Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 387 September 21, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 74. A very quiet day, despite fine weather. There are reconnaissance flights all day (2 German bombers shot down) and a 200+ aircraft raid towards London which is turned back at 6 PM. No RAF fighters are lost. London and Liverpool are bombed again overnight. British government sanctions the use of London Underground ‘Tube’ stations as air-raid shelters, which until now have been used unofficially by a growing number of Londoners. Tube stations are kitted out with food canteens, first aid facilities and chemical toilets. Some stations are equipped with bunks. One section of track is closed to trains and concreted over (the Aldwych branch of the Piccadilly Line), to allow storage of antiques and artifacts from the British Museum including the Elgin Marbles.

U-138 continues the attack on convoy OB-216, 10 miles off Malin Head, Ireland. At 2.27 AM, U-138 torpedoes British SS Empire Adventure (21 crew lost, 18 rescued) which is taken in tow but sinks on September 23.

Convoy HX-72 (41 merchant ships from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Britain, protected by 4 Royal Navy destroyers, 1 sloop and 2 corvettes) is mauled by a wolf pack of 9 U-boats, 400 miles West of Ireland. G√ľnther Prien in U-47 spots the convoy, but he has only 1 torpedo and calls for help. From 3.12 to 4.47 AM, U-99 torpedoes 3 ships which all eventually sink; British tanker Invershannon (16 dead and 32 survivors), British SS Baron Blythswood (all 34 hands lost) and British MV Elmbank (2 dead and 54 survivors). At 6.14 AM, U-48 sinks British SS Blairangus (6 dead and 28 survivors). At 11.10 PM, U-100 torpedoes and sinks British steamers Canonesa (1 dead and 62 survivors), Dalcairn (all 48 hands rescued) and British tanker Torinia (all 55 hands rescued). At 11.38 PM, U-48 gets back in the action, damaging British SS Broompark (1 crew killed).

The flotilla of ships to support the Free French landings at Dakar (Operation Menace) leaves Freetown, Sierra Leone. This includes aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, battleships HMS Barham and Resolution, cruiser HMS Devonshire, numerous destroyers and troop transports as well as French sloops Commandant Domine, Commandant Duboc and Savorgnan De Brazza. They will be joined at sea by cruisers HMS Cumberland and Dragon and HMAS Australia.

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