From: Rush Webb Sandusky, Ohio: U-482, Empire Heritage, Pinto, La Perle
This is the Website of retired Comdr. Mackenzie Gregory of the Royal Australian Navy and of that navy's historical society. It is one of the great sites about naval warfare, especially about WWII. Comdr. Gregory as a young naval officer and cadet was in British waters on the Australian cruiser Australia near the beginning of WWII and later was transferred to the Australian cruiser Canberra which was sunk in the Battle of Savo Island at the beginning of the Solomon Islands campaign in August of 1942. He was also present on another Australian cruiser in Tokyo Bay for the signing of the unconditional surrender by the Japanese in 1945. In addition, he has traveled extensively throughout the world since retiring from the navy.
I have already read most of the articles on the site, paying particular attention to the ones on Liberty ships, rescue ships and submarines. Needless to say, they brought back memories of the sinking by U-482 of the converted factory whaling ship Empire Heritage off of my ship's immediate port beam and of the rescue ship Pinto on September 8, 1944, while sailing off Malin Head in convoy HX-305.
Ian, unlike you, I have not yet read any of the postwar books by Admiral Donitz in which he praised the aggressive spirit of U-boat commander von Machuska in the sinking of the five ships within a period of ten days as noted in your book Donegal Shipwrecks, which you sent me. Also, as you say, the sinking of the rescue ship Pinto in a probable condition of near dawn may indeed have brought Donitz a bit closer to the hangman's noose at the Nuremberg trials.
I am sending Comdr. Gregory a copy of this e-mail and will also send him and Stuart a recent article appearing in a publication of the Canadian Naval Officers Association about the prior misconduct of the Escort Commander of Convoy Hx-305 in which the French submarine La Perle was sunk. I have already sent these Web pages to you but not Stuart, who, as a diver is familiar with the wreck of the Heritage.
Thank you for your very kind words about my Ahoy site, it is always very gratifying to hear from someone who has enjoyed reading some of my musings.
My good friend Terry in Atlanta Georgia actually runs my Web Log, I do all the writing and he is responsible for getting it all into the readable form as it appears. We like to think between us the end result is acceptable, and call ourselves a team.
I did not receive your second E-Mail with the Canadian article in it, may I ask you to go to the trouble of sending it a second time please?
With best regards from both the US and Australia.
You may already be aware of the fact the Captain of U-482 had served on the cruiser Prinz Eugen prior to entering submarine training. According to Ian Wilson, the author of the book Donegal Shipwrecks, he was serving on that ship when it accompanied the Bismarck on its fatal journey, and Ian wondered in his book if the Bismarck's loss might have spurred on von Matuschka in his first combat cruise as a submarine commander. Ian became acquainted with Matuschka's brother (now dead) through correspondence in the preparation of his book, in addition to obtaining copies of the sub commander's log. According to the log, a British plane caught his sub on the surface during daylight the preceding day and to his surprise nothing happened. He did not know that the depth charge release on the plane simply failed to function!
Ian refers to von Matuschka as "the Count" in his book indicating that the family belonged to some sort of German nobility or aristocracy, and that the title descended upon all male members of a family, unlike English nobility.
I'm attaching copy of a photo of the Empire Heritage which Ian Wilson sent me after he had obtained a copy from a British museum. According to the First Officer's testimony to the Board of Inquiry the torpedo struck the starboard side just abaft of the bridge, which meant about a hundred feet of so from the stem. The ship's cargo included 16,000 tons of oil and also trucks and tanks. Her factory deck, extending the entire length of the ship, was only about 18" above the waterline, and a shallow torpedo opened up a hole which engulfed the ship with water and led to a quick demise. He mentions that he sees the funnel of the ship going beneath the waves a few minutes after the impact. This version seem not agree with a report attributed to the U-boat commander that he came back around the stricken tanker about forty minutes later, after the first attack, sees lights in the water and on the ship, and puts another torpedo into her and sinks her. However, it appears the ship had capsized and that this point is not clarified by the sub commander's report. I suspect that when I turned around from my duties and looked in the stricken ship's direction that the light I saw was on top of the capsized ship, as I could not detect any superstructure.
Based on GMT, according to the Board, the attack took place about 0355, which would be two hours different from Berlin summer time kept by the submarines at that time of year. The Chief Officer also mentions that he ends up on a raft with others, and about thirty minutes after the attack, he and others are being picked up by the Pinto when he sees a periscope in the vicinity and shortly thereafter the Pinto is torpedoed. The submarine reports that it proceeds west leaving the scene and about an hour elapses before hearing any depth charge explosions in the distance.
The SS Jamaica Planter, a ship in the convoy, broadcasting on 500kscs and 2410kcs sent the message SSSS "Empire Heritage" 2 explosions-Capsized, and these messages are received by the escort vessels Dunver, Runnymede, Hespeler, and New Westminister around 0356 to 0358. However, great confusion seems to engulf the escorts, and only the Pinto and the trawler Northern Wave immediately proceed to carry out their designated assignments, with the Northern Wave eventually picking up the survivors from both ships. It appears the Heritage lost 103 people, including 53 Distressed British Seamen who were passengers, and the Pinto 21 of her crew of 41.
The Board also discusses a condition called "Pineapple"
which I interpret to mean a code name for the display of running lights.
If so, it took several minutes for the Escort Commander to order that running
lights be turned off. It is my memory that the ships were displaying their
running lights, but my memory could be in error, as it appears to have been in
assuming the convoy had fallen into two or three long columns rather than still
maintaining the full 14 columns. The Board includes an exhibit provided by
the Commodore of the Convoy which showed a convoy spread of 14 columns, 7 to 9
ships deep, and it assumes that was still
the case at the time of attack, and in fact seems to
The chronology of the U-482 sinkings were: The Jacksonville, then Hurst Castle, then Fjordheim, then the Empire Heritage and Pinto in that order. Ian Wilson recently informed me that divers are preparing to search for the remains of U-482 where it was probably mined, not too far from site of the Empire Heritage and Pinto. Stuart Ward and his group of divers are getting ready to dive on the wreck of the Arandora Star and may create a film about its tragic loss off Malin Head.
Thank you for your last E-Mail, it is fascinating how your original E-Mail opened up a new door about Convoy HX-305, one never knows where a new road will lead, and it is in my view one of the joys to be had from the Internet.
Pineapple, that you mention, was a tactic for Convoy Escorts to employ against U-Boat attacks. It had been devised by the Western Approaches Tactical Unit under its Director Captain Gilbert Roberts RN. There were a few of them with names like, Raspberry, Pineapple, Beta Search, Step Aside etc, all designed to combat and outwit German Submarine commanders, their tactics and moves.
Thank you again, we will make use of the photo of Empire Heritage.