- Lind, L.J. and Payne, Alan
- Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1977 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The afternoon passed quietly and as evening blotted out the empty sea the crew consoled themselves with the thought that early next morning they would be in Alexandria. However, at 2215 the atmosphere changed dramatically. An Asdic contact was reported. A submarine was creeping slowly from right to left across the destroyer’s course.
In the Asdic Hut Sub Lieutenants Cree and Griffin and the operators Leading Seaman Pike and MacDonald crowded around the set. The contact was strong.
At 2220 Lieutenant Teacher ran the destroyer down the submarine’s path and a pattern of six depth charges were fired. A calcium flare was dropped at the same time to illuminate the still foiling sea in the destroyer’s wake. The lookouts eagerly scanned the water for signs of oil or wreckage but none were seen.
A stealthy cat and mouse game commenced.
The hunting instinct was highly developed in Stuart. Sub-Lieutenant Cree reported the submarine’s position to the bridge and at 2245 five more charges were dropped. Once more a calcium flare lit the sea with a ghostly white light but there was still no sign of oil or wreckage.
The submarine was now stationary. Cree, the Asdic Officer mused: ‘I wonder if it is a Spaghetti Tin?’ Lieutenant Teacher twitched his beard and replied: ‘Shouldn’t be surprised. Let’s wait and see’. For the next four hours Stuart made dummy runs over the submarine’s position with the intention of demoralising the enemy crew. Just how successful these tactics were was learnt next morning.
Stuart’s chronicle prepared by her officers in 1941 records: ‘At 0100 Stuart circled the submarine at a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 yards, ascertaining definitely the position in which it was lying and attacked. A fourth attack was delivered at 0400′.
Daylight was not far distant when the fifth attack was launched at 0530. From then until 0625, when Stuart delivered her final attack, further dummy runs were made across the submarine.
Lieutenant Teacher had signalled Rear Admiral, Alexandria after his first attack and a reply had been received that help was on its way.
Meanwhile, with the increasing daylight, it was observed that a scum of black soot from the depth charges covered the sea but here and there, in small pools, was telltale oil. Teacher knew he had hurt his quarry and it was unlikely she would escape.
Five minutes after the water had subsided following a final depth charging, an aircraft engine was heard and a Sunderland flying boat was reported approaching from the south. The aircraft circled Stuart and flashed an identification signal. It then commenced flying around at low altitude searching the sea.
An hour after the aircraft’s arrival the trawler Sindonis came upon the scene. Stuart’s Asdic team still held the submarine on their set and the two ships and the aircraft played a waiting game. The submarine could not remain submerged indefinitely.
At 0920 the Sunderland swung in close and began a straight run. All eyes on Stuart watched. A stick of bombs left the flying boat and exploded about 3,000 yards ahead of the destroyer.
A plume of water reached skyward and as it cleared the bow of the submarine broke the surface.
Stuart was now abeam of the submarine.
Her guns were trained and the first salvo cracked out almost immediately. One shot passed through the conning tower while others surrounded the vessel with water spouts. Before the second salvo could be fired the coming tower hatch opened and the submarine’s crew began abandoning ship. Lieutenant Teacher ordered ‘Away lifeboat’s crew’ and the whaler was lowered. Stuart hove to about 1,000 yards from the submarine and all eyes watched the Italian sailors swimming desperately away from their ‘Spaghetti tin’.
Twenty eight prisoners were taken aboard Stuart including the submarine’s captain, engineer, sub-lieutenant and a destroyer captain who has been taking passage. Signalman L.E. Clifford wrote: ‘The survivors of our victim were now being brought onboard. Some of them had swum the distance from their stricken vessel. As one man climbed inboard he cried ‘No kill’. He had sighted one of our seamen armed with a rifle and bayonet and misunderstood the significance’.