Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 573 March 26, 1941

At 4.46 AM, 6 Italian motor assault boats (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato or MTM) enter Suda Bay, Crete. The pilots line up selected targets and jump off. 2 MTMs hit British cruiser HMS York causing flooding (2 killed) and she is beached to prevent capsizing. Norwegian tanker Pericles is sunk. All 6 MTM pilots survive and are captured.

Following faulty reports indicating damage to 2 British battleships by German Heinkel He111 torpedo bombers, Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto, 5 cruisers and 10 destroyers leave Naples, Taranto and Brindisi to patrol the sea between Egypt and Greece. Germany urges the Italian Navy to attack British convoys to Greece and promises Luftwaffe air cover.

Anti-Nazi demonstrations continue in Yugoslavia.

North Africa. British CIC Middle East, General Wavell, believes German forces are not prepared for a major attack and will wait at El Agheila. Churchill appreciates the danger better and cables Wavell “We are naturally concerned at rapid German advance to El Agheila. It is their habit to push on wherever they are not resisted. I presume you are only waiting for the tortoise to stick his head out far enough before chopping it off”. Wavell, however, has no intention of counterattacking.

Battle of Keren, Eritrea. Italian defenders in the hills above the Dongolaas Gorge (distracted by ground assaults and RAF air strikes) are unaware of the road repairs by Allied sappers and miners. By midday, after only 30 hours, 100 yards of craters & large boulders have been repaired and the road through the Gorge is open. Overnight, Italians realize their position has been turned and start withdrawing artillery and troops to Keren.

Operation Canvas. Italian retreat in Ethiopia continues following defeats in the mountain passes. Nigerian Brigade occupies the town of Harar, 20 miles from Babile, without a fight. Indian troops from Berbera, British Somaliland, advance another 100 miles and link up with General Cunningham's forces at Jijiga, Ethiopia, greatly easing supply problems for the push to the capital Addis Ababa.

Canadian armed yacht HMCS Otter catches fire and sinks off Halifax, Nova Scotia (19 dead).

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