Categories 1939Tags

The U-boat threat looms and the Red Army mobilises

The Naval, Military and Air Situation up to 12 noon on 14th September 1939 as reported to the War Cabinet:

Naval Situation

U. Boats — Disposition and General.

5. In the North Sea two submarines made them presence felt; the steamers GOODWOOD and MAGDAPUR having been sunk by mine or to torpedo on 10th September off Flamborough Head and Aldeburgh respectively.

6. There is no reliable report of a submarine either in the Channel or in the Irish Sea.

7. It was estimated that seven submarines were operating in the east and Eastern and at Atlantic on eight September. Two more may have arrived there since. They displayed considerable activity and achieved some success. Five steamers were sunk and four changed on 7 September. On 8 September two steamers were sunk and to chased on 9 September forward shelled but escaped. On 11 September three was sunk. Since then no more ships have been sunk.

8. A submarine with a tanker was reported by an American flying boat halfway between the Azores and Bermuda on 10th September and may be proceeding to the West Indies.

Military Situation


27. Owing to overwhelming German air superiority and the very dry weather which gave the German armoured and mechanised forces full scope, the Poles were forced to continue their retreat rapidly. By the morning of 8th September, the Polish Northern Army group had fallen back to the line of the R. Bug; in the south western sector German armoured and mechanised forces had penetrated from the S. W. through the Polish lines and were within 40 miles of Warsaw, and the line of the retreat of the Polish Western Army group of eight divisions was seriously threatened. The Polish Southern Army of seven divisions had suffered severely and was in serious danger of being outflanked by German forces advancing from Slovakia.

28. In view of this critical situation in the Polish high command decided to try to stabilise the battle along the line of the Rivers Bug – Vistula and San, resting their right flank on the Prypet marshes. The isolated Western Army group was ordered to fight its way through to Warsaw. The bridges over the Vistula had been heavily bombed and their position was precarious.

29. By the evening of 9th September, the Polish Northern Army group was holding the line of the Bug, but streetfighting was going on in the outskirts of Warsaw. Some very confused fighting took place on the 10th and 11th September, the polls, all along the front, but by the evening of the 11th the Poles appeared to have succeeded in temporarily stabilising the front on the line of Rivers Bug – Vistula and San, and to have forced the Germans temporarily to withdraw from Warsaw.

Soviet Union

33. It is estimated that of approximately 4,000,000 men now with the Red Army, approx. 1,500,000 are concentrated on or near both Polish frontier. It is reported that transport and material are being requisitioned and the railways leading to the Polish frontier had been closed to normal traffic. One report states that these measures appear to have been taken with the knowledge of the German Government, but this cannot be accepted as definite.

Propaganda has been chiefly directed against Poland and Great Britain, though the tone of the press has not been particularly favourable to Germany.

Air Situation

British Air Operations

53. There are no major air operations to record during the period under review. Bomber aircraft have carried out some further propaganda and reconnaissance flights. Enemy opposition has been slight and only one aircraft is missing. One aircraft landed in Belgium and the crew has been interned. Propaganda flights have now been temporarily suspended.

54. The first 10 squadrons of the A. A. S. F. and the 4 Fighter Squadrons accompanying the Field Force are now ready to operate from their bases in France, they though they will not be complete in all respects until 20 September.

55. Aircraft from Coastal Command have attacked a total of 16 submarines during the past week. There is some reason to hope that five of these attacks have been successful. In addition they have carried out a large number of reconnaissance’s, and escort flights for convoys.

see TNA CAB 66/1/30