View Full Version : The U-Boat War - From a British Stoker's Point of View

11-10-2007, 10:43 AM
My name is William Andrew Carmichael I was born on the 19th February 1922 at Robsart Street Everton Liverpool. I joined the Royal British Navy in March 1940 aged 18; I served as Stoker 1st Class DKX 784 for 6 years and finished my service in the summer of 1946.

After doing a three year stint in the Mediterranean Sea on the ships HMS Griffin destroyer, HMS Flamingo a sloop, HMS Arethusier a cruiser and the Emperor a Woolworth carrier we brought back from New York, I came home to Devonport Barracks England.

In September 1943 I joined a brand new ship called the HMS Loch Killin she was a frigate at Burntisland Kirkcaldy Scotland. The Scots knew how to build ships alright. They built 20 ships all named after Scottish lochs. They where all fitted with latest technology in radar and guns for catching u-boats we had a secret weapon which I can't divulge to kill off the German u-boats. We operated [sailing from the river Clyde], convoys to Russia, USA and Canada we took the convoys mid Atlantic, the American navy bringing a convoy from the USA we would swop convoys and bring the convoys bound for Britain back home with us.

HMS Loch Killin

Not many u-boats survived the war. We would go ˜sweeping' the Atlantic in search for u-boats if there was a ping from the radar we would depth charge them. These bombs would blow them to pieces therefore sinking them. They didn't have much of a chance.

However in May 1944 in the Bay of Biscay there was a ˜ping' we depth charged her, and then went astern, then slow ahead, [my action station was damage control aft deck, and we had 8 stokers in our team,]. We went slow ahead looking for debris then all of a sudden the u-boat was underneath us, split wide open. STOP ENGINES, the rear of the frigate was low in the water, we where being pulled under. The u-boat managed to right itself, the conning tower level with our deck. The hatch fell open and the ˜Jerries' started streaming out. They were all in shock covered in oil and sea water from the conning tower. It was a distance from our deck ,three other stokers and myself climbed over our ships rail,[who always wore thick leather belts].The stokers mates grabbed our belts from the back inside the rails while we leaned over the u-boat and hauled the jerry's on board our deck. They were in a bad way coughing up fuel and sea water. We managed to save 35 men but the u-boat was sinking fast. As I was leaning over I saw the last 5 men on the ladder as she went down. They never stood a chance the sea water swept them back into the u-boat. The German captain, 1st officer, engineer and two officers died.

This u-boat had a low number which meant she had been in service from the beginning of the war; she must have sunk a lot of our ships.

We had to strip and shower the ˜Jerries' their clothes binned, we gave them all a survivors kit which included underwear, socks, slippers, shirt, slacks, jumper, towel, soap and shaving kit. We cleaned all their personal effects gave them medical attention and fed them. A Canadian destroyer on her way to Falmouth came along side us and took the rescued with her
A month before the D-Day landings we were again sweeping, there was a ˜ping' we sent down depth charges. The u-boat dived quick and deep but we had damaged her she could not move. This was late afternoon and we carried on late into the night, it became pitch black. The German captain managed to do repairs so he could bring her up to the surface, then they abandoned ship our search lights managed to pick out five rubber rafts. Three destroyers and two frigates stood by while we picked up survivors.
This U-boat was 4 times larger than usual it was a supply boat with a crew of 100 men she had supplies for other boats including oil, water, rations and doctors with good medical facilities it had only left Ushant in France 2 days earlier. The captain was only 25 years old 6ft tall a real smart Jerry, not a Nazi, he had been educated in Cambridge England and spoke perfect English. They were all lined up on deck our ˜Jimmy the One' [senior officer after the skipper] had a chat with the German captain who gave a speech to his men. 20 German officers stepped out and followed our officers for breakfast in the wardroom. The other 80 went to the seaman's mess; ˜Jimmy the One' took the German captain to our captain's cabin to have breakfast with our captain.

By late 1943 and into early 1944 was the end for the German u-boat campaign, we sunk them by the bucketful, and we never lost a ship.

In April 1944 we left the Clyde and started operating from the Gladstone Dock Liverpool. Still the same job convoys and making the western approaches safe. We were at sea as usual in May 1944. In the English Channel there was about 50 ships destroyers, sloops, frigates all u-boat hunters sweeping everywhere right up to the French coast. Port Ushant was where the main u-boat pens were located, we oiled watered and rationed all at sea. We guessed something was coming off and it did; D-Day June 1944. We sunk every u-boat going in and coming out in to Ushant. Not one u-boat got through to the D-Day convoys and fleets in the channel. I finished my service on the battleship HMS Duke of York in the Mediterranean Sea close to Malta and then I was d-mobbed in August 1946.

Taken from the BBC 'Peoples War' website

A bit of research shows that HMS Loch Killin is credited with at least 2 U-Boat kills:

U-736: On 6 August 1944 she was sunk in the Bay of Biscay west of St. Nazaire, in position 47.19N, 04.16W, by Squid depth charges from HMS Loch Killin, there were 19 survivors and 28 dead. The U-boat captain,O.Lt Reinhard Reff, had fired a torpedo at HMS Loch Killin and the periscope was spotted by a port lookout. Action stations rang out through the ship and depth charges shot out in record time. The torpedo was destroyed by the explosion, which was so violent that it forced the damaged U-736 to surface under the stern of the frigate. For a few minutes both vessel were locked together and the survivors of the crew scrambled onto the quarter-deck of Loch Killin to the bewilderment of the frigate's crew. Then U-736 slipped away taking the other crew members to the bottom. The prisoners were disembarked to another warship returning tp England and Loch Killin continued on patrol.

U-1063: U-1063 was sunk on 15 April, 1945 in the English Channel west of Land's End, south of Bigbury Bay, Devon, in position [show location on an interactive map] 50?08"²54"³N, 03?53"²24"³W, by squid depth charges from the British frigate HMS Loch Killin. 29 of the crew were killed, there were 17 survivors.

She now lies at a depth of 58 meters.

11-10-2007, 12:11 PM
Interesting read RJ - Thanks for posting http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

11-10-2007, 02:35 PM
That website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/)'s full of interesting stuff.

Funny that the stoker said that the two U-boat sinkings were before D-Day yet in fact must have been the two well after the event.

Some of the stories show quite strongly that the likes of the 'stokers' and 'sailors', as opposed to the officers, were very much in the dark about tactics and technology except as it directly affected them - e.g. "if there was a ping from the radar we would depth charge them".

11-10-2007, 06:43 PM
Nice piece.....bout time we had articles from somebody else! Beaudy Jambo! Well done ol'boy! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/clap.gif