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Loch Killin & Loch Fada
Created: 20 June 2006
I was sent an email which contained the following script regarding, in due course, life aboard the Loch Killin and her successful part of Captain Walker's Second Support Group in 1944. Its a very well written piece and a worthy read of conditions of the time.
(Australian) Naval Historical Review January 1980
Anti Submarine Warfare - June 1944, English Channel
By Captain Stanley Darling, OBE, DSC and two bars, VRD, RANR (Retd.)
In command of HMS Loch Killin, one of the first of a new class of frigate, Lieutenant Commander Darling joined the Second Escort Group (actually Support Group, a common mistake) under the legendary Captain Walker in June 1944 on A/S patrol in the South Western approaches and the English Channel in support of the Normandy landings. In this phase Loch Killin sank two U-boats and assisted in the sinking of two others in a single patrol. Loch Killin also destroyed a U boat in the Channel in April 1945
Being a Lieutenant Commander of nearly three years' seniority at the outbreak of the war, my first duty on mobilisation was as assistant staff officer operations, NOIC Sydney. However, my interest being in acoustics and sound and therefore Asdics, I applied to do the course at the Anti-Submarine School at Rushcutter. Somewhat reluctantly, due to my age, I was accepted, and on passing out was sent to the United Kingdom for service on loan in the Royal Navy. On arrival in London in October 1940, and despite a very limited background of sea service, I was given command of a group of four North Sea trawlers, converted to A/S vessels engaged on escorting coastal convoys between Harwich and Flamborough Head on the East Coast, locally known as ‘E-boat alley’ and incidentally on the flight path of bombers attacking London. The sand banks, strong tides, fogs, E-boats and our own and enemy mines made a rather sharp contrast to the kind of conditions I had previously been accustomed to.
The convoys were disposed in two columns to keep within the swept channels and they were often up to 15 miles long, and seldom were there more than a few hours without gunfire, flares, explosions somewhere along the line. The E-boats would either lurk round the channel marking buoys or scream in from the flanks, and bombers failing to locate their targets would sometimes drop their load as they returned over the convoys, but the hardest hit at that time were the minesweepers, who were having great difficulty coping with the new magnetic mines -their losses at that stage were staggering. After a few weeks on this run, my own ship Loch Oskaig was withdrawn and transferred to Gibraltar, where with three others, we established a contraband control blockade of Spanish and Portuguese ports. Genuine Allied and neutral ships would get themselves ‘Navy-certed’ before departure and would not be intercepted, but others not on the list would be boarded, and if necessary escorted into Gibraltar for further examination. It was a relatively quiet theatre, although on two or three occasions the regularly patrolling Focke Wulfs came over and strafed the patrol vessels. Also Scottish and Loch Oskaig on one occasion picked up an Italian U-boat, but in those days we each had only five patterns of depth charges, and between us we could only manage to damage him and send him home. On another occasion Loch Oskaig intercepted Cap Contin, a 5,000 ton Vichy French freighter in ballast, which was able to radio an alarm before we could stop her. To avoid FW patrols we took her to sea due west about 100 miles before turning for Gibraltar, as our relations with Vichy in the Mediterranean at that time were for all practical purposes at the shooting stage. The Vice-Admiral Commanding North Atlantic, thinking the French ships might attempt a recapture, despatched Force H - Ark Royal a heavy cruiser and a batch of destroyers. I doubt if anywhere did the war produce a more ludicrous scene than all that floating hardware taking over the escort of a relatively insignificant piece of flotsam from our little trawler. Admiral Somerville, Flag Officer Force H, sent us a signal saying ‘Sorry to be doing this to you’.
Later in 1941 I was appointed to an Admiralty class trawler Inchmarnock, actually smaller than Loch Oskaig, but built for minesweeping and anti-submarine work. Being a new ship we had to ‘work up’ at HMS Western Isles at Tobermory on the west coast of Scotland, where a very small, very old, quite ferocious Admiral Stephenson (aided by a very efficient staff) gave all newcomers three weeks of non-stop hell. But it was good going if you could keep on top of it, and I am sure every one who has been there will agree that ‘Monkey’ Stephenson's outfit made a very significant contribution to our anti-submarine effort. This was followed by mine-sweeping and anti-submarine patrols round the north coasts, Scapa Flow and the Faroe Islands, until the autumn of 1942, when I was sent over to North America to take command of HMS Clarkia, one of the earlier RN corvettes, which had been loaned to the United States early in 1942. The United States conducted the war on their Atlantic coast on the basis of total air cover and free movement of ships. The result was disastrous - the U-boats achieving nearly the record killings of the war - and the Americans had to establish the convoy system pronto. Britain lent a number of vessels to help out and Clarkia was still on the job. The work consisted mainly of escorting convoys between Guantanamo, Cuba, Port of Spain Trinidad and Recife Brazil. At that stage the US convoy system was not yet fully developed and there was still some residual reluctance to adopt out of hand anything British. In the Caribbean the senior officer of each convoy had to make up his own rules about what to do in the event of a U-boat attack. I was not infrequently the senior officer and would trot out plans, which were straight from the British book, but would give them American code names – no problem. Within a year of course there was total cooperation and a single Allied procedure for all these operations.
As Britain was maintaining a squadron of Hudson bombers in the Caribbean area, the U-boat activity all but dried up, and so our part of the job was to escort the tow of a floating dock from Recife to Freetown. The escort included the Asturias, a passenger liner converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser and she spent upwards of an hour every day sending radio signals. The weather was calm and the course straight. The inevitable happened - she had to be torpedoed. She was full of buoyant ballast - empty oil barrels - and settled only ten feet or so and we then had to escort the tow of her towards Freetown until we were despatched to look for an aircraft dinghy carrying survivors from an NZAF Wellington bomber. There was some mystery about it, because although a radio had been dropped to them from the searching aircraft, the survivors had not used it. When we picked them up, we found the reason why - they were Germans. On interrogation, it transpired that the bomber had located the U-boat on the surface, the U-boat had decided to stay up and fight it out. The bomber made three runs before letting go its bombs. In the meantime it had been so badly hit that it was well alight and could not climb out of the last attack – it crashed about half a mile from the sub. However its bombs found their mark and sank the submarine. The U-boat crew were in the water some time, being attacked by sharks, when one of them came across the bomber's inflated dinghy empty. All seven of the U-boat crew got into the raft and there was no sign of anyone from the bomber. I learned later that some people considered that there might have been some bomber survivors, but the U-boat crew overpowered them. The Navy considered this next to impossible, but nevertheless did some more probing and confirmed the truth of the original statement. I learned later still that the
U-boat captain was sufficiently impressed with the humane treatment his crew received that when he established a towing service on one of the North German rivers after the war, he named his vessel the Clarkia. In the autumn of 1943 I was appointed to the command of one of the first of a new class of frigate, the Loch Killin. This had the latest, and at that stage, the most devastating attacking weapon - the Squid. This threw six streamlined bombs in a pattern about 250 yards ahead, fast sinking and directed and timed by the most up-to-date control equipment. Unfortunately delays in supply of material due to bombing had set back the building programme, so that it was many months before Loch Killin took to the water. In the meantime, somewhat against the rules, I was able to make several visits to the Anti-Submarine Experimental Establishment at Fairlie on the Firth of Clyde. This was a fine old country home, magnificent gardens, panelled dining room, etc, - the most genteel of living during meals and in the evening - but what a paradox - for the rest of the time in some prefabricated huts hidden among the trees, designing engines of destruction. These visits I think were very helpful because the scientists could get in conversation a firsthand impression of how the gear worked under actual sea conditions. In fact on several occasions a scientist from the A/S Establishment came to sea with us in Loch Killin. For our part Loch Killin got not only the latest of the new approved gear, but some additional ancillary experimental gear, mainly to do with different ways of measuring Doppler.
Captain Walker's 2nd Support Group
With all these delays and another work-up visit to Tobermory, Loch Killin got to sea operationally only just in time to join Captain Walker's Second Escort Group for the invasion of Normandy, our sister ship Loch Fada also joined at this time. Our first assignment was to patrol the South Western Approaches as an independent group to intercept U-boats trying to get into the English Channel. Captain Walker had achieved just fame because the groups he commanded were outstandingly successful. His record was equalled only once by a collection of six U-boats in a single patrol by a US group led by the USS England.
Apart from his qualities of leadership and the consequent welding of his groups into such efficient fighting units, I think the qualities contributing most to his, and the Group's, achievements were a total dedication to the job of finding and annihilating the U-boats and a firm and realistic grasp of the practicalities in the business of doing so. However Captain Walker's just pride did not block his objectivity nor his vision. As an example, if ever a man had reason to say, ‘I've got a good proven recipe - I'll not knock it for any newfangled theories,’ Walker did not. When the two Lochs joined him, totally untried, but full of promise, he said, ‘You look the goods, I'll put you in the box seat (one towards each wing) and generally on contact the nearest of you will go in and see what you can do.’ Unfortunately, years of this total dedication had taken its toll of Captain Walker; he was already a very tired and spent man. He was too sick to come to sea on the second patrol and died in hospital within a couple of days, while the ships were at sea. The Group was now commanded by Commander Duck RNR, but the patrol proved abortive right up to the last day. Then Loch Killin got a contact. It had all the characteristics of a U-boat, so the ship slowed down to attacking speed, the recorder took charge of both the ship's course and the aiming of the two triple barrelled mortars on B deck, it set the fuses to the proper firing depth and finally fired the mortars in two volleys all in a matter of about five minutes. The bombs exploded shortly afterwards, giving the U-boat no chance to evade, and it went to the bottom, gushing oil. The boat was lying to the tide, and may not have been mortally wounded, so a second attack was made on the up tide end of the boat. This apparently counter mined a torpedo and split the boat open, bringing up much evidence of a kill. When on U-boat hunting missions in the Atlantic, where the turbulent waters led to good Asdic conditions, the Group finding the then standard methods of attack to be lacking quickly developed the much more successful barrage attacks. One of these consisted of sitting on a hunted U-boat which had succeeded in evading the normal attacks until it settled down in a slow run at near maximum depth. Several of the Group would then form up in line abreast about 200 yards apart astern of the U-boat, and move over it at a good speed dropping deep depth charges at intervals of 50 yards or less.
In an alternative form, one vessel, guided by another stationed at a convenient distance astern, would creep up on the U-boat from astern and drop a line of charges at 50 feet intervals. In either form of attack, the detonations gave the hunting vessels a severe shaking up, but inevitably they would be too much for the U-boat whose end would be signalled by the breaking up noises as she went to the bottom. For the next patrol, now under the command of Commander Wemyss, the U boats began to show up and Loch Killin was again involved in a rather spectacular joust with the enemy. The other escorts were all dark camouflaged whereas Loch Killin was light - almost white. This may have had something to do with it, because seen through a periscope, the light coloured vessel may not have been noticed. In any event the U-boat tried to penetrate the screen close to Loch Killin. Her periscope was seen 600 yards on the starboard bow. In the matter of a relatively few seconds, the ship was able to turn about 180 degrees to starboard, slow down to an effective attacking speed, establish asdic contact long enough to get the proper settings and fire the Squid. However, in those same few seconds the U-boat was not wasting time either. He got away two torpedoes. They were claimed to be dry runners, but nevertheless at this critical moment one of them was seen to be approaching our port quarter. Fortunately for us, the detonation of our Squids counter mined the torpedo and it blew up only yards away from the ship's side. The whole of the 200 feet of the ship was lost from view from the other escorts in the mushroom of water and the quarterdeck crew were drenched, but that was all.
A few seconds later, the U-boat, mortally damaged, broke surface, stopped, beam on to us right in our path. We had not taken off enough way after firing the Squid, and now it was too late to avoid a collision. Fortunately we ran over the bow section which was still submerged and thereby did not lose our asdic gear, but the U-boat made a grinding contact with our bottom just under the bridge. We had to stop the propellers to save them, and the two vessels came to a grinding halt with the U-boat's bows stuck under our A bracket. The conning tower was just clear of our port quarter and its stern stuck in the air. The surviving members of the crew were able to clamber on board Loch Killin without wetting their feet. The look of disbelief we got from the Captain when he saw what was sitting on his boat was a sight to remember. Despite our rumpled bottom and one or two knocks on our propellers, we were deemed still to be seaworthy, so the prisoners were transferred to another escort for passage back to the UK and we remained with the Group. Two more U-boats were dealt with on that patrol. The first was bombed and damaged by the RAF, given a further dose while on the bottom by HMS Wren, and in the middle of the night she surfaced, abandoned and scuttled, all within a few minutes. The full crew were picked up. The remaining U-boat was observed, but not attacked by aircraft, and although Asdic conditions prevented our making contact, the Group patrolled over the boat for about a day, when early the next morning she surfaced and scuttled about five miles ahead of the approaching Group - again I think the entire crew were picked up. After that the Second Escort Group broke up and Loch Killin joined the Seventeenth Escort Group under Commander Moore, RNR. For most of the time Moore took half the Group in the Irish Sea, and I had the other half in the English Channel patrolling the seaward side of the cross Channel convoys. This was very nearly a case of watch on stop on for the specialist, because the night was spent looking for Uboats, supporting the convoys and the days were spent looking for U-boats. It came to a head when on a clear night with a half moon, when our Sub Group was patrolling north towards a south bound convoy, Loch Killin passed close by the starboard wing escort of the convoy, a Dance Class Admiralty trawler Quadrille. The trawler apparently did not see us until we were close, did not recognise we were passing courses and went hard a starboard right across our bows.
Loch Killin, 2,300 tons hit Quadrille, 700 tons hard in the engine room and cut her almost in half. Luckily some frights, but not a single injury. After that we were given a little sleeping time in our schedules. The work at this time was frustrating; the Channel was pockmarked with wrecks and obstructions on the bottom, which could have been U-boats and which therefore had to be classified. Fortunately we had by this time a predecessor of Decca and were able to develop charts showing most of the permanent wrecks. In mid April 1945 the war in Europe drew towards its inevitable close, but we had one more brush with the enemy. Patrolling up the English Channel abreast Plymouth about midnight, we overtook a U boat also going east, unaware of our presence, so we had no qualms about giving the watch operator - the contact setter – the first attack. Actually it is difficult to judge the distance in such an astern attack as the wake gives off strong returns and to our chagrin our first attack fell short and did not even stop the boat. However we wasted no time in putting him on the bottom with the second salvo and brought him to the surface mortally damaged with the third. The U-boat surged ahead under a full (jammed) starboard rudder, with the crew abandoning as fast as they could, and then started a manoeuvre which must be unique in U-boat warfare - the attacking vessel caught within the turning circle of the U-boat. The boat was sinking fast by the time it had gone down our starboard side, round our stem and up the port side. At this stage it had closed to just about the range of the depth charge thrower and one of these put the finishing touches to it. The crew were spread out along the track the U-boat had taken, and when we went to pick them up, a significant fraction of them were found to be drowned - this despite the fact that when it was clear they were not trying to man their gun, we had lifted our own fire over their heads, and the further fact that there were calm conditions prevailing, their life jackets very effectively kept their heads out of the water - fright and shock presumably.
After VE day I was transferred to a sister ship Loch Lomond to take out to the Far East, but we only got as far as Rangoon on our way to take part in the invasion of Malaya, when that part of the war came to its grisly end. The occupation of Malaya was conveniently effected by going through the motions of the planned invasion. I remember at the time being a little more than glad that the Japanese were assisting and not opposing us. Our last warlike act happened at Sabang, an island north of Sumatra to which the Dutch had retreated. Loch Lomond was sent there on a goodwill visit and we learned that the Indonesians were massing their canoes on the mainland, presumably to invade Sabang. As part of our goodwill gesture, we took the local Dutch dignitaries for a short cruise in the Straits between Sabang and the mainland and selecting a suitable bank dropped a pattern of depth charges to get some fish - we picked up half a ton or more. The next morning all the canoes and other invading vessels had dispersed to their homes and that particular invasion was abandoned - a little touch of unintentional gun boat diplomacy.
middle of November 1945, I was relieved of my command of
myself stranded in Singapore with about a dozen Australian ratings with little
hope of getting home to Sydney for Christmas, as the only vessel going that way
was the aircraft carrier
Illustrious, and she was due to leave Batavia 600 miles distant in
less than two days' time. An RN destroyer was leaving Singapore for Batavia but
was not due there for several days. In what I consider was a princely gesture on
the part of the Royal Navy, we were piled on board the destroyer, and she
steamed at 29 knots the whole 600 miles to Batavia, made the connection, and the
12 very grateful Australians got home for Christmas.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Naval Historical Society of Australia
The following is an account by Ron Curtis who was a navigation officer on board HMS Loch Fada and is reproduced from
HMS Loch Fada -- D-Day to VE Day.
LOCH FADA was launched at John Brown Shipyard, Clydebank on 14th December 1943 and was commissioned on 29th March 1944 commanded by Lieut-Commander B.A.Rogers RNR . She was first of the Loch Class Frigates, being a development of the River Class, designed to carry the new anti-submarine weapon “Squid”. She was 307ft overall with a beam of 38ft 6” light draught 14ft plus asdics. Her twin reciprocating steam engines of 5,500 ihp gave a max speed of 19.5 kts. The Squid, being a six barrelled mortar, delivering a ton of explosive some 300 mts ahead to any depth, replaced the usual depth charge armament.
Following the acceptance trials and the first of class trials, the ship spent an arduous period being “worked up” to a state of efficiency that would satisfy the Terror of Tobermory, Vice Admiral “Monkey” Stephenson. On completion, and being accepted as “fit for action”, the ship sailed to Liverpool, the headquarters of the Western Approaches Command and the operational base for a number of Escort Groups. The Commander in Chief inspected the ship and was taken to sea for a demonstration of the Squid. Admiral Max Horton had been a successful submariner during WW1 and had been Flag Officer Submarines for the first years of WW2. In November 1942, Churchill appointed him to take over the direction of the Atlantic Battle “set a thief to catch a thief”. He was very impressed by the new weapon.
On 30th May, after a further period of anti-submarine exercises and various calibrations, the ship joined the Second Support Group (SG2 sometimes designated EG2) commanded by Captain F.J.Walker CB.DSO.RN. who at that time had been responsible for sinking 16 U-boats. Up to May ‘44, the group had consisted of six Bird class sloops but three were now being deployed elsewhere in readiness for the Normandy invasion, and their place in the group being taken by the new “Lochs”. The Bird class sloops were a development of the pre-war Escort Vessels, about the same size and speed as the frigates but with six 4” guns in 3 twin turrets. The top weight of the armament and director made them uncomfortable in a heavy sea and they were fitted with stabilisers. The addition of the gun crews meant that they required a complement of about 200 men compared with about 130 for a Frigate. Their fire power meant that they were often selected to operate in areas such as the Bay of Biscay where shore based air cover could not be assured.
After a further period of training as a Group we anchored off Moefre, in Red Wharf Bay on the North coast of the island of Anglesea. The Bay was full of escort vessels at anchor and it was obvious that we were being assembled for the invasion. This was confirmed when we were instructed to open the orders for Operation Neptune which was the maritime version of Operation Overlord. Our role was to intercept any U-boats that might be called in from the Atlantic. We were due to sail on 4th June, but the invasion was delayed 24hrs by bad weather . By D-day (June 6th) we had taken up our patrol southwards from a position about 100 miles west of Ushant together with EG5 who operated to the north of us. Air cover was provided by the escort carriers TRACKER and PURSUER, whose torpedo bombers could also deal with any threat from the destroyers based at Royan. Their Wildcat fighters shot down a Junkers 88, but after four days when it became apparent that the Atlantic U-boats would not materialise, the frigates were ordered into the Channel and the carriers headed for the Clyde. The Group now consisted of STARLING (SO), WILD GOOSE, WREN, LOCH FADA, LOCH KILLIN, LOCHY and DOMINICA. We were to join the nine other Support Groups and three Destroyer Flotillas protecting the western flank of the supply line of the invasion force.
The Kriegsmarine had taken up their anti-invasion positions well before D-day but were not on high alert as their meteorologists had forecast weather unsuitable for a landing. Adml Doenitz was on leave in the Black Forest but the pre-planned countermeasures swung into action before he reached BdU at Bernau, NE of Berlin.
Of the six destroyers in Gruppewest only four were active and they set off towards the invasion fleet in Seine Bay. Soon after they left Brest they were intercepted in the early hours of 9th June by four Tribal class destroyers TARTAR, ASHANTI and the Canadian HURON and HAIDA. They were soon joined by ESKIMO and JAVELIN together with the Polish PIORUM and BLYSKAWICA (known as “bottle o’whisky). In the resulting unequal encounter one of the German destroyers, ZH1 was sunk, the leader Z32, was driven ashore on Ile de Batz and the others, Z24 and T24, returned to Brest damaged. TARTAR was severely damaged but managed to limp home to Plymouth. The surface threat virtually eliminated, all depended on the U-boats.
There were 36 U-boats in the Biscay ports on D-day. The main striking force of 17 boats was in Brest. The remaining 19 were disposed in the bases south of Brest, these were deployed as an anti-invasion screen in the Biscay area until D+6. The Brest boats set off up channel towards the invasion area. Only eight of the17 were equipped with snorkel, the remaining nine had to surface to charge their batteries. The Channel was swarming with aircraft and ships and within 4 days all the non snorkel boats had been eliminated. Four had been sunk by aircraft - U373, U629, U740 and U821. The remaining five U415, U256, U413, U989 and U963 were either damaged or decided to return to Brest. Thereafter only snorkel fitted boats operated in the Channel.
The snorkel fitted boats had a better chance of success although the strong tides in the channel meant that they often had to bottom during the ebb. The original eight were being reinforced by another twelve who had been on passage from Norway on D-day.
U764 managed to get well up Channel where, on D+9, she sank frigate BLACKWOOD (EG4) north of Alderney. On the same day U767 sank frigate MOURNE (EG5?) south-east of Wolf Rock, but was herself sunk by EG14 on D+12 north-west of Sept Iles. The attackers were shelled from the shore.
Three other U-boats worked their way east along the French coast to St Peter Port in Guernsey. U269 arrived on D+7 but was sunk southeast of Start Point by frigate BICKERTON (EG5) on D+19. U275 arrived on D+9 but on departure was damaged by a USN Liberator in the Little Russel Channel and returned to Brest. U984 was in Guernsey from D+12 to D+15. On D+19 she torpedoed frigate GOODSON (EG5) which was towed into Portland. Her next attack was on four Liberty ships north of Barfleur on D+23 they were towed in, but only one was repairable. U984 returned to Brest but on her next patrol was sunk by Canadian EG11 south of Ushant on 20th August.
Other losses during the opening phase were U971 sunk by ESKIMO and HAIDA on D+18, U1191 sunk on D+19 by AFFLECK and BALFOUR (EG1) 25 miles SE of Start Point, U988 sunk by COOKE and DUCKWORTH (EG3) on D+23.
By the end of June (D+24) only two U-boats were still operating in the Channel out of the original 21. The survivors together with the Biscay boats were withdrawn to their bomb proof pens where snorkels were being fitted to those who lacked this now essential device and preparing for the next phase of the inshore campaign. The score in the Western Channel at the end of the first month was ten U-boats sunk, a majority of the survivors damaged, in exchange for three frigates, four freighters and one LST. One million men had been put ashore in Normandy by D+30.
When EG2 (including Loch Fada) moved into the Channel on D+4 we found conditions considerably different from those in the open waters of the Western Approaches. Many “non-sub” echoes were obtained from wrecks and bottom irregularities; each had to be investigated, measured and classified. The wreck charts were unreliable. It was not uncommon for several ships of the group to be investigating separate contacts at the same time making it impossible to maintain a tight search formation. This problem was partially resolved later when Frigates were equipped with QH3, a naval modification of RAF “Gee” the forerunner of Decca navigators, enabling an accurate register of non-sub contacts to be created. We searched areas scattered between North Cornwall, the Casquets, Lyme Bay and Sept Isles. Much of our time was spent in the area north of Brest and around Ushant where we exchanged signals with the lighthouse keeper. Following a violent explosion in the sea ahead of us we carried out a search until the Boss diagnosed it as an “ichtheological gefuffle” and we moved on.
We were further frustrated by numerous sighting reports from aircraft, many with inaccurate positions, resulting in fruitless searches . On 24th June (D+18) the Group was some 20 miles NNW of Ushant when we obtained a good HF/DF fix on a submarine reporting signal. This was from U971, presumably reporting her arrival in the Channel from Norway. We set off towards the position but changed course twice following sighting reports from aircraft resulting in our missing the submarine. Fortunately, the Tribal class destroyers ESKIMO and the Canadian HAIDA, who were on another mission, happened upon U971 and sank her.
U971 was a type VIIC commanded by OL Walter Zeplien. She was on her first patrol having left Norway on D+2. During the previous week she had been damaged by aircraft attack whilst on passage and on the day of her sinking had been attacked by a Czech Liberator. She surfaced after the attack by the destroyers 51 crew members including the CO were rescued and taken into Plymouth. Only 1 was killed. Position 49.01N, 05.35W.
We continued our patrols to secure the western approach to the English Channel, working at times with EG14 and the Canadian EG6, we refuelled in Falmouth or Plymouth Sound. On D+26 EG2 left the area and returned to our home base at Gladstone Dock, Liverpool. The base occupied the entire west side of the basin. The quay sheds contained the engineering and electronic maintenance setup together with the Asdic attack teacher and depth-charge drill unit. There was also a mock up of a U-boat control room for boarding party practise. Groups usually returned at about six to eight weeks intervals for a few days maintenance and victualling.
When we sailed five days later the group was under the command of Cdr N.W.Duck RNR who had transferred to STARLING from DOMINICA. We understood that Captain Walker would be rejoining the Group within a few days. WILD GOOSE had gone for a minor refit so that the group comprised STARLING, WREN, LOCH FADA, LOCH KILLIN, DOMINICA and LOCHY. We called into Falmouth for fuel – bunkering facilities were very limited at Gladstone Dock -- and it was here that the Group received the news of the death of Captain Walker.
We took up a patrol in the Ushant area and later moved to area west of Bishops Rock. On 31st July Loch Killin, commanded by Australian Lt Commander Stanley Darling, picked up a contact at 500 yards and carried out a Squid attack. U333 was a type VIIC commanded by Kptlt. Hans Fiedler and was a veteran of 11 patrols including several wolf-pack encounters. Her successes were 7 ships sunk and 2 damaged. Her previous CO had been court-martialed for mistakenly sinking German blockade runner SPREEWALD on passage from the Far East. His explanation must have been good as he was back in command when U333 survived being rammed by EXE during a convoy attack in November ’43. On D-day she had been deployed with the non-snorkel boats on the Biscay screen out on the 200 metre sounding line. She had sailed on the 23rd July ordered to patrol in the Lizard to Scillies area. Presumably she had been fitted with snorkel. There were no survivors, all 45 hands were lost. Position 49.39N, 07.28W
The group refuelled at Plymouth on 2nd August where Cdr Duck handed command of Starling and EG2 to Commander D.E.G.Wemyss DSO,DSC,RN. “Dicky” Wemyss had specialised as a submariner and had commanded a number of submarines, the last being the OBERON before returning to General Service. He took command of FOLKSTONE in ’41 about the same time as Walker took command of STORK. In January ’43 he commissioned WILD GOOSE and had been with EG2 since its formation. He had been passed over for promotion to Commander and had been given acting rank to take over SO of the Group. When his promotion was confirmed in Dec ’44 the next on the list was 10 years junior.! Ben Rogers – CO of LOCH FADA was later promoted to Commander RNR and the ship became leader of the Second Division of EG2.
When the group sailed from Plymouth on 3rd Aug the Allied armies were well into Brittany. For 10 days from 6th August U-boats based from Brest to St Nazaire were ordered to move south to La Pallice and Bordeaux. With the Canadian group EG11 we took up patrol areas covering the route south from Penmarch to the Gironde. The cruiser BELLONA with four Tribal destroyers were operating along the coast inshore.
We were carrying out a sweep in line abreast 3000 yds apart when LOCH KILLIN sighted a periscope and gained Asdic contact at 600 yds, made an immediate squid attack with startling results. The squid explosion countermined a gnat torpedo just off the ships quarter, the U-boat was blown to the surface under the ship, with the conning tower alongside the Quarter deck, enabling the captain of the U-boat OL. Reinhard Reff and several of his crew to step aboard dry shod.
U736 a type VIIc, does not appear to have had a very distinguished career, she had been in dry dock in Lorient since May following an attack by Liberator C224. She had been repaired, fitted with a snorkel and sailed on August 5th. She was sunk the next day in position 47.19N, 04.16W. 28 of the crew were lost, there were 19 survivors.
Four days later we were off La Rochelle responding to a report from Liberator C of 53 squadron RAF-- W/Cdr. R.T.F.Gates - that she had attacked a U-boat but did not think it had sunk. We plastered bottom targets in the area. At 3am on 10th Aug, WREN, commanded by Lt.Com Sydney Woods RNR, followed up a radar echo which faded. She found a full U-boats crew in the water. U608 had sailed from Lorient on August 7th and had bottomed after being damaged by Liberator C. She was subsequently severely damaged by EG2’s attacks which had torn the engines from their beds, she developed severe leaks but managed to struggle to the surface to abandon ship before she sank three minutes later in position 46.30N 03.08W. All 52 crew were saved. U608 was a Type VIIC commanded by OL Wolfgang Reisener and since Sept’ 42 had carried out 10 patrols sinking 4 ships.
We moved south to a patrol area covering the approaches to the Gironde River where we boarded a tunny fisherman under sail. All was in order and we exchanged cigarettes for fish. She was LS 705 from Les Sables-d’Olonne. The Canadian destroyers of EG12 were working inshore of us, making a sweep of German shipping escaping southwards – we could hear their gunfire during the day.
That evening a U-boat surfaced some five miles ahead of the group, he wrongly assumed that we were his escort and he fired recognition signal flares. All ships opened fire and he realised his mistake and dived. We swept through the dive position but no Asdic contact could be obtained. We continued searching the area during the night which was punctuated by the sight and sound of an air raid on the U-boat pens in Bordeaux. 53 Lancasters dropped 12000 lb “tall boy” bombs, 26 of which hit the pens but none penetrated the 6m thick concrete roofs which were further protected by a 3.5m bursting layer!
Towards dawn, Sunderland P of 461sq RAAF attacked a submarine on the surface some 10 miles west of us – we could see the tracer of the U-boats return fire. We homed onto the dive position where we passed a lone man in an inflatable dinghy. We carried out a search for several hours, eventually the U-boat surfaced some 1.5 miles ahead of us. All ships opened fire and the U-boats crew abandoned ship, her bows went up and she sankstern first. The survivors were picked up as was the lone dinghy occupant.
U385 was a type VIIC commanded by Kptlt. Hans-Guido Valentiner and had carried out 2 patrols with no successes since March 44. She had left St Nazaire onAug 19th bound for La Pallice. She had trouble with her new snorkel and surfaced to ventilate when she was attacked by the Sunderland causing substantial damage. Unable to remain submerged for more than a few hours he decided to surface and make a run for port. In seems unlikely that she was the same boat that we had put down the previous evening. The sinking position was 46.16N 02.45W. There were 42 survivors and 1 man lost.
This marked the end of EG2’s involvement in the operation to protect the invasion traffic from U-boat attack. We returned to our base at Liverpool on 13th August with over 100 survivors from our recent successes. With the approach of the liberating armies, the Biscay based U-boats were ordered to Norway, 16 by direct route, 8 via 14 day patrols on the west coast shipping routes, and 4 were abandoned in French ports. 4 boats were sunk on the return voyage. Maringruppe West ceased to exist on 31 Aug 44.
Our next patrols were to be from Scapa Flow covering the routes between the Atlantic and the Norwegian Bases. We supported convoys heading North towards Russia and Trans Atlantic. The ship suffered damage during severe weather when we were covering the Denmark Straits and was dry docked in Belfast. By February 1945 we had returned to the Channel where LOCH FADA sank U1018, a type VIIc-41, west of the Lizard after she had torpedoed a ship in a coastal convoy. We had taken the inshore sector of the search and were heading into Mounts Bay when we obtained contact and carried out a Squid attack, She was commanded by Kptlt Walter Burmeister and had left Norway early Dec ‘44. Position 49.56N, 05.20W.-- only 2 survivors out of 53 crew. That same evening, with LABUAN in company, LOCH FADA sank U1208, a type VIIc, commanded by KK Georg Hagene in position 49.46N, 05.47W , S of Wolf Rock. There were no survivors from the crew of 49. She was on her first patrol having left Kristiansand on 16.Jan. On 10 March U681 a type VIIc, commanded by OL Verner Gebauer, ran onto rocks north of Bishop Rk light. She surfaced and was attacked by USN Liberator (Lt R.N.Field) and was severely damaged and eventually scuttled. We were in the area and picked our way amongst the rocks and collected 39 of the crew, 11 were lost. 49.53N, 06.31W.
Early on 12th April ’45 a ship was sunk SW of the Calf of Man. By the time the frigate groups arrived in the area the datum was cold and the search area was wide. An expanding sector search was set up, EG2 took the east sector and EG8 the west. Late in the evening LOCH GLENDHU (EG8) obtained contact and together with LOCH ACHRAY, carried out Squid attacks and brought the u-boat to the surface. Gun fire was ceased when it became apparent that the crew were abandoning and a boarding party from LOCH MORE obtained code books and cipher equipment. The sub was taken in tow but sank the following day in position 53.39N, 05.03W. U1024 a type VIIc-41 was commanded by KL Hans-Joacham Gutteck and was on her first patrol and had sunk 2 ships. 9men were lost including the CO who shot himself. 37 men were picked up.
A total of 92 U-boats were sunk in, or on passage to, the D-day campaign (37) and the subsequent UK Inshore Campaign. In the 8 months from Sept ’44 to May’45, 55 U-boats were lost in UK coastal waters. The crew losses were in excess of 4000, some of whom survived. During the whole war some 32,000 crew were lost from a total of about 40,000, probably the highest percentage casualties from any force on both sides.
During the final year of the war we were expecting the arrival of the type XXI U-boat which could operate submerged at higher speeds than some escorts. We operated with the British submarine SERAPH which had been modified to give a submerged speed of 15 kts. and developed suitable tactics. Fortunately the type XXI arrived too late to upset the balance which was considerably to our advantage. The withdrawal of experienced crews for manning and training in the XXI’s no doubt contributed to the high loss rate in the last few months of the war.
At the end of hostilities LOCH FADA took part in the reoccupation of Norway arriving in Oslo soon after RMS ANDES carrying King Haakon 7 and the exiled government returning from UK. We ferried service personnel, including returning Norwegian Naval personnel, around the coast calling at ports between Oslo and Bergen. On VJ day we were alongside in Hamburg and raised steam to sound the siren – we also fired a spread of 2” illumination rockets across the city ! We then became involved with the escorting of German shipping being taken in reparation to Rosyth. One vessel was escorted to Newcastle, she was the German naval support ship NORDMARK, sister of the ALTMARK and was converted to RN use and commissioned as HMS BULAWAYO.
On completion of this service LOCH FADA was attached to the anti-submarine school at Londonderry.