1941

Nov

21

1941

John Beeley wins the VC at Sidi Rezegh

Comrades of Rifleman John Beeley VC of 1st King's Royal Rifle Corps, who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross at the Battle of Sidi Rezegh on 21 November 1941, working on a cross to be placed over his grave, 22 May 1942.

On his own initiative, and when there was no sort of cover, Rifleman Beeley got to his feet carrying a Bren gun and ran forward towards a strong enemy post containing an anti-tank gun. The post was silenced and Rifleman Beeley’s platoon was enabled to advance, but Rifleman Beely fell dead across his gun, hit in at least four places.

Nov

20

1941

High expectations of Operation Crusader

Matilda tanks on the move outside the perimeter of Tobruk, Libya, 18 November 1941.

For the first time British and Empire troops will meet Germans with an ample equipment in modern weapons of all kinds. The battle itself will affect the whole course of the War. Now is the time to strike the hardest blow yet for final Victory, Home and Freedom. The Desert Army may add a page to history which will rank with Blenheim and with Waterloo. The eyes of all nations are upon you.

Nov

19

1941

HMAS Sydney sunk with all hands

There were no survivors from the sinking of the light cruiser HMAS Sydney giving rise to much speculation over the years.

At 3.55 pm the look-out reported a sighting fine on the port bow. It was at first thought to be a sail, but was soon identified as a warship. At 4pm Detmers – Kormorans captain – sent his crew to action stations, altered course WSW into the sun, and ordered full speed-about fifteen knots

Nov

18

1941

Operation Crusader aims to relieve Tobruk

A 25-pdr Field Gun firing at night in the desert, somewhat later in the war.

‘FIRE’ and another shell hurtles into the enemy front line. We have just fifteen seconds to get each shell loaded, the gun correctly aligned and the firing lever pulled. The range is four thousand, five hundred yards. Fifty yards are added to the range, the Gunlayer makes the correction to the elevation and Number One checks ‘FIRE’ and another shell screams away into the darkness.

Nov

17

1941

Raiding party attempts to capture Rommel

Geoffery Keyes, the youngest L c in the British army at the time, was fatally wounded whilst leading the raid on Rommel's desert base.

From the outset Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes deliberately selected for himself the command of the detachment detailed to attack what was undoubtedly the most hazardous of these objectives—the residence and Headquarters of the General Officer Commanding the German forces in North Africa. This attack, even if initially successful, meant almost certain death for those who took part in it.

Nov

16

1941

U-433 sunk by HMS Marigold

A Flower Class Corvette of the same type as HMS Marigold (K-87). The distorting camouflage pattern can be seen here although it is much faded.

All of a sudden there was a terrific sound of propellers to starboard. The devil had been lying in wait quite close to us, with engines stopped. We put our nose down to dive again, and she came directly over us. We could hear her propellers inside the boat – we weren’t very deep and she probably saw our wake. She then dropped depth charges. They were terribly close.

Nov

15

1941

The attack on Moscow resumes

the Germans were to make much of the various different nationalities fighting in volunteer formations  for them, in most cases their most important value was for propaganda purposes.

Four battalions of French volunteers assigned to Fourth Army proved less hardy. Field-Marshal von Kluge addressed them on the field of Borodino and spoke of how, in Napoleon’s Grand Army, Frenchmen and Germans had once before fought shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy.

Nov

14

1941

Starvation spreads in Leningrad

Leningrad began to see widespread civilian deaths from starvation as the siege took hold.

People are so weak from hunger that they are completely indifferent to death. They die as if they are falling asleep. Those half-dead people who are still around do not even pay any attention to them. Death has become an everyday phenomenon and people are used to it.

Nov

13

1941

HMS Ark Royal sunk

The destroyer HMS Legion came alongside and took off almost 1500 men whilst a group stayed on board attempting to prevent her sinking.

When the torpedo struck most of the ship’s company were below decks, working in the hangars, or on watch in the machinery spaces and other compartments. Men off duty were in their messes having tea. Everything was as it had been hundreds of times before. Without any warning the ship was shaken by a violent convulsion. Decks seemed to whip like springboards.

Nov

12

1941

A short rest during the Moscow advance

The bad weather forced some German units to pause and rest rather than continue to struggle to make progress.

We sleep all over the place. Is there anyone who still asks for a blanket? A wooden bench, the floor, a large table – ultimate bliss is straw! Our sleep is deep and dreamless, but at the same time light, alert for any danger, which holds back the nightmares.