The German High Command claimed a total of 327,000 tons shot out of British merchant convoys by U-boats last week—26 ships out of one convoy. The Germans claimed a foray by their motor-torpedo boats close to the British coast which sank more tonnage, took 40 Britons prisoner. They claimed another raid by German destroyers in the mouth of Bristol Channel, in which they engaged a British cruiser squadron, torpedoing one vessel. They said they sank a British submarine off Le Havre. They claimed that their coast artillery kept Britain's Channel patrol of destroyers bottled up in Dover. There were stories that Germany would invade Eire and Iceland as a prelude to ultimate invasion of Great Britain. . . .
The British Royal Navy, whose historic duty is to keep open the Empire's sea lanes and to keep all enemies from Britain's hallowed shores, took all these reports last week with blandest equanimity. On only one point would R. N. agree: the war by sea is certainly going to be intensified, but the R. N. would be the intensifier. During the week R. N. warships indulged again in their bold practice of shelling "invasion ports" along the German held French coast*—Dunkirk, Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient. Paris heard that before long the Germans would be driven back from the coast, presumably by a British expeditionary force landed under R. N.'s guns and R. A. F.'s bombs.
And, most tangible and significant, two changes were made in the Navy's high command, both of them bringing officers renowned for offensive fighting into top-notch jobs.
For Admiral Sir Charles M. Forbes, 59, Commander in Chief of the Home Fleet, directly under Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, top man in all the Navy, was substituted Vice Admiral John C. Tovey (rhymes with covey). This change precisely paralleled the recent substitutions of Sir Alan Brooke for Lord Gort in the Army, of Sir Charles Portal for Sir Cyril Newall in the R. A. F. Tough "Jack" Tovey, lean and electric, is the man who, commanding the destroyer Onslow at Jutland, engaged first the cruiser Wiesbaden, then the battleship Derfflinger, with only his torpedoes and four-inch guns; stopped fighting only when a hail of shells from the German ships put him out of action.
His promotion over 20 senior officers bears out the tradition that Britain's frigate captains of one war make her fighting admirals in the next. His latest post was in the Mediterranean as No. 2 to Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, whose recent exploits have been strong tonic to Prime Minister Churchill and the entire nation. The Dakar fiasco, after which Mr. Churchill mentioned "accidents and some errors . . . disciplinary action," afforded excuse for a high command shakeup and it was wholly probable that Sir Charles Forbes took the rap for his underlings.
The other fighting seadog moved up was Rear Admiral Sir Henry H. Harwood, hero of the Battle of the Plate, where with three cruisers he licked the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. Sir Henry was called to the Admiralty to replace Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake as assistant chief of staff and a member of the controlling Admiralty Board.