Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 603 April 25, 1941. ANZAC day

Greece. Allied rearguard forces from Thermopylae cover 100 miles in 12 hours and reach Athens at noon, met by cheering Greek crowds throwing flowers in gratitude for the Allied effort. However, British Legation and other foreign diplomats prepare to leave by burning confidential papers. Allied evacuation (Operation Demon) continues but only 5500 troops leave from beaches South of Athens after troopship Pennland is bombed and badly damaged (4 crew lost, 347 rescued by destroyer HMS Griffin). Luftwaffe reconnaissance identifies the evacuation beaches but British will change the embarkation points using Ultra intercepts. German bombers again focus on shipping routes, sinking 6 merchant ships and a yacht. 6 Greek destroyers and 5 submarines survive to fight another day, escaping to Alexandria, Egypt. Seeing that mainland Greece is being evacuated, Hitler orders the invasion of Crete (Operation Merkur, F├╝hrer Directive 28).

North Africa. Frustrated by the lack of progress at Tobruk, Rommel resumes the offensive along the Libyan/Egyptian border. German troops attack British patrols around Fort Capuzzo. British withdraw to prepared defenses where the desert plain drops towards the coast through Halfaya Pass. With only 13 RAF Hurricanes left to defend Egypt, the last 2 fighters are withdrawn from Tobruk leaving only Westland Lysanders to do artillery spotting. Luftwaffe will control the skies over Tobruk. British submarine HMS Upholder sinks Italian SS Antonietta Lauro off the Tunisian island of Kerkenah.

At 00.38 AM, 200 miles Southwest of Cape Verde islands off the West coast of Africa, U-103 sinks Norwegian SS Polyana (all 25 hands lost). Off the East coast of Africa, North of the Seychelles, German armed merchant cruiser Pinguin shells British SS Empire Light without warning. 70 crew are taken prisoner and Empire Light is scuttled.

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