Translate

27 September 2010

Tuesday 24th September 1940: "unabated fury..."

.
"London is crumbling before our eyes"
.
Mild, bright sunshine, but chilly at night. Raid warning from 8.35 to 9.23 a.m. From 11.53. a.m. to 12.25 p.m., bombs and gunfire before the warning. Edie Bennett called; her mother is not expected to live. The night raid began at 8.11 p.m. and continued with unabated fury till 5.32 a.m. on 25 Wed. Enemy aircraft were more numerous than ever, each one getting a few rounds of gunfure but without any noticeable effect. It seems as though they cannot be stopped and London is crumbling before our eyes, thousand have been killed already.
.
On this day:

  • Over 3 days (23-25) Free French forces and British try to take the port of Dakar in French West Africa. Operation Menace falters and Churchill calls it off.
  • Vichy i.e. French forces supporting Germany, attack Gibraltar by air, dropping 600 tons of bombs, but causing limited damage.
  • The German Commissioner in Norway appoints Quisling head of government, formally deposing the King.

25 September 2010

Monday 23rd September 1940: "Things are looking very serious..."

.
Mild, fine, bright sunshine. Raid warning from 9.40 to 1045 a.m. From 1.27 to 2.43 p.m. - distant bombs or gunfire. From 5.28 to 6.2 p.m. from 7.44 p.m. when the night raid began, being even more severe than last night;   great many bombs on S. London area; gunfire less effective. Things are looking very serious as there seems no way of dealing with night bombers and they come over in droves. All clear at 5.58 a.m. on 24 Tues.
.
Note: Fred, like thousands of others, must have been kept awake by the aircraft and the bombs, witness his recording the precise times of the all-clear siren in the middle of the night. 
.

24 September 2010

Sunday 22nd September 1940

.
Mild, dull, slight rain. Warnings from 2.35 to 4.10, rrom 4.42 to 6.0 p.m. Was out walking when the sirens sounded. Saw Madge and Margaret on their bikes in West Barnes Lane. The night raid began at 7.15 and 20 heave bombs were dropped within a mile or two judging by the dreadful noise. yesterday bombs were dropped on the railway between Raynes Park and Malden Stations, the latter being put out of action. All clear at 2.34 a.m. on 23 Mon. Further warning from 3'28 a.m. to 5.58 a.m; bombs on E. & S.E.London.
.

22 September 2010

Saturday 21st September 1940: "A great red ball of flame..."

.
"Mrs Webb's house... is just a pile of rubbish."


(Fred's entry runs on from yesterday, as do the air raids) ...raid recommenced at 1.20 a.m. but it was over E. & N.E.London. Am convinced I saw a German plane blown up in mid air by a direct hit from a shell. A great red ball of flame suddenly appeared which developed into a vertical line of fire and smoke: I then heard a terrific explosion. We shall see if I was mistaken.... I am inclined to think now that it was a barrage balloon hit by a shell, all clear at 5.20 a.m.
   21 Sat (con.) Mild, dull, chilly at night. Warnings from 11.13 to 11.25 a.m., 6.7 to 7.0 p.m. four bombs dropped. Went to see Mrs Webb's house in Durham Road; it is just a pile of rubbish, yet the greenhouse is intact - glass and all. The nightly raid began at 8.15 p.m. One bomb whistled overhead and landed somewhere to Northward. The guns allowed this plane to do its work firing only afterwards. The bombs on Dupont Road might not have fallen if the guns had fired sooner. Last night not a single bomber was permitted to approach: they were all turned back by spirited gunfire. All clear at 4.37 a.m. on 22 Sun.
.

21 September 2010

Friday 20th September 1940: Fred was given part of a German aircraft...

.
Mild, dull, less wind. Warning from 11.40 a.m. till 12 noon. Went to see where the German plane crashed. The Scottish troops from the anti-aircraft station were removing the machine which was reduced to scrap. A boy gave me a piece of the self-sealing compound which the Germans use to make the petrol tank bullet proof. The night attack began at 7.53 p.m. but so well did our guns fire that no raiders got past the London area; they just turned tail and dwindled to silence in the darkness. Raid recommenced at 12.20 a.m. on the 21 Sat.
.
On this day: in fact over the period of 3 days, Atlantic convoy HX-72 is attacked by a group of German U-boats, which sunk 12 ships. Seven of these loses were overnight on 21-22 Sept., sunk by a single German U.00 which was not detected by the escorts.
  • German army commanders are warned that troops will be sent to Rumania, to be stationed in case of war with the Soviet Union.

19 September 2010

19 Sept 1940: "...the house was demolished"

.
Thurs 19. Mild, heavy rain. Warning from  8.55 tp 9.10 a.m. Short walk to buy Dinky something. In evening to see the damage in Cambridge Road. A huge crater on Cottenham Park Rec. and a still larger one in Cambridge Road where Mr Halliday lived: but not a window broken. Called in at Richmond Road to see how they all were: Margaret has a Siamese kitten. The night raid was characterised by few bombs within hearing but large number of machines past over and our local guns blazed at them good and strong - starting at 8.3. p.m. it finished at 5.46 a.m. on 20th Fri. One alarming incident was when a German plane power dived at stupendous speed to within a few yards of us in the shelter. We thought it was going to crash on us as it had been under heavy fire; don't know what happened to it.---
Since writing the above I do know that the machine was a Junkers, type 88. It was fired at by our local battery and a shell blew its tail off. It dived at incredible speed on to a house in Richmond Avenue. The house was demolished. The plane buried itself deeply, blew up and caught fire.
.

18 September 2010

Wednesday 18th September 1940: "many swishing noises..."

.
"The bombers came over like a swarm of bees for 6 hours"
.
Mild, some moderate sun, windy. Raid warnings as follows. 7.15 to 7.32 a.m. 8.25 to 8.44 a.m., - our gune fired. 9.45 to 10.5 a.m., 11 to 11.15 a.m., 12.45 p.m. to 2.30. 4.13  p.m. to 4.32 p.m., 5.14 p.m. to 5.45 p.m. 7.55 p.m. when the night raid began. The bombers came over like a swarm of bees for 6 hours without a break but the attack became more sporadic as the time drew on. One bomb would not have been far away in a W.direction. Heard many drawn out swishing noises as if objects were gliding down out of control owing to gunfire? Hope so! All clear at 5.30 a.m. on Thur. 19th
.

17 September 2010

Tuesday 17th September 1940: my windows blasted

.
"it looks as if Uncle Alf's has barely escaped"
.
A further raid began at 3.50 a.m. but was not on a large scale: went to bed so do not know when it ended. Two short warnings followed from 8.0 to 9.0 a.m. and another - time or duration not observed. The bomb on the Rec. proved to be a British one captured by the Germans in France. Warning from 2.55 to 4.25 p.m. Nothing developed. Maud called ion evening. Warning from 6.30 to 7.0 p.m. The night raid began at 8.7 and a bomber flew overhead circling round and dropped a bomb which sent a powerful blast through the house, and blew out two windows and cracked another. Aunt Liza has several windows out. The road is strew with glass. Fruins (??) shop window is out, and it was an aerial torpedo in Kingston road. I shall have to see how Uncle Alf and Aunt Hannah have fared. All clear at 6.0 a.m. on 18 Wed. Went out immediately and saw what has happened. A bomb in Kingston Road opposite Sidney Road, and several in Dupont Road, demolishing several houses. The police would not let me down, but it looks as if Uncle Alf's has barely escaped. (It was badly damaged.)
.
On this day:

  • 10,000 Britons killed or wounded in today's raids, the fiercest yet. So far this month, 2,000 have died.
  • Germans postpone invasion plans - Operation Sealion - indefinitely. RAF bombers attack German vessels which had been gathered for invasion.
  •  In the Med, aircraft from the carrier Illustrious sink four Italian ships in the harbour at Benghazi. 

.

16 September 2010

Monday 16th September 1940: "The nightly smash-up of London began at 8.10 and was very severe"

.
"Our guns fired and scared Uncle Henry"
.
Mild, dull, rain. Warnings from 10.0 to 10.35 a.m. from 11.5 to 11.40 a.m., from 12.15 to 12.55 p.m. From 2.15 to 5.59 p.m. during which time a few enemy aircraft were heard. Not long before the all clear sounded a bomber flew over low and dropped a bomb on Joseph Hood's Rec. & made a crater - saw it afterwards. Our guns fired and scared Uncle Henry who was here. Many bombs dropped on Wimbledon in the night. Some shop windows at Oxford (??) Av. broken by concussion. The nightly smash-up of London began at 8.10 p.m. and was very severe until 1.45 when there was a lull. After an hour's silence the all clear went at 2.45 a.m. on 17 Tues.
.

15 September 2010

Sunday 15th September 1940: "Great battle over London"

.
"...they are smashing London up."
Warnings from 1.0 a.m. to 3.30 a.m. From 11.45 a.m. to 12.55 p.m. Great battle over London. Buckingham Palace bombed again. German raider down at Victoria Station. German in flames over Wimbledon Common: the crew baled out. Saw two Nazis coming down by parachute. From 2.15 to 3.20 p.m. Battle over Croydon. From 7.15 to 7.40 p.m.  Walk on Common in evening: heard 3 delayed bombs. The usual London raid began at 8.10 p.m.: a serious business. Many bombs dropped, these sounded quite near. Shrapnel falling and whistling all around. Seems impossible to stop these night bombers: they are smashing London up. All clear at 5.30 a.m. on Mon. The three bombs nearby were in  Morden Road; three were killed. The delayed bomb dropped beside St Paul's Cathedral weighed a ton. It was dug up and conveyed to a safe spot where it was exploded; it made a crater 100 ft across.
.

14 September 2010

Saturday 14th September 1940: six air raid warnings

.
Mild, chilly wind, a little weak sunshine. Warnings - 9.45 to 10.00 a.m. & 11.0 to 11.15 a.m., 3.47 to 5.5. p.m. flight of machines passed over and sound of bombs as if they were dropped on Wimbledon Common; I'm sure they are welcome. 6.20 - 7.15 - one bomb sounded as before. 7.40 to 9.0 p.m., 9.38 to 9.59 p.m.
.
On this day

  • Hitler postpones invasion decision again, hoping Luftwaffe will have better weather to attack Britain in the meantime - making 27 September earliest possible date. But autumn and winter weather threatens... Luftwaffe commanders believe they are defeating the RAF. 
  • Vera Brittain records seeing damage to Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. "Immense detours now necessary in Central London." She also records (note Hitler's decisions affected by weather, above): "A bad day for raids, lots of low clouds."

.

13 September 2010

Friday 13th September 1940: "The aerial bombardment began punctually at 9.0pm."

.
13th Fri. Very mild, much heavy rain, very cloudy, very boisterous. Warning from 7.40 to 8.30 a.m. Also from 10.15 a.m. to 1.56 p.m. during which periods aeroplanes were heard and some bombs and firing. An unexpected burst of machine-gunning were heard at 3.50 followed by a warning: all clear at 4.15 p.m. Walked along rail path to see the bog tank engine. The aerial bombardment began punctually at 9.0 p.m. The anti-aircraft barrage being particularly intense. Noted a new weapon, probably a rocket which fires three shells from one discharge. Counted upwards of 30 German bombers passing here alone. Hope they got hit. The sky was ablaze with shell bursts. All clear at 5.30 a.m. on 14th Sat.
.
On this day
  • Britain's Royal Navy moves battleships Nelson and Rodney to join the Hood at Rosyth, preparing to back-up the existing fleet of cruisers and destroyers in areas of potential invasion. The battleship Revenge is in Plymouth. 
  • Italian troops advance from Libya into Egypt, and also a minor advance into from Ethiopia into Kenya.
  • All 27 Chinese fighters were shot down in an encounter with 13 Japanese Zeroes over Chungking.

12 September 2010

Thursday 12th Sept 1940: "Card saying Tolworth was bombed on Monday..."

.
12 Thur. (con.). Mild, chilly wind, cloudy. Bought liver for Dinky. Was watching guns on fields when the warning siren went at 4.40 to 5.45 p.m. Card** from Albert saying Tolworth was bombed on Monday afternoon last. The nightly attack began at 9.15 p.m. Less machines took part, but a big glow in the N.sky showed where they had been. The firing was less intense All clear 15 5.45 a.m. on 13th Fri.
..
**Neither brother had a telephone at this time.
.
On this day
  • Reporters in Berlin were told that by German authorities that the RAF wouldn't last another two weeks.
  • Finland agreed transit rights for German troops. 

11 September 2010

Wednesday 11th Sept 1940: "The nightly attack on London at 8.38pm"

.
"It was indiscriminate bombing of non-military places"
.
11th Wed (con.) Mild, some autumn sunshine, chilly N.wind. Raid warnings as follows; from 11.55 a.m. to 12.10 p.m. from 3.23 to 4.43 p,m. many bombs dropped in a S.W. or W. direction. From 5.5 to 5.25 p.m. Then the nightly attack on London at 8.38 p.m. The gun barrage was terrific and the Germans were subjected to real opposition, may being held off. Some got through & started fires as usual. It was indiscriminate bombing of non-military places. Our local guns (4) made a dreadful din, but I like to hear it all the same. The all clear came at 5.38 a.m. on Thur.12th.
.
"Our local guns (4) made a dreadful din, but I like to hear it all the same"


Link to photo of incident map of bombs falling in Wimbledon. Note the line of incendiaries parallel to a railway line. Uncle Fred's home in Chestnut Road, Raynes Park is towards the eastern end of that set of 12 or so north-south parallel roads ('The Apostles') at the foot of the map:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarflondondunc/1825914314/lightbox/.
.

10 September 2010

Tuesday 10th Sept 1940: "...the red glow of many fires."

.
10th Tues. (con.) Mild, cloudy. Warning from 12.5 to 1.22.pm. From 4.5 to 4.20, from 5.25 to 5.44, from 5.57 to 6.25 p.m. Was out cycling when the sirens went so took shelter at Uncle Ben's, New Malden. Warning from 8.15 to 4.45 a.m on 11th Wed. The nightly bombardment of London continues and the sky is lit up again with the red glow of many fires. The bombs - by the sound, were of the heaviest calibre. These fell at Tooting, I have just heard.
.
On this day: Hitler suspends decision on an imminent invasion.
.

Monday 9th September 1940: "The sky is red with the light of a hundred fires"

.
Mild, cloudy, getting very cool. Raid warning from 5.15 ro 6.25. A squadron of the enemy met a squadron of our Hurricane fighters. Four German machines tumbled down immediately the forces met. Others came down so I was told, and some of the enemy airmen came down by parachute. Many bombs were dropped however, and some fires started, at Kingston I believe. Alb & Lily called to say they were all right after last night's hectic affair. Went to see the damage in Elm Walk: an enormous bomb crater in the garden. Raid at night from 9.37 p.m. till 5.45 a.m. on Tues 10th. Fierce bombing attack especially on east London continued. The sky is red with the light of a hundred fires. The damage must be grievous. St.Thomas Hospital is badly damaged. The docks have suffered most. Our anti-aircraft guns are firing more accurately and without waiting to get a sight of the enemy. They brought a German down in this raid.
.
On this day: US ships start operating with Royal Navy in North Atlantic. Germany warns that any ship, whatever the nationality, will be attacked if in a war zone.
.

8 September 2010

Sunday 8th Sept: most intense aerial bombardment yet... hundreds if not more bombs...

.
Very mild, rain in morning, cloudy day. Raid warning from 12.30 to 1.28 p.m. Walk on Cannon Hill Common in evening, had only just got back when the sirens went at 8.0 p.m. There followed the most intense aerial bombardment yet. Hundreds if not more bombs were dropped, some came whistling down quite near. The guns on the fields blazed away as never before. Many fires were started and at one time the whole sky was red. Afraid much damage and loss of life must have occurred. There was scarcely a time when there was not the sound of many enemy aircraft. It rained during the raid, and some thunder and lightning. The all clear came at 5.35 a.m. on the 9th, Mon.
.
On this day: Vera Brittain wrote: 'lay in shelter most of night with pillow over my head'.
.

7 September 2010

Saturday 7th Sept 1940: terrific glare in the sky

.
7 Sat. (Con.) still fine and bright, rather warm. Warning from 5.0 to 6-42 p.m.Sounds of many bombs and gunfire & prolonged bursts of machine gun fire from the air. Short walk at dusk. Noticed a terrif glare in the eastern sky as if the germand had started a conflagration. The red light lit up the whole landscape and continued through the night. Warning from 8.30 p.m. till 5.55 a.m. on 8th. Sun, during which there was a procession of German bombers and many bombs.
.
On this day:

  • The Blitz. Luftwaffe begins heavy bombing attacks on London. Some 300 German bombers and 600 fighters attack London's dock area during daylight. Guided by the fires, some 300 continue the attacks by night. 
  • RAF reconnaissance has seen concentrations of German materials being massed at Channel ports. Church bells are rung, the signal to civilians of invasion... and the code word Cromwell is sent to the military - the highest form of warning of an imminent invasion.
  • Vera Brittain records Edwards Square home being shaken 'like a ship in a rough sea' and 'we were practically blown down into the basement.'

"That terrible glare is a familiar sight to many of these girls." Civilian Defence female personnel tackle a fire caused by an explosive incendiary bomb. Photo: P G Hennill
.

6 September 2010

Friday 6th September 1940: fierce air battle

.
(With air raid warnings punctuating the night, Fred links some days' entries.)
...Continued until 4-45 am on the 6th Sept. Thence from 5.30 to 5.55 a.m. At 8.30 till 10.00 a.m. 6th Sept (contd.) fierce air battle overhead. ; sounds of bombs or gunfire and some say a bomber is down.
   Fine warm day, but sunshine less intense. Warning from 12.55 till 1.58 p.m. Also from 6.0 to 6.40 p.m. From (added here at foot of page:) Dorothy called: nice girl! 9.0 to 11.20 p.m., three magnesium parachute flares in E. and one in N. Warning from 11.35 till 1.5 a.m. on 7 Sat. Several distant bombs and one loud one S. London I imagine. This bomb did great damage at Elephant & Castle.
.
On this day:

  • Vera Brittain's diary records the lack of sleep (in London) due to raids very hard to bear - and Fred's diary shows unusual signs of slight weariness in writing, most unlike his usual careful entries.
  • Rumanian King, Carol II, abdicates in favour of Michael, his son. General Ion Antonescu becomes dictator, and he declares the Nazi Iron Guard  the only legal party.

.

5 September 2010

Thursday 5th September 1940: 74 in the shade...many bombs

.
Warm, fine sunny day. 74 in the shade. Raid warnings from 10.10 to 11.00 and 11.22 to 11.40 a.m. Also from 3.6 to 4.332 p.m. No enemy appeared hereabouts. To buy liver for Dinky. Hoed over and watered part of the garden: in need of rain. Raid warning at 9.20 p.m. Many distant bombs and one loud one ine the North. Our guns fired a few rounds at a passing enemy bomber. Continued until 4-45 a.m. on.....
.

4 September 2010

Wednesday 4th September 1940: searchlights and shells

.
Warm, gloriously sunny day; even the boisterous wind felt warm. Air raid warning from 9.20 to 9.50 a.m. also from 1.25 to 1.50 p.m. Only our own fighters in evidence. Cycled along Grand Drive, Garth Road, along London Rd to Morden Sta, returning via Dorset Road. Warning from 9.5 to 10-45 p.m. Two enemy planes in searchlights over E. London under intense anti-aircraft fire, some shells bursting very close: don't know if they were shot down. Four enemy planes passed over London after the ll clear sounded, some of them under fire.    
.
On this day: Vera Brittain records, 'spent night in basement; persuaded Mother to have it strengthened...'
.

3 September 2010

Tuesday 3rd September 1940: bomb near United Dairies

.
3 Tues, Continued. Rather warm, fine, some nice sun. One year of war to-day. Air raid warnings from 10.25 to 11.35 a.m. and from 2.50 to 4.0 p.m. Only our own fighter aircraft were in evidence. The five loud bombs heard in the early hours were at Morden. One heavy bomb made a 40ft crater near the United Dairies in Kenley Rd, Merton Park. Had to water Dear Mother's grave, the ground is so dry.Uncle Ben called. Warning from 11.35 to 11.50. A German bomber passed from N. to E. London, judging by the searchlights.
.
Painting the roundels on the wing of a Spitfire.
"This neat and housewifely woman is the mother of three children..."
from 'British Women Go to War'; photo: P G Hennell; Collins, London.

2 September 2010

Monday 2nd September 1940:meat coupons, cat food and bombs

.
Rather warm, some sun, but less power than yesterday. Air raid warning from 8.10 to 8.55 a.m. Also from 4.30 to 5.55 p.m. Heard many of our own planes but no Germans come near here. Uncle Henry called saying he had picked up a sheet of meat coupons belonging to an address in Greenway. I cycled there and gave it to the owner - Mrs. Putnam - in the afternoon. Also bought Kit-E-Cat for Dinky & a tonic for myself in Coombe Lane. Maud called in evening. Sirens sounded at 10-35 p.m. Took shelter. Many Germans over. Heard many bombs, five of which were not far off. Also heard something whistling down.  All clear at 5.5 on 3rd Tues. a.m.
.
On this day: Britain completes deal with USA for 50 old WWI destroyers, vital to escort convoys. Meanwhile German aircraft attacks continue, but the targets are nor necessarily well-chosen... there are night attacks too on Bristol, Liverpool and London.
.

1 September 2010

Sunday 1st September 1940

.
At 12.10 a.m. a British bomber went over; searchlights came out and it gave the identity signal - two Verey lights, one red, one yellow. Warning at 12.25 a.m. Bomber over London from N. to S. dropping bombs which made violet flashes: two shells fired at it. Several others followed it. All clear came at 4 a.m. // 1 Sun. Continued. Warm glorious sunny day; warm even at night. Surprised that such a day could be. Warning from 11.10 to 11.40 a.m. Also from 2 to 2.50 p.m. Air battle over Croydon. Heard sound of machine guns & saw puffs of bursting shells high up over the raiders. Miss Hilliard came to tea; gave her some roses.
.
On this day: this month will see German E-boat (i.e. motor torpedo boat) operations increase off Britain's east coast. At this stage, most loses are sustained in the Irish Sea, from night surface attacks by U-boats (Unterseeboot, i.e. submarines).
.