Fantasque Time Line (France Fights On) - English Translation

2192
April 24th, 1941

Phnom-Penh
- Under pressure from the French authorities, it is finally the grandson (by his mother) of the deceased king who ascends to the throne of Cambodia. This young man (he is not yet 19 years old) seems to have a malleable personality...
 
2193
April 24th, 1941

Belgrade
- "Rather war than the Pact, rather death than slavery!" This is the slogan of the military and popular revolt that sets the Yugoslav capital ablaze. Supported by massive demonstrations of the population, the units in garrison around the city leave their barracks and march on the seat of government. That same evening, the regent Paul is dismissed from office and General Simovic is appointed head of government. He swears to defend the sovereignty and unity of Yugoslavia, denounces the members of the Cvetkovic government as "traitors to the nation" and proclaimed the majority and the beginning of the effective reign of the young king Peter II.
However, Peter II, who is only 17 years old, is terribly intimidated by his new duties.
It is necessary that a young officer, imitating his voice, pronounces in his place his first speech on the radio.
.........
London and Algiers - Great Britain and France react immediately to the coup. General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and the French Minister of WarCharles de Gaulle, prepare to leave for Belgrade to meet with General Simovic.
The new situation obviously calls for a review of Allied plans to assist the Yugoslavs. France therefore decides to increase its deployment of forces in the Balkans. The 86th Infantry Division, rested and reorganized in Egypt after its brilliant campaign in Ethiopia, prepares to leave Alexandria for Greece, where it would be joined by the 64th independent BCC, equipped with 45 Valentines and 6 BSA Scout-cars, coming from Tunisia. Two bombing groups (I/32 and II/32), on Martin 167, and two cooperation groups (GOR I/22 and II/22), on Potez 63-11, are added to the French air forces sent to the Balkans. This addition will bring these forces to 60 fighters, 120 bombers and 40 cooperation and tactical support aircraft, without counting the 39th Mixed Wing, deployed in the Dodecanese islands. The transport groups begin to provide a regular link between Tunis, Benghazi and Athens or Heraklion.
.........
Berlin - Germany also reacts to the coup d'état in Belgrade, both diplomatically (if one can say so) as well as militarily.
On the one hand, the Hungarian ambassador is practically forced onto a plane to Budapest, with a message intended for Regent Horthy. Its content leaves little doubt about the German intentions: "in case Germany is led to undertake military operations against a country neighboring Hungary" (read, of course, Yugoslavia), the Hungarian government would be obliged, in order to honor its signature of the Tripartite Pact and the agreement of April 21st, not only to authorize German troops to cross its territory, but also to participate directly in the said military operations! It would be in Hungary's interest, the message states, not to admit that a country was opposed to the "European policy" of the Axis. Is not one of the objectives of this policy is the return to Hungary of the territories it was forced to cede in the past by the Diktat of an unjust treaty - in fact, in 1920, the Treaty of Trianon had given Hungarian territories to Yugoslavia, and since then Admiral Horthy had not stopped since then to try to recover them.
On the other hand, the OKW begins to urgently plan military operations against Yugoslavia and Greece and makes direct contact with the Hungarian Chief of Staff, General Werth. He immediately begins to collaborate with his German counterparts. In the evening, the horrified Prime Minister Teleki is presented with a fait accompli.
 
2194
April 24th, 1941

Sicily
- In accordance with the commitments made on April 8th, Admiral Riccardi has assembled the means of transport and escort necessary for the reconquest of the Pelagie. The expedition is placed under the command of Captain Aldo Cocchia, who, while still a frigate captain, was for some months the chief of staff of Admiral Parona in La Rochelle and then in Bordeaux.
To transport a battalion of the Aosta Division, reinforced by two companies of Sicilian Black Shirts, Cocchia has an "improvised" flotilla at his disposal (to use only the most pleasant term used by Italian historians): two ocean-going trawlers, the Assab and Addis Abeba* ; the small auxiliary cruiser Lago Zuai (D.23); finally, two shallow-draft ships that could run aground and touch the shore: a vaporetto from the Venice lagoon, the Giampaolo, and a river steamer, the Porto di Roma. The latter has already been used for tests of transport and landing of L3 tankettes; it is to carry five of them, intended to support the reconquest of Lampedusa. The rest of the soldiers will take their places on the decommissioned destroyers of the 9th torpedo squadron, the Fratelli Cairoli and Antonio Mosto. The escort of the convoy is to be provided by the four torpedo boats (also former destroyers) of the 5th squadron** and by the launches of the 15th MAS squadron (MAS-547, 548, 549, 550), which were pre-positioned in Pantelleria, which is now almost safe. While the escort torpedo boats wait in Augusta, the transport ships are gathered in Trapani to be able to practice in the Egadi Islands before reaching Porto Empedocle for D-Day.
In fact, due to the short time available, CV Cocchia is only able to schedule one general landing exercise, which was taking place in the morning of this Thursday, April 24th. Given the inexperience of the infantrymen and the (understandable) lack of automatism between them and the sailors, the affair turns into a fiasco. In addition, because of its shallow draught, the Giampaolo damages its hull by landing in the wrong place. Despite this, the Duce could not be denied and the operation is not dismissed: the passengers of the Giampaolo are simply distributed among the remaining transports.
While the landing troops have to reach Porto Empedocle the next day by road, the ships leave Trapani for this port at the beginning of the night. But on the way, the flotilla crosses the path of the submarine MN Circé (LV Frossard). This one misses the Porto di Roma (the torpedo passes underneath) but reached and sinks the trawler Assab, before escaping the two torpedo boats and the Lago Zuai.

* Respectively 640 GRT, 13 knots. (Assab is a former Royal Navy frigate, sold after the end of WWI and transformed into a trawler) and 619 GRT, 10 knots.
** Giuseppe Cesare Abba, Giuseppe Dezza, Simone Schiaffino, Giuseppe La Farina, unfortunate protagonists of the allied operation BQ in June 1940.
 
2195
April 25th, 1941

North: the French offensive - From Dessie to Debra Tabor
- Having concentrated all its forces, Group M attacks alone to the south of the Italian position supported by the Allied air force, while the partisans, duly supervised by liaison officers, attack massively to the north. This time the Italian position breaks down and a first line of fortified points is taken.
.........
North: the Australian (and Belgian, and Ethiopian) offensive - From Amba Alagi to Gondar - An Italian counter-attack attempts to retake one of the forts of Debarech to break the encirclement of the pass. The fighting is fierce and deadly for both sides. The battlefield remains in the hands of the defenders, thanks to a reckless action by the Ethiopian partisans led by Ras Ayalu.
 
2196 - Glorious 25th of April (Kirkuk Bullfight)
April 25th, 1941

In the popular British newspapers, never short of slogans and often approved underhand by 10 Downing Street, which is as attentive to the morale of the public as to the milk of the fire, this Sunday will become "the Glorious Twenty-fifth of April" (even if this title is a bit Francophobe)*. In the French army, they prefer to call it "the Kirkuk bullfight".
.........
Lebanon, Syria and northern Iraq, 00:00 - The French air surveillance network, which usually sleeps during the night, is put on alert. In Palestine and the West Bank, the British network also remains on alert. Phase 1 of the "revised Bertha" plan begins.
Sir Arthur Longmore himself would give the go-ahead for phase 2, or not.
Luftplatz Constantza, 00:10 - Take-off of the six Bf 110s and eight He 111s intended to reinforce Kampfgruppe Bäumler. The flight, in economic cruise, should last about seven hours, perhaps eight if, as the weather forecast suggests, the winds are unfavorable at the end of the flight. The planes fly with all lights off and the crews are obliged to maintain absolute radio silence.
Luftplatz Kirkouk, 00:30 - Oberstleutnant Pfiffelsdörfer has the OTC transmitter previously operating in Rasheed installed. The two operators start to pass, every ten minutes, a record soon to be a universal success, the Lili Marleen of Lale Andersen. The three formations which go towards the base can thus direct their gonios and periodically readjust their navigation.
Habbaniyah, 01:25 - Seamus O'Shea's two howitzers open fire for ten minutes. They are a diversion to facilitate the sending of patrols into the Iraqi lines by the base and by "Kingcol".
Over the Black Sea, 01:55 - Following an order given before takeoff, Major Güstrow, before approaching the Turkish coast, turns on his lights to order his planes to do the same for five minutes. He counts the aircraft and finds that his formation has only fourteen Ju 52s left. "Scheisedreck!" (Shit and shit again!) he grumbles in mid voice, without deviating from his route**.
Mosul airfield, 02:30 - His orderly wakes up Colonel Stehlin. Duly shaved, he swallows a cup of coffee and goes to the hangars. The ground staff of the FAML stayed up to overhaul and repair as many aircraft as possible. Stehlin jokes with them and, while everyone is busy, he whistles Charles Trénet's Les enfants s'ennuient le dimanche, gently annoying Major Grélaux, chief mechanic officer.
- With you, colonel," he growls, "one is never bored, even on Sundays!
- Nothing worse than idleness, old man. It's disastrous for morale. But do as I do, or like the dwarves in Snow White***: whistle while you work!
Stehlin replies despite not beig known for his cheerfulness. Then he adds: "As soon as possible, send as many people as possible to bed, Grélaux. Let them get at least two hours of sleep. Their day will be long, and I let you imagine what their next night will be like.
Grélaux grumbles, but assures not without pride that the FAML will be able, as of 06:30, to fly about 40 aircraft, including all its Morane 410s.
Right bank of the Euphrates, Central Iraq, 03:10 - The two patrols sent by "Kingcol" into the Iraqi lines return to the British positions. One captures two non-commissioned officers of the 1st Iraqi Division, the other one brings back identity papers, various documents and an MP 40 machine pistol found on the corpse of a simple German soldier. Landser**** Klaus Schöttle of the Brandenburger Rgt, a Swabian from the Black Forest, had the bad idea to defend himself while the Iraqis accompanying him had fled.
According to the Iraqi NCOs, their units are short of ammunition, and a section of Brandenburgers should go and blow up the Ar Ramadi bridge during the day, taking advantage of the inevitable confusion of the battle.
Habbaniyah, 03:30 - The patrol dispatched by Roberts returns home. Its leader, 2nd Lieutenant James Collindge, 1st King's Own, brings back a panoramic sketch of the opponents' fighting positions in front of "Bob's hernia" (Robert's hernia), name that the London cockneys of his section gave to the salient that the British linesformed since the partial success of the attack commanded by Colonel Roberts, the day before. The success of this mission and the quality of the plan earned Collindge, who is only
19 years old, to be nominated for the Military Cross, while his second in command, Sergeant Major Peter "Pete" Rockwood, is nominated for a bar to the Military Medal won in 1933 on the "North-West Frontier"*****. With a rare celerity, King George VI, "fountain of honors"******, will ratify these proposals on the 25th.
French Air HQ, Lattaquieh, 04:25 - The formation led by Kurt Zapanski is heard then, thanks to the moonlight, spotted by the lookout post. The eight planes of the 789 have violated Turkish airspace between Izmir and Antalya to save time and fuel.
Mosul, 04:40 - A radio message warns the FAML of the passage of German aircraft. "The deutsche Pünktlichkeit******* has many advantages", comments Stehlin (bilingual, it goes without saying, as a strict Alsatian). "Our compatriots in the interior could well learn from it," he continues in a sanctimonious tone between his teeth. The FAML leader relays the information to RAF HQ in Cairo.
Arbil, 04:45 - Massiet and Larminat share a summary breakfast. The day before, they had agreed, after the approval by the former of the DML chief's plan, that Massiet would remain at the CP during the phase of the attack that he was to supervise, before moving to Mosul during the day to take up his duties as governor. Larminat, on the other hand, will join an advanced CP from where he will follow and coordinate the joint maneuver of his groups.
Right bank of the Euphrates, Central Iraq, 05:00 - The "Kingcol" batteries open long-range fire, while the mortars of the infantry units pound the front lines of the Iraqis. This barrage lasts one hour and fifteen minutes. The response of the 1st Iraqi Division, whose Brandenburgers' NCOs advise the battery commanders, as the prisoners also revealed, seemed to the DLOs to be more precise and denser than that of the 3rd Division.
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 05:20 - The whole base is put on alert after a more than summary breakfast. Pfiffelsdörfer reduces as much as he could the number of men reserved for the protection of the premieter so as to have as many arms as possible to unload the planes of the 789.
Habbaniyah, 05:30 - Seamus O'Shea's two howitzers enter the dance. The plan drawn by Collindge - "a real asset" says Colonel Roberts, trying to smile- allows to concentrate the shells on what seems to him to be a weak point of the device, on the left flank of the "hernia."
Rasheed Air Base, 05:40 - At first light, Major O'Flanaghan, who had spent the night on his water tower wrapped in a Bedouin burnous, thinks he can see through his binoculars that the Iraqi air force is preparing for a grand exit with its remaining planes. The ground staff is busy filling up, supplying bombs and loading machine gun belts.
Mosul, 05:45 - Stehlin gathers all his pilots. He reveals to them in a few sentences the plan adopted in agreement with Larminat. Protected by three patrols of two Moranes
406, the seven T-6s, divided into two patrols of two sections, are reserved for fire support for the reconnaissance elements of the three battle groups and the tanks. The other 406s, 410s and Potez will attack, before or just after their landing, the German air reinforcements arriving in Kirkuk from the north-west (it is necessary to give up the attempt to intercept the 789 at night). This will be the implementation, for its French part, of phase 2 of "Bertha revised", whose order of execution is expected from one minute to the next, according to the final information received by the RAF HQ in Cairo. Their task accomplished, all these planes will return to Mosul, where they will be rearmed and refueled, then they will leave to reinforce the T-6s.
05:50 - Major Grélaux indicates to Stehlin that forty-one aircraft are ready for a takeoff at his convenience.
- Thank you, Grélaux," says Stehlin. "Our visitors will receive a welcome worthy of the reputation of French hospitality!"
Northern Iraq, DML front, 06:01 - The artillery of Larminat's three BGs opens fire. Larminat had placed it under the overall command of Colonel Arbuthnot' deputy, Lt-Colonel Percy Newlarge DSO MC, of the Royal Horse Artillery. From his mother, Newlarge speaks flawless French (he had served a few months as a liaison officer at the GQG in Chantilly in 14-18). To give more weight to the salvos, the groups of the GTA and the GTB beat in unison the Dibs - Altun Kupri segment of the 2nd Iraqi Division. An Audax came the day before from Habbaniyah to adjust the fire.
RAF Shaibah, 06:05 - The mechanics finish preparing Wellington and Gladiator. Pilots and crews, awakened at 05:30, have a solid breakfast before the briefing. The engines will be started at 06:20 for a takeoff at 06:30.
Northern Iraq, 06:10 - The French lookout posts of Dihok and Zawita report two formations, heading 175, a few minutes apart: first fourteen Ju 52 and then, it seems, a dozen He 111s. These planes, they note, are flying slowly: no more than 250 km/h as far as the eye can see. It is true that they are upwind. As predicted by the weather forecast, the wind from the south has shifted to the south-southwest. The information is transmitted by the FAML staff to AVM Smart, who will relay it to RAF Shaibah and to Sir Arthur Longmore's HQ in Cairo.
HQ RAF Middle-East, Cairo, 06:25 - Radio messages from Sir Arthur Longmore, in clear, to Stehlin and Smart: "Execute Bertha revised phase two immediately - Repeat - Execute phase two immediately. Good luck."
Right bank of the Euphrates, Central Iraq, 06:15 - The artillery raises its barrage. After twelve mortar salvos, four companies of the 1st Essex of "Kingcol" put bayonets to the gun, whistle and, with grenadiers in the lead, attack the lines of the 1st Iraqi Division. The self-propelled guns of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, reinforced by elements of the Arab Legion, deploy in front of the motorized brigade.
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 06:30 - Major Zapanski's planes land safely one after the other, covered by four Bf 110s. The ground staff of the base as well as the majority of the protection company are mobilized to participate in the unloading of the Fw 200 and the seven Ju 90s while their crews, tired from the long flight, are to eat.
- Weh dieser Lili Marleen!" grumbles Zapanski who has asked for a glass of schnapps before drinking his coffee. "Ich hatte davon die Nase voll!********
The boss of 789 has a drawn face and a worried forehead. However, it doesn't take more than forty minutes before the equipment and ammunition of Flak-Abteilung I are taken out from the carlings. The twelve Vierlinge are lined up in front of the hangars, waiting for the boxes of 20 mm shells stored in the sandbagged cells built the day before. The mechanics of the base clean the cockpit windows and complete the oil fillings of the aircraft. Three of them hurriedly repair the tail wheel of one of the Ju 90, damaged during the landing.
Habbaniyah, 06:40 - The disparate aircraft of the Strike Force, led by Squadron Leader Savile, take off slowly. They head due west as if they want to reach the West Bank. Two patrols of two Gladiators remain in protection of the base, for all purposes.
Mosul, 06:55 - All FAML aircraft are in the air. The T-6s and MS-406s that escort them head for the DML positions. The MS-410s, the other 406s and the Potez 63.11s fly towards the east-southeast.
Zab Sa Saghir Front, Northern Iraq, 07:00 - The DML's posture shakes out. The GTA and GTB start behind the motorized group: 15 R-35 tanks of the 6th RCA preceded by a dozen self-propelled gunships of the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, supported by, ready to jump out of their trucks, the marine company and two CPLE. Sidi Bel-Abbès has sent to the Levant some legionnaires that we still prefer to avoid confronting the Germans or the Italians. Among them, there is a strong core of anti-Mussolinians Italians, republicans Spaniards and many Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, along with non-Jewish but anti-Nazi Germans and Austrians. Many sing Erika and Einheitsfrontlied********* at the top of their voices.
The GTZ also goes on the attack with about fifteen R-35s divided into four sections and the legionnaires from the other two CPLE. The crews of the tanks and the Legion are ordered to speed (a relative term for R-35s) without stopping. They have to leave the infantry - essentially the Zouaves - to clean up any enemy pockets that remain behind them. But it soon becomes clear that the 2nd Iraqi Division would have to sell its skin dearly. Facing the DML, its lines are bristling with a curtain of artillery and machine gun fire.
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 07:05 - Without delay, the eight aircraft of 789 take off and head for Rasheed Air Base. They will be overhauled and refueled during the day, while the crews take some rest. They must leave the same evening to return to Tirana-Rinas and resume their logistic support missions. Jeschonneck refused to pay attention to Zapanski's demands for twenty-four hours of real rest for his crews.
Northern Iraq, 07:10 - Major Güstrow breaks radio silence to report to Kirkuk that his formation had flown over the Zab Sa Saghir without being hit by flak and would be landing in eight to ten minutes at the latest. He asks for field instructions and requests protection during the landing. He istold that the four Bf 110s on watch are already in the air.
.........
Zab Sa Saghir Front, 07:12 - The T-6s attack the lines of the 2nd Iraqi Division with machine guns and light bombs. One of the planes, flying too low, hits a sand hillock which served as an observatory for the Iraqis.
Luftplatz Kirkouk, 07:14 - The controller fires green rockets. The Ju 52, Bf 110 and He 111 are at less than 800 meters altitude in sight of the base. The Ju 52s are the first to land, the fighters are getting ready to extend their landing gear and flaps.
07:15 - Today, German precision does not have only advantages (for the Germans, at least). The French Moranes 410 and 406, exact at the rendezvous, dive on Güstrow's formation. "Long live Bertha, children! Attack!" shouts commander Pétrinal, head of the 1st GML, who commands all the fighters. The four Bf 110s in cover spot them at the last moment, but they are too few to stop them.
07:16 - "Alarm! Alarm! Die Franzosen!" bellows the controller, alerted by patrolling planes. But it is too late. The Morane's cannons and machine guns have gone into action, targeting the disarmed Junkers 52. The German airmen try to face them, but the Bf 110s still have trouble with the maneuverable MS-406s - and they are inferior to the MS-410s.
07:19 - The ambush lasted only a few moments. But it is a success: for the loss of a Morane 410 and two 406s, six Ju 52s are sent to the ground, as well as two He 111s and a Bf 110. Two other Junkers, on fire, crash while landing and all their passengers are killed or wounded.Only six transports land normally.
07:20 - The Potez 63.11, arriving at low altitude, bomb the base then carry out a strafing pass. They destroy a He 111 and damage a Bf 110, as well as a Ju 52 which was still rolling. A lucky bomb destroys one of the methanol stocks. During the second pass, a Potez is hit by a 20 mm cannon that some furious Brandenburgers had and crashes. Another one is surprised by one of the Bf 110s which had escaped the fight against the Moranes; severely hit, he sees his opponent break off the fight in an unexpected way - in fact, it is one of the aircraft that came from Constantza and he has neither fuel nor ammunition left (the reinforcement aircraft had only taken, to lighten their load, only a quarter of their normal ammunition). The pilot of the Potez, himself wounded, is able to return to Mosul and land his aircraft on its belly, ready for the scrap heap.
07:25 - Stehlin, who is at the controls of one of the Potez, reports the results to the PC of Larminat for retransmission on the AVM Smart and Sir Arthur Longmore. He thinks that the reinforcements were practically annihilated (he overestimated a little the effectiveness of his forces) - the flak unit will be able to put a third of its guns on line normally and äumler's forces now number eleven Bf 110s and eleven He 111s). "Add for Sir Arthur, asks Stehlin, "Miss Bertha looks quite healthy."
Zab Sa Saghir Front, 07:25 - Pressed by GTZ tanks and Zouaves, elements of the Iraqi first line begin to withdraw in good order to their second line, arranged according to the principles of 14-18, with trenches, barbed wire, machine-gun nests and antitank ditch, Iraqi officers have not forgotten the lessons learned in the Turkish army.
Further west, the GTA and GTB are facing strong resistance, as the pictures brought back by the Potez reconnaissance planes had let foresee it the day before.
Stuck on the glacis, four R-35s are stopped by mines and one caches fire, while two self-propelled gunships, fired with Boys rifles, are out of action, at least for the moment. But the other tanks do not retreat. Meanwhile, protected by a rolling artillery barrage, the CPLE dismounts and prepares to attack.
Zab Sa Saghir Front (west), 07:40 - The CPLE attacks, preceding two of the battalions of the 2nd RTA and two others of the Buffs. The advance, in small steps, is slow. The four guns dragged by hand by the Algerians' machine company, which the younger officers consider to be fossilized machines, prove unexpectedly effective against the positions - unexpected for those whose memories do not go back to 1917-18.
It is still a return to the roots for Larminat, Newlarge and Arbuthnot, all veterans of the Other War - and not necessarily unhappy, whatever they may say, to find themselves in a knowledgeable field.
- This is Verdun, gentlemen!" comments Newlarge in French, who could not get enough of the thunder, however modest, unleashed by his few cannons.
- It's Paschendaele!" replies Larminat politely.
Habbaniyah, 07:45 - British artillery and mortars open fire on both sides of the Iraqi device, caught between the hernia and the vanguards of "Kingcol".
Rasheed Air Base, 07:50 - The eight aircraft of the Trasta 789 land. Still hidden by the false parapet that transforms his water tower into a dungeon, O'Flanaghan receives by telephone the reports of his yaouleds, that he completes by his own observations with the binoculars. His radio message to the headquarters of Lieutenant-General Quinan, who relays it to Cairo, appears as a model of conciseness: "Migration over. Some birds in the nest, more outside repeat some birds in the nest, more outside. Booze aplenty and water behind the nest repeat behind the nest." And O'Flanaghan ends as an aesthete, abandoning coded language for a paraphrase of Robert Stevenson: "The hunter gets to be home from the hill very soon. Over "- to indicate that he hopes to return to Senhor Oliveira's store soon.
The major also sees four Gladiators, four Breda Ba.65 and two SM.79B, but that is not his game.
Ar Ramadi ("western front"), 07:55 - Held on alert for hours because of intelligence given by Iraqi prisoners, the bridge sentries shoot down four Brandenburgers - in German uniform, according to their rules - who were trying to infiltrate under the bridge deck to blow it up.
Habbaniyah, 08:00 - The British artillery bombardment is interrupted so that the Strike Force, returning from its feint, can make a low-level attack on the Iraqi lines. Their
attack causes little damage, but, following unexpectedly the artillery fire, it causes panic. Several units of the 1st Division abandon their positions and flee in disordertowards the lines held by the 3rd Division and the Motorized Brigade.
08:05 - The ten Iraqi planes arrive from Rasheed, in full combat posture. Taken to task by Strike Force escorts, they drop their bombs at random and turn back, losing a Gladiator in the process.
Right bank of the Euphrates, 08:10 - Major-General Clark decides to launch the entire 1st Essex into the fray against the 1st Iraqi Division.
Habbaniyah, 08:12 - Warned by radio, Colonel Roberts uncoupled the King's Own and his Assyrian Levies on the left flank of the hernia after a volley of twenty mortar rounds. His men supported by two sections of RAF Infantry, come out in the back of the Iraqi motorized brigade.
Right bank of the Euphrates, 08:15 - The stick under the arm and wearing a cap with the arms of the 9th Queen's Lancers (his regiment) as if on maneuvers on the Salisbury Plain, Brigadier Kingstone comes to lead the squadrons of his brigade in person: Household Cavalry, The Warwickshire Yeomanry and Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Prince of Wales' Own). He is ordered to approach the positions of the 3rd Division in force and to maul the Iraqi motorized brigade.
Mosul airfield, 08:30 - Stehlin takes stock of the situation with the leaders of his groups Pétrinal and Schulberg. By mutual agreement, it is decided that the 406s, Potez and T-6s would leave as planned, as soon as they were re-supplied and rearmed, in support of the DML. On the other hand, the 410s, that Stehlin, this time, will lead himself, will make a second raid on Kirkuk in the hope of confirming the morning's success.
Rasheed Air Base, 08:33 - Shaibah's Wellingtons and Gladiators come out of the south-west at 1,200 meters altitude - out of range of the flak Vickers. Five Ju 90s of the 789,
with their midnight blue paint, are clearly visible on the tarmac. The Wellingtons attack in a slight dive, up to 850 meters, to drop their bombs with more precision. Squadron-leader Nigel Lewis DFC, leader of the bombers, decides to attack the last one by descending to 600 meters to better observe the results of the bombing. In the probable absence of enemy fighters, the Gladiators have to take advantage of the confusion to strafe.
A spectacular explosion shakes the atmosphere. Unbalanced by the blast, squadron-leader Lewis' plane goes into a spin and crashes before his pilot could recover. This death in the field of honor puts the end to a controversial career as Lewis had been a career officer, graduated from Cranwell, and had been one of Sir Oswald Mosley's close friends until May 1940, which earned him a two-month stay in prison at Brixton, before being sent - or so the RAF said - into exile - to the Middle East.
Three Italian CR42s try their luck against the Wellingtons, which are as fast as they were and well protected.
Captain Sforza manages in extremis to land his plane, pierced like a skimmer.
An English Gladiator hit by flak attempts a forced landing near the Tigris, but it overturns and catches fire. Flight-lieutenant Thomas Tomlinson is killed.
08:39 - O'Flanaghan, still perched on his water tower, radioes the report to Habbaniyah for transmission to Shaibah and Cairo: "Nest and two birds inside out repeat out. Two other birds severely hurt outside. No more water repeat no more water. ush myself home like hell. Over and out."
Habbaniyah, 08:40 - The lines of the 3rd Iraqi Division are broken. The vanguard of the 1st Essex gives hand to the forward elements of the King's Own and the Levies. But the corridor is still only about two hundred and fifty yards wide. Clark and Kingstone modify their plans and dispatch the Household Cavalry in support of the Essex.
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 08:45 - Oberstleutnant Pfiffelsdörfer and Majors Bäumler and Von Fontaine-Pretz take stock.
In spite of the losses, they believe that it is still possible to use the He 111s in the afternoon and perhaps earlier, for the benefit of the Iraqi troops. They think they have enough Bf 110s to escort them while ensuring the coverage of the base. But the 789 will have to bring spare parts on its next rotation, to bring emergency spare parts and, in priority, air filters that have been tropicalized*********. In the meantime, four Bf 110s will take turns to ensure a permanent air watch.
Von Fontaine-Pretz does his accounting. He can still arm four of his Vierlinges. But his fire control team was in two of the downed Ju 52s. Each of his guns to operate autonomously, under the orders of its gunner, equipped only with its rangefinder. This will result in a lower efficiency for an increased consumption of ammunition (but this is not a problem: with eight unused Vierlinges, the four in service will each have three fire units, and even spare tubes if necessary).
Habbaniyah, 09:15 - "Jock" Kingstone's commitment of the Household Cavalry and the entire 1st Essex, as well as the valor of the besieged which forced the adversary to face on two fronts, makes it possible to widen the corridor. At the same time, the intervention of the two Yeomanry's corps is able to nip in the bud an attempted counter-attack by some Iraqi armored vehicles, more than half of which are burning with a pungent smell.
Zab Sa Saghir Front (east), 09:35 - The legionnaires of the CPLE rediscover, with daggers and grenade, the gestures of their elders of 14-18 to complete the cleaning of the first Iraqi front line. The 1st and 3rd Zouaves battalions are immediately engaged against the second line, behind the R-35s, which have been able to refuel and stock up on ammunition.
Mosul airfield, 10:00 - A good thirty planes take off. The Morane 410s, led by Stehlin himself, fly low over Kirkuk. The MS-406s, the Potez and T-6, in two equal formations led by Pétrinal and Schulberg, leave to support the units of the DML.
Zab Sa Saghir Front, 10:20 - Pétrinal and Schulberg's planes bomb and strafe the Iraqi positions, with success since the armoured vehicles could again move forward in concert with the infantrymen. But any low-level attack is risky - two T-6s are shot down and the pilots killed, while two damaged Potez manage to land in the GTA's lines, but will not be repaired. It turns out that the 2nd Iraqi Div, the last to come on line, is a large and coherent unit, rather slow, perhaps, but well capable of preparing staggered positions as well as maneuver under fire without being overwhelmed and to retreat with order. It bends without breaking or giving up its footing. This is a bad surprise for Larminat and his three GT commanders.
Baghdad, 10:30 - In view of the evolution of the situation in Habbaniyah, Rachid Ali al-Gaylani convenes his cabinet. He indicates that he had received Herr Grobba at his home the previous evening.
The Reich ambassador explained to him that the Germans would not be able to increase their aid before a few weeks - at best. The discussion turned stormy, Selim Bassidj reported later to O'Flanaghan. The majority of the ministers, crying treason on the part of Berlin, demanded the opening of negotiations with the British. Al-Gaylani himself and a minority, from the hardliners of the Golden Square, demanded the continuation of the struggle "until victory." In the end, a compromise was agreed upon that did not fall into the trap of realism. The army will hold on to the lines it occupies, on the one hand, but we will ask, on the other hand, M. Rudolf Wienerli, the Swiss consul general, to intercede with Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, by going to Habbaniyah if necessary, to try to reopen a communication channel.
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 10:35 - Stehlin is wary of the Vierlinges who had caused him losses in the early morning. He therefore organizes his Morane 410s into four patrols which appear literally, at less than forty meters of altitude, from the four cardinal points, with thirty to sixty seconds apart, to avoid unfortunate collisions. The tactic of the chief of the FAML surprises the teams of pieces of von Fontaine-Pretz, who, moreover had no real rest after their long journey in the discomfort of the Ju 52. The counterattack is confused and not very effective, while the MS-410s strafe with full clips. The two Bf 110 on patrol, surprised, do not see anything coming (it is true that the French did not see them either, perhaps because of a heat haze particularly dense at low altitude) and react too late. The French fighters destroy two He 111 whose ground crew began to remove their camouflage nets and seriously damage a Ju 52 and a Bf 110. Stehlin himself destroys with a 20 mm gun a hangar where German mechanics stored spare parts recovered from the destroyed aircraft. In return, only one 410 is seriously hit; its pilot, Warrant Officer Porieux, will be forced to jump by parachute with the Zouaves of the GTZ.
Habbaniyah, 11:30 - Despite the French raid, Oberstleutnant Pfiffelsdörfer insists on Kampfgruppe Bäumler to support the Iraqis. Escorted by four Bf 110s, four He 111s, well guided by Brandenburgers on the radio, bomb the elements of the King's Own and the 1st Essex which transformed into a boulevard the corridor linking "Kingcol" and the defenders of Habbaniyah. A He 111, flying too low, falls victim to the intense flak. The Bf 110s strafe the British airfield, destroying a Gladiator and an Oxford under the nose of the flak, which is overwhelmed by these unusually fast targets. A Bf 110, whose pilot made the mistake of letting a Gladiator lead him into a dogfight, is shot down. But the most significant result of the raid was a boost in morale for the men of the 1st and 3rd Iraqi Divisions who witnessed the bombing - and of the Kampfgruppe airmen, who finally start to fight back.
Zab Sa Saghir Front, 12:00 - The three battle groups of the DML are able to advance a dozen kilometers, and even fifteen for the GTZ. Larminat, never a prisoner of conformism, decides that this is enough for the day, that it is time to stop and, he adds for Newlarge, "to drink plenty and freshly". In truth, he has to wait for his units to be supplied with ammunition, starting with the artillery, and the R-35s of the Chasseurs d'Afrique as well as the self-propelled guns of the King's Dragoon Guards, which were suffering from sand and dust indigestion, had been overhauled and greased.
The men, moreover, were hungry and thirsty. Disciplined when he wanted to be - not every day - Larminat reports to Quinan.
.........
Bassorah, 06:00 - Arrival of convoy BP.3, convoying the first elements of the 25th Indian Brigade (Brigadier Mountain, 3/9th Jat Regiment, 2/11th Royal Sikh Regiment, 1/5th Mahratta Light Infantry). This unit is to take over the defense and maintenance of order in Basra, while the other two brigades of the 10th Division move up north.
Slim has a divisional pennant raised on his CP: his 10th Indian Division is officially formed (although the last elements were still embarking in Karachi). The division's insignia, a red and blue St. Andrew's Cross on a black square, will now be displayed on vehicles and on the left shoulder of uniforms.
Qurna, 06:30 - Resumption of Operation Regulta. The six paddle-wheel tugs of the convoy and the barges they were towing enter the Euphrates. The river is wider and more suitable for navigation than the Tigris. Lieutenant-Commander Iain Pettigrew DSM RNVR***********, former Suez Canal pilot, estimated that the 20th Indian Brigade could reach sight of Ar Nasiriyah that evening.
06:45 - Escorted by six Douglas 8A-4s, two Breda Ba.65s, each armed with two 200 kilos bombs, attack the concentration of boats carrying the 21st Brigade. The Gladiators of RAF Shaibah have not yet taken to the air and Iraqi planes can act with impunity, despite the Vickers and Bren aircraft in the air. The bombardment lacks precision. However, a projectile falls between the quay and the hull to smash the wooden plating of the PS Max Mallowan, a stem-wheeler. It had embarked two companies, some 250 officers and men. The ship, flooded, sinks in three minutes, but straight to the bottom. The Douglas 8A-4s take over from the Breda, strafing the decks of the ships. The Iraqi aircraft finally escape towards the north-west. One of the Douglas trails a plume of black smoke************.
08:15 - Rescuers count forty-two dead and seventy-eight injured, plus fifteen missing, probably drowned inside the wreck of the Max Mallowan. The other buildings suffered little damage. It would take more to deter "Bill" Slim. The survivors of the Max Mallowan are distributed among the other paddle-ships, while the boilers are building up pressure.
On the Tigris, 10:30 - Operation Regatta resumes. The convoy of the 21st Brigade, under the command of Commander Ian Urquhart DSC RNVR, aboard the Eastern Glory, sails.
11:15 - The elements that will progress by road start. The aircraft of RAF Shaibah take turns over the vanguard.
.........
Iraqi theater as a whole, 14:00 - Except on the rivers, ground operations cease de facto, due to the logistic wear and tear of the various parties and, above all, the heat. Finding shade becomes a question of life and death, literally. From now on, nothing will happen before the end of the afternoon, except for aerial reconnaissance and patrols sent out more by routine than by necessity.
.........
Amman, Jordan, 15:00 - The former regent Abd al-Ilah calls for an uprising of tribal and religious leaders to "help him overthrow the insurgent government". He appeals to
the Iraqi people, army and police, but does not mention the military operations.
.........
Operation Sabine HQ, Basra, 15:00 - Lieutenant General Quinan sends a clear message to Wavell, with a copy to Imperial HQ in London: "Siege of Habbaniyah over. Slim about to crush Iraqis in the south. Luftwaffe na-poohed. Have just paid my train ticket to Baghdad." This message, visibly designed, in tone as well as in content, to be transmitted directly to the press, does not say a word about the French advance, nor of the action of the Armée de l'Air. Quinan then gives, in code, a much more detailed and more accurate account of the situation.
.........
Habbaniyah, 16:15 - Mr. Rudolf Wienerli, as his name does not indicate, is not only French-speaking but, moreover, from Geneva - and, in the military, according to the major in the Rgt. Inf. 1************, a traditional unit of the city of Calvin. After having crossed the Iraqi lines, his Packard shows up at the entrance to the base. Braving the sun in a black jacket and striped pants, the Swiss diplomat asks to meet Sir Kinahan Cornwallis. The ambassador gives him the best welcome, but refuses to take the letter from Rachid Ali al-Gaylani that Wienerli brings him: "His Majesty's government," he explains, "does not recognize Mr. al-Gaylani's government. You will understand that accepting this missive would constitute a form of recognition that my instructions formally forbid me to do."
- I will inform Mr. Ali of the failure of my approach"
, answers Wienerli with the phlegm of those who have seen others.
.........
On the Tigris, 17:30 - The convoy of the 21st Brigade, delayed by various navigation incidentsin spite of the know-how of Commander Urquhart - groundings on sandbanks, clogging of the feeding strainers of the condensers... - reaches Qalat Saleh, where the troops can go ashore to bivouac. The slowness of the river convoy, which had however pushed the fires, obliges the elements which progress on the road and along the railroad line Qalat Saleh - Al Majjar el Kebir - Nahiyat el Salam - Lakash - Ash Shatrah - Al Bahiah.
The next day does not look any easier, since the reconnaissance of the planes based in Shaibah reveal that the bridge that crosses the river at Al Amarah is, at least in part, destroyed by an explosion. The Brandenburgers of Hauptmann Stellenbrünn did not waste any time.
Qalat Saleh, 18:00 - Urquhart decides to requisition the Chris-craft of the British director of a public works company to go on reconnaissance on the river. He will pilot the boat himself - a 35-foot "triple cockpit" with a 210 hp engine. He is accompanied only by Seaman Chief Petty Officer Iain Mac Culloch, a former sailor from a paddle-ship company, who knows the Tigris like Huck Finn knows the Mississippi, and Sergeant Patrick O'Brien, Royal Marines. All three are armed.
Poor visibility prevents Urquhart from using the full power of the launch. He fears the ever-changing sandbanks, on which he could damage his propeller or his rudder. When he reaches Al Amarah, he approaches the bridge cautiously, the central span of which has partly collapsed. It forbids any passage at the point where the river offers the maximum draught. Urquhart entrusts the helm to Mac Culloch and undertakes to probe with lead.
Suddenly, the craft comes under fire from an FM Bren and from guns. Urquhart is hit in the head and dies instantly. O'Brien, hit in the chest and shoulder, is not much better. Without losing his composure, Mac Culloch pushes the throttle hard, turns on the spot and flees at over 30 knots and zigzaggs his way out. He breks down in the shelter of the first meander, but it is already too late: O'Brien is also dead.
Back at Qalat Saleh, Mac Culloch reports the ambush to Urquhart's second in command, Lieutenant-Commander Martin RNVR, who will take command of the convoy. Martin struggles to notify Basra HQ by telephone.
RAF Shaibah, 18:00 - Exasperated by the Iraqi attack on Qurna, Sir Arthur Longmore decides to reinforce the RAF in Iraq. Six Blenheims from Sqn 203 land at Shaibah at the end of the day. At the same time, the 2/4th Gurkha Rifles are flown to Habbanyiah.
Luftplatz Kirkouk, 18:15 - Pfiffelsdörfer, Bäumler and their comrades meet to determine how they were going to inform Berlin of the disasters they had suffered during the day. They will have some trouble writing their report...
Rasheed Air Base, 19:30 - Hit by several shrapnel and concussion during the Wellington attack, Major Zapanski, leader of Trasta 789, succumbs to his wounds. His body is taken on board one of the three Ju 90s that had escaped the British bombs and are about to leave for Tirana.

* On June 1st, 1794, 400 nautical miles west of the Pointe du Raz, the British fleet commanded by Howe confronted the French squadron commanded by Villaret de Joyeuse. In France, this battle was called "Combat de Prairial" but became "The Glorious First of June" in Britain. Indeed, seven French ships were sent to the bottom (including the famous "Vengeur du Peuple") or captured - but this tactical success could not erase the strategic defeat: Thanks to the sacrifice of warships, Van Stabel's convoy, more than 120 ships loaded with American wheat, arrived safely in Brest, avoiding famine in France, which, for many historians, probably saved the Revolution.
** With the right engine in total failure (oil pressure at zero) after one and a half hours of flight, Feldwebel Heinrich Bernhard turned back to Constantza, without being able to inform Güstrow. But because the runway was not properly lit, he missed his landing. The plane tipped over into a drainage ditch, overturned and caught fire. There were no survivors.
*** The cartoon dates from 1938.
**** Trooper.
***** Border region between northwestern British India and Afghanistan, where the British Empire has been conducting anti-guerrilla operations for almost a hundred years.
****** The king as the "source of honours": the classic expression of British constitutionalists, beginning with Bagehot - for the United Kingdom has constitutionalists, although it does not have a constitution.
******* German punctuality
******** "Lili Marlene can go f...herself! I am so sick of it!" Perhaps it should be pointed out that the major heard too many times for his taste this very pretty song, broadcasted a good part of the night by the radio guidance transmitters.
********* Erika is a traditional marching song of the Imperial Army (and later the Wehrmacht). Due to Hanns Eisler and Berthold Brecht, the Einheitsfrontlied is one of the songs of the German Communist Party at the time of the "Red Front" of the "class against class" struggle.
********** If the Brandenburgers and the paratroopers were equipped with "colonial" uniforms, the Luftwaffe staff, which is not far from a dysfunction, neglected to tropicalize the planes.
*********** Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a corps of civilians that could be put at the service of the RN in time of war.
************ We know today that this attack was led by a Spanish pilot, Rodrigo Martinez, who had professional qualities and a solid experience acquired during the Spanish War, but who had resigned from the Ejercito del Aire in 1940 because of a dark story about the wife of the commander of his unit. Martinez had been "put at the disposal" of the RIAF by the Abwehr a few days earlier, but he already had experience with the Ba-65.
************* Traditional Swiss abbreviation in French, whose equivalent in German is Inf. Regt 1
 
2197
April 25th, 1941

Budapest
- Terrified by Berlin's near ultimatum the day before, Hungarian Prime Minister Pál Teleki sends a desperate message to the French and British governments, announcing that Berlin was demanding that Hungary allow German troops who are to attack Yugoslavia.
In London as in Algiers, the governments are divided on the response to be given to Teleki, whose personality and politics are very controversial. At first sight, the French have little sympathy for him: situated very much to the right of the political spectrum, he passed several anti-Jewish laws; moreover, on August 30th, 1940, he accepted he attachment to Hungary of part of Romanian Transylvania, decided by Germany, before committing his country to the Tripartite Pact signed on September 27th by Rome, Berlin and Tokyo. However, in 1939, he had not hesitated to refuse that German troops pass through Hungary during the invasion of Poland, before welcoming many Polish refugees and soldiers and to facilitate their transit to France (he kept friendly relations, albeit discreet, with the Polish government in exile).
The British, on the other hand, found the conservative (and frankly anti-communist) policy of the Hungarian government rather to their liking, but Churchill is categorical: if Hungary allowed Yugoslavia to be attacked from its soil, it would be at war with the Allies.
The French easily agree with this position and the two governments draft a joint reply along these lines.
 
2198
April 25th, 1941

Marseille
- "Neither flowers nor wreaths - Once again, the Judeo-Masonic plutocracy has found a brave and naive little people to be killed in their place. This time it will be the Serbs. Simovitch and his gang had no sooner made their move in Belgrade than their henchmen in Marseilles were up at dawn to put flowers on the plaque in rue de Rome, on the spot where their puppet Alexander had been tumbled down seven years ago... "*
By a curious oversight on the part of the German censors, this article from the Doriotist newspaper Emancipation is the only one of the Collaboration to report on the popular pro-Yugoslav demonstrations that broke out spontaneously in occupied France upon the announcement of the anti-German coup d'état in Belgrade. It is not signed, but one can recognize the hand of Simon Sabiani. Doriot's lieutenant from Marseilles must have trembled with rage when he wrote: "(...) They arrived by streetcar full of them, coming from the most dubious districts. When will Marseille wake up and get rid of this vermin?"

* King Alexander and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Barthou were shot in 1934 on the Canebière, opposite the Palais de la Bourse. A plaque on a lamppost bears witness to the place of the attack, while a memorial was built on rue de Rome, near the Prefecture where both had been taken.
 
2199
April 25th, 1941

Sicily and Rome
- With two less transport ships out of seven, CV Cocchia insists to Admiral Inigo Campioni, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Regia Marina, on whom he was directly dependent for this special operation, so that the reconquest of the Pelagie would be postponed to the next favorable period (that is, in practice, around May 25th), the time to recover the Giampaolo and to replace the poor Assab. Admiral Riccardi lets his assistant play the role of the messenger of bad omen to Mussolini. If he has to endure a tirade of the Duce against "these timorous sailors", Campioni nevertheless wins the day: the Pelagie will wait until May*.

* The episode may have played a role in Campioni's retirement on July 14th, without being offered any position or honorary post.
 
2200
April 26th, 1941

Luftplatz Kirkuk, 02:30
- Oberstleutnant Pfiffelsdörfer and majors Bäumler and Güstrow wait until the middle of the night to report to Berlin, one to the Tirpitzufer, the others to Jeschonneck. They do not, however, conceal the reality. Pfiffelsdörfer comes to recommend that Ostmond be terminated immediately and the personnel be ordered to disperse toTurkey in groups of two or three. Bäumler considers that he cannot carry out more than three raids, and even then, with the means he has left. Afterwards, he writes, the aircraft would have to be sabotaged - those, at least, that have not been shot down or destroyed on the ground in the days (or hours) to come - and Von Fontaine-Pretz's pieces. As for Güstrow, he only has only four Ju 52s available for flight. Unless he receives a counter-order, which he considers suicidal, he will attempt a return to Constantza during the night of 26th-27th, taking along some wounded.
07:45 - Three He 111s and three Bf 110s take off for a bombing and strafing mission on tanks and CPLE. They succeed in putting an R-35 out of action and in burning several trucks (eight dead, twenty-six wounded). But they are outgunned by the four Morane 406 of the protection patrol. One of the 110 is shot down by Lieutenant Voltz, another one is damaged. One of the He 111s, with damaged hydraulic circuits, mowes down its gear while landing in Kirkuk, the two others are riddled with bullets.
17:30 - Raid of two He 111 and two Bf 110 between Ar Ramadi and Fallujah, on the outposts of the 4th Cavalry Brigade. One of the 110 does not return to its base, for an unknown reason.
19:00 - Leutnant Schmittlein, mechanic officer, announces to Pfiffelsdörfer and Bäumler that he can only fly two He 111s and three Bf 110s the next day. The other aircraft can no longer be repaired with the resources he still has at his disposal.
.........
French" front - The resistance of the 2nd Iraqi Division becomes even stiffer, but it does not prevent the GTZ from pushing a point to the outskirts of Kirkuk.
Larminat plans for the next morning an attack with about thirty R-35s and a dozen of self-propelled guns of the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, in front of the GTB and the GTA progressing together. The declared objective is to seize Nuzi, so that the legionnaires and Zouaves of the GTZ would only have to pick Kirkuk, totally uncovered, like a ripe fruit. Stehlin's planes have to limit themselves to patrol activities, without engaging over Kirkuk. The FAML commander wants to keep the maximum potential to line up in support of the next day's attack.
.........
Rasheed Air Base, 00:30 - The three Ju 90s that survived the RAF attack take off for Tirana. These planes benefit from the last reserves of methanol, stored away. From now on, it will be necessary (but how?) to reconstitute the stock or give up flights from the large base near Baghdad.
08:45 - The Wellingtons from Shaibah carry out a new bombing raid, "just in order to finish the job" says Sir Arthur Longmore. The twin-engine planes attack in excellent conditions and without opposition. Two Ju 90s damaged the day before are definitively destroyed, as well as about eight Iraqi aircraft of various types. The Luftwaffe detachment has no more tools or spare parts: they are, for the most part, stored in the main hangar, of which nothing remains but a twisted carcass. The Iraqis are also suffering from a lack of spare parts, tools and mechanics, despite the help of the Italians. Most of their planes are now grounded.
10:15 - Radio message from Oberleutnant Kalwer, the most senior German officer present, to Pfiffelsdörfer: "Alles kaputt. Können nichts mehr machen. Brauchen sofort Befehle."* He concludes with a "Heil Hitler!" that probably contains as much despair as much despair as irony, since Kalwer, as the Gestapo knows, has little affinity with Nazism. This text is sent in clear text. The Enigma machine of the base has disappeared, too, in the bombings.
12:30 - Pfiffelsdörfer answers Kalwer's message. He gives him the order to blow up Rasheed Air Base and to lead his men to Kirkuk by road, leaving at nightfall.
.........
Habbaniyah, 14:00 - The siege of the base is completely lifted. But the 1st and 3rd Iraqi divisions, severely battered the day before, manage to recover around Fallujah thanks to the sacrifice of the motorized brigade, which holds "Kingcol" at bay. They control the bridge over the Euphrates and the two roads leading to Baghdad. Supported by artillery, the Iraqi units are even able to mount some counter-attacks to give themselves some breathing space. In agreement with Quinan, Clark and Kingstone decided to give their troops a day of rest and to postpone the decisive push until the next day. In the meantime, Strike Force aircraft harass Iraqi positions - "just to sweeten them up a bit" says Col. Roberts as he asks for their support in Savile. The Audax and Oxford take turns to "sweeten them up a bit" with light bombs and .303 machine guns.
Meanwhile, the British troops take inventory of the equipment abandoned by the Iraqis on the plateau overlooking Habbaniyah. They discover with surprise, and even a certain anger, an armament often more modern than theirs.
17:30- The remains of the Iraqi motorized brigade - a dozen machines at most, and barely the equivalent of three rifle companies on trucks - wait out the worst of the heat for a desperate attack, supported by a section of Stokes mortars, veterans of the Other War. But, after an advance of only five hundred meters, the 1st Essex and the Assyrian Levies, supported by the Household Cavalry, bring the Iraqis back to their starting lines, with heavy losses in men and material.
.........
Qalat Saleh (southern Iraq, on the Tigris River), 06:00 - The paddle-ship mechanics are at work for an hour and a half, watching the pressure build-up of the machines. The work of the stokers who load the coal into the fireplaces remains as painful as if they had to charge the Titanic's fires to grab the blue ribbon. Only the Max Mallowan, refitted in 1938, had been equipped with an oil heater.
07:00 - The river convoy of the 21st Brigade finally resumes its progression on the Tigris, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Martin. Two Gladiator patrols take turns in front of and above the boats.
15:15 - The convoy stops less than three kilometers from Al Amarah. The troops pretend to disembark. They start to set up tents, as if they are going to bivouac.
15:30 - Arrival of "Bill" Slim. The general himself inspects a company of the 2/10th Gurkha Rifles. On his order, these men leave on foot towards Al Amarah by hiding in the reeds of the river bank, under the command of Captain Lancelot Rhys-Davies, a Welshman built like a Hercules.
17:10 - Bursts of gunfire are heard coming from Al-Amarah.
17:20 - Radio message from Rhys-Davies: "Wreck of Al Amarah bridge secured repeat secured. Begin with clearing it away immediately. Over." Rhys-Davies does not specify that the bodies of six uniformed Brandenburgers, including Leutnant Hertzmut, lay around an MG-34 at the entrance to the bridge. Three of them have their throats slit by the kukri of the Gurkhas. The others were shot.
17:40 - Everyone has re-embarked. The convoy of paddle-ships takes again its road and comes to rest in front of the ruins of the bridge that the men of the engineering - for the majority miners in civilian life,used to the firecracking of coal veins - are busy blowing up the bridge with dynamite, element by element. They consider that a sufficient passage will be cleared the next morning.

* "Everything destroyed. We can't do anything. Asking for emergency orders."
 
Last edited:

Garrison

Donor
How exactly are the Luftwaffe coming up with all these aircraft and how are they staging them since I assume Syria and Lebanon are unavailable? OTL the German and Italian support for the Iraqi coup was pretty pathetic, largely because it was logistically impossible for them to provide significant aircraft or manpower. Not to mention that they tried to pretend that the aircraft they sent were actually serving with the Iraqi Air Force, though they fooled no one.
 
2201
April 26th, 1941

London, 02:30
- The daily newspapers come off the Fleet Street presses. From the Daily Mail's thundering "British Triumph In Iraq", in the front page, to the cautious "First Successes At Last In Middle-East" of the Times, on page two as always, the press of London, Manchester and Edinburgh insists on al-Gaylani's predicted defeat. If the "quality" newspapers have complied with a "recommendation" from the Foreign Office to highlight the French participation in the Iraqi campaign, the big newspapers do not mention it.
07:00 - In its medium-wave news bulletins in English, French, Dutch and Norwegian - and in German, of course - the BBC ironically reports on the debacle of Germany's Iraqi allies. These mocking comments are repeated on shortwave, to Eastern Europe, and then in the world service. The German eavesdroppers do not fail to pick them up.
.........
Ankara, 09:00 - On express order of Churchill, relayed by a telegram of Anthony Eden, the ambassador of the United Kingdom, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen KCMG* asks to be received urgently by President Ismet Inönü.
10:30 - Inönü puts on his general's uniform. Sir Hughe wears the jacket. The TurkishForeign Minister Saracoğlu, who is present at the meeting, looks embarrassed in his dark suit.
- I regret" he says, "to have to present to Your Excellency the strong protests of the government of His British Majesty. My country is, alas, entitled to consider that Turkey has not respected the obligations of her neutrality by tolerating the planes of a belligerent power to fly over its territory on numerous occasions. It is regrettable, I must emphasize, that Her Majesty's Government should be compelled to give a different course to its relations with the Turkish Republic, followed in this by the governments of its allies and in particular by the French Republic."
Sir Hughe in no way represents France, but nothing prevents him from giving himself the appearance of doing so! He concludes: "It does not seem to me that the treaty that Turkey signed less than two years ago with the United Kingdom and France is no longer valid. I dare to hope that Turkey will be able to honor its signature."
- Mr. Ambassador, Turkey must reject, with the utmost firmness, the incriminations of your
Inönü retorted: "Mr. Ambassador, Turkey must reject, with the utmost firmness, the incriminations of your government. If, wherever they come from, had foreign aircraft attempted to enter my country's airspace without authorization, please believe that they would have been shot down without exception. But I take note of this protest, to which our Minister of Foreign Affairs will, of course, will soon respond in kind.
This rite dispatched, the three men move on to serious matters: voluntary or not, Turkish complacency has a price and the time has come to settle accounts - which both the president and the ambassador know.
Sir Hughe begins by indicating that the delivery of the four P-611 class submarines ordered from Vickers-Armstrong in 1939** is - "to our great regret" - postponed indefinitely. The French Navy, which, like the Royal Navy, spares no effort in the face of the Kriegsmarine and the Regia Marina, has the greatest need for them. Their transfer to the Turkish Navy will have to wait, at best, until the Allied supremacy in the Mediterranean is definitively established.
The British diplomat throws a stone into the garden of his interlocutors, by underlining how much the balancing act practiced by Ankara, despite the tripartite cooperation agreements signed in 1939, annoys London and Algiers.
To soften his words, Sir Hughe suggests that the Abu Sueir base in Egypt however, could refurbish the Turkish Spitfire I, which is grounded for lack of spare parts, and that he will pass on Ankara's request to restart the contract for the purchase and construction under license of this fighter***. Although there are only three Turkish Spitfires, it is to be feared that some be mad at the RAF, whose units in the Mediterranean have still not seen the shadow of one of these fighters!
Saracoğlu then turns to Turkish chrome deliveries, reserved until 1943 for the British war industry****. Britain has so far not expressed any desire to extend this contract. Saracoğlu reveals that Germany wished to purchase Turkish chrome from 1943 onwards, in exchange for steel and armaments. However, he claims that Turkey is ready to renew the exclusive contract with London, as long as the supply of the Spitfires is indeed relaunched.
Sir Hughe suggests that the Allies, if their relations with Turkey developed positively, would consider authorizing the transport to Istanbul and Antalya, under the navicerts, of additional contingents of coffee from Uganda, Kenya and Latin America (we know how important coffee is to the Turks), and even wheat from Argentina.
- Mr. Ambassador," concludes Inönü, "I ask you to convey to His Majesty George VI the assurance of my personal feelings of friendship.
- I am sure that my sovereign will be sensitive to this and will not fail to charge me to assure you that he, too, has nothing but friendship for Your Excellency
," replies Sir Hughe.
12:00 - The British inform their French allies through "normal" diplomatic channels... This means that Algiers will only learn of the request for an interview between Sir Hughe and Ismet Inönü at the end of the day, at best. But around ten o'clock in the morning, a secretary of the Turkish presidency mentioned it - by the greatest of chance! - to a French diplomat. The French ambassador, René Massigli, immediately reacts and formulates a similar request. President Ismet Inönü, holding back a smile, found him a slot just before lunch.
Massigli (who doesnot consider it necessary to wear the jacket and is content with a suit) begins by evoking the ancient Franco-Turkish friendship, going right back to François I and the Capitulations signed with Soliman the Magnificent. He recalls the treaty of autumn 1939, but without pressing too much - Turkey, in front of the German successes in France, had already refused to break diplomatic relations with Italy in June 1940, and it is obvious for everyone that this treaty will oblige it only if it finds its interest there. The ambassador insists more on the generous cession of the sandjak of Alexandrette...
It is thus on the tone of betrayed friendship, which is more appropriate to the current situation of France, that he finally uses the same language as his British colleague: "It appears, alas, that Turkey has allowed aircraft of a power that is an enemy of France to fly over its territory. It would be distressing if the government of the French Republic were forced to modify its relations with the Turkish Republic, in which the governments of its allies and in particular of the United Kingdom would not fail to follow suit."
President Inönü repeats word for word the answer he had made to Sir Hughe, and then (as the time for lunch approaches) he moves on to more serious matters. Saracoğlu mentions "very recent" British promises concerning supplies to Turkey. "It goes without saying," retorts Massigli, "that if Franco-Turkish relations are restored to their traditional quality, France will have its share in this supply." He mentions cocoa from Black Africa, wood from Madagascar and wine from North Africa (Turkish Islam is tolerant on this point, and the new Turkey wants to be secular) - on the other hand, he does not speak of rice from Indochina, because France can hardly do without this resource since the loss of the agricultural productions of Metropole.
Massigli can then withdraw, after Inönü had asked him to convey to President Lebrun the assurance of his personal feelings of friendship and that he assured him of the reciprocity of these feelings.
.........
London, 15:00 - Winston Churchill goes to the House of Commons to announce himself that the Iraqi crisis is being resolved "with the help of His Majesty's armed forces and our loyal French friends."
King George VI is "delighted"*****,he adds, and asks him to tell the honourable members. The success is not disputable and celebrating it allows one to forget, for a while at least, the setbacks of His Majesty's forces in Albania against Rommel's units.
.........
Ankara, 17:00 - A report from the Turkish agency Anadolu (Anatolia) says that General Yasar Benakoglou, head of the Air Defense, has been appointed military attaché in Santiago de Chile and replaced by his deputy, Colonel Sar Izmiriyet, promoted to brigadier general.
17:30 - Summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Franz von Papen is received only by the director of the Central European Department. Without shaking the hand of his interlocutor, the senior official gives him a "note verbale"****** very astride. This text, written in French, a language that the Turks have conveniently remembered as the language of diplomacy par excellence, accuses the Luftwaffe of violations of the Turkish airspace and specifies, without the usual circumlocutions: "If these facts were to be repeated, Turkey would have no choice but to reconsider, not only the level, but even the very existence of its state-to-state relations with the German Reich and its allies such as the Kingdom of Romania."
The Turkish official goes on to say that any further discussions about the non-aggression pact proposed by Germany in early March are obviously pointless at this stage.
.........
Reichsluftfahrtministerium, Berlin, 10:30 - To say that the Reichsmarschall does not appreciate the news from Iraq, detailed by Hans Jeschonneck and Theo Osterkamp, while Ernst Udet says nothing, is an understatement. Looking for scapegoats, as usual, Göring this time he chooses to attack the executors, whom he reproaches himself for having treated them like his own children for too long: spoiled children. "Ich bin über die Kerle sehr enttäuscht"******* he whines. And as his entourage remains silent, he adds: "Und Maul zu, besonders für den Führer!"! ********
17:15 - Yielding to Jeschonneck's urging, Göring finally confirms the order for the return of the Ju 52s from Güstrow to Constantza. Bäumler and Von Fontaine-Pretz have to "fight until their last breath for the Führer and the Reich" before destroying their equipment and joining the survivors of the Fallschirmjägers to try to reach Turkey.
20:45 - Major von Ischgl, Udet's orderly, worries that his chief would not leave the ministry to go to dinner, enters his office. Udet is slumped, his head on his work table next to a bottle of cognac. His hand clutches his pistol, a Walther P38 whose safety has been lifted. It is obvious that the General was planning to kill himself for reasons that von Ischgl cannot understand at this point, but drunkenness has taken him before he could pull the trigger. Without losing his composure, the major telephones Osterkamp at his personal residence in Prenzlauerberg. "Onkel Theo", who knows his world, forbids him to tell anyone and orders him not to move until he arrives.
21:25 - Osterkamp and Von Ischgl take Udet home in his car, driven by his personal driver. They will watch over him all evening.
.........
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 22:30 - Arrival of an Enigma message from SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. He orders Pfiffelsdörfer to seize the "Stele of Zarathustra"********* deposited in the museum of Baghdad and to send it to Berlin. This work - cuneiform characters traced on a glazed terracotta plaque - is considered by some Nazis to be one of the sacred texts of the Aryan people. Himmler confided to Reinhard Heydrich that he intended to expose this stele to the veneration of future SS cadres in the hall of honor of the Junkerschule in Bad Tölz. Heydrich, who thought no less of it, refrained from smiling at his leader's whim.

* The same one who will be involved in the bizarre "Cicero affair".
** This class, designated Oruç Reis by the Turkish Navy, is derived from the British S-class. Slightly smaller, these submarines, which were to be put into service at the end of 1941 - beginning of 1942, have only four torpedo tubes instead of six.
*** Turkey had purchased 15 Spitfire Mk.I in early 1940, as well as the right to produce this aircraft under license. The first two aircraft were delivered in May 1940, with the Foreign Office blocking further deliveries after the start of the German offensive. The first two joined an aircraft initially intended for Poland and whose delivery, with other military equipment, had been blocked by Romania on September 22nd, 1939, while the cargo ship carrying them was in Gibraltar. The ex-Polish plane was finally delivered to Turkey. Due to a lack of parts, the three planes were immobilized since December 1940 on a Turkish air base near Istanbul.
**** When this agreement was signed, it was both a question of depriving Germany of this important source of supply and to soften Turkey: until the summer of 1940, the Allies hoped to see Ankara join them.
***** "Delighted". The vocabulary in use at Buckingham Palace deliberately lacks diversity. By definition, the sovereign is delighted by the success of his or her armies, as well as by a royal engagement or by the victory of one of his horses at Epsom.
****** As its name suggests, the note verbale is a written document used for communications between ministries and embassies.
******* "I am very disappointed in my boys."
******** "And shut your mouths, especially for the Führer!"
********* In his famous Of Gods, Tombs, and Scholars (1949), C.W. Ceram told how the "Stele of Zarathustra" was discovered in 1927, near the site of Nineveh, by a team of German and Norwegian archaeologists led by Prof. Benno Hirschler (University of Halle), then deciphered by Fräulein Dr. Gunhild Brock (Humboldt University, Berlin). But he refrained from mentioning its role in Nazi mythology.
 
2202
April 26th, 1941

Tehran
- Sir Reader Bullard KCMG is considered the rare bird of British diplomacy, a body devoted by nature to political and social conservatism and the veneration of propriety. Not content with speaking thirteen languages - whereas an envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary of His Majesty should speak only French and, at most, German (only the originalists use Spanish and the crypto-Marxists Russian) - Sir Reader is the son of a docker and a seamstress. He has not denied his birth, which has been forgotten over the years because of his brilliant talent, but he has fitted into the Foreign Office mould with an ease that once surprised many. The three-piece double-breasted suit he dons to Reza Shah's audience comes from Henry Poole of Savile Row, tailor to King George VI. His shoes are custom-made by John Lobb, who fits the feet of all the aristocracy of the Kingdom. His hat, an almost black trilby* - not quite the arbiters of elegance would say - was made by Christy's, in Witney, Oxfordshire, and sold as it should be by James Lock, who has been in St James Street since 1693.
Incidentally, Sir Reader knows how to return to the harshness of his original environment if necessary. No doubt this quality was taken into account by Anthony Eden when he appointed a new minister in Tehran. To deal with Reza Chah, who never ceases to be the Cossack officer that he once was and that his comrades had nicknamed "the Maxim shooter", one has to be able to speak loudly and clearly, while keeping one's cool if the monarch has one of his famous temper tantrums - eruptions in which vodka and dross**, some insiders confirm, have their share.
The sovereign remains above all the cunning usurper who overthrew the Qadjar dynasty without blinking. He practices a permanent game of seesaw between the Axis and the Allies and has a way of never promising to some what he could not grant to the others - by first demanding from each side advantages that only seem exorbitant at first glance, given Iran's strategic situation and the weight of its oil in the continuation of the conflict. Not as uneducated as he likes to say (and as he likes to pretend), Reza Chah often quotes an axiom of Napoleon: "The politics of a state is all in its geography." Less literary, he sneers shamelessly, "They think they have the broom, but it is I who hold the handle."
17:00 - The great chamberlain introduces Sir Reader into Reza Shah's cabinet.
17:10 - The great chamberlain, with his ear glued to the door, perceives bursts of voices.
17:15 - The great chamberlain accompanies the minister of His Majesty to his car, whose face is no more moved than when he arrived. Experienced man, the great chamberlain notes however a slight pallor and a minimal tightening of the upper lip.
17:50 - Telegram in extreme urgency from Sir Reader Bullard to the Foreign Office: "B-56-41-4-26-1 37. Re your A-56-41-4-24-2-1. Have expressed His Iranian Majesty deep concerns of HM Gvt on Iran attitude toward Axis. Have also made it clear, if not in so many words, that Britain and Allies may wish/request a change of incumbency on the Throne of Peacocks in the future. His Iranian Majesty's behaviour has been as foreseen in my B-56-41-4-24-4-1. Letter will follow tonight by weekly valise diplomatique****. Obediently yours. Bullard."
Sir Reader, well informed, knows very quickly that Reza Shah had been pleased, without hiding it, with Britain's setbacks in Iraq. He does not dislike taking revenge. His cabinet letter will leave by the 10:10 pm express to Ankara. From the border station of Kapisi (Kapiköy Sinir for the Turks), his letter, like the whole of the diplomatic bag, will be escorted by an attaché sent from Ankara to Van, where it will be transferred to the airfield. It will be loaded on the DC-2 of a so-called private company from Cairo, the Franco-Egyptian Cabotage Aérien*****, which will take it to Palestine. In Lydda, a Lysander will transfer her to Egypt, where she will join the C-class seaplane of Imperial Airlines which, in the discomfort that the war required, continued to connect Bombay to the metropolis, once a week, via Karachi, Basra, Aqaba, Alexandria, Tripoli and Gibraltar.****** Anthony Eden and Sir Alexander Cadogan will be able to read it in forty-eight hours.

* The trilby is what was called in French a soft hat. To emphasize the informal nature of the interview, Sir Reader used this headgear instead of the rolled-brimmed derby that etiquette would normally require,
** This word, which means slag or waste, is used in the Middle East to designate a drink obtained by maceration of the residues of opium pellets from smokehouses in rose water. The dross, quite common in Iran and Lebanon, is a psychotropic drug of moderate danger. It is prohibited in Turkey but smuggled in.
*** The Foreign Office used a simple system for numbering messages. A indicated a text coming from London, B a text issued by a diplomatic post, C by a consular post. 56 designated the British legation in Tehran and 57 the Consulate General in that city. 41-4-24 was the date of the day (April 24th, 1941), followed by the date of the message: 4, i.e. the fourth message sent by the Tehran legation to the FO on that day. The final number was the degree of urgency, from 0 (absolute urgency) to 5 (no urgency at all).
**** In French in the text.
***** As its name does not indicate, this company under Haitian law (sic) was created in 1937 by financiers from the City. It operates two DC-2s piloted by adventurers of various nationalities, who are dedicated to cabotage (passengers and freight) throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. In reality, it is a false cover of MI-6 who first used it to deliver arms from Aden to Ethiopians fighting against the Italian occupation.
****** The outbound flight passed through Gibraltar, Bathurst, Freetown, Accra, Lagos, Lake Chad, Khartoum, Port Sudan, Aden and Bassorah.
 
2203
April 26th, 1941

Berlin
- Admiral Lütjens, who is to command the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen group during Operation Rheinübung, meets with Grand Admiral Raeder to assess the situation, after the damage suffered by the Prinz Eugen and the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Lütjens suggests to postpone the operation until the two battlecruisers, and possibly the Tirpitz, are available. Raeder refuses, because he feels it is imperative to restart the Battle of the Atlantic as quickly as possible. Indeed, the Kriegsmarine does not have enough
submarines to attack both the convoys going to Great Britain and those going to Morocco. Moreover, the situation in the Mediterranean also requires a diversion to avoid the concentration of all Allied naval forces there. And then (but Raeder does not say it, if Lütjens can guess it), the prestige of the Kriegsmarine requires a brilliant action, which the battlecruisers could not accomplish during operation Berlin.
The Grand Admiral only agrees to delay the operation until the Prinz Eugen is operational. On the other hand, it appears that, if the Scharnhorst will soon be available, this will not be the case for the Gneisenau, and it is impossible to launch one of the two "twins" alone in the Atlantic.
 
2204
April 26th, 1941

Canary Islands
- Since April 1st, four oil tankers blocked in the ports of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas have set sail to try to reach a French port. The first one to sail from Santa Cruz is the Burano (4,534 GRT, 9.5 knots): it was already able to reach Saint-Nazaire on April 21st. Also departed from Santa Cruz, respectively on April 19th and 23rd, the Sangro (6,466 GRT, 10 knots) and Recco (6,214 GRT, 10 knots, carrying 8,500 tons of oil).
The Gianna M. (5,703 GRT, 9 knots) leaves Las Palmas today.
 
2205
April 26th, 1941

Cambodia
- Resumption of Thai attacks on Siem Reap with strong air support. The French troops, outnumbered, have to give up the ground they had gained during their counter-offensive. Saigon is bombed twice by Ki-21s piloted by Japanese crews.
 
2206
April 26th, 1941

Belgrade
- General Simovic is obviously counting on the help of the Allies, but he does not hesitate to secretly ask for support from the USSR: isn't the holy Russia, even repainted in red, the natural protector of the Slavic nations? Moreover, he urges the Croatian leaders to join his government and promises "total national solidarity".
 
2206
April 27th, 1941

North: the French offensive - From Dessie to Debra Tabor
- A truce is requested by the Italian command to start negotiations on the possible terms of surrender. General De la Ménardière offers them more or less the same conditions as those proposed at Amba Alagi and gives the Italians 24 hours to think it over.
.........
North: the Australian (and Belgian, and Ethiopian) offensive - From Amba Alagi to Gondar - Demoralized by the failure of its counter-attack of April 25th, no longer hoping for the arrival of a reinforcemnt column from Gondar and despite orders to the contrary, the commander of the Wolchefit pass surrenders. After a day's work by the engineer troops, the entire 18th Australian Brigade arrives on the plateau and reinforces the small garrison of Debarech.
At the same time, but too late, an Italian counter-attack from Gondar dislodges the survivors of the Belgian company and the partisans of Bimbashi Sheppard who were holding Amba Giorgys.
 
2207
April 27th, 1941

Luftplatz Kirkuk, 01:15
- Led by Major Güstrow, the four Ju 52s that survived the French attacks take off for Constantza in the light of the headlights of the vehicles and a few storm lamps. Each aircraft takes a medic and some wounded.
02:40 - Arrival of an Enigma message whose header indicates the origin as the Führer's headquarters. Pfiffelsdörfer, awakened by the officer on duty, decides to wait until morning to decipher it. "The day will be long and I need to sleep," he explains without trying to convince.
06:15 - The base is overflown by a FAML reconnaissance Potez, which takes its pictures at 2,000 meters above sea level, too high to risk being hit by the 20 mm shells.
Von Fontaine-Pretz orders not to open fire in order not to reveal the new locations of his guns, which had been moved the previous evening and carefully camouflaged.
.........
Fallujah (central front), 07:00 - The 4th Cavalry Brigade attacks the positions of the 1st and 3rd Iraqi Divisions which prohibit the crossing of the Euphrates, where the metal bridge of Fallujah is vital for the progression towards Baghdad. Unable to maneuver because of the floods voluntarily provoked by the Iraqis, it falls into a minefield that disembowels several of its vehicles, but the men of the Yeomanry make progress despite being shot at by unpleasantly adjusted Boys rifles. Major General Clark has the 1st Essex and the Assyrian Levies squeeze in to make sure the ground is cleared. He keeps the King's Own in reserve.
.........
"French" Front (North), 07:15 - The 105 mm group begins a barrage mainly intended to make noise. The R-35s of the Chasseurs d'Afrique and the self-propelled guns of the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, supported by the self-propelled guns, started in front of the CPLE and the mobile rifle company, attack after a preparation of only ten minutes. On the right of the device, the Algerians of the GTA will start a quarter of an hour later, at the same time as the Buffs of the GTB, on the left.
Luftplatz Kirkouk, 07:30 - Finally, the German mechanics have more or less repaired a He 111. So three bombers take off, with the last three operational Bf 110s, to attack the allied advanced elements on the "French" front. Major Bäumler takes command of one of the Messerschmitt.
"French" front, 07:55 - Even before reaching their objective, the Heinkel and Messerschmitt, flying at 1,800 meters, are overtaken by the four Morane 406 of the high protection patrol, which are soon joined by the four 410s of the low protection patrol. The German pilots fight in desperation, but four are shot down, while the last two land in Kirkuk. The FAML records the loss of the 406 of Lorrain, who parachuted from his burning plane after having shot down Major Bäumler's 110 but is seriously injured; moreover, Staff Sergeant Voilquin's 410 lands on its belly in Mosul. Unrepairable on the spot, it will be dismantled for parts.
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 08:00 - Composed of cars, vans and trucks of various models - all requisitioned with great difficulty the previous evening, with weapons in hand - the convoy that brings the Rasheed Air Base personnel enters the perimeter. There are only about forty men (the others are scattered on the Fallujah side or on the southern front). Kalwer reports to Pfiffelsdörfer that the journey started in the middle of the night, at 10:30 pm, lights out for fear of being attacked by a marauding RAF or FAML plane, "Mensch Maier, das war Sport!"* he exclaims.
A little relieved by this arrival, Pfiffelsdörfer deciphers the text of the Führerhauptquartier that had arrived during the night and congratulates himself for not having done so earlier. The message forbids all flying over Turkish territory, which would have prohibited the Ju 52s from reaching the European continent. The Oberstleutnant does not reveal its content to anyone, but he calmly tears it up in front of everyone, declaring to anyone who would listen that it was not intended for them: "Ein Richtungsfehler" (a misdirection), he says to the crowd. Coldly, he adds, apparently jumping from one subject to another: "Natürlich hoffe ich, daß der Güstrow und seine Leute sicher und sehr ruhig nach Constantza geflogen sind, und nun ein richtiges Frühstück fressen können."** Von Fontaine-Pretz understands and, as a good-natured Nazi, he nodds his head, whatever he might think about it otherwise.
.........
Fallujah, 08:15 - The 3rd Iraqi Division's position is broken by the 4th Cavalry Brigade and the Assyrian Levies. The fighting spirit of these local troops in an offensive situation is a pleasant surprise. Clark then moves the King's Own forward, which ar able to penetrate the suburbs. Bad surprise on the other hand, the infantrymen are soon to discover that Iraqi elements, reinforced by some Germans, have entrenched themselves in the city itself, behind the river, and are preparing to fight for it street by street and house by house.
Elements of the 2/4th Gurkha Rifles, a company of the Assyrian Levies and a company of the King's Own are transported with the help of the sturdy Vickers Valentia to the north and east of the city to open up another axis of attack and to prevent reinforcements from being sent from Baghdad.
The Strike Force takes charge of eliminating the surviving Iraqi motorized brigade vehicles, including two slow Autoblindas that try to come to the aid of their comrades. Two Italian CR.42 from Baghdad try in vain to disrupt the British attack, one of them is shot down by the flak.
.........
"French" front, 08:25 - The legionnaires of the CPLE jump from their trucks and progress at their own pace, as if they were marching in Sidi Bel Abbès for Camerone.
Many of them, out of defiance or carelessness, refuse to wear helmets and set off in white kepi.
Anxious to do as well as they did, the Zouaves put the bayonet to the gun and advance from thorny bushes to etic shrubs, singing at the top of their voices a tune that was fashionable during the Other War, to which Captain Félix Boyer, a Pied-Noir***, has just adapted the words of a 1915 march: "It's us Africans / Who have come back from afar...". The troops are instructed to seize the first Iraqi line, then to stop until the GTAs and GTBs have reached their objectives.
09:00 - Armor from the Chasseurs d'Afrique and the King's Dragoon Guards break through positions in front of Nuzi. However, several tanks and self-propelled guns are blown up by mines and others are hit by Iraqi artillery firing at direct sight.
One of the 75 self-propelled guns, hit by a 17-pounder in an ammunition locker, explodes. Larminat decides to entrust the Levant Battalion with the capture of Nuzi itself. The GTB would go around the city from the north and the GTA from the south. They will then go up with the Guards' self-propelled gunships to the northeast to take the defenders of Kirkuk from the rear, with the GTZ, and attack the air base located twelve kilometers southeast of the city. The R-35s have a real break of an hour and a half to remove the sand and grease the undercarriages and replenish the oil levels, before heading for Kirkuk.
.........
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 09:05 - Pfiffelsdörfer, informed of the results of Bäumler's last fight, sends to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium a lapidary Enigma message: "Dringend - stop - Kampfgruppe Bäumler hat kein Flugzeug mehr - Nur einige Leute uberlebend - Major Bäumler für Deutschland gefallen - Stop - Ende". (Urgent - Stop - Bäumler marching group no more planes - Only a few survivors - Major Bäumler fell for Germany - Stop - End). Probably deliberately, Pfiffelsdörfer does not write that the Major had died "for the Reich and for the Führer" and did not end with the obligatory Heil Hitler! Nor does he ask for directions. His subordinates are concerned about the anger reflected in his features.
.........
Fallujah, 09:10 - Major General Clark orders his infantry to withdraw from the city, which he had the Strike Force attack, without however ordering an indiscriminate bombardment, because many civilians remain in Fallujah. He will only release his armoured and motorized infantry when Iraqi resistance has virtually ceased. "Dead or alive, I don't care, he says. I want them as flattened like carpets!" Following orders to spare as much as possible the civilian population that will have to be administered once the the Iraqi affair is over, Clark nevertheless precedes the bombardment by dropping leaflets inciting the garrison to lay down their arms.
.........
"French" front, 09:15 - A violent counter-attack of the 2nd Iraqi Division tries to push back the legionnaires and Zouaves of the GTZ who had seized the first line of its positions in front of Kirkuk and continue to advance, having blithely eaten the order to stop. The commander of Kuhlbach*****, leader of the 1st CPLE group, lets the storm pass by while returning fire with machine guns and rifle grenades, then he asks for an artillery barrage and decides to resume the forward movement. The legionnaires and the Zouaves break through the Iraqi second line in the process. They are now less than two kilometers from Kirkuk, within range of their mortars or almost.
.........
Luftplatz Constantza, 09:40 - Major Güstrow's four Ju 52s are able to land safely. The wounded are transferred to a medical train bound for Vienna. While his crews are resting, Güstrow is taken in hand by the Oberst Jackenturm, sent by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, who orders him to maintain absolute silence about what he has done and seen in Iraq. He also indicates that he would be received the following day by Dr Goebbels, at the Ministry of Propaganda, to finalize the version of events to which the Germans will be entitled to. "We must counter the lies of the so-called English information," says Jackenturm. "Es ist das Reichsmarschallbefehl." Such an order from the Reichsmarschall? A supporter of the regime without excess and not entirely unaware of its internal quarrels, Güstrow is surprised at the reconciliation of two high officials whose disagreements fueled the rebellious chronicle of Berlin since the seizure of power.
.........
Southern Front, 09:45 - Ambush on the Tigris. The convoy of paddle-ships, slowed down by a bend in the river, is fired upon with rifle, machine gun and mortar fire by elements of Brandenburgers and Fallschirmjägers commanded by Leutnant von Stroltz. Hit several times below the waterline, the engine room devastated, the PS Eastern Glory is sent to the bottom in a few minutes. It was carrying personnel and equipment for a field hospital. Twenty-six people are killed and ten missing, and the wreck, while not prohibiting it, is hampering traffic on the river.
At the same time, the Iraqis and Germans undermine the northern roads and the railroad. Forced to hide behind the mine-clearers, the British columns slow down, leaving the officers of the 4th Iraqi Division the possibility to withdraw their troops in good order.
.........
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 10:00 - While all available FAML aircraft - about twenty - attack the Iraqi lines in front of Larminat's GTs, eight RAF Wellingtons attack Kirkuk airfield. In an aberration that led to a severe phone call from Smart to the formation leader, squadron-leader Lytton DFC, the aircraft bombs at low altitude (less than 800 m), while the British know that there is a light flak worthy of the name and that the target is not of the same importance as Rasheed Air Base. A Wellington is shot down by von Fontaine-Pretz's guns and two others, severely damaged, have to land in Mosul, they are beyond repair. The result: three aircraft lost, six dead and ten wounded. The Kirkuk runway is temporarily out of service and the last aircraft are definitively put out of action, but this does not really bother the Germans. Sir Arthur Longmore, in his final report on the Sabine operation, would later speak, without going into details, of a "tactical, strategic and political error" that he duly sanctioned.
10:15 - After the bombing, Pfiffelsdörfer, disgusted, decides to answer the message sent the day before by Himmler. He regrets, he writes, to inform the Reichsführer SS that his message had only reached Iraq after the last German elements had been evacuated from Baghdad and the surrounding area. But he proposes to him, apparently without any irony, to participate, upon his return to Germany, in the instruction and training of an SS commando destined to attack the museum in the Iraqi capital "um den Schatz abzunehmen" (in order to seize this treasure).
.........
Fallujah, 10:20 - A clear message from Quinan to Major General Clark orders him to divide his forces as soon as the city is taken and to send troops north to attack 2nd Iraqi Division in the rear, "to relieve the Larminat Division and hasten the defeat of the enemy" - which can only fool the naive.
"French" Front, 10:30 - Larminat goes into a rage when he reads Quinan's message to Clark; his collaborators hear him grumbling something about Joan of Arc and Napoleon. As a result, he decides to decouple the R-35s and the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, accompanied by the 2nd group of CPLE (commander de Serrien-Jussé******), on the road that leads to the Kirkuk air base, bypassing the town. Mission: to seize the airfield as quickly as possible and take prisoners.
The infantry and artillery of the three BGs, which Stehlin's planes will continue to support in a noria, will have to be sufficient to take the city itself.
.........
Luftplatz Kirkouk, 10:45 - Oberstleutnant Pfiffelsdörfer, his anger a little calmed, takes stock of the forces he still has at his disposal: about half of his Brandenburgers, a company of Fallschirmjägers, the light infantry withdrawn from Rasheed Air Base and what remains of the Flak-Abteilung of Von Fontaine-Pretz. He decides, according to the principle in honor in the Wehrmacht, to form a Kampfgruppe that would defend the perimeter of the airfield until 22:30. However, some of the personnel immediately set out to seize as many trucks, vans and cars as possible. We will fill up their tanks and their emergency cans - too bad! - with aviation gasoline. Starting at midnight, in groups of four to fifteen men, all motorized, we will evacuate the base and take the road to Turkey or Iran after having destroyed all the equipment and nailed down the guns.
Having made his decision, Pfiffelsddorfer sends a clear message to the Tirpitzufer: "Sehr bald besuchen wir Tante Irmtraud und Tante Theresa. Hochachtungsvoll." (Let's visit Aunt Irmtraud and Aunt Theresa. Best regards). At the staff of Admiral Canaris, we will understand.
.........
Baghdad, 11:00 - Herr Grobba goes to the Prime Minister's residence. With an aplomb of bronze, he informs Rachid Ali al-Gaylani that the aid promised by Berlin should reach Iraq within three weeks. But in the meantime, he adds, wouldn't it be wise to consider staying in one of the neighboring countries or, better still, in Germany, where one could travel via Turkey or Iran? Herr Grobba guarantees that the Reich will give a friend such as him a welcome worthy of his rank.
.........
Kirkuk, 13:45 - After brief skirmishes, the three DML BGs have taken control of the city. The 2nd Iraqi Division, in spite of the harassment of the French air force, withdraws in good order. The Potez reconnaissance aircraft report that the enemy have set up a strong perimeter around the airfield, still occupied by the Germans.
.........
Swiss government headquarters (Bern), 14:30 - The Political Department sends a message in code to Rudolf Wienerli, in Baghdad: "To answer your telegram of 20/04/41. If Mr. al-Gaylani asked you to do so, you would grant him safe conduct under an assumed identity and would then see to the security of his passage to Turkey or Iran yourself.(Signed) Marcel Pilet-Golaz.****** "
Baghdad, 15:00 - The young King Faisal II and his entourage leave Baghdad for Arbil. This is the work of Rachid Ali al-Gaylani, who, in a last concern for legitimacy, wishes to shelter the royal family until the end of the conflict. His choice flls on Mulla Effendi, a Kurdish cleric, but also a scientist and politician who is highly respected, including by Westerners. The journey is made mostly at night, by the road along the Iranian border. Al-Gaylani does not seem concerned about the risk of seeing the young king into the hands of the French. The situation could even prove delicate for the latter, as London has never forgiven Paris for the expulsion of the grandfather of this Faisal II. Mulla Effendi welcomes the sovereign in his palace of Badawa and invites the tribal chiefs to come and express their support for the royal family.
Divarbekir (south-east of Turkey), 15:40 - Arrival by train of Claude Régnier, who left Istanbul twenty-four hours before. Hardly descended from his sleeping-car, he takes place in a Packard coupe that is waiting for him in front of the station. His driver, Mehmet Yahaloum, one of his long-time associates, is to drive him to Çukurca, on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
.........
Fallujah, 16:00 - After a short artillery preparation against the Iraqi trenches defending the metal bridge over the Euphrates, the King's Own, supported by the RAF's self-propelled guns, take the bridge and enter the city. Aerial reconnaissance suggests that the Iraqis are retreating to Baghdad. No doubt they hope to block the road to the
capital by taking advantage of the impregnable areas of "rotten sand" (an equivalent of the Sahara's fech-fech) interspersed with marshes that dot the area.
.........
Luftplatz Kirkuk, 16:30 - The German Kampfgruppe and the 2nd Iraqi Division stop the advance of the DML armor. The 20 mm Vierlinges hinder the intervention of Stehlin's aircraft close to the Franco-British elements, but they also prove to be very effective against the self-propelled guns, and even against the R-35s*******.
The FAML plan a high-altitude bombardment at dusk. Unconcerned with killing people without profit (and although he wanted to finish it before the arrival of the British), Larminat postpones the attack of the air base to the next morning, after an artillery preparation.
.........
Rasheed Air Base, 17:00 - At the request of the Prime Minister's office, transmitted by a motorcyclist, Iraqi Air Force ground personnel hurriedly prepare the only DH Dragon (parked a bit out of the way during the Bertha attacks, it suffered only minor damage). The aircraft is equipped with an additional tank.
.........
Mosul, 17:15 - Proclamation of General Massiet to the people of northern Iraq. He congratulates himself with the upcoming victory, promises the respect of persons and goods, and assuresthat everyone's freedom of religion would be held sacred - which is well received in a region where many Christians and Sunnis live in the face of a Shiite majority. Massiet signs his text: "General Massiet, military governor of Mosul and Kirkuk, administrator of the northern provinces". Unlike Larminat, Massiet had remained unmoved by the news that the British were trying to invite victory in northern Iraq. But the expression "administrator of the northern provinces" (for which he obtained the agreement of Algiers without the slightest difficulty) shows that he intended to reserve a trick of his own for Perfidious Albion.
.........
Southern Iraq, 11:00 - Shaibah's Blenheims bomb with 100-pound projectiles, half of them anti-personnel, the positions of the Iraqi 4th Division. The Gladiators follow them to strafe without any hassle.
18:15 - Major General Slim calls his brigade commanders to his headquarters to the next day's action. Colonel Roberts arrives from Habbaniyah just in time for the meeting. After the capture of Fallujah, he leaves Major-General Clark to direct the rest of the operations.
On the Tigris, the paddle-ships of the 21st Brigade reach Kumayt. They are in sight of the positions of the 4th Iraqi Division. On the Euphrates, the tugs and barges of the 20th Brigade are stopped by infantry and light artillery fire a short distance from Qaryat Al Gharab. The motorized elements arrive between Lakash and Ash Shatrah. They are in firm control of the road and railroad.
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Ankara, 18:30 - Franz von Papen, on the instructions of Ribbentrop, prepares with great difficulty a "note verbale" informing the Turkish authorities that Germany has completed the repatriation of its air force from Iraq, so that there would be no more overflights of their territory. "The Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich confidently expresses the hope," writes Von Papen, "that the friendship between our two states, strengthened by their brotherhood of arms during the last war will not be further affected and will regain its characteristic warmth tomorrow."
Tehran, 19:00 - Mr. Gunnar Gulbrandsson, a Swede and head of an oil engineering consulting firm, leaves the Iranian capital in his Chevrolet pick-up truck on the road to Baghdad, passing through Qom, Marivan and Sulemanyeh. His name is neither Gunnar nor Gulbrandsson and has no other connection with Sweden than being born on the shores of the Baltic. Known in the Abwehr as Georg Gusberg, Korvettenkapitän of the Kriegsmarine, temporarily detached to Admiral Canaris.
.........
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 12:00 - At Göring's request, Generalluftzeugmeister Ernst Udet is urgently admitted to the psychiatric clinic of Professor Anton-Hartmut Brehm, one of the Reich's leading specialists, for a sleep cure. Udet's stay will have to last at least four weeks, the practitioner prescribes. Jeschonneck, who lacks more character than imagination, will camouflage his absence with a so-called tour of the aviation factories in the occupied countries. In confidence, the Reichsmarschall, who had once opened up to Prof. Brehm about his addiction to morphine, asks him about the possibility of having his new patient undergo detoxification for alcohol and methedrine******** - as soon as he is, of course, cured of his dark thoughts.
Berlin, 20:00 - Ernst Udet's orderly, Major von Ischgl, learns from a mission order brought by a motorcyclist of the Luftwaffe staff that he was put at the disposal of the Spanish Ejército del Aire as a "technical advisor". He must join his new post, on the base of Los Llanos, near Albacete, on May 1st at the latest, after having presented himself to the Reich embassy to the Caudillo. The ultimate insult, that the mission order does not indicate to Von Ischgl: Los Llanos shelters two groups of bombers (20 Tupolev SB recovered after the defeat of the republican forces), while he himself is himself a fighter pilot (and holder of the Knight's Cross, with 52 victories). For him, it is at best an exile of several years, at worst a first-class burial.

* "Holy cow, that was sport!" (Kalwer was selected for the German ice hockey team at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen).
** "Naturally, I hope that our friend Güstrow and his gusses had a safe and quiet flight to Constantza and that they can now have a home-made breakfast."
*** Taken prisoner in 1940 and released by a German "clemency" measure affecting veterans of the Other War who were over 50 years old, Boyer (who also composed Boire un petit coup c'est agréable!) went to Algiers at the beginning of 1941 as part of a medical repatriation... which did not prevent him from living until 1980.
**** A Swiss national and native of Fribourg, Major Jean-Heinrich de Kuhlbach, 35, served as a foreign service in the French army. He participated in the completion of the pacification of Morocco and in the campaign of France. Since Marignan, the armies of the Ancien Régime had traditionally included a De Kuhlbach regiment whose marching song, composed by Rameau after Fontenoy, is often performed in honor of the commander's father, Louis-Heinrich de Kuhlbach, banker and colonel-brigadier, chief of staff since January 1941 of the "national redoubt" created by the head of the Swiss army, General Guisan, in January 1941.
***** In June 1940, Commander Count Aymar de Serrien-Jussé de Doineville de la Bouxerette, who had come from the REC and was then captain, had been seriously wounded at the head of the mounted squadron of the 97th GRDI, where he had just replaced Captain de Guiraud, killed in action. In 1936, he had led the French equestrin team at the Berlin Olympic Games in Berlin. In the Legion, where people praised his good looks and his lack of conformism, he appeared on the eve of the war as the future head of the Cadre Noir. His son Clément, who graduated from Saint-Cyr in 1960, became a general and in the 1990's the boss of the DGSE, under the nom de guerre of Serrien, without particle.
****** Federal Councillor (member of the government) since 1928, Marcel Pilet-Golaz has been head of the Political Department (Minister of Foreign Affairs) since 1940. His conception of the implementation of Swiss neutrality during the world conflict (he remained in office until 1944) raised, and still raises, passionate controversies.
******* Although ineffective against the armour of the R-35, 20 mm shells could damage the undercarriage, and their moral effect is sometimes important.
******** This amphetamine is the German equivalent of the British benzedrine.
 
2208
April 27th, 1941

Belgrade
- Sir John Dill and General de Gaulle meet with General Simovic and the Yugoslav government. They discover a deep confusion and a real paralysis. Both Dill and De Gaulle are stunned by the fact that the Yugoslav military leaders still hope that diplomacy can delay the German attack for several months. Both are very worried when they discover that the Yugoslav army intends to defend themselves on the borders. Simovic recalls that he had made contact directly with Wilson's headquarters in Athens in order to organize the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army in the event of a massive Axis attack, but that the Yugoslavs did not intend to give up one inch of their national soil without having defended it. Moreover, it was initially planned to launch a joint offensive against the Italians in Albania in order to be able to be able to concentrate troops on a single front, but Rommel's recent successes did not offer much hope of reforming the Salonika front of the Great War. Nevertheless, the 3rd Yugoslav Army does its best to relieve the Allied troops in Albania.
During the night, De Gaulle has a one-on-one meeting with Simovic. He urges the new Prime Minister to abandon any idea of spreading his armed forces evenly along its borders. "Any "cordon" defence is condemned in advance to the most catastrophic of defeats, general! Unfortunately, it must be recognized that most of your country cannot be effectively defended. The only solution is to immediately withdraw the bulk of your forces to the south-eastern part of the country, around Skopje, anchoring the defense on the Greek-British forces in the west and on the mountains near the Bulgarian border in the east. Remember the defeat of Serbia against Austria-Hungary at the beginning of the other war. Well, say you that the present German army is immensely more mobile and powerful than were the Austro-Hungarian forces were. It will not let you retreat quietly!"
But, as De Gaulle would later write in his Mémoires de Guerre (Volume I, Le Sursaut): "I understood well that the implementation of this strategy would have meant the voluntary surrender to the enemy of almost all of the entire national territory. If our departure for North Africa had been painful but conceivable, since the Empire had always been part of our defense plans, such a move was obviously beyond what a Yugoslavian leader could contemplate, however deeply devoted to his country he might be, and because of this dedication."
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On leaving, the two Allied leaders leave the new British military attaché, General Adrian Carton de Wiart, in Belgrade, a character as prestigious as he is atypical. This tall fellow, one-eyed, one-armed and proudly mustachioed man, veteran of a hundred campaigns from the Sudan to the Somme, has a host of decorations, including the Victoria Cross.
 
2209
April 28th, 1941

North-West: the Belgian-Sudanese offensive - Blue Nile area
- The 3rd Brigade of the Belgian Public Force attacks the Italian positions on the Bortai River and succeed in breaking through the enemy's position towards Dembi-Dolo.
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North: the French offensive - From Dessie to Debra Tabor - The Italian command at Debra Tabor accepts the conditions of General De la Ménardière. The surrender isfixed for the next day at 11:00.
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Centre-South: the East African offensive - From Addis Ababa to Dalle and Gimma- Gimma is declared an open city. It is occupied by the Ethiopian partisans of Duke Gerasu.
 
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