Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 383 September 17, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 70. At 2 PM, Ju88s attempt to bomb factories in Bristol but are turned back by Spitfires of 152 Squadron from Warmwell. Luftwaffe tries a new tactic arming Messerschmitt Bf109s, their best fighter, with 250kg bombs which slow them down and reduce their range. At 3.30 a large formation flies over Kent but they are intercepted by several squadrons of Hurricanes. 4 Bf109s are shot down and the rest drop their bombs indiscriminately in the Kentish countryside and head for home. Hitler postpones Operation Sealion (the invasion of Britain) indefinitely. With Summer ending and Winter gales coming, it is now clear that there will be no invasion this year, but the bombing of British cities will continue. Overnight, London, South Wales and Liverpool are attacked again.

200 miles West of the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, U-65 and U-99 each sink a British steamer in convoy HX-71 from Halifax, Nova Scotia. At 8.32 AM, U-99 sinks SS Crown Arun (all 25 crew are picked up by destroyer HMS Winchelsea and landed at Liverpool). At 4.26 PM, U-65 sinks Tregenna carrying 8000 tons of steel from USA (33 crew killed, 4 rescued by British steamer Filleigh and landed at Avonmouth).

At 11.45 PM, in the Atlantic Ocean 400 miles west of Scotland, U-48 misses British liner SS City of Benares with two torpedoes. Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt does not know that on board are British 90 children being evacuated to Canada, in order to escape the Blitz.

British warships attack Italian forces in North Africa. Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious attack the important Italian-held port of Benghazi, 200 miles inside Libya. 9 aircraft from 815 Squadron bomb shipping while 6 aircraft from 819 Squadron lay mines in the harbour. Italian destroyer Aquilone hits a mine and sinks and destroyer Borea is sunk by torpedoes in the harbour, along with Italian merchant steamers Gloria Stella and Maria Eugenia. An Italian plane torpedoes British cruiser HMS Kent at 11.55 PM (31 killed), preventing further bombardment of Bardia the next day. British destroyers HMS Janus and Juno sail from Alexandria, Egypt, and bombarded Italian positions at Sidi Barrani at 11 PM. At 11.30, British gunboat HMS Ladybird shells the coastal highway at the point where it is closest to the sea, at Sollum. The coastal road is critical to the Italian supply lines.

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