"LET’S ADD A LITTLE OIL TO THE FIRE!"
size of original 26´ x 12,6´ (66x32 cm), oil on canvas board, signed by the author
original painting in personal collection
based on memories of navigator of No.311 Sqn. P/O Jaroslav Novak
On the night of 19th to 20th April 1944, the Liberator crew of Jaroslav Friedl attacked a German U-boat escorted by four surface warships. It is most likely that this was a U-970 submarine type VIIC, commanded by Captain Ketels. The submarine was on its maiden operation. Despite heavy defence shelling, the Liberator crew managed to penetrate into the vicinity of the German sub and bombard it with depth charges. Their contact with the target was evidenced from up close. According to German sources, the U-970 was only lightly damaged that day. Of the Czechoslaovak crew, no one was injured or killed. The U-boat was able to be manoeuvred to port and be repaired. At the beginning of June, it fell prey to a Sunderland from No. 228 Squadron. Most of that crew, however, perished.
Excerpt from Jaroslav Novák’s Autobiography 2009:
“In the middle of the Bay of Biscay, shortly after midnight, we spotted firing on the water in the distance. A little later, the radar operator announced that he could see five blips on his radar screen. We pressed on, not knowing what to expect. I, somewhat bravurely, said to Jarda Friedl: “Let’s go and add a little oil to the fire!” When we had approached to a distance of about 10 miles, I gave the wireless operator our exact position. He then put it in code and sent it back to base in case of an emergency, such as to report the presence of the enemy craft or if we were shot down. I darkened my cabin, prepared my bomb sight, switched the depth charges to ‘ready’ and directed the pilot towards the target. But the night was too dark. I lay on the bomb sight and when we were quite close, perhaps half a mile away and still descending, I asked the mechanic to drop a flare through the flare chute. The flare was usually attached to a small parachute and normally started to burn immediately on leaving the plane and brightly lit up the entire scene. We were at a height of approximately 500 feet, still in descent and apparently directly over our target, when the flare illuminated the space below us. To our horror, we recognised that we were above four German destroyers accompanying a submarine that was protected in their middle. The convoy opened up at us with all its armoury. It was real hell, with tracers flying everywhere and exploding shrapnel drumming on the metal body of the Liberator. Our only reason for surviving was the fact that by then we were too low, in the middle of the formation and that some of the anti aircraft guns were unable to deflect to such a low angle.‘‘