Sunday, July 22, 2007

The war at sea in November 1941

Force K, the surface raiding force based at Malta, was the main reason that Axis supply shipments to North Africa were greatly reduced. The losses to British submarines remained about the same. Losses to British maritime air strikes actually declined, due to unfavorable weather. Given that, the inevitable result was that Force K would receive unwanted attention. 25 German submarines were sent to the Mediterranean. 15 would operate in the western Mediterranean while 10 would operate in the eastern portion. Field-Marshal Kesselring arrived in late November 1941 and brought along Fliegerkorps II, which would operate from Sicily. One of the immediate results was that the aircraft carrier Ark Royal was sunk by U-81 in early November. About the same time, the British tried to run two disguised merchant ships to Malta. They were sunk by the capable Italian torpedo bombers. That ended the attempt to use disguised ships to supply Malta. The next incident was that the battleship Barham was sunk by U-331 on 25 November. Many lives were lost because the Barham capsized and exploded. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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