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The rescue of the crew of an aircraft which destroyed U 417 and was itself destroyed.

Discussion in 'Submarines and ASW Technology' started by Liberator, Feb 20, 2015.

  1. Liberator

    Liberator Ace

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    11 June 1943

    206 Squadron
    Fortress II 'R' FA704.
    Airborne RAF Benbecula 0710 hours.

    Crew.

    W/C. R B. Thomsom
    F/S. A F. Chisnall
    F/O. J F. Clarke
    F/O. J L. Humphries
    Sgt. R. Owens
    Sgt. R A. Senior
    Sgt. F. Sweetlove
    F/L. A R D. Barrett

    On Friday, the 11th June, 1943, Fortress aircraft " R " of 206 Squadron was patrolling between Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. At 1110 she sighted on the surface seven miles ahead a U-Boat which had probably observed the aircraft first, for she was already taking violent evasive action ; by the time the aircraft was attacking she was making a considerable wake and was shrouded in spray. To counter this the aircraft decided to make a low approach. When the range was 600-800 yards the U-Boat opened fire. It was extremely accurate and the Fortress coming in at 50 ft. on the enemy's port quarter was hit repeatedly, the airplanes, engines, cockpit, nose, bomb bay and tail planes all being damaged.

    The aircraft forced her way through this fire to obtain a perfect straddle with the four depth-charges which could be released. The hard-hitting U-Boat was enveloped by the explosions and sank within about half a minute, her bows being seen to rise vertically out of the water.

    Within a few minutes the aircraft was herself in the water, With three engines giving trouble she had managed to climb to 200 ft. and fly over the scene of the attack, where twenty or thirty men were in the water some shook their fists at her—and to send out an S 0 S and her position. Crashing in the sea about five miles from where she had destroyed the U-Boat, she sank in 90 seconds.
    The crew managed to inflate one dinghy, into which they all got ; they could not, however, take any water or pyrotechnics with them.

    About eight hours later, when they were in the middle of a minefield, a United States Catalina sighted them. (USN VP-84/P-3. Lt Douglas S. Vieira, USNR and crew) After circling them for an hour and a half, the aircraft came in to alight. Unfortunately she struck a big wave and lost her starboard propeller. She kept afloat for twenty minutes, during which time her crew boarded their two dinghies. The two crews kept within a few miles of each other during that night and most of the following day, and at 1825 on the 12th were sighted and reported by searching aircraft. Unfortunately a gale sprang up that night and the two parties became separated, the waves were 40 feet high and the Fortress crew had to bale out their dinghy about every 15 minutes, for balers they used the navigators shoes as the bailer was missing and the rest of the crew had flying boots on.

    During the 13th the searching aircraft, of which there were eleven, were often seen by the Fortress crew. Though the sea was very rough, a Sunderland tried to alight near them but found herself bouncing 25 ft. into the air from one wave top to another and had to abandon the attempt. Contact with the dinghy was lost at about 1700 that evening but early the following morning a Fortress aircraft of 206 Squadron sighted it again and dropped supplies and a dinghy radio close to it. About seven hours later, despite the high seas which were still running, the men were rescued by a specially lightened Catalina of 190 Squadron,manned by a skeleton volunteer crew, (Catalina IB. 'L' FP102. S/L. J A. Holmes DFC and crew) and taken to Sulom Voe. They had spent exactly three days, two hours and twenty-four minutes in the vicinity of the attack.

    The search for the survivors of the United States aircraft continued, but it was not until the morning of the 16th June that a Catalina of 190 Squadron sighted the dinghies. Nearly another twenty-four hours elapsed before U.S.S. " Symbol " could close them. Only one man was then alive (ARM1c Lionel Pelletier) the others having died of exposure.

    U 417 a type VIIC submarine (Oberleutnant zur See Wolfgang Schreiner) sunk 11 June, 1943 south-east of Iceland, in position 63.20N, 10.30W, by depth charges from a British B-17 Fortress aircraft (Sqdn. 206/R). 46 dead (all hands lost).
     

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