- Bogart, Charles H.
- Naval Aviation, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The first ship to be sunk by II KG 40 was the 4,405 ton merchant man Marsa, a straggler from the convoy SL 139/MKS 30. The ship was attacked 420 miles NE of Cape Finisterre, Spain on 21 November 1943. A total of 25 aircraft carrying two missiles each were involved in the attack. Captain T. Buckle of the Marsa described the attack as follows:
‘At 1539, I saw what I thought to be an HE 177 approaching from ahead, it flew on a parallel course and when about two degrees abaft the starboard beam, 2,000 yards away from the ship, released a glider bomb which shot 200-300 yards ahead of the parent aircraft, when it was turned at right angles towards the ship. I turned stem-on to it, and the bomb landed about 150 feet astern, exploding in the water and sending up a column of water 30-35 feet high.
‘The aircraft then flew around the stern and, again keeping parallel to the ship, released another bomb on the port quarter, nearly a quarter-of-a-mile away. I waited until the bomb was turned inwards, then put my stern on to it again, and after the explosion, which threw up approximately the same amount of water, turned the ship back on the convoy course. The second bomb came from the starboard wing of the aircraft and seemed to fall a little before shooting ahead.
‘I then observed another aircraft approaching from the same direction. It went through exactly the same tactics, releasing a glider bomb off the starboard beam, but further away this time, about 3-4,000 yards. I again turned stern on to it, but this bomb was turned a second time, and I had to swing hard to starboard to avoid it. It exploded off the starboard side, about 300 feet away, after which I resumed the convoy course.
‘A second bomb was released from this aircraft when it was about 3,000 yards away, and I swung hard to starboard as soon as it was released. It followed the ship round, landing 250 feet away on the port beam and for the first time during the attack we felt the blast.
‘I again turned the ship on to the convoy course, when a third machine approached from astern on the port side and, when 4,000 yards abeam, released two bombs on the port quarter. These bombs did not appear to be under control and as soon as they left the aircraft fell straight into the sea with their rocket tubes smoking. I do not think they were jettisoned however, as there was a 45- second interval between the two. We were attacking the aircraft with our 12-pounder and as the bursts seemed to me to be close to the aircraft, this may have caused the bomb aimer to lose control to some extent.
‘A fourth aircraft approached from ahead on the starboard side and dropped another two bombs, which were released about 4,000 yards away on the port quarter; the first one did not explode, although I saw smoke coming from the tail. The second exploded violently about 250 feet away on the port beam. For five or six seconds we saw a large flame coming from the port engine and then the aircraft was enveloped in a dense black cloud of smoke. When I last saw the aircraft it was at an angle, which may have been done deliberately to blow the flame away, or it may have been losing height. It went into cloud and I did not see it again.
‘I brought my stern round, but as it travelled round the stern I lost track of it (the HS293), consequently I was unable to take any further avoiding action, and it struck the water between the davits of the port lifeboat, exploding in the engine room near the main discharge. The detonation did not appear to be particularly loud. The blast, however, was terrific. I was walking from the starboard to the port side of the bridge at the time, endeavouring to trace the bomb’s path, when a gunner and the Second and Third Officers were blown in through the door for which I was heading, while two gunners in the port after Oerlikon (a 20-mm automatic weapon) nest were blown down to the boat deck. They were not hurt, owing to the fact that the deck was swamped by a huge wave, into which they fell.