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May 12th, 1940 (SUNDAY)

Western Front:

UNITED KINGDOM:

London: The Air Ministry announced:

On Saturday afternoon, the German troops advancing from the Rhine to the Meuse (Maas) were bombed again by British aircraft, as were the roads leading to Maastricht. Armoured cars and troop transport vehicles were attacked and partly destroyed several miles southwest of the town, on the roads leading to Tongres.

RAF Bomber Command: 4 Group (Whitley). Bombing - road/rail communications Cleve and Monchen-Gladbach. 10 Sqn. 6 aircraft all bombed. Severe opposition. One enemy aircraft sighted, but no combat.

2 Group ( Blenheim). 107 Sqn. 12 aircraft bombing - bridges over the Albert Canal at Maastricht. 11 aircraft damaged by Flak and 1 shot down. When formation was broken three more Blenheims were shot down by Bf109s, for the cost of two Bf109s.

15 Sqn. 12 aircraft to bomb bridges over the Albert Canal at Maastricht and destroy houses to block the road. 6 aircraft are lost despite having a Squadron of Hurricanes for protection.

110 Sqn. 12 aircraft to bomb bridges. 11 crews managed hits on target, 8 aircraft damaged by Flak, 2 aircraft lost. 1 Bf109 destroyed.

82 Sqn. 9 aircraft sent to crater a road along the Albert Canal north of Hasselt. All aircraft returned safely.

21 Sqn. 9 aircraft sent to bomb a road in Tongres. 1 aircraft lost to Flak.

3,000 enemy aliens were rounded up for internment today throughout the eastern counties of England and Scotland. The Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson, applied the order to all German and Austrian men between 16 and 60, excluding invalids. No German or Austrian may enter the restricted area without permission.

All other aliens, of whatever nationality, living in the eastern counties must report daily to the police and are forbidden to use cars or bicycles or to go out between 8pm and 6am. The restrictions apply to about 11,000 aliens.

On the outbreak of war many aliens were rounded up, but only 486, or fewer than 1%, were detained by the Aliens’ Tribunal. A further 8,000 had their movements restricted. Over 50,000 stayed at liberty. Most of them are refugees from the Nazis.

There is no evidence of the existence in Britain of a ‘fifth column’ of Nazi sympathisers. Some were sent to establish a network here in the two years before the war, but the police Special Branch kept them under observation and arrested them as war was declared.

BELGIUM:

Brussels: The Belgian Army reported at Sunday noon:

Our troops are vigorously resisting the intruders, and tenaciously defending the positions assigned them in our plan of operation. The enemy forces who penetrated our fortified installations, have made no particular progress. Paratroops have been wiped out at various points. Large numbers of enemy aircraft have been shot down.

Five Fairey Battle bombers attack bridges over the Albert Canal, but are shot down; the Belgians blow up all the bridges over the Meuse to stop the German advance. For this action F/O Donald Edward ‘Judy’ Garland (b. 1918), with his navigator Sgt Thomas Gray (b. 1914) led the aircraft in this successful mission (the bridges were bombed - the Wehrmacht held up - for 30 minutes). They died when their Battle was shot down.

 

NETHERLANDS:

The Hague: The Dutch General Staff reported:

All Dutch airfields are now back in our hands. In the early hours of Saturday morning, our troops attacked the airfield at Rotterdam - the only field still occupied by the Germans - following an assault by the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Dutch Royal Air Force). Two powerful bomber groups dropped a large number of high-explosive bombs on the airfield, where many German aircraft were stationed. Extensive damage was inflicted and a number of German planes caught fire. Immediately after the assault, our infantry recaptured the airfield after a violent battle costing heavy casualties. At the same time, the German paratroops who had possession of the Meuse bridge were completely encircled. The fighting was extremely bitter on both sides.

A sizeable number of German troops landed in Rotterdam harbour by seaplane and came onto land in rubber dinghies, armed with light machine guns. It proved extremely difficult to fight off these landing troops, and they were overcome only be calling in stronger forces.

On Friday the Germans conquered and lost the airfield in the Hague three times over. Not until night was it possible to destroy the German paratroops, all of whom without exception wore Dutch, British, Belgian and French uniforms.

An extraordinary achievement was that of a Dutch destroyer that sailed right up to Rozenburg Island despite a mine barrier, and opened fire on the German aircraft and crews who had landed there. The paratroops were completely wiped out in an hour and a half of artillery fire. All the aircraft were badly damaged by the gunfire and many were aflame.

The French 7th Army having reached the Breda-Herenthal line, was in contact with the Germans; but as the Dutch had withdrawn north of the Meuse, it was impossible for Giraud to achieve a link-up. Thus this afternoon, he receives orders to regroup his army west of the Escaut river. The Breda alternative is abandoned.

 

FRANCE:

Vincennes: The C-in-C has no idea what is happening, but he refrains from going to La Ferte (GHQ North-East front) to find out for himself, for "it was out of place for him to go there without Georges" - who had gone to visit the King of the Belgians with M. Daladier.

The Wehrmacht High Command announced:

On May 11 the German Luftwaffe continued the grand assault begun the day before, against the enemy air forces in France, Belgium and Holland. A multitude of airfields were attacked again and in the attacks, hangars were set afire, repair hangars destroyed, and fuel tank and ammunition depots blown up. At Vraux airfield alone 30 aircraft were successfully destroyed, at Orleans airfield 36. Fifty-two aircraft were shot down in aerial combat, 12 by flak artillery. We can accept with certainty that yesterday and the day before, a total of 300 aircraft fell victim to our offensive and to our air defence. Effective aerial raids have been made on troop assemblies and transport trains.

 

 

NORWEGIAN CAMPAIGN: (Mark Horan)
At Greenock:
At 1100 HMS Furious departed the Clyde to embark the aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm pilots of both 802 and 804 Squadrons flew the RAF Gladiator IIs of 263 Squadron aboard. That done, she then brought aboard the nine Swordfish of 818 Squadron to join the six Sea Gladiators of 804 Squadron detachment. At 1300 HMS Glorious, now carrying the 18 RAF Hurricane's, puts to sea to bring aboard the six Walrus amphibians of the newly established 701 Squadron, which are also bound for Norway. These join her modest air group consisting of five Sea Gladiators of 802 Squadron and six Swordfish of 823 Squadron. At 1415, both ships return to Greenock. 

HMS Sparrowhawk (RNAS Hatston): Station OC, Acting Captain C. L. Howe, RN again dispatched the Skuas of 806 Squadron on Bergen. At 1000, Lieutenant-Commander C. L. G. Evans, RN led off six Skuas, each with a single 500 lb. bomb, escorted by three Blenheim fighters of 254 Squadron, RAF. Unknown to all involved, the target a ship, carrying badly needed anti-aircraft artillery to the port and due to arrive at noon, had been identified by ULTRA intercepts. The aircraft attacked at 1158, catching the target, escorted by two torpedo boats, entering the fjord, but the two sections underestimated the target's speed and all bombs missed astern. All aircraft returned safely.

Off Narvik: At 0405, HMS Ark Royal, in position 67.11 N, 09.58 E, sent off two sections of 800 Squadron. One pair heads for HMS Penelope and her convoy, while three Skuas head off for Mo to cover the landing of the Scots Guards. The former has an uneventful patrol, but the later trio, led by Lieutenant J. A. Rooper, RN attacked a solitary He-111 and then a Do-17, but both escaped. 

At 1000, orders are received for the ship to alter course Northward to cover Operation "OB", the Allied landings at Narvik. Maintaining a defensive A/S patrol enroute, she reached the desired location, 69.25 N, 12.48 E at 1725 and launched two fighter patrols over the ships assembling at Balangen. First off was a trio from 803 Squadron, led by Lieutenant J. M. Christian, RN. Each carried a single 100 lb. bomb to hit the railway bridge at Nordalsbroen.

Unfortunately, the cloud base was too low to hit the target, so they opted for hitting the rail line at Silvjik. A further patrol at 1915 by two 800 Squadron Skuas led by Lieutenant G. E. D. Finch-Noyes, RN, also carrying a single bomb to hit the bridge, was forced to jettison their load and return early when the weather worsened. After their return, flight operations were suspended for the day. 



 

SWEDEN: Stockholm. The Swedish newspaper 'Svenska Dagbladet' reported:

A gigantic concentration of all the German armed forces has moved against Belgium and Holland, and is claimed to have used its secret weapon for the first time. This was confirmed tonight in a report by the German Wehrmacht High Command, which claims that the strongest fort held by the defensive lines at Liege (Belgium), has been seized with the aid of a new assault weapon. Strict silence is being maintained about the nature and use of the new weapon, which was strong enough to compel turnover of the fort with its 1,000 man garrison. However, sparse reports of the operation seem to indicate that the Luftwaffe must have formed the backbone of the assault.

According to the report of the German Wehrmacht High Command (the OKW), the German troops under Captain Kock landed by plane and, in a surprise raid, seized two bridges over the King Albert Canal, where they immediately built bridgeheads. The 1,000 Belgians were then encircled inside the fortress. Second Lt. Witzig is said thereupon to have directed his weapon against the centre of the fortress, and the colossal blow he struck proved successful. The operation caused immense astonishment [inside the fort]; whereupon the 1,000 Belgians and their commandant were captured, despite the most violent resistance, when German Army units advancing from the north joined up with Second Lt. Witzig's detachment. Apart from this rather mysterious description, no further details are available about how the blow was executed.

CANADA: Gate vessel HMCS Ypres sunk in collision with battleship HMS Revenge at Halifax. There were three non-fatal casualties among Ypres crew of 18 men. Ypres was a one of 6 Battle-class trawlers built during WWI that were employed as gate vessels in the Halifax area. Revenge was escorting 2 troopships, the CPR's 20,000-ton Duchess of Bedford and the Cunard White Star Line's 14,000-ton Antonia and together they formed Convoy TC-4A. Originally they were intended to have cleared the anti-submarine boom at Mauger's Beach at 1830. However, due to problems getting the liners underway, Revenge did not approach the boom until approximately 2050, by which time it was dark and the visibility was poor. The Officer-of-the-Watch in Revenge did not see that the boom was closed until only 4-and-a-half cables (900 yards) away from it. The 33,000-ton battleship went astern on her 4 engines but, as she was making 8 knots, there was no hope of stopping the ship in such a short distance. Ypres, which displaced only 350 tons, and the gate system were dragged 500 yards further on before the battleship came to a stop. By this time, the gate vessel was listing approximately 50 degrees against the side of Revenge and she sank slowly, allowing the crew time to abandon ship in good order. Revenge proceeded on with the convoy once the crewmembers she had recovered were transferred to the other gate vessel, HMCS Festubert. The gate was back in operation by the 16th. Another old Battle-class trawler, HMS Arleux, replaced Ypres. She was also rammed later in the war by the giant liner RMS Queen Mary, although she was not sunk. (Dave Shirlaw)

 

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