US destroyers ambush Japanese at Vella Gulf

The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Arashi, photographed in 1940. The fast destroyers were used for the 'Tokyo Express'.

As the eighth torpedo was about to be released I caught sight of telltale white torpedo tracks fanning out in our direction, the nearest within 800 meters. I shouted again for hard starboard helm. In the same moment I saw a pillar of fire shoot up from amidship of Arashi, and two from Kawakaze. Lead ship Hagikaze was beyond and in line with these two victims so that I could not see her. Looking again at the water, I held my breath. Three torpedoes were streaking toward Shigure’s bow, which was swinging rapidly to the right.




HMS Lightning sunk in E boat attack

The Royal Navy's greyhounds - destroyers at sea in line ahead, with a fine bow wave. Photograph taken from on board the destroyer FAULKNOR

The stricken ship quickly lost way and became a sitting target. In a desperate attempt to save her, the skipper gave orders to go astern to relieve pressure on the forward bulkheads that were still holding. But I could only watch as our attacker slowly circled the dead ship and come round to the starboard side. I heard his engines speed up as he turned to run in towards us.




Churchill declares that the U-Boat war is top priority

A tanker explodes after being torpedoed by a U-boat in the Caribbean.

Even if the U-boats increase in number, there is no doubt that a superior proportionate increase in the naval and air escort will be a remedy. A ship not sunk is better than a new ship built. Therefore, in order to reduce the waste in the merchant shipping convoys, we have decided, by successive steps during the last six months, to throw the emphasis rather more on the production of escort vessels, even though it means some impingement on new building.




Arctic convoy ambushed by German cruisers

Some of the gun's crew of the HMS SHEFFIELD which took part in the battle off the North Cape, 31 December 1942.

Each time the enemy gave ground he closed in, forcing him outside gun-range of the convoy and towards our own cruiser covering force. After 40 minutes ONSLOW was hit forward and Captain Sherbrooke was severely wounded in the face by shrapnel, losing the sight of one eye.




Royal Navy’s Force K from Malta on the attack again

The British destroyer HMS NUBIAN returning to Malta after patrolling the coast of Tunis. She had been participating in operations by light naval forces based at Malta to patrol the Sicilian Narrows off the coast of Tunis and cut off the German Afrika Korps's escape route from North Africa.

Our first shot was a star shell which illuminated the whole scene. All our ships directed their fire at the destroyer. We turned our searchlight on her and all the details of a small destroyer became starkly evident. Within three minutes, hot glowing circles appeared on her superstructure and hull from the hits that she was sustaining. Things were happening very fast.




Japanese surprised at Battle of Cape Esperance

USS Duncan underway in the south Pacific on 7 October 1942, five days before she was sunk in the Battle of Cape Esperance. Photographed from USS Copahee (ACV-12), which was then engaged in delivering aircraft to Guadalcanal. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

We sent out rescue craft the next morning to pick up survivors. Many of both sides were found, but few japanese were brought in. Some of the Naval personnel had gaping shrapnel wounds, severed limbs, or they were burned, with oil covering their bodies. They were all in various stages of shock. I counted over fifty American bodies lying on the beach in neat rows. These were the guys who had been recovered by our rescue teams and were either dead when found or died on the way to the beach.




HMS Bedouin charges the Italian fleet

The 'Tribal class' destroyer HMS Bedouin at anchor in Iceland when she was waiting to join an Arctic convoy.

I knew the bridge had been hit; the compass repeater was shaken out of its gimbals and I had had water and paint flakes dashed at me, but the splendid Bedouin was forging ahead and closing the gap minute by minute, Montgomery was passing news to the plot and Moller was standing by to fire torpedoes – wounded himself and with his assistant lying dead beside him.




Under Stuka dive bomb attack in the Mediterranean

The old World war I battleship HMS Centurion had been reclassified as a convoy escort ship and was at the centre of Operation Vigorous.

The enemy was obviously using every available aircraft in a determined effort to claim as many victims as possible before nightfall restricted aerial activity. But, in spite of the number of bombers engaged, they obtained no more hits. As the day slowly advanced, weary cursing, sweating gunners, firing as fast as their ammunition could be loaded, cast many an apprehensive glance at the sun. They dreaded the coming twilight but hoped that the following darkness would bring them a little respite.




Italian battle fleet attacks Malta convoy

HMS CLEOPATRA throws out smoke to shield the convoy as HMS EURYALUS elevates her forward 5.25 inch guns to shell the Italian Fleet.

A series of flashes in the smoke followed by a dull, rumbling boom announced the opening of the surface engagement. As if this was a signal, a formation of torpedo bombers flew into sight, skimming just above the sea. Simultaneously an even larger group of high level bombers were briefly glimpsed through the smoke and clouds on the opposite side of the convoy.




‘Typical Examples of Performance of His Majesty’s Ships’

A heavy sea breaking over the bows of the battleship HMS RENOWN.

In an annex to the weekly Naval Military and Air Reports on the progress of the war, there was was a brief summary of the huge serviceability issues that arose from from warships being at sea for extended periods of time: