War Diary 20th to 27th December, 1939

Wednesday, 20th December

  • Reported that Captain Langsdorf, who commanded ‘Graf Spee’ committed suicide on Tuesday night.
  • Heavy Russian attack in Karelian Isthmus was repulsed. In thenorth Soviet troops checked by snowstorms
  • Us Cruiser ‘Tuscaloosa’ arrived in New York with 579 survivors from scuttled German liner, ‘Columbus’.
  • Unidentified aircarft appeared over Eastern counties.
  • Paris announced that two more U-boats had been sunk by French Fleet.
  • Swedish steamers ‘Mars’ and ‘Adolf Bratt’ sunk by mines.
  • Admiralty announced sinking by enemy aircraft of fishing trawlers ‘Pearl’ on December 17th and ‘Trinity’ on December 18th. H.M. trawlers ‘Evelyn’ and ‘Sedgefly’ were overdue and presumed lost.
  • Reported that British troopship collided in fog with liner ‘Samaria’, the latter being damaged.

Thursday, December 21st

  • Enemy bombers twice raided Helsinki and did damage in the hospital quarter. Other open towns were also bombed.
  • Finns counter-attacked against Russian advance in Kemijaervi and drive enemy back 20 miles. Successes also claimed in area north of Lake Ladoga. Enemy attacks in Karelian Isthamus repulsed.
  • Western Front reported renewed air activity over Lorraine and Alsace.
  • RAF Coastal Command plane co-operated with British warship in rescue of Swedish sailors adrift on raft on North Sea.
  • Luit-Commander Bickford of HM Submarine ‘Salmon’ awarded D.S.O.
  • Italian ship ‘Comitas’ mined off North Holland.
  • French Government issued Yellow Book containing French diplomatic documents of Pre-war period.
  • Newly arrived Canadian division had their first ceremonial parade at Aldershot.

Friday, December 22nd

  • Helsinksi raided by three Soviet bombers which damaged the outskirts of the city.
  • Finns compelled Russians to retreat in Petamo and Salla districts. They also launched a successful counter-attack along the 12 mile front in the Karelian Isthmus. Russians repulsed on other fronts, with heavy loss of mena and material.
  • Enemy aircraft engaged by British fighters off the FIrth of Forth.
  • Enemy plane reported over Suffolk coast, and two further planes, thought to be Helsinki bombers, sighted at another point on East Coast.
  • Air Ministry reported that on the Western Front four Messerschmitt fighters attacked three Hurricane fighters. Two British and one German plane was shot down.
  • Reported that the British trawler ‘River Annan’ which on DEcember 17th had rescued the crew of the mined Danish steamer ‘Boge’ was sunk on December 19th by German bombers. Both crews were picked up by a Swedish Steamer. M Daladier announced that the Maginot Line has been extended on the Northern and Jura Frontiers.

Saturday December 23rd

  • Paris reported intense air activity on Western Front. Allied planes were busy photographing German lines.
  • Russian troops were in retreat in Karelian Isthmus, in Petsamo region, and also in the Salla sector, where the Finns were again in command of the Kemi River valley, an important strategic position.
  • Russian planes bombed towns on southern coast of Finland and dropped leaflets over Helsinki with a message from the ‘puppet’ Prime Minister.
  • Admiralty announced intention of laying a mine barrage of nearly the full length of the East Coast as a reply to German action.
  • League of Nations received favourable replies from a number of member countries, including South Africa, in regard to helping Finland.
  • USA and 20 other American Republics made a protest, in the form of a joint neutrality declaration, against the activities of belligerent warships in American waters.

Sunday December 24th

  • Finns claimed to have shot down a least 14 Russian aircraft.
  • North of Lake Ladoga, Finnish storm battalion crossed the Russian frontier near Lieska after routing Russian troops in Tolmojaaervi and Aglajaervi districts.
  • On the Northern sector Finnish troops approached Salla.
  • After blazing for a week, the hulk of the ‘Graf Spee’ burnt out.

Monday December 25th

  • The King broadcast a Christmas message to the people fo the Empire.
  • Finnish advance in Russian territory was maintained.
  • Twenty-three Russian bombers attempted to raid Helsinki, but were driven off by anti-aircraft guns. Other large flotillas of bombers attacked Viborg, inflicting considerable damage. THere were also raids of Borga, Tampere and Turku.
  • Enemy planes bombed Koivisto coastal batteries repeatedly. Koivisto was also shelled by Russian warship ‘Marat’.
  • Finland claimed that during the day her naval and air forces combined destroyed at least 23 enemy planes.
  • RAF aircraft patrolling the North Sea to protect fishing vessels, were attacked by German patrol ship.
  • British steamer ‘Stanholme’ torpedoes off West Coast of Britain.

Tuesday December 26th

  • Finns maintained their positions on the outskirts of Salla.
  • Enemy attacked at carious points on the Karelian Isthmus,m but were repulsed, and large numbers of Russian guns and prisoners were captured.
  • Christmas week-end was reported to have been generally quiet on the WEstern Front.
  • First Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force to reach England for active service landed at a South Coast port.
  • Reported that three more neutral ships were sunk during the week-end: Swedish vessel ‘Carl Henkel’; Norwegian cargo-boat ‘Lappen’; and Spanish steamer ‘Perez.’
  • Swedish reservists were called up.

Wednesday December 27th

  • Finns continued their advance from Leika into Russian territory, and reached Lake Ruua. In Soumussalimi sector they advanced indirection of Raate, about 15 miles from Russian frontier.
  • On Salla front Finns passed enemy back some 50 miles towards the frontier. Three heavy assaults on the Mannerheim Line were repulsed.
  • Russian losses on Finnish front were estimated to be 30,000.
  • Viborg seriously damaged by shells from long-distance guns.
  • More leaflets dropped over Helsinki by Russian bombers.
  • RAF Coastal Command planes were engaged in a series of fights over the North Sea with German air and surface craft. One Nazi patrol ship disabled by a bomb from a British plane which attacked two destroyers and 11 patrol vessels.
  • Reported that Indian troops had arrived in France.
  • Nearly 7,000 tons of contraband seized during the week ended December 23rd.
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