Tuesday, 24 September 1940

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Blitz of 1940-41 and the Baedeker Blitz of 1942. See here and here for introductions to the series, and here, here and here for conclusions.

The Times, 24 September 1940, 4

Things are on the move again, at least in French West Africa. De Gaulle's Free French, assisted by the Royal Navy, are attempting to wrest control of Dakar from their Vichy brethren. A naval battle was raging there yesterday afternoon, though presumably it is over now. According to the Ministry of Information, this action was necessary because the 'Germans were making were making persistent efforts to bring Dakar under their control' (4). According to the Vichy foreign minister, M. Baudoin, this is worse than Mers-el-Kebir, as it is 'not simply a question simply of ships, which might be taken by Germans or Italians, but of a British desire for French property'.

The capital is still receiving heavy raids: 'More London children were killed and more families made homeless by Nazi bombing from the air during Sunday night' (2). Here's an account of the rescue efforts in one south-western suburb:

Civil defence workers were quickly on the scene, and they found many people were pinned down by wreckage. Faint cries for help could be heard, and at once, regardless of danger from the crumbling building, rescuers began their work. In less than an hour the masonry and earth which had imprisoned people as they lay asleep in chairs and on mattresses had been moved.

Seven of the people, including two women and a child, were dead when reached. Others were seriously injured, but helpers say that all behaved magnificently. A little girl of about five was saved, but her mother was killed and her father was taken to hospital in a grave condition. A rescue worker said that it was amazing that more people had not been killed [...]

People are said to be learned how to sleep through the sounds of anti-aircraft guns, and 'Londoners arriving in town for a new week of work looked cheerful and fresh enough'. Compare this with the German view of London under the raids, which the Manchester Guardian relays (6):

According to the Nazis the raids on London have caused a complete loss of self-control among the people, who "run aimlessly about in the streets and are the victims of bombs and bursting shells." Goebbels goes even better when he tells the French in his radio gem of the week, "Complete demoralization prevails among the fleeing population, shouting, and breaking through the police cordons."

Sounds like a knock-out blow to me -- if Goebbels is right, the war will soon be over.

The Daily Mail has a very strongly argued editorial today, entitled 'Reprisals. A call for clear thinking' (2). It subjects the terms 'military objectives' (which both sides claim to be targeting) and 'indiscriminate bombing' (what both sides claim the other side is doing) to some close analysis:

The bombs [on London] have nearly always fallen near docks, bridges, railways, gas and electricity works, telephone exchanges, cross-roads, the home of the SOVEREIGN, warehouses, and Government offices.

They could hardly do otherwise, for in a big city -- any big city, the vital services exist side by side with the homes of the people.

So it comes to this: under the German conception of total warfare the city itself "military objective," and if the bombs fall on the people -- well, that is just too bad for the people.

The difference between the two bombing campaigns so far is that 'Britain is aiming at Germany's military nerve system. Germany is aiming at Britain's civilian nerve system':

HITLER is attempting to paralyse our transport and communications, to create panic and fear among the people, to destroy the amentities of everyday life, to distract our strategists' attention and generally to create chaos.

(Pretty much what Goebbels claimed is actually happening.) Clearly, Hitler thinks these are legitimate objectives. So,

it is quite clear that we have the right to attack similar objectives in the most thickly populated areas in Berlin.

That capital, too, has its railways, roads, bridges, and gas, electricity, and water works.

To meet the wishes of the humanitarians, Germany might be clearly warned through the medium of neutral Switzerland that if the bombing of so-called "military objectives" in London does not cease, similar targets in Berlin will be destroyed by the R.A.F.

Apropos of nothing, The Times has some news from the world of science:

physicists in the United States and Japan have created out of ordinary cheap uranium a new element with potentialities as a source of atomic power even greater than those of uranium-235, one pound of which has been to be equivalent, as a potential power source, of 5,000,000lb. of coal or 3,000,000lb. of petrol [...] The new element is called U-237. It is made by bombarding ordinary uranium (U-238) with fast neutrons, the elementary particles of matter that carry no electrical charge.

So far only 'infinitesimal quanties' of U-237 have been made, but it is hoped that the 'giant cyclotron' now being built at the University of California will be able to produce pure U-237 'on a large scale'. Exiles from Germany report that 'nearly 200 leading scientists there have been ordered to concentrate all their efforts on finding a way to release the atomic power in U-235, and possibly now the power in U-237'. German scientists had already visited the United States to 'learn everything that was known here about atom-smashing'. And

now they have at their disposal [...] the famous atom-smashing laboratories at Copenhagen of Professor Niels Bohr, who was the first to predict that in isolated U-235 science would have the greatest source of power on earth, and at Paris the equally famous laboratories of the Radium Institute, where Madame Eve Curie-Juliot and her husband, M. Frederic Juliot, had been carrying on experiments with uranium.

I wonder if anything will come of it.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://airminded.org/copyright/.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday, 24 September 1940

  1. Pingback:

  2. Pingback:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *