Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Redemption in the English Channel

1 July 1942
3:30 local time
I need sleep. I've been awake for nearly a day now and am exhausted from last night's action. Letting two battleships and a heavy cruiser pass out of my reach has also weighed heavily on me for the past several hours; leaving me in a mood only matched by the foul weather. At least the heavy rain will give us enough cover to run on the early morning. We are resuming our original cruise towards the Irish coast.

12:53 local time
A radio message came in through the fog: there is a large convoy approx. 40km west of our position heading right towards us. We are currently west of Land's End and south of Ireland, the perfect spot for an incoming convoy trap. the trick will be to find them in this thick weather.

20:14 local time
We did it! Between the dive off of the adrenaline rush and the excitement my hands won't stop shaking! At 14:26 we intercepted the convoy; several contacts spread all across our heading. Fortunately for us they were moving slowly and we were able to sneak right into their midst. With less than 500 meters visibility we had to rely on stealth to move in close enough to identify our targets. After passing by two smaller merchants we spotted a troop transport followed directly by a large tanker. I sent two eels towards each ship and waited nervously, thinking back to my last failed attack. I was rewarded by two explosions that sent the troop transport nearly over on her side and a hit on the tanker. In desperation of losing sight of the tanker in the murk I sent the aft torpedo out but it passed by, striking another ship off in the distance. The transport was definitely sinking, her engine bays must be flooding.

As the crew frantically reloaded we dropped down to fifty meters in preparation for the escorts. I kept expecting a cruiser or smaller picket ship to show up but they didn't come for us; I can only guess they were too busy plucking survivors from the transport out of the sea as it slowly slipped beneath the waves. We came back up with three tubes loaded and found our tanker just barely in view. We closed the distance within minutes and launched one torpedo. A resounding impact was heard on the hydrophones; a dud! I let loose another fore and the aft eels. Fireballs leaped from her belly as she broke in two! As the heat wave hit us Karl wrenched open the door, 'Sir! I can hear a ship right behind us!" I swung the scope around to see yet another large tanker bearing down on us! In my excitement it had not occurred to me to keep scanning all around us. A sad day this would have been if the sonarman had not warned me! I retracted the scope and ordered us back down to fifty meters to reload.

After carefully stalking our new tanker on the hydrophones we surfaced directly behind her at just over 400 meters. I set two eels at different depths and sent them out. At least one exploded under her keel and broke her back! With three large ships heading to the bottom of the Channel I decided it was time to leave. We have four remaining torpedoes for the rest of our long patrol and may need them. We slipped out under cover of heavy rain and will attempt to bring in the two torpedoes from the deck as soon as the weather slackens. Happy sailing ahead.

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