ATLANTIC - OCTOBER 1943
- Covered by battleships
and Duke of York and other units of the Home Fleet, US
carrier "Ranger" launched air attacks against
shipping off Bodo, northern Norway on the 4th. Four ships
were sunk and others damaged.
In attacks on Halifax/UK convoy SC143, "U-610"
or "U-378" sank Polish destroyer
with an acoustic torpedo. Later in the day RAF and RCAF
air escorts sank "U-419", "U-643" and "U-610".
16th-17th, Attacks on Convoys ON206 and
ONS20 - Six
U-boats were lost in exchange for a single merchantman in
attacks on UK-out convoys ON206 (B6 group) and ONS20 (4th
Escort Group). The 4th EG was mainly composed of the new
US lease-lend 'Captain' class frigates. The B7 group
commanded by Cdr Gretton first of all reinforced ON206.
On the 16th, southeast of Greenland, RAF
Liberators accounted for "U-470", "U-844" and "U-964". Next day on the
was "U-540's" turn. Shortly after, as B7
transferred to ONS20, corvette
Sunflower sank "U-631" with her
Hedgehog. Still on the
17th, frigate "Byard" with the 4th EG escorting
ONS20 sank "U-841". Cdr Gretton then took B7 to support nearby
23rd-29th, Attacks on Convoys ON207 and
ON208 - South of
Iceland, B7 reinforced ON207's already formidable
escort consisting of the Canadian C1 group and Capt
Walker's 2nd EG. On the 23rd a RAF Liberator of No
224 Squadron and B7 destroyers "Duncan" and
"Vidette" shared in the sinking of "U-274". Three days later the RCAF got "U-420". Then on the 29th, by now with
ON208, B7 ships "Duncan",
Sunflower sank "U-282". In less then two weeks in attacks
on just four convoys, nine U-boats had been sunk by the
highly efficient inter-service air and sea escorts.
Northeast of the Azores, destroyer "Whitehall"
and corvette "Geranium" of the British B1 group
escorting North and West Africa/UK convoys MKS28 and
SL138 detected "U-306" by HF/DF and sent her to the bottom.
Battle of the Atlantic - After lengthy negotiations ending
in August 1943, Portugal granted the Allies the right to
establish air and sea bases in the Azores as from
October. This greatly extended the Allies' ability to
cover the central Atlantic and the convoy routes between
Britain and North and West Africa; also between North
America and the Mediterranean.
Summary: 13 ships of 61,000 tons and 1 destroyer; 23 U-boats
including 4 by RAF and US aircraft in North Atlantic and
off Portugal, 6 by US escort carriers Card, Core and
Block Island off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic.
EUROPE - OCTOBER 1943
Royal Navy -
Adm of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord since
1939, suffered a stroke in August 1943 at the time of the
Quebec conference. He resigned and died on 21st
October - Trafalgar Day. Adm Fraser was offered the post
as Winston Churchill's first choice, but declined, and
Adm Sir Andrew B. Cunningham filled the Navy's most
senior position on the 15th.
23rd, Operation 'Tunnel' - 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. Early in the
morning the force was surprised by a group of torpedo
was hit twice by torpedoes fired by
"T-23" and "T-27" sinking with heavy
loss of life. 'Hunt' class escort destroyer
"LIMBOURNE" followed her after a hit by
Front - In the Centre and South the
Russians made little progress against fierce German
resistance. Further South still the remaining
German troops in the Caucasus evacuated the Taman
Peninsula and were ferried across to the Crimea.
MEDITERRANEAN - OCTOBER 1943
Fleet - Adm Sir John H. D. Cunningham succeeded Adm
Sir Andrew Cunningham as C-in-C in the middle of the
month - they were not related.
October - Two RN submarines failed to return from
patrol in the month. The first was
"USURPER" which left
Algiers on 24th September for the Gulf of Genoa, and
failed to answer a signal on the 11th. She may have been
mined or fallen victim to German A/S forces.
"TROOPER" set out from Beirut in the Lebanon
on 26th September for Dodecanese patrol and did not get
back on the 17th. German records claim she was sunk by a
Q-ship off Kos on the 14th.
- British units of the US Fifth Army entered Naples on
the 1st as the Germans fell back, ready to make the
Allies fight long and hard for every gain over the next
eight months. As they held the line of the Volturno River
in the west and the Biferno River in the east, they
prepared their main defences - the Gustav Line -
along the Garigliano and Rapido rivers below Monte
Cassino, and on to Ortona on the Adriatic coast. On the west,
Gen Mark Clark's Fifth Army managed to fight its way
across the Volturno by mid-month and then came up against
the formidable defences in front of the main
Gustav Line. On the east, Gen Montgomery's Eighth
Army had to cross a number of well-defended rivers before
reaching the Line. By the end of the month he was over
the Biferno and starting to cross the Trigno. While the
struggle continued, Italy declared war on Germany
on the 13th.
Aegean Campaign - On the 3rd,
German troops landed on British-held Kos, which fell next
day. More German forces headed for the Kos and on the 7th
a convoy of seven small ships and one escort was
annihilated by cruisers
Sirius and two destroyers. As they withdrew
through the Scarpanto Strait, "Penelope"
was damaged in attacks by Ju87s and
Ju88s. More sweeps and more supply trips led to further
losses, particularly amongst the 'Hunts', through to
November: 9th - Returning from a sweep west of
Kos, cruiser "Carlisle" and destroyers were
dive-bombed in the Scarpanto Strait area by Ju87 Stukas.
was seriously damaged and never fully
was sunk. 17th - Cruiser
was damaged by bombs south of Scarpanto
Strait. 22nd - Greek 'Hunt'
(right - CyberHeritage)
was badly damaged off Kos on mines laid
by the German "Drache", and as sister ship
"HURWORTH" went to her aid,
was also mined. She sank with heavy casualties.
"Adrias" was not repaired.
24th - Destroyer
"ECLIPSE" fell victim to the same minefield.
30th - Cruiser
was damaged in bombing attacks.
Five German U-boats set out for the Mediterranean, but
one was sunk by the RAF while still in the Atlantic and
two were disposed of by Gibraltar air and sea patrols. On
the 31st destroyer "Douglas" and trawlers
"Imperialist" and "Loch Oskaig" sank "U-732"
The second sinking was on the first
day of November.
Summary: 9 British or Allied merchant ships of 46,000
INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - OCTOBER
- Finschhafen was taken on the 2nd, but fighting
continued in the area right through until December 1943
when the Australians started pushing slowly along the
north coast towards Madang in parallel with their drive
Battle of Vella Lavella - As nine Japanese destroyers
completed the evacuation of the island on the night of
the 6th/7th, they were intercepted by three US ships. A
destroyer an each side was lost. In preparation for the
invasion of the northern Solomons island of Bougainville,
New Zealand troops were landed on the Treasury Islands on
Raiders - The last operational German raider was sunk
on the 17th. Heading for Japan, "MICHEL"
was torpedoed off Yokohama by US submarine
"Tarpon". Since leaving Europe in March 1942
she had accounted for 18 ships of 127,000 tons.
Merchant Shipping War - RAF aircraft sank their second
U-boat of 1943 in the Indian Ocean with "U-533" on the 16th in the Gulf of Oman.
Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 26,000
tons; Pacific Ocean - 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons
ATLANTIC - NOVEMBER 1943
Capt Walker's Escort Group with escort carrier
"Tracker" patrolled east of Newfoundland in
support of convoy HX264. "U-226"
was sighted by "Tracker's"
aircraft and destroyed by sloops "Starling",
"Kite" and "Woodcock". Shortly after,
"Starling" this time with "Wild
Goose", accounted for "U-842".
19th-25th, Attacks on the UK/ North and
West Africa Convoy Routes - Combined UK-bound convoys MKS30 and
SL139 were escorted by the 40th Escort Group and joined
in turn by the 7th, 5th and 4th EG's to the far west and
northwest of Portugal. One merchantman was lost to air
attack, but three U-boats went down in the fighting: 19th
- "U-211" to a RAF Wellington. 20th -
Frigate "Nene" and Canadian corvettes
"Calgary" and "Snowberry" of the 5th
EG sank "U-536". 21st - Frigate "Foley"
and sloop "Crane" of the 40th EG accounted for "U-538". Northwest of Cape Finisterre,
Hs293 glider bombs sank the one merchant ship lost. The
surviving U-boats were next deployed against other
convoys in the area. As the U-boats approached southbound
convoys KMS30/0S59 they ran into the 4th EG, which had
also been diverted: 23rd - Frigates
"Bazely", "Blackwood" and
"Drury" sank "U-648". 25th - Two days later
"Bazely" and "Blackwood" sank "U-600". Later, in the same area around
the Azores, a RAF Wellington accounted for "U-542", and aircraft from US escort
carrier "Bogue" the "U-86".
Convoys - For the
first time since March 1943, Russian convoys sailed -
setting out and arriving at the end of the month and in
early December. Convoys JW54A and JW54B to
Kola Inlet, and return RA54A and RA54B
passed through a total of 54 ships without loss.
Summary: 7 ships of 28,000 tons and 1 US destroyer
off the Azores; 16 U-boats including 2 by RAF and US Bay of
Biscay air patrols, 2 by RAF in North Atlantic and off
the Azores, 3 by US forces in mid-Atlantic and off
Ascension in the South Atlantic.
EUROPE - NOVEMBER 1943
- RAF Bomber Command launched the Battle of Berlin with
heavy raids in the middle of the month. This was the
first of 16 major attacks on the German capital through
to March 1944.
Front - In the Centre/South, Russian forces
captured Kiev, capital of the Ukraine on the 6th and
pushed on. However, the Germans managed to counter-attack
and recaptured some of the towns to the west of the city.
A larger German counter-offensive in the same area faded
out by early December. Further South the attacks
towards Odessa finally cut off the Germans in the Crimea
where they held out until May 1944.
Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and mines were still
capable of taking a toll of coastal shipping. On the
night of the 4th/5th, Channel convoy CW221 lost three
ships off Beachy Head to E-boat attack, and later in the
month two more were mined off Harwich.
Summary: 7 British, Allied and neutral ships of
13,000 tons in UK waters.
MEDITERRANEAN - NOVEMBER 1943
The second U-boat lost to the Strait of Gibraltar
defences following the sinking the day before was "U-340" to destroyers "Active"
and "Witherington", sloop "Fleetwood"
and RAF aircraft of No 179 Squadron.
- In the west, Fifth Army struggled to make
progress towards the main Gustav Line but was still short
of the Garigliano River and Cassino. To the east,
Eighth Army was over the Trigno and preparing to attack
new German positions behind the Sangro River. A major
offensive was launched on the 28th led by British and New
Zealand troops with the aim of breaking through the East
End of the Gustav Line and taking Ortona. Luftwaffe Field
Marshal Kesselring was given command of all German forces
in Italy. Right through until the end of 1944 he was
responsible for the stubborn and skilful defence of the
country against strong Allied attacks.
Aegean Campaign, Conclusion - German forces landed on
Leros on the 12th and captured the Island after four
day's heavy fighting against the British and Italian
defenders. The campaign came to an end when Samos was
evacuated on the 20th, but not before two more 'Hunts'
fall victim, this time to Hs293 glider bombs: 11th -
was severely damaged off Kos following an
attack with other destroyers on Kalymnos (Calino). She
was not repaired and went into reserve. 13th -
was sunk off Kos as she withdrew from
searching for German shipping making for Leros. The cost
of this abortive campaign to the Royal Navy could now be
added up - four cruisers damaged with one never repaired,
six destroyers lost or permanently out of action and
others damaged. In addition the small Greek Navy had lost
- Submarine "SIMOOM" sailed from Port
Said on the 2nd for the Aegean and failed to answer a
signal on the 19th. She was presumed mined although
German records claim she was torpedoed by
"U-565" off Kos on the 15th.
On passage through the Mediterranean to join the Eastern
was badly damaged northwest of Derna by
Teheran Conferences - On their way to Teheran to meet
Marshal Stalin, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt
first stopped over at Cairo to discuss operations in
Burma and China with Chinese Generalissimo Chiang
Kai-Shek. Arriving at Teheran on the 28th, the agenda
included the Allied invasion of Normandy and southern
France, and Russia's agreement to declare war on Japan
once the Germans were defeated.
Summary: 10 British or Allied merchant ships of
INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - NOVEMBER
Northern Solomons - The large Japanese island
garrison was mainly established in the south and so US
Marines were landed on the weakly defended western side
near Empress Augusta Bay on the 1st. They soon had a
large beachhead, and it was not until March 1944 that the
Japanese mounted a strong counter-attack. Two main naval
battles resulted in November:
Empress Augusta Bay - Japanese force of four cruisers and six
destroyers sailed to attack the invasion shipping. On the
night of the 1st/2nd in a confused night action with four
US light cruisers and eight destroyers, the Japanese were
driven off with the loss of a cruiser and destroyer.
Battle of Cape
St George - Five
Japanese 'Tokyo Express' destroyers headed for the
Bougainville area and early on the 25th were intercepted
by five US destroyers off the southern tip of New
Ireland. Three of the Japanese were sent to the bottom in
the last of the numerous and hard-fought Solomon Islands
actions that started only 15 months earlier with the
Battle of Savo Island.
On patrol off Penang, Malaya in the Malacca Strait,
submarine "Taurus" sank the Japanese "I-34" sailing on a supply trip to
Gilbert Islands, Central Pacific - US forces now
started the advance through the Central Pacific with the
invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Under the overall
command of Adm Nimitz, C-in-C Pacific Fleet, Adm
Spruance's Fifth Fleet landed US Marines and Army troops
on the atolls of
Makin respectively on the 20th. Both
were strongly defended but US losses on Tarawa were
particularly heavy, although as usual few Japanese
survived. Both atolls were secured by the 23rd. Next day,
escort carrier "LISCOME BAY"
was sunk off Makin by a submarine. The
next step would be to the Japanese Marshall Islands lying
to the northwest.
Summary: Indian Ocean - 4 merchant ships of 29,000
tons; Pacific Ocean - 1 merchant ship of 7,000 tons
ATLANTIC - DECEMBER 1943
Destroyer "HURRICANE" of the 1st EG with UK/African
convoys OS62 and KMS36 was torpedoed by "U-305"
or "U-415" northeast of the Azores. She was
scuttled next day.
26th, The Battle of North Cape and
Russian Convoy JW55B
(see map above) -
Russian 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.
Cover for both convoys through the Barents Sea was to be
provided by Vice-Adm R. L. Burnett with cruisers
which left Kola
Inlet on the same day as RA55A - the 23rd. The
Admiralty expected the 11in-gunned battlecruiser
"Scharnhorst" to attack the convoys and Adm
Fraser with "Duke of York" and cruiser
Jamaica left Iceland and headed for the Bear
Island area. "Scharnhorst" (Rear-Adm Bey) and
five destroyers sailed from Altenfiord late on
the 25th, Christmas Day. Early next morning JW55B
was 50 miles south of Bear Island, the weather
stormy, as the Germans headed north to intercept.
Meanwhile Adm Fraser
was 200 miles away to the southwest as Adm
Burnett's cruisers approached the convoy from the east. At 07.30
on the 26th the German destroyers were detached to
search for the convoy, failed to make contact and were
later ordered home. They played no part in the battle.
was just before 09.00 on the 26th when
"Belfast" detected "Scharnhorst" by
radar as she was heading south and only 30 miles east of
the convoy. "Norfolk" engaged and hit the
battlecruiser which turned north and away to try to get
around to JW55B. Adm Burnett anticipated this move and
instead of shadowing, carried on towards the convoy.
"Belfast" regained contact at noon and
all three cruisers opened fire. In the next 20min "Scharnhorst"
was hit and "Norfolk" badly damaged by 11in shells. The
German ship now headed south away from the convoy as Adm
Burnett shadowed by radar. At this time, Adm Fraser
was now to the south-southwest and in a
position to cut off her retreat. He made radar contact
soon after 16.00 at a range of 22 miles and closed
in. Fifty minutes later at 1650,
"Belfast" illuminated "Scharnhorst"
with starshell and Adm Burnett's cruisers engaged from
one side and "Duke of York" and
"Jamaica" from the
other. Hard hit, especially by the battleship's 14in
shells, the German ship's main armament was eventually
silenced. Finally the cruisers and accompanying
destroyers fired torpedoes, 10 or 11 of which struck
home, and soon after 19.30 "SCHARNHORST" went down. Only 36 men could be
rescued. Now only "Tirpitz" remained as a
potential big ship threat to the Russian convoys. On the 29th
JW55B reached Kola safely. Return convoy RA55A was well
clear of Bear Island by the time the battle had started
and made Loch Ewe on 1st January. The second
return half - RA55B of eight ships - left Russia
on the last day of the year and got in on 8th January.
Summary: 7 ships of 48,000 tons and 2 destroyers
including one US in the North Atlantic; 1 German battlecruiser and 5
U-boats including 1 by RAF Bay of Biscay patrol, 3 by US
Navy in Azores and Madeira areas, 1 scuttled after storm
damage in mid-Atlantic.
EUROPE - DECEMBER 1943
28th, 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 as the German warships returned to base they
were intercepted by 6in cruisers
Enterprise. Although outnumbered and
out-gunned they sank 5.9in-gunned destroyer "Z-27" and torpedo boats "T-25" and "T-26". This marked the virtual end of
German attempts to bring in vital supplies from the Far
East by surface ships. Since 1941, of 35 ships that had
set out, only 16 broke through Allied patrols.
Invasion - In late December the commanders for the
invasion of Europe were announced. US General Eisenhower
would be Supreme Allied Commander with Air Marshal Tedder
as deputy. In charge of all naval operations under the
code name 'Neptune' was Adm Sir Bertram Ramsey.
Front - Since October 1943, five Russian attacks in
the Centre had been launched against the Germans
west of Smolensk. The greatly outnumbered defenders held
on, but the Russians now had a foothold back in
Byelorussia. In the Centre/South all the Ukraine
east of the Dnieper River together with deep bridgeheads
across much of its length were now in Russian hands. They
prepared to recover the rest of the Ukraine, push into
the Crimea and move on Poland and Rumania.
Summary: 1 merchant ship of 6,000 tons in UK waters.
MEDITERRANEAN - DECEMBER 1943
- Fifth Army continued its bloody struggle in the west
of the country towards the Gustav Line, but had only just
reached the Garigliano River and was still short of
Cassino and the Rapido River. Meanwhile Eighth Army
breached the Line in the east and the Canadians
had taken Ortona, where the Allies remained until June
1944. Gen Montgomery, Eighth Army commander now returned
to England to prepare for his part in the Normandy
invasion. Gen Eisenhower also headed for England and Gen
Sir Henry Maitland Wilson succeeded him as Supreme Allied
Commander, Mediterranean. Later, in November 1944, Field
Marshal Alexander took over this post.
War at Sea
- With the surrender of the Italian fleet, the big ships
of the Royal Navy were released for the Eastern Fleet and
to prepare for the landings in Normandy. The remaining
smaller vessels continued to escort the convoys needed to
supply the Allied forces in Italy, and to support both
Fifth and Eighth armies on their seaward flanks. The RN
also went over to the offensive against Germany supply
traffic down the west coast of Italy and also from the
northeast through the Adriatic to Yugoslavia. From bases
such as Corsica and Bari, light and coastal forces struck
regularly at shipping, and also at land targets along the
coast of Yugoslavia in support of Tito's partisan armies.
major disaster marred these successes on the 2nd when an
air raid on Bari blew up an ammunition ship, with 16 more
merchantmen lost in the resulting fires.
11th-16th, U-boats attacks on UK/North
Africa Convoy KMS34 - Attacks were made on the convoy off the
Algerian coast using acoustic torpedoes: 11th -
"U-223" damaged frigate "Cuckmere". 12th - Northeast of
Bougie, "U-593" sank 'Hunt' escort destroyer
"TYNEDALE". A long hunt ensued by escort
destroyers "Calpe" and "Holcombe" and
US destroyers "Benson", "Niblack" and
"Wainwright", in the course of which the U-boat
managed to sank
"HOLCOMBE". 13th - After more than 30
hours the escorts finally sent "U-593" to the bottom. Other US destroyers
including "Niblack" sank "U-73" on the 16th. This was the 23rd
U-boat lost in the Mediterranean in 1943.
Summary: 18 British or Allied merchant ships of
INDIAN & PACIFIC OCEANS - DECEMBER
- Under Adm Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South
East Asia, Gen Slim's 14th Army prepared for a major
offensive into northern Burma from the area of Kohima and
lmphal in India. Preceding this would be a Second
Arakan campaign to the south, and in the far north a
parallel Chindit and American/Chinese operation in part
to open a new route to the Burma Road from Ledo in India.
The Arakan push started late in December. Throughout the
rest of the war, Adm Mountbatten's plans to prosecute the
campaign even more vigorously in South East Asia were
continually frustrated by his lack of amphibious
Britain, Bismarck Archipelago - Gen MacArthur was
ready to complete his part in the isolation of Rabaul by
preliminary landings on the southwest coast of
New Britain, followed by a major assault at
the western tip of Cape Gloucester on the 26th. Cover was
partly provided by Rear-Adm Crutchley with cruisers
Fighting continued until March 1944 when, assisted by
further landings, the western third of the island was
secured. By November 1944, when Australian troops
relieved the US forces, considerable numbers of Japanese
were still penned in around Rabaul where they stayed
until war's end.
Summary: Indian Ocean only - 5 merchant ships of