Hutchins, V.J.

Nationality:
British (1801-present, Kingdom)

Biography

After participating in the North African landings Ursula (Lieutenant R. B. Lakin) was sent on a nuisance patrol between Toulon and Genoa. She left Gibraltar on the 20th November, 1942, with a landing party of the Special Boat Section, and reached the French coast off Hyères on the 27th. Several ships were encountered along the coast but heavy seas prevented torpedo attacks. Savona was reconnoitred on the 30th and the folboat party landed that night with the intention of mining a railway tunnel in the vicinity. This proved impracticable due to the vigilance of the sentries, but an open space of the track was successfully blown up. For the next few days the traffic along the railway was reduced from some 40 trains to four a day. As Ursula made off from the coast, she encountered the A/S schooner Togo within half an hour of embarking the folboat party. The resultant gun action caused the Italian crew to abandon ship very hurriedly, leaving Ursula to collect the confidential books and sink the ship. On 2nd December the railway line at Santa Lorenzo was successfully bombarded, destroying the overhead power cables, this attack being followed up shortly after midnight by a bombardment of the oil tanks at Oneglia at a range of 1,500 yards. Maximum damage was not inflicted as the gun kept jamming, but Ursula had some twenty minutes of undisturbed action before the shore batteries began to retaliate. On the afternoon of 3rd December Ursula encountered the seamer St Marguerite bound for Naples from Marseilles and sank her by a combination of gun, torpedo and demolition charge. The German Master and the Engineer Officer were taken prisoner. Ursula left patrol on 4th December, but three days later encountered a Spanish schooner. Flying the German colours, Ursula sent a boarding party on board. This party made themselves as thoroughly unpleasant as considered necessary for anti-U-boat propaganda, before returning to their submarine and proceeding to Algiers. Of this patrol Admiral A. B. Cunningham, Commanding the Naval Expeditionary Force, remarked: ‘The south coast of France and Gulf of Genoa have been selected as a suitable patrol area for causing division and dispersion of enemy A/S effort. Ursula in inaugurating these activities did so with an impudence and daring which is much to be commended’.

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Chief Petty Officer
Unit:
Special Boat Section, Special Air Service (SAS), Army Air Corps, British Army
Awarded on:
March 9th, 1943
Awarded for:
Operation Torch
Action:
"For Operation TORCH, North African landings on 8 November 1942, a Folboat Raid on the coast of Italy in December 1942, and for sinking supply ships and a schooner."
Mentioned in Despatches
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Details:
4 clasps, Palestine 1936-39, Palestine 1945-48, Minesweeping 1945-51, S.E. Asia 1945-46
Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) 1915-1962
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Details:
North Africa 1942-43
Africa Star

Sources