Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 272 May 29, 1940

Dunkirk. 33,558 British troops are evacuated from Dunkirk harbour and 13,752 from the beaches. As the weather clears, Luftwaffe planes strafe and bomb the ships and waiting soldiers. Despite Göring’s promise, it is clear that the Luftwaffe cannot prevent the evacuation in the face of RAF patrols and anti-aircraft fire from the Royal Navy ships.

At 12.40 AM, British destroyer HMS Wakeful is torpedoed by German torpedoboat S-30 13 miles North of Nieuport and sinks immediately (97 crew and 640 soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk killed, 25 crew and 1 soldier rescued by minesweepers HMS Gossamer& HMS Lydd, destroyer HMS Grafton and armed trawler HMS Comfort). HMS Grafton is torpedoed by U-62 (4 crew killed). Remaining crew and those just rescued from Wakeful are taken off by destroyer HMS Ivanhoe which then sinks Grafton with gunfire. HMS Comfort is mistaken for another torpedoboat and rammed by HMS Lydd (4 killed, 2 survivors).

Destroyer HMS Grenade is hit by three bombs (one going down her funnel) at East mole, Dunkirk (18 killed). Alongside Grenade, destroyer HMS Jaguar is badly damaged by a bomb (13 killed, 19 wounded). Minesweeper HMS Waverley (carrying around 600 troops just rescued from the beaches) is also bombed and sinks rapidly (about 350 lives lost).

U-37 sinks French steamer Marie José and British oil tanker Telena (18 dead, 18 survivors picked by up Spanish fishing boats) off Cape Finisterre, Spain.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 271 May 28, 1940

Narvik, Norway. British, French, Polish & Norwegian forces attack across the Rombaksfjord from Oyord in landing craft and by land from the East and West. Naval bombardment of German positions begins at midnight, aided by the broad daylight at this latitude (it is dark at the same time at airfields further South, preventing Luftwaffe bombers taking off in response). French Foreign Legion comes ashore with 5 French light tanks at 12.15 AM. Luftwaffe arrives at 4.30 AM, forcing the Allied fleet to withdraw & damaging the command vessel cruiser Cairo with 2 bombs (10 killed, 7 wounded). Narvik is in Allied hands by midday after several hours of back & forth hand-to-hand fighting.

Just after midnight, King Leopold III as Commander-in-Chief accepts Hitler’s terms and surrenders Belgian Army. He does not consult the Allies or the Belgian government and both hold him in strong contempt for his actions.

Dunkirk. While heavy fighting rages around the perimeter, 11,874 Allied troops are evacuated from Dunkirk harbour and another 5,930 from the beaches. A flotilla of British fishing boats and small pleasure craft arrives to assist in the rescue. The small boats are able to get into shallow water and ferry men out to the larger warships for the journey to England.

Seige of Lille. 40,000 French soldiers, the remainder of the once-mighty First Army, are surrounded at Lille by 7 German divisions (3 armoured divisions, including Rommel’s). They will fight a delaying action until May 31, while the evacuation of Dunkirk proceeds.

Near Abbeville, French Char B1 Bis tank 'Jeanne d'Arc' remains functional after 90 hits in 2 hours.

At 9.24 AM, U-37 sinks French liner SS Brazza 100 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain (79 crew & 300 passengers killed). 53 crew & 144 passengers are rescued by French gunboat Enseigne Henry and armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 270 May 27, 1940

Dunkirk. British & French fall back towards the coast, pressured by Panzer divisions (released from Hitler’s stop order) and bombed by Luftwaffe at Poperinge. 4 British divisions under General Alan Brook hold the Ypres-Comines canal (Battle of Wytschaete). The first 7,669 British troops are evacuated from Dunkirk harbour. Germans advance within 4 miles, bringing Dunkirk in artillery range.

British withdrawal uncovers the Belgian right flank and allows Reichenau's 6th Army to storm through. At 5 PM, King Leopold III of the Belgians appeals to the Germans for peace terms, with Belgian refugees crowded in a thin strip of land behind the collapsing line. Hitler’s reply at 10 PM, “unconditional surrender”.

3rd SS Panzer Totenkopf Division troops under Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein machinegun 97 British prisoners of war in the French village of Le Paradis. The only 2 survivors will later testify against Knöchlein, leading to his execution for war crimes in 1949.

150 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain, U-37 sinks British SS Sheaf Mead (32 lives lost, 5 rescued and taken to Ireland) and scuttles Argentinian SS Uruguay (13 crew rescued and taken to Spain; a lifeboat with 15 others is never found).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 269 May 26, 1940

200 German bombers and artillery pound the Citadel at Calais and German troops cross the canals forming the last Allied defensive line. At 4 PM, Brigadier Claude Nicholson surrenders at the Citadel. British losses are 300 killed, 200 wounded evacuated by boat and 3500 taken prisoner. Thousands of French and Belgian troops are captured. German losses are 750-800 killed or wounded.

Dunkirk. British War Cabinet sends a telegram to General Lord Gort authorizing the British Expeditionary Force withdrawal to Dunkirk. RAF Vice-Marshal Keith Park assigns 16 squadrons of No. 11 Group to protect the port. BEF’s retreat around Lille, France, leaves a gap in the Allied lines exposing the French left flank and Belgian right flank to the Walther von Reichenau's 6th Army. The Belgians fall back to the River Leie. The French 1st Army is essentially encircled.

Narvik. Anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curlew sunk by German Ju-88 bombers (9 lives lost). The loss of Curlew’s aircraft warning radar outfit deprived the Allies of early warnings of incoming aircraft.

U-13 and U-48 leave dock at Kiel to join the growing fleet attacking Allied shipping around the British Isles.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 268 May 25, 1940

With 1st Panzer Division only 10 miles from Dunkirk (plus 2nd & 6th Panzer Divisions ready to tear up the coast) Hitler maintains his orders to hold them in their current positions. British, French and Belgian forces continue to fall back towards the Channel coast in an orderly retreat, covering each other’s flanks, under pressure by Bock’s Army Group B from the North and West. British Expeditionary Force uses the respite to reinforce defenses around Dunkirk, including the many canals.

Despite Guderian’s orders to leave Calais to the Luftwaffe, 10th Panzer continues to attack. British and French defenders fall back but still hold the city and harbour, where small fishing and pleasure boats begin evacuating the wounded.

In the evening, General Lord Gort decides to withdraw the BEF to Dunkirk, following assurances from War Minister Anthony Eden on May 23 that naval and air forces would be available for an evacuation by sea.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 267 May 24, 1940

10th Panzer Division attacks Calais but British and French defenders hold them off.

Further North, 1st Panzer reaches the Aa Canal 10 miles from Dunkirk, threatening encirclement of French and British armies in Belgium. Only 1 BEF battalion defends Dunkirk. However, Hitler halts the Panzers, not risking his precious armour against Allied armies in the coastal wetlands of Belgium. He is assured by Göring that the Luftwaffe can prevent any evacuation. Generals Brauchitsch and Halder rail against the order but are told it comes from the very top. Even Guderian, who has bent and ignored orders to get to the coast, had no choice but to comply.

With BEF trapped in Belgium and British Isles potentially under threat of invasion, British War Cabinet decides to bring home their remaining troops in Norway. They inform French General Béthouart, in command of the attack, who decides to continue with the capture of Narvik anyway before evacuation. Revenge anyone?

At 2.48 AM, 200 miles West of Brest, France, U-37 sinks Greek SS Kyma carrying 6000 tons of maize and 90 tons of trucks from Argentina to England (7 lives lost).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 266 May 23, 1940

At 12.54 AM, U-9 torpedoes German steamer Sigurd Faulbaum (captured by Belgium on May 10) while under tow by 2 tugboats, 15 miles northeast of Zeebrugge. The stern sinks but the crew is rescued from the floating forepart by one of the tugs.

2nd Panzer Division attacks Boulogne, triggering the evacuation of British 20th Guards Brigade which has just arrived. Several British and French destroyers are bombed until RAF fighters arrive at 7.20 PM. However, Germans are so close that tank shells and small arms fire claim several lives on the ships, including the captains of HMS Keith and HMS Vimy. 4,360 troops are rescued (naval losses; 61 dead, 62 wounded).

Further North, British 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (equipped with cruiser tanks) and the 30th Motor Brigade land at Calais and hold off probing attacks by the 1st Panzer Division.

General Lord Gort withdraws British Expeditionary Force from Arras, where they had previously stopped Rommel’s Panzers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 265 May 22, 1940

In Britain, the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act is passed, giving the government authority over persons and property for the duration of the war. In Paris, Churchill and Reynaud agree to a proposal by new French Commander-in-Chief General Weygand to attack the German salient caused by the Panzer thrust to the coast (essentially the same plan proposed by his predecessor, the disgraced Gamelin). However, it is too little, too late. The Germans are well established and Allied forces in Belgium are too busy fighting a retreat to attack.

Rommel holds near Arras, believing he faced 5 divisions in the British attack yesterday rather than 2 divisions plus 2 tank battalions. Guderian, however, pushes his Panzers North up the coast towards Calais and Boulogne.

Armed British merchant vessel Dunster Grange fights off a surface attack by U-37 using the deck gun, after U-37 misses with 4 torpedoes, off Land’s End. Dunster Grange will arrive safely in Liverpool on May 24.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 264 May 21, 1940

While Guderian consolidates his position on the English Channel, Rommel bypasses Arras to the West and aims for the coast 50 miles away. However, French and British commanders (notably Churchill) have been urging a counterattack on the Panzer spearhead. 74 British tanks, supported by 2 infantry divisions, attack Rommel’s infantry near Arras. The German 37mm PaK anti-tank guns have no effect on the British “Matilda” tanks. In desperation, Rommel uses his 88mm Flak 18, 36 & 37 anti-aircraft guns in flat fire. The famous “88” anti-tank gun is born. An advanced Panzer regiment turns around and attacks the British from the rear, helping to push the British tanks back to Arras. Rommel has 89 killed, 110 wounded and 173 “missing” (AWOLs, who mostly return).

Narvik. RAF 263 Squadron returns to Norway with 18 Gladiators & 46 Squadron provides 18 Hurricanes. They are unable to provide much protection to Allied warships in Ototfjord.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 263 May 20, 1940

The Panzers reach the sea. In 10 days they have traveled 200 miles from the German border to the English Channel. Almost a million Allied soldiers are surrounded in Northern France and Belgium, leaving Allied plans to defend Belgium and France in ruins.

At 1.40 AM, Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division moves out of Cambrai and in 6 hours advances 20 miles. They pull up 2 miles from Arras, which is strongly held by the British Expeditionary Force, to allow the infantry to catch up.

The advance of Guderian’s Panzer Corps is even more spectacular. At 9 AM, 1st Panzer Division takes Amiens. At 7 PM, 2nd Panzer Division takes Abbeville. At 8 PM, a reconnaissance unit of 2nd Panzer Division reaches the sea at Noyelles-sur-Mer on the Somme estuary. They have covered 50 miles in a day, isolating British, French, Dutch, and Belgian forces to the North.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 262 May 19, 1940

At 6.31 AM, U-37 sinks Swedish MV Erik Frisell off Scotland. All 34 crew abandon ship and are picked up by the British armed trawler HMS Cobbers and landed at Stornoway.

While Rommel waits at Cambrai to regroup his troops and repair his tanks, Guderian resumes his charge through St. Quentin to Péronne, only 50 miles from the French coast. The Panzers are beyond the French defensive line and advance rapidly, capturing supply dumps and disrupting Allied rearguard areas. They cut the supply lines of the British Expeditionary Force and French Armies trapped in Belgium, further disorganizing their resistance. BEF commander General Lord Gort ignores orders to attack South into the German flanks and instead considers a withdrawal to the Channel ports, including Dunkirk. Colonel De Gaulle’s French 4th Armoured Division attempts another failed attack on Guderian’s flank at Montcornet.

The RAF has lost over half the aircraft deployed to France & Belgium and the German advance now threatens its airfields. Squadrons begin returning to Britain. Future fighter operations over France will be carried out from bases in southern England.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 261 May 18, 1940

Despite the stop order imposed on the German tanks, Rommel pushes 7th Panzer Division on to Cambrai and then halts to consolidate his supply lines and protect his flanks. He has advanced 85 miles due West (more than half way to the English Channel) in 5 days, capturing over 10,000 French prisoners & 100 tanks. His losses are about 50 dead and 100 wounded. The rapid pace constantly wrecks Allied counterattack plans; French formations are overrun while they prepare to attack. 7th Panzer becomes known as the “Ghost Division” for its ability to appear unexpectedly. Over 6 million French refugees take to the roads, convinced they will be occupied any minute. Populations of cities in Northern France drop by 90%.

German U-boats resume harassing Allied shipping in North Atlantic and around Britain, after several weeks patrolling the Dutch, Danish and Norwegian coasts in support of the invasions. U-60 & U-62 sail from Kiel, joining U-37 & U-43 at sea.

Day 260 May 17, 1940

French 4th Armoured Division with 200 tanks including the formidable Char B (under Colonel Charles De Gaulle) attacks Guderian’s Panzer Corps at Montcornet. They take 500 prisoners but make little ground against improvised German defenses and then withdraw. German tankers are shocked by the French lack of aggression. Despite the halt imposed on the Panzers, Guderian is given permission for ‘strong reconnaissance’. He interprets this liberally and advances several km.

The dominos begin to fall in Belgium. Instead of attacking the German salient into Allied territory, British Expeditionary Force commander General Lord Gort sees the danger of encirclement in the Panzer thrust to his South and orders a retreat to the Scheldt River. This allows German 6th Army under General Reichenau to enter Brussels. Churchill, likewise worried by the panic in the French command, begins to think about saving the British Army. Churchill also considers recalling troops from Narvik.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 259 May 16, 1940

Churchill flies to Paris to assess the situation and confer with French PM Reynaud. He finds French officials burning government archives. Churchill asks “Where is the strategic reserve”? French Commander-in-Chief General Gamelin replies “Aucune” (“There is none”). Reynaud replaces Gamelin and recalls WWI veteran Maxime Weygand from obscurity in Syria.

The Panzers of Rundstedt’s Army Group A race out of their bridgeheads on the Meuse, cutting through the weaker parts of the French Army left to defend this region. French morale and resistance crumble as thousands of soldiers surrender. Guderian reaches Montcornet, 64km West of Sedan. Rommel drives another 35km from Cerfontaine, advancing through the night to Avesnes-sur-Helpe. German high command gets nervous about the extended flanks of this salient. Overnight, they order the tanks to hold while the infantry catches up.

Despite the amazing success of the Panzers in Northern France, the French actually have more and better tanks than Germany. Demonstrating the strength of French armour, Char B1 Bis tank 'Eure' engages Guderian’s Panzers at Stonne, destroying 2 Pz IV, and 11 Pz II. 'Eure' survives hit 140 times by 20mm, 37mm and 75mm shells.

Day 258 May 15, 1940

At 7:30 AM, French PM Reynaud phones Churchill saying “We are beaten. We have lost the battle”. At 10:15 AM, Dutch commander General Winkelman signs the surrender of armed forces in the Dutch homeland.

British, Belgian and French troops believe they face bulk of the German army (it is, in fact, Bock’s Army Group B) on a line from the Channel coast in Zealand, Holland, South to Sedan on the French/Luxembourg border. Meanwhile, the Panzers of Rundstedt’s Army Group A prepare to spring the trap. Reinhardt gets his 2 Panzer divisions across the Meuse at Monthermé, Guderian begins to break out from Sedan and Rommel advances 40km West from Dinant to Cerfontaine.

Battle of Gembloux. In the morning, Germans again attack the French line but they are pushed back French 75mm artillery & Hotchkiss 25mm anti-tank guns. In 4 days of attacking the Gembloux Gap, General Hoepner has lost about 250 tanks, the equivalent of an entire Panzer division. However, due to the Allied collapse at Sedan, the French pull back to the French border overnight.

Following the Rotterdam Blitz, British Bomber Command reverses a policy banning deliberate bombing of civilian property, outside combat zones. In the first bombing of German interior, 99 RAF bombers attack industrial targets in the Ruhr overnight.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 257 May 14, 1940

Holland capitulates. 9th Panzer’s Corps commander General Rudolf Schmidt threatens to bomb Rotterdam unless the Dutch garrison surrenders. Although the surrender is agreed, Luftwaffe planes do not get the order to abort & drop 95 tons of bombs destroying most of the city (1000 civilians killed, 85000 made homeless). General Schmidt will be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 3 June 1940 for his role in the campaign in Holland.

Dutch Commander-in-Chief General Winkelman instructs his forces to lay down arms, although sporadic fighting continues for a few days. Dutch have 2300 dead, 7000 wounded (plus 3000 civilians killed). German lose 2900 killed and missing, 7000 wounded and 1300 airborne troops, captured on the first day, imprisoned in Britain.

Rommel secures his narrow bridgehead at Dinant by personally leading 30 tanks to drive French and Belgian troops back 3 miles to the Belgian border village of Onhaye (his tank is hit & a shell splinter wounds his cheek). 7th Panzer crosses the Meuse in strength. Further South at Sedan, Guderian also has his 3 divisions of Panzers across.

In central Belgium, General Erich Hoepner rashly sends 3rd & 4th Panzer Divisions in pursuit of Prioux’s Corps de Cavalerie. At Gembloux they come under fire from emplaced French artillery, losing many tanks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 256 May 13, 1940

Norway. Allies launch their first amphibious assault of WWII to capture Bjerkvik and Øyjord, for use as staging post for landings at Narvik across the Rombaksfjord. Cruisers HMS Aurora & Effingham and battleship HMS Resolution bombard Bjerkvik at midnight, broad daylight in the latitude of Narvik but dark enough at Trondheim to prevent German aircraft taking off. French Foreign Legion and light tanks come ashore at Bjerkvik in landing craft at 1 AM (36 casualties). Many Norwegian civilian die in the fighting. French motorcycle troops ride along the coast and take Øyjord unopposed.

Northern France. In the morning, Rommel sends motorcycle troops across River Meuse over a weir & lock gate at Dinant, while Guderian’s troops cross in rubber boats at Sedan in the afternoon following intensive bombing of French defensive positions. Despite French artillery bombardment, they both establish bridgeheads and by the evening they have pontoon bridges in place and tanks are rolling over.

Holland. German 9th Panzer Division reaches the outskirts of Rotterdam and 22nd Flieger Division holds onto bridges in the city. Dutch Queen Wilhelmina leaves at noon on HMS Hereward. Her government exiles to London at 5.20 PM on HMS Windsor.

Belgium. Battle of Hannut continues. To cover the Gembloux gap, French tanks line up abreast in a long thin line. Large groups of Panzers easily punch through, causing havoc in the French rear and Prioux retreats to the defensive line at Gembloux. Over 2 days French lost 105 tanks, Germans 160.

Winston Churchill first enters the House of Commons as Prime Minister, accompanied by his predecessor Chamberlain who receives a better reception by far. Churchill gives his “Blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech (text and MP3 at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 255 May 12, 1940

Holland. While Dutch defensive line holds German infantry in North and Central Holland, 9th Panzer Division races to Moerdijk bridges over Hollands Diep estuary (held by paratroops since the morning of May 10) 10 miles South of Rotterdam, preventing Allied forces reinforcing Fortress Holland. Dutch Crown Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard leave for Harwich, England on HMS Codrington.

First Allied-German tank battle. 3rd & 4th Panzer Divisions attack through a 30 km gap between Dyle and Meuse rivers in Central Belgium (Gembloux Gap). At Hannut, they meet General René Prioux’s 2 French armoured divisions (confusingly, Corps de Cavalerie). French Somua S35 & Hotchkiss H35 tanks win the day with superior firepower and armour, destroying large numbers of German Panzer MkI & MkIIs.

Panzers emerge from the Ardennes forest and prepare to cross the River Meuse at Sedan, Monthermé and Dinant. Guderian’s Panzer Corps at Sedan are the first Germans on French soil.

Day 254 May 11, 1940

Holland. German advance into Central Holland continues. 9th Panzer Division crosses the Meuse River and at noon finds an undefended bridge over Zuid-Willemsvaart canal 50 miles from Rotterdam. In Rotterdam, German 22nd Flieger Division holds onto bridges along Nieuwe Maas River. Dutch Marines attack but cannot dislodge them, leading to stalemate for several days.

Belgium. German tanks cross Albert Canal bridges secured by paratroops yesterday and spread out behind the Belgian defenses, drawing even more Allied troops North to bolster the defensive line. Belgian troops retreat and join the French and British arriving at planned positions on Dyle River (“Dyle Plan”). In the Southeast corner of Belgium between Luxembourg and France, 7 Panzer divisions spearhead the advance into the Ardennes forest of Runstedt’s massive Army group A (about 50 divisions total). They brush aside French cavalry guarding this unlikely route into France. The “Sickle Cut” has begun.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 253 May 10, 1940

At 5.30 AM, Germany invades neutral Luxembourg, Belgium & Holland without declaring war. Luftwaffe dominates the skies, bombing French, Dutch & Belgian airfields in the early hours & destroying many planes on the ground. For the first time, airborne troops find widespread use, under the innovative leadership of General Kurt Student. German tanks and infantry advance 10-15 miles into Holland and Belgium. The Allies enact the Dyle plan in response & begin moving towards the Dyle River in Belgium where they intend to hold a defensive line.

News of the invasion causes Chamberlain to consider staying on as Prime Minister but he is advised by many that he cannot now lead effectively. He resigns and advises King George VI to send for Churchill to invite him to form a government. Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister.

In Holland, German paratroops secure key bridges & airfields around Rotterdam & The Hague. Ju52 transport planes land 22nd Flieger Division in the Dutch heartland behind the main defensive line. Dutch Air Force manages to shoot down 18 Ju52s & prevent landings at Ypenburg airfield near The Hague, foiling German plans to capture Dutch Royal family, government & military leadership.

In Belgium, 10 DFS 230 gliders land 78 engineers under Oberlt. Rudolf Witzig on top of the massive underground Ebel Emael Fort, which dominates the Albert Canal and River Meusse crossings. They use secret magnetic hollow charges to disable steel & concrete gun emplacements and pen in the 700 defenders. Glider-borne troops also take two key bridges over the Albert Canal.
Northern Luxembourg is occupied easily, giving German tanks access to the Ardennes forest. The Royal Family is evacuated to safety in Luxembourg City in the South of the country.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 252 May 9, 1940

British Prime Minister Chamberlain awakens determined to stay in power. He suggests an alliance with the opposition Labour party to form a National Government but he is rebuffed. In the afternoon, he meets with Churchill and Halifax to determine a successor. Churchill silently refuses to support Halifax, who bows out. Churchill is the heir apparent.

While Chamberlain ponders his future, Germany prepares to advance on a broad front along its Western border from Luxembourg to the North Sea. The plan is to draw the French Army and British Expeditionary Force Northeast into Belgium and then encircle them with a fast armoured sweep across Northern France to the Channel. This requires moving huge armoured columns secretly through the Ardennes forest which the French have deemed impassable and left undefended.

At Narvik, Polish Podhale Brigade (4 battalions) arrives. Poles and French Chasseurs Alpins move to positions 5 miles West of Narvik, to reinforce South Wales Borderers. Allied artillery in the Narvik area totals 24 guns (French 75's & British 25-pounders) and 10 small French tanks.

At 0.14, U-9 torpedoes French submarine Doris (Q135) on the surface 40 miles off the Dutch coast. Doris sinks immediately (45 French & 3 British sailors killed).

British destroyer HMS Kelly (captained by Lord Louis Mountbatten) is on patrol in the Skagerrak between Sweden and Germany with cruiser HMS Birmingham and destroyers HMS Kandahar, Bulldog, Kimberley, Kelly and Hasty, searching for German warships and troop transports. In the evening, they are attacked by 5 torpedo boats (Schnellboot). Kelly is hit amidships with one torpedo by S-31 and badly damaged (27 lives lost). Kelly will be towed back to Newcastle for repairs by HMS Bulldog, arriving May 13 after further Schnellboot attacks. She will be out of commission until December.

Day 251 May 8, 1940

The Norway Debate in the House of Commons continues. The Labour opposition party calls for a vote of no confidence in Chamberlain’s government. Liberal party’s David Lloyd George (a former Prime Minister during WWI) attacks Chamberlain, asking him to sacrifice his premiership for the good of the country. Chamberlain expects to keep his usual large majority in a party-line vote, saying “At least I shall see who is with us and who is against us and I call upon my friends to support us in the lobby tonight. I have friends in this House.” However, his own party turns against him and he wins by only 281 votes to 200 and it is clear that he must resign.

Chamberlain’s critics are careful to spare his likely successor Winston Churchill from censure or blame. Chamberlain is depressed and confers late into the night with Churchill, debating whether he should step down.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 250 May 7, 1940

Debate opens in British parliament on the conduct of the war. Prime Minister Chamberlain is ridiculed by opposition parties taunting him with his statement that Hitler had “missed the bus” in Norway. He is also denounced by Conservative MPs. Former Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes, in full uniform & 6 rows of medals, details the government’s mishandling of military events in Norway. Backbencher Leo Amery rouses the House with a stunning critique and dooms Chamberlain with a quote from Oliver Cromwell “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”.

Luftwaffe continues to pound Allied ships near Narvik. At 4.41 PM, British cruiser HMS Aurora is hit putting A and B turrets out of action (7 Marines are killed) but she will stay in action until 25 May. 5 die in a gun accident on WWI-era cruiser HMS Curlew.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 249 May 6, 1940

At Narvik, the Allies tighten the noose around General Dietl’s Regiment. South Wales Borderers (part of British 24th Brigade) are in position 5 miles West of Narvik, while French Chasseurs Alpins and Colonial artillery troops continue to press their attack on Labergdal Pass to the North, across the fjord. Both are held by German perimeter forces. However, Germans bomb Allied ships near Narvik. British cruiser HMS Enterprise is slightly damaged by a near miss (1 Marine killed).

German 2nd Gebirgsjäger Division continues their slow march North from Trondheim to reinforce Dietl’s Regiment.

At 2.00 PM, British submarine HMS Sealion attacks German transports Moltkefels and Neidenfels in the Skagerrak. Sealion fires 6 torpedoes, claiming three hits. But all torpedoes miss the targets and the transports are not damaged.

At 3.25 PM 30 miles East of Denmark, British submarine HMS Snapper fires 2 torpedoes at German armed merchant cruiser Widder but both miss.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 248 May 5, 1940

HMS Seal comes to the surface at 1:30 AM with no power or steering. 2 Arados & a Heinkel attack at 2:30 and Seal surrenders using a white table-cloth. All 60 crew are taken prisoner 3 hours later but fail to scuttle Seal, which is towed to the new German base at Frederikshavn, Denmark. She will be repaired & commissioned into the Kriegsmarine November 30 as UB.

To support the landings of British Independent Companies (intercepting 2nd Gebirgsjäger advance towards Narvik), destroyers HMS Juno & Veteran arrive at Mosjöen while HMS Nubian & Firedrake go to Bodö.

At 5.25 AM, Hegra Fortress surrenders (under siege since April 12, resisting infantry and artillery attack plus Luftwaffe bombing), following Allied evacuation around Trondheim and the surrender of Southern Norway. 190 volunteer soldiers and civilian nurse Anne Margrethe Bang become POWs. 150-200 Germans have been killed or wounded attacking the Fortress while 6 Norwegians died (14 wounded).

(The next day, 6 May, the prisoners from Hegra were marched 50 kilometres to Berkåk where a PoW camp was established. At Berkåk the prisoners were set at work at building an improvised road from the river Orkla near Berkåk across the woods to Brattset, to help the German logistic system that had been severely hampered by the numerous blown bridges. Due in part to the poor physical condition of the prisoners after the harsh siege they had just experienced the road was never completed. At the end of May, Adolf Hitler personally ordered their release as an act of recognition of the defense they had put up under difficult conditions. The release happened in groups and by mid-June the last PoWs had been let go.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 247 May 4, 1940

British mine-laying submarine HMS Seal, running on the surface for speed in the Kattegat, is bombed by a Heinkel He115 at 2:30 AM. Seal dives to 30m & lays 50 mines from 9 to 9:45 AM but German anti-submarine trawlers begin searching the area. Seal zigzags to avoid detection until 6.30 PM when she hits a mine & settles on the bottom, stuck in mud overnight & running out of air.

Allies mass 30,000 troops (French Foreign Legion & Chasseurs Alpins [mountain infantry], Polish troops, British 24th Brigade & Norwegians) around Narvik, still hoping to retake the town & disrupt iron ore traffic from Sweden.. French move overland to secure Bjerkvik, on the shore opposite Narvik, but are held at Labergdal Pass.

General Feuerstein’s 2nd Gebirgsjäger (mountain) Division starts marching 350 miles North from Trondheim to relieve Dietl’s 139th Gebirgsjäger Regiment isolated in Narvik. Allies deploy 300-500 troops each at Mosjöen, Mo & Bodö to stop them.

Polish destroyer Grom and British destroyer HMS Faulknor are patrolling off Narvik bombarding German positions when Grom is struck on her torpedo tubes by a German bomb at 8.28 AM and sinks (58 lives lost). British cruisers HMS Enterprise & Aurora and destroyers HMS Faulknor & Bedouin rescue survivors, starting at 8.35. The Polish survivors are embarked on a hospital ship for the passage back to England, departing Harstad on April 10 for the Clyde.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 246 May 3, 1940

Evacuation of Namsos (1850 British, 2345 French & some Norwegian troops, 30 German POWs) is complete at dawn. HMS Afridi leaves at 4.45 AM, staying to shell vehicles left behind on the dock. Luftwaffe bombers attack the convoy at 9.45 AM. French destroyer Bison sinks at 10.10 (103 lives lost). Destroyers HMS Afridi, Imperial & Grenade rescue survivors from the water. Afridi is also bombed at 2 PM and sinks in 45 minutes (49 of Afridi’s crew, 13 men of 146th Brigade and 30 of the 69 just rescued from Bison are killed). HMS Griffin & Imperial pick up survivors.

With the British gone and the Norwegian King, government & CiC General Ruge safely in Tromsø 1000km North, Norwegian General Hvinden-Haug surrenders all troops South of Trondheim. In the evening, fighting ends in Southern Norway.

British and French troops evacuated from Åndalsnes arrive safely at Scapa Flow. French units are put on French passenger ships to Brest, to help with the defense of France.

Day 245 May 2, 1940

Vice-Admiral John Cunningham’s flotilla (3 cruisers, 5 destroyers & 3 transports) joins Mountbatten’s 4 destroyers off Namsos to evacuate General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade. However, yesterday’s evacuation at Åndalsnes alerted the Luftwaffe to British intentions at Namsos. Bombing runs start as the destroyers move up the Namsenfjord to begin embarking troops. HMS Maori is damaged by a near miss (5 lives lost, 18 wounded), delaying the operation until weather or nightfall blinds the Luftwaffe to their activities. In the evening heavy fog comes in and the destroyers safely ferry 5350 men out to the cruisers & transports overnight. 146th Brigade has lost 153 men killed or captured.

While the French & British are distracted by events in Norway and withdraw troops from the Western Front, Hitler prepares for his knockout punch against the Allies. 93 front-line divisions (including 10 armored & 6 motorised) are assembled to invade Northern France and the Low Countries (Fall Gelb).

Day 244 May 1, 1940

At 1.15 AM, 15th Brigade’s train from Dombås crashes into a bomb crater (8 dead, 30 wounded). British troops march 17 miles through deep snow, arriving 9 AM at Åndalsnes.

In the evening, Admiral Layton’s flotilla arrives at Åndalsnes to evacuate 148th & 15th Brigade. Destroyers HMS Inglefield, Diana & Delight ferry troops from the dock to cruisers HMS Manchester & Birmingham. They embark 5084 men overnight, leaving for Scapa Flow by 2 AM the following day (May 2) unnoticed by the Lutfwaffe. British leave behind 1301 men killed, missing or captured. Norwegian General Ruge and his staff leave on destroyer HMS Diana to join the King and government at Tromsø.

Mountbatten’s 4 destroyers arrive at Namsos to evacuate General de Wiart’s 146th Brigade. Overnight fog prevents them all entering Namsenfjord, so only 850 French Chasseurs Alpins are embarked. Anti-submarine trawler St. Goran is dive bombed and sunk.

In the Kattegat, British submarine HMS Narwhal fires six torpedoes at a German merchant convoy carrying parts of 2nd Gebirgsjager Division to Norway. German steamer Buenos Aires sinks (62 men, 240 horses killed) and Bahia Castillo is badly damaged (10 men, 26 horses killed).