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CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

BATTLES OF BRITAIN

 1939-45

HMS Spanker, Algerine-class minesweeper (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham, click to enlarge). The Battle of the British Coastal Convoy Routes lasted as long as the Battle of the Atlantic, if not longer. It was fought equally fiercely against aircraft, mines, E-boats, and in the beginning and at the end of the war against U-boats. Minesweepers of many types not only swept mines, but escorted literally thousands of convoys.

 

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

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1939

SEPTEMBER 1939

DEFENCE OF BRITISH COASTS

- Right through until May 1940 U-boats operated around the coasts of Britain and in the North Sea. Scotland's Moray Firth was often a focus for their activities. They attacked with both torpedoes and magnetic mines. Mines were also laid by surface ships and aircraft.

- British East Coast convoys (FN/FS) commenced between the Thames Estuary and the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Southend-on-Sea, the Thames peacetime seaside resort, saw over 2,000 convoys arrive and depart in the course of the war.

- Defensive mine laying began with an anti-U-boat barrier in the English Channel across the Straits of Dover, followed by an East Coast barrier to protect coastal convoy routes.

DECLARATIONS OF WAR

3rd - After Germany invaded Poland on the 1st, Britain and France demanded the withdrawal of German forces. The ultimatum expired and at 11.15am on the 3rd, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast to announce that Britain was at war with Germany. He formed a War Cabinet with Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty.

Western Front - Advance units of the British Expeditionary Force were carried by destroyers from Portsmouth to France on the 4th September. By June 1940 half a million men had been carried in both directions without loss.

Monthly Loss Summary
33 British, Allied and neutral ships of 85,000 tons in UK waters.

OCTOBER 1939

8th - 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.

13th - "U-40" was also mined and sunk in the Strait of Dover.

14th - Returning to Scapa Flow after guarding the Fair Isle passage during a recent sortie by battlecruiser "Gneisenau", and now at anchor, battleship "ROYAL OAK" was torpedoed and sunk by "U-47" (Lt-Cdr Prien) in the early hours of the 14th with the loss of 833 men. The Home Fleet moved to Loch Ewe on the W Scottish coast

German Sea and Air Attacks - These were stepped up against merchant shipping and warships in British waters. In their first attack on British territory, Ju.88's bombed ships in the Firth of Forth, Scotland on the 16th October and slightly damagd cruisers "Southampton", "Edinburgh" and destroyer "Mohawk". Next day more Ju.88's struck at Scapa Flow and the old gunnery training battleship "Iron Duke" was bomb-damaged and had to be beached. German destroyers and later other surface vessels started laying mines off the British East Coast. Aircraft also attacked the East Coast convoy routes, but initially without success. In defence, it took some months for RAF Fighter Command to arrange effective sweeps, but there were too few AA guns to arm merchantmen.

24th - 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 sailed around the north of Scotland to reach the Atlantic.

Monthly Loss Summary
- 24 British, Allied and neutral ships of 63,000 tons in UK waters.

NOVEMBER 1939

13th - As U-boat and surface ship-laid mines continued to inflict heavy losses on merchant ships and warships alike, cruiser minelayer "Adventure" and accompanying destroyer "BLANCHE" were mined in the Thames Estuary. "Blanche" was a total loss. More serious casualties followed a week later.

21st - Recently completed light cruiser "Belfast" was badly damaged in the Firth of Forth on a magnetic mine laid by "U-21". With her back broken and machinery mountings shattered she was out of action for three years.

21st - Destroyer "GIPSY" was also lost on mines laid by destroyers off the British east coast port of Harwich.

Magnetic Mines - German seaplanes also laid the first magnetic mines off the East Coast and dropped one on tidal flats at Shoeburyness in the Thames Estuary. It was defused on the 23rd November and recovered by Lt-Cdr Ouvry (awarded the George Cross), a vital step in the battle against a weapon which was causing heavy losses and long shipping delays. In November alone, 27 ships of 121,000 tons were sunk and for a time the Thames Estuary was virtually closed to shipping.

Merchant Shipping War - The first HN/ON convoys sailed between the Firth of Forth and Norway in November covered by the Home Fleet. The convoys were discontinued in April 1940.

Monthly Loss Summary
43 British, Allied and neutral ships of 156,000 tons in UK waters.

DECEMBER 1939

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.

12th - Battleship "Barham" was involved in two incidents. On the 12th in the North Channel separating Northern Ireland and Scotland, she collided with and sank "DUCHESS", one of her screening destroyers.

28th - Two weeks after colliding with "Duchess", "Barham" was torpedoed and damaged off the Hebrides by "U-30" (Lt Cdr Lemp)

Merchant Shipping War - Trawlers were the main victims of the first successful attacks by German aircraft off the East Coast. By the end of March they had accounted for 30 vessels of 37,000 tons. Losses from mines remained high - 33 ships of 83,000 tons in December.

Monthly Loss Summary
66 British, Allied and Neutral ships of 152,000 tons in UK waters.

 

1940

JANUARY 1940

1st - AA cruiser “Coventry” was damaged in an air raid on the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland.

19th - As destroyer “GRENVILLE” returned from contraband control off the Dutch coast she was lost on a destroyer-laid mine off the Thames Estuary.

21st - Searching for a reported U-boat off the Moray Firth, destroyer “EXMOUTH” was torpedoed by “U-22” and lost with all hands.

Merchant Shipping War - U-boats were particularly active in the Moray Firth area off the Scottish coast and in the rest of the North Sea through until March 1940. In January alone they sank 14 ships - all neutrals.

Monthly Loss Summary
64 British, Allied and neutral ships of 179,000 tons in UK waters.

FEBRUARY 1940

12th - “U-33” on a minelaying operation in the Firth of Clyde, eastern Scotland was sunk by minesweeper “Gleaner”.

18th - In an attack on Norway/UK convoy HN12, destroyer “DARING” was sunk by “U-23” in the northern North Sea, east of the Pentland Firth.

Monthly Loss Summary
- 46 British, Allied and neutral ships of 152,000 tons in UK waters.
- 3 German U-boats

MARCH 1940

16th - Home Fleet was bombed in Scapa Flow and heavy cruiser "Norfolk" damaged.

Merchant Shipping War - Since September 1939, 430,000 tons of shipping had been sent to the bottom by mines around the coasts of Britain - a loss rate only second to U-boats. Now the Royal Navy slowly countered magnetic mines with the introduction of ship-degaussing and 'LL' minesweeping gear. Although mines, contact, magnetic and later acoustic remained a threat throughout the war, they never again represented the danger of the first few months.

Monthly Loss Summary
- 43 British, Allied and neutral ships of 96,000 tons in UK waters

APRIL 1940

9th, Germany invades Denmark and Norway

Atomic Bomb - Just as the “phoney war” ended in Europe (it never existed at sea) the end of the war was foreshadowed when the British government established the Maud Committee to oversee nuclear research.

German Codes - The Bletchley Park Ultra programme was now decoding some Luftwaffe low-level Enigma codes, partly because of poor German security procedures. There was little evidence the hard-won information influenced the war over the next two violent months.

29th - Submarine “UNITY” was lost in collision with a Norwegian merchantman off the northeast coast of England.

Monthly Loss Summary
54 British, Allied and neutral ships of 134,000 tons from all causes.

MAY 1940

Following a 10th May House of Commons debate on the Norwegian campaign, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill assumed leadership. Albert V. Alexander succeeded him as First Lord of the Admiralty. The planned attack on Narvik would still go ahead, but that same day the German Blitzkrieg on Holland, Belgium and France was launched.

10th - Germany invaded Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg

26th May-4th June - Dunkirk Evacuation (Operation 'Dynamo')

31st - German “U-13” was believed sunk by sloop “Weston” off the English East Coast fishing port of Lowestoft.

Monthly Loss Summary
90 British, Allied and neutral ships of 231,000 tons from all causes.

JUNE 1940

Italy declares War on Britain and France

German Codes - 'Ultra' was now breaking the Luftwaffe Enigma codes with some regularity, and early in the month had its first major breakthrough when supporting evidence for the Knickebein navigation aid for bombers was obtained. Army codes were more secure because of the greater use of land lines for communications, and the Naval ones would not be penetrated until mid-1941.

30th - The first German troops landed on the Channel Islands, the only part of the British Empire occupied by the Germans throughout the war.

By early June 1940 the Royal Navy was taking steps to meet the threat of German invasion. Any invasion fleet would be attacked as it built up and before it could reach British shores. Four destroyer flotillas with cruiser support moved south, and escort and other vessels were on patrol offshore. The removal of these escorts from Atlantic convoy duties contributed to the sinking of many merchant ships, and eventually they returned to these duties. After setting out in early May, a heavily escorted convoy carrying Australian and New Zealand troops arrived in Britain.

Monthly Loss Summary
6 British, Allied and neutral ships of 45,000 tons from all causes.

JULY 1940

Battle of Britain - Hitler decided that an invasion of Britain – “Operation Sealion” - was possible and ordered preliminary air attacks starting with English Channel shipping and ports. On the 16th, preparations got underway for the landing and assault operations scheduled to start in mid-August. On the 19th July Hitler offered to make peace with Britain. Three days later his overtures were rejected.

French Navy in Britain - The 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.

4th - Anchored off the SE breakwater within Portland Harbour, auxiliary AA ship "FOYLE BANK" (Capt H P Wilson) was attacked by 33 Ju87 divebombers and apparently hit by a total of 22 bombs. With one of the attackers shot down, she sank to the bottom with 176 men killed out of a total crew of 19 officers and 279 crew. + Leading Seaman Jack Mantle, gunner in the "Foyle Bank", continued in action although mortally wounded and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. According to one source she was sunk off Portland in attacks on Thames-out convoy 0A178 which also accounted for four merchantmen. Photographs of her hit and sinking bear out the Portland Harbour location.

16th - Cruiser "Glasgow" rammed and sank accompanying destroyer "IMOGEN" off the Pentland Firth, north of Scotland.

20th - Heavy German attacks continued on shipping and four destroyers (1-4) were bombed and sunk over the next few days, to add to the losses already sustained. The first was "BRAZEN" (1) on convoy duty off Dover,

27th - Two more destroyers were lost to air attack in British waters - "WREN" (2) off Aldeburgh on the English East Coast as she gave AA cover to minesweepers, and "CODRINGTON" (3) in Dover harbour.

29th - The fourth destroyer loss to bombing was "DELIGHT" (4) escorting a Channel convoy off Portland.

Merchant Shipping War - With the Germans now so close to British shores, new coastal convoy routes had to be established and integrated with overseas convoys. The Thames/Forth FN/FS convoys between south east England and Scotland continued along the East Coast. Two additional routes were instituted: Forth/Clyde, EN/WN, around the north of Scotland between the east and west coasts; and Thames/English Channel, CW/CE, through the Strait of Dover to south and south west England. Channel losses were so heavy that CW/CE convoys were stopped for a while. On the 25th/26th, CW8 lost eight of its 21 ships to attacks by Stukas and E-boats. Four more merchantmen and two destroyers were damaged.

Monthly Loss Summary
67 British, Allied and neutral ships of 192,000 tons in UK waters.

AUGUST 1940

Battle of Britain - The Luftwaffe switched its attacks from English Channel ports and shipping to RAF Fighter Command and on the 13th launched a major offensive - 'Adlertag' - especially against airfields. Damage to the airfields and installations, and losses in aircraft on both sides were heavy. Bombs dropped on London on the 24th led to RAF Bomber Command raiding Berlin the next night. By the end of the month the first possible date for 'Operation Sealion' had been put back to late September.

Royal Navy Codes - These were changed and for the first time operational signals were secure from German interception and decoding. it would be another three years before the convoy codes were made safe from the German B-Service.

Monthly Loss Summary
45 British, Allied and neutral ships of 163,000 tons in UK waters.

SEPTEMBER 1940

Battle of Britain - By now heavy units of the Home Fleet had come south from Scapa Flow ready to oppose the expected German invasion. The Blitz on Britain got under way on the 7th when major raids were launched against London. An attack on the 15th - subsequently known as Battle of Britain Day - led to heavy Luftwaffe losses, although nowhere near the claimed 185 aircraft: the Luftwaffe lost around 60 in exchange for 26 RAF fighters. Operation 'Sealion' was shortly postponed until further notice and invasion shipping started to disperse. The Blitz did not let up.

9th - Cruiser "Galatea" was damaged by an acoustic mine in the Thames Estuary,

18th - Major bombing raids on Clydeside, Scotland badly damaged heavy cruiser "Sussex" as she refitted.

Monthly Loss Summary
39 British, Allied and neutral ships of 131,000 tons in UK waters.

OCTOBER 1940

Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester joined London as targets for German bombers in the Blitz. On the 12th the planned invasion of Britain was postponed until the next spring.

19th - Destroyer "VENETIA", of World War 1 vintage was sunk by a mine in the Thames Estuary while on patrol.

30th - Destroyer "STURDY", local Western Approaches escort for Halifax/UK convoy SC8, ran aground off the west coast of Scotland, on Tiree Island. She was a total loss.

Monthly Loss Summary
43 British, Allied and neutral ships of 132,000 tons in UK waters.

NOVEMBER 1940

The Blitz continued with a particularly damaging raid on Coventry on the night of the 14th. Night-time attacks on London and other ports and cities carried on through to May. German cities also were targets for the RAF. Former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain died on the 9th.

16th - Submarine "SWORDFISH", setting out on Bay of Biscay patrol, struck an enemy mine off the Isle of Wight, southern England and sank.

Monthly Loss Summary
48 British, Allied and neutral ships of 93,000 tons in UK waters.

DECEMBER 1940

Royal Navy - Adm Sir John Tovey succeeded Adm Forbes as Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet.

5th - The ex-American destroyer "CAMERON" undergoing refit in Portsmouth harbour was bombed and badly damaged. Not worth repairing, she was used for experimental purposes.

17th - Following repairs to bomb damage, destroyer "ACHERON" was carrying out trials off the Isle of Wight, southern England when she detonated a mine and went to the bottom.

Monthly Loss Summary
34 British, Allied and neutral ships of 83,000 tons in UK waters.

 

1941

JANUARY 1941

The Blitz on Britain continued with attacks on Bristol, Cardiff, London and Portsmouth during the month.

15th - Cruiser minelayer "Adventure" was damaged for the second time on a mine, this time on passage from Milford Haven, southwest Wales to Liverpool. The last time was off the Thames in November 1939 - just 14 crisis-filled months earlier.

Merchant Shipping War - Losses due to air attack and mines remained a major problem. Aircraft and E-boats had now added acoustic to the magnetic and moored contact mines in their armoury, but they never matched up to the threat that magnetic mines represented a year earlier.

Monthly Loss Summary
15 British, Allied and neutral ships of 37,000 tons in UK waters.

FEBRUARY 1941

25th - Escort destroyer "EXMOOR" was the first of the 'Hunt' class to be lost. She was torpedoed off Lowestoft, east coast of England by German E-boat "S-30" while escorting Thames/Forth convoy FN417.

Monthly Loss Summary
26 British, Allied and neutral ships of 51,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1941

Battle of the Atlantic Committee - On 6th March 1941, faced with the mortal threat of the German U-boat and aircraft offensive in the Atlantic, Winston Churchill issued his famous Battle of the Atlantic directive.

Merchant Shipping War - Royal Navy motor gun-boats (MGB's) were entering service to combat E-boat attacks on East Coast convoys. Improved motor torpedo boats (MTBs) were also being built to attack German coastal shipping.

Monthly Loss Summary
73 British, Allied and neutral ships of 153,000 tons in UK waters.

APRIL 1941

Monthly Loss Summary
40 British, Allied and neutral ships of 99,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1941

May 1941 included a breakthrough in the capture of German Enigma coding material, the hunt for and sinking of the "Bismarck", the fearful Royal Navy losses off Crete, continuing confirmation that Russia was about to be attacked by Germany, and further deterioration in relations with Japan. One can only imagine the thoughts and feelings of Prime Minister Churchill and his senior advisers as they responded day-by-day to these momentous developments.

Heavy raids on Belfast in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Clyde, Liverpool and especially London on the night of the 10th/11th marked the virtual end of the Blitz. The bulk of the Luftwaffe was now transferring east for the attack on Russia. RAF raids on Germany continued, and would grow as a major plank in British and Allied strategy for the defeat of Germany.

Germany - Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, flew to Britain on his self-appointed peace mission. He was disowned by Germany and imprisoned in Britain.

Monthly Loss Summary
99 British, Allied and neutral ships of 101,000 tons in UK waters. 

JUNE 1941

Germany Attacks Russia

Atomic Bomb - The report on nuclear research by the Maud Committee led to the setting up of a development programme by Imperial Chemical Industries. Code named 'Tube Alloys', it oversaw both atomic bomb and reactor work.

10th - Patrol sloop "PINTAIL" was mined off the Humber escorting Thames/Forth coastal convoy FN477.

Monthly Loss Summary
34 British, Allied and neutral ships of 86,000 tons in UK waters.

JULY 1941

19th - Submarine "UMPIRE", working up and on passage north with an East Coast convoy, was rammed and sunk off Cromer by an armed trawler escorting a southbound convoy.

Monthly Loss Summary
18 British, Allied and neutral ships of 15,000 tons in UK waters. 

AUGUST 1941

Monthly Loss Summary
11 British, Allied and neutral ships of 20,000 tons in UK waters.

SEPTEMBER 1941

Monthly Loss Summary
13 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons in UK waters.

OCTOBER 1941

Monthly Loss Summary
12 British, Allied and neutral ships of 83,000 tons in UK waters.

NOVEMBER 1941

Monthly Loss Summary
20 British, Allied and neutral ships of 30,000 tons in UK waters.

DECEMBER 1941

Japan attacked Hong Kong, Malaya and Pearl Harbor

5th-6th December - Britain declared war on Finland, Hungary and Rumania.

7th-8th - By the 8th, Japan had declared war on Britain

Monthly Loss Summary
19 British, Allied and neutral ships of 57,000 tons in UK waters. 

 

1942

JANUARY 1942

The first United States troops landed in Northern Ireland.

Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and aircraft continued to attack British coastal convoy routes directly and with magnetic and acoustic mines. Convoy escorts and minesweepers fought back, supported by RAF Fighter Command, but had their losses: 9th - Escorting a southbound East Coast convoy, destroyer "VIMIERA" was mined and sunk in the Thames Estuary.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 19,000 tons in UK waters.

FEBRUARY 1942

11th-13th - The Channel Dash - The Brest Squadron with "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen" left late on the 11th for Germany. The aim was to pass through the Strait of Dover around noon the next day. A number of problems conspired to prevent the RAF standing patrols detecting their departure. The first intimation of the breakout came with a RAF report around 10.45 on the 12th as the German force steamed towards Boulogne. This left little time for attacks to be mounted. Soon after midday the first was made by five motor torpedo boats from Dover and six Swordfish torpedo-bombers of 825 Squadron (Lt-Cdr Esmonde), but no hits were made. All Swordfish were shot down. Lt-Cdr Eugene Esmonde was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Battle of Britain - Operation 'Sealion', the planned German invasion of Britain was finally cancelled.

Air War - Air Marshal Harris was appointed C-in-C RAF Bomber Command for the all-out bombing campaign against Germany. This was Britain's main weapon in the war on the German homeland until late 1944.

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 11,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1942

Combined Operations - 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.

15th - Destroyer "VORTIGERN" escorting Forth/Thames convoy FS749, was torpedoed and sunk by E-boat "S-104" off Cromer on the east coast of England.

Monthly Loss Summary
8 British, Allied and neutral ships of 15,000 tons in UK waters.

APRIL 1942

Air War - Following a successful RAF attack on the old city of Lubeck in March, the 'Baedeker' raids were carried out at Hitler's orders against historic British cities such as Bath and York.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 56,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1942

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 59,000 tons in UK waters

JUNE 1942

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 3,000 tons in UK waters. 

JULY 1942

Air War - The first USAAF aircraft, flying from British bases, joined RAF Bomber Command in an attack on occupied Europe.

Monthly Loss Summary
9 British, Allied and neutral ships of 23,000 tons in UK waters.

AUGUST 1942

Raid on Dieppe: Operation 'Jubilee' - Some 6,000 troops, mainly Canadian, sailed from south coast of England ports on the 18th on the unsuccessful raid.

Monthly Loss Summary
For the first time since September 1939, no merchant ships were lost in UK waters in August 1942.

SEPTEMBER 1942

Monthly Loss Summary
1 merchant ship of 2,000 tons in UK waters.

OCTOBER 1942

Monthly Loss Summary
6 British, Allied and neutral ships of 13,000 tons in UK waters.

NOVEMBER 1942

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 6,000 tons in UK waters.

DECEMBER 1942

3rd - Escort destroyer "PENYLAN", with Portsmouth/Bristol Channel convoy PW257, was sunk by E-boat "S-115" in the English Channel off Start Point.

Monthly Loss Summary
10 British, Allied and neutral ships of 9,000 tons in UK waters.

 

1943

JANUARY 1943

Air War - RAF Bomber Command by night and increasingly the USAAF by day mounted a growing attack on Germany and occupied Europe from British airfields.

Merchant Shipping War - German aircraft, E-boats and mines continued to threaten shipping around the coasts of Britain, but few ships were now being lost due to the combined effort of the RAF fighters, convoy escorts and minesweepers.

Monthly Loss Summary
4 British, Allied and neutral ships of 16,000 tons in UK waters.

FEBRUARY 1943

23rd - On or around the 23rd, submarine "VANDAL" was lost, cause unknown as she worked up in the Firth of Clyde area of Scotland.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 British, Allied and neutral ships of 5,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1943

27th - Escort carrier "DASHER" worked up in the Firth of Clyde after repairs to damage sustained during the February Russian convoy JW53. An aviation gasoline explosion led to her total destruction.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 ships of 900 tons in UK waters.

APRIL 1943

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 10,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1943

Royal Navy - After 2 1/2 years in post as C-in-C Home Fleet, Adm Tovey moved to command of The Nore. He was succeeded by Adm Sir Bruce Fraser.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 merchant ship of 1,600 tons in UK waters.

JUNE 1943

Air War - RAF bombers flew on to North Africa for the first time after attacking German targets. On their return to Britain they hit northern Italy.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 ship of 150 tons in UK waters.

JULY 1943

Invasion of Sicily

Monthly Loss Summary
Until November 1943 only two small ships were lost in UK waters

SEPTEMBER 1943

Italy: Surrender and Invasion

OCTOBER 1943

Royal Navy - Adm of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord since 1939, suffered a stroke in August 1943 at the time of the Quebec conference. He had since resigned and died on 21st October - Trafalgar Day. Adm Fraser was offered the post as Winston Churchill's first choice, but declined, and Adm Sir Andrew B. Cunningham filled the Navy's most senior position on the 15th

23rd - Cruiser "Charybdis", accompanied by two fleet and four 'Hunt' class destroyers, sailed from Plymouth to intercept a German blockade runner off the coast of Brittany in Operation 'Tunnel'. The cruiser and one escort destroyer were sunk

NOVEMBER 1943

Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and mines were still capable of taking a toll of coastal shipping. In the night of the 4th/5th, Channel convoy CW221 lost three ships off Beachy Head to E-boat attack, and later in the month two more were mined off Harwich.

Monthly Loss Summary
7 British, Allied and neutral ships of 13,000 tons in UK waters.

DECEMBER 1943

Monthly Loss Summary
1 merchant ship of 6,000 tons in UK waters.

 

1944

JANUARY 1944

Air War - From their many bases in Britain, RAF and USAAF operations against Germany and occupied Europe increased in intensity. In February the Luftwaffe carried out a number of raids on London in the 'Little Blitz'.

Monthly Loss Summary
8 British, Allied and neutral ships of 7,000 tons in UK waters.

FEBRUARY 1944

5th - Escort carrier "Slinger" was mined and damaged in the Thames Estuary off Sheerness.

20th - On patrol off Trevose Head, southwest England for a reported U-boat, destroyer "WARWICK" was torpedoed and sunk by "U-413" - the first enemy submarine to effectively penetrate British coastal waters since 1940.

Monthly Loss Summary
3 ships of 4,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1944

20th - An ex-German submarine was lost. On the 20th "GRAPH" (the captured "U-570") broke her tow and ran aground on Islay Island off the west coast of Scotland.

Monthly Loss Summary
Between now and the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 only one small ship was lost in UK waters

MAY 1944

Air War - A V-2 rocket crashed near Warsaw and resistance groups managed to arrange for the parts to be successfully airlifted to Britain.

JUNE 1944

Royal Navy - Adm Sir Henry Moore was appointed C-in-C, Home Fleet in succession to Adm Fraser who was to command the British Pacific Fleet.

Normandy Invasion: Operation 'Overlord' - After years of preparation the whole vast operation was mounted from Britain. From his headquarters outside Portsmouth on 1st June, Adm Ramsey took command of the immense armada of ships collected together for Operation 'Neptune', the naval part of 'Overlord'. The Naval Task Forces totalled 672 warships for assault convoy escort, minesweeping, shore bombardment, local defence, etc, and 4,126 major and minor landing ships and craft for initial assault and ferry purposes: a grand total of 4,798. Departure points from England for the assault forces, from west to east were:

Plymouth - one US infantry division as "Omaha" Beach follow-up
Dartmouth - US 7th Corps for "Utah" Beach
Portland - US 5th Corps for "Omaha" Beach
Southampton - British 30th Corps for "Gold" Beach
Portsmouth - Canadian forces of British 1st Corps for "Juno" Beach
Newhaven - British 1st Corps for "Sword" Beach
Thames area - British armoured division follow-up

The south coast of England also saw the construction and assembly of the 'Mulberry' harbour project of two artificial harbours and five 'Gooseberry' breakwaters including 400 'Mulberry' units totalling 1.5 million tons and including: (1) up to 6,000-ton 'Phoenix' concrete breakwaters; (2) 160 tugs for towing; and (3) 59 old merchantmen and warships to be sunk as blockships for the 'Gooseberries'. The Isle of Wight was the terminal for the PLUTO project; specially equipped vessels which laid a Pipeline Under The Ocean to carry petroleum fuel across the English Channel to France. There was in fact more than one pipeline. The assault forces sailed from their ports of departure on the 5th to a position off the Isle of Wight, and then headed south through swept channels down 'The Spout' towards Normandy to land on the 6th. By the end of June nearly 660,000 men had been carried from Britain to France with their equipment and supplies.

In spite of the vast number of warships lying off the Normandy beaches, escorting the follow-up convoys and patrolling the Western Approaches, losses were comparatively few. British ships and attacking U-boats lost close to English shores included: 12th - battleship "Warspite", the ship that ended the war with the greatest number of Royal Navy battle honours, had left her gunfire support duties off the Normandy beaches to be fitted with replacement gun barrels. On passage to Rosyth, Scotland she was damaged by a mine of Harwich and was out of action until August. 13th - Escorting a follow-up convoy to the beaches, destroyer "BOADICEA" was sunk in the English Channel off Portland Bill by torpedo bombers. 15th - Frigate "BLACKWOOD" was torpedoed off Brittany by "U-764" and sank in tow off Portland Bill. 15th - Frigate "MOURNE" was sunk by "U-767" off Land's End. 18th - Three days after sinking "Mourne", "U-767" was caught off the Channel Islands by destroyers "Fame", "Havelock" and "Inconstant" of 14th EG and sent to the bottom. 25th - Two U-boats were lost off Start Point in the English Channel - "U-1191" to frigates "Affleck" and "Balfour" of the 1st EG, and "U-269" to "Bickerton" (Capt Macintyre) of the 5th EG. 27th/29th - Two days after badly damaging corvette "PINK" (constructive total loss) on the 27th and sinking two merchantmen, "U-988" was caught and sank off the Channel Islands by frigates "Cooke", "Domett", "Duckworth" and "Essington" of 3rd EG and a RAF Liberator of No 224 Squadron.

Air War - On the 13th the first V-1 flying bomb landed on London at the start of a three-month campaign against southeast England. Amongst the weapons shortly used against them was Britain's first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor.

Merchant Shipping War - Until the closing days of the war, the schnorkel U-boats operating in UK waters were especially worrying. When submerged as invariably they were, detection from the air was difficult even with 10cm wavelength radar, and location usually had to wait until after they had attacked. Then they suffered badly, usually to the surface warship escorts.

Monthly Loss Summary
19 British, Allied and neutral ships of 75,000 tons in UK waters.

JULY 1944

U-boat Operations against the Normandy Beachhead - Those U-boats that did get through the Channel defences sank and damaged a number of ships, but a number were lost off southern England: 6th - In a convoy attack off Beachy Head, "U-678" was lost to Canadian destroyers "Ottawa" and "Kootenay" and British corvette "Statice". 18th - Frigate "Balfour" on patrol southeast of Start Point sank "U-672". 21st - Escorting frigates "Curzon" and Ekins" sank "U-212" off Beachy Head. 26th - As "U-214" tried to lay mines off Start Point, she was sunk by frigate "Cooke" of the 3rd EG. 31st - "U-333" was destroyed to the west of the Scilly Islands by sloop "Starling" and frigate "Loch Killin" of the 2nd EG using the new Squid. This marked the first success with this ahead-throwing A/S weapon firing three large mortar bombs.

Monthly Loss Summary
8 British, Allied and neutral ships of 19,000 tons in UK waters.

AUGUST 1944

Western Front - Canadian First Army headed along the coast to capture the Channel ports and nearby V-1 "Buzz-bomb" launch sites. Lack of supplies, particularly fuel, started to become a major problem, and capturing Antwerp, Belgium was a matter of the highest priority.

British Convoy Routes - As the German Biscay bases became untenable, the South Western Approaches to the British Isles were opened to Allied convoys for the first time in four years. West and North Africa/UK convoys SL167 and MKS58 were the first to benefit from the shortened journey.

U-boat Operations - U-boats passing through the Bay of Biscay and operating in the Channel and its approaches suffered badly at the hands of the air and sea patrols and escorts. More Allied ships and German U-boats went to the bottom off British coasts: 4th - Escort destroyer "Wensleydale" and frigate "Stayner" on patrol off Beachy Head, sank "U-671" shortly after she sailed from Boulogne. 8th - Canadian corvette "REGINA" was sunk off Trevose Head, north Cornwall by "U-667" as she escorted Bristol Channel convoy EBC66. 15th - Attacking a convoy to the south of the Isle of Wight, "U-741" was sunk by corvette "Orchis". 20th - After sinking one merchantman from a convoy off Beachy Head, "U-413" was counter-attacked and lost to destroyers "Forester", "Vidette" and escort destroyer "Wensleydale". 21st/22nd - Off the Isle of Wight, "U-480" sank Canadian corvette "ALBERNI" on the 21st and British fleet minesweeper "LOYALTY" next day.

Monthly Loss Summary
12 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons in UK waters.

SEPTEMBER 1944

Start of British Isles Inshore Campaign

1st - On passage into the Bristol Channel as part of the U-boat Inshore Campaign, "U-247" was sunk close to Lands End by patrolling Canadian frigates "St John" and "Swansea" of the 9th EG.

Air War - Although Allied bombers continued to bomb V-1 installations along the Channel coast of France, it was only when Canadian First Army overran the sites that London and the southeast of England saw the last one land. By then nearly 10,000 launchings of the sub-sonic pilotless "cruise missile" had inflicted 25,000 dead and wounded civilian casualties. Then on the 8th, the first supersonic V-2 rocket hit London in a deadly campaign that lasted for over six months, and against which there was no defence.

27th - Ex-US destroyer "ROCKINGHAM" was the last of her class to be lost while flying the White Ensign, when she hit a mine off Aberdeen and went down in the North Sea. At the time she was acting as a target ship for aircraft training.

Monthly Loss Summary
3 British, Allied and neutral ships of 21,000 tons in UK waters.

OCTOBER 1944

Monthly Loss Summary
2 British, Allied and neutral ships of 1,700 tons in UK waters

NOVEMBER 1944

21st - Escort destroyer "WENSLEYDALE" was badly damaged in collision with an LST in the Thames Estuary and placed in reserve.

Monthly Loss Summary
3 British, Allied and neutral ships of 9,000 tons in UK waters.

DECEMBER 1944

British Isles Inshore Campaign - The inshore campaign by U-boats gained some successes, but at a cost: 18th - "U-1209" ran aground near Lands End at the far tip of SW England and was wrecked. 30th - Allied aircraft now had few successes against the schnorkel-equipped U-boats. As an exception, "U-772" was lost off Portland Bill to a RCAF Leigh Light Wellington of No 407 Squadron.

Monthly Loss Summary
18 British, Allied and neutral ships of 86,000 tons in UK waters.

 

1945

JANUARY 1945

Royal Navy - Adm Sir Bertram Ramsey, Allied Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, architect of the Dunkirk evacuation and with major responsibility for the North African and Sicily landings as well as command of Operation 'Neptune', was killed in an air crash in France on the 2nd. Vice-Adm Sir Harold Burrough succeeded him.

British Isles Inshore Campaign - As the campaign continued, there were losses on both sides: 15th/16th - Off the Clyde, Scotland on the 15th, "U-482" torpedoed a merchantman and badly damaged escort carrier "THANE" (not repaired and laid up) ferrying aircraft from Northern Ireland. After a long hunt the U-boat was sunk next day by frigate "Loch Craggie" and sloops "Amethyst", "Hart", "Peacock" and "Starling" of the 22nd EG. 21st - After torpedoing a merchant ship from a Thames/ Bristol Channel convoy, "U-1199" was sunk close to Lands End by escorting destroyer "lcarus" and corvette "Mignonette". 26th - "U-1172" severely damaged frigate "MANNERS" (constructive total loss) off the Isle of Man and was sunk in the counter-attack by sister ships "Aylmer", "Bentinck" and "Calder" of the 4th and 5th EGs. 27th - Further south in St George's Channel, and after attacking Halifax/UK convoy HX322, "U-1051" was sunk by frigates "Bligh", "Keats" and "Tyler" of the 5th EG.

Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and small battle units continued operating out of Holland against Allied shipping in the North Sea and English Channel, and were now joined by Seehunde midget submarines. The new craft enjoyed some success, but mines remained the biggest problem for the Allies at sea. Allied air and sea patrols and minesweeping kept all these dangers under control.

Monthly Loss Summary
12 British, Allied and neutral ships of 47,000 tons in UK waters.

FEBRUARY 1945

British Isles Inshore Campaign - U-boats still took a steady toll of shipping in the inshore campaign and sank two corvettes, but a number were lost, mainly to the Royal Navy: 16th - Attacking Scottish coastal convoy WN74 off the Moray Firth, "U-309" was lost to Canadian frigate "St John" of 9th EG. 20th - "U-208" attacked convoy HX337 in St George's Channel between SE Ireland and Wales, and sank escorting corvette "VERVAIN". The U-boat was then hunted down and destroyed by sloop "Amethyst" of 22nd EG. "Amethyst" became famous in "The Amethyst Incident" involving the Chinese People's Army during the Chinese Civil War.

22nd - Off Falmouth, Bristol Channel/Thames convoy BTC76 was attacked by "U-1004" and Canadian corvette "TRENTONIAN" was sent to the bottom of the English Channel. 24th - During the inshore campaign, 10 U-boats were sunk in the Lands End area, three in February. On the 24th "U-480" sank a merchant ship from coastal convoy BTC78 and was then hunted down and finished off by frigates "Duckworth" and "Rowley" of the 3rd EG. 27th - Three days later "U-1018" attacked BTC81 to be sunk by frigate "Loch Fada" of the 2nd EG. On the same day "U-327" was detected by a USN liberator and sunk by "Loch Fada" again, working with "Labuan" and "Wild Goose".

Monthly Loss Summary
19 British, Allied and neutral ships of 49,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1945

British Isles Inshore Campaign - The inshore campaign continues. 7th - "U-1302" successfully attacked Halifax/UK convoy SC167 in St George's Channel, but after a long search off the coast of western Wales was sunk by Canadian frigates "La Hulloise", "Strathadam" and "Thetford Mines" of the 25th EG. 10th - Deep minefields laid by the Royal Navy to protect UK inshore waters from the U-boats claimed two victims. On the 10th, "U-275" was lost in the English Channel off Beachy Head. 12th - Between now and the 29th, three more U-boats went down close to Lands End, starting with "U-683" to frigate "Loch Ruthven" and sloop "Wild Goose" of the 2nd EG. 14th - South African frigate "Natal" on passage off the Firth of Forth, Scotland in the North Sea sank "U-714". 22nd - "U-296" was also sunk off the north coast of Ireland - by RAF aircraft of No 120 Squadron. 26th - The second loss off Lands End was "U-399", sunk by frigate "Duckworth" and other ships of 3rd EG. The same Group accounted for the third U-boat off Lands End on the 29th. 27th - The frigates of 21st EG were split into two divisions, and sank three U-boats in the Hebrides area. On the 27th, "U-965" was sunk by Hedgehog off the northern end of the islands by the 'first' division - "Conn", accompanied by "Deane" and "Rupert". The same day further south, "U-722" went down to the 'second' division - "Byron", "Fitzroy" and "Redmill". 29th - "U-246" torpedoed and badly damaged Canadian frigate "TEME" (constructive total loss), but was then hunted down and sunk by "Duckworth" and the 3rd EG off Lands End. 30th - Frigates "Conn", "Deane" and "Rupert", the 'first' division of 21st EG and still off the northern end of the Hebrides, sank "U-1021".

Air War - The last V-2 landed on London on the 27th, by which time 1,000 rockets had killed and wounded nearly 10,000 people in southeast England.

Monthly Loss Summary
23 British, Allied and neutral ships of 84,000 tons in UK waters.

APRIL 1945

U-boat Campaign - Throughout the month over 40 U-boats were lost in and around the waters of northwest Europe. The Royal Navy was directly involved in 12 of the sinkings, including: 5th - "U-1169" went down off the southeast coast of Ireland in a deep-laid minefield in St George's Channel. 6th - Two U-boats were sunk in Channel operations. The first, "U-1195" sank a ship from a convoy off the Isle of Wight, and was lost to old escorting destroyer "Watchman". 12th - Two more were lost in the Irish Sea northwest of Anglesey, Wales. "U-1024" was disabled by the Squid of frigate "Loch Glendhu" of 8th EG. Boarded by "Loch More", she was taken in tow but foundered. 15th - The second U-boat sunk in Channel operations was "U-1063". Attacking a convoy off Start Point, she was sent to the bottom off Land's End by frigate "Loch Killin" of 17th EG. 16th - "U-1274" attacked Forth/Thames convoy FS1784 off St Abbs Head, SE Scotland, sinking one ship, but was then lost to destroyer "Viceroy" of the escort. 30th - The second loss in the Irish Sea was "U-242" detected by a RAF Sunderland of No 201 Squadron and sunk by destroyers "Havelock" and "Hesperus" of the 14th EG.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 50,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1945

End of the U-boats

7th - U-boats gained their last success when Type XXIII coastal boat "U-2336" sank merchantmen "Avondale Park" and "Sneland" off the Firth of Forth.

8th - Operational U-boats were ordered to surface and sailed for Allied ports flying a black flag of surrender. Most made for the UK, although a few reached the US.

9th - The first of over 150 surrendered boats started to arrive in Britain, but more than 200 were scuttled. Of those surrendering, a quarter were taken over by the Allied powers and in Operation 'Deadlight', the remainder sunk by the Royal Navy in the Atlantic off Northern Ireland through to January 1946.

Monthly Loss Summary
- 2 merchant ships of 5,000 tons in UK waters.

JUNE 1945

Winston Churchill's Conservative Party was swept from power and the Labour Party under Clement Attlee took over the reins of Britain's wartime Coalition Government.

 

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