Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 304 June 30, 1940

300 miles West of Brest, France, U-65 & U-43 attack convoy SL-36. At 10.27 PM, U-43 sinks British SS Avelona Star carrying 5630 tons of frozen meat & 1000 tons of oranges (1 life lost). 84 survivors are picked up by British MV Beignon, which will be sunk within 6 hours. U-65 damages British SS Clan Ogilvy which is towed to Falmouth, arriving on July 4 (repaired and returned to service by October). In the same area, U-26 sinks Estonian SS Merkur (4 dead) and Norwegian MV Belmoira (all 25 crew survive).
U-47 sinks Greek SS Georgios Kyriakides carrying 7243 tons of sugar West of Ireland (all 30 crew survive).

Germans begin to occupy the Channel Islands, the only British territory they will conquer. 3 Germans land by plane on Guernsey and demand the surrender of the island from a local policeman. The Channel Islands are demilitarized and partially evacuated (since June 15), dismissed by British government as being of no military value to Germany.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 303 June 29, 1940

Operation Catapult. Admiralty gives Vice Admiral Somerville explicit instructions to secure the transfer, surrender, or destruction of the French warships at Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria, with no concessions given to the French - they either accept the British terms or face destruction. Somerville’s Force H consists of battleships HMS Valiant & HMS Resolution, battlecruiser HMS Hood, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Arethusa & HMS Enterprise and 11 destroyers.

U-99 is again subjected to friendly fire. Leaving Wilhelmshaven, she is attacked by a German aircraft with 3 bombs. U-99 crash-dives and collides with the sea floor, causing minor damage.

U-boats sink 3 ships Southwest of Ireland. U-51 sinks Royal Navy decoy ship (SSV) HMS Edgehill (with concealed armament of nine 4in guns, four torpedo tubes and a buoyant cargo to help keep her afloat if hit). Due to Edgehill’s buoyancy, it takes three torpedoes to sink her.
U-47 torpedoes British SS Empire Toucan which breaks in two (3 killed). 31 crew are rescued and landed at Plymouth by destroyer HMS Hurricane which scuttles the floating aft section.
U-26 sinks Greek steamer Frangoula B. Goulandris (6 lives lost, 32 survivors).

Italian submarine Rubino is sunk by Short Sunderland flying boats of RAF 201 Group in the Ionian Sea between Italy and Greece. RAF flying boats pick up some survivors. Off Tobruk, Italian submarine Sirena is damaged by Short Sunderlands of RAF 230 Squadron. West of Crete, Italian submarines Uebi Scebeli and Salpa are damaged by British destroyers HMS Dainty, Ilex, Defender & Voyager. Uebi Scebeli sinks slowly and the crew is rescued by HMS Dainty.

Day 302 June 28, 1940

British Bristol Blenheims bomb Tobruk. After the air raid, Marshal Italo Balbo (Italian Governor-General of Libya, Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and "heir apparent" to Benito Mussolini) returns from a reconnaissance flight. He is killed when his plane is shot down by Italian anti-aircraft fire. Marshal Graziani is appointed to replace him.

At 2 AM, U-30 sinks British SS Llanarth (carrying 7980 tons of flour from Australia) 250 miles West of Brest, France. 16 crew are picked up by British corvette HMS Gladiolus on June 30 and landed at Plymouth. 19 others are rescued by a Spanish trawler and landed at San Sebastian. British trawler Castleton goes missing in the Orkney Islands, probably sunk by U-102 which does not return from this patrol.

Luftwaffe bombs the harbours of Guernsey and Jersey in the British Channel Islands, mistaking tomato trucks for troop carriers (48 civilians killed).

British government recognizes General de Gaulle as "Leader of All Free Frenchmen."

Soviet Union occupies Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina, ceded by Romania.

Italian destroyers Espero, Zeffiro & Ostro are sighted by air reconnaissance and intercepted by British light cruiser squadron from Alexandria, Egypt. Espero is sunk in the Ionian Sea, but the other two destroyers escape and continue to Tripoli. British cruiser HMS Liverpool is hit by a single 4.7 inch shell, cutting the degaussing wire.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 301 June 27, 1940

Churchill still worries that Germany will capture the French fleet, particularly the vessels at Mers-el-Kébir, restoring German sea power lost in the Norwegian campaign. Despite Admiral Darlan’s assurances, War Cabinet instructs Royal Navy to neutralise, seize or destroy French warships in various British and North African ports (Operation Catapult). Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville is ordered to take newly-formed Force H to Algeria.

U-47 sinks 2 merchant ships Southwest of Ireland. At 4 AM, U-47 shells Norwegian MV Lenda carrying timber, which catches fire (1 dead, 27 survivors abandon ship in 2 boats). At 5 PM, U-47 shells Dutch tanker Leticia carrying 2568 tons of fuel oil (2 dead). 25 crew get off in 2 lifeboats. 3 men are rescued from the water by U-47 and brought to the lifeboats, where they are given first aid material, sausages and wine. Survivors from both ships are picked up in the afternoon by British destroyers HMS Hurricane and Havelock and taken to Plymouth, England.

Italian submarine Console Generale Luizzi is sunk by destroyers HMS Dainty, Defender and Ilex south of Crete. HMS Voyager and Dainty rescue the survivors. Off the coast of Eritrea near Port Sudan, beached Italian submarine Macalle is destroyed by shelling from British destroyers HMS Kandahar and Kingston & light cruiser HMS Leander (serving in the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy). HMS Leander's aircraft also dropped four bombs on the submarine.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 300 June 26, 1940

At 2.28 AM, UA sinks Norwegian MV Crux (6300 tons of patent fuel from Britain to Brazil) 300 miles west of Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. All 30 crew abandon ship in 2 lifeboats and are picked up the following day by British steam merchant Brutus. At 3.30 PM, U-29 stops Greek SS Dimitris with a shot across her bow off Cape Finisterre, Spain. Dimitris, carrying 9000 tons of cereal grains from Argentina to Liverpool, is sunk by gunfire after the crew abandons ship.

Soviet Union presents an ultimatum demanding territory in Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina from Romania. Hitler suggests the Romanians government gives in and satisfies the Soviet demands.

Day 299 June 25, 1940

At half past midnight, the French armistices with Germany and Italy come into effect and fighting is over in France. France has 92,000 dead, 250,000 wounded and 1.5 million taken prisoner. British losses are 68,111 killed, wounded or captured. German army and Luftwaffe losses are 29,640 dead, 133,573 wounded and missing. Since June 21, Italy has 631 dead, 2,631 wounded, 2,151 hospitalised with frostbite and 616 missing attacking Southern France, while French defenders suffered only 37 killed, 42 wounded and 150 missing.

To compound French misery, Hitler orders the destruction of the 1918 Armistice site at Compiègne. The railway carriage, a massive dedication tablet and the 1918 Alsace-Lorraine Monument (depicting a German eagle impaled by a sword) are removed to Germany. However, Hitler leaves the statue of French WWI victor, Maréchal Foch, watching over this wasteland.

Churchill makes a speech to the House of Commons on the Franco-German peace and, specifically, on the disposition of the French battleships and other warships. He notes “the solemn declaration of the German Government that they have no intention of using them for their own purposes during the war. What is the value of that? Ask half a dozen countries what is the value of such a solemn assurance”. He is clearly worried about the fate of the French fleet, despite the assurances of Admiral Darlan.

Between 3.45 and 7.30 PM, U-51 attacks convoy OA-172 about 370 miles west of Lands End sinking British steamer Windsorwood carrying 7100 tons of coal (all 40 crew rescued by steamer Ainderby & landed at Barry, Wales) and British tanker Saranac (4 lives lost, 39 survivors picked up by HMS Hurricane & trawler Caliph).

Operation Ariel. Canadian destroyers HCMS Fraser and Restigouche are sent with British cruiser HMS Calcutta to rescue 4,000 allied soldiers trapped on the Bordeaux coast. In rough seas and poor visibility, HCMS Fraser collides with the much larger HMS Calcutta and is cut into 3 pieces (47 die aboard Fraser; 19 lost on Calcutta). Many Fraser survivors transfer to HMCS Margaree and some are lost in another collision on October 22 with freighter MV Port Fairy.

Day 298 June 24, 1940

The French fleet is scattered at Dakar (French West Africa), Alexandria (Egypt), Casablanca (Morocco), Algiers & Mers-el-Kébir (Algeria) and Plymouth & Portsmouth (England). Britain wants these assets and is determined that Germany does not take them. French Admiral Darlan again assures Churchill that his warships will not fall into German hands.

Franco-Italian armistice is signed at Villa Olgiata near Rome by French General Huntziger and Italian General Badoglio. However, the armistice does not come into effect until tomorrow and both Italy and Germany continue fighting in France.

U-47 sinks small Panamanian steamer Cathrine (General cargo and wheat from USA to England) with the deck gun about 300 miles West of Land’s End. All 19 crew take to the lifeboat. U-47 gives them food & red wine and sets them adrift. Luckily, they will be rescued and taken to Milford Haven, Wales.

British sloop HMS Falmouth sinks Italian submarine Luigi Galvani in the Gulf of Oman.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 297 June 23, 1940

Hitler makes a triumphant entrance into Paris and does some sightseeing. It will be his only visit to Paris. Despite the Franco-German agreement, cessation of hostilities in France depends on negotiation of a separate armistice with Italy. The French delegation leaves for Rome, including General Huntzinger who just signed the Franco-German agreement at Compiègne.

Using information from Italian submarine Galileo Galilei captured on June 19, British sloop HMS Shoreham locates Italian submarine Evangelista Torricelli and forces her to the surface with depth charges. Evangelista Torricelli bravely engages 3 British destroyers HMS Kandahar, Kingston and Khartoum with her deck gun but is sunk near Perim Island at the mouth of the Red Sea. Later, HMS Khartoum is badly damaged when one of her own torpedoes explodes on deck (1 dead). Khartoum is beached on Perim Island to prevent sinking, but she is a total loss and is never repaired.

Charles de Gaulle is officially cashiered from the French Army by defeated French Commander in Chief General Weygand, although he will continue to use the title of General de Gaulle as leader of the Free French.

Suffering further friendly fire, U-99 is bombed twice returning from Bergen to Wilhelmshaven causing only minor damage.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 296 June 22, 1940

At 6.30 PM, French General Huntzinger returns to the railway carriage at Compiègne, site the 1918 Armistice. He and German OKW Chief General Keitel sign the 1940 Franco-German armistice. Article 20 states “French troops in German prison camps will remain prisoners of war until conclusion of a peace”. The French believe it is only a matter of weeks before Britain will also make peace with Germany. Instead, a million Frenchmen will spend the next 5 years as German prisoners. Hitler does not demand the French fleet, but Article 8 leaves the disposition of their warships uncertain, which worries the British.

General de Gaulle broadcasts a speech from London on the BBC. He is more strident than his famous June 18 speech, uses the term Free French for the first time and declares himself leader in exile. This speech is heard more widely in France than the June 18 broadcast.

U-boats sink 2 cargo ships and 2 tankers off the South coast of Ireland and in the Bay of Biscay.
U-122 goes missing in the North Atlantic, somewhere off the British coast (all 49 hands lost).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 295 June 21, 1940

French and German delegates meet to negotiate peace at the 1918 Armistice site at Compiègne, France. To humiliate the French and make amends for Germany’s WWI defeat, Hitler has the railway carriage in which the WWI Armistice was signed removed from a French museum and placed exactly where it had been located in 1918. Hitler attends the opening stages, at 3.30 PM, but soon leaves to disrespect the French. Germany’s armistice terms are harsh and they allow no negotiation, only questions for clarification. At 8.30 PM, General Huntzinger, leading the French delegation, calls his government in Bordeaux to obtain further instructions. He is told to accept the German terms.

After 10 days, Italy invades France. Italian troops launch an attack through the Little Saint Bernard Pass in the Alps but are stopped by a massive snow storm. They also attack along the French Riviera towards Nice, but are held up by a French NCO and 7 men only 5 miles inside France at Menton.

German U-boat attacks on Allied and neutral shipping intensify. 20 U-boats are at sea. 6 Allied and neutral vessels are sunk, including British decoy ship HMS Prunella (X 02) sunk by U-28 South of Ireland (2 killed). 94 crew take to 2 lifeboats, 2 Carley floats, a jolly boat and a raft. 1 lifeboat and the raft are found with 40 survivors but the other 54 men are never found.

U-99 suffers a series of friendly fire incidents. U-99 is returning to Bergen with a sick crewman when an Arado 196 scout aircraft from German battlecruiser Scharnhorst mistakes her for a British submarine and attacks. U-99 will now also require repairs at Wilhelmshaven.

Day 294 June 20, 1940

While the Italian Army mass 32 divisions in 2 armies on the French border, the French sue for peace. However, Mussolini is determined to take French territory to bargain for colonies in North Africa.

Operation Ariel. 9,000 Polish soldiers are evacuated from Bayonne aboard the Polish ships Batory and Sobieksi.

U-30, U-38, U-48 & U-122 each sink 1 merchant vessel (carrying wheat, iron ore, coal and fuel oil) around the British Isles and in Bay of Biscay (61 lives lost and 68 survivors).

To provide a diversion for damaged battleship Scharnhorst to return to Keil for repairs, German battleship Gneisenau and cruiser Admiral Hipper depart Trondheim for operations near Iceland. 80 miles Northwest of Trondheim, Gneisenau is hit by a torpedo of the British submarine HMS Clyde and returns to Trondheim for repairs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 293 June 19, 1940

The race to the Channel continues, as the Germans try to take the ports before the Allies can escape. In the morning, Rommel shells the forts defending the port of Cherbourg while attacking with infantry. At 5 PM, local officials and police persuade the French garrison defending the town to surrender. This is 7th Panzer’s last major action in the Battle of France. Since May 10, they have captured 100,000 Allied prisoners, 450 tanks, 300 artillery or anti-tank guns & 4,000 trucks and incurred losses of 700 killed, 1650 wounded & 300 missing. During this time, Rommel has been awarded Iron Cross 1st & 2nd class (for the second time, having won these medals in WWI) and, on May 27, Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

5th Panzer Division makes even better progress and takes the port of Brest another 150 miles to the West. However, the Allies have evacuated their personnel and demolished the port facilities.

Operation Ariel. Germans have not arrived at St. Nazaire as expected, so British send 7 troop transports and 6 destroyers to evacuate 2,764 Polish troops (in addition to the 54,411 British embarked over the last few days). 4,000 Poles are also rescued from La Pallice. Evacuations begin from the ports of the River Gironde and Bayonne & St Jean-de-Luz, close to the Spanish border. Over the next 5 days, over 6,000 Polish troops are evacuated from Gironde and 19,000 Polish soldiers are rescued from Bayonne and St Jean-de-Luz.

U-boats sink or damage 8 Allied or neutral merchant vessels (a total of 40,000 tons of shipping) between Southern Ireland and the Bay of Biscay. U-48 alone sinks 3 ships (15,500 tons).

Italian submarine Galileo Galilei is depth charged by British destroyer HMS Kandahar and anti-submarine trawler HMS Moonstone in the Gulf of Aden. Galileo Galilei surfaces and shells HMS Moonstone, which returns fire killing the captain and capturing the submarine. Galilei is towed to Aden by HMS Kandahar and will be renamed X 2 by the Royal Navy to be used as a training boat.

Day 292 June 18, 1940

Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division races 200 miles and reaches Cherbourg. However, they arrive too late to prevent the Allied evacuation and rest overnight before attacking the fortifications. Operation Ariel finishes at St. Nazaire (leaving behind all their equipment on rumours the Germans are poised to take the town) and at La Pallice where 2,303 British are evacuated.

With 5th Panzer Division only a few hours away, French cruisers El Djezair, El Kantara, El Mansour, Ville d'Oran and Ville d'Alger transport 1,200 tons of French gold from Brest. The convoy will arrive in Casablanca on June 21. In addition, the French move 198 tonnes of Belgian gold on the cruiser Victor-Schoelcher from Lorient to the port of Dakar in French West Africa. The gold should have been sent to USA and will ultimately fall into German hands (much to the chagrin of the Belgians who sue the Banque de France in 1941, demanding in return French gold being held in the USA).

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives another charismatic speech in the House of Commons, commenting on the likely fall of France “the Battle of France is over” and prospects for a cross-Channel invasion by Germany “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.” He concludes “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’." (text and MP3 at, stream all Churchill speeches

Southwest of Ireland, U-28 sinks Finnish steamer Sarmatia and U-32 sinks 2 Spanish trawlers Sálvora & Nuevo Ons as well as Norwegian steamer Altair. In total, 6 crew are killed and 60 survivors are rescued by other Spanish trawlers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 291 June 17, 1940

Rumors of surrender demoralize the French troops and embolden the Germans. Rommel (recuperating and re-equipping 7th Panzer since June 11) decides to gamble all and head for Cherbourg to prevent the Allied evacuation. His tanks and trucks laden with infantry travel 125 miles. In Eastern France, Guderian’s Panzers reach the Swiss border at Pontalier, encircling 17 French divisions manning the Maginot Line.

Operation Ariel continues evacuating Allied troops from Cherbourg, St Malo, Brest and St. Nazaire. British Cunard liner Lancastria embarks 4,000 to 9,000 British civilians, troops and RAF personnel in the Loire estuary. At 3:48 PM, she is hit by 3 bombs from Junkers Ju88s (1 bomb goes down her funnel and explodes in the engine room) and sinks in 20 minutes. There are 2,477 survivors (ASW trawler Cambridgeshire rescues 900). It is the worst tragedy in British maritime history and the single greatest loss of life for UK forces in any single engagement in WWII.

Soviet occupies Latvia and Lithuania, meeting little resistance. In Estonia, the government surrenders and agrees to Soviet occupation. Most of the Estonian army and the volunteer militia Estonian Defence League lay down their arms. The Single Signal Battalion will hold out in Tallinn until June 21.

Determined to continue fighting, General Charles de Gaulle and other senior French officers refuse to serve the new French government and leave for London with 100,000 francs in gold provided by the ex-PM Paul Reynaud.

U-46 sinks Greek steamer Elpis carrying wheat 250 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain. All 28 crew abandon ship.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 290 June 16, 1940

Pro-armistice elements in French cabinet push for peace. Prime Minister Paul Reynaud is unwilling to negotiate a separate peace with Germany (either to preserve his honour or unable to face the failure of his policies). He is asked to resign by French President Albert Lebrun and replaced with 84 year-old Philippe Pétain, WWI hero of Verdun, who is determined to end hostilities with Germany. Reynaud will be arrested on Pétain's orders in September 1940 and imprisoned by the Germans in the Itter Castle near Wörgl, Austria, until the end of the war. Pétain will be imprisoned after the war as a traitor and German collaborator, dying in prison in 1951.

Mediterranean. French sloop La Curieuse forces Italian submarine Provana to surface 30 miles South of Cabo de Palos, Spain. La Curieuse rams Provana, sinking her. British submarine HMS Grampus is sunk by depth charges from Italian torpedo boats Polluce and Circe, 105 miles East of Sicily (all 59 crew lost).

Operation Ariel continues evacuating Allied troops from Cherbourg and begins at the ports of St Malo, Brest and St. Nazaire. Over the next 3 days, 21,474 are embarked at St Malo, 54,411 at St. Nazaire and 32,584 from Brest – mostly British.

Soviets have established bases in Estonia and Latvia, following agreements in 1939. Soviet army invades Estonia and Latvia, assisted by Soviet troops breaking out from these bases.

After tracking British armed merchant cruiser HMS Andania for 3 days, UA finally sinks her just after midnight, 230 miles west-northwest of the Faroe Islands. All 347 crew are rescued by Icelandic trawler Skallagrímur and transferred to British destroyer HMS Forester arriving at Scapa Flow June 17. At 4.45 PM, U-101 sinks British MV Wellington Star with torpedoes and deck gun, 300 miles west of Cape Finisterre, Spain. All 69 crew drift in 4 lifeboats for 8 days. On June 24, 52 crew are picked up by the French steamer Pierre L.D. and the other 17 in 1 lifeboat make land at Figuera da Foz, Portugal.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 289 June 15, 1940

Another German pincer closes on France. At dawn, German 7th Army under General Friedrich Dollmann crosses the Rhine from Germany 40-50 miles North of Swiss border and penetrates the Maginot Line, fanning out on the Alsace plain to join up with Guderian’s Panzers making their way South towards Switzerland.

At 1 AM, U-38 attacks convoy HX-47 60 miles West of the Scilly Isles, sinking Norwegian tanker Italia carrying 13,000 tons of aviation spirit (19 dead, 16 escape the inferno in lifeboats) and Canadian SS Erik Boye carrying 3568 tons of wheat (all 21 crew abandon ship in 1 lifeboat). Survivors from both ships are picked up in the afternoon by British sloop HMS Fowey and landed at Plymouth on June 16.

Operation Ariel begins evacuating Allied troops from the ports of Cherbourg. Over the next 3 days, 23,630 men, mostly British, are embarked from Cherbourg.

Day 288 June 14, 1940

After the declaration of Paris as an “open city”, Germans enter the city unopposed. While French troops organize a fighting retreat further South, Parisian restaurants & shops do a brisk trade with the German troops who act more as tourists than a force of occupation. To the East, German 1st Army under General Erwin von Witzleben breaks through the Maginot Line near Saarbrücken.

Stalin desires to restore pre-1918 Tsarist borders and plans to incorporate Latvia, Lithuania & Estonia into Soviet Union. Soviets begin by imposing a sea and air blockade of Estonia. 2 Soviet DB-3T torpedo bombers shoot down Finnish civilian Junkers Ju 52 plane “Kaleva” shortly after takeoff from Tallinin, Estonia. Kaleva crashes into sea (all 9 passengers & crew killed, including American & French diplomats). Soviet submarine Щ-301 surfaces and collects French diplomatic mail from the sea.

At dawn, 4 French cruisers & 11 destroyers attack Italian port of Genoa, shelling oil storage tanks. French destroyer Albatros is hit once by Italian coastal artillery but does not sink (12 lives lost).

Despite a series of errors, U-38 manages to sink Greek steamer Mount Myrto carrying a cargo of timber southwest of Ireland (4 killed).
In the same area, U-47 sinks British steamer Balmoralwood carrying 8730 tons of wheat and four aircraft (all 41 crew rescued by British steamer Germanic and landed at Liverpool).
300 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain, U-101 stops Greek steamer Antonis Georgandis with two 20mm anti-aircraft rounds. The crew abandons ship then U-101 sinks her with the deck gun.

Day 287 June 13, 1940

Final act of the Norwegian campaign. At dawn (2.43 AM), 15 Fleet Air Arm Skuas from HMS Ark Royal dive bomb German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Trondheim. However, RAF bombing of nearby Vaernes airfield alerts the defenses. A 500 lb bomb hits Scharnhorst, but does not explode. 8 Skuas are shot down by anti-aircraft fire & Messerschmitt fighters (6 dead, 10 taken prisoner). 7 Skuas return to Ark Royal at 3.45 AM. Escort destroyers HMS Antelope & Electra collide in fog (both will be out of service until August).

A German seaplane picks up one of the Skua pilots. The same seaplane also picks up 2 survivors from HMS Ardent (sunk June 8). One later dies from exposure. Able seaman Roger Hooke is Ardent's only survivor. He will be repatriated in 1943 due to ill health.

First naval skirmish in the Mediterranean. British submarine HMS Odin attacks Italian cruisers Fiume and Gorizia. Odin is sunk by escort destroyers Strale and Baleno (all 56 hands lost).

Churchill flies to Tours, where the French government temporarily resides, for a meeting of the Supreme War Council (this will prove to be the last meeting). Defeat in France is generally accepted and Churchill encourages the French to withdraw to their colonies in North Africa to fight on. However, French PM Paul Reynaud asks to be released from the March 28 agreement and allowed to negotiate armistice terms with Germany. Churchill refuses, appraising this solely from the British point of view.

British armed merchant cruiser HMS Scotstoun (originally Anchor Line passenger ship Caledonia) is attacked all day by U-25 and finally sinks 80 miles West of Outer Hebrides, Scotland (7 lives lost). 345 survivors are picked up by British destroyer HMS Highlander and landed at the Clyde on June 14.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 286 June 12, 1940

Guderian’s Panzers cross the River Marne at Chalons-sur-Marne, 80 miles East of Paris. Like Rommel’s 7th Panzer division, they have passed through the French defensive line and can travel almost at will. They will move quickly across the Langres plateau in the Champagne region into Southern France.

The final convoy of troopships carrying men from Narvik (Group II) arrives in the Clyde at 11 PM. French soldiers are transshipped to Brest and Lorient, which are still under French control, to continue the defense of France.

U-boats sink another 3 British merchant vessels off Cape Finisterre, Spain. At noon, U-101 sinks SS Earlspark carrying 7500 tons of coal (7 lives lost, 31 crew rescued by sloop HMS Enchantress). U-46 sinks SS Barbara Marie carrying 7200 tons of iron ore at 7.38 PM (32 lives lost) and MV Willowbank carrying 8750 tons of maize at 7.46 PM. British motor merchant Swedru picks up all 50 crew from Willowbank and 5 survivors from Barbara Marie.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 285 June 11, 1940

France. Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division captures Le Havre and then turns back to drive 30 miles Northeast up the coast to St-Valery-en-Caux, encircling 46,000 French and British troops. Fog and German shelling have prevented a full-scale evacuation of St-Valery-en-Caux but destroyer HMS Broke and corvette HMS Gardenia embark the wounded. Empty British troopship Bruges is sunk by German bombing near Le Havre (all 72 crew survive). Guderian’s Panzers capture Reims.

Following Italy’s declaration of war, Italian troops begin traversing the Alps towards the French border. 10 Italian Royal Air Force Cant Z.1007 Alcione bombers attack Grand Harbour, Hal Far and Kalafrana in Malta (1 civilians and 6 soldiers killed, 130 wounded). Italian forces stationed in Libya and the British and Commonwealth forces stationed in Egypt begin a series of raids on each other. British 11th Hussars armored cars cross into Libya and capture Italian prisoners who are unaware they are at war.

Winston Churchill and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden fly to France for a Supreme War Council meeting at Chateau du Muguet near Briare. There is a palpable air of French defeatism. Churchill refuses a request for RAF support. Horrified at the prospect of a French surrender, Churchill reiterates the March 28 agreement that neither country will conclude a separate peace with Germany. Admiral François Darlan assures Churchill that the French fleet will not fall into German hands.

37 survivors from HMS Glorious and 2 from HMS Acasta are picked up by Norwegian trawler Borgund and landed on the Faroe Islands June 13. Destroyers HMS Veteran and Forester go to the Faroes on June 16th and take them to Scapa Flow.

U-boats harass shipping off Cape Finisterre, Spain. U-48 and U-101 sink Greek steamers SS Violando N. Goulandris and SS Mount Hymettus. U-46 torpedoes British tanker Athelprince which does not sink. Athelprince will be salvaged and return to service in January 1941.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 284 June 10, 1940

France. Rommel continues his charge down the Channel coast, West of Paris. Northeast of Paris, Guderian’s Panzers advance towards Chalons-sur-Marne. Demonstrating the value of German flexibility & mobility, 16th Panzer Corps are withdrawn from Péronne & sent East to support Guderian’s breakthrough. With Paris threatened, the French government flees to Tours. They declare Paris an open city to avoid the destruction by bombing & street fighting seen in Warsaw & Amsterdam.

In a second Allied evacuation from the French coast (Operation Cycle), 3321 troops embark at St-Valery-en-Caux & 11,059 troops are evacuated from Le Havre. Overnight, 9000 men are taken from Le Havre to Cherbourg to continue fighting. Destroyers HMS Bulldog & Boadicea (6 lives lost) are badly damaged by German bombing off Le Havre. HMS Boadicea is towed back to Dover & will be out of commission until February 1941.

Italy declares war on France and Britain, effective June 11, expecting to make easy gains in Southern France. Benito Mussolini says cynically "I only need a few thousand dead to sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought." Equally cynical, Churchill reacts to the news “People who go to Italy to look at ruins won’t have to go as far as Naples and Pompeii again”.

Norway. British armed boarding vessel HMS Vandyck is sunk by German bombing off Andenes (7 lives lost, 161 men row ashore and are taken prisoner). The first convoy of troopships carrying men from Narvik (Group I) arrives unmolested in the Clyde at 6 AM.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 283 June 9, 1940

Norway. With the King and Government gone to exile in England, General Ruge agrees to the surrender of Norwegian 6th Division (essentially all that remains of the Norwegian Army). The armistice comes into effect at midnight. Allied losses (dead, missing or severely wounded) are 2119 British, 1335 Norwegian, 530 French and Poles combined. Germans lose 5296 dead or missing. Critically, Luftwaffe has lost 160 fighters and bombers and 80 transport planes while Kriegsmarine has lost 3 cruisers, 10 destroyers and 6 submarines, with 4 more cruisers and 6 destroyers requiring repairs. The loss of warships and transport planes will hinder plans for an invasion of England.

France. Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division chases French 10th Army and British 51st Highland Division back to the sea at St-Valery-en-Caux. Kleist’s 14th Panzer Corp makes further progress past Amiens but 16th Panzer Corp remains stuck at Péronne. Further East, Rundstedt’s Army Group A launches its attack towards Reims led by Guderian’s Panzers. French CiC General Weygand declares the battle for the Somme River to be lost and suggests seeking an armistice with Germany. Instead, the French government decides to leave Paris.

American cruiser Vincennes and destroyers Truxton & Simpson arrive at Casablanca to transship 200 tons of French gold to USA for safekeeping. They will depart Casablanca June 10, arriving at New York June 20.

At 10.30 AM, hospital ship Atlantis meets battleship HMS Valiant and reports the sinking of Orama. This is the first the Admiralty knows about Admiral Marschall's flotilla which has sunk 6 ships including an aircraft carrier. Damaged German battleship Scharnhorst and sister ship Gneisenau return to Trondheim for repairs.

At 1 PM, U-46 sinks Finnish steamer Margareta carrying 1434 tons of peanuts 350 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain (5 lives lost). 19 survivors drift in a lifeboat for 4 days but are rescued and taken to Vivero, Spain.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 282 June 8, 1940

Operation Juno. German cruiser Admiral Hipper sinks British tanker Oil Pioneer and escorting armed trawler HMS Juniper (20 lives lost, Hipper picks up 29 survivors). Later, Hipper sinks empty British troopship Orama (19 lives lost, 280 rescued by German destroyers) but spares hospital ship Atlantis. Atlantis obeys the rules of war and does not attempt to radio any signals; Hipper does not sink her.

Evacuation of Narvik. French and Polish troops, pursuing General Dietl’s forces towards Sweden, pull out overnight and return to Narvik leaving dummies to fool the Germans. Group II troopships embark the final 4600 Allied troops (British, French and Polish) and depart Narvik, escorted by aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Southampton and HMS Coventry and 11 destroyers. The convoy is spotted by German reconnaissance planes and bombed continuously until out of range but without damage. Germans quickly assess the withdrawal and retake Narvik.

Operation Juno meets Evacuation of Narvik. At 3 AM, aircraft carrier HMS Glorious sails for Scapa Flow with destroyers HMS Ardent & HMS Acasta (these vessels are not needed to escort troop transports). Captain Guy D’Oyly Hughes does not post top look-outs or fly patrol aircraft and runs into German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, 170 miles off the Norwegian coast. At 4.30 PM, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau open fire from 24km, one of the longest hits ever recorded. Glorious is hit with several 11 inch shells, preventing aircraft taking off. Ardent & Acasta lay smoke and close on the German battleships firing 120 mm guns and torpedoes but both are hit. Acasta hits Scharnhorst with 1 torpedo (50 dead). Ardent sinks at 5.20 PM (151 lives lost, 2 survivors). Glorious sinks at 7.10 PM (1162 sailors and 59 RAF personnel killed, 42 survivors). Acasta sinks at 7.20 PM (161 dead, 2 survivors). Admiral Wilhelm Marschall, aboard his flagship Gneisenau orders his flag lowered to half mast to honor the crews of the British destroyers.

France. 5th and 7th Panzer Divisions cross River Seine. 5th Panzer captures Rouen. Further East, Kleist’s 14th Panzer Corp breaks through at Amiens but 16th Panzer Corp is still held at Péronne by French 7th Army, showing the true fighting character of the French troops and the effectiveness of the hedgehogs.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 281 June 7, 1940

France. Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division and 5th Panzer Division continue their drive down the Channel coast towards Rouen. Further East, General Kleist’s Panzers meet stiff resistance and make no progress between Amiens and Péronne.

Evacuation of Narvik. More British troopships (Group II) arrive and embark 5200 troops overnight. Slow container ships with supplies and equipment leave Narvik. Group I troopships (that departed yesterday with 15,000 troops on board) are spotted by German reconnaissance planes but mistaken for empty supply ships returning to England, probably due to the single escort vessel HMS Vindictive. Admiral Marschall’s German flotilla does not attack the convoy, instead refueling the destroyers and cruiser Admiral Hipper.

Off Narvik, RAF pilots, untrained in aircraft carrier landings, safely land 10 Gloster Gladiators and 8 Hawker Hurricanes on aircraft carrier HMS Glorious (the remaining fighters of 46 and 263 Squadrons).

At 8 PM, Norwegian King Haakon VII, his son Crown Prince Olav and members of the Norwegian government leave Tromsø (in the far North of Norway) for exile in England on British cruiser HMS Devonshire.

Between midnight and 3.30 AM, U-48 sinks British steamer Francis Massey carrying 7500 tons of iron ore (33 dead, Captain rescued by destroyer HMS Volunteer) and damages British steamer Eros (all 62 crew survive) 10 miles North of Ireland.

Day 280 June 6, 1940

Rommel quickly learns to use his tanks to bypass Weygand‘s hedgehogs. The Panzers make rapid progress as there is no secondary defensive line and infantry contain & reduce the hedgehogs. 5th and 7th Panzer Divisions make an initial breakthrough between Abeville and Amiens. Elsewhere, camouflaged hedgehogs in wooded areas continue to confound the Germans, with fire coming suddenly from the side or rear. French 75mm field guns (1898 vintage), obsolete as artillery, turn out to be as effective as German 88mm Flak used in flat fire anti-tank role.

Evacuation of Narvik. Another 5100 men embark overnight. About 15,000 Allied troops leave aboard 6 fast liners (Monarch Of Bermuda, Batory, Sobieski, Franconia, Lancastria & Georgic) escorted by destroyer HMS Arrow & sloop HMS Stork. They rendezvous with WWI-era cruiser HMS Vindictive (Arrow & Stork turn back for Narvik). Only Vindictive will escort the troopships back to the Clyde.

At 1.13 PM, U-46 hits British armed merchant cruiser HMS Carinthia (a converted Cunard liner) with one torpedo, west of Galway Bay (4 lives lost). Carinthia stays afloat for another 30 hours, but sink while under tow by rescue tug HMS Marauder.

Norwegian submarine B.3 departs Harstad for Tromso but is crippled by an explosion. Unable to reach England, B.3 will be scuttled on June 9 in Gavlfjord near Tromso.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 279 June 5, 1940

At 5 AM, Germany begins the second phase of the conquest of France (“Fall Rot”), attacking South across the Somme and Aisne rivers with 130 divisions plus 10 Panzer divisions reequipped with fresh tanks. In contrast, France has lost 30 of its best divisions (and the BEF) along with most of its vehicles and armour. French CiC General Weygand has only 66 divisions, including 17 in the fortified Maginot Line defenses, to hold a front longer than before the invasion. He organizes a series of strongpoints bristling with artillery & anti-tank guns (the “Weygand Line”) in woods and villages along the Somme and Aisne rivers joining the Maginot Line at Montmédy. These ‘hedgehogs’ confuse the Germans & hold their initial advance to 10km.

At 11.18 PM, U-48 shells British armed merchant Stancor (300 tons of fish) 80 miles Northwest of Scotland. All 19 crew (10 in a lifeboat and 9 picked up by British trawler Kinaldie) make land on Isle of Lewis.

French soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk are returned via channel ports still under French control. To reinforce Weygand, Churchill also sends Canadian 1st Infantry Division to France, joining parts of British 1st Armoured Division & 51st Highland Division which avoided encirclement at Dunkirk.

French Prime Minister Reynaud ousts his nemesis ex-PM Daladier and reshuffles his Cabinet. Charles de Gaulle, promoted to General on May 25, is made Under-Secretary for Defense.

Evacuation of Narvik. Another 4900 Allied troops board transport ships.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 278 June 4, 1940

Operation Dynamo, evacuation of Dunkirk, ends. Overnight, British Royal Navy embarks 26,175French troops mostly from Dunkirk harbour. In total, 338,226 men have been evacuated including 112,000 French troops. At 10:20 AM, Germans raise the swastika over Dunkirk, capturing 30,000 - 40,000 French troops. British material losses include 2000 field guns, 60,000 vehicles & 676,000 tons of ammunition, fuel and supplies.

Evacuation of Narvik begins. Overnight, British destroyers and Norwegian fishing boats start shuttling Allied troops to 6 fast liners (troop transports) hidden in various small fjords and inlets on the main Ototfjord.

Operation Juno. British supply lines to Narvik are vulnerable to naval as well as air attack. Admiral Wilhelm Marschall leads German battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau, cruiser Admiral Hipper and destroyers Karl Galster, Hans Lody, Erich Steinbrinck & Hermann Schoemann from Kiel to attack Allied warships and supply vessels off Norway.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives one of his finest speeches in the House of Commons, reviewing the conduct of the war in France and Belgium “the German eruption swept like a sharp scythe around the right and rear of the Armies of the North….. cut off all communications between us and the main French Armies”,
the evacuation of Dunkirk “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations”
and the prospect of invasion of the Britain “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender” (text and MP3 at, stream all Churchill speeches

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 277 June 3, 1940

At 4.56 AM, U-37 sinks Finnish SS Snabb with the deck gun, 300 miles west of Cape Finisterre, Spain (1 killed). 20 survivors are picked up by Greek SS Kyriakoula and landed at Cork on 6 June.

Dunkirk. The last of the BEF embark overnight. General Harold Alexander commanding British 1st Infantry Division uses a small boat to check no-one is left behind. At 10:50 AM, Royal Navy "Beachmaster" Captain William “Dunkirk Joe” Tennant signals "Operation completed; returning to Dover”, after calling on a megaphone for any British soldiers, but Churchill insists on evacuating as many French troops as possible, so the Royal Navy returns in the evening. In total, 24,876 Allied troops embark from Dunkirk harbour & only 1,870 from the beaches. However, the shrinking beachhead and crumbling perimeter allow German forces within 2 miles of Dunkirk.

French armed merchant cruiser Ville D'Oran evacuates 212 tons of gold including sacks of gold coins from French gold reserves at Pauillac, arriving at Casablanca June 7. The gold will journey on to USA for safekeeping.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 276 June 2, 1940

Dunkirk. British Admiralty stops daytime embarkation due to devastating German bombing yesterday. However, the bulk of the Allied troops have already been evacuated. 19,561 Allied troops embark from Dunkirk harbour & 6,695 from the beaches under cover of darkness. During the day, French defenders (covering the British retreat) start falling back to be evacuated also.

Norway. While Polish and French troops pursue the Germans East towards Sweden, the British begin falling back towards Narvik to be transported home. British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and Glorious arrive to provide air cover for the evacuation of 26,000 British troops.

At 3 AM, U-101 sinks British SS Polycarp 41 miles south of Lands End (all 43 crew picked up by the French merchant Espiguette and landed at Newlyn, Cornwall).

At 6 AM, British boom defense vessel HMS Astronomer sinks 20 miles off the northeast coast of Scotland after taking 3 torpedoes over 6 hours from U-58 (4 lives lost). 52 civilian crew members, one gunner and 48 Royal Navy sailors are picked up by anti-submarine trawlers HMS Stoke City & HMS Leicester City and landed at Rosyth.

Day 275 June 1, 1940

Dunkirk. Overnight, BEF pulls out of the defensive line and head for the ships, leaving French troops to hold a reduced perimeter closer to Dunkirk. Good flying weather returns and renewed German bombing sinks French destroyer Le Foudroyant (19 killed), British destroyers HMS Basilisk (9 lives lost, scuttled by destroyer HMS Whitehall), HMS Havant (8 lives lost, scuttled by minesweeper HMS Saltash after taking off the crew), and HMS Keith (36 killed, 130 rescued by various ships).

Minesweeper HMS Skipjack is bombed after embarking 275 soldiers from the beach and sinks (19 crew and most of the troops drown). British steamer Scotia is bombed and sinks (32 crew and 200-300 troops lost). Numerous other ships are badly damaged and many smaller ships are also sunk. Despite this, 47,081 Allied troops embark from Dunkirk harbour & 17,348 from the beaches.

Norway. With Britain itself now threatened by German invasion from France, British troops begin evacuating Narvik and returning home. British ambassador to Norway, Sir Cecil Dormer, informs King Haakon VII that there will be a withdrawal. The King, his son Crown Prince Olav and the Norwegian government are encouraged to leave their country.

At 11 PM, U-37 sinks Greek SS Ioanna carrying onions 120 miles west of Cape Finisterre. All crew survive and make land at Vigo, Spain.

Day 274 May 31, 1940

Operation Dynamo. After the carnage of German bombing of the last 2 days, cloudy weather restricts Luftwaffe activity & the Admiralty returns the modern destroyers to Dunkirk. Despite the clouds, French destroyer Leopard and British destroyers HMS Express, Icarus, Keith & Winchelsea are damaged by German bombing. The evacuation continues in full swing embarking 68,014 Allied troops including General Lord Gort, commander of the BEF (45,072 from Dunkirk harbour & 22,942 off the beaches).

In addition to the British small craft, 39 Dutch coasters (that escaped the German occupation) assist the evacuation, saving a total of 22,698 men during the whole operation.

French destroyer Sirocco and Cyclone are torpedoed by German Schnellboote. Sirocco is then sunk by German bombing with 180 crew and 700 men of the 92nd French Infantry Regiment on board (59 crew and over 600 French troops die). Sirocco goes down flying the 92nd Regiment’s colours.

14 miles Southeast of Lowestoft, England, Sloop HMS Weston sinks U-13 with depth charges (all 26 crew, are rescued and taken prisoner).

At 2 PM, U-101 attacks convoy HG-31F and sinks British SS Orangemoor carrying 8150 tons of iron ore 25 miles West of Guernsey (18 crew lost). 22 survivors are rescued by the Brandenburg and landed at London. U-101 is then attacked for 8 hours with 41 depth charges by the convoy escorts, but survives.

Day 273 May 30, 1940

Evacuation of Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo). British Admiralty orders all modern H, I, J class destroyers out of Dunkirk due to yesterday’s intensive German bombing, leaving only 18 old destroyers to continue the evacuation. Despite this, 24,311 Allied troops embark from Dunkirk harbour & 29,512 from the beaches, including the first French soldiers to be evacuated. Small craft from Britain ferry troops out to waiting warships or even back to England.

Although Luftwaffe attacks are reduced by poor weather, destroyers HMS Anthony & Sabre, minesweeper HMS Kellet, armed boarding vessel HMS King Orry and steamers St. Julien & Normannia are damaged by German bombs. French destroyer Bourrasque hits a mine & is sunk by German artillery off Ostend (about 660 crew and troops evacuated from Dunkirk are killed or swim to shore and are captured by the Germans). 100 survivors are rescued by French torpedo boat Branlebas and 200 more by other ships. "To the glorious memory of the Pilots, Sailors and Soldiers of the French and Allied armies who sacrificed themselves in the Battle of Dunkirk May June 1940".

Norway. After capturing Narvik, Allied forces begin pushing General Dietl’s mountain troops and sailors back to the Swedish border, only 18 miles East. Dietl, isolated in Narvik since April 10, has been sporadically resupplied and reinforced by airdrops. However, his only real hope of survival is 2nd Gebirgsjäger Division which has been marching North from Trondheim since May 4. Naturally, Hitler does not give Dietl the option to surrender or cross into Sweden to be interned, instructing him instead to fight on.

As part of Operation Fish (the shipment to Canada of British gold and negotiable securities, for storage in the Bank of Canada vault in Ottawa) battleship HMS Revenge (carrying £40 million in gold) and troopships Antonia & Duchess of Richmond (£10 million in gold each) leave Britain. They will arrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June.

U-101 sinks British SS Stanhall carrying sugar and onions 10 miles North of Quessant (1 life lost). 36 survivors are picked up by another British steamer Temple Moat and landed at Weymouth.