Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 352 August 17, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 39. Despite perfect flying weather with little wind and cloudless skies, there are only a few German reconnaissance flights. RAF takes the opportunity to rest pilots and make repairs to aircraft, airstrips and radar stations damaged in the recent bombing. 1 German aircraft is shot down by anti-aircraft fire at Southampton. Overnight, there is bombing of the East coast and cities in the Midlands (Coventry, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Chester) and one small bombing raid on London. Another German aircraft is shot down by a Blenheim. RAF bombs the armament works at Leuna, near Leipzig, Germany. No RAF aircraft are lost.

British Somaliland, East Africa. British troops are evacuated from Berbera. Italian forces are ordered not to attack during the withdrawal, hoping for a future peace settlement with Britain. British cruiser HMS Ceres, covering the evacuation, shells an Italian column advancing along the coast 40 miles West of Berbera at Bulhar. British casualties in the defense of Somaliland are 38 killed, 102 wounded and 120 captured (in contrast, Italians have 465 killed, 1530 wounded). Churchill believes Somaliland has been given up without a fight. Commander-in-Chief Middle East, General Wavell, replies that "A bloody butcher’s bill is not the sign of a good tactician", driving Churchill into a rage. Amazingly, both Wavell and Major-General Godwin-Austen (responsible for defending British Somaliland) are not removed from command.

North Africa. Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet sails from Alexandria, Egypt, to bombard the Libyan port of Bardia. At 7 AM, battleships HMS Warspite, Malaya & Ramillies and cruiser HMS Kent, supported by 12 destroyers, shell Bardia and Italian troop concentrations 12 miles South at Fort Capuzzo. Light Italian coastal batteries do not have the range to reach the British warships.

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