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ON THIS DAY12Jul07

12 Jul 1917. The 90th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele. The Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff represented Britain’s Armed Forces at events in Belgium on July 12th 2007 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. During the course of the battle, one of the bloodiest of the war, 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German soldiers lost their lives. The Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne said: “Passchendaele epitomises the Battles of the First World War – devastating artillery barrages, endless mud, and massed infantry attacks against a well-prepared enemy. Their selfless sacrifice in the face of the full horrors of war is an inspiration to us all.” Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff said: “Military historians are constantly revisiting the Battle of Passchendaele. Some are more critical than others, particularly of the tactics used at the time; but the one thing that they all agree on is the valour of those that fought here. All too many of them died and many thousands of them are still lying where they fell. We cannot and will not forget their sacrifice.” The 12th of July was chosen as it marks 90 years since German Forces used Mustard Gas for the first time in the 1914-1918 war.

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 scramble was a hurried affair … a large enemy formation was encountered flying up the Thames Estuary towards London.’ People’s War memories. Two British fighters were lost, but the pilot of one survived and is safe. 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. People watching from the south-east coast say the first sign of the attack was when a wave of about 20 German bombers with a similar number of support fighters dived out of the clouds. They rained bombs down on a convoy of ships, but did not hit. A second wave of bombers and fighters followed but before a second load of bombs could be released, the ships opened fire with their anti-aircraft guns. At this moment, a flight of Spitfires appeared and flew straight into the middle of the German formation – hitting one bomber which crashed into the sea. It appears the intensity of the attack took the Germans by surprise and completely destroyed their formation. One eye-witness told The Times newspaper: “I saw 10 machines crash into the sea, they included bombers and fighters. The range of operations was too

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