Covering force

A covering force is a military force tasked with operating in conjunction with a larger force, with the role of providing a strong protective outpost line (including operating in advance of the main force), searching for and attacking enemy forces or defending the main force from attack.

The United States Army field manual "FM 3-90.6 Brigade Combat Team" provides the following definition of the role of a covering force:

During World War II, the main body of the British Home Fleet regularly sortied into the Norwegian Sea to provide a heavy covering force to protect Arctic convoys from attack by German warships stationed in occupied Norway. The Battle of Driniumor River also provides an example of a covering force action.[2]


  1. ^ "Chapter 5. Security Operations". FM 3-90.6 Brigade Combat Team. Headquarters, Department of the Army. 2010.
  2. ^ Drea, Edward J. (1984). Defending the Driniumor: Covering Force Operations in New Guinea, 1944 (PDF). Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
10th Division (Australia)

The 10th Division was a division of the Australian Army, which served briefly during World War II. It was initially formed on 15 April 1942 from the Militia units of the Newcastle Covering Force. However, personnel shortages led to the division being disbanded in August that year.

In 1945, as plans were being made for an invasion of the Japanese home islands, the name 10th Division was revived for a proposed Australian contingent. It was to use personnel drawn from existing units of the Australian Imperial Force. The war ended before the invasion took place and the division was not formally re-raised.

11th Hussars

The 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) was a cavalry regiment of the British Army established in 1715. It saw service for three centuries including the First World War and Second World War but then amalgamated with the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales' Own) to form the Royal Hussars in 1969.

32nd Brigade (Australia)

The 32nd Brigade was a formation of the Australian Army during World War II. A militia formation, the brigade was formed at Broadmeadow, New South Wales, in January 1942, as part of the Newcastle Covering Force and then the 10th Division. After carrying out defensive duties on the coast south of Newcastle at the height of invasion fears, as the threat subsided the brigade was disbanded in September 1942 and its constituent units reallocated to other formations or disbanded.

Arctic naval operations of World War II

The Arctic Circle defining the "midnight sun" encompasses the Atlantic Ocean from the northern edge of Iceland to the Bering Strait. The area is often considered part of the Battle of the Atlantic or the European Theatre of World War II. Pre-war navigation focused on fishing and the international ore trade from Narvik and Petsamo. Soviet settlements along the coast and rivers of the Barents Sea and Kara Sea relied upon summer coastal shipping for supplies from railheads at Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. The Soviet Union extended the Northern Sea Route past the Taymyr Peninsula to the Bering Strait in 1935.The Winter War opened the northern flank of the eastern front of World War II. Arctic naval presence was initially dominated by the Soviet Northern Fleet of a few destroyers with larger numbers of submarines, minesweepers, and torpedo cutters supported by icebreakers. The success of the German invasion of Norway provided the Kriegsmarine with naval bases from which capital ships might challenge units of the Royal Navy Home Fleet. Luftwaffe anti-shipping aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 26 (KG 26) and Kampfgeschwader 30 (KG 30) operated intermittently from Norwegian airfields, while routine reconnaissance was undertaken by Küstenfliegergruppen aircraft including Heinkel He 115s and Blohm & Voss BV 138s. To support the Soviet Union against the German invasion, the Allies initiated a series of PQ and JW convoys bringing military supplies to the Soviet Union in formations of freighters screened by destroyers, corvettes and minesweepers. Escorting cruisers typically maneuvered outside the formation, while a larger covering force including battleships and aircraft carriers often steamed nearby to engage Kriegsmarine capital ships or raid their Norwegian bases.

The Soviet Union and Germany employed smaller coastal convoys to maintain the flow of supplies to the Soviet arctic coast, transport strategic metal ores to Germany, and sustain troops on both sides of the northern flank of the eastern front. Soviet convoys hugged the coast to avoid ice while German convoys used fjords to evade Royal Navy patrols. Both sides devoted continuing efforts to minelaying and minesweeping of these shallow, confined routes vulnerable to mine warfare and submarine ambushes. German convoys were typically screened by minesweepers and submarine chasers while Soviet convoys were often protected by minesweeping trawlers and torpedo cutters. A branch of the Pacific Route began carrying Lend-Lease goods through the Bering Strait to the Soviet Arctic coast in June 1942. The number of westbound cargo ship voyages along this route was 23 in 1942, 32 in 1943, 34 in 1944 and 31 after Germany surrendered in 1945. Total westbound tonnage through the Bering Strait was 452,393 in comparison to 3,964,231 tons of North American wartime goods sent across the Atlantic to Soviet Arctic ports. A large portion of the Arctic route tonnage was fuel for Siberian airfields on the Alaska-Siberia air route.

Battle of Driniumor River

The Battle of Driniumor River, also known as The Battle of Aitape, 10 July – 25 August 1944, was part of the Western New Guinea campaign of World War II. Japanese forces attacked United States forces on the Driniumor River, near Aitape in New Guinea. The battle should not be confused with Operation Persecution, which included amphibious landings near Aitape in April 1944, or the Aitape-Wewak campaign, which began in November. The Japanese referred to the Driniumor as the Hanto.

The river is approximately 20 mi (32 km) east of Aitape. The landings at several key points around Hollandia on 22 April had cut off the Japanese 18th Army, which was retreating westwards toward the Japanese Second Area Army in Dutch New Guinea. When U.S. troops landed and seized Aitape on 22 April, a covering force comprising the 32nd Infantry Division and 112th Cavalry Regiment was sent approximately 20 mi east to guard Aitape's eastern flank on the line of Driniumor River. The 18th Army—which had not been reinforced after severe losses in the Lae, Huon Peninsula and Finisterre Range campaigns—was commanded by Lieutenant-General Hatazō Adachi. Its main fighting units were the 20th and the 41st Divisions.

Ultra intelligence derived from codebreaking as well as other sources indicated that the Japanese 18th Army was approaching the Driniumor with 20,000 troops with the intention of breaking through and retaking Aitape. Unfortunately, the Allied intelligence picture was confusing and contradictory, with the result that the initial Japanese assault caught the defenders by surprise.

On the night of 10/11 July, an assault force of perhaps 10,000 Japanese attacked en masse across the Driniumor. Despite suffering appalling casualties from machine guns and artillery, the Japanese pressed on and forced a major breach in the American line. Ed Wanat a veteran of this battle stated that the Japanese bodies had piled up in front of their machine gun so high that they could not fire over them. They had to leave their fox holes and pull bodies out of the line of fire so that they had a clear line of fire upon the enemy. This occurred during the numerous Japanese attacks. After a harrowing fighting withdrawal through the jungle that night, the defenders managed to regroup where possible and by the 13th were counterattacking to try to seal the breach. Valuable fire support was provided by Australian and U.S. fighter bombers and by Task Force 74 (TF 74), comprising two Australian cruisers and two U.S. destroyers.

The remainder of July saw heavy fighting west of the river as platoon and company size units clashed in the jungle. Heavy pressure was maintained upon some pockets of American troops still clinging to their positions at the river as they became encircled by Japanese troops, determined on wiping them out.

By the beginning of August, however, the Japanese drive was spent and they were flung back over the Driniumor. By 4 August, Adachi ordered a complete withdrawal, although fighting lasted until around 10 August as U.S. troops continued their annihilation of the Japanese force. The remnants retreated further east to Wewak and the battle was officially declared over on 25 August.

Four U.S. soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor (all posthumously), for acts of outstanding valor during the battle; Private Donald R. Lobaugh and Staff Sergeant Gerald L. Endl of 32nd Division, and Second Lieutenants George W. G. Boyce, Jr. and Dale Eldon Christensen of 112th Cavalry Regiment.

All told the Americans suffered almost 3,000 casualties including 440 killed while the Japanese lost 8,000–10,000 men. The four-week Battle of Driniumor River was one of the costliest of the campaigns in Papua and New Guinea, second only to the bloody head-on Allied assaults of the Japanese strongholds at Gona, Buna and Sanananda from November 1942 - January 1943.

Battle of Lodi

The Battle of Lodi was fought on 10 May 1796 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and an Austrian rear guard led by Karl Philipp Sebottendorf at Lodi, Lombardy. The rear guard was defeated, but the main body of Johann Peter Beaulieu's Austrian Army had time to retreat.

Battle of Modena (1799)

The Battle of Modena (12 June 1799) saw a Republican French army commanded by Jacques MacDonald attack a Habsburg Austrian covering force led by Prince Friedrich Franz Xaver of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. The outnumbered Austrians were defeated but in an accidental encounter, MacDonald was painfully wounded by two saber cuts. The action occurred during the War of the Second Coalition, part of a larger conflict known as the French Revolutionary Wars. Modena is a city in northern Italy about 40 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Bologna.

In the battles of Magnano and Cassano, the Austrians and allied Russian Empire forces swept the French from much of northern Italy in April 1799. MacDonald collected the French occupying forces in south and central Italy into an army and marched north to retrieve the situation. Bursting out of the Apennine Mountains, the French mauled Hohenzollern's division at Modena. MacDonald swung west to fight the Coalition forces. The next action would be the Battle of Trebbia from 17 to 19 June.

Battle of Neerwinden (1793)

The Battle of Neerwinden (18 March 1793) saw a Republican French army led by Charles François Dumouriez attack a Coalition army commanded by Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The Coalition army's Habsburg Austrians together with a small contingent of allied Dutch Republic troops repulsed all French assaults after bitter fighting and Dumouriez conceded defeat, withdrawing from the field. The French position in the Austrian Netherlands swiftly collapsed, ending the threat to the Dutch Republic and allowing Austria to regain control of her lost province. The War of the First Coalition engagement was fought at Neerwinden, located 57 kilometres (35 mi) east of Brussels in present-day Belgium.

After Dumouriez's victory at Jemappes in November 1792, the French armies rapidly overran most of the Austrian Netherlands. Rather than driving the Austrians to the west bank of the Rhine River, Dumouriez and the French government became preoccupied with a war with the Dutch Republic. During the breathing space offered by her enemy, Austria assembled an army under the Prince of Coburg and struck back. After a French covering force was routed by Coburg at Aldenhoven, Dumouriez began gathering his army for a counterstroke.

Coburg took up a defensive position at Neerwinden and awaited the confident Dumouriez's attack. The Coalition army was outnumbered in infantry but possessed a two-to-one superiority in cavalry. After intense fighting, Coburg's troops repulsed the attacks of the French center and right wing. When Dumouriez found that his left wing was driven off the battlefield, he began retreating. The defeat led to mass desertions from the discouraged French volunteers. In the face of the military collapse, Dumouriez negotiated a free withdrawal of French troops in return for the surrender of Belgium and Dutch territory. Soon, Dumouriez was plotting against his own government and when his plans failed, he defected to the Austrians, leaving the French army in chaos.

Battle of Tachiao

Battle of Tachiao (March 18–19, 1942), was the first clash in the Battle of Yunnan-Burma Road in the Burma Campaign of World War II and Second Sino-Japanese War.

Advanced elements of the 200th Division arrived at Toungoo on March 8, 1942 and took over defensive positions from the British forces. The city of Toungoo itself would be the main defensive position of the Chinese forces, with an outpost a few kilometers to the south at Oktwin. Major-General Dai Anlan the divisional commander, sent the Motorized Cavalry Regiment and 1st Company, 598th Infantry Regiment to the banks of the Kan River 35 miles south of Toungoo and 12 miles south of the town of Pyu. The cavalry regiment plus a company of infantry pushed up to Kan River, with a platoon of cyclists taking up positions at the bridge over the river.

At first light on March 18, about 200 Japanese reconnaissance troops from the 143rd Regiment of the 55th Division advanced right up to the bridge on motorbikes. Reaching the outposts they were ambushed by the Chinese troops hiding along the sides of the road. Chinese armoured cars joined the attack and after three hours of fighting the Japanese fell back, leaving some 30 dead behind together with some twenty rifles, two light machine guns and some 19 motorbikes. After night fell, the Japanese continued their attacks with small units, and the Chinese covering force fell back toward their line at Oktwin. Following up the next day, Pyu fell to the Japanese on the 19th.

Battle of Wattignies

The Battle of Wattignies (15–16 October 1793) saw a Republican French army commanded by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan attack a Coalition army directed by Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. After two days of combat Jourdan's troops compelled the Habsburg Austrian covering force led by François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt to withdraw. The War of the First Coalition victory allowed the French to raise the Siege of Maubeuge. At a time when failed generals were often executed or imprisoned, Jourdan had to endure interference from Lazare Carnot from the Committee of Public Safety. The village, renamed Wattignies-la-Victoire in honor of the important success, is located 9 kilometres (6 mi) southeast of Maubeuge.

Coburg's main army encircled 25,000 French soldiers in Maubeuge while about 22,000 Austrians under Clerfayt were formed in a semi-circle, covering the southern approaches to the fortress. On the first day, 45,000 French soldiers mounted a clumsy attack which was easily repulsed, except near the village of Wattignies. On the second day, Jourdan concentrated half his army at Wattignies and after a tough fight, forced Coburg to concede defeat. Though the Coalition army was better trained than the French, its units were spread out too thinly and the different nationalities failed to cooperate. Soon the Coalition army went into winter quarters, finishing a campaign that started with great promise and ended in disappointment. Carnot rewrote history so that he and the political representatives got most of the credit for the triumph; Jourdan was dismissed in January 1794.

Battle of the Duisburg Convoy

The Battle of the Duisburg Convoy, also known in Italy as Battle of the Beta Convoy, was fought on the night of 8/9 November 1941 between an Italian convoy, carrying supplies for the Italian Army and civilian authorities and the Afrika Corps in Libya, and a British Naval squadron, which intercepted the convoy. The convoy was named "Beta" by the Italian naval authorities, but is now often referred to as "Duisburg Convoy" after the German steamer Duisburg, the largest ship in the convoy.

The Royal Navy's Force K annihilated the convoy, sinking all the merchant ships and the destroyer Fulmine with no loss and almost no damage. The next day, the Maestrale class destroyer Libeccio was sunk, while picking up survivors, by British submarine HMS Upholder.

Convoy PQ 16

Convoy PQ 16 was an Arctic convoy sent from Great Britain by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It sailed on 25 May 1942, reaching the Soviet northern ports on 30 May after five days of air attacks that left seven ships sunk and three damaged; 25 of the ships arrived safely.

Convoy PQ 17

PQ 17 was the code name for an Allied convoy in the Arctic Ocean during the Second World War. In July 1942, the Arctic convoys suffered severe losses when Convoy PQ 17 lost 24 of its 35 merchant ships during a series of heavy enemy daylight attacks which lasted a week. The German success was possible through German signals intelligence (SIGINT) and cryptological analysis.On 27 June, the ships sailed eastbound from Hvalfjord, Iceland for the port of Arkhangelsk, Soviet Union. The convoy was located by German forces on 1 July, after which it was shadowed continuously and attacked. The convoy's progress was being observed by the British Admiralty. First Sea Lord Admiral Dudley Pound, acting on information that German surface units, including the German battleship Tirpitz, were moving to intercept, ordered the covering force away from the convoy and told the convoy to scatter. However, due to vacillation by the German high command, the Tirpitz raid never materialised. The convoy was the first large joint Anglo-American naval operation under British command; in Churchill's view this encouraged a more careful approach to fleet movements.As the close escort and the covering cruiser forces withdrew westward to intercept the presumed German raiders, the individual merchant ships were left without their escorting destroyers. In their ensuing attempts to reach the appointed Russian ports, the merchant ships were repeatedly attacked by Luftwaffe aeroplanes and U-boats. Of the initial 35 ships, only 11 reached their destination, delivering 70,000 short tons (64,000 metric tons) of cargo. The disastrous outcome of the convoy demonstrated the difficulty of passing adequate supplies through the Arctic, especially during the summer period of perpetual daylight.

Convoy QP 13

Convoy QP 13 was the thirteenth of the numbered series of World War II convoys of merchant ships westbound from the Arctic ports of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk to the United Kingdom, Iceland, and North America. Most of the ships were returning empty after delivering war material to the Soviet Union, but some Soviet ships carried cargoes of export timber. The convoy sailed simultaneously with eastbound convoy PQ 17 so both convoys might benefit from the heavy covering force of the British aircraft carrier Victorious, battleship Duke of York, cruisers Cumberland and Nigeria, and destroyers Ashanti, Douglas, Faulknor, Marne, Martin, Onslaught and Onslow with the American battleship USS Washington and destroyers Mayrant and Rhind. The covering force was commanded by Admiral John Tovey aboard the flagship Duke of York. Convoy QP 13 consisted of 35 merchant ships escorted by the anti-aircraft ship Alynbank with destroyers Achates, Garland, Inglefield, Intrepid and Volunteer, minesweepers Hussar and Niger, and corvettes Honeysuckle, Hyderabad, Roselys and Starwort.

First Battle of Sirte

The First Battle of Sirte was fought between the British Royal Navy and the Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy) during the Mediterranean campaign of the Second World War. The engagement, largely uneventful, took place on 17 December 1941, south-east of Malta, in the Gulf of Sirte.

In the following days, two Royal Navy forces based at Malta ran into an Italian minefield off Tripoli and two British battleships were disabled by Italian manned torpedoes at Alexandria. By the end of December, the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean had shifted in favour of the Italian Fleet.

Landing at Cape Helles

The landing at Cape Helles (Turkish: Seddülbahir Çıkarması) was part of the amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula by British and French forces on 25 April 1915 during the First World War. Helles, at the foot of the peninsula, was the main landing area. With the support of the guns of the Royal Navy, the 29th Division was to advance six miles (9.7 km) along the peninsula on the first day and seize the heights of Achi Baba. The British were then to go on to capture the forts that guarded the straits of the Dardanelles. A feigned landing at Bulair by the Royal Naval Division and a real landing at Anzac Cove were made to the north at Gaba Tepe, by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps before dawn and a diversionary landing was made by French forces at Kum Kale on the Asiatic shore of the Straits. After dark another demonstration was made by the French in Besika Bay.

The Helles landing was mismanaged by the British commander, Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. V and W beaches became bloodbaths, despite the meagre defences, while the landings at other sites were not exploited. Although the British managed to gain a foothold ashore, their plans were in disarray. For two months the British fought several costly battles to reach the first day objectives but were defeated by the Ottoman army.

Naval Battle of Casablanca

The Naval Battle of Casablanca was a series of naval engagements fought between American ships covering the invasion of North Africa and Vichy French ships defending the neutrality of French Morocco in accordance with the Second Armistice at Compiègne during World War II. The last stages of the battle consisted of operations by German U-boats which had reached the area the same day the French troops surrendered.Allied military planners anticipated an all-American force assigned to seize the Atlantic port city of Casablanca might be greeted as liberators. An invasion task force of 102 American ships carrying 35,000 American soldiers approached the Moroccan coast undetected under cover of darkness. French defenders interpreted the first contacts as a diversionary raid for a major landing in Algeria; and Germany regarded the surrender of six Moroccan divisions to a small commando raiding force as a clear violation of French obligations to defend Moroccan neutrality under the Armistice of 22 June 1940 at Compiègne. An escalating series of surprised responses in an atmosphere of mistrust and secrecy caused the loss of four U.S. troopships and the deaths of 462 men aboard 24 French ships opposing the invasion.

Newcastle Covering Force

The Newcastle Covering Force was an Australian militia force responsible for protecting strategically important Newcastle region and its approaches during World War II. Established on 8 April 1941, the formation's composition changed over the course of its existence, starting from a single infantry battalion support by a machine-gun unit and swelling to roughly brigade-size, with a brigade headquarters and three battalions – two infantry and one garrison – supported initially by a machine gun battalion that was later converted to a motor regiment. The unit was responsible for defending the important port and air bases in and around the town, part of Fortress Newcastle, against a feared Japanese invasion. Newcastle Covering Force was converted on 15 April 1942 to the 10th Division, a regular Australian Army unit, following a complete re-organisation of the higher command structures of the Australian Army.

Siege of Lille (1708)

The Siege of Lille (12 August – 10 December 1708) was the salient operation of the 1708 campaign season during the War of the Spanish Succession. After an obstinate defence of 120 days, the French garrison surrendered the city and citadel of Lille, commanded by Marshal Boufflers, to the forces of the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene.

The siege was famous among contemporaries for l'affaire des poudres ("the gunpowder incident"), where the Chevalier de Luxembourg with 2,000 horsemen passed through the Allied lines and succeeded in delivering 40,000 pounds of desperately needed gunpowder to the defenders.The siege was made possible by the defeat of the French army at the Battle of Oudenarde and the landing in Ostend of large amounts of ammunition and food after the Battle of Wijnendale. For most of the campaign, Eugene commanded the forces besieging Lille, while Marlborough commanded the forces covering those forces against external French interference. For a short period in late September however, after Eugene was injured on the 21st, Marlborough took command of both the besiegers and the covering force.

On 22 October the Allies entered the city at the staggering cost of 12,000 casualties; Boufflers continued to resist from Lille's citadel for several weeks, exacting an additional 4,000 allied casualties. While the allies' deft manoeuvring frustrated French attempts to relieve their precious fortress—the last substantial French bastion in northern Flanders—Boufflers' valiant defence likewise prolonged the siege well into winter, to the point where no operations could be undertaken against France that year. The French defenders of Lille withdrew with full honours of war.

With the loss of Lille, the French presence in northern Flanders crumbled; the Allies moved against Ghent, taking the city in late December. However, an invasion of France the following summer along the corridor opened by the fall of Lille would run into a bloody standstill at the Battle of Malplaquet.

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