The First Battle of Heligoland Bight I

British light cruiser HMS Arethusa, Commodore Tyrwhitt’s flagship in the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914 in the First World War

The outbreak of the First World War occurred at a moment of extreme good fortune for the Royal Navy. Instead of the normal summer manoeuvres in 1914, there was held a test mobilisation of the Third Fleet – the reserve units that would be brought to operational readiness in case of war. This began on July 15, 20,000 reservists having been called up, and on July 17-18 a grand review of the entire fleet took place at Spithead. On the days following, the fleet put to sea for tactical exercises; after this, on July 23, the units of the Third Fleet began to return to their home ports. On July 26, with the diplomatic situation having sharply deteriorated, Battenberg, as First Sea Lord, suspended the demobilisation. It thus came about that the First Fleet, soon to be called the Grand Fleet, was effectively on a war footing and on the night of July 29/30 it sailed through the Dover Straits en route for its battle stations at Scapa Flow, Cromarty and Rosyth.

The Grand Fleet, at the outbreak of war, consisted of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battle Squadrons and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, a total of twenty one dreadnoughts, four battle cruisers and eight predreadnoughts. In addition there were the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, comprising eight armoured cruisers; and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron of four ships, with nine other cruisers and forty two destroyers. It left behind the Channel Fleet, based on Portland, consisting of the 5th, 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons, with a total of nineteen predreadnoughts. At Harwich, under Commodore Tyrwhitt, who reported to Jellicoe, was a force of light cruisers and destroyers, together with a force of the newer submarines under Commodore Keyes. In addition, there were a series of Patrol Flotillas based on Dover, the Humber, the Tyne and the Forth. The 12th Cruiser Squadron patrolled the western end of the Channel.

The bases to which it was steaming were not, however, by any means in an ideal state. The navy’s traditional bases at Portsmouth and Plymouth were too far from the North Sea to be useful and Chatham, on the east coast, was also too far to the south. It had been resolved, therefore, as early as 1903 to establish a first class base at Rosyth, on the Firth of Forth, where the excellent anchorage was roughly equidistant from Heligoland and the Skagerrak. The extensive works required, however, were frequently postponed for economic reasons; in addition, as Professor Marder observed, the Firth of Forth did have a number of disadvantages, which contributed to the delay, such as its exposure to danger from minelaying, the limited area of deep water above the line of defence, and the tidal stream above what Fisher, who disliked Rosyth, called ‘that beastly bridge’.3 Since Rosyth would not be fully ready until 1915, it was resolved to look about for what were termed ‘advanced bases of a temporary and auxiliary character’, and these were found at Cromarty Firth and Scapa Flow in the Orkneys.

Scapa Flow and its strategic significance was succinctly described by one of its historians:

A large area of water, some 120 square miles of it, almost totally enclosed by a ring of islands, the South Isles of Orkney, and this whole mosaic of land and sea, poised strategically just off the north coast of Scotland, divides the long grey surges of the Atlantic Ocean from the equally inhospitable waters of the North Sea. It is this combination of geographical location and natural formation which has given Scapa Flow its unique character and its potential as a naval base; a potential it has held throughout the centuries, for whoever controls it commands the North Sea with easy access to either side of the British Isles and the wide oceans of the world beyond.

Originally there were nine major entrances to Scapa Flow, but four of these were later blocked during the Second World War by massive causeways. The principal entrance used by the larger units of the fleet was Hoxa Sound, between the islands of Flotta and South Ronaldsay; smaller vessels such as destroyers tended to used Switha Sound, between Flotta and Switha. The actual appearance of Scapa Flow was lyrically described by the Orkney author Eric Linklater, who wrote:

On calm days the islands floated on a deep-blue sea in a charm of shadowed cliffs and reddish moors, the harvest was ripe, and the fields were bearded with bright gold or gay in a lovely green. The forehead of the hills rose in smooth lines against a lucent sky, and rippled lakes provoked a passion for mere water.

Thus Scapa Flow in the golden days of summer; but during less clement weather it was a grim place to be. Linklater also wrote of the experience of a south easterly gale as enduring ‘such a hurly burly, so rude and ponderous a buffeting, that one could hardly deny a sense of outrage, a suspicion that the wind’s violence was a personal enmity.’

In the Napoleonic wars a battery was built, to defend Longhope Bay together with two Martello towers; but during the following century little more was done to make Scapa Flow a secure naval base, and it was virtually defenceless when the Grand Fleet arrived. Nonetheless, it had its advocates, most prominent of whom was Fisher who, after the war, wrote in characteristically boastful terms, to The Times, to claim to have discovered it:

Once looking at a chart in my secluded room at the Admiralty, in 1905, I saw a large landlocked sheet of water unsurveyed and nameless. It was Scapa Flow. One hour after this an Admiralty survey ship was en route there. Secretly she went for none but myself and my most excellent friend the Hydrographer knew.

It was to Fisher that Jellicoe wrote as late as January 1915 to express his concern at the complete defencelessness of Scapa Flow as a base for the Grand Fleet:

If you would only just compare the orders for the protection of the High Seas Fleet … with the arrangements here you would be horrified. I wonder if I ever slept at all. Thank goodness the Germans imagine we have proper defences. At least so I imagine – otherwise there would be no Grand Fleet left now.

Churchill was particularly concerned about the seriousness of the submarine threat to Scapa Flow. Prompted by a letter from Beatty complaining that ‘we are gradually being pushed out of the North Sea and off our own particular perch,’ he demanded action, addressing a note to the First Sea Lord, the Third Sea Lord, the Fourth Sea Lord and the Naval Secretary on October 24:

Every nerve must be strained to reconcile the fleet to Scapa. Successive lines of submarine defences should be prepared, reinforced by electric-contact mines as proposed by the Commander-in-Chief. Nothing should stand in the way of the equipment of this anchorage with every possible means of security. The First Lord and the First Sea Lord will receive a report of progress every third day until the work is completed and the Commander-in- Chief satisfied.

Nevertheless, in the years before the war, in spite of Fisher’s enthusiasm for Scapa Flow, he and Churchill had supported the Admiralty’s view in 1912 that Cromarty Firth would be a better choice as the advanced base for the main fleet. The conclusive reason for this appears to have been the Admiralty’s finding that the sea could run so high inside Scapa Flow as to make the use of a floating dock and repairing facilities at times impracticable. The recommendation went on to note that Cromarty was connected to the rail network of the UK. In addition:

Apart from its primary value as a second class naval base Cromarty has a secondary and slightly less important value as a War Anchorage. Under the protection of the defences provided for the security of the floating repairing facilities, vessels containing fuel and stores of all kinds may be accumulated for the use of the fleet, forming a source of supply alternative and supplementary to Rosyth. Owing to the vast size of modern fleets, which makes their accommodation at a single anchorage almost impossible, the provision of supplementary war anchorage is a matter of great importance.

Cromarty, the Admiralty recommended, should be heavily fortified, whilst Scapa Flow should not be provided with fixed defences. This, it appears, was due solely to the cost involved. Cromarty, unlike Scapa Flow, could easily be made impregnable to attack from submarines; the multitude of entrances to Scapa Flow made the cost greater than, it was thought, justifiable. Thus it was that the Grand Fleet’s principal base at the outbreak of war was undefended. By comparison, the defences of the bases of the High Seas Fleet were, as Professor Marder put it, ‘simply terrific.’

The High Seas Fleet, which had been cruising off the Norwegian coast, was not immediately recalled because it was feared that this step would escalate the diplomatic crisis. By July 26, however, William was prepared to wait no longer and ordered the recall of the fleet. It returned to its bases to prepare to execute the War Orders issued to it. These were summarised by Scheer:

The order underlying this plan of campaign was this: The Fleet must strike when circumstances are favourable; it must therefore seek battle with the English Fleet only when a state of equality has been achieved by the methods of guerrilla warfare. It thus left the Commander-in-Chief of the High Seas Fleet freedom of action to exploit any favourable opportunity and put no obstacles in his way, but it required of him that he should not risk the whole Fleet in battle until there was a probability of victory. Moreover, it started from the assumption that opportunities would arise of doing the enemy damage when, as was to be expected, he initiated a blockade of the German Bight which was in accordance with the rules of International Law.

This assumption, that the British would penetrate at once into the Heligoland Bight, underpinned German thinking to the point that if it simply did not happen, Germany might in the words of Ivo Nicolai Lambi, be in the position of approaching the war ‘with no definite plans for naval operations against Britain and the Triple Entente.’ This assumption was held, as has been pointed out, after a series of war games to test the likely outcome of a British imposition of a blockade. In readiness for the imminent attack, the High Seas Fleet began on July 31 to move through the Kiel Canal to its bases on the North Sea. By the outbreak of war on August 4 the two dreadnought squadrons of the battle fleet, the I and II, were respectively stationed at the mouth of the Jade River and behind the Jade Bar, while Scheer’s II Squadron of eight predreadnoughts was assigned to the mouth of the Elbe between Cuxhaven and Brunsbüttel. Hipper’s I Scouting Group of four battle cruisers was at the mouth of the Jade. The other Scouting Groups, consisting of light cruisers and destroyers, were deployed around the entrances to the Jade, Elbe and Weser rivers.

On both sides, the taut expectation of immediate action was disappointed, and within two weeks this was already being strongly felt. Tyrwhitt wrote from Harwich on August 15 that he was starting to feel ‘rather bored at looking for nothing’ and that he was ‘beginning to give up hope of getting at the Germans for some time.’ Beatty was similarly disillusioned, writing to his wife on August 24:

We are still wandering about the face of the ocean and apparently get no nearer to the end. In fact we have not begun yet. This waiting is the deuce and, as far as we can see, has no limit. We are entirely in the hands of our friends the Germans as to when he [sic] will come out and be whacked.

The Germans shared the British feeling of surprise, but for Scheer the postponement of any immediate confrontation was all to the good:

The fact that an English offensive did not materialise in the first weeks of the war gave cause for reflection, for with every day’s grace the enemy gave us he was abandoning some of the advantage of his earlier mobilisation, while our coast defences were improved. The sweep of light cruisers and destroyers which, starting out star-wise from Heligoland, had scoured the seas over a circumference of about 100 sea miles had produced nothing.

Roger Keyes, as commodore commanding the submarines, based at Harwich, was even more discontented than his friend Tyrwhitt, especially following an incident in the southern part of the North Sea on August 18. That day, two German light cruisers, Stralsund and Strassburg, covered by a screen of submarines, came out in search of British patrols. They met the light cruiser Fearless, commanded by Captain Wilfred Blunt, which was leading sixteen destroyers of the Harwich 1st Flotilla. Fearless was a 3,440 ton cruiser of the Active class, armed with 10 – 4 inch guns; Stralsund and Strassburg were both 4,550 tons of the Breslau class, carrying 12 – 4.1inch guns. Blunt, however, after having gone in pursuit of Stralsund, wrongly identified her as the armoured cruiser Yorck, of 9,350 tons, mounting 4 – 8.2 inch guns and 10 5.9 inch guns. Fearing that the armoured cruiser’s guns would outrange those of his force, Blunt turned away and called for support from Tyrwhitt. Had Stralsund continued steaming southwest in pursuit of Fearless, she would have sailed into a trap; but her captain being warned of this, she turned away.

This prompted an anguished letter from Keyes to Leveson, the Director of Operations of the Naval War Staff, on August 21:

When are we going to make war and make the Germans realise that wherever they come out – destroyers, cruisers, battleships or all three – they will be fallen on and attacked? I feel sick and sore … a light cruiser equal in offensive power to the Fearless, has put 16 destroyers and the Fearless to flight. However one glosses it over, those are the facts. Don’t think I am blaming Blunt or his captains . But it is not by such incidents we will get the right atmosphere.

Burning to take the offensive, Tyrwhitt and Keyes conceived a plan for a raid into the Heligoland Bight. Strictly speaking, both of them were under the command of Rear Admiral Christian, the overall commander of the Southern Force, but they were resolved themselves to take the initiative. The plan was based on information gathered by Keyes’s submarines about the German patrols in the Bight. It was noted that their practice was for light cruisers to lead out a flotilla of destroyers each evening; the destroyers then fanned out during the night, returning the following morning to rejoin the light cruisers 20 miles NW of Heligoland. Keyes ‘was of opinion that a well organised drive, commencing inshore before dawn, should inflict considerable loss on the returning night patrols’. The plan was revised to provide that the advance was not to be made until 8.00am, so that the target would now be the enemy’s daytime destroyer patrols. Two lines of submarines were to be posted to attack any German cruisers that came out to support their destroyers. The strike force was to be Tyrwhitt’s new flagship, the light cruiser Arethusa, and Fearless, leading the 1st and 3rd Flotillas respectively. Support would be provided by the battlecruisers Invincible and New Zealand, based in the Humber.

Keyes, who at first had received little attention from the Naval War Staff when he first took his plan to the Admiralty on August 23, obtained an interview with Churchill who was immediately taken with the scheme. Next day a meeting with the First and Second Sea Lords was convened, to which Keyes and Tyrwhitt were invited, and the plan was approved with some variations. These in part were due to the fact that the operation was intended as a cover for the proposal to land three Royal Marine battalions to hold Ostend.

The intention was for Keyes to sail on August 26 and the remaining forces next day, so that the sweep could begin on August 28. Extraordinarily, the Naval War Staff did not tell Jellicoe of what was planned until two days after the meeting, and then he was only informed that a sweep by the 1st and 3rd Flotillas was planned for August 28 from east to west, commencing between Horns Reef and Heligoland with battlecruisers in support. Two hours later, at 4.35pm, Jellicoe replied that he proposed to cooperate in the operation and asking for full details of the plan; he would leave at 6.00am on August 27. He got no immediate reply, and his next signal, at 5.54pm illustrated his perplexity:

Until I know the plan of operations I am unable to suggest the best method of cooperation, but the breadth of sweep appears to be very great for two flotillas. I could send a third flotilla, holding a fourth in reserve, and can support by light cruisers. What officers will be in command of operations, and in what ships, so that I can communicate with them? What is the direction of the sweep and [the] northern limits, and what ships take part?

Sturdee’s indifference to Jellicoe’s concern may be judged by the tone of his eventual reply, sent just after midnight on August 27: ‘Cooperation by battle fleet not required. Battlecruisers can support if convenient.’20 Jellicoe ordered Beatty and Goodenough to sail at 5.00am on August 27, and himself put to sea with the 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons at 5.45 pm that day; the 1st and 3rd Battle Squadrons were already at sea. Beatty aimed to rendezvous with Moore’s two battlecruisers 90 miles NW of Heligoland. As Goldrick remarks, Jellicoe’s ‘sane measures had restored some chance of success to what had become a dubious venture indeed.’ Meanwhile nobody told Tyrwhitt and Keyes of the support they were to receive. When the Admiralty finally sent a message to Harwich for them they were by then out of range for a wireless message from the port.

Deficient though the Admiralty’s management of the operation was, the German dispositions in the Bight were such as to give the British plan every chance of success. Responsibility for the patrols belonged to Hipper as commander of the scouting forces, but Ingenohl, characteristically, issued instructions as to how the patrols should operate. Erich Raeder, Hipper’s Chief of Staff, was extremely critical in his memoirs:

According to these instructions, the light forces, during daylight, were stationed in patrol sectors centred on the outermost Elbe lightship and covering the entire Bight. Upon approach of darkness they would steam to sea to form an advanced picket line against any approach, and then return to their inshore stations at daylight. Naturally, as the patrolling ships ranged farther and farther from Heligoland, the circles widened and the gaps between the respective patrol craft increased. Consequently the ships had to patrol singly, instead of in pairs or groups as prudence would have dictated in the presence of a strong enemy… using the light cruisers for routine picket line work not only exposed them to enemy submarine attacks, but likewise took them, as it also did the torpedo boat squadrons, away from their correct tactical employment – which was to conduct long range night reconnaissance.

The consequence of these fundamentally defective dispositions was soon to be dramatically demonstrated.

Keyes, with the destroyer leader Lurcher and Firedrake, and eight submarines, put to sea at midnight on August 26. He was followed five hours later by Tyrwhitt with the Harwich Force, while at the same time Moore sortied from the Humber, his two battlecruisers accompanied by four destroyers. Finally the five elderly armoured cruisers that constituted Cruiser Force C, under the overall command of Rear Admiral Christian, sailed on the night of August 27 to patrol off Terschelling. What followed was an extremely confused affair indeed.

At about 3.30 am Tyrwhitt’s lookouts sighted dark shapes approaching from astern, which to his great surprise turned out to be Goodenough’s squadron. Tyrwhitt, puzzled by this, signalled: ‘Are you taking part in the operation?’ To this Goodenough replied: ‘Yes, I know your course and will support you. Beatty is behind us.’ It was as well that Tyrwhitt now knew the true position; the silhouette of Goodenough’s light cruisers, having two masts and four funnels, would have led them to be taken to be enemy ships. Keyes, still in ignorance of Goodenough’s arrival, was soon to do just that.

The First Battle of Heligoland Bight II

German destroyer V187 sinking during the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914 in the First World War.

The situation was further complicated by the weather; as the British forces steamed eastward, a thickening fog reduced visibility. First contact came just before 7.00 am, when the 1st Flotilla sighted the German destroyer G 194, which made off southeast, pursued by Laurel and three others of the 4th Division. Hipper, on receiving the news, issued an order to the light cruisers Stettin and Frauenlob to ‘hunt destroyers’; the other light cruisers were ordered to raise steam. Tyrwhitt turned to follow Laurel and the others; meanwhile other German destroyers were steering parallel with Arethusa. The German destroyers, the V Flotilla, were soon suffering from engineering problems as they were unprepared for high speed operations; their speed dropping, they called for cruiser support, of which the first elements, in the form of Stettin and Frauenlob, arrived at 7.57 am.

Fearless engaged Stettin, scoring one hit before the German light cruiser turned away, principally to raise steam in all her boilers; Fearless turned SSW to follow Arethusa. Tyrwhitt’s flagship was engaging Frauenlob, and having rather the worst of it, suffering 15 direct hits on the side and waterline and many inboard. However she hit Frauenlob 10 times before turning away to the west; her adversary did not follow, retiring south eastward. While this was occurring Keyes, to the north west, had sighted two four funnelled cruisers which he supposed to be hostile, being still unaware of Goodenough’s presence.

At 8.20 am Fearless and her destroyers sighted the isolated German destroyer V187. Attempting to outrun the 5th Division of destroyers sent by Blunt to pursue her, V187 found herself steaming directly towards Lowestoft and Nottingham, detached by Goodenough to support Tyrwhitt. V187 executed a 180 degree turn, but now encountered the rest of Blunt’s flotilla. Within a few moments she was fatally damaged; her remaining gun fired at and hit Goshawk.. At 9.10 am V187 went down. As several boats from the British destroyers moved towards the survivors in the water Stettin reappeared; Captain Nerger was unaware that rescue operations were in progress, as he later reported:

At 9.06 am eight destroyers were sighted bunched together. I at once signalled the Admiral commanding the Scouting Forces, ‘Am in action with flotilla in square 133,’ turned to port and opened fire at 7200 metres. The first salvo straddled and thereafter many hits were observed. While most of the destroyers scattered, two remained on the spot, apparently badly damaged, but were soon lost to sight in the mist.

In addition to Stettin and Frauenlob, Hipper had also ordered Köln and Strassburg from Wilhelmshaven and Mainz from Ems to put to sea, while the elderly Hela and Ariadne, which had been on patrol, were also at sea. Köln was the flagship of Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass, the commander of the II Scouting Group. In addition, Hipper put three further light cruisers on standby, being Stralsund, Danzig and München. At this time Hipper was unaware of the presence at sea of Beatty’s battlecruisers, but at 8.50am he asked Ingenohl: ‘Will you permit Moltke and Von der Tann to leave in support as soon as it is clear?’ Pondering this. Ingenohl replied at 9.08 that the battlecruisers would be released only when the full strength of the British was known, subsequently authorising the sortie.24 As Eric Osborne points out, however, the exchange was academic. That day, the tide was particularly low, and the depth of water over the Jade Bar was at 9.33 only twenty six feet. Both battlecruisers drew over twenty six feet, and would in any case not be able to pass the bar before noon. Two battleships, Heligoland and Thüringen were outside the bar; but Ingenohl refused to allow them to weigh anchor.

Meanwhile at 8.55am Fearless had come up with the badly damaged Arethusa, and with her steamed slowly west south west, while the flagship’s crew worked desperately to repair some of the damage. Hearing from Keyes at 9.45 that he was being chased by enemy cruisers (in fact Goodenough’s light cruisers) Tyrwhitt turned back towards Heligoland. His speed, however, was down to ten knots and he soon realised that Keyes had in fact seen Goodenough’s ships, so he turned again and then, at 10.20, stopped to continue the repair work, Fearless and the 1st Flotilla remaining with him while the 3rd Flotilla continued to the westward.

Anxious to get to grips with the enemy, Maass did not wait to concentrate what would, united, have been a powerful force of light cruisers. His failure to do so was his undoing. He was unaware of Beatty’s presence at sea, or even that of Goodenough. When he left Wilhelmshaven he did so in clear weather with good visibility; in the Bight, however, there was a thick fog, which also delayed Mainz as it left the Ems estuary. None of the German units involved had warned Maass of this. In Köln he steamed northwest, which so far as he knew was the direction in which to find the British, while Strassburg steamed west north west aiming at what was taken to be the flank of the British fores. Mainz was ordered to pursue a course NNE to aim at Tyrwhitt’s rear.

At 10.55 Strassburg sighted Arethusa and Fearless through the mist, and opened fire. Tyrwhitt considered his force outgunned and turned away southwest, launching a destroyer attack on the German light cruiser. As it turned away, to avoid the torpedoes, all of which missed, it lost contact with Tyrwhitt’s ships; Captain Retzmann decided not to renew the action because of the risk of further torpedo attacks. Next on the scene was Köln: the brief engagement that resulted followed the pattern of that involving Strassburg. Significantly, however, Tyrwhitt identified Köln as an armoured cruiser of the Reon class, and radioed Beatty for support. The latter’s immediate reaction was to order Goodenough to detach two more light cruisers; but Goodenough decided to head for Tyrwhitt with all four remaining ships of his squadron.

Strassburg now reappeared, and brought Arethusa and Fearless under such heavy fire that Blunt followed up Tyrwhitt’s previous appeals with another message to Beatty: ‘Assistance urgently required.’27 It was about 11.30am. Beatty was at this time about forty miles north west of Tyrwhitt’s force, and he had an immediate and difficult decision to take, which he discussed with Chatfield, his Flag Captain:

The Bight was not a pleasant spot into which to take great ships; it was unknown whether mines had been laid there, submarines were sure to be on patrol, and to move into this area so near to the great German base at Wilhelmshaven was risky. Visibility was low, and to be surprised by a superior force of capital ships was not unlikely. They would have had plenty of time to leave harbour since Tyrwhitt’s presence had been first known. Beatty was not long making up his mind. He said to me, ‘What do you think we should do? I ought to go and support Tyrwhitt, but if I lose one of these valuable ships the country will not forgive me.’ Unburdened by responsibility, and eager for excitement, I said, ‘Surely we must go.’ It was all he needed but whatever I had said would have made little difference.

Beatty turned his squadron to the south east, at a speed of 26 knots. At 11.45 he altered course to ESE, increasing speed to 27 knots, signalling to Blunt that he was coming to his support.

Meanwhile Mainz had arrived, and had begun engaging the destroyers of the 1st Flotilla. Just as she threatened to inflict serious damage, however, Goodenough appeared. Mainz at once turned away, as her first lieutenant later described:

Immediately on identifying three cruisers of the ‘Town’ class ahead of us the helm of the Mainz was put hard over to starboard, but even in the act of turning the enemy’s first salvos were falling close to us and very soon afterwards we were hit in the battery and the waist.

As she headed south at her maximum speed, Mainz sighted Fearless with six destroyers. Opening an accurate fire, she disabled Laurel, and then concentrated on Liberty, hitting her twice, and wrecking her bridge and killing her captain. Transferring her fire to Lysander and Laertes, she hit the latter with a salvo of six shells, hitting her boilers and bringing her to a standstill. It was an impressive demonstration of what would have been the vulnerability of Tyrwhitt’s force had it not been so heavily supported.

By now, however, Goodenough’s cruisers had again caught up with Mainz, and subjected her to a furious cannonade. Briefly, Mainz disappeared into the mist, and was almost at once torpedoed by the destroyer Lydiard; when she became visible to Goodenough’s cruisers, she was lying nearly stopped. Lieutenant Stephen King-Hall, in Southampton, described Mainz’s fate:

We closed down on her, hitting with every salvo. She was a mass of yellow flame and smoke as the lyddite detonated along her length. Her two after funnels melted away and collapsed. Red glows, indicating internal fires, showed through gaping wounds in her sides. At irregular intervals one of her after guns fired a solitary shot, which passed miles overhead. In ten minutes she was silenced and lay a smoking, battered wreck, her foremost anchor flush with the water. Ant-like figures could be seen jumping into the water as we approached. The sun dispersed the mist, and we steamed slowly to within 300 yards of her, flying as we did so the signal ‘Do you surrender?’ in International Code. As we stopped the mainmast slowly leant forward, and, like a great tree, quite gradually lay down along the deck. As it reached the deck a man got out of the main control top and walked aft – it was Tirpitz junior.

At 12.25pm Goodenough ordered ‘cease fire’ and Lurcher went alongside the stricken cruiser to rescue survivors. Keyes, seeing one young officer remaining on the poop after superintending the removal of the wounded, called to him and held out his hand to help him:

But the boy scorned to leave his ship as long as she remained afloat, or to accept the slightest favour from his adversary. Drawing himself up stiffly, he stepped back, saluted, and answered: ‘Thank you, no.’

At 13.10 Mainz went down, the survivors in the water being picked up by Firedrake and Liverpool. Among them were the young officer and also Lieutenant Wolf von Tirpitz. When the latter came aboard Liverpool, he was grateful for his courteous reception:

They offered us clothes while our own were drying in the engine room. We were given port wine and allowed to use the wardroom. Only the sentries before the door reminded us that we were prisoners. Shortly after I came on board the captain sent for me and read me a wireless signal from his admiral: ‘I am proud to be able to welcome such gallant officers on board my Squadron.’ I repeated this message to my comrades. It cheered us up, for it showed that Mainz had made an honourable end.’

By now, Beatty’s battlecruisers were arriving on the scene. Almost at once, Strassburg turned away; but Köln turned too late, and for seven minutes presented an unmissable target for the main armament of the battle cruisers, which inflicted terrible damage on her. She was given a reprieve when Ariadne, steaming for the sound of the guns, appeared. Lion shifted her fire to the elderly cruiser, and her consorts joined in; Ariadne lurched away, a mass of flame and smoke. Beatty, anxious to keep his ships concentrated, and fearful of reported mines in the vicinity, also turned away and went to finish off Köln. Ariadne stayed afloat until 3.10pm by which time Danzig had arrived to take off survivors.

Beatty soon found Köln again, sighting her at 1.25pm. Lion’s first salvo smashed the armoured conning tower, the steering gear, and the engine rooms. Chatfield watched her destruction:

She bravely returned our fire with her little four-inch guns aiming at our conning tower. One felt the tiny four-inch shell spatter against the conning tower armour, and the pieces ‘sizz’ over it. In a few minutes the Köln was also a hulk.

Köln sank within ten minutes; of her crew of five hundred men only one, a stoker, survived. Beatty now ordered all the British forces to withdraw, particularly keen to get the damaged vessels away as quickly as possible.

At 2.25 Moltke and Von der Tann, under Rear Admiral Tapken, belatedly arrived on the scene; Ingenohl had ordered them ‘not to become engaged with the enemy armoured cruiser squadron,’ and Hipper had instructed Tapken in any case to wait until he himself arrived in Seydlitz, an hour behind. When he arrived, the three battle cruisers, with Kolberg, Stralsund and Strassburg, began a search for the missing cruisers, but it was soon evident to Hipper that they must have gone down, and at 4.00pm he turned for home.

Tyrwhitt, in the crippled Arethusa, limped homeward until 7.00pm when her engines failed, and he had to radio for assistance, which arrived in the form of the armoured cruiser Hogue at about 9.00pm, and which took her in tow. As she entered the Nore, Arethusa was cheered all the way. At Sheerness, Churchill came aboard and, as Tyrwhitt described, ‘fairly slobbered’ over him. The victory, such as it was, had come at just the right moment to confirm the public belief in the supremacy of the Royal Navy. Beatty wrote to his wife to tell her of the victory:

Just a line to say all is well. I sent Liverpool in to Rosyth today with some prisoners and wounded. We got at them yesterday and got three of their cruisers under the nose of Heligoland, which will have given them a bit of a shock. The ones in the Liverpool were all that were saved out of one ship and, alas, none were saved from the others that sank. The 3rd disappeared in fog in a sinking condition and I doubt if she ever got back. I could not pursue her further, we were too close already and the sea was full of mines and submarines, and a large force might have popped out on us at any moment. Poor devils, they fought their ships like men and went down with colours flying like seamen, against overwhelming odds.

Beatty’s euphoria did not last long; by September 2 he was complaining bitterly to his wife at the lack of any commendation from the Admiralty:

I had thought I should have received an expression of their appreciation from Their Lordships, but have been disappointed, or rather not so much disappointed as disgusted, and my real opinion has been confirmed that they would have hung me if there had been a disaster, as there very nearly was, owing to the most extraordinary neglect of the most ordinary precautions on their part. However, all’s well that end’s well, and they haven’t had an opportunity of hanging me yet and they won’t get it.

In fact, Beatty did subsequently get his commendation in the form of a letter from the Admiralty on October 22, expressly referring to ‘the risks he had to face from submarines and floating mines’ in bringing his force into action.

The defeat imposed even greater caution on the German high command, and the Kaiser issued a personal order that no operations involving the heavy units of the fleet were to be carried out without his express permission. Admiral von Müller laconically noted in his diary for August 29:

Tirpitz is beside himself. The Kaiser was swift with his reproaches: carelessness on the part of the Fleet, inadequate armour of the cruisers and destroyers. Pohl was shrewd and championed the Fleet.

Immediate precautions were taken to strengthen the German defences. Two large minefields were laid to the west of Heligoland, which Scheer recorded as being effective, and in conjunction with improved weaponry such as aircraft and anti submarine equipment ‘kept the inner area so clear that the danger from submarines came at last to be quite a rare and exceptional possibility.’37 He was, however, concerned that the Heligoland Bight raid was merely a precursor to a more ambitious offensive move; the defensive posture imposed on the High Seas Fleet must make such a British move much more dangerous:

To anticipate it was therefore obvious that our High Command would desire greater freedom of movement in order to have a chance of locating parts of the enemy forces. This could only be done if the light forces sent out ahead could count on timely intervention by the whole High Seas Fleet. On the other hand, it was not the Fleet’s intention to seek battle with the English Fleet off the enemy’s coasts. The relative strength (as appeared from a comparison of the two battle lines) made chances of success much too improbable.

Keyes and Goodenough put the outcome of the battle in perspective, both regarding it as having been a missed opportunity. The former wrote that ‘an absurd fuss was made over the whole affair … It makes me sick and disgusted to think what a complete success it might have been but for, I won’t say dual – but multiple control.’ At the Admiralty Captain Herbert Richmond was even more scathing:

Anything worse worded than the order for the operations of last Friday [August 28] I have never seen. A mass of latitudes and longitudes, no expression to show the object of the sweep, and one grievous error in actual position, which was over 20 minutes out of place. Besides this, the hasty manner in which, all unknown to the submarines, the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron suddenly turned up in a wholly unexpected direction, thereby running the gravest dangers from our own submarines. The weather was fairly foggy, ships came up on one another unexpectedly, and with such omissions and errors in the plan it was truly fortunate that we had no accidents.

Richmond was thoroughly discontented with the Admiralty’s general policy at this time, writing in his diary on September 4:

If we go on like this the North Sea deserves its other name of German Ocean. It is the German Ocean at this moment. Only those fatuous and self-satisfied creatures, Sturdee and Co, with their sprinkling of undigested knowledge, can think it a sea in which we retain or have any command.

“Black May” – Biscay Bay in May 1943 Part I

‘Caught on the Surface’.  The sinking of U-461 by RAAF Sunderland “U” of 461 Squadron RAAF, in the Bay of Biscay in July 1943.  [As depicted by aviation artist Robert Taylor.]

Wooding, Neil; Halifax GR MkII Ser 1A JP296 of 58 Sqdn Coastal Command; Yorkshire Air Museum;

Halifax GR MkII Ser 1A JP296 of 58 Sqdn Coastal Command

Neil Wooding (b.1936)

It is not known whether forty-seven-year-old American economist Stephen Raushenbush had ever seen a submarine or a bomber before he was suddenly posted to London in December 1942 to help develop a new battle plan for the Bay of Biscay. Military tactics were not something in which he had had any great interest since 1917–1919, when he and most of his graduating class at Amherst College went to France with the American Expeditionary Force, he to serve as a volunteer ambulance driver. Though in that capacity he pursued his famous father’s compassionate ideals, he did not follow the Reverend Walter Raushenbush (1861–1918), a leading exponent of the Social Gospel, into the Baptist ministry. Instead, after the Armistice, he studied economics at the University of Rennes in France, worked in the oil industry in Mexico and Venezuela, researched coal and power issues in New York City, taught at Dartmouth College, and served for eight years as advisor on public utilities to the governor of Pennsylvania, while taking time out in 1934–1936 to be chief investigator for the Special U.S. Senate Committee that inquired into the munitions industry. In his spare time he wrote seven books, ranging in subject matter from The Anthracite Question (1923) to The March of Fascism (1939).

His last pre-World War II position, beginning in 1939, was with the U.S. Department of the Interior as chief of the Branch of Planning and Research in the Division of Power. He was described at that period of his life as a reserved but friendly person; he wore a mustache and smoked a pipe; though a registered Republican, he expressed political views that were liberal and progressive. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he took a leave of absence from Interior to serve as a civilian economist and statistician in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in the Navy Department. From there, in late 1942, he was plucked by Captain Thorvald A. Solberg, U.S.N., Head of the Navy Technical Station, Office of the U.S. Naval Attaché (Alusna), London, to undertake air operations planning for the Bay of Biscay.

In the U.K., Raushenbush quickly familiarized himself with the attack opportunities in the Bay as well as with Coastal Command’s disappointing success rate there. Since June 1942 Coastal had flown about 7,000 hours and lost aircraft at a rate of about sixteen for every U-boat sunk in the Bay. Since October only twenty-two air attacks had been mounted on the estimated 290 boats that had passed through the Bay. The effort was out of all proportion to the meager results obtained. Raushenbush then set about studying the hardware. Near Glasgow on the Clyde he examined the Type VIIC U-570, captured in August 1941 and renamed H.M.S. Graph, and learned her operating characteristics, paying special attention to the boat’s capacity for remaining submerged (36–41 hours) and the time required on the surface for fully charging her batteries (6.77–7.77 hours).

At various Coastal bases he studied the type of aircraft that were being flown on Bay patrols and took fascinated notice of new centimetric radar equipment that was just then becoming available for airborne use. At both Whitehall and Northwood he availed himself of the vast operations research data that had been accumulated by Professors Blackett and Williams and their scientific teams, whom Raushenbush found “tired and exhausted from too many seven day weeks.” From Williams in particular, who had continued Bay Offensive studies at Coastal during the year following Blackett’s departure for other ASW challenges at the Admiralty, and who was later quoted by Blackett as saying that while his scholarly specialty was quantum theory, he “found the subtle intricacies of the U-boat war of comparable intellectual interest,” the American economist drew generous guidance and support.4 In the end, not surprisingly, plans put forward to Churchill’s A.U. Committee by Raushenbush and Williams would bear a certain resemblance in conception, if not in details.

When he thought he understood the basic problems that the Bay presented, Raushenbush devoted himself to intense deskwork studies and statistical tables. His roommate at Alusna, Commander Oscar A. de Lima, U.S.N.R., remembered the economist’s “endless days and nights of complicated computations,” though the endless period was just over a month. Raushenbush’s interests were most closely focused on the new availability of “Most Secret” 10-centimeter airborne radar, for which the Germans had no search receiver (G.S.R.). According to a report submitted on 22 December by radar pioneer Watson Watt, the Kriegsmarine would probably not figure out the wavelength, develop an answering G.S.R., and install it in the majority of their boats before “two or three months at the most” after first use of the Allied equipment.

“There was great promise in this situation,” Raushenbush wrote privately in 1948. “The danger in it was that the new weapon might (like tanks in 1916) be used in too small numbers, with too small effect, and that the Germans would consequently be given ample notice of the new weapon before it could be used against them with telling effect, and would be ready for it.” He anguished, he wrote, over the possibility that a centimetric radar installation would first be used in an area such as the Mediterranean or the European mainland, where it might be captured and compromised. As it happened, a few Io-centimeter sets were flown by Coastal aircraft out of Gibraltar in February before their use in the Bay. And Raushenbush’s worst-case scenario—though it is not known that he was aware of it at the time—unfolded on 2 February when an RAF Bomber Command Stirling bomber equipped with centimetric radar went down at night near Rotterdam. The radar set was Type H2S, in which the radar pulses were used in a “look-down” mode for picking out coastlines, lakes, waterways, and (less successfully) cities.

Coastal had forcefully opposed that use of 10-centimeter radar prior to its use in the Bay precisely because capture of the equipment, which seemed likely, would ruin Coastal’s chances of obtaining surprise in the Biscay transit area. But Bomber Command spoke louder, claiming that for the success of the night-bombing campaign over Germany—always the overriding imperative in the Prime Minister’s mind—the bombers desperately needed H2S as a navigational aid. Churchill gave approval for the new radar’s use over enemy territory beginning in January, with, as Coastal feared, predictable results. Though the Stirling’s radar equipment was badly damaged, German technicians were able to reassemble the Rotterdam Gerät, as they called it, at the Telefunken laboratories in Berlin. By chance, the device was badly damaged a second time in an RAF bombing raid. Again, it was reconstructed, this time in a bombproof bunker. After flight-testing the magnetron valve equipment, the technicians realized that the Allies had achieved a major technological breakthrough, and, where the maritime war was concerned, had leapfrogged the Fu.MB (Metox). News of the disclosure was passed at once to BdU, where on 5 March the Dönitz/Godt war diary reported a confirming incident at sea and ruminated on the Rotterdam Gerät.

U-333 [Oblt.z.S. Werner Schwaff] was attacked by enemy aircraft at night without previous radar [detection by Fu.MB] in BF 5897. Slight damage, aircraft was shot down in flames.… [The aircraft was L/L Wellington “B” of No. 172 Squadron, which had just begun Bay patrols with ASV Mark III.] The enemy is working on carrier waves outside the frequency range of the present Fu.MB receivers. The shooting down over Holland of an enemy aircraft apparently carrying an apparatus with a frequency of 9.7 centimeters is the only indication at present of this possibility.

The secret was out, and it appeared likely that the Germans would now neutralize the centimetric wavelength in the same way that Metox had neutralized the metric. But the Telefunken Company experienced problems in replicating parts of the Allied equipment, and administrative muddles further checked what was to have been a crash program to develop a new G.S.R., with the result, astonishingly, that an effective detector called Naxos-U was not shipped to the U-boats until October, far later than the two or three months predicted by Watson Watt, and long after the issue in the Atlantic had been decided.

Raushenbush began his calculations with a review of U-boat performance figures. The optimum (as against maximum) speed surfaced for charging batteries was 12 knots. The optimum speed for running submerged was 1.75 knots. The average battery capacity on entering the 200-mile-deep transit channel was 51 miles submerged, after which a U-boat had to surface for maximum recharge for a period of 6.77 to 7.77 hours, during which it would travel 81 to 93 miles. After another 51 miles submerged, it would have to surface for charging at least once again, briefly, until completing the 200 miles (assuming a direct course) in a total traverse time of 76.37 hours.

Thus, a U-boat in transit would be on the surface and vulnerable to air attack for at least one lengthy period. Any attempt to remain underwater beyond 41 hours would exhaust the air supply, although a boat could surface for 5 to 10 minutes to ventilate. A surfaced U-boat forced to dive by aircraft would later have to charge for approximately seven minutes to compensate for the 100 ampere hours used in one cycle of crash-diving and resurfacing. Since the average density of boats in the transit area at any given time was 15.8 boats, that number together would be exposed from 1,280 to 1,470 miles during their passage. Raushenbush calculated that there would be a density of one surfaced boat per 3,800 square miles.

On the air side, Raushenbush called for an additional 160 long-range aircraft, all equipped with ASV Mark III and many with Leigh Lights, to make up a total force of 260 aircraft. Such a large, coordinated force, trained to capitalize on the Allied advantage of centimetric radar, could be expected to make 7.5 sorties per aircraft per month, to make 1.8 attacks on each of 150 U-boats entering the transit channel each month, to make a minimum of twenty-five kills per month, and to cause damage to a further thirty-four boats. Over the projected 120 operational days of this effort, 100 boats would be destroyed and 136 damaged, thus “paralyzing” the U-boat fleet and throwing it on the defensive. The damaged boats would play their role in the paralysis effect by jamming and overloading the Biscay repair bases.

There were two critical factors in the Raushenbush Plan: (1) the attack program must be put into effect promptly, before the enemy devised a centimetric search receiver; and (2) the attacking force must be sufficiently large from the outset; “no small driblets” of additional aircraft would make the plan work. On the second point he elaborated that a law of increasing returns could be developed to show that up to a certain point, a large but still less than adequate force would produce only minor results; but that once enlarged to and beyond a certain critical mass, the effectiveness of that force was in high progression. He concluded:

The morale of the remaining U-boat fleet may be broken by such an effort. If in four months (May-August 1943 inclusive) 100 U-boats are killed, and 136 damaged, and every one is attacked 1.8 times in transit, the U-boat fleet based on Biscay would have lost about 36 per cent of its numbers and the crews of an additional 136 would have been shaken up. The unkilled 175 U-boats may thereby be so broken in morale as to impair their effectiveness greatly.

Raushenbush went on to suggest crew “mutiny” as a possibility, which was going somewhat over the top; the suggestion probably showed the degree to which his views were shaped by British associates, among whom the morale war seems to have been a preoccupation. One suspects, knowing how U-boat crews put out to sea unflinchingly in 1945, when certain to near-certain destruction faced every boat, that infidelity to duty in the U-Bootwaffe was never a consideration.

The Raushenbush Plan was endorsed by Captain Solberg, and, upon his recommendation, by Admiral Harold R. Stark, U.S.N., Commander, United States Naval Forces in Europe, who had it printed up for presentation to the Prime Minister’s A.U. Committee on 24 March. In the meantime, it received strong support from the operations research team at the Admiralty, though those politically savvy people knew that the Plan would not fly unless it passed the inspection of Churchill’s personal science advisor, Professor Lindemann, now Lord Cherwell. Accordingly, Professors Blackett and Williams (the latter now also with the Admiralty) joined Raushenbush to form a special committee under the chairmanship of Sir Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production and vice-chair of the A.U. Committee, for the purpose of bringing Cherwell into camp. In that endeavor they were not entirely unsuccessful.

Cherwell was at first dismissive of the Raushenbush Plan as “based upon somewhat speculative foundations,” calling it “unduly optimistic.” Without directly challenging any of the American’s numbers or calculations, he rejected the “largely theoretical” proposals in the Plan as diverging from prior practical experience in the Bay, where the dividends had been very few. Furthermore, he argued, the presumed advantage of 10-centimeter radar would be overcome “very easily” by a new German search receiver; and the probability that the enemy would sprinkle the Bay with radio decoys seemed to have been treated “rather lightly” by Raushenbush. It would be better, Cherwell said, to devote aircraft resources to the more fruitful duty of protecting menaced convoys. In fact, better still would be the allocation of Coastal Command aircraft to the bombing of German cities, which “must have more immediate effect on the course of the war in 1943.” All that said, however, Cherwell did allow that it could be an “interesting experiment” to give the Raushenbush advocates a free run to see how they fared.

Two other events transpired before the plan devised by the U.S. Naval Attache’s one-man Bay research branch was formally presented. First, the Admiralty produced its own similar plan for the Bay. Second, a trial of the two plans was flown by Coastal Command from 6 to 15 February under the code name Operation Gondola. Although authorship of the Admiralty’s plan was credited to Blackett, he suggested in a eulogy of Williams (who died in 1945) that the calculations had been done by Williams during the winter of 1942–1943, when “he worked out in great detail the best methods of conducting such an offensive by a balanced force of day and night aircraft equipped with the latest forms of 10 cm. radar.”

Williams (or Blackett) shared the plan with Raushenbush, who drew up a one-page summary of comparisons and differences between the two sets of numbers. Both plans called for a total force of 260 heavy aircraft. Where Raushenbush estimated that the force required 160 additional aircraft, Williams estimated 190. Where Raushenbush envisioned a four-month offensive, Williams called for a full year’s endurance of effort. Both plans anticipated 150 U-boat transits a month in the Bay during spring 1943 (which proved to be too high). The average number of sorties per aircraft per month were approximately the same, as were the ratios of sightings to attacks, attacks to kills, and attacks to damaged U-boats. Where Raushenbush predicted twenty-five kills per month and thirty-four boats damaged, Williams anticipated twenty-two kills and twenty-two damaged.’

The nine-day Gondola trial did not exactly replicate either plan, since the aircraft of only three of the sixteen squadrons participating in whole or in part were equipped with 10-centimeter radar: these were United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Liberator Squadrons Nos. 1, 2, and 224. Altogether, 136 individual aircraft, including L/L Wellingtons and L/L Catalinas, took part in standard patrols that “fanned” southward over the Inner Bay (East), where during the operational period forty U-boats traversed the area, and the Outer Bay (West), where thirty-eight boats transited. Eighteen sightings resulted (only two initiated by centimetric radar), leading to seven attacks. One U-boat was believed sunk by Liberator “T” of No. 2 Squadron, but a recent NHB/MOD reassessment finds that the U-boat attacked, U-752 (Kptlt. Karl-Ernst Schröter), escaped serious injury. Still, the numbers, particularly those of sightings, and of the reduced flying hours required to make them, seemed provisionally to validate the Raushenbush/Admiralty Plans, taking into account the fact that most aircraft, as noted, were not equipped with centimetric radar. After the end of the operation there was a marked drop in the ratio of sightings to flying hours, back to the former low level.

In early March, to Coastal’s great regret, U.S. Admiral King requested the transfer of two USAAF Liberator squadrons from St Eval in Cornwall to Morocco. Air Marshal Slessor stated that their crews had shown “intense energy and enthusiasm” in the anti-U-boat war, and “were just getting into their stride.” The loss of these centimetric-equipped aircraft as well as No. 405 Halifax Squadron, which had to be returned to Bomber Command, was a blow to both the Raushenbush and Admiralty Plans. Nonetheless, with the aircraft remaining, including this time the newly operational No. 172 Squadron of centimetric-equipped L/L Wellingtons, another combat trial in the Bay called Operation Enclose was laid on by Coastal for dusk 20 to dawn 28 March.

Curiously, as will be shown below, this was at just the time that Coastal was officially denigrating the Bay Offensive as an uneconomical use of Coastal assets; and indeed, it was on the 22nd that Air Marshal Slessor sent his Note to the A.U. Committee recommending that the Bay be consigned to the condition of a “residuary legatee.” Yet Peyton Ward tells us that his naval liaison staff at Northwood made the suggestion for a new trial and that Slessor supported it. (This was not the last example of Slessor’s paradoxical behavior.) In P. W.’s conception, the Gondola patrol fan (so-called because it spread out slightly to the east and west below the south England and Welsh bases) should be replaced by a single patrol “ribbon” 140 miles wide running north and south across the Bay between longitudes 7° and 10½° W. The width of the ribbon represented the probable maximum distance traveled by a U-boat in 24 hours regardless of the ratio of the time spent surfaced or submerged. The scheme called for aircraft to form a constant stream passing south into the ribbon as far as 44½° N and returning on nearly reciprocal courses. P. W. and his staff added a fillip to the nighttime flights that was calculated to sow uncertainty and carelessness among the U-boat crews: in addition to the 10-centimeter pulses, aircraft still fitted with metric equipment should send the old familiar metric pulses.

No. 19 Group stood down for a week beforehand in order to conserve energy for a seven-and-a-half day intensive effort. Then, at dusk on the 20th, 115 individual aircraft—10 cm.-equipped Liberators of USAAF No. 224 Squadron, 10cm. L/L Wellingtons, other Wellingtons, Halifaxes, Fortresses, Sunderlands, Whitleys, and one Catalina—began patrolling the ribbon. A week and twelve hours later, their expenditure of 1,300 flying hours had produced twenty-six sightings and fifteen attacks leading to the sinking of U-663 (Oblt.z.S. Hans-Jürgen Haupt) by Whitley “Q” of No. 10 Squadron Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.), and damage to U-332 (Oblt.z.S. Eberhard Hüttemann) by Wellington XII “T” of No. 172 Squadron. Since forty-one U-boats crossed the ribbon—the estimate having been forty-two—the significant numbers were one-half the Gondola hours per sighting and twice the ratio of sightings to U-boats on passage. Though those results were still not up to the Raushenbush/Admiralty projections, they were sufficiently promising that Coastal planners began scheduling Enclose II for April—at just the moment, it bears repeating, that AOC-in-C Slessor was proposing to concentrate his air resources on close cover of threatened convoys “at,” he said, “the expense of the Bay patrols.”

When sitting for its twelfth meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday 24 March in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street, S.W.I, the A.U. Committee, with Churchill in the chair, found three Papers on their agenda. The first was a Note proposing the Raushenbush Plan, to which Admiral Stark, who since the previous meeting had been made a member of the Committee, was prepared to speak. The second was the Note by Marshal Slessor proposing emphasis of air cover for threatened convoys in preference to Bay patrols. And the third was a Memorandum by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. A. V. Alexander, M.P., and First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, urging that Bomber Command launch new heavy raids on the Biscay bases. Because both the U.S. proposal, which the Committee called the Stark Plan, and the Admiralty’s called for the diversion of bombers to the Bay or its bases, and the sense of the Committee was that for the moment those aircraft could only come from Bomber Command’s operations over Germany, it was decided to defer discussion of the three Papers until the next meeting and to invite the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur T. Harris, to present a Paper, if he wished, and to attend the meeting. Two days before that meeting, the Secretary of the War Cabinet, Sir Edward Bridges, circulated a Note specifying that only thirteen members directly concerned with the agenda Papers should attend. By the meeting date there were three additional Papers on the agenda: the invited response from Air Chief Marshal Harris; Cherwell’s comments on the Raushenbush document; and a new position paper from the Admiralty proposing the Blackett/Williams Plan while supporting the Stark Plan “for its striking and independent support of the Admiralty view.… ”

Not surprisingly, in the meeting of 31 March as in his Memorandum to the Committee (dated 29 March), Marshal Harris took aim at that section of the Admiralty’s latest document that called for the transfer of 190 long-range bombers from the bombing campaign over Germany to the Bay Offensive. The loss of so many aircraft, Harris contended, would mean calling off bomber operations against Germany for the next four months and throwing the whole brunt of fighting Germany upon the Soviet Union—points his Naval opposites no doubt thought exaggerations. The Minutes read: “He did not think it was fully realized what great damage was done by the attacks on U-boat construction yards and accessory factories. There was continuous confirmation that the U-boat construction programme was being considerably interfered with by these attacks and if they were stopped he was certain that the output of U-boats per month would increase.”

U-boat-successes against aircraft

“Black May” – Biscay Bay in May 1943 Part II

As for new attacks on the Biscay bases, which the Admiralty’s earlier Memorandum advocated, the U-boats and their essential services were sheltered under impenetrable concrete, Harris reminded the Committee, and the 10,000 tons dropped recently on the bases at Lorient and St.-Nazaire had, as the Admiralty themselves conceded, no appreciable effect on U-boat operations. (Slessor, too, was critical of the bombing, at this stage, of the Biscay bases, “which was actually quite useless and resulted merely in spoiling several nice old French towns.”) Chief of the Air Staff Portal spoke up in support of “Bomber” Harris, as he was known in the Force, saying of the U.S. Navy and Admiralty proposals that he deprecated the transfer of any of Harris’s bombers to Bay patrols on the strength of “a theoretical calculation.”

But the Bay Offensive had its own determined champions, including First Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander, who pointed out that “without the Bay Offensive we cannot hope to kill sufficient U-boats to get the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic, whilst on the other hand it is believed that we can with an adequately equipped Bay offensive sink sufficient U-boats to destroy their morale.” Alexander announced that the Admiralty had revised downward their estimate of the number of additional long-range bombers required: from 190 to 175 if the U-boats possessed new 10cm detection gear, to 55 if they did not. The First Lord reminded the Committee that the enemy could run but he could not hide: “He cannot withdraw from the Bay.” First Sea Lord Pound expressed his conviction that “the provision of additional aircraft in the Bay of Biscay [was] an absolute necessity and not a luxury in the anti-U-boat campaign.” And U.S. Admiral Stark said that unless the Allies got the better of the U-boat, “we should be in a bad way.” By increasing the Bay patrols, he submitted, “we should be able, for the first time, to carry out an all-out offensive against the U-boats.”

Of course, the Prime Minister had the last word, and it was not favorable to the Bay proponents. With only limited forces, he said, it was not possible to devote the maximum number of aircraft to every theater. The distribution must be commensurate with the results obtained, and so far air cover over menaced convoys, as argued by Slessor, and the bombing campaign against Germany, as argued by Harris, were the most productive theaters for the effort and resources invested. Granting that “even if the Bay of Biscay patrols resulted in sinking only three or four U-boats a month and did not reach the higher figures mentioned in some of the Papers, this must be regarded as a very important object,” Churchill decided that aircraft for that purpose could not be supplied by denuding the essential missions of Coastal and Bomber Commands. Taking a cue from Averell Harriman’s suggestion that the Chiefs of Staff in Washington might find it possible to divert aircraft from other allocations to the Bay, the Prime Minister charged the Air Ministry and the Admiralty with the responsibility for consulting on an estimate of the balance of requirements that might be communicated to the U.S. Government. Oddly, the only Committee member to have his nose put out of joint by these proceedings was Slessor, one of the winners in the debate. Displaying what had all the earmarks of a fit of pique, he railed at the Admiralty for blindsiding him with the Williams Plan and its request for 190 additional first-line heavies, “without discussing it first with the man most directly concerned, namely myself.” Thirteen years later, he was still annoyed, writing in his autobiography: “I only received my copy of the paper the day before it was down for discussion, and went immediately to the First Sea Lord to tell him that I strongly disagreed with this method of tackling the problem, which I described as slide-rule strategy of the worst kind.… ” Slessor took satisfaction from recording that, “The Admiralty paper met with very little luck in the U-boat Committee the next day, where I remember one light-hearted Minister saying, ‘C’est magnifique, mats ce n’est pas la guerre!”

On 4 April he submitted to the A.U. Committee a set of counterarguments to the Williams Plan, explaining in his memoirs that “nothing could be more dangerously misleading than to imagine that you can forecast the result of a battle or decide the weapons necessary to use in it, by doing sums.” He went on to aver that, “The most important factors in any battle are the human factors of leadership, morale, courage and skill, which cannot be reduced to any mathematical formula”; which human factors, the reader will remember, Captain Gilbert Roberts had insisted to Commander Gretton were no longer enough in the Battle of the Atlantic. Taking on Williams’s operations research directly, Slessor wrote: “Summarizing my objections to the principle of strategy by slide rule, I urged that the problem should be tackled from a less scientific but more practical angle.”

It is hard to imagine a more tortured position for Slessor to have taken. It was the very science of O.R.S. that had made his angles practical, a fact that he himself recognized by the close working relationship to O.R.S. that he forged straightaway upon becoming AOC-in-C in the preceding month, and by the very science (and “sums”) he employed at length in his own Paper before the A.U. Committee on the threatened convoy-Bay patrol option.

Furthermore, in denigrating slide-rule strategy in his autobiography, he seems to have forgotten that in the foreword he wrote to Professor Waddington’s 1946 book, O.R. in World War 2, he praised “strategy by slide-rule” by name, and acknowledged that “No one who knows the true facts can have any doubt that a great deal of the credit for what is perhaps still not generally recognised as the resounding victory it was, namely the Battle of the Bay and the defeat of the U-boat in 1943, is due to men like Blackett, Williams, Larnder, Baughan, Easterfield and Waddington himself.” Raushenbush’s name he seems not to have known, although the name appears prominently in the Stark Plan, where he is identified as its author, and that was the Plan whose calculations Slessor acknowledged to the A.U. Committee near the end of May, as will be seen, as having been vindicated by events in the Bay.

Slessor’s letter to the A.U. Committee of 4 April was not taken up by that body. Instead, during the days that followed, Slessor was persuaded to make a complete volte-face. It may have been the Air Ministry or the Admiralty, or both, whose heavy hand wrought this singular reversal—the record does not say—but when the time came for the A.U. Committee to petition the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for additional longrange bombers for the Bay, it was Slessor who was tapped to draft the document. With the fervor of a convert, brought to his new faith by either conviction or thumbscrew, Slessor gave the case for the Bay Offensive its most striking language yet. Signed by him, First Sea Lord Pound, and Admiral Stark, the telegram to Washington read, in part:

The one place where we can always be certain of finding U-boats is the Bay. Setting aside the relatively small proportion that pass into the Atlantic North-about [from German ports], the Bay is the trunk of the Atlantic U-boat menace, the roots being in the Biscay ports and the branches spreading far and wide, to the North Atlantic convoys, to the Caribbean, to the Eastern seaboard of North America, and to the sea lanes where the faster merchant ships sail without escorts.… It is a strategic problem which can only be solved by an appropriate deployment of our joint resources, designed to concentrate the necessary force at the decisive point in the battlefield of the Atlantic. We are aware that the United States, like Great Britain, has not enough aircraft to meet in full their many commitments and to afford really adequate protection to the coastal shipping on their long coast lines. But if we strike a decisive blow at the trunk in the Bay, the branches will wither.

In their telegram the three signers called the Bay “second only to the convoy routes” as a strategic priority in the Battle of the Atlantic. They noted that 150 “first-line” aircraft were already engaged in the Bay Offensive, and that thirty to forty longand medium-range aircraft could be added to the force through recall of a Leigh Light squadron from Gibraltar, new construction, and borrowing. These new figures led to a revision of the number of additional aircraft needed. Hence, to make up the 260-aircraft requirement stipulated in both the Stark and Admiralty Plans, Coastal sought from the U.S. Joint Chiefs six squadrons totaling seventy-two long-range anti-submarine aircraft, drawn, the signers underscored, “from the forces already allocated [at the Atlantic Convoy Conference in Washington the previous month] to the Atlantic theatre.” At that conference the U.S. side predicted that 217 aircraft of suitable type and equipment, including 56 VLR, would be available “in excess of’ immediate Atlantic requirements.

It was important, the signers added, that the squadrons be made available “at the earliest opportunity” so as to take advantage of the period when the U-boats were without a 10-centimeter search receiver. (The A.U. Committee Minutes of their 14 April meeting, which contain a first draft of this communication, indicate that the Committee backed the four-month offensive proposed in the Stark Plan as against the twelve-month offensive proposed by the Admiralty.) The six squadrons would be accommodated at bases in southwest England. A reinforcement on that scale, the signers believed, “might well have results decisive to the issue of the Battle of the Atlantic.”

But Washington’s reception of the British telegram was cool. While sympathetic to the plans for an intensive operation in the Bay, the Joint Chiefs responded on 1 May, they had to report, regrettably, that the aircraft that they had predicted to be “in excess of” immediate requirements did not and would not in fact exist. The number of ASW aircraft cited in the document produced by the Convoy Conference, Admiral King explained, was based on figures “the origin and accuracy of which could not be entirely vouched for and which apparently had raised hopes as to the availability of aircraft which facts did not now warrant.” This reply, appearing so casually dismissive of a formal Allied agreement, caused understandable resentment in England, where a new telegram was drafted asking, if the numbers produced by the U.S. to the Convoy Conference were in error, would the U.S. kindly send the correct figures as quickly as possible?

Another and longer interval ensued before King and the other Joint Chiefs replied, in part because these matters were not exactly in the foreground of King’s interests at the time, since he was then engaged in one of the most contentious interservice rows of the war over the question, Who would control American anti-submarine air squadrons, the Navy or the Army Air Force Anti-Submarine Command? Slessor, who would personally observe these bitter turf battles during a visit to the States in June, said later: “The whole atmosphere in Washington was poisoned by inter-service jealousy and suspicion.”

On a belief that the reader would not want to be wearied by a recital here of that tedious tangle of disputes, which resulted in the Army’s withdrawal from anti-submarine work in the fall of the year, we shall leave that to the parti-pris literature and say simply that, try as Slessor did, he never succeeded in obtaining the seventy-two aircraft requested for the Bay; and it was not until October (!) that he could count any appreciable number of reinforcements from the American side. In that month Coastal had three U.S. Army and one U.S. Naval operational squadrons based at Dunkeswell in Devonshire and two U.S. Naval squadrons that were still working up at St Eval. But by October, it must be recognized, the planned Second Bay Offensive was over, having been waged by the aircraft that Coastal already had in hand, and the crisis of the U-boat war had passed.

Before the telegrams began passing between London and Washington, and Army and Navy air interests began crossing swords across the Potomac River (though invited by the Army’s War Department in 1942 to occupy all of the second floor and part of another in the newly erected Pentagon, an invitation that Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox readily accepted, the Navy Bureau Chiefs, not wanting to live cheek by jowl with the Army or Army Air Forces, objected strongly to moving there, and would not do so until 1948), Coastal had mounted another Bay trial, Operation Enclose II, which ran from dusk on the 5th to dawn on the 13th of April. With fewer aircraft (86) than were used in the first Enclose (115), but with three more L/L Catalinas of No. 210 Squadron, the operation was positioned over the same ribbon of sea as before and with the same deceptive 1.5-meter A.S.V. flooding at night.

During the period, twenty-five U-boats transited the ribbon (as against twenty-eight estimated). The total of 980 flying hours produced eleven sightings, more of them at night than in daylight for the first time, and four attacks, leading to the nighttime sinking of U-376 (Kptlt. Friedrich Marks) by L/L Wellington “C” of 172 Squadron, and damage to U-465 (Kptlt. Heinz Wolf) by Catalina “M” of 210 Squadron Fewer aircraft and fewer flight hours had produced the same results as those achieved by the original Enclose. And other U-boat crews, having affected narrow escapes, no doubt experienced what Raushenbush called “sheer funk.”

With the demonstration of higher efficiency in the repeat of Enclose, it was decided, even before that operation was concluded, to launch a full-scale, long-term intensive patrol over a larger ribbon between 8½° and 12° W under the code name Operation Derange. A total of 131 individual aircraft, all that were available at the moment, though well below the 260 considered necessary by Raushenbush and Williams, were committed to the new operation, which was to begin at dawn on 13 April and to continue “until further notice.” Included in that number were three new squadrons, a rocm. L/L Wellington squadron, No. 407, an ordinary Wellington squadron, No. 311, and a Whitley squadron, No. 612.

Up to the end of April, eighty-one U-boats crossed the Derange ribbon, either inbound or outbound, and during that period a total of 2,593 day and night flying hours resulted in thirty-six sightings and twenty-two attacks. The percentage of sightings made to hours flown represented no improvement over Enclose II. But one kill was made and two outbound boats were so badly damaged that they were forced to return to Brest and St.-Nazaire, respectively. The 10cm.-equipped Liberator “D” of 224 Sqdn. dropped six D/Cs on the previously damaged U-332 (Hüttemann) 25 seconds after she had dived, sinking her, northwest of Cape Ortegal, Spain, on the morning of the 29th. Damaged were U-366 (Kptlt. Hans Hornkohl), depth-charged by L/L Wellington “R” of 172 Sqdn. on the night of the 26th; and U-437 (Oblt.z.S. Hermann Lamby), depth-charged by L/L Wellington “H” of 172 on the night of the 29th.

The principal effect of the twenty-two Derange attacks in April, however, was to induce exasperation at BdU, where the Operations staff had grown weary of reports from Commanders during Enclose, Enclose II, and now Derange that despite their Fu.MB (Metox) gear, they were being surprised at night like deer in a car’s headlights. On 27 April, Admirals Donitz and Godt made a fateful decision, which they signaled to all Commanders. Standing War Order No. 483 was forthwith revised to require boats (1) to maintain maximum submergence at night through the Biscay transit area, and (2) to fight it out with aircraft on the surface in the daytime if surprised while charging batteries. This decision would lead to heavy U-boat losses during May and the summer months—twenty-six kills and seventeen U-boats damaged in ninety-seven days and nights—causing it to be called by historians “a major tactical error,” resulting from, as Slessor represented it, “the stupidity of the enemy.”

British aviation historian Alfred Price argues that in April only two out of a dozen anti-submarine squadrons in Air Vice Marshal Bromet’s No. 19 Group were fitted with both Leigh Light and 10-centimeter radar, and hence were not numerous enough to cause more than the loss of “a few U-boats to air attack without warning.” But in April the ratio of nighttime L/L-Iocm. hours flown inside the Enclose and Derange ribbons to nighttime hours flown by unequipped aircraft was 777 to 428, and L/L Wellingtons made seven night attacks without Metox warning between 26 and 29 April, resulting in two outbound U-boats seriously damaged, U-566 and U-437, which had to abort their departures.

No doubt this nighttime coverage got BdU’s attention, and the Dönitz/Godt duumvirate decided that placing their battery-charging boats on the surface at night under the sudden surveillance of searchlights was a more perilous course than was deploying them on the surface in daylight, when at least their lookouts had a reasonable chance of sighting the enemy’s approach in time to bring anti-aircraft armament to bear. They would then have both a warning and a defense, neither of which they had under the lights. Perhaps Dönitz and Godt were not as “stupid” as Slessor thought. They were simply wrong. If the plan was to surface during the daylight hours, then the U-boats should have been instructed to dive upon sighting aircraft. They did not have the firepower to fight back successfully. And one downside to maximum submergence, whether by day or by night, was greatly increased transit time, which translated into reduced opportunities to sink shipping.

In making the decision to spend the battery-charging hours on the surface in daylight, Dönitz and Godt likely were influenced by U-333’s flak success against a Wellington and U-338’s success in downing Halifax “B” of 502 Sqdn., both in March; and by U-79’s protracted machine-gun defense on 12 April that forced Liberator “M” of No. 86 Squadron to break off an attack—details of which BdU transmitted to all boats as an incentive. (Three L/L Wellingtons were unexplainedly lost in the Bay during April.) But these three successes, it turned out, were thin reeds on which to base so dangerous a general policy.

And so, on the cusp of May, the Battle of the Bay entered a phase that had not been predicted by either Raushenbush or Williams, a phase in which the secret use of 10-centimeter radar counted less than either boffin had anticipated, since the night had effectively been taken away from the equation.38 Though Bromet’s No. 19 Group maintained night patrols at about the same level from April through August, night sightings decreased sharply at the end of April and the battle from 1 May forward became mainly one of mano-a-mano combat in daylight, and let the metal fall where it may. The essential point that should not be lost here is: displaced by the German decision as the top-drawer weapon in the Bay, the Leigh-Lighters nonetheless had proved for a second time that they were the controlling threat. Even now, in a passive role as menace-in-being, by slowing the passage of U-boats through the Bay, they saved numerous merchant ships from torpedo-wrought deaths.

Bromet’s bombers were ready for this May battle. Based mostly in Devon, Cornwall, and South Wales, they had trained to near-perfect pitch, absorbing the lesson from O.R.S. in 1942 that it was not the weapon but the man that counted. And they had mastered the tactical doctrine long earned by O.R.S. calculations and combat experience. Foremost in anti-U-boat operations was sighting. Two lookouts, the doctrine held, must keep a continuous watch from ahead to 90° on either side of the aircraft, and to prevent errors through fatigue, they should be relieved every half hour.

An efficient A.S.V. watch must also be maintained, except that A.S.V. Mark II (metric) must not be used in daylight unless visibility was under three miles, or the aircraft was flying above heavy cloud, or the gear was required for navigational purposes. No restrictions were placed on A.S.V. Mark III (centimetric). To avoid eye fatigue, radar operators should be relieved every forty-five minutes. The optimum altitude for detecting and surprising a U-boat was judged to be 5,000 feet where there was no cloud or where cloud bases were above 5,000. When cloud density was not more than 5/Ioths and below 5,000, aircraft should patrol 500 to 1,000 feet above cloud tops. When clouds were more than 5/Ioths and below 5,000, aircraft should seek concealment by flying as near the cloud base as possible. When a sighting was made, altitude should be lost as quickly as possible in order to be no more than 300 to 500 feet off the deck when three-quarters of a mile to a mile from the target.

The pilot should make the decision as to whether flying an indirect course toward the target was required, either to provide time to get the bomb bay doors open (where aircraft were so equipped) or to avoid an increase of speed that would throw off the bomb intervalometer setting. (Squadron Leader Terence M. Bulloch, cited in chapter 3 for his successes—altogether in his career he would sight 28 U-boats, attack 19, sink 4, and severely damage 3, becoming the most decorated ASW pilot in Coastal—deviated from the rule of fast descent by stalking a sighted boat from cloud cover, and only when positioned to make an attack up or down the boat’s track at an angle of about 20° would he initiate his dive. Bulloch did not fly patrols in May, but spent the month instead testing a new rocket-propelled weapon, to be used in action for the first time on 23 May, at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down.)

During the final stage of the run-in, aircraft should descend to 50 feet and deliver their attack as nearly as possible along the track of the U-boat, taking their point of aim according to the following data:

(1) The time from the release of a depth charge from 50 feet to detonation at the shallow setting (25 feet) is approximately 5 seconds (2 seconds in the air and 3 in the water).

(2) If the U/Boat is in process of crash-diving, her speed will be approximately 6 knots (10 feet per second). Therefore, if the U/Boat is attacked while some part of the hull is visible, the centre of the stick should be aimed 5 x 10 = 50 feet ahead of the conning tower (or its estimated position) at the time of release.

(If the conning tower is itself in sight, however, at the time of release, it is desirable to make this the aiming point, although theoretically the stick will then fall 50 feet behind it.)

(3) If the U/Boat has dived before the depth charges are released, the stick must be aimed a certain distance ahead of the swirl, the apex of which is made by the foremost end of the conning tower. This distance is, of course, that run by the submarine between its final disappearance and the time of detonation of the depth charges. Assuming that the speed of the U/Boat is 6 knots, the distances are as follows:

Time of Submersion: Distance to aim to release of DC’s ahead of swirl

5 sees.    100 ft.

10 sees.  150 ft.

15 sees.  200 ft.

20 sees.  250 ft.

25 sees.  300 ft.

30 sees. 350 ft.

(4) If the periscope only is sighted, the speed of the U/Boat will probably be only about 2 knots, i.e., 3.4 feet per second, hence the stick should be aimed 5 x 3.4 = 17 feet ahead of the periscope at the time of release.

NOTE: An additional allowance must always be made for the underwater travel of the depth charges (40 feet).

If the U-boat had just submerged, the approximate length of its diving swirl (100 feet) could be used as a yardstick for estimating the distance ahead that D/Cs should enter the water. It was unlikely that a D/C attack would be successful, however, if the U-boat had been submerged for more than 30 seconds, in which case baiting tactics might be employed: In these maneuvers, the aircraft set course from the position of the swirl to a distance of at least 30 miles and remained outside that range for not less than 30 minutes; then it returned to the same position, taking advantage of cloud, sun, or weather conditions for concealment, in the expectation that the U-boat would have surfaced again. When a surfaced U-boat used its flak against the aircraft—most boats were then equipped with one 20mm cannon and several machine guns on the bridge—the decision on how to respond rested with the aircraft Captain, but the Tactical Instruction made it clear what was expected of him: “He must remember that the primary reason for his existence is, for the time being, to kill U/Boats and that a U/Boat on the surface presents a much better chance of a kill than one submerged.”

The point was made that a U-boat’s bridge made a very unstable gun platform in any kind of sea and particularly if the sea was beam-on, and that even a large aircraft properly handled and using its forward guns presented a fleeting, dangerous, and difficult target. Aircraft Captains should therefore press home their attacks against enemy fire, preferably from dead ahead, “making full use of the front guns to kill the U/Boat’s gun crews or at least to keep their heads down.” (The U-boats, for their part, were instructed when under attack to keep the aircraft on a stern bearing in order to present a small target—though, ironically, this helped the aircraft to drop a D/C straddle up track—and to use all available flak and machine gun fire simultaneously. When the aircraft began its final run in, the U-boat should initiate evasive maneuvers at maximum speed using full helm. In cases where a strong cross-wind was blowing, the U-boat’s avoiding action should be to windward in order to take advantage of the aircraft’s drift sideways.)

Black May” – Biscay Bay in May 1943 Part III

Aircraft carrying six or fewer D/Cs on hunting patrols or sweeps, such as Derange, should drop the whole load in one stick; aircraft carrying more than six should drop sticks of six. Aircraft on convoy or other escort duty should drop sticks of four, leaving D/Cs for a possible second attack; this rule could be altered at the Captain’s discretion, for example when nearing his PLE or while returning to base. After carrying out an attack on a diving boat by day, the aircraft must drop a marker on or beside the swirl. By night the position must be marked by flame floats, usually two dropped at the same time as the D/Cs.

For purposes of assessment and so that every possible lesson could be learned from each attack, a complete and detailed record, for example, of the exact time lapse between submersion of a U-boat and the release of D/Cs, should be kept by members of the crew. “The story should be complete to the smallest detail and even facts which may appear irrelevant should be included.” Within twenty-four hours a connected account should be written down and read by the crew.

Not all of these rules were observed to the letter, as will be seen in the after-action reports that follow. Some pilots, following Terence Bulloch’s example, fudged the rules and had unorthodox successes. But in the main, Coastal’s tactical doctrine proved out not only in the Bay but also in the convoy routes. The mole, it turned out, had a lot to fear from the crow. At 2055 GMT on 30 April (all times that follow are GMT), L/L Wellington “N” of 172 Sqdn. lifted off from Chivenor in Devon, bound southwest to the Derange ribbon, where the cloud was 4/Ioths to 7/Ioths with bases at 2,000 feet, the sea moderate to rough, the air bumpy, and visibility 2–4 miles. At 0007 on 1 May, Pilot Flight Sergeant Peter W. Phillips was patrolling in the ribbon at 1,200 feet on course 168° when he obtained an S/E contact (Special Equipment, a code word for A.S.V. Mark III 10cm radar) bearing Green (starboard) 45°, range 6’½ miles. Phillips dived on the surfaced U-boat, which was proceeding inbound on a course of 132° at seven knots, and, after reaching 550 feet three-quarters of a mile from the target, he “struck” (switched on) the Leigh Light. The run-in was made on the U-boat’s port bow at 80° to track, while the Navigator, Sergeant H. A. Bate, fired about forty rounds from the front gun before it jammed, and at 0100 Phillips released six Mark XI Torpex D/Cs set to shallow depth and spaced 50 feet apart from a height of 75 feet. All were seen by the rear gunner to explode with blue flashes, two to port and four to starboard; Nos. 2 and 3 were thought to have been very close to the U-boat’s hull.

During the aircraft’s pass over the target a shudder was felt underneath, though no gun fire was observed. (An hour after the attack it was found that the hydraulic system had been damaged; not known until landing was that the port tire had been punctured.) Phillips made a 180° turn to port and, four minutes later, flew back over the attack position, which was marked by flame floats. Except for a patch of foam and bubbles, nothing could be seen, not even a diving swirl. After twelve more minutes in the vicinity, Phillips resumed patrol. At 0452 he and his five-man crew landed at the nearest base, Predannack in Cornwall. As they did so, the port landing gear collapsed, and the aircraft swung off the runway and slammed into a Nissen hut. Beyond scratches, the crew were not injured. The base Medical Officer pronounced them “very lucky.”

The U-boat they had attacked, U-415 (Oblt.z.S. Kurt Neide), returning from her first war cruise, was also very lucky. Damaged by Phillips’s D/Cs, she would be attacked twice more before the day was out. At 1136 she was visually sighted on the surface in visibility 15 miles, at 4435’N, 10°37’W, by Sunderland “M” of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 461 Sqdn., flying on Derange. Bearing Green 30° at a range of 5–6 miles, the U-boat was estimated at 6 knots on a course of 100°. Seeing the aircraft approach, U—415 dived. Pilot Flight Lieutenant E. C. “Bertie” Smith, DFC, put the flying boat into a dive and attacked the swirl 18 seconds after submergence from the U-boat’s port beam, dropping four Mark XI D/Cs set shallow and spaced 200 feet apart from a height of 50–75 feet. The D/Cs straddled the U-boat’s line of advance 70–100 feet ahead of the apex of the swirl. No debris appeared, however. Smith took his aircraft off on baiting procedures and returned in cloud 29 minutes later, but again saw no evidence of damage where his sea marker had disappeared in rough seas.

U-415 had received a severe shaking but was still intact.43 At 1727 she was sighted for a third time, in position 44°13’N, 10°23’W, by Derange aircraft Whitley “E” of 612 Sqdn. The sea had moderated to a slight swell and visibility was still 15 miles. The U-boat was bearing 180°, distant 5 miles, at a fast speed, 15 knots, on course 090°. Pilot Flight Sergeant Norman Earnshaw descended from 3,000 feet, intending to attack from the U-boat’s port quarter at 20° to track. As he began his run in at about 150 knots, U-415 opened fire with 20mm cannon and light machine guns. Earnshaw’s release from 90 feet of six Mark XI D/Cs, set to shallow, spaced 200 feet apart, exploded 200 feet to starboard of the target, as the U-boat took hard evasive action in a tight turn.

Kicking rudder, Earnshaw set up for a second attack. Meanwhile, U-415 dived. In the second attack, made from the U-boat’s port beam at 90° to track, two D/Cs were released from 70 feet and exploded 28 seconds after submergence 300 feet ahead of the swirl. This time oil was seen. Earnshaw patrolled the scene for 40 minutes, then set course for base at Davidstow Moor in Cornwall. Further shaken, U-415 limped on to her base at Brest. At BdU, Donitz and Godt were relieved to learn of her safe arrival. Their war diary recorded: “U-415 was bombed three times … Despite much damage she was still able to dive.” The good luck that carried U-415 through May Day would stay with her until 14 July 1944, when she struck an RAF mine and sank in the Brest approaches.

Two other attacks in the Bay were made on 1 May: At 0825, Halifax “C” of 502 Sqdn. dropped six D/Cs on a surfaced boat, and at 1015, Hampden “L” of 1404 Sqdn. released six on a surfaced boat. Initial contact was made by eye in each case. Return fire was not observed from either boat before it dived. There were no visible results from the attacks. Three daylight attacks on surfaced boats were made the next day, 2 May: by Sunderland “R” of 10 Sqdn. at 0810; by Hudson “W” of 269 Sqdn. at 1437; and by Whitley “G” of 612 Sqdn. at 1531. In the first and third attacks initial contact was by eye; in the second it was obtained by S/E. None of the boats was reported to have fought back.

The first kill in May was made at dusk that day by Flight Lieutenant “Bertie” Smith and his ten-man Australian crew in the same Sunderland “M” they had flown the day before (which deserves mention only because it should be noted that air crews frequently switched aircraft from day to day within a squadron). Smith was trolling in the Derange ribbon at 2,500 feet in the base of 6/Ioths cloud. Visibility was 10–12 miles. The darkening sea below was rough in 26-knot winds from 010°. At 1917, eyeballs sighted a U-boat on the surface bearing Red (port) 45°, range 10 miles. Smith estimated it to be traveling at 10–12 knots on an outbound course of 270°. He pushed forward his four engine throttles and climbed into cloud, where he turned to make his approach. At four miles from the target he dove from the cloud. On sighting the flying boat, the U-boat responded with flak and machinegun fire, and when Smith was down to 300 feet and ½ mile distant, the U-boat abruptly altered course to port. Smith was able to complete his run-in from the U-boat’s port beam at 90° to track, while RAF gunner Sergeant R. MacDonald swept the deck with fire from the bow turret. Just before release from an altitude of 50–70 feet, the U-boat gunners were seen scrambling for the conning tower hatch.

Four Mark XII D/Cs straddled the boat just aft of the tower, after which the boat described a tight circle, apparently out of control, then came to a gradual stop with a bad list to port. A large volume of brown vapor blew out from its stern and a white vapor plume rose about three feet from its port quarter. Then a heavy flow of oil was observed pouring from its port side. Meanwhile, Smith was making a climbing turn to 500 feet to set up a second attack, which he delivered at 75 feet with four D/Cs released from the target’s starboard bow at 15° to track, again straddling the tower. The now gravely wounded boat settled by its stern. The oil patch spread to 300 yards in diameter. Some fifteen crewmen were seen jumping into the water, where they waved frantically at the aircraft. Then, at 1940, the U-boat’s stern sank beneath the waves; its bow followed, reappearing twice briefly at an angle of 30°. The victim was U—465 (Kptlt. Heinz Wolf, 28 years old, from Emmerich/Rhein), on her third war patrol. Smith and crew remained in the area for 30 minutes, then, having reached PLE, returned with their victory photographs to base at Pembroke Dock in South Wales.

Two daylight attacks were made on 3 May against boats sighted on the surface in the Derange ribbon: by Sunderland “S” of 461 Sqdn., at 1044, and by Whitley “R” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U. In the first instance, the initial contact was made by eye and four D/Cs were released 22 seconds after the U-boat had submerged. In the second, the contact was also made by eye, and five D/Cs (one having hung up) were released while the boat was still on the surface. There were no visible results in either case. On the next day, 4 May, Halifax “S” of 58 Sqdn. was on morning patrol, having lifted off at 0555 for the Derange area, where the seas were very rough under 7/Ioths-8/Ioths cloud, visibility 8–10 miles. At 1740, the crew made the visual sighting of a creamy wake, bearing Green 90°, which led to a surfaced U-boat, outbound from base at 6–8 knots on a course of 270°, distant 4–5 miles.

Pilot Flying Officer John M. Hartley turned to starboard, lost height rapidly, and approached out of the sun. At 1,400 yards the U-boat opened fire with what Hartley thought was an impressive amount of armament: “heavy guns” from the afterdeck, followed at 1,200 yards by “cannon at the front of the bridge,” and later by cannon on the forward deck and two pairs of machine guns on a stepped gun platform in front of the conning tower. He could see about fifteen of the boat’s crew, most of them manning the cannons and guns, but two men in black uniform and another in a white sweater, all wearing peaked caps, standing on the deck at the port side of the tower. Hartley ordered answering fire against the pugnacious boat, which scattered some of the men manning cannon and machine guns, the rest maintaining heavy and light flak.

By evasive action Hartley managed to prevent his four-engine Halifax from being hit by that fusillade, and at a quarter of a mile from target, he leveled out to release six Mark XI D/Cs from the U-boat’s port quarter at an angle of 60°-70° to track. The navigator firing the front gun saw one man on deck hit and fall overboard. Altitude at the time of release was a relatively high 200–400 feet. The rear gunner reported that the D/Cs straddled aft of the conning tower, two on the port quarter and four on the starboard beam. In addition, the gunner had fired 500 rounds at the tower and hull as the aircraft passed. But the U-boat submerged thirty seconds after the Halifax, turning back, caught sight of it again, and no damage was visible, only the usual D/C scum. Baiting procedure was followed, Hartley returning at 0910, but the marker could not be found. With PLE reached at 1000, the Halifax returned to base, landing at 1258. Subsequent assessment by NHB/MOD has identified the boat as U-/90, which suffered “slight damage,” nothing to prevent her continuing on Feindfahrt.

Three more attacks in the Bay were made later in the day: by Halifax “A” of 502 Sqdn. at 1920, by Catalina “J” of 202 Sqdn. at 2110, and by L/L Wellington “P” of 407 Sqdn. at 2309. In the first, initial contact was made by eye and six D/Cs were released on a surfaced U-boat. In the second, contact was also made by eye and five D/Cs (one hanging up) were dropped 37 seconds after submergence. In the third, contact was obtained by S/E and six D/Cs were dropped 10 seconds after submergence. No results were evident, but minor damage was done to U-405 (Korv. Kapt. Rolf-Heinrich Hopmann) by the Halifax, and the target of the Catalina was later assessed to be U-6oo (Kptlt. Bernard Zurmühlen).

Three daylight attacks were made on 7 May in the Derange area, the first two on diving boats by Wing Commander Wilfrid E. Oulton of 58 Sqdn. At 0656, just after dawn (Oulton forbade his crew to eat breakfast prior to a morning flight because it put “spots,” not U-boats, before the eyes), Oulton sighted a U-boat’s wake from the cockpit of Halifax “S,” dived on the target, and dropped six D/Cs over its swirl 10–15 seconds after the U-boat’s submergence. And at 1015, Oulton dived on another U-boat’s wake and released three D/Cs on the submerging boat while its conning tower was still visible. The first attack yielded no visible results. The second, now known to have been against the outbound U-214, badly wounded her Commander, Kptlt. Rup-precht Stock, and forced the boat back to her base at Brest. Oulton’s aircraft received machine-gun hits during the run in.

The third attack was made by Sunderland “W” of RAAF. 10 Sqdn. Flying on Derange, aircraft captain Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey G. Rossiter and his eleven-man crew had been airborne from Mount Batten in Cornwall since 0635 when, at 1023, they sighted a wake, then the conning tower, of an outbound U-boat on the starboard beam, distant 10 miles. As the flying boat turned to attack, the U-boat, now known to have been XJ—603 (Oblt.z.S. Rudolf Baltz), dived and disappeared, making attack inadvisable. Patrol was resumed at 2,000 feet just below 6/10ths cloud base, and at 1220 a fully surfaced U-boat was sighted through binoculars 17 miles away on the starboard bow, in position 47°06’N, 10°58’W. The sea state was moderate, the wind was 235° at twenty-six miles per hour, visibility was twenty miles. Rossiter estimated the U-boat to be making 12 knots on an outbound course of 280°. He made a climbing turn into cloud and broke out of it on course 225° with the still-surfaced U-boat four miles distant on the starboard bow.

As he pushed the elevator column forward into a dive, the U-boat altered course to starboard. Rossiter turned with it and ran in across track 60° on its starboard quarter, the nose gunner opening fire with 100 rounds at 800 yards range, scoring hits on the conning tower, where two men were seen. From a height of fifty feet Rossiter released four D/Cs that straddled the boat just forward of the tower, and the resulting explosion plumes completely obscured the boat. Before the explosions, as the aircraft passed, the tail gunner fired 600 rounds at the tower. Rossiter pushed hard left rudder and turned the ailerons for a quick return to the site. Setting up, he attacked a second time, from the U-boat’s port quarter at 45° to track, again releasing four D/Cs from fifty feet. The first D/C fell within twenty feet of the port side aft of the tower; the three remaining overshot.

The U-boat, plainly wounded, made several complete tight circles to starboard at 4–5 knots, trailing oil and gradually losing way. At 1300 it submerged slowly on course 090°, still putting out oil, and disappeared bows up four minutes later. By 1330 a crescent-shaped oil patch 250 yards in diameter and 500 yards in circumference covered the site. The Sunderland remained in the area for another hour and a half, then shaped course for home with its photographs, becoming waterborne at Mount Batten at 1655. Rossiter received the DFC for this action. The NHB/MOD assessment has identified the stricken U-boat as U-663 (Kptlt. Heinrich Schmid). Seriously damaged, she sank the next day with all hands, probably as the result of these injuries.

An eight-day drought in Bay attacks ensued, owing in great part to heavy pro-German weather that greatly restricted visibility. Then, on the 15th, with visibility improved to as much as 25 miles, there were six attacks in one day, all in sunlight, all resulting from visual sightings in the Derange ribbon. The first, by Liberator “O” of 224 Sqdn., was made at 0936 on a U-boat that had submerged 15 seconds before six D/Cs were released. The boat, now known to be U—168 (Kptlt. Helmuth Pich), which was returning from its first war cruise during which she participated in the Battle for ONS.5, was not damaged. The second attack, by Whitley “M” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U., was delivered at 1127 against a boat that took five D/Cs (one hung up) on the surface. It has since been identified as U-648 and assessed as undamaged.

The third attack, again by Whitley “M,” at 1233, was directed at another surfaced boat, outbound from base, since identified as U-591 (Kptlt. Hansjürgen Zetzsche). Though the Whitley had only the one previously hung-up D/C to drop, which did no damage, the aircraft’s nose machine gun wounded the Commander and one crewman, forcing the boat’s return to base. The fourth attack, by Whitley “B” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U., was made at 1314 on another outbound surfaced boat. The six D/Cs released caused slight damage to U-305 (Kptlt. Rudolf Bahr). The fifth attack, by Whitley “S” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U., was delivered at 1403 against the outbound, surfaced U-211 (Oblt.z.S. Karl Hause), which was not damaged.

The sixth and final attack of the day took place at 1810 when the sun was low and there was a bright glare on the water. Pilot Wing Commander Wilfrid E. Oulton of 58 Sqdn. had lifted off in Halifax “M” from St Eval at 1208 and now was on a routine rectangular creeping line ahead patrol at position 45°28’N, 10°20’W, where he swept the sea below with Polaroid glasses. There was 1/10th cloud at 6,000 feet, the sea was moderate to rough, winds were 080° at twenty-four mph, visibility was 10–15 miles in haze. Ahead a V-shaped wake slowly emerged into view bearing Green 30° distant 10 miles. Realizing that he was up sun where he could stalk, Oulton let down gradually to 2,500 feet, and at four miles range sighted a U-boat on the surface, speed 10 knots on an inbound course of 070°. He circled to starboard and descended through 1,500 to begin the run in. At 1,000 yards the navigator opened fire with the nose gun and saw hits on both the conning tower and hull. At a height of 100–120 feet the Halifax released six D/Cs from the U-boat’s port quarter at 10° to track. After crossing, the rear gunner got off additional rounds at the tower and hull and watched for results of the explosions. He reported that two or more D/Cs at the end of the stick fell against the port side of the boat.

When the explosion plumes subsided and the boat could be seen again, the fore part of the hull appeared to lift; then, two to three seconds later, there was a “sudden jerk,” and the boat stood up on its stern in a completely vertical position with the bows above water. After Oulton completed a turn for a second attack, he could see a large light blue oil patch and “greenish white water” boiling around the upright 20 feet of bows. The victim’s condition was such, Oulton decided, that he could save his remaining D/Cs for another boat. Two minutes following the attack the U-boat’s last apparition of “gray with brown patches” slid beneath the waves. At 1827, Oulton set course on the homeward leg and was down at St Eval by 2125. The U-boat sunk was the returning U-266 (Kptlt. Rolf von Jessen), which had been Group Fink’s lead scorer in the Battle for ONS.552

With good weather holding, No. 19 Group had another full day on the 16th when five attacks were made in the Derange patrol area, all as the result of visual sightings. The first, by Whitley “E” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U., was made at 1143 on a diving boat, since identified as U-648 (Oblt.z.S. Peter-Arthur Stahl), which was not damaged. The second attack, by Wellington “H” of 311 Sqdn. (Czech), was delivered at 1410 on a fully surfaced boat, since identified as U-662 (Kptlt. Heinrich Müller), which was not damaged. The third attack, by Liberator “M” of 224 Sqdn. at 1450, was against the same U-648 (Stahl) that Whitley “E” had attacked with six D/Cs three hours before. Now, attacked on the surface with six more D/Cs, the lucky boat escaped again with no damage. The fourth attack, by Liberator “E” of 224 Sqdn., was made at 1650 on a diving boat, which was the same U-662 (Müller) attacked by Wellington “H” two and a half hours before. This time the boat suffered minor damage. Another lucky boat. But, like U-648, she would be sunk within the year.

The killing attack of the day would come at dusk, 2007, when conditions were 1/10th cloud, bases 20,000 feet, sea moderate, wind 110° at 25 mph, and visibility 10 miles in haze. Halifax “R” of 58 Sqdn. made a visual sighting of a narrow brushstroke of a wake across the evening’s dark gray surface. The wake was on bearing Red 100°, distant 6–7 miles. Pilot Flight Officer A. J. W. “Tony” Birch immediately altered course to port. The U-boat, when seen, was on an outbound course of 270°, speed 10 knots. Realizing that he could not lose sufficient height in the distance given, Birch made an altitude-losing turn, keeping up sun of the U-boat, finally making his run in from due west of the target, out of the sun. Eventually seeing him, the U-boat dived. Birch’s six D/Cs dropped while the conning tower was still visible. Because of glare on the water, the rear gunner could not get an exact fix on the stick placement, although, according to the aircraft’s after-action report (Form 540), it was thought that one D/C fell 100 feet ahead of the swirl and the remainder in the swirl or wake.

When Birch circled back over the scene, he observed a patch of blue oil. Shortly afterwards, the mid-upper turret gunner sighted what appeared to be a body. Birch dropped a marker and flame floats, then at 2018 set course away on baiting tactics in company with Halifax “B,” which had been flying about five miles to the west and had witnessed the attack. When both aircraft returned from baiting, they found a large irregular-shaped patch of blue oil a quarter-to a half-mile in extent. Also seen nearby was a circling Sunderland (“T” of 10 Sqdn.), which reported by R/T that it had seen and photographed wreckage. Shortly afterwards, the Sunderland sighted two bodies and wood planking, although these did not show up in the photographs. Halifaxes “R” and “B,” having reached PLE, returned to base, where they sat down at 2345 and 2350. The U-boat was the Type XIV U—463 (Korv. Kapt. Leo Wolfbauer), one of Dönitz’s prized tanker boats, under way from Bordeaux on her fifth supply cruise. She was the first Milch Cow to be sunk. There were no survivors.

Black May” – Biscay Bay in May 1943 Part IV

On the 17th, Halifax “D” of 58 Sqdn. released six D/Cs on U-628 (Kptlt. Heinz Hasenschar), the shadower boat of the Battle for ONS.5, which was returning to base. The U-boat was not damaged. One attack was made at 1721 on the 20th, by Wellington “G” of 172 Sqdn., following an S/E contact. The identity of the target, depth-charged 40 seconds after submergence, is not known. On the 21st there were three attacks, all as the result of visual sightings. At 1459, Whitley “Q” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U. attacked Us-634 (Oblt.z.S. Eberhard Dahlhaus) 21 seconds after submergence. This boat, which had been damaged in the Battle for ONS.5, was not damaged a second time. At 1756, Whitley “H” of the same squadron attacked a boat, thought possibly to have been U-230 (Kptlt. Paul Siegmann), 30 seconds after submergence. And at 2031 Liberator “D” of 224 Sqdn. attacked a boat, thought possibly to have been U-525 (Kptlt. Hans-Joachim Drewitz), 15–20 seconds after submergence.

Three more attacks came on the 22nd. At 1123, Halifax “O” attacked a boat, unidentified, 30 seconds after submergence; at 1154, Whitley “D” attacked a surfaced boat, unidentified; and at 1227, Whitley “G” attacked an unidentified boat 12 seconds after the conning tower had disappeared. The first of two attacks on the 24th was made by Whitley “J” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U. at 1122 against a fully surfaced boat, unidentified, that offered no return fire. But such was not the good fortune of Sunderland “L” of 228 Sqdn., based at Pembroke Dock, which four and a half hours later encountered U-441, the first of two VIIC boats converted to anti-aircraft role (Flak-U-boot), the other being U-216.

In this modification a quadruple 20mm cannon was mounted on a raised platform before the bridge, two single 20mm cannon on the after end of the bridge, a 3.7cm gun on a raised platform abaft the bridge, and another “quad twenty” on an extension to that platform. The curtain of fire produced by that amount of armament was formidable. The task given U-441 (Kptlt. Götz von Hartmann), which sortied from Brest on the 22nd, was to operate entirely on the surface in the Bay, attacking Allied aircraft and giving cover to damaged boats unable to dive. When Sunderland “L” made her run in against the boat at 1400 she passed, bleeding, through a hail of fire. Pilot Flying Officer H. J. Debden managed to straddle the boat with his D/Cs before, fatally wounded, his “Queen” plunged into the sea. The entire eleven-man crew was lost. But U—441 was also badly wounded, and had to return to Brest, not to sortie again until 8 July. On the 12th of that month she was dived on by three cannon-equipped Beaufighters of 248 Sqdn., which killed ten U-boat men and wounded fifteen others, including the Commander, forcing the boat back to Brest again. Her sister boat U-256 did not put to sea until October, and, after one less than successful patrol, was reconverted to an attack role. The flak-boat idea was not working.

Attacks were made on a submerged boat on the 29th by Beaufighter “O” of 236 Sqdn., employing a new “R.P.” rocket-propelled warhead (see chapter 10); on a surfaced boat on the 30th by Liberator “G” of 224 Sqdn; and on a submerged boat, again on the 30th, by Halifax “E” of 502 Sqdn. All three attacks resulted from visual sightings. None was assessed as causing damage.

The last day of May was one on which, it could be said, No. 19 Group snatched the hood from the falcon. Seven different Derange aircraft made eleven attacks (including second attacks by individual aircraft) resulting in two U-boats destroyed and a third forced back to base. Liberator “Q” of 224 Sqdn. obtained an S/E contact in daylight and dropped six D/Cs on a surfaced boat, causing no visible damage. Fortress “A” of 206 Sqdn. scored the first success of the day, visually sighting a wake and then a surfaced U-boat at 1151. The aircraft attacked from one point abaft the boat’s starboard beam with six D/Cs, obtaining a straddle of two explosions on the starboard side and four on the port. During the run in two German crewmen were seen manning a gun on the bandstand (Wintergarten), but no fire was observed. Although the Fortress crew saw nothing more than a spot of oil in the explosion mark, British interrogators later learned from captured crewmen from the attacked boat, which was U—523 (Kptlt. Werner Pietzsch), sunk on 25 August 1943, that in A/206’s depth-charging she suffered damage to two tanks and had to return to base.

The coup de théâtre on the 31st was a joint attack by four aircraft on a U-boat first visually sighted on the surface in position 46°35’N, 10°40 W. Cloud was 5/10ths, bases at 3,000, tops at 5,000. The sea was moderate. Wind was 260° at twenty-five knots. Visibility was fifteen miles. Running parallel to the Biscay coast and creeping westward, Wing Commander Oulton of 58 Sqdn., seen before on the 7th and the 15th, was dipping his Halifax “R” in and out of the cloud base when at 1550 his flight engineer sighted “white horses” bearing 20° Red, distant six miles. Oulton altered course, climbed into the cloud, and increased revolutions per minute (RPMs) and manifold pressure. At four miles from the estimated position of the wake-making U-boat, Oulton dived out of the cloud at a steep angle so as to give the mid-upper turret gunner an opportunity to spray the U-boat’s tower and put the German gunners “off their job a little.”

After leveling off at 80–100 feet, Oulton made his run in from starboard quarter at an angle of 30° to track, dropping six Mark XI Torpex D/Cs set to shallow depth and spaced 86 feet apart, while the U-boat was still fully surfaced. Photographs later showed a straddle midway between the conning tower and bow. After getting off gun bursts, the rear gunner reported that as the explosion plumes fell away, the U-boat was observed to be “wallowing” in the D/C pool. Oulton circled tightly to port and returned to the scene from dead astern on a westerly course, firing rounds as he came and releasing three more D/Cs. When the spray subsided, the U-boat was seen to be stationary in the center of the D/C scum.

Out of D/Cs, Oulton circled around and made a gun run about 300 yards to port of the injured boat, firing from both the mid-upper and rear turrets. The U-boat was now lying beam on to sea at a northerly heading, surrounded by a large oil patch and considerable wreckage. Twice more Oulton returned to rake the boat with gunfire, now seeing individual crewmen emerge from the tower hatch and run along the deck. Soon there was answering 20mm fire from the boat, but it was inaccurate, and was quickly suppressed. On another weaving, up-and-down pass Oulton saw bodies lying on the bridge. He climbed to 3,000 feet and reported the action to St Eval, suggesting that a reinforcement be sent.

This was done, and at 1710 Halifax “J” of 58 Sqdn. homed in to the position on Oulton’s W/T. Since the pilot could not find the U-boat, Oulton led him down to it, then banked off about 200 yards on J/58’s starboard to give him covering fire. The U-boat was now circling to port. The J/58 pilot made an attack but dropped his six D/Cs 100 feet off-target. On a second attack run he missed again by the same margin. Oulton later said sympathetically that the pilot, young in age and experience, was “over-anxious.” The J/58 stayed around and poured about 200 rounds into the conning tower, on which five crew members were seen; then, at 1275, sighting a Sunderland at 180°, the pilot flew off to attract the flying boat by Aldis lamp signals to the scene. This was Sunderland “E” of 10 Sqdn. At nearly the same time a second Sunderland, “X” of 228 Sqdn., was sighted, and it too was invited to attempt a coup de grâce.

The E/10 swept in from 40° on the U-boat’s starboard bow and dropped four D/Cs that straddled the target. Previously able to maneuver, though trailing oil, the U-boat, now badly shaken again, lost way and stopped. The E/10 wheeled around for a second attack, which she delivered at 1747 from the starboard beam. Four more D/Cs descended on the stubborn boat. Three overshot, but one exploded about 30 feet distant from the “yellowish brown” hull, forward of the conning tower.

Sunderland X/228, nearby, watched E/10’s two attacks and then, at 1750, made one of her own, from the starboard quarter to the port bow, with four straddling D/Cs. She returned two minutes later with four more D/Cs, which entered the water forward of the conning tower. When the second stick exploded, the U-boat shuddered, and bodies were thrown into the air along with the spray. Shortly afterwards, thirty to forty bodies, some still alive, were seen in the water, suggesting that the crew were on deck in the process of abandoning ship when the last attack was made. Oulton, who was still around, flew over the scene and dropped two rubber dinghies and two Mae Wests. “At that point, I felt very sorry for those poor devils in the water,” he said later. “They had only been doing their duty as they saw it and were as brave as any other combatant.”

When the boat disappeared from view, both E/10 and X/228 left the scene, satisfied that the thoroughly hammered enemy craft had been destroyed. The U-Boat Assessment Committee agreed with them and gave major credit for the kill to Oulton in R/58, who carried out the first two attacks, causing severe damage, and homed in another aircraft. But it also praised the teamwork exhibited by the other participating pilots. In a rare personal expression, the Committee commented: “A triumph of co-operation and a good party in at the death.” Oulton was awarded the DSO and DFC for this and previous actions. Pilot of E/10 Flight Lieutenant Maxwell S. Mainprize and pilot of X/228 Flight Officer William M. French each received the DFC. The U-boat sunk was later identified as the Type VIIC U-563 (Kptlt. Gustav Borchardt), which had sortied from Brest on her eighth war cruise two days before.

While that remarkable series of attacks was taking place, Sunderland “R” of 201 Sqdn. was patrolling Derange in position 45°38’N, 13°04’W when, at 1711, a surfaced U-boat was sighted visually, bearing 240°T, distant 8 miles, on an outbound course of 250° at 5–6 knots. Pilot Flight Lieutenant Douglas M. Gall immediately headed straight downhill from 5,000 feet at 150 knots. It was his crew’s first-ever U-boat sighting after many fruitless and boring 15-hour patrols, and he was not going to let this chance go by if he could help it. The only thought that deterred him was that this submarine might be “one of ours.” When he saw light pulses from the boat he feared that they might be Aldis lamp flashes of the recognition Letter of the Day, but a Scottish gunner put his mind at ease: “He’s no’ flashin,’ skipper, he’s firin’.”

Gall made his run in up the U-boat’s track at 50 feet off the deck. In the last seconds of the approach, when it appeared that his four-D/C drop might miss the U-boat to starboard, the U-boat suddenly made a turn to starboard directly into the stick(!). When the explosion plumes subsided, the U-boat was observed to proceed on course for approximately half a minute, then to sink by the stern at a steep angle into the dark malls below.

After making a circuit to port, Gall and his crew saw the surface shimmer from two heavy underwater explosions. One or two minutes later, they watched the sea “effervesce” over an area 200 to 300 feet in diameter and become pale blue and brown in color. A large oil patch appeared and eventually extended a half-mile in diameter. At 1753, Gall’s aircraft resumed patrol with the crew cheering loudly at their triumph. But, as Gall said later, his own feelings were the same as those of Oulton after U-563—“the poor devils!” For the action he received the DFC. The boat was later identified as U-440 (Oblt.z.S. Werner Schwaff), which had sortied from St.-Nazaire on the 26th, bound for what she hoped would be her fifth war cruise.

No. 19 Group, and units of No. 15 Group attached to it, did not accomplish May’s six sinkings and seven damaged U-boats in the Bay transit area without losses of their own, nineteen aircraft in daytime and two at night. Twenty-eight percent (6) of the losses were to enemy aircraft, mainly JU88C6 heavy fighters based on the Biscay coast at Kerlin Bastard near Lorient and Bordeaux Mérignac. Also active, and possibly responsible for daylight losses to “unknown causes,” were four-engine Focke Wulf 200s at Bordeaux and shorter-ranged FW190s at Brest. Another 28 percent of aircraft (6) were lost on takeoff or landing crashes. Twenty-four percent (5) were shot down by U-boat flak. And twenty-one percent (4), including two L/L Wellingtons at night, were lost to unknown causes. (Aircraft occasionally lost engines; the twin-engine Wellington VIII could not maintain altitude on one engine. Some aircraft, as earlier noted, flew into destructive weather systems; some, through navigational error, went down from fuel exhaustion; still others, when close to the sea, hooked a wing on a wave and cartwheeled in.)

The human casualties in the Bay during May were ninety-four crewmen killed, seven missing, and six taken prisoner (from the shot-down Whitley “N” of 10 Sqdn. O.T.U. on 30 May). An additional fifty-two men, two with injuries, were rescued by their countrymen. The number of airmen both killed and missing (101) compares with the number of U-boat crew members killed on six boats, which was 264, figured on the typical Type VIIC crew list of forty-four. The number of U-boat crewmen lost or wounded on damaged boats is not known. The total hours of RAF and RAAF flight time from liftoff to landing required to destroy six boats and damage seven was 6,181 in daytime and 1,314 at night: that is, 1249 flight hours per U-boat sunk, or 576 hours per boat sunk or damaged.

On the strength of the numbers given above it is difficult to assess whether BdU’s policy of maximum submergence at night saved more U-boats than would have been saved had most submerged hours been observed by day, as was the practice prior to May. Certainly in favor of the May policy were the five known aircraft shot down in daylight, actions that not only saved the U-boats involved but also inflicted material and human losses on the enemy, which would not have been likely if attempted at night. Without real numbers for comparison the question remains speculative, but the historical judgment continues to be that the Dönitz/Godt policy was mistaken.

Although No. 19 Group was never able to put in the air the full requirement of 260 aircraft specified in both the Stark and Admiralty plans, proportionately, for the number of assets that could be made available, and taking into account the spanner thrown into the plans by BdU’s surprise nighttime submergence policy, it was thought by both the Air Ministry and AOC-in-C Coastal Command Air Marshal Slessor that Operation Derange had matched the predictions put forth in Raushenbush’s paper. The 103 sightings and 68 attacks in the Bay in May conformed to the numbers crunched in Raushenbush’s “slide rule strategy.”

Twice Slessor went on record to that effect, first on 12 May in the 18th Meeting of the A.U. Committee, when he stated: “An analysis over the past four weeks of operations in the Bay of Biscay showed that the number of sightings and attacks accorded with the previous estimates that had been submitted to the Committee.” And on 23 May, in a “Comparison of Actual and Estimated Results,” Slessor reported to the A.U. Committee that his general conclusion, based on a sufficiently long period of operations to permit such a conclusion, was, in the case of Derange, “that the difference between theory and fact is very small—in fact the two can never be expected to approximate more closely in war.” (Nor could there ever be a more candid concession to strategy by slide rule.) “The analysis of those operations, therefore, can be taken as bearing out the calculations used in A.U. (43) 84 and 86.”

The latter document cited (86) was the Rauschenbush paper (Stark Plan). The former (84), cannily, was Slessor’s own “Value of the Bay of Biscay Patrols” Paper, in which he had consigned the Bay offensive to the status of “a residuary legatee.” If anyone knew, he did, that while there had been 103 sightings and 68 attacks in the Bay during May, there had been 110 sightings and 67 attacks elsewhere in the Atlantic during the same period; and that, while six U-boats had been sunk and seven others damaged in the Bay, during May there had been nine sunk and four damaged by Coastal aircraft giving cover to threatened convoys. Slessor had loyally come on board the Raushenbush strategy. But he had been vindicated, too.

Of such judgments it is not thought that Stephen Raushenbush had any direct knowledge. After Enclose I, learning that his permanent position at the Department of the Interior was in jeopardy, he resigned from the Navy and returned to Washington to reclaim it—and to enter an obscurity from which only now he has been delivered. Virtually unknown for the brief but impressive role he played in the making of Black May, he died in 1991 at the age of ninety-five in Sarasota, Florida. Evan James Williams, it was earlier noted, died in 1945. Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Baron Blackett, of Chelsea, died in 1974.

The British Mediterranean Fleet 1940-41

A Legend in her lifetime.” The beautiful H.M.S Warspite, a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship of the Royal Navy, in Tanz’ 1942

With Italy in the war, France knocked out, and a question mark hanging over the French fleet, whose main units had steamed to French North Africa, the British position in the Mediterranean was critical, particularly so because its central base, Malta, was inadequately defended against air attack from Sicilian air bases only a hundred miles to the north, and its eastern base, Alexandria, was threatened by Italian forces in Libya. However the decision was taken to hold the Mediterranean, the French heavy ships were destroyed or neutralized by gunfire, air attack and (in one case) negotiation, and during the following months the British Mediterranean Fleet gave a remarkable demonstration of one of the favourite recurring themes of the historical school, the supreme importance of moral factors and training over purely material factors; its commander-in-chief, A. B. Cunningham, was an ‘offensive’ admiral in the most triumphant British tradition, the ships had been superbly trained between the wars.

The first engagement occurred off the toe of Italy in July 1940 soon after the actions against the French heavy ships. Cunningham was flying his flag in the modernized ‘Queen Elizabeth’ class battleship, Warspite, with one other unmodernized ship of the same class, another unmodernized and even slower veteran of the First War, Royal Sovereign, and the small aircraft carrier, Eagle. He was covering two convoys. An Italian squadron headed by two battleships was meanwhile covering an Italian convoy to North Africa. As Cunningham recalled afterwards, the action which resulted ‘followed almost exactly the lines of the battles we used to fight out on the table at the Tactical School at Portsmouth’. The Italian heavy ships were first sighted by long range reconnaissance aircraft from the Eagle, their position, course and speed were reported back, a strike force of torpedo bombers went in to attack—in the event unsuccessfully—and the British cruisers, spreading on a line of bearing ahead of the battle fleet, pressed in and were engaged by the enemy cruisers as they made visual contact. Shortly afterwards the Warspite came into action at 26,000 yards range against the Italian flagship, Guilio Cesare, a First War ship which had been modernized in the thirties with ten 12.6-inch guns on high-angle mountings which permitted long range fire. Her fire and that of her similar consort was excellent and the Warspite was soon straddled; however, the Warspite’s salvoes, flashing out in rapid ranging ladders, were also straddling in short time and seven minutes after the main action opened she scored first: Cunningham saw ‘the great orange-coloured flash of a heavy explosion at the base of the enemy flagship’s funnels. It was followed by an upheaval of smoke and I knew that she had been heavily hit at the prodigious range of 13 miles.’ The Italian Admiral then broke off the engagement under cover of smoke. Cunningham followed, but his squadron speed was too slow and as he approached the Italian coast and came under heavy bombing attack from the Italian Air Force, he gave up the chase.

Here let me settle once and for all the question of the efficiency of the Italian bombing and general air work over the sea . . . To us at the time it appeared that they had some squadrons specially trained for anti-ship work. Their reconnaissance was highly efficient and seldom failed to find and report our ships at sea. The bombers invariably arrived within an hour or two. They carried out high level attacks from about 12,000 feet pressed home in formation in the face of the heavy AA fire of the fleet, and for this type of attack their accuracy was very great. We were fortunate to escape being hit . . .

This first action in the Italian war had important consequences; the single hit by the Warspite reinforced the moral ascendancy that the British fleet already had over the Italian fleet, who never thereafter stood to receive the fire of British battleships. From Cunningham’s point of view, it demonstrated the need for at least one other modernized ship which could fire at the range at which the Warspite had been straddled, and the need for a larger carrier than the Eagle to provide fighter cover over the fleet. He asked for both, and the following month received the modernized ‘Queen Elizabeth’ class battleship, Valiant, the new fleet carrier, Illustrious, which had an armoured flight deck and capacity for 70 aircraft, also two anti-aircraft cruisers fitted with radio direction finding (radar) apparatus. These essential tools for detecting and meeting any air threat over the fleet shifted the balance against the Italians, and Cunningham established a remarkable surface command over the Mediterranean; however, this did not make it possible to push merchant convoys through the narrow sea without loss from air or submarine attack, and the shipping route through the Mediterranean was closed to British merchant ships apart from those needed to supply the fleet base at Malta. Practically all British supplies for the land campaign against Italian North Africa had to go the long way round the Cape—as did shipping serving India, Australasia and the East. As for Italian shipping supplies for their North African army, these naturally had to come through the Mediterranean; the quantity that arrived safely was, throughout the campaign, inversely proportional to the British ability to operate naval and air forces from Malta, itself largely dependant on British control of the air over Malta. It is clear from this that air power had completely upset the literal interpretation of Mahan battlefleet theory; surface command based on battleships was no longer adequate for real command at sea.

Towards the end of the year there was a more dramatic demonstration of this: the main strength of the Italian fleet, including four modernized First War battleships and two new 15-inch gun, 30-knot battleships of the ‘Littorio’ class which should have tipped the balance of surface power decisively against the British fleet, was lying in the fortified harbour of Taranto when Cunningham launched an aircraft torpedo strike against them from the carrier, Illustrious. Although a number of other aircraft were involved in the operation, first in reconnaissance, then in flare-dropping and diversionary bombing attacks, the number of torpedo planes was only 20; these took off from the carrier in the evening of 11 November 1940 in two waves, flew 170 miles to Taranto and pressing in under balloon defence in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire scored a total of six hits, four on the new Littorio (later re-named Italia) and one on each of the modernized older battleships Duilio and Cavour, sinking all three at their moorings for the loss of only two planes. It was, as Cunningham remarked, an unprecedented example of economy of force; he wrote afterwards:

November 11th-12th, 1940 should be remembered for ever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy had its most devastating weapon. In a total flying time of about six and a half hours—carrier to carrier—twenty aircraft had inflicted more damage upon the Italian fleet than was inflicted upon the German High Seas Fleet in the daylight action at the Battle of Jutland.

The lesson was not lost on the Japanese, nor for that matter on the Germans. Since their earlier comparative failures at bombing ship targets they had trained several dive bombing squadrons up to extraordinary standards of precision against ships and at the end of 1940 these were sent to the Mediterranean to relieve their Italian allies by attacking Cunningham’s fleet. It is significant that in their first major assault against the fleet at sea they concentrated on the carrier, Illustrious, almost to the exclusion of the battleships.

At times she was completely hidden in a forest of great bomb splashes. One was too interested in this new form of dive-bombing attack really to be frightened, and there was no doubt that we were watching complete experts. Formed roughly in a large circle over the fleet they peeled off one by one when reaching the attacking position . . . The attacks were pressed home to point blank range and as they pulled out of their dives some of them were seen to fly along the flight deck of the Illustrious below the level of her funnel.

The carrier suffered six hits and several near misses in short time, and was put out of action, only her armoured deck saving her from complete destruction; however, she managed to limp into Malta after dark, and later she escaped to Alexandria from where she was sent to America to be repaired fully. Her sister ship, Formidable, was ordered to the Mediterranean, but in the meantime Cunningham had lost command over the central basin, and Malta came under attack and siege from the air which virtually neutralized it as a fleet base.

The major surface action in the Mediterranean occurred three months later at the end of March 1941. Aircraft reconnaissance revealed that an Italian fleet headed by their new ‘Littorio’ class battleship, Vittorio Veneto, and several powerful 8-inch gun cruisers was steaming into the eastern part of the Mediterranean to attack British convoys, and Cunningham set out to intercept with a powerful force of three ‘Queen Elizabeths’, the Warspite (flag), Barham and Valiant, followed in the line by the Formidable. As in the earlier action off the toe of Italy the engagement followed the pattern anticipated in pre-war tactical instruction, at least in the early stages: first the Formidable’s reconnaissance aircraft reported the enemy forces, then the British cruiser squadron ahead of the battle fleet made contact with the enemy cruiser and battleship divisions, and then Cunningham sent in a carrier strike force to relieve the cruisers, also to slow the Vittorio Veneto so that his battleships could bring her to action. In the event the torpedo planes failed to obtain any hits, but the Italian forces made off westward for home. It is interesting that before the British cruisers were relieved, the Vittorio Veneto had been straddling them at the remarkable distance of 16 miles, and they had to retreat under cover of smoke and snake the line to avoid very close shooting; this was approximately twice the range at which Beatty’s advanced cruiser division had twisted from the fire of the High Seas Fleet at Jutland.

The action then settled into a chase, with the Italians some 60 miles ahead and Cunningham sending off air strike forces to try and slow them; five torpedo planes attacked the Italian battleship scoring one hit—20 per cent success—and six attacked a cruiser division in the evening also scoring one hit—16 per cent. These hits slowed the battleship and stopped the heavy cruiser, Pola, whereupon the Italian commander-in-chief, believing the British fleet to be further behind than it actually was, ordered two other heavy cruisers, together with a division of destroyers, to stand by the crippled cruiser. Cunningham was unaware of this. His information was that the battleship he was chasing was 45 miles ahead, making 15 knots, and that the latest air strike had scored four torpedo hits, although whether any of those were on the battleship was not clear. As darkness fell he had to decide whether to continue the chase and put his valuable ships within reach of enemy dive bombers the following morning, besides exposing them to torpedo attacks from the retreating destroyers during the night, or whether discretion was the better part, as some of his staff advised. He mulled the problem over with his dinner.

My morale was reasonably high when I returned to the bridge, and I ordered the destroyer striking force off to find and attack the enemy. We settled down to a steady pursuit . . .

Soon afterwards his advanced cruisers’ radar picked up an unknown ship—actually the cruiser Pola—stopped to port of their course and about five miles ahead; Cunningham altered to close her and an hour later the radar-fitted Valiant picked up the echo of the ship under eight miles, still to port. Cunningham swung all his heavy ships towards her together, still at full speed, and all his main armament guns turned on to the reported bearing. Then before the stopped ship could be made out visually the Chief-of-Staff, sweeping the starboard bow with his binoculars, reported two large cruisers and a smaller ship crossing ahead of the new course from starboard to port; Cunningham, using short-wave wireless, turned the battleships together to starboard, thus back into line ahead again.

I shall never forget the next few minutes. In the dead silence, a silence that could almost be felt, one heard only the voices of the control personnel putting the guns on to the new target. One heard the orders repeated in the director tower behind and above the bridge. Looking forward one saw the turrets swing and steady when the 15-inch guns pointed at the enemy cruisers. Never in the whole of my life have I experienced a more thrilling moment than when I heard a calm voice from the director tower—’Director layer sees the target’; sure sign that the guns were ready and that his finger was on the trigger. The enemy was at a range of no more than 3,800 yards—point blank . . .

Then came the ‘ting-ting-ting’ of the fire gongs, great orange flashes, shudder and heel of the ship and at the same time the searchlights opened to illumine the cruiser target as a ‘silvery blue shape in the darkness’. Six 15-inch shells could be seen flying towards her through the beams of light and the next instant five of them struck with devastating effect. The other two battleships astern meanwhile opened on the other heavy cruiser, and in a short time the unfortunate Italian vessels, caught entirely unprepared, ‘were nothing but glowing torches and on fire from stem to stern’. After the battleships had wheeled away at speed the destroyers were ordered in to finish off the wrecks, and did so, adding the third cruiser and two destroyers in company to the bag. So ended the Battle off Cape Matapan, for the Vittorio Veneto succeeded in making her way home the following day while Cunningham was forced to break off the chase as he came within range of enemy land-based bombers. Although the battleship had eluded him the result of the action was a tonic for the British; the enemy had lost three powerful cruisers and two destroyers, against one aircraft.

The whole engagement is also an interesting demonstration of how the new technology, aircraft, radar and effective wireless, had given to the battlefleet all the sensory attributes it lacked at the time of Jutland—just at the point when the same technology used against the battlefleet was about to destroy the concept altogether. Thus the fleeing enemy had been spotted, reported and slowed by aircraft, then in darkness found by radar and held until within visual range. The action also revealed the effectiveness of British night-fighting training between the wars; the Italians had scarcely advanced beyond the British position at the time of Jutland, and they lacked radar.

Anglo – Japanese Naval Cooperation 1914 – 1918

Admiral Sato Kozo (seated, center) Commanded a Flotilla of
14 Destroyers Based in Malta

by Timothy D. Saxon

The captain of the attacking submarine achieved complete surprise with his bold midday maneuver near Crete. Stealing to within two hundred meters of an unwary convoy escort, he fired at point-blank range. His torpedo ran true, striking the destroyer between its forward stacks and severing the vessel’s bow. Its unlucky crew, packed into the crowded mess for the noonday meal, suffered horrific losses. The explosion and consequent inferno claimed sixty-seven members of the ship’s company and its commander. Despite heavy damage, however, the battered warship survived and later reached port in Piraeus, Greece.1

At first glance, the 11 June 1917 attack by the U-27 on an allied destroyer operating off the Greek coast appears unremarkable among the countless similar engagements of the First World War at sea. Nonetheless, the identities of these two combatants still startle observers more than eighty years later. First, it was an Austro-Hungarian submarine that torpedoed the allied destroyer; theAustro-Hungarian Navy challenged allied naval supremacy in the Mediterranean Sea throughout the First World War. The identity of the destroyer is even more astonishing—the U-27’s victim was the Sakaki, a warship of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Japan rendered vital, worldwide naval support to Great Britain during the First World War, culminating in the service of Japan’s first and only Mediterranean squadron. This long-forgotten Japanese flotilla fought alongside allied warships throughout the most critical period of the struggle against German and Austro-Hungarian U-boats in 1917 and 1918.

Japanese cooperation is all the more surprising given that both British and American historians have characterized Japan’s role in the First World War as that of a “jackal state,” one that took a lion’s share of the kill after only minimally assisting the cause.2 The record tells a different story. Japan in fact stretched its naval resources to the limit during the First World War. Japanese naval assistance in the Mediterranean Sea in 1917 boosted the strength of allied naval escorts during the darkest days of the war. Beyond the Mediterranean, an argument can be made that without Japanese assistance Great Britain would have lost control of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. That would have isolated the British Empire’s two dominions in the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, from the campaigns in Europe and the Middle East. Other British colonies, from Aden and India to Singapore and Hong Kong, would have been exposed. Despite this help, Japan, at best a mistrusted and suspect ally of Great Britain in 1914, emerged from the conflict feared and despised by its “friends.”

A more balanced view of Japan’s role does not overlook the gains garnered by Japan for its exertions. It argues, though, that Japanese gains were commensurate with its efforts and in keeping with the diplomatic understandings that had existed at the beginning of the war. Japan did not participate in the First World War for altruistic reasons—but then neither did Great Britain, France, Italy, or Russia. The concessions Japan received in China and the broadening of its Pacific empire were no more than comparable to the gains made by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Britain’s Pacific dominions. Japan participated in the war as an ally of Great Britain while simultaneously pursuing an expansionist policy designed to maximize its territorial gains in China and the Pacific islands. In the event, Japan’s acquisitions were unquestionably in line with the sacrifices it made and the assistance it rendered to its allies during the conflict.

At the end of the war, Japanese wartime diplomacy did not take on the Wilsonian, idealistic modes that Western leaders by then espoused.3 The Japanese discovered that the new idealism did not apply when it came to affirming (in the Treaty of Versailles) racial equality or equal opportunities for expansion. The British and Americans resisted Japanese expansion before, during, and after the First World War, out of fear of competition in the Pacific and racial hatred of the proud, at times arrogant, Japanese.

How did the Imperial Japanese Navy cooperate with the Royal Navy during the First World War? Although the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 did not require it, Japan declared it would support Britain in the war against Germany and sent an ultimatum to Berlin demanding withdrawal of German warships from Japanese and Chinese waters. Japan helped establish control of the Pacific and Indian Oceans early in the war by seizing the German fortress and naval base of Tsingtao and Germany’s colonies in the Pacific (the Carolines, Marshalls, and most of the Mariana islands); Japanese naval forces also aided Great Britain in driving German warships from the Pacific. At the outbreak of the war, Vice Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee commanded six cruisers of the German Far Eastern Squadron at Ponape in the Carolines; the Japanese declaration of war compelled him to lead most of his force east to South America and the battles of Coronel and the Falklands. The Japanese navy maintained allied control of Far Eastern and Indian waters throughout the war, assuming responsibility for patrolling them when demands on British naval forces exceeded resources, and in 1917 freeing American naval forces for service in Europe. Japanese forces provided escorts for convoying troops and war materials to the European theater of operations from the British dominions in the Far East. Japan built warships for allied nations and sold merchant shipping to the allies during the war when their shipyards, already working at maximum effort, could not meet such needs. Finally, Japan rendered direct naval assistance in the Mediterranean Sea in 1917 and 1918 when the allied navies faced the prospect of abandoning that sea in the face of the Central Powers’ increasingly successful submarine operations.

The Origins of British Naval Dependence on Japan

The Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 resulted from the threat that Russia presented to both states by its moves toward India, Korea, and Manchuria.4 As the alliance matured, Winston Churchill (from 1911), like his predecessors as First Lord of the Admiralty, pursued a naval policy envisioning that the outbreak of a general war in Europe would require Japanese assistance in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. As tensions between Great Britain and Germany increased with the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, British naval strength underwent a reorganization that saw the Channel, Atlantic, and Mediterranean forces’ battleship strength increased at the expense of those in the Pacific Ocean. What had been an anti-Russian disposition of British naval forces tilted decisively toward an anti-German alignment after the Russo-Japanese conflict.5

Churchill, almost from the day he took the helm as First Lord in October 1911, accelerated the withdrawal of battleships from the Mediterranean and China seas and their redeployment against the growing naval power of Wilhelmine Germany in the North Sea.6 By March 1914, British naval strength in the Far East had decreased from five battleships and an armored cruiser in March 1904 to two battleships, a battle cruiser, and two cruisers.7

In March 1914, Churchill, arguing for his policy in the House of Commons, acknowledged that defeat of the main British naval force in European waters would leave a small force of Pacific-based dreadnoughts vulnerable. Any British naval force in Far Eastern waters must inevitably be inferior to the main fleet of a European rival. On the other hand, Churchill pointed out, “two or three ‘Dreadnoughts’” in Australian waters “would be useless the day after the defeat of the British Navy in Home waters.”8

This policy produced a growing naval dependence on Britain’s allies. France took up the slack in the Mediterranean, and Japan assumed a correspondingly larger role in the defense of the China Seas.9 With France, this policy worked well, as the British attempted to settle outstanding colonial problems with that nation and afterwards participated in the creation of the Entente Cordiale.

No such reservoir of good will existed between Japan and Great Britain; preexisting tension concerning Japan’s imperial ambitions tested relations throughout the First World War. The strains ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Anglo-Japanese alliance. Japanese expansion beyond Manchuria during 1913 and 1914 increased the deep suspicion of Japanese intentions on the part of the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey.

Grey opposed any Japanese participation in the war, fearing that Japan would see an opportunity to expand beyond reasonable bounds.10 In the teeth of Admiralty objections, therefore, he worked to prevent Japan’s entry into a European conflict as the situation worsened throughout the summer of 1914. On 1 August, Grey notified his counterpart in Tokyo, Kato Takaaki*, that Great Britain would require Japanese assistance only if Germany attacked its Far Eastern colonies or fighting spread into the Far East. Grey worried not only about Japanese expansion into the German colonies in China and the Pacific Ocean but also that Australia, New Zealand, and the United States would strongly oppose apparent British support of that expansion. In the end, German steps to mobilize reserves at the key port of Tsingtao and to disperse warships into the Pacific, along with the aggressive First Lord’s insistence on expanding the war against German naval forces worldwide, forced Grey’s hand.11

On 11 August 1914, Churchill, worried by what he considered Grey’s clumsy attempts to prevent Japanese entry into the war, or limit Japanese action once in it, warned the foreign secretary:

I think you are chilling indeed to these people. I can’t see any half way house between having them in and keeping them out. If they are to come in, they may as well be welcomed as comrades. This last telegram [to Japan] is almost hostile. I am afraid I do not understand what is in yr mind on this aspect—tho’ I followed it so clearly till today.

. . . This telegram gives me a shiver. We are all in this together & I only wish to give the fullest effect & support to your main policy. But I am altogether perplexed by the line opened up by these Japanese interchanges.

You may easily give mortal offence—wh will not be forgotten—we are not safe yet—by a long chalk. The storm has yet to burst.12

Churchill’s remonstrance helped to alter Grey’s opposition to Japan’s full participation in the war.

The Japanese government of Prince Yamagata Aritomo delivered an ultimatum on 15 August 1914 requiring the dismantling of German power in Pacific. The demarche demanded that German naval vessels either leave or surrender at Kiaochow and that Germany allow the destruction of fortifications there and surrender to Japan the Shantung Peninsula. Japanese demands also included that the German islands scattered throughout the Pacific be turned over to Japan. The Germans made no response, and Japan formally declared war on 23 August 1914.13

Strong evidence existed that justified Grey’s fears of Japanese ambitions. One was the substantial size of Japan’s navy see (Table 1). The Japanese clearly entered the war in large part to increase their prestige among the great powers and to expand their holdings in China and the Pacific. Moreover, Japanese officials had chafed under several unequal treaties imposed after the Western opening of the country in the 1850s.14 Still, such motives for participation in the war were no better or worse than those secretly advanced at the start of World War I by other belligerents. What truly upset Japan’s Western allies was their inability to act in a paternalistic fashion toward what they considered an inferior. Hostile views of Japan prevailed at the beginning of the war, and they did not diminish during the struggle despite Japan’s help for its allies. In fact, such antipathy increased as Japan dared to act as any Western state would have done. This racial animosity is a reason why the institutional memory of the extensive assistance that Japan rendered to the allied cause during the war was so short-lived. Such memories were inconvenient for the account of the war that anti-Japanese groups in Great Britain and the United States wished to perpetuate.

The Joint Expedition against Tsingtao

Wartime Anglo-Japanese cooperation in the Far East opened on a sour note. Immediately upon entry into the war, Japan moved to secure the Kiaochow or Shantung Peninsula, known as the “German Gibraltar of the East” (Map 1). The peninsula,

where lay the German naval base at Tsingtao (modern Qingdao, on Kiaochow Bay), served as the peacetime station for the German Far Eastern squadron. Preparing for its capture, Kato informed his British allies that Japan would return Tsingtao to China after conquest, but only at a price. He also intimated that Japan did not require British support for the operation, but Grey ignored that and sent the South Wales Borderers and a detachment of Sikh troops under Brigadier General N. W. Barnardiston to join the assault. A small British squadron participated in the blockade of Kiaochow Bay, which began on 27 August.15

The Anglo-Japanese expedition arrived off Tsingtao on the 26th. Major and modern units of the German fleet had evacuated Tsingtao in the days preceding the Japanese declaration of war, leaving only the antiquated Austro-Hungarian armored cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth, five gunboats, and two destroyers.16 The weakness of the German vessels allowed the Japanese navy to use older ships; the Japanese blockaded Tsingtao harbor with three obsolete, ex-Russian battleships, two ex-Russian coastal-defense ships, seven cruisers, sixteen destroyers, and fourteen support ships. The battleship Triumph, a destroyer, and a hospital ship formed the British contribution to the blockading fleet.17

Vice Admiral Baron Kamimura Hikonojo’s Second Fleet transported Japanese and British troops to China to conduct the siege. The initial Japanese landing occurred at Lungkow (modern Long Kou) on 2 September. A naval landing force captured Lau Shau Bay, northeast of Tsingtao, on 18 September, for use as a forward base for further operations against Tsingtao. British troops entered China via other routes on 24 September.18

The Anglo-Japanese naval force maintained a tight blockade of the Tsingtao harbor while clearing mines and providing to allied ground forces vital intelligence collected by the Japanese tender Wakamiya’s seaplanes. The Wakamiya’s aircraft are also credited with conducting at this time “the first successful carrier air raid in history,” sinking a German minelayer at Tsingtao. Throughout the siege, troops ashore called upon naval gunfire support and Japanese seaplanes to bombard enemy positions.19

The Japanese navy suffered a serious loss and embarrassment on 18 October, when the old German torpedo boat S-90 evaded destroyers guarding the harbor and sank the antiquated cruiser Takachiyo with two torpedoes. The S-90 had escaped the notice of patrolling destroyers by waiting for them to reach the far end of the harbor entrance, then running out at high speed and surprising the second line of ships, a destroyer leader and older Japanese cruisers. The Imperial Japanese Navy also lost the destroyer Shirotae, a torpedo boat, and three minesweeping vessels in the process of capturing Tsingtao, with a total of 317 personnel killed and seventy-six wounded, the majority in the sinking of the Takachiyo.20

The German garrison of 3,500 regulars and 2,500 reservists, joined by the entire crew of the Kaiserin Elisabeth, mounted a vigorous defense of Tsingtao. Nonetheless, the Japanese kept British ground forces from playing an active role in the campaign.21 The combined German and Austro-Hungarian force surrendered on 7 November 1914, when the Japanese fought their way into Tsingtao. The British contingent, deliberately excluded from Japanese plans, learned of the assault only after the fact.22 German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners taken in Tsingtao spent the remainder of the war in Japan. The Japanese army reported losses of 414 killed and 1,441 wounded in taking the German citadel.23

The Japanese retained control of Tsingtao and steadily expanded their grip over the Shantung Peninsula, occupying the German railroad running through the region. Thus the effective result of the first Anglo-Japanese operation of the war was the establishment of Japanese control over large areas of Manchuria; mistrust between the two states sharply increased.24

Japanese Patrols and Escorts

While Admiral Kamimura’s Second Fleet was aiding in the conquest of Tsingtao, ships of the First Fleet joined with British, French, and Australian ships in driving von Spee’s roving cruiser squadron from the Pacific. Immediately upon the outbreak of war, Vice Admiral Tamin Yamaya sent the battleship Kongo toward Midway to patrol sea lines of communication and ordered the cruiser Izumo, then off the coast of Mexico, to defend allied shipping there. On 26 August he detached the battle cruiser Ibuki and cruiser Chikuma to Singapore to help allied forces in that region.25 The Chikuma unsuccessfully searched the Dutch East Indies and the Bay of Bengal as far as Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for the German cruiser Emden.26 Admiral Matsumura Tatsuo, with the battleship Satsuma and cruisers Yahagi and Hirado, patrolled sea routes to Australia searching for German raiders.27

More pressing duties soon diverted the Ibuki from Singapore. Responding to the attacks by the German cruiser Emden on allied Indian Ocean shipping, the Ibuki dashed across the South Pacific to Wellington, New Zealand. On 16 October it conducted the first of what would be many voyages wherein Japanese warships escorted Australian–New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops to the Middle East.28 The Ibuki and other Japanese warships were to accompany ANZAC troops as far west as Aden on the Red Sea throughout the war.29 Other Japanese units escorted French troopships sailing from the Far East to reinforce units fighting on the western front.30 (Although the Australian and New Zealand troop convoy did not encounter the Emden, a radio report from the Cocos Islands led to the detachment of the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney from the escort. Near those isolated isles, the Sydney surprised the Emden and destroyed the raider by gunfire after forcing it onto the reefs.)31

Also during October, Japanese naval forces under the command of Vice Admiral Tochinai Sojiro reinforced British units searching the Indian Ocean for German raiders. Tochinai ultimately employed the cruisers Tokiwa, Yakumo, Ibuki, Nisshin, Chikuma, Hirado, Yahagi, and Ikoma, plus part of the British fleet, in hunting down the raiders.32 On 1 November 1914, the Japanese navy agreed to a British request to assume all patrols in the Indian Ocean east of ninety degrees east longitude. Much of Admiral Tochinai’s force, and other warships withdrawn from Tsingtao, guarded this area for the remainder of the month.33 In addition, after the German warship Geier’s appearance at the neutral port of Honolulu on 15 October 1914, the battleship Hizen and cruiser Asama took up positions off that port until the American government interned the Geier on 7 November. The Hizen and Asama then joined the Izumo off the coast of South America and swept those waters for German warships.34

The employment of Japanese ships provoked a mixed response from the governments of Australia and New Zealand. They fully endorsed using Japanese ships as escorts for troop convoys but sharply disapproved when in late 1914 the Japanese First Fleet seized the German colonies of the Marshall, Mariana, and Caroline Islands (Map 2).35 Tamin’s forces took Jaluit

in the Marshall Islands on 4 October, sailing from there to seize the superb harbor at Truk in the Carolines on 12 October. A second force under Rear Admiral Tatsuo Matsumura captured the German port of Rabaul, on New Britain, on 1 October. It continued on 7 October to Yap, where it encountered the German vessel Planet. The crew of the Planet scuttled the vessel rather than have it fall into Japanese hands, and the Japanese captured Yap without further incident. The Japanese navy stationed four warships at Suva in the Fiji Islands and six at Truk for patrol operations in late 1914.36

The British and Japanese governments reached a tentative arrangement in late 1914 concerning the captured German possessions in the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese now held the Marianas, Carolines, and the Marshalls, as well as Yap. Australian forces had taken New Guinea and nearby territories. Troops from New Zealand, just beating Japanese forces to Samoa, now held a firm grip on the strategic island. Rather than risk an incident that might lead to a confrontation, the British agreed that thenceforth forces of the Empire would seize no German territories north of the equator.37

In 1914 the Royal Navy could ill afford to offend its strongest ally in the Pacific. Faced with worldwide responsibilities defending British trade and possessions, it sought direct Japanese involvement in the European theater of operations from the beginning of the war. Sir Edward Grey issued the first formal appeal for Japanese naval assistance on 6 August 1914. It resulted in the previously mentioned deployment of Japanese naval units to Singapore. On two further occasions in 1914, British appeals for deployments of Japanese naval forces to the Mediterranean and the Baltic met with rejection.38

Internal politics throughout the Meiji period gave the Army greater political power in government councils than the Navy ever enjoyed. Although the Navy’s position had strengthened somewhat in the Yammato cabinet, which left office in April 1914, the balance of power in the succeeding Okuma cabinet allowed the Army to veto the deployment of naval units to the European theater of operations in November 1914. Conflict between Great Britain and Germany, which had trained, respectively, the Navy and Army, led to a difference of opinion between the two services. The Prussian-trained Army sympathized with the German-led Central Powers, while the Navy, trained by and modeled after the Royal Navy, supported Britain and the Entente.39 This conflict of loyalties dogged the Japanese government throughout the war in its attempts to aid Great Britain.40

Japanese warships rendered a new form of assistance to Great Britain in February 1915, when they helped to suppress a revolt by Indian soldiers stationed in Singapore. Admiral Tsuchiya Mitsukane’s warships, the old cruisers Tsushima and Otowa, landed marines, who joined with British, French, and Russian forces in quelling the rising.41 Also in 1915, the Imperial Japanese Navy committed many units to help hunt down the German cruiser Dresden and for such other tasks as guarding against the escape of German shipping that had taken refuge in the port of Manila. Japanese warships operating from Singapore guarded the South China Sea, Sulu Sea, and Dutch East Indies throughout the year.42

Sir Edward Grey again requested Japanese aid in February 1916. In that month, the destruction of shipping by mines secretly laid by German auxiliary cruisers led to an increase in the number of ships deployed for antiraider patrols. This time the Japanese government dispatched a destroyer flotilla to Singapore to guard the vital Malacca Straits and a cruiser division to the Indian Ocean for patrol duties.43 Ships of the Japanese Third Fleet began patrol operations in the Indian Ocean and in the Philippine Islands near Luzon. The cruisers Yahagi, Suma, Niitaka, and Tsushima, accompanied by a squadron of destroyers, initiated patrols in the South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Dutch East Indies, and Indian Ocean. Several units maintained a presence off Mauritius and South Africa, and the Chikuma and Hirato journeyed to Australia and New Zealand to escort vessels transiting the area.44

“Japan Is Not Taking a Full Share”

Despite such widespread deployment of Japanese units to protect allied shipping, at the end of 1916 Admiral John Jellicoe, commanding the Grand Fleet, expressed the British skepticism about Japanese intentions in a revealing missive to Admiral David Beatty, who commanded Jellicoe’s battle cruiser squadron. He described Japan’s conduct in the war thus far as not “entirely satisfactory.” While allowing for the idea that mutual antipathy between Japan and the United States had prevented more help from the Japanese, he voiced the suspicion that the Japanese harbored the idea of creating a “greater Japan which will probably comprise parts of China and the Gateway to the East, the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, and the Malay States.” He faulted the Japanese government for operating under the mistaken belief that the “German military machine was invincible”; recent German losses at the Somme and Verdun, he felt, would correct this impression. His statement that “apart from the selling of guns and ammunition to the Russians and ourselves, Japan is not taking a full share of the war,” accurately depicted the growing resentment in Great Britain of Japan’s unwillingness to join operations in the European theater.45 His thinking paralleled that of other key British naval officers who spoke of the Japanese as “not to be trusted very far,” even while requesting their assistance in the critical Mediterranean theater.46

Seen through Japanese eyes, Japan’s role in the First World War takes on a quite different appearance. Not only were the Japanese armed forces divided about which side to support, early in the conflict the average Japanese citizen hardly knew that Japan was at war at all. Lacking any sense of immediate danger to Japan emanating from Germany, most Japanese who were aware of the war found it unfathomable. While officially supporting the Entente, the Japanese government kept the war out of the limelight at home.47

The wartime experience of a British officer in Japan illustrates this low-key approach to the conflict. In November 1917, a time when the Imperial Japanese Navy was engaged in operations in two oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, Malcolm Kennedy (a British army officer participating in an exchange program with the Japanese military) toured the Japanese countryside and discovered that the war was having no direct impact on the life of the average Japanese peasant. Stopping twice to speak with peasants, Kennedy was amazed to encounter complete disbelief when he told them that Japan was at war.

They were frankly incredulous when I assured them, that not only was there a war, but that Japan was taking part in it. Their incredulity was based on the fact that the young men of the village had not been called up for service. If Japan was really at war, they argued, surely all the male youth of the country would be summoned to the colors.48

That finally changed in 1918, when Japan experienced serious social dislocation as a result of the conflict. Wages had failed to keep pace with the inflation that had developed with the wartime prosperity. In August 1918, resentment of the new class of narikin—Japanese who prospered during the war—exploded in rice riots in Osaka, Kobe, and Nagoya.49

Also complicating Japanese participation in the war was a slight to Japanese pride created by severe restrictions placed on Japanese physicians in Singapore. Also, the inferior status accorded Japan in trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand made full cooperation with the British and dominions difficult.50

British requests for naval assistance in the European theater and the South Atlantic grew more insistent in late 1916 and early 1917 as the naval situation deteriorated in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.51 German raiders continued to operate effectively in the Indian Ocean, as documented by the successful voyage of the raider Wolf, which sank some 120,000 tons of allied shipping between 1916 and 1918 while tying down “a host of British, French, and Japanese naval craft . . . in the fruitless hunt—21 cruisers, 14 destroyers, 9 sloops, etc.”52 The Japanese government responded by pressuring the British cabinet, which had dragged its feet in acknowledging Japanese claims to the Shantung Peninsula and the Pacific islands taken from the Germans, for recognition of these gains. Japanese officials argued to their British counterparts that in their desire to retain their conquests they were asking no more than the Russians, whom the allies were permitting to occupy Constantinople. The War Cabinet wrestled with the problem through January and February of 1917, worrying about the potential response of the dominions and of the Americans, who were edging closer to participation in the conflict.53

The Japanese agreed in February 1917 to expand the patrols already protecting commerce in the Dutch East Indies, Sulu Sea, South China Sea, and Indian Ocean as far south as the Cape of Good Hope. The Japanese navy also increased its involvement in safeguarding commercial shipping off Australia’s east coast and New Zealand. In this effort the cruisers Izumo, Nisshin, Tone, Niitaka, Akashi, Yakumo, Kasuga, Chikuma, Tsushima, Suma, Yodo, three squadrons of destroyers, and a “special duty flotilla” participated. 54

Japan also extended considerable help to the allied cause by supplying arms and shipping to its European friends. In 1914, the Japanese navy returned to Russia three cruisers captured in the Russo-Japanese War. The vessels subsequently rejoined the Russian Baltic Fleet.55 Also, Japanese factories supplied arms and munitions to Russia and Great Britain.56 In 1917, Japanese shipyards hastily constructed (in five months) twelve destroyers identical to the Japanese Kaba class for France; Japanese sailors delivered the ships to French forces in the Mediterranean.57 In December 1916, the British chancellor of the exchequer sought and gained the War Cabinet’s approval for the purchase of six Japanese merchant ships, totaling 77,500 tons.58 The British further requested in May 1917 that the Japanese supply shipping for Chinese workers recruited to work in Europe; Japanese warships helped to escort the convoys to France.59 Later in the war, Japan and the United States agreed that Japanese shipyards would produce 371,000 tons of shipping for the U.S. Shipping Board. Although the war ended before the merchant vessels were complete, Japan willingly helped in this effort, according to an American account.60 Moreover, the Japanese government agreed to charter an ever-growing portion of Japan’s merchant fleet for allied use.61

In contrast to this lucrative charter and construction work, persistent British attempts to purchase Japanese warships as replacements for Royal Navy losses irritated the Japanese government and stung Japanese pride. Fearing further raids on the English coast by swift units of the German navy, Admiral Jellicoe proposed in mid-1917 that Great Britain purchase two battle cruisers from the Japanese. He doubted that the Japanese could be persuaded simply to deploy ships to join the Grand Fleet—adding, in a revealing slight, “Even if they did, it is doubtful whether they would be a match for German battle-cruisers when fully manned by Japanese.”62 The government in Tokyo rejected either selling the warships or sending them to serve with the Grand Fleet.63 However, the service later rendered by the Japanese flotilla in the Mediterranean may have caused Jellicoe to reappraise his low estimate of Japanese capabilities.

Japanese Assistance to the United States

A major (and in light of later events, particularly ironic) upshot of the Japanese wartime naval relationship with Great Britain was a similar, if much smaller, relationship with the United States. In effect, the Imperial Japanese Navy now extended further, if roundabout, aid to the Royal Navy by making it possible for the U.S. Navy to assist the British directly. The Royal Navy’s most pressing lack at this point was escort ships; it importuned the Americans to help make good that shortage. Doing so meant shifting U.S. naval forces to the Atlantic from the Pacific, which produced for the Americans a shortfall of their own in the latter theater. To fill it, they, like the British in 1914, approached their new Pacific ally, Japan.

American intervention in the war required a complete rethinking of American naval strategy and construction policies, which before 1917 had assumed an allied defeat followed by an attack by German and Japanese forces against the United States. Shortly after the American entry into the war, a British mission headed by Arthur Balfour sought to alter the American naval construction program, which then called for a massive buildup of capital warships (in part to remain capable of fighting a German-Japanese combination).64 In April and May 1917, Balfour entered into secret discussions with American officials, including Woodrow Wilson’s personal emissary, Colonel Edward M. House. The British proposed that the Americans construct large numbers of desperately needed escort ships in return for a promise of British help in case of a Japanese-American conflict. The two parties ultimately deferred such an agreement for fear of offending Japan, which remained an important ally of Great Britain even at this late stage of the war.65 Nonetheless, that these negotiations occurred shows the depth of Anglo-American antipathy and mistrust toward Japan in 1917.

American leaders viewed their relations with Japan through a prism of concern about China and racial bigotry. James Reed writes that before the First World War, “Pacific coast politicians; labor union leaders; Hearst chain journalists (whose idea of news embraced lovely white maidens found dead in the flea-bag hotels of debauched Japanese); and, perhaps not least of all, the Navy officer corps, whose War Plan Orange was really a war plan yellow,” were sources of anti-Japanese feeling in the United States. Such feelings joined with the American “Open Door” policy concerning China to turn American opinion against Japan. American leaders viewed Japan as seeking unfair territorial and political advantage in China, a state known to most Americans only through the eyes of the many missionaries serving there.66

American entry into the First World War dictated a renewed attempt to resolve the impasse in American-Japanese relations. Like Great Britain at the beginning of the war, the United States now found itself dependent on Japanese good will and assistance in the Pacific. A Japanese mission to Washington led by Ishii Kikujiro concluded an agreement that permitted American warships to redeploy to the Atlantic and support the British fleet.67 Under that secret agreement, Japanese warships patrolled the waters of the Hawaiian Islands for the remainder of the conflict. The cruiser Tokiwa replaced the last major American warship in the Pacific, the armored cruiser USS Saratoga, at Honolulu in October 1917, allowing the ship to join the U.S. naval forces in the Atlantic. The cruiser Asama replaced the Tokiwa in August 1918 and protected commerce in Hawaiian waters until it returned to Japan in February 1919.68

Despite the cooperative manner in which the Japanese extended their wartime responsibilities, American resentment of dependence upon the Japanese throughout the war and of Japanese gains in Micronesia closely paralleled that seen in British quarters.69 The Japanese returned this antagonism after 1917, when the view took root among naval officers that differences between the two powers were irreconcilable short of war. Japanese expansion into Siberia in 1918, seen by some Japanese as preempting American containment on all sides, was to add to the antipathy between the two nations. By 1917, even while acting as an ally, the Japanese navy had officially designated the United States its “most likely enemy” in any future conflict.70

Operations in the Mediterranean

In early 1917, Japan finally deployed forces to the European theater of operations. The lead Japanese warships departed Singapore under the command of Admiral Sato Kozo for the Mediterranean on 11 March. Sato sailed for Malta with the cruiser Akashi and destroyers Ume, Kusunoki, Kaede, Katsura, Kashiwa, Matsu, Sugi, and Sakaki, which collectively constituted the Tenth and Eleventh Destroyer Flotillas. The task force hunted German raiders while crossing the Indian Ocean, arriving at Aden on 4 April. On 10 April Sato agreed to an urgent British request to escort the Saxon, an English troop transport; it sailed from Port Said to Malta guarded by Ume and Kusunoki. The remainder of the Japanese squadron quickly followed and commenced operations against German and Austrian submarines threatening allied shipping in the Mediterranean.71

The Tenth and Eleventh Flotillas reached Malta at the nadir of allied fortunes in the Mediterranean.72 Of the approximately twelve million British registered tons (BRT) of shipping lost during the war, 3,096,109 tons fell prey to mines and submarines in the Mediterranean. From February until December of 1917, allied shipping losses worldwide amounted to 2,566 ships, or 5,753,751 BRT, 48 percent of wartime losses.73 Allied losses in the Mediterranean in April 1917 totaled 218,000 tons, 7 percent of the total sinkings there during the entire war.74 Desperately short of escorts, the allies seriously considered the ideas of reducing the number of ships transiting the Mediterranean by sending them on the safer passage around the Cape of Good Hope, and of evacuating the British contingent at Salonika.75

The arrival of Sato’s cruiser and eight destroyers did not by itself tip the scales toward the allies in the Mediterranean. Nonetheless, the task given the Japanese squadron was an important one—protecting troop transports shifting vital reinforcements to France after the bloody offensives at Arras, Chemin des Dames, and in the Champagne.76 The appearance of Japanese escorts at Malta permitted the allied command to speed the passage of transports. Japanese vessels escorted the transports directly from Egypt to France without stopping at Malta except when convoys formed at that port.77

The destroyers Sakaki and Matsu and other Japanese warships participated in the dramatic rescue of troops from the torpedoed transport Transylvania on 4 May 1917. Some 413 men died in this tragedy off the French coast, but Japanese, French, and Italian naval forces saved most of the three thousand troops despite the danger of further torpedo attack. The Times History of the War reported that “the Admiralty sent a telegram of thanks and congratulation to the Japanese admiral in the Mediterranean for the splendid work of rescue performed by the Japanese on this occasion.”78

The Japanese navy relieved the Akashi in June 1917 with the armored cruiser Izumo and reinforced the Malta squadron with the destroyers Kashi, Hinoki, Momo, and Yanagi. As the tempo of antisubmarine operations in the Mediterranean accelerated, Japanese sailors temporarily manned two British gunboats, which they designated the Tokyo and Saikyo, and two British destroyers, renamed the Kanran and Sendan. At peak strength in 1917, the Japanese Mediterranean flotilla numbered seventeen warships.79

By late summer of 1917, British doubts about the competence and value of the Japanese warships, doubts initially expressed by such officers as Captain George P. W. Hope, director of the Operations Division of the Admiralty War Staff, had vanished. On 21 August Admiral George A. Ballard, Senior Naval Officer-in-Charge at Malta, reported to the Admiralty that the Japanese had rendered invaluable service in escorting troop transports since their arrival at Malta. He reminded the Admiralty that until the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers had arrived the allies had been short of escorts for this vital duty. Ballard praised the operational capacity of the Japanese:

French standards of efficiency are certainly lower than British, however, and Italian standards are lower still. With the Japanese it is otherwise. Admiral Sato’s destroyers are kept in a highly serviceable condition and spend at least as large a proportion of their time at sea as our own, which is far from being the case with the French and Italian vessels of any class. The Japanese moreover are very independent in all matters of administration and supply whereas the French will never do anything for themselves if they can get it done for them.80

Japanese efficiency meant many more days spent at sea than the warships of other British allies, multiplying the impact of the Japanese contribution to the Mediterranean war effort.

The importance of Japanese escorts dramatically increased when in 1918 the Germans launched their spring offensive on the western front. The British responded with further large movements of troops from the Middle East to Marseilles. Japanese units escorted more than a hundred thousand British troops directly across the Mediterranean during the critical months of April and May. After the crisis ended, Japanese warships convoyed troops from Egypt to Salonika in support of the allied fall 1918 offensive. By the end of the war the squadron had accompanied 788 allied ships across the Mediterranean, including transports conveying seven hundred thousand troops to the fighting fronts. In thirty-four engagements with German and Austrian submarines the Japanese suffered damage to two destroyers, Matsu and, as we have seen, Sakaki.81

Japanese naval forces remained in European waters until May 1919. After the armistice, units of Admiral Sato’s Second Special Mission Squadron helped supervise the Central Powers’ surrendered fleets. The cruiser Izumo and destroyers Hinoki and Yanagi sailed from Malta to Scapa Flow to help guard the German fleet and prepare for the return to Japan of seven surrendered German submarines.

Sato dispatched the destroyers Katsura, Matsu, Sakaki, and Kaede to Brindisi to aid in supervising German and Austro-Hungarian ships surrendering in the Mediterranean. He then rode the cruiser Nisshin, with the eight remaining destroyers, to Constantinople in December 1918. Detaching the destroyers Kashiwa, Kanran, and Sendan (the latter two would be returned to the Royal Navy in 1919) to superintend enemy warships at Constantinople, the balance of the squadron returned to Malta, where it received new orders from Japan to escort German submarines from England back home as part of Japan’s war spoils. Sending the Ume and Kusunoki to the Adriatic for patrol duty, Sato left for England, gathering the remaining Japanese escorts on the way.

The Japanese squadron made Portland, England, on 5 January 1919. The Izumo, Hinoki, Yanagi, and the seven German U-boats joined Sato’s fleet, which then returned at the end of March to Malta, where it was rejoined by the Ume and Kusunoki. The tender Kwanto serviced the U-boats at Malta then joined the cruiser Nisshin and two destroyer flotillas in escorting the submarines to Japan. All reached Yokosuka without incident on 18 June 1919. The Izumo and the last destroyer detachment left Malta on April 10 for various ports, including Naples, Genoa, and Marseilles, and a final trip to Malta on May 5. The warships left ten days later for the voyage to Japan, reaching Yokosuka on 2 July 1919.82

“God Grant Our Alliance . . . May Long Endure”

British leaders had nothing but praise for the Japanese Mediterranean squadron before it sailed for home. Winston Churchill voiced the general high opinion when he said he “did not think that the Japanese [squadron] had ever done a foolish thing.” The governor of Malta, Lord Methuen, who reviewed Japanese warships there in March 1919, also lauded the Japanese navy for “its splendid work in European waters” and expressed the hope, “God grant our alliance, cemented in blood, may long endure.”83

The Japanese warships’ performance in the Mediterranean certainly merited high praise. Japanese destroyers’ ratio of time at sea to time in port was the highest of any allied warships during the war: Japanese warships were under way 72 percent of the time. The British record was 60 percent, the Greek and French only 45 percent. British officers credited the Japanese warships with excellent performance—at least, they added, when all went according to plan. Postwar British criticisms that the Japanese “acted inferior to our men when unforeseen situations cropped up” reflect British prejudices expressed during the war, prejudices not supported by the actual record. That record clearly demonstrates instead how seriously Japanese naval officers took their duty. The commanders of several Japanese warships are reported to have committed Hari-Kari when ships they were convoying were lost.84

Still, why did the British so quickly forget Japan’s assistance to the allied cause, not only in the Mediterranean Sea but in the Pacific and Indian Oceans? See (Table 2) Why did the British permit the Anglo-Japanese alliance to lapse in 1921? The most obvious reason was that the end of the war simplified the situation in the Pacific. The lack of a common foe removed the main justification for the alliance. With the German threat to Britain’s Far East possessions eliminated and the nascent Soviet Union no longer threatening India, the crown jewel of the Empire, Great Britain did not require Japan’s naval cooperation. American pressure pushed the British into an adversarial relationship with the Japanese, whose new island possessions sat astride American communications with the Philippines and Guam. Prewar racial and diplomatic animosity between Japan and the United States, set aside in 1917 and 1918, quickly reemerged despite wartime Japanese assistance to the United States in the Pacific. Japan’s valuable role as an ally never appeared in Western histories of the war.

At home, some Japanese politicians reacted badly to Western treatment of Japan during the war and at Versailles. As early as April 1917, and understanding that the allied public knew little or nothing of Japan’s contributions, Japanese diplomats had offered the British a memorandum for publication in allied newspapers.85 Many resented how at Versailles the “three Great Powers acted as judges” in a confrontation with Chinese delegates over the Japanese occupation of Shantung. The apparent hostility toward Japan after the war, despite its service, led an increasing number of Japanese military officers to believe in an American and British conspiracy against Japan, founded on racial animosity.86

The severing of the Anglo-Japanese alliance, in fact, steered Japan toward cooperation with Germany. The arrival of the seized German submarines began a new, long-term relationship between the Japanese and German navies. German influence and technology quickly supplanted those of the British. The two services began to exchange personnel. Numerous Japanese officers received training in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, facilitating the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ultimate break with its British mentors.87

The British had their empire, and the Americans felt no shame in professing their “Manifest Destiny,” but both attacked Japanese imperial ambitions as excessive. After 1918, neither nation proved willing to maintain the close naval cooperation with Japan that had benefited all parties during the First World War. So it was that despite the strong record of Japanese assistance to Great Britain during that conflict, the true legacy of that cooperation proved to be alienation. Thus began the breach between East and West that led to the Japanese attack upon British (and American) possessions in the Far East as part of a true two-ocean conflict, just twenty-three years after Japan, Great Britain, and the United States had been allies in the “war to end all wars.”


 1. Japanese naval attache to Sir Oswyn Murray, 6 May 1918, Admiralty [hereafter ADM]137/1576 (H.S. 1576. Mediterranean. Central and General Areas II, IV, V, XI. Various Subjects 1918 II); Paul G. Halpern, The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1914–1918 (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987), p. 344; U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1917, p. 1616; and Hans Hugo Sokol, Oesterreich-Hungarns Seekrieg 1914–1918, 2 vols., 2d ed. (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck-u. Verlags Anstalt, 1973), vol. 2, p. 523.

 2. See Arthur J. Marder, Old Enemies, New Friends: The Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 5. Marder asserts, “The Royal Navy had little reason to be grateful to the Japanese in the First World War. Japan refused to send any ships to fight Germany until 1917, when a destroyer flotilla was sent to the Mediterranean, and made hay in the Far East while the British were committed in Europe, as through the seizure of German-occupied Tsingtao and German islands in the Pacific—the Marshalls, Marianas, Carolines, and Palau.” For a similar American view see Robert Lansing, War Memoirs of Robert Lansing (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1970), p. 281. Lansing characterizes Japan’s entry into the war and its subsequent gains as based on a “pretext” that the Anglo-Japanese alliance required its participation.

 3. Akira Iriye, Across the Pacific: An Inner History of American–East Asian Relations (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967), pp. 135–7.

 4. Ian H. Nish, The Anglo-Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires, 1884–1907, 2d ed. (London: Athlone Press, 1985), pp. 17–9, 111–6, 230.

 5. Ruddock F. Mackay, Fisher of Kilverstone (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 328; and Nish, Anglo-Japanese Alliance, p. 353.

 6. Peter Lowe, Great Britain and Japan, 1911–15 (London: Macmillan, 1969), pp. 178–9; and Peter Padfield, The Great Naval Race (New York: David McKay, 1974), p. 293.

 7. Churchill’s response (1 May 1914) to Mr. Middlemore’s questions in the Parliamentary Debates, Commons, 5th. Ser., vol. 61 (1914).

 8. Churchill’s Statement (Navy Estimates) (17 March 1914) in Parliamentary Debates, Commons, 5th. Ser., vol. 59 (1914).

 9. Padfield, p. 293.

10. Lowe, pp. 177–8.

11. Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1991), pp. 109–10; and Michael Montgomery, Imperialist Japan: The Yen to Dominate (London: Christopher Helm, 1987), pp. 233–4; and Lowe,p. 181.

12. For Grey’s plans vis-à-vis Japan, see Sir Edward Grey to Greene, 36531, 4 August 1914; 37691, 10 August 1914; 37900, 11 August 1914, Confidential Print, Japan (1914) Foreign Office [hereafter FO] 410/63, Public Records Office [hereafter PRO], London, England; and Sir Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill, vol. 3, 1914–1916 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), p. 43.

13. Greene to Grey, 39546, 15 August 1914; a Mr. Inouyé to Grey, 42297, 23 August 1914, FO 410/63; “Memorandum For Colonel Graham,” 16 September 1921, Office of Naval Intelligence [hereafter ONI], Record Group [hereafter RG] 38, Naval Attache Reports, U-4-B, 11083, National Archives, Washington, D.C., p. 1; and A. Morgan Young, Japan in Recent Times, 1912–1926 (New York: William Morrow, 1929; repr. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973), pp. 71–2 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

14. Ian H. Nish, Japanese Foreign Policy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977), pp. 93, 95; and Masamichi Royama, Foreign Policy of Japan: 1914–1939 (1941; repr. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973), pp. 3, 7, 17–8.

15. Montgomery, p. 237; and Greene to Grey, 28 August 1914, 43927, FO 410/63.

16. ONI, “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” 11 December 1918, RG 38, Naval Attache Reports, U-4-B, 11083, pp. 2–3, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

17. “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities during the War,” 11 December 1918, translation of official statement issued by Japanese Navy Department on 8 December 1918, ONI, RG 38, Naval Attache Reports, U-4-B, 11083, p. 2, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

18. Randal Gray, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921 (London: Conway’s Maritime Press, 1985), p. 222; Montgomery, p. 237; and ONI, “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 3.

19. ONI, “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 3; and Gray, ed., p. 240.

20. ONI,“Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” pp. 3–7, and “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 4; and Gray, ed., p. 222.

21. Lowe, pp. 196–7.

22. Montgomery,p. 237.

23. ONI, “A Brief Account of Japan’s Part in the World War,” 16 September 1921, RG 38, Naval Attache Reports, U-4-B, 11083, National Archives, Washington, D.C., p. 2.; Gray,ed., p. 222; and Anthony E. Sokol, The Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1968), pp. 89–90.

24. Montgomery, p. 238.

25. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy in the Indian and Pacific Oceans during War—1914–1918,” RG 45, Subject File 1911–1927, WA-5 Japan, box 703, folder 10, NND 913005, p. 98, and “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 5; and Stephen Howarth, The Fighting Ships of the Rising Sun (New York: Atheneum, 1983), p. 128.

26. ONI, “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” p. 11.

27. ONI, “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 7.

28. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 55–8, and “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” p. 13; M. P. Lissington, New Zealand and Japan, 1900–1941 (Wellington, New Zealand: A. R. Shearer, 1972), p. 27; and Howarth, p. 128.

29. ONI, “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 6.

30. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 38.

31. Ibid., p. 64; and H. S. Gullett, “Australia in the World War (I) Military,” in The Cambridge History of the British Empire (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1933), vol. 7, part 1, pp. 547–8.

32. ONI, “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 6.

33. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 38, and “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” p. 13.

34. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 98, 115–7, “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” pp. 11–2, and “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 9.

35. Mr. Haracourt to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, enclosure 3 in no. 389, 74500, 23 November 1914, FO 410/63; Governor Lord Liverpool to Haracourt, enclosure in no. 260, 13 May 1915, Confidential Print, Japan (1915) FO 410/64; Gray, ed., p. 222; and Lissington, p. 26.

36. ONI, “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” p. 9, and “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 121–3, 126–8, 130–2, 141–2.

37. ONI, “Japanese Naval Activities during European War,” p. 13.

38. Grey to Greene, 6 August 1914, 36648, FO 410/63; Gilbert, p. 202; and Howarth, pp. 7, 128.

39. Leslie Conners, The Emperor’s Advisor: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-War Japanese Politics (London: Croon Helm, 1987), p. 55; Kiyoshi Ikeda, “The Douglas Mission and the British Influence on the Japanese Navy,” in Themes and Theories in Modern Japanese History, ed. Sue Henny and Jean-Pierre Lehmann (London: Athlone, 1988), pp. 171–84; Lowe, p. 182; and Marder, Old Enemies, New Friends, p. 3.

40. Howarth, p. 128.

41. ONI “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 21; ONI “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 5; and Gray, ed., p. 222.

42. ONI “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 70–1.

43. See the exchange in: W. F. Nicholson (Admiralty) to Foreign Office, 20396, 1 February 1916; Grey to Greene, 26545, 4 February 1916; W. F. Nicholson (Admiralty) to Foreign Office, 24943, 8 February 1916; Grey to Greene, 27477, 9 February 1916; Greene to Grey, 30818, 16 February 1916; Admiralty to Foreign Office, 34976, 22 February 1916, Confidential Print, Japan (1916) FO 410/65, PRO, London, England; ONI “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 22; and Howarth, p. 128.

44. Greene to Grey, 65807, 6 April 1916, FO 410/65; ONI “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 22, 73–5; ONI “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 5.

45. Admiral John Jellicoe to Admiral David Beatty, 30 December 1916, A. Temple Patterson, ed. The Jellicoe Papers, vol. 2, 1916–1935, Publications of the Naval Records Society, vol. 111 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne, 1968), vol. 2, p. 135.

46. Admiral Sir Henry Jackson to Rear Admiral John de Robeck, 9 February 1916, in Paul G. Halpern, ed., The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915–1918, Publications of the Naval Records Society, vol. 126 (London: Temple Smith, 1987), p. 99. See also the fears of Admiral Sir Henry Oliver, Chief of the Admiralty War Staff, who worried that Japan might use British requests for naval assistance in the Mediterranean to “get a permanent footing there.” Quoted in John Fisher, “‘Backing the Wrong Horse’: Japan in British Middle Eastern Policy, 1914–1918,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, June 1998, p. 63.

47. Early in November 1917, the British ambassador to Japan reported, “I notice indications in the press and elsewhere of a desire to awaken Japanese public from apathy and indifference with which they have hitherto regarded the war, and which has found encouragement in high places. Some of the papers even warn their readers that Japan should be prepared for a possible appeal for military aid from the Allies.” Greene to Balfour, 214763, 8 November 1917, Confidential Print, Japan (1917) FO 410/66.

48. Malcolm D. Kennedy, The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan, 1917–1935 (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1969), p. 13.

49. Greene to Balfour, 180776, enclosure 1 in no. 6, Memorandum, Japan’s After-War Labour Problem, 19 September 1918, Confidential Print, Japan (1918) FO 410/67; and Young,pp. 114–8.

50. G. V. Fiddes (Colonial Office) to Foreign Office, 21 March 1916, 54458, Confidential Print, Japan (1916), FO 410/65; and Lissington, p. 31.

51. Admiralty to Foreign Office, 256472, 18 December 1916, FO 410/65; Balfour to Greene, 256472, 9 January 1917; and Greene to Balfour, 22137, 27 January 1917, FO 410/66.

52. Arthur J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, vol. 4, 1917: Year of Crisis (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), p. 100.

53. War Cabinet Papers, 29 January 1917, CAB 23/1/47; 1 February 1917, CAB 23/1/51; 12 February 1917, CAB 23/1/63; and 14 February 1917, CAB 23/1/65.

54. Balfour to Greene, 27203, 5 February 1917, FO 410/66; and ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 77, and  “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” pp. 6–7.

55. “Memorandum for Colonel Graham,” p. 2.

56. W. Long to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Governor of New Zealand, enclosure in no. 9, Colonial Office to Foreign Office, 29366, 5 February 1917, FO 410/66.

57. ONI, “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activities,” p. 1; Gray, ed., p. 205; and Hansgeorg Jentschura, Dieter Jung, and Peter Mickel, Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945, trans. Antony Preston and J. D. Brown (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1977), p. 135.

58. War Cabinet Papers, 15 December 1916, CAB 23/1/8.

59. War Cabinet Papers, 30 May 1917, CAB 23/2/150; and ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 77.

60. “Memorandum For Colonel Graham,” p. 2.

61. ONI, “Japanese Naval Activity and Other Contributions to the European War,” 16 October 1918, RG 38, U-4-B, 11083, National Archives, Washington, D.C., p. 2.

62. Jellicoe to the First Lord, Sir Eric Geddes, 21 July 1917, The Jellicoe Papers, vol. 2, p. 185.

63. Marder, Year of Crisis, pp. 43–4.

64. David F. Trask, Captains & Cabinets: Anglo-American Naval Relations, 1917–1918 (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1972), pp. 102–4.

65. Sir C. Spring-Rice to Lord Robert Cecil, 14 May 1917, War Cabinet Papers, 22 May 1917, CAB 23/2/142; and Trask, pp. 104–11.

66. Rice to Grey, 77210, 30 November 1914, FO 410/63; and James Reed, The Missionary Mind and American East Asia Policy, 1911–1915 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 96, 99.

67. ONI, “Japanese Naval Activity and Other Contributions to the European War,” p. 1, and “Official Report of Japanese Naval Activity,” p. 8; and Ian Nish, “Japan in Britain’s View of the International System, 1919–37,” in Anglo-Japanese Alienation, 1919–1952, ed. Ian Nish (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982), p. 29.

68. Greene to Balfour, 214266, 7 November 1917, FO 410/66; William Reynolds Braisted, The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1909–1922 (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1971), p. 335; and ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 99, 172.

69. Miller, pp. 110–1.

70. Iriye, pp. 131, 135.

71. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 10–1; and Paul G. Halpern, A Naval History of World War I (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1994), p. 393.

72. Halpern, Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, p. 209.

73. Sokol, Oesterreich-Hungarns Seekrieg, vol. 2, p. 518.

74. Sokol, The Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy, p. 121.

75. Halpern, Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, pp. 70, 209.

76. Ibid., p. 213.

77. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 12.

78. “Naval Transport and Convoy,” The Times History and Encyclopedia of the War, 22 vols., 11 June 1918, vol. 16, p. 173; “The Navy’s Work in 1917,” ibid., 18 December 1917, vol. 14, p. 164; and Henry Newbolt, History of the Great War (Based on Official Documents) Naval Operations, 5 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1928), vol. 4, p. 295.

79. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” p. 11.

80. See Hope’s Minutes, 23 February 1917; Ballard (Senior Naval Officer Malta) to Admiralty, 21 August 1917, ADM 137/1412 (H.S. 1412. Mediterranean. Central & General Areas II, IV, V, and XI); Various Subjects 1917  I, pp. 384–5; and Ballard to Admiralty, 21 August 1917 in Halpern, Royal Navy in the Mediterranean,  pp. 236, 279, 282.

81. ONI, “Operations—Japanese Navy,” pp. 12–3.

82. Ibid., pp. 13–5.

83. Howarth, Fighting Ships of the Rising Sun, p. 130.

84. Arthur J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, vol. 5, Victory and Aftermath (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970), pp. 36–7; and “Memorandum For Colonel Graham,” p. 1. This American postwar analysis of Japanese operations notes that “Japan sent one or more squadrons of destroyers to assist in the protection of troop and supply ships in the North Sea and the Mediterranean. The service of these squadrons was highly creditable to Japan.”

85. I have no evidence from contemporary publications, but a Mr. N. Kato had an article (based on a paper given to the Central Asiatic Society) printed in The New Europe: A Weekly Review of Foreign Politics, vol. 2, 18 January–12 April 1917 (London: Constable 1917), pp. 136–42. It seems the Japanese were running a public relations campaign about this time. For the Japanese memorandum, Lord Robert Cecil to Greene, 86671, enclosure in no. 21, Memorandum, 25 April 1917, FO 410/66.

86. See Viscount Kato’s remarks as reported to the British government in Mr. Alston to Earl Curzon, 105971, 20 June 1919, FO 410/67. Kato not only reacted “very strongly” to the embarrassing situation that Japan encountered during the peace talks but addressed the “race problem,” stating that for Japanese subjects abroad, it “was settled to this extent that it had practically been abandoned long ago as being impossible of adjustment.”

87. Hosoya Chihiro, “Britain and the United States in Japan’s View of the International System, 1919–1937,” in Anglo-Japanese Alienation, 1919–1952, ed. Ian Nish (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982), pp. 8–9.