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ROYAL, DOMINION & ALLIED NAVIES in WORLD WAR 2

22. RUSSIANS REACH GERMANY,  INDIAN OCEAN OPERATIONS,  BRITISH INSHORE CONVOY BATTLES,   IWO JIMA TAKEN,  BRITISH PACIFIC FLEET in ACTION, OKINAWA INVADED, DEFEAT of GERMANY

January - April 1945

HMS Nairana, escort aircraft carrier (CyberHeritage, click to enlarge)

on to May-September 1945

 

Area of British Isles Inshore Campaign (see January 1945, Europe)

 

1945

JANUARY 1945

ATLANTIC - JANUARY 1945

Russian Convoys - Convoys JW63 and return RA63 passed through a total of 65 ships in the month without loss.

Monthly Loss Summary: 5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 29,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 1 U-boat by USN in mid-Atlantic

EUROPE - 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 (see map above) - 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 U-boat was lost in UK waters, possibly mined off the Moray Firth, and others were destroyed and damaged in air-raids on Germany.

Eastern Front - All along the Polish Vistula front the Russians started a major offensive through Warsaw directed at Berlin. Devastated Warsaw fell on the 17th and by the end of the month they had gained a huge wedge of territory taking them over the border of Germany to the River Oder only 60 miles from the German capital. The Germans were now cut off in East Prussia and some 1 million servicemen and civilians were evacuated by the end of the war. To the south, the Eastern Allies continued to fight their way through Czechoslovakia as the Russians struggled to capture Budapest in Hungary.

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.

MEDITERRANEAN - JANUARY 1945

Italy - Eighth Army continued to push slowly forward on the east near Lake Comacchio in preparation for the Spring offensive.

INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - JANUARY 1945

3rd - The Royal Navy suffered its last two submarine casualties due to enemy action. On patrol to the north of Sumatra, "SHAKESPEARE" surfaced to engage a merchant ship. Hit by return gunfire and later aircraft attack, she reached Ceylon, but was not fully repaired. 16th - The last submarine sinking was on or around the 16th. Minelayer "PORPOISE" on patrol in the Malacca Strait and minelaying off Penang, was probably sunk by Japanese aircraft. (Some sources suggest the 19th.)

Burma - Only now did the Chinese forces in the far north, pushing on from Myitkyina reach the old Burma Road allowing the Ledo Road link-up to be made. In the centre, 14th Army fought on towards Mandalay throughout January and February. In the south the Arakan offensive moved on by a series of amphibious hops aimed at occupying suitable sites for air bases to support the central Burma campaign. 3rd/21st, Landings at Akyab & Ramree Island - Early on the 3rd, British and Indian forces landed at Akyab from destroyers and smaller vessels of the Royal, Australian and Indian Navies to find the Japanese had gone. On the 21st more British and Indians were landed on Ramree Island with support and cover partly provided by battleship Queen Elizabeth and escort carrier Ameer. The few Japanese resisted in their usual manner into February.

24th/29th, Fleet Air Arm Attack on Palembang - As the British Pacific Fleet transferred from Ceylon to Fremantle en route to Sydney, Australia, successful strikes were made by aircraft from carriers Indomitable, Illustrious, Indefatigable and Victorious on oil installations around Palembang, southern Sumatra on the 24th and 29th. Adm Vian was in command. (HMS Indomitable in the Far East 1944-45, a Photographic Record)

Luzon, Northern Philippines - Three years after the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf on the northwest coast of Luzon, Gen MacArthur's Sixth Army went ashore early on the 9th, supported as usual by Seventh Fleet. As the US forces spread out and headed south towards Manila, a secondary landing was made at the end of the month on Bataan Peninsula to stop the Japanese falling back there as Gen MacArthur had done in 1942. Kamikaze attacks continued to inflict heavy losses throughout the region, mainly in ships damaged, but on the 4th escort carrier "OMMANEY BAY" on passage to Lingayen was sunk off Mindoro. 5th-9th - Off Lingayen, Australian heavy cruiser Australia was hit by kamikazes on the 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th and finally had to be withdrawn.

Monthly Loss Summary: Very few Allied merchant ships were lost in the Indian and Pacific Oceans for the rest of the war

 

FEBRUARY 1945

ATLANTIC - FEBRUARY 1945

Russian Convoys - There was still no let up for the Russian convoys. Although JW64 reached Kola Inlet safely on the 13th with all 26 merchantmen, the arriving corvette "DENBIGH CASTLE" was torpedoed by "U-992" and became a total loss. Four days later on the 17th, return RA64 was ready to set out. Just off Kola Inlet "U-425" was sunk by sloop "Lark" and corvette "Alnwick Castle", but later that day "LARK" was damaged by "U-963" and also became a total loss. Corvette BLUEBELL was then torpedoed by "U-711" and blew up with only one man surviving. Of the 34 ships with the convoy, one returned, one went down to U-boats and on the 23rd, straggler "Henry Bacon" was sunk by Ju88 torpedo bombers, the last success of the war by German aircraft. The rest of the convoy arrived at Loch Ewe on the 28th after a voyage made even more difficult by violent storms typical of the northern waters.

22nd - In operations against convoys south of Portugal, "U-300", one of a small number of U-boats scattered across the North Atlantic was sunk by escorting minesweepers Recruit and Pincher.

Monthly Loss Summary: 6 British, Allied and neutral ships of 39,000 tons in UK waters, 3 escorts; 3 U-boats including 1 by US and French escorts off Morocco

EUROPE - 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 Maas 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-17th - 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 in the next two weeks. The first was "U-1279" on the 3rd, followed by "U-989" on the 14th, and "U-1278" on the 17th. 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 a second U-boat when she torpedoed "U-864". The first was "U-771" in November 1944. 16th - Attacking Scottish coastal convoy WN74 off the Moray Firth, "U-309" was lost to Canadian frigate "St John" of 9th EG. 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. "Amethyst" became famous in "The Amethyst Incident" involving the Chinese People's Army in 1949. 22nd - Off Falmouth, Bristol Channel/Thames convoy BTC76 was attacked by "U-1004" and Canadian corvette "TRENTONIAN" 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: "U-480" sank a merchant ship from coastal convoy BTC78 on the 24th and was hunted down and finished off by frigates "Duckworth" and "Rowley" of the 3rd EG. 27th - 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.

Eastern Front - Having penetrated into Germany the Russians pushed out north towards the Baltic coast and southwest, so that by the beginning of March they were establishing themselves along the Oder-Niesse line of rivers. In Hungary, Budapest finally fell on the 13th.

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

MEDITERRANEAN - FEBRUARY 1945

12th - Attacks by German explosive motorboats were made on shipping in Split harbour, Yugoslavia, hitting a flak landing craft and damaging cruiser "Delhi" laying alongside.

17th - Italian battleship "CONTE DI CAVOUR", sunk in the 1940 Fleet Air Arm attack on Taranto and salvaged but not recommissioned, was finally destroyed in RAF raids on Trieste.

INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - FEBRUARY 1945

11th - Supporting operations on Ramree Island, south of Akyab in Burma, destroyer "PATHFINDER" was hit by Japanese bombers and went into reserve, the 153rd and last destroyer or escort destroyer casualty of the British & Commonwealth Navies.

British Pacific Fleet - Early in the month, the BPF arrived in Sydney for replenishment. Adm Fraser stayed ashore as C-in-C and his number two, Vice-Adm Sir Bernard Rawlings in battleship King George V (right - Maritime Quest), commanded the Fleet. Rear-Adm Vian was Flag Officer, First Aircraft Carrier Squadron. By this time nearly 60 ships of a diversity of types and flags were ready for the Fleet Train under Rear-Adm D. B. Fisher. BPF had been allocated Manus in the Admiralty Islands as its intermediate base, which Adm Rawlings reached by mid-March.

Philippines, Conclusion - On Luzon island, Bataan and Corregidor were taken, but the Japanese held out in Manila until early March in a struggle that wrecked the city. By now all the Philippines were under American strategic control, but to meet his promise to free all the islands Gen MacArthur's forces made amphibious landings on many smaller ones through to April. On some, especially Luzon, fighting did not end until the Japanese surrender in August.

Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands - With Adm Spruance now back in command of Fifth Fleet, the next assault was on the tiny island of Iwo Jima, south of Japan, needed as an air base to support the USAAF strategic bombing campaign. Landings took place on the 19th, but before this eight square mile volcanic island was secured in mid-March, 6,000 US Marines and most of the 21,000 defenders were dead. On the 21st, escort carrier "BISMARCK SEA" was sunk by kamikaze attack offshore.

 

MARCH 1945

ATLANTIC - MARCH 1945

Russian Convoys - As Russian convoy JW65 approached Kola Inlet with 24 merchant ships on the 20th, waiting U-boats sank two and "U-716" sank sloop "LAPWING" of the escort. Return RA65 set out on the 23rd and all 25 ships got through to the Orkney Islands on the last day of the month.

Monthly Loss Summary: 4 British, Allied and neutral ships of 27,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 sloop; 1 U-boat by USN off Nova Scotia

EUROPE - 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 stood 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 crossed 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 campaign continued: 7th - "U-1302" successfully attacked 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/12th - 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. Two days later, the deep minefields damaged "U-260" off Fastnet Rock, southern Ireland, and she had to be scuttled. 12th-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 on the 12th. "U-399" followed on the 26th, sunk by frigate "Duckworth" and other ships of 3rd EG. Then on the 29th, "U-246" torpedoed and badly damaged Canadian frigate "TEME" (constructive total loss), but was then hunted down and sunk by "Duckworth" and the 3rd EG. 14th - South African frigate "Natal" on passage off the Firth of Forth, Scotland in the North Sea sank "U-714". 21st/22nd - 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 on the 21st and later scuttled. Next day, "U-296" was lost to RAF aircraft of No 120 Squadron. 27th/30th - 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". The 'first' division of 21st EG, still off the northern end of the Hebrides, sank "U-1021" on the 30th. 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 scuttled 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 would survive 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.

Eastern Front - By the end of March the Russians had taken most of the Baltic coast of Germany and Poland east of the River Oder and captured Gdynia and Danzig. They were now poised along the Oder-Niesse Line ready for the final attack towards Berlin. To the south, the Eastern Allies continued their progress into Czechoslovakia. In Hungary the Germans made their last important counter-offensive of the war around the Lake Balaton area. By mid-month they had been stopped and the Russians drioe on towards eastern Austria.

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.

MEDITERRANEAN - MARCH 1945

18th - Two ex-Italian torpedo boats and a destroyer minelaying off the Gulf of Genoa were engaged by destroyers "Meteor" and "Lookout". In the last Royal Navy destroyer action of the Mediterranean, torpedo boats "TA-24" and "TA-29" were sunk.

INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - MARCH 1945

Burma - On the central front the attacking British and Indian divisions took Mandalay on the 20th after a fierce struggle. As the Japanese started to retreat, 14th Army pushed on south towards Rangoon until early May.

British Pacific Fleet - On the 15th, Adm Rawlings signalled from Manus to Adm Nimitz that the British Pacific Fleet was ready to join Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet. Now known as Task Force 57, battleships King George V and Howe, carriers Illustrious, Indefatigable, Indomitable and Victorious, five cruisers including the New Zealand Gambia and 11 destroyers, two Australian sailed for Ulithi to refuel. On the 26th they were on station off the Sakishima Islands in the Ryukyu group. Their mission was to prevent the islands being used as staging posts for Japanese reinforcements flying from Formosa to Okinawa. BPF's main weapon was of course not the battleships, but the Seafires and American-made Avengers, Hellcats and Corsairs of the carriers' strike squadrons. They started their attacks that day. (HMS Indomitable in the Far East 1944-45, a Photographic Record)

 

APRIL 1945

ATLANTIC - APRIL 1945

United States - Franklin Roosevelt died in America on the 12th and Vice President Truman was sworn in as President of the United States. Britain and especially Winston Churchill lost a great friend who did so much to bolster the country at a time when the British Empire stood alone and many Americans were staunchly isolationist. Harry Truman was soon faced with the decision whether or not to use the A-bomb. Starting towards the end of the month, San Francisco hosted an international conference to draw up the constitution of the United Nations Organisation. 50 countries signed the UN Charter on 26 June.

29th, Russia/UK Convoy RA66, the Last Convoy Battle of the War - Kola Inlet bound convoy JW66 (22 ships) arrived safely on the 25th with escort carriers Premier and Vindex, cruiser Diadem, Home Fleet destroyers and the 8th and 19th EGs all under the command of Rear-Adm A. E. Cunninghame-Graham. Return convoy RA66 (24 ships) set out on the 29th with JW66s escort, some of which went ahead to clear the 14 U-boats waiting off the Inlet. Frigates "Anguilla", "Cotton", "Loch lnsh" and "Loch Shin" of the 19th EG accounted for "U-307" followed by "U-286", the last U-boats sunk by warships of the Royal Navy. In the action, frigate "GOODALL" of the 19th EG was torpedoed by "U-968" and went down with heavy loss of life. She was the last major warship of the British and Commonwealth Navies lost in the war against Germany. RA66 arrived safely in the Clyde on 8th May

Monthly Loss Summary: 5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 32,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 frigate and 1 US destroyer off the Azores; 9 U-boats including 7 by USN off east coast of USA, off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic

EUROPE - 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/15th - 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". The second was "U-1063" on the 15th. Attacking a convoy off Start Point, she was sent to the bottom off Land's End by frigate "Loch Killin" of 17th EG. 8th-15th - Four more U-boats 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 accounted for "U-774". 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". The fourth loss off Ireland was "U-285" on the 15th, sunk by frigates "Grindall" and "Keats" of the 5th EG. 12th - Home Fleet submarines gained another success when "Tapir" sank outward-bound "U-486" off Bergen, Norway. 12th/30th - 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 on the 12th. Boarded by "Loch More", she was taken in tow but foundered. Over two weeks later, on the 30th, "U-242" was detected by a RAF Sunderland of No 201 Squadron and sunk by destroyers "Havelock" and "Hesperus" of the 14th 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. 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 of them by rocket-firing Mosquitoes of RAF Coastal Command, and 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.

Eastern Front - As the Eastern Allies fought through Czechoslovakia towards Prague, Hungary was finally freed of the Germans, and the Russians pushed into Austria, capturing Vienna on the 13th. To the north, as the Western Allies came to a halt along the line of the River Elbe, the Russians started the final, massive drive into eastern Germany from the Oder-Neisse Line. They had surrounded the German capital by the 25th and the Battle for Berlin got underway.

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.

MEDITERRANEAN - APRIL 1945

Italy - The last and decisive Allied offensive aimed at clearing the Germans from Italy got underway with commando assaults near Lake Comacchio on the 1st. In these operations the Royal Marines won their only VC of the war. + Cpl Thomas Hunter, 43 Commando, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action against German forces on the 2nd. Eighth Army started towards the Argenta gap on the 9th, and by the 18th was through. US Fifth Army moved on Bologna on the 14th and a week later captured the city. British, Brazilian, Indian, New Zealand, Polish, South African and US divisions of Fifth and Eighth Armies then reached the River Po and raced across the north of Italy. By the end of the month, Spezia, Genoa and Venice had been liberated. Throughout the campaign Italian partisans had waged a bloody war behind German lines. Near Lake Como on the 28th, Benito Mussolini and his mistress were captured and executed. Since February senior German officers had secretly negotiated with the Allies to end the war in Italy. On the 29th April and without reference to Berlin, a document of unconditional surrender was signed to take effect from 2nd May. 13th - Torpedo boat "TA-45" was sunk by coastal forces off Fiume in the northern Adriatic, the last major enemy warship to fall to the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.

INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - APRIL 1945

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - Okinawa was the main island in the Ryukyu group and half way between Formosa and Kyushu. It was needed as a major base for the coming, bloodiest invasion of all - mainland Japan. The Japanese were committed to defending Okinawa for as long as possible and with maximum use of kamikaze attack. Under Adm Spruance and Fifth Fleet, the greatest amphibious operation of the Pacific war started on the 1st with US Tenth Army including both Marines and Army forces landing on the west side of the island. There was little opposition to start, but by the time they had taken the northern five-sixths of the island on the 13th, bitter fighting was raging in the south, continuing through April, May and into June. Air and sea kamikaze missions led to heavy losses on both sides. The British Pacific Fleet did not escape: 1st - Operating off the Sakishimas, Indefatigable was hit by a suicide aircraft but saved from serious damage by the armoured flight deck. 6th - Japanese launched the first of 10 'kikusui' (floating chrysanthemum) mass kamikaze attacks which carried on until June. US losses in men and ships sunk and damaged were severe. On the 6th, British carrier Illustrious was hit. Damage was slight and she continued in service, but this much-battered ship was shortly relieved by Formidable. BPF continued attacking the Sakishima Islands as well as airfields in northern Formosa, with short breaks for refuelling. The Fleet sailed for Leyte on the 20th to replenish. (HMS Indomitable in the Far East 1944-45, a Photographic Record)

Battle of the East China Sea - Giant battleship "Yamato", a cruiser and destroyers sailed on a one-way mission for Okinawa. Overwhelmed by aircraft of Fifth Fleet on the 7th, "YAMATO", the cruiser and four destroyers were sent to the bottom southwest of Nagasaki.

Monthly Loss Summary: Pacific Ocean only - 3 merchant ships of 23,000 tons

 

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