Port Director Granville

Documenting the past for future generations

Port Director Granville

On the night of 8th March there were five ships in the harbour at Granville. These ships had completed discharge and preparations had been made to sail them out of the harbour on the 0143 high tide. These ships would have been sailed from the harbour at that time the convoy was due to get underway. The US GEM had left Granville harbour in the afternoon and was already at Videcoq anchorage, HMS Pearl arrived at the Anchorage at 0920 to escort the next days convoy to the United Kingdom.

On Accordance with the usual procedure, the USS PC-564 started ins patrol at dusk. This patrol consists of going from Videcoq buoy to a point just south of the Grande Ile (Chausey) light house and return.

At 2158 the Army radar station at Coutainville reported that an unknown target had just been picked up twenty miles from Granville, moving southwest at a speed of 8 knots.

When the subsequent radar report revealed that the targets between 17 & 18 miles from Granville, and established the fact that the target was an actual ship and not a false target, a message was sent to the PC-564 informing her of the radar contact and instructing her to pass the warning on to HMS earl. The Army unit at Granville was notified at this time by the Navy of the reported target, though the 156th infantry, who was charged with the defence of the area, had already been informed. The Radar at Coutainville continued to report the progress of the targets, and subsequently reports were made to both PC-564 and to the army at Granville.

In order to be entirely certain that HMS Pearl knew about the approaching targets a despatch was sent to her informing her that three targets were heading towards Granville and instructing her to stand by for possible action. This despatch was made up when the targets north east of Grand Ile.

Starting at 0015 on 9 March, star shells could be seen at sea, west of Granville, and tracer fire could also be seen at intervals. His action seemed to move slowly to the southwest and slackened considerably at about 0045. Occasional star shells continued to be fired for a while afterwards.

It was assumed that both the PC-564 and HMS Pearl were taking part in this engagement as both ships had been warned of the approaching German vessels, both ships had radar, and it was a clear night so that the action taking place could be seen for many miles. The last communication with PS-564 was at 0008, and subsequent efforts to find out from them what was happening proved of no avail, a request for a report of this actions was sent to MHS Pearl at 0036. No reply was received from Pearl though she reported at 0045 that she was standing in the anchorage and that the PC had opened fire. It is not known why Pearl sis not assist PC-564, and a despatch was sent to her instructing her to go in and join action.

At 0100 a German patrol vessel entered the harbour and opened a raking fire on the docks and over the town. The main fire was, however, directed against the French barracks located on the top of the hill overlooking the port.

The main landing party is believed to have come from the patrol craft which entered the harbour, although some probably were brought on two or three other vessels which accompanied the patrol craft. One of these smaller vessels was a tug somewhat larger than the US Army Tug. IT is believed that one of the small vessels remained outside the harbour jetties to carry on covering fire from there.

The landing parties went aboard all the ships in the harbour, except the SS Heiden which was berthed furthest away from the harbour locks. The landing party which went aboard the Eskwood too charge of her and, with the aid of a tug boat brought in by the Germans, she was towed out to sea. The raiding parties which went aboard other ships placed demolition charges in the boilers and set fire to the SS Kyle Castle. Other landing parties put demolition charges in the portal cranes used for the discharging of coal and also in most of the crawler cranes in the area.

At the same time this action was going on in the port other German raiding parties landed on rubber crafts along the beach on the other side of town, near the Normandy Hotel. These landing parties went through the Normandy hotel, and on the first and second floors of the HOtel des Baines and the Hotel Gourmets. These parties captured four Army officers, wounded one army officer, killed another army officer, and killed Lt F R Lightoller, as he was making his way from port area towards the Navy communications building. Three small boats later landed on the beach and took off the Germans from that area.

When the Germans left with the Eskwood they took along 67 German POW's that had come to the port area to work that night. Instructions has been given to keep these prisoners in their stockade by the order has not reached the proper parties and they had come on down to the port area.

The Germans started to withdrawal about 0300 and the last group left on one of the small boats at 0330, the German ships were not opposed in their departure, and it is not known why MHS Pearl did not attempt any interception. The following plain language despatch had been sent. "COME IN AND JOIN ACTION"

The German raiders did not meet any opposition worthy of mentioning. The only force located at Granville was a detachment of infantry men (156th) whose function appears to be more of observation and reporting than for defence. Reinforcements in the for of additional personnel, light artillery and tanks were sent by the army, but they arrived after the Germans left. These reinforcements, as far as is known, have since been withdrawn, except that there is some additional personnel still in town. It is not known whether any Germans were left behind for sabotage or observation but this seems highly probable. Reports of sniping have been made but no Germans have been captured since the raid.

The Navy Personnel performed their duties well. At times the men were under fire, particularly those in the signal station, which was attacked by the German vessels. Radio communication was maintained until the power supply failed. Telephone communications with Cherbourg and with observation post in the officers quarters was maintained throughout. There was one US Navy casualty of this activity, named Borst F B who was wounded in the legs by German gun fire. The loss of Lt Lightoller, is deeply felt as he was a fin officer and well liked by everyone.

Immediately upon receipt of word that the PC-564 was aground near Cancale, the 176th Army hospital at Le Haye du Puits, the 180th Hospital at Carentan, the Granville dispensary and the 199th Hospital at Rennes were contacted and urged to send all the assistance possible. When radio communication was again established MHS Pearl was also requested to go to the aid of PC-564.

From every standpoint, the results of the raid were in the favour of the Germans. They damages the port facilities to a great extent, captures one coaster, damaged three other coasters, caused a number of casualties and damage to the PC-564. The raid was not, however, a complete victory for the Germans. Their demolition was far less complete than it could have been, and they lost their principle warship by scuttling and fire after she had accidentally been run aground in the harbour. It can only be hoped that the loss of this vessel will prevent the Germans from making another serious raid on shipping or on shore facilities.

J B Divevenbach


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