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   xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Nov 12 02:03 AM

Nov 12th, 2014: Tirpitz

Germany built the battleship Bismarck to be the be-all, end-all, of kick-ass navel power. Of course this was mid '30s before they realized that airpower would become king. They also built a second Bismarck Class battleship named the Tirpitz. It really didn't do a lot of combat, mostly hanging out in Norway, being a "fleet in being", which hangs around it's front porch daring anybody to sail down it's street.

The trouble is you never know when he'll come down off that porch so you tie up several of your ships to hang around his neighborhood, in case he does. That got old so a couple of Lancaster Bombers carrying 12,000 pound(5400kg) "tallboy" bombs, put an end to the Tirpitz in late 1944.

But someone recreated the Tirpitz out of 71,000 wooden matches in 1:125 scale.

Here's some detailed pictures.

Carruthers  Wednesday Nov 12 01:14 PM

From the Department of Coincidences.

Yesterday morning, while waiting for my Dad to complete his hospital appointment, I turned my attention to the Obituaries page of the Daily Telegraph.

Pausing only to ascertain that I didn't feature in it, my gaze alighted on this:

Lieutenant Robert Aitken - obituary

Lieutenant Robert Aitken was a submarine diver who took part in Operation Source, the daring attack on the German battleship Tirpitz

Attachment 49579

Lieutenant Robert Aitken, who has died aged 91, took part in Operation Source, the daring attack by midget submarines on the German battleship Tirpitz in its lair in northern Norway and told in the 1955 film Above Us the Waves.

In the real Operation Source, Aitken was one of two divers in the four-man crew of midget submarine X-7, commanded by Lieutenant Godfrey Place, one of six midget submarines (or X-craft) which were towed across the Norwegian Sea to attack the battleship in its heavily protected anchorage at Altenfjord in September 1943.

Aitken recalled that as Place set off shortly after midnight on September 22 he saw a German ship pass through a gate in the anti-submarine netting surrounding Tirpitz. X-7 dived into its wake, but while below periscope depth became unsighted, and found itself in another net. While Place manoeuvred violently to shake off the net, he ordered Aitken to prepare to exit the boat to cut it free. In the event this was unnecessary, as the midget sub managed to work itself clear.

The gyro compass and the trim pump were broken, but Place brought his craft slowly to periscope depth, sighted his target and dived under Tirpitz. They managed to drop two loads of explosive under the battleship, then, as Aitken recalled: “ The CO set a course for home. But we didn’t get very far because we hit the nets again.”

Now alerted to an underwater attack, the Germans began to drop depth charges, and at 08.12 a huge explosion shook X-7 as the explosives which Place had laid blew up. X-7 bobbed to the surface where bullets penetrated the ballast tanks. Unable to control the boat, Place opened the hatch and waved a white sweater to indicate surrender. The small arms fire stopped, but as Place climbed on to the casing his boat hit a raft, and water flooded in. Aitken slammed the hatch shut, but the boat plunged to the bottom at 08.35.

Aitken and the remaining crew, Lieutenant Lionel (“Bill”) Whittam and Engine Room Artificer Bill Whitley, thought that running the engines would attract more depth charges, so they decided to attempt an escape using the breathing apparatus, and flooded the boat so that they could open the hatches. As water reached the batteries they fused, giving off chlorine, and the three men had to start breathing oxygen earlier than planned.

As Aitken felt around in the black interior of the boat, he stumbled over a body, and bending down he found Whitley, who had run out of oxygen. When the water pressure inside the boat allowed him to open the hatch Aitken made his exit and slowly surfaced . As he did so he searched for Whittam, but there was no sign of him. Looking up he was disappointed to see Tirpitz still afloat, and only later did he learn that the battleship had been severely damaged.

Attachment 49580

An X-craft being launched at Vickers

Aitken was picked up by a motorboat and held prisoner in Tirpitz, where he was interrogated. But he also recalled that after a rating had placed a bowl of soup on the table in his cell, the man had turned and flicked a packet of cigarettes on to the table — a “friendly gesture which reminded me of the comradeship of those who sailed the seas”. He spent the rest of the war as a PoW.

Churchill called Operation Source a naval episode of highest importance: Place and Donald Cameron (the Scottish captain of X-6) were awarded the VC, while Sub-Lieutenants Richard Kendall and John Lorimer, and Aitken himself, were awarded DSOs.

Attachment 49581

The cramped conditions inside an X-craft

The son of a Norwich doctor, Robert Aitken was born on January 1 1923 and educated at Oundle, after which he was articled as an accountant; but as soon as he was able he volunteered for the Navy as a seaman. He passed out of HMS King Alfred in 1942 top of his class, and volunteered for special duties . It was in a classroom at HMS Dolphin, Gosport, that Aitken and a group of officers and ratings were told that they had volunteered to be charioteers (crew of two-man “human torpedoes”). He enjoyed the training, later observing: “If you give a teenager what is essentially an underwater motorbike, that’s great fun. ” He was persuaded by the offer of leave to transfer to the slightly bigger X-craft.

Post-war, Aitken completed his articles and joined a firm in London. In the 1950s he moved to R Hunt & Co, his wife’s family’s agricultural engineering firm at Earls Colne in Essex, where he became managing director .

Robert Aitken married Anne Hunt in 1951. She died in 1992, and he is survived by a son and three daughters.

Lieutenant Robert Aitken, born January 1 1923, died October 22 2014

Daily Telegraph

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Nov 12 03:40 PM

Most excellent post, Sir. Glad you didn't find yourself in the obits.

Carruthers  Wednesday Nov 12 03:49 PM

Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post
Glad you didn't find yourself in the obits.
Not half as glad as me!

SPUCK  Thursday Nov 13 02:58 AM

Both articles were fascinating. Thanks!

Carruthers  Thursday Nov 13 10:24 AM

Originally Posted by SPUCK View Post
Both articles were fascinating. Thanks!
I don't have much of an interest in war but Lieutenant Aitken was one of a generation who suddenly found themselves participating in a conflict that threatened their lives and the safety of the Nation on a daily basis.

My Dad is eighty-nine and one of a dwindling group who served in WW2. Reading accounts of what his generation went through helps me understand his early life.

Lest we forget.

Diaphone Jim  Thursday Nov 13 12:33 PM

Wonderful modeling!
And a harrowing tale.
The last time we talked about submarines, I said that as much unpleasantness one came across in the Infantry, I preferred it.
Even in September Norwegian seas are damn cold.

xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Nov 13 01:37 PM

Pre/during WW II there was no TV and of course no Youtube. War, and the exploits of soldiers were only available from books, comic books, radio, movies and newsreels. Of course many had the war stories of WW I vets, but that war was very different. Actually the brass wasn't that much better prepared, because of how war was waged evolved so much between 1939 and 1945.

So enlistees/draftees had no idea what they were in for. But when the ramp on the landing craft dropped, or the jumpmaster yelled GO, they did their best. I doubt many soldiers hitting the beach or fighting door to door through a town, were thinking how much they were doing it for democracy. More likely his thoughts were how to kill the enemy, before the enemy killed him or his buddies. Maybe a few moments wishing he was home getting laid.

Anyone going into the military today has plenty of resources to learn what they're getting into. It won't be a complete picture there will always be surprises, shit nobody mentioned. But at least the John Wayne/Audie Murphy image should be tempered.

footfootfoot  Thursday Nov 13 03:18 PM

Where's that guy who built the working tiny fighter plane? I think he was Korean?

SPUCK  Monday Nov 17 07:07 AM

My Dad is eighty-nine and one of a dwindling group who served in WW2. Reading accounts of what his generation went through helps me understand his early life.

Lest we forget.

My Dad fought on Guam, the Philippines, and Korea. The stories he's told me are truly insane. They make the most over-the-top movie scripts utterly pale in comparison. The breadth of the experiences are astounding. Dozens and dozens of stories!! Each story could make a riveting movie.

One tiny example;
Back ground: He's a country boy who's mother died when he was 15. Lived in Glenwood, WA. His dad went off to work in the Portland ship yards. He sent $15 a month home to my dad who carried on in school living by himself. He made money delivering papers, raising rabbits, and pheasants. He hunted for a lot of his food.

While fighting in Korea, out in the field, they would be provided with a hot meal at lunch only. At that point everyone had to have foxholes for safety. They would leave their foxholes and saunter over to the mess line collect their vittles and stand around jawing and eating. He explained that the Chinese would often wait until lunch time to execute mortar barrages. Dad would wait in his foxhole until everyone else had been served. Then he would bolt for the mess line, tearing through as fast as functionally possible. Then at a dead run he'd return to his foxhole before eating any of it. Sure enough one day he heard the first round come in just as he was reaching his foxhole on return from the mess line. He dove head first into his hole. Just as he hit the bottom a boot with a foot in it landed in the hole with him...

Ultimately, he was one of only two people in his company to survive the conflict. He attributes it to always being wary.

Carruthers  Monday Nov 17 10:12 AM

Originally Posted by SPUCK View Post
My Dad fought on Guam, the Philippines, and Korea.


Ultimately, he was one of only two people in his company to survive the conflict. He attributes it to always being wary.
Just wondering, was your Dad demobbed after WW2 and 'invited' to participate in the Korean War, or did he serve continuously?

Doing some quick arithmetic and guesswork, I think he'd probably be about 28/29 at the end of the Korean War so I imagine his experience helped to hone his sense of wariness.

SPUCK  Monday Nov 17 03:19 PM

Continuous. He was a "lifer", 21 years. He's 90 now. Two purple hearts.

Carruthers  Monday Nov 17 03:23 PM

Originally Posted by SPUCK View Post
Continuous. He was a "lifer", 21 years. He's 90 now. Two purple hearts.

Well done, that man!

Gravdigr  Monday Nov 17 05:38 PM

Spuck, please thank him for me/us.

SPUCK  Tuesday Nov 18 01:08 AM

I shall do so! I will be calling him this week.

Supposedly he's written a book about his exploits but I'm not sure what's become of it. I'll ask.

Your reply here?

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