- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Captain Walker
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 August 2005
This story appears courtesy of and with thanks to Captain Walker and Mike Kemble
The weather held beautifully fine and the night of 8 February was clear and moonlit. My ship was out in the deep field on the convoys port bow when a shout from the port lookout drew the Officer of the Watch's attention to a U Boat on the surface. It was a nice bit of work as the enemy was fully a mile and a half away, with little but the conning tower showing and I am glad that the lookout, Able Seaman J G Wall, was well decorated for it.
We turned towards her at once but before I got to the Bridge or the guns had opened fire, she dived. The asdic team, however, did their stuff and it was not long before we had contact, had told the Boss about it, and he ordered to hang on until he could team up as usual. The U Boat made no use of her speed or violent manoeuvre to shake us off, while, since we knew she had a long way to go before she became a danger to the convoy, we kept quiet as well. The two ships approached each other in this leisurely manner on opposite courses until it was clear that the U Boat would pass more or less directly under the ship. I do not suppose that the U Boat realised she had been spotted before she dived, nor apparently, did she hear anything on her hydrophones, as her next action caught us completely by surprise and made me feel extremely foolish. She put up her periscope not more than 20 yards from the ship! The lookout saw it and gave a yell, I followed his pointing arm and there it was in the moonlight, a good two feet of it! The U Boat Captain evidently intended to have a good look around and I trust he was even more surprised at what he saw than we were.
My first reaction was to go full ahead and drop a pattern, a really good shot with the port thrower would score a bull on that periscope. I had hardly got out the orders to the engines, and the depth charge party had hardly taken action, when I looked in the water alongside and realised we could never make it. We might damage the U boat but we could never get enough way on the ship to avoid blowing our own stern off. She was too close for the 4 inch guns and the only action was the result of some quick thinking on the part of the men stationed at the close quarter weapons. Ordinary Seaman R W Gates on one Oerliken got off a pan of ammunition, and I think the stripped Lewis gun got off some rounds. At any rate, tracer hopped all around that periscope, we thought we saw sparks fly off it, we hoped the fellow at the other end got an eye bath, and then it disappeared. Having persuaded the depth charge party not to fire, we tried to withdraw to a more convenient range to collect ourselves and to carry out the Bosses orders, but found that the enemy had made up his mind to beat it in exactly the same direction! We simply could not get away from him and the situation seemed to be getting out of hand when order was restored by the arrival of Woodpecker. She had been told to join in the hunt as well and had beaten Starling to it. When she had contact there were two of us on the job and matters could proceed properly. She ran in for the attack dropping her depth charges and the contact disappeared. Up came Starling and was directed to the spot. "Come over here" Walker signalled to Pryce (Woodpecker), "and look at the mess you have made". I circled round them whilst they examined their handiwork and then we dispersed to our station again.
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