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.

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