HMS Kite (U87)
HMS Kite in March 1943
|Launched:||13 October 1942|
|Commissioned:||1 March 1943|
|Fate:||Sunk by U-344 on 21 August 1944|
|Length:||299 ft 6 in (91.29 m)|
|Beam:||38 ft 6 in (11.73 m)|
|Draught:||11 ft (3.4 m)|
Geared turbines, 2 shafts|
4,300 hp (3.21 MW)
|Speed:||20 knots (37 km/h)|
|Range:||7,500 nmi (13,900 km) at 12 kn (22 km/h)|
6 × 4-inch (102 mm) AA guns (3 × 2)|
4 × 2 pdr AA pom-pom
12 × 20 mm Oerlikon AA (6 × 2)
|Part of:||2nd Support Group|
|Commanders:||Lt.Cdr WF Segrave,|
|Operations:||Battle of the Atlantic |
|Victories:||U-449, U-462, U-504, U-226 (1943)|
HMS Kite (U87) was a Modified Black Swan-class sloop of the Royal Navy, commanded by Lt Cmdr Segram RN and once commanded by the famous U-boat hunter Captain Frederic John Walker. She was one of several ships of that class that took part in the famous "six in one trip" in 1943 (in which six U-boats were sunk in one patrol).
She was built at Cammell Laird shipyard, Birkenhead, on the banks of the river Mersey (she was to later to be based across the river in Gladstone Dock, Bootle). She was launched on 13 October 1942 and commissioned on 1 March 1943.
She took part in the sinking of five U-boats together with several sister ships:
- On 24 June 1943 U-449 was sunk near Cape Ortegal, Spain by the sloops HMS Wren, HMS Woodpecker, Kite and HMS Wild Goose.
- On 30 July 1943 U-462 was sunk in the Bay of Biscay by a Handley-Page Halifax aircraft and Wren, Kite, Woodpecker, Wild Goose and HMS Woodcock.
- On 30 July 1943 U-504 was sunk near Cape Ortegal by Kite, Woodpecker, Wren and Wild Goose.
- On 6 November 1943 U-226 was sunk east of Newfoundland by HMS Starling, Woodcock and Kite.
- On 9 February 1944 U-238 was sunk south-west of Ireland by Kite, HMS Magpie and Starling.
On 20 August 1944 Kite was escorting the aircraft carriers HMS Vindex and HMS Striker, which in turn were escorting convoy JW-59 to Northern Russia when the convoy was sighted in the Barents Sea by German aircraft. Soon a pack of U-boats attacked the convoy and one U-boat was sunk by Fairey Swordfish aircraft from one of the carriers. Two more were sunk by other destroyers.
At 06:30 on 21 August, Kite slowed to 6 knots (10 km/h) to untangle her "foxers" (anti acoustic torpedo noise makers, towed astern). The decision to do so, rather than severing the foxers' cables and abandoning them, was made by her temporary commander, Lt Comdr Campbell, a submariner. At that speed Kite was a sitting duck, and she was hit by two torpedoes from U-344 (commanded by Oberleutnant Ulrich Pietsch) and sank.
Of Kite's crew of 10 officers and 207 ratings, 60 survived the attack, but from the freezing Arctic water only 14 sailors were picked up alive (by HMS Keppel, HMS Peacock and HMS Mermaid). Five of the rescued died on board Keppel, leaving only nine to make it to shore. As of 2004, there were two living survivors. See note below (2009).
U-344 was sunk the next day by depth charges from a single Swordfish plane, piloted by Gordon Bennett, from Vindex.
Six in One
The U boats sunk in the 6 in 1 patrol were as follows: U-592 - 31 January (Type VIIC) U-762 - 8 February (Type VIIC) U-734 - 9 February (Type VIIC) U-238 - 9 February (Type VIIC) U-424 - 11 February (Type VIIC) U-264 19 February (Type VIIC)
The U-334 was sunk by one swordfish from Vindex, piloted by Gordon Bennett, which dropped out of the cloud, surprising the U Boat on the surface, a single depth charge exploded beneath the U boat, sending her down with all hands.
James Payne was a crew member aboard the kite. HMS Kite was commanded by Lt Cmdr Segram RN, and on a couple of occasions when Starling was in for repairs, by Captain FJ Walker RN, the leader of the 2nd Support Group.