Having had the chance to look at this in more depth I think there are some clarifications to be made with regards to the account of these events given in Coastal Forces at War
I would just like to preface my comments with the following observation: Len Reynolds in compiling Home Waters MTBs & MGBs
, spent years researching the subject, and as the former officer of a boat, had the benefit of personal contact with many of his fellow officers and their boat crews who completed questionnaires for him, and who supplied him with recollections and such documents or records as they had in their possession. He was also able to liaise with, and receive a lot of help from, the Naval Historical Branch, which is the Royal Navy’s own research facility, as well as the Imperial War Museum, and also the official historian of the former Coastal Forces Veterans Association (CFVA). Although the history he recorded is far from exhaustive, owing to the density of the subject, it remains as accurate a source as any in print.
There are three separate attacks involving boats of the 4th MTB Flotilla
for the months of October, November and December whose details, as recorded by Reynolds in Home Waters MTBs & MGBs at War
, may be found in full below. Jefferson in Coastal Forces at War
mentions two of these, the October attack and the December attack, but I believe he has confused the details of the December attack on the Santos
, with those of the November attack, which he doesn’t mention in his book. Jefferson has the December attack featuring torpedo misfires and a run-in by Jermain using depth charges, which were actually a feature of the November attack. The November attack saw one miss and one misfire with the two torpedoes used, with an unnamed vessel then attacked by depth charges, and presumably damaged but not sunk. The December attack featured the successful deployment of two torpedoes against the Santos
, and a third torpedo against a trawler.
Lieutenant Dennis Jermain was awarded a Mention in Dispatches for the October attack in which two enemy trawlers were sunk and a DSC for which the London Gazette
reads “For gallantry and enterprise in attacking and damaging a large enemy supply ship off the Dutch Coast”. Seedie’s List of Coastal Forces Awards
says of this award “For damaging the enemy merchant ship SANTOS off Flushing on 30 November 1940". This is where things get a little confusing again since Reynolds has the November attack occurring on an unnamed vessel off the Scheldt, and the attack off Flushing on the Santos
as being in December, so it is unclear whether this detail is an error in Seedie, or whether the Santos
was known to have been off Flushing earlier and was the vessel damaged at that time by depth charges, and then struck again a week later by torpedoes in the December attack.
The following three attacks are recorded by Reynolds for late 1940 involving the 4th MTB Flotilla
11 October 1940 – Attack on a group of trawlers off Calais
MTB 22 (Lt Cole), MTB 31 (Lt Jermain) and MTB 32 (Lt Poland) attacked a group of trawlers with torpedoes, with one being sunk immediately, and a second crippled, which Jermain in MTB 31 finished off using two depth charges, with thirty-four prisoners taken and delivered to Dover.
30 November 1940 – Attack on an unnamed vessel off the Scheldt Estuary
Reynolds account of this attack is based on personal correspondence with Lt Jermain (MTB 31), and states Jermain attacked ships at anchor off the Scheldt but missed with his first torpedo, while his second torpedo misfired. He then went in and dropped a depth charge under one vessel which resulted in an explosion and ‘great spouts of water’ from under the boat, but did not hang around to observe the result.
7 December 1940 – Santos plus one trawler sunk in an attack off of Flushing
This success was followed a week later, on 7 December, by another patrol by the 4th Flotilla off Flushing. MTB 32 (Lieutenant R Ellis RN) led, followed by 29 (Lieutenant C A James and 31 (Jermaine). After several hours patrolling, they suddenly encountered, at 100 yards range, a large merchant ship at anchor. After adjusting range and firing angle, Ellis and James each fired one torpedo and both hit. As they disengaged, they were confronted by a flak trawler whose gunners, fortunately, had not yet learned to fire low. As a bonus, a torpedo from Jermaine’s boat sank the trawler. The MTBs suffered no damage and no casualties. The merchant ship was later found to be the Santos, and her loss was confirmed. (The detail regarding the Santos was supplied by the Naval Historical Branch)
© IWM (A 4253)IWM Non Commercial Licence
Lieutenant Dennis Jermain RN (second from left, front row), CO of MTB 31, with the crew on return from sinking a merchant ship with depth charges in the Scheldt estuary, 30 November, 1940.