“On this day in history” RAF Coastal Command sink U-417, lose aircraft, dramatic rescue

“On this day in history” 11 June 1943, Type VIIC Unterseeboot U-417 (Oblt. Schreiner) sunk during depth charge attack by Fortress Mk II aircraft from No. 206 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command. All hands (46) lost.

The B-17 (serial FA 704 R) caught the U-boat on the surface and, despite a successful depth charge attack, damage from the U-boat’s anti aircraft guns forced the pilot (Wing Commander R Thompson) to ditch in the Atlantic. The 8-man crew spent 3-days in a single life raft while rough Atlantic seas prevented rescue.

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Fortress Mk II (FA 704 R) of No. 206 Squadron RAF.

On the third day, Squadron Leader Jack Holmes of No. 190 Squadron RAF finally landed a Catalina flying boat and rescued the downed airmen. The DFC citation for Holmes reads:

In June, 1943, this officer piloted an aircraft detailed to search for a dinghy containing the crew of an aircraft. After a flight of some 400 miles over the water the dinghy was located. Although a heavy sea was running, making the task of alighting the aircraft extremely hazardous, Squadron Leader Holmes skilfully came down alongside the dinghy and its occupants were hauled safely aboard the aircraft. This officer displayed superb airmanship and great determination throughout.
London Gazette, 17 August 1943

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