Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WE REMEMBER!: 65 Years Ago: The RCAF vs. The German Navy

THE AIRPLANE you're looking' at is a Short Sunderland Mark III.

It would be identified as 2•U of 422 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Overseas).

Below that is U-boat 625, or U-625.

It's March 10, 1944.

And today there is going to be a showdown.

Just short of noon, RCAF Sunderland Mk. III takes off from Castle Archdale where it was based in Northern Ireland. U-boats had been sighted just west of Ireland. And sure enough, just 10 km out U-625 is spotted by RCAF F/L Sid W. Butler. Port side.

With all Sunderland crew eyes now on U-625, Butler drops 2•U down to only 400 feet and manoeuvres onto an intercept course. The massive flying boat shudders in disagreement.

U-625 is taking drastic measures as well.

Siegfried Straub, her captain, swings the U-boat 'round so its stern-mounted flak guns can meet the flying boat head-on. Straub's German Navy crew have been quite successful on these open North Atlantic seas. They have sunk five ships. Three British, and two Russian. Two were even auxiliary warships. 19, 880 tons GRT total.


More sadly, 185 lost their lives to U-625. Many others were wounded.

But today, the tables will be turned.

And today it IS their turn to die.

The hunter is being hunted.

So a quarter hour passes, as both sub and flying patrol boat try to get into the best position to attack, and defend. But a stalemate of positioning is occurring. Butler, finally, has had enough.

Forgetting he is in a large, jumbo-sized airplane, Butler takes the Sunderland into a deep, deep, spiralling dive. Corkscrewing the flying hulk now through fierce U-boat flak, the RCAF flying boat descends to just 50 feet above the water for a strafing run and unloads six 250 pound Mk XI Torpex-filled depth charges.

Only four explode.

U-boat 625 submerges.

RCAF Sunderland 2•U circles. Waiting. Waiting.

Three minutes pass.

U-625 surfaces! Her movement is slow. Very slow.

Confirmation. She's done!

No U-boat would resurface unless she was in trouble, and certainly not with an Allied patrol boat flying above.

But, RCAF 2•U has no more depth charges, and continues watch as U-625 struggles. Sid Butler, calls for assistance. The job must be finished. There will be no limping home by U-625 to return another day.

More waiting.

Eighty minutes later, U-625 flashes Fine Bombish and abandons ship. The job is finished.

The U-boat crew man their life-rafts. At 17:40 the sub sinks at 52.35N, 20.19W.

An RCAF 423 Squadron Sunderland finally shows up to relieve 2•U.

Butler and his crew set the wounded Sunderland on course for home. The main hole caused by U-boat flak is fixed by the crew. But there are numerous smaller holes that pose a serious collective problem for the flying boat.

Remember, flying boat, water, numerous leaks, soon equals sunk!

Surprisingly, Wrigley's Spearmint Gum saves the day!

Flight rations for each member of the flight crew included five sticks of Wrigley's Spearmint gum. These were properly chewed up, and applied to each hull breach to harden nicely in the cold air!

The 53 survivors of U-625, do not survive.

It's March. It's the North Atlantic. And the sea, is, merciless.

They are never seen again.

423 Squadron hung around as long as they could, but finally had to head for home. With no rescue ships in the area, the 423 Sqn. Sunderland tips her wing, and bids these German Navy sailors farewell.

Frank Cauley, from 423, captured these intense pictures of U-625 sinking, and of her survivors looking on.

These PHOTOS and part of this remembrance was taken from the newly released, Canadian Aircraft of WW II which I highly recommend!! First volume of an eventual 9, from AviaDossler.

A MUST BUY. But only… if you 're real Canadian. A proud Canadian.

PRESENTLY FOUND only here: www.aviationworld.net/

© 2009 AviaDossler - Canadian Aircraft of WW II - Volume 1

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