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November 1942 - January 1943

HMS Kingston, destroyer (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to February-May 1943


Battle of the Barents Sea (see December 1942)





Allied Convoy Routes - New fast (F) and slow (S) convoys started in October and November between the UK and North African ports: UK out: KMF and KMS; Home to UK: MKF and MKS. From April 1943 these convoys sailed to and from the Gibraltar area mainly with OS and SL-convoyed ships.

15th - The Germans reacted to the 'Torch' landings on French North Africa (below) 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 lost 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.

Russian Convoys - Archangel to Loch Ewe, Scotland convoy QP15 with 28 ships lost two to U-boat attack.

Battle of the Atlantic - World-wide losses in tonnage due to Axis submarines were the highest of any month of the war - 119 ships of 729,000 tons, mostly in the Atlantic. By year's end, submarines in 1942 had accounted for 1,160 ships of 6,266,000 tons or a monthly average of 522,000 tons. Losses in the North and South Atlantic made up most of this total. To deal with this grave threat, a Cabinet Anti-U-boat Warfare Committee (not the 1941 Battle of the Atlantic Committee) was formed under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It saw the first need as closing the mid-Atlantic gap once and for all. Steps were taken to further expand Coastal Command and speed up the introduction of VLR aircraft. Adm Sir Max Horton, commander of home-based submarines since 1940 and a World War 1 submariner himself, succeeded Adm Noble as C-in-C, Western Approaches.

Monthly Loss Summary: 93 British, Allied and neutral ships of 567,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 escort carrier, 1 destroyer and 1 corvette; 7 U-boats including one by US aircraft off Iceland, and one possibly by the RAF in the North Atlantic


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.

Eastern Front - In the South, as the German forces in the Caucasus and within Stalingrad were slowly ground down, the Russians started a long-planned major offensive to relieve the city and trap the invaders in the Caucasus. Along 50-mile fronts to the north and the south of Stalingrad, two large armies broke through the largely Rumanian defenders. Before the month was out the Russian pincers had met and Gen Paulus’ Sixth Army was surrounded.

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


North Africa - By the 4th the Second Battle of El Alamein had been won by Eighth Army. Rommel's losses in men and material were so great he withdrew, first to Fuka and then Mersa Matruh. The British got there by the 7th. New Zealand troops entered Sidi Barrani on the 9th and two days later reached the Libyan border. As the remaining Axis troops continued to fall back, Eighth Army entered Tobruk on the 12th and Benghazi a week later. Rommel had moved back to the old 'start/finish' line of El Agheila by the end of the month. Montgomery halted Eighth Army after a 600-mile advance in 14 days.

8th - French North African Landings: Operation 'Torch'

By July 1942 the Allies had accepted that a cross-Channel assault on German-occupied Europe was not yet possible, and instead opted to land an expeditionary force in French North Africa. For political reasons the main landing forces would be American. Their arrival was timed to coincide with Eighth Army's offensive. Plans were formally approved in October, by which time the large amounts of shipping needed had been organised and assembled. To provide them, Russian convoys and those to and from Britain and Gibraltar/West Africa had been suspended and the Home Fleet stripped bare. The Allies' greatest concern was the hundred or more U-boats at sea. Outline order of battle was:

Allied Commander-in-Chief - US Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower

Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham 

Landing Areas:

Casablanca, Morocco



Forces landing:

35,000 US troops

39,000 US troops

33,000 US & British troops

Departure from: 

United States



Naval Task Forces:

Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Cdre T H Troubridge

Vice-Adm Sir H Burrough

Other warship
Troopships, supply ships, tankers etc




Total Ships

105 USN

105 RN

91 RN

  Most of the task force carriers were escort carriers, and the US totals included a heavy cover force. In the Mediterranean, British Force H reinforced by Home Fleet and under the command of Vice-Adm Sir Neville Syfret, covered the Algerian landings. Their main task was to hold off any attack by the Italian fleet. Strength included three capital ships, three fleet carriers, three cruisers and 17 destroyers. Various other forces added to the number of Allied ships in the area. Over 300 ships were therefore directly involved in what at that time was the greatest amphibious operation in history, and the forerunner of even greater ones to come before the war was won. Throughout October and early November convoys sailed for the landings on Vichy French soil in the early hours of the 8th. Negotiations with the French were not completed in time to avoid resistance. There was bloodshed on both sides.

Casablanca, Morocco - US troops landed at three points along a 200-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline. By the 10th they prepared to attack Casablanca itself, but this became unnecessary when the French forces stopped fighting. Before this happened the Western Task Force had fought a series of fierce actions with Vichy French warships. Battleship "Jean Bart" was seriously damaged and a cruiser and several destroyers and submarines sunk or beached.

Oran, Algeria - Within the Mediterranean, the landings to the west and east of Oran were followed by an attempt to smash through the harbour boom and land troops directly from ex-US Coast Guard cutters "WALNEY" (Capt Peters) and "HARTLAND". Both were disabled by ship and shore gunfire and soon sank. (+ Capt Frederick Peters RN of the "Walney" was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Five days later he was kiIled in an aircraft accident.) Cruiser Aurora (Capt Agnew) and destroyers fought off an attack by French destroyers outside the port. The large destroyer "EPERVIER" was driven ashore and "Tornade" and "Tramontane" disabled. In addition, destroyers "Achates" and "Westcott" accounted for submarines "ACTEON" and "ARGONAUTE". US troops fought their way into Oran, which fell on the 10th.

Algiers, Algeria - A similar opening attack was mounted by old destroyers "Broke" and "Malcolm". The latter was badly damaged but "BROKE" eventually broke through the boom to land her troops. Hard hit by shore batteries, she got away but foundered next day on the 9th. Algiers was soon in Allied hands and Adm Darlan, C-in-C Vichy French forces captured. It was not Gen Giraud as originally intended, but Adm Darlan who broadcast the ceasefire on the 10th. Resistance was stopped, but confusion reigned for a number of days as the Vichy French authorities were pressurised by both the Allies and Axis. However, before long the forces of France were fighting on the Allied side in French North Africa. Adm Darlan was assassinated in late December and Gen Giraud took his place.

- On news of the 'Torch' landings, the first German troops were flown across from Sicily to Tunisia on the 9th and within two days started a large build-up.


Southern France - Hitler ordered German troops into unoccupied Vichy France on the 11th. On the 27th, SS units tried to capture the French fleet at Toulon. They were too late to stop the scuttling of three battleships, seven cruisers, 30 destroyers, 16 submarines and many other smaller vessels.

Spain - Throughout all these events Spain fortunately stayed neutral. There was therefore no threat to Gibraltar directly from Spanish troops, or from Germans passing through the country. And the Americans in Morocco were safe from attack by the Spanish in Spanish Morocco.

9th - In continuing Royal Navy submarine operations in the Central Mediterranean off northwest Sicily, "Saracen" sank Italian submarine "GRANITO".

9th - Off Oran the corvette "GARDENIA" was lost in collision with armed trawler "Fluellen".

10th - In addition to the Atlantic approaches to Gibraltar, a large number of German and Italian submarines were concentrated in the Western Mediterranean to attack the 'Torch' follow-up convoys. Transports and escorting warships were sunk and damaged, but losses were never great, and seven Axis submarines (1-7) were sunk in exchange. On the 10th, destroyer "MARTIN" was sunk by "U-431" off Algiers and Italian submarine "EMO" (1) scuttled after an attack by armed trawler "Lord Nuffield". 12th - "U-660" (2) was sunk by escorting corvettes "Lotus" and "Starwort" northeast of Oran. 13th - Next day "Lotus", this time with "Poppy" accounted for "U-605" (3) off Algiers. On the 14th and 15th respectively, "U-595" and "U-259" (4-5) were sunk by aircraft. 17th - "U-331" (6) was damaged by RAF Hudsons of No 500 Squadron and tried to surrender. Aircraft of 820 Squadron from carrier Formidable torpedoed her in error off Algiers. 28th - North of Bone the Italian "DESSIE" (7) was sunk by destroyers "Quentin" and the Australian "Quiberon", now part of cruiser Force Q operating out of Bone.

10th - Further Allied landings were made to the east of Algiers along the Algerian coast, where there was little air cover. Attacks by German aircraft on these and other Algerian targets sank or damaged a number of ships. On the 10th, sloop "IBIS" was hit by an aircraft torpedo and went down off Algiers.

Algeria - The first of the further Allied troop landings were made at Bougie and Bone on the 11th and 12th, well on the way to the Tunisian border. 13th - "U-431" sent Dutch destroyer "lSAAC SWEERS" to the bottom northwest of Algiers. 20th - Cruiser Delhi was damaged by bombs in Algiers Bay. 28th - Destroyer "ITHURIEL" in harbour at Bone was badly damaged in bombing attacks and not repaired.

The Relief of Malta - At the beginning of the month, cruiser-minelayer Welshman ran vitally needed stores to Malta. On the 11th, sister-ship Manxman made a similar dash from Alexandria. Then on the 17th a convoy of four ships, escorted by three cruisers and 10 destroyers, left Alexandria (Operation 'Stoneage'). Although cruiser Arethusa was badly damaged by German torpedo aircraft on the 18th and had to return with over 150 casualties, the convoy got through on the 20th. Its arrival effectively marks the lifting of the long and bloody siege of Malta. Since Operation 'Excess' in January 1941, two aircraft carriers, four cruisers, 16 destroyers and five submarines had been lost in the many attempts to supply and reinforce the island, and in the heavy air attacks launched against the George Cross island.

French North Africa continued - After the Bougie and Bone landings in eastern Algeria, British paratroops were flown into the north of Tunisia and the advance began on Bizerta and Tunis. US paratroops further south moved on to Gafsa from where they threatened to take the coastal town of Gabes and cut Tunisia in half. Fighting took place as the Allies closed in, but by the time the main offensive started on the 25th, the Germans had built up their forces around both Bizerta and Tunis, and also occupied the east coast towns of Sousse, Sfax and Gabes. However by month's end, units of British First Army were within 12 miles of Tunis.

24th - Off northwest Sicily, "UTMOST" was lost to Italian destroyer escort "Groppo".

Monthly Loss Summary: 13 British or Allied merchant ships of 103,000 tons


11th, Action of the "Bengal" and "Ondina" - Two Japanese raiders armed with 6in guns attacked the Dutch tanker "Ondina" (one 4in gun) and her escort, the Royal Indian navy minesweeper "Bengal" (single 12pdr) commanded by Lt-Cdr W. J. Wilson RINR to the southwest of the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. "Bengal" hit "HOKOKUKU" which shortly blew up. The other raider soon disappeared. Both Allied ships were damaged and separated, but reached port safely after this small ship action which ranks with the sinking of the "Stier" by the "Stephen Hopkins" just two months earlier.

Papua, New Guinea - Kokoda was captured on the 2nd, and by mid-month Australian and American troops were attacking the strongly fortified positions around Buna and Gona. Fierce fighting carried on throughout November and December.

Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands - Three more naval battles took place as US forces started to push the Japanese away from the airfield towards Cape Esperance: First Battle of Guadalcanal - On the night of the 12th/13th a large Japanese troop convoy approached accompanied by two battleships which were to bombard Henderson Field. A US cruiser force set out to meet them in lronbottom Sound. They lost two cruisers and four destroyers, and the Japanese two destroyers in the fighting. Also Japanese battleship "HIEI" was disabled by gunfire and later finished off by US torpedo aircraft attack. Second Battle of Guadalcanal - Two nights later the Japanese again tried to bring in troop transports. This time a battleship action resulted and "KIRISHIMA" was sunk by the "Washington". Battle of Tassafaronga - On the 30th in the same area, an eight-destroyer 'Tokyo Express' was intercepted by US cruisers and destroyers. One of the Japanese was sunk but at the cost of one cruiser lost and three severely damaged as the 24in Long Lance torpedoed tore through the US lines.

German Raiders - On the 30th, German raider "THOR" was destroyed 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.

Merchant Shipping War - A few Japanese submarines continued to operate in the Indian Ocean and were now joined by a number of German U-boats on patrol off the east coast of South Africa.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 23 merchant ships of 131,000 tons




Atomic Bomb - The world's first atomic reactor went critical at Chicago University. By now problems had arisen over the sharing of the US work with Britain.

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 detected 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.

31st, Battle of the Barents Sea & Russian Convoys JW51A and JW51B (see map above) - 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 Sheffield (right - NavyPhotos). JW51B (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 four groups (1-4). The main convoy (1) 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 (3) covered to the north. Further north still a straggling merchant ship and escorting trawler (4) tried 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 Adm Kummetz divided his force in two [1-2] and planned to attack from astern on both sides - "Hipper" [1] and three destroyers in the north and "Lutzow" [2] with the other three in the south.

On the 31st around 09.30, the action started with "Hipper's" three destroyers [1] heading north across the rear of the convoy (1), and opening fire on "Obdurate". The convoy later turned as planned, but south towards "Lutzow" [2]. Then "Onslow", Orwell" and Obedient" sighted Hipper" [1] 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). Adm Burnett's cruisers [3] meanwhile, following a radar contact, had diverted north towards the straggler and escort (4). They only headed towards the action at 10.00. Still to the north of the convoy, "Hipper" [1] and her destroyers came across the hapless BRAMBLE (2) and sent her to the bottom around 10.40. They headed south, and 40min later the 8in cruiser [1] approached JW51B (1), opened fire and hit "ACHATES" which sank after the battle was over. Lutzow [2] had already 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 (3) had arrived on the scene. They quickly hit "Hipper" [1] 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 convoy RA51 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. Learning his big ships had been driven off by light cruisers and destroyers Hitler 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.

Battle of the Atlantic - Total U-boat strength at year's end approached 400 compared to 250 in January, and this in spite of 86 submarines being lost in 1942. Of the total, over 200 were operational. Many were on passage but the numbers on patrol were still great and increasing. Most were in the North Atlantic or west of Gibraltar although groups operated off West Africa and South America with some success. The Allies could deploy 450 escort vessels of all types against the U-boats: this was a large number but still not enough to curb the menace and go over to the offensive. In December the Royal Navy and its Allies regained an old advantage when after a 10-month gap, the U-boat 'Triton' code for Atlantic operations was broken.

Monthly Loss Summary: 54 British, Allied and neutral ships of 305,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 3 escorts; 1 German destroyer and 5 U-boats including 1 each by US and indirectly by RAF aircraft in attacks on HX217, 1 by US Coast Guard in mid-Atlantic


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.

Eastern Front - In the south of the Front, a scratch German force tried to reach Stalingrad from the southwest but was soon driven back. Further north, the Russians resumed their push and annihilated an Italian army. By now the Germans in the Caucasus were under heavy pressure. Fearing the Russians would reach Rostov-on-Don and trap them, they started to withdraw from the oilfields considered so important by Hitler.

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


French North Africa - German forces counter-attacked in the north of Tunisia, driving back the Allies. Much of the fighting took place in the Battle for Longstop Hill near Medjez el Bab. By the end of the year Axis forces had established strong defence lines around Bizerta and Tunis, and were holding on to the eastern half of the country. The Allies had lost the race for Tunis. Throughout January 1943 both sides attacked along the line, but without much success. As this happened more and more German and Italian troops were drawn into Tunisia. When the Axis command eventually surrendered in May 1943, it had drained Sicily and Italy of some of its best men.

Cruiser Force Q - Based in Bone, Force Q and a new Malta-based cruiser force took turns attacking Axis shipping bound for North Africa. On the 2nd, Force Q with Aurora, Argonaut, Sirius and two destroyers went into action in the Strait of Sicily. All four transports in a convoy and Italian destroyer "FOLGORE" were sunk by gunfire. As they returned, destroyer "QUENTIN" was lost to Italian torpedo aircraft north of Cape Bon. 14th - Two weeks after Force Q's success in the Strait of Sicily, cruiser Argonaut was badly damaged by Italian submarine "Mocenigo" northeast of Bone.

4th - In the first USAAF raids on Italy, Italian light cruiser "ATTENDOLO" was sunk and others damaged at Naples.

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - Throughout the month, British submarines were on patrol in the Western Mediterranean and lost four of their number. In return they sank several Axis ships including two Italian warships. Early December - "TRAVELLER" left Malta on 28th November for the Gulf of Taranto. Overdue by the 8th December, she was presumed mined in her patrol area. 6th - "Tigris" sank Italian submarine "PORFIDO" north of Bone. 12th - In the Gulf of Naples submarine "P-222" was lost to Italian torpedo boat "Fortunale" while attacking a convoy. 17th - North of Bizerta, "Splendid" sank Italian destroyer "AVIERE" escorting a convoy to North Africa. 25th - As an Axis convoy headed into Tunis, "P-48" attacked and was sunk by Italian destroyer escorts "Ardente" and "Ardito". Late December - At the end of the month submarine "P-311" sailed for Maddalena, Sardinia with Chariot human torpedoes for an attack on the cruisers based there. Her last signal was on the 31st December and she was presumed lost on mines in the approaches to the port.

Attacks off Algeria - Attacks on Allied shipping off Algeria led to more losses in return for the sinking of one Italian submarine. 9th - As destroyer "PORCUPINE" escorted submarine depot ship Maidstone from Gibraltar to Algiers, she was torpedoed and badly damaged off Oran by "U-602", and never repaired. On the same day corvette "MARIGOLD" was sunk by torpedo aircraft to the west of Algiers while escorting North Africa/UK convoy MKS3. 11th - Escort destroyer "BLEAN" sailing with fast North Africa/UK convoy MKF4 was lost to "U-443" west of Oran. 13th - Sloop "Enchantress" sank Italian submarine "CORALLO" off Bougie. 18th - Porcupine's sister-ship "PARTRIDGE" was torpedoed by "U-565" while carrying out an A/S sweep with Force H, and went down off Oran.

15th - Destroyers "Petard" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank Italian submarine "UARSCIEK" south of Malta.

North Africa - On the 11th, Gen Montgomery resumed Eighth Army's advance. Under direct and flanking attack, Rommel abandoned El Agheila and withdrew to defence lines at Buerat on the approaches to Tripoli. By now he had decided to make his main stand on the Mareth line in southern Tunisia. Eighth Army reached Buerat by year's end. 19th - Escorting a convoy to Benghazi, corvette "SNAPDRAGON" was bombed and sunk off the port by German aircraft.

Monthly Loss Summary: 3 British or Allied merchant ships of 6,000 tons


Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands - After four months struggle, the US 1st Marine Division was relieved by the Army. Japanese destroyers continued to run in supplies by nightly 'Tokyo Express', but by the end of the month High Command in Tokyo had decided to evacuate its troops. Meanwhile US forces pushed west from Henderson Field.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 6 merchant ships of 29,000 tons





Russian Convoys - Russian convoy JW52 and return RA52 both set out in January. Of the 25 ships in the two convoys, one left JW52 to return to port, and one merchantmen with RA52 was lost to U-boat attacks.

Battle of the Atlantic - Severe weather and evasive convoy routing kept losses down in January 1943. However, south of the Azores, out of range of air cover, Trinidad/Gibraltar tanker convoy TM1 lost seven out of nine ships to U-boats.

Monthly Loss Summary, including Russian Convoys: 30 British, Allied and neutral ships of 189,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 4 U-boats including 1 by RAF in North Atlantic; 2 by US aircraft off Brazil; 1 by unknown causes


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.

Eastern Front - Russian strength was now great enough to attack along other parts of the front as well as in the south. In the north they managed to open a narrow corridor through to Leningrad. The siege was partially lifted, but another year was needed to complete its liberation. The offensive in the Centre/South continued with the Russians aiming (from north to south) for Kursk, Kharkov and Rostov-on-Don. In the south itself, the pressure on the trapped Germans at Stalingrad was increased. A powerful attack starting early in the month forced Gen Paulus and the remnants of Sixth Army to surrender on the 31st January, with the last troops giving in on the 2nd February. The Battle of Stalingrad was at last over. Further South still German forces in the Caucasus retreated as the Russian attacks gathered momentum. Those who could, escape through Rostov-on-Don before its inevitable fall.

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.


Casablanca Conference - Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt with their Chiefs of Staff met for this important conference. Major areas for discussion included the European invasion in 1944, landings in Sicily and Italy after the Tunisian campaign, the bombing of Germany and the continuation of the war in Burma and the Pacific. Losses due to U-boats and the shortage of shipping would prove to be significant constraints on Allied plans. At this time the two Allied leaders announced a policy of unconditional surrender by the Axis powers.

Attacks off Algeria - Axis attacks continued against Allied ships in Algerian ports and convoys off the coast. There were losses on both sides. 1st - Cruiser Ajax was severely damaged in Bone harbour by Ju87s. 13th - Canadian corvettes on convoy escort accounted for two submarines. On the 13th, "Ville de Quebec" sank "U-224" west of Algiers. 19th - Canadian corvette "Port Arthur" sank Italian submarine "TRITONE" off Bougie by gunfire. 30th - As corvette "SAMPHIRE" escorted Gibraltar/North African ports convoy TE14 she was torpedoed by Italian submarine "Platino" near Bougie.

Axis Supplies to Tunisia - Attempts by the Italian Navy to supply the Axis armies in Tunisia led to heavy losses, especially on mines laid between Sicily and Tunis by fast minelayers Abdiel and Welshman, and submarine "Rorqual". 9th - Destroyer "CORSARO" hit one of "Abdiel's" mines northeast of Bizerta. 17th - Returning from Tunisia, destroyer "BOMBARDIERE" was sunk off western Sicily by submarine "United". 31st - Torpedo boat "PRESTINARI" and corvette "PROCELLARIA" went down on mines laid by "Welshman" in the Strait of Sicily.

Axis Supplies to Libya - Final supply trips to Tripoli by Italian submarines led to more losses north of the Libyan capital. 14th - "NARVALO" was attacked by a RAF Beaufort and finished off by destroyers "Pakenham" and "Hursley", escorts with Malta/Alexandria convoy ME15. 20th - "SANTAROSA" was torpedoed off Tripoli by MTB-260, one of the growing number of coastal forces operating along the North African coast.

Libya - Gen Montgomery resumed the advance on the 15th, and Bueret, outflanked by British Armour and New Zealand troops was soon taken. The defences in front of Tripoli were similarly outflanked and on the 23rd the victorious Eighth Army entered the capital.

21st - Submarine "Sahib" on patrol off western Corsica sank "U-301.

Monthly Loss Summary: 14 British or Allied merchant ships of 48,000 tons


Burma - The First Arakan campaign continued as Indian troops tried to move on Akyab.

Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands - Unknown to the Americans the Japanese had been ordered to evacuate, but still resisted strongly as US forces pushed them back towards Cape Esperance. 5th - Operating off the Solomons with a US cruiser force, the New Zealand Achilles was badly damaged in a bombing attack off New Georgia Island. 29th - The Japanese still carried supplies to Guadalcanal by submarine, and "I-1" was caught by New Zealand armed trawlers "Kiwi" and "Moa" to the north. In a fiercely fought action they drove the 2,000-ton boat ashore to the west of Cape Esperance and destroyed her.

Papua, New Guinea - The Buna and Gona area was slowly wrested from the Japanese, and by the 21st was in Allied hands. Papua, New Guinea had now been liberated. The first phase of the New Guinea campaign was over. Next was to clear the coast opposite New Britain and take the airfield at Lae. In preparation for this, Australian troops had already been airlifted to Wau, inland from Salamaua. Capturing the Huon Peninsula would take most of 1943.

Monthly Loss Summary: Pacific Ocean only - 2 merchant ships of 9,000 tons



The Russians gained a famous victory with the German surrender at Stalingrad in January 1943. Taken with the October 1942 British Battle of El Alamein and June 1942 American Battle of Midway, the three Allied successes are usually considered as marking the turning point in the 40 month old war against the Axis powers. The Battle for Guadalcanal, ending as it did Japanese hopes of controlling the South West Pacific should also be added to this roll-call of victory.

However, more than 30 months of struggle and bloodshed remained before victory was certain. Even then, one Battle was not over until the very end - the Battle of the Atlantic, although it did reach its peak over the next four months.


on to February-May 1943
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revised 24/12/10