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  British and Other Navies in World War 2 Day-by-Day
by Don Kindell

NAVAL EVENTS, DECEMBER 1939 (Part 1 of 2)
Friday 1st - Thursday 14th

Partly edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net 

HM Boom Defence Vessel Cadella, ex-trawler  (CyberHeritage, click to enlarge)

on to DECEMBER 1939, Part 2 

 

Note: all vessels and aircraft are British or Dominion unless otherwise identified - click for abbreviations.
Corrections with thanks to Donald Bertke

(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)

 

Background Events, September 1939-March 1940
Battle of Atlantic starts, 'Phoney War' on land, Battle of River Plate


 

 

1939

 

 

Friday, 1 December

 

The search for the German warships responsible for RAWALPINDI's loss was discontinued at 0820/1st. Battleship RODNEY, battlecruiser HOOD, destroyers PUNJABI, GURKHA, KANDAHAR and NUBIAN arrived in the Clyde, while battleship NELSON and destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, FIREDRAKE and FORESTER were north of the Faroes to cover AMCs returning to Northern Patrol.

 

Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE and light cruiser NEWCASTLE were patrolling 62°N between Norway and the Shetlands. Light cruisers SOUTHAMPTON, EDINBURGH and AURORA with destroyers ZULU, AFRIDI and ISIS were returning to Rosyth, with SOUTHAMPTON refuelling at Scapa Flow en route and the ship arriving at Rosyth on the 2nd. Destroyer FORTUNE arrived from Scapa Flow in the Clyde for repairs.

 

The C and D-class light cruisers were returning to port. CARDIFF departed Scapa Flow on the 1st and arrived at Loch Ewe on the 2nd, along with DIOMEDE, DRAGON, DELHI and COLOMBO early on the 2nd. DUNEDIN and CERES reached the Clyde on the 2nd, COLOMBO and CALYPSO arrived in the Tyne for refit, and CALYPSO refitted prior to transfer to the Mediterranean, completing on the 21st.

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Heavy cruiser NORFOLK (above, later in the war - Navy Photos) and light cruiser SHEFFIELD arrived at Scapa Flow.

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French battleship DUNKERQUE was joined by large destroyers MOGADOR and VOLTA, after they refuelled at Belfast, and then proceeded down the west coast of Ireland. They were joined on the 2nd by destroyers GUÉPARD, VALMY, VERDUN and LE TRIOMPHANT, which departed Brest on the 1st. LE TRIOMPHANT then escorted light cruiser MONTCALM to Cherbourg for repairs, arriving on the 3rd. The rest of the force arrived at Brest on the 3rd.

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Armed merchant cruisers ANDANIA, ASTURIAS, AURANIA, SCOTSTOUN and WORCESTERSHIRE arrived on their patrol lines south of Iceland, while FORFAR arrived in the Clyde from Portsmouth.

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Destroyers EXMOUTH, ECHO and ECLIPSE, which had departed the Clyde on 30 November, were dispatched to investigate a possible German supply ship detected by W/T procedure in 53°N, 13°W. No ship was located and the destroyers returned to Clyde on the 4th escorting battleship WARSPITE.

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Destroyer KELVIN was damaged in a collision with steamer ST HELIER (1952grt) at Portsmouth. Her repairs were completed there on the 11th.

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Destroyer KHARTOUM departed Plymouth and arrived at Belfast, then continued, reaching the Clyde on the 2nd.

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Destroyer IMOGEN, IMPERIAL and IMPULSIVE searched for a submarine reported in Edinburgh Channel. IMOGEN returned when her asdic was found to be faulty. Destroyers FEARLESS and later ASHANTI, which was detached from the Pentland Firth patrol, were also involved in the search. When weather conditions made asdic operations unreliable, IMPERIAL and IMPULSIVE returned to Scapa Flow and FEARLESS to Loch Ewe, all on the 2nd.

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Destroyer VERITY attacked a submarine contact outside Plymouth breakwater at 1445. Destroyer VETERAN was ordered to assist at 1446.

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Destroyers GLOWWORM and BOADICEA unsuccessfully searched for a U-boat near Kentish Knock and the Tongue Light Vessel.

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Convoy OA.44 of 19 ships departed Southend escorted by destroyers WAKEFUL and WHITEHALL from the 1st to 2nd, and sister ships WOLVERINE and VERITY from the 2nd to 3rd. The convoy was dispersed on the 3rd, and WOLVERINE and VERITY joined HXF.10.

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Convoy BC.17 of steamers ATLANTIC COAST, BARON GRAHAM, CLAN ROSS (Commodore), COXWOLD, DUNKWA and GUELMA departed Bristol Channel escorted by destroyers MONTROSE and VESPER, and arrived in the Loire on the 3rd.

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Convoy FN.46 departed Southend, escorted by sloops GRIMSBY and WESTON, and arrived in the Tyne on the 2nd.

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Convoy FS.46 departed the Tyne, escorted by sloops PELICAN and HASTINGS, and reached Southend on the 2nd.

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U.21 sank Norwegian steamer ARCTURUS (1277grt) off the east coast of Scotland in the North Sea. Nine crew were lost and seven survivors picked up by Danish merchant ship IVAR (2145grt), guided to the position by a RAF plane. Eight more survivors were rescued by Norwegian steamer EVA (1599grt).

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U.31 sank Finnish merchant ship MERCATOR (4260grt) in 57‑39N, 00‑36W. One crewman was lost and 18 survivors rescued by two minesweeping trawlers from Aberdeen. A further 13 survivors arrived at Boddam in the ship's boat.

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U.29 was to have mined the approaches to Milford Haven, but the lay was abandoned due to the port defences. U.29 withdrew when she was detected by anti-submarine forces.

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French steamer FLORIDE (7030grt) was mined and sunk 1600 yards from Dunkirk Light House off Dunkirk, with the loss of two crew. She was beached at Malo les Bains where the hull broke in two and the ship became a total loss.

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Danish sailing vessel CRETHE ran aground on South Goodwins. A destroyer rescued seven crew and landed them at Ramsgate. (The Admiralty War Diary identifies the destroyer as BULLDOG which was then in the Indian Ocean.)

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German trawler MAGDA (137grt) was lost north of Heligoland.

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Anti-submarine trawler PICT (462grt), escorting convoy OG.8, reported striking a submerged object in 37-29N, 11-09W. French large destroyer CHEVALIER PAUL with the convoy slowed after sighting a periscope.

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Russian submarine L.1 laid mines off Nyhamn.

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Allied ships in the South Atlantic were: (1) heavy cruiser EXETER and light cruiser AJAX, refitting a damaged propeller on this date, at Port Stanley in the Falklands, (2) heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND at Rio de la Plata while New Zealand light cruiser ACHILLES was patrolling near Rio de Janiero looking for German merchant ships off Trinidada Island and on the 2nd, looking into Cabadello and on the 3rd, visiting Pernambuco, (3) light cruiser NEPTUNE, destroyers HARDY, HASTY, HERO, HOSTILE and submarine CLYDE covering the Freetown to Natal shipping route, and (4) French heavy cruisers DUPLEIX (Flagship Duplat), FOCH with large destroyers MILAN and CASSARD operating north of Dakar.

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Light cruiser EFFINGHAM and Australian light cruiser PERTH arrived at Kingston.

 

 

Saturday, 2 December

 

Destroyer PUNJABI was badly damaged at 0200 in collision with steamer LAIRDCREST (789grt), off Holy Island, off the coast of Arran in the Clyde estuary as PUNJABI was escorting battlecruiser HOOD into port. She was towed stern first into the Clyde from Cumbrae, and repaired at Govan from 8 December to 29 February 1940.

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Battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers KINGSTON, KHARTOUM and KASHMIR departed the Clyde at 1910 to patrol north of the Faroe Islands.

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Light cruiser AURORA arrived at Rosyth.

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Six armed merchant cruisers were on Northern Patrol duties, while MONTCLARE left from Scapa Flow and LAURENTIC from Liverpool to join them.

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Light cruiser DUNEDIN arrived in the Clyde to refit, completed on the 22nd.

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Light cruisers DIOMEDE, DRAGON, DELHI, COLOMBO and CARDIFF arrived at Loch Ewe.

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Light cruiser SHEFFIELD departed Scapa Flow on Northern Patrol in the Denmark Strait.

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Convoy FN.47 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer VALOROUS and sloop BITTERN, and arrived in the Tyne on the 3rd.

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Convoy FS.47 departed the Tyne, escorted by sloops PELICAN and HASTINGS, arriving at Southend on the 3rd.

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U.28 and U.29 were reported radioing each other in 50-17N, 4-35W. Destroyers ANTELOPE, VETERAN and WHITEHALL searched to the west of the location, and destroyers GRENVILLE, VEGA, ACHATES and WINDSOR to the east. The search continued until the 3rd without success.

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Anti-submarine trawler LOCH DOON (534grt) reported four unidentified ships as apparently destroyers, five miles east of Coquet Light steering north. British aircraft later sighted five Danish fishing smacks 90 miles east of Flamborough Head, and destroyers JERSEY and JAGUAR were sent to investigate.

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U.56 damaged steamer ESKDENE (3829grt) in 56‑30N, 01‑40W after she became separated from convoy HN.3 in bad weather, and sank Swedish steamer RUDOLF (2119grt) off Dundee in the Firth of Tay in 56‑15N, 01‑25W. Destroyers ICARUS and ILEX were sent to investigate in case the steamers had been sunk by a submarine. ESKDENE was abandoned by her crew, and all 29 picked up by Norwegian steamer HILD (1356grt). ICARUS and ILEX then searched for the steamer, but without success, and although aircraft located her at 1530/4th, surface ships could still not find her. Finally she was located, again by aircraft, at dawn on the 7th in 56-20N, 00-15W, towed to Shields on the Tyne on the 8th by tug BULGER screened by sloop STORK, and finally beached on Head Sands. RUDOLF lost nine crew, with six survivors rescued by minesweeping trawler FIREFLY (394grt) and eight by trawler CARDEW (208grt).

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Convoy OA.45G of 24 ships departed Southend escorted by destroyers ANTELOPE, AMAZON and sloop ENCHANTRESS. The sloop detached on the 4th and the destroyers transferred to HG.9 on the 6th. OA.45G merged with OB.45G to become convoy OG.9, escorted by destroyer VOLUNTEER and sloop DEPTFORD until the 5th.

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U.61 laid mines off Newcastle during the night of the 1st/2nd, on which one steamer was sunk and one damaged.

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U.58 laid mines off Lowestoft, on which no shipping was sunk or damaged.

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Convoy HXF.11 departed Halifax at 1000 escorted by Canadian destroyers ST LAURENT and SKEENA, which detached on the 3rd. Ocean escort was provided by armed merchant cruiser ASCANIA and submarines NARWHAL and SEAL. On the 3rd, 70 miles from Halifax, steamers MANCHESTER REGIMENT (5989grt) and OROPESA (14,118grt) collided. MANCHESTER REGIMENT was taken in tow, but foundered in mid-afternoon, and the crew taken aboard OROPESA.

 

ASCANIA detached on the 12th, while destroyer MACKAY from OB.49 escorted the convoy from the 12th to 15th, when it arrived at Liverpool.

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Force K received a sighting report at 1030 from a South African bomber of a suspicious vessel in the area south of Cape Agulhas, 74 miles 167° from Cape Point. Battlecruiser RENOWN and heavy cruiser SUSSEX went to the position to investigate and found German passenger ship WATUSSI (9522grt) which had departed Mozambique on 22/23 November. WATUSSI scuttled herself when approached by SUSSEX, and the 196 passengers and crew were picked up by her. To hasten her sinking, battlecruiser RENOWN dispatched WATUSSI with main armament gunfire. The crew and passengers were taken to Simonstown on SUSSEX, arriving at 2359/2nd.

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Light cruiser AJAX departed Port Stanley for Rio de la Plata, and heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND, when relieved, patrolled southward before entering Port Stanley.

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German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE sank steamer DORIC STAR (10,086grt) in the South Atlantic in 19‑15S, 05‑05E.

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Heavy cruiser KENT arrived at Colombo.

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Light cruiser PENELOPE departed Malta on patrol duties and arrived back on the 12th.

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Destroyer DECOY was refitting at Malta for corrosion to her bulkheads.

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Convoy SL.11 departed Freetown at 0700/2nd. Escorting sloop FOWEY was slightly damaged in collision with steamer GRAINTON (6341grt) at 2040 in 8-51N, 14-37W, and on arrival at Southampton began a refit. The convoy arrived on the 18th.

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French battleship BRETAGNE entered the dock at Toulon and was under repairs from 2 December to 3 March 1940. She sailed on 10 March.

 

 

Sunday, 3 December

 

A suspected German battleship was D/F'd in 62-30N, 13W, and battlecruiser HOOD and her destroyers were ordered to proceed as fast as her escorts could steam without damage. Six armed merchant cruisers between Iceland and the Faroes were also to proceed south, but no contact was made.

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Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE and light cruiser NEWCASTLE were on patrol to the northeast of the Shetlands.

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Heavy cruiser SUFFOLK departed Scapa Flow for Northern Patrol in the Denmark Strait, and arrived back in the Clyde on the 14th.

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Destroyer ASHANTI departed Scapa Flow for Liverpool to refit a leaking feed tank.

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Light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON had problems with leakage in several oil fuel tanks and marked vibration at high speed. She entered the dockyard in the Tyne on the 24th to repair.

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Destroyers out of service on the 3rd were - ASHANTI with leaking feed tanks arrived at Liverpool on the 4th to refit, COSSACK repairing collision damage, FAME repairing weather damage and refitting to complete on the 24th, FORESIGHT repairing weather damage and refitting to complete on the 24th, FORTUNE repairing weather damage, FOXHOUND repairing and refitting to complete on the 11th, GURKHA with turbine defects en route to Southampton, INGLEFIELD to dock at Leith with defects on the 8th, IMOGEN docking to repair asdic, IMPERIAL at Scapa Flow with engine room defects (after escorting battleship RODNEY, IMPERIAL was to repair at Liverpool), INTREPID and IVANHOE refitting to minelaying destroyers to complete on the 9th, KELLY repairing damage and refitting to complete on the 12th, KELVIN repairing collision damage to complete on the 12th, MOHAWK repairing bomb damage, PUNJABI repairing collision damage, SIKH at Malta with turbine defects, and TARTAR refitting and repairing rudder damage to complete on the 15th.

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Convoy OA.46 of 19 ships departed Southend escorted by destroyers KEITH, WIVERN and VETERAN from the 4th to 5th. On being released, WIVERN proceeded to escort OA.47.

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Convoy OB.46 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyer WALPOLE until the 3rd and destroyer ESCAPADE until the 5th.

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Convoy BC.16S of four steamers, including BARON KINNAIRD, departed the Loire escorted by destroyers MONTROSE and VESPER, and arrived in Bristol Channel on the 6th.

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Convoy FN.48 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer VALOROUS and sloop BITTERN. Due to increased German activity in the North Sea, the convoy was supported by destroyers JACKAL, JANUS and the Polish BLYSKAWICA. The Polish ship detached that night, and the convoy arrived in the Tyne on the 4th.

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Convoy FS.48 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyer WHITLEY and sloop STORK, and arrived at Southend on the 4th.

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Destroyers ICARUS and ILEX carried out an anti-submarine sweep on their way back to Rosyth after a ship had been detected crossing the May Island indicator loop. Destroyers AFRIDI and ZULU searched inshore of May Island, and then proceeded to Rosyth after being relieved by ICARUS and ILEX.

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Destroyer VEGA attacked a submarine contact 9 miles SW of St Catherines. Destroyers ACHATES and WINDSOR joined in the search.

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Submarine SNAPPER, returning to Harwich from patrol in the North Sea, was struck by a British 100 pound anti-submarine bomb, dropped by a “friendly” Anson aircraft. A direct hit was scored at the base of the conning tower, but the explosion only shattered four light bulbs.

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Russian submarine SC.323 damaged German steamer OLIVA (1308grt) with gunfire off Uto. She was damaged again by Russian submarine S.1 off Rauma on the 10th.

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U.31 sank Danish steamer OVE TOFT (2135grt) in 55‑36N, 00‑46E and and Norwegian steamer GIMLE (1271grt) in 57‑15N, 01‑50E. OVE TOFT lost six crew and 15 survivors were picked up, while GIMLE lost three and her 16 survivors were picked up by Norwegian steamer RUDOLF (924grt).

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Steamer MOORTOFT (875grt) was lost in the North Sea to an unknown cause.

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Lithuanian steamer KRETINGA (542grt) was seized by German warships as a prize in the Baltic and renamed MEMELLAND for German service.

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German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE sank steamer TAIROA (7983grt) in the South Atlantic in 20‑20S, 03‑05E.

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Heavy cruiser SHROPSHIRE arrived at Simonstown and Force K arrived at Capetown. After refuelling, Force H departed the same day and Force K on the 4th to patrol the Capetown-St Helena trade route.

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Light cruiser NEPTUNE departed Freetown and arrived at Dakar on the 4th.

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Light cruiser EFFINGHAM departed Kingston and arrived at Halifax on the 6th. However a serious leak had been discovered in the starboard condenser on the 5th, and she had to return to Kingston for repairs.

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Convoy SLF.11 departed Freetown on the 3rd escorted by armed merchant cruiser DUNNOTTAR CASTLE and sloop MILFORD, the latter with the convoy for the day only. On the 18th, DUNOTTAR CASTLE developed engine problems and was sent to Gibraltar. She was joined on the 20th by destroyer KEPPEL and on the 21st by French destroyer MAILLÉ BRÉZÉ, and arrived at Gibraltar on the 22nd. Destroyers WHITEHALL and WIVERN joined the convoy in Home Waters.

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French large destroyer L’AUDACIEUX was proceeding to Dakar to repair minor defects.

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Sloop LEITH departed Malta for Gibraltar, en route to England.

 

 

Monday, 4 December

 

BATTLESHIP NELSON DAMAGED BY MINE

 

Admiral Forbes with battleship NELSON and heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE, en route to the Clyde with destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, FIREDRAKE and FORESTER, entered Loch Ewe to enable the destroyers to refuel. At the entrance, NELSON struck a mine 5.4 cables 38° from Rudha nan Sasan triangulation station laid by U.31 on 28 October. She was seriously damaged, but due to the shortage of minesweepers could not immediately be moved for repairs. No boilers, engines, electrical, steering, or power machinery were affected, but 52 crew were injured, nine seriously.

 

Salvage tugs RANGER (409grt) on other duties, and DISPERSER (313grt) were diverted to Loch Ewe to assist. Destroyer ECHO escorted RANGER from Kilchattan Bay, arriving on the 5th. FAULKNOR remained at Loch Ewe and stood by from the 4th to 28th.

 

The damage to NELSON also forced sister ship RODNEY to remain at the Clyde deferring her docking at Liverpool until NELSON's status was determined. Also, the light cruisers of the Northern Patrol in Loch Ewe could not sail until minesweeping operations cleared the harbour. Attempting to clear the field, armed patrol drifters GLEN ALPYN (82grt) and PROMOTIVE (78grt) were mined and sunk on the 23rd. Five more mines were swept and it was not until 4 January 1940 that NELSON could be safely moved.

 

Old German steamer ILSENSTEIN (8216grt) sailed ahead of NELSON to detonate any remaining mines. She had been purchased pre-war, departed Rosyth on the 11th escorted by destroyers ESCORT and WOOLSTON for Loch Ewe, and arrived on the 15th. Escorted by FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND and IMPULSIVE, the damaged NELSON proceeded to Portsmouth, and arrived on 7 January for repairs beginning on the 14th. She was repairing until early June 1940, arrived at Greenock on 8 June for refitting and departed on the 29th to rejoin the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.

 

FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND and IMPULSIVE were ordered to remain at Portsmouth for two days, then return to the Clyde. Destroyers ISIS, FAME and FORESIGHT proceeded independently at the same time to Devonport and returned to the Clyde with FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND and IMPULSIVE.

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After leaving Gibraltar and sailing via Halifax, which she left on 18 November, battleship WARSPITE arrived in the Clyde, escorted by destroyers EXMOUTH, ECLIPSE and ECHO, which had departed the Clyde on 30 November. The battleship had been originally ordered to go to Portsmouth, but orders were changed in early December due to RODNEY's rudder defect.

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Submarines TRITON and TRIBUNE departed Rosyth on patrol.

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Destroyers IMPERIAL and IMPULSIVE arrived at the Clyde from Scapa Flow.

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On Northern Patrol, the six armed merchant cruisers which were ordered to search for a suspected German battleship on the 3rd were returning to their patrol stations between the Faroes and Iceland. Heavy cruiser SUFFOLK and AMC LAURENTIC were west of the Shetland Islands, proceeding to the Denmark Strait.

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Heavy cruiser BERWICK departed Portsmouth for duty with the Northern Patrol, reached Scapa Flow and departed for patrol on the 12th.

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Light cruiser ENTERPRISE arrived at Portland from Portsmouth.

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Anti-aircraft cruiser CALCUTTA departed the Thames and arrived at Loch Ewe on the 5th to provide protection for damaged battleship NELSON.

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Destroyers ESKIMO and MATABELE joined destroyers ICARUS and ILEX searching for a submarine in the Firth of Forth.

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Destroyer VETERAN, which departed Plymouth on the 3rd, was damaged in a collision with steamer MIRIAM (1903grt) in the English Channel. VETERAN suffered minor damage, arrived back at Plymouth on the 4th but was able to depart on patrol on the 5th. She arrived at Dover on the 9th after convoy duty.

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Patrol sloop MALLARD attacked a submarine contact in Liverpool Bay.

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Submarine SALMON departed Harwich on the 2nd for patrol, and at 1330/4th fired six torpedoes at U.36 and sank her 75 miles SW from Lister Light in 57‑00N, 05‑20E; forty crew were lost and there were no survivors. U.36 had been sailing for northern Norway, where she was to join U.38 on patrol and then proceed to a base at Zapadnaya Litsa Bay in Northern Russia for replenishment. At it happened, the base was never used by U-boats.

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Convoy OA.47 of nine ships departed Southend escorted by destroyer WREN and sloop ABERDEEN from the 4th to 7th. Destroyer WATCHMAN was with the convoy from the 4th to 5th, and sister ship WIVERN, from OA.46, joined on the 5th, and remained until the convoy dispersed on the 7th.

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Convoy OB.47 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers WINCHELSEA and VANOC until the 7th.

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Convoy SA.20 of one steamer departed Southampton, escorted by destroyer ANTHONY, and arrived at Brest on the 5th.

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Convoy FN.49 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer WHITLEY and sloop STORK, and arrived in the Tyne on the 5th.

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Convoy FS.49 departed the Tyne, escorted by sloops GRIMSBY and WESTON. Due to increased German activity in the North Sea, the convoy was supported by destroyers JUNO and JUPITER. It arrived at Southend on the 5th.

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Destroyer BROKE was investigating a submarine contact one mile east of Slapton Sands Hotel near Dartmouth.

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Destroyers ESKIMO, MATABELE, ICARUS and ILEX departed Rosyth to search for a suspected submarine in the Firth of Forth.

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French large destroyer LE TRIOMPHANT departed Cherbourg escorting light cruiser GLOIRE to Brest, arriving on the 5th.

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Steamer HAMSTERLEY (2160grt) in convoy FN.48 was damaged by collision off Great Yarmouth, with one crewman lost. She was still afloat the next day but seriously damaged.

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Steamer TONGARIRO (8719grt) reported she had a disabled rudder 180 miles SW of Land's End. At 0315/5th, destroyers VERITY and WOLVERINE from the Plymouth command were ordered to assist. She was taken in tow, but broke away. At 1957/10th, she was 15 miles off the Lizard and as a tug could not tow her, destroyer KEITH was ordered to, escorted by WOLVERINE.

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U.31 sank Norwegian steamer PRIMULA (1024grt) in 57‑15N, 01‑50E, 125 miles east of Aberdeen; eight crew were lost and seven survivors picked up by Danish steamer WM TH MALLING (1034grt) and taken to Methil.

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German light cruiser NÜRNBERG laid mines in the Skagerrak off Kristiansand from the 4th to 6th.

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German auxiliary submarine chaser UJ.117 (trawler GUSTAV KORNER, 450grt) sank on a German defensive minefield in the Belt. Later, in June 1940, she was salved and repaired.

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Convoy HX.11, escorted by destroyer HYPERION and Canadian destroyers ST LAURENT and SKEENA, departed Halifax at 1000. HYPERION was detached early on the 5th and at 1600/5th the Canadian ships turned over the convoy to ocean escort by battleship REVENGE and French submarines SFAX and CASABIANCA as protection against German battleships. The submarines were detached off the Lizard on the 16th and arrived at Brest on the 17th, being escorted into port by French sloop COMMANDANT RIVIERE. Meanwhile destroyers WOLVERINE, WANDERER, WALPOLE and ARDENT provided escort in Home Waters from the 16th to 18th, when the convoy reached Liverpool.

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Heavy cruiser KENT departed Colombo on escort duties, and arrived back on the 14th.

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Destroyer DIAMOND, having completed her refit, departed Singapore en route to the Mediterranean.

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Destroyer DELIGHT departed Aden to return to the Mediterranean Fleet.

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Sloop WELLINGTON departed Malta for Gibraltar, where she arrived on the 8th. Next day, she sailed for Freetown to escort convoy SL.13 to the UK.

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Minesweepers SUTTON and ELGIN arrived at Gibraltar from Malta, and departed on the 8th for Portsmouth.

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French convoy 34.KF of four steamers had departed Casablanca on the 3rd, but next day, still near Casablanca, destroyer ORAGE was damaged in collision with French steamer MARRAKECH. The convoy turned back and arrived on the 6th. Steamers JAMAIQUE and LIPARI left with 37.KF on the 8th, and MARRAKECH and MALGACHE with 38.KF on the 10th. ORAGE was able to leave on the 28th for repairs at Bizerte, arriving on the 30th

 

 

Tuesday, 5 December

 

Heavy cruiser NORFOLK departed Scapa Flow and arrived at Belfast on the 6th, where she began repairing defects, completed on the 21st.

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On the Northern Patrol, seven armed merchant cruisers were on patrol between the Faroes and Iceland, with light cruiser SHEFFIELD eastward of them as close cover and battlecruiser HOOD with destroyers KINGSTON, KASHMIR and KHARTOUM north of the Faroes as distant cover. Heavy cruiser SUFFOLK was proceeding east of Iceland and AMC LAURENTIC was west of Iceland to patrol the Denmark Strait.

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Anti-aircraft cruiser CAIRO departed the Thames and arrived at Loch Ewe on the 7th to provide protection for damaged battleship NELSON.

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Minesweeper SHARPSHOOTER sustained minor damage in collision with a tanker.

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Convoys OA.45G and OB.45G with a total of 44 ships merged as convoy OG.9. Sloop DEPTFORD escorted the convoy on the 5th and destroyers AMAZON and ANTELOPE from the 5th to 6th. French destroyers TIGRE and PANTHÈRE, which departed Brest on the 4th, joined from the 6th to 11th, and destroyer VOLUNTEER from the 5th to 9th. The convoy arrived at Gibraltar on the 11th with the French destroyers and also destroyers HAVOCK and WATCHMAN, which had joined on the 10th.

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Convoy FN.50 departed Southend, escorted by sloops GRIMSBY and WESTON, and arrived in the Tyne on the 6th.

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Convoy FS.50 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyers WALLACE and WOOLSTON, arriving at Southend on the 6th.

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U.47 sank steamer NAVASOTA (8795grt) from convoy OB.46 at 1425, 50 miles SW of Fastnet in 50‑43N, 10‑16W. Thirty seven crew were lost, while destroyer ESCAPADE rescued 35 survivors and steamer CLAN FARQUHAR (7958grt) a further ten. Destroyer WALPOLE was ordered to search. Destroyers ESCAPADE and WINDSOR attacked U.47 at 1515, inflicting light damage, and were then ordered to meet arriving convoy SLF.10 at 0800/7th.

_____

 

Anti-submarine trawler KINGSTON ANDALUSITE (415grt) attacked a submarine contact off Folkestone. Destroyer BOADICEA was ordered to investigate.

_____

 

Convoy ON.4 of seven British ships departed Methil escorted by destroyers ESKIMO, MATABELE, ICARUS and ILEX. Light cruisers GLASGOW and EDINBURGH departed Rosyth on the 6th to provide close support, while battlecruiser HOOD, and destroyers KASHMIR and KHARTOUM, which departed Scapa Flow on the 6th, gave heavy support. Destroyers KANDAHAR and KINGSTON arrived at Sullom Voe to refuel on the 7th, and left on the 8th to relieve KASHMIR and KHARTOUM for refuelling. The convoy safely arrived at Bergen on the 8th, while GLASGOW and EDINBURGH arrived back at Rosyth on the 11th.

_____

 

Danish steamer ALEXANDRA (1463grt) was seized off Esbjerg by two German armed trawlers, and taken to Germany during the night by three German destroyers.

_____

 

Belgian steamer KABINDA (5182grt) ran aground and broke in half on the English coast.

_____

 

Danish steamer EGYPTIAN REEFER (3159grt) ran aground on the west coast of Scotland, but was later refloated and brought into port.

_____

 

U.59 laid mines off Great Yarmouth in Cross Sands near the Cockle Light Ship, on which two steamers were lost.

_____

 

U.28 laid mines in the Bristol Channel, but no shipping was sunk or damaged.

_____

 

Sloop SANDWICH arrived at Port Said from the Indian Ocean en route to the UK. Reaching Malta on the 9th, she left next day for Gibraltar.

_____

 

German steamer USSUKUMA (7834grt) had departed Hamburg for India before the start of the war, and took refuge at Lourenco Marques, before leaving for Bahia Blanca where she arrived on 13 October. She was ordered by the port authorities to leave within three days, but various extensions were gained and she finally left on 4 December. On the 5th, in 39-25S, 57-15W, USSUKUMA was intercepted by heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND and light cruiser AJAX, and scuttled herself rather than be captured. AJAX embarked the crew of 23 officers, some on passage returning to Germany, and 84 men.

_____

 

Light cruiser DESPATCH captured German steamer DUSSELDORF (4930grt) off Punta Caldera, Chile and took her to Antofagasta, Chile, before leaving on the 14th for the Panama Canal with a prize crew for the voyage back to Britain. Despite neutralist protests, she passed through the Canal on the 25th, arrived at Bermuda on 12 January 1940 and was later renamed EMPIRE CONFIDENCE for British service.

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Light cruiser DANAE was taken in hand for repairs at Hong Kong, completed on 14 February 1940.

 

 

Wednesday, 6 December

 

Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla 1 arrived at Portsmouth on the 6th, with base ship VULCAN (trawler, 623grt) reaching there on the 8th after coming from Gibraltar in convoy HG.9. After refitting, the Flotilla was based at Felixstowe and became operational in January 1940.

_____

 

On Northern Patrol were light cruiser SHEFFIELD and seven AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and heavy cruiser SUFFOLK and AMC LAURENTIC in the Denmark Strait.

_____

 

Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE arrived in the Clyde from Loch Ewe.

_____

 

Light cruiser NEWCASTLE arrived at Scapa Flow from Northern Patrol.

_____

 

Force W consisted of Fleet Tenders A and B (the dummy battleships) and their destroyer escorts. MASHONA and SOMALI arrived at Belfast on the 2nd from escort duty, and BEDOUIN and NUBIAN, which departed the Clyde on the 4th, were to rendezvous off Belfast Lough when Force W departed. The Force was to have departed Belfast on the 4th, but was held until the arrival of the ESCORT and ELECTRA, which left Portsmouth on the 5th. They finally departed Belfast at 0600/6th escorting Force W to Rosyth, where they arrived on the 9th.

_____

 

Submarines THISTLE arrived at Rosyth and SNAPPER at Harwich after patrol.

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Due to communication and administration problems while at sea, Rear Admiral Destroyers transferred to submarine depot ship TITANIA, allowing light cruiser AURORA to be released to the Clyde for refit. She departed Rosyth, arriving on the 7th for repairs that continued until the 31st. Meanwhile, destroyer depot ship WOOLWICH departed Portsmouth on the 16th, escorted by destroyer BRAZEN, but the latter developed mechanical defects and was detached at Plymouth. Destroyer BASILISK relieved her and WOOLWICH reached the Clyde on the 18th, with Rear Admiral Destroyers transferring to her on the 19th.

_____

 

Destroyer IMPERIAL arrived at Rosyth from Scapa Flow.

_____

 

Destroyers WARWICK and VIMY arrived at Loch Ewe with portable pumps for damaged battleship NELSON, and sailed later that day for Liverpool, arriving on the 7th.

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GERMAN DESTROYER MINELAYING OFF CROMER AND HMS JERSEY TORPEDOED

 

German destroyers ERICH GIESE, BERND VON ARNIM and HANS LODY departed Wilhelmshaven to lay mines off Cromer. En route, ARNIM had a mechanical breakdown and returned to port, but GIESE carried out her lay during the night of the 6th/7th escorted by LODY. While the minelay was in progress, destroyers JERSEY and JUNO, patrolling in the area, were sighted four miles SE of Cromer Knoll Light. GIESE torpedoed JERSEY at 0235/7th and left her badly damaged with Lt (E) J Le C Morris, Gunner (T) G L Blowers and eight ratings killed, and Cadet A R W Archibald, Surgeon Lt H G Silverster and ten ratings injured. Sister ships JUNO, JACKAL and JANUS assisted

 

JERSEY was towed by JUNO, and screened by JACKAL, which departed the Humber at 0600. JANUS, also in the Humber, did not leave until later in the morning when the visibility improved. Tug YORKSHIREMAN (251grt) later took over JERSEY and took her to Immingham. JUNO and JACKAL attacked a submarine contact near the location of her torpedoing. JERSEY received temporary repairs at the Humber Graving Dock until 7 January and then proceeded to Amos Smith Dock, Hull where she was under repair until 23 September 1940.

 

Two British steamers were sunk and one damaged on this minefield:

 

On the 8th, steamer COREA (751grt) 1½ miles 65° from Cromer Coast Guard Station; eight crew lost, and seven survivors picked up by the Cromer lifeboat.

 

On the 12th, steamer KING EGBERT (4535grt) in convoy FS.53, four miles SW of Haisborough Light off Cromer; one member of the crew lost and 32 survivors rescued.

 

On the 21st, British steamer DOSINIA (8053grt) in convoy FN.57 was badly damaged ½ mile SW of Haisborough Light off Cromer. Escorting sloop WESTON detailed a trawler to stand by the damaged ship, which was taken to Hull.

 

Minesweeping trawler ST DONATS (349grt) was positioned 9 miles S of Cromer Knoll Light Vessel to divert southbound shipping away from the mine area, while minesweeping trawler PELTON (358grt) diverted northbound traffic.

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Destroyer VANSITTART, escorting a convoy, was in a collision with a transport in the English Channel. She was repaired and refitted at Portsmouth, completing on 19 January.

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Convoy OA.48 of 11 ships departed Southend escorted by destroyers ACASTA and ARDENT from the 6th to 8th, and destroyer WHITEHALL and sloop ENCHANTRESS from the 8th to 9th, when they detached to OA.49.

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Convoy OB.48 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers WALKER and WHIRLWIND until the 9th.

_____

 

Anti-submarine trawler LOCH TULLA (423grt) attacked a submarine contact 14.4 miles 105° from Sule Skerry.

_____

 

Destroyer GRENVILLE attacked a submarine contact 18 miles S by E of Orfordness.

_____

 

Minesweeping trawler WASHINGTON (209grt, Skipper J A.Jennison RNR) was sunk off Caister near Great Yarmouth on a mine laid by U.59 on the 5th; seven crew were lost and there was only one survivor.

_____

 

U.31 sank Swedish steamer VINGA (1974grt) in 56‑25N, 01‑08E, but all her crew were rescued by Danish steamer TRANSPORTER (1561grt).

 

U.31 sank Norwegian steamer FOINA (1674grt) in the North Sea NW of Rattray Head with the loss of 18 crew.

_____

 

U.47 sank Norwegian tanker BRITTA (6214grt) 45 miles SW of Longships Light; six crew were lost and 25 survivors picked up by Belgian trawler MEMLINC (129grt).

_____

 

Battleship BARHAM departed Alexandria on the 1st escorted by destroyers DAINTY and DEFENDER. The destroyers were relieved off Malta by sisters ships DUNCAN and DUCHESS, later departing Gibraltar on the 6th for the Clyde.

_____

 

French battleship PROVENCE, escorted by three destroyers, which had departed Toulon on the 4th, arrived at Gibraltar with Vice Amiral Ollive onboard to take command of the Casablanca command. They should have sailed that evening, but a wire wrapped itself around PROVENCE’s propeller shaft preventing her leaving. Amiral Ollive embarked in submarine depot ship JULES VERNE, escorted by destroyers BORDELAIS and LA RAILLEUSE, which arrived on the 11th from Casablanca. JULES VERNE departed that day, escorted by destroyers ALBATROS and VAUBAN, while PROVENCE was able to leave Gibraltar on the 12th for Toulon with BORDELAIS and LA RAILLEUSE.

_____

 

Light cruiser BIRMINGHAM departed Hong Kong on the 6th after receiving a report that German steamer BURGENLAND (7320grt) had departed Kobe on the 5th. No contact was made and she patrolled with submarine PANDORA and armed merchant cruiser MORETON BAY in the area of Kii Channel. However BIRMINGHAM did stop a Dutch freighter which was allowed to continue after inspection.

 

 

Thursday, 7 December

 

Admiral Forbes transferred his flag to battleship WARSPITE in the Clyde. At this time, his only other capital ship was battlecruiser HOOD, badly in need of attention after her scheduled refit in November had been cut short.

_____

 

On Northern Patrol, light cruiser SHEFFIELD and seven AMCs were between the Faroes and Iceland, and heavy cruiser SUFFOLK and AMC LAURENTIC in the Denmark Strait.

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Anti-aircraft cruiser CAIRO departed Scapa Flow for Loch Ewe.

_____

 

Destroyer IMPERIAL arrived in the Clyde from Rosyth.

_____

 

Battleship RODNEY, destroyers IMPERIAL, IMPULSIVE, GURKHA, three more destroyers and two tugs departed the Clyde for Liverpool.

_____

 

Destroyer INGLEFIELD escorted tanker DAGHESTAN (5742grt) from Invergordon to Scapa Flow.

_____

 

Convoy FS.51 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyers VALOROUS, VIVIEN and sloop BITTERN, arriving at Southend on the 8th. Convoy FN.51 was delayed 24 hours due to the danger of mines.

_____

 

U.23 sank Danish steamer SCOTIA (2400grt) in 57‑31N, 02‑17E. Danish steamer HAFNIA (2031grt) was nearby and searched unsuccessfully for any survivors. She also observed U.23 searching.

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U.38 sank British steamer THOMAS WALTON (4660grt) south of Vestfjord in 67‑53N, 14‑29E. Thirteen crew were lost, with 12 survivors picked up by German steamer SEBU (1894grt) and landed at Bodo, and another 22 rescued by Norwegian steamer IRMA (1392grt).

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U.47 sank Dutch steamer TAJANDOEN (8159grt) in the English Channel in 49‑09N, 04‑51W. Six crew were lost, but British steamer LOUIS SCHEID (6057grt) rescued 62 survivors. Dutch steamer NAALDWIJK (2041grt) searched for those who were missing, but without success.

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From the 8th to 21st, 38 eastbound merchant ships were sighted by the Northern Patrol and 24 sent in for inspection. The low numbers was partly due to the fact that from the 9th to 17th, the armed merchant cruisers had been withdrawn from the Patrol.

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German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE sank steamer STREONSHALH (3895grt) south of Trinidad in 25‑01S, 27‑50W.

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Heavy cruisers EXETER and CUMBERLAND were on patrol in the Falkland Island area. The Admiralty anticipated that the German pocket battleship might attack Port Stanley on the anniversary of the Falkland Island naval battle in which a British force under Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee defeated a German force under Vice Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee on 8 December 1914. When the attack did not materialize, they entered Port Stanley on the 9th. EXETER left late that morning to escort Falkland Island Company ship LAFONIA (1961grt) to Rio de la Plata.

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Light cruiser ARETHUSA, which departed Alexandria on the 1st on patrol, arrived at Malta for refitting from the 7th to 18th.

_____

 

Light cruiser DAUNTLESS, now attached to the 9th Cruiser Squadron, departed Singapore on patrol, arriving back on the 23rd.

_____

 

Sloop LOWESTOFT completed her lengthy refit in Hong Kong on the 2nd, and sailed on the 7th. Reaching Singapore on the 13th and Colombo on the 18th, she departed Bombay on 2 January 1940 and arrived at Port Said on the 13th. She arrived at Malta on 18 January and Gibraltar on the 28th, and made Plymouth on 5 February for refitting, completed on the 21st.

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After leaving the East Indies Command, sloop EGRET completed a refit at Malta on the 7th, arrived at Gibraltar on the 10th and departed on the 11th to reach Freetown on the 16th. She sailed on the 19th escorting convoy SLF.13 and arrived at Cardiff on 2 January 1940 for duty with Convoy C.

 

 

Friday, 8 December

 

Light cruiser ENTERPRISE departed Portland for Halifax, NS, arriving on the 15th.

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On Northern Patrol were two cruisers and one AMC in the Denmark Strait, and seven AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland.

 

Light cruisers DRAGON, COLOMBO, CARDIFF, DELHI and DIOMEDE departed Loch Ewe for Northern Patrol at 1700. DRAGON and COLOMBO arrived at Scapa Flow on the 12th, CARDIFF and DELHI on the 15th via Loch Ewe, and DIOMEDE on the 16th, also via Loch Ewe.

 

Light cruiser NEWCASTLE departed Scapa Flow for Northern Patrol to relieve light cruiser SHEFFIELD, and arrived back on the 17th.

 

Armed merchant cruiser MONTCLARE arrived in the Clyde after Northern Patrol.

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Destroyer ECHO arrived in the Clyde.

_____

 

Destroyer INGLEFIELD arrived at Leith for docking. Repairs were completed on the 11th and she arrived at Rosyth the same day.

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Submarines TRIDENT and TRIUMPH arrived at Rosyth, while STARFISH arrived at Blyth after patrols.

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Patrol sloops PC.74 and KINGFISHER collided at Eglinton with slight damage to both ships.

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Convoy OA.49 of 11 ships departed Southend escorted by destroyers KEITH, WHITEHALL, WREN and WITCH, although WHITEHALL was detached to convoy HX.10 on the 9th. Sloop ENCHANTRESS joined on the 8th from OA.48 and stayed until the 11th when she also detached to HX.10. WREN and WITCH detached on the 9th, followed by KEITH on the 11th.

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Convoy OB.49 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyer MACKAY until the 10th and WARWICK until the 11th.

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After being delayed 24 hours because of mines, convoy FN.51 departed Southend, escorted by destroyers WALLACE and WOOLSTON. They arrived in the Tyne on the 9th.

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Convoy HN.4 of nine British ships departed Bergen escorted by destroyers ESKIMO, MATABELE, ICARUS and ILEX, but the convoy made slow progress in bad weather. Destroyers ELECTRA, ESCORT, NUBIAN and MAORI departed Rosyth on the 10th to relieve the escorts and on the same day, heavy weather forced ESKIMO, ILEX and three steamers to heave to. MATABELE lost touch and patrolled until daylight before attempting to rejoin the convoy. Destroyer ISIS arrived at Scapa Flow on the 9th to escort the four ships of the west coast section with one of the convoy destroyers. Then on the 11th, ELECTRA, ESCORT, NUBIAN and MAORI relieved ESKIMO, ILEX and ICARUS which went on to the Clyde, arriving on the 12th. The convoy reached Methil safely on the 12th.

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Convoy HX.10 arrived at Liverpool escorted by heavy cruiser YORK, which began a refit there.

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U.48 sank steamer BRANDON (6668grt), a straggler from convoy OB.48, at 1225, 80 miles SW of Fastnet in 50‑28N, 08‑28W. Nine crew were lost and the survivors picked up by Belgian trawler MARIE JOSE ROSETTE (139grt) and British trawler TRITTEN. A flying boat attacked U.48 at 1455 and destroyers WALKER and WHIRLWIND were detached from convoy escort, making two attacks at 1526 in 50-12N, 9-05W. Some damage was done to the submarine.

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Steamer MEREL (1088grt) was sunk on a mine near Gull Light Vessel near Ramsgate.

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Steamer ULSTER HERO (483grt) reported sighting a submarine 16 miles from Ramsey, Isle of Man. Escort sloop MALLARD and anti-submarine trawler KING SOL (486grt) were sent to investigate.

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Destroyer WANDERER attacked a submarine contact between Land's End and Penzance.

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After British aircraft bombed a submarine contact, destroyers ESCORT and ELECTRA, detached from Force W and searched 85 miles NW of Cape Wrath. U.43 was badly damaged in the air attack, but was able to reach Wilhelmshaven on the 14th. Destroyer ISIS joined in the search.

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Steamer MIDDLESBRO' (989grt) was sunk in a collision with the wreck of steamer GOODWOOD (2796grt) one mile north of Flamborough Head. The crew were rescued by Swedish steamer RUNEBORG (472grt).

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French steamer OUED TIFLET (1194grt) arrived at Cartagena after being damaged on a nearby defensive minefield.

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Heavy cruiser CORNWALL and light cruiser GLOUCESTER departed Diego Suarez for Simonstown, after which CORNWALL was to transfer to the South Atlantic Command and GLOUCESTER to join Hunter Force I.

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New Zealand light cruiser ACHILLES refuelled at Montevideo, left on the 9th for the Plate and joined sister ship AJAX on the 10th. The two then joined heavy cruiser EXETER on the 12th and the three took up patrol in the Plate estuary.

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In air operations in the South Atlantic, a Skua of 800 Squadron, landing on aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, missed the landing wires and crashed into the sea. Sub Lt P T Bethell was killed, but Leading Airman J B Taylor rescued.

 

 

Saturday, 9 December

 

Battleship RODNEY, escorted by destroyers ECLIPSE, GURKHA and FEARLESS, arrived at Liverpool for repairs. The ships followed convoy SLF.10B into port.

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Battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers KINGSTON, KANDAHAR, KASHMIR and KHARTOUM left their patrol area covering convoy HN.4 and proceeded to the Clyde, arriving on the 10th.

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Admiral Forbes withdrew the armed merchant cruisers from Northern Patrol. The threat of German mining, brought home by the damage to NELSON, prevented his heavy ships from leaving and entering port, and therefore were unable to cover the Northern Patrol ships. Seven armed merchant cruisers left the Patrol for the Clyde and Liverpool. Light cruiser SHEFFIELD was en route to the Tyne, passing Fair Island Channel at 2100/9th while light cruiser NEWCASTLE proceeded to Scapa Flow to relieve her on Northern Patrol duties. Heavy cruisers SUFFOLK and BERWICK moved from the Denmark Strait to SE of Iceland.

 

Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE departed the Clyde to relieve BERWICK on Northern Patrol, and arrived at Scapa Flow after patrol on the 22nd.

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Heavy cruiser YORK began refitting at Liverpool.

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Light cruiser CERES departed the Clyde, and arrived at Scapa Flow on the 16th.

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Armed merchant cruiser CHITRAL arrived in the Clyde.

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Anti-aircraft cruiser CURLEW departed Chatham for Invergordon, arriving on the 10th.

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Destroyers EXMOUTH, ECHO and ECLIPSE departed the Clyde to rendezvous and escort arriving battleship BARHAM.

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Destroyer IMOGEN drydocked at Govan to repair defects.

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Convoy BC.18 departed Bristol Channel, escorted by destroyers MONTROSE and VESPER, and arrived in the Loire on the 11th. The convoy returned, departing on the 13th and arrived back in the Bristol Channel on the 15th.

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Convoy FN.52 departed Southend, escorted by destroyers VIVIEN, VALOROUS and sloop BITTERN, and arrived in the Tyne on the 10th.

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Convoy FS.52 departed the Tyne escorted by destroyer WHITLEY and sloop STORK, arriving at Southend on the 10th.

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U.20 sank Danish steamer MAGNUS (1339grt) in 57‑48N, 00‑35W; her sole survivor was picked up four days later on the 13th by British trawler PHILIPPE (203grt).

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U.48 torpedoed tanker SAN ALBERTO (7397grt) from convoy OB.48 west of the English Channel in 49‑20N, 09‑45W. One member of the crew was lost and the survivors abandoned ship to be picked up by Belgian tanker ALEXANDRE ANDRE (5322grt). However, the rescue was cut short when the Belgian tanker's engines became partially disabled. SAN ALBERTO broke in half and the forward section sank in 49-28N, 9-51W. The stern section was relocated on the 11th and reboarded by her crew who were able to restart her engines. She was able to proceed for ten hours, but eventually scuttled by destroyer MACKAY.

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Convoy HG.10 departed Gibraltar with 62 ships, escorted by destroyers WATCHMAN, ACTIVE, HAVOCK and the French CHEVALIER PAUL and TARTU. The French ships remained with the convoy from the 8th to 16th when they arrived at Brest. ACTIVE was detached that evening, still on the 9th. HAVOCK and WATCHMAN detached to OG.9 on the 10th and escorted that convoy for one day before arriving back at Gibraltar. HAVOCK then left on the 12th to return to Sheerness for repairs. On the 15th, the convoy was joined by destroyers VISCOUNT and ANTELOPE from OG.10 and also destroyer VIVACIOUS. All three were with the convoy when it arrived at Liverpool on the 16th.

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Northwest of Mossamedes, heavy cruiser SHROPSHIRE of Force H encountered German steamer ADOLF LEONHARDT (2990grt), which had departed Lobito on the 8th. She scuttled herself off South Africa rather than be captured, and her six officers and 19 crew were picked up by SHROPSHIRE.

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French sloop COMMANDANT DUBOC attacked a submarine contact 2.5 miles 357° from Cape Spartel.

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Heavy cruiser DORSETSHIRE arrived at Simonstown.

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Light cruiser EFFINGHAM arrived at Bermuda for refitting, completed on the 23rd.

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German merchant ship NORDMEER (5671grt) departed Curacao, and despite efforts by French submarine OUESSANT to intercept her in Mona Passage on the 15th, was able to reach Vigo on 5 January 1940.

 

German steamers SEATTLE (7369grt), HANNOVER (5537grt), WESERMUNDE (5356grt), VANCOUVER (8269grt), PATRICIA (3979grt), ESTE (7915grt), HENRY HORN (3164grt), ALEMANIA (1383grt), KARIBIA (428grt) and FRISIA (561grt) were also at Curacao. Only SEATTLE and HANNOVER had managed to escape before 10 May 1940 when the remaining ships, less steamer WESERMUNDE which had been sold to the United Fruit Company on 28 December 1939, were seized by Dutch forces and renamed for Dutch service – VANCOUVER became CURACAO, PATRICIA the ARUBA, ESTE the SURINAME, HENRY HORN the BONAIRE, ALEMANIA the ST MARTIN, KARIBIA the ST EUSTATIUS, and FRISIA the SABA. On 10 May 1940, two other German steamers were in Dutch Caribbean ports, the ANTILLA (4363grt) at Aruba and GOSLAR (6040grt) at Paramaribo, Suriname. These ships were scuttled by their crews to avoid capture.

 

 

Sunday, 10 December

 

On Northern Patrol, two cruisers were between the Orkneys and the Shetlands, and four cruisers between the Shetlands and Iceland.

 

Armed merchant cruisers TRANSYLVANIA, WORCESTERSHIRE, ASTURIAS and ANDANIA arrived in the Clyde after Northern Patrol duties. SCOTSTOUN was due to arrive with them, but was delayed by weather and only reached the Clyde on the 11th. Armed merchant cruisers CANTON and DERBYSHIRE departed the Clyde for Portsmouth.

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WITHDRAWAL OF C AND D-CLASS CRUISERS FROM NORTHERN PATROL

 

The old C and D-class light cruisers began to be withdrawn from the Northern Patrol as they were relieved by armed merchant cruisers. The first ones to leave for less arduous stations were CARDIFF, CERES, COLOMBO and DRAGON. All the ships were refitted and by the spring of 1940 had been reassigned:

 

CALEDON and CALYPSO of the 7th Cruiser Squadron to the Mediterranean Fleet. They arrived on station late December to relieve light cruisers ARETHUSA and PENELOPE for duty in Home Waters. DRAGON, also 7th Cruiser Squadron, which was refitting at Chatham until the end of February, arrived at Malta on 12 March 1940. From the 11th Cruiser Squadron, DELHI, after completing her refit at Belfast at the end of January, arrived at Malta on 6 February to relieve light cruiser GALATEA.

 

CARADOC and DESPATCH had arrived in the West Indies in October, and were joined by DIOMEDE of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, which left Plymouth for Bermuda on 6 February. She had completed her refit in late January and relieved light cruiser ORION.

 

CARDIFF, 7th Cruiser Squadron completed her refit at Plymouth at the end of January and was to have joined the 8th Cruiser Squadron in the America and West Indies Station. Instead she was assigned to the Gunnery School as a Training Ship, arriving at Portland on 23 February with a reduced complement for this duty. After the invasion of France and during the invasion threat of the summer of 1940, CARDIFF served in the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet, but in October 1940, she returned to the Gunnery School.

 

DUNEDIN, 11th Cruiser Squadron took CARDIFF’S place. She departed Portsmouth for Bermuda on 6 February, and arrived on station in mid-month to relieve Australian light cruiser PERTH, which in turn relieved New Zealand light cruiser ACHILLES in the South Atlantic. ACHILLES headed for duty in the East Indies.

 

CERES sailed for the East Indies, via the Mediterranean leaving Scapa Flow on the 28th, and COLOMBO, 11th Squadron joined the 9th Cruiser Squadron in the East Indies, also via the Mediterranean departing Scapa on the 30th.

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Light cruiser SHEFFIELD arrived at Wallsend for docking from the 11th to 17th for repairs, leaving on the 18th.

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HM King George VI took passage in destroyer CODRINGTON from Dover to Boulogne escorted by destroyers BASILISK, BEAGLE, BOADICEA, BOREAS and BRILLIANT. The King and the ships arrived back at Dover that night.

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Destroyers JERVIS, JUNO, JAGUAR, JANUS and JUPITER departed the Humber to sweep for U-boats off Terschelling. No contact was made and they arrived back on the 11th.

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Sloop ABERDEEN, on convoy escort with destroyer WAKEFUL, attacked a submarine contact 24 miles 145° from the Owers and then rejoined the convoy. Destroyer ACHERON was sent to investigate, but in St Helen's Bay on the 11th, the starboard engine failed and put her out of action.

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Patrol sloop PUFFIN attacked a submarine contact in 50-06N, 3-50W.

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Destroyer FORESTER attacked a submarine contact in 57-59N, 05-25W. Patrol sloop KINGFISHER also searched the area.

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Destroyer WOLVERINE, escorting steamer TONGARIRO in tow, attacked a submarine contact in 49‑49N, 05‑25W. She was joined by destroyer KEITH, but the contact was not regained.

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After delivering Force W to Rosyth, destroyers SOMALI and BEDOUIN proceeded to the Clyde. Sister ship MASHONA escorted tanker DAGHESTAN from Invergordon to Scapa Flow, and also proceeded to the Clyde.

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Destroyer GURKHA arrived at Portsmouth for docking.

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Sloop FLAMINGO departed Leith at 1300 for Rosyth after completing repairs following her November collision. She joined sloop PELICAN off Inchkeith at 1530 and both headed for the Tyne.

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Convoy OA.50G departed Southend with 36 ships escorted by destroyers VISCOUNT and ANTELOPE, and on the 11th merged with OB.50G, escorted by destroyers WITHERINGTON and VIMY to form OG.10 - a total of 56 ships. VISCOUNT, ANTELOPE, WITHERINGTON and VIMY were all with the convoy from the 11th to 13th when VISCOUNT and ANTELOPE detached to HG.10. French destroyers JAGUAR and LÉOPARD, which departed Brest on the 12th, escorted from the 13th to 18th, when the convoy arrived at Gibraltar. The day before, the 17th, destroyer WISHART had joined off Gibraltar.

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Soviet submarine S.1 sank German steamer BOLHEIM (3324grt) with gunfire off Rauma near Bjorneborg.

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Soviet submarine SC.322 sank German steamer REINBEK (2884grt), en route from Leningrad to Oskarshamn on the west coast of Sweden, in the Gulf of Finland.

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Soviet submarine SC.323 sank Estonian steamer KASSARI (379grt) off Uto with the loss of one member of crew.

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Dutch steamer IMMINGHAM (398grt) struck a mine off Kallautsoog, off the Dutch coast and sank on the 11th; her crew of seven was rescued.

_____

 

Norwegian steamer JOTUN (534grt) was lost by grounding south of Berwick.

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Steamer FIRE KING (758grt) was sunk in collision with steamer DUKE OF LANCASTER (3814grt) in the Irish Sea off the Isle of Man.

_____

 

French heavy cruiser ALGÉRIE arrived at Casablanca.

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SAILING OF CANADIAN TROOP CONVOY TC.1

 

Canadian troop convoy TC.1, consisting of troopships MONARCH OF BERMUDA (22,424grt), EMPRESS OF BRITAIN (42,348grt), DUCHESS OF BEDFORD (20,123grt), EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA (19,665grt) and AQUITANIA (45,647grt) carrying 961, 1,303, 1,312, 1,235 and 2,638 troops respectively, departed Halifax. The convoy was escorted out of Halifax by Canadian destroyers OTTAWA, FRASER, RESTIGOUCHE and ST LAURENT, and battleship RESOLUTION provided heavy support.

 

Battlecruiser REPULSE and aircraft carrier FURIOUS had just arrived at Halifax escorting liner DUCHESS OF RICHMOND (20,022grt), carrying British civilians being evacuated to Canada. REPULSE, FURIOUS, light cruiser EMERALD, and destroyers HUNTER and HYPERION departed Halifax and steamed ahead of the troop convoy to sweep for German raiders. HUNTER and HYPERION were detached at dusk on the 10th and rejoined at 0800/11th. Because of the severe cold, FURIOUS was unable to launch aircraft due to frozen hydraulic lines until the 11th, but then fog soon curtailed operations. Once out of the Halifax approaches, the local escort, HUNTER and HYPERION returned to Halifax, while at sea on the 14th, EMERALD was relieved by light cruiser NEWCASTLE.

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Convoy HXF.12 departed Halifax at 0900 escorted by Canadian destroyer SKEENA, which was detached on the 12th. Ocean escort was armed merchant cruiser ALAUNIA and French submarine ACHILLE. ALAUNIA detached on the 22nd and ACHILLE arrived at Brest on the 22nd, escorted into port by sloop COMMANDANT RIVIERE. Destroyer WALKER escorted the convoy in Home Waters from the 23rd and HXF.12 arrived at Liverpool on the 24th.

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Light cruiser GALATEA departed Malta on patrol and arrived back on the 19th.

_____

 

Submarine OLYMPUS departed Diego Suarez to check Prince Edward Island in the southern Indian Ocean for suspected German raiders, but made no sightings.

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French destroyer TEMPÊTE passed Gibraltar east to west.

_____

 

Convoy SL.12 departed Freetown escorted by sloop ROCHESTER and arrived on the 26th.

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French heavy cruisers TOURVILLE and COLBERT, assisted by sloop D'IVERVILLE, departed Malta for contraband control duties off the west of Greece. The cruisers arrived at Beirut on the 12th.

_____

 

Convoy K.6 departed Bombay with troopships RAJULA (8478grt), D'ARTAGNAN (15,105grt), ROHNA (8602grt), CAP TOURAINE (8009grt), LANCASHIRE (9557grt), TAIREA (7933grt) and TALAMBA (8018grt), escorted by Australian light cruiser HOBART and armed merchant cruisers MALOJA and RANCHI from the 10th to 15th. The convoy arrived at Suez on the 20th and Port Said on the 21st, and was escorted by Australian destroyers VAMPIRE and VOYAGER from the 21st to 24th. They were relieved on the 24th by Australian sister ships VENDETTA and WATERHEN from the 24th to 26th when the convoy reached Marseilles.

 

 

Monday, 11 December

 

Battleship VALIANT departed Plymouth on trials after refit, escorted by destroyers ACASTA and ARDENT. She was to have arrived back on the 11th, but due to submarine activity in the area, remained at sea overnight with destroyers ENCOUNTER, ARDENT, ACASTA and GRENADE. She then headed for Portland, reaching there on the 12th and leaving on the 14th for Bermuda. VALIANT was met by destroyer HYPERION on the 21st, 240 miles 70° from Mount Hill Light and reached Bermuda on the 22nd for working up after the refit. She arrived back at Bermuda on the 25th.

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A U-boat was sighted in the vicinity of the Plymouth indicator loops. Exercises were cancelled and submarine H.43 was ordered to return to harbour on the surface. Destroyer WOLVERINE and sloop LONDONDERRY hunted 60° and 320° respectively from a position 4 miles 45° from Eddystone, and WOLVERINE also took destroyer BRAZEN under orders to join in the search. A tug reported bumping a submerged object inside the loop at 1115. Destroyers ENCOUNTER, GRENADE, WHITEHALL and sloop LONDONDERRY searched without success but WOLVERINE did make a contact 6.5 miles 112° from Rame Head.

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Light cruiser GLASGOW arrived at Scapa Flow.

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Light cruiser EDINBURGH arrived at Rosyth.

_____

 

Old German merchant ship ILSENSTEIN (8216grt), acquired pre-war, departed Rosyth escorted by destroyer ESCORT and escort ship WOOLSTON for Loch Ewe. After reaching the Pentland Firth, WOOLSTON returned to Rosyth. Destroyer ELECTRA was ordered to join ESCORT, but ILSENSTEIN could not proceed in the heavy weather.

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Destroyer MOHAWK was in collision with a tug as she headed down the Tyne. Temporary repairs were completed in the Tyne on the 14th.

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Polish destroyer BLYSKAWICA fired on an unidentified aircraft off Harwich.

_____

 

Destroyer BEDOUIN departed Rosyth with tanker DAGHESTAN (5742grt) for Invergordon, then proceeded to Scapa Flow and on to the Clyde, arriving on the 12th.

_____

 

Convoy OA.51 departed Southend on the 11th escorted by destroyers VETERAN and BROKE until the 13th when they were relieved by destroyers WHITEHALL and WIVERN. After the convoy dispersed on the 14th, WHITEHALL and WIVERN joined SL.11.

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Convoy OB.51 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyer VOLUNTEER and sloop DEPTFORD.

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Convoy BC.17 of steamers BARON GRAHAM, CLAN ROSS (Commodore), DUNKWA and GUELMA departed the Loire escorted by destroyer VESPER, and arrived in the Bristol Channel on the 12th.

_____

 

Convoy SA.21 of two steamers departed Southampton, escorted by destroyer WINDSOR which reported a submarine contact in 50-15N, 02-00W. The convoy arrived at Brest on the 12th.

_____

 

Convoy AXS.8 of one steamer, escorted by destroyer VIVACIOUS, arrived at Brest from Barry.

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Convoy FS.53 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyer WALLACE and sloop HASTINGS, and arrived at Southend on the 12th. Convoy FN.54 was delayed for 24 hours, but destroyer WHITLEY and sloops FLAMINGO and STORK guarded the ships overnight and were joined by destroyer GREYHOUND.

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A U-boat was reported in the Channel near Portsmouth and destroyers ACHERON, VEGA and WHITSHED were ordered to search.

_____

 

French battleship DUNKERQUE with 100 tons of gold for deposit in Canada and light cruiser GLOIRE departed Brest at 1700 for Halifax escorted by large destroyers MOGADOR, VOLTA, LE TRIOMPHANT, LE TERRIBLE and VALMY. VALMY detached on the 12th and the rest of the destroyers on the 13th. DUNKERQUE and GLOIRE arrived on the 17th.

_____

 

U.38 sank Greek steamer GAROUFALIA (4708grt) in 64‑36N, 10‑42E with the loss of four crew.

_____

 

U.61 laid mines off the Firth of Forth.

_____

 

Battleship MALAYA, which had been escorted by Australian destroyers VENDETTA and WATERHEN in the Red Sea, arrived at Suez after duty in the Indian Ocean.

_____

 

Submarine OSWALD departed Alexandria for patrol in the Mediterranean until the 23rd.

 

 

Tuesday, 12 December

 

On Northern Patrol, three cruisers were between the Orkneys and the Faroes, and four cruisers between the Faroes and Iceland. There was no patrol in the Denmark Strait on this date. Light cruisers COLOMBO and DRAGON arrived at Scapa Flow.

_____

 

Submarine SALMON sighted German liner BREMEN (51,731grt) at 0930 in 57‑37N, 05‑15E, but British submarines were not permitted to sink merchant ships without warning at this time. Instead, SALMON attempted to stop her 70 miles SSW of Lister Light in 57-00N, 5-45E, but BREMEN ignored her and an arriving German Do.18 aircraft forced SALMON to dive. BREMEN arrived safely at Wesermünde midday on the 13th.

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Submarine UNDINE arrived at Blyth for repairs until the 23rd.

_____

 

Destroyers EXMOUTH, ECHO and ECLIPSE departed the Clyde to escort battleship BARHAM. Meanwhile BARHAM and destroyers DUCHESS and DUNCAN, which had departed Gibraltar on the 6th for service with the Home Fleet, were 9 miles west of the Mull of Kintyre when DUCHESS (Lt Cdr R C M White) was run down at 0437 in an accidental collision with BARHAM. Struck abreast the forecastle, DUCHESS capsized and then exploded killing many men in the water. She sank at 0503 with the loss of Lt Cdr White, Lt G W Murray, Lt (E) O P Tilden, Lt J M L Scholfield, Commissioned Gunner H P Gordon, Py/Midshipman C L Kretschmer RNR and 124 ratings. Only Py/Lt J R Pritchard RNVR and 22 ratings were rescued by ECHO and ECLIPSE. EXMOUTH and DUNCAN screened BARHAM's entry into the Clyde while ECLIPSE and ECHO stood by at the location of the sinking until daylight.

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Auxiliary patrol trawler EMILION (201grt) was damaged in a collision with Spanish steamer MONTE NAVAJO (5754grt) near the Goodwin Buoy. She sustained slight damage and the Spanish ship continued without taking any action.

_____

 

Destroyers SOMALI, BEDOUIN, MASHONA, and ILEX arrived in the Clyde.

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ARRIVAL OF CANADIAN TROOP CONVOY TC.1

 

Destroyers ESKIMO, BEDOUIN, MASHONA, SOMALI, KANDAHAR, KHARTOUM, KINGSTON, KASHMIR, FEARLESS, ILEX, IMPERIAL and IMPULSIVE departed the Clyde to sweep ahead of Canadian troop convoy TC.1 as it approached the British Isles and bring it into the Clyde. However, IMPERIAL was held up and did not join, and destroyer MATABELE joined the escort force at sea.

 

Submarine SALMON and RAF Coastal Command aircraft sighted German destroyers HERMANN KÜNNE, FRIEDRICH IHN, ERICH STEINBRINCK, RICHARD BEITZEN and BRUNO HEINEMANN in the North Sea en route to the Tyne on a minelaying mission. Admiral Forbes, concerned for the safety of convoy TC.1, departed Greenock with battleships WARSPITE, BARHAM, battlecruiser HOOD, and destroyers INGLEFIELD, ICARUS, IMOGEN, IMPERIAL, ISIS and FOXHOUND on the 13th. Destroyers FORESTER and FIREDRAKE departed Loch Ewe and joined the force off the Mull of Kintyre.

 

Heavy cruisers BERWICK, DEVONSHIRE and light cruiser GLASGOW on Northern Patrol patrolled in 53‑55N, 25‑00W to cover the convoy. Light cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and EDINBURGH departed Rosyth, called at Scapa Flow, proceeded to Fair Island Channel and then patrolled between the Shetlands and the Faroes. Destroyers AFRIDI, MAORI and NUBIAN departed Rosyth and swept north at 25 knots.

 

Light cruisers DIOMEDE, CARDIFF, CERES and DELHI on Northern Patrol were to concentrate 10 miles 180° from Myggenoes Light in the Faroes, where they were joined by light cruisers COLOMBO and DRAGON which were proceeding to patrol stations.

 

Submarines SEAHORSE, STURGEON, UNITY and L.23 departed Blyth around midnight on the 12th/13th, SUNFISH and SNAPPER departed Harwich on patrol, and SHARK, already on patrol, was moved to a position off the mouth of the Jade River.

 

Convoy TC.1's only incident of the voyage occurred on the 17th off Northern Ireland in 55-30N, 6-54W as the convoy neared its destination. Outward-bound liner SAMARIA (19,597grt) entered the eastbound convoy in fog and collided with aircraft carrier FURIOUS, carrying away several antennas and lifeboats and grazing liner AQUITANIA. On arrival in the Clyde, FURIOUS and battlecruiser REPULSE returned to the command of Admiral Forbes, who reached the Clyde on the 17th after escorting TC.1 into port.

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GERMAN DESTROYER MINELAYING OFF THE TYNE

 

HERMANN KÜNNE, FRIEDRICH IHN, ERICH STEINBRINCK, RICHARD BEITZEN and BRUNO HEINEMANN laid the minefield off the Tyne near Newcastle during the night of the 12th/13th. On the return, HEINEMANN had a fire in her turbine room and had to stop, STEINBRINCK standing by, but she was able to restart and carry on. Destroyers IHN and STEINBRINCK later suffered equipment defects and were detached to Wilhelmshaven. Eleven Allied merchant ships grossing 18,979 tons were sunk and destroyer KELLY and a large tanker badly damaged in the field:

 

On the 13th, Belgian steamer ROSA (1146grt) 6½ miles off the Tyne Breakwater; one crewman was lost.

 

On the 13th, minesweeping trawler WILLIAM HALLET (202grt, Skipper C W Hannant RNR) 3½ miles ESE of St Mary's Light.; eight crew went missing with the one survivor, First Fireman C Hobson, picked up by trawler BEN ARTHUR (201grt).

 

On the 14th, tankers INVERLANE (9141grt) and ATHELTEMPLAR (8939grt) from convoy FN.54 were badly damaged at 1140 in 55‑05N, 01‑07W. INVERLANE lost 37 men from her crew of 40 and went ashore at Roker, near Whitburn Steel. The forepart of the ship was refloated, towed to the Tyne on the 17 December 1940 by fleet tug BANDIT, and later to Scapa Flow where she was sunk as a blockship on 30 May 1944. ATHELTEMPLAR lost two crew and 38 were rescued, but survived to be sunk in September 1942. Destroyers MOHAWK and KELLY had departed the Tyne earlier on the 14th to join sloop FLAMINGO which had been escorting FN.54 on anti-submarine patrol, and were dispatched to assist INVERLANE and ATHELTEMPLAR 13 miles off the mouth of the Tyne.

 

At 1530/14th, minesweeping trawler JAMES LUDFORD (506grt, Lt Cdr H R J Lewis Rtd and Chief Skipper D Macarthur RNR) was lost in the Tyne. There was only one survivor, and both officers and 15 ratings were lost. Until JAMES LUDFORD was mined, it was believed the damage to the tankers was caused by a submarine.

 

On arrival, KELLY herself struck a mine in 55-05N, 01-02.5W at 1617/14th which exploded just astern and damaged her propellers, rudder and after spaces. She was taken in tow by MOHAWK, later relieved by a tug which originally had been sent to tow ATHELTEMPLAR. Escort vessel WOOLSTON and sloops GRIMSBY and WESTON screened the withdrawal. Captain Mountbatten, who led the 5th Destroyer Flotilla on KELLY, transferred to sister ship KELVIN which had completed on 27 November and was working up at Portland. KELLY was repaired in the Tyne by mid-February 1940, but on the day of her degaussing trials, was involved in two minor collisions - with a tanker at the dock and while backing off with a drifter in the channel - and did not return to duty until 28 February.

 

Still on the 14th, auxiliary patrol trawler EVELINA (202grt, Skipper J W Cowling RNR) and anti-submarine trawler SEDGEFLY (520grt, Chief Skipper R W Stocks RNR) off the Tyne. There were no survivors from either trawler, EVELINA losing one officer and eight ratings and SEDGEFLY one officer and fifteen ratings.

 

On the 15th, Norwegian steamer RAGNI (1264grt) in 55‑02N, 01‑12W; six crew went missing and 13 survivors were rescued. Just 20 minutes after RAGNI, Norwegian steamer H C FLOOD (1907grt) was lost in 55‑02N, 01‑12W; four crew were lost and 17 survivors rescued.

 

On the 15th, Norwegian steamer STRINDHEIM (321grt) in the Tyne in 52-02N, 1-17.5W; nine crew were lost and two survivors rescued.

 

On the 16th, steamer AMBLE (1162grt) was badly damaged in 54‑52N, 00‑48W, with 17 survivors rescued by escort vessel WALLACE. AMBLE drifted ashore between Whitburn and Sunderland, was refloated and towed to Sunderland on the 25th, but later broken up.

 

On the 19th, Danish steamer JYTTE (1877grt) 18 miles east of Souter, in the Tyne; ten crew were lost and eight survivors picked up by Danish steamer AVANCE (1582grt).

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Convoy FN.53 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer WHITLEY and sloops FLAMINGO and STORK, and arrived in the Tyne on the 13th.

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Trawler VALERIA (189grt) reported sighting a suspicious vessel near 5A Buoy off Lowestoft, course ESE. Polish destroyer BLYSKAWICA was dispatched to assist, but ordered to return to Harwich at daylight if no contact was made.

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The 20th Destroyer Flotilla was re-formed for minelaying duties for the first time since the First World War.

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Lt R H M Heriot-Hill, Petty Officer M Fortrum, Leading Airman M McLoughlin (RAF) and Air Mechanic L Moorhead were killed when their Walrus of 754 Squadron struck a balloon cable near Southampton.

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British minefield SC was laid on the 12th, 18th and 27th December, 16 January and 14 February by auxiliary minelayer HAMPTON westward of Folkestone Gate.

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Convoy OB.52 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers WINDSOR and WALPOLE until the 14th. OA.52 did not sail.

_____

 

Convoy FN.53, after being delayed a day by weather, was escorted from the south by destroyer GREYHOUND with close escort by escort vessel WHITLEY, sloops FLAMINGO and STORK. The convoy was especially important as it included six tankers.

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Russian submarine SC.322 damaged German steamer HELGA BOGE (2181grt) with gunfire, four miles north of Revalstein.

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U.13 laid mines off Dundee in the Firth of Tay, on which one ship was sunk.

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Steamer MARWICK HEAD (496grt) was sunk 1/2 mile S of North Caister Buoy on a mine laid by U.59 on the 5th; five crew were lost.

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Swedish steamer TORO (1467grt) was sunk on a mine 35 miles S of Copenhagen, off Malmo between Trelleborg and Falsterbo in 55‑20N, 13‑04E.

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Convoy HX.12 departed Halifax at 1000 escorted by Canadian destroyers SAGUENAY and SKEENA. At 1800/14th, they handed the convoy over to an ocean escort consisting of French submarine PASTEUR which detached on the 20th, and armed merchant cruiser AUSONIA, which left on the 25th. PASTEUR was joined by French large destroyer VALMY and sloop GAZELLE on the 23rd, and later arrived at Brest. Destroyers WANDERER and WALKER escorted the convoy from the 24th to 27th, when it arrived at Liverpool on the 27th.

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Convoy SLF.12 departed Freetown escorted by armed merchant cruiser CILICIA and arrived at Liverpool on the 25th.

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ALLIED HUNTER GROUPS

 

Allied Hunter Groups in the South Atlantic were disposed late on the 12th as follows:

 

Force G - Heavy cruiser EXETER, light cruiser AJAX and the New Zealand ACHILLES off the Uruguay coast near Rio de la Plata.

 

Force H - Heavy cruisers SUSSEX and SHROPSHIRE sweeping off the west coast of Africa.

 

Force I - Aircraft carrier EAGLE, heavy cruiser CORNWALL, light cruiser GLOUCESTER arrived at Durban on the 12th, low on fuel, after chasing into the Indian Ocean on a false raider report. EAGLE and GLOUCESTER were expected to need a week to boiler clean at Simonstown.

 

Force K - Aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL and battlecruiser RENOWN in the Pernambuco area.

 

Force X - Aircraft carrier HERMES, French heavy cruisers DUPLEIX, FOCH, and British destroyers HARDY, HOSTILE and HERO were north of St Paul Rocks. British light cruiser NEPTUNE joined Force X on the 12th.

 

Additionally, heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND was in the Falklands, boiler cleaning and refitting on short notice. Sister ship DORSETSHIRE was at Simonstown, preparing to relieve heavy cruiser EXETER on the South America Station. Submarine SEVERN was halfway between St Helena and Bahia en route to the Falklands, and sister CLYDE approaching Dakar.

 

 

Wednesday, 13 December

 

Submarine SALMON on patrol 130 miles W of Jutland in the North Sea in 56-47N, 4-00E sighted German light cruisers KÖLN, NÜRNBERG and LEIPZIG at 1036 while they were covering the five German destroyers returning from the minelaying mission off the Tyne. She fired six torpedoes at 1124, hitting LEIPZIG amidships with two torpedoes and NÜRNBERG with one. At 1357, the cruisers were joined by destroyers HERMANN KÜNNE, RICHARD BEITZEN and BRUNO HEINEMANN of the Tyne force, two F-boats and four M-boats. After she got home, LEIPZIG was laid up for a time and decommissioned for repairs on 27 February 1940 which did not complete until 1 December 1940. Even then, she did not return to active duty and with some guns removed and a maximum speed of 22 knots, was relegated to training duties. NÜRNBERG's bow was blown off and her repairs were not completed until late May 1940.

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The following destroyers proceeded to carry out anti-submarine patrols - AFRIDI, MAORI and NUBIAN from Rosyth in 56-15N, 3-30E; JERVIS, JUNO, JANUS, JAGUAR and JUPITER of D.7 from the Humber in 54-55N, 3-10E; and eight ships of D.1 from Harwich in 53-30N, 3-00E.

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Destroyer KELLY departed Rosyth to relieve destroyer BASILISK escorting destroyer depot ship WOOLWICH in 57-08N, 1-53W.

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Escort ship WOOLSTON departed Rosyth to search for a submarine reported by aircraft. It was found to be the Polish WILK, and WOOLSTON returned.

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Light cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and EDINBURGH departed Rosyth and arrived at Scapa Flow later the same day.

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Light cruiser COLOMBO departed Scapa Flow on Northern Patrol duties and arrived back on the 18th.

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Destroyer DUNCAN departed the Clyde escorting steamer DUFFIELD (8516grt) to Liverpool, and arrived back on the 14th.

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Destroyer VANITY, which departed Rosyth on the 12th for the Humber, was in a collision in the North Sea with steamer WELSH TRADER (4974grt) in convoy FS.54. VANITY was able to continue to the Humber where she received emergency repairs. She left on the 17th for permanent repairs and conversion to an escort ship at Plymouth, arriving on the 19th.

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Convoy FN.54 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer WALLACE and sloops PELICAN and HASTINGS, and arrived in the Tyne on the 14th.

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Convoy FS.54 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyers VALOROUS, VIVIEN and sloop BITTERN, arriving at Southend on the 14th. There was no convoy FS.55 as it was delayed by fog and later cancelled.

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Anti-submarine trawler CAPE SIROTOKO (590grt) attacked a submarine contact five miles 170° from Portland Bill.

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Patrol sloop PINTAIL attacked a submarine contact seven miles 164° from Portland Bill.

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Anti-submarine trawler LADY ELSA (518grt) attacked a submarine contact six miles NNE of Kentish Knock. A destroyer stood by at the location.

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U.38 sank steamer DEPTFORD (4104grt) ¼ mile NNW of Honningsvaag. Thirty one crew were lost, with four survivors picked up by Norwegian patrol boat FIRDA and one more by Norwegian steamer NORDNORGE (991grt).

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U.57 sank Soviet steamer ASHKHABAD (1173grt, formerly Estonian MINA as she is usually identified) off Cross Sand.

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Swedish steamer ALGOL (978grt) was damaged on a mine in 55‑19N, 12‑28E. Six of the crew were rescued.

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BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE

 

 

Light cruiser AJAX (Flagship Commodore Harwood, Captain C H L Woodhouse), New Zealand light cruiser ACHILLES (Captain W E Parry) and heavy cruiser EXETER (Captain F S Bell) encountered German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE off Rio de la Plata in 34‑28S, 49‑05W. The battle began at 0620 and in a short engagement, EXETER was wrecked by SPEE's gunfire and forced to retire at 0729 in a near sinking condition to the Falklands where she arrived on the 16th.

 

EXETER received four 11in hits with Lt Cdr J Bowman-Manifold, Act/Sub Lt C A L Morse, Paymaster Sub Lt D H Tyler, Captain H R D Woods RM and fifty six ratings killed, and Captain Bell, Py/Ty/Paymaster Sub Lt J E Causton RNVR, Act/Gunner (T) T J Lynn, Paymaster Midshipman L de N W Penn-Gaskell and twenty ratings wounded.

 

AJAX had two of her four turrets put out of action and ACHILLES fired 1240 rounds of 6 inch ammunition, almost her entire stock. AJAX had seven ratings killed and two wounded, and ACHILLES four ratings killed and three crew wounded.

 

Damage to ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE, both material and psychological, caused her captain to turn away and head for Montevideo for repairs in that port. Thirty seven crew had been killed and 57 wounded. She arrived in Montevideo very early on the 14th, followed closely by AJAX and ACHILLES which immediately took up blockade of that port against SPEE's departure.

 

British Force H with heavy cruisers SUSSEX and SHROPSHIRE arrived at Capetown for refuelling before setting off for Rio de la Plata. Allied Force X with aircraft carrier HERMES and French heavy cruisers FOCH and DUPLEIX arrived at Dakar for refuelling, also before setting off for Rio de la Plata. In night flying operations off Dakar on the 16th, Lt B E Coombs was killed when his Swordfish of 814 Squadron from HERMES ditched at sea. The pilot and air gunner were rescued.

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Destroyers DOUGLAS and VIDETTE departed Gibraltar to conduct a night-time patrol off Cadiz.

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Australian light cruiser SYDNEY, escorting liner STRATHALLAN (23,722grt) with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force to the Middle East, was relieved by Australian light cruiser ADELAIDE which continued the escort round the Leeuwin Promontory before returning to Fremantle. SYDNEY arrived at Sydney on the 18th for a refit that lasted from then until the 5 January.

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Submarine REGULUS departed Hong Kong on the 13th and patrolled off the Soviet Pacific port of Vladivostok to check if U-boats were using it. She spent Christmas Day in Bosfor Vostochny Strait, the channel leading to Vladivostok and reported "The patrol was disappointing. No German merchant ships were sighted", before arriving back on 4 January.

 

 

Thursday, 14 December

 

At 1131, six miles SW of Heligoland, submarine URSULA made contact with the German cruiser force which SALMON had attacked and damaged the day before. URSULA fired four torpedoes at light cruiser LEIPZIG which missed and hit escort ship F.9 sinking her with heavy casualties. Destroyer RICHARD BEITZEN rescued fifteen survivors. Submarine SHARK was ordered into the Bight and at 1045/14th, sighted a light cruiser and four destroyers in 54-01N, 7-46E, but was unable to attack. A further attempt was made on the 18th when RAF Coastal Command bombers were sent to attack German warships in the Heligoland Bight and around Schillig Roads and Wilhelmshaven. However nothing was accomplished and the bomber force suffered heavy losses.

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Heavy cruiser SUFFOLK arrived at the Clyde.

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The 20th Destroyer Flotilla was formed with destroyer EXPRESS (SO), ESK, IVANHOE, INTREPID, IMPULSIVE and ICARUS.

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Destroyers EXMOUTH, ECHO and ECLIPSE arrived at Rosyth.

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Anti-submarine trawler LORD WAKEFIELD (418grt) attacked a submarine contact off Swansea.

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Convoy OA.53 departed Southend escorted by sloop ENCHANTRESS from the 14th to 16th when it dispersed. Destroyer WHITEHALL from convoy SL.11 joined from the 15th to 16th.

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Convoy OB.53 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers WINCHELSEA and VANOC until the 17th, when the convoy dispersed.

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Destroyers WINCHELSEA and VANOC attacked a submarine contact five miles NW of Holyhead. Destroyer WARWICK joined the search at 0400/15th.

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Destroyer GRENADE attacked a submarine contact 12 miles 172° from Portland Bill. Destroyers VEGA and WHITSHED joined to assist.

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Armed merchant cruiser CALIFORNIA went ashore at Farland Point.

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Minelayer PRINCESS VICTORIA departed Portsmouth at 2100/14th for minelaying Operation GF (a line 6.1 miles long in a direction of 009° from 51-48.8N, 2-19.1E) escorted by destroyers EXPRESS and ESK. They were joined off Dover by destroyers BASILISK and BOREAS and the field was laid at 1130/15th. PRINCESS VICTORIA, EXPRESS and ESK, escorted by destroyers CODRINGTON and BRAZEN laid another line on the 22nd.

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German torpedo boats JAGUAR and SEEADLER operated in the Skagerrak from the 14th to 16th, and captured six merchant ships carrying contraband before returning to port.

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British Force I, consisting of aircraft carrier EAGLE, heavy cruiser CORNWALL and light cruiser GLOUCESTER which had arrived at Durban on the 12th, put to sea on the 14th when it was reported that pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE was in Montevideo harbour. However, after a few hours steaming, the force was recalled for escort duty in the Indian Ocean and arrived back at Durban on the 15th.

 

Heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND (Captain W H G Fallowfield), cutting short a refit in the Falkland Islands, joined cruisers AJAX and ACHILLES off Montevideo at 2200/14th.

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French Force Z of battleship LORRAINE, light cruisers JEAN DE VIENNE and MARSEILLAISE, departed Halifax escorting French steamers INDOCHINOIS (6500grt), LOUIS L D (5795grt), JEAN L D (5795grt), and British CITY OF PRETORIA (8046grt) carrying aircraft for France. Destroyers MAILLÉ BRÉZÉ, KERSAINT, VAUBAN and BISON departed Casablanca and joined the convoy at 1050/22nd, and TEMPÊTE, TYPHON and TORNADE, also from Casablanca joined at 0815/23rd. At 0650/24th, Force Z escorted by MAILLÉ BRÉZÉ, KERSAINT, VAUBAN and ALBATROS left the convoy to the other destroyers, which accompanied it to Casablanca, and then proceeded to Oran arriving at 1000/25th. Force Z reached Toulon at 0800/27th.

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Australian light cruiser PERTH departed Kingston on patrol duties, and arrived back on the 31st.

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DESTRUCTION OF GERMAN LINER COLUMBUS

 

German liner COLUMBUS (32,581grt) departed Vera Cruz, Mexico. American destroyers BENHAM (DD.397), LANG (DD.399), JOUETT (DD.396) and BAGLEY (DD.386) were stationed off Vera Cruz to watch for German merchant ships there. When COLUMBUS set out, LANG and JOUETT immediately began screening her. Meanwhile Australian light cruiser PERTH was stationed in the Yucatan Channel screened by American heavy cruiser VINCENNES (CA.44) and destroyers EVANS (DD.78) and TWIGGS (DD.127) of the 64th Destroyer Division.

 

On the 16th, destroyers PHILIP (DD.76, LCDR E F Crowe) and LEA (DD.118, LCDR Franklin W Slavin, LEA was the flagship of Commander Destroyer Squadron 32) relieved JOUETT and LANG as COLUMBUS sailed north along the US coast.

 

On the 17th, destroyers COLE (DD.155, LCDR P F Dugan) and ELLIS (DD.154, LCDR T G Peyton) of the 60th Destroyer Division relieved PHILIP and LEA. At 2000/17th, French tanker SHEHERAZADE (13,467grt) reported COLUMBUS in 30-25N, 79-31W steering course 040°.

 

On the 18th, American destroyers UPSHUR (DD.144) and GREER (DD.145) of the 61st Destroyer Division relieved COLE and ELLIS.

 

On the 19th, American heavy cruiser TUSCALOOSA (CA.37, CAPT H A Badt) and destroyer BABBITT (DD.128) of the 53rd Destroyer Division, which had departed Norfolk on the 16th, relieved UPSHUR and GREER.

 

On the 19th, off Cape May, off the southeast tip of New Jersey in 40-17N, 71-05W, COLUMBUS was challenged by British destroyer HYPERION which had departed Bermuda and was led to COLUMBUS by plain language radio reports from the US ships. She scuttled herself and the 597 man crew was picked up by TUSCALOOSA and BABBITT. HYPERION left the rescue to the American ships and arrived back at Bermuda on the 22nd.

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On the 14th, German steamer ARAUCA (4354grt) departed Vera Cruz. She was trailed by American destroyer TRUXTON (DD.229) of the 56th Destroyer Division, making plain language reports which alerted French warships in the area. Also alerted by three American naval patrol aircraft, light cruiser ORION, which had departed Bermuda on the 9th and had been patrolling near Nassau, intercepted her at 1056/20th off Oakland, Florida. However, ARAUCA reached American waters and that afternoon, a boarding party from American destroyer PHILIP (DD.76, LCDR E F Crowe) of the 64th Destroyer Division went aboard and checked her. Later that day, ARAUCA moored in Port Everglades. ORION, joined by destroyer HEREWARD, patrolled for a time offshore, but ARAUCA never sailed again under the German flag. She was taken over by the American authorities in August 1941 and on 20 April 1942, was commissioned as USS SATURN (AF.40).

 

on to DECEMBER 1939, Part 2
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revised 7/4/12
further editing is required


 

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