Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 576 March 29, 1941

Battle of Cape Matapan. British destroyers HMS Jervis & Nubian sink wrecked Italian cruiser Pola with torpedoes at 4 AM (after taking off the crew & removing several Breda anti-aircraft machine guns). Fearing Luftwaffe air strikes, Allied ships depart at daybreak after picking up 905 survivors (16 Stukas attack later, unsuccessfully). Royal Navy signals the location of the survivors still in the water allowing Italian hospital ship Gradisca to rescue 160 more.

Libya. After 3 days of sandstorms which have immobilized both sides, Rommel moves more tanks up to El Agheila while Luftwaffe bombs Allied positions (destroying a train carrying vital petroleum for the British armour). German and British armoured cars tangle in the desert between El Agheila and Mersa Brega.

Operation Canvas. Nigerian brigade withdraws, allowing 1st South African Brigade to lead the 11th African Division charge into Ethiopia. Italians retreating from Harar to Diredawa have demolished bridges and blown away whole sections of the mountainside where the road runs 2,000 feet down a cliff. South Africans overcome these obstacles in 2 days and capture Diredawa, 33 miles North of Harar. Diredawa lies on the railway to Addis Ababa (opening the way to the capital) and has an airfield to bring in supplies.

120 miles South of Iceland, U-48 sinks 3 freighters in convoy HX-115 between 6.19 and 8.06 AM. Most crew members are picked up by corvette HMS Dianella. At 5.50 PM 300 miles Southwest of Iceland, U-46 sinks Swedish SS Liguria (19 killed, 10 survivors).

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