War Diary 14th to 19th December, 1939

Thursday, 14th December

  • German pocket battleship ‘Admiral Graf Spee’, badly damaged, took refuge the preceding night in Montevideo harbour, and was granted permission to stay for 48 hours. Five British cruisers waited outside harbour.
  • Five Messerschmitt fighters shot down in air battle of Heglioloand Bight. German warships joined in attack on British aircraft. RAF lost three planes.
  • Admiralty announced loss of HM destroyer ‘Duchess’ by collision with another British warship.
  • HM trawler ‘William Hallett’ sunk by mine
  • Soviet Union expelled from League of Nations
  • New Russian drive reported in Petsamo region. Finns claim success in central ‘waistline’ area.
  • French communique announced sharp engagements between reconnaissance units in the Voges and along the Blies.
  • Premier stated that approximately 2,100 officers and other ranks lost their lives in first three months of war. During the same time there were 2.975 road deaths in Great Britain.

Friday, 15th December

  • British forces off Montevideo joined by French battleship ‘Dunkerque’. The ‘Graf Spee’ reported to have been given until 11.30pm on Saturday to leave.
  • RAF planes bombed enemy seaplane bases of Borkum, Norderney, and Sylt during the night of 14th & 15th.
  • Finns withdrew from Salmijaervi in Arctic after blowing up nickel mines. Red armies said to be routed north of Lake Ladoga,
  • Paris announced encounters between advance units in regions immediately west of the Vosgos.
  • Prime Minister went to France to visit the BEF.
  • HM Trawler ‘James Ludford’ mined.
  • British tanker ‘Inverlane’ reported mined Belgian steamer ‘Rosa’ sunk of North East Coast.
  • Norwegian steamer ‘Foeina’ sunk by mine off Scotland.
  • British tanker ‘Atheltemplar’ damaged by enemy action.
  • German ships ‘Dusseldorf’ and ‘Adolf Leonhardt’ scuttled by their crews.

Saturday, 16th December

  • Reported from Montevideo that the ‘Graff Spee’ was getting up steam. Time limed allowed by Uruguay said to have been extended.
  • Finns continued to hold their own except in extreme north. There was a successful Finnish counter-drive in Suomosalmi district and area immediately north of Lake Ladoga.
  • French communique reported repulse of enemy raid on French post east of the Moselle.
  • One British and four neutral ships reported mined: British steamer ‘Amble’, Norwegian Steamers ‘Ragni’ and ‘HC Flood’, Swedish vessel ‘Ursis’ and Greek Steamer ‘ Germaine’.
  • German merchant ship ‘Teneriffe’ scuttled after being intercepted.
  • Count Ciano spoke in the Italian Chamber on Italian Foreign Policy.

Sunday, 17th December

  • Mr Chamberlain continued his tour of the British area in France.
  • ‘Graf Spee’ scuttled by Hitler’s orders, five miles outside Montevideo. Crew previously taken off by German tanker ‘Tacoma’ and launches.
  • Reported that there had been an increase in Activity of German reconnaissance parties on the Eastern Front and that British troops in Maginot Line had suffered their first casualties.
  • Enemy aircraft appeared at several points off British coast. Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on Humber district and fighters were seen to engage the enemy.
  • Finns standing fast on two fronts: Karelian isthmus and central ‘waistline’ area.
  • First contingent of Canadian Forces landed in Britain.
  • British motor-ship ‘Serenity’ and trawler ‘New Choice’ sunk of East Coast by bombs and machine guns from Nazi planes. British aircraft drive off raiders.
  • Admiralty announced that five officers and 56 ratings of HMS ‘Exeter’ were killed in action of December 17th.
  • Commodore Harwood in command of British actions against ‘Graff Spee’ awarded K.C.B. and promoted to Rear Admiral, Captains of ‘Achilles’ and ‘Exeter’ appointed C.B.
  • Battle-cruiser ‘Renown’ and air-craft carrier ‘Ark Royal’ arrived in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Moscow issued long and abusive reply to League’s resolution expelling Russia.

Monday, 18th December

  • Captain and some of the crew of the ‘Graf Spee’ landed at Buenos Aires. Four others arrested by Uruguayan authorities, charged with blowing up their ship.
  • Fierce air battle over Heligoland Bight. Twelve Messerschmitt fighters shot down. Seven British bombers failed to return.
  • Admiralty announce that a German cruiser of Koeln class had been sunk off mouth of ELbe by HM submarine ‘Ursula’.
  • Russians made sudden advance on Arctic front with massed infantry, tanks and bombs, and reached Pitkaejaevi. New Soviet attack on Karelian isthmus also reported.
  • German troops reported to be massing on Luxembourg frontier.
  • Admiralty supplied details of exploits of HM Submarine ‘Salmon’ announced on December 13th. Besides one enemy cruiser sunk, two were damaged.
  • Announced that only 10 ships out of 1,100 entering or leaving ports have been lost round British coasts during first ten days of December.
  • Confirmed that German steamer ‘Anti-ochia’ was scuttled during November.
  • Admiralty and Air Ministry issued joint statement on attacks by enemy aircraft with bombs and machine-guns fire on merchant and fishing vessels in North sea.

Tuesday, 19th December

  • Prime Minister returned from visit to B.E.F. after meeting of Supreme War Council in Paris.
  • Further Russian advance in north-east of Finland, threatening highway to Arctic and rearguard of Finnish troops near Petsamo.
  • Helsinki and other coastal towns bombed by Soviet aircraft.
  • Russian battleship reported sunk by Finnish batteries at Koivisto.
  • German liner ‘Columbia’ scuttled 300 miles off US coast.
  • Marked activity of contact units reported from Western Front.
  • Eleven more cases of bombing and machine-gunning of fishing, trawlers made known. Of these ‘Active’ and ‘Zealous’ were sunk.
  • British steamer ‘City of Kobe’ sunk by mine after surviving bombs and bullets from aircraft.
  • Three neutral ships reported sunk through enemy action: Norwegian steamer ‘Glitrejell’; Danish steamer ‘Jytte’ and ‘Bogoe’.
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