Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 154 February 1, 1940

After weeks of artillery bombardment, Red Army begins the first phase of its renewed attack on the Summa sector of the Karelian Isthmus, where Timoshenko has concentrated most of his forces. This 12 mile stretch of open land, unencumbered by lakes and rivers, leads directly to Viipuri, Finland’s second city. A massive artillery barrage drops 300,000 shells in 24 hours on the Mannerheim Line around Summa. However, only regiment-sized probing forces are sent forward to test the effectiveness of new Soviet tank/infantry close-support tactics. This is only a dress-rehearsal of the expected main assault by the Soviets.

At 1.43 AM, U-13 sinks Swedish steamer SS Fram, at anchor in Aberdour Bay, Scotland, with 1 torpedo (9 lives lost). 14 survivors are picked up by destroyer HMS Khartoum and armed trawler HMS Viking Deeps.

At 8.44 PM, U-59 sinks British coaler MV Ellen M. (1 torpedo) 20 miles East of Southwold, Suffolk, England (all 9 lives lost).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 153 January 31, 1940

Just after midnight, U-13 sinks Norwegian steamer SS Start (carrying coal from Sunderland) with 1 torpedo halfway between Stavanger, Norway & Aberdeen, Scotland (all 16 lives lost).

U-21 has torpedo troubles. 2 torpedoes fired at Danish SS Vidar (carrying steel from Grimsby) malfunction but the third strikes Vidar (16 lives lost), immobilizing her 25 miles East of Aberdeen. Danish steamer SS Disko stops to pick up 18 survivors; U-21 fires another dud torpedo at her. SS Vidar finally sinks the next day.

Commander Timoshenko has spent 3 weeks preparing to assault the Mannerheim Line. He has 12 fresh divisions on the Karelian Isthmus & artillery lined up side by each. Opposite the Summa gap alone, he has 400 heavy artillery pieces (200 mm calibre or more) and innumerable smaller 75 & 45 mm guns, which are not camouflaged due to the Finns lack or artillery & attack aircraft. Soviet artillery has been pulverizing Finnish forts all month. Timoshenko is ready.

Day 152 January 30, 1940

German planes again bomb shipping in the English Channel and North Sea. British cargo steamers SS Highwave, Giralda and Bancrest are sunk off the Orkney Islands, Scotland. SS Voreda is badly damaged and beached off the East Anglian Coast on Winterton Shoal.

At 7 AM, U-55 attacks convoy OA-80G, sinking British tanker SS Vaclite about 50 miles off Land’s End, England. The crew of 35 is picked up by the Italian steamer SS Pollenzo and landed at Barry. At 11 AM, U-55 attacks again, sinking Greek SS Keramiai. U-55 is sunk by depth charges from the escorts HMS Whitshed, HMS Fowey and French destroyers Valmy and Guépard, and a RAF Short Sunderland from No. 228 Squadron (41 survivors are rescued but Kapitänleutnant Werner Heidel goes down with his ship).

German torpedo boat Iltis mistakes U-15 for an enemy submarine and rams her 50 miles North of Wilhelmshaven, Germany. U-15 sinks with all 25 hands lost.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 151 January 29, 1940

At 5 AM, Colonel Siilasvuo's 9th division attacks Soviet 54th division, which has been moving slowly towards the road junction at Kuhmo. 54th division is stopped dead in its tracks, to be cut into mottis.

German planes attack vessels off the British coast. Unarmed lightship East Dudgeon is strafed and bombed. 8 crew take to the lifeboat which capsizes near shore drowning 7. Several other British and neutral ships are destroyed.

At 3.30 PM, Norwegian SS Eika carrying salt from Spain is sunk by a torpedo from U-51 (14 lives lost). Harald Støle (age 16) and Alfred Johansen are rescued by U-51. Støle turns 17 on the voyage to Wilhelmshaven, arriving 8 February. Both men will be home in Norway soon after.

USSR suggests negotiations to the Finns via a diplomatic note to Sweden. "Soviet Union has no objection in principle to a possible agreement with the Ryti (Finnish) government." Simultaneously, Red Army is preparing a massive assault on Finnish defenses.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 150 January 28, 1940

Finland. Soviet shelling of Finnish defensive positions on the Karelian Isthmus continues, with increasing intensity. Fort Poppius and Million Fort in the Lähde sector near Summa are badly damaged by the bombardment, leading to defensive weakness in the Mannerheim Line. On the North shore of Lake Lagoda, Finns destroy the Pieni-Kelivaara motti in one day, capturing 2 field guns, 2 antitank guns, 9 mortars, 9 machineguns and 100 rifles. Dug in Soviet troops in the nearby West Lemetti motti resist a similar attack, leading to new tactics to gradually reduce mottis.

German submarines sink 2 neutral Greek ships. At 2.52 AM 100 miles West of Brest, steam merchant SS Eleni Stathatou is hit but not sunk by a torpedo from U-34. Having only one torpedo left, U-34 waits for Eleni Stathatou to sink. When she starts moving again, U-34 sinks her at 4.21 with the last torpedo (12 lives lost).

At 8 PM 200 miles off Portugal, U-44 sinks coal carrier SS Flora with one torpedo (all 25 hands lost).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 149 January 27, 1940

Finland. At the "Motti meeting", General Hägglund orders Finnish IV Corps to attack the "Pieni-Kelivaara" and "Lemetti West" mottis to test various tactics.

U-20 destroys 4 small, empty, neutral steamers off the Orkneys. At 8 PM, Norwegian SS Faro is damaged by a torpedo explosion 20m away but does not sink. The crew of 15 takes to the lifeboats. 7 men in one boat reboard Faro at dawn and drift ashore in Taracliff Bay. The other lifeboat drifts away, coming ashore on Copinsay the following day with 1 man still alive (7 lives lost). U-20 torpedoes Danish SS Fredensborg (20 lives lost) and SS England (another 20 dead) coming to the rescue of Faro at 8.52 and 9.24.

At 11.13 PM, U-20 torpedoes Norwegian SS Hosanger (17 lives lost). The sole survivor, Magnus Sandvik, floats on a raft for 15 hours until he is rescued by HMS Northern Reward. Sandvik is too frozen to attach a line to himself, so a sailor from HMS Northern Reward jumps overboard to fasten it to him. He is transferred to HMS Maori and hospitalised at Kirkwall.

Day 148 January 26, 1940

HMS Durham Castle hits a mine, laid by U-57 on 21 Jan, and sinks 11 miles off the Northeast coast of Scotland. Durham Castle, an 8,000 ton former passenger ship with Union-Castle Mail SS Co. and recently requisitioned by the Admiralty, is being towed to Scapa Flow for use as a stores and accommodation ship.

Finland. Fighting continues along the Taipale River at the eastern end of the Karelian Isthmus. Finnish 7th Division defending Taipale announces overall losses of 816 men killed and 2020 wounded, since the start of the war. Soviet losses are unknown but likely 10 times this, given the WWI-like slaughter that has taken place. Further North, the last units of Finnish 9th division arrive in the village of Kuhmo for the assault on Soviet 54th division.

Phoney war. About half the 750,000 children evacuated from London since Sept 1939 have now returned. Many people in England believe that war with Germany has been averted.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 147 January 25, 1940

Germany tests Norwegian, Belgian and Dutch neutrality. U-14 sinks Norwegian SS Biarritz, sailing from Antwerp (Belgium) to Oslo, 36 miles off the coast of Holland. 26 crew and 11 passengers (including women and several Norwegian sailors returning home) die. 21 survivors are picked up by Norwegian steamer Borgholm. Despite this provocation, Norway remains steadfastly neutral, paralysed by fear of German aggression.

At 04.11 AM, U-44 sinks French SS Tourny in convoy 56-KS with one torpedo 20 miles off Porto, Portugal (8 lives lost, 9 survivors rescued by Spanish steamer Castillo Monforte). U-44 hunts another steamer all night but is depth charged and chased off by an escort vessel.

5 miles off the east coast of England near Newcastle, U-19 sinks Latvian SS Everene at 9.12 PM (1 killed, 30 survivors picked up by British fishing boats Dole and Evesham), and Norwegian SS Gudveig at 9.30 (10 lives lost, 8 survivors).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 146 January 24, 1940

At 11.40 AM, U-44 sinks French steamer SS Alsacien (cargo of phosphate from Africa to France) with one torpedo 5 miles off the Portuguese coast, near Lisbon (4 lives lost).

U-23 has been hunting Norwegian steamer SS Varild (in ballast between Norway and England) since 8 PM the day before. U-23, fires 2 torpedoes but the first jams in the tube the second runs off course, becoming a kreisläufer (circle runner). U-23’s third torpedo sinks Varild at 7 PM off the East coast of Scotland (all 15 hands lost).

Finland. Force Talvela still holds Soviet 8th Army at Kolla, with attacks and counterattacks along Aittojoki (River Aitto; joki is river in Finnish).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 145 January 23, 1940

U-19 spots 20 unescorted steamers off Northumberland and sinks Norwegian SS Pluto (8.43 AM) & British SS Baltanglia (8.55 AM) with one torpedo each. Finnish steamer picks up all SS Pluto’s 22 crewmen. The 27 man crew of SS Baltanglia makes land in two lifeboats.

Colonel Siilasvuo‘s Finnish 9th Division arrive in the village of Kuhmo to prepare an attack Soviet 54th division.

New Soviet commander Simyon Timoshenko completely revises plans for the invasion of Finland. He abandons Meretskov’s strategy to fight along the entire frontier. He instead concentrates all his forces in a direct assault on the Karelian Isthmus to wear down the Mannerheim line in a battle of attrition; essentially Chief of Staff Shaposhnikov’s original plan. There is no intention to continue offensives along the Northern frontier or reinforce the divisions already engaged in this region. Thousands of Soviet troops trapped North of Lake Lagoda are left to their fate, although 54th division will be supplied by airdrop.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 144 January 22, 1940

Norwegian motor vessel MV Segovia (750 tons of general cargo, including 140 tons of oil, 45 tons of cork, wine and almonds) goes missing in the North Atlantic off the West coast of Scotland, presumed sunk by U-55 (all 23 hands lost).

The speech on Jan 20 by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churhill, imploring neutral countries to support Finland (a thinly veiled invitation to Norway and Sweden to allow Allied troops passage across their territory to Finland), rebounds on him. He is reprimanded by British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax for interfering with foreign policy. Also, he is ignored by Norway and Sweden, who realize that British access to Finland is a means to choke off supplies of Swedish iron ore to Germany. They rightly suspect that Hitler would react to any Allied presence by intervention of his own. French Prime Minister Daladier favors Churchill’s plan as a way to fight the Germans away from French soil.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 143 January 21, 1940

U-22 has a busy morning in the Moray Firth, Scotland. At 5.38 AM, U-22 fires at British MV Cyprian Prince but misses and at 6 AM sinks British destroyer HMS Exmouth with one torpedo (all 189 lives lost). At 7.11 AM Danish SS Tekla is hit by one torpedo killing 4 crew members. 10 men in the starboard lifeboat are hit by the ship’s mast (5 men drowned). 9 survivors are rescued by destroyer HMS Sikh and Norwegian SS Iris.

Swedish steam merchant SS Andalusia goes missing early in the morning off the West coast of Scotland (all 21 hands lost), believed sunk by U-55.

British cruiser HMS Liverpool stops Japanese liner Asama Maru 35 miles from Japan and imprisons 21 German sailors, survivors of the German liner Columbus (scuttled off the US coast on December 19 1939) who are returning to Germany. After Japanese diplomatic protests, 9 Germans will be returned to Japan by the British as "unsuitable for military service".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 142 January 20, 1940

At 4.15 AM, U-44 hits Greek steamer Ekatontarchos Dracoulis with one torpedo West of Portugal (6 lives lost). Korvettenkapitän Mathes holds fire as the survivors take to the lifeboats.

At 8.26 PM, U-57 sinks Norwegian steamer SS Miranda with one torpedo about 30 miles off the Scottish coast (14 lives lost). 3 survivors are picked up the next day by RRS Discovery II (Antarctic exploration vessel) and taken to Kirkwall.

British tanker MV Caroni River hits a mine laid the day before by U-34 and sinks during sea trials in Falmouth Bay, England. All 43 crew are taken to shore.

Speaking to Parliament, Churchill supports Finland, criticizes the ‘brutish’ Soviets and compares “Nazidom to Bolshevism”. The Finns (incorrectly) expect material aid from Britain. Hitler (correctly) guesses the Allies will act in Scandinavia. He postpones the invasion of France, Belgium and Holland until the Spring (to draw up a new plan) and turns his eyes on Norway.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 141 January 19, 1940

At 1.45 AM U-9 finishes a busy night in the North Sea. U-9 finally catches up with SS Patria again and sinks her with one torpedo (19 lives lost). 4 survivors are picked up by the Swedish merchant SS Frigg.

U-55 sinks Norwegian SS Telnes off the Orkney Islands, Scotland (18 lives lost).

At 12.50 PM, Royal Navy destroyer HMS Grenville hits a mine, capsizes and sinks in the Thames estuary (77 lives lost). Two other destroyers brave the minefield to rescue 118 survivors.

At 9 PM, French steamer SS Quiberon is hit with one torpedo from U-59 and sinks with all hands lost, off Great Yarmouth, England.

At 10 PM U-44 begins stalking Greek steamer Ekatontarchos Dracoulis in the Bay of Biscay. Around midnight, U-44 fires a torpedo that detonates prematurely.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Sunfish fires 4 torpedoes at U-14 off Heligoland, Germany but all miss.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 140 January 18, 1940

Having already destroyed Soviet 163rd & 44th divisions, Colonel Siilasvuo is ordered to take Finnish 9th division 30 miles South to Kuhmo to attack 54th division, another part of Red 9th Army (now commanded by V. I. Chuikov).

Bay of Biscay. U-44 torpedoes Danish vessel SS Canadian Reefer carrying fruit to Britain. The crew of 26 is rescued by a Spanish trawler.

U-boats hunt neutral Swedish steam merchants in the North Sea. At 4.25 PM, U-25 sinks SS Pajala with 3 torpedoes. HMS Northern Duke, escorting Pajala to Kirkwall for contraband inspection, rescues the crew of 35 and unsuccessfully attacks U-25 with depth charges. At 5.45 PM, U-55 sinks SS Foxen (17 lives lost). 2 survivors are rescued by Norwegian ships, one on Jan 24. At 10.30 PM, U-9 misses SS Patria with 2 torpedoes but sinks another Swedish boat SS Flandria with one torpedo at 11.53 PM (17 dead). 4 survivors will be rescued from a raft 2 days later by Norwegian merchant SS Balzac.

Day 139 January 17, 1940

Record cold weather strikes Finland. The mercury drops to −43°C (−45°F) on the Karelian Isthmus and −45°C (−49°F) further North in Summa. Even at noon it is −39°C (−38°F) in Taipale and Lake Lagoda freezes over completely creating new problems for the Finns. Soviet troops freeze to death while Finns stay warm in heated tents and mobile saunas. However, frostbite leads to thousands of casualties on both sides.

The German Enigma code is first broken by Polish and French cipher experts at Poste de Commandement Bruno (Chateau de Vignolles at Gretz-Armainvillers, 40 km northeast of Paris) and Dilly Knox’s team at Government Code and Cypher School (Bletchley Park, England), using a German transmission intercepted by the Poles on 28 October 1939.

U-25 torpedo British steamer SS Polzella near the Shetland Isles, Scotland. U-25 shells and torpedoes Norwegian ship SS Enid attempting to rescue Polzella’s crew of 36 (they all perish in the water). Enid’s crew of 16 takes to the lifeboats and are rescued by British trawler SS Granada and Danish merchant SS Kina.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 138 January 16, 1940

Bitter cold and heavy snow force postponement of the planned German invasion of France, Holland and Belgium scheduled for Jan 17. However, Hitler cancels the attack altogether, fearing that the plans fell into Allied hands following the plane crash at Mechelen-sur-Meuse, Belgium on Jan 10 (the Mechelen incident). Mobilization of Belgian and Dutch troops convince the Germans that the plans have been recovered intact, despite Allied deception that the plans were successfully burned by Luftwaffe Major Reinberger after the crash.

U-44, still in the Bay of Biscay, torpedoes Greek steamer SS Panachrandos at 6.11 AM. Panachrandos sinks within three minutes with all 31 hands lost.

At 4.19 PM, British tanker SS Inverdargle (with a cargo of 12,000 tons of aviation fuel) strikes a mine and sinks in the Bristol Channel (all 49 hands lost) just 30 miles from her destination at Avonmouth Docks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 137 January 15, 1940

Finland. The Finnish & Soviet Armies face each other along the entire frontier but there is little movement. On the Karelian Isthmus, Red Army shells the Mannerheim Line to wear down the Finns & chip away at their defenses. Red Army divisions have been abandoned by Stalin and are freezing all the way North from Lake Lagoda. Held at Salla, Raate & Kollaa, they are isolated and chopped into mottis by the Finns.

Bay of Biscay. At midnight, U-44 sinks Norwegian steamer SS Fagerheim with one torpedo (15 lives lost). 5 survivors are rescued and taken to Vigo, Spain. Later, at 7 AM, Dutch MV freighter Arendskerk tries to outrun U-44 but is stopped with seven shots across her bow. The crew is ordered to abandon ship and Arendskerk is sunk with one torpedo & shells from the deck gun. All 65 crew are picked up by the Italian steamer Fedora, transferred to the Dutch passenger-freighter Poelau Bras and landed at Lisbon, Portugal.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 136 January 14, 1940

The Kriegsmarine takes over planning the invasion of Norway and begins revising & expanding Studie Nord. They considerably increase the commitment of troops from one division to a full army corps (mountain division, airborne division, motorized rifle brigade & two infantry divisions) & propose a simultaneous occupation of all strategic targets to reduce the threat of Norwegian resistance (& retaliatory British intervention). To achieve coordinated arrival of troops along the Norwegian coast and increase the element of surprise, they will use German warships as troop transports instead of the much slower merchant ships or air transports with limited range. This bold plan assures operational success but risks exposing ships & troops to attack by the Royal Navy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 135 January 13, 1940

At 4.30 AM, U-20 torpedoes Swedish steamer SS Sylvia northeast of Aberdeen. Sylvia sinks within a minute with all 20 hands lost.

In a rare Soviet submarine attack, ShCh-324 surfaces and fires one torpedo (which misses) at a convoy in the Sea of Åland between Sweden and Finland. Finnish naval escort Aura II (the converted Finnish presidential yacht) drops depth charges damaging ShCh-324. However, one depth charge explodes in its thrower, obliterating the small wooden ship (26 lives lost). Finnish escort vessel Tursas picks up 15 survivors. ShCh-324 escapes back to home port.

This is the first war in history where metal is more important than men. The ability to build and replace warships and submarines, artillery and tanks, trucks and other vehicles (rather than train and replace soldiers) is paramount. British diplomatic moves to intercept shipping in Norwegian waters threaten Swedish iron ore supplies, upon which German war production depend.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 134 January 12, 1940

At 6.50 AM, U-23 hits Danish oil tanker SS Danmark (anchored in Inganess Bay, Orkney Islands, Scotland) with one torpedo. Danmark breaks in two and drifts ashore; her crew of 40 escapes. She is carrying 14000 tons of fuel from Aruba in the Caribbean, depriving the Allies of valuable fuel supplies.

The capture of German invasion plans at Mechelen on Jan 10 has several consequences. France is alerted to the planned attack. French Supreme Commander Gamelin shrewdly uses the invasion scare to pressure neutral Belgium to allow access to Allied troops. Hitler learns of the breach and goes berserk, foaming at the mouth at Luftwaffe incompetence. He blames Luftflotte 2 commander General Hellmuth Felmy and replaces him with General Albert Kesselring. Captured Luftwaffe Majors Reinberger and Hoenmanns are sentenced to death in absentia. Hoenmanns wife dies under interrogation by the Gestapo.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 133 January 11, 1940

Finland. Finnish IV Corps surrounds Soviet 168th division in the "Great Motti of Kitilä", North of Lake Lagoda. This does not precipitate a battle of destruction as happened to Soviet 44th division on Raate Road, but 168th division is immobilized, rendered ineffective and gradually broken into smaller mottis by 4th Jaeger battalion led by Major Matti Aarnio. He becomes famous as "Motti-Matti".

At 11 AM, British oil tanker SS El Oso hits a mine and sinks 6 miles west of the Bar Lightship, Liverpool (3 lives lost). Captain and 31 men are taken to Liverpool by British destroyer HMS Walker.

At 4.32 PM, U-23 torpedoes and sinks Norwegian coal carrier SS Fredville (collecting coal from Methil, Scotland), 100 miles east of the Orkney Islands (11 lives lost). 5 survivors in a lifeboat are taken to Kopervik, Norway by a Swedish ship.

Day 132 January 10, 1940

On the day that Hitler sets the date for the much-postponed invasion of France, Belgium and Holland (for January 17), the Case Yellow plans fall into Allied hands. Two Luftwaffe Majors Reinberger and Hoenmanns fly a complete set of operational plans (contravening standard security procedures) from Loddenheide airfield in Münster to 7th Air Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) Division in Cologne. They get lost in fog and crash land near Mechelen-sur-Meuse, Belgium. Their attempt to burn the plans before they are captured fails and the Belgians pass the remaining papers to the Allies. The German military attaché to Holland soon learns of the breach and Case Yellow will be cancelled forever.

Military training starts for 350 Hungarian men to fight in Finland (out of 25,000 volunteers). They will ultimately become Hungarian Volunteer Detached Battalion commanded by Lieutenant Imre Kémeri Nagy with 24 officers, 52 NCOs, 2 doctors and 2 padres.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 131 January 9, 1940

2.21 AM, Norwegian merchant Manx is torpedoed by U-19 off Northeast Scotland and sinks rapidly with 9 hands lost. 8 men escape on an upturned lifeboat but Norwegian steamer Leka rescues only 4 survivors 8 hours later. Norwegian merchant Isis rescues 2 men on a raft.

10 AM, British submarine HMS Starfish attacks German minesweeper M-7 off Heligoland Bight, Germany, but her torpedoes misfire. M-7 attacks Starfish with depth charges all day. Starfish escapes to bottom at 27m but with water pouring in, Lt. Thomas Turner orders Starfish to surface at 6.20 PM. All hands escape & are taken as POWs. Starfish sinks. After losing submarines HMS Seahorse and Undine on Jan 7, Britain suspends operations in Heligoland Bight.

British Liner SS Dunbar Castle hits a mine and sinks off Ramsgate, Southeast England. The Captain, 7 crewmen, 1 passenger and a racehorse are killed. Chief Officer Herbert Robinson wins the OBE for evacuating 189 survivors in the lifeboats.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 130 January 8, 1940

Finnish 9th division takes possession of Raate Road at dawn, as the last dug-in Soviet troops surrender around Lakes Kuivasjarvi and Kuomasjarvi (near Captain Mäkinen’s original roadblock). Mopping up stragglers in the woods will take several days. Finns capture 43 tanks, 70 field guns, 278 trucks and other vehicles, 300 machine guns, 6,000 rifles & 1,170 horses. Another entire Soviet division is gone, estimated at 10-15,000 dead (not even the Soviet know how many men went onto the Raate Road; the Finns do not bother to count the frozen bodies). Finns take only 1000 prisoners and another 700 make it back to USSR. Many of those retreating are shot by NKVD and when Finland returns the prisoners, they are also executed for ‘treason’. Finnish casualties in the Battle of Raate Road are 2,700 dead, missing and wounded.

Rationing is introduced in Britain. Each person is allowed four ounces (112 g) of bacon and 12 ounces (336 g) of sugar per week.

Day 129 January 7, 1940

Battle or Raate Road ends. The day begins with heavy fighting and ends with a complete rout of Soviet 44th division. At 3 AM, the mottis at the Western end (the head) of the Soviet column collapse completely. As the day progresses, Soviet 44th division gradually gives up the entire length of Raate Road with soldiers trying to retreat back to safety in the USSR or scattering into the woods. Finns again hold their positions where Raate Road crosses the destroyed Purasjoki River bridge, limiting the Soviet retreat. Finnish troops at the village of Raate near the border block an attempt to relieve 44th division with fresh troop from USSR. Only a few pockets of Soviet troops remain to be mopped up by the Finns.

In separate incidents near Heligoland, German Minesweepers and A/S trawlers sink Royal Navy submarines HMS Seahorse (all 36 crew lost) and HMS Undine. Undine’s crew of 27 are rescued by their attackers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 128 January 6, 1940

Battle or Raate Road. Starting at 3 AM, Finns make several cuts in the Soviet column up to 5 miles East of Mäkinen’s original roadblock. As the Finns crush this part of the column, Soviet troops start to abandon their positions and flee into the forest where they are hunted down by the Finns or freeze to death. Task Force Fagernas holds the Purasjoki River crossing against NKVD tank counterattack and also manages to cut the road again further East near the border, frustrating the arrival of any reinforcements. As his division is being chopped into ever smaller mottis, 44th’s Commander Vinogradov orders a general retreat but there is nowhere to go.

Sweden and Norway both reassert their neutrality and reject British suggestions to protect shipping in Norway’s waters with Royal Navy ships. They rightly suspect this would lead to aggressive moves by Germany both at sea and on land to protect vital supplies of Swedish iron ore.

Finnish fighter ace, Jorma Sarvanto, flying a Fokker fighters shoots down six German Ilyushin bombers in about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 127 January 5, 1940

Annihilation of Soviet 44th division begins. Colonel Siilasvuo’s Finnish 9th division attacks along the entire 20 mile length of Raate Road. They meet surprisingly strong Soviet resistance and take heavy casualties. Captain Lassila’s battalion, which has been manning a 500 meter roadblock for 3 days, takes 96 casualties (10% of its strength).The Finns only manage to cut the Raate Road once when Task Force Fagernas blows up the strategically important Purasjoki River bridge 5 miles from the border at 10 PM. Equally important, Task Force Fagernas prevents the arrival of NKVD 3rd regiment reinforcements. 44th division is now isolated and cannot move forward or retreat back into USSR.

The first Swedish volunteer troops reach Finland. Given the movement of volunteers from Sweden and Norway, USSR accuses Norway and Sweden of pursuing "unneutral" policies.

Day 126 January 4, 1940

Finland. Finns give Soviet 44th division another day to suffer in the subzero temperatures while they prepare for an assault on Raate Road. They drag guns & munitions into place and Task Force Kari clears Soviet flank forces from the village of Eskola. Many Soviet troops freeze to death or die of starvation & frostbite is widespread. Dry gangrene is common as limbs quickly mortify from frostbite & minor wounds. Amputated limbs pile up.

Britain & France develop plans to send troops to Finland overland via Norway & Sweden (requiring, of course, permission from these two neutral countries). They have a hidden agenda to seize Swedish iron ore mines at Gällivare which supply much of Germany’s war needs. British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax sends a diplomatic note to sound out Norway (Sweden is cc’d) asking to send Royal Navy vessels into Norwegian waters, citing German sinking of British merchant ships.

The first Norwegian volunteers leave Oslo for Finland.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 125 January 3, 1940

Soviet submarine S-2 hits a mine (all 50 crew lost) in the Sea of Åland between Finland and Sweden. Both countries claim the sinking in their waters.

Battle of Raate Road. Soviet 44th division stubbornly resists further attacks and the Finns do not manage to cut the stationary column. The immobilised Soviet troops desperately try to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures, flocking to field kitchens for warm food and huddling around log fires cut from the expansive forests. In simple but stunningly effective tactics, the Finns target the kitchens & fires to wear down the Soviet soldiers with cold & hunger and Finnish snipers select Red Army officers. Colonel Siilasvuo prepares for coordinated attacks on 44th division’s extended flanks. He sends two regiment-size Task Forces (TF Kari and TF Fagernas) skiing along his ice road as far as 20 miles to the Soviet border, just south of Raate.