CAM Ship Hurricane Operations

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by stona, Jan 27, 2016.

  1. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    #1 stona, Jan 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
    Following on from a discussion of the Sea Hurricane and it's variants I thought a brief resume of all the operational launches of the CAM ship Hurricanes, a little more detail than generally available but not exhaustive. I have not included operations by Hurricanes from the Fighter Catapult Ship Maplin.

    1st November 1941
    Flying Officer George Varley launched from Empire Foam, homeward bound from Halifax, at 15.10 to intercept a Fw 200. Varley chased the Fw 200 into cloud, lost it and returned to the convoy mounting a standing patrol. He investigated two plots showing aircraft 5 miles astern of the convoy but made no contact. After an hour he did make contact with a radar plot, but the aircraft promptly fired off colours of the day and was identified as a Coastal Command B-24. After an hour and forty minutes in the air Varley warned his Fighter Direction Officer (Gostelow) that he would soon have to bail out. At 17.05 he judged his fuel to be just about expended and flew around the destroyer Broke, rocking his wings to indicate he was bailing out. He had some difficulty abandoning his aircraft but finally managed a good escape and was picked up by Broke after only a few minutes in the sea.

    26th May 1942
    Flying Officer John Kendal launched from Empire Morn at 09.00 for an unsuccessful interception of a Bv 138. There were communication problems between Kendal and his FDO (Mallett) but Kendal attacked and shot down a Ju 88. He returned to orbit the convoy and, communications briefly restored, Mallett sent him of to investigate the shot down Ju 88. Kendal lost the convoy and took some time to find it, whereupon he reported that he had seen wreckage and an empty dinghy at the Ju 88’s crash site. Kendal now needed to bail out. He was supposed to bail out near Boadicea but the destroyer, positioned ahead of the convoy was in an area of bad visibility in which Kendal lost his bearings. Mallett ordered him to select one of the escort vessels astern but received no acknowledgement. Soon Kendal appeared over another destroyer, Badsworth, and turned behind her, to overtake, climbing to his bail out altitude well above the 700ft cloud base. The waiting sailors heard the Hurricanes engine cut as Kendal throttled back and shortly after the aircraft appeared through the clouds followed by a cart wheeling figure whose parachute was not deployed. The parachute started to open about 50’ above the sea and Kendal hit the sea under a partially opened canopy sustaining serious injuries. He was very quickly picked up at 10.04 by a boat from Badsworth but was declared dead ten minutes later. He was buried at sea that afternoon

    Later on the same day (some sources wrongly give Kendal’s mission as a year earlier) but from a different convoy headed in the opposite direction, Pilot Officer Al Hay launched from the Empire Lawrence. Time is not clear, but about 17.00-17.15. He made determined attacks on a formation of five He 11s breaking up their attack. He was wounded in the thigh and his Glycol tank was hit causing the engine to overheat. He told his FDO (Powell) that he was going to bail out, but saw a section of Ju 88s developing an attack on the convoy from the west. Out of ammunition he flew up the convoy, showing himself to the German aircraft which turned away. He circled over the front of the convoy before flying back under continuous fire from two American ships towards the rear. He escaped to the port side and when abeam of Empire Lawrence made a text book exit from his aircraft. On hitting the sea he discovered that his dinghy had been holed and was useless. The destroyer Volunteer saw his predicament and even though she was under attack, stopped and rescued him after only six minutes in the water. He was credited with one He 111 destroyed (NOT two) and one damaged.

    Part 2 below
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    #2 stona, Jan 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
    14th June 1942
    Pilot Officer Vernon Sanders launched from Empire Moon at 14.41. Sanders made several attacks on an Fw 200 but eventually lost contact in cloud. Having fuel and ammunition he asked his FDO (Perrett) for a vector but the contact was lost. He was given a vector back to the convoy and after orbiting for a few minutes was sent off on a submarine hunt but found nothing. Being short of fuel he now had to bail out. In Empire Moon a signal was received from Captain Walker (that’s THE Captain Walker of 36th Escort Group) ‘Instruct pilot to bail out near me when ready.’ Sanders knew he had not fitted his parachute correctly and therefore had no intention of bailing out. He told Perrett that he was going to ‘pancake’. At about 15.15 he ditched in front of Stork. He had some difficulty with his canopy but got out of the sinking Hurricane and was picked up by Stork after only four minutes in the water.

    18th September 1942
    Flying Officer Jackie Burr launched from Empire Morn at about 11.50. He immediately attacked a formation of Heinkels making a low level attack, one of which in an attempt to evade, crashed into the sea. He then managed to shoot down another Heinkel, expending all his ammunition. His FDO (Gostelow again) informed him of another attack developing and Burr made a dummy attack on these aircraft, forcing them to drop their torpedoes out of range. He was now ordered to ‘orbit convoy’. It was now 12.10 and Burr had been airborne for twenty minutes and it occurred to him that he might be able to reach Keg Ostrov, Archangel, which was about 200 miles away. He sought permission from Gostelow and was told it was up to him. At 12.25 Burr made another dummy attack on some Ju 88s. He had been airborne for nearly forty minutes and Gostelow asked him if he was going to bail out. Burr replied that it was too cold and sought a vector for Archangel. He made it to Keg Ostov with just four gallons of fuel in his tanks.

    1st November 1942
    Flying Officer Norman Taylor launched from Empire Heath, time unknown. He immediately found that his radio communication with his FDO (Sub.Lt. Ward) appeared to be jammed. He flew back over the ship and saw several figures pointing to the south west and correctly guessed this is the vector on which he should be heading. He found the Fw 200 and succeeded in shooting it down. He returned to the convoy and was executing a series of celebratory rolls when he noticed that his port wing had sustained some damage. Ward ordered Taylor to bail out. Taylor managed to abandon his aircraft but his ill fitted parachute harness cut into his right shoulder and his neck and caused him to hit the sea on his back. Taylor now was in real trouble. He had failed to mention that he could not swim and now his life jacket failed to inflate. His legs were also entangled in his parachute and he could not release his dinghy. He was rescued on the point of drowning by a corvette and returned to Empire Heath at 15.50.

    28th July 1943
    Flying Officer ‘Jimmy’ Stewart launched from Empire Darwin at 19.38. He immediately gave chase to a Fw 200. There was no radio communication with his FDO (Sub.Lt. Pickwell) but he didn’t need vectors as he could see his prey. He made two attacks before his guns jammed.This ‘Condor’ was observed by men on several ships to crash into the sea. Stewart returned to the convoy and made dummy attacks on other aircraft, forcing at least one to jettison its bombs. Eventually he made a good exit from his aircraft and was picked up by Leith.

    Flying Officer ‘Paddy’ Flynn launched from Empire Tide at 20.37, same convoy, same day. The FDO (Ward again) gave him a vector for a Fw 200 which Flynn could anyway see clearly. Flynn attacked this aircraft repeatedly, exhausting his ammunition. He was now forty miles from the convoy and had sustained some damage. Unable to raise Ward on the radio he climbed to 3,000 feet and returned to the ships. Here he was instructed to climb to 10,000 feet and as the Hurricane still responded well he started to climb. At 6,000 feet he was warned that he was in the line of heavy anti- aircraft fire directed at another Fw 200. He descended and after fifty two minutes airborne he bailed out from 2,000 feet. At 21.38, after about ten minutes in the water he was picked up by Enchantress.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
  3. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,235
    Likes Received:
    411
    Trophy Points:
    83
    I wonder if the pilots were sent on refreshers, it seems to me they could go weeks and weeks without flying at all and then get catapulted into battle.
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    #4 stona, Jan 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
    The volunteers did very little flying. I have somewhere a list of some of flying hours by some of the MSFU pilots and it wasn't much.
    Sholto-Douglas didn't like to see his pilots being idle but had cooperated when the unit was set up as a means of retaining control. Only the Fighter Direction Officers were naval officers, everyone else from the pilot to his crew were RAF , though the did sign Shop's Articles.
    In late 1941, prompted by Douglas, the Air Ministry asked "Is it economical to continue with the CAM ship proposal at all? Would it be better to cancel this scheme and convert a proportion of the merchant vessels now used as CAM ships to Fighter Catapult Ships entirely under Admiralty control and operation." This was Douglas would get his pilots and crews back, but it didn't happen.
    There is an important distinction as the FCS were operated and crewed entirely by RN/FAA personnel.
    Cheers
    Steve

    AIR 16/801 at the TNA has report on the MSFU flying training, but it isn't digitised and I can't justify the ludicrous cost of copying. Maybe next time I visit I'll take a look.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Some contemporary advice on how to shoot down a Fw 200.

    "Pilots should remember the following points.

    (i) The chief aim is to kill the pilot and crew. To stop the engines may be a good thing but there are 4 engines.

    (ii) A straight approach assists the enemy rear gunner. A fighter which turns and pulls up immediately after an attack is a 'sitter' for the rear gunner.

    (iii) That when his approach is unsatisfactory he should break off and not waste ammunition and the chance of being hit on a hopeless attack.

    (iv) A bullet fired at 100 yards is worth six fired at 300 yards.

    (v) Pilots normally underestimate deflection and range.

    D.E. Gillian Squadron Leader, Air Tactics."

    Emphasis in original.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Messages:
    8,857
    Likes Received:
    376
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Workin' for the man....
    Location:
    South East Queensland
    Great post Steve, most interesting! Very brave men those pilots.
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    They were. They were also acutely aware that there mission was a one off and that it would almost certainly result in the loss of their aircraft. I'm sure that this explains why, even damaged or with no more ammunition, they would stay over the convoy and attempt to break up further attacks in any way they could. Attacking a heavily armed bomber like the Fw 200 is dangerous when you can shoot at it and hopefully kill or at least distract the gunners. Making dummy attacks on such aircraft in the hope of disrupting their attacks can only have been even more hazardous. You can see above that one of them went off on an anti-submarine patrol whilst he still had the fuel to do so. They all tried to get the most out of their one way mission.
    After all that they were faced with parachuting into the sea, hoping to be recovered. It is remarkable that they were all recovered, though Kendal did not survive, and that the escort vessels would put themselves at some risk to pick up the pilots, in some cases stopping whilst the aerial attacks were still ongoing.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  8. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2009
    Messages:
    9,769
    Likes Received:
    800
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    retired Firefighter
    Location:
    Central Florida Highlands
    Thank you very much for your research and work in posting this very interesting information.
     
  9. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,235
    Likes Received:
    411
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Great stuff steve, Was their any known effect on LW tactics and operations caused by CAM ships.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    There wasn't and never will be a 'balance sheet' for the CAM ship operations. I think we can say that the threat of the Condor, which was significant given the tonnage they sank and which was perceived in the summer of 1940 to be potentially as dangerous as the U-Boat threat, was never a serious menace once the 'Hurricats' started operations. There were plans for 200 CAM ships but only 35 were converted. When Fighter Command finally informed the MSFU at Speke that it was to be disbanded it included this message from the Admiralty.

    "My Lords would like to express their great appreciation of the services rendered by the RAF in providing this valuable defence for our convoys, and it is with great regret that they are now forced to recommend that this association of the RAF with the Merchant Navy should be bought to an end."

    I think the most remarkable thing is that Their Lordships deigned to send such a signal at all!

    Kenneth Poolman wrote in his book.

    ‘It was the men of the MSFU who were largely responsible for removing the threat by the long-range FW200 bombers which at one time seemed so serious. This was their great achievement’

    That seems reasonable to me.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,528
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    There's an IWM interview with Fighter Direction Officer Gostelow here:

    Home

    The part covering his training as an FDO and his time on the CAM ships is on the last 5-10 minutes of reel 1 and the beginning of reel 2.
    As with all these interviews many years after the event it shows that human memory is fallible and some of the details recalled don't exactly match the known facts. Nonetheless, it is interesting to hear from a man who was there.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
Loading...

Share This Page