Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

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Carl Schwamberger
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Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Jan 2020 13:21

Following up on a note in my notes.

There's a remark by a Brit admiral, name unk, to the effect the ASW escorts used in Op TORCH & the following build up in Africa, crippled the convoy protection for the US to UK route.

Anyone aware of such a remark,who this might have been, or any examination of the pros and cons of this idea?

Thanks

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Tomg44 » 23 Jan 2020 10:27

WAR AT SEA 1939-1945 VOLUME II - THE PERIOD OF BALANCE By S.W. Roskill LONDON 1956 HMSO

The British warships needed for the operation, about 160 in all, could only be provided by removing a substantial part of the Home Fleet's strength, by stopping the Russian convoys, by reducing our Atlantic escort forces and by temporarily suspending the mercantile convoys running between Britain and the south Atlantic.

All possible escort vessels, in all about a hundred, were allocated to the convoys, without regard to the risks accepted on other routes.

The arrival of the Assault Convoys at their destinations was, of course, the beginning rather than the end of the responsibility of the Navy for supporting the other services and keeping them supplied
In the case of operation 'TORCH' not only was this essential, but a long series of Follow-up Convoys (KMF, KMS and KX) had to be taken out from Britain to Gibraltar or the newly captured ports, local Mediterranean Follow-up Convoys (TF and TE) had to be run from Gibraltar to the same destinations, and a series of local (ET, FT and CG) and ocean (MKF and MKS) homeward convoys had to be started to bring empty ships back again; and escorts had, of course, to be provided for every one of these commitments. The Americans did much the same with Follow-up Convoys from their own continent (UGF and UGS), and with their homeward counterparts to the United States (GUF and GUS).

If the re-allocation of resources was “crippling”, there should be a surge in attacks by, and/or a collapse in attacks on U-boats.
https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/losses_year.html
https://uboat.net/fates/losses/chart.htm
For the period in question, the charts here appear to show short term changes in the longer term trends only.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 23 Jan 2020 19:21

Thanks for the link. I'll see if laying that data alongside Hughes & Costello BoA shows any pattern. Unfortunately I lost my copy of Brute Force, which had some interesting data for possible cargo ship & submarine losses.

Still searching for the alleged admiral & his remark.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Polar bear » 16 Feb 2020 13:09

hi,
Tomg44 wrote:
23 Jan 2020 10:27
All possible escort vessels, in all about a hundred, were allocated to the convoys, without regard to the risks accepted on other routes.
as a "side show" ... look at https://www.uboat.net/ops/convoys/convo ... voy=SL-125

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Tomg44 » 17 Feb 2020 23:13

Hi PB,
The First Sea Lord told the Prime Minister that the U-boats 'might well prove exceedingly menacing' . . . to 'the most valuable convoys ever to leave these shores', and asked for more long-range aircraft for the Bay of Biscay patrols.

In the “Ruthless Calculus of War” ships in a Torch convoy were vastly more important than those going to Sierra Leone.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Feb 2020 14:26

Tomg44 wrote:
23 Jan 2020 10:27
WAR AT SEA 1939-1945 VOLUME II - THE PERIOD OF BALANCE By S.W. Roskill LONDON 1956 HMSO

The British warships needed for the operation, about 160 in all, could only be provided by removing a substantial part of the Home Fleet's strength, by stopping the Russian convoys, by reducing our Atlantic escort forces and by temporarily suspending the mercantile convoys running between Britain and the south Atlantic.
It appears there is something to this remark. Tho as before I'd like to track down the source for that statement in the OP.
For the period in question, the charts here appear to show short term changes in the longer term trends only.
Hughes & Costello Has a a snapshot of the long term in their charts summarizing the biannual situation. Not clear about the Germans decision on this, but it looks like their submarine deployment by chance or design took advantage of the escort deployment.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Tomg44 » 19 Feb 2020 00:42

Members of the Board of Admiralty for the period are listed here. It might be worth searching them.
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/U ... -II-A.html

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 23 Feb 2020 17:35

Still have not identified the name of the Admiral that made the remark. But, looking over all the evidence of submarine and ASW escort deployment 1942-43 its increasing clear the requirements for Op TORCH and its follow up left the US-UK route significantly short of what it could have had. Its also evident interns of ships sunk vs ships built the BoA was won the summer or autumn of 1942. In terms of cargo delivered to the UK measured as a percent sunk of that embarked the battle was going the Allies way in latter 1942 as well. From well over 10% lost in the first half of 1942, to near 5% at the end of the year. It was the crisis of the US-UK route in the winter/Spring of 1943 that offset the overall success.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Feb 2020 01:28

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
23 Feb 2020 17:35
Still have identified the name of the Admiral that made the remark. But, looking over all the evidence of submarine and ASW escort deployment 1942-43 its increasing clear the requirements for Op TORCH and its follow up left the US-UK route significantly short of what it could have had. Its also evident interns of ships sunk vs ships built the BoA was won the summer or autumn of 1942. In terms of cargo delivered to the UK measured as a percent sunk of that embarked the battle was going the Allies way in latter 1942 as well. From well over 10% lost in the first half of 1942, to near 5% at the end of the year. It was the crisis of the US-UK route in the winter/Spring of 1943 that offset the overall success.
When one side gives up the most important battlefield to the other, it's pretty much a signal they've lost, so the argument can be made that once the KM withdrew from the Western Approaches and mid-Atlantic in the first quarter of 1942 to concentrate on distant waters (the northwest Atlantic/Gulf of St. Lawrence, the western Atlantic/US East Coast, the Caribbean and points south), they were pretty much acknowledging they'd lost.

The simple fact the Allies were able to lift, land, and sustain what amounted to a reinforced field army (six US and eventually five British divisions) and supporting air forces that were more than adequate to secure French North Africa and then, in concert with 8th Army and the Desert Air Force, destroy the Axis position in North Africa in about six months (which the British alone had been trying to do for the previous 30) makes it obvious who had won command of the seas in 1942 (and thereafter), as well.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Feb 2020 17:39

daveshoup2MD wrote:
24 Feb 2020 01:28
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
23 Feb 2020 17:35
Still have identified the name of the Admiral that made the remark. But, looking over all the evidence of submarine and ASW escort deployment 1942-43 its increasing clear the requirements for Op TORCH and its follow up left the US-UK route significantly short of what it could have had. Its also evident interns of ships sunk vs ships built the BoA was won the summer or autumn of 1942. In terms of cargo delivered to the UK measured as a percent sunk of that embarked the battle was going the Allies way in latter 1942 as well. From well over 10% lost in the first half of 1942, to near 5% at the end of the year. It was the crisis of the US-UK route in the winter/Spring of 1943 that offset the overall success.
When one side gives up the most important battlefield to the other, it's pretty much a signal they've lost, so the argument can be made that once the KM withdrew from the Western Approaches and mid-Atlantic in the first quarter of 1942 to concentrate on distant waters (the northwest Atlantic/Gulf of St. Lawrence, the western Atlantic/US East Coast, the Caribbean and points south), they were pretty much acknowledging they'd lost. ...
Agree with that in principle. Donetz had to keep moving the focus around. looking at the pattern of sunk cargo ships and sunk submarines its clear the concentration on the near Western & Norther Approaches was abandoned in the winter of 1940-41 for the mid Atlantic, north and south. Then there were the campaigns with the long range submarines in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. Next the concentration in the north mid Atlantic in late 42 thru March 43. There was a plan to make a major concentration on the routes or approaches to the Meditteranian in the summer of 43, but that faded, and the stillborn late war plans for another mid Atlantic campaign. Then there were small secondary campaigns in other locations.

A number of convoys had a very rough time Oct 42- Feb 43. No denying losses were high on the US/UK routes. The question implied the this alleged admirals remark is if no TORCH operation & subsequent Tunisian campaign would have allowed enough ASW effort to avoid the losses on the North Atlantic route. The raw numbers I'm looking at here & in H&Cs book suggest its possible. Anyone know of a analysis by the RN on this subject, or by any historians?

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by daveshoup2MD » 26 Feb 2020 06:57

Duplicate

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 09 Feb 2021 22:57

Still curious about the source of the remark I referred to in my original post here. Again, anyone run across anything that might lead to the person who made the remark?

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Mark McShane » 10 Feb 2021 06:58

Hi Carl,

I don't think this is the specific reference you have in mind, however it does intimate at the acute shortage of escorts post Torch. Also if you are on Fold3.com, have a look at the COMEASTSEAFRON war diary for January 1943, it also makes good reading, plenty of finger pointing and blaming going on from both side of the Atlantic.

I'll have look through some other files later this week.

(The table format is a bit askew but hopefully you can match up the data)

Mark

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Personal from First Sea Lord.
As we are discussing the U-Boat situation and as the escort problem forum such a vital part of it you are requested to put the following information regarding our present position before Admiral King.
A. The average ocean escort strength in the North Atlantic convoy is only 2 destroyers and 4 corvettes and this will remain so even when we open out to a 10 day cycle. These escorts are obviously too weak.
B. In order to deal with the oil situation we have had to open out the North Atlantic cycle to 10 days but to avoid U.K. stocks falling dangerously low and congestion in the ports in the last half of the year when “Bolero” programme is in full strength it will be necessary to revert to the 8 day cycle as soon as possible so as to import as much as possible during the first half of the year. This will require three new group of escorts.
C. The S.L. convoys which we are about to institute will only have 4 sloops each as escort.
D. The Dutch West Indies to U.K. oil convoys will only have 5 sloops each as escort.
E. The north Russian convoys absorb the whole of the destroyer strength of the Home Fleet and even then it will not be possible to run convoys at a less interval than 42 days unless the U.S.A. are prepared to lend us 12 destroyers.
F. Any concentration of U-Boats in the Cape Area can only be met by partly or wholly immobilising the Eastern Fleet.
G. In order to provide for “Torch” we had to remove all A/S vessels from the Freetown area but experience has shown that these must be replaced.
H. The “Torch” forces under N.C.X.F. have suffered heavy casualties and I am hourly expecting a request for reinforcements.
I. The Eastern Mediterranean is asking for reinforcements to deal with the
Increased length of the supply lines of the 8yh Army but there is little chance of any being sent.
J. The Americans have asked us to provide alternate escorts for the “Torch” oil convoy but I cannot see where to provide them from without further weakening some of the above.
K. A further message follows giving the intended disposition of escort vessels. The strength of the groups is the total strength which is necessary to provide the operational strength I have referred to.
L. The only pool which we might be able to draw on in the future are the escort vessels now employed on “Torch”. It is quite impossible, however, to say how or to what extent we shall obtain any relief as this will depend on:
(i) Length of the present campaign.
(ii) Any future operations.
(iii) Escorts found necessary for convoys through the Mediterranean.
(iv) Further loss of or damage to escort craft.
M. I very such hope that Admiral King will provide similar information to the above and to that which follows in the further message referred to in para. K in order that we may review the whole escort situation in order to determine how the escorts situation in order to determine how the escorts available can best be disposed to the common good.

(1st S.L., 0132A/8 to B.A.D. Washington.)
Personal from 1st Sea Lord.
My 0132/8 Pat II.

The following table shows the intended disposition of the escort vessels referred to in para K of part I of this message .
Station Fleet Destroyers Ocean going Escorts
Home Fleet 25 4
Western Approaches:
North Atlantic 72
D.W.I. – U.K. 18
O.S. – S.L. 15
North Russian 18
North African 42 (includes A and 3 C Group) 9
Local
Canadian:
Western Local 30
Western Support 12
Lent U.S. (G.N.) 6
“Torch” Area:
Gibraltar Escort 34 (inc. 17 R.C.N. corvettes on temporary loan)
Western Med. 12 11 (“Hunts”)
Eastern Med. 13 26
West Africa 22 (16 “Hunts”, 10 Sloops and Corvettes)
South Atlantic 3
Eastern Fleet 11 18 (inc. Indian sloops and corvettes)
Western Atlantic 1
Under Conversion 12 (due to complete by end June)
On passage & working up 10 4
-----
71
=== -----
357
===

2. In order to give a complete picture of our escort situation, vessels which are suitable only for coastal escort duty in the Home Commands are shown in the following table:
Home Commands: Plymouth 9
Portsmouth 5
Nore 24
Rosyth 19
A.C.O.S.& R.A.M. 9

3. Trawlers and minesweepers are not included in either of the above paragraphs.

V.C.N.S., 1420A/8 to B.A.D. Washington.)

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Feb 2021 14:41

McShane
thanks for that. At first glance the numbers lend support to the mystery admirals remark. Tho they leave out US numbers and the aircraft side of the equation.

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Re: Atlantic ASW Distribution Winter 1942-43

Post by Andy H » 10 Feb 2021 21:48

Hi

The RN up until the spring of 1943 were still operating to convoy limits of 60 ships, with 40 being the optimum number, based on WW1 experience.
However this was causing huge backlogs in the US and the Admiralty took until the spring to yield to larger convoys of 80+ ships. The work of Blackett and Whitehead proved invaluable in proving the Admiralty's fears of bigger convoys inviting more sinkings as false. The bigger convoys actually saved Merchant ships and in relation to escorts, saved the numbers employed. Thus a 40 ship convoy with the standard 6 escorts was replaced by the 80 ship convoy defended by 7 escorts. Thus saving 5 escorts per 80 merchant vessels sailed. Blackett later calculated that if he'd had thought to look into the problem a year earlier, it could have saved 1million tons (or 20%) of the total shipping losses.

Regards

Andy H

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