LIFE OF THE TRACKER
Story of the escort carrier HMS Tracker 1943-1945




CHAPTER 9                      FROZEN NORTH
 

       Frozen North . On 25th of March we left for Lock Ewe in the Western Highlands on route
       for Seapa, to commence operation Number 6, our most critical venture with H.M.S.
       Activity, we were to provide air cover for an important Russian convoy. We soon hit the
       cold weather, but air crews and aircraft handling party plunged into programme of
       constant patrolling. Four days out one young life was lost, when O/Seaman Gordon
       Coston {of Northumberland Heath, Kent} fell over board, as an aircraft landed rather
       viciously. He sank in the icy water just before the ship's boat reach him.
       "Trackers" Avenger's looked for U.Boats, "Activity's Wildcats collected FockeWolfes.
       However our fighters were required on 31st March, and, well directed by the Air Direction
       Office, they shot down a F.W.200, while still carrying the long range fuel tanks, which
       earned them the name "Tomcats". Captain Walker and his First Eleven, to use Captain
       Huntley's breezy term, rapidly got into routine with the first U.Boat sinking..

       Sunday 1st April, the Birthday of the Squadron, was not a happy one. At 09.52 Avenger
       "L" sighted a U.Boat on the surface, attacked, and found that he could not release his
       depth charges. The U.Boat dived, and the position was marked, Avenger "L" being
       recalled to base. He was directed to try to release his depth charges before landing on,
       and reported that three of the four had gone. He then came into land, and despite the
       frantic signals of Bats Urwin, flew straight into the round down, hitting it amidships at full
       throttle. The engine buried itself in the round down the tail hung on the stern, and the port
       wing rested on the Bofors gun. The petrol tank burst and the whole aircraft was
       immediately a mass of flames. The Bofors gun crew  had been sent to shelter when the
       crash was imminent, only the Communication Number O/ Seaman John Forrester, of
       Portsmouth} being in the area of immediate danger. He received slight burns, but was
       very soon back on duty.

       More about the fire next time.

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