So in case it isn't obvious by now, my most recent bout of post-blogging covered the period of the Baedeker Blitz, a series of Luftwaffe raids against English cities (unlike in the Blitz proper, there were no targets in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) between 23 April and 3 May 1942. The individual blitzes were:
23 April: Exeter
24 April: Exeter
25 April: Bath
26 April: Bath
27 April: Norwich
29 April: Norwich and York
3 May: Exeter
These were reprisals in return for RAF raids on Lübeck and later also Rostock. (There was a second phase from 31 May to 6 June 1942, three raids on Canterbury in response to the thousand bomber raid on Cologne, which I might or might not get around to doing in a few weeks' time.) In addition, there were smaller snap raids by fighter-bombers nipping across the Channel, though these don't seem to have been considered part of the Baedeker raids by the press.
Some good news from Burma, or at least less bad than usual. The Yorkshire Post reports that, although still retreating, Allied forces 'have successfully evaded the enemy attempt to cut them off in the Mandalay area' (1). The British have been divided from the Chinese, however, with the former retreating up the Chindwin and the latter up the Irrawaddy. The paper's military correspondent gives credit to General Alexander's 'skilful manœuvring' in avoiding encirclement, but also praises the 'valour' of Chinese soldiers after the fall of Lashio, who 'got across the path of the [Japanese] armoured brigade and even drove its tanks back with losses' and thereby gave the British time to make good their retreat. But the task is before Alexander now, 'one of the hardest ever set before a commander', to retire northwest without being engaged by the Japanese, to link up again with Chinese forces in the north, and 'to avoid being driven on India'. The Manchester Guardian's first leading article today admits that 'Japan's campaign in Burma is now almost won', at least 'the fine delaying actions fought by our troops have given India a previous four months for making ready' (4).
The front page of the Daily Mirror today is almost wholly given over to a story which the other papers are far less interested in. The recently-installed Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr William Temple (that's him on the left, though what is being done to him I have no idea; and that's his forehead on the right), used a speech in Manchester yesterday to give 'a new charter to Britain -- a charter of social reform which will bring happiness to millions of people if applied in post-war reconstruction' (1). Its nine points are:
1. Provision of decent houses for the people of this country;
2. Every child to have adequate and right nutrition;
3. Equality in education. There shall be genuinely available to every section of society the kind of education will develop their faculties to the full;
4. Adequate leisure for personal and family life. Where the family is separated because of employment, there should be two days' holiday each week;
5. Universal recognition of holidays with wages;
6. The application of science to discover labour-saving devices, to save labour instead of labourers;
7. Wide appreciation of the fact that labour is a partner in industry, just as much as management and capital;
8. Recognition by workers and employers alike that service comes first, and the opportunity to make profit comes afterwards;
9. The opportunity for all people to achieve the dignity and decency of human personality.
An accompanying article by A. W. Brockbank says that Temple also warned against yielding 'to the lure of people who try to persuade us that it would be wise to establish such a non-party State'":
'The minority must have the right to become the majority if it can. It must be lawful to be in opposition to the Government.'
Just who he has in mind here is not made clear.
The Observer reports that Japan now claims to have captured Mandalay, 'second city and former capital of Burma (5). This seems not to have been confirmed by official British sources yet; however
It was stated in authoritative circles in London yesterday that with Lashio already in enemy hands, it would not be worth while suffering great losses to defend Mandalay.
All the newspapers today carry news of the meeting between Hitler and Mussolini in Salzburg; only the Daily Express leads with it. Its angle is that there is 'STRONG evidence' that the two dictators agreed that Italy would sent 'a large part' of its army to Russia, while Germany would send 'thousands' of its soldiers to Italy (1). Two possible explanations are given for this apparently contrary strategy: 'A coming extension of the Mediterranean Front', or 'to prevent any chance of armed insurrection by the Italian Army'. The Italian people are said to be 'thoroughly discontented with their acutely depressed conditions' and so Mussolini has given his prefects 'supreme powers to deal with "possible future difficulties of an urgent nature"' (his own words), and the Gestapo is now in control of the Italian police. Where Morley Richards, the author of this piece, gets his information from is not clear; none of the other papers make the same claims. Indeed, the circumstances surrounding the meeting are rather 'mysterious'; the Yorkshire Press asks why Japan apparently was not represented and was not mentioned in the final communique -- even though the only public reference to the meeting beforehand was a garbled one in a Tokyo newspaper (1).
This news has been coming for the last few days: Lashio has fallen to the Japanese. As the Daily Express reports, the town was 'pounded by artillery and dive-bombers before the final assault' (1):
Then large numbers of tanks and armoured cars rumbled forward into the inferno as a battering ram for the enemy.
General Stillwell's defending [Chinese] army was overwhelmed by the superior numbers and weight of metal in the Jap attack.
A spokesman for Marshal Chiang Kai-shek did little to disguise the seriousness of the situation, saying that 'the Chinese will be be compelled to abandon positional warfare and resort to mobile war' in Burma. He continued:
The enemy columns now at Lashio and Hsipaw could continue to advance northwards, cutting off first the Chinese forces in Burma from China, and, secondly, Chinese land communications with India by way of upper Burma, or they could turn westward with the aim of encircling the Chinese now fighting on the Mandalay and Irrawaddy fronts.
He paid tribute to the 'outnumbered' British forces defending Burma, saying they have 'heroically held out, winning the praise and admiration of their Allies'.
Most newspapers in my sample today lead with the further grim news from Burma (the Japanese army has now reached the suburbs of Lashio) but The Times chooses to go with the latest Bomber Command raids on Kiel and, for the second night running, Trondheim, both the locations of key German warships (4):
The heavier force was directed against the strongly defended naval base of Kiel, where the Scharnhorst is believed to still be in dock after her dash from Brest. The Tirpitz, Scheer, and Prinz Eugen are thought to be based on Trondheim, while a cruiser of the Hipper class has been in the locality, though she may not be there now.
These latter ships are 'a definite threat to our communications with north Russia and in the Atlantic'. While 'the Air Ministry makes no definite claim to have damaged the ships', in the case of Trondheim stronger than usual explosions were heard on the Swedish frontier, which suggests 'a bomb must have hit some explosive target; the explosion of even the biggest bomb could not in itself have caused such an effect'.
The situation in Burma is getting worse, as the Daily Mirror (above, 1) and most other papers note in their lead stories.
The whole length of the vital Lashio-Mandalay railway is in grave danger as five Japanese divisions, totalling 100,000 men, supported by panzers and bombers, are storming the southern edge of the Upper Burma plateau.
With Japanese ground forces only 110 miles away, Lashio itself is being evacuated of civilians and supplies; it is burning following a raid by twenty-seven Japanese bombers (eleven of their escorts were shot down by the Allied defenders). Writing in the Daily Express, 'Military Reporter' Morley Richards writes (4) that 'The Battle for the Burma Road seems at the point of being lost':
If the Japanese reach Lashio and subsequently force the British north of Mandalay they will have achieved one of their major strategical objects: the temporary isolation of China.
The omens are not good: dispatches from the American Volunteer Group, for example, are coming from Kunming, indicating that its headquarters (and presumably the bulk of its aircraft) has moved back north into China.
The Yorkshire Post, (above, 1), again leads with Rostock, which has been bombed by the RAF for the fourth consecutive night. The city 'is a heap of smouldering ruins, crushed by nearly 800 tons of British bombs. Its population is fleeing in panic. Its war production has ceased':
PHOTOGRAPHS taken after the third night's raid show swarms of people flocking towards the battered station to join crowds already waiting there for trains to take them away from what Berlin describes as 'terror raids.'
Just at the moment, this war seems mainly to be an air war. The main news today is that Rostock has been bombed for the third night in a row. In addition Stirling bombers carried out a low-level raid on the Skoda works in Czechoslovakia, and six targets in northern France were were attacked by bombers with strong fighter escorts. As the Yorkshire Post reports on its front page:
ROSTOCK has become symbolic of our new air offensive. On Saturday night and yesterday morning the harbour and aircraft works were attacked for the third successive night, by a strong force of bombers, with great results. That was not all. The famous Skoda armament works in Czechoslovakia were the target for the R.A.F. on an all-round flight of 1,400 miles.
Yesterday more attacking flights crossed the Channel for various destinations in this great opening of the Allied offensive.