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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Using Us for Practice

The first Soviet VVS Pe 2 Buck dive bombers over the small convoy desperately trying to make its way back to port, took quite a beating. Out of the 23 planes that made the initial attacks, 5 were shot down and no hits were scored. The attack however caused the HMS DD Charity and HMS DD Consort to become separated as they twisted and turned obeying their commanders orders. The orders that caused the destroyers to lurch to port and starboard in ever more erratic patterns trying to confuse the dive bombing Pe2s. It worked for a good 10 minutes and by then 2nd Support group and its 5 Frigates were within 15 minutes of the destroyers and their smaller Corvettes of the Castle Class, the HMS Hadleigh Castle, HMS Lancaster Castle and HMS Bamborough Castle. The Corvettes were soon in the fight of their lives with swarms of Yak 9 UTs who were firing their 37mm cannons from just out of the range of the 20 mm on the little ships. Each in turn was silenced quickly and for the most part out of the fight fairly soon. At various times the DD Charity and DD Consort desperately tried to form up and give each other mutual support but the demands of dodging dive bombers and strafing ground attack aircraft drew them farther and farther apart and soon they were alone in their battles for survival.

The DD Consort was hit by a torpedo from a Soviet XXI submarine and was dead in the water and one by one her guns fell silent. She took 4 Pe2s with her in the end but was effectively out of the fight after 24 minutes of first contact. A floating and burning hulk, that for the most part, was ignored as the furious attacks continued on her sister ship the DD Charity.

The Charity seemed to live a charmed life. She did not shoot down that many more planes during the fight. Quite possibly because her captain made such violent maneuvers that her guns could not be brought to bear for long. In addition the Pe2s that were diving on her were not your typical kamikaze planes who bore straight in. They twisted and turned throwing off the aim of gunners and the shells thrown in their paths as they screamed down in their attacks from almost straight overhead. The 4.5” guns seem almost totally ineffective, and were almost useless once the dive bombers were overhead. They could only elevate to more than a 50 degree angle and the 40mm were little better at 55 degrees. That left the 20 mm guns alone to deal with the dive bombers and not many were hit in their attack runs as they pulled up from their dives out of optimal range of 3,000 feet. If the destroyers were closer to each other they could have covered each other from these kinds of attacks but alone the Charity was living on borrowed time and time that was running out. The Pe2s seemed to be almost taking bombing practice and making leisurely attacks from almost a straight down angle of up to 70 degrees. Fortunately for the Charity they needed the practice.

Ten minutes before the frigates of the 2nd Support Group could reach effective support range the Charity’s fate took a turn for the worst. One of the Soviet’s flight leaders properly timed the Charity’s captain’s last evasive maneuver and his BETAB-170DS rocket assisted bomb hit the destroyer amid ships. His wingman hit her near the stern and she stopped dead in the water in less than a minute. The Captain of the Charity, in one of his last signals warned off 2nd Support Group to take evasive action and turn for home. The attacking planes seemed to not be aware of the frigates and left them alone. Their sights were now set on the 5 squadrons of Royal Navy aircraft trying to fight their way home.

Upon hearing of their predicament the 2 squadrons of Sea Furies took top cover over their slower 2 squadrons of Seafires. They decided to head due East and try and fight their way through on the shortest route to safety. By heading straight East and going through the teeth of the enemy’s strength the Seafires had about 30 minutes of extra time to dogfight before they reached bingo fuel and had to head for home. There had been a short debate as to whether they should use that extra rang to try and outrun the cloud of Soviet aircraft but it was unanimously decided to fight straight through or die trying. The Sea Furies would attempt to boom and zoom the Soviet fighters sure to be on the tails of the Sea Furies. This meant that the more powerful and faster Sea Furies would stay at a high level until they spotted one of their fellow airmen in trouble and would boom down from above and attempt to break up the attack. After a diving attack they would zoom back up to a higher altitude and attempt to do it again. Planes with more powerful engines and better power to weight ratios have been doing this to slower more maneuverable antagonists ever since aerial warfare had been invented. One of the best planes at this tactic was the P-38 twin boom Lightning which had cleared the skies over the Pacific despite having two engines and was almost twice the size of the Zero fighter it faced. It accomplished this feat by booming from a high altitude and then zooming away. Most NATO aircraft at this stage of the war used this tactic against their opponents. Only the Spitfire and Seafire of the British would still attempted to turn and burn with certain of their enemies.

If the numbers had not been so overwhelming the story might have been different. After first contact most of the RAF fighters found themselves alone without a wingman and in combat against 5 or more enemy fighters. Ironically the few who did escape did so because the Soviet fighters kept getting in each other’s line of fire and trying to steal the “kill” from their comrades…and kill they did. 30 Seafires started out the fight with only 5 coming back. The Sea Furies did better with 10 of the 24 surviving. Two VVS Yak 3s collided trying to get on the tail of one of the surviving Seafires and 2 more were shot down mostly by having the unlucky experience of ending up in front of the same Sea Fury’s 4 20mm cannons within seconds of each other. The lucky pilot who got two kills in 10 seconds died seconds later and no one is sure which pilot it was. It was a devastating loss of 35 planes in a matter of minutes. Luckily the waters of the Irish Sea still held some warmth from the Gulf Current and 5 pilots were rescued before hypothermia set in.

Some measure of revenge was extracted up north. The fleet out of Scapa Flow did not take the bait and waited till after the Northern Soviet air armada had departed back to base. A flotilla of Corvettes and night flying sub hunter aircraft arrived near the beacon and waited. After several hours of darkness 5 Seahund mini subs who had been part of the trap, surfaced in the area.

They had run out of battery power and oxygen and were forced to surface and having a limited range of only 63 km submerged and a speed of 3 knots they were still in the area of the beacon. The radar of the Corvettes picked them up and the sub hunter aircraft sunk 3 of them in a night action attack.

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