Daily Event for May 28, 2009

The destroyer La Combattante was built in Scotland as HMS Haldon L-19, but was transferred to the Free French after she was launched. The destroyer sank three ships during her career, the German S-147 on Apr. 25, 1944, S-141 on May 13,1944 and the third just days later.

In the darkness of May 28-29, 1944 up two targets appeared on her radar, as the crew prepared to engage again the targets approached. Tragically these were not German boats, but two British MTB's, MTB-732 and MTB-739. in the gun battle in the dark MTB-732 was sunk taking seventeen of her crew with her. The fact the ships were British was not learned until later. La Combattante herself was lost Feb. 23, 1945 when she hit a mine, 117 of her crew were lost.
© 2009 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com



Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in
HM MTB-732
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Name
Rate
Arter, Thomas W.
Ordinary Seaman
Boyd, William
Ordinary Seaman
Chalmers, Alexander W. L.
Able Seaman
Crowther, Frederick R.
Stoker 2nd Class
Ewan, George
Ordinary Seaman
Fawcett, Harry
Able Seaman
Heggie, James A. B.
Ordinary Seaman
Higgins, Raymond W.
Able Seaman
Hingley, Dennis
Able Seaman
Holder, Gilbert
Able Seaman
Howard, Peter D.
Able Seaman
Hughes, Thomas V.
Seaman
King, Alan J.
Sub-Lieutenant
Randell, Albert H.
Lieutenant
Ridler, Charles F. S.
Able Seaman
Walker, Desmond
Leading Motor Mechanic
Wood, Arthur E.
Stoker 1st Class


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1.
June 29, 2011

I just happened to connect to this site, my late father, David John Greengrass, served on this MTB 737.  He was with coastal service UK, Royal Marines. He ended up in Africa to serve the rest of the war there. I am his son and have been doing research on my ancestry. Large ancestry site Greengrass. Do you have the survivors names from that 1944 sinking.

Regards,
Peter Woodward
(PS: David died in England 1989)


2.
Feb. 6, 2013

Like Peter Woodward I too came across you site by chance and similarly my father survived the sinking on 28 May, his name was Robert (Roy) MacArthur. Other accounts I have come across suggest that there was possibly a covert element to their duties on that, date but I am unable to confirm this. Roy died in 2006 aged 80 but only once do I recall him speaking in any detail of the sinking as he found the memories rather painful. He was a telegraphist on board the ship. Would you have any other details of the events that night or even a listing of other survivors?

Kind Regards,
Stuart MacArthur



3.
Apr. 28, 2013

My father-in-law, Mr. Bernard Paul Howe, (he is now nearly 90) was on MTB 739 which was accompanying MTB 732 on the night that MTB 732 was sunk by the La Combattante. He has told me that that both MTBs sent up recognition flares when the destroyer opened fire, but the destroyer kept on firing hitting MTB 732. The Captain of 739 was just about to open fire on the destroyer when the destroyer sent up its own recognition flares. He also told me that he pulled dead men out of the water from that incident. There is also a book titled "Dog Boats at War" (by I believe a chap called Chris Reynolds) that gives a brief description of the incident.

Regards,
E. J. Dawkins (Mr)

Additional to message 3
May 14, 2013

I have spoken to my father-in-law and he says that MTBs 732 and 739 were ordered to the area of the incident to attack two E-boats that had been sighted in that area of the Channel. He presumed that the La Combattante had also picked up this radio instruction. All three ships then headed to the same area of the Channel, but did not find any E-boats, but found each other, with the La Combattante mistaking the two MTBs for E-boats and opening fire without waiting for any verification that the two small boats were in fact E-boats, and sinking MTB 732 more or less immediately after contact had been made.

MTB 739 sent up recognition flares and was about to attack the La Combattante with torpedoes when La Combattante replied with recognition flares; but not before my father-in-law had fired at the La Combattante from the aft gun on the MTB which he said he shouldn't really have done having not received orders to do so - but in the heat of battle, and seeing MTB 732 destroyed, he took it upon himself to do.

MTB 732 and 739 primary orders for that night may well have been to lay mines (my father-in-law told me that his boat, the 739, had had its rear torpedo tubes removed to fit racks to carry mines) but they had received orders to find and destroy two E-boats. After the incident MTB 739 only picked up dead men from the sea that night.

E. J. Dawkins (Mr.)


4.
Nov. 17, 2013

My late father, Reginald Anthony (Tony) Cupper, served on MTB-732. He was very badly wounded that night, but survived and passed away at the age of 72 in 1997. He never spoke much about the war, but carried the scars mentally and physically with great dignity for the rest of his life.

My Father did speak about that night he told me they were  laying mines for D Day outside of Cherbourg Harbour( I expect to catch any German ships sailing out of the harbour after the invasion had started) when "La Combattante" opened fire mistaking The MTB's for E boats. The French Captain wept when he visited my Father and the other injured crew in Hospital later. He also spoke of the time they spent in the water waiting to be picked up and of the men including the young Commanding Officer that didn't make it. I have (like Stuart McArthur) also come across an account that they were on covert ops that night, mainly due to the fact they had approximately twice the number of crew onboard as normal. I guess D Day operations were top secret at that time as they were trying to fool the Germans into thinking the beach head landings would be further up the coast.

Regards,
Robin Cupper




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