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Thread: The Most Dangerous Enemy

  1. #31
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    My initial point, which may have been lost in the 'fog of debate', is that CW9 Peewit went through the Dover Strait in daylight and not under cover of darkness.

    I don't think Double British Summer Time came into play until 1941, but on 7 August I'd think it should be dark by around 9.30 or 10 pm? This being the case, and assuming the passage to have been at least after 10.00pm, and with speed reduced to 5kt and the assumption of a 'night-time' passage through the Strait, I'm struggling to see how SW was SSW of Newhaven by 02.00.

    Additionally, why were RAF fighter squadrons on convoy patrol that day at pretty much the exact matching times and places if there was not a convoy beneath them to protect?

    CW9 was the only convoy on that date. The CE convoy (CE8) had arrived off Southend on 5 August.
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  2. #32
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    Apologies, but the 'Edit' function seems not to be working!

    Where I said: "I'm struggling to see how SW was SSW of Newhaven by 02.00." please read "I'm struggling to see how CW9 was SSW of Newhaven by 02.00"
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  3. #33
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    I'll do a calculation on the distance run to Newhaven against the indicated times and check feasibility.

    Despite the Admiralty claim regarding tide and precautionary course alteration, if the times quoted are to be accepted then there could not have been any adverse tidal flow (almost entirely possible, at least for six of the passage hours) and no convoy zig zagging.

    One other point regarding convoy zig zagging; the sea area in question is very heavily shoaled. It would be a bold U-boat captain who would take his vessel into the Thames estuary. Not impossible I know, there were a number of very bold Kriegsmarine captains. Because of that fact, I wonder why it was thought necessary to impose these evasion tactics on the convoy ships knowing that this manoeuvre, in confined waters could lead to dislocation and fragmentation of the convoy with all the attendant perils ?

    When working out times, I dismissed all notions of Daylight Saving. My estimate regarding the onset of night were based around the summer solstice being on the 20/21st June with night falling at about 10.00pm. Each month, darkness comes one hour earlier altho' cloud cover might make it seem a little earlier. The 7th August meant that one month and 16 days had passed since the solstice which would indicate the approach of darkness at 8.30pm eg. ninety minutes earlier than the time of nightfall at the solstice.

  4. #34
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    Whichever way one looks at this, and if you are to assume that the convoy passed Dover in darkness (which it didn't) then how could it have reached 8 nautical miles SSW of Newhaven by 02.00 when the E-Boats struck? This means the convoy covered 65 nautical miles (give or take) in little over four hours - whilst travelling at 5kts!

    If you work back from the point when the E-Boats broke off the attack off the attack (roughly off Littlehampton) at 04.15, just prior to sunrise at 04.34, I cannot see how one can get the convoy going through the Dover Strait in darkness anyway.

    As to zig-zagging, we don't know how long this went on. You have assumed it to be the entirety of the passage, but I'd doubt that - not least for the reasons you state.

    To clarify:

    Several RAF squadrons were overhead at the appropriate time/place to match the corresponding position of the convoy. Why would they have been in those places and at those times, and on Convoy Patrol, if the convoy wasn't there, beneath them? And, if timings are incorrect, how is it that all squadrons have made this odd timing error?

    HMS Leigh (Southend) and the ships in convoy all stated sailing time was 07.00, as did the Royal Navy examination vessel in the Thames Estuary.

    The Germans also noted the time the convoy was seen from Wissant, 5 miles off Dungeness, and correcting for CET this also corresponds.

    'Gunfire' was reported 'at sea' from Eastbourne at 02.11 (which ties in with the E-Boat attack)

    You also mentioned that the convoy may have been seen in the early morning by a Luftwaffe recce aircraft. It didn't. I found no reference to this, except (from my book):

    "In the continuation of the Luftwaffe’s reconnaissance of British coastal waters a lone Dornier 17 Z of KG 2 followed its assigned patrol course during the early morning of 7 August 1940 by beginning its “sweep” somewhere south of Dungeness and heading north-eastwards up towards Dover in what was decreasing visibility. Aside from an MTB off Dungeness and a couple of what were described as “sentry boats” off Dover there was little activity of any significance to report upon in the English Channel by the time the Dornier had rounded North Foreland at about 06.00. Here, and fifteen miles to the east of Margate, they spotted two minesweepers on a westerly heading before the Dornier crew set a course northwards and up into the North Sea. Doubtless the two minesweepers, with their sweeping apparatus deployed, were looking for mines laid in the Thames estuary by German aircraft overnight by four He 115’s of Ku.Fl.Gr 106. A clear and safe channel needed to be assured for imminent British shipping movements down the estuary. Unknown to the Luftwaffe crew as they passed North Foreland the most interesting activity might have been seen some twenty five miles or so westwards and down the Thames Estuary towards London. Here, just off Southend-on-Sea, an assembly of well over twenty merchant ships and naval escort vessels were preparing to weigh anchor and move off down towards the mouth of the estuary and North Foreland. As boilers were fired and black smoke belched and billowed from a collection of variously coloured merchant funnels the activity might have been seen had the Dornier ventured further westwards, although visibility was deteriorating quite badly at that moment. Had they seen it, then it would have been a sight that indicated the hurried preparations of a convoy about to set sail."

    I think the continued debate is a little futile. My point, which has now been a bit laboured, was simply that CW9 didn't transit the Dover Strait 'under cover of darkness'. If it did, then the 'fog of war' with timings, and an odd ability of the convoy to suddenly materialise SSW of Newhaven at 02.00, had affected everybody that day in their observations of timings etc. Unless, that day, there was some odd tear in the time/space continuum. Or something.
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  5. #35
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    Additionally, and quite obviously, Admiralty Orders for the passage of CW9 were specific: 'Speed to be reduced to 5kt in darkness and at discretion of and as signalled by Convoy Commodore. Z-Z to cease at sunset.'

    Ergo: if the convoy sailed at dusk it would not have been zig-zagging anyway!
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  6. #36
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    Did previous westbound convoys transit the straits at night? Curious whether CW9 changed the working plan to take advantage of the bad visibility?

  7. #37
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    Without looking up the sailing orders, I can't tell.

    The first (CW1) was on 6 July.

    After CW9 there wasn't a CW until 30 August and no CE until 21 August.

    There are images of a CW, in daylight, being shelled off Dover/Folkestone and this could be 10,11,12 or 14 (there was no 13!) from dates of publication.
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  8. #38
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    Actually, having looked at still images, I see one caption (I think from London Illustrated News) says 'shelling'. However, it is clearly a still from the following Pathe film released on 18 July.

    This is clear a CW convoy, and the film release date means this must be in the grouping CW1 to CW6. Need to check which were attacked, but 8th (CW2) 10th (CW3) or 17th (CW6) look possible.

    http://www.britishpathe.com/video/co...in-the-channel
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  9. #39
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    So, given that the film was released on 18 July, and shows a CW convoy, it appears to answer your question Otis. At least, insofar as we know that at least this particular CW went through in daylight.
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  10. #40
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    Thanks for solving that one. Looking at convoy attacks in July throws up lots of incidents in daylight off Dover.
    I was just pondering why, if it was the norm for CW to pass Dover in daylight, why anyone assumed CW9 passed Dover at night. Especially, as you pointed out already, if you were curious as to how the S-boats were able to intercept at 2am, the back plotting the convoy to daylight hours puts it off Dover?

  11. #41
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    The only way that the speed of the convoy can be related to the distance covered in the time specified, is if the average convoy speed was around 10/12kts and thus allowed for a period of foul tide. The more so, if the Admiralty's remarks concerning tide and zig zagging are taken into account.

    This story seems to me to contain a measure of inaccuracies and inconsistencies. That's war !

  12. #42
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    To be clear, I have no problem with the fact that CW9 passed the Straits of Dover in daytime. It seems to be the norm and all evidence shows that it did.
    I am still curious about how the passing by night error came about and sighting by radar claim.

    Here’s my problem. If the “passing by night” was an error, then there needs to be an explanation of how it was later ambushed by S-boats. Then the often quoted “sighting by radar” claim appears to be an error, brought about by a need to explain the sighting at night. There then follows the huge leap of invention, in the suggestion that there must have been an unreported Freya near Calais, and that must have the unproven capability to also detect ships. If that is where the explanation is going that makes little sense and certainly not enough for the two claims to be in every published book on the Battle of Britain.

    Most BoB books include a passage about the KanalKampf. It seems people researching that have seen a German diaries or ORBs which contains two important facts. Firstly and exact date for the establishment of Seetakt at Wissant, secondly the claim the claim that this radar first spotted convoy CW9 on the evening of the 7th. It is easy to see how that information would lead to one assuming that the passage was forced at night.

    If new Seetakt radar ( turned on at dusk ?) was the first to detect the convoy receding towards Dungeness, then it alone would have been treated with suspicion, as so far visual spotters had seen nothing. They would have need visual confirmation of types and numbers before escalating this up the chain as a confirmed convoy. Peering into the setting sun may have produced an observation of close-hauled barrage balloons, suggesting a convoy, but at that distance would it not have been hard to establish the true speed and direction of travel?

    I am not disputing there was a visual sighting. There are records of both radar and visual sightings. The radar sighting is not untrue, it is just something missed in your book Andy.

  13. #43
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    Otis

    I cannot comment on the sources of previous authors, or even if they were primary sources, because I do not know. They are not referenced, except in some cases where one author has relied upon another and used this as his (secondary) source. (I think this is the case with Bungay?)

    All I can tell you is that the first fact is very clear; that the convoy sailed through the Dover Strait in broad daylight.

    The second fact is that the convoy was visually sighted from Wissant and it was noted as five miles from Dungeness. Barrage balloons were seen against the western sky.

    This observation allowed the S-Boot flotilla to be duly notified and a force was despatched to intercept the convoy off Newhaven.

    If there had been any radar detection prior to the observation off Dungeness, then I have found no record of it. Additionally, the convoy close-hauled its balloons when passing Dover to avoid the convoy being spotted. Despite what seems to have been variable visibility, the French coast could be seen 'on occasion' as they passed this stretch of channel.

    My conclusion was that it seemed to be the case that an assumption had been made that the convoy was seen by radar as this was the only explanation of how it could have been spotted by night when previous authors believed, for some unknown reason, that the passage was by night. However, had those authors looked at the fact that the convoy was attacked SSW of Newhaven at 02.00 then there was no earthly way that the convoy have got into that position by that time from a position off Dover - even if it went through in the first moments of darkness!

    Repeat a story often enough and it frequently becomes historical 'fact'. The same applies to the myth of the withdrawal of the Stuka force after 18 August due to unacceptable losses.
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  14. #44
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    As a small sidetrack..

    I was just this week standing on the Fort des Dunes to the East of Dunkirk.

    Still extant is the mounting for a Würzburg radar unit (not Freya) which was sited there to scan the Channel for allied shipping.

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  15. #45
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    Andy, if you are not going to continue to argue that there was no operational anti-ship radar on that date, then I’m going to have a real problem in continuing this debate !

    One oddity in the books quoting the existence of operational Seetakt ( naval Freya) , is the detail increases. See Bishop then Bergstrom, and note they include details not in Bungay/Deighton/Woods/Dempster/Mason etc. These guys are certainly not just referencing those earlier works.

    What was the content and context of the visual sighting message for CW9? Is it just the spotting of balloons against the setting sun. Any mention of ships/numbers? I was imagining how long you would need to stare at a set of balloons flying 30 miles away, in order to work out what exactly they were and which way they were heading. First thought on initial sighting would be of an approaching convoy ( not one you missed), unless you had some other information to help decide?

    Now the reason that prompted me to post today . . . . Discovered in Battle of Britain by Patrick Bishop, *Twenty-six-year-old Arthur Hague was captain of the Borealis, to which one of the balloons was tethered, and he recorded how;…….night fell as we passed Dover and in a calm sea under a moonless sky we crept past Beachy Head……”

    [Please note I don’t disagree with the daylight passage myself]

  16. #46
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    Otis

    Without getting boxes out of a hot loft, I can't give you the exact detail - suffice to say that the observer station at Wissant saw the convoy 5 miles off Dungeness. We have the time and other pertinent details. I also know that the observer station, through whatever command and control system was then extant, passed the information to the S-Boot flotilla and boats were duly dispatched.

    If there was a radar station operational, then it is frustrating that the various authors have not given any clue as to their sources. Although some certainly reference other works before them as secondary sources.

    As to Arthur Hague, I knew him well. In my interviews with him he made no mention of passing Dover 'as night fell' but did refer to passing Beachy Head. Given that we know the S-Boot attack (SW Newhaven) came at 02.00 then the convoy couldn't have passed Dover at night. And why would the balloons (one on Hague's Borealis) have been close hauled to prevent visibility from France? I don't think there is much point labouring that point! I'm sure you'd agree.

    My whole point in raising this in the first place was to illustrate errors that have crept into the reportage of various aspects of the battle and these errors, repeated often, have become established fact.

    'Facts' like this, and the withdrawal of the Ju 87 because of 'unacceptable losses', have all become established as fact within the narrative of the battle. That was simply the point I was initially making.
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  17. #47
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    If nothing else, the contents of your loft sounds very interesting but, inaccessible !

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