Caesar – British destroyer class



Ordered in February 1942, The Caesar Class was the 11th destroyer flotilla of the emergency war programme. They were of the same design as the earlier ‘Emergency’ flotillas and almost identical to the preceding ‘Z’ or Zephyr Class in which the traditionaI4.7-in (120-mm) gun had been replaced by a new weapon of 4.5-in (114.3-mm) calibre. Having reached the end of the alphabet with the 10th Flotilla the new group were initially given names beginning with a variety of letters, but it was then decided to give them ‘c’ names as the original ‘c’ Class had been transferred to the RCN and renamed. The final three emergency flotillas were also given ‘c’ names, and to distinguish between them they were designated the ‘Ca’ (Caesar), ‘Ch’ (Chequers), ‘Co’ (Cossack) and ‘Cr’ (Crescent) Classes.

They were designed to carry a close-range armament of one twin 40-mm (1.57-in) Hazemeyer mounting amidships, two twin 20-mm (0.79-in) abaft the funnel and two single 20-mm in the bridge wings. However, the Caprice was completed with a quadruple 2-pdr porn-porn in place of the twin 40-mm and the Cassandra mounted twin 20-mm guns in her bridge wings instead of singles. In 1945 the majority had their 20-mm mountings replaced by four 2-pdr pom-poms but Cassandra was not altered, while Caesar mounted two 2-pdrs and one 40-mm gun and the Cavendish was fitted with three 2-pdrs only. These alterations were made to increase their firepower for defence against kamikaze attacks.

The class completed between April 1944 and February 1945, the Caprice being the first 4.5-in (114.3-mm) gunned destroyer to enter service, as the first of the ‘Z’ Class did not complete until July 1944. Initially they served with the Home Fleet as the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and operated mainly in northern waters where both Cassandra and Cavalier covered Russian convoys. On December 11, 1944, while escorting RA62, the Cassandra was torpedoed by a U-Boat, about 7.62 m (25 ft) of her bow being blown away. She was towed to Murmansk, stern first, where temporary repairs were carried out by the Russians. She returned to the UK in June 1945 but home dockyards were fully occupied. The remainder of the class were transferred to the Far East and Pacific during 1945 but the majority arrived too late to take an active part in the war against Japan. All returned to Britain in 1946 and were placed in reserve until the 1950s.

In 1953 the Carron was taken in hand at Chatham dockyard for a two-year modernization. A new bridge, similar to that in the Daring Class, replaced the original structure and a new director and remote power control were provided for the main armament. The after bank of torpedo tubes was replaced by a deckhouse on which a twin Mk V Bofors was mounted and X 4.5-in (114.3-mm) mounting was supplanted by two ‘Squid’ antisubmarine mortars. All of the original close range AA weapons were removed. The rest of the class were modernized in the same manner between 1954 and 1963 the only major variation being in the last four (Caesar, Cambrian, Caprice and Cassandra) which were fitted with enclosed frigate-type bridges instead of the open destroyer type.

In 1963 the Cavendish became the first ship to be fitted with the ‘Seacat’ GWS which replaced the twin 40-mm (1.57-in) gun mounting. The Cavalier was similarly fitted in 1966. In 1971 a race was held between the Cavalier and the frigate Rapid to settle an argument over which was the fastest ship in the navy. The Cavalier won by a very narrow margin after averaging 31.8 knots over 64 miles. Most of the class were sold for scrap between 1967 and 1975, but the Cavalier which is one of the last examples of her type, has been preserved and is permanently moored at Southampton.

Caesar, Cavendish (built by J Brown)

Cambrian, Carron (built by Scotts’)

Caprice, Cassandra (built by Yarrow)

Carysfort, Cavalier (built by White).

Displacement: 1710 tons (standard), 2530 tons (full load)

Length: 110.5 m (362 ft 9 in)

Beam: 10.9 m (35 ft 9 in)

Draught: 3.04 m (10ft) mean

Machinery: 2-shaft geared steam turbines, 40 000 shp=34 knots

Armament: 4 4.5-in (114.3- mm) (4×1); 2 40-mm (1.57-in) (1 x2); 6 20-mm (0.79-in) (2×2+2×1); 8 21-in (53-cm) torpedo tubes (2×4)

Crew: 186




WWI [blue] and WWII [green] U-boats Compared.

When World War I commenced in early August 1914, the German Imperial Navy had not completed its big-ship buildup. The High Seas Fleet was therefore not strong enough to sail out and confront Britain’s powerful Grand Fleet in a single, decisive battle. Nor was the Royal Navy capable of mounting a decisive attack on the Imperial Navy in its home waters. Hence a big-ship standoff ensued, during which the opposing admirals schemed ways to entrap the other’s fleet in the confined waters of the North Sea by guile and deception. The naval war between these two great maritime powers thus proceeded in a curious, cautious, and unforeseen manner. There was only a single major surface-ship battle—Jutland—and it was brief and inconclusive.

Early in the war both Germany and Great Britain deployed submarines on offensive missions. The initial forays were remarkable. German U-boats sank three British heavy cruisers (Aboukir, Hague, and Cressy) and two light cruisers (Pathfinder, Hawke) with the loss of over 2,000 men. British submarines sank the German light cruiser Hela. Both navies were thus compelled to view the submarine as a grave new threat and they reacted accordingly. The British Grand Fleet withdrew temporarily from its North Sea base in Scapa Flow to safer waters in north Ireland. The German High Seas Fleet sharply curtailed operations in its home waters, the Helgoland Bight.

The British imposed a naval blockade against Germany with the aim of shutting off the flow of war matériel. The British did not strictly observe the prize laws; even neutral ships loaded merely with food were harassed, blocked, or turned back. In retaliation, the German Naval Staff authorized German U-boats to harass Allied merchant shipping. On October 20, 1914, a U-boat, observing the prize laws, stopped, searched, and scuttled the 866-ton British freighter Glitra off Norway. A week later another U-boat, operating in the English Channel, torpedoed without warning a French steamer, Admiral Ganteaume, which was believed to be laden with troops and therefore fair game under the prize laws. In fact the ship was jammed with 2,400 Belgian refugees, including many women and children. Fortunately, it did not sink.

These two U-boat attacks on unarmed merchant ships carried profound implications for the island nation of Great Britain, entirely dependent upon her vast mercantile fleet for survival. An organized U-boat guerre de course might be ruinous. Accordingly, the British government denounced the attacks as illegal, treacherous, piratical, and immoral. Ship owners, merchants, and insurance carriers the world over joined the chorus of denunciation.

The Central Powers, composed of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had planned to defeat France in a quick campaign, then turn about and crush czarist Russia. But the plan went awry. The armies in France bogged down in bloody trench warfare; Russia attacked from the east, creating a two-front war. Not having anticipated a long war, the Central Powers had not stockpiled large supplies of war matériel. As a result of the British blockade, by early 1915 the Central Powers were running out of iron ore and oil and other war essentials as well as food.

To this point U-boats, strictly observing the prize rules, had sunk ten British merchant ships for about 20,000 tons. Owing to the shortage of torpedoes—they were still virtually handmade—most of these sinkings had been achieved by gunfire or forced scuttling. The surprising ease of these successes had led the senior German admirals to conclude that if the prize rules were relaxed, even the small number of U-boats available for distant operations could impose an effective counterblockade on the British Isles. The mere appearance of a single U-boat, manned by only two dozen men, whether successful in the attack or not, caused great psychological alarm, compelling the enemy to devote a hugely disproportionate share of his manpower and resources to neutralize the threat. All this would severely impair Britain’s ability to carry on the war, the advocates postulated, and might result in a tit-for-tat deal in which Britain agreed to lift its blockade of Germany.

Neither the Kaiser nor his Chancellor was keen on the proposal. Germany had already incurred heavy criticism from many quarters for sinking merely ten merchant ships. A relaxation of the prize rules would doubtless draw even harsher criticism, especially from neutral nations such as the United States, which had a substantial financial interest in sea commerce and might retaliate by entering the war. Moreover, the number of U-boats available for blockading the British Isles seemed too slight. To announce a blockade and fail abjectly would be worse than no attempt at all.

And yet the proposal would not die. Its advocates argued, not without justification, that the moral arguments were no longer relevant. In its ruthless blockade of Germany, they insisted, Britain had repeatedly violated the prize rules and other traditions protecting sea commerce, most notably in refusing the passage of neutral ships carrying only food. This line of reasoning, and other arguments, finally persuaded the Kaiser and his Chancellor to authorize a U-boat blockade of Great Britain.

The stage was carefully set. The Kaiser publicly declared that from February 18, 1915, onward, the waters around the British Isles were to be considered a “war zone.” Prize rules would no longer be strictly observed. British and French merchant vessels would be sunk without warning or exceptional measures to provide for the safety of the crews. Care would be taken to spare neutrals not carrying contraband, but all neutrals would sail the waters at their own peril. U-boat skippers, the Kaiser further declared, would not be held responsible if “mistakes should be made.”

So was launched history’s first systematized submarine guerre de course. The initial results were less than impressive. In the month of February 1915, the twenty-nine U-boats of the German submarine force sank 60,000 tons of merchant shipping; in March, 80,000 tons. The weakness of the blockade lay in the small number of U-boats available. Owing to the time spent going to and from German bases and in refit, after the initial deployment it was difficult to establish organized U-boat patrol cycles that kept more than six or seven U-boats in British waters at any given time. Notwithstanding the fear and confusion and diversion of resources it precipitated, the first U-boat blockade did not achieve its main goal. First Lord Churchill declared the blockade a failure; British imports in 1915 exceeded those of 1913. The British government refused to entertain any suggestion of lifting the blockade of Germany.

With each merchant ship sinking, the cries of moral indignation intensified. Three sinkings in particular outraged the Americans: the 32,500-ton Cunard liner Lusitania on May 7, with the loss of 1,198 passengers (128 Americans) and crew; the 16,000-ton White Star liner Arabic on August 19, with the loss of 40 passengers (3 Americans); and the liner Hesperian on September 9. So violent was the reaction in the United States (U-boat crews make war “like savages drunk with blood” declared The New York Times), that in early September 1915 the Kaiser called off the blockade of Great Britain and sent many more U-boats to the Mediterranean Sea, where the hunting was less controversial and no less lucrative and there were few Americans.

With victory no closer for the Central Powers, at the beginning of 1916 the chief of the German naval staff, Admiral Henning von Holzendorff, and his Army counterpart urged the Kaiser to authorize a renewal of the British blockade. The Navy now had almost twice as many U-boats in commission (fifty-four versus twenty-nine in 1915) and ever more U-boats were coming off the slipways. The Kaiser was tempted, but the Chancellor and Foreign Minister objected, fearful of another Lusitania, which would almost certainly bring America into the war. After days of vacillation, the Kaiser sided with the Navy, but he imposed complicated restrictions. No passenger liners of any nationality were to be attacked anywhere. No cargo ships or tankers except those unmistakably armed could be attacked outside the war zone.

The renewed blockade commenced in February 1916. Notwithstanding the restrictions and complexity of the rules, all went well for the U-boats for two months: 117,000 tons sunk in February, 167,000 tons in March. Then came another costly error. On March 24 a U-boat mistook the 1,350-ton English Channel passenger ferry Sussex for a troopship and torpedoed it. The Sussex did not sink, but about eighty people were killed in the explosion, including twenty-five Americans. In response to the renewed cries of indignation and a blistering note from Washington threatening to sever diplomatic relations, the Kaiser backed down once more and, on April 24, ordered U-boats in waters of the British Isles again to adhere strictly to the prize rules. As a result, merchant ship tonnage sunk by U-boats in British waters fell sharply for the next four months.

The German submarine force had grown to substantial size by September 1916: a total of 120 boats of all types, many with larger 105mm (4.1”) deck guns. Again the military staffs urged the Kaiser to exploit this force to the fullest. Again the Kaiser vacillated, and finally yielded, but with yet a new set of rules. Skippers were to conduct only restricted submarine warfare (by prize rules) in waters of the British Isles, where there were numerous American and other neutral ships, but they were permitted to wage unrestricted submarine warfare in the Mediterranean. This third and most intense phase of the restricted U-boat war, October 6, 1916, to February 1, 1917, was highly productive for the Germans. The U-boats sank about 500 British merchant vessels for about 1.1 million tons, raising the total bag for 1916 to about 2.3 million tons, most of that of British registry.

By early 1917 the ground war had become a brutal and fruitless bloodletting for the Central Powers and there was deep and widespread unrest at home. The German military staffs urged the Kaiser to authorize unrestricted submarine warfare in all oceans and seas. Using the results achieved in the fall of 1916, the larger number of U-boats available, plus nearly ninety new boats that were to be commissioned in 1917, the naval staff calculated that with an unrestricted U-boat campaign, nearly half of Britain’s still large merchant fleet could be wiped out within five or six months, rendering her not only incapable of prosecuting the war on the continent but also leaving her population in a condition of starvation and rebellion. America be damned, the naval staff said. If she came into the war, Germany would have enough U-boats (about seventy ready for operations in the British Isles alone) to sink all her troop and supply ships before they reached Europe. By that time, too, there was no shortage of German submarine torpedoes; U-boat skippers did not have to rely so heavily on deck guns.

Turning aside peace feelers from President Wilson and others, the Kaiser approved this proposal. He announced to the world that commencing February 1, 1917, U-boats would sink on sight every merchant ship found in British territorial waters. At the same time, he assured the German military staffs that there would be no more pussyfooting or backing down, and he promulgated a radical role reversal for the surface ships of the Imperial Navy: Henceforth they were to support U-boats, rather than the other way around. “To us,” he said, “every U-boat is of such importance that it is worth using the whole available fleet to afford it assistance and support.”

Germany launched this all-out submarine guerre de course in the British Isles with multiple attacks conducted simultaneously with “utmost energy” by about sixty U-boats. To minimize detection by Allied aircraft and submarines, and counterfire from merchant ships, and to take advantage of higher speed for escape, U-boat skippers attacked at night while on the surface. The results were spectacular: 540,000 tons sunk in February, 594,000 tons in March, and an appalling 881,000 tons in April. During April alone—the grimmest month of the U-boat war—the Germans sank 423 merchant ships, of which 350 were British.* Moreover, as anticipated, the campaign scared off most of the many neutral ships trading with Great Britain.

Reflecting the growing anger and outrage in America, President Wilson reacted firmly and militantly to this all-out U-boat campaign. On the third day, February 3, 1917, he broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. At his request, on April 6 the Congress declared war on the Central Powers.

At the beginning of the war the Royal Navy possessed no special countermeasures to fight submarines. Naval tacticians wrongly assumed that since submarines would of necessity spend most of the time on the surface, they would be easy prey for gunfire and ramming. This wrong view was reinforced when the British cruiser Birmingham rammed and sank U-15, the first U-boat to be lost. But in the five months of warfare in 1914, the Royal Navy positively sank only one other U-boat, U-18. Three other U-boats were lost in 1914 (for a total of five) to unknown causes, probably mines.





Sinking of the Linda Blanche out of Liverpool by Willy Stöwer

Beginning in 1915, when shipping losses to U-boats began to climb significantly, the Admiralty diverted a substantial portion of its existing resources to antisubmarine warfare (A/S in Britain, ASW in America) and asked scientists, engineers, academics, and others to help develop ways to destroy U-boats. In the belief that the best defense was a strong offense, the chief ASW weapons to emerge in World War I were these:

• SURFACE HUNTERS. The Admiralty sent scores, then hundreds, then thousands of surface ships out offensively scouring the oceans for U-boats. These vessels included destroyers, frigates, sloops, trawlers, yachts, and heavily armed raiders (Q-ships) disguised as tramp steamers. Some vessels were fitted with crude hydrophones—passive underwater listening devices—which could detect the engine noise of a surfaced U-boat, but only if the hunting vessels were not moving.

In 1916 many of these offensive ASW ships were armed with a new weapon called the depth charge. The best of these underwater bombs, derived from mines, contained 300 pounds of TNT or Amatol and were fitted with hydrostatic fuses which could be set to detonate the charges at 40 and 80 feet, and later 50 to 200 feet. Since early depth charges were rolled from stern tracks (or racks) and exploded at shallow depth, the attacking vessel had to put on maximum speed or risk severe damage to its stern. Therefore, slower vessels could not use the 300-pound depth charges until fuses with deeper settings had been developed. In all of 1916, British naval forces sank only two U-boats by depth charge. In 1917 and 1918, when depth charges had been improved and were much more plentiful, the kill rate by this weapon increased significantly.

• AIRBORNE HUNTERS. When the war commenced, the aviation age was merely a dozen years old. The Royal Navy had acquired about fifty seaplanes and seven nonrigid airships, called “blimps,” to scout for enemy naval forces. Some of these aircraft were diverted to U-boat hunting but, owing to the unreliability of engines, slow speed, limited fuel capacity, tiny bomb loads, and other factors, they were useless against U-boats. It became apparent, however, that when an aircraft appeared near a U-boat, it dived and became essentially immobile. Hence air patrols were useful for forcing U-boats under, thus enabling ships to skirt the danger area and avoid attack. In 1915 the Royal Navy acquired much improved seaplanes (the American-designed Curtiss American) and blimps in greater numbers. These were armed with impact-fused 100- or 520-pound bombs or 230-pound ASW bombs with delayed-action fuses that exploded at a water depth of seventy feet, but the U-boat kill rate by aircraft remained essentially zero.

• SUBMERGED HUNTERS. On the theory that it was wise to “send a thief to catch a thief,” the Royal Navy saturated German home waters with submarines equipped with hydrophones. The early patrols produced no confirmed kills, but the presence of British submarines in German waters, including the Baltic Sea, where German submariners trained, caused great anxiety and disrupted routines. Beginning in 1915, British submarines began to torpedo U-boats in significant numbers. The Admiralty designed and produced a small submarine (R class) specifically for U-boat hunting but it came too late. Had British torpedoes been more reliable, the submarines doubtless would have sunk many more U-boats.

• MINES. From the first days of the war both sides employed moored contact mines, planted in shallow water, usually defensively but often offensively. Defensive minefields were sown to prevent enemy forces from penetrating one’s coastal waters for shore bombardment, interdiction of shipping, or invasion. Such minefields were charted and planted with great care, leaving secret safe lanes for friendly shipping and naval forces. In order to attack British shipping, U-boats often had to negotiate the periphery or heart of defensive minefields, a hazardous undertaking. Many U-boats strayed into British minefields or hit live mines that had drifted their moorings or had broken loose. Offensive mining was more complicated and often hit-or-miss. Surface vessels, operating under cover of darkness in great haste, planted mines in likely spots such as sea-lanes or sometimes even in the safe lanes of the defensive minefields, to catch opposing naval vessels or merchant ships by surprise. Later in the war, both sides employed submarines for minelaying, combining two much-feared naval weapons.

To prevent U-boats from reaching the Atlantic via the English Channel, the British sowed lines of mines across it from Dover, England, to Cape Gris-Nez, France. However, in 1915 and 1916, British contact mines were defective, and not until the Admiralty copied and mass-produced the standard German contact mine could the Dover “field” be depended upon to block the passage of U-boats. When the Dover field was finally effective, it forced U-boats destined for the Atlantic to go northabout Scotland, adding about 1,400 miles (and about seven days) to the voyage.

After the United States entered the war and offered the Royal Navy a secret mine with a magnetic fuse, the Allies put in motion a grandiose scheme to plant 200,000 such mines across the top of the North Sea from the Orkney Islands to Norway. Although American and British forces planted about 80,000 mines in this so-called Northern Barrage, most of these mines were also defective and, other than frayed nerves, caused the Germans small harm. Even so, Allied mines in all areas ranked high as U-boat killers.

• RADIO INTELLIGENCE. When the war began, radio transmission or wireless telegraphy (W/T) was a new military technology at which the British excelled. Taking advantage of a lucky capture of German naval codebooks, as well as an appalling lack of sophistication in German radio procedures and security, the British thoroughly penetrated German naval communications. The British first perfected Radio Direction Finding (RDF) to pinpoint and identify German shore- and sea-based transmitters. Utilizing the captured codebooks, they “read” on a current basis most German naval transmissions. This priceless intelligence enabled the Admiralty’s secret signals-intelligence branch (known as Room 40) to track U-boat operations to a remarkable extent. A British historian wrote that by “early 1915, Room 40 knew the total strength of the U-boat fleet, the rate at which it was growing … the composition of each flotilla … the number of U-boats at sea or in port, and when and if it put to sea … losses, as evidenced by the failure of a U-boat to return, and in most cases, the size of the [U-boat] threat in any particular area.”

Still, these many and varied ASW measures were absurdly inadequate. In all of 1915 the Germans lost merely nineteen U-boats while adding fifty-two boats to the force. In 1916 the Germans lost twenty-two boats while adding 108 boats. Notwithstanding a massive British antisubmarine effort, during the first four months of 1917, the Germans lost only eleven U-boats. To then, the average monthly U-boat loss rate had been only 1.7, a continuing losing battle for Britain because the Germans were producing seven or eight new boats per month.

In the wake of the spectacular shipping losses in April 1917, Britain’s new Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, urged the Admiralty to organize British shipping into convoys, escorted by destroyers, frigates, sloops, and other ASW craft. This was hardly a new idea; defense of sea commerce by convoy was as old as the sail and, as the British naval historian John Winton put it, “as natural and as obvious a tactic as, say, gaining and keeping the weather gauge.”

The Royal Navy had opposed the formation of convoys for numerous reasons. The principal reason, Winton wrote, was that Royal Navy officers had forgotten their history—that the main purpose of the Royal Navy was to protect Britain’s sea trade. Imbued with the aggressive doctrines of the American naval theorist Alfred Thayer Mahan (and kindred souls), who postulated that control of the seas could most effectively be insured by husbanding naval assets for a single, decisive, offensive naval battle with the enemy, they opposed the diversion of naval resources to convoying, which they viewed as mundane and defensive and which, if adopted, would be an admission that Britain had, in effect, lost control of the seas to an inferior naval power.

There were other reasons. First, notwithstanding huge losses of merchant ships on their very doorstep, the Royal Navy continued to grossly underestimate the overall effectiveness of the U-boat campaign on British maritime assets. Second, the admirals insisted convoys were enormously inefficient, compelling faster ships to reduce speeds to those of slower ships, overwhelming seaport facilities during loading and unloading periods, and posing difficult organizational problems in distant, neutral ports. Third, the Admiralty doubted the ability or desire of merchant-ship captains to accept or to follow orders or to station-keep in the required tight zigzagging formations at night or in inclement weather. Fourth, the admirals held, the concentration of merchant ships into a single large body presented U-boat skippers with richer targets, which they were not likely to miss, even with poorly aimed or errant torpedoes.

With the assistance of American naval power, the Admiralty finally—and reluctantly—agreed to a test of inbound convoying in the Atlantic. The first convoy, consisting of sixteen ships, sailed from Gibraltar to the British Isles on May 10, 1917; the second of twelve ships from Norfolk, Virginia,* on May 24. The Gibraltar convoy arrived in good time without the loss of a ship. The Norfolk convoy, escorted by the British cruiser Roxburgh and six American destroyers, ran into minor difficulties. Two of the dozen ships could not maintain the convoy’s 9-knot average speed and fell out. One of these was torpedoed going into Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, the other ten ships crossed the Atlantic in foggy weather, maintaining tight formation, zigzagging all the way, and arrived safely in the British Isles.

With the results of these tests and other data in hand, in August 1917—the beginning of the fourth year of the war—the Admiralty finally adopted the convoy system. It was a smashing success. By October over 1,500 merchant ships in about 100 convoys had reached the British Isles. Only ten ships were lost to U-boats while sailing in these convoys: one ship out of 150. By comparison, the loss rate for ships sailing independently (inbound and otherwise) was one in ten. By the end of 1917, almost all of the blue-water traffic was convoyed. These convoys had been instituted in the nick of time; U-boats sank nearly 3,000 ships for 6.2 million tons in 1917, most of them sailing independently. The historian Winton wrote: “Convoying did not win the war in 1917. But it did prevent the war from being lost in 1917.”

A U-boat skipper remembered the impact of convoying on the German submarine force. Convoying, he wrote, “robbed it of its opportunity to become a decisive factor.” He continued: “The oceans at once became bare and empty; for long periods at a time the U-boats, operating individually, would see nothing at all; and then suddenly up would loom a huge concourse of ships, thirty or fifty or more of them, surrounded by a strong escort of warships of all types.” The solitary U-boat, he went on, which “had most probably sighted the convoy purely by chance,” would attempt to attack again and again, “if the commander had strong nerves” and stamina. “The lone U-boat might sink one or two of the ships,” he concluded, “or even several; but that was a poor percentage of the whole. The convoy would steam on.”

During the final twelve months of the war, convoying became the rule rather than the exception. The British and American navies established large organizations to administer convoys and provided surface and, where feasible (close to land), aircraft escorts, armed with new and improved aerial bombs. In many instances, intelligence from Room 40, accurately identifying U-boat positions, enabled the authorities to divert convoys away from U-boats. After the full convoy system was in place (outbound from the British Isles as well as inbound) in 1918, total shipping losses fell by two-thirds from 1917: 1,133 sunk. Of these, 999 sailed independently. In the ten months of naval war in 1918, only 134 ships were lost in convoy.


Austro-Hungarian Submarines

The Austro- Hungarian navy was comparatively late in ordering submarines, their first not being launched until 1908. Initially they were known simply by a number in Roman style, and later the U designator was added but by the middle of the war the roman numerals had given way to Arabic ones, thus duplicating the numbers of some of the German boats.

At the outbreak of war the Austrian sub- marine fleet consisted of seven boats. Of these the first six belonged to three different types each pair being built at either Fiume or Pola. I-IV were badly over-engined ­and suffered from excessive vibration when running at high speed on the surface with their Korting paraffin engines. They were all fitted with three 45-cm (17.7-in) torpedo tubes. As commander of V Kapitanleutenant von Trapp was responsible for sinking the French ­armoured cruiser Leon Gambetta in the Strait of Otranto on April 27, 1915, with two torpedoes fired during a daring and skilful night attack.

In 1914 an order for the next five subm­arines (VII-XI) was awarded to the Germania Yard at Kiel. They were to helve been larger diesel-engine boats armed with five 50- cm (19.7-in) torpedo tubes, but they were taken over by the Germans and eventually commissioned as U 66-70.

Thus the seventh boat of the Austrian navy at the outbreak of war was XII, built originally as a private venture by Whithead’s at Fiume, and added to the Austrian navy in late 1914. She was sunk off Venice on August 11, 1915, and later salvaged by the Italians. No submarine was numbered XIII, but XIV was the French submarine Curie which became caught in the nets off POLA in December 1914  refitted ­and entered into the navy and given to command by von Trapp.

By early 1915 the Germans held developed the small Type UB coastal submarines and Type UC small minelayer which could be built rapidly ­and if necessary, transported by rail in section for assembly elsewhere. Some of the UB-Boats were taken to Pola for assembly ­and initially manned by their German crews. In June 1915 they began to be formally handed over to the Austrians, UB 1 becoming X and UB 15 as XI. Later in the year three of the Type UC became XV, XVI and XVII. XVIII was the Italian Giacinto Pullino which was captured in August 1916, refitted and entered into the Austrian navy.

XIX-XXIII were five boats completed in Austrian dockyards in 1917 and were generally similar to the Danish Havmanden Class. XXIV-XXVIII were completed in 1918. From time to time other boats were transformed or loaned from the Germans, mostly the Types VB or UC, and in 1916 VB 43 became the XLIII. In some cases the flag change m­ay have been nominal with the original German crew staying with the boat, which later reverted to the Germany. This may in part have been due to the complication that until August 1916 Italy was at war with Austria-Hungary but not with Germany. With transfer of flag the boats were given Austrian numbers with, among others VB 48 becoming LXXIX ­and VB 105 becoming XCVII.

During the war the Austrians lost seven ­submarines, including both III and VI of the prewar boat­s. Two more were badly dam­aged.


Wartime German Destroyers: From Narvik to the Capitulation I

The Battle of Biscay, 28 December 1943.

In the wake of the disaster at Narvik on 13 April 1940, the four existing Z-Flottillen were disbanded and reformed under a caretaker FdZ, Fregattenkapitän Alfred Schemmel, between 18 April and 14 May 1940. Kapitän zur See Erich Bey was appointed on the latter date, and he held the post until his death aboard the battleship Scharnhorst on 26 December 1943.

The two new flotillas were numbered 5 and 6. 5. Z-Flottille consisted of the former 1. Z-Flottille based at Swinemünde—Z 4 Richard Beitzen, Z 14 Friedrich Ihn, Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck and Z 16 Friedrich Eckholdt. 6. Z-Flottille comprised the remaining survivors, Z 5 Paul Jacobi, Z 6 Theodor Riedel, Z 7 Hermann Schoemann, Z 8 Bruno Heinemann, Z 10 Hans Lody and Z 20 Karl Galster. These flotillas had little real significance because the small number of ships and their lack of operational readiness led to units being sent wherever the necessity for them arose. During 1940 three new destroyers, Z 23, Z 24 and Z 25, entered service, but they were not combat-ready until March 1941.

No destroyer operations were carried out in the Baltic east of the Kattegat in 1940, and there were no further German destroyer losses during 1940.

The immediate priority following the occupation of Norway was to close down the Skagerrak, and on 28 April Z 4 Richard Beitzen and Z 8 Bruno Heinemann took part in the first day’s operation to lay the Sperre 17 mine barrage in company with the minelayers Roland, Kaiser, Preussen and Cobra. The torpedo boats Leopard, Möwe and Kondor were also present, though Leopard was sunk in a collision with Preussen. After an improvement in the weather, the work was completed on 17 and 19 May, Z 4 being accompanied by Z 7 Hermann Schoemann on these two latter occasions.

At the beginning of June an operation codenamed ‘Juno’ was begun, the objective of which was to penetrate to the end of Andfjord and attack the town of Harstad, which British forces had invested as a naval base with a view eventually to re-taking Narvik. At 0800 on 4 June a German formation led by the battleship Gneisenau, flagship of Admiral Marschall, set out northwards from Kiel. In line astern followed the battleship Scharnhorst, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Hans Lody, Hermann Schoemann, Erich Steinbrinck and Karl Galster. The attack on Harstad was planned for the early hours of 9 June, but once it had been confirmed that the British and French occupation force had abandoned the town, and a full evacuation from Norway was in progress, Gruppe West ordered Marschall to attack a reported convoy instead. A scouting line with 10nm between each ship was formed, and at 0605, in position 67°20’N 04°00’E the sweep encountered a westbound tanker, Oil Pioneer (5,666grt), escorted by the 530-ton ‘Tree’ class corvette Juniper—’an unwelcome stop in our search for the valuable convoy with its cruiser and destroyer escort’, Marschall recorded. While Gneisenau dealt with the tanker, leaving Hermann Schoemann to rescue the eleven survivors, Admiral Hipper finished off the corvette. Juniper’s depth charges exploded as she sank, leaving only one survivor to be picked up by Hans Lody.

The search line re-formed, and shortly after 1000 Lody reported smoke from several ships to the north which proved to be the hospital ship Atlantis, which was allowed to proceed unmolested, and the empty troop transporter Orama (19,840grt). The latter was suspected to be an AMC, and when, at 1104, movement on deck was interpreted as an attempt to man her guns, Hipper turned broadside-on and opened fire with tailfused salvos from all her main turrets at a range of 13,000yds. Lody began shooting at the same time, and, just as she was being ordered via ultra-short wave radio to cease firing, Hipper’s, foretop rangefinder operator reported that the Orama had struck her flag and was being abandoned by her crew. Lody had the Orama on a bearing from which it was not possible to see the transport’s lifeboats being lowered—and her ultrashort wave radio was not functioning. She therefore received neither the order from Hipper to cease firing nor one from the fleet commander not to fire torpedoes. Hans Lody unfortunately continued to shell the stricken ship and, to hasten her demise, loosed off two torpedoes. Both of these were rogues, but although one was a surface-runner which hit a loaded lifeboat at 40 knots and failed to explode, the other deviated and detinated prematurely close to Hipper. At 1220 the Orama sank by the stern, leaving fourteen survivors to be picked up by the heavy cruiser and 98 by the destroyer. An hour later the cruiser and destroyers were sent into Trondheim to refuel.

On 10 June the cruiser sortied in company with the battleship Gneisenau and the same four destroyers— Z 7, Z 10, Z 15 and Z 20—to attack British shipping, but as a result of adverse Luftwaffe reconnaissance reports were back at their moorings the next day. Bomber aircraft attacked the German units on several occasions.

Between 14 and 17 June, in an operation codenamed ‘Nora’, the cruiser Nürnberg, Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck and a minesweeping flotilla escorted the troopship Levante with 3. Gebirgsjager Division from Trondheim to Elvegardsmoen in Narvikfjord, returning with the paratroop force relieved there.

On 20 June the battleship Scharnhorst, which had been torpedoed during the action in which she and her sister-ship Gneisenau sank the aircraft carrier Glorious and three destroyers, left Trondheim for Kiel flanked by Z 7 Hermann Schoemann, Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck, Z 10 Hans Lody and several torpedo boats; that same evening Admiral Hipper and Gneisenau sailed from Trondheim escorted by Z 20 Karl Galster and a seaplane on an operation to ‘roll up’ the British Northern Patrol, this having the secondary purpose of distracting attention from the departure of Scharnhorst. Shortly before midnight, at the entrance to Trondheimfjord, the submarine Clyde torpedoed Gneisenau forward of ‘A’ turret and the German force had to turn back.

On 25 July Hipper left Trondheim in company with the homebound damaged Gneisenau and her escort, consisting of the cruiser Nürnberg, Z 5 Paul Jacobi, Z 14 Friedrich Ihn and Z 20 Karl Galster. As arranged, Hipper was soon detached and steered north alone for anti-contraband reconnaissance in polar waters, and the force for Kiel was reinforced the next day by the torpedo boats Seeadler, Iltis, Jaguar, Luchs and T 5. Luchs was sunk when she intercepted a torpedo intended for Gneisenau from the British submarine Swordfish, but the remainder of the convoy reached Kiel on 28 June.

Between 31 August and 2 September Z 5 Paul Jacobi, Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck, Z 20 Karl Galster and four torpedo boats assisted the minelayers Tannenberg, Roland and Cobra to lay the Sperre 3 barrage in the south-western North Sea.

From 13 September 1940 Admiral Hipper was on standby at Kiel for Operation ‘Seelöwe’ (Sealion), the planned invasion of Britain, for which her task was to make a diversionary break-out to the north of either Scotland or Ireland to lure the Home Fleet out of the English Channel. All operational destroyers were sent to the French Channel ports of Brest and Cherbourg during September and October for ‘Seelöwe’ : Z 6 Theodor Riedel, Z 10 Hans Lody, Z 14 Friedrich Ihn, Z 16 Friedrich Eckholdt and Z 20 Karl Galster sailed from Germany on 9 September, followed on the 22nd by Z 5 Paul Jacobi and Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck. Z 6 Theodor Riedel was of little use on account of persistent problems with her port engine. Z 4 Richard Beitzen arrived on 21 October.

The principal operations carried out against the British south coast occurred on the night of 28 September, when Falmouth Bay was mined by Paul Jacobi, Hans Lody, Friedrich Ihn and Friedrich Eckholdt; on 17 October, when Hans Lody, Friedrich Ihn, Erich Steinbrinck, Karl Galster and 5. Torpedobootflottille skirmished briefly with a mixed force of Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers in the Western Approaches (Lody was struck twice by shells); and in the early morning of 19 November when, off Plymouth, Richard Beitzen, Hans Lody and Karl Galster engaged the destroyers Jupiter, Javelin, Jackal, Jersey and Kashmir, Galster suffering light splinter damage and Javelin being torpedoed forward and aft.

With the abandonment of ‘Seelöwe’ in October, German destroyers had begun to trickle away from Brest and Cherbourg to Germany to refit and repair, and by early December Z 4 Richard Beitzen, at Brest, was the only German destroyer operational anywhere.

Six new destroyers (Z 23–28) became operational during 1941, and, as no destroyers were lost, the total available for duty at the end of the year rose to sixteen. Z 4 Richard Beitzen remained the only destroyer active off the French coast until March. She escorted Admiral Hipper out of Brest at the commencement the cruiser’s second raiding operation and met her on her return to the French port on 14 February.

Z 4 left for Germany on 16 March and was replaced in early April by Z 8 Bruno Heinemann, Z 14 Friedrich Ihn and Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck, which were based at La Pallice. From 22 to 24 April these destroyers escorted Thor across Biscay to Cherbourg on the completion of the raider’s successful Atlantic cruise. In May Z 8 and Z 15 repeated the exercise for the naval oiler Nordmark after her six-month sojourn in mid-Atlantic replenishing the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. In the morning of 1 June all three destroyers met the cruiser Prinz Eugen as she put in at Brest astern of Sperrbrecher 13 at 1525 to conclude the disastrous ‘Rheinübung’ operation (in which the battleship Bismarck was sunk).

In mid-June the new destroyers Z 23 and Z 24 arrived at Brest and together with Z 8 and Z 15 ran escort for the battleship Scharnhorst on her occasional movements down the Breton coast. On 24 July, while engaged in gunnery practice off La Pallice, Scharnhorst was bombed and had to return to Brest for repair. From 21 to 23 August Z 23, Z 24, Erich Steinbrinck and Bruno Heinemann escorted the raider Orion across the Bay of Biscay and into the Gironde estuary after her epic seventeen-month cruise (all incoming prizes and steamers headed for St-Nazaire or the Gironde estuary using the so-called ‘Prize Channel’. By the end of October all the destroyers based in France had returned to Germany.

Meanwhile, further north, between 26 and 28 March Z 23 escorted Admiral Hipper into Kiel after the latter’s break-out from Brest, and the same destroyer met Admiral Scheer returning from the Indian Ocean on 30 March, the voyage finishing at Kiel on 1 April. At 1125 on 19 May, off Cape Arcona, Rügen Island, the battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen moved off astern of a protective screen formed by Z 15 Erich Steinbrinck, Z 23 and two Sperrbrecher for the southern entrance to the Great Belt, where Z 10 Hans Lody, several minesweepers and eight aircraft joined for the crossing of the Skagerrak. At 0900 the next morning Prinz Eugen and the destroyers put into Korsfjord and refuelled in Kalvenes Bay. At 2000 the battle group assembled behind the destroyer screen, reaching the open sea by way of Hjeltefjord at 2200 on 21 May. The destroyers were released into Trondheim at 0510 the following morning.

On 11 June 1941 the light cruiser Leipzig, the destroyers Z 16 Friedrich Eckholdt and Z 20 Karl Galster, three torpedo boats, two U-boats and a large air escort set out from Kiel to accompany the heavy cruiser Lützow (formerly the pocket battleship Deutschland) on the first stage of Operation ‘Sommerreise’, a raiding cruise to the Indian Ocean. The naval escort terminated at Oslofjord, and Lützow continued alone. She got as far as Egersund before being crippled by an RAF torpedobomber. Z 10 Hans Lody and Z16 Friedrich Eckholdt escorted her back to the yards at Kiel on 14 June.

With the opening of the campaign against the Soviet Union—‘Barbarossa’—a two-part Baltic Fleet was formed. On 23 September 1941 the northern group, comprising the battleship Tirpitz, the cruisers Nürnberg and Köln and the new destroyers Z 25, Z 26 and Z 27, left Swinemünde for the Gulf of Finland to intercept Russian warships seeking internment in Sweden. On 27 September the force appeared off the Aba-Aaland skerries, but, as it turned out, the Red Fleet had no intention of leaving Kronstadt.

Shortly after the outbreak of war with the Soviet Union, 6. Z-Flottille (Kapitän zur See Alfred Schulze-Hinrichs), consisting of Z 4 Richard Beitzen, Z 7 Hermann Schoemann, Z 10 Hans Lody, Z 16 Friedrich Eckholdt and Z 20 Karl Galster, set out for northern Norway, arriving on 10 July at Kirkenes, a port in the Barents Sea close to the Kola peninsula and Murmansk. On 12 July the force split into two groups and on the first foray attacked a small Russian convoy of tugs, sinking the Soviet patrol ship Passat and a trawler. In a three-day sortie near the port of Iokanga on the Kola peninsula near the mouth of the White Sea, Z 4, Z 7, Z 16 and Z 20 sank the Soviet survey ship Meridian, but a similar raid which set out on 29 July was broken off after the Luftwaffe reported an approaching British force of two carriers, two cruisers and four destroyers which subsequently attacked Kirkenes.

On 9 and 10 August 1941 Beitzen, Lody and Eckholdt operated in the Kildin-Kola Inlet area, where, in a short engagement, the Soviet patrol vessel SKR-12 was sunk. Beitzen was straddled by enemy fire but not hit. When Z 4 and Z 7 returned to Germany for repairs in August, the remaining three destroyers were limited to escort duties following the British attack on the Bremse convoy of 6 September.

By November the Seekriegsleitung had recognised the frequency of the British Murmansk convoys and decided to adopt a far more aggressive policy in the Arctic. For this purpose 8. Z-Flottille (Kapitän zur See Gottfried Pönitz), composed of five new destroyers together with four E-boats and six U-boats, was sent to Kirkenes to relieve 6. Z-Flottille, the heavy ships following shortly afterwards.

From 16 to 18 December Z 23, Z 24, Z 25, and Z 27 — Z 26 turned back with engine trouble—sailed to lay a minefield north of Cape Gordodetzky on the Kola peninsula at the entrance to the White Sea but were disturbed by the Murmansk-based Halcyon class minesweeping sloops Speedy and Hazard, which had set out to escort convoy PQ.6. Speedy was hit and seriously damaged by four 15cm shells, but the German destroyers broke off the action when two Russian destroyers and the heavy cruiser Kent steamed out of the Kola Inlet to engage. On Boxing Day Z 23, Z 24, Z 25 and Z 27 operated off the Lofoten Islands following the British commando raid there at Christmas when an important radio mast had been destroyed and the small German naval base at Vaagso attacked.

During the course of 1942 Z 7 Hermann Schoemann, Z 8 Bruno Heinemann and Z 16 Friedrich Eckholdt, plus Z 26, were lost, and Z 29, Z 30 and Z 31 became operational, as did ZG 3 Hermes in the Mediterranean. By the end of the year sixteen destroyers were available—the same number as on 31 December 1941. Throughout 1942 all destroyer operations were concentrated in Norwegian waters: even Operation ‘Cerberus’ — the ‘Channel Dash’ — in February having as its primary object the removal of three heavy units from Brest to Norway.

The year opened with the laying of a 100-mine EMC field by the Kirkenes-based destroyers Z 23, Z 24 and Z 25 on 13 January in the western channel of the entrance to the White Sea near Cape Kocovsky. Meanwhile the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen had been at Brest for between six and nine months, and it was decided to extricate them by sailing them through the English Channel in broad daylight—the so-called ‘Channel Dash’. Final discussions on the planned break-out from Brest were held in Paris on 1 January, those present including Admírale Saalwächter, Schniewind and Ciliax and the commanders of the three heavy units. Hitler gave his consent to the operation on 12 January. Towards the end of the month seven destroyers were despatched to Brest, but on 25 January, off Calais, Z 8 Bruno Heinemann, sailing in a group with Z 4, Z 5 and Z 7, struck two mines and sank—the first German destroyer lost since Narvik. Later Z 14, Z 25 and Z 29 arrived at Brest without incident. It was suspected that the principal target during the ‘Channel Dash’ would be Prinz Eugen, because of her part in sinking the battlcruiser Hood the previous May, and she was fitted with an extra five quadruple AA guns and allocated Z 14 Friedrich Ihn, which carried an unusual amount of sophisticated technology, as escort. Notice for steam was given for 2030 on 11 February. In command of the squadron was Vizeadmiral Ciliax, on board the flagship Scharnhorst.

Sailing was delayed by an air raid warning, and when the ships weighed anchor at 2245 their departure went unnoticed, the British submarine keeping watch off the port being engaged in recharging her batteries offshore. Escorting the three heavy ships—steaming in the order Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen—were the destroyers Z 4 Richard Beitzen, Z 5 Paul Jacobi, Z 7 Hermann Schoemann, Z 14 Friedrich Ihn, Z 25 and Z 29; the torpedo boats T 11, T 2, T 5, T 12 and T 4 of the 2nd Flotilla, T 13, T 15, T 16 and T 17 of the 3rd Flotilla and Seeadler, Falke, Kondor, litis and Jaguar of the 5th Flotilla; and the 2nd, 4th and 6th E-boat Flotillas. Luftwaffe air cover comprised 176 Bf 110s and fighters.

The British were not alerted to the passage of the German armada until it was beyond Calais. The wind was south-west force 6 and the sea state 5. The first MTB attacks began at 1320, after the ships were beyond the range of the Dover batteries. Next came a suicidal low-level attack by six Swordfish torpedo bombers, all of which were shot down, one by the Luftwaffe, two by Friedrich Ihn and three by Prinz Eugen firing in barrage. In the North Sea the German units had the advantages of favourable weather and a heavy air umbrella.

In the entire action, 42 of the 600 British aircraft engaged were destroyed. When Scharnhorst was mined off the Scheldt, Ciliax transferred to Z 29, but, finding she had engine and other battle damage, he raised his flag aboard Z 7 Hermann Schoemann for the run to port.

At 0245 on 20 February Prinz Eugen (flagship of Vizeadmiral Ciliax) and Admiral Scheer left Brunsbüttel for Norway accompanied by Beitzen, Jacobi, Schoemann and Z 25. When reported by air reconnaissance before midday, the group reversed course for a while to throw the enemy off the scent. An unsuccessful air attack resulted in one aircraft being shot down. The ships put into Grimstadfjord on 22 February and left for Trondheim the same evening, but the escort was reduced by 50 per cent when Beitzen and Jacobi were forced into Bergen on account of damage cause by the heavy weather.

At 0702 the next morning, Trident—one of four British submarines positioned off the coast—hit Prinz Eugen’s stern with a torpedo which knocked off her rudder though left her propellers undamaged. The after section was almost severed, and the cruiser was unmanoeuvrable. Defensive measures prevented further attacks, and the unfortunate vessel limped into Lofjord during the night of 24 February. The scale of the damage was such that repairs in a German shipyard was dictated, and emergency work was begun at once alongside the workshop vessel Huascaran.

On 5 March German aircraft south of Jan Mayen reported a fifteen-ship convoy sailing on an eastward heading. This proved to be PQ. 12, and at the same time convoy QP.8 was sailing westwards for Iceland. The battleship Tirpitz, in company with Z 14 Friedrich Ihn, Z 7 Hermann Schoemann and Z 25, sailed from Trondheim to intercept the merchantmen but missed the convoys in storm and fog, their only victim being the straggling Soviet freighter Izora, sunk on 7th March by Ihn.

On 19 March Admiral Hipper sailed north from Brunsbüttel in company with the destroyers Z 24, Z 26 and Z 30 and the torpedo boats T 15, T 16 and T 17 and on the 21st joined the heavy cruisers Admiral Scheer and Prinz Eugen in Lofjord near Trondheim. In the evening of 28 March the Kirkenes destroyers Z 24, Z 25 and Z 26 took on the role of light cruisers to attack convoy PQ.13. After having sunk the straggler Bateau—which was stopping to rescue her crew and that of the Empire Ranger found adrift in lifeboats—the trio were surprised in poor visibility in the morning of 29 March by the cruiser Trinidad (8,000 tons, 33 knots, 12×6in guns, 2 torpedo tubes) and the destroyer Fury (1,350 tons, 36 knots, 4×14.7in guns, 8 torpedo tubes). Z 26 was seriously damaged and set on fire after hits from Trinidad but found refuge in a snow squall. When contact was renewed, the British cruiser attempted to torpedo Z 26. Her tubes were iced over, however, and the only torpedo to come free was a rogue which circled back and hit the ship which had fired it. Z 24 and Z 25 missed the cruiser with torpedoes. Short exchanges occurred in the poor visibility between snow showers, culminating in a second British destroyer, Eclipse (1,375 tons, 4×4.7in, 8 torpedo tubes) shooting Z 26 to a standstill. Z 24 and Z 25 rained shells down on to Eclipse but eventually allowed her to escape, preferring to save Z 26’s crewmen before the destroyer sank in waters which the human body could not survive for more than a minute or so. Even so, the death toll aboard Z 26 was grievous: 283 men failed to return home.

On 9 April 1942 Z 7 Hermann Schoemann sailed for Kirkenes as a replacement for the sunken Z 26, and on 1 May she sortied with Z 24 and Z 25 to attack convoy QP. 11, which had already been intercepted by U-boats. The convoy was relatively well protected. Close in was the light cruiser Edinburgh (10,000 tons, 32 knots, 12×6in guns) and the destroyers Forester and Foresight (1,350 tons, 36 knots, 4×4.7in, 8 torpedo tubes), the remaining escort being composed of the destroyers Bulldog and Beagle (1,360 tons, 35 knots, 4×4.7in, 8 torpedo tubes), Amazon (1,352 tons, 37 knots, 4×4.7in, six torpedo tubes) and Beverley (1,190 tons, 25 knots, 3×4in, 3 torpedo tubes), plus four corvettes and a trawler. Well to the rear were some Soviet vessels coming up from Murmansk. Edinburgh had been torpedoed by U 456 on 30 April.

In thick snowfall and drift ice, the three German destroyers clashed first with the four outer destroyers, damaging Amazon. Shortly afterwards they came across the motionless Edinburgh. Her guns were still intact, and she soon had Hermann Schoemann wallowing, one of the first hits knocking out the destroyer’s main steam feed, causing her current and both turbines to fail. Attempts by Z 24 and Z 25 to finish off Edinburgh with torpedoes were frustrated by iced-up tubes, only one torpedo getting clear. After laying a smoke screen to protect Z 7, they then took on Forester and Foresight, inflicting serious damage on both, but Z 25 had four dead in her radio room as a result of a direct hit. Edinburgh later sank. After picking up what survivors from Schoemann she could find, Z 24 scuttled Z 7 with explosives. U 88 found a number of the destroyer’s survivors in boats and on rafts, her final tally of dead being eight.


Wartime German Destroyers: From Narvik to the Capitulation II

The battle off the coast of Brittany, 9 June 1944.

In Operation ‘Walzertraum’ (Waltz Dream), the heavy cruiser Lützow set out on 15 May with Z 4, Z 10, Z 27, Z 29 and a fleet escort boat to join Kampfgruppe I (Battle Group I) at Trondheim. The voyage was interrupted at Kristiansand to allow the completion of a minelaying operation by Z 4 Richard Beitzen, and then the convoy proceeded, arriving at Trondheim to join Admiral Scheer on 20 May as Kampfgruppe II. Bogen Bay near Narvik was reached on the 26th.

On 13 June Admiral Hipper moved up to Bogen Bay to form part of Kampfgruppe I under the fleet commander Admiral Schniewind aboard his flagship Tirpitz. The next stage of the process was Operation ‘Musik’, the transfer northward to Altaford, and, on arrival in Grimsöytraumen, Lützow, Theodor Riedel, Hans Lody and Karl Galster all struck uncharted shallows and were ruled out of the main operation.

On 3 July the two Kampfgruppen joined forces to attack the heavily escorted convoy PQ.17, which consisted of 36 freighters, one tanker and three rescue ships and was heading for Murmansk. The operation was codenamed ‘Rösselsprung’ (Knight’s Move). Tirpitz, Admiral Hipper, Admiral Scheer, six destroyers—Z 14 Friedrich Ihn, Z 24, Z 27, Z 28, Z 29 and Z 30—and two torpedo-boats put to sea on 5 July. They were beyond the North Cape steering north-east when the recall order was transmitted at 2200 that evening, and by 7 July the fleet was back at anchor. The Seekriegsleitung and the British Admiralty made a similar decision to withdraw naval surface forces from the area at about the same time. The preparations of the combined German battle group had been observed by British aerial reconnaissance, resulting in the recall of the naval escort and the controversial order to the convoy to disperse, which was to prove its death knell. On the German side, the wireless monitoring service had decoded British signals traffic reporting the German preparations, and SKL ordered the formation at sea to return to harbour on the grounds of the risk incurred. PQ.17 was then savaged by U-boats and the Luftwaffe.

On 17 August Richard Beitzen, Erich Steinbrinck and Friedrich Eckholdt escorted Admiral Scheer towards Bear Island for her solitary anti-shipping cruise, Operation ‘Wunderland’, into the Kara Sea, where she bombarded Port Dickson on the North Siberian mainland. On 29 August she met up with the same three destroyers off Bear Island for the return to Kirkenes. Z 4, Z 15 and Z 16 had escorted the minelayer Ulm to Bear Island to sow a field north west of Novaya Zemlya. On the way back Ulm fell foul of the British destroyers Marne, Martin and Onslaught and was sunk after a brief engagement.

Operation ‘Doppelschlag’ (Double Blow) was a continuation of ‘Wunderland’. It was planned that Admiral Scheer, Admiral Hipper and three destroyers would operate off the estuaries of the Ob and Yenisei rivers on the north Russian coast before hunting for independent shipping on the Novaya Zemlya-Spitz-bergen track. The operation was cancelled because of ice and the state of Scheer’s diesels.

On 13 September Hitler issued an order forbidding the employment of surface warships against eastbound convoys. Between 4 and 8 September Richard Beitzen, Z 29 and Z 30 had laid mines at the entrance to the Kara Strait. On the 24th of the month, as the flagship of Admiral Kummetz, Hipper set out with Beitzen, Steinbrinck, Eckholdt and Z 28 steering north-northeast into the Barents Sea and during the evening of 26 September laid 96 mines off the Matoshkin Strait at the centre of Novaya Zemlya. The purpose of this operation, codenamed ‘Czarin’ (Empress) was to force enemy convoys closer to the coast of Norway and thus nearer to German naval units. The group dropped anchor in Altafjord on the 28th.

Between 13 and 15 October Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 24, Z 27 and Z 30 laid a minefield off the Kanin peninsula at the mouth of the White Sea, and this quickly claimed a victim when the Soviet icebreaker Mikoyan blew up. On 5 November Hipper sortied from Kaafjord into the Barents Sea in company with Beitzen, Eckholdt, Z 27 and Z 30 on Operation ‘Hoffnung’ (Hope) with the idea of criss-crossing the convoy tracks in search of merchant vessels sailing alone. Whilst in pursuit of a tanker sighted by Hipper’s shipboard Arado, Z 27 sank the Soviet submarine-chaser B0-78, picking up 43 crew members: the same destroyer, at the far end of the patrol line, also sank the Russian tanker Donbass (8,000grt) with three torpedoes, the crew being brought aboard. The German ships returned to Altafjord on 9 November.

Following the discovery by U 85 on 28 December of what was reported to be a lightly defended convoy of ten ships 70 miles south of Bear Island, all available surface units in northern Norway were brought to readiness on 29 December, and, in a conference the following day, C-in-C Cruisers, Vizeadmiral Kummetz, explained Operation ‘Regenbogen’ to the commanders. The first destroyer to detect the convoy would shadow it while the remainder of the destroyer force closed in. The cruisers would stand off until first light. The first objective was to destroy the convoy escort before attacking the merchantmen. A superior enemy was to be avoided.

On 30 December, the German Kampfgruppe, consisting of the flagship Admiral Hipper, the heavy cruiser Lützow and six destroyers—Richard Beitzen, Theodor Riedel, Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 29, Z 30 and Z 31, headed north on course 60° once clear of the coast. Kummetz ordered a 65-mile scouting line to be formed as from 0830 on 31 December, the six destroyers combing forward in a south-easterly direction 15nm apart. Hipper and Lützow would keep station astern of and to seaward of the northern and southern ends of the line respectively for an 85-mile width of search, while the destroyers would advance in the order Eckholdt-Z 29-Beitzen-Z 31-Z 30-Riedel. Whilst the warships were forming into their allotted positions in the scouting line, Hipper detected by radar two shadows at 60° which could not be German vessels, and Eckholdt was detached as contact keeper. Thus at the start of the engagement the German group was effectively divided into two sections, the northern of which consisted of Hipper and the destroyers Beitzen, Z 24 and Eckholdt.

At 0842—daybreak—Friedrich Eckholdt reported ten vessels steering 90°, and at 0910, at a range of 18.000yds bearing 140°, Hipper sighted a number of vessels, including destroyers, consituting the main convoy escort on its northern flank. The destroyers were Onslow, Obedient, Obdurate, Orwell and Achates. The fourteen ships of convoy JW.51B were steaming initially on an easterly bearing and bore round south at 1020. At 0930 Z 4, Z 16 and Z 24 fired on Obdurate. Spotting and rangefinding were very difficult in the poor light and poor visibility and because of the icing and misting over of instruments.

At 1018 the destroyer Onslow was hit by a salvo from Admiral Hipper and at 1027 was reported by Richard Beitzen as burning fiercely and down by the stern. At 1030 Hipper was about 15nm to the north of the convoy and steering east. The convoy was now on a course to the south towards Lützow, but Hipper was entrammelled with the escorts and having to concentrate on the destroyer Achates and the radar-equipped minesweeper Bramble.

At 1135, on ultra-short wave radio, Friedrich Eckholdt asked a series of questions to establish the identity of a warship she had just sighted. In a batch of replies at 1136 Kummetz signalled, ‘In combat with escort forces—no cruisers’, although two minutes earlier Admiral Hipper had been surprised by fire from a cruiser with large bridge, a raked forefunnel and turrets fore and aft, making 31 knots and identified as probably a Southampton or Fiji class cruiser. Hipper had been hit and had her speed reduced, so that at 1137 Kummetz, who was in any case in two minds because of an ambiguous signal from ashore, decided to abandon the operation. At 1143 the destroyer Eckholdt, ignorant of Richard Beitzen’s, warning radio message, decided that the cruiser she was facing must be German, and was sunk with all hands by Sheffield. The German force returned to Altafjord, where it dropped anchor on 1 January 1943.

The unforeseen outcome of the operation had the most serious consequences for the German surface fleet. Although the Kampfgruppe commander was bound by orders which required him to abandon the mission if heavy enemy forces appeared, the attack had already been reported as a great success, and when news of a fiasco was conveyed to Hitler instead, he reacted by decommissioning all ships of the size of light cruiser and above. Raeder resigned a few days later and was replaced by Grossadmiral Dönitz. The latter obtained some concessions, but on the whole the directive remained in force until the course of the war determined otherwise.

At the end of 1943 the number of operational Kriegsmarine destroyers was twenty, with ZH 1, Z 32, Z 33, Z 34, Z 37 and Z 38 now in commission. ZG 3 Hermes was lost off Tunisia in May, while Z 27 became a casualty in December.

On January, in Operation ‘Fronttheater’, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen were met off Hela by Paul Jacobi, Friedrich Ihn and Z 24 for the run to Norway, but when the squadron was sighted off the Skaw by RAF Coastal Command on the 11th the operation was broken off; a repeat attempt, code-named ‘Domino’, on the 25th with the destroyers Jacobi, Erich Steinbrinck, Z 32 and Z 37 was similarly unsuccessful, the units repairing to Gotenhafen on the 27th.

On 24 January Richard Beitzen, Z 29 and Z 30 sailed with Admiral Hipper and the light cruiser Köln from Altafjord to Bogen Bay and then Trondheim, leaving on 7 February for Kiel.The minelayer Brummer and the destroyers Z 6 Theodor Riedel and Z 31 laid the only offensive field of 1943 in the roadstead near Kildin Island, Kola Bay, between 4 and 6 February.

On 6 March Scharnhorst sailed from the Baltic. Having set out with Jacobi, Steinbrinck, Z 24, Z 25 and Z 28, plus five torpedo boats as escort, she arrived at Bogen Bay on 9 March with only Z 28 for company, the remainder following eight days later after having had weather damage repaired at Trondheim.

Between 31 March and 2 April Paul Jacobi, Theodor Riedel and Karl Galster waited near Jan Mayen for the blockade-runner Regensburg returning from Japan. The meeting never took place, the freighter having been sunk in the North Atlantic by the light cruiser Glasgow.

The major offensive of the year was the occupation of Spitzbergen, which was carried out between 6 and 9 September. While Lützow, Z 5 Paul Jacobi and Z 14 Friedrich Ihn remained in the anchorage at Altafjord to cover the numerous absences for the benefit of Allied air reconnaissance, the battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst and nine destroyers—Z 6, Z 10, Z 15, Z 20, Z 27, Z 29, Z 30, Z 31 and Z 33—headed for Barentsburg. During the approach to the town three destroyers were hit by coastal artillery: Z 29 suffered four hits, damage to outer plating, three dead and three wounded, Z 31 received eight hits on the upper deck, with one dead and one wounded, and Z 33 received no fewer than thirty-three hits to her hull and bridgework, resulting in 28 casualties, three of them fatal.

The last anti-convoy sortie by any German heavy warship ended in disaster on 26 December after Scharnhorst, accompanied by Z 29, Z 30, Z 33, Z 34 and Z 38 left Kaafjord on Christmas Day. Once the destroyer escort had been released because of the bad weather, the battleship continued alone and ran foul of the convoy escort—of capital-ship strength—off the North Cape. The FdZ, Bey, was commanding the operation aboard Scharnhorst and went down with his ship.

During 1943 the Kriegsmarine found it necessary to strengthen the escort force in the Bay of Biscay both for U-boats based there and for inbound merchantmen. Germany was not reliant on imports by sea as was Great Britain, but the occasional blockade-runner making the voyage to France from the Far East with high-value raw materials was of such importance that as many as five destroyers would sail to meet an inbound ship. For example, in July 1943 Z 23, Z 32 and Z 37 came in with Himalaya, in early August Z 23 and Z 32 actually entered the Atlantic beyond the longitude of Cape Ortegal to meet up with Pietro Orsedo, and on 23 December Z 23, Z 24, Z 27, Z 37 and ZH 1 escorted Osorno into the Gironde.

Late on Boxing Day 1943, Z 23, Z 24, Z 27, Z 32 and Z 37 sailed with six torpedo boats of 4. T-Flottille—T 22, T 23, T 24, T 25, T 26 and T 27—to meet the blockade-runner Alsterufer. However, this large freighter had already been sunk by the Royal Navy, and on 28 December the German force encountered the light cruisers Glasgow (9,100 tons, 32 knots, 12×6in guns) and Enterprise (7,580 tons, 33 knots, 7×6in guns) in what the Germans refer to as Das Gefecht in der Biskaya (The Battle of Biscay). The German vessels had several knots’ more speed in ideal sea conditions than the two British cruisers, and also mounted a superior number of guns of the same calibre, but Glasgow and Enterprise were far more seaworthy in heavy weather. The latter factor was decisive. There was a big sea running which slowed the German force considerably, and as gun platforms the German destroyers were inferior on the day because of the wild rolling motion. Glasgow and Enterprise put their speed and manoeuvrability to better use and sank Z 27 and the torpedo boats T 25 and T 26. Of the 740 men aboard these three ships, only 293 could be saved—21 by U 618, 34 by U 505, six by Spanish destroyers, 64 by British minesweepers and 168 by an Irish freighter.

Kapitän zur See Max-Eckart Wolff, who had been deputizing for Konteradmiral Bey as FdZ since 30 October 1943, took over the post in a caretaking capacity on 27 December. On 26 January 1944 Vize-admiral Leo Kreisch was appointed the last FdZ, relinquishing the appointment on 29 May 1945. At the beginning of 1944 the five destroyers of 8. Z-Flottille—Z 23, Z 24, Z 32, Z 37 and ZH 1—were operating out of Biscay ports as U-boat escorts and were frequently under air attack. By the end of August all five were either beyond repair or sunk.

During a flotilla exercise on 30 January Z 32 and Z 37 collided and both ships were badly damaged. Z 32 was laid up for repair until May and Z 37, listing heavily, was towed into Bordeaux, where it was decided not to repair the damage. Her guns were landed and earmarked for coastal defence use, and the ship decommissioned on 24 August.

On D-Day, 6 June, Z 24, Z 32, ZH 1 and the torpedo boat T 24 set out from the Gironde for Brest. After surviving determined air attacks en route, the flotilla headed for Cherbourg, from where mines were to be laid off Brest. The enemy had got wind of this operation, and off Wissant a superior force of British destroyers was waiting for the four German ships. ZH 1 received such heavy damage that she was scuttled that same day, and the other three dispersed and made a run for it. Z 24 and T 24 returned to Bordeaux, but Z 32, after initially making for St-Malo, reversed course and ran once more into the enemy destroyers. She received such serious damage that her commander was forced to sacrifice his ship by running her aground on rocks off the Île de Bas, Roscoff.

On 12 August Z 23, in dock at La Pallice, was bombed beyond repair during an air raid, She was decommissioned on 2 August. On 2 August Z 24 and T 24, anchored in the roadstead at Le Verdon, were attacked by bomb- and rocket-carrying Beaufighters of Nos 236 and 404 Squadrons RAF. T 24 was sunk; Z 24 managed to get alongside the quay at Le Verdon but capsized and sank there next day.

When not in the shipyard, Richard Beitzen, Theodor Riedel, Friedrich Ihn and Karl Galster, together with Z 30, worked out of southern Norwegian ports during 1944 on escort and minelaying duties. Mines were shipped at Fredrikshaven in Denmark and brought to Horten in Oslofjord to be distributed amongst the various units. Acting under instructions from the light cruiser Emden (flagship, C-in-C Minelayers), on 1 October Z 4, Z 14, Z 20 and Z 30 laid the Skagerrak XXXIIb Caligula field, the group coming under constant air attack while doing so. On 5 October the same ships laid the XXXIIa Vespasia field, also in the Skagerrak. On 20 October Z 30 struck a mine in Oslofjord and was towed to the shipyard by Ihn, Galster and UJ 1702. The repair work was still incomplete at the time of the capitulation.

Apart from a single sortie from Altafjord as far as Bear Island by Z 29, Z 31, Z 33, Z 34 and Z 38 on 30 May, the destroyers’ main task was to defend the battleship Tirpitz, principally against air attack. Following her demise in October and the decision to abandon the ‘Polar Front’, the destroyers escorted troop transports southwards and mined a number of fjords and sounds. No destroyers were lost in this theatre during 1944.

By early March 1944, Z 25, Z 28, Z 35 and Z 39 had all arrived in the eastern Baltic and begun minelaying operations in the Gulf of Finland. A major sortie was carried out there on dates between 13 and 25 April by Z 28, Z 35 and Z 39, the torpedo boat T 30, the minelayers Brummer, Roland and Linz and various minesweepers and R-boats. The new Z 36 joined the flotilla in June, but Z 39 returned to Germany for a long drawn-out repairs to bomb damage.

From 7 to 28 June, in Operation ‘Tanne West’, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen patrolled the Finnish coast north of Utô in the Aaland Sea in a show of strength to cover the German withdrawal. She was relieved by the heavy cruiser Lutzow, escorted by the destroyers Z 25, Z 28, Z 35 and Z 36.

Between 30 July and 1 August 1944, in the Gulf of Riga, the same four destroyers were placed under Army direction for the bombardment of Soviet positions inland. On 5 August all four escorted Prinz Eugen from Riga to the island of Oesel to fire inland, and on 19 August, off Kurland in the Gulf of Riga, Prinz Eugen rained 265 rounds of 20.3cm on Soviet positions at Tukkum, a road and rail junction 25 kilometres inland, while the four destroyers and two torpedo boats engaged other targets.

During September 1944 Z 25, Z 28 and four boats of 2. T-Flottille covered the withdrawal from Reval, six freighters evacuating over 23,000 people. On 21 September Z 25 and Z 28 brought out 370 evacuees from Baltisch Port to Libau, and on the 22nd they escorted the remaining German ships in the Aaland Sea to Goten-hafen.

On 10 October Kampfgruppe II Thiele—comprising Prinz Eugen and the four destroyers—sailed from Gotenhafen. Z 25 had as an additional task the delivery of 200 Army personnel to Memel, returning overnight with 200 female naval auxiliaries. The ship re-joined the group on the 11th, and over the next five days Prinz Eugen, Lützow and the destroyers attacked 28 land targets in the defence of Memel. On 15 October, off Gotenhafen, Z 35 and Z 36 stood by the cruisers Prinz Eugen and Leipzig after they had become locked together following a collision in the approach channel. On the 24th of the month Z 28, Z 35 and Z 36, in company with Lützow and three torpedo boats, bombarded inshore targets around Memel and on the Sworbe peninsula. They came under attack from Soviet aircraft for the first time on this day: Z 28 was hit by five bombs and suffered nine dead and numerous wounded, while Z 35 received splinter damage from a near miss.

On 22 November 1944, Z 25, Z 43 and 2. T-Flottille, together with the heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer, relieved Prinz Eugen and 3. T-Flottille off Oesel, covering the withdrawal until its completion on 24 November despite constant Soviet air attacks; 4,700 German soldiers were evacuated.

On 9 December, 6. Z-Flottille, consisting of Z 35 (flag), Z 36, Z 43 and two torpedo boats, left Gotenhafen to lay a mine barrier off the Estonian coast in Operation ‘Nil’ (Nile). On their arrival in the scheduled area on 12 December there was a thick ground fog, and as a result of poor navigation and the ‘confused, inflexible and deficient operational plan’ drawn up by Kapitän zur See Kothe (for which he was blamed posthumously), Z 35 and Z 36 entered the German-laid Nashorn minefield, where they were mined, blew up and sank with all hands. The situation offered no prospect for a rescue.

At the beginning of 1945, Z 33 was under repair at Narvik, and after enduring the occasional battering from the air in her attempts to get back to Germany, she sailed on 26 March from Trondheim for Swinemünde—the last German destroyer to leave the northern Norwegian theatre. After laying mines in Laafjord and the Mageröy and Brei Sounds during the latter part of January, Z 31, Z 34 and Z 38 had left Tromsö for German Baltic waters on the 25th. By the 28th they had reached Sognefjord, where they were intercepted by a British squadron which included the light cruisers Mauritius (8,000 tons, 12×6in guns, 6 torpedo tubes) and Diadem 5,770 tons, 8×5.25in guns, 6 torpedo tubes). Z 38 broke off the action with a funnel fire and split boiler tubes, and she made Kiel via Aarhus later with Z 34. The latter carried out three torpedo attacks on the British cruisers and received a shell hit on the waterline. Z 31 came off worst in the encounter. She was hit seven times, her 15cm twin turret was totally destroyed and she suffered 55 dead and 24 wounded. She put into Bergen for repair and eventually left the Oslo yard for Germany in mid-March.

Until the capitulation on 8 May 1945, and even afterwards, German units worked on a naval evacuation programme which dwarfed anything ever seen previously. Destroyers were involved in escorting refugee ships and boats of all kinds, and often embarked thousands of refugees themselves. Actual combat in the Baltic in 1945 was limited to gunnery engagements with Soviet troop dispositions and armour and artillery inland, the last rounds being fired on 4 May, after which a partial ceasefire came into effect, enabling the evacuation to proceed as agreed.

Between January and May 1945 1,420,000 individuals were evacuated by sea to the west, most of them refugees or Wehrmacht wounded, although fighting troops numbered more prominently amongst those brought out towards the end. On 2 May a report from Hela spoke of 150,000 soldiers and 26,000 refugees awaiting transport, plus 75,000 troops and 9,000 refugees in the Vistula lowlands. In the evening of 5 May numerous vessels arrived in Gotenhafen from Copenhagen and embarked refugees and troops to capacity, setting off westwards in four large convoys. These included the auxiliary Hansa (12,000 refugees), the minelayer Linz (4,900), the destroyers Karl Galster, Hans Lody, Theodor Riedel and Z 25 (6,000 in all) in Convoy 1; the troopships Ceuta (4,500) and Pompeii (5,400) with three torpedo boats (1,975 total) as Convoy 2; the destroyer Friedrich Ihn, T 28, the depot ship Isar and V 2002 (5,500 total) as Convoy 3; and M 453, V 303 and the training ship Nautik (2,700 total) as Convoy 4. During the night of 7 May small boats and naval launches brought 14,590 Wehrmacht personnel plus 1,810 wounded and refugees from the Vistula plain to Hela, and the following night the destroyers Karl Galster, Friedrich Ihn, Hans Lody, Theodor Riedel, Z 25, Z 38, Z 39 and five torpedo boats embarked another 20,000, the steamers Weserberg and Paloma carrying 5,730 more. A total of 100,000 persons on Hela and in the Vistula area could not be brought out, and these became prisoners of the Soviets.

By the time the surrender came into effect, a total of 116,692 soldiers and 5,397 refugees were still at sea in German warships, heading for either Copenhagen or Kiel.


The Sinking of I-70

The I-70 in port during May 1941 after a collision with the submarine I-69 during exercises. The submarine was repaired and sent to support the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Portrait of Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson, Jr., VS-6

At 0553 that morning Enterprise and its task force, after having passed between Oahu and Molokai on the 9th, was continuing its search toward the north and northeast along the sea lane toward the mainland’s west coast, and launched her first group of planes to fly the morning search patterns. They were looking for Japanese surface ships, aircraft or submarines. It was to be a day of frequent contacts with enemy submarines, intense flight operations, sightings of submarine periscopes as well as submarines running on the surface, enemy torpedo wakes sighted tracking toward Enterprise, aggressive depth charge attacks by Enterprise’s submarine screening destroyers, a zigzagging task force, sharp changes in speed from flank speed to engines stop, and abrupt changes in direction at flank speed with the great ship heeled over twenty to thirty degrees opposite the direction of turn. The day began with a bang.

The last aircraft among the first group to launch lifted off at 0602. They were from Bombing Squadron Six, and within seventeen minutes of the first launch, one aircraft from

VB-6 sighted an enemy submarine running on the surface. At 0618 Enterprise began launching a second group, and completed the launch three minutes later. While the second launch was in progress at 0619, SBD 6-B-17, from VB-6 reported a submarine at latitude 22 degrees 30 minutes north, longitude 156 degrees 30 minutes west, course 080 degrees true – a course nearly due east. At 0630 hours, the plane’s crew reported they bombed the submarine.

The pilot, Lieutenant (jg) Edward L. Anderson, with Radioman/gunner Third Class S.J. Mason in the rear cockpit, was searching an area forty miles south of Enterprise at 300 feet altitude. In his action report of 15 December, he wrote,

…sighted a wake made by [an] enemy submarine. The vessel was close and [the] conning tower [was] sighted above water. The submarine was making a crash dive. I pulled up to 800 feet over the enemy and released a 1000 pound bomb which was seen to explode approximately 50 feet aft and somewhat to port of the submerging submarine’s conning tower. Oil appeared on water. No further evidence of submarine.


The last aircraft airborne in the morning launch was at 0621. At 0627 hours, Ensign Clifford R. Walters, flying SBD 6-B-2 from Bombing Six, reported sighting a Japanese submarine bearing 020 degrees from point option, the point from which the squadron dispersed to begin flying search patterns. He had reached the end of the search mission’s first navigation leg, and after rendering a report and being informed that ten surface vessels he had spotted were Task Force 1, detached from Task Force 8 to meet Saratoga and escort her to Pearl Harbor, he turned toward the Enterprise. In his 13 December action report he recounted what occurred:

…While en route back to the ship, I saw a submarine on the surface. Tracking the submarine in the sun, I was able to see it was large, no flag, and traveling at about 16 knots. I decided to bomb it in a glide bomb but the higher winds pushed me into a dive bomb attack and with little flaps. I dropped the bomb at 1800 feet and was unable to pull out until about 600 feet because I was traveling at a speed of about 240 knots. The submarine submerged just before I was in firing range with the .50-caliber fixed guns. He submerged slowly and blew many bubbles on descent. The 1000 pound bomb landed about 40 feet on the starboard quarter. I believe shrapnel hit the submarine as the bomb had an instantaneous fuze. My Radioman, IVANTIC, J.J., RM3c, strafed the submarine with his .30-caliber free machine gun as we pulled out of the dive. I remained over the spot for a few minutes and the submarine did not surface again, so I returned to the ship. I saw no oil on the surface.

Ensign Walters’ action report suggests he probably had attacked and damaged the I-70. His Imperial Majesty’s submarines I-25 and I-70, were two of the Japanese combatant’s attacked by Enterprise aircraft that morning. I-25 reported being attacked with a depth charge by a TBD-1 “Devastator” of VT-6, but dove to 130 feet, and the depth charge exploded above her, causing no damage. After waiting thirty minutes, I-25 returned to periscope depth and was attacked a second time, and again dove to 130 feet, causing the depth charge to explode above her, with no damage.

The I-70 was less fortunate. She had been damaged by a bomb released by an SBD in the early morning attack, damage that forced Commander Sano’s decision to surface, and continue running on the surface. Considerably smaller and carrying less firepower than the Type C.1 cruiser subs that carried the midgets launched into Pearl Harbor, the Type 6A submarine built in 1934 was 336 feet long, 27 feet abeam, with a hull depth of 15 feet; displaced 1,400 tons normal, 1,785 full, and 2,440 tons maximum submerged; carried a 4-inch instead of a 5.5-inch gun; six instead of eight torpedo tubes; and 14 instead of 20 torpedoes.

The end came in the early afternoon 121 miles northeast of Cape Halava, Molokai, Hawaiian Islands, at latitude 23 degrees, forty-five minutes north, longitude 155 degrees, thirty-five minutes west. Lieutenant Clarence E. Dickinson, the pilot who had, himself, been shot down by swarming Japanese fighters over Oahu the morning of 7 December – costing the life of his radioman/gunner – had his opportunity for payback, and succeeded. He struck with one dive bomb pass, and the submarine sank, leaving four sailors in the water who later perished.

Lieutenant Dickinson, writing in his 1942 book, The Flying Guns, had no way of knowing the identity of the submarine he and his Radioman/gunner sunk that day, but vividly recalled the sequence of events leading to I-70’s destruction.

…the morning scouting flight picked up three or four submarines on the surface. Three or four seen in the area covered by the scouting flight logically meant that there were an awful lot of Jap submarines around. So, about 11:30 in the morning of December 10, Admiral Halsey decided to send three planes to each place where a submarine had been sighted. I was detailed to make this flight.

At that time no one had been assigned to me in place of Miller, [my radioman-gunner killed over Oahu the morning of 7 December.] So I took a lad named [Thomas E.] Merritt, about twenty-one; very nice looking. This young man turned out to be an extremely reliable radioman and gunner, one of the best in the squadron. But this was going to be his first chance for revenge.

The submarine I was to hunt for was supposed to be about 125 miles north of Pearl Harbor. However, when I had flown about 75 miles south I wasn’t expecting to find the submarine waiting for me; that was only my starting point, really. It had been seen at six o’clock approximately where I was by a half hour past noon. Where could it have gone in the Pacific Ocean in six and a half hours? I decided the best thing to do was to fly a rectangular course around the position where the sub had been last sighted and give emphasis to the north and east. I went twenty miles south, then traveled thirty miles on a leg to the east, then began the leg forty miles north. I had left the carrier at noon. It was now about half past one. Nothing but sky and water anywhere in sight.

The wind was blowing pretty much of a gale. There were white-capped waves, but visibility was excellent. I could see twenty-five miles in any direction, possibly thirty miles. Just as I reached the north corner of my rectangle, lo and behold! Way over to the northeast about fifteen or eighteen miles away there was a great big submarine running on the surface. It was pushing to the northeast just as fast as it could go. It was obviously a submarine but it looked to me to be the biggest I had ever seen. I talked to the carrier immediately.

“This is Sail Four…Have sighted submarine. Am attacking.”

The carrier acknowledged my message. I was already heading toward the sub. I was about 800 feet off the water then and to make a good dive bombing attack I would have to climb up to 5,000 or 6,000 feet at least. So I started climbing. I suppose I was climbing while I was talking with the ship. Now, to go straight ahead fifteen to eighteen miles in a scout bomber is one thing, but it is something else to go a mile up while you are going eighteen miles ahead; moreover I was flying right into a heavy wind. It would probably take six or eight minutes for me to get into position to do my job. I had certain chores to do in connection with my craft of bombing. I had to “arm” the bomb mechanically before I dropped it. I had to do certain things to it that would make it explode on contact. Threaded through the fuse of that 500-pound bomb I was carrying were what we call “arming wires.” These arming wires have to be pulled out of the fuse before the bomb is dropped, else it will fall as a dud. When the wires are pulled out, two parts of the fuse move into position, the “vanes” on the fuse rotate properly and on contact the bomb explodes. Consequently the height of futility in bombing is to neglect to arm your bomb. The arming of the bomb is the pilot’s job, but to make sure that none of us forgets in the excitement of the attack, it has been made a part of the gunner’s duty to check with the pilot just as your partner checks you against a possible renege in a bridge game when you fail to follow suit by asking politely, “No spades?”

I had plenty on my mind climbing to a good diving position. I didn’t see how I could stand the disappointment were the Jap to submerge. Next thing I knew he was shooting at me; just as soon as I was within gun’s distance of him the sub had opened up with two deck guns, four or five inchers. The Japs manning those guns were not especially good shots but, after all, this was the second time within three days that I had been shot at and I was a little tired of being on the receiving end. I was getting sensitive, I suppose. However, I had fine faith in that bomb. It is quite an effective weapon if you drop it close enough. Right beside the submarine, in the water, is best.

Those anti-aircraft bursts were giving me just a touch of headache. There wasn’t a great deal of danger from them but they were annoying. I was climbing as hard as I could and then young Merritt called over our radio. “Is the bomb armed, Mr. Dickinson?”

I was busy in my cockpit just that second and did not respond. “Mr. Dickinson, is the bomb armed?” I feel sure I must have said yes a couple of times but this kid back of me wasn’t going to have a failure on his hands. I was climbing and estimating the situation every instant. The Japs were shooting. Merritt was prompting. “Be sure the bomb is armed!” “Look here,” I said, “the bomb is armed. For God’s sake! Relax! Maybe we can get this submarine. Take my word for it, the bomb is armed.”

Those aboard ship hadn’t realized how far I had to go when I reported I was attacking. However, when I was about half way to where I was determined to get, there was a voice in my ears, asking for a report. Was I making progress? With the Jap shooting at me, with my deep concern for fear the submarine would disappear before I could lay my egg and further rasped by Merritt’s well-meant solicitude, I was in no mood to be heckled by the ship. So I told them I would report the progress of my attack as soon as I had time to drop the bomb.

I suppose the Jap’s two deck guns had fired at least twenty-five anti-aircraft shells at me. I had had him in sight for almost eight minutes. Yet he had made no attempt to submerge. All he was doing was turning to the right a few degrees. Obviously there was something wrong with him. He had been bombed once before that day. The plane from our carrier that had found him at six o’clock in the morning had dropped a bomb fairly close to him. So I believe he could not submerge. I can’t imagine a submarine skipper in his right mind staying on the surface to fight a plane rather than dive. Even when I was three or four minutes away, in good working order he might have submerged easily. He did not, so I believe that he had previously been damaged.

Those two deck guns, one forward, one aft, were big enough to sink anything but a battleship. But they were firing a couple of machine guns, too. These were mounted on the platform of the oval, tank-like conning tower. For the second time in three days I could see the head-on, deadly jewel wink of machine guns but the flashes from the muzzles of those two anti-aircraft guns were yellow as lemon cream. Nevertheless the black explosions that occasionally washed a slight tremor into the plane quite definitely were not lemon pies.

I was measuring the sub’s course, measuring my height and getting nicely set when my gunner spoke again. “Is the bomb armed, Mr. Dickinson?” This time I said, rather gently, I think, “Yes.” Then I dived. I had a pretty good dive. All the way down I could see the heathen still shooting. Their faces looked brown, not yellow. I wasn’t close enough to see expressions because I was probably as much as thirty stories higher than the Empire State building when I acted. At the left-hand side of the cockpit there is a handle, the bomb release. You simply pull this back so that it travels an inch or possibly an inch and a quarter, until it will go no further. There is no click or jar but you know you have dropped your bomb.

By the time I was able to pull out of the dive, and turn to get my plane’s tail out of the way of my eyes it was probably fifteen seconds before the bomb struck; it struck right beside the submarine, amidships.

I saw first of all only one gun was firing. I suspect the bomb explosion had killed the Japs at the other gun. In a further space of seconds I had the plane turned and was flying back towards the sub. It had stopped, had no perceptible headway and had started to settle, as nearly as I could tell, on an even keel. The fact she had no forward motion satisfied me right then this was not a dive. She was settling! A little more by the stern than forward. In about three-quarters of a minute after my bomb struck the sub had gone under the water.

The chances are, I think, that the bomb explosion caused the submarine to open up underneath. That would kill her speed. Filling amidships would cause her to settle more or less on an even keel. Right after she disappeared, from her amidships, as near as I could tell, there was an eruption of oil and foamy water, like the bursting of a big bubble. Seconds later, fifteen or twenty, I suppose, there was a second disturbance; another bubble-like eruption of foam and oil churned to the white-capped surface of the sea. This time I saw some debris. I reported to the carrier what I had done and what I had seen. But I was careful to say that “possibly” the submarine had been sunk. You simply can’t be sure on such evidence.

During the flight back to the carrier the young man in the rear seat and I discussed the probabilities. “Looks like we got him, Mr. Dickinson.” “Yes, I think we did.”

“That’s certainly pretty nice, huh?”

If you had seen Pearl Harbor you would think so, too. I said to Merritt: “Glad you didn’t let me forget to arm that bomb.”

This was no time to lose the ship but as I approached the position where I estimated she would be all I could see was a big rainstorm covering the area. I circled the storm without seeing a trace of the carrier. I felt certain she was in the storm but I had a feeling it would be easy to get lost in such weather. At such a time! I had things to talk about. I finally plunged into the rainstorm and there was the carrier.

The day proved hectic for Task Force 8 and the quarries she sought. In addition to the two bombing attacks on surfaced submarines and the sinking of I-70, there were seven other confirmed contacts with enemy submarines, which included non-stop air operations, periscope and conning tower sightings, two torpedo wakes clearly observed aiming for Enterprise, two depth charge attacks by screening destroyers, and gunfire at one submarine observed on the surface by the cruiser Salt Lake City. Throughout the day the two forces were constantly searching and maneuvering for shots at one another, or to spoil shots, weaving, zigzagging, changing speeds and directions.

The day after the loss of I-70 and Task Force 8’s heavy engagement with the Japanese submarines in the vicinity of Oahu, Vice Admiral Mitsoyoshi was aware only that he had heard nothing from the submarine’s commander, and the boat’s status was still uncertain. Nevertheless, looking ahead to operations off the West Coast of the United States, and answering to directives from Imperial General Headquarters, he issued a detailed order to the Submarine Force Detachment now moving toward the coast. On Christmas Eve night, I-15, I-9, I-10, I-17, I-19, I-21, I-23, I-25 and I-26 were to each surface and fire 30 shells on selected targets. Rear Admiral Sato, aboard I-9, was charged to execute the order.

Several facts were evident in Task Force 8’s high number of active encounters with Japanese submarines 7 through 13 December. The enemy submarines were in the waters around Oahu in force, astride the sea lanes between Hawaii and the mainland, and an unknown number were now moving toward the west coast. They would probably arrive on stations off the west coast about 17 December. Between the 10th and the 17th, the enemy would begin taking a toll on shipping.

While Enterprise and the ships and planes of Task Force 8 were aggressively pursuing enemy submarines north and northeast of Oahu on 10 December, the carrier Saratoga, which departed San Diego 0958 hours the morning of 8 December, bound for Pearl Harbor, was refueling the three destroyers in her submarine screen, one at a time. From Destroyer Division 50, they were the Talbot (DD-114), Waters (DD-115), and Dent (DD-116), all World War I “four stackers.” Saratoga, which began flight operations on the 9th, on the 11th dispatched Talbot to pick up the two-man crew from an SBD, plane number 3-B-2, from Bombing Squadron Three (VB-3). The aircraft went down 50 miles distant, and another plane in the flight reported the two men were in their rubber boat.

On 12 December at 1335 hours, Talbot, Waters and Dent, were relieved of screening duties and turned back to San Diego when the ships of Task Force 1, which had been sent by CinCPac to escort and screen Saratoga on into Pearl Harbor, took stations in the formation. The ships in the now-strengthened task force were the heavy cruiser Minneapolis (CA-36), and the newer, more modern destroyers Tucker (DD-374), Selfridge (DD-357), Case (DD-370), and Conyngham (DD-371).

Saratoga entered Pearl Harbor and moored at pier F-9 at 1037 the morning of 15 December without having logged a single submarine contact the entire sortie from San Diego to rejoin the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Less then twenty-four hours later, at 1226 on 16 December she was underway again, turning west southwest, soon to join Task Force 14 and deliver additional aircraft to Wake Island. At 1350 hours, while outbound initially to the southeast, Saratoga logged the sighting of Task Force 8 and the Enterprise, which was proceeding to Pearl Harbor for refueling and provisioning for further operations.

While Saratoga and her newly formed task force were en route to Pearl Harbor from San Diego, Task Force 12, with the Lexington, was returning from the cancelled delivery to Midway of 18 Marine Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators from VMSB-231 squadron at Ewa. On orders from CinCPac, Task Force 12 turned around the morning of 7 December to search for the Japanese carrier strike force while maneuvering toward Pearl Harbor. At 1152 hours, as Lexington and her screens were steaming northwest toward the harbor’s entrance, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35) reported a torpedo wake on the cruiser’s port side and the task force began maneuvering to avoid additional torpedo launches at Lexington.

At 1621 hours, another submarine contact was reported on Lexington’s starboard bow, and she changed course left to avoid a torpedo wake that had been sighted. Escorting destroyers attacked the intruder with depth charges. Unknown to Lexington and Task Force 12, the depth charge attacks had taken their toll on the Japanese submarine I-68, whose captain was Commander Otoji Nakamura.

Ordered to patrol on a station 20 to 50 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor, Nakamura vainly attempted more than once that day to penetrate the submarine screen and torpedo Lexington. For his trouble I-68 was repeatedly hammered by 21 near miss, depth charge attacks. The attacks were uncomfortably close to being fatal for I-68 and its crew. The last attack wrecked many of the submarine’s battery cells, and caused flooding in her aft torpedo tubes. Nakamura decided to terminate I-68’s first patrol against the United States Navy, in support of the Combined Fleet’s Pearl Harbor operation, and brought his crippled submarine limping slowly back to Kwajalein, where it arrived on 28 December – a long, and undoubtedly tense 15-day journey for the crew.

Following another rapid turnaround, Lexington was again underway from Pearl at 1357 hours on 14 December, and at 1732, saw Saratoga and her task force disappear over the horizon as she returned to refuel, take on aviation fuel and provisions, for the next sortie. Steaming on a southwesterly course as part of Task Force 11, by shortly after midnight the morning of 17 December, Lexington and the commanders of all the task force’s ships knew they were embarked on a raid on the Japanese-held Marshall Islands, in support of Saratoga’s planned delivery of additional aircraft to Wake Island.

Saratoga left Pearl on 16 December, steaming toward the west, southwest with four destroyers providing plane guard duties and submarine screen: the destroyers Blue (DD-387), Henley (DD-391), Helm (DD-388), and Bagley (DD-386). At 1215 on 17 December, she commenced joining Task Force 14, a powerful force consisting of the heavy cruisers San Francisco (CA-38), Astoria (CA-34), and Minneapolis; destroyers Mugford (DD-389), Selfridge, Patterson (DD-392), and Ralph Talbot (DD-390); the tanker Neches (AO-5) and seaplane tender Tangier. Finally, Lexington and Task Force 11, supporting Saratoga and Task Force 14 were about to take the fight to the enemy.