Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 563 March 16, 1941

East Africa.
Battle of Keren, Eritrea. Overnight, 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment creep up the steep mountainside to attack the concrete trenches of Fort Dologorodoc. Unaware, Italian troops sally forth from the Fort at 4 AM to counterattack 5th Mahratta Light Infantry holding the foothills. West Yorkshires capture Fort Dologorodoc in hand-to-hand combat at 6.30 AM (taking 400 Italians prisoners).
Operation Appearance; reconquest of British Somaliland. 2 Indian battalions cross the Red Sea from Aden in 2 troop transports (escorted by British cruisers HMS Glasgow & Caledon, destroyers HMS Kandahar & Kingston) and land at Berbera. The Italian garrison is only 60 strong and riddled with malaria; they line up on the beach to surrender without a fight. 200 Allied POWs are released. The port at Berbera will be used to supply the advance of General Cunningham’s African troops into Ethiopia.

Between 4.28 AM and 3.50 PM 950 miles East of Nova Scotia, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sink another 10 unescorted freighters (most crewmen rescued). Danish MV Chilean Reefer bravely fires her tiny deck gun at Gneisenau, which destroys Chilean Reefer with 73 11-inch shells (9 crew killed, 3 taken prisoner). British battleship HMS Rodney responds to distress signals from Chilean Reefer but cannot get close enough to fire her guns before the faster cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst race away. HMS Rodney picks up a lifeboat with survivors from Chilean Reefer.

Albania. Italians have not broken the Greek defenses in the Trebeshinë heights, although they have made some local gains. Primavera Offensive is called off after 8 days with 12,000 Italians killed and wounded.

85 miles West of Ireland, German bombers sink British anti-submarine trawler HMT Lady Lilian and damage HMT Angle.

50 miles east of Malta, British submarine HMS Parthian damages Italian steamer Giovanni Boccaccio.

At 4.36 PM 220 miles off the coast of Gambia, West Africa, U-106 sinks Dutch MV Almkerk (carrying 7087 tons of wheat from Australia). All 66 crew abandon ship in 2 lifeboats (1 picked up by the British steamer Martand on March 18). 1 lifeboat lands in Vichy French Guinea but is allowed to proceed to Sierra Leone, arriving at Freetown on March 30.

Overnight, 162 Luftwaffe bombers attack Bristol targeting the docks at Avonmouth and the city center (257 civilians killed, 391 injured).

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