More ships torpedoed and the state of the Red Army

The Naval, Military and Air Situation up to 12 noon on the 9th November 1939 as reported to the War Cabinet:

Naval Situation

German attack on Sea-borne Trade

1. During the week under review only one small British ship has been lost by enemy action. This was the S.S. Carmarthen Coast (961 tonnes), which was mined off Seaham Harbour. Two of the crew were killed by the explosion, the remainder were saved

S.S. Brandon (6,668 tonnes) reported having been missed by a torpedo 120 miles west of the Hebrides on 4th November. She was not in convoy at the time. With reference to the sinking by submarine of S.S. Clan Chisholm on 17th October off Cape Finisterre, S.S. Capetown Castle on arrival at Cape Town reported having picked up a lifeboat with 19 Lascars on 21st October. It is believed all the crew of the Clan Chisholm are now accounted for.

5. There have been no attacks by aircraft surface raiders reported during the past week, nor has there been any reliable information of the pocket battleships previously reported on the trade routes. Three British ships reported overdue at Freetown in last week’s resume are, however, still unaccounted for, and the M.V. Trevanion (5,299 tons), which sailed from Table Bay on 17th October and was due at Freetown on the 1st November, has also not yet arrived.

Anti-submarine operations

6. The reduction in submarine activity has been reflected in the anti-submarine operations. Only six attacks are being carried out, one by surface ship, one by submarine and one by aircraft. No definite success has been claimed.

8. Five bodies of German officers and semen, wearing escape apparatus, have been washed up on the Kentish coast, but the identity of the submarine concerned has not been established.

Convoys.

11. 26 convoys, comprising 319 ships, have sailed from or arrived at, ports of the United Kingdom during the period under review. No ships have been lost on convoy. Convoys have varied in size from 52 ships to only 5.

On an average 17 convoys have been at sea each day, requiring the daily employment on this service of one battleship, four cruisers and twenty-one destroyers, besides escort vessels and trawlers. In addition the French have five destroyers or Scouts at sea daily escorting between Gibraltar and Western Approaches. Armed Merchant Cruisers have been taken into service for ocean escort duties.

Defensive equipment of merchant vessels.

13. Up to 31st October, 130 fast liners and 654 other British and Dominion merchant vessels had been given a low angle defensive armament. The majority of the fast liners and approximately 40% of the remainder also have a high angled gun. For ships sailing in East Coast convoys a machine gun for anti-aircraft purposes is provided. At least one naval rating is provided for each ship defensively equipped, but the bulk of the guns’ crews are taken from ships crews. Arrangements are made for special training of guns’ crews when ships are in harbour.

It is intended to arm all ships of 500 tonnes gross and over, which involves the total provision of 3,600 equipments. In addition, 19 selected vessels have been equipped as armed Merchant Cruisers during this period.

14. The value of defensive armaments was demonstrated in the case of the S.S. Stonepool, which was attacked by a U-boat on 13th October whilst on passage from Milford Haven to St Vincent, Cape Verde Isles. The Master immediately altered course to put the U-boat astern and brought his gun into action with such effect that the submarine broke off the action 15 minutes later. The Stonepool, though holed, returned safely to harbour.

Military Situation

Western Front

Operations

22. German operations during the period under review have been limited to patrols, minor attacks and artillery harassing fire in the Rhine – Moselle sector. The main centres of such activity have been the Warndt Forest, Forbach, the Blies Valley and the area to the north of Wissemburg. On the Rhine Front, the flooded river has been gradually subsiding and the Germans have been able to carry out fortification work.

31.

Deductions drawn from a comparison of numerous reports on the efficiency of the Red Army in Poland are as follows: —

The first armoured units to enter the country made a good impression, but the rest of the army was of poor quality. Officers appeared to lack intelligence and to be poorly educated; the men were generally well behaved, but seemed apathetic and of poor physique. All were delighted at the opportunities for purchasing freely and paid cash for everything. The equipment of the first line units was good; that of the second line very poor. Clothing, even in first-line units, was bad, and boots were insufficient and of poor quality.

The Soviet tanks seemed powerful and very numerous, but they had a disproportionate number of breakdowns.

The general impression gained regarding petrol supply was that the reserves carried by each column allowed for a considerable radius of action, but that, once this was expended, there were apt to be great delays for further supplies were brought up.

Air Situation

Royal Air Force Operations.

Bomber Command.

45. Bomber aircraft in this country and with the Advance Air Striking Force in France have carried out no operations over enemy territory during the last seven days. Fighter squadrons attached to the Advance Air Striking Force have made a total of 105 routine and interception patrols. On 8th November a patrol of two Hurricanes engaged two enemy reconnaissance aircraft at 27,000 feet. One of the enemy was shot down and crashed near a French village. On another occasion nine German fighters forced a Hurricane aircraft down in France.

The “M” Balloon Unit despatched a number of balloons carrying leaflets over Germany on the 4th and 6th November. A total of 300,000 leaflets were distributed by this means.

See TNA CAB 66/3/20

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