HISTORY OF THE RAF IN GIBRALTAR – Part 3

in Features

Following Operation Torch. things quietened down. ln December I942, 33 Squadron was reinforced by a Hudson from 608 and 48 squadron, and Wellingtons of 173 squadron. These Wellingtons were fitted with Leigh Lights, which enabled the aircraft to illuminate their targets during the night attacks.  A census on 23rd December, showed there were 210 aircraft on the airfield of which 77 were operational and stationed on the Rock, three squadrons some of which were flying boats from New Camp, were kept busy on maritime patrols.  Anti-U-Boat patrols continued Throughout the period. The following are a list of some of the U Boat attacks carried out by aircraft based in Gibraltar.

U573

1st May 1942 (other reports state 29th April) the submarine was hunting south of Cartagena when she was badly damaged by two 250lb bombs which landed on the starboard side of the conning tower. The submarine dived but later resurfaced bow first. They managed to level the craft and the crew came on deck and surrendered, however Sgt Brent who was at the controls of the attacking Hudson of 233 Squadron was unable to remain on site. The U Boat managed to limp into Cartagena. She was too badly damaged to be economically repaired at the time but after the war the work was completed, and she entered the Spanish Navy as G7 in I947 and in 1953 took part in a film as U47.a

U74

This submarine was sent to intercept allied shipping in the western Mediterranean. This was her eighth patrol. The U47 and U375 had been ordered to go to the assistance of U573 (see above). U74 was attacked by Hudson T9387 of 233 Squadron piloted by Pilot Officer Camacho RCAF, on May 1st 1942, but the U Boat was not sunk. Torpedoes were fired at her that same evening off the southwest coast of Spain by the British submarine HMS Unbroken but she survived. On May 2nd Catalina AJI62 piloted by Flight Lt. Powell sighted U375 east of Cartagena and bombed her and also reported the sighting. HMS Wishart and Wrestler were promptly on the scene attacking sonar contacts with hedgehogs and depth charges. The U375 escaped but U74. which was in the same area, was sunk. Ft/Lt: Powell later received the DFC. 

R.M.Veniero  

On June7th 942, this Italian submarine was patrolling close to the Baleares, probably in consort with Zafliro when she was spotted by a Catalina of 202 Squadron and another of 240 squadron. The record of the attack has not been found but after this date all contact with Veniero was lost. 

R.M. ZaFFiro  

On June 9th 1942, Flight Lieutenant Hawkins DFC, flying a Catalina of 240 squadron, attached to 202 Squadron, on patrol around the Baleares, came across the Italian Submarine Zaffiro on the surface. As he approached, the submarine turned and began to fire at the approaching aircraft. Flying over the Vessel, the Catalina dropped a 450lb bomb. The Zaffiro dived, but minutes later resurfaced, obviously badly damaged. The crew carne on deck to surrender. Hawkins attempted to land in order to rescue the crew. but after two attempts and a split hull from the rough sea, he returned to base. All the crew perished. He was awarded a bar to his DFC. (see U74) 

R.M. Alabastro   

On 14th September I941. a Sunderland, W6002 of 202 Squadron, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Walshe of the RAAF. sighted the Italian submarine Alabastro the surface northwest of Algiers. The Sunderland approached from the stern dropping depth charges. The submarine stopped dead in the water and sunk after half an hour. The crew were seen to jump into the sea. There were no survivors.  

R.M.Gallileo Ferraris                      

On October 25th I942, a Catalina flown by Squadron Leader Eagleton DFC of 202 Squadron, sighted the Italian submarine which was shadowing Convoy HG75. He went in for the attack dropping two depth charges which he thought had failed to explode. Fearing that she would get away he contacted HMS Lammerton who opened fire as soon as the submarine came into range. The Catalina had damaged the submarine as it was unable to dive, and it was scuttled by its captain who surrendered.

U595                              

On November 14th I942, this submarine was located on the surface north of Oran by Wing Commander Sportwood of 500 Squadron in a Hudson. He came in low over the submarine and dropped his bombs. The explosion damaged his plane that force him to retire from the attack, however four other aircraft pressed home the attack during which two further aircraft, piloted by Flying Officer Green and Flying Officer Lord. suffered damage. Squadron Leader Ensor continued his harassment of the U Boat, driving it onto the North African shore near Tenes, with considerable depth charge damage. (One report mentions 608 Squadron involved). Wing Commander Sportwood was officer commanding 500 Squadron and later became Air Chief Marshal and then Chief of Air Staff.

U259                             

On November 15th 1942, Squadron Leader Ensar of 500 Squadron, attacked and sunk U259. As the submarine exploded, it damaged both wingtips, both rudder and elevators damaged, the Hudson only managed to remain airborne for fifteen minutes. They all bailed out but two of the crew were killed. They were picked up by HMS Ernie and Leith. The Squadron Leader was awarded the DSO for his airmanship. 

U98                               

Sunk West of Gibraltar by depth charges from HMS Wrestler on November 15th I942. She was thought to have been sunk by a Hudson from 608 Squadron on 19th of November but it was the U413 that they had attacked. {see below}.  

U331

On November 17th 1942 a Hudson of 500 Squadron. bombed the submarine damaging her forward hatch which prevented her from diving. She surrendered by showing a white flag. HMS Wilton was sent to capture the vessel but in the meantime, a flight of Albacores from HMS Formidable, unaware that they had surrendered, attacked and sank her with a torpedo. 32 were killed and 17 survived 

U4l3 

This U Boat was attacked on November 19th 1942 by a Hudson of 608 Squadron, south west of Cape St. Vincent. Five bombs were dropped which severely damaged her and she was forced to return to Brest for repairs.

U332

On December 2nd 1942, a Catalina of 202 Squadron, flown by Flight Lieutenant Ganell caught the U Boat on the surface. As he approached, she began to dive. Some of the depth charges failed to release but two entered the sea some one hundred meters ahead of’ the swirl created by the submarine as it dived. Some bubbles and oil came to the surface later but the U332 was only damaged and was able to return to port for repairs. 

U442

On February 12th 1943 a Hudson of 48 squadron sighted the submarine off Cape St Vincent. The attack was made with depth charges sinking the U Boat with the loss of 48 crew. 

U620 

This submarine was sunk by a Catalina of 202 Squadron northwest of Lisbon on February 13th 1943 with a loss of 47 crew. 

U83

Sunk by a Hudson of 500 Squadron on March 3rd 1943 south east of Cartagena.  

U77

March 28th 1943, a Hudson MkVI of 48 Squadron with Squadron Leader Harrop and another of 233 Squadron off Calpe, near Alicante encountered U77 on the surface. As they approached, she dived leaving only the swirl where she had been. Using this as a guide the bombers dropped their depth charges just ahead of the disturbance. A large bubble burst to the surface followed by oil soon followed by the U77. Harrop called for assistance and the other Hudson came in finding the submarine some 30km from the original attack site. Dropping four depth charges finished off the U77 with the loss of 38 crew, the 9 survivors were picked up by a Spanish fishing trawler.

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