Naval History Homepage and Site Search

 

CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC - BATTLES and WARSHIP LOSSES

Part 1 of 2 - 1939-1942

HMS Wolverine (Navy Photos, click to enlarge), destroyer of the old "V" and "W" class prewar. The class played a major role throughout the war. HMS Wolverine was credited with sinking "U-47" (now disputed) and "U-76" in Atlantic convoy battles in early 1941.

  on to Part 2, Battle of the Atlantic, Battles and Losses, 1943-45
 
 

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)

 
 

 
 

1939

SEPTEMBER 1939

14th - After an unsuccessful attack on carrier "Ark Royal" off the Hebrides, NW Scotland, German "U-39" was depth-charged and sunk by screening destroyers "Faulknor", "Firedrake" and "Foxhound".

17th - Three days after the sinking of "U-39", fleet carrier "COURAGEOUS" was sent to the bottom to the southwest of Ireland by "U-29" with heavy loss of life. Carriers were withdrawn from anti-U-boat patrols as it became accepted that the best chance of sinking U-boats was to attract them to well-defended convoys where the escorts could hunt them down.

20th - After sinking trawlers off the northern Hebrides, German "U-27" was located and sunk by destroyers "Fortune" and "Forester".

German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Admiral Graf Spee" sank her first ship in the Atlantic off Brazil on the 30th September.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats.

OCTOBER 1939

German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" claimed four more merchant ships in the South Atlantic before heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Seven Allied hunting groups were formed in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean to search for her. In total the Royal and French Navies deployed three capital ships, four aircraft carriers and 16 cruisers. Meanwhile sister ship "Deutschland", after accounting for two ships in the North Atlantic was ordered home. She reached Germany in November and was renamed "Lutzow".

8th-24th - The anti-U-boat mine barrage in the Strait of Dover was completed and accounted for three U-boats, starting with "U-12" on the 8th."U-40" was also mined and sunk in the Strait of Dover on the 13th. The third U-boat sunk in the Strait of Dover was "U-16" on the 24th. No more attempts were made to pass through the English Channel and U-boats were forced to sail around the north of Scotland to reach the Atlantic.

13th - Two U-boats attacking convoys to the southwest of Ireland were sunk by escorting destroyers. On the 13th, "U-42" was sent to the bottom by "Imogen" and "llex" sailing with Liverpool-out convoy OB17

14th - Next day "Icarus", "Inglefield", "Intrepid" and "Ivanhoe" escorting Kingston, Jamaica/UK convoy KJ3 accounted for "U-45"

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

NOVEMBER 1939

German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" sank a small tanker southwest of Madagascar and headed back for the South Atlantic. More Allied hunting groups were formed.

23rd - Armed merchant cruiser "RAWALPINDI" (Capt E. C Kennedy) on Northern Patrol was sunk by the 11in battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" as she and sister ship "Gneisenau" tried to break out into the Atlantic. After the action to the southwest of Iceland, they turned back and returned to Germany after avoiding searching ships of the British Home Fleet.

29th - On patrol to the north of Scotland to support the earlier attempted breakout by German battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau", "U-35" was found east of the Shetland Islands and sunk by destroyers "Kashmir", "Kingston" and "Icarus".

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

DECEMBER 1939

Canada - The first Canadian troop convoy TC1, sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia for Britain, heavily escorted and accompanied part of the way by Canadian destroyers.

4th - Returning from the hunt for the German battle-cruisers after the sinking of "Rawalpindi" on the 23rd November, battleship "Nelson" was damaged by a mine laid by "U-31" off Loch Ewe, northwest Scotland.

13th - Battle of River Plate - Now back in the South Atlantic, “Graf Spee” claimed three more victims to bring the total to nine ships of 50,000 tons, before heading for the South American shipping lanes off the River Plate. Cdre Harwood with Hunting Group G - 8in-gunned cruisers “Exeter” and “Cumberland” and 6in light cruisers “Ajax” and New Zealand “Achilles” - correctly anticipated her destination. Unfortunately “Cumberland” was by now in the Falklands. At 06.14 on the 13th, 150 miles east of the Plate Estuary, “Graf Spee” (Capt Langsdorff) was reported to the northwest of the three cruisers [1]. Faced with “Graf Spee's" heavier armament, Cdre Harwood decided to split his force in two and try to divide her main guns. “Exeter” closed to the south [2] while the two light cruisers worked around to the north [3], all firing as they manoeuvred. “Graf Spee” concentrated her two 11in turrets on “Exeter” which was badly hit [4]. By 06.50 all ships were heading west [5], “Exeter” with only one turret in action and on fire. She had to break off and headed south for the Falklands [6].

“Ajax” and “Achilles” continued to harry the pocket battleship from the north [7], but at 07.25 "Ajax" lost her two after turrets to an 11in hit [8]. “Achilles” already had splinter damage, but still the German ship failed to press home her advantage. By 08.00, still with only superficial damage, she headed for the neutral Uruguayan port of Montevideo, the cruisers shadowing [9]. “GRAF SPEE” entered port at midnight. As other Allied hunting groups headed for the area, much diplomatic manoeuvring took place to hold her there. Finally, on the 17th, Capt Langsdorff edged his ship out into the estuary where she was scuttled and blown up. Only “Cumberland” had arrived by this time. Langsdorff then committed suicide.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German pocket battleship

 

1940

JANUARY 1940

30th - Attacking Thames-out convoy 0A80 to the west of the English Channel, “U-55” was destroyed in a joint action by an RAF Sunderland of No 228 Squadron, sloop “Fowey“ and destroyer “Whitshed”. This was the first successful air/sea attack which would not be repeated for another five months.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat

FEBRUARY 1940

5th - “U-41” sank one ship from Liverpool-out convoy OB84 south of Ireland, but was then sent to the bottom by the lone escort, destroyer “Antelope”.

23rd - Destroyer “Gurkha” on passage south of the Faeroe Islands encountered “U-53” returning from patrol in the Western Approaches. The U-boat was sunk.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats.

MARCH 1940

German Raiders - Converted from a merchantman and heavily armed, auxiliary cruiser “Atlantis” sailed for the Indian Ocean round the Cape of Good Hope. In 1941 she moved into the South Atlantic, and operations lasted for a total of 20 months until her loss in November 1941. She was the first of nine active raiders, seven of which went out in 1940. Only one ever broke out for a second cruise. Their success was not so much due to their sinkings and captures - a creditable average of 15 ships of 90,000 tons for each raider, but the disruption they caused in every ocean. At a time when the Royal Navy was short of ships, convoys had to be organised and patrols instituted in many areas. In 1940 raiders accounted for 54 ships of 370,000 tons. The first German raider was not caught until May 1941 - 14 months later.

20th - Home Fleet battlecruisers to the north of the Shetlands covered a cruiser sweep into the Skagerrak. German U-boat “U-44” was sighted and sunk by escorting destroyer “Fortune” .

Axis Loss Summary - 1 U-boat

APRIL 1940

German Raiders - “Orion” sailed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans around South America's Cape Horn. She was out for 16 months before returning to France.

10th - “U-50” on patrol off the Shetlands in support of the Norwegian invasion, was sunk by destroyer “Hero”.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

MAY 1940

German Raiders - “Widder” headed for central Atlantic operations before returning to France six months later. On her way into the Indian Ocean, “Atlantis” laid mines off South Africa.

JUNE 1940

German Raiders - Two more set sail. “Thor” made for the South Atlantic and returned to Germany eleven months later. “Pinguin” left for the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, later operated in the Antarctic and was finally lost in May 1941. Meanwhile “Orion” which set out in April 1940 was laying mines off New Zealand that accounted for the gold-bullion carrying liner “Niagara”.

6th - Three armed merchant cruisers on Northern Patrol were lost to U-boats in the waters between Ireland (R) and Iceland (C) over the next nine days, starting with “CARINTHIA” on the 6th/7th to “U-46”. 13th - “SCOTSTOUN” was torpedoed three times by “U-25” and sank north west of the Hebrides. 15th - “ANDANIA” was sunk by German “U-A”, a Turkish submarine building in Germany and taken over

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats, dates and causes of loss uncertain.

JULY 1940

1st - Corvette Gladiolus claimed the first success for the 'Flower' class when with the support of an RAF Sunderland, she sank “U-26” southwest of Ireland.

5th - Detached from a UK outward-bound OB convoy to search for a reported U-boat, destroyer “WHIRLWIND” was torpedoed by “U-34” and lost to the west of Land's End.

German Raiders - Only 11 months before Germany attacked Russia, “Komet” sailed for the Pacific through the North East Passage across the top of Siberia with the aid of Russian icebreakers. She operated in the Pacific and Indian Oceans until returning to Germany in November 1941, the last of the first wave of surface raiders to leave Germany.

28th - Off the coast of Brazil, German raider “Thor” badly damaged armed merchant cruiser “Alcantara” in a gun duel.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

AUGUST 1940

10th - Two more ex-liners recommissioned as armed merchant cruisers of the Northern Patrol were lost to U-boat attack to the north of Ireland. "TRANSYLVANIA" was torpedoed and sunk by "U-56" on the 10th. The second was lost at the end of the month.

20th - Submarine "Cachalot "on Bay of Biscay patrol sank the returning "U-51" off Lorient, western France

24th- An attack by "U-37" on the first Slow Cape Breton/UK convoy SC1 to the southeast of Greenland led to the loss of a merchantman and sloop "PENZANCE".

27th/28th - The second AMC of the Northern Patrol lost to the north of Ireland was "DUNVEGAN CASTLE" to "U-46" on the night of the 27th/28th.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

SEPTEMBER 1940

1st - Cruiser "Fiji" was torpedoed by "U-32" out in the North Atlantic off Rockall as she escorted troop transports for the Dakar, West Africa expedition, Operation "Menace". Her place was taken by Australian heavy cruiser "Australia".

6th - Escorting convoy OA205, corvette "GODETIA" was rammed and sunk by merchantman "Marsa" north of Ireland, the first 'Flower' class lost.

15th - "U-48" attacked convoy SC3 northwest of Ireland and sank sloop "DUNDEE". Both "Dundee" and "Penzance", lost the previous month, were long endurance ships used as anti-submarine (A/S) ocean escorts for the slow and vulnerable SC convoys.

 

OCTOBER 1940

 22nd - Canadian destroyer "MARGAREE" escorting Liverpool-out convoy OL8, was lost in collision with merchantman "Port Fairy" to the west of Ireland. This was the last of the short-lived fast OL's sailing from Liverpool.

30th - Destroyers "Harvester" and "Highlander" sank "U-32" northwest of Ireland during a convoy attack. Two days earlier, the U-boat had finished off the damaged 42,000-ton liner "Empress of Britain".

German Surface Warships & Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" sailed from Germany for the Atlantic and later Indian Oceans. She got back home in March 1941. Meanwhile German raider "Widder" arrived in France after six month's operations in the central Atlantic where she sank or captured 10 ships of 59,000 tons.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

NOVEMBER 1940

2nd - Attacking a convoy northwest of Ireland, "U-31" was sunk for the second and final time, on this occasion by destroyer "Antelope" in co-operation with shore-based aircraft of RAF Coastal Command. RAF Bomber Command first sank her in March 1940.

3rd - Two armed merchant cruisers returning from patrol were sunk west of Ireland by Kretschmer's "U-99". The first was "LAURENTIC" on the 3rd.

4th - Next day, "PATROCLUS" was lost west of Ireland to an attack by "U-99". A third AMC was sunk next day.

Admiral Scheer 1940 - Royal Navy Single Ship Action

5th - Loss of the "Jervis Bay" - Halifax/UK convoy HX84 with 37 ships and its solitary escort, armed merchant cruiser "Jervis Bay" (Capt Fegen) was attacked by the 11in-gunned pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in mid-Atlantic. The convoy was ordered to scatter as "JERVIS BAY" headed for the "Scheer", guns firing. The end was in no doubt and she went down, but her sacrifice saved all but five of the merchant ships. Capt Edward Fegen RN was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. It was in this action that tanker "San Demetrio" was damaged by gunfire and abandoned. Later re-boarded by a few of her crew, they got her into port in spite of the greatest difficulties and privations. "Admiral Scheer" headed for the central and later the South Atlantic.

In separate North Atlantic operations, German submarine "U-104" and the Italian "FAA DI BRUNO" were lost. In both cases the circumstances were uncertain, but "U-104" was claimed by corvette "Rhododendron" and the Italian by destroyer "Havelock". "U-104" was the last German U-boat lost until March although the Italians had casualties.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German and 1 Italian U-boats

DECEMBER 1940

German Raiders - "Kormoran" was the first of the second wave of raiders to leave for operations. She started in the central Atlantic and later moved to the Indian Ocean, where she was lost in November 1941. Much further afield in the South West Pacific, "Komet" and "Orion" shared in the sinking of five ships near the phosphate island of Nauru. Later in the month "Komet" shelled the installations on Nauru.

1st - Armed merchant cruiser "Carnarvon Castle" was badly damaged in action with raider "Thor" off Brazil, the German ship's second and equally successful fight with an AMC.

2nd - Cdr Kretschmer and "U-99" claimed a third armed merchant cruiser when "FORFAR" was sent to the bottom west of Ireland; the others were "Laurentic" and "Patroclus" a month earlier. At the same time nearby convoy HX90 was attacked just before the Western Approaches escorts arrived. Eleven ships were lost to the U-boats.

15th - Italian submarine "TARANTINI" returning from North Atlantic patrol was torpedoed and sunk by submarine "Thunderbolt" in the Bay of Biscay.

German Heavy Warships - Earlier in the month the 8in heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" left Germany and passed into the Atlantic through the Denmark Strait. On Christmas Day the 25th December, 700 miles to the west of Cape Finisterre, northwest Spain she encountered Middle East troop convoy WS5A, one of 'Winston's Specials', escorted by cruisers. They were accompanied by carrier "Furious" ferrying aircraft to Takoradi in West Africa. In an exchange of gunfire the heavy cruiser "Berwick" (below) and two merchantmen were slightly damaged. "Hipper" retired and soon reached Brest. She was the first of the Gerrnan big ships to reach the French Biscay ports. From there she and her companions posed a major threat to the Atlantic convoy routes right up until the Channel Dash of February 1942.

 Axis Loss Summary - 1 Italian U-boat

 

1941

JANUARY 1941

German Heavy Warships & Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" was hunting in the South Atlantic, while battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" in Germany and heavy cruiser "Hipper" in Brest, France prepared to sail. At the end of the month the two battlecruisers headed out into the Atlantic for two months operations before returning to Brest. Six of the original seven raiders were still at sea - "Orion" and "Komet" in the Pacific, "Atlantis" at the desolate island of Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean, "Kormoran" in the central and "Thor" in the South Atlantic. Finally "Pinguin" was in the Antarctic. All six moved to different areas over the next few months. Until June 1941, German warships sank 37 ships of 188,000 tons and raiders 38 ships of 191,000 tons. Thereafter neither type inflicted many losses as worldwide convoys were organised and the raiders' supply ships sunk.

7th - Italian submarine "NANI" attacked a convoy west of North Channel and was sunk by corvette "Anemone".

Axis Loss Summary - 1 Italian U-boat.

FEBRUARY 1941

German Heavy Warships - At the beginning of the month, heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" sailed from Brest. On the 12th, far to the west of Gibraltar, she sank seven ships from slow unescorted convoy SLS64 bound for Britain from Sierra Leone. Returning to Brest, in March she headed back to Germany via the Denmark Strait and took no further part in independent commerce raiding. On the 8th, battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" sighted convoy HX106 escorted by the lone battleship "Ramillies" south of Greenland, but declined to attack in case of possible damage. Two weeks later, five unescorted ships were sunk east of Newfoundland, before they headed for the Sierra Leone routes. Meanwhile pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in the Indian Ocean operated successfully off Madagascar before preparing to return to Germany.

22nd - Italian submarine "MARCELLO" was believed sunk to the west of the Hebrides by ex-US destroyer "Montgomery" and other escorts of Liverpool-out convoy OB287. The convoy was reported by Kondors which sank two and damaged four merchantmen. No more U-boat attacks were made.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 Italian U-boat.

MARCH 1941

7th/8th - With better weather the spring U-boat offensive started and 41 ships of 243,000 tons sunk. However, in the space of a few days they suffered their first major defeat at the hands of the escorts and lost five submarines (1-5) in the month including three aces. From then on, escort versus wolf-pack battles predominated in the North Atlantic. Attacking Liverpool-out convoy OB293, the first sinking was "U-70" (1) by corvettes "Arbutus" and "Camellia" on the 7th. Continuing the hunt, next to go was "U-47" (2) (Cdr Prien who sank battleship "Royal Oak" in Scapa Flow) to destroyer "Wolverine" on the 8th.

German Heavy Ships - battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" were sighted by aircraft of battleship "Malaya" escorting convoy SL67 off the Cape Verde Islands. The German ships returned to the Newfoundland area and on the 15th and 16th sank or captured 16 unescorted ships. They returned to Brest on the 22nd, having accounted for 22 ships of 116,000 tons, but never again took part successfully in commerce raiding.

17th - Germany lost two more U-boat aces during operations against Halifax/UK convoy HX112. "U-99" (3) (Lt-Cdr Kretschmer) and "U-100" (4) (Lt-Cdr Schepke) were sunk by the 5th Escort Group commanded by Cdr Macintyre. Destroyers "Vanoc" and "Walker" were mainly responsible.

20th - Following her earlier sighting of the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau", "Malaya" was now sailing with convoy SL68 off the west coast of Africa. Torpedoed and damaged by "U-106", she became the first British ship repaired in the United States under Lend-Lease arrangements. The convoy lost seven merchantmen to the U-boats.

23rd - The fifth U-boat loss of the month was "U-551" (5) to armed trawler "Visenda". All five U-boat sinkings took place to the south of Iceland, the first German casualties since November 1940 - four months earlier.

Axis Loss Summary - 5 German U-boats, including three of the most experienced commanders.

APRIL 1941

4th - Armed merchant cruisers again suffered heavy losses at widely scattered locations and in different circumstances. On the 4th "VOLTAIRE" was sunk in a gun duel with German raider "Thor" west of the Cape Verde Islands.

5th - Slow Halifax/UK convoy SC26 was attacked by U-boats for two days and lost 10 merchantmen. On the 5th, "U-76" was sunk by escorting destroyer "Wolverine and sloop "Scarborough" south of Iceland.

6th - Only two days later, "COMORIN" caught fire and finally went down west of Ireland - the rescue of her crew and passengers in raging seas an epic in its own right.

13th - The third AMC was "RAJPUTANA" of the Northern Patrol lost in an attack by "U-108" in the Denmark Strait separating Greenland and Iceland.

German Raiders - "Thor" now returned to Germany after an absence of 11 months, having accounted for 11 ships of 83,000 tons plus the "Voltaire". Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" also got back to Germany after five months in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans credited with 16 ships of 99,000 tons and "Jervis Bay".

28th - Fast Halifax/UK convoy HX121 lost four ships but "U-65" was sunk in return by corvette "Gladiolus", like "U-76", south of Iceland.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

MAY 1941

8th - On patrol north of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, heavy cruiser "Cornwall" found and sank German raider "PINGUIN". This was the first raider to be hunted down, having accounted for 28 ships of 136,000 tons.

9th - Capture of "U.110" and the German Enigma - South of Iceland, "U.110" (Lt-Cdr Lemp of the "Athenia" sinking) attacked Liverpool out convoy OB318 protected by ships of Capt A. J. Baker-Creswell's escort group. Blown to the surface by depth charges from corvette "Aubretia" on the 9th, "U-110's" crew abandoned ship, but she failed to go down. A boarding party from destroyer "Bulldog", led by Sub-Lt Balme, managed to get aboard. In a matter of hours they transferred to safety "U-110's" entire Enigma package - coding machine, code books, rotor settings and charts. The destroyer "Broadway" stood by during this hazardous operation. Two days later "U-110" sank on tow to Iceland, knowledge of her capture having been withheld from the crew and Lt-Cdr Lemp dying at the time of the boarding. The priceless Enigma material represented one of the greatest intelligence coup ever and was a major naval victory in its own right. "U-110's" capture was far and away the most successful of the attempts to capture Enigma codes. In the March 1941 raid on the Norwegian Lofoten Islands, spare coding rotors were found. Then two days before the "U-110" triumph, a cruiser force had tried to capture the weather trawler "Munchen" off Iceland. At the end of the coming June a similar operation was mounted against the "Lauenberg". In both cases useful papers were taken but the real breakthrough only came with "U-110". Included with the material captured were all rotor settings until the end of June 1941. A number of codes were used with Enigma. The U-boat one was 'Hydra', also used by all ships in European waters. From the end of June, Bletchley Park was able to decipher 'Hydra' right through until the end of the war. Unfortunately the U-boats moved off this version to the new 'Triton' in February 1942. The big ship 'Neptun' and Mediterranean 'Sud' and 'Medusa' codes were also soon broken.

13th - Armed merchant cruiser "SALOPIAN" on passage to Halifax after escorting convoy SC30 was torpedoed a total of six times by "U-98". Eventually she went down southeast of Cape Farewell, the sad but appropriately-named southern tip of Greenland.

18th-28th - Hunt for the "Bismarck", Phase 1 - On the 18th, new German 15in battleship "Bismarck" and heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" sailed from Gdynia in the Baltic for the Atlantic via Norway. A simultaneous sortie by the battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" from Brest was fortunately prevented by the damage inflicted by the RAF. On the 20th, the first two ships were sighted in the Kattegat by a Swedish warship. 21st - In the evening the German ships were sighted in a fiord south of Bergen, Norway. Two of the Home Fleet's capital ships, "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" (the latter still not fully completed and working up), sailed from Scapa Flow towards Iceland to support the cruisers on Northern Patrol. 22nd - "Bismarck" was reported at sea and the main body of the Home Fleet under Adm Tovey left Scapa Flow and headed west. Battleship "King George V", fleet carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers were later joined by battlecruiser "Repulse". "Victorious" was also a recent addition to the Fleet and still working up.

23rd - In the early evening, heavy cruisers "Suffolk" and shortly "Norfolk" sighted the German ships north west of Iceland and shadowed them southwestwards through the Denmark Strait separating Iceland from Greenland to the west. "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" pressed on to intercept west of Iceland. 24th - That morning the big ships met and opened fire. Around 06.00, after firing two or three salvos, "Bismarck" hit "HOOD" which blew up with only three survivors. Now it was "Prince of Wales" turn to be the target. After being hit several times she turned away but not before damaging "Bismarck" and causing her to lose fuel oil to the sea.

Phase 2 - German Adm Lutjens decided to make for St Nazaire in France, with its large dry-dock, and headed southwest and later south out of the Denmark Strait. The two Royal Navy cruisers, and for a while the damaged "Prince of Wales", continued to shadow. Adm Tovey hurried west with the rest of Home Fleet. With "Hood's" loss, Force H (Adm Somerville) with battlecruiser "Renown", carrier "Ark Royal" and cruiser "Sheffield" was sailing north from Gibraltar. Battleship "Ramillies", released from convoy escort duties, and "Rodney", then to the west of Ireland, headed towards "Bismarck's" expected track. "Ramillies" played no part in later operations. At 18.00, still an the 24th, "Bismarck" feinted north towards her shadowers long enough to allow "Prinz Eugen" to get away. (The cruiser went south, later refueled from a tanker and cruised for three days before reaching Brest on 1 June. There she joined the two battlecruisers under heavy RAF attack until the Channel Dash of February 1942.) Around midnight, southeast of Cape Farewell, Swordfish from Adm Tovey's "Victorious" got one hit on "Bismarck" after she had resumed her southerly course. The damage was negligible. Shortly after in the early hours of the 25th, she altered course to the southeast for France and the cruisers lost contact. At this point Adm Tovey's heavy ships were only 100 miles away.

25th - "Bismarck" held her southeasterly course, but broke radio silence. Unfortunately the British direction-finding service put her on a northeasterly heading. Adm Tovey sailed in that direction for a while before turning to the southeast in pursuit. Now he was well astern of his quarry. Only by slowing her down could destruction become possible. In the meantime, Force H continued to sail north to take up a blocking position between "Bismarck" and her new goal of Brest. 26th - After a 30-hour interval, "Bismarck" was once more sighted, this time by a RAF Catalina of No 209 Squadron, and only 30hr from home. In the afternoon a Swordfish strike from Force H's "Ark Royal" attacked cruiser "Sheffield" in error. They missed. A second strike took place in the evening by 810, 818 and 820 Squadrons with 15 Swordfish led by Lt-Cdr Coode. They torpedoed "Bismarck" twice and one hit damaged her propellers and jammed the rudder. As "Bismarck" circled, destroyers of the 4th Flotilla (Capt Vian) came up around midnight, and made a series of torpedo and gun attacks but with uncertain results. Capt Vian's "Cossack", "Maori", "Sikh", "Zulu" and Polish "Piorun" had been detached from troop convoy ("Winston's Special") WS8B, an indication of the seriousness of "Bismarck's" threat. By this time Adm Tovey's force of heavy ships had lost "Repulse" to refuel, but been joined by "Rodney". They now came up from the west but do not attack just yet. 27th - "King George V", "Rodney" and the still circling "Bismarck" all opened fire around 08.45. Only the German ship was hit and by 10.15 was a blazing wreck. Heavy cruiser "Dorsetshire", having left convoy SL74 the previous day, fired torpedoes to finish her off. "BISMARCK" sank at 10.36 to the southwest of Ireland. Shadowing cruiser "Norfolk" was there at the end. 28th - The many warships deployed from all parts of the North Atlantic returned to other duties. As they did, heavy attacks by German aircraft sank destroyer "MASHONA" off the west coast of Ireland.

Axis Loss Summary - German battleship "Bismarck" and "U-110"

JUNE 1941

2nd - Destroyer "Wanderer" and corvette "Periwinkle" sank "U-147" northwest of Ireland during a convoy attack.

13th - Pocket battleship "Lutzow" attempted to break out. Attacked on the 13th off the Norwegian coast by an RAF Beaufort, she was hit by one torpedo and only just made it back to Germany.

18th - As Force H headed into the Atlantic to help search for German supply vessels already in position to support "Bismarck's" breakout, they came across a U-boat located through the recently captured "Enigma" codes off the Strait of Gibraltar. Screening destroyers "Faulknor", "Fearless", "Forester", "Foresight" and "Foxhound" shared in the destruction of "U-138".

27th - Italian submarine "GLAUCO" was scuttled west of Gibraltar after being damaged by destroyer "Wishart".

27th-29th - Attacks on Halifax/UK convoy HX133 - A total of 10 U-boats attacked Halifax/UK convoy HX133 south of Iceland. Five ships were lost but the convoy escort sank two U-boats. Corvettes "Celandine", "Gladiolus" and "Nasturtium" accounted for "U-556" on the 27th, and destroyers "Scimitar" and "Malcolm", corvettes "Arabis" and "Violet" and minesweeper "Speedwell" sank "U-651" on the 29th. The escort had been reinforced to a total of 13 ships as a result of 'Ultra' intercepts of Enigma codes. This, the first of the big convoy battles, led to the development of additional convoy support groups.

Axis Loss Summary - 4 German and 1 Italian U-boats

JULY 1941

Axis Loss Summary - no U-boat sinkings

AUGUST 1941

3rd - Southwest of Ireland, ships of the 7th Escort Group escorting Sierra Leone/UK convoy SL81 - destroyers "Wanderer" and Norwegian "St Albans” and corvette "Hydrangea" sank "U-401".

7th - Submarine "Severn" on patrol for U-boats attacking HG convoys west of Gibraltar, torpedoed and sank Italian submarine "BIANCHI".

12th - Corvette "PICOTEE" with the 4th Escort Group accompanying convoy ONS4 was detached to search for a reported U-boat south of Iceland. She was sunk without trace by "U-568".

19th-23rd - Attacks on UK/Gibraltar convoy OG71 - A total of nine merchantmen were lost. Of the ships with the 5th Escort Group Norwegian destroyer "BATH" was sunk on the 19th by "U-204" or "U-201", and corvette "ZINNIA" by "U-564" to the west of Portugal on the 23rd.

25th - South of Iceland, armed trawler "Vascama" and a RAF Catalina of No 209 Squadron sank "U-452".

27th - Capture of German "U-570" - "U-570" on patrol south of Iceland surfaced and was damaged by depth charges from an RAF Hudson of No 269 Squadron, piloted by Sqn Ldr Thompson. She soon surrendered and was towed into Iceland. After refitting, "U-570" was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Graph.

German Raiders - "Orion" returned to France from the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope. In 16 months she had accounted for 9 1/2 ships of 60,000 tons, some in co-operation with "Komet".

Axis Loss Summary - 3 German and 1 Italian U-boats

SEPTEMBER 1941

8th - As Italian submarines patrolled to the west of Portugal for HG convoys, "BARACCA" was depth charged and rammed by destroyer "Croome". A second Italian submarine may have been sunk later in the month.

10th-19th - Attacks on Halifax/UK Convoys - Attacks on these convoys southwest of Iceland led to the first success and loss by Royal Canadian Navy forces in the Battle of the Atlantic. Against SC42, "U-501" was sunk by Canadian corvettes "Chambly" and "Moosejaw" (sister ship HMCS Louisburg shown below) on the 10th. Next day RN destroyers "Leamington" and "Veteran" of 2nd EG sank "U-207". But in exchange, SC42 lost 16 of its 64 merchantmen. A few days later, on the 19th, Canadian corvette "LEVIS" with SC44 was lost to "U-74" southeast of Cape Farewell.

21st - Destroyer "Vimy" claimed to have sunk Italian submarine "MALASPINA" during attacks on Gibraltar/UK convoy HG73. She may in fact have been lost earlier through unknown causes.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German and 2 Italian U-boats

OCTOBER 1941

4th - Supply U-boat "U-111" returning from the Cape Verde area was sunk off the Canaries by armed trawler "Lady Shirley".

14th-27th - Attacks on Gibraltar/UK Convoy Routes - Two escorts and two U-boats were lost in attacks on the UK/Gibraltar convoy routes. In operations against Gibraltar-bound OG75, "U-206" sank corvette "FLEUR DE LYS" off the Strait of Gibraltar on the 14th. In the same area on the 19th, "U-204" was lost to patrolling corvette "Mallow" and sloop "Rochester". Six days later on the 25th, Italian submarine "FERRARIS" was damaged by a RAF Catalina of No 202 Squadron and sent to the bottom by the gunfire of escort destroyer "Lamerton". UK-bound HG75 lost five ships, and on the 23rd the famous destroyer "COSSACK" was torpedoed by "U-563". Struggling in tow for four days she foundered to the west of Gibraltar.

16th-31st - First US Navy Casualties - In mid-Atlantic, convoy SC48 of 39 ships and 11 stragglers was reinforced by four US destroyers. On the 16th corvette "GLADIOLUS" was torpedoed by "U-553" or "U-568" and went down. There were no survivors. Next day - the 17th, the US "Kearny" was damaged by a torpedo from "U-568", and on the 18th British destroyer "BROADWATER" was lost to "U-101". Nine merchantmen were sunk. Convoy HX156 was escorted by another US group, and on the 31st the destroyer "REUBEN JAMES" was sunk by "U-552". This first US loss in the Battle of the Atlantic came only two weeks after the torpedoing of "Kearny". The United States was virtually at war with Germany.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German and 1 Italian U-boats

NOVEMBER 1941

22nd - While replenishing "U-126" north of Ascension Island, raider "ATLANTIS" was surprised and sunk by heavy cruiser "Devonshire". The raider's operations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans had cost the Allies 22 merchantmen of 146,000 tons.

24th - On her way to rescue "Atlantis'" survivors, "U-124" sighted cruiser "DUNEDIN" on patrol off the St Paul's Rocks, half way between Africa and South America. The cruiser was sunk with heavy loss of life.

German Raiders - "Komet" returned to Germany through the Atlantic having reached the Pacific across the top of Siberia some 17 months earlier. Her score was just 6 1/2 ships, some in operations with "Orion".

German Heavy Warships - As the completed "Tirpitz", sister-ship to "Bismarck" prepared for operations, units of the Home Fleet sailed for Iceland waters to cover any possible breakout. They were supported by a US Navy battle squadron.

30th -  RAF aircraft of Coastal Command were now flying regular patrols in the Bay of Biscay equipped with effective airborne depth charges and the long wavelength ASV radar. The first success was by a Whitley of No 502 Squadron. "U-206" on passage to the Mediterranean was detected and sunk.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German raider, 1 German U-boat and 1 Italian (cause unknown)

DECEMBER 1941

7th - Canadian corvette “WINDFLOWER“ with Halifax/UK convoy SC58 was lost in collision with the SS Zypenburg east of Newfoundland.

15th-21st - Battle for Convoy HG76: Closing of the Gibraltar/UK Air-Gap - Gibraltar/UK convoy HG76 (32 ships) was escorted by the 36th Escort Group (Cdr F. J. Walker) with a support group including escort carrier “Audacity”. In advance of the convoy leaving Gibraltar, destroyers of Force H including the Australian “Nestor” located and destroyed “U-127” on the 15th. In the four days from the 17th, four more U-boats were sunk for the loss of two escorts and two merchantmen. The battle took place to the far west of Portugal, north of Madeira and the Azores. 17th - “U-131” was sunk by destroyers “Blankney”, “Exmoor” and “Stanley”, corvette “Pentstemon” and sloop “Stork” together with Grumman Martlets flying from “Audacity”. 18th - “U-434” was accounted for by “Blankney” and “Stanley”. 19th - Destroyer “STANLEY” was torpedoed and sunk by “U-574”, which was in turn sent to the bottom, rammed by sloop “Stork”. 21st - The sole escort carrier “AUDACITY” was torpedoed by “U-751” and lost, but in the general counter-attack “U-567” was sunk by corvette “Samphire” and sloop “Deptford”. The sinking of five U-boats in exchange for two merchant ships was a significant victory for the escorts, and proved beyond any doubt the value of escort carrier aircraft against the submarine - as well as the patrolling Focke Wulf Kondors, two of which were shot down.

Axis Loss Summary - 5 German U-boats plus two transferring to the Mediterranean

 

1942

JANUARY 1942

German Surface Warships - The German big ships giae the Admiralty much cause for concern. "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen" all now repaired, were ready for a possible break-out from Brest into the Atlantic. At the same time the new battleship "Tirpitz" moved to Trondheim in the middle of the month from where she could prey on the Russian convoys. In fact Hitler had ordered the Brest squadron back to Germany. By early February the Admiralty had got wind of the proposed "Channel Dash" and prepared accordingly.

German Raiders - Raider "Thor" sailed from France for her second cruise. She was the only raider to do so successfully. Operations in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean continued until her loss in November 1942. No German raiders had been at sea since the previous November, and "Thor" was the first of three to break out in 1942. In the first six months of the year they sank or captured 17 ships of 107,000 tons.

15th - Destroyer "Hesperus" escorting convoy HG78 sank "U-93" north of Madeira.

31st - Canadian troop convoy NA2 sailing for Britain was attacked by "U-82" southeast of Nova Scotia. Destroyer "BELMONT" was lost with all hands.

31st - Ex-US Coast Guard cutter "CULVER" was sunk by "U-105" west of the Bay of Biscay as she escorted Sierra Leone convoy SL93.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

FEBRUARY 1942

2nd - As she attacked a damaged troopship sailing from the Azores, "U-581" was sunk by escorting destroyer "Westcott".

5th - "U-136" on patrol off Rockall sank two escorts. The first was corvette "ARBUTUS" detached with destroyer "Chelsea" from UK/Halifax convoy ONS63 to hunt for a reported U-boat.

6th - Returning from the American coast where she sank destroyer "Belmont", "U-82" encountered UK/Sierra Leone convoy OS18 north of the Azores and was destroyed by corvette "Tamarisk" and sloop "Rochester".

11th - "U-136's" second success less than a week later was Canadian corvette "SPIKENARD" escorting Halifax/UK convoy SC67.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

MARCH 1942

German Raiders - Raider "Michel" sailed for the South Atlantic and later Indian and Pacific Oceans.

27th - UK/Middle East troop convoy WS17 was on passage southwest of Ireland. As "U-587" headed for American waters her sighting report was detected and she was sunk by the convoy escort including destroyers "Aldenham", "Grove", "Leamington" and "Volunteer". This was the first success using HF/DF - ship-borne, high frequency direction-finding.

Axis Loss Summary - 3 U-boats, including 2 by US aircraft off Newfoundland

APRIL 1942

14th - "U-252" attacked UK/Gibraltar convoy OG82 southwest of Ireland and was sunk by sloop "Stork" and corvette "Vetch" of the 36th EG (Cdr Walker). This was one of the first successful attacks using 10cm Type 271 radar. From now on the new radar and HF/DF played an increasing part in the sinking of U-boats.

14th - The US Navy had its first warship success against U-boats when destroyer "Roper" sank "U-85" off the east coast of America.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

MAY 1942

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat by US Coast Guard off east coast of America

JUNE 1942

17th - As destroyer "WILD SWAN" headed for Gibraltar/UK convoy HG84 she was attacked and sunk off south west Ireland by German Ju88s, but not before she shot down a number of them. The convoy lost five ships to U-boats.

21st - Ex-US submarine "P-514" on passage around the coast of Newfoundland from Argentia to St Johns was rammed and sunk in error by Canadian sloop "Georgian".

Axis Loss Summary - 2 U-boats by US forces off Cuba and Bermuda

JULY 1942

3rd - "U-215" sank an escorted ship south of Nova Scotia and was lost in the counter-attack by British armed trawler "Le Tiger" (Free French trawler "Le Tigre" according to some sources).

11th - Northwest of the Canaries, UK/West Africa convoy OS.33 was attacked and "U-136" sunk by frigate "Spey", sloop "Pelican" and Free French destroyer "Leopard".

14th - Damaged in action with the cutter "Lulworth" and other escorts, Italian submarine "PIETRO CALVI" was scuttled south of the Azores.

24th - Canadian destroyer "St Croix", with the Canadian C2 group escorting UK/North America convoy ON115, sank "U-90" off Newfoundland.

31st - In mid-Atlantic, Canadian destroyer "Skeena" and corvette "Wetaskiwan" of the C3 group (see below for "C" designation) with ON113 sank "U-588".

31st - On passage out, "U-213" stumbled across a convoy west of the Bay of Biscay, where she was sunk by the escort including sloops "Erne", "Rochester" and "Sandwich".

Axis Loss Summary - 11 German and 1 Italian U-boats, including 2 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 1 by RCAF off Nova Scotia; and 3 by US forces in the Caribbean and off the east coast of America

AUGUST 1942

3rd - On anti-U-boat patrol between the Shetlands and Norway, submarine "Saracen" torpedoed "U-335" on passage out.

5th-10th - Attacks on Halifax/UK convoy SC94 - In the space of five days slow Halifax/UK convoy SC94 (33 ships) was attacked by a total of 17 U-boats and lost 11 merchantmen. Southeast of Greenland two U-boats were sunk by ships of the Canadian C1 group. On the 6th, Canadian destroyer "Assiniboine" shelled and rammed "U-210". Two days later on the 8th, British corvette "Dianthus" also with C1 group, depth charged and rammed "U-379" to destruction. Four more U-boats were damaged in attacks on the convoy.

28th - "U-94" attacked Trinidad/Cuba convoy TAG15 off Jamaica. Damaged by a US Navy Catalina, she was finished off by Canadian corvette "Oakville".

Axis Loss Summary - 9 U-boats including 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 3 by US aircraft in Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and off Iceland; 1 Italian by unknown causes, possibly by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols.

SEPTEMBER 1942

3rd - "U-162" attacked destroyer "Pathfinder" north of Trinidad, but was sunk by her and accompanying destroyers "Quentin" and "Vimy".

11th - Canadian corvette "CHARLOTTETOWN" on passage with a minesweeper in the Gulf of St Lawrence was sunk by "U-517".

"Laconia" Incident - Off West Africa on the 12th, "U-156" sank liner "Laconia" loaded with 1,800 Italian POWs. The CO called for assistance in clear and other U-boats came to the rescue. An American aircraft made an attack and Adm Doenitz subsequently forbade U-boats to help ships' survivors. He was indicted for the 'Laconia order' at the Nurnberg trials.

14th - "U-91" sent Canadian destroyer "OTTAWA" to the bottom, east of Newfoundland. She was with the Canadian C4 group protecting UK/North American convoy ON127, which lost seven ships to U-boats.

26th - U-boats attacked convoy RB1 of Great Lakes steamers bound for the UK. In mid-Atlantic, escorting destroyer "VETERAN" was lost to "U-404". There were no survivors and only postwar-captured German records revealed her fate.

German Raiders - After sinking just three ships, German raider "STIER" encountered American freighter "Stephen Hopkins" in the South Atlantic on the 27th. The "HOPKINS" was sunk, but not before her single 4in gun damaged the raider so severely she had to be abandoned.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German raider and 9 U-boats including 3 by US and RAF aircraft in the North Atlantic; 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 1 on an RAF-laid mine in the Bay of Biscay

OCTOBER 1942

2nd - Off northwest Ireland the 81,000-ton liner "Queen Mary", sailing as a fast unescorted troopship met Western Approaches escort AA cruiser "CURACOA" and accidentally rammed and sank her with the loss of over 300 men.

8th - "U-179" torpedoed and sank a merchantman off Cape Town, South Africa and was then depth-charged and rammed by destroyer "Active". Four other U-boats had preceded "U-179" to South African waters and in just four weeks sank over 20 ships.

15th/I6th - Attacks on Halifax/UK Convoy SC104 - The convoy with 47 ships escorted by the British B6 group lost eight merchantmen to U-boats. However, in mid-Atlantic on the 15th, destroyer "Viscount" rammed and sank "U-619", and next day destroyer "Fame" accounted for "U-353", also by ramming. (Note: the identity of "U-619" is sometimes reversed with "U-661" sunk in the vicinity by the RAF.)

Early October - Submarine "UNIQUE" on passage from Britain to Gibraltar was last reported on the 9th off Land's End, south west England. She was never heard from again.

23rd - Two U-boats were on patrol off the Congo Estuary. "U-161" torpedoed and badly damaged cruiser "Phoebe" on passage to French Equatorial Africa.

Axis Loss Summary - 15 U-boats including 6 by RAF in North Atlantic; 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 1 by RAF-laid mine in the Bay of Biscay; 2 by RCAF off Newfoundland; 1 by US aircraft off French Guiana; 1 by unknown causes, possibly by US aircraft

NOVEMBER 1942

15th - The Germans reacted to the 'Torch' landings on French North Africa by concentrating U-boats off Morocco and to the west of Gibraltar. A number of empty transports were sunk, and on the 15th escort carrier "AVENGER" sailing with return convoy MKF1 was torpedoed by "U-155" and went down off the Strait of Gibraltar. Only 12 men survived. That same day, destroyer "Wrestler" also with MKF1 sank "U-411". Over the next few days US destroyers accounted for "U-173" and the RAF for "U-98".

15th - Canadian destroyer "SAGUENAY" escorting an iron ore convoy off Cape Race, Newfoundland, was badly damaged in collision. She was not repaired.

18th/20th - Attacks on UK/North America Convoy ONS144 - Slow convoy ONS144 was heavily attacked in the mid-Atlantic and lost five ships. Escort was provided by the British B6 group composed largely of Norwegian-manned corvettes. On the 18th the Norwegian "MONTBRETIA" was lost to "U-624" or "U-262", but two days later Norwegian sister-ship "Potentilla sank "U-134".

21st - Aircraft of 817 Squadron from fleet carrier "Victorious" accounted for "U-517" southwest of Ireland.

Axis Loss Summary - 7 U-boats including one by US aircraft off Iceland, and one possibly by the RAF in the North Atlantic

DECEMBER 1942

16th - In attacks on UK/North America convoy ON153, "U-211" sank destroyer "FIREDRAKE" in mid-Atlantic on the night of the 16th/17th.

26th - Outward bound "U-357" was detected by HF/DF to the northwest of Ireland. Destroyers "Hesperus" and "Vanessa" of the British B2 group (Cdr Macintyre) with convoy HX219 located and sank her.

27th - "U-356" attacked slow convoy ONS154 escorted by the Canadian Cl group to the north of the Azores. Destroyer "St Laurent" and corvettes "Battleford", "Chilliwack" and "Napanee" all shared in her sinking. It was a poor return for the convoy's loss of 13 of its 45 ships.

Axis Loss Summary - 5 U-boats including 1 by US and 1 indirectly by RAF aircraft in attacks on HX217; 1 by US Coast Guard in mid-Atlantic

 

on to Part 2, Battle of the Atlantic, Battles and Losses, 1943-45
back to Campaigns of World War 2

revised 8/7/11


 

if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net