Wednesday 5 March 1941
|British troops embark at Alexandria for Greece, on or about 5 March 1941.|
Italian/Greek Campaign: British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, still in Athens, sends a diplomatic note to regent Prince Paul on 5 March 1941, asking that the country join with the British. Eden does not know that Paul has just agreed to sign the Tripartite Pact with the Axis. Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies confides to his diary that:
The Middle East Proposal is going bad. Why the devil should Eden purport to commit us on facts which he must know are most disturbing and which have an Empire significance?Menzies, as reflected in comments he has made to the British War Cabinet, thinks that the entire Greece expedition is questionable.
After this, Eden and CIGS John Dill wrap up their business in Athens and fly back to Cairo.
British troops of Lustreforce (Operation Lustre) begin arriving at Piraeus, Greece.
East African Campaign: Some British commandos north of Keren are pushed out of their advanced position by a large force of Italians supported by mortar and machine gun fire. The British only leave because they are running out of ammunition (so their report states).
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks Boulogne. The Luftwaffe stays on the ground today.
|"HM The King with the C in C Admiral Sir Charles Gordon Ramsey, KCB, and a group of Officers." Rosyth, 5 March 1941. © IWM (A 3362).|
Battle of the Atlantic: German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst sit astride the British convoy route from England to Freetown. This is Great Britain's vital link not only with the Middle East, but with India and the Far East. The ships have their float planes searching for targets. Scharnhorst's plane develops engine trouble and has to ditch, but after a four-hour search the cruiser finds the plane - which simply ran out of gas.
U-95 (Kptlt. Gerd Schreiber), on its third patrol, torpedoes and sinks 5070 ton Swedish freighter Mursjek. All 31 on board the Mursjek perish.
U-106 joins the parade of U-boats refueling from German supply ship Charlotte Schliemann at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Every U-boat that it refuels increases the endurance and reach of the German submarines.
The first steps in Operation Summer, the delivery of aircraft and other supplies to Takoradi, Ghana, takes place today when a small convoy departs the Clyde. Aircraft carrier HMS Furious carries the planes, and it is escorted by battlecruiser Repulse and other ships. As projected, their route would place them into the vicinity of the German heavy cruisers lurking to the south.
British 58 ton tug Silverstone hits a mine and sinks a few miles from Medway. Everybody on board the Silverstone perishes. In addition, the tug was towing four barges, two of which (Rockstone and Sandstone) also sink.
German 7512 ton freighter Stolzenfels sinks from unknown causes ("enemy action") in the North Sea near Schiermonnikoog, Holland.
German Schnellboot S-70 hits a mine and sinks.
Royal Navy ocean boarding ship HMS Corinthian stops and seizes 112 ton French trawler Bijou Bihon off the coast of Morocco. The Corinthian puts a prize crew on board and sends it to Gibraltar.
German torpedo boats (Iltis and Jaguar) lay minefield Augsburg off of the port of Eastbourne.
Convoy OB 294 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX 113 departs from Halifax, Convoy BHX 113 departs from Bermuda.
Royal Navy corvette HMS Auricula (K12, Lt. William W. White) is commissioned.
US destroyer USS Ludlow (DD 438, Lt. Commander Claude Henry Bennett, Jr.) is commissioned.
|USS Ludlow on 5 March 1941, the date of its commissioning.|
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Triumph uses its deck gun to sink 897 ton Italian freighter Colombo Lo Faro and 958 ton freighter Marzamemi off Calabria.
Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, which has been waiting for the Suez Canal to be free of obstructions and mines relating to recent Luftwaffe minelaying there, finally gets the all-clear. It sets out from Port Sudan for Suez.
The Luftwaffe bombs Malta both in the morning and in the evening. The Germans are using their "lone raider" tactics during the day that they have been using over England recently. The evening raid is more serious, with 60 bombers and 40 fighters attacking the RAF airfields. They cause extensive damage to infrastructure and destroy four planes. Hal Far airfield is temporarily put out of action.
The Germans send a major troop convoy from Naples to Tripoli.
Convoy ANF 17 departs from Alexandria, bound for Piraeus, while Convoy BN 18 departs from Aden, bound for Suez.
German/Romanian Relations: Reichsmarschall Herman Goering has been touring southern German. Today, he arrives in Vienna, where he meets with visiting Romanian leader Ion Antonescu. He drops broad hints to Antonescu about what is planned in the East, without actually coming right out and revealing the plans for Operation Barbarossa. Romania is not considered vital by the Germans for its military participation - though that is expected - but rather for its oil production. Romania essentially is Germany's only continental source of oil. Goering opposes the operation in principle, but has accepted that Hitler is bound and determined to execute it and thus resolves to make it work as best as possible.
German/Japanese Relations: Hitler issues Fuhrer Directive No. 24, "Co-operation with Japan." The directive orders the service chiefs to cooperate "generously and comprehensively" with the Japanese. The most interesting aspect of the directive is that Hitler notes that the only purpose of the cooperation is to ensure "the swift conquest of England in order to keep America out of the war." The directive states that the sooner Japan takes military action, "the greater her chances of success," and that early Japanese action should be encouraged and facilitated.
Anglo/Japanese Relations: Confiding his thoughts to his diary, Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies (visiting London) expresses outrage that his policy of moderation toward Japan (recently expressed in a speech) is misconstrued by some as "appeasement." In fact, he writes:
Our true policy vis a vis Japan is firmness & friendliness; the two are not inconsistent.Menzies' press statements are getting back to Australia, and his support there gradually is waning - though whether or not the statements themselves have anything to do with that is unclear. After the Neville Chamberlain experience, of course, appeasement is a dirty word for many within the British Empire.
|"HM The King inspecting the ship's company on board a warship", Rosyth, 5 March 1941. © IWM (A 3372).|
Anglo/Bulgarian Relations: The British officially sever relations with Bulgaria. Menzies notes simply in his diary, "Germany has swallowed Bulgaria."
US/Panamanian Relations: Panama allows the US government to site air bases within Panama, not just in the Canal Zone.
Romanian Homefront: The government holds a referendum on the government of Antonescu. He receives 99.9% of the vote.
American Homefront: George Gallup continues to poll the public about the European war. The question is, "If American merchant ships with American crews are used to carry war materials to Britain, and some of them are sunk by German submarines on the way over, would you be in favour of going to war against Germany?" The responses:
- Would not favor war 61%
|Bradfield Highway to Main Street, Brisbane, 5 March 1941 (Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 4056 ID label: 1249603).|