1939 Wartime tradgedy-the sinking of the "Dolphin"

#1
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It was an avoidable tragedy when the fishing boat Dolphin was sunk by a New Zealand shore battery in Lyttleton Harbour on 12 October 1939. On entering the harbour and finding no examination vessel at the entrance, a local fishing trawler,the Dolphin stopped in accordance with the regulations at the time, in front of the battery and awaited a signal from the battery to pass.

The official version was that the Dolphin, did not properly identify itself and the warning shot fired from No.1 gun accidentally killed a crewmen. This was the most notable incident in the entire 5O year history of the gun emplacements.

The tragedy raised serious questions left unanswered by a military court of inquiry and inquest, with the full facts hidden from public view due to wartime censorship. George Brassell, whose father went down with the Dolphin, and fishermen from four ports in the Canterbury region called upon the Government to hold full inquiry. The New Zealand Justice forum has now called upon the Govermnent to release all the documents that were before the military court of inquiry.

In much the same way the Government buries distasteful scandals today, the minister blamed the master of the Dolphin for the accident and claimed to be fully satisfied that all facts had been presented and no public inquiry was warranted. A report from the Christchurch Star noted;

Nobody who has read the bare facts about the sinking of the Dolphin, or studied the evidence of the military court of inquiry on the subject, will be able to agree with the Government that a public inquiry into the circumstances is unnecessary. A public inquiry would involve not only a completely unbiased examination of the facts, but a judicial finding to ensure that tragedies of this nature do not happen again.

The Ministerial statement does none of these things. It is a white-washing process that will exasperate the public and give less than no assurance that the lesson of the Dolphin will have a steadying influence on those responsible for the tragedy. The Government has placed an amazing interpretation on fact after fact of this almost unbelievable tragedy and disregarded important factors that were given in evidence.


The New Zealand Truth was even more scathing and to the point describing the official report as fatuous and the Minister's decision to say no to a public inquiry as "glossing over an appalling blunder" In justice to the relatives of an able and respected seafaring man, and to the public as a whole, steps should be taken to probe this disgracefull scandal-even if it is seventy years after the event!
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
Errr, no there shouldn't be 'another' inquiry. It was a tragedy and tragedies happen. Get over it.
You clearly don't understand the issues here. Do you have no sense of our obligations to our colonies? Lesson must be learned.
What happens of we end up in another global war where the future of our Empire, nay our very country is at stake? Another fishing trawler might accidentally sail under the guns of a shore battery full of nervous and inexperienced gunners, on the other side of the world and unequipped with radar, IR or night vision cameras. A tragedy like this could easily happen again unless we spend a small fortune on a public inquiry to question all the men involved. Unless they've died of old age, of course, or just can't remember.
 
#4
Errr, no there shouldn't be 'another' inquiry. It was a tragedy and tragedies happen. Get over it.
I'm afraid you missed the point, there should be an inquiry into the lack of an inquiry, It is not necessary to bury the truth. It is sufficient merely to delay it until nobody cares.” ~
Napoléon Bonaparte
 
#5

It was an avoidable tragedy when the fishing boat Dolphin was sunk by a New Zealand shore battery in Lyttleton Harbour on 12 October 1939. On entering the harbour and finding no examination vessel at the entrance, a local fishing trawler,the Dolphin stopped in accordance with the regulations at the time, in front of the battery and awaited a signal from the battery to pass.

The official version was that the Dolphin, did not properly identify itself and the warning shot fired from No.1 gun accidentally killed a crewmen. This was the most notable incident in the entire 5O year history of the gun emplacements.

The tragedy raised serious questions left unanswered by a military court of inquiry and inquest, with the full facts hidden from public view due to wartime censorship. George Brassell, whose father went down with the Dolphin, and fishermen from four ports in the Canterbury region called upon the Government to hold full inquiry. The New Zealand Justice forum has now called upon the Govermnent to release all the documents that were before the military court of inquiry.

In much the same way the Government buries distasteful scandals today, the minister blamed the master of the Dolphin for the accident and claimed to be fully satisfied that all facts had been presented and no public inquiry was warranted. A report from the Christchurch Star noted;

Nobody who has read the bare facts about the sinking of the Dolphin, or studied the evidence of the military court of inquiry on the subject, will be able to agree with the Government that a public inquiry into the circumstances is unnecessary. A public inquiry would involve not only a completely unbiased examination of the facts, but a judicial finding to ensure that tragedies of this nature do not happen again.

The Ministerial statement does none of these things. It is a white-washing process that will exasperate the public and give less than no assurance that the lesson of the Dolphin will have a steadying influence on those responsible for the tragedy. The Government has placed an amazing interpretation on fact after fact of this almost unbelievable tragedy and disregarded important factors that were given in evidence.

The New Zealand Truth was even more scathing and to the point describing the official report as fatuous and the Minister's decision to say no to a public inquiry as "glossing over an appalling blunder" In justice to the relatives of an able and respected seafaring man, and to the public as a whole, steps should be taken to probe this disgracefull scandal-even if it is seventy years after the event!
Given the timescale I'm not sure anything will have a steadying influence on those 'responsible'. Apart from the pallbearers that is
 
B

bokkatankie

Guest
#6
Let me get this right, one bloke died? One shot fired ship sunk?, either you have missed out most of the story or I cannot read. Every death is regretable but one in the scale of WW2 is not really worth an enquiry or even a post. But who, in the rest of the world give a shit, about this, local incident, dwarfed by wanton slaughter of WW2 as a whole.
 
#7
Bloody hell, this was two days before Royal Oak was sunk at Scapa Flow. Now that was an avoidable tragedy. This was a regrettable incident.
 

oldbaldy

LE
Moderator
#8
WW2 'Accidents'
Kind of puts your little problem into perspective:
World War II
1939

6 September - Just days after the start of the war, in what was dubbed the Battle of Barking Creek, three RAF Spitfires from 74 Squadron shot down two Hurricanes from the RAF's 56 Squadron, killing one of the pilots. One of the Spitfires was then shot down by British anti-aircraft artillery while returning to base.
10 September - The British submarine HMS Triton sank another British submarine, HMS Oxley. After making challenges which went unanswered Triton assumed it must have located a German U-boat and fired two torpedoes. Oxley was the first Royal Navy vessel to be sunk and also the first vessel to be sunk by a British vessel in the war, killing 52 with only two survivors.

1940

19 February - During Operation Wikinger the German destroyer Z1 Leberecht Maass was sunk by Luftwaffe bombs while another destroyer, the Z3 Max Schultz, was sunk by mines in confusion.
14 April - The Dutch submarine O10 was bombed in error off Noordwijk by two V.156-F Dive Bombers.[citation needed] Other reports attribute attack to British aircraft
21 May - A Bristol Blenheim L9325 of No. 18 Squadron RAF was shot down by RAF Hurricane and crashed near Arras, France. Three crewmen were killed.
22 May - A Bristol Blenheim L9266 of No. 59 Squadron RAF was shot down by RAF Spitfire and crashed near Fricourt, France. Three crewmen were killed.
28 June - Italian Air Marshal Italo Balbo's Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 was shot down by Italian anti-aircraft fire at Tobruk.
6 October - The Italian submarine Gemma was sunk in error by the submarine Tricheco while on patrol in the Mediterranean.

1941

A Fleet Air Arm torpedo attack was erroneously carried out against the HMS Sheffield during the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck
RAF fighter ace Wing Commander Douglas Bader was shot down in what recent research suggests was a friendly fire incident.
29 August- A Focke-Wulf Fw 190 plane was shot down in error by a German 8.8 cm FlaK 18/36/37/41 near the French coast and crashed on the beach south of Dunkirk. Leutnant Heinz Schenk was the first Focke-Wulf 190 pilot to be killed in action.
November 26, 1941, a RAF aircraft bombed the 1st Essex Regiment during Operation Crusader, causing about 40 casualties.

1942

31 January - The German blockade runner Spreewald was torpedoed by German U-boat U-333, captained by U-boat ace Peter-Erich Cremer off Bordeaux.
20 February - British Commonwealth forces during the Burma Campaign were repeatedly bombed and strafed by RAF Blenheims during a break-out attempt by a battalion surrounded by Japanese troops in Sittaung River, Burma. More than 170 British Commonwealth lives were lost due to RAF air-strikes.
21 February - Pilots of the 1st American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) strafed retreating Commonwealth forces who were mistaken for an advancing Japanese column during the Burma Campaign, resulting in more than 100 casualties.[27] Around the same day, retreating Commonwealth forces with 300 vehicles were bombed and strafed by RAF Blenheims near Mokpalin, Burma, resulting more than 110 casualties and 159 vehicles destroyed.
The Polish submarine ORP Jastrząb was mistakenly sunk by the British destroyer HMS St Albans and minesweeper HMS Seagull. She was attacked with depth charges and made to surface, there she was strafed with the loss of five crew and six injured, including the commander, despite yellow recognition smoke candles. The ship was damaged and had to be scuttled.
The Italian submarine Alagi sank the Italian destroyer Antoniotto Usodimare on 8 June 1942.
June 27- a group of RAF Vickers Wellingtons bombed the units of 4th County of London Yeomanry, British 7th Armoured Division and the British 3rd Hussars during a two-hour raid near Mersa Matruh, Egypt, killing over 359 troops and wounding 560. The aftermath of RAF raids at this time were also seen by the Germans: "...The RAF had bombed their own troops, and with tracer flying in all directions, German units fired on each other. At 0500 hours next morning 28 June, I drove up to the breakout area where we had spent such a disturbed night. There we found a number of lorries filled with the mangled corpses of New Zealanders who had been killed by the British bombs...
On October 23, 1942, during the 2nd Battle of El Alamein, at 2140 hours under the cover of a barrage of 1000 guns, British infantry of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division advanced towards the enemy lines. However, they advanced too fast into the area of fire from British artillery, causing over 60 casualties.
During the 2nd Battle of El Alamein, RAF fighters bombed British troops during a four hour raid, causing 56 casualties. The British 10th Royal Hussars were among the victims; they did not know the proper signals to call off their planes.
During the night attack of 12/13 November in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the already damaged light cruiser USS Atlanta was fired on by the cruiser USS San Francisco causing several deaths.

1943

The German blockade runner and minelayer Doggerbank was mistaken for a British freighter and sunk by the submarine U-43 in the mid-Atlantic. Of the 365 men on board, only one survived.
General Omar Bradley recalled that his column was attacked by American A-36s in Sicily. The tanks lit yellow smoke flares to identify themselves to their own aircraft but the attacks continued, forcing the column to return fire which resulted in the downing of one aircraft. A parachuting pilot from the downed A-36 was brought before Bradley. 'You stupid sonofabitch!!' Bradley fumed. 'Didn't you see our yellow recognition signals!?' The pilot replied 'Oh, is that what that was?'.
During the Allied Invasion of Sicily, Operation Husky, 144 C-47 transport planes passed over Allied lines shortly after a German air raid, and were mistakenly fired upon by U.S ground and naval forces. 23 planes were shot down and 37 damaged, resulting in 318 casualties including about 100 paratroopers killed.
During Operation Cottage after Allied forces occupied Kiska Island, US and Canadian forces mistook each other as Japanese and engaged each other in a deadly firefight. As a result 28 Americans and 4 Canadians were killed with 50 more wounded. There were no Japanese troops on the island two weeks before US and Canadian Forces landed.

1944

January 28, 1944, a bridge carrying 800 Allied Prisoners of War was bombed when it crossed the Ponte Paglia in Allerona, Italy, killing approximately 400 British, U.S. and South African prisoners. The POWs had been evacuated from PG Campo 54 at Fara-in-Sabina, outside of Rome, in advance of the Allied advance, and were being transported to Germany in unmarked cattle cars. The POWs had been padlocked in the cars, and were crossing the bridge when the 320th bombardment group arrived to blow up the bridge. The driver stopped the train on the span, leaving the prisoners locked inside to their fate. While many escaped, approximately 400 were killed, according to local records, and witness testimony. The mass graves were later destroyed by subsequent bombardments.

On the morning of March 27, 1944, two US Motor Torpedo Boats (PT-121 and PT-353) were destroyed in error by P-40 Kittyhawks of No. 78 Squadron RAAF, along with an RAAF Bristol Beaufighter of No. 30 Squadron RAAF. A second Beaufighter crew recognized the vessels as PTs and tried to stop the attack, but not before both boats exploded and sank off the coast of New Britain. Eight American sailors were killed with 12 others wounded.

28 April. Exercise Tiger, a nine-day rehearsal for the D-Day landings on Utah Beach, was marred when troops landed at Slapton Sands during a live firing exercise. American soldiers crossed into an area which was being shelled with live ammunition by the British heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins. One source put the number of deaths at 308 American soldiers. The exercise is also notorious for casualties suffered during an attack by German E-boats; losses were compounded by failures in Allied organization and training. A total of 946 American servicemen died during the exercise. It was the most costly Allied training incident in World War II and the death toll was four times greater than in the action at Utah Beach itself.

June 5–6, several RAF Avro Lancasters attempting to bomb the German artillery battery at Merville-Franceville-Plage attacked instead friendly positions, killing 186 soldiers of the British Reconnaissance Corps and devastating the town. They also mistakenly bombed Drop Zone 'V ' of the 6th Airborne Division, killing 78 and injuring 65.
6 June 1944, RAF fighters bombed and strafed the HQ entourage of 3rd Parachute Brigade (British 6th Airborne Division) near Pegasus Bridge after mistaking them for a German column. At least 15 men were killed and many others were wounded.
June 8, 1944, a group of RAF Hawker Typhoons attacked the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division (United States) on the Isigny Highway, France, causing 24 casualties.
During Operation Cobra, bombs from the Eighth Air Force landed on American troops on two separate occasions.
On 24 July 1944, some 1,600 bombers flew in support of the opening bombardment for Cobra. Due to bad weather they were unable to see their targets; although some were recalled, and others declined to bomb without visibility, a number did. Inevitably some bombs hit US positions; 25 were killed and 131 wounded in this incident.
The following day, on 25 July, the operation was repeated by 1,800 bombers of 8th Air Force. On this occasion, the weather was clear, but despite requests by First Army commander Gen. Omar Bradley to bomb east to west, along the front (in order to avoid creepback), the air commanders made their attack north to south, over Allied lines. As more and more bombs fell short, and US positions again hit, 111 were killed and 490 wounded. Lieutenant General Lesley McNair was among the dead — the highest-ranking victim of American friendly fire.
July 26, 1944, USAAF P-47s mistakenly strafed the US 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion near Perrières, France. 20 men were badly injured but causing no fatalities.
On July 27, 1944, the former HMS Sunfish was sunk by a British RAF Coastal Command aircraft in the Norwegian Sea during the beginning of its process of being transferred to the Soviet Navy. The Captain, Israel Fisanovich, supposedly had taken her out of her assigned area and was diving the sub when the aircraft came in sight instead of staying on the surface and firing signal flares as instructed. All crew, including the British liaison staff, were lost. Later investigation revealed that the RAF crew were at fault.
August 7, 1944, a RAF Hawker Typhoon strafed a squad from 'F' Company/US 120th Infantry Regiment, near Hill 314, France, killing two men. Around noon on the same day, RAF Hawker Typhoon of the 2TAF was called in to assist the US 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion in stopping an attack by the 2nd SS Panzer Division between Sourdeval and Mortain but instead fired its rockets at two US 3-inch guns near L'Abbaye Blanche, killing one man and wounding several others even after the yellow smoke (which was to identify friendlies) was put out. Two hours later, an RAF Typhoon shot up the Service Company of the 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Division, causing several casualties, including Major James Bynum who was killed near Mortain. The officer who replaced him was strafed by another Typhoon a few minutes later and seriously wounded. Around the same time, a Hawker Typhoon attacked the Cannon Company of 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Division, near Mortain, killing 15 men. An hour later, RAF Typhoons strafed 'B' Company/US 120th Infantry Regiment on Hill 285, killing a driver of a weapons carrier.
Allied heavy bombers bombed the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 1st Polish Armoured Division during Operation Totalize, causing several hundred Allied casualties.
Two battalions of the 77th Infantry on Guam exchanged prolonged fire on 8 August 1944, the incident possibly started with the firing of mortars for range-finding and angle calibration purposes. Small arms and then armour fire was exchanged. The mistake was realized when both units tried to call in the same artillery battalion to bombard the other.[3]
August 8, 1944, near Mortain, France, RAF Hawker Typhoons attacked two Sherman tanks of 'C' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion with rockets, killing 5 tank crewmen and wounding 10 soldiers. Later that day, two Shermans from 'A' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion were destroyed and set ablaze by RAF Typhoons near Mortain. One tank crewman was killed and 12 others wounded.
August 9, 1944, a RAF Hawker Typhoon strafed units of the British Columbia Regiment and the Algonquin Regiment, 4th Canadian Armoured Division, near Quesnay Wood during Operation Totalize, causing several casualties. Later that day, the same units were mistakenly fired upon by tanks and artillery of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, resulting in more casualties.
12 August 1944, RAF Hawker Typhoons fired rockets at Shermans of 'A' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion, near Mortain, France, causing damage to one tank and badly injuring 2 tank crewmen.
13 August 1944, 12 British soldiers of ‘B’ Company, 4th Wiltshires, 43rd Wessex Division, were killed and 25 others wounded when they were hit by rockets and machine gun attacks by RAF Typhoons near La Villette, Calvados, France.
14 August 1944, RAF heavy bombers hit Allied troops in error during Operation Tractable causing about 490 casualties including 112 dead. The bombings also destroyed 265 Allied vehicles, 30 field guns and two tanks. British anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the RAF bombers and some may have been hit.
17 August 1944, RAF fighters attacked the soldiers of the British 7th Armoured Division, resulting in 20 casualties, including the intelligence officer of 8th Hussars who was badly injured. The colonel riding along was badly shaken when their jeep crashed off the road.
14–18 August 1944, the South Alberta Regiment of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division came under fire six times by RAF Spitfires, resulting in over 57 casualties. Many vehicles were also set on fire and the yellow smoke used for signalling friendlies was ignored by Spitfire pilots. An officer of the South Alberta demanded that he wanted his Crusader AA tanks to shoot at the Spitfires attacking his Headquarters.
On August 27, 1944, a minesweeping flotilla of Royal Navy ships came under fire. At about noon of the 27th, HMS Britomart, Salamander, Hussar and Jason came under rocket and cannon attacks by Hawker Typhoons of No. 263 Squadron RAF and No. 266 Squadron RAF. HMS Britomart and HMS Hussar took direct hits and were sunk. HMS Salamander had her stern blown off and sustained heavy damage. HMS Jason was raked by machine gun fire, killing and wounding several of her crew. Two of the accompanying trawlers were also hit. The total loss of life was 117 sailors killed and 153 wounded. The attack had continued despite the attempts by the ships to signal that they were friendly and radio requests by the commander of the aircraft for clarification of his target. In the aftermath the surviving sailors were told to keep quiet about the attack. The subsequent court of enquiry identified the fault as lying with the Navy, who had requested the attack on what they thought were enemy vessels entering or leaving Le Havre, and three RN officers were put before a court martial. The commander of the Jason and his crew were decorated for their part in rescuing their comrades. At the time reporting of the incident was suppressed with information not fully released until 1994.
12 September 1944, a group of RAF Hawker Typhoons destroyed two Sherman tanks of the Governor General's Foot Guards, 4th Canadian Armoured Division in the vicinity of Maldegem, Belgium, killing 3 men and injuring 4. One Canadian soldier from the 4th Canadian Armored Division wounded recalled this incident saying "....while so deployed the tanks were suddenly attacked, in mistake, by several Typhoon aircraft. Lt. Middleton-Hope's tank was badly hit, killing the gunner Guardsman Hughes, and the tank was set on fire. Almost immediately Sgt. Jenning's tank was similarly knocked out by Typhoon rockets. Meanwhile the Typhoons continued to press home their attack with machine guns and rockets, and, while trying to extricate the gunner, Lt. Middleton-Hope was blown off the tank. In this tragic encounter Guardsmen Baker, Barter, and Cheal were seriously wounded."
In October 1944, Soviet troops liberated the city of Niš from occupying German forces and advanced on Belgrade. At the same time the U.S. Army Air Force was bombing German-Albanian units entering from Kosovo. The U.S. planes mistook the advancing Soviet tanks as enemies (probably due to a lack of communications) and began attacking them, whereupon the Soviets then called in for air support from Nis airport and a five-minute dogfight ensued, ending after both the U.S and Soviet commanders ordered the planes to retreat.
Canadian artillery units were rushed in to support the retreating American forces as a counter attack against the advancing German Army during the early stages of the Ardennes Offensive. When American troops were making a retreat north of the Ardennes, the Canadians mistook them for a German column. The Canadian artillery guns opened fire on them, resulting in 76 American deaths and many as 138 wounded.
Major George E. Preddy, commander of the 328th Fighter Squadron, was the highest-scoring US ace still in combat in the European Theater at the time when he died on Christmas Day in Belgium. Preddy was chasing a German fighter over an American anti-aircraft battery and was hit by their fire aimed at his intended target.
Operation Wintergewitter (Winter Storm) - Italian Front: American forward observer John R. Fox called down fire on his own position to stop a German advance on the town of Sommocolonia, Italy. In 1997 he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

1945

Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate): 900 German fighters and fighter-bombers launched a surprise attack on Allied airfields. Approximately 300 aircraft were lost, 237 pilots killed, missing, or captured, and 18 pilots wounded — the largest single-day loss for the Luftwaffe. Many losses were due to fire from Luftwaffe anti-aircraft batteries, whose crew members had not been informed of the attack.
On January 23, 1945, a group of Royal Air Force fighters strafed the assault gun platoon (105mm Sherman tanks) of US 743rd Tank Battalion, near Sart-Lez-St.Vith, Belgium, killing 6 men and wounded 15.
Cap Arcona incident - Although it did not involve troops in combat, this incident has been referred to as "the worst friendly-fire incident in history" On May 3, 1945, the three ships Cap Arcona, Thielbek, and the SS Deutschland in Lübeck Harbour were sunk in four separate, but synchronized attacks with bombs, rockets, and cannons by the Royal Air Force, resulting in the death of over 7,000 Jewish concentration camp survivors and Russian prisoners of war, along with POWs from several other allies. The British pilots were unaware that these ships carried POW's and concentration camp survivors, although British documents were released in the 1970s that state the Swedish government had informed the RAF command of the risk prior to the attack.

14 May. Several days after the German surrender, U-boat ace Wolfgang Luth was shot and killed by a sentry while walking after dark at the German naval base at Flensburg-Marwik
 
#9
I'm afraid you missed the point, there should be an inquiry into the lack of an inquiry, It is not necessary to bury the truth. It is sufficient merely to delay it until nobody cares.” ~
Napoléon Bonaparte
Let me get this straight: you want an inquiry into the lack of an inquiry? For one death which happened 70 years ago in 1939, right before milions were killed in the second world war?

Seriously?
 

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