Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 664 June 25, 1941 empty

Day 663 June 24, 1941 partial

Soviet submarine S-3, although under repair and unable to dive, attempts to escape from the Latvian port of Libau but is sunk by German motor torpedo boats S-60 and S-35 using 20mm cannon, hand grenades and depth charges. 2 other Soviet submarines (M-71 and M-80) and destroyer Lenin are also scuttled at Libau.

All day, German and Italian bombers attack British sloop HMS Auckland and Australian sloop HMAS Parramatta, escorting tanker Pass of Balmaha from Alexandria to Tobruk with 750 tons of aviation fuel. At 5.36 PM, HMS Auckland is hit by a bomb which destroys her stern and then capsizes (38 killed). 162 crew are rescued from the water by HMAS Parramatta, under continued dive bomb attack, before HMS Auckland explodes and sinks. Pass of Balmaha is damaged by near-misses and towed into Tobruk by Australian destroyer HMAS Waterhen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

taking a break

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 662 days of posting a daily record of WWII from 70 years ago. Unfortunately, the time commitment is just too great for me to keep up with all the events in so many theatres as the war picks up pace.

I will create an entry for each date to provide a framework to fill in details later. I will no longer post a detailed update every day, although I will do this as often as I can. Some days, however, there will be no information posted. I know this will disappoint many of you who appreciate the daily posts and it will be frustrating to see blank entries or ‘empty’ dates. For this I apologise.

I am not giving up on this project completely, only delaying it. I intend to return to this later, when I have more time on my hands. Also, I will continue reading and writing (at least in note form) so there will be some framework for a future effort. I will also use the time to find grant funding to give this daily history a permanent website rather than using Facebook and blogger.

Finally, thank you all for your support over the last 644 days. I hope together we can continue following the events of WWII.

Please feel free to record your thoughts using comments to this post.

Day 662 June 23, 1941

Operation Barbarossa. German Panzers penetrate 40-50 miles into Soviet territory while Luftwaffe destroys another 1200 Soviet aircraft, mainly on the ground.

At 6.54 AM, U-144 sinks Soviet submarine M-78 in the Baltic Sea 9 miles West of Vindava, Latvia (all 15 crew lost including commander of the 4th Submarine-Division, Klt Matveev Stepan Ionovich). 3 other Soviet submarines (Ronis, Spidola and S-1) are scuttled at in the Latvian port of Libau to prevent capture by the Germans. 2 Soviet destroyers hit mines and sink (Gnevniy in the Baltic Sea off Estonian island of Hiiumaa, Bystry in the Black Sea off Sevastopol).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 661 June 22, 1941

Operation Barbarossa. At 4.15 AM, Germany invades USSR, breaking their non-aggression agreement, in the largest military operation ever. 3.5 million German and Romanian troops (with 3,350 tanks, 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses) cross the border along an 1800 mile front from East Prussia on the Baltic Sea, Poland in the middle and Romania on the Black Sea. Soviet border troops have some warning of the attack but they are overwhelmed. Soviet response is weak due to poor communications and dispositions which hold the main Soviet forces back from the border. Using classic blitzkrieg tactics, Luftwaffe bombs supply dumps, railways and airfields. 2000 Soviet aircraft are destroyed neatly lined up on the ground for the loss of 35 Luftwaffe aircraft. Stalin is paralysed by the attack and, at 11 PM, Foreign Minister Molotov addresses the Soviet people.

At 3.29 AM 100 miles off the North coast of Ireland, U-141 sinks neutral Swedish SS Calabria (3 dead and 21 survivors escape in a lifeboat). At 10.36 PM 550 miles East of St. Johns, Newfoundland, U-77 sinks British SS Arakara being used as a weather ship (all 33 crew and 12 Royal Navy meteorologists lost).

Day 660 June 21, 1941

Free French troops (Gentforce) capture Damascus, the capital of Syria, although there is still fighting in the surrounding villages and the country does not surrender. 5th Indian Infantry Brigade is annihilated in the village of Mezze, 3 miles West of Damascus; at 1.20 PM, 50 hours after being surrounded, they run out of ammunition and surrender. Vichy French then retreat West along the road to Beirut allowing Australian troops to capture Mezze.

Day 659 June 20, 1941

Damascus, Syria. 2 companies of Indian 3/1st Punjab Regiment and 2 companies of French Marines attempt but fail to relieve 5th Indian Infantry Brigade trapped in Mezze, 3 miles West of Damascus on the Vichy-held road from Quneitra. Overnight, Free French troops, British anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and an Australian machine-gun battalion capture Qadim on the Deera-Damascus road.

At 8.30 PM, U-123 sinks neutral Portuguese SS Ganda off Casablanca with 3 torpedoes and the deck gun (3 crew and 2 passengers killed, 61 escape in a motorboat and a lifeboat). U-203 sights WWI-era US battleship USS Texas in the North Atlantic 750 miles West of Ireland, within the U-boats’ operational area. U-203 does not attack after checking with U-boat command, avoiding conflict with USA.

Day 658 June 19, 1941

Syria. Indian and Free French troops launch a two-prong attack on Damascus, along the 2 roads from the South. Free French are held up at Qadim, 4 miles South on the road from Deera. 5th Indian Infantry Brigade marches across country to the village of Mezze at 5.30 AM (3 miles West of Damascus on the road from Quneitra, behind the Vichy French lines) but they lack support and become surrounded.

Day 657 June 18, 1941

At 4.38 AM 150 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-552 sinks British SS Norfolk (1 killed, 64 crew and 6 gunners picked up by destroyer HMS Skate). British destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Foresight and HMS Foxhound sink U-138 with depth charges, 100 miles West of Gibraltar (all 27 crew rescued and taken prisoner).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 656 June 17, 1941

Operation Battleaxe. Starting at 4.30 AM, German 5th Light and 15th Panzer Divisions drive East to cut off the British still attacking Halfaya Pass. General Messervy senses the trap and orders 22nd Guards Brigade at Fort Capuzzo and 11th Indian Brigade at Halfaya Pass to retreat. 7th Armoured Division tanks form a screen against the advancing Panzers until 4 PM, allowing the retreating infantry to avoid the German encirclement. British losses during Battleaxe are 381 killed and missing, 588 wounded, 91 tanks (27 cruiser tanks and 64 Matildas), 33 RAF fighters and 3 bombers. Wavell will be replaced as CIC Middle East by Churchill for this failure to relieve Tobruk with the new tanks from the Tiger convoy. Germans lose 328 killed and missing, 350 wounded, only 12 tanks and 10 aircraft. Although Egypt lies undefended before him, Rommel cannot exploit this success due to long supply lines from Tripoli and the threat from Allied forces at Tobruk.

At 3.15 AM 250 miles Southwest of Ireland, U-43 sinks British MV Cathrine (24 crew lost, 3 in a lifeboat rescued after 33 days by the British trawler Boreas).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 655 June 16, 1941

Operation Battleaxe. There is stalemate at Halfaya Pass where British tanks are held at bay by the 88s. With the British attack stopped by German anti-tank guns and numerous tank breakdowns, Rommel sends in his armoured reserves. 5th Light Division attempts to outflank the British at dawn, bypassing Hafid Ridge to the West, but they are spotted by British 7th Armoured Regiment. There are running battles all day with many British tanks lost to the heavier guns of the Panzer IIIs and Ivs. At dusk, 7th Armoured Regiment retreats, allowing 5th Light Division to swing East at Sidi Omar aiming to encircle the British at Halfaya Pass. 15th Panzer Division attacks Fort Capuzzo all morning but loses 50 of 80 tanks to British 25-pounder anti-tank guns by noon. They are then ordered to cut South to Sidi Omar to join 5th Light in the encircling manoeuvre.

The British Royal Fusiliers battalion surrounded at Quneitra, Syria, is annihilated by Vichy French tanks. At 7 PM, 177 British officers and men surrender. Meanwhile further North, Indian and Free French troops (Gentforce) push on towards Damascus. 40 miles of the coast of Syria, British torpedo bombers sink Vichy French destroyer Chevalier Paul carrying ammunition from Toulon, France.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 654 June 15, 1941

Operation Battleaxe. At 2 AM, British troops (including 11th Indian Infantry Brigade) in armoured cars, 100 infantry tanks & 90 cruiser tanks move forward from Egypt. They attack German/Italian defenses on the Libyan border at 6 AM, moving along the coast and across the desert covered by RAF Hurricane fighters. By noon, they recapture Fort Capuzzo (has now changed hands 9 times since June 1940). However, British tanks are decimated by dug-in 88mm anti-tank guns firing over open sights at Halfaya Pass and Hafid Ridge. At Halfaya Pass (named Hellfire Pass by the British) 15 heavy Matilda infantry tanks are quickly destroyed. At Hafid Ridge, Germans fake a retreat to lure the British tanks over a ridge into a trap (the first of many times Rommel will use this tactic). Although the race to bring reinforcing armour to North Africa has been a tie, Germans take the first round due to superior anti-tank weapons.

Operation Exporter. British destroyers shelling Sidon, Lebanon, in support of Australian 7th Division, are attacked again by Luftwaffe Ju88s, hitting destroyers HMS Jackal, Ilex and Isis. Jackal suffers minor damage from a bomb passing through the upper deck and into the sea. Both HMS Ilex and Isis go to Haifa for temporary repairs. Isis will go to Bombay and Singapore where she is further damaged by Japanese bombing on January 17 1942. Ilex will go to Aden, Mombassa, Durban and USA for repairs, completed in October 1942. In Syria at 4 AM, Indian and Free French troops (Gentforce, now under the command of British Brigadier Lloyd French as General Paul Legentilhomme has been wounded) launch an attack the city of Kissoué, 8 miles South of the capital Damascus on the road from Deera. They capture Kissoué by 9 AM but Vichy troops outflank them along a parallel road 5 miles to West and threaten Allied troops holding Quneitra, well behind Gentforce.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 653 June 14, 1941

Operation Exporter. British destroyers HMS Jervis and HMS Griffin bombarded Sidon, Lebanon, in support of Australian 7th Division. 2 French destroyers emerge from Beirut at 4.20 PM to engage but are chased off by New Zealand cruiser HMNZS Leander and the destroyers. 8 German Ju88s try to bomb the British warships but they are engaged by 8 Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks of 3 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force, flying from airfields in Palestine, which shoot down 3 Ju88s.

Operation Battleaxe. CIC Middle East General Wavell believes incorrectly that Rommel has most of his armour engaged in the siege of Tobruk. During the day, British armour, reinforced with tanks from the Tiger convoy, moves forward in Egypt to within 25 miles of German positions on the Libyan border. In fact, Rommel has the newly arrived 15th Panzer Division on the border and he orders up reinforcements when he learns of the British movement, leaving 5th Light Division to prevent any break out from Tobruk. Overnight, German artillery bombard Tobruk.

At 3.46 AM 700 miles West of Ireland, U-751 sinks British SS St. Lindsay (all 34 crew, 5 gunners and 5 Royal Navy passengers are lost). South of Sardinia, British submarine HMS Clyde sinks Italian SS Giovanni Bottigliere.

Operation Tracer. British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Victorious, escorted by cruiser HMS Renown and 7 destroyers, sail from Gibraltar and fly off 47 Hurricane fighters to Malta. Only 43 Hurricanes arrive safely.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 652 June 13, 1941

Operation Exporter, Lebanon. Australian 7th Division is held up by Vichy French defenders at the steep pass at Jezzine, halfway from the Palestinian border to Beirut.

At 5.45 AM 300 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, U-77 sinks British SS Tresillian (all 46 hands picked up by US Coast Guard cutter USS Duane and landed at St. Johns, Newfoundland). At midday 300 miles North of the Azores, U-107 sinks Greek SS Pandias carrying 4894 tons of coal and 1050 tons of military goods, including 11 Spitfire fighters, to Alexandria, Egypt (11 dead, 23 survivors in lifeboats given cigarettes, water & rum by the U-boat crew). 100 miles East of the Azores, Italian submarine Brin sinks British steamer Djurdjura (33 killed, 5 rescued) and Greek steamer Eirini Kyriakides (all 31 hands lost) in convoy SL75.

Operation Sommerreise. German heavy cruiser Lützow and escort cruisers Emden and Leipzig plus destroyers pass through the Skagerrak between Denmark and Norway, escorted by twin-engine Messerschmitt Bf110 fighters. South of Lindesnes, Norway, a Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber inveigles into the fighter escort and attacks. Lützow is hit with a torpedo in the engine room and returns to Kiel under her own steam.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 651 June 12, 1941

As part of the effort to cleanse the Atlantic of German supply ships refueling surface raiders and U-boats, British cruiser HMS Sheffield sinks German tanker Friedrich Breme with shellfire (2 killed, 86 crew rescued including 10 wounded).

Indian and Free French forces under French General Paul Legentilhomme (Gentforce) capture Deraa, Sheikh Meskine and Ezraa in Southwest Syria on the road to Damascus but are held up at Kissoué.

British submarine HMS Taku sinks Italian steamer Silvio Scaroni 70 miles West of Benghazi but is counterattacked by Italian torpedo boats Pallade and Polluce without success. British submarine HMS Torbay sinks Italian schooner Gesue E Maria off Greek island of Skiros. Dutch submarine O.24 sinks Italian tanker Fianona and tiny auxiliary patrol ship Carloforte 10 miles North of the Italian island of Elba.

In the middle of North Atlantic, U-48 sinks British SS Empire Dew (23 killed, 18 picked up by Norwegian destroyer St. Albans) and U-371 sinks British SS Silverpalm (all 68 hands lost) while U-558 sinks British SS Susan Mærsk (all 24 hands lost) and Norwegian tanker Ranella (all 29 hands escape in 2 lifeboats, sailing 300 miles South to the Azores in 12 days). West of Ireland, U-552 sinks British MV Chinese Prince (45 killed, 19 picked up by corvettes HMS Arbutus and Pimpernel).

Operation Sommerreise. German heavy cruiser Lützow and escort cruisers Emden and destroyers pass through the Kattegat between Denmark and Sweden.

Day 650 June 11, 1941

Indian 3rd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment captures Assab, Eritrea, clearing the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coastlines of Italian forces. This will allow President Roosevelt to declare the area a non-combat zone and permit US ships to proceed through the Suez Canal, providing much relief to British forces in the Mediterranean.

Operation Sommerreise. German heavy cruiser Lutzow (repaired after damage from Norwegian shellfire and a British torpedo attack during the invasion of Norway in April 1940) departs Kiel for Norway, escorted by light cruisers Emden and Leipzig plus 6 destroyers.

At 8.51 PM 150 miles West of Iceland, U-79 sinks Norwegian SS Havtor (6 killed). 14 survivors, including 9 wounded, abandon ship in a lifeboat and are picked up by a fishing boat. Able seaman Ole Normann Lorentzen has now survived 3 sinkings in the North Atlantic in 9 months since September 15 1940.

15 miles South of Greek island of Lesbos, British submarine HMS Torbay rams and sinks a Greek fishing boat carrying German troops and supplies. British submarine HMS Taku sinks German steamer Tilly LM Russ in Benghazi Harbour.

Overnight, RAF Bomber Command begins 20 nights of raids on the Germany industrial heartland (Ruhr area and the Rhineland) and the port towns of Hamburg and Bremen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 649 June 10, 1941

Operation Exporter. Allied troops make slow progress North out of Palestine. They capture a number of villages and small towns in Southwestern Syria. In Lebanon, the initially rapid advance of Australian 7th Division towards Beirut is slowed by blowing of bridges over the Litani River by the French defenders.

Operation Chronometer. Indian 3rd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment lands at Assab, Eritrea. Assab is the last Italian Red Sea port, mainly held by assorted survivors retreating from various battles in Eritrea plus 5 batteries of coastal guns manned by the Navy.

In the Humber estuary, steamship Royal Scot hits an acoustic mine and sinks. Patrol vessel HMS Pintail assists but also sets off an acoustic mine, sinking immediately (55 killed, 22 rescued by destroyer HMS Quantock and another ship).

U-boats sink 3 freighters in the North Atlantic from the coast of Ireland to within 500 miles of the Canadian coast.

British submarine HMS Torbay attacks an Italian convoy 15 miles off the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, sinking steamer Giuseppina Ghirardi and hitting Utilitas with a torpedo that sticks in the hull but does not explode.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 648 June 9, 1941

Operation Exporter. Lebanon. British troopship Glengyle (escorted by destroyers HMS Ilex and Hero) departs Port Said, Egypt, and lands 420 British Commandos who aid Australian troops in crossing the Litani River in canvas boats and capturing Vichy French positions. French destroyers Valmy and Guépard from Beirut bombard the Allied troops attacking the Litani River but British destroyers HMS Janus, Hotspur, Isis & Jackal and New Zealand cruiser HMNZS Leander arrive to drive off the French. HMS Janus is badly damaged by the French destroyers (towed to Haifa and then through the Suez Canal to Cape Town, South Africa, for repairs until the end of the year). French submarine Caiman attacks British cruiser HMS Phoebe without success off the Syrian coast. In Syria, British, Indian and Free French troops make slow progress but still meet little resistance from Vichy defenders.

In the Atlantic West of Britain, U-46 sinks British SS Phidias with the deck gun just after midnight (8 crew killed, 40 crew and 3 gunners picked up by British SS Embassage and landed at Sydney, Australia) and U-101 sinks British SS Trevarrack at 6.35 PM (3 lifeboats launch but 38 crew and 7 passengers are never found).

Day 647 June 8, 1941

About 30,000 Allied troops invade Vichy French Lebanon and Syria (Operation Exporter), defended by 35,000 regular Vichy troops and 10,000 colonial Levantine irregulars. At 2 AM, Australian, Free French, British and Indian troops advance North from Palestine heading for Beirut (Southern Lebanon) and Damascus (Southwest Syria) under the assumption that Vichy forces will not put up much resistance. Australian 7th Division moves 35 miles North along roads towards Beirut but is held up by French troops dug in on the Litani River in Lebanon. A planned landing of 420 British commandos from the Mediterranean near the Litani River is abandoned due to rough seas. In Syria, British, Indian and Free French troops meet little resistance but make slow progress across the rocky desert.

Day 646 June 7, 1941

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 645 June 6, 1941

Axis submarines have a busy day in the mid-Atlantic. 350 miles West of Gibraltar, Italian submarine Marconi sinks British SS Baron Lovat (all rescued) and Swedish SS Taberg (15 killed). At 5.03 AM 250 miles West of Cape Verde Islands, U-106 sinks British SS Sacramento Valley (3 killed, 39 survivors in a lifeboat and a jolly boat rescued on June 9 by British MV Caithness, 7 rescued from a jolly boat on June 24 by Panamanian tanker Stanvac Calcutta). At 8.24 PM 930 miles Northwest of the Azores, U-43 sinks Dutch SS Yselhaven (24 killed, 10 survivors in a lifeboat rescued by Finnish steamer Hammarland on June 15 and taken to Norfolk, Virginia, USA). At 11.25 PM 630 miles Northwest of the Azores, U-48 sinks British SS Tregarthen (all 45 hands lost).

Hitler issues Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars (Commissar Order, Kommissarbefehl) during the upcoming invasion of USSR, ordering that Soviet political commissars should be shot.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 644 June 5, 1941

At 1.31 AM 670 miles North of the Azores, U-48 sinks British MV Wellfield (8 killed, 19 crew picked up by British tanker British Ardour, another 15 crew picked up by Norwegian MV Heina on June 11). Kriegsmarine places orders for 102 U-boats.

Off the coast of Libya between Misrata and Sirte, British submarine HMS Triumph and WWI-era Italian gunboat Valoroso engage in a duel of deck guns. HMS Triumph sinks Valoroso and 2 tiny Italian steamers Frieda and Trio Frassinetti.

700 miles Southwest of Cape Verde islands, British cruiser HMS London and destroyer HMS Brilliant intercept German tanker Egerland, another supply ship refueling surface raiders and U-boats in the Atlantic. Egerland is scuttled by her crew (all 94 hands rescued by HMS London and HMS Brilliant).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 643 June 4, 1941

Royal Navy continues rounding up German supply ships all over the Atlantic. 750 miles Southwest of Cape Verde islands, cruiser HMS London and destroyer HMS Brilliant intercept tanker Esso Hamburg which is then scuttled by her crew (all 87 hands rescued). 380 miles Northeast of the Azores, supply ship Gonzenheim is located by armed merchant cruiser HMS Esperance Bay and aircraft from carrier HMS Victorious. Battleship HMS Nelson and cruiser HMS Neptune intercept and attempt to board but then Gonzenheim is scuttled (63 crew rescued by HMS Neptune). In the same area, tanker Gedania (carrying 48 torpedoes) is captured by ocean boarding vessel HMS Marsdale. Gedania will be renamed Empire Garden and used by the British.

At 5.03 AM 1200 miles West of Brest, France, U-101 stops British SS Trecarrell with torpedoes (4 crew lost). 39 crew and 4 gunners abandon ship in 3 lifeboats and a raft (later picked up by British steam merchant Cornerbrook and landed at Halifax). U-101 tries to finish her off with the deck gun but Matrosenobergefreiter Horst Jackl is thrown overboard by the recoil and lost. At 6.40 AM, U-101 rams the wreck, bending her bow, and then gives up and allows SS Trecarrell to sink on her own.

British dredger Robert Hughes hits a mine (laid by U-69 on May 27) and sinks in Lagos Harbour, Nigeria (14 killed, 17 crew members rescued).

Dutch minelayer HNLMS Van Meerlant hits a mine and sinks in the Thames Estuary (3 killed).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 642 June 3, 1941

Using information from Ultra intercepts, Royal Navy hunts the network of German supply ships that refuel surface raiders and U-boats in the Atlantic. 80 miles Southwest of Greenland, cruisers HMS Aurora and HMS Kenya attack German tanker Belchen while refueling U-93. U-93 crash dives. Belchen is hit with shellfire and a torpedo from HMS Aurora and then finally scuttled by her crew (5 killed). British ships leave without picking up survivors, knowing there is a U-boat nearby, but 50 crew are rescued later in the day by U-93.

950 miles West of Brest, France, U-48 and U-75 attack convoy OB-327 sinking Dutch MV Eibergen (4 dead, 35 survivors picked up by a British anti-aircraft ship HMS Cairo on June 7) and British tanker Inversuir (all 45 hands rescued by Norwegian steam merchant Para, destroyer HMS Wanderer and an unknown vessel).

British liner SS Mamari (used by Royal Navy as Fleet Tender C, a decoy version of the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes) is attacked by German aircraft off the English coast near Cromer, Norfolk. Mamari takes evasive action and becomes stuck on the submerged wreck of steam tanker Ahamo (sunk on a mine on April 8). The crew is taken off by rescue tug Sabine. Overnight, Mamari is torpedoed by German E-boats before she can be salvaged.

Day 641 June 2, 1941

U-147 attacks convoy OB-329 Northwest of Ireland, damaging Belgian MV Mokambo (all 43 crew and 4 gunners survive). U-147 is sunk by depth charges from convoy escorts, British destroyer HMS Wanderer and corvette HMS Periwinkle (all 26 hands lost).

At 8.43 PM about 1050 miles West of Land’s End, England, U-108 torpedoes British SS “Michael E.” (Catapult Armed Merchantman or CAM ship, carrying a Hurricane fighter in a catapult to combat long-range German bombers targeting shipping and directing U-boats). Michael E. sinks with the loss of the Hurricane and 4 crew (47 survivors rescued by Dutch MV Alcinous next day).

Vichy France grants Germany use of Tunisian port of Bizerta for transport food, clothing and supplies to North Africa (but excludes troops, equipment and ammunition).