- Whitehouse, John
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
VE DAY, 8TH MAY, was a day of bright sunshine and stiff breezes, and we sailed north through the Minches with the Scottish coast to starboard and the islands of the Hebrides to port, both clearly visible and with the upper deck loudspeakers tuned to the BBC and the voice of Montgomery accepting the German surrender. We Spliced the Mainbrace – except for myself, that is, as I was Under Age. I resented this and said so – frequently. To this day I reckon the Navy owes me a tot.
There were just the five ships of 21EG at Loch Eriboll, together with the Motor Launch C/T 21 which acted as a sort of scout, and HMS Philante – once the private yacht of Sir Tom Sopwith, but now the Despatch Vessel of CinC Western Approaches and acting as Headquarters Ship. There were ’visitors’: the Canadian 9EG on their way back from Kola Inlet, having escorted the last Russian convoy JW67/RA67, and diverted to bring in five U Boats which were on passage from Trondheim to Loch Eriboll. Lastly there were three corvettes who were sweeping in the area – HM Ships Harlech Castle, Beaumaris Castle, and Walwyns Castle – who spotted the first two arrivals and came into the Loch to see what was going on.
The object of the operation was to disarm the boats as they came in and put Boarding Parties aboard in readiness for their eventual passage southwards to Loch Alsh. Each ship of 21EG made three or four such trips escorting two or three U Boats at a time.
The Group arrived at the entrance to Loch Eriboll during the early morning of 9th May. We found the Loch to be remote, deserted, grand; a sheet of water about ten miles long and a couple of miles wide at the mouth with the jumble of the Sutherland mountains in the background. We waited. The Boarding Parties drew weapons and rations, Philante arrived, the motor launch patrolled the entrance: and then, at eight in the morning of the 10th, the first U Boat arrived, U.1009, on the surface, flying a tattered black rag from its periscope as a sign it was ready to surrender.
We launched our motor boat with the boarding party aboard.
“. . .as the motor boat approached the U Boat there was a heavy swell and it’s no easy matter to come alongside a submarine at sea. The Cox’n said ‘When I say jump – everybody jump’. I jumped and scrambled on to the casing on all fours, looked round, and found that I was the only one aboard! I looked towards the conning tower where I could see several men in leather suits, one wearing a white cap who I later discovered was the Commandant. I walked very slowly towards them, reckoning that before I got there the rest of the boarding party would have caught up with me – which was what happened. Then we went through the Boarding Party Drill. The German crew were ordered below, and our officer, Buck Taylor, followed them. Myself and the Stoker shackled a chain to an upper deck stanchion and lowered it through the hatch down to the Control Room so that they couldn’t suddenly decide to dive. Two seamen with guns followed us, and a signalman. Two other seamen stayed in the conning tower. When we arrived in the control room the routine was for the officer to question the U Boat captain, and for this purpose a questionnaire was supplied written in English and German: I can still hear Buck Taylor doing his best in a strong German accent, until the captain suggested everyone might get on better in English.
We took up our duties. Lt. Taylor went forward to check for demolition charges and to see that the torpedo pistols were out, and I did the same at the after end of the boat. The Stoker and I then took up position in the Engine Room and the Battery Room, although neither of us were armed – the seamen in the conning tower had the only Lanchester carbines.
When we got under way and they started the diesel engines I couldn’t believe the noise, it was horrendous. After a while I noticed that the German Engine Room watch were giving each other hand signals and me dirty looks. I made my way slowly through the diesel room to where the Stoker was stationed and then took him into the Control Room and I asked him if he thought there was going to be trouble. Evidently he had experience on British submarines and he told me that they were only talking to one another in Deaf and Dumb language because of the noise of the engines.