H.M. Trawler " Moonstone " and the capture of an Italian submarine. June 1940.

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Peter Clare, Mar 8, 2015.

  1. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    H.M. Trawler " Moonstone " captures an Italian U-Boat

    On the 18th June 1940, the Italian U-Boat " Galileo Galilei " was on patrol off Aden, having sunk the Norwegian tanker " James Stove." At 1335 she stopped the Yugo Slav ship " Drava " by gunfire and subsequently released her ; the firing was heard by coast watchers and reported. An R.A.F. fighter aircraft located the U-Boat and shadowed her until a bomber arrived at 1630. The U-Boat, which had been stopped and charging, dived when attacked and the bombs missed.

    Meanwhile, " Kandahar " and " Shoreham " were sent out to the position given by the aircraft (110° Aden 26'), with three non asdic-fitted vessels in the vicinity : the A/S Trawler " Moonstone " was patrolling (060° Aden 7 to 25).
    It was dark before the search started and the U-Boat, surfacing between 1830 and 1930, used W/T. " Kandahar " obtained a good bearing and took the search in the right direction. Contact was obtained by " Shoreham " but the U-Boat saw " Kandahar " and dived at 1935. Her evading tactics were well judged by " Shoreham " and two counter attacks were carried out. These were harassing but appear not to have damaged her.
    " Galileo Galilei's " movements thereafter are not clear but she surfaced from 0155 to 0222, 20th June, and then dived.

    A dawn search by Blenheims of 203 Squadron covered an area 90 by 100 miles, but in monsoon weather the submerged U-Boat was not seen.
    At 1137, H.M.S. " Moonstone " obtained a contact at 5,000 yards and 14 minutes later attacked with one charge set to 150 ft., the depth of water being 37 fathoms. A full pattern could not be dropped because the ship's speed against the sea and swell was insufficient. Owing to the long range at which contact was obtained the U-Boat probably heard " Moonstone " and dived deep. The trawler regained contact at 300 yards and at 1220 attacked with one charge set to 150 ft., speed again not being sufficient for a full pattern. Six minutes later another charge was dropped and four minutes after this the U-Boat broke surface 2,000 yards astern. " Moonstone " turned as quickly as possible whilst the U-Boat opened fire ; keeping bows on to the enemy the trawler returned such a fierce Lewis gun fire that the Italian crews, after some erratic shooting, were driven from their guns. When the range closed to 500 yards, all spare hands in the " Moonstone," armed with rifles, assisted the Lewis gunners, and the enemy's decks were subjected to a deadly fusillade.

    A direct 4-in. hit on the base of the conning tower, followed by another at the top, finished the action. The whole enemy crew rushed on deck, hauled down the colours and frantically waved white clothing. "Moonstone " ceased fire at 1255.
    H.M.S. " Kandahar " arrived and, after sending a prize crew on board, endeavoured to tow the U-Boat ; the tow parted very soon, but the prize crew eventually got the engines running and " Galileo Galilei " entered Aden Harbour under her own power, flying the White Ensign.

    Following on from the above action............

    Sinking of Italian U-Boat " Luigi Galvani "

    From the sailing orders of the captured Italian U-Boat " Galileo Galilei " it was discovered that another submarine, the " Luigi Galvani," was sailing from Massowah on 10th June to reach the Gulf of Oman on 23rd and operate within an eight-mile radius of the head of the Gulf of Oman.

    As it was suspected that this might be a mine-laying vessel, British and Nor­wegian shipping was diverted, and H.M.S. " Falmouth " and H.M.S. " Kimberley " (on passage from Bombay) were ordered to proceed to the U-Boat's operational area.

    At 2257 on 23rd June, when in position 25° 55' N, 56° 55' E, just inside the operational area, H.M.S. " Falmouth " sighted a darkened object fine on the
    port bow, at a range of miles. She altered course to close the position and
    confirmed that a U-Boat on the surface was steaming slowly from port to starboard
    at an inclination of 110° right. The Commanding Officer of " Falmouth "
    decided to hold fire and approach as close as possible unseen : when the range was about 600 yards, as the ship could not remain unseen any longer, " Falmouth " made the challenge and opened fire with the foremost 4-in. gun at 2308.

    The U-Boat was seen to be hit aft at the third round, but it was not possible to estimate the damage caused at this stage, or see other hits, owing to the blinding gun flash. She then submerged, moving rapidly across " Falmouth's " bow, with only the conning tower visible. " Falmouth " steered to ram and struck her abaft the conning tower, but the impact was light and it was considered that the pressure hull was not touched.

    On passing over the vessel " Falmouth " fired three depth charges, two set at 100 ft. and one at 150 ft., which forced the U-Boat to the surface. First the bow appeared at a vertical angle, then she gradually righted herself and assumed a comparatively even trim with her conning tower and casing above the water.
    During this period two further 4-in. hits and a number of hits from the 3-pdr. guns were made.

    Members of the crew quickly emerged from the conning tower waving white clothing, and " Falmouth " ceased fire.
    The U-Boat then lost trim and sank by the stern. " Falmouth's " boats picked up the Commanding Officer, three officers and 27 ratings. Twenty-six of the total complement including three officers were lost, of these some sank before the lifeboats reached them and the remainder went down in their ship.

    " Kimberley " also had closed and lowered a boat to search for survivors.
    It was subsequently established that the first round fired by " Falmouth " fell short, and the ricochet passed through the conning tower, killing the coxswain.
    The third round pierced the pressure hull and burst in the motor room. Survivors stated that the effect of the depth charges was to blow the U-Boat to the surface and that without this help it might not have been possible to regain the surface as the after part of the boat was filling rapidly.

    An Italian Officer stated that " Falmouth " was not sighted until the challenge was made, Although the sloop approached up moon, it is considered that a very poor look-out must have been kept in the U-Boat,

    Attachments - Moonstone and the Italian submarine

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