Torpedo dropping aircraft: positive evidence of use by enemy. At least 3 attacks of which two during this August.
(Admiralty War Diary, 14 August 1940)
During the 14th, Lorenz told the Division that weather conditions would preclude day or night operations; nevertheless, he later reported making a dusk attack south of The Smalls Lighthouse. His search had evidently been difficult, with 10/10 cloud at 1,000 m., and rather than have to jettison his torpedoes before landing he had attacked an unusually small target, a steamer of 1,400–2,000 tons. His first torpedo passed astern of the ship while a gyro failure meant that the second curved around its bow.
Lorenz notified KG 40 and Fl.Div. 9 that he planned to take off at 1830 on the 15th and again requested beacons 13, 14 amd 15. At 2000, !./KG 40 asked for the Brest beacon to be activated until 0100 next morning. Early on 16 August, he reported having launched torpedoes against a 5,000 ton vessel north of The Smalls, again without success. The first one had gone astern while the second, with a 4º greater offset angle, had passed even further behind and Lorenz concluded that the launch gear was not yet functioning properly. He had spent 5 hours and 20 minutes in the air and this was a seemingly rare occasion when one of Lorenz’s attacks was noticed by the British. The intended victim reported an unsuccessful attack WSW of The Smalls with one torpedo which broke surface several times before settling into its run. According to the Admiralty:
Trawler Solan H 184 attacked by 3 aircraft at 1415/16 10 miles W.S.W. Smalls. One aerial torpedo dropped which missed. Ship was then machine-gunned. Aircraft left on approach of a destroyer. No damage or casualties.
Far from being a 5,000-tonner, the Solan was a 115 foot-long Milford Haven trawler of 294 tons. Built in 1930, a newspaper report of August 1936 had described her as having “every conceivable gadget that goes to make for efficiency in fishing”; her skipper in 1940 appears to have been Arthur Howe. Lorenz was not the only pilot harassing shipping in the Irish Sea that August, the Admiralty’s War Diary recounting numerous attacks by aircraft, usually with bombs and guns. One whose nature is more ambiguous took place eight hours after the attempt on the Solan:
M.V. Crane: received 2201/15. Ship being attacked by aircraft 7 miles West of Stack.
Enemy aircraft reported as having machine gunned M.V. Crane at 2205/15 in position 055º South Stack Lighthouse [Angelsey] 5 miles. Two objects which dropped in sea failed to explode.
There was no sortie on the 16th and the weather the next day was unsuitable too. What was more, Lorenz was down to his last four torpedoes and asked when he might be getting more. At 21.00 hrs. the 9. Fliegerdivision replied that Luftzeuggruppe See in Kiel was sending him another ten.
Hauptmann Ernst Hechler, Operations Officer of 9. Fl. Div. (and later Kapitän of 2./KGr. 126) was due to arrive in Brest from Rouen on the 18th with a civil servant, Regierungsrat Dr. Seifert; the day after that, Hechler was asking the Division to send 20 aerial torpedoes to Brest as well as two urgently required setting tools for parachute mines (80 of which had been tested so far). For his part, Lorenz signalled that he would be taking off at 18.30 hrs. and asked for the activation of his usual beacons. Hechler was apparently visiting units in Western France at the time, including Bordeaux and Rochefort; he was due to fland at Brest at 09.00 on the 21st, flying from there, via Amiens, to Schiphol where he expected to arrive at 18.30.
The steam trawler Valeria (198 GRT) was sunk by three aircraft on the afternoon of 18 August although her crew of nine was rescued. According the Naval Chief Staff Officer at Milford Haven this was “by bomb, torpedo and gunfire” but modern references attribute this sinking to bombs alone. The Luftwaffe’s shipping claims for August include not a trawler but 5,000 GRT merchant vessel in Milford Haven that day. Having dropped nine 250 kg bombs, III./KG 27 reported “outbreak of fire definitely confirmed”.
Lorenz flew in daylight on the 19th, 1T+BH returning to Lanvéoc at 17.45 hours, but again he rated the weather as too poor for a night sortie. He later reported that 1T+BH had been in action for 6 hours and 38 minutes on the 18th and 19th of August and that checks (on the Heinkel?) were continually being carried out. Also on the 19th, the Division approached the Aerodrome Regional Command to get Lorenz a car and “to ensure him every facility” since he had been assigned “special duties in connection with aerial-torpedo operations” from Brest. Three days later Lorenz was advised that the Aerodrome Regional Comamnd at Morlaix would provide one.
A German ground observer unit, Offiziers-Spähtrupp 412, reported that at 21.40 hrs. RAF aircraft had dropped 12 bombs between Lanvéoc airfield and the seaplane base, causing some small, easily extinguished fires which did no damage.
continued on next page…
PART THREE OF SIX
© Nick Beale 2016–2020