Background Events - September 1939-March 1940
Battle of Atlantic
starts, 'Phoney War' on land, Battle of
Thursday, 3 August
Indian Ocean - British “convoy”
Bombay and Karachi. On the 6 August, the two
sections rendezvoused. The convoy was then composed of KARANJA (9891grt, Cdre),
KHOSROU (4043grt), ROHNA (8602grt), QUILOA (7765grt, VCdre), TALAMBA (8018grt),
VARELA (4651grt). On 10 August, the ships were met by light cruisers
MANCHESTER and sloops EGRET, FLEETWOOD,
all of which had departed
Aden the same day.
Saturday, 5 August
British Reserve Fleet - ships of the Reserve Fleet
under the command of Vice Adm Sir Max K Horton, Vice Adm Reserve Fleet, on
light cruiser EFFINGHAM, began to assemble at Weymouth Bay for review by King George VI.
Destroyer JANUS – completed. Following working
up, JANUS (Lt Cdr J A W Tothill) joined the 7th Destroyer Flotilla operating
with the Humber Force.
Sunday, 6 August
Mediterranean - after
a five day good will visit to Turkey, battleship
destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, NUBIAN, ZULU departed the Bosphorus. This force had
departed Malta on 30 July for Istanbul and conferences with the
Turkish military in regards to the coming hostilities with Germany and Italy. After departing the
Bosphorus, they exercised off
Rhodes before returning to
Alexandria on the 15th.
China - a landing party from
destroyer TENEDOS was landed at Swatow, China, to protect British subjects
during Chinese rioting. The action brought strong protests from the Japanese.
Wednesday, 9 August
Review of the
British Reserve Fleet - and other units, totalling 133 ships, took
place in Weymouth
Bay. King George VI arrived in the
yacht VICTORIA and ALBERT on the 8th.
ships participating in this Review were battleships
training ship IRON
DUKE, loaned from the Home Fleet, aircraft carrier
COURAGEOUS, light cruisers
ENTERPRISE, minelaying cruiser
(above - NavyPhotos), destroyers ACASTA, ACHATES,
ACHERON, AMAZON, ANTELOPE, ARDENT, ARROW, BASILISK, BOADICEA, BRAZEN,
BRILLIANT, BROKE, ECLIPSE, ELECTRA, ENCOUNTER, ESCAPADE, ESK, EXMOUTH, EXPRESS,
KEITH, KEMPENFELT, KEPPEL, MALCOLM, SCIMITAR, SKATE, STURDY, VANESSA,
VANQUISHER, VANSITTART, VELOX, VENETIA, VENOMOUS, VERITY, VERSATILE, VESPER,
VIDETTE, VIMY, VIVACIOUS, VOLUNTEER, VORTIGERN, WAKEFUL, WALKER, WALPOLE,
WANDERER, WARWICK, WATCHMAN, WESSEX, WHIRLWIND, WHITEHALL, WHITLEY, WINCHELSEA,
WITCH, WITHERINGTON, WIVERN, WOLVERINE, WREN, submarines H.31, H.32, H.33,
H.44, H.49, L 27, OBERON, OSIRIS, OTWAY, SPEARFISH, STURGEON, SWORDFISH, UNITY,
URSULA, sloop BITTERN, patrol sloops KINGFISHER, KITTIWAKE, MALLARD,
BRAMBLE, SALTBURN, SELKIRK,
SPHINX, motor torpedo boats
MTB.22, MTB.102, motor anti-submarine
boats MA/SB.3, MA/SB.4, MA/SB.5, trawlers ALDER, BASSET, BEECH, BERBERIS,
CORNELIAN, HORNBEAM, LARCH, MYRTLE, OAK, PEARL, RUBY, SAPPHIRE, TAMARISK,
TOPAZE, TOURMALINE, drifters HORIZON, INDIAN SUMMER, MIST, SHEEN, SHOWER,
submarine tenders ELFIN, TITANIA, seaplane tender
PEGASUS, cable ship LASSO,
tug ST FAGAN and boom defence vessel CORONET.
and B class destroyers ACASTA, ACHATES, ACHERON, AMAZON, ANTELOPE, ANTHONY,
ARDENT, ARROW, BASILISK, BEAGLE, BRAZEN were attached to the Reserve Fleet for
the Review. All but ACHATES, which was attached to the 6th Submarine Flotilla
and arrived at
Portland on the 5th, arrived at Weymouth Bay on the 8th.
principal function of this Review was to introduce King George VI to some sixty
commanding officers on board light cruiser EFFINGHAM and to inspect the
warships prior to re-commissioning.
George VI went aboard
CARDIFF and EFFINGHAM, inspected 1500
Reservists drawn by ballot on the flight deck of
COURAGEOUS, inspected the
workings of a submarine aboard OTWAY, and went aboard destroyer EXMOUTH and
ships of the Reserve Fleet began to disperse to their war stations that night.
Friday, 11 August
Mediterranean - destroyers HARDY, HASTY,
HEREWARD, HERO, HOSTILE arrived at Malta to return to the Mediterranean
Fleet. They had been refitting since the end of May; HARDY at Devonport, HASTY
at Devonport, HEREWARD at
Portsmouth, HERO at Portsmouth and HOSTILE at Chatham. HOSTILE departed Chatham on the 3rd and the rest on the
4th. The five destroyers arrived at
Gibraltar on the 7th and departed the
next day for Malta.
return allowed destroyers HAVOCK, HOTSPUR, HUNTER, HYPERION to proceed to
England for refitting. The destroyers
departed Malta on the 5th arrived at Gibraltar on the 9th, and departed on the 10th. HOSTPUR and HAVOCK
arrived at Sheerness on the 13th and went on to Chatham arriving on the 14th. HYPERION
proceeded to Portsmouth and HUNTER to Plymouth, both arriving on the 13th.
Their refits were cut short and they were forced to return to Gibraltar at the end of the month.
Tuesday, 15 August
Home Fleet -
exercises began from
Scapa Flow. Battleships
ROYAL with attendant destroyer BOREAS, light cruiser AURORA and
destroyers FAME, FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FORESIGHT,
FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, FURY, JACKAL, JERSEY, JERVIS and Tribals ASHANTI, BEDOUIN,
ESKIMO, MASHONA, MATABELE, PUNJABI, SOMALI, TARTAR departed Scapa Flow.
Tribals arrived back at
Scapa Flow on the 18th for refuelling and left again that
and ROYAL OAK arrived back on the 20th. The Tribal destroyers returned on the
F and J-class destroyers arrived at Invergordon on the 21st.
SOVEREIGN returned to Scapa on the 22nd,
RODNEY, HOOD, REPULSE, ARK ROYAL, heavy cruiser
CUMBERLAND, light cruisers
SOUTHAMPTON arrived back on the 24th.
AURORA with FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESTER,
FOXHOUND, FURY returned on the 25th, and
FAME, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE on the 27th.
Wednesday, 16 August
cruiser PENELOPE - recommissioned after refitting. She departed
Portsmouth on the 28th and arrived at
Gibraltar on the 31st, Malta on 2 September and Alexandria on the 5th.
U-boat movements – U.12, U.14, U.16, U.18,
U.20, U.22, U.24 (Type IIB), 3rd
Submarine Flotilla suspended training operations in preparation for war
U.29, U.33, U.34 (Type VIIA), 2nd Submarine Flotilla departed
Wilhelmshaven for stations west of the British Isles.
U.38, U.39, U.40, U.41 (Type IXA), 6th Submarine Flotilla departed
Wilhelmshaven, U.37 and U.38 for stations west of the Iberian Peninsula and
U.39, U.40, U.41 west of Gibraltar.
U.46, U.47, U.48, U.52 (all Type VIIB), 7th Submarine Flotilla departed
Kiel for patrol stations in the
Atlantic: U.45 and U.46 to the WSW of Ireland, U.47,
U.48, and U.52 west of the
Bay of Biscay.
Monday, 21 August
German pocket battleship
ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE sortied from Wilhelmshaven to raid in the South Atlantic. To support her operations,
three German ships were designated as supply ships: fleet tanker ALTMARK
Texas on the 19th after loading 9400
tons of diesel oil,
DRESDEN (5522grt) left Coquimbo, Chile on 19 October, and EMMY
FRIEDRICH (4372grt) departed Tampico, Mexico on 20 October.
Tuesday, 22 August
British destroyers, Home waters
Tribal-class SOMALI, ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, MASHONA,
MATABELE, PUNJABI, TARTAR departed
Scapa Flow on exercises. They called at Stornoway and departed on the
C Caslon assumed command of the 18th Destroyer Flotilla in destroyer
(Capt F S W de Winton), VELOX, VIDETTE,
VORTIGERN, WATCHMAN departed
Portland for Gibraltar where they arrived on the
25th. They joined destroyers ACTIVE,
DOUGLAS, WISHART, WRESTLER as the 13th
Destroyer Flotilla operating from
U-boat movement -
U.30 (Type VIIA), 2nd Submarine Flotilla departed Wilhelmshaven for station west of the British Isles and English Channel.
Wednesday, 23 August
Destroyer KELLY –
commanded by Capt Lord Louis
Mountbatten D.5, completed and following working up, joined the 5th Destroyer
Flotilla on 21 October to operate with Home Fleet.
U-boat movements - U.12, U.16, U.20, U.24, U.56, U.58, U.5
(all Type II), employed on reconnaissance duty in the Baltic, were sent to the
North Sea after the Non-Aggression Pact was signed by Germany and Russia on the
(Type IIB) departed
Memel to operate off the Polish coast.
(Type VIIA), 2nd Submarine Flotilla departed
Wilhelmshaven to operate off the west coast
of the British
(Type IIC) departed
Kiel to operate off Memel.
British Home waters - destroyers JERVIS, JACKAL, JUPITER,
ECHO of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla
departed Immingham for
JUNO – commanded by
Cdr W E Wilson completed.
Following working up, she joined the 7th Destroyer Flotilla operating
with the Humber Force.
German pocket battleship
- DEUTSCHLAND sortied from Wilhelmshaven to raid in the North Atlantic. Fleet tanker WESTERWALD
(10,845grt) had put to sea on the 22nd and was to rendezvous with DEUTSCHLAND
south of Greenland.
U-boat movements - U.5, U.6, U.7 (Type IIA)
departed for patrol in the
Kattegat. They remained on patrol until 8 September.
RN appointments - Rear Adm L E Holland vacated
the post of Commanding Officer, 2nd Battle Squadron, Home Fleet and was named
Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battle Squadron, Channel Force. Rear Adm H E C
Blagrove was appointed to the command of 2nd Battle Squadron on this date.
waters - aircraft carrier
departed Portland escorted by destroyers BROKE, WANDERER,
WHITEHALL, WITCH, and arrived at Rosyth on the 28th.
cruisers EFFINGHAM and EMERALD arrived at
Scapa Flow from the Reserve Fleet.
JERVIS, JACKAL, JUPITER,
ECHO arrived at
Dover for exercises.
U-boat movements -
U.9 and U.19 departed Wilhelmshaven for operations off the east
coast of Scotland east of 00-00E arriving on
station by the 29th.
Wilhelmshaven for minelaying operations in the
North Sea off Orfordness.
(all Type IIB) arrived at
Wilhelmshaven for operations in the North Sea. She departed the same day,
but returned to base on the 31st for minelaying operations.
and U.58 (Type IIC) departed
Wilhelmshaven for patrol in the Kattegat and off Denmark south of Norway, arriving on stations by the
Mediterranean - heavy cruiser
EXETER departed Devonport for the
South America Station via
Freetown and Rio de Janiero.
Poland, Cdre 2/c, 9th Cruiser
Squadron) and anti-aircraft ship
COVENTRY departed Portsmouth at 1120 for Gibraltar. DANAE and COVENTRY arrived on the 28th. DANAE
continued on to
Freetown. COVENTRY headed for Malta, arriving on the 31st
following several days of drills, departed the same day and reached Alexandria on 3 September.
DAUNTLESS and DESPATCH reached Gibraltar on the 29th, and on the 2
September, in company with light cruiser
DURBAN proceeded to Freetown.
COLOMBO (Cdre, 11th Cruiser Squadron) departed
Plymouth and arrived at Gibraltar on the 29th.
British cruisers and destroyers, Home waters and
Atlantic - light cruisers
DRAGON, arrived at Scapa Flow from the Reserve Fleet. Light
DUNEDIN, also from the Reserve Fleet, arrived on the 27th.
KEMPENFELT and the 18th Destroyer Flotilla, less ACHERON and ANTELOPE, arrived
Portland for duty with the Channel Force.
cruiser CUMBERLAND departed
Scapa Flow for Plymouth in preparation for proceeding
to the South
arriving at Plymouth on the 28th.
HAVOCK and HOTSPUR departed Sheerness after an abbreviated refitting. They
joined HUNTER and HYPERION at sea, after they had departed
Plymouth and Portsmouth respectively on the 27th.
Returning to the Mediterranean Fleet, the four destroyers arrived at Gibraltar on the 29th, but were then
diverted to the
German warship movements,
Baltic - light
cruiser NÜRNBERG and destroyers GEORG THIELE, MAX SCHULTZ, RICHARD BEITZEN, were
on patrol at the western end of the Baltic. Early on the 27th, torpedo boat
TIGER was lost in an accidental
collision with the
MAX SCHULTZ northeast of
Bornholm Island off Christianso in the Baltic.
Two crewmen on the torpedo boat were killed and six seriously injured. SCHULTZ
was taken in tow by THIELE which was later relieved by tugs JOMSBERG and
TAIFUN. Tugs STORM and NORDER also joined and SCHULTZ arrived at Stettin where she was under repair
until the end of September.
U-boat movements - the U-Boat Training Flotilla
(U.1-U.8, U.10, U.11, U.25, U.36) suspended training duties in preparation for
South Atlantic - heavy cruiser
EXETER joined light cruisers
British liner DUNERA (11,162grt). Off
Cape St Vincent on the 28th, EXETER was detached to proceed to Rio
de Janiero, via
Cape Verde Islands.
English Channel - light cruisers
CERES and destroyer ANTELOPE arrived at
Portland for duty with the Channel
Western Approaches - battleships
REVENGE with destroyers KEMPENFELT, ACASTA, ACHATES, ARDENT, ARROW departed Portland at 0815 to carry out a
reconnaissance in the Western Approaches. By 2005 they had reached longitude
6°W and turned back. Before entering harbour, RESOLUTION carried out 15in and
6in throw off practice. They arrived back at Portland at 1130 on the 28th.
Monday, 28 August
British cruiser movements - light cruisers
sailed from Plymouth and
DURBAN from Portsmouth for Gibraltar where they arrived on 1
German merchant shipping - liner NEW YORK (22,337grt) departed New York for Murmansk where she arrived safely on 7
Tuesday, 29 August
Dover Straits - destroyer JERSEY encountered German steamer
BREMERHAVEN (5355grt), which had departed
El Ferrol on the 27th, near the South
Goodwins Lightship. Nothing came of the encounter and BREMERHAVEN arrived in the Weser the next day.
U-boat movements - U.26 (Type IA) departed Wilhelmshaven and U.53 (Type VIIB) departed
Kiel for minelaying missions off
Portland. Flotilla Commander KKpt Ernst
Sobe was aboard U.53 in tactical command.
Pacific - New Zealand light cruiser
departed Auckland for the
West Indies and her war station at Balboa.
TACOMA (8268grt) departed Libertad,
San Salvador, flying the Swedish flag. She
arrived at Talcuhuana, the commercial seaport of Concepcion, Chile on 10 September.
Wednesday, 30 August
Western Atlantic - German liner BREMEN (51,656grt) departed New York Harbour and evaded heavy cruiser
BERWICK and Australian light cruiser
PERTH which were patrolling off the
US east coast outside territorial
Rhode Island on the 29th and was calling at
Maine, but failed to make contact
BREMEN. This was in spite of efforts to delay the German ship
in harbour until she could be in a position to intercept.
British Home waters - battlecruisers
REPULSE departed Rosyth, via Invergordon for
Scapa Flow where they arrived later that
JERVIS, JAVELIN, JUPITER,
ECHO departed Dover for Grimsby, where they arrived on the
Polish destroyers sail for
Britain - BLYSKAWICA, BURZA, GROM
departed Gdynia in Operation "Pekin." It had been decided to get them away from
Poland rather than have them
destroyed without any opportunity to do damage in return. They were ordered
that should German ships be encountered while en route, BURZA, the oldest of
the three, would fight a delaying action and allow the other two to escape.
Shortly after leaving port, they were sighted by U.31 north of Hela.
on the 30th, the destroyers first encountered destroyers BRUNO HEINEMANN, ERICH
STEINBRINCK, FRIEDRICH ECKHOLDT, FRIEDRICH IHN on patrol between
Bornholm and the Bay of Danzig and then, on the 31st, light
cruiser KÖNIGSBERG near Falsterbo Light Vessel. Although the Polish and German
ships trained their guns on each other, neither opened fire. The last sighting
was by U.6 on Kattegat patrol later on the morning of the 31st, but contact was soon lost.
Otherwise, the passage was uneventful!
Polish ships were joined by destroyers WALLACE and WANDERER 30 miles off
May Island, and they all arrived safely
at Leith in the Firth of Forth at 1730
on 1 September. From there, the Polish destroyers departed Rosyth on 6
September and arrived at
Plymouth on the 9th.
German Home waters - Following her contact with
the Polish destroyers, KÖNIGSBERG proceeded to Wilhelmshaven via the Kiel Canal for operations in the North Sea.
U-boat movements – U.1, U.3, U.4 (Type IIA )and
U.36 (Type VIIA) of the U-Boat Training Flotilla departed Kiel and arrived at Wilhelmshaven the next day for operations in
(Type IIA) departed
Kiel for operations in the Baltic.
(Type IIB) departed
Memel for operations off the Polish coast.
DURBAN departed Plymouth for Gibraltar.
HYPERION, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR, HUNTER departed
Gibraltar for duty at Freetown, arriving on 3 September.
Pacific - light cruiser
departed Auckland to land troops at
Fanning Island, the site of the Trans-Pacific
submarine telegraph cable station. The
troops were landed on 13 September and LEANDER returned to Auckland.
Thursday, 31 August
Home Fleet - departed Scapa Flow at 1800
SOVEREIGN, aircraft carrier
ROYAL, light cruisers
DRAGON of the 7th Cruiser Squadron,
of the 12th Cruiser Squadron,
SHEFFIELD of the 18th Cruiser
Squadron, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FAME, FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE,
FORESTER, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, FURY of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla. The Fleet
deployed in the North Sea between the Orkneys and
REPULSE and Tribal-class destroyers
SOMALI, ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, MASHONA,
MATABELE, PUNJABI, TARTAR of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla departed Scapa Flow for patrol off the Skagerrak. BEDOUIN had mechanical defects
and returned to Scapa Flow for repairs. Home Fleet returned to
Scapa Flow on 6 September.
British Home waters - light cruiser EDINBURGH
departed Glasgow after docking and arrived at
Scapa Flow on 1 September.
U-boat movements – Three Type IIB boats sailed
from Wilhelmshaven - U.15 for minelaying operations in the
North Sea off Flamborough, U.17 for
minelaying in Dover
Strait off the Downs, and U.20 to patrol between
Utsire and Kristiansand.
(Type IIC) departed Heligoland to operate in the
Dogger Bank area.
Mediterranean - French
convoy R.3 departed
Marseilles with CYRNOS, EL D'JEZAIR,
GENERAL BONAPARTE, ÎLE DE BEAUTÉ, PASCAL
PAOLI, SAMPIERO CORSO, VILLE D'AJACCIO for Oran.
2nd Squadron of battleships PROVENCE, BRETAGNE, LORRAINE with destroyers LE
PALME, LE MARS, TEMPÊTE of the 1st Destroyer Division, LA RAILLEUSE, LE
FORTUNE, SIMOUN of the 3rd Destroyer Division, and TORNADE, TRAMONTANE, TYPHON
of the 7th Destroyer Division departed Toulon to escort the convoy.
3rd Squadron of heavy cruisers ALGÉRIE, COLBERT, DUQUESNE, FOCH with large
destroyers CHEVALIER PAUL,
TARTU, VAUQUELIN of the 5th Large
Destroyer Division and GERFAUT, VAUTOUR of the 7th Large Destroyer Division
departed Toulon to cover the convoy from surface interference.
2nd Squadron arrived at
Oran with the convoy on 2 September
and then carried on for
Gibraltar, arriving on the 3rd. The 3rd Squadron arrived
back at Toulon on the 2nd.
Red Sea - destroyers AFRIDI, GURKHA,
MOHAWK, SIKH departed
Port Said and arrived at Suez for operations in the Red Sea.
South Atlantic - heavy cruiser
CUMBERLAND departed Plymouth en route to the South America