THE SECOND WORLD WAR September 1940
Radio Belgique was established on the 18th September`1940 and the first broadcast from the BBC in London was on the 28th September 1940 to Nazi-occupied Belgium. The broadcast was in French and Dutch with Victor de Laveleye in control of the French service and Jan Moedwil in control of the Dutch service. The Germans immediately created a collaborationist radio station to the Belgian audience to obviate the potential effect Radio Belgique could have on their control of information broadcasted to the occupied country.
On the 23rd September 1940 the British and Free French Force troops attempted landing at the port of Dakar in French West Africa. Brigadier Charles de Gaulle believed he could persuade the Vichy French forces in Dakar to join the Allies as this would have caused a great deal of political upset for the Vichy French colony. To achieve this the Allies decided to send a task force, accompanied by the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal, to Dakar with orders to negotiate with the Vichy French governor for a peaceful occupation. If this proved not to be successful the city would be taken by force. British Fleet Air Arm aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Dakar followed by Free French aircraft flying off HMS Ark Royal and landing at Dakar airport and whose crews were immediately taken prisoner. A boat with a representative of General de Gaulle entered the port but it was fired on by the Vichy French defenders. An engagement between the British fleet and the shore batteries lasted for several hours. Vichy destroyer L’Audacieux was hit and had to be beached and two Vichy submarines were sunk. Overall, the attack on Dakar did not go well for the Allies as the Vichy forces did not back down. Of the Allied battleships, HMS Resolution was torpedoed and HMS Barham was hit by two shells from the shore batteries. British cruisers HMS Australia and Cumberland were also damaged. Simultaneously an attempt was made by Free French troops to attack coastal defences but fog and the Vichy defenders continued to halt the attack. Eventually General de Gaulle called off the assault on the 25th September 1940, leaving Dakar and French West Africa in Vichy hands.
King George VI inaugurated the award of the George Cross on the 24th September 1940 in recognition of the bravery of civilians. An important factor for keeping up public morale was when the King and Queen Elizabeth stayed in London during the Blitz. On the 10th September 1940 Buckingham Palace was bombed and the Royal Chapel was destroyed on the 13th September 1940. After the raids Queen Elizabeth declared: “I’m glad we have been bombed. Now I can look the East End in the face”. German dictator Adolf Hitler considered the Queen ‘to be the most dangerous woman in Europe’ with her ability to boost the morale of her citizens during their darkest hour.
Following the attack by the Germans and retaliation by the British for the bombing of Cripplegate Church in London in August 1940, Britain began large scale bombing raids on Berlin in September 1940. Little damage was achieved owing to inferior nocturnal navigation and bomb aiming and daylight raids produced unacceptable heavy losses to British aircraft. Following the fall of France, Britain had no other means of carrying the war to Germany and therefore bombing was seen as the only option. When the Second World War began American President Roosevelt requested that all major participants confined their air raids to military targets. America it this stage of the war was neutral. Britain and France agreed to this request providing their opponents did the same.
September 1940 saw the escalation of heavy losses to convoys in the Atlantic by German U-boats. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote that “the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril”. While Britain was winning the Battle of Britain in the air the U-boats, using their brand new bases in France, attacked ships almost at will. The Royal Navy was at full stretch with patrolling the Atlantic and the Mediterranean since Italy had joined forces with Germany. For the first time in September 1940 the U-boats began using “wolf pack” tactics to attack convoys sailing from North America to Britain. The convoys at times suffered as much as 20% losses of heavily-laden cargo ships. During the period from July to September 1940 German naval commanders referred to these times as “the happy time” with the main target being oil tankers. The highest recorded losses were 11 ships on the 26th September 1940 and 12 ships on the 7th September 1940.
In retaliation for the assault on Dakar by the Allies on the 24th September 1940 the Vichy French Air Force, based in North Africa, bombed the British base at Gibraltar. Fifty aircraft dropped 150 bombs on the dockyards and harbour and on the 25th September 1940 a further one hundred aircraft dropped 300 bomb on the same targets. Some damage was caused but there were few casualties suffered as most of the bombs missed their targets.
On the 1st September 1940 the German government ordered all Jewish people to wear yellow stars of David. After the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, France and Belgium during May/June 1940, anti-Jewish policies were gradually implemented. Racial legislation and discrimination became more prevalent with all Jews forced to register with the German authorities. The dispossession of Jewish assets was the beginning of the preparation for the deportation to the Death Camps.
Hitler called for Operation Sea Lion to be postponed on the 3rd September 1940. Operation Sea Lion was the German codename for the invasion of Britain. With the Luftwaffe struggling for air supremacy over Britain, Germany was ill-prepared for an invasion. They were ill-prepared because of the waning strength of the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine (Germany Navy) having suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Norway a few months earlier. Without any practical experience to land an amphibious attack, and lacking purpose built landing craft, the Kriegsmarine assembled over 2,000 river barges which would need to be towed by tugs. Although modified the barges had poor seagoing characteristics totally unsuitable for the bad weather that can occur in the English Channel in September. By early September 1940 Germany had also assembled 168 transport ships. For the tides to be right to facilitate landing troops on the south coast of England they would have to wait until late September 1940. The invasion was not a practical proposition and was postponed.
The invasion plans having been suspended, Hitler turned his attention to destroying London in an attempt to demoralise the population and force the British to come to terms. Hitler’s determination to disable Britain may actually have strengthened Britain’s determination to fight. From the 7th September 1940 bombing raids on London began. German Dictator Adolf Hitler had ordered a new policy the previous day that the strategy, known as “The Blitz”, whereby London was to be attacked in order to draw RAF Fighter Command away from the airfields of southern England. London was systematically bombed by the Luftwaffe for 56 out of the following 57 days or nights.
The German high command had agreed the invasion of Britain should begin on the 14th September 1940. The navy made revisions to their schedule and set the date back until the 24th September 1940 when the tides would be favourable for a German invasion. Air superiority had not been achieved by the 14th September 1940 and Hitler ordered Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, to intensify the air raids.
The large-scale daylight attack of London on 15th September 1940 was the most notable but the Luftwaffe suffered significant losses for very little lasting gain. In order to evade attack by RAF fighters the Luftwaffe gradually decreased their daylight raids. By October 1940 the Blitz became a night bombing campaign. The 15th September annually is remembered as the Battle of Britain Day.
By the 17th September 1940 Hitler was convinced the invasion was not a viable proposition as the three branches of the armed forces had not co-ordinated their plans properly. He therefore postponed Operation Sea Lion indefinitely.
In Berlin on the 27th September 1940 the Tripartite Act was signed by Germany, Italy and Japan. The pact was an agreement directed primarily at the United States of America. As the theatres of war were on the opposite sides of the world the practical effect of the pact was minimal. The pact stated that Japan recognised the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new European order. Conversely, Germany and Italy recognised the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new Greater East Asia order. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the declaration of war in 1941 against the United States, the Tripartite Act did not require a similar declaration of war from Germany and Italy.
The Italian invasion of Egypt lasted from the 13th to the 16th September 1940 and was a strategic operation against the British. Italy had enjoyed a long term presence in North Africa as they had occupied Libya since 1932. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was determined to expand that presence by invading and seizing Egypt during the North African campaign. In 1936 a British-Egyptian agreement was signed whereby Britain had the right to occupy Egyptian territory in the event of a threat to the Suez Canal. Following Italy’s declaration of war against Britain the Egyptian parliament broke off diplomatic relations with Italy. On the 9th September 1940 bombers of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) attacked British airfields in Egypt and the British retaliated by launching air strikes against Italian airfields , supply points and the concentration of troops. Although vastly outnumbered the small British defence force resisting the Italians were forced to retreat to the east. When the Italians occupied the previously held British territory the British retreated further until they reached the prepared positions near the city of Mersa Matruh. The Italians followed but the invasion of Egypt had stalled on the 16th September 1940. After the Italians had followed the British retreat having marched approximately 50 miles they halted and called off the invasion. The Italians were not able to achieve success during this operation owing to the indecisiveness of the Italian command coupled with the fact they had insufficient armament and transportation.
On the 9th September 1940 a bombing raid on Tel Aviv caused the death of 137 civilians. In Palestine the Italian Air Force bombed the city in an effort to strike at Britain and the Commonwealth throughout the Middle East. Tel Aviv was targeted because the Italian bombers were intercepted by British aircraft. The bombers were forced to turn back from their intended targets of port and refineries of Haifa and received orders to drop their bombs on the port of Tel Aviv. The civilian area was where the bombs landed instead of the intended target of the port of Tel Aviv.
On the 10th September 1940 the Corpa Aereo Italiano (CAI) was formed after Mussolini insisted that an element of the Italian Air Force should assist his German ally during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. The CAI achieved limited success during its brief existence as it was generally hampered by the inadequacy of its equipment.
(Other Theatres of War)
In Romania on the 6th September 1940 King Carol II abdicated. During the coup d’état of 1930 Prince Carol declared himself King Carol II. He encouraged the development of a modern economy, cultural initiative and maintained alliances with France and her allies in Eastern Europe. His growing admiration of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and the increasing agreements with Nazi-Germany including anti-Semitism plus the political unrest in Romania he declared himself a dictator. Following disagreements with France in July 1940 King Carol II announced that Romanian alliance would be with Germany but political unrest demanded his abdication in favour of his son King Michael I. After the abdication King Carol II went into exile settling in Mexico.
In America on the 16th September 1940 selective peacetime conscription began with the “Selective Training and Service Act of 1940”. President Roosevelt signed this act which was the first peacetime conscription in United States history. Conscription required the registration of all men between the ages of 21 and 35 with the selection for one year’s service by national lottery. When Germany conquered France many Americans supported the return of conscription as they believed that a German-Italian victory would endanger the U.S.
The Japanese invasion of French Indochina began on the 22nd September 1940 and the fighting continued until the 28th September 1940. The fighting was an undeclared confrontation and the main Japanese objective was to prevent the Republic of China from importing arms and fuel and thereby blockading China. On the 25th September 1940 the French administration in Indochina officially handed over the territory to Japanese control. In the meantime, Japanese troops occupied the airfield outside Hanoi together with several rail marshalling yards and by October 1940 the Japanese were running Indochina.
On the 28th September 1940 German- occupied Norway appointed Vidkun Quisling as Head of State who led his fascist collaborationist government to power. The Quisling Regime, as it became known, was to remain in power until May 1945 when the Second World War in Europe ended.