Edited by J. R. M. Butler

WAR AT SEA 1939-1945

By S.W. Roskill


The Tilting of the Balance

The Tilting of the Balance


Chapter   Page
  Author's Preface xiv
  Chronological Summary of Principal Events,
January 1942-July 1942
I The Pacific and Indian Oceans
1st January-31st July, 1942
II The African Campaigns
1st January-31 July, 1942
III The Priority of Maritime Air Operations, 1942 77
IV The Battle of the Atlantic. The Campaign in American Waters
1st January-31st July, 1942
V Home Waters and the Arctic
1st January-31st July, 1942
VI Coastal Warfare
1st January-31st July, 1942
VII Ocean Warfare
1st January-31st July, 1942
  Chronological Summary of Principal Events,
August 1942-December 1942
VIII The Battle of the Atlantic. The Second Campaign on the Convoy Routes
1st August-31st December, 194
IX The Pacific and Indian Oceans
1st August-31st December, 1942
X Coastal Warfare
1st August-31st December, 1942
XI Ocean Warfare
1st August-31st December, 1942
XII Home Waters and the Arctic
1st August-31st December 1942
XIII The African Campaigns
1st August-31st December, 1942
  Chronological Summary of Principal Events,
January 1943-May 1943
XIV The Battle of the Atlantic. The Triumph of the Escorts
1st January-31st May, 1943
XV Coastal Warfare
1st January-31st May, 1943
XVI Home Waters and the Arctic
1st January-31st May, 1943
XVII Ocean Warfare
1st January-31st May, 1943
XVIII The Pacific and Indian Oceans
1st January-31st May, 1943
XIX The African Campaigns
1st January-31st May, 1943
The Mediterranean Re-opened
Appendix A The Board of Admiralty, January 1942-May 1943 447
Appendix B Summary of Principal Warships built for the Royal Navy under the 1942 and 1943 Naval Building Programmes and Supplementary Programmes 449
Appendix C Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force, Establishment and Expansion, 1939-1943 450
Appendix D The Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, Composition and Expansion 1939-1945 451
Appendix E North Atlantic Troopship Movements. ('Operational Convoys'), January 1942-December 1943 452
Appendix F Principal Allied Convoys during 1942 and 1943 453
Appendix G British Escort Vessel Strength and Dispositions on 1st January, 1942, 1st August, 1942, and 1st January, 1943 457
Appendix H Operation TORCH, Composition of Allied Naval Forces taking part in the operation 464
Appendix J German, Italian and Japanese U-boats Sunk
1st January, 1942-31st May, 1943
Appendix K German U-boat Strength, January 1942-May 10943, and Principal Characteristics of German U-boats Type VII C 475
Appendix L Composition and Disposition of Japanese Navy, 7th December, 1941 476
Appendix M German Armed Merchant Raiders, 1942-1943.
Performance Data and Results achieved
Appendix N Axis Blockade Runners, 1941-1943 482
Appendix O British, Allied and Neutral Merchant Ship Losses, and Causes, January 1942-May 1943 485
Appendix P Full Text of Letter of 3rd April, 1943 from the Prime Minister to Hugh Molson, Esq., M.P. 487
Map No. Subject Page
1. The Pacific and Indian Ocean Command Areas, 1942-43 5
2. The South Pacific, showing Japanese Assaults, December 1941-February 1942. 9
3. The Battle of the Java Sea, 27th February 1942:
   The First Phase, 4:15-5:25 p.m.
   The Second Phase, 5:25-9:00 p.m.
   The Final Phase, 9:00 p.m.-Midnight
4. The Japanese attacks on Ceylon and the Bay of Bengal, 31st March-9th April 1942 25
5. The South-West Pacific, showing the Battle of the Coral Sea, 5th-9th May 1942 33
6. The Battle of Midway, 4th June 1942 37
7. British and Italian Fleet Movements, 21st-23rd March 1942, leading to the Second Battle of Sirte 49
8. The Second Battle of Sirte, 22nd March 1942. The Situation at 3:00 p.m., 5:40 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. 53
9. Malta Convoy. Operation 'Harpoon' 14th-15th June 1942 65
10. British and American Naval Commands, and Zones of Strategic and Operational Control in the Atlantic, 1942 97
11. The Western Atlantic, showing the Interlocking Convoy System, 1942-43 105
12. The Sortie by the Tirpitz in the Arctic, 6th-13th March 1942 121
13. Convoys PQ 17 and QP 13, 3rd-6th July 1942 137
14. Convoy PQ 17. Approximate Movements of Ships, 4th-28th July 1942 141
15. The Escape of the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen up-Channel from Brest, 12th-13th February 1942 153
16. The Attack on St. Nazaire, 27th-28th March 1942. Outward and Homeward Routes of Naval Forces. 169
17. The Attack on St. Nazaire, 28th March 1942. The Approach. 171
18. The Operations of Disguised German Raiders, 1st January-31st July 1942 177
19. Northern Madagascar, showing Operations for the Capture of Diego Suarez, 5th-7th May 1942 189
20. Air Cover on the Convoy Routes, August 1942 205
21. Convoy SC 94, 5th-13th August 1942 209
22. The Solomon Islands Theatre 220
23. The Battle of Savo Island, 9th August 1942 225
24. The Raid on Dieppe, 19th August 1942, showing German Defences and Initial Objectives of Assault Landings 242
25. The Operations of Disguised German Raiders, 1st August 31st December 1942 265
26. Convoy PQ 18. Typical cruising order with Full Escort 282
27. Convoys JW 51B and RA 51. General Movements 28th-31st December 1942 289
28. The Defence of Convoy JW 51B, 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. 31st December 1942 293
29. The Defence of Convoy JW 51B, 10:30 a.m.-12 noon, 31st December 1942 295
30. Convoy to Malta. Operation 'Pedestal', 11th-13th August 1942 305
31. The Mediterranean Theatre, showing Naval Command Areas and Associated Air Commands, November 1942-May 1943 313
32. Operation 'Torch'. Outward Movements of Assault and Advance Convoys and of Principal Naval Forces, 21St October-7th November 1942 317
33. Diagram of Typical Amphibious Assault 323
34. Operation 'Torch'. The Assault on Algiers, 7th-8th November 1942 323
35. Operation 'Torch'. The Assault on Oran 7th-8th November 1942 325
36. Operation 'Torch'. The Western Assaults, French Morocco, 7th-8th November 1942 329
37. Dispositions and Strength of Coastal Command Squadrons employed in the Battle of the Atlantic, February 1943, showing Group Boundaries 363
38. The Battle of Convoys SC 122 and HX 229, 6th-22nd March 1943 365
39. Bay of Biscay Air Anti-submarine Transit Patrols, January 1942-May 1943 369
40. The Battle of the Atlantic. The Triumph of the Escorts, May 1943, showing German U-boat Dispositions on 1st May and U-boats sunk in May 373
41. Allied Merchant Shipping, cumulative Gains and Losses, September 1939-August 1945 379
42. The Operations of Disguised German Raiders, 1st January-17th October 1943 405
Table   Page
1. ABDA Command Naval Forces, January 1942 6
2. Malta Convoys, 1st January-31st July, 1942 73
3. Italian and German (Mediterranean) Merchant Shipping Losses, 1st January-31st July, 1942 76
4. The Admiralty's Assessment of Maritime Air Requirements, March 1942 80
5. British Empire Aircraft Employed Mainly on Maritime Operations, March 1942 81
6. British and American Escort Vessel Requirements, March 1942 92
7. British, Allied and Neutral Merchant Shipping sunk by U-boats in all Theatres, January-July 1942 104
8. Western Atlantic Coastal Convoys, July I942 107
9. The Organisation of North Atlantic Escort Forces, June 1942 109
10. The Strength and Disposition of Coastal Command, June 1942 110
11. Convoy PQ 17. Cargo Delivered and Lost 143
12. The Air Offensive against Enemy Shipping by Direct Attacks at Sea. (Home Theatre only), January July 1942 165
13. German Air Attacks on Allied Shipping and Royal Air Force Sorties in Defence of Shipping. January-July 1942 166
14. The R.A.F's Air Minelaying Campaign (Home Theatre only), January-July 1942 167
15. The Raid on Dieppe (Operation 'Jubilee'). Forces taking part 246
16. Coastal Forces. Strength and Dispositions on 1st November, 1942 252
17. British Minesweeping Forces in September 1942, and Losses suffered, September
1939-September 1942
18. The Air Offensive against Enemy Shipping by Direct Attacks at Sea. (Home Theatre
only), August-December 1942
19. German Air Attacks on Shipping and Royal Air Force Sorties in Defence of Shipping,
August-December 1942
20. The R.A.F.'s Air Minelaying Campaign (Home Theatre only), August-December 1942 264
21. Convoy PQ 18. Escort and Covering Forces 280-281
22. Independent Sailings to North Russia, October-December 1942 289
23. Russian Convoys, 1st August, 1942-11th January, 1943 299
24. Operation 'Torch'. Advance and Assault Convoys 316-317
25. Operation 'Torch'. Maritime Forces Engaged 319
26. Italian and German (Mediterranean) Merchant Shipping Losses, 1st August-31st December, 1942 344
27. Malta Convoys, 1st August-31st December, 1942 346
28. Bombing Operations against U-boat Bases and Building Yards, January-May 1943 353
29. Allied Maritime Air Forces available for the Battle of the Atlantic Convoy Routes, February 1943 363
30. Atlantic Support Groups, March-May 1943 367
31. Allied Shipping Losses in Convoy and Independently sailed, and U-boats sunk. 1st January, 1942-31st May, 1943 378
32. The Work of the Escort and Support Groups, and of Air Escorts and Supports on the North Atlantic Convoy Routes, 14th April-31st May, 1943 380-381
33. German Air Attacks on Shipping and Royal Air Force Sorties in Defence of Shipping (Home Theatre only), January-May 1943 387
34. The Air Offensive against Enemy Shipping by Direct Attacks at Sea (Home Theatre only), January-May 1943 392
35. The RAF's Air Minelaying Campaign (Home Theatre only), January-May 1943 394
36. Comparative Results obtained by the Royal Air Force from Minelaying and from Direct Attacks on Enemy Shipping at Sea, January 1942 June 1943 395
37. Russian Convoys, 1st January-31st May, 1943 402
38. Italian and German (Mediterranean) Merchant Shipping Losses, 1st January-31st May, 1943 432
The Tilting of the Balance. Operation 'Torch', November 8th, 1942 Frontispiece
The Second Battle of Sirte, 22nd March 1942. H.M.S. Cleopatra laying smoke screens 56
The Second Battle of Sirte, 22nd March 1942. H.M.S. Kipling in action 56
Malta Convoy, March 1942. Merchant ship Pampas damaged after arriving Malta 56
Grand Harbour, Malta, February 1942, showing wreck of H.M.S. Maori 56
The light cruiser Penelope ('H.M.S. Pepperpot') after escaping from Malta, 8th April 1942 56
Convoy to Malta, Operation 'Vigorous', June 1942 56
Convoy to Malta, Operation 'Vigorous', 15th Cruiser Squadron and H.M.S. Centurion 56
'Convoy Air Cover', by Norman Wilkinson 92
German Type IX B (1,050 ton) Atlantic U-boat 92
U-71 under attack by Sunderland U. of No. 10 Squadron, 5th June 1942 92
H.M.S. Duke of York in a heavy sea while covering Convoy PQ 13, March 1942 128
Destroyers for Arctic convoys. H.M.Ss. Onslow and Ashanti 128
Torpedo-bomber attack on the Tirpitz by Albacores from H.M.S. Victorious, 13th March 1942 128
H.M.S. Sheffield in an Arctic storm 144
The German battleship Tirpitz in north Norway, 1942 144
The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau steaming up-Channel, 12th February 1942 160
Destroyer escort and fighter cover for the German Brest Squadron, 12th February 1942 160
The Prinz Eugen with A.A. guns in action, 12th February 1942 160
'The attack on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau by No. 825 F.A.A. Squadron', by Norman Wilkinson 160
'Motor torpedo and motor gunboats on patrol', by R. V. Pitchforth 160
The occupation of Madagascar. Assault forces in Ambararata Bay, 8th May 1942 200
The occupation of Madagascar. General view of Antsirane, 7th May 1942 200
U-597 attacked and sunk by Liberator H. of No. 120 Squadron R.A.F., 5th December 1942 200
German coastal convoy under attack by Beaufighters off the Texel, 18th April 1943 200
Escort carriers in the Atlantic, H.M.Ss. Biter and Avenger, November 1942 200
H.M.S. Viscount after ramming and sinking U-619, 15th October 1942 200
'Convoy entering Weymouth', by John Platt 200
The Raid on Dieppe, Operation 'Jubilee', 19th August 1942. Naval Forces on passage 248
The Raid on Dieppe, 19th August 1942. Assault craft making for the beaches under cover of smoke 248
The scene on the beach at Dieppe after the raid, 19th August 1942 248
Admiral Sir Max Horton and Admiral Sir John Tovey on board H.M.S. King George V 296
Convoy to North Russia PQ 18, September 1942. 296
Convoy PQ 18. A merchant ship blows up. 296
Convoy to Malta, Operation 'Pedestal', August 1942. Aircraft carriers and cruisers of the escort 320
Convoy to Malta, Operation 'Pedestal', H.M.S. Eagle sinking, 11th August 1942 320
Convoy to Malta, Operation 'Pedestal'. H.M.S. Indomitable on fire after receiving three bomb hits 320
Operation 'Pedestal'. The merchant ship Dorset under heavy air attack 320
Operation 'Pedestal'. The tanker Ohio hit by torpedo 320
Merchantmen in Malta Convoy, Operation 'Pedestal', under heavy air attack 320
The heavy ships of the covering force in Operation 'Torch', November 1942 336
The assault convoy KMF 1 for Operation 'Torch' on passage to Gibraltar, November 1942 336
Operation 'Torch', landing craft leaving for the beaches off Algiers, 9th November 1942 336
Algiers harbour in use as the main Allied base, April 1943 336
Series of photographs showing the destruction of U-465 by Liberator P. of No. 86 Squadron, 4th May 1943 360
U-boat base at Lorient under attack by Fortress aircraft of the U.S.A.A.F., 6th March 1943 360
The minelaying U-boat U-119 under depth charge attack by two R.A.A.F. Sunderlands, 29th April 1943 360
A homeward-bound Atlantic convoy as seen from a Coastal Command Fortress, October 1942 360
The shadow of a Sunderland over the spot where U-563 was destroyed, 31st May 1943 360
'Clear Flight Deck', by Stephen Bone 360
'An Escort Carrier', by Stephen Bone 360
Famous Escort Group Leaders. H.M.Ss. Duncan and Starling 384
An East Coast Convoy, May 1943 384
A U-boat forced to the surface by a Coastal Command Whitley, 16th May 1942 384
A U-boat on the surface and abandoning ship after attack by an escort vessel 384
Convoy JW 53 passing through pack ice, February 1943 400
Clearing ice from the forecastle of H.M.S. Scylla, in convoy JW 53, February 1943 400
Destroyers Matchless, Musketeer and Mahratta in rough seas in the Arctic 400
Merchantmen of Convoy JW 53 arrive in North Russia, February 1943 400
The destruction of U-660 by the corvettes Lotus and Starwort, 12th November 1942 432
H.M.S. Marne showing stern blown off by a U-boat's torpedo, 12th November 1942 432
The stern of H.M.S. Marne, showing damage caused by torpedo 432
Damage to H.M.S. Delhi by a bomb hit, 20th November 1942 432
The Hunt-class destroyer Avon Vale, showing damage caused by air torpedo, 29th January 1943 432

Author's Preface

The sources used for this second volume of 'The War at Sea' are, in general, similar to those described in my preface to the first volume; but, as is to be expected, certain new problems have arisen. As the acute strains and difficulties of the Defensive Phase, with its inevitable but tragic toll of Allied maritime losses receded, the opportunity to keep and to preserve better records improved in the British services. Conversely, as the tide of the enemy's offensive and success began to ebb, his written records showed some deterioration, and his losses produced gaps in them. To fill the gaps in the German records has proved no easy task, and I have relied more than ever on Commander M. G. Saunders, R.N., and the Admiralty's Foreign Documents Section to meet my needs in that respect. He and his assistants have shown uncanny skill in tracing what happened when the original sources, such as the logs of enemy ships, were lost when those ships were sunk. I find it hard to express the sum of my gratitude for the thorough and painstaking work of this nature undertaken on my behalf.

When the first draft of this second volume was less than half finished I was lucky enough to obtain the help of Commander Geoffrey Hare, R.N. His enthusiasm for the work and his thoroughness in checking the many obscure points which inevitably arise have taken an immense burden off me; and without his assistance the preparation of this volume would never have progressed so fast or so smoothly.

I also owe a great debt to my colleagues who are engaged on the campaign volumes of this series, Captains G. R. G. Allen, F. C. Flynn and C. T. Addis, Royal Navy, who have generously allowed me to exploit their own research in the fields with which they are particularly concerned, and to use it for my own purposes. They have also read and criticised the chapters dealing with the maritime war in their own theatres. Without their help it would have been impossible for one writer to cover an ever-widening field of battle.

It has not been easy to decide how much space should be given to operations which were wholly or mainly undertaken by the United States Navy. That service's tremendous accomplishments are being fully and graphically described in Professor S. E. Morison's many volumes of the 'History of United States Naval Operations', and it would plainly have been redundant for me to duplicate what he has written. I have not found it possible to work to any precise rules regarding the inclusion, condensation or omission of American


fought battles. I have indeed not tried to formulate such rules, but have instead tried to work to what seemed to me sensible, if arbitrary, principles. Thus, if the fate of important British territories was concerned, or if the British Empire's maritime forces, even though under American command, were present in appreciable strength, I have felt it to be justifiable to record the doings of the latter at some length. But if, as in the North and Central Pacific theatres the strategy was American-born and the forces came almost wholly from the same country's services, I have dealt with events briefly, even cursorily. It thus happens that more space is devoted to the Battle of the Java Sea than to the campaign in the Aleutians, or to the great battles of Coral Sea and Midway. The summary manner in which the latter are here treated does not, of course, indicate any desire to belittle the importance of those battles, nor to conceal admiration for the manner in which they were fought. Although after the early months of 1942 the Pacific War receives relatively little space in this volume, it is intended to deal more fully with events in that vast theatre after the British Pacific Fleet arrived there; but that does not occur until my final volume. I must, however, acknowledge my debt to Professor Morison, not only for the value that his books have been to me, but for his kindness in answering many questions concerning operations in which his country's ships as well as British ones were involved. The U.S. Navy Department's Office of Naval History under Rear-Admiral J. B. Heffernan, U.S.N., has also given me generous help in comparing British records with its own.

It was to be expected that criticisms of my first volume would reach me after publication, but I have been encouraged by the fact that they have been generous rather than severe. It has been very noticeable that critics have regarded my sins as being more those of omission than of commission, particularly with regard to events in which they themselves took part. They may perhaps not fully realise the extent to which compression has to be applied to keep these volumes within their appointed compass; nor that my charter is not to tell the story of naval operations in full detail (as was that of Sir Julian Corbett and his successors after the 1914-18 war), but to describe the War at Sea as a whole, and from a two-service angle.

In the period covered by this book maritime operations fall naturally into three approximately equal phases, namely from the 1st of January to the 31st of July 1942, from the 1st of August 1942 to the end of that year, and from the 1st of January to the 31st of May 1943. To help the reader to relate what is here described to other important events, not directly connected with the war at sea, I have inserted at the beginning of each of the three phases a chronological summary of such events. Once again I must acknowledge my debt to the many officers of


all services who have read my drafts and given me their experienced advice. My first volume seems to have penetrated to distant lands, from some of which I have received most interesting letters containing recollections which have been of use to me in this second volume. The generosity of these correspondents has touched me, showing as it does the warmth of the affection felt towards the Royal Navy by those who served in it, sometimes only temporarily, during the war.

I wish particularly to thank Mrs L. Rosewarne for her permission to reveal, in the heading to Chapter XV, the name of the writer of the famous and very moving 'Airman's letter to his Mother', and Mrs B. G. Scurfield for her permission to quote from her husband's equally fine letter in Chapter XIII. I am once again indebted to the Director, Mr F. G. G. Carr, and the Trustees of the National Maritime Museum for permission to reproduce certain of the works of British War Artists, the originals of which are the property of the Museum, and to Mr A. J. Charge of the Imperial War Museum for assistance in selecting illustrations. Captain H. J. Reinicke, formerly of the German Navy, has allowed me to reproduce certain photographs in his possession.

Lieutenant-Commander P. K. Kemp, R.N., the Admiralty archivist, has been most helpful to me in finding references and checking quotations, and Mr Christopher Lloyd, Assistant Professor of History in the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, has been kind enough to verify various historical points. For the whole of the Royal Air Force's part in the maritime war I owe more than I can express to Captain D. V. Peyton-Ward, R.N., of the Air Historical Branch. That branch and the Admiralty's Historical Section under RearAdmiral R. M. Bellairs have again given me quite invaluable help. Mr G. H. Hurford of the Admiralty has once again helped with the laborious but essential work of indexing the book. Finally, I cannot close this foreword without repeating that without the untiring advice of Professor J. R. M. Butler, the editor of this whole series, this volume, like the first, could never have reached the public.


Cabinet Office,
  August 1956.


'The [British] Navy . . . remained vigorous; the possessor of actual, and yet more of reserved strength in the genius and pursuits of the people - in a continuous tradition, which struck its roots far back in a great past - and above all in a body of officers, veterans of . . . earlier wars, . . . steeped to the core in those professional habits and feelings which . . . transmit themselves quickly to the juniors'.
  A. T. Mahan. The Influence of Sea Power on the French Revolution and Empire, Vol. I, p. 69.


Chronological Summary of Principal Events

The 3 "Chronology" sections have been gathered together below. --HyperWar


Chronological Summary of Principal Events, January 1942-July 1942

1942 Atlantic Arctic Mediterranean Indian Ocean Pacific Europe
January Start of U-boat campaign in American and Canadian waters resulting in heavy shipping losses 1-11 PQ 7B
8-17 PQ 8
21 Start of enemy counter-offensive in North Africa Japanese over-run Malaya 2 Fall of Manila
15 ABDA area established
February Heavy shipping losses in the Caribbean and off the North American coast 1-10 PQ 9 - PQ 10
6-23 PQ 11
12-15 Malta convoy operations from Egypt   Japanese over-run Netherlands East Indies
15 Fall of Singapore
ABDA area dissolved
27 Battle of Java Sea
12 Scharnhorst and Gneisenau escape up-channel
March Continued heavy shipping losses off the American coast 1-12 PQ 12 Sortie by Tirpitz against this Convoy
20-31 PQ 13
20-23 Malta Convoy operations leading to the Second Battle of Sirte 8 Fall of Rangoon
23 Japanese occupy Andaman Islands
8 Japanese land in New Guinea
Surrender on Java
Heavy Japanese air raid on Darwin
28 Raid on St. Nazaire
April Continued heavy shipping losses off the American coast 8-19 PQ 14
26 April - 5 May PQ 15
Period of sustained enemy air attacks on Malta. 47 fighter aircraft flown to Malta from aircraft carriers
5 Tenth submarine Flotilla leaves Malta
5 Japanese naval air raid on Colombo
9 Japanese naval air raid on Trincomalee. Eastern fleet withdraws to East Africa. Japanese striking force returns to the Pacific
4 Reorganisation of command areas in the Pacific
18 American air raid on Tokyo
May Heavy shipping losses in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico 21-30 PQ 16 Continued heavy enemy air attacks on Malta. 77 Fighter aircraft flown in from aircraft carriers 4 British landings in Madagascar
15 Japanese reach Indian frontier
7 Battle of the Coral Sea  
June Heavy shipping losses in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Bay of Biscay offensive intensified with search-light-fitted aircraft 27 June-11 July PQ 17 12-16 Malta Convoy operations 'Harpoon' and 'Vigorous'
21 Fall of Tobruk
  4 Battle of Midway
7 Japanese landings in the Aleutians
July Shipping losses in the West Atlantic mush less severe as result of introduction of full convoy system 5-10 Severe losses in PQ 17 1 Enemy reaches El Alamein. Axis advance unchecked
22 Tenth submarine Flotilla returns to Malta
Japanese submarine attacks off the east coast of South Africa   27 Fall of Rostov


Chronological Summary of Principal Events, August 1942-December 1942

1942 Atlantic Arctic Mediterranean Indian Ocean Pacific Europe
August U-Boat activity transferred from North American coast to convoy routes in North Atlantic, the Freetown area, and Brazilian and Venezuelan waters
22 Brazil declares war on Germany and Italy
  10-14 Malta convoy operation 'Pedestal'   7 American land on Guadalcanal
9 Battle of Savo Is.
24 Battle of Eastern Solomons
19 Dieppe raid
September U-boat activity continues against shipping on convoy routes in North America, Freetown area and Venezuelan waters 2-17 PQ 18
Further Arctic convoys suspended until the successful completion of operation 'Torch'
14 Assault on Tobruk. Operation 'Agreement'   17 Japanese advance on Port Moresby halted
26 Australians start counter-offensive and drive Japanese back
October U-boat activity continues in the same waters and also off the west coast of South Africa   23 Eighth Army launches counter-offensive at El Alamein and breaks through Axis defences   11-12 Battle of Cape Esperance
26 Battle of Santa Cruz
November U-boat activity continues against convoys in North Atlantic and Venezuelan waters. Collapse of Bay offensive.   8 Allied landings in French North Africa. Operation 'Torch'
20 Arrival of 'Stoneage' convoy raises the siege of Malta
27 French fleet scuttles itself at Toulon
German U-boat off the east coast of South Africa 13-15 Battle of Guadalcanal
30 Battle of Tassafaronga
14 Enemy enters 'unoccupied' France
18 Russian counterattack at Stalingrad begins
December U-boat activity continues against convoys in North Atlantic and off the North coast of South America 15-25 JW 51A
22 Dec.-3 Jan. JW 51B attacked by Hipper and Lützow
Eighth Army continues advance in Libya      


Chronological Summary of Principal Events, January 1943-May 1943

1943 Atlantic Arctic Mediterranean Indian Ocean Pacific Europe
January U-boats mainly operating in the central Atlantic and off the north coast of South America. Heavy bombing attacks started on Biscay U-boat bases 17-27 JW 52 23 Tripoli captured

29 Eighth Army crosses Tunisian frontier

  2 Japanese driven out of Papua  
February Heavy U-boat attacks against shipping on North Atlantic convoy routes 15-27 JW 53     7 Japanese withdraw from Guadalcanal 2 German capitulation at Stalingrad
14 Russians recapture Rostov
March Heavy shipping losses on North Atlantic convoy routes
Five support groups operating
Atlantic 'Air Gap' closed.
Introduction of 10 cm. radar revitalizes Bay offensive
Further arctic convoys postponed because escorts were needed to reinforce Atlantic convoys 29 Eighth Army breaks through Mareth Line   2 Battle of the Bismarck Sea  
April Continued shipping losses on North Atlantic convoy routes and off Freetown
26 April-5 May Battle of convoy ONS 5
      7-11 Japanese air offensive against Allied positions in the Solomons and Papua is a complete failure  
May Battle of the Atlantic turns in Allies' favour
37 U-boats destroyed in North Atlantic
Shipping losses greatly reduced
Bay of Biscay offensive takes a heavy toll.
  7 Tunis and Bizerta captured
12 Axis surrender in Tunisia
17-26 First through Mediterranean convoy since 1941
  11 Attu recaptured by the Americans  


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Rick Pitz for the HyperWar Foundation