Kapitan zur See Erdmenger was not a happy man. He had set out from the Gironde that morning with his destoyers (DesFlot 8) and a division of torpedo boots under Korvettenkapitan von Gartzen to find and escort into port an important blockade runner, the Alsterufer. She was loaded with tungsten and rubber; both commodities were in very short supply in the Reich. But he had not found her and neither had Korvettenkapitan Kohlauf’s Torpedo Boot Flotilla 4 which had just joined him from the north.
This part of the Atlantic, just to the west of the Bay of Biscay was no place to loiter. Erdmenger had Kohlauf take station to port and at 1300 hours they turned east for France.
But the Alsterufer was already on the bottom. Sent there by B24 bombers and her crew were adrift in life boats. The sinking of the Alsterufer had freed up the cruisers HMS Glasgow and HMS Enterprise to try and intercept the destroyers who had been sighted by Allied aircraft earlier.
It was a rough day on that part of the pond. The wind was a Force 7 easterly of some 30 knots. The seas were getting up and while it slowed the cruisers down; it was much worse for the destroyers and the torpedo boots.
Captain Clark as senior officer (aboard HMS Glasgow) had Captain Grant of HMS Enterprise take station as they formed a line ahead and turned NNE to intercept. 27 knots were all they could do but they expected the destroyers, let alone the torpedo boots to be even slower.
About 1330 hours the Glasgow’s masthead reported ships ahead off the port bow. Visibility was about 18,000 yards and Clark ordered a 4 point turn to starboard to open up his broadside as well as a course that would get him between the Germans and their base.
At 1336 hours Glasgow opened on the lead destroyer. The destroyers at that range in those seas could not yet reply. Glasgow continued to fire at the leading destroyer and now Enterprise also joined in firing at the second destroyer.
At 1342 hours Glasgow saw a flash on the lead destroyer’s stern, but no other effect. Enterprise’s fire was not effective. The lead destroyer finally was able to fire back but to no avail.
Over the next 12 minutes the cruisers and lead German destroyers exchanged fire without effect and then Glasgow scored a second hit on the bow of the lead destroyer and its fire immediately slackened. The German return fire was still ineffective.
By now (1400 hours) the range was down to 15,000 yards. Glasgow was able to begin rapid firing because of her radar. She immediately scored 6 hits on the lead destroyer. The destroyer slowed perceptively, her return fire slackened again, she appeared lower in the water and then she went DIW. The stricken destroyers’ return fire was even less effective. Enterprise’s fire was still ineffective. But the second destroyer managed a hit on Enterprise’s float plane which caused a fire.
It took Enterprise 12 minutes to put her fire out and she suffered more hull damage because of it. The stricken destroyer was still DIW but she did not appear to be sinking. However, she was also not firing anymore.
Glasgow shifted her fire to the third destroyer in line and scored a hit on her bow causing her fire to slacken. Enterprise continued to miss as did the second destroyer. Glasgow now pummeled the third destroyer for 12 hits. Most of the hits blanketed her stern and her return fire ceased. But the most telling feature was that she was so low in the water as to almost disappear with every wave as she staggered out of line.
Some 42 minutes into fight, the Enterprise achieved 5 hits on the second destroyer. One on the stern and the others amidships causing the destroyer to go DIW and her return fire to cease.
Glasgow and Enterprise shifted their fire to the 2 remaining destroyers. Glasgow scored a hit but saw no appreciable change. Enterprise scored 2 hits on the fifth destroyer amidships and she slowed a bit and seemed lower in the water. The fourth destroyer hit Enterprise once causing additional hull damage and slowing her to 21 knots.
Glasgow now hit the fourth destroyer three times causing her return fire to slacken, but the result of the 2 hits amidships was not readily apparent. Enterprise also hit the fifth destroyer once and cut her speed in half. The fifth destroyer hit Enterprise again and ruffled up the debris of her float plane and catapult.
Captain Clark quite happy with the way things were going turned two points to starboard to maintain the range. Glasgow now hit the fourth destroyer six times; causing her to go DIW and lower in the water as well as ending her return fire. Enterprise hit the fifth destroyer once amidships causing her to go DIW.
The six TB had been diverging from the fight the whole time and were now out of sight to the to the NE. Captains Clark and Grant happily finished sinking the five destroyers and low on ammo returned to port.
This AAR has been written from the view point of HMS Glasgow’s bridge.