The Naval, Military and Air situation up to 12 noon on October 26, 1939, as reported to the War Cabinet:
Home waters – General
A full enquiry into the circumstances attending the sinking of the H.M.S. Royal Oak while at anchor in Scapa Flow during the night of the 13th-14th of October, is being made. It seems clear that it was the work of a U-boat which succeeded in escaping from Scapa Flow after the attack.
German Attack on Trade.
2. On 21st October the north and southbound East Coast convoys were attacked by German aircraft. No damage to ships, or casualties, were sustained. The Naval Escort included special A.A. defence cruisers. Details of attacks are given in the air section of this resume.
3. The U-boat activity, which broke out afresh on 12th October, has continued during the period under review, although their efforts have been more sporadic and widely dispersed. The first really definite report of a U-boat in distant waters was received from H.M.S. Danae which cited a submarine 700 miles W. of for Walfisch Bay (W. Coast of S. Africa) on 24th October. This submarine may have been responsible for a report which was received from an unidentified British merchant vessel that she was being attacked by gunfire in the same area two days earlier.
4. Five British ships, of a total tonnage of 19,998 tons, have been sunk by submarine action during the last week.
The Military Situation
13. During the last week of the British Expeditionary Force has continued the preparation of field works. As a result of the operations on the Moselle Rhine front, the French have withdrawn from German territory, and speaking generally, the dividing line between the two armies is now the national boundary.
17. The following notes have been made from a French General Staff report on German morale obtained by questioning prisoners of war. The statements of these prisoners, all of whom came from the Maine -Wiesbaden district, may to some extent have been made in order to get better treatment, and should therefore not be taken as the general attitude of the German soldier on the Western front: –
Insufficient in quantity, of poor quality, monotonous; little meat. Brought up in a mobile cooker every 24 hours at about noon, or, in the case of advanced elements, at night by fatigue parties. The food arrives cold and unappetising.
Each man has spare underclothing and boots, a great coat and a bivouac tent. No blankets. Men have to sleep in the pill boxes on the ground, using their greatcoats and bivouac tents as covering. Prisoners complained of intense cold at night.
(iii) Officers and N.C.O.s
Very strict with men. Unpopular.
Soldiers do not read newspapers. What is the use? They all repeat the same thing and nobody believes them!
(v) State of morale.
In Germany many things are unobtainable, chocolate, for example. Everybody is afraid of his neighbour; concentration camps are the lot of those who complain. That is why the country appears to follow its rulers.
The Finnish frontier.
21. Reports indicate a certain increase in military activity on the Finnish frontier.
Efficiency of the Russian Army.
24. The efficiency and equipment of the Red Army are still the subject of criticism. In particular the Germans appear to have been disillusioned by close contact with their new friends. On the other hand eyewitnesses have been definitely impressed by the numbers and efficiency of the Soviet tanks.
27. His Majesty’s representative has been officially informed that all the foreign press reports of the Soviet demands on Finland were untrue. Finland appears to have succeeded in completing her military preparations by 21st October, when the negotiations in Moscow were to begin again. Mobilisation proceeded smoothly.
German Air Force.
Operations over the North Sea.
33. Apart from reconnaissance, enemy action over the North Sea has been confined to the unsuccessful attack on the East Coast convoys on the 21st and 22 October.
34. Eleven German aircraft are confirmed as destroyed in the raids on the fleet in the Firth of Forth and Scapa Flow on the 16th and 17th of October and against the convoys on the 21st and 22nd of October. Nine were brought down by fighters and two by A.A. fire. In addition to these, others are known to have been damaged by gunfire, some of them were probably forced down before reaching Germany. In this connection, the Air Attache at The Hague has been reliably informed that only seven out of the fourteen aircraft that took part in the raid on 17th October returned to their bases, four having come down in the North Sea. This is three more than we had claimed as having destroyed.
35. In all four raids, the German aircraft operated in loose formations of twos and threes. Under these conditions, the efficacy of the eight gun fighter and the effectiveness of the German bomber defensive armament were demonstrated, only two of our aircraft suffering slight damage. On each occasion the German formations consisted of flights from different units. This suggests that the raids may have been of an experimental nature and to give experience to future leaders.
See TNA: CAB 66/3/1