War survivors tribute to hero commander


A SUFFOLK survivor of a Second World War “suicide mission” has paid tribute to his fallen commander 12 after his Victoria Cross went on display.

Sub Lieutenant Edgar Lee, from Woodbridge, was among the veterans who gathered at London's Imperial War Museum to pay their respects to Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, of Tipperary, Ireland, who flew his Swordfish torpedo-bomber into the face of intense German fire before eventually being shot down in flames on February 12 1942.

Not one of the six Swordfish, led by Lt Cdr Esmonde, returned from their mission to attack a huge German battle fleet as it made its “Channel dash” from Brest in France back to Germany.

Of 18 men, just five survived and only one, Sub Lt Lee, emerged unhurt.

Sub Lt Lee, now 86, said the operation had been delayed after a series of miscalculations and oversights meant the German warships, destroyers and the largest Luftwaffe air cover ever gathered could move up the English Channel unnoticed.

He said: “Then all hell broke loose.

“The Germans knew we were there and we barely knew the Germans were there.”

He explained that they were waiting for new Swordfish equipped with radar but that it never came. Nor did the five squadrons of Spitfires intended to escort them. Instead, only a small part of one squadron arrived.

Sub Lieutenant Lee said: “The Spitfires chased after the first attack but there were so many (enemy planes) that the Spitfires were involved in looking after themselves against some of the best German pilots.”

With enemy fire coming at the Swordfish from all angles, Lt Cdr Esmonde led the charge but was fatally shot down. Twelve other men in the Swordfish were killed and four were wounded.

His Victoria Cross, which is the UK's highest award for “gallantry in the face of the enemy”, is now on display in the Imperial War Museum's Victoria Cross and George Cross Gallery.
http://www.eveningstar.co.uk/conten...gory=News&itemid=IPED13 Oct 2007 09:21:03:140

Cool men.
Brian Kingcome of 92 Squadron was flying in support of the 'Stringbags' out of the 5 Squadrons promised, only himself and 10 Spitfires were in support.

They couldnt support the Stringbags due to the fact that the speed of the swordfish was slower than the stalling speed of the Spitfires. They where bounced by the Germans including the latest plane the FW190s, led by Adolf Galland.

He watched the swordfish flying in, and the German ships firing their main guns into the water setting up splashes higher than the swordfish.

Their was in his words a 'whitehall cover-up' about this episode were he attended 2 inquirys but nothing came out of it, he also said that all deserved the VC

Helmuth Giessler navigation officer on the Scharnhorst said afterwards about the Swordfish
'Their bravery was devoted and incredible. They knowingly and ungrudgingly gave their all to their country and went to their doom without hesitation'
I saw one of these things up close at the FAA museum and you woudn't get me up in it for a pension. What it must have taken to go into combat at all, let alone against such odds, beggars belief.

And what is so awful is that on another thread, Irish arrsers are bemoaning the fact that the Irish ambassador will still be in his pit when all the other ambassadors in London are paying their respects at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday......

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