The War Illustrated No 39 Vol 2 May 31st 1940

OUR DIARY Tuesday, May 14,1940 By order of Netherlands High Command, Dutch Arm yon mainland surrendered, large numbers of enemy troops having crossed Moerdyk Bridge and retaken Rotter­ dam .Fighting continued in island-province of Zeeland. Battle of the Meuse continued along 120- mile front. German columns, which had broken through defences Mat aastricht, spread fanwise behind them. South-east ofT irlem ont French armoured columns upheld enemy tanks. South of Liege attacks of great severity were made in sector between Nam u Grand ivet, in that of Sedan, and alsp between Longwy and M ontm edy. Sedan had been evacuated, Dutch Government removed to London. War Office announced that Allied forces had made successful landing at Bjerkvik, 7 miles north of N arvik. Volunteer anti -parachute defence force initiated in Britain. Wednesday, May IS After hard fighting B.E.F. successfully held severe German attacks. Louvain, in British sector, now evacuated and being subjected to heavy shelling. Battle of the Meuse raged furiously. Between Mezieres and N amur enemy crossed river at several points. Near Sedan they drove a salient into French lines during night of May 14-15. Mass attacks by R.A.F. and French aircraft on advancing German columns upheld enemy’s advance while French withdrew to main defensive positions, which °re continuation of Maginot Line. 'French announced successful counter­attack in region of GemblOux, on Brussels- Namur road. The Hague, Amsterdam and other Dutch cities occupied by Germany. Dutch Foreign Minister stated that Dutch Army had lost one quarter of its total of 400,000 men. Admiralty announced that H.M. destroyer “Valentine ”had been damaged by air attack off Dutch coast and beached. fhursday, May 16 Biggest R.A.F. offensive of war took place during night of May 15-16, when bombers raided enemy roads, railways and military encampments east of Rhine. Heavy fighting same night between Gem bloux and N amur in sector south-east of Brussels, enemy attacking with mechanized forces and aeroplanes. inFighting progress during day tm British front in Belgium. French War Office stated that day was comparatively calm, with much regrouping of units on both sides. Great air battle above Sedan. Belgian Government moved toO stend. Germans attempting to crush Dutch resistance in Zeeland, Flushing being ultimate objective. Five air attacks made on Nancy during night. Nazi aircraft shot down near Paris. Allied forces converging Non arvik >ccupied two villages to north on opposite side of fjord. Naval aircraft attacked fuel supplies in Bergen area. Friday, May 17 War Office announced that B.E.F. had withdrawn to positions west of Brussels. Germans claimed to have entered Brussels after capturing Louvain and M alines. Massive German attack developed in s?.lisnt between the Sambre and IVJeuse, heavy tank divisions being engaged. Heavy fighting on front from Sedan to Rethel. 592 OF THE WAR Intense air activity over the whole Front. R.A .F. again raided Western Germany during night, oil depots at Bremen and Hamburg being systematically bombed. Dutch islands of Walcheren and Beveland in Zeeland evacuated. Belgian liner “Ville de Bruges "sunk by bombing. Enemy minefield discovered off Cape Agulhas, most southerly point of S. Africa. Allfed forces in Northern Norway now at Rom baks Fjord, *two miles from Narvik. Germans withdrawing eastward. FRANCE CAN NOT DIE !M. Reynaud, the French Premier and Defence Minister, in his historic state­ment on the war situation to the Senate on May 21, declared: The country is in dan ger.M y first duty is to tell the truth to the Senate and the country. Holland ,Belgium Land u x em burg having been invaded, the left owing f the French army advanced from the fortifications between Sedan and the sea and, pivoting on Sedan ,entered B elgiu mon aline running from Sedan to Antwerp and even to B o is-le -Du inc Holland .What did the enemy do in face’o f this situation ,which he had foreseen and taken into accou t?Hen launched a for mid able attack on the crest of the French Army established behind theM eu se, between Sedan and N amur .The Meuse ,apparently a difficult river to cross, had been wrongly considered as a redoubtable obstacle for the enemy .That is the reason why the French divisions which were entrusted with its d efen ce were few and were outspread over a great area along the river. In addition ,the army of General C orap ,which was com posed o f divisions not so well officered and less well trained ,was pgt there ,the best troops forming part o? the left wing marching into Belgium ....Th a twas not all. A s a result o f incredible is­m ta k es, which will be punished, the bridges over the Meuse were not destroyed .Over these bridges there passed the German arm o u red divisions, preceded by fighter ’planes, which came to attack divisions which were sc a tte red, ill-cad red and badly trained for such attacks tt was thus that the hinge o f the French Army was broken. A breach o f about 100 kilo m tree (60s miles) wide had been opened in our front. Into this breach poured a German army com posed o f motorized division s, which ,after having caused a large bulge in the direction o f Paris, turned west, towards the sea, takin gin the rear our entire fortified system along the Fran co-B elgian fro n tie rand threatening the Allied forces still engaged in Belgium ,to whom the order tore tre a twas not given until the even­ing o f May 15. The day before yesterday [May 19] an arm o u red division reached the line Que sn o y -Cam bra i-P er- non e and the Somme ,as far as Ham .For the past 48 hours the German advance has been on.going A t eight o ’clock this morning the High Comm and informed m e that A rra sand A mien shad been occupied .How have w e g otto this point ?Is the moral value o four Arm yin doubt ?Not a tall The fighting which took place in Belgium during the first days proved it. The tru this th a tour classic conception o f the conduct o f war has come up against anew conception .At the basis o f this conception there is not only the massive use o f heavy arm o u red divisions or co-ope ration between them and a rope lanes, but the creation o f disorder in thee n e my’s rear by means o f parachute raids, which ,in Holland ,nearly caused the fall o f The Hague ,and in Belgium seized the strong est fort o f Liege. Gen era !We y g and took comm and yesterday. H e is tod a yon the battlefield .The conduct o f mili­tary operations falls to him alone. The Government has already taken decisions. You know its first action s.N o failure will be tolerated .Death is avery mild punishment for any offen ce against the vital interests o f the coun­try .At a time when our soldiers are dying, there will be moreno dilatory procedure with regard to tra ito rs, saboteurs o r cowards. There is no longer a place for any vested interest. Our airmen are covering them selves with glory ,and let m e here thank the admirable Royal Air Force for the total help which it is giving to France both by its action on the field o f battle and against the sources o f thee n e my’s supplies. These two great p eo p les, these two empires united as one ,cannot be beaten .France cannot sAdie. form e ,if I were told tom o r row that only a miracle could save France, I should reply“ I believe in miracles because I believe in Fran ce.” The War Illustrated Saturday, May 18 British front was held firmly in face of strong enemy pressure. Fighting continued in region of Avesne and in Vervins area, chiefly round Guise and Landrecies. French brought up thousands of their “75” field-guns. Enemy attacks also repulsed south of Sedan and in Montmedy sector. Formations of .A.F.R bombers carried out intensive operations in Belgium and France, harassing German lines of com­munication. Continuous night watch kept on military traffic over wide area in Western Germany^ Oil tanks at Hanover were bombed. Daylight attacks made on enemy troops and focal points in Northern France. French Cabinet reconstructed. M. Reynaud remained Premier, and also overtook De­ fence* Ministry. M. Daladier became Foreign Minister and Marshal Petain Vice-Premier. Nazi transports attempting to relieve N arvik reported sunk. Sunday, May 19 Main fighting took place in region north­east of QueSt. n tin ,where French troops put up stubborn resistance. Violent attacks were also repulsed in region of M ontm edy. General W eygand appointed Chief of French General Staff in place of General Gamelin, and Commander-in-Chief of all theatres of operation. D ieppe bombed during night of May 18-1-9. During night of May 19-20 R.A.F. again successfully attacked oil refineries in north­west Germany. South of Brussels they bombed railway stations and bridges. Troop .and tank concentrations were attacked in Aisne sector. German aerodrome at Vaernes, north of Trondheim ,successfully attacked. Stated that at least 100,000 people were killed and a third of the city destroyed when Germans bombed Rotterdam .Reported that French have destroyed all road and other crossings over Rhine-Rhone canal, and also all direct communication between France and Switzerland via Basle. Monday, May 20 German pressure continued in region of QueSt. n tin towards Channel ports. French announced heavy fighting east of Cam b rai and successful counter-attacks near Peronne. Germans captured Laon. Enemy units which had crossed the Aisne near Rethel were thrown back. Violent, attacks near Montmedy were also repulsed. B.E.F. Command stated that repeated attacks by German mechanized formations in area south of River Scarpe and against the Scheldt position were beaten off. .A:F.R carried out successful attacks on armoured vehicles in Arras-Cambrai- B apaum e area, and other parts of the fighting fronts. In a night raid Rotterdam oil tanks were seton fire. Admiralty announced that H.M. destroyer“ W hitley had been damaged b y bombs and subsequently beached. Tuesday, May 21 Situation on Western Front between Cambrai and the Somme very confused. In their drive towards Channel ports, advance enemy forces reached A miens and Arras. Germans also claimed to be in A bbeville and to have defeated the French Ninth Army and captured its commander, General Girau.d. *Intense activity of all air forces. R.A.F. tfomber and fighter aircraft continuously engaged in operations over fronts in Belgium and Northern France. Admiralty announced that H.M. cruiser" Effingham ”had been lost after striking uncharted rock off Norway.' Also that H.M. minelayer “Princess Victoria "had been sunk by enemy mine. 'May "dlsly 1940
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