Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 793 November 1, 1941

Red Army begins evacuating 28,000 troops and their equipment to Leningrad from Hango Peninsula in Finland (USSR leased a naval base here in the Moscow Peace Treaty, March 12, 1940). Overnight, Soviet destroyers Slavny and Stoiki sail from island of Suursaari in the Gulf of Finland (escorted by minelayer Marti, 4 T-class minesweepers and 5 MO-class submarine hunters) and embark 4230 troops at Hango. On the return journey, Marti and T-210 are damaged by mines while submarine Kalev (captured from the Estonian Navy on August 19, 1940) does not return from covering the evacuation, presumably lost on a mine.

At Sevastopol, Soviet 30th coastal battery (called Fort Maxim Gorky I by the Germans) shells German 132nd Infantry Division as they assemble at 12.30 PM between Alma railway station and Bazarchik village. Planned German attack on Soviet 8th Naval Brigade is broken up by 68 rounds from the 305mm guns. Von Manstein’s 11th Army lacks enough tanks and air support to take Sevastopol by storm, so they fan out to surround and besiege the city.

At 6.54 AM 300 miles off the coast of South West Africa (now Namibia), U-68 sinks British MV Bradford City (carrying 9500 tons of sugar and rum from Mauritius). All 37 crew and 8 gunners abandon ship in 2 lifeboats and make land near Walvis Bay, South West Africa. U-68 collides with the sinking ship but is not badly damaged.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 792 October 31, 1941

First US Navy warship lost in WWII. At 8.34 AM 725 miles West of Ireland, U-552 sinks American WWI-era destroyer USS Reuben James (escorting convoy HX-156 with 4 other US destroyers). 2 torpedoes ignite the aft magazine, blowing off the bow. Primed depth charges sink and explode, killing survivors in the water (115 killed, 45 rescued by other escorts).

At 9.03 AM 120 miles East of St. John’s, Newfoundland, U-374 sinks British SS Rose Schiaffino (all 37 crew and 4 gunners lost).

At 10.47 AM 400 miles West of Ireland, U-96 sinks Dutch SS Bennekom (5 crew and 3 gunners killed, 46 survivors picked up the next day by British sloop HMS Culver). U-96 is attacked by British sloop HMS Lulworth with 27 depth charges (U-96 is not damaged).

Soviet destroyer Bodryy at Sevastopol shells German tanks 25 miles North on the Crimean coast at Nikolaevka. Luftwaffe Stukas attack the Soviet warships being used as floating artillery batteries, doing no damage but killing or wounding 50 crewmen with machinegun fire.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 791 October 30, 1941

Operation Typhoon. At 5.30 AM, Kampfgruppe Eberbach advances into Tula but is beaten back by Soviet anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. They repeat the exercise at 10 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM with the same result. Tula’s Soviet defenders (Workers Militia and NKVD 156th Regiment) suffer severe losses, mainly to German artillery, but just manage to hold their ground. Overnight, Soviet 32nd tank brigade arrives (later reinforced with 3 rifle divisions) and Tula is safe. While fighting will continue at Tula and elsewhere on the Mozhaysk line for the next few weeks, the German advance on Moscow grinds to a halt until the Russian mud freezes over.

At 9 AM 700 miles east of Newfoundland, U-106 torpedoes US fleet oiler USS Salinas but USS Salinas is able to reach Argentia, Newfoundland, for repairs. U-106 is then hunted for 9 hours by escorts and seriously damaged.

On the Crimean peninsula, German 132nd Infantry Division (part of 11th Army) is stopped by the outer defenses at Sevastopol. Overnight, Soviet cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz ferries 8th Naval Infantry brigade from Novorossiysk (Caucasian port on the Black Sea coast) to beef up the defenses at Sevastopol. Black Sea Fleet moves WWI-era battleship Parizhskaya Kommuna, cruiser Molotov and smaller warships out of Sevastopol to safety in Caucasian ports while 3 cruisers and 3 destroyers are left to aid in the defense of the city as floating gun batteries.

Day 790 October 29, 1941

Operation Typhoon. At 4 PM, Kampfgruppe Eberbach, part of German 4th Panzer Division, reaches Tula (Southeast end of the Mozhaysk line, 100 miles from Moscow) having advanced 75 miles in a week despite the mud and stiff Soviet resistance. Reconnaissance of the Southern outskirts is turned back by Soviet anti-aircraft guns firing over open sights, so Eberbach decides to wait until dawn to attack.

Further South, Manstein’s German 11th Army has overrun most of the Crimean peninsula and is approaching the regional capital Simferopol and the massive port of Sevastopol, home of Soviet Black Sea Fleet. Germans want the Crimea as a base for operations further East into the Caucasus and need to eliminate the Soviet threat to their advance around the Black Sea. Moreover, Hitler wants the Crimean peninsula as a sun-drenched “German Gibraltar” for vacationers after the war.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 789 October 28, 1941

At 3.43 AM, U-68 sinks British SS Hazelside about 600 miles Southeast of St. Helena (2 killed, 44 picked up by British MV Malayan Prince and landed at Capetown).

At 5 AM 320 miles Northeast of the Azores, U-432 finishes the attack on convoy HG-75 sinking British SS Ulea (19 killed, 9 survivors picked up by British corvettes HMS La Malouine and HMS Bluebell).

At 7.19 AM, U-106 sinks British MV King Malcolm in the middle of the North Atlantic between Ireland and Canada (all 38 hands lost).

In North Africa, Rommel is preparing an all-out assault on the besieged Allied garrison at Tobruk, which is frustrating his plans to move on British interests in Egypt. He cannot afford to leave this threat to his rear and he needs the port as a forward supply base. German and Italian infantry rehearse storming bunkers, engineers plan routes through minefields and artillerymen range targets among the Allied defenses. Meanwhile Rommel plans a 2 week vacation in Italy with his wife Lucie, to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 788 October 27, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Germans slowly make progress towards Moscow all along the Mozhaysk line. At the Southeast end of the line, Kampfgruppe Eberbach advances to Plavsk 37 miles from Tula (140 miles from Moscow). At the Northwest end of the line, 4th Panzer Army finally defeats Soviet 316th Rifle Division at Volokolamsk 68 miles from Moscow (316th Rifle Division is reduced to only 3500 men but has delayed 4th Panzer Army for 2 weeks). In the middle of the line, the 11 infantry divisions of German 4th Army come to a standstill. Feldmarschall von Kluge lies to his superior Feldmarschall Fedor von Bock, commander of Army Group Center, about the strength of Soviet defenses. Amazingly, von Bock allows 4th Army to dig trenches and go on the defensive, losing all momentum towards Moscow.

British submarine HMS Tetrach, which left Malta yesterday to refit in Britain via Gibraltar, is lost in an Italian minefield between Sicily and Tunisia (all 59 hands plus 3 naval personnel returning to Britain are lost).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 787 October 26, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 49. Leningrad Front and Soviet 54th Army swap commanders. General Fedyuninsky, the better fighting general, moves from Leningrad to take command of 54th Army which is now defending against the German advance on the railhead at Tikhvin. General Mikhail Khozin is relieved of 54th Army to take charge in Leningrad (he is familiar with the area having commanded Leningrad Front in 1938).

Battle of convoy HG-75. At 3.54 AM, U-83 badly damages British fighter catapult ship HMS Ariguani with a torpedo (2 killed, survivors taken off by British corvette HMS Campion including those rescued 2 days ago from torpedoed steamer SS Carsbreck). HMS Ariguani will be towed to Gibraltar, decommissioned, repaired and returned to service as a merchant ship in January 1944. U-71 fires 4 torpedoes at an unidentified escort boat (all miss). The escort then counterattacks with depth charges for 7 hours, severely damaging U-71 which is forced to return to base.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 786 October 25, 1941

500 miles West of Gibraltar, Italian submarine Galileo Ferraris is homing in on convoy HG-75 when attacked by a British Catalina seaplane from Gibraltar. Although depth charges fail to explode, Galileo Ferraris is damaged by machinegun fire. British destroyer HMS Lamerton arrives but is hit with a 4 inch shell from Galileo Ferraris. The superior firepower of HMS Lamerton forces the submarine to scuttle (6 killed, 44 crew rescued). U-563 attempts to attack convoy HG-75 again but is counterattacked with depth charges by British corvette HMS Heliotrope. U-563 is driven under but is undamaged.

Odessa massacre continues. Romanian troops shell the fourth warehouses at Dalnik building, containing all the male Jews.

Operation Cultivate. Overnight, British minelaying cruiser HMS Latona and destroyers HMS Hero, Hotspur & Encounter leave Alexandria, Egypt, for Tobruk, Libya. At 9.05 PM, they are attacked by 10 German Stukas and 2 Italian S.79 medium bombers 35 miles East of Tobruk. HMS Latona, carrying 1000 Polish troops into Tobruk, is hit by a 500-kg bomb which destroys the engine room (20 crew and 7 soldiers killed, HMS Hero and Encounter take off survivors and return to Alexandria). HMS Latona sinks at 10.30 PM when fire ignites the magazine. HMS Hero is damaged by near misses of 3 bombs (under repair at Alexandria for 4 weeks). 7234 Australian 9th Division troops and 727 wounded have been taken out of Tobruk during Operation Cultivate, and 7138 replacements brought in.

Day 785 October 24, 1941

Operation Typhoon. After the fall of Mtensk, an ad hoc formation of 4th Panzer Division under Colonel Heinrich Eberbach (Kampfgruppe Eberbach) advances 18 miles to Chern, on the road to Tula.

Further South, Germans rapidly encircle the major Soviet industrial city of Kharkov in the Eastern Ukraine. Infantry divisions from 6th & 17th Armies, using horse-drawn artillery and supplies, take Kharkov without any tanks or armored vehicles which have been diverted for Operation Typhoon. However, most heavy industry has been moved East beyond the Ural mountains (over 70 factories dismantled and loaded onto 320 trains) and the city is defended only by Soviet 216th Rifle Division.

Odessa massacre continues. At 5 PM, Romanian troops set fire to 3 warehouses at Dalnik containing the survivors, mainly women and children, from yesterday’s machinegunning. A fourth building with the men is left until tomorrow.

U-563 and U-564 attack convoy HG-75 300 miles west of Gibraltar. At 00.38, U-563 badly damages British destroyer HMS Cossack with 1 torpedo (159 killed, 60 survivors on rafts picked up by destroyer HMS Legion and corvette HMS Carnation). HMS Cossack will be towed towards Gibraltar and sink in heavy weather on October 27. At 6.36 AM, U-564 fires 5 torpedoes sinking 3 small British steamers (SS Carsbreck, SS Ariosto and SS Alhama; 30 killed, 96 survivors).

British minesweeping trawlers HMS Lucienne Jeanne and HMT Emilion hit mines and sink in the Thames estuary.

Germans execute 50 communist activists at Camp Souge, France, in retaliation for the killing 3 days ago of Dr. Hans-Gottfried Reimers, a civilian working for the German occupation forces.

Operation Cultivate. Overnight, British minelaying cruiser HMS Abdiel and destroyers HMS Kandahar, Kingston & Griffin make the round trip from Alexandria, Egypt, carrying troops and supplies to Tobruk, Libya, and bringing out Australian 9th Division.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 784 October 23, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 46. Soviet breakout along the Southern shore of Lake Ladoga peters out in the face of stiff German resistance. Meanwhile, the German advance on the rail and road junction at Tikhvin continues. General Mikhail Khozin, commanding Soviet 54th Army which is attacking from the East to link up with the breakout, realizes the danger and diverts 2 rifle divisions to defend Tikhvin.

Operation Typhoon. 3rd Panzer Division (part of Panzergruppe 2 which had been involved in the destruction of the Bryansk pocket) moves through Bolkhov to outflank Soviet defenses at Mtensk 27 miles away. The road to Tula (the last Soviet defenses before Moscow) is now open.

Odessa massacre. Romanians continue murdering Jewish civilians in retaliation for the Soviet time-bomb blast yesterday. 19,000 Jews are herded to a square, doused with petrol and burned. Another 20,000 are taken to the village of Dalnik. Groups of 50 are shot in antitank ditches but this is too slow; the rest are locked in 4 warehouses and machine-gunned from outside. The survivors, many wounded, are left until the following day.

The 4-man watch (Oberleutnant zur See Werner Grüneberg, Fähnrich zur See Herbert von Bruchhausen, Oberbootsmannmaat Karl Heemann, Matrose Ewald Brühl) is all swept overboard off U-106 in the Bay of Biscay, 2 days after leaving base at Lorient, France.

Soviet submarine SC.323 sinks German merchant SS Baltenland in the Baltic Sea.

Overnight, British warships leave Alexandria, Egypt, to shell Axis positions on the Mediterranean coast. Cruisers HMS Ajax, Neptune & Hobart (escorted by destroyers HMS Eridge & Avonvale) bombard Bardia, Libya, while destroyers HMS Napier, Nizam, Jupiter & Hasty shell Sollum, Egypt. All return safely to Alexandria next day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 783 October 22, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Guderian’s Panzergruppe 2 resupplies with fuel & ammunition and resumes the drive on Moscow from the Southwest despite the rasputitsa. 4th Panzer Division renews the attack near Mtensk where they have been held since October 10 but they are held by well dug-in Soviet infantry.

At 1.42 AM, U-68 sinks British Fleet oiler RFA Darkdale, serving as an oil storage vessel (with 3000 tons of fuel oil, 850 tons of aviation fuel, 500 tons of diesel and lubricating oil) off the island of St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic. All 37 crew and 4 gunners on board are killed in the explosion but the Captain, Chief Engineer and 4 crewmen are ashore. U-68 had been spotted the day before by a civilian on the island but his report was not taken seriously. Darkdale is first British ship sunk south of the Equator during WWII.

Romanian HQ in Odessa, Ukraine, is destroyed by a time-bomb left by Soviet Coastal Army during the evacuation of Odessa a week ago (67 killed including Romanian commander General Glogojeanu and 4 German naval officers). Jews and communists in the city are blamed for the blast. Romanian troops begin rounding up suspects and execute 5000 civilians overnight, mostly Jews.

German firing squads execute 48 civilians (mainly communist activists) in France, in retaliation for the killing 2 days ago of Colonel Karl Hotz, Feldkommandant of Nantes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 782 October 21, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Rain and light snow turn roads in Western USSR to deep mud which hampers movement of wheeled movement of trucks, horse-drawn artillery & wagons and some tracked vehicles. This rasputitsa (quagmire season) and overextended German supply lines begin to slow the Panzers advance on Moscow.

Soviet submarine M58 sinks on a Romanian mine in the Black Sea near the Danube River (all 19 hands lost).

At 3.34 AM 30 miles Northeast of Bardia, Libya, U-79 torpedoes British gunboat HMS Gnat (returning from Tobruk to Alexandria), blowing away 20 feet of her bow all the way back to the 6 inch gun mount (no casualties). HMS Gnat is towed to Alexandria, beached and used as an anti-aircraft defense platform until the end of the war.

At 4.28 AM 400 miles West of Ireland, U-123 torpedoes British armed merchant cruiser HMS Aurania escorting convoy SL-89, causing a 25 degree list to port. Before the ship is righted, 6 men launch a lifeboat which is then swamped (2 killed, 3 rescued by destroyer HMS Croome, Leading Seamen Bertie Shaw is taken prisoner by U-123). HMS Aurania will be under repair at Rothesay Bay for 19 months and then return to service as base repair ship HMS Artifex. At 10 PM, U-82 attacks convoy SL-89 sinking SS Serbino (14 killed, 51 crew picked up by corvette HMS Asphodel) and SS Treverbyn (all 36 crew and 10 gunners lost).

Operation Cultivate. British cruiser HMS Abdiel and destroyers HMS Napier, Hasty & Decoy make the round trip overnight from Alexandria, Egypt, to bring supplies to Tobruk, Libya, and remove Australian 9th Division troops.

Day 781 October 20, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 43. Soviet General Fedyuninsky launches an attack with 70,000 troops plus 97 tanks and all available heavy artillery along the Southern shore of Lake Ladoga, to breakout and form a corridor to the rest of USSR. They make little progress against dug-in German troops on the swampy terrain. German Field Marshal von Leeb makes his own move in the area, heading Southeast from Lake Ladoga to the important rail and road junction at Tikhvin to cut off the supply route to Leningrad.

At 5.54 AM 80 miles off Sierra Leone, U-126 torpedoes British tanker SS British Mariner (3 killed, 48 survivors). British Mariner is towed to Freetown but declared a total loss and will be used as oil hulk. U-126 stalks another tanker but is chased away by a convoy escort.

Operation Cultivate. Overnight, British cruiser HMS Latona and destroyers HMS Kingston, Encounter & Nizam make the round trip overnight from Alexandria, Egypt. In addition, cruisers HMS Ajax, Hobart and Galatea (escorted by destroyers HMS Griffin and HMS Jaguar) shell German coastal guns near Tobruk to protect ships in the Cultivate convoys.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 780 October 19, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Evacuation of Moscow picks up pace with Germans taking Mozhaysk yesterday and the Mozhaysk line crumbling elsewhere. However, Stalin decides he will stay in Moscow. 68 miles away at Volokolamsk (the Northwest end of the Mozhaysk line), German 4th Panzer Army is held up by Soviet 316th Rifle Division (full-strength division recently arrived from Central Asia).

Off the coast of Morocco 35 miles Southwest of Tangier, U-204 sinks British tanker Inverlee carrying 13,880 tons of Admiralty fuel oil at 3 AM (22 dead and 21 survivors, the explosion is seen by ships 28 miles away) and U-206 sinks British SS Baron Kelvin at 6.14 AM (26 dead and 16 survivors). British corvettes are dispatched from Gibraltar to hunt the U-boats and HMS Mallow sinks U-204 at 9.46 PM with 7 depth charges.

After mistaking the neutral American steamer Lehigh for a Greek vessel 100 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-126 sinks SS Lehigh at 10.51 AM (all 34 crew and 4 Spanish stowaways escape in 4 lifeboats).

Overnight, British gunboat HMS Gnat bombards a German artillery battery near Tobruk to protect ships in Operation Cultivate.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 779 October 18, 1941

In the final attack on convoy SC-48, U-101 blows the bow off British destroyer HMS Broadwater with 1 torpedo at 4.20 AM. 45 crew and all 11 survivors rescued a day earlier by HMS Broadwater (9 from British steamer W.C. Teagle and 2 from Norwegian SS Erviken) are killed. 85 crew are taken off by antisubmarine trawlers HMS St. Apollo, Angle and Cape Warwick. HMS St. Apollo scuttles HMS Broadwater by gunfire at 3.41 PM.

Operation Typhoon. Soviet 5th Army’s resistance crumbles as German SS Reich and 10th Panzer Divisions capture Mozhaysk. In the evening, a motorcycle battalion from SS Reich Division finds the Minsk Highway towards Moscow open. Soviet 5th Army has suffered 60% casualties defending Mozhaysk and only 5 weakened rifle divisions and 20 tanks stand before Moscow, 90 km away.

11 Albacore and 2 Swordfish of 828 Squadron fly to Malta off British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (escorted by battleship HMS Rodney, cruiser HMS Hermione and 7 destroyers). 1 Swordfish is lost en route (2 killed). These strike planes will harass Axis supply lines through the Mediterranean to North Africa.

Barents Sea. 5 miles off the coast of Russia, U-132 sinks Soviet SS Argun at 1.20 PM (all hands rescued) and trawler RT-8 Seld´ at 8.17 PM (all hands lost).

Day 778 October 17, 1941

The attack on convoy SC-48 intensifies. U-432 and U-558 sink 3 freighters each (35760 tons total). US destroyer USS Kearny is torpedoed by U-568 (11 killed, 22 wounded) but does not sink (under repair until April 1942). British corvette HMS Gladiolus disappears during the night, probably sunk by U-553.

At 3.25 AM 50 miles West of Alexandria, Egypt, U-97 intercepts a small convoy carrying supplies to Tobruk. U-97 torpedoes Greek SS Samos (31 dead, 3 survivors rescued by antisubmarine whaler HMS Cocker) and British tanker Pass of Balmaha (carrying aviation fuel and petrol, goes up in a ball of flame killing all 16 crew and 4 gunners instantly).

Operation Typhoon. Although German and Soviet armor and infantry are evenly matched at Borodino, Soviet 5th Army is worn down by losses of men and tanks. All day and through the night, German SS Reich and 10th Panzer Divisions advance slowly along the 2 East-West roads that run parallel only 2 miles apart (Moscow Highway and Minsk Highway). Soviet 5th Army resists doggedly as they fall back towards Mozhaysk.

Operation Cultivate. Overnight, British cruiser HMS Latona and destroyers HMS Jackal, Havock & Nizam make the round trip overnight from Alexandria, returning on October 18.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 777 October 16, 1941

At 1.14 AM 400 miles West of Ireland, U-568 sinks British SS Empire Heron in convoy SC-48 (42 dead, 1 survivor rescued by HMS Gladiolus).

Evacuation of Odessa. At 5.10 AM, the last ships depart, leaving only blazing ruins for the Germans and Romanians. The ‘Soviet Dunkirk’ is an unqualified success, although empty transport ship Bolshevik is sunk by German torpedo bombers (16 killed, 31 crew and 5 passengers rescued by Soviet motor torpedo boats). 121,000 troops and civilians have been evacuated from Odessa along with 400 artillery pieces, 1000 trucks and 20,000 tons of ammunition. The defense of Odessa has cost Soviet Coastal Army and Black Sea Fleet 16,578 killed and 24,690 wounded.

Operation Typhoon. SS Reich Division and 10th Panzer Division attack the Mozhaysk line at Borodino, the site of the 1812 Napoleonic battle, 125 km West of Moscow (allegedly, Soviet troops are shown 1812 Russian battle standards to motivate them). However, the Panzers lack infantry support and are turned back by Soviet rifle divisions (Feldmarschall von Kluge is resting 4th Army’s 11 infantry divisions after the battles around Vyasma). In Moscow, foreign diplomats and government staff are evacuated 1500 miles East to the reserve capital, Kuibyshev.

Returning from a raid on Mannheim, Germany, RAF Pilot Officer AJ Heyworth flies a Wellington bomber of No. 12 Squadron Bomber Command 500 - 600 miles on 1 engine (about 5 hours). He lands with the other engine on fire.

German raider Kormoran meets supply ship Kulmerland off Cape Leeuwin, Southwestern Australia. Kulmerland has sailed 5000 miles from Japan in 45 days, carrying 4,000 tons of diesel oil and 6 months supply of provisions which will take 7 days to transfer to Kormoran.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 776 October 15, 1941

Convoy SC-48 left Sydney, Australia, on October 5, then traveled up the East coast of USA and entered the North Atlantic through the Labrador Straits. At 8.15 AM, U-553 makes contact 500 miles West of Ireland, sinking British MV Silvercedar (21 lost, 26 survivors) and Norwegian SS Ila (14 lost, 7 survivors). Another ship in the convoy, MV Silverelm, tries to ram U-553 and later in the day Canadian destroyer HMCS Columbia counterattacks with depth charges. Several U-boats in the area are ordered to converge on convoy SC-48. En route, U-558 sinks unescorted Canadian MV Vancouver Island at 11.17 PM (some of the 65 crew, 8 gunners and 32 passengers are seen to escape in lifeboats but are never found alive).

Siege of Odessa ends. At noon, Soviet troops start blowing up port facilities & coastal artillery batteries and boarding 30 transport ships. Overnight, Black Sea Fleet evacuates the garrison of 35,000 men to Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula.

Operation Typhoon, assault on Moscow. 1st Panzer Division advances Northwest from Kalinin towards Torshok to attack Soviet Northwestern Front from the rear; however, they are now heading away from Moscow and this will prove costly in the long run.

Day 775 October 14, 1941

British corvette HMS Fleur de Lys (built as La Dieppoise for the French Navy) is escorting convoy OG-75 towards Gibraltar. At 3.36 AM 60 miles West of Gibraltar, U-206 sinks HMS Fleur de Lys (71 killed, 3 survivors rescued by a Spanish merchant ship). Kriegsmarine places orders for 49 more U-boats.

Operation Typhoon, assault on Moscow. Germans announce that Soviet resistance West of Vyasma has ended; in reality Red Army will hold out in small pockets for another 10 days, tying down German infantry. In a bold move, 1st Panzer Division raids deeply between Soviet Northwestern and Western Fronts, scattering Soviet infantry formations. They advance 75 miles Northeast from Rzhev to capture the medieval Russian city of Kalinin (known previously and again now as Tver) which lies 100 miles Northwest of Moscow.

Stalin decides to evacuate Moscow. He briefs 23 senior military and Party officials between 3.30 and 6.15 PM to inform them. First to go are 4 Moscow theatrical groups; Lenin State Theatre, Maxim Gorky Artistic Academic Theatre, Little Academic Theatre and Vakhtangov Theatre.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 774 October 13, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 36. General Fedyuninsky is ordered to break the siege by breaking out to the East along the Southern shore of Lake Ladoga, beginning no later than October 20. However, there are 54,000 German troops well dug in on the swampy terrain.

Operation Typhoon, assault on Moscow. West of Moscow, Soviet 18th and 19th tank Brigades gradually fall back from Gzhatsk (now Gagarin) in the face of heavy German tank and Stuka attacks. They retreat along the Smolensk-Moscow road towards the main defensive line at Mozhaysk, which is still under hasty construction by 250,000 civilians (mostly women). 130 miles West-Northwest of Moscow, 1st Panzer Division captures Rzhev encircling and destroying Soviet 30th Army.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 773 October 12, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Germans move towards Moscow on a broad front, capturing Kaluga 100 miles Southwest of the capital. Many German formations have advanced over 70km in 5 days.

Soviet submarine S8 (which left Kronstadt yesterday) is blown apart, presumably by a German mine, and sinks 8 miles off the Swedish island of Öland (all 48 hands lost).

At 2.00 PM 100 miles off the coast of Portugal, U-83 stops and sinks neutral Portuguese SS Corte Real for carrying cargo to Canada and Australia. Remarkably, the U-boat tows 3 lifeboats with 42 crew and passengers for 3 hours enabling them to make land near Lisbon.

German motor torpedo boats S41, S47, S53, S62, S104, and S105 attack convoy FN531 just off the coast of East Anglia, England, sinking British SS Chevington (7 crew and 2 gunners killed) and Norwegian SS Roy (3 crew lost).

With the moon waning, the final phase to replace Australian 9th Division at Tobruk, Libya begins (Operation Cultivate). British cruiser HMS Abdiel and destroyers HMS Hero, Kipling & Nizam make the round trip overnight from Alexandria Egypt. However, German U-boats are now patrolling the Alexandria-Tobruk route. 35 miles West of Tobruk, U-75 sinks 2 British landing craft tanks which left Tobruk yesterday (29 crew, 4 Australian soldiers, a Royal Engineers officer and 2 Italian POWs are killed; 1 survivor is taken prisoner by U-75 and taken back to Germany).

Overnight, RAF mounts a big raid on Hüls and Bremen, Germany, with 118 bombers mainly Avro Manchesters (Bomber Command No.5 Group).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 772 October 11, 1941

Soviet troops encircled at Vyasma are ordered to break out at all costs, after having been refused permission to retreat before being surrounded. Instead, they are decimated by German artillery and air bombardment, particularly Stukas. Germans have reduced the Vyasma pocket from 75 x 35 km to 20 x 20 km. Further South at Bryansk, Soviet 3rd and 13th Armies mount a counteroffensive and break through the weak cordon held by Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 which is exhausted after months of fighting.

British bombers (830 Squadron from Malta attack) attack an Italian convoy from Naples to Tripoli (escorted by Italian destroyers Granatiere, Bersagliere, Fucliere & Alpino) and sink steamers Zena & Casaregis about 100 miles north of Tripoli.

A series of disasters begins for Soviet submarines. Shchuka class submarine ShCh-322 which departed Kronstadt near Leningrad yesterday, is lost in the Baltic Sea presumably to a mine (all 40 hands lost).

Day 771 October 10, 1941

The remnants of the Soviet Western Front, Southwestern Front and Reserve Front (troops that avoided encirclement at Kiev, Bryansk and Vyasma or escaped from these pockets) are reformed into a new Western Front under the command of General Zhukov. They are positioned to hold a line from Tula (South of Moscow), through Naro-Fominska and Mozhaysk to Volokolamsk (Northwest of Moscow) – the Mozhaysk Line. Defensive fortifications will be hastily built, mainly by civilians. In addition, Soviet 32nd Rifle Division (full-strength Division with 15,000 fresh, well-trained troops) begins arriving at Mozhaysk by train from Siberia.

At Gzhatsk (now known as Gagarin, 32 miles East of Vyasma and 40 miles from the main defensive line at Mozhaysk), Soviet 18th and 19th tank Brigades hold up the German spearhead, SS Reich Division which suffers about 500 casualties.

At 5.43 AM 150 miles Northeast of the Cape Verde Islands, U-126 sinks British SS Nailsea Manor carrying 6000 tons of military stores, including 1000 tons of ammunition and a landing craft (LCT-102 crated in four sections). All 36 crew, 5 gunners and a Royal Navy Petty Officer (in charge of the landing craft) abandon ship in haste due to the cargo of ammunition and are picked up by British corvette HMS Violet.

British submarine HMS Thunderbolt sinks Italian steamer Citta di Simi, just off the Northeast corner of Crete.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 770 October 9, 1941

There are massive encirclements of Soviet troops from Leningrad in the North to the Sea of Azov on the Black Sea, with the largest pockets in the middle around Bryansk and Vyasma. Coupled with the destruction of Soviet Southwestern Front around Kiev, these cauldron battles (Kesselschlacht) will result in 2 million unrecoverable Soviet losses. However, Stalin knows from his spy in Tokyo (Richard Sorge) that the Japanese have no plans to attack USSR and instead intend to expand South by moving on British and American interests. Stalin transfers troops from the Far East to protect Moscow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 769 October 8, 1941

Soviet Army suffers another disaster, this time in the Ukraine. Soviet forces on the Sea of Azov (Northern part of the Black Sea) are on the brink of forcing German 11th Army off the Perekop Isthmus which links the Crimean peninsula to the mainland. General von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1 races South after the encirclement of Kiev to relieve 11th Army; they reache Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Soviet 9th and 18th Armies (100,000 soldiers) are trapped between Panzergruppe 1, 11th Army and the sea.

Just after midnight, German Heinkel He111 bombers from Crete attack shipping at anchor at Safe Anchorage H in the Gulf of Suez. They sink British steamer Rosalie Moller (carrying 4680 tons of Welsh coal to Alexandria, Egypt, via the Cape of Good Hope) which is awaiting passage through the Suez Canal (2 crew killed, survivors rescued by Australian sloop HMAS Parramatta). Dive video.

British bombers from Malta (830 Squadron) sink Italian steamer Paolo Z. Podesta in a small convoy with a schooner, and two trawlers just leaving Trapani, Sicily, for Tripoli, Libya.

Day 768 October 7, 1941

Operation Typhoon. A day after encircling 3 Soviet Armies around Bryansk, German Panzers close the Vyasma pocket and trap an even larger number of Soviet troops. At 10.30 AM, 10th Panzer Division (Panzergruppe 4 advancing from the South) takes Vyasma and links up with 7th Panzer (Panzergruppe 3) North of the city. 5 Soviet Armies are surrounded (30 Divisions). About 250,000 Soviet troops will escape from the Bryansk and Vyasma pockets, 300,000 are killed and 700,000 become POWs.

At 4.17 PM 100 miles South of Iceland, U-502 torpedoes British whaling ship Svend Foyn, which does not sink and is towed to Liverpool for repairs (returning to service in May 1942). Svend Foyn will sink in March 1943 after hitting an iceberg off Greenland (195 lives lost, 152 rescued).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 767 October 6, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 captures Bryansk when 17th Panzer Division rolls in unexpectedly from the East, surprising the HQ of Soviet General Yeremenko who is wounded but escapes. Panzergruppe 2 links up with German 2nd Army, encircling 2 large pockets of Soviet troops (23 Divisions of 3rd, 13th and 50th Armies).

Siege of Leningrad Day 29. General Zhukov leaves for Moscow to replace Konev in command of Soviet Western Front which is falling back in front of Operation Typhoon. Zhukov’s protégé General Ivan Fedyuninsky assumes command in Leningrad.

German bombers attack shipping in the Gulf of Suez, sinking British SS Thistlegorm carrying ammunition and other supplies including 2 steam locomotives to Alexandria, Egypt (4 crew and 5 gunners killed, survivors picked up by British cruiser HMS Carlisle). Australian SS Salamaua, Norwegian tanker Norfold and British SS Scalaria are also damaged.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 766 October 5, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Stalin orders Soviet Western Front to withdraw to Vyasma, falling right into the German trap. Stalin recalls Zhukov from Leningrad to replace General Ivan Konev who he blames for failing to stop the German advance. Stalin considers executing Konev but is talked out of it by Zhukov. Konev will command Soviet forces throughout the war, achieving great success and promotion to Marshal of the Soviet Union by Stalin in February 1944.

Overnight, Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers (Fleet Air Arm 830 Squadron from Malta) attack an Italian convoy from Naples to Tripoli, sinking tanker Rialto 67 miles North of Misrata, Libya (145 survivors rescued by Italian Destroyer Gioberti).

A single RAF Bristol Blenheim (Coastal Command 1404 Meteorological Flight from RAF St. Eval, Cornwall) unsuccessfully attacks two U-boats in the Bay of Biscay. A 250lb bomb misses U-563 (departing Brest, France) at 10.30 AM and another 250lb bomb hits the conning tower of U-565 (returning to Lorient, France) at 11.02 AM but does not explode.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 765 October 4, 1941

Operation Typhoon. As Soviet Western Front falls back along the main Smolensk/Moscow road in the face of Army Group Center’s attack, Hoth's Panzergruppe 3 bypasses them to the North while Hoepner's Panzergruppe 4 advances from the South (capturing the cities of Kirov and Spa-Demensk). The German aim is a massive double encirclement, converging on Vyasma, to trap the Soviet Western Front (31 rifle Divisions, 3 cavalry Divisions, 2 motorised Divisions and 3 tank Brigades, under General Ivan Konev). 3 German infantry Armies follow behind the Panzers to fence in Soviet troops for the coming battle of annihilation. Despite the obvious encircling of large Soviet forces at Vyasma and Bryansk, Stalin repeats the mistake of Kiev and refuses to allow a withdrawal.

225 miles West of Tenerife, British anti-submarine trawler HMS Lady Shirley brings U-111 to the surface with 3 depth charges. After a gun battle, U-111 is scuttled by the crew (8 dead and 44 survivors picked up by HMS Lady Shirley, 1 sailor on HMS Lady Shirley is killed by machinegun fire). Another anti-submarine trawler HMS Whippet (previously a Norwegian whaler taken over by the Admiralty in October 1940) is sunk by German bombing 30 miles North of Bardia, Libya (1 killed).

British submarine HMS Talisman sinks French steamer Theophile Gautier in a convoy from Crete to the Greek mainland (escorted by Italian torpedo boats Monzambano, Calatafimi and Aldebaran).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 764 October 3, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Panzergruppe 2 captures Orel 220 miles Southwest of Moscow, (Luftwaffe will use the airfield as a forward airbase). Another column of Panzergruppe 2 battles Soviet troops South of Bryansk. With 2nd, 4th and 9th Armies plus Panzergruppe 3 and 4 (part of Army Group Center) advancing from the West, Germans are now positioned to encircle Soviet Bryansk Front (3rd, 13th and 50th Armies under the command of General Andrey Yeremenko).

Just after midnight 650 miles East of Newfoundland, Canada, U-431 sinks British SS Hatasu (40 killed, 7 survivors in a lifeboat picked up after 7 days by US destroyer USS Charles F. Hughes and landed at Reykjavik).

North Sea. German bombers attack British destroyer HMS Vivacious (steering damaged, under repair until November). British motor torpedo boat MTB56 sinks Norwegian tanker Borgny off Bergen, escorted by Norwegian destroyer Draug (Operation Barefoot). MTB56 and Draug return next day to the Shetland Islands, Scotland.

300 miles Northeast of the Azores, a Walrus reconnaissance aircraft from British cruiser HMS Kenya spots German supply ship Klara (tender for the armed merchant raiders). HMS Kenya sinks Klara but does not stop for survivors due to the presence of a submarine (U-129). U-129 picks up 119 survivors and transfers them to a Spanish tug 2 days later.

Dutch submarine O.21 sinks Vichy French steamer Oued Yquem off Sardinia, Italy.

Day 763 October 2, 1941

German advance on Moscow (Operation Typhoon). At Sevsk 280 miles from Moscow, General Guderian splits Panzergruppe 2 into 2 pincers; one going North to Bryansk and one heading Northeast to Orel.

600 miles West of Ireland, U-94 repeatedly torpedoes British tanker SS San Florentino over 6 hours and finally sinks her at 5.52 AM (23 killed, 35 survivors picked up by Canadian corvette HMCS Mayflower). In the same area, U-575 sinks Dutch MV Tuva at 7.09 AM (1 killed, 34 survivors in 2 lifeboats and 2 rafts picked up by Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Croix).

At 6.52 AM 250 miles East of Iceland, U-562 sinks British catapult armed merchant Empire Wave (20 crew and 9 RAF personnel killed, 31 survivors picked up by Icelandic trawler Surprise).

British submarine HMS Perseus sinks German steamer Castellon (escorted by Italian torpedo boats Calliope and Pegaso in a convoy from Naples to Tripoli) 60 miles West of Benghazi, Libya.

Day 762 October 1, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 24. Finnish forces reach Petrozavodsk, the capital city of the Soviet Republic of Karelia on the Western shore of Lake Onega, further increasing the isolation of Leningrad.

Germans refocus their attention on the Soviet capital, Moscow (Operation Typhoon), after having isolated Leningrad and destroyed Soviet Southwestern Front around Kiev. They aim to take Moscow before the beginning of Winter, precipitating a Soviet collapse and surrender. The German attack includes 1,929,406 troops, 14,000 artillery guns and 1000 tanks plus 1390 aircraft. Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 is first off the mark, having participated in the encircling of Kiev. Panzergruppe 2 attacks Northwest towards Orel and Bryansk, reaching Sevsk.