British and Allied Submarine
Operations in World War II
Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet KBE CB DSO* DSC





Tunisia and the Third Battle of the Convoys: January - May 1943

Appendix XII Organisation of allied submarines in the Mediterranean 1st March 43
Patrolgram 17 War Patrols in the Med during the Tunisian Campaign Jan - Apl 43
Map 41 The Mediterranean during the Tunisian Campaign

THE SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER, which covers the first four and a half months of 1943 in the Mediterranean, deals mainly with the Allied attempt to cut the sea communications of the Axis forces in Tunisia. This intense struggle is identified by the official Italian naval historian as the 'Third Battle of the Convoys', but before we turn to it we must first describe Operation 'Principal', which took place in the first few days of January and which was the first large scale attack on the enemy by our human torpedoes or chariots.

It will be recalled that the chariot force of a dozen machines or so with their crews, accompanied by the three T-class submarines, P311, Trooper and Thunderbolt, with containers on deck to carry them, arrived in the Mediterranean during November and was based at Malta. It will also be recalled that their original targets were to be the three modern Italian battleships of the Littorio-class then based at Taranto. The first move was to send Traveller to Taranto to see whether it would be possible to lie on the surface close enough and for long enough, with hatches and containers open to launch the chariots. She had not returned from this reconnaissance and, in any case, the Italian battleships had moved to Naples in early December. Before another operation could be planned, a heavy air raid, by American Liberator bombers on Naples from Egypt, sank the Italian cruiser Attendolo and damaged two others. The Italian battleships at once retired north to La Spezia and the eight-inch gun cruisers Trieste and Gorizia to Maddalena in Sardinia. In making a new plan a number of factors had to be taken into consideration. At the time the cause of the loss of Traveller was not known but there were serious misgivings as to whether it was practicable for the launching submarines to lie stopped with hatches open within eight miles of a heavily defended naval base. The attack depended on the phase of the moon for its success. The chariots needed moonlight to be able to see to attack but no moon was desirable when launching them from the parent submarines. The modern Italian battleships were formidable warships and the Allies were short of capital ships to oppose them. Nevertheless their performance at sea in recent years had been far from impressive and they had achieved little. Captain(S) Ten certainly felt that there were better alternative targets for the chariots. He was also keen to use the chariots as soon as possible so as to release the parent submarines, after their containers had been removed, for operations. In the end, a plan was evolved, not to attack the Italian battle fleet in its heavily defended base at La Spezia, but to attack the cruisers at Maddalena and also merchant ships engaged in supplying Tunisia and now lying in Palermo and Cagliari. It would be possible to mount this attack during the next favourable period of the moon in January.

On 29th December, Turbulent (Commander JW Linton DSO DSC RN) already on patrol off Cavoli Island was ordered to reconnoitre Maddalena and P37 (Lieutenant ET Stanley DSC RN), after landing agents in Tunisia on 28th was ordered to do the same at Cagliari. P46 (Lieutenant JS Stevens DSC RN) sailed from Malta on 28th for Palermo, followed by P311 (Commander RD Cayley DSO** RN) with chariots X and XVIII embarked, bound for Maddalena. The purpose of the reconnoitring submarines was to check that patrol activity off the enemy ports to be attacked was light enough for the transporting submarines to launch their chariots. The next evening, Trooper (Lieutenant JS Wraith DSO DSC RN) sailed with chariots XVI, XIX and XXIII for Palermo and Thunderbolt (Lieutenant Commander CB Crouch DSO* RN) with chariots XV and XXII for Cagliari. Finally P43 (Lieutenant AR Daniell DSC RN) sailed from Malta on 30th to act as recovery vessel off Maddalena1. It had been decided that the transporting submarines were too vulnerable to wait around for the chariots to return and that a U-class submarine would be available at each place for this duty. It was accepted therefore that the chariots themselves would not be recovered. P37 and P46 would be available at Cagliari and Palermo after making their reconnaissances, to recover the chariot crews there.

All these submarines had to pass through the Sicilian narrows where now, in addition to the extensive mine-fields, there were the dangers of crossing the heavily patrolled Italian convoy route to Tunisia. Although operational submarines could cope with these problems, it was a different matter for the chariot transporting boats with their ungainly containers on deck2. In the morning of 30th December, air reconnaissance reported Italian torpedo boats operating between Marittimo and the Skerki Bank: P311 was already diving deep under the minefields but Trooper and Thunderbolt were ordered to remain south of Pantellaria for the present. P311 was ordered to report when safely through and this she did at 0130 on 31st December. Trooper and Thunderbolt were then allowed to proceed as air reconnaissance reported that there was now less patrol activity.

The original attack had been scheduled for the night of 1st/2nd January but this now had to be put back to the night of 2nd/3rd. Trooper and Thunderbolt were ordered to waiting positions until air reconnaissance was made early on 1st January. This reconnaissance confirmed that the two cruisers were still at Maddalena, that there was a cruiser and a large concentration of shipping at Palermo but only a few ships in Cagliari. P311 was therefore ordered to attack at Maddalena as planned but Thunderbolt was to join Trooper and both were to launch their chariots against Palermo. P311 was not heard of again after reporting her position on 31st December. She is believed to have struck a mine in the approaches to Maddalena and to have perished with all hands and with her chariots still on board3. She was lost with her exceptional Commanding Officer, Commander RD Cayley DSO** RN, four other officers and 56 men. It is possible that an accident occurred when on the surface with containers and hatches open when launching the chariots. The loss of this brand new submarine and her experienced Commanding Officer was a disaster and Trieste and Gorizia escaped attack altogether.

Trooper and Thunderbolt launched their five chariots off Palermo just before midnight 2nd/3rd January and at once withdrew from the area leaving P46 to pick up their crews after the attack. Of the Trooper's three chariots, XXIII had to abandon the attack due to mechanical problems and the rescue submarine, P46, picked up her crew some six hours later. The driver of chariot XIX tore his diving suit while getting through the harbour defence nets and was drowned. The other member of her crew could not attack alone and drove the chariot ashore and blew it up being made prisoner. Chariot XVI (Sub Lieutenant RG Dove RNVR), however, got into the harbour and placed his main charge under the liner Viminale of 8500 tons, severely damaging her. Of the Thunderbolt's two chariots, XV sank before reaching the harbour and one of its crew was drowned.

The other chariot XXII (Lieutenant RTG Greenland RNVR) penetrated the harbour successfully and placed limpet mines below the waterline on the destroyers Gregale, Ciclone and Gamma and then went on to secure his main charge under the stern of the new light cruiser Ulpio Traiano, which exploded and sank her. Unfortunately the Italians found all the limpet mines on the destroyers and removed them. The crews of the successful chariots were unable to bring them out and were taken prisoner.

Trooper and Thunderbolt returned to Malta, but all seven chariots were lost, and of their crews, six were killed, six taken prisoner and only two were rescued.

Trooper had her containers removed and was ready for patrol by the end of the month. Thunderbolt was ordered to embark two of the remaining chariots at Malta for another urgent operation. At the time the Eighth Army was approaching Tripoli and hoped to take it within a week or so. General Montgomery wanted to use it for seaborne supplies as soon as possible so that he could continue his advance, but there were indications that the Italians intended to block the port. C-in-C Mediterranean required the chariots to sink the blockships before they could be placed in position. Thunderbolt (Lieutenant Commander CB Crouch DSO* RN) sailed from Malta on 17th January with chariots XII and XIII on board. She launched them at 2300 on 18th January eight miles off the harbour and while doing so, with her hatches and containers open, she sighted an enemy E-boat. By keeping stern on, however, she avoided being seen. One chariot developed defects and had to land on the beach west of Tripoli where she was destroyed by her crew, who were then taken prisoner. The other piloted by Sub Lieutenant HLH Stevens RNVR penetrated the harbour only to see his target, San Giovanni Battista sunk in position as a blockship before his eyes. He sank his alternative target, the steamer Guilio and then sent his sinking chariot out to sea and was also taken prisoner. Tripoli, as told later in this chapter, fell into our hands on 23rd January, three days after Thunderbolt got back to Malta. She then also had her containers removed and was ready for patrol soon after Trooper.

The development and training of a British chariot force in under a year was a remarkable achievement. Its aim of putting the Italian battlefleet out of action, as the Italian human torpedoes had achieved against the British Mediterranean Fleet a year earlier was not, however, realised. They had to be satisfied with the sinking of a light cruiser, a small liner and a blockship for the expenditure of nine chariots and all but two of their crews4. Furthermore seven submarines altogether had to be diverted from patrols and two valuable T-class submarines were lost supporting these operations. Chariot training was, however, continued, and the design of a new type of chariot, the Mark II, of better performance and which a submarine could carry without using unwieldy containers, was put in hand.

THE GENERAL STRATEGIC SITUATION in the Mediterranean area on 1st January 1943 was that the British Eighth Army was in contact with the Axis army at Buerat some two hundred miles east of Tripoli. The Eighth Army was building up supplies so as to be able to advance and take Tripoli. The Axis Army was so short of ammunition that it could not even make a stand and only had enough fuel to retire. It was already thinning out in preparation for a retreat right back into Tunisia. In Tunisia the First Army, consisting of British, American and French troops was also building up its strength in order to be able to throw the Axis Army out of Africa. Everything, therefore, as far as the armies on both sides were concerned, depended on the rapid building up of supplies.

Of the Axis supplies, only 12,981 tons had reached Tripoli during December and now practically all the supplies were being sent to Tunisia, mostly to Tunis itself and Bizerta but some to Sousse and Sfax on the east coast. Every effort was being made to get empty ships away from Tripoli but six were kept there to be used as blockships, as we have already seen, to deny the port to the Allies. The Axis ships were being loaded mainly at Naples and Palermo while ferries and smaller ships were loaded at Trapani. Other ships were using Leghorn and ports to the north. All this supply shipping was in convoy and crossed to Africa in a corridor on each side of which mine-fields had been built up to protect them. As far as possible, convoys crossed at night but by day were given fighter escort from the nearby airfields in Sicily. There was already a shortage of supply ships and also of escorts. The French ships that had been commandeered were mostly in need of repair and were not yet available. Troops were mostly transported at night in destroyers at high speed while air transport was used as much as possible across the narrows.

Allied air and naval forces were doing their best to disrupt the Axis traffic to Tunisia. Bombing aircraft from Algeria, Cyrenaica and Malta were mounting heavy raids on the ports of arrival and departure. Air reconnaissance of the ports was being made by photographic Spitfires and of the sea routes by radar fitted Wellingtons. The convoys at sea were being attacked by low flying bombers by day and torpedo bombers at night. In January torpedo bombers sank three ships of 11,929 tons and low-level bombers two of 9016 tons. Surface striking forces of cruisers and destroyers as well as motor torpedo boats were stationed at Bone and Malta and minelayers of all types were mining the enemy corridor. Allied submarines, of which there were now twenty seven operational5 continued their campaign but had ceased to work among the minefields between Sicily and Tunisia, leaving this area to other forces. They now patrolled in the Tyrrhenian Sea, along the north coast of Sicily and off the east coast of Tunisia.

ON 1ST JANUARY 1943, in addition to the seven submarines involved in Operation 'Principal', there were six others on patrol. P42 (Lieutenant ACG Mars DSO RN) and P217 (Lieutenant EJD Turner DSC RN) were off Naples where they were soon joined by Turbulent after her release from Operation 'Principal', while Tribune (Lieutenant SA Porter RN) was on her way to Corsica. Ursula (Lieutenant RB Lakin DSC RN) was off Marittimo and P45 (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) off Kerkenah. Tribune landed agents in Cupabia Bay in Corsica on the night of 6th/7th January and then went on to Toulon and on 10th off San Remo she met Dalny of 6672 tons and fired four torpedoes at a range of 1200 yards and hit with one of them. The target beached herself and Tribune was able to hit her again with a single torpedo fired at 2200 yards completing her destruction. On the night of 6th/7th January, P44 (Lieutenant JCY Roxburgh DSC RN) was on her way from Malta to patrol and was missed west of Sicily by two torpedoes from an E-boat. She had to spend most of the rest of the night submerged. On 10th January she was caught in the beam of a searchlight ashore near Cape St Vito and was again hunted by E-boats. On 8th January, Turbulent south of Capri was sent south to join Una (Lieutenant JD Martin RN) and P44 to form a patrol line to try to intercept a convoy reported by signal intelligence and air reconnaissance. The weather was very bad and the convoy was not seen so the two U-class submarines returned to their areas further south. Turbulent then closed the coast off Paola and on 11th she fired two torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards at Vittorio Beraldo of 545 tons, which she hit and stopped. Another torpedo was fired at 2500 yards, which missed, and the enemy beached herself. Here a final torpedo fired at 3900 yards hit her and broke her in two. P217 in this area sighted a destroyer off Naples on 8th but that was all. P35 (Lieutenant SLC Maydon DSO RN) arrived in the Kerkenah-Hammamet area from Malta having sailed on 6th. On 9th she sighted a small northbound ship escorted by four F-boats6. She fired a single torpedo at 1200 yards and missed due to a drill failure. A few minutes later a second torpedo was fired at a range of 2000 yards from nearly right astern and also missed. The target was a slow one and P35 was able to pursue submerged until it was dark when she surfaced and overtook the enemy reaching a surface firing position. Another single torpedo was fired at 600 yards, which hit and sank Emilio Morandi of 1525 tons. On 10th, P35 fired another single torpedo at a small tanker and missed. She then surfaced and engaged with her gun but before she could obtain a hit the enemy escaped into Monastir. This action on the surface continued for over half an hour close to the enemy coast and in spite of the target being escorted by two auxiliary vessels. Next day yet another single torpedo was fired at a small escorted northbound merchant ship at a range of 3500 yards and again missed, the track probably being seen. On this same day two caiques from Hammamet were engaged with the gun and set on fire and driven ashore. Then on 12th, P35 fired a single torpedo at a Siebel ferry at a range of 500 yards. Although the torpedo was only set to four feet this torpedo ran under. On 14th, she had a night encounter with enemy patrols and later next day, met an unescorted ship in the north of Hamlet Gulf. P35 opened fire with her gun at 3000 yards but the enemy replied with accurate fire and she had to break off the action and dive. This eventful patrol was her fourteenth and last before returning to the United Kingdom for refit. It was remarkable for its six attacks, all firing only one torpedo. This was contrary to submarine practice at the time and was criticised by Captain(S) Ten. Had she used the standard two or three torpedo salvoes, she would have run out of torpedoes after three attacks or so.

Further to the south, P51 (Lieutenant MLC Crawford DSC RN) arrived off the western approaches to Tripoli on 9th January. For a week she only sighted small craft but then the evacuation of Tripoli began as the Eighth Army took up its advance again. On 17th, P51 sighted a merchant ship escorted by a destroyer off Djerba Island.

She fired three torpedoes at 1000 yards at Zenobia Martini of 1455 tons, hitting and sinking her with one of them. She was counter attacked, six depth charges were close but others were farther away and she was undamaged. Next day another three torpedoes were fired at 1000 yards at a convoy of two ships hitting and sinking Sportivo of 1600 tons, after which she was again counter attacked, this time with 35 depth charges in only 60 feet of water but was again undamaged. On the 19th, P51 fired her last two torpedoes at a small merchant ship in convoy but they missed. The last important convoy had, in fact, left Tripoli on 15th and was intercepted and sunk by Force K from Malta. The Italian submarines Settimo, Narvalo, Otaria and Santarosa were among the last ships to visit Tripoli and ran in ammunition and fuel during the final few days. The destroyer Lince was the last ship to get away and she was damaged but got in to Trapani on 20th January.

Returning now to the Tyrrhenian Sea, P228 (Lieutenant ILM McGeoch RN) from Algiers landed Special Operations Executive agents on the east coast of Sardinia on 9th January. She missed them at the rendezvous that night but recovered them in their inflatable boat in full daylight next morning. P228 was then ordered to the Naples area to intercept a convoy on radio intelligence and on 15th, south of Ischia, sighted it at night. It was cloudy with a moon and by keeping bows on to the nearest escort she was not seen and fired five torpedoes at 2000 yards. She aimed at both ships, diving at once and hitting and damaging one of them. She was able to surface after half an hour and keep touch that night and when the damaged ship stopped, she fired a single torpedo in a submerged attack by moonlight at a range of 3500 yards but it missed. Next morning she closed in to 750 yards and sank her with another single torpedo. When withdrawing, she inadvertently broke surface and eight depth charges were dropped fairly close but P228 was able to get away by diving to 350 feet. This ship was the brand new Emma of 7931 tons carrying ten tanks and 118 vehicles for Tunisia. P228 then moved across to the east coast of Sardinia to intercept coastal traffic. Here she used her gun to sink an anti-submarine schooner and damage an anti-submarine trawler. An attempt to attack shipping in Astafax harbour by moonlight failed when her gun jammed. On 19th she found Commercio of 765 tons stopped in a bay and sank her with a torpedo at a range of 2000 yards. North of Messina, P54 (Lieutenant J Whitton RN) on the 12th fired four torpedoes at a range of 1500 yards at the tanker Campania in ballast but missed. Next day, Tribune (Lieutenant SA Porter RN) just before leaving patrol off Corsica, fired three torpedoes at a small merchant vessel at 2800 yards but without result. On 14th, P212 (Lieutenant JH Bromage DSC RN), who had arrived in the Gulf of Genoa, torpedoed and sank Oued Tiflet of 1194 tons with one hit out of a salvo of three fired at 850 yards. On 17th January, P44 (Lieutenant JCY Roxburgh DSC RN), off Marittimo attacked a large merchant ship escorted by two destroyers firing four torpedoes at 3000 yards. She missed her target but hit and sank the destroyer Bombardiere of the escort. She was counter attacked with 30 depth charges by the other destroyer and was hunted until 2224 when she tried to surface. She was at once put down again by an E-boat, her hatch being open for less than a minute. She was hunted by E-boats for the rest of the night. At 0400 there were four E-boats still about and a destroyer joined them, and she had to face another day submerged with a low battery and the air already very foul. At 0715 a convoy passed but she could not attack, as she had had no opportunity to reload her torpedo tubes. She was not finally able to surface until 1836 on 18th. She had been submerged, except for one minute, for 36 hours and her whole crew were affected by carbon dioxide poisoning and many were physically sick. Bombardiere was one of sixteen Italian destroyers that in 52 night passages landed 15,500 troops in Tunisia during the month, and evacuated many prisoners and wounded.

On 17th January too, Rorqual (Lieutenant Commander LW Napier RN) arrived off the Cani Rocks to the north of Tunis to lay a field of fifty mines. She approached on the surface in bright moonlight, but in her first attempt, the rails jammed and she had to retire to the southwards to clear them. The field was laid fifteen miles north east of Bizerta during the next night and she then retired through the Sicilian narrows towards Malta. This minefield was extremely successful sinking, at last, Ankara of 4768 tons, a valuable ship with heavy derricks and one of the few ships able to carry Tiger tanks. On 31st January this field also claimed the corvette Procellaria and on 3rd February the destroyer Saetta. On 19th in the Gulf of Gabes, P42 (Lieutenant ACG Mars DSO RN) took up a position off Djerba Island where the ten-fathom line was three miles from the shore. She was rewarded by sighting a convoy creeping along the coast from the direction of Tripoli. She fired four torpedoes at 1700 yards securing one hit, which sank Edda of 6105 tons, which had already been damaged by the Fleet Air Arm. Edda was full of German troops and there was only a light counter attack as the two escorts were busy rescuing survivors. P42 returned to Malta for more torpedoes and sailed again after two days in harbour. This time she carried Free French Commandos to blow up an important railway bridge near Hammamet. They were successfully landed in four folbots on 28th January and blew up the bridge, but P42 then had to withdraw without recovering them due to the arrival of enemy antisubmarine vessels.

On 23rd January, Captain GWG Simpson CBE RN, commanding the Tenth Flotilla at Malta, was relieved by Captain GC Phillips DSO GM RN, who arrived from the United Kingdom. Captain Simpson had commanded the Malta submarines and the Tenth Flotilla for just over two years and made his name as a superb submarine flotilla commander in wartime. He had kept morale high even during the time previous to Malta's abandonment as a submarine base in April 1942. The Tenth Flotilla under his command became rightly famous for its exploits. It had, in fact, sunk approximately half a million tons of enemy shipping and damaged another quarter of a million tons. It had also sunk four cruisers, eight destroyers and eight U-boats and damaged a battleship and five more cruisers. Captain Simpson went to command the escort forces in the Battle of the Atlantic based at Londonderry with the rank of Commodore. Captain Simpson had already received the CBE in May and in January was Mentioned in Despatches. He sailed from Malta for Alexandria on 31st January in the minelayer Welshman and was torpedoed and sunk off Tobruk. Fortunately he was amongst those rescued. Captain Phillips had come from Blyth where he had been in command of the Sixth Submarine Flotilla. It will be recalled that he had commanded Ursula at the outbreak of war and proved to be one of the most successful submarine Captains in the North Sea. On 21st January the Admiralty stated that the total tonnage sunk by our submarines in the Mediterranean had reached the million mark. This was an over estimation but gave an opportunity for Their Lordships to recognise the work of our submarines in the Mediterranean.

During the last ten days of January, submarine operations continued in the Gulf of Genoa and Tyrrhenian Sea and also off the north coast of Sicily. It was through this area that most of the traffic to Tunisia passed. The majority of the submarines were based at Algiers. The Malta submarines no longer had to patrol off Tripolitania, which, with the advance of the Eighth Army, was rapidly falling in to our hands. The submarines were, however, busy off the east coast of Tunisia preventing supplies arriving from the north to Sousse and Sfax and other minor ports. The Malta submarines also watched the southern approaches to the Straits of Messina where, even if the traffic was not bound for Tunisia, a toll on the Axis shipping pool could be exacted. Some patrols were made in the Aegean and Adriatic by the First Flotilla at Beirut, where at least the enemy anti-submarine effort could be dissipated and kept away from the important areas. The Aegean patrols were the only ones based at Beirut, most of whose submarines were still lent to the Tenth Flotilla and worked from Malta.

On 17th January, P45 (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) in the Gulf of Hammamet engaged a tug off Sousse with her gun and drove her ashore, but she was then forced to dive by fire from shore batteries. On 19th she engaged a small vessel with gunfire but had to break off the action as her gun jammed. Next day off Mehedia she encountered two auxiliary minesweepers, one in tow of the other, and escorted by a torpedo boat. She fired two torpedoes at a range of 1350 yards hitting and sinking the towing vessel after which the towed vessel beached herself. Both these ships, which were the Auxiliary Minesweepers 31 and 36 were lost and the escorting torpedo boat, which was Lince, made no counter attack7. Next day two schooners were engaged with her gun and one was sunk and the other left on fire and holed by demolition charge. On 23rd, P45 was again forced to desist by shore batteries after engaging a small ship and after sunset in moonlight she fired two torpedoes at a range of 800 yards at a small naval auxiliary but did not succeed in hitting. Next day she sank a small ketch by demolition charge, which had been damaged by the RAF. On 21st January, far to the north, in the Gulf of Genoa, P212 (Lieutenant JH Bromage DSC RN), on being recalled to Algiers, bombarded a seaplane hangar near Cape Noli. Next day she sighted the German U301 on the surface taking a sunsight and ventilating. P212 fired a full salvo of six torpedoes at 4800 yards securing one hit and sinking her and picking up one survivor. On 22nd January off Naples, P247 (Lieutenant MGR Lumby DSC RN) sank the anti-submarine schooner Maria Angeletta of 214 tons by gunfire and demolition charge. On the same date in moonlight and a glassy calm she attacked a convoy of three small ships firing four torpedoes at 1500 yards but without result. Early next morning in the same conditions she missed a U-boat at 1000 yards with five torpedoes. On the same day, P37 (Lieutenant ET Stanley DSC RN), on patrol south of Messina sighted a large ship towed by two tugs and escorted by a torpedo boat, an auxiliary and an aircraft. She fired three torpedoes at 2000 yards hitting with two of them. This was Viminale, damaged in Palermo by the chariot attack, and on her way to be repaired. In spite of further damage, however, the tugs got her back into Messina. Furthermore an immediate and accurate counter attack damaged P37's battery and she had to abandon her patrol and return to Malta. Meanwhile P211 (Commander B Bryant DSC RN) had arrived off Naples having been depth charged off Algiers by an over enthusiastic Wellington aircraft, fortunately without being damaged. On 24th she was attempting an attack on what she took to be a large fleet destroyer, but it was a torpedo boat and her periscope was sighted and she was attacked with depth charges before she could fire torpedoes. P211 went full ahead to avoid the pattern but one of her screws and her stern glands were damaged. On 26th she fired four torpedoes at two large escorted steamers off the Bocca Piccolo at a range of 3000 yards and missed. On 30th, she sank two schooners by gunfire.

Off the east coast of Tunisia, P46 (Lieutenant JS Stevens DSC RN) was busy. On 23rd she surfaced and attacked a large schooner at anchor off Hammamet with her gun and scored ten hits before being forced to dive by shore batteries. She was able, however, to approach submerged and despatch her victim with a single torpedo fired from 1000 yards. On 25th, also off Hammamet, she found a small tanker, Teodolinda of 350 tons at anchor and fired a single torpedo at 1500 yards, which ran under. A second torpedo fired at 1850 yards, however, hit and left her a total wreck. Next day she engaged a motor schooner by gunfire early in the morning and left her in a waterlogged condition. Finally on 31st, P46 received reports of a southbound merchant vessel off Cape Bon. Guessing correctly that she was bound for Sousse, she was able to head her off on the surface in daylight. She dived and after a long chase sighted the enemy three hours later. She fired four torpedoes at a range of 6000 yards and secured a hit, which was a remarkable shot. The ship was the German Lisbon of 1800 tons, which sank after exploding and catching fire. P42 (Lieutenant ACG Mars DSO RN) also arrived in this area to land agents near Kelibia, which she did on the night of 28th/29th. She was not able to recover them as the alarm was raised.

It remains to cover some miscellaneous patrols during January. Rorqual (Lieutenant Commander LW Napier RN), after her successful minelay off the Cani Rocks, arrived on patrol off the Calabrian coast on 22nd. On 24th she missed a large ship escorted by a destroyer off Cape Stilo with four torpedoes fired at 5000 yards. On 29th she attacked a convoy of two ships with no better luck, missing with four torpedoes at 3000 yards. She was able, however, to get into an attacking position again twenty minutes later firing two torpedoes on a late track at 4000 yards but the wakes were seen and the torpedoes avoided. Next day she surfaced and bombarded a railway bridge in the Gulf of Squillace. She scored hits and was in the act of diving when a shore battery opened fire and damaged her forward periscope. Rorqual had then to return to Malta. Turbulent (Commander JW Linton DSO DSC RN), still lent to the Tenth Flotilla from the First Flotilla, left Malta for the north coast of Sicily on 25th January. Two days later she attacked two large ships in convoy firing four torpedoes at 3000 yards and scoring a hit on one of them, which damaged the target. On 31st she attacked an eastbound convoy of two ships but was put deep by the screen and did not get her torpedoes away. Tigris (Lieutenant Commander GR Colvin DSC RN) was the only submarine sent to the Adriatic during January and she passed through the Straits of Otranto on the night of 20th/ 21st after spending four blank days off Cephalonia. Almost at once she encountered the unescorted Citta di Genova of 5413 tons on passage between Brindisi and Valona. She fired four torpedoes at 1200 yards hitting with one of them and stopping the target. She finished her off with a single shot at 2000 yards from her stern tube. On 24th off the Gulf of Kotor, Tigris fired four torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards at a small merchant ship with an escort of a torpedo boat. The torpedoes missed and she suffered a moderate counter attack. Taku (Lieutenant AJW Pitt RN) had left Beirut for Malta on 17th January on loan to the Tenth Flotilla but developed serious engine defects and had to return to the United Kingdom to refit. The only Aegean patrol in January was by the Greek Papanicolis (Ypoploiarkhos N Roussen). She sailed on 7th January and entered by the Kaso Strait and landed agents on Hydra. She then captured a caique and put a prize crew on board who brought her in to Alexandria. On 18th she sank two caiques but then had to return with many defects arriving at Port Said, unable to dive, on 23rd January.

The result of the Axis running of convoys to Tunisia during January, although they persisted in their determination with considerable bravery, was disastrous. Out of 51 ships that sailed, 24 were sunk and another seven seriously damaged. The casualties therefore amounted to 55%, which was higher than any month during 1942. Only 31,600 tons of supplies were landed which included no more than 17,600 tons of fuel, 1700 vehicles, 50 tanks and 214 guns. Only 15,000 men arrived by sea and 14,500 by air. These supplies had to nourish both the Axis armies in Tunisia and the Afrika Korps, now on the borders of Tunisia in the Mareth Line. By 22nd January, the Axis forces in Tunisia were seriously short of ammunition. In comparison the Allied supplies for North Africa were arriving steadily as planned and the build up of forces was rapidly overtaking those of the Axis. The proportion sunk by the various arms was; by submarines thirteen ships of 40,120 tons, aircraft nine ships of 41,088 tons and by surface warships four of 7757 tons. Half of the casualties caused by submarines were, however, not on the supply run to North Africa and half of the casualties caused by aircraft were bombed in harbour. Some casualties were shared and five ships were expended by the Axis to block Tripoli8. The submarine casualties to ships not on the North Africa run were far from wasted, as an overall shortage of ships was the governing factor in running supplies to North Africa. Help was on the way from France, but most of the ships promised had not completed their repairs, which had to be attended to before they could be used. The Italian Navy was also short of escorts9 many of which were also awaiting repairs, and over all was the spectre of the serious shortage of fuel for all purposes.

Our submarines achieved these results with 105 torpedoes, seven chariots, 50 mines, about 500 rounds of 4" and 3" ammunition and some demolition charges. In thirty-one torpedo attacks they sank a destroyer, a U-boat, two auxiliary minesweepers and thirteen ships of 35,555 tons and further damaged a liner already damaged by the chariots. This was a success rate of fifty two per cent. The chariots sank a cruiser and a medium sized merchant ship and damaged a small liner. The single minefield sank another destroyer, a corvette and a valuable merchant ship of 4765 tons. In twenty-three gun attacks, an anti-submarine schooner and twelve small caiques, schooners and tugs were sunk and two damaged and a seaplane hangar was set on fire, a railway bridge damaged and a train derailed. These considerable successes were achieved for the loss of one submarine during the month.

ON 1ST FEBRUARY 1943, THE ADMIRALTY at last brought into force the naming of new submarines instead of numbering. The names allocated are shown in Appendix XI. The submarine names were in evidence, in a nick of time, for the visit of the Prime Minister to Algiers on 3rd February. The naming of new submarines was in general received with satisfaction although it is doubtful if it had any real effect on morale as suggested by the Prime Minister. Some of the individual names were disliked until the ship's companies got used to them and a general criticism was that, in the U-class, the names were fabricated by putting 'Un'- in front of any word that could be found in the dictionary.

Geographically the strategic situation on land in North Africa during February did not alter much. The Eighth Army moved up its whole strength to the Mareth Line and opened up a supply route by sea from Egypt through the port of Tripoli. The First Army received re-inforcements steadily from the USA and Britain by sea through the Algerian ports but remained on a north south line to the west of Tunis. In the middle of the month, Axis forces from Tunisia and the Mareth Line made a spirited attack on the American Second Corps in southern Tunisia and were successful at the Kasserine Pass. They prevented a wedge being driven by the Allies between their forces in Tunis and on the Mareth Line but had no fuel or ammunition to turn their success into a substantial victory. February was therefore mainly a period of building up the forces on both sides and the battle to get supplies to Tunisia was the key to the whole situation.

By the beginning of February, the Italian Navy's ability to defend the supply line to Tunisia was seriously impaired. There were only nine torpedo boats and one destroyer in service as escorts while eight destroyers were used to ferry personnel. These destroyers worked from Pozzuoli near Naples and made the passages at high speed as far as possible at night. Fuel was now desperately short. The battleships had had to be emptied to supply the escort vessels and at times, Palermo and other ports in Sicily ran out completely and the sailing of convoys had to be delayed. In general, ships sailing to the east Tunisian ports were small. The Allies kept up their attacks on these convoys in the same way as in January and had received reinforcements for the air forces. The submarines continued to operate as before and in much the same way. On 1st February, there were eight submarines on patrol. Safari/P211 (Commander B Bryant DSC RN) was off Naples and Turbulent (Commander JW Linton DSO DSC RN) was on the north coast of Sicily. Una (Lieutenant JD Martin RN) and Unison/P43 (Lieutenant AR Daniell DSC RN) were in the Gulf of Hammamet while Unruffled/P46 (Lieutenant JS Stevens DSC RN) was returning to Malta from the same area. Unseen/P51 (Lieutenant MLC Crawford DSC RN) was on the Calabrian coast and Rorqual (Lieutenant Commander LW Napier DSO RN) had just left an adjacent position for Malta. Tigris (Lieutenant Commander GR Colvin DSC RN) was in the Zante area returning from the Adriatic bound for Malta. Finally Umbra / P35 (Lieutenant SLC Maydon DSO RN) was on passage from Malta on her way to the United Kingdom to refit.

Successes came to our submarines straight away in February. On 1st, Turbulent, on patrol off the north west coast of Sicily encountered the unescorted Pozzuoli of 5350 tons. She closed to 950 yards and hit and sank her with two torpedoes. An hour later a Ramb-class naval auxiliary stopped in the vicinity presumably to rescue survivors. Turbulent got away a stern torpedo at her at 3200 yards but she went ahead in the nick of time and the torpedo missed astern. Next day, Safari/P211 off Naples fired three torpedoes at 1150 yards at an unescorted convoy and hit and sank Valsavoia of 5735 tons with two of them. She then surfaced and sank the other ship, Salemi of 1176 tons by gunfire expending 26 rounds. Una in the northern part of the Gulf of Hammamet had surfaced on 1st February to engage two large schooners. She damaged them both but was forced to break off the action by shore batteries, which wounded one of her gun's crew, and she had to return to Malta to land him. On 4th, Unseen/P51 in the Crotone area near Taranto failed to find a ship aground reported by the RAF. However a small steamer towed by a tug appeared and she fired two torpedoes at 1500 yards, one of which hit and sank Le Tre Marie of 1085 tons. On 7th Unison/P43 in the northern part of Hammamet Gulf fired a single torpedo at some dumb barges at anchor but it only ran a short distance, probably hitting the bottom. Next day she surfaced and engaged three southbound motor barges with her gun, destroying the two largest and leaving the third in a sinking condition. On 11th, Unison/P43 and United/P44 were ordered to intercept a southbound convoy heading for Sousse. They failed to intercept it but Unison encountered a straggler of 350 tons and, after ten rounds had set her on fire; she blew up and sank. United had no luck and when off Sousse on 8th, her periscope was sighted from the land and fired at by the shore batteries. Unbroken/P42 (Lieutenant ACG Mars DSO RN) also had a blank patrol off Sousse at this time. Meanwhile Turbulent at dawn on 5th scored a substantial success north of Sicily when she fired four torpedoes at a range of 4800 yards and scored two hits, which sank the laden 5640-ton tanker Utilitas. On 7th she engaged and hit a train in St Ambroglio station near Cephalu, but next day underestimated the speed of a small merchant vessel and missed her with two torpedoes at 1200 yards. Sibyl/P217 (Lieutenant EJD Turner DSC RN) had a blank patrol off Naples in the middle of February and Tribune (Lieutenant SA Porter RN) nearly so. She sighted a small merchant ship on 10th and fired three torpedoes at a range of 2300 yards but without result.

Submarines joining the station from the United Kingdom continued to do a working up patrol in the western Mediterranean before being sent into the areas where greater opposition was to be expected. On 8th February, the new Netherlands submarine Dolfijn (Luitenant ter zee 1e Kl HMLFE van Oostrom Soede) a British built U-class (ex-P47), carrying out her working up patrol off Sardinia, scored another substantial success when she met the Italian submarine Malachite and fired four torpedoes at 2200 yards, hitting and sinking her. Taurus (Lieutenant Commander MRG Wingfield DSO RN) had an uneventful working up patrol off Alicante on her way from Gibraltar to Algiers but Torbay (Lieutenant RJ Clutterbuck RN) had rather more excitement. Her working up patrol was off Valencia. On 7th she sighted an unescorted submarine and gave chase and opened fire, hitting with the first round but then her gun jammed. This was providential as the target turned out to be the Spanish San Jurgo. She was exercising but was out of position and had no escort as she was supposed to have. On 11th, Torbay met the German controlled Danish Grete of 1565 tons outside territorial waters and sank her with one torpedo out of a salvo of two at a range of 2800 yards.

From 1st-10th February, the French submarine Casabianca (Capitaine de Corvette de L'Herminier), who had escaped from Toulon and joined the Allies after the Germans had invaded Unoccupied France, made a special operation from Algiers to land agents in the south of France. For some time it had been possible for the Special Operations Executive to land and retrieve agents from Vichy France using local craft such as feluccas. With the seizure of Unoccupied France by the Germans in November 1942 this became hazardous and there were demands for submarines for this purpose. The French Giraudist submarines in North Africa, with their local knowledge, seemed well suited for such operations. As they were short of torpedoes, which handicapped any offensive patrols, it was decided to use them almost exclusively for this purpose and they began a regular monthly service to and from the south coast of France. They carried French intelligence agents and security personnel as well as the Special Operations Executive agents and provided a route to France controlled by the French themselves except that their movements across the Mediterranean were ordered by the British Captain(S), Eighth Submarine Flotilla at Algiers.

Two submarines were sent to patrol in the Adriatic during February, Thunderbolt (Lieutenant Commander CB Crouch DSO** RN) to the northern half and Unbending/P37 (Lieutenant ET Stanley DSC RN) to the southern half. On 9th February, Unbending met a southbound ship off Monopoli firing three torpedoes at 900 yards, one of which hit and stopped the vessel, which was Eritrea of 2515 tons. A further torpedo was fired to hasten her sinking but it had a gyro failure and missed but the target sank just the same. Unbending then moved over to the Yugoslavian side and next day attacked a small passenger-cargo vessel but missed astern with two torpedoes fired at 1500 yards. The target took shelter in a nearby bay and anchored. Unbending followed up and missed again with another torpedo at 1500 yards. Yet another torpedo fired from a range of 1800 yards hit her and she was beached with a broken back. This was Carlo Margottini of 855 tons. Unbending had now expended all her torpedoes and returned to Malta. Thunderbolt arrived in the northern Adriatic on the 9th. The previous day she had damaged a schooner by gunfire and on the 10th February, off Split, she missed a small merchant ship with two torpedoes at 2700 yards. Two days later she fired three torpedoes at a convoy of small ships at a range of 4000 yards without result and a few minutes later fired two more but again missed. This was followed by a rapid but inaccurate counter attack with depth charges by the escort. On 13th she sank a minesweeper by gunfire but on 15th February she again missed a medium sized merchant ship with three torpedoes at a range of 2200 yards. On 18th she fired a single torpedo in a night encounter with a corvette at 500 yards but the torpedo ran under and she was depth charged for her trouble. She then surfaced and opened fire with her gun and scored a number of hits before the corvette escaped into the night.

By 10th February, in the Ionian Sea, Una (Lieutenant JD Martin RN) was again out off the east coast of Calabria. She encountered and sank Cosala of 4260 tons with one hit out of a full salvo of four torpedoes at a range of 1500 yards. On 15th she had another success when she was ordered to search for a ship reported to be beached north of Crotone. She found her and fired three torpedoes at 2500 yards, one of which hit. Petrarca of 3330 tons was reported sunk by air reconnaissance next day with only her upperworks showing. This was Una's last patrol and after it she returned to the United Kingdom to refit. Trooper (now Lieutenant RP Webb RN) arrived off Cape Dukato on 6th February to patrol in the Ionian Islands area. On 14th off Anti Paxos Island she fired six torpedoes at a large escorted merchant ship at a range of 4300 yards but all missed. She was counter attacked by the escort, fortunately ineffectively. Unrivalled/P45 (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) patrolled south of Messina from 8th February and on 15th fired two torpedoes at a lighter towed by a tug at a range of 1000 yards but they ran under. A third torpedo fired a few minutes later did not hit either and she was unable to surface and use her gun because there were shore batteries in the vicinity. Next day she found a ship at anchor off Cape Stilo and fired a single torpedo at 750 yards, which hit and sank Sparviero of 500 tons. Later the same day she sighted a convoy of two ships escorted by two destroyers. She attacked but was detected by one of the escorts who dropped a depth charge in her vicinity. Nevertheless she got away a salvo of four torpedoes at 3000 yards. She heard a hit but was unable to see the result as a counter attack developed. She in fact sank Pasubio of 2215 tons and then returned to Malta with all her torpedoes expended. Unruffled/P46 (Lieutenant JS Stevens DSC RN) left Malta for the Tunisian coast on 11th February and was ordered to intercept a convoy reported by air reconnaissance north west of Pantellaria on 16th but failed to make contact. On 18th she fired two torpedoes at a range of 1500 yards at two schooners at anchor off Naboel but they missed. A third torpedo had a gyro failure and ran crooked. The crews of the schooners, however, abandoned ship and both were wrecked in a gale shortly afterwards. On 21st, Unruffled was again ordered to intercept a convoy reported by aircraft and sighted two merchant ships off Pantellaria with two torpedo boats and an aircraft as escorts. She fired four torpedoes at the long range of 4800 yards and achieved one hit sinking Baalbek of 2115 tons. A subsequent counter attack lasting two hours was moderately effective.

Successes were also achieved west of the Italian peninsula during the second half of February. Saracen/P247 (Lieutenant MGR Lumby DSC RN) landed agents in Cupabia Bay in Corsica on 11th February and sank two German tugs next day in Agay Roads. On 14th she fired four torpedoes at 5000 yards at the 12,300-ton tanker Marguerite Finaly in ballast and hit with one of them. Unfortunately this was not enough to sink her. Saracen also bombarded a schooner-building yard at Cervo in Italy before returning to Algiers. Splendid/P228 (Lieutenant ILM McGeoch RN) was sent to patrol off Cape St Vito in Sicily. At dusk on 17th February she attacked a convoy of two medium sized westbound ships escorted by two destroyers and a sloop. She attacked from the landward side where the escort was weakest and fired six torpedoes aimed at both ships from inside the screen. The range of the nearer ship was 800 yards and the more distant one 2800 yards. She heard two hits on one ship and one on the other and claimed to have sunk both. Post war records confirm that she sank Xxi Aprile of 4800 tons: the other ship was Siena of 4000 tons but she survived. Splendid was counter attacked after seven minutes by three patterns of six depth charges and one of twelve but avoided damage by diving to 330 feet. On 23rd she started an attack on a tanker in a glassy calm, but the target altered course away before she could reach a firing position. The area was proving difficult with aircraft patrolling all the time and anti-submarine vessels sweeping. Next day at dawn she met a merchant ship believed to be a tanker accompanied by a coaster and escorted by a destroyer. She fired four torpedoes at 2000 yards in the half-light and claimed a hit. The destroyer did not counter attack and the target has not been identified as sunk. Shortly afterwards she sighted the water carrier Dalmazia10 and missed her at 2500 yards with her stern torpedo. Also on 24th, another convoy passed Splendid but out of range. The final patrol for February which we will describe was by Torbay (Lieutenant RJ Clutterbuck RN) in the Gulf of Genoa. On 26th she made an unsuccessful night attack on the French Oasis of 1350 tons off Ajaccio, expending altogether four torpedoes at under 1000 yards. It was just as well that she missed as French ships not working for the enemy were not targets at this time. In the morning watch of the same day off Cape Mele she fired four torpedoes at 1600 yards at a medium sized merchant ship and hit with two of them, sinking the Spanish Juan De Astigarraga of 3560 tons. This sinking was justified as the Germans had chartered the target. On 27th she missed two small ships from submerged, firing in all four torpedoes in three separate attacks at the long range of 5500 yards. Next day she had more success off Portofino when she sank Ischia of 5100 tons. She first fired a single torpedo at 1000 yards, which missed and followed this up by two more both of which hit.

At the end of February, Admiral Cunningham, who had again been appointed as C-in-C Mediterranean at Algiers, visited Malta and the Tenth Flotilla at their base in the Lazaretto. He was, of course, already well known to the personnel of the Eighth Flotilla at Algiers.

The successes of our submarines during February were substantial and were achieved without loss to themselves. In thirty-five attacks firing 102 torpedoes, they sank an Italian U-boat and fifteen ships of 51,305 tons and damaged another of 12,300 tons and possibly two others. They also sank a minesweeper by gunfire as well as seven small vessels and damaged a corvette and three schooners. They also damaged a train and a schooner-building yard and on two occasions landed agents. Of the large ships sunk by submarines, however, only four of 17,976 tons were actually on their way to Tunisia and it was aircraft that caused most of the damage to this traffic. They sank ten ships of 43,357 tons but the surface forces did not succeed in sinking anything at all. By the middle of the month, the Italian Navy's escort force for the Tunisian route had been reduced to four torpedo boats, two corvettes and one destroyer. As a result and also because of a desperate shortage of fuel, they only succeeded in sailing thirty four ships for Tunisia during February and of these thirteen were sunk and another seriously damaged which represented a casualty rate of 47%. In spite of this, the Axis managed to get across 8,900 tons of fuel, 134 guns and 50 tanks with 8130 men while 12,800 men were flown in. However the Allies were building up their forces very much more quickly; four large convoys, each carrying more than the total transported to Tunisia by the Axis during the month, arrived at Algiers in February. The Allied army was now considerably larger than that of the Axis, whose units were under strength and had only the fuel and ammunition they could carry with virtually no reserves at all.

The Allied submarine campaign, as we have seen, was directed more at Axis shipping in the whole Mediterranean than against the traffic to Tunisia. This was not the result of a conscious strategic decision but because they found it difficult to operate amongst the minefields north west of the Sicilian narrows, and it seemed sense to leave this area to unrestricted attacks by the air forces. Nevertheless this policy proved effective and by the end of February there were only fifty-one Axis ships left for the route to North Africa and, if losses continued at the present rate, it was expected that the Axis shipping resources would be entirely exhausted by midsummer 1943. This was in spite of fourteen new ships building in Italy and the ships requisitioned from France and chartered from neutrals.

AT THE CASABLANCA CONFERENCE IN JANUARY, it was planned to throw the enemy out of North Africa altogether by the end of April and to invade Sicily in July or August. The fighting on land continued throughout March, the Axis forces counter attacking at Medinine and in north Tunisia. They were repulsed in both places during the first few weeks of the month although fighting continued in the north. In mid March the Eighth Army attacked at Mareth and drove the enemy back to the Wadi Akarit north of Gabes but still south of the east Tunisian ports that remained in the enemy's hands. The struggle on both sides to bring in reinforcements and supplies continued unabated and this was the key to the whole strategic situation.

For the landings in Sicily, it was essential to have accurate information about beach gradients and the sandbars believed to exist off shore. Some of this information could be obtained by photographic reconnaissance from the air, but the positive surveys by Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPPs) landed by submarine were considered essential. Unlike the landings in North Africa there was time to obtain this information during the planning stages for the operation. At the end of February and beginning of March, therefore, four submarines left to make these reconnaissances and, if bad conditions were found, then the plans could be altered to allow for them. The submarines involved were not permitted to attack shipping in case they compromised the landing places. Each carried one or two COPPs, who were specially trained to survey the beaches and their gradients and firmness and record all other necessary navigational information. They worked inshore in shallow water in diving suits from folbots carried by the submarines. The periscopes of the submarines were also, of course, important and of value for these surveys. Safari (Commander B Bryant DSC RN) from Algiers made a beach reconnaissance of Castelamare Bay in northwest Sicily with COPP4, losing one of its folbots with its crew. The crew, however, had a good cover story but in fact it would not have mattered much if this landing place had been compromised, as it was not used. Safari, on her way home, encountered a 150-ton schooner and sank her by gunfire. At the same time, Unbending (Lieutenant ET Stanley DSC RN) and United (Lieutenant JCY Roxburgh DSC RN) from Malta were surveying beaches on the southeast coasts of Sicily. United with COPP1 off Gela also lost a folbot and its crew, but, determined not to risk compromise, this folbot paddled 75 miles all the way back to Malta in a voyage lasting 37 hours. United had, of course, the same attack restrictions on this operation and had to watch a U-boat cross her bows at 500 yards without being allowed to fire. She had to dive and in consequence failed to recover another folbot for which she was searching at the time. Unrivalled (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) also surveyed beaches in this same area early in March. Later in the month Unruffled (Lieutenant JS Stevens DSC RN) made a beach reconnaissance north of Cape Passaro and she lost two folbots probably in the heavy swell. Nevertheless all the surveys were successfully completed without compromise. The loss of so many folbots was, however, worrying especially as they had infra-red torches to help make contact with the submarines. It was decided to investigate the use of chariots, a few of which were at Malta, for future beach reconnaissances.

On 1st March 1943, the grand total of Allied submarines in the Mediterranean amounted to thirty-eight, but of these only twenty-five were fully operational and all except two of these were British. One British, three Greek and one Yugoslav were either refitting or only fit for anti-submarine training duties while eight French were hoped to be operational by the end of April. The French submarines were, as we have already noticed, short of torpedoes and spare gear. Two British submarines had just left for the United Kingdom to refit and two Polish, and six more British boats sailed during the month to relieve them (see Appendix XII). The Eighth Flotilla, based on the depot ship Maidstone at Algiers had three T-class and five S-class of its own, and the Netherlands Dolfijn. Sturgeon under repair at Gibraltar and on loan from Home waters was attached. Four T-class from the First Flotilla at Beirut, which had been at Malta, were now transferred on loan to Algiers. The operations of the eight French submarines at Oran were also controlled by the Captain(S) Eight. The Tenth Flotilla at Malta had eight U-class of its own and the minelayer Rorqual lent from the First Flotilla. The First Flotilla at Beirut only had two boats operational, Parthian and the Greek Papanicolis. It also supervised the refits of Osiris, three Greek submarines and the Yugoslav Nebojsca.

During March, the Eighth Flotilla continued to send its submarines to patrol in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off Naples, the north coast of Sicily and off Sardinia and also off the south coast of France and in the Gulf of Genoa. Submarines that had just arrived on the station did their working up patrols off the coast of Spain and west of Sardinia. The Tenth Flotilla concentrated on the Gulf of Hammamet on the east coast of Tunisia as well as sending submarines to the coast of Sicily to make beach reconnaissances. Other submarines went to the Calabrian coast and one was sent to help the Eighth Flotilla north of Sicily. The main contribution of the First Flotilla was, as we have seen, to lend its main operational strength to the Eighth Flotilla but it also sent submarines to patrol in the Aegean and Rorqual to lay mines in the Sicilian narrows. On 1st March there were nine submarines at sea. Unison and Unseen were in the Gulf of Hammamet and Unbending was off the south coast of Sicily, while all the others were in the western basin: Tigris off Naples; Taurus off the French Riviera; Torbay off Corsica; Turbulent in the Tyrrhenian Sea; Safari off the north coast of Sicily and Dolfijn off Sardinia. Rorqual had just arrived at Haifa to load mines11.

On 1st March, Turbulent (Commander JW Linton DSO DSC RN) in the Naples area, torpedoed and sank San Vincenzo of 865 tons and was then ordered across to the east coast of Corsica. On the same day, the Netherlands submarine Dolfijn (Luitenant ter zee 1e Kl HMLFE van Oostrom Soede) sighted a U-boat off Cavoli Island and fired four torpedoes at 3000 yards on a rather late track. She over-estimated the speed, however, and the U-boat saw the torpedo tracks and put her engines astern and they missed ahead. On 3rd, Torbay (Lieutenant RJ Clutterbuck RN) fired a single torpedo at a convoy at a range of 5000 yards in the Gulf of Genoa. This was her last torpedo and she missed. She then bombarded the oil tanks at Maurizio but the shore batteries replied and hit her on the after casing fortunately without causing any serious damage. She then returned to Algiers. Next day Unseen (Lieutenant MLC Crawford DSC RN) off Sousse found a floating crane salvaging cargo from a wreck previously damaged by Umbra/P35 in December. She fired a single torpedo at 1400 yards, which hit Macedonia of 2875 tons, damaging her beyond salvage and stopping the unloading. Another torpedo fired two days later into Sousse from 4500 yards hit the breakwater. On 6th Taurus (Lieutenant Commander MRG Wingfield DSO RN) in the Gulf of Lions had already sunk a small sailing vessel off Cape Ferrat, and when off Marseilles met the Spanish Bartolo of 3118 tons, which was on charter to the Germans. In a day-submerged attack she fired four torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards but one torpedo ran under and the others missed. Two hours later she caught her up again when for some reason she stopped. Two more torpedoes were fired at 500 yards, one had a gyro failure but the other hit and sank her. On 10th off Sete, Taurus fired three torpedoes at a range of 1500 yards at the Italian Derna of 1770 tons, hitting and sinking her with one of them. Finally she sank a tug and lighter by gunfire off Rion Island. On 10th also, Trooper (again Lieutenant JS Wraith DSO DSC RN) when north east of Milazzo in Sicily, fired four torpedoes at 1500 yards range at a convoy and secured two hits on the tanker Rosario of 5470 tons which sank. She was then counter attacked with no less than 57 depth charges. Early in March Casabianca (Capitaine de Corvette L'Herminier) made the second of her trips to the south of France to land agents and had sufficient torpedoes to continue with a short offensive patrol in the Gulf of Genoa. She attacked a merchant ship off Bastia but the torpedoes ran under at short range. On return to Algiers she had to go to Oran for a short refit.

There then followed in a period of a few days, a series of disasters to the submarines lent to the Eighth Flotilla from the First Flotilla. Tigris, who had been on patrol in the Naples area since February, was ordered to return to Algiers on 6th March. She never arrived and for many years it was thought that she struck a mine twenty miles north of Zembra Island on 10th March. Later research into enemy records now indicates that she was sunk on 27th February by UJ2210 of the German 22nd Anti-Submarine Flotilla south of Capri. The 22nd Flotilla, consisting of UJ2201, UJ2209 and UJ2210, was returning to Naples from patrol. UJ2209 had broken down and was in tow of UJ2201 who obtained a firm sound contact of a submarine. UJ2210 was ordered to take the contact over which she did, delivering four fifteen charge patterns set to various depths. There was an upheaval of water and air followed by oil and wreckage after the third attack. After the fourth attack contact was lost. The depth was some 500 fathoms and there is little doubt that this contact was Tigris. She went down with all hands including her experienced Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander GR Colvin DSO DSC RN, five other officers and 57 men. Turbulent, after crossing to the coasts of Corsica and Sardinia, was not heard of again and was probably sunk on one of a number of Italian anti-submarine mine-fields off the north east coast of Sardinia11a. The loss of this submarine was a major disaster. She too was sunk with all hands including her outstanding Commanding Officer, unquestionably at the time of his loss the leading British submarine 'Ace'. Commander JW Linton DSO DSC RN had formerly commanded Pandora in the Mediterranean with conspicuous success and was on his second 'tour' in Turbulent. Five other officers were lost with her including two who had been decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross. Sixty-one men were lost too and amongst these were eight holders of the Distinguished Service Medal and fourteen who had been Mentioned in Despatches. Commander Linton, who had accounted for a destroyer and over 90,000 tons of shipping, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Thunderbolt had left Malta on 9th March to patrol north of Sicily on her way to Algiers. She worked to the east along the coast from Marittimo to Cape St Vito and on the 12th sank Esterel of 3100 tons. The corvette Cicogna of the escort counter attacked and maintained contact all night running out of depth charges. After replenishing, she located Thunderbolt again on 14th March in much the same position. Her periscope was sighted and she was counter attacked with 24 more depth charges and was seen to break surface at a large angle and sink again. Thunderbolt was thus lost finally having earlier been sunk as Thetis on trials in 1939. She went down with her experienced Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander CB Crouch DSO* RN, five other officers and fifty six men including six holders of the Distinguished Service Medal and seven who had been Mentioned in Despatches. Anti-submarine vessels were therefore responsible for all of these grievous losses.

During the previous month a new device had been fitted in the submarines Unbending, United and Unruffled. It was called QV4 or 'The Rooster' and was a primitive form of search receiver for picking up enemy radar transmissions. It could only be used on the surface and it was only directional by swinging the submarine either side to get a bearing and even then there was no way to tell whether it was ahead or astern. It was hoped that QV4 would be developed so that submarines could dive on detecting a radar fitted ship and was also, of course, of value for plotting the positions of radar stations on shore. This was particularly important for the invasion of Sicily. The device, although it was able to detect enemy transmissions, did not prove very valuable. It tended to hear radar approaching most of the time, but the cumbersome way to obtain a bearing meant that submarine captains switched it off unless pinpointing a shore station. United, off Cape Spartivento, certainly detected a radar station there, but its position was already known as its large rotating aerial had been seen by submarines using their periscopes. Four more of the U- class were fitted in the Mediterranean but QV4 was not developed further.

At the end of February and beginning of March, two other submarines on beach reconnaissance lost folbots. Unbending (Lieutenant ET Stanley DSC RN) with COPP3 lost all four of her folbots and returned to Malta on 6th March. Unrivalled (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) with COPP ME2 lost all of them on 4th and 6th March. Miraculously the landing places did not seem to be compromised and in spite of these difficulties the surviving COPPs brought back enough information.

On 13th, Unbending, after her Sicilian beach reconnaissance, was off the east Calabrian coast and landed a party of Commandos to blow up the coastal railway. The aim was to blow up a train in a tunnel but the Commandos got involved in a fire fight with railway guards and to make matters worse one of their folbots was damaged when landing. Unbending was unable to recover them and next day she met a convoy of three medium sized ships escorted by E-boats and aircraft. She fired four torpedoes at 1600 yards from the nearer column and 2700 yards from the more distant one. Two hit Citta di Bergamo of 2163 tons and another Cosenza of 1471 tons, both sank and there was no counter attack. The Commandos, who were still at large, watched this attack and then crossed to Sicily in a requisitioned boat. They were later captured and made prisoners of war. On her way back to Malta, Unbending picked up a survivor of an American Baltimore aircraft that had been shot down.

The day after Unbending's brilliant attack, Sibyl (Lieutenant EJD Turner DSC RN) on patrol off northwest Sicily, fired four torpedoes at Pegli of 1595 tons carrying cased petrol and scored two hits at a range of 1800 yards and sank her. She was accurately counter attacked but survived as she did another hunt by destroyers on 16th March. On this same day, Trooper (Lieutenant JS Wraith DSO DSC RN) off Naples attacked a convoy at night at very long range firing four torpedoes at 10,000 yards not surprisingly without result. On 17th in a day attack from submerged, she fired six torpedoes in two groups of three at two ships in a northbound convoy at a range of 4500 yards. She secured a hit on Forli of 1525 tons and sank her. On 17th too, Unshaken (Lieutenant J Whitton RN) returning from Algiers to Malta12 met a U-boat in the middle of the night. She fired four torpedoes but the range was 8000 yards and she missed. On this same day, Splendid (Lieutenant ILM McGeoch RN) patrolling close in off Cape St Vito, with radio intelligence, intercepted the 3177 ton tanker Devoli, laden and in convoy and fired four torpedoes at 600 yards hitting with three of them and sinking her. She suffered a heavy but fortunately inaccurate counter attack. Finally on 17th, Unbroken (Lieutenant ACG Mars DSO RN) fired a single elderly Mark II torpedo at shipping in the harbour at Sousse at a range of 5200 yards. The torpedo ran correctly but exploded short either against the breakwater or the boom defences.

Splendid, still on the north coast of Sicily and near Ustica, sank a second valuable tanker. This was on 19th March when she sighted Giorgio of 4887 tons under tow and escorted by an anti-submarine vessel and two E-boats. Splendid had difficulty opening her bow caps and 'missed the DA' in a flat calm sea. Nevertheless she finally got away three torpedoes at a range of 2300 yards, hitting and sinking her target with one of them. She at once dived to 300 feet evading a counter attack of 40 depth charges. Splendid then went on to patrol north of Messina before proceeding to Malta to dock. On her way there she attacked a fishing vessel with her gun thinking it to be an anti-submarine vessel but let it go when she realised her mistake. The period of 13th to 21st March was therefore one of exceptional success for our submarines, five attacks out of seven hitting and sinking six ships. After her minelay off Marittimo in February, Rorqual (Lieutenant Commander LW Napier DSO RN) passed through the Sicilian Channel and the eastern Mediterranean to Haifa as we have already noted. Here she embarked a new load of mines and returned to Malta, arriving on 16th March. After changing some defective mines she sailed again and laid a field off Trapani on the night of 22nd/23rd March, going on to Algiers and transporting a load of torpedoes there which were, at the time, in short supply.

The campaign against the Axis traffic in the principal areas continued unabated for the last ten days of March. On 2nd, Tribune (Lieutenant SA Porter RN), approaching Naples from the south, attacked a large escorted tanker in ballast. She fired three torpedoes at 1200 yards and saw one of them hit, but no sinking can be found in Axis records. Next day Unison (Lieutenant AR Daniell DSC RN) sighted a convoy of two ships escorted by a torpedo boat, motor anti-submarine boats and aircraft. This was off the east coast of Calabria. She fired four torpedoes at a range of 1500 yards, one of which hit and sank the tanker Zeila of 1833 tons. A counter attack of 133 depth charges and bombs followed. Some of the charges were close but she was undamaged. Unison dived to 380 feet, well below her tested depth, fortunately without ill effect. During her return passage to Malta, she sighted a U-boat 2000 yards away but it dived before an attack could be made. Unseen (Lieutenant MLC Crawford DSC RN), on her way to patrol north west of Sicily on 23rd, encountered an E-boat at night and was hunted. What was worse was that her periscope struck a floating mine, which providentially failed to explode. On 24th, when south west of Marittimo, she sighted a convoy of two ships escorted by two destroyers and by aircraft. She fired four torpedoes at 5000 yards and although she thought she had secured a hit at the time, there is no substantiation of this in Axis records. She was subjected to a short and inaccurate counter attack, which prevented her from confirming the result. Unseen saw nothing else larger than an E-boat during her patrol. On 24th March, Sahib (Lieutenant JH Bromage DSC RN) in the Tyrrhenian Sea fired three torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards at a small tanker, hitting and sinking Tosca of 474 tons. On 27th she closed Milazzo and sighted Sidamo of 2384 tons in the port. She then fired three torpedoes into the harbour sinking Sidamo and damaging a coaster and some schooners. She later attacked and damaged five schooners by gunfire off Cape Rasocolmo. A U-boat was later sighted but the sea was very rough and the target altered course making an attack impossible. On 28th March, Torbay (Lieutenant RJ Clutterbuck RN), off the west coast of Italy, fired four torpedoes at 2600 yards at Lillois of 3681 tons off Cape Scalea and hit her with two of them and sank her. Next day Dolfijn (Luitenant ter zee 1e K1 HMLFE van Oostrom Soede) off Cavoli Island on the south east coast of Sardinia, fired three torpedoes at 1450 yards at the Italian Egle of 1145 tons, hitting and sinking her too. Later the same day, Unrivalled (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) in the Palermo area fired three torpedoes at 6-800 yards at two ships at anchor off the port, hitting and sinking Bois Rose of 1374 tons and also another vessel that has not been identified. Unrivalled was then fairly heavily counter attacked by anti-submarine vessels but was able to withdraw undamaged. On 30th, Tribune attacked a large escorted southbound ship in the central Tyrrhenian Sea. She fired three torpedoes but the range, at 6500 yards, was long and they missed. She was heavily counter attacked and near missed by a number of depth charges dropped by three escorts.

In March, submarines of the First Flotilla returned to the Aegean. Papanicolis (Ypoploiarkhos N Roussen) left Beirut on 7th March for the Rhodes area. She captured a 220-ton schooner carrying ammunition but before her prize could be sent in, the enemy recaptured her. Two caiques were sunk by ramming and their crews taken prisoner. Parthian (Lieutenant B St John RN) left Beirut on 23rd March for the northern and eastern Aegean. During her patrol she destroyed twelve caiques by gunfire and ramming and in a bombardment of Kannavisto Bay in the Gulf of Kassandra, destroyed another nine caiques and damaged a resin factory. On 29th off Cape Helles she made two attacks on a convoy. She first fired two torpedoes at 600 yards at the escort but they ran under. She then fired four torpedoes at a small merchant ship at a range of 1200 yards but on a very late track and they missed. Meanwhile Katsonis (Ypoploiarkhos E Tsoukalas) had been in the western Aegean where she landed some agents and torpedoed and sank an Italian patrol vessel in Githion harbour and a small steamer off the west coast of Thermia.

March was another very successful month for our submarines. They made thirty-one attacks firing one hundred torpedoes sinking eighteen ships of 42,439 tons and a patrol vessel and damaging several others. In addition nearly thirty small craft were sunk by gunfire and ramming and some oil tanks and a factory were bombarded. This was in addition to landing agents, rescuing a member of an aircrew and blowing up a coastal railway. As before, only a small proportion of these sinkings were actually carrying reinforcements and supplies to Tunisia but the air forces made up for this sinking eighteen ships of 62,453 tons. This total was equally divided between casualties sunk at sea and in harbour. In all forty-four Axis ships, that is more than in February, put to sea to carry supplies to Tunisia. Seventeen of them were sunk and six damaged so that 57% failed to get through. A total of 43,125 tons were landed including 7000 tons of fuel, 8400 troops and twenty tanks and another 11,800 troops were flown across. Altogether in the Mediterranean, thirty-six ships of nearly a hundred thousand tons were sunk and sixteen damaged. The 'Third Battle of the Convoys' was being steadily lost by the Axis. The armies, which confronted each other in North Africa, show how the Allies were winning. The Allied army consisted of a dozen up to strength divisions with ample supplies while the Axis had eight under-strength divisions with only the ammunition and food they could carry and the fuel in their tanks. At this time Hitler decreed that the supplies to Tunisia must be doubled if not trebled, but he did not say how this was to be done.

The success of our submarines in March 1943 was marred by the loss of three T-class submarines within a few days. The sinking of Turbulent, Thunderbolt and Tigris were, however, quite unconnected and it seems that it was by chance that they were so soon one after the other. Following on the loss of Traveller, however, it gave rise to a feeling that the T-class was unsuitable and too large for the Mediterranean. All three submarines were modern boats with experienced and, in one case, an outstanding Commanding Officer. It is true that twelve of the class had, by now, been lost in the Mediterranean, but so had twelve of the small U-class. It is true that the T-class were larger than necessary for the distances in the Mediterranean, but with their seventeen torpedoes and a four inch gun they were much more powerful than the U-class with only eight torpedoes and a three inch gun. They were also faster by four knots or so. Probably the S-class were the best size for the Mediterranean, but there was no reason to believe that the T-class were unacceptably large. The loss, however, of the three experienced submarine captains was a great blow, especially of Commander Linton. His demise damaged morale not only in the Mediterranean but also throughout the submarine branch.

IN THE FIRST WEEKS OF APRIL the Eighth Army attacked the enemy holding the Wadi Akarit and drove them out of it. The Axis forces had just enough fuel to retire into northern Tunisia, abandoning the east Tunisian ports, notably Sfax and Sousse. The Dictators decided, however, that northern Tunisia should be held; indeed they had really no alternative13. The enemy were desperately short of supplies of all kinds and were practically out of fuel and ammunition. The battle for supplies therefore remained the key to the situation and the Axis position was worsened because the Allies had captured airfields closer to the Sicilian narrows and were rapidly moving air reinforcements to them. By the third week of April, the Eighteenth Army Group, as it was now called, began its final attacks to throw the enemy out of Africa and the rest of the month was spent in fighting all along the front.

On lst April, there were fourteen submarines out on patrol. Of these, seven, Safari, Unseen, Torbay, Unrivalled, Sahib, Dolfijn and Tribune were in the Tyrrhenian Sea and United and Saracen were on their way back to base from the same area. Two, Unbending and Unbroken, were off the east Tunisian coast in the Gulf of Hammamet and the new Tactician was making a working up patrol in the Gulf of Lions. Finally two submarines, Parthian and Katsonis were in the Aegean. The Eighth Flotilla at Algiers continued throughout the month to send the bulk of its submarines to the Tyrrhenian Sea including Taurus, Trooper, Sibyl, Sahib, Splendid, Saracen and Shakespeare. Newly arrived submarines still made working up patrols in the Gulf of Lions, off the coast of Spain, the south coast of France and in the Gulf of Genoa and these included patrols by Sickle, Ultor, Unruly, Sportsman and Uproar as well as the Polish Sokol and Dzik. The Tenth Flotilla finally withdrew from the east coast of Tunisia as the Eighth Army advanced and took Sfax and Sousse on 10th/12th of the month, Unbending and Unshaken being the last to leave. The bulk of the Flotilla's strength was then sent north of Sicily to help the Eighth Flotilla and included patrols by Unison and Unbroken as well as by Unrivalled, United and Unseen. Unruffled made another beach reconnaissance off south east Sicily in the early part of April, and United went to the east Calabrian coast towards the end of the month. The First Flotilla submarines, depleted by the loss of the three T-class in March, were somewhat scattered. Parthian and Katsonis returned from the Aegean and the former, after a rest period, left again for the same area at the end of April. Trooper and Rorqual were on loan to the Eighth and Tenth Flotillas respectively and the recently arrived Regent was sent from Malta on 11th to stir up the Adriatic on her way to Beirut.

On 1st April Torbay (Lieutenant RJ Clutterbuck RN), in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea fired three torpedoes at a small merchant ship at a range of 1500 yards but missed. On the same day a few hours later, Unrivalled (Lieutenant HB Turner RN), in the Marittimo area found a large schooner in Castellamare Bay and fired two torpedoes at 1400 yards hitting with one of them. This was Triglav of 231 tons and she blew up and sank. Unbroken (Lieutenant ACG Mars DSO RN), on arrival to patrol east of Calabria had five days of very rough weather. On 3rd April, when on patrol off Cape Spartivento she sighted an Italian cruiser of the Regolo-class northbound and fired a full salvo of four torpedoes but the range was 6000 yards and there was no result. Unbroken then retired towards Cape Stilo and next day sighted a large southbound tanker. She fired four more torpedoes at a range of 2000 yards and obtained one hit, damaging Regina of 9545 tons so badly that she had to be beached. Unbroken suffered a moderate counter attack but could not, in any case, complete Regina's destruction, as she had no torpedoes left. On 3rd April, Trident (Lieutenant PE Newstead RN), submerged by day off La Spezia, sighted a German U-boat and fired a salvo at 5000 yards on a late track. One of the six torpedo tubes misfired and she only got five away, missing the target. On 5th April in the middle of the night she was off the east coast of Corsica and attacked a northbound merchant ship with an escort of two destroyers. She fired four torpedoes at the very close range of 300 yards and missed, the torpedoes probably running under. Next day she carried out a special landing operation in Corsica and on 8th sighted another merchant ship with a torpedo boat escort. She fired another four torpedoes at 1600 yards and missed again. The enemy ship was in ballast and the torpedoes may well have also run under. On 9th she sighted an Italian U-boat early in the morning before it was light. Trident now had only two torpedoes left forward and fired both at 3000 yards. The enemy, however, saw the torpedo tracks and avoided them. Trident then, with only one torpedo left in her stern tube, spent two days searching for a schooner to capture for which she had a prize crew on board. On 12th, however, off Cape Noli, she encountered a small merchant ship and fired her last torpedo at 3000 yards and this, like all the others, missed too. Trident, exasperated by her lack of success, continued on patrol hoping to find a target for her gun. On 14th off Cape Mele she surfaced to engage what she took to be a small tanker. It was, however, a converted auxiliary anti-submarine vessel with two quick firing guns with which she soon forced the Trident to break off the action and dive, but not before the submarine had obtained two hits. The enemy then counter attacked with fourteen depth charges dropped uncomfortably close and continued the hunt using echo detection gear to a total of 81 charges. Miraculously Trident only suffered minor damage and, still with a blank score card, returned to Algiers on 18th April.

While Trident was spreading her torpedoes all over the Tyrrhenian Sea without success, Safari was having a remarkable patrol off Sardinia. On 3rd April she sank the minesweeping trawler Narello and the small motor vessel San Francisco Di Paola of 77 tons by gunfire in the Gulf of Orosei. Two days later in the approaches to Cagliari she fired three torpedoes at 600 yards at a medium sized merchant ship in convoy hitting her with two of them. The ship, however, managed to crawl into harbour. On 9th April she attacked the brigantine Bella Italia of 124 tons with gunfire and damaged her so badly that she became a total loss. Next day she attacked a convoy of three ships, penetrating the screen in a glassy calm and firing four torpedoes at 1100-1600 yards. All four torpedoes hit sinking Loredan of 1357 tons and the naval tanker Isonzo of 3336 tons while the third ship ran ashore in the confusion. Safari then dived under the torpedoed ships but hit the bottom in 210 feet and was heavily counter attacked with some sixty depth charges. Furthermore she was in danger of one of the targets sinking on top of her. She stayed on the bottom until after dark and reloaded. She surfaced before midnight and was again counter attacked but got away. In the morning she closed the third ship of the convoy, which was aground with two anti-submarine vessels in attendance. She fired two more torpedoes at 650 and 1000 yards and both hit destroying Entella of 2690 tons. Safari was again heavily counter attacked but survived and after leaving the Cagliari area made a signal for Shakespeare, who was to relieve her, to warn her that the area had been thoroughly stirred up and that anti-submarine activity was intense. The Admiralty, in their wisdom, did not pass the signal on. Safari then returned to Algiers and there, after this crescendo of success, Commander Bryant was relieved by Lieutenant Lakin as he was required at home to become Commander(S) of the Third Submarine Flotilla where he would be responsible for the working up of all new and refitted submarines.

Meanwhile Unshaken (Lieutenant J Whitton RN) was making the last patrol off the east coast of Tunisia. On 7th April she shelled a schooner drawn up on the beach near Naboel but was forced to desist by shore batteries. Early in the morning on 8th while it was still dark she attacked a ship north of Sousse. She fired three torpedoes in a surface attack at a range of 2500 yards. The first torpedo broke surface but ran straight and one of the salvo hit and sank Foggia of 1245 tons. Unshaken was then ordered north to Kalibia to try to intercept a convoy for Tunis but failed to find it. She then returned south and shelled a road bridge south of Kurbak but was again forced to retire by shore batteries. By the 12th, Unshaken had been recalled to Malta: the Eighth Army, as related earlier, had taken both Sfax and Sousse.

At the same time, on 11th April, north of Sicily, Sibyl (Lieutenant EJD Turner DSC RN) attacked a heavily escorted convoy of three merchant ships off Cape St Vito. She fired two torpedoes at the long range of 5000 yards and hit and sank Fabriano of 2940 tons. Sibyl fortunately escaped damage in the subsequent counter attack. Further to the north, two new arrivals, Ultor (Lieutenant GE Hunt DSC RN) and Unruly (Lieutenant JP Fyfe RN), had been sent to make their working up patrols in supposedly 'quiet' areas. Unruly was on patrol off Sete in the Gulf of Lions. On 11th, she fired two torpedoes at 1200 yards at a southbound ship off Port Vendres. The ship was in ballast, however, and the torpedoes ran under. Next day in the same area she attacked another ship and this time was successful. She fired two more torpedoes at a range of 2000 yards and both hit and sank the German northbound St Lucien of 1255 tons. Ultor off St Raphael on the French Riviera attacked two small ships at night on 12th April firing four torpedoes at the long range of 5500 yards. She hit both and one sank and the other was damaged. On 14th she fired four more torpedoes at 3200 yards off Antibes at the French Penerf of 2150 tons hitting her with three of them and sinking her. Taurus (Lieutenant Commander MRG Wingfield DSO RN) had been on patrol in the Tyrrhenian Sea since the early days of April. Off Naples on 5th, a convoy passed her out of range and on 7th she chased but failed to catch a southbound ship as she was forced to dive by aircraft. On 10th her patrol was moved to a position between Corsica and Giglio Island and on 14th she attacked a southbound tanker, Alcione C of 521 tons by gunfire off Cape Alistio. After securing nineteen hits she fired two torpedoes at 500 and 750 yards one of which hit and sank her. On surfacing for the night she sighted a destroyer lying stopped and she had to dive again but was not detected. On 15th at night she came upon a four masted sailing vessel, Luigi of 433 tons with a cargo of ammunition. She fired two torpedoes at 600 and 800 yards hitting her with one of them and sinking her.

At this time too, three submarines from Malta were successful in the Marittimo area and north of Sicily. On 16th, Unseen (Lieutenant MLC Crawford DSC RN), on her way to her area was bombed but fortunately missed by an enemy aircraft south west of Marittimo. On 18th in the Cape Gallo area she attacked a convoy of three ships in line abreast. Her target was a tanker at which she fired four torpedoes at a range of 800 yards. She missed but hit one of the escorts, the German UJ2205, which sank. She was then heavily counter attacked but was not damaged. Next day there was information, false as it proved, that the Italian battlefleet had put to sea. Unseen was ordered to the northern entrance to the Straits of Messina but, of course, did not sight it. She did, however, sight a U-boat after dark but did not fire, keeping her torpedoes for the battleships. She was also unsure as to the U-boat's identity. Unrivalled (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) also met an enemy before reaching her area. She sighted two northbound vessels in the early morning of 19th off Marittimo. These were already receiving the attention of the RAF and while Unrivalled was in the process of attacking, they were bombed. A small merchant ship was hit and stopped. Unrivalled then fired three torpedoes at 1400 yards hitting and sinking the German KT7 of 850 tons. Later the same day she met a tanker with air and surface escort off Cape St Vito. She fired four torpedoes at 1400 yards hitting with all four of them. The target, the Italian Bivona of 1642 tons disintegrated but Unrivalled suffered an accurate counter attack. She now had only one torpedo left and had not even reached her patrol area so was recalled to Malta. The third submarine was Unison (Lieutenant AR Daniell DSC RN) and she had a comparatively uneventful time until 21st April when, off Marittimo, she sighted the brand new Italian Marco Foscarini of 6406 tons escorted by torpedo boats. The weather was rough but she got away four torpedoes at a range of 1500 yards on a very broad track so that the torpedoes would run parallel to the swell. Two of the torpedoes hit and the target sank, Unison continuing on her way back to Malta. On 18th April, a bomb near missed Torbay in Algiers during an air raid, and this caused considerable internal damage. Subsequently she had to be towed to Gibraltar for repairs in the dockyard, which took until July to complete.

It is now known that the last large enemy supply ship to reach Tunisia arrived on 19th April. After this date any ships that were at sea returned to ports in Italy, sometimes waiting at sea for some days. The advance of the Eighth Army had captured a number of airfields from which the RAF and the USAF could completely dominate the Sicilian narrows and this virtual blockade of Tunisia must be credited largely to them. Submarines had done extremely well but fewer of their sinkings were actually of ships on their way to Tunisia. From now on only small ships, ferries, landing craft and small warships made the passage and the Axis armies were starved and their fighting power emasculated for want of supplies.

At this point the Mediterranean submarines suffered a setback by the loss within a week of three more of their number. The first of these was Regent (Lieutenant WNR Knox DSC RN) who had returned to the Mediterranean at the end of March after a refit in the United States. She left Malta on 11th April for a patrol in the Adriatic after which she was to go on to Beirut to rejoin the First Submarine Flotilla. On 18th April she attacked a convoy of two ships bound from Bari to Patras in a position five miles north east of Monopoli. Her torpedoes missed and exploded on the shore. No counter attack was made by the escorts. Regent was not heard of again and it seems most likely that she struck one of the Italian defensive mines laid in the vicinity on about the 21st April. She was lost with all hands including her Commanding Officer with six other officers and fifty-six men14. Splendid (Lieutenant ILM McGeoch DSO RN) left Malta on 18th April to patrol on the west coast of Calabria and in the Naples area. Early on the morning of 21st April when three miles south south east of Capri she heard the hydrophone effect of a destroyer but could, at first, see nothing through her periscope due to the glare of the sun. She raised her large periscope to a height of four feet and sighted the German destroyer Hermes15 coming towards her. Hermes was keeping a good lookout and sighted the submarine's periscope. Splendid began a torpedo attack but was forced deep and Hermes made an accurate depth charge attack and then turned and gained asdic contact. After a hunt of about an hour and a half and dropping a total of thirty six depth charges in three well placed patterns, Splendid's after hydroplanes jammed, the clips of the after escape hatch parted and the port main motor caught fire. She dived involuntarily to 450 feet and took in a great deal of water and so decided to surface and abandon ship. Hermes opened fire when Splendid broke surface and nineteen men were killed but the remaining thirty, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued and taken prisoner. If it had not been for the Commanding Officer's quick thinking, she would have been lost with all hands. Splendid was scuttled by Lieutenant McGeoch and the First Lieutenant and sank stern first. Sahib (Lieutenant JH Bromage DSO DSC RN) had been at sea for two days longer than Splendid and her patrol area was north of the Straits of Messina. On 22nd she surfaced five miles south of Cape Vaticano and attacked the tug Valente towing a lighter fitted with sheer legs, with her gun. She obtained forty five hits on the tug, which was driven ashore on fire and burned itself out and twenty five hits on the lighter. Two days later off Cape Milazzo, Sahib attacked a heavily escorted ship before dawn and fired four torpedoes at 2800 yards. She obtained one hit and Galiola of 1430 tons sank. Sahib was at once heavily counter attacked by the Italian corvette Gabbiano, fifty-one depth charges being dropped in seven minutes, and she was forced to the surface. She abandoned ship and was scuttled in deep water ten miles north of Cape Milazzo16. Fortunately only one man was killed and the rest of the ship's company including Lieutenant Bromage, the Commanding Officer, were rescued and taken prisoner. Painful as the loss of these three submarines was, it was mitigated to some extent by the saving of the greater part of two of the crews and the fact that substantial reinforcements were now arriving in the Mediterranean.

AT THE TIME, the Allies did not at once realise that they had succeeded in stopping the traffic of large supply ships to Tunisia and continued their campaign against the supply line without pause. The minelayer Rorqual (Lieutenant Commander LW Napier DSO RN), now at Algiers, sailed for Malta on 9th April carrying a cargo of stores and arriving on 15th. She then disembarked her cargo and embarked an outfit of mines, which she laid off Trapani on 22nd April. She returned at once to Malta for more mines, sailing again on 27th and laying off Trapani again on 30th. She laid her mines in daylight in the wake of the minesweepers engaged on routine sweeping. It does not seem that either of these fields caused any casualties, the reason being that traffic, except by small shallow draft vessels, had virtually ceased. Saracen (Lieutenant MGR Lumby DSO DSC RN) had been on patrol in the approaches to Bastia since leaving Algiers on 13th April. On 19th she watched the local minesweepers sweeping a channel to the northeastward and took up her position accordingly. Just after midday she sighted a convoy approaching consisting of an armed merchant cruiser, a liner and a merchant ship with a destroyer. She fired a full salvo of six torpedoes at 5000 yards hitting and sinking the liner Francesco Crispi of 7600 tons. She also claimed to have hit the merchant ship and there is evidence to support this claim, although there is no post war confirmation of it from Axis records. Saracen was, however, subjected to a forty-six depth charge counter attack but suffered no damage. Three days later, on 22nd April, in a position more to the south, just after midnight, she sighted another convoy consisting of two ships with one escort. She fired two salvoes of three torpedoes at 1500 yards hitting Tagliamento of 5448 tons, which blew up and sank. Saracen, with only one torpedo left, was then recalled to Algiers.

On 21st April, Unbroken (Lieutenant BJB Andrew DSC RN), patrolling on the north coast of Sicily off Cape St Vito, sighted a U-boat just before midday. She fired a full salvo of four torpedoes at the long range of 5500 yards. She saw a torpedo explode in line with the enemy's conning tower but also saw the U-boat continuing on her way unaffected so it must have been a premature. Next day near Cape Gallo she sighted a large schooner at anchor and closed in submerged and fired a single torpedo at 900 yards hitting and sinking Milano of 380 tons. On 26th she sighted a large merchant ship escorted by a destroyer leaving Palermo. She fired her three remaining torpedoes at 5500 yards and hit her with one of them. This was Giacomo C of 4638 tons but she was beached before she sank. Subsequently she was salved and repaired. Sickle (Lieutenant JR Drummond DSC RN), newly arrived from the United Kingdom, left on 18th April for a working up patrol off Valencia. On 23rd she encountered the Italian Mauro Croce of 1098 tons north of the port and just outside Spanish territorial waters. She fired two torpedoes at the close range of 350-400 yards and they had not time to pick up their depth and ran under. Sickle then surfaced and engaged with her gun, obtaining fifteen hits out of nineteen rounds fired but then the gun jammed and the target escaped into Spanish territorial waters.

In the early morning of 26th April before it was light, Dolfijn (Luitenant ter zee 1e Kl HMLFE van Oostrom Soede), on her way from Algiers to patrol north of Sicily, sighted a northbound U-boat. She fired four torpedoes at 1500 yards but the U-boat either saw her or the torpedo tracks, and altered course so that they all missed ahead. In her patrol off Cape St Vito and Palermo, Dolfijn was again unlucky and sighted nothing at all. Also on 26th April, Unshaken (Lieutenant J Whitton RN), on her way to the north coast of Sicily and while running submerged between Pantellaria and Marittimo, sighted a torpedo boat escorting two ferries. The escort was undoubtedly the best torpedo target and Unshaken fired three torpedoes at her at a range of 1800 yards. Climene, as she proved to be, sighted the torpedo tracks and avoided the first torpedo but the second hit her amidships and she sank in three minutes. Early next day, while still on passage to her area, Unshaken received reports from air reconnaissance, and was able to intercept a westbound merchant ship escorted by a destroyer off Cape St Vito while it was still dark. She fired four torpedoes at 1300 yards but the first one broke surface and had a gyro failure and the other three missed astern.

The last attack of the month was on 30th April by Tactician (Lieutenant Commander AF Collett DSC RN), on patrol on the east coast of Corsica. She sighted a small French ship north of Bastia with an air escort. She fired three torpedoes on a late track at the very long range of 7000 yards and it was not surprising that she missed with all of them. Four hours later twenty depth charges were dropped at random in the area. She then shifted patrol to the northward of Cape Argentario and on 5th May sank the schooner Pia of 385 tons by gunfire using radar ranging. She returned to Algiers on 11th May.

Not all submarines on patrol encountered the enemy and some had blank patrols. In the first week of April, Unbending (Lieutenant ET Stanley DSC RN) saw nothing in the Gulf of Hammamet and for most of the month Trooper (Lieutenant JS Wraith DSO DSC RN) found no targets in the central Tyrrhenian Sea. Shakespeare (Lieutenant MFR Ainslie DSC RN) saw nothing in the waters round Sardinia but was attacked at night by an aircraft with a searchlight but fortunately the missile it dropped did not explode. Five submarines on working up patrols also had nothing to interest them and these were Sportsman and Uproar, the Polish submarines Sokol and Dzik and the French Antiope. Nevertheless in April, the Allied submarines again did very well. In thirty-six torpedo attacks firing 117 torpedoes they sank a torpedo boat, an anti-submarine vessel and eighteen ships of 39,909 tons and damaged another four of 17,913 tons. By gunfire they sank a minesweeper and three small vessels and damaged three others. Of these totals, however, only about half were actually engaged in supplying Tunisia. Aircraft sank fifteen ships of 59,566 tons and this was all engaged in supplying Tunisia. Two thirds of the casualties caused by aircraft were sunk by bombing in harbour by the United States Army Air Force. Surface ships, mines and other causes including casualties shared, sank another eight ships of 21,165 tons. Axis records show that during April, twenty-six ships of over 500 tons, sailed on the Tunisian route, fifteen of which were sunk and four damaged, representing 78%. Two thirds of these were sunk or damaged by aircraft, a fifth by submarines and the rest by other causes. These ships succeeded in getting 29,233 tons of supplies across with a loss of 41.5% on the way. A few hundred tons were flown across. These supplies were just enough to keep the Axis army fighting for the last ten days of April, but by the end of the month, General von Arnim was reporting to Rome that unless convoys were at once restarted there would be a total collapse in the supply of the army.

IN MAY THE END IN TUNISIA came swiftly. In the first few days the Eighteenth Army Group renewed its offensive and by 6th, von Arnim had lost control of his forces, which by now had virtually run out of ammunition, fuel and, indeed, supplies of all kinds. Tunis and Bizerta fell on 7th May. On this day C-in-C Mediterranean ordered all naval forces to close in and prevent an evacuation. The final surrender came on 13th May. Minesweeping began at once and before the end of the month, through traffic was restored in the Mediterranean.

On 1st May there were twelve Allied submarines at sea. Safari was in Sardinian waters, Dolfijn was on the north coast of Sicily, Tactician east of Corsica while the French submarines Antiope and Marsouin were working up on the French coast and in the Gulf of Genoa respectively. Rorqual was returning to Malta after laying mines off Trapani and Unshaken was returning from the north coast of Sicily with only one torpedo left. Three submarines, Ultor, Dzik and Unruly were making their way from Algiers to Malta to join the Tenth Flotilla and finally Parthian and Papanicolis had just left Beirut for the Aegean. These boats were reinforced or relieved early in May by Unison, Sibyl, Unrivalled, Trident and Trespasser. In the first week of May, which was the final week before Tunis and Bizerta fell, the attack on the supply route amounted almost to a complete blockade. In spite of desperate and, indeed, heroic efforts, the enemy only got one full sized ship through and lost another eight in the attempt. The blockade, as we have already noted, was enforced mainly by aircraft and to a certain extent by destroyers and motor torpedo boats: submarines, stationed further north in the Tyrrhenian Sea took little part, and the few ships they sank were not bound for North Africa.

Safari (Lieutenant RB Lakin DSO DSC RN), on the west coasts of Sardinia and Corsica, surfaced on 2nd May and attacked the Italian Sagliola of 307 tons off Asinara scoring 25 hits with her gun. Sagliola sank after abandoning ship. On 8th Safari sank the steam trawler Onda of 98 tons, this time scoring 40 hits. Safari then decided to investigate Port Torres and the same evening fired two torpedoes separately at 2700 yards into the harbour. The first torpedo hit the breakwater but the second sank Pippino Palomba of 2035 tons and a Norwegian ship in Italian service, Liv of 3070 tons. Unrivalled (Lieutenant HB Turner RN) in the northern approaches to Messina attacked a large schooner off Cape Vaticano with two torpedoes on 6th May but missed at 1400 yards. She had another opportunity against the same ship next day and fired another two torpedoes at 1000 yards, but one of them broke surface and had a gyro failure and she missed again. She then surfaced and drove the ship, Albina of 223 tons, ashore by gunfire. On 9th off Vuicano Island, she fired three torpedoes at 1000 yards at Santa Maria Salina of 763 tons, a small naval auxiliary, hitting with two of them and sinking her. About an hour later she fired her last torpedo at a small schooner at 1000 yards but the target saw the track and turned towards and the torpedo missed.

During the first week of May, however, three other submarines on patrol achieved nothing at all. Sibyl (Lieutenant EJD Turner DSC RN) off Sardinia, Unison (Lieutenant AR Daniell DSC RN) on the north coast of Sicily and Trident (Lieutenant PE Newstead RN) off the south coast of France, all had blank score cards. Trident also failed to land and pick up agents as planned. The new submarine Trespasser (Lieutenant RM Favell RN) left Gibraltar for a working up patrol in the Gulf of Lions. On 11th she sighted two merchant ships but they were out of range. Subsequently she went on to Algiers. The French submarine Marsouin was more successful than Trident and carried out a special operation on the south coast of France but met disaster as she returned, running ashore on Cape Caxine in thick weather and being seriously damaged. In the Aegean, Parthian (Lieutenant MB St John RN) sank a 50-ton caique by gunfire that was carrying fuel and then engaged an escort vessel at close range causing some damage before she was forced to dive by the return fire. She was then subjected to a counter attack of 76 depth charges in which she suffered some damage to her battery and a periscope. Parthian then bombarded the railway near Platamone damaging a viaduct, a signal box and water tank and some railway wagons. She also sank two more caiques but return fire killed one of her crew. Papanicolis (Ypoploiarkhos N Roussen) also sank two caiques of 250 and 150 tons in the Aegean, but then had defects that necessitated her return to Beirut.

When Tunis and Bizerta fell on 7th May and the C-in-C ordered naval forces to prevent an evacuation, no submarines were close enough to do much about it, and compliance had to be left to air and surface forces. Saracen and Shakespeare put to sea from Algiers but they were due for patrol anyway, and left for the Tyrrhenian Sea. In fact little attempt was made to evacuate. Of the quarter of a million men involved, some eight hundred were intercepted and captured at sea, and the six hundred odd who escaped did so by air and at night. The final surrender did not come until 13th May and in the interval, submarine operations continued against enemy shipping unchanged. On 12th, Trident (Lieutenant PE Newstead RN), south east of Corsica, after a long run in submerged, fired six torpedoes at a range of 6000 yards at a large northbound ship escorted by two destroyers. One of her torpedoes circled and Trident had to go deep to avoid it but claimed two hits. In fact one torpedo hit and damaged Anagni of 5817 tons. Two days later Trident fired four torpedoes at 1500 yards at a French ship of medium size but the speed was under-estimated and she missed, one of her torpedoes having a gyro failure again. Shakespeare (Lieutenant MFR Ainslie DSC RN), in the Strait of Bonifacio on 13th, sank the schooners Adelina and Sant' Anna M of 85 and 156 tons by gunfire. She also sighted several merchant ships but they were out of range. On 20th she bombarded Calvi airfield, keeping out of the arcs of fire of Fort Muzello nearby, and hitting some hangars causing fires. Fire from the shore, however, eventually forced her to dive.

IN THIS FINAL PERIOD, the Italian Navy was ordered, for purposes of morale, to try to get reinforcements and supplies across, but by now even Hitler knew that the campaign was lost. In fact, as we have already seen, only one full sized ship got to Tunis with 2163 tons of fuel and supplies and eight ships and fifteen small craft were sunk attempting to do so. One of these was sunk by surface forces and the rest by aircraft. None of the ships sunk by submarines in this period were on their way to Tunisia. With the surrender of the Axis forces in Tunisia, the 'Third Battle of the Convoys' ended with a victory for the Allies. It had been a desperate struggle lasting six months and we must credit our enemies with fighting with a perseverance and gallantry equal to that shown by the men of our North Russian and Mediterranean convoys. The Italian official naval historian has described their ordeal and how they were subject to submarine attack, night torpedo plane attacks, day bomber attacks as well as attacks by destroyers and motor torpedo boats to which must be added the danger of striking mines. They were also subject to heavy bombing attacks when in harbour. During the six months of the campaign, 119 convoys of full sized ships and 578 voyages by coasters, ferries, landing craft and schooners had landed 72,246 men and 306,721 tons of equipment, fuel and supplies. Another 155 trips by destroyers had landed another 52,000 men while yet another 65,400 had been flown across. In the convoys, sixty four of them had been attacked by submarines torpedoing 33 ships, while 164 had suffered air attacks and 71 more ships had been hit. In addition 273 air raids had been made on the ports sinking and damaging an equal number of ships. Twenty-three destroyers and other escorts had been sunk. 151 cargo ships had been lost, as well as 92 small ships and many more damaged. The losses of cargo on the way were 23% in December, January and February; it rose to 41.5% in March and April and 77% in May, when a total blockade can be said to have been established, and the 'Third Battle of the Convoys' won decisively by the Allies.

It is of interest to compare the performance in more detail of the various arms in this result. The figures, however, are not always easy to reconcile and it is important to ensure that they cover the same periods and the same area17. The British Official History figures18 however, show that aircraft sank by far the greatest proportion of the ships bound to and from Tunisia. For the six months from November to May, this totals 96 ships of 324,723 tons and this can be compared with 50 ships of 155,067 tons by submarines, eleven of 26,868 tons by surface ships, four of 18,011 tons shared between these three, three of 12,502 tons by mines and fourteen of 37,967 tons by miscellaneous causes, mostly accidents and captures in ports. These figures are for the Tunisian route only. The figures for submarine sinkings for the same period over the whole Mediterranean are 88 ships of 234,368 tons and it can be claimed that many of these, although not actually bound for Tunisia, were indirectly supporting that campaign. An example would be a tanker bound for Sicily from Italy whose cargo was to be used to fuel escorts for Tunisian convoys. Another example is of a French ship sunk in the Gulf of Genoa that was to be used as a replacement on the route to Tunis. About half the ships sunk by aircraft were destroyed in harbour by bombing and submariners can claim that they sank more than aircraft at sea to which, no doubt, aviators could reply that a ship sunk is sunk whether it is in harbour or at sea. It is probably more profitable, however, to note that the various arms worked well together and without mutual interference. All the forces involved in the attack on the Tunisian supply lines can, however, claim a considerable share in the victory. Without detracting from the splendid performance of the armies on shore, it is fair to say that without the attrition of the enemy's supplies by sea, they could not have driven the Axis out of Africa.

The most important decoration given for the period of this chapter was the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Commander JW Linton DSO DSC RN of Turbulent. It was not given for any specific exploit but for his general success in the Mediterranean submarine patrols in which he had served two commissions, the first in the Pandora and the second in the Turbulent sinking a destroyer, a sloop and 42,270 tons of enemy shipping. A second bar to the Distinguished Service Order went to Commander B Bryant for his almost continuous successes in patrol after patrol in Safari/P211. A second bar to the Distinguished Service Order also went to Lieutenant Commander CB Crouch of Thunderbolt and was specifically awarded for his part in the chariot operations at Palermo and Tripoli. Five submarine Commanding Officers received the Distinguished Service Order for their patrols; Lieutenant McGeoch of Splendid/P228, who had sunk two destroyers and the largest tonnage of the period, Lieutenant Bromage of Sahib/P212 who had sunk U301 and other ships, Lieutenant Stanley of Unbending/P37 for his nine patrols, Lieutenant EJD Turner of Sibyl/P217 for six patrols and Luitenant ter zee HMLFE van Oostrom Soede of the Netherlands Dolfijn, who had disposed of the Italian U-boat Malachite. In addition Lieutenant Commander Napier of Rorqual received the Distinguished Service Order for his minelaying activities and for his store carrying trips to Malta and also Lieutenant Brookes of Clyde for his storing runs from Gibraltar. A Bar to the Distinguished Service Cross went to Lieutenant Crawford of Unseen/P51 for his seven patrols and Distinguished Service Crosses to Lieutenant Mars of Unbroken/P42, Lieutenant St John of Parthian, Lieutenant Porter of Tribune, Lieutenant JD Martin of Una, Lieutenant HB Turner of Unrivalled/P45 and Ypoploiarkhos N Roussen of Papanicolis. Two of the pilots of the chariots that attacked at Palermo received the Distinguished Service Order; Lieutenant Greenland who sank the cruiser Ulpio Triano and Sub Lieutenant Dove who damaged the liner Viminale. Finally Commander Sladen, who commanded the chariot unit was Mentioned in Despatches. Some time after the full facts of the loss of Splendid and Sahib had become known, Lieutenant Bromage was awarded a bar to the DSC and Lieutenant McGeoch a DSC.

WITH THE EJECTION OF THE AXIS FORCES from North Africa and the opening of the Mediterranean to through traffic, it is appropriate to give some thought to the overall question of maritime strategy and how it worked at this stage of the Second World War and to discern the part that submarines played in it. We have seen how Operation 'Torch' was launched with inferiority in numbers of capital ships, and that this apparent defiance of earlier principles of maritime strategy did not lead to disaster. Even Alfred Thayer Mahan would have conceded that the nature of naval warfare must have changed radically. It could, of course, be held by the old school that the crippling shortage of oil fuel in the Italian Fleet meant that it could not be used and was effectively removed from the board. This is true, although the Allies were not aware of it. Even if the Italians had had sufficient fuel it is doubtful if they would have done much to prevent the Allies landing in North Africa. Their insistence that their battleships should not attempt to operate beyond fighter protection from the shore is the key to the matter. The Allied Navies also held this principle, and they had no intention of throwing their few battleships into action to stop the Axis supplies getting to Tunisia. They did not feel that their naval air groups in aircraft carriers were strong enough to compete with Axis shore based air power either. Battlefleets and indeed all surface ships could now only operate in areas beyond the reach of enemy front line shore based air power, or when their own shore based or carrier borne fighters could achieve local air superiority. The same principle applied also to the use of sea communications and the mounting of overseas expeditions and this principle was now of far greater importance than battlefleet supremacy.

The application of sea power had therefore changed radically and it is of interest to our subject to study what part submarines were now, in these changed circumstances, able to take. It is generally acknowledged that in the Second World War that it was the Allies who commanded the sea, and that the Axis were only able to dispute it by using weapons of attrition such as U-boats, surface raiders, aircraft and mines. As far as the Allied forces in North Africa were concerned this was certainly true. The British Armies in the Middle East were supplied by sea from India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and also from the United Kingdom by the Cape and the first part of the Takoradi air route. The Allied forces in Morocco and Algeria were supplied direct by sea from the United States and the United Kingdom. The Axis forces in North Africa were also largely supplied by sea although they were able to use direct air transport to a certain extent. It was possible for them to do this because it was they who commanded the sea in the central Mediterranean from mid 1940 to mid 1943. The Allies were only able to dispute this command with weapons of attrition. It is true that they were, on occasion, able to dispute the Axis command of the sea by sweeps by the Fleet and by running Mediterranean convoys. It was not, however, the superior Italian Fleet which gave the Axis command of the sea in the central Mediterranean so much as the enemy air forces especially the Luftwaffe, and it was under their general cover that the enemy convoys to North Africa sailed. The disputing of this Axis traffic by light British surface forces was very successful in the autumn of 1942 when the Luftwaffe was weak, but thereafter produced few results. The Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm were very effective when they could use Malta or air bases in Cyrenaica or Algeria, but there were long periods when they could achieve nothing at all. It was the submarines that were the only forces able to exact a steady toll throughout the three years. It was only for a period of two months in 1942 that their operations virtually ceased when their base in Malta was neutralised by bombing and mining and when Medway was sunk.

The British and US Navies were not therefore able to secure command of the sea between Italy and Tunisia in the final stages of the campaign in 1943 and they could only dispute it by using weapons of attrition. Weapons of attrition, such as the submarine, however, are seldom able to exercise complete command of the sea. Command of the sea may be defined as the ability to instil in the enemy a state of mind that deters him from using the sea at all.

He has to be made to think that if he tries to do so he will be unsuccessful. Battlefleets in history have often achieved this but submarines are not normally able to do so. There always seems a chance that they can be evaded or brushed aside. It is only after a long period of attrition that crippling losses can be inflicted by a submarine campaign, which are so serious that the enemy has no ships left and so is unable to use the sea. Aircraft operating from shore bases close enough and in sufficient force can, however, exercise command of the sea in the way Battlefleets used to do and in the Tunisian campaign the Allied air forces actually did so, but only in the last few days. Submarines, on the other hand, were able to exert a pressure and impose casualties throughout. It would, however, have taken another year for them to reduce the Axis merchant fleet to a size that could not cope at all.

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