23 October, 2010

Day 106 - Battle of Britain

Weather here good, wrote Goebbels in Berlin, bad over England."Few incursions into the Reich, but neither do we drop much in England". The propaganda minister is not far wrong. Low cloud and drizzle, with the concomitant poor visibility, prevents any significant German air operations, either by day or night.

The Luftwaffe reverts to its standard bad weather programme, sending out reconnaissance flights and single bomb-carrying fighters. One Hurricane is lost to an Me 109 and the Luftwaffe loses three bombers, two from the night contingent. Only one of the three is a direct combat loss - the other two crash on home territory.

The OKW War Diary this day records a report from London which states that the effects of the German attack on London and the British industry were not very strong during September. During October, however, the effects are said to have been stronger. "The British people is said to be fatalistic," it notes. "The people, however, does not appear demoralised".

Separately, in relation to the dispersion of forces intended for operation Seelöwe, it is recorded that: "long periods of time will, in future, be required to get this operation going". It then adds: "The measures to deceive the enemy are to be continued but the main effort of this deception should be directed to Norway".

The diary also carries a report on Luftwaffe operations. "The morale of the flying units is excellent", it says. "These units are strained but not over-strained." It then goes on to observe that, in general, only fighter-bomber aircraft equipped with 250Kg bombs are to be committed in daylight operations against London and alternate targets. These are to fly at extremely high altitudes and, it is thought, the damages caused in London are "very considerable".

In Britain, the media focus is not on the domestic front. Big events are being staged in France where, only 24 hours after Churchill has made a radio appeal to the French to rise up and set Europe aflame.

Predictably, Göbbels is less than impressed. "Impudent, insulting, and oozing with hypocrisy", he calls it, "A repulsive, oily obscenity". He releases the speech to the [German] press for them "to give it a really rough and ready answer" Otherwise, he writes, the English will carry on living an illusion. We shall battle on remorselessly to destroy their last hopes.

This day, Hitler arrives secretly in Paris to have a long conference with Pierre Laval. Reports emerging from Berlin indicate that Hitler is offering final peace terms to France in exchange for the surrender of the remnants of the French fleet. With the help of the French, Hitler and Mussolini are said to be planning a "decisive blow against the British Fleet in the Mediterranean.

According to the Daily Express, "Jubilant Nazi officials in Berlin boast that the three navies could either destroy the British Fleet or drive it off our great Empire lifeline."

A DH. 95 passenger aircraft.  The Herefordshire differed from the Flamingo in having oval rather then square windows.

Combat fliers were not the only casualties this day. On a scheduled flight to Belfast from RAF Hendon was a Hertfordshire aircraft, the militarised version of the De Haviland Flamingo passenger aircraft, and the only one of its kind. Shortly after take-off, its elevator jammed and it crashed at Mill Hill, a few miles north.

Eleven people were killed – five crew and six passengers, the latter including Air Vice Marshal Blount, a first-class cricketer and commander of the air component of the BEF in France. After the Battle of France, he had returned to England to resume his original post as AOC, No. 22 (Army Co-Operation) Group. He was three days short of his 47th birthday.

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