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
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
Campaign - Conclusion and Aftermath......
On the 8th, at
the end of the evacuation, British fleet
carrier “GLORIOUS” with escorting destroyers
“ACASTA” and “ARDENT” sailed for Britain
independently of the other withdrawing
forces. West of Lofoten Islands they met
11in gun battlecruisers “Scharnhorst” and
“Gneisenau” sailing to attacked suspected
Allied shipping off Harstad. The British
ships were soon overwhelmed and sunk, but
not before “Acasta” hit “Scharnhorst” with a
torpedo. Naval losses on
both sides were heavy, and in the case of
the Germans included damage to battlecruiser
"Scharnhorst" (followed shortly by
"Gneisenau") and pocket battleship "Lutzow".
- Five days after the sinking of “Glorious”,
aircraft from “Ark Royal” attacked the
damaged “Scharnhorst” in Trondheim but to
As the damaged battlecruiser “Scharnhorst”
headed for Germany, “Gneisenau” feinted
towards Iceland. West of Trondheim she was
torpedoed and damaged by British submarine
“Clyde”. Both battlecruisers were out of
action during the critical phases of the
Battle for Britain until the end of the
year. German Warships - By now, of
the 23 surface ships of destroyer size and
above that took part in the invasion of
Norway, 17 had been sunk or damaged.
- FRANCE capitulated and the
Franco-German surrender document was signed on the 22nd.
Its provisions included German occupation of the Channel
and Biscay coasts including the major base of Brest.
Europe - As the
damaged "Gneisenau" made for Germany from Norway on the
26th, submarine "Swordfish" carried out an attack and
sank escorting torpedo boat "LUCHS".
German Raiders - Only
11 months before German 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.
- Off the coast of Brazil on the 28th, German raider
“Thor” badly damaged armed merchant cruiser “Alcantara”
in a gun duel.
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.
North Sea -
A planned attacked on the 7th by German torpedo boats
(small destroyers) off the coast of Scotland ended when
mined on the British
East Coast barrage and went down.
Loss of the
"Jervis Bay" - Halifax/UK
convoy HX84 with 37 ships and its solitary escort, armed
merchant cruiser "Jervis Bay" was attacked on the 5th 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. "Admiral
Scheer" headed for the Central and later the South
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.
- Armed merchant cruiser "Carnarvon Castle"
damaged on the 1st in action with raider "Thor" off
Brazil, the German ship's second and equally successful
fight with an AMC.
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" and two
merchantmen were slightly damaged. "Hipper" retired and
Brest. She was the first of the Gerrnan big
ships to reach the French Biscay ports. From there she
and her companions poses a major threat to the Atlantic
convoy routes right up until the big-ship "Channel Dash"
of February 1942.
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
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 heads 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
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.
- On the 4th, armed merchant cruiser "VOLTAIRE"
sunk in a gun duel
with German raider "Thor" west of the Cape Verde
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 the "Jervis Bay".
German Heavy Ships -
The arrival of battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and
"Gneisenau" in Brest led to a long series of heavy RAF
bomber raids. These did not end until the Channel Dash
in February 1942. During this time both ships sustained
varying amounts of damage. On the 6th "Gneisenau" was
torpedoed and badly
damaged by an RAF Beaufort of No 22 Squadron, Coastal
- On patrol north of the Seychelles in the Indian
Ocean, heavy cruiser "Cornwall" found and sank German
raider "PINGUIN" on the 8th. This was the first raider
to be hunted down, having accounted for 28 ships of
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, they 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
not fully completed and still working up), sailed from
Scapa Flow towards Iceland to support the cruisers on
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" sailed 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 refuelled from a
tanker and cruised for three days before reaching Brest
on 1 June. There she joined the two battlecruisers under
heavy RAF attacked until the Channel Dash of February
1942.) Around midnight, southeast of Greenland's
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"
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 took 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 the "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 did 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
she 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.
Atlantic - 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
the Atlantic - Following the
capture of the German “U-100” Enigma code material, the
Royal Navy tracked down the supply ships already in
position to support the "Bismarck" as well as other
raiders and U-boats. In 20 days, six tankers and three
other ships were sunk or captured in the North and South
Ships - RAF Bomber Command badly damaged
battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" at La Pallice, France on the
24th. Heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen"
damaged in July. With "Gneisenau" in Brest and "Lutzow"
back in Germany, both undergoing repairs, the main big
ship threat was from the new battleship "Tirpitz".
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".
Raiders - Indian & Atlantic Oceans -
Far across the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, the
Australian cruiser "Sydney" came across German raider
"Kormoran" on the 19th. Apparently caught unawares,
damaged and lost without trace. "KORMORAN" also went
down. In a cruise lasting 12 months she had sunk or
captured 11 other ships of 68,000 tons. While
replenishing "U-126" north of Ascension Island on the
22nd, raider "ATLANTIS"
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. "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 British Home Fleet
sailed for Iceland waters to cover any possible
breakout. Still short of war, the US Navy supported then
with a battle squadron
Surface Warships - The German big ships gave 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.
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.
- RAF Bomber Command carried on its offensive against
Germany and occupied Europe. Attacks were made in
January on Bremen, Emden and Hamburg and the big
warships in Brest.
The Channel Dash
(Vice-Adm Ciliax) with "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau" and
"Prinz Eugen", heavily escorted by air and other naval
forces, left late on the 11th for Germany in
Operation 'Cerberus'. The aim was to pass through the
Strait of Dover around noon the next day. A number of
problems conspired to prevent the RAF standing patrols
detecting their departure. The first intimation of the
breakout came with a RAF report around 10.45 on the 12th
as the German force steamed towards Boulogne. This
left little time for attacks to be mounted. Soon after
midday the first was made by five motor torpedo boats
from Dover and six Swordfish torpedo-bombers of 825
Squadron (Lt-Cdr Esmonde), but no hits were made. All
Swordfish were shot down.
From then on,
events moved swiftly. At 14.30 off the Scheldt,
damaged by a mine. An hour later, torpedo attacks by six
destroyers from Harwich were unsuccessful. Twenty
minutes later a heavy attack by the RAF fails. The
German ships carried on and in the early evening off the
Dutch Frisian Islands, first "Gneisenau" and then
"Scharnhorst" (for the second time) hit mines. Both were
damaged, but together with "Prinz Eugen" reached German
ports in the early hours of the 13th. The escape was an
embarrassment for the British Government, but a tactical
victory for the German Navy was also a strategic gain
for the Royal Navy. The Brest Squadron no longer
directly threatened the Atlantic convoy routes, both
battlecruisers were damaged and ten days later "Prinz
Eugen" was badly damaged. Two weeks later "Gneisenau"
was further damaged
in a RAF raid on Kiel and never went to sea again. A
start was made on her repair but in early 1943 she was
Surface Warships - Following the "Channel Dash",
heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen"
pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" to join "Tirpitz" in
Norway. Off Trondheim, submarine "Trident" torpedoed and
heavily damaged her on the 23rd.
Raiders - Raider "Michel" sailed for the South
Atlantic and later Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Convoy PQ12 and Return QP8 - By now German
battleship "Tirpitz", the ship that dictated Royal Navy
policies in northern waters for so long, had been joined
in Norway by pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer". The
next Russia-bound and return convoys therefore set out
on the same day, the 1st, so they could be
covered by the Home Fleet with battleships "Duke of
York", "Renown", "King George V" and carrier
"Victorious". Convoys PQ12 and QP8 passed to the
southwest of Bear Island and with "Tirpitz" reported at
sea, the Home Fleet tried to place itself between her
and the convoys. There was no contact between the
surface ships, but on the 9th, aircraft from
"Victorious" attacked but failed to hit "Tirpitz" off
the Lofoten Islands. Of the 31 merchantmen in two
convoys, only one straggler from QP8 was lost to the
- PQ13 and its
escort, including cruiser "Trinidad" and destroyers
"Eclipse" and "Fury", were scattered by severe gales and
heavily attacked. On the 29th three German
destroyers encountered the escort north of Murmansk.
sunk, but in the
and disabled by one of her own torpedoes. As the cruiser
limped towards Kola Inlet an attack by "U-585" failed
and she was sunk by "Fury". Five of the 19 ships with
PQ13 were lost - two to submarines, two to aircraft, and
one by the destroyers. "Trinidad" reached Russia.
Raid on St
Concerned about the possibility of battleship "Tirpitz"
breaking out into the Atlantic, the decision was made to
put out of action the
only dry-dock in France capable of taking her - the
'Normandie' at St Nazaire. Ex-US destroyer "Campbeltown"
was to be loaded with high explosives and rammed into
the lock gates while British commandos, carried over in
Royal Navy ML's or motor launches were to land and
destroy the dry-docks installations. The force sailed
from southwest England on the 26th, and by a
number of ruse penetrated the heavily defended port
early on the 28th. In the face of intense fire,
"Campbeltown" was placed exactly in position and many of
the commandos got ashore to carry out their mission.
Losses in men and coastal forces' craft were heavy, but
when "CAMPBELTOWN" did blow up, the lock gates were put
out of commission for the rest of the war.
Return Convoy QP11
departed Russia on the 28th
April and on the 30th
cruiser "Edinburgh" was torpedoed twice by U-boat. As
she limped back to Russia, three German destroyers
attacked QP11, but only manage to sank a straggler. They
found the cruiser on the 2nd. In a series of
confused fought amidst snow showers and smokescreens,
"Edinburgh" disabled the "Hermann Schoemann" by gunfire,
but was then torpedoed for a third time by either "Z-24"
or "Z-25". Escorting destroyers "Forester" and
damaged. Both "EDINBURGH" and "HERMANN SCHOEMANN" were
scuttled on the 2nd.
German Surface Warships
- In addition to aircraft and U-boats, the Germans now
had "Tirpitz", "Admiral Scheer", "Lutzow", "Hipper" and
nearly a dozen big destroyers at Narvik and Trondheim.
With by-now continuous daylight throughout the journey,
the Admiralty pressed for the convoys to be
discontinued, but they continued for political reasons.
German Raiders -
German raider “Stier” left Rotterdam for the Channel and
operations in the South Atlantic. Off Boulogne on the
13th, she was attacked by RN coastal forces. One MTB was
lost, but escorting German torpedo boats “ILTIS” and
and sunk. “Stier” was free for four months until her
of Russian Convoy PQ17
- PQ17 left
Reykjavik, Iceland on the 27th June with 36 ships, of
which two returned. The close escort under Cdr J. E.
Broome included six destroyers and four corvettes. Two
British and two US cruisers with destroyers were in
support (Rear-Adm L. H. K. Hamilton), and distant cover
was given by the Home Fleet (Adm Tovey) with battleships
"Duke of York" and the US "Washington", carrier
"Victorious", cruisers and destroyers. The British
Admiralty believed the Germans were concentrating their
heavy ships in northern Norway. In fact pocket
battleship "Lutzow" had run aground off Narvik, but this
still left battleship "Tirpitz", pocket battleship
"Admiral Scheer" and heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" -
all formidable adversaries, which reached Altenfiord on
the 3rd. At this time PQ17 had just passed to the north
of Bear Island, after which German aircraft sank three
merchantmen. Fear of attack by the German ships led the
First Sea Lord, Adm Pound, far away in London, to decide
the fate of the convoy. In the evening of the 4th the
support cruisers were ordered to withdraw and the convoy
to scatter. Unfortunately Adm Hamilton took the six
escorting destroyers with him. The merchantmen were now
to the north of North Cape. Thirty-one tried to make for
the isolated islands of Novaya Zemlya before heading
south for Russian ports. Between the 5th and 10th July,
20 of them were lost, half each to the aircraft and
U-boats sent to hunt them down. Some sheltered for days
off the bleak shores of Novaya Zemlya. Eventually 11
survivors and two rescue ships reached Archangel and
nearby ports between the 9th and 28th. In fact "Tirpitz"
and the other ships did not leave Altenfiord until the
morning of the 5th, after the 'convoy was to disperse'
order. They abandoned the sortie that same day. No more
Russian convoys ran until September.
Raiders - After sinking just three ships, German
raider "STIER" encountered American freighter "Stephen
Hopkins" in the South Atlantic on the 27th. The
but not before her single 4in
gun damaged the raider so severely she had to be
Raiders - German raider "KOMET" attempted to pass
down the English Channel on the 14th on the way out for
a second cruise. A force of British escort destroyers
and MTBs attacked off Cherbourg, and in spite of a
strong escort, she was torpedoed and sunk by MTB.236.
Torpedo attack on "Tirpitz" - Battleship
"Tirpitz" posed such a threat to Russian convoys and
held down so much of Home Fleet's strength that almost
any measures to immobilise her were justified. A gallant
attempt was made in October when a small Norwegian
fishing vessel "Arthur", penetrated to within a few
miles of the battleship in Trondheimfiord carrying Royal
Navy personnel with
their Chariot human torpedoed
slung underneath. Just short of the target they broke
away and all the efforts were in vain.
Raiders - On the 30th, German raider "THOR"
in Yokohama, Japan when a supply ship laying alongside
caught fire and blew up. Since leaving France in January
she had sunk or captured 10 ships of 56,000 tons.
Battle of the Barents Sea
& Russian Convoys JW51A and JW51B
- After a
three-month gap the first of the JW convoys set out.
JW51 sailed in two sections. Part A left
Loch Ewe, Scotland on the
15th with 16 ships bound for Kola Inlet. All
arrived safely on Christmas Day, the 25th
accompanied by supporting cruisers "Jamaica" and
(14 ships) left on the 22nd escorted by six
destroyers, a minesweeper and four smaller vessels under
the command of Capt St. V. Sherbrooke in "Onslow". Adm
Burnett with "Jamaica" and "Sheffield" joined the convoy
south west of Bear Island on the 29th to provide
close cover through the Barents Sea. By now "Tirpitz",
pocket battleship "Lutzow", heavy cruiser "Admiral
Hipper", light cruisers "Koln" and "Nurnberg" and a
number of 5in and 5.9in gun destroyers were in Norwegian
waters. The Admiralty assumed they were for attacks on
Russian convoys. In fact, they were in Norway because
Hitler feared invasion. Convoy
JW51B was reported an the 30th
and 8in "Hipper" (Adm Kummetz), 11in "Lutzow" and six
destroyers put to sea from Altenfiord to intercept north
of North Cape. Early on the
31st, New Year's Eve, the British ships were in
(1-4). The main
with five remaining 4in or 4.7in destroyers "Achates",
"Onslow", "Obdurate", "Obedient" and "Orwell" headed due
east. (Some of the escort and merchantmen had been
scattered by gales and never regained the convoy).
Northeast of the convoy, detached minesweeper "Bramble"
(2) was searching for missing ships.
Adm Burnett's two 6in cruisers
covered to the north. Further north still a straggling
merchant ship and escorting trawler
to reach the convoy. Capt Sherbrooke planned to use the
same tactics as Adm Vian in the Second Battle of Sirte
and head for the enemy while the convoy turned away
under smoke. Unfortunately for the British, Adm Kummetz
divided his force in two [1-2]
and planned to attack from astern on both sides -
and three destroyers in the north and "Lutzow"
 with the other three in the
On the 31st around 09.30,
the action started with "Hipper's" three destroyers
 heading north across the rear of
(1), and opening fire on "Obdurate". The
convoy later turned as planned, but south towards
"Lutzow" . Then "Onslow", Orwell" and
Obedient" sighted Hipper" 
and held her off until, at 10.20, "Onslow" was
hit and Capt
Sherbrooke badly wounded (Capt Rupert St. V. Sherbrooke
RN was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry).
Meanwhile, Adm Burnett's cruisers
following a radar contact, had diverted north towards
the straggler and escort
They only headed towards the action around 10.00.
Still to the north of the convoy, "Hipper" 
and her destroyers came across the hapless
and sent her to the bottom around 10.40. They
headed south, and 40min later the 8in cruiser 
approached JW51B (1), opened fire and hit
"ACHATES" which sank after the battle was over. Lutzow
come up on the convoy from the south but did not join
battle until 11.45. She was driven off by the
remaining destroyers. By now "Jamaica" and "Sheffield"
arrived on the scene. They
quickly hit "Hipper"
 and sank destroyer "FRIEDRICH
ECKOLDT". "Hipper" tried to get back to the convoy but
again the destroyers skillfully kept her at bay. By
midday the German ships were withdrawing with the
two cruisers in pursuit. Contact was shortly lost. None
of the merchantmen were more than lightly damaged and
all 14 reached Kola on the 3rd January. Return
left Kola on the 30th December. After being
supported part of the way by "Jamaica" and "Sheffield",
the 14 merchant ships were safely delivered to Loch Ewe
on the 11th January. When Hitler learnt that his
big ships had been driven off by light cruisers and
destroyers he flew into a rage and ordered them all paid
off. Grand-Adm Raeder resigned in protest and was
succeeded as C-in-C, German Navy, in January by Adm
Doenitz. The paying-off order was revoked.
Submarine attack on "Tirpitz" - Nearly a year earlier
an unsuccessful attack had been made on battleship
Now it was the turn of midget
the X-craft each
with two 2-ton saddle charges. Six left for northern
Norway towed by 'S' or 'T' class submarines. Two were
lost on passage, but on the 20th off Altenfiord,
"X-5", "X-6" and "X-7" set out to attack "Tirpitz" and
"X-10" for the "Scharnhorst". "X-5"
was lost and "X-10"
was unable to attack, but "X-6" (Lt Cameron) and "X-7"
(Lt Place) penetrated all the defences to reach
"Tirpitz" laying in Kaafiord at the far end of
Altenfiord on the 22nd. Both dropped
their charges under or near the battleship before they
sank and some of their crews escaped. "Tirpitz" managed
to shift her position slightly, but not enough to avoid
damage when the charges went up. She was out of action
for six months.
Channel Actions - Cruiser
"Charybdis", accompanied by two fleet and four 'Hunt'
class destroyers, sailed from Plymouth to intercept a
German blockade runner off the coast of Brittany in
Operation 'Tunnel'. Early in the morning of the 23rd,
the force was surprised by a group of torpedo boats.
twice by torpedoes fired by "T-23" and "T-27" sinking
with heavy loss of life. 'Hunt' class escort destroyer
"LIMBOURNE" followed her down after a hit by "T-22".
Battle in the
Bay of Biscay
- Eleven German
destroyers and torpedo boats sortied into the Bay of
Biscay to bring in the blockade-runner "Alsterufer". She
was sunk by a Czech Liberator of RAF Coastal Command on
the 27th, and next day, the 28th, as the German warships
returned to base they were intercepted by 6in cruisers
"Glasgow" and "Enterprise". Although outnumbered and
out-gunned they sank 5.9in-gunned destroyer "Z-27" and
torpedo boats "T-25" and "T-26".
North Cape and Russian Convoy JW55B
convoys were still sailing in two sections. JW55A
left Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 12th
and arrived safely with all 19 merchant ships on the 20th.
Adm Fraser with "Duke of York" went right through to
Russia for the first time before returning to Iceland.
Convoy JW55B, also
with 19 ships, sailed for Russia on the 20th.
Three days later return convoy
RA55A (22 ships) set out.