Mountbatten brings home HMS Kelly

HMS Kelly, commanded by Lord Louis Mountbatten

In May 1940 Lord Louis Mountbatten was commander of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. He had been ordered to escort HMS Birmingham when he was diverted to hunt for a submarine. The following extract from his report provides a detailed account of subsequent events:

I had to decide how long to remain hunting this submarine without prejudicing my chance of rejoining the BIRMINGHAM before she made contact with the enemy. I knew from the aircraft sighting report that we were very near the position of this submarine and felt she should be destroyed if time permitted. When, however, at 2018/9 [9th May] an enemy report of four minelayers, three destroyers and one torpedo boat was received from aircraft, I immediately proceeded with the KANDAHAR at 32 knots to rejoin the BIRMINGHAM, who was only just in sight on the horizon and signalled that she had increased to 28 knots. At 2050/9 a destroyer was sighted on the horizon. She turned out to be the BULLDOG, who requested permission to join me, having lost her own force to the Northward after being ordered to sink a floating mine. She came in astern and was endeavouring to catch up. At 2052/9 a Dornier was sighted and fire opened. Continue reading “Mountbatten brings home HMS Kelly”

Polish destroyer Grom sunk

The Polish destroyer 'Grom' sunk on the 4th May 1940

On the outbreak of war the Polish Navy despatched a number of ships to Britain with a a view to escorting convoys to Poland. With Poland swiftly overrun they operated alongside the Royal Navy. In May 1940 the Grom was assisting with operations to land troops and supplies at Narvik when she was bombed by German planes, one bomb hitting one of her loaded torpedoes causing an explosion that broke her in two. 59 men died.

Graphic footage of the action off Narvik and the rescue of men from the Grom: Continue reading “Polish destroyer Grom sunk”

U-49 sunk off Norway

HMS Bulldog, the same class of destroyer as HMS Brazen

On the morning of the 15th of April H.M.S. Fearless and Brazen were ordered to proceed ahead of a British troop convoy passing through Andfiord, and hunt a U-Boat reported by a military outpost to be north of Andorja Island. Passage through Topsundet was made at 25 knots, and Vaags Fiord was entered at 1026, Brazen being then moved out to 1 mile on the port beam, speed being reduced first to 18 knots then to 12 knots at 1040, and course was shaped to pass close to Andorja Island. Continue reading “U-49 sunk off Norway”

The Second Battle of Narvik

Following the [permalink id=4679 text=’first battle on the 10th April’] the Germans reinforced their forces in Narvik with three further destroyers but found themselves short on fuel and ammunition. They were at a disadvantage when the British attacked again on the 13th April with a force led by the old battleship HMS Warspite, launched in 1913.

HMS Warspite, led the British forces on 13th April

The launch of the Warspite’s Swordfish aircraft gave the the British a further advantage. From the Ministry of Information account of the action: Continue reading “The Second Battle of Narvik”

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