July30 ,222 at 09:00 UPDATE
THE SHOWBOAT engages THE IRON CHANCELLOR
Green is the new stuff Blue is old stuff I think is necessary to support new stuff
Please note you will find a few Green dates with blue log entries. This means I altered the chronology of events
There are also some Blue Dates with Green log entries or a combo Blue and Green. WIP still learning this business.
Let me know if you want a complete ATL year to date posting.
21 MAY 1941 0430 COMMODORE: R-Adm H ROGERS MVO OBE ordered HX-123 to secure from Morning Action Stations by signal flag. If half the convoy got it right they would be doing well he thought with a tired grin. They had been at sea long enuogh now for there to be a really good chance noone would confuse the “stand easy” for an emergency course or speed change. They now had daylight until 23:05 hours, should make the ASW problem easier, although it did not stop yesterday’s daylight attack.
21 MAY 1941 0635 After escort reported by siganl lamp that Norwegion HEINA of 4,028 ton carrying general cargo had been sighted and was closing the convoy at 12 kts. After clearing the area of the massacre yesterday, HX-123 had slowed to 6 kts and headed to the current rendezvous point to recover returning stragglers, give damaged ships a chance to repair machinery and get back to convoy speed of 8 kts and allow the rescue ship to catch up. COPELAND (ex Iceland) built in 1923 of 1,526 was the designated RESCUE ship of HX-123.
Copeland was one of those charmed ships; after sailing in 71 convoys and rescueing 433 survivors she “outlived” the war. COPELAND was a typical Rescue ship of WW II. She was a designated convoy rescue ship and as such accompanied many Atlantic convoys to rescue survivors from ships that had been attacked. Rescue ships were small freighters with passenger accommodation converted to rescue service. Primary changes were enlarging galley, food storage areas and enlarged berthing and head facilities for around 150 men in addition to her crew and a very much used and very valuable small operating room for an embarked naval doctor and his corpsmen. Rescue ships also had permanent scrambling nets along the sides, and replaced the typical lifeboast with very maneuverable “sea Boats”; ideal craft for North Atlantic sea and weather conditions, manned by really expert small boat crews.
8 MAY 1941 0630 Scout planes return, reporting nothing within 150 miles of TG Brinkmann TG Kapitän zur See Helmuth Brinkmann OTC of Brinkmann TG, on the bridge of Prinze Eugene, decides it is time to detach Kapitäns zur See Lindemann’s Bismark to proceed to engage a convoy reported by BdU to the South East, about 12 hours steaming at 20 kts. He will take “The Prince” on a course to intercept the convoy attacked on the 21 May (HX-123) confirmed not to have capital ship escort. He should be up to the convoy by 1900 today at 20 kts. Splitting TG Brinkmann doubles his ability to kill convoys, especially with the Royal Navy in such disarray and stretched so thin after the Denmark Straight battle. It is a risk but success will justify and sheild him from the wrath of the High Command. Using his 7 operational Arado Ar 196s with their long range, decent speed (for a scout), heavy MG and auto canon armament and bomb load werw excellent scouts. They also provided a means of secure comunication (message drop or blinker light) with Bismarck. He could also plead he stayed within easy and fast mutual support and, if the situation required, all of TG Brinkmann could concentrate long before a capital ship force could engage. He discounted the RN carriers which had performed dismally so far in both the attack and scouting role.
28 MAY 1941 0700 Kapitän zur See Helmuth Brinkmann OTC of Brinkmann TG orders a flag hoist signal, detaching Kapitäns zur See Lindemann’s Bismarck to proceed, per previously issued orders, and to rejoin at noon on the 30 May.
28 MAY 1941 1620 Prinze Eugene’s Arado Ar 196 makes visual contact with HX-123. He made two complete circuits of the convoy flying just under the broken clouds, carefully noting it's posit, course, speed, number and type of merchants and escorts before being detected.
28 MAY 1941 1625 The Prince’s scout Arado’s amplifing contact report was handed to OTC of Brinkmann TG. Confirmation of original posit, 30 odd merchantmen, some damaged, no capital ships revised course and speed. The Arado pilot and observer failed to recognize the CAM ship, after all there would never be more than 12 in service and at his shadowing distance the Cat and Hurry, both painted the same as the ship, were very easy to miss. OTC ordered his flag navigator to figure out a course at 20 kts to intercept the convoy. Judging by the chart plot the latest BdU convoy estimated position report had been very accurate. Brinkmann had taken a gamble and based his and Bismarck's divergent courses on making contact with the two closest convoys. His navigator's initial interception course had placed The Prince ahead and north of this convoy at a range of a little more than 100 miles. The revised intercept course required only a few degrees course change. Estimated time of contact was 2035 that gave him 3 hours of daylight to finish off the convoy; more than enough time. He gave the order imediately.
28 MAY 1941 1628 One of the escorts, whose radar was working better than the others, after tracking this small intermittent spike for about 15 minutes, reported the contact to the Commodore by flag hoist. HX-123 was immediately ordered to Battle stations, a sharp turn to the North East and his CAM ship was to man his Hurricaine and prepare an energency urgent launch on his command. COMMODORE: R-Adm H ROGERS MVO OBE, had a very tough decisiosn to make. The main purpose of CAM ships was to threaten the long range Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor reconnaissance aircraft flown by the Huns to shadow the convoys. Winston Churchill called the Condors the "Scourge of the Atlantic" during the Battle of the Atlantic due to its contribution to the heavy Allied shipping losses by German U-boats. He hated to use his single Hurricane this early in the voyage and knew, if they survived, he would miss that Hurricane very very much. The amplifying report on the air contact held her at 15 miles and closing which meant she “probably” had not yet sighted HX-123 but would soon. His communicators informing him there had been no RT signals as yet; this was the deciding factor .
28 MAY 1941 1632 Empire Burton was a "CAM" ship (acronym for "Catapult Aircraft Merchantman") equipped with a rocket-propelled catapult launching a single Hawker Sea Hurricane. Empire Burton was crewed by 46 Merchant Navy men & officers, 12 RAF personnel, four DEMS gunners. Empire Burton's aviation mods consisted of 1, very well used, early model Hawker "Sea" Hurricane and 1 aircraft rocket catapult. Once launched the Sea Hurricane could either find land or ditch at sea. There was no provisions for landing aboard a CAM ship.
Her RAF air det imediately began the take-off procedures
The trolley receiving bar was removed at dawn.
The airmen started the aircraft and warmed up the engine at intervals.
Sergeant Pilot “Reaper” Simon Darkshade climbed into the aircraft. Reaper was from the specially formed Merchant Ship Fighter Unit, based at RAF Speke near Liverpool. Reaper liked to say "All you really needed to qualify for my squadron was to be a Hurry Pilot and certifiably as mad as a march hair." Let us just say Sergeant Pilot “Reaper” Simon Darkshade was a realist, after a year of wartime flying, who used very, very black humor to cope with his certain knowledge that his chances of surviving much longer were not very good.
28 MAY 1941 1635 COMMODORE: R-Adm H ROGERS MVO OBE, ordered his only aircraft to launch. Orders to identify and if Nazi shoot down the “snooper”. HX-123 was too far west for a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor reconnaissance aircraft but not for either a merchant raider or for one of the Ktriegsmarine warships. Both carried Arado Ar 196 scouting aircraft and, unlike his only "HurryCat", they could be recovred by their mother ship and flown many, many times.
28 MAY 1941 1636 Empire Burton hoisted the international flag code F when the decision was made to launch. (CAM ships were usually stationed at the head of the outboard port column of a convoy so they could manoeuvre into the wind for launch.)
An airman removed the pins, showed them to the pilot, and took them to the Catapult Duty Officer (CDO).
Sergeant Pilot “Reaper” Simon Darkshade applied 30 degree flaps and 1/3 right rudder.
The CDO raised a blue flag above his head to inform the ship's master of his readiness to launch.
The ship's master manoeuvred the ship into the wind and raised a blue flag above his head to authorise the launch. (The ship's master stood on the starboard bridge wing to avoid the catapult rocket blast which sometimes damaged the port side of the bridge.)
The CDO waved his blue flag indicating he was ready to launch upon a signal from the pilot.
"Reaper" Darkside opened full throttle of his "Hurricat", tightened the throttle friction nut, pressed his head back into the head-rest, pressed his right elbow tightly against his hip, and lowered his left hand as a signal to launch. "He thought, as he did with every Launch, "Now we get to see if this Rocket sled works, or I ditch right here or get blown to very little pieices."
The CDO counted to three, waited for the bow to rise from the trough of a swell, and moved the switch to fire the catapult rockets.
28 MAY 1941 1640, Sergeant Pilot “Reaper” Simon Darkshade was a happy man. He was climbing fast for the clouds on a bearing that should put him at the Arado's 6 oclock position. If not spotted during his approach he would begin his killing run in a power dive and gun the Arado pilot's brains out or rip up the aircraft before he could transmit ( he was already too late. The Arados's initial sighting report and his amplification had been recieved by The Prince almost 15 minutes before.)
28 MAY 1941 1634 The Reaper's keen eyesight spotted the Arado at his 9 oclock position couple of hundred feet above. He corrected to come up behind and above the Arado. The two man crew didn't appear to have noticed him yet. If they stayed clueless for another two minutes the twin float Arado was dead.
28 MAY 1941 1636 However, as luck would have it, he was spotted by the observer as he began his power dive. The veteran shouted a warning to his pilot as he brought his twin 7.92 mm Mgs to bear on Simon. The reaper knew, if he missed his first pass this would take time and fuel he could not spare. Despite being a "float obsrevation plane" the Arado Ar 196 was not all that easy to kill, even with it's 947hp BMW 132K 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine's Maximum speed: 193 mph. It could turn well inside his much faster Hurry and it was armed like battleship with two 20mm auto canons in the wings, one 7.92 mm MG forward and of course those two 7.92 mm MGs the observer was firing at him. He held his fire until the Arado filled his gunsight reticle and then gave it a long burst sweeping from just aft of the observer to the prop hub. Both Observer abd pilot were killed isntantly. Ther were no chutes.
“Reaper” had succeeded in making this kill quickly. He cut back his throttle and then it was an iffy fuel conserving 360 degree Recce forward quadrant out to to 50 miles, aft quadrant out to 30 miles. IF he found the "Roost" for the dead Arado within 35 miles send out an urgent contact reportand then close with the target, to get more info and hose the bridge down with his eight .303 in Brownings and set a course for Greenland, not back to HX-123. If he found nothing make that report to HX-123, climb to his Hurry's best cruising altitude, set his fuel mixture for maximum endurance, set course to Greenland and, if he was very, very lucky, he would live to dine out on this story. If not; well no one lives forever.
Sea Hurricane Mk IA was a Hurricane Mk I modified by General Aircraft Limited. They were modified to be carried by CAM ships.
The majority of the aircraft modified had suffered wear-and-tear from serving with front-line squadrons, so much so that at least one example used during trials broke up under the stress of a catapult launching. A total of 50 aircraft were converted from Hurricane Mk Is. CA
Hurricane Mk I (Early production)
The first Mk I delivered December 1937. These early aircraft featured fabric-covered wings, and a wooden, two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller. Initially the tailwheel was designed to be retractable; early on it was discovered that the Hurricane needed a larger rudder area to improve the control characteristics during a spin. To this end the lower part of the rudder was extended and a distinctive ventral "keel" was added to the rear fuselage. The tailwheel was now fixed.
Early Hurricanes lacked armour or self-sealing tanks. They used "ring and bead" gunsights, with the ring being mounted above the instrument panel and the bead mounted on a post above the engine cowling. The standard GM2 reflector gunsight was introduced in mid-1939, although many Hurricanes retained the "bead". Fuel capacity was 97 Imperial gal in two fuel tanks, each of 34.5 gal in the wing centre-section, between the spars; the fuel was pumped from these into a reserve gravity-feed tank which held an additional 28 gal in the forward fuselage, just ahead of the cockpit. This was the main fuel feed to the engine. The 7 gal oil tank was built into the forward. Mk Is were powered by the 1,029 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin C engine. The main coolant radiator was housed in a fairing under the rear wing centre-section; the oil cooler was also incorporated into the main radiator.
The aircraft handling qualities during take-off and landings were excellent due to a wide-track undercarriage with relatively wide low-pressure tyres. Because of this wide, stable platform the Hurricane was an easier aircraft to land, with less fear of nose-overs or "ground-loops" than its RAF Fighter Command counterpart the Supermarine Spitfire. During its operational life the Hurricane was able to operate from all sorts of adverse airfield surfaces with ease.
In flight the large, thick wing meant that the fighter proved to be a stable gun platform, especially for a veteran, cold blooded killer like “Reaper”. It was armed with eight .303 in Browning machine guns. The armament was arranged in two lots of four in large gunbays incorporated into the outer wing panels. In 1937 this firepower was enough to outgun the early marks of German Messerschmitt Bf 109, which were equipped with only four light machine guns but that was 4 years ago. This relatively small-calibre armament was inadequate for first line service now but Good enough for CAMs.
Simon’s Hurricane carried the standard old HF TR9 radio set. The Transceiver T R 9 was a two tube radiotelephony transmitter with a six-Tube receiver. It was designed primarily for use in single-seater fighter aircraft and was intended to provide two-way comms to a range of 35 miles air/ground and 5 miles air-to-air. Frequency coverage was 4300-6000 kc/s and the entire power supply was derived from an HT dry battery and a secondary cell. In single-seat fighters, like Simon’s “Hurry” the set was installed behind the pilot's cockpit The pilot was provided with headphones, microphone and a remote control unit which operated the send-receive switch, receiver tuning and volume control.
Simon knew his Hurry’s fuel tanks were vulnerable to defensive machine gun fire. The greatest hazard was with the unprotected gravity-feed fuel tank in front of the cockpit which could rupture when hit, allowing a jet of flame to penetrate the cockpit through the instrument panel; not a nice way to go. The wooden and fabric rear fuselage was also far more likely to catch fire than the metal fuselages of its contemporaries. This issue was of such concern to Air Vice Marshal Hugh Dowding that he had Hawker retrofit the fuselage tanks of Hurricanes with a fire-resistant material called "Linatex" as a matter of priority. The wing tanks had already been fitted with a covering of this sealant, but the fuselage tank was considered to be too small a target. His Hurry had the modification which was a comfort.
The biggest advantages of the Hurricane were that it was a relatively easy aircraft to fly, which was a boon when it came to squadrons being flooded with inexperienced pilots. It was also a steady gun platform. The Reaper is an excellent shot, along with being a cold blooded murderer. After all if done, when done right and you hit the opposition before they even knew you were around, that is what air combat was. The closely grouped .303 in Brownings created a superior pattern of fire to those of the Spitfire, which were spaced out along the wings, and the armament was more quickly serviced.
28 MAY 1941 1639 COMMODORE: R-Adm H ROGERS MVO OBE, was informed by his leading escort the CAM pilot killed what appeared to be a twin pontoon “scout aircraft”, most likley an Arado Ar 196 catapult, seaplane from a capital ship or armed merchant raider. His convoy was in no shape to take on a Capital ship but his four Ex-American Town class escorts still had plenty of speed 30–35 knots on a really good day, three of their original four open pedestal mounted surface only 4 in/50 cal guns, 1 pretty worthless 3 in/23 anti-aircraft gun and, most important in this situation, two triple 21 in torpedo tubes.
Those old tubes were loaded with the slightly more lederly Mark II which entered service in 1914. The MK-2's range was 8,000 yds and it's max speed was reduced from 45kts to 29kts for better reliability. It still packed a respectable 400 lb Warhead. It was not a one shot giant killer but with 24 fish in the hands of deterimined RN crews might, with a lot of luck, might do the trick. The key was closing to 4 miles range as quickly as the old gal's plant would allow (now something around 30 kts) before firing. Against a merchant raiders 6 inch battery and rudimentary fire control it was doable. However, against Kriegsmarine manned 6, 8, 11 and maybe 15 inch guns backed with the latest radar and optical fire control with analog computers and the world best optical range finders it would require a lot of luck and HX-123 had not really had that much luck so far.
28 MAY 1941 1700 Still no amplifying reports from His Arado scout. Kapitän zur See Helmuth Brinkmann OTC of Brinkmann TG was only slightly concerned about his scout. The Arado had plenty of fuel and her crew were very good. Not likely they encountered any RAF aircraft that could down them, maybe a stray Catalina but the Arado was better armed and faster than those dangerous, lumbering patrol bombers. Surely if one of the few CAM ships were with the convoy his pilot would have included that vital information in the amplifying report.
28 MAY 1941 1715 The Prince's FuMO 27 Radar – wavelength 81.5cm, frequency 368 MHz, transmitter power output 8 kW detected a contact. Although primarily a firecontrol unit the 27 also had decent, if cumbersome, surface and air search capabilities. Surface range in Fire control and search mode was 13 nm, air range depended a alot on meteorogical conditions, the skill and alertness of the operator but, under very good conditions, could track a medium altitude aircraft at 25 miles, a lot less if the plane was on the deck. The operator identified Reaper's Hurry as an intermittent, probably very small, air target and started tracking and reporting. Prince went to to Battle Stations Air Imediately. The fire control was for the 8 inchers in turrets “Anton” – “Graz”, “Bruno” – “Braunau”, “Caesar” – “Innsbruck” and “Dora”; not the "flak" battery.
That Flak battery was quite impressive for May 1941:
Twelve 105mm dula purpose L/65 C/33 guns on twin coaxially-stabilized C/73 mounts constituted the heavy FLAK battery. Their elevation was -8 to +85 degrees, range 9 miles, while the AA ceiling was welve 105mm L/65 C/33 guns on twin coaxially-stabilized C/73 mounts constituted the heavy FLAK battery. Their elevation was -8 to +85 degrees, range 9 miles , while the AA ceiling was 40,00 ft. The rate of fire was 160 rounds per minute and the ammunition capacity was 6,200 rounds.
The medium FLAK battery consisted of twelve dual purpose 37mm L/38 C/30 guns on twin C/30 mounts. Their elevation was -10 to +85 degrees, range 8,500 yards and AA ceiling 22,00 ft. The rate of fire was 160 rounds per minute and the ammunition capacity was 4,000 rounds.
The light FLAK battery was composed of eight single dual purpse 20mm L/65 C/38 on C/30 mounts. Their elevation was -11 to +85 degrees, range 4,900 yards and the AA ceiling 12,000 ft. The rate of fire was 280 rounds per minute and the ammunition capacity was 24,000 rounds.
28 MAY 1941 1730 the "Reaper" was about at the edge of his forward quadron search when his keen eyes obsered a "bump" on the horizon. He was flying just below the cloud layer and his underbody camo should make him very hard to see from a moving ship. He had no idea how good German shipboard radar was at spotting a small single Hurry and so was not particularly worried about closing for a positive ID of the "bump".
28 MAY 1941 1735 the "Reaper" realized he had a big warship in view but no idea if friend or foe. After all, he was an RAF pilot not part of the Fleet Air Arm but he had been told just before launch there were no RN warships anywhere near HX-123, report anything he found but not to use his radio anywher near the Convoy. In for a penny, in for a pound Reaper dived and closed the range trying to identify the nationality of the ship. At 9 miles he was met by a barrage of large black shell bursts and he actually heard shrapnel pinging off his Hurry. He dived for the deck while opening the range and then climbed to just over the cloud cover and began repeatedly transmitting his sighting report while circling the ship. He knew the Commodore would not break radio silence. He gave the Prince's ID as a large ship with 4 big gun turets, on a course heading straight for HX-123 very fast. Every fiber in his fighter pilot body said dive on the bastard and rip up the bridge and then head back to the convoy to ensure they got the message. The old Vet vetoed that idea; making sure the sighting report got to the Commodore as soon as possible was his duty. He also had to finish his 360 degree reccee but that had to wait until after he knew HX-123 was warned. So he set his course for Greenland, no reason giving this ship a course back to the convoy, and gradually dropped to wave top height and after 15 minutes then steered diretcly for the convoy climbing to more fuel efficint hieght.
28 MAY 1941 1740 aboard The prince Kapitän zur See Helmuth Brinkmann OTC of Brinkmann TG was more concerned with his silent Arado than with this brush with an unidentified aircraft. Thetr was really nothing the 8 kt convoy could do to escape, his Prince or prolong it's life.