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Mark Poyser


How I Used the Internet to Find My Uncle’s Killer

When I was a kid, my mother would occasionally tell me stories about her childhood. She was part of a family of four: her parents were Herbert and Frances Chapman, and she had an older brother named Frank. They lived in the small town of Glossop, Derbyshire, which is about thirty miles south of Manchester. It was an old cotton mill town, partly rural, with moors and farms nearby. She and her brother would often play together, he being only one year older. I heard stories about their adventures, but the tone would be melancholy since my Uncle Frank lost his life at sea while still a young man during World War II. His death was hardly ever discussed, but I distinctly recall hearing about the grim day when the British Government’s notification was delivered to the Chapman household. It was a heartbreaking experience for the entire family. Young Frank, an unexceptional fellow at that early time in his life, was still loved for his good nature and easygoing attitude. He had a bit of the practical experimenter in him, and an interest in radio as a teenager (this was in the 1930’s). Hearing those stories over the years created a dim, but still distinct impression on me as I was growing up. Since my father had no siblings, my Uncle Frank, had he lived, would have broadened the dimensions of our narrow family tree, and made life a little richer for us all.

The specifics about how he met his demise at sea were never discussed. All I learned was that he was on a ship in the Mediterranean, possibly as a short-wave operator, and that he lost his life ‘early’ in the war. Were the Italians responsible for his ship going down? No one seemed sure. I attributed the reticence about discussing the subject to the acute pain of the loss. As a result, I went through my life with just a teaspoon of knowledge about the fellow, not giving it much thought, figuring that I’d never find out more about him.

Now it’s 1999, and I’m in the process of reading several books about the Second World War. Some focus on naval engagements and provide details about the battleships, submarines, aircraft carriers, and other instruments of war. I’m drawn to the technical details, such as how big the guns were, what sort of ordinance was used, and the tactics employed by both sides. Books by John Keegan are excellent at portraying the experiences of the men when under fire, and the terror and stress on board those ships that ultimately fail to make it back to port. Reading the stories can give a sense of the emotions the sailors experienced. All in all, it was a very dirty business.

One night I was re-reading chapters about the Battle of the Atlantic (WWII), and it sparked a renewed interest about what happened to my Uncle Frank. Could I find out more about his brief naval career? Could the Internet be a resource in this effort? It was late that evening, past 10 PM, but I pulled myself out of bed, and decided to give it a try.

The Internet contains an enormous amount of information, but it’s often hard to find what you are looking for. There are search engines that help, but all too often they return a tremendous number of web pages to consider, which can be daunting. Still, it pays to take a look at, say, the first 30 entries if for no other reason than to stimulate one’s own ‘search string’ vocabulary. Selecting the correct words is very important when undertaking a web search, and this is especially important when dealing with military matters. Generally, one takes the plunge by examining some sites, followed by a return to the search engine for another go with different words, repeating this process until either something is found or fatigue sets in. A diligent search can easily take a couple of hours. The focus shifts back-and-forth between extremely specific search strings (which often return nothing) and more general ones. Sometimes switching search engines will help. The rule to employ is “follow your nose.” It’s not much different than being in a research library in that respect.

Well, I had to start somewhere and see what the prospects were. I figured that since my uncle died while in the British Navy, there was a chance of finding his service record, along with details about the ship he was assigned to. I decided to start with the “Ask Jeeves” site ( ) to find more about my Uncle Frank. This site has some technical advantages over a plain search engine. Though it limits the number of returns, your request is sent to several of the big-name portals, which saves time. Also, the site has its own database of ‘quick load’ pages that have been reviewed, which reduces the junk to plough through.

When entering a search string, it is useful to try different ways of expressing what you want. To start with, I would enter "Historical British Navy Ships", but the parsing of that entry might result in links to “General British History”, “Royal Navy Official Site”, or even “Yachting”. You never know what you’re going to get. The Royal Navy only wants to recruit new members, and as such does not have a database of sunken warships for you to check out (apparently that would hamper the recruitment effort). Other web sites would offer only a tiny amount of information. One fellow in Denmark had a 2x6 table listing major events in World War II for his country [!] and for England. That was it. The total number of words on the page was about 300. Yet he’s in the search engines. Only by visiting each site is it possible to really know if it might contain what you are looking for. You cannot enter something like, “Sailors who died in the service of the British Navy during World War II in the Mediterranean”, and expect anything sensible. Either the result is a big fat zero, or there are links to too many irrelevant sites. The best approach is to try smaller chunks, and use a sixth sense as to how to proceed.

As luck would have it, I finally landed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site ( ) and tried out searching their database. It looked promising. I selected British (as opposed to Canadian, Australian,…), entered: Chapman, F (they want first initial only), and got back a table listing four “F. Chapman”s. I clicked on the first link, and the following page was displayed:

In Memory of


Ordinary Telegraphist

C/JX 270699

H.M.S. Grove, Royal Navy

who died on Friday, 12th June 1942. Age 20.

Additional Information: Son of Herbert Rockley Chapman and Frances Chapman, of Glossop, Derbyshire

Commemorative Information:

Memorial: CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL, Kent, United Kingdom

Grave Reference/

Panel Number: 59, 3.

Location: The Memorial overlooks the town of Chatham and is approached by a steep path from the Town Hall Gardens.

Yep, that's him. I had an odd feeling upon first viewing this page. Seeing the entry in black and white suddenly made him real again. I also had thoughts about how those who fought in great wars, though they may have lost their life, often were part of a struggle to make the world better. And, since nations maintain memorials to those individuals, they are not quickly forgotten. You can actually point to something that declares, “We care, and remember.” So, my uncle has a legacy (which now extends to the Internet). I wonder I’ll ever be listed in some fashion on the web.

Now I have the date, and the name of the ship he was on, the H.M.S. Grove. Frank was an 'ordinary' telegraphist, whatever that means. Hmm. Maybe working with electronics runs in the family (I’m a computer programmer). Anyway, back to search engines. I tried using the date: June 12, but that wasn’t promising. Among other things, It returned an O. J. Simpson link! (That was the date of the infamous double murder.) I tried naval sites, but didn't know what class of ship the H.M.S. Grove was, although I suspected it was one of the smaller ones. The only thing left to do was to brute-force the effort, visit different locations and scroll through pages of mostly irrelevant data. Also, many of the military sites are part of web-rings that take you as far afield as the Napoleonic or Vietnam War, so that particular feature doesn’t help much. Some other places only display pictures of ships. It’s not the World Wide Web; sometimes it appears to be the World Wide Scrapbook! Finally, I stumbled upon a superb, privately managed site ( ) that contained an extensive amount of tabular data about British destroyers. There was no search capability, so one has to read the contents (or invoke the browser’s find function) to see if it contains what you want. An encouraging sign is that the Grove is listed near the top as being sunk in 1942 in the Mediterranean. Scrolling down the very long page, I encountered:

A Type 2 ship “Oakley” (later it became the Polish “Kajawiak”)


HUNT classes

TYPE 2, 33 ships, 6 lost and 1 not repaired - 1,050 tons, 27 knots, 6-4in, 170 crew, 1941-42

GROVE, 12th June 1942, Eastern Mediterranean, off Sidi Barrani, Egypt (c 32-00'N, 25-30'E) - by 1 torpedo from German U.77.

Returning to Alexandria after escorting supply ships to Tobruk (North African Campaign)

So, it was a German U-boat that was responsible for the sinking of the ship, and not the Italians.

June 1942 was close to the end of the successful phase of the Germans’ North African Campaign. This was before Montgomery was assigned to the area and well before the British/American landings near Morocco in November 1942. In the spring of that year Rommel made great progress, threatened to take Egypt, and with it, the Suez Canal. In fact, key members of the German command thought that success in that area would be of great strategic significance, especially if the centrally located, British-held island of Malta could be taken. But Hitler only allocated three divisions and provided limited naval support to the theater. Rommel’s efforts were further hampered because his troops’ supplies were often intercepted and destroyed by the Royal Navy.

As part of his move eastwards towards Egypt, Rommel decided to conquer the British held fortress of Tobruk, and it eventually fell on June 21. Some German officers were uncertain about the value of Tobruck, because it did not seem to threaten their lines too much, and an attack would mean a further expenditure of precious of troops and materiel. But take it they did. Undoubtedly, the H.M.S. Grove contributed to the British resistance there, and perhaps as a by-product, to ultimate victory in the theater, months later, by the British Eighth Army.

It turns out that the Italian Navy was active in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the month of June 1942. During that time, the British had dispatched a convoy (“Vigorous”) of 11 ships and their escorts from Haifa and Port Said, which reached Tobruk on the 13th. On or before the 14th, an Italian battlefleet (consisting of two battleships, two heavy and two light cruisers, plus destroyers) sailed south from Taranto to destroy it. In response, the convoy tried to head to Malta, but ultimately returned to Alexandria minus one cruiser, three destroyers and two merchant ships. Hard fighting took place over a three-day period; losses on both sides were mostly due to Allied and German aircraft. The Italian battlefleet never got closer than 200 miles from Tobruk, but in the Western Mediterranean they were more successful. Another Allied convoy (“Harpoon”) was attacked by Italian ships and aircraft, resulting in the loss of four (of six) merchant ships and two destroyers plus heavy damage to four other escorts. All of this activity probably led to my family’s belief that the Italians were responsible for Uncle Frank’s demise. After all, who’s going to have access to U-boat logs during a war?

For me, the interesting part is that the listing for H.M.S. Grove identifies (U-boat) U-77 as the agent that sunk the ship. And to think that I enjoyed the movie “Das Boot”! I’m a little ashamed of myself at the moment.

It turns out that I was already familiar with a site that contains just about all the information one would ever want to know about U-boats. It has to be seen to be believed. I had found it very informative and even had a link to it on my home page! So I hopped over ( ). Selecting for U-77, brought up the following information:



Laid down 28 March 1940 Vegesacker Werft, Bremen-Vegesack

Commissioned 18 Jan 1941 Oblt. Heinrich Schonder (Knights Cross)


01.41 - 09.42 Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder E when my uncle's ship was sunk (06.42)

09.42 - 03.43 Oblt. Otto Hartmann

Career 14 patrols

01.41 - 04.41 7th Flotilla (Kiel) training

05.41 - 12.41 7th Flotilla (St. Nazaire) front boat

01.42 - 04.42 23rd Flotilla (Salamis)

05.42 - 03.43 29th Flotilla (La Specia) E when my uncle's ship was sunk (06.42)


13 ships sunk for a total of 37,431 tons including the British destroyer HMS Grove (1,050 tons) 3 ships damaged for a total of 8,109 tons


Sunk at 0115hrs on 28 March, 1943 east of Cartagena, Spain, in position 37.42N, 00.10E by 4 depth charges and 1 bomb from 2 British Hudson aircraft (48 & 233 Sqn.). 38 dead, 9 survivors. 36 men, including the commander, are buried in the cemetery at Cuacos de Yuste (Caceres - Spain).

A Type 7 submarine. Just finished reading about it. It carries 14 torpedoes, has a crew of about 50, a range of 15,000 miles, 17 knots surface, and 7 knots submerged. Actually, a rather primitive craft, not much better than World War I types in most respects. There were also these tidbits about the flotillas the boat was assigned to:




7th Flotilla


06.38 - 09.40 Kiel

09.40 - 05.41 Kiel / St. Nazaire

06.41 - 05.45 St. Nazaire

U-boat types:


U-96 was assigned to this flotilla, and that boat was the subject of the movie “Das Boot”. U-96 (like U-77) was a Type VIIC.

Both boats were in this flotilla for all of 1941, until December, when U-77 was transferred to the Mediterranean (to Flotillas based in Greece & Italy).

23rd Flotilla


09.41 - 05.42 Salamis (Greece)

U-boat types:


29th Flotilla


12.41 - 08.43La Specia (Italia)

U-boat types:


The Wild Onager - U-338 This emblem was inspired by the launch of U-338 which broke its mooring and sank a small tugboat. It was adapted as the emblem for the 29th Flotilla in Las Specia in the Mediterranean. The only boats to display the emblem (besides the U-338) were U-77, U-371 and U-617.

So, the U-boat was sunk. What about Kapitänleutnant Schonder? He wasn't on board when U-77 went down. Who is he, and what happened to him? It turns out that his listing in the table for U77 contains a link for Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder, where there’s probably a small biography and an image or two. This is getting a little eerie. I’m about to view the face of the man who was responsible for my uncle’s death. After all this time. Over fifty years since the event, and I’m now about to see what he looks like. There’s no way that anyone else knows what I’m about to discover. The hair on the back of my neck is tingling a bit. A frisson envelops me, sitting alone in my study, in the dead of the night. It’s past 2 AM in the morning, and very quiet. The only sound is the squeak of the chair.

No sense in hesitating at this point. Let's look up ol’ Heinrich, and see what we get.

Heinrich 'Hein' Schonder

Korvettenkapitän (Crew 1934)

Born 23 July, 1910 Erfurt

Died 24 June, 1943 North Atlantic

Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Schonder

(Kapitänleutnant is equivalent to the U.S.Navy’s Lieutenant)


26Sep,1934 Seekadett

1Jul,1935 FähnrichzurSee

1Jan,1937 OberfähnrichzurSee

1Apr,1937 LeutnantzurSee

1Apr,1939 OberleutnantzurSee

1Sep,1941 Kapitänleutnant

1Jun,1943 Korvettenkapitän


01/10/1939 : Iron Cross 2nd class (EK II)

01/12/1939 : Ubootskriegsabzeichen 1939

23/07/1940 : Iron Cross 1st class (EK I)

19/08/1942 : Knights Cross (-60-) F

U-boat Career

U-51 VIIB I WO 08.38 - 08.39

U-53 VIIB 2 patrols, 72 days 08.39 - 11.39

U-53 VIIB Commander in deputize 12.39 - 01.40

U-9 IIB I WO; 4 patrols, 44 days 01.40 - 04.40

U-58 IIC 4 patrols, 72 days 07.40 -11.40

U-77 VIIC 10 patrols, 222 days 01.41 – 09

U-200 IXD2 1 patrol, 12 days 12.42 - 06.43

Heinrich Schonder started his naval career in April 1935. After some months on the torpedo boat Falke he changed in January 1938 to the U-boat force.

He rode for two years on several U-boats as watch officer, before he took over in June 1940 the Type IIC U-boat U-58. He sank on 4 patrols, mostly in the North Atlantic, 4 ships. He left U-58 and commissioned in January 1941 the Type VIIC U-boat U-77. After three patrols in the North Atlantic he managed on 16 December 1941, the break through into the Mediterranean. He rode in the Med 6 patrols and sank among other ships the British destroyer HMS Kimberley and the frigate HMS Grove.

'Hein' Schonder left U-77 in September 1942 and commissioned 3 months later the Type IX-D2 U-boat U-200 which was sunk on her first patrol with all hands on 24 June, 1943 southwest of Iceland by a RAF Liberator aircraft.

U-boat deployment

The Germans dispatched U-boats into the Mediterranean because they were disappointed with the Italians’ submarine performance in that theater. Beginning in October 1941, and for the next eight weeks, Hitler ordered 16 U-boats to relocate from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. U-77 was part of that transfer.

The Straits of Gibraltar was the area through which all boats entering the Mediterranean had to traverse and was a very dangerous part of the journey as it is very narrow and was always heavily patrolled by allied vessels. According to one source, due to the nature of the currents, once a U-boat entered the Mediterranean Sea, it could not return to the Atlantic.

The U-boats committed to the Mediterranean meant that, following Germany’s 11 December 1941 declaration of war on the United States, Donitz’s request of 12 boats (all Type IX’s) for operation in the Western Atlantic was denied. The German Naval Staff only approved the deployment of 6 (and one of those developed mechanical problems). But, though small in number, they were responsible for a large number of sinkings from January to June of 1942.

From Sept 1941 to May of 1944 Germany managed to send 62 U-boats into the Mediterranean. All these boats had to navigate the dreaded British-controlled Straits of Gibraltar where 9 U-boats where sunk while attempting passage and 10 more had to break of their run due to damages. No U-boats ever made it back into the Atlantic and all were either sunk in battle or scuttled by their own crews.

The Mediterranean was a very dangerous arena for the U-boats; all around it were dozens of allied air base from which hundreds of radar-equipped aircraft hunted them. The Mediterranean is very clear and calm body of water that made escape more difficult for the U-boats. (continued)

So, U-77 slipped into the Mediterranean past Gibralter. There was a scene in “Das Boot” showing a similar attempt. It’s a very risky maneuver. So that's what he looks like. Yikes! He’s the sort of fellow Central Casting would send over to play the ‘heavy’. A Knights Cross recipient. Congratulations Nazi bastard! The U-boat crews, and especially their officers, were the most ideological and fanatical in the German armed services. Herr Schonder started his career in 1935, which was when the flotilla first came into being, and he almost certainly was a gung-ho militarist. I make a mental note not to name any son I have, ‘Heinrich’.

Well, he died somewhere in the North Atlantic, but on another boat: U-200. Is there any further information about how he met his end? Let's look up U-200:


Type IXD2

Laid down 3 Nov 1941 AG Weser, Bremen

Commissioned 22 Dec 1942 Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder (Knights Cross)


12.42 - 06.43 Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder

Career 1 patrol

12.42 - 05.43 4th Flotilla (Stettin)

06.43 12th Flotilla (Bordeaux)




Sunk 24 June, 1943 southwest of Iceland, in position 58.15N, 25.25W, by 2 depth charges from a British Liberator aircraft (Sqdn. 120/H). 67* dead (all crew lost). * Included in the figure for loss of life are 7 members from the German special force "Brandenburg" unit.

58.15N, 25.25W is about 500 miles due south of the western tip of Iceland. That patch of ocean is completely empty. The submarine went down in icy waters, far from any land. Good riddance, I say. Follow up research revealed that U-200 was sunk by Liberator “H” (planes are identified by letter) of British Squadron 120, dispatched from Reykjavik, Iceland and piloted by an Australian, A.W. Fraser (see appendix). At the end of June a new moon was in the sky, a condition preferred by U-boat commanders, since it made detection by Coastal Command’s anti-U-boat forces more difficult.

The Brandenburg special force unit traveling on that particular U-boat was composed of “coastal troops” who were destined for South Africa, of all places. It was part of a bizarre scheme to incite rebellion amongst the Boers. U-200 departed on June 12 from Kiel, one year to the day, after the H.M.S. Grove was sunk. It was not, at that time, a direct participant in the Battle of the Atlantic (which was a fight over merchant shipping to Britain and to the Soviet Union).

Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Range 2100mi Speed 300mph Ceiling: 28,000 Armament: 10 x .5” machine guns

More recollections: The Consolidated B-24 Liberator, introduced in 1941, was a long-range, four-engine bomber that carried a load of 8,000 pounds. 18,000 were built. The British flew 1700, and later in the war the Liberators were equipped with 10-centimeter radar and powerful searchlights which made them deadly. (The radar could detect a periscope and was undetectable by U-boat electronics when first introduced.) In May of 1943, the month before U-200 was sunk, the Germans lost 41 U-boats and that month marked the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic. Donitz, commander of the U-boat forces, and the inventor of the ‘wolf pack’ strategy withdrew the boats and conceded defeat in the face of the increasing and effective anti-submarine warfare. There would be more battles fought in the seas, but the days of easy hunting by the Germans were over.

All in all, a strange adventure. Here are two men, my Uncle Frank and his adversary, Heinrich Schonder, linked decades later (albeit tenuously) within the databases that exist on the World Wide Web. And, I was able to reconstruct the details about the events, not in Germany, and not in England, but thousands of miles away in Los Angeles. Close enough in time to be emotionally meaningful, but far enough away to be almost magical. Neither Frank nor Heinrich could possibly imagine this happening from their vantage point of the 1940’s. It makes one wonder what things will be like another fifty years from now. Will a distant relative be able to look up your history, and relive, for a brief moment, some of the important times of your life? Probably so. And a whole lot more.


The Exploits of Alexander William Fraser

Details about the sinking of U-200 can be found in Clay Blair’s Hitler's U-Boat War : The Hunted 1942-1945 (Hitler's U Boat War, Vol 2). They are included in the narrative above. Regrettably, Alexander William (or “A.W.”) Fraser, who established a good service record, did not live to survive the war. Searching the Internet brought up the following information: Commonwealth War Grave Commission Site

In Memory of


Flight Lieutenant


Royal Australian Air Force

who died on

Tuesday, 4th July 1944. Age 29.

Additional Information: Son of Alexander William and Rhoda Maria Fraser; husband of Margaret Fraser, of Millaa Millaa, Queensland, Australia.

Commemorative Information:

Cemetery: LISBURN CEMETERY, County Antrim, United Kingdom

Grave Reference/

Panel Number: Sec. A. Grave 390. Australian War Memorial Site

Fraser, Alexander William DFC & BAR

Number: 404063

Rank: Flight Lieutenant [Flt Lt]

Unit: ATTD RAF (Farnborough)

Service: RAAF

Conflict: 1939-1945

Date of Death: 04/07/1944

Place of Death: United Kingdom

Cause of Death: Accidental

Memorial Panel: 122

Cemetery or Memorial Details:

Next Of Kin:


Source: AWM148 Roll of Honour cards, 1939-1945 War, Air Force Australian War Memorial Site

UK. C. 1943-05. Group portrait of a Coastal Command Liberator Crew being briefed. Second from the left is their Australian Captain 404063 Flying Officer A. W. Fraser of Qld, who was awarded the DFC 1943-03-10 for protecting convoys.

photo not available

Western Atlantic Ocean. 1943-06-23. A RAF Coastal Command Liberator aircraft commanded by Flight Lieutenant A. W. Fraser, of Qld, attacked and subsequently sank this German U-boat, which is seen receiving direct hits forward of the conning tower.

UK. C. 1943-05. Portrait of Captain 404063 Flying Officer A. W. Fraser of Qld, at the controls of a Coastal Command Liberator aircraft, who was awarded the DFC on 1943-03-10 for his work in anti-submarine escort sorties and protection of convoys.

UK. C. 1943-05. Portrait of 404063 Flying Officer A. W. Fraser DFC of Qld (right), Captain of a Coastal Command Liberator aircraft, as he tells his story on return from patrol. He was awarded the DFC on 1943-03-10 for his work in protecting convoys, and for the outstanding keenness and judgment he displayed UK. C. 1943-05. Portrait of 404063 Flying Officer A. W. Fraser DFC of Qld (right), Captain of a Coastal Command Liberator aircraft, as he tells his story on return from patrol. He was awarded the DFC on 1943-03-10 for his work in protecting convoys, and for the outstanding keenness and judgment he displayed

At sea in the North Atlantic. 1943-06-22. 404063 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) A. W. Fraser DFC and Bar of Millaa Millaa, Qld, succeeded in sinking a German U-boat in the face of intense gunfire from the submarine. Although the aircraft, a Coastal Command Liberator of No. 120 Squadron RAF, was damaged, the pilot brought it back to base and made a perfect landing. For his "magnificent example of determination to destroy the enemy in the face of opposition", Flt Lt Fraser was awarded an immediate bar to his DFC. In the attack, the depth charges made a perfect straddle across the surfaced U-boat.

At sea in the North Atlantic. 1943-06-22. 404063 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) A. W. Fraser DFC and Bar of Millaa Millaa, Qld, succeeded in sinking a German U-boat in the face of intense gunfire from the submarine. Although the aircraft, a Coastal Command Liberator of No. 120 Squadron RAF, was damaged, the pilot brought it back to base and made a perfect landing. For his "magnificent example of determination to destroy the enemy in the face of opposition", Flt Lt Fraser was awarded an immediate bar to his DFC. Towering plumes of water covered the submarine as it attempted to take evasive action.

Reykjavik, Iceland. C. 1943-06. Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) A. W. Fraser of Millaa Millaa, Qld, the captain of a Coastal Command Liberator of No. 120 Squadron RAF, was successful in sinking a German U-boat in the face of intense gunfire from the submarine. For his part in the attack Flt Lt Fraser was awarded an immediate Bar to his DFC.

Reykjavik, Iceland. C. 1943-06. Group portrait of 404063 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) A. W. Fraser DFC and Bar of Millaa Millaa, Qld (centre), and his crew who succeeded in sinking the surfaced U-boat U194 in the face of intense gunfire from the submarine. Although the aircraft, a Coastal Command Liberator of No. 120 Squadron RAF, was severely damaged, Flt Lt Fraser brought it back to its base at Reykjavik, and made a perfect precautionary approach and successful landing. For his "magnificent example of determination to destroy the enemy in the face of opposition," Flt Lt Fraser was awarded an immediate bar to his DFC.

Millaa Millaa, Queensland, Australia

The towns of Mareeba, Kuranda, Tolga, Atherton, Malanda, Tinaroo, Kairi, Millaa Millaa, Ravenshoe, Yungaburra and Herberton make up the Atherton Tablelands with lots of accommodation in either motel, caravan park and units as well as Homestay.

You can enjoy barramundi and fresh water fishing, cruise and swim the lakes, historic steam train rides and birdwatching.

World heritage rainforests... mountains... rivers... lakes in extinct volcanos and magnificent waterfalls. All this is around an hour from the coast and about as far from where the outback starts.

That's just part of this benign and fertile plateau reaching up to 1000 metres above sea level. Primitive ferns hang from and around giant Kauri pines as they've done for hundreds of years. There's strangler figs with roots hanging more than 15 metres to the ground.

Tree climbing kangaroos, cassowaries, possums and bower birds inhabit the rainforests while platypus play in the rivers and streams of the area. There's even a vineyard and most houses have fireplaces for the cold winter nights.

Type VIIC U-boat

568 were commissioned from 1940 - 1945

Type VIIC was a slightly modified version of the successful VIIB. They had basically the same engine layout and power, but were slightly larger and heavier which made them not quite as fast as the VIIB. 5 torpedo tubes (4 at the bow and one at the stern) were installed. It would carry 11 torpedoes onboard or 22 TMA (=33 TMB) mines, and also had the effective 88mm fast-firing deck gun with about 160 rounds of ammunition.

The VIIC was the workhorse of the German U-boat force in World War Two from 1941 onwards and boats of this type were being built throughout the war. The first VIIC boat being commissioned was the U-69 in 1940. The VIIC was an effective fighting machine and was seen in almost all areas where the U-boat force operated although their range was not as great as the one of the larger IX types.

The VIIC came into service as the "Happy Days" were almost over and it was this boat that faced the final defeat to the Allied anti-submarine campaign in late 1943 and 1944.



Werk number


U-77 - U-82

Vegesacker Werft, Vegesack

5 - 10

1940 - 1941

(from the book Black May)

Length ~220 feet Size: 761 tons Engines: 6 fast or 2 slow-running diesel Compliment: 44 + 4 ofcrs.

Surface speed: 17 knots Submerged speed: 8 knots

Steering: Twin rudders Max time underwater: 18 hours Range: 6500 mi Number built: 700

Weapons: 1x20mm, 1x88mm Torpedoes: 14 (typically 12 type G7e [electric], 2 type G7a [air-turbine])

U-boat Shipyards Vegesacker Werft, Vegesack

Built 74 U-boats


U-73 - U-76

(4 boats)

1939 - 1940


U-77 - U-82

(6 boats)

1939 - 1941

U-132 - U-136

(5 boats)

1940 - 1941

U-251 - U-291

(41 boats)

1940 - 1942


U-292 - U-300

(9 boats)


U-1271 - U-1279

(9 boats)


The first U-boat launched by Vegesacker Werft was U-73 on 27 July,1940.
The last U-boat launched by Vegesacker Werft was U-1279 in May 1944.

All U-boats launched by Vegesacker Werft were commissioned into the Kriegsmarine.

Technical information Type VIIC


769 sf
871 sm
1070 total


17 - 17.7 sf
7.6 sm


67.10 oa
50.50 ph

Oil Supply

105.3 / 62.1
113.5t max


6.20 oa
4.70 ph


26 TMA

Height (m)



44 - 52


2800 -
3200 ehp sf
750 ehp sm

Max Depth

ca. 220 m

sm = submerged, sf = surfaced, ph = pressure hull, oa = overall, hp = horsepower.

Type IXD U-boat Atlantikboot

These boats, designed in 1939-40, have been called IXD/41, IXD or IX D1 and IX D2. The difference between D1 and D2 was only in engine layout and power, the D1 had teething troubles and the D2 boats had a more proven layout.

These were more than 500 tons heavier and almost 10 meters longer than the IXC/40. They were armed with 24 torpedoes in 6 tubes (4 at the bow and 2 at the stern) and had the secondary armament in the form of the Utof 105mm/45 deck gun with roughly 150 rounds of ammunition.

(from the book Black May)

Length ~254 feet Size: 1200 tons Engines: 2 slow-running diesel Compliment: 44 + 4 ofcrs.

Surface speed: 18 knots Submerged speed: 8 knots

Steering: XX Max time underwater: XX hours Range: 24000 mi Number built: 370

Weapons: 1x XX mm, 1x105mm Torpedoes: 24

Technical information Type IXD


1610 sf
1799 sm
2150 total


20.8 sf
6.9 sm


87.58 oa
68.50 ph

Oil Supply

203t max


7.50 oa
4.40 ph


48 TMA

Height (m)



55 - 63


4400 ehp sf
1000 ehp sm

Max Depth

ca. 230 m

sm = submerged, sf = surfaced, ph = pressure hull, oa = overall, hp = horsepower.

U-boat Flotilla Bases 7th Flotilla


06.38 - 09.40 Kiel

09.40 - 05.41 Kiel / St. Nazaire

06.41 - 05.45 St. Nazaire

Flotilla Commanders:

09.40 - 02.44 Korvkpt. Herbert Sohler

U-boat types:


U-Flotilla "Wegener"* was founded on 25 June 1938 under the command of Korvkpt. Werner Sobe. The Flotilla transferred in 1940/1941 to St. Nazaire (France). The first boat of the Flotilla, which reached St. Nazaire was U-46 under Oblt. Engelbert Endrass on 29 Sept, 1940. In August/September 1944 most boats left the base for Norway. The last but one flotilla boat was U-267, which left St. Nazaire on 23 Sept, 1944.

U-96 was assigned to this flotilla. That boat was the subject of the novel, and subsequent movie “Das Boot”. 23rd Flotilla


09.41 - 05.42 Salamis (Greece)

Flotilla Commanders:

09.41 - 05.42 Kptlt. Fritz Frauenheim (Knights Cross)

U-boat types:


The 23th Flotilla was founded on 11 Sept, 1941 under the command of Kptlt. Frauenheim. The Operational area was the eastern Mediterranean. Since May, 1942 the boats were attached to the 29th Flotilla. The 23rd flotilla was re-founded in September, 1943 as a training flotilla. 29th Flotilla


12.41 - 08.43La Specia (Italia)

Flotilla Commanders:

12.41 - 05.42 Korvkpt. Franz Becker

U-boat types:


The 29th Flotilla was founded in December 1941 under the command of Korvkpt. Franz Becker. The operational area was only the Mediterranean. The flotilla was disbanded in September 1944, when U-407 was sunk on 19 Sept and the two last flotilla boats U-565 and U-596 were scuttled in Salamis (Greece).

The Wild Onager - U-338 This emblem was inspired by the launch of U-338 which broke its mooring and sank a small tugboat. It was adapted as the emblem for the 29th Flotilla in Las Specia in the Mediterranean. The only boats to display the emblem (besides the U-338) were U-77, U-371 and U-617.

The allies landed in Normany in early June 1944. Brest was captured by the Allies on 21 Sept 1944 after a month-long battle. The town of Lorient was reached by the US forces on 7 Aug, 1944 but was not attacked in force and held out until May 8, 1945, same can be said of the Saint Nazaire and La Pallice / La Rochelle bases. Bordeaux was captured by the allies on 25 August, 1944.

H.M.S. Grove


HMS GROVE (June 12, 1942) British destroyer, captained by Cdr. J.W. Rylands, was escorting a convoy from Alexandria to to the island of Malta when the convoy was spotted by enemy aircraft and soon an intensive attack developed by bombers and submarines and units of the Italian Navy. The Grove was hit by a torpedo and sank taking the lives of two officers and 108 ratings. The enemy attack was so severe that part of the convoy was compelled to return to Alexandria. Also sunk in this engagement was the light cruiser HMS Hermione which went down with eight officers and 79 ratings.

The information above is in disagreement with that found elsewhere. Both the U-boat and British_Ships_Destroyers web pages indicate that it was a German submarine that sank the ship. Also, the mission is listed here as escorting an Alexandria to Malta convoy, but other sources state that the ship was returning to Alexandria from Tobruk.

The box below lists events taking place at the time the ship was sunk. The Grove might have been part of the second convoy.

WORLD WAR II PLUS 55 June 10-13th, 1942 by David H. Lippman

June 11th, 1942...

Two convoys set sail for Malta, "Harpoon" from Gibraltar being the first. This force features five freighters, an American tanker, Kentucky, an AA cruiser, nine destroyers, and four minesweepers, all British . The covering fore to the Sicilian Channel consists of two carriers, a battleship, three cruisers, and eight destroyers.

The second convoy, leaving from Port Said, has 11 freighters, escorted by seven light cruisers and 26 destroyers, reinforced by the already strained Royal Navy Eastern Fleet front he Indian Ocean. The two convoys face German and Italian aircraft, E-boats, and submarines, not to mention the Italian Navy, with its 15-inch gun battleships.








Swan Hunter


Torpedoed by U-boat U.77 off Sollum 12 June 42

1:600 Hunt class group 2, HMS Badsworth. © Andrew Arthur

The Hunt class evolved from the unsuitability of converting old fleet destroyers to escort destroyers. The main reasons why such a class were needed was, firstly, that a new, utilitarian design could be built quicker than older construction became available for conversion, and secondly, that the high speed of the older destroyers was wasted as escorts, asdics not working effectively at anything over 20 knots. A small design with dual-purpose main guns, no torpedoes, a light AA armament and a speed of around 25 knots would be cheap, quick and economical to build, and be ideal for both anti-submarine and anti-aircraft escorts.

The pre-war sloop HMS Bittern was seen as the most desirable model, displacing 1090 tons, being 282 feet in length, making 18.75 knots and armed with three twin 4" AA controlled by a HA director, with fin stabilisers to provide a good firing platform. However, to do all that and more ( 27 knots speed and ship a quad pom-pom ) on 8 feet less beam would make a very cramped and unstable design, and a mis-calculation in design meant that they were too unstable and drastically nneded a reduction in top-weight. This was done by removing the twin 4" gun inended for the aft shelter deck, and in turn this also eased supply demands. The pom-pom was moved from abaft the funnel to the shelter deck, and in turn had a much greater field of fire.

The second group had 2½ feet more beam, and so were stable enough to accept the third 4" AA and the pom-pom was returned to it's original position. A new, flat-faced bridge was also designed.

Too unstable and short-ranged for trans-oceanic work, they performed excellent service, particualarly in the anti-aircraft role, as East Coast, North Sea and Mediterranean escorts.

The AA armament was strengthened in nearly all ships in group 1 and all in group 2 by adding a single 20mm AA cannon in each wing ( at the fo'c'sle break in Fernie only ) and nearly all group 1 and 3 group 2 fitted a 2pdr. bow-chaser to ward off MTB attacks and cover the forward fire arcs. The lack of torpedoes was sorely felt in the North African theatre, were opportunities often arose to attack merchant shipping, and this resulted in the third group replacing one twin 4" AA with a twin 21" torpedo tube amidships. This design was only 10 tons heavier than the Group 2, and on the same hull, but a shift in displacements needed 40 tons of ballast to be added to keep them stable ( it probably would have been more sensible to retain the quarterdeck and remove the shelter deck gun, although this would have meant quite a large blind fire-arc for the aft gun. )

Apart from early war losses, all survivors eventually recieved AW type 286/290 on the tripod and AR type 285 on the HA director. However, only a few ( Cotswold, Silverton, Bleasdale and Wensleydale ) had SW type 271/272 added in-place of the searchlight, highlighting that they were more used in the AA role, mainly because that the corvettes / frigates / sloops were in full production and were much more suited to the ASW role, and there were few other escort vessels with 4 / 6 radar controlled 4" AA.



Dimensions & Displacements Type 2

Full Displacement (tons)


Empty Displacement (tons)


Length (‘)


Beam (‘)


Draft (‘)


Performance & Propulsion (type 2)


2 x Admirality 3 drum boilers driving 2 x Parson single geared steam turbines @ 19900 hp


27 kts ( 25.5 full )


2560 / 1100 nm @ 20 / 25.5 knots

Complement & Armament


164 officers & ratings



3 x 2 x 4" AA

1 x 4 x 2pdr pom-pom AA

2 x 1 x 20mm Oerlikon AA

1 x 2pdr 'bowchaser' in Avon Vale, Blencathra & Liddesdale


2 x DC mortars

3 x DC racks for 110 DC's



Purpose Built

Destroyer Escorts





'Hunt' Class (Group II)




Avon Vale, Badsworth, Beaufort, Blankney, Calpe, Chiddingfold, Croome, Dulverton, Eridge, Exmoor, Farndale, Heythrop, Hurworth, Lamerton, Lauderdale, Puckeridge, Southwold, Tetcott, Wheatland, Bedale, Bicester, Blackmore, Cowdray, Grove, Hursley, Ledbury, Middleton, Wilton, Bramham, Oakley, Zetland.

WARSHIP PLANS Ideal for the Scratch Builder or Super Detailer


(P+P=Profile and Plan; LDD=Lines, Deck Plans and Details B=Boats L=Lines M=Modifications BP=Body Plan S=Sections)


LDD 1/96890 HMS GROVE Type II HUNT class P+P,L 1/96 9.90

RAF Coastal Command

Motto: Constant Endeavour

When the war began the RAF Coastal Command was far from ready for it. It had nothing to attack let alone sink the German U-boats. The U-boat weapon available at the time was the anti-submarine bomb that was far from effective and required a direct hit to do any damage. To make matters worse the Command was always secondary to the Bomber Command for equipment and aircraft

During the spring of 1940 experiments were carried out to see if an aircraft could successfully drop a depth charge (A Royal Navy model little changed from WWI). This was proven feasible if the aircraft was not too high or travelling too fast. Thus the MK. VII depth charge became the new weapon for Coastal Command's aircraft. These were later replaced by Torpex-filled depth charges with more explosive power

The most successful squadrons were the No. 86 and No. 120 squadrons each with 14 U-boats sunk. These were the most successful U-boat hunters in the war.

(from the book Black May)

Squadron 120 was the first to receive the Liberators, modified for VLR (Very Long Range) service. In early 1943, there were five Mark I’s and several Mark III’s based in Reykjavik. Liberator “H”, which sunk U-200 was probably a Mark III (based on the B-24D)

Depth Charges (from the book Black May)

The depth charges that were used to destroy U-200 were most probably the 250-pound “heavy” Mark VII. Their explosive was Torpex (a mixture of Cyclonite, TNT, and aluminum flakes). The typical setting for the depth charge was 25 feet and the aircraft released them from a height of about 50 feet. The Liberator could carry eight of these depth charges, and typically used them four-at-a-time. When the charge exploded underwater, it created a gas bubble of 3000 degrees and a pressure of 50,000 atmospheres. It was expected that such an explosion would puncture the pressure hull of a submarine at 20-25 feet, and damage it up to 50 feet distance.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator

First flown on 29 December 1939, the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation's B-24 Liberator came along more than four years after the famous and popular Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and showed somewhat improved range and payload capabilities over the Fortress. Still, the performance was in most respects quite comparable, and one might question why the B-24 was built at all. Most, but not all, of the missions flown by B-24s were feasible with B-17s with comparable bomb loads. The B-24 was more difficult to fly, especially with one or more engines out, and much less survivable when forced to ditch in the ocean. The B-24 was also noticeably more expensive than the B-17 (averaging $295,516 per B-24 versus $223,742 per B-17) and all other major USAAF combat aircraft of the war, excepting only the much more advanced Boeing B-29 ($619,000).

More of the B-24 and its derivatives were built than any other multi-engine aircraft of the Second World War, and more than any other American aircraft in history. Sources seem to disagree on how many Liberators were built, with totals usually quoted between 18,188 and 19,203, making the Liberator about six percent of total American wartime production. The differences in the totals are probably due to the extremely complex production program. First production was at the Consolidated factory in San Diego, California. As orders increased, this factory was rapidly expanded until it employed 45,000 people and eventually built 6,724 examples of the complex B-24. Demand for the B-24 was such that even this impressive production was inadequate. Convair (Consolidated merged with Vultee in 1941 to form Convair) set up an additional factory in Fort Worth, Texas, and 30,000 workers built 3,034 additional Liberators there. Additionally, Douglas Aircraft Corporation built about 964 B-24s in its factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and North American Aviation built about 966 in Dallas, Texas. The largest Liberator factory was Ford's huge new factory built at Willow Run, Michigan, which turned out 6,792 completed aircraft and 1,893 disassembled, crated airframes for final assembly elsewhere. In 1944, the Willow Run factory alone turned out 92,000,000 pounds (42,000,000 kg) of airframes, nearly equaling the production of the entire Japanese aircraft industry that year, or almost half of the entire German output. Peak production by all factories produced a B-24 every 55 minutes. These factories and several major depots also performed many conversions, often of hundreds of aircraft. This lead to more than sixty different designations for variations of the B-24 airframe. There were bomber, patrol bomber, reconnaissance, cargo, tanker, trainer, experimental, civil, and other variants.

All versions of the Liberator were powered by the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, a 14-cylinder air cooled radial engine. The XB-24 prototype and the six LB-30A models had R-1830-33 engines without superchargers. Subsequent versions of the B-24, including bomber, cargo, and trainer variants and the US Navy's PB4Y-1 had General Electric turbo-superchargers to enhance performance at high altitudes. The PB4Y-2 dispensed with turbo-superchargers because their patrol bomber missions were expected to be strictly low-altitude operations.

The aircraft featured a high-mounted full-cantilever wing spanning 33.5 m, and most had twin tail. The last aircraft variants based on the B-24 airframe, the XB-24K, XB-24N, YB-24N, and PB4Y-2, had a large single tail fin. The wing was called the Davis Wing after David R. Davis, the man who conceived the wing's advanced profile. When first tested in a wind tunnel at the California Institute of Technology, CalTech's engineers were hesitant to report the results because the wing showed efficiency that exceeded what was thought possible, and exceeded that of other contemporary wings by about 20 percent. Though the wing, stabilizers, and fins were all-metal, the ailerons, elevators, and rudders were fabric-covered. All versions of the Liberator had tricycle undercarriage.

The semi-monocoque fuselage had a boxy cross section. Bomber crews took full advantage of the flat sides, often painting extravagant artwork, and usually including a provocative female on the nose of the aircraft. The bomb bay doors were a unique design which rolled up the sides to reveal two racks in each of the two bays. A narrow catwalk between the racks allowed brave crewmen to transit between the forward and aft fuselage sections, or to service the bombs and racks.

Early versions of the B-24 were heavily armed by pre-war standards, the B-24A having two .30 caliber machine guns in the tail and six .50 caliber weapons (one in the nose, one in a ventral position, two in an upper turret, and one on each side at the waist positions). Early in the war, both the RAF and the USAAF found this armament inadequate, and additional machine guns were added in subsequent versions.

The first major production variant was the B-24D, of which 2,738 were built. This aircraft was 20.2 m in length, spanned 33.5 m, weighed 15,413 kg empty and 27,216 kg loaded. Powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 (later R-1830-65) engines of 1,200 hp, the maximum speed was 303 mph. Armament was initially 9 .50 caliber machine guns. Late B-24Ds received a retractable Sperry ball turret instead of the single ventral gun, giving a total of ten .50 caliber weapons. Officially, the B-24D could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs internally. Potential maximum internal loads were 20 100-pound bombs, 12 500-pound bombs, 8 1,000-pound bombs, or 4 2,000-pound bombs. Over Europe, B-24s delivered an average of about 4,600 pounds (2,090 kg) of bombs per sortie, as did B-17s. In comparison with the contemporary B17F, the B-24D cruised a little faster, but also a bit lower.

The USAAF and US Navy quickly perceived a need for vast numbers of B-24s, and five large factories were eventually set up for B-24 construction. The B-24D was built by Consolidated Vultee in San Diego, California (2,425 built) and in Fort Worth, Texas (303 built), and by Douglas Aircraft Corporation in Tulsa, Oklahoma (10 Built).

The B-24E was very similar to the B-24D, but had different propellers. Consolidated produced 144 of the B-24E, while Douglas built 167, and Ford built 490 in its huge, newly constructed factory at Willow Run, Michigan.

The next major production variant was the B-24G, which was also similar to the B-24D, but introduced a power-operated nose turret. North American built 430 of these in its Dallas factory.

The B-24H added detail improvements, including Emerson electric nose and tail turrets and improved waist gun mounts. Consolidated, Douglas, and Ford built 3.100 of these.

The B-24J was the most numerous production variant, with 6,678 being produced by all four manufacturers. It included improved nose and tail turrets, jettisonable waist gun mounts, a new autopilot, and an improved bombsight. Ford and Consolidated also built 1,667 of the B-24L, and 2,593 of the B-24M, which featured variations in the tail gun turrets.

The US Navy acquired many B-24Ds from the USAAF for anti-submarine operations, and also 977 of the PB4Y-1, which were either converted from the B-24D with the addition of an Erco nose turret, or from the B-24J, B-24L, or B-24M with a Consolidated nose turret. Later came 736 of the much-modified PB4Y-2, with unsupercharged engines, single tail, two upper turrets, no ball turret, twin guns in each waist position, an extra 2.1 m added to the length of the fuselage, and many other improvements. The PB4Y-2 was so modofied that it got a different name, being called Privateer.

Given the massive commitment the United States made to the B-24, it is interesting to note that the US initially showed little interest in the aircraft, and it was France which, in 1940, placed the first production order for 139 of these bombers, to be called LB-30. France surrendered long before any could be delivered, so the order was taken over by the RAF. Twenty were taken by Coastal Command as the Liberator I. These were very early B-24s with armor, extra machine guns, and self-sealing fuel tanks added. They were followed by 140 of the Liberator II, with fuselage lengthened to equal that of the B-24D, but with Hamilton Standard propellers. These were the last of the contract Liberators for the RAF, as all subsequent RAF Liberators were procured through lend-lease. The Liberator III and IIIA were based on the B-24D, the Liberator IV was derived from the B-24E, and the Liberator V was a conversion of the B-24G. The Liberator VI came form the B-24H and B-24J. The Liberator VII was a transport based on the C-87 cargo variant of the Liberator. The Liberator VIII was an improved Liberator VI, while the Liberator IX was another Cargo variant based on the US Navy's R3Y.

One B-24A was parked at Hickam field on the morning of December 7, 1941. This aircraft, 40-2370, was so large that it attracted immediate attention from Japanese bombers and became the first American aircraft destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War.

Service in the Atlantic Ocean

The Liberator contributed heavily in the Atlantic battles. According to one author, RAF Coastal Command Liberators sank, or assisted in sinking, 70 U-boats, starting with U-597 sunk off Iceland 12 October, 1942 (by No. 120 Squadron).