Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 507 January 19, 1941

British Commander-in-Chief Middle East General Wavell opens a 3-pronged offensive to drive the Italians from East Africa. 4th Indian Infantry Division (fresh from the success of Operation Compass in Egypt) and 5th Indian Infantry Division capture the railway junction at Kassala, Sudan, on the border with Italian Eritrea. Led by British General William Platt, they plan to advance South from Sudan, through Eritrea into Ethiopia. In addition, General Cunningham will swing Northeast from Kenya, through Italian Somaliland into Ethiopia. A planned amphibious assault will retake British Somaliland and all 3 forces aim to converge on the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Emperor Haile Selassie crosses the border from Sudan, returning to Ethiopia whence he fled in May 1936 during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

At 8 AM, British transport ships Clan Cumming, Clan MacDonald & Empire Song leave Pireaus, Greece, for Alexandria, Egypt, escorted by anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Calcutta and destroyers HMS Greyhound, Defender & Janus. At 11.53 AM 25 miles South of Pireaus, Italian submarine Neghelli damages Clan Cumming with a torpedo. HMS Greyhound sinks Neghelli with depth charges (all 46 hands killed). HMS Janus escorts Clan Cumming back to Pireaus.

Luftwaffe Stukas dive bomb Valletta Harbour, Malta. British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and destroyers HMS Imperial and HMS Decoy are damaged by near misses (no serious damage is done). A Fairey Fulmar from HMS Illustrious shoots down a Stuka and is then itself shot down (pilot and navigator are both rescued).

Hitler meets Mussolini at the Berghof, to offer German help to Italian efforts in North Africa (which is accepted) and in Albania (which Mussolini rejects). Hitler says that he will attack Greece if a British presence there threatens the oil refining at Ploie┼čti, Romania.

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