Destroyer HMS Laforey sunk as she closes for the kill

The destroyer HMS Laforey, a veteran of the war in the Mediterranean.
The destroyer HMS Laforey, a veteran of the war in the Mediterranean.

The Battle of the Atlantic may have been effectively won in 1943 but this did not lessen the danger of individual U-boats. Their chances of surviving a patrol had now been much reduced but the Germans were doing everything possible to fight back. Improved anti-aircraft guns played a part. Even more innovative were torpedoes guided by sonar. In the right situation a targeted ship might be able to cut her engines to avoid such missiles. It was not always possible.

On 29 March a submarine was detected by HMS Ulster during a routine sweep north of Palermo. Soon HMS Laforey was leading the hunt in company with the destroyers HMS Tumult, HMS Tuscan, HMS Urchin, HMS Hambledon and HMS Blencathra. They did not know it at the time but their quarry was the U-223, which had been responsible for sinking the US Troop Ship Dorchester. Like many U-boat hunts it was a waiting game. The latest sonar might not be able to give a precise position of a submarine, good enough for a kill but it would be difficult for a submarine to sneak away undetected:

At noon, just before we arrived in the area where the U-boat had been sighted, we were joined by Tumult, Blencathra. Quantock and Lammerton. And soon the metallic clang of the Asdic indicated we had located our quarry.

Attack after attack failed to bring the U-boat to the surface but as darkness fell, our Asdic team was confident that during the night, lack of air would bring her to the surface and my gun-teams have the chance of delivering the coup-de-grace.

Shortly before 0100 hrs the next day, the message was passed to the transmitting station from the bridge, that the U-boat was blowing her tanks and we were to prepare for ‘starshell’ firing to illuminate her.

Captain Armstrong, for reasons best known to himself decided not to sound off full action stations. The crew were therefore at defence stations, only half the armament manned and many men were asleep in the mess-decks. With hindsight, one can say that many of the 179 men who lost their lives, would have been saved, had they been closed up at action stations. The order came suddenly to open fire and within moments, night became day, as the starshell illuminated the area where the U-boat would break surface.

“ Gunner’s mate to the bridge.” Sub/Lt Ticehurst, the youngest officer in the ship – for reasons that I was never to discover – made the call that was to save my life. When I got there, I found the U-boat was clearly visible on the port bow. Our 4.7 armament was soon straddling the target and when the Gunnery Officer arrived on the bridge. I jumped down over the bridge screen to the Oerlikon, determined to ensure that the U-boat’s deck was raked with fire in case resistance was offered.

Then came the order to switch on the searchlight. It proved to be the opportunity the U-boat skipper needed. Suddenly there was a deafening explosion and I found myself hurtling upwards and then landing with a thud on the Oerlikon’s safety rails.

The U-boat had torpedoed us and I was conscious between bouts of blackness and pain, that Laforey was breaking up in her death throws. I tried to stand but had no movement in my legs. Using my elbows, I managed to propel my body to the ship’s side. Laforey was sinking and I clung to the rigging as she started her final plunge. Frantically, I tore myself free and with arms working like pistons, propelled myself as far from the inevitable whirlpool of suction as possible.

Suddenly, like a cork, I was whirled round and round and drawn towards the vortex where our beloved ship had finally disappeared beneath the waves. Fortunately, my half inflated life belt kept me on the surface.

Gradually, the black silence was broken with the cries of shipmates, dotted around the ocean. With the whistle always carried by a gunner’s mate for turret drill, I began to signal in the hope of collecting the survivors in a more compact group. Unconsciousness intervened and when I came round again, it was to hear the groans of a young London AB clinging to driftwood and obviously in a bad way.

At odd intervals, shipmates would swim to us to offer words of comfort and encouragement and them swim off to assist others. Two such gallant friends, Dave Barton the PO. Cook and Knocker White, the Yeoman of Signals both uninjured but sadly not to survive, continued to help their more unfortunate shipmates.

After what appeared to be an eternity, I spotted the darker shape of an approaching vessel. Suddenly there were cries of, “ Swim you German bastards, swim!” Our would be rescuers, were convinced that we were German survivors from the U-boat, which Tumult and Blencathra had eventually sunk. They were unaware of the fact that Laforey had gone too.

Within moments, I was carefully and gently lifted from the sea and into the boat. Oil fuel fouled my mouth and eyes and hid the tears of relief and gratitude for my rescuers.

I was hoisted aboard Tumult, encased in a Neil Robertson stretcher, injected with a liberal dose of morphia and despatched to the gunners mate’s holy of holy’s, the Transmitting Station. From the usual illegal matelot’s hidden resources, a full tumbler full of Nelson’s Blood was added to the pain relieving morphia and I sank into peaceful oblivion.

Vaguely, I remember being shipped from Tumult to a waiting ambulance in Naples harbour and arriving at the 65th General Hospital. There, the doctors found I had three spinal fractures. To begin with, I was paralysed from the waist down but my self pity soon disappeared when I looked around the overcrowded wards at our terribly wounded soldiers, being shipped in from their personal hell holes of Anzio or Cassino.

Read the whole of Bob Burns account on BBC People’s War. There is a thorough review of all the sources relating to the sinking of U-223 and HMS Laforey at World War II Quarterly.

There are suggestions that the torpedo struck the stern of HMS Laforey causing her own depth charges to explode, resulting in a catastrophic explosion that caused the sudden loss of the ship.

Cremer’s U-333 survives attack by Walkers’ Group

U-123 on patrol earlier in the war.
U-123 on patrol earlier in the war.
The days of U-boats expecting to return for propaganda medal ceremonies were long since gone. The number of U-boats lost had gone up dramatically since mid 1943.
The days of U-boats expecting to return for propaganda medal ceremonies were long since gone. The number of U-boats lost had gone up dramatically since mid 1943.

Peter Cremer was a lucky man. As a U-boat commander he defied the odds and survived the war to write his memoirs. He did so after surviving a series of very close encounters with the Royal Navy. In 1942 he had been badly wounded in an engagement with HMS Crocus in October 1942. After recovering from his wounds he returned to command U-333.

On U-333’s 10th patrol they came up against a formidable adversary – the 2nd Escort Group under the command of Captain Walker, the most successful of all the U-boat hunters in the war. Walker’s group of ships was returning to port when they were alerted to a possible U-boat spotted by an aircraft. After the war the Royal Navy examined the records of the Kriegsmarine and speculated that the 2nd Escort Group might have attacked U-333. Cremer was able to set the record straight in his memoir:

In English opinion ‘the move could well have taken the Group across the path of U 333, to which I can only say ‘it certainly did’ , for our courses definitely crossed.

After the reconnaissance plane had observed and reported me in the early morning of 21 March, at about 1100 strong propeller noises were heard approaching in a broad spectrum extending from west to south.

I tried to outmanoeuvre the enemy and break through to the south-west but it was a hopeless enterprise. The weather itself was bad. A long Atlantic swell was running which even at 40 metres depth made itself unpleasantly felt and swung the boat to and fro.

This Group came at U 333 from two sides in the attack formation preferred by Walker. In broad line abreast the ships dropped depth charges at very short intervals. As prelude numerous samples were dropped in a few minutes, their explosions merging with one another so that it was impossible to count them.

Their pressure waves were so enormous that the conning-tower hatch began to shudder and we were all thrown about. Then it became suspiciously quiet until the odious ping – ping – ping of a searching ship was first heard thinly, then louder. Then that, too, broke off and there was another pause, explained perhaps by the fact that the enemy did not succeed in locating us with certainty.

It may be that the weather was responsible. At any rate it was a situation of ‘no reports being made since their contact was not firm enough.’

This probably saved our lives, for suddenly all hell was let loose again. But now they were throwing them without aim, on suspicion. Escaping was not to be thought of. The ocean was too shallow here and the slightest of our machinery noises would have betrayed us.

It was best to play possum and let nothing be heard of us – come what might. So I laid the boat on the bottom where it bedded itself softly in sand and mud. I ordered the crew to rest and as far as possible not to think of depth charges, though it was impossible not to hear them. I thought: whoever throws so many will soon have none left. Meanwhile the hands of our clock kept moving, the search dragged on and lasted into the night.

It was deathly still in the boat, if that does not sound macabre. As distinct from in films and many a book, the U-boat men controlled themselves in precarious situations and only seldom lost their nerve. There were neither cries nor groans and even orders were passed in a whisper from mouth to mouth. Pst! The enemy is listening! Water is an uncanny conductor.

I myself crouched in the control room, knees and stomach wrapped in soft catskins. It was cold and old wounds were hurting.

The propeller noises of the destroyers sounded muted, then clearer. They came closer, moved further off, sometimes singly, sometimes several together. Time passed. The air was used up, the potash cartridges were nearly expended and I had to supply oxygen. Everyone was breathing in short, heavy gasps. After ten hours (but what hours!) I was forced to go up.

All hands — Action stations — Surface! At once they were wide awake. ‘Blow tanks!’ A high-pitched hissing noise. That was all – nothing else. The boat would not budge, an invisible hand was holding it down. This was something quite new. Again, the same manoeuvre. ‘Blow tanks!’ Nothing moved.

U-333 had bedded itself only too well into the sand and mud of the ocean bottom. There was an even more nerve racking period as they tried to free the U-Boat from the bottom of the ocean. See Peter Cremer: U-Boat Commander: A Periscope View of the Battle of the Atlantic

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel inspecting one of the U-Boat bunkers during his tour of the 'Atlantic Wall' in February 1944.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel inspecting one of the U-Boat bunkers during his tour of the ‘Atlantic Wall’ in February 1944.

U-boat commander massacres survivors in the water

The Greek ship SS Peleus, most of the crew survived the sinking but were killed on their life rafts.
The Greek ship SS Peleus, most of the crew survived the sinking but were killed on their life rafts.

Heinz-Wilhelm Eck was the only U-boat commander to be tried, convicted and executed for war crimes following the war. The record of the British military tribunal that tried him summarises the facts:

The “Peleus” was a Greek ship chartered by the British Ministry of War Transport. The crew consisted of a variety of nationalities; on board there were 18 Greeks, 8 British seamen, one seaman from Aden, two Egyptians, three Chinese, a Russian, a Chilean and a Pole.

On the 13th March, 1944, the ship was sunk in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean by the German submarine No. 852, commanded by the first accused; Heinz Eck. Apparently the majority of the members of the crew of the “Peleus” got into the water and reached two rafts and wreckage that was floating about. The submarine surfaced, and called over one of the members of the crew who was interrogated as to the name of the ship, where she was bound and other information.

The submarine then proceeded to open fire with a machine-gun or machineguns on the survivors in the water and on the rafts, and also threw hand grenades on the survivors, with the result that all of the crew in the water were killed or died of their wounds, except for three, namely the Greek first officer, a Greek seaman and a British seaman.

These men remained in the water for over 25 days, and were then picked up by a Portuguese steamship and taken into port.

Later in the year, a U-boat was attacked from the air on the East Coast of Africa and was compelled to beach. Her log was found, and in it there was a note that on the 13th March, 1944, she had torpedoed a boat in the approximate position in which the S.S. “Peleus” was torpedoed.

The U-boat was the U-boat No. 852 commanded by the accused Eck and among its crew were the other four accused; three of them being officers; including the medical officer, and one an N.C.O.

Five members of the crew of the U-boat made statements to the effect that they saw the four accused members of the crew firing the machine-gun and throwing grenades in the direction of the rafts which were floating about in the water.

The court report makes no mention of the Peleus crewman who was called over to give an account of the movements of his ship. Clearly the U-boat crew knew he was there but there is no mention of whether he was invited to get back on his raft before being shot. Nor was there any testimony from the three survivors, just their affidavits, so they could not be cross examined. Perhaps the court felt it didn’t need any more evidence of what had happened. Eck openly admitted what he had done, he just claimed it was an ‘operational necessity’.

The court summarised the account of Eck:

His orders were, he said, that when operating in the South Atlantic he was to be concealed as far as possible because great numbers of U-boats had been sunk in that particular region. He manoeuvred the boat to the place of the sinking, and ordered small arms on deck to prevent danger to the boat arising out of the presence of survivors, as he had heard of cases where the loss of the U-boat had actually been caused by the presence of survivors.

He decided to destroy all pieces of wreckage and rafts and gave the order to open fire; on the floating rafts. He thought that the rafts were a danger to him, first because they would show aeroplanes the exact spot ofthe sinking, and secondly because rafts at that time of the war, as was well-known, could be provided with modern signalling communication. When he opened fire there were no human beings to be seen on the rafts.

He also ordered the throwing of hand grenades after he had realised that mere machine gun fire would not sink the rafts. He thought that the survivors had jumped out of the rafts. He further admitted that the Leading Engineer, Lenz, objected to the order. Lenz had said that he did not agree with it, but he,Eck, had told him that, despite everything, he thought it right and. proper to destroy all traces.

It was clear to him, he went on, that all possibility of saving the survivors’ lives had gone. He could not take the survivors on board the U-boat because it was against his orders. He was under the impression that the mood on board was rather depressed. He himself was in the same mood; consequently he said to the crew that with a heavy heart he had finally made the decision to destroy the remainder of the sunken ship.

The firing went on for about five hours.

In his address to the crew, he said: “If we are influenced by too much sympathy, we must also think of our wives and children who at home die also as victims of air attack.”

To the Prosecutor’s question: “Sympathy about the wreckage? “, Eck said it was quite clear to him that the survivors would also die. Eck realised that they would die as a result of his shooting. He gave the order to shoot to Hoffmann, Weisspfennig and Schwender, but not to Lenz.

The full record of the trial can be read at World Courts. there is also a longer exposition of the trial at U-Boat Net. It is argued that the Allies accepted ‘Operational Necessity” when they killed Japanese survivors at sea in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and on other occasions but the court did not take this into account in Eck’s trail.

The defendants in the U-852 trial. From left to right: Eck, August Hoffmann, Walter Weisspfennig, Hans Lenz, Wolfgang Schwender. The leftmost three were executed.
The defendants in the U-852 trial. From left to right: Eck, August Hoffmann, Walter Weisspfennig, Hans Lenz, Wolfgang Schwender. The leftmost three were executed.

U-boat murder leads to last mass execution in U.S.

The sinking of U-118 in June 1943. LTJG Fryatt's depth bombs straddle U-118.  Splashes from his turret guns can be seen as the Avenger pulls away after the attack. Two crewmen can be seen seeking shelter behind the conning tower.  U-118 is trailing oil after previous attacks by LTJG Stearns and LTJG Fowler.
The sinking of U-118 in June 1943 when U-118 was caught on the surface by planes from USS Bogue. LTJG Fryatt’s depth bombs straddle U-118. Splashes from his turret guns can be seen as the Avenger pulls away after the attack. Two crewmen can be seen seeking shelter behind the conning tower. U-118 is trailing oil after previous attacks by LTJG Stearns and LTJG Fowler.
Werner Drechsler, recovering from a bullet wound to his right knee, disembarks USS Osmond Ingram assisted by Hermann Polowzyk
Werner Drechsler, recovering from a bullet wound to his right knee, disembarks USS Osmond Ingram assisted by Hermann Polowzyk

On the 12th June 1943 planes from the USS Bogue had attacked U-118 and sunk her. There was a particularly good photographic record of the attack , and a number of survivors were picked up which helped document exactly what happened. Both the Royal Navy and the USN were assiduous in their interrogation of captured U-boat crews and were able to gain intelligence on a wide range of issues, not just relating to technical matters and operating procedures but also to the general morale of the crews, and the morale in Germany. At this stage of the war there were quite a few disaffected individuals who were prepared to be talkative.

Amongst the crew of U-118 Werner Drechsler proved to be especially forthcoming. In Nazi Germany saying anything negative about the regime was likely to mean a concentration camp sentence or worse. Werner Drechsler presumably felt he was safe in the hands of the US Navy, and by this time everyone could see which way the war was going. He agreed to go even further and under assumed identities spent time POW camps spying on his former colleagues, reporting back at the Joint Interrogation Center located at Fort Hunt., Virginia (just outside Washington, D.C.).

Unfortunately for Drechsler the US procedures were not as safe as he might reasonably expect. After the Navy had finished with him they sent him on to Army custody, responsible for detaining POWs. The Navy stipulated that he should not go to a camp with other Kriegsmarine prisoners. Somehow that instruction got lost and he was sent to Papago Park, Arizona, which housed a number of his former inmates, who had by now put two and two together. Within hours of arriving on 12th March 1944 Werner Drechsler was beaten and murdered. He was found hanging in the showers the next day:

Reference is made to the murder of Werner Drechsler at Prisoner of War Camp, Papago Park, Arizona, for which seven prisoners of war have recently been charged. The investigation in that case indicated that Drechsler had been used as an informant by G-2 or ONI to assist in the interrogation and processing of prisoners at Meade or some other installation in this vicinity. After his usefulness had been exhausted Drechsler was shipped to Papago Park for imprisonment. He was a submarine man, and Papago Park detains numerous Navy prisoners. Drechsler was recognized as a traitor to Germany and was murdered. This result could or should have been foreseen, to put it mildly.

It is recommended that some arrangement be made between this office and G-2 and ONI so that we will be alerted when prisoners who have assisted the American authorities are transferred to normal imprisonment. Under the present system, the responsible officers who are transferring such prisoners without taking any steps to provide for their safety are bringing about their deaths more rapidly and efficiently than our courts-martial are trying their murderers.

R. E. Guggenheim,
2nd Lt., CMP

In this case there was a court martial – for the seven U-boat men who killed Drechsler. They were convicted and later executed by hanging on July 28, 1945 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was the last mass execution in the U.S.

The original documents used to be available at [http://www.uboatarchive.net/U-118ArmyInformantMemo.htm] – U-boat Archive.It may be possible to access this from the internet archive.

Front of Werner Drechsler's POW Personnel Record card - POWs were photographed fingerprinted, assigned their POW number, and asked to provide the information on the card as part of their initial processing
Front of Werner Drechsler’s POW Personnel Record card – POWs were photographed fingerprinted, assigned their POW number, and asked to provide the information on the card as part of their initial processing

Walker gets another U-Boat – U-264 and crew

HMS STARLING, leader of a group of British sloops under the command of Captain Walker.
HMS STARLING, leader of a group of British sloops under the command of Captain Walker.

Captain Walker had surpassed himself with three U-boat kills in one day on the 9th February. There was no pause for celebrations or rest, the relentless search continued. During the course of this patrol his 2nd Escort group would get six U-boats in total. On the 19th it was the turn of U-264.

On this occasion we can see things from the other side, because, unusually, the whole crew survived. As was normal practice, they were closely interrogated by the Royal Navy Naval Intelligence Division. This thorough process which was applied to all prisoners, regardless of rank, revealed much about the U-boat service and the general state of German morale.

The U-boat had attempted to fight back with acoustic torpedoes, but this threat had been neutralised by the simple expedient of stopping all engines on the destroyer under attack:

On the night of 18th/19th February, “U 264,” following directions received from a German aircraft, approached a convoy. A G.S.R. contact was received on a wavelength of 135 cm. and was judged to have originated from a destroyer. About 30 minutes later, the contact-keeping aircraft dropped a contact-keeping flare, and the convoy was sighted.

The U-Boat attempted to signal Control giving the usual particulars of the convoy, but, due to the fact that the cypher machine jammed, only a fragmentary message was sent. Suddenly the escorting vessels fired star shells, illuminating the U-Boat and revealing that one of the destroyers was dead astern. “U 264” fired a T5 torpedo from her stern tube, but the destroyer came to a dead stop and the torpedo passed across her bows at a distance of about 10 yards. Some of the prisoners attributed the miss to an imperfection in the mechanism of the torpedo.

The U-Boat then dived and took evasive action. Several patterns of depth-charges were dropped, but they fell wide of the mark. The destroyers then gave up the search and at about 0500 the entire convoy was heard passing directly over the U-Boat.

(N.I.D. Note. At 0325 on 19th February, H.M.S. “Forester” obtained a Radar contact and fired a star shell which revealed a U-Boat on the surface. The U-Boat dived and, at 0404, “Forester” attacked with hedgehog. She followed the U-Boat through the convoy until 0449 when contact was lost.)

“U 264” remained submerged for some time after her contact with the convoy. At about noon on 19th February, she came to a depth of about 20 m. (65 ft.) in order to signal Control. She was then discovered by a group of destroyers which immediately began a prolonged attack. The U-Boat immediately submerged to a greater depth and, taking evasive action, released several S.B.T. charges. She was unable to shake off her pursuers and depth-charges continued to rain down on her. After about the fourth attack considerable damage was sustained.

(N.I.D. Note. The Second Escort Group gained contact on a U-Boat at 1011 on 19th February. At 1035, H.M.S. “Starling” dropped a ten-charge pattern set to 150/300 ft. At 1101 and 1110, S.B.Ts. were noted. At 1125, H.M.S. “Woodpecker” made a creeping attack of 26 depth-charges set at 500/700 ft. A third pattern of 26 charges was dropped by “Starling” at 1129. The fourth attack was made at 1251 by “Woodpecker” who dropped 26 charges in a creeping attack. They were set for 500/850 ft.)

The damage was described by the prisoners as not of a serious nature, but its cumulative effect was fatal. The lights failed, a high pressure air line fractured, the Diesels were shaken from their seats and the extensible Diesel intake and exhaust was broken. Several small leaks appeared and water entered through the packing of one propeller shaft. The gland was tightened in an attempt to stop the leak and this resulted in overheating and filling the after compartment with smoke.

The depth-chare attacks continued with unrelenting fury. The U-Boat submerged to great depth, but was unable to get clear. The prisoners estimated that between 150 and 200 depth-charges were dropped. Asdic noises were heard, but they were of a higher pitch than usual and the prisoners believed that a new type of gear was being used. The crew became increasingly nervous throughout the attack. The din was so terrific that it was impossible to man the hydrophones. Pumps were kept going, but were not able to cope with the flow of water into the boat. The boat dived deeper and deeper, at one time reaching a depth of 210 m. (689 ft.).

When at last it became apparent to Looks that the U-Boat must be abandoned, he gathered his men together and said, “We are going to surface. If we must die, we’ll die for Greater Germany. Three ‘Sieg Heils’ for our Führer.”

(N.I.D. Note. “Woodpecker” and “Starling” made a total of seven attacks on the U-Boat between 1035 and 1621. Over 150 depth-charges were fired.)

At about 1700, “U 264” surfaced. Looks gave the order to abandon ship and personally supervised the execution of the order. He and the Engineer Officer were the last to leave, having remained below to see to the scuttling. The prisoners believed that the U-Boat was flooded and that no scuttling charges were set. When the U-Boat appeared on the surface, the destroyers opened fire, scoring several hits and slightly wounding three or four of the crew. The boat was abandoned in an orderly manner and the entire ship’s company was rescued by destroyers of the Escort Group.

(N.I.D. Note. At 1659 the U-Boat broke surface, bows first. “Starling” opened fire with all weapons and five hits were observed. At 1707 the U-Boat sank in position 48° 31′ N., 22° 05′ W. At 1735 a heavy underwater explosion was heard.)

U-264 was one of the first operational u-boats equipped with a ‘schnorkel’ , a breathing tube for its diesel engines. The capture of these prisoners gave the Allies a good picture of its capabilities, and of the difficulties they encountered with it. ‘U-Boat Archive’ [http://www.uboatarchive.net/U-406-386-264INT.htm] used to hold the full report.It may be possible to access this from the internet archive.

Kapitänleutnant Hartwig Looks
Kapitänleutnant Hartwig Looks

YouTube has a post war interview with Kapitänleutnant Looks.

USS U-3008 (ex-German submarine U-3008) View of the submarine's conning tower, with her snorkel raised. Taken at Key West Naval Station, Florida
USS U-3008 (ex-German submarine U-3008)
View of the submarine’s conning tower, with her snorkel raised. Taken at Key West Naval Station, Florida

Troopship Khedive Ismail sunk with 1,296 souls lost

 copyright unknown.
An original oil painting by Robert Blackwell ©, owned by Brian James Crabb, of the sinking of the SS Khedive Ismail.
The destroyer HMS PETARD at speed. As seen from the carrier HMS FORMIDABLE., December 1943.
The destroyer HMS PETARD at speed. As seen from the carrier HMS FORMIDABLE., December 1943.

On 12 February 1944 the troopship Khedive Ismail was in convoy KR8 on its way to Colombo, Ceylon from Kilindini, Kenya with a large contingent of African troops as well as British military personnel, including eighty-three women. Early in the afternoon she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-27 – she broke in two and sank quickly. Few who were below decks managed to make an escape.

Of the 1511 people on board only 208 men and 6 women survived. It was to become Britain’s third worst mercantile disaster in the Second World War and the worst ever involving British service women, seventy-seven were lost. The destroyers HMS Petard and Paladin went on the hunt for the submarine and eventually sank her, although it is believed that the depth charging caused some further casualties amongst people in the water. It was an incident that Nicholas Monserrat used in his novel The Cruel Sea, later memorably filmed.

Percival Crabb was Chief Petty Officer, Stoker on the SS Khedive Ismail:

I was in the POs mess with seven other petty officers when the troopship was torpedoed between 1400 and 1500. By I believe two tin fish, one in the engine room and one aft under the counter, I was asleep at the time. Immediately she listed over; everyone made a dash for the companionway except yours truly and PO Harper; we both made for the two portholes, which were open.

I remember scrambling through and hobbling down the ship’s side, stepping over the rolling chock and diving into the sea, by the time I surfaced the ship had gone. I swam to a green smoke canister some thirty yards away, hanging on to this I looked around me, there were several survivors either swimming or hanging on to whatever floated.

The convoy had dispersed by this time and it seemed we were left to our own devices; some 200 yards away were two lifeboats from the ship, one upside down, survivors were all making for them so I decided to do the same.

I am almost certain the submarine passed under me, as there was quite a turbulence of water and a wake left behind. This was the scene when the destroyers Petard and Paladin arrived at high speed, the submarine must have been picked up on their asdics, because they started depth charging some 300 yards away. I distinctly remember one charge from the thrower exploding just above the surface of the sea. It was a very strange experience to feel the shock waves coming through the water and the almighty thump in the stomach. Luckily, I was still hanging on to the smoke float, which took most of the concussion.

Paladin had dropped off a motor boat and sea boat to pick up survivors. I eventually made it to the troopship’s lifeboat and got aboard, we managed to row the boat towards Paladin, which was slowly circling us, while Petard was still depth charging further away. We got alongside Paladin and hastily scrambled aboard, among us were three nursing sisters, two wrens and one South African WTS; this was all that was left of their contingents. I remember a seaman throwing me a pair of sandals, as I was barefoot, because the steel decks of the destroyer were very hot.

At that moment a large Japanese submarine came to the surface and both ships opened fire and then Paladin started to increase speed, she was going in to ram. We were told to hang on to something solid, as the ship closed the submarine at high speed, the submarine veered off and Paladin struck her a glancing blow, the submarine’s hydroplanes tore a hole from the forward boiler room right aft to the engine room, putting the ship out of action, and flooding the boiler and engine rooms.

Survivors and crew went about the ship throwing everything moveable over the side to lighten her. I dumped loads of 4 inch shells from ready use lockers. Both sets of quadruple torpedo tubes were turned outboard by hand and fired to lighten ship. On board Petard, six torpedoes were fired at the Japanese submarine, but they all missed, the seventh was fired by local control and did the trick. It blew the submarine in half; I watched the two halves upend and sink with no survivors.

The next job was to remove everyone except essential personnel from Paladin to Petard, a tricky manoeuvre, but successfully done and now the job of all jobs, to take Paladin in tow and get her back to safety. After 36 hours of towing we arrived at Addu Atoll where the cruiser Hawkins was waiting with everything from pumps, collision mats, shoring and personnel to get Paladin seaworthy for the long trip to South Africa for essential repairs.

This is just one account that appears in Passage to Destiny: Story of the Tragic Loss of the S.S.Khedive Ismail, a new edition of which is expected soon. Author Brian Crabb, son of Percival, has collected a wide range of material on both the ship and the sinking and his site contains a Roll of Honour of those lost.

There is also an account of the sinking on BBC People’s War.

The destroyer HMS Paladin suffered a 20 foot gash in her side as she rammed I-27 and struck her hydroplane.
The destroyer HMS Paladin suffered a 20 foot gash in her side as she rammed I-27 and struck her hydroplane.

Captain Walker RN closes in for third kill of the day

HMS STARLING, leader of a group of British sloops which have just added two more victims to their impressive record of U-boats destroyed. During a North Atlantic patrol the first U-boat was illuminated by a starshell fired by HMS KITE NW of the Azores. After forcing her down by depth charges the KITE, WOODCOCK, AND STARLING shadowed the enemy until morning. At dawn HMS WOODCOCK dropped another pattern of depth charges, explosions were heard and the surface of the water littered with tell-tale oil and wreckage. Within 8 hours the second U-boat met her fate . She was detected by HMS WILD GOOSE and HMS STARLING delivered the coup de grace. (Text from early 1944).
HMS STARLING, leader of a group of British sloops which have just added two more victims to their impressive record of U-boats destroyed. During a North Atlantic patrol the first U-boat was illuminated by a starshell fired by HMS KITE NW of the Azores. After forcing her down by depth charges the KITE, WOODCOCK, AND STARLING shadowed the enemy until morning. At dawn HMS WOODCOCK dropped another pattern of depth charges, explosions were heard and the surface of the water littered with tell-tale oil and wreckage. Within 8 hours the second U-boat met her fate . She was detected by HMS WILD GOOSE and HMS STARLING delivered the coup de grace. (Text from early 1944).
HMS Kite (U87) on anti-submarine patrol with the 2nd Escort Group. HMS Kite joins in the depth charge attack and is dwarfed by the column of water which rises six-times her height. Captain Walker's 2nd Escort Group, consisted of the sloops, HMS Starling (U66), Kite, HMS Wild Goose (U45), HMS Magpie (U82) and HMS Woodpecker (U08), with the escort carriers HMS Activity (D94) and HMS Nairana (D05). In January 1944 it left from Liverpool with orders to protect convoys and intercept U-Boats in the Atlantic just southwest of Ireland. By their return in February 1944 they had managed to sink 6 U-boats.
HMS Kite (U87) on anti-submarine patrol with the 2nd Escort Group. HMS Kite joins in the depth charge attack and is dwarfed by the column of water which rises six-times her height. Captain Walker’s 2nd Escort Group, consisted of the sloops, HMS Starling (U66), Kite, HMS Wild Goose (U45), HMS Magpie (U82) and HMS Woodpecker (U08), with the escort carriers HMS Activity (D94) and HMS Nairana (D05). In January 1944 it left from Liverpool with orders to protect convoys and intercept U-Boats in the Atlantic just southwest of Ireland. By their return in February 1944 they had managed to sink 6 U-boats.

In the Battle of the Atlantic the Allies had proved to be the dominant force ever since May 1943. Yet still the Germans sent U-boats to sea in a desperate attempt to halt the flow men and munitions to Britain. The life expectancy of a U-Boat was now very limited and more and more boats were being sent to the bottom with all their crew.

This battle still relied on the dedicated pursuit of the U-boats by the convoy escort ships and their commanders. No one single man had made more of a contribution to this battle than Captain Frederick ‘Johny’ Walker’. He had first earned a Distinguished Service Order in January 1942 for his ‘daring and determination’ in the hunt for the U-boats. His determination was undiminished two years later when his Second Escort Group set out on its most successful hunting trip.

On the 9th February HMS Starling and the other ships in the group were to surpass themselves with three successful attacks on U-boats. This time they had to contend with the GNAT (German Navy Acoustic Torpedo) but they were able to counter with the ‘Hedgehog’.

Lieutenant Alan Burn was the Gunnery officer on HMS Starling:

After a night at action stations, with a brief rest on the way from one job to the next, Starling’s ship’s company was in no mood to appreciate a grey Atlantic morning with the visibility down to half a mile, but the chase was not over yet.

Walker reported that: ‘This Boche went slow downwind and sea, at considerable depth, making it difficult in the prevailing weather conditions to hold the directing ship long enough in position to direct the creeping attacks.’ There were only seventeen depth charges left on board Kite and she went to join Wild Goose in the patrol round the scene of action while Starling and Magpie took over the attacks.

Walker was perplexed; a very large number of charges had been expended on this target without any results. Stocks were getting low. On the other hand, Magpie was the only ship in the Group fitted with Hedgehog, and Walker had thought up a new way of using this more modern weapon.

He directed Magpie at slow speed until she was just short of the U-boat’s position and pointing in the right direction, whereupon she was ordered to fire her Hedgehog at a range calculated by Starling’s navigator. This caused a lot of laughter on the bridge — imagine any one of twenty-four bombs dropping seven hundred feet through the water and getting a direct hit on the twenty-foot diameter hull of an invisible U-boat!

The laughter was cut short by two sharp underwater explosions as two bombs found their target twenty-one seconds after the Hedgehog fired. Not content with this result, he directed Magpie to carry on without interruption with a creeper, firing old-fashioned charges, followed up by Starling four minutes later. To everyone’s surprise and to the amazement of Walker and his specialist anti-submarine team, this makeshift attack produced all the usual evidence of destruction as oil-soaked wreckage came to the surface in quantities.

Walker wrote: ‘I was highly tickled by this hedge-hoggery. Complicated instruments are normally deemed essential to score even occasional hits with this weapon; to get two bull’s eyes first shot with someone else’s Hedgehog 1000 yards away was of course a ghastly fluke.’

This as Walker at his most ruthless. The chase had gone on for eight hours with fteen depth-charge attacks (252 charges) and ‘two Hedgehog attacks (48 bombs). Starling had expended all her depth charges.

If this last attack had not succeeded, there was no doubt that he would have continued to stalk the U-boat until it surfaced for air, when it would have been destroyed by gunfire, or rammed as a last resort.

The Second Support Group had sunk three U-boats in the past 15 hours. But nerves were ragged; there were too many of these Gnats and maybe other devices exploding too close. In a signal timed 092030A to C-in-C Western Approaches, Walker reported, among other events: ‘Several “Gnats” fired during operations but all avoided by use of low speed.’

The convoy of fifty-seven ships and twenty-four landing craft proceeded unharmed on its way, guided neatly between these two battles without casualties. It had been shadowed by aircraft all night but was not attacked.

On the evening of 9 February, the two aircraft carriers were ordered to return home while the Group continued the patrol. They went off in ones and twos to refuel from an oiler in the nearest convoy and to replenish with depth charges. Starling had none left out of her usual armoury of 160 charges, Magpie seventeen and the remainder about sixty-six each.

See Alan Burn: The Fighting Captain, less a personal memoir than a tribute to Captain Walker, with details of all his U-boat battles.

Captain Walker died in July 1944, aged 48, his death attributed to exhaustion and battle fatigue.

Atlantic Battle Record Breakers Welcomed Home. 25 February 1944, Liverpool. The First Lord Of The Admiralty, Mr A V Alexander Welcomed Home The 2Nd Escort Group, Commanded By Captain F J Walker, Cb, Dso And Two Bars, Rn, In Hms Starling, From Its Record Breaking U-Boat Hunt In Which Six Enemy Submarines Were Destroyed.
Atlantic Battle Record Breakers Welcomed Home. 25 February 1944, Liverpool. The First Lord Of The Admiralty, Mr A V Alexander Welcomed Home The 2Nd Escort Group, Commanded By Captain F J Walker, CB, DSO And Two Bars, RN, in HMS Starling, from its Record Breaking U-Boat Hunt in which six Enemy Submarines were destroyed.
The sloop HMS MAGPIE returns to Liverpool after a successful escort patrol in the North Atlantic, 25 February 1944.
The sloop HMS MAGPIE returns to Liverpool after a successful escort patrol in the North Atlantic, 25 February 1944.

US Destroyers sink U-boat U-73

The USS Woolsey after her completion in 1942.
The USS Woolsey after her completion in 1941.

The U-Boat war was not going well for the Germans. Losses had continued to mount since the disastrous month of May when they had lost 41 boats – in the whole of 1942 they had lost 86 boats. The yearly total for 1943 would 238. Much improved radar and weaponry, combined with improved tactics and better co-ordination between Allied surface vessels now made it a very hazardous proposition to attempt to attack convoys. Many U-boats were attacked so quickly that they did not know what had hit them.

The attack on U-73 is probably typical. She was an experienced boat with an experienced commander with over a year of combat experience. On the 13th December she had survived being rammed – she had only lost her deck gun. On the 16th she ran out of luck. Or perhaps she was lucky – because there were 34 survivors out of a crew of 50. Most U-boats were now sunk with no survivors.

On this occasion the Royal Navy Intelligence Division, which interrogated the prisoners after they were brought in by the US Navy, was able to piece together the attack from their perspective:

At about 1530 on 16th December, “U 73″ sighted a convoy and closed to attack. A T.5 torpedo was fired from Tube II and, according to the prisoners, hit a destroyer. The prisoners were astonished to see the entire convoy come to a full stop at the time of the attack.

The U-Boat then fired a spread of three T.3 torpedoes from Tubes I, III and IV. It was stated that one of these scored a hit on an 8,000-ton merchant vessel, one hit a corvette, and the third, its rudder jammed, circled around and above the U-Boat herself, causing considerable consternation among the crew.

The prisoners believed that the merchantman had been sunk and the corvette damaged. (N.I.D. Note. S.S.” J.S. Copley,” 7,176 tons, was torpedoed by a U-Boat on 16th December, 1943, in position 35° 54′ N., 00° 53′ W. A tug was dispatched to her aid and she was towed into harbour, reaching Oran on 17th December. There is no record of an escort ship being damaged.)

After making this attack, “U 73” submerged to a depth of about 40 m. (131.2 ft.).

(i) Depth-Charge Attack About three hours after attacking the convoy. “U 73” was proceeding submerged when she was taken completely by surprise by a destroyer. Some prisoners were violent in their criticism of Deckert, saying that he had been careless about maintenance, with the result that the rudders and motors were too noisy. Others blamed him for proceeding at too shallow a depth.

The destroyer dropped a pattern of depth-charges which exploded below the U-Boat, inflicting considerable damage. There was water entry forward between the bow torpedo tubes. A sea inlet valve of the Diesel cooling system was fractured causing water to flow into the motor room. “U 73” lost trim and sank to a depth that was variously estimated to have been between 160 and 230 m. (524.8 and 754.6 ft.).

(ii) Gunfire Attack Deckert ordered all tanks blown and, with the aid of one main motor, “U 73” broke surface at about 1900. No enemy ship was visible and full speed ahead on the Diesels was ordered. Suddenly searchlights from surface craft illuminated the U-Boat and she was immediately engaged by gunfire. A number of hits were scored on the bridge and several of her crew were killed.

The order to abandon ship was given and shortly thereafter, the U-Boat sank. One prisoners stated that “U 73” was not scuttled but was shipping so much water through rents in her pressure hull that she sank twenty minutes after being shelled. No signal was sent to Control regarding the sinking.

N.I.D. Note. On the afternoon of 16th December, 1943, U.S.S. “Wolsey” was proceeding with U.S.S. “Edison” and U.S.S. “Trippe.” At 1815, “Wolsey” obtained asdic contact on a submerged U-Boat and made a depth-charge attack. The U-Boat was forced to the surface. The destroyer regained contact with radar and “Wolsey” and “Trippe” opened fire. The U-Boat sank at 1935 in position 36° 09′ N., 00° 50′ W.)

For all the reports on the action see U-boat Archive.

U-73 crewmembers rescued up by USS Edison are put ashore at Oran
U-73 crewmembers rescued up by USS Edison are put ashore at Oran

Captain Cromwell goes down with USS Sculpin

USS Sculpin (SS-191) off San Francisco, California, on 1 May 1943, following an overhaul.
USS Sculpin (SS-191) off San Francisco, California, on 1 May 1943, following an overhaul.
The Japanese destroyer Yamagumo which spent over nine hours hunting for the USS Sculpin.
The Japanese destroyer Yamagumo which spent over nine hours hunting for the USS Sculpin.

Far out in the Pacific the USS Sculpin spotted a Japanese convoy and prepared to attack. Unfortunately she was spotted during her approach and forced to dive. When she surfaced to try again, she came up close to a Japanese destroyer that was trailing behind the convoy. So began a nine hour ordeal by depth charge during which the Sculpin sustained significant damage.

The Diving Officer, Lt. George Brown was sent from his dive control station to assess the damage.

Upon inspection, I found the after engine room had flooded to such an extent I believed it unwise to attempt to place a bubble in No. 4 Main Ballast Tank, which would have aided the trim considerably. The flow of water forward might short the main motor leads. We decided to bail the water forward to another compartment until we could trim the ship without endangering the main motors.

While a bucket brigade was being run by exhausted men in temperatures well over q hundred degrees, the temporary diving officer broached the ship. However, no one could be blamed for this as the depth gauge was stuck at 170 feet and the pressure gauges around the diving station were all flooded out.

When SCULPIN stuck her nose up, the destroyer saw it and came over again, dropping another string of depth charges which tore the radio transmitter from the bulkhead and smashed the receiver, popped light bulbs and severely damaged outboard vents in both torpedo rooms.

Finally Sculpin’s captain, Commander Connaway, decided to surface and fight it out with the deck gun. It would be a one sided battle but it gave them some chance.

Fireman Baker was one of the men who went on deck to man the gun:

The next thing we know, the word is passed through the intercom phones,” Standby to Battle Surface!” Up to the surface we go, the hatch is open and we dash out on deck quickly to man the deck guns and have it out with him once and for all.

The day was a pretty one, with white caps coming over the decks. At first when we went out on deck we couldn’t see the destroyer. Then one of the men spotted it on the starboard side … right against the sun. He was about 3,000 yards off. Immediately we went to our stations on the gun and began to fire at him. We got off the first shot, which went over him. The second fell short.

In the meantime, he had begun to fire at us with machine guns and his 5-inch-70. All we had was a 3-inch-50. One of his shots hit us in the main induction, another went directly through the coming tower and came out the portside, killing a number of men inside, and also some men who were out on deck, hiding from the gunfire. Men were being killed from the machine gun fire as they were coming out of the hatches.

We had a fine crew … the guys really showed the guts they had. A. B. Guillot, Fireman first class, from Louisiana, was on the 50-caliber gun. The Japs made a direct hit on his gun and wounded him severely. I still remember how he looked with blood streaming from great rips in his chest, passing ammunition to the 3-inch gun until he fell over the side. J. Q. Harper, Torpedoman third class, stuck at his 20mm gun until the very end.

With Commander Connaway and other officers dead as a result of hits to the conning tower, the command of Sculpin passed to Lt. Brown. There was one more senior officer travelling on the Sculpin. Captain Cromwell’s role had been to organise the US submarines in a wolf pack later in the patrol, he was privy to high level Naval intelligence, including the Enigma traffic:

I informed Commodore Cromwell, who was in the control room, of my intentions. He told me to go ahead and he said he could not go with us because he was afraid that the information he possessed might be injurious to his shipmates at sea if the Japanese made him reveal it by torture.

I then rang up, ‘Emergency speed” and passed the word, “Abandon Ship”, and sent Chief Hemphill forward and Chief Haverland aft to pass the word in case the P. A. system was out. When they returned to the control room we waited one minute by the clock, then ordered the vents opened, knowing that it would spell the doom of the submarine in minutes and thereby rob the, Japanese of a valuable war trophy.

It was the end of the Sculpin but not the end of the agonies of her crew. Several men chose to go down with the submarine, alongside Commodore Cromwell. Those who escaped from the submarine and were saved by the Japanese were kept in a cage on the Naval base at Truk and subjected to days of brutal torture. Eventually they were treated as PoWs and transported in two groups to Japan. Half of them would die on board the Japanese carrier Chuyo when it was torpedoed by the USS Sailfish on 4th December.

Read the whole of survivor George Rocek’s story at Subvetpaul.com.

Captain John P Cromwell
Captain John P Cromwell

The story of Captain Cromwell did not emerge until the survivors returned to the United Staes at the end of the war, when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commander of a Submarine Coordinated Attack Group with Flag in the U.S.S. Sculpin, during the Ninth War Patrol of that vessel in enemy-controlled waters off Truk Island, November 19, 1943.

Undertaking this patrol prior to the launching of our first large-scale offensive in the Pacific, Captain Cromwell, alone of the entire Task Group, possessed secret intelligence information of our submarine strategy and tactics, scheduled Fleet movements and specific attack plans. Constantly vigilant and precise in carrying out his secret orders, he moved his underseas flotilla inexorably forward despite savage opposition and established a line of submarines to southeastward of the main Japanese stronghold at Truk.

Cool and undaunted as the submarine, rocked and battered by Japanese depth-charges, sustained terrific battle damage and sank to an excessive depth, he authorized the Sculpin to surface and engage the enemy in a gun-fight, thereby providing an opportunity for the crew to abandon ship. Determined to sacrifice himself rather than risk capture and subsequent danger of revealing plans under Japanese torture or use of drugs, he stoically remained aboard the mortally wounded vessel as she plunged to her death.

Preserving the security of his mission at the cost of his own life, he had served his country as he had served the Navy, with deep integrity and an uncompromising devotion to duty. His great moral courage in the face of certain death adds new luster to the traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

The Sculpin pictured during her last refit.
The Sculpin pictured during her last refit.
The USS Sculpin during her refit trials.
The USS Sculpin during her refit trials.

Polish submarine sinks German ship in Mediterranean

Polish submarine DZIK, originally British U class submarine P-52, underway in coastal waters.
Polish submarine DZIK, originally British U class submarine P-52, underway in coastal waters.

A number of ships and submarines from the small Polish Navy had managed to escape from Poland at the outbreak of war in 1939. They continued to operate as the Polish Navy and saw action alongside the Royal Navy throughout the war. Sufficient men escaped from Poland for them to man ships transferred to the Polish Navy from the Royal Navy, including two U class submarines.

The two Polish submarines ORP Sokol ‘Falcon’ and sister ship ORP Dzik ‘Wild Boar’ were known as the terrible twins in the Mediterranean. ORP Sokol was to have a run of success in the autumn of 1943, sinking a series of small ships taken over from the Greeks and Italians by the Germans.

On 11th November Lieutenant Commander Jerzy Koziolowski, commanding Sokol, was pleased to celebrate Polish Independence Day with another success, even things did go entirely smoothly. This is his Patrol Report of the action, now kept with Royal Navy records:

At 1215, while seven miles north of Anedro [Anydro], two-masted schooner was sighted on bearing 515°, at a distance of nine miles. Schooner was proceeding on her motor on course 100° towards Amorgos, at a speed of about eight Knots. Course north was set to approach schooner at close range.

At 1250 schooner passed at 200 yards, beam on. She was about 140 tons, fully rigged with topmasts, flying German flag. The crew of more than a dozen were seen wearing naval uniforms. Her bulwarks were suspiciously high, with canvas covering amidships, and high superstructures beside both masts. Something like DC rails were seen under the stern. Two boats were on tow.

Observation was difficult due to haze low above the surface and the sunlight played tricks with the shadows on the superstructures — they appeared to have no fore and after bulkheads, thus looking like only side coverings.

Went to action stations at 1513, surfaced four miles off SW point of Amorgos Island. Schooner was 140° on the starboard bow at a distance of 4,000 yards, steering 110° parallel to the coast. Opened fire with 3-inch gun at a range of 4,000 yards firing on rel. bear. Red 020° and closing on course 090° at full speed.

First three rounds were scattered about 500 yards – the following ones straddled the target within 50-80 yards.

Schooner turned towards the coast, showing 140° on the port bow and opened fire with two heavy MGs. The 11th round hit the foremast and brought it down. Enemy ceased fire for a while and slowed down. After 24 rounds the gun jammed beyond quick repair, due to defective ammunition.

Enemy immediately reopened fire, apparently stopping — the range closing to 2,000 yards. Fired 400 rounds from 2 Vickers MGs and at 1230 dived hurriedly, for enemy’s fire was becoming unpleasantly hot. Examined target through periscope – she was stopped and adrift, two small rowing boats leaving towards shore, but with only a few men; the others were still on board.

Manoeuvred to obtain firing position, and at 1347 fired one torpedo set to two feet at 500 yards, on 100° track. Torpedo slightly turned to the port and either it deviated from its track or schooner was on the drift – torpedo passed under stern and missed. It caused, however, considerable panic on board, and remaining crew left schooner in a hurry in a motor boat, steering to the coast. Closed to 200 yards and confirmed schooner was really abandoned.

Surfaced at 1406 and put S/Lieutenant Fritz in charge of boarding party of four on board. As soon as boarding party landed, lookout was much impressed by mountainous islands all round the horizon, and in the same moment aircraft, E-boat, merchant vessel and caique were reported approaching from different bearings. A/C was possible, for intensive A/C patrolling was carried out during the forenoon, and CO without confirming the sighting blew the whistle for the boarding party to come back.

Two demolition charges were fired with 10-minute fuze, and boarding party hurried on board. At this moment, securing line broke, schooner started to drift away and the last two of the boarding party, including S/Lieutenant Fritz carrying charts, books and signals, had to jump overboard and swim a few yards. Of course, none of the panicky-sighted targets materialised, but now the fuze was set and the chance of a considerable prize was lost.

Schooner was 120 feet long, estimated at 140 tons, and carefully equipped. Captain’s cabin was fully loaded with charts, books etc. — a pair of earphones was seen but whether these belonged to the wireless or listening device could not be confirmed. She was carrying some stores: bunches of naval clothing, rifles, ammunition belts, bayonets, boots — all brand new and stored in the focs’le. There was a loading hold amidships, but locked tightly.

Two 0.5-inch MGs were counted on each side, and rifles were dropped on the deck, apparently freshly used. Possibly four depth charges were astern, covered by canvas, with movable doors on the bulwarks.

At 1455 schooner blew up magnicently and sank. When jumping overboard, S/Lieutenant Fritz could only save charts. Schooner’s course led from Nio to Stampalia.

See TNA 199/1854

The Polish submarine ORP Sokol, previously HMS Urchin.
The Polish submarine ORP Sokol, previously HMS Urchin.