Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 498 January 10, 1941

Albania. Greek infantry captures the Klisura Pass after 4 days of fighting, led by the 5th Division just arrived from Crete. The presence here of Cretan 5th Division will cause controversy in a few months when Allied troops fail to protect Crete.

Italian torpedo boats Vega and Circe attack Excess convoy at dawn in the Strait of Sicily but Vega is sunk by shellfire from cruiser HMS Bonaventure and a torpedo from destroyer HMS Hereward. At 8.15 AM, the convoy meets Admiral Cunningham's Mediterranean Fleet (battleships HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant, aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and 7 destroyers) from Alexandria but destroyer HMS Gallant hits a mine and will be towed to Malta (58 killed, 25 wounded). At 12.35 PM, German Ju87 Stuka dive bombers from X Fliegerkorps (which has just arrived on Sicily) attack HMS Illustrious, hitting her with 6 bombs. Most do not penetrate the thick deck armour but 2 bombs go down an aircraft elevator shaft, turning the hangar deck into an inferno of burning aviation fuel and destroying the steering gear (124 killed). Only the armoured flight deck saves Illustrious from total destruction and she struggles into Malta escorted by destroyers HMS Hasty and Jaguar.

Overnight, 300 Luftwaffe bombers attack Portsmouth, England, with high explosive and incendiary bombs (171 civilians killed, 430 injured). Incendiary bombs land in the roof of the Guildhall which burns green as the copper cupola melts. Guildhall is gutted and will not reopen until 1959.

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