Operation Stonewall was a "World War II operation to intercept blockade runners off the west coast of France. It was an effective example of inter-service and international co-operation.
From the start of the war, the Allies had maintained a "blockade against the import by Germany of seaborne goods. Although rich in many basic industrial materials, Germany, like Britain, could not produce some essentials. These included "rubber, tin and "tungsten.
Until the German invasion of the "Soviet Union in June 1941 ("Operation Barbarossa), the blockade was evaded via the "Trans-Siberian Railway and large quantities of materials were shipped by this route. Once this was closed, German and Italian ships, stranded in "Japan and Occupied "Singapore, were used to bring in these essentials to ports in Occupied France. These were the blockade-runners.
Although an organised interdiction against these blockade-runners could not be set up until December 1943, several ships were intercepted and sunk in the Atlantic and "Indian Oceans. Few actually managed successful runs.
On 23 December, aircraft from the "American "escort carrier "USS Card spotted a suspected runner and there were further reports of a flotilla of destroyers escorting another merchantman west from France. HMS Gambia, Glasgow, and "HMS Enterprise formed a cordon to intercept. Aircraft attacked the flotilla, now escorting an incoming merchantman (SS Osorno), reporting a hit and a near-miss on Osorno.
More warships ("HMS Ariadne and "Penelope and four "Free French destroyers) joined the patrol to intercept another runner. Aircraft from "RAF Coastal Command acted in close cooperation. Before the Allied ships and an RAF strike force could make contact, the shadowing bomber (crewed by "No. 311 Squadron RAF - Czechoslovak) attacked with bombs and rockets and set the German ship—the SS Alsterufer—on fire. The German crew were rescued by four Canadian "corvettes.
The German destroyers and torpedo boats had set out to meet and escort Alsterufer, in an operation codenamed Bernau, and now Glasgow and Enterprise sought 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 ships divided into two groups and the cruisers pursued one of these. By 16:00, two "Elbing-class torpedo bosts ("T25 and "T26) and the "Narvik-class destroyer "Z27 had been sunk and one had escaped, damaged. About 62 survivors were picked up by British minesweepers, 168 by a small Irish steamer, the "MV Kerlogue, and four by Spanish destroyers. The blockade runner Osorno reached the "Gironde, but struck a wreck in the estuary. She was beached and subsequently unloaded offshore.
Glasgow, Enterprise and Ariadne returned to "Plymouth and Penelope to "Gibraltar. More blockade runners from the Far East were expected, so HMS Gambia and "Mauritius maintained the cruiser patrol north of the Azores for the next three days. The Gambia then returned to Plymouth on 1 January 1944.
Three more German ships were sunk between 3 and 5 January by U.S. Navy patrols in the South Atlantic. These were the last runners.
By Autumn, German armies were retreating headlong out of France and the French ports were no longer open to Axis ships.
This article includes a "list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient "inline citations. (September 2014) ("Learn how and when to remove this template message)