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.

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