Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 386 September 20, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 73. Despite fine weather, there are only reconnaissance flights until 11 AM when 100+ Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters cross the Channel, in 3 waves, and converge on London. 15 squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes engage the Bf109s. The German fighters do not have to protect any bombers. They fare much better in these dogfights than usual and only 2 are shot down while RAF loses 7 fighters (4 pilots killed). In addition, Sgt. C.V. Meeson is killed when his Hurricane crashes during formation flying practice. London is bombed again overnight.

Between 9.20 and 9.26 PM, U-138 fires 3 torpedoes at convoy OB-216 and hits 3 ships 10 miles North of Malin Head, Ireland. Yugoslavian collier Boka, carrying coal from Wales to Sierra Leone, sinks (8 killed 26 survivors). British passenger liner SS City of Simla also sinks (1 crew and 2 passengers lost, 182 crew and 165 passengers rescued). British whale factory ship New Sevilla is hit (2 crew lost, 282 rescued) and taken in tow, but sinks the next day.

In the Red Sea, Italian aircraft attack Convoy BN-5 which is also being hunted by Italian Navy destroyers and submarines. British SS Bhima is damaged by near misses and will be towed to Aden and beached. Escort cruiser HMS Leander (New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy) is unsuccessfully attacked. 1 Italian bomber is shot down.

In the Indian Ocean halfway between Madagascar and Australia, German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis reluctantly sinks empty French passenger liner Commissaire Ramel carrying a cargo of steel, wheat, soap, leather and fruit (3 crew killed). 63 crew, mostly Australians, are added to the prisoners on board Atlantis. Fregattenkapitän Rogge would prefer to transfer his 230 prisoners to the liner and send her home as a prize ship. Royal Navy forms hunter group to locate Atlantis, composed of Royal Australian Navy cruiser HMAS Canberra and armed merchant cruiser Westralia as well as British cruisers HMS Capetown and Durban.

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