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Hitler Describes America

“What is America anyway but millionaires, beauty queens, stupid records, and Hollywood?” Hitler to Putzi Hanfstaengl.

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beauty queens at the Olympic Club in San Francisco circa 1939

(photo courtesy of San Francisco Examiner Photographic Archive)

“What is America anyway but millionaires, beauty queens, stupid records, and Hollywood?” Hitler to Putzi Hanfstaengl.

source: The Eagle and the Swastika by James V. Compton

Hitler declared war on the United States on 11 December 1941. By mid-March 1945, American and British troops and British Commonwealth troops had crossed the Rhine river, the key geographical barrier in western Germany.

Minefield. You are in it. We are not.

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   Aerial photograph of British destroyer HMS Highlander (H44) underway. Rayner spent a number of months as her CO.

D.A. Rayner was an officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. They wore wavy stripes on their uniforms and were called, with condescension, the “the Wavy Navy”. There was also the Royal Naval Reserve consisting of masters and mates of merchant ships. It was said that the RNVR were gentlemen trying to become officers and the RNR were officers trying to become gentleman.

Rayner compiled an outstanding record in World War Two becoming the only RNVR officer to command a Royal Navy escort group in the Atlantic. His memoir, Escort, is rich in stories of his life at sea in the war, each one more amusing than the one before. Escort is one of the best naval memoirs I have ever read. It is beautifully written (the English really know how to write English), funny, very sad at times, and brutally honest. I certainly give it five stars. Escort is truly a must read.

The war has only recently begun and Rayner is commanding an anti-submarine trawler patrolling off the coast of England. He is lost in a dense fog. There was no radar then. Out of the fog looms a Royal Navy destroyer. Rayner orders the signalman to use his Aldis Lamp (Morse Lamp to Americans) and make to the destroyer: “Can you tell me where am I?” Comes the reply: “Regret have not known you long enough to venture an opinion.” Rayner is puzzled till he discovers the signalman had actually made the message: “Can you tell me what I am?”

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Though only 30, Rayner is quickly given command of a corvette, a small escort vessel used in the North Atlantic. Because of the shortage of escort ships, he has been compelled to put to sea before his charts are up to date. As he is putting into port one day, Rayner sees a merchantman sinking off his starboard bow. He asks the escort commander for leave to rescue the crew. Comes the reply, “Proceed, but your attention is called to Notices to Mariners Number______.”

Rayner rescues a boatload of survivors and sees another boatload. Comes a signal from the escort commander, “Your attention is called to Notices to Mariners_____.” This annoys Rayner but given his charts aren’t up to date, he doesn’t want to ask the escort commander what he means so he waits until another corvette steams between him and the escort commander. Rayner makes inquiry of what Notices to Mariners_____means. Comes the reply, “Minefield. You are in it. We are not.”

Britain Prepares for Life Under German Bombs

Life During the Blitz

(photographs and captions and article courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 

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“A fire-watcher on duty at a factory in Upper Norwood, South London, 1944. German bombers usually dropped a combination of high explosive and incendiary bombs. Incendiaries would quickly start fierce fires unless they were extinguished immediately. To combat incendiaries, people were encouraged to volunteer as fire-watchers and to draw up rotas with their neighbours. Air raid wardens issued stirrup pumps and trained people how to use them. Factories and other work places also needed fire-watchers, and at the end of 1940, fire-watching duty became compulsory. D 17934.”

How Britain Prepared for Air Raids 

During the late 1930s, the British government began to prepare the civilian population for war.

As well as the widely expected and feared bombing raids, it was also thought that poison gas might be used against civilians. Gas masks were issued in 1938, and over 44 million had been distributed by the outbreak of war in September 1939.

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“Air raid wardens were issued with steel helmets. These helmets were similar to the steel helmets issued to soldiers in the First World War and protected the wearer from falling shrapnel or debris. Steel helmets were also issued to firefighters, police officers and other members of civil defence services, and soon became a recognisable symbol of authority.” (caption and photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

The Air Raid Wardens Service was set up in 1937. Wardens were responsible for reporting incidents, reassuring the public and providing Air Raid Precautions (ARP) advice. They were also expected to extinguish small fires, administer first aid and investigate reports of unexploded bombs. The Women’s Voluntary Service was set up in 1938 to involve women in ARP.

The first air raid shelters were distributed in 1938. People without the outside space needed to put one up were encouraged to use communal shelters instead. The government was initially reluctant to allow London Underground stations to be used as shelters, although they were later forced to back down.

 

 

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From 1938, in response to fears that air attacks on Britain might include the use of poison gas, the entire British population was issued with gas masks. Most people received the standard civilian pattern respirator. Air raid wardens, by contrast, received a higher grade of respirator. This is a civilian duty respirator. Unlike the standard civilian model, it features separate glass eye pieces, an exhalation valve and could be adapted to accept a microphone. Although poison gas was never used against Britain during the Second World War, masks like this became another common symbol of wartime life. Though masks were potentially lifesaving pieces of equipment, they tended to make their wearers appear terrifyingly alien and dehumanised. (Photo and caption courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 

 

From 1 September 1939, ‘Blackout’ was enforced. Curtains, cardboard and paint were used to prevent light escaping from houses, offices, factories or shops, which might be used by enemy bombers to locate their targets. Householders could be fined if they did not comply.

Messengers, ambulance drivers, Heavy Rescue teams and firefighters all proved essential to ARP – from 1941 officially termed Civil Defence – especially during the height of the Blitz.

Almost 7,000 Civil Defence workers were killed during the war.”

 

 

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This is a stirrup pump and hose, used to put out small fires. It would be used by two people – one working the pump, which stands in a bucket of water, and a second holding the hose and nozzle, to point a jet of water onto the fire. During the Blitz incendiary (fire-starting) bombs were used in large numbers. A warden might be the first person to respond to an incendiary attack and would use a pump like this to fight the fire. Wardens would also train others in the use of stirrup pumps like these. (photo and caption courtesy Imperial War Museum)

 

 

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Prinz Eugen Becomes a Prize of War

Prinz Eugen

 German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken as a prize-of-war by the US Navy and designated the USS Prinz Eugen, an unclassified miscellaneous vessel. This is the only foreign warship commissioned into the US Navy since the days of sail.

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Prinz Eugen (centre) under repair in the Lofjord; next to her, on her starboard side, is the repair ship Huascaran; Admiral Scheer is also moored behind anti-torpedo nets. (Imperial War Museum)

 

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Prinz Eugen at anchor still fitting out circa 1938. The swastika on the bow is meant to help German warplanes identify Prinz Eugen as a German ship. (German National Archive)

One of Prinz Eugen’s three-bladed screws on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial

 

Photo of a 10.5cm SK C/33 anti-aircraft mounting on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in US Navy service, preparing for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in 1946. Photo was taken by the US Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance on 17 June 1946 to document the ship before the nuclear tests.

 

Prinz Eugen at her launch 22 August 1938    (Bundesarchiv)

U-Boat Bunker St. Nazaire

 

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Vizeadmiral Dönitz during the opening (photo courtesy Uboat.net)

 

U-Boat Bases and Bunkers: Saint Nazaire: The U-Boat Bunker suffered thirty major raids through the war with three being extremely heavy. The 28 February 1943 raid consisted of 430 bombers, the 22 March 1943 raid consisted of 350 bombers, and the 28 March raid consisted of 320 bombers. The town was almost completely destroyed in these raids while the bunker saw minimal damage.

From Uboat.net:

“The construction work started in February 1941. The bunker, built on the western side of the basin at Saint-Nazaire, was 295m wide, 130m long and 18m high and contained 14 U-boat pens.

After only 4 months the first pens were ready and so Vizeadmiral Dönitz opened on the 30th June 1941 the bunker. U-203 under Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg was the first boat to use one section of the newly completed shelter.

Later a sluice bunker was also built, which the U-boats used to reach the sea.”

uboat.net/flotillas/bases/saint_nazaire.htm

Mighty Royal Navy 1930s

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65675) The Renown Class battlecruiser HMS REPULSE. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212368
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65675) The Renown Class battlecruiser HMS REPULSE. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212368

 

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65620) The Nelson Class battleship HMS RODNEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212370
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65620) The Nelson Class battleship HMS RODNEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212370

Built to the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty, HMS Rodney and her sister ship, HMS Nelson, both had all three turrets of their main armament on the fore deck of the ship. As odd as these ships looked, their carried 16 inch guns, the largest in the Royal Navy.

 

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE INTER WAR PERIOD. (Q 83396) The Nelson Class battleship HMS RODNEY at Devonpart Dockyard in December 1927. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205090613
THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE INTER WAR PERIOD. (Q 83396) The Nelson Class battleship HMS RODNEY at Devonpart Dockyard in December 1927. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205090613

 

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65664) The battlecruiser HMS HOOD. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212356
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65664) The battlecruiser HMS HOOD. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212356

 

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65673) The Renown Class battlecruiser HMS RENOWN. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212367
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65673) The Renown Class battlecruiser HMS RENOWN. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212367

 

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65625) The Royal Sovereign Class battleship HMS RESOLUTION in September 1933. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212369
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65625) The Royal Sovereign Class battleship HMS RESOLUTION in September 1933. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212369

 

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65690) The aircraft carrier HMS EAGLE. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212323
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65690) The aircraft carrier HMS EAGLE. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212323

 

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE INTER WAR PERIOD. (Q 93334) The Flower Class sloop HMS CROCUS whilst serving in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, 1922-23. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127179
THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE INTER WAR PERIOD. (Q 93334) The Flower Class sloop HMS CROCUS whilst serving in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, 1922-23. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205127179

 

ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65612) The Nelson Class battleship HMS NELSON. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212363
ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD (Q 65612) The Nelson Class battleship HMS NELSON. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212363

HMS Hood at Sea

Magnificent photo of HMS Hood at the Spithead Review in 1937 to mark the ascension of George VI to the throne.

(Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224384)

 

 “The bows of the battle cruiser HMS HOOD awash as she moves at full speed through Caribbean waters during the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron. The ship on the horizon is the  HMS REPULSE, the other vessel forming the Special Service Squadron.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205090611″

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, HMS Hood made a series of cruises throughout the British Empire and the world. She was not only a beautiful ship but the largest warship afloat at the time. Unfortunately, like the empire itself, the “Mighty Hood” was a bluff. In spite of refits, she remained a museum of 1920s naval technology.

HMS Hood at sea circa mid to late 1930s

 © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224389

Worse, her insufficient deck armour, while strengthened, was never brought up to standard and this made her vulnerable to plunging fire. A German shell from the Bismarck (we think) plunged through her thin deck armour and exploded in her after magazine. This resulted in an explosion so massive the Hood almost disintegrated. She broke in half and sank in just a few minutes taking all but three of her crew to their deaths.

HMS Hood seen from battle cruiser HMS Repulse circa mid 1930s.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224383

While undergoing several brief refits, HMS Repulse was in no better shape to withstand a heavy enemy attack than the Hood. She was sunk with heavy loss of life in company with HMS Prince of Wales off Singapore by Japanese torpedo bombers.

This shocked the world because HMS Hood was the well-known warship in the world and had come to symbolize the British Empire. She had spent so much time showing the flag around the globe from the mid 1920s to the late 1930s that the Royal Navy ran out of time to remove her from service and have her rebuilt. While aware of her deficiencies, the Admiralty kept her in service and the result was disastrous.

HMS Hood entering Portsmouth harbour on a grey day circa mid-1930s

 HMS HOOD (HU 108395) HMS HOOD entering Plymouth harbour. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224387