- Bogart, Charles H.
- Naval Aviation, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
‘The ship was hit near the water line. I could not see the extent of the damage to the shell plating because it was underwater, but the deck was indented for the full length between the two boat davits, and the engineroom flooded so rapidly that I think there must have been a hole in the ship’s side. The Second Engineer was shot across the engine room and, by the time he reached the ladder, had to climb up through water. The after port lifeboat, No. 4, was completely destroyed. The ship settled two feet by the stern and remained in this position – she did not list. All the fore-end of No. 4 hold was blown away and the beams and hatches thrown into the air. I think No. 4 bulkhead was started, as I could hear a hissing noise, which may have been water percolating from the engine room into No. 4 hold. The steering gear was out of action, either as a result of damaged strings, or the steam supply failing’.
After sinking the Marsa the HE 177s attacked a second straggler, the merchant ship Deulis. One hit was scored on her but she was able to make port safely.
The next attack by II KG 40 was on 26 November 1943. This time twenty one HE 177’s were used to assault convoy KMF 26 as it passed Cape Bougie off the Algerian coast. As II KG 40 commenced its attack it was jumped by a combined French/British/ American fighter force. In the ensuing action six HE 177s were shot down including that of the commanding officer. The convoy though had not escaped without damage as the 8,602 ton transport HMT Rohna, carrying over 2,000 American troops, was hit. The missile struck on the port side amidships and exploded after entering the ship. The explosion blew a hole through both sides of the ship, demolished the superstructure and destroyed most of the lifeboats on the portside. A major fire then broke out forcing abandonment of the ship. Of the 16 lifeboats on board only 5 were lowered. With choppy sea and darkness coming on many who escaped overboard were lost. The final total was 120 of the crew and 1,050 American troops killed. The 853rd Engineer Aviation Battalion which was on board lost 491 men killed out of 823. Of the survivors, 147 required hospitalization.
This convoy battle had one unforeseen result; due to the presence of long range fighter coverage now being provided to convoys by the Allies the Luftwaffe was forced to switch future HS293 and FX1400 attacks to night time. Though the use of the flare in the tail of the missile allowed it to be visually guided at night the bombardier found it hard to judge the location of targets due to shadows on the sea. II KG 40, II KG 100 and III KG 100 would continue to attack convoys in the Mediterranean but would obtain few returns for their expenditure in planes and aircrews. Good hunting however remained for the Luftwaffe and its missiles in the secondary theatres of war.
The pilots of KG 100 soon found such a theatre, the Aegean Sea. British troops backed by the Royal Navy were moving against the nominal German controlled islands in the Aegean Sea. The proposed campaign, though, contained a number of fatal flaws. The Italian troops in the islands did not rally to the British, local air superiority belonged to the Germans, the theatre had a non-existent Allied priority for supplies, the Americans were totally against the campaign, and Hitler saw a means of a cheap victory against the Allies. The result was that while British troops initially moved into a partial German military vacuum they soon found overwhelming military forces being employed against them. With no British ground reinforcements available the Royal Navy was sent in to extract the troops in an area devoid of Allied aircraft. The Luftwaffe was quick to take advantage of this opportunity.
The night of 10-11 November 1943 found the British destroyers Petard and Rockwood accompanied by the Polish destroyer Krakowiak conducting a bombardment of Kalymnos as part of an operation to relieve German pressure on Leros. Only one merchant ship of 3,000 tons was sunk by the destroyers in this sweep. While the German shore batteries made no reply to this intrusion the Luftwaffe launched a combined JU99 torpedo and DO 217 HS293 attack. With the ships’ AA guns concentrating on the torpedo bombers a HS293 was successfully guided into Rockwood at 0020. The missile penetrated the ship’s side between the gearing room and the midship seamen’s messdeck just below the water line. Fortunately the missile did not explode but it temporarily knocked out the ships steering and started a fire in the switchboard. With Rockwood’s speed reduced to 12 knots and her steering gear damaged it was decided to make neutral Turkish waters.