Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Fly Bite

Early in the day, on the 25th of March 1944, Flying Officer Douglas Jackson Turner and his co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Des Curtis were sitting in the cockpit of their Mosquito Tsetse, on the runway of RAF Predannack. Over the preceding three weeks they had been involved in multiple gun fights with shipping in the Bay of Biscay. Mostly these had involved gun battles with surfaced U-boats and their escorts. At this time the Germans were having difficulty getting U-boats into the Atlantic, so they had started escorting U-boats with light warships brimmed with AA weapons to try and discourage Allied air power. 

F/O Turner had been born in Wellingborough and worked as a constable in Essex Constabulary before the war, before joining the RAF in 1941. FLt Curtis was a Bank Clerk from Caterham, until he too had joined the RAF in 1941, when he turned 18.

At 0905 F/O Turner revved his engines and hurtled along the runway. Once he had enough speed, he stayed on the runway aiming for a group of Irish labours who were working on extending the runway. At the last moment as they dived out of the way of the speeding Mosquito F/O Turner pulled up. There was a long-standing disagreement between the RAF personnel and the labourers. The workmen were getting paid danger money to work on the runway and were thus getting paid more than the aircrew who were flying out to be shot at. F/O Turner linked up with five further Mosquito’s, one of which was a Tsetse.

The flight loitered along at just 40ft above the sea. Their mission was to find and attack another U-boat. Radio intelligence had detected a U-boat launching, and this information had been passed to the RAF who sent the strike package out to sink it before it got away. By doing this the British knew roughly where the U-boat would be and could intercept it. 

As the flight entered the search area, they climbed up to 1,500 feet, having avoided the German radar. They spotted the U-boat, turned and began to dive. As they screamed down on the gaggle of ships, a U-boat and two minesweepers, the German craft put up a hail of gunfire. One of the escorting Mosquito’s hosed down the submarine silencing the AA guns. F/O Turner lined up his Molins 6-pounder and began to fire. The heavyweight weapon managed to fire and cycle five times during the dive hurling out armour piercing rounds. The Tsetse soared over the U-boat at about 300ft, chased by AA fire from the minesweepers. The flight of Mosquito’s hurtled away all undamaged and returned to base. 

U-976, which had been the target of the attack was not so lucky. F/O Turner had aimed his shots at the sea, just beside the U-boat. Several of the shells had punched holes in the pressure hull, below the waterline and she was beginning to take on water. The crew, led by Kapit√§nleutnant Raimund Tiesler, fought to save her, however, she sunk after about 20 minutes. Only four of the fifty-three crew were killed during the attack, the others were all recovered by the minesweepers. 

The busy month would continue for F/O Turner, when two days later himself as part of a flight of eight Mosquito’s would encounter two U-boats escorted by nine warships. This was so close inshore German land-based AA joined in as well. One of the U-boats, U-960 was damaged in the subsequent attack, but so were most of the Mosquitos.  For this, and other actions over the period both F/O Turner and FLt Curtis were awarded DFC’s in April. They would go on to fly around about 72 missions in total before the end of the war.

After the war Turner carried on flying for a while, before retiring and becoming a landlord. He died in May 2008. Curtis is still alive, and in 1994 he wrote to a German historian asking if he had any details about the crews of the U-boats he had attacked. Much to his surprise the historian said he was close friends with Tiesler and offered to pass on a letter. The two men became good friends, until Tiesler’s death in February 2000.


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 Image credits:

www.thesun.co.uk, www.grahamtall.co.uk, www.history.navy.mil, ww2aircraft.net and www.ibiblio.org