October 26, 1939 – Mutual – Arthur Mann Report from London – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
October 26, 1939 – Less than a month since the German invasion of Poland began and war was declared, a certain lethargy crept in. That period of time, between the beginning of October, 1939 until the start of May 1940, the war in Europe was being characterized as “Sitzkrieg” or “Phoney War”.
Although there was no large-scale military action by Britain and France, they did begin some economic warfare, especially with the naval blockade, and shut down German surface raiders. They created elaborate plans for numerous large-scale operations designed to cripple the German war effort. These included opening an Anglo-French front in the Balkans, invading Norway to seize control of Germany’s main source of iron ore and a strike against the Soviet Union, to cut off its supply of oil to Germany. Only the Norway plan came to fruition, and by April 1940, it was too little, too late.
The quiet of Sitzkrieg, or the Phoney War was punctuated by a few Allied actions. In the Saar Offensive in September, the French attacked Germany with the intention of assisting Poland, but it fizzled out within days and they withdrew. In November, the Soviets attacked Finland in the Winter War, resulting in much debate in France and Britain about an offensive to help Finland, but the forces finally assembled for this campaign were delayed until it ended in March. The Allied discussions about a Scandinavian campaign caused concern in Germany and resulted in the German invasion of Denmark and Norway in April, and the Allied troops previously assembled for Finland were redirected to Norway instead. Fighting there continued until June when the Allies evacuated, ceding Norway to Germany in response to the German invasion of France.
On the Axis side, the Germans launched attacks at sea in the autumn and winter against British aircraft carriers and destroyers, sinking several including the carrier HMS Courageous with the loss of 519 lives. Action in the air began on 16 October 1939 when the Luftwaffe launched air raids on British warships. There were various minor bombing raids and reconnaissance flights on both sides.
To illustrate how this day in October was unfolding during this time, Mutual’s Arthur Mann reports from London on the results of the latest reconnaissance raid over Germany as well preparations for the coming Winter and reactions from French civilians on the progress of the war – the general consensus being “we will wait”.
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