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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Every Day

For the last week, thousands of Soviet bombers and fighters took off from the fields in Western Europe and crossed the English Channel and North Sea. The initial routes were decidedly predictable with the raids from the Brest area heading NNE towards Plymouth and then before crossing the channel veering away from British soil. The raids coming from Denmark started out almost due West and took divergent routes from there. There were two main routes feigned from Amsterdam and Dunkirk with one initially headed due West and the one from Dunkirk which headed northwest. All had turned back before contact with the RAF and crossing over into British airspace.

On October 10th, it all changed. Homing beacons appeared in four separate areas of the seas surrounding Britain. The southernmost one started transmitting from the Celtic Sea. Another was off Ireland in the area known as Donegal Bay. Another was in the Shetland Trench off Scotland and the fourth in the North Sea. The Royal Navy was instantly alert, and the individual commands in their respective areas each decided how to react. The beacons started transmitting with minutes of each other and were extremely powerful and unmistakable in their intent. The timing was such that the daily raids were formed up and were heading in their usual directions.

The forces in the Celtic Sea reacted aggressively and started to send 4 squadrons of aircraft into the area along with 2 destroyers and 10 other smaller vessels including 5 Frigates and the famous 2nd Support Group. Four of the Black Swan Class Sloops of the original 2nd Support Group that had sunk 22 U-boats in the last war were still looking for victims. The original sloops Starling, Wren, Cyngnet and Wild Goose were joined by the Flamingo, Magpie and Amethyst. These sloops were the most experienced sub hunters in the Royal navy. Although their commanders and crews had changed, their tenacity and training had not diminished. Already they had sunk 3 Soviet Seehunds, the most of any unit. Their commander of the group was puzzled at the audacity of the Soviet beacons but was determined to follow orders. The taskforce was ordered to silence the beacon, and to sink the submarines responsible. 2nd Support Group was the farthest from the beacons in the Irish Sea. It would take another 30 minutes for them to rendezvous with the other destroyers, frigates and who were within 60 minutes of the beacon.

2 Squadrons of Royal Navy Seafires were scrambled as well as 2 squadrons of Hawker Sea Furies and a squadron of submarine hunters. The distances involved for the British planes were 150 miles from their bases. The VVS southern raid, which normally turned away from British air space, kept going flying north in one massive cloud. Some of the Navies 4.5” guns got off some long range volleys and did score a few hits but by and large there were now 45 squadrons of fighters between the 5 Royal navy squadrons and home. The Hawker Sea Furies could have theoretically used their long range and speed to out maneuver the Soviets planes, but the Seafires were in trouble. They were slower and could not out climb the La7s that were vectoring in on them. The Hawker Sea Furies to a man decided to stay with their comrades and try and see them home.

The destroyer flotilla included the HMS Charity and Consort, both Class C British destroyers. Being closer to the beacons when they became active, they too were cut off from safety by the distances involved. The 2nd Support Group and all it famous sloops were ordered to return to port when it became apparent that the beacon was a possible ruse. Their commander, knowing the potential fate of the destroyers and other ships of the flotilla, claimed radio troubles and decided to add his AA guns to the fight. For its part, the RAF was concerned with the three other huge raids still circling over the channel and winging their way over the North Sea towards the Northern most beacon. The Royal navy fleet command out of Scapa Flow had already decided to let the beacons transmit as it saw what was transpiring down south in the Celtic Sea. The two beacons off Scotland and Ireland were silenced fairly quickly by physical attacks by aircraft. That left the two sending out steady signals and capable of guiding the Red Air Force to any target in Britain and safely home.

The RAF did not have enough units in position to join in the Battle of the South Beacon. The large VVS raids in the air circling over France seemed to be waiting to see the reaction of the RAF to the beacons. Fighter Command decided to play it safe and let the RN take care of its own. No aircraft carriers were within range. The taskforce of small sub chasers and the 2 destroyers were in for the fight of their lives along with 4 Royal Navy fighter squadrons.

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