Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 585 April 7, 1941

In the Balkans, Germans make good progress through Southern Yugoslavia towards the Greek border. 2nd Panzer Division reaches Strumica, Yugoslavia, and is now only 10 miles and a small mountain range from crossing into Greece and getting behind the Greek defenses in the Metaxas Line. Meanwhile, German troops from Bulgaria are held mounting a frontal assault on the Metaxas Line.

In Libya, Afrika Korps captures Derna on the coast road but most Allied troops have withdrawn overnight. 50 miles South, British, Australian and Indian troops dig in at Mechili (really more a series of trenches than a fort). Their defenses include 1 Cruiser tank, some armoured cars, 1 Bofors anti-aircraft gun, several “2 pounder” anti-tank guns and 1 “25 pounder” artillery piece. They expect reinforcements from British 2nd Armoured Division tanks but these have already withdrawn to the East. General Johannes Streich’s 5th Light Division has surrounded the fort but they do not attack due to sandstorms which jam the turrets on the 6 available Panzer tanks. Rommel is furious at Streich for the delay and orders an attack the following morning.

In the Caribbean, USA opens naval base on the British island of Bermuda (leased from Britain in exchange for US destroyers). This will be home to the Central Atlantic Neutrality Patrol which initially comprises aircraft carrier USS Ranger, cruisers USS Tuscaloosa and USS Wichita and 2 destroyers.

German bombers sink minesweeping trawler HMT Rochebonne off the Lizard, Cornwall, England (11 killed).

At 5.50 PM 240 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-124 sinks Canadian SS Portadoc with a torpedo and 21 rounds from the deck gun. All 20 crew escape in 2 lifeboats and make land 6 days later at Benty, French Guinea, where they are interned by Vichy French.

British cruiser HMS Capetown bombards Massawa, Eritrea, but is badly damaged at 11.15 PM by a torpedo from Italian torpedo motor boat MAS.213 (4 killed). HMS Capetown will be towed to Bombay, India, for repairs until July 1942.

Overnight, 229 RAF bombers attack Kiel, Germany.

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