Saturday, 4 January 1941

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.

Times, 4 January 1941, 4

Though Bardia has not yet fallen, Australian infantry and British troops have broken through its perimeter and taken 5000 Italian soldiers prisoner in a dawn attack (The Times, 4).

The Australians, who hitherto had taken part only in small-scale raids, had the honour of leading the way through gaps caused first by our guns and then by our tanks.

The Allied front is now bulging into the town's defensive lines, and it seems only a matter of time until it falls (a period which 'depends entirely on the "guts" of the defenders', according to a 'military spokesman').

Bremen was bombed again on Thursday night; 'not on the same scale as that on the night before, but the attacks went on all night' (Manchester Guardian, 3).

One of our aircraft is missing.

It can now be revealed that Cardiff was the town in South Wales which was hit by an incendiary raid on Thursday night, as reported yesterday. A correspondent for The Times describes the scene (4):

After dusk the roar of the first enemy aeroplanes was heard overhead, and thereafter they came in waves, scattering incendiaries by the thousand, and lighting up the city to such an extant that it was possible to read a newspaper in the street.

In a very short time several old buildings were burning fiercely, sending up volumes of crimson-coloured smoke, which settled like a pall over the city. Viewed from some distance away it appeared as if the whole of the city centre was one flaming mass.

Casualties were 'heavy' but 'lower than had been feared'. A German communiqué described the raid on Cardiff as 'a reprisal for the English attack on Bremen'. A 'West of England town' received the same treatment last night.

A number of medals have been awarded for 'various acts of gallantry in connexion with Civil Defence'. The Times singles out particularly the George Medal given to Maude Steele of Sherborne (2):

[She] was in charge of a telephone exchange at the time of a heavy raid. Although bombs were falling all around the building, she stayed at her post enabling the various Civil Defence services to be kept in touch with their respective headquarters until most of the local telephone lines were put out of action and the exchange became untenable. The citation states Miss Steele was magnificent in the face of real danger.

The government has decided to make some changes to the administration of shelter policy. Previously, the Ministry of Home Security was responsible for pretty much everything to do with air-raid shelters. Now the Ministry of Health will be 'responsible for their management and for all matters concerning the health and comfort of those who use them' (4). Is this good news? Yes, says a leading article in The Times, which calls this 'a logical division' which will enable the prosecution of 'a really energetic shelter policy' (5). But it also means that 'There will be less excuse than ever for these local shortcomings', such as in conditions in some East End shelters.

From the Manchester Guardian's London correspondent (6):

At an Air Force mess the other day I heard of a wireless operator in one of our bombers who broke the rule against sending out messages while over Berlin. He had been unable to resist sending to his squadron headquarters the five-letter group he had just discovered in his code-book. It meant "Natives appear unfriendly."


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