Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 823 December 1, 1941

Operation Typhoon. At the urging of Army Group Center commander Field Marshal von Bock, von Kluge finally sends German 4th Army into action 16 days after the beginning of the renewed advance on Moscow. This delay has allowed Red Army to move troops away from this sector to defend Moscow from the attacks from the North and South. At 4 AM, 3 infantry and 1 Panzer divisions move along the Minsk-Moscow highway, shattering the well-prepared defenses of Soviet 33rd Army and capturing the town of Naro-Fominsk (43 miles Southwest of Moscow) and crossing the Nara River.

Operation Crusader. In the morning, 15th Panzer Division again attacks New Zealand 2nd Division around Sidi Rezegh airfield but they are chased off by a counterattack by British 4th Armoured Brigade tanks. Despite this, New Zealand 2nd Division withdraws in the late afternoon. Rommel has pulled off the remarkable feat of breaking up the relief of Tobruk despite being outnumbered 7:1 by the British tanks.

British air reconnaissance from Malta spots an Italian supply convoy for Rommel in Libya and torpedo bombers sink tanker Iridio Mantovani (carrying 10,000 tons of fuel oil). 60 miles off the coast of Libya, British cruisers HMS Aurora & HMS Penelope (escorted by destroyer HMS Lively) sink steamer Adriatico. Later, Italian destroyer Alvise Da Mosta, which is rescuing survivors from Iridio Mantovani, attacks HMS Aurora & Penelope with torpedoes and 120 mm guns but is blasted into oblivion by 6 inch shellfire from the British cruisers (200 killed).

In the South Atlantic 1150 miles West of South Africa, British cruiser HMS Dorsetshire locates German supply ship Python refuelling submarines UA and U-68. Python is scuttled and HMS Dorsetshire leaves due to the submarine threat. 414 crew and survivors from the sinking of raider Atlantis are rescued by 4 German submarines and 4 Italian submarines.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 822 November 30, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 84. A sudden warm up decreases the flow of trucks on the Road of Life. Only 61 tons of food arrives in Leningrad compared to the daily consumption of 600 tons. Soviet troopship Maya, 3 minesweepers, 2 submarine hunters and a gunboat leave Kronstadt to assist the evacuation of troops from Hango Peninsula, Finland. They are attacked by Finnish gunboats and patrol boats but reach Hango safely next day.

Operation Typhoon. 19 miles North of Moscow, patrols from 2nd Panzer Division (4th Panzer Army) capture the railway station at Lobnya. However, the German attack is petering out in the face of exhaustion, cold, lack of supplies and stiff Soviet resistance. To the South, Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army is stationary around Tula while the infantry of von Kluge’s 4th Army has not moved out of trenches in the center. In Moscow, General Zhukov gets permission from Stalin to counterattack to relieve pressure on Moscow.

In the Caucasus, Field Marshal von Rundstedt is replaced by Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau as commander of Army Group South, for ordering a retreat in the Rostov sector.

Operation Crusader. While Italian Ariete Division holds off British tanks to the South, 15th Panzer Division forces the New Zealanders off Sidi Rezegh ridge, severing the brief link to Tobruk. British aircraft from Malta sink Italian steamer Capo Faro and damage Italian steamer Iseo carrying supplies to Benghazi, Libya, from Brindisi, Italy. Rommel is now desperately short of fuel.

At 7.26 PM 170 miles South of the Azores, U-43 sinks British SS Ashby (12 crew and 5 gunners killed, survivors rescued by Portuguese destroyer Lima). U-43 is depth charged for several hours but escapes undamaged.

At 10.35 PM, U-96 is attacked on the surface by a British Swordfish aircraft while trying to enter the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar. U-96 dives to avoid further attack, then surfaces next morning at 4.45 AM and returns to base in France. War correspondent Lothar-Günther Buchheim, on board U-96 to photograph and describe U-boat life, fictionalized this attack as the climax of his 1973 novel and subsequent film “Das Boot”.

U-206 goes missing in the Bay of Biscay (all 46 hands lost), 2 days out from St. Nazaire, France, possibly lost in minefield "Beech" laid by RAF aircraft. RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers (502 Squadron from Northern Ireland) attack U-71 and U-563 with depth charges in the Bay of Biscay. U-71 is undamaged but U-563 is unable to dive and returns to Germany for repairs, the first successful use of Air to Surface Vessel radar.

German armed merchant cruiser Komet arrives back in Hamburg after sailing 87,000 miles and circumnavigating the globe in a voyage lasting 516 days, capturing 1 ship and sinking 5 (plus 2 others shared with AMC Orion).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 821 November 29, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 83. Soviet destroyers Slavny & Stoiki and troopship Josif Stalin leave Kronstadt (escorted by 5 T-class minesweepers, 4 torpedo boats and 7 submarine hunters) to evacuate the remaining 12,000 troops from Hango Peninsula, Finland. Icebreaker Oktyabr is sunk by German bombers but the force reaches Hango next day.

Operation Typhoon. At 5 AM 37 miles North of Moscow, 7th Panzer Division evacuates the Yakhroma bridgehead over the Moskva/Volga canal in the face of continued determined attacks from Soviet 1st Shock Army. German losses are 45 killed, 115 wounded.

Operation Crusader. At 8.30 AM, 21st Panzer Division commander General von Ravenstein runs into a 2nd New Zealand Infantry Division roadblock in the desert and is taken prisoner, becoming the only German General in captivity. 15th Panzer Division arrives back in the vicinity of Tobruk and reinforces German infantry attacking the narrow corridor at the Ed Duda ridge that links New Zealand 2nd Division to the garrison from Tobruk. 15th Panzer swings South of Ed Duda to threaten the corridor from the Southeast, despite heavy shelling by the New Zealanders and British tanks in the desert further South.

British aircraft from Malta sink Italian tanker Berbera at Navarino, Greece, and damage Italian tanker Volturno carrying fuel to Libya for Rommel from Navarino (Volturno returns to port). Royal Navy force B (cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Neptune and destroyers HMS Kimberly and HMS Kingston under the command of Admiral Rawling) arrives in Malta to disrupt Italian supply lines.

At 4.11 AM 240 miles North of the Azores, U-43 sinks British SS Thornliebank (all 66 crew and 9 gunners were lost). U-43 is hit by falling debris from SS Thornliebank, injuring the navigator.

German 4th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla attacks convoy FN.564 off the coast of East Anglia, England, sinking British tanker Asperity and freighters SS Empire Newcomen & SS Cormarsh.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 820 November 28, 1941

Operation Typhoon. At 3.30 AM 37 miles North of Moscow, 7th Panzer Division (3rd Panzer Army) crosses the Yakhroma bridge over the Moskva/Volga canal. The tanks are very exposed and fall back across the bridge at 10 AM. German infantry hold a small bridgehead all day despite fierce counterattacks from Soviet 1st Shock Army as well as aerial bombing, artillery and Katyusha rocket launchers. The backdoor to Moscow is open but this is the Easternmost point of the German advance.

Operation Crusader. Aware of the return of 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions towards Tobruk, British 7th Armored Division again attacks 15th Panzer but runs into an anti-tank screen left behind in the wake of the advancing German tanks (a classic blitzkrieg tactic). Despite being outnumbered, 15th Panzer continues moving West towards Tobruk, holding off the British attack.

125 miles East of Gibraltar, U-95 stalks another submarine while trying to determine its identity. It turns out to be Dutch submarine O-21 which fires 2 stern torpedoes sinking U-95 (35 dead and 12 survivors taken prisoner by O-21).

Day 819 November 27, 1941

At 00.46 AM 40 miles Northeast of Tobruk, Libya, U-559 sinks Australian sloop HMAS Parramatta, escorting ammunition ship SS Hanne into Tobruk. 160 crew and 8 passengers from gunboat HMS Gnat are killed, 21 survivors are rescued by British destroyer HMS Avon Vale and 3 swim ashore behind British lines.

Operation Crusader. Overnight, New Zealand 2nd Division supported by 90 tanks breaks through the German cordon and links up with the garrison from Tobruk (which has 70 tanks). Both 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions head from Bardia to Tobruk to break up this attempt to raise the siege. 21st Panzer runs into New Zealand infantry while 15th Panzer encounters British 7th Armored Division (which has three times the number of tanks) at Bir el Chleta 30 miles west of Tobruk. 22nd Armored Brigade blocks the advance of 15th Division while 4th Armored Brigade pummels the extended German column from the side but at dusk the British tanks withdraw South to lie up for the night in a defensive huddle. 15th Panzer uses the respite to continue their move to Tobruk in the dark.

Operation Typhoon. 30 miles West of Moscow, SS Reich Division (4th Panzer Army) captures Istra from Siberian 78th Rifle Division. 37 miles North of Moscow, 7th Panzer Division (3rd Panzer Army) advances 15 miles East from Rogachevo to the Moskva/Volga canal at Yakhroma. They are faced by newly-formed Soviet 1st Shock Army.

In the Caucasus, Southern USSR, Soviet 37th Army recaptures Rostov-on-Don from General von Kleist’s 1st Panzer Army (which has held the city for only 6 days). Hitler orders that there be no retreat in the Rostov sector but Army Group South commander Field Marshal von Rundstedt refuses to cancel his orders to retreat back to the Mius River at Taganrog.

The last Italian stronghold in East Africa is Gondar in Ethiopia. After British 12th (African) Division capture 2 mountain passes overlooking the town of Gondar, the garrison of 23,500 troops under General Nasi surrenders.

Japanese Prime Minister Tojo Hideki rejects the American proposal (“Hull note”). The Japenese carrier will not be recalled and the stage is set for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Day 818 November 26, 1941

Japanese carrier fleet departs Tankan Bay, Iturup Island in the South Kuril Islands, for the 3300 mile voyage to attack Pearl Harbour, Hawaii (6 aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku & Zuikaku, 2 battlecruisers Hiei & Kirishima, 3 cruisers, 9 destroyers and 3 submarines plus 8 tankers and supply ships). In Washington, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull responds to proposals from Japan, presenting Ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura with a counterproposal demanding withdrawal of Japanese troops from French Indochina and China. US government knows that the terms will not be accepted and that Japan is likely to attack, bringing USA into the war.

Operation Typhoon. South of Moscow, Guderian’s attempt to encircle Tula fails. 17th Panzer Division is held up outside Kashira only 65 miles from Moscow, while XLIII Panzer Corps is held up after capturing Aleksin 30 miles Northwest of Tula. The Tula/Moscow rail line is still open.

Operation Crusader. Rommel’s “dash to the wire” ends when the Panzers are recalled due to the capture of Sidi Rezegh by British 7th Armored Division and the progress of 2nd New Zealand Infantry Division along the coast, linking up briefly with the garrison from Tobruk. Initially furious, Rommel realizes his staff made the right decision in his absence. British C-in-C Middle East General Auchinleck is less satisfied, having lost faith in the ability of 8th Army commander General Cunningham to press the attack. Auchinleck appoints his deputy chief-of-staff General Neil Ritchie to replace Cunningham, with instructions to “attack the enemy relentlessly, even to the last tank”.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 817 November 25, 1941

British battleship HMS Barham is sailing with the Mediterranean Fleet from Alexandria hunting Italian convoys heading for Libya. At 4.29 PM 70 miles North of Sidi Barrani, Egypt, U-331 sinks HMS Barham with 3 torpedoes. HMS Barham rolls over in 4 minutes and her magazines explode (862 crew lost, 449 survivors rescued by destroyers HMS Jervis, Jackal, Nizam & Hotspur). VIDEO of sinking.

Operation Typhoon. 35 miles Northwest of Moscow at Peshki, 2nd Panzer Division (4th Panzer Army) advancing along the railway line from Solnechnogorsk towards Moscow encounters Soviet 146th Tank Brigade sporting new British Matilda tanks (some of the earliest Allied lend-lease supplies to see combat in USSR). 30 miles West of Moscow, 10th Panzer and SS Reich Divisions (4th Panzer Army) unsuccessfully attack Istra which is held by 78th Rifle Division fresh from Siberia. 100 miles South of Moscow, XXIV Panzer Corps (part of Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army) spreads out from Venyov. 17th Panzer Division advance North towards Kashira, while 4th Panzer swings back West to encircle Tula and cut the rail line to Moscow.

Operation Crusader. Rommel’s “dash to the wire” on the Egypt/Libya border sows much confusion in the British camp. Rear echelon troops turn and run for Egypt and even British 8th Army commander General Cunningham considers abandoning the attack. German General Johann von Ravenstein with 21st Panzer Division misses 2 huge Allied supply dumps that would have deprived Allies of critical fuel and supplies. Meanwhile, British 7th Armored Division has regrouped and repaired many of their damaged tanks. Instead of panicking at the chaos behind them, they attack the depleted German forces and take control of Sidi Rezegh. Overnight, Rommel and Crüwell cross the frontier into Egypt then cannot find their way back through the wire and are forced to hide out until morning as British trucks rumble by.

Soviet patrol vessel CKP-25 rams U-578 in the Arctic Sea, doing only slight damage.

Day 816 November 24, 1941

Operation Crusader. While British tanks reorganize and repair after the battle at Sidi Rezegh, Rommel gambles that the Allied excursion into Libya can be routed by further disrupting the rear echelons and supply lines (a tactic Rommel used so successfully in France last year). His aim is a repeat of Crüwell’s ride around the British yesterday, although on a broader sweep - to swing his Panzers behind the British tanks from the South, scatter the Allied infantry, link up with the German garrisons at Bardia, Sollum & Halfaya Pass and then advance into Egypt. At 10.30 AM, he leads 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions in a “dash to the wire”.

Operation Typhoon. Elements of LVI Panzer Corps advance 10 miles East from Klin to capture the town of Rogachevo and threaten Moscow from the North. 100 miles South of Moscow, Guderian relaunches his attempt to encircle and bypass the city of Tula. XXIV Panzer Corps (3rd, 4th & 17th Panzer Divisions) charges Northeast and captures the road junction at Venyov 30 miles East of Tula.

At 3.21 PM 650 miles East of Natal, Brazil, U-124 hits British cruiser HMS Dunedin with 2 torpedoes. HMS Dunedin sinks in 17 minutes (about 250 crew killed immediately and 250 escape into the water). 72 survivors on 6 Carley floats are found 3 days later by American merchant SS Nishmaha (the others drowned, died of injuries or sharks). 5 more die on board SS Nishmaha, leaving only 67 survivors from a crew of 486.

On the Normandy coast, British landing ship HMS Prince Leopold, escorted by 4 Motor Gun Boats, lands 90 British commandos (No. 9 Commando) at Butte de Houlgate. The commandos do not destroy their target (guns at Batterie de Tournebride) or take any prisoners but they capture some secret papers, then reboard and return to Portsmouth without loss.

In the North Sea off the coast of East Anglia, German 4th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla attacks convoy FS.654, sinking British tanker Virgilia (23 killed, 17 survivors) and Dutch steamer Groenlo (10 lost).

Day 815 November 23, 1941

Operation Crusader. Confused fighting continues around Sidi Rezegh. Allied infantry arrive near Sidi Rezegh having covered 50 miles across the desert from the Egyptian border in 2 days. Rommel sends General Ludwig Crüwell with 15th Panzer and Italian Ariete Divisions circling around the British tanks from the South, to disorganize the Allied rear echelons and return next morning. Overnight, confused and beaten, British 7th Armored Division withdraws 20 miles having lost 60% of its tanks. Germans take control of Sidi Rezegh. General Cunningham commanding British 8th Army begins to doubt his ability to beat the Panzers.

Operation Typhoon. 50 miles Northwest of Moscow, LVI Panzer Corps (3rd Panzer Army) cuts the road North and South of Klin where Soviet 30th Army has been holding their advance for 5 days. General Lelyushenko withdraws 30th Army at the last minute back towards the Moskva/Volga canal. LVI Panzer Corps then races 10 miles Southeast along the railway line towards Moscow and captures the town of Solnechnogorsk.

Siege of Leningrad Day 77. Trucks begin making the 40 mile round trip along the Road of Life, carrying 100 tons daily across frozen Lake Ladoga. Leningraders need 600 tons a day to survive.

Day 814 November 22, 1941

At 0.38 AM, a Swordfish of 830 Squadron torpedoes Italian cruiser Abruzzi which loses her stern but is able to reach Messina, Sicily, under her own steam. The Swordfish is shot down (1 killed, 1 aircrew taken prisoner by Italian destroyer Pessagno).

Operation Crusader. New Zealand 2nd Division captures Fort Capuzzo (which has changed hands 11 times since June 1940). Battle of Sidi Rezegh continues with confused fighting between German Panzers and British tanks. British tanks attack the heavier Panzers piecemeal instead of in a concerted manner; consequently, the British are outgunned and outnumbered. Brigadier Jock Campbell wins the Victoria Cross for leading 9 tanks into attack, sitting on top of his armored staff car.

Siege of Leningrad Day 76. The ice of Lake Ladoga is 20 cm thick. 60 trucks cross the lake on the Road of Life carrying 33 tons of flour and 2.5 tons of sugars and fats, arriving in Leningrad the following day.

Royal Navy is aware from Ultra decrypts of Enigma messages that German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis is at large in the South Atlantic and sends cruisers HMS Devonshire, Dorsetshire and Dunedin to search. HMS Devonshire locates Atlantis refueling U-126. Atlantis is scuttled while U-126 dives (later rescues survivors from Atlantis). In a voyage lasting 622 days since March 31, 1940, Atlantis has sailed 102,000 miles and sunk or captured 22 ships (total 145,697 tons).

British destroyer HMS Sardonyx rams anti-submarine trawler HMT St. Apollo near the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. St. Appollo sinks and Sardonyx is badly damaged.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 813 November 21, 1941

Operation Crusader. A massive clash of armor begins, lasting 3 days, as 15th Panzer Division and British 7th Armored Division converge on the airfield at Sidi Rezegh (largest tank battle in North Africa so far). New Zealand 2nd and Indian 4th infantry Divisions bypass German garrisons at Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass and march to the guns to support the battle at Sidi Rezegh. Simultaneously, the Tobruk garrison attacks East to link up with the forces coming from Egypt. German infantry block the breakout, holding the Allied troops at the El Duda ridge. Rommel is so desperate for fuel that Italian cruiser Cardona leaves Brindisi unescorted carrying fuel drums lashed to the deck, arriving at Benghazi next day.

Siege of Leningrad Day 75. In the morning, Captain Murov’s horses and drivers return from Kobona on the Eastern shore of Lake Ladoga carrying much-needed flour, sugar and fat, making the 40 mile round trip across the ice in 24 hours. The ice is 18 cm thick and the Road of Life is now open.

In Southern USSR, General von Kleist’s 1st Panzer Army captures Rostov-on-Don (the gateway to the Caucasus).

At 11.12 PM 10 miles East of Catania, Sicily, British submarine HMS Utmost torpedoes Italian cruiser Trieste, which is able to reach Messina, Sicily, under her own steam.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 812 November 20, 1941

Operation Crusader. 15th Panzer Division finally responds to the concentration of British tanks in the desert but arrives to find only 4th Armored Brigade at Gabr Saleh. The heavier German tanks decimate the thinly-armored American M3 ‘Stuart’ tanks. The Stuarts often explode when hit, due to volatile aviation fuel used to power the Continental R-670 7-cylinder radial engine. 15th Panzer Division then withdraws back towards Tobruk, followed by the remaining tanks of 4th and 22nd Armored Brigades. Overnight, British cruisers HMS Ajax & HMS Neptune and Australian cruiser HMAS Hobart shell German positions at Bardia.

Siege of Leningrad Day 74. Near starvation point, daily bread rations are reduced to 500g for soldiers, 250g for engineers and technical workers, 125g from other workers and children (a 60-80% decrease since June). The ice on Lake Ladoga is 12 cm thick, enough to support a horse. In the morning, Captain Murov takes a convoy of horse-drawn sleighs from Kokorevo (20 miles from Leningrad) via Karedzhskiy Island, arriving in the evening at Kobona on the Eastern shore. Horses and drivers are fed while the sleighs are loaded up with flour, sugar and fat for the return journey.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 811 November 19, 1941

140 miles West of Shark Bay, Western Australia, Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney intercepts German armed merchant cruiser Kormoran (disguised as a Dutch steamer Straat Malakka). Both are armed with 6 inch guns and torpedoes. Kormoran opens fire without warning at 5.30 PM and both ships are badly damaged in the 20 minute exchange of shells and torpedoes. HMAS Sydney sinks after midnight (all 645 hands lost). Kormoran is abandoned at 9 PM due to raging fires and scuttled at midnight (81 killed). 318 Kormoran survivors in 5 lifeboats and 2 rafts are rescued by various Allied ships or drift ashore (they will be POWs in Australia until February 1947). Wrecks of both ships were discovered in March 2008, 11 miles apart. The engagement remains controversial to this day.

Operation Typhoon. 70 miles West of Moscow, 4th Panzer Army pushes through the gap between Soviet 30th and 16th Armies but the German offensive stalls as they drive towards Klin and Istra. Soviet General Dmitry Lelyushenko is ordered by Zhukov to take command of 30th Army and hold Klin at all costs – they will delay German advance for 5 days. Istra is defended by 78th Rifle Division from Siberia (fresh troops with a full complement of artillery) and will be held until November 27.

Siege of Leningrad Day 73. Soviet 4th and 52nd Armies almost surround Tikhvin, attacking simultaneously from North and South, but German General von Arnim moves up 61st Infantry Division and the Germans hang on to the town. General Feofan Nikolaevich Lagunov, Chief of Rear Service Leningrad Front, drives an M1 scout car across Lake Ladoga to test the ice. He declares it safe to use.

Operation Crusader. British General Cunningham is confused by the lack of German response to his incursion into Libya, so 7th Armored Division tanks begin to spread out to secondary objectives. 22nd Armored Brigade runs into dug in tanks and anti-tank guns of Italian Ariete Division at Bir el Gubi, losing 40 new Crusader tanks. 7th Armored Brigade heads North to attack the Italian airfield at Gambut where Rommel has his HQ.

In the North Sea 10 miles East of Lowestoft, German 2nd Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla attacks convoy FS.650 (59 ships), sinking tanker War Mehtar and steamers Aruba and Waldinge. German Motor Torpedo Boat S.41 collides with a convoy escort and sinks. British destroyer HMS Garth is badly damaged by shellfire from another destroyer in the escort.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 810 November 18, 1941

Operation Typhoon. 70 miles West of Moscow, General Erich Hoepner’s 4th Panzer Army attacks with 3 Panzer divisions (over 400 tanks) and 3 infantry divisions from Volokolamsk into the junction between Soviet 30th and 16th Armies. 30th Army falls back North to Klin while 16th Army falls back South to Istra, opening a yawning gap between the two. 120 miles South of Moscow, Guderian’s 3rd Panzer Army is still held up at the city of Tula. An attempt to encircle and bypass Tula is broken up 30 miles Southeast at Uzlovaya by 413th Rifle Division (one of the fresh units moved from Siberia for the defense of Moscow).

Operation Crusader. British 8th Army under General Alan Cunningham attacks from Egypt into Libya. Infantry of New Zealand 2nd and Indian 4th Divisions attack German border positions at Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass in order to tie these garrisons down. To the South, tanks of 7th Armored Division swing through the desert to bring German armor to battle at Gabr Saleh and Sidi Rezegh. However, Rommel has just arrived back from vacation in Italy and is planning his own offensive to storm Tobruk. He is convinced this is a diversionary attack and does not send out his Panzers. Overnight, British cruisers HMS Naiad & HMS Euryalus and destroyers HMS Kipling & HMS Jackal shell German positions at Halfaya Pass.

25 Japanese submarines leave Japan to patrol the Hawaiian Islands. 5 of the submarines carry “midget submarines” to sneak into Pearl Harbour.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 809 November 17, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 71. Air reconnaissance indicates Lake Ladoga is frozen over. At 8 AM, teams set out to confirm and mark routes from Kokorevo (on the Western shore near Leningrad) via various tiny islands to the small port of Kobona on the ‘mainland’ side of Lake Ladoga, 18 miles away. Due back at 6 PM, they finally return at 4 AM next morning to report the ice on the lake is 10cm thick (half the thickness needed to support a laden 1 ton truck).

Operation Typhoon. At Musino near Volokolamsk, 70 miles West of Moscow, Soviet 44th Cavalry Division (recently arrived from Central Asia) charges German 106th Infantry Division (3rd Panzer Army) in broad daylight. 105mm howitzers supporting the German infantry decimate the Russian horsemen (claiming 2000 killed).

Operation Flipper. Keyes’ commandos again shelter during the day. At midnight, they attack Afrika Korps quartermasters HQ at Beda Littoria, which they have mistaken for Rommel’s HQ. They kill 4 Germans but Keyes is killed and another commando is wounded and captured. Another group of commandos on a diversionary raid a few miles away are nearly all killed or captured. Only 3 commandos are able to reboard British submarines to return to Alexandria. Colonel Robert Laycock and Sergeant Terry walk for 34 days through the desert, returning to British lines on Christmas Day.

U-331 lands 8 German commandos on the Egyptian coast to mine the railway line near Daba, 60 miles West of Alexandria. They are all captured within a day before completing the mission.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 808 November 16, 1941

Operation Typhoon. 70 miles West of Moscow, General Georg-Hans Reinhardt’s 3rd Panzer Army establishes a crossing over the Lama River along the highway to Klin.

Further South in the Crimean, German troops capture the town of Kerch on the Kerch peninsula linking to the Caucasus.

Operation Flipper. Colonel Keyes’s commandos shelter in a cave 1 mile from the target at Beda Littoria. Their attempt to kill Rommel must be timed to coincide with the launch of a combined infantry and armored attack from Egypt in 2 days (Operation Crusader).

At 10.55 PM 50 miles East of Gibraltar, British corvette HMS Marigold badly damages U-433 with depth charges. U-433 comes to the surface, is shelled and machinegunned by HMS Marigold and then scuttled (6 dead, 38 survivors rescued from the water and taken prisoner by HMS Marigold).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 807 November 15, 1941

Germans begin phase 2 of attack on Moscow (Operation Typhoon). Infantry with tanks from 1st Panzer Division push Soviet 30th Army back from around the Volga Reservoir and Moscow Sea Reservoir, 75 miles North of Moscow. Stalin orders Zhukov to mount spoiling attacks along the entire defensive line, which will only serve to weaken the Soviet defenses but do little to disrupt the German preparations.

At 5 PM just off the coast of USSR 150 miles Southeast of Murmansk, U-752 attacks Soviet minelayer ZM-93 Jushar (loaded with mines) and her escort, minesweeping trawler T-889. T-889 forces U-752 to dive with gunfire but is torpedoed at 6.49 PM (all 43 hands lost). At 9.48 PM in the Baltic Sea 90 miles Northeast of Gdansk, U-583 sinks after a collision with U-153 (all 45 hands lost).

Operation Flipper. Colonel Keyes’s commandos shelter during the day. Overnight, they hike 18 miles inland to a cave 1 mile from the target at Beda Littoria.

The second freighter in Operation Astrologer, SS Empire Defender, Italian SM.79 torpedo-bombers is sunk by off the coast of Tunisia near the Galite Islands (4 killed).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 806 November 14, 1941

At 3.37 AM, U-561 sinks Panamanian SS Crusader in mid-North Atlantic (33 dead). Only survivor is Brazilian coal passer Edward Barreto (possibly rescued by U-561, as he ends up a POW at Milag Nord, Germany, until 1945).

Soviet Navy loses 3 submarines. L-2 hits 3 mines between 1.07 and 6.17 AM and sinks in the Baltic Sea near the Estonian island of Keri (50 dead, 3 survivors) while M-98 is lost to mines in the Gulf of Finland (all hands lost). In the Black Sea, ShCh-211 disappears near Varna, Bulgaria, presumably to a Romanian mine (all hands killed).

Operation Flipper. British commandos of No.11 (Scottish) Group under Colonels Robert Laycock and Geoffrey Keyes (son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes) land from submarines HMS Talisman and HMS Torbay to kill Rommel. Due to rough seas, only 36 of the 59 commandos get ashore 12 miles from the target at Beda Littoria.

In an attempt to resupply Malta, British freighters disguised as French, Italian or Spanish ships are sent unescorted. Operation Astrologer comprises 2 ships, SS Empire Defender and SS Empire Pelican, traveling independently. Empire Pelican is attacked and sunk by Italian SM.79 torpedo-bombers off the coast of Tunisia near the Galite Islands (1 killed).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 805 November 13, 1941

At 00.42, U-126 sinks British MV Peru (all 50 hands rescued by South African whale factory ship Uniwaleco).

Operation Perpetual. Returning from delivering Hurricanes to Malta, British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is torpedoed 150 miles East of Gibraltar at 4.37 AM by U-81 (Able Seaman Mitchell is killed, 1487 crew taken off 13 hours later by destroyer HMS Legion). Destroyer escorts counterattack, dropping 130 depth charges, but U-81 escapes. HMS Ark Royal is taken in tow by tugs but sinks with almost all of her aircraft at 8.13 AM next day, only 35 miles from Gibraltar.

Siege of Leningrad Day 67. German 12th Panzer Division cannot reinforce or supply Tikhvin so General von Arnim organizes his tired troops into a hedgehog defense (small, mutually-defending strongpoints, often hidden, designed to frustrate the movements of a larger army). Soviet General Kirill Meretskov (reinstated after his poor performance against Finland in the Winter War and subsequent interrogation by NKVD) begins an attack with 4th, 52nd and 54th Armies including 3 fresh divisions brought in from Siberia and the Far East.

Operation Typhoon. Overnight, temperatures fall to -22C (-8F). As the mercury drops, the Rasputitsa comes to an end and Germans gear up for the second phase of the assault on Moscow. However, the bitter cold will cause them other problems, from frozen engine and gun lubricants to the death of thousands of thoroughbred German horses pulling wagons and artillery.

Overnight, Soviet destroyers Gordy and Surovy sail from Suursaari in the Gulf of Finland to evacuate troops from Hango Peninsula (escorted by minelayer Ural, 4 T-class minesweepers & 4 MO-class submarine hunters). Surovy, T-206 and MO-301 sink on Finnish mines laid yesterday. Next day, Gordy sinks in the Corbetha minefield. The remaining ships arrive at Hango and wait, eventually return to Kronstadt on November 25.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 804 November 12, 1941

Operation Typhoon. Overnight, temperatures around Moscow fall to -15C (5F). Impassable mud freezes enough to allow movement of trucks and tracked vehicles. German Army Group Centre prepares to drive 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies in a massive armored punch North of Moscow while Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army comes from the South. Soviet General Zhukov has rebuilt the Western Front to defend Moscow, gaining 22 new rifle divisions, 14 cavalry divisions, 11 ski battalions and some armor (often straight from the factory).

Black Sea. Soviet submarine S-34 is lost off the Bulgarian coast near Cape Emine, presumably to a mine (all 51 hands lost). At Sevastopol, German Stuka dive-bombers from StG 77 hit Soviet cruiser Chervona Ukraina with 3 bombs. Chervona Ukraina is badly damaged and sinks next day but her guns will be salvaged and used on land in the defense of the city. Destroyers Sovershenny and Besposhchadny are bombed in the Navy Yard while under repair from damage sustained in September, Sovershenny capsizes and Besposhchadny will be towed to Poti in the Caucasus on November 17 by destroyer Shaumyan for repairs.

Operation Perpetual. 37 Hurricane fighters fly to Malta from British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Argus.

Finns lay mines in the Gulf of Finland to prevent evacuation of Soviet troops from the Hango Peninsula.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 803 November 11, 1941

U-580 collides with target ship SS Angelburg and sinks in the Baltic Sea, 33 miles West of Klaipėda, Lithuania (12 dead, 32 survivors). At 2.15 PM in the Bay of Biscay, an RAF Hudson (53 Squadron) drops 4 depth charges on which is returning to Brest, France. Despite damage to an engine and the aft diving planes, U-203 is able to reach base next day. At 11.35 PM, U-561 sinks neutral Panamanian SS Meridian (all 26 hands lost).

Overnight, Soviet destroyers Stoiki & Leningrad, minelayer Ural, troopship Andrei Zhdanov & 3 minesweepers set out in a storm from Suursaari in the Gulf of Finland to evacuate troops from Hango Peninsula. The flotilla turns back to Suursaari after Andrei Zhdanov hits a mine and sinks (7 killed, 66 rescued by escort ships) and destroyer Leningrad is damaged by mines.

Day 802 November 10, 1941

Operation Flipper. British submarines HMS Talisman and HMS Torbay depart Alexandria, Egypt, carrying 59 commandos on an audacious mission to kill Rommel. Faulty intelligence leads them to believe that his HQ is at Beda Littoria, 250 miles inside German-held Libya. In any case, Rommel is vacationing in Italy with his wife Lucie to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Operation Perpetual. British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Argus depart Gibraltar, escorted by battleship HMS Malaya, cruiser HMS Hermione and 7 destroyers, transporting 37 Hurricane fighters to be flown to Malta.

In the Sea of Crete, British submarine HMS Proteus sinks German steamer Ithaka off the island of Milos and Greek submarine Glaukos damages German steamer Norburg, North of Crete.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 801 November 9, 1941

At 1 AM, British cruisers HMS Aurora & HMS Penelope and destroyers HMS Lance & HMS Lively intercept and destroy the Italian/German Beta convoy from Italy to Libya. Using radar, they sink all 5 freighters and both tankers plus Italian destroyer Fulmine and badly damage destroyers Grecale and Maestrale. Without radar, the escorting Italian cruisers and destroyers are unable to find the British ships (which return to Malta with all haste). 704 survivors from the convoy are rescued. At 6.40 AM, British submarine HMS Upholder torpedoes Italian destroyer Libeccio involved in the rescue operation (Libeccio is taken in tow by destroyer Euro but sinks). HMS Upholder also unsuccessfully attacks Italian cruisers Trento and Trieste.

Soviet Separate Coastal Army under General Petrov is shipped into Sevastopol after resting in the Caucacus following the defense and evacuation from Odessa. They arrive with 19,894 troops, 10 T-26 tanks and 152 artillery pieces, bringing the total defense of the city to 52,000 troops, 170 guns and 100 aircraft.

In the Black Sea, Hungarian freighter Ungvar is destroyed by a mine laid by Soviet submarine L-4. Romanian torpedo boats Viforul and Vijelia are sunk by the explosion.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 800 November 8, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 62. German Army Group North finally captures Tikhvin, taking 10,032 casualties in the offensive since October 16. Tikhvin is the road and rail junction thru which flows the meager supply of food and ammunition for Leningrad (then carried 50 miles North by road to the small town of Syas'stroy on Lake Ladoga and by barge across the Lake to the besieged city, a hazardous journey under Luftwaffe attack). Leningrad Military District orders a ‘corduroy’ road of logs to be cut through the forest for 200 miles, around Tikhvin to a railhead further East at Zabor’ye.

British Royal Navy is aware from Ultra intercepts of a supply convoy for Rommel sailing from Italy. “Beta” convoy consists of 5 freighters (German SS Duisburg & SS San Marco and Italian MV Maria, SS Sagitta & MV Rina Corrado) carrying 145 Italian & 78 German troops, 389 vehicles and 34,473 tons of munitions. In addition, 2 Italian tankers Conte di Misurata & Minatitlan carry 17,281 tons of fuel for tanks, trucks and planes. Regia Marina provides an escort of 7 destroyers, with cruisers Trieste & Trento and 4 more destroyers as distant cover. 200 miles East of Malta, RAF Martin Maryland (69 Squadron), on reconnaissance from Malta, deliberately locates Beta as a cover for Ultra. British cruisers HMS Aurora & HMS Penelope and destroyers HMS Lance & HMS Lively are sent out from Malta to intercept the convoy overnight.

In the Black Sea, Soviet submarine M-59 is lost to mines near Constanza, Romania (all hands lost).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 799 November 7, 1941

In Moscow, Stalin pulls off a public relations masterpiece. Despite the risk of German air attack, the annual October revolution parade begins at 8 AM. Troops, artillery and tanks (mainly new T-34 and KV tanks) rumble through Red Square past Lenin’s Mausoleum (empty) and St. Basil’s Cathedral. They then turn West towards the front lines, going straight into action against the Germans.

In one of the great maritime tragedies of the war, Soviet hospital ship Armenia sinks with over 7000 civilians and wounded soldiers on board. Armenia leaves Yalta at 8 AM, against orders forbidding daylight sailing from the Crimea. At 11.29 AM, a single Heinkel He111 from KG26 torpedoes Armenia (despite Red Cross insignia painted on the deck and sides) which rolls over and sinks in 4 minutes. There are 8 survivors.

At 10.34 PM in the middle of the North Atlantic, U-74 sinks British MV Nottingham on her maiden voyage, after MV Nottingham tries to ram the U-boat. All 56 crew and 6 gunners escape in lifeboats but are never seen again.

Overnight, 160 RAF bombers raid Berlin but 20 or more are shot down with little damage done to the German capital. As a result of the ineffectiveness of raids like this, Sir Richard Peirse will be replaced as head of RAF Bomber Command by Sir Arthur Harris in January 1942.

Day 798 November 6, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 60. As the temperature drops, shattered underground steam pipes (due to German bombing and shelling) and lack of firewood prevent heating of buildings. Bitter cold compounded by reduced rations will lead to death of thousands of Leningraders.

Operation Typhoon. Frostbite appears in the German troops in front of Moscow. Although stationary, most are technically still on the offensive and have not dug trenches. The exception is Feldmarschall von Kluge’s 4th Army in the middle of the Mozhaysk line, which has already gone on the defensive and into Winter quarters.

Off Permanbuco, Brazil, US cruiser USS Omaha and destroyer USS Somers impound German blockade runner Odenwald carrying rubber from Japan to Germany.

British minesweeping trawler HMT Flotta sinks off the East coast of Scotland after running aground on October 29.

Soviet hospital ship Armenia (a converted liner) evacuates the main naval hospital in Sevastopol with 5498 wounded troops and medics, leaving at 7 PM for an overnight voyage to safety of the Caucasus ports. The ship is suddenly diverted to Yalta and Balaklava to pick up more wounded as well as military families and well-connected civilians.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 797 November 5, 1941

Japanese troops currently occupy parts of China and French Indo-China. To prevent further Japanese expansion, the Netherlands ,USA and Britain block exports to Japan, particularly oil,. The new Prime Minister of Japan (General Hideki Tōjō), Chief of the Imperial Japanese Naval General Staff (Admiral Osami Nagano) and Emperor Hirohito agree on war if final diplomatic initiatives fail. USA is presented with a weak compromise agreement but during the negotiations, the Japanese Fleet will leave on November 25 to carry out Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plan to attack Pearl Harbor. The last day to recall the Fleet will be November 30.

In the Sea of Japan 200 miles South of Vladivostok, USSR, Japanese passenger ship Kehi Maru sinks on a Soviet mine 75 miles off the coast of Korea (131 killed from 80 crew and 430 passengers). The incident strains relations between USSR and Japan.

Soviet submarine ShCh-214 sinks Italian tanker Torcello in the Black Sea. Submarine ShCh-324 is lost in the Baltic Sea near Tallinn, Estonia, most likely on a mine (all 38 hands lost).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 796 November 4, 1941

Overnight, Soviet destroyers Smetlivy and Surovy (escorted by 4 minesweepers, 4 torpedo boats and 4 submarine hunters) sail from Suursaari in the Gulf of Finland to evacuate troops from Hango Peninsula, Finland. Smetlivy is hit by Finnish artillery during the embarkation at Hango naval base. On the return journey in the evening, Smetlivy sinks in the Corbetha minefield (several hundred troops killed, 350 rescued and returned to Hango by minesweeper T-205). 1200 troops arrive safely at Kronstadt near Leningrad.

Fighting continues on the Crimean peninsula, as German 11th Army cleans out the remaining Soviet troops. 170th Division captures the port of Feodosiya on the East side, at the base of the Kerch peninsula.

Soviet submarine M-34 is lost in the Black Sea near Constanza, Romania, presumably to a mine (all hands killed).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 795 November 3, 1941

While the forward elements of Guderian’s Panzers (renamed Panzer Army 2) attack Tula, other units capture the city of Kursk 180 miles Southwest, eliminating a threat to his flank.

U-202 and U-203 sink 4 British steamers in convoy SC-52 200 miles Northeast of Newfoundland. At 5 AM, U-202 sinks SS Flynderborg (3 killed, 21 survivors picked up by Canadian corvette HMCS Windflower) and SS Gretavale (38 dead, 6 survivors picked up by HMCS Windflower). At 6.28 PM, U-203 sinks SS Everoja (all 36 crew and 5 gunners picked up by British corvette HMS Nasturtium) and SS Empire Gemsbuck (all 37 crew and 6 gunners picked up by Canadian corvette HMCS Buctouche).

Soviet submarine ShCh-214 sinks Turkish schooner Kaynakdere with gunfire in the Black Sea.

British submarine HMS Proteus damages Italian tanker Tampico 50 miles Southeast of Athens, Greece. HMS Proteus is then chased off by Italian torpedo boats Monzambano and Castelfidardo.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 794 November 2, 1941

German 132nd Infantry Division attacks Sevastopol perimeter but is held near the town of Bakhchisaray by Soviet 8th Naval Brigade and shellfire from the 305mm guns at 30th coastal battery (Germans lose 428 casualties, 40 trucks and several armored vehicles). Manstein halts the attack on Sevastopol to consolidate his hold on the Crimean. 11th Army pushes Soviet troops to the perimeter of the Crimean peninsula, effectively encircling Sevastopol. Soviet Black Sea Fleet evacuates troops from Crimean ports of Yalta, Evpatoria and Feodosia (also from the Ukrainian mainland at Tendra peninsula near Odessa), taking them to Sevastopol. Cruiser Voroshilov is badly damaged by 2 bombs from 3 Junkers Ju88s (under repair at Poti, Georgian SSR until February 1942). Despite this, Black Sea Fleet will continue to operate in and around Sevastopol knowing that the Luftwaffe is fairly weak in the region (most aircraft diverted to attack Moscow).

At 5.26 AM 250 miles Southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, U-208 sinks British SS Larpool (22 crew and 4 gunners lost, 11 crew picked up by the Canadian corvette HMCS Bittersweet and 6 crew in a lifeboat will land at Burin, Newfoundland on November 10.