Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 608 April 30, 1941

Iraq. Overnight, 6,000 Iraqi troops with 30 artillery pieces leave Baghdad on a ‘training exercise’. By dawn, they occupy a plateau overlooking RAF airbase at Habbaniya (45 miles West of Baghdad). Rashid Ali expects the arrival of German aircraft and airborne troops but he will be disappointed. RAF Habbaniya is reinforced with 300 men of 1st Battalion King's Own Royal Regiment flown from RAF Shaibah. British Ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, warns British civilians to leave Baghdad (230 escorted by road to Habbaniya and then airlifted to Shaibah, 350 take refuge in the British Embassy and 150 in the American Legation).

Rommel gets Paulus’ permission to attack Tobruk. At 8 PM, German tanks break through the perimeter under cover of dark and an artillery barrage, Overnight, German infantry overrun several Australian gun posts but some hold out, preventing a complete collapse of the defenses. To their right, Italian Brescia Division fails to break in.

British gunboats HMS Aphis and HMS Ladybird bombard Afrika Korps at Gazala, Libya, and Sollum, Egypt.

During a German air raid at Malta, British cruiser HMS Gloucester is damaged by a bomb which passes through the ship without exploding (repaired in 1 day).

Greek island of Crete, with a major Royal Navy base at Suda Bay, is the obvious next stop for the German invasion. New Zealand General Bernard Freyberg VC is appointed commander of Allied forces on Crete (14,000 British garrison, plus 25,000 British and ANZACs evacuated from the mainland and 9000 Greek troops). Many are unarmed and most guns & vehicles have been abandoned on the mainland. Freyberg is briefed by General Wavell on German plans to attack with ‘airborne troops plus a possible sea attack' using intelligence from ‘most secret sources' (Ultra intercepts, but Freyberg is not told this).

At 10 PM 300 miles Southwest of Cape Verde Islands, U-107 sinks British MV Lassell (2 crew lost, 51 survivors in 2 lifeboats are picked up on May 9 and 10 by British SS Egba and SS Benvrackie).

4 ex-US Coast Guard Cutters are commissioned into Royal Navy at New York as convoy escort ships HMS Banff, Culver, Fishguard & Hartland with crews from battleship HMS Malaya (which is under repair in USA).

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