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.