Skip to comments.NAZIS ADVANCE IN YUGOSLAVIA, BOMB BELGRADE; GREEKS RESISTING STRONGLY IN STRUMA VALLEY (4/7/41)
Posted on 04/07/2011 4:55:18 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
Axis advancing in the desert
Monday, April 7, 1941 www.onwar.com
In North Africa... On the coast Derna is overrun in the continuing Axis advance. Inland near Mechili an armored battle begins between the German 5th Panzer Regiment and the remnants of the British 2nd Armored Division.
In the Balkans... As well as the frontal pressure on the Metaxas Line its left flank is being threatened by a German armored division which is moving south into Greece after having reached Strumica in the advance in Yugoslavia. The Greek Commander in Chief, General Papagos, further weakens the Aliakmon Line by sending forward a Greek force from it to try to block this last German advance. Also, after a rapid advance troops from the German 40th Panzer Corps enter Skopje in Yugoslavia late in the day.
In the Caribbean... US naval and air bases open in Bermuda. The carrier Ranger and other ships are to be based there as the Central Atlantic Neutrality Patrol. These forces will be considerably increased by three battleships and two carriers later in April and during May and June.
Churchill talking about Eritrea and the Indian “North-West Frontier;” i.e. the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, of “long years ago.”
In 2011, we are fighting in the very same areas!
April 7th, 1941
UNITED KINGDOM: General Montgomery is appointed commander of 12 Corps, responsible for the defence of the south-east coast, covering Kent and Sussex.
In an attempt to combat the growing losses suffered at the hands of radar equipped night fighters and AA guns the Luftwaffe simultaneously attack a number of targets stretching all the way from the southern coast to Scotland.
London: the standard rate of income tax was today raised by 1/6 to ten shillings in the pound (50%). Personal allowances and tax exemption limits are also drastically reduced. Money raised by the cuts in allowances will be treated as compulsory savings, to be repaid through Post Office savings accounts after the war. Steps to peg the cost of living have been promised.
RAF Bomber Command: 2 Group: 105 Squadron makes a night raid on Cologne and Bremerhaven. No. 18 Sqn. attacks shipping with ten aircraft, two trawlers are damaged.
GERMANY: Kiel: The heaviest RAF attack on a single target yet, involving 229 aircraft, takes place. This five-hour long raid was the 36th time that the naval base has been hit. Whitley, Wellington and Hampden bombers used 40,000 incendiaries to spread fire across the whole urban area.
Berlin: The German high command reports that British sea losses for March are 718,000 tons.
YUGOSLAVIA: The German XL Panzer Corps advancing from Bulgaria, capturing Skopje in Macedonia and advancing towards Monastir. In the north, the German 2nd Army, under General Maximillian Baron von Weichs, advances on Zagreb while the Italian 2nd Army under General Vittorio Ambrosio crosses into northwestern Yugoslavia from Italy. Powerful Luftwaffe contingents are supporting the advance of the army by flying reconnaissance and by raiding enemy columns, positions and transport vehicles. As has been already reported, the fortress installations and other military targets in Belgrade have been raided repeatedly by the Luftwaffe, to devastating effect. In particular, the main railroad station in Belgrade, a pontoon bridge over the Danube River east of Belgrade, and several transport trains, have been badly hit. A multitude of large fires go on burning into the night and light the way for German ground-attack aircraft as they make their fourth attack on the fortress of Belgrade. Further, airfields, in central and southern Yugoslavia are bombed to sustained effect and bombard with aerial guns. A number of Yugoslav aircraft are destroyed on the ground. (Andy Etherington and Jack McKillop)
The head of the Croatian separatist movement, Ante Pavelic, calls on Croatians to set up a separate state. (Jack McKillop)
The Wehrmacht High Command announces:
Along the south-eastern front the assault is proceeding according to schedule in dogged fighting. Powerful Luftwaffe contingents have supported the advance of the army by flying reconnaissance and by raiding enemy columns, positions and transport vehicles. As has been already reported, the fortress installations and other military targets in Belgrade have been raided repeatedly by powerful formations of German combat aircraft, to devastating effect. In particular, the main railroad station in Belgrade, a pontoon bridge over the Danube east of Belgrade, and several transport trains, have been badly hit. A multitude of large fires went on burning into the night and lit up the way for German ground-attack aircraft as they made their fourth attack on the fortress of Belgrade. Further, airfields, in central and southern Yugoslavia were bombed to sustained effect and bombard with aerial guns. A number of their aircraft were destroyed on the ground.
GREECE: The German 12th Army under General Wilhelm List crosses the Greek border from Bulgaria and after hard fighting, capture the important Rupel Pass. Facing this force are four Greek divisions and about 30 miles (48 kilometres) away, the British Expeditionary Force of four British and Commonwealth divisions and a Polish brigade. Another three and a half Greek divisions are on the Metaxas Line, a system of fortifications about 100 miles (161 kilometres) long extending from the Beles mountains to the Nestos River. At 1800 hours, the III Staffel of Kampfgeschwader (Bomber Wing) (III./KG 30) equipped with Junkers Ju88s) take off from Gerbini, Sicily, to mine the approaches to Piraeus harbour. The aircraft of 7./KG 30
led by Hauptmann (Captain) Hajo Herrman carried both bombs and mines and came in to the attack at low-level. Herrman’s aircraft released its bombs on the freighter SS Clan Frazer which, unbeknown to the German crew, still had 250-tons of high explosives on board. With a shattering explosion of almost nuclear proportions, the ship blew up, destroying in the holocaust 12 other ships totalling 51,569 tons, in addition to 60 light sail boats and 25 motor sailers, and making the port of Piraeus unusable for many weeks. The defences were temporarily shattered, and then one anti-aircraft gun suddenly opened fire, putting Herrman’s port engine out of action. With great skill Hermann managed to land his aircraft at Rhodes which had recently fallen to the Italians. (Andy Etherington and Jack McKillop)
Personal Story for above: As a personal footnote to this point, I have talked to my uncles, and my father about their wartime experiences (they were teenagers), and both of them have related to me their memories about this night. My father, now deceased, relayed very little, except that the explosion rocked windows all over the harbor. My Uncle Nick, though, went into more detail, and I heard more from my father’s brother (through his son, my cousin). The three of them (my father, his brother Parasko, and my uncle were sitting on a stone wall that night, overlooking the harbor of Piraeus, watching the air raid. They often did such things, first because it was neat to watch, and second because it was the only entertainment that they had at night. All of a sudden, one explosion (evidently hitting the “Clan Frazer’) was quickly followed by another massive burst. The impact of the burst, lighting up the night sky, knocked two of them off the wall.
They said the fireball went all over the water area, and that pieces of metal (shrapnel, parts of the ship, etc.) were later found a block or two from their house (and they lived rather far from the water’s edge). The next morning, the harbor was a shambles, and they went around their neighborhood looking for cracked window panes and broken windows. They were not disappointed. Later in the war, they got to sit and watched the Allies bomb the German ships in the harbor. (Pete Margaritis) Greece break diplomatic relations with Bulgaria and Hungary. (Jack McKillop)
The Greek High Command announced:
...Throughout the day bitter fighting has ensued near the Greek-Bulgarian border, especially around the Beles mountains and in the Struma valley.
BULGARIA: RAF planes bomb Sofia in retaliation for enemy raids on Belgrade.
HUNGARY: Budapest: Great Britain severs diplomatic relations with Hungary.
BERMUDA: U.S. Naval Operating Base, Bermuda, is established. The aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) and other ships are to be based here as the Central Atlantic Neutrality Patrol. These forces will be considerably increased by three battleships and two carriers later in April and during May and June. (John Nicholas and Jack McKillop)
LIBYA: On the coast Derna is overrun in the continuing Axis advance. Inland near Mechili an armored battle begins between the German 5th Panzer Regiment and the remnants of the British 2nd Armoured Division. As a result, the commander of the 2nd Armoured Division and much of his command surrender at Mechili. (Andy Etherington and Jack McKillop)
Day 585 April 7, 1941
In the Balkans, Germans make good progress through Southern Yugoslavia towards the Greek border. 2nd Panzer Division reaches Strumica, Yugoslavia, and is now only 10 miles and a small mountain range from crossing into Greece and getting behind the Greek defenses in the Metaxas Line. Meanwhile, German troops from Bulgaria are held mounting a frontal assault on the Metaxas Line.
In Libya, Afrika Korps captures Derna on the coast road but most Allied troops have withdrawn overnight. 50 miles South, British, Australian and Indian troops dig in at Mechili (really more a series of trenches than a fort). Their defenses include 1 Cruiser tank, some armoured cars, 1 Bofors anti-aircraft gun, several 2 pounder anti-tank guns and 1 25 pounder artillery piece. They expect reinforcements from British 2nd Armoured Division tanks but these have already withdrawn to the East. General Johannes Streichs 5th Light Division has surrounded the fort but they do not attack due to sandstorms which jam the turrets on the 6 available Panzer tanks. Rommel is furious at Streich for the delay and orders an attack the following morning.
In the Caribbean, USA opens naval base on the British island of Bermuda (leased from Britain in exchange for US destroyers). This will be home to the Central Atlantic Neutrality Patrol which initially comprises aircraft carrier USS Ranger, cruisers USS Tuscaloosa and USS Wichita and 2 destroyers.
German bombers sink minesweeping trawler HMT Rochebonne off the Lizard, Cornwall, England (11 killed).
At 5.50 PM 240 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-124 sinks Canadian SS Portadoc with a torpedo and 21 rounds from the deck gun. All 20 crew escape in 2 lifeboats and make land 6 days later at Benty, French Guinea, where they are interned by Vichy French.
British cruiser HMS Capetown bombards Massawa, Eritrea, but is badly damaged at 11.15 PM by a torpedo from Italian torpedo motor boat MAS.213 (4 killed). HMS Capetown will be towed to Bombay, India, for repairs until July 1942.
Overnight, 229 RAF bombers attack Kiel, Germany.
In Libya, the Brita are at it again: “The concentration of our troops is proceeding smoothly”.
Considering the Germans and Italians have captured Derna, the DAK has captured the command staff of the British 2d Armored, and driven the rest east, and is about to take the troops encircled at Mechili, that statement is probably true, since the British have increasingly less troops to gather in an increasingly smaller area.
A quarter of an hour later spotters on the old Turkish fortress of the Kalemegdan watched as the first wave of Stuka dive-bombers wheeled over the plains beyond the Danube. Like hawks the Stukas fell on the railway station, the royal palace, and the airfield at Zemun. 'Belgrade must be destroyed by continuous day and night air attacks,' Hitler decreed. 'Operation Punishment' , as it was called, had begun.
The Yugoslavs were taken by surprise. They assumed that war would come - if at all- at a decent interval after presentation of an ultimatum. They had not nerved themselves for a blow of this character.
Simovic himself was preoccupied with domestic matters that Sunday; he had driven to the suburbs for the wedding of his daughter . Hastily, as confusion gained in the capital, his car threaded its way past the bomb craters back to the War Ministry, the general an incongruous figure in top hat and tails.
Confronted with the debris of destruction, Simovic decided that the government must at once leave the capital for Uzice, in the sanctuary of the Serbian hills. The paralysis of defeat crept into his mind with terrifying rapidity.
For two days bombs fell on the city, with only brief intermissions . Fifty Yugoslav fighters were destroyed on the ground at Zemun in the first attack. Some Hurricanes took off and engaged the Germans; it was unfortunate, although characteristic of the confusion, that they also gave battle to some Yugoslav Messerschmitts dispatched from other airfields to protect the capital. By the Sunday evening the centre of Belgrade was a mass of rubble with the fires raging virtually unchecked. As the bombs fell , more than 17,000 people died in the proud city.
Marshall Cavendish-History Of The Second World War-Operation Punishment-Alan Palmer
Gambier-Parry's orders were to break out to El Adem on the night of April 7. Twice during that day he had refused a summons to surrender by Rommel. At dawn on April 8 the attempted escape was made and a few sub-units actually got clear, but in the shrinking darkness, and against a mounting volume of Axis fire supporting tank attacks; the sorties withered and stopped and Gambier-Parry joined the others 'in the bag'.
Phase Two was over, but there was barely a pause before Phase Three started. Later that morning a triumphant Rommel had himself photographed in conversation with Gambier-Parry, but at the same time he also welcomed the newly arrived General von Prittwitz, whose XV Panzer Division had yet to reach the front. To him, Rommel entrusted a mixed group based on III Reconnaissance Battalion, and sent it post-haste to seize Tobruk.
Not satisfied with the partial annihilation of Wavell 's Cyrenaican army, his eyes became fixed on its remnants and beyond, deep into Egypt . But before he could go that far Tobruk had to be his - and this Wavell understood just as clearly as did Rommel
Marshall Cavendish-History Of The Second World War-Major K.J. Macksey
. . . taken with news from other theaters - the British capture of Addis Ababa and the intensified German onslaught against shipping - it means that the decisive campaigns of 1941 are now fully under way on land, on sea and in the air.
Maybe a little early for this pronouncement. Baldwin may want to revise his estimate around the end of June. And no mention of North Africa. I guess he agrees that the fight in Libya is just a diversion from the Balkan campaign.
I was wondering how that fits into this smooth concentration of troops that they are talking about.
What’s going on in Libya is just a line correction.....right?
Absolutely! An over/under line correction by the bookies. And it looks like the Brits are going under.
Should I sell my winter cottage in Cairo?
Of course. The British troops were being concentrated into German POW stockades instead of being deployed across Libya.
No hardcore in this one.
The story about Victor Mature seemed awfully defensive about his orientation (page 71), doesn’t it?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.