With the lightning-fast developing technologies of the XNUMXth century during the construction of ships, various tactical methods of naval battles of bygone centuries on the eve of World War II seemed to be long gone. Boarding, ram, extremely close range of fire contact ... But, as shown история, in order to achieve their goal, the warring parties were ready for anything, and the last boarding using cold weapons, and the battering ram also fell not at the time of the sailing fleet and pirates.
One of the first and most famous episodes of World War II was the incident with the ship "Altmark".
In February 1940, the German tanker Altmark entered neutral Norwegian waters. He transported 299 British prisoners of war captured from British merchant ships in the Atlantic, crew members sunk by the German raider Admiral Graf Spee. Chased on the heels by British destroyers, he tried to take refuge in the Jössing Fjord in southwestern Norway.
The British, suggesting that the ship would carry British prisoners, demanded that the Norwegians search the ship. Fearing to risk their neutral status, the Norwegians reluctantly agreed. On the morning of February 14, the Altmark was stopped by a Norwegian patrol torpedo boat. A Norwegian officer boarded with the intention of searching the ship. He was led to the bridge, and the German captain Heinrich Dau assured that the ship was an unarmed tanker. The Norwegian officer was satisfied with what was said and left the ship. This action is understandable in the context of that time. Norway was a neutral country, although it knew the assumption that Altmark was transporting British prisoners, therefore violating its neutrality, it was also afraid of an invasion from Germany and therefore did not want to aggravate relations.
On February 16, 1940, the destroyer "Cossack" (HMS Cossack), under the command of Captain 1st Rank Philip Vian, following the order of the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, entered the Jössingfjord, thereby violating the territorial waters of Norway. The prize crew from the ship (HMS Cossack), armed with boarding sabers and bayonets, landed on the Altmark.
As a result of a short skirmish, seven German team members were killed and five wounded, the prisoners were released. This was the last recorded use of this type of weapon in the Royal Navy boarding operation.
The Altmark team was left on board. During the attack, Altmark tried to ram the Cossack, but ran aground, and subsequently was able to independently reach the German port.
The Altmark incident was definitely a violation of Norway’s neutrality in both the UK and Germany. Neutral countries could no longer be sure of their integrity in the ensuing war. The British were encouraged by decisive action, while Hitler was furious and ordered that plans for Operation Weatherbung (the invasion of Scandinavia) be accelerated.
The Altmark, renamed the Uckermark on 6 August 1940, continued to be used as an auxiliary and supply vessel. November 30, 1942, while in the port of Yokohama, as a result of a spark during repair work in the fuel tanks, there was an explosion that tore the Uckermark apart. As a result of the catastrophe, 53 crew members were killed, "Tor" and "Nanjing", standing next to each other, were damaged and sank. The surviving members of the Ukkermarka crew went home on the Kriegsmarine's auxiliary vessel Doggerbank. On March 3, 1943, the Doggerbank was mistakenly attacked by the German submarine U-43 and sank. Only one (out of 365) people on board survived.
The destroyer "Cossack" (HMS Cossack) on October 23, 1941 was damaged by a torpedo explosion after the attack of the German submarine U-563. As a result of the explosion, the bow of the ship was torn off, the captain and 158 members of the destroyer crew were killed. On October 25, a tugboat leaving Gibraltar took the Cossack in tow, but as a result of a storm on October 27, 1941, the Cossack sank in the Atlantic west of Gibraltar.
Altmark in the Yossing Fjord
The naval battle at Cape Matapan is little known in Russia, although in the West it is one of the most famous clashes at sea in World War II.
On March 28, 1941, the Pola, a heavy cruiser of the Royal Italian Navy, was damaged by a torpedo of an English torpedo bomber during the battle and lost its course.
At night, the British destroyer Hevok fired a lighting projectile and found a cruiser standing idle, swaying slightly on a weak wave. Soon, the Greyhound and the Griffin joined the Havok, then the destroyer JMS (HMS Jervis) came up to the board of the Paula. The Jervis prize team landed on the Pola, having met no resistance from the Italians.
This situation can be called boarding at a stretch, but as it was, it was.
The Jervis took 258 people out of more than 1000 crew members, including the captain, off the Pola, the rest jumped overboard after the cruiser got hit by a torpedo in the boiler room. According to the British, the cruiser did not have “a shadow of order and discipline”, a considerable part of the prisoners was drunk, officers' cabins were looted by sailors, the deck “littered with personal belongings and bottles.” These allegations of the British were later refuted by Italians and were called "British propaganda."
Regretfully abandoning the idea of towing a ship, the cruiser was sunk by two torpedoes.
The destroyer "Jervis" (HMS Jervis) during his career went through the whole war. Fights accompanied by convoys, Sirte, landing in Sicily, battles in the Aegean Sea, landing at Anzio, landing in Normandy. He was seriously injured several times, but none of the crew members died or was injured in battle.
The battle on a stormy night on November 1, 1943 between the American destroyer Bori (DD-215 Borie) and the German submarine U-405 in the waters of the North Atlantic is described in the article “The Battle in the Atlantic. A ram in the night ”, where during the battle a ram was also used, small arms, knives and even shell shells.
But the battle between the Buckley destroyer (DE-51USS Buckley) and the U-66 submarine, when the submarine crew, seemingly in a hopeless situation, only miraculously did not capture the ship, was more unusual.
By May 6, 1944, for nine patrols on account of U-66, a large ocean-going German submarine of type IX-C, there were thirty-three sunk vessels (200 gross). The boat left on its tenth and final expedition on January 021, 16 under the command of Lieutenant Gerhard Seehausen.
Together with U-66, three more boats went on a hike. The group’s goal is to disrupt the enemy’s marine communications off the coast of West Africa. In 1944, the Allies practically deprived the boat commanders of the opportunity not only to open an account in the campaign, but also to reach the place of patrol. The times of brilliant successes of the wolf packs have long passed. Improved radar design, increased maritime composition aviation, multiple anti-submarine search and strike groups - all this critically complicated the life of German submariners in the Atlantic, which a couple of years ago was almost their undivided estate.
At one o'clock in the morning of May 1, the acoustics of the Block Island escort aircraft carrier (CVE-21 USS “Block Island”), who led the US Navy tactical group 21.11 (TG 21.11), again detected the signal from U-66. A torpedo bomber Grumman TBF Avenger flew up from the deck of the escort in the night sky, which made radar contact and attacked the boat with depth charges. Bombs fell by, the ships of the group TG 21.11 began the pursuit of U-66, which lasted five days.
In the daytime, the submarine barely crawled underwater on electric motors, and with the onset of darkness made attempts to break away in the water position. But by the evening of May 5, the fuel reserves were completely exhausted, the batteries were almost exhausted, and I had to float up. A mark appeared on the radar screens of TG 21.11 ships, but the contact immediately disappeared. It was U-66, which also detected the enemy and immediately went to the depths. At 2 a.m. on May 6, the boat nevertheless surfaced again.
At 02:16, the Avenger reconnaissance aircraft, equipped with radar, made contact again. The boat was on the surface about 20 miles from the Buckley. Data from the aircraft was transmitted over the radio, pointing the destroyer at the target. It was decided not to open fire until the very last moment.
Suddenly, three red rockets fired from the U-66 suddenly flashed in the sky. Was this a challenge, or did Seehausen still hope that it was the U-188, which he had been waiting for a few days ago for refueling? Lieutenant Commander B. M. Abel, captain of the Buckley, did not have time to think.
At 03:20, having opened fire from the bow guns, the destroyer set off in pursuit. German submariners immediately returned fire and, squeezing the remaining fuel, tried to leave. The very first salvo of the bow-mounted 76-mm Buckley guns hit the target. Fixed hit in the starboard side under the cabin of the boat and instead of installing 105-mm guns. The return fire of the anti-aircraft machine guns of the submarine was dense, but tracer shells passed over the heads of the destroyer personnel. Fire from the deck gun of the submarine damaged the Buckley chimney. The personnel reported on the torpedo track, passing on the starboard side. 20-mm and 40-mm destroyer shells tore the cabin of the submarine. The fire from the submarine was weakened, with the exception of intermittent short bursts. The U-66 quickly maneuvered at a speed of about 19 knots, obviously trying to fire another torpedo from the stern guns, but without making any attempt to dive.
At some point, the Buckley and the U-66 caught up, walking in parallel courses. American commandants firing at a distance of only 20 yards, the boat is fired from the bow to the stern of 20 mm and 40 mm machine gun fire at point blank range. Then Abel ordered the helmsman to put the steering wheel on board.
The situation repeats, as in the case of Bori and U-405. The submarine and the ship firmly interlocked. But the crew of the U-66 were quick. Having got out of the hatches and stuck around the wheelhouse, they opened fire from machine guns and pistols. At some point, the sailors on the Buckley were forced to hide. And then the Americans were literally dumbfounded by surprise. The assault group of the submarine, shaking their weapons, climbed aboard the destroyer in an attempt to board it!
"Stand By to Repel Boarders!" ("Standing in places, reflecting boarding!") - Abel commanded. The team seemed to emerge from the clubs of gunpowder smoke of previous centuries. Everything that was at hand went into action: knives, shell shells and even coffee mugs. Finally, having received rifles and hand grenades, the destroyer team manages to fight off the submariners, captivating five. Hand grenades flew from the Buckley deck, one of which explodes in the open hatch of the submarine’s conning tower. By this time, the bow of the destroyer had slid off the deck of the boat. The submarine turns to the left, and then sharply jerked to the right to ram the destroyer. The hull of the ship shuddered in shock. The Buckley turned away a little, and then again went straight onto the boat. Three direct hits from 76-mm guns in the wheelhouse. The submarine disappears beneath the surface of the water with an open conning tower hatch and fire blazing from it, apparently completely abandoned and out of control. At 03:39 a deep, deep underwater explosion was heard, followed by smaller explosions. U-66 finally sank. Over the next three hours, the Buckley moved slowly around the area, collecting a total of thirty-six surviving submariners, including four officers.
At midnight on May 7, the damaged Buckley retired to New York, where it underwent repairs until June 14, 1944.
The Buckley destroyer (DE-51USS Buckley) went through the entire war. He participated in the sinking of the German U-879 submarine on April 19, 1945, was expelled from the US Navy in 1968 and sold for scrap in July 1969.
On August 28, 1942, in the Caribbean, the Canadian Oakville Corvette (HMCS Oakville) rammed a U-94 submarine three times.
Due to the damage caused by the bombardment from the Catalina plane, which covered the TAW-15 convoy from the air, ramming and shelling from Oakville, the commander of the submarine, Lieutenant Otto Ites, assessing the situation as hopeless, ordered the crew to leave the boat. Canadians even landed on a boat in an attempt to capture code tables and Enigma, but did not succeed.
Oakville captain Clarence King in December 1942 was awarded the Order of Outstanding Merit for the sinking of U-94. A World War I veteran, Clarence King already had the Outstanding Merit Cross after serving on trap vessels for submarines. In 1944, he participated in the sinking of four other German submarines: U-845, U-448, U-311 and U-247, and was re-awarded the Cross for Outstanding Merits.
Otto Ites was held captive by the Americans until the spring of 1946. He continued his service in the Bundesmarin (Federal Republic of Germany). He retired in 1977 with the rank of rear admiral.
History has preserved many cases of successful ramming by the forces of the USSR Navy during the Second World War.
On December 8, 1944, at 22 pm, the Zhivuchiy destroyer destroyer under the command of H. D. Ryabchenko (Northern Fleet) discovered a submarine in the area of Porchnichy Bay by radar. Increasing the stroke to 45 knots, he began to approach her. Two torpedoes were fired at the attacking destroyer from the submarine. From them, "Tenacious" managed to evade, and then rammed the boat with a bow, breaking through its sturdy hull from the port side. Having reversed, opened artillery fire. After the boat began to sink, three series of depth bombs were dropped from the destroyer. As a result of a combined strike (ram, artillery, depth charges), the enemy boat U-24 was sunk. But the main role in this was played by a successfully executed ram.
(CVMA, f. 11, d. 23129, l. 120-121.)
In the sinking of U-387, not everything is clear. In Soviet historical writings, the death of U-387 was attributed to the destroyer Zhivuchiy (3rd rank captain ND Ryabchenko). The British believe that they sunk the boat with depth charges from the HMS Bamborough Castle corvette. Perhaps N.D. Ryabchenko attacked U-1163, which was in the same square and was also attacked in time by almost a minute per minute, as in the episode with U-387.
Be that as it may, N.D. Ryabchenko was awarded the Order of Nakhimov, II degree, for attacking a submarine.
The U-578 submarine received serious damage as a result of the ram. On November 25, 1941, the patrol ship Breeze, under the command of Lieutenant V. A. Kireev, while on patrol, found an enemy submarine marching on the surface and attacked it.
“A Bold Ram at Sea,” Pravda newspaper, December 5, 1941
Although the "battering ram" and "boarding" seem terribly old and out of date, but as history shows, they are still used during sea battles.
Roscoe Theodore. In the battle with the "wolf packs." US destroyers: war in the Atlantic.