View Full Version : The Walrus, the Alabacore and the Submarine 1941

The Sailor
01-01-2008, 00:26
I came across this request and decided to but it up for two reasons. Firstly it is an interesting and great story, and secondly someone here might just be able to help this chap.

Written by Frank O'Shaughnessy, London Ontario, Canada.
October 2002

Sometime in August or September 1941 we were supposed to carry out a dummy depth charge attack. against a submarine in a training area just east of Scapa (Scotland). Normally our Walrus sea plane was catapulted from the cruiser HMS Shropshire but not this morning as we were at the naval air station at the Fleet Air Arm base near Kirkwall whilst the ship was anchored in nearby Scapa Flow. Before any part of the dummy attack was done we saw an Albacore aircraft which was carrying on a dummy torpedo attack against a corvette in the area had crashed we landed and I managed to pull the pilot who was the only survivor into the aircraft I was the telegraphist air gunner the pilot was a Lt Franklin and the observer or navigator was a RNVR Sub Lt Sid Walker. Lt Franklin had been a flag Lt at some time as he still wore the gold cord insignia at his shoulder and he had I think the DSC and the Croix de Guerre at the time.

Shortly before the incident mentioned above we had just returned from the flesh pots of South Africa; you could hardly describe Cape town in wartime as a hardship posting. And of course as is normal, on return home you go home. Home for 700 Squadron was an aerodrome in the Orkney islands (Scotland) just adjacent to Scapa Flow where most of the females were ewes (but that's another story).

Being at a home base we were engaged in some training such as night navigation exercises, circuits and bumps, radio work etc. One of the exercises was that we were to carry out, a dummy depth charge attack against a submarine. One morning therefore about 9.a.m. sorry make that 0900, we took off with our full load of two dummy depth charges. Out to the exercise area we fly. As I have stated my view of either sky, sea or land was somewhat restricted and there was also a certain lack of communication.

Suddenly I heard `Reel in the trailing aerial'-- this I did, and we immediately landed in the sea, and a not too gentle landing either. I hurried forward and saw a plane had crashed. There was a survivor and I went to the rear hatch and opened it. As he came alongside I managed to grab him and haul him into the cockpit. To this day I am not sure how it was done. The hatch was only about thirty inches in diameter, he was waterlogged and with a badly damaged arm and I was mainly in the 97 lb. weakling class. At any rate we had him safely out of the water. He was the pilot of an Albacore whose squadron was carrying out dummy torpedo attacks on the area safety ship. The aircraft had sunk with the air gunner and observer in it. The rest of the squadron were circling but after the rescue they took of for the aerodrome. This was in a position roughly 10 to 15 miles out of Scapa Flow.

The safety boat now approached us and lowered a whaler to which we transferred the pilot, we were asked us if we could take off, our pilot said we could, and away they went. By now I am looking around and the sea does seem rough and all too soon the safety boat disappeared, and we were alone. I wish the ship had stayed because as soon as we tried to take off it was discovered that the sea was indeed rough and if we went any faster we would probably start shipping water. We were all gathered in the front cockpit and debating what to do. We could not see anything, neither ships nor land. We could of course, try to taxi back in. The mushroom's suggestion that we fasten the parachutes between the upper and lower wings and sail back did not receive wholehearted support. It was decided we would have a cigarette break and think some more.

It was in this pensive mood that we suddenly spotted a periscope off our starboard wing and watched in fascination, with our heads rotating in slow motion, and with bated breath as it circled us. I remember with tremendous clarity it moved in a counter clockwise direction from starboard to port and back. It began blowing its ballast tanks and the conning tower emerged. A figure appeared on the bridge. A shout rang out, and with the normal Englishman's command of foreign languages we were sure it was German. I think I said something like "Oh bother." The pilot probably said "Dash it all" he was an Ex Flag Lieutenant (Lt Franklin RN DSC, Croix de Guerre et al). Some few seconds later all was well with the appearance of an English signalman and a " What's up mate? Stuck are you?". You've guessed it, this was the sub we had supposed to exercise with. It was Dutch, which resulted in the language difficulty.

I suppose you are wondering how we arranged to get back to the Orkneys. We were towed by the submarine but did manage to persuade them not to take us back through Scapa Flow and, to relinquish the tow as soon as we got into calmer water. I hesitate to think what would have happened if we had been paraded past the fleet. Further the ARGUS might have then been in port with all those Air Force types. Imagine what more I might have overheard in the pub "Not only that but they bring 'em back with a submarine." Incidentally I heard later from the ship's chaplain, after Lt Franklin had left the SHROPSHIRE that he received a Mention in Dispatches for this rescue.

By Frank O'Shaughnessy, London Ontario, Canada.

[B]Of course we are still trying to find out what the serials of the Albacore, Walrus and the name of the Dutch submarine are. Can anyone help us with that, or does anyone have any other additional information on this story, then please contact us.


01-01-2008, 00:42
Nice story Graeme, let's hope we can learn a little more.

HMS Shropshire. 1930.

HMS Shropshire. 1934.

01-01-2008, 01:03
Hi - this sound familiar only the names, place, time and event circumstances change!

Flying the 278 Squadron Walrus was Lieutenant Noel Langdon RNVR with his crewman Leading Airman R. Atkins. After circling the dinghies, Langdon landed on the rough sea and immediately disappeared from the view of the survivors as the Walrus sank into a deep trough. Slowly Langdon taxied to the dinghies where the eight men were taken on board, Motherwell as the captain being last to leave the dinghy in true naval tradition.

With 10 men crammed into the Walrus, it was impossible for Langdon to take off and he started to taxi slowly towards England. After one hour, Lieutenant Don Mackintosh RNVR brought his RML 512 alongside and all the survivors were transferred to the launch, given dry clothes and the obligatory tot of rum.

Last to embark were Langdon and his crewman. The Walrus was taken in tow and the combination headed for Great Yarmouth. However, one of the circling aircraft detected a German Eboat and it was decided to cut the Walrus loose and increase speed towards England. During the early hours of 17 September 512 arrived at Great Yarmouth, where the survivors were checked by a Navy doctor and put to bed.

The following day, the Navy retrieved the Walrus, which had survived the night, and it was towed to Great Yarmouth and beached on a sandbank. Ground crew examined the aircraft and pronounced it fit to fly, a tribute to the strength of that sturdy, unglamorous aircraft. Langdon was taken out to the aircraft by boat and he taxied out to sea, took off and returned to his airfield at Martlesham.

The aircraft was soon back in service.

All the crew survived the war. Lieutenant Noel Langdon RNVR was awarded the AFC at the end of the war having completed 65 ASR sorties during which he was responsible for rescuing 19 personnel.

This item was taken from “Shot Down and in the Drink” by Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork published by The National Archives. 2005

I leave it to other to decide on the validity of either account!!

Happy New Year.


The Sailor
01-01-2008, 01:12
Thanks for this new story Stontamar.
This seems to be a completely seperate incident and I'm sure this happened many other times in the war as well.
I have no reason to disbelieve the first story.

05-01-2008, 05:43
My word! That was interesting! Thank you.

The chill when the periscope appeared! OMG!

I can add nothing to this story however.

23-01-2008, 22:52
The Sailor I have just sent you a list of six dutch subs if my info is correct from my dutch pal with there pennant numbers hope its of use to,

The Sailor
23-01-2008, 23:29
Where is the list Rom?

24-01-2008, 21:56
Who the hell did I send it to well here you are N39 N53 P9 P10 P14 P15 sorry no names Rom

The Sailor
25-01-2008, 02:06
Well done Rom. I sent your information to that Frank chap at the web address. Hope it helps him.