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Reunion Photos
Missing Nameplate Comes Home to U.K.
Report on the handing-over ceremony at St Bartholmews

HMS Nairana's Badge Found

Convoy JW 64 and the story of a former Enemy
Safety Ships

A story from Two Sides of the War

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Hans-Werner Grosse's Glider at Lübeck near Hamburg

Convoy JW 64 By David Whittick


On the 10th February 1945 HMS NAIRANA was on escort duty to this convoy from Greenock to Murmansk, somewhere to the north-west of Norway when the convoy was attacked by 40 Junkers 88s. Fatty Goering’s orders to the crews were “GET THE CARRIER”
Our fighters were sent to intercept and all Swordfish “grounded” below decks. Having nothing better to do I climbed onto the flight deck in time to see two Ju 88s, in line astern, appear out of the murk, at very low altitude. Every ship was firing at them, even across our flight deck, although they obviously could not see them. The batsman’s assistant, standing beside me, admiring the courage of these crews suddenly let out a yelp “I’ve been hit Sir, I’ve been hit” He had a chunk of shrapnel in his back, sticking out of his leather Irvin jacket so naturally he had to go to Sick Quarters. By this time the leading 88 was passed us only to be shot down at the head of the convoy.
Over the years I often wondered what had happened to the second aircraft. Three years ago I heard of an 88 pilot who attended a meeting of ex- Arctic Convoy Ship’s crews in the north of England. By accident I found that he had been in this particular attack on the convoy! Again, by accident, somebody provided me with an address. Cutting a long story short this was the pilot of the second 88 whose subsequent story of that day was one of great courage and ability. Briefly, he had managed to reach the centre of the convoy, where the main escorts were. He could see no carrier so he attacked a frigate - which very cleverly avoided his torpedoes. Flying as low as possible over the wave tops to avoid the ship’s gunfire he hit a larger than normal wavetop, thereby damaging his starboard propeller. Virtually on one engine he had great difficulty staying airborne, never mind corkscrewing to avoid the gunfire. He was a long way from base, Bardufoss, in the north of Norway. The weather was dreadful. The airfield an extremely difficult one to find especially in the dark. Somehow he made it. Two years ago we - six members of our squadron - were able to meet him at a mini reunion of 835 squadron. This year he and his wife attended our main reunion at Leamington Spa. After dinner he was introduced to the members. His reply in perfect English produced a standing ovation. Next morning at our members meeting it was proposed he should be made an Honorary Member. Unanimous approval was given and two weeks ago I had the privilege of flying with him in his own glider at Lübeck near Hamburg. This glider, Eta, is the biggest prototype in the World which he helped to design....Hans-Werner Grosse, the holder of 48 World records! And we tried to kill one another!!!


David Whittick
21st August 01


The Story of Hans-Werner Grosse,
former Ju 88 Pilot


You would not believe it but in winter 43-44 I had still some hope that we might win the war or achieve a stalemate. There was talk about the Wunderwaffen V1 and V2, Jets and rocket planes would bring an end to the slaughter of our hometowns. We thought we had an obligation to save Europe from being overrun by Stalins hordes. War against our " Arian relatives " in the West was considered a tragedy.
I was achieving one direct hit after the other. But that was in torpedo-school at Riga, flying straight and level for 20 seconds to let the gyros stabilise. We did not know what we were in for....on our first moonlight attack in the mediterranean my squadron lost 6 out of 12 crews. Midair collisions? Night fighters or just hitting the water while flying at or below 10 m on our secret weapons (radio altimeters and benzedrine) ? After both invasions in France only about 15 out of 100 crews were alive and flying. August 44 we were filling up with new volunteers. They had not enough flying hours to survive poor weather and flying on one engine. October 44 we transferred to Bardufoss, a tricky airfield with poor approaches and high mountains. November till January was spent skiing interrupted by missions without success. We failed to really contact the convoy, but on the way back we ran into snow, icing and low cloud. Several crews parachuted, others ran into mountains.
I knew Bodoe from previous experience and landed there in the darkness on the then short runway that was partly built from logs in the water - only to find that the girl I was hoping to see was friendly with another pilot or maybe only a navigator.
It must have been 10/Febr/45 when we got special orders to knock out " the aircraft carrier ". Goering, whom at that time we called only the fat one, thought he could bolster morale by sending us 4 bottles of cognac per crew member. But he produced only headaches and thereby more losses . We got orders to drop our torpedoes at 500m distance. The more experienced crews just laughed because the torpedoes need more than that in the water to be live on contact.
After hours of flying in radio and radar silence we were suddenly engulfed by unexpected water fountains . Before we saw the ships my neighbour Gunter Breu was in flames and exploded on impact . I went through low fog and was right in between the convoy defence. I dropped the torpedoes against a frigate. But it was turning towards us . We found ourselves flying parallel and pretty close to what my crew described as a flak-cruiser, maybe it was Diadem. We were engulfed by showers of light and medium flak. Like flying in heavy snow. The tracers went up and down like they were shooting a barrier, but in retrospect it might have been due to the ship rolling in the heavy sea. In this deadly situation we had a real laugh : my rear gunners were shooting with their half inch guns at the cruiser and I asked them whom would you frighten with your marmaladesprayers ? All the time I flew semi aerobatic evasive actions directed by my crew shouting ‘up’, ‘down’ . Suddenly I hit a wavetop with the righthand prop and lost 40cm of the 3 bladed wooden props. The engine vibrated so violently that we could see the horizon through the engine. Always expecting the engine to break loose we had to make it into cloud to avoid the Wildcats. No I’m sorry , Stringbags were not our problem at that moment. In cloud I let the engine idle because I did not trust that after feathering I could restart it for the neccesary climb over the hills short of Bardufoss .
These hours back to base were the longest hours of our lives. Would the sick engine break loose ? Would the other engine last ? We had foam flying suits.... But what good were they ? Only adding ten more minutes of misery in the cold water. Well, we made it into Bardufoss.
After the landing another pilot congratulated me on "my destroyer " and I told him that I thought it very unlikely that I hit anything because of the clever action of the ship’s captain . Then he asked me if I would verify his success ? I am very glad I did not fall for this trap . So I am almost the only one of the surviving aircrews that did not have to rewrite his war story after 50 years of pretence or error.... 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, 8 freighters sunk, another 7 freighters so badly damaged that they probably were lost in the rough sea. That was the special report from the Fuehrer Hauptquartier, when in fact not one ship was even damaged.
But You could help me and give me Your guess : What have the "successful" crews seen ? Waterbombs, smoke of ships under full power , exploding Ju88 ?
Th.G.I.F. (“Thank God It’s Friday”!!) (As one pilot to another, the feat of getting that 88 back on one engine in rough weather, bad visibility, in the dark to a difficult airfield was worthy of the “Iron Cross First Class” which of course he did not get!!....D.W )


Hans-Werner Grosse
14/11/00

 
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