- Bogart, Charles H.
- Naval Aviation, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
HMS Landguard after-action reports state ‘A pall of smoke forming into a streamer appeared from the leading aircraft. At the time of firing the aircraft were on a reciprocal course to the ships, well out on the beam. The projectile was seen for some time apparently near the aircraft, but this was probably due to the fact that it was coming towards the ship at a constant bearing. Flashes were seen coming from the aircraft at about the time of the firing (almost certainly this was due to the tracking flare lighting up) but neither smoke nor flame from the projectile during the later stages of its run . . . The projectile then banked exactly like an aircraft and set course towards the ship, descending at an angle of about 15° or 20°. When about two cables from the starboard quarter the bomb appeared to be pointing straight at the ship. Then it banked to starboard and lost height rapidly, falling in the sea one hundred yards off Landguard’s starboard quarter and exploding on impact.’
The only damage resulting from this attack was a near miss on HMS Bideford, which caused splinter damage to her port side allowing localized flooding. As a result of this damage Bideford was to spend a month under repairs.
The next HS293 attack on 27 August 1943 against 1st Escort Group consisting of destroyer Grenville, HMCS Athabaskan, frigates Jed and Rother and sloop Egret was different. Having spotted a shadowing FW 200 Captain Brewer ordered his 1st Escort Group to take up AA stations. The two destroyers were thereupon positioned 2 miles ahead of the other ships in the direction of the French Coast as they had greater antiaircraft fire power. Lt. Cdr. Royer Hil, commanding officer of Grenville, recorded the battle in his book ‘Destroyer Captain’ as follows:
‘At 1254 we detected a large group of aircraft coming in fast from the north-east and the squadron went into the anti-aircraft formation ordered by Brewer.
These were Dornier 217s which we had never seen before. They circled us first out of range and then suddenly one peeled off and steered parallel to us at about five miles range. There was an orange flash underneath the plane and a bomb with short square wings came hurtling toward us. Whilst this bomb was in flight the next plane peeled off and attacked.
‘Egret hit,’ shouted the Midshipman as a great column of flame and smoke enveloped the place where Egret had been.
‘At the same time another group of planes was coming up from astern. I threw away accurate gunnery, rang down full ahead and decided to dodge.
‘Athabaskan hit,’ cried the Mid, who seemed to have taken on the role of a Greek chorus.
‘For Christ’s sake, shut up Mid, I am reported to have said. ‘I’m having enough trouble keeping this bloody ship afloat, without worrying about the others’.
‘It was now the remaining sixteen planes against us alone. I had an officer on each side and Duff-Still reporting the current bomb. These came at us at about four hundred miles per hour at a fairly steady loss of height. It seemed the controller in the plane could alter their direction but not the loss of height. I turned towards the bomb, then put small helm on, (we were going thirty-two knots), and the moment the bomb followed my turn, went hard over the other way. The bomb tried to follow me but its turning circle was too large and it stalled. As soon as one was dodged, the next one was already in the air on the way.
‘It was the most taut and exciting few minutes that can possibly be imagined. The calm sea, the vulture-like spotting plane overhead watching the results, the pall of smoke from Egret, Athabaskan on fire, but her guns still blazing away; our bit guns hammering away at the plane waiting their turn to have a go at us, the Bofors and Oerlikons trying to hit the bomb and I was standing at the voice pipe, conning the ship this way and that, with two hundred and fifty lives on my shoulders.
‘The Petty Officer Telegraphist and his men, knowing that the bombs were controlled by radio, put every radio set they had on to full power and transmitted ‘Bollocks’ on the sets, but the controlling frequency was out of our range.