Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 528 February 9, 1941

At 8.15 AM, British Force H from Gibraltar (battleships HMS Malaya & HMS Renown and cruiser HMS Sheffield, escorted by aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal & 10 destroyers) bombards Genoa, Italy, with 273 15-inch, 782 6-inch and 400 4.5-inch shells. Only 4 merchant ships and a training vessel are sunk and 18 ships damaged of 55 ships in Genoa harbour. Docks and industrial areas are also damaged and the cathedral is hit with a 15-inch shell that does not explode (144 Italians killed, mainly civilians). 1 Swordfish from Ark Royal is shot down. Italian fleet (battleships Vittorio Veneto, Cesare & Doria, cruisers Trento, Trieste & Bolzano and 10 destroyers) attempts to intercept the British warships returning to Gibraltar but fails due to lack of air reconnaissance, poor visibility and confusion over a French merchant convoy of 6 ships heading to Corsica.

Operation Compass. British and Australian troops reach El Agheila, 100 miles along the coast from Beda Fomm but this is as far as they will advance. While General Wavell is supportive of O’Connor’s plans to move on Tripoli, Churchill has already decided to send troops to Greece from North Africa.

At 8.30 AM off Newfoundland, German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau spot Allied convoy HX-106. Under orders not to engage British capital ships, they withdraw at 10 AM on discovering British battleship HMS Ramilies in the convoy escort.

At 4.30 AM 435 miles West of Gibraltar, U-37 attacks convoy HG-53 sinking British steamers SS Estrellano (5 killed, 20 crew and 1 gunner picked up by sloop HMS Deptford although cabin boy John McIntyre dies the next day) and SS Courland (3 killed, 27 survivors picked up by British SS Brandenburg). U-37 calls in an air strike. 5 Focke Wulf 200 bombers from Bordeaux sink British SS Jura, SS Dagmar I, SS Brittanic & Norwegian SS Tejo (and damage British SS Varna which sinks on February 15).

Cruiser HMS Neptune is damaged by German bombing at Plymouth, after arriving yesterday for a refit following duty in the South Atlantic.

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