Monday, 30 November 2015

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach, most people you speak to instantly recognise the name of Omaha Beach from World War 2 films like The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan. Younger people may remember it from war games like Medal of Honour. What one tends to remember are the brutal scenes which greeted the young American soldiers as they approached the beaches and disembarked. In many cases, as soon as the doors opened on the landing craft the bullets from the German MG42's were killing the Americans. The German opponents were excellent, well trained and fighting for their lives.

D-Day Beaches, image found at:
As the map above shows, Omaha Beach was vital to the Normandy invasion. Unless the beach was taken and troops advanced inland to link up with the British on Gold Beach and U.S troops on Utah, the bridgehead would be considerably weakened and the Germans would have more chance to push the Allies back into the sea.

What caused the massive loss of live at Omaha?

The geography of the beach was the most difficult of any. Sheer cliffs, a sea wall 1-4 meters in height, shingle which was impassable to vehicles, bunkers, trenches and blockhouses were all zeroed in on the beach which at high tide was but a few meters wide. Also there were only  four closely guarded exits off the beach which led inland.

The other beaches on D-Day made substantial use of British inventions designed to advance inland quicker minimising loss of human life, 'Hobart's Funnies' ( see previous blog posts ) The U.S troops on Omaha Beach did not have the benefit of these, they did try to launch DD tanks but 27 were lost before they made it to the beach.
Robert Capa on Omaha beach taking cover behind German beach defences found at:

At 0630hrs the first men to land on the beach were engineers who had to clear the way for the assault troops. The casualty rate among them was high - among U.S Naval Engineers the rate was 41%, (Bowman, p.64). They had to destroy beach obstacles before men could land, the beach was thick with them, tetrahedrons and stakes topped with mines to destroy landing craft and troops. The assault troops who landed next were from the American 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) and the 29th Infantry Division. The USAAF was supposed to bomb the beach and its defences before the landings, but had missed the target completely and dropped bombs further inland instead. The first landing craft came under fire 200-300 yards from shore. When they stopped at the beach and the ramps lowered, bullets were killing men before they could get out. It was a scene not unlike that of the First World War, one of mass slaughter.

German opposition consisted of  352nd Division and the 716th, eight battalions instead of four (H astings, p.115). They were no second rate troops. They were well trained and armed. MG42's, Neberlwerfer mortars, artillery guns and rifles all firing on the Americans as they landed.

The Americans that did survive the landing and made it onto the beach found some shelter among the beach obstacles or the shingle wall. In dribs and drabs, leaving dead and wounded comrades behind they waited, finding what little cover they could. By 0800 Officers were organising these groups and they started to advance. The most famous quote came from Brigadier Cota,

"There are only two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts, you're the fightin' 29th."

Meanwhile the Germans were running out of ammunition and urgently needed reinforcements. They were overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. Sheer determination and bravery by the U.S troops won the day at Omaha. They lost so many men due to the resilience of the German defenders and the difficult terrain. Bombs were dropped in the wrong place by the USAAF. DD tanks failed to make it to shore, but against all odds, the U.S army landed at Omaha Beach and slowly advanced inland.

Sources Used

D-Day, The Untold Story, found at:

Bowman, M, Remembering D-Day, Personal Histories Of Everyday Heroes (2004).

Hastings, M, Overlord, (1984).

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Three Stooges The Yoke's On Me 1944

Found this brilliant (though highly racist) Three Stooges episode The Yoke's On Me from 1944. The three hapless brothers are sent to find employment on a farm where they come across an ostrich and Nissei Americans from an internment camp. Sit back and enjoy the usual chaos, but a word of warning, don't attempt any of these stunts at home

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Battle of Britain 1940: Boulton-Paul Defiant: Stupid Idea or Dreadful Lead...

Battle of Britain 1940: Boulton-Paul Defiant: Stupid Idea or Dreadful Lead...

Friday, 20 November 2015

WW2 Survival Training Film AAF - Land and Live in the Desert (full)

Youtube is full of these old training films from the Second World War, enjoy this one about desert survival.

#WW2 War Against Japan - A Brutal War

A jap soldier executing an Allied prisoner, whereabouts unknown:

The war the Allies fought against Japan in Asia and the Pacific was long and bloody. One of the worst aspects of this was the Japanese treatment of prisoners. In their eyes, to be taken prisoner was a disgrace, dying in battle was more honourable. This mindset is why they mistreated and executed prisoners. After Singapore fell on 15th February 1942 more than 100,000 Allied soldiers were taken prisoner, the Japanese could not believe they had beaten an army this size with only 30,00 troops. There were no plans for prisoners of war, and Japan had not signed the Geneva Convention.

The infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines resulted in over 7,000 soldiers killed. The building of a Burma railway killed over 13,000. The list is endless, nurses, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians, other European civilians were murdered whenever the Japanese felt the urge (over 30,000 died in Jap POW camps
The most disgraceful act post war is a refusal of successive Japanese governments to apologise for these atrocities. How can we forgive them for this if they can't acknowledge their sins?

'Fit' Japanese pow's at Hellfire Pass, Burma railway,

WW2: Fighting Men - Crack That Tank (1943)

Excellent U.S training film for the infantryman on how to defeat tanks, remember, 'Stay in your foxhole'.

Messerschmitt Bf109 Underground Factory In Budapest

Me109 circa 1945, found at:

Found this interesting article about how whilst Hungary was subject to Allied bombing in the Second World War, fuselages and engines for Me109's were manufactured underground in a secret factory.

The tunnels were estimated at being 35km long, providing 180 square kilometres of space, lucky for us most aircraft factories were above ground eh?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Pickering 1940's Weekend Sunday 18th October 2015

Some photos from 1940's Weekend at Pickering. The French village at Levisham was excellent, even if it was occupied by SS.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Hawker Hurricane #BattleOfBritain75

Excellent documentary about the development and production of the Hawker Hurricane, the aircraft that shot down over 80% of enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain 1940.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Resistance & Fighting Axis Occupation In the Second World War

Resistance, as shown on More4

Apologies for not blogging more recently, but there has been so much to watch on TV about The Battle Of Britain it has left little time for writing. Then I saw this brilliant French TV serial about the French  Resistance. It centres around a group of people distributing a newspaper called Resistance. You can follow this link to watch it on More4

 The docility of many French people in Occupied France is apparent, the collaboration of the Police with the Germans is sickening, and the lack of freedom apparent. Most Frenchmen did collaborate with the enemy, how they could hold their heads high after the war is a mystery to me. 
Resistance fighters provided a valuable source of intelligence to the Allies (as long as they weren't infiltrated like the Dutch underground). If it wasn't for brave fighters risking their lives, many former prisoners of war would not have reached safety after escaping. They also caused chaos behind the lines, destroying railways, bridges and other acts of sabotage.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Carrying Fire: Some grainy 8 mm film narrated by the man who shot...

Carrying Fire: Some grainy 8 mm film narrated by the man who shot...: Some grainy 8 mm film narrated by the man who shot it during 1944-45. Good views of an 8th AF base. planes in flight, and the English coun...

Friday, 7 August 2015

Battle of Britain 1940: The True Start Date of the Battle of Britain? ...a...

Battle of Britain 1940: The True Start Date of the Battle of Britain? ...a...: The 8 August 1940 saw the first large scale sustained clashes between the RAF and the Luftwaffe and as such was initially considered to be ...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Battle of Britain 1940: Stop the Traffic! We Want to Take Off!

Battle of Britain 1940: Stop the Traffic! We Want to Take Off!: During the early part of the Battle of Britain, entries in the Campaign Diaries frequent mention is made of RAF Catterick in 13 Group being...

Geoffery Wellum, One Of The Youngest #RAF Pilots In The Battle Of Britain #WW2

Geoffery Willam, RAF Pilot #WW2

Geoffery Wellum was 18 years old when he fought in the Battle of Britain. You can watch a really good BBC film on Vimeo here;  it's called First Light . It is based on Wellum's book of the same name, Wellum is one of the lucky few to survive the Battle of Britain, he went on to lead a flight of Spits in Malta in 1942, and is still alive today. As a taster here is the trailer from Youtube.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

#BattleofBritain75 #WW2 Lord Beaverbrook Minister Of Aircraft Production

Lord Beaverbrook

On May 14th 1940 Lord  Beaverbrook was appointed Minister Of Aircraft Production by Churchill. Beaverbrook recognised the need for increased fighter production which went against popular thinking of the time at the Air Ministry, but was in agreement with Hugh Dowding.
At Castle Bromwich an aircraft factory had been established by Lord Nuffield at a cost of £4000,000 in 1939, but by 1940 no aircraft had been completed. Beaverbrook telephoned Supermarine, told them to take over the factory and produce only fighters, he also told them to ignore orders to tool up for bomber production. Although it would take some time to resolve the problems, in June 1940, 10 Mk IIs were built; 23 rolled out in July, 37 in August, and 56 in September.

Spitfires at Castle Bromwich

Beaverbrook clearly, when asked to do a job, he did it and got the results. Castle Bromwich produced an estimated 11,780 Spifires by the time the war ended in 1945

Len Deighton writes in Fighter,  that Beaverbrook would every evening during the Battle Of Britain ring his son, who was flying Spitfires to check he was okay. Next he would ring Air Vice Marshall Park, to ask him how many Spitfires & Hurricanes he required the next day - and where he would like them delivered. The next day, Park would receive his aircraft without fail. If only we could slice through the red tape like that now.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Time Travelling Toby & The Battle Of Britain

Time  Travelling Toby & The Battle Of Britain

I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting Graham Jones, author of Time Travelling Toby and he gave me a copy of one of his books. As a parent it is sometimes difficult sharing interests, hopefully this will help. It is really well written, Toby and his siblings go back in time in their special time travelling car. There are even some key facts at the back of the book and the illustrations are brilliant. Graham Jones has a website, is on Facebook & Twitter.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

#WW2 Fight for the Sky - 1945 Educational Documentary - USAAF Fighter Pilots Escorting Bombers in Europe

Another really good documentary about the USAAF escorting the bombers in daylight raids.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

R.J. Mitchell - The Spitfire Story - Aviation Documentary

Sunday, 5 July 2015

#WW2 1940's Online Radio Station

I found this excellent online radio station which plays 1940's music, click on the link and take yourselves back to the 1940's,

Saturday, 4 July 2015

#WW2 #1940 Churchill Speaks on Mers-el-Kébir (Oran)

After the Royal Navy attacked the French ships at Mers-el-Kebir, Churchill gave this speech. It was an act the Royal Navy was not proud of, neither was Churchill. Britain could not afford French battleships to be taken over by Germany. The French fleet did not join Britain in fighting against Germany, so it left Churchill with no choice but to order the attack named Operation Catapult.(Please see previous post

Friday, 3 July 2015

Your Home As An Air Raid Shelter (1940) #WW2

Excellent Pathe film demonstrating how to protect yourselves in an air raid.

Battle Of Oran - The Destruction Of The French Fleet July 3rd 1940 #WW2 #1940

German propaganda poster Battle of Oran
July 3rd 1940 was a dark day for both British and French navies. The bulk of the French fleet came under attack from H-Force (Royal Navy) at Mers-el-Kebir near Oran in Operation Catapult. Churchill had given the French a choice - sail to the USA, surrender to the British fleet or you will be attacked. The French fleet could have been taken over by Germany or even fought on the German side like the Vichy French. July 1940 was not a time to be gambling with Britain standing alone against Germany. so the Royal Navy attacked. 1297 French  sailors were killed, 5 battleships damaged, one sunk. In one engagement the British had killed more French than Germans since 1940. Not a proud moment in our history, but perhaps necessary. Actual war diaries from Force H can be found here:

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Battle of Britain - Full Length Documentary #WW2 #BattleofBritain75

This excellent documentary is part of the Why We Fight series and shows good footage from the Battle of Britain 1940.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Josef Frantisek - The RAF's Top Scorer In The Battle of Britain #BattleOfBritain75 #WW2

Sgt Josef Frantisek

Josef Frantisek was a Sergeant pilot in the RAF during the Battle of Britain. he was the top scorer with seventeen kills and one probable from September 2nd-30th 1940. Frantisek joined the Czech Air Force in 1934, fled to Poland in 1939 and flew with the Polish Air Force. He escaped Poland  via Romania and reached Britain in June 1940. Frantisek flew with 303 Squadron which was the most successful at shooting down German aircraft - 126 in 42 days. He had a reputation for going off on his own hunting the enemy, earning him the nickname 'Lone Wolf'. Sergeant Josef Frantisek died on 8th October 1940 when he crashed his Hurricane in Middlesex, England.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Royal Air Force v The Luftwaffe 1940 #BattleofBritain75 #WW2

This RAF poster shows the two main opponents, and their aircraft strengths in the Battle of Britain, summer 1940.

Sailor Malan's Ten Commandments #Ace #WW2 #BattleofBritain

Sailor Malan, found at:

Adolph Malan known as 'Sailor Malan' was a South African RAF pilot in World War 2. Prior to entering the Royal Air Force he had served aboard ships, hence the nickname.

Malan flew Spifires, shooting  down two Heinkel 111's in bright moonlight on the evening of 19th 20th June 1940, an impressive feat at the time. For this he received a Bar to his DFC, which he had won whilst over Dunkirk, being credited for five kills.

On August 11th 1940 Sailor Malan was given command of 74 Squadron, they were sent to intercept a raid near Dover followed by three more. By the end of the day 74 Squadron claimed 38 enemy aircraft shot down. From that day on the day was known as 'Sailor's August 11th'.  By the time the war ended Malan also won DSO and Bar, the Croix De Guerre, French Legion Of Honour, and Czechoslovak Cross 1939-1945. In 1945 his tally was; 27 enemy aircraft destroyed, 7 shared, 2 unconfirmed, 3 probables and 16 damaged.

Sailor malan is infamous for his 'Ten Commandments'. These were found posted on most airfields in World War 2.


Ten of my rules for air fighting

1. Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of one or two seconds, and only when your sights are definitely 'on'.

2. Whilst shooting think of nothing else. Brace the whole of the body, have both hands on the stick, concentrate on your ring site.

3. Always keep a sharp look-out. 'Keep your finger out'.

4. Height gives you the initiative.

5. Always turn and face the attack.

6. Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly, even though your tactics are not the best.

7. Never fly straight and level for more than thirty seconds in the combat area.

8. When diving to attack, always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as top guard.

9.  INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE and TEAM WORK are words that MEAN  something in air fighting.

10. Go in quickly, - Punch hard - Get out!

Sailor Malan survived the war, left as a Group Captain and returned to South Africa. He became a spokesman for the anti-apartheid movement and died of Parkinsons disease in 1963.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

'I'd Rather Fight In A Spitfire But Fly In A Hurricane' , Ginger Lacey #WW2 #RAF Battle Of Britain Ace

Ginger Lacey, RAF Battle Of Britain Ace

Unfortunately, during World War 2, there was much snobbery in the armed forces. NCO pilots did not mix with Commissioned Officers even though they flew and fought together. They ate separately, dined and slept in separate accommodation. NCO's were just as capable of flying as Officers, this was proved by Ginger Lacey.  Lacey shot down 15 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain and one shared.

James Ginger Lacey was a Sergeant pilot from Yorkshire who always wanted to fly. His parents made him take an apprenticeship as a chemist, he later joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and became a civilian instructor. In France, May 1940, he shot down three German aircraft on his first sortie. During the Battle of Britain he was shot down nine times sustaining only minor injuries or escaping unscathed. Lacey was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and Distinguished Flying Medal and Bar. He received a permanent commission in the RAF after the war and stayed until his retirement in 1967. Ginger Lacey died at Bridlington in 1989. A famous quote from Lacey in an interview: I'd rather fight in a Spitfire but fly in a Hurricane' was because he said the Hurricane was made from non-essential parts - it did everything you needed it to Lacey was also an aircraft adviser for the infamous Battle of Britain film with the all star cast. Please have a look at the audio interview I found:

#WW2 The Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane Mk2, found at:

The Hawker Hurricane was the most numerous British fighter aircraft in the Battle of Britain. 1715 Hurricanes flew in the Battle of Britain, outnumbering all other fighter types. It is a shame it is overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire as Hurricane pilots were credited with more than eighty percent of kills in the Battle of Britain. It was the first British fighter to achieve a top speed of over 300 mph at 20,000 ft (328mph) and was armed with eight .303 Browning machine guns. RAF History of the Hawker Hurricane. It could fly whilst sustaining heavy damage and provided a stable gun platform. The wider set undercarriage made it a safer aircraft to land than the Spit. 3774 Hawker Hurricanes were made in total at the Hawker and Gloster aircraft factories during late 1939 and early 1940

Monday, 22 June 2015

June 22nd - On This Day In 1940 France Signs An Unconditional Surrender To The Axis Powers

A day of shame in French history. France signed an unconditional surrender with Italy & Germany on June 22nd 1940. Not only did France have to do this, but Hitler insisted that the venue be Compiegne, and in the very same railway carriage in which Germany signed their surrender in 1918.

In short, the French were to lay down their arms, and govern an area of France unoccupied by Germany from the spa town of Vichy. The French naval fleet was to be based in Africa, and be crewed by no more than half of its peacetime crew. (The French had promised Britain it would not be handed over to the Germans). The entire north French coast would be used by Germany, and Paris occupied. 

The day after the French signed the armistice, Hitler ordered it to be destroyed. Paris would be occupied for four years, and France would be fully occupied by Germany in November 1942. Britain was now left alone to fight on.

The carriage in which the French signed their surrender in 1940

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Resistance Trailer Official 2011 [HD] Starring Michael Sheen

I love What If? scenarios, particularly different takes on The Second World War, could Germany have invaded Britain? The book, And All The King's Men by Gordon Stevens is one of my favourites, and I was pleased to discover someone had made a film about the conquest of Wales in 1944, starring Michael Sheen. Can't wait to see it.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Bren Gun

The Bren Gun. A very popular infantry support weapon, it was widely used by British & Commonwealth troops from the 1930's until 1992.


Weight: Around 20lbs depending on version.

Range: Effective Range - 650yds, Maximum Range - 1850

Type Of Feed: Magazine Fed. 30 round box magazine or 100 round pan magazine.

Crew: 2. One firing, other to change barrels and magazines.

Rate of Fire: 500-520 rounds per minute.

Ammunition Type: .303.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Target For Today - 1944 United States 8th Army Air Force During World Wa...

This is an excellent documentary on daylight bombing by USAAF B 24 Liberators and B 17 Flying Fortresses.

Monday, 18 May 2015

#WW2 MEMPHIS BELLE - B-17 Flying Fortress and her crew - World War Two Docum...

This is a really good documentary about the real Memphis Belle, a welcome change from the Hollywood Fiction. They were the first USAAF crew to complete 25 missions in the Second World War.

Monday, 4 May 2015

#WW2 #StrategicBombing Carrying Fire: Battle Stations B17 Flying Fortress

Another good blog post from Don Christensen about B-17's,

Carrying Fire: Battle Stations B17 Flying Fortress: 44 minutes long and a good view of B-17 history and experience of the crews.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

#WW2 April 30th 1945 Hitler Comitts Suicide

On this day in 1945, Hitler committed suicide with his wife, Eva Braun. The end of war in Europe was not far away.

Did Hitler die? There is overwhelming evidence that he did committ suicide, the Russians interrogated many people who were in the bunker at the time of his death including his chauffeur.
Then I found this webpage, including evidence from the FBI who knew he was still alive in South America, have a read:

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

#WW2Fiction The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed - one of the best books I have ever read. It is about an assassination  plot masterminded by Heinrich Himmler. The year the story is set in is 1944, the target - Winston Churchill.

Jack Higgins is one of the great adventure writers, he ranks alongside Wilbur Smith and Alastair Maclean. He has an uncanny ability to create characters which come to life, one of my favourite in this book is a character called Liam Devlin. Devlin appears in many of Higgins' books. He is an ex IRA hitman who studied at Dublin University. Devlin has a wry sense of humour and can kill when ordered without a qualm. Kurt Steiner is the German paratroop officer who leads his men on the mission. He is saved from death in a penal unit, as were his men by agreeing to take part in the mission. Steiner is a warrior with a heart, who had previously been in trouble for attempting to save a Jewish girl from being shot in Warsaw. The Germans train for their mission at  a secret base, wear British uniforms and are dropped from a captured Dakota. They are helped by Devlin and an Afrikaans lady called Joanna Grey who has lived in Britain for years. Do they succeed in killing Churchill? You had better read it to find out or watch the film...

Thursday, 23 April 2015

#WW2 #RAF Not Very Good Aircraft Flown By The Royal Air Force In The Second World War

We are always told how great the Supermarine Spitfire was in the Second World War, how Adolf Galland told Goering that he wanted a squadron for his men.  What we don't often see is the bad aircraft the RAF had to fly, especially in the early years of the war.So I thought I would put together some facts about some of them here.

The Boulton Paul Defiant, the Fairey Battle, the Blackburn Gotha and the Hawker Typhoon, just some of the aircraft that were not designed for the Second World War.

The Boulton Paul Defiant

Boulton Paul Defiant found at:

This was a tragic design. An aircraft designed to attack bomber formations without a forward firing machine gun or cannon. It is a shame nobody mentioned it may be attacked by fighters. The Defiant had a turret with four .303 machine guns and a crew of two. Due to the aircraft's poor manoeverablity and vulnerability to a frontal attack, it was withdrawn from daylight operations and became a night fighter.

Crew -2
Max Speed- 315mph at 16,500 ft.
Range- 465 miles.
Armament-4 Browning .303 machine guns in turret with 600 rounds per gun.


The Fairey Battle
Fairey Battle, image found at:

Again, like the Boulton-Paul Defiant, the Fairey Battle was hopelessly outclassed by the time it met with enemy aircraft. The best feature was a forward firing machine gun, it was better than nothing. Losses in the Battle of France were heavy, particularly in the raids on the Maastricht bridges and Luxembourg.The aircraft was hopelessly underpowered by one Rolls Royce Merlin engine, see specifications below.

Crew - 2
Max Speed - 241 mph.
Range - 795 miles.
Armament - One aft firing Vickers machine gun and one Browning .303 forward. It also carried a 1000lb bombload.

After being retired from active service the Fairey battle was used for training, mainly target tugs and gunnery.

Blackburn Botha

                                         Blackburn Botha, image found at:

Testing of the Blackburn Botha  showed some serious failings; it had poor stability and virtually non-existent vision from ether side due to the engines and also poor vision to the rear. Whoever designed this aircraft for an Air Ministry requirement of a 3/4 seater aircraft, twin engined, suitable for torpedo bombing and reconnaissance was maybe paid by the Luftwaffe? It was powered by a Perseus X engine of 880hp. In practice the aircraft proved to be underpowered and unstable resulting in fatal crashes. Strangely enough, the Botha was withdrawn from frontline service and was used as a trainer, resulting in more fatalities.

Crew -3
Max Speed- 249 mph.
Range- 1270 miles.
Armament-3 - .303 machine guns. Torpedo, mines or bombs up to 2000lbs.

The Hawker Typhoon

                                                  Hawker Typhoons, found at:

I can hear people asking, why has this dude put the Hawker Typhoon in this poxy list? Well, there's one reason and it's a good one. When the Typhoon went into a steep dive, the tail sometimes detached itself from the rest of the aircraft. It may have been an excellent tank buster, but the Typhoon had such a bad reputation that pilots were forcibly transferred from fighter squadrons to fly Typhoons. To the best of my knowledge there are no Typhoons flying today, maybe that's a good thing.

Crew - 1
Max Speed - 412 mph.
Range - 510 mph.
Armament - 8 rockets, 4x20 mm cannon, 2x 500lb or 2 x 1000lb bombs. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

#WW2 April 16th 1940

A plan approved by the War cabinet to send 1000 Canadian troops from Britain to capture forts at Trondheim was postponed for six days after Chiefs of Staff feared high casualties.

One of Chamberlain's secretaries wrote in his diary that the Norwegians would 'lose heart unless quickly assured of substantial support'.(cited at: Gilbert, M, Second World War).

Two Norwegian submarines were scuttled by their own crews on April 16th 1940 in Verbukta at Tonsberg.

I have included a Movietone newsreel clip from the period, what is obvious in the struggle of the Allies is the Germans' air superiority. No anti aircraft guns or fighter aircraft to defend the British are lacking, little wonder Norway was a failure.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

#WW2 April 15th 1940 #NorwayCampaign

General Carton de Wiart, found at:

On April 15th 1940 The codebreaking team at Bletchley Park broke the Enigma code used by the German army and Luftwaffe. Unfortunately there was no team to analyse the information, and no way of transmitting information directly to British forces securely

Further British reinforcements for Alesund were delayed by gales off Scotland.
Troops at Namsos reported snow 4ft deep. The British Commander General Carton de Wiart was unable to leave the flying boat he had arrived at Namsos in due to German machine gun fire.
Night time temperatures fell to zero degrees farenheit. Frostbite was reported,
Other British troops held positions at Harstad, Salangen and Bogen, all suffering in the harsh conditions.

In the south of Norway the Norwegian 3rd Division surrendered to the Germans at Sedestal. 2000 soldiers surrendered.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

#OnThisDayIn1940 #WW2 Royal Marines Land At Namsos April 14th 1940 #NorwayCampaign

Norwegian Campaign Map April may 1940, found at:

On April 14th 1940 350 British Royal Marines landed at Namsos, Norway to prepare for the arrival of the 146th Territorial Brigade, the first British troops to land in Norway.

German paratroopers of the 7th Flieger Division landed at Dombas, Norway, they suffered heavy losses due to landing in the middle of the camp belonging to the Norwegian 11th Regt. Unfortunately they were still able to damage nearby railways and occupied farmhouses causing logistic problems for several days. 

HMS Sterlet, found at:

Out at sea, British submarine HMS Sterlet damaged the German gunnery training ship and minelayer Brummer in the Skagerrak (between Sweden and Norway). The Brummer sank the next day.
Brummer before #WW2, found at:

Monday, 13 April 2015

#WW2 #OnThisDay1940 Second Battle Of Narvik April 13th 1940

HMS Warspite, found at:

On April 13th 1940 The Royal Navy with 9 destroyers screening the battleship HMS Warspite, attacked 3 German destroyers and a submarine at Narvik. The Swordfish biplane launched from HMS Warspite attacked and sunk the submarine taking damage from the U-Boat's anti-aircraft gun.  The three German warships were sunk by a combination of shell fire from the Royal navy ships and the Fairey Swordfish.

#WW2 #OnThisDay1940 April 12th 1940 Hegra Fortress Occupied By Norwegian Forces

Gun position at Hegra Fortress, found at:

Hegra Fortress in the Nord-Trondelag (Southern) area of Norway had been mothballed and was to become a place of resistance until May 1940. The fort had been left unoccupied for years, but the fort was to become famous in April and May 1940, when Major Holtermann with his force of 250 men (and one woman) withstood the German onslaught for 26 full days. The fort was defended by 10 artillery pieces of varying calibre, able to fire to a range between 6 & 9km.

Today the fortress is a museum and looks well worth a visit:

Saturday, 11 April 2015

#WW2 On 11th April 1940 In Norway...

On 11th April 1940, German forces advanced so to link up from Oslo to Trondheim.
The German ship Lutzow was badly damaged by the British submarine HMS Spearfish, as a result Lutzow returned to base on April 18th 1940.

Why was Britain and France involved in Norway? The reason was its neighbour - Sweden. In winter, iron ore from Sweden was exported from the Norwegian port of Narvik - whoever occupied Norway would control the supply of iron ore to Germany. If Britain controlled the Norwegian ports, the North Sea would be virtually closed to the German navy, and the Baltic would be in striking distance.

#WW2 The Blackburn B-24 Sea Skua Carrier Aircraft

Blackburn Sea Skuas on deck of HMS Ark Royal, image found at:

I thought I would get some info on this aircraft as it took part in the Norway campaign on the carrier HMS Ark Royal. On 10th April 1940, 16 Skuas from the Orkney Isles sank the Konigsburg in Bergen harbour, this was the first time a destroyer had been sunk by aircraft alone. It was withdrawn from front line service in 1941, as it was too vulnerable to attack by land based fighters such as the Me-Bf109.

Diagram of Blackburn Skua found at:
Powered by a Bristol Perseus XII radial engine of 890 hp, the Skua was armed with 4 x .303 in forward firing Browning machine guns and a single flexibly mounted .303 in Lewis or Vickers K machine gun in the rear cockpit.  It also had the capacity to carry a 500 lb bomb mounted under the fuselage and up to 4 x 40 lb or 8 x 20 lb bombs in racks under each wing.

Other Specifications

Crew - 2

Max range - 435 miles

Service Ceiling - 20,200ft

Max Speed - 225mph.

Skuas in flight, found at:

Friday, 10 April 2015

#WW2 #OnThisDay1940 10th April 1940 The First Battle Of Narvik

HMS Hunter sunk at First Battle Of Narvik, found at:

On this day in 1940 The First Battle Of Narvik took place.Five  British destroyers took on ten German destroyers and shore batteries near Narvik, (Ofot Fjord). 2 destroyers from both sides were sunk; Hardy & Hunter (British) and Wilhelm Heidkamp & Anton Schmitt (German).Three German destroyers were also damaged in the daring British attack. Eight German merchant ships and one ammunition carrier also were sunk. The British submarine Thistle was sunk by U-4 off Stavanger. 
It was no victory for either side, but the British had made their presence felt, and the Germans had half their destroyers put out of action.
Wrecked shipping at Narvik, found at:

Thursday, 9 April 2015

#WW2 End Of Phoney War - On This Day Denmark & Norway Invaded By Germany #OperationWeserubung

Today in 1940 Denmark was invaded and captured by German forces - notably 170th & 198th Infantry Divisions. Norway was also attacked, Egersund and Arendal captured without any resistance.

#WW2 The Messerschmidt Bf 109 or #Me109 One Of the Biggest Hoaxes Of The Second World War

Me109 found at:

The Me-109 first saw action with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War 1936 proving itself a useful fighter aircraft. Four months before the beginning of The Second World War, the Me-109 was declared to be a record holder of 469.22 m.p.h.

This was not an Me-109, it was an Me209VI, but the F.A.I (Fédération_Aéronautique_Internationale) had not been told. They can't have looked very hard either.The aircraft looks totally different.
Me209 VI found at:
The standard Me Bf109 flew at 340 mph. The Hurricane 327 mph. The Spitfire 355 mph. (Information from Battle Of Britain 1940 )

At the outbreak of the Second World War the Germans had some useful propaganda - declaring they had the world's fastest fighter aircraft. The Battle of Britain would help dispel the myth.

My Favourite #WW2 Escape Films

My last post about the forthcoming escape film featuring famous amputee pilot Douglas Bader had me thinking.
There is nothing to beat a good escape film, especially when the escapees are successful, so here are some of my favourites:

The Great Escape (1963). I have to put this one in first, why? Because this is the first one I remember watching as a child with my Dad. It has a start studded cast, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, David McCallum etc. The story is based on the escape from Stalagluft III and a well organised set of prisoners headed by 'Big X' played by Attenborough. They plan to get hundreds of prisoners out of 3 tunnels and are constantly causing their German guards problems, as all good Allied prisoners should.
The One That Got Away (1957). This is a great film based on the escape of Luftwaffe pilot Franz Von Werra who is played by Hardy Kruger. Von Werra proves a very troublesome prisoner for the British, and attempts escape many times, including trying to steal a Hurricane from an airfield.

The Wooden Horse (1950). This film is based on events from the same P.O.W camp as the Great Escape. The Allied prisoners used an excersise horse for cover in an excersise yard. The idea was simple. Two men were carried underneath the horse to the yard, the horse put down and the men dug a tunnel out. Easy. The Germans never thought to check under the horse. It was made on a low budget and starred Leo Genn  and Anthony Steel also featuring many amateur actors.

The Great Escape II (1988). This sequel to the Great Escape starred many actors including Ian McShane, Christopher Reeve and Donald Pleasence. It tells the true story of the fate of the captured prisoners from Stalagluft III and the investigation after the war. This is a very good and under-rated film, that sticks more to the real story than the first Great Escape film did.

As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me (2001). Starring Bernhard Bettermann This film is about a German prisoner of war held in a Soviet Union gulag. He has been sentenced to  25 years hard labour for 'crimes against partisans'. He escapes from the camp and endures much hardship across the Soviet Union to Turkey via Iran. This is a brilliant story of endurance and triumph of the human will against all odds.

Last but not least, The Password Is Courage, (1962), this film stars Dirk Bogarde and is based on the true story of  John Castle's memoirs  as a prisoner under the pseudonym Charles Coward. He proves a real thorn in the side of the Germans and attempts to escape many times, disguised as a german soldier, digging tunnels etc. He also helps sabotage a labour camp much to the amusement of fellow prisoners and distress of the guards. A must see film.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Another #WW2 Escape Film? This One Featuring Douglas Bader

Douglas Bader, found at:

Just read in the papers today about plans to make another Second World War escape film. This one is based on the escape from a camp in Germany called Warburg on August 30th 1942.  The prisoners made light ladders in their music room where the music drowned out the noise of hammering etc. 41 men rushed the fence, one ladder collapsed, 28 men escaped and 3 men made 'home runs'. The film is based on the book Zero Night by Mark Felton. It was a plot hatched by Scottish lieutenant Jock Hamilton-Baillie, 23. An officer from the Durham Light Infantry, Major Tom Stallard teamed up with Douglas Bader, the infamous fighter pilot who was a double amputee. Their roles were to help with the planning, disguising the ladders as book shelves. The potential escapers drilled and planned the escape for months in secret, most including Bader were recaptured after the attempt. Bader saw out the rest of the war in Colditz as he was so troublesome to the Germans.

This sounds excellent, and will make a change from The Great Escape. I can't wait to see it. If you can't wait, watch the classic Reach For The Sky advert below:

Monday, 6 April 2015

The B-17 Flying Fortress and The Avro Lancaster

I thought I would put together a few factoids about the iconic #Lancaster and B-17 bombers.

B-17 found at:

The B-17

Crew - 10

Range -  2,000 miles with 6,000lb bombload (
Top Speed - 295 - 320 mph (depending on model).

Max. Ceiling - 35,800ft

Armament - 13 0.5' machine guns

Number Produced - 12,700 (

Years In Service - 1930's - 1970's.

The Avro Lancaster

Avro lancaster found at:

Range -  1,660 miles
Top Speed - 287mph.

Max. Ceiling - 24,500ft.

Armament - Eight .303 machine guns.

Maximum Bombload -  14,000 -22,000lbs tallboy bombs.

Years In Service - 1942-1963.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

B-17's Bomb Messerschmitt Factory 1943 - US Army Air Corps

Until 1945, the USAAF bravely bombed Axis targets in daylight, often unescorted. The Schweinfurt - Regensburg  raid is infamous in August 1943 for the heavy losses inflicted on the B17's. 60 aircraft were los as were a total of 55 crews taken prisoner, interned in Switzerland or killed.

The plan was to have 2 bomber groups with 10 minutes between them taking off from bases in Britain. The first group would meet expected Luftwaffe fighters on the Regensburg raid, the target there was the Messerschmidt factory. Wile these fighters were refuelling the second wave would bomb the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt. Both USAAF groups would land in North Africa.

Unfortunately, bad weather meant the second wave was delayed, the Luftwaffe had time to re-arm and refuel,the disastrous day for the USAAF became known as 'Black Thursday'. The development of the P-51 and Lightning fighters, meant that by March 1944, Allied bombers had protection to and from the target in Germany.  

#WW2 World War 2 Blitz - Kingston Upon Hull Bomb Damage

It is surprising how many people are unaware of how widespread the bombing was in Britain during World War 2. London, Liverpool and Coventry are well publicised, but Hull suffered heavy bombing as it was on the East coast - any German bombers unable to reach their targets often dropped them here.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Advancing Harvest Technology From 1930's Horse-Drawn Combine, 1938.

There has been much discussion on #Twitter recently regarding the video above. I could not believe something horse drawn could operate a combine harvester, but watch this and you will see I was wrong. There is also some good footage from the U.S of a Caterpillar operated combine and a steam operated threshing machine.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Carrying Fire: In case you'd forgotten how good the Andrews Siste...

Carrying Fire: In case you'd forgotten how good the Andrews Siste...: In case you'd forgotten how good the Andrews Sisters were.

#WW2 Entertainers - George Formby

George Formby was a very popular entertainer in Britain, and he loved entertaining the troops. He was Britain's highest paid entertainer, by 1939 he was earning £100,000 per year. During the Second World War he, like Vera Lynn Gracie Fields and others, joined E.N.S.A. This stood for Entertainments National Servicemen Association (not as Spike Milligan stated in his memoirs Every Night Something Awful). He was famous for his banjo and ukelele playing and the infamous 'When I'm cleaning windows'. It was estimated that he had played to over three million troops by 1946.
You can find out more here:

Thursday, 5 March 2015

#WW2 Air Raid Shelters In Britain Used In The Second World War

Anderson Shelter diagram found at: 

When you talk about air raid shelters, most people envisage the infamous Anderson shelter which was popular. Named after Sir John Anderson who was Home Secretary during the Battle of Britain, 1.5 million were distributed leading up to the war, and by 1945 3.6 million had been made It was constructed of corrugated iron,partially underground and the roof and walls were covered in soil. They were often damp but did provide some cover against bombs, although they could not withstand a direct hit. The public either bought them from the government or they were free depending on how much people earned - if you earned more than £5 per week you could buy one for £7. The Anderson shelter could accommodate up to 6 people.
Family entering Anderson shelter.

Another type which  was hugely successful was the Morrison shelter, named after the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison. This was a basic design which was really just an iron cage which could fit under the kitchen table, ideal if you did not have a garden. These became available in 1941. It would not have been able to hold 6 people like the Anderson shelter but at least you could get in it quickly when the air raid siren went. 

The London Tube provided a great deal of shelter during the blitz, as did other public shelters in towns and cities. 
The entrance to a public shelter was marked with a large S Sign, they were constructed of brick and were not bomb proof, but they were blast proof.

Air raid shelters saved many lives during the Second World War. Without them the casualties from air raids would have been horrific.