Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 570 March 23, 1941

East Africa. British consolidate their hold on Berbera, Somaliland, landing South African 2nd Division by sea from Mombassa, Kenya. In Ethiopia, Nigerian Brigade of the 11th African Division advances another 36 miles along the road towards the capital Addis Ababa. They are held by Italian prepared defenses at Babile Pass where the road cuts through a steep defile in a line of hills. However, South African troops move through the hills and get behind the Italian positions, forcing a withdrawal.

At 4.27 AM 200 miles Southwest of Iceland, U-110 hits Norwegian SS Siremalm with a dud torpedo and misses with 2 more torpedoes. U-110 tries shelling but the water plug is not removed from the 105mm deck gun, which explodes wounding 3 men and causing U-110 to dive suddenly. SS Siremalm escapes. In the same area, U-551 is sunk 5 days into its first voyage by depth charges from British anti-submarine trawler HMT Visenda (all 45 hands lost). At 11.26 PM 600 miles West of Land’s End, England, U-97 sinks British tanker Chama (all 59 hands lost).

Greek submarine Triton attacks an Italian convoy 20 miles East of Brindisi, Italy, damaging steamer Carnia (towed to Brindisi and sinks).

North Africa. Rommel flies back to Libya. 5th Light Division has 135 tanks at Sirte, enough petrol to advance 400 miles and good air support from the Luftwaffe. Rommel orders an attack on the forward Allied position at El Agheila, the narrowest point on the coast between the sea and very large salt lakes. Despite the strategic importance of this position to the Allies, it is lightly held by the untested British 2nd Armoured Division (replacing the experienced 4th Armoured Division which has been sent to Greece) who are under orders to fall back if attacked and fight a delaying action if attacked.

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