Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 214 April 1, 1940

The invasion of Denmark and Norway is set for April 9. Hitler allocates 6 divisions (including specialist mountain infantry and paratroops) 20 light tanks and 3 experimental Neubaufahrzeug heavy tanks for Norway, plus 2 divisions for Denmark. Almost every available naval vessel will be used to transport or protect these troops. Luftwaffe will provide air support and chase off Royal Navy ships trying to intercede. This is in contrast to the small, mainly reserve, force the British intend to send to Norway without air cover.

Almost alone among the senior British military, Vice-Admiral Max Horton (commanding Royal Navy home-based submarines) anticipates a German invasion of Norway. He orders 12 submarines (including 2 French and 1 Polish vessels) to patrol the southern North Sea and the seas around Denmark, to intercept warships from naval bases German coast. HMS Sealion is the first to leave, departing Harwich naval base for the Kattegat, East of Denmark.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 213 March 31, 1940

Following French backtracking on mining the River Rhine (due to their fear of German reprisal bombings), British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain calls off mining the Norwegian coast planned for April 5. Chamberlain tells the French ambassador in London Charles Corbin “No mines, no Narvik!” This act of bravado leads to a delay which will prove to be costly.

German armed merchant cruisers (Hilfskreuzer) Atlantis, Orion and Widder depart from Kiel, with WWI battleship SMS Hessen acting as an icebreaker, for operations against Allied shipping. Atlantis will prove the most successful German commerce raider, sailing 100,000 miles and sinking 22 ships (over 140,000 tons) in a voyage lasting 602 days (until November 22, 1941).

Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Wilhelm Behrens falls overboard from U-43 and drowns in the Atlantic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 212 March 30, 1940

To foil Prime Minister Reynaud’s aggressive plans, French Minister of Defense Édouard Daladier (and ex-PM) persuades the French War Committee not to ratify British plans to lay mines in the River Rhine (Operation Royal Marine). The British respond by threatening to suspend the laying of mines in Norwegian coastal waters (Operation Wilfred).

Japan, under pressure to hold onto conquered territories in China, establishes a puppet government for China under the leadership of Wang Jingwei. The Government of National Salvation of the collaborationist "Republic of China", based in Nanking, is based on the Three Principles of pan-Asianism, anti-Communism, and opposition to Chiang Kai-shek. Wang will maintain contact with German and Italian officials, an attempt to link China with The Tripartite Pact between Japan, Germany and Italy.

Day 211 March 29, 1940

Following the decision to mine Norwegian waters, British General Staff hastily devises Plan R4 to react to German intervention. 1st Cruiser Squadron will deliver 1 infantry brigade to Narvik & 1 battalion to Trondheim from Rosyth. A battalion each will go to Stavanger & Bergen on slower transport ships. All are lightly-eqipped with no heavy artillery or tanks. They will be screened by Royal Navy ships but receive no air cover from either RAF or carrier-based aircraft. Purely reactive in nature, R4 naïvely assumes Allied troops will arrive before the Germans. In contrast, Germans intend to land 2 full divisions with full naval & air cover, quickly followed by 4 more complete with artillery & tanks, in an intricate but carefully-planned feat of combined arms.

Armed merchant cruiser HMS Transylvania intercepts German freighter Mimi Horn (en route from Curacao, Dutch Caribbean) between Iceland & Greenland. Mimi Horn is scuttled & Transylvania picks up all 41 crew.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 210 March 28, 1940

Allied Supreme War Council meeting in London resolves that neither Britain nor France will make a separate peace with Germany. However, French ideas to attack Soviet shipping and oilfields are rejected to avoid bringing USSR into the war against the Allies. As a compromise to initiate some aggressive action, the Allies decide to lay mines in Norwegian coastal waters (Operation Wilfred) starting April 5. Churchill hopes to provoke a German response, legitimizing Allied “assistance” to Norway with the goal of interrupting Swedish iron ore shipments to Germany. The French agree in principle to Churchill’s plan to drop mines in the River Rhine (Operation Royal Marine) also starting on April 5, pending ratification by the French War Committee.

Norwegian steamer SS Burgos hits a German mine and sinks 30 miles West of Skegness, England. Egret class sloop HMS Pelican rescues the crew.

Day 209 March 27, 1940

To prepare for Supreme War Council meeting on March 28, the British War Cabinet debates Paul Reynaud’s note suggesting attacks on Soviet oilfields at Baku and shipping in the Black Sea. They unanimously reject the idea of any attacks on USSR, to avoid conflict with the Soviets in addition to Germany. The British position is communicated to General Gamelin and the other French Chiefs of Staff at a preliminary meeting. Reports of these deliberations by the French news agency Havas, apparently from official French sources, further infuriate the British and alert Germany to possible Allied intentions.

U-22 goes missing in the North Sea probably lost to a mine (all 27 hands lost).

Day 208 March 26, 1940

U-38 stops Norwegian MV Cometa 65 miles northwest of Noup Head, Orkney Islands, and demands to see her papers. Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe gives Cometa’s crew and passengers one hour to abandon ship. Cometa had previously been boarded by HMS Kingston Peridot; therefore, a Royal Navy officer and four naval ratings are aboard for the passage to Kirkwall, Orkneys. At 2.20 AM U-38 fires one torpedo and sinks Cometa but the crew of 31, 6 Swedish passengers and the 5 British sailors take to the lifeboats and are picked up by HMS Northern Sky.

Day 207 March 25, 1940

French PM Reynaud writes to British War Cabinet, proposing various courses of action such as Churchill’s idea to mine Norwegian coastal waters or attacking Soviet shipping and oil production. Chamberlain is horrified at the idea of any attacks on USSR, assessing Reynaud as desperate to do something to justify his new role.

At 5.40 AM, U-47 sinks Danish steamer Britta 30 miles North of Scotland (13 lives lost). 5 survivors are picked up by Danish steamer Nancy and landed at Swansea, Wales.

At 8.11 PM, U-57 sinks British steam tanker Daghestan (7600 tons crude oil) 9 miles east of Orkney Islands (3 lives lost). 29 survivors are picked up by armed anti-submarine trawlers HMS Northern Wave & HMS Brontes and landed at Lyness, Orkneys. Daghestan is being escorted to to Sullom Voe after being damaged in German air attacks on convoy HN20.

British government forbids captured servicemen from participating in propaganda radio broadcasts for the enemy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 206 March 24, 1940

Following the Finnish capitulation, the Allies lose focus on Scandinavia and their plans diverge. The British attend to shoring up their air defenses following the bombing of Scapa Flow on March 16. Paul Reynaud’s new French government considers anything that will not involve fighting on French soil, including submarine attacks on Soviet shipping in the Black Sea or bombing Soviet oilfields at Baku on the Caspian Sea to deprive USSR and Germany of oil.

A torpedo accidentally explodes as French destroyer La Railleuse is leaving port in Casablanca. La Railleuse is destroyed and 28 crewmen are killed with 24 wounded.

Day 205 March 23, 1940

The British Malaya Force is formed to watch German merchant ships in Dutch East Indies, including destroyers HMS Stronghold and HMS Tenedos, cruisers HMS HMS Dauntless, HMS Danae and HMS Durban, sloop HMS Falmouth and submarines HMS Perseus and HMS Rainbow.

At 11.30 PM, a British submarine (either HMS Truant or HMS Trident) intercepts German merchant Edmund Hugo Stinnes IV, en route to Copenhagen, and fires five warning shots 6 miles off the West coast of Denmark. As expected, the steamer heads for shore and is scuttled. The submarine applies a coup de grâce with two torpedoes to prevent salvage.

Day 204 March 22, 1940

French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud keeps his predecessor Édouard Daladier as Minister of War. Due to their opposite political views and personal animosity, Reynaud and Daladier cannot agree or cooperate on any plan, which hampers French war planning and especially complicates the alliance with the British.

Soviet Union begins the occupation the Finnish port of Hanko and the rest of the Hanko peninsula, under the lease agreed in the Moscow Peace Treaty of March 12/13. The area is renamed Hangö by the Soviets.

Day 203 March 21, 1940

The French the Chamber of Deputies elects Paul Reynaud as Prime Minister and he forms a new government.

At 1 AM, U-38 sinks neutral Danish MV Algier (from New York to Copenhagen, carrying 302 tons of copper, 228 tons of tin, 130 bottles of mercury and 11 Studebaker motor cars) 15 miles north of Shetland Islands (4 crew and 1 passenger lost). 18 survivors in a lifeboat are picked up by British trawler Manx King and landed at Scalloway. At 3.26 AM, Danish SS Christiansborg (carrying 4107 tons of maize from USA) is also torpedoed by U-38 but does not sink (1 dead). 24 survivors are rescued from stricken Christiansborg by British armed boarding vessel HMS Discovery II and taken to Kirkwall.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 202 March 20, 1940

Battle of the Atlantic. Developing a taste for small fry, U-19 sinks two more unescorted Danish steamers in the Moray Firth, Scotland. SS Viking is sunk at 5 AM (15 dead, 2 survivors) and SS Bothal is sunk at 5.15 (15 lives lost, 5 survivors).

U-22 departs Wilhelmshaven and is lost shortly thereafter (all 27 hands lost), failing to respond to orders on March 22, 26, 27.

Off the coast of Holland, British bombers sink the converted steamer Altenfels now known as German Sperrbrecher 12 (path-clearing ship, designed to detonate minefields).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 201 March 19, 1940

The British House of Commons debates ineffectual support for Finland in the Winter War. Chamberlain’s weak leadership is heavily criticized but he survives; however, French Prime Minister Daladier resigns after a vote of no confidence.

Overnight, 8 Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of 10 Squadron No.4 Group RAF Bomber Command, carrying 1,500 lb mixed bomb loads, drop the first Allied bombs on Germany. They attack Hornum seaplane base, in response to German bombing of Home Fleet in Scapa Flow on March 16.

At 3 AM, destroyer HMS Jervis collides with Swedish steamer Tor northeast of Blyth. Jervis is extensively damaged (2 killed, 15 missing) and will be out of action until July 1940.

U-19 sinks two small, neutral Danish steamers in the Moray Firth, Scotland. At 10.21 PM, SS Minsk, 11 lives lost, 9 survivors picked up by British destroyer HMS Esk. At 10.37 PM, SS Charkow, all 20 hands lost.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 200 March 18, 1940

Mussolini and Hitler meet in the Brenner Pass at the Austrian-Italian border to reaffirm their pact of Steel. Mussolini makes vague promises to enter the war on the side of Germany "at an opportune moment", believing that Hitler is overoptimistic in his plans for dominance in Europe. Things will move faster than he thinks.

The British and French public and newspapers clamour for explanations for the failure to help Finland in the Winter War. The French government of Édouard Daladier comes under particular criticism for the lack of action in Finland, as well as Poland and on the German border.

German bombers of KG26 bomb and strafe Dutch trawler Protinus off the Dutch coast, near Ijmuiden (the captain and first mate are killed). 10 crewmembers abandon ship in a lifeboat but 2 more die at sea. After 6 days in the open boat, the remaining 8 crew will be rescued by British submarine HMS Unity and landed on the East coast of Scotland.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 199 March 17, 1940

British Admiralty admits the vulnerability of the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow to air attack, after yesterday’s air raid, and orders the fleet to sea during the next moonlight period on March 19 to 26. Predicting this move, German submarines U-57, U-19, U-21 and U-22 begin moving into position to attack British ships leaving Scapa Flow.

At 11.25 PM, U-38 sinks Danish MV Argentina (carrying general cargo from Copenhagen to South America, via Las palmas, Spain) with one torpedo east of Shetland Islands, Scotland, en route to South America. All 33 hands on board are lost.

Day 198 March 16, 1940

Yugoslavian steamer Slava hits a mine laid by U-29 on March 2 and sinks in the Bristol Channel (1 life lost, 33 survivors).

At 8 PM, 32 Junkers Ju 88s dive bombers of KG30 attack the Royal Navy Home Fleet in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. Cruiser HMS Norfolk is hit with one bomb that passes through the upper, main & lower decks and explodes, blowing a hole below the water line (6 lives lost). James Isbister (age 27) is killed by bombs dropped on the village of “Bridge of Waithe” on the shore of Scapa Flow, becoming the first British civilian death on land. There will be many more.

Despite the damage, HMS Norfolk will leave Scapa Flow under her own steam on March 19 for repairs in the Clyde until June 14.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 197 March 15, 1940

Alan Turing’s development of the Polish "cryptologic bomb" yields the British Bombe at Government Code and Cypher School, Bletchley Park, England. The first working Bombe (named "Victory"), manufactured by the British Tabulating Machine Company at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, goes operational decrypting daily settings on the German Enigma machines.

The Finnish Parliament ratifies the Moscow Peace Treaty by 145 votes to 3 (52 abstentions, including Prime Minister Voionmaa who is traveling from Moscow and can not vote).

Emphasizing the global nature of the growing conflict, Royal Navy armed merchant cruiser HMS Kanimbla (a converted Australian passenger ship) impounds Soviet steamer Vladimir Mayakovsky carrying American copper to Germany in the Sea of Japan. She will be taken to Hong Kong, handed over to the French and sailed to Saigon, Vietnam arriving on 1 April.

At 7.30 AM in the Bay of Bengal near the Nicobar Islands, British aircraft carrier HMS Eagle is damaged when a 250 pound bomb explodes in the bomb room in an operational mishap (14 lives lost). HMS Eagle will be repaired and refitted in Singapore, leaving 9 May for the Mediterranean.

Day 196 March 14, 1940

The Finnish Parliament meets to debate ratification of Moscow Peace Treaty.

Over 450,000 Finnish civilians start leaving their homes in Karelia and the Salla region, after these territories are ceded to USSR in The Moscow Peace Treaty. They will all be gone within 12 days, leaving only burned villages for the Soviets.

In the aftermath of the Finnish surrender, British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax asks to get back the small amounts of war materiel sent to Finland. The Finnish ambassador to London, G.A. Gripenberg, reminds Halifax that Finland bought everything and intends to hang on to it. Halifax drops the matter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 195 March 13, 1940

The Winter War is over after 105 days. At 2 AM in Moscow, 1 AM in Finland, Finnish and Soviet delegates sign the Moscow Peace Treaty (documents are dated March 12, having been prepared by the Soviets the day before). However, the ceasefire is not scheduled until 11 AM Finnish time. In a vengeful act to punish the beaten and humiliated Finns, Red Army gunners shell the Finnish lines all morning, emptying their magazines as much as possible.

Finns lose 26,662 killed & 41,692 wounded. Civilian casualties are 892 dead & 1,856 wounded. 65 seamen die in the Finnish merchant fleet.

Soviet losses are 126,875 dead & 264,908 wounded, plus unknown numbers killed by NKVD behind Soviet lines and hospitalized with frostbite and other illnesses.

The Allies are robbed by the Finnish collapse of any pretext to move into Norway and Sweden. British troops march off the transport ships without having left port. The Allies do not abandon their ambition for action in Scandinavia. Churchill understands the importance of Norway to both sides and writes to British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax “Whether they [the Germans] have some positive plan of their own [for Norway]… I cannot tell. It would seem to me astonishing if they have not”.

[Footnote: The Finns kept remarkable records of their casualties, so these numbers are reliable. USSR on the other hand had no reliable records, so their casualty figure are at best SWAG (scientific wild-assed guess). Official Soviet estimates of casualties range from 200,000 killed and wounded (Molotov, just after the Winter War) to 1 million (in Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs he states that 1.5 million Red soldiers went into Finland and only half a million came out). Neither of these figures is correct and the answer is somewhere in the middle.

The Gulf of Finland islands & the lands in Karelia (Isthmus and areas surrounding Lake Ladoga) and at Salla, given up by Finland in 1940, continue to be Soviet territory to this day. However, USSR formally renounced its lease on the Hanko Peninsula in the Paris peace treaty of 1947.]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 194 March 12, 1940

At 9 AM, Finnish President Kyösti Kallio gives his delegates in Moscow full powers to negotiate peace terms, effectively conceding to Soviet demands. Finland loses 35,000 square kiometers (about 10% of the country), giving up Salla in Lapland plus the entire Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia (the area surrounding Lake Ladoga). As this includes the city of Viipuri & the towns of Sortavala and Käkisalmi, over 430,000 Karelian Finns are displaced (about 12 % of the population). In addition, Soviets lease Hanko peninsula as a naval base for 30 years. Kallio notes "This is the most awful document I have ever had to sign. May the hand wither which is forced to sign such a paper."

Finnish military collapse around Viipuri continues. A little late to help, Sweden offers to begin talks on a defensive alliance with Finland.

The British embark about 20,000 troops on transport ships to land in Norway. The main force of 5 brigades boards troop transports at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, to land at Tronheim, Bergen and Stavanger. At Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, the landing force intended for Narvik is a single brigade, which is at odds with the strategic aims of pushing through Narvik to the Swedish iron ore mines at Gällivare. The troops are an incoherent force pulled from various units held in reserve in England (10 divisions of the main British army are in France with the BEF) and many are poorly trained reservists. In addition the whole force is wildly under-equipped with little or no artillery or anti-aircraft guns.

The ships do not depart, however, awaiting orders to begin the operation, while the British War Cabinet debates operational plans (especially how to deal with Norwegian or Swedish armed opposition to the landings and subsequent troop movements through their countries). British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is still against the whole operation, particularly armed conflict with the neutral Scandinavian countries should they not welcome the British and French intervention.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 193 March 11, 1940

The Soviet noose tightens around Viipuri, with fighting in many suburbs. 5 Soviet tanks reach Tammisuo station in northeast Viipuri. At 6 PM, Finnish delegates in Moscow meet for final talks at the Kremlin and agree to Soviet terms to end the Winter War. The Finnish public is told for the first time about the Moscow peace talks.

British and French governments, under public pressure to do something to aid Finland, decide to send troops into Scandinavia to capture Swedish iron mines before a Soviet-Finnish peace robs them of an excuse. The Allies hope for cooperation from Norway and Sweden, despite repeated statements that they will resist. The question of whether, or how, to respond to Norwegian or Swedish armed resistance is left unanswered.

An Italian volunteer in the Finnish Air Force, Diego Manzochi is killed when his plane runs out of fuel. He had flown his own Fiat fighter to Finland in Dec 1939.

At 3.17 AM, U-28 hits Dutch tanker Eulota with 1 torpedo 125 miles west of Quessant, France. Eulota breaks in two and catches fire but she does not sink. All 42 crew abandon ship after the torpedo hits but reboard. British destroyers HMS Broke and Wild Swan pick up the survivors and scuttle Eulota.

On sea trials in Jade Bay near Wilhelmshaven submarine base, U-31 is sighted by a British Bristol Blenheim of 82 squadron (RAF Bomber Command) which drops 4 antisubmarine bombs, scoring 2 hits (58 lives lost, all 48 crew and 10 dock workers). Interestingly, U-31 will be refloated later in March and sunk again by depth charges from HMS Antelope on Nov 2 1940, becoming the only German submarine to sink twice in WWII.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 192 March 10, 1940

Finnish negotiators Ryti, Paasikivi, Walden & Voionmaa in Moscow again meet Molotov, Zdanov & Vasilevski at the Kremlin for 2 hours. The Finns try to revise the peace terms but to no avail. The Soviets will change ‘not a single comma’, according to Finnish Prime Minister Ryti. Meanwhile, Red Army closes in around Viiprui, Finland’s second city and gateway to the capital, Helsinki.

German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop meets Mussolini in Italy. He informs Mussolini of Hitler’s plan to invade France (although not in great detail) and assures him of a swift victory, hoping for an Italian commitment to join the war with Germany. Mussolini is not convinced and, knowing that his forces are not ready to fight a modern war, prefers to sit on the sidelines and await the result. Mussolini promises only to intervene as soon as possible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 191 March 9, 1940

Finland. Soviets take Tali village on the outskirts, almost surrounding Viipuri. Red Army is in control of the Western shore of Viipuri Bay & most of the islands. However, Finnish aircraft strafe Soviet troops on the ice and shoot down 3 Soviet fighters. In the evening, Finnish Government in Helsinki considers Soviet peace demands including Lake Ladoga and Salla district in Lapland. Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim suggests there is no alternative to surrender.

British release the Italian coal ships detained on 7 March, on the eve of German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop’s visit to Rome. Italy can continue to import German coal only via an overland route. This British concession attempts to prevent further Italian/German alliance.

Battle of the Atlantic. U-14 sinks 3 British steamers 5 miles off the Belgian coast near Zeebrugge. At 5.42 AM, SS Borthwick is sunk with 1 torpedo. All 21 crew are picked up by Dutch pilot Loodsboot No.9 and landed at Flushing, Holland the next day. At 11.30 PM, U-14 hits SS Abbotsford with 1 torpedo. Another British steamer SS Akeld turns around to help but is torpedoed and sinks (all 12 hands lost). At 11.55 PM, U-14 finishes off SS Abbotsford with a second torpedo (all 19 hands lost).

U-38 spots 6 trawlers (with lights on, indicating neutrality) 10 miles North of Aran Island, Ireland. From 200m, U-38 fires a warning shot from its deck gun at 9.13 PM. Irish trawler Leukos is hit and sinks (all 11 hands lost).

At 11.17 PM, U-28 sinks neutral Greek steamer P. Margaronis with 1 torpedo (all 30 hands lost), 125 miles West of Brest, France.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 190 March 8, 1940

Finland. Red Army closes in on Viipuri, with fighting in the suburb of Tali. They capture more islands in Viipurinlahti Bay. Finnish delegates in Moscow begin negotiations in the evening with Molotov, Zdanov and General Vasilevski but not Stalin, to their disappointment. Finns ask for a ceasefire during negotiations. The Soviets know that they are about to take Viipuri and refuse, preferring to negotiate from a position of strength.

British steamer Counsellor (command ship of HX-22 convoy’s commodore Rear Admiral Franklin) strikes a mine in Liverpool Bay, England. The Admiral, his 7 naval staff and all 70 crew are picked up by destroyer HMS Walpole and landed at Liverpool. These mines laid on 6 Jan by U-30 have claimed 6 ships (total 33,000 tons).

British cruiser HMS Dunedin & Canadian destroyer HMCS Assiniboine capture German steamer SS Hanover near Jamaica. Hannover will be converted into escort aircraft carrier HMS Audacity.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 189 March 7, 1940

Finland. Fighting continues around Viipuri. Red Army breaks through the last defensive line in several places, threatening Finland’s second city. Juho Kusti Paasikivi returns to Moscow in defeat (having led the failed Dec 1939 territorial negotiations with Molotov & Stalin). Finnish Prime Minister Ryti, Paasikivi, Rudolf Walden & Väinö Voionmaa arrive in Moscow in the evening (via Stockholm) to discuss peace terms with the Soviets.

Britain detains 9 Italian ships carrying German coal through the English Channel from Rotterdam. They are held at The Downs, off Deal, Kent, while the British government decides what to do next. Four more colliers on their way from Rotterdam will also be impounded. Coal-starved Italy believes this is a crude attempt to force a ‘coal for arms’ deal with the British who are in need of weaponry.

Hitler allocates 8 divisions to the invasion of Norway and Denmark.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 188 March 6, 1940

In a propaganda disaster, Dutch submarines O9, 10 & 11 are filmed leaving Den Helder Naval Base when armored tug BV3 enters the harbor & collides with O11. A film cameraman & 26 crew escape as O11 sinks but 3 men die trapped in flooded forward torpedo room & battery room/crew's quarters. The incident is shown on newsreels.

Finland. Fighting continues South, East and West of Viipuri, including on frozen Viipuri Bay. Foreign Minister Tanner asks if the Allies offer of military assistance still stands. The Allies demand a formal request from Finland by March 12. In addition, Paasikivi leaves for Moscow in the evening, with the other peace delegates Prime Minister Risto Ryti, Rudolf Walden & Väinö Voionmaa, to negotiate an armistice with the Soviets.

Cruiser HMS Berwick intercepts and boards German freighter Uruguay northeast of Iceland. However, Uruguay’s crew sets her on fire so she is unsalvageable and Berwick sinks her with gunfire.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 187 March 5, 1940

USSR has about 15,000 Polish officers held in 3 POW camps in western Belarus & Ukraine. Stalin & the Politburo decide to murder the officers & other Polish prisoners, fearing anti-Soviet resistance if they are released and declaring them “enemies of the Soviet Union”. The Polish officers at Kozelsk camp are shot & buried in a forest near the village of Katyn. The whole episode becomes known as Katyn massacre.

Finland. Red Army controls Viipuri Bay despite taking heavy losses from strafing by Finnish aircraft and shelling. They capture more islands and push inland on the Western shore. Clearly with the upper hand, USSR renews its peace offer on the same harsh terms that expired March 1. Finnish Government accepts defeat, its defenses crumbing, and decides to open peace talks.

At 9 PM, U-17 torpedoes Dutch steamer SS Grutto 20 miles from the Belgian coast. Grutto sinks in 6 minutes (all 18 hands lost).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 186 March 4, 1940

At midnight 30 miles North of Land’s End England, French steamer S.N.A.1 sinks after colliding with British SS Thurston, which rescues her crew of 30. However, U-29 sinks Thurston (cargo 4500 tons of manganese) at 5.23 AM (64 lives lost). 3 of Thurston’s crew are rescued by British SS Moyle. Only 1 French sailor survives both sinkings, rescued by a trawler after 11 hours on an overturned lifeboat.

U-29 also sinks British MV Pacific Reliance (carrying aircraft parts from USA) at 12.39 PM. All 53 crew are picked up by British merchant Macville and landed at Newlyn, Cornwall.

Finland. There is continued fighting around Viipuri, particularly on the Vuoksi River near Äyräpää church. At noon Soviet troops and tanks reinforce the beachhead on the western shore of Viipuri Bay but Finnish artillery and planes take a heavy toll of Red Army soldiers advancing on the ice.

Day 185 March 3, 1940

Churchill’s disinformation pays off. Luftwaffe bombs Southampton when liner Queen Elizabeth is due to arrive. Instead she is headed West to USA.

Finland. Soviet troops continue attacking across frozen Viipuri Bay. They reinforce the beachhead on the Western shore of the bay and take another island, Uuras. Finnish Commander-in-Chief dishonorably discharges General Wallenius who has failed to organize a defense of Viipuri Bay (he lost his nerve and remained drunk at HQ). He appoints Lieutenant-General Lennart Oesch to replace Wallenius in command of the Coastal Group to defend Viipuri from the ice.,_Leningrad_Oblast

Cruiser HMS York stops German steamer Arucas, 50 miles South of Iceland. The crew scuttles Arucas (3 lives lost). York rescues 39 survivors who will be landed at Kirkwall, Scotland on March 10.

U-29 lays mines in Bristol Channel; British steamer SS Cato hits one and sinks (13 lives lost). 2 survivors are rescued by minesweeper HMS Akita.

Day 184 March 2, 1940

Finland. Soviets attack the city of Viipuri from the South & East and also across the ice of Viipuri Bay, again reaching the western shore. However, they are slaughtered by shelling until the coastal batteries at Tuppuransaari run out of ammunition. The islands of Tuppuransaari and Teikarsaari are taken by the Soviets.

Britain and France request Sweden and Norway to allow passage of Allied troops going to Finland. The Allies still expect a formal request for assistance from Finland.

After traveling 3 weeks by train officially classified as "tourists going to ski-camp", Hungarian Volunteer Detached Battalion arrives in Finland at a training center in Lapua. They learn winter warfare and to ski. However, Soviet/Finnish peace treaty will be signed before they see action.

Liner Queen Elizabeth leaves the Clyde allegedly going to Southampton escorted by destroyers HMS Mohawk, Punjabi, Fortune & Foxhound; in reality she heads to New York.

Battle of the Atlantic. A Heinkel 111H bombs British liner Domala and machineguns survivors escaping by lifeboat (108 lives lost, 183 survivors). The Dutch ship Jong Willem rescues 48 of the survivors and is also attacked.

Cruiser HMS Berwick stops German steamer Wolfsburg, disguised as Norwegian ship Aust, North of Iceland. Wolfsburg is scuttled and Berwick picks up 54 crew, finally sinking Wolfsburg with gunfire.

German steamer Heidelberg which left Aruba Feb 29 is intercepted by British cruiser HMS Dunedin 60 miles west. She is scuttled and Dunedin picks up 25 crew. The crews of Heidelberg and Troja will be detained in a British internment camp in Jamaica.

Day 183 March 1, 1940

Finland. USSR’s Feb 23 peace offer expires; Finns hold out for more Allied offers of assistance. Finnish ambassadors in London and Paris ask for 100 bombers and 50,000 troops. Illustrating the discord among the Allies, the French promise these assets while Britain realistically notes that these are not available. Red Army is now only 6 km from Viipuri and cuts several main roads into the city, overtaking retreating Finnish defenders. Major-General Wallenius transfers from Lapland to command a new Coastal Group defending Viipuri from attacks across the ice. He panics at the sight of the defenses and goes off to get drunk. Further North, Lieutenant-Colonel Magnus Dyrssen, commander of the Swedish volunteer battalion which took over the Salla front on 28 Feb, is killed by shellfire.

Battle of the Atlantic. Heinkel 111s bomb and sink Norwegian D/S Vestfoss (cargo of coal) 10 miles East of the Orkneys. All 19 crew are rescued from the lifeboats by trawler Star of Liberty. p:// At 3.15 AM, U-20 stops Italian steamer SS Mirella with 1 torpedo in the English Channel (cargo of coal). U-20 returns and sinks her at 9.14 PM (1 dead, 29 survivors).

Day 182 February 29, 1940

Finns mount a fighting retreat as Red Army continues its offensive up Karelian Isthmus towards Viipuri. In addition, Soviets attempt to outflank Viipuri by crossing frozen Gulf of Finland. They come ashore 15 miles West of Viipuri but cannot reinforce the beachhead and are repelled by the Finns. However, Soviets capture Teikari Island.

Finns overrun East Lemetti Motti at 4 AM (3100 Soviet dead) capturing 5 field guns, 1 antitank gun, 71 tanks, 12 armored cars, 6 antiaircraft machineguns, 206 trucks & 70 machineguns.

Battle of the Atlantic. U-20 sinks Italian steamer SS Maria Rosa with 1 torpedo in the English Channel (12 dead, 17 survivors).

German steamers Heidelberg & Troja leave Aruba, Dutch Caribbean, after dark trying to evade Allied naval vessels. Troja is intercepted 10 miles out by British cruiser HMS Despatch. Following standing orders to prevent capture of merchant ships, Troja’s crew sets fires & abandons ship. Troja sinks next day.!4E8A7BFDA153F305!259.entry

Day 181 February 28, 1940

At 0.45 AM, Soviet High Command permits 34th Tank Brigade to retreat from East Lemetti Motti. The Finns allow about 2750 Soviet troops including sick and wounded to escape on foot - about 1000 make the Red Army lines to the South (250 die en route), but all 1500 men moving East are hunted down and annihilated by Finns on skis. Finnish attacks continue overnight on the motti, which is notable for the large number of Soviet tanks (about 100 many of which are dug in as fixed artillery).

Further North, Swedish Volunteer Corps (Svenska Frivilligkåren) takes over front line duty at Märkäjärvi in Salla. Although officially non-belligerent, 8,402 Swedes, 1,010 Danes and 895 Norwegians volunteer go to Finland. They will lose 28 dead, 50 wounded and 140 invalids with frostbite.

Allies again promise to send troops to Finland and urge Finland to legitimise their actions with a formal appeal for assistance.

British battleship HMS Duke of York is launched, although she will not be commissioned for active service until 4 November 1941.