Operation Compass. British 7th Armored Brigade (7th Armored Division) charges Northwest to the Egyptian coast at Buq Buq & takes the surrender of Italian 64th Infantry Division. Battleships HMS Barham & HMS Valiant, escorted by anti-aircraft ship HMS Coventry & 7 destroyers, bombard Italian positions further West at Sollum, Egypt, to prevent reinforcements being sent forward. Aircraft from aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, escorted by 2 cruisers & 3 destroyers, attack Italian-held El Adem airfield at Tobruk, Libya. In 3 days, British have captured 237 guns, 73 tanks & about 38,000 Italian prisoners (as famously put by a Coldstream Guards officer “5 acres of officers & 200 acres of other ranks”). However, the British advance begins to lose steam; Indian 4th Infantry Division is ordered to Sudan by General Wavell, to take part in offensives against Italian forces in East Africa. They will be replaced by raw The Australian 6th Division.
U-96 attacks convoy HX-92 125 miles Northwest of Outer Hebrides, Scotland. At 3.12 PM, U-96 sinks British liner Rotorua (16 crew, 2 gunners, convoy HX-92 commodore Rear-Admiral Fitzgerald and 3 service personnel passengers killed). 108 survivors are picked up by British armed trawlers HMT Varanga, HMT Ebor Wyke & HMT Alsey. 2 crew are taken prisoner by the U-boat and landed at Lorient on 29 December. At 10.42 PM, U-96 sinks Norwegian SS Towa carrying 7778 tons of grain and 48 trucks (18 killed, 19 survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Matabele). At 7.12 PM, U-94 sinks British MV Empire Statesman carrying iron ore (all 31 hands lost) 225 miles West of Ireland.
278 German aircraft bomb Birmingham, dropping 277 tons of high explosive bombs and 685 incendiary canisters.