I Was There! - We Picked Up Forty-Four Unhappy Italians
Here in a few words Petty Officer Nicholas Symmons tells of an incident that came to break the monotony of a spell of convoy duty. At a time when the menace of the U-boats is being stressed in Press and Parliament, it is well to be reminded that the enemy is not having it all his own way.
During an attack on the convoy the night before, my ship, H.M.S. Lamerton, one of the convoy's escort, used up so much fuel owing to her high speed that she was ordered to leave the convoy, proceed to a port for oil fuel, and return to the convoy as soon as possible.
Three hours after we had left the convoy, one of the look-outs sighted a Catalina aircraft 17 miles away. A signalman successfully established communication with it by flashing. The Catalina tersely replied: "Full speed head". She had sighted and damaged with depth charges the long-range Italian submarine Ferraris. The submarine must have sighted us then, as she decided to make off on the surface at 22 knots.
We gradually overhauled her, and opened fire with the forward guns when the range had been reduced to 9,600 yards. We were zigzagging in case she loosed off any torpedoes and to fluster their range as they were firing back with their after gun. Their firing was spasmodic and erratic, and the shells dropped some way off from Lamerton. We hit her four or five times, and brought her to a standstill in a sinking condition. Her firing ceased, and she sank before we arrived on the spot. Nevertheless, we dropped a pattern of depth charges over the spot to make sure of it.
There were 44 very unhappy Italians bobbing about in the water waiting to be picked up. As they climbed aboard Lamerton, our captain sounded a series of ...– (V) on the siren. The Catalina swooped low over our masts and did the victory roll. So ended the thirty-one-mile chase with the destruction of the Ferraris while on her first cruise away from Italy.
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