Rommel counter-attacks in the desert

Crusader tanks moving to forward positions in the Western Desert, 26 November 1941. The Mk I only had a two pounder gun and was unreliable.

Next morning, the 17th June, the 5th Light Division set off at the appointed time [4.30am] and after a headlong advance reached the neighbourhood of Sidi Suleiman at 06.00 hours. The 15th Panzer Division had become involved in heavy fighting against an armoured force which the British had sent to parry the danger menacing their army. But it soon reached is objective. Great numbers of destroyed British tanks littered the country through which the two divisions had passed.




Bombing attacks on Italian targets

Wellington bombers

On the night of the 12th/13th, five Wellingtons, also operating from this country, attacked the oil refineries at Venice. One large building was seen to collapse and another was hit by a heavy bomb. The last aircraft reported the target area to be a mass of flames. During these operations a large liner in the vicinity of Venice and hangars and workshops at Padua were machine-gunned.




Condor Base at Bordeaux bombed

Wellington night bomber, moonlit flight 1940

On the night of the 22nd/23rd twenty-four heavy bombers attacked the aerodrome at Bordeaux; twenty-nine tons of high explosive and two thousand eight hundred incendiaries were dropped. The attack appears to have been most successful. Direct hits were obtained on hangars and barrack blocks, and many aircraft on the aerodrome were seen to be on fire. The hangars on the south-west side of the aerodrome were completely burnt out.




Night Bombing of Britain intensifies

A Heinkel He III Bomber undergoing maintenance using a captured RAF airfield crane, November 1940.

During the week the enemy made a greater number of long-range nightbomber sorties than during any other week of the war. On the 19th/20th. approximately 500 aircraft were employed; this is the highest number recorded in operations on any night against this country. Attacks also showed greater concentration, and on the nights of the 14th/15th, 15th/16th and 19/20th heavy attacks were made on Coventry, London and Birmingham respectively; 350 aircraft attacked Coventry, under ideal weather conditions, and 340 were used against Birmingham.




Leonard Cheshire wins the DSO

Damaged Whitley bomber

He decided to attack the railway marshalling yards at Cologne instead and while he was approaching this target his aircraft was suddenly shaken by a succession of violent explosions. The cockpit filled with black fumes and Cheshire lost control of the aircraft, which dived about 2,000 feet, with its fuselage on fire. Cheshire regained control, the fire was extinguished and the Whitley, with a gaping hole in its fuselage, was brought safely back to base after, being in the air for 8 1/2 hours.




Improved Anti-Aircraft defences help morale

In the days following the start of the Blitz large numbers of additional Anti-Aircraft guns were brought into the London area.

Enemy operations were chiefly confined to London and South-East England, although single attacks were reported in other districts and larger formations bombed Portland and Southampton on the 15th September. Several aerodromes were attacked, but none suffered damage of any importance. The main objectives appear to have been railways, public services and industrial targets : details of damage are set out in the Home Security Section. Attacks were, however, largely indiscriminate, particularly at night.




18 year old Sergeant Hannah wins the Victoria Cross

Sergeant Hannah won the Victoria Cross and Pilot Officer Connor the D.F.C. after bringing their stricken Hampden bomber back to base.

Sergeant Hannah succeeded in forcing his way through the fire in order to grab two extinguishers. He then discovered that the Rear Gunner was missing. Quite undaunted he fought the fire for 10 minutes, and when the fire extinguishers were exhausted he beat the flames with his log book. During this time, ammunition from the gunner’s magazines was exploding in all directions. In spite of this and the fact that he was almost blinded by the intense heat and fumes, he succeeded in controlling and eventually putting out the fire. During the process of fighting the flames, he had turned on his oxygen to assist him in his efforts.




“The Blitz” hits London

A famous image of the bombing of London, a Heinkel III bomber over the Thames, taken from another German bomber at 6.48pm on the 7th September 1940

During the night of 7th/8th September, attacks extending over many hours covered a considerable area of London and were of an intense nature. Preliminary reports do not permit an accurate review of the full extent of the places hit or of the damage. Possibly the most serious effect has been in Silvertown which has been described as a ‘raging inferno’ and complete evacuation became necessary. Over 600 fire appliances were in use during the night.




Hurricanes attack bombers head on

Hawker Hurricanes of No. 85 Squadron RAF, October 1940.

Ease the throttle to reduce the closing speed – which anyway allowed only a few seconds’ fire. Get a bead on them right away, hold it, and never mind the streams of tracer darting overhead. Just keep on pressing on the button until you think you’re going to collide – then stick hard forward. Under the shock of ‘negative G’ your stomach jumps into your mouth, dust and muck fly up from the cockpit floor into your eyes and your head cracks on the roof as you break away below.




"Never in the field of human conflict …"

Battle of Britain poster with Churchill's 'the few'

“we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.”