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The Hudson Made History In Capturing a U-Boat

Discussion in 'Britain at Sea!' started by Jim, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Early one morning a Hudson of the R.A.F. Coastal Command took off and headed out over the Atlantic. Visibility was poor, frequent rainstorms swept across the sea. The water below was angry and rough, covered with white caps. The plane was toddling along with George (the automatic pilot) doing most of the work, when suddenly there was a shout from the navigator's cabin in the nose of the aircraft. "There's one just in front of you!" shouted the navigator. The pilot gazed out and there, about 1,200 yards away on the port bow, was a U-boat. The pilot thrust the plane's nose down, and dived. The navigator stood with his face pressed to the cockpit window, keeping the submarine in sight. "Let me know when it's time to drop, Jack," called the pilot quickly. The navigator nodded, and a few seconds later yelled "Now!" The rear-gunner, who had been winding in the aerial, popped his head into the astrodome in time to see a column of water shooting high into the air.

    A Carley float from a British warship is seen approaching the U-boat to receive the surrender of the enemy submarine after it had been attacked and held captive by a Hudson aircraft as described in this thread.

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    Then the pilot turned the Hudson steeply, and climbed. And as he watched the U-boat came surging up through a mass of foaming water. The navigator reached for his camera, and called to the rest of the crew; "Machine-gun them, let's machine-gun them!" The wireless operator dropped to the floor, and rapidly wound down the belly-gun. Then the aircraft dived across the U-boat, all guns blazing.


    When the Hudson dived the U-boats conning tower hatch opened, and about a dozen of the crew tumbled out and dropped on to the deck. The Hudson crew thought they were manning the guns, and so they kept their own guns firing hard. The red streaks of the tracers were peppering into the conning tower, and kicking up little spurts of water all round the U-boat. This was too much for the Germans. Those who were already on the deck turned and fell back into the conning-tower, those who were coming up from below still tried to push outwards. For a few moments there was "an awful shambles" in the conning-tower. All the figures seemed to be cap less, and were distinctly visible from above, in their bright yellow life-saving jackets.
    Four times the Hudson roared over the U-boat, guns streaming, banking steeply, while the rear-guns and the belly-gun kept up the fire. All the pilot remembers hearing was the navigator muttering, "I’ve lived all my life to see those bastards scrambling out of a conning-tower."
    As the Hudson was coming round for the fifth attack the U-boat surrendered. One of its crew held a white shirt up from the conning-tower. The airmen ceased fire, but continued to circle with guns trained, watching suspiciously. The Germans followed them anxiously round with the shirt, and then held up some sort of white board. "They've shoved a white flag up," called the wireless operator triumphantly. By then the entire U-boat crew had crowded into the conning-tower, some thirty to forty of them. "And a very glum lot they looked,” the pilot said afterwards.

    The U-boat photographed from one of the Catalina flying boats which were sent to relieve the Hudson.

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    The U-boat now lay stopped in the water, slightly down by the bows, with the waves breaking over her decks, and sometimes right over the conning-tower, drenching the crew. Her crew had surrendered, but-how were they to be taken into custody? Swiftly the navigator prepared a message for base, and the wireless operator's hand rattled up and down on the key. Meanwhile, the pilot was circling the U-boat, keeping his eyes glued to it. He did that for three and a half hours. All this while, too, as the navigator and wireless operator were working away at their signals, the rear gunner kept his guns trained ceaselessly on the U-boat crew. The message reached base, and it was determined to bring that U-boat to shore. Never before had an under-water craft surrendered to a land aircraft. A Catalina was at once sent off to relieve the Hudson, and arrived in the early afternoon. When the Hudson crew saw the Catalina approaching they were afraid it might bomb and sink the U-boat. So they signalled anxiously to it; Look after our, repeat OUR, submarine which has shown the white flag!”
    "O.K," signalled back the Catalina. Then the Hudson crew, satisfied, dived twice more over "their" U-boat to have a last look at it. One or two of the Germans waved mournfully to them. The pilot waved cheerfully back, and set course for home. Many hours later the U-boat was “run in" by British warships.

    Two of the Crew of the Hudson which captured the U-boat. 1, the Captain, 32-year-old Squadron Leader J. Thompson, from Hull. 2, Flying Officer W. J. O. Coleman, navigator, 28, hailed from Berkhampstead.

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