On This Day…May 22nd.
The HMS Glouster was lost today following a series of catastrophically poor decision making and terrible communication. While the battle of Crete was raging on May 22nd, the Glouster was assigned a role in preventing a German Sea-landing despite being desperately low on ammunition and the skies under total command of the Luftwaffe.
The Glouster had been attacked several times and seemed destined to survive whatever was thrown at her. Sadly this was not the case.
Ted Mort, was eighteen-years old when Gloucester went down.
‘The time came to abandon ship. Me and a boy called Donald Allen grabbed a canteen door, which was hanging off, threw it in to the sea and dived in after it. The next thing I remember was the planes machine gunning us and we both dived under water but Allen didn’t come up again. I saw a patch of blood in the sea and knew he was gone. I was convinced that I too would be killed. The planes kept coming in at such low levels that at times you could see the pilot’s faces. I saw some bombs dropped that I think were incendiaries, which were intended to set the oil alight. I was about half a mile from Gloucester when she went down. She turned over for some time, then stood on end before she finally sank. It was a horrible feeling, watching my home going down and being alone, floating on the canteen door’.
Roger Heap was the only serving officer on board the Glouster to survive – as noted above, survivors were heavily machine-gunned in the water. Interred in Malag prison camp after being rescued by the Germans, Roger met and befriended Jack Croasdaile (captured by the Germans in the invasion of Norway).
Roger was Navigating Officer (Lt Cdr) on the HMS Gloucester when she was sank and told Jack, an accomplished artist, of his experiences as the ship was attacked and drowned by dive-bombers. A German guard, knowing of Roger’s connections with the Glouster, gave him a magazine as it contained an article about the sinking of the cruiser. The piece ncluded a photograph taken from a Stuka as it dived on the Gloucester (which, as can be seen above, was swerving to avoid the bombs). Using the photograph, Jack painted a watercolour of the incident.
In April 1943, Roger was transferred to Colditz where he spent the rest of the war. When the war ended, for some time the panting remained in Marla before finding its way back to Jack, who in turn sent both the watercolour and the original magazine to roger.
In just over a year in the Mediterranean from ‘41 to her end in ‘42, the Glouster had lost at least 736 men.
Consolidated PB4Y-1 at Naval Air Station Port Lyautey (Morocco) on May 22, 1944.
The German battleship, Admiral Graf Spee at the Spithead Naval Review, in southern England, 22nd of May, 1937.
B-17E Fortress ‘Sally’ at 7-Mile Aerodrome, Port Moresby, New Guinea, May 22nd, 1943. This was the personal transportation aircraft for LGen George Kenney (commander of Allied Air Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and responsible for bringing Ira Bong to the Pacific theatre).
US Marines taking cover behind an M26 Pershing tank, near Hongcheon, Korea, 22nd May, 1951.
Bf109 G6 of 9.JG52 in Caselvetrano, Italy on May 22nd, 1943.
Gen. Adolf Galland, commander of German Fighter Command, flies the Messerschmitt Me 262 (V4) jet fighter and presses for its development. This version was still a tail dragger and would not be developed into the classic tricycle format until Version 6.
McDonnell F101 Voodoo in Lakenheath, England, May 22nd, 1965.
Around 21.00hrs on 22nd May 1940 this 83 Squadron Hampden aircraft took off from Scampton, England, for a mission to France, L4055 (believed to have been attacking targets around Rouen in advance of the German invasion of Belgium and France).
All the aircraft on sorties that night were recalled due to deteriorating weather over the English airfields, but one aircraft failed to receive the recall singal and went on to bomb the target as specified.
As the aircraft returned to Northern England the weather closed in, and while flying in thick fog the aircraft crashed on return to the UK at around 14.00hrs on high ground near the hills of the Peak District. All crew members died in the crash.
Pilot – Sgt Stanley William Jenkins RAF (580289), aged 23, of Rotherham, Yorkshire.
Observer – Sgt Peter William Josse RAF (359518). Of Yorkshire.
Air Gunner – Sgt Alan Marsh RAF (580966).
Wireless Operator / Air Gunner – AC1 Willie Thornton RAF (625669), aged only 19, of St Helens.
French soldiers examine the remains of a German light bomber Heinkel He 111, after it was shot down. Still with some fight, France had not fallen quite yet.
Messerschmitt Me 262A1a (JV44-White 22) Salzburg Austria May 1945.