- Whitehouse, John
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At meal times the Germans lifted up the bilge plates and out came tins of every conceivable luxury, which we hadn’t seen for years. It had been impressed on us not to accept food from the Germans and we had brought with us cardboard boxes of Field Rations which consisted of corned beef, biscuits, and tins of tea, sugar and milk all in one. When we looked at our rations and what the Germans were eating it didn’t take much of an invitation to join them.
We were given turns at going up on the conning tower for a breath of fresh air and although this was welcome the weather was rough and you needed the German wet weather clothing which included a heavy belt fitted with snap hooks so that you could attach yourself to a bar and prevent yourself being swept overboard. From time to time the U Boat went bows under and the conning tower filled up until it was like standing in a tub of water, but as least when it drained away you were still there! Under the conning tower in the control room was a rack containing some 40 or 50 pairs of binoculars and one man had the job of continually cleaning them and as one pair went off one end, so others were cleaned and put on the other.
Halfway through the night we had a fault on the starboard engine and we had to stop whilst they sweated over the engines for some hours before the trouble was put right. I don’t think I would have bothered! The engine room staff were certainly dedicated to their engines.
Next morning we arrived at Loch Alsh and took the boat alongside a submarine depot ship. The U Boat captain read out a message to his ship’s company telling them that they were leaving their boat and I think there were a few tears.
We were picked up by our motor boat and returned to Byron . . . .” John Cunningham. LTO
“We were under way, and I was on the conning tower with a couple of the Boarding Party and the U Boat Commander. Les Kingsley came up from below. We all had Lanchesters (a posh version of the Sten) and when Les came up on top he placed his Lanchester on the deck in an upright position, butt down. For no apparent reason a round went off, shot into the sky, missing the U Boat Commander’s sleeve by a matter of what must have been 2-3 inches. He remained completely unmoved.” Lieut. ‘Buck’ Taylor, RNVR, i/c Boarding Party. It would seem that whoever fired the first shot in the Battle of the Atlantic, Les Kingsley fired the last.
The need for a resident Boarding Party was never questioned, although the fact that most of the boats had made the passage on the surface from Norway might have been taken as evidence of good intentions. However, an initial search of the U Boats was important as a Scapa Flow type scuttling was a possibility, as were individual acts of last minute revenge. The search also included a general rounding- up of documents – log books, code books, signal files, official correspondence, charts. Some boats were intact, some had ditched everything, most lay somewhere between the two. Whatever there was came back on board, usually in their thick, leather-strapped, brown canvas chart folios, to be sent over to Philante the same evening.
Some souvenirs of the boats found their way on board. The grey wet-suits of course, and some cigars of really appalling quality. An immense quantity of ‘Feldpostbrief’ writing pads came aboard which included an extensive set of rules about the sort of letter a soldier at the Front should write home – and a lengthy list of warnings about sending RAF leaflets, which seemed to worry the German authorities considerably.
A total of thirty three U Boats came into Loch Eriboll between the morning of 10th May and evening of 19th May. The Group sailed south to Loch Alsh for the last time on 21st May, escorting the last boats remaining in the Loch. On 22nd May the Group – less Byron – escorted four boats across to Moville; we came on alone a day later, having waited in Loch Alsh to recover our Boarding Party. The Group as a whole then made a last entrance into Belfast.