24.06.1944 No. 162 Squadron Catalina 9754 'P' Fl/Lt. Hornell
Operation: Anti-submarine sweep
Date: 24th June 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 162 Squadron RCAF
Type: Catalina (Canso)
Code: 'P' "Mary K"
Base: RAF Wick, Scotland
Location: 120 miles North West of Shetland Islands (63.00' North 0.50' West)
Pilot: Fl/Lt. David Ernest Hornell J/7594 RCAF Age 34.
Pilot: F/O. Bernard Charles Denomy J/11265 RCAF
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Donald Stewart Scott R/70157 RCAF Age 22.
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Martial Fernand St. Laurent R/55019 RCAF Age 26.
Nav: F/O. Sidney Edward Matheson J/22227 RCAF
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Graham Cambell J/26921 RCAF
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Sydney Reginald Cole R/179577 RCAF
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Israel Joseph Bodnoff R/180936 RCAF
REASON FOR LOSS:
Early evening, 120 miles (193 km) N of the Shetland Isles: the Canso, operating from RAF Wick, North Scotland sighted and sank the U-boat with four depth charges despite the starboard wing being set on fire by heavy and accurate flak, and the engine subsequently falling off. The pilot managed to after 3 attempts to land the crippled aircraft, and the entire crew of eight escaped, but were forced to take turns using only one dinghy. There were five survivors when they were rescued some 21 hours later.
No. 162’s entry for the 24th June 1944 gives six aircraft on operations and two in transit from Wick to Reykjavik. Canso P 9754 captained by Fl/Lt Hornell was one of those on operations and detailed for an anti-submarine sweep. At 19:00 hours a fully surfaced U-boat was sighted and Hornell closed to attack. At about 1 mile range the U-boat opened fire with severe and accurate flack, at 1200 yards F/O. Campbell in the front turret responded but one of his two .303 guns jammed. At 800 yards the Canso was hit and one engine dropped into the sea. Hornell continued with his attack and straddled the U-boat with his depth charges.
Above: Some of the crew. F/O. Francis Winburn Lawrence J/23148 missing believed killed on the 14th June 1944. The two not on this, shown below (courtesy François Dutil)
The VC citation tells the complete story:
'Fl/Lt. Hornell was captain and first pilot of a twin engined amphibian aircraft engaged in an anti-submarine patrol in northern waters. A fully surfaced U-boat was sighted travelling at high speed on the port beam, and Fl/Lt. Hornell at once attacked. His aircraft had been seen and there could be no surprise. The U-boat altered course and opened up with fire which became increasingly fierce and accurate. At a range of 1,300 metres the guns of the aircraft replied and hits were obtained, but the aircraft itself was hit and badly damaged, and its starboard gun jammed. Ignoring the fire Fl/Lt. Hornell carefully manoeuvred for attack. Holed in many places, oil pouring from the starboard engine which with the starboard wing was on fire, and with petrol tanks endangered, the aircraft was very difficult to control. Nevertheless the captain decided to press his attack, and bringing his aircraft down low released his depth charges in a perfect straddle.
Above newspaper articles from the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. (courtesy Torontoist)
The bows of the U-boat were lifted out of the sea, it sank, and the crew were seen in the water. The plight of the aircraft and crew was now desperate. With the utmost coolness Fl/Lt. Hornell took his badly damaged, blazing aircraft into the wind and brought it safely on to the heavy swell where it rapidly settled down.
After ordeal by fire came ordeal by water. Two of the crew succumbed from exposure, and the survivors were finally rescued after 21 hours in the water.
Blinded and completely exhausted, Fl/Lt. Hornell died shortly after being picked up. By pressing home a skilful and successful attack against fierce opposition, with his aircraft in a precarious condition, and by fortifying and encouraging his comrades in the subsequent ordeal this officer displayed valour and devotion to duty of the highest order'.
Above: Replica of Canso 9754 'Mary K' at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport)
It must not be forgotten that although some of the crew of the U-1225 survived the bombing, all 57 crew were lost.
The very brave crew of Catalina 9754 for sure deserved the awards bestowed upon them. However it must not be forgotten the brave people of the Air Sea Rescue. HSL 2507 captained by Fl/Lt. William Wakelin Garrett 50636 RAFR. They left Balta Sound on the Shetland Islands to attempt a rescue, equipped with long range fuel tanks. Despite one engine failing they decided that they needed to press on to collect these boys from the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The crew were unable to have any hot food or drinks from the galley due to the limited power. The weather deteriorated and tackling 12 ft high waves they battled on. Over 17 hours passed before they were able to rescue the crew. The crew were outstanded in that they successfully reached the survivors and made the rescue. For his actions Fl/Lt. William Wakelin Garrett was awarded the MBE, some 12 months later.
Fl/Sgt. Bodnoff DFM, F/O. Cambell DFC, Fl/Sgt. Cole DFM, F/O. Denomy DSO, F/O. Matheson DFC, Fl/Sgt. Scott MiD and Sgt. St. Laurent MiD:
'These officers and airmen were members of the crew of the aircraft captained by Flight Lieutenant Hornell, who successfully engaged a U-boat in northern waters. In the engagement they displayed a high degree of courage, discipline and devotion to duty, co-operating splendidly with their captain in his determination to destroy the enemy submarine. Subsequently they suffered great hardships whilst adrift on the sea. During this long period each member of the crew assisted the others to the utmost extent unmindful of his own distress'.
The 56 crew of Kriegsmarine U-1225 including its captain 25 year old, Oberleutnant zur See Ekkehard Scherraus lost their lives.
Note: We feel that we must draw your attention to the late Rob Phillips research into the 'possible' graves of at least one of the missing crew members. For details see this link for information contributed to us.
Fl/Lt. David Ernest Hornell. VC. Lerwick New Cemetery. Terrace 7B. Grave 17. Born on the 26th January 1910 in Toronto, the son of Harry Alexander Hornell and Emily Crook Hornell. Husband of Genevieve Madge Hornell, of Drayton, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription "Nothing But Well And Fair, And What May Quiet Us In A Death So Noble Milton".
Fl/Sgt. Donald Stewart Scott MiD. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 255. Born on the 04th October 1921, the son of Willie Allan Scott and Laura Essie Scott, of Pakenham, Ontario and Husband of Kathleen Scott. Also remembered at Pakenham Union Cemetery, Ontario, Canada. (shown below)
Note: His brother 19 year old, LAC. Kenneth Allen R/223916 lost his life on the 14th April 1945 whilst with 435 Squadron. On Dakota III KG899 'T' dropping supplies to the 14th British Army when it was shot down by a Japanese Zero. The pilot, 24 year old Fl/Lt. James Kenneth Ramsay J/12697 together with the other 4 Canadian crew lost their lives when it crashed south of Shrebo in Burma. Crew buried at Taukkyan War Cemetery, Yangon, Burma.
Sgt. Martial Fernand St. Laurent. Son of Fortunal St-Jaurent and Sophie Caron Pineau of St. Anaclet Quebec, Canada.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Francois Dutil, John Pritchard, 'An introduction to Royal Air Force high speed rescue launches 1938-45', Torontoist for newspaper images, U-Boat Net, other sources as quoted below: