Fred Vanderschmidt, US correspondent in London, writing about the Italian fighting spirit during Operation Crusader:
(https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 9205&hl=en Italians Making Last Dying Stand On Sands Of Desert, Gettysburg Times, 29 November 1941)"In all fairness it must be said that the Italians are fighting bravely and well in Cirenaica. The British on the scene acknowledge that they have defended themselves with skill and valor, perhaps better so than the Gemans, and against superior force ... The Italians are having their chance to go down fighting and they are proudly taking it."
7January - Italian Spica-class destroyer escort 'Clio' sinks Free French submarine 'Narval' off the coast of Tobruk, Libya. ("The Narval was sunk on 7th January 1941 by the Italian torpedo-boat Clio, 20 miles north-west of Tobruk." The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean: Vol.II: November 1940-December 1941, David Brown, p. 18, Routledge, 2013 )
10 January - Savoia-Marchetti torpedo-bombers from 279a Squadriglia lure away the Fulmar fighters protecting HMS 'Illustrious'. ("While Italian SM 79 torpedo bombers approaching low lured away her defending Fairey Fulmar fighters ..." Stukas Over The Mediterranean, 1940-45, Peter C. Smith, p. 20, Frontline Books, 1999 ) The British aircraft-carrier comes under repeated Italian attacks, suffering severe structural damage from near-misses and about 30 killed when the aft lift is hit and badly damaged by a heavy bomb delivered by Italian Stukas from 96° Gruppo led by Captain Ercolano Ercolani.(http://www.aereimilitari.org/forum/topi ... lustrious/ Danneggiamento della portaerei britannica ILLUSTRIOUS) With the lift and steering mechanism badly damaged, the carrier limps back to Malta. ("In the afternoon, Ju.87s from the 237 Squadriglia scored a direct hit on the aircraft carrier and forced her to leave the formation and head towards Malta for shelter and repairs." http://worldatwar.net/chandelle/v3/v3n3 ... stuka.html Italian Stukas, 1940-42)
According to British Vice Admiral Sir Wilbraham Ford the Stuka attacks with heavy bombs were mainly Italian:
(The Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War, Ben Jones, p. ?, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012) The Italian success allows the safe arrival of the Afrika Korps."H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS was attacked at 1240 by about 25 dive bombers, by high level bombers at 1330 and again by 15 dive bombers at 1610 and by torpedo aircraft at 1920 and received six bomb hits and several near misses from heavy bombs estimated about one thousand pounds. Five bombers were JU. 87 with German markings ... Steering gear was put out of action and ship brought into Malta steering by engines."
10 January - Italian destroyer 'Vega' is sunk off Pantelleria by British light cruiser HMS 'Bonaventure'. (http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono ... nture1.htm SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2)
13 January - Greek troops capture Tepelene. The commander of the Italian Army in Albania is replaced.
20 January - Italians capture over 1,000 Greeks of the 77th Infantry Regiment. ( "Italian counterattack west of Rahowitze dispersed the 77th Greek Infantry Regiment with over one thousand men captured." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 179)
17 January - Italian East African forces withdraw to new positions from Agorbat to Barentu to Celga. This new defensive line provided better defence against armoured attack.
18 January - Heavy artillery exchanges take place at Gallabat.
19 January - Indian troops capture Kassala.
21 January - Ground fighting takes place at Uccai and Tessenei, both near Kassala.
3 January - Australians attack and capture Bardia taking some 25,000 prisoners. (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 5826&hl=en Bardia Falls to British, 25,000 Fascists Captured, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6 January 1941) ("The report filed by the British journalist Jan Yindrich for the Australian Associated Press on 5 January was headlined SMASH WAY THROUGH MODERN HINDENBURG LINE: FEW CASUALTIES IN CAPTURING 25,000 PRISONERS." The Longest Siege: Tobruk, The Battle That Saved North Africa, Robert Lyman, p. 59, Pan Australia, 2009)
According to Australian reports at the time, many of the prisoners were weak from hunger and thirst, and still they fought:
(Bardia: Myth, Reality and the Heirs of Anzac, Craig Stockings, p. 316, UNSW Press, 2009 )"The impact of insufficient food and drink on the Italian defenders at Bardia was soon quite clear to the Australians ... many were dying and weak with hunger and thirst ... They went down on their knees and drank up puddles of water ... Warrant Officer R. Donovan, 2/21 Field Regiment was haunted by mass cries for 'aqua, aqua,' ... Some died of exhaustion and thirst."'
Despite the lack of food and water, an Italian battalion nearly overruns part of an Australian battalion, but this counterattack is repelled by the 2/6th Battalion. According to an Australian war correspondent, the Italian military battlefield surgeons and medics were dedicated professionals, and would soon win the admiration of the attackers. An Australian soldier claimed that one of the bravest men at Bardia proved to be an Italian combat medic:
(https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 1865&hl=en TALES FROM BARDIA, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January 1941)"We were so surprised when we first saw him, and before we realised ... we ceased fire. Followed by two stretcher-bearers, he walked calmly to where two of our men were lying wounded. He brought both men through our line, and attended to them, and then walked back and picked up two wounded Italians. I talked to him in French when he was with us. He said there was a brotherhood among doctors."
15 January - The Minister for the Australian Army, Percy Spender explains that the Battle of Bardia had been hard and that Allied firepower had proved decisive:
(https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 6143&hl=en AUSTRALIANS AT BARDIA, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 January 1941)"Bardia was reduced because of brilliant staff work, by perfect coordination and understanding between the services, by amazingly accurate intelligence as to the Italian defences, by able leadership, by the weight of terrific naval bombardment, by the incessant attacks of the air arm in which Australian pilots participated, by the surprise qualities of the attack itself, by the efficiency of the British mechanised forces, and by the dash, daring, and great bravery of Australian troops."
The Australians later inflated the number of prisoners to nearly double the real number, with books in recent years making the exaggerated claim that 45,000 Italians were captured at Bardia.
22 January - After a two-day battle, the Australians capture Tobruk. Approximately 15,000 prisoners are taken. ("Early next morning, January 22nd, the Australian commander received the surrender of Tobruk in due form and the fighting had come to an end everywhere. Four generals and an admiral, with their staffs, over 15,000 prisoners, 200 guns, and quantities of other material of war, were among the trophies of a victory which had cost us less than five hundred casualties ... ." The Army from January 1941 to March 1942, p. 18, Eric William Sheppard, Hutchinson & Company, Limited, 1943) ("On the other side were ranged 15,000 Italian prisoners, including a number of high-ranking officers, and immense quantities of war materials." Prelude to Battle: New Zealanders in the First Libyan Campaign, p. 22, Army Board, 1942)
Italian units defending Tobruk had repelled the Free French Marines attack, forcing the British to come to their rescue. ("On January 21, as the Australians assaulted the city itself, the French marines were given the task of taking out five blockhouses in the south-east sector, all protected by minefields and wire. The marines attacked with their usual vigor, but were driven back ... A second effort, aided by the 25-pounders of the British and with Bofors 40 mm antiaircraft guns used in direct fire, succeeded." Tricolor Over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French, 1940-1942, Edward L. Bimberg, p. 97, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002 )
During the fighting, Italian infantry and tanks had again counterattacked, overruning part of an Australian battalion. British tanks came to the rescue of the Australians. ("The Italians counter-attacked with infantry and tanks just as the 2/8 was reorganising. Private Neall, using his boys anti-tank rifle, managed to knock out three tanks in quick succession ... Nevertheless the Italians continued their attack until two Matilda tanks made an appearance." The Western Desert Campaign, 1940-41, Glenn Wahlert, p. ?, Big Sky Publishing, 2009)
The Australians later doubled the real number of Italians captured during the battle and mop-up operatings, with Australain authors in recent years making the exaggerated claim that 30,000 Italians were captured in the Tobruk fighting.
24 January - The first tank battle takes place at Mechili. The 'Brigata Corazzata Speciale' (Special Armoured Brigade or BCS) destroys 7 British tanks and forces the remainder of the armoured column. They then successfully disengage from a British counterattack. (http://www.reocities.com/Pentagon/quart ... itawna.htm The Italian Tanks in WWII )
25 January - The Australian 2/11th Battalion attacks the 'Sabratha' Division and BCS Bersaglieri units defending Derna airfield and t nearby ridge but make slow progress in the face of determined resistance. Italian bombers and fighters intervene and bomb and strafe the Australian battalion. (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 0456&hl=en Fight for Airfield, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 1941)
27 January - The Australian 2/4th Battalion barely manages to survive strong Italian counterattacks from the 'Sabratha' in the Wadi Derna area . ("At one point the 2/4th Battalion was pinned down and almost overrun by a force of about 1000 enemy infantry. It was only the timely arrival of the Northumberland Fusiliers that checked the Italian attack." The Western Desert Campaign, 1940-41, Glenn Wahlert, p. ?, Big Sky Publishing, 2009)
27 January - The BCS ambushes a column of armoured vehicles of the Australian 6th Cavalry Regiment.
The Italians lose a good part of the 'Sabratha' and BCS but the Italian soldiers are reported to have fought very well:
(https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 4016&hl=en British Take Derna After Fierce Fight, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 31 January 1941)"Jan. 30.—The third major Italian bastion to fall in Libya—Derna, 175 miles west of the Egyptian frontier—was occupied today by British imperial troops after four days of the bitterest resistance offered by the Fascists in the whole of the African campaign. The town had been defended by less than 10,000 Italians, British sources disclosed, but they fought with a violence encountered nowhere else in General Sir Archibald P. Wavell's long continued thrust to the west."
29 January - The Italians hold out at Agordat and Barentu. ("In East Africa, British units continued at Agordat and Barentu. The Italian East African Army continued to hold out in those areas." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 180, Lulu Press, 2012)
30 January - Italian forces contain the British attack on Barentu, Gallabat and Metemma." ("In East Africa, Italian East African forces stopped the British attack on Barentu. Heavy artillery fire continued at Agordat. The Italian line was holding from Gallabat to Metemma." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 180, Lulu Press, 2012)
31 January - The Italian Army falls back to the Keren Plateau. ( "In East Africa, after three days of heavy fighting, the Italian army withdrew to the Keren Plateau." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 180, Lulu Press, 2012)
5 February - British encircle and capture part of the retreating Italian 10th Army at Beda Fomm. The 10th Bersaglieri Regiment counterattack and one point nearly overruns the British infantry HQs. ("...the Italians mounted a series of fierce night attacks against the 2nd Rifle Brigade's positions at Sidi Saleh. Although the first attack penetrated the Rifle Brigade's defences the onslaught was held, the combination of mines anti-tank fire and the 25-pounders of the RHA proving too strong even for the gallant Bersaglieri. The attacks continued, accompanied by heavy Italian shellfire, on the morning of 7 February, and once again the Rifle Brigade positions were penetrated. this time by M13 tanks, one of which was only halted outside battalion headquarters." The Longest Siege: Tobruk, The Battle That Saved North Africa, Robert Lyman, p. 73, Pan Australia, 2009)
9 February - British naval forces bombard Genoa, Livorno and Pisa.
13 February - General Papagos, the Commander-in-Chief of the Greek army, opens a new offensive with British air support, but the Greek divisions encounter stiff resistance, stalling the offensive that practically destroys the Cretan 5th Division. ("General Papagos, Commander-in-Chief of the Greek army, opened an offensive against Tepelenë with the objective of driving on to seize the port of Vlorë ... However, the Greeks failed to capture Tepelenë, for the attack found the Italians determined to die rather than yield any further ground ... The Greek attack was repulsed, and their Cretan division, which traditionally possessed great fighting spirit, was literally mown down. Although the R.A.F. gave close ground support to the Greek formations in the attack, they had little success...." (Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 122, I.B.Tauris, 2006)
13 February - The Italians counterattack the British that had captured Elgena. (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 1598&hl=en Italian Attack In Eritrea Repulsed Ottawa Citizen, 13 February 1941)
19 February - South African troops capture Jumbo after heavy fighting. ("Two crossings were made in quick succession: on the night of 17th/18th February by the South Africans at Yonte, and on the 19th by the Gold Coast Brigade at Mabungo, about twenty-five miles north of Gelib. Crossing the river at Yonte, the South African Brigade captured Jumbo and turned north against Gelib" The King's African Rifles - Volume 2, Lieutenant-Colonel H. Moyse-Bartlett, p. 511, Andrews UK Limited, 2012)
25 February - The 11th King's African Rifles capture Mogadishu.
February - By mid February, the British have taken a total of 110,000 Italian (including Askari POWs), 845 guns and destroyed or captured 380 light and medium Italian tanks. ("By 6 February 1941, when the Italian Tenth Army surrendered ... the Western Desert Force (renamed XIII Corps on 1 January 1941 and augmented by an Australian division) had captured Tobruk, Benghazi and Beda Fomm, had covered 700 miles, taken 110,000 prisoners including twenty-two generals and an admiral, and captured 845 artillery pieces, 380 tanks and huge numbers of soft-skinned vehicles." The Second World War: A Military History, Gordon Corrigan, p.128, Atlantic Books Ltd, 2010)
The British had also managed to destroy or capture 700 Italian aircraft of all types during Operation Compass. ("The Regia Aeronautica had also suffered heavy losses during Compass, with nearly 700 aircraft being destroyed in total." Spitfire V vs C.202 Folgore: Malta 1942, Donald Nijboer, p. 38, Atlantic Books Ltd, 2010)
The British, on the other hand have lost through combat and wear and tear, 80% of their vehicles and most of their tanks. Australian, British, Indian and French infantry losses amounted to 2,000 well-trained troops, with 1 in 10 troops that engaged the Italians killed or wounded in the ground fighting. At the end of Operation Compass, the British Commonwealth Forces were in an exhausted state. ("At the end of the operation, however, the British forces were in an exhausted condition." British Army Communications in the Second World War: Lifting the Fog of Battle, Simon Godfrey, p. 98, A&C Black, 2013) ("By the end of February 1941, the British were at the end of their tether logistically, and speculation that O'Connor could have waltzed into Tripolitania is at best idle. His own chief of staff advised against it, as his supply lines were stretched to the limit, his troops exhausted, and his equipment so reduced that he was forced to use Italian armour." The American Experience in World War II, Walter L. Hixson, p. 247, Taylor & Francis, 2003)
With HMS 'Illustrious' out of action, General Erwin Rommel arrives safely in Tripoli with the Deutsches Afrikakorps (Afrika Korps or DAK) and receives much assistance from the Regia Aeronautica that wins back control of the skies. ("The Royal Air Force had sent the best squadrons in the Middle East to support the operations in Greece, leaving the bombers and fighters of the Regia Aeronautica a free hand to harass the retreating British mercilessly." Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel, Daniel Allen Butler, p. 210, Casemate, 2015)
19 February - No. 33 RAF Squadron sent to Eleusis to help the Greeks fighting in Albania. By the end of February, all three RAF fighter squadrons in Greece were re-equipping with Hurricanes.
25 February - The RM cruiser 'Armando Diaz' is sunk off Tripoli by the British submarine 'Upright'.
25-28 February - Italians defeat 500 British commandos attempting to seize Kastellorizo Island off Turkey ("So right at dawn on February 25, 1941 some 500 British commandos were put ashore here, apparently preparatory to an attack on Rhodes. The islands resisted and called for help. The Regia Aeronautica immediately began bombing the British positions. That afternoon, four destroyer types left Rhodes with 240 Italian reinforcements aboard ... On the 27th the Italians succeeded in landing the remainder of their troops. The next morning the surviving British commandos gave up." (Naval Warfare in the Aegean, 1941-1946, Charles W. Koburger, p. 32, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999)
8 March - 152,000 pounds of Axis aerial bombs fall on Malta. ( "A prelude to the bin-national attempt began auspiciously enough on 8 March 1941 when a flying armada of CANTs, Cicognad, Sparvieros, and Junkers medium-bombers blasted Malta as it had never been hit before, winning it the luckless sobriquet, "the most bombed real estate on earth". The Axis Air Forces: Flying in Support of the German Luftwaffe: Flying in Support of the German Luftwaffe, Frank Joseph, p. 105, ABC-CLIO, 2011)
9-20 March - With fresh reinforcements, and much artillery, Marshall Ugo Cavallero goes on the offensive. The Greek center was the objective of the hardest attacks, and it barely manages to hold on. (" Mussolini was still in Albania on the 9th when his great March offensive was set in motion by General Cavallero. The ensuing struggle was bitter, bloody, and often hand to hand." Greece in World War II, to April 1941, John G. Bitzes, p. 129, Sunflower University Press, 1989) ("Greek casualties amounted to 1,200 dead and 4,000 wounded, Italian to 12,000 dead and wounded. Greece: The Legacy: Essays on the History of Greece, Ancient, Byzantine, and Modern, John T. A. Koumoulides, p. 120, University Press of Maryland, 1998) ("On 9 March Cavallero's offensive got under way; the Italian troops advanced slowly and suffered bloody losses. The ground they gained initially was immediately retaken by Greek counter-attacks. The battle was fiercely fought at close quarters with bayonet and hand grenade." Perilous Commitments: The Battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941, Matthew Willingham, p. 38, Spellmount, 2005) ("The battered 1st Division, which had shattered the Spring Offensive against its immovable wall, was sent for a rest in the reserves." The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-1941, John Carr, p. 160, Pen and Sword, 2013)
7 March - The leading element of the British 1st Armoured Brigade lands at Piraeus, the port of Athens.
15 March - The first battalions of the New Zealand 2nd Division begin arriving to take over the Aliakmon defence lines. The British already have eight RAF squadrons in Greece helping the Greeks against the Italians.
BATTLE OF KEREN
16 March - A British amphibious force from Aden captures Berbera in British Somaliland.
17 March - General Orlando Lorenzini, commander of the Italian 2nd Colonial Brigade, is killed during the Battle of Keren.
20 March - Italians put up a tough fight at Babile Gap and Bisidimo. "At each of these locations the Italains managed to hold up the enemy for a couple of days." (Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 57, Lulu Press, 2010)
27 March - The British capture Keren. The Italian East African forces (Italian and Ascari troops) had lost 3,000 men killed and 4,500 wounded in the seven-week battle. ("Riprende la battaglia a Keren a metà marzo e, nonostante la strenua difesa, le divisioni di Platt forzano la stretta, conquistano il 1° aprile 1*Asmara e 1*8 aprile Massaua. Le perdite italiane a Keren sono elevatissime (3000 morti, compreso un generale, e 4500 feriti " Storia Delle Forze Armate in Italia, Lucio Ceva, p. 296, UTET libreria, 1999) (" It had been a hard and sanguine fight in which Italian casualties were close to 10,000; the casualties suffered by the two Indian Divisions were 500 officers and over 3,000 men killed or wounded." The Indian Armour: History of the Indian Armoured Corps, 1941-1971, Gurcharn Singh Sandhu, p. 106, Vision Books, 1987)
21 March - The Australians capture the Italian garrison at Giarabub, after a siege lasting more than 15 weeks. The wounded Italian commander, Major Salvatore Castagna wins the Medaglia d'Oro al Valore Militare (Gold Medal of Military Valour ), Italy's highest military honor. The Italians suffered about 250 casualties, while the Australians suffered 17 killed and 77 wounded.
14 March - RAF aircraft from Paramythia, Greece sink Italian hospital ship 'Po' off Valona, Albania. One of the survivors aboard the ship was nurse Edda Mussolini, the Duce's eldest daughter.
17 March - Italian destroyer escort 'Andromeda' is sunk off Albania by British bombers.
26 March - While at anchor in Suda Bay, northern Crete, the heavy cruiser HMS 'York' is badly damaged by Decima Flottiglia MAS naval commandos carried in by the RM destroyers 'Francesco Crispi' and 'Quintino Sella'. The British cruiser is later completely wrecked by demolition charges when Crete was evacuated in May
BATTLE OF CAPE MATAPAN
27-29 March - The pressure to disrupt British supply lines in Eastern Mediterranean resulted in Admiral Angelo Iachino to set sail towards east of Crete with the flag ship 'Vittorio Veneto', 4 escort destroyers, the heavy cruisers 'Trieste', 'Trento', and 'Bolzano'. East of Sicily, they were joined by 3 heavy cruisers, 'Zara', 'Pola', and 'Fiume' along with 2 light cruisers from Brindisi. They were promised full aerial support by the Luftwaffe which the Germans fail to deliver and the Italians were soon spotted by reconnaissance aircraft. The British using intercepted Enigma messages, dispatch the battleships 'Warspite', 'Barham' and 'Valiant', the aircraft-carrier 'Formidable' and escorting destroyers to the same heading as the Italian force.
The battleships keep at a safe distance, but Swordfish torpedo dive-bombers begin bombing Iachino's fleet once in range. The battleship 'Vittorio Veneto' is hit by torpedoes, but remains operational. The cruiser 'Pola' is hit and immobilized by a Swordfish and left behind as the Italian squadron turns about. Admiral Iachino orders 2 heavy cruisers, 'Zara' and Fiume' with escorting destroyers to pick up survivors. On 29 March, the heavy cruisers and escorting destroyers, along with the 'Pola', are sunk as the British lay waiting. As the Royal Navy tried saving the survivors on the 29th, the Luftwaffe belatedly appears and the British are forced to abandon the rescue operation. An Italian hospital ship is then dispatched to the scene to pick up other survivors. The Luftwaffe had greatly failed the Regia Marina, but the Italian Navy still took on British naval aircraft.and radar-equipped warships.
21 March - Thirty Regia Aeronautica fighters put out of action several British aircraft parked at Paramythia. ("But in the meantime the Italians had finally discovered Paramythia, now visible through the melting snow. On 22 March thirty Macchi MC200s hurtled down on the parked RAF Wellingtons, destroying them all plus a Gladiator". The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-1941, John Carr, p. 169, Pen and Sword, 2013)
2 April - The first battalions of the Australian 9th Division disembark at Piraeus.
4 April - Italian Stukas sink the Greek destroyer 'Proussa' in Dafnila Bay. ("At about 1720 six 239a Squadriglia aircraft sunk the RHN destroyer Proussa in Dafnila Bay." Air War Over Greece and Albania 1940-1941, Alexis Mehtidis, p. 67, Ravi Rikhye)
10 April - Italians troops capture Mount Lepre in Albania. ( "In Albania, Italian troops took Mount Lepre, northeast of Postumia." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 375)
10 April - Italians force Greeks to retreat near Circhina. ( "Greek troops were pushed back to the Greek border at Circhina, west of Udine." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 375)
10 April - Greek attack on Shkumbin is derailed. ( "Another Greek Army attack on Shkumbin, Albania was halted." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 375)
28 March - The Generali-class destroyer 'Antonio Chinotto' sinks after hitting a mine near Sicily.
31 March - British cruiser HMS 'Bonaventure' is sunk off Crete by the RM submarine 'Ambra'.
1 April - Italians in Asmara surrender to the British. In total, the British forces to take 40,000 prisoners of war and destroy 6 Italian divisions in 3 months. ("Asmara falls to Platt on 1 April after the Italians abandon it." Archibald Wavell, Jon Diamond, p. 29, Osprey Publishing, 2012) Italian destroyer 'Leone' runs aground off Eritrea and is scuttled by its crew to prevent it from being captured by the British.("One destroyer, the "Leone," hit an uncharted rock that afternoon, punctured its hull, and began flooding. After fires started the Leone was abandoned." World War II in Colonial Africa: The Death Knell of Colonialism, Richard E. Osborne, p. 189, Riebel-Roque Pub., 2001)
12 April - Italians defeat two British attacks on Giarso and Alghe. ("In East Africa, Italian troops fought off two British attacks on Giarso and Alghe." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 376, Lulu Press, 2010)
ROMMEL'S FIRST DESERT OFFENSIVE
31 March - British General Sir Philip Neame writes a damning report concerning the Australian 9th Division defending Benghazi, warning their that penchant for alcohol and women could whitewash the British Commonwealth gains during Operation Compass. ('Gen Neame wrote a scathing letter on 30 March 1941 to Gen Morshead regading discipline and control within the 9th Div, citing incidents of drunkenness, theft, disobedience, stealing, shooting, pilfering supplies and rustling which had occurred on a large scale ever since the Australians arrived at Barce. Expressing his contempt for such soldiers who lacked discipline, sobriety and obedience to orders, Neame closed Benghazi and Barce to most of the troops and requested Morshead to do all in his power to enforce military law and expectation. Focusing on the Australian officers, he blamed them for the apparent lawlessness as they 'seldom do enforce discipline or orders and more often endeavour to condone or whitewash the offence'. He considered that they were incapable of commanding their men and concluded: 'Your Division will never be a useful instrument of war unless and until you can enforce discipline'. In fact Neame argued, such men who behaved in this manner were helping the enemy." Tobruk's Easter Battle 1941: The Forgotten Fifteenth's Date with Rommel's Champion, John H. G. Mackenzie-Smith, p. 18, Boolarong Press, 2011) ("These incidents include the murder of Italian women in Benghazi (the murder scene being photographed by Germans during the advance), photographs of a looted ossuary (reputedly by New Zealand troops), and general reports of destruction, rape, and some reports of murder." Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-November 1942, Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, p. 133, Da Capo Press, 2007)
1 April - The 'Ariete' Division enters El Agheila unopposed. ("The Italian ARIETE Division moved into El Agheila and captured thirty trucks." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 373) The failure of the British 2nd Armoured Division to defend the town, encourages Rommel to continue his advance. ("The seeming ease with which the 5th Light had captured El Agheila encouraged Rommel to press deeper into Cyrenaica ..." Operation Barbarossa: The Complete Organisational and Statistical Analysis, Nigel Askey, p. 434, Lulu Press, 2013)
3 April - Italian motorcycle-equipped spearheads from the 'Ariete' and 'Sabratha' Divisions enter Benghazi without opposition from the Australians. They are informed of cases of torture, rape, and murder of Italian women. ("These incidents include the murder of Italian women in Benghazi (the murder scene being photographed by Germans during the advance), photographs of a looted ossuary (reputedly by New Zealand troops), and general reports of destruction, rape, and some reports of murder." Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-November 1942, Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, p. 133, Da Capo Press, 2007)
4 April - With sixty Italian tanks near Jebel el Akdar, the British Commonwealth Forces start withdrawing and Italian civilians and soldiers welcome the arrival of the German 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Benghazi with wine bottles. ("Rommel decided to make a bid for all of Cyrenaica in a single stroke, although the only support for his Germans was two weak Italian divisions. He ordered a double envelopment, sending the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion straight along the Via Balbia toward Benghazi, while directing the 5th Panzer Regiment and the Italian Ariete Armored Division (sixty tanks) across the chord of the Cyrenaican bulge to El Mechili, just south of the "Green Mountain" of Jebel el Akdar. If the panzers continued northward, they could block the British retreat along the coast. The effect was instantaneous; the British hurriedly evacuated Benghazi and fell back in confusion." How Great Generals Win, Bevin Alexander, p. 248, W. W. Norton & Company, 2002 )
7 April - Derna is captured along with 1,000 British Commonwealth soldiers. (http://www.coconuttimes.com/articles/Re ... THE-RESCUE ROMMEL TO THE RESCUE)
7 April - The 'Brescia' Division captures Tmimi, after its evacuation by the 9th AIF Division. (http://www.coconuttimes.com/articles/Re ... THE-RESCUE ROMMEL TO THE RESCUE) Finding their escape route packed with retreating Australians, British Generals Richard O'Connor and Philip Neame are forced to make a detour and are captured in their staff car. ("What happened was the Australians were now in front of us, and they'd started to withdraw. Dick O'Connor and Philip Neame and their staff went off together in a car to go back to Tmimi ... We started along the road along the top of the jebel, but it was blocked by the Australian withdrawal ... So instead of going back along the top road I decided to go down the coast road. On the way we were fired at by a German fighting patrol, but we managed to get through and we managed a clear run to Tmimi, where we found a small group our people there already under fire from a German reconnaissance group .... It was then that I was told that my two generals hadn't arrived. We were preparing to send out a reconnaissance group to search for them when we got a report from the air cooperation squadron that one of their aircraft had seen British troops being taken prisoner near Martuga, which was on the top of the jebel. It seemed clear that O'Connor and Neame were with them ... " Desert Rats, John Parker, p. ?, Hachette, 2013)
8 April - The 8th Bersaglieri Regiment, in Rommel's first big victory in North Africa, surround and capture 3,000 British, Indian and Australian defenders at Mechili. ("The victory must have been especially sweet for the men of the Ariete Division, partly as recompense for past humiliations at British hands, and partly because it was an all-Italian triumph; Generalmajor Streich, Oberstleutnan Dr. Olbrich and Panzer Regiment 5 arrived too late to take part in the action and Gambier-Parry actually surrendered to Colonna Montemurro." (Tobruk: The Great Siege, 1941–42, William F. Buckingham, p. ?, Random House, 2010)
German reinforcements catch up with the Bersaglieri spearhead at Mechili and capture 800 Australians retreating along the coastal road. ("On April 8, von Prittwitz cut off and captured one of the Australian rearguards (800 men), but he was unable to prevent Morshead from retiring into the fortress." The Rise of the Wehrmacht: Vol. 1, Samuel. W. Mitcham, p. 433, ABC-CLIO, 2008)
3 April - Italian destroyers 'Daniel Manin' and 'Nazario Sauro' are sunk off Eritrea by British bombers. The destroyers 'Pantera', 'Tigre' and 'Cesare Battisti' are scuttled near Massaua.
4 April - Italian destroyer 'Giovanni Acerbi' is sunk near Massaua by British bombers.
6 April - The Yugoslav 3rd Army launches 'R-41', an offensive aimed at expelling the Italian Army in Albania. ("On 6 April the Yugoslav Third Army went on the offensive against Italian units located along the Yugoslav-Albanian border. It was the enemy's intention to capture Scutari and roll up the left flank of Italian forces engaged against the Greeks, but General Ugo Cavallero foresaw this move ... the Zetska Division advanced along the shore of Lake Scutari, toward the city of Scutari until 8 April, then paused until it was reinforced by the Herzegovacke Division on 11 April. But they got no closer than nine miles (15km) from the city, for the Centauro Armoured Division and the Guide Cavalry Regiment blocked the road down which they were advancing." (Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 67, Lulu Press, 2010)
14 April - Yugoslav 'human wave' attacks in Albania are reported to have been beaten back by Italian counterattacks along the 420-mile front. "For 48 hours the Serbs have been moving in wave upon wave through rain and snow against Scutari, on the southern shore of a lake of the same name, only to be mowed down by Fascist machine-gunners and scattered by Italian airmen, war front advices said. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 5859&hl=en Serb Attacks Beaten Off By Italians, Schenectady Gazette, 15 April 1941)
15 April - Italian 9th Army captures Koritza practically forcing the British Commonwealth Forces to abandon the defence of Greece. ("Their courage, like that of the defenders of the Metaxas line, was to no avail; as so often happens to troops occupying a static position in mobile warfare, the battle was being decided elsewhere … List now detached SS 'Adolf Hitler' from the main axis of advance of XXXXth corps and sent it forward in the direction of Koritsa. Far from counter-attacking, however, the demoralized Greeks gave way and thus allowed the Italians to occupy the town without resistance on 15 April. With 9th armoured division crossing the upper Aliakhmon and reaching Servia on the next day, the British forces on the Olympus found themselves surrounded on both flanks. following a decision made by Wilson three days earlier they now started falling back across Thessaly to Thermopylae, leaving in their wake 20,000 Greek troops who, being less well endowed with motor vehicles, failed to escape in time and were captured by the Germans." Martin van Crevald, Hitler's Strategy 1940-1941: The Balkan Clue, p. 162, Cambridge University Press, 1973)
18 April - Italian 11th Army breaks through Greek lines and captures Klisura.
20 April - The Regia Aeronautica destroys hundreds of trucks packed with troops and equipment as the Greeks sought to escape across Perati Bridge. The 4th Bersaglieri Regiment overruns a Greek division and smash their way through the Greek Evzones rearguards with the use of flamethrowers . Many Greeks are burned alive in their bunkers. A war correspondent with the Italian spearheads reports that "Two regiments of the Evzones were wiped out almost to a man", and that "a single Greek battalion had 500 dead." (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 3130&hl=en FIGHTING ENDS UNDER TERMS OF ARMISTICE, The Milwaukee Sentinel, 24 April, 1941)
21 April - General Georgios Tsolakogloou, commander of the Greek forces in Albania, enters into surrender negotiations with the Italian 9th Army Headquarters:
(Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 146, I.B. Tauris, 2006)"The news came that at 9 p.m. Lieutenant-General George Tsolakoglou, the other commander in the Epirus and Macedonia, sent plenipotentiaries to General Carlo Geloso, commanding the Italian Eleventh Army, to seek acceptance of surrender. General Tsolakoglou capitulated on behalf of the commanders of all the Greek armies on the Albanian front, but without the sanction of the Greek government."
Anxious to avoid dealing with the Italians, the General Tsolakoglou had the previous day offered to surrender the whole Greek Army to SS General Josef "Sepp" Dietrich. To his dismay, the Germans turn their backs on the Greeks and Ioannina and the Port of Kalamatas in southern Greece come under attack from Luftwaffe bombers. The Regia Aeronautica mercilessly bombs Ioannina and Arta, forcing the Greek generals to admit defeat to General Alberto Ferrero, Chief of Staff of the Italian Army in Albania. ("The Italian air force, now unrestrained and unstoppable, bombarded Ioannina in blind fury. The capital of Epirus blazed. Two bombs fell on the operating theatre of the 1st Military Hospital, killing a great number of people. Arta was also hit." "The" Greek Epic: 1940-1941, Ángelos Terzákis, p. 176, Army General Staff, 7th Staff Office, 1990)
22 April - The Commanding Officer of the 139th Infantry Regiment ('Bari' Division), Lieutenant-Colonel Achille Lauro is gravely wounded and posthumously awarded the Gold Medal for Military Valour, for his outstanding leadership in the Battle of Ponte Perati.
23 April - Hostilties on the Albanian front are finally declared at an end at 14.45 local time with the Italian high command reporting that:
( Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 147, I.B. Tauris, 2006)"The enemy Army of the Epirus and Macedonia has laid down its arms. The capitulation was made at 9.45 last night by a Greek military delegations to the command of the Italian Eleventh Army on the Epirus front."
6 April - Italian bombers defeat Yugoslav Navy attack on the Italian enclave at Zara, while Italian San Marco Marines disembark and practically capture the entire Yugoslav Navy. ("One destroyer, 4 small torpedo boats, and 10 MTBs of the Yugoslav navy deployed to assist in an attack on the Italian enclave at Zara, but Italian bombers soon put them to flight. The Italians improvised several battalion-sized (and many smaller) landings in the Dalmatian islands. Italy captured nearly the entire Yugoslav navy. Only four ships escaped this fate; one destroyer was blown up in harbor, while 1 submarine and 2 MTBs were able to join the Allies ..." World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1, Spencer Tucker, ABC-CLIO, 2011)
7 April - Italian Air Force wins control of the skies in southern Yugoslavia. ("The German and Italian air attacks on the airfields essentially wiped out the Yugoslavian Air Force. Italian air attacks on Spalato, Cattaro and Mostar cause a lot of damage." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 374, Lulu Press Inc, 2012)
11 April - The Italian Second Army attacks Delnice in western Croatia, capturing 30,000 Yugoslav soldiers. San Marco Marines capture Croatia's largest island, Krk. ("On 11 April, 30,000 Yugoslav Army soldiers surrendered to the Regio Esercito at Delnice. On the same day, Italian Marines make an amphibious landing on the Croat island of Krk." Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 67, Lulu Press, 2010)
12 April - Italian Army captures Zara and Bencovae. ( "In northern Yugoslavia, Italian motorised units advanced via Sagna south along the Adriatic coast reaching Zara and occupied Bencovae." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 376, Lulu Press Inc, 2012)
13 April - The Italians capture Koplik. ( "In Western Yugoslavia, the Italian Army reached Koplik, north of Skutari and advanced via Okrida. " World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 376, Lulu Press Inc, 2012)
8 April - The last Italian warship in East African waters, the Giuseppe Sirtori-class destroyer 'Vincenzo Giordano Orsini', is scuttled by its crew prior to the British entering the harbor.
15 April - Italian destroyers 'Baleno' and 'Luca Tarigo' and five merchant ships are sunk off Tunisia, but manage to sink the destoyer HMS 'Mohawk'.
17 April - Yugoslavia surrenders to Axis forces.
21 April - British naval forces bomb Tripoli.
24 April - The Rosolino Pilo-class destroyer RM 'Simone Schiaffino' sinks after hitting a mine off Tunisia.
17 April - The 'Trento' Division launches a courageous but futile attack against Tobruk. Despite the failure of Rommel to issue clear orders and a German Panzer unit failing to show up, the Italians press forward but are soon forced to stop and dispersed because of heavy artillery fire. (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 7656&hl=en GERMANS FIRE ON ITALIANS AT TOBRUK, San Jose News, 21 April 1941) The Australians reported at the time that "The Italians attacked our 48 Bn and whilst withdrawing they (the Italians) were fired upon by German tanks believed to be supporting the attack." ( 2/43rd Battalion War Diary) The Australians send out Bren-Gun carriers to outflank and capture the Italians caught in the crossfire. This extra firepower finally breaks the will of the Italians, and all firing ceases. Italian casualties turn out to be 24 dead, 112 wounded and 436 prisoners, including their commanding officer. The Italian colonel was so furious at having his unit shot up from behind by supporting German tanks that he fully cooperated with Tobruk Headquarters. (Tobruk 1941: Capture-Siege-Relief, Chester Wilmot, p.564, Angus and Robertson Ltd, 1944)
25 April - German Chief-of-Staff General Franz Halder sends General Friedrich von Paulus to North Africa to "correct matters which had got out of hand." ("If I go to North Africa, I must have command authority. Brauchitsch has reservations, and mentions difficulties with the Italian High Command. I know this is only a pretext, but perhaps it would be preferable to sent Generalleutant Paulus. He is on friendly terms with Rommel, from former times and may be in a position to use his personal influence to put an end to the initiatives of this lunatic." Field Marshal Von Manstein, Marcel Stein, Gwyneth Fairbank, pp. 124-125, Helion & Company Limited, 2007)
30 April - The Italian 2nd Paratroop Battalion from the 'Folgore' Division drops in on Zante, Cephalonia and San Mauro, capturing the Greek islands and 250 Greek troops. That same day, a Blackshirt unit captures Corfu and a Greek battalion that had regrouped in the local woods. (http://www.avalanchepress.com/FolgoreAtAlamein.php Folgore at Alamein) ("A Greek battalion which made a last-ditch stand against the Italians in the woods on the island of Corfu was reported by Stefani, Italian news agency, to have been overwhelmed yesterday by a Blackshirt landing force." https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 0605&hl=en Italian Forces Seize Three Greek Islands, The Day, 1 May 1941)
BATTLE OF THE SALIENT
1 May - The 'Ariete' & 'Brescia' Divisions with the help of Bersaglieri, Guastatori and Fiat flamethrower tanks smash a large hole in the Australian defences, capturing 7 strongpoints ( R2, R3, R4, R5, R6, R7 and R8) outside Tobruk. . ("La sera del 29 il 1° plotone della 3a, agli ordini del Sototenente Ernesto Betti, andò in azione con un gruppo comandato dal Tenente dei Bersaglieri Melis. Questo reparto era costituito di un plotone Arditi dell'8° Bersaglieri e di 2 carri M13. Guastatori aprirono un varco nel campo minato protetto da filo spinato, antistante la Ridotto R3, I'assaltarono e la conquistarono utilizzando lanciafiamme e cariche cubiche ... Un commento al Bollettino di Guerra, trasmesso alle 13:00 del 10 maggio, informava che reparti del Genio Guastatori avevano espugnato 5 fortini della cerchia di Tobruk." (Genio Guastatori, Silvestri Angioni Lombardi , p. 47, Edizioni R.E.I., 2015) (http://www.guastatori.it/i-guastatori-n ... btg-g-gua/ GRUPPO NAZIONALE GUASTATORI DEL GENIO) ("The little Fiat-Ansaldos go up in front with flame-throwers in order to clean up the triangle. Long streaks of flame, thick smoke, filthy stink. We provide cover until 2345 hours, then retire through the gap." http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=ht ... 5+22:14:28 THE EARLY ATTEMPTS and SEIGE)
3 May - On the night of 3 May, the Italians defeat an Australian counterattack to recover the lost strongpoints. ("On 4 May, the positions held by 5 Battalion of 8 Bersaglieri under Major Gaggetti around Redoubts 6, 7 and 8 were counter-attacked by the Australians. The Italians responded with strong defensive fire and launched a counter-attack supported by three L3 light tanks. The latter were quickly destroyed at close quarters, and the Australians captured Redoubt 7. The Bersaglieri supported by one M13 tank and three armoured cars, and forced them back." (Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts: Mussolini's Elite Armoured Divisions in North Africa, Ian Walker, p. ?, Crowood, 2012)
Australian morale is severely dented with at least 234 cases of self-inflicted wounds and shell-shock reported in the 9th AIF Division by the end of the month. ("More disturbing was the large number of self-inflicted wound (SIW) cases. During a single week in May the division reported thirty SIW cases..." Armies of Empire: The 9th Australian and 50th British Divisions in Battle 1939–1945, Allan Converse, p. 86, Cambridge University Press, 2011) ("In May 1941 a 'war neurosis clinic' of 70 beds was established in an underground concrete shelter in the city. Of the 204 admissions treated by Lt Colonel E.L. Cooper and Captain A.J.M Sinclair 61% were reported as serving with fighting units... " Shell Shock to PTSD: Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War, Edgar Jones, Simon Wessely, p. 67, Psychology Press, 2005)
1 May - British submarine HMS 'Usk' is sunk off the coast of Sicily by Italian destroyers
3 May - Italian Spica-class destroyer escort 'Canopo' is sunk off Tripoli by British bombers.
4 May - Italian Giuseppe La Masa-class destroyer 'La Farina' sinks after hitting a mine.
20 May - Generals Alan Cunningham and William Platt receive the surrender of Prince Umberto Amedeo, commander of the Italian armies, allowing the return of Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie. Italian resistance under General Guglielmo Nasi continues in the Gondar region.
13 May - Italian Spica-Class destroyer escort 'Pleiadi' sinks British submarine 'Undaunted' off the coast of Tripoli, Libya.
15 May - 8th Bersaglieri Regiment under Colonel Ugo Montemurro derails British offensive (Operation Brevity). German Colonel Maximilian von Herff later praised the Bersaglieri anti-tank gunners and protecting riflemen, saying they defended Halfaya Pass "...with lionlike courage until the last man against stronger enemy forces. The greatest part of them died faithful to the flag." (Italians' Bravery Praised By Nazi Chief in Africa. New York Times, 5 August 1941) ("The Italian Bersaglieri did their part by blunting the enemy attack at the Halfaya Pass, putting out of action seven Matildas. This was an Italian first in inflicting serious damage to Britain's much feared, if lumbering, heavy tanks." Mussolini Warlord: Failed Dreams of Empire, 1940-1943, H. James Burgwyn p.?, Enigma Books, 2013).
16 May - 'Brescia' infantry and Guastatori with flamethrowers attack the Australian 2/9th and 2/10th Battalions, forcing the Australians to abandon the S8, S9 and S10 strongpoints. (http://www.guastatori.it/i-guastatori-n ... btg-g-gua/ GRUPPO NAZIONALE GUASTATORI DEL GENIO) (... il reparto tedesco penetrò profondamente nel campo minato ma fu scoperto e fatto segno di una forte resistenza nemica. Essendo venuto a mancare l'effetto sorpresa i Sturpioneer tedeschi subirono gravissime perdite. Riuscirono a conquistare la posizione ma non riuscivano a tenerla, causa i contrattacchi delgi Australiani. A questo punto il Maggiore Franceschini, di sua iniziativa, mando la 3a ad attacare sul fianco gli Australiani mentre la 4a si oppose frontalmente ai nemici.Cosi le due compagnie conquistarono la quota. I tedeschi, fortemente provati, ebbero oltre 100 caduti, si ritirarono lasciando i soli Guastatori a presidiare la quota. Il Maggiore Betz, informo il comando del comportamiento dei Guastatori, Qualche giorno piu tardi arrivo Rommel, per vistare il reparto, si fece dare 4 nomi e li premio con la Coce di ferro II classe: Ten. Mario Pazzaglia, Ten. Aroldo Anzani, Sten, Rolando De Angelis e Serg. Mario Venturi." Genio Guastatori, Silvestri Angioni Lombardi , pp. 50-51, Edizioni R.E.I., 2015) ("Today we lost posts R8, R9 and R10, the occupants having been taken prisoners in the circumstances set out in the attached document. This is the second time that portion of our garrison has vanished. As far as can be ascertained the number of casualties was negligible, the posts having been just mopped up – rather a new experience for the AIF." Australia in the War of 1939-1945. 4 volumes, Chapter 7: Midsummer in the Fortress, p. 251, Australian War Memorial, 1952-1968 )
24 May - The 'Brescia' Division defeats British Commonwealth infantry and tank attack from Tobruk. (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid= ... 0723&hl=en BRITISH MOVE ALONG LIBYAN FRONT HALTED, The Milwaukee Sentinel, 25 May 1941)
20 May - Italian destroyer 'Curtatone' sinks after hitting a mine in the Aegean Sea, part of the Mediterranean.
21 May - Italian destroyer 'Carlo Mirabello' sinks after hitting a mine off Greece.
BATTLE OF CRETE
19 May -To support the German invasion, eleven Italian submarines ('Nereide', 'Tricheco', 'Uarsciek', 'Fisalia', 'Topazio', 'Adua', 'Dessie', 'Malachite', 'Squalo', 'Smeraldo' 'Sirena', take up their assigned positions off Crete and the British Sollum and Alexandria bases in Egypt. ("To support the German attack on Crete, Italian submarine Nereide was positioned north of Crete, while submarines Tricheco, Uarsciek, Fisalia, Topazio, Adua, Dessie, Malachite, Squalo, Smeraldo and Sirena patrolled between Crete, Alexandria, Egypt and Sollum, Egypt." World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean, Donald A Bertke, Gordon Smith, Don Kindell, p. 505, Lulu Press, 2012.
20 May - Regia Aeronautica aircraft bomb and straff British, Australian and Greek troops defending the Rethimnon-Heraklion sector. ("Together with Italian aircraft, Richthofen's formations thus attacked targets in the middle and eastern sectors (primarily near Rethimnon and Heraklion), but, contrary to plan, the transport aircraft did not follow them immediately. As a result, the paratroops of the second wave were often dropped unprotected and, because of the large dust-clouds at the Greek airfields, with considerable delays." Germany and the Second World War, Volume 3, Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, p. 546, Oxford University Press, 1995)
21 May - Italian bombers from 41 Gruppo on Rhodes sink HMS 'Juno'. ( "A single Italian Kingfisher scored precision hits on the lead enemy destroyer, HMS Juno, which exploded and sank southeast of the Aegean island, allowing German naval forces to make their landngs unopposed at sea." The Axis Air Forces: Flying in Support of the German Luftwaffe: Flying in Support of the German Luftwaffe, Frank Joseph, p. 33, ABC-CLIO, 2011)
26 May - In the face of the fierce resistance, the German commanders request Mussolini to send Italian Army units to Crete to divert Allied forces. ("When the German attack around Galatas stalled and the attackers suffered high losses, on 26 May the Wehrmacht operation staff requested Mussolini to send army units to Crete and thus take some of the pressure off the German forces there. Mussolini immediately agreed, and two days later an Italian regiment, reinforced with armour and artillery, landed near Sitia in the eastern part of the island. By the end of the month these formations reached Ierapetra on the south coast without encountering significant resitance." Germany and the Second World War, Volume 3, Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, p. 549, Oxford University Press, 1995)
27 May - A brigade of the 'Regina' Division, protected by the RM destroyer 'Crispi' and the Spica-class destroyer-escorts 'Lira', 'Lince', and 'Libra', land unopposed at Sitia and link up with the Germans.
28 May - Italian bombers damage beyond repair the destroyer HMS 'Imperial'. ( "Italian SM.84 bombers damaged the destroyer HMS Imperial (later scuttled) and damaged the cruiser HMS Ajax on 28 May." Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 71, Lulu Press, 2013 )
29 May - The Allies are forced to scuttle the destroyer HMS 'Hereward' that had been seriously damaged by German aircraft, and abandoned when Italian motor torpedo boats approached to deliver the coup de grâce. ("On 29 May German aircraft badly damaged the cruisers Dido and Orion (causing 540 casualties among the thousand soldiers crowded aboard Orion) and crippled Hereward, which was likewise loaded with troops. She was later scuttled in the face of an attack by Italian MAS boats." Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940-1945, Vincent O'Hara, pp. 122-123, Naval Institute Press, 2009)
Two senior Australian officers, Brigadier George Alan Vasey and Lieutenant-Colonel William Cremor would criticize New Zealand Gemeral Bernard Freyberg, commander of the Allied forces in Crete, for not properly defending Maleme airfield. (http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/Battle-of ... and-Greeks Battle of Crete: Greece sacrificed much for the greater good ) Brigadier Hargest, commander of the 5th New Zealand Brigade, also blamed Freyberg for the loss of the airfield. (https://lawrencewattskiwiwarhistory.wor ... -of-crete/ The battle of Crete – who’s to blame for the loss?) British historian Saul David in his book Military Blunders:The How and Why of Military Failure ( Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc, 1998) has described the German invasion as a reckless gamble that paid off only because "of the ineptitude of the defenders, particularly the New Zealanders".
29 June - Italian Stukas from 239th Squadriglia sink the Australian destroyer HMAS 'Waterhen'. (http://uncleted.jinak.cz/safrica8.htm Stukas, Spuds and Scrap Iron (29-Jun-41))
Mid-June Italian anti-tank gunners under Major Leopoldo Pardi help derail Operation Battleaxe. ("It was here the German 88's and Italian 100/17mm's under Major Pardi, combined with newly laid minefields, inflicted heavy losses on the British and helped retain the pass for the Axis." Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-November 1942, Jack Greene & Alessandro Massignani, p. 72, Combined Books, 1994)
P.S., Any mistakes/omissions please let me know. I plan to include the second half of 1941 soon.