Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 374 September 8, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 61. No. 11 Group commander AVM Keith Park flies his Hurricane over bomb-damaged parts of London, stating “It was burning all down the river. It was a horrid sight. But I looked down and said ‘Thank God for that’, because I knew that the Nazis had switched their attack from the fighter stations thinking that they were knocked out. They weren't, but they were pretty groggy”. At noon, 20 Dornier bombers escorted by 30 Bf109s head for London but they are intercepted and turned back by RAF fighters (3 Dorniers and 1 Bf109 shot down). RAF loses 4 fighters shot down (2 pilots killed). At 7.30 PM, 30 aircraft drop incendiary bombs on London to provide markers for the night raids. Overnight, Thames Estuary and London’s East End are bombed again (3 more Dorniers shot down by antiaircraft guns). http://www.raf.mod.uk/bob1940/september8.html

British War Cabinet is convinced, by the heavy bombing of London the previous day and the accumulation of invasion barges on the Dutch and French coasts with favourable tides the next few nights, that invasion is imminent. Codeword “Cromwell” is passed to the Army and Home Forces, leading some to believe the invasion has started and causing great confusion. Church bells are rung, roadblocks set up, some bridges blown and landmines sown on some roads (killing 3 Guards officers). Home Guard units search beaches for invasion barges and scan the skies for approaching German paratroopers, but none come.

British cruiser HMS Aurora, escorted by 3 destroyers, shells German shipping and invasion barges in the harbour at Boulogne, France. British torpedo boats MTB-14, MTB-15 and MTB-17 sink a German ammunition ship off Ostend, Belgium.

Overnight in the Central Atlantic, 500 miles from the nearest land, German armed merchant cruiser Widder stops Greek collier Antonios Chandris (carrying 6,616 tons of coal from Cardiff to Buenos Aires). Widder’s Captain Ruckteschell orders the 29 crew to abandon ship in the lifeboats before Antonios Chandris is sunk by demolition charges at dawn. 22 crew will be rescued 31 days later on October 8, over 1400 miles away, by Portuguese freighter Serpa Pinto and landed at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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