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  #1  
Old 6th April 2011, 12:41
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

RAF Beaufighters attacked twice the ship Embla off Southern France in April 1944, both times suffering one loss.

On 6 April 1944 the Beaufighter LZ488 of 272 Sqn was lost with its crew (Sqn Ldr René Jean Ghislain Demoulin (pilot, Belgian) and Flt Sgt Samuel Barker) in an attack in which the Embla was damaged.

On 19 April 1944 12 Beaufighter found again the Embla south of Aigues-Mortes and this time sank her with gunfire and torpedoes, but the Beaufighter NE371 of 39 Sqn crashed at sea, both crew, Flt Sgt Arthur Leslie Hewitt (pilot) and Sgt John Frankland Garnett, being killed.

The strange part of the story is that all my sources agree that the Embla was a Swedish ship hired by the British Red Cross to bring parcels from occupied France to North Africa for German POWs !!!

Losing two aircraft and crews in attacks against an unarmed Red Cross ship seems strange to me, so I wonder if this part of the story is true. Can anyone confirm that the Embla was a Red Cross ship ? If this is the case, I guess that there should be some trace of it, either the Red Cross, the German or the Swedish probably having complained about the attacks.

Thanks in advance

Laurent
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:44
Guy JULIEN Guy JULIEN is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Bonjour Laurent,
Yes I can, Embla was a red Cross Ship correctly indentified as neutral .
Some days later the same Beaufighter units severly damaged a two other ships Chasseral and Chistiana in the same area, both were operated by CICR.
In this time odrers were very simple "Sink at sight"
Guy
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Old 6th April 2011, 15:04
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Merci Guy

Even if Beaufighter were ordered to sink everything found, they should have been warned of the presence of Red Cross ships in the area. At least in theory, even if they apparently attacked them four times in some weeks.

There was probably diplomatic protest about these attacks, but I wonder if these go down to the Beaufighter Wing or squadrons.

And I still wonder what is the cause of the loss of both Beaufighter. They were certainly not shot down by Red Cross gunners !!

Bonne journée
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Old 6th April 2011, 21:52
Leendert Leendert is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Laurent,

In google.books I found the "Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World War, Sept. 1, 1939- June 30, 1947".

It says that after the Embla incident "the British government requested that, as an additional precaution, ICRC vessels should give their position by wireless to permit their identification etc..."
This meant the cooperation of the Germans as well.

If the measure was additional, then whatever neutrality markings of the ship had not been sufficient enough?

The report does say that the ICRC "notified the Powers of these violations", also referring to the attack on the vessel Cristina on 6 May 1944.

Regards,

Leendert
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Old 6th April 2011, 22:48
Darius Darius is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Hello friends,

here´s info from the german side:
http://warsailors.com/forum/read.php...,2092#msg-2092
of the sinking.

Greetings

Darius
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Old 7th April 2011, 12:41
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Leendert and Darius, thanks for these interesting pieces of information
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Old 9th April 2011, 00:13
Stig Jarlevik Stig Jarlevik is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Laurent

S/S Embla was built for the Svea Line 1908 by the Lindholmen Wharf in Gothenburg. She was built for the shipping line's traffic to Köln (Cologne). It is important to realise that in 1940 S/S Embla was outside the declared blockade. In the beginning of 1941 she was chartered by the British Red Cross to move Red Cross packages between Lisboa to Marseille and onforwarding to British POW in Germany. First trip May 27th 1941 and appx one trip per month. This was done with another Swedish vessel S/S Vega (later also transporting packages to the British Channel Islands, occupied by the Germans). When the fortunes of war changed and Germany capitulated in NA S/S Embla also made trips from Marseille to North Africa with relief packages, so to speak in reverse. The first trip Marseille to Casablanca was on Feb 29th,1944. S/S Embla's 40th trip became eventful and started on March 23rd, 1944 from Lisboa to Marseille with 704 ton relief goods (including mail) onboard and skipper Captain G.W.O Ericson. On April 5th she departed Marseille to Casablanca with a smaller load. Around noon on April 6th she was appx three nautical miles NE of Port Vendres (Spanish/French border) and about one hour later she was overflown by a number of British aircraft and one of them was observed to crash some distance away. No "enemy" action reported. Ca 15 minutes later (13.15H) S/S Embla by now some 10 nautical miles from shore was suddenly attacked by bombs and gunfire. Aircraft identified as B-26 Marauders (sic) and guessed as belonging to Coastal Command (roundels no doubt observed). The bombs created little damage (a leak), while the gunfire created a fire onboard. The vessel immediately asked to use Port Vendres as port of refuge but the need for the local fire brigade was not required since her crew had already managed to extinguish the fire. She stayed for 12 days and the decision was made to return to Marseille but a sharp protest had also been made to the Allies since the vessel was clearly marked with Red Cross markings. The reason for her return was that the insurance company insisted on her return to validate damaged cargo. On April 18th at 10.00H she left harbour and steamed towards Marseille. Night traffic was forbidden in Golfe de Dijon so she stayed in Sète during the night and continued on the 19th at 06.00H. At 09.30H she was suddenly again attacked by between 10-12 B-26 Marauders (sic) from 14 Sq (sic) of Coastal Command with very heavy gunfire and possibly also rockets during appx 12 minutes. The vessel was hit very hard and both fire and leakage broke out. The crew tried to extinguish the fire and seal the leakages but to no avail. Only one lifeboat remained intact, the starboard one, and all 21 crewmembers could crowd together inside before S/S Embla sank (only the logbook was saved). During the attack the British attackers were charged by German fighter aircraft and one the attackers was seen to be shot down. The ship wrecked crew was escorted by a German patrol boat to the small harbour Le Grau du Roi and were later repatriated onboard S/S Vega to Lisboa. Needless to say also this attack was sharply criticized to the British!

Source: Dödlig resa, svenska handelsflottans förluster 1939-1945 (Lethal trips. Swedish Merchant Fleet losses 1939-45)

Is it confirmed the aircraft were from 272 Sq?
Is there any combat report(s) from the British Side?

Cheers
Stig
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Old 9th April 2011, 03:13
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Thanks Stig, your report gives an explanation of the English loss on 19 May 1944, if German aircraft attacked them.

On the other hand I have no claim by German fighters. But if they were from a training unit, or Ar 196, all claims are not known.

I checked the book Armed Rovers. On 6 April it is said that the Beaufighter of Sqn Ldr Demoulin was strafing a fishing boat when his starboard wing crumpled and flames came from the engine, although no fire was seen to come from the boat. On 19 April during the attack by 272 Sqn of a ship carrying international markings, there was some return fire from the ship (!!) and a Beaufighter flown by Flt Sgt Arthur L Hewitt went into a high-speed stall after pulling out, and then crashed into the sea.
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Old 9th April 2011, 06:39
Six Nifty .50s Six Nifty .50s is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stig Jarlevik View Post
At 09.30H she was suddenly again attacked by between 10-12 B-26 Marauders (sic) from 14 Sq (sic) of Coastal Command with very heavy gunfire and possibly also rockets during appx 12 minutes. The vessel was hit very hard and both fire and leakage broke out.

Culprits identified as 14 Squadron RAF Marauders? This is surprising. The Marauder was sleek and also very fast with the original short wing and vertical fin; but those were the same features that caused control problems at low altitude. For that reason the Marauder, especially the short-winged variety used by the RAF, was not well suited to strafing (or landing, for that matter).
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Old 9th April 2011, 10:52
Guy JULIEN Guy JULIEN is offline
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Re: Beaufighter vs ship Embla, April 1944

Quote:
Originally Posted by Six Nifty .50s View Post
Culprits identified as 14 Squadron RAF Marauders? This is surprising. The Marauder was sleek and also very fast with the original short wing and vertical fin; but those were the same features that caused control problems at low altitude. For that reason the Marauder, especially the short-winged variety used by the RAF, was not well suited to strafing (or landing, for that matter).
In april of 1944 14 Squadron belonged to the same Wing (328 Wing) than the 39 and 272 squadron. The 14 was in charge of reconnaissance and patrol duties in the benefit of the two attack units.

RAF lost 2 Beaufighter and 1 Marauder (and their crews) to sink the old, unarmed and neutral Embla !

Guy
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