British WWII vet seeks French radio op who saved ship

27th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Cadman has written to French historians in a bid to identify the radio operator who tipped off a British fleet to a planned German ambush in the seas off Brittany.

Nantes – Former British World War II sailor Peter Cadman, now 84, has embarked on a final mission to close a chapter of history and pay tribute to the French resistance hero who saved his ship.

Cadman, of Cavendish in Suffolk, southern England, has written to French historians in a bid to identify the underground radio operator who tipped off a British fleet to a planned German ambush in the seas off Brittany.

On February 8, 1944 his vessel, the aircraft carrier HMS Pursuer, was spotted by the Luftwaffe as it headed south towards Gibraltar and six German bombers based at the French city of Nantes were scrambled to sink it.

Luckily for the Allies, a French radio operator intercepted the German communication and tipped off British command in London, which in turn sent fighters to intercept the German mission and saved the day.

The Attacker-class escort carrier was protecting a convoy of ships loaded with fuel for the British base in Gibraltar and would have made a choice target for the Germans.

"If a single one of the bombers had been on target just once, it could have blown up the ship and the deaths of 650 sailors would have been unavoidable," said Cadman, in a letter sent in French to the Nantes History Museum.

The museum has begun a search for the mystery resistance operative, publicising the case in the local media and studying its archives.

"I want to thank this radio operator for saving my life and that of 650 other people," Cadman said. "If, despite the dangers of the occupation, he saw the end of the war, did his own country give him the honour he deserved?

"I know full well that in my own country we have never given enough recognition to the heroes of the underground," he added.

HMS Pursuer survived the convoy and went on to screen the D-Day invasion fleet in the Channel from German U-Boat attacks from Atlantic waters before heading to the Mediterranean to support the landings in the south of France.

AFP / Expatica

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