During the Second World War, Granville, Manche, France was the site of a prisoner of war camp. In December 1944 four German paratroopers and a Naval cadet escaped from the camp, eventually stole an American LCVP landing craft, and made their way to the German occupied Channel Islands. They were greeted as heroes and reported that several ships were in the harbour at Granville discharging coal, which was in short supply in the beleaguered Islands. They also reported on the disposition of American troops in the area. (The former prisoners were shot down by a night fighter when returning to Germany in early 1945.)
The new garrison commander of the Channel Islands, Admiral Friedrich Hüffmeier, a former captain of the German battleship Scharnhorst, used the intelligence to plan a raid against the Allies to restore morale to his garrison and obtain needed supplies. An early raid on the night of 6 February 1945 – 7 February 1945 was called off by a combination of bad weather and when an escorting Schnellboot was detected by U.S. Navy submarine chaser PC-552.
The successful raid, led by Kapitänleutnant Carl-Friedrich Mohr, occurred on the night of 8 March 1945 – 9 March 1945. Hüffmeier's raiding force comprised four large M class minesweepers (M-412, M-432, M-442, M-459), three armed barges (artillery lighters) carrying 88mm cannons, three fast motor launches, two small R type minesweepers, and a seagoing tug. Though the raid was successful in its execution, Allied resistance delayed the time table so only one collier, the Eskwood containing 112 tonnes of coal, could be taken back to the Channel Islands due to the low tide. A German minesweeper, the M-412 De Schelde, ran aground, being eventually blown up by the Germans.
While on patrol outside the harbor, an American submarine chaser, PC 564, faced with a jammed 3 inch gun and overwhelmed by the large German flotilla, was seriously damaged, with the pilot house blown off and many crew killed or injured. The order was given to abandon ship and several crew did so, later being taken POWs. The captain, LT Percy Sandel, then intentionally grounded the vessel while evading the Germans. After sending a crew member ashore to find help, captain and remaining crew aboard were later picked up by allied forces and PC 564 was salvaged, remaining in the U.S. Naval registry until 1963.
The Germans mined and badly damaged the British freighters Kyle Castle, Nephrite, Parkwood and the Norwegian merchantman Heien but they remained aground at low tide. The Captain of the Kyle Castle refused to cooperate and was killed - Richard Reed took over as Captain, hid with another until the Germans retired, and managed to repair the hull damage at its shallow location some way out of harbour. With engines unusable, he floated the ship out on the ebb tide south of the Channel Isles and with the aid of hatch covers as sails, managed to make the Channel and was towed into Plymouth.[dubious ] German forces also damaged the locks and harbour and started fires. Several American prisoners were taken (some sources claim 30 allied servicemen were taken, Including 15 of the crew of PC 564) and 55 German POWs were liberated (some sources claim 67). Two U.S. Marines were killed at the hotel, and with the help of the hotel staff the Germans rounded up the nine most senior U.S. personnel in the town. About 14 U.S. Sailors from the submarine chaser were killed in action. One RN officer and five of his men also died during this attack.
A further raid was planned for 7 May 1945, but Admiral Karl Dönitz ordered Hüffmeier not to carry out any more offensive operations so close to the end of the war.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot History of United States Naval Operations in World War II p.306
- War's Stories
- USN chronology
- Defiant until the end. Page 7
- Viceadmiral Friedrich Hüffmeier (Friedrich Hueffmeier)
- Sanders, Paul:The British Channel Islands Under German Occupation, 1940–1945: 1940 – 1945. Société jersiaise, Jersey Heritage Trust. Paul Sanders, 2005. Page 181. ISBN 0-9538858-3-6