April 1941

Apr

10

1941

Escape back to Eygpt

A British army truck pulling a medium artillery gun

The enemy tanks must have decided to outflank the pass in case it was blown up, or we were thought to have an anti-tank capacity. Most of us had had little sleep for days and our driver was no exception. With the severity of the sandstorm he could only see by opening the split windscreen and pushing up his goggles. I looked at his eyes and they seemed like two red balls.

Apr

9

1941

Under air attack in Tobruk

An anti -aircraft gun at Tobruk, surrounded by old ammunition boxes filled with stone.

Each gun got so much dust around that nothing could be seen outside the gun pits, and very little could be heard. We had difficulty in stopping them shooting – they went on like maniacs. Most of us ducked in the Command Post when they crashed away at low elevation just over our heads. Sergeant Bennet got too much in front of his gun,-and got his hair singed at the back.

Apr

8

1941

Low level bombing attack on Ijmuiden

One of the dramatic photographs taken during the low level attack on Ijmuiden with bombs falling centre frame.

On two successive days formations of Blenheims attacked the iron and steel works at Ijmuiden, some of the aircraft coming down to 100 feet; direct hits were obtained on buildings which were seen to be severely damaged; the power house, ships and barges in the docks and a railway bridge were also attacked.

Apr

7

1941

Disaster in Piraeus Harbour

The Clan Fraser burning in Piraeus harbour on the 6th April 1941, before the massive explosion.

From neighboring houses came sounds of maids screaming, and the wild cries of a macaw. Nothing in all the sound effects of catastrophe in Hollywood films could match the crashing thunder, the crackling individual blasts under the greater roar, the howl of the dogs and human shrieks.

Apr

6

1941

Kenneth Campbell attacks the Gneisenau

The Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber used by RAF Coastal Command.

Bad weather caused the six aircraft in the raid to become separated. Kenneth Campbell arrived at the grouping point off the harbour alone and, after waiting for any other aircraft to arrive, launched a single aircraft attack against the target knowing that the defences had not been eliminated. He flew directly into one of the most heavily defended targets in the whole of europe, encircled with up to one thousand anti-aircraft and other guns.

Apr

5

1941

Surviving the sinking of U-76

U-107 returns to the U boat base at Lorient later in 1941,  U-76 didn't make it.

The entire complement was rescued with the exception of one rating.  The German Captain stated that this man died because he jumped into the sea before putting the mouth-piece of his escape apparatus into his mouth.  He allowed sea water to get into the breathing tube; this acted on the potash cartridge and produce potash lye; he then put the mouth-piece between his teeth, and breathed in acidular gasses from the apparatus; these burnt his lungs.

Apr

4

1941

Tragedy over Dorset

The Whitley bomber was outdated at the start of the war but with no alternatives available was kept on offensive operations until 1942.

The pilot stalked the returning German raider for several minutes unseen before opening fire and watching the bomber spin out of control to crash near the market town of Sturminster Newton in Dorset. Four crew members were able to escape by parachute, but the rear gunner was later found dead in the wreckage.

Apr

3

1941

Rommel’s first success in the Desert

German troops advancing up the coast road towards the British lines, Libya, March 1941

There’ll be consternation amongst our masters in Tripoli and Rome, perhaps in Berlin too. I took the risk against all orders and instructions because the opportunity seemed favourable. No doubt it will all be pronounced good later and they’ll say they’d have done exactly the same in my place.

Apr

2

1941

The ‘Battle of Britain’ defined

One of the diagrams in the Air Ministry pamphlet that sought to explain how the RAF had fought off the Luftwaffe.

It was a necessarily a one sided account of a great victory, published at a time when Britain was devastated by the Blitz. It concluded that “Future historians may compare it with Marathon, Trafalgar and the Marne”. The pamphlet itself was hugely influential in shaping views of the period over the summer of 1940, hundreds of thousands were sold around the Empire and in the United States.

Apr

1

1941

Germans and British clash in the desert

German panzers in the Libyan desert as they prepared to strike against British positions.

The Fusiliers had a most fearsome reputation. The unit was made up of hard, uncompromising men of little polish; they obeyed their own officers but treated anyone else in authority with contempt, particularly base depot personnel. They were the dourest fighters we were to meet in a long day’s march and we were always glad to have them about.