Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 491 January 3, 1941

Operation Compass. Assault on Bardia, Libya, begins at 5.30 AM with an artillery barrage. At 6 AM, Australian 6th Division infantry attacks from the West, blasting through the perimeter wire with Bangalore torpedoes and filling in antitank ditches. At 6.50 AM, 23 Matilda tanks of British 7th Royal Tank Regiment sweep in, North and South, helping the infantry flank a succession of Italian ‘posts’ (open concrete machinegun and antitank gun pits). Allies drive a wedge 2 miles deep & 7 miles wide into the Italian defenses, taking 8,000 Italian prisoners. From 8.10 to 8.55 AM, battleships HMS Warspite, Valiant & Barham and escort destroyers fire 244 15-inch, 270 6-inch and 240 4.5-inch shells at the ‘posts’, spotted by aircraft from HMS Illustrious. Monitor HMS Terror and gunboats HMS Ladybird & Aphis continue the bombardment, collapsing a cliff with emplaced Italian artillery. Picking off the ‘posts’ continues all night with heavy fighting. MAP

RAF bombs Bremen and the Kiel Canal, Germany, scoring a direct hit on the Kiel Canal Bridge which collapses on Finnish steamer Yrsa.

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs Bristol for 12 hours, targeting the docks and railway station (149 civilians killed, 351 injured), destroying a granary on Princes Wharf containing 8,000 tons of grain. A 4,000 lb bomb which fails to explode is nicknamed ‘Satan’ by the people of Bristol and will be displayed in the victory parade in London in 1945.

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