H.M.S. Arab arrived and anchored
off Namsos town in company with the
15th A/S Striking Forces at 0200 Sunday
28th April, 1940. At 0245, "Arab"
was ordered alongside H.M.S. "Carlisle"
(C.S.20) to take off the remaining stores
that the latter ship had brought from
Scapa for the French.
At 0400, cast off owing to air-raid.
- Returned alongside and completed taking
0600 - Proceeded and
made fast to Namsos wharf astern of
French ammunition ship S/S "Saumur".
0730 - As no-one appeared to discharge
these 40 tons of stores, I collected
some British and French soldiers, who
assisted my crew to discharge. At 11.45
High Bomber dropped 500 lb. bomb which
exploded 50 yards from us abreast of
S.S. "Saumur" on wharf, setting
stores and ammunition on fire.
Cast off from wharf at low water.
At 1300 was ordered by "Carlisle"
to take S/S "Saumur" in tow
with H.M.S. "Angle" - the
former had a wire around propeller and
was aground. Before I got there, "Angle"
had towed her off and did not need my
help. Proceeded to run my bows into
burning wharf, left engines going slow
ahead and ran two hoses over forecastle
head to try and put out Ammunition Dump
Fire. I signalled "Carlisle"
that as "Angle" could manage
the towing I would try and put out fire
as "Arab" has good water pressure
and no water was obtainable from the
shore. "Carlisle" answered
1400. Heavy high bombing attack,
16 planes. 1500. No hope of putting
out fire. I proceeded down fjord, put
"Arab" alongside S/S "Saumur"
as "Angle" had parted towing
rope. Kept her in position while propeller
was cleared. 1700 - "Brestois"
(French destroyer) asked how long would
"Saumur" be clearing propeller.
1715. Slipped "Saumur" when
propeller was cleared. 1800. Another
high bombing attack. Proceeded patrol
in fjord. Reverberations from our A/S
were coming back from the cliff side
like shots from a gun.
Signalman Wiggins who was left on
H.M.S. "Bittern" charging
our Aldis batteries, returned via H.M.S.
"Gaul". Returned Seaman Towers
and Stratton to H.M.S. "St. Keenan".
(These two men had been left on shore
earlier on). Received message from H.M.S.
"Carlisle" to put myself under
French Destroyer "Brestois"
orders. Order by latter vessel to embark
French "Chasseurs Alpins"
and put them on transport S/S "Aminois".
29th Monday 0300 - Finished
embarking troops 0330 - Proceeded to
find place under cliff at Hamnesshuken
Mountain. (By this time my crew were
exhausted through lack of sleep). H.M.S.
"Aston Villa" was on patrol
at Ornskaget, H.M.S. "Gaul at Finsneset.
0430 - Heard German planes, got under
way. 0500 - Attacked by high and dive
bombers. 16 bombs were dropped, all
near misses, mostly ahead and astern.
Kept bombers on beam (this would be
done as a rough idea could be obtained
by watching the dive bombers diving
from 10,000 ft. They usually flattened
out at 3000 ft., and wheel was put hard
over just before. Consider it was through
only giving them the beam of the ship
to aim at that saved "Arab".
This attack damaged fan casting in engineroom,
and also damaged rudder and propellor.
0700 - rejoined H.M.S. "Angle"
and "Aston Villa" at Ormshaget.
Attacked again. Ordered by Commander
Congreve to relieve H.M.S. "Gaul"
next morning. 1300 - Attacked again
by divebombers. Proceeded up to Namsos.
Sighted H.M.S. "Aston Villa"
alongside wharf behind Hoo island, closed
her and found most of her castings in
the engineroom had been fractured by
Commander Congreve was busy, with
the help of some Norwegians, in disguising
"Aston Villa" with fir trees.
Was ordered to proceed and find sheltered
spot in the shadow of a cliff to give
my men a rest as they had been on continuous
watch for the last two days. Made fast
alongside Kvarsodden cliff. 1600 - received
message by launch from Army G.H.Q. that
submarine had been sighted proceeding
up Namsen Fjord towards Namsos. "Gaul"
was bombed and a 15 ft. hole was blown
in her bows, although her forward bulkhead
was still holding. She had made fast
in Kroken Bay. Cannot keep track of
the number of air attacks made. They
were coming over in flights of 6 to
9 every hour.
1700 - Bittern arrived. 2000 - "Bittern"
cruising around Namsos Bay, joined her.
Reported on board to her commander and
placed myself under his orders. He suggested
that "Arab" should lie off
Maevraneset Point which is the west
point of Namsos Bay, keeping a steady
bearing with A/S Transmission. This
day we had repeated attacks by high
bombers and dive bombers as no other
ships except trawlers were in Namsen
Fjord until "Bittern" arrived
at 2000. Was told by "Bittern"
that in the morning when bombing commenced
I should place "Arab" about
400 yards to the west of Bittern to
get the best angle of fire for Lewis
guns and Oerlikon as the dive bombers
flattened out over "Bittern".
30th, Tuesday 0700 - Heavy
dive bombing raid, 16 planes mostly
attacking "Bittern". We were
in a very good position to give them
all our guns after they had dropped
their bombs at "Bittern".
These close and assist her. Asked permission
from "Bittern" who told me
to carry on. 0915 - Close "Aston
Villa" and embarked Commander Cogreve,
who wanted to look at "Gaul".
Proceeded down fjord. 1130 - Sighted
"St. Goran" alongside cliff
at Hamneshuken Mountain. Bomb had exploded
on bridge killing Captain, Coxswain
and two ratings. Crew had taken to boats.
Proceeded alongside her life-boat
in which were her wounded, her Carley
floats contained the rest of her crew.
Picked up wounded while heavy bombing
was going on. Sergeant of the Royal
Marines (who was only on board to supervise
the transferring of Medical supplies
from storeship to shore) badly wounded,
shrapnel in back and losing blood and
two ratings with slight wounds. Attempted
to do as much as possible to dress the
seriously wounded man with the limited
supply from our medical chest. Proceeded
and lay alongside 200 ft. cliff at the
south side of Kroken bay. 1300 - Signalled
destroyer "Janus" as she entered
that urgent medical aid was required.
Surgeon and Sick Berth Attendant arrived.
Sent back two slightly wounded men.
Commander Congreve also joined Janus
for passage back to "Aston Villa".
Surgeon remained in "Arab"
with badly wounded Royal marine.
1500 - "Carlisle" arrived,
signalled for boat to transfer Surgeon
and royal Marine. Sent message to Admiral
C.S.20 stating "Aston Villa"
and "Gaul" disabled. "Arab"'s
castings broken and propellor damaged.
Would send my men to assist in shoring
up "Gaul's" forward bulkhead.
Received V/S message stating: "Enemy
ships and submarines expected, keep
a good look out day and night, and prepare
to engage enemy".
1600 - Heavy bombing raids. Commenced
to take Lewis guns up to top of cliff,
land food, blankets etc. by boat to
Kroken Bay, where a large cave was found.
Decided to make this cave the lower
base. Machine gunposts were built at
cliff head, which commanded the entrance
to Namsen Fjord and also Kroken bay,
where "Gaul" was lying. Further
machine gun positions were made 100
yards further in and up, overlooking
the cliff. This is where I had the crew.
As I still had some French stores on
deck which were never landed, I took
the liberty of opening same, finding
automatic rifles and ammunition, a 60
m/m bomb-throwing mortar with bombs
and detonators complete.
When posts were finished, I had 6
Lewis guns, 2 Automatic Rifles and one
bomb-thrower, the latter capable of
throwing bombs 1500 yards. Also the
4 inch gun was loaded and put on a bearing
covering the fjord entrance, the Oerlikon
likewise. 2000 - Carlisle and "Janus"
left Namsen Fjord. Signalled former
and reported, stating what a strong
position I had ashore. Reply came back
from Admiral C.S.20 - "Well done.
Carry on". Set A/S Watch and W/T
Watch on 1579 KCs as ordered by "Carlisle".
Crew slept at machine gun posts, look-outs
Wednesday 1st May - "Bittern"
passed and asked if we were keeping
A/S watch. Answered yes. 0500 "Angle"
passed and gave verbal orders to destroy
all A/S gear, dome and oscillator and
land all on deck ready to be destroyed.
Commander Congreve and his crew from
"Aston Villa" had changed
over to "Angle" to give the
latter a rest (not much of a rest, as
it turned out later.). "Angle"
proceeded to sink "St. Goran"
by gunfire [Forbes: According to Lieutenant
Alan Reid R.N.V.R. this was done by
the "CAPE PASSARO"] and then
carried on with patrol outside fjord.
0530 - "Aston Villa" made
fast about 100 yards south of "Arab".
(The former had now the "Angle's"
crew). Continuous bombing and machine
gunning by High and Dive bombers who
came over in flights of 6, 9 and 12
planes - 1200 - Bombs dropping all around.
"Gaul" commenced to sink.
The planes were now machine gunning
our position and the valley. 1330 -
"Gaul" sank. 1600 Called conference
with Captains of "Gaul" and
Decided that the three crews
would man "Arab's" position
ashore. 1700 - "Aston Villa"
set on fire by direct hit from dive
bomber. Luckily only a few of her crew
were aboard. (H.M.S. "Bittern"
hit by bomb and set on fire after being
attacked all day). Rescued the wounded
and transferred them to top of cliffs
by means of stretchers made out of fir
trees. Sub-Lieut. Burt, R.N.V.R. and
three ratings wounded. 2000 - Jettisoned
all A/S gear in 250 fathoms. "Aston
Villa" on fire still, considered
her magazine might blow up and damage
"Arab". Requested permission
from Commander Congreve to board but
answer was: "Keep away, it is too
dangerous". Decided to take Sub-Lieut.
Lees, R.N.V.R., J. Nicholson and myself
and try to save "Arab". Cut
lines and proceeded to move. Had moved
100 yards when "Aston Villa"
blew up. Proceeded alongside Kroken
Bay. Destroyer "Griffin had landed
Surgeon to attend wounded. 2300 - Commenced
embarking wounded, stores, guns and
the three crews on board "Arab".
Was told to do same with all despatch.
Thursday 2nd May 0200 - proceeded
up Fjord, met fleet leaving, transported
wounded, Aston Villa's and Gaul's crews,
to H.M.S. "Griffin" proceeded
down fjord, ordered to proceed to England.
Decided I would keep well north as I
was on my own and my speed was about
5/6 knots. 0500 - Clear of Namsen Fjord.
1000 - Speed 3 knots. Attacked by Heinkel
115 who signalled by V/S in plain language
" Go east or be sunk". (Had
sent out W/T message half an hour before
reporting a friendly or captured cargo
ship about 8 miles north was being escorted
by sea plane, heading S.E.) Could not
intercept her owing to lack of speed.
A suitable answer was sent in reply.
The pilot of this machine seemed a novice
or else thought we had no ammunition
left as he circled us closing towards
us each time. He was keeping up a continuous
fire with his two guns but I decided
to hold my fire until he was closer.
He banked at 800 yards just forward
of the beam so opened fire with all
Lewis guns and Oerlikon. Could see the
H.E. Oerliker shells bursting on him.
The Heinkel 115 came down about 2 miles
astern of us but I did not attempt to
save the crew. Proceeded well north,
then south and west of Shetlands, arriving
Scapa 1700 May 6th, Monday. Reported
to Chief of Staff, watered and stored
- 1930 - left Scapa.
Tuesday, May 7th 0800 arrived
Report on A/S.
was very difficult for efficient A/S
work to be carried out in Fjords. (1)
The reverberations come back very strong
from cliff side: (2) Numerous false
echoes owing to quick change in depth
of water: (3) The best way to maintain
a watch was by keeping the ship in a
fixed position, the oscillator on a
steady bearing, recorder running, and
this gave steady lines of non-subs;
as soon as anything else crossed, it
could be easily seen amongst the false
echoes. This was proved by the use of
old idea of only attacking from the
stern is completely misleading. They
attack from any direction, preferably
from the sun. The High Bombers did not
even bother about that: they dropped
the bombs at 10,000 ft. The Dive Bombers
made all their attacks from the sun,
generally coming over at 12/15000 ft.,
passing away as if they had not seen
us, and then coming down in a dive of
about 800 to a height of about 3000
ft. dropping their bombs just before
flattening out. These are the most difficult
attacks to fend off, giving a very small
target, and after flattening out they
are over and past like a flash. The
best position in a Fjord to withstand
an attack by air is the shadow of a
steep cliff, preferably at right angles
to the sun, keeping the ship moving.
80% of the attacks were made from ahead
and 20% from the stern: they never attacked
from the beam, which I assume is because
there is only the width of the ship
to aim at.
A mistaken idea is that zig-zagging
is of no use with a speed below 13 knots.
I consider that it was the saving of
the "Arab". By carefully watching
the dive bombers and putting the wheel
hard over after they had commenced to
dive, it is very hard for them to hit
a small ship even at a height of 2000
ft. After the first plane has dropped
her bombs (generally 2 only) which can
be seen leaving the plane, bring the
wheel hard over the other way. Bringing
them on the beam also gives the chance
of all guns to bear.
Another way is to make fast in the
shadow of a cliff so that no water is
showing between ship and shore. This
is a good hide out for the ship, and
attacks can be made on planes before
they suspect you are there. I found
that the best thing to do in Namsen
Fjord was to lie under the shadow of
the cliffs on the east side in the morning
and the west side in the evening, remaining
on the latter side till the daily reconnaissance
plane had been over at about 0300 and
viewed everything: then we knew we had
one hour before the bombers arrived,
steamed across to the east side and
remained under way there.
The planes never attacked over high
cliffs, generally down a valley or over
the water. I noticed that the dive bombers
were very poor shots, they seemed to
pull out of their dive far too quickly,
as if the A/A fire was to hot for them
and their bombs were sometimes falling
50 to 100 yards away. This was especially
noticed during attacks on the Bittern.
About 25% of the attacking planes seemed
to be old hands at the game as after
pulling out from their dive they banked
and varied height a great deal while
the other 75% kept flying straight.
I noticed it was the 25% who had the
nearest misses. The bullets from their
machine guns (Heinkel 115) are S.A.P.
steel nosed capped, copper elsewhere
with a slug inside.
Arab was moored alongside cliffs frequently
without danger of hitting rocks. The
large 2½ diameter hazel feet fenders
were used about 3 feet below water line,
ropes fast fore and aft to trees. The
ship lay like this perfectly, no surging
or bumping taking place.
deck work by machine gunning, mainmast
rigging shot away, a few rivets leaking.
The near misses that dropped astern
about 6 feet have damaged either the
propellor or stern posts, as speed was
very much reduced after that.
Armament and Defence.
Pill Box fitted to the Bridge is useless,
impossible to see when the planes commenced
to dive bomb. Also when shrapnel hits
against the pill box, it acts as a sound
box and deafens anyone in it. Ships
that are fitted with a 12 pounder protection
on the aft side of Gun platform with
the opening ahead. Anyone sheltering
in this would be wiped out by attacks
anywhere for'd of the beam. This box
would collect any ricochets.
Steel Box fitted in the wheelhouse for
protection of helmsman is very good.
The helmsman has complete control over
the wheel from this position.
18" circular pillars are protection
enough and fitted on top bridge as in
Arab cover both sides at the same time,
only one place where they are blanketed
and that is an arc of 15 each quarter
but one mounting always covers each
side that double Lewis gun aft covers
all except 10 ahead where funnel and
After the first attacks I had Lewis
Gun pans loaded with 1 tracer to 2 ordinary.
Hose pipe firing as sights could not
be maintained on target. No stoppages
occurred while firing 3000 rounds.Guns
were stripped and cleaned during darkness.
gun is the most effective weapon against
low flying. Hose pipe firing was used.
Pans loaded 1 tracer, 1 H.E. These shells
could been seen exploding on aircraft.
Would like to see two more Oerlikons
fitted. Would then keep one ready to
fire while pans were changed.
rounds fitted and no stoppages. Spring
tension released at dark and gun cleaned.
Consider a 3' protection screen could
be fitted around Oerlikon more for the
protection of men reloading pans. This
reloading was carried out under protected
For'cals Head which is too far away.
that no more funk holes etc., except
the Oerlikon protection, should be fitted
in my ship as they interfere with the
fighting efficiency. Consider that too
much attention is being paid to shelters
etc. which tend to induce the feeling
in everyone that the only thing to do
when attacked from the air is to gat
inside or behind something instead of
fighting it out.
Officers always manned Oerlikon and
Double Lewis Guns. The third officer
was supervising reloading pans under
protection and was therefore ready to
take over in case of accident to C/O
and other two officers.
made in 4 days - 31
by dive bombers (2000/3000 ft.)
" High " (8000/10,000 ft.)
Consider that the ideal craft for
A/S work in Fjords would be the new
cutters. They have the speed to reach
all small fjords, small enough to get
under shelter and hidden, do not through
up a lot of smoke. Bases could be made
in any secluded spot to refuel from.
Disadvantages of "Arab" class,
no speed, too large, can be seen by
planes before getting into HA range
owing to the enormous amount of smoke
from funnels. Advantages of Arab Class
- can stand a lot of near miss bombs
without serious damage. The Arab was
often lifted 6 ft. by explosions. The
first attacks were made by delayed action
bombs which exploded about 5 seconds
after hitting water and acted like a
depth charge (believe these bombs were
never meant to hit). These did all the
damage in engine room. The other attacks
were made with direct action bombs which
did very little damage on exploding
when hitting water.
of my crew have been with me since the
beginning of the war, therefore I was
in a better position than other ships.
It was the continuous stand to at "Action
Stations" during daylight hours
and the embarking and disembarking troops
and stores during darkness (which meant
they had no rest whatsoever) that rather
got the crew down. Except for three
ratings I can say they stood it very
well. Would like to see trawler crews
sent to barracks for a few weeks to
stiffen them up. Practically all crews
have never seen what a parade ground
Conditions while maintaining machine
gun posts ashore.
This was very trying as only once
could we have a fire. During the day
it was quite warm but from 1900 onwards,
very cold. Men suffered from a kind
of trench feet caused by wearing rubber
sea boots in the snow which seemed to
make the boots continually wet inside
We were very well off as
we had the original issue of clothes
which were issued to us for the Petsamo
affair. Lammy coats, woollen helmets
and wind proof coats.After Aston Villa
and Gaul had been sunk we were not so
well off as I shared everything with
these two crews. Special attention had
to be given to the wounded. As no hot
water bottles were available we built
a small red ash fire and heated stones
which acted very well. This fire was
put out 4 times before we finally had
the stones heated (machine gunning).
medical stores fitted to the Arab were
totally inadequate; they consisted of
one imitation No. 5, holding 6 bottles,
Cascara, Black Draught, sweating mixture,
castor Oil, Liniment, Condy's fluid,
in fact everything which was of no use.
I had to dress 20 wounded (4) with one
bottle of iodine (small) and 12 small
bandages. (Used Officers' sheets for
this purpose). Small pieces of shrapnel
were removed with a small pair of long
pliers and canvas sewing needle. I had
one box containing 16 pieces of morphia
which were dissolved under the tongue
(this was on board by a lucky error).
Whisky was used for cleaning purposes.
Rum watered to 6 parts was very useful
and seemed to put spirit into the crews.
The "Gaul" had one case of
Ryvita biscuits which made a welcome
change from bully beef and hard biscuits.
Tinned milk and tinned soup drunk cold
were good. The few Norwegians we met
did what they could to help us. One
small house supplied us with enough
fresh milk for a cup all round.
Bombing and machine Gunning Ashore.
is dangerous to take shelter under cliffs
as bombs dropped near set massive boulders
rolling down. The side of a sloped hillock
on top of the cliffs was the best place,
under trees and in large 15 to 25 ft.
holes of which there were many, the
east side in the morning and west side
in the afternoon, planes always attacked
from the sun. Only one man was hit during
all the attacks while ashore. Attempted
to keep men from walking in snow as
tracks were easily visible.
certain amount of stores were destroyed
by bombs, these were for use in emergency
and were landed to assist in case of
having to take to the lifeboats.
pairs of binoculars.
Norway pilots, part 1 & 2
lbs. Of preserved meat.
tins of milk.
lbs of biscuits.
rounds of ammunition.
lbs. of tinned sausages.
Stores condemned and thrown overboard.
and 6 blankets (unfit after being used
sheets used for bandages.
effects of a number of Arab's crew which
were given to "Aston Villa"
and "Gaul's" crews (list separate).
2 Lewis Guns.
lifeboat, sails, etc.
1 Aldis lamp.
H.M.S. "Gaul" and brought