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Torpedoing of HMS Newfoundland during battle of Sicily July 1943. Also U boat attack North Atlantic 1944 from HMS Pitcairn and a story of two brothers. Memories of a Bridgend, South Wales lad

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

23 Jul 1943: Around 1250 hours, the light cruisers HMS Newfoundland (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN), HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.W. Davis, RN) and the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, DSO, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) and HMS Loyal (Lt.Cdr. H.E.F. Tweedie, DSC, RN) departed Augusta for Malta.

At 1341 hours (1338 hours according to German sources), while in position 37°03'N, 15°24'E, HMS Newfoundland was hit in the stern by a torpedo from the German submarine U-407. Her rudder was blown off but she was able to continue at 22 knots steering by her propellers.

HMS Laforey was detached to hunt the submarine where the remainder of the ships continued their passage to Malta where they arrived around 173 hours.

HMS Laforey meanwhile searched for the attacker. She attacked a contact at 1428 hours but this was thought to be non-sub.

At 1440 hours, she joined the 8th Destroyer Flotilla which was patrolling in the area and they commenced a box search. Six destroyers were now present, these were HMS Laforey, HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN), HMS Inglefield (Cmdr. C.F.H. Churchill, DSC, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, DSO, RN) and HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSO, DSC, RN).

At 1541 hours, while sweeping northwards HMS Laforey and HMS Eclipse sighted two torpedo tracks coming their way. They combed the tracks and commenced an attack. At 1550 hours HMS Laforey dropped a pattern of eight depth charges for no result. Shortly afterwards HMS Eclipse dropped a pattern of five depth charges.

HMS Laforey made a second attack at 1557 hours and HMS Eclipse also made a second attack at 1608 hours.

At 1615 hours HMS Laforey made her third attack in which, once again, eight depth charges were dropped. Shortly afterwards the Italian submarine Ascianghi surfaced in her wake. The other destroyers closed in and opened fire with all guns. The submarine sank stern first at 1623 hours. A total of twenty-seven survivors were picked up by HMS Laforey and HMS Eclipse.

It was long thought that it had been Ascianghi which had torpedoed and damaged HMS Newfoundland as the Italians had claimed to have attacked a cruiser but their torpedoes were in fact the ones sighted by HMS Laforey and HMS Eclipse at 1451 hours. The German submarine had managed to slip away undetected.

25 Jul 1943

HMS Pitcairn action against U-Boat, North Atlantic.
The following is a sequence of events involving James Francis Burke that occurred during the night of 7th and 8th October 1944.
All times are GMT.
8th.October. 1944.
02.48. H.E on starboard bow classified as torpedo H.E, ship turned towards echo and closed up at anti submarine action stations.
This H.E later considered to be diesel H.E of submarine. H.E faded. Carried out partial "Observant".
03.47. Obtained ASDIC contact, classified as submarine.
03 50. Reduced to 7 knots.
03.52. Streamed "CAT". Increased to 14 knots. Prepared for depth charge attack.
03.57. Fired pattern "E" for easy. Opened range and prepared for Hedgehog attack.
04.05 (Approx.)Torpedo passed down port side.
04.19 1/2. Carried out first Hedgehog attack.
04.58. Carried out second Hedgehog attack.
05.24. Carried out third Hedgehog attack.
Contact lost at 300 yards after third Hedgehog attack. Search was carried out with HMS "St Helena", Flotsam reported Starboard 15, no further submarine echoes were obtained.
07.40. Search abandoned as it was important for Russian ship's to continue course for Londonderry.
Signed
W.H.Wood Loe.
Lieutenant commander.
Royal Navy.

Gen Dit. (A story from James Burkes brother Johnny during Operation Husky)

July 10th - 17th August 1943.
Around 1980 my uncle Johnny Burke called at my mother's house on a Saturday afternoon in July. I was 15 and didn't have a lot of time for him as he'd a drink at The Dunraven that day and was a little worse for wear. His brother, (my father) had been dead 3 years by then, mam was out and my girlfriend was with me hoping for a day together. Johnny began to relate how he was landing on the beach at Sicily some 36 years previously when he heard that HMS Newfoundland was offshore supporting the 8th army landings at Syracuse of which Johnny was a part. He knew his brother was onboard and he said he tried to get a message to him, I think it was 'make sure those shells you're sending don't land on us!' I remember thinking 'oh yea, that's good' not paying any particular attention to his heart pouring. Oh the misgivings of youth and what I wouldn't give to have had a mobile phone with a video recorder in those days. Priceless memory shared because I didn't.
'12 Clips'
I'll get him a proper marker one day.

History

Person the story/items relate to

James Francis Burke - A/B DJ/X349440. Royal Navy. Born at 35 North Street, Bridgend, Glamorgan, 5th November 1922.

Person who shared the story/items

Mario Burke.

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my father.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

111389