submarines

Jul

4

1943

A great invasion armada prepares for battle


4th July 1943: A great invasion armada prepares for battle

That evening, after two weeks at sea, we were told our destination was Sicily, and our landing beach in the south-east corner near Pachino. Soon after hearing this there was an almighty explosion close to hand and rushing on deck we saw the ‘Dervis’, the Commodore’s ship just ahead of us, had been torpedoed. Four more destroyers had joined our existing four the previous day, along with the old monitor ‘Roberts’ with its twin massive 16inch guns. After fourteen minutes the ‘Dervis’ sank.

Jun

17

1943

SS Yoma torpedoed – 451 troops lost

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17th June 1943: SS Yoma torpedoed – 451 troops lost …

by this time the Yoma was well down by the stern and the next thing I knew she sank under my feet and I found myself in the water…as the boat rose I saw a lot of men on the foc’sle head: they would not jump into the water, …as the bow lifted a number of them lost their footing and fell onto the bridge, many others being dragged under by the ship.

Jun

12

1943

Planes from USS Bogue surprise U-118 on surface

12th June 1943: Planes from USS Bogue surprise U-118 on surface

About one-third of the crew, it is believed, were never able to leave the U-boat. A well-placed stick of bombs hit U-118 forward of the conning tower and blew her in two, the boat seeming to break apart in the middle. One survivor swimming nearby, said he saw Czygan, his white shirt covered with blood, kneeling on the bridge as his ship disappeared in a fountain of spray and debris. All survivors believed he made no effort to save himself.

May

26

1943

Benbecula – a remote outpost of RAF Coastal Command

26th May 1943: Benbecula – a remote outpost of RAF Coastal Command

The presence of aircraft in an otherwise remote location, previously linked to the mainland by boat only, meant that No 220 Squadron flew its share of mercy missions from Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. This patient with acute appendicitis was airlifted to hospital on the mainland in one of the Squadron’s Fortresses, the open waist window serving as a convenient entrance to the aircraft, May 1943.

May

24

1943

Donitz withdraws his U boats from the Atlantic

24th May 1943: Donitz withdraws his U boats from the Atlantic

Now, however, the situation had changed. Radar, and particularly radar location by aircraft, had to all practical purposes robbed the U-boats of their power to fight on the surface. Wolf-pack operations against convoys in the North Atlantic, the main theatre of operations and at the same time the theatre in which air cover was strongest, were no longer possible.

May

14

1943

Australian Hospital Ship Centaur torpedoed

14th May 1943: Australian Hospital Ship Centaur torpedoed


In that instant the ship was in flames … we ran into Colonel Manson, our commanding officer, in full dress even to his cap and ‘Mae West’ life-jacket, who kindly said ‘That’s right girlies, jump for it now.’ The first words I spoke was to say ‘Will I have time to go back for my great-coat?’ as we were only in our pyjamas. He said ‘No’ and with that climbed the deck and jumped and I followed …

May

13

1943

U-230 survives sustained depth charge attack

13th May 1943: U-230 survives sustained depth charge attack

Over 200 canisters had detonated above and around us by 01.00. Several times we had used a ruse in an effort to escape. Through an outboard valve, we repeatedly expelled a great mass of air bubbles. These screens of air oated away on the current, reecting the Asdic impulses like a large solid body. But our attackers were fooled into chasing the decoys only twice, and both times they left at least one vessel behind, directly over our heads. Unable to sneak away, we gave up the game and concentrated on conserving our power, our compressed air, and our dwindling supply of oxygen.

May

6

1943

Convoy ONS 5 fights back against U-Boat Wolfpack

6th May 1943: Convoy ONS 5 fights back against U-Boat Wolfpack


0200 Range had closed to 100 yds. Starboard searchlight switched on revealing a 500 ton U-boat swinging rapidly to starboard. Wheel was put hard-a-starboard in an attempt to ram and all guns that would bear opened fire. Ship turned inside the U-boat’s turning circle and came up alongside her starboard side with only a few feet separating the two. By this time the enemy was being illuminated by port searchlight and 10″ S.P. and was seen to be in a sinking condition.

May

5

1943

Wolfpack Fink closes in on Convoy ONS 5

5th May 1943: Wolfpack Fink closes in on Convoy ONS 5


And it was a bit difficult due to the bad weather because our binoculars were absolutely wet from the overcoming sea and from the over-coming waves, and so we had to give the binoculars into the conning tower (you see, the watch of the submarine was standing on top of the conning tower and we gave the binoculars down and they were cleaned there and they gave them back to us, and so we could see for two or three other minutes, and then we have to do the same because the binoculars were wet again). But after a while I had a good position for attacking and I had the chance to slip through a gap just through two escort vessels and I could close into the portside column, and I had the chance to fire four torpedoes.

Apr

2

1943

U-Boat ace of U-124 sunk by HMS Black Swan

2nd April 1943: U-Boat ace and crew of U-124 sunk by HMS Black Swan

There were ships that had seen scores of long-drawn out actions, and still came back cheerfully for more; there were men – British and Allied sailors – who dared all, not as a job for money but simply as a chosen habit, who returned to the same task and the same run after two or even three hideous ordeals as survivors, who stuck to oil-tankers as other people stick to one brand of bottled beer.