RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (Full Version)

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warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 12:23:47 PM)

4th September 1939 (Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine)

The day is relatively quiet – certainly when compared with things to come. The transfer of the British Expeditionary Force to France begins; the lead elements of Lord Gort’s HQ sailed in the destroyers HMS Wren and HMS Venomous and are taken to France.

HM Submarines continue to patrol the North Sea. A few submarines come under air attack but without major damage.

German blockade runners continue to be intercepted and/or scuttled by Royal Navy vessels.

The aircraft carrier HMS Courageous leaves port to begin ASW patrols. Sadly such patrols were deemed a good use of precious aircraft carriers in the first month of the war. The Royal Navy would soon learn the hard way that it was not……

HMS Courageous


On the German side, the Royal Air Force were unlucky not to sink the “Pocket Battleship” Admiral Scheer which was hit by three bombs that failed to explode. The light cruiser Emden was also lightly damaged when a Blenheim bomber crashed into her side. Raids against the “Ugly Sisters” (the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) prove ineffective.

The U-boat mine-laying operations on the East coast of England immediately yield results with two merchant ships lost.

German defensive mine-laying operations continue but a small German coaster, the Lianne, falls victim to a German mine in the Baltic.

Ranger33 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 1:08:46 PM)

Thanks for doing this! Should make for a lot of very interesting reading.

George Patton -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 2:29:51 PM)


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 3:37:03 PM)

5th September – 3rd October 1939 (North Atlantic – the U-boat war)

The U-boats in the Atlantic begin to make their presence felt. Rather than look at these on a daily basis, I will summarise the first patrol wave from the three flotillas below (although as with SS Athenia, any major stories e.g. U-boat sinkings or major warship sinkings will be covered on their appropriate day).

Boats from three flotillas were sent to patrol from the west of Scotland to west of Gibraltar. Below are recorded for each boat: Boat – Type – No. of sinkings – Name and Dates of sinking. As can be seen the returns from each flotilla (and each boat) varied significantly.

2nd Flotilla (Salzwedel)

Patrol area - west of Scotland

U-27 (Type VII) (2) – Davara (13th) Rudyard Kipling (16th)
U-28 (Type VII) (1) – Vanouver City (14th)
U-29 (Type VII) (4) – Regent Tiger (8th) Neptunia (13th) British Influence (14th) HMS Courageous (17th)
U-30 (Type VII) (3) – Athenia (3rd) Blairlogie (11th) Fanad Head (14th)
U-33 (Type VII) (3) – Olivegrove (7th) Arkleside (16th) Caldew (24th)
U-34 (Type VII) (2) – Pukkastan (7th) Kennebec (8th) + Hanonia prize
U-31 (Type VII) (2) - Aviemore (16th) Hazelside (24th)
U-32 (Type VII) (2) – Kensington Court (18th) Jern (28th)
U-35 (Type VII) (4) – Arlita (18th) Lord Minto (18th) Suzon (1st Oct) Diamantis (3rd)

Total for the flotilla – 24 ships with a tonnage of 112,689

7th Flotilla (Wegener)

Patrol area - west of the British Isles to the Bay of Biscay

U–45 (Type VIIB) (0)
U–46 (Type VIIB) (0)
U–47 (Type VIIB) (3) – Bosnia (5th) San Claro (6th) Gartavon (7th)
U–48 (Type VIIB) (3) – Royal Sceptre (5th) Winkleigh (8th) Firby (11th)
U–52 (Type VIIB) (0)
U–53 (Type VIIB) (2) – Cheyenne (15th) Kafiristan (17th)

Total for the flotilla – 8 ships with a tonnage of 37,065

6th Flotilla (Hundius)

Patrol area - west of Gibraltar

U–37 (Type IX) (0)
U–38 (Type IX) (2) – Manaar (6th) Inverliffey (11th)
U–39 (Type IX) (0)
U–40 (Type IX) (0)
U–41 (Type IX) (2) – Vega and Suomen Polka taken as prizes (16th)

Total for the flotilla – 4 ships with a tonnage of 18,870


U-26 (Type I) – 3 ships sunk due to minefield laid with a tonnage of 17,414

The above was achieved at a cost of two U-boats:

U-39 – See 14th September
U-27 – See 20th September

Second Flotilla

Sixth Flotilla

Seventh Flotilla

Sources: Hitler's U-boat War Volume I (Blair), Chronology of the War At Sea (Rohwer).

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 7:27:57 PM)


U-29 (Type VII) (4) – Regent Tiger (8th) Neptunia (13th) British Influence (14th) HMS Courageous (17th)

Now that last one is rather significant.

Impressive details -- I look forward to the rest of this thread.

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 7:56:27 PM)


ORIGINAL: Capt. Harlock


U-29 (Type VII) (4) – Regent Tiger (8th) Neptunia (13th) British Influence (14th) HMS Courageous (17th)

Now that last one is rather significant.

Impressive details -- I look forward to the rest of this thread.

Indeed so for "significant" sinkings or events there will be more of a story on the event date. I felt this summary was a better way of keeping track of what is going on generally in the U-boat war. We'll see how that pans out over time.

t001001001 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/14/2015 9:17:09 PM)

When Bismarck gets scuttled this thread turns into a flame war [;)]

Jagdtiger14 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 4:53:16 AM)

Flame war over Bismarck being scuttled? Really?

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 5:17:16 AM)


ORIGINAL: t001001001

When Bismarck gets scuttled this thread turns into a flame war [;)]

[:)] Let's just say the sinking of the Bismarck will be dealt with "appropriately" [:)]

operating -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 5:42:24 AM)

"Remember the HOOD"


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 8:19:03 AM)

3rd September - 3rd October 1939 (North Sea - the U-boat war)

Note: I have cross referenced the following sources but there are a few variations that I cannot reconcile.
Sources: / Chronology of the War at Sea (Rohwer) / Hitler's U-boat War Volume I (Blair).

First off Blair states that 23 of the 30 commissioned Type II (Ducks) saw duty in the North Sea in the first month of the war. I make it that only 20 did so based on the u-boat website. However Rohwer states that three (U-56, U-58 and U-59) of the six Type IIC Ducks (which has “in training”) did patrol in that time. I will take it that Rohwer (and thus Blair) are correct.

Secondly there is a difference in the number of boats sunk according to Blair vs This difference is two ships and is probably accounted for by Blair stating U-13 as having sunk 3 ships whereas the other two sources state 2 sunk and one damaged (if this third ship is City of Paris then Blair is wrong as she was indeed repaired and used as a troopship subsequently) and in Blair possibly counting U-23’s kill of the 4th October in his numbers. That said, U-17 is not recorded by Rohwer as having sunk a ship with her mines – but does! Finally, Blair credits U-7 with 2 Norwegian ships sunk but Rohwer and state one.

The third difference is in the tonnage sunk. Blair makes the point that tonnage was over-claimed by U-boat commanders – and there is also the possibility that the way in which tonnage is measured could be different. I am going to use Blair’s tonnage number here.

Finally, I am not going to split the boats into Flotillas here, but rather keep them by Type.

For those that wondered where the names such as Schepke and Kretschmer were in post 25, these future aces started out in command of Ducks but would soon graduate to Atlantic boats.

In addition to the 23 Type II Ducks, one ocean-going Type VII – U-36 – was deployed in the North Sea.

In that first month, four boats – U-13, U-15, U16 and U-17 were assigned to minelaying duties on the East Coast of England. The mines laid claimed 5 ships.

Two boats – U-9 and U-19 were deployed off the northeast of Scotland but recorded no kills. Indeed the entire North Sea patrol in that month returned very disappointing results – and a number of torpedo malfunctions were reported. No warships were sunk at this time.

The mining operation aside, only two British merchant vessels were sunk up to the 22nd September and Donitz complained bitterly that not being able to intercept neutral shipping – even though many were almost certainly carrying contraband – was a major problem.

Hitler duly rescinded the order and also lifted the restriction on French vessels at the same time. For the next few days Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish ships were sunk or captured (see below) – until Hitler put the restriction back in place on the 30th after vehement protests from the Scandinavians (this did not apply to the French).

Below are the U-boat – Type – whether operational – number of ships sunk (inc date and nationality)

U-1 (Type II) – School Boat Flotilla
U-2 (Type II) – School Boat Flotilla
U-3 (Type II) – (2) Vendia [Dan] (30th) Gun [Swe] (30th)
U-4 (Type II) – (3) Martti Ragnar [Fin] (22nd) Walma [Fin] (23rd) Gertrud Bratt [Swe] (24th)
U-5 (Type II) – (0)
U-6 (Type II) – (0)
U-7 (Type IIB) – (2) Akenside [British] (22nd) Takstass [Nor] (29th)
U-8 (Type IIB) – School Boat Flotilla
U-9 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-10 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-11 (Type IIB) – School Boat Flotilla
U-12 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-13 (Type IIB) – (2) 2 ships sunk and one damaged from minefield laid
U-14 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-15 (Type IIB) – (2) 2 ships sunk by minefield laid
U-16 (Type IIB) – (1) Nyland [Swe] (28th)
U-17 (Type IIB) – (1) 1 ship sunk by minefield laid
U-18 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-19 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-20 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-21 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-22 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-23 (Type IIB) – (0)
U-24 (Type IIB) - (0)
U-56 (Type IIC) – (0)
U-57 (Type IIC) – In training until January
U-58 (Type IIC) – (0)
U-59 (Type IIC) – (0)
U-60 (Type IIC) – In training until October
U-61 (Type IIC) - In training until November
U-36 (Type VII) - (2) – Truro [British] (15th) Silesia [Swe] (25th) + one captured [Swe] (27th)

Total for the North Sea – 15 ships (+1 captured) with a tonnage of 32,326

In return there were no losses to any U-boats in this theatre in the first month of war.

Zorch -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 9:19:29 AM)


ORIGINAL: warspite1


Would you care to elaborate on that ".", or should we ignore/disregard it?

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 9:26:50 AM)




ORIGINAL: warspite1


Would you care to elaborate on that ".", or should we ignore/disregard it?

Now rectified [:)]

Jagdtiger14 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 4:45:56 PM)

I remember history about the Hood blowing up and being a defective ship. It really wasn't a fair fight...I'm surprised the Brits engaged with the Hood...should have waited. Probably British pride got in the way again.

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 4:58:45 PM)

6th September 1939

The US, having declared neutrality on the 4th, instigated the Neutrality Patrol around the coast of the US and the Caribbean.

The Royal Navy put in place the Northern Patrol. This was designed to enforce the recently announced blockade of Germany and for the interception of blockade runners. The patrol was initially entrusted to eight of the ageing C, D, E and Hawkins-class cruisers of the 7th and 12th Cruiser Squadrons, Home Fleet:

7th Cruiser Squadron: Caledon, Calypso, Diomede and Dragon
12th Cruiser Squadron: Cardiff, Dunedin, Effingham and Emerald.

The weather conditions were appalling in these unforgiving waters and these ships proved unsuited to the task. They would be replaced eventually but for now were all the Royal Navy had available.

An example of some of the equipment that the officers and men of the Royal Navy were asked to go to war in in 1939. HMS Caledon, a 6-inch gunned light cruiser completed in March 1917 and little changed since then....


In the first month of the conflict 108 merchant ships were stopped – of which 28 were sent to Kirkwall for inspection. Later in the month the German steamer Minden would be intercepted by Calypso, the only German ship so caught.

Elsewhere on the high seas, German vessels continue to be intercepted or forced to scuttle; the latest being the merchant ship Johannes Molkenbuhr by the destroyer HMS Jersey.

Convoys are instigated along the UK’s East Coast.

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 5:04:30 PM)

8th September 1939

Most of the Home Fleet were at sea – the battlecruisers Hood and Renown, along with the cruisers Belfast and Edinburgh and accompanying destroyer screen, sailed in support of the Northern Patrol. Admiral Forbes, in his Flagship HMS Nelson, had sailed into the North Sea the day before with the bulk of the fleet: the carrier Ark Royal, the battleship Rodney, the battlecruiser Repulse, the light cruisers Sheffield and Aurora + their destroyers.

9th September 1939

The first BEF convoy sailed from Southampton to Cherbourg. As in the First World War the troops were transferred with no intervention from the German.

Orm -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 5:25:37 PM)

I would appreciate if the discussions are on the current day-by-day posts made. Keeping this thread clean from sideshows. You can always create new threads to discuss events that the day-by-day account has not yet covered.

Thank you. [:)]

nate25 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 6:10:15 PM)

+1, Orm.

Come on people, let's not bait the OP. We can debate in other threads.


Aurelian -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 7:33:26 PM)


ORIGINAL: nate25

+1, Orm.

Come on people, let's not bait the OP. We can debate in other threads.



warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/15/2015 7:39:19 PM)

10th September 1939 (North Sea - Submarine Warfare)

The Royal Navy lose their first submarine – and tragically it is a blue on blue incident. HM Submarines Oxley and Triton were two of five boats patrolling the Obrestad Line (named after the Norwegian town of the same name). The submarines were supposed to be circa 12 miles apart – but each was aware that they had been closer than that during the day – having been in communication with each other.

At 19:55hrs Lt-Commander Hugh Steel handed over to Lieutenant Harry Stacey with orders to be called if there was anything unusual to report. Two hours later, Steel was called to the bridge. The reason was that lookouts had spotted a submarine off the port bow.

Steel ordered two tubes to be readied. Because of the encounter earlier in the day it naturally crossed his mind that the mysterious submarine could be Oxley out of position. The shape of the submarine could not be made out in the darkness. Three times Triton sent Oxley the appropriate challenge and each time there was no response. Finally Steel ordered the firing of a rifle grenade…..again nothing.

The order was given to fire two torpedoes at a 3-second interval. Soon after the second torpedo was released, Triton’s bridge could make out flashes from the submarine – although the message could not be made out. Almost immediately one of the torpedoes hit.

Triton sailed for where the submarine was last seen, but all that remained was three men floating in the water amongst what remained of HMS Oxley. One of those in the water – Lt Manley - could not be recovered but Lt-Commander Harold Bowerman and Able Seaman Guckes were plucked from the sea. 51 men died.

Bowerman’s version of events was that they had seen Triton. A rifle grenade was fired but it failed to work. Bowerman (who was not on the bridge initially) asked Lt Manley if the recognition signal had been sent but the Officer of the Watch appeared hesitant in response and so was ordered by Bowerman to re-send. Whilst doing so one of the torpedoes destroyed Oxley.

Lt-Commander Steel and the crew of Triton were completely exonerated of any wrong doing. It was confirmed that Triton was in her patrol zone and Oxley, possibly because of a strong tidal current, had drifted outside of her patrol area. Lt-Commander Bowerman was held partially to blame due to Oxley’s deficient navigation and watch keeping, but the main blame was attributed to Lt Manley for not having kept a proper lookout.

Source: The Gathering Storm (Geirr H Haarr)

The ill-fated HMS Oxley. Her tragic loss was attributed to poor watch discipline and poor navigation


HMS Triton. No blame was attributed to her crew for the accident


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/16/2015 10:22:26 AM)

10th September 1939 (North Sea)

The destroyers Esk and Express, converted to the minelaying role to allow them to handle the latest MK XIV and MK XV mines, complete the sowing of 120 mines in the Heligoland Bight, south of the Westwall barrage. They returned two nights later to lay a further 120 mines. The RN would convert four further destroyers in the same way in the coming months – Intrepid, Ivanhoe, Icarus and Impulsive – and these minelaying destroyers would form the 20th Destroyer Flotilla.



warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/16/2015 10:24:31 AM)

11th September 1939 (English Channel and North Atlantic)

An operation to sow more than 3,000 mines in the Straits of Dover begins on this day. The operation, carried out by the minelayers Adventure and Plover and other auxiliary minelaying vessels, is complete 5-days later. The ships are covered by the AA cruiser Cairo and destroyers of the 19th Flotilla.

The Graf Spee and Deutschland continue to suffer a frustrating time as they remain forbidden to attack enemy shipping. Captain Wenneker, aboard Deutschland, took the opportunity to refuel and replenish from the supply ship Westerwald and thereafter remain in northern waters off Greenland where the weather would likely mean less chance of being found.

Five of the planned nine Trosschiffe (luggage vessels) that were to see service were laid down between 1935 and 1938. Westerwald (later re-named Nordmark) was to survive the war and was used by the Royal Navy until the mid-50's. They were exceptionally useful vessels that were able to provide the Kriegsmarine surface raiders with fuel, spare parts, ammunition and general provisions.


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/16/2015 10:29:53 AM)

13th September 1939 (Northwest Africa)

The French Navy suffer the tragic loss of the minelaying cruiser Pluton. She had arrived at Casablanca on the 5th September in order to lay a mine barrage to protect the harbour. The operation was cancelled and the mines were being disembarked on the 13th when one of the mines was accidently triggered. The blast sank the cruiser at her moorings and took 186 of her crew with her. A further 73 were wounded. Numerous small ships in the harbour were also sunk or damaged.

Minelaying cruiser Pluton - some sources state that she was re-named La Tour d'Auvergne before the war began, although French Cruisers 1922-1956 (Jordan and Moulin) state this change did not officially happen. She could carry 290 mines.


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/17/2015 7:47:27 AM)

14th September 1939 (North Atlantic)

On the 8th September Donitz began recalling some of the boats that had been on patrol since late August. These included the five boats from the Hundius Flotilla that had had such a disappointing patrol up to then with just one ship sunk. Although U-38 added a second victim on her way back to Germany (the 9,500 ton British tanker Inverliffey) and U-41 was to take two Finnish vessels as prizes which improved the returns a little, one of their fellow boats from the flotilla – U-39 commanded by Kapitan Gerhard Glattes - was lost on the return home. The story begins with our old friend Fritz-Julius Lemp of Athenia fame.

U-30 (Lemp) was patrolling near Rockall, about 300 miles northwest of Ireland. Having sunk Athenia, U-30 despatched the 4,500 ton freighter Blairlogie the previous day before coming across the slightly larger Fanad Head. In order to conserve torpedoes and to obtain fresh provisions, Lemp sent over a boarding party of four that would take what they could and then set demolition charges. The freighter's crew had abandoned ship – although had sent off the standard U-boat warning signal, SSS, before taking to the two lifeboats. Lemp – a good English speaker – told the freighter’s captain that there was an American ship 300 miles away. He then brought U-30 alongside Fanad Head.

The 5,200 ton SS Fanad Head was carrying general cargo and grain from Montreal to the UK


The Royal Navy’s only modern aircraft carrier, Ark Royal, was on patrol in the same area with six (some sources state eight) destroyers for escort. The SSS signal was picked up by the carrier, and three of her escorts - the tribal class Tartar, Bedouin and Punjabi - were despatched to Fanad Head’s reported position. The carrier also launched three Skua aircraft from 803 Squadron, armed with a single 100lb bomb under the fuselage and four 20lb wing-mounted Cooper bombs, while six Swordfish from 810 Squadron were made ready on board the carrier should a target be located. We shall return to the Ark Royal in a moment. But first we follow the story to Fanad Head and U-30.

Although this aircraft had some success in the opening year of the war, like all FAA aircraft in 1939, the Skua was obsolete.


The three Skuas fanned out to search for the Fanad Head. The first Skua to reach the scene was that of Lt Thurston. He dropped his bombs but as they exploded fragments hit his aircraft’s fuel tank, setting the Skua on fire. The aircraft crashed into the sea and Thurston, though badly burned, managed to reach the Fanad Head – one of the German boarding party jumped into the sea to rescue him. PO Simpson also survived the crash but sadly did not make it to the freighter. By this time Lemp had crash dived – leaving one of the crew topside as he did so. He swam for the Fanad Head. U-30 surfaced again just as Lt Campbell’s second Skua came on the scene. He too dropped his bombs and raked the submarine before returning home short on fuel. He reported the position to Ark Royal and two more of her destroyers – Fame and Forrester – were ordered to the scene together with the Swordfish that had been placed on stand-by.

U-30 surfaced once more to recover the five crewmen aboard Fanad Head, sink the vessel and get the hell out of there. But the story was still not finished. Cue Lt Griffiths in the third Skua who, totally oblivious to what had just happened, was low on fuel and on his way back to Ark Royal when he too came across U-30. Like Griffiths, he dropped his bombs only to have them destroy his own aircraft as they exploded. PO McKay did not survive the inevitable crash into the sea, but Griffiths did and he too made it to Fanad Head.

Lemp’s crazy day was getting more bizarre. He was getting the five German crew and two British pilots into the U-boat when the first of the Swordfish located them, and in the rush to get away, U-30’s bows smashed into Fanad Head damaging the U-boat. Although U-30 survived further attacks from both the Swordfish and the destroyers that had also by now joined the fray, his boat was in a bad way and he had a number of injured men on board – one seriously. At least he had managed to sink Fanad Head before he departed the scene. Lemp set course for Iceland to drop off his badly wounded crewman and then set course for Germany. The crew of the freighter were picked up by HMS Bedouin.


Kapitan Glattes and U-39 were on their way back to Germany when, appearing in Glattes’ periscope, was the unmistakable sight of HMS Ark Royal. She had few escorts with her and Glattes, no doubt not quite believing his luck, calmly attained a firing position and sent three torpedoes toward the carrier. Sadly for Glattes, the magnetic pistols either malfunctioned or the fish exploded prematurely. Either way, Ark Royal was not hit and now, to Glattes discomfort, he had three angry destroyer captains bearing down on him. HM destroyers Foxhound, Firedrake and Faulknor launched a concerted depth charge attack on the submarine and Glattes’ boat was badly damaged from near miss after near miss. With salt water flooding in and causing a Chlorine gas build-up, he had no choice but to bring his boat to the surface - ensuring scuttling charges were set. The crew evacuated the boat and the charges were set off, resulting in U-39 quickly sinking.

The Type IX U-39 was the first U-boat lost in World War II. She never made a kill but came close to sinking Ark Royal, the RN's only modern carrier at the start of WWII


So the RN had their first U-boat kill – and almost certainly (so they believed) two – at a cost of two Skua aircraft. The fact that Ark Royal was lucky not to be sunk did not seem to have been picked up on. The ASW patrols by the RN’s precious carriers would continue – but only for three more days……..

Ark Royal (Mike Rossiter)
The Gathering Storm (Geirr H Haarr)
Hitler’s U-boat War Vol I (Clay Blair)

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/18/2015 7:05:29 AM)

15th September 1939 (North Atlantic)

The first convoy from Kingston, Jamaica to the UK sails.

16th September 1939 (North Atlantic)

The first convoy from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the UK sets sail escorted initially by the Canadian destroyers St Laurent and Saguenay.

HMCS Saguenay was one of two destroyers ordered by the Canadians in 1927. These ships were similar to the A-class and were fitted with standard British destroyer armament of the time - 4 x 4.7-inch guns, two 2-pdr pompoms, four Lewis guns and two quadruple torpedo tubes. The TT were later removed and replaced with 12-pdr high-angle guns


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/18/2015 7:07:13 AM)

17th September 1939 (North Atlantic)

The folly of deploying fleet carriers on offensive ASW sweeps was finally proven on this day. HMS Courageous (Captain William Mackeig-Jones) and her four-strong destroyer screen – Inglefield, Ivanhoe, Impulsive and Intrepid – had left port on the 16th to patrol west of Ireland. On the afternoon of the 17th the ships picked up an SSS distress signal from the freighter Kafiristan which was under attack from a U-boat (U-53 - KorvettenKapitan Ernst-Gunter Heinicke). Four Swordfish were ordered to assist the merchant vessel along with two of the destroyers. This left the carrier with just two destroyers as a screen. No additional aircraft were placed on patrol above Courageous.

At least one of the Swordfish was able to attack U-53 and the U-boat had to crash dive – resulting in the loss of some of her crew which were topside when the order came. U-53 managed to escape and with the sinking of the Kafiristan the last two Swordfish returned to the carrier in the early evening, and by 19:45hrs all four biplanes had been recovered and the two destroyers were on their way back to the carrier too.

Meanwhile U-boat U-29 (Kapitanleutnant Otto Schuhart), almost out of fuel, was coming to the end of her patrol when she spotted one of the Swordfish aircraft. Realising that this could only mean a carrier was in the area, Schuhart hung around. Very soon afterwards the unmistakeable silhouette of an aircraft carrier came into view. Schuhart did not believe an attack would be possible but, as per his training, he determined to stick with the carrier and see what developed.

Schuhart’s dogged persistence paid off. As luck (or bad luck for the Courageous) would have it, an opportunity to fire came about when the giant ship manoeuvred to land her aircraft. He released three torpedoes. Apparently no one on the carrier or the destroyers sighted torpedo tracks in the water and it appears the first that anyone knew of the impending danger was only when two torpedoes actually exploded against the ship. Courageous sank in about 20 minutes and took 518 men with her, including her captain.

The Board of Inquiry later concluded that the torpedoes should have been insufficient to sink the carrier, but incredibly many of the watertight doors had been left open and water rapidly spread throughout the ship, causing a sharp list almost immediately. In addition, and inexplicably, the damage control procedures and attempts to save the ship do not appear to have been co-ordinated.

The last moments of HMS Courageous...


The destroyers set about U-29 but despite a concerted effort over four hours to destroy the sub, and in which U-29 was lightly damaged, she was able to make good her escape.

Otto Schuhart


Schuhart returned to Germany to a rapturous welcome and the Iron Cross First Class for him and the Iron Cross Second Class for his crew.

These ASW patrols by aircraft carriers were immediately ended.


The Gathering Storm (Geirr H Haarr)
Hitler’s U-boat War Volume I (Clay Blair)

Josh -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/18/2015 10:15:13 AM)

Wow what a read. [&o]

cantona2 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/18/2015 1:27:56 PM)

[&o] great thread

warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/19/2015 5:25:46 AM)

18th September 1939 (Baltic)

Once the five Polish submarines had done all that they could in the Baltic, they were under orders to head either for the UK (to fight on with the British) or Sweden to be interned and thus denied to the Germans.

Having sustained damage from a German depth charge attack, and having no home port left to return to, Lt-Commander Henryk Kloczkowski, decided to put into the nearest available neutral port, Tallinn, Estonia. Orzel reached the Estonian capital on the 14th September.

As per international law, having put into a neutral port, Orzel would have a very brief period to make repairs and then leave. However, the Germans were alert to the situation and put pressure on the Estonians to ensure that the boat was de-militarised and interned and the crew detained – all contrary to international law.

While this process was underway, Kloczkowski was hospitalised (having been taken ill some days earlier). Under her new commanding officer – Lt Jan Grudzinski, a plan was hatched for the crew to escape, re-board Orzel and sail for the UK.

Over-powering their Estonian guards the crew took back control of the boat and, on the 18th September, sailed from Tallinn. Orzel still had six of her torpedoes on board but all charts had been confiscated. Grudzinski spent three weeks in the Baltic but, unable to find any targets for her torpedoes, decided it was time to move on.

Despite a lack of navigation equipment, Orzel reached the UK in mid-October and, alongside Wilk, served with the Royal Navy. We shall hear more from Orzel later in the diary…

As for the Estonians, the Soviets used this incident as a pre-text for beginning the process of incorporating Estonia (and the other two Baltic states) into the USSR, although of course the Soviets had already agreed with Germany that the Baltic States would fall under the Soviet sphere of influence in a secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviets made a show of questioning Estonia’s neutrality and this faux outrage was followed up with an ultimatum to allow the Soviets to establish military bases in the country. Annexation would follow the following year.

The Orzel (Eagle) and her sister ship Sep (Vulture) were built in Holland and both commissioned into the Polish Navy in early 1939. These large ocean-going submarines were an excellent design. Sep was interned in Sweden, but Orzel was to have a busy, if sadly all too brief life, after her escape from the Baltic.


warspite1 -> RE: Naval War Day-by-Day (5/19/2015 2:21:30 PM)

September (General)

The war was still in its infancy but already, in this first month, there had been losses of major as well as smaller naval units. Losses amongst the merchant fleets of many nationalities were starting to mount, mostly from the twin dangers of submarines and mines in particular.

This thread in no way attempts to be a blow by blow account of every patrol and every ship movement – that would be impossible – but aims to tell the main stories and points of interest. That said it should be appreciated that the day to day duties of sailors, marines, pilot and submariners - often hazardous, frequently monotonous, usually stressful, sometimes comical – was always vital.

From day one and on a daily basis the British (not forgetting the Indian navy and those of the Dominions) and French, had ships and submarines, all over the globe, deployed on patrol, or escort duty or mine-laying or minesweeping, while most of the Polish Navy was trying valiantly to hold back the tide that would inevitably engulf them in just a matter of weeks.

In the following three posts I set out, at high level, an overview of the organisation and command structure of the British, French and Polish navies at the outset of WWII.

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