Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 489 January 1, 1941

Operation Compass. General O’Connor’s Western Desert Force becomes 13th Corps. RAF continues bombing Bardia and Italian airfields at Tobruk, Derna and Benina.

In the Gibraltar Straits, British destroyers HMS Duncan, Firedrake, Foxhound, Jaguar & Hero stop a French convoy returning from Casablanca (steamer Chantilly, tankers Octane and Suroit plus Danish steamer Sally Maersk). HMS Jaguar shells Chantilly (2 killed, 4 wounded). The convoy is captured and taken to Gibraltar.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 488 December 31, 1940

As the year ends, Germany controls Europe from the English Channel to the Russian border and from the Arctic in Norway to the shores of the Mediterranean (with allies Italy, Vichy France and Balkan states). Italian and Vichy French colonies cover the North coast of Africa.

Greek submarine Katsonis sinks Italian tanker Quinto with the deck gun off the major Albanian port of Vlorë, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Brindisi, Italy. Vlorë is also bombed by RAF.

RAF mounts daylight bombing raids on Dutch ports of Rotterdam & Ijmuiden, the Rhine bridge at Emmerich, Germany (just across the border from Netherlands) and Köln, Germany.

Overnight, destroyer HMS Dainty captures Italian schooners Tiberio and Maria Giovanni between Bardia and Tobruk, Libya. HMS Dainty escorts the schooners to Sollum, Egypt.

Happy New Year! All 33 crew and 2 passengers drown in the freezing water 200 miles South of Iceland when U-38 sinks Swedish MV Valparaiso at 11.12 PM. Around the same time 200 miles off Dakar, Senegal, U-65 hits British tanker British Zeal with 2 torpedoes (she is in ballast and does not explode). The crew abandons ship, then reboards and takes British Zeal safely to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 487 December 30, 1940

Operation Compass. Australian 6th Division continues perfecting tactics to breach Italian defenses at Bardia while RAF bombs these positions as well as Italian airbases at Tobruk, Derna & Benina. British anti-submarine trawler HMT Bandolero sinks in a collision with Australian destroyer HMAS Waterhen off Sollum, Egypt (no casualties). HMAS Waterhen is repaired at Port Taufiq on the Suez Canal (completed in January 1941). Australian destroyer HMAS Voyager captures Italian ketch Zingarella, transporting British POWs from Bardia to Tobruk. Zingarella will serve in the Royal Navy as a store carrier for the rest of the war.

Destroyer HMS Venomous hits a mine off Liverpool (under repair at Liverpool until February 18 1941).

British steamers Calcium and Sodium collide in the North Sea after Calcium hits a mine (1 killed). Calcium ultimately sinks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 486 December 29, 1940

Greek submarine Proteus attacks Italian steamers Sardegna, Italia and Piemonte, 40 miles East of Brindisi, Italy, sinking Sardegna. Escort torpedo boat Antares drops 11 depth charges, forcing Proteus to the surface. Proteus is rammed and sunk by Antares (all 48 hands killed).

Operation Compass. British aircraft bomb Bardia and Italian airbases at Tobruk, Derna & Benina. Italian defensive perimeter at Bardia consists of a continuous antitank ditch and barbed wire fences in front of 2 lines of ‘posts’ (open concrete pits with 1-2 antitank guns and 2-4 machineguns, 800 yards apart and protected to the South by lines of barbed wire, antitank ditches and sometimes mines - the expected British line of attack from Egypt). However, the posts can be picked off individually from the rear by a breakthrough. Australian 6th Division rehearses storming these defenses. Engineers practice blowing the wire with Bangalore torpedoes and knocking down antitank ditches & stone obstacles while Infantrymen and tankers learn to neutralise the posts and artillery batteries.

President Roosevelt broadcasts a ‘fireside chat’, putting the manufacturing capacity of USA on a war footing but pledging to keep the country out of the European war. The goal is to be the “great arsenal of democracy” to supply the material needs of Britain and her allies, specifically Greece.

Overnight, 244 German bombers drop incendiary bombs on London’s ancient center, the City of London, starting 1500 fires and creating a firestorm among the old wooden buildings. Many historical buildings are destroyed but St Paul's Cathedral is saved by clergymen who prevent flames on the roof from spreading.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 485 December 28, 1940

Operation Compass. Monitor HMS Terror bombards Bardia, keeping up pressure on the 40,000 beseiged Italian troops.

Luftwaffe bombing badly damages 2 destroyers under construction at Southampton (to be called Norseman and Opportune). Norseman is almost blown in half but will be repaired and commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Nepal on May 29 1942 (launched May 29 1942).

Destroyer HMS Valorous collides with minesweeping trawler HMT Libyan in Sheerness Harbour in the Thames Estuary. HMS Valorous will be repaired at Chatham until January 11 1941.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 484 December 27, 1940

In the South Pacific, Kapitän zur See Robert Eyssen brings German armed merchant cruiser Komet (now separated from cruiser Orion) back to British island of Nauru to destroy the phosphate export facility. Eyssen warns dock personnel to evacuate and not send distress signals. As no signals are sent, Komet waits before shelling the loading platforms, cranes and oil tanks (torching 13,000 tons of oil). Nauru’s dock will be rebuilt in 10 weeks but will not return to full capacity during the war.

200 miles South of Iceland, Italian submarine Tazzoli sinks British SS Ardanbhan (all 37 crew lost).

German cruiser Admiral Hipper returns to Brest, France, after an unsuccessful patrol lasting 1 month and sinking only 1 ship.

At 11.31 PM 300 miles off Senegal, U-65 uses a torpedo and 70 rounds from the deck gun to sink Norwegian SS Risanger (carrying coal and vehicles to British forces at Alexandria, Egypt, around the Cape of Good Hope rather than going through the Mediterranean). All 29 crew take to the lifeboats and are picked up after a few days by Norwegian tanker MV Belinda and landed in Capetown on Jan 10 1941.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 483 December 26, 1940

In the Mediterranean, Australian destroyer HMAS Waterhen sinks Italian schooner Tireremo Diritto, carrying supplies to Bardia from Tobruk, after taking off the crew.

500 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain, British cruiser HMS Bonaventure intercepts German steamer Baden which is returning from Teneriffe to Germany. The crew abandons ship and scuttles Baden, which is then finished off by a torpedo from HMS Bonaventure.

At 8.03 PM 300 miles South of Iceland, U-95 stops British MV Waiotira with 2 torpedoes. U-95 leaves due to 3 destroyers in the area. However, Waiotira is sunk by U-38 at 1.46 AM next day (1 passenger killed, 79 crew and 10 passengers picked up by destroyer HMS Mashona).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 482 December 25, 1940

Admiral Wilhelm Meisel commanding German cruiser Admiral Hipper blows the chance to disrupt British troop convoy WS.5 to the Middle East. Attacking out of the mist and rain at 8.08 AM, Hipper shells troopship Empire Trooper (16 soldiers killed) and freighter Arabistan (just missing a munitions store) but is chased off by corvette HMS Clematis firing her single 4 inch gun and then by cruisers HMS Berwick, Bonaventure & Dunedin. Hipper hits Berwick’s rear gun turret (killing 4 of the gun crew) and escapes into the mist undamaged, heading for Brest, France. Aircraft from British carriers HMS Argus & Furious search in vain for Hipper in the bad weather. Later in the day, 150 miles to the East, Hipper sinks unescorted British steamer Jumna with shellfire and 2 torpedoes. Admiral Wilhelm Meisel caps a bad day by steaming away, leaving 111 men to drown including 44 Indian lascar sailors returning home to Calcutta after surviving a previous sinking.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 481 December 24, 1940

At 4.41 PM, U-65 sinks British tanker British Premier carrying 8000 tons of crude oil (31 crew & 1 gunner killed) 50 miles off Sierra Leone. 9 survivors in 1 lifeboat are picked up by cruiser HMS Hawkins on Jan 3 1941. 4 survivors are rescued by destroyer HMS Faulknor on Feb 3 1941, after 41 days in an open boat (25 days without food).

German 1st Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron attacks a British convoy in the North Sea off Aldeburgh, England, and S-28 sinks British minesweeping trawler HMT Pelton (20 killed). Destroyer HMS Verdun reports sinking one of the S-boats.

Greek submarine Papanicolis sinks Italian steamer Firenze in the Southern Adriatic Sea between the heel of Italy and Albania.

Late in the afternoon 700 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Spain, German cruiser Admiral Hipper spots convoy WS.5 (19 troopships and freighters carrying 40,000 troops and 150,000 tons of supplies including several squadrons of fighters to reinforce General Wavell in the Middle East, escorted by aircraft carriers HMS Argus & Furious and cruisers HMS Berwick, Bonaventure & Dunedin plus 4 corvettes). Hipper’s captain Admiral Wilhelm Meisel mistakes this for a regular merchant convoy and maintains radar contact overnight to attack in the morning.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 480 December 23, 1940

In Albania, Greek forces push back Italian troops another 20 miles up the Ionian coast, taking the small town of Himarra.

In Libya, Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa General Rodolfo Graziani removes General Mario Berti from command of Italian 10th Army after the collapse in the initial stages of Operation Compass. Graziani appoints his Chief of Staff General Giuseppe Tellera to take over 10th Army.

Destroyer HMS Havock collides with battleship HMS Valiant during gunnery practice. HMS Havock will be repaired at Malta until February 20 1941.

Lord Haw Haw warns of a second night of bombing for Manchester. From 7.15 PM until 1.29 AM, 171 aircraft home in on the still-burning city and drop 195 tons of high explosive bombs plus 893 incendiary canisters. In 2 nights, 363 civilians are killed and 1183 wounded.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 479 December 22, 1940

Overnight, convoy MG1 (including destroyers HMS Hyperion, Ilex & Janus) runs the Strait of Sicily under cover of darkness. At 1.56 AM 24 miles East of Cape Bon, Tunisia, Italian submarine Serpente torpedoes HMS Hyperion (2 killed, 14 injured). Hyperion sustains major structural damage and cannot be towed despite 2 attempts. Ilex takes off the survivors and Janus scuttles Hyperion before dawn, to prevent her falling into Italian hands.

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs the industrial city of Manchester in the English Midlands. Following the usual pattern, pathfinder aircraft drop incendiary canisters to start fires, which act as beacons for the following waves of bombers. In all, 270 aircraft drop 1,032 incendiary canisters and 272 tons of high explosive bombs. The Piccadilly area is set ablaze and many shelters collapse. The Gibsons shelter, part of Hulme Town Hall, receives a direct hit trapping 450 people but all are rescued alive. Liverpool is also bombed again but less than the last 2 nights.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 478 December 21, 1940

German raiders Komet & Orion and support ship Kulmerland release 514 prisoners captured from various ships, mainly women, children and the injured. They are handed over with some provisions to 2 English families on Emirau Island in the Bismarck Archipelago, New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. They will be picked up on December 29 by British SS Nellore and landed at Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, and provide Allied Intelligence with information on the raiders, including refuelling points, disguises and their use of Japanese facilities. 150 male prisoners are kept onboard Orion.

250 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-65 hits Panamian tanker Charles Pratt with 2 torpedoes at 4 PM, exploding the cargo of 96,069 barrels of fuel oil (2 killed, 40 survivors abandon ship in 2 lifeboats and are rescued 4-5 days later by British MV Gascony & SS Langleegorse and landed at Freetown).

At noon, convoy MG1 leaves Malta bound for Gibraltar (empty merchant ships Clan Fraser, Clan Forbes & Ulster Prince with battleship HMS Malaya and 8 destroyers).

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs Liverpool again. RAF bombers flying from Britain attack docks and oil tanks at Porto Marghera, near Venice. Venice itself is not damaged.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 477 December 20, 1940

Between 5.15 and 6.15 AM off Kerkennah islands, Tunisia, 15 aircraft from British carrier HMS Illustrious sink 2 out of 3 ships in an Italian convoy bound for Tripoli, Libya.

300 miles West of Ireland, Italian submarine Calvi sinks British SS Carlton (30 crew and 1 gunner killed).

British Hunt class escort destroyer HMS Berkeley is damaged on a mine in the River Medway (repaired at nearby Chatham naval dockyards in 6 days).

Luftwaffe bombs Liverpool overnight. 42 civilians are killed when a single bomb destroys 2 air raid shelters (48 others in the shelters survive). Another 42 die in an unofficial shelter on Bentinck Street, under railway arches which are hit by bombs. 72 civilians are killed when bombs destroy a shelter in the Blackstock Gardens tenement.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 476 December 19, 1940

Overnight, British battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Warspite shell Italian positions at Valona, Albania, in support of Greek advances.

7 miles North of Cape Juby, Morocco, U-37 mistakenly torpedoes and sinks submarine Sfax (4 killed, 69 survivors) and the support ship Rhône (11 dead) belonging to her ally Vichy France. U-37’s log does not record this incident, stating “Nothing to see”.

Operation Compass. Gunboat HMS Aphis continues the bombardment of Bardia. General O’Connor reports that Western Desert Force’s casualties in the first 10 days of the campaign are 141 killed and missing plus 387 wounded.

200 miles West of Ireland, Italian submarine Bagnolini sinks British SS Amicus (all hands lost). British convoy escort destroyers HMS Veteran and HMS Verity collide in Lough Foyle near the Royal Navy base at Londonderry, flooding HMS Verity's engine room (under repair at Londonderry and Belfast until March 5 1941).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 475 December 18, 1940

In the Bay of Biscay, 40 miles off the Gironde Estuary, British submarine HMS Tuna sinks French tug Chassiron and attacks Italian submarines Brin and Bianchi without success. British submarine HMS Triton sinks in the Otranto Strait off Taranto, Italy (cause unknown). Italian cruisers Eugenio & Montecuccoli and destroyers Pigafetta, Da Recco, Pessagno & Riboty shell Greek forces on the Albanian coast near Corfu.

South Atlantic. 800 miles South of Cape Verde Islands, German cruiser Admiral Scheer captures British SS Duquesna carrying 3,500 tons of frozen beef and 15 million eggs from Argentina to Britain (91 crew and 8 passengers taken prisoner). Admiral Scheer’s captain Theodor Krancke allows Duquesna to radio for help before stopping her with shots across the bow, to distract Royal Navy from cruiser Admiral Hipper’s breakout from the Denmark Strait. Duquesna is held near Brazil to supply food to German raiders until scuttled on February 18 1941.

North Atlantic. Italian submarine Veniero stops Greek steamer Anastassia with a torpedo (18 crew killed). The wreck of Anastassia is allowed to drift away after 10 survivors are taken prisoner. U-100 sinks British SS Napier Star at 8.20 AM (59 crew & 12 passengers lost; 9 crew, 1 gunner & 4 passengers picked up by Swedish MV Vaalaren and landed at Liverpool on 23 December). U-96 hits Dutch tanker Pendrecht with 1 torpedo at 4.15 PM, tearing a 14m hole (the crew abandons ship but reboards when 2 other armed tankers arrive and keep U-96 at bay). British destroyer HMS Legion escorts Pendrecht to the Clyde for temporary repairs, arriving on 21 December, before going to USA for permanent repairs.

British minesweeping trawler HMT Refundo hits a mine and is taken under tow but sinks 1 mile off the coast of Suffolk, England, near Felixstowe (2 killed).

Hitler issues Führer Directive 21 for the invasion of Soviet Russia, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. The goal: "The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 474 December 17, 1940

At 6.40 AM, in darkness and heavy seas 5 miles Southwest of the Isle of Wight, British destroyer HMS Acheron hits a mine while running sea trials following repairs. Acheron sinks within 4 minutes, killing 153 crew and 22 shipyard workers (13 crew and 3 shipyard workers survive).

Operation Compass. British capture the coastal village of Sollum and have forced all Italian troops out of Egypt after 7 days of fighting. The unexpected success of this “5 day raid”, including surrounding the major port of Bardia in Libya, persuades General Wavell (Commander in Chief, Middle East) to continue the operation and 6th Australian Division replaces 4th Indian Division which has been sent to defend Sudan. British monitor HMS Terror and gunboat HMS Ladybird bombard Bardia, escorted by Australian destroyers HMAS Voyager and Vendetta. They sink Italian steamers Galata, Vincenzino and Giuseppina D. in Bardia habour.

At a press conference in Washington, President Roosevelt outlines a scheme for USA to provide munitions and equipment to Britain without requiring payment. It will become known as “Lend-Lease”.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 473 December 16, 1940

Operation Compass. 4th Armoured Brigade captures the Italian camp at Sidi Omar, which was leapfrogged in the rush into Libya to surround Bardia. They attack from the South and West, while the Italian artillery is facing East. The battle lasts 10 minutes (50 Italians killed, 900 taken prisoner).

At 7.50 PM off Cape Juby, Morocco, U-37 stops wooden Spanish steamer San Carlos with 1 torpedo and then tries to sink her with 21 rounds from the deck gun (1 killed). German sailors, rowing over to place scuttling charges, notice that the shells did not penetrate the wooden hull. 15 crew and 13 passengers abandon ship in 2 lifeboats.

British submarine HMS Truant sinks Italian tanker Bonzo in the Ionian Sea 2 miles off the coast of Calabria in the toe of Italy.

Overnight, RAF drops 100 tons of high explosive bombs and 14,000 incendiary canisters on Mannheim, Germany, in retaliation for the firebombing of Coventry on November 14. 8 pathfinder bombers miss the city center with incendiary canisters, causing most of the other bombers to miss the target (34 civilians killed, 81 injured). Learning from this failure, RAF develops the concept of "bomber stream" to drop the maximum amount of bombs in the smallest area over the shortest time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 472 December 15, 1940

Operation Compass. British attention now focuses on the port of Bardia, Libya, which they have surrounded. From 12.20 to 5.17 PM, monitor HMS Terror begins the bombardment of Bardia which is defended by 40,000 Italians commanded by General Annibale Bergonzoli, known as 'Electric Whiskers' due to his flaming red beard (now white) worn parted in the middle.

In the Bay of Biscay, 2 miles offshore near the Gironde Estuary, British submarine HMS Thunderbolt sinks Italian submarine Tarantini which is returning from patrol in the North Sea (all 58 hands lost). Free French submarine Narval sinks on a mine in the Mediterranean 40 miles Northeast of Sfax, Tunisia (all 54 hands lost). German motor torpedo boat S.58 sinks Danish steamer N. C. Monberg just off Yarmouth, England (8 crew, 1 gunner lost).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 471 December 14, 1940

Operation Compass. A Vickers light tank (3rd The King's Own Hussars, 7th Armored Brigade) captures Fort Capuzzo, in Libya just across the border with Egypt. Royal Navy starts shuttling Italian POWs back to Alexandria, Egypt. Armed boarding vessel Fiona and auxiliary schooners Farouk and Fawzia deliver 3100 POWs from Mersa Matruh and then return. Italian submarine Naiade, sent out yesterday to harass British warships, is detected by destroyers HMS Hereward and HMS Hyperion 20 miles Northeast of Bardia, Libya, and brought to the surface with depth charges. Naiade is scuttled and all 41 crew are rescued by HMS Hereward. 8 Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from 830 Naval Air Squadron at Malta attack the harbour at Tripoli, Libya.

RAF bombs Italian naval base at Naples, damaging Italian cruiser Pola.

400 miles West of Ireland, U-100 sinks British steamers SS Kyleglen at 8.16 AM (all 36 hands lost) and SS Euphorbia at 7.55 PM (all 34 hands lost). At 8.55 AM, 200 miles South of Iceland, U-96 stops British liner Western Prince with a torpedo (14 killed). After allowing 100 crew and 55 passengers to abandon ship in lifeboats, U-96 sinks Western Prince at 10.21 AM. 154 survivors are picked up by British steamer Baron Kinnaird and 1 by destroyer HMS Active.

HMS Branlebas, a torpedo boat captured from the French off Portsmouth on July 3 1940, sinks in rough weather in the English Channel 30 miles Southwest of Plymouth (97 hands lost, Free French destroyer Mistral rescues 3 survivors).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 470 December 13, 1940

Operation Compass. Repeating yesterday’s successful manoeuver by 7th Armored Brigade, it is 4th Armored Brigade’s turn to cross the desert (between Halfaya and Sidi Omar) to outflank the important Italian position at Bardia and cut the road to Tobruk. Italians deploy submarines Naiade, Narvalo and Neghelli against the British warships shelling the coastal road and forts. At 8.42 PM, Neghelli torpedoes British anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Coventry 40 miles Northeast of Sidi Barrani. Coventry loses most of her bow below the waterline and steams stern first to Alexandria, escorted by destroyers HMS Jervis and Janus (under repair until January 20 1941).

In response to the possibility of British air bases in Greece which would threaten Germany’s oil supply from the Ploieşti oilfields in Romania, Hitler issues Directive 20 for the invasion of Greece by German troops (Operation Marita).

British submarine HMS Truant sinks Italian steamer Sebastino Bianchi 20 miles off the Southern tip of Italy. At 8.46 PM 450 miles West of Lands End, England, U-43 damages British MV Orari (carrying 10,908 tons of food and general cargo) with the last 2 torpedoes. Orari is patched up and sails to the Clyde for repairs lasting until March 1941.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 469 December 12, 1940

Operation Compass. British 7th Armored Brigade moves through the desert to outflank Sollum and cut the road to Bardia, across the border in Libya. Sollum is strategically important, having a small bay and jetty which will allow Royal Navy to bring supplies to O’Connor’s forces. Italian prisoners of war start arriving by truck back at the British headquarters at Mersa Matruh and 650 are evacuated to Alexandria by destroyers HMS Janus and Juno. Aircraft from British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious attack Italian forward supply base at Bardia, Libya, bombing barges in the harbour.

12 miles South of the tiny Scottish island of St.Kilda, Outer Hebrides, U-96 continues its attack on convoy HX-92 overnight. U-96 sinks Swedish MV Stureholm at 1.56 AM (4 lifeboats launch but all 32 hands are lost) and Belgian SS Macedonier at 4.31 hours (4 dead, 2 lifeboats are spotted by an aircraft leading to 37 survivors picked up by Icelandic ship Súlan).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 468 December 11, 1940

Operation Compass. British 7th Armored Brigade (7th Armored Division) charges Northwest to the Egyptian coast at Buq Buq & takes the surrender of Italian 64th Infantry Division. Battleships HMS Barham & HMS Valiant, escorted by anti-aircraft ship HMS Coventry & 7 destroyers, bombard Italian positions further West at Sollum, Egypt, to prevent reinforcements being sent forward. Aircraft from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, escorted by 2 cruisers & 3 destroyers, attack Italian-held El Adem airfield at Tobruk, Libya. In 3 days, British have captured 237 guns, 73 tanks & about 38,000 Italian prisoners (as famously put by a Coldstream Guards officer “5 acres of officers & 200 acres of other ranks”). However, the British advance begins to lose steam; Indian 4th Infantry Division is ordered to Sudan by General Wavell, to take part in offensives against Italian forces in East Africa. They will be replaced by raw The Australian 6th Division.

U-96 attacks convoy HX-92 125 miles Northwest of Outer Hebrides, Scotland. At 3.12 PM, U-96 sinks British liner Rotorua (16 crew, 2 gunners, convoy HX-92 commodore Rear-Admiral Fitzgerald and 3 service personnel passengers killed). 108 survivors are picked up by British armed trawlers HMT Varanga, HMT Ebor Wyke & HMT Alsey. 2 crew are taken prisoner by the U-boat and landed at Lorient on 29 December. At 10.42 PM, U-96 sinks Norwegian SS Towa carrying 7778 tons of grain and 48 trucks (18 killed, 19 survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Matabele). At 7.12 PM, U-94 sinks British MV Empire Statesman carrying iron ore (all 31 hands lost) 225 miles West of Ireland.

278 German aircraft bomb Birmingham, dropping 277 tons of high explosive bombs and 685 incendiary canisters.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 467 December 10, 1940

Operation Compass. British and Indian troops overrun the last 2 Italian camps on the coastal plain. Overnight, the isolated forward base at Maktila is abandoned by 1st Libyan Division (colonial troops fighting for Italy) after shelling from British monitor HMS Terror and gunboats HMS Ladybird & Aphis. In the afternoon, Indian 4th Infantry Division and British 7th Royal Tank Regiment again combine to capture the camp at Sidi Barrani, forcing the Italian 4th Blackshirt Division and another Libyan colonial Division into the desert where they and 1st Libyan Division will surrender the next day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 466 December 9, 1940

Operation Compass. British artillery and bombers bombard Italian fort Nibeiwa from 5 to 7 AM. At 7.15 AM, Western Desert Force moves forward and turns North to attack the Italian forts from the rear. They are quickly spotted by Colonel Vittorio Revetra, commander of Italian fighter forces in Libya flying a Fiat CR-42 between airfields, but it is too late. Indian 4th Infantry Division and British 7th Royal Tank Regiment take the camp at Nibeiwa at 8.30 AM, Tummar West at 4 PM and Tummar East by nightfall. 4th Armoured Brigade (part of 7th Armoured Division) drives to the coast, preventing an Italian withdrawal by cutting the only road. British monitor HMS Terror and gunboats HMS Ladybird & HMS Aphis shell forts at Sidi Barrani and Maktila from the Mediterranean to clear out the coastal defenses and further frustrate any retreat. British take 4,000 prisoners.

At 1.32 AM, U-103 sinks SS Empire Jaguar 250 miles west of Ireland (all 37 hands lost).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 465 December 8, 1940

Operation Compass. General O'Connor’s Western Desert Force moves forward all day and into the night, covering the remaining 35 miles to the line of Italian forts. They move undetected through the gap between camps Nibeiwa and Sofafi and stop at 1 AM next day to rest for a few hours.

At 8.58 PM 295 miles West of Ireland, U-103 sinks British liner Calabria (carrying 4000 tons of iron, 3050 tons of tea and 1870 tons of oilcake from India to Britain) killing 129 crew, 1 gunner and 230 Indian sailors being brought to Britain to crew other ships. 21 crew members are picked up by destroyer HMS Sikh and landed at Londonderry. 75 miles West of Ireland, U-140 sinks Finnish barque Penang at 12.26 PM (all 18 hands lost). Penang is a 3-masted steel sailing ship, built in 1905, carrying 3250 tons of grain from Australia to Ireland. U-140 also sinks British SS Ashcrest at 8.25 PM (all 37 crew lost).

Destroyer HMS Windsor hits a mine off Aldeburgh, Surrey, on the east coast of England. She is towed to Harwich by destroyer HMS Garth and repaired to Chatham until April 24 1941.

Stormy weather prevents German armed merchant cruisers Komet and Orion from landing on the island of Nauru to raid phosphate mining facilities and drop off their prisoners as planned. However, they sink 3 freighters waiting offshore. Orion sinks Triadic (1 killed, 11 crew taken prisoner) and Triaster (64 crew taken prisoner) and Komet sinks Komata (2 killed, 33 crew taken prisoner). The German raiders and their support vessel Kulmerland now have 675 prisoners including 52 women and 8 children.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 464 December 7, 1940

Operation Compass. General O'Connor’s Western Desert Force (30,000 troops, artillery, trucks and 275 tanks including 48 Matilda slow but heavily armoured “infantry” tanks) hides out all day and night in No-Man's Land. Windshields are removed from all vehicles to prevent sunglare. O'Connor’s luck holds and they are not spotted by Italian reconnaissance aircraft. They recuperate and prepare for the advance to the Italian forts using supplies hidden in advance (Forward Supply Depots hold enough fuel, food, water and ammunition for the planned 5 day raid). AfricaMap1.jpg

At 10.39 PM, U-99 sinks Dutch SS Farmsum 500 miles West of Ireland (16 killed). 19 crew abandon ship in lifeboats. 4 more die of exposure and 15 are eventually rescued with severe frostbite by destroyer HMS Ambuscade.

2 British minesweeping trawlers sink. HMT Capricornus hits a mine near the Nore Light Vessel in the Thames Estuary. HMT Cortina sinks after a collision in the Humber Estuary.

As German armed merchant cruisers and Orion prepare to raid Allied phosphate mining island of Nauru in the South Pacific, Komet stops Norwegian MV Vinni with shellfire and scuttles her after all 32 crew are taken prisoner. Germans_attacks_on_Nauru-en.svg

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 463 December 6, 1940

Since September, 80,000 Italian troops have fortified a line of 7 camps to protect their forward supply line at the port of Sidi Barrani (running Southwest from Maktila on the Egyptian coast). However, British forces in Egypt have received Matilda tanks and Hurricanes fighters sent at Churchill’s request from England. Middle East Commander-in-Chief General Wavell plans a 5 day raid (Operation Compass) through a 15 mile gap in the Italian camps between Nibeiwa on the coastal plain and Sofafi on the escarpment inland. British 7th Armoured Division, British 16th Infantry Brigade and Indian 4th Infantry Division (Western Desert Force under General Richard O'Connor) leave Mersa Matruh at 7 AM, traveling all day and night to cover half the 70 miles to the Italian camps.

British submarines are active in the busy Straits of Otranto between Italy and Greece. HMS Regulus hits a mine and sinks (all 55 hands lost). 40 miles off Brindisi, HMS Triton damages Italian steamer Olimpia and is counterattacked by Italian torpedo boats Altair and Andromeda without damage.

German armed merchant cruisers Komet and Orion intend to raid phosphate mining operations and drop prisoners on the Allied-run island of Nauru in the South Pacific (a German colony until WWI). 200 miles South of Nauru, they stop phosphate freighter Triona with shellfire (3 crew killed). 54 crew, 6 women passengers and 1 child are taken prisoner before Orion torpedoes Triona.

At 10.48 PM 400 miles West of Ireland, U-43 sinks Norwegian SS Skrim (all 23 hands lost).

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs Bristol again. In the last 4 days, 256 people have been killed and 229 injured.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 462 December 5, 1940

British destroyer HMS Cameron, one of the first 8 destroyers transferred from the US Navy in September, is bombed and badly damaged while refitting in drydock at Portsmouth (14 killed). The dock floods and HMS Cameron capsizes. She will be refloated in February 1941 and repaired by April 1942 but never see active service again.

German armed merchant cruiser Thor and British armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle exchange 6-inch shellfire 300 miles South of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Thor is not hit and leaves the area quickly to avoid Allied hunting groups. HMS Carnarvon Castle is hit 27 times (4 dead, 32 wounded) and will be repaired at Montevideo, Uruguay, using steel plates from German pocket battleship Graf Spee which had been sunk there in December 1939.

British submarine HMS Sunfish sinks Finnish steamer Oscar Midling (no survivors) off the Stadlandet peninsula, Norway.

British motor torpedo boats MTB.32, MTB.29 and MTB.31 sweep the coast of Holland near the mouth of River Scheldt, sinking German steamer Paranagua.

250 miles West of Ireland, Italian submarine Argo sinks British steamer Silverpine (35 killed).

6 miles off Cape Misurata, Libya, Italian torpedo boat Calipso sinks on a mine (laid by British submarine HMS Rorqual on August 16).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 461 December 4, 1940

Greek forces advance to Përmet 10 miles across the Albanian border, taking 500 Italian prisoners. They now occupy a line from Sarandë on the Ionian Sea, via Përmet and Korçë, to Pogradec on Ohrid Lake in the East.

At 4.57 AM, U-37 sinks Swedish SS Daphne, 15 miles Southwest of Cabo Espichel, Portugal (18 dead and 1 survivor). This vessel was also torpedoed in WWI (at the time known as SS Naparima) off Hartlepool, England, by UB-107 on May 10 1918.

Birmingham is bombed again. 62 aircraft dropped 77 tons of high explosive bombs and 184 incendiary canisters.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 460 December 3, 1940

The attack on convoy HX-90 continues despite escort vessels. At 10.58 AM, U-99 sinks the abandoned hulk of British MV Conch, damaged yesterday morning by torpedoes from U-47 & U-95. British SS W. Hendrik, stopped by her captain who believes she had been hit by a torpedo, is bombed & sunk by a Focke-Wulf Fw-200 (5 killed). The final victim in convoy HX-90 is British SS Victoria City, sunk by U-140 at 9.42 PM (all 43 hands lost).

Greeks push Italians back 15 miles along the Ionian coast past the archeological site at Butrint & capture the Albanian Riviera town of Sarandë. Suda Bay is now an active British naval base for the defense of Crete & as a staging post for movements through the Mediterranean. At 3.40 PM, Italian torpedo bombers attack Suda Bay, badly damaging British cruiser HMS Glasgow with 2 torpedoes (3 killed, 3 wounded). HMS Glasgow will be patched up at Alexandria, Egypt, until February 1941 but not fully repaired until August 1942 in New York, USA.

Destroyer HMS Campbeltown, one of the first 8 destroyers transferred from the US Navy in September, is damaged in collision with British tanker Conus off Liverpool (repaired at Liverpool until March 28 1941).

German armed merchant cruiser Kormoran departs Gotenhafen to raid Allied shipping in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Germany’s largest raider, she carries provisions for 12 months, 280 moored mines & 40 ground mines plus spare parts & torpedoes for U-boats.

51 German aircraft bomb Birmingham, dropping 55 tons of high explosive bombs and 448 incendiary canisters.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 459 December 2, 1940

British armed merchant cruiser HMS Forfar, which has just left convoy HX-90, is sunk by U-99 with 5 torpedoes between 5.46 and 6.57 AM (172 crew killed, 21 survivors rescued later in the day by Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Laurent, British destroyer HMS Viscount and British SS Dunsley). Between 4-7.30 AM 300 miles West of Ireland, U-47 U-52 U-94 U-99 and U-101 attack convoy HX-90 (which is still unescorted) with good visibility from the Northern Lights, sinking 5 ships (22,868 tons of shipping) and damaging 2 more (119 lives lost). Destroyer HMS Viscount rescues 79 survivors and Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Laurent rescues 106. U-94 finds the convoy after the coastal escort vessels arrive and sinks 2 more ships after dark (5 killed, survivors rescued by British SS Empire Puma from the same convoy and corvette HMS Gentian).

In other U-boat actions, U-37 sinks Swedish SS Gwalia at 4.18 AM (16 killed, 4 survivors on a raft picked up after 11 days by a British destroyer) and British Jeanne M. at 4.46 AM (7 killed, 19 picked up by antisubmarine trawler HMT Erin) 230 miles north of Cape Roca, Portugal. West of Ireland, U-43 sinks British MV Pacific President at 9.01 AM (all 50 hands lost) and British tanker Victor Ross at 9.41 AM (all 44 hands lost) and U-99 sinks Norwegian SS Samnanger at 8.50 PM (all 30 hands lost).

Admiral of the Fleet, Earl of Cork and Orrery, arrives at Gibraltar aboard destroyer HMS Jersey to conduct a Board of Inquiry into Admiral Somerville’s handling of Battle of Spartivento. Somerville’s decision to disengage in the face of superior forces will be upheld and no disciplinary action taken.

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs Bristol.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 458 December 1, 1940

At 8.20 AM, Norwegian liner Oslofjord, in use as an Allied troopship, sinks on a mine in the River Tyne, Northeast England (1 killed, 179 survivors).

200 miles West of Ireland, escorting convoy HG-47, Canadian destroyer HMCS Saguenay is torpedoed by Italian submarine Argo destroying the bow (21 killed). HMCS Saguenay reaches Barrow in Furness for repairs (until May 22 1941).

German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer sinks British SS Tribesman in the Atlantic 500 miles West of the Cape Verde islands (8 killed, 14 crew rescued and taken prisoner). British warships leave Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the island of St. Helena to search for Admiral Scheer.

At 8.22 PM, U-37 sinks British SS Palmella 200 miles West of Porto, Portugal (1 dead, 27 crew and 1 gunner picked up by Spanish trawler Navemar and landed at Lisbon).

Convoy HX-90 is left undefended 340 miles West of Ireland when its ocean escort leaves but the coastal escort does not arrive due to bad weather. At 8.12 PM, U-101 attacks sinking British tanker Appalachee (7 killed, 32 crew picked up by corvette HMS Heliotrope and landed at Londonderry) and damaging steamer Loch Ranza (beached by a tug in Rothesay Bay and repaired at Glasgow until May 1941).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 457 November 30, 1940

Greeks continue to push Italians back into Albania. Greek 3rd Army Corps has advanced 20 miles North since taking Korçë on November 22. After 7 days of hard fighting, they capture parts of Pogradec on Ohrid Lake in Southeastern Albania on the border with Macedonia. They advance no further in this sector and the front line will run through the center of town.

In the Indian Ocean, 2500 miles West of Australia, German armed merchant cruiser Pinguin shells British SS Port Wellington (carrying 5600 tons of frozen meat, butter, eggs, cheese and wheat and 1,750 tons of steel) without warning (2 crew killed). 80 crew and 7 women passenger are taken prisoner. Pinguin’s First Officer returns to the burning ship to get clothes for the women, who are in their nightgowns and the Port Wellington is scuttled. Pinguin now has 405 prisoners on board.

Minesweeping trawler HMT Chestnut hits a mine and sinks (no casualties) in the Thames Estuary off Northeast Kent. British motor torpedo boats MTB.30 and MTB.31 patrolling the Dutch coast meet a German convoy anchored off the River Schelde. MTB.30 is hit by gunfire while MTB.31 damages German steamer Santos by dropping a depth charge alongside.

At 2.04 AM, 400 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-101 sinks British SS Aracataca (carrying 1600 tons of bananas from Jamaica to Britain) after several attempts. 36 crew are killed and 34 survivors are picked up by 2 British merchant ships.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 456 November 29, 1940

Overnight, German destroyers Galster, Lody and Beitzen sail again from Brest, France, to raid shipping off Cornwall, England. They sink British tug Aid, French tug Abeille and British barge BHC10. Royal Navy destroyers HMS Javelin, Jersey, Jackal, Jupiter and Kashmir engage the German destroyers 20 miles South of The Lizard peninsula, Cornwall. 2 torpedoes from Lody destroy the bow and stern of HMS Javelin (46 killed) which has to be towed back to Devonport for repairs until December 28, 1941. The German destroyers escape back to Brest with only minor damage and no casualties.

Minesweeping trawler HMT Calverton sinks on a mine in the mouth of the Humber Estuary (2 killed), in the same minefield as HMT Manx Prince yesterday.

Italian submarine Delfino attacks Greek destroyer Spetsai without success in the busy sea lanes South or Piraeus near Athens, Greece.

At 10.38 AM, New Zealand cruiser HMNZS Leander shells a factory and wireless station at Banda Alulu, Italian Somaliland (98 6-inch rounds). Italian aircraft unsuccessfully attempt to bomb Leander from high altitude.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 455 November 28, 1940

Operation Collar. After yesterday’s engagement 20 miles South of Sardinia at Spartivento, Royal Navy’s Force H turns back to return to Gibraltar and hands over convoy ME4 to Mediterranean fleet to continue East. At 2.30 PM, freighters SS Clan Forbes & SS Clan Fraser arrive at Malta escorted by destroyers HMS Decoy & HMS Hotspur. Destroyers HMS Defender & HMS Hereward and cruisers HMS Manchester & HMS Southampton escort SS New Zealand Star on towards Alexandria, Egypt.

Liverpool is heavily bombed overnight. A parachute mine destroys Edge Hill Training College, Durning Road, which collapses on a large underground shelter holding 300 people. Boiling water from the central heating system pours into the basement and the air is poisoned by fractured gas mains. 166 men, women and children are killed and many more injured.

Minesweeping trawler HMT Manx Prince sinks on a mine in the mouth of the Humber Estuary. The crew is rescued by minesweeping trawler HMT Cortina.

Italian destroyers Pigafetta, Da Recco, Pessagno & Riboty shell Greek positions on the island of Corfu, covered by torpedo boats Bassini & Prestinari.

At 10.25 AM 300 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-95 stops Norwegian SS Ringhorn with the deck gun after missing with 2 torpedoes. Ringhorn (carrying 1300 tons of coal) does not sink and the crew reboards and takes her back to Belfast, arriving on December 1. In the same area, U-103 sinks Greek SS Mount Athos at 8.42 AM (19 lives lost) and British SS St. Elwyn at 8.24 PM (24 killed, 16 crew picked up by British merchant Leeds City). U-104 disappears a few miles off the North Coast of Ireland, presumably sunk on a minefield (all 49 hands lost).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 454 November 27, 1940

Operation Collar, Battle of Spartivento. 10 AM; spotter aircraft from HMS Ark Royal & Italian cruiser Bolzano find Italian warships & British Force H (from Gibraltar). Holding aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in reserve, British are outgunned by heavier fire & longer range of the Italian ships which close for battle. 11.30; British gain the advantage when battleship HMS Ramillies and cruisers HMS Berwick & Newcastle arrive from the East (Malta). Italian Admiral Campioni’s orders are to avoid combat with equal forces. He orders a withdrawal but Italian cruisers are already engaged. At 12.22, there is an exchange of fire lasting 54 minutes from 23–14 km, as the Italians lay smoke and turn away. HMS Berwick is hit at 12.22 & 12.35 by Italian cruiser Fiume (7 dead). British start to pursue but are turned back by shells from Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto at 29 km. Italian destroyer Lanciere is crippled by cruiser HMS Manchester but is towed to safety.

Northwest of Ireland, U-95 sinks British SS Irene Maria (all 25 hands lost) at 1 AM, U-103 sinks British MV Glenmoor (31 killed, 2 survivors picked up by destroyers HMS and HMS Havelock) at 7.56 PM, and U-104 damages British tanker Charles F. Meyer and sinks British SS Diplomat (14 killed, 39 crew picked up by destroyer HMS Active).

At 3 AM, 400 miles East of New Zealand, German armed merchant cruisers Komet and Orion shell New Zealand liner Rangitane carrying 201 crew, 111 passengers including 36 CORB nurses, 14,000 tons of food and 45 bars of silver from Auckland to Liverpool (8 crew and 8 passengers killed). Due to distress messages sent by Rangitane, there is no time to plunder the cargo after transferring the remaining 296 passengers and crew. Komet sinks her with a torpedo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 453 November 26, 1940

Operation Collar. As a distraction for convoy ME4, aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, cruisers HMS Glasgow and Gloucester plus 4 destroyers from Alexandria, Egypt, raid the Italian seaplane base at Port Laki on the Agean island of Leros at 6 AM. However, Italian Navy is aware of the convoy ME4 and escort warships moving from Gibraltar to Malta. 2 battleships (Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesare) and 3 cruisers (Fiume, Gorizia and Pola) plus 11 destroyers leave Naples and 3 more cruisers (Trieste, Trento and Bolzano) plus 3 destroyers depart Messina, Sicily. They rendezvous South of Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea at 6 PM and sail West to engage the British fleet South of Sardinia. They will be joined by 4 torpedo boats, 7 submarines and 10 motor torpedo (MAS) boats.

At 5.20 AM, 8 Fairey Swordfish from British aircraft carrier HMS Eagle bomb the capital of Italian-held Libya, Tripoli. Royal Navy does not attempt much deception, naming the strike Operation Tripe.

Free French armed patrol coaster Medoc (under Polish Commander Stankiewicz) is sunk by a German aircraft torpedo in the English Channel. All 41 crew (3 Poles, 38 British) are lost.

10 more US Navy destroyers are assigned to the Britain under the “destroyers for bases” deal struck by Churchill and Roosevelt. Although these old destroyers have numerous problems, they significantly increase Royal Navy’s ability to escort convoys and patrol the British coast.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 452 November 25, 1940

Operation Collar. Admiral Somerville’s Force H departs Gibraltar (battlecruiser HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Sheffield and Despatch plus 11 destroyers) to escort convoy ME4 to Malta. They sail North of the convoy to screen against attack by the Italian fleet and will hand over the convoy to Mediterranean fleet warships (from Malta and Alexandria, Egypt) between Sardinia and Sicily on November 27.

500 miles East of New Zealand, German armed merchant cruisers Orion and Komet (accompanied by tanker Kulmerland) sink tiny New Zealand steamer Holmwood carrying 17 crew, 12 passengers including 9 women and children, 1,370 sheep and 1 horse from the remote Chatham Islands to the main Islands. The crew and passengers are taken off. Many of the sheep are taken on board the 3 German ships and slaughtered. The horse is killed on board Holmwood which is then sunk by shellfire.

British liner SS Patria is blown up in Haifa Harbour, Palestine (now Israel), by Jewish paramilitary group Irgun which aims to prevent her from deporting Jewish refugees to Mauritius. The refugees are from Central Europe and have been refused entry to Palestine by the British Colonial Office. However, 213 of the 1771 refugees and 50 of the 130 British crew are killed.

2 minesweeping trawlers sink in the Thames Estuary. HMT Conquistador collides with another vessel and HMT Kennymore hits a mine (4 killed). Further North, motor launch ML-111 hits a mine and sinks (2 killed) 10 miles off Grimsby in the Humber Estuary.

In the Bay of Biscay 10 miles South of Lorient, France, British submarine HMS Talisman torpedoes a German tanker (which comes to a halt but does not sink) and captures French trawler Le Clipper (which is then used as a spy vessel to observe German submarine movements).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 451 November 24, 1940

Operation Collar. Convoy ME4 from Britain passes the Straits of Gibraltar bound for Malta and Alexandria (merchant ships SS New Zealand Star, SS Clan Forbes and SS Clan Fraser, escorted by cruisers HMS Manchester and HMS Southampton carrying 1,370 RAF personnel to reinforce the garrison at Malta). Destroyer HMS Hotspur and 4 corvettes join to escort the convoy at Gibraltar. Mediterranean convoys are escorted from Gibraltar to Malta by Admiral Somerville’s Force H and then onwards to Alexandria, Egypt, by Admiral Cunningham’s Mediterranean fleet. Battleships HMS Ramillies and HMS Malaya, cruisers HMS Newcastle, Coventry and Berwick plus 5 destroyers are on their way from Alexandria to pick up the convoy in mid-Mediterranean.

Hitler continues to solidify alliances in Central Europe. Slovakia, a puppet state ceded from Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement, joins the Axis. Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka signs the Tripartite Pact.

German destroyers Galster, Lody and Beitzen leave Brest, France, overnight and cross the English Channel to attack shipping off Cornwall. They sink Belgian trawler Marguerite Simonne 12 miles off Land’s End and Dutch steamer Apollonia (15 lives lost) off Penzance. British destroyers HMS Javelin, Jersey, Jackal, Jupiter and Kashmir search unsuccessfully for the German destroyers which return to Brest the next day.

Anti-submarine trawler HMT Amethyst (captained by the Hon. William Rous, later the 5th Earl of Stradbroke) hits a mine and sinks in the Thames estuary (7 men wounded, all hands rescued by anti-submarine trawler Le Tiger).

German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer sinks British steamer Port Hobart near the Azores, taking the crew prisoner.

From 6 PM to midnight, Luftwaffe drops 156 tons of high explosive bombs and 12,500 incendiary canisters on Bristol, destroying large parts of the medieval city (Castle Park area), historic buildings (17th century timber framed Dutch House and St Peter’s Hospital), and four churches (St Peter’s, St Nicholas, St Mary-le-Port and Temple) and damaging 10,000 homes. 207 civilians are killed, 689 injured and 1400 made homeless. Lord Mayor of Bristol says “The City of Churches had in one night become the city of ruins.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 450 November 23, 1940

100 miles off the North coast of Ireland, U-100 sinks 6 merchant ships in convoy SC-11 between midnight and 8 AM and then another from the same convoy at 9 PM (24,601 tons of shipping, 119 merchant seamen killed). 78 survivors are rescued by convoy escorts, sloop HMS Enchantress and destroyers HMCS Skeena & HMCS Ottawa. 4 men float in a lifeboat for 2 days until picked up by a Norwegian steamer and landed at Belfast. During the attack, U-100 is depth charged by a destroyer but escapes with minor damage.

250 miles West of Ireland, U-123 sinks 4 merchant ships in convoy OB-244 between 4.16 and 9.14 AM (20,885 tons of shipping, 119 sailors killed). 65 survivors are rescued by convoy escort sloop HMS Sandwich and landed at Liverpool on November 27. 6 other survivors make land on Barra Island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. U-123 collides with submerged wreckage from one of its victims, damaging the periscope and conning tower and forcing U-123 to return to Lorient, France.

Germany continues to shore up support in the Balkans, to protect vital Romanian oil supplies and for offensives against Greece and USSR. Romania joins the Axis, seeking protection against the Soviet Union which has already taken Bessarabia. In Berlin, Romania’s fascist leader Ion Antonescu signs the Tripartite Pact.

Luftwaffe bombs the docks at Southampton overnight, damaging British troopship Llandovery Castle and paddle minesweeper Duchess Of Cornwall.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 449 November 22, 1940

Greek 3rd Army Corps finally takes Korçë, 10 miles inside Albania, after a week of heavy fighting against Italian 9th Army. They take 2000 prisoners and capture 135 field guns and 600 machineguns. However, the Greeks are poorly motorised and have no armour, allowing the Italians to withdraw and regroup.

On the coast of Morocco near the Spanish-held city of Melilla, British destroyers HMS Faulknor and HMS Forester approach Vichy French destroyer Boulonnais and freighter MV Charles Plumier. Boulonnais withdraws allowing MV Charles Plumier, which was a French armed merchant cruiser from 1939 until the surrender in May 1940, to be captured. She will be renamed HMS Largs, commissioned into the Royal Navy in November 1941 and will serve as Command Ship for almost every major Allied amphibious landing in Europe including Operations Torch, Husky and Overlord.

Just after midnight 365 miles West of Ireland, U-123 torpedoes British SS Cree. Cree is carrying 5500 tons of iron ore from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and sinks immediately with all 45 hands lost.

British motor launch ML.127 sinks on a mine in the Thames Estuary (all 11 hands lost).

Italian aircraft bomb Alexandria damaging British tanker Zahra.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 448 November 21, 1940

German raider armed merchant cruiser Pinguin shadows British refrigerated freighter Port Brisbane all day in the Indian Ocean, 1000 miles West of Australia. Port Brisbane, carrying a cargo of 5000 tons of frozen meat, 3000 tons of wool, butter and cheese from Adelaide to Britain, is armed with two 6-inch guns. Well after dark, Pinguin approaches Port Brisbane and, seeing her armaments, shells her to a standstill (killing the radio operator). After scuttling charges placed on board fail to do the job, Pinguin sinks her with a torpedo. 60 crewmen and 1 woman passenger are taken prisoner. 27 crew escape in a lifeboat and are picked up by Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra, which has been sent to locate Pinguin. However, Pinguin gets away.

At 7.40 AM, 200 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-103 surfaces and fires torpedoes at convoy OB-244 sinking British SS Daydawn (2 killed, 36 crew picked up by the British corvette HMS Rhododendron) and Greek SS Victoria (all 27 crew picked up by destroyer HMS Castleton). A ship in the convoy tries to ram the U-boat but U-103 dodges the attack and fires a torpedo at the ship which glances off and does not explode.

A German aircraft inadvertently bombs the British Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, with no casualties. It is probably returning from Coventry, dumping unreleased bombs, and there are no indications the Germans know the importance of the site. Diplomatic section suffers a direct hit, damaging the telephone exchange and typists’ room and a bomb damages the nearby vicarage. A bomb lands near Hut 4, lifting it off the foundations. 3 other bombs fail to explode.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 447 November 20, 1940

Hungary joins the Axis. Hungarian Prime Minister Count Teleki and Foreign Minister Count Csaky sign a protocol in Vienna, joining the German-Italian-Japanese Tripartite Pact.

British cruiser HMS York delivers anti-aircraft guns to Piraeus near Athens, Greece, and returns to Alexandria, Egypt. British bombers sink Italian steamer Ardita III in the Red Sea off Assab, Eritrea. Off Brindisi, Italy, Italian torpedo boat Confienza sinks after colliding with Italian armed merchant cruiser Capitano A. Cecchi.

In the Indian Ocean 1000 miles West of Perth, Australia, German armed merchant cruiser Pinguin spends all day chasing British steamer Maimoa (carrying 5,000 tons of frozen meat, 1,500 tons of butter, 1,500 tons of grain, 16 million eggs) finally stopping her with shellfire from 12 miles. Maimoa is scuttled and all 87 crew are taken prisoner.

Overnight, Birmingham in the English Midlands is bombed again. 116 aircraft drop 132 tons of high explosive bombs and 296 incendiary canisters.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 446 November 19, 1940

Off the coast of East Anglia, German bombers sink minesweeping trawler HMT Fontenoy. German motor torpedo boats S-38, S-54 and S-57 venture into the Thames Estuary. They are attacked by British destroyers HMS Campbell and HMS Garth, sinking S-38.

British cruiser HMS York arrives at Suda Bay, Crete, disembarking a battalion of troops to reinforce the garrison there.

Overnight, England’s second largest city Birmingham is bombed. 357 German aircraft drop 403 tons of high explosive bombs and 810 incendiary canisters. At the same time, RAF bombers attack the Skoda armament plant at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, doing little damage. The Skoda works will remain undamaged until almost the end of the war.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 445 November 18, 1940

Overnight, RAF bombers raid Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr, bombing the Scholven/Buer hydrogenation plant, making aviation base gasoline, and Gelsenberg-Benzin-AG plant, converting bituminous coal to synthetic oil.

12 miles off the coast of East Anglia, German bombers attack a convoy in the North Sea damaging 3 freighters. Sloop HMS Lowestoft shoots down a Heinkel bomber.

U-65 continues raiding shipping off the West coast of Africa, sinking British tanker Congonian 125 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, at 6.02 PM (1 killed, 35 crew picked up by cruiser HMS Devonshire and landed at Freetown on November 29). 250 miles Northwest of Ireland, Italian submarine Baracca sinks British SS Lilian Moller (all hands lost).

British cruiser HMS York departs Port Said, Egypt, with a battalion of troops for Suda Bay, Crete, and anti-aircraft guns for Piraeus, mainland Greece.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 444 November 17, 1940

Overnight, RAF bombers raid Hamburg for the second night running.

12 Hurricanes and 2 Skuas fly off British aircraft carrier HMS Argus destined for Malta but many get lost en route. 6 Hurricanes crash in the sea (1 pilot rescued by a Sunderland Flying Boat) and 1 Skua crash lands on Sicily (pilot and observer taken prisoner).

Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding is removed as commander of RAF Fighter Command, despite his brilliant performance conserving fighters and pilots in the Battle of Britain. Nonetheless, he will be rewarded with a peerage in 1943 as Baron Dowding of Bentley Priory. Newly appointed Chief of the Air Staff Charles Portal replaces him with rival (and advocate of big-wing tactics) Sholto Douglas.

40 miles North of Ireland, U-137 sinks 2 ships in convoy HG-46; British MV Saint Germain at 8.14 PM (all 18 crew picked up by corvette HMS Mallow) and Swedish SS Veronica at 8.40 PM (17 crew killed, 3 survivors on a raft picked up after five days by a fishing trawler).

3 days after leaving base at Lorient, France (and traveling 300 miles West), torpedo mechanic (Mechanikergefreiter) Fritz Pfeifer is washed overboard from U-123. Despite losing one of the torpedo crew, U-123 will go on to sink 5 ships in 2 days.

There is heavy fighting between Greek 3rd Army Corps and Italian 9th Army near Korçë, Albania.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 443 November 16, 1940

In Albania, Greek 3rd Army Corps breaks through the defenses of Italian 9th Army near Korçë in the Morava Mountains. 500 miles away, residents of the town of Menton on the French Riviera 1 mile from the Italian border mock their Italian neighbors with a sign “This is French territory. Greeks, do not advance any further”.

250 miles Southwest of Sierra Leone, U-65 sinks British SS Fabian with a torpedo and the deckgun (6 crew lost). 33 survivors are questioned then given food and water by the Germans, who also treat 2 wounded men, and then picked up by British tanker British Statesman and landed at Freetown.

30 miles North of Ireland at 8.15 PM, U-137 sinks British SS Planter (killing 12 crew and 1 passenger, a displaced seaman hitching a ride home to Britain). 59 crew and 1 gunner are picked up by destroyer HMS Clare and landed at Liverpool.

British anti-submarine trawler HMT Arsenal sinks after colliding with Polish destroyer Burza 4 miles south of the village of Toward in the Clyde River estuary, Scotland. Arsenal’s crew is rescued by destroyer HMS Arrow and tug Superman. Arsenal’s depth charges explode, damaging HMS Arrow (under repair in the Clyde until January 14 1941). Burza is also repaired in the Clyde, completed January 27 1941.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 442 November 15, 1940

19 days after the Italian invasion from Albania, Greeks have cleared the invaders from their soil. Reinforced with troops from the border with Bulgaria, Greece now has a numerical advantage. Greek forces go on the offensive, taking advantage of confusion caused by the Italian retreat to attack their defenses on the Albanian border. In addition, Greece receives reinforcements from Britain. A convoy of 5 transports and numerous British war ships leaves Alexandria, Egypt, for Pireaus, Greece, with 4230 troops, 700 trucks and other vehicles, plus petrol and supplies, arriving safely tomorrow.

200 miles Southwest of Sierra Leone, U-65 sinks British SS Kohinur at 3.11 PM (17 killed and 68 escape in lifeboats). Norwegian tanker Havbør stops to pick up the Kohinur survivors. Only 31 have been taken on board when Havbør is torpedoed by U-65 at 6.16 PM which ignites her cargo of 11,500 tons crude oil, killing 28 of her crew and all 31 rescued from Kohinur. (The remaining 36 survivors from Kohinur are picked up next day by British merchant City of Pittsburg and taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone). 5 of Havbør’s crew jump overboard and swim away from the burning oil holding onto a plank (1 dies of burns the next day, 4 are found on November 24 by British SS Baron Ardrossan and taken to Freetown).

British tug HMS Guardsman sinks on a mine in the mouth of the Thames Estuary (2 crew lost).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 441 November 14, 1940

A clear moonlit night provides ideal conditions for Operation Moonlight Sonata, a major Luftwaffe raid on the ancient industrial city of Coventry in the English Midlands. At 7.20 PM, 13 Heinkel He-111 bombers (of Kampfgruppe 100) drop marker flares to illuminate the city. 437 He-111s (of Luftflotte 3) follow, flying multiple sorties in small groups all night and returning to bases in France to reload. They drop 450 tons of high explosive bombs (to damage water mains and crater roads, hindering firefighting efforts), 50 parachute mines (to blast off rooftops over a wide area) and 36,000 incendiary bombs (to ignite the old wood timbered buildings). RAF night fighters lack radar and are ineffective; only 1 He11 is shot down by anti-aircraft fire. The raid is a devastating success, destroying 60,000 buildings (including the cathedral), killing 600 civilians and injuring 1000 more. German propaganda gloats, using the term “Coventrate” for the strategy of leveling British cities. It is a strategy that will come back to haunt Germany.

German bombers raid Alexandria, Egypt, sinking Egyptian steamer Zamzam.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 440 November 13, 1940

In Berlin, Hitler and von Ribbentrop continue lecturing Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov about the imminent conquest of Britain and how to divide up the British Empire. However, British intelligence knows of Molotov’s visit and, after a dinner at the Soviet Embassy, RAF bombing forces Molotov and von Ribbentrop into a shelter deep underground. Conversation again turns to England, which “is finished” according to Ribbentrop. Molotov replies “if that is so, why are we in this shelter and whose are these bombs which fall”?

Greek troops manage to clear Northern Greece of Italian forces, pushing them back to their starting point in Albania.

At 9.08 PM, 100 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-137 torpedoes British SS Cape St. Andrew which sinks while under tow by rescue tug HMS Salvonia (14 crew and 1 gunner were lost). 53 survivors are picked up by the tug and landed at Greenock. Also in the North Atlantic, 2 men are washed overboard from destroyer HMS Garland in heavy weather.

British submarine HMS Tigris sinks tiny French trawler Charles Edmonde 100 miles West of Bordeaux, France.

British destroyer HMS Decoy is damaged by Italian bombers in Alexandria Harbour (8 killed, 3 wounded). HMS Decoy will be repaired at Malta until February 1941.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 439 November 12, 1940

Operation Judgement. The 3 undamaged Italian battleships Vittorio Veneto, Andrea Doria and Giulio Cesare and most of the cruisers depart Taranto for the safety of Naples further North. The British bombers plan to return to Taranto and follow up yesterday’s attack but Admiral Cunningham cancels the raid at 6 PM due to bad weather. Consequently, damage to the Italian fleet is not as decisive as hoped. Battleships Littorio and Caio Duilio will be repaired and returned to service by Spring 1941 and only Conte di Cavour is unsalvageable. For a full analysis

Worried by the speedy German victory over France plus German moves into Romania and Finland, Stalin guesses (correctly) that Germany plans to invade USSR. At 11.05 AM, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov arrives in Berlin to probe German intentions and to assert Soviet interests in the Balkans and the Dardanelles. He meets with German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop and, after lunch, with Hitler. They both assure Molotov that the war against Britain is going smoothly and that Germany has no interests in Soviet territory. As a distraction, they encourage USSR to invade Iran to gain access to the Persian Gulf and, thus, the Indian Ocean.

The last Vichy forces in Gabon surrender at Port Gentil on the coast 70 miles South of Libreville. Former Vichy Governor of Gabon, Georges Pierre Masson, helps negotiate the surrender and then commits suicide fearing the consequences of his own indecision. On August 29, Masson had publicly declared loyalty to DeGaulle’s Free French, only to switch back immediately to Vichy under pressure from the Naval commander at Libreville.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 438 November 11, 1940

Operation Judgement. At 11 PM, 21 Fairey Swordfish (11 with torpedoes and 10 carrying bombs) attack the Italian fleet at Taranto, taking off from British carrier HMS Illustrious escorted by 4 cruisers and 4 destroyers 170 miles Southeast. 6 Italian battleships and 3 cruisers lie at anchor in the outer harbour (Mar Grande). Torpedoes sink 1 battleship Conte di Cavour and damage 2 others, Littorio and Caio Duilio. 2 cruisers, 21 destroyers and 16 submarines rest in the smaller inner harbour (Mar Piccolo), protected from torpedoes. However, bombing of the inner harbour is ineffective. 2 Swordfish are shot down (1 crew of 2 killed, 1 crew of 2 taken prisoner). The remaining 19 Swordfish return safely to HMS Illustrious by 2.30 AM next morning.

In a daytime raid, 10 Corpo Aereo Italiano Fiat BR.20M bombers attack Harwich, England, escorted from bases in Belgium by 42 Fiat CR.42 biplane fighters (other fighters including German Bf109s abandon their escort duties due to bad weather). RAF Hurricanes from 257, 46, and 17 Squadrons intercept them over the Thames Estuary, shooting down 3 BR.20Ms & 3 CR.42s and badly damaging 2 more BR.20Ms (no Hurricanes lost). Winston Churchill quips "They might have found better employment defending the fleet at Taranto."

Destroyer HMS Vega hits a mine and is badly damaged 5 miles North of Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, while escorting a convoy in the Thames Estuary. HMS Vega will be towed to Sheerness for repairs, completed November 14 1942. Minesweeping trawler HMT Stella Orion hits a mine and sinks in the Thames Estuary (no casualties). 200 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-103 is depth charged by British corvette HMS Rhododendron but U-103 escapes with no damage.

In the Bay of Bengal, British SS Automedon radios a “Raider Attack” signal when ordered to stop by German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis which then shells her to a standstill (7 crew and 1 gunner killed). 87 people, including 20 survivors rescued from the sinking of British freighter Anglo-Saxon, are taken prisoner. Atlantis captures top-secret Royal Navy documents including fleet orders, details of Naval and Royal Air Force deployment in the Far East, port defense layouts and Merchant Navy decoding tables and cipher pages (plus essential provisions such as whiskey, beer, cigarettes, fresh and frozen food).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 437 November 10, 1940

French West Africa. Fighting for control of Gabon continues between Free French forces and defenders loyal to the Vichy regime.

Greek troops push Italian forces in Epirus back toward Albania. Further East, Greek 2nd Army Corps harries the retreating Italian Julia Division through the Pindus Mountains. Julia Division loses 5000 men killed or taken prisoner before escaping back to Albania.

Monitor HMS Terror leaves Malta for Suda Bay, Crete, to serve as a guard ship.

Anti-submarine trawler HMS Kingston Alalite sinks on a mine off Plymouth (6 lives lost).

After dark in the Bay of Bengal, German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis boards Norwegian tanker Ole Jacob by posing again as British auxilliary cruiser HMS Antenor. After a standoff between the boarding party and the crew (both well armed), Ole Jacob’s captain surrenders without any shooting for fear of igniting the 11,000 barrels of high-octane aviation fuel on board. Ole Jacob is sent to Japan with her crew and Teddy’s crew, arriving on December 6. She will then be sent to Bordeaux, France, arriving July 19 1941. Signals from Ole Jacob attract Australian cruisers Canberra, Capetown and Durban which are hunting for the German raider but Atlantis escapes.

Overnight, British gunboat HMS Aphis shells Italian positions at Sidi Barrani, Egypt.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 436 November 9, 1940

Gabon,West Africa. Free French forces under General Koenig fight their way into the Vichy-held capital Libreville. Free French Westland Lysanders from Douala, Cameroon, bomb the airfield at Libreville allowing Koenig to overcome Vichy defences and capture the airfield. Illustrating the irony of these fraternel conflicts, Vichy sloop Bougainville is sunk off Libreville by shellfire from her sister ship, Free French sloop Savorgnan de Brazza. Vichy armed merchant cruiser Cap Des Palmes tries to scuttle herself but is captured by Free French sloop Commandant Domine.

Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain dies of bowel cancer at the age of 71.

Sebastiano Visconti Prasca is relieved as commander of Italian operations in Greece after the failure of the offensive and ongoing rout of the Alpine Julia Division in the Pindus Mountains. He is replaced by General Ubaldo Soddu who is no better and will be removed in a few weeks.

Before dawn in the Bay of Bengal, German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis poses in the dark as British auxiliary cruiser HMS Antenor. Atlantis sends a boarding party onto Norwegian tanker Teddy, carrying 10,000 tons of fuel oil and 500 tons of diesel oil, which is captured without a shot (all 32 crew will be sent to Japan on another captured Norwegian tanker Ole Jacob). This allows Atlantis to refuel and extend her voyage.

Swedish SS Vingaland, damaged yesterday by German bombers West of Ireland, is sunk by Italian submarine Marconi (19 survivors were picked up by British steamer Danae II).

American steamer City Of Rayville sinks on a mine laid by German auxiliary minelayer Passat 20 miles off Cape Otway, South Australia (1 killed). 39 crew escape in 2 lifeboats and make landfall at Apollo Bay.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 435 November 8, 1940

Italians abandon the stalled invasion of Northern Greece and begin the retreat from the Kalamas River in Epirus. In the Pindus Mountains, remaining elements of the Italian Julia Division do not get the message but retreat anyway after learning of the coming Greek offensive from radio broadcasts from London.

Gabon,West Africa. Late in the evening, Free French forces (French Legionnaires plus colonial troops from Senegal and Cameroon) under General Marie Pierre Koenig land North and South of the capital Libreville and meet stiff resistance from defenders loyal to the Vichy regime. Libreville is also pressed inland by Free French troops from Cameroon.

Operation Crack. Aircraft from British carrier HMS Ark Royal, escorted by cruisers HMS Berwick and HMS Glasgow, attack the Italian seaplane base at Elmas near Cagliari, Sardinia. This is part of complex movements of several convoys with warship escorts through the Mediterranean (Operation MB8), including troops and anti-aircraft guns for Malta. The raid is also designed to distract from the planned attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto (Operation Judgement).

British WWI-era tug HMS Muria hits a mine and sinks off Isle of Thanet, just North of Dover, England (all hands lost). German bombers attack a convoy in the Thames Estuary, sinking or damaging several merchant ships. Convoy escort destroyer HMS Winchester shoots down 2 Ju87 dive bombers. HMS Winchester then hits a mine and, while anchored to make emergency repairs, she is bombed again and damaged by near misses (under repair in London until June 6 1941).

300 miles West of Ireland, Swedish steamer Vingaland is damaged by German bombers. Dutch submarine O-22 disappears in the North Sea 40 miles Southwest of the Norway, either lost on a mine or sunk by German submarine chasers UJ.117 and UJ.1102 (Dutch crew of 42 and 3 British sailors are lost).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 434 November 7, 1940

Ahead of landings at Libreville, Free French troops on cargo ships Fort Lamy, Casamance and Nevada arrive off the coast of Gabon, escorted by British cruisers HMS Devonshire and HMS Delhi and sloop HMS Milford. 50 miles Southwest of Libreville, Vichy French submarine Poncelet fires a torpedo which fails to explode at HMS Milford. Poncelet is forced to the surface by depth charges from HMS Milford and bombed by 2 Supermarine Walrus biplanes from HMS Devonshire. As the crew of 60 is taken off by the British ships, Poncelet is scuttled by her captain Commander de Saussine who chooses to go down with his ship.

British minesweeping trawler HMT William Wesney hits a mine and sinks in the North Sea, 13 miles East of Harwich (5 crew killed, 7 survivors rescued by sloop HMS Sheldrake and 2 trawlers). Free French minesweeping trawler Poulmic sinks on a mine near Plymouth (11 crew killed, 7 survivors). British submarine HMS Swordfish leaves Portsmouth to patrol off Brest. As she performs a trim dive, she hits a mine and is blown in half, sinking immediately in the English Channel, 7 miles South of the Isle of Wight (all 39 hands lost).,hms-swordfish-submarine-ww2-wreck-isle-of-wight-3383.html

7 German torpedo boats depart Trondheim to attack an Allied convoy off Kinnaird Head, Northern Scotland. T.6 sinks in a British minefield 40 miles from the target (T.7 and T.8 rescue the survivors). The remaining torpedo boats return to Trondheim

The war comes to Australia. 6 miles off Wilson's Promontory, South Australia, British steamer Cambridge (sailing from Melbourne to Sydney) sinks on a mine laid by German auxiliary minelayer Passat. 1 crewman is killed and 57 survivors are rescued by Australian auxiliary minesweeper Orara.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 433 November 6, 1940

At 12.25 PM off Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, British destroyer HMS Encounter mistakes HMS Utmost for an enemy submarine and rams her. HMS Utmost reaches Gibraltar tomorrow and will be taken to Malta for repairs, completed in February 1941. HMS Encounter will require repairs at Gibraltar until November 23.

Comandante Faà Di Bruno, the first Italian submarine operating in the North Atlantic, shells British steamer Melrose Abbey 200 miles Northwest of Ireland. Canadian destroyer HMCS Ottawa and British destroyer HMS Harvester force the submarine to dive with shellfire and then sink her with depth charges (all 57 hands lost).

Minesweeping whaler HMS Sevra hits a mine and sinks off Falmouth, Southwest England (no casualties).

In Greece, Greek 2nd Army Corps starts pushing Italian Julia Division out of the Pindus Mountains while, further West, Italian forces continue to batter fruitlessly against the Greek defenses on the Kalamas River.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 432 November 5, 1940

German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer has been in the North Atlantic since November 1 waiting to attack Allied convoys. Using German radio intercepts, she vectors in on convoy HX-84 (38 merchant ships from Halifax Nova Scotia to Britain). Late in the afternoon, Admiral Scheer appears over the horizon and the convoy escort, armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, sails out to intercept her despite being hopelessly outgunned. Jervis Bay is sunk within 15 minutes by shellfire from Admiral Scheer’s 11-inch guns (190 killed, 65 survivors picked up by Swedish merchant Stureholm). The convoy scatters but 5 more British ships are sunk (208 merchant sailors killed). Jervis Bay’s Captain Fegen will be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for protecting the convoy and preventing the loss of more ships.

Free French invasion of Gabon. Free French forces capture the strategically important town of Lambaréné from the Vichy French garrison. Since October 27, they have advanced 200 miles from their starting point in Cameroon and now threaten Gabon’s capital Libreville. Meanwhile, Free French commanders Colonel Marie Pierre Kœnig and Major Philippe Leclerc sail from Douala, Cameroon, with French Foreign Legion, Senegalese and Cameroonian troops to attack Libreville from the sea.

At 2.55 AM, U-99 sinks British tanker Scottish Maiden (carrying 3000 tons of diesel oil and 6500 tons of marine fuel oil) 180 miles Northwest of Ireland. 16 crew are lost and 28 survivors are picked up by destroyer HMS Beagle and landed at Liverpool.

Greece. Greek Cavalry Division led by General Georgios Stanotas begins the destruction of Italian Julia Division in the Pindus Mountains.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 431 November 4, 1940

150 miles West of Ireland, U-99’s battle with British convoy escorts continues through the night. While HMS Patroclus is picking up crew from HMS Laurentic, U-99 torpedoes Patroclus at 00.22, 00.44 and 1.18 AM and then dives to avoid return fire from the Patroclus’ deck gun and a Sunderland flying boat. U-99 surfaces and sinks HMS Laurentic at 4.35 AM, with a torpedo that explodes her store of depth charges, and HMS Patroclus at 5.25 AM (56 killed). British destroyer HMS Hesperus arrives and unsuccessfully depth charges U-99 until giving up the chase to pick up survivors from HMS Patroclus and HMS Laurentic.

Greece. In the Pindus Mountains, Italian Julia Division is trapped in the Vovousa valley, under attack by Greek 2nd Army Corps which has been brought in to reinforce the sector. Julia calls for help but they are too far away from reinforcements which are dispatched from Albania. Further West on the Ionian coast, Italian troops cross the Kalamas River and secure a bridgehead but are unable to breakout and outflank the Greek defenses further inland.

British cruiser HMS Ajax continues shuttling reinforce between Alexandria, Egypt, and Crete, to reinforce the garrison at Suda Bay. Ajax departs Alexandria with Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney with 14th Armoured Brigade HQ, anti-aircraft guns and troops.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 430 November 3, 1940

The tide turns on Italian forces in Greece. In the Pindus Mountains, Greek Pindus detachment begins a counterattack against the Italian Julia Division, retaking the villages of Samarina and Vovousa. Further West in Epirus, Italians bring up light L3/35 tankettes and medium M13/40 tanks to attack the Greek defenses on the Kalamas River. The tanks get stuck in the hilly, marshy terrain and are unable to support the infantry, who are slaughtered in front of the Greek machineguns.
At 9.40 PM, U-99 sinks British SS Casanare (carrying 1500 tons of bananas) 150 miles West of Ireland (9 crew killed). Casanare send a distress messages which brings British armed merchant cruisers HMS Laurentic and HMS Patroclus to their doom. U-99 hits HMS Laurentic with 3 torpedoes at 10.50, 11.10 and 11.30 PM (49 killed) but Laurentic does not sink. HMS Patroclus picks up 368 officers and ratings who have abandoned ship from HMS Laurentic, instead of hunting the submarine.

British submarine HMS Sturgeon sinks small Danish steamer Sigrun in the Oslofjord, Norway.

After 57 consecutive nights of bombing, London is not attacked. An average of 165 German planes each night has dropped a total of 13,600 tons of high explosive plus many incendiary bombs.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 429 November 2, 1940

100 miles Northwest of Ireland, British destroyer HMS Antelope brings U-31 to the surface with depth charges (2 dead) and U-31 is scuttled by the crew. As HMS Antelope takes off 43 survivors, she collides with U-31 causing structural damage (under repair until December). U-31 was previously sunk by a Bristol Blenheim of on March 11, 1940 and refloated later in March. U-31 is, thus, the only German submarine to sink twice in WWII.

Turkey declares neutrality in the war between Greece and Italy but keeps 37 divisions on the Bulgarian border and warns Bulgaria not to attack Greece. Delaying tactics by retreating Greek screening forces in the Epirus region, between the Pindus Mountains and the Ionian Sea, have slowed the Italian advance. The Italians reach the main Greek defensive line on the Kalamas river between Elia & Kalamas and here they are stopped. In the Pindus Mountains, the Pindus detachment of Colonel Davakis continues to encircle the Italian Julia Division, but Davakis is badly wounded.

Departing from Suda Bay, Crete, for Alexandria, Egypt, British cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Coventry are attacked by Italian bombers, which again score several near misses but do no damage. Destroyer HMS Intrepid (ironically returning from a minelyaing mission) hits a mine off Hartlepool, Durham, damaging both her engines (under repair until Christmas). Minesweeping trawler HMT Rinovia hits a mine and sinks 10 miles South of St. Austell, Cornwall (15 crew lost).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 428 November 1, 1940

Greece. In the middle of the Italian front, 11,000 elite mountain troops of 3rd Alpine Division Julia have the task of taking the mountain pass at Metsovo. 25 miles from Albania, this pass carries the only road for Greek movements East-West through the Pindus Mountains. They are faced by 2,000 Greek troops (2 infantry battalions, a cavalry troop and 2 artillery batteries, commanded by Colonel Konstantinos Davakis) who use their knowledge of the terrain to move along the hill tops and trap the Julia Division in the Vovousa valley 5 miles short of their objective.
British cruiser HMS Ajax lands troops (2nd Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment) to reinforce the garrison at Suda Bay on the Greek island of Crete. Italian bombers attack HMS Ajax, scoring several near misses but doing no serious damage.

German bombers attack shipping in the Thames estuary, sinking steamer Letchworth (1 killed) and badly damaging patrol sloop HMS Pintail (10 killed, 3 wounded). HMS Pintail will be under repair in London until February 1941. They also sink minesweeping trawler HMT Tilbury Ness (10 killed; survivors are rescued by anti-aircraft ship Royal Eagle, which also shoots down one of the bombers, and tug Salvo).

At 7.06 AM, 400 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-124 sinks British SS Empire Bison carrying 6067 tons of scrap steel and 94 trucks from USA. 30 crew and 1 gunner are killed. 3 crew and 1 passenger are picked up by Danish merchant Olga S.

Sloop HMS Black Swan hits a mine in the Firth of Forth, Scotland (no fatalities). Black Swan will be towed to Dundee for repairs, completed in April 1941.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 427 October 31, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 114 – Last Day. Despite cloud, haze and drizzle, Luftwaffe mounts numerous reconnaissance flights and ineffective single aircraft bombing raids on RAF airfields in South England. The weather and lack of real threat prevent RAF from responding so there are no losses on either side. Bad weather also hampers overnight bombing. London is bombed from 6.30 – 9 PM while London and the Midlands are bombed from 2.45 – 6 AM. Although night bombing continues for many months and there are sporadic German daytime raids, Luftwaffe has been contained by RAF and the threat of a German invasion of Britain is over. RAF has lost 915 fighters while 1733 German planes have been shot down. RAF recognizes 2936 Fighter Command aircrew (mostly pilots) from14 countries who were awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp to the 1939–45 Star by flying at least one authorised operational sortie from July 10 to October 31 1940. 544 were killed in Battle of Britain and another 795 died later in the war, leaving 1597 who survived WWII. About 100 of those are still alive today.

At 9.58 PM, 300 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-124 sinks British SS Rutland which is carrying bananas from Jamaica (all 24 hands lost).

German armed merchant cruiser Widder arrives at Brest after 179 days at sea in the mid-Atlantic, sinking 10 ships for 58,645 tons. Captain Helmuth von Ruckteschell will be convicted after the war as a war criminal for his conduct on this short voyage and die in prison.

Italy’s invasion of Greece begins to stall. Their troops lose momentum in the face of resistance from Greek screening forces in the rugged terrain of the Epirus Mountains along the Albanian border. Many Italians die in frontal assaults on well dug-in Greek positions. With the agreement of the Greek government, British forces land on the islands of Lemnos and Crete in the Aegean Sea, as a defensive move to prevent their occupation by an Italian amphibious landing. Greek destroyers Spetsai and Psara depart the Gulf of Patras and use their 120mm guns to bombard Italian troops on the Ionian coast of Albania and Northern Greece. Greek naval activity and the presence of the British Royal Navy persuade the Italian Navy to abandon plans for landing on Corfu.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 426 October 30, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 113. Despite low cloud and continuous drizzle, there are a few German reconnaissance flights over South England and patrols in the English Channel. Luftwaffe sends 2 sweeps of 130-150 fighters over Kent and London at 11.30 AM and 3.40 PM. Some RAF squadrons cannot take off due to the weather and consequently bombs are dropped in Kent and Southeast London. 8 Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters and 1 Heinkel He111 bomber are shot down. RAF loses 5 fighters (4 pilots killed). Overnight, London and towns in Southeast England are heavily bombed from 6.30 – 9 PM and then sporadically until 1 AM. Towns in the Midlands are also attacked but all German planes have returned to base by 3.30 AM.

2 days after sinking liner Empress of Britain, U-32’s captain Hans Jenisch attacks British SS Balzac in a rainstorm 100 miles Northwest of Ireland. At 12.40 PM, U-32 fires a torpedo which explodes prematurely. Balzac’s radio alert is picked up 45 miles away by destroyers HMS Harvester and Highlander, escorting convoy SC-8. Highlander arrives as U-32 is preparing to fire another torpedo. U-32 dives and tries to torpedo Highlander but is damaged by depth charges. At 7.08 PM, U-32 surfaces hoping to escape in the rain and darkness but is shelled by the destroyer (killing 9 crew). Unable to dive again, the crew abandons ship and scuttles U-32 (29 crew rescued by HMS Harvester and 4 by HMS Highlander). To hide the capture of Hans Jenisch (U-boat ace, Knights Cross recipient and celebrated sinker of Empress of Britain), German propaganda broadcasts a fake account of his triumphant return home.

2 British destroyers come to grief in stormy weather off Scotland. At 00.41, HMS Fearless collides with steamer SS Lanark off Gourock, causing heavy damage to her bow which will take until the end of the year to repair. HMS Sturdy runs aground and is wrecked on Tiree, an island in the Inner Hebrides (5 sailors drown swimming ashore and are buried on the island in the Soroby burial ground).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 425 October 29, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 112. Despite overcast skies, Luftwaffe mounts strenuous attacks from 10.25 AM until 5 PM (4 raids towards London and 2 over Portsmouth on the South coast). These are more than the nuisance raids of previous days, with up to 40 medium bombers escorted by Messerschmitt fighters (London and Portsmouth both suffer some bomb damage). At dusk, airfields in East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire are attacked by dive bombing Ju88s and Bf109s. Germans lose 22 Bf109s, 3 Bf110s and 2 Dornier Do17 bombers. RAF loses 7 fighters including 2 destroyed by bombs when taking off from North Weald airfield (2 pilots killed). 15 Fiat BR20M bombers of the Corpo Aereo Italiano bomb Ramsgate in formation, wing tip to wing tip, and 5 are hit by anti-aircraft fire. There is heavy night bombing of Birmingham and Coventry & London is also bombed.

Following invasion by Italian troops from Albania, Greece requests help from Britain by invoking Chamberlain’s guarantee of 13 April 1939 ("in the event of any action being taken which clearly threatened the independence of Greece, His Majesty's Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend all the support in their power"). A joint reconnaissance party of all 3 British services lands at Suda Bay on the island of Crete in a flying boat. A flotilla of 4 British battleships, 2 aircraft carriers, 19 destroyers and various other vessels leaves Alexandria, Egypt, to sweep the seas around Crete of Italian warships. They are carrying 158 sailors from damaged cruiser HMS Liverpool as a base defense party to reinforce Suda Bay.

At 10.00 PM, U-31 torpedoes and sinks the drifting wreck of SS Matina (destroyed by U-28 on October 26). In the Bay of Biscay, U-29 rendezvous with German armed merchant cruiser Widder. Widder is returning from raiding in the mid-Atlantic with worn out engines at a speed of 5 knots (the journey has taken 13 days).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 424 October 28, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 111. Mist and fog over Northern France and Southeastern England in the morning hamper operations, but Luftwaffe launches 3 raids in the afternoon. At 1 PM and 2.30 PM, 20 Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters fly across Kent towards Biggin Hill but are turned back. From 4.30 PM until 5.10 PM, several groups of 30-80 German aircraft (mainly bomb-carrying Bf109s with some medium bombers) attack simultaneously across Kent and South coast of England. They do not reach London but many sites in Southern England are bombed. Bomb-laden Bf109s do not provide much protection for the medium bombers and 2 Ju88s are shot down plus 2 Bf109s. RAF loses no fighters in the action. London and Birmingham are again bombed overnight, but not heavily.

At 2.05 AM, 50 miles Northwest of Aran Island, Ireland, U-32 sinks British troop carrier Empress of Britain with 2 torpedoes (25 crew and 20 passengers killed). At 42,348 tons, Empress of Britain is the largest U-boat victim and the largest liner sunk during WWII.

At dawn, before the expiry of the Italian ultimatum, 85,000 Italian troops cross the border from Albania into Greece, supported by 400 aircraft and 163 tanks. They are faced by 30,000 Greek troops with no tanks and only 77 aircraft. 5,000 Italian troops advance 5 miles along the Ionian coast and are able to cross the Kalamas River. Further inland, however, the Italians make little progress in the steep mountainous terrain where their tanks are useless and bad weather grounds their air support.

Between October 28 and November 7, German raider Pinguin and auxilliary minelayer Passat (converted Norwegian taker Storstad) laid mines off the ports of Sydney, Newcastle and Hobart, off Adelaide in the Banks Strait, off Tasmania and in the Bass Strait on the approaches to Melbourne.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 423 October 27, 1940

Battle of Britain Day 110. Despite cloudy weather, Luftwaffe sends 5 raids of 50-60 aircraft between 8AM and 5 PM (mostly bomb-carrying Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters with a few medium bombers). At dusk, German bombers attack 14 RAF airfields, causing much minor damage. RAF shoots down 6 Luftwaffe fighters and 2 bombers. 2 more German bombers are downed by anti-aircraft fire. RAF loses 8 fighters (4 pilots killed). Night bombing is widespread but London and Liverpool are the main targets. Italian Fiat BR20M bombers of the Corpo Aereo Italiano (Italian Air Corps) are in action again attacking Ramsgate.

At 9.30 AM, a boarding party from destroyer HMS Broke attaches tow ropes to the burning hulk of liner Empress of Britain which was bombed yesterday. Rescue tugs HMS Marauder and HMS Thames take Empress of Britain in tow towards the Clyde River in Scotland, escorted by destroyers HMS Broke and Sardonyx (with air cover from Sunderland flying boats until nightfall). However, U-32 vectors in on the small convoy, remaining submerged to avoid the Sunderlands.

70 miles Southeast of the Azores, Italian submarine Nani sinks Swedish steamer Meggie (all hands rescued).

Free French forces from Cameroon invade Vichy French Gabon (in French Equatorial Africa). They penetrate 70 miles and take the town of Mitzic.

Late in the evening, Italian ambassador in Athens Emanuele Grazzi issues an ultimatum from Mussolini, demanding that Italian troops be allowed occupy strategic points in Greece. Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejects the ultimatum, noting "Alors, c'est la guerre" (Then, it's war). The Greeks know of the Italian plans and have already mobilized in the areas facing the expected attack.