- Whitehouse, John
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
U.1009’s stay with the 21st Escort Group, Conn S/o Deane, Fitzroy, Rupert and Byron, (we had lost Redmill a month earlier to a Gnat torpedo fired by U.1105) was temporary and lasted only for the few days it took to de-militarise her as far as we could and then to escort her back through the Minches to Loch Alsh.
The Journey South
Our party consisted of Lt. Buck Taylor, Petty Officer Kingsley, a signalman, a stoker, an LTO, and a couple of seamen with unspecified skills. U Boats worked a Watch and Watch routine, meaning that half the crew was on watch and the other half was ‘hot-bunking’, so seven extra men aboard created elbow-room difficulties. We, however, still had difficulties of our own. We had gained what was thought to be a concession in that an oilskin coat had been added to our turn-out, without anyone realizing that having lived for two years on American issue oilskin suits our own were now hard compressed cubes at the bottom of our kit bags which had stuck solid. During the journey south U.1009 followed in the wake of Byron, on the surface naturally, with the seas breaking on the forward casing and occasionally on the conning tower itself. This caused considerable discomfort to the British occupants of the bridge but which were no trouble whatsoever to the Germans on watch who were tastefully attired in the abovementioned wet suits together with a substantial canvas harness which attached them firmly to the conning tower. We were instantly soaked to the skin and AB Day gave up all hope of a meaningful Run Ashore. The Germans realized at once that we were not suited (in all respects) to life under water and came fairly close to being sympathetic – even producing German naval issue dry underwear, the luxury of which was not in the least spoilt by being stamped with a large swastika and eagle.
The distance between Loch Eriboll and Loch Alsh is about one hundred and fifty miles and the trip took about twenty-four hours. On arrival U.1009’s crew, with the exception of a small C&M party, were put aboard a submarine depot ship to begin an internment which was to last until 1947 at the earliest.
All ships in all navies differ one from the other; some were stroppy, some ardent Nazis, some were resigned, all were insistent that the U Boat had not been beaten, despite the evidence of their own eyes, but most were just glad to have survived. All sinkings at sea are messy, rubbish-strewn affairs which no sailor should be asked to take part in; we had seen a lot of their handiwork and had had our successes against them and of these successes we were, at the time, justly proud. As far as the U.1009 was concerned we found them to be sailors much like ourselves, professional, well-disciplined, responsive to the orders of their officers and, even at the moment of surrender, with their morale intact despite sustaining casualties unsurpassed in percentage terms by any other fighting service on either side.
[Ed: John Whitehouse’s report comes c/- Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum]