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WESTERN EUROPE, 1939-1944, Part 2 of 2

July 1940-June 1944

HMS Charybdis, AA cruiser, lost October 1943 off the French coast  with escort destroyer HMS Limbourne  (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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

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JULY 1940

Battle of Britain - Hitler decided that an invasion of Britain – “Operation Sealion” - was possible and ordered preliminary air attacks starting with English Channel shipping and ports. On the 16th, preparations got underway for the landing and assault operations scheduled to start in mid-August. On the 19th July Hitler offered to make peace with Britain. Three days later his overtures were rejected.

French Navy in Britain - The two World War 1 French battleships "Courbet" and "Paris" and several destroyers and submarines, including the giant "Surcouf" were in British ports. On the 3rd they were boarded and seized, but not before there were casualties on both sides including three British and one French dead.

4th - Anchored off the SE breakwater within Portland Harbour, auxiliary AA ship "FOYLE BANK" (Capt H P Wilson) was attacked by 33 Ju87 divebombers and apparently hit by a total of 22 bombs. With one of the attackers shot down, she sank to the bottom with 176 men killed out of a total crew of 19 officers and 279 crew. + Leading Seaman Jack Mantle, gunner in the "Foyle Bank", continued in action although mortally wounded and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

6th - Home Fleet submarines carried out patrols off the coast of southwest Norway, but with heavy losses in July. Late on the 5th, "SHARK" was badly damaged by German aircraft and next morning of the 6th had to be scuttled off Skudenses.

July - A few days later submarine "SALMON" was presumed lost on mines. Later still "THAMES" (below - CyberHeritage) was also probably mined in the middle of the North Sea on passage to her patrol area.

16th - Cruiser "Glasgow" rammed and sank accompanying destroyer "IMOGEN" off the Pentland Firth, north of Scotland.

20th - Heavy German attacks continued on shipping and four destroyers (1-4) were bombed and sunk over the next few days, to add to the losses already sustained. The first was "BRAZEN" (1) on convoy duty off Dover,

26th - As the damaged "Gneisenau" made for Germany from Norway, submarine "Swordfish" carried out an attack and sank escorting torpedo boat "LUCHS".

27th - Two more destroyers were lost to air attack in British waters - "WREN" (2) off Aldeburgh on the English East Coast as she gave AA cover to minesweepers, and "CODRINGTON" (3) in Dover harbour.

29th - The fourth destroyer loss to bombing was "DELIGHT" (4) escorting a Channel convoy off Portland.

Merchant Shipping War - With the Germans now so close to British shores, new coastal convoy routes had to be established and integrated with overseas convoys. The Thames/Forth FN/FS convoys between south east England and Scotland continued along the East Coast. Two additional routes were instituted: Forth/Clyde, EN/WN, around the north of Scotland between the east and west coasts; Thames/English Channel, CW/CE, through the Strait of Dover to south and south west England. Channel losses were so heavy that CW/CE convoys were stopped for a while. On the 25th/26th, CW8 lost eight of its 21 ships to attacks by Stukas and E-boats. Four more merchantmen and two destroyers were damaged.

Monthly Loss Summary
67 British, Allied and neutral ships of 192,000 tons in UK waters.


1st - Submarine "SPEARFISH" on patrol in the North Sea was torpedoed by "U-34" and sunk. "NARWHAL" was paid off the same day. After leaving the English east coast Humber Estuary on 22nd July for a minelaying mission off Norway, she failed to return.

3rd - Mines laid off the German North Sea coast by RN destroyers continued to claim victims. "U-25" was lost as she headed out for Atlantic patrol.

Battle of Britain - The Luftwaffe switched its attacks from English Channel ports and shipping to RAF Fighter Command and on the 13th launched a major offensive - 'Adlertag' - especially against airfields. Damage to the airfields and installations, and losses in aircraft on both sides were heavy. Bombs dropped on London on the 24th led to RAF Bomber Command raiding Berlin the next night. By the end of the month the first possible date for 'Operation Sealion' had been put back to late September.

Royal Navy Codes - These were changed and for the first time operational signals were secure from German interception and decoding. It would be another three years before the convoy codes were made safe from the German B-Service.

31st/1st September - Destroyers of the 20th Flotilla sailed to lay mines off the Dutch coast, but ran into a German field northwest of Texel. "ESK" quickly sank, "IVANHOE" went down next day, and "Express" was badly damaged.

Monthly Loss Summary
45 British, Allied and neutral ships of 163,000 tons in UK waters.


Battle of Britain - By now heavy units of the Home Fleet had come south from Scapa Flow ready to oppose the expected German invasion. The Blitz on Britain got under way on the 7th when major raids were launched against London. An attack on the 15th - subsequently known as Battle of Britain Day - led to heavy Luftwaffe losses, although nowhere near the claimed 185 aircraft: the Luftwaffe lost around 60 in exchange for 26 RAF fighters. Operation 'Sealion' was shortly postponed until further notice and invasion shipping started to disperse. The Blitz did not let up.

9th - Cruiser "Galatea" was damaged by an acoustic mine in the Thames Estuary.

18th - Major bombing raids on Clydeside, Scotland badly damaged heavy cruiser "Sussex" as she refitted.

Axis Powers - Germany, Italy and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact in Berlin on the 27th. They agreed to jointly oppose any country joining the Allies at war - by which they meant the United States.

Monthly Loss Summary
39 British, Allied and neutral ships of 131,000 tons in UK waters.


Britain - Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester joined London as targets for German bombers in the Blitz. On the 12th the planned invasion of Britain was postponed until the next spring.

18th - The old submarine "H-49", on anti-invasion patrol off the Dutch coast, was lost to German A/S trawlers.

19th - Destroyer "VENETIA" also of World War 1 vintage was sunk by a mine in the Thames Estuary while on patrol.

30th - Destroyer "STURDY", local Western Approaches escort for Halifax/UK convoy SC8, ran aground off the west coast of Scotland, on Tiree Island. She was a total loss.

Monthly Loss Summary
43 British, Allied and neutral ships of 132,000 tons in UK waters.


Britain - The Blitz continued with a particularly damaging raid on Coventry on the night of the 14th. Night-time attacks on London and other ports and cities carried on through to May. German cities were also targets for the RAF. Former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain died on the 9th

7th - A planned attack by German torpedo boats (small destroyers) off the coast of Scotland ended when "T-6" was mined in the British East Coast barrage and went down.

16th - Submarine "SWORDFISH", setting out on Bay of Biscay patrol, struck an enemy mine off the Isle of Wight, southern England and sank.

Monthly Loss Summary
48 British, Allied and neutral ships of 93,000 tons in UK waters.


Royal Navy - Adm Sir John Tovey succeeded Adm Forbes as Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet.

5th - The ex-American destroyer "CAMERON" undergoing refit in Portsmouth harbour was bombed and badly damaged. Not worth repairing, she was used for experimental purposes.

17th - Following repairs to bomb damage, destroyer "ACHERON" was carrying out trials off the Isle of Wight, southern England when she detonated a mine and went to the bottom.

Monthly Loss Summary
34 British, Allied and neutral ships of 83,000 tons in UK waters.




Britain - The Blitz on Britain continued with attacks on Bristol, Cardiff, London and Portsmouth during the month.

15th - Cruiser minelayer "Adventure" was damaged for the second time on a mine, this time on passage from Milford Haven, southwest Wales to Liverpool. The last time was off the Thames in November 1939 - just 14 crisis-filled months earlier.

Merchant Shipping War - Losses due to air attack and mines remained a major problem. Aircraft and E-boats had now added acoustic to the magnetic and moored contact mines in their armoury, but they never matched up to the threat the magnetic mines represented a year earlier.

Monthly Loss Summary
15 British, Allied and neutral ships of 37,000 tons in UK waters.


Early February - British submarine "SNAPPER", after leaving her escort off Lands End for patrol in the Bay of Biscay. was not heard from again. She failed to rendezvous back on the 12th February, possibly lost on mines.

25th - Escort destroyer "EXMOOR" was the first of the 'Hunt' class to be lost. She was torpedoed off Lowestoft, east coast of England by German E-boat "S-30" while escorting Thames/Forth convoy FN417.

Monthly Loss Summary
26 British, Allied and neutral ships of 51,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1941

Battle of the Atlantic Committee - On 6th March 1941, faced with the mortal threat of the German U-boat and aircraft offensive in the Atlantic, Winston Churchill issued his famous Battle of the Atlantic directive. Catapult armed merchantmen (CAM) were to be fitted out, merchant ships equipped with AA weapons as a first priority, and more Coastal Command squadrons formed and fitted with radar. Port and dockyard congestion was to be dealt with and the defence of ports greatly improved. These and numerous other matters were to be dealt with as a matter of the very highest priority. The survival of Britain depended on them. Overall direction was to be exercised by a Battle of the Atlantic Committee chaired by the Prime Minister himself.

Norway - A successful Combined Operations commando raid was carried out on the Lofoten Islands, off northwest Norway with installations destroyed and shipping sunk. Escort was provided by destroyers and cover by units of the Home Fleet.

Merchant Shipping War - Royal Navy motor gun-boats (MGB's) were entering service to combat E-boat attacks on East Coast convoys. Improved motor torpedo boats (MTBs) were also being built to attack German coastal shipping. This marked the first step in the building up of British Coastal Forces.

Monthly Loss Summary
73 British, Allied and neutral ships of 153,000 tons in UK waters..

APRIL 1941

German Heavy Ships - The arrival of battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" in Brest led to a long series of heavy RAF bomber raids. These would 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 Command. Flg Off Kenneth Campbell RAFVR, Canadian pilot of the Beaufort, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Monthly Loss Summary
40 British, Allied and neutral ships of 99,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1941

May 1941 included a breakthrough in the capture of German Enigma coding material, the hunt for and sinking of the "Bismarck", the fearful Royal Navy losses of Crete, continuing confirmation that Russia was about to be attacked by Germany, and further deterioration in relations with Japan. One could only imagine the thoughts and feelings of Prime Minister Churchill and his senior advisers as they responded day-by-day to these momentous developments.

Britain - Heavy raids on Belfast in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Clyde, Liverpool and especially London on the night of the 10th/11th marked the virtual end of the Blitz. The bulk of the Luftwaffe was now transferring east for the attack on Russia. RAF raids on Germany continued, and would grow as a major plank in British and Allied strategy for the defeat of Germany.

Germany - Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, flew to Britain on his self-appointed peace mission. He was imprisoned in Britain and disowned by Germany

Monthly Loss Summary
99 British, Allied and neutral ships of 101,000 tons in UK waters. 

JUNE 1941

Germany Attacked Russia

Atomic Bomb - The report on nuclear research by the British Maud Committee led to the setting up of a development programme by Imperial Chemical Industries. Code named 'Tube Alloys', it would oversee both atomic bomb and reactor work.

10th - Patrol sloop "PINTAIL" was mined off the Humber escorting Thames/Forth coastal convoy FN477.

Monthly Loss Summary
34 British, Allied and neutral ships of 86,000 tons in UK waters.

JULY 1941

19th - Submarine "UMPIRE", working up and on passage north with an East Coast convoy, was rammed and sunk off Cromer by an armed trawler escorting a southbound convoy.

German Heavy Ships - RAF Bomber Command badly damaged battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" at La Pallice, France on the 24th. Heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" was also 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".  

Monthly Loss Summary
18 British, Allied and neutral ships of 15,000 tons in UK waters. 


 Monthly Loss Summary
11 British, Allied and neutral ships of 20,000 tons in UK waters.


Monthly Loss Summary
13 British, Allied and neutral ships of 55,000 tons in UK waters.


 Monthly Loss Summary
12 British, Allied and neutral ships of 83,000 tons in UK waters.


Monthly Loss Summary
20 British, Allied and neutral ships of 30,000 tons in UK waters.


Japan attacked Hong Kong, Malaya and Pearl Harbor

Declarations of War - In a series of diplomatic moves, numerous declarations of war were made: 5th-6th December - Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Finland, Hungary and Rumania. 7th-8th - By the 8th, Japan had declared war on Britain and the US. Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Holland, the United States and a number of Central American and Caribbean states had also declared against Japan. China declared war against the Axis powers. 11th-13th December - Germany, Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary against the United States.

26th - Old submarine “H-31” was overdue by the 26th, possibly lost on mines during Bay of Biscay patrol.

Lofoten & Vaagso Raids - Separate commando raids took place in northern Norway on the Lofoten Islands and further south on Vaagso Island. The aim was to destroy installations and sink and capture shipping. The first force was led by cruiser “Arethusa” with limited results. The second with cruiser “Kenya” was more successful. On the 27th, “Arethusa” was damaged in German bombing attacks.

Monthly Loss Summary
19 British, Allied and neutral ships of 57,000 tons in UK waters. 




Arcadia Conference - In late December and early January, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt with their Chiefs of Staff met in Washington DC. They agreed to the setting up of a Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee and to the defeat of Germany as the first priority. On 1st January the United Nations Pact embodying the principles of the Atlantic Charter was signed in Washington by 26 countries.

Air War - 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.

United Kingdom - The first United States troops landed in Northern Ireland.

War Crimes - The 'Final Solution' for the extermination of all European Jews was presented to Hitler. As large-scale transportation got underway, a number of main camps, including Auschwitz, were prepared for this foul work. By war's end, 6,000,000 men, women and children had been killed.

Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and aircraft continued to attack British coastal convoy routes directly and with magnetic and acoustic mines. Convoy escorts and minesweepers fought back, supported by RAF Fighter Command, but they had their losses: 9th - Escorting a southbound East Coast convoy, destroyer "VIMIERA" was mined and sunk in the Thames Estuary.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 19,000 tons in UK waters. 


11th-13th - The Channel Dash - The Brest Squadron (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. Lt-Cdr Eugene Esmonde was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

From then on, events moved swiftly. At 14.30 off the Scheldt, "Scharnhorst" was slightly 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 failed. 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 repair but in early 1943 she was laid up.

Battle of Britain - Operation 'Sealion', the planned German invasion of Britain was finally cancelled.

Air War - Air Marshal Harris was appointed C-in-C RAF Bomber Command for the all-out bombing campaign against Germany. This would be Britain's main weapon in the war on the German homeland until late 1944.

Bruneval Raid - Commandos carried out a raid on Bruneval in northern France to capture radar equipment. They were lifted off by Royal Navy coastal forces.

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 11,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1942

Combined Operations - Lord Louis Mountbatten was promoted Vice-Adm and appointed Chief of Combined Operations as planning continued for the raids on St Nazaire and later Dieppe.

15th - Destroyer "VORTIGERN" escorting Forth/Thames convoy FS749, was torpedoed and sunk by E-boat "S-104" off Cromer on the east coast of England.

28th - Raid on St Nazaire - 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" would 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 ruses 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. + The Victoria Cross was awarded to three members of the Royal Navy taking part - Cdr Robert Ryder RN, Commanding Officer, Naval Forces sailing with his staff on board "MGB-314", Lt-Cdr Stephen Beattie RN, Commanding Officer, HMS Campbeltown, and posthumously to Able Seaman William Savage, gunner on "MGB-314" for gallantry under heavy fire.

Monthly Loss Summary
8 British, Allied and neutral ships of 15,000 tons in UK waters.

APRIL 1942

Air War - Following a successful RAF attack on the old city of Lubeck in March, the 'Baedeker' raids were carried out at Hitler's orders against historic British cities such as Bath and York.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 56,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1942

13th - German raider “Stier” left Rotterdam for the Channel and operations in the South Atlantic. Off Boulogne she was attacked by RN coastal forces. One MTB was lost, but escorting German torpedo boats “ILTIS” and “SEEADLER” were torpedoed and sunk. “Stier” was free for four months until her eventual sinking.

Air War - On the last night of the month, RAF Bomber Command scraped together enough aircraft for its first 1,000-bomber raid. Cologne was the target. Essen and Bremen follow in June.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 59,000 tons in UK waters

JUNE 1942

Anglo-US Talks - Winston Churchill flew to Washington DC for another series of meetings with President Roosevelt. They agreed to share nuclear research and concentrate the work in the United States. The resulting 'Manhattan Project' was put under military control in September 1942. Agreement did not come so easily on the question of where to open a Second Front in 1942. The Americans wanted to land in France to take pressure off the Russians, but the British considered this impossible at present and proposed the invasion of French North Africa. The President did not come to accept this until July. Planning then started on what would be Operation 'Torch'.

Czechoslovakia - Reinhard Heydrich, German 'Protector' of Czechoslovakia died from wounds sustained in an assassination attempt in May. In part reprisal, the village of Lidice was wiped out and its people murdered.

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 3,000 tons in UK waters. 

JULY 1942

Air War - The first USAAF aircraft joined RAF Bomber Command in an attack on occupied Europe. They were not yet ready for missions over Germany

Monthly Loss Summary
9 British, Allied and neutral ships of 23,000 tons in UK waters.


19th - Raid on Dieppe: Operation 'Jubilee' - Unable to open a Second Front in Europe, the Western Allies decided to mount a large-scale raid on the French coast to take some of the pressure off the Russians. The plan was for a largely Canadian force supported by British commandos to assault the defended port of Dieppe in northern France. Over 200 ships and landing craft, including escort destroyers and coastal forces under the command of Capt J. Hughes-Hallett, sailed with 6,000 troops from south coast of England ports on the 18th. The attempted landings took place early on the 19th against heavy defensive gunfire. One flanking attack by commandos achieved some success, but the other and the frontal assault with tanks were total failures. By noon the decision was taken to withdraw. As this went ahead under constant air attack, escort destroyer "BERKELEY" was bombed and sunk. Others were damaged. Canadian casualties in dead, wounded and prisoners were high, and Dieppe proved an expensive but important lesson on the problems of landing in occupied Europe at a defended port.

Monthly Loss Summary
For the first time since September 1939, no merchant ships were lost in UK waters in August 1942.


Monthly Loss Summary
1 merchant ship of 2,000 tons in UK waters.


14th - German raider "KOMET" attempted to pass down the English Channel 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.

Monthly Loss Summary
6 British, Allied and neutral ships of 13,000 tons in UK waters.


11th - Submarine "UNBEATEN", on patrol in the Bay of Biscay for U-boats on passage to and from Atlantic operations, was accidentally lost in an attack by a RAF Wellington.

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 6,000 tons in UK waters.


3rd - Escort destroyer "PENYLAN", with Portsmouth/Bristol Channel convoy PW257, was sunk by E-boat "S-115" in the English Channel off Start Point.

'Cockleshell Heroes' - Maj H. G. Hasler led Royal Marine Commandos in canoes up the Gironde Estuary in southwest France and damaged several blockade runners with limpet mines on the 7th.

Monthly Loss Summary
10 British, Allied and neutral ships of 9,000 tons in UK waters.




Air War - RAF Bomber Command by night and increasingly the USAAF by day mounted a growing attack on Germany and occupied Europe. As agreed at the Casablanca Conference, U-boat bases and their production centres would be major targets in 1943. Yet in the first six months, not one U-boat was destroyed in air-raids and the construction programmes were hardly affected. Throughout the war not one U-boat was lost in the incredibly strong, reinforced concrete shelters built by the Germans at their main bases.

Merchant Shipping War - By now the attack was being carried into the waters of German-occupied Europe by Royal Navy coastal forces, strike aircraft of RAF Coastal Command and minelayers of Bomber Command. German aircraft, E-boats and mines continued to threaten shipping around the coasts of Britain, but few ships were now being lost due to the combined effort of the RAF fighters, convoy escorts and minesweepers.

Monthly Loss Summary
4 British, Allied and neutral ships of 16,000 tons in UK waters.


23rd - On or around the 23rd, submarine "VANDAL" was lost, cause unknown as she worked up in the Firth of Clyde area of Scotland. Next day, sister-boat "UREDD" of the Royal Norwegian Navy was sunk off Norway.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 British, Allied and neutral ships of 5,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1943

Air War - RAF Bomber Command started the Battle of the Ruhr, a four-month long campaign against the cities and factories of Germany's main industrial centre.

27th - Escort carrier "DASHER" worked up in the Firth of Clyde after repairs to damage sustained during the February Russian convoy JW53. An aviation gasoline explosion led to her total destruction.

Monthly Loss Summary
2 ships of 900 tons in UK waters.

APRIL 1943

War Crimes - The site of the massacre of Polish officers was found at Katyn near Smolensk: the Russians and Germans accused each other of the atrocity. In Poland itself the surviving Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up against the Germans. SS troops were called in and by May the struggle was over. Those Jews not killed in the fighting were sent to extermination camps.

Monthly Loss Summary
5 British, Allied and neutral ships of 10,000 tons in UK waters.

MAY 1943

May 1943 Atlantic Convoy Battles - Victory of the Escorts

Anglo-US Conference - Winston Churchill travelled in the troopship "Queen Mary together with 5,000 German POWs for the Trident Conference, the third major meeting in Washington DC. The invasion of Sicily had now been agreed and he pressed for follow-up landings in Italy. The cross-Channel invasion of Europe continued to be a major topic of discussion and D-day was set for May 1944.

Royal Navy - After 2 1/2 years in post as C-in-C Home Fleet, Adm Tovey moved to command of The Nore. He was succeeded by Adm Sir Bruce Fraser.

The Dambusters' Raid - On the night of the 16th/17th, Wg Cdr Guy Gibson led No 617 Squadron in the famous raid on the Ruhr dams. Two dams were breached by Barnes Wallis' bouncing bombs, but the damage to German industry was not great.

Resistance Forces - In occupied Europe, Tito's partisan armies continued to hold down large numbers of German troops in Yugoslavia. In France the various resistance groups met to co-ordinate anti-German activities.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 merchant ship of 1,600 tons in UK waters.

JUNE 1943

Air War - RAF bombers flew on to North Africa for the first time after attacking German targets. On their return they hit northern Italy.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 ship of 150 tons in UK waters.

JULY 1943

Invasion of Sicily

Air War - Following the RAF's Battle of the Ruhr, heavy attacks on Hamburg in late July/early August started the first firestorms. The Battle of Hamburg continued through until November.

Monthly Loss Summary
Until November 1943 only two small ships were lost in UK waters


Air War - On the 17th the USAAF lost 20 percent of attacking aircraft in raids on ball-bearing production facilities at Schweinfurt and Regensburg - a major setback to its daylight bombing policy. That night the RAF inflicted damage on the German rocket research establishment at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast.

Denmark - Disturbances in Denmark led the German authorities to declare martial law throughout the country and to take over full control. As they did, most of the ships of the small Danish Navy were scuttled.


Italy - Surrender and Invasion


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 had since 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 - 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 the force was surprised by a group of torpedo boats. "CHARYBDIS" 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 "T-22".


Air War - 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 through to March 1944.

Merchant Shipping War - E-boats and mines were still capable of taking a toll of coastal shipping. In 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.

Monthly Loss Summary
7 British, Allied and neutral ships of 13,000 tons in UK waters.


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 "Glasgow" and "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 had broken through Allied patrols.

Normandy 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.

Monthly Loss Summary
1 merchant ship of 6,000 tons in UK waters.




Air War - RAF and USAAF operations against Germany and occupied Europe increased in intensity. Much of the RAF's efforts were still directed at Berlin by night, but both air forces were now attacking the V- 1 buzz-bomb launch sites in northern France. The recently introduced long-range P-57 Mustang fighter allowed the Americans to continue daylight bombing, but losses remained heavy. Italy also stayed high on the list of Allied targets. In February the Luftwaffe carried out a number of raids on London in the 'Little Blitz'.

Monthly Loss Summary
8 British, Allied and neutral ships of 7,000 tons in UK waters.


5th - Escort carrier "Slinger" was mined and damaged in the Thames Estuary off Sheerness.

20th - On patrol off Trevose Head, southwest England for a reported U-boat, destroyer "WARWICK" was torpedoed and sunk by "U-413" - the first enemy submarine to effectively penetrate British coastal waters since 1940.

Norway - Norwegian resistance fighters sank a cargo of heavy water bound for Germany for nuclear research.

Monthly Loss Summary
3 ships of 4,000 tons in UK waters.

MARCH 1944

20th - Two Royal Navy submarines, one of them ex-German, were lost. On the 20th "GRAPH" (the captured "U-570") broke her tow and ran aground on Islay Island off the west coast of Scotland.

28th - The second loss was "SYRTIS" on Norwegian patrol. After sinking a small ship off Bodo a few days before, she was sunk in the minefields flanking the port.

Monthly Loss Summary
Between now and the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 only one small ship was lost in UK waters

APRIL 1944

26th - Two surface actions took place in the English Channel off the coast of Brittany, both involving Canadian destroyers. On the 26th, cruiser "Black Prince" with four destroyers - three from the Royal Canadian Navy - was on Western Channel patrol out of Plymouth. Early that morning they ran into German torpedo boats "T-24", "T-27" and "T-29" on a minelaying mission. "T-27" was damaged and "T-29" sunk by the Canadian 'Tribal' class "Haida".

29th - This time "Haida" and sister ship "Athabaskan" were covering Allied minelaying, when they were surprised by the surviving "T-24" and repaired "T-27". "ATHABASKAN" was hit by a torpedo from "T-24" and blew up, but "Haida" managed to drive "T-27" ashore where she was later destroyed. The surviving "T-24" hit a mine but got into port.

German Coastal Shipping - These surface actions were only part of the Allied air and sea offensive against German shipping off the coasts of occupied Europe, mounted by strike aircraft of Coastal Command, the MTBs and MGBs of coastal forces, and submarines patrolling off the Biscay bases. RAF Bomber Command also continued to lay mines in the Baltic.

MAY 1944

Air War - The Allied air forces concentrated their considerable energies against targets mainly in France, in preparation for the D-day landings. In another facet of the air war, a V-2 rocket crashed near Warsaw and resistance groups managed to arrange for the parts to be successfully airlifted to Britain.

JUNE 1944

Royal Navy - Adm Sir Henry Moore was appointed C-in-C, Home Fleet in succession to Adm Fraser who was to command the British Pacific Fleet.

For Normandy Invasion - see Normandy landings, June 1944.

For Western Europe to May 1945 see Normandy to Berlin


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revised 9/7/11