The U-Boats versus The Convoys. Battle of the Atlantic. September 1939 - May 1945. Index to Ahoy Articles
The dark days of 1941, in the Atlantic,and the struggle to survive, are epitomised by two comments from Winston Churchill:
These articles make up a good cross section of the struggles of those days.
Ahoy Articles about The Battle of the Atlantic.
The Role of Western Approaches Command in the Battle of the Atlantic
One of the crucial decisions made during the Battle of the Atlantic, was to relocate the Western Approaches Command on the 7th. of February, 1941, from Plymouth to Liverpool.
HMAS Australia to the rescue
Although this rescue took place almost sixty two years ago, I can still visualise the joy on the faces of those we rescued, and remember the anger and sadness we all experienced at having to leave the remaining four airmen to face a certain death.
German Bombers rain bombs down on Liverpool. A close run thing for HMAS Australia, December 1940
During our time in dock, Liverpool was subjected to severe German bombing raids over several nights in November / December.
HMAS Australia in the Atlantic
Sunday the 9th. of February dawned, it happens to be my 19th. birthday, still at sea, and a long long way from home. Finally, we shepherd our segment of the convoy into Durban harbour, its the 16th. of February, our long journey, taking 5 weeks, is over, all the ships that commenced this voyage have arrived safely at their destination, our job is done.
Marauders of the Sea, German Armed Merchant Raiders During World War 2 - Index
One of the lesser reported events of World War 2 is the success achieved by Germany's "Surface Raiders" or Armed Merchant Ships. Look at a globe depicting the world's land masses, and you will be impressed by the vast expanses of oceans that circle the earth, in fact, seven tenths of the World's surface is water. These oceans became "Home" for the "Marauders of the Sea" in W.W.2 carrying a slew of names such as "Atlantis," (no doubt the doyen of this group) "Orion," "Widder." "Thor," "Pinguin," "Komet," "Michel," "Stier," and "Togo, and, the best known, "Kormoran," who was involved with the disappearance and death of the famous Australian Cruiser "Sydney." In its own small way this work seeks to redress the paucity of reportage in this area of Maritime History.
WW2 Liberty Ships - The Bridge of Steel - Spanning the Atlantic - Linking Britain to America
In April of 1941, 800,000 tons of shipping was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, by U-Boats, these ships were being sunk at a faster rate than they could be built. In September of 1940, Britain sent a delegation off to the United States with a ship design, and an order for 60 ships, designated as the Ocean Class, of 10,000 tons with a 2,500 horse power engine to produce a speed of 10 knots. This inititive really acted as the catalyst, setting in motion the US move to develop their ship building program, that resulted in the Liberty Ships.
Royal Navy Town Class Destroyers of WW2
Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1940, struck a deal under the US Lend Lease Act whereby, 50 old US WW1 Destroyers, which had been part of the US moth ball Fleet since the 1920's, were to be handed over to Britain, in exchange for 99 year leases on bases in the Western Hemisphere.
The Blue Star Line's Tuscan Star, Torpedoed and sunk. The 6th. of September, 1942. Another Victim of the U-Boat War.
This ship had been built as a Motor Vessel of 11,400 tons in 1930,and usually carried refrigerated cargo on her return journeys to England, and general cargo on the outward legs of her voyages. I was aware that this ship had been sunk some 9 months after I sailed in her, but did not know the circumstances surrounding her sinking, until I recently read a book about U-109, published in 1997.
The Role of the Rescue Ships in the Battle of the Atlantic - The Role of the Rescue Ships in the Battle of the Atlantic
In WW2, the British Merchant Navy suffered losses of some 32,952 personnel from a total strength of about 185,000. This figure represents a loss of 17.8%, and compares unfavourably with losses of 6% for the British Army, 9% for the Royal Air Force, and 9.3% for the Royal Navy. These enormous losses would have been even higher were it not for the 29 Rescue Ships which became operational from January 1941, and served until April 1945.
U-767 Lost and found
SS Athenia, First Casualty of the U-Boat War on the 3rd. of September 1939
Berlin found out about this attack from news reports, and knowing that U-30 was the only Boat in that area, were soon able to pin this error on her. Hitler now wanted a cover up. He did not wish to have another event like the Lusitania affair from WW1 coming back to haunt him, plus Donitz, and his U-Boat arm. Goebells spread the word that it was the British that had themselves torpedoed Athenia, in their attempt to bring the United States quickly into WW2 against Germany
The Headquarters of Western Approaches Command, from whence THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC was fought.
It was below the streets of Liverpool, and amongst other things included the giant vertical plotting board. See "Western Approaches War Room and Ships." On it were shown all the convoys going both ways to and from USA to UK, and all the information from radio intercepts, and the reading of the German Navy codes, about the location and plans for the U-Boats at sea, anywhere in the world, but in the main, in the North Atlantic.
How many enemy aircraft were shot down by U-Boats in WW2?
The Top Ten German U-Boat Aces of World War 2
Over WW2, Germany produced a number of outstanding U-Boat commanders, from amongst this elite list, I have used the tonnage of enemy shipping sunk, as my yardstick to select the top ten U-Boat Aces from this conflict. I list them in rank order according to their success in sinking Allied ships, and paint a brief pen picture of each of them.
Operation Deadlight, the scuttling of German U-Boats that were captured by the Allies after WW2
In 2001, the submarine hunter Innes McCartney, led Phase 1 of the Operation Deadlight Expedition which was the first time that technical Divers had surveyed and identified the wrecks of these German U-Boats, that had been scuttled by the Allies in waters off Northern Ireland and Scotland. Some 54 Submarines lie in deep water that with today's diving equipment are very reachable.
The Development of the Catapult Armed Merchantman ( CAM Ships. )
In a desperate attempt to close the gap in the Atlantic Ocean that could not be covered by Allied aircraft flying west from England, and east from Canada, the concept of the Auxiliary Fighter Catapult Ships under the White Ensign, and the Catapult Armed Merchantmen ( CAM ships ) sailing under the Red Duster was conceived and born.
Coastal Command Sunderland, U from Squadron 461, Sinks German U-Boat, U-461 in the Bay of Biscay.
At my stint at the Shrine yesterday, Thursday the 4th. of November I shared the shift with Keith Lindner who had served in HMAS Warramunga during WW2. Keith told me a relative had served in Coastal Command during WW2, and his Sunderland had sunk a German Submarine in the Bay of Biscay, the only details he knew was that this aircraft carried the same designation as did the U-Boat. eg U-761 versus U-Boat U-761.
Liberty Ship William Dawes. Sunk by I-11 on the 22nd. of July 1942. Wreck found in November 2004
Liberty Ship William Dawes, hull number 180, was laid down on the 26th. of October 1941, launched on the 9th. of February 1942, to be completed on the 7th. of May of that year, had but a short life in service. She was one of 2,751 ships of this class built in the United States over WW2, and also one of 200 torpedoed, falling victim to the Japanese submarine I-11 on the 22nd. of July 1942, off the coast of New South Wales, Australia.
List of 93 Passengers killed when Athenia was torpedoed by German U-30, on Sunday the 3rd. of September 1939
Athenia was torpedoed by German U-Boat U-30, on the day World War 2 was declared. No doubt the sterile black print of this list of passengers who died when Athenia was torpedoed, masks a number of poignant stories.
The Athenia Page, index to articles about Passenger Liner Athenia
Given all the interest in the sinking of the Passenger Liner Athenia on the day WW2 declared, and the fact that we have recently found some of the lists for her survivors, and those who died, we have decided to consolidate all our references to her on this site, The Athenia Page.
Submarines and ships in the Battle of the Atlantic on postage stamps
Survivors from Athenia picked up by the City of Flint, to be transported to Halifax
This list from the Times of London archives indicates that the majority of these survivors rescued from the Athenia which was torpedoed by German U-Boat U-30, on Sunday the 3rd. of September 1939, were Americans.
First newspaper report about Bernice Jansen being aboard Athenia when it was sunk by German U-Boat U-30, on the 3rd. of September 1939
At this stage it was unknown if Bernice had survived. Its quite wonderful to get these reports from newspapers of that time. I acknowledge with thanks the generosity of Christy Velasco of California in sharing her records with AHOY.
Athenia Manuscript authored by Judith Evelyn
An interview with Captain F.A.J. Downer, CO of the Northern Spray with Convoy ONS 5
September 1939 brought the outbreak of the Second World War and Capt. Downer laid aside his British India uniform for that of the Royal Navy. His service was mainly in corvettes and frigates, first taking part in anti-submarine patrols off Norway in the Narvik area, and then in the Western Approaches, based at Liverpool and Birkenhead.
Luftwaffe attack their own Destroyers on February 22nd. 1940
The aircraft now returned machine gun fire, seemingly assuring all the ships it was an enemy plane. But Max Schulz reported this aircraft was in fact friendly, one of her lookouts had spotted a German Cross on a wing, but no one else wanted to accept that report, especially after that 1st. exchange of gunfire.
Wolf Packs slaughter ships in Convoys SC-7 and HX-79, in October 1940
This became one of the most famous Wolf Pack attacks between the nights of October 16th to the 19th, 1940. Convoy SC7 was repeatedly attacked by a pack of seven boats, sinking 20 ships out of 34 in the convoy. The very next night, convoy HX79 was attacked with further losses of 13 ships, making a total of 33 ships in 48 hours. These attacks mounted against the two convoys came to be known as “The Night of the Long Knives”.
"Operation Menace." September 23, 24, 25, 1940. HMAS Australia and the debacle at Dakar with General Charles de Gaulle
This operation must be judged a complete failure on our part, a battleship badly damaged and put out of action for a considerable time when every Fleet unit was desperately needed to support the Naval war, and the strong possibility of a German invasion of England. Three cruisers and one destroyer all hit by enemy shells, plus Fleet Airarm and our Walrus aircraft shot down.
The Battle For Convoy ONS 5. 26th.April - 6th. May 1943
Outward North Atlantic Slow Five, short name ONS 5, with a code name of MARFLEET, was made up of 43 merchant ships, in the main they could be classified as elderly, their destination Halifax in Nova Scotia, with a few ships destined for New York and Boston. This motley band of grey vessels with their names painted out had sailed from five ports, Milford Haven, Liverpool, the Clyde, Oban, and Londonderry.
SS Ceramic, a victim of U-515 on the 7th. of December 1942
German Radio called it "Greatest Convoy Battle of all Time." 40 U-Boats carve up Convoys SC122 and HX229. 16-19 March 1943.
The whole scenario was only saved from being a total disaster by the fact that surface reinforcements came in from Iceland, but more importantly, the air umbrella flown by VLR B-24's, B-17's and Sunderlands found many of the attacking U-Boats and forced them to keep their heads down, and a real plus for the aircraft, U-384 was sunk. In all, 54 sorties were flown over the two convoys, the aircraft reporting sighting 32 boats, and attacking them 21 times, a busy time for all the airmen involved.
Korvettenkapitan ( granted postumously ) Werner Henke. A top U-Boat Ace.
The Role of the Submarine in World War 2
Which country controlled the most efficient Submarine Fleet during this global conflict?
Under Water Warfare, The Struggle Against the Submarine Menace, 1939 -1945 - Index
This work is dedicated to all who fought at sea or in the air in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Sailors in Naval ships, the Crews of the Merchant Navy, and the Airmen from Coastal Command . This battle raged from the day war was declared on Sunday the 3rd. of September, 1939, to the 4th. of May 1945, when Admiral Donitz ordered his U-Boats to cease operations, and return to base.
German U-Boat U-534. Her Three Separate Lives. From 1942 /1996, and is still on display near Liverpool. - German U-Boat U-534. Her Three Separate Lives. From 1942 /1996, and is still on display near Liverpool.
U-534 was taken over by the Warship Preservation Trust, and in May 1996 was brought to England, and placed on display at The Nautilus Maritime Museum at Birkenhead, Wirral, across the Mersey River from the City of Liverpool. It was symbolic that this area was chosen to house this ex WW2 German U-Boat, as it was from and to Liverpool, that many convoys were despatched or arrived during that titanic struggle, The Battle of the Atlantic.
I-52 - Japan's Golden Submarine
The lure of gold from I-52, has left behind a trail of unpaid bills, and investors who have lost their money.
Ahoy Letters about The Battle of the Atlantic.
Letters - Liberty ship pictures
Letters - Town Class Destroyers, HMS Bath
Letters - From a Liberty Ship signal officer
Letters - From: Rush Webb Sandusky, Ohio: U-482, Empire Heritage, Pinto, La Perle
Letters - Leigh Bishop and the "Deep Image" projects,
- Ian Hawkins' book about the destroyers during the Second World War
- Father aboard the Tuscan Star when torpedoed
- Captain J. C. K. Dowding Royal Naval Reserve
- Napier Star 1
Letters - Jim Griffiths, crew member of the Sqdn 204
Letters - Father was in Convoy RB1
Letters - Gross Admiral Donitz' baton
Letters - U-534 was sunk by Squadron 86
Letters - From a friend of Walter Schmietenknop, lone survivor from U-Boat U-767 in 1944
Letters - Books by Franz Kurowski - About U-Boat commanders, their battles, defeats, victories, etc. and about all wearers of The Knight's Cross in the submarine arm
Letters - Find crew / staff lists for SS Athenia? Agnes MacFarlane worked as a Stewardess
Letters - Brother was aboard British Petrol
Letters - Father survived Queen Mary's collision with Curacoa
Letters - Father commanded the Northern Spray on Convoy ONS5
Letters - Was tanker Laurelwood in Convoy ONS 5?
Letters - HMS Jervis Bay: Jervis Bay - Ross Memorial Park: Heritage Resources Saint John
Letters - Uncle Rowland George Sims, lost on the Bristol City sunk by U-358 on 5th may 1943
Letters - Friend served aboard AO-11 the USS Sapelo, a fleet oiler. He was in Convoy ONS5
Letters - U-662
Letters - From passenger on the Volendam
Letters - Father was a British Merchant Seaman on Rathlin and Oronsey during WWII
Letters - Not approved to pick up survivors, ONS-5 and U-125
Letters - Father served in USS Sapelo in WW2
Letters - HMS Curacoa survivor
Letters - Permission to use picture for article on Operation Deadlight
Letters - Memoir of R. Nanthan Lawrence, survivor of ill-fated Convoy PQ 17
Letters - Aunt may have been aboard Tuscan Star
Letters - Researching Queen Mary and HMS Curacoa collision off the coast of Ireland on Oct. 2, 1942
Letters - From Radio Officer on the B.P. Tanker British Councillor
Letters - Father sailed as 2nd Officer on SS Eastlea, sunk by U-48
Letters - Walter Skett sailed aboard British Petrol - pictures
Letters - Father aboard Queen Mary 1940 - 1941?
Letters - Uncle, J K Brook, served in ONS 5
Letters - Friend of Walter Schmietenknop, sole survivor or U-767
Letters - Seeking information about passenger ship Lancastria lost June 17, 1940
Letters - Uncle sailed in H.M.S. Vidette
Letters - Writing a history of the Sunderlands that were built at Dumbarton
Letters - Grandfather was a crew member in HMS Veteran
Letters - British Councillor
Letters - Father, Ronald Bernard Bellchambers, lost on HMS Veteran
Letters - Father sailed in U-767
Letters - Dinner bell from the RSM Athenia dated 1931
Letters - HMS Boadicia
Letters - Edward Hubenet, died when the tanker Jacksonville was torpedoed in 1944
Letters - Story of Reg Gill, aboard Leinster
Letters - Thomas Heron who lost his life in HMS Boadicea
Letters - Uncle was a Royal Navy gunner on the ill fated Gharinder
Letters - HMS Lord Austin sunk by a mine in Seine Bay, Normandy on the 24th. of June in 1944
Letters - Photographs showing what might turn out to be crewmembers of HMS Veteran have recently come to light
Letters - Harold Leslie Papworth, was Chief Officer on the Yorktown, and the only officer to survive, along with a few other crew members.26/09/1942
Letters - Grandfather was lost at sea from Empire Whale in 1943, sunk by U-662
Letters - Martha Goddard died on the Athenia in Sept 1939
Letters - Cyril Hill in British ship Harperly sunk from Convoy ONS 5
Letters - David Morrison, steward on the Athenia died on the Athenia in Sept 1939
Letters - Researching the SS Empire Bowman for one of the George Cross recipients - previously Albert Medal. Interview with Capt. C. H. Cranch
Letters - George Albert Knowlton served in Ario, sunk by U-Boat U-158 off Frying Pan Shoals in WW2
Letters - Julia Wotten Scott, survivor on the Athenia at time of sinking
Letters - John & Nigel McKinnon were members of the crew of SS Athenia when it was sunk in 1939
Letters - April 1945, aboard Rangitata in the convoy CU-45
Letters - Alan Guard was in the UGS 40 convoy
Letters - Bernice Jansen, passenger on the Athenia
Letters - B.BATESON Assistant Steward NAP (MN) who served on HMS Voltaire
Letters - John Easton and mother, Lily Easton, aboard Athenia when sunk.
Letters - John Armstrong, a stoker 1st Class, died on the HMS Mourne
Letters - Searching for information on Lancastria and the other ships involved in the St Nazaire evacuation, memoirs of Eskdale W. Thornton
Letters - Bernard Nowell was lost when Veteran was sunk
Letters - Edward Spence who was a Royal Navy DEMS gunner on SS Ramilles, looking for information
Letters - Captain Walter John Manley, who was the captain of the Lorient on May 4, 1943, lost in in Convoy ONS 5
Letters - Memorial event being held in Wrexham, north Wales, the sinking of HMS Veteran in 1942
Letters - Henry Cecil Cansdale lost in Empire Gold
Letters - James Thomas Newcombe lost in SS North Britain
Letters - Margaret Ellen Taylor survived sinking of Athenia - which ship picked her up?
Letters - Books about Convoy RB1
Letters - Captain Brown, cutlery from Athenia
Letters - A. E. Howell Seaman Coder served on Northern Spray
Letters - Survivor finds plaque memorializing Helen Burrows who died in the sinking of Athenia
Letters - Jessie Clark, aboard Athenia, and the "curse" of the Clarks
Letters - Florrie Treharne, survive the sinking of the Athenia in 1939?
Letters - HMS Campbell; Arctic 1942
Letters - Sergeant Charles Leslie Gough, one of the airmen you and the the crew of HMAS Australia rescued from the North Atlantic after their Sunderland went down!
Letters - Lieutenant- Commnader R.E. Sherwood, R.N.R. in his smart frigate Tay
Letters - Pilot of the Sunderland aircraft S R Gibbs who was among the 9 we (Australia) resued from the downed aircraft in the Atlantic
Letters - Captain Walter John Manley
Letters - John Moresby's plaque in Holy Trinity Church, Fareham
Letters - Position of Ships sunk from Convoy ONS 5?
Letters - Battle of the Atlantic
Letters - Walter Costick was one of 13 survivors of HMS Culver
Letters - Convoy HX 126
Letters - Henry Cansdale (Empire Gold) was my Uncle
Letters - Patrick C Ryan ex RN 221024, who was a survivor from HMS Culver when it sank in Jan/42
Letters - Empire Heritage
Letters - THE LORD AUSTIN FROM PETER DAVEY
Letters - Charles McKenzie from Aberdeen sailed on the SS New York
Letters - Atlantic Star
Letters - Flight Lieutenant William Stutt
Letters - About Convoy UGS-40
Letters - Survivor of Arctic Convoy, sinking of Fort Cedar Lake