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ON THIS DAY

ON THIS DAY

10 July 1940: Luftwaffe launches Battle of Britain. The German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, has mounted a series of attacks on shipping convoys off the south-east coast of England. It is the first major assault by the Luftwaffe and is being seen as what the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, dubbed in a speech three weeks ago as the beginning of the “Battle of Britain”. Although heavily outnumbered, the British fighter pilots put up a fierce fight and succeeded in driving off the attackers. The Air Ministry says they inflicted “the greatest damage on the German air force since bombing raids on this country began”. In total the Air Ministry says 14 enemy aircraft were shot down and 23 more were severely damaged. The bombing raids began at dawn hitting airfields along the south and east coasts of England. But the main attacks took place offshore later in the day, when two shipping convoys were targeted. The first was at 1100 hours off Manston and at 1325 hours a large force of about 120 enemy aircraft approached a convoy between Dover and Dungeness. Spitfire pilots went into the attack shooting down a number of German Messerschmitts, Me110s and Me109s. Exact numbers are difficult to verify but it seems at least nine planes were shot down. On landing the Spitfire pilots said when they made their last attack and came round again to carry on the fight the sky was clear of German aircraft. Towards evening Hurricane pilots sighted nine Heinkel bombers protected by more than 50 fighters attempting to attack shipping off the east coast. The bombers were surrounded by two rings of Messerschmitts – but the Hurricanes broke through and attacked the bombers shooting down at least two. (Source: BBC)

10 July 1943: Western Allies invade Sicily. The armed forces of Britain, the United States and Canada have landed on the Mediterranean island of Sicily. It is the first major landing of British troops on European soil since the fall of Crete two years ago. Initial resistance has been surprisingly weak against British forces with little anti-aircraft fire and no enemy naval intervention. However, the US forces faced a tougher fight on their beaches. The Times reports Allied air forces acted in close co-operation with naval and ground forces. Late last night airborne troops in parachutes and gliders – many of whom fought in North Africa – were dropped over the island. American paratroops were the first to land at 2110 under the command of Colonel John Cerny, who said a whole battalion had been dropped in one area alone. They were followed by British airborne troops two hours later. There is little news about them at the moment but all the aircraft carrying them returned to base in North Africa safely. Meanwhile hundreds of ships of all sizes sailed across from North Africa carrying thousands of troops, weapons, armoured vehicles and heavy artillery. The invasion fleet was described by one pilot as stretching across 40 miles of water consisting of huge barges and merchant ships escorted by destroyers. At about 0300 local time today the British and Canadian troops were brought ashore at Pachino, near Cape Passero on the south-east coast of the south-eastern tip of Sicily. Americans arrived three hours later near Gela to the west of the British beaches. The Canadians had to cope with fairly choppy seas in the area of their operations but the British were protected by the bay at Passero and were able to land their equipment ashore fairly easily. They did encounter some heavy sniping from coastal defences but have made swift progress inland. A Times correspondent arrived with the invading force on a destroyer. He said the ships “were as unmolested as if this were indeed a peacetime trip to Sicily. Raiders have not appeared in the air, and from the sea the scene might be along some pleasant stretch of coast where our task was protection rather than assault.” Major airfields in and around Catania on the east coast were bombed yesterday and

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