21 May 1940
  • German General Rommel bypassed Arras, France and advanced west toward the English Channel. 74 British tanks spearheaded two infantry divisions in an attempt to counter Rommel's offensive, but it was defeated by Rommel's use of 8.8 cm FlaK anti-aircraft guns in an anti-tank role. Elsewhere, the French 9th Army was surrounded and destroyed; commanding officer General Giraud was captured. ww2dbase [Invasion of France and the Low Countries | TH]
  • German bombers attacked British ports on the English Channel while RAF bombers attacked refineries near Rotterdam, the Netherlands. ww2dbase [TH]
  • The British government announced that over 250,000 men had enrolled in the Local Defence Volunteers organization within the first 24 hours of its existance. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • British Royal Air Force 263 Squadron and 46 Squadron arrived in Narvik, Norway with 18 Gladiator and 18 Hurricane aircraft to provide additional, but still not adequate, protection for Allied warships in the area. ww2dbase [Invasion of Denmark and Norway | CPC]
  • Orion rounded Cape Horn and entered the South Pacific. ww2dbase [Orion | CPC]
  • Erwin Rommel was awarded the 1939 clasp to his Iron Cross First Class medal. ww2dbase [Erwin Rommel | CPC]
  • An official British Admiralty communiqué noted that "[t]he Secretary of the Admiralty regrets to announce that as the result of damage sustained through striking an uncharted rock off the Norwegian coast, HMS Effingham (Captain JM Howson, RN), has become a total loss". ww2dbase [Effingham | CPC]
  • U-56 began her ninth patrol north of the Hebrides west of Scotland, United Kingdom and in the Shetland Islands area further north. ww2dbase [U-56 | CPC]
  • 27 Japanese G3M bombers, unescorted, attacked Lanzhou, Gansu Province, China. Seven I-15III fighters of 21st Pursuit Squadron of 4th Pursuit Group of the Chinese Air Force scrambled in defensive, shooting down one bomber, and damaging another with 70 machine gun bullets. ww2dbase [Bombing of Shanghai, Chongqing, and other Cities | Lanzhou, Gansu | CPC]
  • Émile Bertin completed her repairs at Brest, France. ww2dbase [Émile Bertin | Brest, Bretagne | CPC]
  • General Gaston Billote, commander of the French First Group of Armies, was fatally injured when his driver crashed into a truck returning from the Ypres conference. ww2dbase [AC]
  • In Paris, France, General Robert Altmayer, a retired cavalry general who had retired four years earlier as Inspector-General of Cavalry, was summoned by Maxime Weygand to take command of Group A (later renamed Tenth Army) consisting of the 9th Corps, 10th Corps and 3rd Division Legere Mecanique. He was also told that all BEF troops south of the Somme (1st Armoured Division and 51st Highland Division) would also come under his orders. ww2dbase [Maxime Weygand | Paris | AC]
  • The French destroyer L'Adroit (T23) was in company of two other destroyers when German He 111 bombers attacked. One aircraft hit her with a bomb that exploded just in front of the bridge. One third of the ship was ripped off and her commanding officer Captain Henri Dupin de Saint-Cyr beached her at Malo-les-Bains, Dunkerque, France at 0035 hours where she was on fire. As she had just been reloaded with ammunition and torpedoes for a mission on the Scheldt Estuary to the northeast, the entire crew abandoned ship, and locals of Malo-les-Bains were also evacuated. At 0230 hours the ship was destroyed by seven large explosions. ww2dbase [Invasion of France and the Low Countries | Dunkerque, Nord-Pas-de-Calais | HM]
Photo(s) dated 21 May 1940
Map noting German advances in France and the Low Countries between 16 and 21 May 1940Charred remains of a British soldier of the Royal Sussex Regiment, Amiens, France, 21 May 1940

Timeline Section Founder: Thomas Houlihan
Contributors: Alan Chanter, C. Peter Chen, Thomas Houlihan, Hugh Martyr, David Stubblebine
Special Thanks: Rory Curtis

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