BoB KanalKampf

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by davebender, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Was this a success or failure? Most accounts of the Battle of Britain only mention aircraft losses but that ignores the whole point of German attacks on English Channel shipping.
    - How much shipping tonnage was sunk?
    - How much shipping tonnage was damaged?
    - How much cargo tonnage was sunk?
    - Perhaps most important of all, how much was port throughput reduced for London and the other English Channel seaports? London was the largest British seaport so closing it or severely curtailing cargo throughput would be a serious dent in the British economy.
     
  2. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    A large proportion of the cargo into London was coal for Domestic, Industrial and electricity generation. Certainly njaco's brilliant BOB thread mostly mentioned coal ships being sunk during the channel battle.

    I suppose its lucky for Britain that there are plenty of ports on the west and south coasts. If Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast and Southampton had been closed things could have got very difficult, its pointless escorting large convoys across the Atlantic if you cant unload them and send the cargo to where its needed.
     
  3. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Oddly enough, I read recently that a bunch of military historians and some ranking vetrans from WW2 set about doing a wargame about a German Invasion of England in 1940. Game was played in the early 1970s. According to the results, the Germans were pretty much wiped out with only 15K making it back across the Channel.

    Too bad that is about all that was written. It would've been interesting to read about.
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I don't doubt that. Coal powered just about everything during the 1940s, making it perhaps the most critical resource of all for maintaining wartime industrial production.

    Do we have historical tonnage data for coal imported via the Port of London each month during 1939 and 1940?
     
  5. rednev

    rednev New Member

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    An article i read years ago (to many to remember the source ) claimed the coal traffic could be maintained by other means . It was more a prestige/ morale thing that the channel will remain open .
     
  6. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    Why would GB need to import coal? In 1938 GB exported 7 million tons of coal to France. A commitment in Aug 1939 was to increase coal shipments to France to 20 million tons.

    From what I understand, it was domestic British colliers delivering coal from British ports to British ports.
     
  7. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Yes it was coal from mostly the North Eastern collieries in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland plus some from the South Wales collieries that went into London. Dont have any figures for the coal carried but I have read that in 1851 at the time of the Great Exhibition London and its surrounding area consumed half the coal mined in the whole of Europe.

    The east coast colliers were the training ground for some of Britains best seamen the most famous of whom was Captain Cook.
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Len Deighton makes that claim but provides no data to support it. Personally I have my doubts.

    Per the WWI issue of "Janes Fighting Ships" the Port of London handled 9 million tons of cargo annually during 1914 making it the largest British seaport in cargo throughput. This amount almost certainly increased by WWII. Let's call it 12 million annual tons as that works out to a nice even 1 million tons of cargo per month.

    You cannot ship an additional 1 million tons of cargo to London each month by rail without spending a massive amount of resources to increase rail capacity. We are talking about turning single track lines to twin tracks. Twin tracks would be doubled to quad tracks. Plus a bunch of additional railroad rolling stock, round houses (for maintenance), water towers, bridges, tunnels etc. Even after that investment each ton of cargo shipped to London by rail costs more then a ton of cargo shipped by sea.
     
  9. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    The government was worried about ports being closed by military action. Two ports were built in Scotland Military port No1 at Gareloch and Military port No2 at Cairnryan. Construction started in 1940 but finished in 1943 too late to help much if any major port had been closed by the Blitz. They dont seem to have been used that much possibly because they were only a back up and didnt have enough handling and warehousing facilities also railway connections werent very good and there isnt much info on there operation.
     
  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The Coal needed to be transported to London in the first place by rail, some locations dont have access to rail, but in England, which in 1939 had the greatest densities of rail track per square mile of any country in the world, this was a minor inconveneience at worst. The difference between shipping from wales/midlands to to the west as opposed to the east would have been negligible.

    England possessed a vast excess of rolling stock in 1939 as opposed to Germany who possessed an acute shortage....something they never really solved during the war. Britains terms of trade were steadily falling 1914-39, not increasing, and this meant she generally had an excess of ports and rolling stock. In 1980, this was still the case, with Britain still possessing over 478000 freight cars in the whole of the country. At that same time Germany only possessed 394000 freight cars. Somewhere I have the figures for both countries, prewar, but the trend remains the same. There was never even the slightest chance of Britiains rail capacity being exceeded during the war....there was too much of it to be frank.

    Same story applies to the cargo handling capacities of British ports. Though their shipbuilding capacities were limited and old fashioned, they did have a large excess of loading/unloading capacities. And the port of London had not increased in importance in British trade, it had shrunk markedly since WWI. As a direct result of its poor positioning in the Atlantic sea trade, it had shrunk, whilst the west coast ports had grown steadily.

    I also believe that Liverpool was the largest port in England, not London, though I dont have the figures. I will do some checking on this.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Port of London
    Did You Know? >> Quick Facts >> Did You Know?
    The total volume of cargoes passing through London stood at 18.6 million tons in 1910
    Pre-war cargo tonnages through the Port peaked at 44.6 million tons, in 1938
    Post-war cargo tonnages through the Port peaked at 61.3 million tons in 1964

    So...
    We are talking about 3 1/2 million tons of cargo per month during WWII. You'll have a tough time convincing me the British rail system had that much slack capacity during wartime.

    So how effective were the KanalKampf air attacks? We need Port of London cargo throughput for each month of 1940. 1941 would be nice also as I believe Germany continued aerial mine laying operations up to Operation Barbarossa.

    First bombs fall on the docks
    Enemy bombs first fell on the docks on Saturday 7th September. In the Surrey Commercial Docks, blazing timber resulted in the fiercest fire ever recorded in Britain. Most of the historic Georgian sugar warehouses at the West India Import Dock were destroyed, along with the warehouses around the Eastern Basin of St Katharine's Dock seen here well ablaze on that day.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    So that would be the total tonnage for imports and exports. I doubt there was much export.

    What was the tonnage for the other GB ports?

    Numbers without a reference point are useless.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Most "exports" probably consisted of cargo movement between British seaports.
     
  14. Hop

    Hop Member

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    The Kanalkampf had very little effect. The Blitz, which not only caused damage to the ports but also the railway system, did have a major effect on transport.

    The first problems actually occurred in the winter of 1939/40, when a lot of coastal steamers were re-routed to carry supplies to France. The railways couldn't cope with the increase in traffic and coal supplies ran low in the south east.

    The biggest problems occurred with the start of the Blitz in September 1940 and carried on until re-organisation of the ports and railways in spring 1941. It wasn't so much the reduction in coastal traffic as problems with the railways. In September 1940, for example, the railways only managed to carry 56% of the coal to London that they'd managed in the previous winter. That was down to damage to rail infrastructure and the requirements for lighting in marshalling yards. Air raid warnings brought work to a halt, and of course London was being bombed almost every night.

    But there was actually spare capacity in the railways. In 1938 the railways carried 16 billion ton miles of cargo. By 1942 that had risen to 24 billion ton miles.
     
  15. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The total volume of cargoes passing through London stood at 18.6 million tons in 1910
    Pre-war cargo tonnages through the Port peaked at 44.6 million tons, in 1938
    Post-war cargo tonnages through the Port peaked at 61.3 million tons in 1964

    So...
    We are talking about 3 1/2 million tons of cargo per month during WWII. You'll have a tough time convincing me the British rail system had that much slack capacity during wartime.

    So how effective were the KanalKampf air attacks? We need Port of London cargo throughput for each month of 1940. 1941 would be nice also as I believe Germany continued aerial mine laying operations up to Operation Barbarossa.

    First bombs fall on the docks
    Enemy bombs first fell on the docks on Saturday 7th September. In the Surrey Commercial Docks, blazing timber resulted in the fiercest fire ever recorded in Britain. Most of the historic Georgian sugar warehouses at the West India Import Dock were destroyed, along with the warehouses around the Eastern Basin of St Katharine's Dock seen here well ablaze on that day.[/I

    Not sure about your figures. I based my statements on what I consider to be the most thorough single volume investigation of British shipping and its decline that I know of. British Shipping and its decline in world Competition SG Sturmey Oxford University Press 1962

    Sturmeys gives page after page of statistics on British imports, exports, and the significance in world trade. He admittedly only deals briefly, and obliquely with individual ports, but here I can dig up some further material on British ports that will show that london as a point of entry and departure was relatively unimportant

    As far as imports and exports out of the country are concerned Britain had the following imports and exports at the indicated dates (figures are in Million tons) :


    1913: 149.6
    1920: 86.7
    1928: 119.8
    1938: 117

    By 1942, British arrivals and departures were down again to under 90 million tons annually. Moreover, according to Sturmey over 80% of those arrivals and departures were from the west coast ports, of which Liverpool took the overwhelming lions share. London might have had the capacity to move the tonnages you are suggesting, but it simply was never used to that extent. If wartime cargo throughputs are at about 85 million tons per annum, as Sturmey suggests, and 80% of that cargo is moved through the western ports, that leaves only 17 million tons for all remaining ports, including London. I dont know what percentage of that "other trade" the port of London was responsible for, but it might be as much as half. That would be an annual trade of 8.5 million tons or slightly over 700K per month.....a far cry from 3.5 million.

    Britain never lacked for either rail trasport, or port capacity during the war, She obviously lacked the shipping, since a big proportion of British shipping was sunk during the war, but there were never significant backlogs in the port capacity, even whilst the germans were busy laying all the mines they could in British waters. Britain laid approximately 20 times the number of mines in German waters, which similarly did not impeede the loading or unloading of cargoes though German controlled shipping was decimated by the end of the war....a little known statistic
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That doesn't tell us anything. We need the monthly Port of London cargo throughput data to determine how much port capacity was impacted by the German attacks.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I dont agree. We know that during the war the Brits moved about 85 million tons of goods through their ports each year. We know that in 1913 the brits moved 149.6 million tons. We can safely say that the port handling capacities did not decrease and probably increased between 1913 and 1940. So at worst, we can say that the Brits were using 85/150 of their port handling capacity, or something in the order of 50% of available dock space. We know that 80% of cargoes were handled from the west Coast ports. From ther we can deduce that no more than 20% of that 85 million tons was handled from the London docks, and thats assuming that all of the other ports outside London and the west coast did zip for the duration. But they did do somethingt, so London has to be a fraction of 17 milliion tons per annum. A safe bet would be to assume about 50% of that 17 million is needed to be unloaded /loaded from the port of London.
    But it isnt really needed at all, because Britiain has so much spare dock handling capacity and such a reduced amount of cargo entering and leaving the country.

    Something else that comes out of Sturmeys figures. In 1914 more than 50% of cargoes were exports, wheras by 1940 it had slumped tpo about 37%. The additional imports were nearly all imported foodstuffs, which is logical when you think about it. One of the big changes between the two dates was the change in population, and during the war Britian managed to lift domestic agricultural production by about a third (from memory). So the drop in imports (and during the war exports were not really affected....it was imports that were hurt) didnt really affect British war production, because they made up for the shortfall in foodstuffs by domestic production. They did similar things with coal and iron production as well, as i recall

    So, spectacular as the photographs of burning London Docks might appear, they are really achieving virtually nothing to British terms of trade, imports and the rest of it

    The limiting factor in the British war effort, was always shipping, nothing else. I would concede this however, there was insufficient repair and construction capacity in England. There was always a huge backlog of damaged ships awaiting repair, and output of new shipping was restricted by a number of limitations, among them a limit on blade cutting capability
     
  18. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    that may tell us a bit about the damage done to the London docks but it tells us squat about the impact on England as a whole and it's port capacity.
    Were the London docks suppling London/London area or a great part of the country?
    England had dozens of harbors,large and small, so damage to one harbor or port is not going to stop all imports. The next question is repairs, While other forms of transportation might not be able to handle the change in load for years, they don't have to. The just have to keep things going while repairs are made to the docks. Or other older docks are fitted with cranes and new rail sidings.
     
  19. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    The Royal Navy reports 67 merchant and cargo ships were sunk during the five-six week period over July and August, typically defined as the 'Kanalkampf'. About 40,000 tons of merchant shipping was lost to aircraft related attacks. Most of the ship were sunk by mines, rather than direct bomb attacks.

    Major military losses:

    HMS Foylebank: 5,600 tons, Auxillary AA ship. Bombed and sunk in Portland harbour, 4th July

    HMS Warrior: 1,124 tons, auxiliary yacht, sunk by aircraft off Portland

    HMS War Sepoy: 5,600 tons, oiler/tanker, damaged by aircraft off Dover. Constructive total loss

    HMS Brazen: 1,360 tons, destroyer, sunk by aircraft off Dover

    HMS Codrington: 1,540 tons, destroyer, bombed and sunk in Dover Harbour,

    HMS Delight: 1,374 tons, destroyer, bombed and sunk off Portland

    I also count another 19 smaller ships (less than 750 tons) lost to aircraft attacks, most at anchor or in harbour. 16 of the 19 were lost to mines.
     
  20. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    A worthwhile bit of information but it still dances around the crux of the matter. How much effect did the German air attacks have on British seaport cargo throughput?
     
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