Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 536 February 17, 1941

Just after midnight, U-101 sinks British SS Gairsoppa (carrying pig iron, tea, silver ingots and general cargo) 370 miles West of Cornwall, England. 82 crew and 2 gunners are killed (1 survivor makes landfall near The Lizard, Cornwall, on March 1). British tanker MV Edwy R. Brown (carrying fuel from Aruba) is left burning and sinking 100 miles South of Iceland after U-103 hits her with 5 torpedoes between 6.33 and 8.33 AM. 48 crew and 2 gunners abandon ship in 2 lifeboats but they are never found. At 10.12 PM, U-69 sinks British MV Siamese Prince, 200 miles northwest of Outer Hebrides, Scotland. She is 1 day from reaching Liverpool, sailing from New York, USA, via Nassau, Bahamas. A notable passenger is Roy Widdicombe, who has been recuperating in Nassau from 70 days in an open boat after the sinking of SS Anglo Saxon on August 21, 1940. The 48 crew, 1 gunner and 8 passengers take to the lifeboats but all are lost in rough seas.

Free French led by Philippe Leclerc advance on the Italian base at Kufra oasis in the Sahara Desert, Southeastern Libya (consisting of the Buma airfield, a radio station, and the El Tag fort). Italians send out 70 men and 10 AS37 armoured personnel carriers, “Saharan company” motorized infantry, to intercept but Leclerc’s forces brush them aside and lay siege to El Tag fort.

Turkey and Bulgaria sign a friendship agreement in Sofia, Bulgaria. Under pressure from Hitler, Turkey accepts that the movement of German troops through Bulgaria is not an act of war, allowing Germany to prepare for an invasion of Greece. This also blocks any potential British-Turkish alliance, on which Churchill has been relying to control the Balkans.

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