HISTORY OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR

UNITED KINGDOM MILITARY SERIES

Edited by J. R. M. Butler

WAR AT SEA 1939-1945
VOLUME I
THE DEFENSIVE

By S.W. Roskill

LONDON 1954
HMSO


Admiral of the Fleet Sir A. Dudley P.R. Pound
Admiral of the Fleet Sir A. Dudley P.R. Pound, First Sea Lord
and Chief of Naval Staff, 12th June 1939-15 October 1943.


CONTENTS

Chapter   Page
Editor's Preface xiii
Author's Preface xix
I Maritime War and Maritime Strategy 1
II Maritime War--The British Shore Organisation 15
III The Development of Sea-Air Co-operation 29
IV Allied and Enemy War Plans and Dispositions 41
V Opening Moves in Home Waters
3rd September-31st December, 1939
63
VI The Sea Approaches and Coastal Waters
3rd September-31st December, 1939
91
VII Ocean Warfare
3rd September-31st December, 1939
111
VIII The Sea Approaches and Coastal Waters
1st January-31st May, 1940
123
IX The Home Fleet
1st January-9th April, 1940
147
X The Norwegian Campaign
8th April-15th June, 1940
169
XI The Control of the Narrow Seas
10th May-4th June, 1940
205
XII The Withdrawal from Europe
5th-25th June, 1940
229
XIII The Control of Home Waters
30th May-31st December, 1940
247
XIV Ocean Warfare
1st January-31st December, 1940
269
XV The African Campaigns
1 May-31st December, 1940
293
XVI Coastal Warfare
1st June, 1940-31st March, 1941
321
XVII The Campaign in the North-West Approaches
1st June, 1940-31st March, 1941
343
XVIII Ocean Warfare
1st January-31st May, 1941
367
XIX The Home Fleet
1st January-31st May, 1941
389
XX The African Campaigns
1st January-31st May, 1941
419
XXI The Battle of the Atlantic
1st April-31st December, 1941
451
XXII Home Waters and the Arctic
1st June-31st December, 1941
483
XXIII Coastal Warfare
1st April-31st December, 1941
497
XXIV The African Campaigns
1st June-31st December, 1941
515
XXV Ocean Warfare
1st June-31st December, 1941
541
XXVI Disaster in the Pacific
December 1941
553
APPENDICES
Appendix A The Board of Admiralty, September 1939-December 1941 573
Appendix B Defensive Arming of Merchant Ships--the position on 1st March 1941 574
Appendix C The Royal Navy and Royal Marines, Active and Reserve Strength, 1939-45 575
Appendix D Particulars of principal British and Dominion warships in commission, preparing to commission or building in September 1939 577
Appendix E Distribution of British and Dominion Naval Strength, September 1939 583
Appendix F Summary of the principal warships built for the Royal Navy under the 1939, War Emergency, 1940 and 1941 Building Programmes 588
Appendix G The German Navy and the outbreak of war 590
Appendix H The Italian Navy, Strength and Dispositions, June 1940 593
Appendix J The Principal British Mercantile Convoy Routes, 1939-41 598
Appendix K German and Italian U-boats sunk, 1939-41, and analysis of cause of sinking 599
Appendix L Operation DYNAMO. Summary of British and Allied ships employed, troops lifted and British ships lost or damaged 603
Appendix M Enemy Surface Commerce Raiders, 19i39-41. Performance data and particulars of losses caused 604
Appendix N German Supply Ships working with Raiders and U-boats, 1939-41 606
Appendix O The Battle of the Atlantic Directive by the Minister of Defence, 6th March 1941 609
Appendix P Chronological Summary of Moves by the United States Government affecting the War at Sea, 1939-41 612
Appendix Q German U-boat strength, 1939-41 614
Appendix R British, Allied and Neutral Merchant Ship Losses by cause and by theatres, 1939-41 615
 
Index 621
MAPS AND DIAGRAMS
Number Subject Facing page
1. Naval Command Areas at Home, 1939, and Associated Maritime R.A.F. Commands 37
2. Naval Command Areas and Associated R.A.F. Commands, September 1939 43
3. The English Channel, Ushant to Texel 63
4. The Northern Passages to the Atlantic, North Norway to Greenland 65
5. The North Sea, including the coasts of the Low Countries and North Germany 71
6. Scapa Flow, showing defences as completed 1940-41 74
7. The Sortie of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, 21st-27th November, 1939, and the sinking of the Rawalpindi 83
8. The Western Approaches to the British Isles 91
9. The Principal Atlantic and Home Waters Mercantile Convoy Routes, September 1939-April 1941 93
10. British and German Declared Mine Areas, 1939-40 97
11. The Cruises of the Admiral Graf Spee and Deutschland, 1939 115
12. The Battle of the River Plate, 13th December 1939 118
13. The East Coast of Britain, including the Thames Estuary 127
14. The Norwegian Campaign, British and German Naval Movements, 7th-9th April, 1940 159
15. The Norwegian Campaign, British and German Naval Movements, 9th-13th April, 1940 171
16. The First Battle of Narvik, 10th April 1940 175
17. The Second Battle of Narvik, 13th April 1940 177
18. Norway, Vestfiord and Approaches page 181
19. Central Norway, the Approaches to Trondheim page 182
20. The Sortie of the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Hipper, 4th-13th June 1940 195
21. The Sea Routes used during the Evacuation from Dunkirk, 26th May to 4th June, 1940 page 220
22. The Bay of Biscay and the Approaches to Western France 233
23. The Central and South Atlantic Oceans 273
24. The Operations of Disguised German Raiders, January-December, 1940 279
25. The Cruises of the Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper, January-December 1940 287
26. The Mediterranean Theatre 293
26A. Operation MENACE; British and French Movements, 7th-16h September, 1940 page 313
26B. Operation MENACE; the Second Bombardment, noon to 3 p.m., 24th September 1940 page 318
27. The Cruises of the Admiral Scheer,Admiral Hipper, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, January-Mary 1941 369
28. The Straits of Gibraltar and the Approaches to the Mediterranean from the West 381
29. The Operations of Disguised German Raiders, January-May 1941 383
30. The pursuit of the Bismarck; the first phase, 23rd-24th May, 1941 397
31. H.M. Ships Hood and Prince of Wales in action with the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, 24th May 1941 page 403
32. The pursuit of the Bismarck; the second phase, 24th-26th May, 1941 409
33. The pursuit of the Bismarck; the final phase and final action, 27th May 1941 415
34. The Indian Ocean and Approaches to the Mediterranean from the East 426
35. Movements of British and Italian Fleets, 28th-29th March, 1941, leading to the Battle of Cape Matapan 429
36. The Eastern Mediterranean, showing the naval losses incurred in the Greece, Crete and Syrian Campaigns, 1941 436
37. The Western Atlantic and the Approaches to Newfoundland, Canada and the East Coast of the U.S.A. 453
38. The Principal Atlantic and Home Waters Convoy Routes, June 1940-December 1941 457
39. Typical Atlantic Convoy and Anti-Submarine Escorts, 1940-41 page 465
40. The Arctic Convoy Routes, 1941, and the Approaches to Murmansk and Archangel 485
41. The Interception of German Raider and U-boat Supply Ships, June-December 1941 page 543
42. The Operations of German Disguised Raiders, 1st June-31st December, 1941 545
43. The sinking of H.M. Ships Prince of Wales and Repulse, 10th December 1941 565
LIST OF TABLES
Table   Page
1. Royal Navy--Aircraft Carriers in Service, 1939 31
2. British Empire--Effective Naval Strength, 1939 50
3. French Fleet--General Disposition, 1939 51
4. Northern Patrol--Ships Intercepted, September 1939-January 1940 67
5. Allied Merchant Ship Losses, September-December 1939 106
6. Raider Hunting Groups, October 1939 114
7. Northern Patrol--Ships Intercepted, January-April 1940 149
8. Italian Merchant Shipping Losses, June-December 1940 307
9. German Air Attacks on Shipping and Losses within 40 miles of the coast or of an R.A.F. Airfield, November 1940-June 1941 332
10. The R.A.F.'s Air Minelaying Campaign, June 1940-March 1941 336
11. The Air Offensive against Enemy Shipping, April 1940-March 1941 339-340
12. Italian and German (Mediterranean) Merchant Shipping Losses, January-May 1941 439
13. Comparison of Losses to Independently-routed and Convoyed Ships, November 1940-May 1941 458
14. Royal Navy--Escort Vessel Strength, June 1941 464
15. The Air Offensive against Enemy Shipping, April-December 1941 507
16. German Air Attacks on Shipping and Losses within 40 miles of the coast or of an R..F. Airfield, April-December 1941 508
17. The R.A.F.'s Air Minelaying Campaign, April-December 1941 511
18. Comparative results obtained by Air Minelaying and by Direct Attack on Shipping at Sea, April 1940-December 1941 512
19. Stores and Men transported to and from Tobruk, April 1940-December 1941 520
20. Italian and German (Mediterranean) Merchant Shipping Losses, June-September 1941 528
21. Malta Convoys, 1941 531
22. Italian and German (Mediterranean) Merchant Shipping Losses, October-December 1941 537
23. Allied Shipping Sunk or Captured by Enemy Warships and Armed Merchant Raiders, 19490-41 541
24. The Interception of German Supply Ships, June 1941 544
25. German Warship and Armed Merchant Raiders, 1939-1941 550
26. Allied and Enemy Naval Forces in the Pacific, December 1941 560
ILLUSTRATIONS
Admiral of the Fleet Sir A. Dudley P.R. Pound Frontispece
  Facing page
The Reserve Fleet in Weymouth Bay, August 1939 16
Part of the Home Fleet off Invergordon, August 1939 17
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles M. Forbes 32
Admiral Sir John C. Tovey 32
Air Chief Marshal Sir F. W. Bowhill 33
Air chief Marshal Sir P. B. Joubert de la Ferté 33
H.M.S. Ark Royal off Rosyth, August 1939 72
'The Squadron Navigating Officer', by Sir Muirhead Bone Following page 72
Naval Swordfish Torpedo-Spotter-Reconnaissance Aircraft Following page 72
H.M.S. Nelson in Loch Ewe, 1st October 1939 73
'Fleet Minesweepers at work in the Straits', by Leslie Cole 100
'A Minesweeper', by Charles Cundall 100
An East Coast Convoy, 1940 101
Typical British Escort Vessels in Service 1939-1941 128
'The Wardroom and Mess Deck of an S. Class Submarine', by Stephen Bone 129
'Eleven O'Clock in the Fo'c's'le', by Henry Lamb 129
'The Atlantic', by R. V. Pitchforth 144
'Ship's Boat at Sea', by Richard Eurich 144
Escort vessels on patrol, 1940 145
A destroyer in heavy weather, H.M.S. Kashmir, 1940 145
'The withdrawal from Dunkirk', by Richard Eurich 224
'Portsmouth Harbour after an Air Raid', by Richard Eurich 225
Vice-Admiral Sir James F. Somerville 240
'Force H' off Gibraltar 241
The German Supply Ship Altmark in Jossing Fiord, February 1940 288
The German heavy cruiser Hipper in dock at Brest, January 1941 289
The Admiral Scheer captures a tanker 289
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew B. Cunningham 304
H.M.S. Warspite, Mediterranean Fleet Flagship 305
'Air attack on a Channel Convoy', by Norman Wilkinson 336
'Falmouth Harbour, 1940', by John Platt 337
Atlantic Convoy at Sea on 10th June 1941 360
The Battle of the Atlantic, The Toll Following page 360
The Destruction of a Focke-Wulf Kondor, July 1941 361
The Bismarck in Grimstad Fiord, 21st May 1941 400
The Bismarck, before sailing for the Atlantic 400
H.M.S. Norfolk shadowing the Bismarck, 24th May 1941 401
H.M.S. Suffolk in the Denmark Strait 401
The German battleship Bismarck 416
Oil track left by the Bismarck, 24th May 1941 417
The Bismarck on fire and sinking, 27th May 1941 417
Air depth-charge attack on a U-boat, December 1941 466
The Surrender of U.570 to a Hudson Aircraft, 27th August, 1941 467
U.570 in British service as H.M.S. Graph 467
Admiral Sir Percy L. H. Noble and Air Vice-Marshal J. M. Robb 472
Atlantic Convoy O.B.331 at sea, 10th June 1941 Following page 472
H.M.S. Keppel searching for a convoy south of Iceland, October 1941 473
The Operational Plot of the Western Approaches Command, 24th December 1941 480
H.M.S. Audacity (Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier) and H.M.S. Ariguani (Fighter Catapult Ship) at sea 1941 481
'Convoy to Russia', by Charles Pears 496
'Convoy entering Murmansk', by Norman Wilkinson 496
H.M.S. Prince of Wales with the Prime Minister on board passing through an Atlantic Convoy, August 1941 497
H.M.S. Ark Royal under bombing attack, November 1940 528
The Sinking of H.M.S. Ark Royal, 14th November 1941 529


Editor's Preface

THE military series of the United Kingdom History of the Second World War has been planned in accordance with a Government decision announced to the House of Commons on 25th November 1946. The purpose of the history, said the then Prime Minister, was 'to provide a broad survey of events from an inter-Service point of view rather than separate accounts of the parts played by each of the three Services'. The historians have thus felt themselves under no obligation to tell the story of operations in the same detail as was thought appropriate in the case of the war of 1914-18. For such detailed narratives the student must turn to the unit or formation histories, of which many have already appeared. We have set ourselves to present a single series of volumes in which the whole military story, and every part of it, is treated from an inter-Service aspect. Here and elsewhere throughout our work the word 'military' is used to cover the activities of all three fighting Services, as distinct from the other sides of the national war effort which are treated in the Civil Histories edited by Sir Keith Hancock.

Even on the military side, however, it seemed that a 'broad survey' which confined itself to a description of campaigns and operations would fail to give a satisfactory account of how the war of 1939-45 was waged. The vast area over which operations were progressively extended, the number and the variety of the campaigns being fought simultaneously, the constant need of co-ordinating policy and strategy with governments overseas, together with the centralisation of command rendered possible by modern systems of communication čall these increased the range and importance of the part played by the supreme authority at home and seemed to demand that a fuller treatment of the higher direction of the war should be attempted than has been usual in military histories. It was accordingly decided to allot several volumes to Grand Strategy as devised in Whitehall and at Washington, including one volume on developments prior to the actual outbreak of war in September 1939.

For the rest, the history has been planned to cover the following themes or theatres: the defence of the United Kingdom, the maritime war viewed as a whole, the two campaigns of the early period in Norway and in north-west Europe, the strategic air offensive, and the three epic series of military operations on the grand scale in the Mediterranean and Middle East, in the Far East, and again in the north-west of Europe in 1944 and 1945. Additional volumes have been allotted to the history of Civil Affairs or Military Government in view of the novelty and importance of the problems involved in this field of military responsibility.


No doubt the proposed dual treatment of strategic problems, at the Whitehall level and at the level of theatre headquarters, involves a risk, indeed a certainty, of some overlapping. This would be the case even if it were not our aim, as it is, to make each group of volumes intelligible by itself and to that extent self-contained. We cannot unfortunately assume that the general reader, for whom as much as for military students our history is intended, will be prepared to buy or read the whole of our twenty or thirty volumes. We think that a moderate amount of overlapping is excusable and may even be welcomed if it avoids the necessity of constant reference to other volumes.

The question as to the degree of overlapping properly admissible has raised particular difficulties in the case of the volumes on 'The War at Sea', by Captain S. W. Roskill, R.N., of which the first is now offered to the public. The standpoint from which these volumes are written is primarily that of those responsible for the central direction of the maritime war; but decisions taken in the Admiralty with regard to one part of the world were constantly and continuously affected by the detailed progress of events in other parts, and in order to make strategy intelligible it has proved necessary for Captain Roskill to tell the story of the war at sea as a whole. Overlapping could to some extent have been avoided had Captain Roskill merely referred in a cursory way to operations described more fully in other volumes. But such a disproportionate treatment would have spoilt the symmetry and balance of his book. It has seemed better to accept the necessity for a considerable amount of overlapping, subject to the general principles, first, that Captain Roskill is concerned with events as they influenced decisions at the Admiralty, whereas they are treated, in greater detail, in other volumes as they affected those of the local commanders; and, secondly, that where considerable operations, such as the expedition to Dakar in September 1940, do not fall within the scope of the 'theatre' volumes, a fuller treatment by Captain Roskill is desirable.

The description of a war waged by Allies, in which 'integration' was successfully carried to lengths unattempted in previous campaigns, raises further problems. Granted that our commission is to write the history not of the Second World War as a whole but of the military effort of the United Kingdom, on what principle ought we to handle campaigns or actions in which men from the United Kingdom and from other nations fought side by side? Where United Kingdom forces served under foreign or Dominion command, or vice versa, it seems clear that decisions or actions of our fellow combatants must be described with sufficient fullness to preserve a proper balance in the story. On the other hand it is not desirable to duplicate accounts given in the histories sponsored by our Allies and the other nations of


the British Commonwealth, especially when the primary sources are under their control. Arrangements have indeed been made with them for mutual information on points of special interest and for an exchange of drafts; it is hoped that these arrangements will at least reduce the likelihood of controversy due to ignorance of another nation's point of view, though they will not, of course, eliminate differences of interpretation. It has not been possible to make such arrangements in the case of the U.S.S.R.

With regard to the German military records, however, the Allied historians are fortunate, to an unprecedented degree, in having access to a mass of original documents, some of them of the highest importance, which were captured during the occupation of Germany and are now held under joint Anglo-American control. In the case of the other enemy Powers both the volume and the value of the documents captured are considerably less and details of their military plans and operations have of necessity been obtained from more conventional sources of information.

To the official United Kingdom records we have been allowed full access, and we have done our best to supplement them by reference to unofficial accounts, published and unpublished, written and oral. We have felt bound, however, to respect the requirements of military 'security', and in some cases cypher telegrams have been paraphrased, though not in such a way as to affect the sense. In accordance with the recognised British constitutional principle we have not held ourselves free to reveal individual differences of opinion within the War Cabinet nor, as a rule, to lift the veil of Civil Service anonymity. We have taken it as our prime duty to present an accurate narrative of events. But events, properly speaking, include plans and intentions as well as actions, and it is the duty of a historian, as opposed to a mere analyst, to say why, as well as how, things happened as they did. He must interpret, not merely narrate, and interpretation implies a personal judgement. In any case the need to select from the vast mass of material implies a personal judgement of what is most relevant and important.

We all share the contemporary outlook, and some of us are laymen in military matters; it would be unbecoming in us to attempt to pronounce what a commander should have done or should not have done in a particular situation. Our ideal would be to let the facts speak for themselves, to point out how such a decision led to such a result, and to leave speculation and moralising to the strategists; but the facts can only speak to our readers as we have selected and presented them, and we have not shrunk from stating what seemed to us the lessons that emerged from a particular course of events.

It is normally the duty and desire of a historian to support his assertions and arguments by detailed references to his authorities.


Such references serve partly as an indication of his sources, partly as a challenge to his readers to verify his statements. Where, however, the main authorities are official documents which are not at present, and for some time are not likely to be, open to public inspection, published references have comparatively little point, since the challenge cannot be taken up. The nature of the material used can, we think, in most cases be sufficiently indicated in the prefaces or bibliographical notes to the several volumes. Accordingly our usual practice has been explained by Sir Keith Hancock in his introduction of the Civil Histories.1 'It has been decided not to clutter the published pages with references to official files which are not yet generally available to students. In the published series, footnotes have been confined to material that is already accessible. The completed documentation has been given in confidential print. There it will be immediately available to critical readers within the Government service. No doubt it will become available in due time to the historians of a future generation. The official historians of this generation have consciously submitted their work to the professional verdict of the future'.

In the use of enemy documents the historians' labours have been immensely lightened by the help of their colleagues charged with the collection, collation and interpretation of this vast mass of material. Work on the German and Italian documents has been directed by Mr Brian Melland; Colonel G. T. Wards has advised with regard to the Japanese. Valuable assistance in this matter has also been rendered by Commander M. G. Saunders, R.N., of the Admiralty Historical Section, and by Squadron Leader L. A. Jackets, of the Air Historical Branch. The maps have been prepared under the experienced direction of Colonel T. M. M. Penney, of the Cabinet Office Historical Section.

The appointment of a civilian editor to be responsible for the production of the military histories made it desirable that on general questions as well as special points he should be able frequently to consult authorities whose opinions on Service matters would command respect; I am fortunate to have had so helpful a panel of advisers as Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Pownall, Air Chief Marshals Sir Douglas Evill and Sir Guy Garrod, and Lieutenant-General Sir Ian Jacob. These distinguished officers not only have given me the benefit of their experience and judgement in the planning of the history and the selection of writers, but have read and commented on the volumes in draft; in all these matters, however, responsibility rests with the Editor alone.

The history could not have been written without the constant


1. History of the Second World War: British War Economy (H.M. Stationery Office, 1949), p. xii.


assistance of the Service Historical Sections, and the historians would express their gratitude to Rear-Admiral R. M. Bellairs, Brigadier H. B. Latham and Mr J. C. Nerney, and also to Lieutenant-General Sir Desmond Anderson, of the War Office, and their staffs. The monographs, narratives and summaries produced by the Service Departments have greatly reduced the labours, though not the responsibilities, of the historians, and the staffs concerned have been lavish of their help in supplying information and comment. Similar acknowledgements are due to the authors of the Civil histories, and we are grateful to Mr Yates Smith, of the Imperial War Museum, and to other librarians for the loan of books.

Finally, the historians in general and the Editor in particular are deeply indebted to Mr A. B. Acheson, of the Cabinet Office. His advice and help have been of the greatest service to us in many ways; indeed, without the relief provided by Mr Acheson in administrative matters a part-time editor could hardly have performed his task.

J. R. M. B


Author's Preface

THE policy which has governed the preparation of the Military Histories of the Second World War, and the problems peculiar to the volumes which set out to tell the story of The War at Sea, are so fully stated in the Editor's Preface that I have little to add to what he has written. It is, perhaps, worth emphasising that my charter is to tell the story of the maritime war in all its aspects. I have therefore tried to give adequate weight and space to the contribution of the Royal Air Force, and also to refer to the land battles and campaigns which markedly influenced our maritime strategy and operations. In the official histories of other recent wars the maritime side has been told almost exclusively from the naval angle. It is believed that the volumes of which this is the first, mark the first attempt made in modern times to write the official account of a maritime war in terms of more than one service. If, in spite of that purpose and object, the reader finds that the outlook of the writer is predominantly naval it may be said that the responsibilities of the Admiralty render this inevitable. Moreover, from the appointment of a naval officer to write these volumes it may, perhaps justifiably, be assumed that when the appointment was made it was recognised that such would be the case.

It may be desirable to add a few words about the sources of information which I have used. The vast majority are contained in Admiralty and Air Ministry papers and other State archives which are certain not to be made public, at any rate in their complete form, for many years. The Service Departments have, however, all published a number of Commander-in-Chief's despatches dealing with particular operations and actions, and these can be obtained through H.M. Stationery Office. Also on sale to the public are certain statistical documents, notably the White Paper (Cmd. 6843) giving particulars of enemy U-boats sunk during the war, and the Admiralty's statements of British warships and merchant vessels lost or damaged. But these must be used with caution by the civilian as later information has shown that the particulars published soon after the war are by no means always correct. I have, of course, made use of the latest information available, but even this is no guarantee against further revision being necessary. With regard to enemy documents, the German archives held by the Admiralty are so complete, and their exploitation has been so thoroughly carried out, that little or no guesswork is attached to what I have written about German motives and actions. But these documents too are unlikely to be available for scrutiny by the public for many years. Extracts from the minutes of the Fuhrer Naval Conferences (that is to say


Hitler's meetings with his chief subordinates which dealt with naval affairs) were, however, published in Brassey's Naval Annual for 1948.

I have given a good deal of thought to the question of what `times' should be used in my narrative, and also on the maps, to describe events which must be followed in some detail. In world-wide maritime operations it inevitably happens that forces working in different longitudes are keeping different times, even though they are part of the same strategic movement. Confusion is avoided by a simple system of dividing the world's surface into twenty-four equal zones, each of fifteen degrees of longitude, measured from the Greenwich meridian. Each zone has a letter allocated to it and the letter indicates that the time being kept is so many hours ahead of, or behind, Greenwich Mean Time (G.M.T.). The practised eye can thus relate the time given in any message to the common basis of G.M.T. at a glance.

The historian (or at any rate the British historian) is, while carry-out out research and analysis, more or less compelled to follow the system of reducing all times to G.M.T. It is, indeed, the only safe system to adopt. Unfortunately if the same method is used when he comes to write his narrative it will produce abundant absurdities and confuse the reader beyond recovery. A night action fought in the Pacific might, for example, be found to have taken place at high noon (G.M.T.) or a dawn landing at sunset. Plainly, therefore, the method which was essential to research must be discarded when the story is told. Yet the need to establish a common basis, for the enemy's movements as well as those of all our own forces, remains.

I have therefore adopted the system which seemed least likely to confuse the reader. The basic time in the narrative of any event has been taken as that shown by the clocks of the principal British or Allied forces engaged, and the times used by enemy forces have been adjusted to the basic time thus established. It may therefore well happen that a German reader, who, for example, knows that his ship sank a British ship at 6 p.m. on a certain day, finds in this book that it is stated to have happened at 7 p.m. The answer is that the German ship's clocks were, on the day in question, one hour behind the clocks of her British adversary. When one moves into the Pacific, where an inconvenient obstacle called the Date Line exists, it is possible that differences of a day, rather than of an hour, will be found to exist. These difficulties have been accepted for the sake of simplicity and of intelligibility to the reader.

Another troublesome matter has been the spelling of place-names on the maps and in the text. The Admiralty uses the spelling given in the many volumes of the Sailing Directions, which cover the whole world, as their standard. Unfortunately this often differs from the spelling used on Admiralty charts, many of which were printed long


ago and will only have the spelling of place-names revised when they are reprinted. The charts and maps reproduced in these volumes are nearly all based on Admiralty charts. To check and, if need be, alter the spelling of all names to accord with the Sailing Directions would have involved immense, and largely unprofitable, labour. I have therefore retained the chart spelling in the majority of cases. I have, however, taken the liberty of `anglicising' certain names because retention of the phonetic spelling, even though used on charts, struck me as pedantic. Why, for instance, should Seidisford in Iceland, which was well known to all sailors and airmen involved in the Atlantic Battle, be referred to by its Icelandic title of Seydisfjördur or Seydisfjardar (both of which appear on Admiralty Charts) in this narrative? My object has been to make all place-names referred to easily recognisable and identifiable on the maps and in the text, and if inconsistencies are detected I can only plead that the large number of variations in spelling offered to me has been the cause.

It is, perhaps, proper to mention that in my efforts to gain a clear idea of the problems which constantly faced each naval Commander-in-Chief I have, unfortunately, found the all-important Atlantic theatre by far the most difficult. One reason has been that, early in the war, the Admiralty, in an understandable desire to reduce paper work, informed Commanders-in-Chief that they need not render periodical despatches. Happily for the historian most Commanders-in-Chief continued none the less to do so. Their despatches have proved of the utmost value to me not only for their contemporary accounts of actions fought and operations undertaken, but also because they reflect the thoughts of the Commanders-in-Chief on the progress of the war in their theatres. Unfortunately the successive Commanders-in-Chief, Western Approaches, did not, as far as I know, ever render a despatch. Though the Command's War Diary records in great detail the day-to-day occurrences in the various sub-commands, it is in no way comparable to a Commander-in-Chief's despatch. The Admiralty kept detailed records of the progress of each convoy, Escort Group commanders rendered Reports of Proceedings regarding their own doings, and the Royal Air Force Groups concerned in the Atlantic Battle documented their operations fully. These latter records were used by Commanders-in-Chief, Coastal Command, to write a series of despatches dealing with the air side of the Atlantic Battle. These, and many other records, have helped me greatly. But the lack of any naval despatches from the Western Approaches Command, giving a chronological survey of the whole vast problem of Atlantic shipping and escort, has proved a severe handicap, particularly for the first two years of the war. I have gone to considerable lengths to try to fill the gap by consulting the


surviving Commanders-in-Chief and also officers who served on their staffs; but memories are notoriously fallible and, for all their kindness and help, I am only too well aware that there are gaps in my knowledge and in the story of the five years' Atlantic Battle as I have told it.

The Editor has acknowledged the debt which I and all military historians owe to the Historical Sections in the Service Departments. I will only amplify his acknowledgements by saying that the help of the Admiralty's Record Office staff under Mr H. H. Ellmers and the constant advice given to me by the staff of Rear-Admiral Bellairs' Historical Section have gone far beyond what might reasonably be expected. For the work of the Royal Air Force in the maritime war I have depended greatly on the expert knowledge and research of Captain D. V. Peyton-Ward, R.N., and on the very full narratives which he has prepared for the Air Ministry's Historical Branch. Though responsibility for historical accuracy remains my own, and where matters of opinion are expressed they must be taken as mine alone, the preparation of this work would, without the help so freely given in the Admiralty and Air Ministry, have been far beyond the capacity of one writer. I must also acknowledge my debt to the many officers, senior and junior, who have read my drafts and given me the benefit of their knowledge of policy, of operations and of incidents in which they themselves were concerned. I would thank Mr F. G. G. Carr, Director of the National Maritime Museum, for his co-operation in selecting and reproducing certain of the works of the Admiralty Official War Artists, and Mr G. H. Hurford of the Admiralty's Historical Section for his expert and painstaking work on the Index. Finally, I owe more than I can express to the patient and repeated help which the Editor himself has given to me.

S. W. ROSKILL.

Cabinet Office,
      February 1954.


Now than for love of Christ, and of his ioy,
Bring it England out of trouble and noy:
Take heart and witte, and set a governance,
Set many wits withouten variance,
To one accord and unanimitee. . . .
                  * * *
Kepe then the sea that is the wall of England:
And than is England kept by Goddes hande.

The Libel of English Policie (c.1436),
attributed to Bishop Adam de Moleyns,
printed in The Principal Navigation,
Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of
the English Nation ('Hakluyt's Voyages'),
2nd Edition, 1599.

[noy = harm]



Transcribed and formatted for HTML by William Straka and Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation