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.