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Auction: 18003 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
Lot: 569

'The sea had now increased considerably and the boats were only able to make 13 knots: after one hours' steaming speed had to be reduced to 8 knots. It was found that M.T.B. 266 was making water fast in the Engine Room and after compartment, and constant bailing was requied to keep the water under control. The leaks were apparently due to the boat's back breaking and the side and bottom planking opening out. When daylight came the whole of the after deck could be seen to sag about five or six inches every time the boat crossed a swell … '

Lieutenant R. R. Smith, 266's C.O., recounts how his boat was fortunate to make port after a classic Coastal Forces night action against an enemy convoy in March 1943; the enemy convoy was less fortunate, all three ships being sunk.

A fine Second World War Coastal Forces immediate D.S.M. group of seven awarded to Motor Mechanic R. L. Capindale, Royal Navy, who 'saved the day' in getting M.T.B. 266 clear of enemy fire in a hotly contested action off Cape Zebib on the night of 31 March 1943

Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (MX. 120377 R. L. Capindale, Mtr. Mech.), impressed naming; 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Burma Star; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals, mounted court-style as worn, bruise over second initial on the first, otherwise extremely fine (7)

D.S.M. London Gazette 6 July 1943:

'For bravery in skilful and determined attacks on enemy shipping in the Mediterranean made from light coastal craft and from the air.'

Then original recommendation states:

'For an attack by M.T.B.s 266 and 315 on a heavily escorted enemy convoy off Cape Zebib; as a result of the attack two of the three enemy ships in the convoy were sunk.

Motor Mechanic Capindale, by displaying coolness in an emergency and by getting the centre engine started quickly, contributed largely to the safe withdrawal of M.T.B. 266 from the scene of action. He has always been untiring in his work of keeping his engines in running order and it is due to his work that no engine failures have occurred at sea.'

Robert Leonard Capindale was decorated for his gallantry as a Motor Mechanic in M.T.B. 266 in a classic Coastal Forces hit-and-run attack on a heavily defended enemy convoy off Cape Zebib on the night of 31 March-1 April 1943. All three enemy ships in the convoy were sunk, two by M.T.B.s 266 and 315, and the third by a Fleet Air Arm torpedo strike; the protective screen was formidable, comprising an Italian corvette and four Italian torpedo boats, and three German Submarine-chasers.

M.T.B. 266 was operating out of Algiers in the 10th M.T.B. Flotilla at the time and was commanded by Lieutenant R. R. Smith, R.N.V.R.; she had arrived at Mosquito, the Coastal Forces base at Alexandria, back in March 1942 and seen much action in the interim, including an attempt to land troops in the ill-fated Tobruk raid Operation "Agreement".

Of events on the night of 31 March 1943, 266's C.O., Lieutenant R. R. Smith, R.N.V.R., takes up the story:

'I started engines and commenced to close the enemy at slow speed for a silent attack. The night was very dark, and visibility was further reduced by a slight haze and the spray caused by heavy seas. It was extremely difficult to distinguish at first between merchant ships and their escort. I finally identified two destroyers and a number of E-Boats [in fact Italian torpedo boats] sweeping close ahead of three merchant ships; I reduced speed to allow this screen to pass ahead of me. Speed was then increased to carry out a torpedo attack on the second ship in the convoy.

At 0005 two torpedoes were fired at this ship. One of the escort and one merchant ship then opened fire and I turned away and, proceeding at high speed, ran across the bows of the third merchant ship which M.T.B. 315 was attacking. I observed one of my torpedoes explode between the bridge and the funnel of the merchant ship and it is probable that the second was also a hit, as the ship sank very quickly; 315 running through the survivors about two minutes later.

M.T.B. 315 observed the first torpedo hit the enemy's port side, just abaft the foremast; he then crossed under the enemy's stern and fired from the enemy's starboard beam. A further explosion resulted and when this subsided the ship had completely disappeared. I attempted to close the destroyer on the starboard quarter of the convoy to attack her with depth charges, but the destroyer opened fire whilst I was still some distance away and I then turned away and passed between the after screen without sustaining any damage.

M.T.B. 315 disengaged ahead of this destroyer on the starboard quarter and, steering due North came under accurate fire from the destroyers and E-Boats. 315 sustained superficial damage and one slight casualty. The boats reformed in position off Cani Rocks and course was set for Bone.'

As cited above, 266's adventures were not yet over, heavy seas causing her to break her back.

Following this gallant foray - for which Capindale received his D.S.M. - 266 participated in the Sicily landings and in some memorable action in the Aegean; by then she was under the command of Lieutenant J. N. Broad, R.N.Z.V.R., and it is possible Capindale shared in these operations.

His D.S.M. recommendation states that he had transferred to Coastal Forces from the Fleet Air Arm (F/X. 83756); sold with copied research.

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