Il Duce Kicks Churchill Where it Hurts – WW2 – 051 – August 17 1940

Il Duce Kicks Churchill Where it Hurts – WW2 – 051 – August 17 1940

August 17, 1940 For the past few hundred years, the news would
most often be exactly the opposite, but this week, Britain loses a colony. I’m Indy Neidell; this is World War Two. Last week Adolf Hitler was making ever more
concrete plans for an invasion of the Soviet Union next year, though some of his intelligence
was dangerously faulty. There were Luftwaffe attacks on Allied shipping
each day around Britain, and the Italian Army invaded British Somaliland. They took a couple of towns but had, however,
yet to engage the British forces, and that happens this week on the 11th. The attacking Italian force is made up of
five colonial brigades, three Blackshirt battalions, three Banda groups, 100 armored fighting vehicles
including 27 tanks, and at least 20 guns, and they head toward the plain some 60 miles
from Berbera, the capital. The enemies meet at the Tug Argan gap, the
British outnumbered by as much as 15 to 1. Their force is a Rhodesian regiment, the 2nd
African Rifles, the Black Watch, two Punjabi companies, the local camel Corps, and the
1st East African Light battery- a European, African, and Asian mix of units, but a small
one. The fighting lasts for five days, and in spite
of stiff resistance that repels advance after advance, the numbers eventually began to tell,
and positions which the Italian army’s waves of assault can not take are instead slowly
encircled. The British withdraw but they do so gradually,
from one hill to another, fighting all the while. This is in order to slow the Italians to cover
the evacuation from Berbera, where the Royal Navy has rigged up an all-tide jetty, to Aden. First the civilians- Abyssinians, Arabs, Indians,
and Somalis, and then the administrative officials leave British Somaliland. The troop evacuation begins the 16th at 1300
and lasts until the next afternoon. This is unhindered by the Italian Army, some
of whom are fairly roughly mauled at Barkasan by the Black Watch, who are left behind to
cover the evacuation. The roads are swamped with rain, though, which
thwarts a rapid Italian advance. The Italians have, however, been able throughout
the campaign to coordinate columns of men separated by large distances of desert. The British take a total 33 killed and 220
wounded or missing in the fighting and the Italians as many as ten times that. Italian troops will enter Berbera the 19th
and Benito Mussolini will annex British Somaliland to Italian East Africa. Mussolini brags that he has conquered territory
the size of Britain, and for Britain losing a colony- ANY colony- is a serious PR disaster. The evacuation comes as a shock to the British
public; I mean right in the middle the Battle of Britain to one enemy, and they lose a whole
colony to another? Winston Churchill, who remember is not just
PM but also DM, is furious- the defense can’t be played up in the papers as super heroic
because of the small number of casualties, and he criticizes General Archie Wavell, Britain’s
Middle East C-in-C, claiming the men hadn’t mounted a strong defense. Wavell disagrees, supports the withdrawal
as a textbook withdrawal in the face of far superior numbers, and cables Churchill that
“a big butchers bill was not necessarily evidence of good tactics.” Adolf Hitler opines that it’s a tough blow
for the British, sure, but more emotionally than militarily, and one writer writes that
all they “had lost was the privilege of maintaining an expensive garrison in their
least valuable colony.” Well, not really, because by taking British
Somaliland the Italians now control the southern entrance to the Red Sea and what is to stop
them from sweeping into Sudan? Britain is certainly going to try. And also this week between Britain and Italy,
the RAF bombs the Fiat works in Turin and the Caproni works in Milan, and on the 17th,
three British battleships bombard the Italians at Fort Capuzzo and Bardia. But Britain really has its hands full with
the Germans, their aerial attacks, and the possibly of being invaded. Hitler declares a total blockade of the British
isles the 17th. Any neutral ships there may be sunk on sight. Germany also introduces long range Condor
planes for maritime use from their bases near Bordeaux. For the month of August, German u-boats sink
56 ships for 267,600 tons. The British, though, manage to sink a U-boat
with a depth charge dropped by a plane on August 16th. This is the first time that happens. Also, The British change their naval codes
in August. This is a bit of a setback for B Dienst, the
German cryptography service. So far they’ve been pretty good at getting
up to date and useful intelligence from British transmissions. Germany’s Adlertag- Eagle Day, the kick
off of their campaign to try to destroy the British Air Force, was postponed last week
to this week. “The Day of the Eagle, August 13, 1940,
launched Germany’s fourth campaign in less than a year, but unlike the three previous
attacks on Poland, Scandinavia, and France and the Low Countries, this one was an air
attack without any ground based activity at all. From the outset the Germans were surprised
by the skill of the British pilots who opposed them.” As we’ve seen, though, there have been attacks
by the Luftwaffe virtually every day this month. And the Germans have been having setbacks,
and a lot of that has to do with spreadings the attacks too wide. If you look at August 12th, right? That is a typical operation. They attack RAF airfields, shipping in the
Thames, the Portsmouth harbor, and some coastal radar stations. All of that. Okay, not an entirely typical day since this
was the only time they go for the radar stations, which to me is a fairly serious oversight,
but anyhow. Germany loses 31 planes, Britain 22. On actual Eagle Day itself, in a night raid
on the Spitfire factory, Germany loses 45 planes, and the British 13, BUT- 6 of the
British pilots from those planes are saved to fight another day. Adlertag is disappointing to the Germans so
they attack in even larger force the 15th, with 520 bombers and 1,270 fighters crossing
the channel between 1130 and 1830, many even coming from Denmark and Norway. The Luftwaffe will call this day Black Thursday,
though, since the losses are so heavy, 75-34. Heck, Luftflotte 5 from Scandinavia loses
20% of its strength; they will not be brought back into the battle after this. The RAF can’t exactly be jubilant, though,
since they lose a lot of planes and men as well, not just in the skies, but the men and
women on the ground in the airfields that keep the air force running. In fact, in the first few days of the “official”
campaign Germany loses nearly 200 planes, but- spoiler- in the first ten days 100 British
aircraft are destroyed on the ground in addition to the many dozens in the skies. Luftwaffe command believes their losses acceptable,
and that they- unlike the British- can replace them. Well, to an extent. The losses are high enough that already on
the 15th, Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Göring begins making changes to plans and even personnel. People who doubt the overall operation like
veteran flying ace Theo Osterkamp are promoted out of the way, and young firebrands like
Adolf Galland take their place. Göring’s plan for phase three of the battle
is going to be: hit the airfields. Already this week on the 14th, though, after
going through the Luftwaffe’s enigma messages, British Intelligence begin to realize that
Germany has made no concrete decision about invasion, nor will there be until the fight
for aerial supremacy is decided. A lot happened the 14th, actually. US President FDR agrees to give the British
50 destroyers, if the US can use British bases in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. This is not yet made public, and it won’t
be official till September 2nd. Also, there is tension between Greece and
Italy. It’s been building up for a while, but the
sinking of the Greek cruiser Helle by an Italian sub has made things worse. The Greek army partially mobilizes. And there is news from one country I haven’t
mentioned very often- Luxembourg. Gustav Simon, running the German occupation
there, has begun a vigorous campaign of Germanization. Speaking French is outlawed, and posters reading
things like “your language is German and only German” are widespread. Family names are Germanized. But resistance is equally vigorous. A revival of the Luxembourgish language flourishes,
and the spengelkrich- the war of pin badges- begins around now, as citizens begin prominently
wearing patriotic lapel badges. This prompts attacks from the collaborationist
Volksdeutsche Bewegung, the only political movement allowed by the invaders, whose aim
is to incorporate the Duchy into the Reich. Local resistance groups form as the summer
rolls on. And the week comes to its end, with Italian
success in British Somaliland and eagle week in the skies over Britain. Also this: on the 17th a tally is made of
British losses since the beginning of the war. 8,266 sailors, 4,400 soldiers, 729 civilians
from air attacks, and pilots and aircrew killed or missing: 3,851. Those numbers may pale in comparison to, say,
the French, but the Battle of Britain is just getting started. John Keegan has something to say that fits
that battle as it’s been fought so far: “Fighter command fought the Battle of Britain
on something like equal terms. It would manage to keep 600 Spitfires and
Hurricanes serviceable daily; the Luftwaffe would never succeed in concentrating more
than 800 Messerschmidt 109s against them… Nevertheless the Luftwaffe might have established
the air superiority by which its powerful force of bombers… could have devastated
Britain’s defenses, had it operated from the outset to the same sort of coldly logical
plan by which the German army had attacked France in 1940. On the contrary, it had no considered strategy…
and fought Fighter Command instead by a series of improvisations, all posited on Göring’s
arrogant belief that Britain could be brought down on its knees by any simulacrum of a hard
blow that he directed against it.” But will such arrogance be well placed? Or will such strategy come? And if so will it prevail? What will phase three of the Battle of Britain
hold? Tune in in future weeks of WW2 in real time
to get the answers! If you want to know more about Italy’s fascist
government and Mussolini’s colonial ambitions, check out our Between 2 Wars episode that
covers just this. Our TimeGhost Army member of the week is Richard
Newman. His contribution, and many others, are the
only thing that keep this show running. Do like Richard and support us at
or Subscribe, ring that little bell, and see
you next time.

100 Replies to “Il Duce Kicks Churchill Where it Hurts – WW2 – 051 – August 17 1940”

  1. LIVESTREAM Sunday 18 August, 20:00 PM CET

    Next week, we will air our 52nd weekly episode of our World War Two series, marking exactly one year since the war broke out and we started covering it. We would love to reflect on the past year together with you all, as well as look at what lies ahead of us. We will of course also be answering many of your questions. Make sure to tune in here on YouTube at 20:00 CET (GMT+1) next Sunday 18 August to chat with Indy, Spartacus, Astrid and the rest of the TimeGhost team!


  2. Great week as always
    Tho as an asian, i wish you would discuss what's going on in asia as well; its been a few weeks since we heard anything from the east, and i don't believe that both sides simply stopped fighting during this period

  3. As of this point… Britain's losses in Africa are in fact small. Yes, in pure theory Mussolini can threaten Sudan or the rest of Britain's African colonies to the south of Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia, and the loss of one colonial holding would have a morale impact on the British. But much of the war in Africa will be something that will depend on matters of supply and sea power. And while Mussolini may have done a lot to build up his strength in the region before the war, sustaining those forces will depend almost entirely on how well those colonies can manufacture arms and equipment the Italian troops will need.

    If they can't… they are at risk of falling in the long run. For Britain still rules the waves and the Italian Navy is largely bottled into the Mediterranean narrows between Sicily and Libya. If they try to sail around Africa, they hit Gibraltar and the Royal Navy forces there. If they wish to take the shortcut, the colony they need to take is Egypt, for the British still control Suez and have naval forces there as well. And if they can't… taking one colony might just consume much of the supplies they have available and won't have the supplies to too deep into Africa.

    The real battle regarding Africa right now will be of supply… and that is yet to be fought.

  4. Indy, did the air to air kills counts you used are wartime claims (which always overblown) or official (then) classified record of their own admitted losses?

  5. As usual, great episode! Archie Wavell's response to Churchill is excellent. Thank you and Greetz from France. Keep going, folks !

  6. Italy: captures British colony

    Also Italy: loses half its battleship fleet to outdated biplanes in one night

  7. Why did somali citizens need to flee from the advancing italians? or was it mostly british colonial civilians?

  8. 3:21 looks that Churchill had also his own Hitlerian bouts : '' low losses mean not enough fighting spirit !''

  9. Another Churchill's bad decision before that, was to conceal the scope of the loss by the Luftwaffe, in June '40 off St-Nazaire, of the liner ''Lancastria'' with more than 6,000 troops and civilians aboard. What made it so exceptional was that the valiant Goering's boys had mercilessly strafed the survivors in the water.
    The poor captain Grant Sharp survived, and went on serving on the dangerous Atlantic lines. But 2 years later when the liner ''Laconia'' he commanded, was U-156-torpedoed, after sending an ''SSS'' message to signal the position of U-156, he went to his cabin and disappeared with his ship.

    Churchill reasoned oddly that details of the enemy cruelty would depress British Morale at the crucial time.

  10. The Destroyers for Bases discussion goes back to Aug 3rd, following an previous discussion in July on the matter where the British promised future money for them and the US declined wanting something now and sooner rather then later, however its actually made and agreed to around the 11th or 12th but word is sent out on the iirc 18th. Documentation tbh on both sides is poor but Canada has some interesting pieces in its archives. These are dire times and the US President is doing his best to get goods to Canada and the UK as fast as he can.

  11. Regarding the lack of continued attacks on British radar installations, I read that Goring was shown the inside of a radar control console. He remarked that it was just a collection of wires and was not impressed.
    Apparently, his arrogance extended to the value of destroying enemy radar stations.
    That's your air strategy on heroin, I suppose.

  12. I like the new lighting! It is more dramatic, tense, and authentic feeling to what I imagine it would have looked like in an office or bunker in 1940. I hope you keep the new set up!

  13. Luftwaffe intelligence was so bad about RAF actually , Luftwaffe intelligenge depatment led by Oberst Beppo Schmidt (an alcoholic Goring crony nothing more) claimed on so called Adlertag (Eagle Day) Luftwaffe destroyed half of RAF Fighter Command.

  14. You can say that the sinking of " Έλλη " in a way gave a kind of early warning to the Greek government of what is about to come in the next months and actually did damage to the Italian plans since an attack on a ship in port during a religious day for orthodox Christians it worked perfectly to rally the people behind a government that was technically a dictatorship and till that moment didn't enjoyed much of public support
    In a way it gave time for both the Greek government and the people that would be mobilized to prepare

  15. It's interesting how the pacing will work out. A fixed schedule and video length means weeks with little or no significant military action get the same amount of screen time as, say, the fall of France. But, I suppose that's the cost of doing it in real time.

  16. Hi Indy and Team! Will you make a special about the Second Vienna Award? I'm expecting it to be in regular episodes (which isn't that far away now) but I would like to see a special about it. Thank you for your work and keep it up!

  17. For those interested in understanding why and how Italy decided to wage war against Greece, check out this article:

  18. Since the 28th of october is closing in, i would be glad to help if you needed help with translating greek sources about the grecoitalian war!

  19. I play Hearts of Iron in real-time in synchronicity with this show! I play Germany and put all effort into Carriers instead of U-boats and pocket-battleships. I have developed Foche Wolf fighters at the expense of developing mechanised infantry. This will annihilate the Mark I and II Spitfire and Hurricane divisions. I also have a fleet of 10 types of transport ships, they will be ready a month from now! I will go for the US after the British invasion in September and have broken the pact with Japan. The pact with Soviet union is reinforced by exchanging blueprints of our heavy cruisers and Panzer IV tanks. Ill keep you updated a week from now!

  20. Wavell got battered in the war. His reputation got smashed, pretty unfairly I feel for the Egyptian and African campaign, though might’ve deserved it for Singapore

  21. Anyone noticing titles for episodes lately? They are trying real hard to escape from stupid YouTube algorithm!

  22. Indy, the British casualties you mentioned only count the white guys. The African born soldiers were used to slow down the Italians and over 2000 were killed.

  23. The phone intro reminds me of someone talking to their stock broker. Maybe he should make his investment picks or complain how he lost based on the previous weeks events. Old issues of The Wall Street Journal or Financial Times might be a good source. The complaint about history is that it doesn't deal with the perceived future.

  24. #51 Aug 17, 1940…. imagine how much has happened and FDR is still struggling to get Congress and public opinion on board to Hitler’s threat.
    Somaliland’s lost was not insignificant, the Red Sea aspect is an excellent perspective.
    • good luck with-year number 2 of your wonderful production. I truly look forward to each week.

  25. Losing planes on the ground and United States Marines drowning instead of dying in battle… Somethings just aren't supposed to happen.

    For the record, the United States Marine Corps now has the toughest swimming requirements in the Department of Defense.
    Yes, even tougher than the United States Navy (yes, I know, USMC is part of the Department of the Navy).

  26. kind of dissapointing how he didn't say any details about the sinking of RHN Elli

    it was sunk in port at Tinos at night while the sailors where on a festival about the Virgin Mary
    witnesses said the sub was italian and the torpedoes were even identified as italian but the government denied that

  27. As a grandson of Serbian (Yugoslav) partisan fighters, I really ask myself what would it be like if my grandpas would only pin some patriotis badges instead of going to the woods and shooting on Nazis.

  28. Wavell seems to be the opposite of his counterparts who thing that a big butchers bill is the definition of good tactics

  29. You have to laugh about the idea that trading 50 destroyers for bases was even. We gave the Brits 50 destroyers and freed up the personnel that had to maintain the bases. I'm not a fan of FDR's politics, but that was necessary and brilliant PR.

  30. You aren't fooling anyone. You had four phones in 1939, and four phones in 1940. Your replacement for the one you left in France doesn't change anything. You still only have four phones. You must… Must… establish Phone Superiority. You simply can't win this war without a fifth phone; mark my words…

  31. im ready for an episode on the 331 squadron, if you are planning on doing episodes that go more into depth on armed forces in exile

  32. I still don’t get why you couldn’t have started this series on Sept. 1 2019, 80 years to the day WW2 started. Makes no sense why you started it in 2018

  33. Goering was arrogant, lazy and too busy stealing art, playing with trains, and living the "good life" to do his job…. and thank God for all that. However the germans did settle on a scheme that was working – wipe out the RAF's ability to function – until one night when a lost group of He-111's decided to drop their bombs blindly and head for home… and they dropped them on London. Churchill immediately bombed Berlin in response which enraged Hitler, got him involved and he changed the working strategy to bombing civilians instead… which didn't work, and gave the RAF the breather it needed.

  34. This time last year I was at an Iron Maiden concert in London. They opened with Aces High, and after the song did their intro. After introducing themselves (Like that was fucking required) they go on to say that tonight is the 78th anniversary of Eagle Day, the day, that the Nazi Luftwaffe launched their greatest operation… to overwhelm the British Royal Air Force on the ground… And destroy it utterly… Paving the way… For an invasion…

    The international audience grows silent, wrapped by his slowing words and excellent delivery and the memory of how close the world came to fascist victory. The silence lasted for a full 10 seconds before the drums beat up and Bruce Dickinson declares in a loud clear voice:


    I've never felt tension snap so completely lol

  35. Glad to see your efforts to get your videos properly/rightfully monetized has finally…. “paid off”…. hahahaha….hahaha….haha…ha….
    …….I’ll shut up now and go back into exile…

  36. Finally!! I've caught up with the week by week series!! wait, does that mean I have to wait every week now for the next episode……… oh there' a bunch of specials and B2W episodes, so I should be good

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