REPORT OF ACTION TAKING PLACE MORNING OF 28 APRIL 1944
This ship (LST 511) departed from Plymouth, England, in accordance with Western Naval Task Force, Operating Force ”U”, Operation Order 2-44 to participate in landing exercise at Slapton Sands, on 27 April 1944 at 0945B. The Convoy Commander was aboard LST 515. The Convoy was designated T-4 and consisted of the following LSTs (in order of departure): 515, 496, 511, 531, 58 (towing two pontoon causeways). This Unit of LSTs constituted Red LST Unit No. 3 (Task Unit 125.11.4) of the Follow-Up Convoy Group (Task Group 125.11).
The Convoy proceeded in accordance with sailing directions contained in Annex F, Appendix 3, to Operation Order 2-44, following the convoy route as shown in Minesweeper Overlay (Appendix 1 to Annex F). At 1930B on reaching point E, convoy ws joined by the Bringham Section, Green LST Unit No. 3 (Task Group 125.11), consisting of LSTs 499, 289, 507.
At 0100B, 28 April 1944, the situation was as follows: Convoy was proceeding via searched channel between points G and H on course 145T at about 4 knots, in the following order: LSTs 515, 496, 511, 531, 58, 499, 289, 507. Distance between ships was 500-600 yards. Escorts HMS Saladin and Azalea. Blue sky, visibility 15,000 yards, sea was clam.
At 0114 two white flare rockets were sighted bearing 090˚T. Distance two miles. 0135 Firing was seen astern, believed to be part of exercise. 0158 changed course to 206˚T. At the start of the ensuing action the ship was in Lat. 30LS 15N. Long 2-49 CCW. 0205 USS LST 507 was torpedoed bearing 270˚T, distance two and one-half miles. At 0208 this ship sounded General Quarters and changed speed at 0209 to all ahead 2/3. Sighted unidentified object 600 yards off starboard at 0219. All ahead full. 0221 USS LST 531 was torpedoed 100 yards astern bearing 026˚T. Between 0222-0224 LSTs 515 and 496 commenced firing on an unidentified target bearing 100˚ relative. Our 20mm #1, 5, 6 and 40mm #1 commenced firing on the same target but were immediately silenced by the order ”Cease Firing” as target had disappeared. Our guns did not fire again during the action. As soon as we commenced firing the after port gun on LST 496 strafed our deck wounding numerous personnel. Their target angle was about 200˚ range 400 yards. It is possible that the 496 may have been trying to fire at an E-boat, reported by four witnesses to have passed between the two ships. This craft fired upwards at our ship, the fact partially verified by several bullet holes which slant upwards, and can be explained in no other manner. The craft passed at approximately 40 kts., close below our bow, on course 296T, coming from port to starboards. The entire firing of all ships concerned in this immediate action lasted about two minutes. This ship headed at various courses and speeds using evasive tactics, for the Bill of Portland. Between the action and the time the Bill of Portland was approached, at about every three minutes one to five red or white flare rockets were observed. These approached the ship closer until the last salvo was astern, at which time land was sighted, and no more rockets were seen. At 0500 several witnesses believe to have seen the periscope of a submarine pass on an opposite heading, passing at 500 yards, our ship then being about one mile from the Bill of Portland. The ship then proceeded to 500 yards off the south beach of the Bill of Portland and anchored at 0623. Secured from General Quarters, 0635, and set Condition Three. Sent wounded ashore to Portland British Naval Hospital by small boat at 0945.
THE E-BOAT ATTACK
The following is a summarization of the statements of the men who observed the E-Boat. First heard were the motors which were initially reported to be an airplane, as it sounded much like one. The sound, though loud, had a muffled quality. The boat approached at about 40 knots on a course heading from port to starboard, passing directly in front of the ship no more than 15 yards. At this point none of our guns were able to depress sufficiently to fire on it. The boat then made two sharp turns, first 90˚ to starboard, then back to the original course to port. The boat then disappeared from view. No description of the craft can be given due to the darkness of the night and its coloring. Only the wake and its gunfire were seen. It commenced firing when slightly off our port bow and continued until lost from sight to starboard. It was noticed that the tracers from its gunfire were green in color. From the size of the bullet holes noted on our ship, its guns must have approximated 30 caliber. Much of this fire hit around the stern and it may hav e been their intention to knock it out as much as possible.
Witnesses to different phases of the attack: Waiter W.P., Spc.; Edralin R. SC1c.; Dansen, WL., Slc.; Dorfran C., S2c.
CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF EVENTS
0114 Two white flare rockets bearing 090˚T Distance 2 miles
0135 Firing seen astern. Distance 2 1/2 miles.
0153 Changed course to 206˚T.
0205 USS LST 507 torpedoed, bearing 270˚T. Distance 2 1/2 miles.
0208 Sounded General Quarters.
0209 All ahead 2/3.
0219 Sighted unidentified object 400 yards of starboard beam. All ahead full.
0221 USS LST 531 torpedoed, bearing 026˚T. Distance 1000 yards.
0222 LSTs 515, 496 and 511 commencing firing on target bearing 100˚ Rel.
0224 LST 496 strafed our decks. E-Boat attack made.
0224-0628 Maneuvering at various courses and speeds employing evasive tactics, toward the Bill of Portland.
0500 Sighted submarine on opposite heading. 1000 yds to starboard.
0628 Anchored 500 yds. off South Beach of Bill of Portland.
0635 Secured from General Quarters.
0945 Sent wounded ashore.
All guns that fired had excellent performance, with no material casualties. Amunition expenditure: 20mm 120 rounds, 40mm 11 rounds.
Part IV – REPORT OF DAMAGE
Only slight damage was caused to this ship, consisting of two riddled life rafts, one cleat shot in two and numerous small punctures in voice tube, canvas etc., due to shrapnel.
It is impossible to tell how much, if any, damage was sustained by the E-Boat. One 20mm and one 40mm each believe to have hit it several times, but with no other apprent effect than reporting to put one of its guns out of action.
Part V – CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
It is believed one or more submarines and E-Boats operated in close conjunction with one another. As the source of the flare rockets could not be determined on the radar, it is likely they were fired by a submerged submarine, which was employing its listening devices to locate the target for the E-Boats, illuminate it with flares fired in the direction of the target. The E-Boats evidently lay off the flanks of the column, awaiting at a glance at their target, and then make a quick dash in to release their torpedoes.
The fire discipline of the gun crews was good. All men handled themselves in a commendable manner.