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North-East Diary

Roy Ripley &
Brian Pears
© Copyright Brian Pears 1994-2011


22nd February 1940 to
13th June 1940

Thursday, 22nd February 1940  D173

The presence of enemy aircraft occasioned the issue of yellow warnings to areas on the north-east coast between 11.27 and 12.12 today. A Heinkel He 111P-4 of 3(F)/Ob.d.L. on a reconnaissance of Carlisle believed that brought down thirty miles off the Farne Islands by fire from Hurricanes of No 43 Squadron.

A Heinkel He 111P was forced to land, with smoke streaming from its port engine, at East Coldingham near St Abbs Head, Berwickshire at 12.30. The enemy aircraft landed in a field in a very remote spot, and as Sq Ldr Farquhar (whose kill it was) wanted the authorities to examine the Heinkel, he decided to land his Spitfire beside it, to prevent the Germans from destroying their plane, he landed his plane alongside at high speed, the bombers crew looked on in disbelief as it trundled on down the hill and cartwheeled into a bog. They first hauled out their injured rear gunner and set fire to their plane, then ran down the hill to rescue the gallant Squadron Leader, who was suspended upside down by his safety harness, the bomber's crew all took part in this rescue.

By then, the Heinkel was well alight so they all rushed up the hill (Sq Ldr Farquhar included) to pull the German rear gunner further from the flames. The comedy of errors was not quite over, the LDV arrived on the scene over the crest of a nearby hill and because they hadn't seen the Spitfire at the bottom of the hill, assumed that the Squadron Leader was part of the Heinkel's crew, so they arrested him too. It was only when he produced an OHMS envelope bearing his latest income tax demand that they transferred him to the side of the 'goodies'. One of the Heinkel's crew, Fw Sprigarth, was mentioned in Parliament for his part in the rescue.

Trawlers from the Tyne continued to use the Dogger Bank fishing ground (90 miles off the east coast) during the war, just as they had done in peacetime. This did not go unnoticed by the German Naval Group West who planned an operation against the trawlers with the threefold aims of eroding the morale of the trawlermen, possibly capturing some valuable auxiliaries and forcing the Royal Navy to supply escorts for the trawlers.

The German destroyers 'Eckholdt' as leader, joined by 'Beitzen', 'Riedel', 'Schultz', 'Maass' and 'Koellner', each ship carrying a prize crew, sailed from the Schillig Roads about midday on Thursday, 22nd February 1940. They made their way through swept channel '1' (a channel 6 miles wide, providing a safe and secret passage for German warships needing to reach the North Sea) entering the minefield at 19.00, in line ahead 200 metres apart, steering 300? at 26 knots.

At 19.13, a twin-engined aircraft was sighted flying 60 metres above the destroyers as if trying to identify them. At 19.21 the aircraft appeared again, and on its second run, the 'Beitzen' and 'Koellner' opened fire, the plane replied and sheered off. It was not seen again until 19.43 when the 'Maass' reported it and opened fire, the aircraft dropped 2 bombs 1 of which hit the 'Maass' between the bridge and forward funnel. The remaining destroyers turned back towards the 'Maass' but were ordered to stand off by the flotilla leader. Suddenly the "Maass's" guns opened up again as 2 more bombs were released, when the smoke had cleared, the bows and stern of the ship were visible, pointing vertically upwards, the lower parts resting on the shallow sea-bed.

A period of great confusion reigned as the 'Riedel' hearing an explosion from the direction of the 'Schultz', dropped depth charges but was going so slowly that she badly damaged her own gyro-compass, rudder motor and all of her command elements. The 'Koellner' seeing the 'Riedel' dropping depth charges, ordered her picket boat to cast off (it was tied to the ships propeller guard), under the impression that it had done so, the 'Riedel' picked up speed, dragged her picket boat under and drowned the occupants, then, seeing what was thought to be the conning tower of a submarine, went to ram it only to discover that it was the bows of the 'Maass' sticking out of the sea. The flotilla leader ordered the remains of his force back to Wilhelmshaven. In all 578 German seamen were lost.

A disaster of such proportions demanded an explanation, the truth gradually dawning on the Germans - they had bombed and sunk their own ships. Hitler was eventually made aware of the situation, and he ordered a full inquiry. The conclusions reached were: A Heinkel He 111 from 4/KG26 had made 2 bombing runs - on the first, sinking the 'Maass' and on the second, sinking the 'Schultz'. The aircraft was part of a force sent out to attack shipping in the North Sea, an operation about which the Luftwaffe informed the Kriegsmarine, but about which the latter did not see fit to warn its own destroyers. Furthermore: the Kriegsmarine did not notify the Luftwaffe that its destroyers were at sea. So ended the action that was intended to harass our trawlers.

Day 173. All times GMT. Blackout ends: 06.46, begins: 17.55

Thursday, 22nd/Friday, 23rd February 1940  N173

23.50.. Newcastle.. Barrage balloon in Western Avenue drifted north and grounded in Nuns Moor Park. Damage to chimney pots Westgate Road and Wingrove Avenue and to telephone wires at Newcastle General Hospital.

Night 173. All times GMT. Blackout begins: 17.55, ends: 06.44

Friday, 23rd February 1940  D174

The minesweeping trawler 'Benvolio' hit a mine and sank off the Humber.

Day 174. All times GMT. Blackout ends: 06.44, begins: 17.57

Saturday, 24th February 1940  D175

'SS Jevington Court' (4,544t) steamer, Tyne to London with a cargo of coal, was sunk by a mine off Cromer.

'SS Clan Morrison' (5,936t) steamer, Tyne to London on Admiralty service was also sunk by a mine off Cromer.

Day 175. All times GMT. Blackout ends: 06.41, begins: 17.59

Tuesday, 27th February 1940  D178

A Heinkel He 111H shot down by Spitfires of No 609 Squadron, fell into the sea, seven miles off St Abbs Head, Berwickshire at 12.30. The crew were all rescued and captured.

Another Heinkel, 2/KG26 Heinkel He 111H-3. Shot down by Pilot Officers J.S.B. Jones and T.S. Wildblood in Spitfires of No 152 Squadron. [During raid on convoy "Alice"]. Crashed into the sea ten miles E of Coquet Island, Northumberland at 12.55. The bodies of Hptmn H-J. Helm (Staffelkapitän) and Uffz K. Lassnig were recovered from the sea (see March 1st) and buried at Chevington. Uffz H. Buchisch, Oberfw A. Thiele and Gefr W. Rixen missing. Aircraft sank in the sea.

Day 178. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.34, begins: 19.05

Wednesday, 28th February 1940  D179

'SS Stofoss' (1,508t) a Swedish ship sank in 40 metres of water, due to a collision 10 miles E of Beadnell at 55°32'00"N - 01°20'00"W.

Day 179. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.32, begins: 19.07

Friday, 1st March 1940  D181

No enemy action.. The body of a German airman, and a rubber boat were washed ashore at Whitley Bay, two lifeboats were washed ashore at Bridlington and an unidentified body was washed ashore at Mundesley. The body washed ashore at Whitley Bay was identified as Uffz Karl Lassnig. An enquiry was later received by the British Government from Germany concerning five airmen: Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Helm, Uffz Karl Lassnig, Uffz Heinrich Buchisch, Oberfeldwebel Arthur Thiele, Gerfreiter Walter Rixen. Only the bodies of Lassnig and Helms were recovered. AI 1(k) linked this crew with the He 111 of KG26 shot down on February 27th. The aircrew were, with the exception of Walter Rixen, identified by Air Intelligence as being 2/KG26, although the aircraft itself and the Bordmechaniker (Rixen) were identified as being 3/KG26.

BBC audience research shows that sixteen million listeners hear the 9 o'clock news and about six million of them switch straight over to Lord Haw-Haw's broadcasts from Hamburg, Germany, immediately afterwards.

Day 181. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.27, begins: 19.12

Saturday, 2nd March 1940  D182

'SS Albano' (1,176t) struck a mine and sank with the loss of nine lives, 7.6 miles from Coquet Island she lies in 22 metres of water at 55°15'17"N - 01°22'21"W. She was built in 1912.

'SS Elziena' (200t) was sunk by German bombers about 5 miles E of Coquet Island at 55°21'00"N - 01°24'00"W and now lies in 160 ft of water.

Day 182. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.24, begins: 19.13

Tuesday, 5th March 1940  D185

Hull.. The first war-caused fires, there were three in number, as a result of IBs, but they were soon extinguished.

Yorkshire.. A thirty-nine year old male is listed in the Roll of Honour of Civilian War Dead as having been killed in an incident at Brough, Beverley.

Day 185. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.17, begins: 19.19

Saturday, 9th March 1940  D189

The collier 'Maindy Hill' (1,918t) while on Admiralty service, was sunk in a collision with an unknown ship off Hartlepool. Twenty-three crew members were landed at Hartlepool Dock Head the following day. The one man injured was taken to hospital. She was built in 1911.

'SS Chevychase' (2,719t) steamer, Blyth to London with a cargo of coal, hit a mine off Great Yarmouth.

Day 189. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.07, begins: 19.27

Monday, 11th March 1940  D191

Meat rationing began, the allowance was 1s 10d (9p) worth of meat for everyone over 6 years of age. This was equivalent to about 1lb in weight. Young children were allowed 11d (4½p) worth. Restaurants could serve meat without asking for coupons. Poultry, game, offal, sausages and meat pies remained off the ration.

Day 191. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.02, begins: 19.32

Tuesday, 12th March 1940  D192

'SS Gardenia' (3,745t) steamer, Casablanca to Middlesbrough was sunk by a mine off Cromer.

Day 192. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.59, begins: 19.34

Thursday, 28th March 1940  D208

New blue £1 notes and mauve 10s notes announced.

Day 208. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.19, begins: 20.04

Friday, 29th/Saturday, 30th March 1940  N209

A Police Staff Officer reports that an unidentified enemy aircraft crashed into the sea at Cresswell Bay, Northumberland at app. 21.30. The Cresswell Lifeboat put to sea but found nothing but a patch of oil on the water. This aircraft fell victim to Naval AA gunfire, and was subsequently identified as a Junkers Ju 88A. Three of the crew were recovered from the sea, one is listed as missing.

Night 209. All times BST. Blackout begins: 20.06, ends: 06.14

Wednesday, 3rd April 1940  D214

A Heinkel He 111H was forced to ditch into the sea off Redcar, Yorkshire at 12.45 after combat with Flight Lt Ryder of No 41 Squadron who also ditched when his Spitfire crashed after return fire damaged his machine, he was picked up by the fishing boat 'Alaska'. The five man crew of the Heinkel were picked up and captured. Flight Lt Ryder was awarded the DFC after this incident and is recorded as the first homed based pilot to be shot down by an enemy aircraft.

Lord Woolton becomes Minister of Food.

Day 214. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.04, begins: 20.16

Sunday, 7th April 1940  D218

RAF Hampden L4054 crashed near to St. Mary's Island, Whitley Bay killing all of the crew.

Day 218. All times BST. Blackout ends: 05.54, begins: 20.24

Sunday, 14th April 1940  D225

An air raid warning was sounded in Leeds today, caused by a mechanical fault that has since been repaired.

Day 225. All times BST. Blackout ends: 05.36, begins: 20.37

Saturday, 20th April 1940  D231

A crew member of 'SS West Wales', lying in Hartlepool Docks was suspected of an abortive attempt to blow up the ammunition locker of this ship.

'SS Hawnby' (5,380t) steamer, Tyne to Gibraltar with a cargo of coal was sunk by a mine in the Straits of Dover.

Day 231. All times BST. Blackout ends: 05.21, begins: 20.49

Tuesday, 23rd April 1940  D234

Budget Day. Beer up by 1d (½p) per pint, whisky up by 1/9 (9p) per bottle, duty on cigarettes is increased. Higher income tax and surtax announced. The postage rate for letters goes up to 2½d (1d) and telephone charges are raised.

Day 234. All times BST. Blackout ends: 05.15, begins: 20.55

Saturday, 27th April 1940  D238

Men aged 26, register for military service.

Day 238. All times BST. Blackout ends: 05.06, begins: 21.03

Monday, 29th April 1940  D240

'HM Submarine Unity' sank after a collision with 'SS Atle Jarl' off Blyth at 55°13'30"N - 01°19'00"W. Four of her crew were killed.

Day 240. All times BST. Blackout ends: 05.01, begins: 21.06

Wednesday, 1st May 1940  D242

The Amalgamated Engineering Union agrees to allow women workers in munitions factories.

Day 242. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.57, begins: 21.10

Thursday, 2nd May 1940  D243

Minelaying suspected off the East Coast between Berwick and Grimsby. Shipping was attacked 600yds. up the river Blyth. The river was closed owing to the presence of mines.

Day 243. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.54, begins: 21.12

Monday, 6th May 1940  D247

The trawler 'Loch Naver' (278t) was on Admiralty service when she sank in collision off Hartlepool. She was built in 1919.

'SS Brighton' (5,359t) cargo ship, Dunkirk from the Humber with coal was sunk by a mine approaching Dunkirk.

Day 247. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.46, begins: 21.20

Thursday, 9th/Friday, 10th May 1940  N250

'HMS Kelly' was leading a destroyer flotilla operating against a German minelaying force off the enemy coast - an escorting aircraft reported an U Boat ahead, so the 'Kelly' and her sister ship 'HMS Kandahar' proceeded to hunt it. A short while later the aircraft reported the sighting of the minelaying force, so the captain of the 'Kelly' (Lord Louis Mountbatten) decided to abandon the hunt and rejoin his flotilla - then disappearing over a misty horizon, by now 'HMS Bulldog' had joined the hunting force, now returning to the main body of the flotilla. At 23.45 a blurred shape was spotted some 600 yards away (the blurred shape was possibly the E Boat, 'S 31') at the same time a torpedo track was seen heading straight for the 'Kelly', too late to be avoided. She was lifted bodily with the force of the detonation, which tore a hole in her side, right down to the keel - the foremost boiler room was blown open to the sea and everyone in it was killed.

The 'Bulldog' appeared through the mist, steam and smoke ,the 'Kelly' was down by the bows and listing to starboard, the stricken ship was under tow in a very short space of time. Torpedoes, depth charges and all movable top weight was ditched over the side - the wounded were untangled from the twisted metal and wreckage amidships - the surgeon worked miracles by the light of handlamps.

On the morning of Friday the 10th, the 'Kandahar' took off the wounded and her RNVR surgeon carried on where 'Kelly's' had left off. While this was going on and the two ships were lying alongside each other, the first German bombers appeared, their attacks were beaten off by gunfire and three RAF Hudsons which had just arrived, later, two more destroyers joined as escorts and in the afternoon two cruisers as well. Repeated air attacks were beaten off - the same afternoon, the dead recovered from the wreckage were buried at sea.

Saturday the 11th came and wore on with the 'Kelly' labouring now with a heavy list and yawing from side to side, as things got worse the captain decided to send everyone off the ship except those required to man the guns. She survived another air attack, no hits being scored - now only eighteen officers and men remained on board - rough weather broke the tow repeatedly so it was decided to abandon further attempts until the weather moderated. At nightfall, when two U Boats were reported to be closing in, the captain decided to transfer his volunteer party to the 'Bulldog' temporarily. All night long the 'Kelly' lay waterlogged and abandoned.

At dawn on Sunday the 12th, two tugs arrived, the volunteer party rejoined their ship and a tow was soon under way. Once again the weather worsened, and at noon she was subject to more air attacks, the guns crews working the guns by hand and running from one gun to another as each came to bear on the target, even when darkness fell for the fourth night that little band of men were still cheerful and enthusiastic.

On Monday the 13th in the afternoon, having been a hazardous 91 hours in tow or hove to, 'Kelly' and her escort arrived at a repair yard on Tyneside, through miles of cheering spectators on the river bank, who knew they had built a good 'un when they built 'HMS Kelly'.

The age for the liability of the conscription of men is increased to 36.

Night 250. All times BST. Blackout begins: 21.25, ends: 04.38

Friday, 10th May 1940  D251

Germany invades Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland. Chamberlain resigns. Churchill forms National Government.

'SS Henry Woodall' (625t) on a voyage from Great Yarmouth to Seaham was sunk by a mine off Withernsea. Seven of the fourteen on board died.

Day 251. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.38, begins: 21.27

Saturday, 11th May 1940  D252

The King signs a proclamation cancelling the Whitsun holiday.

Day 252. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.36, begins: 21.29

Sunday, 12th May 1940  D253

Tynemouth.. A stray Barrage balloon damaged seventeen houses at Tynemouth.

German and Austrian men aged 16 to 60 living in the eastern counties of England and Scotland are interned. No German or Austrian may enter the restricted area without permission. Other aliens of any nationality living in these areas must report daily to the police, they may not use bicycles or cars, and must not go out between 20.00 and 06.00. This affects about 11,000 people. When war broke out 486 aliens were detained and 8,000 had their movements restricted.

Day 253. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.34, begins: 21.31

Monday, 13th May 1940  D254

Churchill gives his 'Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat' speech.

Day 254. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.32, begins: 21.33

Tuesday, 14th May 1940  D255

Anthony Eden appeals for men between 17 and 65, not already engaged in military service, to form anti-paratroop units to guard local installations of importance. - See the chapter on Background Information.

Day 255. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.31, begins: 21.35

Wednesday, 15th May 1940  D256

The butter ration was reduced from 8oz to 6oz.

Day 256. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.29, begins: 21.37

Sunday, 19th May 1940  D260

The North East has a very tenuous hold on this item of interest. It is that, one of the six trawlers that took part in this venture was built in South Bank on the Tees - the 'Milford Princess'. The trawlers, three destroyers, a corvette and air cover provided by Blenheims carried out this little known operation in which we cut the submarine telecommunications cables between Britain and Germany. The cut was made midway between the Norfolk Coast and Borkum in the East Frisian Islands.

The operation was a complete success, the six cables were cut, an abandoned Dutch salvage tug, the 'Hector', was found and towed back to Britain and five members of a shot down Whitley bomber were rescued from the North Sea. The cables were not re-connected until after 'Overlord' in 1944.

The minelayer 'Princess Victoria' struck a mine and sank off the Humber. Thirty-seven of her crew were killed.

Day 260. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.22, begins: 21.43

Tuesday, 21st May 1940  D262

A slight set-back to our mine defences programme came about when the mine destructor vessel 'Corburn' was sunk by a mine in shallow water off Le Havre. German divers were able to discover the ships secrets and altered their magnetic mines accordingly.

Day 262. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.19, begins: 21.47

Wednesday, 22nd May 1940  D263

The Emergency Powers Act passed.

Day 263. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.18, begins: 21.48

Friday, 24th/Saturday, 25th May 1940  N265

01.42.. Yorkshire.. Seven HEs were dropped at South Bank and Middlesbrough. Slight damage was done to buildings, gas mains and overhead cables. Dorman Longs, hit by one bomb, eight people were injured but there was little material damage and production wasn't affected. Two of the bombs fell on the Cargo Fleet Works, there were no casualties and little damage. Middlesbrough was the first industrial town, and Dorman Long's the first industrial plant, to be bombed.

Six bombs were dropped on Catterick Aerodrome, no damage was reported.

Night 265. All times BST. Blackout begins: 21.52, ends: 04.13

Friday, 31st May 1940  D272

'SS Orangemoor' (5,775t) steamer, Bona, Algeria to the Tyne with a cargo of iron ore was sunk by U 101 in the South-west Approaches, with the loss of eighteen of her crew.

Day 272. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.06, begins: 22.02

Saturday, 1st June 1940  D273

Luftwaffe records examined after the war show the loss of a Heinkel He 111 near the Dogger Bank, the crew were rescued.

Day 273. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.05, begins: 22.03

Sunday, 2nd June 1940  D274

'SS Winga' (1,500t) a British ship was involved in a collision with the Norwegian ship 'Jernland'. The 'Winga' was bound for the Tyne with a cargo of iron ore from Santander, she sank with the loss of fourteen lives, 4 miles E of Hartlepool at 54°42'54"N - 01°02'06"W. She lies in 40 metres of water. She was built in 1924.

Day 274. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.04, begins: 22.04

Monday, 3rd June 1940  D275

The domestic sugar ration was reduced to 8oz. from today.

Day 275. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.03, begins: 22.05

Tuesday, 4th June 1940  D276

Churchill's 'We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches' speech.

Holiday Camps are banned within 10 miles of the East and South-East coasts of England and the coasts of the Isle of Wight.

Day 276. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.02, begins: 22.07

Wednesday, 5th/Thursday, 6th June 1940  N277

Shortly after midnight enemy aircraft made a number of attacks apparently directed at aerodromes in the eastern counties. Civilian damage was very slight and no civilian casualties reported. No 1 Region also reports at Ashington an RAF bomber, which had apparently fouled a balloon cable, lost control and crashed into houses at Fifth Row. One house, (No 77) was completely demolished and two others damaged. Three civilians were killed and all lived in the same house. This aircraft was a Coastal Command Beaufort L9797 of No 22 Squadron returning to North Coates after a bombing run to Ghent. Searchlights dazzled the pilot and in trying to evade the glare, the aircraft, possibly also affected by flak damage, began to vibrate so much that he ordered the crew to bale out. He and the observer baled out safely but the wireless operator and air gunner, failed to get out and died in the crash.

Yorkshire.. Thornaby.. Bombs were dropped on Thornaby Aerodrome at 00.15 which killed an airman and injured three others. Two Hudson Bombers and two fuel bowsers were destroyed and the runway damaged.

Night 277. All times BST. Blackout begins: 22.08, ends: 04.00

Thursday, 6th June 1940  D278

The production of hundreds of types of household goods have been banned in Britain from today.

Day 278. All times BST. Blackout ends: 04.00, begins: 22.09

Friday, 7th/Saturday, 8th June 1940  N279

At night, enemy aircraft crossed the East coast at several points. Bombs were dropped in Yorkshire. A twenty-six year old fireman was killed in an incident in Stockton Lane, York.

Night 279. All times BST. Blackout begins: 22.10, ends: 03.59
Public Alert: 23.43, All-Clear: 23.55

Saturday, 8th June 1940  D280

'SS Hardingham' (5,415t) steamer, Blyth to Villa Constitucion with a cargo of coal was sunk by a mine in the eastern English Channel.

Day 280. All times BST. Blackout ends: 03.59, begins: 22.11

Monday, 10th June 1940  D282

The Minister of Transport announced that all signposts and direction indicators that would be of use to the enemy in the event of an invasion are to be removed.

Members of the Armed Forces on leave with an RB8 ration card are to have their sugar ration cut from 21oz to 16oz. An RB8a ration card holder would get 8oz instead of 10oz.

Day 282. All times BST. Blackout ends: 03.58, begins: 22.13

Tuesday, 11th June 1940  D283

Under a new Ministry of Defence regulation, today was the last day to comply with the order to erect delivered Anderson shelters, they must be erected and covered with 15" of earth on top and 30" at the sides or they will be taken away and penalties imposed.

Also announced, was the MOD's decision to forbid the carrying of portable radios in cars and any car that has a radio installed must have it removed and dismantled. The date for compliance will be given soon.

Day 283. All times BST. Blackout ends: 03.57, begins: 22.14

Wednesday, 12th June 1940  D284

'SS Baron Saltoun' (3,404t) steamer, Hull to Cherbourg with coal was sunk by a mine off Cherbourg. One of the crew died.

'SS Willowbank' (5, 041t) cargo ship, carrying maize from Durban to Hull was sunk by U 46 off Cape Finisterre.

'SS Earlspark' (5,250t) steamer, outward bound from Sunderland with a cargo of coal was sunk by U 101, NW of Cape Finisterre. Seven of her crew were lost.

Day 284. All times BST. Blackout ends: 03.57, begins: 22.15

Thursday, 13th June 1940  D285

From today, the ringing of church bells is prohibited, except as a warning to the populace that enemy troops are invading this country.

Day 285. All times BST. Blackout ends: 03.56, begins: 22.15

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