Friday, January 13, 2017

January 12, 1941: Operation Rhubarb

Sunday 12 January 1941

12 January 1941 Polish submarine ORP Sokol
"Lieutenant Borys Karnicki, the CO of the Polish Navy submarine ORP Sokół (Falcon), on the bridge with his sailors. This hotograph probably was taken in Portsmouth, January 1941." © IWM (A 3417).

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greeks continue to consolidate their capture of the Klisura Pass on 12 January 1941. They beat off weak Italian counterattacks and continue to subdue the trapped battalion of the Italian Lupi di Toscana Division. The Italian Julia Division remains in good shape and, along with the remnants of the Toscana Division, continues to bar the way to the key Italian supply port of Valona.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command raids the factories at Regensburg and other targets in Germany and Belgium, including various invasion ports. Other raids target Venice and drop leaflets on Padua.

The RAF continues its Operation Circus activities, which are heavily escorted bomber raids intended to draw Luftwaffe fighters up for destruction. Today it begins Operation Rhubarb, a subset of Circus. In Operation Rhubarb, fighters without accompanying bombers operate over occupied Europe and basically strafe any worthwhile targets. Just for clarity, there are several subsets of Operation Circus:
  • Operation Rhubarb: fighter strafing runs at random
  • Operation Roadstead: fighter attacks on coastal shipping
  • Operation Ranger: large-scale fighter intrusions
  • Operation Ramrod: Fighter intrusions with specific targets.
This is a mirror image of similar operations that the Luftwaffe performed in late 1940. At this time, however, the Luftwaffe appears to have largely given up on daylight missions and is focusing instead on night-time operations and missions in other theaters, i.e., the Mediterranean.

These RAF Circus Operations do not come without a cost. Today, for instance, Fw. Helmut Brügelmann of 8./JG 26 and Oblt. Kinzinger of I./JG 54 together shoot down RAF fighters over Boulogne and Texel, respectively.

The Luftwaffe is quiet during the day, then sends a desultory raid of 141 bombers against London and the nearby Thames Estuary region after dark.

12 January 1941 Polish submarine ORP Sokol
"The Polish Navy submarine ORP Sokół (Falcon). Photograph probably was taken in Portsmouth, January 1941." © IWM (A 3416).
Battle of the Atlantic: British 212 ton trawler Strathrye hits a mine near Plymouth and sinks. Everybody survives. British 340-ton trawler Oyama sinks in the North Atlantic from unknown causes.

Norwegian 5498 ton freighter Tijuca hits a mine south of Cardiff in the Bristol Channel - one of several ships caught in this minefield recently - and is damaged. It makes it to the port of Barry, nine miles to the west of Cardiff.

Royal Navy minelayer HMS Teviotbank lays minefield BS 49 in the English Channel.

Some sources place today as the date of grounding of liner SS Manhattan nine miles north of Palm Beach, Florida, others a few days before this. It takes three weeks to refloat the liner. Both the captain and the first officer are disciplined with suspensions.

Convoy WS 5B (Winston Special) departs from Avonmouth. This is a major convoy of 21 troop transport ships heading to the Middle East and the Far East (including Singapore). They carry 40,000 fighting men. The escort includes battleship HMS Ramillies for the first five days. This convoy will be on the high seas until March.

Convoy SC 19 departs from Halifax, Convoy OB 273 departs from Liverpool, Convoy FN 382 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 386 departs from Methil, Convoy BS 12C departs from the Port of Sudan.

Royal Navy minesweeping trawler HMS Celia (T 134, Lt. Frederick G. Dawson) is commissioned.

12 January 1941 Polish submarine ORP Sokol
"The Polish Navy submarine ORP Sokół (Falcon). Photograph probably was taken in Portsmouth, January 1941." © IWM (A 3415).
Battle of the Mediterranean: In response to the beating that the Royal Navy has been taking from the Luftwaffe's Fliegerkorps X based on Sicily, the RAF launches raids against one of its airfields at Catania, southern Sicily. Meanwhile, the dockyard workers at Grand Harbour in Malta work around the clock to make the shattered HMS Illustrious seaworthy - at least enough to depart for lengthy repairs elsewhere. Sitting in Grand Harbour, it is a tempting target for the Germans (though the Italians probably will not pose a problem for it).

British Middle East Command orders RAF No. 33 Squadron, equipped with Hurricanes based in Egypt, to begin transferring to Greece pursuant to recent decisions reached by the Chiefs of Staff. This transfer begins slowly and will take over a month to complete.

The Italian Navy, led by battleships Vittorio Veneto and Andrea Doria, has been temporarily at sea to confront the British Operation Excess convoys to Malta. Today, thinking that the Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is still a threat, it timidly returns to port. In fact, the Illustrious is in port and incapable of air operations.

The Australian 6th Infantry Division and British 7th Armoured Division of XIII Corps continue isolating Tobruk from landward communications and prepare an attack, which should take about ten days to prepare. While Italian opposition has been light to non-existent, simply moving tanks across the desert has sent many Matildas to the repair shops. The attack itself, though, is perceived to be a straightforward affair, as the Tobruk defenses are extremely similar to those of Bardia.

Once again, Royal Navy assets are tied up hauling Italian prisoners back to Alexandria, this time from Bardia. Net layer HMS Protector takes 1058 with it today, but there are many more awaiting transfer.

12 January 1941 Polish submarine ORP Sokol Yosemite passenger train
A passenger train in Yosemite Valley, USA stopped by rocks on the track, 12 January 1941. They were quickly cleared and the train proceeded on its way (Photo: Guy Duncomb).
German Military: The SS begins recruiting in Norway for the Nordland Regiment of the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking (Brigadeführer Felix Steiner). This is the first SS unit to
recruit outside the territory of the Reich. The Wiking Division is composed of three infantry regiments: Germania, Westland, and Nordland. The Norwegians are destined primarily for the Nordland Regiment, at least at first. Recruiting in Norway - a complex and somewhat controversial topic in itself - is relatively successful (how successful is the controversial part).

None of the units actually is Norwegian in totality, and all remain firmly under German control by German officers and NCOs. The Norwegians wish to fight as a group, but Steiner is leery about that and splits the Norwegians into small groups in every company.

12 January 1941 Bank Underground Station bomb damage
Soldiers digging in front of the "Dig for Victory" sign at the Bank Underground Station in London, which received a direct hit during the previous night's Luftwaffe raid. Twelve people were killed. 12 January 1941.
Moldovia: The Soviets impose a constitution upon Moldovia SSR, as Romania's former eastern province now is styled.

Ethiopia: The British troops in Sudan stage successful raids along the border around Metemma, Ethiopia. The Duke of Aosta, in charge of Italian forces in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), deploys the Savoia Grenadiers - elite troops - to defend Keren (Cheren) in Italian Somaliland.

Indochina: The Thai ground troops continue advancing toward Pakse. The French have problems with their own Indochinese native troops, who are mutinying in Annam.

China: The Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang) continue squeezing the encircled Chinese Communist New 4th Army troops at Maolin along the Yangtze River.

German Homefront: It is Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's birthday, which is celebrated (by decree) throughout the Reich. Goering is considered somewhat of a specialist on Italian relations because he spent some time there in poverty with his wife Carin during the 1920s (when Benito Mussolini would not give him the time of day despite Goering's repeated pleas for meetings), so Mussolini sends him a birthday present via the Italian ambassador in Berlin, Dino Alfieri. It is a collection of three medieval paintings, including one associated with the 15th-century Sterzinger Altar by German sculptor and painter Hans Multscher (the others are by an unknown artist, "The Visitation" and "Flight into Egypt"). Goering vows to scour the Continent for the missing parts of the Sterzinger altar - which are scattered all across Europe - and gather associated artwork and reconstruct them at his villa Carinhall north of Berlin.

This actually is part of a deal between Mussolini and Goering in which Goering receives the artwork "as a present," while Goering sends Mussolini some Italian artwork located in Germany. The transfer is "purchased" by the Fascist ministry, although Italian law at the time prevented such transfers (such seemingly fine distinctions become quite important... later). The Fascists give the local commune where the paintings are located 9 million lire, about $400,000, in exchange for the artwork.

12 January 1941 Reinhard Heydrich Hermann Goering
SS General Reinhard Heydrich and Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring on the Reichsmarschall 's birthday, January 12, 1941.

January 1941

January 1, 1941: Muselier Arrested
January 2, 1941: Camp Categories
January 3, 1941: Liberty Ships
January 4, 1941: Aussies Take Bardia
January 5, 1941: Amy Johnson Perishes
January 6, 1941: Four Freedoms
January 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Plans
January 8, 1941: Billions For Defense
January 9, 1941: Lancasters
January 10, 1941: Malta Convoy Devastation
January 11, 1941: Murzuk Raid
January 12, 1941: Operation Rhubarb
January 13, 1941: Plymouth Blitzed
January 14, 1941: V for Victory
January 15, 1941: Haile Selassie Returns
January 16, 1941: Illustrious Blitz
January 17, 1941: Koh Chang Battle
January 18, 1941: Luftwaffe Pounds Malta
January 19, 1941: East African Campaign Begins
January 20, 1941: Roosevelt 3rd Term
January 21, 1941: Attack on Tobruk
January 22, 1941: Tobruk Falls
January 23, 1941: Pogrom in Bucharest
January 24, 1941: Tank Battle in Libya
January 25, 1941: Panjiayu Tragedy
January 26, 1941: Churchill Working Hard
January 27, 1941: Grew's Warning
January 28, 1941: Ho Chi Minh Returns
January 29, 1941: US Military Parley With Great Britain
January 30, 1941: Derna Taken
January 31, 1941: LRDG Battered


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