February 1941

Feb

8

1941

Bergonzoli gives his excuses

The crew of a British Matilda tank celebrate by flying a captured Italian flag.

Your forward units found us on the coast on Wednesday morning when we were in an exposed and dangerous position. But we gave battle at once. Our tanks and artillery and men were tired and at a considerable disadvantage on the coast, but they came quickly into position and gave battle magnificently. We launched two counterattacks that were very nearly successful.

Feb

7

1941

The Italians surrender at Beda Fomm

Italian M13 Tanks in the Libyan Desert, pictured later in 1941

For all the efforts of the previous day, the Italian column still looked huge and threatening. I watched with apprehension the movements of the mass of vehicles before me. On either side of me, hidden behind the crests of other dunes and ridges, I knew that there were other eyes just as anxious as mine, surveying the scene before them. In the mind of each one of us was the sure knowledge that we were well outnumbered.

Feb

6

1941

Wellington bomber captured on Boulogne raid

Wellington bomber captured by Germans

The enemy attempted to break out and made a persistent attack with over 100 tanks, but these were repulsed with heavy losses, including 60 of the latter. The full number of prisoners has not yet been ascertained, but it is understood that they have surrendered in large numbers, and include an Army Commander, a Corps Commander and many other senior officers.

Feb

5

1941

Intelligence on German troop concentrations

The invasion threat never went away completely despite the winter months - Polish troops guarding the coast in Scotland. There were so many Poles in Scotland it was known as the Polish invasion.

Reports of invasion in the Spring—according to some sources in February—are being received in increasing numbers from various quarters. Many of them mention details of preparations, such as training of parachutists, manufacture of parachutes and of water and fire proof suits, the issue of British uniforms to German troops, and intensive manufacture of gas.

Feb

4

1941

Goebbels on Churchill

German Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels in late January 1941, during a course on propaganda for military leaders.

England will one day pay a heavy price for this man. When the great catastrophe breaks over the island kingdom, the British people will have him to thank. He has long been the spokesman for the plutocratic caste that wanted war to destroy Germany. He distinguishes himself from the men behind the scenes only through his obvious cynicism and his unscrupulous contempt for humankind.

Feb

3

1941

‘Q-ship’ torpedoed in the Atlantic

HMS Crispin, seen before she was converted into a British Ocean Boarding vessel and later equipped with Anti-Aircraft guns to protect convoys.

It was 2200 hours. We had been hit by a torpedo which had struck the bulkhead separating the engine room and the for’ard hold beneath the bridge. One “greaser” (stoker) was killed by the explosion and the NAAFI canteen manager had a lucky escape. He was blown out of his bunk and his cabin was wrecked. His young assistant was not so lucky and died as a result of his wounds.

Feb

2

1941

Swordfish from Ark Royal attack Sardinia

HMS Ark Royal and one of her Swordfish aircraft, operating in the Mediterranean during 1941.

H.M. Ships Renown, Malaya, Ark Royal and light forces operated off Sardinia on the 2nd February. Owing to unfavourable weather the original plans had to be modified, but at dawn 8 Swordfish made an attack on the Tirso Dam which holds the water for the hydro-electric station. Observation of results was impossible; but it is thought that 3 torpedoes hit the dam.

Feb

1

1941

Harassing the Italians with gunfire

Twenty-five pounders guns on exercise in Britain, probably Salisbury Plain.

The squadron leader took off his headphones and crawled out on to the back of his turret. Bright blue eyes and white teeth showed through the mask of dust and dusty stubble, topped by a very aged beret, sometime black; equally aged corduroys and jersey; pair of binoculars and a sweat rag round his neck; hands covered in dusty bandages concealing the inevitable desert sores; the complete Seventh Armoured commander.