Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 545 February 26, 1941

Operation Abstention. Before dawn, British destroyers HMS Decoy and HMS Hereward and gunboat HMS Ladybird land 200 commandos and 24 Royal Marines on the Italian-held Dodecanese island of Castelorizo, off the coast of Turkey. They rapidly capture the small Italian garrison but the defenders radio for help and Italian aircraft arrive quickly from Rhodes. HMS Ladybird is bombed, then re-embarks the 24 Royal Marines and leaves for Cyprus.

190 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-47 attacks convoy OB-290 sinking 3 merchant ships and damaging 1 more before dawn. U-47 is depth charged by convoy escorts. Signals from U-47 bring in Fw200 bombers (I. Gruppe KG 40 from Bordeaux, France) which attack at 9 AM and 6.45 PM from low level (100-200 feet) sinking 8 more ships. Elsewhere around the British coast, German bombers sink 4 merchant ships and German motor torpedo boat sinks 1 more. U-70 sinks Swedish SS Goteborg South of Iceland.

Allied Middle East command reorganises forces in North Africa, not expecting aggressive action from Italian and German forces in Tripoli. Battle-hardened Australian 6th Division, conquerors of Libya from Bardia to Benghazi, will be sent to Greece to face the expected German invasion. They will be replaced by newly-formed Australian 9th Division, scraped together from partially-equipped infantry brigades currently training in Palestine, leaving the defense of Eastern Libya to troops “selected by the test that they are the least trained or most recently enlisted”. As Benghazi cannot be used as a supply port due to Luftwaffe bombing, troops and supplies have to travel 400 miles by road from Tobruk.

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