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ROYAL, DOMINION & ALLIED NAVIES in WORLD WAR 2

10. INVASION of RUSSIA, MALTA CONVOYS, JAPAN PREPARES for WAR

June - November 1941

HMS Formidable, aircraft carrier (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to Indian & Pacific Oceans at the Start

 

Russian or Arctic Convoy Routes (see June 1941, Atlantic)

 

...1941

JUNE 1941

ATLANTIC - JUNE 1941

2nd - Destroyer "Wanderer" and corvette "Periwinkle" sank "U-147" northwest of Ireland during a convoy attack. 18th - As Force H headed into the Atlantic to help search for German supply vessels already in position to support "Bismarck's" breakout, they came across a U-boat located off the Strait of Gibraltar through the recently captured "Enigma" codes. Screening destroyers "Faulknor", "Fearless", "Forester", "Foresight" and "Foxhound" shared in the destruction of "U-138". 27th - Italian submarine "GLAUCO" was scuttled west of Gibraltar after being damaged by destroyer "Wishart".

13th - Pocket battleship "Lutzow" attempted to break out. Attacked on the 13th off the Norwegian coast by an RAF Beaufort, she was hit by one torpedo and only just made it back to Germany.

27th-29th, Attacks on Halifax/UK convoy HX133 - A total of 10 U-boats attacked Halifax/UK convoy HX133 south of Iceland. Five ships were lost but the convoy escort sank two U-boats. Corvettes "Celandine", "Gladiolus" and "Nasturtium" accounted for "U-556" on the 27th, and destroyers "Scimitar" and "Malcolm", corvettes "Arabis" and "Violet" and minesweeper "Speedwell" sank "U-651" on the 29th. The escort had been reinforced to a total of 13 ships as a result of 'Ultra' intercepts of Enigma codes. This, the first of the big convoy battles, led to the development of additional convoy support groups.

Russian Convoys (see map above) - The invasion of Russia soon led to the introduction of the Russian or Arctic convoys with their dreadful conditions and after some months had elapsed, high losses in men and ships. However, the Royal Navy's presence in the Arctic was first made known in August when submarines started operating, with some success against German shipping supporting the Axis attack from Norway towards Murmansk. The port was never captured. Conditions with these convoys were at the very least difficult. Both summer and winter routes were close to good German bases in Norway from which U-boats, aircraft and surface ships could operate. In the long winter months there was terrible weather and intense cold, and in summer, continual daylight. Many claimed no ships would get through. The first convoy sailed in August and, by the end of the year, over 100 merchantmen had set out in both directions. Only one was lost to a U-boat. The picture changed considerably in 1942.

Battle of the Atlantic - Following the capture of the “U-100” Enigma material, the Royal Navy tracked down the supply ships already in position to support "Bismarck" as well as other raiders and U-boats. In 20 days, six tankers and three other ships were sunk or captured in the North and South Atlantic. From now on, distant water U-boats would have to be supplied by U-boat 'Milchcows', although the first purpose-built ones were not ready until 1942.

Monthly Loss Summary: 70 British, Allied and neutral ships of 329,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 4 German and 1 Italian U-boats.

EUROPE - JUNE 1941

Atomic Bomb - The report on nuclear research by the Maud Committee led to the setting up of a development programme by Imperial Chemical Industries. Code named 'Tube Alloys', it oversaw both atomic bomb and reactor work.

10th - Patrol sloop "PINTAIL" was mined off the Humber while escorting Thames/Forth coastal convoy FN477.

Germany Attacks Russia

Eastern Front - On the 22nd the German attack on Russia (Operation 'Barbarossa') started with the eventual aim of destroying the Russian Armies and occupying the whole of the country west of the line Archangel in the Arctic to the Caspian Sea. Germany and its Axis partners invaded from the Baltic to the Black Sea: North through the Baltic States to Leningrad. Further north still Finland regained its lost territories; in the Centre through Minsk and Smolensk and on to Moscow; and in the South towards Kiev and the Crimea Peninsular in the Ukraine, and then to Kharkov and Rostov before later heading for Stalingrad and the oilfields of the Caucasus. Italy and Romania declared war on Russia on the 22nd. Finland followed on the 26th and Hungary on the 27th.  

Monthly Loss Summary: 34 British, Allied and neutral ships of 86,000 tons in UK waters.

MEDITERRANEAN - JUNE 1941

Malta - With German forces now in Greece and Crete, the problems of supplying Malta were even greater. From airfields in Crete as well as Libya, the Luftwaffe and Italian Air force were as close to the eastern convoy routes from Alexandria, as Sardinia and Sicily were to the western ones through the Strait of Gibraltar. Nevertheless the men and material were fought through for the defence of Malta and its use as an offensive base. In the one month of June alone, carrier Ark Royal once on her own, at other times accompanied by Furious or Victorious, flew off more than 140 aircraft for Malta. Meanwhile submarines carried in urgently needed fuel and stores.

Middle East - Concerned about German influence in Vichy French Lebanon and Syria, British, Dominion and Free French forces invaded on the 8th from points in Palestine, Jordan and later from Iraqi territory. The Free French entered Damascus on the 21st, but strong resistance continued into July. During the campaign a Royal Navy cruiser and destroyer force, including cruisers Australian Perth and New Zealand Leander, provided close support on the Army's flank. They also fought a series of actions with Vichy French warships as well as German aircraft. A number of British destroyers were damaged, but a French destroyer and submarine sunk. 16th - Fleet Air Arm torpedo-bombers flying from Cyprus sank the large destroyer "CHEVALIER PAUL". 25th - Submarine "Parthian" torpedoed submarine "SOUFFLEUR".

North Africa - Another unsuccessful British offensive to relieve Tobruk started from Sollum on the 15th (Operation 'Battleaxe'). Within two days the operation was called off. A heavy price had to be paid for the supply of besieged Tobruk by the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy ships involved. All trips took place under continual threat of German and Italian aircraft attack. 24th - Sloop "AUCKLAND" was lost off Tobruk. 30th - Australian destroyer "WATERHEN" was bombed and sunk off Bardia.

27th - Submarine "Triumph" on patrol off the Egyptian coast sank the Italian submarine "SALPA".

Monthly Loss Summary: 3 British or Allied merchant ships of 9,000 tons

 

JULY 1941

ATLANTIC - JULY 1941

Iceland - US forces landed in Iceland to take over the defence of the island and surrounding seas from Britain.

Battle of the Atlantic - Continuous escort was now being provided for convoys to North America and from West Africa. Three new convoys were introduced: (1) UK/North America Fast, ONF, (2) UK/North America Slow, ONS - the two replacing the Outward Bound, OB convoys, and (3) UK/Sierra Leone, OS. Air cover from Ireland, Iceland and Newfoundland was improving, but RAF Coastal Command lacked the aircraft to cover the mid-Atlantic gap. It was in this area, some 800 miles long that U-boats were now concentrating. Between January and June 1941, North Atlantic merchant shipping losses had averaged 300,000 tons per month. From July to December 1941 they were considerably down at an average level of 104,000 tons. The reasons were varied - evasive convoy routing and more effective aircraft deployment from the 'Ultra’ work, introduction of radars and high frequency direction finding (HF/DF), the availability of more escorts, and continuous escort. Losses due to German aircraft were also well down as many were transferred to the Russian front. 

Monthly Loss Summary: 23 British, Allied and neutral ships of 98,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes

EUROPE - JULY 1941

Eastern Front - German forces advanced in all sectors, and in the Centre captured Minsk, capital of Byelorussia and surrounded Smolensk on the road to Moscow. Russian losses in men and material were immense. On the 12th, an Anglo-Soviet Mutual Assistance Pact was signed in Moscow. Both countries agreed not to seek separate peace negotiations with the Axis powers.

19th - Submarine "UMPIRE", working up and on passage north with an East Coast convoy, was rammed and sunk off Cromer by an armed trawler escorting a southbound convoy.

German Heavy Ships - RAF Bomber Command badly damaged battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" at La Pallice, France on the 24th. Heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" was also damaged in July. With "Gneisenau" in Brest and "Lutzow" back in Germany, both undergoing repairs, the main big ship threat was from the new battleship "Tirpitz".  

Monthly Loss Summary: 18 British, Allied and neutral ships of 15,000 tons in UK waters. 

MEDITERRANEAN - JULY 1941

5th - Submarine "Torbay" on patrol in the Aegean Sea sank Italian submarine "JANTINA".

11th - On the Tobruk Run, destroyer "DEFENDER" was bombed by German or Italian aircraft and went down off Sidi Barrani.

Middle East - An Allied/Vichy French armistice signed in the middle of the month brought the fighting in Lebanon and Syria to an end.

20th - Two more British submarines fell victim to effective Italian anti-submarine forces during convoy attacks in July - the first was "UNION" to torpedo boat "Circe" off Pantelleria. 30th - The second was "CACHALOT" while on passage from Malta to Alexandria, rammed by torpedo boat "Papa".

21st-24th, Malta Convoy, Operation 'Substance' - 'Substance' set out from Gibraltar with six transports covered by Force H with Ark Royal, battlecruiser Renown, cruisers and destroyers. Battleship Nelson, three cruisers and more destroyers reinforced Force H from the Home Fleet. On the 23rd, south of Sardinia, sustained Italian air attacks started. Cruiser Manchester was hit and destroyer "FEARLESS" sunk by aircraft torpedoes. Next day the transports reached Malta safely. On the 26th the Italians launched an attack on Grand Harbour with explosive motor-boats, human torpedoes and aircraft, but failed to reach the recently arrived ships. By the 27th, Force H and a return empty convoy were in Gibraltar. During this operation, Mediterranean Fleet carried out diversionary manoeuvres in the eastern basin.

Monthly Loss Summary: 2 British or Allied merchant ships of 8,000 tons

 

AUGUST 1941

ATLANTIC - AUGUST 1941

United States - Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic in battleship Prince of Wales to meet President Roosevelt off Argentia, Newfoundland between the 9th and 12th. Together they drafted the Atlantic Charter setting out their aims for war and peace. This was signed by Britain, the United States and 13 Allied governments in September. Discussion also took place on US Navy involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic, which initially revolved around the supply of US forces in Iceland.

3rd - Southwest of Ireland, ships of the 7th Escort Group escorting Sierra Leone/UK convoy SL81 - destroyers "Wanderer" and Norwegian "St Albans” and corvette "Hydrangea", sank "U-401". 12th - Corvette "PICOTEE" with the 4th Escort Group accompanying convoy ONS4 was detached to search for a reported U-boat south of Iceland, and disappeared, sunk without trace by "U-568". 25th - South of Iceland, armed trawler "Vascama" and a RAF Catalina of No 209 Squadron sank "U-452".

V & W-class destroyer HMS Westcott in 1943. Note the cluttered deck and array of aerials (CyberHeritage)

7th - Submarine "Severn" on patrol for U-boats attacking HG convoys west of Gibraltar, torpedoed and sank Italian submarine "BIANCHI".

19th-23rd, Attacks on UK/Gibraltar convoy OG71 - A total of nine merchantmen were lost. Of the ships with the 5th Escort Group Norwegian destroyer "BATH" was sunk on the 19th by "U-204" or "U-201", and corvette "ZINNIA" by "U-564" to the west of Portugal on the 23rd.

27th - Capture of German "U-570" - "U-570" on patrol south of Iceland surfaced and was damaged by depth charges from an RAF Hudson of No 269 Squadron, piloted by Sqn Ldr Thompson. She soon surrendered and was towed into Iceland. After refitting, "U-570" was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Graph.

German Raiders - "Orion" returned to France from the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope. In 16 months she had accounted for 9 1/2 ships of 60,000 tons, some in co-operation with "Komet".

Russian Convoys - The first Russian convoy, 'Dervish', sailed from Iceland with seven ships and arrived safely. Carrier Argus accompanied them to fly off Hurricanes for Kola.

Monthly Loss Summary: 25 British, Allied and neutral ships of 84,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 3 escorts; 3 German and 1 Italian U-boats

EUROPE - AUGUST 1941

Eastern Front - The attack North on Leningrad continued. In the Centre Smolensk was taken, but the drive on Moscow halted. Instead German forces were directed South to help capture Kiev in the Ukraine.

 Monthly Loss Summary: 11 British, Allied and neutral ships of 20,000 tons in UK waters.

MEDITERRANEAN - AUGUST 1941

Malta Convoy, Operation 'Style' - Early in the month, two cruisers, cruiser-minelayer Manxman and two destroyers successfully carried reinforcements and supplies from Gibraltar to Malta. On the way, cruiser Hermione rammed and sank Italian submarine "TEMBIEN" southwest of Sicily on the 2nd.

18th - Submarine "P-32" was lost on mines off Tripoli as she attempted to attack a convoy entering the port. "P-33" was also lost around the same time in the same area, also possibly on mines.

26th - As an Italian battlefleet returned from a sortie against Force H, submarine “Triumph” torpedoed and damaged heavy cruiser "Bolzano" north of Sicily.

27th - Covering the transport of troops into and out of besieged Tobruk, cruiser Phoebe was hit by an aircraft torpedo.

Middle East - The possibility of a pro-Axis coup d'etat led to Anglo-Soviet forces going into Persia on the 25th from points in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Russia. A cease-fire was announced within four days, but later violations led to Teheran being occupied in the middle of September. The landings in Persia from the Gulf were made from a small force of British, Australian and Indian warships of the East ladies Command.

Middle East & East Africa

With the exception of small parts of Ethiopia, the whole of the Middle East with its vital oilfields and pipelines together with East Africa were now under Allied control.

Monthly Loss Summary: 2 British or Allied merchant ships of 6,000 tons

 

SEPTEMBER 1941 

ATLANTIC - SEPTEMBER 1941

8th - As Italian submarines patrolled to the west of Portugal for HG convoys, "BARACCA" was depth charged and rammed by destroyer "Croome". 21st - Destroyer "Vimy" claimed to have sunk Italian submarine "MALASPINA" during attacks on Gibraltar/UK convoy HG73. She may in fact have been lost earlier through unknown causes.

10th-19th, Attacks on Halifax/UK Convoys - Attacks southwest of Iceland led to the first success and loss by Royal Canadian Navy forces in the Battle of the Atlantic. Against SC42, "U-501" was sunk by Canadian corvettes "Chambly" and "Moosejaw" on the 10th. Next day RN destroyers "Leamington" and "Veteran" of 2nd EG sank "U-207". In exchange, SC42 lost 16 of its 64 merchantmen. A few days later, on the 19th, Canadian corvette "LEVIS" with SC44 was lost to "U-74" southeast of Cape Farewell.

Russian Convoys - Russian convoy PQ1 and return QP1 both set out in September. A total of 24 ships passed through without loss by early October

Battle of the Atlantic - Escort carrier Audacity sailed with UK/Gibraltar convoy OG74. Her American-built Martlet fighters shot down the first Kondor to fall victim to an escort carrier, but U-boats still managed to sink five merchantmen. The US Navy started to escort HX and ON convoys between Newfoundland and the Mid Ocean Meeting Point (MOMP), south of Iceland, where the Royal Navy took over. Five US destroyers began on the 17th with HX150 (50 ships). Earlier on the 4th, the first incident occurred when US destroyer "Greer" on passage to Iceland was in action with "U-652". There was no damage to either ship. The increased number of U-boats available to Adm Doenitz (approaching 200 with 30 operational) allowed him to establish patrol lines in the Atlantic. It was into these that the two SC convoys 42 and 44 (above), had stumbled with such heavy losses. Convoys SL87 and HG73 also lost badly and the four convoys between them saw a total of 36 merchant ships go down.

Monthly Loss Summary: 53 British, Allied and neutral ships of 200,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 escort; 2 German and 2 Italian U-boats

EUROPE - SEPTEMBER 1941

Eastern Front - In the North the siege of Leningrad was about to start, and would not be lifted completely until early 1944. Kiev in the South was captured and Centre Army Group released to continue the Moscow offensive. Further South still, the Crimea was cut off and German forces drove on towards Rostov-on-Don.

Monthly Loss Summary: 13 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons in UK waters.

MEDITERRANEAN - SEPTEMBER 1941

Malta - Carriers Ark Royal and Furious between them flew off over 50 Hurricanes for Malta in two separate operations. The 10th Submarine Flotilla was formed at Malta with the smaller 'U' class boats which were more suited to Mediterranean conditions. On the 18th, Lt-Cdr Wanklyn in Upholder sank the 19,500-ton transports "Neptunia" and "Oceania". Between June and the end of September, submarines sank a total of 49 ships of 150,000 tons. Added to the losses inflicted by the RAF this represented a high proportion of Axis shipping bound for Libya.

24th-28th, Malta Convoy, Operation 'Halberd' - 'Halberd' sailed from Gibraltar with nine transports. Force H (Adm Somerville), reinforced from the Home Fleet, included Nelson, Rodney and Prince of Wales and the usual air cover from  Ark Royal. On the 26th the Italians sailed to intercept but returned to base next day. South of Sardinia on the 27th, "Nelson" was damaged by an Italian aircraft torpedo, and at the end of the day Force H turned back for Gibraltar. Convoy and escort (Rear-Adm H. M. Burrough) went on to reach Malta on the 28th minus one transport lost to air attack. As Force H returned, screening destroyers "Gurkha" and "Legion" sank Italian submarine "ADUA" off the coast of Algeria on the 30th. Since the beginning of 1941, three major convoys had reached Malta - 'Excess' in January, 'Substance' in July and now 'Halberd'. Nearly 40 merchantmen had got through with only one sunk. The cost to the Royal Navy had been one cruiser and a destroyer sunk, and a battleship, carrier and two cruisers damaged.

27th - Submarine "Upright" sank Italian torpedo boat "ALBATROS" off Messina, northeast Sicily.

28th - Corvette "Hyacinth" on patrol off Jaffa, Palestine, sank Italian submarine "FISALIA".

Monthly Loss Summary: 4 British or Allied merchant ships of 16,000 tons

 

OCTOBER 1941

ATLANTIC - OCTOBER 1941

4th - Supply U-boat "U-111" returning from the Cape Verde area was sunk off the Canaries by armed trawler "Lady Shirley".

14th-27th, Attacks on Gibraltar/UK Convoy Routes - Two escorts and two U-boats were lost in attacks on the UK/Gibraltar convoy routes. In operations against Gibraltar-bound OG75, "U-206" sank corvette "FLEUR DE LYS" off the Strait of Gibraltar on the 14th. In the same area on the 19th, "U-204" was lost to patrolling corvette "Mallow" and sloop "Rochester". Six days later on the 25th, Italian submarine "FERRARIS" was damaged by a RAF Catalina of No 202 Squadron and sent to the bottom by the gunfire of escort destroyer "Lamerton". UK-bound HG75 lost five ships, and on the 23rd the famous destroyer "COSSACK" was torpedoed by "U-563". Struggling in tow for four days she foundered to the west of Gibraltar.

16th-31st, First US Navy Casualties - In mid-Atlantic, convoy SC48 of 39 ships and 11 stragglers was reinforced by four US destroyers. On the 16th corvette "GLADIOLUS" was torpedoed by "U-553" or "U-568" and went down. There were no survivors. Next day, the US "Kearny" was damaged by a torpedo from "U-568", and on the 18th British destroyer "BROADWATER" was lost to "U-101". Nine merchantmen were sunk. Convoy HX156 was escorted by another US group, and on the 31st the destroyer "REUBEN JAMES" was sunk by "U-552". This first US loss in the Battle of the Atlantic came only two weeks after the torpedoing of "Kearny". The United States was virtually at war with Germany.

Russian Convoys - The six merchant ships of Russian convoy PQ2 got through to Archangel without loss.

Battle of the Atlantic - By now the pattern of escort in the North Atlantic with the rapidly growing Royal Canadian Navy and involvement of the US Navy was becoming established. With UK-bound convoys, for example, the RCN provided escort from Halifax to the Western Ocean Meeting Point (WOMP) south of Newfoundland. From there, as far as the Mid Ocean Meeting Point (MOMP) at 22W, the USN escorted HX, and joint RN/RCN groups the slower SC convoys. RN ships based in Iceland then took over until the convoys were met by Western Approaches escorts operating out of Londonderry, Northern Ireland and the Clyde, Scotland. US Navy and Army Air Force aircraft were now adding to the efforts of the RAF and RCAF by flying escort and patrols from Newfoundland and Iceland. The mid-Atlantic air-gap was narrowing.  

Monthly Loss Summary: 33 British, Allied and neutral ships of 160,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 5 escorts including USS Reuben James; 2 German and 1 Italian U-boats

EUROPE - OCTOBER 1941

Eastern Front - As German forces in the Centre approached Moscow a state of siege was declared, but the offensive was temporarily halted at the end of the month. In the South Kharkov, east of Kiev in the Ukraine, fell.

Monthly Loss Summary: 12 British, Allied and neutral ships of 83,000 tons in UK waters.

MEDITERRANEAN - OCTOBER 1941

Malta - Force K was formed at Malta as a Strike Force to add to the offensive against Axis shipping by submarines and aircraft. Cruisers Aurora, Penelope, and destroyers "Lance", "Lively" were under the command of Capt W. G. Agnew.

20th - Mines previously laid by submarine "Rorqual" in the Gulf of Athens sank Italian torpedo boats "ALDEBARAN" and "ALTAIR".

25th - Over a period of 10 days, cruiser-minelayers Abdiel and "Latona" transported troops and supplies to besieged Tobruk and carried out Australian units. On the last mission LATONA was bombed and sunk north of Bardia by Ju87s Stuka divebombers.

Late October - Submarine "TETRARCH" sailed from Malta for Gibraltar but failed to arrive, presumed lost on mines in the Strait of Sicily.

Monthly Loss Summary: 6 British or Allied merchant ships of 22,000 tons

 

NOVEMBER 1941

ATLANTIC - NOVEMBER 1941

3rd - Recently completed fleet carrier Indomitable ran aground and was damaged off Kingston, Jamaica. She was due to accompany capital ships Prince of Wales and Repulse to the Far East as a deterrent to Japanese aggression. Her absence in December may have proved fatal to the two big ships.

German Raiders, Indian & Atlantic Oceans - 19th - Far across the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, the Australian cruiser "Sydney" came across German raider "Kormoran". Apparently caught unawares, SYDNEY was mortally damaged and lost without trace. "KORMORAN" also went down. In a cruise lasting 12 months she had sunk or captured 11 other ships of 68,000 tons. 22nd - While replenishing "U-126" north of Ascension Island, raider "ATLANTIS" was surprised and sunk by heavy cruiser Devonshire. The raider's operations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans had cost the Allies 22 merchantmen of 146,000 tons. 24th - On her way to rescue "Atlantis'" survivors, "U-124" sighted cruiser DUNEDIN on patrol off the St Paul's Rocks, half way between Africa and South America. The cruiser was sunk with heavy loss of life. Raider "Komet" returned to Germany through the Atlantic having reached the Pacific across the top of Siberia some 17 months earlier. Her score was just 6 1/2 ships, some in operations with "Orion".

German Heavy Warships - As the completed "Tirpitz", sister-ship to "Bismarck" prepared for operations, units of the Home Fleet sailed for Iceland waters to cover any possible breakout. They were supported by a US Navy battle squadron.

30th -  RAF aircraft of Coastal Command were now flying regular patrols in the Bay of Biscay equipped with effective airborne depth charges and the long wavelength ASV radar. The first success was by a Whitley of No 502 Squadron. "U-206" on passage to the Mediterranean was detected and sunk

Russian Convoys - In November Russian convoys PQ3, 4 and 5 and return convoys QP2 and 3 with a total of 45 ships set out. Three merchantmen turned back but the rest got through without loss.

Battle of the Atlantic - There was a considerable drop in U-boat sinkings in the North Atlantic in the last two months of the year. Again the reasons were varied - the increasing number of escorts, the help given by the US Navy, and the increasing effectiveness of land-based aircraft. Escort carrier "Audacity" was also proving her worth. The Allies were also helped by Hitler's orders to Adm Doenitz to transfer large numbers of U-boats to the Mediterranean. These were needed to shore up the Italians and help secure the supply lines to the Axis armies in North Africa. This movement led to a concentration of U-boats off Gibraltar, and the need to strengthen the HG/SL convoy escorts. After the attacks on HG75 in October, the next HG did not sail until December when "Audacity" was available to close the Britain/Gibraltar air gap.

Monthly Loss Summary: 11 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 cruiser; 1 German raider, 1 German U-boat and 1 Italian (cause unknown) plus 1 Australian cruiser and 1 German raider in Indian Ocean

EUROPE - NOVEMBER 1941

Eastern Front - The German Centre advance on Moscow was restarted and troops were soon on the capital's outskirts. In the South they had driven right into the Crimea. Only Sevastopol held out and the siege lasted until June 1942. Further east Rostov-on-Don was captured, but the Russians re-took the city.

Monthly Loss Summary: 20 British, Allied and neutral ships of 30,000 tons in UK waters.

MEDITERRANEAN - NOVEMBER 1941

9th, Action off Cape Spartivento, Southwest Italy - RAF reports of an Italian convoy in the Ionian Sea making for North Africa led to Force K sailing from Malta. The convoy consisted of seven transports escorted by six destroyers, with a distant cruiser covering force. Early in the morning every one of the transports and destroyer "FULMINE" were sent to the bottom. Later, while rescuing survivors, destroyer "LIBECCIO" was sunk by submarine "Upholder".

13th - As Force H returned to Gibraltar after flying off more Hurricanes from "Ark Royal" and Argus for Malta, the famous and much 'sunk' ARK ROYAL was hit by one torpedo from "U-81". Next day she foundered in tow only a few miles from home. One man was killed. "U-81" was one of four U-boats that had just passed into the Mediterranean. 16th - A second U-boat, "U-433" was sunk in the same area as "Ark Royal" by corvette "Marigold". Towards the end of the month, Dutch submarine "O-21" sank "U-95". Between late September and December, 26 U-boats broke through into the Mediterranean and for many months took a heavy toll of Royal Navy ships.

North Africa -  A major British offensive (Operation 'Crusader) started on the 18th, again from the Sollum area and by January had reached El Agheila. Axis forces around Sollum and Bardia were by-passed in the drive on Tobruk. The first link-up with the besieged garrison was made by New Zealand troops on the 27th. 27th - Australian sloop "PARRAMATTA" escorting an ammunition ship on the Tobruk Run was sunk by "U-559" off the port. Since the siege started destroyers and other warships had been carrying in men and supplies almost nightly. As it came to an end the cost could be counted - 25 warships of all sizes and five merchantmen lost.

25th - Force K hunted for Italian convoys to North Africa supported by the Mediterranean Fleet with battleships "Barham", Queen Elizabeth and Valiant. In the afternoon north of Sidi Barrani, BARHAM was hit by three torpedoes from "U-331" and as she slowly turned over and capsized, split apart in an almighty explosion. Recorded on film her apparently calamitous end is often used in naval films and documentaries. Although over 800 men were lost, a remarkable number were saved. Just before this tragedy, Force K had sunk two more Axis supply ships west of Crete. At this stage 60 percent of Axis North African supplies were being lost to attacks by British aircraft, submarines and warships.

East Africa - The last Italian forces surrendered at Gondar in the north of Ethiopia on the 27th. The Italian East African empire ceased to exist.

Monthly Loss Summary: 4 British or Allied merchant ships of 19,000 tons

 

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