Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 313 July 9, 1940

Battle of Calabria, first major sea battle in the Mediterranean. At 3.15 PM, Italian convoy to Benghazi, Libya (2 battleships Giulio Cesare & Conte di Cavour, 14 cruisers, 16 destroyers, 4 torpedo boats, 5 cargo ships) runs into a British convoy from Alexandria, Egypt to Malta (3 battleships HMS Warspite, Royal Sovereign & Malaya, 1 aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, 5 cruisers, 16 destroyers) 50 miles South of the heel of Italy. A 15-inch shell from HMS Warspite hits Giulio Cesare at a range of 24 km, one of the longest naval artillery hits equaling the shelling of HMS Glorious by German battleship Scharnhorst on June 8. Giulio Cesare does not sink but the Italian battleships withdraw; an indecisive cruiser battle ensues. 76 Italian high altitude bombers attack the British fleet, causing no damage but forcing a withdrawal, but 50 Italian aircraft bomb their own ships (also without damage). At 5 PM, battle ends & both sides withdraw.

Southwest of Ireland, U-34 sinks Estonian steamer Tiiu at 12.32 PM (all 20 crew picked up by a British trawler and landed at Milford Haven) and U-43 sinks British steamer Aylesbury at 9.19 PM (all 35 crew picked up by destroyers HMS Harvester & Havelock and landed at Liverpool).

British submarine HMS Salmon is lost, presumed sunk by a mine, 60 miles of Stavanger, Norway (all 39 hands lost).

German armed merchant cruisers Komet departs Bergen, Norway, to raid in the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean, assisted by Soviet icebreakers. Komet, with a crew of 270 under Kapitän zur See Robert Eyssen, is equipped with a strengthened bow and a special propeller for ice navigation. Germany plans to send 26 ships via this route but Komet is the only one to attempt the Northern passage.

Luftwaffe again bombs shipping in the English Channel and near the British coast.

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