Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940

Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940

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Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940

Operation Coat (15-20 November 1940) was the second attempt to ferry Hurricane fighters to the beleaguered island of Malta by aircraft carrier, but unlike the first attempt the operation ended in failure. The first attempt, Operation Hurry of 1-4 August 1940, had seen twelve Hurricanes fly onto Malta from the old aircraft carrier Argus. In November the attempt was repeated, once again using the Argus and twelve Hurricanes, as part of a larger convoy operation. This time the operation was less successful. Admiral Somerville, in command of Force H at Gibraltar, had the task of escorting the Argus into range of the island, and defending it against any attack by the Italian fleet. Somerville was particularly concerned about the low speed of his force, forced on it by the 33 year old Argus. On 15 November, when the convoy left Gibraltar, Somerville was already concerned that his force was not strong enough to deal with any possible Italian sortie, and on the next day bad weather promised to further slow him down.

To reduce the danger of any Italian intervention Somerville decided to launch the Hurricanes from as far from Malta as the airmen felt was safe. They advised him that the Hurricanes could safely cover 400 miles, and so before dawn on 17 November the twelve Hurricanes, with two Skua escorts, took off. Tragically only four of the Hurricanes and one Skua reached Malta, while the remaining aircraft disappeared over the Mediterranean. A Board of Enquiry, inevitably operating with very little solid data, decided that the pilots of the aircraft were at fault, for the trip was well within the ferrying range of both the Hurricanes and the Skua. On the day after the aircraft were lost Somerville himself reproached himself for not moving 40 miles closer to Malta, but the loss of any one of his ships would have far outweighed the actual loss of nine aircraft.

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Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940 - History

Xinhua via Getty Images Unit 731 personnel conduct a bacteriological trial upon a test subject in Nongan County of northeast China’s Jilin Province. November 1940.

World War II was beyond horrible for hundreds of millions of people. It’s as if all the developed countries of the world had surplus rage and hate that they had been storing up, and it all came flooding out in the war years.

Out of all the areas in which World War II was fought, none were active as long as what would come to be known as the Pacific Theater. In fact, Japan arguably started the war by attacking Manchuria in 1931, and it inarguably waged war with China by invading in 1937.

The disturbances and upheavals that these invasions caused shook China to its very foundations, triggered a civil war and a famine that probably killed more people than currently live in Canada and Australia combined, and lasted until the country’s Soviet “liberation” in 1945.

And out of all the outrages that Imperial Japan unleashed upon the Chinese people during this brutal occupation — and there were indeed some stunning crimes committed, even by World War II standards — probably none was as gratuitously hateful as the operations of Unit 731, the Japanese biological warfare unit that somehow plumbed new depths in what was already a nearly genocidal war.

Despite innocent beginnings as a research and public health agency, Unit 731 eventually grew into an assembly line for weaponized diseases that, if fully deployed, could have killed everyone on Earth several times over. All this “progress” was, of course, built on the limitless suffering of human prisoners, who were held as test subjects and walking disease incubators until Unit 731 disbanded at the end of the war.

In a long list of atrocities, these six programs, in particular, stand out in the bloody history of Unit 731:

Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940 - History


BRITISH NAVY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, including Malta Convoys, Part 1 of 4

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)

September 1939

3rd - Britain & France declare war on Germany

Allied Maritime Responsibilities - These were based on the assumption Britain and France were actively allied against the European Axis powers of Germany and Italy. The Royal Navy would be responsible for the North Sea and most of the Atlantic, although the French would contribute some forces. In the Mediterranean, defence would be shared between both Navies, but as it happened, Benito Mussolini did not go to war for another nine months.


JUNE 1940

Major Warship types

Western Med


Eastern Med

Eastern Med




6 (b)



































(a) Plus 10 British destroyers at Gibraltar.
(b) included 2 new battleships completing.
(c) Plus over 60 large torpedo boats.

Italy Declared War - Italy declared war on Britain and France on the 10th. Two weeks later France was out of the war. Still on the 10th, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.

France - Later in the month Italian forces invaded southern France but with little success. A Franco-Italian Armistice was signed on the 24th, and included provision for the demilitarisation of French naval bases in the Mediterranean.

Malta - Italian aircraft carried out the first of the many raids on Malta on the 11th. Next day, the RAF made its first attacks on Italian mainland targets.

12th -The Mediterranean Fleet with “Warspite”, “Malaya”, “Eagle”, cruisers and destroyers sailed from Alexandria for a sweep against Italian shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean. South of Crete, light cruiser “CALYPSO” was torpedoed and sunk by Italian submarine “Bagnolini”.

13th - Mediterranean Fleet submarines operated out of Alexandria on patrol off Italian bases and soon lost three of their number (1-3) . At the time mines were usually blamed, but it turned out Italian anti-submarine forces were far more effective than expected. The first loss was “ODIN” (1) off the Italian coast in the Gulf of Taranto, sunk by the guns and torpedoes of destroyer “Strale”.

16th - The second British submarine “GRAMPUS” (2) , minelaying off Augusta, Sicily was caught and sunk by large torpedo boats “Circe” and “Clio”.

17th - Six Italian submarines [1-6] were sunk in the Mediterranean, half by the Royal Navy. However the first to go, “PROVANA” [1] was rammed and sunk off Oran, Algeria by French sloop “La Curieuse” after attacking a French convoy, and just a week before France was forced out of the war.

19th - Towards the other end of the North African coast, the third British loss “ORPHEUS” (3) was sent to the bottom by Italian destroyer “Turbine” north of the Cyrenaica port of Tobruk, soon to become a household name .

20th - The second Italian boat lost in the Mediterranean was “DIAMANTE” [2] torpedoed by submarine “Parthian” off Tobruk.

27th - The second Italian submarine lost was the “LIUZZI” [3] sunk by Med Fleet destroyers “Dainty”, “Ilex”, “Decoy” and the Australian “Voyager” south of Crete.

28th - As the Mediterranean Fleet 7th Cruiser Squadron covered convoy movements in the Eastern Mediterranean, three Italian destroyers carrying supplies between Taranto in southern Italy and Tobruk were intercepted. In a running gun battle, “ESPERO” was sunk by Australian cruiser “Sydney” to the southwest of Cape Matapan at the southern tip of Greece.

28th - The first of two Italian submarines sunk by RAF Sunderlands of No. 230 Sqdn was “ARGONAUTA” [4] in the central Med as she was believed to be returning from patrol off Tobruk

29th - The same Med Fleet destroyers after sinking “Liuzzi” two days earlier, were now southwest of Crete. They repeated their success by sinking “UEBI SCEBELI” [5] .

29th - A day after their first success, the Sunderlands of No. 230 Sqdn sank “RUBINO” [6] in the Ionian Sea as she returned from the Alexandria area

British Force H - By the end of the month, Force H had been assembled at Gibraltar from units of the Home Fleet. Vice-Adm Sir James Somerville flew his flag in battlecruiser “Hood” and commanded battleships “Resolution” and “Valiant”, carrier “Ark Royal” and a few cruisers and destroyers. He reported directly to the Admiralty and not to the Commander, North Atlantic. From Gibraltar, Force H could cover the Western Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as happened in the May 1941 hunt for the “Bismarck”. Units could also quickly transfer back to the Home Fleet and UK waters as shortly became necessary at the height of the German invasion scare. There could be no better example of the flexibility of British naval power at this time.

Warship Loss Summary - In a confusing month, the Royal Navy had lost one light cruiser, one destroyer, three submarines and one sloop the Italian Navy one destroyer and ten submarines, including four in the Red Sea.

Merchant Shipping War - Losses in the Mediterranean throughout the war would generally be low as most Allied shipping to and from the Middle East was diverted around the Cape of Good Hope.

Monthly Loss Summary
6 British, Allied and neutral ships of 45,000 tons from all causes.

French Navy in the Mediterranean - 3rd - Action at Oran (Operation 'Catapult') - Adm Somerville arrived with Force H off the French Algerian base of Mers-el-Kebir near Oran. French Adm Gensoul was offered a number of choices to ensure his fleet with its four capital ships stayed out of Axis hands. All were turned down and, at around 18.00, Force H opened fire on the anchored ships. "BRETAGNE" blew up and the "Dunkerque" and "Provence", together with other ships, were badly damaged. Battlecruiser "Strasbourg" and some destroyers managed to break out in spite of attacks by aircraft from "Ark Royal", and reached Toulon in the south of France. Three days later the damaged "Dunkerque" was torpedoed at her moorings by Ark Royal's Swordfish. The tragic and unhappy episode was over as far as Oran was concerned. 4th - A more peaceful solution to the French naval presence was found at Alexandria. Adm Cunningham was able to reach agreement with Adm Godfrey on the demilitarisation of battleship "Lorraine", four cruisers and a number of smaller ships. No action was taken against the French warships at Algiers and Toulon. For the Royal Navy an unhappy but in British eyes, necessary duty had been carried out against our former French allies. French anger and bitterness was understandably considerable. 5th - Obsolescent torpedo-carrying Swordfish from carrier "Eagle's" squadrons flew from land bases on successful attacks against Tobruk and area. On the 5th, aircraft of 813 Squadron sank Italian destroyer "ZEFFIRO" and a freighter at Tobruk. The success was repeated two weeks later .

9th - Action off Calabria or Battle of Punto Stila (map above) - O n the 7th, Adm Cunningham sailed from Alexandria with battleships "Warspite", Malaya", Royal Sovereign", carrier "Eagle", cruisers and destroyers to cover convoys from Malta to Alexandria and to challenge the Italians to action. Next day - the 8th - two Italian battleships, 14 cruisers and 32 destroyers were reported in the Ionian Sea covering a convoy of their own to Benghazi in Libya. Italian aircraft now started five days of accurate high-level bombing (also against Force H out of Gibraltar) and cruiser "Gloucester" was hit and damaged. Mediterranean Fleet headed for a position to cut off the Italians from their base at Taranto. On the 9th, Eagles aircraft failed to find the Italians and first contact was made by a detached cruiser squadron which was soon under fire from the heavier Italian ships. "Warspite" came up and damaged "Giulio Cesare" with a 15in hit. As the Italian battleships turned away, the British cruisers and destroyers engaged, but with little effect. Mediterranean Fleet pursued to within 50 miles of the south west Italian coast off Calabria before withdrawing.

As Adm Cunningham covered the by now delayed convoys to Alexandria, "Eagle's" Swordfish attacked Augusta harbour, Sicily on the 10th. Destroyer "Pancaldo" was torpedoed, but later re-floated and re-commissioned. 11th - Force H, which had put to sea on receiving reports of the Italian fleet, was now returning to Gibraltar, when screening destroyer "ESCORT" was s unk by the Italian submarine "Marconi".

16th - Submarine "PHOENIX" attacked an escorted tanker off Augusta and was lost to depth charges from Italian torpedo boat "Albatros".

19th - Action off Cape Spada (see map below) - Austra lian cruiser "Sydney" and destroyers "Hasty", "Havock", "Hero", "Hyperion" and "llex" on a sweep into the Aegean Sea were sent to intercept two reported Italian cruisers. Off Cape Spada at the north west tip of Crete, "BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI" was stopped by Sydney's gunfire and finished off with torpedoes from the destroyers. "Bande Nere" managed to escape.

20th - Carrier "Eagle's" Swordfish continued their strikes against Italian targets around Tobruk. In the nearby Gulf of Bomba, 824 Squadron was responsible for sinking destroyers "NEMBO" and "OSTRO" and another freighter.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 British, Allied and neutral ships of 7,000 tons


With the fall of France, Italy continued to dominate the central Mediterranean. The situation in the western basin became difficult, as shipping between Gibraltar and Malta could no longer look to Algeria and Tunis for protection. At the eastern end, Lebanon and Syria went over to Vichy France and in time endangered Britain's position in the Middle East. At the present, Greece and Crete remained neutral, otherwise enemy aircraft would dominate the Mediterranean Fleet as soon as it left Egyptian waters. This happened when they were occupied by the Germans. The comparatively healthy naval position also changed for the worse. In all except capital ships – seven British to six Italian - the Royal Navy was distinctly inferior in numbers to the Italians, but had its two near-priceless fleet carriers – “Ark Royal” based on Gibraltar, and “Eagle”, later joined by “Illustrious” operating out of Alexandria. They dominated the Mediterranean over the next six months. Fortunately the situation was also helped by the French Fleet staying neutral and out of Axis hands - that is, until its sovereignty was under attack when the French Navy fought back fiercely. The arrival of Force H at Gibraltar went some way to offsetting the loss of French naval power in the Western Mediterranean.

1st - Submarine "OSWALD" on patrol south of the Strait of Messina reported Italian Navy movements. She was detected, and later rammed and sunk by destroyer "Vivaldi".

Malta - The decision was taken to reinforce Malta and in Operation 'Hurry', carrier "Argus" flew off 12 Hurricanes from a position southwest of Sardinia. This was the first of many reinforcement and supply operations, often bitterly fought to keep Malta alive and in the fight against Axis supply routes to their armies in North Africa. Now, as in the future, cover from the west was provided by Force H. The opportunity was taken for "Ark Royal's" aircraft to hit Sardinian targets. In the middle of the month, Mediterranean Fleet battleships "Warspite", "Malaya" and "Ramillies" bombarded Italian positions around Bardia in Libya, just over the border from Egypt.

22nd - Land-based Swordfish from "Eagle's" 824 Squadron repeated their July success with another torpedo strike in the Gulf of Bomba near Tobruk. Just as she prepared for a human torpedo attack on Alexandria, submarine "IRIDE" and a depot ship were sunk.

23rd - Heavy mining in the Strait of Sicily by Italian surface ships led to the loss of destroyer "HOSTILE" on passage from Malta to Gibraltar. Extensive Italian fields in the 'Sicilian Narrows' sank and damaged many Royal Navy ships over the next three years.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 ship of 1,000 tons

Royal Navy in the Mediterranean - Reinforcements were sent to the Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria right through until the end of the year. They were covered from Gibraltar by Adm Somerville's Force H, then met in the central basin by Adm Cunningham and escorted the rest of the way. The opportunity was usually taken to carry in supplies of men and material to Malta. Early in September new fleet carrier "Illustrious" with its armoured flight deck, battleship "Valiant" and two cruisers were transferred in this way in Operation 'Hats'. On passage with the new arrivals, aircraft from Force H's "Ark Royal" attacked Sardinian targets. After joining up with carrier "Eagle" and now in the eastern Mad, "Illustrious" sent aircraft against Rhodes. The Italian Fleet sortied during these operations, but failed to make contact. The arrival of "Illustrious" allowed Adm Cunningham to go ahead with his plans to attack the Italian battlefleet at Taranto.

Vichy France - Three French cruisers with accompanying destroyers sailed from Toulon and, on the 11th, passed through the Strait of Gibraltar bound for French West Africa. All but one of the cruisers arrived at Dakar just as Operation 'Menace' was about to get underway. Adm Sir Dudley North, Flag Officer, North Atlantic, at Gibraltar was somewhat unfairly held responsible for allowing their passage. He was relieved of his command and never officially cleared.

North Africa - From bases in Libya, Italy invaded Egypt on the 13th. Sollum just over the border was occupied and Sidi Barrani reached on the 16th. There the Italian advance stopped. Neither side made a move until December.

17th - Units of the Mediterranean Fleet including battleship "Valiant" sailed with "Illustrious" for a raid on Benghazi. Swordfish biplanes torpedoed destroyer "BOREA" and mines laid by them off the port sank "AQUILONE". On the return to Alexandria, heavy cruiser "Kent" was de tached to bombard Bardia, but torpedoed and badly damaged by Italian aircraft.

22nd - British submarine "Osiris" on patrol in the southern Adriatic attacked a convoy and sank Italian torpedo boat "PALESTRO".

30th - As Italian submarine "GONDAR" approached Alexandria carrying human torpedoes for an attack on the base, she was found by a RAF Sunderland of No 230 Squadron and sunk by Australian destroyer "Stuart".

Monthly Loss Summary
2 ships of 6,000 tons

2nd - Mediterranean Fleet destroyers "Havock" and "Hasty" sank Italian submarine "BERILLO" off Sollum the border town between Libya and Egypt.

12th/14th - Attacks on Malta Convoy - From Alex andria a convoy safely reached Malta covered by the Mediterranean Fleet with four battleships and carriers "Illustrious" and "Eagle". As the Fleet returned on the 12th, attacks were made by Italian light forces southeast of Sicily. Cruiser "Ajax" sank Italian torpedo boats "AIRONE" and "ARIEL" and badly damaged destroyer "ARTIGLIERE" which was finished off by heavy cruiser "York". Later heading back east, the carriers launched air strikes against Leros island in the Dodecanese. On the 14th as the Med Fleet headed for Alexandria, cruiser "Liverpool" was badly damaged by a torpedo hit from Italian aircraft.

15th - On patrol off Calabria, south west Italy in the Ionian Sea, submarine "RAINBOW" was lost in a gun action with the Italian submarine "Enrico Toti". At about this time "TRIAD" was probably mined off the Gulf of Taranto.

18th - Air and sea patrols accounted for two Italian submarines to the east of Gibraltar. On the 18th "DURBO" went down to attacks by destroyers "Firedrake" and "Wrestler" working with RAF London flying boats of No 202 Squadron.

20th - Two days after "Durbo's" sinking, Gibraltar-based destroyers "Gallant", "Griffin" and "Hotspur" accounted for the "LAFOLE".

Balkans - On the 28th, the Italians invaded Greece from points in Albania, but were soon driven back. Fighting continued on Albanian soil until April 1941.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 ship of 3,000 tons

11th - Fleet Air Arm Attack on Taranto, Operation 'Judgement' - Early in the month a complex series of reinforcement and supply moves ( 1-5 , map above) mounted from both ends of the Mediterranean led to the classic air attack on the Italian battlefleet at Taranto (6) . (1) From Alexandria, Adm Cunningham, with battleships "Malaya", "Ramillies", Valiant" and "Warspite", carrier "Illustrious", cruisers and destroyers, sailed to cover west-bound convoys to Crete and Malta. Aircraft carrier "Eagle" had to be left behind because of defects caused by earlier bombing. (2) From Gibraltar, Force H in a separate operation called "Coat" supported the east-bound passage of battleship "Barham", two cruisers and three destroyers to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet. (3) Troop reinforcements were also carried to Malta at this time from Gibraltar. (4) Still in the eastern half of the Med, Adm Cunningham's Fleet met its new members and covered the return of an empty ship convoy from Malta. (5) On the 11th a cruiser force was detached for a successful attack on Italian shipping in the Strait of Otranto at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea.

(6) "Illustrious" meanwhile, escorted by cruisers and destroyers, headed for a position in the Ionian Sea 170 miles to the southeast of Taranto. All six battleships of the Italian Navy were at anchor there. That night she launched two waves of Swordfish biplanes, some belonging to "Eagle". Under the command of Lt-Cdrs K. Williamson and J. W. Hale, the total of no more than 20 aircraft of Number 813, 815, 819 and 824 Squadrons hit "CONTE DI CAVOUR" and "CAIO DIULIO" with one torpedo each and the brand new "LITTORIA" with three. All three battleships sank at their moorings and "Cavour" was never recommissioned, all for the loss of just two Swordfish.

The Japanese Navy studied the attack carefully, as Pearl Harbor learnt to its cost just a year later.

27th - Action off Cape Spartivento, Southern Sardinia - A f ast convoy under the codename Operation 'Collar' sailed eastward from Gibraltar with ships for Malta and Alexandria. Cover as usual was provided by Force H with battlecruiser "Renown", carrier "Ark Royal", cruisers "Despatch" and "Sheffield". Meanwhile, units of the Mediterranean Fleet including "Ramillies" and cruisers "Newcastle", "Berwick" and "Coventry" headed west for a position south of Sardinia to meet them. Other ships accompanied the two Mediterranean Fleet carriers in separate attacks on Italian targets - "Eagle" on Tripoli, Libya and "Illustrious" on Rhodes off the southwest Turkish coast. These moves took place on the 26th. Next day, on the 27th, south of Sardinia, aircraft of Force H's "Ark Royal" sighted an Italian force with two battleships and seven heavy cruisers. Force H, now joined by the Med Fleet's "Ramillies", sailed to meet them. In an hour-long exchange of gunfire "Renown" and the cruisers were in action, during which time "Berwick" was damaged and an Italian destroyer badly hit. The slower "Ramillies" had not come up by the time the Italians had turned back for home. Adm Somerville pursued, but as he approached Italian shores had to turn back himself. The convoys arrived safely. Adm Somerville was later subjected to a board of enquiry for not continuing the pursuit of the Italian force, but was soon exonerated.

Balkans - As the Greek Army pushed back the Italians into Albania, RAF squadrons were sent from Egypt to Greece and the Royal Navy carried over the first Australian, British and New Zealand troops by cruiser. Mediterranean Fleet established an advance base at Suda Bay on the north coast of Crete.

Monthly Loss Summary
There were no British or Allied shipping losses in November 1940.

Late November/early December - Submarines "REGULUS" and "TRITON" were los t in late November or early December, possibly mined in the Strait of Otranto area at the southern end of the Adriatic Sea. Alternatively "Regulus" may have been sunk by Italian aircraft on 26th November.

3rd - At anchor in the poorly defended Suda Bay, cruiser "Glasgow" was h it by two torpedoes from Italian aircraft and badly damaged.

North Africa - Gen Wavell launched the first British offensive on the 9th against the Italian forces in Egypt. Sidi Barrani was captured on the 10th and by the end of the month British and Dominion troops had entered Libya for the first time. The offensive continued until February by which time El Agheila, half way across Libya and well on the way to Tripoli, had been reached. Italian losses in men and material were considerable. Units of the Mediterranean Fleet including the small ship Inshore Squadron and the Australian Destroyer Flotilla played an important part in supporting and supplying the North African land campaign. On the 13th, cruiser "Coventry" was t orpedoed by Italian submarine "Neghelli", but remained operational.

14th - Also operating in support of the land campaign, destroyers "Hereward" and "Hyperion" sank Italian submarine "NAIADE" off Bardia, Libya just over the Egyptian border

Mediterranean Operations - Another series of convoy and offensive operations were carried out by the Mediterranean Fleet with battleships "Warspite", "Valiant "and carrier "Illustrious". On the 17th carrier aircraft attacked Rhodes and on the night of the 18th/19th the two battleships bombarded Valona, Albania. At the same time, battleship "Malaya" passed through to the west for Gibraltar. On the way, escorting destroyer "HYPERION" hit a nine near Cape Bon, northeast tip of Tunisia on the 22nd and had to be scuttled. "Malaya" carried on to meet up with Force H. The German Luftwaffe's X Fliegerkorps - including Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers - was ordered to Sicily and southern Italy to bolster the Italian Air Force.

Mediterranean Theatre after Seven Months - A total of nine Royal Navy submarines had been lost since June in the Mediterranean, a poor exchange for the sinking of 10 Italian merchantmen of 45,000 tons. Most of the submarines were the large, older boats transferred from the Far East and unsuited to the waters of the Mediterranean. In the same time the Italians had lost 18 submarines from all causes throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea areas. Mussolini's claimed domination of the Mediterranean had not been apparent. In spite of the loss of French naval power, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet had more than held the Italian Navy in check. Malta had been supplied and reinforced, and the British offensive in North Africa was underway. Elsewhere, the Greeks were driving the Italians back into Albania and away to the south the Italian East African Empire was about to be wound up. However, it was now only a matter of months and even weeks before the Luftwaffe appeared in Sicily, Gen Rommel in North Africa and the German Army in Greece, followed by Paratroops in Crete

Monthly Loss Summary
There were no British or Allied shipping losses in December.

North Africa - As the British advance continued into Libya, Bardia was taken on the 5th. Australian troops captured Tobruk on the 22nd and Derna, further west by the end of the month. The Royal Navy's Inshore Squadron played an important part in the campaign - bombarding shore targets, carrying fuel, water and supplies, and evacuating wounded and prisoners of war.

Air War - Hurricane fighters, transported to Takoradi in West Africa, started to arrive in Egypt after flying across the continent. They too played their part in the North African offensive. RAF Wellingtons raided Naples and damaged Italian battleship "Giulio Cesare".

6th-11th - Malta Convoy "Excess" - Another comp lex series of convoy and ship movements (1-6) revolving around Malta led to carrier "Illustrious" being badly damaged and the Royal Navy losing its comparative freedom of operation in the Eastern Mediterranean. This followed the arrival in Sicily of the German Luftwaffe's X Fliegerkorps. (1) On the 6th, convoy 'Excess' left Gibraltar for Malta and Greece covered by Gibraltar-based Force H. (2) At the same time the Mediterranean Fleet from Alexandria prepared to cover supply ships to Malta and (3) bring out empty ones. (4) Mediterranean Fleet cruisers "Gloucester" and "Southampton" carried troop reinforcements to Malta and then (5) carried on west to meet 'Excess'. (6) Force H returned to Gibraltar. By the 10th, 'Excess' had reached the Strait of Sicily and was attacked by Italian torpedo boats. "VEGA" was sunk by escorting cruiser "Bonaventure" and destroyer "Hereward". As the Mediterranean Fleet including "Illustrious" met the convoy off the Italian-held island of Pantelleria, screening destroyers "GALLANT" hit a mine. Towed back to Malta, she was not re-commissioned and finally wrecked by bombing over a year later in April 1942. Still west of Malta, heavy attacks by German and Italian aircraft were launched. "Illustrious" was singled out and hit six times by Ju87 and Ju88 bombers. Only the armoured flight deck saved her from total destruction as she struggled into Malta with 200 casualties. There, under continual attack, she was repaired temporarily and left on the 23rd for Alexandria. Sister-ship "Formidable" was sent out to replace her via the Cape of Good Hope, but it was some weeks before she reached the Eastern Mediterranean. On the 11th, the empty return Malta/Alexandria convoy was proceeding eastwards, with cruisers "Gloucester" and "Southampton" sailing from Malta to join up when they were attacked by German aircraft to the east of Malta. "SOUTHAMPTON" was bombed and sunk, "Gloucester" damaged. All merchantmen reached their destinations safely, but at a cost of a cruiser and destroyer, and the loss of "Illustrious'" vital air power.

19th - Destroyer Greyhound, escorting a convoy to Greece, sank Italian submarine "NEGHELLI" in the Aegean Sea

Monthly Loss Summary
No British, Allied or neutral merchant ships were lost in the Mediterranean.

North Africa - Benghazi and British armoured forces crossed the Libyan desert to a point south of cut off the retreating Italians. The resulting Battle of Beda Fomm starting on the 5th inflicted heavy losses. Australian troops captured the major port of Benghazi at the same time, and by the 9th El Agheila was reached. There the advance stopped. Large numbers of British and Dominion troops were now withdrawn for transfer to Greece, just as the first units of the Afrika Korps under Gen Rommel arrived in Tripoli.

9th - Force H Attack in the Gulf of Genoa - "Ark Roya l," "Renown" and "Malaya" sailed right up into the Gulf of Genoa, northwest Italy. The big ships bombarded the city of Genoa while "Ark Royal's" aircraft bombed Leghorn and laid mines off Spezia, all on the 9th. An Italian battlefleet sortied but failed to make contact.

24th - Destroyer "DAINTY" escorting supplies to Tobruk with the Inshore Squadron, was sunk off the port by German Ju87 Stukas.

25th - On patrol off the east coast of Tunisia, submarine "Upright" torpedoed and sank Italian cruiser "ARMANDO DIAZ" covering a convoy from Naples to Tripoli.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 British or Allied merchant ships of 8,000 tons.

Greece - In the space of three weeks in March, 60,000 British and Dominion troops were carried from North Africa to Greece, escorted by the Royal Navy (Operation 'Lustre').

6th - Italian submarine "ANFITRITE" attacked a troop convoy east of Crete and was sunk by escorting destroyer "Greyhound".

26th - At anchor in Suda Bay, northern Crete, heavy cruiser "YORK" was b adly damaged by Italian explosive motor boats and beached. She was later wrecked by bombing and abandoned when Crete was evacuated in May.

28th - Mines laid by submarine "Rorqual" west of Sicily on the 25th, sank two Italian supply ships the next day and torpedo boat "CHINOTTO" on the 28th.

28th - Battle of Cape Matapan (map above) - As ships of the Mediterranean Fleet covered troop movements to Greece, 'Ultra' intelligence was received reporting the sailing of an Italian battlefleet with one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers plus destroyers to attack the convoy routes. On the 27th, Vice-Adm Pridham-Wippell with cruisers "Ajax", "Gloucester", "Orion" and the Australian "Perth" and destroyers sailed from Greek waters for a position south of Crete. Adm Cunningham with carrier "Formidable" and battleships "Warspite", "Barham" and "Valiant "left Alexandria on the same day to meet the cruisers. Around 08.30 on the 28th, south of Crete, Adm Pridham-Wippell was in action with an Italian cruiser squadron. Just before noon he found himself between them and the battleship "Vittorio Veneto" which had now come up. An attack by Swordfish from "Formidable" failed to hit the Italian battleship, but enabled the British cruisers to extricate themselves. Mediterranean Fleet heavy units arrived, but their only chance of action was to slow down the Italians before they could reach Italy.

A second Swordfish strike at around 15.00 hit and slowed down "Vittorio Veneto", but only for a short while. At 19.30 a third strike southwest of Cape Matapan stopped heavy cruiser "Pola". All this time, RAF aircraft were attacking but without success. Later that evening (still on the 28th), two more heavy cruisers - "Fiume" and "Zara with four destroyers were detached to help "Pola". Before reaching her, Adm Cunningham's ships detected them by radar and "FIUME", "ZARA" and destroyers "ALFIERI" and "CARDUCCI" were crippled by the close range gunfire of "Barham", "Valiant" and "Warspite". All four Italians were finished off by four destroyers led by the Australian "Stuart". Early next morning on the 29th, "POLA" was found, partly abandoned. After taking off the remaining crew, destroyers "Jervis" and "Nubian" sank her with torpedoes. The Royal Navy lost one aircraft.

31st - Continuing her successes, "Rorqual" torpedoed and sank submarine "CAPPONI" off northeast Sicily .

31st - Cruiser "BONAVENTURE" with a Mediterranean Fleet cruiser force escorting a convoy from Greece to Egypt, was torpedoed and sunk to the southeast of Crete by Italian submarine Ambra.

Yugoslavia - On the 25th Yugoslavia joined the Tripartite Pact, but two days later an anti-Nazi coup toppled the Government.

North Africa - In command of German and Italian troops, Gen Rommel started his first offensive with the capture of El Agheila on the 24th. Within three weeks the British and Dominion forces were back in Sollum on the Egyptian side of the border.

Malta - Late in the month a small Malta convoy sailed from the east covered by the Mediterranean Fleet. These were the first supplies to arrive since the January 'Excess' operation. In the intervening two months Malta had been heavily attacked by the Axis air forces hoping to neutralise the island as a base for air and sea attacks against the supply routes to Libya.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 British or Allied merchant ships of 12,000 tons.

APRIL 1941

Yugoslavia and Greece - Germ any invaded both countries on the 6th. By the 12th they entered Belgrade and within another five days the Yugoslav Army had surrendered. Greek forces in Albania and Greece suffered the same fate. Starting on the 24th over a period of five days, 50,000 British, Australian and New Zealand troops were evacuated to Crete and Egypt in Operation 'Demon'. The Germans occupied Athens on the 27th.

North Africa - Germans entered Benghazi on the 4th and by mid-month had surrounded Tobruk and reached the Egyptian border. Attacks on the British and Australian troops defending Tobruk were unsuccessful, and an eight-month siege began.

16th - Action of Sfax, Tunisia - Capt P. J. Mac k with destroyers "Janus", "Jervis", "Mohawk" and "Nubian" sailing from Malta intercepted a German Afrika Korps convoy of five transports escorted by three Italian destroyers off Kerkennah Islands, east of Tunisia. All Axis ships were sunk including the destroyers "BALENO" (foundered next day), "LAMPO" (later salvaged) and "TARIGO". In the fighting "MOHAWK" was torpedoed by "Tarigo" and had to be scuttled.

Malta - In the first week of April, "Ark Royal" escorted by Force H sailed from Gibraltar and flew off 12 Hurricanes for Malta. Three weeks later the operation was repeated with 20 more aircraft. From the other end of the Mediterranean, Alexandria-based battleships "Barham", "Valiant" and "Warspite" together with carrier "Formidable" covered the movement of fast transport "Breconshire" to Malta. On the 21st they bombarded Tripoli on their return.

27th - As units of the Mediterranean Fleet carry out the Greek evacuation, destroyers "DIAMOND" and "WRYNECK" rescued troops from the bombed transport "Slamat", but were then sunk by more German bombers off Cape Malea at the southeast tip of Greece. There were few survivors from the three ships.

Monthly Loss Summary
105 British, Allied and neutral ships of 293,000 tons from all causes

MAY 1941

Late April/early May - Two submarines operating out of Malta were lost, possibly due to mines - "USK" in the Strait of Sicily area and "UNDAUNTED" off Tripoli. "Usk" may have been sunk by Italian destroyers west of Sicily while attacking a convoy.

2nd - Returning to Malta with cruiser "Gloucester" and other destroyers from a search for Axis convoys, "JERSEY" was mined and sunk in the entrance to Valletta's Grand Harbour.

Royal Navy Operations in the Mediterranean - Early in the month, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet carried out another series of complicated supply, reinforcement and offensive operations. (1) Five fast transports sailed from Gibraltar with tanks and supplies urgently needed for the Army of the Nile (Operation 'Tiger'). Four arrived safely. (2) On passage they were accompanied by battleship "Oueen Elizabeth" and two cruisers sailing to join the Mediterranean Fleet. (3) Two small convoys were escorted westward from Egypt to Malta. (4) Other units of the Mediterranean Fleet shelled Benghazi, Libya on the night of the 7th/8th. (5) After covering the 'Tiger' convoy, "Ark Royal" joined by carrier "Furious", was once again south of Sardinia and flying off a further 48 Hurricanes to Malta on the 21st. Five days later, "Ark Royal's" Swordfish were crippling the "Bismarck" in the North Atlantic!

Malta - The transfer of many German aircraft from Sicily for the attack on Russia brought some relief to Malta.

North Africa - A British offensive started from the Sollum area on the 15th in an attempt to relieve Tobruk (Operation 'Brevity'). Two weeks later both sides were back to their original positions. The first of many supply trips to besieged Tobruk were made by Australian destroyers "Voyager" and "Waterhen" and other ships of the Inshore Squadron.

18th - On patrol south of Crete, AA cruiser "Coventry" was heavily attacked from the air. + Petty Officer Alfred Sephton continued to carry out his duties in the director after being mortally wounded. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

21st May-1st June - Battle for Crete - On the 21st, in the opening stages of the attack on Crete, cruiser minelayer "Abdiel" laid mines off the west coast of Greece sinking Italian destroyer "MIRABELLO" and two transports. Most of the Mediterranean Fleet with four battleships, one carrier, 10 cruisers and 30 destroyers fought the Battle for Crete. For the Navy there were two phases, both of which took place under intense air attack, mainly German, from which all losses resulted. Phase One was from the German airborne invasion on the 20th until the decision was taken on the 27th to evacuate the island. During this time the Mediterranean Fleet managed to prevent the sea-borne reinforcement of the German paratroops fighting on Crete, but at heavy cost. Most of these losses happened as the ships tried to withdraw from night-time patrols north of the island out of range of enemy aircraft.

Phase Two was from 27th May to 1st June when over 15,000 British and Dominion troops were evacuated. Ten thousand had to be left behind - and again the naval losses were heavy. 21st - In the morning, destroyer "JUNO" was sunk and cruiser "Ajax" slightly damaged as they withdrew southeast of Crete. Later that evening "Ajax", with "Dido", "Orion" and four destroyers, savaged a German troop convoy of small craft. More such vessels were sunk over the next few days off the north coast. 22nd - Early that morning another force of four cruisers and three destroyers swept to the north and was attacked on their return. Cruisers "Naiad" and "Carlisle" were damaged, and as they reached their support force to the northwest, battleship "Warspite" was badly hit. Later, destroyer "GREYHOUND" was ca ught on her own in the same area and soon sent to the bottom. Other destroyers went to rescue her survivors, covered by cruisers "Gloucester" and "Fiji". As the cruisers withdrew, first "GLOUCESTER" was su nk northwest of Crete by Ju87s and Ju88s. Three hours later "FIJI" was surprised by a single Me109 fighter-bomber and sank to the southwest. All ships were very short of AA ammunition by this stage.

23rd - Withdrawing from the usual night-time patrols led to the loss of two more destroyers. Capt Lord Louis Mountbatten's five ship flotilla was attacked to the south and "KASHMIR" and "KELLY" sunk. Over the next few days the north coast sweeps continued, and supplies and reinforcements were brought into Crete. 26th - Carrier "Formidable", accompanied by battleships "Barham" and "Queen Elizabeth", flew off aircraft from a position well to the south for an attack on the Scarpanto Island airfields. In the counter-attack "Formidable" and destroyer "Nubian" were d amaged. 27th - As "Barham" covered a supply mission, she was hit to the northwest of Alexandria. 28th - The decision to evacuate was made, and cruisers and destroyers prepared to lift off the troops. As they approached Crete, cruiser "Aiax" and destroyer "Imperial" were damaged to the southeast. 29th - Early in the morning, 4,000 men were lifted off from Heraklion on the north coast. As they did the damaged "IMPERIAL" had to be scuttled, and "HEREWARD" was hit and left behind to go down off the eastern tip of Crete. Shortly after, cruisers "Dido" and "Orion" were badly damaged to the southeast. 30th - Early in the day, more troops were lifted from the southern port of Sphakia/Sphaxia by another cruiser force. Well to the south the Australian cruiser "Perth" was bombed and damaged. 1st June - As the last men were carried from Crete, cruisers "Calcutta" and "Coventry" sailed from Alexandria to provide AA cover. "CALCUTTA" was su nk north of the Egyptian coast. Some 15,000 troops were saved but at a cost to the Royal Navy of 2,000 men killed. Total warship casualties, all from German and some Italian bombing were:

Warship types


Badly damaged






















Royal Navy Submarine Operations - "Upholder" (Lt-Cdr Wanklyn) attacked a strongly escorted troop convoy off the coast of Sicily on the 24th May and sank 18,000-ton liner "Conte Rosso". + Lt-Cdr Malcolm Wanklyn RN was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for this and other successful patrols as commander of "Upholder".

25th - Sloop "GRIMSBY" and the supply ship she was escorting on the Tobruk run were sunk by bombers northeast of the port.

Monthly Loss Summary
19 British or Allied merchant ships of 71,000 tons.

American Reaction to Japanese Occupation

Americans were shocked that Japanese troops had taken over any U.S. soil, no matter how remote or barren. Some also feared that Japan’s occupation of the two islands might be the first step toward an attack against mainland Alaska or even the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Despite nationwide anger, American war planners at first paid relatively little attention to the Japanese garrisons at Attu and Kiska, as they were still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor and in the process of building up forces in the South Pacific and preparing for war in Europe. In fact, in the initial months after Japan occupied the islands, the U.S. military conducted only occasional bombing raids from nearby Aleutian Islands.

In the meantime, during the months following their occupation, Japanese soldiers learned to acclimate to the extreme conditions on Attu and Kiska, and the Japanese navy kept the soldiers well-supplied. But by January 1943, U.S. Army forces in the Alaska Command had grown to 94,000 soldiers, with several bases recently constructed on other Aleutian Islands. On January 11, troops from the Alaska Command landed on Amchitka Island, only 50 miles from Kiska.

Special Operations Outlook 2019 Digital Edition is here!

Children of an eastern suburb of London, who have been made homeless by the random bombs of Nazi night raiders, wait outside the wreckage of what was their home, ca. September 1940. Operation Pied Piper was set up in order to spare children from the experience of being bombed or worse. New Times Paris Bureau Collection, National Archives

One of the most, if not the most, emotionally wrenching decisions made by the British government during World War II was its decision to relocate its children out of urban centers to locations where the risk of bombing attacks was low or non-existent. Called Operation Pied Piper, millions of people, most of them children, were shipped to rural areas in Britain as well as overseas to Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Almost 3 million people were evacuated during the first four days of the operation, making it the biggest and most concentrated population movement in British history.

“I’ll take that one.”

— Evacuee host parent

Plans for such a move began during the summer of 1938, in which the country was divided into risk zones identified as “evacuation,” “neutral,” or reception” and lists of available housing were compiled. During the summer of 1939, the London County Council began requisitioning buses and trains. As the prospect of war became more likely, London’s mayor, Herbert Morrison, a Laborite, wanted to begin the evacuation process in August, but was rebuffed by the government led by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, which was concerned that such a move would cause a general panic.

Young British children are evacuated as part of Operation Pied Piper. Ultimately 3.5 million people were relocated as part of the evacuation. Imperial War Museum photo

When Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Morrison was at 10 Downing Street talking to Chamberlain’s aide, Sir Horace Wilson, about evacuating the children. Wilson protested, “But we’re not at war yet, and we wouldn’t want to do anything to upset delicate negotiations, would we?”

In his thick London East End accent, Morrison growled, “Look, ’Orace, go in there and tell Neville this from me: If I don’t get the order to evacuate the children from London this morning, I’m going to give it myself – and tell the papers why I’m doing it. ’Ow will ’is nibs like that?” A half hour later, Morrison had the document. The evacuation began that afternoon.

One mother in London, after watching her own two children march off, saw two tots leave a line and rush up to a policemen standing in the middle of the intersection, holding traffic until the children had passed. “Bye-bye, Daddy,” they said. The policeman looked down, smiled, and said, “Now be good, kiddies.” The children then got back in line. As they did so, the mother saw tears rolling down the policeman’s cheeks.

In London and other major cities, adults saw long files of children led by teachers or other officials walk toward bus or railroad stations for their journey to different parts of the country. Each child carried around his neck a small square cardboard box containing a gas mask, and on the lapel of each child’s coat was pinned a name card. Brothers and sisters held each other’s hands “like grim death, and refused to be parted.”

One mother in London, after watching her own two children march off, saw two tots leave a line and rush up to a policemen standing in the middle of the intersection, holding traffic until the children had passed. “Bye-bye, Daddy,” they said. The policeman looked down, smiled, and said, “Now be good, kiddies.” The children then got back in line. As they did so, the mother saw tears rolling down the policeman’s cheeks.

Poster used by the British government in the London Underground to spread the word about the evacuations of civilians in Britain during World War II. British Ministry of Health poster

The first and largest exodus lasted four days. Other smaller evacuations occurred up until September 1944. Ultimately more than 3.5 million people were relocated. Finding homes was often traumatic for the children. As a rule, billeting officials would line the newly arrived children up against a wall or on a stage in the village hall, and invite potential hosts to take their pick. The phrase, “I’ll take that one” became a statement indelibly etched in countless children’s memories.

Corporations and private relief organizations in the United States arranged for thousands of children to stay in the country. Employees of the Hoover vacuum cleaning company in Canton, Ohio, and Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., volunteered to take children of employees from their British subsidiaries. In New York City, a radio interview of six evacuee children living there was broadcast back to England on Sept. 10, 1940. According to a New York Times article, “Baseball received a vote of approval, although this was qualified when compared with cricket.”

Finding homes was often traumatic for the children. As a rule, billeting officials would line the newly arrived children up against a wall or on a stage in the village hall, and invite potential hosts to take their pick. The phrase, “I’ll take that one” became a statement indelibly etched in countless children’s memories.

Given the large numbers and different social classes involved, individual experiences ran the gamut from excellent to terrible. On Dec. 6, 1941, Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, reported the results of a 12-month study she had authorized. Its conclusion was that “separation from their parents is a worse shock for children than a bombing.” In the 2003 BBC Radio 4 documentary, “Evacuation: The True Story,” Steve Davis, a clinical psychologist specializing in the study of war trauma, stated that in the worst cases, “It was little more than a pedophile’s charter.”

Though the big children evacuation story occurred in England, it wasn’t the only one. British women and children in Singapore began to be evacuated shortly after Japan launched its attack on the colony. After a harrowing experience on their ship, one group eventually reached Australia in early January 1942.

Children evacuees from Bristol carry bags, suitcases and gas masks as they walk off the platform upon their arrival at the Brent Station, London, U.K., ca. 1940. They later continued on to Kingsbridge, U.K. Bristol later suffered severely from Luftwaffe air attacks. Imperial War Museum photo

The return of evacuees to London was approved on June 1945, but some began returning to England as early as 1944. The evacuation was officially ended in March 1946.

The return of evacuees to London was approved on June 1945, but some began returning to England as early as 1944. The evacuation was officially ended in March 1946.

YouTube features a number of videos about the evacuation. One such video is a mixture of posters, photographs, and Imperial War Museum footage. Another video features a young schoolgirl interviewing her grandmother about her evacuation experience, part of a class project. In it the grandmother states that her host family “was not very nice.”

DWIGHT JON ZIMMERMAN is a bestselling and award-winning author, radio host, and president of the.

Start of World War II: September 1939-March 1940

On Sep­tember 1, 1939, just before Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland that marked t­he beginning of World War II, Zygmunt Klukowski, a young Polish doctor, confided in his diary that everyone was talking about war. "Everybody," he continued, "is sure that we will win." The reality was startlingly different.

Nazi Germany's war with Poland, begun on September 1, was an uneven contest. Five German armies with 1.5 million men, 2,000 tanks, and 1,900 modern aircraft faced fewer than a million Polish troops with less than 500 aircraft and a small number of armored vehicles. In addition, German planning and technical support -- and German understanding of the importance of modern tactical airpower -- gave the aggressor great advantages.

Within five days, German forces occupied all of the frontier zones. By September 7, forward units were only 25 miles from Warsaw, the Polish capital. Polish air forces were eliminated, and the Polish army was split and encircled. By September 17, the war was virtually over. Ten days later, after a devastating air assault, ­Warsaw surrendered. "We were not yet ready," wrote Dr. Klukowski two weeks later, "to discuss the causes of our defeat. This is a fact, but we just can't believe it."

­This was the war Adolf Hitler had hoped for in 1939. But in addition to the localized conflict with Poland, the German invasion provoked a global conflict. Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3 when it became clear that negotiating a German withdrawal was hopeless. In Britain and France, the populations had braced themselves for war in the closing weeks of the summer. There was little popular enthusiasm for war, but a strong wave of anti-German and anti-Fascist sentiment produced a resigned recognition that Adolf Hitler would only stop if he was faced by force.

Almost immediately, the British and French empires (except for Ireland) joined the contest, turning it into a worldwide war, fought not only in Europe but across the oceans. German invasion also triggered Soviet Union intervention. The terms of the German-Soviet pact, signed in August 1939, gave Joseph Stalin a sphere of influence in eastern Poland. On September 17, once it was clear that Poland was close to defeat, Red Army units moved into Poland and met up with victorious German troops along a prearranged frontier. On September 28, the two dictatorships signed another treaty, which divided Poland between them.

For the Western powers, this provoked fears of a totalitarian alliance against them. For Poland, dismemberment and harsh totalitarian rule was the reality. Britain and France did nothing to help their smaller ally. Their military staffs had drawn up a "war plan" during the summer of 1939 in which the loss of Poland was accepted as inevitable. The core of the plan was to blockade and contain Nazi Germany until the war of attrition forced the Germans to abandon the contest as they had done in 1918. Britain and France expected a war of at least three years. This explains why for the first six months of the war the Western states did very little. The lull was nicknamed the "Phony War" -- a war with no fighting.

A small amount of naval activity did occur, which gave citizens on both sides something to cheer about. In December 1939, Britain's Royal Navy so damaged the German pocket battleship Graf Spee that it was scuttled in the South Atlantic. Conversely, German submarines began to sink Allied merchant ships. On October 14, 1939, a German submarine managed to penetrate the defenses of the main British naval base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, and there sank the battleship Royal Oak. The Germans bombed Polish citizens mercilessly, but for a while refrained from bombing cities in the West. The British only dropped leaflets on German cities.

The chief beneficiary of the war in Poland was the Soviet Union. Suffering almost no casualties, the Red Army took parts of Poland that had been seized by Russia and Austria back in the 18th century but returned to Poland after World War I. The region was integrated at once into the Soviet system.

More than one million Poles, those regarded as a threat to the Communist order, were deported to labor camps in the Soviet Union. The three Baltic States -- Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia -- had been assigned to the Soviet Union sphere by the August and September agreements. They were compelled by Soviet pressure to accept Soviet military garrisons and political advisers on their soil.

In the fall of 1939, the USSR demanded that the Finnish government cede some territory and allow bases on Finnish soil. Joseph Stalin had, in fact, already drawn up plans for a Communist Finland, and he expected the same response as the Baltic States had given.

Instead, Finland rejected the Soviet demands, and on November 30 Soviet forces invaded along the entire Finnish frontier. Finland's army of 200,000 mounted a spirited defense. Only after the mobilization of further Soviet forces in February 1940 did Finnish resistance wear down. Finland sought an armistice on March 6, and a week later it conceded all the territory and a base that had been originally demanded.

For Adolf Hitler, the Soviet advance in Eastern Europe and the spread of Communist influence were prices he had to pay for securing the German rear while Nazi Germany attacked Britain and France. But it was a dangerous situation. In October 1939, he hinted to his military staff that he would settle with the USSR as soon as he could. He hoped the West might seek terms, but when it became clear they were serious about war, he planned to attack the French front in November 1939. Poor weather prevented it, and Hitler reluctantly accepted a postponement until spring.

Urged forward by the German navy, Hitler decided to seize Norway and Denmark for the naval war against British trade supplies from America. What had begun as a war to extend German power in Eastern Europe had become an open and unpredictable conflict with the intervention of Britain and France. Only in Poland was the war really over. Dr. Klukowski watched in dismay as German troops looted shops and churches and forced Jews to give up their valuables and clean the streets. As he wrote late in 1939, "It is really hard to live in slavery."

Follow the events of the first week of World War II in early September 1939, on the next page.

Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940 - History

The history of the Lilli Ann company is interesting to American fashion. It was important to the economic development of San Francisco, as well as a large producer of woman's suitings from the 1940's through the 1980's. The early years show design creativity and luxury in style. Knowing the general silhouette and costume type will help the vintage collector to identify age of their Lilli Ann. This post profiles the early years.

In 1934, an apparel company called "Lilli Ann" was originated by Adolph Schuman and named for his wife Lillian. Originally this apparel company was a typical sort of start-up operation, with two used sewing machines and two part-time employees working in a tiny studio in the Chinatown district of San Francisco. Throughout the life of the company, it would be identified with San Francisco, both in advertising and in its economic and political influence in that city.

These early ads from 1941 through 1944 show suits and coat outfits advertised as a "costume suit". Silver fox fur and other furs are often combined with wool fabric to create a sense of luxury.

The dark costume suit above from 1941 (pre-WWII) has wide sleeves with silver fox fur trim, and was priced at $55. The fit and flared princess silhouette was typical of Lilli Ann's very feminine look during that era. The second coat from 1943 has silver fox trim around the hemline. Paired with a fez style hat, this has a Russian influence to the overall ensemble. Again, the costume suit has a fit and flare 'A' silhouette made distinctive by a draped collar.

In this second set of illustrations, coat and suit ensembles are shown. Both coats have a button pleated revere lapel (both are essentially the same coat), although the light coat is from March 1943, and the darker set is wool from Spring 1944.

The suits worn beneath the top coats are form fitting, with sculptural seam lines. The light suit has a classic princess pattern draft that "V" points into the waistline button for a very slender illusion. The second suit has "V" details on each side of the waistline. The front is closed with 3 buttons that match those on the coat. It is also fun to notice how the original suit was accessorized with hat and gloves.

At upper right corner is a view of the "Lilli Ann" garment label used during that time.

Both outfits shown above are from 1943. More fox is seen, this time as a large collar that is a style carry-over from the 1930's. On the other suit, leopard fur is used on lapels, buttons and toque hat. These details create visual interest in what are classic suit patterns. It is important to notice that a 6 gore straight skirt is shown with all suits during this era. The first skirt from 1941 was 'A' line in silhouette.

All through the war years, luxury was seen in Lilli Ann suits and coats. Excess use of textiles was controlled, as required, but luxury was available none the less. After WWII, Adolph Schuman would move to put his San Francisco suit company on the map with increased national advertising in "Vogue" magazine, along with some innovative political involvements. This began an important era for Lilli Ann company.

This advertisement shows the makers label used by Lilli Ann company through 1943 (important to notice that it does not list "Lilli Ann" name in that label). It does show "a California Costume" at a time when this from of regionalism was popular.

Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940 - History

NOTE: Items marked with an asterisk (*) have been proofread.
Please contact us ([email protected]) before starting to proofread, to avoid duplication of effort.

27 January 2019

17 March 2013

6 March 2013

  • US NAVAL VESSELS INDEX. (ONI-51-I) (Issued 12-43.) (PDF only)
  • USN NAVAL AUXILIARIES (ONI-51-A) (Issued 9/5/43) (PDF only)
  • U.S. LANDING CRAFT (ONI-54-LC) (Issued 8-4-43) (PDF only)
  • US COAST GUARD VESSELS (ONI-56-CG) (Issued 9/5/43) (PDF only)
  • US NAVAL VESSELS (ONI-54-R) Supplement 4 (Issued 8-4-43) (PDF only)
  • United Kingdom Naval Vessels (ONI 201)
  • Warships of the British Commonwealth(PDF only)
  • Italian Naval Vessels [ONI 202] PDF
  • German Naval Vessels [ONI 204]
  • Standard Classes of Japanese Merchant Ships (ONI-208-J) PDF
  • SHIP SHAPES: Anatomy and Types of Naval Vessels. (ONI-223) (PDF only)
  • Japanese Military Aircraft (ONI-232 ONI-232-S)

Post Mortem No. 1 has been added. (Better copy needed.)

18 February 2013



(PDF copies via links in table)

These booklets, mostly less than fifty pages, contain as much intelligence as could be shared at the time from what had been collected from the sub and/or crews.
This table will be updated as new files are added and bumped to the top of this page.

(We do not have No. 1. A paper copy in good condition or a high quality PDF would be very welcome. Any other serial nos. we don't have, same-same.)

Final Report of Interrogation of Survivors from U-352 Sunk By USCG Icarus on May 9, 1942, in Approximate Postiion Latitude 34.12.04 N., Longitude 76.35 W.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors of U-701 Sunk by U.S. Army Attack Bomber NO. 9-29-322, Unit 296 B.S. on July 7, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors of U-210 Sunk by HMCS Assiniboine August 6, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-94 Sunk (by USN PBY Plane and HMCS Oakville) On August 27, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-162 Sunk (by HM Ships Pathfinder, Vimy, and Quentin) on September 3, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-595 Grounded and Scuttled Off Cape Khamis, Algeria, November 14, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-164 Sunk by US PBY On January 6, 1943.

Report of Interrogation of Sole Survivor From U-512 Sunk by US Army Bomber (B-18A) on October 2, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-606 Sunk by Polish Destoryer Burza and USCG Campbell on February 22, 1943.

15 February 20123

Operation Coat, 15-20 November 1940 - History

Battle of Belgium which is also known as the Belgian Campaign took place over eighteen days in part of the Battle of France in 1940. It was an offensive operation by the Germans in WW2. The Allied Armies had thought that this battle was Germany’s main attack, so they tried to impede the Germans in Belgium.

The battle ended with the Germans occupying Belgium after the Belgian Army had surrendered. The Belgian Campaign included the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael, which was the first tactical airborne operation using paratroopers. It also included the first tank battle (Battle of Hannut) of the war. The collapse of the Belgian prompted the Allied forces to withdraw from continental Europe.

Belgian Neutrality

Before World War 2, King Leopold of Belgium was advocating for a more independent foreign policy for Belgium. On two occasions, he advocated for mediation of the conflict between the Western Allies and Nazi forces a few months before and after the war broke out in 1939.

Although Germany had invaded Belgium in 1914, Belgium returned to a neutrality policy after the war. Before the 1940 invasion, King Leopold promoted the construction of vital defensive fortifications from Namur to Antwerp in front of the Germany border. However, the Germans quickly took the defenses. Belgians were in full support of Leopold’s strategy of armed neutrality. Belgians wanted to be left alone and in peace.

Germany Invasion

The Germans invaded Belgium for the second time on May 10, 1940. The Germans struck both the Netherlands and Belgium at the same time, marking the start of the long expected German invasion in the West. They started their western campaign on a wide front against the neutral Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg.

The Belgian Defensives

Initially, Belgium had joined World War 1 Allies after the first German invasion. However, when the war ended Belgians decided to seek security through a neutrality policy. There was no military collaboration with France and Britain as Adolf Hitler moved steadily toward war.

Antiwar sentiment was strong in Belgium as the Belgians thought that any cooperation with the Allies would attract the aggression of the Germans. For this reason, when Hitler instigated World War 2, the government of Belgium affirmed her neutrality and refused to allow the French and the British from entering the country to reinforce Belgium’s defense.

Fort Eban-Emael

This was a large underground fort that dominated 3 well secured bridges over the Albert Canal. The fort was modeled on the French Maginot Line forts and was considered to be impenetrable.

Over 1,200 Belgian soldiers manned the fort 24/7. Despite this strong defense, a 400-man German glider force attacked the fort silently on the dawn of May 10, 1940, landing 9 gliders directly on the Fort’s top. They then forced their way to the gun emplacements through the roofs and disabled the guns quickly.

After destroying the defending artillery, the rest of the German troops secured 2 of the 3 vital bridges over the canal. This also allowed the German armored troops to cross the well-fortified Belgian border without any resistance or fighting within a few hours.

The K-W line

Belgians held on the K-W line on their own from May 10 to 13, providing a very strong defense. On May 13, the Germans deployed Panzer division which was supported by Luftwaffe and broke through the Allied lines in the Ardenne-Forest.

The Belgians and the French were very shocked by this, since they believed that the region where the Maginot Line ended close to Sedan was impenetrable. When the Germans broke through in the Sedan area, the French troops retreated. This forced the Belgian troops to abandon their strong defense position along the K-W line.

British forces supports the Dutch in the North

Following the invasion of the Nazi to Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain affirmed war on Germany. The BEF (British Expeditionary Force) was sent to France and positioned itself along the Belgian border. The BEF was supported by Royal Air Force that consisted of 500 aircraft. BEF was under the command of General Lord Gort at the time of German invasion.

Despite their fully mechanized force, the BEF were not prepared for Blitzkrieg when the German forces struck in the West. On realizing the attack, Gort sent the BEF to north to help the Dutch and the Belgians. However, the Dutch surrendered after the Rotterdam bombing even before the arrival of the BEF. On May 20th, the Germans reached the Channel close to Abbeville, cutting off King Leopold and his Army.

This also meant that Belgium was surrounded and the Germans were getting closer to occupy Belgium. The Germans dropped some leaflets that informed the Belgian soldiers that Leopold had left for England. However, the King sent a message to his soldiers informing them that he would share their fate no matter what happened.

Belgian Surrender

On May 28, without any consultation with the Allies or his cabinet, Leopold surrendered his army and relented to the Germans. The king’s actions were widely resented by Belgians across the country. The surrender also left the BEF critically exposed, and the British were forced to withdraw from Belgian port of Dunkirk. Although the BEF was near Hitler’s grasp, he ordered his forces not to pursue the British further. This allowed the BEF to evacuate their men as well as many French soldiers.

There is some contradicting information regarding the reason why Hitler allowed the British to leave without harming them. Some say that he needed to regroup and prepare for a bigger battle, while some suggest that he wanted the gesture to convince the BEF to conform. On the other hand, the French First army was being encircled but they continued to fight despite the Belgians’ surrender. This resistance was crucial in the success of the evacuation at Dunkirk. The British took all available aircrafts across the channel and helped to evacuate about 340,000 men.


The exact number of casualties in the Belgian Campaign is not known. However, Belgian casualties are estimated at 6,090 deaths, 200,000 captured and 15,000 injured.

Throughout the Belgian campaign, the French suffered the following number of casualties: 90,000 killed in action and 200,000 injured.

The British on the other hand suffered the following estimated number of casualties from May 10 to June 22: 68,000 dead, wounded, or captured, and 64,000 vehicles destroyed.

The Germans also lost 10,232 men through death, while 8,463 soldiers and officers were reported missing. 42,500 soldiers were injured.

2 responses to “Battle of Belgium”

My father William Smith Dixon was still in action on 29th May 1940 defending a canal in NE Belgium and was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery , he remained at his post firing upon the enemy while his CO organised the withdrawal of the rest of the company, he remained at his post until his CO Lt Forbes was wounded whereupon he managed to take him back to a field hospital before making his escape overland to Dunkirk and swam out to a troop ship, he later served in North Africa where he lost his right arm at Tobruk. this resulted in him being sent back to England.

On 20th May 1940 near Abbeyville, My Great Uncle, Sgt Percy. A Barley (796842) lost his life defending the rear. Unfortunately he was killed in ACTION, some say by friendly fire. He was a member of 52 heavy attilary Bedfordshire and Hampshire Yeomanry, put in command of an antitank gun team. Least we forget. On 20th, the Germans reached the Channel close to Abbeyville… Posted on the Dunkirk Memorial “God Bless our Hero” ❤️

Deaths 1 - 100 of 209

    Pyotr Nikolayevich, Baron Wrangel, Russian baron general (White Armies, WW II), dies at 49 Betty Carver, wife of English WWII Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, dies Billy Fiske, US RAF-pilot/2nd lieutenant and 1st American serviceman killed in action in World War II, dies at 29 Geoffrey Legge, cricketer (WWII 196 Eng v NZ Auckland 1930), dies Lancelot Holland, British vice-admiral (WW II-Hood), dies in battle Ken Farnes (WWII) 15 Tests for England, cricketer (60 wickets), dies Colin Kelly, American B-17 Flying Fortress pilot and 1st US air hero during WW II, killed in action at 26 after ordering his crew to bail out shortly before his bomber exploded Cesar Basa, Philippine Air Force and World War II hero (b. 1915) Rolf Wenkhaus, German actor (Spoiling the Game, S.A.-Mann Brand), dies when his plane is shot down during WWII at 24 George S. Rentz, U.S. Navy Chaplain (awarded the Navy Cross during WW II), dies at 59 Vasily Kalafati, Russian composer (Cygany), dies in the siege of Leningrad during World War II at 73 Johan H. Westerveld, Dutch WW II resistance fighter and leader of Order Service (OD), executed at 61 Denis Moloney, cricketer (during WW II 3 Tests for NZ 1937), dies Kiyoano Ichiki, Japanese colonel (WWII), dies François de Labouchère, French aviator of World War II, compagnon de la Libération. (b. 1917) Douglas Munro, only US Coast Guard with WW II-Med of Honor, dies Arthur Langton, South African cricket medium pace bowler (15 Tests, 40 wickets), dies in a military air crash at 30

François Darlan

1942-12-24 François Darlan, French Admiral of the Fleet during WWII and Vichy Prime Minister (1941-42), assassinated at 61 in his headquarters in French North Africa by resistance fighter Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle

    World War II: Dutch fascist official Hermannus Reydon and his wife are shot by resistance members, his wife dies immediately and he dies six months later

Isoroku Yamamoto

1943-04-18 Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese WWII Marshall Admiral & Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese fleet who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, killed in action at 59 by a US ambush after the "Magic" code-breaking team intercepted and decoded his flight plan

    Sidney Keyes, English poet (Foreign Gate), dies fighting during WWII at 20 Szmul Zygielbojm, Jewish-Polish socialist politician (Bund) and activist, commits suicide to protest Allied indifference to the Holocaust during WWII at 48 Nile Kinnick Jr., American College Football Hall of Fame halfback (Heisman Trophy 1939 University of Iowa), dies during a WWII training flight at 24 Władysław Sikorski, Polish World War II general and Prime Minister of Poland in exile (1939-43), killed in a plane crash at 62 Jean Moulin, French hero of the Résistance during World War II, executed at 44 Adam Kuckhoff, German writer and resistance fighter, is executed during WWII at 55 Dudley Pound, British admiral of the fleet and 1st Sea Lord (Jutland, WW II), dies at 66 Evgeniya Rudneva, Russian World War II heroine (b. 1920) Frank Knox, American politician (Republican VP candidate 1936), newspaper editor and Secretary of the Navy during World War II, dies at 70 Walter Oesau, German fighter pilot (WWII), dies at 30 Ferdinand Alphons Marie van der Ham, Dutch WW II resistance fighter, dies at 27 Godfrey Wilson, British Anthropologist of social change and colonial problems in Africa, commits suicide as a conscientious objector in WW II Cyril Francois, South African cricket all-rounder (5 Tests, 252 runs, 6 wickets), dies in a motor accident at 46 Den Brotheridge, British lieutenant who was the 1st to die during D-Day landings in World War II is killed at 28 Maurice Turnbull, Welsh cricketer (England) rugby player (Wales), dies fighting in WWII at 38 Noor Inayat Khan, Indian princess and Special Operations Executive agent in WWII posthumously awarded the George Cross, executed at Dachau at 30 Helmut Lent, German night-fighter ace in World War II, dies at 26

Erwin Rommel

1944-10-14 Erwin Rommel, German Field Marshal (WWII - African campaign), commits suicide at 52

    Boy Ecury [Segundo Jorge Adelberto Ecury], Dutch Resistance fighter in World War II, executed by a German firing squad at 22 Richard Sorge, German spy for the Soviet Union in Tokyo during World War II, hanged in Tokyo at 49 Vit Nejedly, Czech composer, dies at the front during WWII at 33 Violette Szabo, French WWII secret agent, is executed by Nazis at 23 Ernie Pyle, American journalist and war correspondent during WW II (Pulitzer Prize 1944), dies at 44 Fedor von Bock, German field marshal (commander in the German occupation of Austria, invasions of Poland, France, and Russia during WWII), dies at 64 Elsie Mitchell and five Sunday school students become the only people to die during World War II on US soil when they are killed by a Japanese fire balloon that lands in the forest of Gearhart Mountain, near Bly, Southern Oregon Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, German field marshal (German Air Force-WW II), dies at 49 Ernst Busch, German field marshal (WWII), dies at 60 Pater Bleijs [Louis], Dutch catholic priest and resistance fighter in WWII, dies in car accident at 39 Willis Augustus Lee, American World War II admiral (Guadalcanal) and sport shooter (5 Olympic golds 1920), dies of a heart attack at 57 while being ferrying him out to his flagship USS Wyoming off the coast of Maine John S. Mccain Snr., US admiral, (WW II-Pacific Ocean), dies of a heart attack at 61

Alexander Patch

1945-11-21 Alexander Patch, American WWII general (Guadalcanal Campaign, Operation Dragoon), dies of pneumonia at 55

Watch the video: Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on the 7th November, 1940