On December 8, 1942, the U-boats of Rudel (wolfpack) Panzer were waiting to ambush the 30 merchant ships of convoy HX-217 in the north Atlantic, south of Iceland. With the U-boat captains aware of the convoy's course, it seemed that many of the merchant sailors in those 30 ships were doomed.
However, there was also a threat to the U-boats. Based at Reykjavik on Iceland was a detachment of Liberator bombers from Coastal Command's No. 120 Squadron.
The squadron's home base was Ballykelly, Co Londonderry. That grim day, in spite of difficult weather conditions, the detachment commander was on patrol to protect the convoy. That commander was Lisburn-born Terence Bulloch DFC, who had joined 120 Squadron not long after its re-forming at RAF Nutts Corner in June 1941. Having sighted the convoy, Bulloch and his crew then searched for surfaced U-boats.
It was Bulloch, known as 'Hawkeye' because of his eyesight, who first spotted one. Diving to attack, he dropped six of his eight depth charges and destroyed U-611, which was on its first patrol.
Shortly after, he spotted two more surfaced boats. One crash-dived. The second was slower and Bulloch dropped his remaining charges on it, almost certainly damaging it. Although without depth charges, Bulloch remained with the convoy, recognising the deterrent effect of his Liberator.
And deterrent it was. A fourth U-boat was attacked using the Liberator's cannon pack. Then a fifth was forced to dive. By the end of his patrol, Terry Bulloch had sunk one U-boat, probably damaged a second and forced six to dive, thus losing contact with the convoy.
Remarkable as that day was, Bulloch would achieve even more. By the end of the war, he had sunk four U-boats - although some sources say only three, damaged several more and forced others to dive, becoming slow and blind and ceasing to menace merchant ships.
Terry Bulloch was twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and twice with the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) as well as a Mention in Despatches (MiD). A third DSO should have been his, but a change in command, or the fact that Bulloch had irritated senior officers, meant no award was made.
Without doubt Terry Bulloch was the most outstanding Coastal Command pilot in the Battle of the Atlantic. Moreover, he had rewritten the tactical rule book, which certainly riled those who had produced the first edition.
Bulloch proved that his methods were better than those in the original manual.
A man who analysed rigorously the problem of attacking U-boats from the air, he realised that attacking at right angles to a submarine's course reduced the chances of scoring hits.
Thus his method was to approach at an angle to the U-boat's course and straddle the vessel with depth charges. Operational success proved him right.
His last U-boat, U-514, was sunk in the Bay of Biscay in July 1943. By then Terry was flying with No. 224 Squadron from St Eval in Cornwall.
His Liberator was equipped not only with eight depth charges but also with 12 underwing-mounted rockets and a new homing torpedo, codenamed 'Mine, Mark 24' and known as 'Wandering Willie' or 'Wandering Annie'. He unleashed his entire armoury on U-514, a large Type IXC submarine.
When peace returned, No. 120 Squadron had become Coastal Command's most successful squadron in the struggle against the U-boats.
Its most famous pilot, Terry Bulloch, had flown 350 operational sorties during the course of the war, totalling over 4,500 hours in the air.
Squadron Leader Terence Malcolm Bulloch DSO* DFC* MiD RAF died in 2014 at the age of 98.
Richard Doherty is an author and military historian