Daily Event for July 5, 2014

Fishing off the coast of the United Kingdom in the Second World War was a dangerous business, and on July 5, 1944 six trawlers were located by U-247 about 20 miles west of Cape Wrath, Scotland. This was the first patrol for the U-boat and the first command for Oberleutnant zur See Gerhard Matschulat and these trawlers may have been the first enemy ships he had encountered.

Two torpedoes were fired at the 207 ton steam trawler Noreen Mary, but both missed. The torpedoes were seen by a deck hand named James MacAllister, but since none of the other crewmen had seen them he was dismissed. About an hour later he was vindicated when U-247 surfaced and began raking the trawler with machine-gun fire. The skipper ordered all speed, but was soon cut down by the gunfire along with two other men.

A well placed shell from the deck gun brought her to a stop when the boiler exploded and Matschulat fired a third torpedo, which malfunctioned. He continued to shell the small vessel with his deck gun until she finally sank. Only four men got off the trawler and into the water before she went down, the rest had been killed by the gunfire. Two of the men in the water soon drowned leaving only two survivors. James MacAllister later claimed that the U-boat approached him and fired the machine gun at him, he slipped off of the upturned lifeboat he was clinging to and stayed low in the water until the U-boat submerged. MacAllister pulled 2nd Engineer George Pryde on to the lifeboat, both men had been badly wounded. Because of a lack of space MacAllister remained standing until they were rescued the next morning by HMS Lady Madeleine. James MacAllister was awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) and the Lloyd's War Medal.

This episode was brought up during the Nürnberg trials and used against Karl Dönitz as proof that his orders for the destruction of crews was being followed. However it seems that this was a poor example. I can't know the motivation of Matschulat in attacking the vessel, and he was not interrogated after the war because he and U-247 did not survive. There is no way to determine if he was following the order or not because this was the only ship ever sunk by U-247. Therefore we have no track record of how this man conducted himself and his boat.

It is speculation, but one might surmise that he just wanted to get into the fight and sink an enemy ship. He took a big risk to attack such a small target so close to the coast. He was outbound from Bergen and because of the attack the British would now be aware that a U-boat was operating in the area. This would bring extra air patrols and keep him down, unable to successfully attack other shipping. He expended three torpedoes on the 207 ton ship, which could have been used against a much larger target. This left him no alternative but to use his deck gun. The real reason he took such a risk and expended so much effort to attack and sink this ship went with him and his crew to the grave.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

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

Allen, Wilfred
Deck Hand
Barnet, Alexander A.
2nd Hand
Coates, James F.
Age 17
Flockhart, John
Gordon, George
Jackson, William
Chief Engineer
Lindsay, Charles
McKenzie, Alexander

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