December 1941

Dec

21

1941

South Africans under night air attack in the Desert

An official publicity shot of a South African rifle section patrolling the desert sand dunes.

Wise in the way of bombers we listened but offered no insult, but others, less wise, opened fire and the tracers went streaming and coiling up. ‘I’m off,’ shouted Blackie, and now we heard one bomber coming in lower and the sudden brilliance of his flare lit the plain as if it was under floodlights. There seemed a million trucks in the hot light, every detail sharp but no shadows.

Dec

20

1941

Hitler appeals for warm clothing for Eastern Front

German soldiers man an isolated gun position in the in the snow on the Eastern front, December 1941.

While the German homeland is not directly threatened by the enemy, with the exception of air raids, millions of our soldiers, after a year of the most difficult fighting, confront a numerically and materially far superior enemy at the front. Victories, as never before witnessed in world history, have been secured in battle thanks to the conduct and bravery of officers and men.

Dec

19

1941

HMS Neptune lost and two Battleships disabled

The Light Cruiser HMS Neptune, only one man survived out of her entire complement when she came to grief in a minefield.

Three more ratings died and we picked up an oar and I tried to steer the raft but could make no headway. By the fourth day there were only four of us left including the Captain who died that night. I was in the water for three days before being able to find room aboard the raft. Most of the lads just gave up the ghost but I was very fit because of playing so much sport and this is probably why I survived. I had a smashed leg and by Christmas Eve on the 5th day, there was only Price and myself left.

Dec

18

1941

Daylight raid on the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau

Halifax bombers from No. 35 Squadron over Brest on 18th December 1941 in an attempt to knock out the two German 'pocket battleships', the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau

Heavy flak burst observed under port wing by other aircraft in formation. Aircraft repeatedly hit. Port inner engine failed immediately after leaving target, feathered with difficulty. Shortly afterwards starboard outer engine failed and at 1241 hrs a Glycol leak developed in the same eingine, followed by a small fire and flames were observed in the cowling. The same engine totally failed about 1250 hrs.

Dec

17

1941

The first and last cruise of U-boat U-131

The carrier HMS Audacity was the first of the Escort  carriers designed to provide much needed air cover for merchant convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic

The renewed lease of life which “U 131″ had brought for herself by this success was short. Her best speed, even if she could maintain it, was not enough to out distance the destroyers and, at seven miles range, “Exmoor,” “Blankney” and “Stanley” opened fire, the former making particularly excellent shooting. “Stork” opened fire about five minutes later. Baumann now recognized that his position was hopeless. His one effective gun at such range was trained forward and could not be brought to bear without a disastrous alteration of course.

Dec

16

1941

“We must exterminate the Jews wherever we find them”

Hans Frank the Governor of what remained of Poland during the Nazi period. Four of the six main extermination camps were to be based on his territory.

It is estimated that we have 2.5 million Jews in the General Government [Generalgouvernement]; with those related to Jews by marriage and all that are associated with them perhaps now 3.5 million. We cannot shoot or poison these 3.5 million Jews, but we will be able to take action which will somehow lead to their successful extermination. This action will be connected with the major measures to be discussed by the Reich.

Dec

15

1941

The Skede beach massacre of the Jews of Liepāja, Latvia

This well-known image was taken by a Nazi perpetrator of the mass killings of 2,749 Jews on the beach near the city of Liepāja, in Latvia, on December 15 through 17, 1941. These women had been forced to disrobe and then pose for the camera. Scholarly work has led to the identification of some of the women shown. From left to right: (1) Sorella Epstein; (2) believed to be Rosa Epstein, mother of Sorella; (3) unknown; (4) Mia Epstein; (5) unknown. Alternatively, (2) may be Paula Goldman, and Mia Epstein may be (5) instead of (4).  15 December 1941: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum 19121

Unusually the Einsatzgruppen men kept photographic records of the shootings – or perhaps unusually the photographs survived. It is clear from these that there were a large number of spectators to the killings, drawn from the local population and the Wehrmacht. Some records mention a ‘carnival atmosphere’. One of these spectators took a short video film.

Dec

14

1941

Bombing mission to attack Japanese Philippine landings

The Flying Fotress flown by Captain Wheless on the 14th December 1941 was found to have 1200 bullet holes in it after he managed to crash land at the airfield on Mindinao, saving his crew from further injuries,

He ran from one side to the other operating the side guns in the tail. Gootee’d reload for him while he was busy on the other gun. Then one of the Japs got a bead on Brown while he was working over the mess with his gun, shot the sights right off the gun and got Brown in the wrist. Without stopping his relay race between the two guns, he tied a handkerchief around it — tight — and went on shooting.

Dec

13

1941

Italian Navy ambushed again, off Cap Bon

HMS Maori, one of the Tribal class destroyers, sister ship to HMS Sikh which led the attack.

A Wellington aircraft also sighted the force and the enemy hearing her engines turned back, thereby placing our destroyers in a most favourable position for attack. The allied ships had the initiative and opened fire with guns and torpedoes. The two cruisers were set on fire and sunk; one of the torpedo boats was sunk and the other severely damaged. Our ships suffered no casualties or damage.

Dec

12

1941

Intense cold brings misery to the German Army

Panzer IV tanks in the snow of the Eastern Front at the end of 1941, in the intense cold engines had to be kept running almost continuously.

Lorries have long since been off the roads. Horse-drawn sleighs are the only means of locomotion. Tragic scenes of retreat recur with ever greater frequency. We have few aircraft. In temperatures like these engines are short-lived. As previously when we had the initiative we go out in support of our ground troops, now fighting to hold the attacking Soviets.