Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 523 February 4, 1941

Operation Compass. Italians begin evacuating Benghazi, Libya. At dawn, 7th Armoured Division leaves Mechili to cross 150 miles of desert South of the lush, hilly Jebel El Akhdar (“Green Mountains”) and cut off the Italian retreat. The tanks make slow progress so General Creagh sends ahead a mobile group of infantry in armoured cars towing artillery under Colonel John Combe (Combe Force).

At 4.40 AM, U-93 finishes off British SS Dione II with the deck gun and antiaircraft gun (27 crew and 1 gunner killed, 5 crew rescued by British steamer Flowergate). At 8.38 AM 500 miles West of Ireland, U-52 sinks Norwegian SS Ringhorn carrying 1300 tons of coal from Britain to USA (14 crew die but corvette HMS Camellia picks up 5 survivors on rafts after 6 hours in heavy seas). At 4.44 PM, U-123 sinks British SS Empire Engineer carrying 7047 tons of steel from USA to Britain, in the middle of the Atlantic 1000 miles West of Ireland (all 39 hands lost, although the crew is seen to abandon ship on rafts).

RAF bombs Düsseldorf.

German pocket battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau break out undetected into the Atlantic Ocean via the Denmark Strait.

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