Convoys - Russian convoy JW52 and return RA52 both
set out in January. Of the 25 ships in the two convoys,
one left JW52 to return to port, and one merchantmen with
RA52 was lost to U-boat
of the Atlantic -
Severe weather and evasive convoy routing kept losses
down in January 1943. However, south of the Azores, out
of range of air cover, Trinidad/Gibraltar tanker convoy
TM1 lost seven out of nine ships to U-boats.
Monthly Loss Summary,
including Russian Convoys
British, Allied and neutral ships of 189,000 tons in the
Atlantic from all causes
U-boats including 1 by RAF in North Atlantic; 2 by US
aircraft off Brazil; 1 by unknown causes
Air War - RAF
Bomber Command by night and increasingly the USAAF by day
mounted a growing attack on Germany and occupied Europe. U-boat bases and their production centres
were major targets in 1943, yet in the first six months,
not one U-boat
in air-raids and the construction programmes were hardly
affected. Throughout the war not one U-boat
was lost in the incredibly strong,
reinforced concrete shelters built by the Germans at
their main bases including on the French west coast.
Casablanca Conference -
Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt with
their Chiefs of Staff meet for this important conference.
Major areas for discussion included the European invasion
in 1944, landings in Sicily and Italy after the Tunisian
campaign, the bombing of Germany and the continuation of
the war in Burma and the Pacific. Losses due to U-boats and the shortage of shipping
proved to be significant constraints on Allied plans.
13th - Axis attacks
continue against Allied ships in Algerian ports and
convoys off the coast. Canadian corvette "Ville de
Quebec" sank "U-224" west of Algiers.
Submarine "Sahib" on patrol off western Corsica
PROSPECTS FOR ALLIED
VICTORY - The Russians gained a famous victory
with the German surrender at Stalingrad in January 1943. Taken
with the October 1942 British Battle of
El Alamein and
June 1942 American Battle of Midway, the three Allied
successes are usually considered as marking the
turning point in the 40 month old war against the
Axis powers. The Battle for Guadalcanal, ending as it did Japanese
hopes of controlling the South West Pacific
should also be added to this roll-call of
victory. However, more than 30 months of struggle
and bloodshed had to be endured before victory
was certain. Even then, one battle was not over
until the very end - the Battle of the Atlantic
against the U-boat, although it did peak over
the next four months.
on Slow Halifax/UK Convoy SC118 - SC118, escorted by the British B2 group
was heavily attacked in mid-Atlantic. A total of 20 U-boats sank 13 of the 63 merchantmen.
However, on the 4th "U-187" was detected by HF/DF, hunted down and
sunk by destroyers "Beverley" and
"Vimy". Three days later, Free French corvette
"Lobelia" sank "U-609" and a RAF B-17 Flying Fortress
accounted for "U-624".
17th - Slow
UK/North America convoy ONS165 and the escorting British
B6 group were attacked east of Newfoundland. "U-201"
sunk by destroyer "Fame"
and "U-69" by "Viscount". Only two
merchantmen were lost.
22nd - U-boats attacked ON166 and its American A3
group in mid-Atlantic and sank 14 ships in the course of
four days. In exchange "U-606" was depth-charged to the surface by Polish
destroyer "Burza" and Canadian corvette
"Chilliwack", and finished off by ramming by US
Coast Guard cutter "Campbell".
22nd - Mines laid
by "U-118" in the Strait of Gibraltar sank
three merchantmen and on the 22nd Canadian corvette "WEYBURN" as she escorted North Africa/UK
23rd - UK/Caribbean
tanker convoy UC1 lost badly to U-boats, but southwest of
sent to the bottom by cutter
Convoys - Russia-bound
convoy JW53 sailed with 28 merchantmen. Six turned
back because of the weather, but the rest reached Kola
Inlet on the 27th. Return convoy RA53 with 30 ships lost
three to U-boats
in March. These were the last convoys to or from Russia
until November 1943 - a gap of nine months, because of
the pressure of events in the North Atlantic
Monthly Loss Summary
British, Allied and neutral ships of 310,000 tons in the
Atlantic from all causes, 1 corvette
U-boats including 5 by RAF in North Atlantic and off
Portugal and Gibraltar; 2 by RAF and US aircraft on Bay
of Biscay patrols; 1 by US Navy in North Atlantic.
1st - As
sailed from Malta to Alexandria after
minelaying operations in the Strait of Sicily, she was
sunk by "U-617" north of Bardia.
North Africa - As
Rommel prepared his Mareth line defences in southern
Tunisia, Eighth Army units crossed the border from Libya
on the 4th. All Libya was now in Allied hands and the
Italian North African Empire ceased to exist.
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
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.
23rd - German and
Italian operations against Allied shipping off Algeria
led to further losses on both sides. A patrol of escort
destroyers "Bicester", Easton",
Lamerton" and Wheatland" shared in the sinking
of "U-443" to the northwest of Algiers.
4th - In operations
against the US/Gibraltar routes, "U-87"
was sunk off Portugal by Canadian
destroyer "St Croix" and corvette
11th - North
American/UK convoy HX228 (60 ships), escorted by the
British B3 group, lost a total of four ships. Destroyer "Harvester" rammed "U-444" but was disabled and the U-boat
had to be finished off by French corvette
"Aconit". "HARVESTER", now stationary, was sunk by "U-432" which in turn was brought to the
surface in mid-Atlantic by "Aconit's" depth
charges and finally destroyed by gunfire and ramming.
of the Atlantic - Throughout the war a large proportion of the
losses due to U-boats
were among independently routed merchantmen and
stragglers from convoys, but in March 1943 the Germans
came close to overwhelming well escorted convoys. Between
the 7th and 11th, slow convoy SC121 lost 13 ships. Worse
was to come between the 16th and 20th in the largest
convoy battle of the war - around HX229 and SC122. Over
deployed against the
two as they slowly coalesced in the mid-Atlantic air gap
until there were 100 ships plus escorts. Twenty U-boats took part in the attack and sank 21
merchantmen before additional air and surface escorts
finally drove them off. A RAF Sunderland accounted for
the one U-boat
destroyed. Again the German B-Service was responsible for
providing Doenitz' packs with accurate convoy details and
routeing. These losses took place at another turning
point in the secret war around the Enigma codes. Early in
the month the U-boats
changed from three-rotor to the far more complex
four-rotor 'Triton' code. Yet by month's end this had
been broken by the men and women of Bletchley Park and
their electromechanical computers. The Allies' tremendous
advantage was restored. This came at the same time as a
number of other developments, which together brought
about a complete reversal in the war against the U-boats.
The first five Royal Navy support groups with modern
radars, anti-submarine weapons and HF/DF were released
for operation in the North Atlantic. Two were built
around Home Fleet destroyers, two around Western
Approaches escorts, including Capt Walker's 2nd Escort
Group, and one with escort carrier "Biter".
Escort carriers "Archer" and the American
"Bogue" were also ready for action, but
was unfortunately lost
in UK waters. Nevertheless, the mid-Atlantic air gap was
about to be finally closed. Another major breakthrough
was again in the air war. Aircraft were being fitted with
the 10cm wavelength radar which was undetectable by U-boat Metox receivers. The new radar and
the Leigh light made a powerful weapon against surfaced
submarines, especially as they tried to break out through
the Bay of Biscay air patrols. More VLR aircraft were
also joining Coastal Command to extend further the Allies
grip on the convoy routes throughout their length.
Monthly Loss Summary
British, Allied and neutral ships of 538,000 tons in the
Atlantic from all causes, 1 destroyer
U-boats including 4 by the RAF in North Atlantic; 1 by
RAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 1 by US aircraft off Barbados;
2 by US forces off the Azores and Canary Islands; 1 by
2nd - "U-124" on passage to the Freetown area
encountered UK/West Africa convoy OS45 to the west of
Portugal. Two merchant ships were sunk, but she was
attacked by sloop "Black Swan" and corvette
"Stonecrop" of the 37th EG and sunk in turn.
6th - In attacks on
Halifax/UK convoy HX231 southwest of Iceland, two U-boats were lost - "U-635" to frigate "Tay" of the
British B7 group and "U-632" to a RAF Liberator. Six of the
convoy's merchantmen were lost to the 15-boat pack.
(Note: the identity of these two U-boats is sometimes
7th - Submarine
"Tuna" on Norwegian Arctic patrol sank "U-644" northwest of Narvik.
11th - Destroyer
of the British B6 group escorting convoy ON176 was sunk
south of Greenland by "U-188".
"U-123" on patrol south of Freetown torpedoed
and sank "P-615" (ex-Turkish) on passage to the South
Atlantic Command to provide anti-submarine training.
of Slow UK/North America Convoy ONS4 - ONS4 (these convoys were renumbered
starting in March) was escorted by the British B2 group
(Cdr Macintyre) and reinforced by the 5th Escort Group
with escort carrier "Biter". On the 23rd
was detected to the south of Greenland
by HF/DF and sunk by destroyer "Hesperus" using the Hedgehog forward-throwing
A/S mortar (pictured below). Two days later
on the 25th a Swordfish of 811 Squadron from
"Biter" found "U-203" and destroyer
"Pathfinder" finished her off.
of the Atlantic - U-boat strength was up to 425 with 240 boats
operational, and over half of them on passage through or
on patrol throughout the North Atlantic. However, there
was somewhat of a lull until the end of the month with
the start of the ONS5 battle. A group also operated once
again in the weakly defended Sierra Leone area. In just
one night "U-515" sank seven of the 18 ships in
Takoradi/Sierra Leone convoy TS37. Changes were again
made in the Allies' responsibility for the North Atlantic
routes. As agreed at the March 1943 Atlantic Convoy
Conference in Washington: (1) Royal Canadian Navy was to
exercise full control of the northerly routes west of the
47-00'W CHOP line - approximately south of Greenland; (2)
Royal Navy took over to the east of 47-00'W; (3) US Navy
was to look after the southerly convoys,and also the
CU/UC tanker routes between the West lndies and UK. With
these organisational changes, the far more effective
convoy Escort Groups, and the developments described in March, the scene was set for the decisive
convoy battles of May 1943.
Monthly Loss Summary
British, Allied and neutral ships of 242,000 tons in the
Atlantic from all causes, 1 destroyer and 1 submarine
German and 1 Italian U-boats including 3 by the RAF in
the North Atlantic and off the Canaries; 1 by RAF Bay of
Biscay patrol; 1 by RAF-laid mine in the Bay of Biscay; 1
by RAAF north of the Faeroes; 3 to US forces in the North
and South Atlantic, including the one Italian
United States -
Winston Churchill travelled across the Atlantic in the
troopship "Queen Mary together with 5,000 German
POWs for the Trident Conference, the third major meeting
in Washington DC.
The May 1943
Convoy Battles - Victory of the Escorts
At the beginning
of the month over 40 U-boats
were deployed in three patrol
lines off Greenland and Newfoundland. Another
group operated to the far west of the Bay of
Biscay. A number were passing through the
northern transit area and over 30 on passage
between their Biscay bases and the North
Atlantic. More still were on patrol in the South
Atlantic or passing through. There were numerous
Allied convoys crossing the North Atlantic as
suitable targets, starting with ONS5:
UK/North America ONS5 - On the 21st April,
ONS5 sailed with 42 ships from Liverpool
outward bound for North America. Escort was
provided by the British B7 group (Cdr P. W. Gretton) with
two destroyers, a frigate, four corvettes and two
trawlers. The first threat was dealt with before
the end of April when "U-710"
sunk by an escorting RAF B-17 Flying
Fortress south of Iceland. The real battle
started in early May, south of Greenland as all
three U-boat patrol lines closed in. Before they
arrived the escort was reinforced by the 3rd Escort
Group (EG) from
St John's, Newfoundland. Rough seas made
refuelling difficult and some of the escorts had
to leave. The 1st EG, also from St John's sailed to
replace them. Over the next few days 13
lost, but at a cost of a
six U-boats. All went down in often
confused fighting to the south of Greenland or
northeast of Newfoundland. More still were
damaged. Type 271 radar played a large part in
the escort's successes: 4th - "U-630" to a RCAF Canso
(Catalina). 5th - B7 group corvette
"Pink" sank "U-192", sister ship
"Loosestrife", also from B7 sank "U-638". 6th - B7 group
destroyer "Vidette" sank "U-125". Destroyer
"Oribi" detached from convoy SC127 to
join B7 together with corvette
"Snowflake" accounted for "U-531". (The identity of
"U-125" and "U-531" is
reversed in some sources.) Finally, "U-433"
was sunk by sloop "Pelican" of
the 1st EG.
The surviving U-boats were regrouped for attacks on
other convoys, but in the area south of
Greenland/northeast of Newfoundland as well as
throughout the North Atlantic, merchantmen
sinkings went down as U-boat losses mounted
alarmingly. Much of this was due to the way escort
groups (EG) moved from one convoy to another to support the existing
escorts. The number of convoys crossing the North
Atlantic in both directions was truly impressive
and the main movements in May, together with the U-boats sunk is listed here:
America/UK HX236 - 46 ships escorted by British B1
group and 2nd EG (Capt Walker); no merchant
"U-528" was damaged by US aircraft in an
earlier attack on ONS5. Now southwest of
Ireland, she was sunk by sloop
"Fleetwood" and RAF aircraft of No 58
UK/North America ONS6 - 31 ships escorted by British B6
group and 4th EG with escort carrier
"Archer"; no merchant ship losses.
America/UK HX237 - 46 ships escorted by Canadian
C2 group and 5th EG with escort carrier
"Biter". Three stragglers sunk in exchange for possibly
three U-boats in mid-Atlantic: 12th - "U-89" to destroyer
"Broadway" and frigate
"Lagan", both of C2 group, assisted by
Swordfish of 811 Squadron from "Biter".
12th - RAF B-24 Liberator of No 120
Squadron damaged either "U-456" or "U-753",
which may had been finished off by destroyer
"Pathfinder" of the 5th EG.
Alternatively one of these U-boat may have gone
missing on the 15th. (Sources vary.) 13th
- Either "U-456" or "U-753" was then detected by RCAF
Sunderlands of No 423 Squadron which brought up
frigate "Lagan" and Canadian corvette
"Drumheller" to sink the U-boat.
America/UK SC129 - 26 ships escorted by British B2
group, with 5th EG transferred from HX237 on
the 14th. Two merchant ships lost in mid-Atlantic for two U-boats:
12th - "U-136" to destroyer
"Hesperus" of B2 (Cdr Macintyre). 14th
- "U-266" to a RAF B-24 Liberator of
No 86 Squadron.
America ON182 - 56 ships escorted by Canadian C5
group, with 4th EG and carrier
"Archer" transferred from ONS6; no merchant
America/UK HX238 - 45 ships escorted by Canadian C3
group; no merchant
UK/North America ONS7 - 40 ships escorted by British B5
group, with 3rd EG transferred from ONS5. One ship
lost for two U-boats destroyed in the vicinity
of the convoy to the southeast of Greenland and
south of Iceland: 14th - "U-657" to a US Navy Catalina.
- "U-640" to frigate
"Swale" of B5. (The identity of
"U-657" and "U-640" was
reversed in some sources.)
UK/NorthAmerica ON183 - 32 ships escorted by British B4
group, no merchant
America/UK SC130 - 38 ships escorted by British B7
group, with 1st EG transferred from ONS5. No merchant
ship losses in
exchange for four U-boats south of Greenland: 19th
- "U-954" to a RAF Liberator; "U-209" to frigates
"Jed" and "Sennen" of 1st EG;
and "U-381" to destroyer "Duncan
and corvette Snowflake of B7. 20th - "U-258" to another RAF Liberator -
both VLR aircraft from the very successful No 120
ON184 - 39 ships escorted by Canadian C1
group and US 6th EG with escort carrier
"Bogue". No merchant ship losses in exchange for one U-boat:
22nd - "U-569" in mid-Atlantic to
Avengers flying from "Bogue".
America/UK HX239 - 42 ships escorted by British B3
group and 4th EG and carrier
"Archer" transferred from ON182 (and
before that ONS6). No merchant ship losses in exchange for one more U-boat:
23rd - In the
first success with aircraft rockets, "U-752" in mid-Atlantic was badly
damaged by "Archer's" Swordfish of 819
Squadron, and scuttled as surface escorts
By the 24th,
U-boat losses were so heavy and the attacks
so fruitless, Adm Doenitz ordered his captains to
leave the North Atlantic battlefield. They either
returned home or concentrated on the US/Gibraltar
routes. It was some time before the Allies
realised the North Atlantic was almost free of U-boats. The British and Allied
air and sea escorts were winning.
was sunk west of Cape Ortegal, Spain by
frigate "Test" and Indian corvette
America/UK SC131 - 31 ships escorted by British B6
group, 3rd and 40th EGs ; no merchant
UK/North America ONS8 - 52 ships escorted by Canadian C4
group and 2nd EG (Capt Walker) transferred
from HX236 ; no merchant ship losses.
America/UK HX240 - 56 ships escorted by Canadian C5
group and 2nd EG from ONS8. No merchant
ship losses in
exchange for one U-boat: 28th - "U-304" to a RAF Liberator of No
120 Squadron south of Greenland.
statistics for these North Atlantic convoy
15 convoys totalling 622
seven British B and five Canadian C convoy
six British and one US supporting Escort
three escort carriers
Well over 70 U-boats at sea
23 German U-boats sunk
11 convoys were unscathed,
four convoys lost 19 ships - a loss rate
of 3 percent
Without the heavy losses of ONS5, loss
rate was 1 percent
Without the U-boats sunk in
attacks on OSN5, 16 U-boats were lost in
exchange for 6 merchantmen
British, Allied and neutral ships of 204,000 tons in the
Atlantic from all causes
German and 1 Italian U-boats. In addition to those lost
in or around the convoy battles: 3 by RAF in North
Atlantic; 6 by RAF and RAAF Bay of Biscay patrols; 4 by
US forces in the North Atlantic, off Florida and Brazil;
2 by collision in the North Atlantic
21st - Submarine
"Sickle" on patrol south of Toulon, France
torpedoed and sank "U-303".
25th - Four days
later escorting corvette "Vetch" sank "U-414" northeast of Oran.
Merchant Shipping War -
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 between Gibraltar and Alexandria.
The long haul around the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle
East was no longer necessary. The opening of the
Mediterranean was equivalent to commissioning a large
amount of new Allied merchant ship tonnage.
Indian & Pacific Oceans
Merchant Shipping War -
Adm Somerville's Eastern Fleet had lost its remaining big
ships to other theatres. An inadequate anti-submarine and
escort force was left to deal with the submarines active
in the Indian Ocean. Japanese boats were again being
joined by German U-boats,
and right through until December 1943 not many more than
a dozen German and Japanese boats inflicted quite heavy
losses throughout the length and breadth of the Indian
Ocean. Between June and year's end they sank over 50
DEFENCE OF TRADE - January 1942 to May
Total Losses = 2,029 British, Allied
and neutral ships of 9,792,000 tons ( 576,000 tons
of British, Allied, neutral ships
Gross Registered Tonnage
Causes * in
order of tonnage sunk
(1., 4. ... -
Order when weapon first introduced)
of British, Allied, neutral ships
Gross Registered Tonnage
5. Other causes
7. Coastal forces
1st - After
supporting convoys ONS8 and HX240, Capt Walker's 2nd EG
located "U-202" south of Greenland. She was sunk by sloop
Bay of Biscay Patrols
- Aircraft of Coastal Command continued covering U-boat exit routes from western France
and were joined by surface escort groups covered by
cruisers. At the same time U-boats
fitted with heavy AA armament to
enable them to fought their way out on the surface in
sinkings went down as Allied aircraft losses mounted, but
destroyed: 1st - "U-418" to a rocket-firing RAF
Beaufighter. 14th - "U-564" to a RAF Whitley. 24th -
The 2nd EG (Capt Walker) accompanied by cruiser
"Scylla" accounted for two submarines northwest
of Cape Ortegal, NW Spain. Tanker "U-119"
was brought to the surface and rammed by
"Starling". With her Asdic out of action from
the ramming, "Starling" left the sinking of "U-449" to "Wren",
"Woodpecker", "Kite" and "Wild
Northern Transit Area -
In the waters through which Norwegian-based U-boats had to sail for their patrol
areas, two submarines were sunk: 4th - Submarine
"Truculent" on anti-U-boat patrol between Norway and Iceland
sank "U-308" north of the Faeroe Islands. 11th
- A RAF Fortress accounted for "U-417" in the same northern transit area.
14th - In the North
Atlantic "U-334" and other U-boats simulated the radio transmissions of large
wolf packs. She was located and sunk by frigate
"Jed" and sloop "Pelican" of the 1st
of the Atlantic - The Royal
Navy had finally changed the convoy codes
and made them secure against the work of the German
B-Service. In contrast, the British 'Ultra' work was
fully integrated into the Admiralty U-boat Tracking Room,
and an almost complete picture of German Navy and U-boat operations was available. Not one
North Atlantic convoy was attacked during the month
were operating around the Azores. As Allied air
and sea forces grew in strength and effectiveness,
especially through the use of 10cm radar and 'Ultra', Adm
Doenitz sought other ways to regain the initiative. This
he was never able to do, although right through until the
last day of the war, the Allies could not relax their
efforts, and continually introduced new detection
systems, weapons and tactics. Against numerous,
well-trained and effectively used escorts, the day of the
conventional submarine was drawing to a close. The
Germans placed much faith in the Walther hydrogen
peroxide boat now under development, which with its long
underwater endurance and high speed, would have proved a
formidable foe, but it did not get beyond the
experimental stage by war's end. An interim step on the
road towards the 'true' submarine started at the end of
1943 with the design and building of Type XXI ocean and
XXIII coastal boats. Using the streamlined hull of the
Walther and high capacity batteries, their underwater
speed made them faster than most escorts. Fortunately for
the Allies they did not enter service in numbers until
too late in 1945. For now the Germans had to rely on the U-boats currently in service and building.
Total numbers stayed at around the 400 mark for the
remainder of the war, in spite of a 40 boat per month
construction programme, and various steps were taken to
improve their offensive and defensive capability. Apart
from extra AA armament, the Gnat acoustic torpedo was
introduced specifically to combat the convoy escorts. Its
first test came in September 1943. Before then in July,
the schnorkel, a Dutch development that allowed batteries
to be recharged at periscope depth, started trials. It
did not enter general service until mid-1944, but then
went quite some way to nullifying the radar of the air
escorts and patrols. Even now the German Navy was unaware
the Allies were using short wavelength radar, but when
they did, early in 1944, an effective detector was
Monthly Loss Summary
British, Allied and neutral ships of 30,000 tons in the
Atlantic from all causes,
German and 1 Italian U-boats including 4 by US and RAF
aircraft off Iceland and the Strait of Gibraltar, and the
Italian boat in the North Atlantic; 3 by the US Navy, one
off the east coast of America and two to escort carrier
"Bogue" off the Azores; 1 by French aircraft
15th - "U-135"
attacked UK/West Africa convoy OS51 off the
Canary Islands, and was depth-charged by the escort
including sloop "Rochester" and corvette
"Balsam". She was sunk when corvette
24th - After six
months effort the bombing campaign against U-boat bases
claimed its first success on the 24th when "U-622"
badly damaged in a USAAF raid on
Trondheim, Norway and paid off.
30th - The Bay of
Biscay offensive by the RAF and Australian, Canadian and
American aircraft reached a peak and since March 1943, 10
U-boats had been sunk and many others damaged. On the
30th, two 'milchcows', "U-461" and
"U-462" escorted by "U-504", were
located to the northwest of Cape Ortegal, Spain. In a
running battle "U-461"
was finally sunk by Sunderland U/461
of RAF No 461 Squadron. "U-462" also went down in the fighting.
Capt Walker's 2nd EG was called to the scene and
accounted for "U-504" with "Kite",
"Woodpecker", "Wren" and "Wild
Monthly Loss Summary
ships British, Allied and neutral ships of 188,000 tons
in the Atlantic from all causes
U-boats including 3 by RAF and US aircraft off Portugal;
7 by US escort carrier groups south and west of the
Azores (6 of these by aircraft from "Core",
"Santee" or "Bogue"); 9 by US
aircraft in the Caribbean and off Brazil.
Invasion of Sicily: Operation 'Husky'
- Axis 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 four weeks into
early August, including a number of Germans:
12th - "U-561" torpedoed in the Strait of Messina
by MTB-81 and "U-409" sunk off Algeria by escorting destroyer
"Inconstant" as she attacked a returning empty
23rd - Cruiser
"Newfoundland" was damaged off Syracuse by a torpedo from
30th - "U-375"
off southern Sicily to an American
August - "U-647" on passage out may had been lost on the
Iceland/ Faeroes mine barrage around the 3rd of the
month. If so she was the only casualty of this vast
minefield throughout the war. RCAF aircraft sank "U-489" in the same area.
11th - "U-468" was sunk off Dakar, West Africa by a RAF
Liberator of No 200 Squadron. The final attack was
carried out with the aircraft in flames and just before
she crashed. The Liberator's commanding officer, Plt Off
Lloyd Trigg RNZAF, was posthumously awarded the Victoria
Cross, solely on the evidence of the U-boat's survivors.
"U-523" attacked UK/Gibraltar convoy OG92 to the far
west of Cape Finisterre, Spain and was sunk by destroyer
"Wanderer" and corvette "Wallflower".
Bay of Biscay air patrols sank five U-boats in August and continued to
co-operate with surface ships.
In attacks on Sierra Leone/UK convoy SL135 northeast of
the Azores, "U-634"
was sunk by sloop "Stork" and
British, Allied and neutral ships of 25,000 tons, 1
U-boats including 6 by aircraft of US escort carriers
Card and Core off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic; 2 by US
aircraft in the Caribbean area; 1 by RAF and French
aircraft off Dakar; 1 by US forces in the South Atlantic
Escort destroyers "Easton" and Greek
"Pindos" sank "U-458" southeast of Pantelleria.
British or Allied merchant ships of 43,000 tons
Shipping War - As Axis submarines continued to took a
toll of Indian Ocean shipping (7 merchant ships of 46,000 tons
in August) German "U-197" was sunk by RAF aircraft off Madagascar
on the 20th, the first of two lost in the Indian Ocean in
Assault on the Escorts: Convoys ONS18 and
ON202 - The German
wolf-packs returned to the North Atlantic armed with Gnat
acoustic torpedoes to home on and disable the escorts so
they could reach the merchantmen. Adm Doenitz established
a patrol line of 19 U-boats
southwest of Iceland ready for UK-out convoys ONS18
(27 ships escorted by the British B3 group) and ON202
(42 ships and Canadian C2 group), which set out
separately. First blood went to the RCAF on the 19th
to the bottom. Over the next three days six merchant
ships were lost and the escorts suffered badly in the
Gnat attacks. Two more U-boats
were also sunk:
20th - British
frigate "Lagan" of C2 was damaged by "U-270" or
"U-260", but shortly after "U-338"
was sunk by a VLR aircraft of RAF No 120
Squadron using the Allies' own acoustic torpedo - 'Fido'.
was towed home as a constructive total
loss. The two convoys joined up southeast of Greenland
and the escort reinforced by the Canadian 9th EG. 20th
- Canadian destroyer "ST CROIX" (ex-US) of the 9th EG was lost to
an attack by "U-305" and British corvette "POLYANTHUS" of C2 was hit by a Gnat, probably
from "U-952" or possibly "U-641". 22nd
- Destroyer "Keppel" of B3 sank "U-229", by which time the convoys were
south of Cape Farewell, Greenland. By now frigate "ITCHEN" of the 9th EG had on board most of
the survivors of "St Croix" and
"Polyanthus". Around midnight she too was hit,
in all likelihood by "U-666" and went down
taking all but three men of the three ships' companies
with her. (Note: "U-952" or "U-260"
might also had been responsible for "ltchen's"
loss.) Fortunately the Allies had anticipated the
introduction of acoustic torpedoes and soon put into
service 'Foxer' noisemakers, towed astern to attract the
Gnat away from the vessel. The U-boats did not repeat their successes.
ships of 54,000 tons and 4 escorts
U-boats including one each by RAF and RCAF Bay of Biscay
patrols, and one by US aircraft off Brazil
Italy - Surrendered on the 3rd, Salerno
Invasion on the 9th
On passage to Oran, escort destroyer "PUCKERIDGE"
was sunk just east of Gibraltar by
"U-617", herself lost six days later.
Six days after sinking "Puckeridge", "U-617"
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
In attacks on Halifax/UK convoy SC143, "U-610"
or "U-378" sank Polish destroyer "ORKAN" (ex-"Myrmidon") with an
acoustic torpedo. Later in the day RAF and RCAF air
escorts sank "U-419", "U-643"
Attacks on Convoys ON206 and ONS20 - Six U-boats were lost in exchange for
a single merchantman in attacks on UK-out convoys ON206
(B6 group) and ONS20 (4th Escort Group). The 4th EG was
mainly composed of the new US lease-lend 'Captain' class
frigates. The B7 group commanded by Cdr Gretton first of
all reinforced ON206. On the 16th,
southeast of Greenland, RAF Liberators accounted for "U-470",
and "U-964". Next day on the 17th it was "U-540's" turn. Shortly after, as B7
transferred to ONS20, corvette
"Sunflower" sank "U-631" with her Hedgehog. Still on the
17th, frigate "Byard" with the 4th EG escorting
ONS20 sank "U-841". Cdr Gretton then took B7 to support nearby
Attacks on Convoys ON207 and ON208 - South of Iceland, B7 reinforced ON207's
already formidable escort consisting of the Canadian C1
group and Capt Walker's 2nd EG. On the 23rd a RAF
Liberator of No 224 Squadron and B7 destroyers
"Duncan" and "Vidette" shared in the
sinking of "U-274". Three days later the RCAF got "U-420". Then on the 29th, by now with
ON208, B7 ships "Duncan",
"Vidette" and Sunflower" sank "U-282". In less then two weeks in attacks
on just four convoys, nine U-boats had been sunk by the
highly efficient inter-service air and sea escorts.
Northeast of the Azores, destroyer "Whitehall"
and corvette "Geranium" of the British B1 group
escorting North and West Africa/UK convoys MKS28 and
SL138 detected "U-306" by HF/DF and sent her to the bottom.
Battle of the Atlantic - After lengthy negotiations ending in
August 1943, Portugal granted the Allies the right to
establish air and sea bases in the Azores as from
October. This greatly extended the Allies' ability to
cover the central Atlantic and the convoy routes between
Britain and North and West Africa; also between North
America and the Mediterranean.
ships of 61,000 tons and 1 destroyer
U-boats including 4 by RAF and US aircraft in North
Atlantic and off Portugal; 6 by US escort carriers Card,
Core and Block Island off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic.
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 the 31st
"Douglas" and trawlers "Imperialist"
and "Loch Oskaig" sank "U-732" off Tangiers.
The second sinking was on the first
day of November.
Shipping War - RAF aircraft sank their second U-boat of
1943 in the Indian Ocean with "U-533" on the 16th in the Gulf of Oman.
Capt Walker's Escort Group with escort carrier
"Tracker" patrolled east of Newfoundland in
support of convoy HX264. "U-226" was sighted by "Tracker's"
aircraft and destroyed by sloops "Starling",
"Kite" and "Woodcock". Shortly after,
"Starling" this time with "Wild
Goose", accounted for "U-842".
Attacks on the UK/ North and West Africa
Convoy Routes - Combined
UK-bound convoys MKS30 and SL139 were escorted by the
40th Escort Group and joined in turn by the 7th, 5th and
4th EG's to the far west and northwest of Portugal. One
merchantman was lost to air attack, but three U-boats went down in the fighting:
- "U-211" to a RAF Wellington. 20th -
Frigate "Nene" and Canadian corvettes
"Calgary" and "Snowberry" of the 5th
EG sank "U-536". 21st - Frigate "Foley"
and sloop "Crane" of the 40th EG accounted for "U-538". Northwest of Cape Finisterre, Hs293
glider bombs sank the one merchant ship lost. The
deployed against other convoys in the area. As the U-boats approached southbound convoys
KMS30/0S59 they ran into the 4th EG, which had also been
diverted: 23rd - Frigates "Bazely",
"Blackwood" and "Drury" sank "U-648". 25th - Two days later
"Bazely" and "Blackwood" sank "U-600". Later, in the same area around
the Azores, a RAF Wellington accounted for "U-542", and aircraft from US escort
carrier "Bogue" the "U-86".
ships of 28,000 tons and 1 US destroyer off the Azores
U-boats including 2 by RAF and US Bay of Biscay air
patrols; 2 by RAF in North Atlantic and off the Azores; 3
by US forces in mid-Atlantic and off Ascension in the
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.
- Submarine "SIMOOM"
sailed 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"
badly damaged northwest of Derna by
Destroyer "HURRICANE" of the 1st EG with UK/African convoys OS62
and KMS36 was torpedoed by "U-305" or
"U-415" northeast of the Azores, and scuttled
ships of 48,000 tons and 2 destroyers including one US in
the North Atlantic
U-boats including 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrol; 3 by US
Navy in Azores and Madeira areas; 1 scuttled after storm
damaged in mid-Atlantic.
U-boats attacks on UK/North Africa Convoy
KMS34 - U-boat
made on the Convoy off the Algerian coast using acoustic
torpedoes: 11th - "U-223" damaged
- 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.