WW2 Tankers North Alantic

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raybnz
30th April 2007, 09:15
I watched part of a programme on the History channel here in NZ this evening. Have I missed something but during the programme the American announcer stated that if it was not for the the US tankers and escorts coming in to the war effort in 1942 Britain would have lost the war.

It took three years for the US to make up its mind and no doubt only did it when they could see the dollars they would make. There is little doubt with their help and bases etc the convoys were given more protection.

60 years after the end of the war and we are still getting propaganda from the US.

jim brindley
30th April 2007, 11:02
hi raybnz i thnk the tanker ohio was amercan realvied malta .i think american crew left her and british took her down the medi. im sure some one on site will put me right if im wrong .old sinner jim.

barnsey
30th April 2007, 13:44
raybnz ... where are you in this fine country ???

I am collecting and studying various books on the Battle of the Atlantic at present. I recommend two volumes by Chay Blair "The Hunters" and "The Hunted" These take you through from 1939 - 1942 and from 1943 - 1945. Basically those are the time the U-boats had an ascendancy and their demise. Another volume which analyses the pros and cons is "The Atlantic Campaign" by Dan van der Vat. If you have those 3 you can have a good perspective of the battle. You will also come to see some myths exposed.

The American tankers were certainly important but it is much more complicated. Churchill was making noises about how close things were but in fact it wasnt quite as bad as that. The Americans improved their whole transportation infrastructure ... pipelines, rail and road delivery of oil. This freed up the sea transport which they also needed in anycase as the "Happy Time" for the U-boats was causing them major problems on their coast let alone Britain ..... The U-boats luckily had lots of problems too and when you get into matters they didnt have a chance right from the start in anycase. Things went in phases ... the German magnetic and contact torpedos were unsatisfactory for the first two years, 50% failure rate. Whilst they had a good number of U-boats there were only about 30% available for patrol. The weather as we all know was terrible for both sides....... it goes on and on. The T2 tankers didnt start coming on stream in numbers until 1942. From then on things thats when everything started turning pear shaped for the U-boats. When you look at the Convoy details there were numerous convoys steaming across the Atlantic each month and only a relative few were hammered. Ships steaming alone were the ones which suffered. You really shouldnt read too much into those History programs they are not a balanced account at all. I may offend some people but the U-boats were out of date and ill equipped for the task, they suffered by interference from Hitler and high command so Doenitz had his aims diluted and frustrated thank goodness. The U-boats did not commit the atrocities so much talked about and feared. There were only 2 such incidents and for quite a large part the commanders gave water, food and aid to survivors. There were also some incidents where they were attacked when obviously carrying out help ... a U-boat was towing 3 lifeboats and had a hundred odd people on its deck with an improvised red cross on the conning tower when an American aircraft attacked.

Oh yes, now that the propaganda has been peeled away and good factual information from both sides has been published. Another volume I have was written by Gunter Hessler who was in Doenitz command centre and is from the German documents. Published before the release of the knowledge that the Allies had broken the Enigma machine coding it gives the German side of the battle. Coupled with Chay Blairs and van der Vats book you have a fascinating story which anyone half interested should read about. People need to know the unfettered truth and not History Channel manufactured for TV garrbage ... lest we forget the horrors such events brought about.

barnsey

Split
30th April 2007, 13:48
Yes, it gets to loyal Britishers when they hear the Americans talk about their war effort. However, like it or not, I'm afraid that it is true and they can be very proud of what they did. The British and their allies, brave as they were, were going to lose the war without the Americans on all fronts. The sheer weight of American production turned into a war machine was awesome. Over 500 hundred t-2s were constructed, along with Liberties, Victories and all sorts of other craft. Hitler was sinking more British tonnage than we could build. The Americans turned that around. This does not demean our efforts, but it faces facts. We could not have won without the Americans.

Split

Split
30th April 2007, 14:16
raybnz ... where are you in this fine country ???

I Churchill was making noises about how close things were but in fact it wasnt quite as bad as that.
barnsey

I find this statement ludicrous, frankly. You have to be joking!

Split

Ventry
30th April 2007, 14:23
Is there anyone out there that sailed in this ship in 1942.

Brian Twyman
30th April 2007, 15:04
Although USA was not at war,they supported the British in many ways .. they were escorting convoys half way across the Atlantic and even had one destroyer sunk by a U-boat long before declaring war. Not to mention the loan of ships etc. Read it up.
Brian

KenLin39
30th April 2007, 17:38
Although USA was not at war,they supported the British in many ways .. they were escorting convoys half way across the Atlantic and even had one destroyer sunk by a U-boat long before declaring war. Not to mention the loan of ships etc. Read it up.
Brian

The Reuben James I believe.

Hugh Ferguson
30th April 2007, 19:31
Yes, it gets to loyal Britishers when they hear the Americans talk about their war effort. However, like it or not, I'm afraid that it is true and they can be very proud of what they did. The British and their allies, brave as they were, were going to lose the war without the Americans on all fronts. The sheer weight of American production turned into a war machine was awesome. Over 500 hundred t-2s were constructed, along with Liberties, Victories and all sorts of other craft. Hitler was sinking more British tonnage than we could build. The Americans turned that around. This does not demean our efforts, but it faces facts. We could not have won without the Americans.

Split

I very much agree with this view. I went to sea in late 1943 after spending a whole year trying to get accepted into a liner company as an apprentice. I still have the letters of refusal and many refer to the ship losses as being so severe that they have stopped taking on new applicants as apprentices.
It was a touch and go as to whether that Atlantic bridge would hold and it is recognised by historians that the critical convoy battles took place in the Spring of 1943 (refer Jurgen Rohwer's book, The Critical Convoy Battles, March 1943).
I befriended a German U.Boat P.O.W. in late 1945 and we still correspond. He has given me 5 huge volumes in German, of the entire history of DER U.BOOT KRIEG (The U.Boat war), and in the volume entitled DEUTSCHE U-BOOT-ERFOLGE (successes) no fewer than 73 pages are devoted to listing all the ships sunk by U.Boats alone! There is no doubt that had the Americans NOT given us enormous help, before they came into the war and after, the Battle of the Atlantic would have been lost.
The Liberty ship was the tool that turned the tide.

Hugh Ferguson
30th April 2007, 21:55
hi raybnz i thnk the tanker ohio was amercan realvied malta .i think american crew left her and british took her down the medi. im sure some one on site will put me right if im wrong .old sinner jim.

We didn't have any tankers that were fast enough for 15 knot Malta convoys and in two such convoys American T2's were chartered and manned with British crews and gunners. The OHIO as stated was in Pedestal Convoy of Aug.1942, and the KENTUCKY in the earlier HARPOON convoy. But American ships with American crews did, on at least one occasion, participate in a Malta convoy: two of these were the SANTA ELISA and the ALMERIA LYKES (both of these ships were lost in Pedestal Convoy).

Split
30th April 2007, 22:02
Pleased to meet you, even if it is by post! I didn't get to sea, fortunately for me, until 1948 but so many years have passed that younger people don't appreciate how close we were to going under. I went back to London from evacuation in 1942, and that was bad enough, too.

Split

Hugh Ferguson
30th April 2007, 22:21
The Reuben James I believe.

Correct! The U.S.S. REUBEN JAMES was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 115 crew by the U.552, and the U.S.S.Kearney (two of 5 American destroyers escorting British convoys prior to Germany's declaration of war on America), was torpedoed and damaged but not sunk.
President Roosevelt took enormous political risks, in a still very isolationist America, offering assistance which clearly breached the laws of neutrality.
Repairing our warships in Brooklyn Navy Yard for another such example; an exercise which went far beyond the obligation to make a ship seaworthy enough to proceed to sea.

barnsey
30th April 2007, 23:42
I very much agree with your point Split, the fact the Allies could not have won the war without the American industrial might. In no way do I wish to demean anyones efforts then or now however that is not what I was trying to say.

You have to read the facts as they have come to light today and not what you think you know from such programs on the History channel. I was guilty of doing just that. It is only during this year that I have gathered some decent books and begun to find out just what went on. I have a good friend who was on HMS "Loch Fada" in Walkers EG2. Another good friend who's dad was also in Walkers group commanding HMS Wren .. because of these people I have taken time to get some REAL facts ...and people must do that .. the information is now available and with those details you can understand the vast arena that was The Battle of the Atlantic.

A point for example ... during September 1939 to December 1941, the first phase of the Battle of the Atlantic the British sailed about 900 Atlantic convoys, U-boats achieved major successes ( 6 or more ships confirmed sunk ) on only 19 of these convoys. In total the 19 convoys lost 187 ships. The 900 convoys of the period comprised a total of 12,057 ships. So, 98% of all the ships in these convoys reached the British Isles.

Quote from Chay Blair .... "Contrary to the general perception at the close of 1941, (which I too held until I took time to read and digest) German U-boats were no where close to isolating and strangling Great Britain. Nonetheless the myth of U-boat prowess and invincibility had taken firm root in the publics mind. Rightly, Churchill had declared "The Battle of the Atlantic" to sharply focus the attention of British ASW authorities on the U-boat problem. This battle cry achieved its purpose more rapidly than is generally credited."

Now do you begin to see there is a hell of a lot more to the Battle of the Atlantic than we .. the younger ones ever realised. I am now 65 by the way.

If we are to pay due respect to those people who fought the war at sea then we must have all the facts to hand otherwise exaggerations will be found out and ridiculed by those to come, and God knows people want to put the boot in enough these days.

Love 'em or hate them the Americans were really needed and their Industrial might that Churchill and Roosevelt desperately eventually got on the Allies side turned the war.

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
1st May 2007, 02:13
Barnsey, Your statement of losses Sept.1939-Dec.1941 is flawed to say the least. You have taken the "major losses" from 19 convoys and represented these as being the total for 900 convoys. The true losses are very different as the following from "Lloyd's War Losses" for the same period clearly show:
BRITISH: 1677
ALLIED: 586
NEUTRAL: 384
TOTAL: 2647 TONNAGE: 7,714,074

TOTAL LOSSES 1939-1945: 5411 TONNAGE: 21,314,648
Seems a different story,
Bernard

Jim MacIntyre
1st May 2007, 04:17
Is there anyone out there that sailed in this ship in 1942.


Hello Ventry
I'm curious as to why you raise this question.. Some time ago I had a brief e-mail exchange with a lady named Darina Rowe. She was looking for anyone who had sailed on a Shell tanker 'Darina'. Her father had been on the ship and as she put it - 'yes she was named after the ship'.
If I recall she had originally posed the question in the British Merchant Navy web site and I suggested she also check through shipsnostalgia and helderline. I do not recall if there were any replies.
The correspondence has fallen off my e-mail records but her e-mail is still in my address book.
Jim Macintyre

zelo1954
1st May 2007, 06:46
Just thought I'd post numbers of vessels built in USA/Canada during WW2.

Fort/Park/Ocean: 1941/6; 1942/142; 1943/153; 1944/93; 1945/36.
T2: 1941/1; 1942/22; 1943/128; 1944/186; 1945/147.
Liberty: 1942/543; 1943/1943; 1944/738; 1945/143.
Victory: 1944/211; 1945/321.

This gives the following combined yearly totals:
1941/7
1942/707
1943/2224
1944/1228
1945/647
TOTAL/4813

This is HUGE, and it takes no account of smaller types.

It is true that the cargo vessels were in the main based on the design of JL Thompson's DORINGTON COURT of 1939. The Oceans, then forts and Parks were very similar. The Libertys had a similar hull I believe but did away with the split superstructure.

Cheers, Geoff

barnsey
1st May 2007, 06:58
Bernard ......My statement stands as it is SPECIFICALLY about the Principle North Atlantic cargo convoys inbound to the British Isles 1939 - 1941. Those from Halifax 7,202 (144 lost), Sydney NS 1920 ( 102 lost), and Freetown 2935 (45 lost). A total of 12,057 ships and a total of 291 ships lost in 900 convoys. Out of those convoys 19 lost 6 or more ships which came to a total of 187 which equalled 871,078 GRT. The number of ships arriving in those convoys is derived from British Monthly Anti-submarine reports Sept 1939 to December 1941. The losses which include escorts are from Rohwer "Axis Submarine Successes".

They DO NOT include the considerable independant sailings and losses which your Lloyds quotation would have included.

I was being specific to try to illustrate the enormity of the shipping involved, the success of the convoy system and the fact that at the end of 1941 despite the propaganda which had caused a fear to spread in this the first phase of the war, the facts were different.

I really reccommend you beg borrow or steal the two Volumes by Clay Blair ... "The Hunters" 1939 - 1942 and "The Hunters" 1943 -1945. They are an extremely detailed account of the U-boat war and give a clear account of the swings and roundabouts of both sides of the battle.

When quoting statistics people can make figures say whatever they want to as we full well know as the accountants steadily, and rather quickly dismantled the British Merchant Navy in the 70's a feat the U-boats were never going to do in WW II.

Barnsey

Split
1st May 2007, 08:33
In a letter to President Roosevelt Churchill writes on Dec 8th, 1940.

"In the five weeks ending November3 losses reached a total of 4,290,300 tons. Our estimate of annual tonnagewhich ought to be imported to maintain our effort at full strength is 43 million tons. The tonnage entering in September was only at the rate of 37 million tons and in October of 38 million tons."

Split
1st May 2007, 09:15
I can't see the point in all these figures because what attracted my attention to this thread was the allegation that the British could have won the war on our own. No matter where these cargoes came from, according to Churchill, 80% of all tonnage sunk was in the Battle of the Atlantic. Of this, 55% was British, so my question, now is, could we have sustained these losses on our own, invaded Normandy and all the rest?

Not only that. The American t2, with which I am familiar, was far in advance of any other tanker in its own right. The accommodation brought a new concept to living conditions, with a shower in every officer's cabin, fridges in the smokerooms, icewater machines. Cargo handling with fixed speed centrifugal pumps and, in general, for the surviving ships, an age that took them decades into the postwar years.

The Americans respected their seamen and took care of them however they could while British sailors were off pay as soon as they were torpedoed.

Split

barnsey
1st May 2007, 10:53
Split ..... you ask ..."could we have sustained these losses on our own, invaded Normandy and all the rest?" ...... the same question might well be asked of the German side because by 1942 they too were up against the wall, it would have staggered on as WW1 did.

However without question with the Americans in the war there was no doubt as to the outcome.

The T2's were without doubt magnificent ... I missed out on sailing on one of the T2's in BP and I am not overly sure that wasn't a bad thing as I believe the Nav. Apps. cabin was over the steam pipes which went through the centre castle so I am told ... "Up the Gulf" was not pleasant, as if it ever was.

As for the Liberties, C2's and C3's the whole shipbuilding effort of the Americans was magnificent. Donitz dismissed the figures as propaganda .... foolish man. While we are about it lets not forget the whole industrial might of the States and their attitude to building things in mass and precision ... amazing.

Barnsey

Split
1st May 2007, 11:21
Would the war have lingered on? Don't forget the Germans were ahead on rocketry and the "bomb". If the Americans hadn't come in (and it was Pearl Harbour that did that) they, probably, would not have experimented with nuclear weapons and the Germans would have been, then, in a position to beat anyone.

Life is full of "ifs", though, isn't it? That's another story.

The apprentices' cabin, in Caltex, was next to the Chief Officer. I don't remember steam pipe problems. The Americans hadn't got around to fitting a/c in those days --- everywhere was hot in the Gulf!

Split

Split
1st May 2007, 12:18
The Liberties had another difference over the Forts in that they were welded.
This was a concept that was to make some them break up in the Arctic convoys. Does anyone know anything about that?

Split

Split
1st May 2007, 12:44
When quoting statistics people can make figures say whatever they want to as we full well know as the accountants steadily, and rather quickly dismantled the British Merchant Navy in the 70's a feat the U-boats were never going to do in WW II.

Barnsey

I don't want to beat our American friends' drum too much- they are quite capable of doing that for themselves, but, although the British Merchant Navy existed, in 1948, when I was apprenticed with them, Counties Ship Management was reported to have 135 WWII American and Canadian built freighters under bareboat charter. Ask those who worked for other well known British shipping companies and they will, probably, tell a similar story.

Even P&O had Victory ships, I saw them regularly in Colombo. Their destinctive silhouettes were seen with monotonous regularity all over the world. Where would we have been without this tonnage in the postwar years?

I sailed as third and second mate on a German built, requisitioned "Empire" ship. What a heap of old junk that was!

Split

barnsey
1st May 2007, 13:22
Split ..... the cracking up of the Liberties .... and the T2's ..... was again not as big a problem as myth would have it .... I have the details elswhere .... sure some broke ... they do today as well don't they?

On Worcester, sitting on the Thames at Greenhithe from 1955 - 1959 the whole world went by on their way to and from London Docks ....we saw them all ..... by the heck I wish we had had the digital cameras we have today. Still we have Lawrence Dunns pics thank goodness and ... memory. you are quite right ... life is full of ifs.

Went on the Universe Daphne on her maiden voyage loading in Mina in 1961 and to my eye she was little advanced on the T2, steel cabins, tubular steel chairs, ss sinks ... but by crikey she carried over 100,000 tons of oil. Which reminds me being American I wonder if they were short tons or long tons ...? and another puzzle .... harping back to our WWII ... why did they always quote tonnages in GRT .... we all know GRT is "fictitional" look at the ruddy container ship and other freaks of today ... GRT applied to them means nothing.

Barnsey

Split
1st May 2007, 13:55
Yes, I agree, the American ships were not pretty with their furnishings but it was more useful. Why were the rest of the world's ships not like that? The Canadian Forts I sailed in had nicely polished wooden furnishings but, if you wanted to use the sink provided, you had to fill it with a bucket and put a bucket underneath to catch it afterwards. T2s had shower, sink and toilet.

I must confess that I would have to check the textbook to learn of what registered tonnage consisted! We. always, used dwt, didn't we?

barnsey
1st May 2007, 14:20
Split ... yup deadweight ... exactly what you carried on a loaded draft. Described as Short Tons, Metric Tons and Long Tons and never never never never never never ... get me? NEVER tonnes. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!!

Night matey

Barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
1st May 2007, 20:38
I read with disbelief Barnsey's assertion that U.Boats had lots of problems (doesn't everybody in wartime!), that their torpedoes had a 50% failure rate and that "everything started turning pear shaped for them in 1942", and that they were not really a threat to the nation's survival at all.
When I eventually joined the Blue Funnel Line in 1943 they had just lost their 48th ship, half the fleet & most by U.Boats. If that wasn't a threat to the nation's survival I can't begin to imagine what was. It was the same for most companies.
Initially, attacks on convoys can only be described as a massacre. That was when they got inside the convoy on the surface and reduced the escorting escort vessels to little more than rescue vessels. That tactic had to change when some brave soul decided that the only way to deal with that was to illuminate the convoy; a tactic that had previously been thought of as suicidal. At this stage the U.Boat commanders became a little overconfident and as a result, in the course of a week or so, lost 3 of their aces, Prien amongst them.
It is quite incorrect to assert that Hitler hindered Donitz in his U.Boat strategy. Hitler's major concern rested with the failures of the German capital ships under the command of Grand Admiral Raeder. He was given his marching orders and was eventually superseded by Donitz. The U.Boat crews continued to be regarded as the elite of the elite and every support was offered to them by Hitler, and the production of U.Boats proceeded apace with the realisation that they were the only means available that was capable of breaking that Atlantic supply line.
As Churchill was frequently heard to comment, the U.Boat threat was the only thing that really worried him about the outcome of the war.
I strongly recommend the reading of Cajus Bekker's, Hitler's Naval War, and Jurgen Rohwer's, The Critical Convoy Battles of March 1943.

jim brindley
2nd May 2007, 11:14
The Liberties had another difference over the Forts in that they were welded.
This was a concept that was to make some them break up in the Arctic convoys. Does anyone know anything about that?

Split we rivitted a steel band around around our liberties after a few split in to just before the bridge .we called them samboats all ours started with sam . cheers old sinner jim in oz

barnsey
2nd May 2007, 12:58
Hugh,

I am not suprised you read with disbelief my assertion. Until I started reading this year the books now available and with an open mind I would have been of the same opinion.

With the greatest respect to you I really recommend you read the two volumes by Clay Blair. They are compelling and factual. Those figures I have quoted regarding the convoys between 1939 - end of 1941 are factual and backed by several different sources.

Yes its agreed that the number of ships lost were horrific, the U-boats sank some 1,125 overall in that period of time but the fact remains and I quote Blair "even in those years 1939 - Dec 1941 the British Commonwealth more than made good on these losses by new construction and by aquisition of shipping from the USA, german occupied nations such as Norway, France, Belgium the Netherlands and Greece. At the end of 1941, the British controlled merchant fleet, including tankers was larger by about 3 million tons than it was in 1939".

Then came the 8 month Dec 1941 - August 1942 when the U-boats attacked the American shipping. Quote again ... "That campaign destroyed about 600 Allied ships for about 3 million tons, but by then American shipyards, employing tens of thousands of people were mass producing "Liberty ships", Tankers and other types at prodigious rates not only making good all Allied merchant ship losses but also swelling the size of the combined Allied fleet to undreamed of tonnages."

Churchill also found out that there was a huge amount of tonnage in ports awaiting simple repairs due to inefficiencies and organised that they be got to sea. That alone produced an enormous effect.

The illuminating of the scene was one thing but more importantly was the change of tactics and the training that reversed the U-boats fortunes. They incessantly chatted to each other and B-Dienst while gathering the 'Wolf Pack", the escorts had very accurate RDF called Huff-Duff and ran down the bearing until they came to the U-boat and either attacked or forced them to submerge ....just one of the changes. By May 1943 it was more or less all over for the U-boats as the tactics and training came to the fore and most importantly long range aircraft and Jeep carriers protected the convoys. From then on out the U-boats were sunk faster than they could be produced and experienced commanders could be found for them.

Hitler was defintely detrimental to Donitz operational plans for the U-boats. Donitz wanted the tonnage war, wolf packs focussing to seek and hunt the convoys in the Atlantic and starve Britain. True Hitler was disgusted with the performance of the capital ships and wanted them laid up but he insisted that precious numbers of U-boats were retained in Norway as he had a phobia that Britain was going to counter attack there. He insisted more were sent to the Medditereanean area again reducing the effectiveness of the Atlantic battle. The U-boats did not have radar, they did not know we had cracked Enigma and were routing convoys around the Wolf packs so they needed every U-boat available to set up the lines to detact the convoys.

Illuminating the convoy was as you say a debateable tactic as by then the escorts had radar, Huff Duff and a variety of other items so anything on the surface was fairly detectable with or without.

I will certainly try to get a copy of the books you offer but in return you must also read the two books I have quoted including these are comparitively modern books using previously Classified material and thus revealing details which make all the difference. A must is Gunter Hesslers book "The U-boat war of the Atlantic" written for the Royal Navy and which was a classifed book. There you will find out the staement that the problems the U-boats had with their boats, equipment and people is quite correct. Thank goodness they did. The statement that they did not stand a chance from the start is not fancy its fact. Granted they made a hell of a fist of it but they were caught at the start with insufficient U-boats and most of what they had were not suitable for the Atlantic Battle. Throughout, just as things were going right for them events changed... be it weather, escort tactics, Enigma, USA entered the war, long range aircraft, hedgehog, Biscay aircraft patrols, Leigh lights. In that time all they could do was produce the same type VII U-boats. Their Milch Cows were sunk. Increasingly experienced commanders and crews were killed or captured. The battle itself was stopped and started by Donitz for various valid reasons.

Hugh the story is terrifying, fascinating and far from simple but with all the facts we now have it has to be realised the U-boats were never going to be able to carry out Donitzs plan ... starve Britain to submission.

Churchill made some masterfull speeches most of which were calculated to have an effect and they did but the one you quoted was I understand made after the war.

A good debate .... now a question ... did you know John Gregson Nav. App. on the Duecalion ?? he is down here in NZ. A fine fellow and much admired.

barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
2nd May 2007, 22:21
David,
Well I'm blowed! Fancy you coming up with that very familiar name, John Gregson, Lloyd's War Medal, and fancy yet another name to add to the list of people I have heard, or known, who have gone to live in New Zealand.
It's only recently that I noted the death of Roger Hill in N.Z., commander of HMS LEDBURY in Pedestal Convoy. I wonder if either of you knew him!?
I don't think I ever bumped into John but it is a possibility.

Well, thankyou for your lengthy response to my submission. The first thing that comes into my mind is that I cannot ever recall anybody I ever knew, or whose account I ever read, who ever had any doubt that that the greatest threat to our survival was the U.Boat. It has even been suggested that losing the Battle of Britain would not have been the end, but losing the Battle of the Atlantic would most definitely have been curtains. March 1943 was certainly a defining moment but they didn't give up even then: wolf pack tactics were abandoned and they still still never gave up; losing 200 boats in 1944.
My interest in this subject arose initially in Nov.1945, at the time I had returned from my last wartime voyage and made the acquaintance of Werner Muller P.O.W. who had been the 2nd watch keeping officer in U.190. Another of my friends has been a Bill Holman, 2nd Lieut. HMS VOLUNTEER (Atlantic convoy escort destroyer), and a lady who worked in Bletchley Park breaking the Enigma code. Amongst my 100 or so books on the subject I give pride of place to those by Gretton, Wemyss, Rayner, Macintyre, Roger Hill, and of course the famed and glorious rebel, "Johnny" Walker CB, DSO & 3bars
He was a passed over naval officer who had made the mistake of specialising in anti submarine warfare. It was his persistance in setting up a system of hunting down and sinking U.Boats before they had even got to the convoys which, together with code breaking, American long range Liberators, &, so called Woolworth Carriers, plus of course radar. But none of these tactics got going until we had come within an ace of abandoning the convoy system which would most definitely have heralded the end.
Another of my old friends (and once a colleague) was a Graham Allen, 4th mate of the RHEXENOR who was made captive when his ship was sunk by U.217. He had his 21st birthday whilst there. You can't get more first hand knowledge than that. I can't say I'm all that interested in history rewritten; such a lot of it about these days. Hugh.

barnsey
2nd May 2007, 23:19
Hugh,

I am so pleased with your response in many ways. John Gregson was a pilot in Tauranga and we had him aboard many times. He is an exceptional fellow, quiet and genial at all times. He was awarded the George medal for saving the life who was trapped down aft, he swam the pair of them away from the by then fiercely burning and sinking Duecalion. He has been back to Malta for the celebrations often and is much respected down here. Another Malta convoy lad was Dave Lochead, his ship was Rochester Castle. He was master on one of my tankers down here and an Old Worcester, another fine fellow who has now passed on. John may well know of Roger Hill ... HMS Ledbury of course I have read of.

Beyond doubt losing the Battle of the Atlantic would have been the end which was precisely Donitzs objective. But it was all wrecked for him right from the start. Raeder wanted his bloody pocket battleships and such. He would not allow to be build the submarines of the type or quantity that Donitz needed. Then Hitler went to war before they were ready and Donitz had but a "few" ( nowhere near enough ) U-boats to carry out his campaign ... the tonnage war. Throughout Hitler and his high command interfered diverting U-boats to tasks other than Donitzs tonnage war. Hitler interferd in so many things ... the Me 262, the jet. It was meant to be a fighter, he demanded it be a bomber. They ( the allies) reckoned that to assasinate Hitler would be the wrong thing as he was helping the Allies so much with these sort of caper. His biggest blunder of course was to attack Russia. Eventually Hitler was rid of Raeder who spat the dummy and Donitz was able to be more effective. But it was all too late. Make no mistake I am well aware that the U-boat was one of the biggest threats and had they listened to Donitz things may well have been different. His U-boat crews were the elite of their navy, elite in skills, loyalty to Donitz and professionalism. However they, who were there at the end came to realise just how many lies they had been told about new weapons coming and how they had been used as fodder in a hopeless situation.

The new XX1 boats and Schnorkel were nowhere near the threat made out to be as they arrived too late. The Schnorkel needed a lot of developement and those that did reach action were not the be all and end all. Operating them needed much skill which had to be developed and it could be detected by radar ...... I am amazed at just what the Allies could detect with their radar!! Oh yes its a fascinating subject.

I hear what you say about History re written, so much of it about and I agree. However you have to choose and certain books are excellent particularly "Blair", "van der Vat" and "Tarrant" on this subject. But you cannot be that bad as you are fine on the computer and that is modern.

David

Hugh Ferguson
3rd May 2007, 19:58
I still have some further comments to contribute to this fascinating thread (which I note has been awarded a 5* rating. How very astute are those moderators!). However, I will need to do a bit more research to make absolutely certain that the views I express will stand up to the challenges they are receiving.
Meanwhile, may I suggest that anyone who wishes to become well informed about U.Boats goes to the following site. You will need to become a member in order to access all of the information offered: it's a mere formality and costs nothing.
http://www.uboat.net/conningtower

oldbosun
4th May 2007, 01:41
The Americans respected their seamen and took care of them however they could while British sailors were off pay as soon as they were torpedoed.

Split
I too thought that was true for many years Split, but from a book that I have it appears that is not to be the case.

In "Survivors" 'British Merchant Seamen in the Second World War' by BH & R Bennet. Hambleton Press 1999, it states in the chapter "Safe at Last"
".............................it is not correct to suppose that survivors received no payment for the time they spent in lifeboats or awaiting repatriation. In December 1939 the Ministry of Shipping accepted a proposal from the shipowners that the pay of survivors should continue for one month after the loss of a ship or until they returned to the United Kingdom, whichever was the longer."

It goes on to state that there was a scale of recompense according to rank or rating for loss of clothing, carpenters tools, navigation aids such as a sextant etc.

For instance 100 pounds for a Captain and 50 pounds for ticketed officers, eventually increased to 150 and 100 pounds respectively with 90 pounds for a carpenter, 25 and 20 for AB's, Firemen, and boys.

I did sail soon after the war was finished with many men who had been torpedoed and survived time in lifeboats but I don't recollect the subject of pay ever coming up. As a matter of fact, in retrospect my recollections are that most men were quite reticent in talking of their wartime experiences and this at a time when it was all fresh in everyone's mind.
I did sail with a man that was taken prisoner early in the war and spent many years a prisoner of the Germans. I never did think to ask him if he was on pay all that time as would be an armed forces serviceman.
Maybe somebody here will know the answer.........Peter

K urgess
4th May 2007, 01:46
According to the 1943 edition of "The Shipmaster's Business Companion" -

"Under the Merchant Shipping Act a seaman's wages terminate in case of wreck or loss of the vessel, but this has now been overruled by the Merchant Shipping (International Labour Conventions) Act, 1925, which reads as follows in Section I of that Act."

"Where by reason of the wreck or loss of a ship on which a seaman is employed his service terminates before the date contemplated in the agreement, he shall, not withstanding anything in Section 158 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1924, but subject to the provisions of this section, be entitled, in respect of each day on which he is, in fact, unemployed during a period of two months from the date of termination of the service, to receive wages at the rate to which he was entitled at that date."

This can, of course, only be applied to survivors. There was no obligation to pay wages to the next of kin of those who did not survive. This may have led to some confusion because widows and families were left with nothing from the date the ship sank.
Cheers
Kris

Bernard McIver
4th May 2007, 02:10
Barnsey, Why are you basing your assertions on the statistics for selected "Principle" homeward bound convoys, and how do they differ from any other convoys in the same period? What about the ships lost in outward bound convoys and the potential cargoes lost? One point that appears to have been overlooked in these discussions is that shipping was now required to maintain the total war effort, not just feed Britain.
I agree with Hugh that a lot more research is needed to fuel this interesting debate.
Bernard

barnsey
4th May 2007, 02:18
Hugh .... You are right the http://www.uboat.net website is excellent however you are not quite correct in that the membership side "Conningtower" is not free it costs US$45.

Looking forward to the next posts .... very interesting.

Barnsey

Split
4th May 2007, 06:26
we rivitted a steel band around around our liberties after a few split in to just before the bridge .we called them samboats all ours started with sam . cheers old sinner jim in oz

Now that you mention it, I remember hearing about that, although I never sailed on one, myself.

Split

oldbosun
4th May 2007, 20:41
I was on "Corabank" ex "Samfleet" and I do remember that she had two steel bands each side, port and starboard, running all the way fore and aft, and two under the bottom running fore and aft all the way. They were 1ft wide and 2" inches thick. These were fitted after she was built.
I remember them well because when we drydocked in Auckland we were hired to paint her for the princely sum for those days of 7 shillings an hour. A small fortune in those days for us when I was making 12 pounds ten shillings a month.

Bernard McIver
5th May 2007, 00:53
Barnsey, The more I read your postings the more questions come to mind.
Your comment that magnetic mines and contact torpedoes had a 50% failure rate simply implies that they had a 50% success rate! Not a bad result. Incidentally how would you be able to judge the effectiveness of a magnetic mine? As for only having 30% of U-boats on patrol, surely this is just a logistic problem which would exist no matter how many were in the fleet.
If your quotes are accurate, and not out of context, then it would appear that there is a fair amount of bias in these books. Will certainly try to obtain them. Thanks for opening up this topic.
Bernard

barnsey
5th May 2007, 04:06
Bernard .... like Hugh, I will do more study. No the books are not biased, just uses a lot more information a lot of which was classified when early accounts were written. Clay Blairs books are fascinating as are Tarrants and Hessler. All are objective, without trying to pull the wool over anyones eyes. As they say "The truth hurts".

Hugh made a very good point about how effective Convoy was .... yet at the beginning of WW II the RN were very slow to get their act and reluctantly at that, to get Convoying organised in spite of the fairly recent lessons of WW I and the statistical evidence from that war regarding the effectiveness of Convoy. Convoys in WW I although not nearly as efficient as WW II proved they worked. The WW I escorts had virtually no way of detecting or attacking a submerged U-boat and there was only 1 case of a U-boat being sunk by an aircraft.


WW II became a very different matter as Escorts were fitted with evermore effective weapons in Asdic, Huff-Duff, Radar, Depth charges, Hedgehog and Squid. Then Aircraft to assist the escorts in Convoy protection and became increasingly the major killers of U-boats. So why in the hell the RN procrastinated over getting them set up in WW II beggars belief.

Regarding the failures of the torpedos both Magnet and "Contact Pistol" ( for the want of the correct description at the moment ) and without opening a book to be exact, one of the 3 aces ... lets say Prien was in a Norwegian Fjord and fired 5 (?) torpedos at a few ships who had anchored. Both Prien and the ships were stationary .... not one of the torpedos worked. Dontiz and those commanders bitterly complained about the ineffectiveness of their torpedos and it took until well over a year into the war to get them right ... its a subject in itself ... I'll look up the correct details later today..... just suffice to say thank God they were deficient. The contact pistol was only put right when they captured one of our submarines off Aalborg and studied her torpedos.....and used the pistol design in their own torpedos !!!

I'll come back with a properly put together post ....just didnt want you to think you had been ignored.

Barnsey

barnsey
5th May 2007, 10:50
Ok ... back again Bernard ... German torpedos. The torpedos were subsequently found to have been passed for service after only roughly a couple of test runs in peacetime. The torpedo staff were courtmartialled and 3 "Patsies" were jailed for 6 months and returned to their posts...the ones higher up got away with it of course.

There were basically 3 reasons for the failure ... depth control, the torpedo developers knew of the fault but did not think it significant. The magnetic pistol was overly sensitive and so the area of use ie Narvik in high latitudes, large magnetic anomalies and the inaccurate depth control all rendered them susceptable. The Contact pistol required the topedo to hit at right angles so if the torpedo hit at an angle or curve it more often than not failed.

Figures give 25% failures leading to 41% misses.

Reverting to Prien in U47 during the Norway campaign ... he fired 4 torpeods while submerged...they all failed. He surfaced and fired 4 more, 1 exploded against a rock wall having had a gyro failure the others failed.

It was 2 years before the Germans had reliable torpedos. Donitz's report of June 1940 was damming of the torpedo supply arm. The capture of the British Submarine HMS Seal and the examination of her torpedos let the Germans copy the contact pistol and use it on their own torpedos.

I wouldnt know about the magnetic mine I am only quoting the magnetic torpedos .... but I believe there were similar problems with the magnetic mine. The deguassing of ships was very successfull in conteracting both. remember the huge coils of copper wire running around the ship along the deck edge? The magnetic torpedo was very much more liable to sink a ship than the contact as it exploded under the keel and broke the back of the ship.

....... and so it goes ... the ups and downs of both sides. The winters in the training grounds of the Baltic and the German yards effected things. Always the German high command demanding the U-boat arm to supply boats to do things other than sink ships....one instance to provide 4 U-boats to escort a raider was successfully refused by Donitz but in many instances he was ordered to supply boats against his plan ..... which was all to the good for the allies. The Norway campaign in 1940 caused the withdrawal of U-boats from the Atlantic and again in 43-45 Hitlers paranoia with the Allies trying to regain Norway diluted Donitz's Atlantic efforts. by which time of course the Allies had more or less complete air coverage, superior A/S capabilities including detection and weapons. The U-boats were still the same basic type VII.

Barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
5th May 2007, 13:37
At the moment I am deep into TARRANT'S, The U.Boat Offensive, 1914/45; a book I'd forgotten I had. Meanwhile a comment about 50% torpedo failures. I simply cannot accept that that was of much concern to Der U.Boot Waffe.
Whenever I scan through the 73 pages of the lists of ships torpedoed (53 ships of all nationalities on each page) there must have been an awful lot of torpedoes that did not fail, especially when you take into account the fact that, more often than not, more than one was needed to sink the victim.
Let us not forget that it was not only the British who suffered this appalling onslaught:you would be astonished at the number of times the letters sw (for Swedish) appear next to the name of the ship, and then there were the Norwegian, the Dutch, Greek, American, French, Danish, Panamanian, Egyptian, Russian and many others who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Of interest to those following this thread would be a site dedicated to Captain Johnny Walker R.N., CB, DSO & 3 bars, (god bless his soul),
http://www.mikekemble.com/ww2/walker.html

barnsey
5th May 2007, 14:42
Hugh .... thats great that you have Tarrants book its excellent ....

See Torpedo failures (German) pages 83, 87-9 110 ... I think you will see that contrary to your ..... "I simply cannot accept that that was of much concern to Der U.Boot Waffe"......Donitz was exceptionally concerned to the extent he had a full enquiry and the armaments people were really torn up for fodder.

Anyway read on .... its a gerat work.

best regards

David

Hugh Ferguson
5th May 2007, 19:05
Hugh .... thats great that you have Tarrants book its excellent ....

See Torpedo failures (German) pages 83, 87-9 110 ... I think you will see that contrary to your ..... "I simply cannot accept that that was of much concern to Der U.Boot Waffe"......Donitz was exceptionally concerned to the extent he had a full enquiry and the armaments people were really torn up for fodder.

Anyway read on .... its a gerat work.

best regards

David

Well,he (Donitz) would be concerned wouldn't he, but the crews knew what to expect from a new weapon and took the necessary precautions.
Here is Jost Metzler's-U.69's commander-account of how they went about their business.
"We did not consider the new E.torpedoes sufficiently developed for one to rely on them in serious circumstances. The ship carried 8 torpedoes of the old type, compressor driven (G.VII.a), a developement of the G.VII.v of the 1st w.w., and in addition 4 new G.VII.e torpedoes,electrically driven. The G.VII.a had the disadvantage of leaving a trail of bubbles----------. On the other hand, the G.VII.e was invisible. Obviously there were not enough of the new type to equip a boat on operations with them alone. Before departure the captain was told exactly how many torpedoes of each type his boat would be carrying. It was then entirely up to the captain how, when and for what purposes he used the different types."
Metzler then goes on to describe his first victim which he dispatched with two old type torpedoes. What he didn't know at the time was that the ship, the SIAMESE PRINCE, went down with all hands amongst whom was one of the survivors, Wilbert Roy Widdicombe, from the ANGLO SAXON. He and Robert Tapscott had spent 70 days drifting across the Atlantic in a "jolly" boat . They were the sole survivors and spent many weeks in Nassau recovering from their terrible ordeal. Widdicombe recovered more quickly than Tapscott and was sent up to New York to take passage home as a DBS in the SIAMESE PRINCE. Tapscott survived the war but never really recovered and eventually ended his life whilst still in his 40s.

James MacDonald
5th May 2007, 21:40
My Dad, who was torpedoed 3 times during the war, said Churchill promptly stopped the war bonus Merchant Seaman earned straight after V day. Such was his gratitude to the brave me who kept Britain from starving.

Split
5th May 2007, 22:09
How long do you think that the war bonus should have been paid after the war was over? I'd say that a good pension for seamen disabled in the war is a better argument, but a lot of National Servicemen were much in the same boat, don't you think? If they got a war bonus then certainly, the MN was entitled to the same.

Split

stan mayes
6th May 2007, 00:39
In reply to oldbosun regarding wages being stopped with the loss of a ship..
I was in VIKING STAR - sunk by three torpedoes from U 130 when we were 180 miles SW of Freetown on 25th August 1942..Captain Mills and seven crew were killed..17 survivors were on 3 rafts for 12 days and made the coast of Liberia in 12 days - of 4 lifeboats on the ship,3 were demolished by explosions and I was in the only sound boat with 35 other survivors...We sailed to the coast of Sierra Leone in 5 days . a few days walking through jungle,escorted by natives and sleeping overnight in mud huts until we reached Sherbro and eventually Freetown..
All hands had a spell in hospital suffering malaria and other diseases.Myself and some of the others returned to UK in OTRANTO .
Our pay had stopped on day of sinking and if you had survived as myself,I reported myself as being alive at the Shipping Federation office Tilbury and my pay was backdated from day of sinking to day of arrival in UK..
Only the pay from Blue Star Line was paid.The War Bonus of £12 per month ceased on the day of sinking ....Dependants of seamen who lost their lives received no payments - they had to go on the RO..
Seamen were recompensed at £10 - Bosun £12 and Carpenter £15..it was increased later in the war...
VIKING STAR was expected in Fretown on day after her loss and 4 days after that my parents received a telegram - Ship missing crew presumed dead...
They believed this until my arrival home ...I wrote 2 letters while in Freetown but they were deliverd some days after my homecoming...

stan mayes
6th May 2007, 00:42
To James MacDonald ..The War Bonus did not end on VE Day - we were still at war with Japan..

barnsey
6th May 2007, 01:00
Hugh,

You cannot just dismiss the matter like that ..."Well,he (Donitz) would be concerned wouldn't he" it wasnt only him it was Raeder and the whole High Command. The matter was really serious, thank goodness or we ( the Allies ) would have been in an even worse pickle. As for this statement ..."but the crews knew what to expect from a new weapon and took the necessary precautions." ... they tried all sorts of things and they DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO.

The G7 torpedo propulsion was not the problem, whether electrically or compressed air/petrol driven. It was a) the magnetic pistol b) the contact pistol and c) the depth control.

You quote Metzler as an example in this torpedo debate. Well he did not do his first patrol until AFTER the failures were recognised and some corrective measures had been put in place. Metzler ... from U-boat.net ... "After seven months of training he commissioned U-69 in November 1940. On his first patrol, sailing from Kiel to St. Nazaire, he sank three ships for a total of 18,576 tons.

The torpedo crisis of late 1939 -- early 1940 is one of the less popular stories about the elite German U-Bootwaffe which is probably why its a suprise to you Hugh. Although this was the period during which some of the most outstanding U-boat successes were scored, it was full of bitter disappointments and equally resounding misses as well.

It is a common notion among those interested in the U-boat war that the magnetic firing pistol of the German torpedoes was the 'cause of all evil.' This, however, is only partially true.

On September 17 1939 Kapitänleutenant Glattes of U-39 spotted the HMS Ark Royal in his patrol area and was able to close in on her unnoticed. And there occurred the first major disappointment of the U-boat war. Glattes fired a salvo of three torpedoes with magnetic pistols at the carrier, all of which exploded prematurely. Worse yet, the failed attack revealed the boat's position to the escort and the destroyers quickly sank U-39. The crew was saved.

On October 30th 1939 Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Zahn of U-56 sighted in his area a truly juicy formation: the battleships Rodney, Nelson, the battle cruiser Hood and a dozen destroyers. With great daring and skill, Zahn eluded the destroyer screen and struck Nelson with a salvo of three. The impact pistol torpedoes clearly slammed against the ship's hull and…simply fell apart. The commander was so depressed by this misfortune for which he was not to blame in the least that Dönitz took him off active duty for a while.

The real torpedo crisis unfolded during Operation Weserübung - the largest amphibious operation in German history, the invasion of Norway. Late on April 15 1940 Gunther Prien of U-47 ( Of Scapa Flow fame ) arrived at Bydgenfjord and spotted three large British transports (some 30,000 GRT each) and several smaller ones disembarking troops in fishing boats. Immediately the Raging Bull fired 8 torpedoes with impact pistols at the stationary and overlapping targets, but all of them failed.

Again on April 19th 1940 Gunther Prien closed in on the Warspite and lobbed in a salvo of two. Those, too, were failures, which robbed the Kriegsmarine of a much-needed respite. What were the causes for these stupendous failures?

Admiral Dönitz vehemently set out to track down the reasons for the torpedo disaster and to lend a helping hand to his talented men as fast as possible. After an emergency conference with representatives of Naval High Command and the Torpedo Department, Dönitz concluded that magnetic interference from the fjords did, after all, affect the magnetic torpedoes. It was also found that the essential problem with the impact-pistol torpedo Mark G7e was that its depth-keeping gear ran off base, causing the torpedo to run 6 feet deeper than set depth and simply pass beneath its target. Thus, writes Dönitz, "we found ourselves equipped with a torpedo that refused to function in northern waters either with contact or with magnetic pistols." The compromise decision was to use magnetic firing (Mark G7a) except when near to fjords, where the magnetic pull was considerable and often caused premature detonations.

A commission was set up in mid-April 1940 to investigate the case thoroughly. The commission came out with a comprehensive report in late July 1940, which placed a considerable blame on the Torpedo Department. The TD, it was found, had supplied the boats with the new magnetic firing pistol with four-blade propellers before it had undergone the necessary trials. Consequently, the personnel of the Torpedo Experimental Institute responsible for that SNAFU were court-martialed and sentenced to prison terms.

Although the negligence of the Institute had been established, it was not until February 1942 that the U-Bootwaffe got to the heart of the matter.

On January 30 1942, the crew of U-94 made a little extra effort and conducted an on-board examination of their torpedoes in mid-Atlantic. They thus discovered an excess pressure in the torpedoes' balance chambers, where the hydrostatic valve controlling the depth at which the 'fish' ran was located. When they radioed back their findings, the Inspector of the Torpedo Department ordered a check on board all submarines in port. Half of the torpedoes were found to have the same problem, and the mystery of the torpedoes' deeper-than-set-depth run was finally fathomed. The results of this and later investigations were summed up into a Memorandum by Grand Admiral Raeder on Feb 9, 1942. The torpedo crisis was thus ultimately brought to an end, though by that time it was too late. In July 1942, the Allied shipbuilding capacity for the first time surpassed the U-boats' rate of sinking (which was then particularly high). The U-Bootwaffe never caught up again.

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
6th May 2007, 02:01
The War Bonus was actually described as War Risk Money. I signed off my last voyage in November 1945 and was paid this up to that date. Incidentally I received 10 Pounds per month Risk Money. Seems I was shortchanged! For VJ day I received a Bonus of 5days pay, 13/4d.
Bernard

stan mayes
6th May 2007, 11:43
Hello Bernard,
I have checked my Account of Wages for various ships and as you state it is War Risk Money,but only on my ships during the war. Postwar I have SAMPEP Oct to Dec 1945 ..Extras - War Bonus......DALLINGTON COURT Jan to Nov 1946..Extras - War Bonus ...It seems the danger money was paid long after the war ended,possibly as there was still a danger from mines..
I also checked BRITISH MERIT for VJ Day and found I received £1 and 12 pence bonus....
I joined BRITISH MERIT on 28th June 1946 and we took aboard many drums of BTC colour paint and outward to Corpus Christi we began painting the ship in her company colours -- it was a very pleasant duty after 6 years of crabfat grey..
The day after sailing from Texas homeward,the first atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima...

barnsey
6th May 2007, 12:13
Stan and the others .... thank you very much for those enlightening glimpses of conditions of pay ... sobering information. The lovely bit about painting the ship in company colours seems to "open the windows and let the light in' and I can well imagine everyones excitement and pleasure.

Thank you

barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
6th May 2007, 13:34
How very nice to see Stan join this interesting thread; not that I need an ally, but one is always welcome especialy one who, unlike me, went through everything from beginning to the bitter end. I'll be back soon.

stan mayes
6th May 2007, 13:40
Barnsey, Another condition of pay was that we signed Articles and accepted Monthly Pay ie a 30 day month..so shipowners gained 8 unpaid days work during each year ....Am I correct in this ?

barnsey
6th May 2007, 22:12
Stan, Hugh,

Stan I am not too sure how that 30 day month worked so cannot comment. You are talking to a youngster here. I was born in January 1942.

Hugh please dont think I am your enemy or worse, Bolshy far from it. Just trying to get a more appropriate picture of the Battle of the Atlantic through the mists of myth and propaganda of both sides now classified information is published and analised into decent stastics which show the whole canvas.

You debate extremely well. I appreciate your time, patience and memories we need them.

Barnsey

jim brindley
7th May 2007, 10:37
they took war bonuse away but after rethink kept our wages the same .old pom jim in oz .p.s its along time ago but i think a a.b. was 24 pound a month.

Hugh Ferguson
7th May 2007, 13:42
I've just spent a week searching for a book, which I felt sure rested in my archives, and was beginning to doubt if in fact, it did. But then, as reminiscent of previous occasions, it appeared right under my nose!
It is very relevant to this subject of U.Boats never, even from the beginning, having a chance of blockading Britain, and the troubles they allegedly had with malfunctioning torpedoes.
The book is by Wolfgang Frank and was purchased by me for 15 shillings when new in 1954. Frank was a crew member in U.47 and had access to Prien's diaries. Chapter V is entitled, Failure at Narvik, and only a cursory mention is given to suspected torpedo failure. Most of the "bad luck" attending the failed operation featured two groundings one of which occurred immediately after firing a torpedo, of unstated design, near the sandbank on which the U.47 stranded. That was the torpedo that, not surprisingly, altered course and hit a cliff! Four other torpedoes failed in this unusual environment for a U.Boat to be operating and I don't doubt that Prien made the most of it when he reported to the Admiral. Hitler would no doubt have gone into one of his carpet chewing routines and sent for Raeder & Doenitz, telling them that good German technology must never again be seen to fail, and it wasn't!
In none of the other U.Boat commander's accounts can I find any concern expressed about torpedoes:Werner Muller and his mate Herbert never made any mention to me of such a problem. I think that Blair makes a mountain out of a mole-hill. Two depth bombs dropped on U.47 by a Sunderland failed to explode, so Prien hadn't been entirely unlucky.
Der U.Boote Waffe didn't really pose a great threat until they established bases in La Pallice, St. Nazaire, Bordeaux, Lorient & Brest. There the most amazing efforts were made with the use of thousands in forced labour to construct indistructable bomb shelters for the boats. Not exactly an exercise to be undertaken for a force that had already, allegedly, failed and which went on to sink approximately 4,000 ships. And that was just the German U.Boats; what about the Italians. One of the most devastating salvoes of torpedoes ever fired came from an Italian sub..
As everyone who knows anything at all about the war at sea, the 2nd Happy Time for the U.boats was on the American coast and that resulted from the U.S Navy's analysis of appalling British losses in convoy and their determination not to make the same mistake. They had failed to take into account that we were building escort vessels that were not fast enough to
catch a U.Boat on the surface. I will never forget listening to Bill Holman (in a borrowed U.S. Coastguard cutter on this occasion would you believe) trying to land a shell on a U.Boat fast disappearing over the horizon!
And then of course there were the surface raiders. All of this not a threat to our survival! Tell that to the Marines.

Keith Adams
7th May 2007, 18:53
I may have missed someone elses comment on it, but ... the most factual book I have read about U-Boat operations in WWll is Andrew Williams' book The Battle of THe Atlantic which accompanied the BBC Television Series of 2002 Published by BBC Worldwide Ltd, Woodlands, 80 Wood Lane, London W12 OTT ISBN 0 563 53429 X Cost was Pounds 16.99 and a terriffic read ... exclusive interviews and first-hand accounts (much akin to "our" stan mayes), including those given for the first time by members of former U-Boat crews. Trust this info. will be of use to someone. Deepest thanks to all who served. Regards, Snowy

barnsey
8th May 2007, 15:10
Hugh,

I am sorry but I have now quoted to you from Tarrants book which you have and I gave you the page reference. U-boat net who again you quoted at me as being good. Hessler who not only was an ace U-boat commander but was also a senior staff officer of Donitz in U-boat HQ. Hessler's book is an official account commissioned by the Royal Navy and is published by The BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, Dan van der Vat "The Atlantic campaign" and also Wolfgang Frank "The Sea Wolves" the story of german U-boats at war, published in English 1955 price 21/- net...... it is now a classic book by the way and I paid NZ$30 or £11.09 so you should make a good profit on it. All make it quite clear that a serious crisis with their torpedos existed causing great concern to high command through until Jan 1942.

You must take into consideration that various auto biographical books take place at different stages. Most of the early U-boat commanders were killed and did not get a chance to relate their stories of the first two years which is when the defects occured. But all in depth books which cover the whole U-boat war relate it in detail.

Blair does not make mountains out of a mole hill ... his two books, of 809 and 909 pages are very serious authorative, cross referenced, detailed analysis of the Battle of the Atlantic using material and relating the story from both the Allied ( that is British, American and Canadian ) and Germans.

To get back right to the subject at the commencement of this thread.

From 1939 to the end of 1942 although the losses sustained by the Allies were horrendous the gains from European fleets, other sources such as charters and improved efficiencies in getting damaged ships back to sea and cargos discharged faster the overall tonnage under allied control was maintained.

Because of withdrawals caused by Hitler with his Norwegian campaign and continuing phobia re Norway plus other factors such as damage, weather and lack of U-boat numbers, the steady introduction of Convoy, the gradual building of escorts and improvement in their tactics and weapons the U-boat achievements were blunted thank God or matters although very serious would have been at the brink of the success Donitz had planned.

At the beginning of 1943 the climax of the losses were reached, that they were huge is not denied. But equally the Americans and the allies were now seeing the shipbuilding efforts coming to fruition. May 1943 saw the worst month for U-boats up to that time when some 38 were sunk.

Aircraft, "Jeep" carriers, training, weapons and detection methods were all finding their feet and the U-boats although continuing to sink a large number of ships were doomed.

So it is urged that the "Battle of the Atlantic" is read in depth, across the board and from all angles with the facts as analised with the full information from both sides now to hand. Even in mid 1970's a lot of information was still only just being declassified. There were huge sacrifices and bravery, but everyone rallied around and found different ways of doing things in all walks of life and thanks to Hitlers "Carpet Chewing Rages" as Hugh so aptly puts it things while close were not at the depths of despair that Churchills words depicted. He might have been worried but the staff he had bashed into shape earlier were well in control and managing the situation .... Quality not quantity although Quantity was just around the corner with the Liberties, Victories and our beloved T2's.
I'm off to bed....

K urgess
8th May 2007, 17:21
Ain't hindsight wonderful!
The statistics didn't matter at the time. Germany was vastly superior in arms on all fronts so any success or setback was magnified a thousandfold. Up until 1943 Hitler's "carpet chewing" had led to some remarkable successes and it was only after the "tide turned" that he lost the plot.
Trying to supply a country the size of Britain with materials to fight a war and sustain a population by sea meant that the loss of even one merchant ship was a disaster. Not just because of the material lost but because of the effect on morale. After Dunkirk with the enemy camped on your doorstep this was not a happy country.
Enigma may have helped the allies to fight the enemy but it mustn't be forgotten that they were reading British signals just as fast thanks to the Beobachtungs-Dienst.
Geoffrey Jones in his book "Autumn of the U-boats" states that he checked his statistics and was struck by the fact that, of the 34 U-boats sunk during the period he covers (8th September to 5th October, 1943), U220, U422, U419, U643, U470, U282, U540 and U842 (8 in total) were all sunk on their first patrol and all of them set out from Bergen in Norway. Britain had the same worries about Norway that Hitler had. It was expected that it would become the last bastion of Nazism. Plus any mention of Tripitz had the RN tied up and convoys scattered at the slightest hint of a prospective sortie.
BTW Geoffrey Jones mentions a video of a Canadian film called "K-225" made aboard a Flower Class corvette in 1943. Does anyone know if this is commercially available?
Kris

Jim MacIntyre
8th May 2007, 18:22
Marconi Sahib
Re : Corvette 'K-225' check with www.downunderdvd.com. I trawled the site for a while unable to specifically locate it but supposedly this movie is available in his classic movie combination collections. At leat you can e-mail him and ask...
Cheers
Jim Mac

Jim MacIntyre
8th May 2007, 18:26
Marconi Sahib
Check that last... The movie is listed in his 'Adventure, Mystery and Noir' section Movies A-D
Good luck
Jim Mac

K urgess
8th May 2007, 20:13
Thanks Jim Mac
I hadn't realised it was a movie, thought it might be a documentary made by the RCN
Cheers
Kris

barnsey
9th May 2007, 09:23
Kris,
Thanks for your contribution ... how right you are in all you say .... I have only just got my copy of Autumn of the U-boats... it has a whole bit about a good friend hedley Kett and his sub Ultimatum .. I am desperately trying to confirm his sinking of a u-boat off Toulon.... its a mystery.

I also want the other Geoffrey Jones book. Sub verses U-boat....its pricey
I have a film taken aboard HMW Wren and others ... its great I'll get the details...

Barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
9th May 2007, 19:40
Stan, Hugh,

Stan I am not too sure how that 30 day month worked so cannot comment. You are talking to a youngster here. I was born in January 1942.

Hugh please dont think I am your enemy or worse, Bolshy far from it. Just trying to get a more appropriate picture of the Battle of the Atlantic through the mists of myth and propaganda of both sides now classified information is published and analised into decent stastics which show the whole canvas.

You debate extremely well. I appreciate your time, patience and memories we need them.

Barnsey

I would not care to have been a U.Boat threat denier, suggesting to the ships masters at a convoy conference in 1943, that the threat was non-existant. I wonder what they would have thought of that proposition!?
(See GALLERY; Life On Board).

I'm beginning to detect, what I would call, an Anthony Wedgewood Benn syndrome around this re-writing of history-whatever my country does is wrong, or, whatever those ship masters and their crews had to endure was nothing much to be concerned about at all, because the threat from German, Italian and Japanese submarines was just a figment of an over excited imagination.

stan mayes
9th May 2007, 19:59
Well said Hugh

Bernard McIver
10th May 2007, 00:28
Barnsey,
I share the view of Hugh and Stan. This debate has degenerated into discussing the technical problems and internal wranglings experienced by the Germans. With respect, the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic was determined by what COULD BE and WAS done, not what MIGHT HAVE BEEN and WAS NOT done.

Here is as quote from a paper written by Richard M Leighton dealing with the deliberations of the Anglo-American Combined Shipping Adjustment Boards, in which President Roosevelt was personally involved.

ANGLO-AMERICAN SHIPPING COLLABORATION IN 1942:
"The two countries collaborated most closely in the joint use of Merchant Shipping, a sphere in which they nearly achieved a full-fledged pooling of resources. Throughout 1942, however, this collaboration was more of a burden than a help to Britain. Although the amount of American Merchant Shipping in British service almost doubled, British warships were diverted to help protect the sealanes in the western Atlantic, with consequent thinning of protection elsewhere, and Britain also contributed heavily to American shipping services, particularly in troop ships. British shipping losses in 1942 fell just short of 6 million deadweight tons (an increase of a third over those in the year preceding, when Britain had been fighting the war at sea alone); American losses were less than 2.5 million tons. American shipyards, moreover were able in this year to offset U.S. losses to the extent of almost 4 million tons, while Britain, with meagre building capacity, showed a net loss of more than 2 million tons. By the end of March 1943 Britain's dry cargo shipping tonnage had fallen to 18.5 million deadweight tons, almost 3 million tons less than its total on the eve of Pearl Harbor.

The drain of British Merchant Shipping during 1942, which Britain's new ally was not yet able to make good, posed a serious and growing threat to the British War Economy. The heart of that economy lay in the industries and people of the United Kingdom, which depended for their very existence on an uninterrupted flow of imports. These had already declined from a prewar average of more than 50 million deadweight tons to 42 million in 1940 and 31 million in 1941. In 1942, despite desperate efforts to arrest the decline and increased assistance from the United States, they fell to 23 million. Even with drastic curtailment of domestic consumption and services and increased local production of food and munitions, this was far less than what was needed to meet current requirements. Britain had to eat into its stocks, which by the end of the year had fallen an estimated 2.5 million tons to a level dangerously near what the War Cabinet had decided must be regarded as irreducible."

Is this what you call a myth or propaganda?
There is more in a similar vein, but hopefully this is enough to get the debate back on track.
Regards, Bernard

Hugh Ferguson
10th May 2007, 11:11
That, Bernard, really goes to the crux. Many thanks! I'd love to know how you found such an extraordinarily obscure, but very relevant, piece of information composed by somebody who really understood the facts.

Bernard McIver
11th May 2007, 01:30
Hello Hugh,
Thanks for your kind comments. The information came from "COMMAND DECISIONS" compiled by the Center of Military History, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. This covers 23 Major Decisions of WW2.
I have only just found this site and will be burning the midnight oil for many weeks ahead.
Click on this link and go to No.8 U.S. MERCHANT SHIPPING AND THE BRITISH IMPORT CRISIS:
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/70-7_0.htm
Regards,
Bernard

Bernard McIver
11th May 2007, 11:30
Hello Stan,
How were you treated by the tax man during the war? For 2 years I was on a Dutch ship sailing out of U.S.A, with a foreign flag allowance, and paid no tax.
My last trip was with the Silver Line, and apart from the drastic change in the food I paid 42% tax on my earnings including the War Risk Money and VJ day bonus. We were in Gibraltar for VJ day, and when we left for Buenos Aires via Casablanca the ship was painted in peacetime colours. I know just how you must have felt after all those years in drab grey. Those were the days!
Kindest Regards,
Bernard

barnsey
11th May 2007, 12:08
Of the various statements made in this debate Kris makes a very relevant one …” Ain't hindsight wonderful! The statistics didn't matter at the time.” To which I add “but they do now and in this debate”.

For you Hugh to deny the facts and the story they reveal is not only fooling yourself but more importantly it denigrates the actions of those who fought so valiantly, on both sides in a most terrible battle. This is a statement with which I totally agree …. “I do not to say in the least that the Battle of the Atlantic was not a desperate fight for the Allies or an easy threat for the Germans to mount. To the contrary it was a bitter, pain full struggle for both sides, the most prolonged and arduous naval campaign in all history. It deserves a history written with access to all the official records, uninfluenced by propaganda and to be stripped of mythology.”

I am now going to copy, very nearly verbatim a well reasoned position which was researched in depth and written by an allied submariner come naval historian. Yes, someone who with all “the hindsight” anyone could possibly obtain he started in 1987 to put the facts before the World……………………………

“There is a most curious naval myth built up around the German U-boat…… That the Germans invented the U-boat and consistently built the best submarines in the world. Endowed with a gift for exploiting this murderous weapon German submariners very nearly defeated the Allies in WW 1 and dominated the seas in both world wars.

A Canadian naval historian Michael Hadley writes…. During both wars, and during the inter-war years as well the U-boat was mythologized more than any other weapon of war.

The myth assumed an especially formidable aspect in WW II and afterwards. During the War, the well oiled propaganda machinery of the Third Reich glorified and exaggerated the “successes” of German submariners in the various Axis media. At the same time, Allied propagandists found it advantageous to exaggerate the peril of the U-boats for various reasons. The end result was a distorted picture of the Battle of the Atlantic .

After the war London, Washington and Ottawa clamped a tight embargo on the captured German U-boat records to conceal the secrets of code breaking, which had played an important role in the Battle of the Atlantic. As a result, the first “Histories” of the U-boat war were produced by Third Reich people such as Wolfgang Frank, Hans Jochem Brennecke and Harold Busch and of course Donitz himself, not to mention a host of various U-boat commanders and crew. These “histories”, of course did nothing to diminish the mythology. Hampered by the security embargo on the U-boat and code breaking records and by an apparent unfamiliarity with the technology and the tactical limitations of submarines, the official and semi-official Allied naval historians were unable to write authoratively about German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. Hence for decade after decade no complete and reliable history of the Battle of the Atlantic appeared and the German Mythology prevailed.

In 1975 I was prevailed to write a history of the German U-boat war. However, owing to the embargo this was not possible but the idea took root. Over the next dozen years London, Washington and Ottawa gradually released the U-boat and code breaking records. During the same period German naval scholars notably Hurgen Rohwer trawled the German U-boat records and produced valuable and objective technical studies and accounts of some combat actions and related matters.

In 1987 I spent many months culling and copying tens of thousands of pages of documents at various military archives and collecting published works on the Battle and code breaking. In Germany we made contact with the U-boat veterans associations, commanders and crews. We also kept abreast of the spate of scholarly and popular U-boat books and articles about phases or aspects of the war that appeared in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, much of it first rate.

As I see it there were three separate and distinct phases: the U-boat war against the British Empire, the U-boat war against the Americas and the U-boat war against both.

The Germans were not supermen; the u-boats and torpedo’s were not technical marvels but rather inferior craft and weapons unsuited for the Battle of the Atlantic.

The main contribution the U-boat force made in the war was to present a terror weapon, a sort of “threat in being” which forced the Allies to convoy, delaying the arrival of goods and supplies and to deploy extensive anti submarine counter forces.

The myths notwithstanding only a small percentage of Allied merchant ships actually fell victim to U-boats. Most of all Allied merchant ships in convoy and their goods reached assigned destinations.




Now for some tanker figures for the first phase of the war September 1939-December 1942………………

At the beginning of the War in 1939 the individual tanker fleets of the non- Axis nations were …
British Empire 453
Norway 268
Holland 107
France and other European countries 133
USA and panama 430
Other American 54
Totals 1,445 10,162,000 GRT

In the period Sept 1939 – December 1942 British and American ship yards completed 176 new tankers. British Empire 61 plus American 115 614,000 GRT.

To move to 1942, the rough period mentioned at the start of this thread when losses were huge. The actual tanker losses both on the American seaboard and the Atlantic were a total 213 for 1,667,505 GRT but the shipyards on both sides built 92 for 925,000 GRT

On Jan 1st 1943 the Allied tanker fleet was 1,291 for 9,311,718 GRT a net loss of 154 tankers for 850,282 GRT or about 10% of the fleet since the start of the war.

From this analysis it can be seen that while the U-boat campaign against the combined Allied tanker fleet caused great hardships and inconveniences it failed to achieve a decisive strategic success. The only really serious allied setback occurred in 1942, but was quickly overcome, as was pointed out in an earlier posting in 1943 when ship building increased substantially and losses dropped dramatically.

Although London feared - and often predicted – dire shortages in the British Isles during this period, none really occurred. Hardships and inconveniences, such as civilian petrol and fuel oil rationing resulted not solely from actual tanker losses but also from the drastic slowdown of oil imported due to convoying and of course to the diversion of oil imports to war making purposes.

Hugh and Bernard I am not denigrating either of you or Britain, I am English by birth.

Simply look at the facts now released and laid before us, realise how desperate times lead the political figures of the day and Churchill in particular to make statements to fight the events they were faced with. Thank goodness he did make the speeches and statements he did, they inspired a nation to heroic deeds and sacrifices. But now is the time to realise that the true situation was a tad different and understand how the myths came about and for what reason.

Hindsight must be learnt from … it’s a great thing … The Battle was huge and terrifying with outstanding courage everywhere. At the end of which some 30,000 merchant seamen and a very near similar number of U-boat crews were dead … 64,000 men …

It is very heartening and touching to read tales and hear of meetings and respect for each other of Allied and U-boat seafarers over the years after the war…

David Barnes

K urgess
11th May 2007, 14:17
Having sat down and read the article that Bernard posted the link to, (something I recommend every one following this thread to do) it all boils down to the fact that it didn't matter how good or bad the U-boats were. The fact that they were out there was all that mattered.
The thread started with remarks about American propaganda and the only conclusion I can come to is that without the provision of American tonnage we could well have lost, not due to U-boats but to an overall lack of tonnage to meet all wartime commitments.
If, at one stage, the U-boats were sinking 4 ships each and every day, the powers that be had no reason to believe that this wouldn't continue to effect their war plans and budgetting for the foreseeable future.
If Churchill was going to Roosevelt to beg for ships he wasn't going to tell him that he was exaggerating.
A very interesting debate with both sides having valid points.
I admit that some myths should be laid to rest but that should not lead to a denial of the conditions prevalent of the time.

stan mayes
11th May 2007, 18:44
Hello Bernard, Re Income Tax paid during WW2.
I have all my Account of Wages for1943 and 1944.I was sailing as AB and my wages were £14 per month plus £10 per month War Risk Money [on 2 ships I received £12 War Risk Money - don't ask why]
CAPE HOWE Lyle's -5 2 43 to 10 5 43 Total wages £84. 4s No tax deducted -I probably received a demand later...Overtime rate was 1shilling and 9 pence an hour.
LARGS BAY Shaw Savill Troopship - 10 6 43 to 5 11 43 ,Wages £126.12s -Tax £17.3s
NERITINA Anglo Saxon tanker - 7 12 43 to 1 5 44, Wages £116.5s - Tax £16.2s.
DOLABELLA Anglo Saxon -Normandy Operations..We were paid weekly,with £1 per week in lieu of overtime..20 5 44 to 24 8 44. Wages £108.8s -Tax £13.11s.
LUCELLUM H.E.Moss tanker - 20 9 44 to 4 11 44 -Wages £36.6s -Tax £5.6s
EMPIRE UNITY ex BISCAYA a captured German tanker -Managers Hunting & sons -14 11 44 to 29 2 45.- Wages £93.13s -Tax £12.8s..
Following my leave from trips I occasionally worked by on ships in Tilbury Docks so I probably earned another £30 during this 2 year period..
So,total earned for 2 years was £600 - one weeks wages for many nowadays!!!! and they go home every night...

K urgess
12th May 2007, 21:00
Attached are 3 cartoons from the popular press in 1943.
They are the only ones dealing with U-boats in any form that I could find in an extensive collection of publications.
Cartoonists at the time were very adept at making political comments and most illustrations were not meant to amuse. The amusing ones were usually confined to innocent subjects in the slapstick style.
These three come from the publication "400 famous Cartoons" by 5 famous cartoonists.
Some wartime cartoonists produced some very disturbing images. My favourite is Armengol but Illingworth is the only one I have been able to find who deals with U-boats, so far.
They may give some insight into the mood of the population at the time.

Bernard McIver
12th May 2007, 23:50
Thank you Kris for bringing some humour into this sombre debate. These cartoons illustrate a British trait which Hitler never understood; the ability to laugh at adversity and oneself. Keep them coming as I feel this debate has a long way to go.
Bernard (one who was there).

Hugh Ferguson
13th May 2007, 14:16
Rather than becoming involved in a tortuous debate involving statistics- the most recent emanating from someone who doesn't get a mention in the masses of literature on this subject that I have accumulated over more than 50 years-I would prefer to offer a quote from a naval officer who had access to more classified information of the war at sea than any other I can think of.
He was Captain S.W. Roskill, D.S.C.,M.A.,F.R.Hist.S. Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He wrote in Vol.II of his history, THE WAR AT SEA, the following:- "For what it is worth, this writer's view is that in the early spring of 1943 we had a very narrow escape from defeat in the Atlantic: and that, had we suffered such a defeat, history would have judged that the main cause had been the lack of two more squadrons of VLR (very long range) aircraft for convoy duties."

This writer's view is that where the German U.Boat, after a long bitter struggle failed, the U.S. Navy U.boats spectacularly succeeded in sinking so many Japanese merchant ships that, at the end of the war, when I first went to Japan, one rarely, if ever, set eyes on a merchant ship flying the flag of the rising sun.
Likewise, British U.Boats operating out of Malta played an enormous role in bringing Rommel's North Africa Corp to its knees, by destroying his sea-borne supply lines, thus enabling Montgomery to triumph in winning the first land victory of the war. Not much doubt as to where success or failure rested. It was all to do with keeping the sea lanes open.

K urgess
13th May 2007, 19:24
"During the first World War we were able to escort merchant ships by the
use of small cruisers, gunboats, and destroyers; and this type of convoy
was effective against submarines. In this second World War, however, the
problem is greater, because the attack on the freedom of the seas is now
fourfold: First, the improved submarine; second, the much greater use of
the heavily armed raiding cruiser or hit-and-run battleship; third, the
bombing airplane, which is capable of destroying merchant ships seven or
eight hundred miles from its nearest base; and fourth, the destruction
of merchant ships in those ports of the world which are accessible to
bombing attack.

The battle of the Atlantic now extends from the icy waters of the North
Pole to the frozen continent of the Antarctic. Throughout this huge area
there have been sinkings of merchant ships in alarming and increasing
numbers by Nazi raiders or submarines. There have been sinkings even of
ships carrying neutral flags; there have been sinkings in the South
Atlantic; off West Africa and the Cape Verde Islands; between the Azores
and the islands off the American coast; and between Greenland and
Iceland. Great numbers of these sinkings have been actually within the
waters of the Western Hemisphere.

The blunt truth is this-and I reveal this with the full knowledge of the
British Government-the present rate of Nazi sinkings of merchant ships
is more than three times as high as the capacity of British shipyards to
replace them; it is more than twice the combined British and American
output of merchant ships today.

We can answer this peril by two simultaneous measures: First, by
speeding up and increasing our great ship-building program; and second,
by helping to cut down the losses on the high seas.

Attacks on shipping off the very shores of land which we are determined
to protect present an actual military danger to the Americas. And that
danger has recently been heavily underlined by the presence in Western
Hemisphere waters of Nazi battleships of great striking power.

Most of the supplies for Britain go by a northerly route, which comes
close to Greenland and the nearby island of Iceland. Germany's heaviest
attack is on that route. Nazi occupation of Iceland or bases in
Greenland would bring the war close to our continental shores; because
they are stepping stones to Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the
northern United States, including the great industrial centers of the
North, East, and the Middle West.

Equally the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands, if occupied or controlled
by Germany, would directly endanger the freedom of the Atlantic and our
own physical safety. Under German domination these would become bases
for submarines, warships, and airplanes raiding the waters which lie
immediately off our own coasts and attacking the shipping in the south
Atlantic. They would provide a springboard for actual attack against the
integrity and independence of Brazil and her neighboring republics.

I have said on many occasions that the United States is mustering its
men and its resources only for purposes of defense-only to repel attack.
I repeat that statement now. But we must be realistic when we use the
word "attack"; we have to relate it to the lightning speed of modern
warfare."

Address by President Roosevelt before the Pan American Union, May 21st, 1941.

The full text - http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/7-2-188/188-26.html makes interesting reading.

Hugh Ferguson
13th May 2007, 21:50
You're a better researcher than I, Kris. I hadn't given a thought to investigating such sites available on the web; all of my information comes from books and personal narrative from seamen I met, or sailed with.
Roosevelt's view of less success for U.Boats in the 1st.ww rather conflicts with Tarrant's conclusion in his book, The U.boat Offensive, 1914-1945.

K urgess
13th May 2007, 22:36
Hugh
I think as a politician he was trying to put the emphasis on technological advances and put forward the idea that this was a totally different war.
The Central and South American States needed to be either kept out of it or brought in on the Allied side. With most of them being dictatorships casting admiring glances eastward he had an uphill struggle on his hands.
At this time the United States was still "isolationist" and Roosevelt was one of the few that could see the writing on the wall. This address is a lot stronger than I would have expected pre Pearl Harbor.
I must confess to not knowing lot about it having been brought up in the postwar atmosphere of we won so we must've been right and this is the way we say it all happened.
I was actually looking for something completely different and only read it because I couldn't see why a Google for a ship called the American Farmer had led to it. Nothing as it turned out!
All politician are scaremongers when they think it will get the right results and a lot of it should be taken with a pinch of salt. It does give an indication of the mindset at the time.
Attached are two more cartoons of the time. The first from late 1939 or early 1940 and the second from the end of 1940 or beginning of 1941. Both Illingworth again who was very good at summing up the situation at the time. At least they both show water so could be considered nautical.
Kris

Bernard McIver
14th May 2007, 00:24
Thank you Hugh and Kris for bringing this debate down from the clouds.Britain should be ever grateful for Franklin D. Roosevelt. A man of "foresight" not "hindsight".
Bernard

Hugh Ferguson
14th May 2007, 19:22
Thank you Hugh and Kris for bringing this debate down from the clouds.Britain should be ever grateful for Franklin D. Roosevelt. A man of "foresight" not "hindsight".
Bernard

Q.E.D. I think!?

Bernard McIver
15th May 2007, 00:07
Hugh, I understand your view on statistics although I must admit I suffer from "statistics mania". Properly presented they can cut a long story short. I am currently working through a maze of figures relating to the Battle of the Atlantic from various sources. The majority of these are from a website which states "Statistics re Allied losses of men and ships in the Battle of the Atlantic vary widely. We include data from various sources below". In fact they are very similar in content. It is the presentation which differs and causes confusion. When this is knocked into shape I will post it.

As for Q.E.D., there would have been a place for this in the "Q" code. Any
comments from Kris or other ex R/O's?
Bernard

barnsey
15th May 2007, 06:32
This thread started with some comments by Ray which a History Channel program had prompted.

“It took three years for the US to make up its mind and no doubt only did it when they could see the dollars they would make. There is little doubt with their help and bases etc the convoys were given more protection.”

Hugh, I am amazed that you give the credit all to Roosevelt and not a mention to Churchill. Right from the start Churchill realised the Allies had to have the Americans on their side with the might of their Industry and manpower. Whilst Roosevelt understood the Nazi threat he realised he had a mighty political battle on his hands to get his country to help once more. During the ensuing time it took for America to join in the War there was much he did to help. Churchill skillfully kept things going while Roosevelt worked towards that goal of getting the Americans on our side and then to get them to accept the overall plan of sorting out Europe first and then the Japanese.

Now going back to my earlier and subsequent statements re Convoys.

I made a statement earlier on re the fact that vast numbers of ships in convoy got across the Atlantic and only a small percentage were lost. At this point Hugh scoffed and more or less said I was a heretic. Well that depends on your view and how things are put as Bernard and Kris quite correctly say. If it is said … Convoy ON 166 lost the huge number of 14 ships sunk, that conjures up one picture. On the other hand if it is said that on Convoy ON 166in spite of huge losses 71% of the ships got through it paints a slightly different picture ….. and there in lies the tale.

Get hold of, if you have not got it already the book “The Allied Convoy System 1939 – 1945” its organisation, defence and operation. By Arnold Hague. Hugh as you seem to want to quote how good various authors are this one is a retired naval officer and a longtime researcher on the staff of the Historical section of the Ministry of Defence, the same publishers of Gunter Hesslers work “The U-Boat War in the Atlantic 1939 - 1945”. No doubt you will decry it though as it was first published in 2000 but it contains correct facts.

To amplify my statement I will quote some overall convoy figures of the HX and ON series which feature so much in the battle, there were of course many other routes but by and large the figures all come out much the same. For 1940, 1941 and 1943, the worst years to illustrate that there were vast numbers of Oceanic Convoys and ships going backwards and forwards across the Atlantic and that by and large a huge percentage of those who sailed arrived at their destination. Finally there are the figures for 1944 …. Which have minimal losses and go to show that by mid 1943 the Battle of the Atlantic was won ….. losses were to continue but the U-boats had lost the tonnage war Donitz set out to win.

HX Convoys Halifax to UK loaded.
1940 91 convoys consisting of 3,424 ships Convoy losses 94
1941 70 convoys consisting of 3,050 ships Convoy losses 46
1942 54 convoys consisting of 1,811 ships Convoy losses 17
1943 53 convoys consisting of 2,958 ships Convoy losses 41
1944 55 convoys consisting of 4,085 ships Convoy losses 2

ON Convoys Uk outwards to USA mainly ballast.
1941 49 convoys consisting of 1,994 ships Convoy losses 10
1942 106 convoys consisting of 3,523 ships Convoy losses 104
1943 61 convoys consisting of 3,012 ships Convoy losses 43
1944 34 convoys consisting of 2,312 ships Convoy losses 1

It is also noticeable that in the various quotes by the “politicians” the figures used to back up the statements of “unsustainable losses” at the time are those for Feb -March of 1943. The worst quarter of the war. Those figures were undoubtedly unsustainable but the next set of quarterly figures showed that what in actual fact was in place was going to sharply adjust the figures so much so that Donitz withdrew from the Atlantic once again. The long range aircraft combined with the Woolworth carriers, Very Long aircraft, Escort Groups, better Depth Charges, radar and so on made life untenable for the by now vastly less experienced U-boat crews with their by now technically out of date U-boats.


Stan mentions Convoy ON 166 as do many other volumes (including Captain Roskill, oh yes Hugh, I have one of his excellent books also! published 1956 ) ON 166 was one of the major convoy battles. It left Liverpool on 11/02/43 for New York where it arrived on 03/03/43.

ON 166 consisted of 48 ships, 14 including the rescue ship were sunk a loss of 29% and 1 ship was damaged. The 14 sunk for those interested were …
Chattanooga City 5,687 tons American.Ballast. 22/02/43 by U 606 No dead.
Empire Redshank 6,615 tons British. Ballast. 22/02/43 by U 606 Killed none.
Empire Trader 9,990 tons British. 985 tons chemicals. by U 92 Killed none
Eulima 6,207 tons British.Ballast. 23/02/43 U 186 Killed 63
Expositor 4,959 tons American. Ballast. 23/02/43 by U 060 & U 303 Killed 6.
Guttre 6,409 tons Norwegian. Ballast. 23/02/43 by U 628 & U 303 Killed 3.
Hastings 5,401 tons American. Ballast. 23/02/43 by U 186 Killed 9.
Ingria 4,391 tons Norwegian. Ballast. 24/02/43 by U 600 & U 628 Killed none.
Jonathon Sturges 7,176 tons American. Ballast. 24/02/43 by U 653 Killed 56.
Manchester Merchant 7,264 tons British. Ballast. 25/02/43 by U 628 Killed 36.
N T Nielsen Alonso 9,348 tons Norwegian. Ballast. 22/02/43 by U 92 & U 753 Killed 3
Stigstad 5,954 tons Norwegian. Ballast. 21/02/43 by U 332 & U 603 Killed 3.
Stockport 1,683 tons British RESCUE SHIP. 23/02/43 by U 604 Killed 63
Winkler 6,907 tons Panamanian. Ballast. 23/02/43 by U 628 & U 223 killed 20.

David Barnes (Scribe)

Split
15th May 2007, 11:06
[QUOTE=Bernard McIver;126276]Barnsey,
I share the view of Hugh and Stan. This debate has degenerated into discussing the technical problems and internal wranglings experienced by the Germans. ]

Quite true and well said.

My contribution to this thread was prompted by the original post which alleged that the British could have won the war without the Americans. It doesn't matter whether the Americans only made up their minds after three years . In fact it was the Japanaese that made up their minds for them. The insinuation was that we could have won the war without American participation. That is quite untrue.

The rest of the thread, taken up, as you say, by the problems uboat crews had in sinking our ships leaves me quite unmoved

As far as I am concerned, most of the Uboat commanders were war criminals and they and their crews are better off at the bottom of the ocean, where a lot of our men were sent.

Split

Hugh Ferguson
15th May 2007, 11:28
How ironical that at a time when I am being bombarded with statistics there has never been a time, in this country at least, when they have been more discredited! Who believes the statistics on crime, the N.H.S., immigration, or the official rate of inflation:all have been carefully manipulated to make the government appear in a good light. Four councils are at loggerheads with the government over just that. Slough has had its funding reduced because the statistics show that its population has declined, when in fact it has not just increased, but exploded!
To suggest, as Barnsey does, that 70% of the ships in a badly mauled convoy arrived safely, is simply misleading because it wasn't just in that convoy during that week that ships were being sunk, they were being sunk all over the world and the rate of attrition at that time was all in favour of the enemy, and was rightly perceived by Churchill and Roosevelt to be an unsustainable loss rate for the British.
The simple fact of the matter was that we were in desperate straits and without American aid we were, literally, sunk! The very first recognition of this was the Lend Lease pact which provided 50 clapt out WW1 American destroyers; not 10, not 20 but 50, for convoy escort duty. That, for the biggest navy in the world, was desperation spelt with a capital D. We were losing it and whether you like it or not it was the Americans who hauled us out of the ****. And not for the first time. It would not go amiss for those who detest America and all it stands for, to remember that there is something more precious than dollars and that is blood, and God knows Americans expended more than enough of that ridding the world of fascism.

K urgess
15th May 2007, 11:54
I'm sure the crews who manned these Merchant Ships could only look at the results for ON166 and expect exactly the same thing to happen again and again and again. They wouldn't know that it had been a statistical hiccup and that the U-boats were losing. They wouldn't have known that the U-boats had been withdrawn. It was still something that could theoretically happen to them at any minute.
As I said before it wasn't the number of losses as the threat of greater number of losses and the effect on the Allied ability to fulfill all their requirements. There just wasn't enough tonnage and any loss was significant.
As Hugh says the US hauled us out of the crap by the scruff of our necks. If Churchill had to "bend the facts" to get what he wanted then good for him.
No country can give away that ammount of materiel and make the books balance at the end so it was quite natural that we would have to pay.
So the carriers cost us the Woolworths empire. Worth every penny?

barnsey
15th May 2007, 15:05
Kris, you are quite right when you say ..... "I'm sure the crews who manned these Merchant Ships could only look at the results for ON166 and expect exactly the same thing to happen again and again and again.They wouldn't have known that the U-boats had been withdrawn. It was still something that could theoretically happen to them at any minute" ... How Stan and his good friend, not forgetting Hugh could go aboard another ship time after time under that threat I can only admire for I know put in the same situation I would go into a blue funk.(EEK)

However Hugh you really must get the Convoy book I used in my last post. For you to say ..."To suggest, as Barnsey does, that 80% of the ships in a badly mauled convoy arrived safely, IS SIMPLY MISLEADING because it wasn't just in that convoy during that week that ships were being sunk". Hugh, I am not SUGGESTING, I am giving not statistics but ACTUAL hard figures ...and those from the bad convoys.

If you go to the preceding page, the latter end of 1942 when the U-boats were nearing their peak then this is what you find when you take a slice.

ON Ballast convoys from the UK starting at ON 116 leaving on 25/7/42 and finishing with ON 166 leaving on 11/2/42 ... thats 50 convoys consisting of 1,850 individual ships. 42 of those convoys did not lose a ship. 8 convoys lost a total of 47 ships and had 10 ships damaged.

HX Loaded voyages for the same period starting at HX 200 leaving on 27/7/42 and finishing with HX 227 leaving on 18/2/43 thats 28 convoys consisting of 1,162 individual ships. 23 convoys did not lose a ship. 5 Convoys lost a total of 11 ships and had 1 damaged.

Of the other convoy routes the figures are much the same.

Of course we could not have won the war without the might of American Industrial power and their manpower who manifestly came forward to fight, that is never in question. As you say Kris the price was worth it....


Split I must take issue with you over your statement ..... "As far as I am concerned, most of the Uboat commanders were war criminals and they and their crews are better off at the bottom of the ocean, where a lot of our men were sent" Let me relate a story to you....of MURDER by the Royal Navy.

Captain Gordon Steele VC was Captain Superintendent of my pre sea training ship HMS Worcester and was a most humble and Christian gentleman. During WW I he was a naval officer aboard the Q ship "Baralong" when the following incident took place.

"The Q-Ship Baralong, commanded by Lieutenant Godfrey Herbert, which was disguised as a cargo vessel and was flying the Stars and Stripes, arrived. When she was half a mile away Herbert ran up a signal asking permission to "save life only". The U-27 acknowledged. The U-boat, knowing that the United States was neutral, remained on the surface, with a boarding party on the Nicosian, expecting the Baralong to collect those in the lifeboats.

The Baralong was almost right up to the U-boat when her three 12-pounder guns opened fire. 34 rounds were discharged. Within a minute the U-27 sank. The crew who jumped overboard were shot in the water by Royal Marines. Two were shot climbing the "Nicosian's" pilot ladder. By now the Baralong was alongside the Nicosian. A party of twelve Royal Marines led by Sergeant Collins were able to jump from one ship to another. Two Germans were shot on deck. The remaining four, wounded and unarmed, fled to the engine room. The Marines waited for the crew of the Nicosian to return. The four were killed by the Liverpudlians.

IN WW II there were only two incidents of outrage by U-boat crews and the survivors of the U-boat crews who commited the atrocities were tried and dealt with as befits them. For the most part the U-boat commanders conducted themselves properly. They were the elite of the German Navy and there were few Nazis among the commanders. There were many reports of them assisting surviving boat crews and Stan mentions something of that.

As many U-boat crew died as did Allied Merchant seamen and for the most part on both sides, men were only doing their duty be it right or wrong, they had no choice. If they had had a choice then perhaps you might have a point.

Hugh, Bernard, Split. Climb down from you exalted stance, hear me, under no circumstances am I belittling the grave losses and sacrifices made by those involved in the "Battle of the Atlantic" we owe so much to them. Nor am I making any sympathy on the part of the Nazis, their actions were despicable in the extreme. Neither am I denying that there were huge numbers of ships lost from the convoys.

Churchill and Roosevelt did a fantastic job in planning and working together steadily and carefully to get a successfull bringing together of the only might which would conclude WW II.

What I am saying is that although there were huge losses of ships in late 1942 beginning 1943 they were not, in the overall number of ships involved of the magnitude popular perceptions hold. If it had been so then there was no way the plans and preparations for Torch and Overlord, which were already taking place were going to be successfull. Political speeches and "spin" achieved their objectives whether they were right or wrong.

As for statistics of the type you mention Hugh regarding Hospitals, Police, Traffic, Crimes and the like I couldnt agree more .... you are not alone as its the same here in New Zealand. Bloody accountants whizz kid managers, Human resource idiots and so called CEO's running amok ... Im with you.(Cloud)

David Barnes

K urgess
15th May 2007, 17:11
Bernard
There should be a "Q" code for something similar but I can't find anything. I even read through the "Handbook for Radio Operators"!
The 1931 edition of the "International Code of Signals", "British Edition", Volume I, "For Visual Signalling", lists "QED" as meaning "Below the Waterline", which seems somehow appropriate in this instance.

The perception of huge losses to the "U-boat threat" is one of those things attributable to the concept that "The Victor writes the history books".
Two different standpoints will always disagree on subjects like this. It's such a small difference of outlook.

On the one hand I agree with Barnesy's statistics and on the other my personal experience tells me that every single person I know or knew that was in the Merchant Service between 1939 and 1945 had been attacked in some way or other. The majority had had ships sunk from under them. Somehow the statistics don't match the facts and I'm at a loss to explain the difference.

Recommended reading for U-boat haters -
"Execution for Duty (The Life, Trial and Murder of a U-Boat Captain)" by Peter C. Hansen.
Apart from "Das Boot", of course.

PS Popular image of the U-boat menace by Giles attached.

Hugh Ferguson
15th May 2007, 19:16
Sorry to confuse you Kris! Q.E.D. is a bit of Latin; generally inscribed after demonstrating that you have proved a mathematical equation. It stands for
Quad Erat Demonstrandum. Probably completely inappropriate in this context.

K urgess
15th May 2007, 19:26
Sorry, Hugh, if I misled you.
I should've said I couldn't find a "Q" code that meant "which was demonstrated"[=P]

trinityboy
15th May 2007, 21:21
The Liberties had another difference over the Forts in that they were welded.
This was a concept that was to make some them break up in the Arctic convoys. Does anyone know anything about that?

Split

Many of the Liberty ships did have serious structural problems, the hulls of these vessels were weakened just in front of the bridge at No.3 Hold. Many of these distressed vessels could be viewed on the North African Coast. After the war I sailed on board La Loma a former liberty ship that had been strengthened by strapping at the weak spot. We had no problems even in the worst weather conditions.

stan mayes
15th May 2007, 22:41
Barnsey - You question how myself and others felt about returning to sea after a hazardous trip..Trying to reply to that [there were no heroics] I can only remember I wanted to get back to sea most times when I was broke and did not want to ask for money from my hard working parents...
Also I was young and life was an adventure - albeit a bit dangerous at times.
David,you would not go into a blue funk - you would have faced it as many thousands of those young lads did..

stan mayes
15th May 2007, 22:59
Barnsey, A Post Script to that..
One of the worst times for me during the war was when I was at home on leave and met a relative of a pal or shipmate and be told the tragic news he had been lost with the sinking of his ship..
My home was in Grays Essex in those days and many seamen hailed from there and the Tilbury area. Many lost their lives at sea...
About 40 of my pals and shipmates were lost but they are not forgotten..
I attend the Merchant Navy Day service at Tower Hill every year and I place a poppy on their ships plaque...

barnsey
16th May 2007, 03:18
Thanks for that Stan .... yup I guess you maybe right, the world was great when we were 15 -25. When I think of standing on deck up at Mina or Aden loading crude or Aviation Spirit with the fumes floating around us, bloody dangerous really yet we thought nothing of it. Smashed a pipeline at Mina one night, filled the deck to the brim and overflowing with light crude. Crude steaming off the steam pipelines, shrapnel from the disintegrating pipe flying around, all the cabin windows open and everyone with dc Fans whirring and sparking, 116°F ... gas everywhere ... very creepy after they shut the entire jetty down while we cleaned up.

Grays Essex .... looked over there many a day from Worcester, I was aboard her from Oct 1955 as a thirteen and half year old until July 1959 ... Lucky lad although we didnt realise it the world was about to change. The whole world went past every tide on its way to and from London docks ... we could and did choose any company to join no problem.

10 years later it was a whole different story ... accountants and that idiot you are about to get relieving Blair.

David

Split
16th May 2007, 09:43
Split I must take issue with you over your statement ..... "As far as I am concerned, most of the Uboat commanders were war criminals and they and their crews are better off at the bottom of the ocean, where a lot of our men were sent" Let me relate a story to you....of MURDER by the Royal Navy.

Captain Gordon Steele VC was Captain Superintendent of my pre sea training ship HMS Worcester and was a most humble and Christian gentleman. During WW I he was a naval officer aboard the Q ship "Baralong" when the following incident took place.

"The Q-Ship Baralong, commanded by Lieutenant Godfrey Herbert, which was disguised as a cargo vessel and was flying the Stars and Stripes, arrived. When she was half a mile away Herbert ran up a signal asking permission to "save life only". The U-27 acknowledged. The U-boat, knowing that the United States was neutral, remained on the surface, with a boarding party on the Nicosian, expecting the Baralong to collect those in the lifeboats.

The Baralong was almost right up to the U-boat when her three 12-pounder guns opened fire. 34 rounds were discharged. Within a minute the U-27 sank. The crew who jumped overboard were shot in the water by Royal Marines. Two were shot climbing the "Nicosian's" pilot ladder. By now the Baralong was alongside the Nicosian. A party of twelve Royal Marines led by Sergeant Collins were able to jump from one ship to another. Two Germans were shot on deck. The remaining four, wounded and unarmed, fled to the engine room. The Marines waited for the crew of the Nicosian to return. The four were killed by the Liverpudlians.

IN WW II there were only two incidents of outrage by U-boat crews and the survivors of the U-boat crews who commited the atrocities were tried and dealt with as befits them. For the most part the U-boat commanders conducted themselves properly. They were the elite of the German Navy and there were few Nazis among the commanders. There were many reports of them assisting surviving boat crews and Stan mentions something of that.

As many U-boat crew died as did Allied Merchant seamen and for the most part on both sides, men were only doing their duty be it right or wrong, they had no choice. If they had had a choice then perhaps you might have a point.

Hugh, Bernard, Split. Climb down from you exalted stance, hear me, under no circumstances am I belittling the grave losses and sacrifices made by those involved in the "Battle of the Atlantic" we owe so much to them. Nor am I making any sympathy on the part of the Nazis, their actions were despicable in the extreme. Neither am I denying that there were huge numbers of ships lost from the convoys.

Churchill and Roosevelt did a fantastic job in planning and working together steadily and carefully to get a successfull bringing together of the only might which would conclude WW II.

What I am saying is that although there were huge losses of ships in late 1942 beginning 1943 they were not, in the overall number of ships involved of the magnitude popular perceptions hold. If it had been so then there was no way the plans and preparations for Torch and Overlord, which were already taking place were going to be successfull. Political speeches and "spin" achieved their objectives whether they were right or wrong.

As for statistics of the type you mention Hugh regarding Hospitals, Police, Traffic, Crimes and the like I couldnt agree more .... you are not alone as its the same here in New Zealand. Bloody accountants whizz kid managers, Human resource idiots and so called CEO's running amok ... Im with you.(Cloud)

David Barnes

David,

Herbert was a war criminal. I don't see how stating him as an example paints the uboats any whiter. The men who were torpedoed were, in the main, merchant seafarers and the uboats were the aggressor. I know that, in war, everyone goes where one is sent but, German Nazis were a very unsavoury bunch, be it at sea, on the land fronts or bombing cities. War brutalises, but they started very young, everywhere they went the world was shocked at what went on. After the war, no one knew anything about it.

I am old and have forgiven Germany long ago. The later generations had nothing to do with it and have made Germany a nation to be proud of. But I don't believe that the nautical side to the German war effort was any more humane than the one that sent the Jews to Auschwitz or slaughtered entire villages on the Russian front. I do, however, believe in the inherent decency of merchant seamen who forgive and forget too quickly.

Split

barnsey
16th May 2007, 11:10
Hi Split,

I go along with everything you say ....I understand your points, no problem. I did try to differentiate between the ordinary German U-boat commander and crew from those in the boats who were Nazis. The crews did not like them from all I have read.

Yes, we Merchant Seafarers are way far to forgiving .... and boy dont people take advantage?

Best regards
David



I presume the book Kris mentions was about the one U-boat commander who did machine gun everyone in the water, he was tried for murder and paid the price.

K urgess
16th May 2007, 11:28
No David.
I've read that one as well although I can't remember the title or author.
This one is "The story of Oskar Heinz Kusch, a commander in the 2nd U-Boat Flotilla, accusations of treason against him by three Nazi patriots assigned to his ship, his conviction, and execution."
Cheers
Kris

barnsey
16th May 2007, 11:57
Ahhh ... that one ....read all about that too, bloody shocking story. Terribly sad state of affairs

David

Hugh Ferguson
16th May 2007, 12:55
So, we've been invited to believe that a battle that took 2 and a half years to resolve in favour of the Allies presented no great threat to the outcome of W.W.2.
The time in which the outcome hung in the balance could be measured between the dates of two SC convoys-SC.7, when the night of 18th Oct.1940 went down in history as Black Friday-to SC.122 in March 1943.
During that period, Der U.Boote Waffe was confronted by the Royal Navy, the U.S.Navy, elements of the Free French and Norwegian navies, the Royal Canadian Navy-which had gone from a minnow to become a very formidable convoy escort force-Coastal Command's Sunderlands and L.R. Liberators, and a lot of armed merchant ships: a remarkable array of weaponry to deal with,
allegedly, clapt-out U.boats equiped with defective torpedoes!
To paraphrase Churchill, but to apply his "one-liner" to U.Boats, "Some Chicken, Some Neck", that took 2 and a half years to wring and then didn't die until the day, in Ap.1945, on which U.190 (in which my friend and former enemy, Werner Muller, serving as 2nd watch keeping officer), sank H.M.C.S. ESQUIMALT with heavy loss of life.
I'm afraid the scale of all of this is lost on people who never had the opportunity to walk, as I once did, through the ruined streets of London, Liverpool, Cardiff, Swansea, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Le Havre & Tokyo.

Thankyou, Stan, for your gentle reminder of the cost in human terms.

K urgess
16th May 2007, 14:08
I was about to complain that Hugh hadn't mentioned Hull in his post and then realised he'd probably never been there.
I grew up on the outskirts of Hull and fought the war again on the bombsites in my youth.

I make no excuses for the length of the following. It makes a rewarding read in it's entirety. Any précis by me would ruin the imagery.
It's a chapter from a little known book called "Here we are Together" written by an American Serviceman that fell in love with this country as soon as he arrived in Glasgow as another grunt who'd come to build airfields. Because he had some experience with journalism he ended up travelling the country writing press releases for the US Forces that were sent back to the newspapers in the States.
Substitute Liverpool, London, Glasgow, Belfast, Swansea or wherever into the following and it fits. For me the word picture couldn't be clearer.

"THE PORT AT WAR"
"from across the water the town of Hull lies low, with scattered church spires above the red brick houses, reminding us of old prints of New York in the eighteenth century looking across the bay from Brooklyn. But in place of spars and sail in the waterfront sky, there were the thin steel fingers of the cranes, reaching across the horizon, moving in a slow sign language that had but just one word.
The town of Hull itself was bruised and battered and scarred by war. German bombers had blitzed it, and the worst raid had eaten out the heart of the city, and left it as though some enraged giant had hacked it with a mighty rake. The business centre was a wide expanse of empty space where brick dust swirled in the wind, and there was no street anywhere that did not have its patched roofs, its gaping, windowless shells of buildings, or its ugly gaps where a bomb ripped out one of a row of cottages, leaving a gap as conspicuous as a missing front tooth.
But the streets of the business centre were crowded with people, and in the cottages that remained, in the offices left standing, and along the waterfront, there was just one important word. The word was whispered across polished tables in the lobby of the New Station Hotel, it was shouted on the docks and in the railway yards, it was cursed in the barracks out on Anlaby Road, and in the holds of the ships, and it was spoken of lovingly in the row of brick cottages in Gipseyville. The moving fingers of the cranes wrote it; the flying wheels of the winches hummed it, the whistles of the railway locomotives wailed it. The word was "Cargo."
For here at Kingston-upon-Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in the autumn and winter and spring of 1943 and 1944, a fantastic and daring gamble was being risked. The stakes were high—hundreds of thousands of tons of war materials and lend-lease cargoes— a stockpile for the invasion of the European continent ready perhaps weeks earlier if it succeeded. But if it failed—there were lives lost, ships sunk, precious cargo destroyed and time wasted. It was a gamble, because in sailing in to Hull the ships had to venture down the length of the North Sea with its U-boats and mines, and always within a few minutes from enemy bomber bases in Holland. Here at Hull there would be no warning, no raiders crossing a coast as they must to get to Glasgow or Liverpool or Belfast. Here, on the open exposed east coast, they might streak in, wreck the port, sink thirty ships and get away in a few minutes.
You would know, seeing this bustling, teeming port unmolested under the very nose of the enemy, that the Luftwaffe was nothing but a shell, and you were glad. For if this tempting target was not threatened, it was impossible ever again for the Germans to blitz England.
But so great was the confidence in our defences, and so great was our need to take this risk, and so little did we think by this time of the Luftwaffe, that the risk was taken, and the big ships came in to Hull to unload—not merely by day, but by night as well, under the dim, shielded glow of "blackout lamps". And the gamble paid off in the end, for not one ship was sunk at Hull, not one ton of cargo lost, and only a few half-hearted, ineffectual attempts made to bomb the port.
You felt the tense, race-against-time, striving activity and atmosphere of the port the moment you entered Hull. The streets themselves were thronged with a motley crowd that would have been incongruous even then in any other town in eastern England. Here were American and British soldiers and sailors, Norwegian and Dutch sailors, American coast guard gunners, Navy Shore Patrol, the Wrens, and the WAAFs, and the Chinese cooks and the Malay messboys from off the ships, and the black steward in a brand new zoot suit!
And racing through the streets were trucks and trailers loaded with the goods of war, M.P. jeeps and motor cycles keeping traffic moving, and even horse-drawn drays loaded with lend-lease food in big wooden crates. In the railway cars that moved along the docks, in the sheds that lined the piers, in open fields and under canvas, the word again was Cargo. In long lines of railway cars moving slowly from the docks you saw artillery pieces and aeroplane engines and crated gliders on their way to southern England. In the long sheds on the piers were mountains of cargo—thousands of tubs of butter, thousands of casks of tobacco, square hills of sugar sacks and bean sacks and monuments of tinned fish from Oregon and meat from Illinois and cheese from Wisconsin. Here were the familiar brands of American foods, here was a roster of American states, here was the tangible, visible, overwhelming and awe-inspiring evidence of America's fabled productiveness. Yes, we had been away from home much more than a year now, and had to be reminded again of the productiveness of our nation. We were a little proud, and we remembered it when we saw a can of spam in the corner grocer's shop, or a sign painted in white on a window, "American tinned fish ration to-day". But here it was in bulk, stretching as far as the eye could see—pouring up out of the holds of a dozen ships at one time—moving in an endless stream out of the port, up the river, away to the cities and the depots and the people of England and the soldiers of America alike. Here at once was the most encouraging evidence you could find in the world that day—here was the proof of America's full support in the war, here too was the proof that it was reaching England in spite of submarines, and here it was being unloaded in a veritable nose-thumbing gesture at the German air force, to add to the huge stockpile of supplies needed for that fast-approaching day when we would leap across the Channel. You could not help being thrilled by what you saw at Hull in those days.
"Give us guns, give us planes, give us tanks and gliders, and engines, and bulldozers and locomotives and railway cars, and surgical instruments and medical supplies and metal planks for runways and bombs and bullets!" cried the American Army in England. "Give us guns and tanks and food, and steel and aeroplanes," said the British Army. "Give us food," said the British people. "Not the luxuries, not the delicacies, just food for work, for getting on with the war, for life!"
"Hurry! hurry! hurry!" said the chorus in Britain. More, more, more, faster and faster. Quicker turn around in the ports,better loading of the ships, fast clearance of cargo from the ports to depots, faster unloading of the ships in port. How many tons can we take from a Liberty in a day, if we work our men twenty-four hours? How many days must we keep a ship in port before it can turn around and race for home again and another load? Eleven days, ten, eight, seven, five? Make it five, then, comes the order.
Try to make it five. An hour saved now means a life saved later. Cargo!
The sweaty, dirty, denim-clad American soldiers in the holds of the ships were the men on whom the first burden fell. Theirs was a back-breaking job of heaving, of fastening the cables, of filling the nets and loading the big wooden trays that were let down into the holds from above. They cursed the cargo, they cursed their luck, they would have preferred the infantry, the Rangers, anything in the world but this. Here was no glamour, here was no glory. Here you heaved bombs out of a ship flying a red flag, and if Jerry came over you tried to scramble for shore and safety, knowing you would never have a chance. "What was our tonnage yesterday, Spike? 200 tons from this hatch? And all of it small stuff, crates of tinned jam, and pickles, and C-ration, and guess what—tea!"
The men in the hold did the heaving and the straining, but the men up on deck, the winch-operators and the checkers, worked there all day in the chilling wind and the rain that ran down the necks of their mackinaws, and the men who loaded the lighters tied up alongside or the freight wagons sitting on the tracks on the other side, they, too, cursed the cargo and the targets and the never-ending rush. It was hard work enough on the day shift, but at night the rain was colder, the decks more slippery, the winches heaved and groaned and the booms loomed large under the faint gloom of the working lights. Up on the bridge the sergeant had the stowage plan —he knew where every item and every crate was in the five holds of the ship, and he knew where it was destined and when it came up. And in the shack under the shed were other checkers, making certain that as cargo came off the ship it went to the right places— by boat, by rail, by truck, or under its own power.
On the shore, working like a crew of ants, were the technical experts. Here is an ordnance crew watching a brand new truck sail through the air held by nets under the wheels. The moment the wheels touch ground they swarm over, in, and under it. "Time us!" they shout. You look at your watch. The hood is lifted, wires are connected, protective coverings are ripped from the windshield,a dozen jobs are done, and then, incredibly, the sergeant starts the motor and the truck drives off under its own power—ready to join the Army. You look at your watch again: two minutes and twenty-eight seconds! Hurry! hurry! hurry! Another truck soars into the air and down to the dock.
Behind the big shed which is loaded with the 300-pound tobacco casks from Virginia is the engineer crew, hard at work assembling cranes, power shovels, bulldozers, and rollers for the heavy engineering work ahead. Across the water are other ships tied up to the George Docks, and the Victoria Docks, some being unloaded by American soldiers and some by civilian stevedores. The ships lie side by side. Some have all-army cargoes. Others are all lend-lease, and some are mixed. Beside the prevalent Liberties are other smaller vessels—and here is the Union Jack, the Norse flag, the Danish, Polish, the Dutch flag. The port of Hull is a busy place. There's a job to be done and the monster War to feed.
I visited Hull several times and wrote stories about those hard-working army stevedores and the vital work they did. I ate with them on the decks of their ships, I talked with the coast-guard gunners and the merchant seamen who had been torpedoed two and three times. I sat in the dignified lobby of the New Station Hotel and talked with the port commander and his men and heard about tonnage and turn-around and "commodity loading." I made a tour with the M.P.s one night and saw the dirtiest, meanest pubs in Hull and the dance halls, and the air-raid shelters where the lovers liked to go. I went to a dance at the Beverley Baths, where there were many more girls than men, and many more pretty girls than plain. I drank with the Counter Intelligence Corps men in the little bar where the naval officers swarmed and we listened for "careless talk" and looked into the violet eyes of the most beautiful girl I ever saw in England.
I talked to an engineer captain whose men were building a barge for a 100-ton crane, and he told me how he had earned his living in civilian life, drawing cartoons. And he said, "Come up to-morrow morning to my office and talk to me, it's on Anlaby Road, and it used to be a riding academy or something." I found him the next day in a shop under a sign "East Riding Equipment Company, Ltd."
Here in Hull I met a tiny girl with a soprano voice like a golden flute, and here in Hull I slept in a deserted stable when there were no other beds in town. Here in Hull the streets at night were crowded with people, and the Yorkshire girls swarmed around the soldiers' billets and waited for them to come out. Out over the Humber river the gulls wheeled and screamed, and above them the barrage balloons floated silently and complacently in the darkness. The locomotives wailed all night long, and the men in the grey-green denim moved like automatons under the pale yellow glow, and the cargo—the goddam, wonderful, bloody, lovely cargo—moved off to war.
Yes, Hull was a wonderful place that winter."

Hugh Ferguson
16th May 2007, 21:00
Says it all, Kris! No, I've never been in Hull. Hugh.

Jeff Taylor
16th May 2007, 22:08
To those who were inquiring earlier in this thread, the film Corvette K-225 was made in 1943 by Universal Pictures and starred Randolph Scott and Ella Raines. It's an effective subchasing story albeit with too much "comedic" relief in the form of Andy Devine sparring with his shipmate and a bit too much "stiff upper lip" heroism. To the best of my knowledge it is not on DVD, although I have a 16mm sound ex-television print of it.

Bernard McIver
16th May 2007, 23:49
Kris, Thanks for that eloquent, moving contribution. Leaves one literally lost for words.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
17th May 2007, 00:05
Barnsey, Regarding the Tanker figures quoted in your posting of 11 May, of the 508 attributed to Norway,Holland,France and other European countries, how many were available after these countries were occupied?
Bernard

barnsey
17th May 2007, 11:38
Bernard ... those were the ones which stayed on the Allies side after occupation of their country ...

Kris great article about Hull. We picked up a book recently "Essex at War" published 1945 wonderfull book describing life in Essex through the war. relates similar items.

Jeff, the DVD I was on about and actually have was from "Naval War Archives" chapter 6 ....... Its excellent showing the escorts being picked up in USA, Johnny Walkers EG2 scenes on HMS Wren ( my Worcester Mates Dads command) in EG2 and so on ....

I too walked through London, Plymouth and Hamburg ... the scenes were still there .... granted not so bad in the late 40's and 50's. As for the places on the west banks of Hamburg behind the river facade ... sobering in the extreme. We ourselves were bombed out in 1944.

Barnsey

barnsey
17th May 2007, 13:15
Kris ....lovely story, thanks, (Wave)

Quote ...."Here at once was the most encouraging evidence you could find in the world that day—here was the proof of America's full support in the war, here too was the proof that it was reaching England in spite of submarines,"

"Hurry! hurry! hurry!" said the chorus in Britain. More, more, more, faster and faster. Quicker turn around in the ports,better loading of the ships, fast clearance of cargo from the ports to depots, faster unloading of the ships in port. Try to make it five. An hour saved now means a life saved later. Cargo!"

Paints a picture of hustle, bustle and plenty.... and improved systems as I have said before.


Hugh,...... "So, we've been invited to believe that a battle that took 2 and a half years to resolve in favour of the Allies presented no great threat to the outcome of W.W.2." .... that is not what I have said at all .....I have always said the "Battle of the Atlantic" was huge and terrible in terms of loss of life and ships.

What I have also said is that, sure there was a large loss of ships and life but for all that there were far larger amounts of convoys and ships getting through unmolested, not even attacked than you ever give credance to ... there had to be or all would have been lost. Sure the stocks in Britain were at a very low ebb. Sure that at Feb.- March 1943 there was an unsustainable loss of ships .... but that was that month at which that same time the launchings and ships loading plus the anti U-Boat weapons in ships and aircraft were to reverse that position. and it didnt "Just Happen" steps were in place and underway to produce the ships and weapons before that.

From then on out, IF you go through the figures I presented with an open mind there was a sudden and dramatic reversal so much so that losses were low single figures.

As for your remarks "allegedly, clapped-out U.boats equipped with defective torpedoes!" ...... I said the U-boats were out dated ... that is technologically out of date .... the "NEW AGE" U-boats were being designed and developed but only one ever did a patrol ... right at the end........and before you mention Schnorkel, that was never the wonder item made out but I will leave you to research that subject.....as for the torpedoes, I cannot make you understand that subject either...... but I will have one more crack ... in simple terms .... the basic G7 torpedo structure which they went to war with was fine... the air driven and electric motors. BUT, they were seriously and detrimentally defective in a) depth keeping ( not resolved until Jan. 1943 ) and b) fuses ...two types contact and magnetic. It caused serious heartburn for Raeder,Doenitz and their U-boat commanders throughout 1940 and 1941. Fact is a large percentage of torpedos never activated during those years ... if they had then the results we are discussing would have been very different.

Hugh please credit me as being fairly well read, owning a pretty good library on the subject, having an open practicable mind capable of logical conclusions from facts. I am neither alleging nor spinning fairy stories.:rolleyes:

Looking up your SC convoys which started in August 1940 and finished in08/06/45. Some were indeed hammered. SC7 consisted of 34 ships of which 15 were sunk. SC42 consisted of 65 ships of which 15 were sunk. SC94 consisted of 30 ships of which 10 were sunk and SC107 which consisted of 41 ships of which 15 were sunk.

However, the SC series of convoys numbered 177 convoys in all containing 6,806 ships. 29 ( or 16.4% ) of the 177 convoys in this series were attacked and suffered losses. There were 145 ships ( or 2.13% of the total ) lost in the attacks ... 143 were sunk by U-boat and 2 by aircraft. Two ships, "Blairmore" of SC1 and "Toward" of SC 118 were also sunk by U-boat while detatched from the convoy on rescue duty. 18 Merchant ships were lost from marine causes and can be included as losses due to the xingencies of war. One ship Alma Dawson of SC 11 blundered into a British minefield and was lost.

The SC convoys were slow convoys of no more than 7.5 knots. HX convoys were initially minimum speed 9 knots. There was no appreciable difference between losses for the two series in 1940, HX convoys lost 24 ships while SC lost 29 ships. In 1941 and 1942 there were horrifying differences HX lost 21 and 8 respectively while SC convoys lost 46 and 40. 1943, 1944 and 1945 showed almost equal losses.

The dreafull bias is attributed to reduced ability to divert the slower convoys from known danger warned of by Enigma and to a degree to the fact that slower,older and smaller ships are a good deal more susceptible to loss during concerted attacks. The fact that almost double the number of SC convoys were located and attacked as opposed to those of HX has the greatest bearing on the matter.....

fromThe Allied Convoy System 1939 - 1945 by A Hague

I cannot put things in a more graphic way Hugh, if the facts were as in your vision then everything would have folded by 1942. However, happily it was as the facts and logic have it the very large majority got through enabling Britain to not only survive but to start recovery and build up to Normandy and Invasion.

Tell you what in terms of the magnitude of everything away from the actual battles at sea, in the air and on land (very media worth items) ...... the speed and sheer volume of materials invloved boggles the mind. The most recent subject I had a delve into was "Mulberry" .... it absolutely staggered me the speed with which it was conceived and built .... a mere 9 months ....I had great difficulty in coming to terms with that ... but thats the story.

OK thats me for tonight ..... (Fly)

David

K urgess
17th May 2007, 13:44
You have to remember that the article I posted was written after numerous visits to Hull by the author in Autumn '43, winter and spring '44. What he said about the Luftwaffe could equally apply to the U-Bootewaffe. They were a spent force. But he doesn't discount them completely. What he says about submarines and the North Sea bears some investigation. Once the Convoys terminated at Liverpool etc., a lot of vessels proceeded alone to their final port so would not have come into the statistics for North Atlantic convoy sinkings.
From my small reading on the subject almost everybody agrees that, although the "Battle OF the Atlantic" lasted for 6 years, the "Battle FOR the Atlantic" lasted until 1943.
It may well have been that the torpedoes were rubbish and that the boats couldn't keep up with anti-submarine warfare methods. The battle was won as soon as all the new gizmos came on line.
I've just ordered Richard Woodman's "The Real Cruel Sea - The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1943" and am looking forward to it's arrival. Does anyone have an opinion on this publication?
Geoffrey Jones' in "Autumn of the U-Boats" puts the end in the autumn of 1943 when the U-Boat losses became insurmountable. He doesn't have an opinion on this which is what I like about his books. He just states the facts and lets you draw your own conclusions. I've been a fan since I read "Raider - The story of the Halifax and it's Flyers". He presented a factual account of the aircraft that was always in the shadow of the "Daily Mirror Aircraft". The Daily Mirror link comes from the fact that no matter what sort of bomber went on ops they were always Lancasters. The same mindset seems to apply to the Atlantic convoys.
Kris

Hugh Ferguson
17th May 2007, 21:15
Kris, Richard Woodman's book is a pretty massive paperback of 781 pages!
I've had it a year and still haven't even got half way through. It is probably the most detailed book on this subject that I have come across.
(Richard was Blue Funnel trained and his first book was about a "Voyage East" in an A.Class Bluey).
Interestingly, the sub-title is, The Merchant Navy in The Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1943. Critics give it very good revues: Gripping from first to last (The Scotsman); It will surely serve as a semi-official wartime history of our merchant marine (John Crossland, Sunday Times) and, The finest work to date on the cruelly ill-used & underrated merchant navy (Frank McLynn, New Statesman). I think Barnsey ought to read it, but I don't think anything would change his misconceptions! Hugh.

Hugh MacLean
17th May 2007, 23:37
I've just ordered Richard Woodman's "The Real Cruel Sea - The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1943" and am looking forward to it's arrival. Does anyone have an opinion on this publication?
Kris

I have it and IMHO is a must for anyone interested in the subject.

Regards

barnsey
17th May 2007, 23:56
Kris,

A couple of very good points you make ......."OF" and "FOR re the Atlantic U-boat war.

I like the summation you make ....
"It may well have been that the torpedoes were rubbish and that the boats couldn't keep up with anti-submarine warfare methods. The battle was won as soon as all the new gizmos came on line."

Then the "Daily Mirror aircraft" .....excellent point. I'll have to collect more of Geoffrey Jones books ... I have his "Submarine vs U-boat" coming from the RNZ Navy library ...have you tracked a copy yet??

As for Hughs remark ... "I think Barnsey ought to read it, but I don't think anything would change his misconceptions! Hugh." For a start I set things in motion to buy it as I read the words in the posting by Kris and I will read it with great interest. Further Hugh ... any "misconceptions" I have are open to be changed by logic derived from fact ......

If Hugh wants a go at aircraft I'll take him on that subject too .... ever since I first flew in a Boeing 707 to join a ship at Abadan I have been an aviation fan of every technological item that makes 'em take off, fly and land. I am not such a fan of Warbirds though barring the Mosquito,Typhoon, Tempest,Sea Fury and Mustang with the Buccaneer for more modern stuff.

The Rolls Royce engine is another item I follow up on, the English built ones which were "fitted" together were nowhere near as well made as the Ford and Packard units which were "engineered together" right from the start ....the English RR needed a kit of special tools whereas the American Merlin could be stripped down more or less with a screwdriver and a crescent so to speak.

I'll also compare the de Havilland Comet with the Boeing 707 and the BAE 111 with the Boeing 737.

In my CV I have included the fact that I selected the aircraft, organised and ran 3 Bi-annual Airshows here in Westport .....

If you can see me setting bait for poor Hugh you might just be right!!

Barnsey




I think Barnsey ought to read it, but I don't think anything would change his misconceptions! Hugh.

barnsey
18th May 2007, 00:03
Hugh of the MacLean family......and "IMHO" is a must

Que? if you please

Barnsey

K urgess
18th May 2007, 00:12
Thanks, Hugh, now I can't wait.

I have a book called "Shipwrecks of the Yorkshire Coast" by Arthur Godfrey and Peter J. Lassey. It lists most of the losses off the coast between Redcar and Spurn Point, a distance of 110 miles, since records began. I thought I'd have a look and see how many ships were lost to U-Boats between 1939 and 1945. I believe that most vessels avoided the English Channel before D-Day and went round the top from Liverpool when sailing to east coast ports so the figures could be relevent.
There appear to have been only 3 vessels sunk by U-boat, 2 in 1939 and 1 in 1940. Most losses were from mines or bombing by aircraft. There are nine listed as "war losses" with no recorded cause and 3 with no cause given other than "blown up".
Interestingly the figures for 1914 to 1918 are completely different. The figures for U-Boat sinkings, either torpedo or surface gunnery start with none in 1914, 6 in 1915, 13 in 1916, 49 in 1917 and 54 in 1918. All for the loss of 4 U-Boats in 1917 and 5 in 1918. It seems to have been a good job that the Allies won the land war in 1918 because we were surely losing the sea war!
I mention this because it may have a bearing on Allied thinking in WWII.
Kris

K urgess
18th May 2007, 00:24
Barnsey

IMHO = In My Humble Opinion.

I took so long to post my little bit that two responses were posted!

Sorry but I'm not a great fan of airborne vacuum cleaners. Much prefer the ones with fans on the front. I used to be the Archivist, Curator, Membership Secretary and General Dogsbody at a local air museum rebuilding a Halifax. I'm also the co-editor of the 466 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force newsletter who flew Halifaxes from here in Driffield and I've helped in research for their Squadron history. My collection of maritime books is exceeded only by my collection of aviation related ones. But that's another subject, definitely not nautical, and if the administrators of this site set up (or may already have) a similair site about aircraft, like they have about railways, then I'll meet you there at dawn with handbags at 20 paces.[=P]

Cheers
Kris
PS this is a long way from American tankers saving our bacon in WWII!

Bernard McIver
18th May 2007, 01:14
Just when I thought we were down from the clouds I find we are back in the air, so here goes with a personal comment. I flew to Australia in 1957 on a Super Constellation (with the fans on the front). The trip took over two days, and I remember well walking on the tarmac at Heathrow and thinking to myself what a small plane for such a journey. That same aircraft was used in the Queen's visit to Australia in 1954 and is described as an "immense plane". Just shows it is all in the mind!Bernard

Hugh Ferguson
18th May 2007, 12:08
We may well,as suggested by Bernard, be up in the clouds again: maybe blinded by science would be a more appropriate metaphor! At least we haven't been down in the gutters.
My last shot is to those, and there are many who have followed this thread, to take a look in the Gallery (see members' galleries for ease of access), at my posting of the Convoy conference photo, and imagine to themselves that the "4 ringer" addressing the Merchant shipmasters had remarked to them, "Don't worry gentlemen, we've got 'em licked". That would have raised a hollow laugh. God knows, there was nothing much else that might have even raised a weary smile on the faces of those hard pressed Merchant Mariners. I rest my case.
P.S. My thoughts often go to that elderly Norwegian tramp master, who for almost 5 years, plodded back and fore across the Western Ocean, only to have his old ship on his final passage back to his homeland, strike a mine layed by a U.boat, and die.

barnsey
18th May 2007, 12:48
:cool: Oh dear Hugh,

There is no "science" to blind you, only your dogmatism which is the established belief you hold of an ideology thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted. It is a viewpoint of ideas you hold based on insufficiently examined premises to the point of rejecting any objective basis for knowledge or any sense in which one statement could be any ‘more true’ than another.

In simple terms todays facts and simple logical conclusions evolving from them just don't fit your views and you cannot accept what is now proving your long held beliefs somewhat at odds.

In this last para. you are not alone and cannot be blamed at all. It results in part from the "spin" which was the news of the day, the political statements made out of neccessity of the times and a near total lack of the availablity of the true facts that have now been so well analysed and published.

My thoughts often go to that elderly Norwegian tramp master, who for almost 5 years, plodded back and fore across the Western Ocean, ............... seems to me he did an awfull lot of convoys in that time and no U-boat got him with a torpedo.....????

Barnsey (Scribe)

Bernard McIver
19th May 2007, 01:11
Barnsey, I am disgusted and disappointed with your tastless comment on the fate of a brave Norwegian ally. Please keep this debate objective or end it now.
Bernard

barnsey
19th May 2007, 04:05
Bernard,

My humble apologies for any offense you detect in my remark. There was none intended whatsoever and I am sorry that you should think me so callous to even think of such.

To the contrary Hugh used the statement ....."My thoughts often go to that elderly Norwegian tramp master, who for almost 5 years, plodded back and fore across the Western Ocean, only to have his old ship on his final passage back to his homeland, strike a mine layed by a U.boat, and die." ....to reinforce his conceptions and be authoritative.

My posting was an observation to emphasise that various peoples perceptions that major amounts of ships were sunk and lives lost in every convoy are patently untrue. The master, must indeed have endured many convoys in the 5 years before he was killed.

There are many, many other accounts of brave people surviving all those years only to fall in the last moments of War which always wrings my heart. But we should not dwell on the sadness of their fate but be very thankfull, celebrate their outstanding bravery and success in the face of the enemy, for the most part unseen but always a threat prior to that event.

We tend to forget and to thank the tens of thousands who remain anonymous who made so many trips braving the horrible weather and fear in convoys which were for the most part not attacked. The suspense must have affected them sorely then and after the war. They were left with little thanks or acknowledgement of their part in an extraordinary and protracted battle which has my intense interest and admiration.

David Barnes

Bernard McIver
19th May 2007, 08:37
David,

I willingly accept your apology and will endeavour to curb my sensitivity in the future. This is a subject close to my heart for personal reasons which I will not discuss here.

I must say I find it difficult to understand why you place so much emphasis on the success of the convoy system, when the real issue was about the volume of supplies reaching Britain, in convoys or otherwise.
Bernard

Split
19th May 2007, 10:05
Bernard,

My humble apologies for any offense you detect in my remark. There was none intended whatsoever and I am sorry that you should think me so callous to even think of such.

To the contrary Hugh used the statement ....."My thoughts often go to that elderly Norwegian tramp master, who for almost 5 years, plodded back and fore across the Western Ocean, only to have his old ship on his final passage back to his homeland, strike a mine layed by a U.boat, and die." ....to reinforce his conceptions and be authoritative.

My posting was an observation to emphasise that various peoples perceptions that major amounts of ships were sunk and lives lost in every convoy are patently untrue. The master, must indeed have endured many convoys in the 5 years before he was killed.

There are many, many other accounts of brave people surviving all those years only to fall in the last moments of War which always wrings my heart. But we should not dwell on the sadness of their fate but be very thankfull, celebrate their outstanding bravery and success in the face of the enemy, for the most part unseen but always a threat prior to that event.

We tend to forget and to thank the tens of thousands who remain anonymous who made so many trips braving the horrible weather and fear in convoys which were for the most part not attacked. The suspense must have affected them sorely then and after the war. They were left with little thanks or acknowledgement of their part in an extraordinary and protracted battle which has my intense interest and admiration.

David Barnes

Once again, I refer to the origin of the thread which casts doubt that America's contribution to the N.Atlantic suipply system to the UK was important to the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic.

I have had quoted a figure of 70,000 deaths in that battle. These figures speak for themselves. What would be the estimate of the number of men per ship? What would be the percentage lost of the total of men involved in that battle? Could we have maintained that loss without more help?

Split

barnsey
19th May 2007, 11:49
Bernard,

Thank you so much for your handsome reply. It is appreciated more than you possibly realise. You are a gentleman.

Your words which follow really answer your own question.

"I must say I find it difficult to understand why you place so much emphasis on the success of the convoy system, when the real issue was about the volume of supplies reaching Britain, in convoys or otherwise."

That the volume of supplies did get through to Britain and in huge quantities was due to the success of the Convoy system. By the "Convoy System" I mean to encompass the whole gambit. People, skills, organisation, planning, ships, scientists, defence, weapons, code breaking and not forgetting luck.

You are quite right that while we have concentrated on "The Battle of the Atlantic" there was much going on outside of that but it was the Atlantic scene to which almost everything relied on for the supplies to reach Britain. Ships came from far and wide but a vast number of those were routed via Halifax and such east Coast of America ports to join the Convoy and finally converge on Britain.

There are many discourses on whether to Convoy or not and the main downside of Convoy .....delays. That the Powers that be dithered so much so soon after WW I and that in 1943 or thereabouts some wanted to dispense with Convoy right on the verge of success amazes me .... but then we have hindsight they did not.

I am just going to check some figures on tankers ....... a thought has occured.

David

K urgess
19th May 2007, 12:11
I like this thread.
We seem to agree to disagree in a most civilised manner.[=P]
David mentions the fact that there were thoughts about abandoning the convoy system in 1943 "right on the verge of success".

That's what all this rhetoric is about isn't it. They didn't know at the time that they were "right on the verge of success". For every success we had in anti-submarine warfare development the right thinking people would fully expect the U-boat to develop effective counter-measures. Also from my reading of the air war over Europe and the bombing campaign experience showed that the Germans were very adept at turning our own measures against us. For example listening on the H2S radar band and calculating where and when the squadrons were going to take off. Plus using our own Monica to home night-fighters in on our aircraft.
Presenting the U-boats with a nice big juicy target like a slow moving mass of merchant ships and expecting them not to be able to avoid asdic etc., must have seemed madness to some.
So the "U-boat threat" was exaggerated out of all proportion because of ignorance of Germany's problems and the myth has lasted for 60 odd years.

The supplies did get through in huge quantities but the quantities were only just huge enough.

It seems a bit like wandering drunk through the streets of a foreign port in the '60s and not getting mugged. I never was but lots of my mates were. That doesn't mean that the danger wasn't there for me as well.

Kris

barnsey
19th May 2007, 13:03
Well put Kris .... love the analogy of drunks weaving.

Three things stand out for me amongst the many. The Germans did not realise that the incessant chattering of the U-boats a alerted the escorts that they were about and then enabled Huff-Duff to give the escorts a bearing down which to steam if it was adjudged the U-boats were close enough to make it worthwhile without leaving the convoy unprotected. That the Germans did not even think such a thing as Huff-Duff was possible is incredible. The long delay in the Germans realising there was centimetric radar and that their Metox did not detect its presence.

Another detail was that the Kriegsmarine did not seem to have such a technical developement arm as good as the Luftwaffe which you emphasise Kris.In many ways thank God the two arms did not get on well, thanks to Goering of course.

Still getting to the tanker bit ....

David

K urgess
19th May 2007, 13:38
I think the fact that Goering and Donitz didn't get on a bit too simple an explanation.
Most of the developments were sprearheaded by companies like Siemens and Telefunken who must have tried to sell their wares to both parties. It was probably funds, materials and bureaucratic fumbling that delayed advances. The example of Whittle and his jet engine springs to mind on our side.
The idea of Huff-Duff (High Frequency Direction Finding - H/F D/F, for those readers who are not technically au fait with wartime nomenclature) was something that wasn't mentioned to me when I was at radio college. I think it may still have been semi-secret at the time. We were taught that direction finding as such was only viable at lower frequencies. Mind you I was also taught that transistors would never catch on!
Most mistakes were only realised when the enemy gave something away. As in my Monica (rear facing approach warning device on Allied bombers) example where it took a Luftwaffe night-fighter landing at RAF Woodbridge by mistake (some mistake!) to alert the Allies to the fact that it's Flensburg radar was tuned to pick up Monica's transmissions. It was immediately switched off and never used again. So the Germans were not the only ones who didn't realise something that's patently obvious.
Damn! I must've swallowed a dictionary for breakfast. I did think that my bacon sarnie seemed a bit lumpy![=P]
Kris

barnsey
19th May 2007, 14:07
Kris please xplain Huf-Duff a little more.....simply please!!!

I have always held DF, the sets we navigators used as being fit only for listening to the BBC light program when the Old man wasnt around. Bearings NEVER!! So I was somewhat intrigued to read of the accuracy of Huff-Duff, a mighty aid to finding a U-boat at the end of the Rainbow....

Tanker figures becoming very interesting .. be with you all tomorrow ...

Barnsey

barnsey
19th May 2007, 14:11
Split .....

Sorry I had meant to answer your question regarding the casualty numbers .... I will give you the "Official" figures tomorrow but the ones I have are roughly 32,000 Merchant Seafarers and 31,000 U-boat crew or vv. As I say I will look that up tomorrow and give the accurate ones...

Barnsey

K urgess
19th May 2007, 15:29
Barnsey
There's a good book and Wikipedia has a simple explanation -

"Secret Weapon: U.S. High-Frequency Direction Finding in the Battle of the Atlantic" by Kathleen Broome Williams, Naval Inst Pr (October 1, 1996), ISBN 1-55750-935-2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Booksources&isbn=1557509352)Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huff-Duff (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huff-Duff)"

I don't have a copy of the book and doubt if I shall be getting one just yet at £23+ from the US only.[=P]

Cheers
Kris

barnsey
20th May 2007, 01:14
Thanks Kris .... that does not expand you brain cells very much but a reasonable little bit of info ....TVM

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
20th May 2007, 01:39
Bernard,

Thank you so much for your handsome reply. It is appreciated more than you possibly realise. You are a gentleman.

Your words which follow really answer your own question.

"I must say I find it difficult to understand why you place so much emphasis on the success of the convoy system, when the real issue was about the volume of supplies reaching Britain, in convoys or otherwise."



David

David,
Try putting NOT between "supplies" and "reaching" and let me have your revised opinion.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
20th May 2007, 01:58
Split,
Figures I have are similar to those posted by Barnsey, however the figure of 32,000 relates to British losses only. It will be interesting to see what Barnsey comes up with as I have not been able to find figures for Allied seamen.
From my information the average loss per British ship would be about 14.
Bernard

barnsey
20th May 2007, 04:29
Phew ... Tankers and an answer for Beranrd.....

Tankers first.
Non - Axis Tanker combined fleet at 1st Sept 1939 1,445 Tankers
New construction 1st Sept '39 - 31st Dec42 176 Tankers
Total vessels 1st Sept'39 to 31st Dec 1942 1,621 Tankers

Losses 1st Sept 1939 - 31st Dec 1942 330 Tankers

Non-Axis tanker fleet at 31st Dec 1942 1291 Tankers

I have not used the GRT as in tanker terms its nonsensical however I did average them out as an indication sizewise whether they were getting bigger or staying the same ... they stayed around the 7,500 GRT for what thats worth.

During the period 1st Jan - Dec31st 1942 there were 213 tanker losses of 1,667,505 GRT while the shipyards on both sides fo the Atlantic built 92 tankers of 925,000 GRT. A net loss by 121 tankers and 742,505 GRT.

This deficit was more than offset by spectacular gains over losses in 1943. That year American and British shipyards completed 245 tankers for 2,031,000 GRT, The losses were 48 tankers for 373,138 GRT.

On 1st Jan 1944 the combined fleet stood at 1,488 tankers slightly more than at 1st Sept 1039.

Now for some comments on those figures...."Thus the loss of non-axis tanker tonnage in the Atlantic in this period was nearly matched by the new tanker construction. Although London feared - and often predicted - dire oil shortages in the British Isles during this period none really occurred. Hardships and inconveniences, such as civilian petrol and fuel oil rationing resulted not solely from tanker losses but rather from the drastic slowdown of oil imports due to convoying and of course to the diversion of oil imports to the war making purposes."

Convoying as I said before and which is nicely amplified in Stan Mayes recollections where he did 2 cargos in 7 months on one tanker, slowed everything down tremendously until the system really got cracking in 1942.

The figures of men lost .... I have taken it to mean Allied seafarers.

The U-boat losses were 32,085 killed and 3,356 captured 713 U-boats sunk.

The Merchant Navy including DEMS staff figure is 30,132 killed. ( Source Admiralty Trade Records.)

I cannot find the Naval and RAF figures which would be hard to define anyway.

Barnsey

Split
20th May 2007, 10:19
Split,
Figures I have are similar to those posted by Barnsey, however the figure of 32,000 relates to British losses only. It will be interesting to see what Barnsey comes up with as I have not been able to find figures for Allied seamen.
From my information the average loss per British ship would be about 14.
Bernard

I remember getting mildly rebuked and corrected for quoting 30,000. Can't find where it was but around 70,000 was the figure given me. Sorry I can't find where, it might not be on this site.

Split

barnsey
20th May 2007, 10:37
Hi Split .... well it seems that was unfair on you because at the moment everything backs the 30,000+ figure. I am still looking for something to corroborate what you have in mind, 70,000 ... it has certainly stuck there so its around in one book or the other.

The only thing that could substantiate the 70,000 would be a combination of both U-boat, Merchant and Naval ships ie, the entire losses in the Battle. .....The more you read the more fascinating the whole battle becomes, I also have to say the clearer too.

Regards

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
20th May 2007, 11:12
Apart from the North Atlantic the tyranny of distance played a large part.
I sailed for 2 years on a Dutch ship capable of 15 knots. We carried cargo from American ports 4 trips sailing independently. The last trip in convoy to Antwerp, left the ship in Southend 7 days before VE day. 5 cargoes in two years! It was lonely out there.
Bernard

barnsey
20th May 2007, 11:13
Going back to supply .... I did mention way back the innefficient use of ships. In May 1941 the Sea Transport organization were informed there was a hold up in Suez with the unloading of ships. Some 117 were at anchor there awaiting discharge so the report went. a Senior ship owner went out to investigate. It turned out that the Ministry Rep. an official over 70 was based in Alexandria with a miniscule staff and very bad comms with suez. The Sea Transport officers were elderly retired RN officers of high rank or younger more junior officers whose chief qualification was "that no other service was required of them.' In the circumstances it was not suprising chaos reigned.They reckon that not all the ships were UK ships However the whole deal was revised and the handling of cargos transferred to local commercially experienced agents.!!!! George Robey maybe???? The Army also had a habit of using the ships as floating warehouses and that was curbed too.

By 1943 the Allied successes in North Africa placed further demands on shipping as there was a large civilian population to be fed and supported, something we tend to forget.

It also seems it was not only our own army but that of the US. The calls on tonnage to support the US Army in the UK and later Europe bore little resemblance to to actual needs.

It was so serious that there was a Presidential decree to Eisenhower and McArthur.
The use of Oceangoing cargo ships for storage purposes whther loaded in the US or in theatre is prohibited.
Selective discharge of ships will be discontinued
The misuse of large oceangoing ships by diversion or delay to discharge or load small tonnages by partial or selective unloading or by inefficient local small deliveries except in emergency will be discontinued.Prior to 1942 the Navy kept oceangoing tankers idle in Scapa Flow as floating reservoirs of fuel for the Fleet as there were no shore facilities until they hollowed out rock caverns. Similarly in Iceland and the like....all extra jobs for the tankers.

At every turn of the page a new twist takes place and another drop of logical answers fall into place.......the mind boggles at the logistics.

Barnsey

barnsey
20th May 2007, 11:15
Oooops forgot the credits for the above .. "The Allied Convoy System 1939 - 1945 its operation Defence and organization. by Arnold Hague Published by Chatham publishing London

Great book grab a copy ....

barnsey

barnsey
20th May 2007, 12:21
Bernard could you please amplify those trips more please. I am sure theres a lot more to them than you have mentioned here.

They may have been boring and un-intresting to you , perhaps not? however I am sure they will add much to the pictures texture.

So start from joining ...... please.

David

K urgess
20th May 2007, 13:25
While looking for ANY information on allied merchant seaman losses I came across this page -
http://members.tripod.com/~merchantships/merchantseamentributesources1.html
It seems that everyone and his dog has written something about the subject.

A friend of my Father's was a Norwegian DEMS gunner and an organiser of the Norwegian Gunners Association. I have a pamphlet that lists a lot of information about the arming of Norwegian Merchant Ships between April 1940 (Norway invaded) and June 1945 (stand down). The interesting figures are for the total number of vessels. I believe the Norwegians had a lot of tankers.
April 1940 887 ships 3,904,000 GRT (approx)
March 1941 746 ships
March 1942 640 ships
March 1943 531 ships
March 1944 497 ships
March 1945 485 ships
June 1945 482 ships 2,245,000 GRT (Approx)

I'm not sure but I think any Norwegian survivors were spread among the other Allied Merchant Navies and Norway was not given any new ships, or at least very few. So thats almost 50% of the Norwegian Merchant shipping lost in 5 years.

It's also interesting that up to 1943 they lost an average of 120 a year and then this dropped to a third of that for 1944 and "negligable" in 1945. The figures are given for every quarter but I've only given the annual one for illustration.

If you take Bernard's average of 14 dead per ship loss then that makes Norway's loss in the region of 5,670.

I'm still reading but my Norwegian is very rusty so it may take me a while to find any relevant information.

Kris

Split
20th May 2007, 14:29
While looking for ANY information on allied merchant seaman losses I came across this page -
http://members.tripod.com/~merchantships/merchantseamentributesources1.html
It seems that everyone and his dog has written something about the subject.

A friend of my Father's was a Norwegian DEMS gunner and an organiser of the Norwegian Gunners Association. I have a pamphlet that lists a lot of information about the arming of Norwegian Merchant Ships between April 1940 (Norway invaded) and June 1945 (stand down). The interesting figures are for the total number of vessels. I believe the Norwegians had a lot of tankers.
April 1940 887 ships 3,904,000 GRT (approx)
March 1941 746 ships
March 1942 640 ships
March 1943 531 ships
March 1944 497 ships
March 1945 485 ships
June 1945 482 ships 2,245,000 GRT (Approx)

I'm not sure but I think any Norwegian survivors were spread among the other Allied Merchant Navies and Norway was not given any new ships, or at least very few. So thats almost 50% of the Norwegian Merchant shipping lost in 5 years.

It's also interesting that up to 1943 they lost an average of 120 a year and then this dropped to a third of that for 1944 and "negligable" in 1945. The figures are given for every quarter but I've only given the annual one for illustration.

If you take Bernard's average of 14 dead per ship loss then that makes Norway's loss in the region of 5,670.

I'm still reading but my Norwegian is very rusty so it may take me a while to find any relevant information.

Kris

When you consider that the total number of t2's built were between 5-600, it can be seen that the possibilñity of replacing the ships lost by the UK, Commonwealth and, still free, shipbuilding Allies, before the entry of the US into the war, was an impossibility. Churchill's only hope was hanging on until the US entered the war. Germany's ally, Japan, helped us out. I read that Berlin went up the wall on hearing the news of Pearl Harbour.

Split

barnsey
21st May 2007, 00:13
Hi Split,

Quite right in all you say ..... Churchill and Roosevelt had it fairly well planned. Read yesterday something of the opposition in USA to the Americans not entering the war.... one bloke, who was supplying oil to the Nazis teamed up with a very strong union to get their votes to usurp Roosevelt. He seemed to die very suddenly .... the CIA had no comment!

I see you were in Caltex ... did you come across a Ron Rushbrooke ?

Barnsey

K urgess
21st May 2007, 01:34
With reference to my last post about the Norwegian Merchant Fleet.
In 1939 62% of Norway's merchant ships were motor ships compared to Britain's 25% which was also the world average. 42% of their ships were tankers and were the most modern afloat accounting for 18% of the world's tankship tonnage. Only Great Britain and the USA had bigger tanker fleets. 43% of the tankers on the North Atlantic in 1941 prior to the US entering the war were Norwegian.
Norwegian tankers carried 19% of all oil products delivered to the UK during the war and 6.5% of all dry cargoes.
Of the 1664 allied ships lost in 1942 10% were Norwegian.
The Norwegian sources I'm quoting state that the number of Allied seamen killed was 30,000. Norwegian losses amounted to 3,638 dead 40% of them under 30 years of age.
By the time Norway entered the war (April 1940) 392 of her seamen had already died in acts of war despite being marked as neutral.
Kris

Bernard McIver
21st May 2007, 02:00
The average figure I posted was attributed to British losses only and included D.E.M.S. personnel. Coincidentally, Split's figure of 70,000 when compared to total shipping losses of just over 5,000, comes out at 14! As I say, just coincidence. Any given number of ships/men could come out widely different. My brother's ship was sunk with the loss of all 360 passengers and crew.
My father's ship was sunk with the loss of 7 from a crew of 53.
A loss of 367 from 2 ships. Average 183.5.
The search for the truth is unending.

For Barnsey: I will endeavour to post a concise account of my experiences if only to illustrate that sailing for Uncle Sam did not of itself speed things up.
Bernard

barnsey
21st May 2007, 04:11
Kris and Bernard ... thanks for both the posts.....the Norwegian figures continued after the war too ... in BP Tankers we had the figures .. and names of the ships on BP Charter, cannot remember the document.... most were Norwegian.

Look forward to your posts with interest Bernard, realise the sensitivity too.

I scanned the USA entry into the War at lunchtime .... they were well into the Battle of the Atlantic throughout 1941, though the media and apathy of the ordinary Joe in the street seemed to be oblivious of the fact. Rooseveldt certainly took his time and care in entering. He and Churchill had it well planned though, shipbuilding and expansion thereof were in hand ... etc.

But without that industrial might we sure would have been up against it.

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 00:40
This table may help in putting this debate into perspective.

Ships Sunk Can/US Ships Built Prog.Deficit U-Boats Sunk

1939 221 - 221 9
1940 1059 - 1280 24
1941 1299 27 2252 35
1942 1664 975 3241 87
1943 597 1636 2202 237
1944 205 1246 1161 242
1945 105 346 920 151

TOTALS: 5150 4230 920 785

Makes interesting viewing.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 00:46
Sorry this did not appear in the format I posted. Will try again to make it readable.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 01:01
1939 Sunk 221 Built nil Prog.Deficit 221 U-Boats sunk 9
1940 " 1059 " nil " 1280 " 24
1941 " 1299 " 27 " 2252 " 35
1942 " 1664 " 975 " 3241 " 87
1943 " 597 " 1636 " 2202 " 237
1944 " 205 " 1246 " 1161 " 242
1945 " 105 " 346 " 920 " 151

TOTALS: 5150 4230 920 785
Bernard

barnsey
22nd May 2007, 01:04
Bernard ... sorry that last post of yours needs some more words to it to describe what the figures all mean ....

David

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 01:06
Seems like the gremlins are against me with this one.

barnsey
22nd May 2007, 01:09
Bernard .... its all ok in the warning e-mail and comes out in the columns.

This appears to deal with the USA Canadian figures ... where did the info come from ?

David

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 01:30
1939 Ships sunk 221; Built nil; Prog. loss 221; U-boats sunk 9
1940 Ships sunk 1059; Built nil; Prog. loss 1280; U-boats sunk 24
1941 Ships sunk 1299; Built 27; Prog.loss 2252; U-boats sunk 35
1942 Ships sunk 1264; Built 975; Prog.loss 3241; U-boats sunk 87
1943 Ships sunk 597; Built 1636;Prog.loss 2202; U-boats sunk 237
1944 Ships sunk 205; Built 1246;Prog.loss 1161; U-boats sunk 242
1945 Ships sunk 105; Built 346;Prog.loss 920; U-boats sunk 151

TOTAL:Ships sunk 5150; Built 4230;Prog.loss 920; U-boats sunk 785

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 02:17
David,
The US information was extracted from "WW11 Construction Records Private Sector Shipyards that Built Ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission"
It can be accessed on this link: www.coltoncompany.com/shipbldg/ussbldrs/wwii.htm

The Canadian figures I took from the posting by Geoff(zelo1954), and verified in "The Canadian War Industry", link: www.wwii.ca/page17.html

Bernard

barnsey
22nd May 2007, 07:04
Thanks Bernard ... good websites .... especially the Canadian one ... very interesting.

Will do some more sifting

Barnsey

barnsey
22nd May 2007, 10:17
Kris, Bernard ..........................

Please visit this site .... the most comprehensive on Convoys and WW II shipping I have come across which a very good friend of mine and collaborater pointed me too ...the first bit will definitely interest you Kris as its about the Norwegian entry and what happened to their Merchant ships ..

http://www.warsailors.com/freefleet/index.html

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
22nd May 2007, 11:07
David,
Thanks for that information. I have used that site and find it very informative.
Now for Clay Blair. I have managed to borrow volume 2 which I am finding interesting, but I need some figures from volume 1 which you may be able to supply.

I am looking at page 708. On the top of the page is a breakdown of all transatlantic crossings East and West, detailing the number of convoys; number of ships in the convoys; and the losses. These are for Sept. 1942 to 1945. Do you have the same information from volume 1 for the period Sept. 1939 to Aug. 1942? If so would you please provide same.
Thanks,
Bernard

barnsey
22nd May 2007, 11:15
Bernard .... bare with me for a couple of hours and I will get that for you.

I am afraid you will have to get Vol 1 as well.Together they are a wealth of info and he clarifies things pretty well.

They are great books. I think there is a secondhand as new hardcover one in Christchurch for NZ$45. I can check for you if you like?
Meantime ask away ..its not a problem.

David

barnsey
22nd May 2007, 12:48
Bernard .... You are not going to believe this ... I dont either!!

Thats a very handy table on page 708 but the 1st Sept 1939 -31Dec 1941 is not replicated in Vol I. I'll have another detailed look because I thought I had seen it but it has not been done.... maybe because Vol II deals with the up side of the battle and that table amplifies what he is saying.

Have you read pages 706 and 707?

David

Bernard McIver
23rd May 2007, 00:20
David,
Yes, I have read pages 706/707 and it is Blair's contentions that I take issue with. I have figures attributed to Blair which summarise the total ships sunk by German and Italian submarines in WW2. These are listed yearly, and in the case of 1943-45 they agree with those in Vol.2. The purpose of my enquiry is to find the Monthly figures for 1939-August 1942 so that I have a complete picture.
I am surprised that he did not use the same format for the presentation of statistics in both volumes.
Look forward to the result from your search.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
23rd May 2007, 01:15
Kris,
Thanks for your information relating to the Norwegian contribution in WW2.
Not enough credit is given to those Allied seamen from the occupied countries who carried the extra burden of being separated from their homeland for so many years, with no means of communicating with their families. Their story needs to be written.

I still vividly remember the face of the 1st officer of the Dutch ship I was serving on as we entered the Scheldt estuary bound for Antwerp. His hometown was on the port side, flooded by the Germans to hold up our advancing army.
He had been away 6 years, he was so close. but he still had at least one return trip to complete. I dont know when he finally returned home but the pain he could not hide is etched in my memory. He was but one.
Bernard

barnsey
23rd May 2007, 01:38
I'll second that Bernard .... there were hundreds of ships away from their home country when their homes were overrun ........ what a terrible feeling for them ....... and then when they did get home, if they did what did they find??

David

K urgess
23rd May 2007, 01:43
I'm a bit biased, Bernard.
My mother was Norwegian and her first fiancée survived torpedoing before Norway entered the war but died later of pneumonia after spending some time in the water.
All my older Norwegian relatives were at sea at some time or other and all were effected by Herr Hitler's desire for "lebensraum" in one way or another.
I can quite imagine how the Dutch 1st Officer felt. Fortunately I've never had to experience it though. This little island was full of the world's displaced people for 6 years.
Somewhere I've got something about shipping losses that was produced during the war. I'll have to try and find it because I'd like to compare it to the actual statistics we now have access to. I wonder if there would really be much of a discrepancy.

Kris

Split
23rd May 2007, 11:37
I asked over on the MNA site and Billy McGee kindly took the trouble to pass these figures on to me.

The Register General has the figures at 29,180 plus 814 lost on fishing vessels from 3rd September 1939 to 31st August 1945, these figures include British Seamen on foreign ships and visa versa. The figures kept by the Trade Division Admiralty has the total at 30,129.

From my files: (ie Billy McGee's files)

Tower Hill WWII Memorial 24,000 (including 139 Australian & 69 New Zealand Merchant Seamen)
Buried Ashore 2,594 (incl. Canadian, Australian, New Zealand MN)
Canadian 1,554
Bombay/Chittagong Memorial 6,048
Hong Kong War Memorial 1,400
Liverpool Naval Memorial 1,400 (Merchant Seamen who served on RN vessels under the T124T & T124X Agreements)
Australian War Memorial 359
Royal Navy DEMS 3,000
DEMS Maritime Regt. 1,222
DEMS other Regt's 50
Naval Staff 699
4,654 Missing Presumed Dead,

Total 48,980 + 4,707 wounded and another 5,720 held illegally as prisoners of war

A HMSO study published in 1955 "Merchant Shipping & the Demands of War" states that as many as 11,600 Merchant Seamen between 1942-1944 died shortly after leaving their ship, or whose lives were permanently damaged, either physically or mentally. Whether or not all these numbers were ever taken into account for the final count is anybody's guess.

Another poster over there sent me a link, too. I haven't had time to read that, yet.

Anyway, without being disloyal to this site (I told Billy about this thread) I hope that you will take a look, if you don't know of it already.

Split

Hugh Ferguson
23rd May 2007, 12:35
The bit in this debate that I find most difficult to get my head around is, that the prowess of U.boats is a myth, (see Barnsey's posting on p.3, in which a reference is made to Canadian historian, Michael Hadley's statement that in W.W.1, and again in W.W.2, 2 "the U.boat was mythologised more than any other weapon of war."
Was Hadley not aware that in 1917, the Admiralty had informed the British Government that they had LOST the war at sea!!! But, no worry, for in 1936 along came the London Submarine Act, signed by Germany & Britain, making the sinking of merchant ships by submarines illegal, on the grounds that submarines were not able to effect the rescue of survivors.
So, no necessity to concentrate on Anti Submarine Warfare strategy. Pass over R.N. officers who had made that unfortunate choice their speciality, and abandon any thoughts of building warships suitable for the escorting of merchant ships in convoy. We know, only too well, the folly of that.
I feel very tempted to extend my paraphrazing of Churchill's memorable one-liner to, "Some chicken, some neck, some myth." Nothing mythical about what happened in more than a few convoys, but to select just one. On the first day of action, in Pedestal Convoy in Aug. 1942, U.73 sank the aircraft carrier H.M.S. EAGLE, followed by, on 12th Aug. the AXUM, with ONE salvo of 4 torpedoes put two cruisers out of action and set the tanker OHIO on fire!!
I cannot think of another conventional weapon of war that can deliver such devastating death and destruction in a matter of minutes.
Not a threat!?!? It seems to me that those who pursue this extraordinary belief have a very peculiar axe to grind.

barnsey
23rd May 2007, 12:42
Well done Split ..... an excellent effort.

I wonder they have any figures at all really, all accounting done by hand laboriously copied into books .... pages and pages. Then all transcribed I guess when computers came along .... that is some task.

The end result a hell of a lot of brave people ........... and still the Merchant Navy and the part it played is vastly unrecognised.

I hope you people have applied for your Veterans medal??? They are really lovely items and easily obtained via the net ... we got my Father in Laws the other day....

Barnsey

K urgess
23rd May 2007, 12:50
I think you have to look at it from the "threat" point of view, Hugh.
The recent WMD debate springs to mind.
The U-boats were a threat and we were very lucky that the sort of incident you describe didn't happen every day.
The fact that it didn't makes people think that the threat was a myth but it was very real at the time.
U-boats were inefficient and outgunned after 1943 but nobody can say that 1200 odd ships lost in 1942 was as the result of a "myth". Especially considering the number of U-boats involved.
Kris

Split
23rd May 2007, 14:04
Well done Split ..... an excellent effort.


Barnsey

No, I just put him the question. Billy McGee should take the credit, he's a good friend of the MN and can, almost certainly, answer many more of your enquiries.

Regards Split

barnsey
23rd May 2007, 14:08
Hugh,

I hope that I can attach some of the pages I have just scanned to hopefully illustrate the point you cannot see.

The one side, to which you prescribe says that the U-boats decimated every convoy.

This is derived from the scant information which was available to you during and after the war. Individuals from both sides described what went on in their own, quite small view of the war. It also was emphasised by the political spin and speeches of the times. In the 40's and 50's we took what the politicians said as more or less Gospel.

Today we have more or less unbounded access to all sorts of figures, documents and embargoed secrets have been released all of which have been analysed by experts and Historians.

We have now got excellent information and documents which lay out very accurate detail the progression and effects of, in our debate the Battle of the Atlantic.

The attachments show some of the fast HX Convoys and the slow SC Convoys of 1941 and 1942 as an example that contrary to your belief few convoys were actually attacked and had ships sunk.

It is the right hand side of the columns you need to look at ... the Total ships in the convoy, the Total sunk in that convoy and finally those damaged.

There is no dispute that the U-boats attacked and sank a great many ships. But that has to be taken along with the fact that there were a vast number of convoys and ships which were never attacked or sunk. It had to be so or we would never have won the war.

Look in the U-boat website again with different eyes. There were a good number of U-boats which never sank a ship before they themselves were sunk. There were a good number of U-boat commanders who never sank or damaged a ship. Finally there are tales where vast numbers of torpedoes were fired which never did anything.

Hence the Canadian fellow was quite right in saying that the U-boat was mythologised. He didnt say they were useless, which is how you read him but that the full facts show that the U-boat by itself was not the superb weapon it was made out to be during and post war.

If I have an axe to grind then it is that the myths are put away and the truth is allowed out and acknowledged so that mistakes may never be made in the future.

David Barnes

PS ..... the convoy figure for 1943 and 1944 are much better!

K urgess
23rd May 2007, 15:51
Isn't that a bit dangerous, David.

After WWI, which we were losing at sea thanks to U-boats, WWII started with the assumption that the U-boats had improved along with all other technology. So they were treated as a dire threat.

After WWII we now decide that the U-boat wasn't the threat everybody believed so we discount them next time we go to war!

The Japanese and Italians would have liked the Allied submarines to have been as ineffective and the Russians and Americans certainly put some store by them.

If you really study the subject you don't mythologise the U-boat's effect. It doesn't matter. They were there and could strike at any time. Brave men in tin cans on both sides of the equation. You have to take the figures and look at the overall picture not just the limited scene of U-boat successes or not. As I said previously any merchant shipping loss was too much in the overall picture. They were irreplaceable until the Americans started building enough to cover the losses not just from U-boats and the new technology came on line.

It's all "ifs" isn't it. What would the result of been if the U-boats had developed efficient "silent running". What if all the torpedoes had worked every time. What if the homing torpedo had come along earlier. What if we hadn't developed Huff-Duff. What if the weather had favoured the U-boat more often. What if we HAD abandonned the convoy system. Etc., etc., etc.

Kris

Bernard McIver
24th May 2007, 00:04
David,
I have in front of me a copy of "The Battle of the Atlantic" published by His Majesty's Stationery Office in 1946. From my observations the information therein does not differ in substance from more contemporary accounts.
Where it does differ is in the interpretation. More on this later when I have completed my review of Clay Blair's volumes.

Regarding Merchant Navy casualties, I came across this interesting item.
" A summary of wartime losses in the British Merchant Navy makes the point: about 185,000 merchant seamen served aboard freighters, tankers, and motor ships, of whom 32,952, or 17 percent, lost their lives.
That was a higher casualty rate than the 9.3 percent suffered during the war by the Royal Navy, the 9 percent by the Royal Air Force, and the 6 percent by the British Army". These figures did not include D.E.M.S
Bernard

Bernard McIver
24th May 2007, 01:20
Here is a breakdown of the Shipping Losses from my previous posting.
The number of ships includes British, Allied and Neutral.
Tonnage is Gross Registered Tonnage expressed in '000s.

Total losses = 5150; 21570 ('000) tons.

BY LOCATION:
North Atlantic 2232; 11900
South Atlantic 174; 1024
UK Waters 1431; 3768
Mediterranean 413; 1740
Indian Ocean 385; 1790
Pacific Ocean 515; 1348

BY CAUSE:

Submarines 2828; 14686
Aircraft 820; 2890
Mines 534; 1406
Other causes 632; 1030
Raiders 133; 830
Warships 104; 498
Coastal forces 99; 230

Bernard

barnsey
24th May 2007, 03:54
Hi Bernard ..... yup thats true that the casualty rate for MN was proportionally highest amongst all the Navy and Raf...... wherever you go we still seem to be around the 32,000 - 33,000 mark dont we ???

Anymore detail re "The Battle of the Atlantic" published by His Majesty's Stationery Office in 1946. .... number of publication and so on??

Kris ..... dont think this was quite the case .... "WWII started with the assumption that the U-boats had improved along with all other technology. So they were treated as a dire threat." ..... as the RN thought that asdic was the b-all and end-all ..... how wrong they were ... Churchill made a good comment ... "so long as we have adquate numbers of escorts and destroyers to put it on ... and we havn't"

Its all very interesting..

David

Bernard McIver
24th May 2007, 11:12
David,
This is a paper back book and was available from H.M. Stationery Office at York House, Kingsway, London W.C.2, or at any bookseller (that was in 1946). Price then was 1s.0d. S.O. Code No. 70-495. Afraid that is all.
It contains maps showing the location of ships and U-boats sunk in the various phases of the battle. My copy is getting a little weary.
Bernard

K urgess
24th May 2007, 11:18
Quite a few available on Abebooks, David.
From two quid upwards. Haven't got that one myself any more, probably because it's postwar.

You're probably right about the asdic giving the RN a false sense of security.
Still we should have known about the ability to hide under different thermoclines.

Kris

Hugh Ferguson
24th May 2007, 13:02
Hi Bernard ..... yup thats true that the casualty rate for MN was proportionally highest amongst all the Navy and Raf...... wherever you go we still seem to be around the 32,000 - 33,000 mark dont we ???

Anymore detail re "The Battle of the Atlantic" published by His Majesty's Stationery Office in 1946. .... number of publication and so on??

Kris ..... dont think this was quite the case .... "WWII started with the assumption that the U-boats had improved along with all other technology. So they were treated as a dire threat." ..... as the RN thought that asdic was the b-all and end-all ..... how wrong they were ... Churchill made a good comment ... "so long as we have adquate numbers of escorts and destroyers to put it on ... and we havn't"

Its all very interesting..

David

This debate is getting nowhere! The reason why the U.boat eventuallybecame such a threat was because initially it had been assumed that the strictures on building them after W.W.1 were in place, and the London Submarine Act, 1936, and the Prize regulations had virtually made submarine warfare against unarmed merchant ships manned by civilians impossible. Consequently, a ghastly malaise of complacency at the Admiralty had produced a situation in which A.S.W. was regarded in the Royal Navy as a backwater!! U.boats were not even thought of as threat, let alone a "dire" threat.
If you are into the exceptional Conning Tower site-constantly up-dated-you can see for yourselves that until the French bases became available, beginning in May, 1940, there was, virtually, zero threat from U.boats. Look up their Patrol figures. On 30th Sept.1939 there were just 17 U.boats at sea; on the same date in 1940 there were a mere 10, BUT, 8 were out of Lorient, only one out of Kiel and one out of Bergen: times were changing, indeed they were, and it was one hell of a shock for the admirals.
Blohm & Voss in Hamburg (just one of about 17 U.boat building yards)were producing a U.boat a week throughout 1941 and 1942, an absolutely phenomenal rate of production.

I can't wait for Kris to get hold of Richard Woodman's book, The Real Cruel Sea, and then I can sit back and let you learn all about the lead up to that truly horrific battle.
I can confirm the overall figures of 17% for Merchant Service loss of life. For the Blue Funnel Line they were considerably less at about 9%.

K urgess
24th May 2007, 13:53
Well there you are. What you think is common sense turns out to be totally wrong.
Having only dipped the toes in this subject I constantly refer to my past research into WWII aviation history.
I used to live in an Officer's married quarters house on the local RAF station. The airfield has been there since 1917 and upgraded in 1935. That was the year my house was built in what was known as the "Expansion of Airfields" scheme instigated when the threat form the Luftwaffe was finally recognised. Most of the wartime airfields in this area were built or upgraded at this time. Easy to tell which are which because they all look the same. The next airfield building programme began in 1941 and lasted until the end of the war. These wartime "utility" airfields are also readily recognisable.
This recognition of an imminent threat must have been an exception. Because the U-boat bases were all in the North Sea I suppose the Admiralty took the view that we owned the "German" Ocean and so they could be ignored. Considering that the Germans had ignored almost all the limitations and treaties imposed in 1918-1919 this seems strange thinking. Especially since the RN was a lot stronger in 1918 and was admittedly losing the U-boat war at that time.
It also must have been something of a shock to have the Royal Oak sunk in the home of the Royal Navy at a very early stage of the war.

My copy of Richard Woodman's book is on hold at the moment. The bookseller knows the author and is getting more copies from him. Signed, I hope. I look forward to getting it as it seems to be the "bible" as far as this subject is concerned.

Kris

K urgess
24th May 2007, 13:55
Hugh
Weren't the Blue Funnel figures the result of better survival training and strict adherence to drills, etc?

Hugh Ferguson
24th May 2007, 20:52
Hugh
Weren't the Blue Funnel figures the result of better survival training and strict adherence to drills, etc?

Yes Kris, exactly that! Laurence Holt in co-operation with Kurt Hahn (Gordonstoun School), realised very early on that a lot of life was being lost when abandoning ship and making the passage to land. So, he set up the Outward Bound Sea School in Aberdovey, and staffed it with men, like Freddy Fuller, who had been through the mill. Freddy, who was the Principal of the school had been 35 days in a lifeboat and on being picked up by a British ship was then torpedoed again!
Laurence Holt was a very compassionate and caring shipowner and there is no doubt that what we learnt was a major contribution to that quite remarkable statistic. It's the kind of statistic that I love to read about.
Each month long course at the school consisted of about 90 pre-sea boys, and we spent it being thoroughly drilled in small boat handling and getting and keeping physically fit. Ironically, the athletics instruction came from Dr. Zimmerman and his son who, with his family, had fled Nazi Germany.
I went there in 1942 and I will never forget Doc. Zimmerman, on his bicycle, urging us along in his strong German accent, on our 5 mile walking race,or our 2 mile road run in traffic free Aberdovey.

Bernard McIver
25th May 2007, 10:56
Hugh, I can understand you feeling that this debate is getting nowhere.
It appears to have run out of steam but I can assure you that there is much more to come.

I am currently sifting through Vol.2 of Blairs "Hitler's U-boat War".
This is in no way a history of the Battle of the Atlantic, and was not intended to be. Blair says himself that he formed his opinion that the U-boats never came close to winning that battle whilst he was writing his book. To quote him"I was at first startled and skeptical, even disbelieving".

From what I can see from this volume his opinion is based purely on the results from the convoy battles and completely ignores the losses from independent ships. To put it bluntly, he is creative with the facts.

One example for now: He gives the losses from convoys for the period Sept.1942-May 1945 as 272 and I think he is probably correct. However he then goes on to compare this figure with the 4716 ships built in the USA for the same period and comes up with a ratio of 17 to 1, which he obviously thinks is very favourable. If he had included the ships lost when not in convoy, the figure would have been 1015, and the ratio 4.6 to 1.

There is surely a lot more to come but I am reserving my final judgement until I have Vol.1 as well.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
25th May 2007, 11:24
Sorry, but I can't resist posting this from Blair's book, referring to April 1943 convoy sailings. "Halifax 235 and Slow Convoy 127 crossed the Atlantic without the loss of any ships".
Don't know about 127 but HX235 sailed with 36 ships and arrived with 34.
Two ships collided 2 days out of Halifax, 1 sank and the other returned to Halifax badly damaged. It finally sailed for the UK one month later.
I happened to be in that convoy so perhaps I see things in a different light.
Bernard.

Hugh Ferguson
25th May 2007, 20:19
Sorry, but I can't resist posting this from Blair's book, referring to April 1943 convoy sailings. "Halifax 235 and Slow Convoy 127 crossed the Atlantic without the loss of any ships".
Don't know about 127 but HX235 sailed with 36 ships and arrived with 34.
Two ships collided 2 days out of Halifax, 1 sank and the other returned to Halifax badly damaged. It finally sailed for the UK one month later.
I happened to be in that convoy so perhaps I see things in a different light.
Bernard.

SC 118; 4th Feb.1943 lost 13 ships: SC 121 6th/11th Mar.1943 lost 15 ships; SC 122, 17th/19th Mar.1943 lost 11 ships. Maybe they had run out of torpedoes! They couldn't just pop back to Lorient for a few more. Those 39 ships were a very heavy loss of vital war material, the delivery of which was massive at that time for the greatest invasion in the history of mankind. And that was going to take place in just over one year. It was unthinkable that it might not succeed. But what was worse was that the supply could be interrupted after the armies had landed in Normandy. That would have been nothing short of catastrophic. The U.boats had to be defeated and the losses in those three convoys were a very ill omen indeed.
So many think of the possibility of Britain facing starvation resulting from a blockade by U.boats. We were never anywhere near that happening. I saw people in Holland who suffered real hunger, to such an extent that a truce was arranged with German ack, ack batteries not to fire on Lancaster bombers, flying in over their guns at 200 feet, to drop food to the beleaguered Hollanders.

Like the man said, war has always been a case of intense activity and periods of the opposite. To quote, "You were either bored stiff, or scared stiff." I was in similar convoys where nothing much happened: one, I recall, the gunners got so bored they started shooting each other, not intentionally I should add. We had to call on an American destroyer to take the wounded man off. When we arrived Bombay the unfortunate culprit was marched ashore under armed guard to be court martialled. His name was John Hill, and he had been a miner in Aber Bargoed. He was D.E.M.S. gunner from the Royal Artillery. I wonder if there is anyone who would have some idea about how to discover what became of him. I'll bet he got home before we did! Hugh.

Bernard McIver
26th May 2007, 02:14
Hugh, I agree with you that Britain at no time faced starvation. Severe hardship yes but nothing worse. As a 16/17 year old at that time I have no recollection of the prospect of starvation being discussed.

This quote from "Command Decisions" deals with the situation as at December 1942-April 1943.

"The President's warning of a probable lag in early deliveries was immediately borne out. Shipments in American bottoms during December were hardly more than token in character, and the schedules drawn up by WSA provided for delivery of only 1.8 million tons of imports, soon revised downward to 1.15 million tons, in the first half of 1943. Britain's own shipping position, meanwhile, was deteriorating rapidly. Military demands upon shipping for the forces in North Africa proved far larger than expected, and British shipping suffered heavily-far more so than American- from German submarines during the period of the North African operation. Apart from losses, evasive routing in areas where escorting had to be curtailed or dispensed with lengthened already long voyages and thus in effect reduced the net movement of carge. During the same period, moreover, Britain was lending her ally ships to move U.S. cargo from the United Kingdom to North Africa-some 682,000 deadweight tons of shipping between October 1942 and mid April 1943, or more than twice as much as the United States lent to Britain for use on this route. The impact upon the U.K. import program was devastating. During the last quarter of 1942 imports came in at an annual rate of only about 20 million tons, which was at least 6 million tons less than the total consumption for that year. In January 1943 imports fell to the lowest point, as it proved, of the whole war-less than half the level of January 1941, nearly 42 percent less than January 1942-and by February the British had to revise downward their estimate of the amount of imports they could expect to carry in their own shipping. Fearing new military demands and uneasy over the lag in American aid, the British Government began to doubt the wisdom of allowing domestic stocks to drop as far below their end-1941 level as it had earlier been willing, in expectation of American aid, to permit. Food stocks had fallen by the end of 1942 to a level that would support wartime consumption for only three or four months, and for certain important items the level was even lower.

In January 1943 the Prime Minister took the drastic step of switching to the Atlantic area import routes 52 of the 92 monthly sailings usually assigned to service the Indian Ocean, in order, as he put it not to make Britain "live from hand to mouth, absolutely dependant on the fulfillment of American promises in the last six months of the year"

It is stated further that this move contributed to the outbreak of famine in Bengal later in the year.
Bernard

Hugh Ferguson
26th May 2007, 09:05
It's not me, Bernard, you need to tell this to! Hugh.

Bernard McIver
27th May 2007, 00:21
Hugh, Message received, my apologies to you. The quote was for general consumption, not to you personally. Am I forgiven?
Bernard

barnsey
27th May 2007, 06:17
OK ... time for some facts again to steady the ship.
Bernard you say ...."Sorry, but I can't resist posting this from Blair's book, referring to April 1943 convoy sailings. ....."Halifax 235 and Slow Convoy 127 crossed the Atlantic without the loss of any ships".
Don't know about 127 but HX235 sailed with 36 ships and arrived with 34.
Two ships collided 2 days out of Halifax, 1 sank and the other returned to Halifax badly damaged. It finally sailed for the UK one month later.
I happened to be in that convoy so perhaps I see things in a different light.
Bernard."

Fine but the facts, from Arnold Hagues "Allied Convoy systems" of those two covoys are

Convoy SC 127 Sailed from Halifax 16/04/43....arrived Liverpool 03/05/43, 55 ships sailed and 55 ships arrived.

HX 235 Sailed Halifax 18/04/43 with 36 ships and arrived 05/05/43 with 36 ships.

Blair writes in detail about these two convoys and its worth quoting some points to show how things were indeed improving very sharply indeed for the Allies and against the U-boats.

There were 3 lines of U-boats arranged against those two convoys. Amsel of 13 boats, Specht of 19 boats and Star of 16 boats. They were spread out in a line over 500 miles long to trap the two big and important Convoys SC 127 guarded by Canadian EG C-1 of 6 warships: 2 Canadian destroyers, a British Frigate and 3 Canadian corvettes and HX 235 which was guarded by Canadian EG C-4. of 5 warships: 2 destroyers (1British 1 Canadian) and 3 corvettes. Plus the American Support group 6 of a "Jeep" carrier the Bogue, 7 destroyers and 3 corvettes.

Based on complete and current breaks into Naval Enigma, Allied authorities threaded the two convoys through the long line of waiting U-boats without loosing any ships. Bogue occupied a position within the Convoy HX 235 and taking advantage of the improving weather launched aircraft daily to scout ahead and on the flanks of the convoy. One Avenger found and attacked a U-boat but did not sink it.

After the convoys had passed the U-boat line searched for eastbound convoys but found none.

Hugh ..... you write ..."SC 118; 4th Feb.1943 lost 13 ships: SC 121 6th/11th Mar.1943 lost 15 ships; SC 122, 17th/19th Mar.1943 lost 11 ships. Maybe they had run out of torpedoes! They couldn't just pop back to Lorient for a few more. Those 39 ships were a very heavy loss of vital war material,"

Well taking the first 4 months of 1943 there were in Jan: 61 U-boats, Feb: 71U-boats, March:54 U-boats and April: 92 U-boats deployed against the North Atlantic convoys.

In those same 4 months the Allies sailed 59 cargo convoys composed of about 2,400 merchant ships East and West across the Atlantic. Roughly half, 1,320 left from Halifax and 1,081 left from British isles.

U-boats sank 111 of these 2,401 ships 73 en route to the UK and 38 en route to the States. This is about 5% of all the ships that crossed the Atlantic in that area. Therefore in these 4 months 95% of ships sailing in those 59 convoys arrived at their destinations.

However in the first twenty days of March the U-baots achieved an unusual success against 4 Eastbound convoys. HX 228, and 229 and Slow Convoys 121 and 122 sinking 39 of the approximately 200 merchant ships ( 20% ) in these convoys. It was this harsh blow that so rattled the Admiralty. The fact that 11 other convoys got through unscathed in the month of march in that area and only 1 other convoy lost one ship to U-boats is seldom if ever mentioned in the apocalyptic scenarios. Just as you failed to mention them Hugh!!

The loss of 39 merchant ships in these 4 eastbound convoys in March cannot be lightly dismissed of course. No complete reckoning of the loss of life and food, weaponry and raw material has come to light but it was obviously serious. Yet not serious enough to cause in Roskills words Hugh "the Crisis of crises".

Allied losses on the North Atlantic during those 4 months were of overriding importance they were not the whole story of course. U-boats in other areas achieved success too.

Admiralty figures for all Merchant ship losses during the period were:

Jan... 37, Feb...63, March 108, April 159 a total of 264 ships.

It is pertinent to put it all in perspective. In the American shipyards alone the following numbers were built.....

Jan ... 106, Feb ... 132, March ... 149, April ... 159 a total of 546 twice the rate of losses.

Looking at things from the German perspective there was no sign that the U-boats were getting even close to cutting the line of communications.

Except for the spike in Marchthe number of unproductive patrols by atatck boats continued to rise.

Jan 56 patrols, Ships sunk 41.5, U-boats lost 12, no sinkings 32.
Feb 67 patrols, Ships sunk 61, U-boats lost 8, no sinkings 36.
March 47 patrols, Ships sunk 26, U-boats lost 15, no sinkings 27.
April 86 patrols, Ships sunk 19, U-boats lost 31, no sinkings 66.

Thats 256 Patrols with 147.5 ships sunk 66 U-boats lost and a telling 66 Patrols which sank ... NOTHING.

From this analysis it is clear that the U-boats of the Atlantic scored heavily against 4 Eastbound convoys on the North Atlantic run in the first 20 days of march. The losses in these convoy are not dismissed as inconsequential - to the contrary they were devastating - but in the overall picture they did not justify the retrospective conclusions at the Admiralty to the effect that "The U-boats never came so close to severing the Atlantic lifeline and that possibly convoys were no longer an effective means of defense against U-boats" ...... that was a mischevious statement.

.... and so Dear Hugh and Bernard it is all very well to use the dramatic to try and make your point but the full picture must be observed. The first 4 months of 1943 were indeed the climax of the battle, the 21 days of March deeply tragic as you have pointed out particularly for those affected and the material lost. Overall the Germans had REAL BIG problems ... they were no where near achieving their objective of cutting off Britain and facing disaster amongst their ranks to boot.

Barnsey

K urgess
27th May 2007, 12:52
We seem to have a dichotomy (total disagreement from the same information) that is not going to change.
The problem seems to me to centre around these wonderful statistics and the time it took the Allies to react.
The statistics are flawed in certain aspects. If you look at a convoy from the aspect of U-boat sinkings only and ignore everything else, including some figures that don't match your thinking, then you conclude that the convoy arrived in one piece and you write it as such. Having experience of this sort of research I found the only answer is to look at the original documents, not someone's flawed research conclusions and tables, and draw your own conclusion. It helps to be able to speak to the people who experienced the terror and get a taste of their feelings. Also to filter out or confirm their personal conclusions that are sometimes based on "scuttlebut" or popular myth.
I don't think the Admiratly would have suggested abandonning convoys if they knew the problems the U-boats were having. As far as they were concerned technological advances in other areas must be reflected underwater. Imagine their think-tank coming up with U-boat launched V-weapons! Their own results from Allied submarine warfare would not have caused them to write it off as a lost cause.
If someone shows me the document, the history of the people making the suggestion, and the Admiralty or Cabinet reaction to it I might believe that it actually had any importance other than a "brain-storming" idea in some obscure set of minutes.
You can quote books and authors to your heart's content but it won't influence me one way or the other. They ALL have their own agenda and that is to sell their books.
To quote someone I knew who flew Wellingtons before being shot down and made a POW. An expert is defined as "Ex" - something that has been and "Spurt" - a drip under pressure.
Present company excepted, of course.

Cheers
Kris

Bernard McIver
28th May 2007, 02:13
David, According to "warsailors.com" HX235 sailed with 40 ships, and they acknowledge that Arnold Hague states 36.
Of the 40, 4 returned to port with no incident reported . Two ships collided. "Elias Boudinot", returned to port and sailed later in HX 240, and "El Almirante", which sank.

Why is this debate centering on the period Sept.1942/1943, and only on the success or other wise of the convoy system?. I think the period of greatest peril to Britain was Sept. 1939-May 1943 , with total losses the factor, not merely convoys.

As I mentioned previously , I reserve my judgement on contemporary conclusions until I have read Blair's Vol.1.
Bernard

barnsey
28th May 2007, 04:32
Kris,

I hear what you are saying but when you say ....."You can quote books and authors to your heart's content but it won't influence me one way or the other. They ALL have their own agenda and that is to sell their books." Thats a very sweeping kind of a statement. It depends heavily on the book, its objective and your state of mind. If you don't have an open mind and absorb what is fact and what is possibly a figment of someones imagination and differentiate between the two then you are going to fall into a right pickle.


Books such as Clay Blair, Gunther Hessler, Arnold Hague and Tarrant have excellent annotations with full descriptions of the source material ... these 4 in particular use documents from the respective authorities both Allied and German. They are recognised as serious and authorative books on the subject and as such list their sources exhaustively. The Appendixes will easily lead you to the original document should you wish to check. These are serious analytical works. If you cannot read through the subject from various items such as these and not see the truth of the matter then yes your hypothesis stands. Whilst yes, these books need to sell we are not talking of best sellers by any stretch of the imagination.

Other books written as ... "Sellers" such as "Bitter Ocean", "The Sea Wolves" and Costellos "The Battle of the Atlantic" do fall into your hypothesis.

When you say.... "I don't think the Admiralty would have suggested abandoning convoys if they knew the problems the U-boats were having." That was just a particular discussion brought up during a Think Tank and has often been used to demonstrate that there were people in the Admiralty thinking that way .... not that it was Admiralty policy

Barnsey

barnsey
28th May 2007, 05:00
Bernard ....


You ask...."Why is this debate centering on the period Sept.1942/1943".........the particular phase was brought about by Hugh's post of 26th May 2007, 12:14 .......... I think the period of greatest peril to Britain was Sept. 1939-May 1943 , with total losses the factor, not merely convoys. Agreed Bernard .... but when I have quoted total losses before and shown that when you looked at the overall picture things were close but not at the point of desperation. The point was misconstrued.

Hugh has made an excellent point in his post .... "So many think of the possibility of Britain facing starvation resulting from a blockade by U.boats. We were never anywhere near that happening. I saw people in Holland who suffered real hunger, to such an extent that a truce was arranged with German ack, ack batteries not to fire on Lancaster bombers, flying in over their guns at 200 feet, to drop food to the beleaguered Hollanders."

Barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
28th May 2007, 12:05
I must place some of the misconceptions I have read in this file, in a different light. One particularly rankles and that is that we were bombarded with "spin" and propaganda. Compared to these days it was like a drop in the ocean, no greater. Like a grain of sand on a Cornish beach would be more apt.
Before leaving home the most I became aware of emanated from Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) on German radio. I heard a few of Churchill's speeches. "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall never surrender." A stirring call to arms, nothing much more than that, but a chilling reminder that although the Dunkirk evacuation was wonderful it was not the way to go about winning a war. No spin about that! The Graf Spee scuttling , which "warmed the cockles of the British heart" was made the most of but no more than that. The San Demetrio saga was well publicised in the press and I'm sure made a deep impression in the public mind. Other news I recall hearing on the radio was the report of a bomber raid which stated that 60 of our aircraft "failed to return." That was the wording used. But I'm sure Barnsey would take heart to know that, despite that loss, most of them did manage to stagger back to their respective air-fields.
However, when I eventually got to sea there was no news whatsoever and, indisputably, no propaganda. Nobody had a radio, not even the captain. I have not the slightest recollection of ever having read a newspaper during that time and if any news, (or propaganda), got into the radio room it never filtered down into our half-deck.
If anyone is interested enough in the conditions of the life we lived in those days, tune in to Mess Deck, go to the search box, type in VE Day in Rangoon (just, "Rangoon", is enough to bring it up) and you will see how very dramatic news came to us, by default as it were.
No, it's the present generation that lives with spin. News every hour on umpteen radio stations, television programs, and super markets: well, we won't go into that! In my home we only got our first radio in 1936 and that was from a kit my father put together, from Scott Taggart, I think he was called. A very different world indeed.

K urgess
28th May 2007, 14:12
Sorry, David, that was a bit of a sweeping statement about the authors and I should probably have inserted "someone at the Admiralty" rather than "the Admiralty".
In exactly the same way leaving out a word or wording something in a certain way makes all the difference to the perception of quoted statistics.
I haven't read those authors, yet. If this carries on much longer I'll need to spend a bit of money I guess.
Cheers
Kris

Hugh Ferguson
28th May 2007, 21:38
Hugh, Message received, my apologies to you. The quote was for general consumption, not to you personally. Am I forgiven?
Bernard

I can't think what you thought warranted an apology! What mystifies me in your post is, lack of shipping contributing to the famine in Bengal. I was in Calcutta shortly after the worst of that, but surely it had never been the case that food arrived there by sea!?!? Hugh.

barnsey
28th May 2007, 22:01
Kris,

These books can be found in secondhand bookshops in mint or almost mint condition. Thats is where I have found most of mine. I did buy both of Blairs but shortly afterwards found a mint condition one in hardback at the same price. Hagues I was given as a present. Others I get on "Interloan" at the library, such as the one Hugh recommended "The Real Cruel Sea" which arrived in 3 days from up North for NZ$2...Cant be better. I dont know where you are in the UK but I am sure you must have an absolute treasure trove up there??

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
29th May 2007, 00:09
I can't think what you thought warranted an apology! What mystifies me in your post is, lack of shipping contributing to the famine in Bengal. I was in Calcutta shortly after the worst of that, but surely it had never been the case that food arrived there by sea!?!? Hugh.

The reference to Bengal came from Command Decisions.
"The removal of so much tonnage endangered the delicate balance between subsistence and famine in the whole Indian Ocean area, particularly in India itself, and in fact contributed to the outbreak of famine in Bengal later in the year"
Bernard

K urgess
29th May 2007, 00:13
I'm still waiting for my copy of "The Real Cruel Sea", Barnesy. Afraid I went for a signed copy so I have to wait for the author to get round to it.
We deal in books in a small internet way but unfortunately the only one we had on stock was my old copy of Geoffrey Jones' "Autumn of the U-boats".
I can probably get all the others quite easily but my pile of books to be read is already a couple of feet high.

Kris

Bernard McIver
29th May 2007, 00:29
Hugh, I couldn't agree with you more on the subject of spin and propaganda.
I was in a different situation than yourself, being a Radio Officer.
For two years I produced a news sheet which I first showed to the Captain, then posted copies around the ship. At no time did I have to edit anything and I found nothing which could be remotely referred to in those terms.
In those days we were preoccupied with doing the job and I must say, everyone I came into contact with did that well.
Bernard

Bernard McIver
29th May 2007, 11:27
Well done Split ..... an excellent effort.

I wonder they have any figures at all really, all accounting done by hand laboriously copied into books .... pages and pages. Then all transcribed I guess when computers came along .... that is some task.

The end result a hell of a lot of brave people ........... and still the Merchant Navy and the part it played is vastly unrecognised.

I hope you people have applied for your Veterans medal??? They are really lovely items and easily obtained via the net ... we got my Father in Laws the other day....

Barnsey

David, Did you mean the HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge?
I received mine today but did not get it for my Merchant Navy service, nor for my National Service after the war. My qualification was for my Home Guard service before going to sea.
The Merchant Navy does not qualify for this Badge unless one saw service in military operations (D-day and the like).
Bernard

barnsey
29th May 2007, 13:08
Hi Bernard,

no there is now a Merchant Service medal ..
Merchant Naval Service Medal

The ‘Merchant Naval Service Medal’ is available to all former and presently serving merchant service personnel as well as next of kin in this long-standing profession. Although there is a minimum two years service requirement the merit of each application will be considered on an individual basis.
Applications from D.E.M.S. Gunners will be eligible for this commemorative medal.
Visit the MNA site ... www.mna.org.uk/Medals.htm


Barnsey

barnsey
29th May 2007, 13:18
Bernard and then there is also the Merchant Service badge .....


The Merchant Seafarers’ bravery and sacrifice in assisting HM Armed Forces in military operations has been formally commemorated with the launch of the new UK Merchant Seafarers Veteran’s Badge.

http://www.veterans-uk.info/vets_badge/merchant.html

Barnsey

The badge is available to all Merchant Navy seafarers and fishermen who served in a vessel at a time when it was operated to facilitate military operations by UK Armed Forces at any time prior to 31 December 1984

barnsey
29th May 2007, 13:22
Bernard Hugh and Split ....

I trust you lads are going to get those badges and medals .... you rightly deserve them .....

David

Hugh Ferguson
29th May 2007, 19:20
[QUOTE=barnsey;130068]Bernard Hugh and Split ....

I trust you lads are going to get those badges and medals .... you rightly deserve them .....


I have the Atlantic Star, the Italy Star & the Burma Star, and that before I was out of my teens. That's good enough for me! Some might call it an indication of a mis-spent youth: just another phrase that has taken on an entirely different meaning in the degenerate era in which we live. Hugh.

barnsey
29th May 2007, 23:45
Hugh,

But nothing to say you were a MERCHANT NAVY veteran ... the forgotton service.

Thats the whole point of these awards that people have fought for so long ..... to get recognition of the service and its men without which the war would not have been won.

barnsey

Bernard McIver
30th May 2007, 02:51
David, The Merchant Naval Service Medal was, as you say, a commemorative medal which can be purchased by anyone with two years service. Hardly the same as hard earned Campaign Medals. I'm with Hugh. Mine were Atlantic; Pacific; Burma; France & Germany.
By the way, anyone know of other MN personnel called up for National Service after the war, as I was?
Bernard

jim brindley
30th May 2007, 10:47
I can't see the point in all these figures because what attracted my attention to this thread was the allegation that the British could have won the war on our own. No matter where these cargoes came from, according to Churchill, 80% of all tonnage sunk was in the Battle of the Atlantic. Of this, 55% was British, so my question, now is, could we have sustained these losses on our own, invaded Normandy and all the rest?

Not only that. The American t2, with which I am familiar, was far in advance of any other tanker in its own right. The accommodation brought a new concept to living conditions, with a shower in every officer's cabin, fridges in the smokerooms, icewater machines. Cargo handling with fixed speed centrifugal pumps and, in general, for the surviving ships, an age that took them decades into the postwar years.

The Americans respected their seamen and took care of them however they could while British sailors were off pay as soon as they were torpedoed.

Splithi split i allways remember stalin saying we just stopped you from loseing the war .happy days jim (K)

Hugh Ferguson
30th May 2007, 14:12
There can be no doubt about it! There can be no meeting of minds when one party views the debate in the cold light of statistics, which inevitably exclude all of the human factors, and the others view it in terms of "the fog of war", uncertainty, morale, bereavement etc., etc., etc..
No matter how many times you qualify the statistical arguments with a deep understanding of the human loss, it still gives the impression of devaluing the achievements of those people who lived for years a life of appalling uncertainty.
Just imagine the reaction of those survivors from HMS's CAIRO, NIGERIA & EAGLE and almost innumerable merchant ships, having it suggested to them that the prowess of U.boats (and, presumeably, all other submarines) was a myth! They would have listened with disbelief and then no doubt, laughed in the face of the person making that assertion.
I still regard Jurgen Rohwer's, THE CRITICAL CONVOY BATTLES, as the best summation of that epic battle. He gave a list of references as long as your arm, including many in person with the likes of, Grossadmiral Karl Donitz, Hessler, Roskill, Vice Admirals Schofield & Gretton. He also had access to previously classified information. Of course many of the convoys got through unscathed: had they not we might not all be now sitting at our computers exchanging opinions as freely as we do! Hugh.

K urgess
30th May 2007, 17:13
I tried to write something that would clarify both sides of this argument but the only thing I did was confuse myself.
And I've just deleted another paragraph of tosh I'd started writing.
I wasn't there, but I was brought up on stories from people who had been torpedoed time and time again.
I experienced muted similair conditions observing strict radio silence and blacked out ships up the Bonny River and waiting for things to blow up in Tripoli in the Lebanon. The fact that nobody was interested in blowing up, or didn't have the wherewithall to blow up, my ship or attack it at that time, didn't alter the fact that they could've done AS FAR AS WE KNEW.
I find it interesting that the U-boats were extremely inefficient. Not what one would expect from the Third Reich. It makes their sacrifice all the more poignant.
It doesn't make any difference to the fact that if it wasn't for the Japanese pushing the US into full commitment we would have lost eventually. If Pearl Harbour hadn't happened Roosevelt would probably have lost the next election or been forced back into an isolationist policy giving equal help to both sides because the Germans would have ruled Europe. I can't see us staging D-Day by ourselves.

Kris
PS I've just ordered that book, Hugh.

Hugh Ferguson
30th May 2007, 19:51
I can't see the point in all these figures because what attracted my attention to this thread was the allegation that the British could have won the war on our own. No matter where these cargoes came from, according to Churchill, 80% of all tonnage sunk was in the Battle of the Atlantic. Of this, 55% was British, so my question, now is, could we have sustained these losses on our own, invaded Normandy and all the rest?

Not only that. The American t2, with which I am familiar, was far in advance of any other tanker in its own right. The accommodation brought a new concept to living conditions, with a shower in every officer's cabin, fridges in the smokerooms, icewater machines. Cargo handling with fixed speed centrifugal pumps and, in general, for the surviving ships, an age that took them decades into the postwar years.

The Americans respected their seamen and took care of them however they could while British sailors were off pay as soon as they were torpedoed.

Split

I never gave a thought to that as being a possibility ( The British & Commonwealth forces alone, invading Europe). Here, where I live in Cornwall, everywhere you go you have reminders of the absolutely colossal contribution made by the Americans: widened lay-byes in the Cornish lanes for tanks and transport to be parked, concrete slipways in the Helford river for it all to be loaded into LCT's & LCI's. And a little way up the river Fal there's a thatched cottage (popularly known as Smuggler's Cottage) which still flys the Stars & Stripes. Old G.I. survivors still turn up there remembering that day in June 1944 when they set off for Normandy.
I was in a ship that set off in convoy late in Aug.1944, and as the convoy formed up it was so vast that ships on the far-side were partially hull down. I feel sure that at least 75% of them were American Liberty ships returning to the States in ballast after delivering their supplies for the invading armies.

Bernard McIver
31st May 2007, 01:13
I never gave a thought to that as being a possibility ( The British & Commonwealth forces alone, invading Europe). Here, where I live in Cornwall, everywhere you go you have reminders of the absolutely colossal contribution made by the Americans: widened lay-byes in the Cornish lanes for tanks and transport to be parked, concrete slipways in the Helford river for it all to be loaded into LCT's & LCI's. And a little way up the river Fal there's a thatched cottage (popularly known as Smuggler's Cottage) which still flys the Stars & Stripes. Old G.I. survivors still turn up there remembering that day in June 1944 when they set off for Normandy.
I was in I was a ship that set off in convoy late in Aug.1944, and as the convoy formed up it was so vast that ships on the far-side were partially hull down. I feel sure that at least 75% of them were American Liberty ships returning to the States in ballast after delivering their supplies for the invading armies.

Thanks Hugh for this timely reminder of the demands placed on Allied shipping.
This was but one convoy of the many at that time.
Add to this the requirements in the Pacific, Russian convoys etc. and compare it to the Net gain in shipping over a period of 4/5 years.
Doesn't leave much for the civilian population.
Bernard

Hugh Ferguson
3rd June 2007, 14:02
As the contributions to this thread appear to have dried up, I thought it may still be of interest to present the following, (taken from Jurgen Rohwer's, Critical Convoy Battles), as a kind of epitaph to what has been a most interesting subject. He wrote in Chapt.12 his conclusions as follows:-
"For the Allies the picture presented after the first 20 days of March 1943 was bleak. During the Casablanca Conferenceof Allied Govenment chiefs and their military advisers in January it had been laid down that victory over the U.boats must be the basic precondition of any future major operation against Europe and,with it, of an Allied victory. On 1st March the Atlantic Convoy Conference, summoned at the insistance of Admiral King, had met in Washington to reorganise responsibilities for fighting the battle against the U.boats and improving convoy protection in the North Atlantic. But, before this conference could take any decisions, developments appeared to cast doubt on the whole convoy system. In the first 10 days of March 41 ships, totalling 229,949 tons, had been sunk. In the second 10 days the U.boats had sunk 44 ships, totalling 282,000 tons. Over half a million tons had been lost and what made these losses so serious was the fact that 68% of the ships had been torpedoed in convoy. On the other hand, escorts with the convoys had sunk only 4 U.boats and aircraft, in providing distant convoy escort , only another two.--------Losses on the scale of the last convoy battles in which convoy after convoy lost four, six, eight or even twelve ships, could not be sustained much longer. The morale and determination of the seamen was being undermined. There was a possibility that the convoy system as an effective form of protection for merchantmen would have to be abandoned."
Additionally, this viewpoint was endorsed on the British side, by Roskill.
And all of this to be considered a mere 15 months before D.Day!

K urgess
3rd June 2007, 14:56
My copy has just arrived, Hugh.
Looking forward to getting to grips with it during the week.

Cheers
Kris

Bernard McIver
6th June 2007, 00:48
David, Did you mean the HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge?
I received mine today but did not get it for my Merchant Navy service, nor for my National Service after the war. My qualification was for my Home Guard service before going to sea.
The Merchant Navy does not qualify for this Badge unless one saw service in militarid you mean the HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge?
I received mine today but did not get it for my Merchant Navy service, nor for my National Service after the war. My qualification was for my Home Guard service before going y operations (D-day and the like).
Bernard

I am indebted to Billy McGee for clarifying the imbiguity surrounding the issue of the Veteran's Badge, and I quote, "All WWII Merchant Navy veterans are entitled to the Veteran's Badge. They did not have to partake in any individual operations. The fact they served between 1939-1945 is enough qualification in itself."
The badge referred to is the UK Merchant Seafarers Veteran's Badge.
Bernard

barnsey
6th June 2007, 07:45
Bernard that is the badge I was referring to, "The Merchant Navy Vetrerans" badge ..... it applies not only to WW II but such as the Falklands War too. At least it is something to recognise the "Forgotten Service" at long last.

Barnsey

Bernard McIver
7th June 2007, 02:03
I emailed my application to the Merchant Navy Association yesterday, and this morning received a reply advising that my badge is on the way. Typical Merchant Navy service!.
Bernard

barnsey
7th June 2007, 02:24
Great stuff Bernard ....how about a photo when it comes ... on your chest/lapel please??

Barnsey

barnsey
18th July 2007, 12:23
As the contributions to this thread appear to have dried up, I thought it may still be of interest to present the following, (taken from Jurgen Rohwer's, Critical Convoy Battles), as a kind of epitaph to what has been a most interesting subject. He wrote in Chapt.12 his conclusions as follows:-
"For the Allies the picture presented after the first 20 days of March 1943 was bleak. During the Casablanca Conferenceof Allied Govenment chiefs and their military advisers in January it had been laid down that victory over the U.boats must be the basic precondition of any future major operation against Europe and,with it, of an Allied victory. On 1st March the Atlantic Convoy Conference, summoned at the insistance of Admiral King, had met in Washington to reorganise responsibilities for fighting the battle against the U.boats and improving convoy protection in the North Atlantic. But, before this conference could take any decisions, developments appeared to cast doubt on the whole convoy system. In the first 10 days of March 41 ships, totalling 229,949 tons, had been sunk. In the second 10 days the U.boats had sunk 44 ships, totalling 282,000 tons. Over half a million tons had been lost and what made these losses so serious was the fact that 68% of the ships had been torpedoed in convoy. On the other hand, escorts with the convoys had sunk only 4 U.boats and aircraft, in providing distant convoy escort , only another two.--------Losses on the scale of the last convoy battles in which convoy after convoy lost four, six, eight or even twelve ships, could not be sustained much longer. The morale and determination of the seamen was being undermined. There was a possibility that the convoy system as an effective form of protection for merchantmen would have to be abandoned."
Additionally, this viewpoint was endorsed on the British side, by Roskill.
And all of this to be considered a mere 15 months before D.Day!

Sorry I have not replied to this but I have been otherwise occupied.

Lets put this lot in a different light shall we? Quoting loosely from "U-boat warfare. The evolution of the Wolf Pack" by Showell .....In 1940 during the first "Happy Time" every U-boat at sea was sinking almost 6 ships per U-boat. In the autumn of 1942 that figure had dropped to less than one ship and at times as low as half a ship or .... at this time in the Battle of the Atlantic two U-boats were required to sink one merchant ship. At this time there were more U-boats at sea than any other time ... approximately 100.

Granted the merging of Fast convoy HX 229 with the slow convoy SC 122 during March 1943 which concentrated about 100 merchant ships at that time and a large Wolf-pack finding them produced a devastating result but prior to that 100 U-boats had been at sea since the summer of 1942, why had that result not been produced many times before? Of course two weeks later the devastation of the U-boat fleet really started. It really shows that the Allies anti-submarine measures were taking effect from summer 1942 and that the cream and experienced crews of the U-boat fleet had been largely lost.

Another interesting figure is that of the 1,171 U-boats commissioned 674 U-boats never hit a target at all.

More at a later date.

Barnsey

barnsey
29th August 2007, 14:01
Hi all,

Referring way back to the start of this thread and the detail about the failures of the German torpedos. Hugh expressed disbelief that there was such a crisis well Doenitz's book "Memoirs, Ten Years and Twenty days" devotes a chapter and appendix to this subject which shows just how significant the failures were thank goodness.......you have to read the book of course but here are some extracts as proof ..........

Chapter heading ....
"April 1940--distribution of U-boats to prevent British Landing--our failures--torpedo misfires--magnetic firing in northern waters--loss of faith in torpedo, but I raise morale--Court of Inquiry and Court Martial--not enough research by Torpedo Experimental Establishment between wars--solution found in 1942--the torpedo becomes a really efficient weapon.



APPENDIX 3
Causes of Torpedo FailuresHeadquarters
Naval High Command
Berlin
February 9, 1942Memorandum No. 83/a/42. Secret Command Document.Distribution: Personal by name.Subject: Inquiry into the causes of torpedo failures.Previous papers: Naval Headquarters. MPA 2864/40. Secret: Dated June 11, 1940I. During the early months of the war, as the Corps of Officers is aware, there occurred certain functional failures of the torpedo
which for the time being largely shattered the faith of operational
forces in the torpedo as a weapon and which, as they continued to
increase in number, particularly in the submarine war, robbed the
Navy of a number of important successes.The causes of this failure were as follows: a. A large number of targets were missed both because the tor*
pedoes ran too deep and passed under the ship when contact pistols
were used, and because of inadequate sensibility when magnetic
pistols were used.
b. The magnetic pistol proved to be very susceptible to dislocation
during the running of the torpedo. Cases of self-shocks occurred,
mostly in the form of prematures. These not only precluded any
possibility of success, but were also a source of danger to our own
ships. In addition they gave the enemy timely warning of the exist*
ence of this type of firing. He was consequently compelled to devise
appropriate counter-measures and scored an immediate success with
the introduction of his degaussing gear.
c. Although the war pistol had been designed to function at all
angles of incidence over 21°, detonation could with certainty only
be counted upon at angles of incidence over 50°. This fact was
established only after an examination into the causes of actual
failure which had occurred in action.

It was only gradually that the causes of failures became known,
particularly as the connection between the faulty, deep running of
the torpedo and the failure of the pistol mechanism rendered it all
the more difficult to trace the type of failure which had occurred."

Barnsey

Keith Adams
30th August 2007, 06:36
This thread takes a lot of reading ! A short way back up this page Hugh Fergusen mentioned many Liberties being present in the invading fleet and that they would be off back to the US for more supplies after unloading at Normandy ... as mentioned in the war time write-up on Hull, a massive stockpile of invasion supplies was being built up in readiness for the invasion to the extent that the majority of the vessels (excluding those deliberately sunk to form breakwaters off Omaha and Utah beaches) plied back and forth across the English Channel ... the ss"Jeremiah O'Brien" first arrived to unload on D-Day+3 and was back again on D-Day+12. She made 11 such "Shuttle Runs" in support of the landings, which bears witness to the staggering quantity of supplies made ready before the invasion. The "Jeremiah O'Brien" having suffered only minor damage from enemy aircraft, returned to the US to take part in the Pacific landings. I was 10 years old at the time and I remember the comment that Britain might very well sink under the weight of the supplies if they don't go soon ! A big thankyou to Hugh and Stan and the many others who were adults at that time ... in the early 1950s we still had sea mines to worry about and of course we constantly drilled in A.B.C.D. Warfare in addition to the weekly Board of Trade Sports ... enemy submarines and/or aircraft would have been really scary ! Cheers, Snowy

barnsey
30th August 2007, 07:49
Hi Snowy, (Thumb)
The logistics of the whole operations, "Battle of the Atlantic" ie getting the material across then the sorting and storing of those, the planning and building of items needed for the Mulberry harbour in 9 months, getting everything in order ready for D-day, the assault and then the massive job of supplying the force ......... whew it makes for one hell of a story. I believe the logistics side, explaining the details you mention needs writing up for without that detailed organisation the Army would have failed.

There is more and more detail coming to light everyday but this particular avenue needs telling.

Thanks for an interesting post ..

Barnsey in New Zealand (==D)

KIWI
30th August 2007, 10:01
What an interesting thread this has been & possibly may continue.No doubt others beside myself will be endeavouring to source the reference material quoted & may have some thing to say at a later date.Those contributing must also be congratulated as it has kept on a reasonably even keel. Kiwi

barnsey
22nd September 2007, 13:17
Further to the torpedo crisis that Hugh was most skeptical over in early parts of this thread .......

For some silly reason I had not thought to read Doenitz's book "Memories, Ten Years and Twenty days". I requested it a couple of weeks ago through our Library interloan. Blow me down, when I opened it up its a first Edition with a signed insertion by Doenitz that the English translation had. I will have to get my own copy as its excellent reading.

Hugh, Chapter 7 page 84 through to page 99 covers his story of the German torpedo crisis in great detail ....

I have just purchased a new book "U-boat Warfare" by Jak P. Mallmann Showell one of Britains foremost experts on the history and operation of the German U-boat Command, published in 2002 ....really excellent reading. He too remarks about the Torpedo crisis .... "This crisis was made considerably worse by the fact that the German torpedos were plauged by three different, but interrelating, faults and it seems that this appalling combination was not recognised until after the end of hostilities."

More to come as there is another very interesting point, raised in Showells book as to when the turning of the tables against the U-boats happened but I'll gather the details a bit more ...

Love the photos which Hugh has posted of the survivors of the Mosquito which U 309 shot down .... I'll research that in my Mosquito books.

Barnsey (==D)

K urgess
22nd September 2007, 13:39
Think that's wrong, Barnsey. Think the picture shows the survivors of U981.

Just ploughing through "The Decisive Convoy Battles of March 1943". Heavy going but explains everything in depth.
My perception for years has been that they sent the convoys out one at a time for some reason. Looking at the situation maps in the book I was amazed at just how many convoys were on the go at once and how little space was between them.
Given that the Kriegsmarine had access to almost as good intelligence as Bletchley Park etc., were supplying and the layout/number of UBoats in the North Atlantic I'm surprised they missed so many.
Also the argument for and against the convoy system when a UBoat can launch a spread of torpedoes from the side of a convoy and hit several targets, whereas lone ships take more munitions and require an indvidual hunt.
The torpedo faults don't seem apparent in March '43 but that aspect hasn't been mentioned yet. I believe we had similair problems with new technology that didn't work properly.

Kris

barnsey
23rd September 2007, 01:00
Kris,

As far as I know there were no problems with British Torpedos during WW II. The Germans copied the British contact pistol after the capture of a British Sub as theirs was no good at any angle......

"British torpedoes were excellent and the Royal Navy experienced none of the problems of malfunction which so plagued both the German and American navies. During the war, torpedoes were manufactured at the Royal Naval Torpedo Factory at Greenock and Alexandria, near Dumbarton, and at the Vickers-Armstrong (formerly Whitehead) works at Weymouth.
Britain held a technological lead in torpedo development for much of the period between the World Wars but had been overtaken by the Japanese with their use of pure oxygen. However, the British still remained ahead of all other nations. This success was mainly due to the adoption of the Brotherhood burner-cycle engine which was, in effect, a semi-diesel. Typically, air at about 840 lb/in2 (59 kg/cm2) was heated to about 1,000ºC by burning a small amount of kerosene type fuel atomized into the air. The hot gas was fed into the engine via poppet valves and more fuel was injected into each cylinder and its spontaneous ignition supplied the power.
The Royal Navy had no great interest in the electric torpedo before WWII due to their relatively poor performance and there was no demand for "tracklessness". During the war, experiments were started using captured German G7e torpedoes, but the war ended before they were in use. Torpedo tubes were either internal, reloaded from within the pressure hull and located forward and/or aft; or external, located in the casings, either on the sides or forward and/or aft, and which would not be reloaded while in a patrol zone. Several variations of torpedo tube combinations existed, even between boats of the same class. The standard torpedo was the 21in (533mm) MkVIII steam torpedo, 20ft (6.7m) long, with a warhead of approximately 661lb (300kg). They were capable of a speed of 30-35 knots on an average run of 8,000-10,000 yards. Some details from an interesting pre-war publication are here. In World War Two, British submarine torpedo and/or gun attacks accounted for 169 naval vessels sunk (+ 55 seriously damaged) and 493 merchant ships sunk (+ 109 damaged). Over 40 other ships were sunk or badly damaged by British submarine-laid mines."

You say "My perception for years has been that they sent the convoys out one at a time for some reason. Looking at the situation maps in the book I was amazed at just how many convoys were on the go at once and how little space was between them."

Thats what I was saying earlier on in this thread......

You also say "Given that the Kriegsmarine had access to almost as good intelligence as Bletchley Park etc., were supplying and the layout/number of UBoats in the North Atlantic I'm surprised they missed so many."

Not so suprising when you get into the detail......the U-boats were fairly well spread out comparitively. For the most part they were running on Dead Reckoning so depending on the accuracy of the reporting boats position the reported position of the convoy could be well out, the tales of the few aircraft searching for convoys and the errors in the positions they gave for convoys that they did manage to sight were legion, they were low in the water without a huge visible distance, communication was poor by the standards required to bring a U-boat to a desired position, a lot of the time the weather was atrocious adding to their difficulties, Goering was definitely not going to co-operate with aircraft assistance, he hated the Kriegsmarine ..... and so on.


The German torpedo faults were more or less sorted by mid 1943. However from Sept/Oct 1942 the U-boats successes measured by individual boats were very poor ..... This was when Doenitz, for the first time had 100 operational U-boats at sea yet the sinking rate was less than 1 ship per boat per U-boat per month. During Oct and Dec even that rate was not achieved.

Quoting from Showell " Historians want us to believe that the climax of the Battle of the Atlantic was in March 1943 when fast convoy HX229 caught up with Slow Convoy SC 122 just as a massive U-boat pack was about to strike. This may have resulted in the largest convoy battle of all time, but it quickly loses its significance when one considers that the magic number of 100 U-boats at sea had been reached the previous September. in other words, such a massive concentration was maintained at sea for a period of over half a year before a clash of Titans took place ... and that through a mistake of running two convoys into one ..So, in many ways, the most significant point to note between August 1942 and March 1943 was that Germany had the potentila Wolf Packs at sea for massive convoy battles, but that no large scale attacks ever took place. The main problem for them by this date was the very much severe and strengthened escorts and Allied Long Range Aircraft. the U-boats were reduced to operating in a narrow 300 mmile gap not covered by aircraft.

Barnsey .....

barnsey
23rd September 2007, 07:05
Going on about position finding on a U-boat .... Showell recounts the story of U377 which was right in the middle of the attack on HX 231 when so many U-boats were lost from group Lowenherz. U 337 got home with only superficial damage. Britain was locating U-boats from the coded position reports. midshipman Fritz Beske who was responsible for navigation had made an error of over 100 miles. Since no one was checking his figures he decided not to tell anyone of this and kept "Cooking the books" over several days until he got his numbers to tally with the correct position.It was quite likely that Allied units were looking for him but luckily for them he wasnt where the signal said he was !!!

I can relate to that ..... 4 days of howling gales south of Tasmania, when a position was eventually obtained we had in fact gone 40 miles backwards ... nowhere near where the DR had us.

Barnsey

barnsey
23rd September 2007, 07:21
Quite forgot ..... a few weeks ago I was talking to an ex RN officer, here in Westport who was on the Atlantic convoy run during the early part of the war and had no attack on any of the convoys he was on !!!

Barnsey

K urgess
23rd September 2007, 13:33
You have to remember, Barnsey, that us "boom babies" were raised on war films depicting the the Nazis as super-efficient, baby-killing, super-monsters who were only defeated by British led, American assisted ordinary blokes who had right on their side and won despite the odds.
History is written by the victor as we all know so, having learnt it at the knees of our mothers and fathers, changing our perception is an uphill struggle.
We don't have time to read all the books that would modify our appreciation of such things. Most of us accept what we were taught at play. Not at school because even the first war was not studied in my time. I don't think we got far past the great fire of London!
Our toys were the leftovers from the recent conflict so we ran around in gas masks and tin helmets re-fighting our battles and not wanting to be the "enemy" because the "good guys" always won.
The U-Boats were the baddies. I read Geoffrey Jones' book to get a bit clearer picture but it didn't override my childhood perceptions. Only "Das Boot" finally got through to me but that was after I'd been researching the story of our WWII bombing campaign for 20 years.
Heaven knows where I heard the thing about British torpedoes, probably some James Bond movie(LOL).

Enough waffling from me. I've probably said it all before anyway.
I've learnt a lot from this thread but everytime I think about the inefficient U-Boats I see "Compass Rose" sinking or recall passages from "The Good Shepherd" by C. S. Forester, or replay "The San Demetrio of London" in my mind. At least now the mind images include scenes from "Das Boot".

Cheers
Kris

Binnacle
23rd September 2007, 17:17
barnsey

"There were also some incidents where they were attacked when obviously carrying out help ... a U-boat was towing 3 lifeboats and had a hundred odd people on its deck with an improvised red cross on the conning tower when an American aircraft attacked."

You omitted to mention the important fact that the U-boat was paticipating in an attempt to rescue their allies i.e. 1,793 Italian POWs, survivors, who were being transported aboard HMT Laconia on passage to the UK when torpedoed by U-156. There was no truce in operation. The US aircrew were carrying out their anti submarine duties. It is doubtful if the same humanitarian concern would have been shown if enemy POWs had not been among the survivors. A ruthless enemy was being fought, any form of truce would have given the enemy time to recharge batteries on the surface. And then ruthlessly attack more shipping.

Binnacle
23rd September 2007, 21:11
Barnsey, Another condition of pay was that we signed Articles and accepted Monthly Pay ie a 30 day month..so shipowners gained 8 unpaid days work during each year ....Am I correct in this ?

I differ from you on this Stan, as far as I remember we were paid per calendar month. The daily rate was 1/30th of the monthly rate. If you signed on say Feb 1st. and paid off Feb 28th you were entitled to a month's pay, not 28/30th of a month. If you signed on say May 1st and left May 31st, your entitlement was a month's pay, not 31 days. I've regretted not keeping a copy of the Maritime Rule Book when I last took my bag down a gangway as it covered all this, I think.
Hope this helps.

Hugh MacLean
23rd September 2007, 21:54
barnsey

"There were also some incidents where they were attacked when obviously carrying out help ... a U-boat was towing 3 lifeboats and had a hundred odd people on its deck with an improvised red cross on the conning tower when an American aircraft attacked."


Some of you may be interested in Karl-Freidrich Merten's letter which I have just posted on my website. It concerns the sinking of CITY OF CAIRO but mentions the above LACONIA incident.

http://www.sscityofcairo.co.uk/merten_letter.php

Regards

barnsey
24th September 2007, 00:47
Good morning from Westport new Zealand lads.....

Kris thats a marvellous bit of writing you have just done ... conjours up a raft of memories .... absolutely lovely stuff and absolutely correct.

Binnacle ..... the Laconia rescue was an epic in itself as you rightly point out. There were many other instances of assistance from U-boats, certainly not my perception up until the start of this year when I really started to read the details and study about the Battle of the Atlantic.

There is so much detail these days to get to grips with and understand and I perceive that you and Stan,who experienced the conflict first hand have much to add to those details.

Will do more later ...SWMBO calls!!!

Barnsey

stan mayes
24th September 2007, 13:29
Hello Hugh,
I have read the very interesting addition to your website regarding the tragedies of CITY of CAIRO and LACONIA ..and as Barnsey has mentioned my name in his post I will write a little of my experience with a U boat...
Regards Stan..

barnsey
24th September 2007, 14:00
Thanks for that wonderfull letter Hugh .... I'll see what else I can add from the books I have ...

David
aka Barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
24th September 2007, 15:49
THE GRAHAM ALLEN STORY
I had known about the photograph for many years-in fact for twenty years, since first acquiring the book, A Pictorial History of U.Boats, by Edwin P.Hoyt.
The man in the photograph is shown walking up a gang plank from the U.217 onto the quay in Brest. He is named in the caption and is being taken into captivity as a P.O.W., after being taken on board the U.Boat after the sinking by the u.217 of his ship, the Blue Funnel, RHEXENOR, 3rd Feb.1943 in mid Atlantic, whilst on-passage to St.John, N.B. from Freetown.
As one does with books I had not opened those pages for many months, and upon now doing it occurred to me that in not one of three pictures is the subject looking at the photographer-could it possibly be that, even to this day, he did not know he was being photographed!
To discover if this was indeed the case I would need to contact him, and despite the fact that we were once colleagues, as pilots, in the Port of Aden
it had been 43years since I had last spoken to him, or known anything of his circumstances.
Knowing that he was not a member of any Blue Funnel associations my only hope was that one of the members may know of his whereabouts. That proved to be the case and it was not long before I was chatting to the owner of that familiar voice after being incommunicado for half of a lifetime!
We had hardly exchanged greetings when I asked Graham if he knew of the photographs: he did not and expressed disbelief that they were of himself. I assured him that there was not a shadow of a doubt because the caption mentioned him by name. He was dumbfounded, and I'm sure that at that moment you could have knocked him down with the proverbial feather!
As you might expect it wasn't long before I was sending him copies of the pictures. Graham was, as you may imagine, delighted to have this dramatic record brought to him after so many years.
At the time of the sinking the RHEXENOR had been proceeding independently and all hands had been able to abandon ship into the lifeboats.
As was usual in those circumstances the U.Boat surfaced with the intention of taking the captain, or a senior officer, prisoner. However the captain was not revealing himself and as Graham was the only one identifiable as an officer (he was 4th Mate), he was taken on board the U.Boat and with a gun in his back, paraded around the other lifeboats and ordered to identify the captain. Everyone who was asked, responded, saying that he had gone down with the ship. Graham had then expected to be put back in a lifeboat but that was not to be. He remained in the U.Boat for twenty days and during that time had many discussions with the commander, Kapitan Leutnant Reichenbach-Klinke. Before arriving at Brest they were subjected to an attack and had to endure some hours submerged. At some time during his sojourn in the sub. Graham celebrated (if that is the right word) his 21st birthday-he was given a drink, creme de menthe of all things!
The career of the U.217 was not to outlast its next patrol. She was sunk with the loss of all hands, not too far from the grave of the RHEXENOR, by U.S aircraft from the carrier, U.S.S. BOGUE, at 0730 on the 5th June 1943.

All except one of the crew of the RHEXENOR made land after 1300 miles in the boats. Graham was liberated April 1945.
He recently told me that he had been politely treated whilst on board the U.217 by all except one who was a dyed in the wool Nazi. He also made mention of once chatting to the captain of a German ship arriving in Aden who, surprisingly, enquired what he had done during the war. Graham mentioned his sub. story and how he had got on quite well with Reichenbach-Klinke. The German captain said that he had known him, and did he know that he had been lost in U.217. Graham had not then known of his loss and expressed his regret as he had rather liked the man.

I posted the photographs, some time previously, some place on this web-site but I cannot, at the moment, remember where.

K urgess
24th September 2007, 16:18
Here (http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showthread.php?t=8941&highlight=rhexenor) it is, Hugh.

Cheers
Kris

stan mayes
24th September 2007, 16:39
Hello Barnsey,
During the war the media reported on atrocities committed by U boat crews,machine gunning and ramming lifeboats..also that officers were taken as prisoners of war,the reason being it would lead to a shortfall of experienced officers and ships could not sail..
These rumours were not put around by seamen..
In VIKING STAR we were sailing independently from the Argentine for Freetown and from there into a convoy for UK..
Our cargo was 6,000 tons of meat and 1,000 tons of fertilizers..
Around midday on 25th August 1942 a Sunderland flying boat circled the ship 3 times and ignored our attempt to contact by Aldis lamp [ When we arrived at Freetown some days later we were questioned by RN Intelligence Officers.The Sunderland had been captured and was in use as a spotter plane for U boats and was operating from Dakar..It was shot down later by a Spitfire from Freetown - I would like to know more of this incident ]
At 16.45 ,two torpedoes struck the engine room port side amidships..Both lifeboats on that side were destroyed and one boat on starboard side was damaged by falling debris..One boat and some rafts got away from the ship..
Captain Mills and seven crew were lost..
The ship was still moving ahead when a third torpedo struck amidships - this caused the funnel to crash down and the ship broke her back...with her bows and stern pointing to the sky she sank like a huge V...
Soon the sea was covered in wreckage and sides of beef were coming to the surface and were feasted on by sharks..
The U boat surfaced and approached us and we were asked the name of ship and her cargo..The Commander had a red beard and on describing him to Intelligence in Freetown they knew who he was ..After the war I found it was U 130 and Commander Ernst Kals,he became a U boat Ace and credited with 23 sinkings..
No guns were pointed at us or any threats made during this time and in fact when we were asked if any officers were in the boat and we replied no,they were lost with the ship,our answers were accepted...The Chief,2nd and 4th Officers were in the boat and 3rd Officer on a raft but none were wearing uniforms..
Photos were taken and the U boat departed....A few hours later they sank BEECHWOOD of John I Jacobs Co
As Senior surviving officer Chief Officer F.McQuiston made statements and strangely he stated very little as regards the U boat " The submarine was steaming around in the vicinity so we waited till it had gone away before attempting to use the emergency wireless set "
So,I cannot condemn the actions of a U boat crew following the sinking of my ship...
Regards Stan..

Colman J. Shaughnessy
24th September 2007, 16:49
Best book at the moment on WW2 N.Atlantic etc. The Real Cruel Sea by Richard Woodman.

So many familiar ships & company names.

Slainte

Colman

Hugh MacLean
24th September 2007, 20:50
Hello Lads,
Interesting reading from Hugh and Stan.

Regarding how U-boat captains treated the crews of those merchant ships they sunk:

Throughout the entire Second World War, the Kriegsmarine had only one U-boat commander convicted of war crimes. KL Heinz Wilhelm Eck of U-852 was indicted and sentenced to death by firing squad at the Nuremberg Tribunal on November 30 1945. That was for machine gunning survivors of the Greek SS Peleus.

Regards

barnsey
24th September 2007, 23:47
Absolutely fantastic contributions to this marvellous thread by excellent lads ....I am copying the whole lot down into one document by the way. Thank you Hugh F. Kris, Stan and everyone.

I have two German books one about U-boats and one of the Kriegsmarine full of photos published in the 1960's and will go through them carefully now to see if we have any more pictures.

Hugh F. would Graham have known John Gregory do you think?

Barnsey

benjidog
25th September 2007, 00:04
A summary of the very interesting material in this thread would make an excellent entry in the SN Guides.

Any volunteers? I would be happy to advise on formatting etc.

Regards,

Brian

barnsey
25th September 2007, 03:35
Come on then Brian .... we supply the material ... please sort it out !! ...

Anon .... aka Barnsey

barnsey
25th September 2007, 11:05
Coleman,

I am going to disagree with you re the book "The Real Cruel Sea". As you say it is full of names of ships. I found that it was just that and weak in analysis of the Battle.

I have had a good scunge around of most of the books to do with the battle. At the start of the year when I really began to study the battle I bought a number of books one of which was By Tarrant the other three were the german book I mentioned a couple of posts ago then Iron Coffins by Herbert Werner and D MacIntyres U-boat killer. Both Tarrant and Hertzog strongly point out that the slaughter of surving crews by U-boats was not true and this made me pay attention. It was because of this myth I had distainfully read little about the Battle of the Atlantic coupled with the fact of my 35 years on Tankers, silly really but there it is. The more I read Tarrant I came to realise that the Battle was fascinating and had been coloured by individuals from both sides writing of their experiences. These individuals were of course the leading cast in the epic ....and were just that individuals and at the time of writing mostly during the 50's facts, documents, log books were still classified. The 80's saw the books with real facts and objective analysis of the now declassified documents. Its thanks to the likes of Tarrant,Rohwer and Blair we now have a historians detailed view of the battle from both sides. They must have spent years on examining reams of data and crosschecking events dates times and ships with u-boats to come up with some absorbing reference books. two other books which are a MUST HAVE are Hagues Convoy System and Gunter Hesslers The U-boat war in the battle of the Atlantic. Having bought Showells book U-boat Warfare I will also be trying to buy the rest of his books too.

These then are the factual reference books which tell it like it was, what each move on either side meant to the overall battle progression. So here are the list of them ...

Gunter Hessler The U-boat War in the Atlantic 1939-1945 published before it was known that the Allies had broken the Enigma code and were using the info through Ultra. Hence it is totally innocent as to why the Germans were suffering the losses brought about by that knowledge.

Tarrant The U-boat Offensive 1914 - 1945 an excellent "First Read" covering the whole developement and decline of the U-boat. Lots of analysis facts and figures. published in 1989.

Clay Blair Hitlers U-boat War The Hunters 1939 - 1942
Clay Blair Hitlers U-boat War The Hunted 1943 - 1945 Published 1996

Hague The Allied Convoy System 1939 - 1945 Its defence and operation. A huge amount of details on individual convoys and ships lost. The ships type defending them and so on ....

If you have those books then you can begin ... yes begin to see the whole terrible battle that both sides endured ....

Barnsey (Thumb)

Hugh Ferguson
29th September 2007, 17:38
As this thread has evolved into alleged atrocities perpetrated during attacks, of one sort and another, on merchant ships, I might as well make my contribution.
Most loss of life occurred when abandoning ship and thereafter. Mr Lawrence Holt noted this very early on and in collusion with Kurt Hahn, of Gordonstoun School, placed great emphasis on the training of crew to launch and sail ships' lifeboats. The foundation of the OUTWARD BOUND SEA SCHOOL, Aberdovey, was the result enabling Blue Funnel to have a fatality rate some 45% lower than the average. No doubt the build of the ships also contributed to this remarkable difference.
Now, to come to the horror of the alleged massacre of people actually in the process of trying to save their lives and receiving no assistance.
I am not in the least surprised that if one single suspicion of that ever happening arose, nothing would be lost in the telling. And if you look for such an event in which you must distinguish between collateral and deliberate killing of crews you may well cite the sinking of the ANGLO SAXON, by the surface raider WIDDER (ship 21), on 21st Aug.1940.
Only two survived that sinking (2 A.B's, Tapscott & Widdicombe), but those few who survived the bombardment long enough to get away in the only boat left (the "jolly" boat), were so convinced that there had been an attempt to massacre them that later,during the night, when they saw the outline of a ship, they decided not to draw attention to themselves in case it should have been their attacker.
This is the account which outlived the writer of it, the 1st mate, Mr B.C. Denny. "At 8.20 p.m. in Lat. 26.10N. Long.34.09W. attacked by German raider assumed by crew to be s.s.WESER or WEBER, Hamburg America Line. vessel was not sighted until she had steamed to within a mile of us. Pitch black night. First sent four shells 4 inch crashing into the poop and gun platform aft. Many of crew in fo'castle were killed. She then steamed to within 3 cables, and raked the decks with incendiary machine gun bullets coloured red, yellow, white and blue. Then a shell hit engine room starboard side and main boiler burst. The bridge and wireless room were raked with pom-pom shells and machine gun bullets. Some of the crew went to the boats on boat deck but were mowed down by machine gunfire. The two big boats were badly damaged. Senior wireless operator reported wireless installations smashed, unable to send S.O.S. On reporting to Master found him shot down by machine gun bullets in his cabin, saloon amidships was wrecked, poop by this time blazing and the crew, few in number, were told to take to the boats."
The jolly boat got away with 7, but only 2 survived the next 70 days.
This boat after having been on display in the MYSTIC museum, U.S.A. is now in the War Museum, Lambeth.
The commander of the WIDDER was, Korvettenkapitan Helmuth von Ruckteschell.

At the same time as accounts such as the above can be presented there are many accounts of U.Boat commanders giving more than cursory assistance to survivors from ships they have just sunk. This prevailed even after the so-called LACONIA order from Donitz (17th Sept.) left U.Boat commanders with no discretion...in attempting a rescue or not. The following was radioed to all subs.
"No attempt of any kind must be made at rescueing the crews of ships sunk. This prohibition applies to the picking up of men in the water and putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food and water. Rescue remains contrary to the primary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and their crews."

Books for ref:- SURVIVED by Anthony Smith, and NEITHER SHARKS NOR WOLVES by Timothy P. Mulligan.

barnsey
30th September 2007, 00:27
Along with Hughs tales are these from "U-boote im einsatz 1939 - 45 by Bodo Hertzog ...published 1970. The dedication is to the crew of "Llandovery Castle", "Pelus" and Korvettenkapitan Werner Hartenstein and the crew of U 156.
Various quotes.....
1-Here are some notes on the brutality of the two U-boat Wars. Only in two of the more than 6,000 operations were their actions which cannot be excused. The survivors of Llandovery Castle, sunk by U 86 ( Patzig )were "taken" under artillery fire. A similar case was that of U-852 ( Eck ) sinking the Greek steamer Peleus.
2- U-124 (Schultz) sank the "Tweed" 8th April 1941.He supplied the surviving crew. The rescued 3/0 Howard Baker spent 17 years searching for Schultz. they met in England in 1958 and shook hands.
3- The Engineer D J Oxton found his rescuer Janssen U-103 after 21 years. The U-boat returning from a patrol found a life raft with Oxton and Huxley north of the Azores 19th May 1942. They were survivors from "Fort Concord" sunk by U-403 and U-456 on the 11th May 1942.
4-U-159 (Witte) sank "Star of Scotland" in the Indian Ocean 13 Nov 1942. He supplied th 18 crew of a lifeboat with Blankets and food and sent their Captain back to look after the crew. Both men became friends and met again after the war in 1948.

There may be many more tales too and some of the sadness some U-boat crew felt when seeing human life left aboard a waterlogged raft mid Atlantic .... and some adverse ones too no doubt as of those of the Dedicated Nazis aboard some of the U-boats. However it seems as though it was not all a tale of machine gunning survivors as per the Japanese and .... Americans too......

Barnsey

barnsey
30th September 2007, 00:29
Ooooooh, yes, I forgot ...... Thats a fantastic photo of you on your profile Hugh F. not at all the image I had of you in my mind ....is that a NZ "Swannie" you have on??

Best regards

David
aka Barnsey

Hugh Ferguson
30th September 2007, 10:32
Ooooooh, yes, I forgot ...... Thats a fantastic photo of you on your profile Hugh F. not at all the image I had of you in my mind ....is that a NZ "Swannie" you have on??

Best regards

David
aka Barnsey

Yes, Barnsey, it is! A worn out one like its owner. Incidentally, I had a long chat with Graham (Allen) yesterday: he cannot recall ever knowing a John Gregory.
Graham has got himself a computer! So, you never know, we may be communicating with him d'rectly, as they say in Cornwall. Hugh F.

Binnacle
30th September 2007, 22:07
Best book at the moment on WW2 N.Atlantic etc. The Real Cruel Sea by Richard Woodman.

Colman

Yes I too thought the book was very good. Many authors neglect the human side which he doesn't. After a sinking he describes the ordeals in boats and rafts and the reception they sometimes received as survivors on landing in the UK from petty shore seated bureacrats. Pity the book did not cover 1944/45. As the Sunday Times review states "It will surely serve as a semi-official wartime history of our merchant marine."

Hugh Ferguson
2nd October 2007, 13:29
As a foot-note to the Graham Allen story I could make a mention of the reticence exhibited by so many of my old ship-mates, and pilot service colleagues, to recount their experiences during the war.
At the time when I first met Graham in March 1955, he had met me off the STRATHMORE and immediately made the offer to share his flat for about 6 weeks until his wife arrived back from vacation in U.K..
During that period and the ensueing two years no mention was ever made of war-time events, and we parted company at the end of 1956 knowing nothing whatsoever of each other's experiences. Looking back on it, it now seems quite extraordinary that you can actually live under the same roof with somebody and learn so little about those life and death events.
It was the same in the pilot service where virtually everyone had been at sea during those years. And it was the case that sometimes one never knew, that a colleague had survived some very dramatic events indeed, until after he had died in retirement.
One such story was told to me on a train, returning to Dover after having landed in company at Gravesend. He told me how in 1940 he had been 3rd mate of the ARMANISTAN outward bound, lone ship in the Bay of Biscay when they were torpedoed and sunk by U.25 commanded by Viktor Schutze, on 3rd Feb.1940.
After they had abandoned ship and were sorting themselves out in the boats, U.25 surfaced and closed my friend's boat. The commander then descended from the conning tower and as he went to move along the casing to question the survivors, the 1st watch officer lowered a revolver on a line which offer to arm himself was declined by Schutze.
There followed what could almost be described as banter, at least for the one part! What ship, where are you from, where are you bound, what is your cargo questions were asked, and received minimal response. Schutze then surprised them by giving all the answers himself!! Offers of various items were made, declined, and they parted company.
They were picked up next day by a Spanish ship and my friend held the distinct impression that they knew there were survivors to be rescued.
That, it should be mentioned, was before the gloves came off.

barnsey
3rd October 2007, 10:43
Hugh F,

You were in the London Pilotage were you not? Harwich to Gravesend?? did you know Hedley Kett?

David
aka Barnsey

Brent Chambers
3rd October 2007, 12:06
Hi Barnsey, In your quest for authoritative books on German WWII submarines
have you come across Kenneth Wynn's "U-boat Operations of the Second World War?" A substantial, 2 volume work which came out in 1997, and covers chronologically the exploits or otherwise, of all of the U-boats commissioned in WWII. I met the author in Auckland a year or so ago. Happy hunting.
cheers, Brent

Hugh Ferguson
3rd October 2007, 20:23
Hugh F,

You were in the London Pilotage were you not? Harwich to Gravesend?? did you know Hedley Kett?

David
aka Barnsey

Negative. I was Dungeness Inwards. North Channel pilots were little known to us

barnsey
6th October 2007, 09:27
Hi Barnsey, In your quest for authoritative books on German WWII submarines
have you come across Kenneth Wynn's "U-boat Operations of the Second World War?" A substantial, 2 volume work which came out in 1997, and covers chronologically the exploits or otherwise, of all of the U-boats commissioned in WWII. I met the author in Auckland a year or so ago. Happy hunting.
cheers, Brent

No I have not noticed these at all Brent ..... I am "in for anything published in the last 20 years so these look very inetresting ... I'll keep an eye out for them.

An OW mate of mine ...Sid Woods .... has just had family papers delivered to him in Canada ... amongst which was a book ...

By ... Wemyss, David Edward Gillespie. "Walker's Groups in the Western Approaches." Liverpool: Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, 1948. 172 p.

It is unique in that Sids father has heavily annotated the parts pertaining to HMS Burwood and HMS Wren which were his fathers ships. HMS Wren was of course part of Walkers group. Sid just sent me the annotated parts to include in mine when I get it .... just a few more details of The Battle of the Atlantic straight from the pen of one of the participants.

Barnsey

alastairjs
6th October 2007, 09:43
Barnsey,
Abebooks currently list Vols 1 & 2 of "U-Boat Operations of the Second World War" from 2 different booksellers in Australia. Presumably they would ship to New Zealand ok. Otherwise many sources from the USA, in my experience they will usually ship to anywhere at reasonable cost.
Regards,
Alastair

Brent Chambers
6th October 2007, 10:20
Barnsey, better still--Kenneth Wynn, the author of "U-boat ops etc", works at Rare Books, 6 High St, Auckland Central. He "just happened to have" both volumes there at the time. cheers, Brent