Famed sailor helped beat U-boat peril

·3-min read

Before Stanley Darling became an Australian yachting legend, his nautical skills were needed for far more lethal ends.

His exploits during the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest military campaign of World War II, made him one of the Royal Australian Navy's most decorated officers.

Australia will officially remember the battle on Saturday, with Captain Darling among about 5000 service personnel and merchant mariners who were awarded the Atlantic Star.

He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross three times, making him Australia's most decorated anti-submarine officer in World War II.

The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the war's most crucial campaigns and also remembered for its danger, with the ocean itself as much of an adversary as the combatants.

It inspired Nicholas Monsarrat's famed war novel The Cruel Sea.

The battle was essentially the Allies sending naval convoys of supplies, equipment and troops from North America to Great Britain - and Nazi Germany trying to stop them.

Germany's principal weapon was its fleet of U-boat submarines, which wreaked havoc on Allied ships.

"The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril," British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said post-war.

Captain Darling, then a Lieutenant Commander, was at the very pointy end of the battle.

In 1943 he joined the Royal Navy's famed Second Escort Group, commanding the frigate HMS Loch Killin.

Under the command of Captain Frederic "Johnnie" Walker, Second Escort Group was the most successful anti-submarine unit of the war as the tide was turned against the U-Boats in the Atlantic.

Under Lt Commander Darling's command, Loch Killin sank three German submarines.

The second of those "kills" laid bare the brutality and risk of the battle.

On August 6, 1944, U736 fired two torpedoes at Loch Killin, but the ship evaded any damage and then forced the submarine to the surface.

The frigate rammed the U-boat and for a few minutes the two vessels were locked together.

Nineteen members of the sub's crew were able to scramble on board the frigate before the U-boat sank, taking another 28 Germans to their deaths.

After the war, Captain Darling returned to Australia and navigated five Sydney to Hobart winners.

He was one of the first to compete in 25 Sydney to Hobarts and ended with 27 between 1947-82.

His ashes were scattered at the start of the 2002 race.

While ships such as HMAS Australia served in the Battle of the Atlantic, many Australians such as Captain Darling were seconded to the Royal Navy or the merchant marine.

Four RAAF squadrons served with the Royal Air Force Coastal Command, which also played a critical role in the battle, .

Famed South Australian sports broadcaster Gordon Schwartz, who died last month aged 98, was a flight lieutenant in Coastal Command's Sunderland flying boats that hunted German subs.

The battle took a fearful toll, with more than 5000 Allied ships sunk.

More than 400 RAAF personnel who served with Coastal Command were killed.