'It will comfort you to know that my role in this war has been of greatest importance. Our patrols far out over the North Sea have helped keep the trade routes clear for our convoys and supply ships'.
From a letter by Flying Officer V. A. W. Rosewarne, R.A.F., to his Mother, originally published in the 'Times' of 18th June 1940 as An Airman's letter to his Mother.1
Throughout the war the winter months aggravated the difficulties and perils of the east coast convoys; nor were January and February i943 any exception to that rule. The frequent North Sea gales always produce seas of a peculiarly short and vicious variety in among the shoals and sandbanks with which the coastal waters are studded. In peacetime the traffic either takes shelter from the gales in one or other of the many adjacent harbours or rides them out in solitary, but comparatively safe, discomfort. In war time neither solution could be applied, because of the navigational risks involved in handling forty or fifty ships in close proximity to each other, because of the very real danger of allowing any vessel to wander from the 'straight and narrow way' of the swept channel and because of the enemy's invariable attention to stragglers. Only the destroyers and corvettes of the Nore Command and the Rosyth Escort Force, which week after week and month after month shepherded these unwieldy convoys, in which some of the masters were as unamenable to convoy discipline as their rusty, salt-caked, smoky coasters were incapable of coordinated manoeuvres, fully understood and will remember the peculiar problems which the east coast convoys involved. Fortunately the British sailor's gift of humour rose above all the difficulties and dangers; and it may be that the ironic banter often sent over the senior officer's loud hailer to a particularly stubborn straggler, and the delighted reception accorded to
the inevitably abusive retort from the coaster's bridge, did more than the most carefully framed convoy orders and the most courteously conducted convoy conferences to keep these little ships sailing. Perhaps some extracts from one Senior Officer's report may be preserved to typify the spirit in which these convoys were conducted.
Convoy FN 9442 (of twenty ships) from Southend to Methil in the Firth of Forth sailed on Sunday the 14th of February 1943, escorted by the destroyers Valorous (Lieutenant-Commander W. W. Fitzroy) and Walpole, both veterans of the 1914-18 war, the corvette Kittiwake and a trawler. After sailing 'an exchange of compliments with the Commodore ensued, during which the current problems were discussed in order of merit (Navigation, E-boats, Air Attack, Stragglers, Convoy Speed, Arrival at the Tyne, and Smoke). The close proximity of B2 buoy ended the conversation . . . Communication was soon established with the fighters which proved to be clipped-wing Spitfires with United States markings. The temptation to carry on a "trans-Atlantic" conversation was mastered with difficulty ... Balloons were ordered to be flown at 1,000 feet, for the sky had cleared. We wished the Sunk Head Fort 'Good afternoon' and received a cheerful response. Soon the magnetic sweepers close ahead of us turned back. At 1:00 p.m. . . the convoy was formed into two columns, its length being thus reduced to two miles. At this juncture a ship three miles astern was taken to be a straggler until she replied, rather happily, that her troubles were nearly over, for she was bound for Harwich . . . After a cruise round the convoy we were able to report to the Commodore that all ships were closed up, and their armaments properly manned . . . At 4:00 p.m. the Commodore took over guide again, and we gave our fleet a dog watch serenade and a semaphore exercise . . . The weather prophets still held to their westerly gale, but it was not until the convoy reached Haisborough Light that it became evident . . . Monday morning, 15th February. Two ships bound for Iceland joined the convoy. Heavy seas were now encountered . . . So far as the eye could see there was a white sheet of foam on the water, and the Yorkshire coast looked bleak and forbidding . . . We spent the dog watches rounding up the stragglers and making other ships close up. At 5:00 p.m. the convoy extended over seven and a half miles. Our average speed along the Northumbrian coast was four knots. Tuesday, 16th February. Off the Farne Islands we cheered the Commodore by relating the exploits of Grace Darling . . . The convoy reached Methil at 7:30 p.m.'
That convoy suffered no attacks by the enemy. Although the decline of the German air effort, combined with the far greater effectiveness of our fighter and anti-aircraft defences, now gave most
H.M.S. Duncan (Commander P. W. Gretton),B7 Group. (See pp. 373-376).
H.M.S. Starling (Captain F. J. Walker), 2nd Escort Group. (See pp. 201-367).
An East Coast Convoy, May 1943. (Note A.A. balloons flying).
A U-boat forced to the surface, but not sunk, by Whitley V of No. 58 Squadron in the Bay of Biscay, 16th May 1942.
A U-boat on the surface and abandoning ship after attack by an escort vessel. (Note empty shell cases in the foreground and survivors in the water).
east coast convoys the enjoyment of comparatively quiet hours of daylight, their nights were still frequently disturbed by German E-boats. At the start of the New Year these were very active off the east coast, in minelaying on the convoy route and in making torpedo attacks. Often both were combined. Our escorts were, however, so watchful that casualties to the merchantmen were comparatively rare. In the whole of this phase E-boats only succeeded in sinking two ships (6,580 tons); but, in spite of the shore radar stations' greatly improved tracking and reporting, our escorts and patrols still found them elusive targets. Although there were many engagements with them, few E-boats were sunk. Indeed, comparison of our own records with those of the Germans shows how often both sides were wrong in thinking that they had destroyed an enemy; and we now know that it was the destroyer escorts of the convoys which the German E-boats chiefly feared. Thus on the night of the 17th-18th of February a group of these enemies was detected by shore radar near the convoy channel and reported to the destroyers on patrol. The German boats, which were actually engaged on a minelaying sortie, were caught by the destroyers Garth and Montrose off Yarmouth and one of their number was destroyed. On the 28th-29th March a strong enemy force of seven boats tried to attack the south-bound convoy FS 1074. off Smith's Knoll, but the escort drove off some whilst others were pursued by the motor gunboats. The latter were led by Lieutenant D. G. Bradford, R.N.R., one of the most forceful and successful leaders of our coastal craft. Having led his group of two motor gunboats (Nos. 33 and 321) to attack five enemies, and damaged one of them, he proceeded to carry the ancient principle of close engagement to its logical conclusion by ramming another. His report states that 'the captain of the E-boat had been clearly visible on the bridge immediately before ramming, and appeared somewhat agitated; however he was calmed down by machine gun fire and became resigned to the situation'. The enemy in question (the motor torpedo-boat S-29) was later scuttled by the Germans, after they had rescued her survivors.
There were now Coastal Force bases at Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Felixstowe (commissioned as H.M.S. Midge, Mantis and Beehive respectively). In February 1943 Captain H. T. Armstrong was appointed as Captain, Coastal Forces, for the whole Nore Command; and he did a great deal to improve training and tactics. Until a high standard was achieved in these matters success could not be expected in the confused and fast-moving night actions which were typical of coastal craft operations. Many sweeps and attacks on shipping off the Dutch coast were made at this time, but successes were not common and we suffered several losses on these forays. March was, however, a good month for our motor torpedo-boats,
with which No. 16 Group's aircraft sometimes co-operated by flare-dropping, and in four actions they succeeded in sinking four ships totalling 9,273 tons, and damaging several others. These successes were by no means accomplished without loss to the attackers; for the German minesweeper and trawler escorts were heavily armed and very alert while on the dangerous sections of their routes. In April the Nore Command Coastal Forces lost their most successful exponent of this type of warfare, when Lieutenant-Commander R. P. Hitchens, R.N.V.R., was killed in action leading his M.G.B. Flotilla to attack a German convoy. But attacks with guns and torpedoes, alternated sometimes by minelaying operations, continued throughout this phase, whenever a suitable target was reported; and there can be little doubt that the inshore convoy route leading to the Dutch ports was thereby made more dangerous to the enemy.
Though the enemy's air minelaying was now far less intensive than in the previous year, his aircraft still came over in small numbers; they and the E-boat minelayers already mentioned prevented any reduction of our minesweeping effort. Many of the trawlers and drifters, which had served us so well since the beginning, were now being replaced by the new motor-minesweepers; the latter were designed specially for the purpose of inshore sweeping, and were better equipped and much handier. But it should not be forgotten that for nearly four years it had been the converted fishing vessels, mostly manned by Reservists and by men of the R.N. Patrol Service, which had kept the channels swept and our vital east coast harbours open. The Humber minesweepers alone had, by the middle of March 1943, accounted for 1,000 enemy mines, and several of its trawlers had impressive personal scores, such as the 181 swept by the trawler Rolls Royce, the 165 by the Ben Meidie and the 140 by the Fitzgerald. On the 2nd of June the Nore Command minesweepers detonated their 3,000th mine.
But the emphasis in coastal warfare was now shifting. Although the channels still had to be swept and the convoys escorted, our various forces were now far more active in the enemy's coastal waters than his were in our own. And, as harbingers of an even more important swing of the pendulum, Combined Operations bases and training establishments were now springing up all round our coasts; new and strange types of vessels were appearing, and officers of all three services joined new staffs, the fruits of whose labours were soon to be gathered from the great overseas expeditions now being planned. By the end of this phase it was plainly apparent that in coastal warfare the balance, if temporarily only steady, would soon move heavily in our favour.
To turn to the air, bombing attacks on our coastal shipping had become quite rare occurrences, though fighter-bombers working from
French airfields still caused us some embarrassment by surprise attacks at dusk in the Channel. They were difficult to counter, because our radar plots rarely gave sufficient warning of these fast, low-flying targets to allow our fighters to get to them. But the attacks were neither frequent enough nor heavy enough to cause us appreciable damage. In fact at this time the great majority of the merchantmen lost to air attacks were sunk in the Mediterranean.3 The extent to which the enemy's offensive against our coastal shipping, which a year previously had been causing us appreciable losses4, had now collapsed is shown in the next table.
Table 33. German Air Attacks on Allied Shipping and Royal Air Force
Sorties in Defence of Shipping
(Home Theatre only)
Day and Night
Aircraft Sorties for
Allied Shipping Sunk
by Direct Attacks
(Day and Night)
Royal Air Force Sorties in Defence of Shipping (Day and Night) Royal Air Force Losses (1) Direct Attack (2) Minelaying No. Tonnage January 403 95 Nil 1,418 2 February 348 98 Nil 1,636 2 March 640 52 Nil 1,612 2 April 553 70 Nil 796 2 May 518 58 Nil 293 1 TOTAL 2,462 373 Nil 5,755 9
Coastal Command continued to fly many sorties off Norway and off the north German and Dutch coasts, to attack shipping; but the successes achieved were still small. Thus in January 46 t sorties led to fifty-eight attacks, but only two ships of 5,168 tons were sunk. The winter did a kindness to the enemy by never freezing the Kattegat, the Belts or the Kiel Canal. Because he could continue to use those passages, he could avoid sending ships up and down the west coast of Denmark, where they would have been far more exposed to attack.
February brought an interesting encounter in the Channel. On the 10th a heavily guarded ship was detected off Gravelines steering west. It was actually the Togo (Raider K), outward-bound.5 She was bombarded, though without effect, by the Dover batteries that evening, and then attacked by Whirlwind bombers. Having been
considerably damaged by one of their bombs, she put into Boulogne. Heavy bombers were then turned on to the port, but she escaped further damage, and was ordered to return to Germany. On the 14th she left Boulogne and was again fired on by the shore batteries; but she reached Dunkirk safely. On the 26th she was hit by another bomb; but she managed to get to sea again, and to evade an attack by the Dover M.T.Bs. On the 2nd of March she reached Kiel. Yet another disguised raider thus passes out of our story. Of the nine German armed merchant raiders which reached the oceans only one was now still at sea - the Michel in the Far East; and she had done us very little damage recently.6 None the less it was not, from our point of view, satisfactory that the Togo should survive so many forms of attack close to our shores. It showed that we still did not possess the right aircraft to stop enemy traffic through the Channel. For day attacks, or for use on clear nights, the Whirlwinds and 'Hurribombers' were the best types; for dark nights and for minelaying Coastal Command needed a comparatively slow aircraft like the naval Albacore torpedo-bomber. These latter were also the most suitable types to use against enemy E-boats on their night forays against our coastal convoys, and since the summer of 1942 the Admiralty had lent the Royal Air Force Commands several naval squadrons equipped with these types. Now, however, the expansion of the Fleet Air Arm, and the urgent needs of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean for carrier-borne aircraft, prevented such loans being continued. In spite of appeals from the Air Ministry, at the end of April the Admiralty named the 1st of June as the date when the squadrons must be returned to naval service. This would leave no suitable aircraft to deal with E-boats by night in home waters, so a compromise was finally found whereby one squadron was re-equipped partly with Albacores transferred by the Admiralty. Its aircraft would be flown by the R.A.F. and operated by Fighter Command. Once again British capacity for compromise produced a sensible, if not a wholly satisfactory, solution.
In the early spring the problem of Germany's merchant shipping became for a time rather less acute, and that in spite of the increasing momentum of our varied onslaught on it. The Reich Commissioner Kaufmann, who had been put in charge of every aspect of its use7, had contributed a good deal to this, particularly by eliminating wasteful requisitioning of ships by the fighting services; but the mildness of the winter, already mentioned, had also played a part. We, on the other hand, were just about to restore to front line service the Beaufighter Strike Wing, which had taken a severe knock in November 1942 when it had been used on an operation rather prematurely,
before all the intricate problems of co-ordination and training had been adequately studied.8 In particular it was now realised that very strong single-seater fighter escort was essential to the safety of the attacking aircraft, and that training had to reach a high pitch of efficiency before a squadron could justifiably be thrown into battle. In this manner Fighter Command came to share with Coastal Command responsibility for the operations of the Strike Wing of the latter's No. 16 Group. The minimum force which it was considered economical to employ was eight torpedo-Beaufighters ('Torbeaus'), sixteen escort-Beaufighters and two squadrons of single-seater fighters. Rehearsals were carried out in April, and then the Strike Wing was ready for the fray. Unhappily the heavy demands for these types of aircraft from the Mediterranean station deferred for another nine months the achievement of the desired strength of ten Beaufighter squadrons in Coastal Command. None the less the re-entry of the Strike Wing into service is of historical importance, because it led to the definition of each Royal Air Force Command's responsibilities for making the anti-shipping campaign a success. Under what was described as a 'tripartite pact' the Commanders-in-Chief, Coastal, Bomber and Fighter Commands, each issued complementary directives. That issued to Coastal Command over the signature of Air Marshal Sir John Slessor opened with words which merit preservation for posterity, namely 'The Royal Air Force shares with the Royal Navy the responsibility for sea communications within range of shore-based aircraft'. Looking back today on the losses and tribulations suffered during the first three and a half years of war, one cannot but wonder how many of them could have been avoided had such a simple truth been accepted by both services in 1939. The revised instructions to the Royal Air Force Commands covered every aspect of the anti-shipping campaign-preliminary reconnaissance, final reporting, escort and attack. On the r 8th of April, ten days after they had been issued, the Strike Wing of No. 16 Group, stationed at North Coates in Lincolnshire, carried out its first operation. The strength employed was nine torpedo, six bomber and six cannon Beaufighters covered by three squadrons of No. 12 Group's fighters. The target was a convoy of nine merchant ships with six escorts sighted off the Dutch coast. The German warships were smothered by the cannon and machine-gun fire of the fighters, and the largest ship of the convoy, of nearly 5,000 tons was sunk. Not one of our aircraft was lost.
A fortnight later a second attack was carried out in rather similar circumstances, and with about the same strength. It took place off the Texel, and the enemy convoy had a very powerful escort which, the
Germans having taken a leaf out of our own book, was flying balloons. None the less three of the six ships in the convoy (totalling 9,566 tons) were sunk for the cost of one Beaufighter. On the 17th of May the Strike Wing, escorted by nearly three score Spitfires, went into action once more against a convoy of similar composition to the last one. Again the attack went well, and three merchantmen (4,237 tons in all) were sunk. In the last operation of the phase these successes were, however, not repeated. Bad weather and imprecise last-minute reconnaissance led to loss of surprise, and so to failure. Plainly the price of success still remained careful planning, faultless co-ordination and thorough training. None the less enough had been learnt by the end of May to indicate that a bright future was in store for the Strike Wing and its similarly organised successors; and the approaching introduction of rocket projectiles made the auguries still brighter.
One favourable result of the increasing successes of our varied offensive off the Dutch coast was a big reduction of enemy mercantile traffic in and out of Rotterdam. That port was much the best entry for the Swedish iron ore needed by the Ruhr industries, and also the best outlet for German coal and coke which the Swedes demanded in return. But now the Swedes showed increasing unwillingness to allow their ships to go to Rotterdam, and the Germans therefore had to divert much traffic to Emden. This put additional strain on their inland transport system, and was an altogether uneconomic proposition. But the Germans had to accept it, or lose the services of much Swedish shipping.
While No. 16 Group was thus profiting from past experience and turning it to good effect off the Dutch coast, No. 18 Group's Hampdens and Beaufighters were constantly sweeping the Norwegian coast for enemy shipping. In addition the Group had also to divert its main effort several times to fleet reconnaissance work, in order to locate, and if possible attack the enemy's heavy warships whenever they showed themselves. Thus the movement of the Scharnhorst from the Baltic to Norway in March, and that of the Nurnberg south to Germany in May9, called for many reconnaissance flights and the despatch of striking forces. Though no success was achieved against these important ships, No. 18 Group's aircraft, which were on occasions able to use a technique similar to that of the Strike Wing, sank three merchantmen (17,398 tons in all) in April, and another of nearly 6,00o tons in the following month. The Hampdens of Nos. 455 and 489 Squadrons and Beaufighters of Nos. 235 and 404 were the mainstay of No. 18 Group's effort, and it was their work, combined with the good results obtained by No. 16 Group's Strike Wing, which
caused the sharp increase in enemy ships sunk during the last two months of this phase, as is shown in the next table.
At this time No. 19 Group of Coastal Command was mainly employed trying to intercept blockade-runners in the Bay of Biscay, and searching for the iron ore ships which were still running from Bilbao to French ports. The Germans attached a good deal of importance to this traffic, particularly now that the Swedish Government was reluctant to charter its merchantmen to Germany to carry ore from Swedish mines, and felt sufficiently strong to drive harder bargains regarding payment and return shipments of coal and coke from the Ruhr. In the spring the ore traffic from Spain reached 70,000 tons a month, a figure which we could not tolerate. But generally we were only able to use aircraft on transit flights to Gibraltar to seek the iron ore ships, and they were rarely successful. It was mainly diplomatic and economic pressure on Spain which caused a reduction of the enemy's imports from Bayonne to 22,000 tons in June.
So much for Coastal Command's offensive against enemy seaborne traffic in this phase. The three Fighter Command Groups stationed in southern England (Nos. 10, 11 and 12) shared the responsibility for anti-shipping operations, suited to their types of aircraft, between the Dutch coast in the east and the Channel approaches in the west. In addition they frequently co-operated with our Coastal Force craft on their offensive sweeps. It was natural that successes by fighter aircraft against ships should generally be confined to small craft and auxiliaries, and in April and May some half dozen of these were sunk.
The main feature of this period of coastal warfare thus was the growing realisation of the inter-dependence of all the various arms and services employed. The Strike Wing, the Nore and Dover M.T.B. and M.G.B. flotillas, the daylight and night bombing of enemy ports, the reconnaissance flights by Coastal Command, and the fighter cover overhead were all complementary. They had the same object, to stop the enemy's coastal traffic. Each gave something to the others, and received in return a contribution essential to its own success. A motor gunboat by sinking a 'flak' ship in the North Sea might save a night bomber bound to attack Germany. The latter's bombs might delay a convoy and destroy part of its escort, and so make the Strike Wing's work easier. The searching eyes of the reconnaissance aircraft might bring the M.T.Bs a favourable opportunity, but protection by the fighters was essential to the safe return of the latter. Only by complete co-operation and full understanding of each other's problems could success be achieved, and that desirable end was just beginning to be attained in the coastal offensive. The results achieved by the Royal Air Force in direct attacks on enemy ships at sea in this phase are shown overleaf.
Table 34. The Air Offensive against Enemy Shipping by Direct Attacks at Sea
(All Royal Air Force Commands-Home Theatre only)
Month - 1943
Aircraft Sorties Attacks Made Enemy Vessels Sunk Enemy Vessels Damaged Aircraft Losses No. Tonnage No. Tonnage January 836 63 2 5,168 Nil 11 February 658 45 Nil Nil 10 March 696 50 1 90 8 April 1,362 215 12 37,506 3 9,221 29 May 1,599 199 7 11,772 Nil 32 TOTAL 5,151 572 22 54,536 3 9,221 90
To turn to the other methods of carrying the offensive into the enemy's coastal waters, the Home Fleet's submarines were generally few in number, because the demands of the Mediterranean station were so heavy, and work on the North African supply routes was of such critical importance. Those that remained, generally about half a dozen, were most often disposed off the Norwegian coast or near the Faeroes, on the U-boat's northern transit route. They thus had few opportunities of attacking the inshore traffic. The Norwegian-manned 30th Motor Torpedo-boat Flotilla, however, made frequent incursions into the Leads, and its boats often spent several consecutive nights lying up in enemy waters to await suitable targets. On the night of the 23rd-24th of January four M.T.Bs landed a party of Commandos in the fiords of Bergen to attack various shore targets, including a pyrites mine. No. 18 Group's aircraft coordinated their attacks with the Commando raiders, and Admiral Tovey commented that 'the whole operation was as creditable as it was enjoyable to the Norwegians who carried it out'. In the same month a party of these intrepid Allies left in a whaler to cut out an enemy convoy near Lister Light, and sail it to Britain. They did not succeed in that bold purpose, but the party remained in Norway, and at the end of February they did seize several small ships and fishing craft, which were sailed to Scottish ports. It can well be imagined how infuriating such pin-pricks must have been to the enemy, especially as most of the Norwegian raiders got back safely to their temporary homeland. In mid-March the Norwegian-manned M.T.Bs scored a success by sinking two ships in the Leads. Though small in themselves, such efforts all helped to add to the enemy's embarrassment, and his difficulties in making his coastal shipping routes secure.
At the start of this phase Coastal Command's minelaying effort depended entirely on two squadrons of naval Swordfish lent by the
Admiralty. By April they had been transferred overseas, and thereafter the whole air minelaying campaign devolved on Bomber Command. In the first three months of the year 3,575 mines were laid, mostly off the north German and Dutch coasts. Then the fitting of the new ten-centimetre radar in our bombers enabled them to attack unseen shore targets, so minelaying was only carried out on nights which were unsuitable for bombing Germany, or by aircrews not yet fully trained. It thus came to pass that, although our stocks of mines were still rising, the rate of laying them remained about stationary.
None the less it was now fully realised that air minelaying was causing the enemy a good deal of annoyance and heavy shipping losses, and in March a new operational order was issued to Bomber Command to the effect that on specially selected nights a really heavy minelaying effort was to be made in certain waters. This coincided with the introduction by the Admiralty, which was responsible for the design and production of all mines, of a combined acoustic and magnetic firing mechanism. To achieve surprise and the greatest possible effect it was desirable that the first lays of these new mines should be large ones, as had been the case in September 1942 with the first British acoustic mines10 - a need which the enemy had often failed to observe with his own new developments.11 This Admiralty request fitted in well with Bomber Command's new plans, and on the night of the 27th-28th of April 459 mines were laid in the Bay of Biscay and off the Dutch and north German coasts. A number of the new mines were mixed in with those of older patterns. On the following night an even bigger effort was made, and 568 mines were laid in many different waters, mostly off the enemy's Baltic ports; but we lost twenty-three of the 226 aircraft which took part. The short nights then caused a cessation of distant minelaying sorties, but the work continued on a small scale in the nearer waters, right up to the end of this phase.
Two-thirds of the enemy's losses from mines were suffered in the Baltic, and it is likely that the two big operations already referred to, combined with the introduction of the new type of mine, contributed a good deal to these results. The biggest prize which fell to Bomber Command's minelayers was the liner Gneisenau (18,160 tons), which was used to carry troops from Germany to the Russian front. She was sunk in the Baltic on the 2nd of May; but many merchantmen, minesweepers and auxiliary war vessels also fell into the bag. Only against U-boats entering and leaving the Biscay ports were successes small, doubtless because they were always specially swept in and out of harbour. U-526, sunk on the 14th of April off Lorient, was the
only victim in this phase. Mines were also laid in the Baltic waters where U-boats were known to do their trials and training, but none was sunk there until later in the year. In fact throughout the war the contribution of our mines to the defeat of the U-boat was insignificant compared with the losses inflicted by convoy escorts, and by air patrols on the enemy's transit routes.12 It was in the disruption of his coastal traffic that the air minelaying campaign yielded really substantial results. The next two tables give statistics covering the present phase, and it will be seen that air minelaying still remained very much more profitable, both in losses inflicted on the enemy and in the fewer aircraft losses suffered by ourselves, than direct attacks on shipping.
Table 35. The R.A.F.'s Air Minelaying Campaign
(Home Theatre only)
Month - 1943
Aircraft Sorties Mines Laid Enemy Vessels Sunk Enemy Vessels Damaged Aircraft Losses No. Tonnage No. Tonnage January 608 1,296 13 5,634 Nil 20 February 545 1,130 15 17,550 Nil 17 March 534 1,176 12 4,102 4 8,309 24 April 673 1,809 16 20,824 2 2,745 33 May 363 1,148 18 29,595 4 7,671 8 TOTAL 2,723 6,559 74 77,705 10 18,725 102
Table 36. Comparative results obtained by the Royal Air Force from Minelaying and from Direct Attacks on Enemy Shipping at sea.
January 1942 - June 1943
(1) AIR MINELAYING (2) DIRECT ATTACK AT SEA Aircraft
No. Tonnage No. Tonnage No. Tonnage No. Tonnage 1942 Jan-March 685 722 15 22,535 2 62,600* 31 3,070 289 8 3,597 2 11,131 94 Jan-March 1,316 2,746 47 59,129 8 22,305 38 2,630 531 16 34,778 12 39,145 87 Jan-March 1,329 2,960 64 62,459 13 34,533 52 2,312 480 11 12,616 1 8,998 39 Jan-March 1,577 3,283 61 53,482 9 14,787 53 1,854 295 7 10,037 6 22,878 39 1943 Jan-March 1,687 3,602 40 27,286 4 8,309 61 2,190 158 3 5,258 Nil Nil 29 Jan-March 1,462 4,131 48 60,522 7 15,385 48 4,411 636 23 56,163 3 9,221 81 TOTALS 8,056 17,444 275 285,413 43 157,919 283 16,467 2,389 68 122,449 24 91,373 369 *The German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during their escape up-Channel.
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