"FLAG BATTLESHIP"   "FLAG BATTLESHIP"   "FLAG BATTLESHIP"

 

The above was the RT distress call code name from the MTB pamphlet (signal publication for CF). This was followed shortly afterwards in plain language "am sinking - require assistance".

 

On D Day + 4 MTB's 448 and 453 were involved in an action with German "E" boats off the French coast. Rod wrote copious notes and in subsequent years researched the original Navy reports of that action. It takes up many pages of text and diagrams, below are excerpts of Rod's log. The action on Sat 10th June 1944 involved MTB 448 Sykes & Timms and MTB 453 with Watson & Hodson on board.

 

"We were engaged by a unit of six "E" boats, they came up on our port beam at very high speed. We all opened fire at the same time, the engagement was very close and intense. The noise was terrific, the charthouse filled with cordite smoke as we sustained hits from heavy gunfire of many calibres. Suddenly a body fell through the doorway from the bridge onto the charthouse floor and I was ready to climb up to the bridge to take command. I turned him over but it was not Rodney but Thorpe the reporter sailing with us. I could see no blood or head wounds so I tried to find a heartbeat but the gunfire was deafening, I couldn't hear or feel a pulse so I presumed he was dead. (He was). The group of "E" boats we came across contained S 112 with damaged steering, 448 attacked S 136  (Kptlt Jurgen Meyer) and dealt and received lethal blows - both sank. MTB 448 passed between No's 4 & 5 of the E boats in line ahead, we dropped a depth charge with a specially designed shallow depth setting. The depth charge was attached to an empty 40 gallon oil drum by a short length of wire. This was designed to explode at shallow depth immediately under the target. All of the enemy gunfire had been directed at 448's hull forward just below the waterline so that 448 could not lift her bows."

 

Rod was asked to go below and survey the damage, he tried to stop the flow of water but the hole was so big that the blankets he shoved into the hole just went straight through into the sea! The fight continued outside. Taking off his sea boots to enable him to swim in the now very likely possibility of them sinking Rod waded back through the now knee-deep water. He then climbed up on deck and reported the situation to the CO Rodney Sykes that they were sinking fast. The CO ordered "abandon ship". Rod then went back down into the boat to send an RT distress call (as above). Very fortunately this was picked by MTB 453 who subsequently came alongside.

 

"The dead and wounded and all crew were transferred plus any removable guns, eg 303" Brownings. I was busy ditching the CB's and SP's, the safe was open and I took a fiendish delight in chucking overboard the heavily weighted AVSB which went in with a resounding splash followed by the remainder of the CB's SP's and challenge & recognition signals for the night - they were in a specially weighted and holed bag, the Top Secret Overlord chart I stuffed down my belt. I then proceeded to destroy the secret QH radar navigation set by bashing it with the end of the heavy brass parallel ruler, I also tried the echo sounder glass front but this was too thick."

 

The water continued to pour in unabated and 448 was settling in the water fast. However a clear mind is needed in a situation such as this and only vital tasks must be undertaken. "Rodney called down from the bridge - could I rescue any of the contents of the wine locker in the wardroom - I lifted the the deck hatch but by now only two rungs of the ladder were above water - so no hope - I closed the hatch. I checked that all the crew was gone and that nobody else was on board and went and set the forward demolition charge for priming." Rod then comments that it was all hands to looting (only he was below decks!)  "I put the binoculars round my neck, deck watch in my pocket and stuck my 45 revolver in my pocket, I rejected the ship's clock as being too big. My last act on board was to crimp the detonation fuse at the end and get off very quickly. 453 was alongside and 448 was now very low in the water."

 

"All of the crew sat around on the upper deck of 453 with Rodney and I on the coachroof just abaft of the bridge - nobody had any inclination to go below. The sea around was brightly lit by flares and gunfire and we could see the stern of 448 sticking nearly vertically out of the water with her propellers slowly rotating. She appeared reluctant to sink so the order was given to assist her using 453's forward six pounder. After a few rounds she slowly slipped below the waves. A moving sight - our dear old ship gone. I was then hit by a piece of shrapnel so we all quickly went below."

 

"The wounded from 448 had been taken below to the fo'cscle mess deck where I performed first aid primarily to stop the bleeding. Bill Piney the AB gunner also had shrapnel in his back and backside. I remembered my St John's training and made ring pads to prevent the shrapnel going in any further. 453 was then ordered to go alongside HMS Duff to discharge dead and wounded for medical attention, 453 then continued on patrol."

 

Despite his ordeal and injuries Rod was "invited" up to the bridge of HMS Duff (a Captain class frigate) to assist the gunnery control officer with recognition of friendly forces as the battle still continued. Rod was in stockinged feet as his seaboots had gone down with 448. By now he had changed his red sock over to his right foot and the green sock to his left foot. Rod always wore his port and starboard socks when he went on operations at sea, they had been knitted by Jean - a sort of good luck charm!

 

"An "E" boat had been sunk and we had no option but to steam quite quickly - no time for evasive action - through a knot of survivors in the water flashing their lifebelt lights and blowing their whistles and yelling in German. I can guess what they were shouting, it was almost panic stations and chaos on the bridge. Things quietened down a bit and it was suggested after a stiff whisky that I should lie down for a bit. I was still clinging to my secret chart."

 

"In the morning - I think - I was transferred to another boat and landed at Vernon Jetty about 0800 on Sunday morning just as Divisions were being held walking up to the Wardroom in my Port and Starboard stockings. Terry who had got the news of 448 sinking was desperately worried that it would fall to his lot to phone Jean at Lee-on-Solent HMS Daedalus that I was missing  - luckily this was not necessary."

 

"The Top Secret Chart of "Overlord" I still had was a problem as nobody would accept it and neither Rodney or I had the authority to destroy it! After much chasing about we took it to the boiler house - saw it burnt - and then jointly signed forms stating that its complete destruction had been witnessed - we heard no more."

 

"After brekker reports had to be made, statistics and forms completed - I had to arrange leave permits, pay, ration cards and railway warrants to send the crew on "survivor" leave I think it was about 5 days. I don't remember much about the leave except that many doodlebugs (V 1's) were passing over and falling in the vicinity of Sandgate, not  the very quiet leave that I hoped for!"

 

 

 

The above newspaper cutting of the sinking of "448" was sent to me by Bernard Morgan (guestbook message 22).

 

 
 The above photo shows a Captain Class Frigate. These frigates were used as Vectoring ships. One would control a flotilla of MTB's. HMS Duff was in this class. It is possible that this is either HMS Duff or HMS Stayner.