Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 91 November 30, 1939

USSR invades Finland with 21 divisions, violating three non-aggression pacts.

At 6.50 AM, artillery barrage starts on the Karelian Isthmus. At 8 AM, Soviet 7th Army advances across the entire Isthmus into mine fields pre-ranged by Finnish machine guns and artillery. 9 Soviet infantry divisions plus tanks (250,000 men) are held by Finnish covering forces (21,000 men) in front of the main defensive line (Mannerheim Line). Soviet planes bomb Helsinki.

Initially, Soviet attacks along the 800-mile border from Ladoga to the Arctic Sea meet little resistance. Eighth Army advances north of Lake Ladoga. Ninth Army strikes into central Finland for the Gulf of Bothnia to cut Finland in half. Fourteenth Army aims to capture the Arctic port of Petsamo.

Day 90 November 29, 1939

Battle of the Atlantic. U-35 is brought to the surface in the North Sea by a concerted depth charge attack involving British destroyers HMS Kingston, Icarus and Kashmir. The submarine crew scuttles U-35 but all 43 men survive and are interred briefly at the Tower of London and before going to P.O.W. camps.

Winter war. The Finnish government vainly tries to restart negotiations with the Soviets, suggesting conciliation or arbitration, in accord with the non-aggression treaty. The Finns even offer to withdraw their troops from the border unilaterally. At midnight, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov orders the invasion of Finland.

Day 89 November 28, 1939

Winter War. To observe the correct diplomatic etiquette before declaring war, USSR withdraws from its non-aggression pact with Finland, amid further Finnish protests. The Soviets maintain that Finland is the aggressor, despite a Finnish investigation revealing that Finnish border guards witnessed the shelling of Mainila by Soviet mortars.

Battle of the Atlantic. In the North Sea, Royal Navy trawler HMS Kingston Beryl scuttles the stern section of SS Gustaf E. Reuter which was torpedoed by U-48 on November 27.

Day 88 November 27, 1939

Winter War. Following the shelling of Mainila and the Soviet accusation of Finnish aggression, the Finns naively reply with a diplomatic note. They claim they could not have fired the shots, having previously withdrawn their guns out of range to avoid just such an incident. Ignorant of the coming storm, the Finns suggest both sides withdraw from the border areas to avoid further incidents.

Battle of the Atlantic. U-48 torpedoes the Swedish tanker SS Gustaf E. Reuter near Fair Isle off the Northeast coast of Scotland but fails to sink her. One man is killed but 32 others are rescued by the Royal Navy trawler HMS Kingston Beryl. SS Gustaf E. Reuter is taken under tow but she breaks up in a gale overnight.

Day 87 November 26, 1939

At 2.30 PM, Red Army stages a border incident to justify the coming invasion of Finland. They fire 7 mortar shells into a field near the village of Mainila on the Karelian Isthmus, half a mile inside Soviet territory. Fortunately, they clear the area beforehand and no one is hurt. Unfortunately, they are observed by Finnish border guards.

At 9 PM in Moscow, Finnish ambassador Yrjo-Koskinen is summoned to the Kremlin to be informed that “Finnish artillery shelled the area, killing 4 Soviet border guards and wounding 7 more”. The Finns are asked to withdraw their forces 20 – 25 km from the border.

This flimsy pretext does not fool international observers. John Colville, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s private secretary, calls it “a technique which does not gain in dignity for being second-hand”, noting the similarity with Hitler's excuse for invading Poland.

Day 86 November 25, 1939

At 1.19 PM, U-28 hits the British merchant ship SS Royston Grange (carrying general cargo and grain) with one torpedo. Royston Grange, sailing from Buenos Aires to Liverpool with convoy SL-8B, sinks about 50 miles southwest of Lands End. The crew are rescued by the trawler Romilly and taken to Swansea. U-28 also lays mines in the Bristol Channel on this patrol, which cause the sinking of the 9,577 ton SS Protesilaus on 21 January 1940.

Between 10 PM and midnight, U-43 repeatedly attacks British steamer SS Uskmouth about 120 miles northwest of Cape Finisterre, Spain. Her first 2 torpedoes malfunction and then U-43 shells Uskmouth with her deck gun. At 11 PM, U-43 fires another torpedo which misses. They continue shelling (firing 149 rounds in total) until Uskmouth sinks at midnight. Two men die but the captain and 22 crew are rescued by Italian merchant vessel SS Juventus and landed at Ramsgate on 30 November.

Day 85 November 24, 1939

Finnish Prime Minister Aimo Cajander has refused to believe that USSR would attack Finland, relying instead on existing treaties, diplomacy and Finnish neutrality. In a speech to the nation, he makes an about face. He reviews Soviet actions in Poland and the Baltic nations, then again rebuffs Soviet demands for bases. He warns that each Finn “has his own guard post” and “must learn to plow carrying rifles”. Commander-in-Chief Field Marshall Mannerheim spreads the woefully under strength Finnish Army of 200,000 across the Karelian Isthmus (40 miles).

The Soviets, however, prepare to cross the entire Finish border and deploys 800,000 men from the Gulf of Finland to the Arctic Circle. Red Army supplements the supply of troops by sending press gangs out in St. Petersburg. One middle-aged man with no military training is ‘recruited” while out shopping for shoes for his wife. He still has her shoes in his kitbag when he is captured by the Finns weeks later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 84 November 23, 1939

Between 1 - 3.30 PM, LtCmdr Ouvry and CPO Charles Baldwin defuse and recover a 7 ft long German magnetic mine (660 lbs of explosive) using specially-designed non-magnetic brass tools. Churchill hosts a party at the Admiralty. Ouvry, Lewis and Baldwin will receive medals from King George VI; the first Royal Naval decorations of the war.

Photos of Ouvry and his mine

A nice summary of the disarming and recovery of the magnetic mine by Ouvry, Lewis, Baldwin and others. Also the subsequent discovery of the mechanism of these mines and ways to combat their threat.

In a David and Goliath battle near Iceland, merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi (armed with only four 6 inch guns) is sunk by battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (265 lives lost). The Germans rescue 37 survivors and HMS Chitral saves 11. As Rawalpindi radioed their position, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau terminate their raiding mission.

U-33 torpedoes German merchant ship Borkum (captured by HMS California, Nov 18), killing 4 German sailors but none of the British prize crew. U-33’s commander von Dresky finds no glory on this sortie; in addition to Borkum, he has sunk only 5 tiny trawlers, picking up no survivors.

Day 83 November 22, 1939

Between 8 and 9 PM, a low-flying Heinkel He111 is seen dropping magnetic mines by parachute in the Thames Estuary at Shoeburyness. 2 mines land on mud flats that are very shallow and uncovered at low tide. Two officers with the Render Mines Safe group (HMS Vernon), Lieutenant Commanders John Ouvry and Roger Lewis, are summoned to the Admiralty and dispatched by Churchill himself to recover the mines. These mines have caused the loss of 50,000 tons of shipping since October 16 and countermeasures are crucial.

In the Bay of Biscay, U-43 torpedoes French merchant ship SS Arijon, en route from Antwerp for Buenos Aires (cargo of steel bars).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 82 November 21, 1939

U-33’s captain has developed a taste for small fry. After sinking 3 fishing boats yesterday, he sinks 2 more. SS Sulby is sunk at 8:30 AM after a warning shot, 50 miles north of Ireland in heavy seas. A lifeboat with 7 survivors is rescued the following day but the captain and 4 men are lost. SS William Humphreys is sunk at 9:30 AM; 13 crew take to the lifeboat but they are never found.

Brand-new British cruiser Belfast strikes a magnetic mine in the Firth of Forth. The mine makes only a small hole in the hull but causes severe internal damage, injures 21 crew and keeps her out of action until 3 Nov 1942. Destroyer HMS Gypsy is sunk by a mine in the English Channel off Harwich (30 lives lost).

Battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau sail into the Iceland-Faroes passage on their first wartime sortie, with light cruisers Köln & Leipzig.

After 18 days in the Indian Ocean, Graf Spee passes The Cape of Good Hope seeking better hunting back to the Atlantic.

At 12.50 PM, French trawler Les Barges II is sunk by U-41 in the Bay of Biscay. The crew escapes and are picked up by a Spanish trawler. U-41 stops 17 other trawlers; all are neutral Spanish vessels.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 81 November 20, 1939

Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are the pride of the German fleet. They are the largest (32,000 tons, 235 m long, 30 m beam) and best armed (9 11-inch guns, 12 6-inch guns, 14 4-inch guns, 6 torpedo tubes, 3 Arado seaplanes) ships in the Kriegsmarine. Gneisenau was built at Kiel, Germany, launched on December 8, 1936 and commissioned on May 21, 1938. Scharnhorst was built at Wilhelmshaven, Germany, launched on 3 October 1936, and commissioned on 7 January 1939. After months of sea trials, they are finally ready to face the Royal Navy.

The commander of U-33 Kapitänleutnant Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky has a busy, if undistinguished, day. U-33 sinks 3 tiny unarmed British trawlers off Tory Island on the northwest coast of Northern Ireland. SS Thomas Hankins is sunk at 10:30 AM. The crew take to the lifeboat and is rescued by another trawler 10 hours later. They report being hit with 5 shells from U-33’s deck gun without warning. SS Delphine is sunk at 4 PM and the crew of 13 makes land the following day after the chief engineer blocks a hole in their lifeboat with his foot for 22 hours. SS Sea Sweeper is sunk at 5 PM and the crew is rescued by the trawler Lois.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 80 November 19, 1939

In response to Germany laying magnetic mines in the English Channel, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill wants mines dropped by air into the Rhine in the Ruhr area to disrupt river shipping. He also proposes launching time-activated mines into the Rhine along the French/German border between Strasbourg and the Lauter River, to float downstream.

A deadly game of cat and mouse in the Bay of Biscay. U-41 hunts the British steamer SS Darino. Over 8 hours U-41 misses with 3 torpedoes. At 1:50 AM, Darino is sunk by a fourth torpedo (16 lives lost). 11 crew are picked up by U-41, transferred to an Italian merchant ship and later landed at Dover. Nearby, U-49 stalks Convoy HG-7 from Durban to Dunkirk via for 3 hours. U-49 fires 2 torpedoes that miss the British steamer SS Pensilva (cargo of maize) but a third torpedo sinks her at 12.19 PM. The Captain and crew are rescued by the destroyers HMS Echo and Wanderer and returned to England.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 79 November 18, 1939

At 10.30 AM Dutch liner Simon Bolivar hits a German magnetic mine laid yesterday in the English Channel, 10 miles east of Harwich. Out of 400 onboard, including 30 children, 86 are killed. International law requires notification of mine-laying in shipping lanes, leading to widespread public outrage in England and Holland. Holland protests to Germany in vain.

German merchant ship SS Borkum, running supplies to Germany through the British blockade, is stopped in the Denmark Strait by the British armed merchant cruiser HMS California. A British prize crew is put on board and sails Borkum towards Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.

Hitler receives a memo from General Blaskowitz, Wehrmacht Commander in Poland, complaining about SS and Einsatzgruppen atrocities and the effects on ordinary soldiers. The memo annoys everyone from Hitler and Himmler to Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl. Blaskowitz is blacklisted from command in the invasion of France.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 78 November 17, 1939

USSR-German collaboration. As part of the Molotov-Ribbontrop pact extension following the partition of Poland, USSR offers Germany a northern base ‘Basis Nord’ to support their blockade of Britain. Naval High Command sends U-36 and U-38 to scout the proposed location at Zapadnaya Litsa on the Kola Peninsula, 25 miles from Mumansk.

Anglo-French Collaboration. Supreme War Council meets in Paris. They agree to an immediate advance to the River Dyle between Antwerp Line and Brussels if the Germans invade (the Dyle Plan or "Plan D"). However, the French turned down proposals to bomb industrial targets in the Ruhr fearing Luftwaffe retaliation against Britain and France.

German destroyers, Z11 Berndt von Arnim, Z19 Herman Künne and Z21 Wilhelm Heidkamp lay magnetic mines in major shipping lanes in the English Channel. No notification is made, contravening International law and leading to catastrophic results the next day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 77 November 16, 1939

German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee stops the Dutch vessel SS Mapia about 350 miles Southwest of Madagascar. Graf Spee’s captain, Hans Langsdorff, permits Mapia to proceed due to Dutch neutrality, allowing her to report his identity and position upon reaching port. His goal is to confuse Allied warships hunting him as to the number and location of German sea raiders. Langsdorff decides that, given the lack of targets, his work is done in the Indian Ocean and he sets sail for The Cape of Good Hope to go back to the Atlantic.

King Carol of Romania’s offer to mediate is rejected by Germany and the Allies.

Day 76 November 15, 1939

Following rejection of appeals for peace by King Leopold of Belgium and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop announces that the German peace offer to Britain and France is now withdrawn.

Graf Spee has been cruising trade routes in the Indian Ocean since Nov 3 and needs a kill to register her presence. However, the expected prey does not materialise as wool clipping season in Australia is late and cargo ships await loading in Australia. Graf Spee sights SS Africa Shell, a tiny British oil tanker belonging to the Shell Company of East Africa, 6 miles off Zabora Point Mozambique (at the southern end of the channel between Madagascar and Mozambique). Africa Shell is empty, sailing to port in Delagoa Bay (now the capital Maputo). Africa Shell’s crew are taken off by Graf Spee’s launch and she is sunk by shell fire (see photo and link). The Allies will soon know that a raider is at large in the Indian Ocean. nice account of the stopping and sinking of the SS Africa Shell by German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee on November 15, 1939, including a series of photographs taken from Graf Spee. Notably, one photo shows a launch taking the crew off Africa Star before she is sunk. This gentlemanly behaviour ensured that no lives were lost on any of the ships sunk by Graf Spee.

Day 75 November 14, 1939

The Phony War is in full swing. Not much happens in mainland Europe but men are still dying in the Battle of the Atlantic. While the Finnish Army of 175,000 – 200,000 troop dig in on the Karelian Isthmus in anticipation of a Soviet invasion, the Red Army musters about 4 times as many along the entire Finnish border.

Hitler also rejects peace appeals by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and King Leopold of Belgium, previously rejected by the Allies on November 12.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 74 November 13, 1939

Battle of the Atlantic. During the night, 4 German destroyers (Zerstörer Z20, Z18, Z19, Z21) lay magnetic mines in mouth of the river Thames. 5.26 AM Cruiser HMS Adventure and destroyers HMS Basilisk and Blanche sail into the minefield; Adventure detonates a mine (23 lives lost) but safely reaches harbor. 8.20AM Blanche, escorting Adventure, is badly damaged by another mine (1 dead, 12 injured). She is towed by tugboat Fabia but capsizes, becoming the first British destroyer lost to enemy action. Two merchant vessels SS Ponzano and SS Matra are also sunk by these mines.
An excellent website dedicated to the mining of HMS Adventure and HMS Blanche, maintained by the grandson of a casualty on HMS Adventure. Includes photographs of the damage to HMS Adventure and accounts from the captains of both HMS Adventure and HMS Blanche.

Winter War. Finnish diplomacy has failed. Paasikivi and Tanner leave Moscow for the last time before the outbreak of hostilities. Paasikivi will return to surrender in March 1940. Tanner is tried in 1946 for war crimes and spends 3 years in jail.

King Carol of Romania offers to mediate peace after the Allies rebuff Dutch and Belgian royalty. He too is viewed as acting for Hitler.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 73 November 12, 1939

At 7 AM, U-41 (Kapitänleutnant Gustav-Adolf Mugler in command) shells and sinks the British steam trawler Cresswell off the Outer Hebrides, Scotland (6 lives lost). U-41 picks up 8 survivors, At 10 AM, U-41 sinks Norwegian tanker Arne Kjøde (cargo of gas oil, en route to Denmark) with one torpedo. Note that both Denmark and Norway are neutral at this time. The crew takes to 2 lifeboats but one capsizes with 5 lives lost, including the captain. 34 survivors will be picked up on Nov 14 by the British trawler Night Hawk and the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Isis.

British and French governments politely refuse offers of mediation by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and King Leopold of Belgium, suspecting they are acting for Hitler. First Lord of the Admiralty Churchill broadcasts a speech on the first 10 weeks of the war, emphasising the continued threat to Europe from Nazi Germany. “If words could kill, we should be dead already.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 72 November 11, 1939

British, French, Belgian and German troops mark the twenty-first anniversary of the Armistice, at 11 AM on November 11 1918, on the very battlefields where their fathers fought The Great War (World War One, as it would soon be known). Many in Britain hope that Germany’s expansion in Europe will not bring another general war. Others, including Churchill, believe the storm has not passed and that Hitler will continue his plans for European domination. As Armistice Day falls on a Saturday, the two-minute silence of remembrance in Britain is moved to Sunday to avoid disrupting war production. This begins the new tradition of Remembrance Day on the Sunday closest to November 11. Sales of the symbolically pacifist white poppies drop from 85,000 in 1938 to almost nil.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 71 November 10, 1939

The Phony War on the Western Front continues. The Dutch believe the date of the invasion is November 12, due to Hans Oster’s leak to their military attaché. They cancel Army leave, reinforce the border and prepare to flood strategic areas. On the French border, German troops reinforce the Siegfried Line. German probing attacks stimulate French rifle and artillery fire.

In Paris, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier and Commander-in-Chief General Maurice Gamelin receive Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (a British cabinet post handling British relations with the Dominions), and delegates from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stays home in London suffering badly from gout. Chamberlain will recover from gout but things only get worse for him. Six months from now he will resign as Prime Minister and in a year he will be dead from cancer.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 70 November 9, 1939

The Finnish government responds to continued Soviet demands for land concessions and military bases by rescinding their offer to yield the Gulf of Finland islands. Their embarrassed delegates, Paasikivi and Tanner, still in Moscow, are left to communicate this. At 6 PM they meet Molotov and Stalin for the final time; “Finland cannot grant to a foreign state military bases on its own territory”. Before they leave, Stalin, incredulous, asks “Nothing doing”? At midnight, Molotov enquires whether Finland will sell the Hanko peninsula to get around this impasse. The Finns pack their bags for the last time. Nothing doing.

Hitler issues directive No. 9. German aircraft and submarines are directed to mine British sea lanes and to target attacks on British merchant shipping, ports and storage depots. His goal is to starve Britain out of the war, reflecting on the blockade that crippled Germany in the First World War.

Day 69 November 8, 1939

An assassination attempt is made on Hitler, on the 16th anniversary of his attempt to seize power on Nov 8, 1923 (the Beer Hall Putsch). Hitler makes his annual speech to the surviving veterans of the Putsch at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich. A time bomb has been planted by German carpenter Georg Elser in a hollowed out pillar behind the speaker's rostrum. Hitler cuts short his speech to catch the train back to Berlin as it is too foggy for him to fly. The bomb explodes at 21:20, exactly as Elser planned, but Hitler had left 13 minutes earlier. Eight people die and sixty-three are injured, sixteen of them seriously.

Elser is arrested in Konstanz, trying to cross the border into Switzerland. He is transferred to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin where he confesses under torture. He will eventually be held at the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps until April 1945, when Hitler orders his death to prevent liberation by the advancing Allies.

Day 68 November 7, 1939

The invasion of France “Case Yellow”, set for Nov 12, is cancelled due to bad weather. This pattern - planned launch of the attack then postponement by the weather - is repeated many times through November and December 1939 and into January 1940. Hitler does not get his early pressure on the Allies and the Phony War continues.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and King Leopold of Belgium appeal for peace and offer themselves as mediators.

Day 67 November 6, 1939

Western Front. In the first large air battle over the Saar in northwestern France, 9 French Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighters shoot down 4 out of 27 German Messerschmitt Bf 109E. French losses are not recorded. The P-36 Hawk with four 7.5 mm Browning machine guns does well early in the war, despite being outgunned by the Bf 109E with two 7.92 mm MG 17s plus 2 wing-mounted 20 mm cannon.

Around 1830, General Carl von Clausewitz, director of the Prussian War Academy and a military historian and theorist, wrote his book “On War”. His famous line "Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln" is liberally translated as "War is merely a continuation of diplomacy (politics) by other means". If this is true, then a declaration of war requires certain preliminary diplomatic maneuvers. In Moscow, these diplomatic niceties continue, with the Finns hoping to avert or at least delay war while the Soviets lay the final touches to their invasion plans.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 66 November 5, 1939

The invasion of France, Belgium and the Netherlands “Case Yellow” is set for November 12. Commander-in-Chief, General von Brauchitsch, warns Hitler that the Army is unprepared for an immediate invasion and also reminds him of the risks of a Winter campaign. In addition, von Brauchitsch asks Hitler to allow Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) to supervise military operations without interference. Hitler loses his temper, asserts that the General Staff are disloyal and cowards, and insists the attack goes ahead.

Colonel Hans Oster of German military intelligence (Abwehr) learns of the plans. He informs his friend Colonel Bert Sas, the Dutch military attaché in Berlin, of the exact date of the planed invasion of the Netherlands. He will do this more than twenty times as the invasion is repeatedly delayed and rescheduled.

Day 65 November 4, 1939

Captain Hector Boyes, British Naval Attaché in Oslo, receives an anonymous letter offering German technical secrets. He is requested to signal interest by changing the BBC World Service's German broadcast announcement to "Hullo, hier ist London". He arranges this and a week later receives a parcel with a 7-page typewritten report (which becomes known as the "Oslo Report") and components of a prototype proximity fuse. They come from physicist Hans Mayer, director of the Siemens communications laboratory, who hopes to weaken the Nazi regime by revealing details of military secrets. Mayer arrived in Oslo on October 30, on a business trip, and typed the letter and report on a typewriter borrowed from his hotel.

The Oslo Report is initially considered a fake by British intelligence but is ultimately accepted. Mayer is sent to a concentration camp in 1943 for criticising the Nazi regime but never suspected of spying. He survives the war.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Days 53 - 64 (October 23 - November 3, 1939)

Day 64 November 3, 1939
The Finnish delegates Paasikivi and Tanner again meet with Molotov and Stalin at the Kremlin. The Finnish position has not changed since Oct 23; they offer islands in the Gulf of Finland but the Hanko peninsula (guarding the mouth of the Gulf) is not for discussion. The Soviet position has not changed either; Molotov warns “now is the turn of the military to have their say”.

USA neutrality law, preventing trade in arms and war materials, loans or credits to belligerent parties in a war, is an isolationist policy to insulate America from oversees wars. This is revised in the Neutrality Act of 1939 to allow arms trade with belligerent nations on a cash and carry basis.

German Commander-in-Chief von Brauchitsch rejects Manstein’s first memorandum on the invasion of France; however, he does allocate more tanks to General Rundstedt’s Army group A (Manstein’s superior). Undaunted, Manstein will revise his plan and submit more memos to Brauchitsch.

Day 63 November 2, 1939
As Finnish diplomats try to avert war by extending negotiations, the Soviet leadership has a clearer view of the situation. Unlike Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which quickly granted Soviet access to bases, the Finnish government has resisted both subtle and direct threats of invasion and seems unlikely to change tack now.

Stalin has rejected Chief of the General Staff Boris Shaposhnikov’s plan for a direct but prolonged charge up the Karelian Isthmus to the Finnish capital Helsinki. Instead, he prefers the plan of Kirill Meretskov (Commander of the Leningrad Military District) to cross the entire 800 mile border. He believes blitzkrieg tactics and the desire of the Finnish people to be liberated by their Soviet neighbours will lead to a swift victory. The Finnish terrain (lakes, forests and marshes) and the will of the Finnish people prove both assumptions to be incorrect.

Day 62 November 1, 1939
The Finnish delegates Paasikivi and Tanner leave by train for Moscow to negotiate again with the Soviets. The Finnish position has not changed and they do not intend to give up any more territory than the Gulf islands already offered on October 23. Their goal is to keep the negotiations alive, in order to delay military action by the USSR, as they have been informed by Field Marshall Carl Gustav Mannerheim (Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish army) that the Finnish army is not ready to fight. Political belief in Finnish neutrality has blinded them to Soviet ambitions to reclaim ‘lost Russian’ territory and the antebellum Army is grossly under prepared. The Finnish army numbers about 200,000 men, with no tanks, little heavy artillery (except coastal batteries on the Gulf of Finland and Lake Lagoda), about 100 Bofors anti-tank guns and precious little ammunition for any of these weapons.

Day 61 October 31, 1939
Erich von Manstein’s first memorandum on the invasion of France arrives at Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres or OKH). It will be quickly rejected but 5 more memoranda will follow. He has been working on an armored thrust through the Ardennes Forest and along the River Somme, to isolate the Allied forces in Northern France and Belgium. Although Manstein does not know it, his plan is completely in line with Hitler's thinking.

To increase pressure on Finland, Molotov makes a speech to the Supreme Soviet publicly announcing negotiations which have so far been secret. This successfully isolates Finland from potential international support (e.g. Sweden) but fails to cause the expected uprising of the Finnish public against their government. Instead the Finns are proud of their hard-won independence and rally behind their leaders. This is not the last time the Soviets miscalculate the Finnish people.

Day 60 October 30, 1939
Hitler is impatient with Halder’s lack of progress for an aggressive plan to invade France. He suggests to Generaloberst Alfred Jodl (Chief of Operation Staff, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) that a tank force should advance through the Ardennes Forest. Although this is initially deemed impractical, Hitler's idea will find form in the plans being developed by Manstein.

Battle of the Atlantic. Royal Navy battleships HMS Nelson and Rodney, cruiser HMS Hood and destroyers HMS Icarus, Impulsive, Ivanhoe, Intrepid and Kelly are escorting iron ore ships from Narvik to the Firth of Forth. The battle group, under Admiral Charles Morton Forbes (Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet), encounters German U-boats west of the Orkney Islands. U-56 hits HMS Nelson, the flagship of the Home Fleet, with three torpedoes but none explode. However, U-57, U-58 and U-59 do not engage the British ships.

Day 59 October 29, 1939
The first Luftwaffe plane is shot down over the British mainland at Haddington, East Lothian, on The Firth of Forth. The aircraft is a Heinkel He 111, part of Luftflotte 2 based in Northern Germany to attack shipping off the coast of Scotland and the Royal Navy Home Fleet at Rosyth (Firth of Forth) and Scapa Flow. RAF Spitfires of both 602 and 603 Squadrons claim the kill. Two survivors, from the crew of 4, become among the first German POWs held in Britain, at Grizedale Hall in Lancashire (Camp 1) or Glen Mill Camp also in Lancashire (Camp 176).

Soviet troops begin occupying bases in Latvia. Soviet troops continue mobilizing and Finnish troops dig in along their shared borders.

Day 58 October 28, 1939
Graf Spee has been ordered out of the Atlantic to avoid British warships. She meets up with her support ship Altmark west of The Cape of Good Hope, refuels and transfers the prisoners from her last victim, SS Trevanion. At midnight, Graf Spee sets sail for the Indian Ocean.

Captain Brown of SS Huntsman, already a prisoner on Altmark, records in his diary - “"Graf Spee returned after nine days absence. We were not allowed on deck as she was oiling from the Altmark and storing by motor boats. Fine weather, sea smooth. Capt Edwards, Chief Officer and Ch. Engineer of Trevanion were ushered into our quarters. Now thirteen in our quarters & thirty-four in the Officers deck.”

Day 57 October 27, 1939
Although technically unnecessary, King Leopold III of Belgium declares his commitment to Belgian neutrality. The Treaty of London, signed on 19 April 1839 by the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia and the Netherlands, guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium and committed the signatories to guard that neutrality in the event of invasion.

Erwin Rommel has commanded Hitler's personal protection detail (FührerBegleitbataillon) since 1938. Promoted to Generalmajor in August 1939, he protected Hitler's field headquarters in Poland. During the Polish campaign and afterwards in Germany, Rommel takes advantage of staff meetings and meals with Hitler to lobby for a field command. A proponent of mobile armored warfare, he naturally has his eyes on a Panzer division. It has taken Rommel 21 years to rise from Captain to the lowest rank of General; in less than three years his rank will be Generalfeldmarschall.

Day 56 October 26, 1939
Hans Frank, a dedicated Nazi, is given rank of SS Obergruppenführer and appointed Governor-General of the General Government for the occupied Polish territories “Generalgouvernement für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete” (or simply General Government). A decree imposes compulsory labour on all Jews aged 16 -60.

General Government is a German police state “colony”, with no Polish representation, and Hitler plans for complete Germanification within 15-20 years. This area (approximately 95,000 square km with a population of 12 million) lies between Western Poland, annexed into Germany, and Eastern Poland, now occupied by USSR. Frank is responsible for segregating Jews into city ghettos and exporting Polish civilians to Germany as forced labour. He will eventually be found guilty of war crimes at the Nuremberg trials and hung on October 16, 1946.

Day 55 October 25, 1939
Paasikivi and Tanner change trains in Leningrad. Ominously, they see significant concentrations of Red Army troops around Leningrad. North of the city, on the Soviet portion of the Karelian Isthmus, construction of additional road and rail connections is underway. While it might seem careless for the Soviets to allow their preparations to be observed, the obvious route of Soviet attack into Finland is across the Karelian Isthmus (a 30 mile wide strip between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Lagoda) and the Finns are already fortifying the Mannerheim Line to defend against this. Unknown to the Finns, the Red Army is also planning to attack along the entire 800 mile border running North from Lake Lagoda to the Barents Sea.

Battle of the Atlantic. U-16 is sunk by HMS Cayton Wyke, a requisitioned trawler converted for minesweeping, and patrol vessel HMS Puffin.

Day 54 October 24, 1939
Paasikivi and Tanner, the Finnish delegation to negotiate the border dispute with USSR, leave Moscow by train for Leningrad and then Helsinki. The talks are public knowledge but the topic of acquisition of bases and territory by USSR is top secret. The New York Times speculates that either the Finns are negotiating a loan to make up for trade revenues with Britain lost as a result of German sinking of neutral vessels, or that Tanner as head of the Finnish Socialist party is reporting to Moscow on the attitude of finish workers. This secrecy will not be maintained for long.

82,000 kg of Polish gold has traveled from the Romania port of Constanţa on Sept. 16 to Istanbul in Turkey on Sept. 19, and then on to Beirut, Lebanon where it was loaded on French warships bound from France. It finally arrives in Paris.

Day 53 October 23, 1939
The Finnish delegates Paasikivi and Tanner arrive in Moscow by train and go to the Kremlin to negotiate with Molotov and Stalin. The Finns are prepared to give up 6 islands in the Gulf of Finland and they offer to move the border near Leningrad 13 km North, giving some protection to USSR’s second city. Stalin continues to demand a border move of 70 km, as well as a ‘lease’ on the entire Hanko peninsula to station 5000 troops and a naval base. He adds ominously that there will be no haggling but the Finns are not authorized to make these concessions and the meeting breaks up acrimoniously, with each side accusing the other of provoking war. Paasikivi and Tanner return to the Kremlin at 11 p.m. to hear Stalin’s final offer to reduce the Hanko garrison to 4000 but conceding this is still beyond their remit. They agree to take the Soviet terms (which, in reality, are not much different from those presented Oct 12) back to Helsinki for discussion by the Finnish government. While the Finns engage in more diplomacy, USSR prepares for war.