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

NAVAL EVENTS, DECEMBER 1939 (Part 2 of 2)
Friday 15th - Sunday 31st

Partly edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net 

HM S/M Seal (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to Naval Events, JANUARY 1940 

 

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, 15 December

 

Battleships WARSPITE, BARHAM and battlecruiser HOOD with nine destroyers were 250 miles west of Malin Head. Heavy cruisers DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK and light cruiser GLASGOW were 480 miles W by N of Malin Head. Light cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and EDINBURGH were on patrol between the Orkneys and the Faroes. Light cruisers DIOMEDE, DELHI, CERES and CARDIFF were concentrated off the Faroes. If no further enemy reports were received, the battle fleet was directed to cover the Canadian Troop convoy, and the cruisers to return to Northern Patrol except SOUTHAMPTON and EDINBURGH which were to proceed to Scapa Flow for refuelling.

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Light cruiser DRAGON departed Scapa Flow on Northern Patrol and finished on the 18th for refitting at Chatham, arriving on the 21st. Her refit began on the 22nd December, completed on 24 February and on the 26th, she was transferred to the Mediterranean.

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Destroyers VIMY and WITHERINGTON attacked a submarine contact 120 miles WSW of Land's End in 49-14N, 6-36W. Destroyer ESCAPADE returning to Plymouth was ordered to search in the area.

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After a submarine was reported by aircraft, destroyer BASILISK attacked U.57, 17 miles east of North Foreland.

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Submarines SEAHORSE, STURGEON and UNITY arrived at Blyth after patrol.

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Submarine TRIAD arrived at Rosyth after patrol, but had to put to sea again to fire off two torpedoes which had been armed.

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After an aircraft bombed a submarine off Buchanness, destroyers ESCORT and ECLIPSE carried out a search, and on the 16th, ESCORT made an attack in 57‑26N, 01‑45W. The search continued until dark on the 16th when they relieved trawlers escorting captured German steamer CAP NORTE. The German ship, ESCORT and ECLIPSE arrived at Rosyth on the 18th.

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Destroyers JERVIS and JANUS attacked a submarine contact north of Cromer in 55-20N, 1-05W.

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Convoys FN.55, escorted by destroyers VIVIEN, VALOROUS and sloop BITTERN and FS.55, escorted by destroyer WOOLSTON and sloops GRIMSBY and WESTON were delayed due to fog. The FN.55 escorts proceeded to Sheerness to wait, but FS.55 was later cancelled.

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Anti-submarine trawler NOTTS COUNTY (541grt) made a submarine contact SW of Pladda and attacked, but without success.

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Minesweeper/patrol vessel SCOTT carried out a search in Mounts Bay after a submarine was reported in 50-40N, 5-39W.

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U.22 laid mines off Blyth, on which one ship was lost.

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U.48 sank Greek merchant ship GERMAINE (5217grt) west of the English Channel in 51‑00N, 12‑18W. Destroyers WANDERER, WALPOLE, WOLVERINE and ARDENT arrived on the scene about four hours later, but failed to find the attacker. The crew were picked up by WANDERER and transferred to Dutch liner PENNLAND (16,381grt). WOLVERINE and ARDENT were still searching on the 16th.

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Steamer HARFLY (909grt) was sunk in collision off Dunkirk with Portuguese steamer LUSO (6207grt) which was damaged.

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Heavy cruisers SUSSEX and SHROPSHIRE arrived at Capetown, but departed the same day for the Plate.

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Destroyers HARDY, HOSTILE, HERO arrived at Pernambuco from Freetown, refuelled immediately, and departed for Rio de Janeiro.

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Submarine CLYDE was under repair at Dakar from the 15th to 30th.

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Destroyer DIANA, which had departed Malta on the 11th, was forced to leave her patrol to correct urgent defects at Malta.

 

 

Saturday, 16 December

 

 

The Home Fleet with battleships WARSPITE (above, over 4 years later off Normandy - Maritime Quest), BARHAM, battlecruiser HOOD and nine destroyers was 300 miles west of Malin Head at 0730 covering arriving Canadian Troop Convoy TC.1. The twelve destroyers which had sailed on the 12th to meet the convoy failed to make contact on the 15th due to fog, but met it during the morning of the 16th. Troopship EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA was separated from the convoy on the 15th again because of the fog, but rejoined on the 16th.

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On Northern Patrol, two cruisers were between the Shetlands and the Faroes, and three cruisers between the Faroes and Iceland.

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After a British aircraft attacked a submarine contact, destroyer ESCORT made another attack off Buchan Ness in 57-26N, 1-45W.

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Light cruiser CERES arrived in Scapa Flow, departed the same day and arrived back on the 25th.

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Sloop FLEETWOOD, which had returned home from the East Indies in November, completed a refit on the 16th at Dundee and joined Convoy C.

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Convoy ON.5 of nine British ships departed Methil escorted by destroyers AFRIDI, MAORI, NUBIAN and submarine TRIAD. Destroyer MOHAWK departed the Tyne on the 18th, but was delayed by the German mining off the port and joined at sea. The convoy was due to leave Methil on the 14th, but was also postponed due to submarine activity. ON.5 arrived safely at Bergen on the 19th without incident. Return HN.5 was delayed 48 hours and meanwhile, the destroyers went to Sullom Voe to refuel. TRIAD carried out a diving patrol.

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Convoy FS.55 departed Southend escorted by destroyers VIVIEN, VALOROUS and sloop BITTERN, and arrived at the Tyne on the 17th.

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Russian submarine SC.322 damaged German steamer GILLHAUSEN (4339grt) with gunfire south of Hanko.

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U.59 sank Swedish steamer LISTER (1366grt) in 55‑21N, 00‑38E and Norwegian steamer GLITREFJELL (1568grt) in 56‑14N, 01‑04E. Six survivors from LISTER were picked up by destroyer ECLIPSE on the 21st and 13 others in a large lifeboat arrived on the Danish coast. Five crew were lost from GLITREFJELL, with 13 survivors rescued by destroyer ICARUS and more by Greek steamer ICARION (4013grt).

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Japanese steamer SANYO MARU (970grt) departed Rotterdam after a week in port and arrived at the Tyne on the 16th. She carried German nitrates and machinery along with a Dutch cargo to challenge the British blockade but left the contraband control station at the Downs on the 18th, her cargo intact.

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Destroyers HARDY, HERO, HOSTILE departed Pernambuco early on the 16th and arrived in the Plate during the morning of the 22nd.

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French destroyers SIROCCO and LA RAILLEUSE, escorting convoy 40.KS, attacked a submarine contact 25 miles 245° from Cape Spartel,.

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Convoy OA.54 departed Southend escorted by destroyers WREN and WITCH until it dispersed on the 19th.

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Convoy OB.54 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers WALKER and WHIRLWIND until the 19th when the convoy dispersed.

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Convoy HG.11 departed Gibraltar with 52 ships for Britain and two more for Oporto, escorted by destroyer DOUGLAS and the French TIGRE and PANTHÈRE, the latter from the 16th until they arrived at Brest on the 23rd. DOUGLAS detached on the 19th to patrol off Cadiz-Huelva-Cape Santa Maria, and the convoy continued escorted by sloop SANDWICH from the 16th to 24th, when it arrived at Liverpool.

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Destroyer WRESTLER departed Gibraltar for refitting at Malta.

 

 

Sunday, 17 December

 

Admiral Forbes sent the armed merchant cruisers back to sea to counter a possible attempt by a number of German merchant ships to run the blockade to Germany. Four of them sailed from the Clyde to stations on the Northern Patrol, while heavy cruiser BERWICK headed for the Denmark Strait. Forbes returned to Greenock to refuel his destroyers on the 17th. At 0917/17th, his force was battleships WARSPITE, BARHAM, battlecruiser HOOD, and destroyers ISIS, ICARUS, IMPERIAL, FOXHOUND, SOMALI, INGLEFIELD and IMOGEN. Aircraft carrier FURIOUS, battleship RESOLUTION, battlecruiser REPULSE, and destroyers BEDOUIN, MASHONA, ESKIMO, MATABELE, FEARLESS, ILEX, IMPULSIVE, KANDAHAR, KHARTOUM, KASHMIR and KINGSTON arrived at Greenock at 1219/17th.

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Light cruiser DELHI departed Scapa Flow for Belfast arriving on the 21st to dock and refit, completed on 8 January.

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Destroyers IVANHOE and INTREPID of the 20th Flotilla and GRENVILLE, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and Polish BLYSKAWICA from Harwich carried out an anti-submarine sweep from the Thames entrance to Yarmouth between 1245 and 1515. IVANHOE and INTREPID then laid a field of 240 mines off Borkum in the mouth of the River Ems at 0200/18th in Operation IB, while GRENVILLE, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and BLYSKAWICA provided cover. After the lay, the Harwich destroyers carried out another anti-submarine sweep and arrived back at dusk on the 18th.

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Destroyers JERVIS, JUNO, JAGUAR and JANUS, which departed Grimsby on the 16th, left Scapa Flow and refuelled at Sullom Voe. JUNO was held up with defects, but the other three arrived off Tranoy late on the 18th to escort iron ore convoy NV.2 of six British and one Greek ship from Narvik, with light cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and EDINBURGH in support. JUNO sailed on the 19th to rejoin the convoy. On the 23rd, JAGUAR developed defects and was sent to Scapa Flow. One steamer was detached to the west coast and the convoy arrived safely at Methil on the 24th still with JERVIS, JUNO and JANUS.

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Destroyer depot ship WOOLWICH departed Rosyth for the Clyde, escorted by destroyers ESCAPADE and ENCOUNTER.

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Armed merchant cruiser LAURENTIC departed Liverpool for Northern Patrol, while AMCs TRANSYLVANIA, CHITRAL and MONTCLARE left from the Clyde.

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Armed merchant cruiser JERVIS BAY departed the Tyne, north-about for Portsmouth, escorted as far as the Pentland Skerries by destroyer ECLIPSE.

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Destroyer KEITH ran aground and required docking at Plymouth.

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Convoy BC.19 of steamer BARON CARNEGIE departed Bristol Channel escorted by destroyer WESSEX, and arrived in the Loire on the 19th. The convoy returned with BARON CARNEGIE, leaving on the 24th and arriving in the Bristol Channel on the 25th.

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U.59 sank Danish steamer BOGO (1214grt) 75 miles east of May Island in 56-12N, 0-17W. Seventeen crew were lost and survivors picked up by trawler RIVER EARN (202grt) which was sunk herself on the 19th with them still on board.

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Steamer AGNITA (3552grt) was near-missed and badly damaged by German bombing SE of the Isle of Wight in 50‑42N, 00‑44E. Italian steamer VALENTINO CODA (4486grt) was also attacked in this raid, but not damaged.

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LUFTWAFFE ATTACKS ON NORTH SEA SHIPPING

 

German bombers of the FliegerKorps X (10th Flying Corps – to be met a year or so later in the Mediterranean) attacked and sank shipping, primarily British trawlers, in the North Sea off the British coast.

 

On the 17th, five trawlers were sunk: (1) SERENITY (487grt) eight miles ENE of Whitby, (2) PEARL (198grt) 65 miles E by S of Outer Dowsing Light Vessel, with one crewman lost and the survivors, three wounded, picked up by an accompanying trawler, (3) COMPAGANUS (270grt) 150 miles E by N of May Island (she was abandoned 100 miles E by S of Aberdeen), with one member of crew lost and the survivors picked up by trawler COLLEAGUE (207grt) which had been fishing in company, (4) ISABELLA GREIG (210grt) 145 miles E by N of May Island with the survivors, two wounded, picked up by a drifter, and (5) ZELOS (227grt) 110 miles E by N of May Island, but without casualties.

 

Still on the 17th, EILEEN WRAY (227grt) was badly damaged off Hartlepool and CRAIGIELEA (211grt) northeast of Aberdeen. Two were wounded on CRAIGIELEA, but there were no casualties on EILEEN WRAY which was towed to Hartlepool but sank in harbour. Sixteen other trawlers and Estonian steamer MARVI (244grt) were attacked but not damaged.

 

On the 18th, two trawlers were sunk, (1) ACTIVE (185grt) 30 miles N by W of Rattray Head with one crew lost and survivors picked up by trawler CARBINEER II (297grt), and (2) TRINITY N B (203grt) off Kinnaird Head, in 57-50N, 1-30W with two crew lost and survivors picked up by Danish schooner SMART.

 

On the same day, ASTROS (275grt) and NEW CHOICE (236grt) were damaged off May Island and ETRURIA (373grt) off Duncansby Head. ETRURIA lost three crew killed, and was towed in by trawler SILANION (366grt). Four other trawlers were attacked, but not damaged.

 

On the 19th, two more trawlers were lost: (1) DANEDEN (210grt) ESE of the Shetlands, and (2) RIVER EARN (202grt) in 58-30N, 2-01E ENE of Kinnaird Head. The entire crew of RIVER EARN was rescued by Norwegian steamer ROGALAND (902grt) and taken to Kopervik.

 

Again on the 19th, STAR OF SCOTLAND (203grt) was damaged off the Shetlands with two men killed and two wounded.

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U.60 laid mines off Cross Sands near Lowestoft. One steamer was lost on this minefield.

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Aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL and battlecruiser RENOWN arrived at Rio de Janeiro, refuelled and put back to sea the same day. Light cruiser NEPTUNE refuelled at Santos and also departed the same day. Meanwhile, German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE, after transferring her crew to German steamer TACOMA (8268grt), scuttled herself in the Rio de la Plata Estuary off Montevideo. The ARK ROYAL force, steaming at high speed towards Montevideo, had not gone far when word of SPEE's scuttling was received. Joined by destroyers HARDY, HERO and HOSTILE and later by NEPTUNE, they swept through 16-40S, 27-50W searching for supply ship ALTMARK. French light cruiser DUGUAY TROUIN, armed merchant cruisers CHARLES PLUMIER, KOUTOUBIE, submarines ACHÉRON, FRESNEL, LE HÉROS and REDOUTABLE also searched from 19 December to 19 January. ARK ROYAL’s force then proceeded to Freetown, arriving on the 24th, light cruisers AJAX and ACHILLES left the Plate Estuary and proceed to Port Stanley, while heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND remained off Montevideo.

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Destroyer DIAMOND departed Aden on the 14th and arrived at Suez on the 17th completing the transfer of the 21st Flotilla from China to the Mediterranean.

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MEDITERRANEAN FLEET MOVEMENTS INCLUDING ARRIVAL OF AUSTRALIAN DESTROYERS

 

Australian destroyer STUART, which had arrived at Aden from duty in the Indian Ocean on the 10th, reached Malta on the 17th for duty in the Mediterranean.

 

Australian destroyers WATERHEN and VENDETTA, escorting battleship MALAYA with destroyer DEFENDER, had arrived at Malta on the 14th followed by two more Australians, VAMPIRE and VOYAGER on the 24th.

 

These ships, with light cruisers ARETHUSA, PENELOPE, GALATEA, CAPETOWN and the 21st Destroyer Flotilla, which the Australians relieved for duty elsewhere, and submarines OSIRIS and OSWALD, comprised the entire operational Mediterranean Fleet.

 

On 2 January 1940, the Australian destroyers were organised as the 19th Destroyer Division.

 

Very shortly, light cruisers CALEDON and CALYPSO arrived from the Home Fleet and ARETHUSA and PENELOPE departed for Home Waters. CALEDON arrived at Gibraltar on the 24th, departed on the 26th, and reached Malta on the 28th for duty with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. CALYPSO arrived at Gibraltar on the 27th, departed on the 28th, and arrived at Malta on the 31st, also for duty with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron.

 

The 21st Destroyer Flotilla was divided in two, with one half returning to Home Waters and the other going to the South Atlantic. In addition, in February, light cruiser GALATEA also departed the Mediterranean for Home Waters.

 

As a replacement for the Australian destroyers in the Far East, light cruisers COLOMBO and CERES were sailed in February after completing refits.

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Sloop SCARBOROUGH departed Port Said after arriving from the Indian Ocean en route to England, arrived at Malta and departed on the 26th.

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French large destroyer AIGLE was damaged in a collision with French auxiliary patrol vessel LEZARDRIEUX in Toulon Roads. The damage took a month to repair.

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Light cruiser BIRMINGHAM, while refuelling, collided with tanker FRANCOL (5620grt) at the Saddle Islands off Shanghai. Her port bow was holed, but after emergency repairs, she was able to continue patrol and arrived at Hong Kong for docking on the 27th. Repairs took two days.

 

 

Monday, 18 December

 

On Northern Patrol, two cruisers were between the Orkneys and the Faroes, two cruisers between the Faroes and Iceland, and heavy cruiser BERWICK in the Denmark Strait.

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Armed boarding vessel NORTHERN DUKE attacked a submarine contact 55 miles NW of Cape Wrath.

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Light cruiser SHEFFIELD departed the Tyne on Northern Patrol duties, and arrived at Scapa Flow on the 28th.

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Light cruiser EDINBURGH departed Scapa Flow for Portsmouth, land left Portsmouth on the 22nd.

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Light cruiser CALEDON departed the Tyne for Devonport.

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Armed boarding vessel KINGSTON TOPAZ, en route to her first patrol, ran aground on Skea Skerries, Westray Firth. She was got off and taken to Aberdeen for repairs.

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New submarine TAKU underwent trials off Liverpool during the day, escorted by anti-submarine yacht CUTTY SARK.

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German destroyers FRIEDRICH IHN, FRIEDRICH ECKHOLDT and HERMANN SCHOEMANN departed Wilhelmshaven to lay mines off Orfordness. When they arrived and found the British navigational lights extinguished, they returned as the mines could not be accurately laid.

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Light cruiser CAPETOWN departed Malta on patrol duties, and arrived back on the 26th.

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Convoy SA.22 of two unescorted steamers departed Southampton, arriving at Brest on the 19th.

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Convoy FS.56 departed the Tyne escorted by sloops PELICAN, WESTON, HASTINGS, and arrived at Southend on the 19th.

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Destroyer WALLACE and sloop STORK departed Methil with a group of merchant ships for the Tyne to join convoy FS.57.

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Convoy SL.13 departed Freetown escorted by sloops WELLINGTON and LEITH, the latter detaching on the 19th. On 4 January, WELLINGTON was relieved by sloop ENCHANTRESS and destroyer WITHERINGTON. The convoy arrived on 6 January.

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Light cruiser NEPTUNE attacked a submarine contact 150 miles east of Rio de Janeiro.

 

 

Tuesday, 19 December

 

HOME FLEET OPERATIONS

 

On 19 December at 1430 Admiral Forbes departed the Clyde with battleship BARHAM, battlecruiser REPULSE and destroyers INGLEFIELD, IMOGEN, ICARUS, ISIS and KHARTOUM to cover convoys HN.5 and NV.2.

 

At 55-30N, 5-02W off Holy Island at 1700, KHARTOUM reported a torpedo was fired at her. ISIS attacked a submarine contact, and KHARTOUM made three attacks at 1700.

 

KHARTOUM, in company with anti-submarine trawler LORD SNOWDEN (444grt), made a submarine attack in 55‑30N, 05‑00W off Arran at 0725/20th. Patrol sloops MALLARD and PUFFIN assisted, but the attack was unsuccessful.

 

Destroyers IMPULSIVE, MATABELE, MASHONA, BEDOUIN and ESKIMO departed Greenock to assist in the submarine hunt. MATABELE joined ISIS and also made attacks. KHARTOUM rejoined the BARHAM screen.

 

The search continued until liners AQUITANIA and EMPRESS OF BRITAIN passed the area southbound.

 

IMOGEN and KHARTOUM refuelled at Sullom Voe on the 23rd, while MASHONA arrived at Loch Ewe on the 24th with defects.

 

ICARUS and ISIS refuelled at Sullom Voe on the 25th. During this time, the Germans launched another air raid against Sullom Voe and the destroyers assisted anti-aircraft cruiser COVENTRY in driving off the attack.

 

INGLEFIELD refuelled at Sullom Voe on the 27th.

 

MATABELE, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO returned to the Clyde in time for convoy TC.2 escort.

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On Northern Patrol, two cruisers were between the Orkneys and the Faroes, two cruisers and four armed merchant cruisers between the Faroes and Iceland, and heavy cruiser BERWICK and one armed merchant cruiser in the Denmark Strait. Armed merchant cruisers ASTURIAS and WORCESTERSHIRE departed the Clyde on Northern Patrol duties.

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Submarine TRITON arrived at Rosyth after patrol.

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Destroyers WITHERINGTON and VIMY attacked a submarine contact in the Western Approaches. They rejoined their convoy the next morning when relieved by destroyer VOLUNTEER.

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Destroyer DUNCAN attacked a submarine contact in 50-05N, 3-16W.

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Destroyer HAVANT (Lt Cdr A F Burnell-Nugent DSC) was completed. After working up at Portland, she was the first unit of the 9th Destroyer Flotilla and operated with the Home Fleet.

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Destroyer GRAFTON on patrol in 51-50N, 1-46E reported a large number of floating mines.

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Light cruiser CARDIFF arrived in the Clyde.

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Convoy FN.56 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer WOOLSTON and sloop GRIMSBY. The convoy had been delayed 24 hours, and arrived in the Tyne on the 20th.

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U.48 passed Fair Isle Channel and returned to Germany, leaving no U-boats operating in the Atlantic at this time.

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Finnish steamer UKO (757grt) was sunk by German bombing 80 miles south of Utsire; three crew and two passengers were wounded. Survivors were picked up by Swedish steamer SIR ERNEST CASSEL (7739grt) and landed at Kopervik.

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Steamer CITY OF KOBE (4373grt) in convoy FS.56 was sunk off Cross Sands in 52‑35N, 01‑59E on a mine laid by U.60 on the 17th; one crewman was lost, and 18 survivors rescued.

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Convoy OA.56 departed Southend, escorted by destroyers WHITEHALL and WIVERN from the 19th to 21st, and joined by destroyer VESPER on the 21st, when the convoy dispersed.

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Convoy OB.56 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers VIMY and WITHERINGTON to the 21st, when the convoy dispersed.

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Light cruiser EMERALD arrived at Halifax after escorting troop convoy TC.1.

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Convoy HXF.13 departed Halifax at 0900 escorted by Canadian destroyers SAGUENAY and SKEENA, which detached on the 20th. Light cruiser ENTERPRISE departed Halifax as the ocean escort on the 19th, detached on the 28th and arrived at Portsmouth on the 29th. Destroyer WREN escorted the convoy from the 28th to 30th, when it arrived at Liverpool.

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Convoy SLF.13 departed Freetown escorted by sloop EGRET until 2 January when she was relieved by destroyers ARDENT and BROKE. The convoy arrived on the 3rd.

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Submarine REGENT departed Singapore for patrol in the Java Sea off Saband and Mentawei. On the 24th, she bottomed off Pulo Simalar and was badly damaged with damage to her hydroplanes. She was ordered to return to Singapore on the 25th and arrived back, repairing until 28 February. REGENT then proceeded to Hong Kong, arriving on 18 March, for a refit completed on 19 June.

 

 

Wednesday, 20 December

 

On Northern Patrol, one cruiser was between the Orkneys and the Faroes, two cruisers and six AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and one cruiser and one AMC in the Denmark Strait.

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Submarine SEAL reported she had engine defects requiring ten days to make good.

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Vice Admiral Sir Max K Horton KCB, DSO was relieved by Vice Admiral R H T Raikes CB, CVO, DSO as Vice Admiral Northern Patrol. On 9 January 1940, Admiral Horton assumed command as Vice Admiral, submarines.

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ATTEMPTED BREAKOUT BY GERMAN POCKET BATTLESHIP DEUTSCHLAND

 

A German warship, identified as DEUTSCHLAND, was sighted northbound in the Belt.

 

Light cruiser GLASGOW returning from Northern Patrol was ordered to refuel and join light cruiser NEWCASTLE on Fair Island Channel Patrol.

 

Submarine H.34 on trials with destroyer ENCOUNTER in Pentland Firth was ordered to patrol in the Firth. This patrol was terminated on the 21st.

 

Submarines L.23 and STURGEON were 10 and 25 miles south of Rjyvingen Light, respectively.

 

Submarine THISTLE was 80 miles WSW of Ryvingen Light.

 

L.23, STURGEON, THISTLE then returned to their regular patrol stations.

 

If German warships were sighted in the North Sea, the Commander of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron with light cruisers EDINBURGH and SOUTHAMPTON was ordered to take battleship BARHAM, battlecruiser REPULSE, and light cruisers GLASGOW and NEWCASTLE under his command. Also, any available destroyers of the 12th Destroyer Flotilla were to join NEWCASTLE. The destroyers of the 8th Flotilla at Loch Ewe were put on one hour's notice.

 

On 21 December, DEUTSCHLAND was sighted steaming south back towards Germany.

 

GLASGOW arrived at Rosyth on the 22nd and NEWCASTLE at Scapa Flow with destroyer ESCAPADE on the 23rd.

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Destroyer ESCAPADE was sent to search for a submarine reported at the entrance to Kirkwall.

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Sloop FOWEY attacked a submarine contact in 50-28N, 1-10W.

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Convoy FN.57 departed Southend, escorted by sloops PELICAN, WESTON and HASTINGS, and arrived in the Tyne on the 22nd. There was no convoy FN.58.

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Convoy FS.57 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyer WHITLEY and sloops STORK and FLAMINGO, and arrived at Southend on the 22nd.

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Anti-submarine trawler ARCTIC EXPLORER (501grt) attacked a submarine contact in Shapinsay Sound in the Orkneys. The same submarine was sighted again later and armed boarding vessel NORTHERN ISLES made another attack.

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Heavy cruiser SUFFOLK departed Clyde on Northern Patrol duties, and arrived back on the 29th.

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Light cruiser CARDIFF departed the Clyde for Portsmouth, and arrived on the 23rd for refitting, completed on 30 January.

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Light cruiser DIOMEDE was refitting at Plymouth until 10 January.

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Convoy OA.57 departed Southend escorted by destroyers WOLVERINE and ARDENT from the 20th to 21st. Destroyer WINDSOR was escort from the 21st to 23rd, when the convoy dispersed.

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Convoy OB.57 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers WANDERER and WALPOLE to the 23rd, when they detached to convoy HX.12.

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Swedish steamer MARS (1877grt) was sunk one mile east of St Marys Light Vessel near Blyth on a mine laid by U.22 on the 15th; seven crew were lost, and 15 survivors rescued.

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Tug NAPIA (155grt) was sunk on a mine off Ramsgate, in 51-15-45N, 1-25E. The entire crew of eight were lost.

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Swedish steamer VEGA (1300grt) was badly damaged on a mine in 53‑26N, 05‑06E, and ran aground at Westergronden on the 21st near Ijmuiden a total loss. Seventeen survivors were picked up by Swedish steamer VENERN (1171grt). VEGA and VENERN had been in convoy together from the German Bight.

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Swedish steamer ADOLF BRATT (1323grt) was sunk on a mine in 53‑28N, 05‑08E. Five crew were lost, and her 16 survivors rescued by Latvian steamer AUSEKLIS (1309grt).

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U.22 laid mines off Blyth near Newcastle, on which one merchant ship was sunk.

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Convoy HX.13 departed Halifax at 1000 escorted by Canadian destroyers FRASER and ST LAURENT. Off Halifax, Canadian destroyers SAGUENAY and SKEENA took over the escort and were detached on the 22nd. The convoy was turned over to light cruiser EMERALD which departed Halifax with the convoy for ocean escort; she detached on 3 January. The Canadian destroyers arrived back at Halifax the morning of the 23rd. Destroyers MACKAY and WARWICK from convoy OB.62, together with WOLVERINE and VERITY escorted the convoy from 2 to 4 January, when it arrived at Liverpool. EMERALD arrived at Portsmouth on 4 January to repair defects, completed on the 11th.

 

 

Thursday, 21 December

 

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

_____

 

Destroyers EXMOUTH, ELECTRA and new sloop FLEETWOOD departed Rosyth escorting a convoy from Methil to the Tyne.

_____

 

Submarine UNITY departed Rosyth on patrol.

_____

 

Submarine TAKU escorted by anti-submarine yacht CUTTY SARK departed Liverpool for the Clyde.

_____

 

Convoys OA.55G and OB.55G merged as OG.11 with 46 ships. Destroyers ACASTA and WINDSOR escorted OA.55G from the 18th to 21st, and VANESSA and AMAZON escorted the convoy on the 21st. Destroyers MACKAY and WARWICK of OB.55G, which departed Liverpool on the 18th, escorted the convoy on the 21st. French destroyers GUÉPARD and VERDUN, which departed Brest on the 20th, escorted the convoy from the 21st to 26th. Destroyer VORTIGERN escorted the convoy on the 25th and 26th, when it arrived at Gibraltar.

_____

 

U.21 sank Swedish steamer MARS (1475grt) ENE of May Island and an hour later Swedish steamer CARL HENCKEL (1352grt) in 57‑00N, 00‑17E. The crew from MARS was picked up by CARL HENCKEL, but when CARL HENCKEL was sunk, 18 crew from MARS were lost with only one survivor. Ten crew were lost on the CARL HENCKEL, and seven survivors landed at Kristiansand.

_____

 

Anti-submarine trawler CAPE WARWICK (516grt) reported a submarine seven miles 52° from North Foreland in 51-27N, 1-36E, and made an attack on the contact.

_____

 

Sloop ABERDEEN attacked a submarine contact 50-06N, 1-54W.

_____

 

Destroyer WOLVERINE attacked a submarine contact 20 miles 90° from Start Point. Destroyer ARDENT joined her in the search.

_____

 

Light cruiser CALEDON departed Plymouth and arrived at Gibraltar on the 24th for duty with the Mediterranean Fleet. She left on the 26th for Malta.

_____

 

Light cruiser CALYPSO departed the Tyne for Plymouth in preparation for transfer to the Mediterranean Fleet.

_____

 

Light cruiser NEWCASTLE departed Scapa Flow on Northern Patrol duties, and arrived back on the 22nd.

_____

 

Light cruiser COLOMBO departed Scapa Flow on Northern Patrol duties, and arrived back on the 28th.

_____

 

Destroyer KIMBERLEY (Lt Cdr R G K Knowling) was completed. She departed Portsmouth on the 27th for 14 days working up at Portland, after which she joined the 5th Destroyer Flotilla operating with the Home Fleet on 21 January.

_____

 

U.46 sank Norwegian steamer RUDOLF (924grt) in 58‑07N, 01‑32E; six crew were lost, with seven survivors taken to Kopervik.

_____

 

Boom defence vessel BAYONET (T/Boom Engineer W. Barron RNR) was sunk on a mine in South Inchkeith Channel off Leith in the Firth of Forth, laid by U.21 on 4 November. Barron and two ratings were lost and 28 crew injured.

_____

 

Italian steamer COMITAS (3482grt) was badly damaged on a mine in the Wielingen Fairway off Flushing. She was towed by a Dutch tug to Flushing, but sank in the port off Rammekens on the 22nd. No crew were lost.

_____

 

Minesweeping trawler DROMIO (380grt, Lt Cdr G. Dibley RNR) was sunk in a collision with Italian steamer VALDARNO (5696grt) four miles due north of Whitby. There were no casualties on either ship.

_____

 

After being delayed 48 hours, convoy HN.5 with eight British, five Norwegian, two Swedish, six Finnish, three Estonian and one Latvian ship departed Bergen escorted by destroyers AFRIDI, MAORI, NUBIAN, MOHAWK with destroyer ESCAPADE joining at sea while the convoy was en route. NUBIAN and MOHAWK were detached to escort the six ships of the west coast section of the convoy and arrived at Greenock on the 24th. HN.5 arrived at Methil without event on the 24th with MAORI, AFRIDI and ESCAPADE. On the 25th, MAORI and AFRIDI departed Rosyth and arrived in the Clyde on the 27th.

_____

 

Steamer SOUTHERN PRINCE (10917grt) sank tug DANUBE IV (239grt) in an accidental collision in the Clyde. SOUTHERN PRINCE was run ashore to prevent her sinking, refloated on the 23rd and repaired at Dalmuir.

_____

 

Battleship MALAYA, escorted by destroyers DIANA and DELIGHT, departed Malta for Gibraltar with destroyer WATCHMAN as local escort. She was en route to Halifax, and the destroyers for service in Home Waters.

_____

 

French heavy cruisers TOURVILLE and COLBERT patrolled in the Greek Islands for two days on passage from Beirut to Bizerte. On the 25th, they arrived at Malta.

_____

 

French heavy cruiser SUFFREN arrived at Trincomalee.

_____

 

In a commercial airliner crash between Sollum and Malta, Lt P L Hocking and Lt A A C Gage, both officers on the China Station at the start of the war, were lost. A third officer Lt W. Ashton was picked up by Maltese fishing boat SAN GORG (615grt) on the 23rd.

_____

 

Light cruiser DURBAN arrived at Singapore.

_____

 

Sloop FOLKESTONE, which completed her long refit on the 13th, departed Hong Kong on the 21st. She left Singapore on the 28th for patrol in the Malacca Strait, departed Penang on 3 January and Colombo on the 8th arriving at Aden on the 14th. FOLKESTONE left Aden on 19 January, Port Said on the 24th, and boiler cleaned at Malta beginning on the 27th. She arrived at Gibraltar on 5 February and departed the same day, escorting convoy HG.16, and reaching Portsmouth on the 14th for duty in the Western Approaches.

 

 

Friday, 22 December

 

On Northern Patrol, two cruisers were between the Orkneys and Faroes, one cruiser and five AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and two cruisers and one AMC in the Denmark Strait. In addition, one additional cruiser and two AMCs were en route for the patrol line between the Faroes and Iceland.

 

Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE arrived at Scapa Flow from Northern Patrol, refuelled, and left again that same day for the Patrol.

 

The Northern Patrol from 22 December to 4 January 1940 sighted 43 eastbound ships of which 35 were sent into Kirkwall for inspection.

_____

 

Light cruiser GLASGOW arrived at Rosyth from Fair Isle Patrol.

_____

 

Light cruiser MANCHESTER departed Portsmouth for the Scapa Flow, arriving on the 24th.

_____

 

Destroyers FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE, FAME and FEARLESS with the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla arrived at Loch Ewe.

_____

 

Destroyer KIPLING (Lt Cdr A. St Clair-Ford) was completed. Following working up, she joined the 5th Destroyer Flotilla operating with the Home Fleet, on 18 January 1940. KIPLING was to have been completed in September, but turbine problems required the gears to be re-cut.

_____

 

Convoy OA.58 departed Southend escorted by destroyer BROKE and sloop ABERDEEN. The destroyer was detached on the 24th, and the sloop on the 25th, when the convoy dispersed.

_____

 

Convoy OB.58 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyer WINCHELSEA and sloop DEPTFORD to the 25th, when the convoy dispersed.

_____

 

U.22 laid mines off Blyth, on which one merchant ship and one trawler were sunk.

_____

 

Steamer GRYFEVALE (4434grt) was badly damaged three miles east of the Tyne Piers, off Whitby Bay on a mine laid by U.61 on the 2nd. She was towed into the Tyne and beached to prevent her sinking.

_____

 

Canadian troop convoy TC.2 departed Halifax with troopships BATORY (14,287grt), ANDES (25,689grt), ORMONDE (14,982grt), ALMANZORA (15,510grt), ORAMA (19,840grt), CHROBRY (11,442grt) and REINA DEL PACIFICO (17,702grt) carrying 806, 1358, 1269, 1284, 935, 1045 and 1455 troops, respectively. The convoy was escorted from Halifax by Canadian destroyers OTTAWA, FRASER, RESTIGOUCHE, ST LAURENT and the British HUNTER. Battleship REVENGE (Vice Admiral Holland aboard returning to England to assume post on Admiralty-Air Ministry staff), French battleship DUNKERQUE and light cruiser GLOIRE were ocean escort.

_____

 

Heavy cruiser CORNWALL and light cruiser GLOUCESTER departed Durban. CORNWALL arrived at Simonstown on the 26th, while GLOUCESTER proceeded to Mauritius.

 

 

Saturday, 23 December

 

Battleship RESOLUTION and destroyers ILEX, KINGSTON, KASHMIR departed the Clyde to cover convoy TC.2.

_____

 

Light cruiser EDINBURGH arrived at Rosyth to boiler clean and refit, and was under repair from 29 December to 30 January when she was able to depart for escort duty.

_____

 

Armed merchant cruiser CALIFORNIA departed the Clyde on Northern Patrol.

_____

 

Destroyer SIKH, which departed Malta on the 17th and Gibraltar on the 20th, arrived at Dover completing the transfer of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla from the Mediterranean. She moved on to Chatham arriving on the 26th for refitting and repairs until 10 January 1940.

_____

 

Destroyer ESCORT with minelayer PLOVER and submarine H.34 arrived at Dundee from Scapa Flow, en route to Rosyth.

_____

 

Destroyers EXMOUTH and ELECTRA arrived at Rosyth after Tyne-Methil convoy escort duty.

_____

 

Minesweeper HAZARD departed Loch Ewe for the Clyde, and was joined by destroyer FORESTER for escort.

_____

 

BRITISH NAVAL AWARDS

 

On 23 December, the first list of British naval awards and honours of the war was gazetted:

 

Harwood and the three cruiser captains of the River Plate Battle, Bickford and crew members of the submarine SALMON for the sinking of submarine U.36, Gregory of the submarine STURGEON for his "successful action" against a U-boat were listed.

 

Certain officers and ratings of submarine SPEARFISH and destroyer MOHAWK were listed for the incidents in which their ships were damaged.

 

Commanding officers of the following destroyers were awarded DSO's for "successful action" against U-boats - AFRIDI, BROKE, ECLIPSE, ECHO, EXMOUTH, FAULKNOR, FORTUNE, INGLEFIELD, KINGSTON and SOMALI.

 

Commanding officers of the following warships were awarded DSC's for "successful action" against U-boats - destroyers EXPRESS, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, ILEX, IMOGEN, INTREPID, IVANHOE, VESPER, WALPOLE, WINCHELSEA, sloop PUFFIN, and anti-submarine trawlers CAYTON WYKE and LOCH TULLA.

 

Commanding officers of the following destroyers were mentioned in dispatches for "successful action" against U-boats - ESK, FAME, FOXHOUND, KASHMIR, VOLUNTEER, WHIRLWIND and WOOLSTON.

 

Also, two officers and two ratings of VERNON were decorated for their work on magnetic mines.

_____

 

Steamer PANDORA (ex-HMS DOLPHIN, 5670grt) was being towed by tugs for breaking up, when she struck a mine one mile to eastward of Blyth Pier. She sank rapidly 12.6 cables 131° from Blyth East Pier, but the crew of seven was rescued.

_____

 

Convoy BC.20 of steamer BARON KINNAIRD departed Bristol Channel escorted by destroyer VIVACIOUS. They arrived in the Loire on the 25th, and returned, departing on 4 January and reaching Barry on the 6th.

_____

 

Convoy FN.58 departed Southend at 1500, but was ordered to anchor in the Downs for the night. The escort was sloops FLAMINGO and STORK, joined by destroyer VEGA. The convoy was cancelled on the 24th, and FLAMINGO and STORK ordered to proceed to Rosyth if weather permitted.

_____

 

Convoy FS.58 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyer WOOLSTON and sloops FLEETWOOD and GRIMSBY, and arrived at Southend on the 24th.

_____

 

Heavy cruiser SHROPSHIRE had departed Capetown on the 15th for Montevideo, but was diverted en route and on the 23rd arrived at Rio de Janeiro.

_____

 

French heavy cruiser SUFFREN and British armed merchant cruiser CATHAY departed Trincomalee.

 

 

Sunday, 24 December

 

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

_____

 

Heavy cruiser NORFOLK departed Belfast and arrived in the Clyde on 1 January.

_____

 

Light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON arrived in the Tyne for repairs from 28 December until 23 January 1940.

_____

 

Destroyer WALLACE departed Rosyth in the tow of two tugs for Leith.

_____

 

Destroyers ECHO and ELECTRA departed Inchkeith escorting tankers to Loch Ewe.

_____

 

Destroyers FURY and FIREDRAKE departed Loch Ewe and joined destroyers FEARLESS, KASHMIR, KINGSTON, ILEX, NUBIAN and MOHAWK in the Clyde.

_____

 

Submarine TRIAD arrived at Rosyth after patrol.

_____

 

Destroyers GREYHOUND and GRENVILLE attacked a submarine contact in 52-25N, 1-52E.

_____

 

Light cruiser CALYPSO departed Plymouth for Gibraltar where she arrived on the 27th for duty with the Mediterranean Fleet.

_____

 

Convoy OB.59 departed Liverpool, escorted by destroyers VOLUNTEER and VENETIA to the 27th when they detached to SL.14. Convoy OA.59 did not sail.

_____

 

Battleship MALAYA and destroyers DELIGHT and DIANA arrived at Gibraltar, and left the same day with destroyer WATCHMAN. MALAYA proceeded to Halifax, and DELIGHT and DIANA to Portsmouth and Dover respectively, arriving on the 30th. DIANA carried on to Chatham, arriving for refit on the 31st.

_____

 

Convoy HG.12 of 48 ships departed Gibraltar, escorted by French large destroyers JAGUAR and LÉOPARD, from the 24th until the destroyers arrived at Brest on 1 January, and also by destroyer KEPPEL. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on 2 January.

_____

 

Heavy cruiser DORSETSHIRE had departed Simonstown on the 13th for Montevideo to join light cruisers AJAX and the New Zealand ACHILLES. En route, DORSETSHIRE was diverted on the 18th to the Falklands. She arrived, refuelled from tanker OLYNTHUS on the 22nd in San Boroban Bay and on the 24th arrived in the Falklands to embark the prisoners from German steamers KARL FRITZEN and USSUKUMA. Off the Plate, ACHILLES departed on the 18th for the Falklands where she arrived on the 21st to land her wounded, and after refuelling, left to arrive back off the Plate on the 24th.

_____

 

Heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND arrived in the Falklands on the 24th.

 

 

Monday, 25 December

 

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

 

Of the ships engaged on Northern Patrol, heavy cruiser BERWICK arrived in the Clyde for a period of rest and refit; light cruiser CERES arrived at Scapa Flow after patrol; light cruiser DUNEDIN arrived at Scapa Flow after her refit in the Clyde, and left for Northern Patrol; and armed merchant cruiser JERVIS BAY arrived at Portsmouth.

_____

 

Destroyers MAORI and AFRIDI departed Rosyth for the Clyde.

_____

 

Armed merchant cruiser DERBYSHIRE was in a collision with collier EDENWOOD (1167grt) two miles ENE of the Nab. The collier sank, but no crew were lost. DERBYSHIRE was undamaged.

_____

 

Submarine TRIDENT arrived at Rosyth after patrol.

_____

 

ARRIVAL OF CANADIAN TROOP CONVOY TC.2

 

Canadian convoy TC.2 was in mid-Atlantic when Admiral Forbes ordered the sortie of twelve Home Fleet destroyers to escort it through the Western Approaches and into the Clyde.

 

Destroyers SOMALI, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, MATABELE, MOHAWK, FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FURY, IMPERIAL and IMPULSIVE departed on the 25th and KINGSTON and KASHMIR on the 26th, all from Greenock and joined the convoy at sea on the 28th.

 

On the 29th, destroyers FAME and FORESIGHT conducted an anti-submarine sweep off Ailsa Craig, after which, FAME arrived back in the Clyde on the 30th and FORESIGHT went to Loch Ewe.

 

Also on the 29th, the French ships (battleship DUNKERQUE and light cruiser GLOIRE) were detached, escorted by destroyers FEARLESS, FURY, FIREDRAKE and joined later in the morning by destroyers MOGADOR, VOLTA, LE TRIOMPHANT, LE FANTASQUE, and LE TERRIBLE, which had departed Brest on the 26th. The destroyers were detached before the French ships arrived at Brest on the 30th.

 

On the 29th and 30th, convoy escort was supplemented by escort vessels PUFFIN, JASON, GLEANER and SHEARWATER.

 

At 0900/30th, TC.2 arrived safely in the Clyde escorted by battleship REVENGE and destroyers SOMALI, IMPERIAL, MOHAWK, KINGSTON, KASHMIR, MATABELE, BEDOUIN, FEARLESS, FURY, FAME and FIREDRAKE.

 

REVENGE, escorted by destroyers MOHAWK, MASHONA, KHARTOUM and KINGSTON, departed the Clyde at 0800/31st, and proceeded to Plymouth arriving at 1200 on 1 January for refitting, completed on 23 January.

 

The destroyers, less MASHONA, returned to the Clyde. MASHONA sailed to Chatham for repairs.

_____

 

Destroyers ECHO and ELECTRA were hunting off Rattray Head in 57-36N, 1-35W.

_____

 

Sloop FLAMINGO attacked a submarine contact in the Knock Deep off the mouth of the Thames.

_____

 

On Christmas Day 1939, the following submarines were on patrol in the Heligoland Bight and the North Sea: STURGEON which had departed from Blyth on the 17th and whose patrol ended on the 29th when she left the area to return, THISTLE which had departed from Rosyth on the 20th and was on patrol at entrance to Oslofjord, TRIUMPH from Rosyth on the 23rd, TRUANT from Rosyth on the 25th, SEALION from Harwich on the 12th, SNAPPER from Harwich on the 19th, UNITY from Blyth on the 21st, and L.23 from Blyth on the 17th to patrol in the area of Kristiansandfjord.

_____

 

Convoy FS.59 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyers VALOROUS, VIVIEN and sloop BITTERN. After a submarine was sighted by aircraft close to Spurn Point on the 25th, the three escorts were sent to investigate, and VALOROUS attacked a contact; two anti-submarine trawlers were also searching in the area. The convoy arrived at Southend on the 27th.

_____

 

Steamer STANHOLME (2473grt) was sunk in 51‑20N, 03‑39W on a mine laid by U.33 on 5 November. Thirteen crew were lost, and 11 survivors picked up by a Norwegian steamer and landed at Barry.

_____

 

Minesweeping trawler LOCH DOON (534grt, Skipper G H A Thompson RNR) was sunk eight miles east of Blyth on a mine laid by U.22 on the 22nd. There were no survivors - one officer and 14 ratings lost.

_____

 

Norwegian steamer LAPPEN (563grt), en route Oslo to the Tyne, was lost after an internal explosion ten miles outside Brandasund, west of Bergen. The loss was later attributed to barratry (maritime fraud). The crew was landed at Bergen.

_____

 

Sloop BIDEFORD arrived at Suez on her passage from the China Station to the UK. She left Port Said on the 30th for Malta escorting steamer ETTRICK. Off Malta on 1 January, destroyer VOYAGER relieved her and the steamer was taken to Marseilles. BIDEFORD arrived at Malta that day.

_____

 

French heavy cruiser SUFFREN and sloop SAVORGNAN DE BRAZZA began escorting three French troopships from Achin Head. British aircraft carrier GLORIOUS, destroyer BULLDOG and Australian light cruiser HOBART departed Colombo on the 29th. They joined the convoy and escorted it to Cape Guardafui. GLORIOUS and BULLDOG proceeded on to Suez arriving on 9 January, while HOBART arrived back at Colombo on 10 January 1940.

_____

 

German steamer TANGER (1742grt) was sunk in a collision at Brunsbüttel.

 

 

Tuesday, 26 December

 

On Northern Patrol, one cruiser and one armed merchant cruiser were in the Denmark Strait, two cruisers and eight AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and two cruisers between the Faroes and the Orkneys. Armed merchant cruiser CANTON departed the Clyde on Northern Patrol.

_____

 

Submarine TRIUMPH (Lt Cdr J W McCoy) departed Rosyth on patrol on the 26th. In the Skagerrak 250 miles east of Rosyth in 56‑44N, 5‑00E, she struck a mine which left her badly damaged, unable to submerge and with 18 feet of her bow blown away. There were no casualties. Submarine TRUANT joined TRIUMPH to assist, while destroyers EXMOUTH, ELECTRA, ESCAPADE, ENCOUNTER and ECHO were dispatched from Rosyth and joined TRIUMPH on the 27th. TRIUMPH and her escorts arrived safely off May Island in the Firth of Forth at 0700/28th. She was taken to Chatham for repairs lasting until 27 September 1940. On arrival at Rosyth, ELECTRA entered the dock at Rosyth for repairs and refit.

_____

 

Destroyer JACKAL arrived in the Humber.

_____

 

Submarine SEAHORSE departed Blyth on patrol.

_____

 

Polish submarine WILK departed Rosyth on patrol.

_____

 

After a submarine was reported in the English Channel, destroyer MALCOLM and sloop FOXGLOVE commenced to search.

_____

 

A submarine was sighted on the surface in 49-46N, 13-11W by destroyer VENETIA, escorting an outward bound convoy with destroyer VOLUNTEER. VENETIA made an attack on the contact 180 miles SW of Berehaven. Destroyers WREN and WITCH in the area were advised of the sighting.

_____

 

Tanker ADELLEN (7984grt) was badly damaged on a mine 16 miles NE of North Foreland in 51‑30N, 01‑43E. She entered the Thames next morning for repair.

_____

 

Convoy SA.23 of two steamers departed Southampton, escorted by sloops FOXGLOVE and ROSEMARY, and arrived at Brest on the 27th.

_____

 

Convoy FN.59 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer WOOLSTON and sloops FLEETWOOD and GRIMSBY, and arrived in the Tyne on the 28th.

_____

 

German steamer GLUCKSBURG (2680grt), which had departed Cadiz on the 25th, was intercepted by destroyer WISHART off Chipiona Light, Spain. She turned into Spanish waters pursued by WISHART which was warned off by Spanish gunboat LAURIA. However GLUCKSBURG went aground at San Luca de Barrameda and was lost; her hull broke up in the surf on 4 January 1940. The crew was picked up by Spanish fishing boat CUIDAD DE MELILLA.

_____

 

Convoy SL.14 departed Freetown escorted by sloop LEITH until 12 January. On 28 December, aircraft carrier HERMES, French heavy cruisers FOCH and DUPLEIX, and French destroyers MILAN and CASSARD departed Freetown and joined on the 30th. On 10 January, convoy HG.14F was merged with SL.14. Sloop BIDEFORD joined on 10 January, and on the 11th, the convoys split with the northbound portion becoming SG.14B. On the same day, destroyers WANDERER, WITCH and WARWICK joined SG.14B. LEITH arrived at Penarth for refitting on the 13th, while the convoy arrived on the 15th.

_____

 

Sloop SCARBOROUGH departed Malta for UK for duty in Home Waters.

_____

 

Light cruiser GLOUCESTER departed Mauritius and arrived at Port Victoria, Seychilles, on the 29th.

 

 

Wednesday, 27 December

 

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

 

Light cruiser MANCHESTER relieved sister ship SHEFFIELD on Northern Patrol.

_____

 

Battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers MAORI, NUBIAN and AFRIDI departed the Clyde to relieve battleship BARHAM and battlecruiser REPULSE on patrol NE of the Shetlands. AFRIDI and MAORI had just arrived in the Clyde that morning. Destroyer ILEX was to join after she refuelled at Scapa Flow.

_____

 

Destroyer JACKAL escorted tanker BEDALE H (493grt) from Killingholm to Middlesborough, and sister ship JUNO joined at sunset.

_____

 

Submarine TRIDENT departed Rosyth to establish a patrol off Murmansk to observe German activities from that port.

_____

 

Convoy OA.61 departed Southend escorted by destroyers VESPER and VISCOUNT from the 27th to 29th, when they detached to join SL.14. Destroyers BROKE and ARDENT escorted the convoy from the 29th to 30th, when the convoy dispersed. Convoy OB.61 did not sail.

_____

 

Destroyer WREN and WITCH were ordered to attack a submarine contact reported in the English Channel.

_____

 

Destroyers VENETIA and VOLUNTEER attacked a submarine contact in 49-58N, 12-56W.

_____

 

Convoy HXF.14 departed Halifax at 0900 escorted by Canadian destroyers SAGUENAY and SKEENA, which detached on the 29th. The ocean escort was armed merchant cruiser ASCANIA, which left on 5 January. Destroyer VERSATILE and sloop DEPTFORD from convoy OB.64 joined HXF.14 from 5 to 8 January, when the convoy arrived at Liverpool.

_____

 

Force K arrived at Montevideo. Since 18 November, the Force had been at sea almost constantly and ARK ROYAL had spent only 36 hours in port.

_____

 

Convoy SLF.14 departed Freetown escorted by armed merchant cruiser CARNARVON CASTLE until the 8 January. Aircraft carrier HERMES accompanied the convoy on the 1st, and destroyers ACASTA from the 4th to 8th, VESPER from the 8th to 9th, and WINDSOR from the 9th. The convoy arrived on the 11th.

_____

 

Light cruiser ORION departed Kingston on patrol.

_____

 

Light cruiser BIRMINGHAM arrived at Hong Kong for repairs to her 17 December collision damage and to replace a propeller. She was undocked two days later and was able to depart on 3 January for her return to UK.

 

 

Thursday, 28 December

 

BATTLESHIP BARHAM TORPEDOED

 

Battleship BARHAM, battlecruiser REPULSE, and destroyers NUBIAN and ISIS were NW of Flannan Island in 58‑47N, 08‑05W when U.30 attacked. BARHAM was torpedoed at 1449 hours, and U.30 was able to escape counterattacks by the destroyers. A and B shell rooms and magazines, and the pom-pom magazine were flooded and the forward bulkhead of the 6 inch magazine was leaking. Four ratings were killed.

 

REPULSE left her escort and proceeded at high speed, unaccompanied, into the Clyde arriving early on the 29th. Destroyers FAULKNOR and MASHONA departed Loch Ewe at 2300 to join the damaged BARHAM. Additionally, destroyer FOXHOUND departed Loch Ewe several hours later. After the submarine hunt FOXHOUND, FAULKNOR and ISIS were sent into Loch Ewe and destroyer NUBIAN joined the screen of battlecruiser HOOD.

 

The patrol sloops of the 1st and 2nd Anti-Submarine Striking Forces departed the Clyde to assist.

 

At 1404/29th, destroyers INGLEFIELD and ICARUS attacked a submarine contact near BARHAM.

 

Escorted by destroyers FAME, ICARUS and IMOGEN, the damaged BARHAM was brought at 12 knots into the port of Liverpool at 2335/29th. She entered Gladstone Dock at 0245/30th for repairs which lasted until 1 July when she left for Scapa Flow.

_____

 

On Northern Patrol, one cruiser and one armed merchant cruiser were in the Denmark Strait, two cruisers and seven AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and one cruiser between the Orkneys and the Faroes. Armed merchant cruiser MONTCLARE arrived in the Clyde and light cruiser COLOMBO reached Scapa Flow.

 

Light cruiser CERES departed Scapa Flow for Northern Patrol duties, and arrived back on 3 January.

_____

 

Sloops PELICAN, WESTON, HASTINGS after exercising in the Firth of Forth, escorted steamer CORDELIA (8190grt) to the Tyne.

_____

 

Destroyers INTREPID and IVANHOE of the 20th Destroyer Flotilla departed Portsmouth at 2330, and early on the 30th, laid minefield LA east of the Farne Islands in the North Sea. They were given close escort by six MTBs.

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Convoy OG.12 was formed from convoys OA.60G and OB.60G totalling 44 ships. Destroyers VANESSA and AMAZON escorted OA.60G from the 26th to 28th, while WHITEHALL, WIVERN, VANOC and WHIRLWIND from OB.60G escorted OG.12 from the 28th to 29th. French destroyers VALMY and CHEVALIER PAUL, which departed Brest on the 28th, escorted the convoy from 29 December to 4 January when it reached Gibraltar.

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Convoy OA.62 departed Southend escorted by sloop ENCHANTRESS and destroyer WINDSOR from the 28th to 30th. The convoy was then escorted by destroyers WOLVERINE and VERITY from the 30th to 31st, when it dispersed.

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Convoy OB.62 departed Liverpool escorted by destroyers MACKAY, WARWICK and VIMY to the 31st, when theydetached to convoy HX.13.

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Convoy FN.60 departed Southend, escorted by destroyers VALOROUS, VIVIEN, BITTERN, and arrived in the Tyne on the 29th.

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Convoy FS.60 departed the Tyne, escorted by destroyer VEGA and sloops HASTINGS and PELICAN, which had departed Rosyth on the 27th to join. The convoy arrived at Southend on the 29th.

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Danish steamer HANNE (1080grt) was sunk one mile east of Blyth Pier on a mine laid by U.22 on the 22nd; fifteen crew were lost and there were 25 survivors.

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Trawler RESEARCHO (258grt) was lost in a minefield laid six miles SE by E of Flamborough Head by U.15 on 17 November. The entire crew was rescued. Destroyer JACKAL later reported the trawler abandoned and still afloat 7½ miles east of Flamborough Head.

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U.30 sank armed patrol trawler BARBARA ROBERTSON (325grt, T/Skipper G. W. Edgar RNR) with gunfire, 35 miles NW of the Butt of Lewis in 58-54N, 6-30W; one rating was lost. Destroyer ISIS was dispatched to assist, and guided to the area by British seaplanes. rescued the 16 survivors. She then went on to assist damaged battleship BARHAM.

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Anti-submarine trawler CAPE ARGONA (494grt) attacked a submarine contact 21 miles 114° from Flamborough Head.

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Light cruiser CALYPSO departed Gibraltar and arrived at Malta on the 31st for duty with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron.

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Armed merchant cruiser MALOJA sighted a submarine in 44-28N, 13-00W. Destroyer DELIGHT was advised.

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Submarine SEVERN was at Freetown with a defect to the engine exhaust pipe. Repairs took 14 days.

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Soviet submarine SC.311 sank Finnish steamer WILPAS (775grt) off Vasa.

 

 

Friday, 29 December

 

On Northern Patrol, one cruiser and one AMCs were in the Denmark Strait, two cruisers and seven AMCs between Iceland the Faroes, and one cruiser between the Faroes and the Orkneys. Armed merchant cruiser DERBYSHIRE arrived in the Clyde.

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Submarine L.23 arrived at Rosyth after patrol. She was supposed to go to Blyth, but that port was closed due to mining. She was able to proceed to Blyth next day and arrived on the 31st.

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Some sources suggest submarine SEAHORSE, which departed Blyth on patrol on the 26th, was sunk on a mine on this date in 55‑26N, 07‑02E. However, it appears that the 7 January attack on a submarine was more likely the cause of SEAHORSE's loss (see entry for 7 January).

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PASSAGE OF CONVOY ON.6

 

Convoy ON.6 of three British and three Finnish ships was due to depart Methil, but was held up until the next day. The convoy departed Methil on the 29th escorted by destroyers EXMOUTH, ECLIPSE, ENCOUNTER, ESCAPADE and Polish submarine ORZEL.

 

On the 29th, minelayer RINGDOVE and British steamer HIGHLANDER (1216grt) left the convoy near Aberdeen and proceeded to Scapa Flow. Destroyer ECLIPSE and anti-submarine trawler ARCTIC EXPLORER (501grt) also detached on the 29th.

 

Close cover was provided by light cruisers EDINBURGH and GLASGOW which departed Rosyth on the 30th.

 

Heavy support was supplied by battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers MAORI, NUBIAN and AFRIDI operating southeast of the Faroes. Destroyer ILEX after refuelling at Scapa Flow joined the HOOD screen.

 

ON.6 arrived safely at Bergen on 1 January.

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Steamer HIGHLAND PATRIOT (14,172grt) was attacked by French submarine FRESNEL off the Canary Islands, believing her to be a German blockade runner. FRESNEL was driven off by gunfire and neither vessels was damaged.

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Light cruiser AJAX and heavy cruiser DORSETSHIRE departed the Falklands for patrol off Rio de la Plata. DORSETSHIRE set off for Simonstown searching for German tanker ALTMARK en route, and arrived back at the Falklands on 18 January. Sister ship CUMBERLAND departed Port William, Falklands on the 29th for Simonstown, via Tristan da Cunha. She arrived at Simonstown on 11 January for docking and refit completed on 10 February, and was ready for sea on the 13th.

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Convoy HX.14 departed Halifax at 0900 escorted by Canadian destroyers SAGUENAY and SKEENA, which detached on the 30th. The destroyers arrived back at Halifax on the 31st. Light cruiser EFFINGHAM and submarine CACHALOT departed Halifax with HX.14 as the ocean escort, EFFINGHAM detaching on 9 January. Destroyers WHITSHED, WALKER, VIMY and ANTELOPE escorted the convoy from 9 to 12 January, when it arrived at Liverpool. On the convoy’s arrival, the use of submarine escorts with HX convoys was suspended. EFFINGHAM reached Portsmouth on the 10th to refit, completed on 13 April 1940.

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Convoy HGF.13 departed Gibraltar with ten ships, escorted by destroyers WISHART and ACTIVE from 29 December to 3 January, and WANDERER and VETERAN from convoy OGF.13 on 3 January. VETERAN was detached the same day, but WANDERER remained until the 5th when the convoy arrived.

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French heavy cruiser SUFFREN arrived at Trincomalee at 0200, and at 0950, departed with British aircraft carrier GLORIOUS and armed merchant cruiser CATHAY.

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Latvian steamer VENTA (1886grt) was seized in the Baltic by a German warship, and later renamed UNDINE for German use.

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German steamer NEPTUN (727grt) was lost by stranding on the Swedish coast near Varberg in the Kattegat.

 

 

Saturday, 30 December

 

On Northern Patrol, two cruisers were between the Orkneys and Faroes, two cruisers and eight AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and one cruiser and one AMC in the Denmark Strait. Armed merchant cruiser CORFU departed Portsmouth for the Clyde, while heavy cruiser BERWICK, escorted by destroyer FORESIGHT, departed the Clyde on Northern Patrol, returning to Rosyth on 10 January.

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Light cruiser COLOMBO departed Scapa Flow for Northern Patrol and arrived back on 6 January.

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Destroyers ESCORT and ELECTRA departed Rosyth escorting base ship MANCHESTER CITY and steamer ASTRONOMER (8401grt) to Scapa Flow.

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Destroyers FEARLESS and FURY took tanker ATHELEMPRESS (8941grt) to the Clyde. On the 31st, they were ordered to return to Scapa Flow taking with them tanker ARNDALE (8296grt) which departed the Clyde the same day.

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Destroyer MASHONA arrived at Belfast with defects.

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Submarine STURGEON arrived in the Blyth from patrol.

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Convoy FN.61 departed Southend, escorted by destroyer VEGA and slops FLAMINGO and STORK, and arrived in the Tyne on the 31st.

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Convoy FS.61 departed the Tyne, escorted by sloops PELICAN, WESTON, HASTINGS, and arrived at Southend on the 31st.

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Anti-submarine yacht CUTTY SARK attacked a submarine contact 14 miles NW of Liverpool. Destroyer WESSEX was sent to assist.

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Anti-submarine trawler ARSENAL (389grt) attacked a submarine contact 28 miles SSW of Calf of Man in 53-40N, 5-02W.

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New Zealand light cruiser ACHILLES departed the Falklands and joined light cruiser AJAX. On 3 January, they parted company and ACHILLES went to Buenos Aires and AJAX to Montevideo.

 

 

Sunday, 31 December

 

On Northern Patrol, one cruiser was between the Orkneys and the Faroes, two cruisers and five AMCs between the Faroes and Iceland, and one cruiser was in the Denmark Strait. Light cruiser COLOMBO departed Scapa Flow and armed merchant cruiser DERBYSHIRE the Clyde, both for Northern Patrol, while light cruiser DUNEDIN returned to Scapa Flow.

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U.58 attacked a V & W destroyer of Convoy C off Kinnaird Head.

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Battleship RODNEY, after repairing her rudder defect at Liverpool, departed at 1230/30th with destroyers ICARUS and IMOGEN and rejoined the Home Fleet at Greenock at 0140/31st. Admiral Forbes re-hoisted his flag on her on 1 January 1940.

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Destroyer VIVIEN and sloops FLEETWOOD and BITTERN departed Rosyth for the Tyne to escort convoy FS.62, which had been due to leave the evening of the 31st, but was postponed until next day.

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Destroyer WALKER attacked a submarine contact 70 miles SW of Scillies in 49-18N, 8-11W. Destroyer VIMY assisted in the search.

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Anti-submarine trawler LORD NUFFIELD (466grt) attacked a submarine contact 65° from Sauds Island. Minesweeper/escort vessels GLEANER and JASON were sent to assist her.

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After British aircraft reported a submarine seven miles south of Dover, destroyer BRAZEN proceeded to investigate.

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Submarines TRUANT departed from Rosyth and UNDINE from Blyth on patrol.

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Light cruiser CALEDON departed Malta on patrol duties.

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Light cruiser GLOUCESTER departed Port Victoria, Seychelles, for Colombo, arriving on 8 January for refitting, completed on the 22nd.

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Destroyer DARING departed Malta on the 27th and arrived at Gibraltar on the 30th. On the 31st, sloop SCARBOROUGH (Cdr J H Ruck-Keene), which had arrived from Malta on the 29th, departed Gibraltar escorting armed merchant cruiser DUNOTTAR CASTLE to Belfast with DARING in company. On 2 January off Cape Roca in 38‑40N, 10‑04W, DARING attacked a submarine contact. She reached Belfast on 7 January and Portsmouth on the 10th.

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Light cruiser ARETHUSA departed Malta. Calling at Gibraltar on 3 January, she arrived at Portsmouth on the 6th, left again on the 26th and arrived at Scapa Flow on the 29th for duty with the Home Fleet. ARETHUSA and sister ship PENELOPE (which was at Malta and departed station on 5 January) in the Mediterranean, were relieved by light cruiser CALEDON and CALYPSO which arrived at Malta from Home Waters on 28 and 31 December, respectively.

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Destroyer DAINTY departed Malta for Gibraltar for duty in the South Atlantic. Sister ships DIAMOND departed Malta on 7 January on the same duty, DEFENDER was prevented from sailing for the South Atlantic due to a perforated superheater on the 13th, and DECOY and DEFENDER were able to depart Malta after repairs on the 27th.

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Convoy HG.13 of 30 ships departed Gibraltar escorted by anti-submarine trawler ARCTIC RANGER (493grt) as local escort and French large destroyers GUÉPARD and VERDUN from 31 December to 7 January. The French destroyers arrived at Brest on the 9th. Destroyers VANOC and VISCOUNT were with the convoy from the 7th to 10th, and VENETIA from convoy OG.13 and VOLUNTEER from SL.14 from the 8th to 10th, when the convoy arrived.

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U.32 sank Norwegian steamer LUNA (959grt) in 58‑48N, 03‑20E. Norwegian steamer COLUMBA (1118grt) rescued the entire crew and landed them at Kopervik.

 

 

December, miscellaneous

 

Shortly after the loss of German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE, submarine SEVERN was ordered to patrol in the South Atlantic around Trinidade Island for German supply ship ALTMARK.

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Armed merchant cruisers RANPURA and ANTENOR were attached to the Mediterranean Fleet as replacements for ships transferred away. RANPURA was ordered in early January to the South Atlantic, and was relieved by AMC VOLTAIRE which departed the Tyne on 9 January. However, their presence in the Mediterranean was not judged worthwhile and by April, they had been transferred to other commands.

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DAYS AT SEA BY BRITISH SHIPS

 

When 1939 ended, 120 days had elapsed since the declaration of war.

 

Destroyers SOMALI and BEDOUIN held the record for days at sea with 104 underway out of the 120 .

 

Following were destroyer HOTSPUR with 103 days, light cruiser ORION on 102, light cruiser PERTH, destroyers MAORI and ISIS with 99, destroyer FIREDRAKE with 96, light cruiser EMERALD with 95, light cruiser DUNEDIN with 92 days, and light cruisers NEWCASTLE and SHEFFIELD with 88 days.

 

Of the 19th Destroyer Flotilla in the Nore, destroyer CODRINGTON was underway 93 days, BASILISK for 89, BEAGLE for 86, BOREAS for 82, BRAZEN for 69, and BRILLIANT for 67.

 

Battleship NELSON was at sea 74 days of the 93 days until she was mined.

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At the end of December, the following destroyers were under repair - ACASTA at Plymouth repairing, ACHERON at Portsmouth repairing, ARROW at Portsmouth repairing, ASHANTI at Liverpool repairing, BEAGLE at Falmouth repairing, BOADICEA at Dover repairing, COSSACK at Leith repairing, DECOY at Malta repairing, DEFENDER at Malta refitting, DUNCAN at Chatham repairing, ELECTRA at Rosyth repairing, ESK at Portsmouth repairing, EXPRESS at Portsmouth repairing, FORESTER at Clyde with defects, FORTUNE at Liverpool with defects, GARLAND at Malta repairing, GURKHA at Southampton repairing, HAVOCK at Chatham repairing, JAVELIN at Middlesbrough repairing, JERSEY at Hull repairing, JUPITER at Hull repairing, KEITH at Plymouth repairing, KELLY at Tyne repairing, MALCOLM at Portsmouth repairing, MASHONA at Clyde with defects, MATABELE at Clyde with defects, PUNJABI at Govan repairing, SABRE at Grangemouth repairing, SALADIN at Plymouth repairing, SIKH at Chatham repairing, THANET at Hong Kong repairing, VANQUISHER at Plymouth repairing, VANSITTART at Portsmouth repairing, VISCOUNT at Plymouth with defects, WAKEFUL at Plymouth repairing, WALPOLE at Liverpool with defects, WHITLEY at Leith repairing, WINDSOR at Plymouth boiler cleaning, WRESTLER at Malta repairing, ZULU at Rosyth repairing, Polish BURZA at Chatham repairing.

 

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