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ROYAL, DOMINION & ALLIED NAVIES in WORLD WAR 2
by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

5. EVACUATION of DUNKIRK ENDS, ITALY at WAR, ACTION at SEA in the MEDITERRANEAN, FRANCE FALLS

June 1940

HM S/M H.49 (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to Mediterranean at the Start

 

End of Dunkirk Evacuation, Britain's New Frontline

...1940

JUNE 1940

ATLANTIC - JUNE 1940

German Raiders - Two more set sail. “Thor” made for the South Atlantic and returned to Germany eleven months later. “Pinguin” left for the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, later operated in the Antarctic and was finally lost in May 1941. Meanwhile “Orion” which set out in April 1940 had laid mines off New Zealand that accounted for gold-bullion carrying liner “Niagara”.

6th - Three armed merchant cruisers on Northern Patrol were lost to U-boats in the waters between Ireland (R) and Iceland (C) over the next nine days, starting with “CARINTHIA” on the 6th/7th to “U-46”. 13th - “SCOTSTOUN” was torpedoed three times by “U-25” and sank north west of the Hebrides. 15th - “ANDANIA” was sunk by German “U-A”, a Turkish submarine building in Germany and taken over

Battle of the Atlantic - The Allied loss of Norway brought German warships and U-boats many hundreds of miles closer to the Atlantic convoy routes and in time within close range of the Russian convoys that followed the June 1941 German invasion. Britain's blockade line from the Orkneys to southern Norway was outflanked and a new one had to be established between the Shetlands and Iceland. The Royal Navy started the massive task of laying a mine barrage along this line. Within a matter of days the first U-boats were sailing from the Norwegian port of Bergen, while others were sent to patrol as far south as the Canary and Cape Verde Islands off northwest Africa. Italian submarines joined them in this area, but without any early successes. Towards the end of the month, “U-122” and “U-102” were lost off the North Channel separating Northern Ireland from Scotland, possibly on mines according to German sources. It was in this area and throughout the North Western Approaches to the British Isles that such U-boat commanders as Endras, Kretschmer, Prien and Schepke enjoyed the ‘Happy Time' until early 1941. U-boat strength was no greater than at the beginning of the war, and there were never more than 15 boats on patrol out of the 25 operational; the rest were training or on trials. Yet from now until the end of December 1940 they accounted for most of the 315 ships of 1,659,000 tons lost in the Atlantic. Many of these were stragglers, independents or in unescorted convoys, yet it was among the escorted convoys that U-boat tactics were particularly threatening. Instead of attacking submerged where they could be detected by ASDIC, they were operating on the surface at night as 18kt torpedo boats, faster than most of the escorts. And there were few enough of these as many were held back in British waters on anti-invasion duties.

Monthly Loss Summary: 53 British, Allied and neutral ships of 297,000 tons from all causes, 3 armed merchant cruisers; 2 German U-boats, dates and causes of loss uncertain.

EUROPE - JUNE 1940

German Codes - 'Ultra' was now breaking the Luftwaffe Enigma codes with some regularity, and early in the month had its first major breakthrough when supporting evidence for the Knickebein navigation aid for bombers was obtained. Army codes were more secure because of the greater use of land lines for communications, and the Naval ones were not penetrated until mid-1941.

4th-8th, Norwegian Campaign, Conclusion ...... - Following the capture of Narvik, Allied forces totalling 25,000 men were evacuated in four days from northern Norway, by which time King Haakon VII and his Government were on their way to Britain aboard heavy cruiser Devonshire. 8th - At the end of the evacuation, fleet carrier GLORIOUS and escorting destroyers ACASTA and ARDENT sailed for Britain independently of the other withdrawing forces. West of Lofoten Islands they met the 11in gun battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” sailing to attack suspected Allied shipping off Harstad. The British ships were soon overwhelmed and sunk, but not before “Acasta” hit “Scharnhorst” (right - MaritimeQuest) with a torpedo. Few of the Royal Navy crews survived. Allied submarines working with the Royal Navy continued to play a part in operations off Norway and have their share of losses. On the last day of the campaign the Polish “ORZEL” on passage to her patrol area and made famous after escaping from invaded Poland, was presumed mined. Another Allied boat was lost twelve days later.

9th-20th ..... Immediate Aftermath - The surviving Norwegian troops surrendered to the German Army and the Norwegian Campaign was over. Norway and its people would not be liberated until after the German surrender in May 1945. During that time, many Norwegians escaped to fight with the Allies, resistance movements grew in effectiveness, and large German forces were maintained there at Hitler’s command in case the Allies should invade. Naval losses on both sides during the campaign were heavy, and in the case of the Germans included damage to battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" (followed shortly by "Gneisenau") and pocket battleship "Lutzow". 13th - Five days after the sinking of “Glorious”, aircraft from Ark Royal attacked the damaged “Scharnhorst” in Trondheim but to little effect. 20th - Dutch submarine “O-13” also on passage to her Norwegian patrol area was reportedly torpedoed in error by Polish “Wilk”. More recent research suggests she was more likely sunk on the 13th June in a German minefield in 5655'N-0340'E. 20th - As the damaged battlecruiser “Scharnhorst” headed for Germany, “Gneisenau” feinted towards Iceland, but west of Trondheim was torpedoed and damaged by British submarine “Clyde”. Both battlecruisers were out of action during the critical phases of the Battle for Britain until the end of the year. German Warships - By now, of the 23 surface ships of destroyer size and above that took part in the invasion of Norway, 17 had been sunk or damaged.

Main Warship Sunk in Norwegian Campaign

Warship types

Royal Navy

Allied Navies

German Navy

Carriers

1

-

-

Cruisers

2

-

3

Destroyers 

7

2

10

Totals 

10 

2

13

1st-4th, Dunkirk Evacuation, Concluded (see map above) - As the evacuation continued under heavy ground and air attack, destroyers KEITH, BASILISK, HAVANT and the French “LE FOUDROYANT” were bombed by the Luftwaffe and lost off the beaches, all on the 1st. 4th - The evacuation of the BEF and some of the French troops trapped within the Dunkirk perimeter came to an end. In the first four days and nights of June, 64,000, 26,000, 27,000 and 26,000 men were saved to bring the overall total to 340,000, including the bulk of Britain's army in northern France. Naval and civilian shipping losses were heavy. In destroyers alone the Royal Navy lost six sunk and 19 badly damaged, the French Navy seven sunk.

5th-30th, Western Front, Concluded - The Battle for France began on the 5th with a German advance south from the line River Somme to Sedan. 10th - The evacuation of British and Allied forces from the rest of France got underway. Starting with Operation 'Cycle', 11,000 were lifted off from the Channel port of Le Havre. 14th - The German army entered Paris. 15th - Operation 'Aerial' began with the evacuation of Cherbourg and continued for the next 10 days, moving south right down to the Franco-Spanish border. 17th - The only major loss during the evacuation from western France was off St Nazaire. Liner “Lancastria” was bombed and sunk with the death of nearly 3,000 men. 17th - The French Government of Marshal Petain requested armistice terms from Germany and Italy. 22nd - FRANCE capitulated and the Franco-German surrender document signed. Its provisions included German occupation of the Channel and Biscay coasts and demilitarisation of the French fleet under Axis control. 25th - The Allied evacuation of France ended with a further 215,000 servicemen and civilians saved, but Operations 'Aerial' and 'Cycle' never captured the public's imagination like the 'miracle' of Dunkirk. 25th - On the final day of the evacuation, Canadian destroyer FRASER was rammed and sunk by AA cruiser Calcutta off the Gironde Estuary leading into Bordeaux. 30th - The first German troops landed on the Channel Islands, the only part of the British Empire occupied by the Germans throughout the war.

Britain - By early June 1940 the Royal Navy was taking steps to meet the threat of German invasion. Any invasion fleet would be attacked as it built up and before it could reach British shores. Four destroyer flotillas with cruiser support moved south, and escort and other vessels were on patrol offshore. The removal of these escorts from Atlantic convoy duties contributed to the sinking of many merchant ships, and eventually forced their return to these duties. After setting out in early May, a heavily escorted convoy carrying Australian and New Zealand troops arrived in Britain.

Eastern Europe - Soviet Russia occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In July they were formally incorporated into the USSR. Russia also took over parts of Rumania.

Monthly Loss Summary: 77 British, Allied and neutral ships of 209,000 tons from all causes.

MEDITERRANEAN - JUNE 1940

Italy Declares War - Italy declared war on Britain and France on the 10th. Two weeks later France was out of the war. Still on the 10th, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.

France - Later in the month Italian forces invaded southern France but with little success. A Franco-Italian Armistice was signed on the 24th, and included provision for the demilitarisation of French naval bases in the Mediterranean.

Malta - Italian aircraft carried out the first of their many raids on Malta on the 11th. Next day, the RAF made its first attacks on Italian mainland targets.

12th -The Mediterranean Fleet with Warspite, Malaya (right - Maritime Quest), Eagle, cruisers and destroyers sailed from Alexandria for a sweep against Italian shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean. South of Crete, light cruiser CALYPSO was torpedoed and sunk by Italian submarine “Bagnolini”.

13th- Mediterranean Fleet submarines operated out of Alexandria on patrol off Italian bases and soon lost three of their number (1-3). At the time mines were usually blamed, but it turned out Italian anti-submarine forces were far more effective than expected. The first loss was ODIN (1) off the Italian coast in the Gulf of Taranto, sunk by the guns and torpedoes of destroyer “Strale”. 16th - The second was GRAMPUS (2), minelaying off Augusta, Sicily, caught and sunk by large torpedo boats “Circe” and “Clio”. 19th - Towards the other end of the North African coast, ORPHEUS (3) was sent to the bottom by Italian destroyer “Turbine” north of the Cyrenaica port of Tobruk, soon to become a household name .

15th - While Royal Navy submarines suffered their losses, the many Italian submarines on patrol suffered far more heavily. Starting with the Red Sea and Indian Ocean area, four {1-4} of the eight submarines based there were soon accounted for starting with “MACALLE” {1} which ran aground, a total loss. 19th - At the southern end of the Red Sea, “GALILEO GALILEI” {2} on patrol off Aden was captured by armed trawler “Moonstone” following a gun duel. 23rd - Also in the Gulf of Aden, but off French Somaliland, “EVANGELISTA TORICELLI” {3} was sunk by destroyers “Kandahar” and “Kingston” with sloop “Shoreham”. During the action, destroyer KHARTOUM suffered an internal explosion and sank in shallow water off Perim Island, a total loss. 24th - Off the Gulf of Oman, “GALVANI” {4} was accounted for by sloop “Falmouth”.

17th - A further six Italian submarines [1-6] were sunk in the Mediterranean itself, half by the Royal Navy. However the first to go, “PROVANA” [1] was rammed and sunk off Oran, Algeria by French sloop “La Curieuse” after attacking a French convoy, and just a week before France was forced out of the war. 20th - “DIAMANTE” [2] was torpedoed by submarine “Parthian” off Tobruk. 27th - “LIUZZI” [3] was sunk by Med Fleet destroyers “Dainty”, “Ilex”, “Decoy” and the Australian “Voyager” south of Crete. 28th - The first of two Italian submarines sunk by RAF Sunderlands of No. 230 Sqdn was “ARGONAUTA” [4] in the central Med as she was believed to be returning from patrol off Tobruk. 29th - The same Med Fleet destroyers after sinking “Liuzzi” two days earlier, were now southwest of Crete. They repeated their success by sinking “UEBI SCEBELI” [5]. 29th - A day after their first success, the Sunderlands of No. 230 Sqdn sank “RUBINO” [6] in the Ionian Sea as she returned from the Alexandria area

23rd - Italian submarine “Galvani” sank Indian patrol sloop “PATHAN” in the Indian Ocean

28th - As the Mediterranean Fleet 7th Cruiser Squadron covered convoy movements in the Eastern Mediterranean, three Italian destroyers carrying supplies between Taranto in southern Italy and Tobruk were intercepted. In a running gun battle, “ESPERO” was sunk by Australian cruiser Sydney to the southwest of Cape Matapan at the southern tip of Greece.

British Force H - By the end of the month, Force H has been assembled at Gibraltar from units of the Home Fleet. Vice-Adm Sir James Somerville flew his flag in battlecruiser Hood and commanded battleships Resolution and Valiant, carrier Ark Royal and a few cruisers and destroyers. He reported directly to the Admiralty and not to the Commander, North Atlantic. From Gibraltar, Force H could cover the Western Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as happened in the May 1941 hunt for the “Bismarck”. Units could also quickly transfer back to the Home Fleet and UK waters as shortly became necessary at the height of the German invasion scare. There was no better example of the flexibility of British naval power at this time.

Warship Loss Summary - In a confusing month, the Royal Navy had lost one light cruiser, one destroyer, three submarines and one sloop; the Italian Navy one destroyer and ten submarines.

Merchant Shipping War - Losses in the Mediterranean throughout the war were generally low as most Allied shipping to and from the Middle East was diverted around the Cape of Good Hope.

Monthly Loss Summary: 6 British, Allied and neutral ships of 45,000 tons from all causes.

 

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revised 24/12/10


 

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