THE SECOND WORLD WAR November 1940

THE SECOND WORLD WAR November 1940

(Britain)

On the 5th November 1940 Acting Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen commanded the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay who was escorting thirty seven merchant convoy ships in the North Atlantic. The convoy was attacked by German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer and the Royal Navy vessel Jervis Bay immediately engaged with the enemy head on. Although outgunned and on fire, Jervis Bay maintained the unequal battle for three hours thus giving the convoy time to scatter. Badly wounded, Fegen went down with his ship when Jervis Bay finally sank. His courageous action enabled thirty one of the convoy vessels to escape and he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Neville Chamberlain died on the 9th November 1940 aged 71, one month after he had resigned from the House of Commons. He had resigned as Prime Minister in May 1940 and Winston Churchill had taken over as the new Prime Minister. Churchill wished for Chamberlain to return to the Exchequer but he refused, however, he did accept a seat in the five member War Cabinet. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer which resulted in him retiring from politics. By refusing Britain’s highest chivalry award, the Order of the Garter, he wished to remain as plain Mr. Neville Chamberlain.

In the Mediterranean on the night of the 11/12th November 1940 British naval forces launched the first all aircraft, ship to ship naval attack against the Italian battle fleet which was at anchor in Taranto in Italy.  Twenty-one Fairy Swordfish biplanes armed with torpedoes from HMS Illustrious damaged 3 battleships, 2 cruisers and multiple auxiliary craft. This attack against the Italian navy at Taranto secured the British supply lines in the Mediterranean. A Japanese officer, who was in attendance at Taranto, witnessed the engagement and realised the potential for the Japanese navy.

The Battle of Gabon in French Equatorial Africa (FEA) concluded on the 12th November 1940. The French Free Force, allied to Britain, wrestled Central Africa from the Vichy French occupying the country. The Vichy government administered authority over all unoccupied French territory. Gabon was last colony in FEA not to rally to Charles De Gaule’s radio appeal to reject the Vichy regime. On the 27th October 1940 Free French Forces crossed into FEA, with British Royal Naval support, and gained control over the Vichy regime. On the 12th November 1940 the final Vichy forces surrendered without a fight at Port Gentil.     

The air raid to hit Coventry on the 14th November 1940 was the most severe the city had sustained during the war. At around 7.20 pm thirteen specially modified Luftwaffe aircraft, fitted with electronic navigational aids, accurately dropped marker flares on the city. The first wave of follow up bombers dropped high explosive bombs destroying many of the utilities of water, electricity and telephone facilities. The following wave of bombers dropped a combination of high explosive and incendiary bombs. Many war manufacturing businesses were the targets which were based close to the city centre. At around 8.00 pm Coventry Cathedral was set alight by incendiaries and the flames rapidly spread out of control. The raid reached its climax around midnight and the all clear sounded at 6.15 am on the morning of the 15th November 1940. The raid was concentrated on the city centre with over 4,300 homes destroyed and around two thirds of the city’s buildings damaged including two hospitals, two churches and a police station. An estimated 568 people lost their lives in the raid and over 1,200 people were injured.

On the 16th November 1940 Churchill ordered some British troops based in North Africa to assist Greece in the Greco-Italian War. See the invasion of Greece by Italy.     

The De Havilland Mosquito made its first flight on the 25th November 1940. The Mosquito was a twin engine shoulder winged combat aircraft. The frame was constructed almost entirely of wood coupled with twin Merlin engines, made it one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. It was originally designed as an unarmed fast bomber but later developed into a multi role combat aircraft, being used as a bomber, pathfinder, fighter bomber and fighter. The Royal Air Force (RAF) took delivery of the first operational Mosquito bomber on the 15th November 1941. The Mosquito served with other air forces in the European, Mediterranean and Italian theatres.             

The Luftwaffe launched a massive overnight bombing raid against Liverpool on the 29th November 1940. The worst single incident was when a large underground shelter in Durning Road, Edge Hill received a direct hit. Inside the shelter were approximately 300 people tightly packed together. The building collapsed into the basement shelter crushing many of the occupants. In all, 166 men, women and children were killed with many more being badly injured.

On the following night, the 30th November 1940, the Luftwaffe launched the first of two consecutive bombing raids on Southampton in southern England which became known as the ‘Southampton Blitz’. The town was a key target for the Luftwaffe not only for being the U.K.’s main military port but also the Supermarine factory at Woolston manufacturing the Spitfire fighter aircraft.

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(Germany)

On the 12th November 1940 German Dictator Adolf Hitler and Foreign Ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop for Germany and Vyacheslav Molotov for the Soviet Union met in Berlin to discuss the New World Order. Hitler believed Britain was defeated and offered India to the Soviet Union. However, Molotov expressed Soviet interest in Finland, Bulgaria, Romania and Bosporus. On the 13th November 1940 Molotov again met Hitler asking for German acceptance to destroy Finland but Hitler resisted any attempt to expand Soviet influence in Europe. On the 18th November 1940 the three signatories of the Tripartite Pact formally invited the Soviet Union to join, which the Soviets considered to be an update of the existing agreements with Germany. The result of joining would be to have a share in the spoils of the British Empire. Following the meetings, on the 25th November 1940 the Soviet Union issued her terms to join the Tripartite Pact including substantial new territorial gains for the Soviet Union.                                                                                                                                                        

The Tripartite Pact was an agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan signed in Berlin on the 27th September 1940. The Pact was a defensive military alliance which was primarily directed at the United States in the event that America would enter the war. On the 20th November 1940 Hungary was the first country apart from the original three signatories to sign the agreement. Three days later on the 23rd November 1940, Romania also signed the agreement. When German troops entered Romania, Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini was determined to launch an invasion of Greece, starting the Greco-Italian War. Romania was one of the largest oil producers in Europe which supplied approximately 30% of all the axis oil production. The Slovak Republic signed the agreement on the 24th November 1940 and became the third new country to join the Pact. Slovakia had been closely aligned with Germany following the declaration of independence from Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

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(Italy)

On the 1st November 1940 Turkey declared neutrality after the Greco-Italian War began on the 28th October 1940.

The Italian advance continued into Greece on the 2nd November 1940 and Vovousa was captured whilst Italian aircraft bombed Salonika (Thessalonica). The Greeks began to retreat toward the main defensive line of Elaia-Kalamas. The Italians faced difficulties in advancing because of the harshness of the terrain and the Battle of Elaia-Kalamas on the 8th November 1940 ensured the defensive line could not be breached. The Italians ended their futile offensive in Greece. In the mountains near the Greek-Albanian border the Battle of Pindus ended with a Greek victory on the 13th November 1940. The   Greek counter-offensive against the Italians began on the 14th November 1940 and on the 19th November 1940 the Italians were evicted from Greek soil. The Battle of Korytsa was fought and won on the 22nd November 1940. Korytsa, in Southern Albania, was defended by the Italian Army against the attacking Greek Army. Greek victory was complete when the town was captured but the remnants of the Italian Army avoided capture as the Greeks were unable to pursue the retreating Italians.     

On the 16th November 1940 Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered some British troops in North Africa be sent to Greece. British military leaders were concerned that the troops were needed for the campaign against the Italians in North Africa.  

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(Other Theatres)

On the 5th November 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected for the third term as president of the United States of America. He was elected on the speech he made in Boston on the 30th October 1940 that America would remain neutral as far as foreign wars were concerned or that any American “boy” would not be sent to Europe to fight. Within a year the USA would be at war with Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.   

On the 21st November 1940 the Belgian government, in exile, declared war on Germany.

In America the Martin B-26 Marauder was twin-engine medium bomber which made its first flight on the 25th November 1940. Manufactured by the Glenn L. Martin Co. from 1941 to 1945 they first saw action in the Pacific Theatre of War. In March 1939 the United States Army Air Corps. Issued a specification for a medium twin-engine bomber with a maximum speed of 350 mph (560 km/h) a range of 3,000 miles (4,800 km) and a bomb load of 2,000 lb (909 kg). The Martin Co. submitted their design in July 1940 which was accepted and it only took two years to produce an operational bomber from the original concept.

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