The War Illustrated No 177 Vol 7 March 31st 1944

THE WAR AT SEA by Francis E. McMurtrie A c cor ding lo enemy reports, a force composed partly of British Com- L mando troops and partly of Yugoslav partisan formations recently seized the island of Lissa, in the Adriatic. This is by no means the first time this island has suddenly bccomc prominent in wartime, nor is it likely to bethe last, a fact due to its strategic situation. Though only about 11 miles long from cast to west, and six miles broad from north to south, it lies farther out from the mainland than the other islands fringing the Dalmatian coast, from which Lissa is distant some 40 miles. Its possession gives the Allies a useful little harbour, the port of San scanty, comprising two ex-Ttalian battleships, neither of which is in seaworthy condition, and a cruiser which we putout of action as the result of an air attack on Ancona sometime ago. Two cruisers which were under construction at Trieste are believed still to be incomplete. There maybe a few old destroyers or torpedo boats available, as well as submarines and motor torpedo boats, but the enemy have not so far shown much disposition to be adventurous with these. In the South-West Pacific the net continues to close round the Japanese forces in New Britain. New Ireland and Bougainville. With the seizure of the main airfield in the HITLER B L U N D E RED YET AGAIN when, in April 1943 he decorated a -bU tao comm and er, Lieut. Otto von B ij'o w ,for “sinking "the U.S. aircraft carrier Ranger— seen aboye with attend ant destroyer. Six months later the Ranger took part, with a British task force, in raiding enemy vessels in Norw e g ian waters. In that period she had sunk 40,000 tons of shipping. Photo, New York Times Photos Giorgio, on the eastern side of the Adriatic. This is important as an .aid to the control of sea communications, as there is no good harbour on the opposite coast of Italy between Bari and Ancona, and the latter port is instill enemy hands. ONLY Scanty German Naval Forces in the Adriatic During the Napoleonic Wars the island, which had long been a dependency of Venice, was occupied first by the French and later by the British. In 1811 a Franco-Venetian force of eight frigates, with two smaller vessels, under Commodore Dubourdieu, sailed from Ancona with the object of recapturing Lissa. Off the island this squadron was brought to action by four British frigates under Captain William Hoste, and decisively defeated, losing half its strength. In 1866, during the war •between Italy and Austria, avery similar result attended the efforts of the Italian fleet under Admiral Persano, to take the island. At the Battle of Lissa on July 20,1866, Persano lost two ironclads and had other ships disabled by the Austrian fleet under Admiral Tegetthoff, which lost no ships. It is improbable that the Germans will attempt any kind of naval sortie to recapture Lissa. Their fovces in the Adriatic are Admiralty group, immediately to the west­ward of New Ireland, the United States Navy has combined a daring incursion into the harbour of Rabaul, which seems to have been left to its fate by the Japanese High Command. This port and Kavieng were the headquarters of the Japanese forces in the South-West Pacific island area, but now that communica­tions with Japan by sea and air arc practically at an end the fate of both bases is scarcely in doubt. United States Marines continue to advance along the coast from the western end of New Britain, and fresh landings maybe expected to bring the threat lo Rabaul closer. When introducing the Navy Estimates ’the First Lord of the Admiralty threw fresh light on the progress of the Battle of the Atlantic. It was already known that the tide turned dramatically against the U-boats at the opening of spring last year, though for sometime heavy attacks continued to be made. Sometimes as many as 30 enemy submarines would be involved in an attack on a convoy, but increased escort forces, operat­ing inclose conjunction with aircraft from carriers or from shore bases, inflicted defeats so severe that the U-boats “virtually aban­doned the North Atlantic for some months.'’ In spite of their heavy Josses, the Germans PAGE 678 are believed to have still at their disposal about the same number of submarines as at the beginning of 1943. On the other hand, it may -well be questioned whether they possess an adequate proportion of experi­enced submarine captains, most of the more daring and skilful ones having been eliminated. One of the recent casualties-is reported to abe son of Grossadmiral Donitz, the German naval chief. T n spite of reverses, the Germans con-tinue to build more concrete pens for U-boats in the ports from which they operate. New weapons and equipment have been provided in an endeavour to enable the submarines to overcome the obstacles that have defeated them. Additional anti-aircraft guns mounted in U-boats have not prevented our planes from pressing home their attacks, nor has the invention of the acoustic torpedo added appreciably to the few successes the enemy have been able to score. One of the latest plans seems to have been to co-ordinate attacks on convoys, by long-range aircraft with those of enemy submarines: but our escort lighters have proved equal to this fresh threat. For the development of the various mea­sures by which the defeat of the U-boats has been achieved the First Lord paid a well-deserved tribute to the late Admiral of tlic Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, whose far-sighted* planning was the secret of our success. CERIOUS Losses of ^Enemy Shipping Having regard to the relative shipping resources of the Allies and of the enemy countries, there is no •doubt that the latter are now suffering more serious losses than the former. British and Allied sub­marines (such as the Norwegian Ula and the Polish Sokol and Dzik) arc constantly engaged in operations against German coastal convoys, and their efforts arc sup­plemented by air attacks across the North Sea. In the Pacific there must come a time when the Japan­ese no longer have enough shipping to maintain communications with their forces overseas. T twas disclosed that the mainten- anccofthc Nettuno beach-head had cost our Navy, up to the first week in March, losses which included the cruisers Spartan and Penelope, the destroyers Inglcfield and Janus, and five landing craft described by Mr. Alexander as “major assault vessels.” Previously the existence of H.M.S. Spartan had not been revealed, though an official photograph of a naval bombardment off Nettuno had shown in the foreground a cruiser, otherwise un­identified, which appeared to be of an improved Dido type (see illus. p. 614). It seems reasonable to conclude that the Spartan was not the only new cruiser of this design :and indue course we may expect to hear some official mention of the doings of her sister ships. Altogether our cruiser losses have amounted to 28 ships since the war began. Mr. Angus Macdonald, Canadian Minister of National Defence for the Naval Service, has announced that the Dominion will shortly acquire two modern [cruisers from the. Ad­miralty, besides manning a couple of aircraft carriers. Other additions in 1944 will be 100 smaller fighting ships and a considerable number of auxiliary vessels. This, calls attention to the phenomenal expansion which the Royal Canadian Navy has undergone. In 1939 its personnel comprised less than 4,500. including all reserves. Today it ex­ceeds 70,000, and by the end of the year it is expected to have reached 90.000.
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