Coastal Command strike again

Air Vice-Marshal Geoffrey Bromet, AOC No 19 Group, and his SASO (Senior Air Staff Officer), Group Captain H Brackley, review U-boat positions in the new underground Area Combined Operations HQ at Mount Wise, Plymouth, August 1942. Prints taken during successful attacks on U-boats are pinned to the wall above.

Two WAAF cooks at St Eval share the task of preparing rations for No 502 Squadron Whitley crews. Thermos flasks were squadron property, and those in the photo are all marked accordingly – No 502′s stand ready on the left, and those belonging to No 58 Squadron, also based at St Eval at this time, can be seen lining the shelf on the right. Note too the box of oranges, an imported luxury, often unavailable.

The second pilot of a No 502 Squadron Whitley VII gives his skipper a helpful push as they climb aboard their aircraft, at the start of an anti-submarine patrol, August 1942. The camera just visable poking out of the hole in the fuselage was used to record the effectiveness of U-boat attacks – a standard F24 camera was mounted vertically and fitted with a mirror to give it a rear-facing view.

On board a Whitley VII of No 502 Squadron during an anti-submarine patrol, August 1942. In the cramped cockpit the skipper consults with his navigator while the second pilot flies the aircraft.

These publicity shots were taken during August 1942 when Coastal Command sunk no U-Boats. The long patrols, lasting around 12 hours, were way out into the Atlantic and across the Bay of Biscay.

Fortunes changed in September 1942 when improved intelligence and ever improving radar brought them three successful U-boat kills. The first was on 3rd September.

Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942.

The second in the sequence, as the Whitley flies away the depth charges continue to explode. They were only sure of a kill if they got within 20 feet of the U-boat.

The third shot in the sequence shows the U-boat right where the splash subsides. It had been an accurate attack, the aiming point had been 50ft in front of the conning tower.

The Whitley came round again for a possible second attack but there was no need. The photograph confirmed that the U-boat was sinking, leaving a patch of oil and air bubbles.

The U-705 was caught entering the Bay of Biscay as she returned from her first war patrol which commenced on the 1st August. She had sunk one ship, the Ballardier, on the 15th August. The Ballardier was armed and had fired on U-705 when she spotted her at midnight on the 14th. Nearly four hours later U-705 torpedoed her, killing 13 men.

All 45 of the crew of U-705, commanded by Karl-Horst Horn, died in this attack.

The American steam merchant Ballardier, sunk by U-705 on 15th August.
Photo courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News VA / U Boat Net

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