Jan

29

1941

Churchill ‘We need to import more’

The cold bleak Battle of the Atlantic was also a battle of tonnages and other statistics, which were closely monitored by the Royal Navy and at the highest levels of Government. Britain's ability to keep fighting was at stake.

It is reckoned that the minimum food import required to maintain efficiency is about 16 million tons, 70 per cent, of the 23 million tons imported before the war. This involves cutting animal feeding-stuffs by about 4 million tons, which will reduce our stock of meat on the hoof, the safest kind of stock in case of air attacks. It will, of course, also reduce our supplies of bacon, eggs and dairy produce, already greatly depleted by the collapse of the Continent, but every effort is being made to maintain the children’s milk supply which depends upon imported oil cake.

Jan

28

1941

Heinrich Himmler visits Norway

Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, in Norway, January 1941.

He was fascinated by the ‘racial purity’ of the Nordic people. Norwegians were therefore prime candidates for the expansion of the Waffen SS, the fighting arm of the SS, at this stage very small in numbers proportionately to the German army. The first group of 200 Norwegian volunteers to be accepted into the SS were recruited during this visit.

Jan

26

1941

Many Americans ready for war

Harry Hopkins on his way to visit Britain, January 1941. He became even more sure of the need for support for Britain, he was highly influential in developing the Lend Lease policy which enable Britain to keep fighting.

The important element in the situation was the boldness of the President, who would lead opinion and not follow it, who was convinced that if England lost, America, too, would be encircled and beaten. He would use his powers if necessary; he would not scruple to interpret existing laws for the furtherance of his aim; he would make people gape with surprise, as the British Foreign Office must have gaped when it saw the terms of the Lease and Lend Bill.

Jan

25

1941

Weather restricts raids on Britain

A Hurricane from No. 257 Squadron receives maintenance, January 1941. The band painted around the rear fuselage was a new recognition marker for day fighters.

Fighter Command flew 155 patrols involving 351 sorties by day and one by night; hostile activity by day was reduced and consisted of a total of 155 aircraft, of which 95 were engaged on reconnaissances. Raids by single aircraft were plotted during daylight in a number of widely separated districts. No interception by our fighters was effected, but two enemy aircraft were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire.

Jan

24

1941

HMS Illustrious escapes Malta for Egypt

HMS Illustrious, beside the crane, under attack in Malta Harbour.

On the 24th the cruiser force was attacked when 130 miles north of Benghazi by about 30 enemy aircraft, the larger proportion being dive-bombers. Many near misses were obtained, but no damage was sustained by our ships. Four or five of the enemy aircraft were damaged. The enemy aircraft missed sighting the Illustrious.

Jan

23

1941

Even more prisoners at Tobruk

The oil installations in Tobruk harbour continue to burn following its capture on the 22nd. In the foreground are captured Italian tanks in use by the Australians and distinctively marked as such.

More than 20,000 of them were soon herded into a fenced enclosure measuring about 800 yards by 400 yards which the Italians had erected near the junction of the El Adem and Bardia roads to house their own prisoners. Here during more than six weeks never fewer than 7,000 and sometimes over 20,000 prisoners were crowded like sheep in a dusty pen. Many of the men lacked blankets, and the nights were bitterly cold. To give them adequate medical care was far beyond the resources of their captors.

Jan

22

1941

Tobruk is captured

The old Italian Cruiser San Giorgio had been used as a flak ship in Tobruk harbour. She had been damaged by RAF bombers but her guns continued to defend against the tank attack, before she was finally scuttled on the 22nd.

The dead were still lying out, and the wounded were everywhere. It was no time for mincing words. ‘You have landmines laid in and around the town,’ the Australian said. ‘I will take reprisals for the life of every one of my men lost on those mines.’ Quickly the Italians led Australian sappers to the mines and they were torn up. Booby traps were revealed, storage dumps opened, some two hundred guns handed over.

Jan

21

1941

The attack on Tobruk

Infantry from the 6th Australian Division move forward during the assault on Tobruk

When we were only yards away we could see the men in their dark green uniforms with their coats open, sweating as they tried to hump their guns round and train them on us. We simply went straight towards them, firing; we would have gone straight over them if we hadn’t knocked their guns out. Then we drove the loaders and odds and ends into the dugout. And the next thing I saw was a white flag emerging.

Jan

20

1941

Himmler visits Dachau

Heinrich Himmler visits Dachau concentration camp on the 20th January 1941.

On the 20th January Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS and principal architect of the Holocaust, visited Dachau concentration camp with the Dutch fascist Mussert. Himmler was organising the expansion of his system of camps in preparation for the Nazi move East. Himmler was a frequent visitor the various camps around his empire. One of the reasons for the lack of paper trail evidence of orders for the Holocaust is that he so often passed on his encouragement in person.

Jan

19

1941

British forces enter Italian Eritrea

Indian troops cross the Atbara river with their motor transport on a pontoon raft as they move into Italian occupied Eritrea.

On the 19th January the first of the 4.5 Batteries went into action and did some very accurate shooting, so vindicating or justifying our ‘fudging and improvisation’. On the same day Italian Savoyas strafed us and we managed to bring one down with rifle fire and one LMG. A newly arrived Hurricane, probably the only one in East Africa, brought down another. Although all a little bit “gung ho”, the South Africans were all a very good crowd but so different from the Army types I had been used to. Discipline was there one assumed, but it wasn’t too obvious.