Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Zeebrugge raid (part two)

Last week we left the Zeebrugge raid in mid battle, as HMS Vindictive slammed into the mole and her troops got ready to charge.

Part One.

HMS C3, the submarine with the explosives in it was aimed directly at the viaduct steaming as fast as her engine could carry her. However her cloak of darkness was ripped from her by star shells fired by the Germans. A few four inch guns opened fire on her for a short while then halted. The captain of C3, Lieutenant Richard D. Sandford,  decided not to use the gyro gear as he decided it couldn't be trusted and the viaduct must be brought down. At 0015 HMS C3 slammed into the viaduct, the explosives didn't go off, and the crew bailed to a skiff on the rear of the submarine as their means of escape, while Lt Sandford lit the fuse. As they left the submarine a party of Germans began to fire on them. At this point it was found the propeller shaft of the skiff had been broken, and the crew began to row the boat away under fire. The skiff was meet by one of the CMB's which was detailed to pick up survivors from this part of the operation and the Germans on the viaduct were torn to pieces five minutes later when the charges on the sub detonated.
The gap in the vaiduct
Back on HMS Vindictive the two flame-throwers were readied. However both lacked pressure to fire. Then suddenly as HMS Vindictive was pushed into place one of the huts got pressure, the flame-thrower was turned on the mole and fired. Unfortunately the storm of fire had shot off the ignition apparatus. One rating furiously tried to light the stream of fuel with matches, going through two books with no luck.
The assault troops clambered up their boarding ramps. Initially there was very little fire. However things soon began to hot up. Two German destroyers were alongside the mole on the shoreward side, and they began to pour fire across the mole. Equally one of the two gun batteries had machine guns placed covering back down the mole.
One of the portable flame-throwers was brought up and hosed down the German destroyers deck but even this made no impact in the fight.
The Royal Marines tried to advance, but the extra 300 yards distance made their attempts futile. However their fire did silence one of the two German batteries on the mole, as it never fired a shot at the block ships.
The deck of HMS Vindictive, taken after the battle.
The three block ships arrived at about 0025. They were in position, having sighted the mole from rockets and illumination fired from HMS Vindictive and German star shells. Their position was further confirmed by one of the small motor launches that was in front signalling position by lamp. The three block ships were in line astern. As they neared they began to receive fire, and return it, sinking one of the barges set to maintain the net closing the mouth of the harbour. The lead ship then rammed into the net, and it snagged on her. Reacting immediately to this occurrence the captain steered to the side dragging the net with her and opening the way for the other two ships. After a short while the engines failed and the lead ship drifted and ran aground.

The final two ships were over crewed. Each of the block ships was to have disembarked one of its watches of crew before the run in. However on the two remaining ships the watches ordered to disembark had refused as they didn't want to miss the fight. Despite the heavy gun fire both ships managed to scuttle themselves inside the canal mouth, across its width the third ship had spotted that the second had scuttled on one side and deliberately spent some time manoeuvring under point blank fire to ensure he scuttled on the opposite side. Both the crews were evacuated by launches, and ships boats. One of the launches had even followed the block ship up the canal despite the withering fire.
The Three block ships in the canal.
With the blockships seen steaming towards the harbour mouth, the requirement of HMS Vindictive to capture the mole was over and the order to retire was to be given. However the siren which was to be the signal to fall back on HMS Vindictive had been shot off. So the order was passed to the ferry pushing HMS Vindictive into the mole to sound its siren, which it duly did.
The assault party began to fall back, at the start of the attack there had been 16 boarding ramps from deck of HMS Vindictive up to the mole. Now only two remained. These bowed alarmingly as the men filed across. Once the captain of the HMS Vindictive received the announcement that all were aboard he waited a further ten minutes under fire to ensure no one else would arrive, he then ordered that the ferry tow the bow off and HMS Vindictive along with the rest of the flotilla began its withdrawal into the night leaving the German held port blocked.
HMS Vindictive after the raid.
Or so the British believed. The Germans removed part of the canal wall and dredged a new channel around the stern of the one of the block ships. This enabled U-boats to pass at high tide.

 Image Credits:
www.rnsubmusfriends.org.uk and www.dailymail.co.uk