When it comes to submarines, almost all the well-known stories are related to German U-boats and their ferocious way to operate. Among several areas of operations, probably the most known episode having the German U-boats as protagonists was the Battle of the Atlantic.
Germans engaged over 1,000 submarines
The battle wasn’t related to the idea of having the most powerful and prepared navy force, neither about epic clashes between battleships and submarines. The Battle of the Atlantic was rooted into a more practical aspect: a solution to defend the Britain’s merchant marine, against the U-boat’s attacks. The German plan was to put heavy pressure on Britain, through the U-boats involvement. The U-boat’s actions were supposed to be fatal for British trade by targeting the English commercial routes and their intention was to cut them out from any kind of supplies, isolating them in to the British Isles. In order to accomplish this plan, Germany has thrown in Battle of the Atlantic, over 1.000 U-boats.
That was the context for the actions of our hero. A context where the German U-boats managed to send to the bottom of the sea, almost 14 million tons of supplies, among food, fuel and all kinds of materials, vital in several war operations.
The ascension of a hero
Clive Gwinner (1908 – 1998) was a Royal Navy officer, specialized in anti-submarine warfare. He started his military career during WW2, in September 1939 being named Commander of the “Alresford” minesweeper. One year later, in February 1940, he was appointed commanding officer of the “Duncan” destroyer. Starting with September 1940, Gwinner was employed for mission of escort, accompanying convoys, hunting and attacking U-boats and rescuing survivors from shipwrecks.
In June 1941, Gwinner took command of the “Lulworth”, where he remained in charge for the following two years. While on the “Lulworth”’, Gwinner was deployed on the West African convoy route, escorting ships to and from Freetown and Sierra Leone. Several convoys were attacked by U-boats, during Gwinner service on that route. During one of those attacks, Gwinner managed to destroy the Italian submarine “Pietro Calvi”.
The “Pietro Calvi” was sunken in 1942. In that battle Primo Longobardo died, the submarine commander and the Italian navy’s most successful submarine commander. For the action over the ”Pietro Calvi”, Gwinner was awarded with the DSO (Distinguished Service Order), which is a military decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Nations.
During 1943, Gwinner was given the command of the sloop “Woodcock”, which was active under the FJ Walker’s 2nd Support Group. In July 1943, Gwinner took part in the destruction of two German U-boats, the U-462 and the U-226, both intercepted in the Bay of Biscay. Clive Gwinner had become familiar with U-boats hunting, so he followed his skill.
In February 1944, Gwinner was commanding a new larger ship. He was the commander of the HMS Affleck, having the position of senior officer. In that timeframe, Gwinner confirmed his skills regarding anti-submarine warfare. In February, his HMS Affleck scored important victories. In February 1944, they destroyed the U-91, in November the U-392 and in March the U-358, after a spectacular 40-hour hunt, one of the longest reported during WW2.
The hunt for the U-358 German submarine had also another background aspect. The U-538 had sunk a sister ship of the HMS Affleck, the HMS Gould. The last victory reported by Gwinner, dates June 1944, when he was deployed in the Neptune Operation, in order to assist and protect the Allied forces during the invasion planned for the D-Day.
While in the Channel, he managed to sink the U-1191. That was the last offensive action for the HMS Affleck, which was torpedoed during December of the same year. Later on, Gwinner was moved to HMS Balfour, which was a Buckley class, Captain class frigate, but without reporting any more victories.
At the end of the war, Gwinner had various awards on his pocket, including the Distinguished Service Order (awarded to him twice), and the Distinguished Service Cross.
There is an episode from Gwinner’s career, which deserves to be mentioned.
The story is related to a moment from July 1942, when Gwinner was escorting a convoy south of the Azores. When he spotted an Italian submarine (the Pietro Calvi), Gwinner immediately gave the order to pursuit him with full speed. Then, he forced the submarine to the surface with depth charge attacks and afterwards violently ramming it with the HMS Lulworth, an action that has set the U-boat on fire. After the confrontation, Gwinner picked up the 35 Italian survivors joking about “how are you off for spaghetti?”
Gwinner left the navy in 1950, becoming the director of an American company from the containers market. He retired from there in 1972. He was also well known for his passion for fast cars and nice ladies. He died in 1998, at the age of 89.
(Article written using references from Wikipedia, Express.co.uk)