Monday, 8 September 2003

HMS Battler - report of Salerno action 8th - 19th September 1943

I have the honour to submit my report of proceedings in Operation Avalanche carried out by Force V between 8th and 19th Sep.

8th Sep

In accordance with RAV’s signal “B” slipped for No.7 and 7a bouys and proceeded out of Malta Grand Harbour and took up station with Force V. Zigzag commenced at 1510. Entered Messina Straits at 2215, course as necessary. Firework display were observed at Messina, at other positions on both sides of the Straits, thought obviously to be Peace celebrations of the Italian surrender to the Allies.

9th Sep

Between 0045 and 0510 on the 9th gunfire was observed bearing 000 degrees. At 0517 star shells, lights and aircraft were seen bearing 000. Operating area for Force V was entered at approx 0525. At 0620 Martlets from Force H arrived over Force V. At 0848 air raid warning Red was received and negative about 12 minutes later. Force H on the beam about 14 miles, Force V’s course being 308. At 1201 a large number of landing craft were observed bearing 025, 7 miles, on course 130. Air raid warning Red at 1510 was negative at 1512. 1 Italian seaplane few across our bows at 1630 about 4 miles and dropped two depth charges, aircraft crashed into the sea 1633 bearing 220, 7 miles. Ett 1720 hospital seaplane destroyed and survivors picked up (signal from MTB 313 tuned 091710). Force H bearing 255, 6 miles at 1908 at 2252. Unidentified aircraft flew across fleet on course 160 and one with navi lights on flew over at 2202. Presume hostile a/c flew over at 2332, cleared 2345.

10th Sep

Fighter cover 4 Martlets arrived over Force V from Force H at 0635. At 0845 it was signalled that Unicorn top cover had shot down 4 enemy fighters. Sylla detected unidentified a/c ahead bearing 134, 4 miles notified that cruisers may fire barrage, gunfire heard 2313, probably from Force H

11th Sep

A/c to starboard presumably hostile at 0500. Coloured flares dropped. Destroyers make smoke screen. Gunfire heard at 0510 bearing Green 145. Fleet reported clear of hostile a/c at 0535. Large number of landing craft seen at 0740 bearing 080, 7 to 9 miles. Signal received stating that aerodrome would be serviceable at 1500 today. At 1310 depth charge dropped 2½ miles astern. More depth charges dropped at 1350, bearing 350, 1 mile portside. Unidentified a/c at 2045 5 miles closing. Smoke screen by destroyers at 205. At 2353 aircraft reported bearing 160, 9 miles. Charybdis opened fire. Secure 0013.

12th Sep

Passed tank craft, one American 8” Cruise and 2 American destroyers on bearing 020. At 0627 2 Destroyers joined Force V from Force H. Destroyers on screen dropped 2 Depth Charges at 1220 ahead of fleet. Made emergency turn at 1220 to 150. At 1355 3 Seafires flew off for aerodrome (Monte Coraino) piloted by Lt / Cdr Firth and 2 Fighting French pilots.
At 1410 Cleveland and Krackowiack reformed screen. HMS Battler anchored at Palermo with fleet at 1945.

13th Sep

Weighed anchor at Palermo 0610 and arrived at Bizenta at 1900.

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