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Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:19 pm
by Croatian Navy
This is true story about battle near island of Vir on 11st/12th October 1944.

Any comments are welcome!

On 10th October 1944 in 13:00 hrs from harbor Komiža (island of Vis) sailed the British group consisting of motor gunboat MGB - 662 (Lieutenant Bligh T.J.) and the torpedo boats MTB - 634 (Lieutenant W. E. A. Blount), M.T.B. - 637 (Lieutenant R. C. Davidson) and M.T.B. - 638 (Lieutenant D. Lummis). The group was commanded by Lieutenant Bligh, and her task was the night patrol of territorial waters between the islands of Molat and Vir, and then the return on island of Vis. Specifically, the sea area between Molat and Vir was the bottleneck of an important sea route connecting the town of Rijeka with the town of Zadar. Since the constant pressure of partisan land communications with Dalmatia was constantly interrupted, the only option was to supply by the sea. One of the ways was the Velebit Channel (Rijeka - Ražanac), but this route was longer of the aforementioned directions Rijeka - Zadar. How on island of Vir were almost never located the German units, so the British were free to use its bank to ambush German convoys.
The direction of movement of the British group was the port of the island of Ist because there should first gather fresh information from the British and partisan scout who watched around the area. In Ist harbor first came at about 18 hours and 45 minutes MTB - 634, to be followed by the whole group met again and went about 19 hours and 45 minutes to the shore of island of Vir. In 20 hours and 40 minutes group sailed under the northwest coast of the island of Vir, and there decided to wait for the eventual German convoy or an individual vessel. In fact, according to information supplied by the British and the partisans scouts, German convoy composed 4-5 landing ships before 3-4 days arrived in the port of Zadar, and it was to be expected these days to return to Rijeka.
The night was very dark and quiet, and the only thing they noticed on the southern horizon was flashes of lightning. About 22 hours and 45 minutes above island of Molat they have seen three luminous flares, and after an hour they saw the glowing traces of bullets. Commander of the group is thought to be an attack of German aircraft to the island, but after they saw an explosion of large caliber shells he realized that it was an attack from the sea. Having assumed that that was the attack, one to two MFP port on the island of Molat, at midnight and 39 minutes commander Bligh sent the MTB - 634 to survey the situation east of the same island. After repeated contact with partisan patrol on MTB - 634 are out to get near the lighthouse Veli Rat there are two German destroyers. At the British torpedo boat in 2 hours and 23 minutes set the torpedoes and light radar and went to meet the enemy. But not one single German ship where there. In his later report, the British commander of the group regretted that not immediately sent to that place entire group and attack German ships. Fortunately for him that he didn`t do that. Specifically, the bombing of the island of Molat was the German operation "Da Capo" in which participated an torpedo boat (TA-40), two corvettes (UJ-202 and UJ-208) and eight torpedo boats. This is a respectable force, which would certainly destroy all British ships.

In 3:45 hrs all British ships were sent from the sea near the island of Vir, and they spent the whole day in harbor of island of Ist, until 18:25 hrs, now 11th October, when they again sailed in the direction of island of Vir. During the voyage, at about 22:20 hrs, on MTB - 634 has canceled the starboard engine, and the whole group temporarily halted. Boating is again resumed in 23:00 hrs, a group of boats in the column on the coast of the island of Vir in the north. The night was very somber, with a lot of low cloudiness. On the mainland was blowing light north wind. At about the same time, on the northern tip of the island of Vir (rt Vrulja) approached the German convoy which sailed from Rab in the direction of town of Zadar and town of Sibenik. The convoy was composed of the following ships: as the leading boat at the head of the convoy there was a MFP - 973 (commander Scharnat) where also was convoy commander Lieutenant Horst. Step to the left of the leading ship was sailing infantry landing craft I - O - 01 (commander Rückert). Step to the right of the leading ship was sailing motor tanker Habicht, followed by MFP - 625 (commander Wagner). On the back of the column was MFP - 942 (commander Wieland). Although the group was ordered to sail, due to possible ambush the British at a distance of 1.5 - 2 NM from the coast, German commander ignored the command and he sail to only 150 - 200 meters from the shore.

When M.G.B. - 662 in 23:06 hrs passed lighthouse on island of Vir, in front of him, at about 350 meters away, there were German ships. The surprise was complete on both sides, but it seems that the Germans were still observed first opponent, with the leading German ship immediately opened fire on a strong British gunboat. From the first hits of 20 mm Flackfierling was disabled on MGB-662 twin Oreilkon 20 mm gun and its crew. However, the British were very fast and they opened fire. The most British shells hit leading German ship MFP - 973 on which they are soon thrown out of the fight 88 mm and 20 mm cannon. They also set fire to boxes with ammunition which has further illuminated the ship. The crew quickly threw boxes into the sea, and at least briefly alleviated the situation. Soon with accurate British fire of 20 mm cannons on German ships I - 01 and Habicht all guns were out of action and they start to sail in northern coast of the island of Vir. After the gunners on 6pdr gun on M.G.B. - 662 saw on their side German MFP - 625, they shoot on it in short time few deadly shells were hit the German boat. MFP - 625 stopped, and quickly began to fill with water. Due to the short distance to use the torpedo was not possible. About 23:14 hrs, the British squadron come on the forehead of German convoy and they first sailed to the West and then to the South. About 23:46 hrs ritish ships again set sail to the North. During that time MFP - 973 are severely damaged attempting to obtain shore near the lighthouse, and the only remain undamaged German ship was MFP - 942. MFP - 625 was left lying on the battleground and around 23:45 hrs it turned and sank. Its crew was picked up by the I-01.
About 23:53 hrs British have seen the shadow of two ships along the coast, and MTB - 637 fire light rockets. Gunboat immediately opened fire in the direction of German ships (I - 01 and Habicht), but soon was heading from the lighthouse is open fierce fire on British ships. It was this fire that rescued two German ships which were able to bypass north cape of island of Vir and sneak along the northern coast of Vir. The attack on the British ships was carried out with MFP - 942, and the only landmark for the British gunners were flashing their guns, since he was in the dark shadow that coast was providing. After a brief artillery duel British were about midnight began to move in the direction of the north, and after five minutes of sailing in the direction of the west and then in south direction. Knowing that German boats are still dangerous, commander of the British band has decided to wait out the Moon and his group around Midnight and 28 minutes, stopped at the open sea, about 2 NM from the position where they were German ships.

During that time the Germans were trying to repair the severe damage on the MFP - 973 and because entering of water through two holes in the stern, MFP - 942 had also to be stranded. Only capable weapon for firing was 88 mm gun that was on MFP - 942, but it has no ammunition, so it must be transferred from the MFP - 973. Because of the precautions the Germans in the interior of their ships put explosive charges that were supposed to destroy their boats if they would not be repaired, and there is a danger that the enemy captured them. All the injured soldiers were transported to the interior of the island, a guard on the land gave the soldiers from service for disinfection, which are transported on MFP`s. During the transfer of wounded soldiers, they entered in the minefield, and three soldiers were heavily injured. This minefield was put by Wehrmacht and Navy didn`t know about it.
In 1:51 hrs came the Moon out and in 2:21 hrs MGB - 662 fired several luminous shells and after twenty minutes of observation MGB - 662 and MTB - 634 went in search of the coastal edge. About 2:51 hrs they saw German vessels, and MGB - 662 open immediately a strong fire that destroyed 88 mm cannon on the MFP - 942. After five minutes M.T.B. - 634 set out to torpedo attack, but its two torpedoes missed the target because of the shallow sea, and in that time, the Germans, realizing the hopelessness of the situation, activate the explosive charge on their ships. The British were still two hours remained in the vicinity and occasionally opening fire from their guns to an already destroyed MFP. About 3:55 hrs they went in the direction of island of Ist.
During that time the Germans were able to switch over to the island's elevation in the direction of the village Lozice, while I - 01 in dawn managed to get to port of Zadar, with the first transport the wounded soldiers. After returning, it transferred another group of wounded soldiers in port of village of Privlaka at 19:00 hrs. The transfer of other soldiers had been agreed for the nocturnal hours of 13th October.

On 13 October at about 17:00 hrs from village of Lozica to village of Vir headed the rest of the German soldiers, a precursor of the five German soldiers led by Lieutenant corvettes Albrecht and Wieland are using human shields (a few residents of Vir) moved in the direction of the port. When this group came close to the village wather tank (near the present post office) was met with an armed villager Ante Basic which has an automatic rifle and he seriously wounded Wieland (later died at the Zadar hospital). Germans or in panic or in rage started shooting at the locals who were there found, and were killed Niko Liveric and severely hurt Sime Buskulic, who shortly afterwards died of injuries. After the bloody events, all German soldiers were able to move to the mainland, and about 23:00 hrs they were with trucks village of Privlake brought in town of Zadar.

Total in this battle the Germans lost three MFP`s and had great human losses. Of the 26 crew members on MFP - 973; four crew members were killed, three was seriously wounded and easier eight. Of the 22 crew members on MFP - 942 three was killed, two crew members were seriously wounded, one easier and one was missing. Of the 21 crew members on MFP - 625 four was killed and five were wounded. From seven crew members on I - 01, two died and two were wounded harder. The human losses of the crew on the motor tanker Habicht are not known to me but that tanker stayed grounded on the north part of island of Vir and partisans captured it on 17th October and bring it to port of Molat.

British losses were significantly lower, and ships only slightly damaged. The human losses were one killed - A. B. Stone gunner on MGB-662, two heavy and one easily wounded.

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:25 pm
by Croatian Navy
Here is some interesting photos:
1. How that place looks today and my little ship
2. Part of plate
3. Part of compass of MFP-942
4. The remains of MFP-942 on the bottom today. You can see Breda 20 mm gun.
5. MGB-662 crew on the bridge. First man is legendary T.J. Bligh. Only man vithout cap is A.B. Stone which was killed in battle near island of Vir.

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:27 pm
by Croatian Navy
In 50` remains of the German ships are taken to the breaker 's yards but many part remains on the bottom. Among them lots of antisubmarine mines, 88 mm, 37 mm and 20 mm grenades and lots of 7,9 mm bullets.

On the picture You can see detonation of one antisubmarine mine few years ago.

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:17 pm
by Admin
Hello Croation Navy

Thank you for your informative post, and for giving us the benefit of your research into the action around the island of Vir involving MTB 638 and others.

You may already be aware of the official Royal Navy report for this action, but this London Gazette supplement: Coastal Forces Actions available to read on line, features a number of official reports of actions conducted by Coastal Forces during the Second World War, including the battle that took place around Vir on 11th/12th October 1944.

It is particularly interesting to gain a perspective on this action from the point of view of the German forces involved and to learn of the fact they scuttled some of their boats using explosive charges, which the Royal Navy appears to have interpreted as their torpedoes hitting home, as recorded on page 5510 of the supplement.
31. At 0310, H.M.M.G.B.662 decided to close the small piece of F-lighter still visible to try and identify it. Smoke was being carried away from the shore by a light breeze and H.M.M.G.B.662 went through this " screen " to the southwards at 0314. At that moment I found myself only 50 yards from a beached convoy of two F-Hghters and some small craft. Fire was at once opened with all guns and the unit called up to close me with despatch. These beached craft were heavily damaged by gunfire from all boats, and the one F-lighter that was not burning was sunk by a torpedo from H.M.M.T.B.637 at 0337. During the whole of this third attack the enemy could not have fired more than twenty rounds in all.

32. It was now decided to withdraw. Two of these last F-lighters had been torpedoed, hit, and the third was well ablaze. Any small craft that were alongside the lighters had been sunk. There seemed no object in staying and it was desired to get out of the channel before the Royal Air Force came over: accordingly at 0355 the unit proceeded to 1st. All the way across the burning F-lighter was seen to beblowing up continuously.

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:55 pm
by Croatian Navy
Yes, I have those 2 reports and it is very hard to find real truth.

Let me explain one by one (btw I am "into" this action about 7 years - diving where German ships were beached and looking for MFP-625 who is still hiden in deep)

1. British report - two German convoy - 6 MFP`s, 4 PiL boats and 1 E-boot (Schnellboot) sunked and 1 MFP and 1 E-boat possibly sunk. Also 2 E-boats damadged.
--- this is not truth because in German report (I have it in original is clearly write that only 5 German ships were onvolved in battle - 3 MFP`s - MFP - 625, 942, 973, 1 motor tanker "Habicht" and 1 I-boote (Infrantiry boat) I-1). Famous writer and also a member of MGB-658 - Reynolds - is writeing in his book about Fairmile D boats (Dog Boat at War) - that he didn`t find original German report for writeing about that battle. But for all other battles he had German report. The reason is that that he didn`t want to write nothing "against" commander T. J. Bligh. All German war diaries are in National Archive in London because translation of my report is from London (Microfilms).

2. Now the real problem for me - how is MFP-625 sunked. Germans said that it was torpedo but my opinion is that that is lie. First, in British report is fact that torpedo in that stage of battle was not fired. Also I found one chapter where Bligh describe how his 6-pdr gun shoot almost 20 granates in one MFP. I think that that is the truth about how MFP-625 was sunked. When I find it on bootom, we will find the truth about that also.

3. Unsolved mistery who destroyed 2 other German MFP`s. Before I belive in German reports that they destroyed them with explosive but now I think that that is not th truth. Why?
-----a) the beached MFP on picture is probably MFP-942 (and not MFP-973 what I firstly think). It is because I found his 20 mm cannon Breda on bottom and only MFP-942 had that cannon.
-----b) as You can see on that photo there is a large hole in ship bow. Probably ship was cut on two pieces. As I told before those two MFP`s were taken off after war but many small and big parts of steel are still on the bottom. That large hole is probably from torpedo hit and explosion but problem is that the sea there is very shallow.
----c) probably MFP-942 is destroyed by torpedo but MFP-973, who was beached about 30 meters on the East, was not because there is almost no remains of that ship on the bottom of shallow water.
----d) one unexpload torpedo is still about 100 meters West of that place.

I write all that in my story about that battle. Because of all those misteries my dream is to find living members of British and German ships.

And one more thing. Sorry if my English language is not very good.

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:26 pm
by Jeffa4444
One of the German MFP boats, my late father had this in his collection. Not sure if this was torpedoed or skuttled

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 2:00 pm
by Croatian Navy
Great photo. This is probably (99%) MFP-942. I have its cannon 20 mm Breda. I will put some pictures of that cannon later.

Can You please put this picture in the biggest format, maybe scan it with 600dpi.

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:58 pm
by Croatian Navy
As I promissed, a pictures of MFP-942 20 mm cannon Breda

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:14 pm
by Croatian Navy
I just want to inform all fo You, that today I finally, after almost 10 years of searching, I found German F-lighter MFP-625 :)

Re: Battle near island of Vir

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:01 pm
by Croatian Navy
Two photos of MFP-625