Royal Navy Convoy Press Photo

This week’s photograph is a truly splendid press photograph taken on board a British cruiser on convoy work:Press photographs are always a nice addition to the collection because the quality of the composition and subject matter is normally far higher than personal snaps and they usually have a detailed description on the back. In this case the back of the photograph reads:

Dramatic Air Attack,

A series of photos secured by our own staff photographer in a fight against a convoy in the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic. The convoy and its escort were attacked by U-boats and Focker-Wolfe (sic) 4 engined Courier Bombers. After a fight of some hours, both bombers and U-boats were driven off without loss. These scenes were secured on board a cruiser while in action.

Photo shows. The ship’s torpedo officer wearing anti-bomb protecting gear gives a running commentary of enemy aircraft movements to ship’s company below decks.

Allowing for press inaccuracies, my guess is that the aircraft referred to were FW2000 Condor long range bombers:These were frequently used for long range maritime bombing. The picture itself is very interesting, despite some damage. The officer in the centre is a lieutenant, as shown by the painted rank insignia on his helmet:He is wearing white cotton anti-flash gear over his uniform as one would expect in battle, with a hood:And gloves:Around his waist he has an inflatable life jacket, here a rarer white version (more commonly the RN used blue examples of the life jacket):Note also his gas mask bag slung on his hip. In his hand is a large microphone into which he is giving his commentary:He is stnding on the open bridge of the cruiser, we can clearly see a row of voice pipes allowing the bridge to speak to other parts of the ships:Other ships of the convoy can be seen in the background:Thomas Kay describes an attack on a convoy he was part of by Condor bombers:

Towards the end of February 1942 we sailed as part of a large convoy, with a warship escort which included for a period the battleships HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson.

I first saw action in the Bay of Biscay when two FW 220 (Condor) aircraft bombed the convoy. The Condors stayed circling most of the day until one of our planes, a Catalina Flying boat, came on the scene. After a brief dogfight, the ‘Cat’ chased the Condors off. One ship was damaged but fortunately most of the bombs missed as the Condors had to bomb from a great height because the anti-aircraft fire from our escorts was so heavy.


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