerged, but it was not thought that any of the crew were trapped inside as the coxswain, who was the last man to leave the mess decks, reported that they were clear of men. The after part of the ship sank in a few minutes, going down with no list by the forward end. In this short time the First Lieutenant and a petty officer were able to make their way aft and set the depth charges to “safe”. This prompt action probably saved many lives, since otherwise many of the men in the water would almost certainly have been killed by the explosion of the depth charges when the stern sank.

2. As a result of report that two German cruisers had arrived at Borkum for an operation on the following day, a force of cruisers and destroyers was ordered to make a sweep in the North Sea on 21 January, and four submarines were sent to patrol off the Texel. No enemy surface ships were sighted and the whole force was withdrawn on the 22nd.

British Minesweeping.

16. Bad weather has retarded minesweeping generally, and experimental work has been limited in consequence.
Special apparatus has been designed to recover a sinker of one of the German moored mines in order that the time release gear can be examined. 5 million yards of electric cable are on order for the purpose of the magnetisation of ships. It is hoped to complete the order within 11 weeks.

Military Situation – Western Front

22. Intense cold has limited operations on the Western Front to patrolling. The 50th division has begun disembarkation in France.


28. Conditions in Russia seem to be slowly deteriorating, and the food shortages in Moscow and Leningrad are said to be serious. They appears to be some uneasiness in the country, but no signs of serious trouble. Some army formations have undoubtedly been shaken by the Finnish successes, but the news of these events has not been allowed to reach the civilian population, and there is no sign that a general drop in morale has set in. It must be noted, however, that the morale of the army is not high, and the attitude of the mass of the soldiery is one of fatalistic apathy.

Air Situation- Royal Air Force Operations – Bomber Command

Night reconnaissances

34. Two Wellington and three Hampden aircraft reconnoitred areas of north west Germany on the night of 18th January and dropped leaflets over Hamburg, Bremen, Brunswick and Hanover. The pilots reported that blackout conditions varied, and whereas Hanover was well darkened and Brunswick showed a few lights, Brunsbuttel and Cuxhaven were normally lit. Two Wellingtons repeated this operation over the same area the following night, when some slight searchlight activity and anti-aircraft fire were encountered.

Russo-Finnish Hostilities

43. The outstanding news of the week has been the failure of the fresh Russian attacks on the Karelian Isthmus; the retreat of the Russian forces operating to the west of Salla; and the activity of the Russian air force, both against troops in the line and against objectives in the interior.

The Soviet attacks on the Karelian Isthmus were renewed in great force on 20th January, after a lull of nearly 2 weeks. The feature of these attacks was the extensive use of aircraft; aircraft machine guns the western sector of the Finnish lines where minor attacks were made, and bombers and fighters co-operated in the main attack on the eastern sector, where the artillery bombardment was heavy and a large number of tanks were used. These attacks failed to penetrate the Finnish defences, but further attacks in force are expected soon, as the Russians are believed to have accumulated large stocks of munitions.

See TNA CAB/66/5/12