Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 843 December 21, 1941

Battle of convoy HG-76. At 7.23 PM 500 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Portugal, U-567 sinks Norwegian SS Annavore (34 dead, 4 survivors). A merchant ship fires a "snowflake" flare, silhouetting British escort carrier HMS Audacity which is hit at 9.37 PM by 3 torpedoes from U-751, igniting aviation fuel and destroying the ship in a massive explosion (73 killed, 407 survivors picked up by corvettes HMS Convolvulus, Marigold and Pentstemon). At 10.30 PM, U-567 approaches again but is sunk by sloop HMS Deptford and corvette HMS Samphire with depth charges (all 47 hands lost).

A British Swordfish aircraft of 812 Squadron sinks U-451 with depth charges off the coast of Morocco (44 dead, 1 survivor).

Malaya. After their success yesterday bypassing Scottish road blocks on the Grik Road by floating on rafts down the nearby Perak River, Japanese repeat the exercise on a grander scale. They launch rafts in Chenderoh Lake, floating 23 miles downstream to British defenses at Kuala Kangsar. British shoot up the rafts but many Japanese troops get ashore. Overnight, British begin withdrawing from their prepared Perak River positions. Dutch submarine HNMS XVII sinks on a Japanese mine 18 miles North of Tioman Island (all 36 crew lost).

Thailand and Japan formally sign an alliance, although they have collaborated since December 7.

Wake Island is heavily bombed by 29 Japanese Navy bombers from aircraft carriers Soryu and Hiryu, at 8.50 AM, and then again by 33 land-based bombers from Roi Island at 12.20 PM. The relief force is still 627 miles away moving at only 12 knots, the speed of the slowest oiler.

Hong Kong. Stalemate continues at Wong Nei Chong Gap. There is panic throughout the Island, as British civilians & Allied troops retreat to the Stanley Peninsula. Japanese bombers sink British river gunboat HMS Cicala (1 killed, 1 wounded).

Libya. While Indian 4th Division is grounded on the coast road at Derna for lack of fuel, Allied motorised infantry chase retreating German and Italian armor across the desert tracks South of Green Mountain towards Beda Fomm.

Eastern Front. Soviet 31st Cavalry Division attacks Kaluga, 60 miles Northwest of Tula, but they are held by German 137th Infantry Division. Both sides are ordered to hold the town at all costs, beginning a week of hand-to-hand fighting.

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