This will not be the action you have been searching for as the date is after D-Day but I do hope that it helps with your research.The next night but one I was out again, but in strength this time. I had four boats on patrol, R. R. Smith (M.T.B. 629), Stewart Marshall (624) and ]ohn Whitby (621), while I led in my own boat (617). We repeated our patrol - down the coast from Cap d’Antifer to Le Havre. Just north of Cape de La Héve we received a report of ships leaving harbour, and prepared for an attack as soon as they got round the corner. We turned in towards the coast in line abreast ready for either torpedo or gun attack, and soon picked up the enemy patrol moving slowly along the coast. We closed at slow speed, hoping for some measure of surprise, but when we got to within approximately 1,000 yards range I heard the single bang of starshell going up and knew we were detected. I ordered all the boats to illuminate and stand by with 6-pounder guns, and away went the rockets. When they burst we could see a long line of ships, two larger ones leading - either ‘Northern’ Class trawlers or corvettes followed by five or six big R boats tailed by another trawler or ‘M’ Class.
I gave the order to open fire at the second in line and real salvos of 6-pounder shells flew on their way. The results were completely unexpected and far beyond our wildest dreams. The target received four shells as one. I watched them curve over leisurely and hit - there was a magnificent gout of flame and smoke and the corvette blew up, debris flew high into the air, and she was left with no upperworks and completely smothered in flame from stem to stern. I shifted the boats on to the next target, the leading R boat, and within a few seconds the same thing happened - she exploded in a vivid sheet of flame - cocked her stern in the air and sank before our eyes. This was the thing our gunners had been dreaming about. We swung into line ahead and raced down the line of enemy ships at about 500 yards’ range, pelting them with all guns. We were starting to get hit but not seriously, though the shore batteries were beginning to bother us.
The Hun seemed completely shattered by the spectacle of two of his ships exploding within a few seconds. We rather suspected that they had loads of mines aboard – nothing else could explain the fury of the explosions. The battle started to reach a crescendo as their gunners got our range and the shore batteries added their full weight. We were outgunned; 8-inch shells from the shore batteries were falling all round us. We had one last quick run in and saw that two more of the R boats were smoking and damaged, and then I led off -it was time to go. As we disengaged, making smoke and zig-zagging, Stewart (624) and ‘Stinker’ Smith (629) received bad near misses and then Stewart had real bad luck. An 8-inch shell from the shore batteries plunged underneath the stern and exploded under his boat. I believe she took off and flew for a few yards. Certainly when the noise and smoke had subsided the boat was a veritable wreck. Everything in her was shaken loose; engines, petrol tanks, all the fittings had broken loose from their mountings. Stewart didn’t seem dismayed. The usual calm voice over the R/T reported a near miss and on he struggled and, what is more, made it. We all got back, bits missing here and there, but in the best of heart. We were making our mark at last – forcibly and frequently.
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests