After a four day layover in
St. Johns, which gave all the ships’ companies a chance to catch up on
some much needed sleep and also time for a patch to be put on Sunflower’s bows where she had struck a U-boat, B7 Escort Group, minus Sunflower which joined 24 hours later, left St. Johns on 18th May to rendezvous with homeward bound Convoy SC 130. "Homeward bound" with Convoy SC 130
Lt Raymond Hart, Cdr Peter W Gretton and Lt Cdr James Plomer RCNVR
“The Canadian Corvette Kitchener,
on passage to UK, had joined up with us, which was fortunate as we had
to leave one of the trawlers behind. The escort therefore
consisted of two Destroyers, one Frigate, five Corvettes, a Rescue
Trawler and a hospital ship.
The first night out in very low visibility, my radar operator picked up
a large iceberg in the path of the convoy. Naturally I was
detailed to stand by it and indicate it by all means possible.
All our upper deck lighting was switched on and our large signalling
lamps were trained on the iceberg and we sounded our siren. All
ships managed to get past without incident – I was glad when it was
The next morning, 16th May, the fog cleared, which gave the Captains
the chance of a quick kip. What, with a busy and somewhat
jubilant few days in St. Johns, followed immediately by fog at sea, we
were all feeling a bit jaded.
18th May we knew that U-boats
were in contact with our convoy and over the next four days nineteen
U-boats were trying to break through the screen to attack. They
were frustrated on every occasion by a combination of
circumstances. We had constant air cover by day – the skilful way
in which the Senior Officer of the Escort ordered the convoy to execute
emergency turns, which succeeded time and time again in putting the
U-boats out of position to attack and by anticipation and aggressive
tactics of the now well-trained and experienced escorts of the B7
Group. Not a single ship was lost in this four-day battle, but six
were destroyed; one by B7 Group, one by the First Support Group;
aircraft from 120 Squadron despatched two and Hudsons on patrol near
the convoy a further two U-boats.
Lt Hart was promoted to Lt Cdr Raymond Hart in June 1943
After the excitement and success against the U-boats in defence of
convoy SC.130, B7 Group continued to escort convoys across the Atlantic
for the next four and a half months, without a single U-boat putting
being seen. By the time they next made an appearance, our Group
was given a supporting role and we sailed from Londonderry on the 12
October to support the outward bound convoy ON.206 and over the next
twenty five days we supported five convoys and sank three U-boats
without loss in the convoys we supported. We had steamed nearly
seven thousand miles and fuelled at sea six times. All ships had
kept going well and all radar sets and asdics were working on our
return to harbour, except for Loosestrife, who had lost her asdic dome
in heavy weather.
The only real problem we suffered from was a shortage of fresh food. As far as Vidette
was concerned, one of the high spots was the detection of a U-boat by
radar in bad weather conditions at 11,500 yards. The Senior
Officer, Commander Gretton, questioned the report and suggested that my
radar operator had mistaken a rain cloud for a U-boat; he was adamant
that it was a U-boat and I had complete confidence in him, he had
proved to be an outstanding Operator. Gretton backed our
judgement and after a long hunt the U-boat was destroyed with a good
HMS Duncan, Leader of Escort Group B7 returning to Londonderrry on 7 November 1943 Photographed from HMS Sunflower (Lt Cdr James Plomer RCNVR} by an official RN Photographer Courtesy of Imperial War Museum, IWM A-20153
The return of the U-boats to the Atlantic after several months’ absence
was more of a nuisance value. They had some limited success with
a new homing torpedo, which had some success against the escorts, but
little against the convoys. They next tried to regain the
initiative with the schnorkel fitted breathing apparatus in the inshore
waters, but this failed too.
Senior Officer B7 Escort Group
In March 1944, we said goodbye to Commander Gretton, it was very sad to
see our team breaking up after the stirring times we had shared, but
big things were afoot; the invasion of Europe was not far off. I
was appointed as Senior Officer of B7 Group in place of Commander
Gretton and sailed with the Group on 16 March to join convoy ON 228.
This convoy crossed the Atlantic without incident but on the homeward
passage with convoy SC.156 two ships were sunk, but the U-302 was
destroyed by HMS Swale.
On 12th April 1944 B7 Group sailed up the Foyle to Londonderry for the
last time – it was disbanded on 13th April. On arrival I was
informed that I was to assume command of the Fleet Destroyer, HMS Havelock,
which formed part of the 14th Escort Group. I received this
appointment with mixed feelings – nothing could ever be quite the same
as my first command, HMS Vidette, it was a very sad moment when I said goodbye to the ship’s company who had served her and her country so well.
Having sent off all my reports and prepared Vidette
for sea again, I handed her over to the new Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Commander Woolley, RNVR on 21st April and stepped aboard HMS
Havelock the same day.
Joe Whittaker completes the story of HMS Vidette
In the few months preceding the invasion of Europe (Operation Neptune), Vidette worked variously out of Milford Haven, Weymouth and Portsmouth and on 6th June the Vidette was cover for the invasion ships against E-boats and U-boats.
On 20th August 1944 Vidette, along with HMS Forester and HMS Wensleydale, made several attacks on a U-boat, which had sunk the SS Enogat the
previous morning in the Channel. The attacks, which took place
early in the morning of the 20th off Brighton, lasted three
hours. The sole survivor was the Chief Engineer, who had gone to
the forward section of the boat to investigate damage. He got out
through the forward escape hatch and floated 90 feet to the surface.
"At 0715 FORRESTER attacked with depth charges, without result. At 0736
VIDETTE attacked with Hedgehog, and two distinct explosions were heard
some seconds before the vemainder of the pattern detonated on the
bottom. Slight oil streaks began to appear and at 0752 a five charge
pattern from WENSLEYDALE resulted in diesel oil and ar bubbles.
At 0808 a survivor surfaced and was picked up by WENSLEYDALE while
FORRESTER and VIDETTE held contact. The oil increased but the contact
still showed movement not attributable to tide. As tank blowing sounds
were heard, the attaack wasresumed in spite of the prisoner's assertion
that serious damage had been done. Several attacks were made, until a
five charge pattern from WENSLEYDALE at 0955 produced wreckage which
was considered to indicate the destruction of the U-boat."
The attack report shows
that U-413 was considered sunk by the Admiralty’s U-boat Assessment
Committee. German U-boat archives confirm 45 lost (Gefallene) and one survivor (Überlebender). Six months earlier on 20 February 1944 U-413 commanded then by Gustav
Poel sunk HMS Warwick off Padstow in Cornwall with 66 men killed.
In June 1945 Vidette was
paid-off at Portsmouth and then proceeded to Rosyth with a care and
maintenance crew onboard. She was later moved to Grangemouth,
where the ship was broken up during 1948.