- Letter Writer
- History - WW2, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2013 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The article by Sub-Lieutenant N.J. Laing, RAN in the June 2013 Review quotes the myth that the sea mine ‘accounted for more shipping losses than any other weapon’ during World War II. This myth has been handed down from generation to generation in the mine warfare community, and often appears at the start of articles or presentations. Whilst data on shipping losses is incomplete it is adequate for a broad comparison of losses due to mines and submarine torpedoes.
The largest offensive mining operation in World War II was the laying of over 50,000 mines in NW Europe by British aircraft for the loss of approximately 500 aircraft. British mines sank 1,043 Axis ships compared to about 432 Axis ships sunk by British submarines. For Britain in the European context mines accounted for more shipping losses than submarines, but this was not the case for other countries.
In Europe the Axis powers sank 802 Allied ships by mines and 2,788 Allied ships by submarines. In the Pacific the Allies sank 287 Japanese ships by mines and 1,369 Japanese ships by submarine.
The overall total for the European and Pacific theatres were 2,132 ships sunk by mines and 4,589 ships sunk by submarines. Most of the ships sunk by submarines were by torpedo alone, and torpedoes sank far more ships than mines.
By Editor: A response has been made thanking Mr Turner for bringing this to our attention. The referenced NEOC essay addresses the proud history of mine warfare in the RAN and provides a well-balanced and factual account of this aspect of naval warfare. However the quotation used at the run-in to this essay is misleading when stating that the sea mine accounted for more shipping losses than any other weapon. As outlined above more overall shipping losses are attributed to the torpedo rather than mines during WW II.