Allied Warships

HMS Cilicia (F 54)

Armed Merchant Cruiser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeArmed Merchant Cruiser
Class[No specific class] 
PennantF 54 
Built byFairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland) 
Ordered 
Laid down 
Launched21 Oct 1937 
Commissioned9 Oct 1939 
End service16 Feb 1944 
History

On 31 August 1939 the passenger ship Cilicia of the Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd, Glasgow was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 9 October 1939.

Displacement: 11136 BRT
Armament: 8x 152mm, 2x 76mm
Speed: 16 knots

Career:
October 39 - October 40: South Atlantic Station
November 40 - February 41: Northern and Western Patrol
May 43 - February 44: West Africa Command

On 16 February 1944 returned and used as troopship by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). 1946 returned to owner.

 

Commands listed for HMS Cilicia (F 54)

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CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. (retired) Godfrey Herbert, DSO, RN2 Sep 193915 Mar 1940
2Capt. (retired) Vincent Byrne Cardwell, OBE, RN15 Mar 194014 Jun 1942
3A/Capt. John Mortimer Scott, RN14 Jun 1942Jan 1944

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Notable events involving Cilicia include:


10 Sep 1940

Convoy AP 3.

This convoy departed Liverpool on 10 September 1940 for Suez where it arrived on 22 October 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Athlone Castle (British, 25564 GRT, built 1936), Brisbane Star (British, 12791 GRT, built 1937), Brittanic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), Clan Campbell (British, 7255 GRT, built 1937), Clan MacArthur (British, 10528 GRT, built 1936), Dominion Monarch (British, 27155 GRT, built 1939), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Glaucus (British, 7596 GRT, built 1921), Imperial Star (British, 12427 GRT, built 1935) and Ulster Prince (British, 3791 GRT, built 1930).

On departure from the U.K. the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Havelock (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSC, RN), HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, RN), HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN) and HMS Hurricane (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) and HMS Wolverine (Cdr. R.H. Craske, RN). They remained with the convoy until 12 September.

In the morning of 11 September the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) joined the convoy until 0745/12.

Ocean escort joined around the time the destroyers left and was made up of the armed merchant cruisers HMS Cicilia (Capt.(Retd.) V.B. Cardwell, OBE, RN) and HMS Wolfe (A/Capt.(Retd.) W.G.A. Shuttleworth, RN). They remained with the convoy until it arrived at Freetown on 23 September 1940.

From 25 September 1940 to 4 October 1940, when the convoy arrived at Capetown, it was escorted by the armed merchant cruisers HMS Canton (Capt. G.D. Belben, DSC, AM, RN) and HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN).

On departure from Capetown on 6 October, the convoy was escorted by HMS Canton until 9 October when she was relieved by HMS Carthage (Capt.(Retd.) B.O. Bell-Salter, RN). This armed merchant cruiser remained with the convoy until 15 October when she was relieved by the heavy cruiser HMS Shropshire. (Capt. J.H. Edelsten, RN) which remained with the convoy until 20 October.

On 18 October the convoy was near Aden and the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN) and sloop HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN) joined.

The escort parted company with the convoy on 20 October except HMS Kandahar which remained with the convoy until it's arrival at Suez two days later. On arrival at Suez two more ships were escorting the convoy, these were the sloop HMIS Clive (Cdr. H.R. Inigo-Jones, RIN) and the minesweeper HMS Stoke (Cdr.(Retd.) C.J.P. Hill, RN). Presumably these had joined on 20 October.

1 Mar 1941

Convoy SL 67.

This convoy departed Freetown on 1 March 1941 and arrived at Liverpool on 26 March 1941.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alphard (Dutch, 5483 GRT, built 1937), Anadyr (British, 5321 GRT, built 1930), Ashworth (British, 5227 GRT, built 1920), Banffshire (British, 6479 GRT, built 1912), Baron Belhaven (British, 6591 GRT, built 1925), Baron Cawdor (British, 3638 GRT, built 1935), Beaconstreet (Detached to Gibraltar on 11 March) (British, 7467 GRT, built 1927), Bolton Castle (British, 5203 GRT, built 1939), British Captain (British (tanker), 6968 GRT, built 1923), British Diligence (British (tanker), 8408 GRT, built 1937), British Hope (Detached to Gibraltar on 11 March) (British (tanker), 6951 GRT, built 1928), British Integrity (British (tankr), 8412 GRT, built 1927), British Security (British (tanker), 8470 GRT, built 1937), Celtic Monarch (British, 5824 GRT, built 1929), City of Cairo (British, 8034 GRT, built 1915), City of Dunkirk (British, 5861 GRT, built 1912), City of Kimberley (British, 6169 GRT, built 1925), City of Nagpur (British, 10146 GRT, built 1922), City of Rangoon (British, 6635 GRT, built 1914), Clan Macbean (British, 5000 GRT, built 1918), Copeland (British (rescue vessel), 1526 GRT, built 1923), Deebank (British, 5060 GRT, built 1929), Defender (British, 8258 GRT, built 1915), Dunkwa (British, 4752 GRT, built 1927), Friesland (Dutch, 2662 GRT, built 1930), Godfrey B. Holt (British, 3585 GRT, built 1929), Guido (British, 3921 GRT, built 1920), Harmodius (British, 5229 GRT, built 1919), Harpefjell (Norwegian, 1333 GRT, built 1939), Helder (Dutch, 3629 GRT, built 1920), Henrik Ibsen (British, 4671 GRT, built 1906), Hindpool (British, 4897 GRT, built 1928), Inneroy (Norwegian (tanker), 8260 GRT, built 1936), King Edwin (British, 4536 GRT, built 1927), Lahore (British, 5304 GRT, built 1920), Llangollen (British, 5056 GRT, built 1928), Martaban (British, 4161 GRT, built 1934), Mendoza (British, 8233 GRT, built 1919), Nagina (British, 6551 GRT, built 1921), Nardana (British, 7974 GRT, built 1919), Nebraska (British, 8261 GRT, built 1920), Ogmore Castle (British, 2481 GRT, built 1919), Peisander (British, 6225 GRT, built 1925), Queen Anne (British, 4937 GRT, built 1937), Recorder (British, 2276 GRT, built 1902), Roxane (British (tanker), 7813 GRT, built 1929), Sansu (British, 5446 GRT, built 1939), Sire (British, 5664 GRT, built 1938), Solfonn (Norwegian (tanker), 9925 GRT, built 1939), Taxiarchis (Greek, 4221 GRT, built 1913), Tielbank (British, 5084 GRT, built 1937), Tunisia (British, 4337 GRT, built 1927), Turkistan (British, 6935 GRT, built 1939), Umberleigh (British, 4950 GRT, built 1927), Urbino (British, 5198 GRT, built 1918), Winsum (Dutch, 3224 GRT, built 1921) and Zamalek (British (rescue vessel), 1567 GRT, built 1921).

[It is possible some of these ships did not sail from Freetown but joined the convoy at sea.]

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cicilia (Capt.(Retd.) V.B. Cardwell, OBE, RN), corvette HMS Asphodel (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) K.W. Stewart, RN) and the auxiliary A/S trawlers HMS Kelt (T/Lt. W.T. Hodson, RNVR), HMS Spaniard (Lt.Cdr. F.J. Webster, RNR) and HMS Turcoman (Skr. A.G. Day, RNR).

At 1700/3 the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) joined the escort of the convoy.

At 1800/4 the three A/S trawlers parted company with the convoy.

In the early morning hours of 8 March 1941 the convoy was attacked by the German submarines U-105 and U-124. Five ships of the convoy were sunk, these were the Harmodius, Hindpool, Lahore, Tielbank and Nardana.

At 1330/8 HMS Forester, which was well to the west of the convoy, briefly sighted the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau steaming towards the convoy. The German ships were also sighted around the same time by HMS Malaya's Swordfish aircraft. Following the report of the sighting HMS Malaya and HMS Faulknor left the convoy to join HMS Forester to put themselves between the convoy and the enemy.

At 1645/8 hours HMS Malaya and the Scharnhorst sighted each other and the German battlecruisers turned away being chased briefly by HMS Malaya and the destroyers. As Malaya's speed was much lower contact was soon lost and the battleship and the destroyers then returned to the convoy. At 1900 hours they rejoined the convoy

In the afteroon of March, 10th, the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN) and aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) joined the escort of the convoy. HMS Malaya then parted company with the convoy and set course for Gibraltar.

At 1730/11, HMS Asphodel parted company with the convoy with the tankers Beaconstreet and British Hope which she then escorted to Gibraltar.

At 1000/13, HMS Faulknor and HMS Foresight parted company with the convoy and set course for Gibraltar.

At 1000/19, HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN) joined the convoy to take over the escort. At 1600/19, HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Cilicia parted company with the convoy.

On 21 March the escort of the convoy was reinforced with the destroyers HMS Havelock (Cdr. E.H. Thomas, DSC, RN), HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN), HMS Hurricane (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN), HMS Veteran (Cdr. W.T. Couchman, OBE, RN), HMS Verity (Cdr. R.H. Mills, RN), HMS Wolsey (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, RN), HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. H.M.R. Crichton, RN), HNoMS Mansfield (Cdr. F. Ulstrup, RNorN), the corvettes HMS Arbutus (T/Lt. A.L.W. Warren, RNR), HMS Camellia (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Willmott, RNR) and the catapult ship HMS Pegasus (Capt.(Retd.) P.G. Wodehouse, RN). HMS Kenya parted company with the convoy in the afternoon and proceeded to join convoy HG 56.

HMS Havelock and HMS Verity parted company with the convoy on 24 March as did HMS Veteran on the 25th.

8 Mar 1941

At 2145/8, HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar for the Canary Islands area. Speed was set to 27 knots. The German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had been reported in that area by HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN) trying to attack convoy convoy SL 67.

At 0015/9, the destroyers were detached being unable to keep up with the larger ships in the current weather conditions.

A reconnaissance of six aircraft was flow off by HMS Ark Royal at 1500/9 to search from 180° through west to 360° to a depth of 130 miles. The visibility was 30 miles. Two ships were sighted, one Ocean Boarding Vessel and a British tanker.

At 1030/9, Vice-Admiral Somerville received instructions from the Admiralty that HMS Arethusa was to return to Gibraltar and that HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal were to take over the escort of convoy SL 67 from HMS Malaya p.m. 10th March after which HMS Malaya was to return to Freetown. HMS Arethusa was then detached in position 32°42'N, 13°08'W.

Course was altered to 230° at 1900/9.

At 0830/10, course was altered to 220° to rendezvous with HMS Malaya and an A/S and security patrol were flown off in low visibility. A reconnaissance of six aircraft was flown off at 0950/10 to search from 180° through west to 360° to a relative depth of 70 miles but nothing was sighted. The visibility was 15 miles.

A further reconnaissance was of six aircraft was flown off at 1330/10 to search from 090° through south to 270° to a depth of 80 miles. The convoy having been located by the air search, course was altered to 160° and at 1720/10 HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal joined the convoy which was being escorted by HMS Malaya, HMS Cicilia (Capt.(Retd.) V.B. Cardwell, OBE, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), in position 26°12'N, 19°38'W. At 1730/10, HMS Malaya was detached to return to Freetown. [For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoy SL 67 ' for 1 March 1941.]

A dusk reconnaissance to a depth of 45 miles sighed nothing in a visibility of 8 to 15 miles.

A reconnaissance was flown off at a.m. and p.m. on the 11th but nothing was sighted. Two aircraft armed with depth charges and one without broke their undercarriages while landing on. There was a moderate swell and wind force 6. A/S bombs were therefore carried till conditions improved.

At 0700/12, A/S and security patrols were flown off followed an hour later by a reconnaissance of nine aircraft to carry out an all round search to a depth of 90 miles. Visibility was 10 - 15 miles. The only ships sighted were the ones that had been detached from the convoy earlier.

The p.m. reconnaissance carried out an all round search to a depth of 90 miles sighted nothing.

At 0700/13 the A/S patrol was flown off. Later a reconnaissance was flown off which conducted an all round search for a depth of 120 miles. Visibility was 10 miles but was deteriorating.

At 1000/13, HMS Faulknor and HMS Forester were detached for Gibraltar.

During the forenoon HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal conducted exercises with aircraft from Ark Royal which then also conducted practice attacks on ships in the convoy.

The evening reconnaissance on the 13th from position 32°12'N, 21°07'W, searched to a depth of 120 miles but sighted nothing except HMS Faulknor and HMS Forester returning to Gibraltar.

At 0650/14, an A/S patrol was flown off and an all round reconnaissance an hour later. They searched to a depth of 100 miles from position 33°27'N, 21°27'W but they sighted nothing of interest. During the forenoon some flying exercises were carried out.

The afternoon reconnaissance was flown off and searched for a depth of 1000 miles again sighted nothing of interest.

At 2200/14, a signal was received with instructions that HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal were to leave the convoy at dusk on 19 March.

At 0250/15, when in position 35°24'N, 22°18'W, a darkened ship was sighted crossing ahead of the convoy. HMS Cilicia was ordered to investigate and it turned out to be the merchant vessel St.Clair II (British, 3753 GRT, built 1929) bound for Freetown.

At 0650/15, the A/S patrol was flown off. Ten minutes later the merchant vessel New Westminster City (British, 4747 GRT, built 1929) was sighted in position 35°46'N, 22°09'W. On sighting HMS Renown she made a raider report but cancelled it 22 minutes later.

In the forenoon more flying exercises were carried out and HMS Cilicia was ordered to proceed to the tanker Roxane (British, 7813 GRT, built 1929) which had straggled from the convoy. The forenoon reconnaissance to a depth of 110 miles sighted noting.

The afternoon reconnaissance searched to a depth of 120 miles from position 36°50'N, 22°25'W. They sighted a Spanish tanker but nothing further of interest. One Swordfish aircraft failed to return and was considered lost with its crew.

Around dawn on the 16th the usual A/S patrol and reconnaissance aircraft were flown off. They searched to a depth of 100 miles but nothing was sighted.

The afternoon reconnaissance also searched to a depth of 100 miles (from position 39°30'N, 23°05'W) sighted five merchant vessels but nothing further.

At 2200/16, a signal was received from the Admiralty in which Vice-Admiral Somerville was informed of the fact that the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper had departed Brest.

A darkened ship was sighted at 0140/17 which was found on investigatation by HMS Cilicia to be merchant vessel River Lugar (British, 5423 GRT, built 1937) bound for Freetown.

The A/S and security patrol flew off at dawn and at 0950/17 they reported they sighted the armed merchant cruiser HMS Bulolo (Capt.(Retd.) R.L. Hamer, RN) which was en-route to Freetown.

A full reconnaissance was carried out at 1100/17 to a depth of 130 miles with average visibility of 20 miles. The only ship sighted was the ocean boarding vessel HMS Hilary (Cdr. T.L. Owen, RD, RNR) in position 43°08'N, 24°38'W. She passed the convoy at 1800/17.

At 1700/17, a reconnaissance was flown off to the north and east to a depth of 100 miles but nothing was sighted.

At 0700/18, the A/S and security patrols were flown off. At 0800/18 the forenoon reconnaissance was flown off from position 43°25'N, 23°48'W to search to a depth of 140 miles. Only one merchant vessel was sighted.

The afternoon reconnaissance sighted nothing in a search to a depth of 140 miles between 325° and 045° and 135° and 225° from position 44°40'N, 23°40'W.

At 0700/19 an A/S patrol was flown off followed at 0745/19 by a reconnaissance to a depth of 160 miles from position 45°40'N, 23°40'W. This reconnaissance informed HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN) of the position, course and speed of the convoy, which she joined at 1000/19. Also a merchant vessel was sighted which appeared somewhat suspicious and HMS Cilicia was ordered to investigate and then return to Freetown.

Meanwhile information had been received that the German tanker Antarktis (10711 GRT, built 1939) had sailed from Vigo during the night 17/18 March and it was Vice-Admiral Somervilles intention to search for this ship to the north-east and south-east of the Azores before returning to Gibraltar.

HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal parted company with the convoy at 1600/19. Also a reconnaissance was flown off to locate the suspicious merchant vessel. At 1906/19 a report was received that it had been sighted in position 45°15'N, 23°48'W at 1800/19 steering 280° at slow speed. This information was passed on to HMS Cilicia. Shortly afterwards a second merchant vessel was sighted which also fitted the discription of the suspicious merchent vessel (close observation was not possible, the aircraft had been ordered to remain out of sight). This too was passed on to HMS Cilicia.

The evening reconnaissance reported the Norwegian tanker Bianca (5688 GRT, built 1926) in position 45°22'N, 23°35'W at 1740/19, steering 090°, 12 knots, half laden. An Admiralty signal had been intercepted at 1800/15 containing the names of 14 outward bound tankers estimated to be within 150 miles from where raider signals had been received on that day. As Bianca was one of these ships mentioned, and as she was evidently in ballast and steering for Bordeaux, Vice-Admiral Somerville concluded that she must have a German price crew on board. He therefore decided to intercept in the morning before starting the search for the Antarktis.

At 0655/20 an A/S patrol was flown off followed at 0740/20 by a reconnaissance to a depth of 120 miles from south through west to north. At 0857/20, the Bianca was reported to be in postion bearing 180°, 68 miles from HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal. HMS Renown then set course to intercept parting company with HMS Ark Royal which continued her flying operations.

At 1147/20 an aircraft dropped a message on board HMS Renown that the British tanker San Casimiro (8046 GRT, built 1936) had been sighted in position 44°50'N, 22°15'W, steering 076° at 11 knots. An hour later another aircraft reported having sighted the Norwegian tanker Polykarp (6405 GRT, built 1931) at 0920/20 in position 45°40'N, 23°26'W, steering east at 7 knots and that she had altered course to 010° on being sighted. Both these tankers were included in the Admiralty's signal referred to earlier so it was thought these tankers were also under German control. Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to try to intercept the Bianca and sSan Casimiro today and the Polykarp with the help of an air search the following morning.

The Bianca was sighted at 1210/20 in position 44°16'N, 19°21'W. HMS Renown closed and sent a boarding party. The weather was perfect for boarding . When Renown was still 6 miles from Bianca she was seen to be abandoning ship, and as the boats pulled clear scuttling charges exploded and fire broke out in the engine room aft and also on the bridge. The boarding party proceeded on board and the launch rounded up the Bianca's boats and ordered them to return to their ship. The fires were extinguished but the ship was low in the water with a considerable list to port and down by the stern. It soon became apparent that the ship could not be saved.

By 1500/20 Bianca's ship's company, the German prize crew and the boarding party had returned on board HMS Renown and a course of 340° was shaped at 24 knots to intercept the San Casimiro.

Vice-Admiral Somerville gave orders to HMS Ark Royal that when HMS Renown appeared in sight of the San Casimiro the shadowing aircraft was to close and deter the prise crew from scuttling the ship.

The San Casimiro was sighted at 1715/20 in position 45°12'N, 19°42'W. Immediately afterwards she abandoned ship and scuttling charges were fired. The bridge of the ship was soon engulfed in flames. By the time HMS Renown was near her she was low in the water and was listing to port.

The tankers boats were closing HMS Renown and the boarding party were in the act of transferring some of San Casimiro's officers from the boats to the launch in order to return to their ship and see if anything could be done to save the ship when an enemy report was received by V/S from a Fulmar at 1815/20 that two enemy battlecruisers had been sighted at 1730/20 in position 45°56'N, 21°36'W, steering north at 20 knots. This position was 110 miles north-west of HMS Renown. At this time HMS Ark Royal was in sight from Renown bearing 215°.

Boats were immediately recalled and clearedso at 1850/20 HMS Renown proceeded to close HMS Ark Royal. As it was obvious nothing could be done to save the San Casimiro a few rounds of 4.5" were fired into her when HMS Renown passed.

The W/T installation of the Fulmar had malfunctioned therefore she had to close HMS Renown to pass the enemy report. HMS Ark Royal was informed by the Fulmar at 1825/20. The distance of the enemy ships to HMS Ark Royal at this moment was estimated to be 147 miles. At 1844/20 HMS Ark Royal reported that she had shadowers ready on deck but they would be unable to make contact before dark.

At 1830/20, an enemy report was sent to the Admiralty together with the position, course and speed of HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal. By 1915/20, HMS Renown had closed HMS Ark Royal and a course of 340° was shaped at 25 knots to overhaul the enemy. A Fulmar to search for the enemy was flown off at 1930/20.

This Fulmar reported at 2040/20, 'thick weather, nothing sighted', having searched to a depth of 168 miles and having encountered thick cloud down to the sea level between bearing 320° and 070° with further cloud patches to the westward, and eventually returned soon after 2100/20 and made a perfect arrival without any aid. This was a most creditable piece of work on behalf of the pilot and his observer.

Although it seemed unlikely, owing to the poor visibility to the northward, that the enemy could have ben kept under observation Vice-Admiral Somerville consider that HMS Ark Royal should have flown off a fighter to shadow as soon as possible after the receipt of the enemy report.

At 2110/20, Vice-Admiral Somerville informed the Admiralty that night shadowing and to attack was impracticable due to low visibility and that he intended a dawn search in the direction of convoy SL 67 and to the westward of that convoy. If nothing was sighted he told the Admiralty it was his intention to return to Gibraltar.

His choices to search this sector were based on the following.
1) Shore based air and surface reconnaissance from the UK could cover to some extent the area to the eastward but not to the westward.
2) It was considered possible but unlikely that the enemy would make for Brest, France in view of its proximity to the UK.
3) A more probable course of action by the enemy appeared to be an attack on convoy SL 67 or, after starting off to the westward, a run to the south to be followed by an attack on the trade routes at prestent being used by convoys in this area.

Course was altered at 2200/20 to 003° to reach the best possible position for the dawn reconnaissance.

At 0345/21, Vice-Admiral Somerville was informed that HMS Malaya, escorting convoy SL 68 had been torpedoed.

At 0645/21, a reconnaissance of nine Swordfish flew off from position 49°25'N, 19°50'W, to search between 250° through north to 040°. The depth of the search was limited to appoximately 50 miles by a heavy fog bank extending to a height of 3000 feet and nothing was sighted.

All reconnaissance aircraft landed on at 1100/21 and course was then altered to 150° and speed reduced to 19 knots.

At 1630/21, A Swordfish armed with depth charges, cashed over the bows of HMS Ark Royal when being accelerated for an A/S patrol. The aircraft appeared to break in half across the rear cockpit and fell straight into the sea immediately ahead of the ship. The depth charges fired under 35 station and some damage was caused. The crew of the aircraft was killed.

The afternoon reconnaissance flew off from position 50°05'N, 18°50'W an searched from 110° through south to 230° to a depth of 160 miles without sighting anything.

At 0630/22, an A/S patrol was flown off followed at 0700/22 by a reconnaissance from position 45°52'N, 17°39'W. This covered the area between 280° and 050° to a depth of 70 miles and from 050° to 100° to a depth of 135 miles. Nothing was sighted.

The p.m. reconnaissance searched to a depth of 150 miles from position 44°10'N, 16°50'W from 100° through south to 280°. Nothing was sighted. Course was then set as to arrive at Gibraltar early on the 24th.

On 23 March the usual A/S patrol was maintained during the day. Instructions were received from the Admiralty that on return to Gibraltar, HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal were to fuel as soon as possible to return to the Atlantic and continue operations against the enemy battlecruisers.

At 1335/23, the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Forester, HMS Velox and HMS Wrestler made rendezvous.

HMS Renown arrived at Gibraltar around 0700/24. HMS Ark Royal escorted by HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Velox and HMS Wrestler entered the harbour around 0945/24 first having replacement aircraft being flown on from North Front. (1)

26 Apr 1941

Convoy WS 8A

This convoy departed the Clyde on 26 April 1941 for various ports in the Far East and Mediterranean (see below).

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels and troop transports; Abbekerk (Dutch, 7889 GRT, built 1939), Aronda (British, 8328 GRT, built 1941), Clan Campbell (British, 7255 GRT, built 1937), Clan Chattan (British, 7262 GRT, built 1937), Clan Lamont (British, 7250 GRT, built 1939), Dominion Monarch (British, 27155 GRT, built 1939), Empire Song (British, 9228 GRT, built 1940), Empress of Asia (British, 16909 GRT, built 1913), Empress of Russia (British, 16810 GRT, built 1913), Highland Chieftain (British, 14135 GRT, built 1929), New Zealand Star (British, 12436 GRT, built 1935), Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931), Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939) and Strathaird (British, 22281 GRT, built 1932).

The armed merchant cruiser HMS Pretoria Castle (A/Capt.(Retd.) A.V. Hemming, RN) also took passage in the convoy.

On departure from the Clyde the convoy was escorted by the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), light cruiser HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Havelock (Cdr. E.H. Thomas, DSC, RN) and HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN), HMS Hurricane (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), HMS Beagle, (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Cdr. H.N. Lay, OBE, RN), HMCS Saguenay (Lt. P.E. Haddon, RCN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski) and the escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN).

In the morning of the 29th HMS Beagle and HMS Eridge were detached to join the escort of convoy SL 71.

Shortly afterwards HMS Hurricane was detached to search for the survivors of the liner City of Nagpur that had been torpedoed and sunk earlier that day.

On 30 April, at 0400 hours, HMCS Ottawa, HMCS Restigouche, HMCS Saguaenay, HMS Legion and ORP Piorun parted company.

On 2 May the light cruiser HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN) joined shortly after noon. HMS Naiad was then detached and proceeded to Gibraltar where she arrived around 0900/4.

Earlier that morning HMS Repulse, HMS Harvester, HMS Havelock and HMS Hesperus had parted company with the convoy taking the transports Clan Campbell, Clan Chattan, Clan Lamont, Empire Song and New Zealand Star with them to Gibraltar.

The remainder of the convoy continued southwards. On 5 May the destroyers HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN) joined followed on 6 May by two more destroyers; HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill Crichton, DSC, RN) and HMS Hurricane (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN). The convoy arrived at Freetown on 9 May.

The convoy departed Freetown on 14 May having been joined by the Imperial Star (British, 12427 GRT, built 1934). The Highland Chieftain was unable to depart on the 14th. She sailed one day later to overtake the convoy. She was being escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cicilia (Capt.(Retd.) V.B. Cardwell, OBE, RN).

On leaving Freetown A/S protection was given by the destroyers Highlander, HMS Duncan, HMS Boreas and HMS Wishart until 16 May.

HMS Mauritius was relieved by HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) on 24 May.

The convoy arrived at Durban on 27 May minus the Empress of Asia, Imperial Star and Strathaird that had been detached to Capetown on the 24th. The Strathaird departed Capetown on the 25th to rejoin the convoy off Durban.

The remainder of the convoy arrived at Durban on 27 May escorted by HMS Hawkins.

On 31 May the Abbekerk, Aronda, Empress of Russia, Sobieski and Strathaird departed Durban escorted by HMS Hawkins. They arrived at Aden on 10 June after which the troopships / transports proceeded to Suez independently.

Sources

  1. ADM 53/114965 + ADM 199/656

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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