War Diary, January 18th to 24th 1940

Thursday January 18th 1940

  • Western Front reported mutual artillery action in region west of the Saar.
  • Russian retreated nearly 30 miles on Salla front, reaching vicinity of Maerkajaervi.
  • Finnish communique announced that eleven Soviet bombers had been brought down.
  • Dutch royal decree proclaimed state of siege in several coastal areas.
  • Berlin announced the rescue of four officers and 26 men of the three submarines lost in Heglioland Bight.
  • Crew of British steamer ‘Cairnross’ mined of the West Coast of England on January 17th, were landed.
  • Eight of the crew of Norwegian steamer ‘Enid’ shelled and torpedoed by U-boat on January 17th, reached port.
  • Swedish steamers ‘Flandria’ and ‘Foxen’ sunk by mines off Ymuuiden.
  • Reported that Norwegian steamer ‘Fagerheim’ had been sunk in Bay of Biscay on January 14th; and that Greek steamer ‘Asteria’ has been mined in North Sea on January 17th.
  • Danish steamer ‘August Thyssen’, sailing without pilot, sunk by Swedish mine off Stockholm.
  • Explosion in Royal gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey, with loss of five lives.

Friday January 19th 1940

  • Soviet bombers raided outskirts of Helsinki.
  • Severe fighting in ‘waistline’ area of Finland, where Russians were still in retreat.
  • Russian division north of Lake Ladoga, under command of General Grigori Stern, also began to retire.
  • Russian attacks on Finnish position at Taipale, south of Lake Ladoga repulsed.
  • Finnish communique reported that Swedish volunteer pilots had bombed Soviet troops.
  • RAF fighter attacked Jeinkel raider off Aberdeen.
  • Reconnaissance flights carried out over north west Germany by RAF.
  • Swedish steamer ‘Pajala’ sunk by U-boat.
  • Reported that entire crew of British tanker ‘Inverdargle’ were lost when she sank after explosion on Jan 16th off South West Coast.
  • Intense cold still being experienced over whole of Europe. In Italy 20 degree of frost Fahrenheit recorded, and in Finland 81 degrees.
  • Denmark expressed, for the first time, intention of preserving neutrality by force of arms if necessary.

Saturday January 20th

  • Heavy air raids over town in South Finland, especially Turku, where 75 incendiary and 150 explosive bombs were dropped. There were also machine gun attacks from the air. Much material damage was done.
  • Continued fierce fighting in Salla sector. Russians attempting to make a stand at Maekaejaervi. One Soviet division reported to have been cut off.
  • RAF aircraft dropped bombs when attacked by anti-aircraft guns from four German patrol vessels in North Sea. No damage or casualties suffered by our aircraft.
  • British tanker ‘Caroni River’ mined off West Coast.
  • Estonian steamers ‘Nautic’ sunk off Shetlands.
  • Air Ministry released a number of photographs taken by RAF during flights over Germany.
  • Foreign Ministries of Yugoslavia and Romania met at Versecz, on mutual frontier to confer.

Sunday January 21st

  • Admirals announced that HM destroyer ‘Grenville’ had been sunk in North Sea. Eight men were killed and 73 were missing and presumed dead.
  • Finnish aircraft, piloted by foreign Kronstadt island base of Soviet fleet near Leningrad. They also raided Russian bases in Estonia, including air base south of Talinn.
  • British steamer ‘Ferryhill’ mined off North East Coast.
  • British steamer ‘Protesilaus’ struck a mine off West Coast.
  • Two neutral vessels, Danish ‘Tekla’ and Norwegian ‘ Miranda’ sunk by enemy action.
  • Announced that since the beginning of the War Norway had lost 28 ships through German mines and warships.
  • Official Dutch communique stated that, owing to the improves situation, army leave would soon be restored.
  • Eight French war correspondents attached to B.E.F. arrived in England as guests of Ministry of Information, for a tour arranged by War Office, Admiralty and Air Ministry.

Monday January 22nd

  • In Salla sector, Russian army still fighting stubborn rearguard action.
  • New Russian offensive was started around Lake Ladoga.
  • Russian attacks in Karelian Isthmus were repuled.
  • Soviet aircraft made bombing raids over Northern Finland and were met by Swedish Volunteers in new fighter aeroplane
  • Admiralty announced that H.M. trawler ‘ Valdora’ was overdue and must be considered lost.
  • Greek steamer ‘ Ekatontarchos Dracoulis’ reported sunk by U-boat south of Portuguese coast.
  • Admiralty stated that two officers and 25 rating from ‘HMS Rawalpindi’ are prisoners of war in Germany.
  • Helsinki announced that new Foreign Legion including Estonian, Lithuanian, British, French, German and Italian volunteers had been formed and would shortly go to the front.

Tuesday January 23rd

  • Helsinki reported that strong Russian offensive at Taipale had been beaten back after six hours fighting.
  • Attempt to out flank Mannerheim Line by encircling movement from north of Lake ladoga was also repulsed by Finns, with heavy loss to the enemy.
  • On Salla front small isolated force of Russian troops were still holding out oat Mearkaejaervi, supplies being dropped by Soviet planes.
  • Admiralty announced that HM Destroyer ‘Exmouth’ had been sunk by mine or torpedo and that there were no survivors.
  • Two steamers British ‘Baltanglia’ and norwegian ‘Pluto’ sunk by a mine off north East Coast.
  • In South African Parliament General Hertzog delivered tirade in defence of Nazis, and was at once denounced in vigorous speech by General Smuts.
  • M Paderewski elected speaker of Polish National Council, first meeting of which was held in Paris instead of at Anvers. All Polish parties were represented.
  • Reported that Japan ha made formal protests against action of British warship in stopping Japense liner ‘Asama Maru’ on Jan 21 and removing 21 German passengers of military age.
  • In view of mortality rate on British roads, (1,200 killed during December) Government decided to reduce speed limit in built-up areas during darkness from 30 to 20 miles an hour.

Wednesday January 24th

  • Fighting continued north-east of Lake Ladoga, where Russian onslaught was very strong, and in the Karelian Isthmus. Finns withstood all attacks.
  • Fierce encounters on Salla front round Maerkaejaervi, where Russians are entrenched.
  • Soviet air raiders bombed four Finnish hospitals, 19 persons being killed.
  • Two German aircraft flew over Shetlands and dropped four bombs but did no damage.
  • Two British Vessels ‘Newhaven’ and ‘Parkhill’ reported lost with all hands.
  • Announced by Finnish authorities in London that two aeroplanes laden with medical supplies left London for Helsinki.
  • Unconfirmed report that 30 British aircraft had arrived in Helsinki.
  • The King reviewed Canadian troops training at Aldershot.
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