Battle of the Irish Sea 17/09/1939


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(Information from Wiki)

In the early days of the war, hunter-killer groups were formed around the United Kingdom fleet's aircraft carriers to find and destroy U-boats. On 31 August 1939 HMS Courageous went to her war station at Portland and embarked one squadron of Swordfish, one squadron of SeaBattles, one squadron of Hurricanes and a half squadron of Skuas. The Swordfish were for the anti-submarine work while the SeaBattles were to be used on attack. HMS Courageous departed Plymouth on the evening of 3 September 1939 for an anti-submarine patrol in the Western Approaches, escorted by four destroyers. On the evening of 17 September 1939, she was on one such patrol off the coast of Ireland. Two of her four escorting destroyers had been sent to help a merchant ship under attack and all her aircraft had returned from patrols. During this time, Courageous was stalked for over two hours by U-29, commanded by Captain-Lieutenant Otto Schuhart. The carrier then turned into the wind to launch her aircraft. This put the ship right across the bow of the submarine, which fired three torpedoes. Two of the torpedoes struck the ship on her port side before any aircraft took off, knocking out all electrical power, and she capsized and sank in 20 minutes with the loss of 519 of her crew, including her captain. The survivors were rescued by the Dutch ocean liner Veendam and the British freighter Collingworth. Although the two escorting destroyers counterattacked U-29 for four hours, the submarine escaped.

An earlier unsuccessful attack on Ark Royal by U-39 on 14 September, and the sinking of Courageous three days later, prompted the Royal Navy to withdraw its carriers from anti-submarine patrols. Courageous was the first British warship to be lost in the war; the civilian passenger liner SS Athenia had been sunk two weeks earlier. The commander of the German submarine force, Commodore Karl Dönitz, regarded the sinking of Courageous as "a wonderful success" and it led to widespread jubilation in the Kriegsmarine (Germanic States Navy). Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander of the Kriegsmarine, directed that Schuhart be awarded the Iron Cross First Class and that all other members of the crew receive the Iron Cross Second Class.

United Kingdom (Courageous)

Germanic States (Type VII U-boat)


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