January 1941

Jan

19

1941

British forces enter Italian Eritrea

Indian troops cross the Atbara river with their motor transport on a pontoon raft as they move into Italian occupied Eritrea.

On the 19th January the first of the 4.5 Batteries went into action and did some very accurate shooting, so vindicating or justifying our ‘fudging and improvisation’. On the same day Italian Savoyas strafed us and we managed to bring one down with rifle fire and one LMG. A newly arrived Hurricane, probably the only one in East Africa, brought down another. Although all a little bit “gung ho”, the South Africans were all a very good crowd but so different from the Army types I had been used to. Discipline was there one assumed, but it wasn’t too obvious.

Jan

18

1941

England expects invasion this spring

Another uncomfortable night in the shelter which had now become a routine for most people.

It seems we are enjoying a little respite now, so that we may be prepared for the spring. About March, it seems, the Americans think the assault will come. If they think of lending us some of their Navy things must be pretty grim. I don’t like the look of it. We have got to put up with a lot more bombing of our towns, Mr Churchill says. As soon as the weather improves, I suppose, those horrible all-night raids will start again.

Jan

16

1941

German cruiser at Brest bombed

The German cruiser Admiral Hipper was in dry dock at the French port of Brest for engine repairs.

Determined efforts have been made during the week to inflict further damage on the ” Hipper ” class cruiser lying in dry dock at Brest. On five nights a total of 85 aircraft were despatched with this target as their principal objective, and, over this period, four direct hits on the cruiser are reported. In addition, considerable damage was done to warehouses and buildings in the dock area and widespread fires were observed.

Jan

15

1941

British forces maintain pressure on Tobruk

The siege of Tobruk continued. A battery of the famous British '25 pounder' artillery guns.

The garrison of Tobruk, believed to comprise one Italian division and certain ancillary troops, including 6,000 frontier guards, is still invested by our forces. There is also reason to believe that it has been reinforced by the two Blackshirt generals who retired from Bardia. If Tobruk falls, it is difficult to forecast where the Italians will make their next stand.

Jan

14

1941

Growing death toll in the Lodz ghetto

Over a quarter of a million Jews were crammed into the Lodz ghetto, Poland.

Before the arrival of the current frosts, when the death rate in the ghetto did not exceed 25 to 30 cases per day (before the war the average death rate among the Jewish population of the city amounted to six per day), there were 12 gravediggers employed at the cemetery. Today there are around 200.

Jan

13

1941

RAF maintain pressure in the desert

The RAF operated from bases in the desert that offered only the most basic facilities.

Hits were registered on five large ships in the harbour, on the mole and on Government buildings. The neighbouring aerodromes of Benina and Berka were also successfully attacked, and much damage was caused to aerodrome buildings, hangars and aircraft on the ground. At Benina, at least twelve enemy aircraft were set on fire.

Jan

12

1941

Bombing attacks on Italian targets

Wellington bombers

On the night of the 12th/13th, five Wellingtons, also operating from this country, attacked the oil refineries at Venice. One large building was seen to collapse and another was hit by a heavy bomb. The last aircraft reported the target area to be a mass of flames. During these operations a large liner in the vicinity of Venice and hangars and workshops at Padua were machine-gunned.

Jan

11

1941

51 killed in direct hit on Bank Station

Bomb crater in the middle of the City of London

It was initially thought that 35 people had died, mainly those in the booking hall immediately under the impact of the bomb. As the rescue and recovery work continued it became apparent that the blast had travelled down the escalators and stairs, killing people in its path as well as people on the platforms deep underground.

Jan

10

1941

HMS Illustrious bombed by the Luftwaffe

HMS Illustrious under attack on the 10th January 1941. Courtesy MaritimeQuest.

The first attack was by torpedo bombers on the Battle Fleet, in which torpedoes missed after avoiding action had been taken. The second, which occurred at about 1235, was carried out by 25 or more Ju 87 and 88 dive-bombers which attacked with great determination and skill, thus confirming the arrival in the Mediterranean of units of the German Air Force.

Jan

9

1941

Maiden Flight of Lancaster Bomber

Brtish Avro Lancaster Bomber in flight

Roy Chadwick the chief designer at Avro had designed the two engined Manchester bomber to a Air Ministry specification. It was not a success and there were particular problems with the powerful Rolls Royce Vulture engines, which were unreliable. Chadwick independently started to develop the design of the airframe to accommodate four of the tried and tested Rolls Royce Merlin engines.