Allied Warships

HMS Corfu (F 86)

Armed Merchant Cruiser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeArmed Merchant Cruiser
Class[No specific class] 
PennantF 86 
Built byA. Stephen & Sons Ltd. (Glasgow, Scotland) 
Ordered 
Laid down 
Launched20 May 1931 
Commissioned25 Nov 1939 
End service17 Feb 1944 
History

laid down as Chefoo, completed as Corfu.
On 14 September 1939 the passenger ship Corfu of the P. & O. Steam Navigation Co Ltd, London was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 25 November 1939.

Displacement: 14170 BRT
Armament: 9x 152mm, 4x 102mm (2x2), 2x 40mm, 19x 20mm Oerlikon and a catapult with seaplane
Speed: 17 knots

Career:
December 39 - June 40: Northern Patrol
June 40: Western Approaches Command
July 40 - September 41: Freetown Escort Force
October 41 - February 42: East Indies Station
March 42 - August 42: Eastern Fleet (Indian Ocean)
September 42 - April 43: South Atlantic Station
May 43 - February 44: West Africa Command

On 17 February 1944 returned and used as troopship by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). On 31 July 1947 returned to owner.

 

Commands listed for HMS Corfu (F 86)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Sir William Gladstone Agnew, RN18 Sep 193915 Sep 1940
2A/Cdr. (retired) Noel Charles Mansfeldt Findlay, RN15 Sep 19409 Dec 1940
3Capt. (retired) John Palmer Landon, RN9 Dec 194011 Nov 1942
4A/Cdr. (retired) Arthur Kenneth Baxendell, RAN11 Nov 194215 Jan 1943
5Capt. (retired) Charles Courtenay Bell, DSO, RN15 Jan 1943early 1944

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Notable events involving Corfu include:


7 Jul 1940

The attack on the French battleship Richelieu, 7 / 8 July 1940.

The Admiralty orders operations against the Richelieu.

The Admiralty had originally intended that the Richelieu should be dealt with by Vice-Admiral Somerville’s Force H from Gibraltar but later they decided to employ Force H in the Mediterranean and that the Richelieu was to be put out of action by aircraft from HMS Hermes (Capt. R.F.J. Onslow, RN). Both on account of his up-to-date local knowledge and his air experience Captain Onslow was chosen to take charge of this operation, with the temporary rank of Acting Rear-Admiral. The Admiralty orders to him were contained in a signal sent at 0144/7 (zone -1), which read as follows;
‘H.M. Government have decided question of Richelieu and other French warships at Dakar must be settled without delay.
1)
You have been selected to take charge of the operations on account of your recent local and air knowledge, and are hereby promoted to Acting Rear-Admiral until further orders.
2)
You are to take HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN), HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN) and HMS Milford (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) under your command.
3)
You should communicate with the French Naval Authorities at Dakar in manner you think best and transmit text of message which will follow in another signal soon. A decision must be asked within four hours so as to give the Richelieu no time to get underway.
4)
Shoud alternative 3 be accepted you take such measures of demilitarization to ensure that ships could not be brought into service for at least a year even at a fully equipped dockyard port. [Seven suggestions to archive this were then given]
5)
If all alternatives are refused you should as soon as possible carry out an attack on Richelieu with torpedo aircraft and maintain this attack until it is certain she is sufficiently disabled. Approximately half your torpedoes should have Duplex pistols and half contact pistols and endeavor should be made to obtain a hit in the vicinity of the propellers with a contact pistol. All attacks should be from one side if possible.
6)
Bombardment by 8” cruisers should not be carried out in view of the small damage to be expected on the Richelieu and streght of defences.
7)
HMS Dorsetshire and HMAS Australia should show themselves at intervals during the operation, but no unnecessary risk of submarine attacks should be accepted by any ship. French naval authorities should be informed your forces are kept at a distance until this decision on account of their submarines.
8)
Should it be possible after Richelieu have been dealt with, the two light cruisers should also be attacked. Armed merchant cruisers should not be attacked.
9)
Any ship endeavours to put to sea should be brought into action. Whether Richelieu can be attacked under these circumstances by the 8” cruisers should depend on her 15” main battery being operative and effective.
10)
H.M. Government desires operation to be carried out as soon as possible subject to your plan as being as proposed.
11)
Should Richelieu have left Dakar before receipt of these orders she is to be called upon to stop. If she obeys this order the procedure outlined above is to be carried out. If she refuses to stop she is to be attacked with torpedo aircraft.
12)
Inform Admiralty in due course whether operation will take place and of various phases of operations as they occur.

This signal was followed almost immediately by another which gave the terms of communication which Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow was to make to the French authorities at Dakar. Four alternatives were to be offererd;
1)
To sail their ships with reduced crews and without ammunition, under British control, to a British port. The crews would be repatriated as soon as possible, and the ships restored to France at the end of the war, or compensation paid if damaged meanwhile
2)
To sail with us with reduced crews and without ammunition to some French port in the West Indies, where the ships are to be demilitarized or perhaps entrusted to the United States. Crews to be repatriated.
3)
To demilitarize the ships at Dakar to Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow’s satisfaction within 12 hours, to such an extent that they would be incapable of taking part further in the present war.
4)
To sink their ships within 6 hours.
A reply was required within 4 hours, failing the adoption of one of the alternatives, force will be resorted to.

Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow’s proceedings, 7 July 1940.

After these clear and unequivocal signals had been deciphered Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow’s first concern was the delivery of the British ultimatum to the French authorities. He decided to concentrate HMS Hermes, HMS Dorsetshire, HMAS Australia and meet up with HMS Milford as soon as possible. HMS Milford would then proceed into Dakar with the full text of H.M. Governments terms. By 0800 hours that morning the three ships were steaming south in company, but there was some delay in meeting HMS Milford, as owning to pressure of work in the wireless office of HMS Hermes, Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow had told HMAS Australia to pass a signal to HMS Milford to join his flag, and the Australia used a cypher not held by the Milford. Meanwhile, at 0900 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic had asked Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow whether he wished any signal to be made to the Consul-General at Dakar. He replied with a request that the Consul-General to be informed that HMS Milford was being sent into Dakar with an important message for the French Admiral.

It was not until 1155 hours that HMS Milford joined. No time was then lost, and havig embarked Paymaster-Lieutenant R.S. Flynn, RN as interpreter, she left for Dakar at 1214 hours, with a copy of the British ultimatum on board. At 1300 hours, Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow informed the Admiralty that she was on her way and that she should arrive around 1400 hours. On her arrival off Dakar however, the French Admiral declined to accept the British communication and threatened to open fire unless she retired. A request that he should reconsider his decision was met with a blank refusal and at 1448 hours HMS Milford reported that she was returned towards HMS Hermes. Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow then reported this information to the Admiralty without delay, adding that he intended to attack at dusk.

From the first appearance of HMS Milford off Dakar the French kept the British force under aerial observation. Aircraft from HMS Hermes have been keeping Dakar under observation during daylight hours as of 0600/5. At 1700/7 a special reconnaissance was carried out by the Squadron Commander with the senior observer in view of the attack that had to be carried out soon. Shortly afterwards Admiralty approval for the dusk attack was received.

Meanwhile the French authorities seem to have thought better of their abrupt refusal to receive the Milford’s communication, and at about 1615 hours a signal was made to her to the effect that the Governor-General approved of her message being passed by W/T. A further signal seemed to indicate that Admiral Plancon was now prepared to receive it. These signals were interpreted by HMAS Australia and passed on to Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow, who decided to deal with the matter himself, and on receipt of the second message started to pass H.M. Government’s full terms in English by wireless; but in order to allow time to prepare for offensive action during the night he reduced the time limit for a reply from four hours to two. These developments he reported to the Admiralty and the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic at 1700 hours. Dakar W/T station acknowledged the receipt of the message at 1805 hours and the ultimatum was thus due to expire at 2005/7. This however was over an hour after sunset and the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic therefore suggested that the attack with torpedo planes should therefore be carried out at dawn the next day. The possibility that the Richelieu might put to sea during the night could not be overlooked and Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow deployed his ships in such a manner and closer inshore then 20 miles that the most likely routes were covered.

Disposition of Dakar during the night of 7/8 July 1940.

Air reconnaissance had shown that a definite lane leading from the Richelieu in a north-easterly direction had been purposely made through the large number of merchant ships anchored in the Outer Roads, and it seemed that a passage through the outer boom might have been made between Gorée Island and R’solue Shoal to facilitate her escape in that direction. To guard against this HMS Milford was ordered to patrol further eastward then originally intended.

At 1914/7 the Acting Rear-Admiral detached HMS Dorsetshire and HMAS Australia to take up their patrol lines, while HMS Hermes and HMS Milford in company proceeded towards the west end of the latter’s patrol line. No reply to the ultimatum had been received from the French authorities, and at 2003 hours (two minutes before it’s expiration) Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow made a polite signal asking for an answer. There was no response and at 2020 hours he decided to take offensive action. This was to consist of a depth charge attack by the Hermes’s fast twin-engine motor-boat on the Richelieu during the night, followed by a torpedo attack with aircraft at dawn. At 2050 hours HMS Hermes and HMS Milford stopped, being then 17 nautical miles due south of Cape Manuel, the motor-boat was lowered, and started on the first stage of its adventurous trip.

Depth charge attack on the Richelieu.

The motor-boat, which was manned by a volunteer crew of nine with blackened faces, commanded by Lt.Cdr. R.H. Bristowe, RN, had been painted matt black all over during the afternoon (much to the distress of the Boat Officer) and had been armed with a Vickers machine-gun. It carried four depth charges, a portable wireless set, which would prove to be much useful, and extra petrol, oil and provisions. Lt.Cdr. Bristowe’s orders were to proceed with HMS Milford to the western end of her new patrol line within 10 nautical miles of Dakar harbour and thence to go on alone into the outer harbour, passing over and around booms as he thought best. He was to drop the four depth charges under the Richelieu’s stern if he discovered her at anchor, or across her bows if he found her under way. If he failed to find her he was to report that by wireless at once. After the operation he was to endeavor to get in tow of the Milford on her patrol line by 0300/8 but if he found this impossible he was to make a rendezvous with Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow’s force at 0530/8.

At 2100/7 the crew manned the boat and proceeded with two depth charges from the Hermes to pick up two more from the Milford. A considerable swell was running and when the first depth charge was being hoisted in from the Milford it struck one of the crew of the motor-boat and struck him out. It also wrecked the port engine. Fortunately the new starboard engine which had been fitted during the afternoon, but which had not been tested due to lack of time, was running beautifully.

When HMS Milford got under way at 2145/7, she ordered to motor-boat to follow her at 12 knots if possible. The depth charges slung outboard upset the boat’s stability and it had a perilous trip. Near its point of departure from the Milford a large ship hove into sight which, at first, looked like the Richelieu but it answered the Milford’s challenge correctly and proved to be HMAS Australia.

The motor-boat then parted company and, when out of sight, stopped while the crew lifted the last depth charge into position. When this task was completed, all hands, except the two Royal Marines, which were manning the Vickers machine-gun in the bows carried out a drill with the depth charge throwers. Then they continued their was towards Dakar. Gorée Islands hove into sight after what appeared to have been hours. Actually it was now 0015/8. Shortly afterwards the boat almost collided with a destroyer that was patrolling outside the boom but remained unseen. It then proceeded slowly at only three knots until off the outer boom. The engine was then stopped and it slid over safely. It then went ahead at dead slow speed with engine muffled until it encountered a colonial sloop (must have been the Bougainville), which it at first mistook for the Richelieu and had nearly attacked. Again the motor-boat remained unseen and it now steered for the merchant ships which formed two straight lines running in a north-easterly direction from the Richelieu as she lay about three quarters of a mile due east of the inner harbour entrance. Then passing round the north-eastern end of the inner boom, it steered towards the reported position of the Richelieu, keeping close to the nearest line of merchant ships until the battleship with a merchant vessel laying almost dead astern of her, came into sight. Lt.Cdr. Bristowe steered for the merchant ship which afforded an excellent position from which to attack. As he approached her, however, he sighted a harbour launch under way just astern of the battleship, and decided to attack at once from the quarter instead of from astern. Events followed quickly. The motor-boat was challenged but before the challenge was completed Lt.Cdr. Bristowe had given orders to attack at full speed. As he approached the Richelieu he was challenged again six times, but although he could not reply the French held their fire.

The coxswain’s orders were to go alongside the stern of the battleship, to graze their port side steering towards her bow, and then, as soon as Lt.Cdr. Bristowe gave the order ‘over’ to dash cover amongst the merchant ships. At the last moment a lighter lying right aft along the battleship’s port side, and her port quarter boom with a boat made fast to it, came into sight in the light of the half moon. These the coxswain avoided most skillfully and at 0210 hours put the motor-boat alongside about 30 yards from the battleships stern over what Lt.Cdr. Bristowe hoped was the vital spot for which he was looking. The depth charges then went over. Frenchmen on the quarterdeck of the Richelieu stood looking over the side, apparently at first wondering about what was happening below. When they finally discovered they beat a hurried retreat. Meanwhile the motor-boat dashed for safety amongst the mechant ships. The complete absence of any explosions came as an anti-climax.

Although the Richelieu very quickly sent a general signal which was acknowledged quickly by the shore batteries and the ships in the harbour but no searchlights were switched on. Lt.Cdr. Bristowe decided to get away as soon as possible at full speed to take full advantage of the remaining two hours of darkness. He made a dash for the outer boom. As he approached the boom, however, an auxiliary vessel sighted the motor-boat and gave chase, and, being unable to shake of this pursuer, Lt.Cdr. Bristowe steered at full speed towards the boom with the French vessel only 50 yards behind. The motor-boat passed safely over the nets around 0300 hours but its pursuer got caught in the nets. Another patrol vessel then came into sight and took up the chase, but with steering a zig-zag course the moto-boat managed to escape. Neither French vessel had opened fire. It was already too late to make rendezvous with HMS Milford so Lt.Cdr. Bristowe set course to make rendezvous with the main force. At 0355 hours he informed HMS Hermes by wireless that he had dropped his four depth charges under the stern of the Richelieu at 0210 hours.

At about 0505 hours there were a number of explosions coming from the direction of the French battleship followed by heavy gunfire. A few minutes later a Swordfish aircraft passed overhead, flying to seaward. The Fleet Air Arm attack had taken place. As dawn broke the Richelieu came into sight, shrouded by a pall of yellow smoke, some two to three miles away. There was a heavy barrage of French AA fire and Lt.Cdr. Bristowe turned south to avoid it. A French bomber appeared overhead and for 15 minutes the motor-boat zigzagged to throw it off, but it dropped no bombs.

At 0545 hours, Lt.Cdr. Bristowe decided that he could not reach HMS Hermes so he set course for Bathurst, over 70 nautical miles away. Soon however, a signal was received from the Hermes to stop engines. About noon HMS Hermes picked up the motor-boat 13 nautical miles south of Cape Manuel, after it had been away from the ship for 15 hours.

Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow considered the conduct of Lt.Cdr. Bristowe and the remaining crew of the motor-boat in the highest degree of praiseworthy. It was just said that the depth charges did not explode in the shallow water. The venture clearly deserved better success.

The Fleet Air Arm torpedo attack on the Richelieu at dawn on 8 July 1940.

At 2300/7, Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow had ordered Lt.Cdr. Luard, the leader of 814 Squadron to carry out a torpedo attack with the greatest possible number of aircraft on the Richelieu at dawn the next day. As only three of the available pilots had previously taken off at night Lt.Cdr. Luard decided that the six crews should consist of one pilot and one observer only and that no air gunners were to be part of the crews (to their disappointment). They were to form up in two sub flights in line ahead at a height of 2000 feet, one mile ahead of the Hermes. The pistols carried by the first, second and fourth Swordfish were fitted with Duplex pistols and were set to run under the Richelieu at 38 feet. Those carried by the other three Swordfish were contact pistols set to run at 24 feet. All six were set to run at 40 knots.

The attack was only possible from one side owning to nets, shipping and depth of the water. From this direction, the north-east, the six aircraft were to attack in line ahead, and were then to return to HMS Hermes independently. At 0415/8 they all took off successfully from HMS Hermes which was then in position 14°37’N, 17°46’W about 20 nautical miles west of Cape Manuel, and at 0445 hours took departure about 2000 feet over her. At 0452 hours they sighted the Cape Verde peninsula and at 0500 hours when they were approaching Gorée Island they formed a single line ahead. At 0502 hours, Lt.Cdr. Luard went into a shallow dive from the south to keep a good background as long as possible, turning south-west at 0505 hours. Fortunately the Richelieu was swung heading south-east broadside on. He aimed his torpedo at her port side, two-thirds of the way aft from a range of 800 yards. When he had completed his attack he turned to port and made a rapid get-away to the south before turning west to rejoin HMS Hermes. The other five Swordfish dropped their torpedoes in quick succession. As Lt.Cdr. Luard made his attack a large number of AA guns opened fire and engaged all six Swordfish. The third aircraft to attack saw the two previous torpedo tracks running straight for the Richelieu and the last aircraft reported seeing four tracks proceeding towards her. Two of the aircraft saw a large column of smoke rising from the Richelieu and all the pilots considered that they had made good drops. Owning to the lack of light and the necessity of getting away quickly they found it imposible to observe the effect of their torpedoes but Lt.Cdr. Luard estimated that at least four or five of them had run correctly towards the target. He landed without mishap on board HMS Hermes at 0526/8 and all the other Swordfish did the same afterwards. One had been hit twice and another one once by AA fire but they had received only minor damage.

Conclusion

The exact amount of damage done to the Richelieu was not easy to determine. Lt.Cdr. Luard estimated that four or five of the torpedoes dropped by the six aircraft had run correctly towards their target and that HMS Dorsetshire reported hearing five distinct explosions between 0500 and 0515 hours. A pall of smoke shrouding the Richelieu was reported by one of the pilots and his observer. As the day wore on, further evidence convinced Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow that she had been disabled. Air reconnaissance reported her as being down by the stern, with large quantities of oil all around her. Of this he informed the Admiralty at 0930/8.

On the recovery of the motor-boat at noon Lt.Cdr. Bristowe reported hearing explosions while his motor-boat lay broken down off the end of the inner boom at 0230 hours, which he naturally attributed to his depth charges exploding underneath her stern. Like the Dorsetshire he had heard a number of explosions around 0510 hours and had noticed the pall of smoke reported by the airmen.

Between 0930 and 1235 hours, French aircraft made intermittent attacks on the British force. They failed to press these attacks home but after picking up the motor-boat Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow ordered his ships to the south and south-west to avoid the French aircraft whilst still keeping the Richelieu under observation from the air. Photographs showed her down by the stern and slightly listing to port.

At 1314/8 the Admiralty replied to the report of 0930 hours. ‘Good, but further attacks should be made and report made’. But it was too late. During the afternoon the Richelieu was moved to the inner harbour and berthed alongside the detached mole where she rested on the bottom at low tide. At this position she was immune from further torpedo attack. This information was passed to the Admiralty at 1710 hours, together with the opinion that the Richelieu was definitely disabled. It was suggested that the British force should proceed to Freetown to fuel. HMS Milford was detached after dark. The other ships took up night patrolling positions but just after midnight Admiralty approval to proceed to Freetown was received. HMS Hermes and HMS Dorsetshire indeed did so but HMAS Australia proceeded to the U.K. The passage to Freetown by HMS Hermes and HMS Dorsetshire was not without incident. In a sudden dense tropical storm during the middle watch on 10 July HMS Hermes collided with the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) which was escorting convoy SL 39 coming from Freetown. HMS Corfu was badly holed, while HMS Hermes suffered severe damage to her bow and the forward end of her flight deck but was able to proceed under her own steam to Freetown where she arrived at 1800/10. On 11 July 1940 Temporary Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow reverted to his rank of Captain.

Damage to the Richelieu.

The Admiralty tried to find out if Richelieu was indeed ‘definitely disabled’ as Acting Rear-Admiral Onslow had claimed. Before the end of the month further reports became available. Commander Rushbrooke, the former British Naval Liaison Officer at Dakar was at Dakar in the merchant vessel Argyll during the attacks which was moored only 3 cables away from the Richelieu on her port beam. Commander Rushbrooke had had a ringside seat. On his arrival at Freetown he reported that at 0230/8 funnel explosions were heard from the direction of the Richelieu which gave the impression that the fuel supply to her furnaces was not normal. These explosions had occurred before and one must take into account that the Richelieu was brand new and not fully completed at that time let alone be fully worked up and possibly suffering from small defects which had not fully be remedied during her trial period. Following these explosions, two officers, which were on the bridge of the Argyll did not see any special activity on board the Richelieu nor in the harbour. These funnel explosions were probably the explosions heard by Lt.Cdr. Bristowe around 0230 hours.

Shortly after 0500/8, Commander Rushbrooke and the same two officers witnessed the air attack and at 0507 hours heard two dull thuds. When full daylight broke they saw a patch of oil round the Richelieu’s stern, which also appeared to be slightly down in the water. Later she lowered her main aerials but soon rehoisted them.

After pursuing all available reports, the Admiralty considered that the attack had been well conceived and executed, but that certain technical aspects required comment. The depth of the water at the time was 42 feet and the Richelieu’s draught was 26 feet 10 inches. In those conditions the setting of the torpedoes intended to run under the ship would have been about 3 feet more then the expected draught, or at most 33 feet (instead of 38 feet) and the setting of the contact torpedoes should have been at least 6 feet less the the draught, 21 feet at most (instead of 24 feet). In view of the shallowness of the water and the fact that the target was at anchor, too, the high speed setting of 40 knots should not have been used, as it was known that these torpedoes were liable to have an excessive initial dive on the 40 knot setting, and a much reduced one on the 29 knot setting.

It was also pointed out in the Admiralty that 18” torpedoes containing about 440 lbs. of T.N.T. hitting the ships side within the length of the citadel would not defeat the main protection. They would cause little flooding but would allow oil to escape into the sea. Torpedoes fitted with Duplex pistols exploding under the ships bottom would not produce damage visible from outside the ship. Broken aerials are a feature of underwater explosions and new aerials may have been hoisted to replace broken ones, but from Commander Rushbrooke’s report it would appear that not more then one torpedo could have exploded under the Richelieu’s main machinery compartments. It was considered, therefore, that she could not be regarded as out of action, but still as seaworthy and able to steam at at least three-quarters speed with all her main armament capable of use.

Actually the damage was more serious then this assessment. According to French sources which later became available, only one torpedo hit. It blew a hole 25 x 20 feet, fractured stern post, distorted the starboard inner shaft and flooded three compartments. She was rendered incapable of steaming more than half power, and repairs to restore seaworthiness took a year. But her main armament was intact which would be shown a few months later. (1)

10 Jul 1940
At 0302N/10, in bad weather, HMS Hermes (A/Rear-Admiral R.F.J. Onslow, DSC, MVO, RN) and HMS Corfu (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) collided with each other. The ships got stuck together and only came loose around 0520 hours. Most of the crew of the heavily damaged Corfu had evacuated to the Hermes but later the engine room staff returned. HMS Hermes then proceeded to Freetown while HMS Corfu got underway for Freetown also at dead slow speed and proceeding astern under escort by HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN).

At 1830A/10 HMS Dorsetshire commenced towing HMS Corfu but after two minutes the bollard was carried away and the tow parted. At 1845 hours Corfu again proceeded astern at dead slow speed.

At 0520A/11 HMS Milford (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) arrived on the scene for A/S protection and at 0600/11 the Dutch tug Donau arrived on the scene as well. She took HMS Corfu in tow shortly after 0800 hours.

HMS Hermes arrived at Freetown around 1800N/10 with a badly damage bow (above the waterline) and damage to the fore end of her flight deck. HMS Corfu, HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Milford arrived at/off Freetown on the 12th. (2)

9 Dec 1941

Convoy WS 14.

This convoy was formed off Oversay on 9 December 1941.

On forming up the convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Abosso (British, 11330 GRT, built 1935), Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939), Athlone Castle (British, 25564 GRT, built 1936), Cameronia (British, 16297 GRT, built 1920), City of Pretoria (British, 8049 GRT, built 1937), Clan Cameron (British, 7243 GRT, built 1937), Duchess of Atholl (British, 20119 GRT, built 1928), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Empire Condor (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Curlew (British, 7101 GRT, built 1941), Empire Egret (British, 7169 GRT, built 1939), Empire Oriole (British, 6535 GRT, built 1941), Empire Peregrine (British, 6440 GRT, built 1941), Empire Pintail (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Widgeon (British, 6737 GRT, built 1940), Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914), Esperance Bay (British, 14204 GRT, built 1921), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928), Highland Princess (British, 14133 GRT, built 1930), Orcades (British, 23456 GRT, built 1937), Orestes (British, 7748 GRT, built 1926), Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925), Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931), Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920), Strathallan (British, 23722 GRT, built 1938), Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921) and Warwick Castle (British, 20107 GRT, built 1930).

The aircraft transport HMS Engadine (Cdr. W.T. Fitzgerald, RD, RNR) was also part of the convoy.

On forming up the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Cilicia, AA ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS Newark (Lt.Cdr. R.H.W. Atkins, RN), HMS Sherwood (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Hayes, DSO, RN).

In the afternoon of the 11th, HMS Newark parted company with the convoy due to damaged fuel tanks.

Bad weather was experienced on the 11th, and late in the evening, the Empire Oriole had to heave to in order to secure tanks that were carried as deck cargo. She did not rejoin the convoy and proceeded independently to Freetown arriving there on 23 December.

At 0415N/12, HMS Ulster Queen parted company with the convoy in approximate position 49°08'N, 19°08'W.

Later that morning, HMS Lancaster parted company with the convoy in approximate position 47°50'N, 20°42'W.

Around midnight during the night of 12/13 December, Westcott, HMS Witherington, HMS Beverley, HMS Newark and HMS Sherwood parted company with the convoy in approximate position 41°46'N, 22°51'W.

Around 0940Z/13, the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. D.N.C. Tufnell, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) and HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 44°00'N, 22°16'W coming from Milford Haven (HMS Gurkha came from Plymouth).

At the time of joining HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound, HMS Badsworth, HMS Beaufort and HMS Croome were supposed to be with the convoy but they had lost touch with the convoy in the heavy weather conditions. All were in touch trough V/S except for HMS Croome. HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound and HMS Gurkha were then ordered to proceed to Gibraltar. Vanquisher, Volunteer, Witch, HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort remained with the convoy.

At 1800Z/13, in approximate position 42°38'N, 22°40'W HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort were detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.

Also on 13 December (around 0500 hours) the Scythia left the convoy due to ' not being under control '. She did not rejoin the convoy and arrived independently at Freetown on 23 December.

At 2200Z/14, in approximate position, 36°07'N, 23°24'W, HMS Vanquisher was detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores. She was detached earlier then intended due to condenser trouble.

At 0400Z/15, in approximate position 35°02'N, 23°23'W, HMS Volunteer and HMS Witch were detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.

At 1030Z/15, HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort rejoined the convoy in approximate position 34°03'N, 23°24'W.

At 0930Z/18, the destroyer HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 18°50'N, 21°52'W.

At 0910Z/19, the destroyers HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) and HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 14°30'N, 19°17'W.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 21 December 1941.

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The convoy departed Freetown on 25 December 1941 for South Africa.

The convoy sailed with the same ships as with it had arrived except for HMS Engadine

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies, destroyers HMS Brilliant, HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN), escort destroyers HMS Beaufort, HMS Hurworth and the sloop HMS Bridgewater (A/Cdr.(Retd.) H.F.G. Leftwich, RN).

At 1100Z/26, HMS Vimy developed engine trouble and fell behind. She rejoined the convoy at 0600Z/27.

At 1800Z/26, in approximate position 03°02'N, 12°25'W, HMS Brilliant parted company with the convoy, taking the troopship Abosso with her. They were to proceed to Takoradi.

At 0400Z/27, the Orestes fell out of line with engine trouble. As by noon she was not in sight HMS Vimy was ordered to search for her. She reported at 1800Z/27 that she had found the Orestes which was now able to proceed at 14 knots. HMS Vimy was then ordered to return to Freetown. The Orestes then proceeded to Capetown unescorted.

At 1900Z/27, HMS Bridgewater was detached to proceed ahead to fuel from the RFA tanker Rapidol (2648 GRT, built 1917).

At 0600Z/29, HMS Beaufort was detached to fuel from the Rapidol.

At 1100Z/30, HMS Hurworth was detached to fuel from the Rapidol but she could not find the tanker and rejoined the convoy at 1930Z/29. Fortunately the tanker was then sighted on the convoy's beam and she was able to fuel after all. On completion of fuelling she started a search for an unidentified ship that had been sighted earlier by the Rapidol.

At 1320/30, HMS Beaufort rejoined the convoy.

At 1700/30, HMS Bridgewater rejoined the convoy.

At 1845A/31, HMS Hurworth rejoined the convoy. The ship reported by the Rapidol had not been sighted.

At 0100Z/3, the Andes was detached to proceed ahead of the convoy to Capetown where politicians were to be landed. She later joined the Durban section of the convoy.

In the morning of the 4th, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Derbyshire (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 31°45'S, 14°00'E.

At 1600Z/4, in approximate position, 33°12'S, 15°45'E, HMS Derbyshire parted company with the convoy taking the Durban section of the convoy with her. The Durban section was made up of the Andes, Athlone Castle, Cameronia, Duchess of Atholl, Durban Castle, Esperance Bay, Highland Princess, Oronsay, Reina del Pacifico, Scythia and Strathallan.

The Capetown section of the convoy, made up of the City of Pretoria, Clan Cameron, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Peregrine, Empire Pintail, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Australia, Highland Monarch, Orcades, Troilus and Warwick Castle arrived at Capetown early in the morning escorted by HMS Ramillies, HMS Beaufort and HMS Hurworth. The escort destroyers then proceeded to Simonstown. The Orestes arrived later in the morning.

The Durban section was joined in the morning of the 6th by the light cruiser HMS Ceres (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H.W.V. Stephenson, RN) in approximate position 35°18'S, 23°32'E.

In the morning of the 8th the convoy arrived at Durban in three sections in order to avoid congestion in the swept channel. Each of the escorts, HMS Ceres, HMS Bridgewater and HMS Derbyshire took one section under their orders.

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On 9 January 1942, the Capetown section, made up of the City of Pretoria, Clan Cameron, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Peregrine, Empire Pintail, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Australia, Highland Monarch, Orcades, Troilus and Warwick Castle. An additional transport, the Malancha (British, 8124 GRT, built 1937), joined the convoy.

The Orestes was also to have joined the convoy but she was delayed, probably due to repairs, and she sailed later with orders to overtake the convoy.

The convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies and the corvettes HMS Hollyhock (Lt. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR) and HMS Verbena (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, RNVR).

In the early morning of the 10th both corvettes parted company to return to Capetown.

On the 13th the convoy was joined by the Durban section made up of the transports City of Canterbury (British, 8331 GRT, built 1922), Dilwara (British, 11080 GRT, built 1936), Duchess of Atholl, Dunera (British, 11162 GRT, built 1937), Esperance Bay, Nova Scotia (British, 6796 GRT, built 1926) and Thysville (Belgian, 8351 GRT, built 1922). They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN).

Also the Orestes caught up with the convoy off Durban and joined.

The Orcades of the Capetown section parted company with the convoy and entered Durban.

The Duchess of Athol soon developed engine trouble and returned to Durban. Her troops were transferred to the Andes and this ship then departed Durban on 14 January 1942, escorted by HMS Ceres to overtake the convoy which Andes did early on the 16th. HMS Ceres then set course to return to Durban where she arrived on the 18th.

Early on the 19th, rendezvous was made with the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) which then took the ships of Singapore with her forming convoy DM 2. These were the City of Canterbury, City of Pretoria, Dunera, Empress of Australia, Malancha, Troilus and Warwick Castle. They then set course for Port T (Addu Atoll).

At 1000C/20, the convoy was joined by the light cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. C.C.A. Allen, RN) which had the transports Mendoza (British (former French), 8233 GRT, built 1919) and Salween (British, 7063 GRT, built 1937) with her. HMS Ramillies then parted company and proceeded to Mombasa arriving there on 21 January 1942.

The convoy then split into two more sections; convoy WS 14A was to proceed to the Gulf of Aden where it was to disperse. It was made up of the Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Pintail, Highland Morarch, Mendoza, Orestes and Salween. HMS Colombo was escorting these ships. The convoy was dispersed on 26 January 1942 in the Gulf of Aden. The Thysville proceeded independently to Aden as she had straddled from the convoy not long after it had departed Durban due to bad coal having been supplied.

HMS Corfu took the remainder of the ships with her towards Bombay. This convoy was then known as convoy WS 14B and was made up of the Andes, Clan Cameron, Dilwara, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Peregrine, Empire Widgeon, Esperance Bay and Nova Scotia.

At 1930E/25, the Clan Cameron, Empire Curlew, Empire Peregrine, Empire Widgeon parted company with the convoy to proceed to Basra independently.

The remainder of Convoy WS 14B arrived at Bombay on 28 January 1942. (3)

27 Apr 1942

Convoy WS 17.

Convoy from South Africa to several destinations in the Far East.

On 27 April 1942 the Capetown section departed. It was made up the following transports / troop transports; Almanzora (British, 15551 GRT, built 1914), Cameronia (British, 16297 GRT, built 1920), City of Edinburgh (British, 8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), Dunedin Star (British, 11168 GRT, built 1936), Glaucus (British, 7596 GRT, built 1921), Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (Dutch, 19429 GRT, built 1930), Kina II (British, 9823 GRT, built 1939), Nieuw Holland (Dutch, 11066 GRT, built 1927) and Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921).

On departure the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Dauntless (A/Capt. J.G. Hewitt, DSO, RN) which first had conducted gunnery exercises in False Bay before joining the convoy.

Off Port Elizabeth the convoy was joined by the transports; Brazil (American, 18298 GRT, built 1928), Monterey (American, 18017 GRT, built 1932) and Mormactide (American, 7773 GRT, built 1941).

Off Durban the convoy was joined by the transports / troop transports; Elizabethville (Belgian, 8351 GRT, built 1922), Khedive Ismael (British, 7290 GRT, built 1922), Mendoza (British (former French), 8199 GRT, built 1920), Nova Scotia (British, 6796 GRT, built 1926) and Windsor Castle (British, 19141 GRT, built 1922).

The submarine depot ship HMS Adamant (Capt. R.S. Warne, RN) also joined the convoy off Durban.

The battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) also joined off Durban to escort the convoy.

On 8 May 1942 the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN) departed Mombasa to take over the escort of the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. W. Harmsen, RNN).

They joined the convoy at 1600/8 after which HMS Revenge proceeded to Mombasa escorted by the two destroyers. They arrived at Mombasa around 1300/9.

At 1900/8, HMS Dauntless was detached for Mombasa taking Almanzora, Cameronia, Khedive Ismael, Mendoza, Nova Scotia and Samaria with her. They also arrived at Mombasa around 1300/9.

HMS Adamant had already arrived at Mombasa on 8 May. She had parted company in the early afternoon of 7 May and proceeded ahead of the convoy.

HMS Royal Sovereign and HMS Corfu then proceeded further north with the remainder of the convoy.

On 10 May the following vessels departed Mombasa for Bombay; Almanzora, Cameronia, Chantilly (British (former French), 9986 GRT, built 1923), Khedive Ismael, Mendoza, Nova Scotia and Samaria. They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Ranchi (Capt.(Retd.) Sir J.M. Alleyne, DSO, DSC, RN).

Aound 0900/11, HMS Corfu parted company with the convoy taking with her the City of Edinburgh, City of Lincoln, Elizabethville and Glaucus. These ships were to proceed to Aden.

HMS Royal Sovereign meanwhile continued on to Bombay with the Dunedin Star, Johan van Oldebarnvelt, Kina II, Nieuw Holland and Windsor Castle.

HMS Royal Sovereign with her part of the convoy arrived at Bombay on 16 May 1942.

HMS Ranchi with her part of the convoy arrived at Bombay on 19 May 1942. (4)

8 May 1942
HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. W. Harmsen, RNN) departed Mombasa to make rendez-vous with HMS Revenge (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) which was escorting convoy WS 17. HMS Royal Sovereign and HMS Corfu then took over the escort of the convoy while HMS Revenge proceeded to Mombasa escorted by the two destroyers where they arrived the next day.

[For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoy WS 17 ' for 27 April 1942.] (4)

11 May 1942

Convoy WS 19.

This convoy was assembled off Oversay on 11 May 1942.

It was made up of the following (troop) transports; Akaroa (British, 15130 GRT, built 1914), Athlone Castle (British, 25565 GRT, built 1936), Borinquen (American, 7114 GRT, built 1931), Clan MacArthur (British, 10528 GRT, built 1936), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928), Lanarkshire (British, 9816 GRT, built 1940), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Mooltan (British, 20952 GRT, built 1923), Moreton Bay (British, 14193 GRT, built 1921), USS Orizaba (American, 6937 GRT, built 1918), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Pasteur (British, 29253 GRT, built 1938), Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920), Strarthaird (British, 22281 GRT, built 1932), Strathnaver (British, 22283 GRT, built 1931) and Sussex (British, 13647 GRT, built 1937).

On assembly the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN), armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) E.W. Kitson, RN), destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN), HMS Castleton (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Bristowe, DSO, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt. B.M.D. I'Anson, RN), HMS St. Marys (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN).

Around 0400Z/14, HMS Keppel, HMS Volunteer and HMS Leamington parted company with the convoy in approximate position 46°00'N, 21°40'W.

Around 1600Z/14, HMS Belvoir and HMS Hursley parted company in approximate position 43°40'N, 22°40'W. They were to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.

Around 0100Z/15, the Akaroa was detached to proceed to Bermuda independently.

Around 2100Z/15, HMS St. Marys parted company in approximate position 37°25'N, 23°30'W.

Around 1600Z/16, HMS Castleton parted company in approximate position 33°08'N, 23°46'W.

Around 1800Z/17, HMS Belvoir and HMS Hursley rejoined in approximate position 27°43'N, 24°24'W.

Around 1030Z/19, the destroyer HMS Velox (Lt. G.B. Barstow, RN) joined in approximate position 19°45'N, 20°40'W. She came from convoy SL 110.

Around 0845Z/20, the destroyers HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN) and HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) joined, coming from Bathurst, in approximate position 15°27'N, 20°40'W.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 22 May 1942.

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The convoy departed Freetown on 26 May 1942.

It was now escorted by the light cruiser HMS Mauritius, armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (A/Capt.(Retd.) J.D. Harvey, RN), destroyers HMS Boreas, HMS Velox, escort destroyers HMS Belvoir, HMS Hursley and the sloop HMS Milford (Cdr.(Retd.) the Hon. V.M. Wyndham-Quin, RN).

Around 1900Z/28, HMS Boreas and HMS Velox parted company in approximate position 01°07'S, 13°43'W. HMS Velox was to return to Freetown while HMS Boreas was to proceed to Takoradi taking the Highland Monarch from the convoy with her. The Highland Monarch was later to proceed to the River Plate area.

Around 0800Z/29, HMS Alcantara and HMS Milford parted company with the convoy so that the armed merchant cruiser could top off the sloop with fuel. They rejoined around 1630Z/29. HMS Alcantara then immediately left the convoy again in position 05°18'S, 10°38'W to proceed to St. Helena. HMS Belvoir and HMS Hursley went with her so that they could fuel in the lee of St. Helena from HMS Alcantara

Around 2000Z/31, HMS Alcantara, HMS Belvoir and HMS Hursley rejoined the convoy in approximate position 15°48'S, 06°02'W

Around 1600A/1, HMS Alcantara parted company with the convoy in approximate position 18°05'S, 02°20'W. She was to patrol in the South Atlantic.

Around 1230B/5, the heavy cruiser HMS Shropshire (Capt. J.T. Borrett, OBE, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 32°25'S, 14°20'E.

Around 1700B/5, in approximate position 32°55'S, 14°59'E, HMS Shropshire parted company taking the Clan MacArthur, Moreton Bay, USS Orizaba, Ormonde, Pasteur and Strathaird with her to Durban where they arrived on 9 June. HMS Shropshire then turned back towards the Capetown area to make rendezvous with the Capetown section of the convoy and then escort it eastwards.

The remainder of the convoy proceeded to Capetown where it arrived on 6 June. HMS Mauritius then went on to Simonstown as did the A/S escorts later.

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On 11 June the Athlone Castle, Borinquen, Lankashire, Monarch of Bermuda, Mooltan, Strathnaver, Sussex departed Capetown to continue their voyage. With them was now also the transport Takliwa (British, 7936 GRT, built 1924).

They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cheshire (A/Capt. H.G. Hopper, RN).

Around 1200B/12, HMS Shropshire joined them in approximate position 37°10'S, 19°56'E.

Around 0900C/14, the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir and HMS Hursley joined.

Around 1100C/15, HMS Cheshire parted company with the convoy off Durban.

Around 1200C/15, the Durban section of the convoy joined. They were being escorted by the light cruiser HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN). The Durban section was made up of the Clan Macarthur, Moreton Bay, USS Orizaba and Strathaird. With them were now also the Clan MacInnes (British, 4672 GRT, built 1920), Clan MacTavish (British, 7631 GRT, built 1921), Empire Trooper (British, 14106 GRT, built 1922) and Empire Woodlark (British, 7793 GRT, built 1913).

Around 1100D/18, the light cruiser HMS Mauritius joined the convoy in approximate position 27°28'S, 43°05'E. HMS Shropshire then parted company.

Around 0900C/23, the Clan MacInnes, Clan MacTavish, Empire Trooper, Empire Woodlark and Moreton Bay parted company with the convoy in approximate position 13°51'S, 53°03'E to proceed to Diego Suarez where they arrived on 24 June. They were escorted by HMS Emerald, HMS Belvoir and HMS Hursley.

Around 2000E/26, the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, CBE, DSC, RN) joined coming from Kilindini/Mombasa. She relieved HMS Mauritius which then parted company with the convoy to proceed to Kilindini/Mombasa.

Around 1700E/26, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN) joined the convoy in in approximate position 05°26'N, 52°16'E, The Athlone Castle, USS Orizaba and Strathaird parted company with the convoy to proceed to Bombay where they arrived on 1 July. They were escorted by HMS Devonshire.

The remainder of the convoy proceeded towards Aden escorted by HMS Corfu. They arrived off Aden on 30 June. (5)

1 Jul 1942

Convoy CM 29.

This convoy departed Durban on 1 July 1942 and arrived at Aden on 17 July 1942.

The following transports / troopships were part of this convoy; Dilwara (British, 11080 GRT, built 1936), Diomed (British, 10374 GRT, built 1922), Dunera (British, 11162 GRT, built 1937), Llandaff Castle (British, 10799 GRT, built 1926), Pulaski (Polish, 6516 GRT, built 1912), Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920) and Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939).

On departure from Durban the convoy was escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Frobisher (Capt. J.F.W. Mudford, RN) and the corvette HMS Fritillary (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Barker, RD, RNR) and the netlayer HMS Guardian (A/Capt. H.A.C. Lane, RN).

On 9 July the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) departed Kilindini to rendezvous with the convoy. She did so on 11 July and relieved HMS Frobisher, HMS Fritillary and HMS Guardian which then proceeded to Kilindini.

On the 14th the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN) took over from HMS Royal Sovereign which then set course to return to Kilindini.

Early in the morning of the 16th the Aden section of the convoy parted company. It was made up of the Diomed, Llandaff Castle, Pulaski and Scythia. They proceeded unescorted to Aden arriving there on the 17th.

The Bombay section of the convoy (called CM 29B), made up of Dilwara, Dunera and Sobieski continued on escorted by HMS Corfu. They were joined in late on the morning of the 16th by the damaged light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN). Convoy CM 29B arrived at Bombay on 21 July 1942.

19 May 1943

Combined convoy WS 30 / KMS 15.

This combined convoy was formed off Oversay on 19 May 1943. The convoy was divided into convoys WS 30 and KMS 15 at sea on 25 May 1943.

The combined convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Arawa (British, 14462 GRT, built 1922), Argentina (American, 20614 GRT, built 1929), Boissevain (Dutch, 14134 GRT, built 1937), Brisbane Star (British, 12791 GRT, built 1937), Deseado (British, 9641 GRT, built 1942), Duchess of York (British, 20021 GRT, built 1929), Franconia (British, 20175 GRT, built 1923), H.F. Alexander (American, 8357 GRT, built 1915), Indrapoera (Dutch, 10825 GRT, built 1925), Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (Dutch, 19429 GRT, built 1930), Letitia (British, 13595 GRT, built 1925), Mataroa (British, 12390 GRT, built 1922), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921), Siboney (American, 6938 GRT, built 1918), Sloterdijk (Dutch, 9230 GRT, built 1940), Staffordshire (British, 10683 GRT, built 1929) and Stirling Castle (British, 25550 GRT, built 1936).

The landing ships HMS Royal Scotsman (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Armstrong, DSC, RD, RNR) and HMS Royal Ulsterman (Lt.Cdr. W.R.K. Clark, DSC, RD RNR) were also part of the convoy.

On formation off Oversay the convoy was escorted by the aircraft carrier, heavy cruiser HMS Suffolk (Capt. R. Shelley, CBE, RN), destroyers HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RD, RNR), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. P.G. Merriman, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), escort destroyers HMS Cleveland (Lt. J.K. Hamilton, RN), ORP Slazak (Lt.Cdr. R. Nalecz-Tyminski, ORP), sloops HMS Lowestoft (A/Cdr.(Retd.) L.H. Phillips, RN), HMS Wellington (Lt.Cdr. J.T. Jones, RD, RNR), HMS Weston (Cdr. L.F. Durnford-Slater, RN), Cutters HMS Gorleston (Cdr.(Retd.) R.W. Keymer, RN), HMS Totland (Lt.Cdr. L.E. Woodhouse, RN) and the frigates HMS Exe (A/Cdr. M.A.O. Biddulph, DSC, RN) and HMS Ness (A/Cdr. T.G.P. Crick, DSC, RN).

The destroyer HMS Sardonyx apparently parted company on 20 May.

HMS Cleveland fuelled from HMS Suffolk during the morning of 21 May.

At 1130Z/23, HMS Active sighted a surfaced submarine in position 42°16'N, 15°40'W at a range of about 6000 yards. Shortly afterwards HMS Ness also sighted this submarine. Both ships rushed towards to attack and the submarine was seen to crash dive. When the range was down to 2900 yards HMS Active obtained contact on the target with her Asdic. At 1143Z/23, HMS Active dropped a pattern of ten depth charges set at 150 and 300 feet. At 1150Z/23, HMS Ness dropped ten depth charges (150 and 300 feet). At 1158Z/23, HMS Active came back for another pattern of ten depth charges (350 and 550 feet). At 1212Z/23, HMS Ness dropped ten depth charges (350 and 550 feet). A double explosion was then heard by the two escorts. At 1223Z/23, HMS Active dropped ten depth charges (350 and 550 feet). At 1240Z/23, a small amount of wood and cork wreckage came to the surface as well as life-jackets, coffee tins marked 'Napoli' and a pair of fresh human lungs. At 1305Z/23, HMS Ness dropped a final pattern of ten depth charges (500, 550 and 700 feet). It is believed that the Italian submarine Leonardo Da Vinci was sunk in this attack. The most succesful Italian submarine of the Second World War disappeared with all hands. Nine officers and fifty-four ratings perished.

At 0630Z/24, the transports Brisbane Star and Deseado were detached from the convoy.

Around 1530Z/24 a German Focke Wulf aircraft attacked and dropped some bombs near HMS Unicorn but no damage was done.

The armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN) joined on either the 24th or the 25th.

At 1040Z/25 the convoy split up. All escorts proceeded with convoy KMF 15 except for HMS Suffolk, HMS Corfu which went along with WS 30. Convoy KMF 15 was made up of the transports Arawa, Boissevain, Duchess of York, Franconia, Indrapoera, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Letitia, Ormonde, Samaria, Staffordshire and Stirling Castle. HMS Royal Scotsman and HMS Royal Ulsterman were also part of this convoy.

The transport Letitia proceeded to Gibraltar as did HMS Unicorn. The escort destroyers HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN), HMS Haydon (Lt. R.C. Watkin, RN) and HMS Tynedale (Lt. J.J.S. Yorke, DSC, RN) had come out to escort them in. HMS Active, HMS Cleveland and ORP Slazak also put into Gibraltar.

The transports Staffordshire and Stirling Castle were detached and arrived at Oran on 26 May.

The remainder of convoy KMF 15 arrived at Algiers on 27 May.

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Convoy WS 30 continued on to Freetown and was made up of Argentina, Brisbane Star, Deseado, H.F. Alexander, Mataroa, Siboney and Sloterdijk. Their escort of HMS Suffolk and HMS Corfu was joined by the destroyers HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. C.J. Wynne-Edwards, DSC and Bar, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Catterick (Lt.Cdr. A. Tyson, RN) which all came from Gibraltar. HMS Boadicea also rejoined after fuelling at Casablanca.

In the morning of May 27th, HMS Antelope fuelled from HMS Suffolk.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 31 May 1943.

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On 3 June 1943 the convoy departed Freetown now made up of the transports Argentina, H.F. Alexander, Mataroa, Nieuw Holland (Dutch, 11066 GRT, built 1927), Siboney and Sloterdijk.

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Sussex, armed merchant cruisers HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) E.W. Kitson, RN), HMS Corfu, destroyers HMS Wolverine (Lt. I.M. Clegg, RN), HMS Boardicea, HMS Rapid (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, DSC and Bar, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Catterick.

At 1500Z/6, the transport Cuba (British, 11420 GRT, 1923) and the destroyer HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) joined the convoy coming from Takoradi.

At 1950Z/6, HMS Corfu and HMS Boadicea parted company with the convoy to proceed to Takoradi.

At 1445Z/9, the destroyers HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Redoubt (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Ropner, DSO, RN) joined the convoy coming from Pointe Noire.

At 1517Z/9, HMS Witch, HMS Wolverine and HMS Rapid parted company with the convoy to proceed to Pointe Noire.

Around 0730A/13, the transports Exceller (American, 6597 GRT, built 1941) and Santa Barbara (American, 6507 GRT, built 1943) joined the convoy as did the sloop Savorgnan de Brazza which had been escorting them.

On 15 June 1943 the convoy arrived at Capetown. HMS Sussex and HMS Carnarvon Castle then went on to Simonstown. In the approached to Capetown the destroyer HMAS Nizam (Cdr. C.H. Brooks, RAN) joined the escort as an enemy submarine had been reported to be operating in the area.

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On 16 June 1943, the convoy departed Capetown for Durban. It was now made up of the transports Argentina, Cuba, Exceller, Exiria (American, 6533 GRT, built 1941), H.F. Alexander, Mataroa, Nieuw Holland, Santa Barbara, Siboney and Sloterdijk.

The convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMAS Nizam, HMAS Norman, HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt.

On 18 June, the transport Sibajak (Dutch, 12226 GRT, built 1927) joined the convoy presumebly coming from Port Elizabeth or East London.

The convoy arrived at Durban on 20 June.

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On 25 June 1943, the convoy departed Durban for Aden / Bombay, now made up of the transports Cuba, General Fleischer (Norwegian, 5138 GRT, built 1943), Karagola (British, 7053 GRT, built 1917), Nieuw Holland, Sagoland (American, 5334 GRT, built 1913), Santa Barbara and Sibajak.

The convoy was now escorted by the destroyers HMAS Norman, HMAS Quickmatch (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, DSC, RAN) and HMS Rotherham (Capt. F.S.W. de Winton, RN).

The armed mercant cruiser HMS Canton ( A/Cdr.(Retd.) R.J.E. Daintree, RN) joined the convoy around 0900C/28 having departed Kilindini around 1745C/25.

The destroyers parted company with the convoy around 1830C/29 to return to Durban where they arrived in the morning of July 3rd.

Around 0900C/1, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Alaunia (Capt. R.H.C. Crawford, OBE, RNR) joined the convoy having departed Kilindini around 1730C/29. HMS Canton then parted company with the convoy to proceed to Kilindi taking the transports Karagola and Sagoland with her. They arrived at Kilindini around 1200C/2.

At 0310C/3, the transport Santa Barbara was detached to proceed independently to Colombo.

At 1115C/4, the transports General Fleischer and Sibajak were detached to proceed independently to Aden.

The transports Cuba and Nieuw Holland arrived at Bombay and their escort, HMS Alaunia, around 1000FG/9.

21 Jun 1943

Combined convoy WS 31 / KMS 17.

This combined convoy was formed off Oversay on 21 June 1943. The convoy was divided into convoys WS 30 and KMS 15 at sea on 26 June 1943.

The combined convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Britannic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), Clan Macarthur (British, 10528 GRT, built 1936), Clan Macaulay (British, 10492 GRT, built 1936), Cristobal (American, 10021 GRT, built 1939), General George W. Goethals (American, 12093 GRT, built 1942), John Ericsson (American, 16552 GRT, built 1928), J.W. McAndrew (American, 7997 GRT, built 1940), Largs Bay (British, 14182 GRT, built 192), Rangitiki (British, 16698 GRT, built 1928), Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921), Santa Rosa (American, 9135 GRT, built 1932), Silverteak (British, 6770 GRT, built 1930), Stratheden (British, 23722 GRT, built 1937) and Tamaroa (British, 12405 GRT, built 1922).

Also the netlayer HMS Guardian (Capt.(Retd.) H.A.C. Lane, OBE, RN) was part of the convoy.

After assembly of Oversay the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Uganda (Capt. W.G. Andrewes, RN), destroyers HMS Arrow (Lt.Cdr. W.W. Fitzroy, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, DSC, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. R.B.S. Tennant, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Viceroy (Lt. T.F. Hallifax, RN), HMS Wallace (Lt. D. Carson, RN), HMS Woolston (Lt. F.W. Hawkins, RN), HMS Hambledon (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN), HMS Mendip (Capt. C.R.L. Parry, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, RN), HMS Blencathra (Lt. E.G. Warren, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt. D.R.N. Murdoch, RN), HMS Brecon (Lt.Cdr. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.C. Beatty, RN).

On 25 June HMS Arrow and HMS Amazon parted company with the combined convoy to proceed to Casablanca to fuel. They arrived at Casablanca around 1730A/25.

Around 1730B/25, the destroyers HMS Foxhound (Cdr. C.J. Wynne-Edwards, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Blackmore (Lt. H.T. Harrel, RN) were to join the combined convoy in position 36°05'N, 07°54'W. They had departed Gibraltar earlier on the 25th.

When these destroyers joined the destroyer HMS Witherington and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury were to proceed to Casablanca.

Also the convoy was to split. Convoy KMF 17, made up of the transports Britannic, Cristobal, J.W. McAndrew, Largs Bay, Samaria, Santa Rosa, Silverteak, Tamaroa and the netlayer HMS Guardian. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Uganada and the escort destroyers HMS Viceroy, HMS Wallace, HMS Woolston, HMS Hambledon, HMS Mendip, HMS Blankney, HMS Blencathra, HMS Brecon and HMS Brissenden proceeded towards the Mediterranean.

On the 26th, HMS Uganda, HMS Guardian, HMS Viceroy and one of the transports arrived at Gibraltar.

On the 27th, HMS Uganda, which apparently had rejoined the convoy after a brief stopover at Gibraltar, 7 of the transports and HMS Wallace, HMS Woolston, HMS Hambledon, HMS Mendip, HMS Blankney, HMS Blencathra, HMS Brecon and HMS Brissenden arrived at Algiers.

Meanwhile Convoy WS 31, made up of the transports City of Lincoln, Clan Macarthur, Clan Macaulay, General George W. Goethals, John Ericsson, Stratheden and Tamaroa continued on to Freetown.

The convoy was now escorted by the destroyers HMS Foxhound, HMS Bulldog and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

The destroyer HMS Amazon also rejoined after fuelling at Casablanca. It had originally been the intention that HMS Arrow was also to rejoin the convoy but while at Casablanca orders had been received that she was to proceed to Gibraltar instead.

On 1 July the French armed merchant cruiser Quercy joined the convoy.

Convoy WS 31 arrived at Freetown on 4 July 1943.

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Convoy WS 31 departed Freetown on 6 July 1943.

It was now made up of the transports City of Lincoln, Clan Macarthur, Clan Macaulay, General George W. Goethals, John Ericsson, Rangitiki, Stirling Castle (British, 25550 GRT, built 1936) and Stratheden.

The convoy was now escorted by the light cruiser HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN), Quercy, destroyers HMS Foxhound, HMS Bulldog, HMS Wolverine (Lt. I.M. Clegg, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

in the early afternoon of the 7th, in approximate position 03°15'N, 14°54'W the Rangitiki was to be detached to proceed independently to Montevideo.

HMS Despatch was to arrived at Takoradi late in the afternoon of the 9th to fuel and after completion of this on the 10th she was to rejoin the convoy. HMS Wolverine also made a short call at Takoradi on the 10th to fuel and then rejoin the convoy.

On the 10th HMS Bulldog and HMS Blackmore were detached to proceed to Lagos to fuel and then escort transports from there to join the convoy. HMS Corfu was also detached on the 10th to proceed to Ascencion after first calling at Takoradi.

The destroyer HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) and corvette HMS Armeria (Lt. M. Todd, RNR) had joined the convoy on the 10th.

On the 11th the transports Arawa (British, 14462 GRT, built 1922), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928) and Staffordshire (British, 10683 GRT, built 1929) joined the convoy coming from Lagos. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Rapid (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Bulldog and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore.

When these ships joined HMS Foxhound, HMS Witch and HMS Armeria then parted company and proceeded to Lagos arriving there also on the 11th.

HMS Despatch and HMS Rapid arrived at Pointe Noire to fuel at 0700Z/14. They departed again to rejoin the convoy at 1430Z/14.

Meanwhile the destroyers HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) and HMS Redoubt (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Ropner, DSO, RN) had departed Pointe Noire at 0900Z/14 to join the convoy.

At 1800Z/14, the Quercy, HMS Bulldog and HMS Blackmore arrived at Pointe Noire.

At 0600Z/15, HMS Wolverine arrived at Pointe Noire.

The convoy arrived at Capetown on 21 July 1943. HMS Despatch, HMS Quadrant, HMS Rapid and HMS Redoubt then continued on to Simonstown arriving there later the same day.

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A much reduced convoy WS 31 departed Capetown on 26 July 1943. It was now made up of the transports Arawa, Highland Brigade, Highland Monarch, Staffordshire, Stirling Castle and Stratheden. The convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Despatch and the destroyers HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt.

They were relieved near Mauritius on 4 August 1943 by the heavy cruiser HMS Frobisher (Capt. J.F.W. Mudford, RN) which took the convoy to Bombay where it arrived on 13 August 1943.

HMS Despatch, HMS Quadrant and HMS Redoubt arrived at Mauritius on 5 August 1943.

Sources

  1. ADM 234/318
  2. ADM 234/318 + ADM 53/111848 + ADM 53/112037 + ADM 53/112435
  3. ADM 199/1138
  4. ADM 199/426
  5. ADM 199/1211

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


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