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The Atlantic and the Mediterranean, 1940–41

Thenceforward, so long as naval escorts for outgoing convoys from the British Isles could go only or miles out to sea before having to turn back to escort incoming convoys , the U-boats had a very wide field for free-ranging activity: sinkings rose sharply from 55, tons in May to , tons in October, achieved mainly by solitary attacks by single U-boats at night.

But the beginning of lend-lease and the freeing of British warships after the German invasion threat waned enabled the British to escort their convoys for miles by October and halfway across the Atlantic by April Since air cover for shipping could also be provided from the British Isles, from Canada , and from Iceland , the Atlantic space left open to the U-boats was reduced by May to a width of only miles.

Battle Stations: The Destroyer (HQ with Extras)

Between July and December the German U-boat strength was raised from 65 to more than Furthermore, the German surface fleet became more active against Allied seaborne trade. Six armed German raiders disguised as merchantmen, with orders to leave convoys alone and to confine their attacks to unescorted ships, roamed the oceans with practical impunity from the spring of and had sunk , tons of shipping by the end of the year. German battleships —the Admiral Scheer , the Admiral Hipper , the Scharnhorst , and the Gneisenau —one after another began similar raiding operations, with considerable success, from October ; and in May a really modern battleship, the Bismarck , and a new cruiser , the Prinz Eugen , put out to sea from Germany.

The Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen , however, were located by British reconnaissance in the North Sea near Bergen, and an intensive hunt for them was immediately set in motion. Separating from the Prinz Eugen which escaped , the Bismarck threw off her pursuers early on May 25 but was sighted again the next day some miles west of Brest. In the Mediterranean the year ended with some naval triumphs for the Axis: U-boats torpedoed the Ark Royal on November 13 and the Barham 12 days later; Italian frogmen, entering the harbour of Alexandria, on December 19 crippled the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant ; and two British cruisers and a destroyer were also sunk in Mediterranean waters in December.

The most important of the localized campaigns would be that against France. While this European program remained unfulfilled, it was imperative to avoid any world war, since only after the German Reich had come to dominate the whole European continent would it have the economic base and the territorial extent that were prerequisite for success in a great war, especially against maritime world powers.

German Navy During World War Two

Hitler had always contemplated the overthrow of the Soviet regime, and though he had congratulated himself on the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of as a matter of expediency, anti-Bolshevism had remained his most profound emotional conviction. His feelings had been stirred up afresh by the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states and of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina in June and by the consequent proximity of Soviet forces to the Romanian oil fields on which Germany depended. Hitler became acutely suspicious of the intentions of the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin , and he began to feel that he could not afford to wait to complete the subjugation of western Europe before dealing with the Soviet Union.

The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany. The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly during German naval rearmaments in the s.

The German Navy in World War 2 - History

In January Plan Z was ordered, calling for the construction of many naval vessels. The commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine was Adolf Hitler, who exercised his authority through the Oberkommando der Marine. The Kriegsmarine's most famous ships were the U-boat wolfpacks, most of which were constructed after Plan Z was abandoned at the beginning of World War II.

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They were submarine groups which attacked Allied convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic. Along with the U-boats, surface ships including auxiliary cruisers were used to disrupt Allied shipping in the early years of the war.


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However, the adoption of convoy escorts later in the war greatly reduced the effectiveness of naval strikes on convoys. At the end of the Second World War, the Kriegsmarine's remaining ships were divided up amongst the Allied powers and were used for various purposes including minesweeping.

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