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The Battle of Biscay - Operation Stonewall

The Battle of the Bay of Biscay was a naval action that took place on 28 December 1943 during World War II as part of the Atlantic campaign. The battle took place in the Bay of Biscay between two light cruisers of the British Royal Navy, and a destroyer and a torpedo boat flotilla of the German Kriegsmarine hoping to intercept and escort a blockade runner.

The battle was fought as part of the Allied Operation Stonewall, which was to intercept German blockade runners off the west coast of France. In the confused action that followed the two British cruisers HMS Enterprise and HMS Glasgow respectively sank T26, together with her sister ship T25 and the destroyer Z27.

The 2,729-ton blockade runner Alsterufer passed through the USA/Gibraltar convoy route on 20 December.

Before the Allied ships and an RAF strike force could make contact, the shadowing Czechoslovak-crewed bomber attacked with bombs and rockets and set Alsterufer on fire, the German crew being rescued by four Canadian corvettes.

A force of German destroyers and torpedo boats had set out to meet and escort Alsterufer, and Glasgow and Enterprise now attempted to intercept them. Guided by shadowing aircraft, the cruisers intercepted eight destroyers in the early afternoon of 28 December and exchanged fire with them. Despite accurate German gunfire and torpedoes, effective German evading action and an attack with guided bombs by a Luftwaffe aircraft, the British ships maintained contact.

The German warships divided into two groups and the cruisers pursued one of these. By 16.00, the destroyer Z 27 and the torpedo boats T 25 and T 26 had been sunk, and one had escaped although she too had suffered damage.

About 230 survivors were picked up by British minesweepers, a small Irish steamer and Spanish destroyers. Glasgow, Enterprise and Ariadne now returned to Plymouth, and Penelope to Gibraltar.

More blockade runners from the Far East were expected, so Gambia and Mauritius maintained the cruiser patrol to the north of the Azores islands group for the next three days. Gambia then returned to Plymouth on 1 January 1944. Three more German ships were sunk on 3/5 January 1944 by US Navy patrols in the South Atlantic.

These were the Germans' last attempted blockade runners as, by the autumn of 1944, the German armies were retreating headlong out of France and the French ports were no longer open to incoming Axis ships.

HMS Enterprise

December              Worked-up at Scapa Flow with Home Fleet.

                                On completion transferred to Plymouth Command for interception duties in Biscay of Biscay.


                27th        Deployed with HM Cruiser GLASGOW to join HM Cruiser GAMBIA for

                                interception of German blockade runner ALSTERUFER (Operation STONEWALL).

                28th        In action in Bay of Biscay with HMS GLASGOW against ten destroyers and tboats on passage to escort ALSTERUFER.

                                Engaged at 18,000 yards.

                                Defect in forward gun turret training.

                                Sank torpedo boat (T26) by torpedo.

                                (Note: During this engagement destroyers Z27and T25 were also sunk.)


                29th        Arrived at Plymouth with machinery defects.

                                Taken in hand for repair.

HMS Glasgow

December              Interception patrol and covering duties in continuation.

                12th        Deployed with HM Cruiser GAMBIA NNW of Azores to

                                intercept blockade runners known to be on passage from Far East

                                (Operation STONEWALL).

                27th        After sighting by SUNDERLAND aircraft, redeployed with HM Cruisers

                                ENTERPRISE, PENELOPE and ARIADNE to intercept blockade runner


                                In action with German destroyers and torpedo boats sent to meet blockade runner and with HMS ENTERPRISE sank destroyer Z25 and torpedo boats T25 and T26.

                                Sustained slight structural damage from splinters.

                                ALSTERUFER was abandoned after air attacks and later sank.

                                62 survivors were rescued.

                28th        Under attack by Glider Bombs controlled by aircraft whilst on passage to

                                Plymouth with HMS ENTERPRISE after engagement

                29th        Arrived at Plymouth.

References/ Further Reading;

  1. Ships Logs Extracts from Navy

  2. Wikipedia - The Battle of Biscay

  3. Wikipedia - Operation Stonewall

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