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Webmaster note:  It is with great sadness that I report to you the death of Pat Godwin.
He passed away in March 2006. I have lost a very dear friend.

THE FORGOTTEN OPERATION

by
Pat Godwin

July 2004

U 826 Surrenders to HMS Fitzroy
U 826 Surrenders
click photo for a larger view


Whilst all eyes were turned to the celebrations of "VE Day" on the 50th anniversary on 8 May 1995, one of the last operations of the war in Europe by the Royal Navy had, it would seem, been forgotten.

As the war was drawing to a close at sea, after six horrendous years it was being run down. To this I refer to the war against the German U-boats. On 4th May 1945, u- boats were ordered to cease attacking and sinking ships at sea, the U-boats were also ordered not to damage or scuttle their boats in any way. This order, however, was disobeyed and many U-boats scuttled themselves in various harbours in Norway and Germany.

On 6 May 1945, all U-boats at sea were told to surrender themselves at British Ports from 8 May.

On 6 May the 21st Escort Group, under the command of the then Lt/Cmdr. Raymond Hart, DSC and Bar, were in Milford Haven for refuelling after escorting a convoy into the Bristol Channel.

On 7 May shore leave was cut short and the ships of the group were ordered to sea. As yet we had no news that the war at sea was over and the group was ordered by Admiral Max Horton, DSO, C-in-C Western Approaches to proceed to Loch Erinbol off the North West Coast of Scotland, to secure the anchorage and prepare for the surrender of the U-boats.

Loch Erinbol is a large lonely Loch with sparse and rugged surroundings, with very few roads or houses, just a few crofts and hills. After a full speed run the group arrived at Erinbol on the early afternoon on the 8th May. By this time, by an Admiralty signal we knew the war was over, not however for the 21st, although the ships of the group enjoyed the signal 'Splice the Mainbrace'.

The five ships were HMS CONN (SO. 21st E/G)- Lt/Cmdr Raymond Hart - HMS BYRON- Lt. J. Burfield, RN. - HMS RUPERT- Lt. Petrie Black, RN - HMS DEANE- Lt. Cook, RN. and HMS FITZROY- Lt/Cmdr. O. G. Stuart, RCNVR. The C-in-C's yacht Philante joined the 21st on 9 May as a replacement for HMS REDMILL, Lt. John Denne, RN, which had been torpedoed in Donegal Bay on the morning of 27 April 1945. She was laying up in Lisahally with 60ft of her stern missing, and suffered 32 fatal casualties.

The first 'guard-ship' was the S/O ship HMS CONN which sent her motor boat loaded with an armed boarding party to await the first U-boat to come in, it was anti-climax - nothing was sighted! On the morning of 10 May, with BYRON as guard-ship, the first u- boat hov into sight. It was 0940hrs, on a grey and dull morning, flying the obligatory Black Flag, U-1009 crept slowly into the Loch, the boarding party of BYRON scrambled aboard to take the surrender and secure the boat. The Commander of the boat Korvettenkapitan Hilgendorf and his boat were escorted into the Loch and anchored near BYRON. All ships were on full alert until U-1009 was made safe, no repeat of the Grand Fleet surrender of 1918 in Scapa.

Two more surrendered to the 21st on 10 May. The third was U-1105 which surrendered to CONN, Korvettenkapitan Schwartz was the commander who had tried to sink REDMILL. It was the one and only operation that U-1105 had sailed on. The U-boats continued to come in at regular intervals over the next few days, with boarding parties having to be put on boats and then escorting them to Loch Alsh for complete disarmament, the crews taken off and the officers on their way to POW camps. The boats after cleansing, with a few German seamen left on board with the armed guards were escorted over to their despersal point at Lisahally where they would await their fate.

By 18 May, eighteen U-boats had surrendered in Loch Erinbol to the 21st E/G, for the next two days nothing of note happened and the group were able to get themselves sorted out for it had been a hectic 8 days for them. On the night of the 19 May a signal was received from the 9th Canadian E/G of HMCS's Loch Alvie - Mantane - Monnow - St. Pierre - Nene and Caister Castle, they had been detached from returning from a Russian Convoy to make their way home. They had spotted a whole group of U-boats, took them over and escorted them to Loch Erinbol turning them over to the 21st E/G and the procedure of surrender was again set in motion.

At 1800hrs on 22 May, with Philante and BYRON already in Lisahally, CONN, FITZROY, DEANE and RUPERT escorted the last of the U-boats to their dispersal point, the escorts and ten U-boats arrived in the Foyle at 1630hrs on 23 May. Thirty three U-boats had availed themselves of the surrender in Loch Erinbol, by far the largest number of seagoing U-boats to surrender in any one port in the UK. The 21st E/G returned to their Belfast base for the last time.

The 21st E/G had been involved in many incidents since they were first formed in August 1944 in Belfast.  They were the first Captain Class Frigates to be used on a Russian Convoy, later joined by 15th E/G also out of Belfast. They sank four U-boats, three in 36 hours at the end of March 1945 and the first week in April.  They were the last and youngest group formed for Western Approaches.  As individual escorts they had taken part in Channel actions and the invasion on "D"-Day. Some had taken convoys through the Mediterranean.  Their S/O, Raymond Hart, had been CO of Vidette at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic and during the invasion was CO of Havelock.  Previously he had seen service in the Mediterranean.

After his retirement from the Royal Navy, where he reached the rank of Captain, Hart was made a CBE to go with his DSO - DSC and Bar, now 81 he lives in retirement at Southampton.

After the disbandment of the 21st E/G in early June, CONN, BYRON and FITZROY were ordered to Norway to help in the relief of Bergen and joined the Victory Parade. A few months later, like many of these ships they were returned to the USA where they were broken up.  A pity for they were excellent ships.

On their way to Lisahally on 21 May 45 the following signal was received by 21st E/G from Admiral Max Horton. Viz;

Signal to 21st E/G. Number 2041. T/B/S/P/L. T/O/R 2015/21/5/45
"GOODBYE. MY MOST SINCERE THANKS FOR THE WHOLE HEARTED AND EFFICENT CO-OPERATION YOU HAVE GIVEN. WHEN I KNEW I WAS COMING TO THIS JOB I ASKED FOR THE BEST GROUP THEY COULD FIND. I GOT IT. YOUR FINAL ESCORT OF TEN U-BOATS TO LISAHALLY IS A FITTING TRIBUTE TO YOUR CAREER IN WESTERN APPROACHES" HORTON C in C WA.

Reply from 21st E/G SO CONN Viz;
YOUR EXTREMELY GENEROUS AND KIND SIGNAL IS MUCH APPRECIATED, WE ARE PROUD TO HAVE BEEN SELECTED FOR THIS JOB AND FORTUNATE TO WORK UNDER YOUR ORDERS, WE WILL DO OUR BEST TO DELIVER THEM SAFELY.
HART CONN SO 21st E/G, 21/5/45

 

U-boat Surrender to 21st Escort Group loch Erinbol
Viz; K509 HMS CONN (S/O) Lt.Cdr. Raymond Hart.

K508 HMS BYRON K551 HMS DEANE K561 HMS RUPERT  K553 HMS FITZROY

May 10-May 22, 1945

21st later supplemented by Canadian 9th E/G.
K428 HMCS loch Alive K444 HMCS Mantane K270 HMCS Nene
K441 HMCS Monnow K608 HMCS St. Pierre plus MLS??

Overall command HMS Philante Flag Officer Western Approaches Admiral Max Horton
 

U-boat #
Dept, L/E.
Captain Arr/L.E. B/Party Esc. L/A
U-1009
1300/10th
Lt. Hingendorf 0940/05-10-45 Byron Byron
U-1305
1300/10th
Helmut Christiansen 1048/05-10-45 Deane Byron
U-1105
0730/11th
Lt. Schwartz 1930/05-10-45 Conn Rupert
U-1058
0730/11th
Hermann Bruder 1700/05-10-45 Rupert Rupert
U-826
1300/11th
Cpt. Olaf Lubcke 1745/05-10-45 Fitzroy Fitzroy
U-293
1300/11th
Lt.Cdr. Klingspor 0935/05-11-45 Fitzroy Fitzroy
U-802
0700/12th
Lt.Cdr. Schmoekel 1445/05-11-45 Philante Deane
U-1109
2300/12th
Freidrich van Riesen 1500/05-12-45 Conn Conn
U-825
1300/13th
Lt. Stoeiker 0730/05-13-45 Byron Fitzroy
U-956
1300/13th
Lt. Ohling 0730/05-13-45 Byron Fitzroy
U-532
2300/13th
Cdr. Jinker 0730/05-13-45 Rupert Rupert
U-1231
2300/13th
Cpt. Lessing 1330/05-13-45 Rupert Rupert
U-516
2030/14th
Cdr. Wiebe 1400/05-14-45 Fitzroy Fitzroy
U-1010
2030/14th
Cpt. Gunther Strauch 1425/05-14-45 Philante Fitzroy
U-764
0600/15th
Lt. V. Bremen 2000/05-14-45 Fitzroy Deane
U-244
0600/15th
Lt. Fischer 2030/05-14-45 Deane Deane
U-255
1200/17th
Lt. Piening 0800/05-15-45 Byron Byron
U-2326
1850/18th
Lt. Jobst 1200/05-18-45 Fitzroy Fitzroy

The following were escorted into Loch Erinbol and turned over to 21st E/G
by Canadian 9th E/G as above for disposal

U-294 Heinz Schutt Loch Alvie 9th E/G
U-968 Lt. Westphalen Matane 9th  E/G
U-481
2000/20th
Lt. Andersen Monnow 9th E/G
U-997 Lt. Lehemann Nene 9th E/G
U-716 Lt. Dunkelberg St Pierre 9th E/G
U-992 Lt. Falke MLS .
U-668 Lt. Eickstadt Byron Conn
U-1165
2002/21st
Lt. Homann Byron (Skel. 2) Fitzroy
U-427 Lt. Gudenus Conn Caister Castle
U-278 Lt.Cdr. Franze Philante Arrived Loch Alsh 0815/05-22-45
U-318 Lt. Will Conn (Skel Guard) .
U-363 Lt. Cdr. Nees Deane Rupert
U-312 Lt. Cdr. K-H-Nicolay Rupert Deane
U-313 Lt. Schneigger Fitzroy Byron
U-295 Lt. Wieboldt Fitzroy (Skel Guard) 2030/05-21-45. Arrived
Loch Alsh 1000/05-22-45

Armed Guards transferred as follows:
Conn from U-427 to U-716
Fitzroy from U-313 to U-992
Deane from U-363 to U-1165

At 1800/05-22-45 Conn, Fitzroy, Deane and
Rupert sailed for Londonderry escorting the following U-boats:
U-312
U-992
U-717
U-1165
arriving at Lisahally Loch Foyle 1630/05-23-45.

 

Pat Godwin.jpg (75138 bytes)
Pat Godwin
HMS FITZROY K 553
1924-2006

 

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