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September 16th, 1940 (MONDAY)

Battle of Britain:
RAF Fighter Command: Slight enemy activity, mainly in south-east and East Anglia. At night London, the Midlands and Merseyside are bombed.

During the early morning London is bombed, wrecking the Strand Shell Mex building and damaging the Gaiety Theatre, St. Thomas's, Guys and Lambeth hospitals.

During the following night bombers caused seven huge fires in the East End and also hit parts of Birmingham and Wakefield Prison.

The weather is rainy and cloudy. Luftwaffe head Hermann Göring held a conference following yesterday's losses and it is decided that the German effort to be switched against RAF Fighter Command. During the day, an attack by some 350 Luftwaffe aircraft developed in Kent at about 0800 hours and formations flew in the direction of London, but the attack is not pressed home. Other activity consisted of a large number of reconnaissances flown off and over the Coast mostly by single aircraft, but one raid totaling 30 aircraft approached Dover. No attack, however, developed. The weather largely hindered RAF fighter action. In the North and North-East, one raid appeared off Fifeness in the early afternoon, turned South and crossed the Coast at Amble, flying to Carlisle and Cockermouth. It returned by the same route. In the East, reconnaissances are made from Whitby to the Wash and off Cromer, where a Ju 88 is intercepted with inconclusive results.

 One convoy is approached on two occasions and an aerodrome is attacked. In the South-East, a mass raid by 350 German aircraft crossed the Kentish Coast in waves between 0735 and 0805 hours. Formations spread out from Dover to Rye and to the Isle of Sheppey. One raid crossed the Estuary into Essex and towards London but soon turned back. By 0832 hours all the aircraft had re-crossed the Coast. No interception is made. Twenty one RAF fighter squadrons are in the air, and it may have been on this account that the Luftwaffe turned away so soon. Throughout the day German aircraft are actively engaged on reconnaissances, especially towards London and the Estuary. In the South and West, one aircraft crossed the Coast near the Needles and flew North-easterly to Northolt, Duxford and Debden, while a second crossing at the same place flew North-westerly to Middle Wallop and Cheltenham. Other reconnaissances are made in the Bristol Channel. Between 1700 and 2000 hours some 15 raids are plotted in the Isle of Wight area, some of which flew inland. Some of these are the leading aircraft of the night operations.

     During the night of 16/17 September, there are continuous attacks against London and smaller raids on Merseyside and the Midlands. Luftwaffe, activity is of greater intensity than on recent nights and is of two distinct phases. At 1940 hours raids are plotted out of Cherbourg and Le Havre, France, areas followed by a steady stream from the Dieppe, France, area. Raids crossed the Coast between the Isle of Wight and Dover, some flying North west to Bristol channel whence they spread out and penetrated to North Wales, Midlands and up to Liverpool. Other raids flew over South-eastern Counties to London and North of the Estuary. From 2350 hours raids concentrated on London, East Anglia and the South-eastern Counties. At 0020 hours fresh raids originating from the Dutch Islands approached East Anglia and the Thames Estuary, some of them penetrating to London. At about 0242 hours all raids had withdrawn and the Country is clear. The second phase commenced at 0330 hours, aircraft being plotted out of the Dieppe area towards London and out of the Ostend area towards the East Coast. The latter are probably mostly minelaying. This second phase continued until 0530 hours.

     RAF Fighter Command claimed 0-1-0 aircraft, barrage balloons accounted for 1-0-0 aircraft and one Luftwaffe aircraft crashed; the RAF lost one Spitfire of which the pilot is safe.

Losses: Luftwaffe, 9; RAF, 1.

In the morning six shells land on Dover.

Corvette HMS Campion laid down.

GERMANY: U-135 laid down.

MEDITERRANEAN: During the night of 16/17 September, units of the British Mediterranean Fleet including the battleship HMS Valiant (02) sail with the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (87) for a raid on Benghazi, Libya. Swordfish Mk. I aircraft sink the Italian destroyer Borea, and mines laid by them off the port sink the Italian destroyer, Aquilone. While returning to Alexandria, Egypt, heavy cruiser HMS Kent (54) and two destroyers are detached to bombard Bardia, Libya.

EGYPT: Sidi Barrani: Italian troops have managed to fight their way to this Egyptian coastal outpost as Lieutenant-General Maitland Wilson, GOC Egypt, and his heavily outnumbered force of British and Indian troops are withdrawing to a prepared defence line at Mersa Matruh.

Although the next battle could be decisive - with an Italian victory leaving Egypt open to Marshal Graziani's army - the Italians are fortifying Sidi Barrani, with the marshal ignoring furious orders from the Duce to attack, preferring to put up monuments to his "victorious advance". While Mussolini fumes, Churchill in beleaguered Britain has taken the "awful and right" decision to despatch 150 tanks and other desperately-needed weapons to General Wavell, Britain's C-in-C Middle East.

Although small in number - with fewer than 30,000 men facing 250,000 Italians - the hard core of Wavell's army is professional, tough and confident. The question now is whether the British line can hold until the tanks are unloaded in Alexandria.

LIBYA:  The Italian destroyers Aquilone and Borea are sunk off Bengasi by British bombers. 

U.S.A.:  The Congress passes the Burke-Wadsworth Bill (the Selective Training and Service Act) by wide margins in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This bill provides for the first peacetime draft (conscription) in the history of the United States but also provides that not more than 900,000 men are to be in training at any one time and it limits military service to 12 months. It also provides for the establishment of the Selective Service System as an independent Federal agency. President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately signs the bill into law. The first draftees will be selected next month.  

     The first call up of National Guard units occurs. Called into Federal service are 4 divisions, 12 brigades, 50 regiments and 4 observation squadrons from 26 states. The divisions are New Jersey's 44th, Oklahoma's 45th, Oregon's 41st, and South Carolina's 30th. Eighteen of the 50 regiments are coast artillery regiments.  Here for more detailed unit information.

     The keel of the Iowa-class battleship New Jersey (BB-62) is laid at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Pennsylvania. The "Big J," as she will be nicknamed, becomes the most decorated battleship in the history of the USN

     Representative Samuel T Rayburn of Texas is elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a post he will hold for 17-years.

     In baseball, a rhubarb erupts at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York, during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The fight results in a suspension and fine for Dodgers' manager Leo Durocher for "inciting a riot." Perhaps better known from the game is the photo showing an obese Brooklyn fan astride George Magerkurth, pummeling the veteran umpire. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-99 sank SS Lotos in Convoy SC-3.

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