F/O SS ‘Sid’ Shulemson

Images from Clarence Simonsen’s collection

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From archived 403squadron.com

Shulemson earns Distinguished Service Order

On 26 January, six 404 Squadron Beaufighters in strike configuration led by F/O Shulemson in ‘U’, and six from 144 as anti-flak escort were back in action. R/404 (F/O Fair and Sgt Towns) had to turn back to base due to engine trouble. This time the target was a convoy of three merchant vessels of 2,000 to 3,000-tons including the Finse, Orlanda and the tanker Kloveren along with three escort vessels and a minesweeper off of Stadlandet.

One of the Buffalo crews, F/O EJ Keefe and WO BG Steed, scored four hits on the minesweeper and left it burning. “F/O Keefe figuring he had been damaged made a suicide attack on one and blew it out of the water with his cannons and rocket projectiles. ” This vessel was likely a 560-ton German Auxiliary Whaler escort V-5908 Penang, listed as having been severely damaged in the attacks. Shulemson also attacked this vessel. WOs HE Hallatt and AD Glasgow registered four hits on an astern escort vessel. W/O French and Sgt Hathway in ‘T’ tried to attack this escort vessel, but the RP sight was unserviceable and forward hatch blew open. F/O Shulemson and his navigator F/O PR Bassett also attacked the merchant with two rockets striking.

An M-class minesweeper was sunk and two merchant vessels and two escort vessels seriously damaged with unknown identities. The ORB notes that accurate flak and rockets from the convoy and flak from shore was encountered. During the action, F/O JAC Dixon and Sgt E Pearce in ‘G’ NE328 were thought to have made a successful attack on the leading M/V but they almost immediately fell victim to three Me.109s and plunged into the sea. The 109s may have been alerted to the presence of the hostile aircraft when the unserviceable Beau broke radio silence rules by sending a Morse code message. This transmission “probably alerted German listening posts along the Norwegian coast. “

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F/O SS ‘Sid’ Shulemson standing in front of his Beaufighter (PL29809)

F/O Shulemson, along with the other aircraft from Wick, was already heading for home with his damaged Beaufighter when he returned to aid a comrade. From Shulemson’s log:

“Jumped by four Me.109Gs. P/O Dixon shot down. I attacked fighter chasing M/144 and had inconclusive combat”

The ORB states that Shulemson’s fire was ineffective, but this aggressive action caused the lethal enemy fighter to turn its attention from the beleaguered 144 aircraft to its pursuer. For several minutes, Shulemson fought for his life, taking violent evasive action with Bassett firing in defence using the Beaufighter’s machine-gun. He was taking hits from the 109, as well as from shore based flak emplacements. Using Coastal Command defensive tactics, the Beau made tight turns at very low altitude, an environment that the Me.109 was (not) best suited for. Shulemson eventually gained cloud cover and broke contact. Re-emerging from the cloud after four minutes, the enemy fighter was again sighted at 800 yards and immediately attacked. The crew fought off the Me.109 for a further ten minutes until Shulemson again made cloud cover. Due to his efforts, Shulemson eventually broke contact from the enemy fighter. A clearer insight into the life of a wartime pilot may be gleaned from the honest tone used in the final entry for that day in Shulemson’s log, “Many congratulations and drinks to a badly scared crew”. Shulemson won an immediate DSO for his actions being cited as a ‘skillful, courageous and determined leader whose example has inspired all’. From the ORB was the following annotation, “This was considered to be a very courageous and self-sacrificing action on F/O Shulemson’s part and it is quite probable that had he not attacked the ME109 M/144 would have suffered the fate of J/404.”

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