World War 2 Timeline – 1941

by Ben Johnson

Important events of 1941, including the start of the final phase of the German attack on Russia (pictured to the left).

3 Jan Italy launches a counter-offensive in Albania against the Greeks, the first of 46 Italian attacks – all repulsed by the Greeks.
22 Jan British and Australian forces capture Tobruk in North Africa. The Italian defenders lost 25,000 either killed, wounded or captured.
British troops in North Africa

British troops in North Africa

29 Jan South African forces cross the border from Kenya and enter Italian Somaliland. The main attack does not begin until 10 February.
4 Feb The British start a mechanised movement which encircles the Italians to the south of Benghazi.
6 Feb British and Australian forces enter Benghazi. Rommel is appointed commander of the German Afrika Corps
10 Feb Mussolini accepts Hitler’s offer of a German armoured division to support his Italian forces in North Africa.
12 Feb Rommel arrives in Tripoli, Libya.
24 Feb German and British forces clash for the first time in the Western Desert.
2 March In Europe Bulgaria joins the Axis bloc, German troops now have direct access from which to invade Yugoslavia and Greece.
6 March British forces invade Ethiopia.
The start of a three week blockage of the Suez Canal by the Germans.
4 April Italian and German forces capture Benghazi.
6 April Germany invades both Yugoslavia and Greece – Operation Marita.
British forces occupy Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
10 April Start of the siege of Tobruk after the Germans fail to capture it, the first time advancing German Panzers had been brought to a halt! The Rats of Tobruk would continue to defend the Libyan port until they are relieved towards the end November, some 240 days later.
The Germans capture Zagreb.
17 April The Royal Yugoslavian Army surrenders, Axis forces annex and occupy the region.
10 May Last of the heavy air raids on Britain and the end of the Blitz (German – “lightening”). During the eight months of bombing by the Luftwaffe, London has seen more than a million houses damaged or destroyed and 40,000 civilians killed. Hitler’s attention had thankfully transferred to Eastern Front and Operation Barbarossa.
22 June The German invasion of Russia – Operation Barbarossa begins. More than 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invade the USSR along a front stretching almost 3,000 km – the largest military operation in history would also result in the largest casualty rate.
28 Sept The first Allied convoy to Russia takes place.
2 Oct The final phase of the German attack on Russia starts.
6 Oct Churchill promises Stalin that a convoy would sail to Russia every 10 days.
28 Nov Italian forces surrender at Gondar and so ends Mussolini’s East African venture.
5 Dec With new reserves transferred from Siberia and the Far East, the Russian counter-attack in Moscow starts on the Kainin Front.
7 Dec The Japanese attack the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. In the two hour raid that followed, 18 warships, 188 aircraft and 2,402 servicemen were lost. Luckily, the 3 aircraft carriers of the fleet were all at sea at the time of the attack.
Bombing of Pearl Harbour
8 Dec Britain and America declare war on Japan.
11 Dec Germany declares war on America.
31 Dec By year end, a total of 53 merchant ships had reached Russia, delivering 750 tanks, 800 fighter planes, 1,400 vehicles and 100,000 tons of general stores.

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