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Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27, 1940: Cape Spartivento Battle


Wednesday 27 November 1940

27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cape Spartivento Vittorio Veneto
An Italian battleship (probably the Vittorio Veneto) firing at the Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Royal Navy is engaged on 27 November 1940 in one of their typical supply convoys to Malta - Operation Collar - but they go to the well once too often. Trying to pull the same trick as in August, with the successful Operation Hurry, Force H goes to the well once too often. The Italian Navy, meanwhile, regains a small measure of self-respect after the disaster at Taranto two week ago.

The Italian intelligence service has spotted the Royal Navy south of Sardinia. The British force is seen to be of moderate size. Two Italian battleships and supporting ships set out to intercept. Italian torpedo boat Sirio spots the British fleet late on the 26th and reports its position. The Royal Navy ships then steer north to put open water between them and the freighters. At 09:45, an Italian IMAM Ro.43 floatplane from cruiser Bolzano spots the Royal Navy ships. RAF planes spot the Italian fleet nine minutes later, and the game is on.

Admiral Somerville in command of Force F splits his force, which now fortuitously is joined by Force D from Alexandria, into two main battle groups. The forces are fairly evenly matched. Fire between the two fleets commences at 12:22 at a range of 23,500 meters.

Italian destroyer Lanciere suffers serious damage (towed to port). Royal Navy cruiser HMS Berick takes an 8 inch (203 mm) shell to her Y turret that kills seven men and wounds nine others. Another shell shell destroys its remaining aft turret. Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Renown intervenes, but then Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto comes within range and opens fire. This forces the Royal Navy ships to retire, and the battle is over after 54 minutes. It is a minor Italian victory, both because of the damage to the British cruiser Berwick and the fact that the Royal Navy vessels are forced to retire.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is not happy. He believes that Admiral Somerville lacks the necessary aggressive spirit and should not have broken off the engagement. A board of inquiry exonerates Somerville. In fact, it is the Italians who had more cause to be upset, because the Vittorio Veneto could have pursued the British ships and perhaps dealt them more damage. Admiral Campioni in charge of the Italian fleet loses prestige as a result of this operation, which, in the absence of any RAF attacks, could have yielded better results.

Separately, Insect class gunboat HMS Ladybird bombards Italian bases in North Africa.

27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cape Spartivento HMS Ark Royal
Bombs falling astern of HMS Ark Royal during an attack by Italian aircraft during the Battle of Cape Spartivento (photograph taken from the cruiser HMS Sheffield).

Italian/Greek Campaign: A blizzard hits the higher elevations. On balance, this helps the Italians, who are on the defensive now.

The Greeks continue advancing. II Corps, moving in the direction of Frashër, is reinforced with with the 11th Division.

In the western Macedonia sector was held by the Western Macedonia Army Section (TSDM), the Greeks complete the capture of the Korçë plateau. The TSDM has suffered 624 dead and 2348 wounded in this operation. The Greeks continue to move forward toward the center of Albania, with the 13th Division advancing on Pogradec.

The Greek Liuba Detachment continues its march along the coast toward the Bistritsa River.

The Italian Regia Aeronautica is in action, bombing Epirus, Corfu, Cephalonia, Patras, and Crete.

Mussolini is growing increasingly concerned about the Italian collapse in the mountains. Rumors continue to fly that he will seek a separate peace.


27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cape Spartivento Walrus amphibious plane
A Supermarine Walrus amphibious plane used for shell spotting at the Battel of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe continues its sustained assault on Bristol, attacking it for the fourth time in three days. Plymouth, though, receives the most attention, with 107 bombers. The new German strategy appears to be to focus on mid-sized towns and try to cripple them rather than just relentlessly beating against London (though it is bombed as well, by 57 bombers).
RAF Bomber Command attacks attacks Cologne with 62 bombers and also Boulogne. A Blenheim bomber crashes due to pilot error while trying to land back at Swanton Morley, and another gets lost in the foul weather and its crew bails out over Manchester. Another dozen bombers are sent against Antwerp and Le Havre.

A Bf 109E piloted by Lt. Wolfgang Teumer is damaged and force lands at RAF Manston. It is repaired and joins the RAF "Ratwaffe."

27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cape Spartivento HMS Renown
HMS Renown firing its two forward (A +B) turret guns while underway at the Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940 (Imperial War Museum).

Battle of the Atlantic: U-103 (Kplt. Viktor Schütze), on its second patrol out of Lorient, stalks Convoy OB 248 in the sea lanes 300 km west of Ireland. It torpedoes and sinks 4393 ton British freighter Glenmoor. There are two survivors and 31 deaths, the survivors picked up by escorts HMS Harvester and Havelock.

U-104 (Kptlt. Harald Jürst) stalks Convoy HX 87, which apparently is close to Convoy HX 88 because the U-boat attacks ships from both in the same day, one from each convoy. The attacks take place in the sea lanes northwest of County Donegal, Ireland. Shortly after this, U-104 disappears and is presumed lost. Speculation is that it sinks in British minefield SN 44. Everybody on board U-104 is lost at sea.

U-104 torpedoes and sinks 8240 ton British freighter Diplomat, a straggler from Convoy HX 88. There are 39 survivors and 14 deaths.

U-104 torpedoes and damages 10,516 British tanker Charles F. Meyer in Convoy HX 87. Tankers are notoriously difficult to sink due to their compartmentalized structure, and the Meyer makes it to port.

U-95 (Kptlt. Gerd Schreiber) is on its first patrol out of Kiel. It torpedoes and sinks 1860 ton British freighter Irene Maria in the Atlantic northwest of County Donegal (not far from where U-104 is operating). All 25 on board perish.

French 2594 ton freighter Lisieux (seized at Portland, Oregon, USA on 27 May 1940 and sailing under British flag), travelling in Convoy SC 13 from Halifax, founders in rough weather after the convoy is dispersed. Sixteen men are rescued by fellow freighter Bernhard, but an undetermined number, mostly French, are lost at sea. The sinking occurs because the ship's cargo, paper pulp and lumber, gets wet and inflates, cracking open the hull. This was her first Atlantic crossing after being seized.

Royal Navy 9600 ton auxiliary minesweeper HMS Port Napier explodes and sinks in Loch Alsh, Argyllshire due to an engine fire. The ship is loaded with mines for her first minelaying operation, and as a precaution the ship is towed out to a safe distance from shore. A volunteer crew manages to jettison some of the mines and escape right before the ship and its mines and ammunition explodes. The wreck is still viewable partly above water at low tide to this day, and is a popular wreck dive.

Royal Navy 181 ton trawler HMT Elk hits a mine and sinks off Plymouth in the English Channel. Everybody survives.

Norwegian freighter Havborg is torpedoed and sunk in the Weser River by RAF aircraft. There are four deaths.

German 405 ton trawler Peter runs aground and is lost on the Swedish coast.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Wallace collides with the Newarp Light Float and suffers minor damaged. She is repaired within two days and back in service.

Royal Navy submarine HMS H.33 collides with corvette HMS Heather and requires repairs at Oban.

British 585 ton freighter Galacum hits a mine and is damaged.

Trawlers Rattray (182 tons) and Charmouth (195 tons) are damaged by the Luftwaffe off Milford Haven.

Some sources place the incident involving the Rangitane off New Zealand on the 27th. We discuss it on the 26th. There are going to be many discrepancies like that due to the global nature of the conflict.

Convoy FN 345 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 347 departs from Methil, Convoy BN 10 departs from Bombay.

U-150 (Hinrich Kelling) commissioned.

Soviet submarine K-3 is commissioned.

Escort carrier HMS Avenger, corvette HMS Lavender and submarine HMS Uproar are all launched, with corvette HMS Borage laid down.

27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cape Spartivento HMS Renown
HMS Renown at the Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940 (Imperial War Museum).

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Australian troop convoy US 7 departs from Fremantle. It includes 14287 ton Polish liner Batory, 23,371 ton British liner Orion, 23,428 ton Strathmore, and 23,722 ton Stratheden. There is a heavy escort of two cruisers for this convoy, bound for Suez.

Japanese/US Relations: Kichisaburo Nomura becomes the new Japanese ambassador to the United States.

British Government: Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Kingsley Wood gives an accounting of the government's expenditures on the war. During the war's first year (beginning 3 September), the cost was £5,300,000/day. During the subsequent 17 days at the beginning of the second year, the cost has risen to £9,100,000/day. Clearly, the government cannot sustain these types of expenditures indefinitely. Ambassador to the US Lord Lothian already has broadly hinted to the Americans that the days of cash-and-carry are dwindling and likely to end in 1941. In addition, £475,532,981 has been raised for the war.

Middle East: The Battle of Cape Spartivento claims an unexpected victim when the plane carrying the new Vichy High Commissioner of Syria and Lebanon, Jean Chiappe, is shot down.

General Archibald Wavell, Middle East Commander, responds to Prime Minister Churchill's telegram of the 26th regarding Operation Compass, the planned attack on the Italian positions in Egypt. Wavell states that Operation Compass will proceed as planned and that he and the other service commands believe that landings behind the Italian forward lines would offer little benefit.

27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cape Spartivento HMS Renown
HMS Renown at the Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940 (Imperial War Museum).

Romania: The wild political reverberations of the Vienna Awards continue in Romania. In a scenario reminiscent of the 1934 German Night of the Long Knives, the Iron Guard engages in a savage night of retribution against its political enemies. Known primarily as the Jilava Massacre, most of the events take place at the Jilava prison during the night of 26/27 November. Death squads are a common tool of the Iron Guard, and they kill 64 political prisoners, 46 officers and guards, and other political detainees. The political prisoners are supporters of exiled King Carol II.

Nicolae Iorga and Virgil Madgearu are killed as well. Iorga is kidnapped during the afternoon of 27 November by Traian Boeru and shot nine times outside Ploiești with different handguns. Madgearu also is kidnapped by Iron Guard members and killed. Iorga is a particularly high-value target because many Iron Guard members blame Iorga, a former anti-Fascist Premier, for the death of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Guard's founder. It does not pay to be known as an anti-Fascist in Romania at this time.

Kenya: The South African 5th Infantry Division arrives in Mombasa.

China: In Hubei Province, along the Han River, the Chinese counterattack the Japanese with the 27th, 31st and 44th Divisions. The Japanese 11th Army continues advancing in the region of Hoyuantien, Tangchianfan, and Huantanchen.

Future History: Lee Jun-fan is born in Chinatown, San Francisco. His parents are from Hong Kong, and he grows up in Kowloon. He becomes a child actor in Hong Kong beginning in 1946 and appears in several films. Lee moves to the US in 1949 to study at the University of Washington at Seattle. Around this time, Lee begins teaching martial arts. He continues to star in Hong Kong films and eventually breaks into the Hollywood film industry, adopting the stage name Bruce Lee. He first gains notice in television series "The Green Hornet" (1966-67). His films such as "Fists of Fury (1972) and "Enter the Dragon" (1973) become classic martial arts works and spark interest in the entire field that lingers on. Lee passes away suddenly in Hong Kong on 20 July 1973 at the age of 32. Many questions surround his death, with some speculating that it was partly the result of medications taken to soothe chronic back pain arising from his martial arts fighting.

27 November 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bruce Lee
Lee Jun-fan aka Bruce Lee.

November 1940


November 1, 1940: Hitler Irate
November 2, 1940: U-31 Sunk - Again
November 3, 1940: Kretschmer's Master Class
November 4, 1940: Spain Absorbs Tangier
November 5, 1940: Jervis Bay Meets Admiral Scheer
November 6, 1940: San Demetrio Incident
November 7, 1940: Galloping Gertie
November 8, 1940: Italian Shakeup in Greece
November 9, 1940: Dutch Fascists March
November 10, 1940: Fala and Doc Strange
November 11, 1940: Taranto Raid
November 12, 1940: Molotov Takes Berlin
November 13, 1940: Molotov Foils Hitler
November 14, 1940: Moonlight Sonata
November 15, 1940: Warsaw Ghetto Sealed
November 16, 1940: France Keeps Battleships
November 17, 1940: Malta Hurricane Disaster
November 18, 1940: Hitler Berates Ciano
November 19, 1940: Birmingham Devastated
November 20, 1940: Hungary Joins Axis
November 21, 1940: Dies White Paper
November 22, 1940: Italians Take Korçë
November 23, 1940: U-Boat Bonanza!
November 24, 1940: Slovakia Joins In
November 25, 1940: Molotov's Demands
November 26, 1940: Bananas Be Gone
November 27, 1940: Cape Spartivento Battle
November 28, 1940: Wick Perishes
November 29, 1940: Trouble in Indochina
November 30, 1940: Lucy and Desi Marry


2016

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