destroyers

Oct

6

1943

Japanese destroyers prevail at Battle of Vella Lavella


6th October 1943: Japanese destroyers prevail at Battle of Vella Lavella

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.

Sep

23

1943

Another tragic night for Convoys ONS 202 and 18


23rd September 1943: Another tragic night for Convoy ONS 202

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.

Aug

6

1943

US destroyers ambush Japanese at Vella Gulf


6th August 1943: US destroyers ambush Japanese at Vella Gulf

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.

Mar

12

1943

HMS Lightning sunk in E boat attack

12th March 1943: HMS Lightning sunk in E boat attack off Bone

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.

Feb

10

1943

Churchill declares that the U-Boat war is top priority

10th February 1943: Churchill declares that the U-Boat war is top priority

Even if the U-boats increase in number, there is no doubt that a superior proportionate increase in the naval and air escort will be a remedy. A ship not sunk is better than a new ship built. Therefore, in order to reduce the waste in the merchant shipping convoys, we have decided, by successive steps during the last six months, to throw the emphasis rather more on the production of escort vessels, even though it means some impingement on new building.

Dec

31

1942

Arctic convoy ambushed by German cruisers

31st December 1942: Arctic convoy ambushed by German cruisers

Each time the enemy gave ground he closed in, forcing him outside gun-range of the convoy and towards our own cruiser covering force. After 40 minutes ONSLOW was hit forward and Captain Sherbrooke was severely wounded in the face by shrapnel, losing the sight of one eye.

Dec

2

1942

Royal Navy’s Force K from Malta on the attack again

2nd December 1942: Royal Navy’s Force K from Malta on the attack again

Our first shot was a star shell which illuminated the whole scene. All our ships directed their fire at the destroyer. We turned our searchlight on her and all the details of a small destroyer became starkly evident. Within three minutes, hot glowing circles appeared on her superstructure and hull from the hits that she was sustaining. Things were happening very fast.

Oct

11

1942

Japanese surprised at Battle of Cape Esperance

11th October 1942: Japanese surprised at Battle of Cape Esperance

We sent out rescue craft the next morning to pick up survivors. Many of both sides were found, but few japanese were brought in. Some of the Naval personnel had gaping shrapnel wounds, severed limbs, or they were burned, with oil covering their bodies. They were all in various stages of shock. I counted over fifty American bodies lying on the beach in neat rows. These were the guys who had been recovered by our rescue teams and were either dead when found or died on the way to the beach.

Jun

15

1942

HMS Bedouin charges the Italian fleet


15th June 1942: HMS Bedouin charges the Italian fleet

I was in a fortunate position in many ways. I knew what we had to do and that the cost was not to be counted – the Italians must be driven off. It was no time for fancy manoeuvres – it was to my mind merely a question of going bald-headed for the enemy and trying to do him as much harm as possible by gun and torpedo. Otherwise it was within his power to destroy us and then the convoy at his pleasure.

I knew, too, that the other destroyers would follow me and know what I was about, whether they had signals from me or no. Finally, I knew that the ship was as ready for the test as we had been able to make her, and the result of our labours was now to be shown. I could do no more about it, except give Manners a target and do my best to avoid punishment for as long as possible.

The cruisers opened fire almost at once and the first salvos fell astern of the Bedouin. Their spread was good – too good perhaps at that range – and the shooting seemed to be unpleasantly accurate. Perhaps this is always the impression when one is the target!

My attention was taken up by the time-honoured dodge of steering for the last splash. I had often heard of it being done and found it exhilarating. It worked, too, for some time. A little before 0630, Manners reckoned we were within range, so I told him to engage the leading destroyer, and we opened fire at 17,400 yards. Ten minutes later the enemy altered another twenty degrees away and we shifted our fire to the leading cruiser at 12,400 yards.

Jun

14

1942

Under Stuka dive bomb attack in the Mediterranean


14th June 1942: Under Stuka dive bomb attack in the Mediterranean

First ten, then twenty thirty forty fifty Stukas took shape, advancing remorselessly towards the convoy. Fire was opened immediately and the deep boom of heavy gunfire mingled with the continuous smack of shell bursts. Smoke and fumes slowly drew a dark screen across the sky through which the rays of the sun, penetrating with difficulty twitched eerie, dancing shadows across the sea.

Two bombers, reeling drunkenly away from their companions, spiralled lazily seawards in a series of huge loops; the rest of the air fleet advanced steadily towards their diving positions, accompanied by an extending line of shell bursts. At a signal, the bombers peeled out of formation and dived onto the convoy.

The sharp snap, snap of close range weapons immediately joined the bedlam of the heavier guns and accelerating aero engines. Then the bombs began to burst in and around the supply ships, blotting them from view as wave after wave dived to the attack.

A frightening pillar of flame followed by a heavy detonation suddenly flared up amongst this upheaval. An agonizing few seconds was ended when the supply ship Bhutan, turning helplessly in a wide semi circle with her hull rent by internal explosions, drifted into sight. Leaving a rescue ship to pick up survivors, the convoy pressed steadily westwards under constant air attack which continued throughout the forenoon and aftemoon.