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.

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