Atlantic War

Battleship on Loan

The Royal Sovereign, rechristened the Arkhangelsk, seen in 1944 proudly flying the Soviet flag.

The Royal Sovereign, rechristened the Arkhangelsk, seen in 1944 proudly flying the Soviet flag.

The HMS Royal Sovereign was one of the mid-World War I R-class battleships that would end up serving all over the world, but saw little direct combat in two wars. She missed the Battle of Jutland in the spring of 1916 by only a few weeks, but once operational, she joined the Home Fleet. Later, during the 19 30’s, she served in the Mediterranean as a counter-weight to Italy’s growing naval power.

Like most of the other R-Class battleships, the Royal Sovereign was not substantially modernized during the inter-war period, or even after 1939 when it became clear her anti-aircraft armament was woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, she performed convoy escort duties in the Atlantic, the Med, and later in the Indian Ocean. After a refit in Philadelphia in 1943, where some of her six inch guns were removed so that her deck armor could be increased by two inches, she returned the Indian Ocean for further convoy work.

In the summer of 1944, she escorted convoy JW-59 through the Arctic Sea on the northern Lend-Lease run. Once in the Soviet Union, the crew turned her over to the Russian Navy. A deal had been struck between London and Moscow to loan the Royal Sovereign to the Russians in lieu of sending several captured Italian warships to the Black Sea Fleet as part of Italy’s reparation payment to the Soviet Union.

Crewed by Soviet sailors and commissioned in August 1944 as the Arkhangelsk and became  Admiral Gordey Levchenko’s flagship. At the time, she was the largest vessel in the Soviet Navy. She continued to escort Allied convoys until war’s end. Following the surrender, she ran aground and was seriously damaged. The Russians returned her in 1949 after receiving the Italian battleship Giulio Cesare as reparations. She was in such poor condition by 1949 that the British quickly sold her for scrap.


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The Last of the Grey Wolves

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U-858, under close escort, steams for Delaware after surrendering off Cape May in May 1945.

In the final weeks of the War in Europe, the German Navy sought to repeat the successes of 1942’s Operation Drumbeat by sending U-boats to intercept and sink merchant shipping along the American eastern seaboard. Kapitanleutnant Thilo Bode and the crew of U-858 was assigned a role in this operation. U-858 was a Type IXC/40 submarine that had only one previous war patrol to its credit. Bode’s crew had not sunk or damaged any Allied vessels in that initial patrol, and even getting to the East Coast was a tremendous gamble, given the depth and power of the Allied anti-submarine defenses in the North Atlantic by 1945.

Bode was an intelligent officer, a tall Bavarian who stayed clean shaven while the rest of his crew grew beards. When he left on this last desperate mission, he knew Germany was doomed to defeat. For six weeks, he played cat-and-mouse games with Allied anti-submarine patrols, but failed to attack any vessels.

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The Pillsbury’s boarding party aboard U-858.

On May 14, 1945, after receiving a radio message from Germany ordering all warships to stand down and surrender, he and his crew surrendered to the destroyer escort, U.S.S. Pillsbury off Cape May, New Jersey. An American boarding party went aboard and took control of the U-boat, raising the Stars & Stripes over her conning tower. Bode and most of the crew were then taken off the U-boat, but a few were kept aboard as prisoners, just to ensure there had been no effort to sabotage the vessel with timed charges.

U-858 became a celebrated prize of war in the United States. She was taken to Fort Miles, Delaware, where Bode officially surrendered his command to the United States Navy in a ceremony that has subsequently been recreated on the event’s anniversary by local reenactors.

After the surrender, Bode offered to take his U-boat and join the U.S. Navy’s fight against Japan in the Pacific. The U.S. Navy refused, and the boat was to never see combat again. In 1947, it was sunk during a live fire torpedo exercise by the USN submarine, Sirago.


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Commander J.P. Norfleet (left) (USN), accepts 27 year old Captain-Lieutenant Bode’s surrender on May 14, 1945.



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Allies: Brazilian Consolidated PBY Catalinas in the Atlantic War

PBY 1a BrazilianDuring the Second World War, Brazil served as the critical partner in the Allied alliance in Latin America. Brazilian troops served in combat in Italy, as did one of their fighter groups. Brazilian Naval Aviation also played a an important role in anti-U-boat patrols in the South Atlantic. Flying Lockheed Hudson’s and Consolidated PBY Catalinas, Brazilian air crews scoured the seas in search of the ever-elusive German submarines that were taking such a heavy toll on Allied shipping.

On July 31, 1943, a Brazilian PBY crew discovered U-199 on the surface east of Rio de Janeiro. Along with a Brazilian Hudson and a USN PBM Mariner, the PBY crew attacked the U-boat with depth charges. Second Lieutenant Alberto M. Torres and his Catalina crew received credit for sinking her.Twelve German sailors, including U-199’s skipper, were able to escape their doomed boat. When Torres spotted them helpless in the water, he ordered his men to drop them a lifeboat. The Germans clambered aboard and were subsequently rescued by a U.S. Navy seaplane tender, USS Barnegat.

12-30 Brazilian PBY and Crew in Color

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