Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 609 May 1, 1941

Libya. Rommel’s attack at Tobruk peters out as early morning fog confuses both sides. At 7.15 AM, Panzers move forward but stumble into a newly-laid minefield where they are pinned down by 2-pounder anti-tank guns (12 tanks immobilised). British tanks and artillery are sent in to contain the breach (2 Matilda and 2 Cruiser tanks destroyed). In the evening, counterattack by Australian 2/48th Battalion is repelled with heavy casualties. Rommel had expected to take the town of Tobruk. Instead, he has a salient 2 km deep and 3 km wide, won at heavy cost (1240 casualties, only 35 out of 81 Panzers serviceable with 12 destroyed). RAF bombs Benghazi sinking an Italian freighter. British submarine HMS Upholder sinks freighters Arcturus and Leverkusen (in an empty Afrika Korps convoy returning from Tripoli) near the Tunisian island of Kerkenah.

Italian Duke of Aosta (Viceroy of Italian East Africa) and 7,000 troops are trapped at Amba Alagi, Ethiopia. 5th Indian Division has arrived from Eritrea in the North, while 1st South African Brigade is pushing up from Dessie in the South.

Iraqi force overlooking RAF Habbaniya increases to 9,000 troops with 50 artillery pieces, 12 British Crossley armoured cars and some Italian Fiat light tanks. Despite being on a ‘training exercise’, they demand that all flying from RAF Habbaniya cease immediately. RAF continues reconnaissance flights while Air Vice Marshall Harry Smart seeks advice from London. Unsurprisingly, Churchill’s response is to defend British interests vigourously ("If you have to strike, strike hard. Use all necessary force.").

At 00.27 AM 100 miles North of Ireland, U-552 sinks British liner Nerissa (83 crew & 124 passengers lost, 29 crew & 54 passengers picked up by destroyer HMS Veteran). At 6.34 PM 200 miles off Sierra Leone, U-103 sinks British SS Samsø. 400 miles North of the Azores, Italian tanker SS Sangro is captured by British ocean boarding vessel HMS Cavina and then escorted to Britain by another ocean boarding vessel HMS Camito.

Overnight, Luftwaffe begins a 7-day blitz on Liverpool. The first bomb falls on the Wirral at 10.15 PM.

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