I had hoped to get a special @hack_history episode out today for the commemoration of the sinking of the Cap Arcona, Deutschland, Thielbek and Athen, but circumstances...

But some of the takes in response to Marina's tweet need addressing. Here we go. #OnThisDay #Thread /1
Did 2TAF know that the 4 ships in Lubeck Bay had prisoners from @GedenkstaetteNG on board?

No. The information that was being sped back through the RAF's rather clunky intel apparatus meant that the target-rich environment of Lübeck Bay was seen for what they thought it was. /2
For more information on this, I cannot recommend more highly reading @Dlong_24 thesis "A disaster in Lübeck Bay" which you can read here: irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/3625…

For 2TAF, 1945 saw an increase in activity and by May, the Typhoon force was a mailed fist. The strike into Lübeck Bay was based upon the fear of "Werwolf", a plan that the SS would be creating a redoubt in Norway to continue the fight.

This is a shipping strike in 1944 /4
They understood at the time that Cap Arcona, Deutschland and Athens, carried SS troops which were making a run for it, as the actual intel about the KZ prisoners was not yet been processed and shared. /5
123 Wing were tasked with the strike. Under the command of G/C Johnny Baldwin, 123 were a very potent force. 2TAF's anti-shipping strikes in the dying days of the war would sink 46 ships in the Neustadt Bay Area. /6
At lunchtime, 184 Sqn's Typhoons arrived in Lübeck Bay and attacked Deutschland. She had been filled with German troops, but they had disembarked a few days before. A lack of white paint meant only a small red cross was painted on a funnel. /7
184 fired 32 rockets at Deutschland scoring four hits, which started fires. The medical team on board and her Captain decided to prepare to surrender the ship and prepare the lifeboats. /8
The next attack is the one that resonates. 198 Squadron arrived in Lübeck Bay with 9 Typhoons lead by Johnny Baldwin himself. Cap Arcona was painted grey, had no Red Cross marking and was appearing to be getting underway. /9
Five 198 Squadron Typhoons attack Cap Arcona, with four going after Thielbek.

The five Typhoons scored 40 rocket hits on Cap Arcona. The four attacking Thielbek scored 32 hits.

The SAP rockets punched through the sides of the ships and exploded within them. /10
With nearly 4,500 prisoners on board, Cap Arcona would have been a charnel house. She had been loaded days before in reverse alphabetical order, with those with early lettered names being on deck.

Henry Bawnik was one of the lucky ones. /11

The attack followed the profile that 2TAF had perfected. Attack with cannon and rockets, then follow up with cannon before breaking for home.

When 198 broke for home at B.103, Cap Arcona was ablaze and Thielbek, 750 yards away, was listing to starboard and sinking fast. /12
An aside. Flying as Green 3 in 198's attack was Pilot Officer Jellicoe Scoon from Grenada. Known as "Midnight" to his fellow pilots, he force-landed PD466 on the way back. Scoon was famously photographed before Big Ben in the below propaganda photo in 1942. @blackpoppies14 /13
Onboard Cap Arcona, her crew were desperately trying to fight the fires, but her equipment was so badly damaged, they could not get water pumped into the hoses. When they tried to take to the lifeboats, the ropes to lower them had burnt through. /14
Below decks, over 4000 prisoners were trapped. Sam Pivnik managed to get into the water and would record in his memoir, Survivor, "Panic was everywhere". Pivnik recorded the efforts the SS went to save their own from the water while shooting others clinging to life. /15
While Pivnik clung to a bit of wreckage to stay alive and the Cap Arcona burned, Thielbek sank 46 mins after she was attacked. It is estimated that around 2800 prisoners were trapped below her decks. No one knows for sure. /16
An hour later, the Typhoons returned. 263 Sqn attacked Deutschland, the signaling from her crew was not understood and 36 rockets were fired at her, hitting the bridge. Her crew abandoned her. 197 Sqn also arrived and scored 2 500lbs bomb hits. She sank four hours later. /17
Throughout this, Athen had escaped attention and her captain turned for port. The SS onboard tried to seize the ship but were overcome by the crew. As she approached land, she was hit by a 17lb round from the 2nd Army ashore, at which point, the SS legged it. /18
The prisoners onboard Athen forced the hatches and got ashore where they met up with the 2nd Army. They were lucky.

Around 450 prisoners escaped Cap Arcona. As the first 150 or so reached the shore, they were murdered by the awaiting SS. /19
After two and a half hours on fire, there was a massive explosion on board Cap Arcona. Her fuel vapourised and ignited. She turned on her point side and settled, half-submerged in the water. /20
So did the RAF know? Danny Long's work shows that the intel existed but had not reached 2TAF in time. The RAF had signalled in the clear that if Cap Arcona left port, she would be attacked. /21
2000 people were found aboard Athen. The SS murdered around 250 people on the beaches.

Cap Arcona was set with scuttling charges. The SS intended to sail her out to deep water and then drown the prisoners. /22
There has been much conjecture over why this is not a more know story. In 1983, Stern claimed the RAF had hushed it up because the RAF knew the ships had KZ prisoners on board.

There is no proof of this. This was a great tragedy at the end of 5 years of constant tragedy. /23
There is no evidence of a cover-up and the allegations of a war crime do not have a basis.

That it happened days before the surrender allowed for it to be conveniently forgotten.

I plan to look at this in detail in a future special @hack_history series. /24
First-hand accounts can be listened to via the @I_W_M archive from David Ince, 193 Sqn and John Attenborough, MO 5th Reconnaissance Regt, 5th Div. /end

Ince: iwm.org.uk/collections/it…

Attenborough: iwm.org.uk/collections/it…

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