Skip to comments.75% OF B.E.F. REPORTED SAFELY OUT OF FLANDERS; ALLIES ATTACK ON SOMME, WIN ABBEVILLE AREA (6/1/40)
Posted on 06/01/2010 4:55:14 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
To be continued.
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Air battles rage over Dunkirk
Saturday, June 1, 1940 www.onwar.com
On the Western Front... Despite increased Luftwaffe attacks a total of 64,429 men are evacuated from Dunkirk. However, German planes sink four destroyers and damage five more as well as several of the Channel ferries and other ships, which form the backbone of the evacuation fleet. The RAF sends eight large patrols to give cover but most of the damage is done in the intervals between them. On the ground the Germans increase their efforts, breaking the defensive perimeter along the canals at Bergues and forcing retreats in other sectors as well. During the night the British authorities decide that the air attacks have made the evacuation too dangerous to continue by day.
In Norway... The British and French tell the Norwegians that they are about to begin their evacuation. They have delayed giving this information on the grounds of security but by doing so they have encouraged the Norwegians to openly resist the Germans, which can only be costly when the Allies leave.
June 1st, 1940
UNITED KINGDOM: RAF Bomber Command: 4 Group (Whitley). Bombing - Oil plants and marshalling yards - Hamburg, Osnabruck and Hamm. 102 Sqn. Eight aircraft to Hamburg. Weather filthy, primary not attacked. Two aircraft bombed alternatives.
London: This morning the BBC reported:
The Germans have suffered heavy losses near Abbeville. Several hundred German soldiers have been taken prisoner, and the Germans left behind considerable war material. The Allies have reconquered the area around Abbeville and crossed the Somme at one point. The disembarkation of British and French troops is continuing on English seaports. The majority of contingents of the northern Allied armies have been successfully transported to England. The troops who have stayed behind, are fighting on with undiminished courage.
FRANCE: As the Dunkirk evacuation continues under heavy air attack, destroyers HMS Keith, HMS Basilisk and HMS Havant and the French ‘Le Foudroyant’ are bombed and lost off the beaches. 64,429 men are evacuated (17,000 from the beaches, the rest from the mole in Dunkirk Harbour). The RAF sorties 8 large patrols over Dunkirk. But they decide that the air battles are becoming too dangerous for continued evacuation operations during daylight hours.
B class destroyer leader HMS Keith is suffers air attacks in the English Channel off Bray at 51 06 02 32E. Her steering is jammed, her engine room damaged and she lists to port. The Admiral transfers to MTB 102 and then Keith is sunk by further bombing.36 of the crew become casualties in the air attacks, and an additional 100 when the rescue tug is lost.
Destroyer HMS Basilisk is overwhelmed in a series of air attacks and loses all steam power. She is finally sunk in the English Channel off La Panne at 51 08N 02 35E in shallow water and her hull destroyed by depth charges dropped by HMS Whitehall. There are 131 survivors.
Just after departing Dunkirk, HMS Havant receives two bomb hits in her engine room and another as she passes over it. Is anchored and the soldiers transferred to other craft whilst under airattack. She is then abandoned, rolls over and sinks in the English Channel off Dunkirk at 51 04N 02 35E. There are 8 casualties.
HMS Skipjack is overwhelmed by air attacks as she is evacuating soldiers from Malo les Bains. She capsizes and sinks taking with her over 270 soldiers, the few that survived were machine gunned in the water. English Channel 51 03N 02 24E HMS Mosquito, a Yangtse river gunboat is overwhelmed by air attacks and sinks in the English Channel off Dunkirk. Her surviving crew are picked up by drifters. (Alex Gordon)(108)
The perimeter is drawn in, the British withdrawing from the Colme to the line Bergues, Uxem, Ghyrelde, Bass-Plaine.
Leading Seaman Ernest Frederick Eldred was on the destroyer HMS Harvester during the evacuation from Dunkirk. The crew members thought they were simply on patrol; then they saw the boats steaming across the Channel.
“I suppose you would call it more of a holiday scene with every type of boat and craft, an endless line across the Channel; some being towed by larger boats. It was a fantastic sight.” As a destroyer, the Harvester was responsible for fighting off German air attacks as well as picking up as many men as possible from the beach. “I don’t think the destroyers have ever carried so many men as we did, there must have been hundreds, literally crammed in every space you could think of; you could hardly have got a cat aboard each time.”
He recalls that they just “set them down anywhere we possibly could ... down the stokehole, engine room, mess decks were full, upper deck was crowded, everywhere. The only place we couldnt have them was by the guns.”
Paris: This morning the French Army reported:
The French and British land, sea and air forces at Dunkirk are continuing, in full accord, their stubborn fight against the impressing German troops, and at the same time are trying to secure the evacuation.
Paris: Leopold III, the King of the Belgians, is struck off the Order of the Legion of Honour.
NORWAY: A week after deciding to withdraw from Norway, the Allies announce the evacuation of all troops.
Both carriers and their escort continue their passage to Norway. (Mark Horan)
SWITZERLAND: Bern: The Swiss Army Staff reported:
This afternoon in the Jura mountains, Swiss sovereign territory was violated by foreign aircraft. The Swiss Alarm Patrol immediately took up pursuit, engaged in aerial combat with a German bomber and shot down the aircraft near Lignieres (Ger. Tassenberg). One hour later another Swiss fighter plane engaged in aerial combat with a second German aircraft over the Freiburg region (Fr. Franches-Montagnes). The burning German plane crashed onto French territory near Oltingen, on the other side of the Swiss border.
CHINA: Hsiangyang falls to the Japanese.
U.S.A.: The North Carolina-class battleship Washington (BB-56) is launched at the Philadelphia Navy Yard sponsored by Miss Virginia Marshall, of Spokane, Washington, a direct descendant of former Chief Justice Marshall. The Washington is the first U.S. Navy battleship launched since 1921. (Jack McKillop)
War has shown Germans inferior, they say [France]
Just a tad premature there Pierre
The loss of General Billotte was not a great one at this point of the game. By this time the commander of French Army Group 1 had already had his moral completely shattered and it showed. When he was moving his headquarters from Folembray to Douai after the Germans were pressing that area he was heard saying “Je suis crevé de fatigue...et contre ces panzers je ne peux rien faire,” which translated is “I’m exhausted and I can’t do anything about these tanks.” This would not be the first time he would say this and it would over the next few days become more of a mantra for him.
His last acts in command had him meeting with Weygand at Ypres on the 21st of May. Lord Gort was to be at this meeting too but was out of contact at the time due to being in the middle of relocating his headquarters. Overall there was a communication breakdown first because Lord Gort did not get to see Weygand at this meeting and on the way back to headquarter, Billotte was in this car accident and never regained conscientiousness, dying two days later of the 23rd.
Source: Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man - Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
The pace of this war was ahead of all but a handful of French generals. Certainly Weygand, Gamelin, Georges and Billotte were totally befuddled. While some say the “Weygand Plan” was doomed by Billotte’s car accident, I doubt he could have pulled it off. The French, British and Belgians just didn’t have the ability to cobble together a mobile striking force. Millions of refugees clogging the roads didn’t help them any.
I can only think of two French combat generals who could stay with the Germans: Prioux and DeGaulle. Prioux was dealt a shabby hand when Blanchard went upstairs after the loss of Billotte, and DeGaulle was a new general still getting the feel for commanding an armored division.
Prioux was handed a sinking ship after Billotte was killed, it was only a few day later that he was taken prisoner by the Germans along with most of what was left of the French 1st Army.
I would add de Lattre to that list though. He was a minor figure during the battle for France here, but he will distinquish himself here in a few days at Rethel and also will put up a good fight at Loire. Also, he was in charge of the French 1st in southern France after its landing in operation DRAGOON. The French actually put a real good effort against the Germans in the south with the exception of a stop order that allowed the Colmar pocket to form. The blame on that though in my opinion falls equally on Devers and Lattre combined with a “red headed step child” attitude toward supplying this southern army group. However, it should be pointed out that it was nearly impossible for anyone to get past Lattre’s ego which made him come off even snobbier than Guiard in North Africa.
Day 275 June 1, 1940
Dunkirk. Overnight, BEF pulls out of the defensive line and head for the ships, leaving French troops to hold a reduced perimeter closer to Dunkirk. Good flying weather returns and renewed German bombing sinks French destroyer Le Foudroyant (19 killed), British destroyers HMS Basilisk (9 lives lost, scuttled by destroyer HMS Whitehall), HMS Havant (8 lives lost, scuttled by minesweeper HMS Saltash after taking off the crew), and HMS Keith (36 killed, 130 rescued by various ships).
Minesweeper HMS Skipjack is bombed after embarking 275 soldiers from the beach and sinks (19 crew and most of the troops drown). British steamer Scotia is bombed and sinks (32 crew and 200-300 troops lost). Numerous other ships are badly damaged and many smaller ships are also sunk. Despite this, 47,081 Allied troops embark from Dunkirk harbour & 17,348 from the beaches. http://www.halcyon-class.co.uk/skipjack/hms_skipjack.htm
Norway. With Britain itself now threatened by German invasion from France, British troops begin evacuating Narvik and returning home. British ambassador to Norway, Sir Cecil Dormer, informs King Haakon VII that there will be a withdrawal. The King, his son Crown Prince Olav and the Norwegian government are encouraged to leave their country.
At 11 PM, U-37 sinks Greek SS Ioanna carrying onions 120 miles west of Cape Finisterre. All crew survive and make land at Vigo, Spain. http://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/333.html