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CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

WESTERN EUROPE, including South of France Landings

June 1944-1945

US 3rd Army attacking into Wernberg, Germany (F D Roosevelt Library, click to enlarge)

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

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1944

JUNE 1944

For Normandy Invasion - see Normandy landings, June 1944

Air War - On the 13th the first V-1 flying bomb landed on London at the start of a three-month campaign against southeast England. Amongst the weapons shortly used against them was Britain's first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor. By then Germany's Me262 jet had been in action against Allied bombers.

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

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

JULY 1944

Western Front - At the beginning of the month, the Americans were still struggling to take St Lo and the British and Canadians to capture Caen. As they did so, other units of US First Army started to push slowly south out of the Cotentin Peninsula. Much of Caen was eventually taken on the 9th and St Lo on the 18th. Also on the 18th in Operation 'Goodwood', the British and Canadians mounted a major offensive to the east and south of Caen. The attack made slow progress against fierce German resistance, as Caen became the pivot for the American drive to the west. Now the Canadian First Army under Gen Crerar became operational.

On the 25th, in Operation 'Cobra', the US First Army attacked from west of St Lo towards Avranches. As in all the battles great use was made of Allied air power, and on the 30th, Avranches was in American hands. The Allies now prepared to close in on the Germans in the Falaise area and break out across France. The heavy ships of the Royal Navy were still providing gunfire support off both the British and American sectors, and supplies and reinforcements continued to pour in through the British 'Mulberry' harbour as Cherbourg started to become operational. Attacks on the beachhead shipping by E-boats and small battle units such as the newly introduced "Neger" and "Marder" human torpedoes had limited successes, but mines still caused the most damage: 20th - Destroyer "ISIS" was sunk by a mine or possibly a Neger off the beaches. 24th - Escort destroyer "GOATHLAND" was badly damaged by a mine and although saved, was not repaired.

U-boat Operations against the Normandy Beachhead - Those U-boats that did get through the Channel defences sank and damaged a number of ships, but six were lost to warship patrols: 5th - After attacking a convoy off Normandy, "U-390" was sunk by destroyer "Wanderer" and frigate "Tavy". 6th - In a convoy attack off Beachy Head, "U-678" was lost to Canadian destroyers "Ottawa" and "Kootenay" and British corvette "Statice". 18th - Frigate "Balfour" on patrol southeast of Start Point sank "U-672". 21st - Escorting frigates "Curzon" and Ekins" sank "U-212" off Beachy Head. 26th - As "U-214" tried to lay mines off Start Point, she was sunk by frigate "Cooke" of the 3rd EG. 31st - "U-333" was destroyed to the west of the Scilly Islands by sloop "Starling" and frigate "Loch Killin" of the 2nd EG using the new Squid. This marked the first success with this ahead-throwing A/S weapon firing three large mortar bombs. Three more U-boats were sunk in the Bay of Biscay; one each to RAF and RAAF aircraft and the third mined off Brest. Allied air raids on Germany were also becoming more effective and four more were destroyed at Kiel and Bremen.

Germany - In the 20th July Bomb Plot, a device left by Col von Stauffenberg in Hitler’s East Prussia headquarters only injured him slightly. In revenge many died and Field Marshal Rommel, implicated in the attempt on Hitler's life was forced to commit suicide in October 1944.

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

AUGUST 1944

Western Front - Breakout from Normandy: On the 1st, US General Patton's Third Army became operational. Still under Gen Montgomery, the Allied land forces were organised from west to east as follows:

US 12th Army Group (Gen Bradley)

British 21st Army Group (Gen Montgomery)

US Third Army
(Patton)

US First Army
(Hodges)

British Second Army
(Dempsey)

Canadian First Army
(Crerar)

As part of the plan to trap the Germans at Falaise and liberate the rest of France, US Third Army's roles was to overrun Brittany, wheel east from Avranches towards Le Mans and 0rleans and head towards the south of Paris. In doing so they would help close the Falaise net from the south. US First Army was to attack east from Avranches through Mortain towards Falaise. Meanwhile the British 21st Army Group was to move south from Caen on Falaise, the British Second Army on the right and Canadian First Army on the left.

US Third Army had taken most of Brittany by early month and sealed off Brest, Lorient and St Nazaire. Brest fell in mid-September, but the other two naval bases held out for the rest of the war, together with the Channel Islands garrisons. US First Army's push east was stopped on the 7th when the Germans strongly counter-attacked through Mortain towards the American bottleneck at Avranches. The assault was held, assisted by the aircraft of the Tactical Air Forces, especially the tank-busting Typhoons. By the 11th the danger was over. In the struggle south by British 21st Group, the Canadians took Falaise on the 17th, and three days later the pocket was completely sealed and the remaining Germans trapped. By then the Allied spearheads were rushing eastward. The Americans crossed the Seine on the 20th and shortly after a French armoured division was brought forward to complete the liberation of Paris on the 25th.

Now: (1) Canadian First Army headed along the coast to capture the Channel ports and nearby V-1 "buzz-bomb" launch sites, (2) British Second Army moved up on its right towards Brussels, (3) The Americans raced across France for the Belgian border, Luxembourg and eastern France. Lack of supplies, particularly fuel, started to become a major problem, and capturing Antwerp, Belgium was a matter of the highest priority. The assault on Brest, which began later in the month, was assisted by naval gunfire including "Warspite's" 15in guns.

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

German Coastal Forces Attacks - Coastal forces and small battle units continued to attack shipping off the invasion beaches, sinking and damaging a number of vessels in return for heavy casualties. 3rd - 'Hunt' class escort destroyer "QUORN" on patrol off the British sector was sunk, probably by a Linsen explosive motor boat. 9th - Old cruiser "Frobisher", acting as a depot ship for the British 'Mulberry', was badly damaged by a Dackel long range torpedo fired by E-boats.

U-boat Operations - U-boats passing through the Bay of Biscay and operating in the Channel and its approaches suffered badly at the hands of the air and sea patrols and escorts. However, the Royal Canadian Navy lost two corvettes: 4th - Escort destroyer "Wensleydale" and frigate "Stayner" on patrol off Beachy Head, sank "U-671" shortly after sailing from Boulogne. 6th - The 2nd Escort Group had a hand in three sinkings (1-3) in the Bay of Biscay. On the 6th, to the west of St Nazaire, frigate "Loch Killin" and sloop "Starling" used the new Squid A/S mortar again to account for "U-736" (1). The other two attacks were carried out off La Rochelle. 8th - Canadian corvette "REGINA" was sunk off Trevose Head, north Cornwall by "U-667" as she escorted Bristol Channel convoy EBC66. The U-boat was lost on mines off La Pallice later in the month. 10th - In the second sinking by 2nd EG, "U-608" (2) was lost to sloop "Wren" and aircraft of No 53 Squadron. 11th - 2nd EG's "Starling" working with RAAF aircraft of No 461 Squadron accounted for "U-385" (3). 14th - West of St Nazaire, "U-618" was sunk by RAF aircraft of No 53 Squadron, this time with 3rd EG frigates "Duckworth" and "Essington". 15th - Attacking a convoy to the south of the Isle of Wight, "U-741" was sunk by corvette "Orchis". 18th/20th - Canadian destroyers "Chaudiere", "Kootenay" and "Ottawa" of the 11th EG sank "U-621" on the 18th off La Rochelle and "U-984" two days later to the west of Brest. 20th - After sinking one merchantman from a convoy off Beachy Head, "U-413" was counter-attacked and lost to destroyers "Forester", "Vidette" and escort destroyer "Wensleydale". 21st/22nd - Off the Isle of Wight, "U-480" sank Canadian corvette "ALBERNI" on the 21st and British fleet minesweeper "LOYALTY" next day. 24th - As most of the U-boats evacuated the Biscay bases and headed for Norway, frigate "Louis" on patrol off St Nazaire sank "U-445". Throughout the month a total of 21 U-boats were lost in and around French waters. Apart from "U-667" which sank "Regina" on the 8th, one more was mined in the Bay of Biscay, three were lost to RAF and RAAF Bay patrols, and six more were scuttled or paid off in their Biscay bases.

27th - In a tragic mistake off Le Havre, RAF Typhoons attacked and sank fleet minesweepers "BRITOMART" and "HUSSAR" and severely damage "SALAMANDER" (constructive total loss).

Mediterranean

15th - South of France Landings: Operation 'Dragoon'

Originally code-named 'Anvil', the South of France invasion was planned to coincide with the Normandy landings. Since that decision was made, Britain pushed for the Allies to concentrate on the Italian campaign, but under US pressure agreed to go ahead with the now re-named Operation 'Dragoon' using forces withdrawn from US Fifth Army in Italy. No major British units were involved and for the first time in the Mediterranean the Royal Navy was in the minority in both ships and commanders. However, Adm Sir John Cunningham remained Naval C-in-C.

Landing Areas:

Three Attack Forces landing on the southern French mainland between Toulon and Cannes. A fourth Force on the offshore islands

Forces landing:

US Seventh Army - Gen Patch
US Sixth Corps followed-up by
French Second Corps

Departure from:

Italy, Algeria

Naval Attack Force Commanders:

Naval Control force Commander
Vice-Adm H K Hewitt USN
US Rear-Adms Davidson, Lewis, Lowry, Rodgers

Naval Control, Attack & Convoy Escort Forces

British & Allied

French

U.S.A.

Battleships

1

1

3

Cruisers

7

5

8

Destroyers & escorts

27

19

52

Other warships

69

6

157

Attack transports & LSIs

9

-

23

Landing craft & ships (major only)

141

-

369

Totals

254

31

612

Grand Total

897


The warships were allocated across the four attack forces and, in addition, over 1,300 mainly assault landing craft took part in the landings. Air cover and support was provided by Rear-Adm Troubridge with seven British and two US escort carriers. After intensive air and sea bombardments, the landings took place against light resistance accompanied by US airborne drops inland. Both the US and French Corps soon spread out and headed north after the retreating Germans. Before the month was out, Cannes, Toulon and Marseilles had fallen into Allied hands.

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

SEPTEMBER 1944

South of France - Conclusion - The Allies reached Lyons on the 3rd and by the 12th, French troops advancing from the south had met French units of Gen Patton's US Third Army near Dijon.

Western Front - US Army divisions now exceeded British and Commonwealth divisions in the European Theatres. Reflecting this, on the 1st Gen Eisenhower assumed direct command of all Allied ground forces and by mid-month had taken under his control the US and French forces advancing from the south of France. From north to south the Allied Armies and areas of operation were structured thus:

British 21st Army Group (Gen Montgomery) Canadian First Army Channel coast of France and into Belgium and southern Holland.
  British Second Army Through central Belgium and into southern Holland and the German border opposite the Ruhr.
US 12th Army Group (Gen Bradley) US First Army Through southern Belgium and Luxembourg towards Germany south of the Ruhr
  US Third Army Through central and eastern France towards the German border opposite the Saar
US Sixth Army Group (Gen Devers) US Seventh Army/French First Army From central France towards the east and the German border south of the Saar.

On the Channel coast, the Canadians captured Dieppe on the 1st, Boulogne on the 22nd and Calais on the 30th. By the 12th, British units of Canadian First Army had taken Le Havre, but Dunkirk held out until the end of the war. Further east, British Second Army crossed the Belgian border on the 2nd, liberated Brussels next day and Antwerp the day after. Unfortunately the vital port could not be used until the Germans were cleared from the Scheldt approaches. The Dutch border was reached on the 11th and shortly after Operation 'Market Garden' - "The Bridge Too Far" - was launched, aimed at getting across the Rhine in Holland and around the northern end of the Siegfried Line. On the 17th, US 101st Airborne Division landed around Eindhoven, US 82nd Airborne near Nijmegen to take the bridges over the Rivers Maas/Meuse and Waal/Rhine, and the British 1st Airborne at Arnhem to capture the Lower Rhine bridge. As the drops took place, British Second Army thrust forward. The entire operation almost succeeded, but the British paratroops in spite of great gallantry could not capture the bridge, and Second Army was unable to reach them. The survivors were evacuated across the Lower Rhine on the night of the 25th/26th. On the rest of the Allied front, the US Army Groups to the south pushed on and by mid-month units of First Army had entered Luxembourg and crossed the border of Germany near Aachen. Allied supplies were now passing through the captured Channel ports in sufficient quantities to dispense with over-the-beach delivery. 'Juno' was the last to close on the 7th. 'Mulberry' Harbour continued in operation until December.

U-boat Inshore Campaign - With the start of the British Isles Inshore Campaign, U-boats sunk off Norway and in the Western Approaches as well as the Bay of Biscay are included in the European theatre. The same applies to the Royal Navy and German surface warships lost.

1st - On passage into the Bristol Channel as part of the U-boat Inshore Campaign, "U-247" was sunk close to Lands End by patrolling Canadian frigates "St John" and "Swansea" of the 9th EG. 1st - Two U-boats were sunk in the North Western Approaches in attacks on Atlantic convoys in exchange for a corvette and several merchantmen. On the 1st, off the northwest Irish coast, "U-482" attacked Caribbean/UK tanker convoy CU36 and sank "HURST CASTLE" of the British B1 group with an acoustic torpedo. Just over a week later the two U-boats were lost. 9th - Northwest of Ireland, "U-743" was sunk near UK/North America convoy ONF252 by escorting frigate "Helmsdale" and corvette "Portchester Castle". Off the south Hebrides "U-484" went down to attacks by Canadian frigate "Dunver" and corvette "Hespeler" of C5 group. Later in the month, RAF aircraft sank two more in the Northern Transit Area.

Air War - Although Allied bombers continued to bomb V-1 installations along the Channel coast of France, it was only when Canadian First Army overran the sites that London and the southeast of England saw the last one land. By then nearly 10,000 launchings of the sub-sonic pilotless "cruise missile" had inflicted 25,000 dead and wounded civilian casualties. Then on the 8th the first supersonic V-2 rocket hit London in a deadly campaign that lasted for over six months, and against which there was no defence. In October, with the Allied capture of Antwerp, the Germans started an equally heavy series of attacks with both V-1s and V-2s against the port, right through until April 1945.

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

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

OCTOBER 1944

Western Front - Canadian First Army attacked north into Holland and British Second Army east from the Nijmegen area towards the German border. Along the rest of the front, the US Army Groups also headed for the border. At this time US Ninth Army became operational and positioned between British Second and US First Armies. In all sectors the Germans fought stubbornly, but by the 21st had lost their first city with US First Army's capture of Aachen and breaching of the Siegfried Line. At this time the Canadians' task was the most crucial - to capture the banks of the Scheldt and allow vitally needed supplies to reach Allied forces through Antwerp. By the end of the month they had almost cleared the north and south sides of the estuary ready for the final assault on Walcheren Island.

16th - Outward bound from Norway, "U-1006" was located by the patrolling 6th EG south of the Faeroes and sunk by Canadian frigate "Annan".

27th - During Home Fleet operations against German shipping off Norway, aircraft of 1771 Squadron from fleet carrier "Implacable" drove "U-1060" ashore near Namsos. She was finished off two days later by aircraft of Nos 311 (Czech) and 502 Squadrons RAF. Earlier in the month four more U-boats were lost in RAF raids on Bergen and another three by accident in Norwegian waters.

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

NOVEMBER 1944

Western Front - Throughout the month Allied forces fought their way slowly towards the German border and the Siegfried Line. On the 28th the first deep-sea merchant ships sailed up the Scheldt and into Antwerp, and from then on the Allied supply position was totally changed for the better. Before this happened, the assault and battle for Walcheren (following) had to be fought.

1st - Assault on Walcheren: Operation 'Infatuate' - The island of Walcheren was heavily defended and largely flooded when the battle took place. On the 1st, Army units were carried across the Scheldt to land on the south side, while Royal Marines were put ashore to the west (at Westkapelle) against tough resistance. Under the command of Brig B. W. Leicester, the 4th Royal Marine Special Service Brigade consisting of Nos 41, 47 and 48 Commandos was carried from Ostend in 180 landing craft. Capt A. F. Pugsley commanded the naval forces and heavy gunfire support was provided by "Warspite" in her last action of the war and the two monitors "Erebus" and "Roberts". Many landing craft were lost in the assault and by the time the Germans surrendered on the 8th, Allied casualties totalled 8,000. By then the Canadians had crossed over to the eastern side of Walcheren from the mainland and 10 flotillas of minesweepers had begun the job of clearing 80 miles of the Scheldt.

11th - On Arctic patrol off the Lofoten Islands, submarine "Venturer" sank "U-771" heading home for Narvik from operations in northern waters.

11th - South of Ireland "U-1200" was sunk by patrolling corvettes "Kenilworth Castle", "Launceston Castle", "Pevensey Castle" and "Portchester Castle", then supporting Halifax/UK convoy HX317.

12th - The damaged "TIRPITZ" was finally destroyed as she lay at anchor off Tromso, Norway. Lancasters of Nos 9 and 617 (Dambuster) Squadrons, RAF Bomber Command using 12,000lb bombs put paid to the ship that had tied down the Home Fleet for so long. After several hits and near misses by these over 5 ton bombs, she turned turtle trapping nearly 1,000 men inside.

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

25th - On passage out to the North Atlantic, "U-322" was sunk west of the Shetlands by a Norwegian Sunderland of No 330 Squadron and patrolling frigate "Ascension".

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

DECEMBER 1944

Western Front - As the Allies pushed forward towards the Siegfried Line, the Battle of the Bulge started in the Ardennes. Three German armies made a last desperate attempt to drive a wedge through the junction of US First and Third Armies, cross the Meuse and head for Antwerp. Starting on the 16th along a 60-mile front, the attackers soon surrounded American units at Bastogne where they held out through the battle. By Christmas the Germans had been stopped short of the Meuse. Now US First Army from the north and US Third from the south aided by part of the British Second Army pushing from the west began to squeeze them back.

British Isles Inshore Campaign - The inshore campaign by U-boats gains some successes including two frigates, but four were lost: 6th - Frigate "BULLEN" of the 19th EG was sunk off the north coast of Scotland by an acoustic torpedo from "U-775". On the same day in the same area frigates "Goodall" and "Loch lnsh" also with 19th EG, accounted for "U-297". 17th - Attacking a convoy off the south coast of Ireland, "U-400" was sunk by escorting frigate "Nyasaland". 18th - "U-1209" ran aground near Lands End at the far tip of SW England and was wrecked. 26th - Frigate "CAPEL" of the 1st EG on patrol off Cherbourg was lost to "U-486". 30th - Allied aircraft now had few successes against the schnorkel-equipped U-boats. An exception was "U-772", lost off Portland Bill to a RCAF Leigh Light Wellington of No 407 Squadron. In Norwegian waters one U-boat was lost in a RAF raid and another by collision off the Lofoten Islands.

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

 

1945

JANUARY 1945

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

Western Front - As fighting continued all along the borders of Germany, the Battle of the Bulge ended. By month's end the Germans were back to their start positions.

6th - Destroyer "WALPOLE" was the last of the 18 old 'V' and ' W' class vessels lost or not repaired in the war. Mined off the Scheldt Estuary on North Sea patrol, she was saved but went to the breakers.

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

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

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

FEBRUARY 1945

Yalta Conference - For a week early in the month, Prime Minister Churchill, President Roosevelt and Generalissimo Stalin met at Yalta in the Crimea. With the Russians advancing through Eastern Europe and agreement on the future frontiers of Poland and the division of Germany into four occupation zones, the shape of much of post-war Europe was determined. Stalin agreed to declare war on Japan once the war in the west was over.

Western Front - Starting from the north, the Allies began a series of offensives aimed at breaking through the Siegfried Line and destroying the German armies west of the Rhine. British 21st Army Group, which in addition to the British and Canadian Armies had the US Ninth temporarily attached, began its moves on the 8th. The attacks towards the Rhine went in from south of Nijmegen along the River Maass to Aachen. The US 12th Army Group was the next to go on the 23rd, with US First and Third Armies aiming for the Rhine between Cologne and Koblenz.

British Isles Inshore Campaign - U-boats still took a steady toll of shipping in the inshore campaign and sank two corvettes, but a number were lost, mainly to the Royal Navy: 3rd - Frigates "Bayntun", "Braithwaite", "Loch Dunvegan" and "Loch Eck" of the 10th Escort Group patrolling north of the Shetland Islands shared in the sinking of three U-boats (1-3) in the next two weeks. The first was "U-1279" (1) on the 3rd. 4th - Off the north coast of Ireland "U-1014" was accounted for by 23rd EG frigates "Loch Scavaig", "Loch Shin", "Nyasaland" and "Papua". 9th - Submarine "Venturer" on patrol off Bergen, Norway sank another U-boat when she torpedoed "U-864". The first was "U-771" in November 1944. 14th - The same four frigates of 10th EG sank "U-989" (2) north of the Shetlands. 16th - Attacking Scottish coastal convoy WN74 off the Moray Firth, "U-309" was lost to Canadian frigate "St John" of 9th EG. 17th - The third sinking of the month by 10th EG north of the Shetlands was "U-1278" (3). 20th - "U-208" attacked convoy HX337 in St George's Channel between SE Ireland and Wales, and sank escorting corvette "VERVAIN". The U-boat was then hunted down and destroyed by sloop "Amethyst" of 22nd EG. 22nd - Off Falmouth, Bristol Channel/Thames convoy BTC76 was attacked by "U-1004" and Canadian corvette "TRENTONIAN" was sent to the bottom of the English Channel. 24th - "U-927" was lost in the western Channel area to a RAF Wellington of No 179 Squadron. 24th - During the inshore campaign, 10 U-boats were sunk in the Lands End area, three in February. On the 24th "U-480" sank a merchant ship from coastal convoy BTC78 and was then hunted down and finished off by frigates "Duckworth" and "Rowley" of the 3rd EG. Three days later "U-1018" attacked BTC81 to be sunk by frigate "Loch Fada" of the 2nd EG. On the same day "U-327" was detected by a USN liberator and sunk by "Loch Fada" again, working with "Labuan" and "Wild Goose". Two more U-boats were lost off Norway, one by accident and the other mined.

Air War - As the Allied strategic bombing campaign against Germany reached a peak, the RAF by day and the USAAF by night struck at Dresden in mid-month. The controversial attacks caused massive firestorms that killed in the region of 100,000 people, although even now there is little agreement on the casualty figures.

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

MARCH 1945

Western Front - In March the Allies not only reached the River Rhine all along its length, but by the end were across in strength. At the beginning of the month, the British 21st and US 12th Army Groups were still trying to reach the west bank and by the 10th stand along most of its length from Nijmegen down to Koblenz. By a stroke of good fortune, the bridge at Remagen was found intact on the 7th and units of US First Army rushed over. Further south still the rest of US Third Army on the 14th, followed by the US Seventh, started to clear the west side of the river further down from Koblenz south to Karlsruhe, surrounding and taking the Saar region in the process. This was achieved in less than two weeks.

Between the 22nd and 31st, from north to south the Allied armies crossed the Rhine and moved further into the Reich.

British 21st Army Group aided by paratroop drops went over around Wesel;
US First Army pushed out from the Remagen salient,
US Third Army crossed around Mainz;
US Seventh Army near Mannheim;
French First Army north of Karlsruhe.

The Germans were also about to lose the Ruhr industrial centre as US Ninth Army circled to the north and US First to the south.

British Isles Inshore Campaign - The inshore campaign continued: 7th - "U-1302" successfully attacks Halifax/UK convoy SC167 in St George's Channel, but after a long search off the coast of western Wales was sunk by Canadian frigates "La Hulloise", "Strathadam" and "Thetford Mines" of the 25th EG. 10th - Deep minefields laid by the Royal Navy to protect UK inshore waters from the U-boats claimed two victims. On the 10th, "U-275" was lost in the English Channel off Beachy Head. 12th - Two days later, the deep minefields damaged "U-260" off Fastnet Rock, southern Ireland, and she had to be scuttled. 12th - Between now and the 29th, three more U-boats went down close to Lands End, starting with "U-683" to frigate "Loch Ruthven" and sloop "Wild Goose" of the 2nd EG. 14th - South African frigate "Natal" on passage off the Firth of Forth, Scotland in the North Sea sank "U-714". 21st - Two U-boats were lost off the north coast of Ireland. The first was "U-1003" damaged by Canadian frigate "New Glasgow" of the 26th EG and later scuttled. 22nd - "U-296" was also sunk off the north coast of Ireland - by RAF aircraft of No 120 Squadron. 26th - The second loss off Lands End was "U-399", sunk by frigate "Duckworth" and other ships of 3rd EG. The same Group accounted for the third U-boat off Lands End on the 29th. 27th - The frigates of 21st EG were split into two divisions, and sank three U-boats in the Hebrides area. On the 27th, "U-965" was sunk by Hedgehog off the northern end of the islands by the 'first' division - "Conn", accompanied by "Deane" and "Rupert". The same day further south, "U-722" went down to the 'second' division - "Byron", "Fitzroy" and "Redmill". 29th - "U-246" torpedods and badly damaged Canadian frigate "TEME" (constructive total loss), but was then hunted down and sunk by "Duckworth" and the 3rd EG off Lands End. 30th - Frigates "Conn", "Deane" and "Rupert", the 'first' division of 21st EG and still off the northern end of the Hebrides, sank "U-1021". One more U-boat was lost to US aircraft in southern UK waters and two to the RAF on Northern Transit Area patrols, but now the Allied air-raids were really starting to bite. In Germany around 12 boats, completed or in service, were destroyed in the month mainly by the USAAF on the night of the 30th.

German Heavy Warships - The end of the remaining German big ships was in sight. Battlecruiser "GNEISENAU", out of service since 1942 and now hulked, was sunk as a blockship in Gdynia (Gotenhafen) on the 27th. Light cruiser "KOLN" was sunk at Wilhelmshaven by Allied bombing. Only two pocket battleships, two heavy and three light cruisers remained, and most of these survived only a few more weeks.

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

Merchant Shipping War - E-boat laid mines continued to cause a high proportion of merchantmen sinkings.  

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

APRIL 1945

Western Front - American forces met at Lippstadt on the 1st and completed the encirclement of the Ruhr, trapping a third of a million troops. The vital industrial area was slowly reduced and on the 18th the Germans surrendered. Meanwhile the Allies broke out through Germany, eventually to meet up with the Russians:

British 21st Army Group headed into northern Holland and Germany, the Canadians taking Arnhem on the 15th and moving on Emden. The British captured Bremen on the 26th and made for Hamburg and the Baltic coast at Lubeck.

US 12th Army Group pushed into central Germany. Ninth Army passed north of the Ruhr and reached the River Elbe opposite Berlin by the 12th where it stopped. First Army got to the Elbe at Torgau south of Berlin on the 25th and was the first to meet the advancing Russians. Germany was now cut in half. General Patton's Third Army swung south and raced on to western Czechoslovakia and northern Austria.

US Sixth Army Group, including the French First Army, occupied southern Germany and headed for the north Swiss border and western tip of Austria.

In their advance, the Allies over-ran Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau revealing to the world the full horror of the Nazi regime. The Russians had also captured similar camps in the east.

U-boat Campaign - Throughout the month over 40 U-boats were lost in and around the waters of northwest Europe. The Royal Navy was directly involved in 12 of the sinkings: 5th - "U-1169" went down off the southeast coast of Ireland in a deep-laid minefield in St George's Channel. 6th - Two U-boats were sunk in Channel operations. The first, "U-1195" sank a ship from a convoy off the Isle of Wight, and was lost to old escorting destroyer "Watchman". 8th - Four more went down to the south and southwest of Ireland, two of them on the 8th. Frigates "Byron" and "Fitzroy" of 21st EG sank "U-1001", and "Bentinck" and "Calder" of 4th EG account for "U-774". 10th - Two days later "U-873" sailing from still uncaptured St Nazaire attacked a UK-out convoy and fell victim to escorting destroyer "Vanquisher" and corvette "Tintagel Castle". 12th - Home Fleet submarines gained another success when "Tapir" sank outward-bound "U-486" off Bergen, Norway. 12th - Two more were lost in the Irish Sea northwest of Anglesey, Wales. "U-1024" was disabled by the Squid of frigate "Loch Glendhu" of 8th EG. Boarded by "Loch More", she was taken in tow but foundered. 15th - The second U-boat sunk in Channel operations was "U-1063". Attacking a convoy off Start Point, she was sent to the bottom off Land's End by frigate "Loch Killin" of 17th EG. 15th - The last U-boat loss off Ireland was "U-285" sunk by frigates "Grindall" and "Keats" of the 5th EG. 16th - "U-1274" attacked Forth/Thames convoy FS1784 off St Abbs Head, SE Scotland, sinking one ship, but was then lost to destroyer "Viceroy" of the escort. 21st - Frigates of the 4th EG, "Bazely", "Bentinck" and "Drury" sank "U-636" northwest of Ireland. 30th - The second loss in the Irish Sea was "U-242" detected by a RAF Sunderland of No 201 Squadron and sunk by destroyers "Havelock" and "Hesperus" of the 14th EG. Other U-boats lost were: 6 to RAF and US aircraft in and around the British Isles; 1 by accident and 2 more missing, cause of loss unknown, during the inshore campaign; 5 in the Skagerrak and Kattegat, 3 by rocket-firing Mosquitoes of RAF Coastal Command; around 17 completed boats in air-raids on Germany.

End of the German Surface Fleet - April saw the end of the German Navy's remaining big ships. In RAF raids on Kiel early in the month, pocket battleship "ADMIRAL SCHEER" capsized and heavy cruiser "ADMIRAL HIPPER" and light cruiser "EMDEN" were badly damaged. A few days later pocket battleship "LUTZOW" was also put out of action at Swinemunde. All three damaged ships were scuttled in the first week of May. When Germany surrendered, three cruisers survived. "Prinz Eugen" was used in A-bomb trials in the Pacific; "Leipzig" scuttled in the North Sea in 1946 loaded with poison gas munitions; and "Nurnberg" ceded to Russia. A dozen or so big destroyers also stayed afloat.

Germany - The End of Adolf Hitler: As the month drew to a close and the Allies completed the destruction of the German Reich, Heinrich Himmler tried to surrender to Britain and the United States through Swedish intermediaries, but anything short of unconditional surrender was refused. On the 29th in his Berlin bunker, Hitler married Eva Braun and nominated Grand-Adm Doenitz as his successor. Next day Hitler and his wife committed suicide and Doenitz became Fuehrer on 1st May.

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

MAY 1945

End of the U-boats - Right to the end of the war there was no let-up in the struggle against the U-boats, especially faced with the threat from the new and dangerous Types XXI and XXIII. Between the 2nd and 6th, 23 U-boats of all types were destroyed by the Typhoons, Beaufighters, Mosquitoes and Liberators of the RAF and Allied Tactical Air Forces. As the German fighter defences crumbled, the Allied aircraft roamed the Kattegat and nearby waters catching many of the U-boats in the Baltic or sailing for Norway. One more was lost by unknown causes off Scotland. Two others respectively represent the last U-boat destroyed by the Royal Navy and the final U-boat sinking of the European war. While much of this was happening, steps were taken to arrange for the surrender of Germany's still formidable submarine fleet.

4th - A Royal Navy task force consisting of escort carriers "Queen", "Searcher" and "Trumpeter" with cruisers and destroyers and under the command of Vice-Adm R. R. McGrigor returning from Murmansk, launched strikes against shipping off Norway, and "U-711" was sunk near Narvik. The same day Adm Doenitz ordered his U-boats to stop operations and return to base. Many crews preferred to scuttle their boats.

7th - U-boats gained their last success when Type XXIII coastal boat "U-2336" sank merchantmen "Avondale Park" and "Sneland" off the Firth of Forth. Further north, to the west of Bergen, a RAF Catalina of No 210 Squadron on Northern Transit Area patrol destroyed "U-320", the very last U-boat casualty.

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

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

Germany - Final Defeat and Surrender -

Western Front - In the last week of the war in Europe, US First and Ninth Armies stood along the west bank of the River Elbe. To their north, British Second Army reached the Baltic on the 2nd and next day took Hamburg. In the south, US Third Army pushed into Czechoslovakia as far as Pilsen and Austria around Linz, and Seventh Army into Austria and through Innsbruck before crossing the Brenner Pass into Italy. There the Western Allies stopped. On the 4th outside Hamburg, German envoys surrendered their forces in Holland, Denmark and northwest Germany to Field Marshal Montgomery.

Eastern Front - Berlin fell to the Russian Army on the 2nd. Fighting continued in Czechoslovakia and Austria and, on the 5th, resistance forces rose to take over Prague. A few days later the last major German units surrendered to the Russians to the east of the Czech capital.

Surrender and Occupation - At Gen Eisenhower's HQ at Rheims in France on the 7th, the unconditional surrender of Germany was signed to take effect from midnight on the 8th - VE day. On the 9th it was ratified in Berlin and signed for the Allies by Air Chief Marshall Tedder (as Gen Eisenhower's Deputy) and Russian Marshal Zhukov.

As the last remaining German forces surrendered in France, Germany, Norway and elsewhere, and the Allies completed the liberation of all Europe from their hold, the four major powers moved into their zones of occupation in Germany and Austria. The war in Europe was over.

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

JUNE 1945

Potsdam Conference - In the second half of the month, the heads of the three great powers met at Potsdam outside Berlin to continue discussing the future of Europe and final defeat of Japan. By the end of the conference only Stalin remained of the original three major Allied leaders who had met in the past. Accompanied by President Truman of the United States for the first time, Winston Churchill was only there at the start. On the 26th the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast, demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Britain - Winston Churchill's Conservative Party was swept from power and the Labour Party under Clement Attlee took over the reins of the wartime Coalition Government. The new Prime Minister travelled to Potsdam for the rest of the conference.

AUGUST 1945

15th - VJ-Day: Emperor Hirohito broadcast Japan's unconditional surrender

SEPTEMBER 1945

2nd - Japanese Surrender Ceremony on USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay

 

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