Allied Warships

HMS Southern Prince (M 47)

Minelayer of the Auxiliary minelayers class


Photo from Imperial War Museum (IWM), A-9986

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeMinelayer
ClassAuxiliary minelayers 
PennantM 47 
Built byLithgow’s, Ltd. (Port Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.) 
Ordered 
Laid down 
Launched12 Mar 1929 
Commissioned15 Jun 1940 
End service 
History

Completed as merchantile in August 1929.
Requisitioned by the Admiralty on 19 December 1939.
Displacement: 11447 tons.
Lenght: 496 feet
Machinery: Two shafts, Diesel engine, SHP 7680 = 17 knots.
Armament: 4" AA guns (2x1), 2 2pdr AA (2x1), 7 20mm AA (7x1), 4 .5" AA (2x2), 560 mines.

Became and accomodation ship in 1945. 

Hit by U-boat
Damaged on 26 Aug 1941 by U-652 (Fraatz).

U-boat AttackSee our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Southern Prince

Commands listed for HMS Southern Prince (M 47)

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

CommanderFromTo
1A/Capt. Edward Murray Conrad Barraclough, RN17 Apr 194011 Mar 1941
2Cdr. Charles Leslie Firth, RN11 Mar 194119 May 1941
3A/Capt. John Creswell, RN19 May 194115 Jul 1942
4A/Capt. John Hamilton Macnair, RN15 Jul 1942Jan 1943
5A/Cdr. William Pope, DSO, RNJan 19432 Jun 1943
6A/Capt. John Hamilton Macnair, RN2 Jun 194322 Nov 1943
7Capt. (retired) Rudolph Henry Fane de Salis, DSC, OBE, RN22 Nov 19434 Nov 1944
8Lt. Reginald Alexander Norsworthy, RN4 Nov 1944

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Notable events involving Southern Prince include:


17 Aug 1940
The auxiliary minelayers Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN), Port Napier (Capt.(Retd.) J.N. Tait, CBE, DSC, RN), Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) for minelaying mission SN 12.

They were escorted by the AA cruiser HMS Cairo (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN).

HMS Firedrake was relieved by HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN) on the 18th (she had sailed from Scapa Flow at 1030/18) after which HMS Firedrake proceeded to Scapa Flow.

The auxiliary minelayers returned to Port ZA shortly before 0100/19 escorted by HMS Inglefield and HMS Echo. HMS Javelin and HMS Jaguar proceeded to Scapa Flow where they arrived at 0630/19. (1)

4 Sep 1940
At 1400 hours the auxiliary minelayers Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN), Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN) departed Port ZA for minelaying mission SN 5A. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN), HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) and HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St. Clair-Ford, RN). (2)

6 Sep 1940
Having completed minelaying mission SN 5A, the auxiliary minelayers Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN), Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN) and their escort, the AA cruiser HMS Cairo (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN), HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) and HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St. Clair-Ford, RN), arrived at Port ZA (Loch Alsh) at 0715 hours.

The destroyers then departed for Scapa Flow where they arrived around 1400 hours. (2)

11 Sep 1940
At 0730/11, the auxiliary minelayers Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN), Port Napier (Capt.(Retd.) J.N. Tait, CBE, DSC, RN), Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) for minelaying mission SN 41.

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Jackal (Cdr. C.L. Firth, MVO, RN), HMS Electra (Lt.Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN), HMS Versatile (Cdr.(Retd.) J.H. Jauncey, RN) and HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN).

They returned to Port ZA at 1300/12. (1)

23 Nov 1940

Laying of minefield SN 11 off Iceland.

Timespan: 23 to 29 November 1940.

The auxiliary minelayers HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd. ) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN) and their destroyer escort made up of HMS Bath (Cdr.(Retd.) A.V. Hemming, RN) and HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) for minelaying mission SN 11 off Iceland.

The destroyer HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN) departed Scapa Flow in the afternoon to rendezvous with the minelaying force off the Butt of Lewis at 2045/23.

Close cover for this minelaying force was provided by the light cruiser HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) which also sailed from Scapa Flow.

A cover force made up of the battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eskimo (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow around 1730/23.

The minelaying force successfully laid the minefield and returned to Port ZA (Loch Alsh) on the 26th minus HMS Keppel which was detached to fuel in Iceland and join the cover force afterwards.

The covering returned to Scapa Flow in the morning of the 29th.

5 Dec 1940

Laying of minefield SN 10A between Iceland and the Faroes.

Timespan: 5 to 10 December 1940.

At 1530/5 the axiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN) and HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd. ) F. Ratsey, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) for minelaying operation SN 10A. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Douglas (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN), HMS Bath (Cdr.(Retd.) A.V. Hemming, RN) and HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN).

At 1730/5 a cover force departed Scapa Flow. It was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN).

Both groups made rendez-vous around 0130/6 in approximate position 60°00'N, 06°00'W.

In the evening of the 7th the minelayers commencing laying minefield SN 10A in Iceland-Faroes gap. Minelaying was completed on the 8th. At total of about 2030 mines had been laid.

The Repulse group was to the north-east of the minelaying to provide cover.

Both forces returned to their bases on December 10th. Weather had been bad and many of the destroyers had sustained some weather damage.

2 Jan 1941

Laying of minefields SN 6 and SN 65.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

The auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN) and HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) to lay two minefields; SN 6 (997 mines) and SN 65 (1028 mines). They were being escorted on departure from Port ZA by the British destroyers HMS Douglas (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN) and the Polish manned former French destroyer Ouragan. Off the Butt of Lewis they were joined by the destroyer HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, RN).

Close cover for the minelayers was provided by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow at 1000A/2.

Distant cover for the minelaying operation was provided by the battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) which was escorted by the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Eskimo (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN) and HMS Electra (Lt.Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN).

Minefield SN 6 was laid on 3 January 1941. It was laid along a line between positions 62°20'5"N, 07°02'0"W and 62°37'8"N, 07°38'6"W. The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 270 mines, HMS Agamemnon 255 mines, HMS Menestheus 196 mines and HMS Port Quebec 276 mines.

Minefield SN 65 was laid on 4 January 1941. It was laid along a line between positions 61°12'0"N, 06°39'0"W and 60°46'6"N, 06°22'5"W. The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 265 mines, HMS Agamemnon 275 mines, HMS Menestheus 214 mines and HMS Port Quebec 274 mines.

The distant cover force arrived at Scapa Flow around 0930A/5.

The minelaying force returned to Port ZA at 1700A/5 minus Ouragan which arrived at Scapa Flow at 1300/5 after having been detached due to shortage of fuel. HMS Beagle then departed almost immediately for the Clyde.

HMS Edinburgh returned to Scapa Flow at 1800A/5.

HMS Douglas and HMS Keppel arrived at Scapa Flow at 2345A/5 having first escorted the minelayers back to Loch Alsh. (3)

4 Feb 1941

Minelaying operation SN 7.

At 1830Z/4, the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) to lay Minefield SN 7. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Brighton (Cdr. (Retd.) C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN), HMS Charlestown (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. (Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN).

Around 2100Z/4, the battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN) departed Scapa Flow to provide distant cover for the operation. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN), HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN) and HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN). On leaving Scapa Flow they were joined by the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) which was to provide close cover for the auxiliary minelayers. HMS Nigeria was already at sea as she had been participating in exercises earlier on the day.

At 0845Z/5, HMS Nigeria parted company with HMS Rodney and her escorting destroyers.

At 1353Z/5, HMS Menestheus exploded a drifting mine in her port paravane which resulted in engine damage. She was unable to proceed and was taken in tow by HMS Agamemnon to return to Port ZA escorted by HMS Charleston and HMS St. Albans. They arrived at Loch Alsh around 1115Z/7.

Mines were laid on the 6th. The intended minefield was now only partially laid.

HMS Rodney, HMS Nigeria, HMS Inglefield, HMS Echo, HMS Electra and HMS Brilliant returned to Scapa Flow around 1530Z/7.

HMS Southern Prince, HMS Port Quebec, HMS Brighton and HMS Lancaster returned to Port ZA around 1730Z/7.

The minefield was completed in a later minelaying operation (SN 7B). (4)

15 Feb 1941

Laying of minefields SN 68A and SN 7B.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

The auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN) and HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) around 1815A/15 to lay two minefields; SN 68A (828 mines) and SN 7B (810 mines). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Brighton (Cdr. (Retd.) C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN), HMS Charlestown (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. C.H.deB. Newby, RN).

They were joined around 0950A/15 by the light cruiser HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow around 0030A/16.

Distant cover was provided by the light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) and HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) which departed Scapa Flow around 0415A/16 and Reykjavik, Iceland at 0900A/14 respectively.

The minefields were laid on 17 February as follows;
SN 68A, made up of 828 mines, was laid along a line between positions 62°45'1"N, 10°46'0"W and 63°00'2"N, 11°15'8"W. The minelayers laid as follows, HMS Southern Prince 282 mines, HMS Agamemnon 272 mines and HMS Port Quebec 274 mines.

SN 7B, made up of 810 mines, was laid along a line between positions 62°59'0"N, 08°23'0"W and 63°13'7"N, 08°54'8"W. The minelayers laid as follows, HMS Southern Prince 280 mines, HMS Agamemnon 257 mines and HMS Port Quebec 273 mines.

HMS Southern Prince, HMS Agamemnon, HMS Port Quebec, HMS Brighton, HMS Charlestown, HMS Lancaster and HMS Echo arrived at Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) on the 18th.

HMS Edinburgh and HMS Nigeria arrived at Scapa Flow around 1630A/18.

HMS Aurora arrived at Scapa Flow around 1915A/18 having parted company with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 1415A/18.

HMS Echo arrived at Scapa Flow around 0800A/19. (5)

9 Mar 1941

Laying of minefield SN 68B.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

Around 1630A/9, the destroyers HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, DSC, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow followed around 1800A/9 by their sister ship HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO and Bar, RN). They were to make rendezous with the 1st Minelaying Squadron in the Minches for escort duty during a minelaying mission.

Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. J.S. Crawford, DSO, RN, RN) and HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) around 1815A/9 to lay minefield SN 68B. They were escorted by the destroyer HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN). At sea they were joined by the three Tribal-class destroyers mentioned above.

The light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) and HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) departed Scapa Flow around 2330A/9 to provide cover. They rendezvoused with the minelayers and their escorts around A/10.

On 11 March the minefield was laid along a line between positions 62°57'1"0N, 11°24'0"W and 63°42'0"N, 12°20'0"W. The minelayers laid as follows, HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, HMS Agamemnon 530 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 548 mines.

The 1st Minelaying Squadron and the four escorting destroyers arrived back at Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) around 2359A/12. HMS Cossack, HMS Maori and HMS Zulu then fuelled and departed 0835A/14 for convoy escort duty (with convoy OB 297).

HMS Edinburgh arrived at Scapa Flow around 1930A/12 followed by HMS Nigeria around 2115A/12. (6)

17 Mar 1941

Minelaying operation SN 69.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

At 1900A/17, the 1st Minelaying Squadron departed Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) for minelaying operation SN 69. The 1st Minelaying Squadron was made up of the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (Cdr. C.L. Firth, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. J.S. Crawford, DSO, RN), and HMS Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Castleton (Cdr. (Retd.) F.H.E. Skyrme, RN), HMS Charlestown (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN).

Around 2300A/17, the light cruisers HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join the 1st Minelaying Squadron for close cover. They made rendezvous with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 0930A/18.

Distant cover for the operation was provided by the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of A/Adm. J.C. Tovey, KCB, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Boadicea (A/Cdr. E.C.L. Turner, RN) and HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN) which were already at sea to the south of Iceland.

Minefield SN 69, made up of 2050 mines, was laid between 1010A/19 and 1405A/19. It was laid along a line between positions 63°44'0"N, 12°07'5"W and 64°32'6"N, 12°47'6"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, HMS Agamemnon 530 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 548 mines.

HMS Galatea and HMS Aurora parted company with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 2000A/20. They arrived at Scapa Flow around 0345A/21.

The 1st Minelaying Squadron and their escorting destroyers returned to Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) at 0759A/21. (7)

25 Mar 1941

Minelaying operation SN 4.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

At 1025A/25, the 1st Minelaying Squadron departed Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) for minelaying operation SN 4. The 1st Minelaying Squadron was made up of the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (Cdr. C.L. Firth, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. J.S. Crawford, DSO, RN), and HMS Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Castleton (Cdr. (Retd.) F.H.E. Skyrme, RN), HMS Charlestown (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN).

Around 0845A/25, the light cruisers HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join the 1st Minelaying Squadron for close cover. They made rendezvous with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 1445A/25.

At 0953A/26, A lone German Focke Wolf Condor aircraft attacked the 1st Minelaying Squadron and HMS Menestheus was hit by two bombs but they fortunately did not explode until clear of the ship. The damage to Menestheus was minor and could be repairs locally.

Minefield SN 4, made up of 2050 mines, was laid between 1130A/26 and 1430A/26. It was laid along a line between positions 60°45'0"N, 06°35'8"W and 60°18'7"N, 06°02'3"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, HMS Agamemnon 530 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 548 mines.

HMS Galatea and HMS Aurora parted company with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 2350A/20. They arrived at Scapa Flow around 0700A/27.

While passing through the Minches the 1st Minelaying Squadron ran into a convoy and as a result HMS Agamemnon and HMS Castleton collided with each other. Both needed to proceed to shipsyards for repairs. HMS Agamemnon first took part in another minelaying mission but she was not able to lay a full outfit of mines.

The 1st Minelaying Squadron and their escorting destroyers returned to Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) at 0731A/27. (8)

5 Apr 1941

Minelaying operation SN 8.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

At 0630A/5, the 1st Minelaying Squadron departed Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) for minelaying operation SN 8. The 1st Minelaying Squadron was made up of the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (Cdr. C.L. Firth, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. J.S. Crawford, DSO, RN), and HMS Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN).

Around 0720A/5, the light cruisers HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join the 1st Minelaying Squadron for close cover. They made rendezvous with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 1230A/5.

Distant cover was provided by the heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker CB, OBE, RN) and HMS Suffolk (Capt. R.M. Ellis, RN). HMS Norfolk had been on the Denmark Strait patrol since 29 March. HMS Suffolk departed Scapa Flow around 1000A/5. HMS Norfolk arrived at Hvalfjord around 0630A/8. HMS Suffolk returned to Scapa Flow around 0820A/8.

Minefield SN 8, made up of 1969 mines, was laid between 1445A/6 and 1815A/6. It was laid along a line between positions 62°38'0"N, 10°08'0"W and 63°15'0"N, 11°29'0"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, HMS Agamemnon 450 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 547 mines. HMS Agamemnon was not able to lay a full outfit of mines due to damage she had sustained during a collision in an earlier minelaying mission.

HMS Galatea and HMS Aurora parted company with the 1st Minelaying Squadron around 0001A/8. They arrived at Scapa Flow around 0640A/8.

The 1st Minelaying Squadron and their escorting destroyers returned to Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) in the morning of the 8th. (9)

23 Apr 1941

Minelaying operation SN 71.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

At 0935/23, the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. J.S. Crawford, DSO, RN, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) and the destroyers HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Brighton (Cdr. (Retd.) C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) departed Loch Alsh (Port Z.A.) for minelaying mission SN 71.

The operation was covered by the light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) and HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN) from the Iceland - Faroer Islands patrol.

The destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) departed from Hvalfjord at 0100/25 to carry out an anti-submarine sweep in the line of advance of the minelayers. On completion of the A/S sweep, they relieved destroyers HMS Achates and HMS Anthony in the screen of the minelayers which then proceeded to Reykjavik.

Minefield SN 71 was laid on the 26th. It was made up as follows;
SN 71A;
between 66°44'9"N, 24°13'7"W and 66°47'5"N, 24°52'0'W

SN 71B;
between 66°56'5"N, 24°01'9"W and 67°14'0"N, 24°01'9"W

SN 71C;
between 67°09'6"N, 23°46'0"W and 67°08'5"N, 23°44'2"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 548 mines.

HMS Edinburgh, HMS Kenya, after the minelay, proceeded to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 29th.

HMS Cossack and HMS Zulu arrived at Scapa Flow at 2130/29.

HMS Southern Prince, HMS Menetheus, HMS Port Quebec, HMS Brighton and HMS St.Marys arrived at Loch Alsh (Port Z.A.) at 1957/29. (6)

14 Mar 1942

Minelaying operation SN 81.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

On 14 March 1942, the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. J. Cresswell, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T.B. Drew, OBE, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt.(Retd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) and HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN) departed Port ZA. (Loch Alsh) to lay minefield SN 84. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN).

They were joined around 1500A/14 by the destroyer HMS St. Marys (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN). The had departed Scapa Flow around 0900A/14.

Cover for the operation was provided by the AA cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow around 1800A/14. She joined the 1st Minelaying Squadron the following morning.

Rendezvous was made around 1300A/15 with the survey vessel HMS Scott (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Sharpey-Schafer, RN) which had been deployed to the position of the minelay to archive extreme accuracy for the upcoming minelay which commenced shortly afterwards.

A total of 2053 mines were laid along a line joining positions
62°18'2"N, 07°42'2"W,
62°26'3"N, 07°56'3"W,
62°30'3"N, 08°04'8"W and
62°37'7"N, 08°17'7"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, Agamemnon 530 mines, HMS Menestheus 410 mines and HMS Port Quebec 551 mines.

Depth of the mines was 18 to 20 feet. One premature explosion was seen.

The 1st Minelaying Squadron, including HMS St. Marys arrived back at Port ZA on 16 March as did HMS Charybdis and HMS Ledbury which arrived at Scapa Flow also on the 16th. (10)

29 Mar 1942

Minelaying operation SN 87.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

On 29 March 1942, the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. J. Cresswell, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T.B. Drew, OBE, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt.(Retd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) and HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) to lay minefield SN 84. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS St. Marys (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN), HMS Castleton (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Bristowe, DSO, RN) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN).

Off the Butt of Lewis they were joined by the AA cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow earlier that day.

On 30 March a total of 2030 mines were laid along a line joining positions

248 of these were laid between positions 62°18'2"N, 07°55'6"W and 62°27'9"N, 08°17'5"W.

The remaining lines were laid within 3 cables either side of a line joining positions
62°27'9"N, 08°15'8"W,
62°31'5"N, 08°23'5"W,
62°35'6"N, 08°30'7"W and
62°45'8"N, 08°49'0"W.

The minelayers laid as follows; HMS Southern Prince 562 mines, Agamemnon 508 mines, HMS Menestheus 408 mines and HMS Port Quebec 550 mines.

The First Minelaying Squadron arrived back at Port HHZ on 31 March as did HMS Charybdis at Scapa Flow. (10)

17 Apr 1942

Minelaying operation SN 88.

Minelaying operation by the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

On 17 April 1942, the 1st Minelaying Squadron departed Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) to lay minefield SN 88. The Squadron was made up of the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. J. Cresswell, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T.B. Drew, OBE, RN), Port Quebec (Capt.(Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), Menestheus (Capt.(Retd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN), Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN), the destroyers HMS Charlestown (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN), HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN), HMS Saladin (Lt.Cdr. G.V. Legassick, RNR), HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RNR) and the minesweeper / survey vessel HMS Scott (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Sharpey-Schafer, RN).

They were joined at 1815B/17 by the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN).

Due to the difference in depth of water the minefield had to be laid in two sections;
The first section was made up of 972 mines and was laid by HMS Southern Prince and HMS Menestheus between 1627B/18 and 1813B/18, along a line 1.5 cables either side of a line joining positions, 62°46'3"N, 09°32'0"W and 63°05'5"N, 10°05'8"W. HMS Southern Prince laid 562 mines and HMS Menestheus 410 mines.

The second section was made up of 1081 mines and was laid by HMS Port Quebec and HMS Agamemnon between 1813B/18 and 2010B/18, along a line 1.5 cables either side of a line joining positions 63°05'6"N, 10°04'0"W, 63°12'8"N, 10°16'4"W and 63°22'8"N, 10°48'5"W. HMS Port Quebec laid 551 mines and HMS Agamemnon 530 mines.

At 2230B/19, HMS Kenya, HMS Menestheus and HMS Saladin parted company with the other ships which returned to Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh early on the following day minus HMS Scott which arrived at Port Z.A. on 21 April.

At 0510B/20, HMS Kenya parted company with HMS Menestheus and HMS Saladin and arrived at Scapa Flow around 0645B/20.

HMS Menestheus and HMS Saladin arrived at Port Z.A. (Loch Alsh) later the same day. [unclear to us why they first went further to the east though.]

(11)

27 Jun 1942

Convoy operations PQ 17 / QP 13

Convoys to and from Northern Russia

On 27 June 1942 Convoy PQ 17 departed Reykjavik Iceland bound for northern Russia. This convoy was made up of the following merchant ships;

American
Alcoa Ranger (5116 GRT, built 1919), Bellingham (5345 GRT, built 1920), Benjamin Harrison (7191 GRT, built 1942), Carlton (5127 GRT, built 1920), Christopher Newport (7191 GRT, built 1942), Daniel Morgan (7177 GRT, built 1942), Exford (4969 GRT, built 1919), Fairfield City (5686 GRT, built 1920), Honomu (6977 GRT, built 1919), Hoosier (5060 GRT, built 1920), Ironclad (5685 GRT, built 1919), John Witherspoon (7191 GRT, built 1942), Olopana (6069 GRT, built 1920), Pan Atlantic (5411 GRT, built 1919), Pan Kraft (5644 GRT, built 1919), Peter Kerr (6476 GRT, built 1920), Richard Bland (7191 GRT, built 1942), Washington (5564 GRT, built 1919), West Gotomska (5728 GRT, built 1919), William Hooper (7177 GRT, built 1942), Winston-Salem (6223 GRT, built 1920),

British
Bolton Castle (5203 GRT, built 1939), Earlston (7195 GRT, built 1941), Empire Byron (6645 GRT, built 1941), Empire Tide (6978 GRT, built 1941), Hartlebury (5082 GRT, built 1934), Navarino (4841 GRT, built 1937), Ocean Freedom (7173 GRT, built 1942), River Afton (5479 GRT, built 1935), Samuel Chase (7191 GRT, built 1942), Silver Sword (4937 GRT, built 1920),

Dutch
Paulus Potter (7168 GRT, built 1942),

Panamanian
El Capitan (5255 GRT, built 1917), Troubadour (6428 GRT, built 1920),

The Russian tankers Azerbaidjan (6114 GRT, built 1932), Donbass (7925 GRT, built 1935),

The British (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941).

Also with the convoy was a British rescue ship
Zaafaran (1559 GRT, built 1921).

The US merchants Exford and West Gotomska had to return both arrived back damaged at Reykjavik on 30 June. The first one due to ice damage and the second one due to damaged engines.

Escort was provided by the minesweepers HMS Britomart (Lt.Cdr. S.S. Stammwitz, RN), HMS Halcyon (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Corbet-Singleton, DSC, RN), HMS Salamander (Lt. W.R. Muttram, RN), A/S trawlers HMS Ayrshire (T/Lt. L.J.A. Gradwell, RNVR), HMS Lord Austin (T/Lt. O.B. Egjar, RNR), HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR) and HMS Northern Gem (Skr.Lt. W.J.V. Mullender, DSC, RD, RNR) and the submarine HMS P 615 (Lt. P.E. Newstead, RN).

The convoy was joined at sea by a close escort force made up of the following warships; destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN / in command of the close escort of the convoy) , HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Ewing, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt. B.M.D. L’Anson, RN), escort destroyers HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN), HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN), corvettes HMS Lotus (Lt. H.J. Hall, RNR), HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.G. Rankin, RNR), HMS La Malouine (T/Lt. V.D.H. Bidwell, RNR), Auxiliary AA ships HMS Palomares (A/Capt.(rtd.) J.H. Jauncey, RN) and HMS Pozarica (A/Capt.(rtd.) E.D.W. Lawford, RN) and submarine HMS P 614 (Lt. D.J. Beckley, RN). Also two more British rescue ships sailed with this force to join the convoy at sea; Rathlin (1600 GRT, built 1936) and Zamalek (1567 GRT, built 1921).

The RFA tanker Grey Ranger, which was to fuel the escorts, was now sailing independent from the convoy, she was escorted by the destroyer HMS Douglas (Lt.Cdr. R.B.S. Tennant, RN). Another RFA tanker, the Aldersdale, had now joined the convoy. It had originally been intended that the Aldersdale would take the role the Grey Ranger was now performing but Grey Ranger had been damaged by ice to the north of Iceland so both tankers swapped roles.

Meanwhile on June 26th the Archangel section of the return convoy QP 13 had departed that port. This section was made up of 22 merchant ships;

American
American Press (5131 GRT, built 1920), American Robin (5172 GRT, built 1919), Hegira (7588 GRT, built 1919), Lancaster (7516 GRT, built 1918), Massmar (5828 GRT, built 1920), Mormacrey (5946 GRT, built 1919), Yaka (5432 GRT, built 1920),

British
Chulmleigh (5445 GRT, built 1938), Empire Mavis (5704 GRT, built 1919), Empire Meteor (7457 GRT, built 1940), Empire Stevenson (6209 GRT, built 1941), St. Clears (4312 GRT, built 1936),

Dutch
Pieter de Hoogh (7168 GRT, built 1941),

Panamanian
Capira (5625 GRT, built 1920), Mount Evans (5598 GRT, built 1919),

Russian
Alma Ata (3611 GRT, built 1920), Archangel (2480 GRT, built 1929), Budenni (2482 GRT, built 1923), Komiles (3962 GRT, built 1932), Kuzbass (3109 GRT, built 1914), Petrovski (3771 GRT, built 1921), Rodina (4441 GRT, built 1922), Stary Bolshevik (3794 GRT, built 1933)

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN), ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. H. Eibel), the corvettes HMS Starwort (Lt.Cdr. N.W. Duck, RD, RNR), HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), the auxiliary AA ship HMS Alynbank (A/Capt.(rtd.) H.F. Nash, RN) and a local escort of four minesweepers; HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, DSO, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), HMS Leda (A/Cdr.(rtd.) A.H. Wynne-Edwards, RN) and HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN).

the next day (27th) the Murmask section of convoy QP 13 also went to sea. This was made up of 12 merchant ships;

American
City of Omaha (6124 GRT, built 1920), Heffron (7611 GRT, built 1919), Hybert (6120 GRT, built 1920), John Randolph (7191 GRT, built 1941), Mauna Kea (6064 GRT, built 1919), Nemaha (6501 GRT, built 1920), Richard Henry Lee (7191 GRT, built 1941),

British
Atlantic (5414 GRT, built 1939), Empire Baffin (6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Selwyn (7167 GRT, built 1941),

Panamanian
Exterminator (6115 GRT, built 1924), Michigan (6419 GRT, built 1920),

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Cdr. A.G. West, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, DSO, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN), the minesweepers HMS Niger (Cdr.ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN), the corvettes HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, RN), FFS Roselys and the A/S trawlers Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, RNVR) and St. Elstan (Lt. R.M. Roberts, RNR). Also three Russian destroyers (Grozniy, Gremyashchiy and Valerian Kyubishev) joined the escort of convoy QP 13 as far as 30 degrees East.

To cover these convoy operations a close cover force departed Seidisfjord, Iceland around midnight during the night of 30 June / 1 July to take up a position to the north of convoy PQ 17. This force was made up of the British heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN), as well as the American heavy cruisers USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. L.P. Johnson, USN) and USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN). They were escorted by the British destroyer HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN) and the American destroyers USS Rowan (Lt.Cdr. B.R. Harrison, Jr., USN) and USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN).

A distant cover force had meanwhile sailed from Scapa Flow late on the 29th to take up a cover position north-east of Jan Mayen Island. This force was made up of battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, with the Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, Admiral Sir J. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN on board), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, with Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN on board), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, with Vice-Admiral Sir B. Fraser, CB, KBE, RN, second in command Home Fleet on board), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, AM, RN), light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN, Capt. 8th Destroyer Flotilla), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN) and HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN). The destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN, Capt. 17th Destroyer Flotilla), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), USS Mayrant (Cdr. C.C. Hartman, USN) and USS Rhind (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Read, USN) meanwhile arrived at Seidisfiord, Iceland from Scapa Flow to fuel before joining the Battlefleet at sea later.

Earlier on the 29th Force X, which was to act as a decoy convoy to fool the Germans, had departed Scapa Flow. This force was made up of; the auxiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. J. Cresswell, RN), Agamemnon (Capt.(rtd.) F. Ratsey, RN) , Port Quebec (A/Capt.(rtd.) V. Hammersley-Heenan, RN) , Menestheus (Capt.(rtd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN) and four merchant vessels (colliers ?). They were escorted by the light cruisers Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN), Curacoa (Capt. J.W. Boutwood, RN), minelayer Adventure (Capt. N.V. Grace, RN), destroyers Brighton (Cdr.(rtd). C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN), St. Marys (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN), HMAS Nepal (Cdr. F.B. Morris, RAN), HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Kruys. RNethN), the escort destroyers Oakley (Lt.Cdr. T.A. Pack-Beresford, RN), Catterick (Lt. A. Tyson, RN), and 4 A/S trawlers. This force sailed eastward twice, on 30 June and 2 July, to about position 61°30’N, 01°30’E but was not spotted by the Germans.

First contact with the enemy occurred on 1 July 1942 when escorts from convoy PQ 17 twice attacked German submarines that were spotted on the surface several miles from the convoy. These were U-456 that was depth charged by HMS Ledbury and sustained light damage and U-657 that was depth charged by HMS Ledbury and HMS Leamington, she sustained no damage. That evening convoy PQ 17 also suffered its first attack from the air. Nine torpedo aircraft approached the convoy at about 1800 hours in position 73°30’N, 04°00’E. Some dropped torpedoes but they exploded wide of the convoy. One aircraft was shot down, most likely by the destroyer USS Rowan which was en-route from the cruiser force to the convoy to fuel from the Aldersdale.

The next night the convoy ran into for which persisted until the forenoon of the 3rd. In the afternoon of 2 July, U-255 made a torpedo attack on one of the escorts, HMS Fury, two torpedoes were fire but both missed. Fury then counter attacked with depth charges but U-255 sustained no damage. At more or less the same time U-376 was also depth charged by two or three escorts, she was not damaged. Shortly afterwards U-334 was also depth charged but she also escaped without damage.

On the 3rd several U-Boats were in contact for short periods but three were driven off by the escorts in the afternoon. When the mist cleared shadowing aircraft soon regained contact on the convoy.

By the early morning of the 4th convoy PQ 17 was about 60 nautical miles north of Bear Island where it sustained its first loss. Just before 0500 hours the new American merchant vessel Christopher Newport was torpedoed by a single aircraft. Damage was serious and the ship was finished off by the British submarine HMS P 614 which was part of the convoys escort while the rescue ship Zamalek took off the crew. The ship however remained afloat and was finally finished off by U-457.

In the evening of the 4th German aircraft made a successful attack on the convoy hitting the British merchant vessel Navarino, the American merchant William Hooper and the Russian tanker Azerbaidjan. The Azerbaidjan was able to proceed at 9 knots and in the end reached port. The other two ships had to be sunk, most of their crews were picked up by the rescue vessels. William Hooper in fact remained afloat and was finally finished off by U-334.

The situation was now as follows. Convoy PQ 17 was now about 130 nautical miles north-east of Bear Island and had just come through the heavy air attack remarkably well. The convoy discipline and shooting had been admirable and a substantial toll had been taken on the enemy. Rear-Admiral Hamilton was still covering the convoy with his cruiser force some ten miles to the north-eastward, with orders by the Admiralty to do so until ordered otherwise. Some 350 miles to the westward the main cover force was cruising in the area south-west of Spitzbergen.

Now turning to the Germans. The approval of the Führer to sail the heavy ships to attack the convoy had still not been obtained. The Tirpitz and Admiral Hipper meanwhile had joined the Admiral Scheer at the Alternfjord but noting further could be done without the Führer’s approval.

Meanwhile at the Admiralty it was known that German heavy surface units had gone to sea from Trondheim (battleships Tirpitz and heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper) and Narvik (pocket battleships Lützow and Admiral Scheer) but they had not been detected at sea. Fearing an attack on the convoy by these ships was imminent the convoy was ordered to scatter at 2123/4. Shortly before that the close cover force had been ordered to withdraw to the west as it was obviously no match for the German heavy ships.

The Admiralty decision was conveyed to Rear-Admiral Hamilton in the following three signals;
Most immediate. Cruiser force withdraw to the west at high speed. (2111B/4)
Most immediate. Owning to threat of surface ships, convoy is to disperse and to proceed to Russian ports. (2123B/4)
Most immediate. My 2323B/4. Convoy is to scatter. (2136B/4)
To Rear-Admiral Hamilton these signals could only mean that further information the admiralty had been hoping for had indeed come in and was of such a nature as to render imperative the drastic measures now ordered. Actually the reason for use of high speed by the cruisers was due to the massing of enemy submarines between 11°E and 20°E and the order to scatter was intended merely as a technical amendment of the term disperse that was used in the previous signal. This could not be known by the recipients, and the cumulative effect of these three signals – especially as the last one had a more important marking as the middle one – was to imply that pressing danger was actually upon them. As Commander Broome put it he expected to see the cruisers open fire and the enemy’s mast appear on the horizon at any moment. In this belief he decided to take the destroyers of his escort group to reinforce the cruiser force, and ordered the two submarines to stay near the convoy when it scattered and to try to attack the enemy, while the rest of the escorting ships were to proceed independently to Archangel.

At 2215/4 Commander Broome passed the signal to scatter to Commodore Dowding. The convoy was then in position 75°55’N, 27°52’E. Commander Broome then departed with the destroyers of the close screen to join the cruiser force of Rear-Admiral Hamilton.

Rear-Admiral Hamilton received the Admiralty orders at 2200/4. HMS Norfolk had just flown off her aircraft on an ice patrol. He therefore stood to the eastward for half an hour while attemps were made to recall it but these were without success and at 2230 hours the force turned to a westerly course at 25 knots steering to pass to the southward of the convoy so as to be between it and the probable direction of the enemy. An hour later they passed the merchant vessels which were now on widely divergent courses.

Rear-Admiral Hamilton was much concerned at the effect of the apparent desertion of the merchant ships had on morale. Had he been aware that the Admiralty had no further information of the enemy heavy units then he himself possessed he would have remained in a covering position until the convoy was widely dispersed.

As time went on without further developments Rear-Admiral Hamilton became more and more puzzled as to what have led to the sudden scattering of the convoy. But whatever the reason, the orders for his own force were clear, so he remained his westerly course at 25 knots. Thick fog was encountered soon after midnight, which persisted with brief intervals till 0630/5. Commander Broome, equally mystified by the course of events, soon began to feel that his place was with the merchant ships but he thought Rear-Admiral Hamilton was acting on fuller information then himself. As soon as the fog lifted sufficiently for visual signalling he informed the Rear-Admiral of his last hurried instructions to PQ 17 and requested that they should be amplified or amended as nessesary.

Actually Rear-Admiral Hamilton, who was still under the impression that enemy surface forces were in close proximity, argued that once the convoy had been scattered the enemy would leave it to their air forces and submarines to deal with it (and this was exactly what the Germans did). He feared the enemy surface forces would be ordered to deal with his force and reinforced by Commander Broome’s destroyers he felt that he could fight a delaying action, and had a good chance of leading the enemy within reach of the aircraft of HMS Victorious and possibly the heavy ships of the force of the Commander-in-Chief.

At 0700/5, while in position 75°40’N, 16°00’E, Rear-Admiral Hamilton reduced to 20 knots and at 0930 hours set course for Jan Mayen Island. It was not until that forenoon that the situation as regards the enemy heavy ships was made clear to him. Meanwhile he had to decide what to do with Commander Broome’s destroyers. Accordingly he ordered them to fuel from HMS London and HMS Norfolk. By 1630 hours the fueling of HMS Ledbury, HMS Wilton, USS Rowan and HMS Keppel had been completed. At 1740 hours a German Focke Wulf aircraft made contact and correctly reported the force in position 74°30’N, 07°40’E. Having been located, Rear-Admiral Hamilton broke wireless silence and at 1830/5 informed the Commander-in-Chief of his position, course, speed and the composition of his force. This was the first time the Commander-in-Chief was informed of the fact the Commander Broome’s destroyers with with the force of Rear-Admiral Hamilton, a fact which he regretted.

The Commander-in-Chief, having spent 4 July cruising about 150 nautical miles north-west of Bear Island, had turned to the south-westward in the early morning of the 5th, and was then on his way back to Scapa Flow some 120 nautical miles south-west of the force of Rear-Admiral Hamilton. Shortly afterwards there came news at last of the German heavy ships. The Russian submarine K-21 reported at 1700/5 the Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer and eight destroyers in position 71°25’N, 23°40’E, steering course 045°. She claimed to have hit the Tirpitz with two torpedoes. An hour or so later, at 1816 hours, a reconnoitring aircraft reported eleven strange ships in position 71°31’N, 27°10’E steering 065°, speed 10 knots. And finally HMS P 54 (Lt. C.E. Oxborrow, DSC, RN), at 2029/5 reported the Tirpitz and Admiral Hipper escorted by at least six destroyers and eight aircraft in position 71°30’N, 28°40’E steering a course of 060° at a speed of 22 knots.

Actually the cruise of the German ships was of short duration. Hitler’s permission to lauch the operation had only been obtained in the forenoon of the 5th and the executive order was given at 1137 hours. Rear-Admiral Hamilton’s cruisers were then known to be moving to the westward and Admiral Tovey’s covering force was some 450 miles away from the convoy. It seemed there would be no immediate danger for the German heavy ships provided they could approach the merchant ships unseen and engage them for a time as short as possible. But the Allied sighting reports were intercepted and the Naval Staff calculated that Admiral Tovey would be able to close sufficiently to launch an air attack before they would be able to return to port I they continued operations against the merchant ships after 0100/6. Air and U-boat attacks were meanwhile taking a heavy toll on the convoy and it did not seem that it was worth the risk. At 2132/5 orders were given to abandon the operation. At 2152 hours, while in position 71°38’N, 31°05’E the German ships reversed course and returned to Altafjord.

During the night of 5/6 July the Admiralty made three signals to the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet suggesting that the Tirpitz might be ‘reluctant to go as far as the convoy’ if the battlefleet was sighted steering to the eastward, and that aircraft from HMS Victorious might be able to attack her if she had ben damaged by the Russian submarines. The latter appeared to Admiral Tovey unlikely, for as it seemed certain that the Tirpitz, especially if damaged, would not be sailed down the Norwegian coast until adequate fighter cover and seaward reconnaissance were available. However, arrangements were made for the fleet to reverse its course if the approach of enemy aircraft was detected and at 0645/6 course was altered back to the north-eastward. An hour later an enemy aircraft passed over the fleet above the clouds but endeavours to attract its attention by gunfire and fighters were unsuccessful. That forenoon Rear-Admiral Hamilton’s force joined the fleet at 1040/6. Weather was unsuitable for air reconnaissance and Admiral Tovey felt that nothing was to be gained by continuing to the north-eastward. Rear-Admiral Hamilton’s cruisers and eight destroyers were detached to Seidisfjord at 1230 hours and the battlefleet turned to the southward again shortly afterwards. All ships reached harbour on the 8th.

The last news of the enemy ships came on 7 July, when a British aircraft working from Vaenga, near Murmansk, reported the Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper and some destroyers followed by an oiler from a neighbouring fjord turning out of Lang Fjord in Arnoy (70°N, 20°30’E). By this time the Allied ships were well on their way home but an attempt to attack the enemy was once again made by submarines. Anticipating their return to Narvik, HMS Sturgeon (Lt. M.R.G. Wingfield, RN) and FFS Minerve (Lt. P.M. Sonneville) had been ordered on 6 July to leave the main patrol line and to patrol to the mouth of the Vest Fjord on the 7th and the 8th, one at a time, in case the Tirpitz should pass on the outside of the Lofoten Islands, owning to her heavy draught due to possible damage. Nothing came of this, however, nor of a further patrol carried out by HMS Sturgeon on the night of 9/10 July close inshore some 70 nautical miles north of Trondheim in case of any German ships going to that port.

Now back to the ships of convoy PQ 17. The sudden order to scatter came to Commodore Dowding as an unpleasant surprise. Like Rear-Admiral Hamilton and Commander Broome he did not doubt that it heralded the immediate appearance of enemy heavy ships, and as the escorting destroyers parted company to join the cruisers, he signalled to HMS Keppel ‘Many thanks, goodbye and good hunting’ to which Commander Broome replied ‘It’s a grim business leaving you here’. It was indeed a grim business and the gravity of the situation was clear to all. Weather attack by surface craft developed in a few minutes or by aircraft and submarines during the next few days, the plight of the individual merchant ships – deprived of mutual support of their escort - was parlous in the extreme.

The convoy scattered as laid down in the instructions, in perfect order, though it must have been apparent to the ships that had to turn to the south-west that they were heading towards where the most trouble might be expected. The merchant ships proceeded mostly alone, or in groups of two or three. The anti-aircraft ships HMS Palomares and HMS Pozarica each took charge of a group, each collecting also two or three minesweepers or corvettes to act as a screen. They joined company the next day and proceeded towards Novaya Zemlya. HMS Salamander accompanied two merchantmen and a rescue ship. HMS Daniella was escorting the submarines, HMS P 614 and HMS P 615. She stood them clear of the convoy, when they separated to patrol in its wake, while the corvette went on by itself. At first the different groups spread on courses ranging from north to east, a few steering afterwards for Archangel, most seeking shelter in Novaya Zemlya. But less than half the merchant ships reached even ‘horrid Zembla’s frozen realms’, for 17 in addition to the oiler Aldersdale and the rescue ship Zaafaran were sunk during the next three days by bombing aircraft and U-boats. The bulk of the losses took place on the 5th while the ships were still far to the north, six being sunk by bombs and six were torpedoed by submarines. One ship was bombed on the 6th. Four were torpedoed by U-boats off the south-west coast of Novaya Zemlya between the evening of the 6th and the early morning of the 8th.

By the 7th of July, most of the escort, the rescue ship Zamalek and five merchant ships, the Ocean Freedom, Hoosier, Benjamin Harrison, El Capitan and Samual Chase, had reached Matochkin Strait. Commodore Dowding, whose ship the River Afton had been sunk by a U-boat on the 5th, arrived in HMS Lotus, which had rescued him and 36 survivors, including the Master after 3.5 hours on rafts and floats. After a conference on board HMS Palomares, these merchantmen were formed into a convoy into a convoy and sailed that evening, escorted by the two AA ships, HMS Halcyon, HMS Salamander, HMS Britomart, HMS Poppy, HMS Lotus and HMS La Malouine and three A/S trawlers. The Benjamin Harrison soon got separated in fog and returned to the Matochkin Strait but the remainder were still in company when the fog temporarily cleared during the forenoon of the 8th, and course was shaped to pass east and south of Kolguyev Island. It was an anxious passage, much fog and ice was encountered and U-boats were known to be about. From time to time boatloads of survivors from other ships already sunk were encountered and picked up. A remainder of the fate that might be in store for any of them. During the night of 9-10 July some 40 bombers carried out high level attacks on this small convoy. The attacks lasted for four hours, the Hoosier and El Capitan were sunk by near misses some 60 nautical miles north of Cape Kanin. Four aircraft are believed to have been shot down. The attacks ended at 0230/10 and half an hour later two Russian flying boats appeared. The surviving ships arrived at Archangel the next day, 11 July. Three ships out of thirty-seven were now in port, not a very successful convoy so far. Things were however not that bad as Commodore Dowding thought at that moment. The rescue ship Rathlin with two merchant ships, the Donbass and the Bellingham had arrived on the 9th, having shot down an aircraft the day before, and before long the news of other ships sheltering in Novaya Zemlya came in.

At his special request, Commodore Dowding, despite all he had been through, left Archangel in HMS Poppy on 16 July, in company with HMS Lotus and HMS La Malouine, to form these merchant ships into a convoy and bring them to Archangel. After a stormy passage they arrived at Byelushya Bay on the 19th. There 12 survivors from the merchant Olopana were found. During the day the coast was searched and in the evening the Winston Salem was found agound and later the Empire Tide was found at anchor. The next morning Motochkin Strait was entered and five merchant ships were found at anchor, the Benjamin Harrison, Silver Sword, Troubadour, Ironclad and the Azerbaidjan. A Russian icebreaker (the Murman) was also there as was a Russian trawler (the Kerov). Also, one of the escorts of convoy PQ 17 was found there, the British A/S trawler Ayrshire.

Commodore Dowding wasted no time. A conference was held that forenoon and in the evening all ships sailed, the Commodore leading in the Russian icebreaker Murman. The Empire Tide, which had a lot of survivors from sunken ships aboard joined the convoy early the next day. The Winston Salem was however still aground with two Russian tugs standing by. Much fog was encountered during the passage which was uneventful except for two U-boat alarms. The escort was reinforced by HMS Pozarica, HMS Bramble, HMS Hazard, HMS Leda, HMS Dianella and two Russian destroyers on the 22th. The convoy arrived safe at Archangel on the 24th.

Four days later (on the 28th) the Winston Salem was finally refloated. She managed reached harbour as the last ship of the ill-fated PQ 17 convoy making a total of 11 survivors out of a total of 35 ships. It was realised afterwards by the Admiralty that the decision to scatter the convoy had been premature.

The disastrous passage of convoy PQ 17 tended to throw into the background the fortunes of the westbound convoy, QP 13. This convoy of 35 ships sailed in two parts from Archangel and Murmansk and joined at sea on 28 June under Commodore N.H. Gale. Thick weather prevailed during most of the passage, but the convoy was reported by enemy aircraft on 30 June while still east of Bear Island and again on 2 July. No attacks developed, the enemy focus was on the eastbound convoy. That afternoon the ill-fated convoy PQ 17 was passed.

After an uneventful passage, convoy QP 13 divided off the north-east coast of Iceland on 4 July. Commodore Gale with 16 merchant ships turned south for Loch Ewe while the remaining 9 merchant ships continued round the north coast of Iceland for Reykjavik. At 1900/5 these ships formed into a five column convoy. They were escorted by HMS Niger (SO), HMS Hussar, FFL Roselys, HMS Lady Madeleine and HMS St. Elstan. They were now approaching the north-west corner of Iceland. The weather was overcast, visibility about one mile, wind north-east, force 8, sea rough. No sights had been obtained since 1800/2 and the convoys position was considerably in doubt. At 1910/5 Commander Cubison (C.O. HMS Niger) suggested that the front of the convoy should be reduced to two columns in order to pass between Straumnes and the minefield off the north-west coast of Iceland. This was the first the convoy Commodore had heard of the existence of this minefield. Soon afterwards, Commander Cubison gave his estimated position at 2000/5 as 66°45’N, 22°22’W and suggested altering course 222° for Straumnes Point at that time. This was done. About two hours later, at 2200 hours, HMS Niger which had gone ahead to try to make landfall leaving HMS Hussar as a visual link with the convoy, sighted what she took to be North Cape bearing 150° at a range of one mile and ordered the course of the convoy to be altered to 270°. Actually what HMS Niger sighted was a large iceberg but this was not realised for some time. At 2240/5 HMS Niger blew up and sank with heavy loss of life, including Commander Cubison. Five minutes later a last signal from her, explaining her mistaken landfall and recommending a return to course 222° was handed to the convoy Commodore. But it was too late, already explosions were occurring amongst the merchant ships. The westerly course had led the convoy straight into the minefield. Considerable confusion prevailed, some thinking that a U-boat attack was in progress, other imagining a surface raider. Four ships were sunk, the Heffron, Hybert, Massmar and the Rodina and two were seriously damaged, the John Randolph and the Exterminator. Good rescue work was carried out by the escorts, especially the FFL Roselys which picked up 179 survivors from various ships. Meanwhile HMS Hussar had obtained a shore fix, led out the remaining merchant ships, which reformed on a southerly course for Reykjavik where they arrived without further misadventure.

7 Jun 1944

Convoy EWP 1.

This convoy departed Portsmouth on 7 June 1944 and arrived on 8 June 1944 off the Normandy beaches.

It was made up of the transports; Batavier II (Dutch, 1573 GRT, built 1920), Biarritz (British, 2388 GRT, built 1915), Cameronia (British, 16297 GRT, built 1920), Devonshire (British, 11275 GRT, built 1939), Empire Arquebus (British, 7177 GRT, built 1944), Empire Crossbow (British, 7177 GRT, built 1944), Leopoldville (Belgian, 11509 GRT, built 1929), Neuralia (British, 9182 GRT, built 1912), New Bedford (British, 1595 GRT, built 1928) and Worcestershire (British, 11402 GRT, built 1931).

The depot / headquarters ships, HMS Adventure (A/Capt. A.M. Sheffield, RN), HMS Despatch (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN) and Southern Prince (Capt. (Retd.) R.H.F. de Salis, DSC, OBE, RN) were also with this convoy.

The convoy was escorted by the escort destroyer HMS Eglinton (Lt.Cdr. F.M. Graves, RN), sloops HMS Redpole (Lt.Cdr. I.M. Carrs, RN), HMS Stork (Cdr.(Retd.) G.W.E. Castens, DSO, RN) and the frigates HMS Duff (T/A/Lt.Cdr. F. Brock, RCNVR) and HMS Hotham (A/Lt.Cdr. S. Ayles, RNR).

Sources

  1. ADM 199/376 + ADM 199/378
  2. ADM 199/376
  3. ADM 53/114198 + ADM 199/411 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  4. ADM 53/115026 + ADM 53/114794 + ADM 199/411
  5. ADM 53/ + ADM 53 + ADM 53/ + ADM 199/396 + ADM 199/399 + ADM 199/411 + ADM 234/560+ ADM 234/561
  6. ADM 199/396 + ADM 199/399 + ADM 199/411 + ADM 234/650 + ADM 234/651
  7. ADM 53/113672 + ADM 53/114302 + ADM 53/114490 + ADM 53/11476 + ADM 199/396 + ADM 199/399 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  8. ADM 53/113672 + ADM 53/114302 + ADM 199/409 + ADM 199/411 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  9. ADM 53/113673 + ADM 53/114303 + ADM 53/114809 + ADM 53/115098 + ADM 199/409 + ADM 199/411 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  10. ADM 53/115572 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  11. ADM 53/116122 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561

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


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