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THE AXIS AND ALLIED MARITIME OPERATIONS AROUND SOUTHERN AFRICA 1939 1945 - WAR ON SOUTHERN AFRICA SEA

23)CONCLUSION


Conclusion

During the Second World War, the Axis naval forces effectively operated off the South African coast between 1939 and 1945, with the main operations materialising from June 1942 to August 1943. The Axis maritime operations in South African waters accounted for 158 ships sunk, amounting to a staggering 910,638 tons of shipping lost. Of this number, the mines accounted for 1.23% (11,211 tons) of shipping lost and raiders/warships for 13.70% (124,803 tons). The submarines were responsible for a startling 85.06% (774,624 tons). When isolated to South African figures alone, the percentages seem blatantly impressive. When juxtaposed against total shipping losses throughout the Second World War to Axis maritime operations, however, the sinking results in South African waters are less remarkable. The global shipping losses to Axis maritime operations came to a substantial 17,662,733 tons of shipping lost.


The detailed global results of shipping tonnage lost involve mines – 1,406,192 tons; raiders/warships – 1,569,319 tons and submarines – 14,687,231 tons. As mentioned previously, the sinking results in South African waters, when compared to the global results of the Axis maritime operations, are less notable. In fact, the losses to Axis mines, raiders/warships and submarines in South African waters form a mere 0.79%, 7.95%, 5.27% of the global results respectively (see Table 3.14). Thus only 5.15% of the global losses to Axis maritime operations can be attributed to coordinated actions in South African waters, which did not even amount to 0.37% of the gross registered tonnage of merchant ships traversing the Cape sea route during the war.


 

Maritime losses in South African waters

Global maritime losses

Maritime losses in South African waters expressed as a percentage of global maritime losses

Mines

11,211 tons 

1,406,192 tons

0.79%

Raiders/Warships

124,803 tons 

1,569,310 tons

7.95%

Submarines

774,624 tons 

14,687,231 tons

5.27%

Total

910,638 tons 

17,662,733 tons

5.15%

Table 3.14: Comparative results of maritime losses in South African  waters and globally, 1939-1945


The success of the Axis maritime operations in South African waters should, however, not be measured in mere tonnage and percentages alone, but rather in terms of the strategic and operational effect which it created. The Axis maritime operations succeeded in causing a significant amount of trouble and anxiety for the Allies, particularly in South African waters. Above all the principal aim was achieved – that of destroying shipping, forcing the adoption of convoys, and creating a dire economic and financial situation for the Allies by forcing the deployment of strong naval forces to protect vast sea routes.


From October 1942, the operational conditions in South African waters deteriorated considerably due to South African and Allied A/S operations. In fact, by August 1943, the SKL and BdU had ceased to consider South African waters as a viable operational area with sufficient sinking potential.  To some degree, the maritime intelligence war waged off southern Africa informed both the Axis maritime operations and Allied countermeasures in said waters.This aspect of the Second World War is investigated in chapter four. It will soon become evident that the maritime intelligence war was extremely complex in nature, and involved a number of diverse role-players.


 

 

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