Apr

2

1941

The ‘Battle of Britain’ defined

One of the diagrams in the Air Ministry pamphlet that sought to explain how the RAF had fought off the Luftwaffe.

It was a necessarily a one sided account of a great victory, published at a time when Britain was devastated by the Blitz. It concluded that “Future historians may compare it with Marathon, Trafalgar and the Marne”. The pamphlet itself was hugely influential in shaping views of the period over the summer of 1940, hundreds of thousands were sold around the Empire and in the United States.

Apr

1

1941

Germans and British clash in the desert

German panzers in the Libyan desert as they prepared to strike against British positions.

The Fusiliers had a most fearsome reputation. The unit was made up of hard, uncompromising men of little polish; they obeyed their own officers but treated anyone else in authority with contempt, particularly base depot personnel. They were the dourest fighters we were to meet in a long day’s march and we were always glad to have them about.

Mar

31

1941

Hull bombed yet again

The bomb crater left after a parachute mine had devastated a housing estate in Hull

Dr Diamond was in the basement of an ARP post, talking to a councillor and a Dr Wheatley, who had just arrived in Hull to take over as Casualty Officer, when it was demolished by a direct hit. When the bomb exploded Dr Diamond took the full blast and was killed instantly, two soldiers in an adjacent car park and PC Robert Garton who was on duty at the door of the ARP post were killed and no trace of the policeman was ever found.

Mar

30

1941

Scharnhorst and Gneisenau bombed at Brest

A high level reconnaissance photograph of the German cruisers in the French port of Brest, taken 28th March 1941.

118 tons of H.E. were dropped. Results were difficult to observe on account of darkness and intense searchlight concentration, but reports indicate that a large proportion of the bombs were dropped on that area of the docks in which these battle cruisers were situated

Mar

29

1941

The aftermath of Matapan

The Anti-Aircraft 'Pom-Pom' gun on a British warship.

On the following morning, however, we all saw in the distance a dot upon the ocean which we assumed was a float with Italian survivors. Our destroyers were busy rescuing the poor wretches. Altogether, in the action 1500 “Italians” must have lost their lives as the prisoners amounted to only 900. When you consider the “score”, you will agree that the victory will go down in history as one of the most decisive of all time. 3 enemy cruisers, 2 large destroyers sunk and one battleship damaged, about 1,500 “Italians” written off – and on our side not one single ship damaged and not one man with so much as a scratch.

Mar

28

1941

Italian fleet surprised at ‘The Battle of Matapan’

Lt (A) Clifford's torpedo being released, as seen by Mid (A) Wallington, Observer in second aircraft.

Our searchlights shone out with the first salvo, and provided full illumination for what was a ghastly sight. Full in the beam I saw our six great projectiles flying through the air. Five out of the six hit a few feet below the level of the cruiser’s upper deck and burst with splashes of brilliant flame. The Italians were quite unprepared. The guns were trained fore and aft. They were helplessly shattered before they could put up any resistance.

Mar

27

1941

The Morrison Shelter is introduced

The Morrison shelter was an indoor cage that was designed to protect the occupants from the debris if the house was hit by a bomb.

As the bombs stirred the ground and the shrapnel clattered down the road we fought a quiet battle of cunning for the bedclothes. Feet touched faces, arms swung across chests, elbows elbowed; snores bubbled and spluttered to be silenced by ostensibly accidental blows; fragments of wild dream-talk escaped from the depths of our private lives. Enmity was closer to the surface during those caged nights than at any other time in our well-mannered lives.

Mar

26

1941

Secret Maps for P.O.W.s

The letter from MI9 establishing the production of secret maps by the Board Game company Waddingtons.

A special code, which is described in another of the letters, was used to indicate to the Ministry which map was concealed inside a particular game so that it would be sent to a prisoner of war camp in the appropriate area. A full stop after Marylebone Station, for instance, meant Italy, a stop after Mayfair meant Norway, Sweden and Germany, and one after Free Parking meant Northern France, Germany and its frontiers. “Straight” boards were marked “Patent applied for” with a full stop.

Mar

25

1941

Canadian Pacific Railway Ship ‘Beaverbrae’ sunk

The Beaverdale, sister ship to the Beaverbrae, loaded with a train bound for Canada before the war.

The attack took them by surprise, but the DEMS gunner standing by on the poop got off a burst at the aircraft with a stripped Lewis as it passed overhead and before its bombs hit the ship. Two heavy bombs hit the after deck, exploded below and caused devastating damage. The mainmast and its housing and most of the derricks housed in trestles on the after deck disappeared entirely. A wide crater was smashed in the steel deck and a huge hole in the port side shell plating. Every steam-pipe in the engine-room was fractured and some of the men in the engine-room and stokehold were badly scalded, though no-one was killed. Fire was soon raging in the ship.

Mar

24

1941

Hitler ‘there will be war with the United States’

Hitler with Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German Armed Forces, March 1941.

Eventually there would be war with the USA. Roosevelt, and behind him Jewish high finance, wanted war and had to want war, for a German victory in Europe would bring with it enormous losses of capital for American Jews in Europe. The unfortunate thing was that we had no aircraft capable of bombing American cities. He would very much like to bring the lesson home in this way to American Jews. This Lend-Lease legislation brought him additionally major problems.