Home Intro People Events Equipment Places Maps Books Photos Videos Other Reference FAQ About

World War II Database

Blockade of Britain file photo [223]

Start of the Battle of the Atlantic

3 Sep 1939 - 30 Jun 1940


ww2dbaseThe United Kingdom had always been dependent on the seas for its economy, importing vital food and other supplies for its own survival. Germany knew this well. Too weak to directly challenge the British and French fleets, the German Navy adopted a strategy of using surface ships, submarines, and aircraft to raid Allied commerce shipping.

ww2dbaseOn 3 Sep 1939, within hours of the British declaration of war on Germany, German submarine U-30 attacked what the submarine captain thought was a British auxiliary cruiser; the ship had turned out to be the passenger liner Athenia, the very type of ship that the German Navy ordered its submarines to avoid. The death of 112 civilians aboard Athenia started what Winston Churchill would christen the Battle of the Atlantic.

ww2dbaseThe British and the French immediately responded with a blockade on German ports. This interfered with raw materials coming into Germany from Northern Europe, but overall it did not affect the course of the battle much. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy set anti-submarine hunting groups out to sea. On 14 Sep 1939, while one of these hunting groups was out in search of German submarines, U-39 spotted the group first and launched torpedoes at carrier HMS Ark Royal; the carrier narrowly escaped harm as the torpedoes detonated prematurely. Three days later, HMS Courageous of another hunting group was less fortunate, discovered and sunk by U-29. While the British considered alternatives in dealing with German submarines, German submarine U-47 scored an even greater victory by sneaking into the British naval base at Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom and sank the old battleship HMS Royal Oak at anchor, killing 833. Two weeks later, in an attempt to follow up on the success at Scapa Flow, two torpedoes from U-56 struck HMS Nelson; her crew was lucky that the torpedoes failed to detonate.

ww2dbaseWhile the Kriegsmarine hunted for British targets, a major strategy change took place in Germany. On 16 Oct 1939, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder announced Adolf Hitler's orders that "all merchant ships definitely recognized as enemy can be torpedoed without warning." It was further explained that all ships, even those flying flags of neutral nations, could be targeted based on the German captain's discretion if the ships were bound for British ports. "Neutral shipping had been sunk before, inadvertently or by reckless commanders. Now it was Kriegsmarine policy."

ww2dbaseBeginning in late 1940, German submarines attacked in the Rudel, or wolfpack, in a tactic that German Admiral Karl Dönitz devised before the war. With the wolfpack tactic, some of the submarines in the wolfpack would keep the convoy escorts occupied while one or two of the submarines would sneak by into the center of the formation and attack the transports.

ww2dbaseAlthough submarines had scored the first victories in the Battle of the Atlantic, the German submarine fleet was small at the start of the war; there were only 57 in operational status, some of which were in use as minelayers rather than raiders. The responsibility of the early attacks on Allied shipping was shared by surface ships as well. Ships ranging from battleships to armed merchant cruisers were dispatched into the Atlantic Ocean to threaten merchant shipping coming in and out of Britain and France. Although many surface merchant raids were extremely successful, this branch of the German plan of war to blockade Britain was limited by the policy that surface ships should avoid escorted convoys to minimize potential losses.

ww2dbaseGerman naval vessels were in the center of public attention in this opening stage of the battle; nevertheless, naval mines were another principle weapon against Allied shipping. While contact mines were laid just below the waves on the British coast just deep enough for ships to make contact, German magnetic mines were also used, which could be laid in deeper waters, detonating when a ship neared and causing damage with the shock wave of the explosion. On the night of 22 Nov 1939, a German plane was observed dropping something via parachute into the River Thames in southern England, United Kingdom. Upon investigation, the package delivered was a magnetic mine, and it landed in the mud off Shoeburyness instead of the river. Two Royal Navy officers retrieved the mine and turned it to scientists, who reverse engineered it. The magnetic principles were discovered, and the technique of degaussing, the process of demagnetizing with electric coils, was developed to prevent ships from triggering off enemy magnetic mines when sailing nearby. The Germans also had in their arsenal a pressure-activated naval mine, but did not deploy them until it had become apparent that the British had devised methods to defeat the magnetic mines.

ww2dbaseJust as the submarines were proving themselves worthy in the Battle of the Atlantic, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder reallocated funding from submarine construction to that of capital ships. Although Dönitz would later reverse this decision, the delay in the expansion of the German submarine fleet gave the United Kingdom the little bit of breathing room that it desperately needed in this early stage of the war.

ww2dbaseAlthough German attacks continued through the winter months of 1939 to 1940, many of the German ports in the Baltic Sea became frozen, thus significantly slowing the German naval efforts. The German campaign in Norway in Apr 1940 also drew away many warships that were on raiding duties at the start of the war. It would not be until after the fall of France in Jun 1940 when the German Navy would escalate the actions in the Atlantic Ocean.

William Manchester, The Last Lion

Last Major Update: Aug 2007

Start of the Battle of the Atlantic Interactive Map


HMS Courageous sinking, Atlantic Ocean, 17 Sep 1939; photograph taken by a British Royal Navy sailor aboard an escorting vesselAn Allied merchant ship being shelled by a German submarine, date unknown
See all 3 photographs of Start of the Battle of the Atlantic

Start of the Battle of the Atlantic Timeline

16 May 1939 Admiral Erich Raeder presented to Adolf Hitler German Navy's plan for conducting war against Poland in the Baltic Sea and against Britain and France in the Atlantic Ocean.
19 Aug 1939 The German Navy ordered 21 submarines and two capital ships to prepare for sailing at any given time. The captains of Admiral Graf Spee and Deutschland received orders to go to Brazilian and North Atlantic waters, respectively.
24 Aug 1939 U-23 began her first war patrol.
3 Sep 1939 German submarine U-30 torpedoed British passenger liner Athenia in the Atlantic Ocean.
3 Sep 1939 Albatros laid mines on the German North Sea coast.
4 Sep 1939 Adolf Hitler forbade any further attacks on passenger ships.
7 Sep 1939 Adolf Hitler ordered Erich Raeder to hold back German Navy from attacking British and French vessels.
10 Sep 1939 The Battle of the Atlantic officially began. On the very same day, the British Admiralty began organizing a convoy system.
13 Sep 1939 U-27 sank British trawler Davara 39 kilometers (24 miles or 21 nautical miles) northwest of Tory Island, Ireland at 0255 hours. The 12 survivors were rescued by merchant ship Willowpool.
14 Sep 1939 German submarine U-39 attacked HMS Ark Royal; the torpedoes swam straight at the carrier but they prematurely detonated.
16 Sep 1939 In the first German submarine attack on an Atlantic convoy the merchantman Aviemore was sunk off Land's End, England, United Kingdom.
16 Sep 1939 U-27 attacked British trawler Rudyard Kipling 190 kilometers (120 miles or 100 nautical miles) west of Ireland at 0353 hours. The crew of U-27 boarded Rudyard Kipling and destroyed the ship with scuttling charges. U-27 rescued the survivors, gave them food and warm clothing, and sent them off in lifeboats.
17 Sep 1939 German submarine U-29 torpedoed British carrier HMS Courageous off Ireland. Courageous sank in 20 minutes, taking down 518 of the crew of 1,200, including the captain.
20 Sep 1939 U-27 was sunk by British destroyers HMS Fortune and HMS Faulknor west of Scotland, United Kingdom.
1 Oct 1939 The 2,239-ton Belgian merchant steamer Suzon was sailing to Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom loaded with 2,400 tons of pit props for the Welsh mines. The ship had been built in Sunderland, England, United Kingdom by S. P. Austin & Sons, and was owned by a London shipping Company and then named Portwood. In 1930 she was sold to the Belgians and renamed. At 1845 hours German submarine U-35 (Kapitänleutnant Werner Lott) attempted to stop the neutral and unarmed steamer with light signals about 42 miles 330 degrees from the French island of Ushant but the Belgians put on steam and tried to escape. Warning shots were fired which actually hit the ship forcing the Belgian Captain, R. Lejeune, to stop and abandon the ship, knowing that the cargo would be classed as contraband. After the crew were clear the submarine fired a torpedo that struck on the port side of the Suzon abreast the funnel which broke the vessel's back, the two halves sinking almost immediately. The Belgian crew were picked up by HMS Acheron (H 45) commanded by Lieutenant Commander R. F. W. Northcott RN which was escorting the nearby convoy MB-10.
3 Oct 1939 The Declaration of Panama, signed by the United States and several countries in the Americas, was established. It established a zone of neutrality within 300 to 1,000 nautical miles of the coast of the Americas.
4 Oct 1939 U-23 spotted British merchant ship Glen Farg (Master Robert Galloway Hall) at 0445 hours about 110 kilometers (about 69 miles) south-southwest of Sumburgh Head, Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic, and stopped the ship with machine gun fire. At 0600 hours, when she detected that the British was sending out distress calls, she sank the ship with one G7a torpedo and gunfire. One crew member was killed. The 16 survivors were picked up by HMS Firedrake.
8 Oct 1939 Approximately on this date, U-12 strike a mine just off Kingsdown, England, United Kingdom near Dover and sank; the entire crew of 27 was lost.
12 Oct 1939 German submarine U-48 sank French tanker Emile Miguet and British freighter Heronspool.
13 Oct 1939 German pocket battleship Deutschland sank Norwegian freighter Lorentz W. Hansen 420 miles east of Newfoundland.
13 Oct 1939 U-40 struck a mine in the Strait of Dover and sank. 39 were killed. 9 survived the sinking, but 6 would die before being rescued.
16 Oct 1939 Grand Admiral Erich Raeder announced Adolf Hitler's orders that "all merchant ships definitely recognized as enemy can be torpedoed without warning."
18 Oct 1939 Dutch liner Simon Bolivar struck a German magnetic mine in the English Channel 10 miles east of Harwich, England, United Kingdom at 1030 hours; the mine was laid in this shipping lane without warning on the previous day; 86 were killed. The Netherlands made an official protest to Germany regarding this violation in international shipping law.
21 Oct 1939 British light cruiser HMS Orion and Canadian destroyer HMCS Saguenay located German tanker Emmy Friedrich in the Yucatán Channel, and began to move to intercept.
23 Oct 1939 On being told by Admiral Erich Raeder that he lacked adequate support from both the civil administration and the other two military branches, Adolf Hitler sent a memorandum to the Air Force and Army Commanders-in-Chiefs as well as to the Ministers concerned. The memo made it clear that "All measures for attacking the merchant shipping and economic resources of Great Britain were to be directed through the O.K.W. (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht)." This gave Raeder the chance to press for a relaxation of the restrictions on sinking neutral vessels trading with England. Hitler however remained adamant that any incidents should be forbidden until he was ready to strike on land. He told the admiral that he was worried about the name of the heavy cruiser Deutschland. As soon as she arrived back her name was to be changed to LĂĽtzow. "Should she be sunk with her present name it would have serious repercussions back home." Hitler then ordered a meeting of Naval Staff in Berlin, Germany on 1 Nov 1939.
24 Oct 1939 British light cruiser HMS Orion and Canadian destroyer HMCS Saguenay intercepted German tanker Emmy Friedrich in the Yucatán Channel; Emmy Friedrich's crew scuttled the ship to avoid capture.
24 Oct 1939 German submarine U-37 sank British steamships Menin Ridge by torpedoes and Ledbury by gunfire off Gibraltar.
29 Oct 1939 The 7,976-ton British merchant steamer Malabar was on the return trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to London, England, United Kingdom full of general cargo, including lumber and tobacco when torpedoed by German submarine U-34, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Rollmann at 0150 hours. Rollmann had fired two torpedoes and claimed to hit the Malabar and an escorting destroyer, however only Malabar was hit. Malabar was the ship of the convoy commodore, five crew were killed in the explosion, the remaining 66 crew and the master, Henry Herbert, the commodore Rear Admiral G. W. Taylor and his two staff members all got away in lifeboats and were clear when the vessel sunk 180 miles south of Land’s End, Cornwall, England. They were all picked up by the G- and H-class destroyer HMS Grafton (H 89) and taken to Plymouth on the south coast.
30 Oct 1939 The 4,666-ton steam merchant Cairnmona was making her way to Newcastle, England, United Kingdom with a cargo of copper and grain and 3 miles off Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire, northeast Scotland, United Kingdom when she was torpedoed by German submarine U-13 (Kapitänleutnant Karl Daublebsky von Eichhain) at 2250 hours. The Cairnmona had been dispersed from convoy HX-5 and would be the only ship sunk from it. Three crew were killed in the explosion, the master, Fred Wilkinson Fairley and 41 crew members took to lifeboats and were later picked up by the British drifter HMS River Lossie.
30 Oct 1939 British anti-submarine Trawler HMS Northern Rover out from Grimbsy, north-east Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom, was sunk with a torpedo fired from German submarine U-59 (Oberleutnant zur See Harald JĂĽrst) at 2335 hours. The trawler had been requisitioned by the Admiralty to be used against German submarines, as an armed boarding vessel and to be used as contraband hunters. U-59 attacked as the Northern Rover was patrolling the Kirkwall area, 100 miles west of Sumburgh Head in the Shetland Islands. The Commander, Lieutenant H. M. Macpherson RN and the 25-man crew were lost.
30 Oct 1939 U-56 fired three G7e (TII) torpedoes on HMS Rodney near the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom; all three missed the target, but two of them hit HMS Nelson situated directly behind HMS Rodney.
31 Oct 1939 At 0525 hours the 5,874-ton French merchant steamer BaoulĂ© was heading to Bordeaux, France with a cargo of palm kernels, rubber, cocoa, and coffee in convoy K-20. The ships had just passed 45 miles west-northwest of A Coru?a, northwest Spain when BaoulĂ© was torpedoed by German submarine U-25 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Viktor SchĂĽtze. Two torpedoes hit the ship which sank quickly, 13 crewmembers lost their lives.
1 Nov 1939 In a meeting with General Wilhelm Keitel and Lieutenant Commander Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer, Adolf Hitler's liaison officer with the Naval War Staff in Berlin, Hitler repeatedly told the officers that the name of the cruiser Deutschland should be changed and the ship was to avoid any action the same orders were to be issued to the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. Hitler was worried that any action would bring out the British Grand Fleet before air protection was organised. The Graf Spee, on station in the South Atlantic was to be ordered to be ready to sail to the Indian Ocean. Any operations of battleships must be held until Italy entered the war and the British Forces consequently held down. Submarine warfare was to be intensified. Passenger ships could be attacked and neutral ships would be attacked once a state of siege be declared against Britain. Hitler would not give priority to the production of submarines however, as Army equipment and ammunition supplies were of prime importance. Erich Raeder sent a copy to Admiral Karl Dönitz, Commander of the Submarine Arm with a note saying that in order to carry out a large scale submarine war then continuous pressure would be necessary.
11 Nov 1939 Built by Newport Ship Building in the United States, the 4,576-ton Greek owned Elenor R. struck a mine off the Shambles, Portland on the British south coast. The ship was on her way to Antwerp, Belgium from Rosario, Argentina and sank immediately. The crew were rescued; there were no casualties.
12 Nov 1939 German submarine U-41 sank British trawler Cresswell by gunfire off the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom at 0700 hours; 6 were killed, 8 survived and rescued by U-41. At 1000 hours, U-41 struck agin, sinking Norwegian tanker Arne Kjøde; 34 survived in 2 lifeboats, but one of them would soon capsize, killing 5.
20 Nov 1939 German submarine U-33 sank three small British trawlers (Thomas Hankins at 1030 hours, Delphine at 1600 hours, and Sea Sweeper at 1700 hours) off Tory Island, Ireland.
22 Nov 1939 Overnight, German aircraft dropped magnetic mines in River Thames in southern England, United Kingdom, but at least one fell in nearby mud and was observed by the British.
22 Nov 1939 The 1,006-ton merchant steamer Lowland struck a mine two miles east-north-east from the NE Gunfleet Buoy in the Thames Estuary in Britain. Nine crew members died. She belonged to the Shipping and Coal Company and was taking coal into London.
23 Nov 1939 Britain recovered a magnetic mine from muddy fields near River Thames in southern England, United Kingdom.
25 Nov 1939 German submarine U-28 sank British merchant ship Royston Grange of Allied convoy SL-8B 50 miles southwest of Land's End, England, United Kingdom at 1319 hours. Between 2200 hours and midnight, German submarine U-43 attacked and sank British ship Uskmouth 120 miles northwest of Cape Finisterre, Spain with gunfire and torpedoes; 2 were killed, 22 survived and rescued by Italian merchant ship Juventus.
27 Nov 1939 German submarine U-48 damaged Swedish tanker Gustaf E. Reuter near Fair Isle northwest of Scotland, United Kingdom; 1 was killed, 32 survived. An attempt to tow Gustaf E. Reuter to port failed overnight, causing her to finally sink.
28 Nov 1939 British Royal Navy trawler HMS Kingston Beryl scuttled the stern section of Swedish tanker Gustaf E. Reuter in the North Sea. Gustaf E. Reuter had been attacked by German submarine U-48 on the previous day, and the bow section had sunk overnight during an unsuccessful towing attempt.
29 Nov 1939 British destroyers HMS Kingston, HMS Icarus, and HMS Kashmir forced German submarine U-35 to surface and surrender in the North Sea with depth charges. U-35's crew scuttled the submarine to prevent capture.
2 Dec 1939 U-56 damaged British merchant ship Eskdene 130 kilometers northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom.
3 Dec 1939 After following the target for about 45 minutes, U-56 sank neutral ship Rudolf (Master Bertil Persson) with one G7e torpedo in the North Sea about 60 kilometers east of May Island at 0013 hours. Six survivors were picked up by British trawler Cardew later in the day; they were landed at Dundee. Eight other survivors remained in lifeboats. 9 were killed.
8 Dec 1939 Belgian ship Louis Scheid ran aground and broke up in front of the Thurlestone Golf Club, Warren Point, Devon, England, United Kingdom before dawn.
8 Dec 1939 German submarine U-48 sank the ship Brandon of Allied convoy OB-48 in the Celtic Sea at 1155 hours. Master Richard Black Chisholm and other survivors were picked up by the Belgian trawlers Marie Jose Rosette and Tritten and landed at Milford Haven, Wales, United Kingdom. U-48 misidentified her victim as the Navasota, but this ship had been sunk by submarine U-47 three days earlier.
8 Dec 1939 U-23 sank Danish merchant ship Scotia, sailing in ballast, in the North Sea with 0004 hours with one torpedo. Nineteen were killed. The two survivors were picked up by the nearby Danish merchant ship Hafnia immediately.
12 Dec 1939 Off the British coast, at 0815 hours, the 496-ton ship Marwick Head taking coal to London from Boness, near Grangemouth, Scotland, struck a mine laid by U-59 and sank 0.5 miles South of the North Caister Buoy, off Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. Five crew members were lost, the captain and four other crew were rescued and taken to Great Yarmouth.
12 Dec 1939 The 8,485-ton British registered motor tanker British Liberty was on route from Haifa, Palestine for Dunkerque, France with a cargo of crude oil. As she was nearing Dunkerque she struck a British laid mine 4 miles north-east of the Dyck Light Vessel. Twenty-four of her crew were killed in the explosion.
14 Dec 1939 HMS Ursula sank German escort ship F9 with a torpedo in the North Sea.
28 Dec 1939 German submarine U-30 sank British submarine trawler HMS Barbara Robertson in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom at 0400 hours, killing 1; the German submarine radioed Swedish merchant ship Hispania to pick up the survivors. Later on the same day, at 1545 hours, she spotted and damaged British battleship HMS Barham with one torpedo, killing 4; she was chased off by destroyers HMS Isis and HMS Nubian.
9 Jan 1940 The British submarine HMS Starfish (N19) attacked a German minesweeper off the German North Sea coast in the Heligoland Bight. However this attack failed because, due to drill error, the torpedoes remained stuck in the tubes. She returned for second attack but the hydroplanes jammed and the commanding officer Lieutenant Thomas Turner decided to remain under water at the depth of about 27 metres for the remainder of day to carry out repairs. The German minesweeper M-7 located her and dropped 2 depth charges which did no damage. At 1050 hours one of the electricians asked for permission to restart one of the Sperry motors to prevent the gyro from wandering, and the request was granted. No sooner the motor started, 4 depth charges rained on top of the boat, fairly close aboard, causing widespread damage. At 1440 hours another depth charge attack was carried out, 20 of these falling fairly close to the hull, shearing rivets and starting plates which began leaking. By 1800 hrs the situation inside was serious, the engine room crankcases and starboard main motor bearings were flooded, the torpedo trenches and bilges were full, water was pouring through the starboard engine clutch and lapping the starboard main motor casing. HMS Starfish laid on the bottom until Lieutenant Turner, having formed the opinion the enemy was not likely to leave the vicinity in the near future, gave the order to surface at 1820 hours. In order to accomplish this, the submarine was forced to drop the ballast keel, barely making it due to loss of high pressure air and water in the hull, coming up at a 45-degree angle. She sank very shortly after with no loss among the crew, which was picked up by the waiting ships and taken as prisoners of war.
9 Jan 1940 Carrying a cargo of coal from West Hartlepool on the eastern coast of England, United Kingdom to Drammen, Buskerud in Norway, the Norwegian 1,334-ton steam merchant Manx was torpedoed at 0221 hours as she cleared Kinnaird Head in north Scotland by U-19 (Joachim Schepke). Eight of the crew managed to get to an upturned lifeboat but four died of exposure in the cold water. Four men endured eight hours on the boat until rescued by the Norwegian freighter Leka, the other 2 who had got on a raft were seen by Isis, another Norwegian ship. Originally it was thought that the Manx had hit a mine however, records show that U-19 had indeed claimed a merchant ship on this date, Schepke made no mention of the ship being Norwegian therefore neutral.
11 Jan 1940 The Fredville, a 1,150-ton Norwegian steam merchant, was attacked and sunk approximately 100 miles east of the Orkney Isles at 1632 hours. There had been two explosions in the hold, the first seemed to cause little damage but 10 minutes later a much larger explosion broke the ship in two. The ship in ballast was on her way to Methil, Scotland, United Kingdom. 5 of the crew found time to get into a lifeboat and made repeated attempts to find any more survivors from the after part of the ship that remained afloat but none were found. The 5 men were picked up by a Swedish ship and taken to Kopervik, Karmøy Island, Norway. It was probable that the ship was sunk by German submarine U-23 (Otto Kretschmer), though at the enquiry held later the crew said that they thought there could have been bombs put into the coal bunkers by the Wollweber Group who were a group of Communist saboteurs who were responsible for the loss of several Scandinavian ships; they also stated that the ship was marked with the Norwegian flag and had navigation lights on.
17 Jan 1940 The Norwegian 1,140-ton steam merchant Enid carrying wood pulp to Dublin, Ireland was one of two ships sunk 7 miles north of Muckle Flugga, Shetland Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom. The other vessel was the 4,751-ton British freighter Polzella. The Enid went to the assistance of the British ship which sank quickly after the torpedo fired by U-25 (Viktor SchĂĽtze) struck (all crew members aboard Polzella would be lost), but the submarine surfaced and fired a shot across the bow to stop her. Enid turned away, fired three shots from her deck gun, and then was abandoned by her crew, who took to two lifeboats. The Germans then fired 21 rounds from the deck gun and hit Enid seven times, setting her on fire. At 1410 hours, a coup de grâce was fired that broke the ship in two. The forepart sank immediately while the burning stern remained afloat and was later scuttled by the destroyer HMS Firedrake (H 79), which had been sent to the area to hunt for the submarine together with HMS Fortune (H 70) and several anti-submarine trawlers. Eight survivors in one lifeboat made landfall after 3 hours at Burra Firth on Unst, one of the northern Shetland Islands. The master and 7 crew members were picked up by the Danish motor merchant Kina.
21 Jan 1940 Finnish merchant ship Onto (Master Ivar Ström) struck a mine in the North Sea 40 kilometers northeast of Great Yarmouth, England, United Kingdom at 2213 hours. The mine was laid by U-56 on 8 Jan 1940. The ship sank, and all 20 aboard survived in two lifeboats. One lifeboat, with 14 aboard, was rescued by a Greek steam merchant; the other was rescued by HMS Auckland.
22 Jan 1940 The unescorted Norwegian 2,589-ton merchant steamer Songa was stopped by German submarine U-25 in calm seas 200 miles west of the Scilly Islands. Viktor SchĂĽtze ordered the Songa's crew to abandon the ship after he declared her cargo of copper, tin and foodstuffs to be contraband. A single torpedo then sent the vessel to the bottom; the submarine's crew supplied the Norwegians with rum and gave them a course to steer the two lifeboats towards the shipping lanes.
2 Feb 1940 British minesweepers Sphinx (J69; Commander John Robert Newton Taylor), Speedwell, and Skipjack were sweeping an area about 15 nautical miles north of Kinnaird's Head near Fraserburgh north-east Scotland, United Kingdom when attacked by German aircraft. A bomb pierced the fo'c'sle deck of 889-ton HMS Sphinx (John Robert Newton Taylor, RN) and exploding destroying the fore part of the ship. The commanding officer and forty of the men were killed in the explosion; survivors were taken to HMS Speedwell. Sphinx remained afloat and was taken in tow by minesweeper HMS Halcyon (J42) but steadily flooded.
3 Feb 1940 The Norwegian steam ship Tempo was on a voyage from Methil, Scotland, United Kingdom to Hull, England, United Kingdom with a cargo of paper. Being a neutral the ship was marked as such. She was attacked by three German aircraft as the ship passed close to the Longstone Lighthouse, seven miles off the coast. The first attack was with machine guns after which the aircraft attacked with bombs, one of which hit the stern of the Tempo. The captain immediately ordered the ship to be abandoned as the Tempo was sinking rapidly. A third pass over the ship was made in which four bombs were dropped near missing the freighter, the survivors reported that the aircraft then fired at the lifeboats only missing them by a metre. The bombers continued to circle the area for twenty minutes as the lifeboats headed for the shore however the boat under command of the first mate capsized in the heavy surf and five of the men were drowned, the sole survivor luckily being washed onto the beach. The other boat under command of the captain were picked up by a rescue vessel. An inquiry was held in Oslo, Norway where the attack was noted and the German authorities notified of the event.
9 Feb 1940 After sundown, during this dark night with minimal moon light, six German merchant ships sailed out of Vigo, Galicia, Spain, intending on breaking the Allied blockade. The ships were Arucas, Morea, Orizaba, Rostock, Wahehe, and Wangoni.
9 Feb 1940 British trawler HMS Fort Royal commanded by Lieutenant Commander Edgar King and trawler HMS Robert Bowen commanded by Skipper Lieutenant John Clark, RNR were sunk by German aircraft off Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. Clark was killed.
10 Feb 1940 The 1,259-ton Norwegian merchant steamer Silja had been requisitioned by the Norwegian authorities in the autumn of 1939 and had left from Trapani in Sicily, Italy on 26 Jan 1940 with a cargo of salt for Bergen, Norway via Gibraltar where she departed on 5 Feb 1940. At 2059 hours, German submarine U-37 (Korvettenkapitän Werner Hartmann) reported firing a single torpedo at an unescorted steamer about 75 miles west of Cape Clear, Ireland. The vessel broke in two after being hit aft. The stern part sank immediately, and the fore part followed a few minutes later. There were no survivors of the 15-man crew.
10 Feb 1940 In response to the six German merchant ships that had sailed out of Vigo, Spain in the previous night, search forces under Commander-in-Chief Western Approaches, Admiral Dunbar Nasmith, were formed. This group consisted of ships of the Home Fleet (battlecruiser Renown, aircraft carrier Ark Royal, cruiser Galatea and destroyers), of the Western Command, the Northern Patrol and of the French Admiral-West.
11 Feb 1940 At 2230 hours the 8,022-ton tanker Imperial Transport was struck on her port side at the empty #6 tank by a torpedo from U-53 (Korvettenkapitän Harald Grosse). The ship started to break in two 200 miles northwest of the Butt of Lewis. Members of the crew got into two lifeboats but lost two men in the dark night. Later the ship was reboarded after it appeared that the stern section was not going to sink. They were unable to radio for help but managed to sail the stern 130 miles at 4 knots before meeting 4 British destroyers. Attempts were made to tow the half over the next two days with tugs but the weather got worse and the crew had to be taken off again. The section was beached on the Isle of Bute in Kilchatten Bay. The stern section of Imperial Transport was later salvaged and docked in Elderslie Dockyard, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom. The battered bulkhead and all distorted material cut away and fitted with a new fore part that was built to the original plans by William Hamilton & Co Ltd, and was launched bow first with deckhouse, mast, derricks and auxiliary equipment complete. The ship returned to service in June 1941.
11 Feb 1940 The 1,854-ton neutral Swedish merchant steamer Orania was carrying maize and bran from Brazil to Malmö, Sweden when she was struck by a single torpedo from German submarine U-50 (Kapitänleutnant Max-Hermann Bauer) in the Norwegian Sea at 2354 hours. The ship sank within three minutes of the explosion 65 miles north-northeast of the Flugga Lightship, Shetland Islands. U-50 had spotted the ship and although she was lit up, Bauer reported that he could not confirm that the ship was Swedish. All the crew got away in two lifeboats but one with 14 men was never seen again. The others were picked up by the destroyer HMS Faulknor, transferred to HMS Foxhound, another destroyer that took them to Lerwick, Shetland.
11 Feb 1940 French sloop Elan captured 2,542-ton German merchant ship Rostock in the Atlantic Ocean. Rostock had sailed out of Vigo, Spain on 9 Feb in an attempt to break the Allied blockade.
12 Feb 1940 British destroyer Hasty seized 4,709-ton German merchant ship Morea (4,709-tons) 300 miles west of Porto, Portugal. Morea had sailed out of Vigo, Spain on 9 Feb in an attempt to break the Allied blockade.
15 Feb 1940 The 398-ton trawler Peridot, requisitioned by the Admiralty in Aug 1939 and fitted out as an armed Anti-submarine vessel, struck a mine laid by a German submarine in the English Channel.
16 Feb 1940 At the start of the day, 20 miles north of Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, German submarine U-14 (Oberleutnant zur See Herbert Wohlfarth) sank Danish ships Rhone (killing 9) and Sleipner (killing 13) shortly after midnight; 41 survivors were later picked up by Swedish trawler Standard and HMS Kipling. Toward the end of the day, at 2125 hours, 10 miles north of Kinnaird Head, U-14 struck again, sinking the 1,526-ton neutral Swedish coal ship Osmed, which sank by the bow 2 minutes after the torpedo struck, 10 of the crew were lost, the remaining 7 were picked up by the British trawler Loch Hope and taken to Scrabster, a small harbour in Thurso Bay Caithness, Scotland. 10 minutes later, at 2135 hours, U-14 sank the 1,646-ton neutral Swedish coal ship Liana carrying coal from Blyth to Halmstad, Sweden. She went down within a minute, 10 crew members managed to get off the vessel and these too were picked up by the trawler. Eight of these later boarded the Santos to return to Sweden but the ship was sunk on the 24 Feb 1940 and 6 of them were drowned.
17 Feb 1940 At 0200 hours, the 1,819-ton Norwegian freighter Kvernaas sailing unescorted was hit by a single torpedo from German submarine U-10 (Oberleutnant zur See Joachim Preuss) and sank after just 5 minutes 4 miles north-west of Schouwen Bank, Netherlands. The crew got off in 2 lifeboats and were picked up by a Dutch steamer Oranjepolder on her way to London, ENgland, United Kingdom, but turned back and took the survivors to the pilot station at Hoek van Holland the following day. Various sources say that the Kvernaas struck a mine.
18 Feb 1940 British Royal Navy D-class destroyer HMS Daring (H16; Commander Sydney Alan Cooper), whilst escorting Allied convoy HN-12 from Norway, was attacked by German submarine U-23 (Kapitänleutnant Otto Kretschmer) at 0354 hours. Two torpedoes struck the 1,375-ton ship and she sank immediately about 40 miles east of the Pentland Firth, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom. 147 officers and men were lost. 1 officer and 3 ratings were picked up from a float by HMS Ingleield (D02) and taken to Scapa Flow, Scotland and another rating was found amidst the debris and rescued by the submarine HMS Thistle (N24) assisted by HMS Ilex (D61) and taken to Rosyth, Scotland.
19 Feb 1940 U-23 sank British merchant ship Tiberton with a G7e torpedo at 0405 hours in the North Sea about 33 miles east of Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom. It broke in two and sank within 30 seconds, killing all 34 aboard. The ship was carrying iron ore from Norway, bound for Britain.
21 Feb 1940 British cruiser Manchester and destroyer Kimberly of the Northern Patrol captured 4,709-ton German merchant ship Wahehe in the Atlantic Ocean. Wahehe had sailed out of Vigo, Spain on 9 Feb in an attempt to break the Allied blockade.
22 Feb 1940 In the Atlantic Ocean, German submarine U-23 sank British steamer Loch Maddy, which was damaged by U-57 and abandoned by its crew on the previous day.
24 Feb 1940 The 2,266-ton British cargo steamer Royal Archer (built in 1928) hit a mine laid by German submarine U-21 off Kirkaldy, Scotland, United Kingdom and sank. The 27 crew and a gunner were saved. The ship was on route from London for Leith carrying a cargo of 630 tons general cargo including gum, paste, etc.
24 Feb 1940 The 5,941-ton cargo steamer Clan Morrison, requisitioned by the British Admiralty, was steaming from Southampton to Blyth struck a mine and sank 20 miles north of Cromer, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom.
24 Feb 1940 M1 rammed and sunk four Danish fishing trawlers Ejjam (E 92), Gerlis (E 456), Merkator (348), and Polaris (E 504) off the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. There were four crewmen aboard each ship, and even though some survived the sinking initially, commanding officer Oberleutnant zur See Hans Bartels of M1 did not pick up any survivors, thus all of them would eventually be lost. Bartel suspected that the trawlers were reporting German movements to the British while flying the flag of a neutral nation.
26 Feb 1940 The 4,354-ton German merchant ship Orizaba, having successfully breaking the British-French blockade outside of Vigo, Spain, ran aground off Troms in northern Norway.
28 Feb 1940 German merchant ship Wangoni evaded the British submarine Triton in the Skagerrak, and would safely reach Kiel, Germany. Wangoni had sailed out of Vigo, Spain on 9 Feb in an attempt to break the Allied blockade.
1 Mar 1940 The 1,388-ton Norwegian steamship Vestfoss was bombed by a German aircraft 12 miles southeast of Auskerry, one of the Orkney islands, on a voyage from Partington, Manchester, England, United Kingdom to Oslo, Norway with coal. The pilot of the bomber first allowed the crew to escape; all 19 went to the boats and would survive the attack. The Vestfoss was found later on fire and was taken on tow, but foundered two hours later.
2 Mar 1940 The 695-ton Dutch motor merchant Rijnstroom loaded with general cargo was hit in the bow by a torpedo fired by German Submarine U-17 (Kapitänleutnant Udo Behrens) and sank within five minutes. The ship was reported missing after leaving the Downs (an area of safe anchorage in the southern North Sea) just a small amount of wreckage was later found, none of the 12-man crew survived.
2 Mar 1940 The 2,818-ton Swedish merchant steamer Lagaholm with 4,700 tons of general cargo, including 100 tons of aluminium ingots, 62 tons of copper, 53 tons of brass, engines and chemicals and mail was stopped by German submarine U-32 when 80 miles west of Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom at 0715 hours. The crew abandoned ship in two lifeboats and after questioning the Germans gave them a course to steer to the nearest land. At 0810 hours the submarine shelled and set the Lagaholm alight after which she sank. The survivors were picked up by a Norwegian merchant ship Belpamela and taken to Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay.
3 Mar 1940 British cruiser HMS York stopped the 3,359-ton German steamer Arucas 50 miles south of Iceland. Arucas' crew of 42 Arucas scuttled the ship. 3 died in the process. 39 men were picked up by HMS York. Arucas had sailed out of Vigo, Spain on 9 Feb in an attempt to break the Allied blockade.
7 Mar 1940 The 1,965-ton Dutch steam merchant Vecht was torpedoed in the Scheldt Estuary at 0430 hours by German submarine U-14. The submarine had spotted the steamer three hours earlier and reported that she carried no neutrality markings. The Vecht sank by the stern after twenty minutes. All 22 crewmen perished.
9 Mar 1940 The 2,719-ton British steamer Chevychase hit a mine whilst steaming over the Cromer banks, east coast of England, United Kingdom. 21 survivors were picked up, of whom 8 were wounded.
9 Mar 1940 The Estonian cargo ship Hanonia, captured by the German submarine U-34 in 1939, had been laying mines off North Foreland, Kent, England, United Kingdom since the beginning of the month when she struck a rock and was grounded. The ship was towed to Bergen, Norway by the Germans for repairs. She would later be sunk by a mine in May 1940. The mines she had laid off Ken sank seven cargo ships: the Santa Godelieva, the Amor, the Rose Effeuillee, the Melrose, the Saba, the Saint Annaland and the Tina Primo.
11 Mar 1940 The 2,325-ton Dutch steam merchant Amor struck a mine in the North Sea that had been laid by the German minelayer Schiff II/Ulm two days prior. The ship sank near to the West Hinder Light, Zeebrugge. There were no casualties among the crew of 33.
11 Mar 1940 The 165-ton British trawler Halifax struck a mine after leaving Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom and sank 12 miles to the east south east of the port. There were no casualties.
11 Mar 1940 The 163-ton British fishing vessel Aberdeen (LT123), whilst heading to the Cardigan Bay fishing grounds from Milford Haven in Wales, United Kingdom, was attacked by German aircraft. The bombs, all near misses, caused enough damage for the trawler to take on water. Eight of the ten crew lost their lives as the vessel sunk.
12 Mar 1940 The 3,745-ton British steam merchant Gardenia was en route from Casablanca, Morocco to Middlebourgh, England, United Kingdom, when she struck a mine and sank off Cromer, Norfolk, east coast of England.
12 Mar 1940 HMS Sealion (Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Bryant, RN) was detected, hunted and depth charged by a German armed trawler in the North Sea about 25 nautical miles to the north-west of Heligoland.
13 Mar 1940 The British armed merchant cruiser HMS Maloja (F 26) intercepted the 7,414-ton German merchant La Coruna south-east of Iceland. However before the German ship can be captured she was scuttled by her own crew.
13 Mar 1940 German submarine U-44 hit a mine in Mine Field No. 7 in the North Sea laid by the destroyers HMS Express, HMS Esk, HMS Icarus and HMS Impulsive. All 47 aboard were killed.
22 Mar 1940 The first boats of the French 10th Submarine Flotilla, Sibylle, Antiope, and Amazone, arrived at Harwich on the east coast of England, United Kingdom together with their depot ship Jules Verne. The boats would reinforce the British Home Fleet. 5 more boats would arrive during the next 10 days plus some boats of the 2nd Submarine Flotilla. The Sibylle would be the first to go out on active war patrol.
8 Apr 1940 The 4,843-ton Greek cargo steamer Okeania was mined and sunk in the English Channel off Deal on the Kent coast, England, United Kingdom.
8 Apr 1940 The 8,612-ton British steam merchant Ahamo struck a mine and sank in the North Sea off Wells by the Sea on the Norfolk coast, England, United Kingdom.
22 Apr 1940 The 199-ton Dutch steam merchant Wocana on voyage from Antwerp, Belgium to Goole in the Humber Estuary, north east coast of England, United Kingdom, carrying a cargo of sand, sank after being in a collision with British corvette HMS Pintail (L 21/K 21). The Wacona sank within five minutes but the crew was saved. HMS Pintail would recover from the collision.
24 Apr 1940 Three British cargo merchant steamers were sunk by aerial mines off the River Thames Estuary, England, United Kingdom. The 1,149-ton Stokesley had been on her way to London, England from Antwerp, Belgium carrying 1,600 tons of ammonium sulphate. The 1,969-ton Lolworth from Portsmouth, England on her way to the Tyne in northeastern England in ballast and the 1,049-ton Rydal Force from Sunderland, England for Cowes in the Isle of Wight with coal. Fifteen of the Stokesley's crew died, eleven died on board the Rydal Force, and eight were wounded on board the Lolworth.
25 Apr 1940 The 2,470-ton ship Margam Abbey was sunk whilst exiting the Thames Estuary, England, United Kingdom after hitting an aerial laid mine. The ship's bows were blown off and she sank within minutes.
4 May 1940 The 5,995-ton British steam tanker San Tiburcio owned by the Eagle Oil & Shipping Co Limited of London was carrying 2,193 tons on fuel and a dozen Sunderland aircraft floats when she struck a mine at 2010 hours; the mine had been laid on 10 Feb 1940 by German submarine U-9. This occurred four miles from Tarbett Ness in the Moray Firth in northern Scotland, United Kingdom. A tug and a destroyer, HMS Codrington (65) were sent out to give assistance, but the tanker broke in half after 45 minutes. The Master, Walter Fredrick Flynn and 39 of the crew were picked up by her escort HMS Leicester City (FY 223) and the anti-submarine trawler took them to Invergordon, in the Cromarty Firth north of Inverness, Scotland. Walter Flynn would lose his life on 31 Jan 1942 when his new command, the San Arcado was torpedoed and sunk by U-107 north of Burmuda.
9 May 1940 German submarine U-9 (Wolfgang LĂĽth) fired two torpedoes at French submarine Doris 40 miles off of the Dutch coast at 0014 hours. One struck amidships, blowing the boat in half and killing 42 French and 3 British men.
11 May 1940 British troops landed on Dutch islands of Aruba and Curaçao in the Caribbean Sea. US President Roosevelt announced that these actions were not contrary to the Monroe Doctrine.
16 May 1940 US President Roosevelt responded to British Prime Minister Churchill's telegraph from the previous day, noting that any military aid to Britain must have the authorization from the US Congress, and that the US fleet would remain concentrated at Hawaii in the Central Pacific for the time being.
19 May 1940 German submarine U-37 (Victor Oehrn) hit the unescorted 5,066-ton Swedish motor merchant Erik Frisell with one G7a torpedo in the Atlantic Ocean west of Scotland, United Kingdom at 0631 hours. The crew of 34 abandoned ship only after the submarine fired a shot across the bow and the Germans had to order them back to the ship to take the last two men off. Afterwards the ship was sunk by gunfire. She had originally been en route to Stockholm, Sweden with a cargo of animal fodder but was ordered to Liverpool, England, United Kingdom. The survivors were picked up by the British armed trawler HMS Cobbers and landed at Stornoway, Scotland, United Kingdom.
19 May 1940 A German Heinkel bomber bombed the 263-ton SS Belgica, an ex-barque Norwegian whaler and whale processing ship that was currently being used by the British as an ammunition depot ship, in Isfjorden, Svalbard, Norway. It was thought at the time that a near miss sprang some of her plates and this caused her to sink. However it was later generally accepted that the British scuttled her to prevent capture as the wreck was found to be relatively unharmed and that next to her was a barge, intact with scuttling charges placed in her bilges.
19 May 1940 The 2,197-ton HMS Princess Victoria, an old steam ferry requisitioned by the British Admiralty for use as an auxiliary-minelayer, part of the Humber Force, struck a mine at the River Humber entrance on the east coast of England, United Kingdom and sank quickly taking over 30 of her crew with her. She was equipped with an outfit of up to 244 mines, one single 10.16-centimeter QF (4-inch Quick-Firing) gun and two single 5.44-kilogram (12-pounder) anti-aircraft guns.
23 May 1940 Latvian steam cargo ship Sigurd Faulbaums, now under Belgian control, was being towed by Belgian tugs Baron de Maere and Graaf Visart when she was hit by two torpedoes from German submarine U-9 15 miles northeast of Zeebrugge, Belgium at 1254 hours. The ship broke in half, with the aft portion sinking quickly. Survivors on the fore portion were rescued by Graaf Visart.
23 May 1940 French Bourrasque-class destroyer Orage, commanded by Lieutenant Commander R. V. M. Viennot de Vanblanc, was sunk on off Boulogne, France by German aircraft.
24 May 1940 At 0248 hours, the unescorted neutral 3,994-ton Greek cargo steamer Kyma was struck by a torpedo from German submarine U-37 when sailing about 175 miles south of Cape Clear Island, Ireland and about 200 miles west of Brest, France. The attack was made without warning and despite the neutrality markings. Victor Oehrn, the German commander, regarded he ship as heading for an enemy port within the blockade area. The ship was carrying 6,000 tons of maize and 90 tons of trucks to Avonmouth, Bristol, England, United Kingdom from Rosario, Argentina. The survivors abandoned the Kyma in a lifeboat which was spotted by an aircraft from St Eval, Cornwall, England and the sloop HMS Enchantress (L 56) broke away from the convoy to pick them up. Seven of the 30 crew were lost.
24 May 1940 The President of Panama expressed support for the Dominican Republic in terms of the 8 Mar 1940 incident where a Canadian destroyer attacked German freighter Hannover in Dominic Republic's territorial waters. He called for the Chairman of the Inter-American Neutrality Committee in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to investigate this violation of the Pan-American Neutrality Zone.
30 May 1940 German submarine U-101 struck unescorted 4,831-ton British merchant steamer Stanhall on the starboard side under the bridge with one torpedo 35 miles north-northwest of Ushant, Finistère, Bretagne, France at 1925 hours, killing 1. She sank within eleven minutes. 36 survivors, including the master, were rescued by British steamer Temple Moat, and they would later be landed at Weymouth, England, United Kingdom. The ship was carrying 7,630 tons of raw sugar and 350 tons of onions.
30 May 1940 The 338-ton British Boom defence vessel Cambrian, built in 1924 by Cochrane & Sons Shipbuilders Ltd. and owned at the time of her loss by British Royal Navy, was sunk by a mine at Spithead roadstead in southern England, United Kingdom whilst attending the Solent Boom. 23 people lost their lives.
13 Jun 1940 The German submarine UA sighted British armed merchant cruiser HMS Andania during heavy squalls south east of Iceland.
14 Jun 1940 The German submarine UA fired a spread of three torpedoes toward British armed merchant cruiser HMS Andania south east of Iceland; all torpedoes missed and the tracks were not noticed by lookouts aboard Andania.
16 Jun 1940 The German submarine UA, which had been following British armed merchant cruiser HMS Andania for the past three days, fired two torpedoes south east of Iceland at 0029 hours; one of them struck the ship aft. Another torpedo launched eight minutes later also hit but failed to detonate. The Andania opened fire with her guns after seeing the torpedo wake but owing to rough seas and the darkness scored no hits. The ship was sinking by the stern and her 347 crew, two of them injured, were taken off by the Icelandic trawler Skallagimur which later transferred the to the destroyer HMS Forester (D 74) and they were taken to Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom. UA fired two more torpedoes at the sinking Andania, but both missed or were duds. The Andania had been a Cunard White Star Line Passenger Liner before being requisitioned by the Admiralty in Sep 1939.
16 Jun 1940 At 1302 hours the 13,212-ton unescorted British motor merchant ship Wellington Star was hit in the bow by a G7a torpedo from German submarine U-101 about 300 miles west of Cape Finisterre, Spain. After the crew abandoned ship in four lifeboats, the submarine fired three coups de grâce at her, all three hit, but only one detonated, underneath the bridge. The U-101, commanded by Fritz Frauenheim, surfaced, questioned the survivors then sank the ship with 31 rounds from the deck gun at 1645 hours.
16 Jun 1940 The British T-class submarine HMS Tetrarch (N 77) (Lieutenant Commander R. G. Mills) torpedoed and sank the 5,978-ton German tanker Samland south west of Lista, Norway.
16 Jun 1940 The 6,465-ton German ship Konigsberg II, built in 1924 and owned by the Nord-Deutscher Lloyd, was scuttled off Vigo, Spain to avoid capture by the Allies.
17 Jun 1940 The 7,405-ton British cargo/passenger ship Teiresias, built in 1914 by Hawthorn Leslie & Co. and owned by Blue Funnel Line, on voyage from Avonmouth, England, United Kingdom to Quiberon Bay, France in ballast, was sunk in an air raid by German bombers, off Saint-Nazaire, France. There was 1 casualty.
17 Jun 1940 The 1,147-ton Norwegian merchant steamer Komet, built in 1912 by Laxevaags of Bergen as the Norwegian cargo steamer Pluto for B.Stolt-Nielsen of Haugesund and renamed Charles Schiaffino in 1921 and Komet in 1924, was bombed and sunk by German aircraft in the English Channel near Caen, France. Two of her crew were killed in the attack.
20 Jun 1940 At 1730 hours, 7,493-ton Dutch motor tanker Moordrecht was hit in the engine room by a torpedo from German submarine U-48, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Hans Rudolf Rösing. Moordrecht exploded and sank by the stern within two minutes. The master and 24 crew members were lost. The ship had been in convoy HX-49 until 18 Jun 1940 when it was then ordered to proceed alone to her destination port. Four survivors eventually made it to a lifeboat.
20 Jun 1940 At 0336 hours, German submarine U-38, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe, missed the 1,776-ton unescorted Swedish and neutral steam merchant Tilia Gorthon with a G7a torpedo and then stopped the vessel by gunfire about 45 miles west of the Isles of Scilly in the southwestern tip of England, United Kingdom. At 0412 hours, the Tilia Gorthon was hit in the engine room by another G7e torpedo after the crew had abandoned ship in two lifeboats and sank. The survivors were picked up by the British sloop HMS Leith (U 36). The Tilia Gorthon had previously been on voyage from Bahia, Brazil to Gothenburg, Sweden but was stopped by a British warship and sent to Liverpool, England, United Kingdom and then to Nantes, France, however, near the Loire a new order sent her to Quiberon Bay, France and finally ordered the ship back to Liverpool.
20 Jun 1940 At 1533 hours, German submarine U-51 (Kapitänleutnant Dietrich Knorr) attacked the 4,876-ton British merchant steamer Otterpool of convoy HG-34F, carrying 8,180 tons of iron ore; the attack missed the target.
20 Jun 1940 German submarine U-30 (Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp) attacked Allied convoy HG-34F, but all torpedoes missed. At 2142 hours, a second attack by U-30 succeeded, hitting the 4,876-ton British merchant steamer Otterpool with one stern torpedo. Otterpool sank about 130 miles west of the French island of Ushant. The master, 21 crew members and one gunner were lost. 16 crew members were picked up by British sloop HMS Scarborough (L 25) and landed at Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
20 Jun 1940 At 1315 hours, German submarine U-61 (Oberleutnant zur See JĂĽrgen Oesten) observed how the unescorted and zigzagging 5,911-ton steam merchant Empire Conveyor was hit on the port side forward by a torpedo about 50 miles south of Barra Head, Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom. The attacker must have been German submarine U-122 (Korvettenkapitän Hans-GĂĽnther Looff), which was lost shortly afterwards but reported sinking a large freighter in a radio message at 0030 hours on 21 Jun 1940. The Empire Conveyor did not sink immediately, but because the aerials had been damaged the radio operator was unable to call for help. Luckily a flying boat on patrol in the area arrived, dropped bombs to keep the submarine submerged and alerted the British Admiralty. The tug HMS Amsterdam was sent out, escorted by the rescue tug HMS Atherstone (L 05) and the destroyer HMS Campbell (D 60), but at 1600 hours she suddenly sank before the ships arrived. The crew had abandoned ship in three lifeboats and several rafts, but one boat swamped during launch. The master, the second engineer and the cook were lost. 38 crew members were picked up by HMS Campbell (D 60) after six hours.
20 Jun 1940 The 7,638-ton French tanker Brumarire was torpedoed and damaged by a single torpedo from German submarine U-25 (Korvettenkapitän Viktor SchĂĽtze) in the Atlantic Ocean at 0128 hours.
20 Jun 1940 The 9,552-ton Panamanian steam tanker James McGee hit a mine in the Bristol Channel off southwestern Britain, broke in two and sank.
21 Jun 1940 At 0846 hours, HMS Cape Howe (X 02), a Special Service Vessel, disguised as the Prunella, was hit on the starboard side near the bridge by one of two torpedoes fired by German submarine U-28 about 100 miles west of the Isles of Scilly at the southwestern tip of Britain. The explosion blew open the hatches of No. 1 hold, put the Asdic and steering gear out of order and mortally injured two crewmen. The panic party abandoned the now slowly circling ship in two lifeboats but the submarine did not surface but fired a coup de grâce after about an hour that hit on port side amidships, causing her to slowly settle by the bow until sinking with a list to port at 1230 hours. 54 became missing and would be never found; 40 would be rescued.
21 Jun 1940 The 7,638-ton French tanker Brumarire was sunk by German aircraft in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew of 37 was saved by the British destroyer HMS Griffin (H 31) and landed in England, United Kingdom.
21 Jun 1940 At 0411 hours the 1,144-ton unescorted Finnish freighter Hilda was hit by one torpedo from German submarine U-52 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Salman and sank in a few minutes in the Bay of Biscay, killing 5. The master and ten crew members survived aboard a lifeboat.
21 Jun 1940 At 0817 hours, the 1,177-ton unescorted Dutch steamer Berenice, carrying 1,000 tons of manganese ore and 22 passengers, was hit by one torpedo amidships by German submarine U-65 (Kapitänleutnant Hans-Gerrit von Stockhausen) just off the island of Belle ĂŽle, France, causing her to sink within three minutes, killing 21 passengers and some of the crewmembers. A coastal vessel picked up nine survivors, including the master and Marsman's wife, the only surviving passenger.
21 Jun 1940 At 2007 hours, German submarine U-47 under command of Kapitänleutnant GĂĽnther Prien fired a torpedo at a tanker in the middle of Allied convoy HX-49 in a position 50 miles south-southwest of Cape Clear in the southwestern tip of Ireland. The tanker was the 13,056-ton British San Fernando which was carrying 13,500 tons of crude oil and 4,200 tons of fuel oil, and she was hit and came to a stop. Prien then fired two more torpedoes but did not observe the result as he had to submerge rapidly to avoid being seen by a nearby steamer. The damaged San Fernando was taken under tow by two tugs.
21 Jun 1940 At 1636 hours the 8,627-ton British merchant steamer Yarraville in Allied convoy 65-X was hit by a single torpedo from German submarine U-43, caught fire and sank southwest of Figueira da Foz, Portugal. Five crew members were lost. The master and 44 crew members (seven of them wounded) were picked up by the French trawler Marie Gilberte and landed at Gibraltar.
21 Jun 1940 At 1753 hours the 5,809-ton unescorted Belgian freighter Luxembourg was hit aft by a G7e torpedo from German submarine U-38 and sank west of Saint-Nazaire, France. The ship had been bound for Antwerp, Belgium but was diverted to Bordeaux, France and anchored at Le Verdon on 20 Jun 1940 when she was ordered to leave for Falmouth, England, United Kingdom. Five men were killed and one wounded of the 46 crew members on board.
21 Jun 1940 The small 844-ton Danish ship Alfa was torpedoed and sunk when 12 miles northwest of Eirland Light, Texel, Netherlands.
21 Jun 1940 The 4,281-ton French merchant steamer Mecanicien Principal Carvin was bombed and sunk by German aircraft at Verdon, France on the river Gironde.
21 Jun 1940 The 4,277-ton Greek freighter Adamantios was bombed by German aircraft and forced to beach on the ĂŽle de RĂ© off the west coast of France.
22 Jun 1940 At 1804 hours, German submarine U-65 reported the sinking of an unescorted tanker of 7,000 tons with a spread of two G7e torpedoes about 70 miles southwest of Penmarch in the Bay of Biscay. The ship was immediately covered in burning oil and apparently broke in two before it sank. The ship was the 7,011-ton French tanker Monique.
22 Jun 1940 The 9,026-ton Norwegian motor tanker Eli Knudsen had been in Allied convoy HX-49, which was dispersed approximately 100 miles southwest of Cape Clear, Ireland after German submarine U-47 had torpedoed the San Fernando in the middle of convoy at 2007 hours on 21 Jun 1940. At 0336 hours German submarine U-32 torpedoed the Eli Knudsen, one of the slowest ships in convoy. All crew members abandoned ship in lifeboats and were picked up a few hours later by the sloop HMS Sandwich and taken to Liverpool, England, United Kingdom. The tanker remained afloat, although she would not survive the incident.
22 Jun 1940 At 0158 hours the 3,999-ton unescorted Norwegian steam merchant ship Randsfjord, dispersed from Allied convoy HX-49, was hit by one G7a torpedo from German submarine U-30 about 80 miles south-southwest of Queenstown, Ireland. The torpedo struck on the port side in the foreship and caused the tanker to sink after three minutes. The master and three crew members were lost. Two men were crushed and injured between the starboard lifeboat and the side of the ship when they lost their grip while lowering themselves down to the boat. Some men jumped overboard and were later picked up by the boat. The submarine surfaced and the Germans questioned the survivors, handed them a bottle of brandy before leaving the area at full speed after two destroyers were spotted.
22 Jun 1940 The French Flower-class corvette La Bastiase struck a mine whilst on sea trials in the mouth of the River Tees, north east England, United Kingdom. The mines were seen to be dropped by enemy aircraft the previous day. The vessel was a total loss killing her commanding officer Lieutenant de Vaisseau Georges Albert Lacombe, some of her crew and some of the engineers from Smith's Dock who were on board for the trials.
22 Jun 1940 At 0217 hours the 5,154-ton unescorted and unarmed Greek merchant steamer Neion was hit in the engine room by a G7a torpedo from German submarine U-38 while steaming without navigational lights lit on a non-evasive course at 10 knots in the Bay of Biscay about 40 miles west-southwest of Belle ĂŽle off the coast of Bretagne, France. One crew member was lost. The master, eight officers and 22 crew members abandoned ship in one lifeboat before she sank by the stern after five minutes. The cargo of naphtha drums was recovered in 1948.
22 Jun 1940 The British motor yacht Campeador V (FY002) was requisitioned for war service on harbour patrol duties at hire rate ÂŁ60.0.0d per month. She was sunk after activating a magnetic mine just south of Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom. 20 people lost their lives; two crew members were picked up.
22 Jun 1940 The 3,713-ton French merchant steamer Amienois was bombed and sunk by German aircraft as she was pulling out of the harbor at Bordeaux, France.
23 Jun 1940 The 294-ton steam tug HMS Coringa was lost while on British Admiralty service but it was never explained what happened. Accounts from researchers and anecdotal accounts stated she was bombed in the Bristol Channel.
25 Jun 1940 HMS Snapper (N 39) (Lieutenant W. D. A. King, DSO, RN) torpedoed and sank the 286-ton German armed trawler V 110 south of Stavanger, Norway. The 2,515-ton German merchant Robert Sauber (built 1910) was hit by a dud torpedo and was lightly damaged.
25 Jun 1940 The 3,828-ton Norwegian cargo ship Crux, built in 1923 and owned at the time of her loss by Bergenske Dampskibsselskab A/B, on voyage from Cardiff in Britain to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine UA in the Atlantic Ocean.
25 Jun 1940 German submarine U-51 hit 12,049-ton British steam tanker Saranac in Allied convoy OA-172 with one torpedo about 270 miles west-southwest of Lands End at the southwestern tip of Britain at 1551 hours. The ships' crew immediately abandoned the ship. At 1737 hours, the submarine surfaced and failed to sink the tanker by gunfire. At 1915 hours, another torpedo was fired, finally sinking Saranac. Four crew members were lost in this sinking. 31 survivors, including the master Vernon Horace Alcock, were picked up by British destroyer HMS Hurricane (H 06) commanded by Lieutenant Commander H. C. Simms, RN and landed at Plymouth in southern Britain. 9 survivors were picked up by British trawler Caliph and landed at Berehaven, County Cork, Ireland.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
17 Feb 2009 09:13:44 AM

The longest battle of the second world war, was the Battle of the Atlantic.
2. camcdn says:
15 Jul 2010 02:50:30 PM

yea, no duh.
3. rachel ann says:
11 Feb 2011 10:39:03 AM

thi is a very intresting pice of historey!
do you think so?
4. Anonymous says:
27 Feb 2011 06:32:45 PM

no, im just reading for a papre in social stidies. not very interesting at all.
5. Anonymous1234 says:
1 Mar 2011 09:49:58 PM

Hey ! do you guys know any other websites, where I could get good info about this ? I really need it for my studies
6. Anonymous says:
17 Jan 2012 08:22:07 PM

good work
7. Anonymous says:
3 Mar 2012 11:09:39 AM

Is there anyone that is an expert on this subject cause I got a paper due on monday
8. Shiny says:
21 Oct 2012 06:25:55 AM

Its all very interesting, but could they not be a section with, say the 20 most important facts, cause that story is an overload of info?
9. Anonymous says:
5 Jun 2013 01:36:40 AM

what were hitlers plans
10. Anonymous says:
25 Oct 2013 03:41:35 AM

no mention of engagement between Graf Spee and H.M.S.s Ajax,Achilles and Exeter in December 1939 resulting ultimately in scuttling of Graf Spee ?!!
11. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
25 Oct 2013 11:48:27 AM

For the battle that resulted in Graf Spee's scuttling, please see a separate article for the Battle of the River Plate: http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=29
12. Anonymous says:
20 Oct 2014 01:31:17 PM

I wouldn't use this article as a source for your papers, especially if you are in high school or higher.
13. Anonymous says:
13 Mar 2019 08:11:24 AM

very gooooddddd

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Change View
Desktop View

Search WW2DB
More on Start of the Battle of the Atlantic
» Dönitz, Karl
» Prien, GĂĽnther
» Raeder, Erich

» Atlantic Ocean

Ship Participants:
» Admiral Scheer
» Albatros
» Deutschland
» Edinburgh
» Effingham
» F9
» Furious
» Gneisenau
» M1
» Orzel
» Primauguet
» Scharnhorst
» Seeadler
» Spencer
» Texas
» U-27
» U-40
» U-47
» U-56

» Message from Adolf Hitler to Erich Raeder

Start of the Battle of the Atlantic Photo Gallery
HMS Courageous sinking, Atlantic Ocean, 17 Sep 1939; photograph taken by a British Royal Navy sailor aboard an escorting vesselAn Allied merchant ship being shelled by a German submarine, date unknown
See all 3 photographs of Start of the Battle of the Atlantic

Famous WW2 Quote
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."

Winston Churchill

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!