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).

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