Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 640 June 1, 1941

Evacuation of Crete. British cruiser HMS Phoebe, minelayer HMS Abdiel and destroyers HMS Jackal, Kimberley & Hotspur return safely to Alexandria, Egypt, carrying 3710 troop evacuated from Sphakia. Anti-aircraft cruisers HMS Calcutta and HMS Coventry are sent out from Alexandria to cover their return but HMS Calcutta is bombed and sunk at 9.45 AM (118 killed, 255 survivors picked up by HMS Coventry). 16,511 Allied troops have arrived at Alexandria from Crete, but about 5000 remain on the island. Australian Lieutenant Colonel Theo Walker, whose battalion has been left behind, formally surrenders to the Germans. Allied losses in the battle of Crete are 1736 killed, 1742 wounded, 11835 POWs. German casualties number 4,041 killed, 2,640 wounded, 17 POWs.

Iraq. Having waited several days at RAF Habbaniya, the Regent of Iraq, Amir Abdul Illah, returns to Baghdad to restore the monarchy and a pro-British government.

At 00.52 AM Southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, U-105 sinks SS Scottish Monarch (1 dead, 44 survivors). At 2.09 PM 140 miles off Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-107 sinks British MV Alfred Jones (14 dead, 62 survivors picked up by corvette HMS Marguerite).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 639 May 31, 1941

Evacuation of Crete. British destroyers HMS Napier & Nizam are both bombed and damaged by near misses on the return journey to Alexandria, Egypt. British cruiser HMS Phoebe, minelayer HMS Abdiel and destroyers HMS Jackal, Kimberley & Hotspur depart Alexandria at 6 AM and evacuate 3710 troop overnight from Sphakia. 54 senior officers including General Freyberg leave for Alexandria in 2 Sunderland flying boats.

Iraq. The mayor of Baghdad surrenders to British Ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, at the Washash Bridge in Baghdad. An armistice is agreed. The terms of the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi treaty are restored and British right to station troops in the country is confirmed. As the British see this as political repression of Rashid Ali rather than a war against the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Army is allowed to return to barracks and captured guns and vehicles are returned. POWs on both sides are released, except Italians and Germans who remain POWs of the British.

U-boats have a busy morning off the coast of West Africa. At 0.25 AM, U-69 sinks British MV Sangara in harbour at Accra, Gold Coast (captain is the only casualty). At 0.24 AM off Liberia, U-38 sinks Norwegian SS Rinda (13 killed, 18 survivors escape in a lifeboat and picked up by anti-submarine trawler HMS Pict). At 3.34 AM near Cape Verde Islands, U-106 sinks British MV Clan MacDougall (2 killed, 75 crew members and 10 gunners reach San Antonio, Cape Verde Islands). At 7.39 AM off Sierra Leone, U-107 sinks British SS Sire (3 killed, 46 survivors picked up by corvette HMS Marguerite).

U-147 sinks British SS Gravelines 100 miles Northwest of Ireland (11 killed, 25 picked up by British sloop HMS Deptford). At 5.15 AM in the Denmark Strait, Northwest of Iceland, U-204 sinks Icelandic fishing boat Holmsteinn with the deck gun (all 4 hands lost). Holmsteinn is one of the smallest ships sunk in WWII, displacing only 16 tons.

Overnight, Luftwaffe aircraft heading for Bristol and Liverpool over-fly their targets and bomb Dublin, Eire, by mistake (28 civilians killed, 87 injured).

Day 638 May 30, 1941

Evacuation of Crete. Overnight 29th-30th, British cruisers HMS Phoebe, Perth, Calcutta & Coventry, destroyers Janus, Hasty & Jervis and assault ship Glengyle (with landing craft) embark 6029 troops at Sphakia. RAF fighters protect the convoy returning to Alexandria, Egypt, keeping most German and Italian bombers at bay, but HMS Perth is hit by a bomb in the engine room (4 crew, 2 Marines, 7 troops killed). During the day, Luftwaffe aircraft strafe and bomb thousands of Allied troops waiting to evacuate in the cliffs above Sphakia. Destroyers HMS Kelvin, Kandahar, Napier & Nizam depart Alexandria in the morning for another evacuation run but Kandahar breaks down and Kelvin is damaged by a bomb (1 killed, 4 wounded). HMS Napier & Nizam can only embark 1510 troops at Sphakia overnight 30th-31st.

Iraqi government of Rashid Ali collapses. British forces reach the outskirts of Baghdad from Falluja in the West and 2 Indian brigades are advancing from the South. Rashid Ali, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and members of the National Defence Government flee to Persia and then on to Germany.

At 0.36 AM near Cape Verde Islands, U-106 sinks British MV Silveryew (1 killed, 50 crew and 3 gunners reach San Antonio, Cape Verde Islands). At 2.07 PM off Sierra Leone, U-38 sinks British SS Empire Protector (5 killed, 30 crew and 3 gunners picked up by Dutch steamer Arundo and landed at Freetown).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 637 May 29, 1941

Evacuation of Crete. After leaving Heraklion at 2.45 AM, the steering on British destroyer HMS Imperial fails at 4 AM (damaged by bombing yesterday). Destroyer HMS Hotspur takes off the crew and troops then sinks HMS Imperial with 2 torpedoes. At dawn, the flotilla is an hour behind schedule and still in the Kaso Strait, near airfields on the Italian island of Scarpanto. Destroyer HMS Hereward is bombed at 6.45 and beached on Crete (76 crew killed, 89 taken prisoner). Cruisers HMS Orion & HMS Dido are both hit by bombs which penetrate their decks, exploding among the troops below (Orion, 105 crew and 260 troops killed, 280 troops wounded; Dido, 27 crew and 100 troops killed by fire or water pumped in to prevent the magazine from exploding). Destroyer HMS Decoy is also damaged. The flotilla is attacked until 3 PM, 100 miles from Alexandria, Egypt. They limp into Alexandria at 8 PM.

At 8.43 PM, U-557 sinks British SS Empire Storm in the North Atlantic (3 killed, 36 crew and 4 gunners picked up by Norwegian merchant Marita). At 11.50 PM 250 miles off Sierra Leone, U-38 sinks British SS Tabaristan (21 killed, 36 crew and 3 gunners picked up by British armed trawlers HMS Bengali and HMS Turcoman).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 636 May 28, 1941

Crete. Overnight, Allied troops retreat South from Canae and Suda Bay to evacuate from Sphakia on the South side of the island, while Colonel Laycock’s commandos fight a rearguard action. At dawn near Stylos on the route to Sphakia, ANZAC troops ambush German 85th Mountain Regiment, ending a week of bravery that wins the VC for Sergeant Clive Hulme, New Zealand 2nd Division. Evacuation of Crete begins. British cruisers HMS Ajax, Orion & Dido and destroyers HMS Decoy, Jackal, Imperial, Hotspur, Kimberly & Hereward leave Alexandria, Egypt, to evacuate troops from Heraklion. German bombing damages HMS Ajax (turns back with 6 killed, 18 wounded) and HMS Imperial (1 wounded). They reach Heraklion at 11.30 PM and embark all 3,486 troops there by 2.45 AM next morning. Simultaneously, destroyers HMS Napier, Nizam, Kelvin & Kandahar (from Alexandria) embark 608 troops at Sphakia, bringing food and water for the large numbers expected to arrive.

Low on fuel after the hunt for Bismarck, British destroyers HMS Tartar and HMS Mashona return slowly to Scapa Flow, Scotland. In the morning 100 miles West of Ireland, they are attacked by German Focke-Wulf bombers. A bomb penetrates Mashona’s deck near the funnel and explodes in the boiler room, blowing a hole in her side underwater (36 killed). Mashona capsizes within an hour but does not sink and Tartar rescues 184 survivors. Destroyers HMS Sherwood and HMCS St. Clair sink Mashona with shellfire.

Iraq. Indian troops continue advancing on the capital, Baghdad, from Basra. 20th Indian Brigade reaches the ancient city of Ur on the Euphrates, 110 miles from Basra.

At 4 PM off Sierra Leone, U-107 sinks Greek SS Papalemos with a torpedo and the anti-aircraft gun (2 killed). 27 crew abandon ship in 2 lifeboats.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 635 May 27, 1941

British battleships HMS King George V & HMS Rodney approach German battleship Bismarck from the Northwest and begin firing at 8.47 AM. Bismarck is an easy target, almost stationary & illuminated by the sun rising behind her. Loss of steering & a port list render her firing inaccurate. Bismarck is hit several times putting her guns out of action, without registering any hits on the British. King George V & Rodney plus heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk & HMS Dorsetshire close in, firing 2876 rounds including 719 14-inch & 16-inch shells. About 400 shells hit Bismarck, turning her into a burning hulk but she does not sink until the crew blow scuttling charges (she is also hit by torpedoes from HMS Dorsetshire). Bismarck sinks at 10.39 AM. Dorsetshire & destroyer HMS Maori rescue 110 survivors but then leave on a false sighting of a U-boat, leaving many in the water. German weather ship Sachsenwald picks up 5 survivors next day. In all, 2091 German sailors are killed.

Crete. Overnight, Allied troops begin retreating from Canea and Suda Bay, crossing the White Mountains to the South. However, Germans mistakenly push East along the coast road towards Rethymno and Heraklion, where they meet stern ANZAC resistance (killing 121 German troops). The Mayor of Canea initially refuses to surrender to Germans entering Canea due to the disheveled appearance of their commander Captain von der Heydte. In the afternoon, General Wavell orders an evacuation of Crete from Sphakia on the South of the island.

At 1.46 AM, U-107 sinks British SS Colonial off Guinea, West Africa (all 100 hands picked up by British target ship HMS Centurion and landed at Freetown, Sierra Leone).

Operation Skorpion. Afrika Korps recapture Halfaya Pass on the Libyan/Egyptian border, retaking all ground lost to the British during Operation Brevity. British lose 173 casualties, 4 field guns, 8 anti-tank guns and 5 Infantry tanks.

Iraq. British forces begin to advance toward the capital, Baghdad, from 2 directions. Indian troops move North from Basra (20th Indian Brigade advances along the Euphrates by boat and road while 21st Indian Brigade advances up the Tigris by boat). Overnight, British forces leave Fallujah but they are slowed by destroyed bridges over irrigation ditches. 12 Royal Italian Air Force Fiat CR42 aircraft arrive at Mosul to operate under German command.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 634 May 26, 1941

In 30 hours since her last sighting by the British, German battleship Bismarck travels 750 miles Southeast towards France. At 10.30 AM, a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat from Lough Erne, Northern Ireland (piloted by British Flying Officer Dennis Briggs and US Navy Ensign Tuck Smith) locates Bismarck 700 miles West of Land’s End, England. British Admiral Tovey orders Royal Navy ships to the area, including Force H from Gibraltar with aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. At 4 PM, 15 Swordfish launch from Ark Royal but attack British cruiser HMS Sheffield in error (no damage done) and return to Ark Royal to reload torpedoes. At 8.55 PM, the Swordfish attack Bismarck and return to Ark Royal safely. 1 torpedo hits the armour belt causing little damage but the other jams her rudder hard to port, causing Bismarck to steam in circles. Tovey sends 6 destroyers to harry Bismarck and maintain contact overnight while the capital ships converge.

Crete. Germans advance from Galatas towards Canae, on the edge of Suda Bay, but Luftwaffe takes the wind out of the attack by mistakenly bombing and strafing their own troops. Overnight, confused orders from General Freyberg and other Allied commanders cause a botched changeover in front of Canae, allowing Germans to surround 1000 fresh Allied troops held in reserve until this point. Also overnight, British minelayer HMS Abdiel and destroyers HMS Hero and HMS Nizam arrive at Suda Bay from Alexandria, Egypt, to disembark 750 British commandos and evacuate personnel from the naval base. The commandos are led by Colonel Robert Laycock, whose intelligence officer is Captain Evelyn Waugh.

Operation MAQ3. British aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (escorted by battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth & HMS Barham and 8 destroyers) launches 6 Albacore aircraft to bomb Italian airfields on the Dodecanese islands of Scarpanto (now Karpathos). HMS Formidable is counterattacked by Luftwaffe bombers and hit twice (12 killed, 10 wounded, under repair in USA until December 1941) while a bomb destroys the stern of destroyer HMS Nubian above the water line, leaving the screws and rudder intact (15 killed, 6 wounded, under repair at Bombay, India, September 1942).

Iraq. More supplies arrive by train in Mosul from Vichy French Syria, including 8 155mm guns, 6000 shells, 30000 grenades and 32 trucks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 633 May 25, 1941

Overnight 400 miles Southeast of Greenland, British cruisers HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk shadow damaged German battleship Bismarck using radar, while zigzagging to avoid potential submarine attack. At 3.06 AM, Admiral Lütjens (celebrating his 52nd birthday) orders Bismarck to zig West while HMS Suffolk and Norfolk are zagging East, breaking the British radar contact. Bismarck circles behind the British cruisers and steams Southeast at 20 knots toward safety at St. Nazaire, France. British Admiral Tovey is desperate to locate Bismarck and, incredibly, Lütjens sends radio signals in the morning allowing Tovey to plot his position. British warships and aircraft search all afternoon and evening but cannot find Bismarck.

Crete. More German troops are airlifted into Maleme airport. After dive-bombing by Stukas at 4 PM, German paratroops and mountain troops attack the North coast town of Galatas (on the approach to Suda Bay) from both South and West. Allied forces quickly withdraw but a group under Major John Russell holds their position and is surrounded. New Zealand Colonel Howard Kippenberger immediately organizes a scratch force with 2 British light tanks (3rd Hussars) to counterattack. Led by a Maori war chant (haka), New Zealand troops charge into Galatas with bayonets fixed, causing a German retreat and freeing Russell Force. Germans mortar fire pushes them back out of the town with the loss of 1 tank. On the other end of the island, Luftwaffe bombs Heraklion heavily.

Off Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa, U-103 sinks Egyptian SS Radames at 4.31 PM (1 killed) and Dutch SS Wangi Wangi at 10.13 PM (1 dead, 92 survivors in 2 boats reach the Liberian coast next day).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 632 May 24, 1941

Battle of Denmark Strait. At 5.52 AM, British battlecruiser HMS Hood and battleship HMS Prince of Wales open fire on German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen from 24 km. Although they outgun the Germans, both British ships have flaws. At 6 AM, a 15 inch shell from Bismarck penetrates HMS Hood’s thin deck armour, exploding a magazine. Hood is blown in 2 and sinks quickly (1,415 killed, 3 survivors). HMS Prince of Wales (completed only 2 months earlier) is hit 7 times (13 killed) and retires at 6.04 AM with her new guns jammed. Bismarck is hit 3 times (no casualties) but flooding in her bows and a boiler room reduces speed to 28 knots. British cruisers HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk continue following Bismarck and Prinz Eugen but at 6 PM Prinz Eugen escapes South in a squall. At 11.50 PM, 8 Swordfish torpedo bombers from British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious attack Bismarck (1 torpedo hits with little damage, 1 killed).

Crete. In the face of constant flow of fresh German troops at Maleme and continued fighting around the airports at Rethimnon and Heraklion, Allies began a series of retreats South across Crete. German 55th Motor-Cycle Battalion, armed with Spandau machine guns mounted on side-cars, advances towards the South coast to prevent Allied reinforcements arriving from North Africa. Carpet-bombing by Luftwaffe levels the North coast town of Canae. Overnight, Minelayer HMS Abdiel transports 200 British commandos from Alexandria, Egypt, to Suda Bay, Crete. 800 more commandos are not landed at Port Lutro, Crete, due to bad weather.

10 miles off Sicily, British submarine HMS Upholder sinks Italian troopship SS Conte Rosso, carrying troops from Naples to Tripoli (1049 troops and crew killed, 1680 survivors).

Off the coast of West Africa, U-38 sinks British SS Vulcain at 2.49 AM (7 killed) and U-103 sinks Greek SS Marionga at 3.56 AM (26 dead, 5 crew escape on a raft).

850 miles off the coast of South Africa (now Namibia), German raider Atlantis shells British steamer Trafalgar (carrying 4500 tons of coal and 2 aircraft) and then sinks her with a torpedo when the 2 ships are on collision course (12 crew killed, 33 picked up from the water).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 631 May 23, 1941

Crete. Overnight, British destroyers HMS Kelly (captained by Lord Louis Mountbatten, 2nd cousin of King George VI) and HMS Kashmir shell German positions at Maleme airfield. They retire 35 miles South of Crete but they are sunk by Stukas at 8 AM (181 killed). Destroyer HMS Kipling rescues 297 survivors, including Mountbatten, but is then badly damaged by HMS Kelly as she sinks (under repair at Alexandria, Egypt, until June). More German troops are airlifted into Maleme airfield along with artillery, securing the entire West end of the island. Paratroops push along the North coast against the British and ANZACs while mountain troops tackle the hilly backbone of the island held by poorly-armed Greek troops and Cretan guerrillas. 5 British motor torpedo boats are sunk by German bombing at Suda Bay.

Operation Rheinübung. At 7.22 PM, German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen are spotted by British cruisers HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk in the Denmark Strait. After HMS Norfolk is almost hit by shellfire from Bismarck, both cruisers retire to a safe distance. They shadow the German warships using radar while battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Hood close in from 300 miles to the South.

At 8.20 PM 200 miles off Guinea, West Africa, U-38 sinks Dutch MV Berhala (3 dead, 59 survivors rescued by a British warship).

Day 630 May 22, 1941

Crete. At 3.30 AM, Australian and New Zealand troops launch a counterattack to retake Maleme, during which New Zealand Lieutenant Charles Upham wins his first VC. They reach the airfield but are repelled by German 5th Mountain Division. With control of Maleme airfield, General Student sends more Junkers Ju 52 transports bringing in 2 battalions of fresh troops. The airfield is still under Allied artillery fire and many Junkers are destroyed with considerable casualties but, during the day, Germans establish control on the West end of the island. Allied commanders, many miles from Maleme, are mistakenly under the delusion that Germans are using Ju 52 transport planes to withdraw from the island. They withdraw the ANZAC troops to prepare a counterattack to regain the airfield.

Royal Navy has a disastrous day off Crete. They know from Ultra intercepts that a flotilla of small vessels is carrying German troops and supplies from the island of Milos, but this is delayed by the late arrival of Italian escort (torpedo boat Sagittario). British warships search overnight but make the mistake of continuing after sunrise and come under heavy German air attack. At 10 AM, cruisers HMS Naiad (6 killed) & Calcutta (14 killed) and destroyer HMS Kingston (1 killed) are damaged by bombs. At noon, destroyer HMS Greyhound is sunk (76 killed) and battleship HMS Warspite is badly damaged (43 killed, 69 wounded, under repair in USA until December 18). Anti-aircraft cruisers HMS Gloucester (722 killed) and Fiji (257 killed) try to fend off the Stukas but they run out of ammunition and are sunk. Most survivors from Greyhound, Gloucester & Fiji are rescued by destroyers HMS Kingston & Kandahar.

Overnight, Iraqis with Italian light tanks counterattack British forces in Fallujah. There is fighting all day but the British hold the town with reinforcements from RAF Habbaniya (capturing 6 light tanks).

Operation Rheinübung. British aerial reconnaissance confirms that German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen have left Grimstadfjord, Norway. Luftwaffe surveillance of Scapa Flow, Scotland, is not so accurate. They are fooled by dummy wood & canvas warships and report to Bismarck’s Admiral Lütjens that British Home Fleet is still at dock.

At 1.40 PM 400 miles Southwest of Iceland, U-111 sinks British SS Barnby (1 killed, 44 survivors taken to Iceland). At midnight 50 miles off Sierra Leone, U-103 sinks empty British tanker Grenadier (all 49 hands rescued by the Spanish tanker Jose Calvo Sotelo and Portuguese SS Ganda).

Day 629 May 21, 1941

Crete. At 3 PM, General Student sends in 2 more companies of paratroops who are slaughtered as they land among New Zealand Maori troops. Student then ignores German doctrine not to reinforce failure & sends 40 Ju52 transports to land 650 5th Mountain Division troops on Maleme airfield giving them control of the landing strip. Many of the Junkers are destroyed before they can take off. General Freyberg still holds back his reserves, expecting amphibious landings. The only seaborne activity is a flotilla of 19 fishing boats and 2 small steamers which set out from the island of Milos carrying 2331 German troops and supplies (no tanks). At midnight, 3 Royal Navy cruisers and 4 destroyers intercept sinking 11 small vessels (297 Germans killed, Italian torpedo boat Lira rescues survivors). Italian torpedo boat Lupo attacks the British warships with torpedoes and her 4-inch guns allowing the other boats to scatter (Lupo is hit by 18 6-inch shells but survives).

During the day, Luftwaffe attacks British warships sweeping the coast of Crete. Cruisers HMS Dido, Orion & Ajax and 4 destroyers suffer minor damage in 4 hours of bombing off Canae, where the invasion fleet is expected. 45 miles Southeast of Crete, destroyer HMS Juno is hit by 3 bombs from 5 Italian Cant Z.1007 bombers and sinks in 3 minutes (128 killed, 97 survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Nubian).

Operation Rheinübung. German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen stop in Grimstadfjord, Norway, to refuel the cruiser. At 1.15 PM, RAF Flying Officer Michael Suckling spots the warships while doing reconnaissance in a Spitfire over Bergen (only 5 miles away). British Admiral Sir John ‘Jack’ Tovey, commander of the British Home Fleet, sends out all available warships (including battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Hood) to patrol the Denmark Strait and the Iceland-Faroes gap. At 7 PM, the German ships head out into the North Sea and overnight RAF bombers attack the empty fjord.

At 5.25 AM 850 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-69 sinks neutral American SS Robin Moor (first American merchant ship sunk by a U-boat). All 38 crew and 8 passengers (including 3 women and a child) abandon ship in 4 lifeboats. 35 survivors in 3 lifeboats are picked up on June 2 by a British merchant and landed at Capetown, South Africa. The final boat with 11 survivors is picked up on June 8 by Brazilian SS Ozório after floating 900 miles. US President Roosevelt protests the sinking and demands compensation from Germany but to no avail. At midnight, U-69 sinks British SS Tewkesbury (all 42 hands escape in lifeboats). In the North Atlantic off Greenland, U-93 sinks Dutch tanker Elusa (5 killed, 49 rescued by a British destroyer) and U-98 sinks British SS Marconi (22 dead, 56 picked up by US Coast Guard patrol boat General Greene).

Day 628 May 20, 1941

At 8 AM, German paratroops from Junkers Ju52 troop-carriers and 750 glider-borne troops land between Suda Bay and Maleme airfield on the North coast of Crete, establishing positions in a dry river bed near the airfield. A second wave of paratroops lands around 2 other airfields (Rethimnon at 4.15 PM, Heraklion at 5.30 PM). 1856 Germans are slaughtered in the air or on landing by Allied troops (or Cretan civilians wielding knives and clubs), with many wounded. General Freyberg, still misreading Ultra signals and expecting amphibious landings, holds back artillery & reserve troops. Overnight, amid confusion about who controls Maleme airfield, New Zealand defenders fall back to regroup for an attack in the morning (but reinforcements do not arrive). Overnight, British destroyers HMS Jervis, Nizam & Ilex bombard a German airfield on the Greek island of Karpathos, trying to reduce the threat to Navy ships from German air attack.

German bombers sink British minesweeper HMS Widnes in Suda Bay.

Operation Rheinübung. Swedish seaplane-cruiser Gotland spots German warships Bismark and Prinz Eugen in the Kattegat. The British naval attaché in Stockhlom, Henry Denham, learns the news and informs the Admiralty in London.

U-94, U-98, U-109 and U-556 attack convoy HX-126 250 miles Southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland, sinking 7 ships. British tanker MV British Security burns out of control for 3 days, killing all 53 on board. SS Harpagus rescues 48 men from SS Norman Monarch, but is then sunk at 11.20 PM killing 26 of those survivors plus 25 crew, 4 gunners and 3 passengers. 155 miles Northwest of Outer Hebrides, U-138 sinks British MV Javanese Prince. 430 miles West of Ireland, Italian submarine Otaria sinks British SS Starcross (all hands rescued by Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Francis).

Day 627 May 19, 1941

At 11.15 AM, 4777 Italian and colonial troops formally surrender at Amba Alagi, Ethiopia. They march down the hill with their rifles passing British General Mayne, who takes their salute, and a guard of honour (1 officer and 25 men from each battalion of the 5th Indian Division). The pipe band of the 1st Transvaal Scottish plays. Duke of Aosta spends 1 more day in his mountain stronghold and formally surrenders next day. He will die from tuberculosis in a POW camp in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 3, 1942.

Luftwaffe again bombs anti-aircraft emplacements and RAF airfields on Crete, in preparation for the coming invasion. The last RAF aircraft are withdrawn to Egypt in the face of bombing and overwhelming numbers of German fighters.

Iraqis surrender the town of Fallujah after 57 RAF aircraft drop 10 tons of bombs and field guns bombard their positions (300 taken prisoner). Luftwaffe bombers attack RAF Habbaniya destroying several aircraft and inflicting casualties.

At 3.24 AM 50 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-96 sinks British SS Empire Ridge (31 killed, 2 rescued by destroyer HMS Vanquisher).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 626 May 18, 1941

British battleship HMS Nelson and aircraft carrier HMS Eagle are sailing from Cape Town to Freetown in search of German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis. Just after midnight 226 miles South of St Helena off the coast of West Africa, they pass within 7 km of Atlantis without noticing her.

German dive bombers attack British hospital ship Aba 50 miles south of Crete. HMS Coventry comes to her aid and Petty Officer Alfred Sephton wins the VC for directing anti-aircraft fire despite a machinegun bullet partially blinding him. He dies of his injuries next day.

General Mosley Mayne, British commander of 5th Indian Division, lunches with Duke of Aosta in his mountain cave at Amba Alagi, Ethiopia, while Italian troops bury their dead and prepare to leave. Italians honour the Duke’s agreement not to destroy guns or stores and to dismantle or identify mines and boobytraps.

Falluja, Iraq. In addition to forces crossing the River Euphrates, 4 Vickers Valentia biplanes land a company of King's Own Royal Regiment on the Baghdad road. RAF aircraft from Habbaniya bomb Iraqi positions in Falluja all day.

At 10.27 PM 130 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-107 sinks British SS Piako (10 killed, 65 rescued by sloop HMS Bridgewater). Off Benghazi, Libya, British submarine HMS Tetrarch sinks Italian SS Giovinezza.

British reinforce Crete, in anticipation of German invasion. 700 Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders are transported from Port Said, Egypt, on troopship Glengyle and land overnight at Tymbaki, Crete.

Overnight, German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen depart Gotenhafen, Poland, to attack British convoys in North Atlantic (Operation Rheinübung). Admiral Günther Lütjens, aboard Bismarck, commands both ships.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 625 May 17, 1941

At midnight, U-107 stops Dutch tanker MV Marisa with a torpedo after following her for 12 hours (2 killed, 47 crew abandon ship in 3 lifeboats). U-107 sinks MV Marisa with the deck gun and antiaircraft gun but both guns are damaged when rounds explode in the barrel.

At 1 AM, Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire delivers fresh Australian troops to Tobruk, including 2/12th Field Regiment which is immediately pressed into action at 5.30 AM to support a failed probing attack on the German salient. This is the first time Australian artillery supports Australian infantry at Tobruk.

German invasion of Crete is delayed until May 20 by the late arrival in Southern Greece of tanker Rondine with 5,000 tons of aviation fuel.

At 5.30 PM, after 5 hours of negotiation, Duke of Aosta (Viceroy of Italian East Africa) agrees to a “surrender with honour” of the mountain fortress at Amba Alagi, Ethiopia. His troops will be allowed to march out with their rifles (to be surrendered later). In exchange, they will leave all artillery, weapons and stores intact and identify the location of all mines.

Iraq. Kingcol, the British mobile column from Palestine, arrives at Habbaniya late the evening. Overnight, elements of the Gurkha battalion, a company of RAF Assyrian Levies, RAF Armoured Cars towing captured Iraqi howitzers cross the River Euphrates using improvised cable ferries to advance 10 miles East on the town of Falluja.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 624 May 16, 1941

Operation Brevity. Colonel von Herff wants to withdraw, believing the British force to be bigger than it really is. Rommel suspects the Allied attack is a major breakout from Egypt to relieve the besieged forces at Tobruk and orders von Herff to counterattack. In the face of German reinforcements, Brigadier Gott withdraws British tanks and infantry from the desert around Sollum and Fort Capuzzo, Libya, to consolidate a hold on Halfaya Pass.

Amba Alagi, Ethiopia. At 7.30 AM, with the drinking water of the Italian fortifications contaminated, Duke of Aosta sends an envoy, Colonel Tramontano, to request fresh water. When the British refuse, Tramontano asks for a ceasefire until 7 PM to allow a senior officer, General Volpini, to negotiate terms for surrender. However, Volpini is killed en route by Ethiopian guerrillas who have begun terrorizing the Italian troops. British extend the ceasefire until noon tomorrow.

Luftwaffe bombs British anti-aircraft emplacements and RAF airfields on Crete, to weaken British air defenses in preparation for the invasion (2 Hurricanes of 33 Squadron at Maleme are shot down). Suda Bay is also bombed, sinking several freighters and causing further damage to crippled British cruiser HMS York. Destroyer HMS Encounter in drydock at Malta is hit again by German bombers.

Iraq. 3 Heinkel He111 bombers attack RAF Habbaniyah (1 British Gloster Gladiator shot down, 1 Heinkel is damaged and ditches in the desert). Kingcol is attacked for the second day by Luftwaffe aircraft, causing some casualties but no damage.

Between 5.48 and 9.30 AM 400 miles off Sierra Leone, U-105 sinks British SS Rodney Star with 4 torpedoes and shellfire (all 83 hands escape in lifeboats, picked up 6 days later by destroyer HMS Boreas and SS Batna). A shell explodes in the barrel of U-105’s deck gun wounding 6 of the gun crew.

10 miles off Aberdeen, Scotland, German bombers sink British troopship SS Archangel carrying troops back from the Orkneys (40 crew and 12 troops killed, 35 crew and 400 troops rescued by destroyer HMS Blankney).

Overnight, RAF bombs Bramsfeld in the industrial Ruhr Valley, Germany, hitting the Atlantik rubber works.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 623 May 15, 1941

Operation Brevity. The key to holding the border between Libya & Egypt is Halfaya Pass, where the coastal road cuts up the steep escarpment onto the desert plateau, which is currently held by Italian & German troops under German Colonel Maximillian von Herff. At 6 AM, British Brigadier William Gott leads 3 battalions in armoured cars plus 24 infantry tanks & 29 cruiser tanks along the coast and across the desert, covered by RAF Hurricane fighters. Despite skirmishes with German tanks, British capture Halfaya Pass and Fort Capuzzo by noon (taking 347 prisoners, mainly Italian). Rommel sends a Panzer battalion plus anti-tank guns from Tobruk, allowing von Herff to counterattack and recapture Fort Capuzzo by 2.45 PM (taking British 70 prisoners). Fort Capuzzo has now changed hands 7 times since June 1940.

Ethiopia. Ethiopian guerrilla forces, South African troops advancing from the South and Indian troops crossing from Gumsa Hill to the East meet at the top of Triangle, a hill adjacent to the Italian stronghold at Amba Alagi. Allied shelling of the Italian fortifications damages a store of oil which leaks into the only source of drinking water.

Iraq. An Iraqi Bristol Blenheim bombs and strafes Kingcol, British column advancing from Rutbah to Habbaniya (no damage or casualties). British Fairey Swordfish, from aircraft carrier HMS Hermes in the Indian Ocean, bomb the Al Qushla (Ottoman Barracks) in the Iraqi city of Samawah. 1 Swordfish is shot down but Lieutenant James Dundas (Fleet Air Arm air-sea rescue) wins the DSC for rescuing the crew. RAF bombers raid Vichy French airfields at Palmyra and Damascus, Syria, to prevent transshipment of German planes to Iraq.

At 8.29 PM 400 miles off Sierra Leone, U-105 sinks British SS Benvenue (2 killed; 48 crew, 1 gunner and 6 army personnel picked up by British liner Empire Trader). 430 miles West of Brest, France, U-43 shells and sinks French 3 mast sailboat Notre Dame du Châtelet which is believed to be reporting the position of U-boats (28 dead, 10 survivors abandon ship in 2 lifeboats). German bombers sink Greek destroyer Leon in Salamis Navy Yard at Suda Bay, Crete.

At midnight, British cruisers HMS Gloucester & Fiji land 2nd Battalion Leicester Regiment at Heraklion, Crete, from Alexandria, Egypt.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 622 May 14, 1941

A British Bristol Blenheim bomber flying reconnaissance over Syria spots a German Junkers Ju90 transport aircraft at the Vichy French airfield at Palmyra. British government gives permission to enter Syrian air space (risking reprisals from the French). RAF fighters return to strafe the airfield, damaging 2 German Heinkel He111 bombers.

In anticipation of German invasion of Crete, British cruiser HMS Dido departs Suda Bay for Alexandria, Egypt, with £7,000,000 of Greek gold, escorted by destroyers HMS Stuart, Vendetta, Janus & Isis.

British gunboat HMS Gnat shells a mobile German gun battery on the coast near Tobruk, Libya.

500 miles West of South Africa (now Namibia), German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis sinks British SS Rabaul with shellfire after Rabaul fails to stop (7 crew killed, 47 crew and 4 passengers taken prisoner).

Day 621 May 13, 1941

Iraq. The first shipment of Vichy French armaments from Syria arrives in Mosul. The Iraqi army receives 15,500 rifles, 6 million rounds of ammunition, 200 machineguns, 4 75 mm field guns and 10,000 shells. Kingcol (British mobile column from Palestine) arrives at Rutbah, Iraq, over halfway to RAF Habbaniya. The fort at Rubah (protecting the oasis spring and an airstrip for refueling British civilian aircraft flying to India) had been occupied by Iraqi troops on May 2 but abandoned on May 10 after bombing by RAF Bristol Blenheims of 203 Squadron from Basra.

In the morning off Greenland, U-98 and U-111 attack convoy SC-30 sinking British SS Somersby (all 43 hands rescued by Greek steamer Marika Protopapa) and convoy escort armed merchant cruiser HMS Salopian (3 killed 287 survivors in lifeboats picked up next morning by destroyer HMS Impulsive).

At 7.48 AM 700 miles off Sierra Leone, U-105 sinks British SS Benvrackie after chasing her for 34 hours. 13 crew and 15 survivors from MV Lassel are killed (MV Lassel was sunk by U-107 on April 30). 41 crew, 4 gunners and 10 Lassel survivors are rescued after 13 days in lifeboats by British hospital ship Oxfordshire.

Overnight, British gunboat HMS Gnat shells the German airfield at Gazala, Libya, 30 miles West of Tobruk.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 620 May 12, 1941

3 ex-US Coast Guard Cutters are commissioned into Royal Navy at New York as convoy escort ships HMS Sennen, Walney & Totland with crews from battleship HMS Malaya (which is under repair in USA).

The British convoy carrying 135 infantry tanks, 82 cruiser tanks, 21 light tanks and 43 Hurricane fighters through the Mediterranean (Tiger convoy) arrives at Alexandria, Egypt. Churchill’s gamble has paid off and Allied forces in North Africa can face the Afrika Korps on level terms.

British gunboat HMS Ladybird is severely damaged by German dive bombers in Tobruk harbour (4 killed, 14 wounded). She settles on an even keel in 10 feet of water allowing her 3 inch gun, still above water, to be used in an anti-aircraft role.

British submarine HMS Rorqual sinks 2 small Greek vessels carrying German troops, off the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. At 8.30 PM, Italian torpedo boats Pleiadi and Pegaso sink British submarine HMS Undaunted off Tripoli, Libya (all 32 hands lost).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 619 May 11, 1941

Iraq. A British flying column of horses and armoured cars under Brigadier Kingstone (Kingcol) leaves Haifa, in British-held Palestine, heading East across 500 miles of desert to reinforce RAF Habbaniya, Iraq. The first 3 Luftwaffe aircraft arrive at Mosul from Greece, via airfields in Vichy French-held Syria.

Ethiopia. South African 1st Brigade finally reaches Amba Alagi, having fought up the road from the capital Addis Ababa in the South. The Italian mountain stronghold is now surrounded but they have laid in supplies and ammunition for a lengthy seige.

At 1.30 AM 750 miles Southwest of Sierra Leone, U-103 sinks British SS City of Shanghai with the last torpedo after tracking her for 16 hours (6 crew lost, 67 survivors taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Glasgow, Scotland or Pernambuco, Brazil).

RAF bombers attack Hamburg and Bremen again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 618 May 10, 1941

Rudolf Hess (close confidant of Hitler and Deputy Führer of the Nazi party) flies a Messerschmitt Bf110 fighter from Augsburg, Southern Germany, to Scotland in an independent, unauthorized attempt to contact the Duke of Hamilton, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton. Hess believes Hamilton will introduce him to King George VI with whom he can broker peace directly, bypassing Hitler and Churchill. Instead he runs out of fuel 12 miles short of the Duke’s estate, parachutes out of the Bf110 breaking his ankle on landing and is captured by a Scottish farmer with a pitchfork, then sent to the Tower of London as a POW. He never sees freedom again. Convicted at Nuremburg in 1946, he will be held in Spandau Prison, West Berlin, until his death in 1987.

Ethiopia. Indian troops advance out of Falagi Pass and capture Mount Gumsa, 11,400 feet above sea-level, to the East of the Italian stronghold at Amba Alagi. Gumsa and other hills were occupied by Italian troops who have withdrawn overnight back to prepared defenses in the main fortifications.

U-556 continues the attack on convoy OB-318 between Greenland and Iceland, sinking British SS Empire Caribou (32 crew , and 2 gunners lost, 11 survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Malcolm), Belgian SS Gand (1 killed, 39 crew and 4 gunners rescued) and damaging British SS Aelybryn (1 killed, towed to Reykjavik, Iceland).

At 5 PM, British destroyers HMS Kelly, Kipling, Jackal, Kashmir & Kelvin from Malta bombard Benghazi. A counterattacked by German dive bombers causes no damage. Overnight, British gunboat HMS Ladybird shells the German-held coastal hamlet of Gazala, Libya, 30 miles West of Tobruk.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 617 May 9, 1941

At midday between Greenland and Iceland, U-110 and U-201 attack convoy OB-318 sinking 3 British freighters and damaging another. Both are counterattacked by convoy escorts. U-201 suffers 99 depth charges over 5 hours and returns to base badly damaged. U-110 is forced to surface by 10 depth charges from British corvette HMS Aubretia, then shelled by destroyers HMS Bulldog & HMS Broadway. HMS Bulldog attempts to ram U-110 and Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp orders the crew to abandon ship. However, HMS Bulldog pulls up and U-110 does not sink but Lemp dies swimming back to prevent her capture (total 15 dead, 32 survivors). A boarding party from HMS Bulldog, lead by Sub-Lieutenant David Balme, captures the Enigma machine and code books. HMS Bulldog tries to tow U-110 which sinks next day (possibly deliberately to maintain secrecy around the capture of the Enigma codes which will help solve Reservehandverfahren, a backup hand-cipher used in conjunction with Enigma).

At 11.09 PM 700 miles West of Sierra Leone, U-103 sinks British SS City of Winchester (6 killed master, 92 crew picked up by Norwegian MV Herma). In the same area, Italian submarine Tazzoli sinks Norwegian tanker Alfred Olsen (entire crew rescued).

British transport ship Empire Song (carrying tanks to Middle East Command through the Mediterranean in the Tiger convoy) hits 2 mines and sinks in the Narrows off Malta (57 tanks lost, 18 killed, survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Foresight).

Overnight, Australian destroyer HMAS Vendetta makes the trip from Alexandria, Egypt, to evacuate wounded from Tobruk, Libya. 500 Luftwaffe aircraft mount a heavy raid on London.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 616 May 8, 1941

In the Arabian Sea 400 miles off Somaliland, British cruiser HMS Cornwall responds to distress signals yesterday from tanker British Emperor. A Walrus seaplane finds German armed merchant cruiser Pinguin (disguised as the Norwegian MV Tamerlane). Both ships open fire at 5.14 PM. HMS Cornwall is stopped by a shell which floods the engine room (1 killed, 3 wounded). Outgunned, Pinguin’s crew prepares to abandon ship when she obliterated by an 8-inch shell which hits a store of 130 mines (341 crew and 214 prisoners killed, 60 crew and 22 prisoners rescued by HMS Cornwall). In 357 days, Pinguin sailed 59,000 miles sinking or capturing 28 ships and laying mines that sank 4 more (total 154,710 tons).

At dawn, Indian troops close in on the Italian stronghold at Amba Alagi, Ethiopia, taking the Falagi Pass to the East and 3 small peaks (Centre Hill, Khaki Hill and Castle Hill) to the South. Italians counterattack, recovering Centre and Khaki Hills.

In the middle of the North Atlantic, U-97 sinks British SS Ramillies (29 dead and 12 survivors).

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs Hull for the second night. In one of the heaviest RAF raids so far, 359 bombers attack targets in Germany, including Hamburg and Bremen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 615 May 7, 1941

Royal Navy knows that German weather ships in the North Atlantic receive encrypted signals using the German naval Enigma codes. Off Iceland, British destroyer HMS Somali captures German weather ship Munchen and her Enigma code book.

In the Arabian Sea 400 miles off Somaliland, German armed merchant cruiser Pinguin shells small British tanker British Emperor, which send a stream of radio signals reporting the attack as the crew is taken off. British Emperor is finally sunk with torpedoes but Royal Navy cruiser HMS Cornwall homes in on the signals to hunt for the raider.

150 miles South of Iceland at 11 PM, U-94 sinks British SS Ixion and Norwegian SS Eastern Star (all hands rescued). Convoy escorts destroyer HMS Bulldog and sloop HMS Rochester drop 98 depth charges over 4 hours but U-94 suffers only minor damage. Italian submarine Tazzoli sinks Norwegian SS Ferlane off West Africa (all hands rescued). German bombers sink British minesweeper HMS Stoke at Tobruk (21 killed, survivors rescued by gunboat HMS Ladybird).

Iraq. 20th and 21st Indian Brigades move out of Basra and capture the nearby port of Ashar.

Overnight, British cruiser HMS Ajax and destroyers HMS Havock, Hotspur & Imperial (en route to meet the Tiger convoy) take a detour to bombard Benghazi, Libya, sinking Italian steamers Tenace & Capitano Cecchi.

Overnight, Luftwaffe bombs Liverpool for the last of 7 nights (75% of the port capacity has been destroyed). Destroyer HMS Hurricane is hit by bomb at Gladstone Dock, causing structural damage (under repair until December). Hull is also bombed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 614 May 6, 1941

Overnight, Iraqis withdraw from the plateau overlooking RAF Habbaniya having suffered 1000 casualties from RAF attacks. They abandon 6 Czech 3.7 inch howitzers, 1 field gun, 1 Italian tank, 10 Crossley armoured cars, 79 trucks, 3 anti-aircraft guns, 56 machineguns, 340 rifles and 500,000 rounds of ammunition. They are pursued by King's Own Royal Regiment which leaves RAF Habbaniya in armoured cars (carrying 2 WWI-era 4.5 inch howitzers, previously used as ornaments at the entrance to the officers' mess). KORR routs the retreating Iraqi troops at the village of Sinn El Dhibban on the road back to Baghdad (433 Iraqis taken prisoner). British casualties are 7 killed and 14 wounded. 21st Infantry Brigade, 10th Indian Infantry Division, disembarks at Basra to reinforce the British presence in Iraq.

In Paris, senior German diplomat Otto Abetz and French Foreign Minister Admiral Darlan negotiate a preliminary agreement to send Vichy French war materiel in Syria to the Iraqis (in return, French “occupation costs" are reduced from 20 million to 15 million Reichsmarks a day). Although later rejected by the French government and never ratified, the Paris Protocols also allow Germany use of airbases in Syria to transport aircraft to Iraq. Luftwaffe Colonel Werner Junck is ordered to establish Fliegerführer Irak with 12 Messerschmitt Bf110 fighters and 12 Heinkel He111 bombers.

Allied commander on Crete, General Freyberg, receives accurate intelligence (Ultra intercepts of poorly-coded Luftwaffe signals) on German plans for an airborne invasion of Crete by 2 divisions on May 17. Freyberg does not believe a parachute attack is likely and continues to focus on the threat of amphibious landings with tanks.

U-103 and U-105 sink 3 more British freighters off Sierra Leone (12 killed, 100 survivors). U-103 rights a swamped lifeboat to accommodate more survivors from one steamer. 500 miles West of Ireland, U-97 sinks British ocean boarding vessel HMS Camito and Italian tanker SS Sangro which she is escorting to Britain (28 killed, survivors picked up by corvette HMS Orchis). Off the coast of Italy, British submarines HMS Taku and HMS Truant sink Italian steamers Cagliari and Bengasi.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 613 May 5, 1941

Ethiopia, East Africa. At 4.15 AM, 3/2nd Punjab battalion advances across the ridge from Elephant to Middle Hill (towards Italian stronghold at Amba Alagi). As dawn breaks, they get held up in barbed wire and are pinned down by 12 Italian machineguns only 500 yards ahead (8 killed, 28 wounded). They wait all day under fire to retreat back to Elephant after dark.

Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie triumphantly returns to his capital Addis Ababa, 5 years to the day since fleeing the Second Italo-Abyssinian War on May 5 1936.

The besieged Allied garrison at Tobruk is resupplied by Navy warships for the first time. Australian destroyers HMAS Voyager & HMAS Waterhen complete the round trip from Alexandria to Tobruk overnight.

At 11.17 AM, U-38 sinks British MV Queen Maud (1 killed, 43 survivors) 200 miles off Sierra Leone.

Luftwaffe bombing of Navy yard at Belfast, Northern Ireland, does minor damage to British aircraft carrier HMS Furious, seaplane tender HMS Pegasus, destroyer HMS Volunteer, corvettes HMS Bryony, Buttercup & La Malouine (seized from the French at Portsmouth on June 22 1940). HMS Furious departs next day for Liverpool. Bombing of shipyards on the Clyde Estuary, Scotland, does more serious damage to destroyer HMS Marksman and submarines HMS Traveller & Trooper, which are under construction.

Operation Tiger. Overnight, British freighters (carrying 295 tanks to General Wavell in Egypt) pass through the Strait of Gibraltar with a large escort of warships from Force H.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 612 May 4, 1941

Ethiopia, East Africa. 29th Brigade, 5th Indian Division again attacks the Italian mountain fortifications at Amba Alagi. While Italian defenders are distracted by the feint in the Falaga Pass, 6/13th Frontier Force Rifles battalion and 3/2nd Punjab battalion capture 3 foothills (Pyramid, Whale Back and Elephant) between 4.15 and 7.30 AM. The path to the next hill is over a steep, narrow ridge exposed to Italian machinegun fire, so they wait for dark to advance.

Libya. General Paulus, representing the German High Command, suggests to Rommel that he abandon the attacks at Tobruk in favour of a passive siege to starve the defenders into submission. Rommel creates a ring of posts to limit Allied sorties outside the wire, while Luftwaffe will try to prevent resupply of the Tobruk garrison by sea.

At 7.15 PM off the coast of French Guinea, West Africa, U-38 sinks Swedish SS Japan with 3 torpedoes and shellfire from the deck gun (barrel of the deck gun bursts, injuring the gun crew). All 50 crew and 4 passengers reach land and are interned by the Vichy French. German bombing sinks British minesweeper Fermoy in dock at Malta.

Luftwaffe bombs Liverpool again overnight.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 611 May 3, 1941

Libya. Italian torpedo boat Canopo and Italian steamers Birmania & Citta D' Bari are sunk by RAF bombing at Tripoli. British submarine HMS Triumph sinks Italian coastal steamer Tugnin F. with gunfire off Mersa Brega but submarine HMS Usk does not return from patrol between Sicily and Tunisia (all 30 hands lost). General Morshead’s defense in depth has contained the German breakthrough at Tobruk and he goes onto the offensive to pinch out the German salient. After dark, Australian troops and British light tanks attack under a creeping barrage from artillery and British destroyers HMS Decoy & Defender in the Mediterranean. Their advance is held up by German machinegunners (preventing the infantry from keeping up with the barrage) and the attack is called off at 3.30 AM with 150 Allied casualties.

Iraq. Iraqi artillery on the plateau begins shelling RAF Habbaniya at dawn. The muzzle flashes allow spotters to locate the guns which are then bombed and strafed. RAF again bombs the air force base at Rashid airfield near Baghdad (previously RAF Hinaidi) and an Iraqi Savoia SM 79 bomber is shot down heading for Habbaniya.

Ethiopia, East Africa. 29th Indian Brigade, 5th Indian Division (which has advanced South from Eritrea) attacks up the Falaga Pass towards Italian fortifications at Amba Alagi. Although the attack is a feint, Italian troops are diverted from other approaches and British artillery causes several hundred Italian colonial troops surrender.

At 3.25 AM 200 miles Southwest of Iceland, U-95 sinks Norwegian MV Taranger (1 killed, 32 survivors escape in lifeboats). At 10.23 PM 75 miles off Sierra Leone, U-103 sinks British SS Wray Castle (1 killed, 56 survivors).

At 2.24 AM, British cruiser HMS Gloucester hits a mine and at 1.25 PM she is attacked by Italian bombers (a bomb hits the stern but does not explode). HMS Gloucester suffers only minor damage and will arrival at Gibraltar tomorrow.

Liverpool Blitz. Overnight, Germans bomb Merseyside docks, sinking numerous freighters. A deflated barrage balloon ignites freighter SS Malakand, loaded with 1000 tons of shells and bombs. The explosion completely destroys part of Huskisson Dock (4 killed). The ship’s anchor weighing 2 tons lands 1.5 miles away outside Bootle General Hospital. Luftwaffe also bombs Portsmouth, damaging cruiser HMS Sirius which is under construction.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 610 May 2, 1941

Iraq. At 5 AM during Muslim morning prayers, 33 aircraft from RAF Habbaniya and 8 Wellington bombers from RAF Shaibah bomb and strafe Iraqi artillery on the plateau above Habbaniya, causing the Grand Mufti in Baghdad to declare jihad against Britain. Iraqis reply by shelling RAF Habbaniya (13 killed & 29 wounded, including civilians on the base). RAF also bombs Iraqi air force base at Rashid airfield near Baghdad (destroying 22 aircraft on the ground). RAF loses 5 aircraft in all.

Libya. Fighting continues in the German salient at Tobruk. German infantry are held by Allied reserves sent to plug the gap while sandstorms prevent Rommel from using his Panzers. British gunboat HMS Ladybird bombards Afrika Korps positions at Derna.

British destroyer HMS Jersey hits a mine off Grand Harbour, Malta, and sinks next to the breakwater (35 crew killed, 48 wounded). As a result, cruiser HMS Gloucester and destroyers HMS Kipling & Kashmir divert to Gibraltar. British steamer Parracombe, carrying 21 crated Hurricane fighters to Malta, sinks on a mine off Cape Bon, Tunisia.

German anti-submarine trawler Vp 808 is sunk by RAF bombing off the island of Borkum, near the Dutch/German border.

British minesweeping trawler HMT Alberic and destroyer HMS St. Albans collide in Pentland Firth between the North of Scotland and the Orkney Islands. HMT Alberic sinks with the loss of 13 crew. The destroyer sails to Southampton for repairs to her bows (completed on June 4). Royal Navy commissions convoy escort ship HMS Lulworth (ex-US Coast Guard Cutter) at New York with a crew from British battleship HMS Resolution (under repair in USA).

Luftwaffe bombs Liverpool again overnight.