The Kriegsmarine begins
its campaign against British merchant shipping with 17 U-boats
putting to sea out of a total of about 57 operational boats,
far fewer than the 300 Dönitz had felt he needed to succeed
The British liner SS Athenia (with
several US citizens on board) is sunk by U-30 off Ireland.
U-boats continue their successes
in the Atlantic.
Convoys for merchant shipping are
established to counter the U-boats.
HMAS Hobart and five RAN destroyers
leave Australia, bound for Britain.
U39 attacks a battle group led by
the Aircraft Carrier, HMS Ark Royal. She fires torpedo’s
at the carrier, but these miss. 3 Destroyer’s of the
Ark Royal’s escort, launch an immediate counter-attack
against U39 and sink her with depth charges. U39 gains the
dubious honour of becoming the first U-boat to be sunk in the
Convoy OB-4, sailing from Liverpool
to North America, is attacked by U-31 (Johannes Habekost),
becoming the first "clear" convoy contact in British
waters of the war. U-31 sinks 1 ship, the 4,060-ton British
The Aircraft Carrier HMS Courageous
is torpedoed by U29 (Kapitanleutnant Schuhart) south-west of
Ireland, killing 515, but 687 sailors survive.
Prime Minister Chamberlain
claims that at least 6 U-boats have been sunk in first fortnight
of the war.
U-boats sink three UK-bound neutral
Churchill claims the U-boat menace
has been overcome, but U-48 sinks the steamer Royal Sceptre
and casts its crew adrift 300 miles from land.
The German pocket Battleships,
Graf Spee and Deutschland, which had sailed from Germany in
August, are given orders to attack allied shipping in the Atlantic.
Graf Spee sinks the British
steamship Clement off Pernambuco, Brazil.
Prien) sinks HMS Royal Oak at anchor in Scapa Flow, killing
883. U47 then escapes undetected and returns home to Germany.
The press in Germany declare Prien a hero. Polish submarine
Orzel arrives in Britain having escaped internment in Estonia.
A German air attack damages the British
cruisers HMS Southampton, HMS Edinburgh and the destroyer HMS
Mohawk in the Firth of Forth, in Scotland.
The Luftwaffe starts attacks against
North Atlantic convoys.
U-boats sink four more British ships.
HMS Blanche struck a mine and sank
off the Thames Estuary. She was the first Royal Naval destroyer
lost in the war. Two German supply ships are scuttled when
cornered by the Royal Navy.
The German pocket-battleship Admiral
Graf Spee sinks the merchantman Africa Shell off Mozambique.
The Dutch ship Simon Bolivar hits
an 'un-notified' mine in the North Sea, killing 80. Several
other neutral ships also sunk by mines.
Prime Minister Chamberlain announces
the seizure of German merchant shipping in retaliation for
the sinking of neutral ships and indiscriminate mine warfare.
The German Battlecruiser’s Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
set off from Germany on a mission to harry British sea routes
in the North Atl
German aircraft parachute mines in
to the Thames Estuary.
The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau intercept
a convoy, which is escorted by the merchant cruiser Rawalpindi.
The Scharnhorst sinks the Rawalpindi (killing 265 crew), which
sacrificed itself in order that the convoy could escape. The
British Home Fleet puts to sea in an attempt to engage the
two German ships. However, both the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
have already headed for home. The Royal Navy recovers its first
intact German Magnetic mine. These type of mines have been
causing an increasing number of casualties to shipping, in
and around the UK.
Germany warns all neutral shipping
to stay clear of British and French coasts, or risk being sunk.
This had already happened to a number of neutral ships, particularly
at night when it was difficult to identify them. U-boat skippers
were now given the go ahead to sink any ship not showing lights
The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau put
in to Wilhelmshaven after returning from their successful sortie
in to the North Atlantic.
The Admiralty announces
the completion of a 300 square mile minefield from Thames Estuary
to the Netherlands.
The German liner Watussi
is scuttled after her interception by South African Defence
The RAF scores a number of direct
hits on German warships at the Heligoland Bight naval base.
The German pocket battleship Admiral
Graf Spee sinks the liner Doric Star off the western coast
of South Africa.
Two Polish submarines escape from
the Baltic Sea to join Royal Navy.
Germany warns neutral ships to resist
the British blockade.
Two more U-boats are reported to
have been destroyed as the British campaign to destroy three
a week continues.
Two German cruisers which are accompanied
by 5 destroyers are damaged by torpedo's from the British submarine
HMS Salmon as they are return from a mine laying operation
of the northeast coast of England. Later in the day, HMS Salmon
also gives warning under the 'rules of war' to a German liner,
although it reaches the port of Bremen safely.
In the south Atlantic, the pocket
battleship Admiral Graf Spee, fights an action against three
British cruisers, HMS Achilles, HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter, which
results in serious damage to both sides. HMS Exeter is heavily
damaged, although still operational. The Graf Spee withdraws
to the neutral Uruguayan port of
The Uruguayan government gives the
Admiral of the Graf Spee 36 hours to leave harbour.
Unable to complete the repairs to
the Admiral Graf Spee within 24 hours, the time limit stipulated
by international law for foreign warships in neutral ports
to leave and under strict orders by OKM not to go in to internment
in Uruguay, Captain Langsdorff takes his ship outside the harbour
of Montevideo and orders his crew to scuttle her, thus denying
the British fleet that's converging on the River Plate the
opportunity of destroying her in an unequal battle.
Captain Langsdorff of Admiral Graf
Spee commits suicide.
The admiralty announces the completion
of a minefield, 500 miles long and 35 wide, down the East coast.
Allied merchant shipping sunk by U-boats,
world-wide from the out break of war to year's end 1939 is
165 ships, equalling 693,557 gross tons. 9 U-boats were lost
worldwide in the same period.