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.
Italy declares War
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”.
Norwegian Campaign - Conclusion
On the 8th, at the end of the evacuation, British
fleet carrier “GLORIOUS” with escorting destroyers “ACASTA” and “ARDENT” sailed
for Britain independently of the other withdrawing forces. West of Lofoten
Islands they met 11in gun battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” sailing
to attacked suspected Allied shipping off Harstad. The British ships were soon
overwhelmed and sunk, but not before “Acasta” hit “Scharnhorst” with a torpedo.
Naval losses on both sides were heavy, and in the case of the
Germans included damage to battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" (followed shortly by "Gneisenau")
and pocket battleship "Lutzow".
- Five days after the sinking of “Glorious”, aircraft from “Ark Royal” attacked
the damaged “Scharnhorst” in Trondheim but to little effect.
20th - As the damaged
battlecruiser “Scharnhorst” headed for Germany, “Gneisenau” feinted towards
Iceland. West of Trondheim she was torpedoed and damaged by British submarine
“Clyde”. Both battlecruisers were out of action during the critical phases of
the Battle for Britain until the end of the year. German Warships - By
now, of the 23 surface ships of destroyer size and above that took part in the
invasion of Norway, 17 had been sunk or damaged.
- FRANCE capitulated and the Franco-German surrender document
was signed on the 22nd. Its provisions included German occupation of the Channel
and Biscay coasts including the major base of Brest.
Europe - As the damaged "Gneisenau" made
for Germany from Norway on the 26th, submarine "Swordfish" carried out an attack
and sank escorting torpedo boat "LUCHS".
German Raiders - Only 11 months before
German 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.
- Off the coast of Brazil on the 28th, German raider “Thor” badly damaged armed
merchant cruiser “Alcantara” in a gun duel.
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.
North Sea - A planned
attacked on the 7th by German torpedo boats (small destroyers) off the coast of
Scotland ended when "T-6"
mined on the British East Coast barrage and went
Loss of the "Jervis Bay" - Halifax/UK convoy HX84 with 37 ships and its solitary
escort, armed merchant cruiser "Jervis Bay" was attacked on the 5th 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. "Admiral Scheer" headed for the Central and later the South
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.
- Armed merchant cruiser "Carnarvon Castle"
was badly damaged on the 1st in action with raider "Thor"
off Brazil, the German ship's second and equally successful fight with an AMC.
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"
and two merchantmen were slightly damaged. "Hipper" retired and soon entered
Brest. She was the first of the Gerrnan big ships to reach the French
Biscay ports. From there she and her companions poses a major threat to the
Atlantic convoy routes right up until the big-ship "Channel Dash" of February
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.
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
heads 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
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.
- On the 4th, armed merchant cruiser "VOLTAIRE"
was sunk in
a gun duel with German raider "Thor" west of the Cape Verde Islands.
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 the "Jervis Bay".
German Heavy Ships - The arrival of
battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" in Brest led to a long series of
heavy RAF bomber raids. These did not end until the Channel Dash in February
1942. During this time both ships sustained varying amounts of damage. On the
and badly damaged by an RAF Beaufort of No 22 Squadron, Coastal Command.
Indian Ocean - On patrol
north of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, heavy cruiser "Cornwall" found and
sank German raider "PINGUIN" on the 8th. This was the first raider to be hunted
down, having accounted for 28 ships of 136,000 tons.
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, they 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 not fully completed and still 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" sailed
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 refuelled from a
tanker and cruised for three days before reaching Brest on 1 June. There she
joined the two battlecruisers under heavy RAF attacked until the Channel Dash of
February 1942.) Around midnight, southeast of Greenland's 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
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 took up a blocking position between "Bismarck" and her new goal of
- 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 the "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 did 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
she 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.
Germany Invades Russia
Atlantic - 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.
Battle of the Atlantic -
Following the capture of the German “U-100” Enigma code material, the
Royal Navy tracked down the supply ships already in position to support the
"Bismarck" as well as other raiders and U-boats. In 20 days, six tankers and
three other ships were sunk or captured in the North and South Atlantic.
German Heavy Ships - RAF
Bomber Command badly damaged battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" at La Pallice, France
on the 24th. Heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen"
was also damaged in July. With "Gneisenau" in Brest and
"Lutzow" back in Germany, both undergoing repairs, the main big ship threat was
from the new battleship "Tirpitz".
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".
German Raiders - Indian & Atlantic Oceans -
Far across the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, the Australian cruiser
"Sydney" came across German raider "Kormoran" on the 19th. Apparently caught
was mortally damaged and lost without trace. "KORMORAN"
also went down. In a cruise lasting 12 months she had sunk or captured 11 other
ships of 68,000 tons. While replenishing "U-126" north of Ascension Island on
the 22nd, raider "ATLANTIS"
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. "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 British Home Fleet sailed for Iceland waters to cover any possible
breakout. Still short of war, the US Navy supported then with a battle squadron
Japan declares War
German Surface Warships - The
German big ships gave 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
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.
- RAF Bomber Command carried on its offensive against Germany and occupied
Europe. Attacks were made in January on Bremen, Emden and Hamburg and the big
warships in Brest.
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.
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 fails. 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 further damaged in a RAF raid on Kiel and never went to
sea again. A start was made on her repair but in early 1943 she was laid up.
German Surface Warships -
Following the "Channel Dash", heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen"
sailed with pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" to join
"Tirpitz" in Norway. Off Trondheim, submarine "Trident" torpedoed and heavily
damaged her on the 23rd.
German Raiders - Raider
"Michel" sailed for the South Atlantic and later Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Russian Convoy PQ12 and Return QP8 - By now German
battleship "Tirpitz", the ship that dictated Royal Navy policies in northern
waters for so long, had been joined in Norway by pocket battleship "Admiral
Scheer". The next Russia-bound and return convoys therefore set out on the same
day, the 1st, so they could be covered by the Home Fleet with battleships
"Duke of York", "Renown", "King George V" and carrier "Victorious". Convoys PQ12
and QP8 passed to the southwest of Bear Island and with "Tirpitz" reported at
sea, the Home Fleet tried to place itself between her and the convoys. There was
no contact between the surface ships, but on the 9th, aircraft from
"Victorious" attacked but failed to hit "Tirpitz" off the Lofoten Islands. Of
the 31 merchantmen in two convoys, only one straggler from QP8 was lost to the
Russian Convoy PQ13 - PQ13 and its escort, including cruiser "Trinidad" and
destroyers "Eclipse" and "Fury", were scattered by severe gales and heavily
attacked. On the 29th three German destroyers encountered the escort
north of Murmansk. "Z-26"
was sunk, but in the action "Trinidad"
was hit and disabled by one of her own torpedoes. As
the cruiser limped towards Kola Inlet an attack by "U-585" failed and she was
sunk by "Fury". Five of the 19 ships with PQ13 were lost - two to submarines,
two to aircraft, and one by the destroyers. "Trinidad" reached Russia.
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" was to be
loaded with high explosives and rammed into the lock gates while British
commandos, carried over in Royal Navy ML's or motor launches were to land and
destroy the dry-docks installations. The force sailed from southwest England on
the 26th, and by a number of ruse penetrated the heavily defended port
early on the 28th. In the face of intense fire, "Campbeltown" was placed
exactly in position and many of the commandos got ashore to carry out their
mission. Losses in men and coastal forces' craft were heavy, but when "CAMPBELTOWN"
did blow up, the lock gates were put out of commission for the rest of the war.
Russian Return Convoy QP11 -
departed Russia on the 28th April and on the 30th
cruiser "Edinburgh" was torpedoed twice by U-boat. As she limped back to Russia,
three German destroyers attacked QP11, but only manage to sank a straggler. They
found the cruiser on the 2nd. In a series of confused fought amidst snow
showers and smokescreens, "Edinburgh" disabled the "Hermann Schoemann" by
gunfire, but was then torpedoed for a third time by either "Z-24" or "Z-25".
Escorting destroyers "Forester" and "Foresight"
were also damaged. Both "EDINBURGH" and "HERMANN
were scuttled on the 2nd.
German Surface Warships
- In addition to aircraft and U-boats, the Germans now had "Tirpitz", "Admiral
Scheer", "Lutzow", "Hipper" and nearly a dozen big destroyers at Narvik and
Trondheim. With by-now continuous daylight throughout the journey, the Admiralty
pressed for the convoys to be discontinued, but they continued for political
German Raiders - German raider “Stier”
left Rotterdam for the Channel and operations in the South Atlantic. Off
Boulogne on the 13th, 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 eventual sinking.
Destruction of Russian Convoy PQ17 - PQ17 left Reykjavik, Iceland on the 27th June with
36 ships, of which two returned. The close escort under Cdr J. E. Broome
included six destroyers and four corvettes. Two British and two US cruisers with
destroyers were in support (Rear-Adm L. H. K. Hamilton), and distant cover was
given by the Home Fleet (Adm Tovey) with battleships "Duke of York" and the US
"Washington", carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers. The British
Admiralty believed the Germans were concentrating their heavy ships in northern
Norway. In fact pocket battleship "Lutzow" had run aground off Narvik, but this
still left battleship "Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" and heavy
cruiser "Admiral Hipper" - all formidable adversaries, which reached Altenfiord
on the 3rd. At this time PQ17 had just passed to the north of Bear Island, after
which German aircraft sank three merchantmen. Fear of attack by the German ships
led the First Sea Lord, Adm Pound, far away in London, to decide the fate of the
convoy. In the evening of the 4th the support cruisers were ordered to withdraw
and the convoy to scatter. Unfortunately Adm Hamilton took the six escorting
destroyers with him. The merchantmen were now to the north of North Cape.
Thirty-one tried to make for the isolated islands of Novaya Zemlya before
heading south for Russian ports. Between the 5th and 10th July, 20 of them were
lost, half each to the aircraft and U-boats sent to hunt them down. Some
sheltered for days off the bleak shores of Novaya Zemlya. Eventually 11
survivors and two rescue ships reached Archangel and nearby ports between the
9th and 28th. In fact "Tirpitz" and the other ships did not leave Altenfiord
until the morning of the 5th, after the 'convoy was to disperse' order. They
abandoned the sortie that same day. No more Russian convoys ran until September.
German Raiders - After
sinking just three ships, German raider "STIER" encountered American freighter
"Stephen Hopkins" in the South Atlantic on the 27th. The "Hopkins"
but not before her single 4in gun damaged the
raider so severely she had to be abandoned.
German Raiders - German
raider "KOMET" attempted to pass down the English Channel on the 14th 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
Human Torpedo attack on "Tirpitz" - Battleship "Tirpitz" 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. A gallant attempt was made in October when a
small Norwegian fishing vessel "Arthur", penetrated to within a few miles of the
battleship in Trondheimfiord carrying Royal Navy personnel with their Chariot human torpedoed
slung underneath. Just short of the target they broke away and all the efforts
were in vain.
German Raiders - On the 30th,
German raider "THOR"
was destroyed in Yokohama, Japan when a supply ship
laying alongside caught fire and blew up. Since leaving France in January she
had sunk or captured 10 ships of 56,000 tons.
Battle of the Barents Sea & Russian Convoys JW51A and
JW51B - After a three-month gap the first of the JW convoys set out.
JW51 sailed in two sections. Part A left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the
15th with 16 ships bound for Kola Inlet. All arrived safely on Christmas
Day, the 25th accompanied by supporting cruisers "Jamaica" and
(14 ships) left on the 22nd escorted by six destroyers, a minesweeper and
four smaller vessels under the command of Capt St. V. Sherbrooke in "Onslow".
Adm Burnett with "Jamaica" and "Sheffield" joined the convoy south west of Bear
Island on the 29th to provide close cover through the Barents Sea. By now
"Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Lutzow", heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper", light
cruisers "Koln" and "Nurnberg" and a number of 5in and 5.9in gun destroyers were
in Norwegian waters. The Admiralty assumed they were for attacks on Russian
convoys. In fact, they were in Norway because Hitler feared invasion. Convoy
JW51B was reported an the 30th
and 8in "Hipper" (Adm Kummetz), 11in "Lutzow" and six destroyers put to sea from
Altenfiord to intercept north of North Cape. Early on the
31st, New Year's Eve, the British ships were in four groups
(1-4). The main convoy
(1) with five remaining 4in or 4.7in
destroyers "Achates", "Onslow", "Obdurate", "Obedient" and "Orwell" headed due
east. (Some of the escort and merchantmen had been scattered by gales and never
regained the convoy). Northeast of the convoy, detached minesweeper "Bramble"
(2) was searching for missing ships. Adm Burnett's two 6in
covered to the north. Further north still a straggling merchant ship and
escorting trawler (4)
tried to reach the convoy. Capt Sherbrooke planned to use the same tactics as
Adm Vian in the Second Battle of Sirte and head for the enemy while the convoy
turned away under smoke. Unfortunately for the British, Adm Kummetz divided his
force in two [1-2] and planned to attack
from astern on both sides - "Hipper" 
and three destroyers in the north and "Lutzow"
 with the other three in the south.
On the 31st around 09.30, the
action started with "Hipper's" three destroyers 
heading north across the rear of the convoy
(1), and opening fire on "Obdurate". The convoy later turned as
planned, but south towards "Lutzow" . Then "Onslow", Orwell" and
Obedient" sighted Hipper"  and held
her off until, at
10.20, "Onslow" was
hit and Capt Sherbrooke badly wounded (Capt Rupert
St. V. Sherbrooke RN was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry). Meanwhile,
Adm Burnett's cruisers (3),
following a radar contact, had diverted north towards the straggler and escort
(4). They only
headed towards the action around 10.00. Still to the north of the convoy,
"Hipper"  and her destroyers came
across the hapless "BRAMBLE"
(2) and sent her to the bottom around
10.40. They headed south, and 40min later the 8in cruiser
 approached JW51B (1), opened fire
and hit "ACHATES" which sank after the battle was over. Lutzow
had already come up on the convoy from the south but did
not join battle until 11.45. She was driven off by the remaining
destroyers. By now "Jamaica" and "Sheffield"
arrived on the scene. They quickly hit "Hipper"
 and sank destroyer "FRIEDRICH ECKOLDT". "Hipper" tried to
get back to the convoy but again the destroyers skillfully kept her at bay. By
midday the German ships were withdrawing with the two cruisers in pursuit.
Contact was shortly lost. None of the merchantmen were more than lightly damaged
and all 14 reached Kola on the 3rd January. Return convoy RA51
left Kola on the 30th December. After being supported part of the way by
"Jamaica" and "Sheffield", the 14 merchant ships were safely delivered to Loch
Ewe on the 11th January. When Hitler learnt that his big ships had been
driven off by light cruisers and destroyers he flew into a rage and ordered them
all paid off. Grand-Adm Raeder resigned in protest and was succeeded as C-in-C,
German Navy, in January by Adm Doenitz. The paying-off order was revoked.
Midget Submarine attack on
"Tirpitz" - Nearly a year earlier an
unsuccessful attack had been made on battleship "Tirpitz" using
Chariot human torpedoes.
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" for 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 on the 22nd.
Both dropped their charges under or near the battleship before they sank and
some of their crews escaped. "Tirpitz" managed to shift her position slightly,
but not enough to avoid damage when the charges went up. She was out of action
for six months.
English Channel Actions - 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'. Early in the morning of the 23rd, the force was surprised by
a group of torpedo boats. "CHARYBDIS"
was hit twice by torpedoes fired by "T-23" and "T-27" sinking
with heavy loss of life. 'Hunt' class escort destroyer "LIMBOURNE" followed her
down after a hit by "T-22".
Battle in the Bay of Biscay - Eleven German destroyers and torpedo boats sortied into
the Bay of Biscay to bring in the blockade-runner "Alsterufer". She was sunk by
a Czech Liberator of RAF Coastal Command on the 27th, and next day, the 28th, as
the German warships returned to base they were intercepted by 6in cruisers
"Glasgow" and "Enterprise". Although outnumbered and out-gunned they sank
5.9in-gunned destroyer "Z-27" and torpedo boats "T-25" and "T-26".
Battle of North Cape and Russian Convoy JW55B - Russian convoys were still sailing in two sections. JW55A
left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 12th
and arrived safely with all 19 merchant ships on the 20th. Adm Fraser
with "Duke of York" went right through to Russia for the first time before
returning to Iceland.
Convoy JW55B, also with 19 ships, sailed
for Russia on the 20th. >>>
<<< Three days later return convoy
RA55A (22 ships) set out.