Attacks by the Luftwaffe and strain on the Soviet Union

The Naval Military and Air situation up to 12 noon on 2 November 1939 as reported to the War Cabinet:

Naval Situation

German attack on Sea-borne Trade

1.During the week under review three British cargo vessels and two trawlers of a total tonnage of 18,774 times had been lost by enemy submarine action. One French ship was also sunk by submarine. Details are as follows: –

S.S. Brontë (5317 tonnes).
Torpedoed at midnight 27th — 28th of October in the Western approaches,when outward bound in a convoy escorted by two destroyers. She remained afloat and was towed towards Swansea until the 30th when owing to a gale she broke adrift and was sunk. All the crew were saved by the destroyer Walpole.

S.S. Malabar (7976 tonnes).
Torpedoed in the early morning of 29 October in the western approaches, when homeward bound in a convoy escorted by two destroyers. This ship carried the Commodore of the convoy and, except for one engineer and four stokers killed by the explosion, the whole crew were saved by the destroyer Grafton when she sank the following afternoon. Her cargo consisted of 5200 tons of foodstuffs and 1000 tons of tobacco.

S.S. Cairnmona (4666 tonnes).
Torpedoed on the night of 30 October off Rattray Head while on passage to the Tyne with general cargo, 41 of her crew of 44 was saved.

Trawlers St Nidan (565 tonnes), Lynx II (250 tons).
Sunk north of Cape Wrath in the morning of 28 October, the crews being rescued by the trawler Lady Hogarth.

French S.S. Badoule (5874 tons).
Sunk on 31 October north of Cape Finisterre. She was in a French convoy.

There have been no British or French ships lost my mine or air attack this week. On 31 October the northbound East Coast Convoy was attacked by one enemy aircraft which dropped two bombs without damage to ships or casualties to personnel.

Mining

13. A further extension to the British minefield off Flamborough Head has been made.
The work of clearing the German minefield at the Humber entrance has been interfered with by bad weather, and is being continued. Two neutral ships were lost in this area during the week.

The bad weather and has also been responsible for several mines being washed ashore on the East Coast. One exploded against the sea wall at Bridlington and caused damage to windows and doors of nine or 10 houses in the vicinity, and there was a similar incident at Flamborough Head

British Expeditionary Force.

24. No change has taken place on the British front during the week. The construction of field fortifications has continued and the defence system is steadily becoming more extensive.

Soviet Russia.

Strain of mobilisation.

26. It is becoming increasingly evident that the Soviet Union is suffering from the strain of partial mobilisation. Train services throughout the country were seriously disorganised, and as late as 19 October normal circumstances had not been resumed. Mobilisation was carried out at very short notice. Peasants and even factory workers were taken straight from their work and dispatched by rail to their units. There has evidently been great difficulty in equipping reserve divisions, while the supplies of clothing for regular divisions proved unsatisfactory. It is universally believed that the Soviet Union is having trouble in maintaining her armies in Poland.

Food supplies in Moscow have been fairly well maintained, though probably at the expense of drawing on reserve stocks; the very ample supplies of meat available suggest, moreover, that abnormal slaughtering is taking place owing to lack of adequate fodder for the winter. The food situation in Leningrad has been less satisfactory.

The weight of evidence tends, therefore to confirm previous estimates that Russia could not at present fight a serious offensive war.

Royal Air Force operations

Fighter command.

43. Aircraft of fighter command had made a total of 56 patrols during the week to investigate reported and doubtful movements of enemy aircraft off the east coast. Enemy reconnaissance aircraft were encountered on the following three occasions: on the morning of 27 October German aircraft are reported to be approaching Grimsby at 20,000 feet. Three fighters which had been sent up to investigate intercepted a Heinkel III at 17,000 feet 17 miles south-east of Grimsby; there was an engagement from which the Heinkel escaped by diving into clouds. At 8.30 AM on 29 October a single aeroplane was detected approaching the Firth of Forth at 12,000 feet. It crossed Scotland, went out to sea over the Clyde and returned again over Glasgow: during the course of the flight the height of the enemy aeroplane vary between 2000 feet and 20,000 feet. It was eventually intercepted between Glasgow and Edinburgh and brought down near Dalkeith. On 30 October another single enemy aircraft was identified near North Berwick, and intercepted by fighter aircraft. The latter were not, however, able to make contact due to low visibility and the enemy’s escape into clouds.

See TNA: CAB/66/3/14

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