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Thread: 179 Squadron - U.boat 431 - 21 Oct '43

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    Default 179 Squadron - U.boat 431 - 21 Oct '43

    Researching our village war memorial, one of our casualties died on board HMS Martin, sunk by U.431 at the time of the 'Operation Torch' landings in North Africa, 10th November, 1942.
    To complete the story so to speak, this U.boat was itself sunk not 200 miles from HMS Martin, with the loss of all hands, by a Wellington aircraft of 179 Squadron (Coastal Command) on 21st October, 1943.
    Have trawled the net, without success, in an effort to find a 'report' of this incident, identifying the aircraft, crew etc. Will no doubt have to turn to the ORB's in AIR/1127 & 1129 at some stage to see what is there, but does anyone know of a 'write-up' of the incident in the meantime.
    Many thanks.
    Stewart

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    Stewart,

    There is an account of the sinking of U 431 by Wellington XIV MP741 Z/179 in the publication 'Search Find And Kill' - Norman Franks. If no one posts the account I'll do so at a later time.

    Regards
    Peter.

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    21 October 1943

    U 431 a type VIIC submarine, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Dietrich Schoneboom.

    Wellington XIV ‘Z’ MP741, 179 Squadron, on patrol 1900-0645hrs

    Crew
    Sgt. D M. Cornish RCAF. Pilot.
    Sgt. F. Clayton. 2nd pilot.
    Sgt. C R. Ford Navigator.
    Sgt. M L. Neale WOP/AG
    Sgt. L H. Gould WOP/AG.
    Sgt. C P. Willats WOP/AG.

    Len Neale recalls:

    “As usual Gibraltar evening, still warm and clear. Fairly quite trip until about midnight, we picked up a radar contact about 14 miles away and slightly to port. As I was giving directions to Don Cornish I noticed that the return was very strong and in fact was breaking into several returns. We carried on along the track until down to about 30 feet and half a mile from the contact. On went the Leigh Light to reveal a **** great cruiser or destroyer, we weren’t too sure. It blasted away at us as poor old Don had to pull at an alarming rate to climb over it. Of course, whatever it was it shouldn’t have been there. We did sustain damage to the aircraft rudder but thank goodness it was slight. Continued patrol until the contact at 0147 hrs which I picked up at 11 miles. Homed down to a quarter of a mile when we turned on the Light to see a fully surfaced U-boat. It gave us quite a blast of accurate light flak, which added to our damage – main spar and starboard engine nacelle. If my memory serves me right, on landing back at base we discovered a round lodged into the Rotol propeller control section which could have caused engine loss. After our attack we searched the area for two hours but could not see anything but depth charge scum on the surface. The U-boat had been stationary after the attack but we could not see it either visually or on radar”

    Position 3704/0035 and both front and rear gunners had fired during the attack.
    U 431 went down although 179 Squadron did not know it. After the war she was credited to the Navy, deemed to have been a boat sunk on 30 October. This was because the boat had not made any radio calls since the 21st and a sub had been attacked on the 30th, but evidence now shows that the latter attack had been on U 73 which had escaped destruction. U 431 had completed three patrols in 1941 before going to the Med. She sunk at least one ship.

    ‘Search Find and Kill’ – Franks.

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    Peter,
    Many thanks for your reference and pointer.
    I suppose as the 'kill' was unconfirmed at the time, there is probably very little in the ORB, but I will check them out at some stage though.
    My local library has 50 volumes of Franks' books, but it's Sod's Law of course, that's the one that isn't stocked. Is it worthwhile my doing a special order for it, or is your 'extract' all that it would say on the subject? Do you happen to have the publishers, year and ISBN by any chance in case I need to order it?
    Many thanks once again.
    Stewart

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    Stewart,

    I posted all that there was in the book regarding the loss of U 431 but if you wish to purchase a copy here are the details....

    Published by Grub Street 1995.
    ISBN 1-898697-35-3

    Purchased my copy some years past now, second hand, via AbeBooks.

    http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=433867002&searchurl=an%3DFran ks%26bt.x%3D30%26bt.y%3D9%26sortby%3D3%26sts%3Dt%2 6tn%3DSearch%2BFind%2Band%2BKill

    Regards
    Peter
    Last edited by peter; 25th January 2009 at 12:15.

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    Thanks again Peter.

    Stewart

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    I've obtained a photo of a typical Mk XIV Wellington but I don't suppose anyone has got a picture of MP 791 'Z' or the 'Cornish' crew?
    Now that would be extraordinary!
    Stewart

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