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Author Topic: Strange Story from WW2  (Read 507 times)

jackroyd

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Strange Story from WW2
« on: 24 May 2018 05:19:50 PM »

My old pal Norman, soon to be 96 served 5 years in RN on HMS Fitzroy and HMS Waveney.  He has a story that is hard to believe but if true I'd like to give him verification for his birthday next month.  He was on a ship in the Med which had some mechanical problem that could not be repaired there. It had to return to UK. The ship waited at Gibraltar til conditions in Bay of Biscay were optimal re weather and u-boats. Eventually the ship left and limped along very slowly. One day a German ship came over the horizon. All hands were ordered on deck ready to die. But although the German ship swung its guns around at his ship it never fired a shot. Just kept motoring along.  Did this ever happen? He cannot recall which ship he was on at the time and I cannot find any references online to this.  Thank you.
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PhiloNauticus

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #1 on: 25 May 2018 01:36:08 PM »

It is a very odd story, and without the name of the ship he was on, difficult to check on - I am not aware of any such incident.
The nearest incident that I can find is the sortie into the Atlantic by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in early-1941.  They twice encountered convoys, but both times declined engagement.  Strictly neither was in the Bay of Biscay, the nearest was the second incident on 7 March 1941, when they found a convoy (SL-67) 300 miles north of Cape Verde, but turned away and failed to press home an attack when they realised that the British battleship Malaya was with the convoy.
see:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=PNN8NNZjrFIC&pg=PA168&lpg=PA168&dq=scharnhorst+convoy+sl+67&source=bl&ots=Fxq_c7jnZh&sig=SWCrag1Y1eqQppPUG88m3Mpdf-o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjC8rW4_KDbAhVMDcAKHXL-B3EQ6AEIWzAL#v=onepage&q=scharnhorst%20convoy%20sl%2067&f=false
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jackroyd

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #2 on: 25 May 2018 05:42:24 PM »

I shall quiz Norman further on the convoy question.  I have understood they were solo. Your references helpful. j
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jackroyd

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #3 on: 28 May 2018 08:01:47 PM »

I have now spoken with Norman again.  He is definite that he was on HMS Waveney at the time. And they were in a convoy. The German vessel was a pocket cruiser.  Admiralty was informed from first sighting to the last. He knows because he was a telegraphist -sparks- and was involved in sending same. It was early on for him having just turned 20, so 1942. The 200 young lads were very quiet afterwards having for the first time in their lives contemplated their own mortality.   j
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PhiloNauticus

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #4 on: 29 May 2018 11:05:46 AM »

Jack

I can certainly believe that Norman sent sighting reports etc on what they may have believed was a German warship - but the problem is, there were no cruisers or any other major German naval units loose in the Atlantic / Bay of Biscay in 1942/43. All large naval units were ordered to be withdrawn from France to the Baltic or Norway in late 1941: hence the 'Channel Dash' of early 1942.

The Waveney may well have seen something - but it wasn't a German cruiser

see:

http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-15Fr-River-HMS_Waveney.htm

http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-15Fr-River-HMS_Waveney.htm#convoy

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jackroyd

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #5 on: 31 May 2018 02:07:21 PM »

This is turning out to be far more difficult to document than I ever imagined.  Were there cruisers of any other countries that could have threatened Waveney?  I read the book Battle of the Atlantic a couple of years ago hoping this incident would have been mentioned. But no. Don't know what else I can ask him.   j
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PhiloNauticus

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #6 on: 02 June 2018 01:44:13 PM »


Without a tighter timeframe, it is difficult to identify the stranger.  If it was in the Bay of Biscay, the obvious candidate would be Spanish.

I wonder - the heavy cruiser Canarias would seem a possibility - with its trunked single funnel it could be mistaken at long range for a German
see:
https://www.world-war.co.uk/spain/canarias.php3

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jackroyd

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #7 on: 02 June 2018 10:39:32 PM »

I agree Canarias is a likely candidate. She was the Nationalist flagship for 40 years, killed 32 ships. Was, I think now, on a routine patrol making sure no enemy forces were intruding on neutral Spain's waters. It could have been 10 or 20 km away and thus hard to ID clearly.
All this I have learned in the last few minutes of searching from your hint.  j
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jackroyd

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Re: Strange Story from WW2
« Reply #8 on: 06 June 2018 09:21:25 PM »

I have told Norman about the Canarius being the mystery ship.  He is intrigued with your observation. He said "But we had men with binoculars up to the crowsnest and they agreed it was German."  So, the ship was a long way off by the sound of it. I am sure you have solved this ancient puzzle; all your help much appreciated.  j
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