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June - September 1943

HMS Vestal, minesweeper (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to October-December 1943


Invasion of Sicily, Operation 'Husky' (see July 1943)



JUNE 1943


1st - After supporting convoys ONS8 and HX240, Capt Walker's 2nd EG located "U-202" south of Greenland. She was sunk by sloop "Starling".

Bay of Biscay Patrols - Aircraft of Coastal Command continued covering U-boat exit routes from western France and were joined by surface escort groups covered by cruisers. At the same time U-boats were fitted with heavy AA armament to enable them to fight their way out on the surface in groups. U-boat sinkings went down as Allied aircraft losses mounted, but four U-boats were destroyed: 1st - "U-418" to a rocket-firing RAF Beaufighter. 14th - "U-564" to a RAF Whitley. 24th - The 2nd EG (Capt Walker) accompanied by cruiser Scylla accounted for two submarines northwest of Cape Ortegal, NW Spain. Tanker "U-119" was brought to the surface and rammed by "Starling". With her Asdic out of action from the ramming, "Starling" left the sinking of "U-449" to "Wren", "Woodpecker", "Kite" and "Wild Goose".

Northern Transit Area - In the waters through which Norwegian-based U-boats had to sail for their patrol areas, two submarines were sunk: 4th - Submarine "Truculent" on anti-U-boat patrol between Norway and Iceland sank "U-308" north of the Faeroe Islands. 11th - A RAF Fortress accounted for "U-417" in the same northern transit area.

14th - In the North Atlantic "U-334" and other U-boats simulated the radio transmissions of large wolf packs. She was located and sunk by frigate "Jed" and sloop "Pelican" of the 1st EG.

Battle of the Atlantic - The Royal Navy had finally changed the convoy codes and made them secure against the work of the German B-Service. In contrast, the British 'Ultra' work was fully integrated into the Admiralty U-boat Tracking Room, and an almost complete picture of German Navy and U-boat operations was available. Not one North Atlantic convoy was attacked during the month although U-boats were operating around the Azores. As Allied air and sea forces grew in strength and effectiveness, especially through the use of 10cm radar and 'Ultra', Adm Doenitz sought other ways to regain the initiative. This he was never able to do, although right through until the last day of the war, the Allies could not relax their efforts, and continually introduced new detection systems, weapons and tactics. Against numerous, well-trained and effectively used escorts, the day of the conventional submarine was drawing to a close. The Germans placed much faith in the Walther hydrogen peroxide boat then under development, which with its long underwater endurance and high speed, would haved proved a formidable foe. It did not get beyond the experimental stage by war's end. An interim step on the road towards the 'true' submarine started at the end of 1943 with the design and building of Type XXI ocean and XXIII coastal boats. Using the streamlined hull of the Walther and high capacity batteries, their underwater speed made them faster than most escorts. Fortunately for the Allies they did not enter service in numbers until too late in 1945.

For now the Germans had to rely on the U-boats currently in service and building. Total numbers stayed at around the 400 mark for the remainder of the war, in spite of a 40 boat per month construction programme. Various steps were taken to improve their offensive and defensive capability. Apart from extra AA armament, the Gnat acoustic torpedo was introduced specifically to combat the convoy escorts. Its first test came in September 1943. Before then in July, the schnorkel, a Dutch development that allowed batteries to be recharged at periscope depth, started trials. It did not enter general service until mid-1944, but then went quite some way to nullifying the radar of the air escorts and patrols. Even now the German Navy was unaware the Allies were using short wavelength radar, but when they did, early in 1944, an effective detector was shortly introduced.

Monthly Loss Summary: 7 British, Allied and neutral ships of 30,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 16 German and 1 Italian U-boats including 4 by US and RAF aircraft off Iceland and the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Italian boat in the North Atlantic, 3 by the US Navy, one off the east coast of America and two to escort carrier "Bogue" off the Azores, 1 by French aircraft off Dakar.


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.


2nd - Destroyers "Jervis" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank two merchantmen and Italian torpedo boat "CASTORE" off Cape Spartivento, southwest Italy.  

Pantelleria & Lampedusa - After heavy sea and air bombardments these two Italian islands to the north-west and west of Malta surrendered to the Allies on the 11th and 12th June respectively.

Monthly Loss Summary: 7 British or Allied merchant ships of 25,000 tons


New Georgia Islands, Central Solomons - Apart from unopposed landings on islands to the north of Guadalcanal in February 1943, only now were US forces under Adm Halsey ready to make their next move up the Solomons chain, starting with the New Georgia group. On the 21st, US Marines landed at the southern end of the main island of New Georgia and on the 30th Army troops on the nearby island of Rendova. New Georgia was not fully secured until the end of August 1943, by which time other landings had been made. Like the Guadalcanal campaign, Japanese attempts to bring in reinforcements led to a series of naval battles.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 12 merchant ships of 68,000 tons; Pacific Ocean - 1 merchant ship of 1,200 tons


JULY 1943


15th - "U-135" attacked UK/West Africa convoy OS51 off the Canary Islands, and was depth-charged by the escort including sloop "Rochester" and corvette "Balsam". She was sunk when corvette Mignonette rammed.

24th - After six months effort the bombing campaign against U-boat bases claimed its first success on the 24th when "U-622" was badly damaged in a USAAF raid on Trondheim, Norway and paid off.

30th - The Bay of Biscay offensive by the RAF and Australian, Canadian and American aircraft reached a peak and since March 1943, 10 U-boats had been sunk and many others damaged. On the 30th, two 'milchcows', "U-461" and "U-462" escorted by "U-504", were located to the northwest of Cape Ortegal, Spain. In a running battle "U-461" was finally sunk by Sunderland U/461 of RAF No 461 Squadron. "U-462" also went down in the fighting. Capt Walker's 2nd EG was called to the scene and accounted for "U-504" with "Kite", "Woodpecker", "Wren" and "Wild Goose".

Monthly Loss Summar: 29 ships British, Allied and neutral ships of 188,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 34 U-boats including 3 by RAF and US aircraft off Portugal, 7 by US escort carrier groups south and west of the Azores (6 of these by aircraft from "Core", "Santee" or "Bogue"), 9 by US aircraft in the Caribbean and off Brazil.


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.

Eastern Front - There was little activity in the North and Leningrad had to wait until early 1944 for the siege to be fully lifted. It was a different matter in the Centre/South where the Battle of Kursk was fought. The Germans attacked the 100-mile wide salient around Kursk from the Orel in the north and Kharkov in the south. Total forces engaged on both sides included 6,000 tanks and 5,000 aircraft. Russian defences were well prepared and in depth and the Germans made little progress. Within a week they had ground to a halt. Losses were heavy on both sides. Now the Russian armies launched the first of numerous offensives in these sectors, which by year's end saw them reaching Byelorussia and recapturing more than half the Ukraine. The first attacks were north of Kursk against the German salient around Orel. In early August it was the turn of Kharkov to the south.

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


10th - Invasion of Sicily, Operation 'Husky'
(see map above)

The Americans still wanted to concentrate on the cross-Channel invasion of France, but at the Casablanca Conference somewhat reluctantly agreed to go ahead with the Sicily landings. Amongst the benefits would be the opening of the Mediterranean to Allied shipping. The final plan was approved in mid-May and not much more than a month later the first US troop convoys were heading across the Atlantic for an operation even greater than the French North African landings the previous November.

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

Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham

Landing Areas:

Gulf of Gela, S coast

South of Syracuse, SE coast

Forces landing:

US 7th Army - Gen Patton
66,000 troops

Eighth Army - Gen Montgomery
115,000 British & Canadian troops

Departure from:

United States, Algeria, Tunisia

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Malta; Canadian division from Britain

Naval Task Forces:

Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Adm Sir B Ramsey

Naval Forces
Other warship
Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc
Landing Ships and Craft (major)



British & Allied



435 USN

930 RN

Plus Landing Craft (minor)

510 USN

715 RN

The grand total of 2,590 US and British warships - major and minor, were mostly allocated to their own landing sectors, but the Royal Navy total included the covering force against any interference by the Italian fleet. The main group under Vice-Adm Sir A. U. Willis of Force H included battleships Nelson, Rodney, Warspite and Valiant and fleet carriers Formidable and Indomitable. Seven Royal Navy submarines acted as navigation markers off the invasion beaches. Many of the troops coming from North Africa and Malta made the voyage in landing ships and craft. As they approached Sicily with the other transports late on the 9th in stormy weather, Allied airborne landings took place. Sadly, many of the British gliders crashed into the sea, partly because of the weather. However, early next day, on the 10th, the troops went ashore under an umbrella of aircraft. The new amphibious DUKWS (or "Ducks") developed by the Americans played an important part in getting the men and supplies across the beaches

There was little resistance by the Italians and few Germans, and the counter-attacks that were mounted were soon driven off. Syracuse was captured that day and within three days the British Eighth Army had cleared the south east corner of Sicily. The Americans meanwhile pushed north and northwest and captured Palermo on the 22nd. By then, Eighth Army had been checked south of Catania. Nevertheless, at month's end the Allies held the entire island except the north-eastern part. As the capture of Sicily progressed, important political developments took place in Italy. On the 25th Mussolini was arrested and stripped of all his powers. Marshal Badoglio formed a new government, which immediately and in secret sought ways to end the war. By August the surrender of Italy was being negotiated with the Allied powers. German and Italian aircraft sank and damaged a number of warships and transports in the invasion area including a US destroyer on the 10th. On the 16th carrier "Indomitable" was damaged by Italian torpedo aircraft.

Axis submarines had fewer successes than the attacking aircraft in and around Sicily. Two British cruisers were damaged, but in return 12 of their number were lost over the next four weeks into early August: 11th - "FLUTTO" off the southern end of the Strait of Messina in a running battle with MTBs 640, 651 and 670. 12th - "U-561" torpedoed in the Strait of Messina by MTB-81; Italian "BRONZO" captured off Syracuse by minesweepers "Boston", "Cromarty", "Poole" and "Seaham"; "U-409" sunk off Algeria by escorting destroyer "Inconstant" as she attacked a returning empty convoy. 13th - Italian "NEREIDE" was lost off Augusta to destroyers "Echo" and "llex"; north of the Strait of Messina "ACCIAIO" was torpedoed by patrolling submarine "Unruly". 15th - Transport submarine "REMO" on passage through the Gulf of Taranto during the invasion was lost to submarine "United". 16th - Cruiser Cleopatra was torpedoed and badly damaged off Sicily by submarine "Dandolo". 18th - "Remo's" sister-boat "ROMOLO" was sunk off Augusta by the RAF. 23rd - Cruiser Newfoundland (pictured - NavyPhotos) was damaged off Syracuse by a torpedo from "U-407", and as Italian "ASCIANGHI" attacked a cruiser force off the south coast of Sicily she was sunk by destroyers "Eclipse" and "Laforey". 29th - "PIETRO MICCA" was torpedoed by submarine "Trooper" at the entrance to the Adriatic in the Strait of Otranto. 30th - "U-375" was lost off southern Sicily to an American sub-chaser.

Monthly Loss Summary: 14 British or Allied merchant ships of 80,000 tons


New Guinea - On 30th June, Allied forces landed south of Salamaua. By mid-July they linked up with the Australians fighting through from Wau, and prepared to advance on Salamaua itself. The struggle against the usual fierce resistance continued right through July and August.

New Georgia Islands, Central Solomons - As the fighting for New Georgia Island continued, naval battles and other actions led to losses on both sides: Battle of Kula Gulf - On the night of the 5th/6th, three US cruisers and four destroyers were in a fight with 10 'Tokyo Express' destroyers off the north coast of New Georgia. The Japanese lost two destroyers, but another US cruiser went down to Long Lance torpedoes. Battle of Kolombangara - Four destroyers covered by cruiser "Jintsu" and five more destroyers ran supplies into Kula Gulf on the night of the 12th/13th. Opposing them were two American cruisers and the New Zealand "Leander" (Capt S. W. Roskill) with ten US destroyers. The Japanese cruiser was shelled to pieces, but all three Allied cruisers were disabled by torpedo hits and a destroyer sunk. "Leander" was out of action for 25 months, the last of the two New Zealand cruisers serving with Adm Halsey. 20th - Task Force 74 with cruisers "Australia", "Hobart" and US destroyers sailed from the New Hebrides for the New Georgia area of operations. In the Coral Sea, "Hobart" was torpedoed and badly damaged by submarine "I-11".

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 17 merchant ships of 97,000 tons




Canada - Prime Minister MacKenzie King of Canada hosted the Quebec Conference, the "Quadrant' series of meetings in the middle of the month to discuss Allied strategy. Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt agreed the outline plans for 'Overlord' - the main invasion of Europe - including the use of 'Mulberry' harbours, and to an American being the supreme commander. In the Far East, a South East Asia Command was to be set up with Adm Mountbatten as supreme commander and a second Chindit operation mounted in Burma. Agreement was also reached on the sharing of nuclear research.

Early August - "U-647" on passage out may have been lost on the Iceland/ Faeroes mine barrage around the 3rd of the month. If so she was the only casualty of this vast minefield throughout the war. RCAF aircraft sank "U-489" in the same area. 11th - "U-468" was sunk off Dakar, West Africa by a RAF Liberator of No 200 Squadron. The final attack was carried out with the aircraft in flames and just before she crashed. + The Liberator's commanding officer, Plt Off Lloyd Trigg RNZAF, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, solely on the evidence of the U-boat's survivors. 25th - "U-523" attacked UK/Gibraltar convoy OG92 to the far west of Cape Finisterre, Spain and was sunk by destroyer "Wanderer" and corvette "Wallflower". 30th - In attacks on Sierra Leone/UK convoy SL135 northeast of the Azores, "U-634" was sunk by sloop "Stork" and corvette "Stonecrop.

27th - Bay of Biscay air patrols sank five U-boats in August and continued to co-operate with surface ships. On the 27th, German Do217 aircraft launched some of the first Hs293 glider bombs against ships of the 1st Escort Group. To the south of Cape Finisterre, sloop "EGRET" was hit and blew up and Canadian destroyer "Athabaskan" damaged.

Monthly Loss Summary: 4 British, Allied and neutral ships of 25,000 tons, 1 escort; 20 U-boats including 6 by aircraft of US escort carriers Card and Core off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic, 2 by US aircraft in the Caribbean area, 1 by RAF and French aircraft off Dakar, 1 by US forces in the South Atlantic


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 take over full control. As they did, most of the ships of the small Danish Navy were scuttled.

Eastern Front - From east of Smolensk south to the Sea of Azov the Russians attacked and pushed forward all along the line: In the Centre towards Smolensk itself; in the Centre/South first Orel and then Kharkov were captured, followed by an advance towards the Ukrainian capital of Kiev; in the South from the Rostov-on-Don area towards Odessa, threatening to trap the Germans in the Crimea.


Sicily - As the Germans and Italians prepared to evacuate Sicily across the Strait of Messina, the Allies started the final push - US Seventh Army along the north coast aided by three small amphibious hops and Eighth Army up the east side from Catania with one small landing. Gen Patton's men entered Messina just before Gen Montgomery's on the 17th. Sicily was now in Allied hands but 100,000 Axis troops managed to escape without any serious interference.

3rd - Following on from July, the twelfth Axis submarine loss in four weeks was the Italian "ARGENTO" sunk off the island of Pantelleria by US destroyer "Buck".

4th - Destroyer "ARROW" assisted with unsuccessful fire-fighting alongside the burning merchantman "Fort La Montée" off Algiers harbour. She was badly damaged in the resulting explosion and never fully re-commissioned.

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - Patrols in the Mediterranean lea to the sinking of numerous Axis ships including two Italian warships, but two boats were lost in August, the first for over three months: 9th - "Simoom" sank destroyer GIOBERTI" off Spezia, northwest Italy. 11th - "PARTHIAN" was overdue on this date. She left Malta on 22nd July for the southern Adriatic and failed to return to Beirut. 14th - "SARACEN" on patrol off Bastia, Corsica was lost to Italian corvettes "Minerva" and "Euterpe". 28th - "Ultor" torpedoed torpedo boat "LINCE" in the Gulf of Taranto. 22nd - Escort destroyers "Easton" and Greek "Pindos" sank "U-458" southeast of Pantelleria.

Monthly Loss Summary: 11 British or Allied merchant ships of 43,000 tons


Australia - John Curtin was re-elected Prime Minister and the Labour Party returned to power.

Strategic and Maritime Situation

In May 1943, Allied agreement was reached on an offensive towards the Marshall and Caroline Islands in the Central Pacific to parallel Gen MacArthur's advance along the north coast of New Guinea. At the Quebec Conference, the Gilbert Islands were chosen as the first step in the island-hopping campaign under the overall command of Adm Nimitz, C-in-C, Pacific Fleet.

New Georgia Islands, Central Solomons - As the fighting on New Georgia came to an end, the Japanese evacuated Kolombangara, the next island in the group. Now the Americans started a policy of bypassing and sealing off heavily defended areas whenever strategically possible and leaving them to 'wither on the vine'. On the 15th they started with landings on Vella Lavella to the north of Kolombangara. By early October, by which time New Zealand troops had joined the fighting for Vella Lavella, the Japanese had left both islands, and the Central Solomons were clear. In early August another naval battle took place: Battle of Vella Gulf - Now the US Navy well and truly defeated the Japanese 'Tokyo Expresses'. On the night of the 6th/7th, six US destroyers sank three out of four Japanese destroyers with torpedoes in the waters between Kolombangara and Vella Lavella.

19th - In the New Caledonia area, New Zealand trawler "Tui" and USN aircraft sank submarine "I-17".

Aleutians - In mid-month US and Canadian troops landed on Kiska after heavy preliminary bombardments to find the Japanese had quietly left. The Aleutian Island chain was completely back in US hands.

Merchant Shipping War - As Axis submarines continued to take a toll of Indian Ocean shipping, German "U-197" was sunk by RAF aircraft off Madagascar on the 20th, the first of two lost in the Indian Ocean in 1943.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 7 merchant ships of 46,000 tons; Pacific Ocean - 2 merchant ships of 4,000 tons




19th-22nd, Assault on the Escorts: Convoys ONS18 and ON202 - The German wolf-packs returned to the North Atlantic armed with Gnat acoustic torpedoes to home on and disable the escorts so they could reach the merchantmen. Adm Doenitz established a patrol line of 19 U-boats southwest of Iceland ready for UK-out convoys ONS18 (27 ships escorted by the British B3 group) and ON202 (42 ships and Canadian C2 group), which set out separately. First blood went to the RCAF on the 19th when "U-347" was sent to the bottom. Over the next three days six merchant ships were lost and the escorts suffered badly in the Gnat attacks. Two more U-boats were also sunk: 19th - Destroyer "Escapade" of B3 was badly damaged by a premature explosion of her Hedgehog. 20th - British frigate "Lagan" of C2 was damaged by "U-270" or "U-260", but shortly after "U-338" was sunk by a VLR aircraft of RAF No 120 Squadron using the Allies' own acoustic torpedo - 'Fido'. "LAGAN" was towed home as a constructive total loss. The two convoys joined up southeast of Greenland and the escort reinforced by the Canadian 9th EG. 20th - Canadian destroyer "ST CROIX" (ex-US) of the 9th EG was lost to an attack by "U-305" and British corvette "POLYANTHUS" of C2 was hit by a Gnat, probably from "U-952" or possibly "U-641". 22nd - Destroyer "Keppel" of B3 sank "U-229", by which time the convoys were south of Cape Farewell, Greenland. By now frigate "ITCHEN" of the 9th EG had on board most of the survivors of "St Croix" and "Polyanthus". Around midnight she was hit, in all likelihood by "U-666" and went down taking all but three men of the three ships' companies with her. (Note: "U-952" or "U-260" might also have been responsible for "ltchen's" loss.) Fortunately the Allies had anticipated the introduction of acoustic torpedoed and soon put into service 'Foxer' noisemakers, towed astern to attract the Gnat away from the vessel. The U-boats did not repeat their successes.

22nd, Midget Submarine Attack on Tirpitz, Operation 'Source' - 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. One gallant attempt was made in October 1942 when a small Norwegian fishing vessel "Arthur", penetrated to within a few miles of the battleship in Trondheimfiord with Chariot human torpedoes slung underneath. Just short of the target they broke away and the effort was in vain. Now it was the turn of midget submarines - 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" 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. Both dropped their charges under or near the battleship before they sank and some of their crews escaped. "Tirpitz" managed to shift position slightly, but not enough to avoid damage when the charges went up. She was out of action for six months. Lt Donald Cameron RNR and Lt Basil Place RN were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Monthly Loss Summary: 11 ships of 54,000 tons and 4 escorts; 6 U-boats including one each by RAF and RCAF Bay of Biscay patrols, and one by US aircraft off Brazil


Eastern Front - The Russians continued to push forward in the Centre and South, capturing Smolensk on the 25th September. Thereafter they made little progress in this area for the rest of 1943.


6th - On passage to Oran, escort destroyer "PUCKERIDGE" was sunk just east of Gibraltar by "U-617", herself lost six days later. 12th - "U-617" was now damaged by a RAF Wellington of No 179 Squadron and beached on the coast of Spanish Morocco. She was destroyed by gunfire from trawler "Haarlem", supported by corvette Hyacinth and Australian minesweeper "Wollongong".

7th - Submarine "Shakespeare" on patrol off the Gulf of Salerno sank Italian submarine "VELELLA".

Italy - Surrender and Invasion

The Italian surrender was signed in Sicily on the 3rd, but not announced until the 8th to coincide with the main Allied landing at Salerno, and in the forlorn hope of preventing the Germans from taking over the country. Before long they controlled north and central Italy, were fighting a delaying action in the south, had occupied Rome, regrouped their main forces near Naples, and had disarmed - often bloodily - Italian forces in the Dodecanese islands and Greece.

Meanwhile the invasion and occupation of southern Italy got underway. A start was made on the 3rd when British and Canadian troops of Gen Montgomery's Eighth Army crossed over the Strait of Messina from Sicily in 300 ships and landing craft (Operation 'Baytown') and pushed north through Calabria, eventually joining up with forces landed at Salerno. Early on the 9th, in conjunction with these landings, the Eighth Army's 1st Airborne Division was carried into Taranto by mainly British warships (Operation 'Slapstick'). Shortly afterwards the Adriatic ports of Brindisi and Bari were in Allied hands. 9th - Around midnight in Taranto harbour, cruiser-minelayer ABDIEL, loaded with 1st Airborne troops, detonated one of the magnetic mines dropped by E-boats "S-54" and "S-61" as they escaped, and sank with heavy loss of life.

Off the west coast of Italy, the Germans decide to evacuate the more southerly island of Sardinia by way of Corsica starting on the 10th. French troops landed in Corsica in mid-month, but by early October the Germans had gone. Both islands were now in Allied hands. Following the announcement of the Italian surrender, the bulk of the Italian fleet sailed for Malta - three battleships, cruisers and destroyers from Spezia and Genoa, and three more battleships and other vessels from Taranto and the Adriatic. As the first group came south, battleship "ROMA" was sunk by a FX1400 radio-controlled bomb (unpropelled unlike the Hs293 rocket-boosted, glider-bomb), but next day the remaining ships were escorted into Malta by battleships Warspite and Valiant. Over 30 submarines headed for Allied ports. On the 11th, Adm A B Cunningham fittingly had the honour of signalling to the Admiralty the arrival of the Italian battlefleet in Malta. On the 12th the arrested Benito Mussolini was rescued from his Italian captors in the Abruzzi Mountains by German Col Otto Skorzeny's paratroops and flown to Germany. Later in the month he proclaimed the establishment of the Italian Social Republic.

9th September - Salerno Landings, Operation 'Avalanche'

Landing Areas:

Gulf of Salerno, S of Naples

Forces landing:

US 5th Army - Gen Mark Clark
55,000 British & US troops
with 115,000 follow-up

British 10th Corps

US Sixth Corps

Departure from:

Tunis, Libya


Naval Attack Forces
and Commanders:

Vice-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Cdre G N Oliver

Rear-Adm J L Hall USN

Naval Assault & Follow-up Forces

British & Allied








Other warships



Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc






Landing Ships and Craft (major only)


In addition to the grand total of 586 Allied naval units directly engaged in the landings, most of which were in their respective British or American sectors, Adm Cunningham as C-in-C provided a strong Royal Navy cover force and carrier support group. The cover force was again Force H under Adm Willis with battleships Nelson, Rodney, Warspite, Valiant and carriers Formidable and Illustrious. Rear-Adm Vian commanded the support carriers with light carrier Unicorn, escort carriers Attacker, Battler, Hunter and Stalker, three cruisers and destroyers.

Most of the troops were carried to Salerno via Sicily in the landing ships and craft, and, early on the 9th, without any preliminary air or naval bombardment, landed in the face of strong German resistance. By the end of the day, with the support of the covering warships and carrier aircraft, both the British and Americans had established bridgeheads but with a gap in between. Over the next few days the Germans counter-attacked and on the 13th and 14th came dangerously close to breaking through the Allied lines and reaching the beaches. They were held, and much of the credit went to the supporting warships, especially "Warspite" and "Valiant" which arrived on the 15th. On the 16th, the threat of dislodgement was over. 13th - All this time German Do127 aircraft using both types of guided bombs were attacking Allied shipping laying off the beaches. On the 13th, cruiser Uganda was damaged as she provided supporting gunfire. 16th - On the 16th, after Warspite had done her most valuable work, she was hit and near-missed by three or four guided bombs. Damaged, she had to be towed to Malta.

On the 16th the German troops started pulling back from Salerno towards the line of the Volturno River, north of Naples. That same day, units of Fifth Army from Salerno and Eighth Army coming up through Calabria made contact to the east of the landing area. They both headed slowly north - Fifth Army on the west side of Italy and Eighth on the east. At the end of the month the Allies approached Naples.

British Aegean Campaign - With the surrender of Italy, Winston Churchill wanted to seize the Italian Dodecanese islands in the southern Aegean before the Germans could establish themselves. From here the Allies could threaten Greece and support Turkey, but the Americans and some British commanders were lukewarm on what they saw as a sideshow compared with the battle for Italy. Insufficient forces and especially aircraft were made available, and the Germans soon took Rhodes from where, together with other bases, they maintained air superiority throughout the coming campaign. On the 15th and 16th, British troops occupied Kos, Leros, Samos and other smaller islands. The Royal Navy had the task of supplying and reinforcing them, as well as attacking German supply routes. The potential parallels with Norway, Greece and Crete all those many months back were obvious, if only in hindsight. 26th - After carrying troops to Leros, destroyers "Intrepid" and Greek "Queen Olga" were attacked by Ju88s while at anchor in the harbour. "QUEEN OLGA" soon went down and "INTREPID" capsized next day.

Monthly Loss Summary: 11 British or Allied merchant ships of 52,000 tons


SOE Raid on Singapore - Working for Special Operations Executive, a small group of Australian and British servicemen were carried from Australia in an old fishing vessel, and on the night of the 24th/25th penetrated Singapore harbour in canoes. Several ships were sunk. In a similar raid in September 1944 the attackers were captured and executed.

New Guinea - As the Allies fought towards Salamaua, further north a three-pronged attack was launched on Lae by mainly Australian troops - from landings to the east, by men airlifted inland to the northwest, and from the direction of Wau. As the Japanese withdrew from both areas towards the north coast of the Huon Peninsular, Australians entered Salamaua on the 11th and Lae five days later. To prevent the Japanese holding on to the Peninsular, Australian forces landed north of Finschhafen on the 22nd as others moved overland from Lae in the direction of Madang.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 39,000 tons; Pacific Ocean - 1 merchant ship of 10,000 tons


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revised 24/12/10