ATLANTIC - APRIL 1940
German Raiders - “Orion”
sailed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans around South America's Cape
Horn. She was out for 16 months before returning to France.
10th - “U-50” on patrol off
the Shetlands in support of the Norwegian invasion, was sunk by
Faeroe Islands - On the 13th
April, following the German invasion of Norway, an advance guard of
Royal Marines landed on the Faeroe Islands, northwest of the
Shetland Islands with the eventual agreement of the Danish Governor.
Monthly Loss Summary: 4 British,
Allied and neutral ships of 25,000 tons from all causes; 1 German
EUROPE - APRIL 1940
Atomic Bomb - Just as the
“phoney war” ended in Europe (it never existed at sea) the end of
the war was foreshadowed when the British government established the
Maud Committee to oversee nuclear research. Similar steps had
already been taken in the United States, all of which eventually led
to an operational atomic bomb.
German Codes - The Bletchley
Park Ultra programme was now decoding some Luftwaffe low-level
Enigma codes, partly because of poor German security procedures.
There is little evidence the hard-won information influenced the war
over the next two violent months.
Norwegian Invasion & Campaign
(see map above)
3rd - The first German
troop transports sailed for Norway. 7th - German
covering and troop-carrying warships headed for Norway.
8th - Operation 'Wilfred': Royal Navy destroyers laid
minefields, simulated and real at three points off the
Norwegian coast, including near Bodo. Battlecruiser
Renown and other
destroyers provided cover. One of the screen,
(Lt-Cdr Roope) was detached to search for a man overboard
just as 8in-gunned cruiser “Admiral Hipper” headed into
Trondheim. They met to the northwest of the port and the
destroyer was soon sunk, but not before she rammed and
damaged “Hipper”. + Lt-Cdr Gerard Roope RN was posthumously
awarded the Victoria Cross.
7th-8th - In response
to reported German movements, units of the Home Fleet
cruisers and 14 destroyers sailed from Scapa Flow and Rosyth.
Accompanying them was a French cruiser and two destroyers.
Two more British cruisers and nine destroyers left other
duties and headed for Norwegian waters. Next day, on the
8th, they were joined by the four troop-carrying cruisers of
Operation 'R4', but after the soldiers had been
disembarked back in Britain. More than 20 submarines,
including three French and one Polish took up positions.
9th, Germany invaded
Denmark and Norway (Operation 'Weserubung'): Copenhagen
was soon occupied and DENMARK surrendered. In Norway,
seaborne troops landed at Oslo, Kristiansand, Egersund and
Bergen in the south, Trondheim in the centre and Narvik in
the north. The southern forces and those from Trondheim
pushed inland and joined up by the end of the month. They
then moved north to relieve Narvik, which was isolated by
the Allies soon after the first German landings. German Navy
forces included a pocket battleship, six cruisers, 14
destroyers, torpedo boats and minesweepers for the landings
at the six Norwegian ports, with battlecruisers
“Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” covering the two most
northerly landings. Thirty U-boats patrolled off Norway and
British bases, but throughout the campaign suffered from
major torpedo defects. Early in the morning of the 9th,
was in action with the two German battlecruisers to the west
of Vestfiord. “Gneisenau” was damaged and “Renown” slightly.
The Germans withdrew. As “Renown” was in action, German
occupation forces heading for Oslo came under heavy fire
from Norwegian coastal defences. Shore-sited guns and
torpedoes in Oslo Fiord sank heavy cruiser “BLUCHER”. A Home
Fleet cruiser force was detached to attack the German
warships in Bergen, but ordered to withdraw. They came under
continuous air attack and destroyer
was bombed and sunk southwest of Bergen. That evening,
German cruiser “KARLSRUHE” left Kristiansand and was
torpedoed by submarine “Truant”. She was scuttled next day.
10th, First Battle of
Narvik - The 2nd Destroyer Flotilla (Capt.
Warburton-Lee) with “Hardy”, “Havock”, “Hostile”, “Hotspur”
and “Hunter”, entered Ofotfiord to attack the German ships
assigned to the occupation of Narvik. These included 10
large destroyers. Several transports were sunk together with
destroyers “ANTON SCHMITT” (AS) and “WILHELM
HEIDKAMP” (WH) in Narvik Bay.
Other German destroyers were damaged, but as the British 2nd
HARDY was beached,
HUNTER sunk by the remaining German ships and
“Hotspur” badly damaged. + Capt Bernard Warburton-Lee RN was
posthumously awarded the
By the 10th, the British Home
Fleet was reinforced by battleship
On the same day submarine
THISTLE on patrol off Utsira failed in an attack
on “U-4”. Shortly after she was sunk by the same U-boat.
Fleet Air Arm Skua dive-bomber’s of 800 and 803 Squadrons
flying from the Orkney Islands sank German cruiser
"KOENIGSBERG" at her moorings in Bergen, the first major
warship sunk by air attack. She was damaged earlier by shore
batteries in the landings. .
11th - Returning from
the Oslo landings, German pocket battleship “Lutzow” was
torpedoed and badly damaged by submarine “Spearfish” in the
Skagerrak. Cruiser “Penelope” on her way into Narvik was
damaged running aground in Vestfiord.
13th, Second Battle of Narvik - Battleship
Warspite and nine
destroyers were sent into the Narvik fiords to finish off
the remaining German ships. Submarine “U-64” was surprised
and sunk by “Warspite's” Swordfish catapult aircraft as it
scouted ahead. The eight surviving German destroyers –
“BERND VON ARNIM” (BA), “DIETHER VON ROEDER”
(DR), “ERICH GIESE” (EG), “ERICH KOELNNER”
(EK), “GEORG THIELE” (GT), “HANS LUDEMANN”
(HL), “HERMANN KUNNE” (HK) and “WOLFGANG
ZENKER” (WZ) were all destroyed or scuttled. The
British “Eskimo” and “Cossack” were damaged. By the 13th,
the first British troop convoys had left the Scottish Clyde
for Narvik, but some ships were diverted to Namsos. German
forces were well-established in the south and centre of
Norway and had control of the air.
14th - Submarine
TARPON on patrol off southern Norway was sunk by
German minesweeper “M-6”. German gunnery training ship
“BRUMMER” was torpedoed and sunk by submarine “Sterlet” .
14th-16th - The first
Allied landings took place between the 14th and 16th. In the
north, British troops occupied Harstad in preparation for an
attack on Narvik. They were reinforced by French and Polish
units through into May. Royal Marines led British and French
troops into Namsos ready for an attack south towards
Trondheim. The British went ashore in the Andalsnes area to
try to hold central Norway with the Norwegian Army. Neither
of these operations proved possible and on the 27th April
the decision was taken to pull out of central Norway.
15th - As the
Harstad-bound troopships approached their destination,
escorting destroyers “Brazen” and “Fearless” located and
sank “U-49”. Southwest of Stavanger, “U-1” went to the
bottom after striking a mine.
- Heavy cruiser
Suffolk (right - NavyPhotos) bombarded
installations at Stavanger, but on her return was badly
damaged by Ju-88 bombers and barely made Scapa Flow with her
18th - Four days after
sinking the “Brummer”, submarine
was presumed sunk in the Skagerrak by German anti-submarine
24th - After four days
continuous AA duty off Andalsnes, cruiser
Curacoa was badly
damaged by bombs. Carrier
Glorious flew off
obsolescent Gladiator biplanes for shore operations.
27th - Allied plans to
attack towards Trondheim and hold central Norway proved
impossible. The decision was taken to pull out of central
Norway, and the evacuation of Andalsnes and Namsos got under
30th - Sloop “BITTERN”
was sunk by Ju-87 dive-bombers off Namsos.
29th - Submarine
was lost in collision with a Norwegian merchantman off the northeast
coast of England.
Air War - The first mines were
laid by RAF Bomber Command off the German and Danish coasts.
Monthly Loss Summary: 54 British,
Allied and neutral ships of 134,000 tons from all causes.
ATLANTIC - MAY 1940
German Raiders - “Widder”
headed for central Atlantic operations before returning to France
six months later. On her way into the Indian Ocean, “Atlantis” laid
mines off South Africa.
Iceland & Dutch West Indies -
On the 10th as Germany attacked France and the Low Countries,
British Royal Marines landed from two cruisers at Reykjavik, Iceland
then part of the Danish Crown. More troops followed to set up air
and sea bases that became vital to Britain's defence of the Atlantic
supply routes. To avoid any possibility of confusion, Winston
Churchill always insisted on differentiating between Iceland (C) and
Ireland (R). Shortly after Germany invaded Holland, Allied troops
landed on the Dutch West lndies islands of Aruba and Curacoa to
protect oil installations.
Battle of the Atlantic -
U-boats started returning to the Western Approaches and as they did,
one of the first ‘Flower’ class corvettes “Arabis” made a
depth-charge attack in defence of a Gibraltar/UK convoy. With the
closure of the Mediterranean to Allied shipping, the trade routes
around Africa and the ports en route took on a new importance.
Particularly vital was the West African base at Freetown, Sierra
Monthly Loss Summary: 10 British,
Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons from all causes.
EUROPE - MAY 1940
Norwegian Campaign - continued
- In three days and nights the last 10,000 British and
French troops had been evacuated from Namsos and around
Andalsnes following the failure to attack towards
Trondheim and hold central Norway. Other troops were
later landed further north, including at Bodo in an
attempt to block the German advance from Trondheim
towards Narvik. The Allies continued to build up forces
for the attack on Narvik. + Lt-Cdr Richard Stannard RNR,
commanding officer of HM trawler Arab of the 15th
Anti-Submarine Striking Force, was awarded the
Victoria Cross for
gallantry under air attack during operations off Namsos.
Retiring northwest from Namsos, destroyers
and the French “BISON” were sunk by Ju-87 Stuka
As preparations continued in northern Norway for the
attack on Narvik, Polish destroyer “GROM” was bombed and
SEAL successfully laid mines in the southern
Kattegat on the 4th before being damaged by a German
mine. Trying to make for neutral Sweden on the surface,
she was attacked and captured off The Skaw by German air
and sea patrols.
EFFINGHAM ran aground on an uncharted rock in
Vestfiord carrying troops to Bodo to help block the
German advance on Narvik. She was later torpedoed and
- By now carriers
Glorious had flown ashore the first modern RAF
- The Allies decided to pull out of Norway altogether,
but not before Narvik had been captured and the port
- During the attack on Narvik, AA cruiser
CURLEW was bombed and sunk in nearby Lavang
- Two days after the loss of sister ship “Curlew”,
Cairo was badly
damaged off the town of Narvik just as French and Polish
troops completed its capture. The Norwegian Campaign
shortly drew to a close
Britain - Following a 10th May
House of Commons debate on the Norwegian campaign, Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill assumed
leadership. Albert V Alexander succeeded him as First Lord of the
Admiralty. The planned attack on Narvik was still to go ahead, but
that same day the German Blitzkrieg was launched on Holland, Belgium
and France .
10th, Germany invades
Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg (Operation 'Gelb') -
British and French troops crossed the border into
Belgium and took up forward positions, but the main
German thrust was a planned encircling movement further
south through the forests and mountains of the Belgium
13th - The Germans
entered France at Sedan. After breaking through, German
armour headed west for the Channel to trap the Allied
armies now in Belgium and northern France. British
Admiralty plans had already been made to withdraw
shipping from the Low Countries, block main ports,
demolish installations and remove gold and diamonds.
Most of these duties were carried out with the aid of
Royal Navy destroyers which suffered heavy losses over
the next few weeks. Still on the 13th, Holland’s Queen
Wilhelmina and her Government were now on their way to
Britain aboard a Royal Navy destroyer to continue
14th - The centre
of Rotterdam was blitzed by the Luftwaffe.
15th - Destroyers
continued to support Allied land forces off the Dutch
and Belgian coasts. Under heavy air attack, two were
bombed and beached over the next few days, starting with
in the Scheldt Estuary. The DUTCH Army
surrendered to the Germans. On the same day, Winston
Churchill’s War Cabinet, anticipating the Battle for
Britain decided not to send any more RAF fighters to
France. The strategic bombing of Germany was also
ordered and raids made on the Ruhr.
17th - As the
Allies retreated from Belgium, German forces entered
The second destroyer supporting Allied land forces,
WHITLEY was beached near Nieuport on the Belgian
coast with bomb damage.
German tanks reached the English Channel near Abbeville,
shortly turning right and advancing north on the ports
of Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. Destroyers carried
Allied troops to Boulogne and Calais and remained in
support. Over the next four days, five Allied destroyers
were lost and others damaged in the area. 21st
- French destroyer “L’ADROIT” bombed and sunk off
Dunkirk. 23rd - French destroyer
“ORAGE” bombed off Boulogne and “JAGUAR” torpedoed and
sunk by German E-boats “S-21” and “S-23” off Dunkirk.
24th - A fourth French destroyer, “CHACAL” was
bombed off Boulogne. The British
WESSEX was also bombed and sunk supporting the
defenders of Calais.
Both Boulogne and Calais fell to the Germans. The
British Expeditionary Force and French Army fell back on
26th May-4th June, Dunkirk Evacuation (Operation
'Dynamo') - Initial plans were to lift off 45,000
men of the British Expeditionary Force over a two-day
period under the direction of Vice-Adm B. H. Ramsey. In
the next five days, 8,000 men on the 27th May, 18,000 on
the 28th, 47,000 on the 29th, 54,000 on the 30th and
68,000 on the 31st were carried to Britain - a total of
195,000, both British and French. Every phase of the
operation was subject to heavy air, sea and land attack.
Forty British, six
French and a Polish destroyer took part, together with
800 other vessels, large and small. Losses were
considerable. The Dunkirk evacuation continued into
28th - The
BELGIUM Army surrendered on the
northern flank, seriously endangering the Allied
evacuation from Dunkirk.
29th - Apart from
those damaged, three Royal Navy destroyers were sunk in
the English Channel off the Dunkirk beaches on this day
GRAFTON torpedoed by submarine “U-62”,
by bombing, and
by a torpedo from E-boat “S-30”.
30th - French
destroyers also continued to suffer losses. “BOURRASQUE”
was mined off the Belgium port of Nieuport and sunk by
shore batteries. 31st - “Bourrasque’s” sister
ship “SIROCCO” was torpedoed and sunk by German E-boats
“S-23” and “S-26”.
31st - German “U-13” was
believed sunk by sloop “Weston” off the English East Coast fishing
port of Lowestoft.
Air War - Minelaying continued
along the south and east coasts of Britain as well as the waters of
Holland, Belgium and northern France during the German Blitzkrieg.
Monthly Loss Summary: 90 British,
Allied and neutral ships of 231,000 tons from all causes.