Condor aircraft join the Battle of the Atlantic

The Focke Wulf 200 became operational in August 1940 and immediately posed a new threat to shipping in the Atlantic.

The FW 200 Condor began patrols from Bordeaux-Merignac airfield in western France in August 1940. Flying in wide sweeps out over the Bay of Biscay and into the Atlantic west of Ireland it would continue round the north of Britain and land in Norway, a route that encompassed most of the possible convoy routes. It proved highly effective not only because of its bomb load, but also in its capacity as a reconnaissance aircraft capable of calling in U-Boat attacks.

Often described as ‘the scourge of the Atlantic’, attributed to Churchill, in fact he said:

To the U-boat scourge was now added added air attack far out in the oceans by long range aircraft. Of these, the Focke Wulf 200, known as the Condor, was the most formidable.

The title now so widely used ‘The Battle of the Atlantic’ did not come into use until the 6th March 1941, when Churchill issued his Directive on giving the U-Boat menace high priority.

See Sir Winston Churchill: The Second World War

The Royal Navy remains on full alert

Two destroyers silhouetted against the skyline.
Two destroyers silhouetted against the skyline.
At sea in a destroyer. 1940, on board the British Destroyer HMS Javelin. Look-out men on the bridge of the destroyer. They scan the sky for an hour at a time, when they are relieved. More than an hour is bad for the eyes.
At sea in a destroyer, 1940, on board the British Destroyer HMS Javelin. Look-out men on the bridge of the destroyer. They scan the sky for an hour at a time, when they are relieved. More than an hour is bad for the eyes.

In Britain, while the focus was very much on the RAF, the first line of defence against invasion was the Royal Navy. As Churchill had identified, the greater part of this work fell to the destroyers. As much as possible they kept out of the direct line of air attack during daylight hours in the Channel – but it was their presence as a screen which would have alerted Britain had any invasion come.

On board one anonymous destroyer was 20 year old Ludovic Kennedy, who would publish his first account of life on board in 1942. Here he describes one incident during August 1940:

Guns, whom I was relieving, had just explained to me the intricacies of the zig-zag. I wasn’t sure if I had the hang of it and was working out the times and alterations on the back of a signal-pad when the Captain, who was on the other side of the bridge, suddenly asked,“ Made a hash of the zig-zag ? ”

I thought for a moment he was referring to my figures, but looking up saw that B-—-, which was on our port beam, had turned the opposite way to us. However M——, which was to starboard, was steering our course.

I looked quickly at the zig-zag book. “ No, sir,” I said, “ I think it’s B—— who’s made a hash of it this time.” “ Oh, well,” said the Captain, “ keep a good eye on her. She’ll probably come round in a minute or two.”

Minutes passed, but B-—- stuck to her course. The Captain turned to the yeoman. “ Make to B-— ‘ Keep in proper station ’,” he ordered. The yeoman took up his. Aldis and was about to pass the signal when B—-— started calling us up. The yeoman answered with a succession of T’s. “ From B——-, sir. ‘ Attention is called to bearing 050 degrees ’.”

We searched the horizon on either side of the bearing with our binoculars, but could see nothing. “ Make ‘What can you see?’ ” ordered the Captain. The reply came, “ Object temporarily lost in mist, but am steering towards it.” ‘

“ We’d better investigate this,” said the Captain. “ Hoist ‘Turn together seventy degrees to port. Speed twenty-five knots’.”

The yeoman translated the orders down the voicepipe to the flagdeck, and the flags were run up on the halyards. B—- and M-— hoisted the main answer close up. “ All answered, sir,” reported the yeoman. “ Haul down,” said the Captain. “ Port twenty. Two four two revolutions.”

B—- began flashing to us again as we made the turn. I read, “ Object in sight now bearing 020 degrees. Am proceeding to investigate.”

“ I’ve got it,” cried Spider, and we followed the line of his glasses. Seven or eight thousand yards away a speck was just visible on the surface of the water. We all began thinking the same thing: could it be a U-Boat charging her batteries on the surface? The Captain was taking no chances, for he ordered B Gun to load and the depth charges to be set.

The yeoman began flashing again. “ From B——, sir. ‘Object is ship’s life-boat containing about a dozen people’” “Right! Set depth charges to safe. Speed fifteen knots.”

Soon we could spot the lifeboat for ourselves. B—, now nearly a mile ahead of us, went cautiously alongside, and through my glasses I could see figures scrambling up the netting to her upper deck. The lifeboat was cast adrift. Then we reformed in line abreast and set course for our area of patrol.

A little later the yeoman wrote out a long signal from B—-. “ Survivors ” it ran “ are from Portuguese ship, torpedoed without warning five nights ago when sailing independently. Three survivors are suffering from gangrene and seriously ill. Master reports second boat last seen drifting north-west two days ago.”

Although darkness was falling, the Captain decided to carry out a sweep to the northward in the hope of finding the second lifeboat; ships were spread five miles apart and speed increased to twenty-seven knots. A man was placed in the crow’s-nest, and the look-outs were instructed to sweep the horizon with their glasses.

We continued the search until night had fallen but saw nothing, and at midnight turned to carry out our original objective, the A/S patrol. Again we were unlucky, and the next afternoon set course for home.

Arrived in harbour a day later, B-——’s Number One came over for a gin while we were alongside the oiler. He told us that the survivors had just gone ashore in a drifter; their gratitude had been almost embarrassing.’

Most of them were still pretty ill ; they had run out of water two days before they were picked up. One poor fellow had got gangrene badly, and the Doc thought that he would probably lose both legs and both hands…

Our feelings were best expressed by the Captain. At dinner that night he said, “ The day we do run into a U-Boat, there won’t be any question whether it’s been sunk or not.” But he didn’t put it quite like that…

See Ludovic Kennedy: Sub-Lieutenant

The destroyers HMS KELVIN (photo taken from on board); HMS JUPITER; and HMS JAVELIN with a convoy.
The destroyers HMS KELVIN (photo taken from on board); HMS JUPITER; and HMS JAVELIN with a convoy.
Photographs from the crows nest of HMS KELVIN showing bow waves and stern wakes, and destroyers of the flotilla behind.
Photographs from the crows nest of HMS KELVIN showing bow waves and stern wakes, and destroyers of the flotilla behind.
Scenes on board a destroyer. 1940, on board the British Destroyer HMS Javelin.Officer on the bridge taking a bearing.
Scenes on board a destroyer. 1940, on board the British Destroyer HMS Javelin.Officer on the bridge taking a bearing.
In the engine room. The Control platform. The big wheels are "astern" and "ahead" manoeuvring valves. On the platform stands the Engine Room Artificer regulating the speed of the engines.
In the engine room. The Control platform. The big wheels are “astern” and “ahead” manoeuvring valves. On the platform stands the Engine Room Artificer regulating the speed of the engines.
Officers listening to the news in the Wardroom of the destroyer.
Officers listening to the news in the Wardroom of the destroyer.
The destroyer HMS JUPITER with her guns trained and ready for action.
The destroyer HMS JUPITER with her guns trained and ready for action.

HM Ships Glorious, Acasta and Ardent sunk

world war 2 aircraft carrier at sea - hms glorious
HMS Glorious, seen pre war, a carrier converted from a cruiser

The aircraft carrier HMS Glorious was returning to Scapa Flow from Norway separately from the other ships in the British Force, accompanied by only her destroyer escorts HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent. It was a fine clear day with light wind but HMS Glorious apparently did not have a lookout posted, did not have an aircraft on patrol – which would have given her all round visibility of approximately 40 miles, and did not have any of her aircraft on deck ready for immediate launch.

She was therefore surprised when spotted by the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst at about 1600. Although Acasta and Ardent attempted to lay a smoke screen and engaged the German ships, Glorious was first hit at 1638. The third salvo from the Scharnhorst reached Glorious from 24,175 meters (26,450 yards), possibly the longest gunfire hit on any enemy warship ever achieved. It hit her hangars and made it impossible to launch the aircraft that were on the point of readiness.

HMS Acasta at sea.
HMS Acasta at sea.

After the war Admiral Schubert, who had been First Officer on the Scharnhorst at the time of the battle, was interviewed by the Royal Navy and provided an account of the great fight put up by the two escorting destroyers, HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent:

The escorting destroyer [HMS Ardent] on the port side of the battleships continued her torpedo attacks and tried, extremely skilfully, to avoid the effective defensive fire of the battleships’ medium armament by means of constant alterations of course. Finally this destroyer also opened fire on the battleships. She fought with outstanding resolution in a situation that was hopeless for her. The destroyer received numerous hits and finally went down, her bow armament firing to the last and her engines apparently in order and driving her at high speed. The final range was about 5 miles.

After the battleships had penetrated the smoke screen, the “Glorious” was sighted again at a great range. The main armament opened frontal fire and the carrier very quickly received further hits. The range rapidly decreased, but still remained relatively great. The carrier developed a list to port, and burned until she finally capsized. Only a few aircraft were left on deck.

The destroyer with the carrier [HMS Acasta] turned to the attack on the battleships, who took avoiding action. At this stage of the fight, at about the time of the capsizing of the carrier, The ‘Scharnhorst’ received a torpedo hit on the starboard side level with the after main turret. As was ascertained later, the hole torn in the ships side was of considerable dimensions. The hit immediately affected the main turret magazines, the turret starting to burn. The starboard engine went out of action; the starboard propeller-shaft together with the bearings was torn away from the hull. A great deal of water entered the ship; her position became difficult the more so as the midships engine-room was gradually filling with water.

The ship however continued the fight with the now very severely damaged destroyer. The latter fought on in a hopeless situation with her far inferior armament against the battleships. She achieved, so far as I can remember, one light hit against the centre barrel of No.2 main turret.

The carrier had in the meantime capsized, and the place where she went down lay far astern of the ship. When the destroyer ceased firing on her armament being put out of action, the battleships did so too. The heavily damaged condition of the “Scharnhorst” made it imperative to see to the return of the damaged ship to the nearest Norwegian harbour, and to put the measures necessary for this in hand immediately.

TNA ADM 205/49

The actions of the two destroyers who both went down fighting against vastly superior battleships were no less valiant than that of the destroyer HMS Glowworm, which had taken on the Admiral Hipper on April 9th. There was even a measure of success here, since the Scharnhorst had been torpedoed. But there were no medals for this action, which was a disaster that the Royal Navy would have no wish to advertise, either now or after the war.

HMS Ardent at a buoy on completion. Pennant No H41
HMS Ardent at a buoy on completion. Pennant No H41

At the end of the action Gneisenau and Scharnhorst made off without stopping to look for survivors. At the time the Germans were uncertain whether the Scharnhorst had been torpedoed by a submarine that might remain in the area.

To compound the disaster HMS Glorious had been using the wrong radio channel. Her radio broadcast announcing the engagement was only indistinctly picked up by HMS Devonshire but she was in a state of radio silence as she was carrying the Norwegian Royal family to safety, and the message was never re-broadcast. For unknown reasons neither Acasta nor Ardent made radio signals about the engagement. There were at least 900 men in the water or on floats from the three abandoned ships, including some of the pilots from 46 Squadron who had flown the Hurricanes on board the previous day. But the Royal Navy was unaware of the battle and no immediate rescue plan was put into action.

It was nearly three days later when the first of only 45 survivors were pulled from the sea by a Norwegian boats. Among them was Squadron Leader Cross of 46 Squadron (see [permalink id=6351 text=’7th June’]). In total 1,515 men died. The Glorious, Ardent and Acasta Association has many more details and casualty lists.

Detailed analysis is at scharnhorst-class and warship.org

The grim state of a ship returned from Dunkirk

French infantry near Dunkirk, 1940.
French infantry near Dunkirk, 1940.
French troops evacuated from Dunkirk arrive in the UK.
French troops evacuated from Dunkirk arrive in the UK.

The British necessarily portrayed “the miracle of Dunkirk” in the best possible light. The casualties were reduced to the statistics of ship losses and equipment lost. It was not time to dwell on the human loss. Thousands of men, French and British, had died holding the perimeter line and conducting the rescue by ship.

Amongst the French forces still holding out against the German onslaught on the 3rd June were the 32nd Division. At 4am on the 3rd two of their battalions were ordered into what their commander considered to be a “suicidal” counter-attack. Before the attack French Officer Arnaud De La Portaliere, a former monk, wrote this letter to his mother:

My dear Mother,

Tomorrow is the big day. We must receive the ‘Fritz’. I am with my section in a dangerous place that I have demanded. Everything is going well.

I am currently in a Belgian farm not far from the Germans. It is 10 p.m. It is not very nice. If tomorrow I manage to survive, and I doubt I will, I will write to you. If not, I would like to tell you that I am happy to die for France, and I willingly give my life for you all.

I will not send this letter, but I will keep it in my wallet. The ideals I have always espoused are sustaining me, and I hope that the little I have sacrificed in this life will not be forgotten in the other.

I am sending you 100,000 kisses.

Arnaud

De La Portaliere was killed by a grenade splinter to the head. The letter was found by a colleague in his wallet, along with instructions to give a 100 Francs to each man in his section.

This letter is reproduced in Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man.

The destroyer HMS Ivanhoe had been amongst the last ships to leave Dunkirk when, packed with troops she was bombed and machine gunned. Twenty-one of her crew were killed, along with many soldiers. Only one boiler room survived, giving her just enough power to return to the Naval dockyard at Sheerness. Silvester MacDonald was a Royal Navy medical assistant sent on board the next day:

The Ivanhoe just about made the crossing without sinking and was immediately placed in a dry dock so that she would not sink overnight. The soldiers and ship’s crew who had survived were disembarked and the wounded were removed and taken to hospital. Such were the conditions when our little party arrived at dockside. It was a beautiful summer morning, but there was an unnatural quietness hanging all around. Even the view from dockside brought a hushed feeling to all who looked.

It was a macabre scene that the devil himself could not have imagined to see bodies hanging over the bridge rails, lying around gun turrets, sprawled on the decks both fore and aft and the bodies in navy blue and in khaki that were entangled in death in a grotesque heap on the after deck.

It took little imagination to hear the ghostly echoes of far off bugles calling for their spirits to assemble again and be counted. We just went back to the barracks and did not even discuss it before we tried to sleep. I believe that it was a very rude awakening for me. The fun and games were definitely finished.

See War’s Long Shadow: 69 Months of the Second World War

Nearly 300,000 troops had been returned from Dunkirk by the 2nd May. This is one of the officially released photographs and as such does not reflect the state in which many of the men returned.
HMS ivanhoe
HMS ivanhoe

Dunkirk evacuation underway – HMS Grafton sunk

The Royal Navy destroyer HMS VANQUISHER alongside a sunken trawler at Dunkirk, 1940.
The Royal Navy destroyer HMS VANQUISHER alongside a sunken trawler at Dunkirk, 1940.
Troops under fire on the beaches of Dunkirk, as seen from a ship offshore.
Troops under fire on the beaches of Dunkirk, as seen from a ship offshore.
Men of the 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles awaiting evacuation at Bray Dunes, near Dunkirk, 1940.
Men of the 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles awaiting evacuation at Bray Dunes, near Dunkirk, 1940.

The evacuation was now getting under way from Dunkirk. Troops had to endure long waits on the beaches before being embarked. Yet the hazards of being bombed or machined gunned continued even after they found their way onto a ship. Three destroyers loaded with troops were sunk off Dunkirk on the 29th May. There was only one survivor from over 600 troops who were below decks on board HMS Wakeful when she was hit by a torpedo, and only 25 of her crew survived. HMS Grafton went to pick up survivors when she too was torpedoed. Basil Bartlett was one of the Army officers on board HMS Grafton:

There was a terrific explosion as the torpedo hit the destroyer. I suppose the force of it must have knocked me unconscious. First thing I knew I was stumbling around in the dark trying to find the door of the cabin. The whole ship was trembling violently, the furniture appeared to be dancing about. There was a strong smell of petrol. I heard someone scuffling in a corner and just had the good sense to shout: ‘For God’s sake don’t light a match.’ With the greatest of difficulty I found the door and managed to get it open it.

I pushed my way out on deck. Someone said: ‘Keep down. They’re machine-gunning us.’ I huddled against a steel door and watched the fight. Two dark shapes in the middle distance turned out to be German M.T.B.’s. The destroyer and another British warship were giving them hell with shells and tracer-bullets. The M.T.B.’s were answering with machine-gun fire. But one by one they were hit. We saw them leap into the air and then settle down’ into the water and sink. Everyone sighed with relief….

The deck was a mass of twisted steel and mangled bodies. The Captain had been machine-gunned and killed on the bridge. The destroyer had stopped two torpedoes. She’d been hit while hanging about to pick up survivors from another ship, which had been sunk a few minutes before. She was a very gruesome sight….

Wounded men began to be brought up from the bowels of the ship. I learned that one of the torpedoes had gone right through the wardroom, killing all thirty-five of our officers who were sleeping there. It’s pure chance that I’m alive. If I’d gone on board a little earlier I should have been put in the wardroom. I only slept in the Captain’s cabin because there was no room for me anywhere else…

There remained only one job to be done. We had to transfer our cargo. The men showed wonderful discipline. There was no ugly rush. They allowed themselves to be divided into groups and transferred from one ship to another with the same patience that they had shown on Bray-Dunes beach. It must have been a great temptation to get out of turn and take a flying leap for safety. But no one did …

See Basil Bartlett – My First War: An Army Officer’S Journal For May 1940 Through Belgium To Dunkirk.

HMS Wakeful sunk by torpedo off Dunkirk with over 600 troops on board on 29th May 1940. Only one man and 25 crew survived.
29th May 1940: The approaches to Dunkirk. A salvo of bombs dropped by 107 Squadron can be seen falling towards a German transport column. The vehicles can just be discerned on the road running down the middle of the image

Over 400 dead as HMS Charybdis is ambushed

HMS Charybidis, torpedoed by German E boats and sunk in the English Channel on the 23rd October 1943
HMS Charybdis, torpedoed by German destroyers and sunk in the English Channel on the 23rd October 1943

Operation Tunnel was mounted when the Royal Navy gained intelligence that the Germans would be moving a convoy along the Brittany coast on the night of the 22nd/23rd October 1943. The cruiser HMS Charybdis and her accompanying six destroyers should have been a strong force to reckon with.

Instead it seems that the German shore based radar gave them advance warning of the movements of the British ships, which they were able to communicate to the convoy escort, only 5 miles off the French coast. Although the Charybdis picked up the approach of enemy ships on her radar, it was too late to anticipate a joint torpedo attack by a group of German destroyers.

The Charybdis was hit almost immediately by a torpedo, and the destroyer HMS Limbourne soon afterwards, both ships were soon sinking. The German ships withdrew, undetected.

On board HMS Charybdis was David Royle, stationed in the Transmitting Station. He was aware only that the enemy ships had been detected and that they were intending to close with them before attacking:

Suddenly there was a terrific explosion. I left my seat, hit the deckhead and fell back across the table. I did not need to be told we had been torpedoed. All the lights had failed, my earphones were silent and had slipped round my neck. Water was rushing in somewhere and I heard the Bandmaster calling for the emergency lighting. This too had failed.

The ship was now listing over to port, so that in the inky blackness one could not tell if one was standing on the deck or on a dividing bulkhead. I had hung my lifebelt up, on entering the T.S.. – contrary to ships “Standing Orders”, and stumbling about nearly had my head yanked off. My earphones were still plugged in, and the strap round my head brought me up with a jerk.

Piesse gave the order to leave the T.S., but it seemed an eternity before the watertight door was located and forced open. Fortunately it had not jammed, but there was an immediate inrush of water. We moved by instinct, groping for the steel ladder to the next deck. There was no sound of gunfire above, and I don’t believe I could feel the throb of engines.

The next few minutes were very hazy but, by the list now of the ship, it meant getting on to the upperdeck quickly was imperative.

The next ladder seemed to be lying flat instead of vertical, no wonder because when I got on the upperdeck the port side was almost awash. The old ship seemed to be sinking fast, from the stern. One didn’t need to jump, I just kicked off my shoes and stepped into the “drink.”

[He stepped into a patch of oil and was immediately covered in it – it was probably this that saved his life, protecting him from the worst effects of the cold. After swimming around for some time and narrowly avoiding a German destroyer travelling at speed, he saw some red lights further away in the water]

Eventually I reached them. It was a Carley float, and hands reached to grab me to them. Inside the Float were two badly wounded men and hanging on the lifelines on the outside were 16 others, two or three I recognised as young Boy Seamen. There was only sufficient room for each person to put one arm through a line, and then with hands clasped hang on.

After a while the body became numb, and the cold more intense. One by one, men and boys were letting go, drifting away. Nobody had the strength to hold them back. Some became unconscious and by the ridiculous design of the Naval lifebelt, the head fell forward and the person drowned.

The oil fuel was now having it’s effect, and my retching no longer cleared the breathing. The clinging grip of it seemed to be everywhere, nose, mouth, eyes and hands. The seas were rising too and the Carley Float was rearing up on the crest of each wave, tumbling down into the trough, to be met by the next white capped sea. It must have cast off some man every time it did this half somersault, because there was more space around the float. By now I was not aware of any feeling in the lower part of my body.

I consider it my responsibility to record here that conditions were the same, with the few other Carley floats that had survivors around them. Indeed one “float” similarly over-manned in it’s early stage was approached by the Captain, and the men urged him to join them. But turning and swimming away, he called “keep going, help will be here soon.”

He lies now with over a hundred officers and men at Dinard, near St. Malo, Brittany. Over eighty men were buried at St. Bruic, Brittany thirty eight at Howard Park, Jersey, nineteen at Le Foulon, Guernsey, and the ship’s Padre with two unidentified, on the island of Isle de Bas. More than five hundred officers and men died that night.

At what time the seas abated I do not know. A heavy swell persisted and there appeared to be the first signs of dawn. The “float” had now just four of us hanging on it’s sidelines, with two motionless bodies lying inside. It brightened still further, and I looked at the man next to me. He was totally unrecognisable, only the white of the eyes showing. I tried to speak but could not, neither it seemed could he.

As the “float” rose on the crest of a large swell I saw to my left a faint sign of land, with my eyes gummed up with oil it could not have been all that far away. Another big land swell, and over to my right I could see a destroyer and not all that far away. Each lift of the “float” gave me another sight of her.

She was stopped now, broadside on. A Hunt Class, one of ours. But had she seen us? she must be in range of enemy shore batteries, and with the coming light in danger of air attack. Being stopped she was a target for any ‘U’ boat. I tried to tell the others she wouldn’t wait – lets swim for it – but I could only speak with one hand. That was it, I must try and reach her before she got underway again. I let go the lifeline and struck out. Two, three strokes and everything went black.

The names of the two Petty Officer’s who dived into those October seas with lifelines attached, and saved the other three men (unfortunately the two inside the “float” had died) are P.O. Johnson and P.O. Guy, of H.M.S. Wensleydale. The time, 0625 hours, exactly 25 minutes after the FINAL order from C-in-C Plymouth to clear the area. Two previous orders to do so had not, fortunately been carried out.

David Royle’s full account, which includes a great deal about the short but very active carer of HMS Charybdis, can be read at Naval History Net.. Gordon Smith runs the comprehensive record that is the widely respected site Naval History Net, dedicated in part to his father George Smith who was amongst the men on HMS Charybdis who did not survive that night. Comprehensive analysis of the action used to be found at the http://www.charybdis-limbourne.co.uk/flash/the_story.htm – the website of the Charybdis-Limbourne Association. It may be possible to access this from the internet archive.

Named after its American inventor, the Carley float was a length of copper or steel tubing 12-20 inches (30-50 cm) in diameter bent into an oval ring, covered in cork and treated canvas. Before proceeding to sea from Portsmouth, ratings wearing overalls make sure that paddles and ropes are secure, ship unknown.
Named after its American inventor, the Carley float was a length of copper or steel tubing 12-20 inches (30-50 cm) in diameter bent into an oval ring, covered in cork and treated canvas. Before proceeding to sea from Portsmouth, ratings wearing overalls make sure that paddles and ropes are secure, ship unknown.

Japanese destroyers prevail at Battle of Vella Lavella

The USS Chevalier which was sunk by torpedo at the Battle of Vella Lavella.
The USS Chevalier which was sunk by torpedo at the Battle of Vella Lavella.
USS Selfridge  circa the later 1930s.
USS Selfridge (DD-357) during exercises at sea, circa the later 1930s.
Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers Shigure and Samidare operating off the coast of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands hours prior to the Naval Battle of Vella Lavella on 6 October 1943.
Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers Shigure and Samidare operating off the coast of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands hours prior to the Naval Battle of Vella Lavella on 6 October 1943.

In the Solomon Islands the Japanese were falling back. Where they could they sought to evacuate their troops from under the noses of the U.S. forces. The seas around the Solomons were contested but neither side dominated. In some circumstances the US Navy held an advantage. On other occasions the advantage was less obvious.

On the 6th October the Japanese sent a significant force in to pick up their troops from the island of Vella Lavella. The U.S. Navy warned of the move by patrol planes but had limited forces to respond with – two groups of three destroyers, one of which was travelling from some distance away. The first group consisted of the USS Chevalier, USS O’Bannon and USS Selfridge.

Ernie Herr was a radio man on the USS O’Bannon:

October 6th — we return to Vella Lavella but this night Japanese planes spot us and drop flares but, oddly enough, no bombs. A Japanese force of nine destroyers and twenty barges is trying to rescue 600-some soldiers who are stranded on Vella Lavella. Our force consists of three destroyers with the remaining three destroyers of our force some distance away. Japanese planes drop dazzling lights, which slowly float down held suspended by small parachutes. These lights outline our force of three destroyers.

We close on the Japanese destroyer force and firing commences on both sides. Flames flare up from two of the Japanese ships as they are hit by our shells. But within seconds one of their torpedoes rips into the Chevalier. The entire ship separated as if a giant knife had sliced her in two. The stern turned about and swung into the path of the O’Bannon as if steered by a phantom quartermaster. The command “Hard right rudder” and then “Back emergency” was not good enough and it was evident the ships would collide.

The order was given: “stand by for a ram . . . stand by for a ram,” and every officer on the bridge grabbed the small brass rail running around the pilothouse. Crew members lunged for metal supports, gun mounts. In the fireroom men who might be trapped in an inferno of scalding steam dropped their tools and held onto railings and ladders, their faces tight with apprehension. In the handling room and magazine, men threw themselves on the deck, eyeing the stacks of shells and tins of powder.

The O’Bannon, unable to avoid hitting the Chevalier, crashes into her after engine room. Our luck holds however as we hit a glancing blow and bounce clear. Our bow is ripped back more than twenty-five feet and water pours in. In the emergency radio room, another radioman and I happen to belong to that two percent who never get the word and the impact throws us a short distance but we are unhurt. The crash knocks out all power on the ship and even the emergency battle lights at our location fail to light.

Fortunately the sound powered phone works fine and we are back in communication with all stations on the circuit. While we sit in total darkness we are informed that our ship may be sinking as water is pouring into the forward compartments. And at this time more Japanese planes arrive. Luckily for us, the phrase “Have a nice day” has not yet been invented.

Three Jap bombers zoomed down and released a stick of bombs. They exploded with a roar off the O’Bannon’s stern and sent sheets of water high in the air. More bombs are dropped, followed by showers of flares. Against the backdrop of harsh white light the Chevalier settled rapidly. Boats were being lowered off the O’Bannon and the screech of protesting davits could be heard plainly. Less than 6,000 yards ahead a Jap destroyer was still burning.

Now alone, the destroyer Selfridge continues to fire at the Japanese destroyers and scores a hit but in return receives a torpedo that blows up the forward area of the ship engulfing it in flames. All three ships in our force are now dead in the water and without power. Within minutes however, our damage control crew has the emergency generating system in operation and power is restored to the O’Bannon.

With the restoration of power comes word there are emergency messages to be sent back to our base. While hurrying to the bridge to pick up these messages, I have a chance to look out across the water. What I see is rather amazing. There are many small lights out in the water, maybe a hundred of them. They turn out to be flashlights being held and waved by sailors from the Chevalier who are jumping from the rapidly sinking ship and are swimming toward the O’Bannon, a distance of about 40 yards. It seems that everyone in the water has a flashlight and is waving it to get attention (later information indicated that some type of fish that emitted light was in the surrounding water in record numbers, probably stirred up by the torpedo explosion). Messages coming in from the Chevalier stress that they are sinking rapidly and need assistance. Our whale boats are already heading out to pick up survivors.

After sending the radio messages, a quick acknowledgment is received from our base radio station at Guadalcanal. They will be providing air cover at daylight. It is comforting to know that everyone is now aware of our present predicament. Word from our damage control parties indicate that they have been able to shore up the damage to our bow and we are no longer in danger of sinking. Word is received from the other destroyers of our force that they are just over the horizon and have been watching the gun flashes of the battle and will be coming to our assistance shortly.

More good news and bad news. The good news is that remaining ships of the Japanese task force are not attacking. The bad news is the 600 Japanese troops have been safely evacuated and will be around to fight another day. But the Japanese are not looking for further adventures this night. They make a hasty exit except for one of their destroyers that is on fire and slowly sinking.

With 85 percent of the Chevalier’s crew accounted for and no more that can be located on board, the O’Bannon heads for home at one-third speed, leaving behind the ship’s whaleboats for any survivors that may have been missed. The whaleboats were found the following day and were full of survivors, 78 in all. However, all were Japanese. American PT boats took the Japanese to Vella Lavella as prisoners. The badly damaged Selfridge finally gets underway at three knots as the Chevalier sinks beneath the waves. Every bit of available deck space on our ship is taken by the Chevalier survivors. Her dead are stacked respectfully on the fantail of our ship and are covered with tarpaulins. For the crews of the O’Bannon, the Selfridge and the Chevalier, the battle of Guadalcanal is finally over. For those under tarpaulins, the war is finally over. But, dead or alive, we are all heading home.

Ernie Herr’s full account of his service on the USS O’Bannon can be read at Destroyer History.

The heavily USS Selfridge on the left and the USS O'Bannon with hull damage after ramming USS Chevalier.
The heavily damaged USS Selfridge on the left and the USS O’Bannon with hull damage after ramming USS Chevalier.

A closer view of the damage to the USS O'Bannon.
A closer view of the damage to the USS O’Bannon.

Another tragic night for Convoys ONS 202 and 18

HMS Itchen was a River class frigate - very similar to HMS Lochy, seen here.
HMS Itchen was a River class frigate – very similar to HMS Lochy, seen here.

The ships of Convoy ONS 202 and 18 continued their steady course west. The marshalling of 65 merchant ships in mid Atlantic would never have been an easy task in the fog and heavy seas that prevailed. On top of this the Convoy commander had to attempt co-ordinate his Escort group of warships, in a fight against a group of U-boats that were making a combined attack.

Already HM Frigate LAGAN had been damaged beyond repair, and HM Corvette POLYANTHUS and HM Destroyer ST CROIX had been sunk. He did not know that these ships had been the victims of the new German T5 acoustic torpedoes.

The limitations of radar and inter ship communication meant that he only had a limited understanding of events as they occurred.

This is part of the Narrative of Events from M.J. Evans, Commander, R.N., Senior Officer for the Escort Group with the convoy.

Night 22nd/23rd:

At 22.38, Itchen obtained another contact and at 23.37, Itchen and Morden were both in contact with several submarines coming in from the starboard bow.

At 23.55, Gatineau obtained a radar contact and sighted a submarine coming in towards the centre of the convoy from ahead. Then ensued a mêlée ahead of the centre of the convoy with a number of escorts firing at the submarine and attempting to illuminate her by searchlight. Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion, which was thought by many ships – including Gatineau – to be the submarine blowing up.

“Pineapple” [a pre planned programme of searching for U -boats] was ordered with ships in the van illuminating but no further submarines were sighted. In the firework display, which was going on in the van, it was not possible for me to distinguish whether a merchant ship had been torpedoed. At the time I thought one probably had been and was later confirmed – wrongly – in this belief by a report from Renoncule that she was in company with a stopped ship 4 miles astern of the port columns. This ship was in fact the S.S. Wisla who had courageously stopped and picked up three survivors from Itchen.

Shortly afterwards Morden reported that it was an escort that had blown up astern of her. As Morden should have been in position on the starboard bow, I at first thought that she must have been referring to Towy although this did not at all fit in with the picture as I had seen it. When operational signals allowed I called all escorts on R/T and established the fact that only Itchen was not answering.

At this stage this was all the Convoy commander knew of the fate of HMS Itchen.

The full Narrative report and much more on this convoy can be found at War Sailors.

HMS KEPPEL (D 84) - Shakespeare-class Flotilla Leader, the destroyer that carried the convoy commander.
HMS KEPPEL (D 84) – Shakespeare-class Flotilla Leader, the destroyer that carried the convoy commander.

It remained for William Fisher to complete the account of what happened to HMS Itchen. He had been on HMCS St Croix when it had been torpedoed on the 20th and had spent thirteen hours in the whaler before being picked up by HMS Itchen. This is his account:

We found a place to sleep, the night passed quietly and part of the next day. Around four o’clock action stations sounded. The Itchen dropped a few charges. The boys were talking of what they were going to do – stay with the convoy or go into port. At about six clock we were all at supper – a very good supper too – when action stations sounded again. We all went up on deck. We dropped some charges, then things quieted down. I was talking to the SBA and he said the injured boys were all fine. Then around eight we had action again. We dropped charges and made another sweep around and came in and dropped one charge. We made another quick sweep and came in and dropped a big pattern. The conning tower of the sub came up and then disappeared.

There were a lot of bubbles and oil and we were sure we had got a sub and we were happy. We all went down below and tried to sleep. About a quarter to nine, 22nd September, action stations went again. We went to the upper deck where it was quite cold and very dark. Around nine our searchlight went on and there was a sub in the beam. I was standing by the funnel and had hold of the railing around the funnel.

I looked past the bridge and could see the sub about three hundred yards ahead. It was cutting across our bow. Then the forward gun went off but the shell landed short and the bridge gunners started to fire. There was an explosion. We had been torpedoed. I was blown about thirty feet and landed against a gun deck. I got up, the ship was listing and I could hear water rushing in. I couldn’t see a thing. I got the davit of the skiff, reached out with the other hand to get to the railing. Just before I jumped over the side I called for my chum Mackenzie, but there was no answer. So I dove over the side.

As I hit the water there was a terrible explosion. I was sucked under and nearly lost consciousness. My insides seemed to be squeezed out of me. I was choking as I struggled back to surface again, got a breath of air, and a wave took me under. I came up and started to swim away from the ship. I swam about thirty or forty feet and looked back at the propellers of the Itchen which were just disappearing. She had gone down in about forty seconds.

It has been forty-nine hours between torpedoing of the two ships. I started swimming around and remembered to take my shoes off. I reached down to take my right shoe off and it was gone, I reached and took off my left one. I had on a big duffle coat and I unbuttoned it but forgot to undo the mouth piece. It slipped under my chin and started to choke me but I finally got it off. There were quite a few star shells in the air; the water was rough.

I saw a lad holding onto a board, and swam over and took hold of the board with him. The water was very cold and I started to get cramps. I held onto the board for about one hour only. Then the lad passed away and I started to run into quite a few bodies. I could hear a few of the boys hollering.

Then the convoy started to pass us. The wash from the ships would wash us back and forth; we would go under and choke and there was a lot of oil and small boards that would slap us in the face. Then the star shells stopped going up and it got very dark. I saw a small flare and hollered out to a fellow and asked him what he had. He said he had a float, so I swam over towards him. He had two life savers. He gave me one, the one with the calso flare on it. I put it around me, then a wave parted us.

There was a splash and I could hear voices. I looked and there was a freighter [SS Waleha] which had dropped one of its floats, I tried to swim to it but I was too weak, so I hollered at them and they said they were coming. It was good news, I saw a light but it seemed far off, then I heard the sound of a motor boat. I could hear voices but couldn’t see a thing except the light. Then I felt something hit my face and heard somebody say grab the rope. Then I saw the motor boat when it was nearly on top of me.

They threw me the rope again, I caught it and was pulled up to the side of the motor boat. A hand grabbed me and pulled me inside. I lay there coughing and too tired to move; I was cold. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I finally moved beside the engine and tried to get some heat. They circled around and picked up two more boys.

They pulled alongside of their ship and as they pulled the motor boat up I felt a lot of hot water go over me it certainly felt good. It was the exhaust from the engine. One of the lads they had picked up was doing a lot of groaning. Finally they got the boat up and put blankets around me and helped me into the officers’ wardroom. They gave me a full glass of rum. I drank it all and it warmed me up.

I was a frightful looking sight covered with oil from head to foot, but they got some towels and rubbed the oil off and put my feet in hot water. I had been in the water 3 hours when I was picked up for the second time. The other lad lay on the floor groaning. They were rubbing him with whiskey and trying to get him to drink some.

I asked the other chap who he was and he said he was off the Itchen. The lad on deck was off the Itchen too. I had been saved for the second time but all our boys were gone.

There were two survivors from HMS Itchen and now only one survivor from HMCS St Croix – William Fisher – see Canadian Military History, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1999, pp.63-69. for full account.

Torostar_01

The Narrative of Events was only able to conclude:

Commander P.W. Burnett of HMCS Gatineau has carried out an investigation to find out what occurred in this mêlée. His conclusion is that “it appears that HMS Itchen was torpedoed in her foremost magazine just after she had sighted and engaged, and just before she rammed the U-boat. The latter was probably considerably shaken by the explosion and dived: its attack was frustrated and no ships of the convoy were torpedoed.”

This was the last major U boat attack of the war in the Atlantic, for a good summary of events see The Last Hurrah, for a discussion about whether the rescue ship was SS Wisla or SS Wahela or even the SS James Smith see War Sailors.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Express underway. She was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Gatineau in 1943.
Royal Navy destroyer HMS Express underway. She was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Gatineau in 1943.

US destroyers ambush Japanese at Vella Gulf

The USS Dunlap led the group of US Navy destroyers that lay in wait for the Japanese.
The USS Dunlap led the group of US Navy destroyers that lay in wait for the Japanese.
The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Arashi, photographed in 1940. The fast destroyers were used for the 'Tokyo Express'.
The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Arashi, photographed in 1940. The fast destroyers were used for the ‘Tokyo Express’.

In the Soloman islands US Naval forces were making it extremely difficult for the Japanese to bring in reinforcements and supplies. Their forces on the islands were already suffering from shortages and were unable to mount a co-ordinated defence. Even though Japanese troops suffered from poor morale they were determined to fight on.

The Japanese solution was to bring in troops by fast destroyer under cover of darkness rather than conventional troop transports – the system known as the ‘Tokyo Express’. Radar was now challenging even that tactic. On the night of 6th August 1943 it was to give the US Navy a great advantage.

As four Japanese destroyers bringing troop reinforcements to Kolombangara island made their approach, they were unable to spot a force of US destroyers – the USS Dunlap, Craven, Maury, Lang, Sterett, and Stack – that were lying in wait for them. The Japanese radar could not distinguish the US ships from the great mass of the island behind them. The surprise torpedo attack by the US destroyers almost achieved total annihilation of the Japanese forces.

Tameichi Hara was the commander of the Japanese destroyer Shigure. Being unable to to keep up with the other three destroyers probably contributed to his lucky escape:

We sortied from Rabaul on August 6 at 0300 and headed southward in a calm sea. The cloudy sky offered intermittent rain squalls and brief glimpses of sunshine.

We were passing Buka Island at 1430 when an enemy patrol plane was seen disappearing into the clouds. Our radiomen reported hearing an “Urgent” coded message, which must have been the plane’s report of our approach. Clearly, our operation would not take the enemy by surprise.

I kept close watch of flagship Hagikaze to see how Captain Sugiura would react to this development. It grieved me to see our same speed of advance and course maintained, even after we had been sighted by the enemy. I gritted my teeth and followed along.

We entered Bougainville Strait at 1900 and, turning to a course of 140 degrees, boosted speed to 30 knots. Two hours and twenty minutes later we were directly northeast of Vella Lavella Island. Shigure was falling behind the formation as the 30—knot speed proved too much for her. The navigation officer, Lieutenant Yoshio Tsukihara, came to report to me.

“Sir, we are lagging 1,000 meters behind Kawakaze. Shall we use the overboost to gain back our lost 500 meters?”

”No,” I roared, “this is good enough. To hell with the prescribed 500- meter distance. Don’t overboost the engine!”

Kolombangara loomed to starboard, its towering volcanic peak overhung with ominous black clouds. To port I could see nothing but blackness, from which anything could emerge at any moment. It made my spine creep.

I shouted new orders. “Stand by for action! Aim all guns and torpedoes to port. Set gun range of 3,000 meters. Set torpedoes to run at two-meter depth, angle 20 degrees. Double all lookouts!”

For the next ten uneasy minutes I peered searchingly to port for some sign of activity or movement to betray the presence of the enemy. Visibility was no more than 2,000 meters in this direction. The growing tension was shattered by the voice tube from torpedo control where Lieutenant Doi asked if it was all right to return the tubes from portside to their original starboard position

I shrieked an emphatic “No!” and followed with a more controlled explanation, “No, Doi, for heaven’s sake, no! Starboard visibility is so good that we can see the reefs of Vella Lavella. To port we see no more than 2,000 meters, and we don’t know where the enemy is. Stay trained to port and be ready for action at any moment.”

This bit of instruction was hardly finished when lookout Yamashita called, “White waves! Black objects! . . . Several ships heading toward us!”

I called at once for full starboard helm, and ordered torpedoes launched at port-side targets. The white waves were plainly visible. I shuddered and glanced at the three leading destroyers. They were proceeding straight ahead, oblivious of the closing enemy ships.

Damn! Damn! Shigure was now 1,500 meters behind Kawakaze. Forty-five seconds after the order was given, Shigure began swinging to starboard as her torpedoes leapt in rapid succession into the water. The time was 2145.

As the eighth torpedo was about to be released I caught sight of telltale white torpedo tracks fanning out in our direction, the nearest within 800 meters. I shouted again for hard starboard helm. In the same moment I saw a pillar of fire shoot up from amidship of Arashi, and two from Kawakaze. Lead ship Hagikaze was beyond and in line with these two victims so that I could not see her.

Looking again at the water, I held my breath. Three torpedoes were streaking toward Shigure’s bow, which was swinging rapidly to the right.

My knees almost gave in as I clutched the handrail. The first torpedo passed 20 meters ahead of the bow, the second was closer, and the third appeared certain to hit. It did not, however, or if it did it was just a glancing blow on the skin of the rapidly turning ship. I thought I felt a dull thud from aft but could not be sure. Looking around again I saw several torpedoes running 30 meters or more in front of the bow, as the ship was completing a full circle in its desperate evasive turn.

See Tameichi Hara: Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway – The Great Naval Battles as Seen Through Japanese Eyes.

Three out of the four Japanese destroyers – the Hagikaze, Arashi, and Kawakaze had been sunk. The US destroyers suffered no damage or casualties at all – but for the escape of the Shigure it would have been complete and utter victory. Around 1000 Japanese were left in the water as they abandoned ship but many were to refuse rescue when daylight came.

USS Sterett (DD-407) after portion of the ship, photographed from a crane at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 6 February 1943, at the end of an overhaul. Circles mark recent alterations, including the installation of 40mm guns on her after deckhouse. Note the photographer's shoes in lower left. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
USS Sterett (DD-407) after portion of the ship, photographed from a crane at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 6 February 1943, at the end of an overhaul. Circles mark recent alterations, including the installation of 40mm guns on her after deckhouse. Note the photographer’s shoes in lower left. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

HMS Lightning sunk in E boat attack

The Royal Navy's greyhounds - destroyers at sea in line ahead, with a fine bow wave. Photograph taken from on board the destroyer FAULKNOR
The Royal Navy’s greyhounds – destroyers at sea in line ahead, with a fine bow wave. Photograph taken from on board the destroyer FAULKNOR
The British destroyer HMS NUBIAN returning to Malta after patrolling the coast of Tunis. She had been participating in operations by light naval forces based at Malta to patrol the Sicilian Narrows off the coast of Tunis and cut off the German Afrika Korps's escape route from North Africa.
The British destroyer HMS NUBIAN returning to Malta after patrolling the coast of Tunis. She had been participating in operations by light naval forces based at Malta to patrol the Sicilian Narrows off the coast of Tunis and cut off the German Afrika Korps’s escape route from North Africa.

In the Mediterranean the Allies were making considerable progress in regaining command of the seas. Convoys were now getting through to Malta and the Allied forces in North Africa.

Yet the battle was far from completely won and the Germans were intent on re-inforcing and resupplying their forces in Tunisia. This led to a very testing life for many in the Royal Navy as they sought to protect their own supply lines and attack the enemy’s.

The 227 men on HMS Lightning were exhausted, they were escorting Allied convoys by day and attacking enemy convoys by night. On the 12th March they had been in continuous action for thirteen days. That evening they were ordered out of Bone harbour at 1745 to attack a German convoy heading out of Sicily. They fought off twelve torpedo bombers at 1851 and shot one down. At 2200 the radio messages of German E boats were intercepted suggesting they were about to be attacked.

George Gilroy, at 21 already a very experienced Seaman with four years service, was one of the men on HMS Lightning:

We had been at action stations all evening and I was closed up in A turret. I was tired, hungry and frightened as we were so close to the enemy. At about 2215, through my sights, I clearly saw the pale grey E-boat on the port beam when it fired the first torpedo.

We were not operating RDF, ASDIC or HF DF and had no time to return fire – perhaps if we had all been fighting fit we may have opened fire in time – who knows? The skipper turned the ship hard to port to comb the track of the torpedo as he had done on so many previous occasions, but she was just too slow this time and we were hit fine on the Port bow, blowing it clean off ‘as if cut by a knife’.

Even though I was very near the point of impact I heard no loud explosion, just a sickening heavy thud that jarred my bones. The ship shuddered from the blow and everything went dead. Realising what had happened and with no electrical power to operate the gun we had no choice but to abandon the turret.

We could not escape from the door as it was jammed. Instead, we had to escape onto the deck by sliding down the chute for ejected shell cases. We did not panic as we could feel that the ship was not settling or heeling over, although we guessed that she must be in a serious state.

It is interesting that in a letter to me fifty years after the sinking; Tom King [who had previously served on HMS Lightening] mentions the turret door, ” … before I left the ship, when I was Captain of A Turret … being tall I could stand with my legs spread and put one put one foot on each of the ready use shells, so I never needed to use the stand (which obstructed the door). The lads used to say “don’t put the stand down Tosh so if we have to get out sharp – there’s only the clips”.

This is possibly what prevented us escaping. I wonder how many men lost their lives in other similar turrets due to this poor design. Upon emerging from the gun turret I was amazed at the enormity of the damage and how near we had been to being killed outright. About fifty feet of the ship had been blown clean away and our turret was leaning over onto the deck.

To a man we were stunned. We could only look at one another in amazement. Everything was still and quiet – there was no return of fire and no rushing about. The only other ship visible was the E-boat. We just waited for the inevitable, like a rabbit hypnotised in a car’s headlights.

The stricken ship quickly lost way and became a sitting target. In a desperate attempt to save her, the skipper gave orders to go astern to relieve pressure on the forward bulkheads that were still holding. But I could only watch as our attacker slowly circled the dead ship and come round to the starboard side. I heard his engines speed up as he turned to run in towards us.

He came straight for us and fired a second, fatal, tin fish. It was carefully aimed and hit us square amidships beneath the funnel. This caused terrible damage, destroying both-boiler rooms, pom-pom and for’ard torpedo tubes on the upper deck, and breaking the poor ship’s back. I watched in disbelief and horror as a huge plume of water and steam rose high above us as the torpedo plunged into our lovely ship.

Men and machinery were blown to oblivion. I felt very sorry for my good mates on the pom-pom; they never stood a chance and must have watched helplessly as the fateful torpedo sped straight for them. With her back broken she immediately began to founder.

In total 45 men died in the attack and subsequent sinking, most of the survivors were picked up at about 0145 by HMS Loyal.

Struck by Lightning provides many different accounts from men who served on the destroyer HMS Lightning. This was a very busy ship in her service from May 1941 to March 1943, although not untypical for many destroyers at the time. She was at the heart of the action throughout the Malta convoys.

There are few accounts that give such a full picture of what life was like in the Royal Navy in this period, particularly for those serving on the destroyers. This book includes many interesting photographs and a very comprehensive guide to further research materials.

Munitions workers Marion Griffiths and Betty Evans stand with a Royal Navy gun crew on the pom-pom deck of a destroyer, somewhere in Britain. Marion and Betty were taken on a surprise tour of the destroyer after discovering that the shells which they helped to make were, according to the original caption, "actually used on this destroyer to beat off Nazi dive bombers".
Munitions workers Marion Griffiths and Betty Evans stand with a Royal Navy gun crew on the pom-pom deck of a destroyer, somewhere in Britain. Marion and Betty were taken on a surprise tour of the destroyer after discovering that the shells which they helped to make were, according to the original caption, “actually used on this destroyer to beat off Nazi dive bombers”.
Venus" the bulldog mascot of the destroyer HMS VANSITTART.
‘Venus’ the bulldog mascot of the destroyer HMS VANSITTART.
An image from the end of the war. A surrendered E-boat doing 30 knots with two other E-Boats (not visible) alongside an accompanying MGB heading to HMS HORNET, the light coastal forces base at Gosport, to be taken over by the Royal Navy.
An image from the end of the war. A surrendered E-boat doing 30 knots with two other E-Boats (not visible) alongside an accompanying MGB heading to HMS HORNET, the light coastal forces base at Gosport, to be taken over by the Royal Navy.