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Thread: Coastal Command convoy escorts

  1. #11
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    Not sure if it is any help. My father's logs - he was at Limavady from Oct 1940 with 502 Squadron on Whitleys. Some of the escort duties and submarine hunts listed are: 5/4/41 Special Escort SS Avila Star; 7/4/41 Special Escort H.M.S. Hood; 16/5/41 Submarine hunt engaged FW Condor; 28/5/41 Special escort H.M.S "King George V & Rodney" engaged E.A HE.111 & JU88. Then a lot of Submarine sweeps and convoy escorts (about 6 or 7 a month) until 29/3/42 "special escort & search for St Nazaire Commandos. Shortly after he went to Cranwell.

  2. #12
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    Graham:

    Here's the preceding text which I think amplifies your point while describing why the availability of aircraft with increasingly greater endurance became a critical factor as the U-boat war moved further out into the Atlantic:

    German submarines sank nearly 6,000 ships during the First World War, one quarter of the world’s total tonnage. The experience demonstrated that clustering vessels in convoys was a powerful countermeasure to the U-boat threat – especially when supported by air cover – and most Allied shipping moved in convoys from mid-September 1939. In practice, convoys were difficult to find in the vast Atlantic Ocean. The U-boat arm commanded by then Konteradmiral Karl Dönitz depended on shadowing U-boats to report convoy positions, but once forced to dive by the presence of escorting aircraft, the U-boat’s low submerged cruising speed meant they were soon left behind and contact was lost. Moreover, the U-boat was not a submarine as we understand it today – able to travel submerged over vast distances for extended periods - but a submersible boat that needed to surface for four hours in every 24 to recharge its running batteries and purge the foul air from its cramped hull. The workhorse of the U-boat fleet, the Type VIIC, could cover only 80 miles (130km) at 4 knots (7.5km/h) before resurfacing and, although capable of around 18 knots (33km/h) while on the surface – faster than any convoy – it was vulnerable to sudden attack from the air.

    U-boat commanders were therefore extremely wary of surfacing and attacking ships when aircraft were thought to be in the vicinity. The principal role of aircraft was to patrol around and ahead of convoys, keeping threatening U-boats submerged and frustrating their efforts to track and attack the ships. It followed that the greater the range and load carrying capability of an aircraft, the longer its crew could maintain this harassment and carry out attacks when conditions allowed. All other factors being equal, an aircraft with an endurance of ten hours, for example, could escort a convoy located three hours from base for four hours while one with eight hours endurance could provide an escort for only two hours, 50 percent of the first type.

    Regards:

    Robert

  3. #13
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    Thank you Rob: Brian did start this by expressing an interest in Atlantic operations, for which the Anson is indeed irrelevant. I didn't (and don't) want to hijack the thread, but I felt that some of the comments were lacking in context. If I may be allowed a little more space?

    The German occupation of Norway and the French Atlantic coast could not reasonably have been predicted. This transferred much of the U-boat effort to the Atlantic from the British coast. The economic (and hence militarily productive) importance of the UK coastal trade was enormous. Protection of this trade had to be a prime duty of Coastal Command, and the provision of a fairly cheap shorter-range patrol aircraft in large numbers a necessity. It wasn't possible to provide both this and equally large numbers of longer-range types. It is certainly possible to criticise the lack of an effective weapon, or indeed failure to recognise that an equal or greater threat was now from aircraft, but the "little to show" should include the large numbers of successful sailings.

  4. #14
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    Good point, Graham. As you noted earlier, it will never be known how may sinkings did NOT occur because of the presence of a patrolling Anson or other short range type. The same applies to later on of course. So my "little to show" is not fully representative of what was achieved in the early months of the campaign.
    Cheers:
    Robert

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