The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

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The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 20 Mar 2024 12:35

Very interesting report of the escape of the L66, sailed from Cape Zebib to Trapani from 8 to 10 May 1943, when operation Retribution was already well underway. The boat suffered multiple attacks by aircraft and was also bombed by destroyers. Miraculously, only 2 people died during the attacks.

Urmel, I will post some transcripts and English translations again. I think this one is correct, right? Any information on the officer leading this boat?

I can't find a name, but the document is signed by 'Von Lilienhof'? Is there more information available about this ship?

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Bericht des Ha.Ko. Biserta über das Auslaufen der Fahrzeuge nach Sizilien und die eigene Überfahrt mit "L 66”

Die Seetransportstelle wurde auf die beiden Vedetten und den Segler eingeschifft, der Rest des Personale auf die beiden I-Boote. Zuerst liefen kurs nach 2100 Uhr die beiden Vedetten und der Segler aus, anschliessend L 67 gegen 2200 Uhr., L 66 wartete noch auf den Funktrupp, der noch die letzten Funkeprüche und die Zerstörung der Station erledigen musste, und lief dann um 2250 Uhr aus.

Bei der Einschiffangsstelle mussten scharfe Absperrungsmassnahmen getroffen werden, da zurückflutende Armeeteile auf Einschiffungsmöglichkeiten warteten und das Gerücht verbreitet war, die Italienischen Flotte würde zum Abholen der Truppenmasse in der Nacht bei Cap Zebib erscheinen. Bei der Dunkelheit lies es sich nicht vermeiden, dass auf den Booten nicht vorgesehenes Personal einstieg. Das Boot "L 66" wurde selbst noch beim Ablegen von Schwimmern und Ruderbooten zur Aufnahme von Personen gezwungen. Aus diesem Grunde war es mit schätzungsweise weit mehr als 80 Mann stark überlastet.

"L 67" wurde vor dem Hafen erwartet, war aber inswischen weiter ausgelaufen, so dass ein Personalaustausch und eine gleichmässige Verteilung nicht möglich war. Um 2400 Uhr etwa begann das Boot vorne stark Wasser su nehmen und, da durch Gepäck e. die Sulls verstopft waren, vorn unterzuschneiden. Es musste sofort ein grosser Teil des Gepäcke aussenbords gegeben werden, und mit "Allemann achteraus" lief ich wieder ein, um eine Erleichterung durch- zuführen. Dergrösste Teil der Leute hatte auch den Wunsch zum Aussteigen infolge Seekrankheit und in Angesicht der Gefahren, die sie durch diese kleine Kostprobe genossen hatten, zu verstehen gegeben.
English translation:
Report of the Ha.Ko. Biserta about the phase-out of the vessels to Sicily and your own crossing with “L 66”

The sea transport station was embarked on the two Vedettes and the sailor, the rest of the personnel on the two I-boats. First the two Vedettes and the glider left after 2100 hours, then L 67 at around 2200 hours. L 66 was still waiting for the radio squad, which still had to complete the last radio calls and destroy the station, and then left at 2250 hours .

Strict cordoning off measures had to be taken at the embarkation point because units of the army that were flooding back were waiting for opportunities to embark and there was a rumor that the Italian fleet would appear at Cap Zebib at night to pick up the mass of troops. In the darkness it was unavoidable that personnel not intended to board the boats. The boat “L 66” was forced to pick up people even when swimmers and rowing boats were being cast off. For this reason, it was estimated to be heavily overloaded with well over 80 men.

"L 67" was expected in front of the port, but had meanwhile left the port, so that an exchange of personnel and an even distribution was not possible. At about 2400 o'clock the boat began to take on heavy water at the front and, because of luggage, e.g. the sulls were blocked to undercut at the front. A large part of the luggage had to be moved overboard immediately, and I ran back in with "everybody astern" to carry out a relief. Most of the people had also expressed a desire to get out due to seasickness and the dangers they had enjoyed from this little taste.

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Urmel » 20 Mar 2024 13:19

Fregattenkapitän von Lilienhoff, Hafenkommandant Biserte. Later commander coastal sector Genoa.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 02 Apr 2024 14:01

Page 2:

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German transcript:
Nachdem weit über 50 Personen ausgestiegen waren, legte ich am 9. um 0200 Uhr erneut ab mit insgesamt 34 Personen. Nach Verlassen des Hafens steuerte ich bis 0300 Uhr nach Osten, von 0300 bis 0400 Uhr nach Südosten, ab 0400 Uhr Nordosten, nachdem eine feindliche Einzelmaschine uns in niedriger Höhe überflogen hatte.

9.5.43 0730 Uhr

Es erfolgte ein Angriff auf das Boot durch 12 amerikanische Curtis-Maschinen. Durch mehrfachen Beschuss entstand folgender Sach- und Personenschaden:
NG-Schütze anscheinend getroffen, über Bord, nicht wiedergefunden, 2 Tote durch 2 cm-Volltreffer, 6 Verwundete, davon mehrere schwer, 1 2 cm-Treffer unter der Wasserlinie ca. 14 cm Durchmesser, 3. Schott BB, 6 weitere 2 cm-Treffer in Bordwand, ebenfalls 12-14 cm Durchmesser, BT-Karosserie über der Wasserlinie, zahlreiche NG-Einschüsse, Benzinkanister getroffen, Backbordseite bis zum Steuerstand in Flammen; daraufhin sprangen 15 Personen über Bord, worauf der Gegner seinen Angriff beendete.

Das Feuer wurde zuerst von mir mit einem Tetra-Feuerlöscher bekämpft, daraufhin mit den beiden einzigen Wasserkanistern und mit Stahlhelmen von den restlichen an Bord verbliebenen Personen gelöscht. Nach Übernahme der über Bord gesprungenen Leute, die auf einer Strecke von etwa 1 1/2 Meilen verteilt waren, wurden die Verwundeten behelfsmäßig versorgt.

0830 Uhr

Es wurden Seenotzeichen gesetzt und die Fahrt mit etwa 3 Knoten Geschwindigkeit Kurs Ost wieder aufgenommen.
English translation:

After more than 50 people had disembarked, I set sail again on the 9th of May at 0200 hours with a total of 34 people on board. After leaving the port, I steered eastward until 0300 hours, from 0300 to 0400 hours southeast, and from 0400 hours northeast, after a hostile single-engine aircraft had flown over us at low altitude.

9.5.43 0730 hours

The boat was attacked by 12 American Curtis aircraft. As a result of multiple hits, the following material and personal damage occurred:
NG gunner apparently hit, overboard, not found again, 2 dead from 2 cm direct hits, 6 wounded, several severely, 1 2 cm hit below the waterline approximately 14 cm in diameter, 3rd bulkhead BB, 6 additional 2 cm hits in the hull, also 12-14 cm in diameter, BT bodywork above the waterline, numerous NG shots, fuel canisters hit, port side up to the steering position engulfed in flames; as a result, 15 people jumped overboard, prompting the enemy to cease their attack.

First, I fought the fire with a Tetra fire extinguisher, then extinguished it with the two remaining water canisters and steel helmets from the remaining people on board. After rescuing the people who had jumped overboard, who were spread over a distance of about 1 1/2 miles, the wounded were provided with makeshift medical care.

0830 hours

Distress signals were set, and the journey resumed eastward at a speed of about 3 knots.

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 02 Apr 2024 14:17

Part 3:

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German transcript:
aufgenommen. Wetterlages Süd 3-4, Seegang 2-3.

0850 Uhr
Das Boot wurde von 6 engl. Spitfire angeflogen, Wegen Zeigens der Seenotzeichens und Abschiessen roter Sterne und dadurch, daß die Fahrt gestoppt war, erfolgte kein Angriff von den beiden une lin- gerer Zeit unkreisenden Maschinen.

0930 Uhr
Weiterfahrt mit halber Fahrt angetreten; Wind frischt aus, höhere Fahrt war wegen Steigen des Was- sers, trots dauernden Fonzens, nicht möglich, auch musste auf die Schwerverletzten wegen der rollenden See Rücksicht genommen werden.

1200 hours
In Nord-Ost wurden über loo feindl. Bomber in drei Wellen gesichtet, Boot lag bis 1210 Uhr gestoppt.

1245 hours
Das Boot wurde wiederum von einen Lightning-Zerstö rer mehrmals umkreiet.

1320 hours
In Sud-West war eine Rauchwolke in Sicht.

1345 hours
Das Boot wurde mit Kurs Süd-Ost von 8 Bombern über- flogen, kurz danach von weiteren 25 Bombern.

1405 hours
Danach von 14 Lightnings und weiteren 39 Bombern, alle Kurs Sud-Ost.

1415 hours
Der geginste Schiffsort war 37° 43' Nord, lo° 40'Süd-
Ost.

1425 hours
Das Boot wurde wiederum von 47 Bomber überflogen, un 1440 Uhr von 4 weitern.
English translation:

Weather conditions: South 3-4, sea state 2-3.

0850 hours:
The boat was approached by 6 English Spitfires. Due to the display of distress signals and the firing of red flares, and because the boat had stopped, there was no attack from the two circling aircraft.

0930 hours:
Continued the journey at half speed; the wind picked up, higher speed was not possible due to rising water levels, despite continuous pumping, and consideration had to be given to the seriously injured due to the rolling sea.

1200 hours:
In the northeast, about 100 enemy bombers were sighted in three waves; the boat remained stopped until 1210 hours.

1245 hours:
The boat was again circled several times by a Lightning destroyer.

1320 hours:
A smoke cloud was in sight in the southwest.

1345 hours:
The boat was flown over by 8 bombers with a southeast course, shortly after by another 25 bombers.

1405 hours:
Then by 14 Lightnings and another 39 bombers, all heading southeast.

1415 hours:
The starting position of the ship was 37° 43' North, 10° 40' Southeast.

1425 hours:
The boat was again flown over by 47 bombers, and at 1440 hours by 4 more.

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 02 Apr 2024 14:26

Part 4:

Image

German transcript:
1450 Uhr
Die Fahrt konnte wieder mit 6 Knoten aufgenommen werden, da das Leck inzwischen provisorisch abgedichtet war und der Wasserstand mit Schöpfen und Lenzpumpen gehalten werden konnte.

1515 Uhr
Das Boot wurde durch zwei englische Zerstörer aus 6 Geschützen auf 80 bis 120 Meter mit Salven aus jeweils 3 Rohren ohne Pause beschossen. Nach jedem weiteren Einschuss lagen die Salven gut deckend bis auf 3 Meter von der Bordwand; zahlreiche Splitter drangen in das Boot ein.

1540 Uhr
Mit voller Kraft und Zickzackkurs wurde vom Gegner abgelaufen, der ebenfalls mit Kurs Südwest abdampfte und um 1555 Uhr das Feuer einstellte.

1655 Uhr
Der Steuerbordmotor fiel aus, die Fahrt betrug noch 3,5 Knoten.

1730 Uhr
Der Motor war wieder klar. Der Wind hatte inzwischen auf West gedreht.

1810 Uhr
Das Boot wurde von zwei Ju 88 umkreist, und diese wurden jubelnd begrüßt. Kurz darauf erfolgte die Sicherung durch zwei Me 210, die den Kurs Ost bestätigten.

1905 Uhr
26 Ju 88 wurden gesichtet. Bis

10.5.43 0200 Uhr zum Morgengrauen wurde weiter bis zur Insel Marittimo gesteuert, dann bis zum Hellwerden des Tages auf- und abgestanden.
English translation:

1450 Hours:
The speed could be resumed to 6 knots as the leak had been provisionally sealed by now, and the water level could be maintained by bailing and using bilge pumps.

1515 Hours:
The boat was fired upon by two English destroyers from 6 guns at a range of 80 to 120 meters with salvos from each of the 3 tubes without pause. After each subsequent shot, the salvos landed well-covering up to 3 meters from the hull; numerous splinters penetrated the boat.

1540 Hours:
At full throttle and zigzagging, we evaded from the enemy who was also steaming away southwestward, and by 1555 hours, they ceased fire.

1655 Hours:
The starboard motor failed, the speed was reduced to 3.5 knots.

1730 Hours:
The motor was operational again. The wind had now shifted to the west.

1810 Hours:
The boat was circled by two Ju 88s, and they were greeted with cheers. Shortly after, two Me 210s secured the area, confirming the course to the east.

1905 Hours:
26 Ju 88s were spotted. Until 0200 hours on May 10th, the boat continued to be steered towards the island of Marittimo, then drifted until dawn.

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 02 Apr 2024 14:42

Part 5:

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Um dann Trapani anzusteuern. Da kein Ersatzsteuermann an Bord vorhanden oder bekannt war, musste eine Beschießung durch eventuell vorhandene italienische Batterien vermieden werden. In der Nacht hatte der Wind erheblich aufgefrischt. Backbord-West, Stärke 7-8, Seegang 6.

0800 Uhr
In Trapani festgemacht.
"L 66" gehört zum Pionier-Landungskompanie 778 - Oberleutnant von Rosenstil. Länge 14,75m, Breite 4,85m, Tiefgang 0,75 m, etwa 20 Tonnen Tragkraft, 2 MAR-Motoren. An Bord befand sich außer mir kein seemännisch oder navigatorisch erfahrenes Personal.

Von Lilienhoff.
English translation:

To then head towards Trapani. Since no substitute helmsman was on board or known, the boat had to avoid being fired upon by any potentially existing Italian batteries. During the night, the wind had significantly picked up. Portside-West, Force 7-8, Sea state 6.

0800 hours
Docked in Trapani.
"L 66" belongs to the Pioneer Landing Company 778 - Lieutenant von Rosenstil. Length 14.75m, Width 4.85m, Draft 0.75m, approximately 20 tons carrying capacity, 2 MAR engines. Except for myself, there was no experienced seafaring or navigational personnel on board.
Von Lilienhoff.

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 02 Apr 2024 14:45

Full English translation:

Report of the Harbor Commandant of Bizerta on the departure of the vehicles to Sicily and the own crossing with "L 66”

The sea transport station was embarked on the two patrol boats and the sailboat, while the rest of the personnel was distributed among the two submarines. Initially, around 2100 hours, the two patrol boats and the sailboat departed, followed by L 67 around 2200 hours. L 66 awaited the radio team, which still had to complete the final radio messages and the destruction of the station, and then departed around 2250 hours.

Sharp security measures had to be taken at the embarkation point, as retreating army units were waiting for embarkation opportunities, and there was a rumor that the Italian fleet would appear to pick up the troop mass during the night at Cap Zebib. In the darkness, it was unavoidable that unauthorized personnel boarded the boats. Even "L 66" was forced to accept swimmers and rowboats for the reception of individuals while departing. For this reason, it was heavily overloaded with an estimated more than 80 men.

"L 67" was expected outside the port but had already sailed further, making personnel exchange and even distribution impossible. Around 2400 hours, the boat began to take on a considerable amount of water at the bow, and as the scuppers were blocked by luggage, it started to submerge at the front. A large part of the luggage had to be thrown overboard immediately, and with "All hands aft," I turned back to facilitate relief. Most of the people also expressed a desire to disembark due to seasickness and in light of the dangers they had experienced during this small sample.

After more than 50 people had disembarked, I set sail again on the 9th of May at 0200 hours with a total of 34 people on board. After leaving the port, I steered eastward until 0300 hours, from 0300 to 0400 hours southeast, and from 0400 hours northeast, after a hostile single-engine aircraft had flown over us at low altitude.

9.5.43 0730 hours

The boat was attacked by 12 American Curtis aircraft. As a result of multiple hits, the following material and personal damage occurred:
NG gunner apparently hit, overboard, not found again, 2 dead from 2 cm direct hits, 6 wounded, several severely, 1 2 cm hit below the waterline approximately 14 cm in diameter, 3rd bulkhead BB, 6 additional 2 cm hits in the hull, also 12-14 cm in diameter, BT bodywork above the waterline, numerous NG shots, fuel canisters hit, port side up to the steering position engulfed in flames; as a result, 15 people jumped overboard, prompting the enemy to cease their attack.

First, I fought the fire with a Tetra fire extinguisher, then extinguished it with the two remaining water canisters and steel helmets from the remaining people on board. After rescuing the people who had jumped overboard, who were spread over a distance of about 1 1/2 miles, the wounded were provided with makeshift medical care.

0830 hours

Distress signals were set, and the journey resumed eastward at a speed of about 3 knots. Weather conditions: South 3-4, sea state 2-3.

0850 hours:
The boat was approached by 6 English Spitfires. Due to the display of distress signals and the firing of red flares, and because the boat had stopped, there was no attack from the two circling aircraft.

0930 hours:
Continued the journey at half speed; the wind picked up, higher speed was not possible due to rising water levels, despite continuous pumping, and consideration had to be given to the seriously injured due to the rolling sea.

1200 hours:
In the northeast, about 100 enemy bombers were sighted in three waves; the boat remained stopped until 1210 hours.

1245 hours:
The boat was again circled several times by a Lightning destroyer.

1320 hours:
A smoke cloud was in sight in the southwest.

1345 hours:
The boat was flown over by 8 bombers with a southeast course, shortly after by another 25 bombers.

1405 hours:
Then by 14 Lightnings and another 39 bombers, all heading southeast.

1415 hours:
The starting position of the ship was 37° 43' North, 10° 40' Southeast.

1425 hours:
The boat was again flown over by 47 bombers, and at 1440 hours by 4 more.

1450 Hours:
The speed could be resumed to 6 knots as the leak had been provisionally sealed by now, and the water level could be maintained by bailing and using bilge pumps.

1515 Hours:
The boat was fired upon by two English destroyers from 6 guns at a range of 80 to 120 meters with salvos from each of the 3 tubes without pause. After each subsequent shot, the salvos landed well-covering up to 3 meters from the hull; numerous splinters penetrated the boat.

1540 Hours:
At full throttle and zigzagging, we evaded from the enemy who was also steaming away southwestward, and by 1555 hours, they ceased fire.

1655 Hours:
The starboard motor failed, the speed was reduced to 3.5 knots.

1730 Hours:
The motor was operational again. The wind had now shifted to the west.

1810 Hours:
The boat was circled by two Ju 88s, and they were greeted with cheers. Shortly after, two Me 210s secured the area, confirming the course to the east.

1905 Hours:
26 Ju 88s were spotted. Until 0200 hours on May 10th, the boat continued to be steered towards the island of Marittimo, then drifted until dawn, to then head towards Trapani. Since no substitute helmsman was on board or known, the boat had to avoid being fired upon by any potentially existing Italian batteries. During the night, the wind had significantly picked up. Portside-West, Force 7-8, Sea state 6.

0800 hours
Docked in Trapani.
"L 66" belongs to the Pioneer Landing Company 778 - Lieutenant von Rosenstil. Length 14.75m, Width 4.85m, Draft 0.75m, approximately 20 tons carrying capacity, 2 MAR engines. Except for myself, there was no experienced seafaring or navigational personnel on board.
Von Lilienhoff.

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Re: The escape of the L66 from Tunisia to Sicily, 32 men arrived in Trapani

Post by Von Bock » 02 Apr 2024 14:54

The departure from Bizerta and the subsequent crossing of the Mediterranean aboard "L 66" involved several significant events, challenges, and encounters. Here's a chronological summary:

- **Initial Departure and Overloading**:
- Around 2100 hours on the 8th of May 1943, two patrol boats and a sailboat departed.
- L 67 followed at 2200 hours, while L 66 departed around 2250 hours after completing radio messages and station destruction.
- Sharp security measures were taken due to rumors of Italian fleet intervention.
- Unauthorized personnel boarded, including swimmers and rowboats, overloading L 66 with more than 80 men.

- **Challenges and Encounters**:
- L 66 faced water intake issues due to luggage blocking scuppers.
- More than 50 individuals disembarked due to seasickness and danger concerns.
- L 66 encountered hostile aircraft at 0730 hours on May 9th, resulting in casualties and significant damage.
- Firefighting efforts and distress signals were initiated, followed by medical care for wounded individuals.

- **Resumption of Journey and Further Challenges**:
- The journey resumed at 0830 hours amid adverse weather conditions.
- Encounters with enemy Spitfires at 0850 hours and numerous sightings of enemy bombers throughout the day.
- Mechanical issues, including a failing starboard motor at 1655 hours, were faced and resolved.
- The boat was fired upon by English destroyers at 1515 hours, resulting in significant damage.

- **Continuation and Arrival**:
- Despite challenges, the boat managed to resume speed by 1450 hours.
- Encounters with enemy aircraft and vessels continued until 1905 hours.
- The boat docked in Trapani at 0800 hours, indicating the end of the journey.
- The report mentions "L 66" belonging to Pioneer Landing Company 778, highlighting its characteristics and lack of experienced personnel besides Von Lilienhoff.

- **Survivors and Conclusion**:
- Although the report does not provide an exact count, it mentions that more than 50 individuals disembarked during the journey, leaving a total of 32 individuals on board by May 9th at 0800 hours.
- Despite numerous challenges, encounters, and casualties, the boat successfully reached its destination in Trapani, signifying the conclusion of the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

If we read these kind of reports, it is not hard to understand why so few Axis boats managed to reach Sicily. What a mess. Lilienhoff did a great job though.

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