Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 391 September 25, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 78. Again, the weather is fine but only 2 major raids materialize. At 11.45 AM, 27 German bombers and 30+ fighters attack the Bristol Aeroplane Company factory at Filton, near Bristol, which manufactures Blenheims. In 45 seconds, construction sheds are damaged, 8 newly built are aircraft destroyed, including 2 Beaufighter prototypes, and 132 people are killed (315 wounded). 6 German aircraft are shot down (8 airmen killed, 10 taken prisoner) and 2 more crash land returning to France. 4 RAF fighters are shot down (1 pilot killed). At 4.47 PM, 24 bombers and 12 Me110s attack Plymouth (1 bomber shot down, no RAF fighters lost). London and other cities are bombed overnight and mines laid in the Thames Estuary.

Operation Menace. British warships return and shell Dakar harbour and coastal batteries. At 9 AM, French submarine Beveziers torpedoes British battleship HMS Resolution (which has to be towed back to Freetown, Sierra Leone, by HMS Barham), forcing the British warships to retire. In consultation with the British war cabinet, the operation is abandoned. Vichy French bombers return to bomb Gibraltar from bases in Algeria and Morocco. While most bombs drop in the sea, the harbour receives some damage and British anti-submarine trawler Stella Sirius is sunk.

At 3.25 AM, 500 miles West of Ireland, U-32 sinks British SS Mabriton (12 dead, 25 survivors rescued by British survey ship HMS Jason and sloop HMS Rochester). 400 miles West of Ireland, U-43 sinks British SS Sulairia at 1.30 PM (1 killed, 56 survivors picked up by Canadian destroyer HMCS Ottawa) and U-29 hits British MV Eurymedon at 2 PM, which sinks 2 days later (20 crew & 9 passengers lost, 42 crew & 22 passengers picked up by HMCS Ottawa).

Operation Lucid. Old Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers War Nizam & War Nawab are to be set on fire and sent into the French Channel ports as fire ships to ignite German invasion barges. Filled with 2-3000 tons of a cocktail of 50% heavy fuel oil, 25% diesel oil and 25% petrol, they depart Sheerness and Portsmouth escorted by 6 destroyers, 5 minesweepers and torpedo boats. The operation is cancelled in the evening when War Nizam breaks down. Reminiscent of Sir Francis Drake’s attack on the Spanish Armada in 1588 which "singed the King of Spain's beard", the plan is supported by Churchill to "singe Hitler's moustache".

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