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New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol. I)

Appendix I — Principal Events of the Second World War 1939–42

page 370

Appendix I
Principal Events of the Second World War 1939–42

(With particular reference to air operations in Europe)

24 General mobilisation of RAF ordered.
  Regular North Sea reconnaissance patrols by Coastal Command commenced.
1 German forces invaded Poland.
2 First echelon (ten squadrons) of the Advanced Air Striking Force flew to France—the main body followed by sea on 10–11 September.
3 Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and France declared war on Germany.
3–4 First leaflet operation flown by 10 Whitleys over Hamburg, Bremen and the Ruhr.
4 15 Blenheims and 14 Wellingtons attacked enemy warships off Brunsbuttel in the Schillig Roads.
5 South Africa entered the war. The first RAF attack on an enemy U-boat was made by an Anson of No. 500 Squadron near the North Hinder Light Vessel.
6 First enemy aircraft sorties over England—Thames Estuary.
9 Hurricane Squadrons Nos. 1, 73, 85 and 87 arrived in France as part of the RAF Air Component.
10 Canada declared war on Germany.
13 New Zealand waives claim to 30 Wellington bombers previously ordered and men of the New Zealand Ferry Flight in England placed at disposal of RAF.
29 Germany and Russia partitioned Poland.
14 German U-boat enters Scapa Flow and sinks HM Battleship Royal Oak.
16 First German air raid on Britain. In the afternoon about 12 Ju88 and Do215 raided Firth of Forth. Two shot down into sea by fighters and one by AA.page 371
28 First German aircraft of the war to be brought down on British soil was forced down near Dalkeith. (He111 on reconnaissance over the Firth of Forth.)
30 First German aircraft shot down over France by Hurricane of No. 1 Squadron.
4 ‘Cash and Carry’ Law enacted in USA.
18 Germans began laying magnetic mines from the air off British coast.
3 Attack by 24 Wellingtons on warships at Heligoland.
12 Eight Whitleys attacked seaplane bases at Borkum and Sylt from which enemy minelaying aircraft were reported to be operating. Nightly patrols over these bases were continued until mid-April 1940.
13 The first attack on enemy surface vessels by aircraft of Coastal Command, when a Hudson of No. 220 Squadron attacked two German destroyers in the North Sea, west of Denmark.
  Battle of the River PlateGraf Spee scuttled on 17 December.
17 Empire air training agreement signed at Ottawa on behalf of Governments of United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
18 Wellingtons of Bomber Command made a daylight attack on shipping at Wilhelmshaven. 12 aircraft shot down by German fighters, believed to be the first occasion when radar was used by the enemy.
26 Establishment of first Australian squadron completed in England, for service with Coastal Command (No. 10 RAAF Squadron).
8 The first successful minesweeping against enemy magnetic mines was carried out in the Thames Estuary by specially fitted Wellington aircraft of Coastal Command.
31 During January first Hudson and Sunderland aircraft of Coastal Command had been fitted with airborne radar.
16 A Hudson of Coastal Command located the Altmark off the coast of Norway. HMS Cossack subsequently entered Josing Fiord, where a party boarded Altmark and rescued 299 prisoners.
25 First Canadian squadron (No. 110 RCAF) arrived in England.
19 First British air attack on a land target. 30 Whitleys and 20 Hampdens attacked the seaplane base at Hornum, on the island of Sylt.page 372
1 Formation of No. 75 New Zealand Squadron at RAF Station, Feltwell in Norfolk. (First Commonwealth squadron in Bomber Command.)
9 Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.
11 First attack on a mainland target—six Wellingtons and two Blenheims attacked Stavanger airfield.
13–14 First minelaying operation by Bomber Command Hampdens off the coast of Denmark.
15–18 British forces landed at Aandalsnes and Molde in Norway.
22 Air Vice-Marshal K. R. Park appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 11 Group, Fighter Command.
24 18 Gladiators of No. 263 Squadron landed on the frozen Lake Lesjeskogen in Norway.
25 German air attack on Lesjeskogen airfield, 16 Gladiators destroyed.
29 Empire Air Training Scheme commenced in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
30 Evacuation of British forces from Aandalsnes began.
1 RAF squadrons withdrawn from Norway to re-equip.
  Aandalsnes evacuation completed.
7 First 2000-pound bomb dropped by a Coastal Command Beaufort near a German cruiser off Norderney.
10 Germany invaded Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. British and French forces moved into Belgium and Holland. German parachute troops seized Waalhaven, the airport of Rotterdam. Waalhaven was bombed by 9 Blenheims and 36 Wellingtons.
11 A new coalition Government was formed in London with Mr. Churchill as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.
12 Attack on bridges across the Albert Canal at Maastricht by five Battle aircraft of No. 12 Squadron. Four aircraft failed to return, one returned badly damaged. Flying Officer D. E. Garland and Sergeant T. Gray awarded the first air VCs of the war.
12–14 German breakthrough on French front at Sedan.
14 77 bombers of Advanced Air Striking Force made attacks on five pontoon bridges in the Sedan area. This was largest series of daylight attacks made by RAF during the French Campaign (1940).
15 War Cabinet authorised bombing attacks on Germany east of the Rhine.
15–16 First large-scale attack by Bomber Command on industrial targets in Germany. 93 aircraft attacked oil targets and railway centres in the Ruhr.
17 Formation of Ministry of Aircraft Production with Lord Beaverbrook as Minister.page 373
21 No. 263 Gladiator Squadron returned to Norway, flown off aircraft carriers Glorious and Furious to airfield at Bardufoss, near Narvik. Hurricanes of No. 46 Squadron arrived a few days later.
24 First Rhodesian Flying Training School opened.
  First British industrial town (Middlesborough) attacked by German Air Force.
26 Full-scale evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk began.
26 may–4 june  
  Intensive air patrols maintained over Channel and Dunkirk area. 189 German aircraft destroyed for loss of 99 British fighters.
4 Dunkirk evacuation completed.
5 Regular anti-invasion patrols instituted by Coastal Command.
7 Evacuation of remaining RAF fighters from Narvik on the aircraft carrier Glorious.
8 Glorious sunk off Norway by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
10 Italy declared war on Great Britain and France.
  Canada declared war on Italy.
11 Australia, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.
11–12 36 Whitleys operating from England and refuelling in the Channel Islands despatched to make first raid on Italy. Nine aircraft attacked Fiat Works, Turin, and two aircraft attacked Ansaldo Works, Genoa.
14 Germans entered Paris.
17 Evacuation of last RAF squadrons from France completed.
21 France accepted German armistice terms.
25 Hostilities in France ended.
2 Hitler orders preparations for invasion of England; in further directive, 16 July, orders preparations to be completed by mid-August.
4–5 Hamburg, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Emden and Kiel attacked by Bomber Command.
10 Preliminary phase of the Battle of Britain began with German attacks on Channel convoys.
15 RAF begin attacks on shipping and barge concentrations in enemy North Sea and Channel ports. Attacks continue until end of October.
23–24 First British aircraft over Berlin. A Blenheim, which had failed to locate its target at Brandenburg, came out of the clouds over Berlin. The streets were lit and could be easily distinguished.
8 First phase of the Battle of Britain began (8–18 August) with intensive attacks on shipping and coastal towns.
  Air Training Scheme commenced in South Africa.page 374
12–13 Dortmund–Ems aqueduct breached by Hampdens in a low-level attack. Flight Lieutenant R. A. B. Learoyd awarded the VC.
13 Alder Tag (Eagle Day) commencement of Battle of Britain (German version).
15 Enemy air attacks extended from Newcastle to Weymouth with airfields as the principal objectives. This was the heaviest German attack during the Battle of Britain. German losses 76 aircraft, British losses 34. U-boats commenced attacking convoys in the north-west approaches on the surface by night.
19 Second phase of the Battle of Britain opened (19 August-6 September) during which enemy air attacks were largely concentrated on airfields.
24–25 First bombs fell in central London during daylight. In the course of widespread night raids, Birmingham, Bristol, South Wales area and Liverpool were also attacked.
25–26 First night attack by RAF on Berlin: a power station and targets on the outskirts of the city were bombed. Retaliation for raids on London.
3 Anglo-American Lease-Lend Agreement. Sea and air bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda leased free to USA. Fifty United States destroyers transferred to Great Britain. Hitler fixes D-day for invasion of Britain for 21 September; postponed on 17 September; concentrations of shipping to be dispersed in view of air attacks, 19 September.
7 Opening of third phase of Battle of Britain (7 September-5 October) during which London was the main objective.
7–8 Night ‘Blitz’ on London opened with heavy enemy attacks on Thames-side. Severe damage caused.
8 Invasion alert No. 1 in force. Major effort of Bomber Command concentrated against German invasion preparations.
15 The German Air Force delivered two major attacks on London during day; later, smaller formations attacked Portland and Southampton. 56 enemy aircraft destroyed.
19 Formation of the first RAF Eagle Squadron (No. 71 Squadron) which was manned by American volunteers.
23–24 Bomber Command attacked Berlin with 119 aircraft.
27 British Technical Mission arrived in Washington for mutual disclosures of British and American radar developments. British scientists demonstrated the Magnetron valve, which revolutionised microwave radar technique, to the Americans.
6 Opening of the fourth and final stage of the Battle of Britain 6–31 October, during which daylight attacks gave way gradually to night raids.
25 ACM Sir Charles Portal appointed Chief of the Air Staff vice ACM Sir Cyril Newall, appointed Governor-General of New Zealand.page 375
10–11 First air delivery of land planes across the Atlantic—seven Hudsons from Canada.
11 In attacks on convoys off the East Coast of Great Britain Italian bombers and fighters operated for first time. 13 Italian aircraft were destroyed without loss to RAF fighters.
14–15 Enemy aircraft carried out heavy attack on Coventry from dusk till dawn. Widespread damage caused.
16–17 Heaviest concentrated attack by Bomber Command to date. 131 aircraft on Hamburg.
16–17 First ‘area’ attack on a German industrial target by Bomber Command—134 aircraft on Mannheim.
20 Two Spitfires of No. 66 Squadron inaugurated a new daylight fighter offensive by making the first low-level sorties against an airfield at Le Touquet.
21–22 First night ‘Intruder’ sorties made by No. 23 Squadron, to supplement ‘Security patrols’ by No. 2 Group.
29–30 About 130 enemy aircraft operated mainly against London. Feature of raid was large number of incendiary bombs dropped. 1470 fires reported, mainly in City, SE and E London area. The Guild Hall, eight Wren churches, and many famous buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.
2 Heavy night raid on Cardiff, South Wales.
  RAF attacked Bremen, repeated following night; Wilhelmshaven, nights 15 and 16 January.
6 An Italian U-boat sunk off the Hebrides by a Sunderland of No. 210 Squadron was first Italian submarine destroyed by Coastal Command aircraft.
9 First sweep of the new fighter offensive. Five squadrons of RAF fighters in two formations patrolled over and off the French coast.
10 First ‘Circus’ operation. Six Blenheims of No. 114 Squadron supported by nine squadrons of fighters attacked targets in the Forêt de Guines.
10–11 RAF Stirlings operated for the first time (Rotterdam).
19 Heavy German raid on Swansea; repeated following two nights.
24–25 RAF Manchesters operated for the first time (Brest).
  Targets for RAF bombers include Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen and Dusseldorf.
  Heavy and repeated German night raids on London, Portsmouth, Glasgow, Liverpool and Plymouth.
1 No. 485 New Zealand Fighter Squadron formed at RAF Station Driffield, Yorkshire.page 376
6 Battle of the Atlantic directive issued by the Prime Minister ordering that until further notice absolute priority was to be given to overcoming the U-boat and the Focke-Wulf aircraft.
11 Lease-lend Bill signed by President Roosevelt.
12–13 First attack by four-engined bombers of Bomber Command on Germany—Halifaxes against Hamburg.
30–31 Bomber Command opened its campaign against enemy warships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) at Brest which lasted over ten months.
31 First anti-U-boat squadron of Hudsons, No. 269 Squadron arrived in Iceland, followed four days later by Sunderlands of No. 204 Squadron.
  German night raids continue with three heavy attacks on Bristol, two on Coventry, two on Portsmouth, three on Plymouth and two on London.
  Targets during this month include Kiel on four nights, Brest six nights, Berlin twice and Mannheim.
1 First 4000-pound bomb was dropped—on Emden by a Wellington of Bomber Command.
7–8 First offensive operation by Havocs (night intruder operations on French airfields).
19–20 Heaviest weight of bombs dropped on Great Britain by the German Air Force in any one night—1184 metric tons, of which 1174 tons fell in the London area.
1–7 Liverpool raided on seven consecutive nights, severe attacks on 2 and 3 May; Clydeside and Hull also each attacked on two nights.
8–9 Largest force of British bombers yet dispatched—359, mainly on Hamburg and Bremen. Further targets during this month include Hamburg (five nights), Cologne (four nights), Brest and Bremen (each three nights).
10–11 Very heavy raid on London; damage to House of Commons, Westminster Hall, Abbey and School. RAF fighters claimed 29 enemy aircraft destroyed. Last raid of the Blitz.
24 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen intercepted off Greenland. HMS Hood sunk. Bismarck damaged, but escaped with Prinz Eugen.
26 Bismarck located in Atlantic by Catalina aircraft of Coastal Command.
27 Bismarck sunk at 11 a.m. by torpedoes from Dorsetshire, after damage by torpedoes from Fleet Air Arm aircraft from Ark Royal.
  Battle of the Atlantic. Offensive patrols by Coastal Command help to drive U-boats from North-Western Approaches.page 377
7–8 Thirty-seven bombers despatched to attack the Prinz Eugen sheltering in Brest. Four further raids on Brest in following week.
11 RAF raids on Ruhr, Rhineland and ports in NW Germany; attacks continue for 20 consecutive nights.
13 The pocket battleship Lutzow attacked off SW Norway by Beauforts of Coastal Command and severely damaged by torpedoes.
14 Fighter sweeps now flown daily over Channel and northern France.
22 Germany invaded Russia.
24 First air delivery of aircraft from America to West Africa via the South Atlantic route.
  Circus operations by Bomber and Fighter Commands intensified to divert enemy fighters from eastern theatre. RAF bombers operate in force on 18 nights against Brest, Bremen, Hamburg and targets in the Ruhr and Rhineland.
4 Successful low-level attack by 15 Blenheims in daylight on Bremen—VC awarded to leader, Wing Commander H. I. Edwards, of Fremantle, Australia.
20 Formation of RAF Ferry Command (ACM Sir F. Bowhill) which took over the work of Atlantic Ferry organisation
24 Daylight attack by RAF on the Gneisenau at Brest and the Scharnhorst at La Pallice. Sixteen bombers missing.
  Bomber Command’s night attacks include eight raids on targets in the Ruhr, five against Mannheim, three on Hanover and Frankfurt, and two against Karlsruhe.
3 First enemy aircraft destroyed by a Hurricane operating from a fighter catapult ship.
5 First VC of the war to be awarded to a New Zealand airman— Sergeant J. A. Ward of No. 75 Squadron.
12 53 Blenheims (with strong fighter escort as far as Dutch coast) made a low-level attack on two power stations at Cologne. Deepest penetration to date in daylight attack from United Kingdom. About 1500 aircraft of Fighter Command operated during the day in support of these and other aircraft of Bomber Command which were engaged in operations diversionary to the main attack.
  No. 489 New Zealand Torpedo-Bomber Squadron formed at RAF Station Leuchars, Scotland.
27 A German U-boat operating in the North Atlantic surrendered to a Hudson aircraft of No. 269 Squadron Coastal Command.page 378
  Principal targets for RAF night bombers are Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg and St. Nazaire, each attacked on three missions. Turin and Genoa also raided on two nights.
1 No. 151 Wing RAF, equipped with Hurricanes and led by Wing Commander H. N. G. Isherwood, arrived at Murmansk, Russia, and was operational by 17 September.
  Fighter sweeps and circus operations over northern France, Channel and occupied territory are flown on 24 days.
  Brest, Cologne, and Bremen are each attacked on four nights by Bomber Command.
  No. 488 New Zealand Fighter Squadron formed at RAF Station Kallang, Singapore.
30 Hurricane bombers used in active operations for the first time over Western Europe.
7 RAF despatched 300 bombers against Berlin, Cologne and Mannheim. Substantial losses suffered by Bomber Command this night and by Fighter Command the following day lead to issue of orders to conserve aircraft. No further circus operations during 1941 and both fighter and bomber offensives continue on a reduced scale.
14 HMS Ark Royal sunk off Gibraltar after delivering aircraft reinforcements to Malta.
29 No. 151 Wing, RAF, returned from Russia to United Kingdom. First German U-boat to be sunk by aircraft of Coastal Command unassisted by any other force was in the Bay of Biscay by a Whitley of No. 502 Squadron.
7 Japan launched air attacks on US naval, military and air bases in Hawaii, including Pearl Harbour.
8 Great Britain and United States declared war on Japan.
9 Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa declared war on Japan.
10 HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk off Kuantan, Malaya, by Japanese aircraft.
11 Germany and Italy declared war on United States.
22 dec–14 jan  
  Anglo-American conference in Washington—Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt, and Combined Chiefs of Staff.
  Main targets for RAF bombers in this and the following month are Brest and the German ports of Emden, Bremen, and Hamburg. Daylight offensive by fighters over the Channel ports and northern France is continued.
16 Formation of Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington.page 379
12 The German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen escaped from Brest and proceeded up the Channel under attack by Royal Navy and RAF.
15 Singapore surrendered to Japanese forces.
20 Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris appointed AOC-in-C Bomber Command.
22 Advanced detachment of US VIII Air Force arrived in England.
28 Twelve Whitley bombers (five captained by New Zealanders) dropped parachute troops at Bruneval to capture enemy radar apparatus.
  Circus operations resumed and daylight sweeps over northern France intensified in order to hamper the build-up of German Air Force after losses suffered on Eastern Front during the winter. The offensive continues on a large scale until the autumn.
  Bomber Command’s principal targets this month are industrial centres in the Ruhr and in France.
3 No. 486 New Zealand Fighter Squadron formed at RAF Station Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire.
3–4 Bomber Command attacked the Renault Factory at Billancourt near Paris.
8 Daylight attack on Matford Works at Poissy, near Paris, by Bostons of Bomber Command, under cover of diversionary operations.
8–9 ‘Gee’ first employed by Bomber Command—target Essen. Gee had actually been used operationally in July 1941, but to prevent enemy ‘jamming’ it was not used again until sufficient aircraft were equipped to operate in strength.
10–11 First bombing mission by Lancasters of Bomber Command— target Essen. These aircraft had been used on 3–4 March for minelaying.
28 Successful incendiary raid on Baltic port of Lubeck by RAF bombers.
7–8 Peak of enemy air attacks on Malta.
10–11 First 8000-pound bomb dropped by Bomber Command— Essen
14 HM Government accepted US proposals to make the invasion of NW Europe the major contribution of the Western Allies to the defeat of Germany.
17 Daylight raid by Bomber Command Lancasters on MAN Factory at Augsburg—12 aircraft despatched, 8 aircraft attacked, 7 missing. The leader, Squadron Leader J. D. Nettleton of Natal, South Africa, was awarded the VC.
23–24 First of a series of enemy retaliation raids (Baedeker raids) on British cathedral cities—Exeter, Bath, Norwich and York are attacked on following nights.page 380
  Heavier night raids by Bomber Command against the Ruhr and Rhineland, Hamburg, Rostock and targets in occupied territory, including the ports of Le Havre, Lorient and St. Nazaire.
  Enemy night raids continue intermittently with attacks on Exeter, Hull, Canterbury and South Coast towns.
12 First main contingent of US VIII Air Force arrived in Great Britain.
30–31 First RAF ‘thousand-bomber’ raid (Cologne). 1047 aircraft took part. 44 lost, over 2000 tons of bombs dropped in 90 minutes. Operational Training Units first employed on a bombing raid and Mosquito bombers operated for first time.
1–2 Second RAF thousand-bomber raid (Essen). 1006 aircraft took part, 35 lost, over 1380 tons of bombs dropped in 90 minutes.
  Other targets attacked this month are Bremen, Emden, the Ruhr and enemy-occupied ports. Bremen is the target for the third thousand-bomber raid on 25th.
3–4 The first sortie and attack on a U-boat, using a Leigh Light, was made by a Wellington of No. 172 Squadron, Coastal Command.
5 Extended Empire Air Training agreement signed in Ottawa by United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
12 A Coastal Command Beaufighter flying low over Paris dropped a Tricolour flag near the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
18–26 Mr. Churchill visited Washington for conferences with President Roosevelt on operations for 1942 and 1943.
25 No. 488 New Zealand Night Fighter Squadron formed at RAF Station Church Fenton, Yorkshire.
2–4 German Forces advancing into Egypt halted at El Alamein.
4 US VIII Air Force crews operated in six Bomber Command Bostons for first time, in daylight raid on Dutch airfields.
6 The first U-boat sunk at night by Coastal Command aircraft (Leigh Light Wellington of No. 172 Squadron).
  German daylight ‘tip and run’ raids by fighter-bombers on south coast towns become more frequent and continue until mid-1943. Bomber Command continues to attack German and French ports, communication centres and industrial targets in the Ruhr. Heavier casualties over Germany as enemy defences improve.
15 Formation of Pathfinder Force under command of Group Captain D. C. T. Bennett.
  No. 487 New Zealand Squadron (Light Bombers) commenced forming at RAF Station Feltwell, Norfolk.page 381
17 US VIII Air Force aircraft operated for first time. Objective Rouen railway centre (12 Fortress aircraft escorted by RAF Spitfires).
18–19 Pathfinder Force carried out its first operation (Flensburg).
19 Combined operation against Dieppe. Fighter Command engages in major battle with the German Air Force.
26 Battle for Stalingrad began.
  In Battle of the Atlantic aircraft of Coastal Command destroy ten U-boats (four sunk by long-range Liberators). RAF bombers make 17 major night raids on targets in Germany.
  During last week of October, heavy raids on northern Italy (Genoa, Turin and Milan); minelaying in entrances to Biscay U-boat bases intensified as West African convoys sail.
23 Eighth Army offensive opened on the Egyptian Front (El Alamein).
8 Allied Forces landed in French North Africa under the command of Lieutenant-General Eisenhower.
11 Admiral Darlan ordered cease-fire of French forces in North Africa.
19 Russians took the offensive in Stalingrad battle.
20 Benghazi captured by British forces.
  Bomber Command attacks Italy on 18 nights, main targets being Genoa, Turin and Naples. Objectives in Germany include Hamburg, Stuttgart (November); Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Duisberg and Munich (December).
6 Daylight attack by RAF light bombers on Philips Works at Eindhoven.