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Operation Source

Operation Source
Part of World War II
Date 20-22 September 1943
Location Altenfjord, Norway
Result British success
 United Kingdom  Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
Lt. Henty-Creer RNVR  ?
6 midget submarines,
6 conventional submarines
2 battleships
 ? escort vessels
 ? soldiers
Casualties and losses
9 killed, 6 prisoner  ?

Operation Source was a series of attacks to neutralise the heavy German warships - Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Lutzow - based in Northern Norway, using X-class midget submarines.

The attacks took place in September 1943 and succeeded in keeping the Tirpitz out of action for at least 6 months.

The operation was later portrayed in the 1955 war film, Above Us the Waves, featuring John Mills, which was based on both Operation Source, and the earlier Chariot human torpedo attacks on the Tirpitz.

[edit] The attack

Six X-craft were used. HMS X5, X6 and X7 were allocated the battleship Tirpitz, in Kåfjord. HMS X9 and X10 were to attack the battlecruiser Scharnhorst, also in Kåfjord. HMS X8 was to attack the aged pocket battleship Lützow in Langefjord.

The craft were towed to the area by conventional submarines (HMS Truculent (X6)[1] Syrtis (X9),[2] Sea Nymph (X8),[3] Thrasher (X5; flag of the operation's commander, Lt. Henty-Creer),[4] Stubborn (X7),[5] and Sceptre) (X10)[6] and manned by passage crews on the way. Close to the target, the operation crews would take over. X9, probably trimmed heavily by the bow in the heavy sea for the tow, was lost with all hands on the passage when her tow parted and she suffered an abrupt plunge due to her bow-down trim.[7] X8 (passage crew commanded by Lt. J. E. "Jack" Smart) developed serious leaks in her side-mounted demolition charges, which had to be jettisoned; these exploded, leaving her so damaged she had to be scuttled.[8] The remaining X-craft began their run in on 20 September and the actual attacks took place on 22 September 1943.

Scharnhorst was engaged in exercises at the time, and hence was not at her normal mooring, X10's attack was abandoned, although this was due to mechanical and navigation problems, and the submarine returned to rendezvous with her 'tug' submarine and was taken back to Scotland.

X6 and X7 managed to drop their charges underneath Tirpitz, but were unable to make good their escape as they were observed and attacked. Both craft were abandoned and six crew survived to be captured. Although the fate of X5 is unclear, it is believed to have been sunk by a direct hit from one of Tirpitz's four-inch guns before having had a chance to place her charges. In 2004, a saddle charge identical to those used by the X-class was found on the bottom of Kåfjord, a short distance from the site of the attack. Although it has not been positively identified, it is believed to be from the X5.

Tirpitz was heavily damaged. While not in danger of sinking, she took on over 1,400 tons[9] of water and suffered significant mechanical damage, including shock to the roller bearings in "D" turret aft.[10] Tirpitz could not leave her anchorage until April 1944. For this action, the commanders of the craft, Lieutenant Donald Cameron (X6) and Lieutenant Basil Place (X7), were awarded the Victoria Cross, whilst Robert Aitken, Richard Haddon Kendall, and John Thornton Lorimer received the Distinguished Service Order and Edmund Goddard the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.[11] The commander of the X8, John Elliott Smart was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).[12]

[edit] X-craft and crews

  • X-5 ' unofficially named Platypus,[13] commanded by Lt. Henty-Creer RNVR (also the operation's commander),[14] crew S-Lt. Nelson, Midshipman Malcolm, and ERA Mortiboys; passage crew Lt Terry-Lloyd (commanding), L/S Element, Stoker Garrity.[15] Henty-Creer, Nelson, Malcolm, and Mortiboys were killed in the attack, though X-5's exact fate is unknown.[16]
  • X-6 ' named Piker II,[17] commanded by Lt. Donald Cameron, crew Lt. J. T. Lorimer, S-Lt. R. Kendall, and ERA Goddard; passage crew Lt Wilson (commanding), Leading Seaman McGregor, Stoker Oxley.[18] Cameron earned a Victoria Cross (VC), Lorimer and Kendall the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Goddard a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM).[19]
  • X-7 ' unofficially named Pdinichthys,[20] commanded by Lt. Basil C. G. Place, crew S-Lt. R. Aitken, Lt. Whittam, and ERA Whiteley; passage crew Lt Philip (commanding), Leading Seaman J. Magennis, Stoker Luck.[21] Place also earned a VC, Aitken the DSO, while Philip was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE); Whittam and Whiteley were killed.[22]
  • X-8 ' commanded by Lt. McFarlane RAN[23] (Lt. Smart was passage crew commander)
  • X-9 ' commanded by Lt. Martin RN[24]
  • X-10 ' unofficially named Excalibur,[25] commanded by Lt. Hudspeth RANVR[26]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Grove, Eric. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War 2, Volume 2 (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan, 1993), pp.124.
  2. ^ Grove, p.124.
  3. ^ Grove, p.127.
  4. ^ Grove, pp.124 & 127.
  5. ^ Grove, p.127.
  6. ^ Grove, p.127.
  7. ^ Grove, p.127.
  8. ^ Grove, p.127.
  9. ^ Grove, p.131.
  10. ^ Grove, p.131.
  11. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36390, pp. 901'902, 10 September 1943. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
  12. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36295, pp. 5539'5540, 17 December 1943. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  13. ^ Grove, Eric. Sea Battles in Close-up: World War 2, Volume 2 (Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan, 1993), pp.124 & 128.
  14. ^ Grove, p.127.
  15. ^ Grove, p.124.
  16. ^ Grove, p.124.
  17. ^ Grove, p.127.
  18. ^ Grove, p.127.
  19. ^ Grove, p.127.
  20. ^ Grove, pp.127 & 128.
  21. ^ Grove, p.127.
  22. ^ Magennis earned a VC in the midget submarine attack on Takao. Grove, p.127.
  23. ^ Grove, p.127.
  24. ^ Grove, p.127.
  25. ^ Grove, p.128.
  26. ^ Grove, p.127.

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