U-Boat War
.: The Battle of the Atlantic & The Bay of Biscay :.
------- Coastal Command - U-Boat Hunters -------
Coastal Command: During the early years of the war, the defensive role of Coastal Command in protecting Allied shipping and resources was considered second rate to the offensive role of Bomber Command in attacking German defenses. Churchill, after the fall of France felt the need to support his Russian allies who were looking down the barrel of invasion themselves, he also felt it was good for British morale that they hit Germany on their own soil. Coastal Command became known as the "Cinderella Force" as it always played second fiddle to Bomber Command and only received the "hand me down" aircraft that it needed to fight the U-boat menace begrudgingly. (left) A 59 Sqn Mk.VI

Churchill was always a strong supporter of "his baby" Bomber Command and C.in.C Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris was well known for his dislike of maritime air operations, having been in command of a flying boat squadron in the 1920's, a period in his life that he was known to have reflected upon as "a waste of time", so it is no wonder that Coastal Command and the Admiralty had immense trouble in obtaining suitable equipment and supplies (at least not without a fight). Although Churchill would later go on record stating words to the effect that "protection of Britain's supply routes is of the utmost importance..." I think he was also a master politician, and often statements were made in the best interests of civilian "war morale" and not necessarily directly affecting existing policy... Thus Coastal Command struggled on... Nowadays however and afforded with the luxury of hindsight, it is possible for historians to recreate a much fuller reconstruction of events during the war and to reflect upon the role of Coastal Command in a far more objective manner. Their role in protecting valuable resources was paramount to the survival of a sustained Allied war effort, a fact that seems to have been overlooked for many years. The effort and input of the aircrews and personnel of Coastal Command is no more or less significant than those of Bomber or Fighter Command, the only difference is the manner in which we choose to remember them.

The plane pictured in the above two pictures is recorded as Fortress IIA FL462 220/W. This plane also flew with 59 Squadron as 59/C and was flown during an attack on U-441 by F/O HD Kelvin and crew.
------- 59 and the U-boat Fleet -------

No. 59 Sqdn are credited with the sinking and shared sinking of U-470, U-990, U-844, U-292 and U-540. If you look at the time frame in which 59 Sqdn sank/shared the five U-boats, it was 3 in 2 days (Oct 16-17 1943) and another 2 in 3 days (May 25-27 1944). All of them (except for U-990 which was well into its fourth patrol) where within a month of setting out on their maiden patrols, the longest being 26 days (U-292) and the shortest being 10 days (U-844). As well as the five SUNK, 59 crews caused damages to at least another dozen, ranging from "minor" to "severe". The latter resulting in the U-boat having to abort its patrol and limp back to port or be repaired at sea. Either way, put out of action.

Along with these victories there were other attacks and incidents between 59 and the U-boat fleet, details of which are noted in the table below. For some of these attacks, the U-boat involved has not been verified but the mission reports still make for great reading. In 2008 only 8 or 9 had the U-boat verified but in 2015, nearly all have. After Germany surrendered, U-293, U-363 and others were escorted to port by bombers of 59 in May 1945. See the "Post War" section for more details on this. A Fresh crew attack a U-boat: On the 10th of Feb. 1945, F/L J.W. Thomas and crew sighted and attacked a U-boat schnorkel whilst carrying out a navigational excercise... they had not yet flown their first operational sortie...

Pre-Liberator Days: Although 59 did not officially enter the U-boat war until late 1942, I have come across accounts Blenheim crews attacking E-boats both whilst returning from bombing missions during the Battle of Britain and also it appears that they were sent out looking for E-boats in the Channel. On one noted occasion they ended up attacking a Do17 which left trailing smoke with probable fatal damage (which also like the Blenheim was an easy prey for fighter aircraft). I have found nothing for U-boat "attacks" by 59 Blenheims but on 18/03/1941, P/O Siddel & crew (Sgt's Harrison & Brown) sighted a U-boat on the surface. The U-boat dived as the a/c passed over at 300ft but before the crew could make an attack run they were driven off by an ME110. The Blenheim crew were unable to locate the diving position for a first sighting report. This is the first time (that I have come across) that a 59 Sqn aircraft approached a U-boat with the intention to attack... However, with the Blenheim their aircraft would have been vastly ill equipped to have done any significant damage to the well defended U-boat for two main reasons... Firstly they were not primarily tasked with such missions and thus not trained specifically and secondly, even if they had been tasked with attacking U-boats, they probably would have had little success in these early years as not only were the "anti-submarine bombs" of the time practically useless, an Avro Anson of 233 Sqn was lost when the anti-sub bomb it dropped skimmed across the water after release and exploded under the aircraft. (source) but they weren't even equipped with these... They were carrying G.P bombs, that were (like the anti-sub bomb) designed to detonate on contact...

Being designed to explode on impact, unless a perfect drop was achieved there was little chance of damage yet alone a chance of a kill. This started to change for the better once the depth charge (D/C) was introduced in 1941as Coastal Command aircraft had in fact only sunk two U-boats up until this time and both of these were shared kills with vessels of the Royal Navy (R/N). In Larry Donelley's book "The Other Few" which covers Bomber and Coastal Command operations during the Battle of Britain, there are accounts of attacks on U-boats by Hudson aircraft of Coastal squadrons, but mostly with no visible results achieved. The Hudson later became the first US Aircraft to sink a U-boat (U-656) in March 1942 and also the first Coastal aircraft to sink a U-boat with rocket projectiles in 1943. The Blenheim faded into obscurity to the relief of many airmen, although it had contributed invaluably to operations during the early years of the war but at high cost with many of the RAF's most experienced airmen lost.

Other incidents of note: On 07/07/1940 - P/O Hubber-Richards and crew (Sgt's Pryor & Wallace) reported sighting a submarine wake at 0915hrs, no sight of submarine which was submerged... 16/07/1940 P/O J.J. Finlay & crew (Sgt's Leonhardt & Peddie) reported seeing 3 submarines in harbour at Le Havre.


(left) FL933 in service with 120 Sqn as O/120. Although she did not sink any U-boats with 59 Sqn, it is quite possible that she did in later service with another... FL933 first saw service in the Bay of Biscay on A/S patrols with 59 in mid to late 1942 as S/59 for "Sugar".

59 Sqn's Lucky Liberator "S" for Sugar: So far I have found the following Liberator aircraft that served with 59, coded "S" and all of them survived the war and were sold as scrap in 1947. The first was Lib Mk.III FL933, the second was Mk.V FL984 and the third was Mk.V BZ782. Although FL933 did not sink any U-boats during her tenure with 59 (and I have no record of attacks) she certainly did serve well bringing her crews home safely time after time and continued to do so until she was put out of commission and sold as scrap in 1947. On the other hand her successors FL984 and BZ782 had most colourful careers claiming 3 kills, numerous other attacks and severely damaging a U-boat on at least one other occasion... FL984 was the first Mk.V of 59 to sink a U-boat on 16th Oct 1943 (U-844). According to Alwyn Jay (Endurance), a week before on the 20th May, F/O GB Lynch RAAF had sighted and attacked three U-boats but with no damages recorded. However there are other reports that note that one of these U-boats was heavily damaged (U-418).

"C" for Charlie - Also had a colourful career - as with "S" there were 3 Liberator variants. Lib Mk.III - FK238, Mk.V FL973 & Mk.V BZ742... and also A B-17 variant - FL462. The first C/59 to damage a U-boat and also so badly, that it had to return to port, was on 11/10/1942 - when F/L Allen & crew attacked U-436 in the Bay of Biscay, flying FK238 C/59. Flying Fotress C/59 also attacked and damaged U-441 in March 1943. On the 16th, a pack of 3 U-boats was attacked by FL973 C/59, flown by F/L Allen & crew, causing minor damages to U-600. The other two U-boats were U-257 & U-615. FL973 would go on to claim 59's second "confirmed kill" on 16/10/43 when P/O Loney & crew attacked U-470. 6 months later BZ742 - C/59 flown by F/L Alcock & crew, straddled a U-boat with 6 DC's and then dropped a further 2, whilst gunners scored hits on the control tower, however the DC's had been released "safe" and not due to mechanical error... FL973 was lost when she crashlanded (DBR) at Ballykelly on 10.4.1944. No crew were killed, one was injured.




Attacks, Sinkings & Sightings: The following table outlines the attacks, sinkings and sightings that I have compiled so far from various sources ( U-boat.net, Endurance, memoires of Allen, Regan, Tuckwood, ww2talk.com) and mostly the Squadron ORB's. Where the U-boat is "unknown" it is probable that there was no damages of notable consequence, thus not widely recorded or the sourced information was not accurate (ie date etc) so that a match could be made between aircraft and boat. NOTE: Whilst reading through the attack reports, it's important to remember that it was a U-boat crew tactic to release debris - including releasing oil - after an attack to give the impression that they had been sunk...

Attacked with 11xDC - results unknown - Liberator A/59
Attacked with 6xDC - results unknown - Liberator A/59
U-436 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 6xDC - extensive damages - Liberator C/59
U-263 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 6xDC - no damage - Liberator T/59
Periscope feather sighted - Liberator M/59
U-753 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 5xDC - no damage - Fortress D/59
U-223 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 5xDC - minor damages - Fortress D/59
U-441 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 5xDC - minor damages - Fortress C/59
Sighted - dived before attack could be made - Fortress C/59
Sighted - dived before attack could be made - Fortress C/59
Sighted - dived before attack could be made - Fortress B/59
U-418 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 6xDC- extensive damages - Liberator X/59
Sighted - periscope - no attack possible - Liberator N/59
U-552 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 8xDC - severe damages - Liberator S/59
U-600 - Type VIIC
Attacked - minor damages - Liberator C/59
U-257 - Type VIIC
Attacked - no damages - Liberator C/59
U-615 - Type VIIC
Attacked - no damages - Liberator C/59
U-645 - Type VIIC
3 sighted - dived before attack run completed - B/59
Sighted - 2 - crash-dived before attack could be made - E/59
Sighted - No chance of attack - L/59
U-641 - Type VIIC
Attacked with 6xDC - no damage - Liberator E/59
U-667 - Type VIIC
Attacked - no damages - one RAF gunner hit - Liberator H/59
U-106 - Type IXB
Attacked with 2xDC - no damage - K/59
U-844 - Type IXC/40
Sunk - Liberator S/59
Sighted - Attack fought off by heavy flak & M.G - Liberator S/59
U-470 - Type VIIC
Sunk - Liberator C/59
U-540 - Type IXC/40
Sunk - Liberator D/59
U-271 - Type VIIC/FB
Attacked with 1xDC - no damages - B/59
U-621 - Type IXC/FB
Attacked with 7xDC - severe damages - Liberator A/59
U-302 - Type VIIC
Attacked with DC's - no damage - R/59
U-276 - Type VIIC Attacked with 8xDC - DC's released "safe" - C/59
U-990 - Type VIIC
Sunk - Second U-boat sighted afterwards - Liberator S/59
U-292 - Type VIIC/41
Sunk - Liberator S/59
U-671 - Type VIIC
Attacked - with M.G fire only - no damage - H/59
unknown Two attacks made on oil slick - Liberator K/59 & F/59
unknown D/C Attack made on moving oil slick - Liberator A/59
unknown Sighting - suspicious oil slick - no attack made - A/59
unknown Sighting - Periscope - no attack made - T/59
unknown Attacked with 8xDC - oil slick - no results - C/59
unknown Sighted - Unable to make an attack - Z/59
U-480 - Type VIIC Attacked with 8xDC - minor damages - Z/59
unknown Sighted - U-boat surfacing - No attack possible - Z/59
U-716 - Type VIIC Attacked with 8xDC - severe damages - Liberator F/59
U-965 - Type VIIC Attacked with 6xDC - no damages - Liberator N/59
U-995 - Type VIIC Attacked with 6xDC - minor damages - Liberator Z/120
U-300 - Type VIIC Attacked with 6xDC- extensive damages - Liberator P/59
unknown Submerged U-boat detected and hunted for - no reuslts - S/59
unknown U-boat sighted during convoy escort - no results - M/59
unknown Sighted - Periscope - no attack - Liberator X/59
unknown Attacked - Schnorkel sighted and attacked - Liberator Z/59
unknown Attacked - Schnorkel sighted and attacked - Liberator K/59
unknown Attacked with 2x 600lbs DC - no results - Liberator X/59
unknown Attacked - oil slick - results unknown - L/59 & Z/59
unknown Sighted - oil slick - no attack - Liberator X/59
unknown Attacked - possible schnorkel - F/59
unknown Attacked - Schnorkel - results unknown - F/59
unknown Sighted - U/boat wake - no attack - L/59
unknown Attacked - Probable U-boat - results unknown - U/59
unknown Sighted - U/boat surrender - no attack - B/59
U-1050 Sighted - U/boat surrender - no attack - B/59
U-293 Sighted - U/boat surrender- no attack - H/59
unknown Sighted - U/boat surrender - no attack - L/59
unknown Contact - submerged U-boat - no attack - F/59
unknown Sighted - c/v of 8 U/boats - no attack - M/59
U-776 Sighted - ahead of M/V Convoy - no attack - U/59
U-14 Sighted - with unknown U/B - no attack - G/59

Perhaps you have some details or know of some more attacks that need be noted?

Other 'non U-boat related" attacks and sightings of note:

400ft M/V
Attacked with 12xGPB's - vessel damaged - Liberator A/59
Attacked with 6+ x DC - results unknown - Liberator M/59
2 x M/V
Attacked with 6xGPB's - no damages seen - Liberator R/59
Attacked by J.U.88 - no damages - Liberator B/59
FW.200 Condor & Tanker
Hits scored on both - Fortress C/59
FW.200 Condor
Hits scored causing engine fire - Liberator R/59
Attacked with 4xDC - fate unknown - Fortress C/59
Attacked with DC's - fate unknown - Liberator B/59
Dinghy with 2 survivors
Dropped improvised thornsly bag - Liberator P/59
Enemy A/C - BV.222
Convoy battle - 100 rds fired into fuselage of E/A- Liberator H/59
FW.200 Condor
Some hits scored - Liberator S/59
FW.200 Condor
Escaped into cloud - Liberator F/59
2 A/C attacked a mine
Believed at the time of attack to be a periscope K/59 & Y/59
3 x E.V & 1 enemy fighter Attacked with MG - hits scored on all - L/59
FW.200 Condor Attacked with MG - hits scored - C/59
2 whales & empty life raft Sighted - A/59
Mine Attacked with MG fire - J/59
Mine Large school of porpoises seen in area - C/59




------- The Battle of the Atlantic -------

The Turning Point: On the 11th of May, 59 were posted to Aldergrove in Northern Ireland (along with 86 Sqn) were they recommenced operations of the North Atlantic with their new Liberator GR.Mk.V's. At this point 86 and 59 were the only Liberators operating over the North Atlantic (as 120 were posted to Reykjavik), with a strength of only 15-20 aircraft. March of the same year had been a particularly bad month with the U-boat fleet probably achieving one of its greatest victories, with a wolfpack of 40 U-boats intercepting two convoys (HX229 - SC122) and sinking 22 ships for the loss of only one boat but things would soon change...

The month of May 1943 is widely considered as the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, back into the favour of the Allies. In the first two weeks of May there were two notable convoy battles (ONS5 and HX237/SC129) from which 18 ships were lost but 11 U-boats sunk. (left) The Coastal Command HQ war room.

Various convoys proceeded to be attacked or shadowed by U-boat and during one of these (around convoy SC130 17-120th May) 30 U-boats attempted to mount a formidable attack but were repelled with the aid of intense air coverage. On the 18th four 120 Sqn Liberators sighted 15 U-boats, attacked 6 and sunk one. On the 20th, F/O GB Lynch RAAF, sighted three and attacked one but two submerged during approach, 12 others were sighted and by the end of this day, 6 of the 30 attacking U-boats had been sunk with no allied loss. A couple of days later another attacked was attempted on the convoy HX239 and ON194 but failed to form and two more U-boats were sunk.

Towards the end of May, Admiral Donitz ordered the withdrawal of the U-boat fleet from the North Atlantic. In total 41 U-boats had been sunk (28 of them during convoy battles). This was a very important victory for the Allies as the convoy lines in the North Atlantic were now freed up and important supplies could be delivered (Operation round Up) that would help build strength for the coming invasion of Europe... Attention would now focus on what was widely referred to by aircrews as the Battle of the Bay... which had been experiencing similar dilemma's with the U-boatmenace as was accustomed to those in the Atlantic.



------- The Battle of the Bay -------

The Bay of Biscay: By May 1943 after the implementation of a new patrolling methods and the wider use of Mk.III and V ASV radar, the state of affairs in the Bay was improving, but it was not always the case. 59's Bay service first began with operations in the Liberator Mk.III from Thorney Island in August 1942. At this time, U-boat sightings and attacks had fallen considerably due to the German implementation of the detection system (for British ASV II radar), known as Metox. According to Alwyn Jay, from June to the end of Sept, on average a U-boat was sighted every 164 hours, or once every 14 patrols (based on an average patrol time of 12hrs) but between Oct 1942 and Feb 1943, this dropped even further to every 312 hours, or once every 26 patrols.


(left) The Metox system:

There is so far only one confirmed record of attack during 1942 and this was on a U-263 which was caught surfaced (although not unaware) close to dusk. U-263 was surfaced due to previous battle damage which had left her unable to dive, she was also in company with a heavily armed escort that was seeing her back to port... She was attacked but unsuccessfully. One reason given for this by Alwyn Jay is that German records show that at the time of attack, the U-boat was only in a few feet of depth, too shallow for the D/C's to explode...

Ernest Allen makes note of two attacks early in Nov 1942, but I have been unable to confirm these attacks thus far. Before the implementation of Metox, there were pre-existing problems for the Coastal Command aircraft that patrolled the Bay. By design U-boats only needed to be surfaced for six hours (the time in which it took to recharge their batteries using diesel engines) so therefore they only surfaced at night hidden from detection of air patrols that lacked equipment for effective night attacks.

Enter the Leigh Light in mid 1942 with initial success... The Light enabled aircraft to visually sight and place a U-boat after initial detection by radar, and greatly increased the chance of a successful attack. The first successful attack was carried out by a Wellington bomber of 172 Sqn on the Italian submarine, the Luigi Torelli on the 4th June. The crew believing that the Wellington was "friendly" due to the unknown light source, the Luigi remained surfaced long enough for the crew to drop a stick of D/C's which caused suitable damages to force a return to port. The first credited sinking came about a month later when U-502 was sunk. Metox however cut short the Allied celebrations with the Light and they were forced to re-develop their equipment and patrol methods once more. Jay notes that to the end of 1942, only seven U-boats had been sunk in the Bay. This relatively small stretch of water was important to the Allies as it was the main approach to the south-western entrance to the English Channel and thus was also the gateway to the rest of the world for many exiting Allied convoys. After the fall of France in 1940, the Germans quickly built up a U-boat force along the Biscay coastline in order to threaten Britian's supply lines and did so rather successfully for quite some time... The Battle of the Atlantic is more commonly associated with the U-boat war but some would argue that success in the Bay was far more important. This would appear to be supported by the fact that more Liberator VLR squadrons were employed permanently in patrols of the Bay, than were in the North Atlantic...

In Feb 1943 a new patrol system was introduced, codename "Gondola" which greatly increased the chance of U-boat detection. By this time, 59 were flying the Fortress IIA's and once again operating patrols in the Bay but this time from RAF Chivenor. After 59 reverted back to the Liberator with Mk.V's they further patrolled the Bay until May when they were posted to Aldergrove (N.Ireland). From here they began patrols of the North Atlantic which they would continue to do for the rest of the war (from Ballykelly as of Sept 1943) although 59 Sqn aircraft and crews were regularly detached elsewhere as was the case in Sept (shortly after arrival at Ballykelly) when a detachment was sent to Reykjavik for convoy patrols south of Iceland. Here 59 would become involved in a convoy battle that saw the last of the Mid-Atlantic U-boat wolfpacks defeated, with 59 aircrews awarded a kill and two half kills.



------- Convoy Battle - ONS-20/ON-206 -------

59 Squadron sinks 3... On the 15th of October 1943 a U-boat pack positioned itself to intercept the Allied convoy ONS 20 transiting south of Iceland. What followed was a devastating blow to the already floundering U-bootwaffe and the end of what would become the last of the Mid-Atlantic wolf packs formed in the old style... 59 Squadron sunk one U-boat and shared in the credit of two more...


Group Schlieffen: It was originally planned that wolf pack Schlieffen would be made up of about 24 boats but some were damaged or lost due to collisions and mechanical problems so some returned to port or sunk. Thus by the time the wolf pack attacked it was only made up of 18 boats (which included U-91, U-23, U-267, U-271, U-413, U-426, U-437, U-448, U-455, U-540, U-668, U-762, U-841, U-470, U-844, U-964, U-533 and U-842). Group Schlieffen was the last of the old style wolf packs to be formed in the Mid-Atlantic and the battle that followed was considered one of the most calamitous of the entire campaign for the U-boat Arm (U-Bootwaffe,UBW) for two reasons. Firstly the fact that they lost 6 U-boats with only one allied ship sunk and secondly, all but one of the U-boats sunk were on their maiden patrols. The loss of the group that first sighted the convoys (U-470, U-844 and U-964) is especially notable because they were all sunk together and all had been at sea for less than 3 weeks. U-470 (18 days), U-964 (11 days) and U-844 only 10 days. U-540 (16 days) and U-841 (4 months) where the other two U-boats on their maiden patrols whilst U-631 (which was one of the more experienced boats in the group) was on her third patrol when sunk.

Alywn Jay makes note that losses in 1943 were starting to take their toll on the fleet and that the lost U-boats and crews were being replaced by very inexperienced crews with very rushed training periods... the loss rate of these replacement boats reflected this, as did the losses of U-boats in the following battle. The only allied ship lost to group Schleiffen was the "Essex Lance" of ONS-20 (a steam merchant ship lost to U-426) as it struggled to keep up with the rest of the convoy. The Essex Lance is pictured to the left docked in port.


The Battle Begins: Under Attack: On the 15th of October 1943, two convoys (ON-206 and ONS-20) were transiting south of Iceland when at 2117 hrs U-844 (member of a group of 3 U-boats U-470, U-844 and U-964) which were enroute from Germany to reinforce the disbanded "Rossbach wolf pack" and reform under the new name "Schlieffen" (**1 see below), caught sight of a British destroyer and called it in. An hour later U-844 sighted what it believed to be ONS-20 and called for the pack to converge on their position. U-844 had in fact sighted another convoy ON-206 and the rest of the pack (who had already formed a patrol line 120 miles away to intercept ONS-20) made course for U-844. I have also found conflicting accounts stating that this group of U-boats (U-470, U-844 and U-964) was actually "intercepted enroute" when caught unawares (source). UBW ordered U-844 to keep the convoy in sight and the pack to converge on U-844's position and the patrol line was relocated into the path of ON-206 with the expectation that it would be breeched at 2400hrs on the 16th.

The Hunt for U-844: The British destroyer, HMS Vanquisher had received a series of HF/DF bearings from off the port bow and immediately started to run them down, this had been U-844 reporting the initial sighting of the destroyer at 2117. An hour later, Vanquisher obtained a radar reading and turned towards it, U-844 had just reported that it had sighted a convoy. Radar contact was lost minutes later but at 2255 Vanquisher made contact again, and turning towards it fired three star shells at a range of approx 4000ft. In the light, U-844 was sighted but before the destroyer could open fire, the U-boat submerged below the surface. Vanquisher then turned back towards the convoy and at 2318 hrs she attacked the estimated position of U-844 with 10 depth charges with no visible result. The destroyer dropped a flare and the hunt for U-844 was far from over when at 0006 on the 16th, HMS Duncan obtained a sonar contact and attacked dropping a hedgehog with no result. They continued to hunt for another hour until they were called back to the convoy. U-844 had escaped serious damage... but not for long. In the morning she would face her greatest threat yet... (top) HMS Vanquisher and left) HMS Duncan (bottom) HMS Pink.

U-844: Her First and Final Battle: Later in the morning of the 16th U-844 was spotted and attacked by two RAF Liberators L/86 (F/L E.A Bland and crew) and S/59 (P/O WJ Thomas and crew).L/86 was the first to attack but due to damage from AA fire, the depth charges failed to release. They then made a second attack but once again were unable to release and the damages to the aircraft forced them to ditch near HMS Pink. 5 crew were rescued but two were lost. S/59 then attacked straddling U-844 with a stick of DC's and then on a second attack run dropped four more on the swirl as the U-boat sank below the waves with all hands lost. This would become the first of two sinkings that 59 would take part in on this day.

...::: WJ Thomas DFC & Crew :::...



The End of U-470: Also early on the 16th U-470 was damaged by a Sunderland of RCAF 422 Sqdn; the Sunderland was also damaged, ditching later near the ships of ONS-20 and its crew rescued by HMS Drury. Later in the day, U-470 was spotted and attacked again at 1722 hrs by 3 Liberators from RAF 120 and 59 Sqns (Z/120 F/L Peck and crew and E/120 of F/L Kerrigan and crew, C/59 of F/L Loney and crew). According to the 120 Sqn ORB, Z/120 attacked and straddled U-470 with 6x250lb DC's then made a second attack run dropping two more after which the U-boat was seen to sink stern first. On approach to their first run Z/120 noted that D/C's from another attack where seen to explode near the boat. There is no mention made of E/120 on U-boat.net however there is by Wes Loney in Endurance. According to Loney, E/120 made the first two attack runs but the boat was able to dodge attack. C/59 then arrived and attacked as Z/120 was preparing to start its first attack run and Z/120 then followed quickly after. As the AA fire concentrated on C/59, E/120 attacked again with MG fire taking the boat gunners by surprise. Z/120 and C/59 then attacked again in quick succession. Almost all the bomb runs had been accurate despite heavy AA fire and the boat had been repeatedly straddled.

Wes Loney's account: "When we arrived there were already two Lib crews there from Iceland, so we circled the boat taking turns to attack. Our first salvo of four depth charges from the starboard quarter appeared to straddle the boat but as the spray cleared, it was still afloat and the guns re-manned... I had to abort a second approach due to faulty tracking and a third was thwarted when I had to give way to a 120 Lib, the force of the exploding depth charges forced us 50ft into the air and covered us in water. The 120 Libs had used up all their bombs but they continued to circle the boat in an effort to draw AA fire and give us every chance... The boat didn't stand a chance... In a minute or two, 15 survivors had come to the surface, we dropped a marker buoy and reported the position to HMS Duncan, who later picked up two survivors.

15 survivors were seen in the water by crew of Z/120 but only 2 were picked up by HMS Duncan. After the war, Loney made contact with Commander PW Gretton of HMS Duncan to ask why they had not continued the search for more survivors... The Commander replied that in the interest and safety of the rest of the convoy, and the threat of attack from other U-boats he had called it off. The only success for the Schlieffen boats on this day was when U-426 sank the merchant ship Essex Lance, which was straggling from ONS-20.

...::: Wes Loney DFC & Crew :::...



Four Lib's Finish U-540: During the night of 16/17 October the attack was renewed, but repelled with no success. Early on the 17th, U-540 was attacked and damaged by a Liberator of 59 Sqn (other reports that I have found state that S/59 attacked U-540 on the 16th but was unable to complete a run due to heavy defensive fire), then later that day at 1824 hrs she was attacked again and sunk by 2 Liberators from RAFs 59 and 120 (D/59 and H/120). D/59 attacked first straddling U-540 with a stick of DC's then H/120 made two attack runs after which U-540 was seen to break in half and sink. The 120 Sqn ORB makes note that the crew of H/120 photographed 30 survivors in the water, but according to U-boat.net, all hands were lost, so sadly they must have all drowned before they could be rescued. This was the third U-boat of the battle that 59 Sqn had sunk, or shared a kill for during this battle. Also on 17 October U-841 was sunk by HMS Byard of B-4 group.

Only 11 Days on Maiden Voyage - U-964 is Lost: U-964 was the last remaining boat of the group that first sighted the convoy (U-844, U-470 and U-964) and was attacked by a Liberator of RAF 86 Sqn at 1735 on the 17th. Y/86 set upon U-964 in the face of heavy AA fire and flak dropping 5 D/C's which on the first attack run which overshot. The Liberator and crew then proceeded to circle U-964 attacking her with MG fire for half an hour whilst repeatedly attempting to call in naval support but too no avail. As darkness began to fall and perhaps in a break of AA fire the Liberator attacked again strafing the boat and dropping a further three D/C's, one of which fell alongside the hull. The following explosion caused extensive damage to the afterdeck and black smoke was seen to "puff" out of the hull. A few minutes later the U-boat sank beneath the waves, her survivors were later picked up by U-231.

Flak guns on a converted type VIIC U-boat
Oil slicked U-boat under strafe attack


During the night of 17th/18th October: The shadower U-631 was sunk by HMS Sunflower of B-7 group. At this point the convoys made a drastic alteration in course, in order to shake off any more shadowers; this was successful in that BdU received two conflicting reports from U-91 and U-413, leading to Schlieffen being sent in the wrong direction. After the pursuit was shaken off, Schlieffen was unable to regain contact and in view of the losses sustained BdU ordered the group to retire. Group Schlieffen lost six U-boats during the battle and sank only one allied ship. Shortly after the pack had disbanded, U-533 was sunk by an RAF Bisley of 224 Sqn in the Gulf of Oman.

The Convoy's Arrive Safely On the 20th October: With no further attack developing, B-7 Group detached from the convoys to join ON.207, which was following; ONS-20 was handed over to its Western Local Escort Group on 22 October, and arrived at Halifax without further loss on 26 October 1943. ON 206 met its Local Escort Group on 24 October and arrived at New York on 27 October 1943. source

Convoy Code
Liverpool to Halifax
Great Britain to Halifax
Great Britain to Halifax (slow)
Halifax to Great Britain
USA to Great Britain
Great Britain to Gibralta
Gibralta to Great Britain
Great Britain to Gibralta (after 26/10/1942)
Gibralta to Great Britain (after 26/10/1942)
North Africa to Carribean
Convoy Code
Great Britain to West Africa
Great Britain to West Africa (slow)
West Africa to Great Britain (fast)
Great Britain to Russia
Great Britain to Murmansk
Murmansk to Great Britain
US convoys east-bound
US convoys west-bound
US to North Africa via Azores area
North Africa to US via Azores area
Carribean to North Africa


Other sources:

"1943: A bitter action around convoy ON-206 saw three German U-boats sunk - two by RAF Liberators of 59, 86 and 120 Squadrons, and one by HMS Sunflower. A fourth U-boat was sunk by an 86 Squadron Liberator covering convoy ONS-20. And a fifth was sunk far away in the Gulf of Oman (U-533) by RAF Bisley aircraft of 244 Squadron..." (www.fmft.net)

this excerpt taken from service history of HMS Sunflower: "...October Deployed in support role and supplemented defense of outward Convoy ON206. (Note: This convoy was under attack by U-Boat pack and its defense was also supported by extensive air cover from shore. See HITLER’S U-BOAT WAR for details.) Ships of Escort Group B4 and B7 included HMS Destroyers FAME, VANQUISHER, DUNCAN & VIDETTE, HMS Frigate DEVERON and six other corvettes.) 17th Carried out depth charge attacks on U-631 which was sunk with no survivors..."

**1 Disappointing records of Groups Rossbach and Schlieffen. - Attempting to repeat his previous success, Command formed Group Rossbach on 26 September. The expected convoy was diverted to the north, and escaped completely. Despite further northern shifts of the line, each succeeding convoy passed unscathed. On 9 October, the group was disbanded, having failed to accomplish the task set for it by Command, who had ordered: "Smash the destroyers, sink the ships. Make up for your long wait." The results achieved by Group Schlieffen, the last mid-North Atlantic group in the old style, were even more disappointing. Placed, on 16 October, directly across the routes of two convoys, the group gained good contact with one, but managed to sink only one merchant ship.


What Happened to the Survivors of Group Schlieffen?

U-91 - Escaped - was attacked by a Liberator of No.10 Sqn RCAF in position 50.49N 41.01W on the 26th of Oct 1943 - no damages. Attacked again on the 31st - it had been refuelling U-584 when attacked, the latter was sunk.

U-23 - Escaped - no further details.

U-267 - Escaped - no further details.

U-271 - Escaped - On the 21st of Oct 1943 - U-271 was attacked by two Avengers from USS Core. One crew member was killed. This was a Flak Boat.

U-413 - Escaped - no further details.

U-426 - Escaped - no further details.

U-437 - Escpaed - no further details.

U-448 - Severely damaged on the 17th of Oct 1943 - By a Sunderland of 422 Sqn RCAF. Aborted patrol.

U-455 - Escaped - no further details.

U-668 - Escaped - no further details.

U-762 - Escaped - No further details.

U-842 - Escaped - Sunk on the 6th of Nov 1943 by two British Sloops.



------- Post War Reconciliation -------

In war, resolution.. In defeat, defiance.. In victory, magnanimity.. In peace, goodwill..

(Winston Churchill)

Whilst reading Alwyn Jay's book "Endurance", I was very moved by the chapter dealing with Wes Loney's mission to find the two survivors of U-470 (which he and his crew sunk in Oct 1943). It is easy as a researcher (and also as a borderline late X-genner brought up on American and British war movies...) to get carried away with the overall "Allied" perspective of the history and in turn have a slightly biased opinion... but after reading about Loney's mission, I was compelled to make note of it here.

In 1987, Loney travelled to Germany to find the two survivors of U-470 and was able to find Gerhard Tacken (pictured above, centre with Loney - left - and one of his crew members, S/L John Dixon on the right). Perhaps Loney harboured a sense of guilt for many years of his life, having taken part in the loss of so many men (U-470) and that the trip was his way of lifting the burden. It states that there was some opposition from his peers about the trip but this is understandable too, as many of his peers (and even Loney himself) would have lost many a good friend. Gerhard Tacken was grateful to Loney for calling in the RN who picked him up after about 4 hours in the sea. After that day he always celebrated two birthdays, the day he was born and the day that U-470 was sunk and he survived. Loney also met with other surivivors of the U-boat war of U-621, which Loney had also attacked during the war.

I guess the reason that I found the story such a beautiful tale of humanity was that here you had a group of men who had been engaged in a deadly battle against one another forty years before, meeting each other properly for the first time like long lost family members... Clearly the sinking of U-470 had been a defining moment in each of their lives and for all of them it was for different reasons... but it was that moment that brought them all together many years later and give to one and other their peace. There really were honourable men and women on both sides of the table and this is a fact that should be more widely recognised... Loney's press speech in Germany, 1987 pretty much sums it all up...

"In recent years the specious charge has been made by some so-called "pacifists" and other obscure groups - those to young to know - that it (Anzac Day) is not a glorification of war. But surely no one loves peace more than a man being shot at. None would deny that war is a horrible business, a perversion of human behavior, when gross excesses of conduct occur. But out of it have also come the noblest of human virtues - unmatched comradeship and loyalty, courage, selflessness and sacrifice - and they also occurred on the other side..."

U-Boat War
This site was created by and information compiled by L.Del Mann - © 2008