North Africa - By
the 4th the Second Battle of El Alamein had been
won by Eighth Army.
8th - French North
African Landings: Operation 'Torch'
formally approved in October, by which time the
large amounts of shipping needed had been
organised and assembled. To provide them, Russian
convoys and those to and from Britain and
Gibraltar/West Africa had been suspended and the
Home Fleet stripped bare. The Allies' greatest
concern was the hundred or more U-boats at sea.
Outline order of battle was:
Commander-in-Chief - US Gen
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir
33,000 US & British
Naval Task Forces:
Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN
Cdre T H Troubridge
Vice-Adm Sir H Burrough
Troopships, supply ships, tankers etc
Most of the task force carriers were escort
carriers, and the US totals included a heavy
cover force. In the Mediterranean, British Force
H reinforced by Home Fleet and under the command
of Vice-Adm Sir Neville Syfret, covered the
Algerian landings. Their main task was to hold
off any attack by the Italian fleet. Strength
included three capital ships, three fleet
carriers, three cruisers and 17 destroyers.
Various other forces added to the number of
Allied ships in the area. Over 300 ships were
therefore directly involved in what at that time
was the greatest amphibious operation in history,
and the forerunner of even greater ones to come
before the war was won. Throughout October and
early November convoys sailed for the landings on
Vichy French soil in the early hours of the
8th. Negotiations with the French were not
completed in time to avoid resistance. There was
bloodshed on both sides.
Morocco - US
troops landed at three points along a 200-mile
stretch of Atlantic coastline. By the 10th they
prepared to attack Casablanca itself, but this
became unnecessary when the French forces stopped
fighting. Before this happened the Western Task
Force had fought a series of fierce actions with
Vichy French warships. Battleship "Jean
Bart" was seriously damaged and a cruiser
and several destroyers and submarines sunk or
Oran, Algeria - Within the Mediterranean,
the landings to the west and east of Oran were
followed by an attempt to smash through the
harbour boom and land troops directly from ex-US
Coast Guard cutters "WALNEY" (Capt Peters) and "HARTLAND". Both were disabled by
ship and shore gunfire and soon sank. (+ Capt
Frederick Peters RN of the "Walney" was
awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Five
days later he was kiIled in an aircraft
accident.) Cruiser "Aurora" (Capt
Agnew) and destroyers fought off an attack by
French destroyers outside the port. The large
destroyer "EPERVIER" was driven ashore
and "Tornade" and
"Tramontane" disabled. In addition,
destroyers "Achates" and
"Westcott" accounted for submarines
"ACTEON" and "ARGONAUTE". US
troops fought their way into Oran, which fell on
Algiers, Algeria - A similar opening attack
was mounted by old destroyers "Broke"
and "Malcolm". The latter was badly
damaged but "BROKE" eventually broke through
the boom to land her troops. Hard hit by shore
batteries, she got away but foundered next day on
the 9th. Algiers was soon in Allied hands
and Adm Darlan, C-in-C Vichy French forces was
captured. It was not Gen Giraud as originally
intended, but Adm Darlan who broadcast the
ceasefire on the 10th. Resistance was
stopped, but confusion reigned for a number of
days as the Vichy French authorities were
pressurised by both the Allies and Axis. However,
before long the forces of France were fighting on
the Allied side in French North Africa. Adm
Darlan was assassinated in late December and Gen
Giraud took his place.
- On news of the 'Torch' landings, the first German
troops were flown across from Sicily to Tunisia on the
9th and within two days started a large build-up.
Southern France -
Hitler ordered German troops into unoccupied Vichy France
on the 11th. On the 27th, SS units tried to capture the
French fleet at Toulon. They were too late to stop the
scuttling of three battleships, seven cruisers, 30
destroyers, 16 submarines and many other smaller vessels.
all these events Spain fortunately stayed neutral. There
was therefore no threat to Gibraltar directly from
Spanish troops, or from Germans passing through the
country. And the Americans in Morocco were safe from
attack by the Spanish in Spanish Morocco.
9th - In continuing
Royal Navy submarine operations in the Central
Mediterranean off northwest Sicily, "Saracen"
sank Italian submarine "GRANITO".
9th - Off Oran the
corvette "GARDENIA" was lost in collision with armed trawler
10th - In addition
to the Atlantic approaches to Gibraltar, a large number
of German and Italian submarines were concentrated in the
Western Mediterranean to attack the 'Torch' follow-up
convoys. Transports and escorting warships were sunk and
damaged, but losses were never great, and seven Axis
were sunk in
exchange. On the 10th, destroyer "MARTIN"
sunk by "U-431" off
Algiers and Italian submarine "EMO" (1) scuttled after an attack by armed trawler
"Lord Nuffield" .
10th - Further
Allied landings were made to the east of Algiers along
the Algerian coast, where there was little air cover.
Attacks by German aircraft on these and other Algerian
targets sank or damaged a number of ships. On the 10th,
was hit by an aircraft torpedo and went
down off Algiers.
Algeria - The first
of the further Allied troop landings were made at Bougie
and Bone on the 11th and 12th, well on the way to the
12th - "U-660" (2)
was sunk by escorting corvettes
"Lotus" and "Starwort" northeast of
13th - Next day
"Lotus", this time with "Poppy"
accounted for "U-605" (3) off Algiers. On the 14th and 15th
respectively, "U-595" and "U-259" (4-5)
were sunk by aircraft.
"U-431" sent Dutch destroyer "lSAAC
SWEERS" to the
bottom northwest of Algiers.
17th - "U-331"
by RAF Hudsons of No 500 Squadron and tried to surrender.
Aircraft of 820 Squadron from carrier
"Formidable" torpedoed her in error off
20th - Cruiser "Delhi"
was damaged by bombs in Algiers Bay.
28th - North of
Bone the Italian "DESSIE" (7)
was sunk by destroyers
"Quentin" and the Australian
"Quiberon", now part of cruiser Force Q
operating out of Bone.
28th - Destroyer "ITHURIEL" in harbour at Bone was badly
damaged in bombing attacks and not repaired.
The Relief of Malta - At the beginning of the month,
cruiser-minelayer "Welshman" ran vitally needed
stores to Malta. On the 11th, sister-ship
"Manxman" made a similar dash from Alexandria.
Then on the 17th a convoy of four ships, escorted
by three cruisers and 10 destroyers, left Alexandria
(Operation 'Stoneage'). Although cruiser "Arethusa"
badly damaged by German torpedo
aircraft on the 18th and had to return with over
150 casualties, the convoy got through on the 20th.
Its arrival effectively marked the lifting of the long
and bloody siege of Malta. Since Operation 'Excess' in
January 1941, two aircraft carriers, four cruisers, 16
destroyers and five submarines had been lost in the many
attempts to supply and reinforce the island, and in the
heavy air attacks launched against the George Cross
French North Africa
continued - After the Bougie and Bone landings in
eastern Algeria, British paratroops were flown into the
north of Tunisia and the advance began on Bizerta and
Tunis. Fighting took place as the Allies closed in, but
by the time the main offensive started on the 25th, the
Germans had built up their forces around both Bizerta and
Tunis, and also occupied the east coast towns of Sousse,
Sfax and Gabes.
24th - Off
northwest Sicily, "UTMOST"
was lost to Italian destroyer escort
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 103,000 tons
French North Africa -
German forces counter-attacked in the north of Tunisia,
driving back the Allies. By the end of the year Axis
forces had established strong defence lines around
Bizerta and Tunis, and were holding on to the eastern
half of the country. The Allies had lost the race for
Tunis. Throughout January 1943 both sides attacked along
the line, but without much success. As this happened,
more and more German and Italian troops were drawn into
Cruiser Force Q -
Based in Bone, Force Q and a new Malta-based cruiser
force took turns attacking Axis shipping bound for North
Africa. On the 2nd, Force Q with
"Sirius" and two destroyers went into action in
the Strait of Sicily. All four transports in a convoy and
Italian destroyer "FOLGORE" were sunk by gunfire. As they returned,
was lost to Italian torpedo aircraft
north of Cape Bon. 14th - Two weeks after Force
Q's success in the Strait of Sicily, cruiser "Argonaut"
was badly damaged by Italian submarine
"Mocenigo" northeast of Bone.
Royal Navy 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. Early December - "TRAVELLER"
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 Naples submarine "P-222"
was 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. 25th
- 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.
Attacks off Algeria
- Attacks on Allied shipping off Algeria led to more
losses in return for the sinking of one Italian
submarine. 9th - As destroyer "PORCUPINE"
depot ship "Maidstone" from Gibraltar to
Algiers, she was torpedoed and badly damaged off Oran by
"U-602", and never repaired. On the same day
sunk by torpedo aircraft to the
west of Algiers while escorting North Africa/UK convoy
MKS3. 11th - Escort destroyer "BLEAN" sailing with fast North Africa/UK
convoy MKF4 was lost to "U-443" west of Oran. 13th
- Sloop "Enchantress" sank Italian submarine "CORALLO"
off Bougie. 18th
- Porcupine's sister-ship "PARTRIDGE" was torpedoed by "U-565" while
carrying out an A/S sweep with Force H, and went down off
Oran. 15th - Destroyers "Petard" and
Greek "Queen Olga" sank Italian submarine "UARSCIEK"
south of Malta.
North Africa - On
the 11th, Gen Montgomery resumed Eighth Army's advance. 19th
- Escorting a convoy to Benghazi, corvette "SNAPDRAGON"
was bombed and sunk off the port by
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 6,000 tons.
Attacks off Algeria -
Axis attacks continued against Allied ships in Algerian
ports and convoys off the coast. There were losses on
both sides. 1st - Cruiser "Ajax"
severely damaged in Bone harbour by
Ju87s. 13th - Canadian corvettes on convoy escort
accounted for two submarines. On the 13th, "Ville de
Quebec" sank "U-224" west of Algiers. 19th - Canadian
corvette "Port Arthur" sank Italian submarine "TRITONE" off Bougie by gunfire.
- As corvette "SAMPHIRE" escorted Gibraltar/North African ports
convoy TE14 she was torpedoed by Italian submarine
"Platino" near Bougie.
Axis Supplies to
Tunisia - Attempts by the Italian Navy to supply the
Axis armies in Tunisia led to heavy losses, especially on
mines laid between Sicily and Tunis by fast minelayers
"Abdiel" and "Welshman", and
submarine "Rorqual". 9th - Destroyer "CORSARO" hitd one of "Abdiel's"
mines northeast of Bizerta. 17th - Returning from
Tunisia, destroyer "BOMBARDIERE"
was sunk off western Sicily by
submarine "United". 31st - Torpedo boat "PRESTINARI" and corvette "PROCELLARIA"
went down on mines laid by
"Welshman" in the Strait of Sicily.
Axis Supplies to Libya
- Final supply trips to Tripoli by Italian submarines led
to more losses north of the Libyan capital. 14th -
by a RAF Beaufort and finished off by destroyers
"Pakenham" and "Hursley", escorts
with Malta/Alexandria convoy ME15. 20th - "SANTAROSA"
torpedoed off Tripoli by MTB-260,
one of the growing number of coastal forces operating
along the North African coast.
Libya - Gen
Montgomery resumed the advance on the 15th, and Bueret,
outflanked by British Armour and New Zealand troops was
soon taken. The defences in front of Tripoli were
similarly outflanked and on the 23rd the victorious
Eighth Army entered the capital.
Submarine "Sahib" on patrol off western Corsica
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 48,000 tons
1st - As
sailed from Malta to Alexandria after
minelaying operations in the Strait of Sicily, she was
sunk by "U-617" north of Bardia.
3rd - Italian
destroyer "SAETTA" and destroyer escort "URAGANO", supplying Axis forces in Tunisia,
sank on cruiser-minelayer "Abdiel's" mines
northeast of Bizerta.
North Africa - As
Rommel prepared his Mareth line defences in southern
Tunisia, Eighth Army units crossed the border from Libya
on the 4th. All of Libya was now in Allied hands and the
Italian North African Empire ceased to exist.
Campaign - German and Italian operations against
Allied shipping off Algeria led to further losses: 6th
- Canadian corvette "LOUISBERG" escorting UK/North Africa convoy KMS8 was
torpedoed by German aircraft off Oran. 8th - The
Royal Canadian Navy took its revenge when corvette
"Regina" sank the Italian submarine "AVORIO" off Philippeville.
17th - A
patrol of escort destroyers "Bicester",
Easton", Lamerton" and Wheatland" shared
in the sinking of two Axis submarines. The Italian "ASTERIA"
went down off Bougie on the 17th.
- Six days later the same escort destroyer patrol
sank "U-443" to the northwest of Algiers.
Campaign - As the Mediterranean Fleet Inshore
Squadron continued to support the advancing Eighth Army,
ships were lost on both sides: 9th - Corvette "ERICA" on escort duty sank on a British
mine off Benghazi. 17th - "U-205" attacked Tripoli/Alexandria convoy
TX1 northwest of Derna, and was then sunk by South
African aircraft of No 15 Squadron and destroyer
"Paladin". 19th - Combined air and sea
attacks also accounted for "U-562" northeast of Benghazi. This time
the convoy was Alexandria/Tripoli XT3, the warships
destroyers "lsis" and "Hursley" with
aircraft from No 38 Squadron RAF.
Mediterranean Fleet -
Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham returned to his old post as
C-in-C, Mediterranean Fleet on the 20th.
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 53,000 tons
Royal Navy 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 - "THUNDERBOLT"
was 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. 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
was 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 on
the 24th - "ASCARI" and "MALOCELLO".
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 86,000 tons
Tunisia - The
Battle of Gabes in southern Tunisia started on the
5th when Eighth Army attacked the Wadi Akarit defences.
Within two days the Axis was retreating. For the rest of
April heavy fighting took place as the Allies slowly
16th - Destroyers
"Pakenham" and "Paladin" out of Malta
encountered an Italian convoy north of Pantelleria
island. In a running gun battle with the four escorting
torpedo boats, Italian "CIGNO"
was sunk and another damaged, and "PAKENHAM" disabled. She had to be scuttled.
21st - Numerous
Axis supply ships on the Tunisian route and elsewhere,
and an Italian warship, fell victim to Royal Navy
submarines. In return three were lost starting with "SPLENDID" to German destroyer
"Hermes" (ex-Greek) south of Capri.
24th - After
sinking a transport off northeast Sicily, "SAHIB"
was counter-attacked by the escorts
including a German Ju88 and finally sunk by Italian
"Unshaken" torpedoed and sank Italian torpedo
boat "CLIMENE" off Sicily as she escorted a
Mid/Late April - "REGENT" on patrol in the Strait of Otranto
may have attacked a small convoy near Bari, Italy on the
18th, but there was no response from the convoy escorts.
She failed to return to Beirut at the end of the month
and was presumed lost on mines in her patrol area.
'The Man Who Never
Was'- Submarine "Seraph" released the body
of a supposed Royal Marine officer into the sea off
Spain. His false papers help to persuade the Germans that
the next Allied blows would fall on Sardinia and Greece
as well as Sicily.
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 14,000 tons
North Africa and Tunis:
The End for the Axis - The Allied Armies continued to
push on, and on the 7th, Tunis was taken by the British
and Bizerta by the Americans. The Axis surrender came on
the 12th and nearly 250,000 Germans and Italians were
taken prisoner. All North Africa - French and Italian -
was under Allied control after nearly three years
4th - As the
Tunisian campaign ended, destroyers "Nubian",
Paladin" and "Petard" sank Italian torpedo
boat "PERSEO" and a supply ship near Cape Bon.
21st - Six Axis
submarines were lost in May - two German to the RAF, two
Italian to US forces, and two to the Royal Navy. The
first RN success came on the 21st when submarine
"Sickle" on patrol south of Toulon, France
25th - Four days
later escorting corvette "Vetch" sank "U-414" northeast of Oran.
Merchant Shipping War -
In the first five months of 1942 Allied forces had sunk
Axis merchantmen of 560,000 tons throughout the Mediterranean. In contrast,
the end of the Tunisian campaign marked a major upturn in
the fortunes of Allied shipping. By mid-month
minesweepers had cleared a channel through the Strait of
Sicily, and the first regular Mediterranean convoys since
1940 were able to sail from Gibraltar to Alexandria
(GTX). Return XTG's started in June 1943. The long haul
around the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle East was no
longer necessary, and the WS troop convoys were
discontinued. The opening of the Mediterranean was
equivalent to commissioning a large amount of new Allied
merchant ship tonnage.
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 32,000 tons
2nd - Destroyers
"Jervis" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank
two merchantmen and Italian torpedo boat "CASTORE"
off Cape Spartivento,
Lampedusa - After heavy sea and air bombardments
these two Italian islands to the north-west and west of
Malta surrendered to the Allies on the 11th and 12th June
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 25,000 tons
10th - Invasion of
Sicily: Operation 'Husky'
still wanted to concentrate on the cross-Channel
invasion of France, but at the Casablanca
Conference somewhat reluctantly agreed to go
ahead with the Sicily landings. Amongst the
benefits would be the opening of the
Mediterranean to Allied shipping. The final plan
was approved in mid-May and not much more than a
month later, the first US troop convoys were
heading across the Atlantic for an operation even
greater than the French North African landings
the previous November.
Commander-in-Chief - US Gen
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir
Gulf of Gela, S coast
South of Syracuse, SE coast
Army - Gen Patton
Army - Gen Montgomery
115,000 British & Canadian troops
States, Algeria, Tunisia
Libya, Tunisia, Malta; Canadian division from
Naval Task Forces:
Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN
Adm Sir B Ramsey
Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc
Landing Ships and Craft (major)
Plus Landing Craft (minor)
total of 2,590 US and British warships - major and minor
were mostly allocated to their own landing sectors, but
the Royal Navy total included the covering force against
any interference by the Italian fleet. The main group
under Vice-Adm Sir A. U. Willis of Force H included
battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", "Warspite" and "Valiant"
and fleet carriers "Formidable" and Indomitable". Seven
Royal Navy submarines acted as navigation markers off
the invasion beaches.
Many of the troops coming from
North Africa and Malta made the voyage in landing ships
and craft. As they approached Sicily with the other
transports late on the 9th in stormy weather, Allied
airborne landings took place. Sadly, many of the British
gliders crashed into the sea, partly because of the
However, early next day, on the 10th,
the troops went ashore under an umbrella of aircraft.
The new amphibious DUKWS (or "Ducks") developed by the
Americans played an important part in getting the men
and supplies across the beaches.
German and Italian
aircraft sank and damaged a number of warships and
transports in the invasion area including a US destroyer
on the 10th. On the 16th carrier
damaged by Italian torpedo aircraft.
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"
was lost off Augusta to destroyers
"Echo" and "llex"; and 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 "Cleopatra"
torpedoed and badly damaged off
Sicily by submarine "Dandolo". 18th -
"Remo's" sister-boat "ROMOLO"
was sunk off Augusta by the RAF.
- Cruiser "Newfoundland" was
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. 30th - "U-375"
was lost off southern Sicily to an
Monthly Loss Summary
British or Allied merchant ships of 80,000 tons
- As the Germans and Italians prepared to evacuate Sicily
across the Strait of Messina, the Allies started the
final push - US Seventh Army along the north coast aided
by three small amphibious hops and Eighth Army up the
east side from Catania with one small landing. Gen
Patton's men entered Messina just before Gen Montgomery's
on the 17th. Sicily was now in Allied hands.
Destroyer "ARROW" assisted with unsuccessful fire-fighting
alongside the burning merchantman "Fort La
Montee" off Algiers harbour. She was badly damaged
in the resulting explosion and never fully
Submarine Operations - Patrols in the Mediterranean
led to the sinking of numerous Axis ships including two
Italian warships, but two boats were lost in August, the
first for over three months: 9th -
"Simoom" sank destroyer GIOBERTI" off Spezia, northwest Italy.
was overdue on this date. She left
Malta on 22nd July for the southern Adriatic and failed
to return to Beirut. 14th - "SARACEN" on patrol off Bastia, Corsica was
lost to Italian corvettes "Minerva" and
"Euterpe". 28th - "Ultor"
torpedoed torpedo boat "LINCE" in the Gulf of Taranto. 22nd
- Escort destroyers "Easton" and Greek
"Pindos" sank "U-458" southeast of Pantelleria.
British or Allied merchant ships of 43,000 tons
On passage to Oran, escort destroyer "PUCKERIDGE"
sunk just east of Gibraltar by
"U-617", herself lost six days later.
Submarine "Shakespeare" on patrol off the Gulf
of Salerno sank Italian submarine
Italy - Surrender and
surrender was signed in Sicily on the 3rd,
but not announced until the 8th to coincide with
the main Allied landing at Salerno. Before long
the Germans control north and central Italy, had
occupied Rome and disarmed - often bloodily -
Italian forces in the Dodecanese islands and
Greece. Meanwhile the invasion and occupation of
southern Italy got underway. A start was made on
the 3rd when British and Canadian troops
of Gen Montgomery's Eighth Army crossed over the
Strait of Messina from Sicily in 300 ships and
landing craft (Operation 'Baytown') and pushed north through
Calabria, eventually joining up with forces
landed at Salerno. Early on the 9th, in
conjunction with these landings, the Eighth
Army's 1st Airborne Division was carried into
Taranto by mainly British warships (Operation
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.
Off the west coast
of Italy, the Germans decided to evacuate the
more southerly island of Sardinia by way of
Corsica starting on the 10th. French
troops landed in Corsica in mid-month, but by
early October the Germans had gone. Both islands
were now in Allied hands. Following the
announcement of the Italian surrender, the bulk
of the Italian fleet sailed for Malta - three
battleships, cruisers and destroyers from Spezia
and Genoa, and three more battleships and other
vessels from Taranto and the Adriatic. As the
first group came south, battleship "ROMA"
was sunk by a
FX1400 radio-controlled bomb (unpropelled unlike
the Hs293 rocket-boosted, glider-bomb), but next
day the remaining ships were escorted into Malta
by battleships "Warspite" and
"Valiant". Over 30 submarines headed
for Allied ports. On the 11th, Adm A B
Cunningham fittingly had the honour of signalling
to the Admiralty the arrival of the Italian
battlefleet in Malta.
September - Salerno Landings, Operation
Salerno, S of Naples
US 5th Army - Gen Mark Clark
55,000 British & US troops
with 115,000 follow-up
Vice-Adm H K Hewitt USN
Cdre G N Oliver
Rear-Adm J L Hall USN
Naval Assault &
Troopships, supply ships,
Landing Ships and Craft (major only)
In addition to the grand total of 586 Allied
naval units directly engaged in the landings,
most of which were in their respective British or
American sectors, Adm Cunningham as C-in-C
provided a strong Royal Navy cover force and
carrier support group. The cover force was again
Force H under Adm Willis with battleships
Warspite", "Valiant" and carriers
"Illustrious". Rear-Adm Vian commanded
the support carriers with light carrier
"Unicorn", escort carriers
"Hunter" and "Stalker", three
cruisers and destroyers.
Most of the troops were carried to
Salerno via Sicily in the landing ships and
craft, and, early on the 9th, without any
preliminary air or naval bombardment, landed in
the face of strong German resistance. By the end
of the day, with the support of the covering
warships and carrier aircraft, both the British
and Americans had established bridgeheads but
with a gap in between. Over the next few days the
Germans counter-attacked and on the 13th and 14th
came dangerously close to breaking through the
Allied lines and reaching the beaches. They were
held, and much of the credit went to the
supporting warships, especially
"Warspite" and "Valiant"
which arrived on the 15th. On the 16th, the
threat of dislodgement was over. 13th -
All this time German Do127 aircraft using both
types of guided bombs were attacking Allied
shipping laying off the beaches. On the 13th,
was damaged as she provided
supporting gunfire. 16th - On the 16th,
had done her most valuable
work, she was hit and near-missed by three or
four guided bombs. Damaged, she had to be towed
12th - Six days after sinking
was damaged by a RAF Wellington of No 179
Squadron and beached on the coast of Spanish Morocco. She
was destroyed by gunfire from trawler
"Haarlem", supported by corvette
"Hyacinth" and Australian minesweeper
Aegean Campaign (map left) - With the surrender of Italy,
Winston Churchill wanted to seize the Italian Dodecanese
islands in the southern Aegean before the Germans could
establish themselves. From here the Allies could threaten
Greece and support Turkey, but the Americans and some
British commanders were lukewarm on what they saw as a
sideshow compared with the battle for Italy. Insufficient
forces and especially aircraft were made available, and
the Germans soon took Rhodes from where, together with
other bases, they maintained air superiority throughout
the coming campaign. On the 15th and 16th, British troops
occupied Kos, Leros, Samos and other smaller islands. The
Royal Navy had the task of supplying and reinforcing
them, as well as attacking German supply routes. The
potential parallels with Norway, Greece and Crete all
those many months back were obvious, if only in
hindsight. 26th - After carrying troops to Leros,
destroyers "Intrepid" and Greek "Queen
Olga" were attacked by Ju88s while at anchor in the
harbour. "QUEEN OLGA" soon went down and "INTREPID"
capsized next day.
British or Allied merchant ships of 52,000 tons
Fleet - Adm Sir John H. D. Cunningham succeeded Adm
Sir Andrew Cunningham as C-in-C in the middle of the
month - they were not related.
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.
- British units of the US Fifth Army entered Naples on
the 1st as the Germans fell back, ready to make the
Allies fight long and hard for every gain over the next
eight months. They prepared their main defences - the
Gustav Line. On the west, Gen Mark Clark's
Fifth Army managed to fight its way across the Volturno
by mid-month and then come up against the formidable
defences in front of the main Gustav Line. On the east,
Gen Montgomery's Eighth Army had to cross a number of
well-defended rivers before reaching the Line.
Aegean Campaign - On the 3rd, German troops
landed on British-held Kos, which fell next day. More
German forces headed for the Kos and on the 7th a
convoy of seven small ships and one escort was
annihilated by cruisers "Penelope" and
"Sirius" and two destroyers. As they withdrew
through the Scarpanto Strait, "Penelope"
was damaged in attacks by Ju87s and
Ju88s. More sweeps and more supply trips led to further
losses, particularly amongst the 'Hunts', through to
November: 9th - Returning from a sweep west of
Kos, cruiser "Carlisle" and destroyers were
dive-bombed in the Scarpanto Strait area by Ju87 Stukas. "CARLISLE"
was seriously damaged and never fully
repaired; destroyer PANTHER
was sunk. 17th - Cruiser "Sirius"
damaged by bombs south of Scarpanto
Strait. 22nd - Greek 'Hunt' "ADRIAS"
was badly damaged off Kos on mines laid
by the German "Drache", and as sister ship "HURWORTH"
went to her aid, was also mined. She sank
with heavy casualties. 24th - Destroyer "ECLIPSE" fell victim to the same minefield.
30th - Cruiser "Aurora"
was damaged in bombing attacks.
- The second Royal Navy submarine failing to return
was "TROOPER". She set out from Beirut in the
Lebanon on 26th September for Dodecanese patrol and did
not get back on the 17th. German records claimed she was
sunk by a Q-ship off Kos on the 14th
Submarine "Ultimatum" on patrol off Toulon,
south of France sank "U-431".
Five German U-boats set out for the Mediterranean, but
one was sunk by the RAF while still in the Atlantic and
two were disposed of by Gibraltar air and sea patrols. On
destroyer "Douglas" and trawlers
"Imperialist" and "Loch Oskaig" sank
"U-732" off Tangiers. The second sinking was on the
first day of November.
British or Allied merchant ships of 46,000 tons
The second U-boat lost to the Strait of Gibraltar
defences following the sinking the day before was "U-340" to destroyers "Active"
and "Witherington", sloop "Fleetwood"
and RAF aircraft of No 179 Squadron.
- In the west, Fifth Army struggled to make
progress towards the main Gustav Line but was still short
of Cassino. To the east, Eighth Army was over the
Trigno and preparing to attack new German positions
behind the Sangro River.
Aegean Campaign - Conclusion - German forces landed
on Leros on the 12th and captured the Island after four
day's heavy fighting against the British and Italian
defenders. The campaign came to an end when Samos was
evacuated on the 20th, but not before two more 'Hunts'
fell victim, this time to Hs293 glider bombs: 11th -
was severely damaged off Kos following
an attack with other destroyers on Kalymnos (Calino). She
was not repaired and went into reserve. 13th -
was sunk off Kos as she withdrew from searching
for German shipping making for Leros. The cost of this
abortive campaign to the Royal Navy could now be added up
- four cruisers damaged with one never repaired, six
destroyers lost or permanently out of action and others
damaged. In addition the small Greek Navy had lost two
- Submarine "SIMOOM"
from Port Said on the 2nd for the
Aegean and failed to answer a signal on the 19th. She was
presumed mined although German records claim she was
torpedoed by "U-565" off Kos on the 15th.
On passage through the Mediterranean to join the Eastern
Fleet, cruiser "Birmingham"
was badly damaged northwest of Derna by
British or Allied merchant ships of 68,000 tons
- Fifth Army continued its bloody struggle in the west
of the country towards the Gustav Line. Meanwhile Eighth
Army had breached the Line in the east and the
Canadians taken Ortona, where the Allies remained until
War at Sea
- With the surrender of the Italian fleet, the big ships
of the Royal Navy were released for the Eastern Fleet and
to prepare for the landings in Normandy. The remaining
smaller vessels continued to escort the convoys needed to
supply the Allied forces in Italy, and to support both
Fifth and Eighth armies on their seaward flanks. The RN
also went over to the offensive against Germany supply
traffic down the west coast of Italy and also from the
northeast through the Adriatic to Yugoslavia. From bases
such as Corsica and Bari, light and coastal forces struck
regularly at shipping, and also at land targets along the
coast of Yugoslavia in support of Tito's partisan armies.
A major disaster marred these successes on the 2nd when
an air raid on Bari blew up an ammunition ship with 16
more merchantmen lost in the resulting fires.
11th-16th - U-boats attacks on UK/North
Africa Convoy KMS34 - U-boat attacks were made on the Convoy off the
Algerian coast using acoustic torpedoes: 11th -
"U-223" damaged frigate
- Northeast of Bougie, "U-593" sank 'Hunt'
escort destroyer "TYNEDALE". A long hunt ensued by escort destroyers
"Calpe" and "Holcombe" and US
destroyers "Benson", "Niblack" and
"Wainwright", in the course of which the U-boat
managed to sink "HOLCOMBE". 13th - After more than 30 hours the
escorts finally sent "U-593" to the bottom. Other US destroyers
including "Niblack" sank "U-73" on the 16th. This was the 23rd
U-boat lost in the Mediterranean in 1943.
British or Allied merchant ships of 83,000 tons