Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 98 December 7, 1939

800 miles East of Rio de Janeiro, German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee sinks her last victim 3,895-ton British steamer SS Streonshalh (cargo of wheat). Graf Spee stops Streonshalh and takes the crew of 32 on board before sinking her with scuttling charges and 6 inch shells fired at the waterline. Papers captured from Streonshalh tell Graf Spee’s Captain Hans Langsdorff that a convoy of 4 ships is leaving Montevideo on December 10. He heads for the estuary of the River Plate to intercept them.

Captain Langsdorff has followed the rules of sea warfare throughout and no lives have been lost on any of the 9 ships sunk. 61 prisoners now held on Graf Spee (crew of Streonshalh plus the captains and officers of the other 8 ships) are in for a stormy ride. 305 more British Merchant Navy crewmen are held on the Altmark in mid-Atlantic.

5 AM, U-47 mistakes neutral Dutch freighter MV Tajandoen (cargo, cement, iron and steel) for a tanker and sinks her with one torpedo (6 lives lost) 50 miles south of Land’s End. Belgian steamer Louis Scheid rescues 62 survivors and, in fear of being torpedoed, runs for the shallows off the Devon coast in a gale.

5 PM, U-38 sinks British freighter SS Thomas Walton (13 lives lost) 80 miles from Narvik, Norway. U-38 also fires a torpedo at the German ship SS Sebu which rescues 31 survivors, taking them to Bodo, Norway.

Finland. Having advanced 40km in 7 days above Lake Lagoda, Soviet 8th Army (7 divisions) threatens to turn the Mannerheim Line but is held by 2 Finnish divisions at the River Kollaa. Here they will remain until the end of the Winter War; “Kollaa Holds” becomes a rallying cry for the Finns. Further north, Soviet 163rd division (part of Dukhanov’s 9th Army) takes the village of Suomussalmi, sparking the worst Soviet disaster of the Winter War.


  1. Possible mistake or typo:

    Shouldn't this sentence:
    "800 miles West of Rio de Janeiro..."

    Actually read: "800 miles EAST of Rio de Janeiro..." ?

  2. Yes, it should - now corrected. Thanks for picking this up!