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CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS, Evacuations, Invasions, Landings, Raids, Special Operations

Part 1 of 2 - 1940-44

US Navy Landing Ship Tank LST-1  (US Naval Historical Center, click to enlarge), one of hundreds of amphibious warfare ships of many types which stemmed in part from the fertile imagination of Winston Churchill. Initially designed in Britain and mainly built in the US, the Allied invasions from late 1942 to 1945 would not have happened without them.

  on to Part 2, Amphibious Operations, 1944-45,
 
 
 

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)

 
 

 
 

In September 1939, the Royal Navy had little amphibious and combined operations capability. Yet through to 1942 it had to evacuate often large numbers of British, Commonwealth and Allied forces from western & southern Europe, East Africa and South East Asia. Lacking air cover in most cases, the losses in ships and men were often high.

Wartime Developments - As the war progressed, the Royal and Commonwealth Navies expanded rapidly with large construction programmes, particularly landing ships and craft. Huge combined operations landings took place with air superiority usually assured.

The largest British landings, in order, were French North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and the greatest of all, Normandy. Other major combined operations landings included Madagascar, Walcheren, Arakan (Akyab and Ramree Island) and Rangoon.

 

 

1940

APRIL 1940

Germany Invaded Norway

Norwegian Landings - The first Allied landings took place between the 14th and 16th. In the north, British troops occupied Harstad in preparation for an attack on Narvik. They were reinforced by French and Polish units through into May. Royal Marines led British and French troops into Namsos ready for an attack south towards Trondheim. The British went ashore in the Andalsnes area to try to hold central Norway with the Norwegian Army. By the 27th, Allied plans to attack towards Trondheim and hold central Norway proved impossible. The decision was taken to pull out of central Norway and the evacuation of Andalsnes and Namsos got under way.

MAY 1940

Norwegian Evacuations start - In three days and nights ending on the 2nd/3rd, the last 10,000 British and French troops were evacuated from Namsos and around Andalsnes following the failure to attack towards Trondheim and hold central Norway. Other troops were later landed further north, including at Bodo in an attempt to block the German advance from Trondheim towards Narvik. The Allies continued to build up forces for the attack on Narvik.

Germany Invaded Holland, Belgium and France

Landings in Iceland & Dutch West Indies - On the 10th as Germany attacked France and the Low Countries, British Royal Marines landed from two cruisers at Reykjavik, Iceland then part of the Danish Crown. More troops followed to set up air and sea bases that became vital to Britain's defence of the Atlantic supply routes. Soon after Germany invaded Holland, Allied troops landed on the Dutch West lndies islands of Aruba and Curacoa to protect oil installations.

Holland and Belgium Evacuations - British Admiralty plans had already been made to withdraw shipping from the Low Countries, block main ports, demolish installations and remove gold and diamonds. Most of these duties were carried out with the aid of Royal Navy destroyers which suffered heavy losses over the next few weeks.

Northern France Landings - Destroyers carried Allied troops to Boulogne and Calais on the 20th and remained in support. Over the next four days, five Allied destroyers were lost and others damaged in the area.

Dunkirk, Northern France Evacuation (Operation 'Dynamo') - Initial plans were to lift off 45,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force over a two-day period under the direction of Vice-Adm B. H. Ramsey. In the next five days, 8,000 men on the 27th May, 18,000 on the 28th, 47,000 on the 29th, 54,000 on the 30th and 68,000 on the 31st were carried to Britain - a total of 195,000, both British and French. Every phase of the operation was subject to heavy air, sea and land attack. Forty British, six French and a Polish destroyer took part, together with 800 other vessels, large and small. Losses were considerable. The Dunkirk evacuation continued into June.

JUNE 1940

Norwegian Evacuation concluded - Following the capture of Narvik, Allied forces totalling 25,000 men were evacuated over the period 4th-8th from northern Norway, by which time King Haakon VII and his Government were on their way to Britain aboard heavy cruiser “Devonshire”.

Dunkirk Evacuation concluded - As the evacuation continued under heavy ground and air attack, destroyers “KEITH”, “BASILISK”, “HAVANT” and the French “LE FOUDROYANT” were bombed by the Luftwaffe and lost off the beaches, all on the 1st. The evacuation of the BEF and some of the French troops trapped within the Dunkirk perimeter came to an end on the 4th. In the first four days and nights of June, 64,000, 26,000, 27,000 and 26,000 men were saved to bring the overall total to 340,000, including the bulk of Britain's army in northern France. Naval and civilian shipping losses were heavy. In destroyers alone the Royal Navy lost six sunk and 19 badly damaged, the French Navy seven sunk.

Italy Declared War

Western France Evacuations - The Battle for France began on the 5th with a German advance south from the line River Somme to Sedan. 10th - The evacuation of British and Allied forces from the rest of France got underway. Starting with Operation 'Cycle', 11,000 were lifted off from the Channel port of Le Havre. 15th - Operation 'Aerial' began with the evacuation of Cherbourg and continued for the next 10 days, moving south right down to the Franco-Spanish border. 17th - The only major loss during the evacuation from western France was off St Nazaire. Liner “Lancastria” was bombed and sunk with the death of nearly 3,000 men. 25th - The Allied evacuation of France ended with a further 215,000 servicemen and civilians saved, but Operations 'Aerial' and 'Cycle' never captured the public's imagination like the 'miracle' of Dunkirk. On the final day of the evacuation, Canadian destroyer “FRASER” was rammed and sunk by AA cruiser “Calcutta” off the Gironde Estuary leading into Bordeaux.

JULY 1940

French Navy in the Atlantic and Britain - Carrier “Hermes” and cruisers “Dorsetshire” and Australian sister-ship “Australia” lay off Dakar, French West Africa on the 8th after negotiations were refused on the future of French battleship “Richelieu”. Attacks made included one with depth-charges from a fast motorboat. This failed and a torpedo strike by Swordfish inflicted only minor damage. In Britain, two World War 1 French battleships "Courbet" and "Paris" and several destroyers and submarines, including the giant "Surcouf" were in British ports. On the 3rd they were boarded and seized, but not before there were casualties on both sides including three British and one French dead.

AUGUST 1940

British Somaliland, East Africa Evacuation - Italian forces from Ethiopia invaded British Somaliland. The capital of Berbera was evacuated on the 14th and the garrison carried across to Aden. Italians entered the town five days later, just as a British mission went into Ethiopia to help organise uprisings against the Italians there.

SEPTEMBER 1940

Dakar, West Africa Expedition (Operation 'Menace') - Because of Dakar's strategic importance to the North and South Atlantic shipping routes, an expedition was mounted to acquire the port for Allied use. Free French troops led by Gen de Gaulle were carried in ships escorted and supported by units of the Home Fleet and Force H under the command of Vice-Adm John Cunningham. They included battleships "Barham" and "Resolution", carrier "Ark Royal", three heavy cruisers and other smaller ships including Free French. Naval forces at Dakar included the unfinished battleship "Richelieu" and two cruisers recently arrived from Toulon (see below). Attempts to negotiate on the 23rd soon failed and as Vichy French ships tried to leave harbour, shore batteries opened fire, damaging heavy cruiser "Cumberland" and two destroyers. Shortly afterwards, the Vichy submarine "PERSEE" was sunk by gunfire and large destroyer "L'AUDACIEUX" disabled by cruiser "Australia" and beached. A Free French landing was beaten off. Next day, on the 24th, Dakar was bombarded by the warships and "Richelieu" attacked by "Ark Royal's" aircraft. Vichy submarine "AJAX" was sunk by destroyer "Fortune". The bombardment continued on the 25th, but battleship "Resolution" was now torpedoed and badly damaged by submarine "Beveziers" and "Barham" hit by "Richelieu's" 15in gunfire. At this point the operation was abandoned and the Anglo-Free French forces withdrew.

NOVEMBER 1940

Greece & Crete, Landings in - As the Greek Army pushed back the Italians into Albania, RAF squadrons were sent from Egypt to Greece and the Royal Navy carried over the first Australian, British and New Zealand troops by cruiser. Mediterranean Fleet established an advance base at Suda Bay on the north coast of Crete.

 

1941

JANUARY 1941

North African Naval Operations - As the British advance continued into Libya, Bardia was taken on the 5th. Australian troops captured Tobruk on the 22nd and Derna, further west by the end of the month. The Royal Navy's Inshore Squadron played an important part in the campaign - bombarding shore targets, carrying fuel, water and supplies, and evacuating wounded and prisoners of war.

MARCH 1941

Norway, Combined Operations Raid - A successful commando raid was carried out on the Lofoten Islands, off northwest Norway with installations destroyed and shipping sunk. Escort was provided by destroyers and cover by units of the Home Fleet.

British Somaliland Landings - British forces were transported from Aden to Berbera in British Somaliland on the 16th. From there, they advanced southwest into southern Ethiopia. To the north, Keren fell to the attacking Indian troops and the road was opened to the Eritrean capital of Asmara and Red Sea port of Massawa.

APRIL 1941

Greece, Evacuation of - Germany invaded both countries on the 6th. By the 12th they had entered Belgrade and within another five days the Yugoslav Army surrendered. Greek forces in Albania and Greece suffered the same fate. Starting on the 24th and over a period of five days, 50,000 British, Australian and New Zealand troops were evacuated to Crete and Egypt in Operation 'Demon'. The Germans occupied Athens on the 27th. 27th - As units of the Mediterranean Fleet carried out the Greek evacuation, destroyers "DIAMOND" and "WRYNECK" rescued troops from the bombed transport "Slamat", but were then sunk by more German bombers off Cape Malea at the southeast tip of Greece. There were few survivors from the three ships.

North Africa, Siege of Tobruk - Germans entered Benghazi on the 4th and by mid-month had surrounded Tobruk and reached the Egyptian border. Attacks on the British and Australian troops defending Tobruk were unsuccessful, and an eight-month siege began.

Iraq landings - A pro-German coup in Iraq on the 1st threatened Allied oil supplies. British and Indian units were entering the country through the Persian Gulf by the middle of the month. The campaign continued through May.

MAY 1941

Crete, Evacuation of - Most of the Mediterranean Fleet with four battleships, one carrier, 10 cruisers and 30 destroyers fought the Battle for Crete. For the Navy there were two phases, both of which took place under intense air attack, mainly German, from which all losses resulted. Phase One was from the German airborne invasion on the 20th until the decision was taken on the 27th to evacuate the island. During this time the Mediterranean Fleet managed to prevent the sea-borne reinforcement of the German paratroops fighting on Crete, but at heavy cost. Most of these losses happened as the ships tried to withdraw from night-time patrols north of the island out of range of enemy aircraft. During this phase, two cruisers and four destroyers were sunk, and one carrier, two battleships and three cruisers badly damaged.

Phase Two was from 27th May to 1st June when over 15,000 British and Commonwealth troops were evacuated. Ten thousand had to be left behind - and again the naval losses were heavy. 28th - The decision to evacuate was made, and cruisers and destroyers prepared to lift off the troops. As they approached Crete, cruiser "Ajax" and destroyer "Imperial" were damaged to the southeast. 29th - Early in the morning, 4,000 men were lifted off from Heraklion on the north coast. As they did the damaged "IMPERIAL" had to be scuttled, and "HEREWARD" was hit and left behind to go down off the eastern tip of Crete. Shortly after, cruisers "Dido" and "Orion" were badly damaged to the southeast. 30th - Early in the day, more troops were lifted from the southern port of Sphakia by another cruiser force. Well to the south the Australian cruiser "Perth" was bombed and damaged. 1st June - As the last men were carried from Crete, cruisers "Calcutta" and "Coventry" sailed from Alexandria to provide AA cover. "CALCUTTA" was sunk north of the Egyptian coast. Some 15,000 troops were saved but at a cost to the Royal Navy of 2,000 men killed.

North Africa, Supply of Besieged Tobruk - A British offensive started from the Sollum area on the 15th in an attempt to relieve Tobruk. Two weeks later both sides were back to their original positions. The first of many supply trips to besieged Tobruk were made by Australian destroyers "Voyager" and "Waterhen" and other ships of the Inshore Squadron.

JUNE 1941

Germany Invades Russia

North Africa, Tobruk - Another unsuccessful British offensive to relieve Tobruk started from Sollum on the 15th (Operation 'Battleaxe'). Within two days the operation was called off. A heavy price was paid for the supply of besieged Tobruk by the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy ships involved. All trips took place under continual threat of German and Italian aircraft attack: 24th - Sloop "AUCKLAND" was lost off Tobruk. 30th - Australian destroyer "WATERHEN" was bombed and sunk off Bardia.

JULY 1941

North Africa, Tobruk - On the Tobruk Run, destroyer "DEFENDER" was bombed by German or Italian aircraft and went down off Sidi Barrani on the 11th.

AUGUST 1941

North Africa, Tobruk - Covering the transport of troops into and out of besieged Tobruk, cruiser “Phoebe” was hit by an aircraft torpedo on the 27th.

Persia (Iran) Landings - The possibility of a pro-Axis coup d'etat led to Anglo-Soviet forces going into Persia on the 25th from points in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Russia. A cease-fire was announced within four days, but later violations led to Teheran being occupied in the middle of September. The landings in Persia from the Gulf were made from a small force of British, Australian and Indian warships of the East ladies Command.

OCTOBER 1941

North Africa, Tobruk - Over a period of 10 days, cruiser-minelayers "Abdiel" and "Latona" transported troops and supplies to besieged Tobruk and carried out Australian units. On the last mission on the 25th, "LATONA" was bombed and sunk north of Bardia by Ju87s Stuka divebombers

NOVEMBER 1941

North Africa, Tobruk -  A major British offensive (Operation 'Crusader) started on the 18th, again from the Sollum area and by January had reached El Agheila. Axis forces around Sollum and Bardia were by-passed in the drive on Tobruk. The first link-up with the besieged garrison was made by New Zealand troops on the 27th. On the 27th, Australian sloop "PARRAMATTA" escorting an ammunition ship on the Tobruk Run was sunk by "U-559" off the port. Since the siege started destroyers and other warships had been carrying in men and supplies almost nightly. As it came to an end the cost could be counted - 25 warships of all sizes and five merchantmen lost.

DECEMBER 1941

Japan Declares War

Norway, Combined Operations Raid - Separate commando raids took place in northern Norway on the Lofoten Islands and further south on Vaagso Island. The aim was to destroy installations and sink and capture shipping. The first force was led by cruiser “Arethusa” with limited results. The second with cruiser “Kenya” was more successful. On the 27th, cruiser “Arethusa” was damaged in German bombing attacks.

 

1942

JANUARY 1942

Submarine Cloak and Dagger Operations - Submarine "TRIUMPH" sailed from Alexandria on 26th December for a clandestine landing near Athens before patrolling in the Aegean. She reported the landing on the 30th, but failed to rendezvous back there on the 9th and was presumed mined off the island of Milo, southeast of the Greek mainland. This was one of many such landings and pick-ups by submarines, coastal forces and other ships and craft that took place in all theatres throughout the war

FEBRUARY 1942

Northern France, Combined Operations Raid - Commandos carried out a raid on Bruneval in northern France to capture radar equipment in which they were successful. They were lifted off by Royal Navy coastal forces.

Singapore Evacuation - On the 8th, Japanese forces started crossing over to Singapore Island. Heavy fighting took place, but by the 15th Singapore surrendered and over 80,000 mainly Australian, British and Indian troops were doomed to captivity. Others attempted to escape in a variety of small ships and craft. 14th - Sailing for Batavia, auxiliary patrol ship "LI WO" with a single 4in gun attacked a troop convoy south of Singapore and was soon sunk by a Japanese cruiser. Commanding officer Lt Thomas Wilkinson RNR was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

MARCH 1942

Combined Operations Command - Lord Louis Mountbatten was promoted Vice-Adm and appointed Chief of Combined Operations as planning continued for the raids on St Nazaire and later Dieppe.

Western France, Raid on St Nazaire - Concerned about the possibility of battleship "Tirpitz" breaking out into the Atlantic, the decision was made to put out of action the only dry-dock in France capable of taking her - the 'Normandie' at St Nazaire. Ex-US destroyer "Campbeltown" would be loaded with high explosives and rammed into the lock gates while British commandos, carried over in Royal Navy ML's or motor launches were to land and destroy the dry-docks installations. The force sailed from southwest England on the 26th, and by a number of ruses penetrated the heavily defended port early on the 28th. In the face of intense fire, "Campbeltown" was placed exactly in position and many of the commandos got ashore to carry out their mission. Losses in men and coastal forces' craft were heavy, but when "CAMPBELTOWN" did blow up, the lock gates were put out of commission for the rest of the war. The Victoria Cross was awarded to three members of the Royal Navy taking part - Cdr Robert Ryder RN, Commanding Officer, Naval Forces sailing with his staff on board "MGB-314", Lt-Cdr Stephen Beattie RN, Commanding Officer, HMS Campbeltown, and posthumously to Able Seaman William Savage, gunner on "MGB-314" for gallantry under heavy fire.

Java, Dutch East lndies Evacuation - Strong Japanese naval forces patrolled the Indian Ocean south of Java to stop the escape of Allied forces and shipping. Old destroyer "STRONGHOLD" was sunk in action with the 8in cruiser "Maya" and two destroyers on the 2nd. Two days later Australian sloop "YARRA" and the ships she was escorting were also destroyed.

MAY 1942

Madagascar, Indian Ocean Landings (Operation 'Ironclad') - Concerned about the Japanese carrier sorties into the Indian Ocean and the vulnerability of the Cape of Good Hope/Middle East convoy routes, Britain decided to take Diego Saurez at the north end of Vichy French Madagascar. Under the command of Rear-Adm E. N. Syfret (recently appointed to Force H), a large force of ships including battleship "Ramillies" and carriers "Indomitable" and "Illustrious" assembled at Durban, South Africa towards the end of April. The assault took place on 5th May in Courrier Bay to the west of Diego Saurez. As usual the Vichy French forces resisted strongly. Submarine "BEVEZIERS" was sunk, but the only Royal Navy casualty was corvette "AURICULA" mined on the 5th. The advance on Diego Saurez was held up and next day a Royal Marine unit stormed the town from the sea. By the 7th the fighting was over and the important anchorage was in British hands. On the 7th and 8th, French submarines "LE HEROS" and "MONGE" were sunk by joint air and sea attacks. On the night of the 30th, Japanese submarines "I-16" and "I-20" launched midget submarines for attacks on Diego Saurez. "Ramillies" was torpedoed and badly damaged and a tanker sunk. By September the complete occupation of Madagascar became necessary.

JUNE 1942

French and French North African Invasion Plans - Winston Churchill flew to Washington DC for another series of meetings with President Roosevelt. Agreement did not come easily on the question of where to open a Second Front in 1942. The Americans wanted to land in France to take pressure off the Russians, but the British considered this impossible at present and proposed the invasion of French North Africa. The President did not come to accept this until July. Planning then started on what became Operation 'Torch'.

AUGUST 1942

Northern France, Raid on Dieppe (Operation 'Jubilee') - Unable to open a Second Front in Europe, the Western Allies decided to mount a large-scale raid on the French coast to take some of the pressure off the Russians. The plan was for a largely Canadian force supported by British commandos to assault the defended port of Dieppe in northern France. Over 200 ships and landing craft, including escort destroyers and coastal forces under the command of Capt J. Hughes-Hallett, sailed with 6,000 troops from south coast of England ports on the 18th. The attempted landings took place early on the 19th against heavy defensive gunfire. One flanking attack by commandos achieved some success, but the other and the frontal assault with tanks were total failures. By noon the decision was taken to withdraw. As this went ahead under constant air attack, escort destroyer "BERKELEY" was bombed and sunk. Others were damaged. Canadian casualties in dead, wounded and prisoners were high, and Dieppe proved an expensive but important lesson on the problems of landing in occupied Europe at a defended port.

Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands Landings - The Japanese were now extending their hold in the southern Solomons and building an airfield on the island of Guadalcanal. From there they could move against the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and other islands along the supply routes to Australia and New Zealand. After the Japanese presence was discovered, the US 1st Marine Division was landed on the 7th, soon capturing the airstrip which was renamed Henderson Field. Close cover was provided by a force of American and Australian cruisers. 9th - Battle of Savo Island - In the early hours of the 9th a Japanese force of seven cruisers and a destroyer headed for Savo Island to the north of Guadalcanal to get at the US transports. Instead they stumbled on five patrolling cruisers. Taken completely by surprise, heavy cruisers "CANBERRA" and the American "ASTORIA", "QUINCY" and "VINCENNES" were hit by a torrent of gunfire and torpedoes and sank in an area soon known as lronbottom Sound. The fifth cruiser "Chicago" escaped and Australian cruisers "Australia" and "Hobart" were close by but took no part in the action. The transports were untouched.

Papua, New Guinea Operations - In their move on Port Moresby, Japanese troops landed at Milne Bay at the extreme southeast tip of Papua on the 25th. The mainly Australian resistance was strong and by the 30th, the invaders were starting to evacuate. By early September they had gone - the first major setback Japanese forces had experienced on land. Before then on 29th August, Japanese submarine "R0-33" attacked Australian troop reinforcements bound for Port Moresby and was sunk off the harbour by Australian destroyer "Arunta".

SEPTEMBER 1942

North Africa, Raid on Tobruk (Operation 'Agreement') - To help relieve the pressure on Eighth Army in the Alamein area, a combined operations raid was planned on Tobruk to destroy installations and shipping. An attack was to be launched from the landward side by the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) while simultaneously destroyers "Sikh" and "Zulu" together with coastal forces craft would land Royal Marine and army units from the sea. AA cruiser "Coventry" and 'Hunts' provided cover. In the night of the 13th/14th, a few troops got ashore but "SIKH" was soon disabled by shore batteries. She went down off Tobruk early in the morning of the 14th. As the other ships withdrew, heavy attacks by German and Italian aircraft sank cruiser "COVENTRY" and destroyer "ZULU" to the northwest of Alexandria. The land attack also failed.

Madagascar, Indian Ocean Landings - Britain decided to occupy the rest of the Vichy French island in the Indian Ocean. Starting on the 10th, British, East African and South African troops were landed through the month at points in the northwest, east and southwest. By the 23rd the capital, Tananarive, was captured but fighting continued into October. The Vichy French did not surrender until early November, by which time they had been driven into the extreme southeast corner of the large island.

Timor, SE Asia Operation - Australian troops were carried to the occupied island of Timor by Australian destroyer "VOYAGER" to strengthen the Sparrow Force guerrilla unit. She ran aground on the south coast on the 23rd, was bombed by the Japanese and had to be destroyed.

OCTOBER 1942

Submarine Cloak and Dagger Operation, French North Africa - In preparation for Operation 'Torch', US Gen Mark Clark landed in Algeria from submarine "Seraph" to help persuade the Vichy French authorities to support the coming Allied landings. Gen Giraud was to be smuggled from unoccupied France, again in "Seraph", to head pro-Allied Frenchmen.

NOVEMBER 1942

8th - French North African Landings: Operation 'Torch'

By July 1942 the Allies had accepted that a cross-Channel assault on German-occupied Europe was not yet possible, and instead opted to land an expeditionary force in French North Africa. For political reasons the main landing forces would be American. Their arrival was timed to coincide with Eighth Army's offensive. Plans were formally approved in October, by which time the large amounts of shipping needed had been organised and assembled. To provide them, Russian convoys and those to and from Britain and Gibraltar/West Africa had been suspended and the Home Fleet stripped bare. The Allies' greatest concern was the hundred or more U-boats at sea. Outline order of battle was:

Allied Commander-in-Chief - US Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower

Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham 

Landing Areas:

Casablanca, Morocco

Oran,
Algeria

Algiers,
Algeria

Forces landing:

35,000 US troops

39,000 US troops

33,000 US & British troops

Departure from: 

United States

Britain

Britain

Naval Task Forces:
Commanders:

Western
Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Centre
Cdre T H Troubridge

Eastern
Vice-Adm Sir H Burrough

Battleships
Carriers
Cruisers
Destroyers
Other warship
Troopships, supply ships, tankers etc

3
5
7
38
16
36

-
2
2
13
41
47

-
2
3
13
40
33

Total Ships

105 USN

105 RN

91 RN

Most of the task force carriers were escort carriers, and the US totals included a heavy cover force. In the Mediterranean, British Force H reinforced by Home Fleet and under the command of Vice-Adm Sir Neville Syfret, covered the Algerian landings. Their main task was to hold off any attack by the Italian fleet. Strength included three capital ships, three fleet carriers, three cruisers and 17 destroyers. Various other forces added to the number of Allied ships in the area. Over 300 ships were therefore directly involved in what at the time was the greatest amphibious operation in history, and the forerunner of even greater ones to come before the war was over. Throughout October and early November convoys sailed for the landings on Vichy French soil in the early hours of the 8th. Negotiations with the French were not completed in time to avoid resistance. There was bloodshed on both sides.

Casablanca, Morocco - US troops landed at three points along a 200-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline. By the 10th they prepared to attack Casablanca itself, but this became unnecessary when the French forces stopped fighting. Before this happened the Western Task Force had fought a series of fierce actions with Vichy French warships. Battleship "Jean Bart" was seriously damaged and a cruiser and several destroyers and submarines sunk or beached.


HMS Fishguard, sister ship to "Walney" and "Hartland"

Oran, Algeria - Within the Mediterranean, the landings to the west and east of Oran were followed by an attempt to smash through the harbour boom and land troops directly from ex-US Coast Guard cutters "WALNEY" (Capt Peters) and "HARTLAND". Both were disabled by ship and shore gunfire and soon sank. (+ Capt Frederick Peters RN of the "Walney" was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Five days later he was kiIled in an aircraft accident.)

Cruiser "Aurora" (Capt Agnew) and destroyers fought off an attack by French destroyers outside the port. The large destroyer "EPERVIER" was driven ashore and "Tornade" and "Tramontane" disabled. In addition, destroyers "Achates" and "Westcott" accounted for submarines "ACTEON" and "ARGONAUTE". US troops fought their way into Oran, which fell on the 10th.

Algiers, Algeria - A similar opening attack was mounted by old destroyers "Broke" and "Malcolm". The latter was badly damaged but "BROKE" eventually broke through the boom to land her troops. Hard hit by shore batteries, she got away but foundered next day on the 9th. Algiers was soon in Allied hands and Adm Darlan, C-in-C Vichy French forces was captured. It was not Gen Giraud as originally intended, but Adm Darlan who broadcast the ceasefire on the 10th.

Algeria Landings continued - Further Allied landings were made to the east of Algiers where there was little air cover. Attacks by German aircraft on these and other targets sank or damaged a number of ships. On the 10th, sloop "IBIS" was hit by an aircraft torpedo and went down off Algiers. The first of the further Allied troop landings were made at Bougie and Bone on the 11th and 12th, well on the way to the Tunisian border.

DECEMBER 1942

'Cockleshell Heroes', Western France - Maj H. G. Hasler led Royal Marine Commandos in canoes up the Gironde Estuary in southwest France and damaged several blockade runners with limpet mines on the 7th.

1943

FEBRUARY 1943

Burma - Col Orde Wingate mounted the first Chindit Operation behind Japanese lines, northwest of Lashio. Success was limited, losses heavy and the survivors started to withdraw in late March 1943. In the south-west, the Arakan Offensive failed to make any progress.

APRIL 1943

'The Man Who Never Was', Spanish Mediterranean Coast - Submarine "Seraph" released the body of a supposed Royal Marine officer into the sea off Spain. His false papers helped to persuade the Germans that the next Allied blows would fall on Sardinia and Greece as well as Sicily.

JULY 1943

10th - Invasion of Sicily: Operation 'Husky'

The Americans still wanted to concentrate on the cross-Channel invasion of France, but at the Casablanca Conference somewhat reluctantly agreed to go ahead with the Sicily landings. Amongst the benefits would be the opening of the Mediterranean to Allied shipping. The final plan was approved in mid-May and not much more than a month later the first US troop convoys were heading across the Atlantic for an operation even greater than the French North African landings the previous November.

Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham

The grand total of 2,590 US and British warships - major and minor (summarised below) - were mostly allocated to their own landing sectors, but the Royal Navy total included the covering force against any interference by the Italian fleet. The main group under Vice-Adm Sir A. U. Willis of Force H included battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", "Warspite" and "Valiant" and fleet carriers "Formidable" and Indomitable". Seven Royal Navy submarines acted as navigation markers off the invasion beaches. Many of the troops coming from North Africa and Malta made the voyage in landing ships and craft. As they approached Sicily with the other transports late on the 9th in stormy weather, Allied airborne landings took place. Sadly, many of the British gliders crashed into the sea, partly because of the weather. However, early next day, on the 10th, the troops went ashore under an umbrella of aircraft. The new amphibious DUKWS (or "Ducks") developed by the Americans played an important part in getting the men and supplies across the beaches.

Landing Areas:

Gulf of Gela, S coast

South of Syracuse, SE coast

Forces landing:

US 7th Army - Gen Patton
66,000 troops

Eighth Army - Gen Montgomery
115,000 British & Canadian troops

Departure from:

United States, Algeria, Tunisia

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Malta; Canadian division from Britain

Naval Task Forces:
Commanders:

Western
Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Eastern
Adm Sir B Ramsey

Naval Forces
Battleships
Carriers
Cruisers
Destroyers
Submarines
Other warship
Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc
Landing Ships and Craft (major)

U.S.A.
-
-
5
48
-
98
94

190

British & Allied
6
2
10
80
26
250
237

319 

Totals

435 USN

930 RN

Plus Landing Craft (minor)

510 USN

715 RN

New Guinea, SW Pacific Landings - On 30th June, Allied forces landed south of Salamaua. By mid-July they linked up with the Australians fighting through from Wau, and prepared to advance on Salamaua itself. The struggle against the usual fierce resistance continued right through July and August.

AUGUST 1943

Sicily Landings concluded - As the Germans and Italians prepared to evacuate Sicily across the Strait of Messina, the Allies started the final push - US Seventh Army along the north coast aided by three small amphibious hops and Eighth Army up the east side from Catania with one small landing. Gen Patton's men entered Messina just before Gen Montgomery's on the 17th. Sicily was now in Allied hands but 100,000 Axis troops managed to escape without any serious interference.

Aleutian Islands, North Pacific Landings - In mid-month US and Canadian troops landed on Kiska after heavy preliminary bombardments to find the Japanese had quietly left. The Aleutian Island chain was completely back in US hands.

SEPTEMBER 1943

Italy - Surrender and Invasion

 

The Italian surrender was signed in Sicily on the 3rd, but not announced until the 8th to coincide with the main Allied landing at Salerno, and in the forlorn hope of preventing the Germans from taking over the country. Meanwhile the invasion and occupation of southern Italy got underway. A start was made on the 3rd when British and Canadian troops of Gen Montgomery's Eighth Army crossed over the Strait of Messina from Sicily in 300 ships and landing craft (Operation 'Baytown') and pushed north through Calabria, eventually joining up with forces landed at Salerno. Early on the 9th, in conjunction with these landings, the Eighth Army's 1st Airborne Division was carried into Taranto by mainly British warships (Operation 'Slapstick'). Shortly afterwards the Adriatic ports of Brindisi and Bari were in Allied hands. 9th - Around midnight in Taranto harbour, cruiser-minelayer "ABDIEL" (abelow - Navy Photos/Bob Hanley), loaded with 1st Airborne troops, detonated one of the magnetic mines dropped by E-boats "S-54" and "S-61" as they escaped, and sank with heavy loss of life.

 

9th September - Salerno Landings, Operation 'Avalanche'

Landing Areas:

Gulf of Salerno, S of Naples

Forces landing:

US 5th Army - Gen Mark Clark
55,000 British & US troops
with 115,000 follow-up

British 10th Corps

US Sixth Corps

Departure from:

Tunis, Libya

Algeria

Naval Attack Forces
and Commanders:

Western
Vice-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Northern
Cdre G N Oliver

Southern
Rear-Adm J L Hall USN

Naval Assault & Follow-up Forces

British & Allied

U.S.A.

Cruisers

4

4

Destroyers

8

18

Other warships

77

90

Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc

29

13

Totals

128

125

Landing Ships and Craft (major only)

333

In addition to the grand total of 586 Allied naval units directly engaged in the landings, most of which were in their respective British or American sectors, Adm Cunningham as C-in-C provided a strong Royal Navy cover force and carrier support group. The cover force was again Force H under Adm Willis with battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", Warspite", "Valiant" and carriers "Formidable" and "Illustrious". Rear-Adm Vian commanded the support carriers with light carrier "Unicorn", escort carriers "Attacker", Battler", "Hunter" and "Stalker", three cruisers and destroyers. Most of the troops were carried to Salerno via Sicily in the landing ships and craft, and, early on the 9th, without any preliminary air or naval bombardment, landed in the face of strong German resistance. By the end of the day, with the support of the covering warships and carrier aircraft, both the British and Americans had established bridgeheads but with a gap in between. Over the next few days the Germans counter-attack and on the 13th and 14th came dangerously close to breaking through the Allied lines and reaching the beaches. They were held, and much of the credit went to the supporting warships, especially "Warspite" and "Valiant" which arrived on the 15th. On the 16th, the threat of dislodgement was over. 13th - All this time German Do127 aircraft using both types of guided bombs were attacking Allied shipping laying off the beaches. On the 13th, cruiser "Uganda" was damaged providing supporting gunfire. 16th - On the 16th, after "Warspite" had done her most valuable work, she was hit and near-missed by three or four guided bombs. Damaged, she had to be towed to Malta.

British Aegean Campaign Landings - With the surrender of Italy, Winston Churchill wanted to seize the Italian Dodecanese islands in the southern Aegean before the Germans could establish themselves there. From here the Allies could threaten Greece and support Turkey, but the Americans and some British commanders were lukewarm to what they saw as a sideshow compared with the battle for Italy. Insufficient forces and especially aircraft were made available, and the Germans soon took Rhodes from where, together with other bases, they maintained air superiority throughout the coming campaign. On the 15th and 16th, British troops occupied Kos, Leros, Samos and other smaller islands. The Royal Navy had the task of supplying and reinforcing them, as well as attacking German supply routes. The potential parallels with Norway, Greece and Crete all those many months back were obvious, if only in hindsight. 26th - After carrying troops to Leros, destroyers "Intrepid" and Greek "Queen Olga" were attacked by Ju88s while at anchor in the harbour. "QUEEN OLGA" soon went down and "INTREPID" capsized next day.

Singapore, Malaya Canoe Raid - Working for Special Operations Executive (SOE), a small group of Australian and British servicemen were carried from Australia in an old fishing vessel, and on the night of the 24th/25th penetrated Singapore harbour in canoes. Several ships were sunk. In a similar raid in September 1944 the attackers were captured and executed.

New Guinea, SW Pacific Landings - As the Allies fought towards Salamaua, further north a three-pronged attack was launched on Lae by mainly Australian troops - from landings to the east, by men airlifted inland to the northwest, and from the direction of Wau. As the Japanese withdrew from both areas towards the north coast of the Huon Peninsular, Australians entered Salamaua on the 11th and Lae five days later. To prevent the Japanese holding on to the Peninsular, Australian forces landed north of Finschhafen on the 22nd as others moved overland from Lae in the direction of Madang.

OCTOBER 1943

Solomon Islands, SW Pacific Landings - In preparation for the invasion of the northern Solomons island of Bougainville, New Zealand troops were landed on the Treasury Islands on the 27th.

NOVEMBER 1943

British Aegean Campaign Evacuations - German forces landed on Leros on the 12th and captured the Island after four day's heavy fighting against the British and Italian defenders. The campaign came to an end when Samos was evacuated on the 20th, but not before two more 'Hunts' fell victim, this time to Hs293 glider bombs: 11th - "ROCKWOOD" was severely damaged off Kos following an attack with other destroyers on Kalymnos (Calino). She was not repaired and went into reserve. 13th - "DULVERTON" was sunk off Kos as she withdrew from searching for German shipping making for Leros.

DECEMBER 1943

Normandy, Northern France Invasion Plans - In late December the commanders for the invasion of Europe were announced. US General Eisenhower would be Supreme Allied Commander with Air Marshal Tedder as deputy. In charge of all naval operations under the code name 'Neptune' was Adm Sir Bertram Ramsey. From Italy, Gen Montgomery, Eighth Army commander returned to England to prepare for his part in the Normandy invasion. Gen Eisenhower also headed for England.

Burma Command - Under Adm Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, Gen Slim's 14th Army prepared for a major offensive into northern Burma from the area of Kohima and lmphal in India. Throughout the rest of the war, Adm Mountbatten's plans to prosecute the campaign even more vigorously in South East Asia were continually frustrated by his lack of amphibious capability.

Bismarck Archipelago, SW Pacific Landings - Gen MacArthur was ready to complete his part in the isolation of Rabaul by preliminary landings on the southwest coast of New Britain, followed by a major assault at the western tip of Cape Gloucester on the 26th. Cover was partly provided by Rear-Adm Crutchley with cruisers "Australia" and "Shropshire". Fighting continued until March 1944 when, assisted by further landings, the western third of the island was secured. By November 1944, when Australian troops relieved the US forces, considerable numbers of Japanese were still penned in around Rabaul where they stayed until war's end

 

1944

JANUARY 1944

22nd January - Anzio Landings, Operation 'Shingle'

Landing Areas:

N and S of Anzio town

Forces landing:

US 6th Corps - Gen Lucas
50,000 British & US troops
with 115,000 follow-up

British 1st Division

US 3rd Division

Departure from:

Naples

Naval Assault Forces
and Commanders:

Naval Commander
Rear-Adm F J Lowry USN

Northern
Rear-Adm T Troubridge

Southern
Rear-Adm F J Lowry USN

Naval Assault & Follow-up Forces

British & Allied

U.S.A.

Cruisers

3

1

Destroyers

14

10

Other warships

30

59

LSIs, landing craft & ships (major only)

168

84

Totals

215

154

Grand Total

369

The British and US warships were not strictly allocated to their own sectors and two Royal Navy submarines provided the usual navigational markers. Landings took place early on the 22nd and were virtually unopposed. By next day the beachheads were secured, but by the time Sixth Corps was ready to move out on the 30th, powerful German reinforcements were ready to stop it in its tracks. For over a month until early March the Allies were hard pushed to hold on to their gains. Supporting warships were heavily attacked from the air: 23rd - On patrol off the beaches, destroyer "JANUS" was torpedoed and sunk by a He111 bomber. 29th - Six days later, cruiser "SPARTAN" was hit by a Hs293 glider bomb and capsized with many casualties.  

New Guinea, SW Pacific Landings - US Army troops land at Saidor on the 2nd covered by Rear-Adm Crutchley's mixed force of Australian and American warships. Saidor was soon taken as the Australian forces continue to push along the north coast and overland from Lae. They link up with the Americans near Saidor on the 10th February, and the Huon Peninsula was now almost entirely in Allied hands.

FEBRUARY 1944

Norway - Norwegian resistance fighters sank a cargo of heavy water bound for Germany for nuclear research.

MARCH 1944

Bismarck Archipelago, SW Pacific Landings - To complete Allied strategic control of the Bismarcks, Gen MacArthur's US forces landed on the Admiralty Islands on the last day of February. Further landings were made during March, but by the end of the month, in spite of fierce resistance, they were secured. Some fighting continued through until May 1944. The main island of Manus became one of the major Allied bases for the rest of the war.

APRIL 1944

New Guinea, SW Pacific Landings - As Australian forces approached Madang, entering there on the 24th, the Japanese concentrated their weakened divisions around Wewak. Now Gen MacArthur was ready to occupy most of the north coast with a series of leapfrog landings with US troops beyond the Japanese fallback positions. He started on the 22nd with Aitape and across the border in the Dutch half of the Island around Hollandia, which was soon secured. Aitape took longer.

MAY 1944

New Guinea, SW Pacific - US forces made their next landings on Wadke Island on the 16th, and further west still on Biak Island on the 27th. The Japanese were not yet finished and fought hard against US attempts to break out from their positions around Aitape, on the mainland near Wadke Island, and on Biak, in some cases right through until August 1944. All this time the Australians were pushing west along the north coast from Madang. Rear-Adm Crutchley's TF74 and other units of Seventh Fleet landed Gen MacArthur's troops and supported and supplied them. In June 1944 they drove off a determined Japanese operation to reinforce Biak Island by sea.

 

on to Part 2, Amphibious Operations, 1944-45,
back to Campaigns of World War 2

revised 8/7/11


 

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