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).

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