Saturday, November 03, 2007

U-boat hunters

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ECHO.co.uk
November 03, 2007




HMS Audacity was the Royal Navy’s first merchant aircraft carrier whose role was to protect convoys crossing the Atlantic with vital supplies for Britain during World War II.

Surprisingly, she started life as a German passenger ship, the Hannover, which was captured early in the war.

The crew had attempted to scuttle her but were foiled by a boarding party from a British destroyer.

In 1941 she was converted into a flat-top escort carrier, also known as a MAC ship.

She could operate just four light Grumman Martlet aircraft from her short flight deck with no hanger.

There is a 1:300 scale model of the camouflaged Audacity in Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Battle of the Atlantic gallery.

She did not have a long life as she was sunk by a German U-boat submarine in December 1941 after just four escort passages.

The need to close the 400-mile “air gap” in the mid-Atlantic led to the development of the MAC ships. Most were grain carriers or oil tankers fitted, while being built, with a basic flight deck for three or four Swordfish bi-planes.

The MAC ships not only provided air cover for convoys but also carried much-needed supplies of grain or oil for Britain.

From mid-1943 at least one MAC ship, crewed by the Merchant Navy and carrying aircraft and men of the 836 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, sailed with every north Atlantic convoy.

They were joined by new purpose-built British and US naval aircraft carriers. US Liberator bombers closed the “air gap” by late April 1943. At the same time, long-range British and American aircraft attacked U-boats in the Bay of Biscay near their French bases.

Equipped with powerful searchlights for night operations, air-to-surface radar and increasingly effective weapons, these aircraft enjoyed many successes.

The fitting of highly-accurate centimetric radar on long-range aircraft was another major turning point in the anti-U-boat campaign.

More U-boats were sunk by aircraft than by ships during the last two years of the war. The RAF Coastal Command played a decisive role in the Battle of the Atlantic, particularly from 1943 onwards. In all, it sank at least 155 U-boats in Atlantic waters.

RAF Coastal Command was a multi-national air force involving the RAF, Royal Navy Squadrons, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Czech and Polish Air Forces and US Navy and US Army Air Forces.

Other exhibits include a green-coloured 100 lb air-dropped anti-submarine bomb from about 1941 – the earliest of its type used by the British.

Merseyside Maritime Museum is open seven days a week, admission free.


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www.schnorkel.blogspot.com

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