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.

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