Aki Solomos

Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.

NEWS FLASH – Feb. 13 to 16, 1940 – The Roving Reporter, Aki Solomos, Covering The News 75 Years Ago Today

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In honor of WWII and the courageous vets of that time period, this is my reporting and take of the news, 75 years ago today…

February 13 to 16, 1940
As the Winter War reaches its peak, and the Germans creates havoc in the Atlantic and in Europe, your roving reporter brings you the news as it happens to give you folks at home the stories of the day…

The Norwegian tanker Albert L. Ellsworth - image from www.uboat.net

The Norwegian tanker Albert L. Ellsworth
– image from http://www.uboat.net

During the past few days, German submarines has spread fear and destruction in their wake as heavy tolls in the Atlantic rise. Adding another thorn to shipping, yesterday, February 15, Hitler declared all British ships to be regarded as warships. Sailors are on high alert such as on the Norwegian tanker Albert L. Ellsworth. Although several torpedoes from U-50 missed, all aboard abandoned ship. After realizing they were safe, all but 2 re-boarded and made it to Bergen, Norway. Unfortunately, other merchant ships weren’t so lucky. During the last 4 days alone, as many as 17 ships from various countries around Europe were sunk by these sharks of the sea.

In Scandinavia, troubled with Allied means to help Finland, the Swedish Government declined to help neighboring Finland against the Soviets. It’s become a back and forth battle as Russia tried to invade the territory. At the Karelian Isthmus, the Fins were unable to retake a lost defensive sector, while the Kirvesmaki stronghold on the Taipale River changed hands 4 times over the last 3 days before the Soviets finally secured it with the help of artillery, tanks, and aircraft.

Finnish Ski Infantry - image from www.itstactical.com

Finnish Ski Infantry
– image from http://www.itstactical.com

Low on supplies, munitions, and exhausted from an intense winter-fight, Finnish troops pulled back from a sector on the Mannerheim Line, creating a buffer between them and took up defensive positions on the V-Line of the Isthmus. There are some victories for the Fins though. Near Lake Ladoga, Finnish troops destroyed a Russian position capturing much needed supplies such as trucks, tanks, weapons, and field kitchens. And the 9th Division wiped out Soviet’s Dolin ski brigade -out of the 1800 that skied into Finland, only 70 survived.

Relief for Finland may come soon with British volunteers. On February 14, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the United Kingdom’s Home Department Osbert Peake said, “A general license has been granted to British subjects to enlist in the Finnish forces, and a license has been granted to the recruiting organization which has been established in London.”

In other news in England, British authorities crack down on “steakeasies” -unauthorized slaughterhouses trying to circumvent rationing. And 5 bombs were detonated by the IRA in Birmingham; no injuries were reported.

Admiral Graf Spee pictured here on Dec. 1939 - image from www.maritimequest.com

Admiral Graf Spee pictured here on Dec. 1939
– image from http://www.maritimequest.com

Out at sea, over 300 British POW’s were rescued after 4 and a half months on a German ship. As it turned out, after sinking 5 British merchant ships between September and October, the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee secretly transferred the prisoners to its tanker Altmark. Avoiding detection and capture in the South Atlantic, it proceeded toward Germany until it reach Norwegian waters in January in the hopes of being protected under its neutrality. A couple of days ago, an RAF Lockheed Hudson spotted the Altmark. Outsmarting the Royal Norwegian Navy 3 times during a quick search of the ship, the Germans got away again. But earlier today, under orders to sweep the area for German iron ore ships, a search plane from the British 4th Flotilla spotted the Altmark as it passed Bergen. Despite being escorted by 2 Norwegian torpedo boats, and refusing the Brits to investigate it, insisting it was already searched, First Lord of Admiralty Winston Churchill gave Captain Vian of the HMS Cossack, commander of the British Flotilla, orders to board the German tanker with or without Norway’s cooperation. After a brief fight on the Altmark, 5 Germans were wounded and 4 killed before British commandos took control of the ship. Upon opening one of the cargo holds, a British sailor called out, “Are there any Englishmen down there?” And hearing confirmation, he replied back, “Then come up. The Navy’s here!”  Good work Brits. Bring those boys home.

Painting by Norman Wilkinson of the Altmark captured by HMS Cossack - copyright Norman Wilkinson Estate

Painting by Norman Wilkinson depicting the Altmark captured by HMS Cossack – copyright Norman Wilkinson Estate

That’s it for now. Your Roving Reporter, Aki Solomos, signing off.


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