SUBMARINE/BRITISH NAVY/SINKING OF U-BOAT U-111
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; without victory, there is no survival.
‘For daring and skill in a brilliant action against a U-boat in which the enemy was sunk and surrendered to HM trawler Lady Shirley’. The report of the action records that Bussey’s station was one of the .5” calibre machine guns and ‘behaved utmost coolness under fire’. It further records ‘At 0840/4th October (1941) Lady Shirley sighted what appeared to be a funnel of ship owing to possibility it might be submarine’s conning tower altered course towards. it disappeared shortly after being sighted, at 1004 contact made with submerged submarine, action stations ordered and pattern of depth charges released. Depth charges exploded, periscope appeared in bubbles and submarine broke surface. Trawler’s helm put hard over to port to bring the 4 in gun to bear opening fire as soon as possible and at the same time machine guns on the bridge opened fire on the conning tower. Men were seen running to the submarine’s gun but stopped by trawler’s machine guns. Meanwhile submarine opened fire with machine guns instantly killing gun layer on the 4 inch gun. Keeping up a rapid fire obtaining 6 hits causing submarine crew to surrender. On bridge machine gunners Halcrow and Windsor both badly wounded remained at their guns and kept them working. Submarine seen to be losing speed and sinking rapidly by the stern and when the crew were seen to hold up their hands and shout that they surrendered fire was ceased. At 1023 submarine sank by stern Lady Shirley picked up 45 survivors of whom one died. Remainder brought back to port German survivor expressed admiration for fire from Lady Shirley saying “We were bigger than you, you could not see us and we could see you, but yet you won.” The U-boat was the U-111. Kapt. Wilhelm Kleinschmidt (see picture below). In addition to Bussey’s D.S.M. there was a D.S.O. to Lieut. Commander A H Callaway RANVR; 2 DSC 1 CGM 4 DSM 1 posthumous and 6 MID for the crew of 33. The triumph was unfortunately short lived. `A few weeks later, on 11 December, 1941 the Lady Shirley was sunk with all hands by the U-374 Kapt. Fischel. L.S.
Bussey is confirmed on board and as killed in action”
The Lady Shirley
Surrender of U-111 to the trawler Lady Shirley off of the Canaries Islands.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war. Never for one moment could we ever forget that everything elsewhere depended upon the outcome
"Sept 3rd 1939 war was declared. I volunteered to be a telegraphist in the Royal Navy at Brighton. My first application was refused: the Administrator said “I was in a reserved occupation” As I was leaving the Marine Sergeant, said wait, looking at his list said, you are now a storekeeper. The Administrator signed this one, on handing it back, said “Haven’t you been in here before”? I did not answer and hurried out.
Jan 22nd 1940 commenced training at HMS St Vincent Gosport. (John Pertwee was also a trainee but failed, then sent to become a seaman) On completion I had in mind a smart cruiser, instead, sent to a rather grubby looking coal burning minesweeping trawler HMT Lune. I had been sent on loan to the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) with its own Port Division at Lowestoft, for the requisitioned fishing fleet of 500 ships. The fishermen were just given naval uniforms and returned to their ships. Small ships converted to minesweepers, large ones for anti-submarine duties, eventually expanding to 66,000 men. I had no regrets; there was less naval discipline, friendly crews, no dull moments and 1 shilling a day extra. The RN Patrol Service in 1940 alone lost 122 trawlers, 46 sunk by mines, 36 by aircraft attacks, 17 by collisions, 7 by unknown causes, 4 by E-boats, 4 were wrecks, 4 by enemy gunfire, 3 flounder, 1 by a U-boat.
In Aug 1941 I was drafted to the anti-submarine trawler HMT Pentland Firth (485 tons) one of 3 wireless operators to maintain continuous W/T watch at sea and in convoy to listen by loudspeaker for the other escorts messages. Then based in Belfast where we were escorting coastal convoys to and from the Bristol Channel. The ship had a near miss when Belfast was bombed. We had a 3 piece band, the coder Doug Hurrell piano-accordion, stoker Jack Graylish saxophone, seaman Wilf Taylor drums.
Jan 31st 1942 given 14 days notice to prepare to move to an overseas base, rumours were Russia and Greenland.
It was midday on Sat Feb 14th 1942 that our voyage commenced. It included 2 other trawlers, the Le Tigre a large French trawler (With a British crew) Senatuer Duhamel. The other ships gave us a tremendous sent off, with sirens sounding, ships hooting and the fire boat spraying a large jet of water in the air. At sea the Skipper announced our destination; it was “New York.” We could not believe our good fortune. By rationing water we could stay at sea for about 12 days. We would need refueling at St Johns Newfoundland and Halifax Canada
The reason for our journey! On Dec 7th 1941 the Japanese made a devastating attack on Pearl Harbour. With the US now in the war German U-boats took the opportunity to go into the United States Eastern coastal waters, with little opposition. The merchant ships sailed independently instead of in convoys, as the US navy was short of escort vessels, Roosevelt asked Churchill for convoy escort assistance. He replied he could only loan him 24 anti-submarine trawlers. To be based in Boston, New York, North Carolina and Norfolk Virginia, 6 in each.
As we progressed across the Atlantic, distress messages from merchant ships were being picked up, but out of range for our assistance. One night we nearly got mowed down by a merchant ship, the coxswain just managed to manoeuvre the ship out of its way as it thundered past, not knowing we were there. Then we went into a big storm with ferocious winds I had never seen such large waves, every so often the ships bow would be hit by a very big wave, which then crashed onto the deck, even forcing sea water through the clamped trap hatch, into the crew’s quarters creating wet blankets. Also there was no heating as the coal burning stove could not be used in these conditions and was probably rolling around on the floor. In rough weather a rope had to be tied along the open deck to hold on to, walking between the crew’s quarters, the bridge, aft quarters, galley, or toilets. It became so bad it was not safe to go out on deck; everyone had to stay where they were. The waves became so high we could not head into them. Instead we had to be sideways to the waves and slid down one side and up the other. The other ships would disappear from view into the hollows.
Eventually it moderated sufficiently to walk along the deck again. Then it was a case of dodging the icebergs.
On Feb 23rd 1942, At last we sighted the mountains of Newfoundland with its rugged coast line, then into the harbour of St Johns, then still a rather primitive, but patriotic and friendly British colony. The town could not be seen from the sea, so all the lights were on, here we were safe from air attacks, we had entered a different world.
Ashore the shops were full of goods, chocolate, ice cream, and fruit etc, no rationing, after two and half years of war this was indeed paradise. The only draw back it was so cold, the wind so bitter walking into it took you breath away. With frequent snow falls, the baker and milkmen replaced the wheels of their horse drawn delivery van's for skis.
From now on, the trawlers name's must not be used. To be known in our new identity, as HMT 478. Our camouflage altered to Canadian colours.
Being a coal burning ship, the boiler tubes deteriorate. Ours were now useless. As this had been expected we carried the replacements. We would now be in port for the work to be carried out.
The skipper decided this was a good opportunity to paint ship. Whilst ashore he had heard that another trawler had a violinist onboard Geo Randall and promptly arranged an exchange for him, we now had a 4 piece band. Whilst practicing with the trap hatch open, it was heard by the local padre. They soon had regular engagements at the St Mary’s church hall, at the Caribou and Catholic Services clubs and the Officers club. Sunday services at the Methodist church were popular, as tea and cakes followed in the Terra Nova hall.Taking advantage of our stay, I was able to pass the W/T 3 exam, becoming a Leading Telegraphist.
The Northern trawlers were the largest at 655 tons Northern Chief, Duke, Princess and Isles, left Newfoundland for Halifax on March 3rd 1942. The night of March 7th with rough weather east of Sable Island, the ships lost touch with each other. At day break the Northern Princess was missing, no signal, no wreckage.
Arriving in Brooklyn USA, trawlers were installed with the latest radar and communication equipment, etc. On completion we moved to our base at Staten Island, separate from the US navy ships, the US sailors avoided us. Instead of ordering our provisions, we had what they sent. This was very generous, turkeys, chicken, tinned fruit and cakes etc. On returning to harbour and each day in port, a crate each of oranges and apples arrived on deck with a churn of milk for the crew to help themselves.
The Staten Island ferry passed the Statue of Liberty on its way to Manhattan, free to servicemen, so were the limited tickets for any show/film in town by queuing at the USO office NY at 2 p.m In Times Square the makers of Pepsi-cola provided free drinks. At the Stage Door Canteen, we were entertained and a free meal. Ashore, you would not know there was a war on. Out at sea it was a totally different story. We were kept busy with convoys, returning only for fuel and supplies and 1 or perhaps 2 trips ashore.
Early 1942 Germany needed U-boats in the Med and Norway. The few in this area now went into American shallow waters at night although they could not dive deep enough to escape depth charges they had little or no opposition from the U.S. navy. Worse still the lighthouses and navigational light buoys were left on, the coast line not blacked out (hoteliers said they would lose trade) Merchant ships coming up and down the coast were unescorted, at night the ships were silhouettes on the skyline, made easy targets for U-boats. This they called their “Happy hunting ground” Instead of U-boats returning to base to refuel, they now had large tanker U-boats stationed within 300 miles of the American coast to supply them. At least 2 merchant ships were being sunk daily, by April 1st 1942 so many bodies were being washed ashore; the Coastline was now blacked out.
The trawler HMT St Cathan was sunk off Charleston by an American tanker, casualties unknown.
Organised convoys started on April 11th Each of the 4 groups created a chain, exchanging convoys at their neighbour’s boundaries.
May 6th the sturdy built HMT Senateur Duhamel 913tons was rammed by a US destroyer off Wilmington and sank no lives were lost. Their excuse they thought it was a U-boat. The destroyer had its side ripped open to the bridge.
May 11th HMT Bedfordshire off Cape Lookout sent a message “Have sighted something suspicious” it was not seen again, no wreckage, later 4 bodies were washed ashore on Oakacoc Island. The US arranged a small cemetery there, flying the white ensign, a service is still held in May each year. On June 15th HMT Kingston Ceylonite struck a mine and sank off Chesapeake Bay, only 2 survivors. A memorial to the Bedforshire and Kingston Celylonite is at Oak Grove cemetery Virgin Beach VA.
Ordered to patrol outside New York harbour, in the fading light a big ship was seen coming towards us, it was the Queen Mary carrying troops to Britain, after exchanging greetings, we returned to harbour. Patrolling off Block Island one night, the lookout Don Ransley, reported seeing faintly several ships, which were challenged, without a reply, using a more powerful lamp, still no answer. A signal was then sent “Request you identify yourself” There was no response, a star shell was fired to see who they were. Immediately they sent the signal “You are a gawd dam fool.” At the same time two shells were flying over us. We were carrying out their US Navy orders and they just ignored them. Showing their resentment of us.
HMT St Loman had 5 stars on its funnel, U-boats they were claiming. Escorts would get echoes from the numerous wrecks down the coast and a depth charge sometimes brought up fish.
By Mid-July 1942 we had accomplished our mission, although we did not know it. The U-boats could no longer find easy targets and were moved down to the West Indies looking for easier ones.
Sept 18th 1942 we returned to Staten Island and were preparing for shore leave, when a signal arrived “prepare to sail for a patrol 20 miles outside NY harbour” The ship whose duty it was had engine trouble. By the time we had enough steam it was getting dark as we sailed. Proceeding down the Hudson River, a feint cry of help was heard, the searchlight picked out a man in the water being carried out to sea, going along side pulled him onboard, a Scottish merchant seaman returning to his ship drunk had fallen in, trying to get onboard.
We reach our patrol area. Having finished my watch at midnight I went to my bunk, when soon after 2 a.m, I was awakened by a terrific crash with water pouring in. I jumped out of my bunk in my under pants, the water was up to my ankles, ran the 6 feet to the stairs. Being a small queue I had a moment to think and realized I needed my lifebelt, in that short distance of grabbing my lifebelt and back the water was up to my knees as I climb the now deserted stairs. On deck no one in sight, where had they gone? In the dim light I could see our two boats had not been used. The deck was titling the side of the ship under water the sea pouring in. Fixed to the side rigging of the mast was a carli-float and an axe, I decided there was not time for that, and ran along the sloping deck to the stern, I climbed on to the depth charges just as the ship gave a lurch, thinking this was it, I jumped in, the propeller was still going round but luckily sent me away from the ship. Seeing the flare of a lifebuoy swam to it, a shipmate was already holding on to it, he said we will soon be picked up now, when the coxswain swam up to us saying “Get away quick you are being sucked into the ship again” I swam as I had never done before, the ship had now disappeared, it’s said in 4 minutes. An American minesweeper now picked us up. This was the vessel that had rammed us, it was also taking in water, so we couldn’t stay onboard we were given a blanket and put onto another small ship that took us to the Military hospital on Staten Island arriving at 6 a.m. and received very poor treatment. Told to sit down in the corridor on the hard floor, wrapped in a blanket given a glass of water, no food or hot drink. After 4 hours a coach arrived to take us to Brooklyn, when we got out of the coach we had to walk across the main road in our bare feet covered by the blanket and into the American Naval barracks. Then without refreshments told we had to be kitted out before getting our first meal at 2 p.m. (About 20 hours without food)
The merchant seaman, (with his ship still in harbour), yet rescued twice at sea in 4 hours, is surely a record. At an enquiry into the Pentland Firth sinking, it was stated an unknown ship was detected and challenged, which it ignored and continued towards us. The navigation lights were now switched on, but it made no difference they intended to ram us. Their usual excuse, they thought we were a U-boat.
Six trawlers had been lost, 3 rammed by American ships, two by German torpedoes and one hit a mine.
We were given 14 days survivors leave arranged through the New York Union Jack Club and were invited to Essex Connecticut where Mary Star a retired school teacher organised our accommodation in the area from her house, this was already known as HMS Connecticut, flying the white ensign from HMS Penelope of Malta convoys fame, nicknamed “The pepper pot” because of the shell holes in her, whose crew had stayed there. Vice Admiral W French wrote to Mary Starr thanking her for the good work of HMS Connecticut and those participating. Later in recognition for her services received a British decoration, I believe the BEM.
Although only a small crew we had a football team, 2 were professionals Batey and Reigate. Wednesday October 7th 1942 we were invited to lunch at Yale University and to play against them at football. Taxi’s met us at the station. Having lost all our football gear they kitted us out, saying we could keep it. A photograph of our football team appeared in the local “Newhaven newspaper”. We found the American people friendly and generous, this more than compensated for the US Navy’s actions. March the 6th 1943 the Daily Mirror wrote an article on Mary Starr, it mentions that she was asked to accommodate 34 sailors, for 14 days, arriving in 24 hours, that her reply was ”Send them.”!!
Returning to barracks we discovered America no longer needed our assistance, the trawlers were being sent via the West Indies, Freetown to South Africa, for Capetown to Durban convoys. I was sent to HMT Northern Chief in New York and then sailed for Norfolk Virginia. But that’s another story! perhaps a book!
On October 12th 1957 Mary Starr held a reception, at the American Embassy in London, to meet sailors she befriended"
An unknown sailor
Survivors of U-185 (Type IXC/40) on the Flight Deck of USS Core.
Prisoners of War (POW) were considered to be excellent sources of intelligence information by the Allies. After surviving Allied attacks, U-boat sailors were often fished out of the water to face interrogation. U.S. Navy operatives worked with their army counterparts to establish special U-boat POW interrogation facilities in places like Fort Hunt in Maryland. At Fort Hunt, U-boat POWs were customarily placed in confinement inside rooms where their conversations were secretly monitored and recorded. Sometimes, U-boat POWs collaborated with the Americans to induce their comrades to discuss highly sensitive information on U-boat operations.