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November 20th, 1939


Home Fleet submarines gain their first success in the Heligoland Bight when HMS Sturgeon sinks the German patrol ship V209.

One Luftwaffe aircraft is shot down off the East Coast, 3 prisoners are taken.

The first magnetic mines are parachuted into the Thames Estuary by the Luftwaffe.

The minesweeper HMS Mastiff is blown up by a magnetic mine while attempting to recover it into a fishing net.

London: For the first time since war began workers travelled home in blackout conditions this evening. On the first business day after the change from British Summer Time the blackout began at 4.30 pm. Many offices in the City closed at 4pm to give employees a chance to get home before the lights went out. Staff had started early and cut short their lunch hours to make up time. Shops in the West End closed early, too, with only a few still serving customers after 5pm.

The change has brought the rush hour forward by an hour, and London Transport is considering adjusting services. This evening's bright moonlight made journeys in the darkened city more romantic than perilous.

Destroyer HMS Liddesdale laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

NORTH SEA: U-18 and U-57 both attacked a British destroyer, but without success. (Dave Shirlaw)

GERMANY: OKW issues Fhrer Directive #8 for the Conduct of the War. 
(i) A high state of preparedness should be maintained such that the planned Western offensive can be mounted at a moments notice, this will make it possible to take immediate advantage of favourable weather. It should be possible to delay the attack as late as 2300 hours on A-Day-1. Prior to this time Commands will receive the code words, Danzig to proceed with, or Augsburg to delay, the offensive. 
(ii) Special orders are no longer required for undertaking planned measures against Holland when the offensive opens. Where no resistance is offered the operation should assume the character of a peaceful occupation. 
(iii) All precautions should be taken to enable the main weight of the attack to be switched from Army Group B to Army Group A should the disposition of enemy forces suggest Army Group A could achieve greater success. 
(iv) The Kriegsmarine will undertake the blockade of Dutch and Belgian ports and sea lanes. Initiation of the action is authorized on the night preceding the attack provided the secrecy of land operations is not compromised. Coastal artillery for the protection of the occupied coastline is the responsibility of the navy. 
(v) The Führer has issued special verbal orders for airborne landings, including those supporting the army river crossings in Holland and Belgium. Air attacks on centres of population and large open cities in Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, are not permitted without compelling military necessity. 
(vi) Until the opening of the attack, traffic and communication across the Dutch, Belgian, and Luxembourg frontiers will be maintained at a normal level to ensure surprise. Upon the opening of the attack these frontiers will be closed for all non-military purposes. At the time of the attack no special restrictions will be applied to other neutral frontiers of the Reich. (Marc Roberts)

U-139 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

DENMARK: The Navy Supreme Command ("Søværnskommandoen") gives the orders to place mine fields in the Storebælt, between Langeland and Lolland, and in Lille Bælt between Als and Ærø. (Dave Shirlaw)

FINLAND: Several cabinet ministers, foremost among them Foreign Minister Eljas Erkko, propose that the Army should be partially demobilized. In their opinion the threat of war with Soviet Union is receding, and keeping the Defence Forces fully mobilized is straining economy. Defence Forces high command and Defence Minister Juho Niukkanen oppose the proposal, and there's no demobilization. Tomorrow (on 21 Nov) the cabinet decides that people evacuated under compulsion from municipalities near the Fenno-Soviet border can return their homes. (Mikko Härmeinen)

GIBRALTAR: U.S. freighter SS Excambion is detained by British authorities. (Jack McKillop)


Battleship USS Indiana laid down.

Destroyer USS Stack commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-33 sank SS Delphine, Sea Sweeper and Thomas Hankins. (Dave Shirlaw)

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