The Hedgehog

"Between these convoys Westcott was fitted with the 'Hedgehog', a brand new anti submarine weapon. The scientists and manufacturers were aboard for the test firing during which there was a nasty accident when one of the seaman lost his hand."  John Mills DSM

"The 'Spigot Mortar' (later to be called the 'hedgehog') was fitted and we spent some time carrying out trials off Larg and Troon. Bob Blowers lost some fingers off his left hand when a 'spigot' short circuited. I do not recall us ever sinking a sub with it, in fact one pattern that we fired blew up when it hit the water, the safety pins had been taken out so many times that the 'Keep' wires had parted." Arthur Skelton, HMS Westcott

"After a couple of escort duties bringing back convoys across the Atlantic we were sent to Greenock and had fitted a Bofors on the stern in lieu of a 4.7 gun mounting and a Hedgehog. We spent numerous days with the inventor and with a Sub Lieut onboard doing trials. The first time we fired the thing I was at defence stations on B gun, and as I saw the first bombs go skyways and turn over to come down again, I saw a glove come off one of the bombs, or so I thought, on looking over B gun flare I saw A.B. Blowers holding his wrist where his hand used to be, and realised that our new toy had claimed it's first victim due to a premature firing. After that all bombs had to be lowered into position with the aid of a stick." Anonymous

The forward firing 24 spigot anti-submarine mortar known as a 'Hedgehog' on the focsle of the destroyer HMS Westcott
It is easy to see how the Hedgehog got its nickname from the "spikes" of its mortars which when fired stradled the u-boat and detonated on impact with the hull
IWM Non-Commerical Licence

But HMS Wanderer had more success with her Hedgehog:

On the 21st August we sank our first U-boat, U523 in the Bay of Biscay. At about 3.00 am the alarm bells rang and I was quickly up on the bridge, an unidentified radar contact had been made at about eight miles by our wizard operator A.B. Herbert, and we were racing towards it. I went into the radar cabinet to check it, and at just two miles it disappeared, it had to be a submarine and must have sighted our bow wave. We reduced speed and at once got asdic contact, two ten depth charge attacks quickly followed. Apparently these put all her lights out and drove her down to 600 feet. We then lost contact and there followed and anxious three hours as we carried out a square search, our patience was rewarded and contact was regained.   For the first time we carried out an attack with our new weapon, the Hedgehog; this fired twenty four small bombs ahead of the ship and landed in a circle above the predicted future position of the submarine, they sank to arrive at the right depth and time as their target. The scientist had told us that, if one bomb hit a kill was guaranteed, so when a small rumble came up from the depths after seventeen seconds we felt sure of success. However to make absolutely sure, the Captain carried out another attack with twenty depth charges and was wheeling round for one more when the submarine rose dramatically to the surface in a flurry of foam only a 1000 yards on our port beam. At last the guns were able to take a hand in the action and shells were quickly on target. It's crew came tumbling up from below and threw themselves overboard. Initially the Captain had turned to ram, but this was not going to be necessary, the guns ceased fire and we stopped to pick up survivors. About twenty were hauled up the scrambling nets, and after being given survivors clothing, were bedded down in the tiller flat. After just a few minutes the submarine slid stern first back beneath the waves to the cheers from our ships company. Our prisoners were seen to be just a bunch of youngsters, scruffy, and unhealthy looking, and glad to be out of the war.

Captain D. Foster, HMS Wanderer

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