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.

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