South African Military History Society


Our 10 May meeting was certainly a memorable one. Fellow member "Gar" Nash not only invited us into his Catalina flying boat complete with rest bunks and primus stoves to prepare breakfast during their often very long patrols, but even made us part of one of his war experiences: an attack and sinking of a U-Boat far south of Cape Town in 1944.

The Consolidated Catalina PBY (anti-submarine) had a patrol speed of 180 km, and a range (with full military load) of 3700 km. They carried machine guns in the waist blisters, one each in the bow turret and rear ventral hatch, plus up to four stores of 450 kg each on wing racks - depth charges.

The U-Boat was the ex-Italian submarine Alpino Bagnolini, taken over by the German Navy and renamed UIT 22. From an attack vessel it had been rebuilt as a submarine transporter in 1943, carrying freight to the Far East. However, with 8 torpedo tubes (12 torpedoes), 3.9 inch and 4 x 13.2 mm (2x2) guns, 76 m length, speeds of 17 knots surfaced and 8 knots submerged, it was a formidable adversary, even for Catalinas, as many crews can testify. The U-boat was on its way to the East to supply other boats operating there, and had been instructed to meet the damaged U-178 which was on its home trip, south of Cape Point.

"Gar" and his Cat left England for South Africa on 27.1.44. It was one of the slowest combat aircraft of WW II, wags said that crews needed a calendar rather than a stop watch to rendezvous with a convoy. Due to many stop-overs for mechanical reasons, which the crew of nine took in their stride, it was almost five weeks, until they reached Durban and joined 262 Squadron. When, on 3.3.1944, Combined HQ in Cape Town received word from ULTRA, the code-breaking facility listening in on German secret message traffic, that three U-boats would round Cape Point some 900 km south, operation Wicketkeeper was planned. 262 Squadron flew to Langebaan, and one of its Cats carried out a creeping line ahead patrol on 8.3.1944. After having been in the air for 15 hours, it returned without a sighting.
But three days later, two Cats, one of them piloted by "Gar", made contact with the U-Boat, cruising surfaced at ten knots on a westerly course. UIT 22 had possibly been damaged and lost oil through an attack by US aircraft earlier on, 600 miles off the Azores. Now it was short of fuel which it hoped to obtain from U-178, and, to make sure of a rendezvous, it sent its position reports frequently to HQ in Germany while waiting.
The first Cat under Flt.Lt. Roddick attacked and straddled the vessel twice with depth charges, and also fired all guns. The U-Boat returned fire, damaging the Cat, which marked the datum with a smoke float. The sub listed to starboard and submerged after twelve minutes.
After "Gar" had arrived and located the datum, he patrolled the area in formation with the Cat of Flt.Lt.Surridge. Suddenly he sighted the white wash of a U-boat's conning tower breaking the surface one mile ahead. He attacked at once, dropped a stick of six DC's, and fired all guns. The sub was straddled, the DC's exploded, and it disappeared. Oil and wreckage came up immediately and spread.

While all this was taking place, a crew member in the third Cat took photographs from his open blister window. And it was these dramatic photographs which "Gar" showed us.
About ten minutes later a mushroom of darker oil welled up and spread. The U-boat did not re-appear.
When the weather worsened, "Gar", who no longer had an offensive capability, returned to base.
The Admiralty assessment considered the vessel as probably sunk, and after the war the U-boat, identified as UIT 22, commanded by Olt.z.S.Karl Wunderlich, was confirmed sunk with all hands.

Thank you "Gar" for a very personal presentation really enjoyed by the many members and visitors. It was a record turnout.

Johan v.d.Berg prepared the excellent overhead transparencies, adding the authentic I was there feeling to Gar's presentation. Special thanks to Geoffrey Mangin who produced our new address system. It worked very well and now even members sitting in the last row will be able to hear the speaker clearly.

A copy of the talk with all details and U-Boat drawings is available and can be borrowed from the Scribe.


14 June 2001
RAILWAY GUNS. With special emphasis on German guns, e.g. Paris gun in WW II and the giant DORA 80 cm gun, used against Sevastopol.
Illustrated Talk by Johan v.d.Berg
12 July 2001
"AGES OF EMPIRE": From rifle to musket to .303
Illustrated Talk by Dr.John Austin from the Historic Firearms Society

16 Aug 2001
Medal Evening with three-presenters, each one dealing with a different theme
13 Sept 2001
STALINGRAD: The Persistent Enigma
Slide Talk by John Mahncke
11 Oct 2001
Slide Talk by Stan Lambrick.
8 Nov 2001
Illustrated Talk by Bob Buser.
Programme Schedule is subject to change.

Welcome to new Members: Messrs. R. Glass and G.V. Sandilands.

Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 20h00 at the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line.
All Visitors welcome. Tea and Biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167

South African Military History Society /