Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

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Andy H
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Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by Andy H » 14 Aug 2009 21:33

On June 23rd 1941, the British Cabinet amongst other things discussed the possible publication of 'information' via the Ministry of Information regarding the machine-gunning in the water of the surviving crew members of HMS Kelly which had been sunk in the Med during the campiagn/battles of Crete.

As an aside the classic British war film 'In Which We Serve' is based upon HMS Kellys record, though the ship is called HMS Tomkin in the film. Though I've seen the film several times I cant remember if there was any such depiction of the above in the film.

If anyone can clarify one way or another I would be grateful. Obviously if the MoI had published for it only to be found a falsehood it would have looked rather foolish

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Reference: CAB/65/18/41

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Andy H
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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by Andy H » 17 Aug 2009 18:19

Found this:-
A large bomb hit the Kelly, steaming 30 knots under full helm. She listed heavily to port and capsized, still moving through the water. After floating upside down for half-an-hour she finally sank. The German aircraft, before leaving, subjected the survivors of both ships (HMS Kashmir) in the water to the usual hail of machine-gun bullets.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stor ... 2059.shtml

and this
Within minutes of the explosion, the survivors of Kelly, clinging to the mangled wreckage of a Carley float and rafts, lifted their heads and gave a hearty cheer for a hardy ship as HMS Kelly slid beneath the waves, never to be seen again. With the ship gone the German dive-bombers raked the men in the water with machine-gun fire
http://www.navyhistory.org.au/kelly-of- ... s-kelly/3/

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by tommy303 » 20 Aug 2009 00:17

As an aside the classic British war film 'In Which We Serve' is based upon HMS Kellys record, though the ship is called HMS Tomkin in the film. Though I've seen the film several times I cant remember if there was any such depiction of the above in the film.
It has been at least 25 years and possibly longer since I saw the film, but I seem to vaguely recall the survivors, as they float among the wreckage and exchange stories about their ship, having to occasionally duck under to avoid strafing.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by kgbudge » 20 Aug 2009 04:34

I have a DVD and you are correct.

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bf109 emil
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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by bf109 emil » 20 Aug 2009 08:42

was it illegal to machine gun men in the water knowing their chance of becoming POW's where nil and perhaps the presence of Kipling soon afterwards to rescue survivors and to remain fighting men where apparent to the Luftwaffe crewshttp://www.navyhistory.org.au/kelly-of- ... s-kelly/3/
Within minutes of the explosion, the survivors of Kelly, clinging to the mangled wreckage of a Carley float and rafts, lifted their heads and gave a hearty cheer for a hardy ship as HMS Kelly slid beneath the waves, never to be seen again. With the ship gone the German dive-bombers raked the men in the water with machine-gun fire. All seemed lost for these men when suddenly another sound of gunfire came to their ears. The thundering booms of 4.7s roared across the seas and the fine white curling bow-wave of a destroyer brought relief to the imperilled crew.

Kipling had returned. As she fired at the planes of death, driving them away from the survivors, she lowered her boats to pick up the men. She circled around the scene of disaster, loosing her explosive might at the diving demons, allowing the Kelly men to be rescued. During a lull in the air attack she stopped to pick up the boat-loads of the wounded and half-drowned seamen. Then the planes came again, and again her guns fired and her shafts turned at full speed drawing the planes away from those few left in the water Another lull came and she was back to complete her mission of rescue until all who could be were saved, then turned her bows south once again heading for safety and the port of Alexandria.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by hucks216 » 20 Aug 2009 11:44

bf109 emil wrote:was it illegal to machine gun men in the water knowing their chance of becoming POW's where nil and perhaps the presence of Kipling soon afterwards to rescue survivors and to remain fighting men where apparent to the Luftwaffe crews
It's the same as attacking a pilot while he is hanging in his parachute.

From the 1949 Geneva Convention: Chapter 1 of the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Geneva, 12 August 1949:

"Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;"

I know that this dated 1949 but I am sure such a definition existed before the war.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by ljadw » 20 Aug 2009 21:43

hucks216 wrote:
bf109 emil wrote:was it illegal to machine gun men in the water knowing their chance of becoming POW's where nil and perhaps the presence of Kipling soon afterwards to rescue survivors and to remain fighting men where apparent to the Luftwaffe crews
It's the same as attacking a pilot while he is hanging in his parachute.

From the 1949 Geneva Convention: Chapter 1 of the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Geneva, 12 August 1949:

"Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;"

I know that this dated 1949 but I am sure such a definition existed before the war.
What about a British pilot hanging on a parachute in the Battle of Britain ? But on second thoughts ,I am sure that this has been discussed here (ad nauseam :oops: )and thus off-topicks .

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hucks216
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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by hucks216 » 20 Aug 2009 22:10

This is the line that covers the shipwrecked sailor or the pilot...
...placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause

..the 'any other cause' being the having his warship sunk, or having his plane shot out, from under him.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by phylo_roadking » 21 Aug 2009 00:53

As an aside the classic British war film 'In Which We Serve' is based upon HMS Kellys record, though the ship is called HMS Tomkin in the film.
Andy, that's almost sacriledge! It's HMS Torrin....



...one of the machinegunning scenes starts at 5.10.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by bf109 emil » 24 Aug 2009 03:51

hucks216 wrote:This is the line that covers the shipwrecked sailor or the pilot...
...placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause

..the 'any other cause' being the having his warship sunk, or having his plane shot out, from under him.
also
It's the same as attacking a pilot while he is hanging in his parachute.
alright i know this is off topic from HMS Kelly survivors being machine gunned, but here is a statement made by Galland referring to an order by the USAAF to machine gun pilots from Me 262's does this have any merit and was it illegal?

"Chevalry was far from dead in WWII, even if it was relegated mainly to combat pilots. Galland was a passionate believer in fair play. When Göring felt him out in 1941 regarding a hypothetical order to shoot at parachuting enemy pilots, Galland exploded with indignation.

"I should regard such an order as murder," he told Göring, "and I would do everything in my power to disobey such an order." Happily, the order never came. Unfortunately, the same assurances cannot be given concerning American fighter pilots, who actually were ordered to do so in the case of parachuting Me 262 pilots. "
Source: Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe, Col. Raymond T. Toliver and Trevor J. Constable. Aero Publishers Inc., 1977.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by David Thompson » 24 Aug 2009 13:07

bf109 emil -- I'm not familiar with the claimed order. Does Col. Toliver give any footnote or additional reference for the claim?

For discussions on strafing parachuting pilots see:

Machine-gunned whilst parachuting (locked after 17 pages)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=68936
Incidences of parachuting pilots being strafed (Fall Weiss)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=82696
Tiefflieger
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8597

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Aug 2009 03:09

One thing to remember above the reported machinegunning of survivors of HMS Kelly and the reconstruction of the event in In Which We Serve...Noel Coward would have got the true tale direct from the mouth of Dickie Mountbatten. They had a close personal...friendship at the time...

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by jeremy.d » 04 Sep 2009 10:23

So the allegation that the survivors were machine gunned has risen again.
My father was the signals officer on Kelly and always swore it never happened, he should know, he was there! He questioned Mountbatten on this and it appears that Mountbatten wrote to his cousin, who was Queen of Sweeden at the time, and told her his version of the sinking. In this letter he alledged the machine gunning, but afterwards explained this as a form of propaganda in an effort to sway the neutral Swedes to the allies side. In this he failed. I attended a number of Kelly reunions and none of the crew ever confimed the machine gunning.
It was included in "In which we serve" but it must be remembered that this was a wartime film and so can also be viewed as propaganda. One last point, the ship in the film is called H.M.S. Torrin.

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by ljadw » 07 Sep 2009 19:21

jeremy.d wrote:So the allegation that the survivors were machine gunned has risen again.
My father was the signals officer on Kelly and always swore it never happened, he should know, he was there! He questioned Mountbatten on this and it appears that Mountbatten wrote to his cousin, who was Queen of Sweeden at the time, and told her his version of the sinking. In this letter he alledged the machine gunning, but afterwards explained this as a form of propaganda in an effort to sway the neutral Swedes to the allies side. In this he failed. I attended a number of Kelly reunions and none of the crew ever confimed the machine gunning.
It was included in "In which we serve" but it must be remembered that this was a wartime film and so can also be viewed as propaganda. One last point, the ship in the film is called H.M.S. Torrin.
Mountbatten began to tell people,as soon he had landed,that" he and his men were machine-gunned in the water by the German planes " .Standing next to him on the bridge when it capsised,and close to him in the water afterwards,was Captain Edward (Dusty ) Dunsterville. When asked about the machine-gunning,he answers :"Please,don't ask me . I don't believe it .Lieutenant Peter Ashmore,who was on the bridge of the rescuing destroyer Kipling ,also denied any further Stuka action took place after the initial siinking.One of those who pulled the Kelly survivers out of the water,Captain Phipip Chubb, saw "no signs that they had been machine-gunned .Often in action,people think all sorts of things happen which don't happen . Of no one was this more true than Mountbatten . From "Eminent Churchillians "P 63

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Re: Machine Gunning survivors of HMS Kelly sinking?

Post by Dpullman1 » 01 Sep 2015 14:47

My Grandfather was a survivor from the Kelly (Frank Waite) and he won a DSM for staying at his gun after the ship was hit and returning fire against the planes which he maintained were firing at men in the water.

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