- Contributed by
- People in story:
- WILLIAM CARMICHAEL
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 March 2004
My name is William Andrew Carmichael I was born on the 19th February 1922 at Robsart Street Everton Liverpool. I joined the Royal British Navy in March 1940 aged 18; I served as Stoker 1st Class DKX 784 for 6 years and finished my service in the summer of 1946.
After doing a three year stint in the Mediterranean Sea on the ships HMS Griffin destroyer, HMS Flamingo a sloop, HMS Arethusier a cruiser and the Emperor a Woolworth carrier we brought back from New York, I came home to Devonport Barracks England.
In September 1943 I joined a brand new ship called the HMS Loch Killin she was a frigate at Burntisland Kirkcaldy Scotland. The Scots knew how to build ships alright. They built 20 ships all named after Scottish lochs. They where all fitted with latest technology in radar and guns for catching u-boats we had a secret weapon which I can’t divulge to kill off the German u-boats. We operated [sailing from the river Clyde], convoys to Russia, USA and Canada we took the convoys mid Atlantic, the American navy bringing a convoy from the USA we would swop convoys and bring the convoys bound for Britain back home with us.
Not many u-boats survived the war. We would go ‘sweeping’ the Atlantic in search for u-boats if there was a ping from the radar we would depth charge them. These bombs would blow them to pieces therefore sinking them. They didn’t have much of a chance.
However in May 1944 in the Bay of Biscay there was a ‘ping’ we depth charged her, and then went astern, then slow ahead, [my action station was damage control aft deck, and we had 8 stokers in our team,]. We went slow ahead looking for debris then all of a sudden the u-boat was underneath us, split wide open. STOP ENGINES, the rear of the frigate was low in the water, we where being pulled under. The u-boat managed to right itself, the conning tower level with our deck. The hatch fell open and the ‘Jerries’ started streaming out. They were all in shock covered in oil and sea water from the conning tower. It was a distance from our deck ,three other stokers and myself climbed over our ships rail,[who always wore thick leather belts].The stokers mates grabbed our belts from the back inside the rails while we leaned over the u-boat and hauled the jerry’s on board our deck. They were in a bad way coughing up fuel and sea water. We managed to save 35 men but the u-boat was sinking fast. As I was leaning over I saw the last 5 men on the ladder as she went down. They never stood a chance the sea water swept them back into the u-boat. The German captain, 1st officer, engineer and two officers died.
This u-boat had a low number which meant she had been in service from the beginning of the war; she must have sunk a lot of our ships.
We had to strip and shower the ‘Jerries’ their clothes binned, we gave them all a survivors kit which included underwear, socks, slippers, shirt, slacks, jumper, towel, soap and shaving kit. We cleaned all their personal effects gave them medical attention and fed them. A Canadian destroyer on her way to Falmouth came along side us and took the rescued with her
A month before the D-Day landings we were again sweeping, there was a ‘ping’ we sent down depth charges. The u-boat dived quick and deep but we had damaged her she could not move. This was late afternoon and we carried on late into the night, it became pitch black. The German captain managed to do repairs so he could bring her up to the surface, then they abandoned ship our search lights managed to pick out five rubber rafts. Three destroyers and two frigates stood by while we picked up survivors.
This U-boat was 4 times larger than usual it was a supply boat with a crew of 100 men she had supplies for other boats including oil, water, rations and doctors with good medical facilities it had only left Ushant in France 2 days earlier. The captain was only 25 years old 6ft tall a real smart Jerry, not a Nazi, he had been educated in Cambridge England and spoke perfect English. They were all lined up on deck our ‘Jimmy the One’ [senior officer after the skipper] had a chat with the German captain who gave a speech to his men. 20 German officers stepped out and followed our officers for breakfast in the wardroom. The other 80 went to the seaman’s mess; ‘Jimmy the One’ took the German captain to our captain’s cabin to have breakfast with our captain.
By late 1943 and into early 1944 was the end for the German u-boat campaign, we sunk them by the bucketful, and we never lost a ship.
In April 1944 we left the Clyde and started operating from the Gladstone Dock Liverpool. Still the same job convoys and making the western approaches safe. We were at sea as usual in May 1944. In the English Channel there was about 50 ships destroyers, sloops, frigates all u-boat hunters sweeping everywhere right up to the French coast. Port Ushant was where the main u-boat pens were located, we oiled watered and rationed all at sea. We guessed something was coming off and it did; D-Day June 1944. We sunk every u-boat going in and coming out in to Ushant. Not one u-boat got through to the D-Day convoys and fleets in the channel. I finished my service on the battleship HMS Duke of York in the Mediterranean Sea close to Malta and then I was d-mobbed in August 1946.
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