Egypt: Operation Lustre; Following his meeting with New Zealand’s General Freyberg the previous day, General Archibald Wavell, Commander in Chief, Middle East Command met with General Thomas Blamey, General Officer Commanding I Australian Corps, and explained the composition of an Allied force intended for operations in Greece. The force was to consist of the New Zealand Division, the Australian 6th and 7th Divisions, HQ of the I Australian Corps, the British 1st Armoured Brigade and the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade.
Austria: Vienna; At the Belvedere Palace, Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Cvetkovich signed the Tripartite Pact and formed an alliance with the Axis powers. Foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop signed on behalf of Germany.
Yugoslavia; Belgrade; Following widespread protest against the signing of the Tripartite Pact, the regime of Prince Paul was overthrown in a coup d’etat that had British support. King Peter II was declared to be of age despite being only 17. The new Yugoslav government, under Prime Minister and General Dusan Simovic refused to ratify Yugoslavia's signing of the Pact and started negotiations with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.
Mediterranean: Information gained by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Blectchley Park, from their first reading of the Italian naval Enigma code, was that an Italian battle fleet consisting of one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers plus destroyers was sailing to attack the Allied convoys en-route to Greece. Dispatched to intercept them, Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Pridham-Wippel with four light cruisers and a number of destroyers sailed from Greek waters for a position south of Crete. Led by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, the British Mediterranean Fleet consisting of the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable with battleships Barham, Valiant and Warspite and accompanied by the 10th and 14th Destroyer Flotillas, departed Alexandria to rendezvous with them.
Mediterranean: Battle of Cape Matapan; At 07.55 the Italian heavy cruiser group consisting Trento, Trieste and Bolzano, accompanied by three destroyers, encountered Admiral Pridham-Wippell's light cruiser group south of the Greek island of Gavdos. Thinking they were attempting to run from their larger ships, the Italians gave chase, opening fire at 08:12 from 24,000yd but scored no significant hits. As they had not reduced the distance after an hour of pursuit, the Italian cruisers broke off the chase, turning to the north-west on a course to rejoin battleship Vittorio Veneto. The Allied ships changed course in turn, following the Italian cruisers at extreme range. At 10:55 Vittorio Veneto joined the Italian cruisers and immediately opened fire on the shadowing Allied cruisers. The Allied vessels, until then unaware of the presence of a battleship, withdrew, suffering slight damage. Cunningham's force, which had been attempting to rendezvous with Pridham-Wippell, launched an attack by torpedo bombers from HMS Formidable at 09:38. They attacked Vittorio Veneto without direct effect. A second aerial attack at 15:09 surprised the Italians; Lieutenant-Commander John Dalyell-Stead was able to fly his Albacore to within 1000yd of Vittorio Veneto before releasing a torpedo which hit her outer port propeller and caused 4,000 tons of flooding. Dalyell-Stead and his crew were killed when their aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the battleship. The ship stopped while the damage was repaired, but she was able to get under way again at 16:42, making 19knots. A third attack by Albacores and Swordfish from Formidable and Crete took place between 19:36 and 19:50. Admiral Iachino deployed his ships in three columns and used smoke, searchlights, and a heavy barrage. The tactics prevented further damage to the battleship, but one torpedo hit heavy cruiser Pola. This blow knocked out five boilers and the main steam line, causing Pola to lose electric power and drift to a stop. Unaware of Cunningham's pursuit, a squadron of cruisers and destroyers was ordered to return and help Pola, while Vittorio Veneto and the other ships continued to Taranto. This squadron included Pola’s sister ships Zara and Fiume. At 20:15 cruiser HMS Orion’s radar picked up a ship six miles to port, apparently dead in the water; she was the crippled Pola. The bulk of the Allied forces detected the Italian squadron on radar shortly after 22:00, and were able to close without being detected. The Italian ships had no radar and could not detect British ships by means other than sight; The battleships Barham, Valiant and Warspite were able to close to 3,800 yards at which point they opened fire. After just three minutes, Zara and Fiume were destroyed. Fiume sank at 23:30, while Zara was finished off by a torpedo from the destroyer HMS Jervis at 02:40 on 29 March. Two Italian destroyers, Vittorio Alfieri and Giosue Carducci were sunk in the first five minutes. British boarding parties were sent to Pola and after her crew were taken off she was sunk by torpedoes from the destroyers Jervis and Nubian shortly after 04:00. The Allied ships took on survivors but left the scene in the morning, fearing Axis air strikes. The Italians received a signal made on the Merchant Marine emergency band. The location of the remaining survivors was broadcast, and the Italian hospital ship Gradisca came to recover them. Allied casualties during the battle were a single torpedo bomber shot down with the loss of the three-man crew. Italian losses were up to 2,303 sailors, most of them from Zara and Fiume. Amongst them was Admiral Carlo Cattaneo. The Allies rescued 1,015 survivors, while the Italians saved another 160.
Hungary: Prime Minister Count Pál Teleki, unable to prevent Hungary's participation in the war alongside Germany, committed suicide in the night. The regent, Admiral Horth, and the new Prime Minister, Laszlo Bardossy, continued to work with the Germans.
Greece: The New Zealand Division under Major-General Sir Bernard Freyberg completed its concentration on a position stretching from the Aegean coast north of Katerini westwards along the south bank of the river Aliakmon.
Libya: The British 2nd Armoured Division was authorized to withdraw from Benghazi through El Regima. On learning that the British had evacuated Benghazi, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, commander of the Afrika Korps, ordered his troops to advance on to the city during the night.
Red Sea: While attempting a raid on Port Sudan, four destroyers from the Italian Royal Navy based at Massawa, Eritrea came under attack by Allied land and carrier based aircraft. Pantera and Tigre were damaged and scuttled off the Arabian coast while Manin and Sauro were sunk by Fairey Swordfish. A fifth destroyer, Battisti was scuttled at Massawa to prevent capture by British troops advancing from Asmara.
Iraq: A coup d'état was led by the nationalist politician General Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani and a group of officers calling themselves the "Golden Square;" the group was opposed to the British presence in the country. A 1930 agreement between Iraq and Britain had granted the British two bases there: Shuaiba, south of Basra, and Habbaniya, in the Euphrates Valley about 48 miles west of Baghdad. It was from Habbaniya that the British had flown their March 1940 espionage flights over Baku and Batum in the Soviet Union.
Yugoslavia: Operation Retribution; At 07:00 today the Luftwaffe opened the assault on Yugoslavia by conducting a saturation-type bombing raid on the capital, Belgrade. Flying in relays from airfields in Austria and Romania, 300 aircraft, of which a quarter were Junkers Ju 87 Stukas, protected by a heavy fighter escort began the attack. The dive-bombers were to silence the Yugoslav anti-aircraft defences while the medium bombers consisting mainly Dornier Do 17 and Junkers Ju 88 attacked the city The initial raid was carried out at 15-minute intervals in three distinct waves, each lasting for approximately 20 minutes. Thus, the city was subjected to a rain of bombs for almost one and a half hours. The German bombers directed their main effort against the centre of the city, where the principal government buildings were located. When the attack was over, some 4,000 inhabitants lay dead under the debris. This blow virtually destroyed all means of communication between the Yugoslav high command and the forces in the field, although most of the elements of the general staff managed to escape to one of the suburbs. Having reached Niš from its initial attacks from Bulgaria and broken the Yugoslav defences, the German 14th Motorised Corps headed north in the direction of Belgrade. The German 46th Panzer Corps had advanced across the Slavonian plain from Austria to attack Belgrade from the west, whilst the 41st Panzer Corps threatened the city from the north after launching its offensive drive from Romania and Hungary.
Greece: Operation Marita: Battle of Greece; The Germans had to break the Metaxas line, in order to capture Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city and a strategically-important port. The attack started on 6 April with one infantry unit and two divisions of the XVIII Mountain Corps. Due to strong resistance, the first day of the attack yielded little progress in breaking the line.
Libya: Axis troops reoccupied Mechili and Msus. A German motor-cycle unit captured a staff car containing Lieutenant-General Philip Neame, commander of 13 Corps, Lieutenant-General Richard O'Connor and Brigadier John Combe, until recently CO of the 11th Hussars. They were later transported to Italy for imprisonment.
Ethiopia: British troops captured Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia which had been abandoned by its Italian defenders who were believed to be heading north-east to re-group with other units of the beleaguered Italian East African army.
Yugoslavia: The German XL Panzer Corps advancing from Bulgaria, captured Skopje in Macedonia and advanced towards Monastir. In the north, the German 2nd Army, under General Maximilian Baron von Weichs, advanced on Zagreb while the Italian 2nd Army under General Vittorio Ambrosio crossed into north-western Yugoslavia from Italy.
Greece: The German 12th Army under General Wilhelm List crossed the Greek border from Bulgaria and after hard fighting, captured the important Rupel Pass.
Libya: On the coast, Derna was overrun in the continuing Axis advance. Inland near Mechili an armoured battle began between the German 5th Panzer Regiment and the remnants of the British 2nd Armoured Division. As a result, the commander of the 2nd Armoured Division, Major-General Richard Gambier-Parry and much of his command, surrendered at Mechili.
Greece: The last British, Australian, New Zealand and Polish troops were taken on board ship today from Kalamata in the Peloponnese after a fighting ten-day retreat from Thermopylae. About 7,000 men were captured at Kalamata by a German Panzer force before they could be evacuated. Amongst the New Zealanders taken prisoner was Sergeant John (Jack) Daniel Hinton, 20th Battalion, 2NZEF (wounded) who was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the day of his capture.
Citation published The London Gazette, Friday, 17 October, 1941:
“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to the undermentioned:- No. 7930 Serjeant John Daniel Hinton, New Zealand Military Forces.
On the night of 28th–29th April, 1941, during the fighting in Greece, a column of German armoured forces entered Kalamata; this column, which contained several armoured cars, 2" guns, and 3" mortars, and two 6" guns, rapidly converged on a large force of British and New Zealand troops awaiting embarkation on the beach. When the order to retreat to cover was given, Serjeant Hinton, shouting "to Hell with this, who'll come with me," ran to within several yards of the nearest gun; the gun fired, missing him, and he hurled two grenades which completely wiped out the crew. He then came on with the bayonet followed by a crowd of New Zealanders. German troops abandoned the first 6" gun and retreated into two houses. Serjeant Hinton smashed the window and then the door of the first house and dealt with the garrison with the bayonet. He repeated the performance in the second house and as a result, until overwhelming German forces arrived, the New Zealanders held the guns. Serjeant Hinton then fell with a bullet wound through the lower abdomen and was taken prisoner.”
Crete: Major-General Bernard Freyberg took command of British and Imperial forces.