Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 320 July 16, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 7. Low cloud, fog & heavy rain ground both sides in the morning & early afternoon. Spitfires from 601 Squadron intercept German bombers over the Isle of Wight in the English Channel (1 Ju88 is shot down). Germans bomb Fraserburgh & Peterhead in Northeast Scotland (Spitfires of 603 Squadron shoot down 1 Heinkel).

Hitler still hopes to bring Britain to a negotiated peace but time is running out for a cross-Channel offensive in the Summer. He issues F├╝hrer Directive 16 to prepare for an invasion on a wide section of the South coast of Britain by the middle of August, but the plan is hastily conceived and rudimentary. The intention is to transport 39 divisions across the English Channel in flat-bottomed Rhine river barges, in 3 waves (3 infantry div. then 6 armoured & 3 motorised div. finally 17 infantry div.). This requires the English Channel to be swept of British mines and then both ends blocked with German mines to prevent entry of Royal Navy. In addition, the Luftwaffe must annihilate the RAF to prevent aerial attacks on the barges. In contrast, Churchill believes the invasion can be thwarted simply by minesweepers clearing a path through the minefields to allow British destroyers into the Channel to sail back and forth, overturning the unstable barges in their wake.

British cruiser HMS Glasgow and destroyer HMS Imogen collide in heavy fog off Duncansby Head, North of Scotland. Imogen catches fire and is abandoned (17 killed, 133 rescued by HMS Glasgow), drifting 20 miles South before sinking. HMS Glasgow suffers a 6 foot gash above the water line (2 killed) and will sail to Liverpool for repairs (completed September 4).

Torpedo duel in the Mediterranean. British submarine HMS Phoenix attacks Italian torpedo boat Albatros but misses, Southeast of Sicily. Albatros then torpedoes HMS Phoenix and sinks her (all 55 crew lost).

In the South Atlantic, German armed merchant cruiser Thor sinks British steamer Wendover carrying 7250 tons of coal (4 killed, 36 crew and 1 gunner taken prisoner).

130 miles northwest of Ireland, U-61 hits British tanker Scottish Minstrel with 1 torpedo (9 dead). The tanker stays afloat, its cargo of 9200 tons of fuel oil blazing fiercely, and sinks the next day. 32 survivors are rescued by corvette HMS Gardenia and landed at Folkestone, England.

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