Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 389 September 23, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 76. Fine weather brings 2 raids of 200 Luftwaffe fighters at 9.30 AM and 100 at 5.30 PM. These are both repulsed by RAF and do not reach London. Luftwaffe loses 10 Messerschmitt Bf109s and 1 Bf100, while RAF loses 11 fighters (2 pilots killed, 6 wounded, 1 crashes in the Channel near France and taken prisoner). Overnight, London is bombed by German bombers flying from France, Belgium and Holland. Liverpool is also bombed.

Operation Menace. General Charles de Gaulle attempts a peaceful landing of 3600 Free French troops at Dakar, French West Africa (now Senegal), to persuade Vichy French forces to join the Allied cause. They are supported by 4300 British troops (held in reserve in case of resistance) and a flotilla including British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and battleships HMS Barham and Resolution. However, Vichy spirit has been strengthened by the recent visit of French warships (indicating that Vichy had learned of de Gaulle’s plans). 2 Free French aircraft from HMS Ark Royal land at Dakar airport, where the crews are taken prisoner. de Gaulle sends emissaries into the port under a white flag and French tricolour but they are fired on (2 wounded). At 10 AM, British warships close in to prevent Vichy ships leaving harbour and are shelled by shore batteries (damaging cruisers HMS Cumberland [1 killed] & Dragon and destroyers HMS Foresight [3 killed] & Inglefeld). The British ships withdraw out of range at 11.30 AM, unable to hit the French guns due to fog. Vichy submarine Persee is sunk attempting to torpedo cruiser Dragon. In the afternoon, cruiser HMAS Australia shells Vichy destroyer L'Audacieux, which catches fire and is beached (81 crew killed). de Gaulle then attempts to land his troops at Rufisque Bay, 10 miles East of Dakar, but the attack becomes confused in the fog and the beach is well defended. de Gaulle withdraws, not wanting to "shed the blood of Frenchmen for Frenchmen". When Churchill learns of the failure, he urges “having begun we must go on to the end. Stop at nothing”.

7 old US Navy destroyers are handed over to the British Royal Navy at Halifax, Nova Scotia, as part of the “destroyers for bases” deal. British submarine H-49 sinks German steamer Heimdal 7 miles Northwest of Terschelling Island, Holland.

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