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.

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