EUROPE - MARCH 1940
Western Europe was about
to erupt. There was a lull in the Battle of the Atlantic
as U-boats were withdrawn for the Norwegian campaign, and
before surface raiders started operations and long-range
aircraft and U-boats emerged from bases in France and
Norway. Around the British Isles, aircraft and mines
continued to account for merchant ships of all sizes,
especially during the confused months of May, June and
July 1940. During this time German E-boats commenced
attacks in coastal waters. (Enemy or E-boat was the
English term for German motor torpedo boats or S-boats,
not to be confused with the heavily armed torpedo boats
or small destroyers with their 'T' designation.) The
comparatively low monthly average of 186,000 tons of
merchant shipping lost in the first seven months was not
seen for any more than a month or two for three long and
deadly dangerous years - until mid 1943.
EUROPE - MAY 1940
Germany invades Holland, Belgium,
- French destroyer JAGUAR torpedoed and sunk by German E-boats
S-21 and S-23 off Dunkirk.
29th - Royal Navy
destroyer WAKEFUL sunk off Dunkirk beaches by a
torpedo from E-boat S-30.
30th - French
destroyer SIROCCO torpedoed and sunk by German E-boats
S-23 and S-26.
ATLANTIC - JULY 1940
French Navy in the Atlantic - Carrier Hermes and
cruisers Dorsetshire and Australian
sister-ship Australia lay off Dakar,
French West Africa on the 8th after negotiations were
refused on the future of French battleship
Richelieu. Attacks made with depth-charges
from a fast motorboat failed.
EUROPE - JULY 1940
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
MEDITERRANEAN - AUGUST 1940
22nd - Land-based
Swordfish from "Eagle's" 824 Squadron repeated
their July success with another torpedo strike in the
Gulf of Bomba near Tobruk. Just as she prepared for a
human torpedo attack on Alexandria, submarine "IRIDE" and a depot ship were sunk.
MEDITERRANEAN - SEPTEMBER 1940
30th - As
Italian submarine "GONDAR" approached Alexandria carrying human
torpedoes for an attack on the base, she was found by a
RAF Sunderland of No 230 Squadron and sunk by Australian
DEFENCE OF TRADE - April to December 1940
U-boats and now
long-range aircraft had taken a heavy toll of British,
Allied and neutral shipping in the Atlantic,
mainly in the North Western Approaches to the British
Isles. Further afield surface raiders had sunk, captured
and disrupted shipping as far away as the Pacific.
U-boats also operated with success off West Africa. In UK
waters, attacks by aircraft and E-boats had added to
the continuous threat from mines. Over half the ships and
40 percent of tonnage had been lost close to home. Vital
as the Battle of the Atlantic was, there could be no let
up in the equally important battle for the coastal convoy
routes once the ships reached UK waters. Only heavily
escorted transports used the Mediterranean until
1943. The monthly loss rate in these months was twice
that of the first seven months of the war, and each form
of attack required a different technical and operational
response by the Royal Navy and its Allies. The 1940
patterns of assault against the trade routes continued
throughout 1941, although the U-boats moved further out
into the Atlantic. By year's end they had reached the
coasts of America.
EUROPE - JANUARY 1941
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 the magnetic mines
represented a year earlier.
MEDITERRANEAN - JANUARY 1941
North Africa - As
the British advance continued into Libya, Bardia was
taken on the 5th. Australian troops captured Tobruk on
the 22nd and Derna, further west by the end of the month.
The Royal Navy's Inshore Squadron played an
important part in the campaign - bombarding shore
targets, carrying fuel, water and supplies, and
evacuating wounded and prisoners of war.
EUROPE - FEBRUARY 1941
25th - Escort
destroyer "EXMOOR" was the first of the 'Hunt' class
to be lost, torpedoed off Lowestoft, east coast of
England by German E-boat "S-30" while escorting
Thames/Forth convoy FN417.
EUROPE - MARCH 1941
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. This marked the first
step in the build up of Coastal Forces.
MEDITERRANEAN - MARCH 1941
Greece - In the
space of three weeks in March, 60,000 British and
Dominion troops were carried from North Africa to Greece,
escorted by the Royal Navy (Operation 'Lustre'). 6th
- Italian submarine "ANFITRITE" attacked a troop convoy east of Crete and
was sunk by escorting destroyer"Greyhound". 26th
- At anchor in Suda Bay, northern Crete, heavy cruiser
"YORK" was badly damaged
by Italian explosive motor boats and beached. She was
later wrecked by bombing and abandoned when Crete was
evacuated in May.
MEDITERRANEAN - APRIL 1941
East Africa - On
the Red Sea coast of Italian East Africa, the capture of Eritrea
was completed when Asmara was occupied on the 1st and
the port of Massawa on the 8th. Two days earlier, Addis
Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, had been taken.
Italian resistance continued mainly in the north of
Ethiopia. 3rd - Leading up to the capture of
Massawa, the surviving eight Italian destroyers and
torpedo boats were lost or scuttled. On the 3rd, five
seaworthy destroyers sailed to attack Port Sudan, Sudan
further north along the Red Sea shore. Shore-based
Swordfish from carrier "Eagle" sank "MANIN" and "SAURO".
8th - Before the final
scuttling at Massawa, Italian MTB MAS-213 torpedoed and
damaged cruiser "Capetown" escorting a convoy off Massawa. Four
Italian submarines did manage to escape and eventually
reached Bordeaux, France after sailing right round
MEDITERRANEAN - MAY 1941
North Africa - A
British offensive started from the Sollum area on the
15th in an attempt to relieve Tobruk (Operation
'Brevity'). Two weeks later both sides were back to their
original positions. The first of many supply trips to
besieged Tobruk were made by Australian destroyers
"Voyager" and "Waterhen" and other
ships of the Inshore Squadron.
MEDITERRANEAN - JULY 1941
21st-24th, Malta Convoy, Operation
set out from Gibraltar with six transports covered by
Force H with "Ark Royal", battlecruiser
"Renown", cruisers and destroyers. Battleship
"Nelson", three cruisers and more destroyers
reinforced Force H from the Home Fleet. On the 23rd,
south of Sardinia, sustained Italian air attacks started.
Cruiser "Manchester" was hit and destroyer
"FEARLESS" sunk by aircraft torpedoes. Next
day the transports reached Malta safely. On the 26th
the Italians launched an attack on Grand Harbour with
explosive motor-boats, human torpedoes and aircraft, but
failed to reach the recently arrived ships. By the 27th,
Force H and a return empty convoy were in Gibraltar.
During this operation, Mediterranean Fleet carried out
diversionary manoeuvres in the eastern basin.
MEDITERRANEAN - DECEMBER 1941
That morning as Force K struggled to survive, three
Italian human torpedoes launched from submarine
Scire (Cdr Borghese) penetrated Alexandria
harbour. Their charges badly damaged battleships Queen
Adm Cunningham on board and Valiant. Both settled to the bottom and
the Mediterranean Fleet battle squadron ceased to exist.
News of the sinking was kept from the Italians.
INDIAN AND PACIFIC OCEANS - DECEMBER 1941
- Japanese midget submarines unsuccessful
EUROPE - JANUARY 1942
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 they had their losses: 9th -
Escorting a southbound East Coast convoy, destroyer "VIMIERA" was mined and sunk in the Thames
EUROPE - FEBRUARY 1942
11th-13th, The Channel Dash - The Brest Squadron (Vice-Adm
Ciliax) with "Scharnhorst",
"Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen",
heavily escorted by air and other naval forces, left late
on the 11th for Germany in Operation 'Cerberus'.
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. From then on, events moved swiftly.
At 14.30 off the Scheldt, "Scharnhorst" was slightly damaged by a mine. An
hour later, torpedo attacks by six destroyers from
Harwich were unsuccessful. Twenty minutes later a heavy
attack by the RAF failed. The German ships carried on and
in the early evening off the Dutch Frisian Islands, first
"Gneisenau" and then "Scharnhorst" (for the second time) hit mines.
Both were damaged, but together with "Prinz
Eugen" reached German ports in the early hours of
the 13th. The escape was an embarrassment for the British
Government, but a tactical victory for the German Navy
was also a strategic gain for the Royal Navy. The Brest
Squadron no longer directly threatened the Atlantic
convoy routes, both battlecruisers were damaged and ten
days later "Prinz Eugen" was badly damaged. Two
weeks later "Gneisenau" was damaged even more in a RAF raid on Kiel
and never went to sea again. A start was made on repair
but in early 1943 she was laid up.
Bruneval Raid - Commandos
carried out a raid on Bruneval in northern France to
capture radar equipment. They were lifted off by Royal
Navy coastal forces.
EUROPE - MARCH 1942
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. 28th, Raid on St Nazaire - Concerned about the possibility of
battleship "Tirpitz" breaking out into the
Atlantic, the decision was made to put out of action the
only dry-dock in France capable of taking her - the
'Normandie' at St Nazaire. Ex-US destroyer
"Campbeltown" would be loaded with high
explosives and rammed into the lock gates while British
commandos, carried over in Royal Navy ML's or motor
launches landed to destroy the dry-dock installations.
The force sailed from southwest England on the 26th,
and by a number of ruses penetrated the heavily defended
port early on the 28th. In the face of intense
fire, "Campbeltown" was placed exactly in
position and many of the commandos got ashore to carry
out their mission.
Losses in men and coastal forces'
craft were heavy, but when
did blow up, the lock gates were
put out of commission for the rest of the war and many
Germans killed. + The Victoria Cross was awarded to three members of the Royal
Navy taking part - Cdr Robert Ryder RN, Commanding
Officer, Naval Forces sailing with his staff on board
"MGB-314", Lt-Cdr Stephen Beattie RN,
Commanding Officer, HMS Campbeltown, and posthumously to
Able Seaman William Savage, gunner on "MGB-314"
for gallantry under heavy fire.
Destroyer "VORTIGERN" escorting
Forth/Thames convoy FS749, was torpedoed and sunk by
E-boat "S-104" off Cromer on the east coast of
EUROPE - MAY 1942
13th - German
raider Stier left Rotterdam for the Channel
and operations in the South Atlantic. Off Boulogne she
was attacked by RN coastal forces. One MTB was lost, but
escorting German torpedo boats ILTIS and SEEADLER were torpedoed and sunk.
Stier was free for four months until her
MEDITERRANEAN - MAY 1942
Submarine "OLYMPUS" sailed from Malta for Gibraltar
with many passengers including the crews of bombed boats
"P-36" and "P-39". Just off Grand
Harbour she hit a mine laid by German E-boats and went
down with heavy loss of life.
INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - MAY 1942
8th, Landings at Diego Saurez,
Madagascar: Operation 'Ironclad' - Concerned about the Japanese
carrier sorties into the Indian Ocean and the
vulnerability of the Cape of Good Hope/Middle East convoy
routes, Britain decided to take Diego Saurez at the north
end of Vichy French Madagascar. Under the command of
Rear-Adm E. N. Syfret (recently appointed to Force H), a
large force of ships including battleship
"Ramillies" and carriers
"Indomitable" and "Illustrious"
assembled at Durban, South Africa towards the end of
April. The assault took place on 5th May in Courrier Bay
to the west of Diego Saurez. As usual the Vichy French
forces resisted strongly. Submarine "BEVEZIERS"
was sunk, but the only Royal Navy casualty was corvette "AURICULA" mined on the 5th. The advance on
Diego Saurez was held up and next day a Royal Marine unit
stormed the town from the sea. By the 7th the fighting
was over and the important anchorage was in British
hands. On the 7th and 8th, French submarines "LE
HEROS" and "MONGE" were sunk by joint air
and sea attacks. On the night of the 30th,
Japanese submarines "I-16" and "I-20"
launched midget submarine attacks on Diego Saurez. "Ramillies" was torpedoed and badly damaged,
and a tanker sunk. By September the complete occupation
of Madagascar became necessary.
MEDITERRANEAN - JUNE 1942
12th-16th, Malta Convoys 'Harpoon'
from Gibraltar, 'Vigorous' from Alexandria - Six escorted merchantmen passed
through the Strait of Gibraltar covered by battleship
"Malaya", carriers "Argus" and
"Eagle", cruisers "Kenya",
"Charybdis", "Liverpool" and
destroyers - this force comprised Operation
'Harpoon'. Attacks by
Italian aircraft on the 14th led to the first
merchant ship going down south of Sardinia. "Liverpool" was also damaged and had to
return. Later that day at the entrance to the Strait
of Sicily, the big ship cover force turned back. In the
morning of the 15th, south of Pantelleria, an
Italian two-cruiser squadron in conjunction with Italian
and German aircraft attacked the by now lightly defended
convoy. The five escorting fleet destroyers headed for
the Italians, but "Bedouin" and "Partridge" were disabled by gunfire. Three more
merchantmen were lost to bombing attacks and Italian
torpedo aircraft finished off "BEDOUIN". Later that evening, as the
seriously depleted convoy approached Malta, it ran into a
minefield. Two destroyers and the fifth supply ship were
damaged, but Polish escort destroyer "KUJAWIAK" was sunk. Just two of 'Harpoon's'
six ships reached Malta for the loss of two destroyers
and serious damage to three more and a cruiser. Meanwhile
of 11 ships and their escorts sailed from Haifa and Port
Said, and were met on the 13th off Tobruk by Adm Vian
with seven light cruisers and 17 destroyers.
By the 14th,
two ships had been lost to air attack and two more
damaged. That evening Vian learnt an Italian battlefleet
with two battleships, two heavy and two light cruisers
plus destroyers had sailed south from Taranto. The
chances of driving them off were slim. Early on the 15th
the first of five (1-5) course reversals
were made as 'Vigorous' tried to break through to Malta.
As the convoy now headed back (1), German E-boats
from Derna launched torpedo strikes. Cruiser "Newcastle"
was damaged by
"S-56" and destroyer "HASTY"
Around 07.00, when the Italian
fleet was 200 miles to the northwest, the convoy turned
back for Malta (2). Attacks by Malta-based
aircraft were made on the main Italian fleet without
serious effect, although they disabled heavy cruiser "TRENTO" which was finished off by
submarine "Umbra". Between 09.40 and noon on the
15th, two more course reversals (3 & 4) were
made so that once again the convoy was bound for Malta.
afternoon air attacks were mounted; and south of Crete,
cruiser "Birmingham" was damaged and escort destroyer "AIREDALE" sunk by Ju87 Stukas. The convoy
was now down to six ships when Australian destroyer "Nestor" was badly damaged. That evening
'Vigorous' finally turned back for Alexandria (course
reversal 5). Now into the early hours of the 16th,
cruiser "HERMIONE" was torpedoed and sunk by
"U-205" and "NESTOR" scuttled. At this time, as the
Italian fleet headed back for Taranto, a RAF Wellington
from Malta torpedoed and damages battleship "Littorio". None of the 'Vigorous' ships
reached Malta. One cruiser, three destroyers and two
merchant ships had been lost in the attempt.
EUROPE - AUGUST 1942
19th, Raid on Dieppe: Operation
open a Second Front in Europe, the Western Allies decided
to mount a large-scale raid on the French coast to take
some of the pressure off the Russians. The plan was for a
largely Canadian force supported by British commandos to
assault the defended port of Dieppe in northern France.
ships and landing craft, including escort destroyers and
coastal forces under the command of Capt J.
Hughes-Hallett sailed with 6,000 troops from south coast
of England ports on the 18th. The attempted
landings took place early on the 19th against
heavy defensive gunfire. One flanking attack by commandos
achieved some success, but the other and the frontal
assault with tanks were total failures. By noon the
decision was taken to withdraw. This went ahead under
constant air attack and escort destroyer
"BERKELEY" was bombed and
sunk. Others were damaged. Canadian casualties in dead,
wounded and prisoners were high, and Dieppe proved an
expensive but important lesson on the problems of landing
in occupied Europe at a defended port.
MEDITERRANEAN - AUGUST 1942
Two more Axis
submarines were lost at the far east end of the
Mediterranean, this time off Palestine. The first was "U-372" sunk near Jaffa on the 4th by
destroyers "Sikh" and "Zulu", 'Hunts'
"Croome" and "Tetcott" and a RAF
Wellington of No 203 Squadron. Back in June,
"U-372" had sunk the valuable submarine depot
ship "Medway" off Alexandria. 10th - The
second loss was Italian. As they continued to mount
special forces underwater operations and submarine "SCIRE" prepared to launch human torpedoes
against Haifa in Palestine, armed trawler
"Islay" found and sank her.
10th-15th, Malta Convoy, Operation
For Malta to survive another convoy
had to be fought through, and the biggest operation ever
was mounted from the Gibraltar end. A total of fourteen
merchantmen, including two American and the
British-manned tanker "Ohio" (Capt D. W. Mason)
had a massive escort. Close in under Rear-Adm Harold
Burrough were cruisers "Nigeria",
"Kenya", "Manchester" and
"Cairo" and 12 destroyers. Covering were three
fleet carriers "Eagle", "Indomitable"
and "Victorious" each with their accompanying
cruisers "Charybdis", "Phoebe" and
"Sirius" respectively, battleships
"Nelson" and "Rodney", and another 12
destroyers. Eight more destroyers sailed with the force -
to give a total of 44 major warships. The opportunity
would be taken for carrier "Furious" to fly off
38 Spitfires for Malta and the Mediterranean Fleet would
try to distract the enemy at the other end of the
Mediterranean. In overall command of 'Pedestal' was
Vice-Adm E. N. Syfret.
The convoy passed
Gibraltar on the 10th and from the next day was
subjected to increasingly intense attacks by submarines,
aircraft and later coastal forces. Early on the afternoon
of the 11th, "Furious" sent off her
Spitfires and later that day headed back for Gibraltar.
On the 12th one of her escorting destroyers
"Wolverine", rammed and sank Italian submarine "DAGABUR" off Algiers. Still on the
and now north of Algiers,
was torpedoed four times by
"U-73" and went down. Air attacks took place
later that day and early on the 12th, but not
until noon, south of Sardinia, did they gain their first
success. Italian and German aircraft slightly damaged
"Victorious" and hit a merchantman which later
sank. More submarines then appeared and the Italian "COBALTO"
was rammed by destroyer
"Ithuriel". Once the convoy was north of
Bizerta, Tunisia, submarine, aircraft and Italian MTB
(MAS) attacks came fast and furiously. At 18.30,
still on the 12th, aircraft badly damaged "Indomitable" putting her out of action and
was torpedoed by an Italian bomber and
scuttled next day. The main Royal Navy cover force next
turned back at the entrance to the 100 mile wide Strait
of Sicily. The convoy carried on, still with 13 of the
original 14 merchantmen afloat and its close escort of
four cruisers and 12 destroyers.
Disaster struck soon after
20.00 to the northwest of Cape Bon. Three of the
four cruisers were put out of action by Italian
"Axum" and "Dessie" hit "Nigeria" and "Cairo" and the vital tanker "Ohio", and "Alagi" torpedoed "Kenya".
scuttled and "Nigeria"
headed back to Gibraltar. Around this time aircraft sank
two transports. Cruiser "Charybdis" and two
destroyers left the the main cover force and returned
east to replace the lost ships. In the early hours of the
13th, the convoy was hugging the coast south of
Cape Bon when Italian MTBs attacked. Four merchantmen
were sent to the bottom and the last of the original
close escort cruisers
was hit and scuttled. Air attacks later
that morning accounted for one more merchantman and
disabled another which was finished off in the evening.
And to add to the torpedo hit, "Ohio" loaded with its highly inflammable
cargo was now damaged by bombs and a crashing Ju87 Stuka.
Including her, just five ships were left. Now into the
afternoon of the 13th, three reached Malta. The fourth
struggled in next day, but the crippled "Ohio",
lashed to destroyer "Penn", only made port on
the 15th. (Capt Mason was awarded the George
Cross). By now the close escort had just returned to
Earlier, an Italian
cruiser force set out to add to the convoy's miseries,
but turned for home. North of Sicily on the 13th
it was sighted by submarine "Unbroken" (Lt A.
C. G. Mars) and heavy cruiser "Bolzano" and light cruiser "Attendolo" were torpedoed and damaged. Only
five out of fourteen transports had got through to Malta
for the loss of one aircraft carrier, two cruisers and a
destroyer sunk, and a carrier and two cruisers badly
damaged. But the supplies delivered - and especially
"Ohio's" oil - were enough to sustain Malta as
an offensive base at a time critical to the coming Battle
of El Alamein. More was still needed however, and only
two days after "Ohio's" arrival,
"Furious" flew off more Spitfires while
submarines continued to make supply trips.
North Africa -
Just as Gen Montgomery assumed command of Eighth Army,
Rommel made his last attempt to get round the El Alamein
defences. In the Battle of Alam Halfa, the
German-Italian attack broke on the ridge of that name 15
miles behind the main lines. By early September he was
back to his starting position. 29th - As escort
"ERIDGE" returned from bombarding Axis
positions west of El Alamein, she was torpedoed and badly
damaged by a German E-boat. Back in port, she was
declared a constructive total loss.
MEDITERRANEAN - SEPTEMBER 1942
Raid on Tobruk: Operation 'Agreement' - To help relieve the pressure on
Eighth Army in the Alamein area, a combined operations
raid was planned on Tobruk to destroy installations and
An attack would be launched from the
landward side by the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) while
simultaneously destroyers "Sikh" and
"Zulu" together with coastal forces craft would
land Royal Marine and Army units from the sea. AA cruiser
"Coventry" and 'Hunts' provided cover. In the
night of the 13th/14th, a few troops got ashore
was soon disabled by shore batteries.
She went down off Tobruk early in the morning of the 14th.
As the other ships withdrew, heavy attacks by German and
Italian aircraft sank cruiser
"COVENTRY" and destroyer
"ZULU" to the northwest
of Alexandria. The land attack also failed.
EUROPE - OCTOBER 1942
14th - German
raider "KOMET" attempted to pass down the English
Channel on the way out for a second cruise. A force of
British escort destroyers and MTBs attacked off
Cherbourg, and in spite of a strong escort, she was
torpedoed and sunk by MTB.236.
MEDITERRANEAN - OCTOBER 1942
North Africa - With
the Second Battle of El Alamein, Gen Montgomery
started the last and decisive British campaign against
Axis forces in Egypt. On the night of the 23rd a massive
bombardment preceded the advance of first infantry and
then armour through the German and Italian lines in the
centre. Progress was at first slow and the battle became
a straight slogging match. Australian troops played an
important part with a thrust in the north near the sea.
In the build-up to the battle, Royal Navy submarines and
RAF aircraft, especially those based in Malta, were
sinking more than a third of Axis supplies setting out
for North Africa. As the offensive got underway, the
Inshore Squadron continued to support and supply Eighth
Army along its right, seaward flank.
EUROPE - DECEMBER 1942
3rd - Escort
"PENYLAN", with Portsmouth/Bristol Channel
convoy PW257, was sunk by E-boat "S-115" in the
English Channel off Start Point.
Heroes' - Maj H.
G. Hasler led Royal Marine Commandos in canoes up the
Gironde Estuary in southwest France and damaged several
blockade runners with limpet mines on the 7th.
MEDITERRANEAN - DECEMBER 1942
Submarine Operations - Throughout the month, British
submarines were on patrol in the Western Mediterranean
and lost four of their number. In return they sank
several Axis ships including two Italian warships.
"TRAVELLER" left Malta on
28th November for the Gulf of Taranto. Overdue by
the 8th December, she was presumed mined in her patrol
area. 6th - "Tigris" sank Italian
submarine "PORFIDO" north of Bone. 12th - In the Gulf of
lost to Italian torpedo boat
"Fortunale" while attacking a convoy. 17th
- North of Bizerta, "Splendid" sank Italian
destroyer "AVIERE" escorting a convoy to North Africa.
As an Axis convoy headed into Tunis,
"P-48" attacked and was
sunk by Italian destroyer escorts "Ardente" and
"Ardito". Late December - At the end of
the month submarine
"P-311" sailed for
Maddalena, Sardinia with Chariot human torpedoes for an
attack on the cruisers based there. Her last signal was
on the 31st December and she was presumed lost on mines
in the approaches to the port.
EUROPE - JANUARY 1943
Shipping War - By
now the attack was being carried into the waters of
German-occupied Europe by Royal Navy coastal forces,
strike aircraft of RAF Coastal Command and minelayers of
Bomber Command. 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
MEDITERRANEAN - JANUARY 1943
Axis Supplies to
Libya - Final supply trips to Tripoli by Italian
submarines led to more losses north of the Libyan
capital. 14th - "NARVALO"
was attacked by a RAF Beaufort and
finished off by destroyers "Pakenham" and
"Hursley", escorts with Malta/Alexandria convoy
ME15. 20th - "SANTAROSA"
was torpedoed off Tripoli by MTB-260,
one of the growing number of coastal forces operating
along the North African coast.
MEDITERRANEAN - MARCH 1943
Submarine Operations - The Royal Navy lost three
'T' class submarines: February/March -
"TIGRIS" set out from Malta on 18th February
for a patrol off Naples. She failed to return to Algiers
on the 10th March, possibly mined off the Gulf of Tunis
as she returned. 12th -
"TURBULENT" (Cdr Linton)
attacked an escorted ship off Maddalena, Sardinia and was
presumed sunk in the counter-attack by Italian MTB
escorts. + Cdr John Linton RN was awarded the Victoria Cross for his record as commanding
officer of "Turbulent". The award was not
gazetted until May 1943. 14th -
lost off the north entrance to the
Strait of Messina to Italian corvette
Tunisia - In
the south, before his final recall from Africa, Field
Marshal Rommel attacked Eighth Army positions in front of
the Mareth Line, but was easily held. On the 20th the
main Eighth Army offensive started with British and
Indian forces going in near the sea, as the New
Zealanders once again moved up to outflank. Meanwhile,
from the northwest, the US Second Corps alongside the
British First Army attacked towards Gafsa and Gabes,
endangering the Axis rear.
By the 29th, the Mareth Line was
broken and the Germans and Italians had retreated to a
strong position north of Gabes at Wadi Akarit. The
Inshore Squadron was still in attendance on Eighth Army
in the south and the battles of the supply routes in the
north and south continued: 8th - Cruiser-minelayer
"Abdiel" laid more mines in the Axis supply
routes to Tunisia. The field north of Cape Bon sank three
destroyers in March, starting with destroyer escort "CICIONE" on the 8th.
12th - In a sortie against Axis
shipping bound for Tunisia, Force Q destroyer
torpedoed and sunk off Bizerta by
German E-boat "S-55". 19th - Attacks by
German aircraft on Tripoli harbour sank two supply ships
and damaged escort destroyer
"DERWENT" so badly she was
not fully repaired. This was the first German success
using circling torpedoes. 24th -
"Abdiel's" Cape Bon minefield sank two more
Italian destroyers - "ASCARI" and "MALOCELLO".
MEDITERRANEAN - JULY 1943
submarines had fewer successes than the attacking
aircraft in and around Sicily. Two British cruisers were
damaged, but in return 12 of their number were lost over
the next four weeks into early August: 11th - "FLUTTO" off the southern end of the Strait
of Messina in a running battle with MTBs 640, 651 and
670. 12th - "U-561" torpedoed in the Strait of Messina by
MTB-81; Italian "BRONZO" captured off Syracuse by minesweepers
"Poole" and "Seaham"; "U-409" sunk off Algeria by escorting
destroyer "Inconstant" as she attacked a
returning empty convoy. 13th - Italian "NEREIDE"
lost off Augusta to destroyers
"Echo" and "llex"; north of the
Strait of Messina "ACCIAIO"
torpedoed by patrolling submarine
"Unruly". 15th - Transport submarine "REMO" on passage through the Gulf of
Taranto during the invasion was lost to submarine
"United". 16th - Cruiser
was torpedoed and badly damaged off Sicily by
submarine "Dandolo". 18th -
"Remo's" sister-boat "ROMOLO"
was sunk off Augusta by the RAF.
- Cruiser "Newfoundland"
damaged off Syracuse by a torpedo
from "U-407", and as Italian "ASCIANGHI" attacked a cruiser force off the
south coast of Sicily she was sunk by destroyers
"Eclipse" and "Laforey". 29th
MICCA" was torpedoed
by submarine "Trooper" at the entrance to the
Adriatic in the Strait of Otranto.
was lost off southern Sicily to an
ATLANTIC - SEPTEMBER 1943
Midget Submarine Attack on Tirpitz, Operation 'Source' -
posed such a threat to Russian convoys and held down so
much of Home Fleet's strength that almost any measures to
immobilise her were justified. One gallant attempt was
made in October 1942 when a small Norwegian fishing
vessel "Arthur", penetrated to within a few
miles of the battleship in Trondheimfiord with
torpedoes slung underneath. Just short of the
target they broke away and the effort was in vain. Now it
was the turn of midget submarines - the
X-craft each with two 2-ton saddle
charges. Six left for northern Norway towed by 'S' or 'T'
class submarines. Two were lost on passage, but on the 20th
off Altenfiord, "X-5", "X-6" and
"X-7" set out to attack "Tirpitz" and
"X-10" the Scharnhorst. "X-5"
was lost and "X-10" was unable to
attack, but "X-6" (Lt Cameron) and "X-7" (Lt Place) penetrated all the
defences to reach "Tirpitz" laying in Kaafiord
at the far end of Altenfiord. Both dropped their charges
under or near the battleship before they sank and some of
their crews escaped. "Tirpitz" managed to shift position
slightly, but not enough to avoid damage when the charges
went up. She was out of action for six months. Lt Donald
Cameron RNR and Lt Basil Place RN were awarded the Victoria Cross.
MEDITERRANEAN - SEPTEMBER 1943
Italy - Surrender and Invasion -
The Italian surrender was signed in
Sicily on the 3rd, but not announced until the 8th
to coincide with the main Allied landing at Salerno, and
in the forlorn hope of preventing the Germans from taking
over the country. Before long they controlled north and
central Italy, were fighting a delaying action in the
south, had occupied Rome, regrouped their main forces
near Naples, and had disarmed - often bloodily - Italian
forces in the Dodecanese islands and Greece. Meanwhile
the invasion and occupation of southern Italy got
A start was made on the 3rd when
British and Canadian troops of Gen Montgomery's Eighth
Army crossed over the Strait of Messina from Sicily in
300 ships and landing craft (Operation 'Baytown') and pushed north through Calabria,
eventually joining up with forces landed at Salerno.
Early on the 9th, in conjunction with these
landings, the Eighth Army's 1st Airborne Division was
carried into Taranto by mainly British warships (Operation
Shortly afterwards the Adriatic ports of Brindisi and
Bari were in Allied hands. 9th - Around midnight
in Taranto harbour, cruiser-minelayer
"ABDIEL", loaded with 1st Airborne troops,
detonated one of the magnetic mines dropped by E-boats
"S-54" and "S-61" as they escaped,
and sank with heavy loss of life.
INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - SEPTEMBER
on Singapore - Working for Special Operations
Executive, a small group of Australian and British
servicemen were carried from Australia in an old fishing
vessel, and on the night of the 24th/25th penetrated
Singapore harbour in canoes. Several ships were sunk. In
a similar raid in September 1944 the attackers were
captured and executed.
MEDITERRANEAN - OCTOBER 1943
October - Two RN submarines failed to return from
patrol in the month. The first was
"USURPER" which left
Algiers on 24th September for the Gulf of Genoa, and
failed to answer a signal on the 11th. She may have been
mined or fallen victim to German A/S forces.
"TROOPER" set out from Beirut in the Lebanon
on 26th September for Dodecanese patrol and did not get
back on the 17th. German records claim she was sunk by a
Q-ship off Kos on the 14th.
EUROPE - NOVEMBER 1943
Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and mines were still
capable of taking a toll of coastal shipping. On 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.
EUROPE - APRIL 1944
German Coastal Shipping
- These surface actions were only part of the Allied air
and sea offensive against German shipping off the coasts
of occupied Europe, mounted by strike aircraft of Coastal
Command, the MTBs and MGBs of coastal forces, and
submarines patrolling off the Biscay bases. RAF Bomber
Command also continued to lay mines in the Baltic.
EUROPE - JUNE 1944
6th - Normandy Invasion: Operation
'Overlord' - Other
warships, incl. minesweepers & coastal forces (Western Naval Task Force - 260 (135 RN, 124 US, 1 Allied);
- 248 (217 RN, 30 US, 1 Allied))
Command for follow-up escort and Channel
patrols, plus reserves: 1 battleship (RN); 118 destroyers and escorts (108 RN, 4 US, 1 French, 5 Allied); 364 other warships including coastal
forces (340 RN, 8
French, 16 Allied).
forces sailed from their ports of departure on the 5th
to a position off the Isle of Wight, and headed south
through swept channels down 'The Spout' towards Normandy.
Two midget submarines were already on station off the
British sector, ready to guide in the landing craft.
Partly because of elaborate deception plans, partly
because of poor weather, both strategic and tactical
surprise was achieved. The invasion was not expected in
such weather conditions and certainly not in Normandy.
The Germans expected the Pas-de-Calais with its much
shorter sea-crossing to be the target although realised
that diversionary landings might be made in Normandy.
Channel Patrols -
Attempts by German light forces to interfere with
invasion shipping had little effect and they suffered
EUROPE - JULY 1944
Attacks on the beachhead
shipping by E-boats and small battle units such as the
newly introduced "Neger" and "Marder"
human torpedoes had limited successes, but mines still
caused the most damage: 20th - Destroyer
was sunk by a mine or possibly a Neger off
the beaches. 24th - Escort destroyer
was badly damaged by a mine and although
saved, was not repaired.
EUROPE - AUGUST 1944
German Coastal Forces
Attacks - Coastal forces and small battle units
continued to attack shipping off the invasion beaches,
sinking and damaging a number of vessels in return for
heavy casualties. 3rd - 'Hunt' class escort
"QUORN" on patrol off the
British sector was sunk, probably by a Linsen explosive
motor boat. 9th - Old cruiser "Frobisher", acting as a depot ship for the
British 'Mulberry', was badly damaged by a Dackel long
range torpedo fired by E-boats.
MEDITERRANEAN - SEPTEMBER 1944
Submarine Operations - These too drew to a close.
With so few German targets left, the famous 10th
Submarine Flotilla was disbanded although some of the
boats continued to work out of Malta in the Aegean. The
last British submarine sunk was "Sickle" three
months earlier in June, the 45th Royal Navy submarine
loss in the Mediterranean. From June 1940 to the end of
1944 the flotillas had accounted for: one million tons of
Axis shipping in the Mediterranean theatre, three
cruisers, over 30 destroyers, torpedo boats and German
and Italian submarines.
To these could be added the uncompleted light cruiser
"Ulpio Traiano" sunk at Palermo in January 1943
by submarine-launched Chariot human torpedoes.
EUROPE - JANUARY 1945
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.
MEDITERRANEAN - FEBRUARY 1945
12th - Attacks by
German explosive motorboats were made on shipping in
Split harbour, Yugoslavia, hitting a flak landing craft
and damaging cruiser "Delhi" laying alongside.