Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 580 April 2, 1941

Libya. At dawn, British troops encounter German tanks & infantry probing in front of Agedabia. British fall back as ordered. Encouraged by this immediate withdrawal plus Luftwaffe reports of British armour moving away, Rommel orders 5th Light Division to advance. British 2nd Armoured Division withdraws inland to Antelat, uncovering the road to Benghazi and allowing Germans to take Agedabia. In the first tank battle in the desert, 40 German and 14 British tanks tangle at dusk (Afrika Korps loses 3 tanks, British lose 5 with 1 damaged).

Eritrea. British offer surrender terms to Italian Admiral Mario Bonnetti, commander of Italian Red Sea Flotilla and the garrison at the Red Sea port of Massawa. Instead, he sends Italian destroyers Nazario Sauro, Daniele Manin, Battisti, Pantera and Tigre from Massawa on a suicide attack on British facilities at Port Sudan, Sudan.

Ethiopa. 11th African Division (now lead by 22nd East African Brigade) reaches the Awash River, 120 miles from Addis Ababa. Retreating Italians have blown bridges but they do not defend the river to prevent a crossing. British armoured cars under Colonel Bernard Fletcher ("Flitforce") reach Adigrat (just across the border from Eritrea), cutting off the Italian retreat from Eritrea and taking 3,500 prisoners.

At 1.50 AM 300 miles Southwest of Iceland, U-48 sinks British SS Beaverdale with 1 torpedo and the deck gun (20 crew and 1 gunner killed). 58 survivors escape in 2 lifeboats (1 reaches Iceland, the other picked up by the Icelandic trawler Gulltoppur).

2 German merchant ships are scuttled by their crews off Peru, to avoid being impounded by Canadian armed merchant cruiser Prince Henry.

German bombers sink 2 freighters and damage 2 more in convoy AS23, off Gavdo Island 25 miles South of Crete.

Convoy SC-26 runs into a patrol line of 8 U-boats, 460 miles Southwest of Iceland. Overnight, U-46, U-69, U-73 and U-74 sink 6 steamers and damage 1 more (110 killed, most crew rescued). The only escort, British armed merchant cruiser HMS Worcestershire, is stopped by U-74 with the last torpedo (HMS Worcestershire will be escorted back to Liverpool by destroyer HMS Hurricane).

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