Conference - In late December and
early January, Winston Churchill and
President Roosevelt with their Chiefs of
Staff met in Washington DC. They agreed
to the setting up of a Combined Chiefs
of Staff Committee and to the defeat of
Germany as the first priority.
Destroyer "Hesperus" escorting convoy
HG78 sank "U-93" north of Madeira.
Canadian troop convoy NA2 sailing for
Britain was attacked by "U-82" southeast
of Nova Scotia. Destroyer "BELMONT"
with all hands.
Ex-US Coast Guard cutter "CULVER" was
sunk by "U-105" west of the Bay of
Biscay as she escorted Sierra Leone
Convoys - Destroyer
"MATABELE" (below - Navy Photos)
escorting Iceland/Russia convoy
PQ8 was sunk off Murmansk on the
17th by "U-454". Only two men
survived. None of the eight merchantmen
in the convoy were lost although one was
damaged by a U-boat torpedo. In two
return convoys in the month - QP5
and QP6 - 10 ships set out and
of the Atlantic -
U-boat strength was up to 250 with 90
operational. Two-thirds were spread
across the Atlantic, nearly a quarter in
the Mediterranean, and a few on patrol
in the Arctic for Russian convoys. It
was at this time that Adm Doenitz, with
never more than 10 or 12 U-boats at a
time, launched Operation' Paukenschlag'
('Drumroll') off the coasts of America.
The U-boat commanders enjoy their second
'Happy Time', especially against the
unescorted ships sailing in virtually
peace-time conditions off the United
States. Warship patrols were started,
but the USN found it hard to accept the
long, hard-fought lessons of the Royal
Navy and establish convoys immediately.
Atlantic convoys still started and ended
at Nova Scotia, so the first U-boats
operated off the Canadian coast south of
there. Over 40 merchantmen were lost in
this area alone in January and February.
By this time U-boats
sinking many ships off the US east
coast. On the weapons front, the
forward-firing Hedgehog with its 24 A/S
mortar bombs started to enter RN
service. Its first success did not come
until late in the 1942.
Summary, including Russian Convoys
- 48 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 277,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
causes, 3 escorts
- 1 German U-boat.
German "U-374" was
and sunk off the east coast of Sicily by
submarine "Unbeaten" (Lt-Cdr E. A.
During the month, Malta was resupplied
by three small convoys coming from the
east. In the second, four fast
transports left Alexandria covered by
Adm Vian's Mediterranean Fleet cruiser
force. On the 17th one of the close
escorting destroyers, "GURKHA (2)",
north of Sidi Barrani by "U-133" and
scuttled. Next day the surviving ships
were met by "Penelope" of Force K from
Malta, and got there on the 19th. During
this period the Italian Navy had
escorted two substantial convoys to
North Africa in time for Rommel's next
offensive. Malta continued to be heavily
bombed for many months by the German and
Italian Air Forces.
Africa - On the 21st, Rommel
started his second campaign. The first
of two phases took him as far as Gazala
just to the west of Tobruk. El Agheila
soon fell and Benghazi was occupied
before the month was out. On 1st
February Eighth Army withdrew to Gazala
and within a week Rommel had come up.
There he stayed until May 1942.
As she attacked a damaged troopship
sailing from the Azores, "U-581" was
by escorting destroyer "Westcott".
"U-136" on patrol off Rockall sank two
escorts. The first was corvette
"ARBUTUS" detached with destroyer
"Chelsea" from UK/Halifax convoy ONS63
to hunt for a reported U-boat.
Returning from the American coast where
she sank destroyer "Belmont", "U-82"
encountered UK/Sierra Leone convoy OS18
north of the Azores and was destroyed by
corvette "Tamarisk" and sloop
"U-136's" second success less than a
week later was Canadian corvette
"SPIKENARD" escorting Halifax/UK convoy
of the Atlantic -
U-boats extended Operation
'Paukenschlag' as far south as the
Caribbean and started by shelling
installations and sinking tankers off
Aruba, Curacoa, Trinidad and other oil
ports. However, they were still active
elsewhere in the Atlantic, and east of
Newfoundland a pack of five attacked
convoy ON67 (36 ships). Eight ships were
lost, of which six were the
ever-valuable tankers. The Royal Navy
suffered a major setback when U-boats in
the Atlantic changed from the Enigma
'Hydra' code to 'Triton'. This was not
be broken until December 1942 - a ten
month delay. But all was not lost as
'Hydra' was still used in European
waters. This, together with signals
traffic analysis and the vast amount of
experience built up to date, meant that
a remarkably accurate picture could be
drawn of U-boat operations and
- 73 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 430,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
causes, 2 corvettes and 2 US destroyers
off Newfoundland and the US east coast
- 2 German U-boats
Convoy PQ13 and Return QP9 - These
next two convoys set out around the 20th,
again covered by the Home Fleet. Off
North Cape on the 24th "U-655"
and sunk by minesweeper "Sharpshooter"
escorting QP9. Of the 19 merchantmen in
this convoy all reach Iceland in safety.
PQ13 and its escort, including cruiser
"Trinidad" and destroyers "Eclipse" and
"Fury", were scattered by severe gales
and heavily attacked. On the 29th
three German destroyers encountered the
escort north of Murmansk. "Z-26" was
but in the action "Trinidad"
and disabled by one of her own
torpedoes. As the cruiser limped towards
Kola Inlet an attack by "U-585" failed
and she was sunk by "Fury". Five of the
19 ships with PQ13 were lost - two to
U-boats, two to aircraft, and one by the
destroyers. "Trinidad" reached Russia.
UK/Middle East troop convoy WS17 was on
passage southwest of Ireland. As "U-587"
headed for American waters her sighting
report was detected and she was sunk by
the convoy escort including destroyers
"Aldenham", "Grove", "Leamington"" and
"Volunteer". This was the first success
- ship-borne, high frequency
of the Atlantic - Losses
due to U-boats continued at a high rate
in US and West Indian waters with over
40 ships sunk in March, many of them
valuable tankers. Over the next few
months RN and RCN escorts and a RAF
Coastal Command squadron were loaned to
the Americans. Ten corvettes were also
transferred to the US Navy.
- 98 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 547,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
- 1 German destroyer and 5 U-boats,
including 2 by US aircraft off
Adm Vian's cruiser force returned to
Alexandria after searching for Axis
shipping and covering the passage of
cruiser "Cleopatra" from Malta. North of
Sidi Barrani, flagship "NAIAD"
by "U-565" and went down.
- Adm Vian sailed on the from
Alexandria with four fast supply ships
for Malta escorted by cruisers
"Cleopatra", "Dido", "Euryalus" and
"Carlisle" plus destroyers. Seven 'Hunt'
class escort destroyers came from Tobruk
and as they carried out anti-submarine
sweeps ahead of the convoy, "HEYTHROP"
off Sidi Barrani by "U-652". The
remaining six joined the convoy to bring
the total number of destroyers to 16.
The convoy fought its way through in the
Second Battle of Sirte Gulf. All four
transports were lost to air attack, two
off Malta and two in harbour before much
of their cargo could be off-loaded.
Destroyer "JAGUAR" and the tanker she
was escorting to Tobruk were both sunk
by "U-652" off Sidi Barrani.
convoy OG82 southwest of Ireland and was
sunk by sloop "Stork" and corvette
"Vetch" of the 36th EG (Cdr Walker).
This was one of the first successful
attacks using 10cm Type 271 radar.
From now on the new radar and HF/DF
would play an increasing part in the
sinking of U-boats.
The US Navy had its first warship
success against U-boats when destroyer
"Roper" sank "U-85" off the east coast
Convoys - During
the month, Russian convoy PQ14
set out from Iceland with 24 ships. Only
seven arrived. One was sunk by a U-boat
and another 16 had to turn back because
of the weather. Return convoy QP10
lost four of its 16 ships around the
same time, two each to U-boats and
aircraft. Towards the end of the month
convoys PQ15 and QP11
sailed. Both had cruisers in close
support and PQ15 was covered by units of
the Home Fleet including battleships
"King George V" and the American
"Washington". On the 30th the
QP11 cruiser "Edinburgh"
torpedoed twice by "U-456" and had to
turn back for Murmansk.
- 74 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 439,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
causes, 1 US destroyer mined off Florida
- 2 German U-boats
bombing reached a peak, Malta was
awarded the George Cross
Russian Convoy QP11
departed Russia on the 28th April and
on the 30th cruiser "Edinburgh"
was torpedoed twice by U-boat. As she
limped back to Russia, three German
destroyers attacked QP11, but only
managed to sank a straggler. They found
the cruiser on the 2nd. In a
series of confused fights, "Edinburgh"
disabled the "Hermann Schoemann" by
gunfire, but was then torpedoed for a
third time by either "Z-24" or "Z-25".
Both "EDINBURGH" and "HERMANN SCHOEMANN"
on the 2nd. The surviving 12
merchantmen of QP11 got through to
Reykjavik, Iceland on the 7th.
and QP12 passed through in May.
PQ16 started out for Russian with 35
ships but one returned, six were lost to
heavy aircraft attacks and one to
U-boats. QP12 had one return but the
other 14 reach Iceland.
of the Atlantic - U-boat
strength approached 300 with over 100
operational. A fairly complete convoy
system was being introduced off the US
east coast from Florida north, but the
submarines were now concentrating in the
Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They could
now spend more time on station assisted
by 'Milchcow' supply boats. The result
was that Allied losses continued at a
high rate, especially among tankers. In
the North Atlantic, convoy ONS92 lost
seven ships in one night to a pack
- 122 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 585,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
causes, 2 cruisers, 1 destroyer and 1
- 1 German destroyer, 1 U-boat by US
Coast Guard off east coast of America
Two U-boats were lost to the Royal Navy
at opposite ends of the Med. On the 2nd,
east of Gibraltar, "U-74"
by destroyers "Wishart" and "Wrestler"
and RAF aircraft of No 202 Squadron.
Africa - From Gazala, Gen Rommel
started the second phase of his advance
towards Egypt on the 26th with a main
attack around Bir Hakeim.
In the second U-boat loss, "U-568"
supply traffic, was hunted down and sunk
by destroyer "Hero", and escort
destroyers "Eridge" and "Hurworth".
of the Atlantic - In the
first six months of 1942, submarines
worldwide had sunk 585 ships of over
3,000,000 tons, mostly in the Atlantic -
and a large proportion of these in
American waters where losses remained
high in the Caribbean and Gulf of
Mexico. At the same time the 108 new
U-boats entering service far outweighed
the 13 sunk in the Atlantic in this
- 128 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 650,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
causes, 1 destroyer and 1 submarine
- 2 U-boats by US forces off Cuba and
Africa - After more than two weeks
of fierce attack and counter-attack,
British forces pulled out of
'Knightsbridge'. Tobruk was surrounded
by the 18th and three days later
surrendered. Another two days and the
Axis forces were back in Egypt. Eighth
Army prepared to make its last stand at
Attacks on Allied shipping making for
Tobruk before its fall brought further
losses to both sides. Aircraft of FAA
815 Squadron and RAF No 203 Squadron
damaged "U-652" off Sollum on the
Egyptian/Libyan border. She was scuttled
by a torpedo fired from "U-81".
Ten days after the loss of "U-652" and
further east off Sidi Barrani, escort
sunk by "U-77"
as she returned to Alexandria after
escorting supply ships to Tobruk.
- Malta Convoys 'Harpoon' from
Gibraltar, 'Vigorous' from Alexandria
six ships reached Malta for the loss of
two destroyers and serious damage to
three more and a cruiser by the Italian
Navy and German and Italian aircraft.
Meanwhile the Operation 'Vigorous'
force of 11 ships and their escorts
sailed from Haifa and Port Said, and
were met on the 13th off Tobruk by Adm
Vian with seven light cruisers and 17
destroyers. By the 14th, two
ships had been lost to air attack and
two more damaged. That evening Vian
learnt an Italian battlefleet with two
battleships, two heavy and two light
cruisers plus destroyers had sailed
south from Taranto. The chances of
driving them off were slim. Early on the
the first of five course reversals were
made as 'Vigorous' tried to break
through to Malta. That evening
'Vigorous' finally turned back for
Alexandria. Now into the early hours of
the 16th, cruiser HERMIONE
and sunk by "U-205". None of the
'Vigorous' ships reached Malta. One
cruiser, three destroyers and two
merchant ships had been lost in the
of Russian Convoy PQ17 - On the
27th June, PQ17
left Reykjavik, Iceland with 36 ships,
of which two returned. The British
Admiralty believed the Germans were
concentrating their heavy ships in
northern Norway. In fact pocket
battleship "Lutzow" had run aground off
Narvik, but this still left battleship
"Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Admiral
Scheer" and heavy cruiser "Admiral
Hipper". At this time PQ17 had just
passed to the north of Bear Island,
after which German aircraft sank three
merchantmen. Fear of attack by the
German ships led the British First Sea
Lord in London to decide the fate of the
convoy. In the evening of the 4th the
support cruisers were ordered to
withdraw and the convoy to scatter. The
merchantmen were now to the north of
North Cape. Thirty-one tried to make for
the isolated islands of Novaya Zemlya
before heading south for Russian ports.
Between the 5th and 10th July, 20 of
them were lost, half each to the
aircraft and U-boats sent to hunt them
down. Eventually 11 survivors and two
rescue ships reached Archangel and
nearby ports between the 9th and 28th.
escorted ship south of Nova Scotia and
was lost in the counter-attack by
British armed trawler "Le Tiger" (Free
French trawler "Le Tigre" according to
Northwest of the Canaries, UK/West
Africa convoy OS.33 was attacked and
"U-136" sunk by frigate "Spey", sloop
"Pelican" and Free French destroyer
Canadian destroyer "St Croix", with the
Canadian C2 group escorting UK/North
America convoy ON115, sank "U-90" off
In mid-Atlantic, Canadian destroyer
"Skeena" and corvette "Wetaskiwan" of
the C3 group (see below for "C"
designation) with ON113 sank "U-588".
On passage out, "U-213" stumbled across
a convoy west of the Bay of Biscay,
where she was sunk by the escort
including sloops "Erne", "Rochester" and
of the Atlantic - Pending
the setting up of support Escort Groups
later in the year, vessels allocated
mainly to convoy protection were
designated by their nationality - "A"
for American, "B" for British, "C" for
Canadian. The American convoy system was
now extended into the Caribbean and Gulf
of Mexico, and merchantmen sinkings went
down as U-boat losses started to mount.
Nevertheless, with 140 operational
U-boats out of a total of 330, the
Germans had more than enough to continue
the offensive in the North Atlantic as
well as maintain concentrations off
Sierra Leone, Venezuela and Brazil. For
some months to come it was again the
tankers that lost heavily, off the
coasts of Venezuela and Trinidad.
Summary, including Russian Convoys
- 101 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 511,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
- 11 German and 1 Italian U-boats,
including 2 by RAF Bay of Biscay
patrols; 1 by RCAF off Nova Scotia; and
3 by US forces in the Caribbean and off
the east coast of America
On anti-U-boat patrol between the
Shetlands and Norway, submarine
"Saracen" torpedoed "U-335" on passage
on Halifax/UK convoy SC94 - In the
space of five days slow Halifax/UK
convoy SC94 (33 ships) was attacked by a
total of 17 U-boats and lost 11
merchantmen. Southeast of Greenland two
U-boats were sunk by ships of the
Canadian C1 group. On the
6th, Canadian destroyer
"Assiniboine" shelled and rammed
"U-210". Two days later on the 8th,
British corvette "Dianthus" also with C1
group, depth charged and rammed "U-379"
to destruction. Four more U-boats were
damaged in defence of the convoy.
- The sinking of five Brazilian ships by
U-boats off their own coast in the
middle of the month finally drove Brazil
to declare war on Germany and Italy on
the 22nd August. Bases in the country
extended Allied control over the South
convoy TAG15 off Jamaica. Damaged by a
US Navy Catalina, she was finished off
by Canadian corvette "Oakville".
of the Atlantic - For some time
now aircraft of RAF Coastal Command had
used the Leigh light searchlight in
conjunction with ASV radar to illuminate
and attack U-boats at night on the
surface. The Germans now introduced the
Metox detector which enabled
to pick up the 1.5m wavelength
transmissions of the existing ASV sets
in time for them to submerge. They thus
moved one step ahead of the Allies in
the scientific war. The RAF's important
Bay of Biscay patrols lost effectiveness
- 106 British, Allied and neutral ships
of 544,000 tons in the Atlantic from all
causes, 1 US destroyer by collision off
- 9 U-boats including 1 by RAF Bay of
Biscay patrols; 3 by US aircraft in Gulf
of Mexico, Caribbean and off Iceland; 1
Italian by unknown causes, possibly by
RAF Bay of Biscay patrols.