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Thread: Location of demise of Catalina AH566 (RCAF 413 Squadron) shot down 22/10/1941

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    Default Location of demise of Catalina AH566 (RCAF 413 Squadron) shot down 22/10/1941

    Thanks to all who have already posted very interesting info relating to Catalina AH566 on which my uncle, Flight Sergeant Lawry, was the navigator.

    I would very much like to get an accurate location for the reported shooting down by a Blohm und Voss 138 seaplane. On this forum and elsewhere, the location is given as Luftquadrat 44710/06 Ost. Using the Gradnetzmeldeverfahren converter on the Aviation History Society Norway website at http://www.ahs.no , the last digit of the five digit part of the code (44710) seems to only allow values 1, 2, 3 or 4, not 0.

    Does this imply that there may be an error in the transcription of this location code, or else that the 'Meldetrapez' which is defined by the last digit, was not accurately defined by the crew of the German plane?

    All comments welcome.

    Thanks, Charles Lyne.

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    Hi Charles
    This loss is recorded by the forum moderator, Ross McNeill, in his book Coastal Command Losses Vol 1 but he was unable to record a location,however he does record that the crew were all RAF with the exception of W/C R G Briese and one other who were RCAF and his was the only known burial.He rests in Stavne Cemetery,Trondheim.The a/c was on a special reconnaisance with the focus on Tromso.As he was buried in Norway it might mean that there is a Norwegian source from which his point of recovery could be ascertained.Unfortunately I don't know were to find it.Breise's service no. was C/147 and this ought to raise his details from the Canadian virtual memorial but it might not have the detail that you seek.
    Regards
    Dick
    Last edited by Dick; 15th February 2012 at 19:25.

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    I have just looked at copies of the German war diaries. One (Admiral Nordküste) gives the position as 80 nautical miles north/north west of Molde and the reference on that document matches the figures you quote of 44710, so it's not a transcription error, it is what it says in the German records.....could be a German typo of course (perish the thought!).

    The other (Admiral Norwegen) German war diary gives a location of 85 nautical miles west/north west of Molde.

    I don't have a record of where the body of Briese was recovered or if it was buried elsewhere before finally coming to Stavne cemetery. His grave is in the first row of the cemetery though which would indicate to me that it has been one of the earlier ones rather than one brought in from elsewhere in later years.

    Hope that helps
    Linzee

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    Thanks Dick and Linzee for your quick and helpful replies. I'm now even more puzzled as there's quite a big positional difference between 80/85 NM west-north-west and north-north-west of Molde.

    And to make it even worse, I've used the Gradnetzmeldeverfahren converter (previously mentioned) to get a latitude & longitude from the 06 OST 44710 for the kleintrapez (ignores the last digit), and the position it gives is 62.208N, 4.083E. So far as I can see, this is about 400 km west-north-west of Molde, or about 216 NM.

    Looking at that position on a map zoomed out so that I can see the Shetlands, where the crew of AH566 were aiming for, the latter position does seem to be a reasonable place (i.e. on a direct route from Tromso to Sullom Voe) for the Catalina to be, given that they'd been photographing Tromso Harbour (and other locations, namely Skattora Seaplane Base, and the power stations at Simavik, Skarsfjord & Vagfjord).

    If they were only 85 NM from Molde, that would put them uncomfortably close to the Norwegian coast.

    Linzee, in the records you have from Admiral Nordküste, are they handwritten or typed? Could there be any misinterpretation in the various numbers given, as they don't seem to match up, assuming the online Gradnetzmeldeverfahren converter is accurate of course?

    Thanks, Charles.

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    Hello Charles,

    I'll e-mail you copies of the documents. They are scans of the originals which were typed. I can also get the location checked but it will have to wait a few days as the papers I need are not with me at the moment.

    Regards
    Linzee

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    Hello Linzee, that's really helpful, many thanks. I look forward to anything further you can give me.

    If I understand correctly, there were several versions of the German mapping system, so it's quite possible that the position given is not the right type for the online converter.

    Regards, Charles

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    Hello,

    Using a converted I have for years (called LUMA.xls), I found the position 06 Ost/4471 as the following: 63° 12'30 N 4° 5 E.

    http://www.mapquest.com/?q=63.208336,4.083333

    This is about 200 miles WNW of Molde.

    One possibility is that the two AC met at 85 nm of the coast and the Catalina was shot down about 100 miles more west. Battles between patrol aircraft can sometimes be very long, they were not good dogfighters.

    The above converter has always proved accurate to me, I have used it many times for German casualties and claims in the East, allowing me to find a village that was then confirmed by other souces (like Volskund grave database, for example).

    Best regards

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    Hello Laurent,

    Thank you for that. Although it's not exactly the same as the position given by the Aviation History Society Norway converter, it is very similar and still a long way from the 80/85 NM given in the German diaries.

    The possibility of a chase is interesting, however, if the performance figures given in Wikipedia are correct, then the Catalina is faster and ought to have been able to get away. Here are the Wikipedia figures:

    B&V 138
    Maximum speed: 171 mph @ 19,700 ft (275 km/h @ 6,000 m)
    Range: 3,105 mi (5,000 km)
    Service ceiling: 16,400 ft (5,000 m)
    Rate of climb: 729 ft/min (220 m/min)

    PBY
    Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
    Range: 2,520 mi (4,030 km)
    Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,000 m)
    Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)

    The two aircraft have very similar armaments, so my assumption was that the Catalina had been surprised by the B&V 138. The PBY AH566 crew had been in the air for 14 or 15 hours (depending on time zones) when the German report says they were shot down, and probably hadn't had any sleep for considerably longer than that, so it's quite possible that they weren't as alert as they might have been.

    Another possibility is that the B&V 138 caught the Catalina by surprise and managed to damage one engine, then, as you suggest, a chase ensued with the Catalina partially crippled and unable to outrun the B&V 138. If that had been the case, the Catalina would have had time to radio for help (even though their orders were to maintain w/t silence), but nothing was ever heard by any receiving station so far as I can gather. Of course, if their radio was also damaged by the B&V 138, then this is a possible scenario.

    Thanks & regards, Charles.

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    A further note relating to how tired the AH566 crew might have been:

    Information given to me by the AHB is that the crew's own aircraft was W8419 which had been fitted with long-range fuel tanks for the very long reconnaissance flight to Tromsø Harbour and four other locations (see previous post). These long-range tanks would have given a measure of insurance against losing some fuel from hostile fire.

    The nominal take-off time for W8419 had been midnight 00:00 on the 22nd October so at 23:30 hours on the 21st they'd started the engines to taxi out ready for take-off, but both engines failed shortly after leaving their mooring. They weren't able to restart the engines and the cause of failure wasn't obvious so they transferred to the backup aircraft, AH566, which didn't have long-range tanks but was fuelled ready. It later transpired that there was water in the fuel tanks of W8419.

    They eventually took off at 02:35 on the 22nd October, some 2½ hours later than planned.

    This also explains a bit of confusion noted about this flight on another forum (12oclockhigh) about aircraft numbers given for this mission.

    Charles.

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    I would not take too much notice of the performance figures quoted as they would be derived by test on new aircraft and obtained either from the manufacturer or from the service test and acceptance organisation of the respective nation. However it is likely that general speeds were comparable, although maneouvrability may have differed markedly as the German aircraft had a substantially smaller wing but similar weights so had much higher wing loading; the Calalina was always considered very heavy on the controls but I cannot imagine that the BV138 was much of a dogfighter either! The actual fuel load carried by the respective aircraft at the time may well have provided one or the other with an advantage although both mnay have been capabloe of jettisoning fuel in an emergency to even things up. A Catalina (or a BV138 for that matter) in late 1941 may well have part-life engines, and have degraded performance because of this plus addition of drag-inducing radar aerials, etc. Also any combat/tail chase whould have taken place at fairly low altitude (probably 1,000 feet or less), so true air speeds would be comparatively low, particularly if any maneouvring took place which would quickly bleed off air speed. Suffice to say, the outcome of any combat would depend on many variables, and involve a lot of luck, or lack of it! Fuel tank protection and crew armour might also have effects on any outcome. You mention that the original Catalina slated for this operation had the long range ferry tanks fitted for additional endurance; these tanks of course normally had no protection, and fuel from them had to be pumped up into the wing tanks to enter the aircraft's fuel system - you can see why these were not recommended for operational flying, as the interior of the aircraft tended to fill up with the fumes from the open fuselage tank, as each tank had to be "tapped" in turn for inseting the fuel pump. There was no "permanent" plumbing for these tanks which were mounted in wooden cradles attached to the cabin floor on the CoG position, and were only ever intended for ferrying although the RAF did sometimes use them for operational flying, such as the BISMARCK search of May 1941.
    David D

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