THE ‘FIRST’ BLITZ RAID
I read John Lock’s interesting article on the ‘accidental’ bombing of parts of London on 24 August 1940 (MHM April/May 2022) and its effect on the ongoing Battle of Britain and the switch to Blitz raids on the capital.
I would like to point out that, earlier that day, at around 12.46pm, an air raid that was targeting RAF Manston, in Kent, for some reason dropped between 500 and 600 bombs (some papers at the time suggested nearly 1,000) on the town of Ramsgate.
This has been classed as the ‘first’ Blitz raid of the war. Churchill visited the town days later to view the damage. In all, 85 homes were destroyed and 1,500 left uninhabitable. The low death toll – just 31 lives were lost – was due to an extensive tunnel system built under the town, in which tens of thousands sheltered.
The date of 24 August 1940 was certainly a pivotal day in the war, and for the people of Ramsgate it was the start of their Blitz, a period of bombardment that did not end until 1944.
The article on the Battle for Crete (MHM June/July 2022) was superb, and must be congratulated. I am a keen amateur student of military and naval history, and this was the very best description of this appalling episode I have ever read.
Not wishing to excuse the apathetic performance by General Freyberg and other senior commanders, I understood that, although he had been advised via Ultra intelligence that the Germans were mounting an airborne attack, he was ordered instead to prepare for a seaborne invasion in order not to compromise the ‘Golden Goose’ – Churchill’s nickname for Bletchley Park. In other words, not to reveal to the Germans that their codes were being read.
Two other points of which you would be well aware: when Admiral Cunningham was asked if our troops could be evacuated, he was reported as saying, ‘Of course. It takes two years to build a ship, but it takes two hundred years to build a tradition.’ Also, Hitler was apparently so horrified at the losses that he forbade the future use of paratroopers.
West Wickham, Kent
I read your review of the new war film Operation Mincemeat in the latest issue (MHM June/July 2022). Having also read the book, I have always pondered how a tramp could be made to look like a Royal Marines officer.
Although the corpse had been in the ocean for a while, the post-mortem should have revealed a healthy individual who had not drowned but had taken poison. And why was the body loaded into the submarine in Scotland when it originally lay in a morgue in London?
I am drawn to the story that the cadaver actually belonged to a sailor called John Melville who, along with about 400 other shipmates, died when HMS Dasher sank in the Firth of Clyde in March 1943. This would explain why the body was loaded in Scotland, and also why the body appeared to be nearer the physique of a Royal Marine who had drowned. No doubt we will never know.
In the previous issue of the magazine (MHM June/July 2022), Stephen and Ashley Cooper questioned the concept of a ‘decisive’ battle, and expressed their doubts as to whether the long-term effects of the 15 battles listed by Edward Shepherd Creasy in 1851 were as important as he had claimed. They also argued that most wars are won by attrition rather than by the result of any individual confrontation.
It is surely undeniable that the short-term effects of some ‘decisive’ battles have a very significant impact on the soldiers and sailors involved. Furthermore, I believe that some battles, such as Gettysburg in 1863 (pictured above) and Moscow in 1941, were truly ‘decisive’ because a different outcome would surely have dramatically changed the future course of the war and its consequences, even if the same contestant eventually won.
Please note: letters may be edited for length; views expressed here are those of our readers, and do not necessarily reflect those of the magazine.