Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 103 December 12, 1939

9 miles off the coast of Scotland at 4 AM, battleship HMS Barham collides with an escorting destroyer in dense fog. HMS Duchess is cut in half and sinks (124 lives lost, 25 survivors).

Graf Spee and Royal Navy cruisers converge on the River Plate estuary from different directions. Despite orders to avoid battle, Captain Langsdorff expects escorted convoys. As Graf Spee will return home to refit engines and other systems after 4 months at sea and thousands of miles, he is willing to take minor damage. He strips Graf Spee for battle, removing fake funnels and dumping damaged equipment such as the Arado seaplane’s engine.

Submarine HMS Salmon tries to stop the German liner SS Bremen (which is known to have no passengers) off Norway but an escorting seaplane attacks forcing her to dive. Salmon does not torpedo the liner to comply with existing Anglo-German naval treaties, a decision that likely delays German unrestricted submarine warfare.

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