Churchill wins Vote of Confidence in the Commons


2nd July 1942: Churchill wins another Vote of Confidence in the Commons

I have never shared the view that this would be a short war, or that it would end in 1942. It is far more likely to be a long war. There is no reason to suppose that the war will stop when the final result has become obvious. The Battle of Gettysburg proclaimed the ultimate victory of the North, but far more blood was shed after the Battle of Gettysburg than before.

At the same time, in spite of our losses in Asia, in spite of our defeats in Libya, in spite of the increased sinkings off the American coast, I affirm with confidence that the general strength and prospects of the United Nations have greatly improved since the turn of the year, when I last visited the President in the United States.



The outstanding feature is of course the steady resistance of Russia to the invaders of her soil, and the fact that up to now at the beginning of July, more than halfway through the summer, no major offensive has been opened by Hitler upon Russia, unless he calls the present attacks on Kharkov and Kursk a major offensive.

Winston Churchill, in the uniform of an Air Commodore, with Dr H V Evatt (Australian Minister for External Affairs), Clement Attlee (Deputy Prime Minister) and Air Vice-Marshal C R Carr (AOC No 4 Group) during a visit to a Yorkshire-based Halifax squadron on 15 May 1942

For the Allies 1942 had been a year of disappointments. The retreat in the face of the Japanese assault and the fall of Singapore had been the worst shock. The most recent fall of Tobruk seemed to show that the British were in retreat everywhere. Only the bombing of Germany and the occasional Commando raid gave any cause for feeling that the British were fighting back. Churchill had always had plenty of critics, the country was not nearly as united behind him as the propaganda seemed to suggest. In Parliament a disgruntled minority of MPs put forward a motion of no confidence:

That this House, while paying tribute to the heroism and endurance of the Armed Forces of the Crown in circumstances of exceptional difficulty, has no confidence in the central direction of the war

Churchill had survived a similar vote in January, now there were a few more people lined up against him. The argument was that Churchill should not be both Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, or that he should be clearly delegating the responsibly for running the war to a senior Military figure. Churchill was characteristically candid and eloquent in his own defence:

I cannot tell the House — and the enemy — what reinforcements are at hand, or are approaching, or when they will arrive. I have never made any predictions except things like saying that Singapore would hold out. What a fool and a knave I should have been to say that it would fall. I have not made any arrogant, confident, boasting predictions at all. On the contrary, I have stuck hard to my blood, toil, tears and sweat, to which I have added muddle and mismanagement, and that, to some extent I must admit, is what you have got out of it.

He went on to summarise the current position:

I now ask the House to take a wider survey. Since Japan attacked us six months ago in the Far East we have suffered heavy losses there. A peace-loving nation like the United States, confined by two great oceans, naturally takes time to bring its gigantic forces to bear.

I have never shared the view that this would be a short war, or that it would end in 1942. It is far more likely to be a long war. There is no reason to suppose that the war will stop when the final result has become obvious. The Battle of Gettysburg proclaimed the ultimate victory of the North, but far more blood was shed after the Battle of Gettysburg than before.

At the same time, in spite of our losses in Asia, in spite of our defeats in Libya, in spite of the increased sinkings off the American coast, I affirm with confidence that the general strength and prospects of the United Nations have greatly improved since the turn of the year, when I last visited the President in the United States.

The outstanding feature is of course the steady resistance of Russia to the invaders of her soil, and the fact that up to now at the beginning of July, more than halfway through the summer, no major offensive has been opened by Hitler upon Russia, unless he calls the present attacks on Kharkov and Kursk a major offensive.

There is no doubt that the Russian Government and nation, wedded by the ties of blood, sacrifice and faith to the English speaking democracies of the West, will continue to wage war, steadfast, stubborn, invincible. I make no forecast of the future. All I know is that the Russians have surprised Hitler before and I believe they will surprise him again. Anyhow whatever happens they will fight on to death or victory. This is the cardinal fact at this time.

In the end Churchill won the debate by 475 votes to 25. It was a fine example of democracy in action even as the nation continued to face mortal threats.

The whole speech – and the whole debate – can be read at Hansard.

The 8th Army was now falling back to a new defence line in Egypt, which was being augmented with minefields.
South African engineers preparing mines for laying, Egypt, 2 July 1942.
A South African sapper removing anti-personnel mines from protective containers, Egypt, 2 July 1942.
A South African sapper carrying a stack of mines, Egypt, 2 July 1942.
A South African sapper laying a mine, Egypt, 2 July 1942.
A South African sapper laying a mine, Egypt, 2 July 1942.

HMS Rodney is ready, but more Merchant ship losses

During the period [the week up to 10th October], thirteen ships (32,369 tons) have been reported sunk. Of these, four British (18,141 tons), one Dutch (2,202 tons), and two neutral ships (7,465 tons), were sunk by submarine. Four small ships (1,710 tons) were mined, and two British ships (2,851 tons) were sunk by aircraft.

Sunset in the Firth of Forth, with one of the eight barrelled two pounder pom-pom guns of HMS RODNEY silhouetted against the Forth Bridge whilst two sailors stand to attention nearby.
Sunset in the Firth of Forth, with one of the eight barrelled two pounder pom-pom guns of HMS RODNEY silhouetted against the Forth Bridge whilst two sailors stand to attention nearby.

The Royal Navy remained a formidable force with a full complement of capital ships. Launched in 1925 HMS Rodney, with her 16 inch guns, was the product of the tactical thinking that continued to see a role for big ships with big guns. Only as the naval war unfolded during the next few years would it become apparent that, with the advent of air power, such ships were often a liability as a target rather than impressive, powerful, assets.

The official photographers documenting the war visited HMS Rodney in October 1940 and produced a wide range of images illustrating life aboard.

ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP HMS RODNEY. OCTOBER 1940, TRAINING ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP. Rifle drill. Sailors practice a bayonet charge on board RODNEY.
ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP HMS RODNEY. OCTOBER 1940, TRAINING ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP.
Rifle drill. Sailors practice a bayonet charge on board RODNEY.
The port eight barrelled Vickers two pounder Mark VIII 'pom-pom' gun in action during anti-aircraft practice on board HMS RODNEY whilst she is at sea.
The port eight barrelled Vickers two pounder Mark VIII ‘pom-pom’ gun in action during anti-aircraft practice on board HMS RODNEY whilst she is at sea.
A mock action with the use of a dummy ship. The spotting table in the foreground shows a tiny model of a warship. The Gunnery Officer in the Director seen in the background is training his gun on it and firing dummy rounds. The shell splashes are then registered in the positions where they would have fallen in relation to the model ship according to the officer's calculations.
A mock action with the use of a dummy ship. The spotting table in the foreground shows a tiny model of a warship. The Gunnery Officer in the Director seen in the background is training his gun on it and firing dummy rounds. The shell splashes are then registered in the positions where they would have fallen in relation to the model ship according to the officer’s calculations.
Gunnery scenes on board the battleship HMS Rodney. October 1940, at sea. Cleaning the big guns.
Gunnery scenes on board the battleship HMS Rodney. October 1940, at sea. Cleaning the big guns.
Weighing anchor. A hose is played on the cable and the cable is cleaned as the anchor comes up. The links of the cable are also tapped with a hammer to test for any weakness.
Weighing anchor. A hose is played on the cable and the cable is cleaned as the anchor comes up. The links of the cable are also tapped with a hammer to test for any weakness.
Minesweeping. October 1940, on board the battleship HMS Rodney. Whenever enemy planes had been in the vicinity of the fleet's anchorage overnight, it is fairly certain mines were laid and the minesweepers have plenty of work. The Minesweepers BRAMBLE and SPEEDY passing close to RODNEY on their way out of harbour. Their sweeps can be seen trailing.
Minesweeping. October 1940, on board the battleship HMS Rodney. Whenever enemy planes had been in the vicinity of the fleet’s anchorage overnight, it is fairly certain mines were laid and the minesweepers have plenty of work.
The Minesweepers BRAMBLE and SPEEDY passing close to RODNEY on their way out of harbour. Their sweeps can be seen trailing.

However the big battleships were not the class of ship to deal with the main threat at the time, the U-Boat menace.

The Dutch merchantman Ottoland had almost completed her journey from New Brunswick, Canada when she hit a mine in the North Sea on 5th October 1940. She was already sinking when Coastal Command aircraft arrived on the scene and her cargo of timber and pit props had floated off. Minesweepers were directed to rescue the crew, seen in a boat top right.

The Ottoland was just one of thirteen ships sunk in the week up to the 10th October, at the time it was believed she had been torpedoed. The statistics for ship losses were closely monitored and featured every week in a report to the War Cabinet:

Enemy Attack on Seaborne Trade.

During the period [the week up to 10th October], thirteen ships (32,369 tons) have been reported sunk. Of these, four British (18,141 tons), one Dutch (2,202 tons), and two neutral ships (7,465 tons), were sunk by submarine. Four small ships (1,710 tons) were mined, and two British ships (2,851 tons) were sunk by aircraft. In addition, three British ships (14,418 tons), previously reported as damaged, are now known to be sunk, and three ships (25,418 tons) were destroyed by enemy raiders in the Indian Ocean in September.

The reduction in tonnage lost during this week may be partly due to bad weather.

See TNA Cab 66/12/43

George Beardmore finds a land-mine

On leaving, Jean asked the gatekeeper: ‘Is that tub-shaped thing with the parachute attached part of the show?’ To which he replied: ‘What tub-shaped thing? I don’t know anything about a tub-shaped thing. I’ve been on fire-watch all night.’ Ten minutes later the fun began. The police arrived at the double and turned the whole street out of doors, advising them to leave doors and windows wide open and then to make themselves scarce while the bomb was de-fused.

A photograph of an unexploded German Parachute Mine.
A photograph of an unexploded German Parachute Mine.

The novelist George Beardmore was living in North Harrow and working for the BBC as a despatch rider in 1940. He had just become a father and had been declared medically unfit for military service earlier in the year. His diary records the effects of the war on London and especially its effect on his family and the people around him. On the 29th September:

A land-mine floated down by parachute onto the Kodak playing-fields just over the houses opposite and rendered us homeless. It was Jean and I who had found it. Over the weekend a captured Messerschmidt had been put on show, sixpence to view, a shilling to sit in the cockpit. Jean and I had turned up first thing — were indeed the first customers because I had to go to work and the plane was only just round the corner at the top of the street.

On leaving, Jean asked the gatekeeper: ‘Is that tub-shaped thing with the parachute attached part of the show?’ To which he replied: ‘What tub-shaped thing? I don’t know anything about a tub-shaped thing. I’ve been on fire-watch all night.’ Ten minutes later the fun began. The police arrived at the double and turned the whole street out of doors, advising them to leave doors and windows wide open and then to make themselves scarce while the bomb was de-fused.

While I went to work, Jean took the baby to some cousins in Kenton. Jean’s mother is taking the raids badly and re- turned in a panic to her cottage at Newton Longville. Someone came and removed fuse and detonator and here we are back home again.

See George Beardmore: Civilians at War: Journals, 1938-46.

For more on Landmines see 21st September 1940.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 flown by Oberleutnant Karl Fischer of 7./JG 27, shot down on 30 September during a bomber escort over London. The aircraft crashed in Windsor Great Park and in October was put on display to the public outside Windsor Castle, to raise funds for the Borough's Spitfire fund.
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 flown by Oberleutnant Karl Fischer of 7./JG 27, shot down on 30 September during a bomber escort over London. The aircraft crashed in Windsor Great Park and in October was put on display to the public outside Windsor Castle, to raise funds for the Borough’s Spitfire fund.
One that was successfully defused. A German parachute mine that was later used to train bomb disposal officers, now in the Imperial War Museum.

The menace of the parachute mine

The silence which had followed the “All Clear” five or ten minutes earlier turned into a horrifying medley of terror and confusion. My mother managed to claw her way through the earth and debris which effectively blocked our only exit to the shelter, and called out that next-door’s house was down – OUR house was down – they’re ALL down !

London Shows The Flag: Life goes on in wartime London, England, 1940. Mr and Mrs Blakley hang Union flags from the glass-less front window of their bomb-damaged home, as their neighbour looks on. The house next door to the Blakleys' has been completely destroyed.
London Shows The Flag: Life goes on in wartime London, England, 1940. Mr and Mrs Blakley hang Union flags from the glass-less front window of their bomb-damaged home, as their neighbour looks on. The house next door to the Blakleys’ has been completely destroyed.
The blast from parachute mines exploding above ground caused extensive damage, demolishing houses in the vicinity and breaking windows as far as a mile away.

On 21 September 1940 Lt Cdr Richard Ryan RN and CPO Reginald Ellingworth from HMS Vernon, the Royal Navy Mine Warfare Establishment, died while attempting to defuse a parachute mine in Dagenham in east London. They were both posthumously awarded the George Cross for gallantry and devotion to duty.

The Germans were now using mines that had been developed for sea warfare for urban bombing. The British had developed counter measures to the magnetic mine after recovering one intact on [permalink id=2432 text=’23rd November 1939′]. British ships were now routinely de-gaussed or anti magnetised, so the Germans may have felt that the mines could be better utilised elsewhere, or possibly it was just realised that they were an especially powerful weapon.

They were released from Heinkel III bombers and drifted down to ground level by parachute, detonating either by contact or by a clockwork mechanism. When the parachute became entangled in buildings they often failed to explode, leaving those who had to face defusing them with the uncertainty that there might also be a clockwork timer operating.

In residential areas the above ground blast was capable of demolishing whole streets:

On the night of Saturday 21 September 1940, a parachute mine fell on a quiet residential close of about 45 houses in Richmond, Surrey. My mother, my older sister, and my twin brother and I were asleep in our Anderson shelter in the garden. The explosion awakened me, and then the screams and cries of the trapped injured and dying mingled with the sounds of falling bricks and buildings and the shattering of glass.

The silence which had followed the “All Clear” five or ten minutes earlier turned into a horrifying medley of terror and confusion. My mother managed to claw her way through the earth and debris which effectively blocked our only exit to the shelter, and called out that next-door’s house was down – OUR house was down – they’re ALL down !

She knew that the family next door on our left were sleeping in the house that night: the mother, three daughters and a son. These children were much the same age as us and we played together. Sybil, Stella, Margaret and John Danby. All the girls were scholarship pupils at Richmond County School for Girls. The bodies of the mother and the girls were eventually recovered, but John was found safe and unharmed and he was brought to our shelter by the wardens, along with an elderly woman (I believe she was a Belgian refugee) and another woman. In all some 20+ people died that night, the second week into the start of the London Blitz.

Read Ms Blackburn’s story at BBC People’s War.

Women salvaging prized possessions from their bombed house, including plants and a clock.
Women salvaging prized possessions from their bombed house, including plants and a clock.

An improvised method of clearing the German ‘Schu’ mine

During this battle we had to deal with a quarter of a million mines, the worst of these was the Schu mine which was made of wood and could not be detected. These mines were causing a continuous stream of casualties with horrific injuries. The accepted way to find these mines was to crawl along on hands and knees prodding the ground in front with bayonets. Under heavy fire, an unpleasant task, coupled with the loss of those of us, who unfortunately, prodded them in the wrong place and paid with our lives.

The Schu-mine 42 (Shoe-mine), also known as the Schützenmine 42, was a German Anti-personnel mine.  It consisted of a simple wooden box with a hinged lid containing a 200-gram (7.1 oz) block of cast TNT and a ZZ-42 type detonator.  A slot in the lid pressed down on the striker retaining pin, sufficient pressure on the lid caused the pin to move, releasing the striker which triggered the detonator.'
The Schu-mine 42 (Shoe-mine), also known as the Schützenmine 42, was a German Anti-personnel mine. It consisted of a simple wooden box with a hinged lid containing a 200-gram (7.1 oz) block of cast TNT and a ZZ-42 type detonator.A slot in the lid pressed down on the striker retaining pin, sufficient pressure on the lid caused the pin to move, releasing the striker which triggered the detonator.’
A mine-detecting part of 3rd Division at work, 25 November 1944. The leading man is wearing special protective clothing and 'skis' to spread his weight on the ground.
A mine-detecting part of 3rd Division at work, 25 November 1944. The leading man is wearing special protective clothing and ‘skis’ to spread his weight on the ground.

After the bitter struggle for Overloon and Venray, the British still confronted a determined German defensive position west of the Meuse River. The advance slowed as the British tried to replace heavy casualties and then became a miserable slogging match for the remainder of November.

The Germans had by now ample time to build their defences. While Hitler was placing his faith in his miracle weapons – the V2 continued to hit London and Antwerp – some of the simplest technologies were to prove very effective in establishing defensive positions.

Royal Engineer Brian Guy describes how their tactics evolved in the field:

We were now battering at the gates of the German homeland on the Dutch side of the border in the Limburg area, and had to set about breaking his hold on the vital Dutch/German border areas. What follows is a recollection of one of the hardest fought, bloodthirsty, and sometimes, for us, very peculiar episodes of the war in North West Europe.

This battle took place in driving rain amongst the muddy tracks that wandered through the dense conifer woods and over the Molen Beek, this little stream that had been mined on the banks and even under the water, and at the same time was under heavy shell and mortar fire.

Sometimes, sadly, whole groups of men were blown to pieces. During this ferocious fighting, our guns at Oploo made the ground tremble beneath our feet. But by now Overloon and Venraij lay safely in our hands, taken against fierce resistance. Meanwhile we had to deal with a new type of mine: we called them Rigler mines.

Under heavy fire we cleared them by the thousands, and not knowing what to do with them, we stacked them up in ditches or on top of the ground criss-crossed in stacks. With an officer on a motor bike, I made my way down from our battle area to where they were clearing the thickest of these mines and on the way we had to run over a dead Gennan who was lying in the deep-rutted sand tracks. We could not avoid him, the sand ruts were very deep.

When we got there the officer told one of the men to take a mine off away from the rest and see if it was booby trapped. We had turned round and were on our way back to our own area of the fighting when, from behind us, came a gigantic explosion. We yanked the bike around and went back but the whole area was devastated, swept clean of all life.

All those that had been present had disappeared. Sadly, as happens in these circumstances, we put wooden crosses there in the knowledge that later, when they were to be buried in a proper place, there would be noth- ing for the burial squad to find.

During this battle we had to deal with a quarter of a million mines, the worst of these was the Schu mine which was made of wood and could not be detected. These mines were causing a continuous stream of casualties with horrific injuries. The accepted way to find these mines was to crawl along on hands and knees prodding the ground in front with bayonets. Under heavy fire, an unpleasant task, coupled with the loss of those of us, who unfortunately, prodded them in the wrong place and paid with our lives.

How to counter this carnage? Then someone came up with the idea of getting an ordinary garden roller which we did. We welded spikes around the roller barrel, then a soldier would push this roller in front of him, and when it went over a Schu mine, it would blow up and the garden roller would fly up in the air on its specially elongated handle, and then drop down again.

To protect the soldier, he had a cut down gas mask over his eyes with long gauntlet gloves and a woven rope protector strapped round his groin.

Just try to imagine a full scale, ferocious war going on, with heavy aitilleiy and mortar fire and, in the middle of it all, a lonely soldier pushing a garden roller across the battle field and in not too much of a huny, in case he went too quickly and missed detonating the mine. I was one of those lonely soldiers.

And this was demonstrated in front of Field Marshal Montgomery’s second in com- mand, Air Vice Marshal Tedder.

The outcome of all this was, a short entry in the company’s war diaries, stating simply: “The garden roller experiment was a washout.” In fact, it worked surprisingly well, but could not cope with uneven ground.

Shortly after this episode Brian Guy was seriously wounded and flown back to England, eventually being discharged with a 100% disability pension. This account appears in Charlotte Popescu (ed):War’s Long Shadow: 69 Months of the Second World War.

A sapper of No. 1 Dog Platoon, 277th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers, with his dog 'Nigger', Bayeux, 5 July 1944. The dogs were used to hunt for mines, especially the all-wooden 'Shoe Mine' which was otherwise undetectable.
A sapper of No. 1 Dog Platoon, 277th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers, with his dog ‘Nigger’, Bayeux, 5 July 1944. The dogs were used to hunt for mines, especially the all-wooden ‘Shoe Mine’ which was otherwise undetectable.
A Bren gunner of the 8th Royal Scots at Moostdijk, Holland, 6 November 1944
A Bren gunner of the 8th Royal Scots at Moostdijk, Holland, 6 November 1944

Royal Navy submarine HMS Seal is captured

Two ratings just managed to escape from the flooded rear compartments before the watertight doors were sealed. The seriously damaged submarine now lay with her aft end wedged in the mud unable to surface, despite frantic efforts from the crew. After nearly 24 hours submerged the whole crew were seriously affected by lack of oxygen and some were nearly comatose.

HMS Seal showing battle damage
The Royal Navy minelaying submarine HMS Seal, showing battle damage, following capture

The large minelaying submarine HMS Seal, which had featured in [permalink id=5228 text=’a recent Newsreel’], was sent to the Kattegat to lay mines between Sweden and Germany. In the early hours of 4th May she was spotted by aircraft and forced to dive. Unable to surface again until nightfall, at around 7pm she was shaken by a huge explosion, having hit a mine. Two ratings just managed to escape from the flooded rear compartments before the watertight doors were sealed. The seriously damaged submarine now lay with her aft end wedged in the mud unable to surface, despite frantic efforts from the crew. Continue reading “Royal Navy submarine HMS Seal is captured”

German Naval Disaster: Operation Wikinger goes wrong

In the following minutes there was confusion in the remaining five destroyers who had apparently not seen the second attack by the aircraft. In the confined area of the swept channel they faced considerable dangers from their own mines as they tried to rescue the crew from the freezing cold waters. The situation was then compounded by the belief that they were under torpedo attack. The Theodor Riedel interpreted hyrophone sounds as a submarine but she was travelling too slowly when she dropped her depth charges and she damaged her own hull and steering. The Max Schulz was then blown up in another large explosion.

The German destroyer Leberecht Maas, sunk on 22nd February 1940, in a U.S. identification manual.

A force of six German destroyers set out on the moonlit night of 22nd February 1940 to intercept British fishing boats off the Dogger Bank. Although the Kriegsmarine had been informed that the Luftwaffe intended to fly anti-shipping operations in the North Sea that night, the message had not been passed on to the task group. As the German force made their way through the narrow swept channel of their own minefield the destroyer Z 1 Leberecht Maas was bombed by a Heinkel III; in two attacks she was hit three times. Continue reading “German Naval Disaster: Operation Wikinger goes wrong”

British minelaying in the North Sea

British minelaying operations were responsible for sinking a number of U-Boats and German ships, see for example [permalink id=3861 text=’Operation Wikinger’] and the fate of [permalink id=3150 text=’U-50′]. This Movietone Newsreel demonstrates the enormous effort and resources that were needed to lay effective minefields.

During the ‘phoney war’ there was a limited range of material about military activity that could be used for propaganda purposes. Yet the war in the North Sea was anything but phoney, with increasing numbers of ships being sunk. Both sides were responsible for laying enormous numbers of mines in order to restrict access to their own ports except through particular channels, and more generally to hinder the free movement of hostile ships and submarines. British minelaying operations were responsible for sinking a number of U-Boats and German ships, see for example [permalink id=3861 text=’Operation Wikinger’] and the fate of [permalink id=3150 text=’U-50′]. This Movietone Newsreel demonstrates the enormous effort and resources that were needed to lay effective minefields. Continue reading “British minelaying in the North Sea”

Latest analysis of the U-Boat war

The Naval Military and Air Situation up to 12 noon on the 18th January 1940, as reported to the War Cabinet:

Naval Situation

General Review

The period has again been one of relative quiet at sea, there being only minor incidents to report apart from the loss of H.M. Submarines; Seahorse, Starfish and Undine. In Home Waters operations against German merchant vessels have been carried out out off the Norwegian and Dutch coasts, in the latter case with some success.

Enemy attacks on seaborne trade by air, mine and submarine have continued, and have perhaps been slightly more effective than during last week.

The crisis in connection with the military situation in Belgium and Holland necessitated an increased degree of readiness being maintained by our light forces on the East Coast while it lasted.

The movement of Australian and New Zealand troops continues.

10. A diagrammatic analysis of German submarine activities up to the end of 1939 is attached to this resume. A study of this shows that German submarine activity has been steadily decreasing and suggests that the North Sea is becoming the principle operational area of submarines, whereas for the first few months they were most active on our Western seaboard. Continue reading “Latest analysis of the U-Boat war”

British Minelaying, Finnish tactics in the Winter War

‘A striking feature of the fighting has been the success of the Finnish anti-tank defence, despite a shortage of weapons. Various methods, such as the flinging of incendiary bombs, bundles of hand grenades and bottles of petrol at the tanks have been employed. A new and ingenious tank obstacle has been produced by means of pit props, coated with ice and placed on the frozen ground. These props rotate under the tracks of the tank, which can make no headway.’

Finnish troops defend their country against Russian forces

The Naval, Military and Air Situation up to 12 noon on January 11, 1940, as reported to the War Cabinet:

Naval Situation

Home waters

1. A force of heavy ships has been operating to cover the Northern Patrol and the convoys to and from Norway.
H.M. Submarine Trident is returning from a patrol off Murmansk, where she has been observing shipping activity.
H.M. Submarine Seahorse is more than 48 hours overdue at her base, from patrol in the North Sea, and a search along the route of her intended return passage is being carried out by aircraft, so far without success.

2. During daylight on Tuesday, 9 January, enemy aircraft attacked isolated ships, not in convoy, off the East Coast, with bombs and machine guns. Three small British ships were sunk and two Danish steamers were badly damaged. One ship was attacked in a similar manner on Wednesday, 10 January. Our own aircraft failed to intercept any of the raiders owing to poor visibility. Continue reading “British Minelaying, Finnish tactics in the Winter War”