1. #331
    The Thor looks very much like the Dry Cargo Carrier. Too bad it couldn't have guns.

    23 April


    In Norway... On the night of April 23rd the British 15th Brigade lands at Molde and Andalsnes and is soon moving forward to relieve the 148th Brigade.

    In the North Atlantic... The German raider Thor returns to Brest after a cruise of 322 days in which 11 merchant ships and one British auxiliary cruiser have been sunk and two more auxiliaries damaged.

    (see woofiedog's post above for more details)

    In Greece... King George and his government are evacuated to Crete.

    In Burma... Advances by the Japanese 56th Division from Taunggyi toward Lashio forces the retreat of the Allied forces from the Irrawaddy Valley as their left flank is now exposed. The Chinese 6th Army survivors begin a withdrawal from Taunggyi toward Yunnan Province.

    In New Guinea... Australian troops occupy positions around Mubo unopposed.

    On the Eastern Front... German forces of Army Group North counterattack southwest of Narva.

    In New Guinea... Advancing US forces capture Hollandia without a fight; Tadji airfield is also taken. The advance inland encounters resistance near the village of Sabron. There is congestion on the beachheads.

    In Egypt... In port at Alexandria, a communist inspired mutiny aboard 5 Greek warships is suppressed by loyal Greek forces. A total of 50 casualties are reported.

    In Italy... Advance units of both US 5th and British 8th Armies reach the Po River. US 5th Army units manage to cross the river south of Mantua.

    On the Eastern Front... Both Soviet 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian Fronts continue to advance toward Berlin. In the rear of these advances, Frankfurt (on Oder) and Cottbus are captured by Soviet troops.

    In Berlin... Hitler receives a message from Goring, offering to take over the leadership of the country should Hitler be unable to continue with that task while besieged in Berlin. Hitler is infuriated and orders Goring arrested.

    In the Ryukyu Islands... On Okinawa, the attacks of US 24th Corps begin to achieve some gains, notably by US 96th Division.

    In the Philippines... Units of US 37th Division reach the outskirts of Baguio.
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  2. #332
    -HH- Beebop... A Freighter with a Catapult launched Hurricane and a Converted Raider would be Excellent addon for IL-2. Maybe a Atlantic map to go along!
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  3. #333
    woofiedog said...A Freighter with a Catapult launched Hurricane and a Converted Raider would be Excellent addon for IL-2. Maybe a Atlantic map to go along!
    Agreed. A capapult on a battleship would be nice too along with a US float plane and the Fairy Swordfish.

    24 April


    In Norway... German forces in the Osterdal reach Rendal. In the north Narvik is bombarded in an attempt to bring about the surrender of the German garrison. If this looks likely a landing is to be made. The British battleship Warspite, a heavy cruiser and three light cruisers are used but despite this concentration of force the commanding general decides that the naval guns will not have sufficiently disrupted the German positions because of their unsuitable, flat trajectory of fire. The naval commander is Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cork. This officer has been brought back to active service at Churchill's request. He is senior in the service to even the commander of the Home Fleet. His seniority poses problems in his relations with the military commanders who are at times reluctant to insist on measures which their military knowledge makes them believe essential.

    In the Balkans... In Greece, German forces mount an assault on the Thermopylae position but are held off. During the night the defending troops fall back, leaving a further rearguard at Thebes.

    Germans occupy abandoned postion at Thermopylae

    From Washington... Roosevelt formally orders US warships to report the movements of German warships west of Iceland. This is happening unofficially already. The information is usually passed one way or another to the British.

    In Britain... Luftwaffe bombers begin the "Baedeker Raids," so named because the targets are supposedly chosen from the Baedeker Guide book of historic sites in Britain. These raids begin in response to the Allied bombing of Lubeck, which became a target when Allied Bomber Command policy cited civilian residential areas as targets. The first city to suffer the raids is Exeter.

    Bombed out cathederal in Exeter

    In Occupied Poland... The SS begins operations against the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. Buildings are burned or blown up but resistance continues. Jewish fighters make use of the sewers and the rubble to continue their struggle. Those Jews captured are either shot immediately or transported to the death camps.

    SS attacks begin in the Warsaw Ghetto

    Over Germany... The US 8th Air Force raids factories and airfields in Friedrichshafen, near Munich. A total of 55 planes are lost, including 14 which land or crash in Switzerland. During the night, 250 RAF Lancaster bombers scatter "Flying Meteor" methane-petrol incendiary bombs over Munich causing devastation in the area between Central Station and the Isar River.

    In Liberated Italy... The Italian "Co-Belligerent Air Force" now operates over the Adriatic Sea.

    In New Guinea... American forces reach Lake Sentani near Hollandia. To the east, Australian forces advancing from the Huon Peninsula capture Madang.

    In Egypt... British troops end their blockade of the mutinous Greek brigade encampment.

    On the Eastern Front... In the battle for Berlin, Soviet troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front (Konev) penetrate into the suburbs of Berlin from the south while the forces of the 1st Belorussian Front (Zhukov) continue attacking into the city from the east. Other Soviet units of the two fronts are moving around the city to the north and south to complete the encirclement of the city. Large parts of the German 9th Army and 4th Panzer Army, both part of German Army Group Vistula (Heinrici) are cut off to the east of Berlin as a result of the northwest advance of the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front.

    Red Army troops penetrate Berlin from the South

    On the Western Front... The British 2nd Army launches attacks near Bremen. Dessau on the Elbe River is taken by US 1st Army. To the south, on the Danube River, Ulm is captured and in the Black Forest area the French 1st Army continues its advance.

    In Italy... Units of both US 5th Army and British 8th Army begin to cross the Po River at several points near Ferrara and to the west. Ferrara is captured. On the west coast, La Spezia falls to the US 92nd Division. German forces are incapable of stopping the Allied advance.

    In the Ryukyu Islands... On Okinawa, Japanese forces defending the Shuri Line, in the south, begin tactical withdrawals.
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  4. #334
    <span class="ev_code_RED">Wishing the best to Oleg Maddox for a speedy recovery to full health.</span>

    25 April


    In Norway... The fighting in the Gudbrandsdal continues. The British 15th Brigade and the Norwegian units put up a fierce resistance but are repeatedly forced back. The Germans advance even more rapidly in the Osterdal. In the north Norwegian forces begin attacks toward Narvik.

    In the Balkans... In Greece, there is little fighting as the Germans advance and the Allies retreat.

    <span class="ev_code_GREEN">Defeated Greek soldiers in the midst of a German column.</span>

    From Berlin... Hitler issues Directive 28 giving the order for Operation Merkur, the airborne invasion of Crete.

    In Burma... The Chinese 5th Army recaptures Taunggyi from the Japanese, however the Japanese continue to move toward Lashio, the terminus point of the Burma Road. In the west, General Alexander orders a retreat from Meiktila north of the Irrawaddy Valley.

    In Britain... A continuation of the "Baedeker Raids" as the Germans bomb Bath.

    Over Italy... American bombers raid an airfield around Bari in the south.

    In Britain... The Luftwaffe carries out the first of a series of nighttime raids on shipping at Portsmouth and Plymouth-Devonport.

    In the English Channel... During the night (April 25-26), the British cruiser Black Prince and 3 Canadian destroyers engage German warships: T-29 is sunk (136 killed), T-24 and T-27 are damaged.

    In London... The Chancellor of Exchequer promises tax relief for industry after the war is over.

    In New Guinea... Allied forces continue to advance. There are reinforcements landed at Humboldt Bay.

    On the Western Front... Elements of US 1st Army link up with the Soviet forces at Torgau on the Elbe River. US 3rd Army crosses the Danube near Regensburg and assault the city.

    <span class="ev_code_GREEN">American and Soviet troops shake hands on a Bailey Bridge over the Elbe River.</span>

    On the Eastern Front... Soviet forces complete the encirclement of Berlin near Ketzin. The 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian froms continue to attack, from the east and south, into the city. South of the capital, elements of 1st Ukrainian Front advancing toward the Elbe River, link up with American units at Torgau. Meanwhile, in East Prussia, Pillau is taken. (Since early in the year, about 140,000 wounded and 40,000 refugees have been evacuated to the west from Pillau.) A few German troops continue to hold out at the tip of the Samland Peninsula.
    Over Germany... British RAF bombers attack Berchtesgaden and coastal batteries at Wangerrooge (in the Frisian Islands).

    Over Occupied Czechoslovakia... American planes strike Pilsen, nominally the Skoda Works.

    In Italy... Mantua, Parma and Verona are among the towns liberated by the Allies as German resistance begins to collapse and significant numbers of German troops surrender.

    In Occupied Italy... In addition to the extensive partisan operations, there are uprisings in Milan and Genoa.

    In Burma... In the Irrawaddy Valley, mopping up operations continue. Salin is captured by British forces. The British 33rd Corps advance is closing on Allanmyo. The British 5th Indian Division, in the Sittang Valley, continues to advance rapidly and captures of Perwegen. Japanese forces around Rangoon and in other parts of southern Burma are beginning to withdraw through Pegu to the east in order to withdraw into Thailand.

    In San Francisco... An international conference begins to draw up the constitution of a United Nations Organization.
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  5. #335
    On this night of April 27/28 1944...

    Operation TIGER

    Webmaster's Note: Operation TIGER was held 22-30 April 1944, at Slapton Sands, England. It was the major training dress rehearsal for the 4th Infantry Division's assault at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

    During the night of 27-28 April (1944), eight LSTs in convoy T-4 were proceeding at about five knots per hour off Portland. The craft were scheduled to participate in the buildup phase of the exercise. They had travelled [sic] almost due east of their points of departure, Plymouth and Dartmouth, had turned around, and were proceeding westerly toward Bruxham [sic]. They were loaded with troops of the 1st Engr Sp Brig, the 4th Div, and VII Corps. Presumably the LSTs were escorted by one corvette, but this vessel does not seem to have been in the vicinity during the action. The night was dark but clear, with no moon. At least one LST was equipped with radar and reported that two unknown vessels were approaching, but it was assumed that these were craft belonging to the convoy.

    At 2200 that night, six E-boats from the 5th Schnellboote Flotilla, under Captain Rudolf Peterson, and three E-boats from Lieutenant Commander Freiherr von Mirbach's 9th Flotilla raced out of Cherbourg at 36 knots. At about 0130 on April 28, S-136 and S-138 fired torpedoes at LST-507, the last ship in the column, carrying 282 soldiers of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade together with 16 trucks, 22 amphibious DUKWs, and 165 crew. Although clearly seen ablaze, owing to the fog of war, it was initially assumed that the ship on fire was not connected with the convoy. The LST was abandoned by 0230, but at 0218 the Germans had attacked LST-531, which also sank. LST-289 was hit by a torpedo that did not detonate.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">The long beach at Slapton and its evacuated hinterland was the great practice ground for the invasion of Europe. During many months U.S. forces attacked with heavy bombardment and live ammunition in large-scale maneuvers.</span>

    Times given for the attack vary between 0130 hours and 0204 hours 28 April. The attackers, believed to have been E-boats, were never positively identified, and it is not known whether the two picked up by the radar constituted the whole enemy force. LST 507, the first attacked, was hit by several torpedoes which failed to explode, then was set afire by a direct torpedo hit. Another struck five minutes later. The enemy craft straffed [sic] the decks with machine guns, and fired on men who had jumped into the water. LST 507 began to settle.

    About the same time, LST 531 was hit and set afire. Flares were seen to drop, but LST officers did not know whether the planes were enemy or Allied. Some survivors stated that they heard anti-aircraft fire, but there is no evidence of bombs being dropped. LST 511 was struck twice by torpedos [sic] which failed to explode.

    About 0210, LST 289 was hit by a torpedo which destroyed the crew's quarters, the rudder and the rear guns. The commanding officer of the 478th Amphibian Truck Company (TC), a 1st Brigade unit, suggested to LST officers that the vessel's ramp be put down and personnel be taken off in the company's dukws (amphibious trucks). This plan was considered but abandoned when flooding was brought under control. LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) were put over the side to steer the LST, and it made Dartmouth under its own power at 1430 hours.

    Other LSTs put on full speed and escaped, although LST 515, according to Army records, turned and picked up some survivors several hours later. LSTs 507 and 531 continued to burn and settle. Deck guns were not manned, although some shots were fired by Navy personnel. The craft burned for about two hours, LST 531 sank, but the exact time is uncertain. At 0400 a British destroyer arrived and picked up survivors. Its captain ordered that LST 507, which had settled until only its bow was above water, be sunk. The enemy did not suffer any known casualties or damage.

    Most of the casualties were from LST 531. There were only 290 survivors of 744 soldiers and 282 sailors. Aboard LST 507 there were 13 dead and 22 wounded. The 1st (Engineer Special) Brigade suffered most heavily in the action with 413 dead and 16 wounded. The 3206th Quartermaster Service Company was virtually wiped out. Of 251 officers and men, 201 were killed or wounded. The 557th Quartermaster Railhead Company also had heavy losses, 69 casualties in all. A complete list of casualties is not available, but Army records, possibly not complete, state that 749 were killed and more than 300 either injured or suffering from severe exposures.

    Events Observed from LST 58

    0133 hours
    gunfire directed at convoy. Probably AA to draw return fire.

    general quarters sounded. No target visible. Order to open fire withheld to protect position of convoy.

    convoy changed direction to 203 degrees. Explosion heard astern and LST 507, the last landing craft in the convoy, seen to be on fire.

    LST 531 opened fire but no target visible from LST 58.

    LST 531 hit and exploded.

    decision to break formation and to proceed independently.

    order given on LST 531 to abandon ship.

    E-boat sighted at 1500 metres. Four 40mm guns and six 20mm guns on LST 58 fired off 68 and 323 rounds respectively. The E-boat turned away and at "cease fire" was about 2000 metres distant when it disappeared from view.

    LST 289 was hit.

    LST 289 opened fire but target not seen from LST 58.

    surface torpedo reported off bow of LST 58.

    0238 to 0400
    bright magnesium flares sighted in all directions with the intention of discouraging the scattered convoy making for shore. E-boat engine noises heard on many occasions.

    order given on LST 507 to abandon ship.

    LST 515 lowered boats and picked up survivors from LST 507.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">Sherman DD Tank... that stands as a Memorial was recovered from shore just off the beach at Slapton. </span>

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">Schnellboot</span>
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  6. #336
    Operation Tiger is well known to me as I come from near Slapton Sands.
    There were two escort Royal Navy vessels but one of them had to turn back due to engine trouble, the exercise should have been abandoned then as Lyme Bay was a well known area for E-boat operations.
    Also there were communication problems, the Escort vessels and the LSTs were using different frequencys.
    The loss of the LSTs was a big problem as they were in short supply. It almost caused a delay in D-Day.
    The Sherman DD tank shown was not lost during Exercise Tiger, it was recovered from much closer to shore just off the beach at Slapton.
    May were lost during exercises as they did not have much freeboard, even a small swell could swamp them.
    The losses during Tiger included several men with knowlege of the D-Day plans so much effort went into identifying the dead to make such none were captured by the Germans.
    Many men were drowned because they did not know how to ajust their lifejackets correctly, they were found floating upside down.
    I have also heard of other tragadys during training at Slapton, in one case during a landing a gun was firing live bullets when it should have had blanks. As the soldiers left the landing craft they were met by this fire and dozens were killed.
    There was much damage done to the area during excercises, there was a large hotel on the beach which was totally destroyed.
    A large area was taken over which extended about three miles inland from the beach. This covered several villages, the people were only given six weeks notice to move. It took several years after the war before everyone could move back due to the damage. All the farmers had to move all their livestock as well.
    As far as I remember only one civilian , a young boy, was killed during the exercises. He was hit by a shell which landed outside the exclusion zone.
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  7. #337
    One13... Thank's for the added information on the story of Operation Tiger. You wouldn't have a few photo's from the area... that you could maybe share.
    Again Thank's... I'll make the changes to the posting.
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  8. #338
    Woofiedog/One13; EXCELLENT post on one of the lesser known tragedies of WWII.

    27 April


    In Norway... The British decide to evacuate their forces from Namsos and Andalsnes, giving up any attempt to reach Trondheim. Andalsnes is heavily attacked from the air.

    From Berlin... Himmler orders the construction of Auschwitz concentration camp.

    In the Balkans... The Germans enter Athens in Greece. An Allied transport is bombed off Nauplia and two destroyers that come to the rescue are also sunk. Many of the soldiers on all three ships are lost.

    In North Africa... General Paulus arrives in North Africa on an inspection tour of Rommel's force. He has orders from OKH to try to bring Rommel under control and sort out a situation which, from Germany, seems very confused. He immediately halts preparations for more attacks on Tobruk. German reconnaissance units enter Egypt and occupy the Halfaya Pass, one of the few routes from Egypt by which the Cyrenaica plateau can be reached.

    In the Mediterranean... The carrier Ark Royal flies a further 23 Hurricane fighters to Malta. A small convoy also arrives at the island with some supplies from Gibraltar and some reinforcements which are to join the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria.

    In Canada... The Mackenzie-King government holds a national referendum on introducing conscription for overseas service. The proposal receives majority support but there is substantial resistance in French-speaking province of Quebec; 72% of the French-speaking voting population oppose the proposition, compared to 80% in favor of it among English-speaking voters.

    In Washington... President Roosevelt outlines measures for putting the United States economy on a wartime footing.

    In Moscow... Molotov, the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, issues a new note on German atrocities on the Eastern Front.

    In Tunisia... British forces occupy Djebel Bou Aoukaz after an intensive battle.

    In Britain... During the night (April 27-28), 3 American LST landing craft, conducting an invasion exercise (Exercise "Tiger"), are torpedoed by German E-boats in Lyme Bay. A total of 638 troops are killed. This incident is kept secret for fear of damaging Anglo-American relations.
    See woofiedog's and One13's informative posts on this debacle above

    In New Guinea... US troops occupy the main airstrip at Hollandia.

    Over Occupied Poland... Soviet aircraft conduct a nighttime raid on Lvov.

    On the Eastern Front... In Berlin, the Soviet forces have captured the Templehof airfield and are making progress in Spandau, Grunewald and other areas. To the north of the capital, troops of 2nd Belorussian Front begin to advance rapidly, taking Prenzlau and Angermunde.

    German troop carrier destroyed in Berlin

    In Germany... The western Allies reply to the peace proposals Himmler offered earlier in the month with a total refusal and a reminder of the established demand for unconditional surrender.

    In Italy... Forces of US 5th Army liberate Genoa, which is already substantially controlled by Italian partisan forces.

    In the Philippines... US forces capture Baguio, on Luzon. Fighting continues in the Bicol Peninsula.

    In the Occupied Dutch East Indies... A squadron of 3 cruisers and 6 destroyers, commanded by Admiral Berkey, make a preparatory bombardment of targets in the Tarakan area in the northeast of the island of Borneo.
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  9. #339
    28 April


    In Norway... A further detachment of French mountain troops arrives at Harstad.

    French mountain troops arriving in Norway

    In the Balkans... In Greece, at Nauplia a burning merchant ship blocks the pier and 1700 men have to be left behind. At Kalamata (an Allied evacuation center) a German force bursts into the town but is eventually defeated by the 7000 troops awaiting evacuation. The naval force off the port sees the fighting and withdraws before the Germans are subdued. About 5000 troops are evacuated on the night of April 28-29th, the last night of the evacuation. It has taken Germany less than a month to overrun Greece and Yugoslavia.
    British soldiers left behind after the fall of Greece

    In Burma... Lashio, the terminus of the Burma Road, becomes a major defensive target, to this end the Chinese 28th Division is ordered from Mandalay to defend Lashio.

    Chinese infantry holding a defensive position

    In Tunisia... The German 8th Panzer Regiment counterattacks the British forces that have occupied Djebel Bou Aoukaz. American forces make some gains in "Mousetrap Valley."

    German troops sleeping in the desert at night

    In New Guinea... American and Japanese forces, moving west from Wewak, engage near Aitape.

    In the United States... The Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, dies.

    In Occupied Italy... Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, as well as other Fascist leaders are caught by partisans near Lake Como as they attempt to escape to Switzerland. They are shot and their bodies transported to Milan and hung up by the heels in the main square, where a mob then mutilates the corpses.

    Moments after their deaths at the hands of Italian partisans, Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci.

    On the Eastern Front... The battle of Berlin continues with Soviet troops having now penetrated to within a mile of Hitler's bunker from the east and the south. Most of the Potsdamer Strasse has been cleared by troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front.

    On the Western Front... The US 7th Army captures Augsburg in its advance south toward Austria. Other Allied units are crossing the Elbe River in the north and others are advancing on Munich in the south.

    In the Ryukyu Islands... On Okinawa, fighting along the Shuri Line continues. American forces employ tanks, flame-throwers and artillery in an effort to destroy Japanese defensive positions.

    In the Atlantic... Convoy ONS-5 is attacked by 51 U-boats over the course of a following week (April 28-May6th). It loses 13 ships (out of 42) but 7 U-boats are sunk, 5 are seriously damaged and 12 are slightly damaged. This is considered a successful rate of exchange for the Allied convoys.
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  10. #340
    During the Months of April and May 1945...

    The Battle For Convoy ONS 5. 26th.April - 6th. May 1943.

    By Mackenzie J Gregory

    Convoy ONS 5.
    Outward North Atlantic Slow Five, short name ONS 5, with a code name of MARFLEET, was made up of 43 merchant ships, in the main they could be classified as elderly, their destination Halifax in Nova Scotia, with a few ships destined for New York and Boston. This motley band of grey vessels with their names painted out had sailed from five ports, Milford Haven, Liverpool, the Clyde, Oban, and Londonderry. They now assembled off Oversay Light over the 21st/22nd of April, at the entrance to the North Channel between North East Ireland, and the South Isle of the Inner Hebrides and the Mull of Kintyre.

    The Convoy Commodore was J. Kenneth Brook Royal Navy Reserve, and he formed up his brood, three and four deep over a front of twelve columns. He placed himself at the centre of column six in the Norwegian ship Rena, with the New York bound tanker Argon the one ship astern of him.

    The majority of the Convoy ships were British, four - McKeesport, West Medaket, West Maximus, and the Argon -were American, Bonde, Rena, and Fana all Norwegian, Berkel and Bengkelis, Dutch, the Greek contingent, Agios Georgios, and Nicolas, Ivan Topia came from Jugoslavia, Isabel from Panama, and finally Bornholm hailed from Denmark.

    Two ships, Mckeesport and Dolius ( British ) had initially sailed with Convoy SC 122, and had survived the onslought by U-Boats over the 17th./20th. of March. Most of the Convoy were in ballast, all had sailed before in convoys and knew what was required of them in terms of station keeping, and what they might expect when the U-Boats attacked, as they always did on these journeys across the Atlantic, no matter whether one was East or West bound.

    The empty ships were bound for both North and South American ports to load food, fuel, armaments, raw materials, for the long flog back to Britain, these convoys were the life line that sustained the English people during the war, and allowed England to build up the sinews of war required for the future invasion of fortress Europe.

    By the 2nd. of April, the Commodore had assembled his flock, 1,000 yards between columns, and 800 yards between ships in the individual columns. over all this convoy with its Escort was spread over 8.75 nautical miles.

    Commander Peter Gretton, Royal Navy was the Senior Officer of this B7 Escort Group.

    The leader's ship was the destroyer HMS Duncan, the 5th. ship to carry that name, launched in July 1932, to be completed by the end of March 1933, and converted to an anti/submarine Escort at Chatham, then to join Western Approaches Escort Group B7 in April of 1943. She was fitted with ahead throwing Hedge Hog, High Frequency/ Direction Finding equipment, and Type 271 Radar. Frigate HMS Tay, Corvettes HMS Loosestrife, HMS Pink, and HMS Snowflake, two Rescue Trawlers, Northern Gem and Northern Spray, plus a Tanker, British Lady, made up the Escort.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">HMS Sunflower (K41)</span>

    A second destroyer HMS Vidette, commanded by Lieutenant Raymond S. Hart Royal Navy, had gone ahead to collect two freighters, and a USN Tanker from Iceland, and they were all to rendezvous mid ocean. Hart was the only other Royal Naval Officer in command besides Commander Gretton, all other ship Captains were Reserve Officers from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Gretton had been the First Lieutenant in HMS Cossack at the Second Battle of Narvic, he had trained as a pilot, and had also completed an anti - submarine course at HMS Osprey ( the anti - submarine training school at Portland in Dorset, where I spent six months in 1946 during my specialist course as a Torpedo Anti - Submarine Officer. )

    Commander Gretton had won a Distinguished Service Cross in peace time in Palestine, and went on in WW2 to be awarded three Distinguished Service Orders, later he was to become Vice Admiral Sir Peter Gretton, at this stage he was a well trained, hard driving, and efficient Escort Commander.

    Gretton had worked up his B7 Group to a high standard at Londonderry, having trained them to use the HF/DF fitted in both Duncan and Tay, to gain a cross bearing of any German U-Boat when transmitting a signal to Germany. He made them all use the ASDIC, and depth charge trainers time after time until these drills were second nature. The tactical table at Derry allowed his key personnel to practice manoeuvres and tactics devised by Captain Roberts at his tactical school at Western Approaches in Liverpool.

    They trained and trained to be in great shape to take on the wily U-Boat commanders in the crucible of that vital fight that could be won or lost, the Battle of the Atlantic, May of 1943 would decide the final victor in this dirty war against the U-Boats, who would win, the hunters, or those who hunted?

    Escort Disposition.
    Gretton in Duncan placed himself in the bosom of the convoy, astern of Argon, i.e.. two ships astern of the Convoy Commodore. The escort formed up on the port bow, beam and quarter, the starboard bow and quarter, the tanker and rescue trawlers astern. Commodore Brook signaled a course of 280 degrees, just 10 degrees south of west, and ONS 5 was on its way. The weather forecast looked ominous, gale force winds would throw up mountainous seas, to make station keeping difficult, stragglers would become inevitable, and the ordered convoy speed of 7.5 knots probably could not be maintained.

    It was likely that routing ONS 5 east of Greenland would bring them all into pack ice, and even icebergs. The bad weather would at least force the U-Boats to keep their heads down.

    As the old saying goes " It is an ill wind etc."

    Admiral Donitz had a record number of his sea wolves at sea, waiting in the gap below Greenland, this area was beyond the range of covering Allied aircraft. It was highly probable that at least 36 U-Boats were formed up in two operational patrol lines, Meise and Sprecht, waiting in a 500 mile arc east of the Newfoundland coastline.

    The first week of this convoy voyage went off much as the escort Commander would expect, but the Polish ship Modlin was troubled with engine problems on the first night, she left her 8th. column, staggered off, making for the sanctity of the Clyde.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">HMS Duncan (D 99)</span>

    HMS Duncan was renowned for the amount of oil she gobbled up, and Gretton on the 24th. of April tried to top up fuel from the British Lady, the fuel hose being streamed astern, but the poor weather caused both the towing wire and the fuel hose to part. The American tanker Argon, used canvas hoses to refuel, and she could only service ships that came alongside, with the bad Atlantic weather that obtained, with high seas running, such a manoeuvre would be far too dangerous except in flat calm conditions. It seemed that Argon's much needed fuel was going to remain on board the tanker, a simple problem of canvas hoses stopping the escorts from receiving the precious oil she carried. It indicated how the planning involved in setting up a convoy that catered for refueling the escort ships enroute, needed to be so meticulous, right down to the finest detail.

    The end of U-710.
    Both Duncan and Tay made regular HF/DF sweeps trying to detect any U-Boats transmitting to their control in Germany ( BdU--Befebsbaber der Unterseeboote ) but they heard nothing. In fact there was a boat sitting a short distance ahead of the convoy, but it had not sent off any messages to BdU since it had sailed out of Kiel.

    Gretton was thus unaware of its near presence until the evening of the 24th. of April after it was attacked by a Flying Fortress Boeing aircraft of 206 Squadron, based at Benecula in the Hebrides.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">U-760 of type VIIC. Perhaps the most famous VIIC boat was the U-96 which is featured in the movie Das Boot, other noticeable boats were the U-flak boats. Many of these boats were fitted with the Schnorkel in 1944-1945.</span>

    At 1725 ( 5.25 PM ) one of the crew had sighted a fully surfaced U-Boat 10 miles away, it happened to be a newly commissioned Type VII boat, U-710, out on her very first patrol, with her Captain, Oblt. z.s. Dietrich von Carlowitz new to the Battle of the Atlantic. Instead of crash diving at the first sign of an approaching enemy aircraft, he ordered the boat's AA guns just aft of the conning tower to be manned. Inaccurate gunfire did not deter the Fortress which released a stick of 6 Depth Charges at low level, they straddled the boat at right angles to her course. This new U-Boat was doomed, and the hull sank stern first, Flying Officer Cowley circled his bomber, and dropped a second pattern into the wreckage, counting 25 survivors milling around in the swirling waters below him. Low on fuel as he was at the end of his patrol, he made for Reykjavic. One U-Boat down with more to come.

    The 25th. of April.
    Dawn on the 25th. of April broke to reveal a howling gale, the convoy struggling to maintain station, with the ships making a mere 2/3 knots, and steering an accurate course nigh impossible. At one stage the Commodore could make out 7 ships with 2 red vertical lights burning, indicating they were "Not under control."

    Bornholm collided with Berkel, both ships being damaged, the latter stayed within the convoy, and Bornholm left for Reykjavic on her own, Gretton did not want to part with one of his precious escorts to accompany her. She had been holed in the engine room, some 10 feet above the waterline.

    The storm was so bad that to all intents and purposes the convoy " hove to."

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">H.M.S. Vidette</span>

    The 26th. of April.
    On the morning of the 26th. all ships were in visual contact but spread out across the ocean, the escorts acting as sheep dogs started to round up all their charges, and whipped them back into formation with the exception of the lead ship from column 8, Pendale was so far astern, that the Escort Commander detailed Northern Spray to go back and then see that she would safely return to Reykjavic, he was loath to give up one of the Rescue Trawlers, but it was preferable to losing one of his escorts.

    Now HMS Vidette reinforced the convoy as the second destroyer, arriving with Bosworth, Gudvor, and the empty USN Tanker, Sapelo. Vidette had a greater range than did Duncan,one of her boilers had been removed and this extra space used as fuel stowage. She was fitted with asdic, Type 271 radar, but not with HF/DF.

    Gretton in Duncan agonised about her poor fuel performance, and signaled Western Approaches that he may have to leave the convoy to refuel in Greenland unless the bad weather moderated. At last the luck changed, the seas calmed down, and Duncan was able to refuel from British Lady, Vidette, and the corvette Loosestrife were also able to top up their tanks, whilst RAF Hudsons from Greenland maintained patrols overhead.

    No U-boat contact with the convoy.
    With the exception of U-710 sunk by the Fortress bomber, there seemed to be no U-Boats in the vicinity of convoy ONS 5, in fact, as many as 58 boats were out there, between the 22nd./25th. three groups, Specht with 17 boats from 54 degrees 15 minutes North, 43 degrees 15 minutes West spread southwards to 51 degrees 15 minutes North, 38 degrees 55 minutes West.

    Meise had 30 U-Boats sitting and waiting from 59 degrees 15 minutes North, 32 degrees 36 minutes West, to 56 degrees 45 minutes North, 28 degrees 12 minutes West, with the third line Amsel, with 11 submarines all strung out from 54 degrees 51 minutes North, 32 degrees West, in a tighter line down to 53 degrees 45 minutes North, 29 degrees 35 minutes West.

    Initially these three lines were established to entrap and maul the westbound Convoy ONS 4, but it had evaded this menace to reach New York safely and intact.

    Two other convoys on a northern route, SC127 ex Halifax on the 16th. of April, and ON179 out of Liverpool on the same date both eluded these three patrol lines.

    SC127 was rerouted to a more northerly course after the order to increase Meise was intercepted, but it took 14 hours to decrypt it.

    A further convoy ex Liverpool, on the 24th. of April, ON180. was trailing ONS5, and it too missed all the waiting U-Boats.

    With all the U-Boats assigned to northern latitudes two other convoys on their way to UK, HX235, and HX236, whilst at sea, were directed to sail southerly courses, this tactic was also successful.

    It was a real game of cat and mouse, the giant chess like plotting table at Western Approaches Headquarters in Liverpool, showing all the convoys at sea, enormous lanes of traffic, the German U-Boats positioned by their command BdU, where they believed the convoys would pass, and Western Approaches staff with the benefit of the code breakers craft able to receive and decrypt the U-Boat orders deploying their boats at sea, the British were then able to move their convoys onto courses that should then evade the waiting sea wolves ready to pounce on unsuspecting sheep making up the convoys ploughing the unforgiving waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

    Admiral Donitz in command of the U-Boat Division tended to blame the lack of contact of his waiting U-Boat lines to the fact that Allied aircraft carried a Radar device that his Submarines were powerless to intercept. At no time during WW2, or indeed post war would he admit to the fact that the Allied cryptographers had cracked the German Navy Cipher.

    Nine days of intelligence blackout.
    But, at 1200 ( noon ) on the 26th. of April, the Allied code breakers suddenly went blind, changes had been introduced by Berlin in the Naval Enigma settings, and it took the cryptographers until the 5th. of May, a critical period in ONS5's westward journey, nine days of intelligence blackout, absolutely nothing, a ghastly blank at the worst possible time for our convoy, when it was entering the longitudes where the U-Boats were waiting in force.

    ONS5 was in extreme danger, unknown to both Commander Gretton, and Western Approaches Command, was the new move by BdU, on the 24th. of April, Gruppe Star, 16 newly assembled U-Boats, along a north/south line at 30 degrees West between latitudes of 61 degrees 50 minutes and 57 degrees North, about 400 nautical miles of Greenland.

    These submarines were ordered to be on station by 0900 ( 9 AM ) on the 28th. of April, the northern most arm of this line would just cross the course of convoy ONS5. This group was set up precisely to catch the next oncoming convoy, namely ONS5.

    About this time, the German radio that listened in to, and could read the Anglo/American Naval Cipher No 3, the one used to route convoys, and these messages also included the Admiralty's and United States Navy daily U-Boat situation Reports, one would have thought these situation Reports would have shouted to the BdU that its own codes had been broken.

    But no, they did not realise that their Cipher had been compromised.

    The BdU Situation Room when it received details of a specific convoy, such as its composition, course and speed, gave it a number, for ONS5, it was Number 33.

    First sighting of ONS5 by a U-Boat.
    On the 28th. at 0900 ( 9AM ) one of the Star line, U-650, sitting on the surface sighted "Mastheads" this boat closed to find a large westbound convoy. Oblt.Z.S. Ernest von Witzendorff radiod BdU "Convoy steaming at 8/10 nautical miles, course 270 degrees."

    At 1040 ( 10.40AM ) a second U-Boat surfaced a short distance from U-650, and BdU directed all Star boats to attack, based upon U-650's report.

    Back at the convoy, Duncan and Tay had picked up this radio transmission on their HF/DF equipment, so Gretton now knew the convoy was being shadowed, but he had no inkling just how many U-Boats, he and his escorts would soon need to repel.

    Snowflake was ordered to steam down the bearing from the transmitting U-Boat, but they neither found nor heard anything. The convoy was ordered to alter course 35 degrees to starboard until 1600 ( 4PM ) when it again resumed a course of due west.

    Visibility had now fallen to about 3 miles.
    At 1650 ( 4.50PM )another U-Boat transmission was picked up astern of the convoy, it seemed that the course alteration had moved ONS5 out of harms way, at least for the moment. Once again escorts hunted down the bearing, but to no avail, and Gretton was fearful of a pack attack that night, as air cover was no longer available with Iceland locked in by poor weather.

    At 1838 ( 6.38PM ) as a heavy oncoming sea formed, Duncan's HF/DF picked up a U-Boat bearing 210 degrees, close to her port bow, they chased it at top speed, with Tay making a parallel search.

    By 1920 ( 7.20PM ) from Duncan's bridge the spray thrown up from a conning tower of a U-Boat was sighted bearing 146 degrees, about 2 miles off.

    Course was altered to stem the target, but at 3,000 yards range this boat dived and in the rough seas obtaining, the destroyer's Anti-Submarine Detecting equipment failed to make any contact. With a destroyer bouncing up and down , the ASDIC dome housing the sound detection gear, which is located in the keel of the ship just below the bridge level, would also smack in and out of the rough water, this quenching within the dome makes life very difficult for the ASDIC operator to clearly hear any returning ping of the echo bouncing back from the submerged submarine.

    Using his plotted position of the U-Boat, Gretton unleashed a 10 charge Depth Charge pattern.

    Duncan and Tay now carried out a two mile sided square search with the Datum or plotted contact as its centre. Tay was left behind to sit on the U-Boat, to keep its head down, and Duncan returned to the convoy to order night stations at 2130 ( 9.30PM ) ONS5 on a south west leg, course 240 degrees, speed 7.5 knots. The sea was rough with a long moderate swell running.

    Commander Gretton believed any attack would come from the port side, so he placed all his defences there leaving the starboard bow uncovered.

    The German Position, and ordered reinforcements for ONS5.
    By nightfall only 4 other boats, U-380, U-378, U-532 and U-528 had heeded the call from U-710, only these 5 had concentrated on the convoy, others in the general vicinity had chattered away on their radios so that Western Approaches were well aware of the probability that this convoy was due to face a U-Boat onslought, so they called on HMS Oribi from Convoy SC127 to reinforce Gretton's escort group. In addition, Support Group EG3, made up of 4 Home Fleet Destroyers with HMS Offa in command was ordered out of Newfoundland at 15 knots to meet up with ONS5.

    The Stage is set.
    Heartened by the extra support on its way, Gretton and his escort ships Captains made ready for the battle sure to come that night. C in C Western Approaches, Admiral Max Horton warned Commander Gretton to expect an attack from down moon at 0200 ( 2 AM ) to prepare his well trained Group in whom he had the greatest confidence, Gretton dispatched a one word signal " Anticipate."

    Lieutenant Robert Atkinson RNR, Captain of the corvette Pink, and later to become Sir Robert, recalls that fateful night of the 28th. of April well, it was 1700 ( 5PM ) pitch black, windy as hell, I told the crew, "Hands to tea at six o'clock" and cleared lower deck ( that is mustering all the crew other than those on watch in a specific place on board ) and said. " There's going to be a hell of a battle tonight. I'm not sure how many of us will see daylight. I intend to see it if I can." So it was all up to us.

    The Western Approaches warning was out by 2 hours, one of the Star boats to port made the first of 6 attempted attacks on the convoy between 2358 ( 11.58 PM ) and dawn on the 29th. On the port bow, Sunflower made a Radar contact at 3,000 yards at 170 degrees, she quickly ran down this bearing and the U-Boat dived, no ASDIC contact was obtained but she dropped 2 depth charges to keep the boat down, then regained her convoy station.

    At the second attempt to penetrate the screen, at 0045 ( 00.45 AM ) Duncan also picked up a Radar contact at 2,500 yards, and her ASDIC made contact at 1,500 yards, but immediately lost the echo, 1 depth charge was dropped, and the leader was back in station by 0114 ( 1.14 AM. )

    Straight away the third attempt was made, yet another Radar contact 2,500 yards away on a 296 degrees bearing. Off Duncan charged again at her best speed until 0019 ( 1.19 AM ) at a range of only 1,100 yards, the U-Boat dived, Duncan reduced speed to allow the ASDIC to be used efficiently. Now a 10 charge pattern of depth charges was unleashed in the submarine's wake.

    The escorts were making the German boats keep their heads down to the benefit of all in the convoy, now at 0130 ( 1.30 AM ) the 4th. attempt to attack was under way, bearing 146 degrees at 4,800 yards, once more Duncan hot footed after this contact, forcing the boat to dive at 3,000 yards, ASDIC contact was made, and a single charge was dropped on the plotted position.

    Turning to resume her station, the destroyer picked up yet another Radar contact at 0156 ( 1.56 AM ) at 4,000 yards on a 210 degrees bearing, this the 5th. attempt, this U-Boat was making for the convoy at 12 knots on the surface, at 0204 ( 2.04 AM ) and when as close as 1,500 yards, she dived just as Duncan passed through a circle of oil on the ocean surface, it was 50 yards in diameter, suggesting the boat had been attacked earlier and was damaged.

    Good ASDIC contact was obtained, and an accurate 10 charge pattern was sent on its way. Duncan passed over the wake, and contact was regained astern, but lost at 800 yards, just as the Hedge Hog weapon was about to be fired.

    Now it was Snowflake's turn to foil the 6th. attempt mounted from the port beam, at 0339 ( 3.39 AM ) she sighted a U-Boat on the port bow, at 1,100 yards, and she fired two by 10 charge patterns. Now Tay covering the stern, got into the act by attacking a good ASDIC contact to thwart a possible 7th. attack to get through the defences to attack ships in the convoy.

    By 0416 ( 4.16 AM ) dawn was starting to break, a busy night was had by the escorts, especially by the leader in Duncan, but the convoy had been protected, and remained unscathed. No ships had been lost against a number of U-Boats, who in turn had suffered severe damage to two of them, U-386 and U-528 were forced to withdraw from this fight and return to base.

    On the 11th. of May, U-386 limped into her home port of St Nazaire, whilst U-528, on the same day, and on her first patrol, was close to entering the Bay of Biscay, when she was sighted and bombed by a Halifax aircraft D, from 58 Squadron, HM Ships Fleetwood and Mignonette, escorts with Convoy OS47, soon finished off this U-Boat, 11 of her crew died, and 45 were captured.

    Gretton thought that he had achieved a kill on the boat making the third U-Boat attack, in fact he probably caused the damage to one of the two submarines forced to retire. He said: " All in all, a most successful night." Having thwarted all the attacks during the dark hours, Gretton believed the frustrated U-Boat Captains would try their luck during daylight, he was right, and did not have long to wait.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">HMCS Regina during the Second World War</span>

    U-258 slipped inside and under the convoy lines, taking up a position at periscope depth to starboard of the N0. 4 column, it was now broad daylight, and at 0729 ( 7.29 AM ) she scored a torpedo hit on the US freighter McKeesport, the second ship in Column 4. When the alarm blared, Gretton was catching a quick moment of sleep in his sea cabin, he quickly made his bridge, ordering Operation Artichoke at 0730 ( 7.30 AM )

    The ship in position S ( astern ) closes the torpedoed ship, the ships ahead in position A, and those in positions L on the port bow, and B on the starboard bow, all turn outwards, and steam the reciprocal convoy course at 15 knots, sweeping in line, the wing ships passing outside the convoy wake, the inner ships between the convoy columns until they reach a line 3 miles astern of the position the convoy was in at the time the ship was torpedoed. All other escorts stay with their convoy charges. In another five minutes Commander Gretton noted a torpedo

    which had passed through several columns of the convoy without a hit, and explode at the end of its run on the port quarter, indicating that the attack had been launched from the starboard side. The rescue trawler Northern Gem, attained an ASDIC contact, and dropped 3 depth charges with a negative result. McKeesport had a hole opened up by the torpedo abreast No.1 hold which was filled with sand as ballast. It quickly filled with inrushing sea water, and the ship lurched off to port, almost running down the British Baron Graham, which took avoiding action.

    For another 50 minutes the torpedoed freighter maintained her station and the speed of the convoy, but with her engine room now flooding, at 0815 ( 8.15 AM ) she started to sink, and her Master ordered "ABANDON SHIP." There was but one fatality on board, a Swede, John A. Anderson, now Northern Gem came alongside and picked up 43 seamen and 25 naval personnel, she now tried to sink the wreck by gunfire, but without result, Tay was ordered by Gretton to dispose of the sinking ship, which she did by use of depth charges blasting another hole in her hull.

    No further attacks over the night of 29th./30th.
    The night of the 29th./30th. passed without further U-Boat attacks, and HMS Oribi joined, homed in on the convoy from astern, by means of HF/DF bearings, she too was fitted with this HF/DF equipment, a most useful adjunct for the convoy defences.

    Coastal Command was able to reestablish air contact, when a Liberator flew over ONS5 from Iceland at 0645 ( 6.45 AM ) on the morning of the 30th. But this cover was short lived, visibility soon diminished, and the
    aircraft left for its base. All morning the hungry U-Boats were kept at bay, and during this lull Oribi, also an oil guzzler, was able to replenish from British Lady.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW"> The White Ensign as flown by Naval ships of the Commonwealth during WW2</span>

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">Links:</span>

    Once more the wild Atlantic lived up to its awesome reputation, as a full gale struck, by 2100 ( 9. PM ) the height of the waves was causing the escorts "To roll their guts out." But even in the appalling weather some U-Boats had maintained contact with the convoy, a new day had started, and at 0105 ( 1 AM ) Snowflake had found a U-Boat by her radar at 3,000 yards away, she rushed down the bearing firing off a starshell to illuminate the scene, catching the U-Boat in the glare of light only 3,000 yards away. Both her 4 inch deck gun and the 20mm AA Oerlikons loosed off rounds which forced the boat to dive.

    A depth charge was dropped over the diving swirl of water caused by the crash dive, in rough weather, always an event that the escort does not relish, the hunter needs to quickly put distance between her stern and the forthcoming Depth Charge explosion, no easy task in the teeth of an Atlantic gale. Otherwise the escort risks having her stern blown off.

    Duncan, only a short time earlier, had dropped two DC's on a suspected submarine, the prevailing sea conditions only allowed her to make off at 8/9 knots, the explosion lifted her stern right out of the water, causing some alarming leaks, but even worse, this movement, caused all the Wardroom gin glasses to be smashed, really serious stuff indeed !!

    During the night, two more DC drops were made, but no concerted U-Boat attacks were made on ONS 5. By the 1st. of May, the weather was alarming, a force 10 gale blowing directly into the face of the convoy front, an advance at only a snail's pace could be maintained, the columns, and ships within them all drifted apart.

    The Convoy Commodore noted in his log: " Half convoy not under command, hove to, and very scattered." Commander Gretton in Duncan found it hard to accept that the awful weather could virtually halt the whole convoy dead in its tracks. By the next morning the weather had somewhat moderated, and 5 knots was being achieved, but over the previous 24 hours, only 20 miles had been covered, this suffices to indicate the ferocity of the incredible
    weather conditions that ONS 5 faced.

    A Liberator from Reykjavic flew many miles acting as a the eyes of the Escort Commander locating convoy ships scattered as far apart as 30 miles from him. By evening, Escort Group 3 Support Group made up of HM Ships Offa, Penn, Panther and Impulsive had joined at 2040 ( 8.40 PM.) Gretton as a Commander, now found himself junior
    to Captain J. A. McCoy RN. in Offa, but he was appointed as the Escort Commander, and he was relieved to quickly find out that his senior officer was friendly and ready to cooperate, when he asked McCoy's ships to take station as an extended screen.

    No sign of the German U-Boats over the night of the 2nd of May.
    The night of the 2nd. of May remained quiet, the U-Boats had either been evaded, or perhaps were busy regrouping. When the new day dawned, 32 ships of the convoy were together, and their escorts still trying to bring the stragglers back into the fold, gale force winds from the south west, still battering the struggling convoy vessels.

    Gretton in Duncan was still fretting about his falling fuel supply, it was still too rough to refuel from British Lady, and the weather ahead no calmer. He had just enough oil remaining to make it to Newfoundland at economical speed, he considered transferring his command to another Escort, but the wretched weather stopped that move. He was stuck in Duncan, his baby, and his duty, the safe escort of ONS 5, would have to do without his drive and dynamic leadership. By means of his Radio Telephone, Gretton at 1600 ( 4 PM ) handed over the duties as Senior Officer Escort to Lieutenant Commander Robert Sherwood Royal Navy Reserve in Tay.

    It had been as far back as the 1920's that Royal Navy planners had decided what fuel capacity was adequate for a Destroyer, and that decision had now decided the fate of Gretton's ship Duncan, and who knew at that specific time,
    perhaps the fate of Convoy ONS 5. Once more the past had come back to haunt a heavy hearted Escort Commander,

    Commander Gretton as he gave up command and struggled off to St Johns at only 8 knots. That night, and by the next morning, the 4th. of May, three more destroyers had to exit from their support of ONS 5 for exactly the same reason, very little fuel left. Impulsive went off to Iceland, Panther and Penn to Newfoundland, all to refuel.

    The burden of command already pressed heavily upon Sherwood, he sent off Northern Gem with her load of McKeesport's survivors to Newfoundland, the fuel shortage was a major problem and anxiety for him as he warned C-in-C Western Approaches unless the weather let up so that oil aboard USS Argon became available, he would need to detach both destroyers Offa and Oribi by Wednesday morning the 5th. of May.

    But back to HMS Duncan, by the time she tied up at St Johns, she had a meagre 4 % of her fuel capacity slopping about in her tanks. If the last two destroyers were forced to abandon the convoy through oil shortage, it would leave Sherwood bereft of any destroyers at all, only Corvettes remaining, and now to compound his troubles, Tay's ASDIC equipment went on the blink, and was declared irreparable.

    To fill some of the blank spots in the Convoy defences, the First Escort Group at St Johns, HM Ships Wear, Jed and Spray, all River Class Frigates, plus an ex US Coastguard Lake Class Cutter, now renamed HMS Sennen were ordered to: "Proceed at best speed through 47 Degrees North, 47 Degrees West, and thence to reinforce ONS 5."

    The weather at long last improved somewhat, the wind dropped, and the seas calmed, the convoy speed picked up to 6 knots, ONS 5 had made it through the Greenland Gap, that awful void on the Atlantic Run where no air cover is available to any convoys running either east or west. It is this gap in particular, that is exploited by BdU in Germany, as they deploy their U-Boats, they usually have a picnic at the expense of Convoys running the gauntlet without any air cover at all. ONS 5 had traversed this dreaded area without a single submarine attack upon it at all.

    But, despite some optimism, Sherwood had HF/DF interceptions, U-Boats, whether the same old foes, or new ones from another waiting group were in contact with ONS 5 on its port beam, and from the port bow areas. Sherwood had first gone to sea in the Merchant Navy back in 1922, and in 1929, he had joined the Royal Navy Reserve, he had served as a Sub Lieutenant in both Mine Sweepers and a Battleship, he took anti-submarine courses, and by 1940 commanded a Corvette, HMS Bluebell. He was the Captain of Tay in 1942, who at that stage also carried B 7's Senior Officer Escort. Gretton must have had great confidence in this Reserve Officer to have handed over to him the baton of Escort Commander.

    As HF/DF contacts became more and more numerous, Sherwood was unaware that only 70 miles ahead of his charges lay a group of U-Boats, as large as any yet assembled in this deadly war carried out in the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW"> The Red Ensign flown by British Merchant Ships</span>

    A brief comment on Anti- Submarine Warfare Ships.
    With its available speed, manoeuvreability, and armament, the Destroyer was generally accepted as the ultimate and most deadly anti-submarine warfare ship. The eventual successor, the Destroyer Escort was yet to enter the scene and the Battle of the Atlantic in any significant numbers.

    The River Class Frigates were very good anti-submarine vessels, of 1370 tons, and a reasonable speed of 20 knots gave them every chance of dealing with any threat posed by the opposing German boats. The Black Swan Class Sloops of similar size and speed were also most useful ships in this fight to the death.

    However, the real surprise in this seemingly never ending fight to the finish that raged across the Atlantic from the start of WW2 up to the present time of reporting was, the slower, smaller, Flower Class Corvettes, their names all coined from WW1 Flower Class Sloops. This class of WW2 ships started to come down the slipways in 1939, designed as Minesweepers, and for anti-submarine work in the English Channel and North Sea, their immediate relative was a commercial whaler Southern Pride.

    The class was easy to construct, with a single screw, but above all they could be rolled out from non Naval Yards across the United Kingdom. In all, some 221 Flower Class or Modified Flower Class Corvettes came off the slipways in UK and Canada, alas only one of this breed remains today, launched in 1941, HMCS Sackville, now fully restored, is on display at Halifax in Nova Scotia, the port of departure for so many east bound convoys over 1939- 1945. These little ships, with a relatively short length of 205/208 feet, had a small turning circle, and eventually carried up to 50 depth charges, had a long range of 3,850 miles at 12 knots on only 213 tons of oil fuel, very economical.

    They proved to be great ships on the Atlantic run, although never designed to sail those perilous seas, they survived the worst weather that the Atlantic could throw at them, they were uncomfortable sea ships, but most of all, they were safe ships, and throughout all their ordeals on the North Atlantic run, not a single man was ever washed overboard from a Flower Class Corvette. They took tons of ocean over their bows, they would "Roll on a damp grass!" but they always shook themselves clear and came up to plough on and on.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW"> AO 11 Sapelo, the fleet oiler that joined Convoy ONS 5.</span>

    The Cruel Sea.
    It was the Flower Class Corvette on which Nicolas Monsarrat based his famous novel The Cruel Sea, and his Compass Rose went on to dominate Naval fictional history.

    Admiral Donitz moves his U-Boat Lines.
    After the U-Boats from the Grappe Star line had failed to take any real toll of the ships comprising ONS 5, back in Germany, Admiral Donitz was organising to combine Star's 13 boats with those of the western patrol line Specht. Previously it had been the intent of BdU to combine Star and Specht subs against the eastbound SC 128, out of Halifax, but that had not come to pass.

    Now, by 1800 ( 6 PM ) on the 3rd. of May these 31 boats were strung from 56 degrees 21 minutes North, 44 degrees 35 minutes West down to 54 degrees 57 minutes North, 39 degrees 35 minutes West. Smoke was reported, plus starshell, and one boat reported that a destroyer had chased it off. But in Berlin it was wrongly assumed that this U-Boat line had again come in contact with SC 128.

    Control sent off this signal: " Do not hold back, something can and must be achieved with 31 boats." they estimated the convoy was steaming between 020 and 050 degrees, but of course it was not, it was ONS 5 that had been sighted, it was west bound. SC 128, warned by Ottowa, had taken avoiding action, and skipped around the waiting Star/Specht line to safely reach port on the 11th. of May.

    In addition to the patrol line just set up, BdU also ordered another trap to be set: Grappe Ansel, further south, in four groups 1,11,111, and IV, each of five boats, except for group 1, which had 6 designated boats in it.

    Now we had an incredible number of 48 U-Boats waiting to snare ONS 5, they were strung out over 382 nautical miles with about 14.7 miles between each submarine, such a concentration could not possibly miss this west bound convoy.

    Convoy ON 180 trailing behind ONS 5 was somewhat to their north, and when mastheads were sighted on the afternoon of the 4th. of May, it was actually ONS 5 crossing the patrol line of waiting U-Boats, but they were mistaken for ON 180 ships.

    The northern most sub groups I and II were ordered to proceed north and join up with that patrol line, so by the night of the 4th. of May, 41 submarines were massed, the largest ever group around a single convoy.

    Sherwood was well aware he was in the company of a very large concentration of U-Boats, his HF/DF had made contacts on the port bow, port quarter, the starboard beam, and the starboard quarter. In addition, the Admiralty alerted him at 1920 ( 7.20 PM ) of heavy and continuous wireless traffic in his proximity.

    The Stage is Set.
    Thirty merchant ships in ten columns, 1,000 yards apart, at the slow speed of 7 knots, on a course of 202 degrees, the weather had now cleared with only a light breeze blowing, with a slight sea running. Ideal conditions for the waiting Wolf Pack, the previously dreadful weather had at least forced the U-Boats to keep their heads down, as they too had battled the elements.

    What a target! Surely a U-Boat Commander's dream scenario!

    Sherwood set up his defences:- The two destroyers Offa and Oribi well forward, one on each bow of the convoy. Pink in charge of 4 stragglers away from the main group was finally routed separately. Sherwood in Tay, took up position on the port quarter, Vidette the starboard bow, Sunflower the port bow, Loosestrife the starboard beam, and the rescue trawler Northern Spray was allocated to the starboard quarter. All in all, a rather pitiful and meagre defence against the might of the U-Boats pitted against them.

    A U-Boat sunk by Canadian Catalina.
    One of the U-Boats on her way to join her consorts was about 30 miles astern of the convoy, when a Catalina aircraft from Gander Newfoundland, piloted by Squadron Leader Barry Moffitt from Toronto picked her up on his 10cm radar, about 7 miles away. The boat fully surfaced, was attacked just as she started to crash dive, a stick of depth charges was sent on their way to catch U-209, and she did not survive.

    A second Catalina, depth charged U-438, also caught on the surface, but this time the boat survived.

    First success to the U-Boats.
    The first contact on the night of May4/5 was made by 28 year old Kptlt. Ulrich Folkers in his Type IXC U-125, he picked off the merchant ship Lorient of 4,735 tons from the 3rd. column, a tooth brutally removed from the mouth of the convoy. ONS 5 was soon to be in need of more than the assistance of a remedial dentist as its mouth was to be continually savaged. Lorient just disappeared, no survivors, no
    debris, just simply no trace of her Captain Walter Manly and his 43 crew members.

    Now the commander of U-168, reported to BdU he was breaking out of the patrol line because of a fuel shortage, he was quickly ordered to stay on line until he had exhausted his fuel supplies down to the last 5 tons, only then might he withdraw to the east where a waiting milche cow would refuel him. U-168, as ordered stayed to fight.

    U-707 was the next to take up the offensive, at 2153 ( 9.53 PM ) she dived ahead of the convoy, her Commanding officer noting two destroyers ahead of ONS 5, with one as close as 1,000 yards, suddenly this boat was attacked with 8 depth charges falling all around it. The boat was taken deep, and made out the convoy thundering overhead, it had been attacked by Tay, once the convoy had passed, U-707 surfaced and let fly with a fan shot of torpedoes from tubes 1,11, and IV, from the close range of 1,500 yards.

    The target, the 4,635 ton freighter North Britain, a straggler, a few miles astern of the main group, having fallen behind due to boiler problems. In 69 seconds she had gone, sunk. Northern Spray under the command of Lieutenant F.A.J. Downer,RNR. picked up only 11 survivors.

    ( By sheer coincidence, only this morning Sunday, the 17th. of May 2004 I received an E-Mail from the Captain of Northern Spray's son, Richard Downer, telling me about his Father being part of the escort for Convoy ONS 5. Richard had come across my Ahoy web site, and read my unfinished work on the Battle for Convoy ONS 5. The sheer wonder of the Internet and its associated E-Mail continue to both amaze and delight me. )

    Now it was U-629's turn, she had been the shadower, keeping tabs on this convoy, and her Captain Hasenscher, thought that another seven boats, were by dusk, also in contact with ONS 5. He kept his boat on the surface, and weaved unseen past the escorts to squirt off torpedoes at a range between 4/5,000 meters at 5 different targets.

    This U-Boat Captain was rather too optimistic about his results, he later reported he had sunk a large freighter, also probably sunk a medium sized one, left a third burning, and blown to bits a Corvette. In fact, his rush of torpedoes claimed but one victim, the 5,081 ton Harbury, filled with over 6,000 tons of coal. And all the Corvettes were still around.

    As Harbury was settling by the stern, her Master, Captain W.E.Cook ordered ABANDON SHIP, again Northern Spray came to the rescue, hauling out 44 men with another 7 missing.

    Now, Kptlt. Hartwig Looks, in his U-264 scored hits on two ships, the 5,561 ton American West Maximus, and the British 4,586 ton Harperly, a sister to Harbury. From the crew of 60 on board the former, all but 4 made it into 4 lifeboats, and were rescued by Northern Spray, who by now was becoming very crowded with all the survivors she had acquired.

    The Harperley after being hit on the port side by two torpedoes from U-264, maintained an even keel and settled down. was abandoned, within 15 minutes she was claimed by the Atlantic, some hours later 38 survivors joined the throng in Northern Spray, which was now ordered by Sherwood to make for St Johns, where she reached safely on the 8th. of May at 0750 ( 7.50 AM ) Lieutenant Downer and his company had fulfilled their rescue ship role with great courage and ability, without her, some 134 sailors may well have been claimed by the U-Boats and the North Atlantic.

    <span class="ev_code_YELLOW">The Flower class corvette </span>

    Tackling the U-Boats.
    Although five ships had been lost to the U-Boats, Sherwood and his escorts were out there trying to combat their enemy. At 2247 ( 10.47 PM ) Tay had made an ASDIC contact at only 400 yards, she immediately let fly with a 10 pattern depth charge attack which did not bear fruit. Sherwood was concerned that many None Submarine echoes were being reported, and wrongly concluded this attack was carried out on one such echo, but it was U-707 he had found, but she was left unscathed.

    Lieutenant Raymond Hart in Vidette, picked up a blip with his Type 271 Radar set at 0020 ( 20 minutes past midnight ) his station, 5,000 yards on the starboard bow of the convoy. This contact was 3,600 yards away bearing 205 degrees, he cranked Vidette up to 22 knots and rushed down the bearing to sight a surfaced U-Boat five minutes later, only 700 yards distant, the boat now crash dived, at 0030.5 ( 00.30.5 AM ) Vidette dropped a 14 charge pattern set to shallow, as she steamed over the swirl put up by the diving U-Boat.

    It was U-514, and Kptlt. Hans-Jurgen Auffermann was forced to report to his base that this attack put his fixed periscope out of action, and so damaged his starboard stern tube that his command was kept from taking any further part in the attacks on ONS 5, until the struggle against this convoy was all over.

    Hart opened the range to 2,000 yards, but could not regain any contact, now at 0050 ( 00.50 AM ) another radar contact came in, bearing 285 degrees at 3,600 yards, off Vidette hared, up this bearing, another boat was sighted, this was U-662, under the command of Kptlt. Heinrich Muller, but 1,000 yards off.

    Hart tried to ram, and opened fire with 20mm Oerlikons, the tracers causing temporary blindness to his bridge personnel, the U-Boat dived, with Vidette a scant 80 yards away, as her conning tower slipped beneath the waves.

    Over the swirl, at a little before 1 AM. a 14 charge pattern was released. U-662 sneaked away, but this attack shook up another nearby boat, U-732 with Oblt.z.S Klaus-Peter Carlsen commanding, his boat already carrying damage from a previous encounter, was forced to leave the scene and make for home at Brest.

    Vidette was in the thick of it all, at 0125 ( 1.25 AM ) now made an ASDIC contact, to unleash a third depth charge pattern, this one of 12 charges, the last 2 could not be set in time. All to no avail, after a very busy period, this destroyer was ordered by Sherwood to take up her station again.

    Snowflake took up the task of hunting down U-Boats, as three ships, West Maximus, Harbury and her sister ship Harperley were all torpedoed within 19 minutes, Sherwood had ordered the operation Half-Raspberry, here some escorts hold their place on the screen and fire starshell rockets to illuminate the scene, and some carry out a triangular sweep, also using the starshell rockets. Snowflake turned hard to starboard to 335 degrees, and at 12 knots made a triangular sweep at the port quarter of the convoy.

    She fired her starshell to light up an arc, 030 degrees/150 degrees, and altered course to 210 degrees, within a minute the radar showed a blip at 255 degrees 3,000 yards off. Chesterman charged off at full speed to locate a U-Boat on the surface, now bathed in the light of his starshell. But the U-Boat was able to outrun a Flower Class Corvette with a top speed of only 16 knots. Now Snowflake had an ASDIC contact 300 yards away, and her Captain decided to pursue that rather than chase behind the fleeing surfaced boat. A light depth charge pattern set at 50 feet, and a heavy depth charge pattern set to 140 feet were fired, but there was no evidence of any result, the shallow pattern fractured the leads to the Corvette's ASDIC motor alternators.

    Snowflake's Captain now decided he would, after all, chase the surfaced U-Boat, which he now did, firing both starshell and 4 inch shells. This action caused the boat to dive, at least for now, it kept it out of the present scenario. Five light depth charges were set to 100 feet and fired, only 90 seconds later, lookouts sighted a torpedo but 150 yards ahead, moving from left to right, a quick and unexpected response to their DC attack. This contact was Look
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