Destroyed German Convoy leaving Esperia

Destroyed German Convoy leaving Esperia

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Destroyed German Convoy leaving Esperia

This convoy of German vehicles and artillery was destroyed by Allied gunfire while attempting to withdraw from Esperia, a mountain village just to the south of the Liri Valley. The Allies captured Esperia as they were about to break out into the valley and threaten to cut off the defenders of Cassino (Fourth battle of Cassino).

Convoy PQ 17

PQ 17 was the code name for an Allied Arctic convoy during the Second World War. On 27 June 1942, the ships sailed from Hvalfjord, Iceland, for the port of Arkhangelsk in the Soviet Union. The convoy was located by German forces on 1 July, after which it was shadowed continuously and attacked. The First Sea Lord Admiral Dudley Pound, acting on information that German surface units, including the German battleship Tirpitz, were moving to intercept, ordered the covering force built around the Allied battleships HMS Duke of York and the USS Washington away from the convoy and told the convoy to scatter. Because of vacillation by Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, German armed forces high command), the Tirpitz raid never materialised. [2] [3] The convoy was the first large joint Anglo-American naval operation under British command in Churchill's view this encouraged a more careful approach to fleet movements. [4]

As the close escort and the covering cruiser forces withdrew westwards to intercept the German raiders, the merchant ships were left without escorts. [5] The merchant ships were attacked by Luftwaffe aircraft and U-boats and of the 35 ships, only eleven reached their destination, delivering 70,000 short tons (64,000 metric tons) of cargo. [6] The convoy disaster demonstrated the difficulty of passing adequate supplies through the Arctic, especially during the summer midnight sun. [7] The German success was possible through German signals intelligence and cryptological analysis. [8]

How One Battle Destroyed Hitler's Dreams of a Battleship Fleet

Key Point: After the battle, Nazi Germany did not commission a single additional capital ship for the remainder of World War II.

At first glance, the Battle of the Barents Sea seems insignificant, a minor World War II naval battle in which a couple of destroyers were sunk. Yet the New Year’s Eve skirmish in frozen Arctic waters convinced Hitler that he should scrap all of his capital ships and had far-reaching consequences on the leadership of Nazi Germany. The reason why points to the dilemmas inherent to being an underdog in naval warfare.

During World War I, the Imperial German Navy had disposed of dozens of massive battleships, dreadnoughts and battlecruisers—but due to their numerical inferiority vis-à-vis the British Royal Navy, almost never committed them to battle, with the notable exception of the inconclusive clash at Jutland.

In 1939 Hitler conceived of an ambitious “Plan Z” to build a large fleet to rival the British Royal Navy—one that would reach full strength in 1945, the year World War II ended. Instead, the German Kriegsmarine entered the war with around sixteen modern cruisers and battleships and twenty destroyers. The successful invasion of Norway in February 1940 cost the German Navy two light cruisers and half its destroyers, as well as many ships damaged.

Two large surface combatants—the Admiral Graf Spee and Bismarck—embarked on hit-and-run commerce raids. Like swaggering villains in a Tarantino film, the powerful warships inspired terror and wreaked havoc, but attracted too much attention to themselves and met violent, ignominious ends.

German submarines were cheaper to build and far more capable of evading detection and picking their battles than cruisers and battleships, and thus they reaped a steady and heavy toll on Allied shipping, while German battleships and cruisers mostly remained sheltered at port. But the Royal Navy still kept it guard up in the event the warships did go on the attack.

On December 22, 1942, Allied convoy JW-51B left from port in Loch Ewe, Scotland, bound for the Soviet port of Murmansk. It consisted of fifteen transport ships carrying 202 tanks, 120 warplanes, twenty-four thousand tons of fuel and fifty-four thousand additional tons of supplies—all desperately needed by the Soviet Union as it prosecuted its epic encirclement of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The arctic convoys were a notoriously dangerous endeavor, however.

Earlier that summer, the convoy PQ-17 was ordered to scatter when Britain’s First Sea Lord Alfred Pound grew convinced (incorrectly) that the battleship Tirpitz was on an intercept course. The lost and isolated freighters were picked off one by one by German submarines and aircraft. The loss of twenty-four out of thirty-five transports was so catastrophic, the Soviets thought the Allies were lying about how many they had sent in the first place.

JW-51B was expected to be different, however. Sailing far to north in the dead of winter, the ships would be bathed in perpetual polar night, protecting them from air attack. A close escort of six destroyers commanded by Capt. Robert Sherbrooke onboard the Onslow would guard the transports from submarine attack, supplemented by a minesweeper, two corvettes and two trawlers. As JW-51B approached the Russian harbor of Murmansk, it would be joined by two Royal Navy light cruisers of Force R, HMS Sheffield and Jamaica, which had accompanied an earlier inbound convoy.

However, JW-51B did not experience smooth sailing. A week into the voyage, gale-force winds scattered many of the ships out of formation, some of them losing their way on the stormy seas and others falling behind. Snow squalls combined with the persistent nightfall in the Arctic caused visibility to drop sharply. Five transports, a trawler and the destroyer Oribi became completely separated from the convoy. The minesweeper Bramble, equipped with an effective radar, was detached to search for the stragglers and sheepdog them back into the fold. Even the cruisers in Force R couldn’t find the convoy.

On December 30, the German submarine U-354 spotted the Allied convoy, prompting the Kriesgmarine to prepare an ambush named Operation Regenbogen (“Rainbow”). This time, the Germans would dispatch capital ships from Norway to attack the convoy: the cruiser Admiral Hipper and the pocket battleship Lützow with its eleven-inch guns, escorted by six destroyers. Grand Admiral Raeder planned a cunning trap: the Hipper and Lützow would split up in the pincer, with the former intercepting the convoy from the north. This would draw away its escorts, and cause the transports to flee southward—straight in the waiting guns of the Lützow.

However, Hitler—an infamous micromanager—could not resist personally conveying orders to the squadron’s commander, Vice Admiral Oskar Kummetz, that he should not put his valuable ships at risk. “Procedure on meeting the enemy: avoid a superior force, otherwise destroy according to tactical situation.” The German squadron promptly set sail from Altenfjord, Norway, and intercepted the Allied ships convoy roughly 120 miles north of Kirkenes, Norway.

Due to persistent snowfall, when the crew of the corvette Hyderabad spotted two ships in the distance at 8:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, they were unable to identify them—and assumed they were a friendly Russian ships coming to escort them. A half hour later, the destroyer Obdurate peeled off to determine the identity of the newcomers, signaling a challenge with its lamp—and received the flash of gunfire amidst the squalling snow in reply.

Captain Sherbrooke ordered the Aichen, an older A-class destroyer, to lay a smoke screen in a line to conceal the transports as they made their escape. Meanwhile, the four remaining O-class destroyers returned fire with their radar-targeted 4.7-inch guns and positioned themselves as if preparing for a torpedo run. The 1,500-ton destroyers were vastly outgunned by the sixteenth-thousand-ton Hipper and its four eight-inch twin-gun turrets. However, the British ships did have torpedoes though notoriously difficult to deliver on target, it was not unheard of for just one or two to sink even large capital ships.

This time, the British destroyers didn’t actually launch their torpedoes, as they were likely to miss at a distance and, once expended, would leave the Hipper free to wade in and finish them off at close range. Instead, they made mock torpedo runs in attempt to persuade the Hipper’s captain to keep his distance.

The ploy worked—Kummetz, fearing torpedo attacks, backed away repeatedly from the destroyers. The low visibility reduced the effectiveness of the Hipper’s guns, but it was able to concentrate on a clear target: the Achates and its stacks boiling with smoke. The destroyer was struck several times and was ordered to disengage as it began to take on water. Shortly afterwards, a shell struck the Achates’s bridge, killing its captain and all but two of the command crew. 1st Lt. Loftus Peyton-Jones scrambled up to take control of the shattered vessel, and decided to disregard orders and continue laying the smoke screen to protect the transports even as the stricken ship listed further into the water, until it capsized at 1:15. The trawler Sea Gem rushed to the doomed ship, and managed to rescue eighty-one of the crew in a frantic rescue operation remembered by its coxswain.

The remaining destroyers kept trading shots with the Hipper until four shells battered the flagship Onslow, killing forty-seven of the crew. Shrapnel raked the bridge, bursting Captain Sherbrooke’s eyeball from its socket. The steadfast Brit continued to issue orders to his fleet until the captain of the Obdurate assumed command of the destroyer squadron and the Onslow managed to disengage.

Meanwhile, the minesweeper Bramble, still searching for convoy stragglers, bumped into the Hipper at 10:40. The little ship, confronted with a German cruiser twenty-five times its weight, tersely reported the cruiser’s location and loosed a single volleys from its four-inch deck guns before the Hipper and the destroyer Friedrich Eckoldt annihilated it in six minutes of cannon fire, leaving no survivors.

So far, however, none of the transports had been hit—and the flashes of gunfire had attracted the attention of Force R, which sailed towards the fray at maximum speed. The British light cruisers did not have heavy guns, because they had been designed in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty instead, they made do with triple six-inch guns on each of their four main gun turrets. Three shells struck the Hipper in rapid succession. With two cruisers bearing on him from the north and destroyers closing on him from the south, Kummetz concluded this was exactly the kind of risky situation the führer had ordered him to avoid. He laid his own smoke screen and disengaged.

In the prevailing low visibility, however, the German destroyers Richard Beitzen and Eckoldt mistook the British cruisers for the German ones, and fell into formation beside them. The gunners on the Jamaica and Sheffield did not make the same mistake. A broadside of six-inch gunfire broke the Eckoldt in two in just two minutes, causing it to sink with all hands, while the Beitzen beat a hasty escape.

Nonetheless, the German plan actually worked in one respect—the transports had fled south towards Lutzow. The pocket battleship unloaded 161 shells at the Allied ships at ranges of three to seven miles, without scoring a single direct hit, due to the snow and drifting smoke screens. When the Lutzow’s Captain Stänge saw the British cruisers approaching, he too decided to withdraw, despite outgunning them with his eleven-inch guns.

Second siege

The tide soon turned. In December 1941 the Malta striking force ran into a minefield off Tripoli harbour. The cruiser Neptune and destroyer Kandahar were sunk, and Aurora was damaged. The convoy they were after got through, and its cargo allowed Rommel to be successful in the offensive that retook Cyrenaica in early 1942. In January, Hitler ordered the setting up of a new Luftflotte 2 command on Sicily, to combine Fliegerkorps II and X to command the waters around Malta and in the eastern Mediterranean. The second air siege of Malta began.

British forces in the Mediterranean suffered other serious losses at the end of 1941. German U-boats sank the battleship Barham in the east and the carrier Ark Royal, which had helped keep Malta supplied with aircraft, in the west. Italian human torpedoes in Alexandria harbour disabled the last two Allied Mediterranean Fleet battleships. Agnew now only had cruisers to cover his supply convoys.

Axis aircraft were the major threat .

Axis aircraft were the major threat, and they devastated the next attempt to bring in a major convoy to Malta from the east. When the next convoy was run, in March 1942, the cruisers succeeded in holding off a vastly superior Italian surface force in a brilliant action off Sirte - but Axis air forces still prevented anything more than 7,500 of the 26,000 tons of supplies embarked at Alexandria from being landed at Malta. And the naval supply ship Breconshire, which had made several runs to supply the island, was sunk.

HMCS Skeena – Meet One of the Toughest Warships of the Battle of the Atlantic

HIS MAJESTY’S Canadian Ship Skeena was a River-class destroyer and one of the first two ships built expressly for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

She served as an escort on the deadly North Atlantic run during the Second World War, destroyed a German U-boat, guarded the D-Day invasion force from enemy submarines, and sunk surface raiders off the coast of France. Despite her illustrious wartime record, she met an ignoble end: smashed upon Iceland’s frigid shores amidst a terrible gale. Her story is emblematic of the wider Atlantic campaign – bitter, grinding, and occasionally, unforgivingly violent.

Along with her sister ship HMCS Saguenay, Skeena was built to Canadian specifications by John I. Thornycroft of Southampton, England.

Launched in 1930, she was designed to operate in the harsh Canadian climate. River-class vessels needed strengthened hulls, steam heating and an extra margin of stability to account for the ice that would accumulate on her upper decks.[1]

As her design was based on the Royal Navy’s A-Class destroyer, Skeena displaced over 1,300 tonnes, was 98 metres long, and capable of sprinting at an enviable 31 knots. Her complement of 150 sailors would man her formidable armament, consisting of four 4.7-inch guns, one three-inch gun, six 20mm Oerlikon machine guns, torpedoes, and a Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar.

Skeena was commissioned at Portsmouth on June 10, 1931, and arrived in Halifax in July of that year. After a brief layover in the Canadian Maritimes, she sailed through the Panama Canal to Esquimalt, on the country’s Pacific coast, where she operated until 1937 before transferring back to Halifax.

One of only six RCN destroyers in service at the outbreak of the Second World War, she was immediately given local escort duties off the Atlantic coast. During the first few months of the conflict, Skeena cut her teeth conducting routine convoy duties. This all changed in the spring of 1940, when the Nazis steam-rolled Western Europe with devastating Blitzkrieg tactics.

To support Great Britain, the Canadian government dispatched three destroyers to the United Kingdom: the St. Laurent, Restigouche and Skeena. Upon arrival in Portsmouth on May 31, the warships were assigned to Western Approaches Command. Little time was wasted employing the Canadian vessels, and within a week, Restigouche and St. Laurent were taking part in the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk while Skeena performed anti-submarine patrols in the Western Approaches. Skeena was involved in near continuous escort duties over the next year.

By autumn of 1941, she was “as experienced and professional a destroyer as any of them on the North Atlantic run.”[2] Lieutenant Commander James Hibbard, Skeena’s captain, was a proficient and respected commander.

In early September, Hibbard found himself in command of escort forces protecting SC 42, a slow-moving convoy of 67 ships that was protected by Skeena and three additional Canadian corvettes: Orillia, Alberni, and Kenogami.

The convoy departed Sydney, Nova Scotia on Aug. 30 and was routed north near Greenland to avoid a large group of U-boats known to be operating southwest of Iceland. On Sept. 6, maritime patrol aircraft launching from Iceland located and attacked the large Markgraf group of U-boats. The air strikes damaged two German submarines. Subsequent action from Allied surface ships destroyed a third boat, and permitted the capture of a fourth.

Because of these attacks, Befelshaber der U-Boote (U-boat High Command) dispersed the Markgraf group’s remaining 14 submarines, ordering them to patrol the area between Newfoundland and Iceland – a stretch of water that covered both the central and northern Allied convoy routes.[3] Two days later, these orders were decrypted by Allied intelligence at Bletchley Park SC 42 was heading directly into the U-boat patrol area.[4]

By that point, SC 42 had been steaming through a gale for five days, and were 72 hours behind schedule. Many ships in the convoy had insufficient fuel to permit a further course diversion. Fortuitously, a well-guarded westbound convoy was nearby, and Western Approaches Command ordered five British destroyers from that convoy to detach, refuel in Iceland, and reinforce the eastbound Canadian convoy. In the meantime, Commodore Leonard Murray, commander of the Newfoundland Escort Force, ordered two additional Canadian corvettes, Chambly and Moose Jaw, to sail from Newfoundland to strengthen Hibbard’s group.

On Sept. 9, U-85 sighted the Canadian convoy. The submarine reported the merchant ships’ position and moved in for an attack. Her torpedoes missed, but the submarine remained undetected. Throughout the day, U-85 maneuvered for a second attack. Again, she failed to strike a target, but this time a lookout on one of the merchant ships spotted a torpedo’s wake and the alarm was raised. Although convoy escorts were unable to locate the enemy sub, the British destroyers in Iceland sailed to intercept and defend SC 42 the corvettes Chambly and Moose Jaw continued to close the convoy, but were still over 24 hours away.[5]

The Markgraf group’s wolf pack gathered. At 2130, torpedoes from U-432 slammed into the merchant ship Muneric. Laden with iron ore, the vessel sank almost immediately, taking all hands down with her. The wolf pack closed in, and more attacks followed. Skeena used her speed to weave through convoy vessels, responding to calls for help while the corvettes plucked drowning men from the icy water. The attacks were relentless, but the corvettes, preoccupied with rescue operations, were unable to engage the enemy. That changed when Lieutenant Commander James “Chummy” Prentice in HMCS Chambly arrived on scene and immediately engaged the enemy forces, sinking U-501, thought to be the first confirmed Canadian submarine kill of the war.[6]

The Canadian escorts defended SC 42 from the remaining 13 German submarines until British naval and air support arrived to tip the scales against the Axis. The battle for convoy SC 42 lasted 66 hours. Over the course of the fighting, 16 merchant ships sank, and the Royal Navy destroyed a second U-boat. Despite Skeena’s heroic actions and those of the Canadian corvettes, the losses were devastating, and caused Allied forces significant anxiety concerning the role of RCN convoy operations throughout the remainder of 1941.[7]

Skeena maintained a busy escort schedule over the next year with Newfoundland Command and the Mid-Ocean Escort Force. Most convoys under Skeena’s protection arrived at their destinations unharmed. However, her battle with U-588 during the summer of 1942 was particularly noteworthy.

On July 31, 1942, while escorting convoy ON 115 near Greenland, Skeena, in company with corvette HMCS Wetaskiwin, engaged in a classic anti-submarine battle.

Six U-boats pursued the merchant ships with Skeena and Wetaskiwin defending the convoy’s starboard flank. Action commenced when Skeena sighted the diesel exhaust of a submarine, eight miles off the convoy’s starboard beam.

Skeena alerted Wetaskiwin with the signal, “Acts 16, Verse 9,” which told the corvette: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night there stood a man of Macedonia and prayed him saying, come over into Macedonia and help me.”[8] Wetaskiwin responded with “Revelations 13, Verse 1”, which told the destroyer: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea and saw a beast rise up out of the sea having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his head the name of blasphemy.”[9] The Canadian escorts altered towards the submarine, and prepared to attack.

The first Canadian attack drove the submarine deep. Skeena coordinated a search, and within an hour, the two ships regained SONAR contact with the enemy. Over the next few hours, the Canadian escorts executed a textbook anti-submarine action: one ship held the contact while the other ship maneuvered to attack.

In total, Wetaskiwin deployed four patterns of depth charges, and Skeena attacked twice. Finally, their patience and proficiency was rewarded with the sound of “two distinct underwater explosions, thirty seconds apart” followed by the appearance of oil, floating debris, and human remains on the ocean’s surface.[10] Skeena signalled that she was putting a boat in the water to collect evidence of the destruction, passing to Wetaskiwin that she was “lowering a whaler to pick up guts.”[11]

In June of 1944, Skeena guarded the D-Day invasion fleet from enemy submarines. Following the invasion of Normandy, the German navy still controlled the French Atlantic port of Brest from which U-boats threatened the Allied invasion force and supply lines. Canadian ships Skeena, Restigouche, Saskatchewan, and Qu’Appelle patrolled the coast to destroy the light German warships used to escort U-boats entering or leaving harbour.

On the night of July 5, radar from the Canadian squadron detected a group of four armed German trawlers escorting a U-boat from Brest.[12] The Canadians fired star shells to illuminate the sky, and swept into the harbour at 30 knots. Tracers from their 20mm Oerlikon guns burned across the harbour as their main armaments battered the light German ships. The enemy vessels returned fire in a determined effort, but after an hour of fighting, three of the Axis ships were burning in the harbour. Two weeks later a similar action near Ushant occurred, with Skeena and her partners sinking three more German ships.

On October 24, 1944, Skeena met her end: wrecked on Videy Island, near Reykjavik, Iceland. Seeking shelter from a gale and 15-metre seas, she went to anchor at a moorage with poor holding ground of volcanic ash. The crew paid out a second anchor when turbulent seas and high winds caused the ship to drag her cable. Despite this added precaution, Skeena smashed onto the rocks, a mere 90 metres from shore. Her hull ground against the rocks, threatening to tear her apart. Seawater poured into the ship, and the captain prepared his crew to abandon ship. Skeena’s position stabilized, and the captain ordered a cessation of preparations to abandon ship. Tragically, this order was misunderstood – or not heard – amidst hundred-knot winds. The sailors began to abandon ship, using Carley floats on Skeena’s leeward side. The floats were loaded with sailors, and held by lines to the ship. Unfortunately, the men were unable to hold the lines due to the combination of oil and snow that had accumulated on the upper decks. Some crew were smashed into the rocks, while others were tossed into the sea. Fifteen sailors died.

Later, the crew abandoned ship in earnest, and made it ashore. The crew buried their dead with full naval honours at the Fossaburg cemetery near Reykjavik. Canada sold Skeena for scrap in the months that followed. She sunk in the North Atlantic while being hauled away by salvagers – an ignominious end for a proud fighting ship that served Canada with distinction throughout the relentless Atlantic campaign.

In 1957, the Royal Canadian Navy accepted the second HMCS Skeena into service, a tribute to the original ship. A St. Laurent class destroyer, Skeena (II) served in an anti-submarine role in the North Atlantic until the end of the Cold War.

James Brunis an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy and regular contributor to For his daily tweets of rare and fascinating World War Two photos, follow him at @lebrunjames81

[1] W. A. B. Douglas et al, No Higher Purpose: the Official Operational History of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War, 1939-1943 Volume II, Part I. (St. Catharines, ON: Vanwell Pub., 2002), 31.

[2] Douglas et al, No Higher Purpose, 236.

[3] Douglas et al, No Higher Purpose, 237.

[4] Douglas et al, No Higher Purpose, 237.

[5] Douglas et al, No Higher Purpose, 240.

[6] James Brun, “The Sinking of the ‘Faa di Bruno’ — Inside Italy’s Submarine War in the North Atlantic”. Military History Now, September 23, 2020, (Accessed November 1, 2020). Fifty years after U-501 sunk, the British Admiralty reassessed a submarine action of HMCS Ottawa and HMS Harvester against an unknown enemy submarine. This reassessment officially credited Ottawa and Harvester with the destruction of the Italian submarine Faa di Bruno on 6 November 1940, ten months before Chambly killed U-501, making Chambly’s victory the second Canadian submarine kill of the war.

[7] Marc Milner, Canada’s Navy: The First Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 96.

[8] Hal Lawrence, Tales of the North Atlantic, (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1985), 162.

Forum Archive

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - George

Posted on: 31 January 2004 by paul gill - WW2 Site Helper

Peter, thanks for writing George's story. I've read both bits. It gives interesting eye witness detail to the post war generation like me.
I wasn't aware that the fastest ships were put at the front of the convoy.

I'm a little surprised that the British Consulate didn't advise Bulldog that it would be sharing the tanker with a U boat!

You might like to show George

which has a picture of Bulldog and where the nephew of William Teare is looking for Bulldog veterans.

Message 2 - George

Posted on: 02 March 2004 by PeterDMiles

Hello Paul - thank you very much for this.I've forwarded that link to George - it would be lovely if something caof it.

Incidentally, I'm going to check my story again, as the slowest ships were put at the front of the convoy - obviously the fastest would always be able to catch up if needs be. Thanks for your interest

Message 3 - George

Posted on: 03 March 2004 by paul gill - WW2 Site Helper

Peter, I mistyped my comment late at night. George's statement that the fast ships were at the back makes perfect sense to me.

Glad George liked the link!

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Walther Wenck – Hitler’s Last Hope?

On the night of April 29-30, 1945, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel received several messages from Adolf Hitler. One of them posed the question: “Where are the advanced parts of the Wenck?” That referred to the 12th Army of General Walther Wenck, on whom Hitler pinned his hopes for the salvation of Berlin.

However, the task of saving Berlin was an impossible one, as Wenck did not have sufficient resources and military equipment to accomplish it.

Aware of the hopelessness of his position, Wenck realized that Soviet captivity was imminent. To avoid this, Wenck gathered all his forces and, together with refugees, crossed the Elbe and on May 7, 1945 surrendered to the Americans instead.

Walter Wenck.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-237-1051-15A / Schneider/Kunath / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Walter Wenck was born on September 18, 1900 in Wittenberg, Province of Saxony, German Empire. In 1911, he entered the cadet corps of the Prussian army in Naumburg, and in 1918 at the secondary military school in Groß-Lichterfeld.

Wenck was in the ranks of the Freikorps for a short time in 1919, and was once wounded in the leg. On May 1, 1920, he became a private in the regular army.

Armed Freikorps paramilitaries in Weimar Germany in 1919

On March 1, 1939, Wenck had worked his way up to the rank of major and joined the ranks of the 1st Panzer Division. Between 1939 and 1942, Wenck was its Chief of Operations.

During the invasion of Poland, Wenck was awarded the Iron Cross of the 2nd Class, and two weeks later he received the Iron Cross of the 1st Class. In 1940, Wenck was promoted to the rank of colonel for the rapid seizure of the city of Belfort.

On December 28, 1942, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. He was also promoted to major general in 1942.

Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September 1939. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

During the German offensive in Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands, Wenck was wounded in the leg. He refused to leave his post and successfully continued to command the troops, which ultimately had a positive effect on his reputation.

In addition, in 1942, Wenck was an instructor at the Military Academy, chief of staff of the 3rd Romanian Army on the Eastern Front, and chief of staff of the 57th Tank Corps. In the period from 1942 to 1943, he served as chief of staff of “Army Detachment Hollidt,” named after Karl-Adolf Hollidt, which was later reorganized into the 6th Army.

Manstein with General der Panzertruppe Erich Brandenberger, one of his divisional commanders, in June 1941.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-209-0086-12 / Koch / CC-BY-SA 3.0

In 1943, Wenck received the post of Chief of Staff of the 6th Army, which he combined with the post of Chief of Staff of the 1st Panzer Division. In 1944, he became the chief of staff of Army Group South Ukraine.

From February 15, 1945, at the request of Heinz Guderian, Wenck took command of the troops involved in Operation Solstice. This operation was one of the last tank offensive operations of the Third Reich on the Eastern Front.

Destroyed tanks in southern Pomerania, 20 February 1945 Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J28733 / Ellerbrock / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Initially, the operation was planned as an offensive in order to liberate the town of Küstrin and stop the encirclement of the advancing Soviet forces. However, due to the work of Soviet intelligence, limited time, and hasty planning, Operation Solstice ended with a German defeat.

On April 10, 1945 Wenck, as the commander of the 12th Army located west of Berlin, had an order to defend Berlin from the attacking Allied forces on the western front. In the rear of the 12th Army, east of the Elbe, a large camp of German refugees had formed after they fled from the approaching Soviet troops.

Marshal Georgy Zhukov RIA Novosti archive, image #2410 / P. Bernstein / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Wenck tried to provide refugees with a place to live and food. According to unconfirmed estimates, the 12th Army provided food for about a quarter of a million people each day.

On April 21, 1945, Hitler ordered SS General Felix Steiner to attack Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s positions on the 1st Belorussian Front. Zhukov’s troops surrounded Berlin from the north, and Marshal Konev’s troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front surrounded it from the south. Steiner had few tanks and about one infantry division. He refused to attack and instead retreated, fearing to be surrounded and destroyed.

Felix Steiner Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1973-138-14A / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Subsequently, the 12th Army of General Wenck was Hitler’s last hope to defend Berlin. Wenck was ordered to send his troops east and join up with the 9th Army of infantry general Theodor Busse.

According to the plan, they were to attack the Soviet troops from the south and west. At that time, the 41st Tank Corps under the command of General Rudolf Holste had the task of attacking the Soviets from the north.

Theodor Busse (standing, far right) in a meeting with Hitler, March 1945 Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-033-33 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Wenck’s 12th Army launched an attack on the Red Army units surrounding Berlin. However, on the approaches to Potsdam they faltered upon opposition from the Soviet troops and were subsequently forced to interrupt the offensive. Generals Holste and Busse failed to make significant progress towards Berlin.

On April 27, the Red Army closed the ring around Berlin, thereby cutting it off from the rest of Germany. On the night of April 28, Wenck told the High Command of the Ground Forces that the troops of his 12th Army and the troops of the 20th Army Corps were forced to retreat along the whole front. He also said that support of the 9th Army should not be expected and further movement towards Berlin was impossible.

April 1945: a member of the Volkssturm, the German home defense militia, armed with Panzerschreck, outside Berlin. Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1985-092-29 / Woscidlo, Wilfried / CC-BY-SA 3.0

When Wenck realized that he would not be able to reach Berlin, he developed a plan for moving his army to the forest of Halbe. There, he wanted to join his forces with the remnants of the 9th Army, the Post-Samra garrison, and the Army Group Spree. In addition, Wenck planned to provide escape routes for as many Berliners as possible.

Being on the edge of the front line, he broadcast a radio message, “Comrades, you’ve got to go in once more. It’s not about Berlin any more, it’s not about the Reich any more.” Despite the systematic attacks on retreat routes, Wenck sent his troops, surviving units of the 9th Army, and many civilians into the territories occupied by the U.S. Army across the Elbe.

A destroyed German Army convoy near Spree Forest, April 1945

According to various estimates, he managed to evacuate anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of civilians. Wenck was one of the last to cross the river.

After the refugees and troops crossed the Elbe, on May 7 Wenck surrendered to the Americans. In 1947 he was released, and in September 1948 he began working as a manager in the company Hubert Schulte GmbH.

From 1960, Wenck was the general director of the Diehl Group in Nuremberg, which was engaged in the manufacture of weapons and military equipment for the Bundeswehr. In 1966, he retired.

On May 1, 1982, during a trip to Austria, Wenck died after his car crashed into a tree. A few days later, he was buried in his hometown of Bad Rothenfelde in Lower Saxony.

The Battle of Raseiniai, 1941, where a single KV tank stopped an entire German Kampfgruppe

On June 22, 1941, Germany and the Axis powers commenced Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union along a 2,900 km front with a force of some four million soldiers, the largest invasion force in history. In the Baltic states, Army Group North swept through the Soviet defenses in a matter of days and by early July, the Soviet army had withdrawn to the Stalin line, praying they could stop the rapid German advance to Leningrad.

The Russian’s Northwestern front was a costly disaster, both in lives and equipment. But in these few days of fast devastation and retreat, there is a story of the crew in one lone Russian KV tank that held back the Kampfgruppe Raus of the 6 th Panzer division for a bold and precious full day. It was a remarkable, defiant stand against the German war machine.

The Battle of Raseiniai, from June 22 nd to June 27 th , was fought for control of strategic river crossings in Lithuania over the Neman (Nemunas) and Dubysa Rivers near the village of Raseiniai and the city of Kaunas. Well, in truth, this was a battle of the Russians trying desperately to put together any kind of effective counterattack against the Germans who had secured such river crossings by the end of the first day.

Operation Barbarossa. In South-Western Lithuania sits the town of Kaunas on the Neman River. The Dubysa (not detailed) joins the Neman just West of Kaunas from the North

This was a battle of tanks. The Germans sent in 245 tanks against the Russians 749. And it might be hard to imagine that the Germans could overcome such odds before the role of the Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 1 is considered.

Luftflotte 1’s aerial assault at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa took out a huge portion of Soviet communications as the ground troops moved in. This helped contribute to a huge lack of coordination of accurate information for the Russian forces. In one instance during the Battle of Raseiniai, Russian tanks attacked what they thought was the German flank, but was, in fact, the full front of the advancing Reich.

Had it not been for Luftflotte 1, the Germans might never have overcome their greatest obstacle in the Russian Mechanized Corps: the KV-1 and KV-2, Russian heavy tanks.

The German’s Panzer 35(t) didn’t have guns that could penetrate the thick armor of these Russian beasts and nor could their 37mm antitank guns. Even when the KVs were out of ammo, they sometimes just drove up and ran over the German antitank guns. When the Luftwaffe was unavailable for bomber support, 88mm anti-aircraft guns and sticky bombs placed on the tracks of the tanks were all that managed to take the Russian beasts down.

Here is a recounting of a skirmish the 1 st Panzer Division had with KV tanks on June 23 rd :

The KV-1 & KV-2, which we first met here, were really something! Our companies opened fire at about 800 yards, but it remained ineffective. We moved closer and closer to the enemy, who for his part continued to approach us unconcerned. Very soon we were facing each other at 50 to 100 yards. A fantastic exchange of fire took place without any visible German success. The Russian (sic – Soviet) tanks continued to advance, and all armour-piercing shells simply bounced off them.

Thus we were presently faced with the alarming situation of the Russian (sic) tanks driving through the ranks of 1st Panzer Regiment towards our own infantry and our hinterland. Our Panzer Regiment therefore about turned and rumbled back with the KV-1s and KV-2s, roughly in line with them. In the course of that operation we succeeded in immobilizing some of them with special purpose shells at very close range 30 to 60 yards. A counter attack was launched and the Russians (sic – Soviets) were thrown back. A protective front established & defensive fighting continued.

-From Hitler Moves East by Paul Carrell (sourced from

A KV-2 with a KV-1 in the background at a museum in Moscow

By the morning of June 24 th , German forces controlled much of the area West of Kaunas. Is was on this morning that a convoy from Kampfgruppe Raus, moving captured Soviets and wounded Germans from the front line on the Eastern side of the Dubysa, back towards Raseiniai, spotted a lone KV tank at a crossroads outside of the little village.

The KV opened fire. The convoy promptly turned around. The 6 th Panzer division had been expecting another counterattack, perhaps this was the beginning of it. But tales from locals recall that this single tank had simply driven up to its location the night before and stopped, waited.

While Generaloberst Erhard Raus (commander of the Kampfgruppe which bore his name) sorted out what kind of fearsome attack the Russians were mounting between his forces and division headquarters back West, a convoy bringing his troops fuel and ammunition approached the KV’s crossroads. The KV opened fire and destroyed it, leaving twelve trucks burning.

Raus figured out it was only one tank. Supplies were needed, the wounded were suffering, this tank had to be removed. But it continued to sit there, firing shots at the Germans in Raseiniai. 50mm anti-tank guns were positioned in a battery, fired, but still the tank remained. After several minutes of silence from the fearsome metal giant, he KV turned its turret and returned fire on the battery, destroying it.

The crew of this KV had been sitting in it, under the hot summer sun for hours, their ear drums were assuredly ruptured from the concussive force of the 50mm rounds, their heads more than a little rattled, but they still held.

The Germans next tried to take it down with a 105mm Howitzer, but couldn’t hit it from a safe distance. When they tried to position an 88mm anti-aircraft turret at 700 meters, it was spotted immediately by the KV crew and destroyed.

That night, soldiers tried to plant explosives to destroy the KV, but were met with machine gun fire from the crew, and their bombs proved useless.

The next day, while distracting the KV with panzers, the Germans were able to send a half dozen anti-aircraft shells into the tanks, which again went silent.

As timid soldiers crept up to inspect the KV, they noticed the holes in the armor from the big shells. They knocked on the tank. Shockingly, the turret began to turn again. As the soldiers fled, one threw a grenade into a hole in the armor which, finally, killed the tank crew. Six men were found dead inside the KV.

The Germans buried their fallen enemy, out of respect for such a great foe. This single tank crew was the fiercest Soviet warriors they probably encountered between the start of Operation Barbarossa and the assault on Leningrad.

Destroyed German Convoy leaving Esperia - History

Part 1 of 2 - 1939-1942

HMS Wolverine (Navy Photos , click to enlarge ), destroyer of the old "V" and "W" class prewar. The class played a major role throughout the war. HMS Wolverine was credited with sinking "U-47" (now disputed) and "U-76" in Atlantic convoy battles in early 1941.

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

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



14th - After an unsuccessful attack on carrier "Ark Royal" off the Hebrides, NW Scotland, German "U-39" was dept h-charged and sunk by screening destroyers "Faulknor", "Firedrake" and "Foxhound".

17th - Three days after the sinking of "U-39", fleet carrier "COURAGEOUS" was se nt to the bottom to the southwest of Ireland by "U-29" with heavy loss of life. Carriers were withdrawn from anti-U-boat patrols as it became accepted that the best chance of sinking U-boats was to attract them to well-defended convoys where the escorts could hunt them down.

20th - After sinking trawlers off the northern Hebrides, German "U-27" was l ocated and sunk by destroyers "Fortune" and "Forester".

German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Admiral Graf Spee" sank her first ship in the Atlantic off Brazil on the 30th September.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats.


German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" claimed four more merchant ships in the South Atlantic before heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Seven Allied hunting groups were formed in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean to search for her. In total the Royal and French Navies deployed three capital ships, four aircraft carriers and 16 cruisers. Meanwhile sister ship "Deutschland", after accounting for two ships in the North Atlantic was ordered home. She reached Germany in November and was renamed "Lutzow".

8th-24th - The anti-U-boat mine barrage in the Strait of Dover was completed and accounted for three U-boats, starting with "U-12" on the 8th."U-40" was als o mined and sunk in the Strait of Dover on the 13th. The third U-boat sunk in the Strait of Dover was "U-16" on the 24th. No more attempts were made to pass through the English Channel and U-boats were forced to sail around the north of Scotland to reach the Atlantic.

13th - Two U-boats attacking convoys to the southwest of Ireland were sunk by escorting destroyers. On the 13th, "U-42" was s ent to the bottom by "Imogen" and "llex" sailing with Liverpool-out convoy OB17

14th - Next day "Icarus", "Inglefield", "Intrepid" and "Ivanhoe" escorting Kingston, Jamaica/UK convoy KJ3 accounted for "U-45"

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats


German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" sank a small tanker southwest of Madagascar and headed back for the South Atlantic. More Allied hunting groups were formed.

23rd - Armed merchant cruiser "RAWALPINDI" (Capt E. C Kennedy) on Northern Patrol was sunk by the 11in battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" as she and sister ship "Gneisenau" tried to break out into the Atlantic. After the action to the southwest of Iceland, they turned back and returned to Germany after avoiding searching ships of the British Home Fleet.

29th - On patrol to the north of Scotland to support the earlier attempted breakout by German battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau", "U-35" was f ound east of the Shetland Islands and sunk by destroyers "Kashmir", "Kingston" and "Icarus".

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.


Canada - The first Canadian troop convoy TC1, sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia for Britain, heavily escorted and accompanied part of the way by Canadian destroyers.

4th - Returning from the hunt for the German battle-cruisers after the sinking of "Rawalpindi" on the 23rd November, battleship "Nelson" was damaged by a mine laid by "U-31" off Loch Ewe, northwest Scotland.

13th - Battle of River Plate - No w back in the South Atlantic, “Graf Spee” claimed three more victims to bring the total to nine ships of 50,000 tons, before heading for the South American shipping lanes off the River Plate. Cdre Harwood with Hunting Group G - 8in-gunned cruisers “Exeter” and “Cumberland” and 6in light cruisers “Ajax” and New Zealand “Achilles” - correctly anticipated her destination. Unfortunately “Cumberland” was by now in the Falklands. At 06.14 on the 13th, 150 miles east of the Plate Estuary, “Graf Spee” (Capt Langsdorff) was reported to the northwest of the three cruisers [1] . Faced with “Graf Spee's" heavier armament, Cdre Harwood decided to split his force in two and try to divide her main guns. “Exeter” closed to the south [2] while the two light cruisers worked around to the north [3] , all firing as they manoeuvred. “Graf Spee” concentrated her two 11in turrets on “Exeter” which was badly hit [4] . By 06.50 all ships were heading west [5] , “Exeter” with only one turret in action and on fire. She had to break off and headed south for the Falklands [6] .

“Ajax” and “Achilles” continued to harry the pocket battleship from the north [7] , but at 07.25 "Ajax" lost her two after turrets to an 11in hit [8] . “Achilles” already had splinter damage, but still the German ship failed to press home her advantage. By 08.00, still with only superficial damage, she headed for the neutral Uruguayan port of Montevideo, the cruisers shadowing [9] . “GRAF SPEE” entered port at midnight. As other Allied hunting groups headed for the area, much diplomatic manoeuvring took place to hold her there. Finally, on the 17th, Capt Langsdorff edged his ship out into the estuary where she was scuttled and blown up. Only “Cumberland” had arrived by this time. Langsdorff then committed suicide.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German pocket battleship



30th - Attacking Thames-out convoy 0A80 to the west of the English Channel, “U-55” was destroyed in a joint action by an RAF Sunderland of No 228 Squadron, sloop “Fowey“ and destroyer “Whitshed”. This was the first successful air/sea attack which would not be repeated for another five months.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat


5th - “U-41” sank one ship from Liverpool-out convoy OB84 south of Ireland, but was then sent to the bottom by the lone escort, destroyer “Antelope”.

23rd - Destroyer “Gurkha” on passage south of the Faeroe Islands encountered “U-53” returning from patrol in the Western Approaches. The U-boat was sunk.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats.

MARCH 1940

German Raiders - Converted from a merchantman and heavily armed, auxiliary cruiser “Atlantis” sailed for the Indian Ocean round the Cape of Good Hope. In 1941 she moved into the South Atlantic, and operations lasted for a total of 20 months until her loss in November 1941. She was the first of nine active raiders, seven of which went out in 1940. Only one ever broke out for a second cruise. Their success was not so much due to their sinkings and captures - a creditable average of 15 ships of 90,000 tons for each raider, but the disruption they caused in every ocean. At a time when the Royal Navy was short of ships, convoys had to be organised and patrols instituted in many areas. In 1940 raiders accounted for 54 ships of 370,000 tons. The first German raider was not caught until May 1941 - 14 months later.

20th - Home Fleet battlecruisers to the north of the Shetlands covered a cruiser sweep into the Skagerrak. German U-boat “U-44” was sighted and sunk by escorting destroyer “Fortune” .

Axis Loss Summary - 1 U-boat

APRIL 1940

German Raiders - “Orion” sailed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans around South America's Cape Horn. She was out for 16 months before returning to France.

10th - “U-50” on patrol off the Shetlands in support of the Norwegian invasion, was sunk by destroyer “Hero”.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

MAY 1940

German Raiders - “Widder” headed for central Atlantic operations before returning to France six months later. On her way into the Indian Ocean, “Atlantis” laid mines off South Africa.

JUNE 1940

German Raiders - Two more set sail. “Thor” made for the South Atlantic and returned to Germany eleven months later. “Pinguin” left for the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, later operated in the Antarctic and was finally lost in May 1941. Meanwhile “Orion” which set out in April 1940 was laying mines off New Zealand that accounted for the gold-bullion carrying liner “Niagara”.

6th - Three armed merchant cruisers on Northern Patrol were lost to U-boats in the waters between Ireland (R) and Iceland (C) over the next nine days, starting with “CARINTHIA” on the 6th/7th to “U-46”. 13th - “SCOTSTOUN” was tor pedoed three times by “U-25” and sank north west of the Hebrides. 15th - “ANDANIA” was su nk by German “U-A”, a Turkish submarine building in Germany and taken over

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats, dates and causes of loss uncertain.

JULY 1940

1st - Corvette Gladiolus claimed the first success for the 'Flower' class when with the support of an RAF Sunderland, she sank “U-26” southwest of Ireland.

5th - Detached from a UK outward-bound OB convoy to search for a reported U-boat, destroyer “WHIRLWIND” was to rpedoed by “U-34” and lost to the west of Land's End.

German Raiders - Only 11 months before Germany attacked Russia, “Komet” sailed for the Pacific through the North East Passage across the top of Siberia with the aid of Russian icebreakers. She operated in the Pacific and Indian Oceans until returning to Germany in November 1941, the last of the first wave of surface raiders to leave Germany.

28th - Off the coast of Brazil, German raider “Thor” badly damaged armed merchant cruiser “Alcantara” in a gun duel.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.


10th - Two more ex-liners recommissioned as armed merchant cruisers of the Northern Patrol were lost to U-boat attack to the north of Ireland. "TRANSYLVANIA" was t orpedoed and sunk by "U-56" on the 10th. The second was lost at the end of the month.

20th - Submarine "Cachalot "on Bay of Biscay patrol sank the returning "U-51" off Lorient, western France

24th- An attack by "U-37" on the first Slow Cape Breton/UK convoy SC1 to the southeast of Greenland led to the loss of a merchantman and sloop "PENZANCE".

27th/28th - The second AMC of the Northern Patrol lost to the north of Ireland was "DUNVEGAN CASTLE" to "U-46" on the night of the 27th/28th.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.


1st - Cruiser "Fiji" was torpedoed by "U-32" out in the North Atlantic off Rockall as she escorted troop transports for the Dakar, West Africa expedition, Operation "Menace". Her place was taken by Australian heavy cruiser "Australia".

6th - Escorting convoy OA205, corvette "GODETIA" was ra mmed and sunk by merchantman "Marsa" north of Ireland, the first 'Flower' class lost.

15th - "U-48" attacked convoy SC3 northwest of Ireland and sank sloop "DUNDEE". Both "Dundee" and "Penzance", lost the previous month, were long endurance ships used as anti-submarine (A/S) ocean escorts for the slow and vulnerable SC convoys.


22nd - Canadian destroyer "MARGAREE" escorting Liverpool-out convoy OL8, was lost in collision with merchantman "Port Fairy" to the west of Ireland. This was the last of the short-lived fast OL's sailing from Liverpool.

30th - Destroyers "Harvester" and "Highlander" sank "U-32" northwest of Ireland during a convoy attack. Two days earlier, the U-boat had finished off the damaged 42,000-ton liner "Empress of Britain".

German Surface Warships & Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" sailed from Germany for the Atlantic and later Indian Oceans. She got back home in March 1941. Meanwhile German raider "Widder" arrived in France after six month's operations in the central Atlantic where she sank or captured 10 ships of 59,000 tons.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.


2nd - Attacking a convoy northwest of Ireland, "U-31" was su nk for the second and final time, on this occasion by destroyer "Antelope" in co-operation with shore-based aircraft of RAF Coastal Command. RAF Bomber Command first sank her in March 1940.

3rd - Two armed merchant cruisers returning from patrol were sunk west of Ireland by Kretschmer's "U-99". The first was "LAURENTIC" on the 3rd.

4th - Next day, "PATROCLUS" was lo st west of Ireland to an attack by "U-99". A third AMC was sunk next day.

Admiral Scheer 1940 - Royal Navy Single Ship Action

5th - Loss of the "Jervis Bay" - H alifax/UK convoy HX84 with 37 ships and its solitary escort, armed merchant cruiser "Jervis Bay" (Capt Fegen) was attacked by the 11in-gunned pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in mid-Atlantic. The convoy was ordered to scatter as "JERVIS BAY" headed for the "Scheer", guns firing. The end was in no doubt and she went down, but her sacrifice saved all but five of the merchant ships. Capt Edward Fegen RN was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. It was in this action that tanker "San Demetrio" was damaged by gunfire and abandoned. Later re-boarded by a few of her crew, they got her into port in spite of the greatest difficulties and privations. "Admiral Scheer" headed for the central and later the South Atlantic.

In separate North Atlantic operations, German submarine "U-104" and the Italian "FAA DI BRUNO" were lost. In both cases the circumstances were uncertain, but "U-104" was claimed by corvette "Rhododendron" and the Italian by destroyer "Havelock". "U-104" was the last German U-boat lost until March although the Italians had casualties.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German and 1 Italian U-boats


German Raiders - "Kormoran" was the first of the second wave of raiders to leave for operations. She started in the central Atlantic and later moved to the Indian Ocean, where she was lost in November 1941. Much further afield in the South West Pacific, "Komet" and "Orion" shared in the sinking of five ships near the phosphate island of Nauru. Later in the month "Komet" shelled the installations on Nauru.

1st - Armed merchant cruiser "Carnarvon Castle" was ba dly damaged in action with raider "Thor" off Brazil, the German ship's second and equally successful fight with an AMC.

2nd - Cdr Kretschmer and "U-99" claimed a third armed merchant cruiser when "FORFAR" was se nt to the bottom west of Ireland the others were "Laurentic" and "Patroclus" a month earlier. At the same time nearby convoy HX90 was attacked just before the Western Approaches escorts arrived. Eleven ships were lost to the U-boats.

15th - Italian submarine "TARANTINI" returning from North Atlantic patrol was torpedoed and sunk by submarine "Thunderbolt" in the Bay of Biscay.

German Heavy Warships - Earlier in the month the 8in heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" left Germany and passed into the Atlantic through the Denmark Strait. On Christmas Day the 25th December, 700 miles to the west of Cape Finisterre, northwest Spain she encountered Middle East troop convoy WS5A, one of 'Winston's Specials', escorted by cruisers. They were accompanied by carrier "Furious" ferrying aircraft to Takoradi in West Africa. In an exchange of gunfire the heavy cruiser "Berwick" (below) and two merchantmen were slightly damaged. "Hipper" retired and soon reached Brest. She was the first of the Gerrnan big ships to reach the French Biscay ports. From there she and her companions posed a major threat to the Atlantic convoy routes right up until the Channel Dash of February 1942.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 Italian U-boat



German Heavy Warships & Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" was hunting in the South Atlantic, while battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" in Germany and heavy cruiser "Hipper" in Brest, France prepared to sail. At the end of the month the two battlecruisers headed out into the Atlantic for two months operations before returning to Brest. Six of the original seven raiders were still at sea - "Orion" and "Komet" in the Pacific, "Atlantis" at the desolate island of Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean, "Kormoran" in the central and "Thor" in the South Atlantic. Finally "Pinguin" was in the Antarctic. All six moved to different areas over the next few months. Until June 1941, German warships sank 37 ships of 188,000 tons and raiders 38 ships of 191,000 tons. Thereafter neither type inflicted many losses as worldwide convoys were organised and the raiders' supply ships sunk.

7th - Italian submarine "NANI" attacked a convoy west of North Channel and was sunk by corvette "Anemone".

Axis Loss Summary - 1 Italian U-boat.


German Heavy Warships - At the beginning of the month, heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" sailed from Brest. On the 12th, far to the west of Gibraltar, she sank seven ships from slow unescorted convoy SLS64 bound for Britain from Sierra Leone. Returning to Brest, in March she headed back to Germany via the Denmark Strait and took no further part in independent commerce raiding. On the 8th, battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" sighted convoy HX106 escorted by the lone battleship "Ramillies" south of Greenland, but declined to attack in case of possible damage. Two weeks later, five unescorted ships were sunk east of Newfoundland, before they headed for the Sierra Leone routes. Meanwhile pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in the Indian Ocean operated successfully off Madagascar before preparing to return to Germany.

22nd - Italian submarine "MARCELLO" was b elieved sunk to the west of the Hebrides by ex-US destroyer "Montgomery" and other escorts of Liverpool-out convoy OB287. The convoy was reported by Kondors which sank two and damaged four merchantmen. No more U-boat attacks were made.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 Italian U-boat.

MARCH 1941

7th/8th - With better weather the spring U-boat offensive started and 41 ships of 243,000 tons sunk. However, in the space of a few days they suffered their first major defeat at the hands of the escorts and lost five submarines (1-5) in the month including three aces. From then on, escort versus wolf-pack battles predominated in the North Atlantic. Attacking Liverpool-out convoy OB293, the first sinking was "U-70" (1) by corvettes "Arbutus" and "Camellia" on the 7th. Continuing the hunt, next to go was "U-47" (2) (Cdr Prien who sank battleship "Royal Oak" in Scapa Flow) to destroyer "Wolverine" on the 8th.

German Heavy Ships - battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" were sighted by aircraft of battleship "Malaya" escorting convoy SL67 off the Cape Verde Islands. The German ships returned to the Newfoundland area and on the 15th and 16th sank or captured 16 unescorted ships. They returned to Brest on the 22nd, having accounted for 22 ships of 116,000 tons, but never again took part successfully in commerce raiding.

17th - Germany lost two more U-boat aces during operations against Halifax/UK convoy HX112. "U-99" (3) (Lt-Cdr Kretschmer) and "U-100" (4) (Lt-Cdr Schepke) were sunk by the 5th Escort Group commanded by Cdr Macintyre. Destroyers "Vanoc" and "Walker" were mainly responsible.

20th - Following her earlier sighting of the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau", "Malaya" was n ow sailing with convoy SL68 off the west coast of Africa. Torpedoed and damaged by "U-106", she became the first British ship repaired in the United States under Lend-Lease arrangements. The convoy lost seven merchantmen to the U-boats.

23rd - The fifth U-boat loss of the month was "U-551" (5) to armed trawler "Visenda". All five U-boat sinkings took place to the south of Iceland, the first German casualties since November 1940 - four months earlier.

Axis Loss Summary - 5 German U-boats, including three of the most experienced commanders.

APRIL 1941

4th - Armed merchant cruisers again suffered heavy losses at widely scattered locations and in different circumstances. On the 4th "VOLTAIRE" was sunk in a gun duel with German raider "Thor" west of the Cape Verde Islands.

5th - Slow Halifax/UK convoy SC26 was attacked by U-boats for two days and lost 10 merchantmen. On the 5th, "U-76" was sunk by escorting destroyer "Wolverine and sloop "Scarborough" south of Iceland.

6th - Only two days later, "COMORIN" caught fire and finally went down west of Ireland - the rescue of her crew and passengers in raging seas an epic in its own right.

13th - The third AMC was "RAJPUTANA" of the Northern Patrol lost in an attack by "U-108" in the Denmark Strait separating Greenland and Iceland.

German Raiders - "Thor" now returned to Germany after an absence of 11 months, having accounted for 11 ships of 83,000 tons plus the "Voltaire". Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" also got back to Germany after five months in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans credited with 16 ships of 99,000 tons and "Jervis Bay".

28th - Fast Halifax/UK convoy HX121 lost four ships but "U-65" was s unk in return by corvette "Gladiolus", like "U-76", south of Iceland.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

MAY 1941

8th - On patrol north of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, heavy cruiser "Cornwall" found and sank German raider "PINGUIN". This was the first raider to be hunted down, having accounted for 28 ships of 136,000 tons.

9th - Capture of "U.110" and the German Enigma - S outh of Iceland, "U.110" (Lt-Cdr Lemp of the "Athenia" sinking) attacked Liverpool out convoy OB318 protected by ships of Capt A. J. Baker-Creswell's escort group. Blown to the surface by depth charges from corvette "Aubretia" on the 9th, "U-110's" crew abandoned ship, but she failed to go down. A boarding party from destroyer "Bulldog", led by Sub-Lt Balme, managed to get aboard. In a matter of hours they transferred to safety "U-110's" entire Enigma package - coding machine, code books, rotor settings and charts. The destroyer "Broadway" stood by during this hazardous operation. Two days later "U-110" sank on tow to Iceland, knowledge of her capture having been withheld from the crew and Lt-Cdr Lemp dying at the time of the boarding. The priceless Enigma material represented one of the greatest intelligence coup ever and was a major naval victory in its own right. "U-110's" capture was far and away the most successful of the attempts to capture Enigma codes. In the March 1941 raid on the Norwegian Lofoten Islands, spare coding rotors were found. Then two days before the "U-110" triumph, a cruiser force had tried to capture the weather trawler "Munchen" off Iceland. At the end of the coming June a similar operation was mounted against the "Lauenberg". In both cases useful papers were taken but the real breakthrough only came with "U-110". Included with the material captured were all rotor settings until the end of June 1941. A number of codes were used with Enigma. The U-boat one was 'Hydra', also used by all ships in European waters. From the end of June, Bletchley Park was able to decipher 'Hydra' right through until the end of the war. Unfortunately the U-boats moved off this version to the new 'Triton' in February 1942. The big ship 'Neptun' and Mediterranean 'Sud' and 'Medusa' codes were also soon broken.

13th - Armed merchant cruiser "SALOPIAN" on passage to Halifax after escorting convoy SC30 was torpedoed a total of six times by "U-98". Eventually she went down southeast of Cape Farewell, the sad but appropriately-named southern tip of Greenland.

18th-28th - Hunt for the "Bismarck", Phase 1 - On the 18th, new German 15in battleship "Bismarck" and heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" sailed from Gdynia in the Baltic for the Atlantic via Norway. A simultaneous sortie by the battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" from Brest was fortunately prevented by the damage inflicted by the RAF. On the 20th, the first two ships were sighted in the Kattegat by a Swedish warship. 21st - In the evening the German ships were sighted in a fiord south of Bergen, Norway. Two of the Home Fleet's capital ships, "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" (the latter still not fully completed and working up), sailed from Scapa Flow towards Iceland to support the cruisers on Northern Patrol. 22nd - "Bismarck" was reported at sea and the main body of the Home Fleet under Adm Tovey left Scapa Flow and headed west. Battleship "King George V", fleet carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers were later joined by battlecruiser "Repulse". "Victorious" was also a recent addition to the Fleet and still working up.

23rd - In the early evening, heavy cruisers "Suffolk" and shortly "Norfolk" sighted the German ships north west of Iceland and shadowed them southwestwards through the Denmark Strait separating Iceland from Greenland to the west. "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" pressed on to intercept west of Iceland. 24th - That morning the big ships met and opened fire. Around 06.00, after firing two or three salvos, "Bismarck" hit "HOOD" which blew up with only three survivors. Now it was "Prince of Wales" turn to be the target. After being hit several times she turned away but not before damaging "Bismarck" and causing her to lose fuel oil to the sea.

Phase 2 - German Adm Lutjens decided to make for St Nazaire in France, with its large dry-dock, and headed southwest and later south out of the Denmark Strait. The two Royal Navy cruisers, and for a while the damaged "Prince of Wales", continued to shadow. Adm Tovey hurried west with the rest of Home Fleet. With "Hood's" loss, Force H (Adm Somerville) with battlecruiser "Renown", carrier "Ark Royal" and cruiser "Sheffield" was sailing north from Gibraltar. Battleship "Ramillies", released from convoy escort duties, and "Rodney", then to the west of Ireland, headed towards "Bismarck's" expected track. "Ramillies" played no part in later operations. At 18.00, still an the 24th, "Bismarck" feinted north towards her shadowers long enough to allow "Prinz Eugen" to get away. (The cruiser went south, later refueled from a tanker and cruised for three days before reaching Brest on 1 June. There she joined the two battlecruisers under heavy RAF attack until the Channel Dash of February 1942.) Around midnight, southeast of Cape Farewell, Swordfish from Adm Tovey's "Victorious" got one hit on "Bismarck" after she had resumed her southerly course. The damage was negligible. Shortly after in the early hours of the 25th, she altered course to the southeast for France and the cruisers lost contact. At this point Adm Tovey's heavy ships were only 100 miles away.

25th - "Bismarck" held her southeasterly course, but broke radio silence. Unfortunately the British direction-finding service put her on a northeasterly heading. Adm Tovey sailed in that direction for a while before turning to the southeast in pursuit. Now he was well astern of his quarry. Only by slowing her down could destruction become possible. In the meantime, Force H continued to sail north to take up a blocking position between "Bismarck" and her new goal of Brest. 26th - After a 30-hour interval, "Bismarck" was once more sighted, this time by a RAF Catalina of No 209 Squadron, and only 30hr from home. In the afternoon a Swordfish strike from Force H's "Ark Royal" attacked cruiser "Sheffield" in error. They missed. A second strike took place in the evening by 810, 818 and 820 Squadrons with 15 Swordfish led by Lt-Cdr Coode. They torpedoed "Bismarck" twice and one hit damaged her propellers and jammed the rudder. As "Bismarck" circled, destroyers of the 4th Flotilla (Capt Vian) came up around midnight, and made a series of torpedo and gun attacks but with uncertain results. Capt Vian's "Cossack", "Maori", "Sikh", "Zulu" and Polish "Piorun" had been detached from troop convoy ("Winston's Special") WS8B, an indication of the seriousness of "Bismarck's" threat. By this time Adm Tovey's force of heavy ships had lost "Repulse" to refuel, but been joined by "Rodney". They now came up from the west but do not attack just yet. 27th - "King George V", "Rodney" and the still circling "Bismarck" all opened fire around 08.45. Only the German ship was hit and by 10.15 was a blazing wreck. Heavy cruiser "Dorsetshire", having left convoy SL74 the previous day, fired torpedoes to finish her off. "BISMARCK" sank at 10.36 to the southwest of Ireland. Shadowing cruiser "Norfolk" was there at the end. 28th - The many warships deployed from all parts of the North Atlantic returned to other duties. As they did, heavy attacks by German aircraft sank destroyer "MASHONA" off the west coast of Ireland.

Axis Loss Summary - German battleship "Bismarck" and "U-110"

JUNE 1941

2nd - Destroyer "Wanderer" and corvette "Periwinkle" sank "U-147" northwest of Ireland during a convoy attack.

13th - Pocket battleship "Lutzow" attempted to break out. Attacked on the 13th off the Norwegian coast by an RAF Beaufort, she was hit by one torpedo and only just made it back to Germany.

18th - As Force H headed into the Atlantic to help search for German supply vessels already in position to support "Bismarck's" breakout, they came across a U-boat located through the recently captured "Enigma" codes off the Strait of Gibraltar. Screening destroyers "Faulknor", "Fearless", "Forester", "Foresight" and "Foxhound" shared in the destruction of "U-138".

27th - Italian submarine "GLAUCO" was scut tled west of Gibraltar after being damaged by destroyer "Wishart".

27th-29th - Attacks on Halifax/UK convoy HX133 - A total of 10 U-boats attacked Halifax/UK convoy HX133 south of Iceland. Five ships were lost but the convoy escort sank two U-boats. Corvettes "Celandine", "Gladiolus" and "Nasturtium" accounted for "U-556" on the 27th, and destroyers "Scimitar" and "Malcolm", corvettes "Arabis" and "Violet" and minesweeper "Speedwell" sank "U-651" on the 29th. The escort had been reinforced to a total of 13 ships as a result of 'Ultra' intercepts of Enigma codes. This, the first of the big convoy battles, led to the development of additional convoy support groups.

Axis Loss Summary - 4 German and 1 Italian U-boats

JULY 1941

Axis Loss Summary - no U-boat sinkings

3rd - Southwest of Ireland, ships of the 7th Escort Group escorting Sierra Leone/UK convoy SL81 - destroyers "Wanderer" and Norwegian "St Albans” and corvette "Hydrangea" sank "U-401".

7th - Submarine "Severn" on patrol for U-boats attacking HG convoys west of Gibraltar, torpedoed and sank Italian submarine "BIANCHI".

12th - Corvette "PICOTEE" with the 4th Escort Group accompanying convoy ONS4 was detached to search for a reported U-boat south of Iceland. She was sunk without trace by "U-568".

19th-23rd - Attacks on UK/Gibraltar convoy OG71 - A to tal of nine merchantmen were lost. Of the ships with the 5th Escort Group Norwegian destroyer "BATH" was su nk on the 19th by "U-204" or "U-201", and corvette "ZINNIA" by "U-564" to the west of Portugal on the 23rd.

25th - South of Iceland, armed trawler "Vascama" and a RAF Catalina of No 209 Squadron sank "U-452".

27th - Capture of German "U-570" - "U-570" on patrol south of Iceland surfaced and was damaged by depth charges from an RAF Hudson of No 269 Squadron, piloted by Sqn Ldr Thompson. She soon surrendered and was towed into Iceland. After refitting, "U-570" was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Graph.

German Raiders - "Orion" returned to France from the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope. In 16 months she had accounted for 9 1/2 ships of 60,000 tons, some in co-operation with "Komet".

Axis Loss Summary - 3 German and 1 Italian U-boats

8th - As Italian submarines patrolled to the west of Portugal for HG convoys, "BARACCA" was depth charged and rammed by destroyer "Croome". A second Italian submarine may have been sunk later in the month.

10th-19th - Attacks on Halifax/UK Convoys - At tacks on these convoys southwest of Iceland led to the first success and loss by Royal Canadian Navy forces in the Battle of the Atlantic. Against SC42, "U-501" was s unk by Canadian corvettes "Chambly" and "Moosejaw" (sister ship HMCS Louisburg shown below) on the 10th. Next day RN destroyers "Leamington" and "Veteran" of 2nd EG sank "U-207". But in exchange, SC42 lost 16 of its 64 merchantmen. A few days later, on the 19th, Canadian corvette "LEVIS" with SC44 was lost to "U-74" southeast of Cape Farewell.

21st - Destroyer "Vimy" claimed to have sunk Italian submarine "MALASPINA" during attacks on Gibraltar/UK convoy HG73. She may in fact have been lost earlier through unknown causes.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German and 2 Italian U-boats

4th - Supply U-boat "U-111" returning from the Cape Verde area was sunk off the Canaries by armed trawler "Lady Shirley".

14th-27th - Attacks on Gibraltar/UK Convoy Routes - Tw o escorts and two U-boats were lost in attacks on the UK/Gibraltar convoy routes. In operations against Gibraltar-bound OG75, "U-206" sank corvette "FLEUR DE LYS" off the Strait of Gibraltar on the 14th. In the same area on the 19th, "U-204" was lost to patrolling corvette "Mallow" and sloop "Rochester". Six days later on the 25th, Italian submarine "FERRARIS" was d amaged by a RAF Catalina of No 202 Squadron and sent to the bottom by the gunfire of escort destroyer "Lamerton". UK-bound HG75 lost five ships, and on the 23rd the famous destroyer "COSSACK" was torpedoed by "U-563". Struggling in tow for four days she foundered to the west of Gibraltar.

16th-31st - First US Navy Casualties - In mid-Atlantic, convoy SC48 of 39 ships and 11 stragglers was reinforced by four US destroyers. On the 16th corvette "GLADIOLUS" was torpedoed by "U-553" or "U-568" and went down. There were no survivors. Next day - the 17th, the US "Kearny" was d amaged by a torpedo from "U-568", and on the 18th British destroyer "BROADWATER" was lost to "U-101". Nine merchantmen were sunk. Convoy HX156 was escorted by another US group, and on the 31st the destroyer "REUBEN JAMES" was sunk by "U-552". This first US loss in the Battle of the Atlantic came only two weeks after the torpedoing of "Kearny". The United States was virtually at war with Germany.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German and 1 Italian U-boats

22nd - While replenishing "U-126" north of Ascension Island, raider "ATLANTIS" was su rprised and sunk by heavy cruiser "Devonshire". The raider's operations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans had cost the Allies 22 merchantmen of 146,000 tons.

24th - On her way to rescue "Atlantis'" survivors, "U-124" sighted cruiser "DUNEDIN" on patrol off the St Paul's Rocks, half way between Africa and South America. The cruiser was sunk with heavy loss of life.

German Raiders - "Komet" returned to Germany through the Atlantic having reached the Pacific across the top of Siberia some 17 months earlier. Her score was just 6 1/2 ships, some in operations with "Orion".

German Heavy Warships - As the completed "Tirpitz", sister-ship to "Bismarck" prepared for operations, units of the Home Fleet sailed for Iceland waters to cover any possible breakout. They were supported by a US Navy battle squadron.

30th - RAF aircraft of Coastal Command were now flying regular patrols in the Bay of Biscay equipped with effective airborne depth charges and the long wavelength ASV radar. The first success was by a Whitley of No 502 Squadron. "U-206" on passage to the Mediterranean was detected and sunk.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German raider, 1 German U-boat and 1 Italian (cause unknown)

7th - Canadian corvette “WINDFLOWER“ with Halifax/UK convoy SC58 was lost in collision with the SS Zypenburg east of Newfoundland.

15th-21st - Battle for Convoy HG76: Closing of the Gibraltar/UK Air-Gap - Gibraltar/UK convoy HG76 (32 ships) was escorted by the 36th Escort Group (Cdr F. J. Walker) with a support group including escort carrier “Audacity”. In advance of the convoy leaving Gibraltar, destroyers of Force H including the Australian “Nestor” located and destroyed “U-127” on the 15th. In the four days from the 17th, four more U-boats were sunk for the loss of two escorts and two merchantmen. The battle took place to the far west of Portugal, north of Madeira and the Azores. 17th - “U-131” was su nk by destroyers “Blankney”, “Exmoor” and “Stanley”, corvette “Pentstemon” and sloop “Stork” together with Grumman Martlets flying from “Audacity”. 18th - “U-434” was ac counted for by “Blankney” and “Stanley”. 19th - Destroyer “STANLEY” was torp edoed and sunk by “U-574”, which was in turn sent to the bottom, rammed by sloop “Stork”. 21st - The sole escort carrier “AUDACITY” was torp edoed by “U-751” and lost, but in the general counter-attack “U-567” was sunk by corvette “Samphire” and sloop “Deptford”. The sinking of five U-boats in exchange for two merchant ships was a significant victory for the escorts, and proved beyond any doubt the value of escort carrier aircraft against the submarine - as well as the patrolling Focke Wulf Kondors, two of which were shot down.

Axis Loss Summary - 5 German U-boats plus two transferring to the Mediterranean

German Surface Warships - The German big ships giae the Admiralty much cause for concern. "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and "Prinz Eugen" all now repaired, were ready for a possible break-out from Brest into the Atlantic. At the same time the new battleship "Tirpitz" moved to Trondheim in the middle of the month from where she could prey on the Russian convoys. In fact Hitler had ordered the Brest squadron back to Germany. By early February the Admiralty had got wind of the proposed "Channel Dash" and prepared accordingly.

German Raiders - Raider "Thor" sailed from France for her second cruise. She was the only raider to do so successfully. Operations in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean continued until her loss in November 1942. No German raiders had been at sea since the previous November, and "Thor" was the first of three to break out in 1942. In the first six months of the year they sank or captured 17 ships of 107,000 tons.

15th - Destroyer "Hesperus" escorting convoy HG78 sank "U-93" north of Madeira.

31st - Canadian troop convoy NA2 sailing for Britain was attacked by "U-82" southeast of Nova Scotia. Destroyer "BELMONT" was lo st with all hands.

31st - Ex-US Coast Guard cutter "CULVER" was s unk by "U-105" west of the Bay of Biscay as she escorted Sierra Leone convoy SL93.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat.

2nd - As she attacked a damaged troopship sailing from the Azores, "U-581" was sun k by escorting destroyer "Westcott".

5th - "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.

6th - 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 "Rochester".

11th - "U-136's" second success less than a week later was Canadian corvette "SPIKENARD" escorting Halifax/UK convoy SC67.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

German Raiders - Raider "Michel" sailed for the South Atlantic and later Indian and Pacific Oceans.

27th - 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 using HF/DF - ship-borne, high frequency direction-finding.

Axis Loss Summary - 3 U-boats, including 2 by US aircraft off Newfoundland

14th - "U-252" attacked UK/Gibraltar 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 played an increasing part in the sinking of U-boats.

14th - The US Navy had its first warship success against U-boats when destroyer "Roper" sank "U-85" off the east coast of America.

Axis Loss Summary - 2 German U-boats

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German U-boat by US Coast Guard off east coast of America

17th - As destroyer "WILD SWAN" headed for Gibraltar/UK convoy HG84 she was attacked and sunk off south west Ireland by German Ju88s, but not before she shot down a number of them. The convoy lost five ships to U-boats.

21st - Ex-US submarine "P-514" on passage around the coast of Newfoundland from Argentia to St Johns was rammed and sunk in error by Canadian sloop "Georgian".

Axis Loss Summary - 2 U-boats by US forces off Cuba and Bermuda

3rd - "U-215" sank an 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 some sources).

11th - 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 "Leopard".

14th - Damaged in action with the cutter "Lulworth" and other escorts, Italian submarine "PIETRO CALVI" was s cuttled south of the Azores.

24th - Canadian destroyer "St Croix", with the Canadian C2 group escorting UK/North America convoy ON115, sank "U-90" off Newfoundland.

31st - In mid-Atlantic, Canadian destroyer "Skeena" and corvette "Wetaskiwan" of the C3 group (see below for "C" designation) with ON113 sank "U-588".

31st - 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 "Sandwich".

Axis Loss Summary - 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

3rd - On anti-U-boat patrol between the Shetlands and Norway, submarine "Saracen" torpedoed "U-335" on passage out.

5th-10th - Attacks on Halifax/UK convoy SC94 - I n 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 attacks on the convoy.

28th - "U-94" attacked Trinidad/Cuba convoy TAG15 off Jamaica. Damaged by a US Navy Catalina, she was finished off by Canadian corvette "Oakville".

Axis Loss Summary - 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.

3rd - "U-162" attacked destroyer "Pathfinder" north of Trinidad, but was sunk by her and accompanying destroyers "Quentin" and "Vimy".

11th - Canadian corvette "CHARLOTTETOWN" on passage with a minesweeper in the Gulf of St Lawrence was sunk by "U-517".

"Laconia" Incident - Off West Africa on the 12th, "U-156" sank liner "Laconia" loaded with 1,800 Italian POWs. The CO called for assistance in clear and other U-boats came to the rescue. An American aircraft made an attack and Adm Doenitz subsequently forbade U-boats to help ships' survivors. He was indicted for the 'Laconia order' at the Nurnberg trials.

14th - "U-91" sent Canadian destroyer "OTTAWA" to the bottom, east of Newfoundland. She was with the Canadian C4 group protecting UK/North American convoy ON127, which lost seven ships to U-boats.

26th - U-boats attacked convoy RB1 of Great Lakes steamers bound for the UK. In mid-Atlantic, escorting destroyer "VETERAN" was lost to "U-404". There were no survivors and only postwar-captured German records revealed her fate.

German Raiders - After sinking just three ships, German raider "STIER" encountered American freighter "Stephen Hopkins" in the South Atlantic on the 27th. The "HOPKINS" was su nk, but not before her single 4in gun damaged the raider so severely she had to be abandoned.

Axis Loss Summary - 1 German raider and 9 U-boats including 3 by US and RAF aircraft in the North Atlantic 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols 1 on an RAF-laid mine in the Bay of Biscay

2nd - Off northwest Ireland the 81,000-ton liner "Queen Mary", sailing as a fast unescorted troopship met Western Approaches escort AA cruiser "CURACOA" and accidentally rammed and sank her with the loss of over 300 men.

8th - "U-179" torpedoed and sank a merchantman off Cape Town, South Africa and was then depth-charged and rammed by destroyer "Active". Four other U-boats had preceded "U-179" to South African waters and in just four weeks sank over 20 ships.

15th/I6th - Attacks on Halifax/UK Convoy SC104 - The convoy with 47 ships escorted by the British B6 group lost eight merchantmen to U-boats. However, in mid-Atlantic on the 15th, destroyer "Viscount" rammed and sank "U-619", and next day destroyer "Fame" accounted for "U-353", also by ramming. (Note: the identity of "U-619" is sometimes reversed with "U-661" sunk in the vicinity by the RAF.)

Early October - Submarine "UNIQUE" on passage from Britain to Gibraltar was last reported on the 9th off Land's End, south west England. She was never heard from again.

23rd - Two U-boats were on patrol off the Congo Estuary. "U-161" torpedoed and badly damaged cruiser "Phoebe" on passage to French Equatorial Africa.

Axis Loss Summary - 15 U-boats including 6 by RAF in North Atlantic 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrols 1 by RAF-laid mine in the Bay of Biscay 2 by RCAF off Newfoundland 1 by US aircraft off French Guiana 1 by unknown causes, possibly by US aircraft

15th - The Germans reacted to the 'Torch' landings on French North Africa by concentrating U-boats off Morocco and to the west of Gibraltar. A number of empty transports were sunk, and on the 15th escort carrier "AVENGER" sailing with return convoy MKF1 was torpedoed by "U-155" and went down off the Strait of Gibraltar. Only 12 men survived. That same day, destroyer "Wrestler" also with MKF1 sank "U-411". Over the next few days US destroyers accounted for "U-173" and the RAF for "U-98".

15th - Canadian destroyer "SAGUENAY" escorting an iron ore convoy off Cape Race, Newfoundland, was badly damaged in collision. She was not repaired.

18th/20th - Attacks on UK/North America Convoy ONS144 - Slow convoy ONS144 was heavily attacked in the mid-Atlantic and lost five ships. Escort was provided by the British B6 group composed largely of Norwegian-manned corvettes. On the 18th the Norwegian "MONTBRETIA" was lo st to "U-624" or "U-262", but two days later Norwegian sister-ship "Potentilla sank "U-134".

21st - Aircraft of 817 Squadron from fleet carrier "Victorious" accounted for "U-517" southwest of Ireland.

Axis Loss Summary - 7 U-boats including one by US aircraft off Iceland, and one possibly by the RAF in the North Atlantic

16th - In attacks on UK/North America convoy ON153, "U-211" sank destroyer "FIREDRAKE" in mid-Atlantic on the night of the 16th/17th.

26th - Outward bound "U-357" was d etected by HF/DF to the northwest of Ireland. Destroyers "Hesperus" and "Vanessa" of the British B2 group (Cdr Macintyre) with convoy HX219 located and sank her.

27th - "U-356" attacked slow convoy ONS154 escorted by the Canadian Cl group to the north of the Azores. Destroyer "St Laurent" and corvettes "Battleford", "Chilliwack" and "Napanee" all shared in her sinking. It was a poor return for the convoy's loss of 13 of its 45 ships.

Axis Loss Summary - 5 U-boats including 1 by US and 1 indirectly by RAF aircraft in attacks on HX217 1 by US Coast Guard in mid-Atlantic

How the Sinking of Lusitania Changed World War I

On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the British-owned luxury steamship Lusitania, killingਁ,195 people including 128ਊmericans, according to the Library of Congress. The disaster immediately strained relations between Germany and the neutral United States, fueled anti-German sentiment and set off a chain of events that eventually led to the United States entering World War I.

Germany broke naval rules.
Lusitania, owned by the Cunard Shipping Line, was launched in 1906 to carry passengers on transatlantic voyages. The British Admiralty subsidized the ship’s construction with the understanding it would be pressed into military service if war broke out. After World War I began in 1914, Lusitania remained a passenger ship, although it was secretly modified for war.

By February 1915, German naval commanders knew British merchants were arming their ships and that both merchant and passenger ships were transporting weapons and supplies from the United States to Europe.

As a result, Germany declared the waters surrounding the British Isles a war zone and stopped following international naval “prize laws,” which warned ships of a submarine’s presence. This break from naval protocol angered and troubled the United States and the European Allies.

Germany attacked a ship With civilians aboard.
Days before Lusitania was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool in early May 1915, the Imperial German Embassy in Washington D.C. placed ads in American newspapers reminding Americans that Britain and Germany were at war. They warned potential travelers that “vessels flying the flag of Great Britain or of any of her allies are liable to destruction” and should be avoided.

Since it was assumed Germany would still allow passengers to get into lifeboats prior to an attack, the cautions were largely ignored.

On May 7, 1915, six days after leaving New York for Liverpool, Lusitania took a direct hit from a German U-boat submarine—without any warning𠅊nd sank within 20 minutes.

The front page of The New York Times after the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German submarine, along with a notice printed within from the German Embassy in the USA warning against trans-Atlantic travel. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

The backlash aroused anti-German sentiment in America.
As word spread about Lusitania’s tragic fate, so did the outrage. American citizens were saddened and stunned but not ready to rush to war. President Woodrow Wilson wanted to proceed with caution and remain neutral while former President Theodore Roosevelt demanded swift retaliation.

Germany defended its aggression, claiming Lusitania had carried weapons and war supplies and was therefore fair game. As they continued to divert blame, British propaganda against them snowballed. Throngs of vengeance-seeking Brits rushed to enlist, and anti-German riots broke out in London.

Said Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, “The poor babies who perished in the ocean struck a blow at German power more deadly than could have been achieved by the sacrifice of 100,000 men.”

Before entering the war, the U.S. issued a warning.
In August 1915, a German submarine sunk the British ocean liner S.S. Arabic and claimed self-defense. The event further strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany. President Wilson warned Germany that if it was determined they𠆝 sunk the ship without cause, the United States may cut diplomatic ties and enter the war.

Germany caved, and in September announced they𠆝 no longer sink passenger ships without warning. Satisfied, at least for the moment, President Wilson chose not to declare war on Germany despite being encouraged otherwise by some of his cabinet members.

Arthur Zimmermann, circa 1910. (Credit: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Zimmerman telegram was the final straw.
The sinking of Lusitania was a public relations nightmare for Germany as public opinion in the United States turned against them. But President Wilson still wasn’t ready to take his country to war.

Then, in early 1917, Britain intelligence intercepted a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the German Minister to Mexico Henrich von Eckhardt.

The Zimmerman telegram stated that Germany planned to return to unrestricted submarine warfare and would sink all ships – including those carrying American passengers – located in the war zone. The telegram also proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico should the United States decide to join the European Allies.

President Wilson was outraged but still didn’t enter the war. However, when Germany officially resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, Wilson and the American public had had enough. In April 1917, the United States Congress voted to declare war on the Central Powers and entered World War I.

The U.S. still doesn’t enter the war, but is now ready.
The sinking of Lusitania didn’t directly cause the United States to enter the war. It did, however, fuel virulent anti-German sentiment in Britain and the United States and hinder diplomatic relations between Germany and the United States.

It also showed the world that Germany was willing to do almost anything to win the war, which incited the Allies to fight harder and signaled to the United States that permanent neutrality was likely futile.



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