Allied Warships

HMS Carnarvon Castle (F 25)

Armed Merchant Cruiser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeArmed Merchant Cruiser
Class[No specific class] 
PennantF 25 
Built byHarland & Wolff Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Ireland) 
Laid down 
Launched14 Jan 1926 
Commissioned9 Oct 1939 
End service29 Nov 1943 

On 8 September 1939 the passenger ship Carnarvon Castle of the Union-Castle Mail SS Co Ltd, London was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 9 October 1939.

Displacement: 20122 BRT
Armament: 8x 152mm, 2x 76mm
Speed: 18 knots

October 39 - April 40: South Atlantic Station
May 40 - June 41: Freetown Escort Force
July 41 - April 42: South Atlantic Station
May 42: Western Patrol
June 42 - April 43: South Atlantic Station
May 43 - November 43: West Africa Command

On 29 November 1943 returned and used as troopship by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). In March 1947 returned to owner. 1962 scrapped.


Commands listed for HMS Carnarvon Castle (F 25)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

1Capt. (retired) George Bridges Lewis, RN30 Aug 193919 May 1940
2Capt. Martin John Coucher de Meric, RN19 May 194030 May 1940
3Capt. (retired) Henry Noel Marryat Hardy, DSO, RN30 May 194010 Apr 1942
4Capt. (retired) Edward Wollaston Kitson, RN10 Apr 1942late 1943

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Notable events involving Carnarvon Castle include:

27 Dec 1939

Convoy SLF 14.

This convoy departed Freetown on 27 December 1939.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Accra (British, 9337 GRT, built 1926), Cambridge (British, 11373 GRT, built 1914), City of Brisbane (British, 8006 GRT, built 1920), Clan Mackinlay (British, 6365 GRT, built 1918), Corinaldo (British, 7131 GRT, built 1921), Port Caroline (British, 8263 GRT, built 1919), Port Wellington (British, 10065 GRT, built 1924) and Seaforth (British, 5459 GRT, built 1939).

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) G.B. Lewis, RN).

Around 1615N/1, the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (Capt. F.E.P. Hutton, RN) joined the convoy.

Around 0800Z/8, the destroyers HMS Vesper (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), HMS Viscount (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, RN), HMS Windsor (Lt.Cdr. P.D.H.R. Pelly, RN) and HMS Acasta (Cdr. C.E. Glasfurd, RN) joined the convoy.

Around 0900Z/8, HMS Carnarvon Castle parted company with the convoy to return to Freetown.

Around 1530Z/8, the convoy split into two sections and shortly afterwards HMS Hermes parted company with the convoy to proceed to Plymouth escorted by HMS Windsor and HMS Acasta.

16 Jan 1940

Convoy SL 17.

This convoy departed Freetown on 16 January 1940 for the Liverpool where it arrived on 4 February 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Clumberhall (British, 5198 GRT, built 1930), Harpasa (British, 5082 GRT, built 1932), Hawnby (British, 5380 GRT, built 1936), King Edgar (British, 4536 GRT, built 1327), Loch Ranza (British, 4958 GRT, built 1934), Marconi (British, 7402 GRT, built 1917), Northmoor (British, 4392 GRT, built 1928), Oswerty Grange (British, 4684 GRT, built 1935), River Lugar (British, 5423 GRT, built 1937), Salvus (British, 4815 GRT, built 1928), Stonepool (British, 4803 GRT, built 1928) and Thomas Holt (British, 3585 GRT, built 1929).

Escort was provided on leaving Freetown by the destroyer HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN). On 18 January near Dakar, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) G.B. Lewis, RN) joined. She remained with the convoy until 2 February. HMS Dainty left the convoy when Carnarvon Castle joined.

A/S escort in the Western Approaches was provided from 2 February onwards by the sloop HMS Rochester (Cdr. G.F. Renwick, RN) and the destroyers HMS Viscount (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, RN) and HMS Walker (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN).

14 Mar 1940
HMS Maidstone (A/Capt. E.H. Longsdon, RN) departed Freetown for the U.K. She was escorted by HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) G.B. Lewis, RN). Both ships were to refit in the U.K.

Near Freetown they were escorted by HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN) until 2200/14 after which the destroyers returned to Freetown. (1)

16 Jun 1940

Dakar, the French battleship Richelieu
and the fall of France
Timespan; 16 June to 7 July 1940.

The fall of France, 16 June 1940.

On 16 June 1940, less then six weeks after the invasion of France and the low countries had started on May 10th, all military resitance in France came to an end. The question of control of the French fleet had thus become, almost overnight, one of vital importance, for if it passed into the hands of the enemy the whole balance of sea power would be most seriously disturbed. It was therefore policy of H.M. Government to prevent, at all costs, the French warships based on British and French harbours overseas from falling into the hands of Germany.

The bulk of the French fleet was at this time based in the Mediterranean. There drastic steps were taken to implement this policy. Elsewhere the most important units were the two new battleships completing, the Jean Bart at St. Nazaire and more importantly as she was almost complete, the Richelieu, at Brest.

Events during the Franco-German negotiations 17-25 June 1940 and politics.

It was on the 17th of June 1940, when the newly-formed Pétain Cabinet asked the Germans to consider ‘honourable’ peace terms in order to stop the fighting in France. At 1516 (B.S.T.) hours that day the Admiralty issued orders that British ships were not to proceed to French ports. On receipt of these orders Vice-Admiral George D’Oyly Lyon, Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic, ordered the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (Capt R.F.J. Onslow, DSC, MVO, RN) then on her way to Dakar after a patrol off the Canary Islands to proceed to Freetown instead at her best speed. At the same time he recalled the British SS Accra which had sailed from Freetown for Dakar at 1730 hours (zone +1) with 850 French troops on board. She returned to Freetown at 0800/18. The British transport City of Paris with 600 French troops on board from Cotonou was ordered to put into Takoradi. On the 18th the Commander-in-Chief was also informed by Commander Jermyn Rushbrooke, RN, the British Naval Liaison Officer at Dakar that the Commander-in-Chief of the French Navy, Admiral Darlan had ordered Admiral Plancon at Dakar to continue fighting and also that the shore batteries and AA personnel there had declared for the British. At 0245/18 Vice-Admiral Lyon passed this information to the Admiralty, cancelled his orders to HMS Hermes to proceed to Freetown and directed her with the armed merchant cruisers HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt. M.J.C. de Meric, RN) and HMS Mooltan (Capt.(Retd.) G.E. Sutcliff, RN), which were on passage to Freetown from the Western Approaches, to proceed to Dakar at full speed in order to strengthen the French morale. That afternoon the Admiralty ordered HMS Delhi (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) to leave Gibraltar and proceed to Dakar and join the South Atlantic Station. She left Gibraltar on the 19th with an arrival date of the 23rd. In the morning of the 18th the French troopship Banfora reached Freetown, from Port Bouet, Ivory Coast with 1000 troops on board, and sailed for Dakar without delay. The French armed merchant cruiser Charles Plumier, which had been on patrol south of the Cape Verde Islands reached Dakar at 1015/18.

Meanwhile the British Naval Liaison Officer, Dakar’s signal had been followed by a report from the Naval Control Service Officer at Duala that an overwhelming spirit existed amongst the military and civilian population of the French Cameroons to continue fighting on the British side, but that they required lead, as the Governer was not a forceful character; but that morning the Governor of Nigeria informed the Commander-in-Chief that he considered steps to be taken to prevent a hostile move from Fernando Po (off the entrance to the Cameroon River). Accordingly, at 1845/18, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Bulolo (A/Capt. C.H. Petrie, RN) sailed from Freetown at 14 knots to show herself off San Carlos on the morning of the 23rd, and thence to anchor of Manoka in the Cameroon River the next day (her draught prevented her from reaching Duala). A/Capt. Petrie was then to proceed to Duala and call a conference.

It was difficult to arrive at a clear appreciation of the situation in French West-Africa but on the morning of the 19th June the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that, as the evidence pointed to an established resolve on the part of the West-African Colonies to join Great Britain whatever happened, he intended to allow French troop movements to continue. This he anticipated would avoid French exasperation and mistrust. During the early afternoon he heard from the Governors of Nigeria and the Gold Coast that French officers and non-commissioned officers were planning to leave the Cameroons and to join the British forces in Nigeria. At 1900/19 the Commander-in-Chief held a conference with the Governor of Sierra Leone at which it was decided that the Governor should cable home urging immediate action to persuade the French colonial troops and authorities to remain in their territories and hold their colonies against all attacks. In the evening the Commander-in-Chief reported to the Admiralty that French Guinea was determined to keep fighting on the British side. Meanwhile the Governor-General of French Equatorial Africa at Brazzaville was wavering and suggested leading his troops to the nearest British Colony. Late that night, still on the 19th, the Commander-in-Chief informed him that it was essential that he should remain at his post and that it was the expressed intention of French West Africa to fight on to victory.

Next morning, on the 20th, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief that the new French battleship Richelieu (about 95% complete) had departed Brest for Dakar on the 18th. Her sister ship, Jean Bart (about 77% complete) had left St. Nazaire for Casablanca on the 19th. During the afternoon of the 20th the British Liaison Officer at Dakar reported that according to the French Admiral at Dakar the French Government had refused the German armistice terms and would continue the fight in France. This was entirely misleading. For nearly two days the Commander-in-Chief had no definite information till at noon on 22 June when a BB C broadcast announced the signing of a armistice between France and Germany, which was to followed by one between France and Italy. Still there was much uncertainty, and the rest of the day was apparently spent in waiting for news. Early next morning, the 23rd June, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief that the French Bordeaux Government had signed an armistice with Germany. As the terms were not fully known the attitude of the French Navy remained uncertain. Shortly after 0200/23 the Admiralty gave orders that HMS Hermes was to remain at Dakar, and gave the Commander-in-Chief the text of the British Government’s appeal to the French Empire and to Frenchmen overseas to continue the war on the British side. The final collapse of France naturally exercised an important influence on the dispositions and movements of the South Atlantic forces. Also on the 23rd the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN) and the destroyer HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN) departed Gibraltar for Dakar and Casablanca respectively, and the same morning HMS Bulolo arrived off Fernando Po and showed herself of San Carlos and Santa Isabel. At noon she anchored off Manoka, in the Cameroon River, in the hope of restoring morale at Duala. Meanwhile HMS Mooltan had arrived at Freetown from Dakar and the United Kingdom, and during the afternoon (1500/23) the armed merchant cruiser HMS Maloja (A/Capt. V. Hammersley-Heenan, RN) reached Dakar from the Northern Patrol to join the Freetown escort force. Half an hour later the Richelieu and escorting destroyer Fleuret arrived at Dakar.

For a time the attitude of the French Governor-General at Dakar, the French North African colonies and the French Mediterranean Fleet, and the battleship Richelieu remained in doubt. Then owning to the anticipated difficulty of maintaining French salaries and supplies if the French did not accept the British offer, the situation at Dakar rapidly deteriorated, and by the evening of the 23rd reached a critical state. Early on the 24th, therefore, the Admiralty ordered the Commander-in-Chief to proceed there as soon as possible. The Commander-in-Chief replied that he intended to proceed there in the ex-Australian seaplane carrier HMS Albatross (Cdr. W.G. Brittain, RN), which was the only available ship, and expected to reach Dakar around noon on the 25th. At 1015/24 he left Freetown and reached Dakar around 1600/25. Meanwhile the Richelieu had put to sea. From then on the naval operations centred mainly on the battleship.

The problem of the Richelieu, 25-26 June 1940.

The Richelieu which had been landing cadets at Dakar, had sailed with the Fleuret at 1315/25 for an unknown destination. She was shadowed by an aircraft from HMS Hermes until 1700 hours. She was reported to be steering 320° at 18 knots. At 1700 hours the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to shadow her, and at 2200 hours HMS Dorsetshire reported herself as being in position 16°40’N, 18°35’W steering 225° at 25 knots, and that she expected to make contact with the Richelieu at midnight. At 2126 hours, the Admiralty ordered the Vice-Admiral aircraft carriers (Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) in HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) to proceed with dispatch to the Canary Islands with HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN) and five destroyers (actually only four sailed with them; HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN)). They departed Gibraltar in the morning of the 26th.

Early on the 26th, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, and the Vice-Admiral, aircraft carriers, that His Majesty’s Government had decided that the Richelieu was to be captured and taken into a British port. They were to take every step to avoid bloodshed and to use no more force then was absolutely necessary. It was understood that the French battleship had H.A. ammunition on board but no main armament ammunition, that forenoon however, the British Liaison Officer Brest reported that she had embarked 15” ammunition before leaving there. HMS Hood was to perform this task if possible but that there were a risk that the Richelieu might get away before her arrival, or if she tried to enter a neutral port such as La Luz in the Canaries, HMS Dorsetshire was to take action. After the capture she was to be taken to Gibraltar. The battleship HMS Resolution (Capt. O. Bevir, RN) was detailed to intercept the Jean Bart in case she would depart Casablanca and deal with her in the same way.

Vice-Admiral Wells reported that HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hood and their escorting destroyers would pass through position 36°00’N, 06°35’W at 0300/26, steering 225° at 20 knots. HMS Dorsetshire, meanwhile, having seen nothing of the Richelieu by 0015/26, had proceeded to the northwestward, and then at 0230/26 turned to course 030°. At 0530/26 she catapulted her Walrus aircraft to search to the northward, and at 0730 hours it sighted the Richelieu in position 19°27’N, 18°52’W on course 010°, speed 18.5 knots. Eleven minutes later she altered course to 195°. The aircraft proceeded to shadow, but missed HMS Dorsetshire when it tried to return and in the end was forced to land on the sea at 0930 hours about 50 nautical miles to the southward of her. The Dorsetshire which had turned to 190° at 0905 hours was then in position 18°55’N, 17°52’W. She turned to search for her aircraft. Around noon she abandoned the search and steered 245° at 25 knots to intercept the Richelieu, which she correctly assumed to be continuing to the southward. She made contact soon after 1430 hours and at 1456 hours reported that she was shadowing the battleship from astern.

In the meantime the French Admiral at Dakar had informed Vice-Admiral Lyon that the ‘Admiral Afrique’ had ordered the Richelieu and the Fleuret to return to Dakar. At 1512 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic asked the Admiralty whether, under these circumstances, HMS Dorsetshire was to attempt to capture the Richelieu. He was confident that any interference would antagonise all the local authorities and the French people in general. He also pointed out that His Majesty’s ships at Dakar would be placed in a most difficult position.

At 1630/26, HMS Dorsetshire, reported that she was in position 17°21’N, 18°22’W with the Richelieu within easy visual distance. Relations between the two ships remained cordial. The French ship had not trained her guns when she sighted the Dorsetshire, and she expressed regret that, having no aircraft embarked, she was unable to co-operate in the search for her missing Walrus aircraft but she signalled to Dakar for a French plane to assist. In view of her declared intention to return to Dakar, Capt. Martin took no steps to capture her and at 1700 hours he was ordered by the Admiralty to only shadow the Richelieu. At the same time HMS Hermes left Dakar to search for HMS Dorsetshire’s Walrus.

Shortly after 1900/26, the Admiralty ordered Ark Royal, HMS Hood and their four escorting destroyers to return to Gibraltar. At 2015 hours, the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to cease shadowing the Richelieu and to search for her missing Walrus. On receipt of these orders she parted company with the Richelieu and Fleuret at 2300/26, being then some 70 nautical miles from Dakar. HMS Dorsetshire then proceeded to the north-north-eastward at 23 knots.

At first light on the 27th, HMS Hermes, then some 30 nautical miles to the southward, flew off seven aircraft to assist in the search. It was however HMS Dorsetshire herself which eventually found and recovered her aircraft at 1107/27. Meanwhile the Richelieu had arrived off Dakar at 0900/27 but did not enter the port. Shortly afterwards she made off the the north yet again. HMS Hermes then steered to the northward to be in a position to intercept if needed. Nothing was seen of the Richelieu until she was again located off Dakar at 0500/28. HMS Hermes, by that time about 400 nautical miles north of Dakar, was ordered to proceed southwards and return to Dakar.

The Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, at Dakar 26-29 June 1940.

While these movements were going on at sea, the position at Dakar was steadily deteriorating. At about 1830/26, the Commander-in-Chief had reported to the Admiralty that the French Admiral at Dakar had informed him, on Admiral Darlan’s instructions, that the presence of British warships at Dakar was in contrary to the terms of the Franco-German armistice. At 1700/26 (zone -1) however, the Admiralty had signalled to the Commander-in-Chief that, as the French codes were compromised, that French authorities could no longer be sure that orders came from Admiral Darlan but Admiral Plancon refused to question the authenticity of any signal he received. During the night the appointment of the British Liaison Officer at Dakar was terminated.

At 0500/27 the Richelieu was seen approaching Dakar, but 25 minutes later she turned to seaward again and the Commander-in-Chief ordered a Walrus aircraft from HMS Albatros to shadow her. That afternoon he informed the Admiralty that the Richelieu had put to sea to escort five French armed merchant cruisers [according to another source these were the armed merchant cruisers (four in number and not five) El D’Jezair, El Kantara, El Mansour, Ville d’Oran and the large destroyers Milan and Epervier which came from Brest] to Dakar. The Admiralty was clearly anxious that the Richelieu should not escape and at 0021/28, they ordered Vice-Admiral Wells with HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hood escorted by four destroyers (HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Foxhound and HMS Vidette (Cdr.(Retd.) D.R. Brocklebank, RN) to proceed to the Canaries to intercept her if she continued to steam to the northward. These ships (with HMS Escapade instead of HMS Vidette) had only returned to Gibraltar late the previous evening from their first sortie to intercept the Richelieu. Now they left again around 0600/28 but were quickly ordered to return to Gibraltar and were back in port around noon.

Around 0500/28 HMS Dorsetshire, proceeding back towards Dakar after having picked up her lost aircraft encountered the Richelieu about 10 nautical miles north of Dakar. Admiral Wells was then ordered by the Admiralty to return to Gibraltar. The rapid deterioration of the situation in West Africa is clearly shown in a series of signals which passed between the Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic and the Admiralty on 28 June. At 1100 hours, the Commander-in-Chief signalled that the French had refused HMS Dorsetshire permission to enter Dakar and that she was therefore proceeding to Freetown with all dispatch to fuel and return to the Dakar area as soon as possible. HMS Dorsetshire arrived at Freetown at 0545/29. At 1415/28 the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that the French Admiral at Dakar had issued orders to prevent H.M. ships from communicating with, or receiving stores, from the shore. In reply he had told the French Admiral that HMS Hermes would enter Dakar on the 29th to embark aircraft stores and fuel, and that he himself would sail from there in HMS Albatros after seeing the commanding officer of HMS Hermes. At 1515/28 the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty of the steps he would take in case the Richelieu would proceed to sea again. The Admiralty then issued orders that Dakar was to be watched by an 8” cruiser within sight of the French port by dayand within three miles by night. HMS Hermes was to remain off Dakar until relieved by HMS Dorsetshire after this ship had returned from fueling at Freetown.

HMS Hermes arrived at Dakar at 0900/29. During the day she embarked Fleet Air Arm personnel and stores which had been landed there earlier. She then completed with fuel and sailed at 1800/29. She then patrolled off Dakar until she was relieved by HMS Dorsetshire at 1800/30. The Commander-in-Chief had sailed from Dakar in HMS Albatros at 1030/29. He arrived at Freetown at 1800/30 and transferred his flag to the accommodation ship Edinburgh Castle.

Deterioration of Franco-British relations, 1 – 3 July 1940.

The first few days of July saw a swift deterioration of Franco-British relations everywhere. The paramount importance of keeping the French fleet out of the hands of the enemy forced the British Government to take steps. According to the armistice terms the French fleet had to assemble at ports under German or Italian control and be demilitarized. To the Government it was clear that this would mean that the French ships would be brought into action against us. The Government therefore decided to offer the French naval commanders the following options; - to continue the fight against the Axis, to completely immobilization in certain ports or to demilitarize or sink their ships.

Already a powerful squadron, known as ‘Force H’ had been assembled at Gibraltar, in order to fill the strategic naval vacuum in the Western Mediterranean caused by the defection of the French fleet, and on 30 June Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville hoisted his flag in HMS Hood. His first task was to present the British alternatives to the Admiral commanding the French ships at Oran, failing the acceptance of one of them, he was to use force.

To return to West-Africa, HMS Hermes reached Freetown with the Fleet Air Arm passengers and stores from Dakar on 2 July. Early that afternoon the Commander-in-Chief asked the Consul General at Dakar to obtain, if possible, assurance from the French Admiral there that if British warships were not allowed to use Dakar, enemy men-of-war should also be forbidden to use it. At 1915/2, the ex-British Liaison Officer, who had not yet left Dakar, reported the arrival of a British merchant ship which had not been diverted. He also reported that the French ships Katiola and Potiers might be sailing for Casablanca, escorted by armed merchant cruisers and destroyers. The Admiralty however ordered HMS Dorsetshire, which was maintaining the watch on Dakar, to take no action. At 2310/2 the Commander-in-Chief asked the Consul-General whether there was any chance of the Polish and Belgian bullion which was in the armed merchant cruiser Victor Schoelcher being transferred to either the Katiola or Potiers. He received no reply, and the continued silence of the British Consul led him to believe that the Consul’s signals were either being held up or mutilated.

Next forenoon, 3 July, the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that he intended to divert all British shipping in the South Atlantic from all French ports. Early that morning Vice-Admiral Somerville’s Force H had arrived off Oran. For the next ten hours strenuous efforts were made to persuade the French Admiral to accept one of the British alternatives, but without success. At 1554 hours (zone -1) Force H sadly opened fire on the ships of their former ally at Mers-el-Kebir, inflicting heavy damage and grievous loss of life. None could predict the result of these measures on the Franco-British relations, but it was sure they would not be improved.

During the afternoon of July 3rd the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, on Admiralty instructions, directed all British Naval Control Officers and Consular Shipping Advisers to order all Biritsh and Allied ships to leave French ports as soon as possible, if necessary disregarding French instructions. All British warships in French ports were to remain at short notice and to prepared for every eventuality. The only warship in a French port within the limits of the South Atlantic Station at the time was HMS Bulolo, which was at Manoka in the Cameroons. At 2048 hours (B.S.T.) the Admiralty ordered all British warships in French ports to proceed to sea and at 2223 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic ordered HMS Bulolo to proceed to Lagos, where she was to remain with HMS Dragon (Capt. R.G. Bowes-Lyon, MVO, RN) until further orders.

HMS Dorsetshire off Dakar, 3-7 July 1940.

Meanwhile HMS Dorsetshire had continued her watch off Dakar. On 3 July 1940 there were sixteen French warships and seven auxiliaries in the harbour. This number included the battleship Richelieu, the large destroyers Fleuret, Milan, Epervier, the armed merchant cruisers El D’Jezair, El Kantara, El Mansour, Ville d’Oran, Ville d’Alger, Victor Schoelcher and Charles Plumier, the colonial sloop Bougainville, the submarines Le Heros and Le Glorieux. At 0917/3 the Admiralty asked the Commander-in-Chief for the Richelieu’s berth at Dakar. HMS Dorsetshire informed him that at 1125/3 she was in position 045°, Cape Manuel lighthouse, 2.6 nautical miles, ships head 230°. Captain Martin seems to have drawn his own conclusions from this question and at 1350 hours he signalled to the the Commander-in-Chief his opinion that the Richelieu’s propellers could be severely damaged by depth charges dropped from a fast motor dinghy, and he asked permission to carry out such an attack about 2300 hours that night. Vice-Admiral Lyon replied that he had no instructions from the Admiralty to take offensive action against the Richelieu. At 1625 hours, however, the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to get ready, but to await approval before actually carrying out an attack. This was followed at 1745 hours by a signal that the proposed attack was not approved as it was feared to be ineffective and for the time being the idea was ‘shelved’. [More on this idea later on.]

At 1904/3, the Admiralty ordered HMS Hermes to leave Freetown with all despatch to join HMS Dorsetshire off Dakar at 0500/5. At 2112/3 the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to shadow the Richelieu if she sailed and proceeded northwards. If the vessel however made for the French West Indies, the Dorsetshire was to make every effort to destroy her by torpedo attack, and, if that failed, by ramming [ !!! ]. Late that evening the French Government decreed that all British ships and aircraft were forbidden, under penalty of being fired upon without warning, to approach within 20 nautical miles of French territory at home or overseas. Just before midnight the Admiralty gave orders that HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN), after refueling at Freetown, was to join HMS Dorsetshire off Dakar. At 0926/4, the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic ordered HMS Hermes and HMAS Australia to rendez-vous with HMS Dorsetshire 21 nautical miles from Dakar instead of the 15 nautical miles previously arranged and at 1037 hours he informed all three ships that as the French Air Force and submarines had orders to attack British ships off Casablanca and Dakar. He therefore issued orders that French aircraft and submarines were to be attacked and destroyed on sight. During that afternoon the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that, as an alternative to the German demands, French warships might proceed to the West Indies. At 2041 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic asked whether, in view of this, the Admiralty intended that the Richelieu should be attacked if she was to proceed to the West Indies. Before this message was received, a signal was sent at 2050 hours cancelling the orders for the Richelieu’s destruction and at about midnight the Admiralty directed that she should be shadowed only.

Early on the 5th the Consul-General at Dakar reported that the merchant vessel Argyll with Commander J. Rushbrooke, RN, the ex-British Naval Liaison Officer, Dakar and his staff onboard, had, in accordance with instructions from the French authorities left Dakar the previous day but that she was recalled on reaching the outer boom, an order which had led the Consul-General to make a protest. Soon after midnight 4/5 July orders were received from the Admiralty that the sloop HMS Milford (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) should be sent to join the patrol off Dakar to provide A/S protection. She left Freetown for Dakar at 1000/5.

At 0723/5, in view of the French order forbidding the approach of British vessels and aircraft within 20 nautical miles from French territory at home and overseas, the Commander-in-Chief ordered his ships off Dakar not to approach within 20 nautical miles of the shore and replied in the affirmative when HMS Dorsetshire asked whether this rule also applied by night. During the afternoon he informed his command that French warships was orders not to attack the British unless they were within these 20 nautical miles. He later added that also submarines had the same orders.

At 1853/5, the Commander-in-Chief ordered HMS Dorsetshire, HMAS Australia, HMS Hermes and HMS Milford not to attack French submarines outside the 20 mile zone unless they were obviously hostile. An Admiralty report then came in the the Richelieu was reported to have put to sea but HMS Dorsetshire quickly contradicted that report.

Dispositions off Dakar at 0300 on 7 July 1940.

At 0300/7, two of the British warships off Dakar which were under the command of Capt. Martin (being the senior officer) were patrolling of Dakar (HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Hermes). The third ship (HMAS Australia) was patrolling about 35 to 40 nautical miles further to the north. The fourth ship HMS Milford was approaching Dakar from the south. At 0307 hours a signal from the Admiralty was received which gave a completely different complexion to their operations.

More on this in the event for 7 July 1940,
The attack on the Richelieu.
This event can be found on the pages of the ships involved; HMS Hermes, HMS Dorsetshire, HMAS Australia and HMS Milford. (2)

10 Sep 1940

Convoy AP 3.

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

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

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

In the morning of 11 September the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) joined the convoy until 0745/12 when she returned to the Clyde after having been ordered to do so.

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

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

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

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

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

1 Dec 1940
HMS Carnavon Castle (Capt. H.V.M. Hardy, DSO, RN) had a gun duel with the German auxiliary cruiser Schiff 10 / Thor (Kpt.z.S. K?hler) south-east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in position 30°52'S, 42°53'W and was badly damaged, while the German ship escaped.

14 Jul 1941
Around 1000PQ(+3.5)/14, HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN) made rendezvous with HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN). Both ships remained in company on patrol until around 1730PQ/15. In the meantime multiple exercises had been carried out.

In the upcoming days the ships sighted / or were in company with each other during daytime while patrolling the River Plate area. (3)

27 Jul 1941
Around 0830PQ(+3.5)/27, HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN) made rendezvous with HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN) in approximate position 40°00'S, 53°00'W. Both ships then proceeded in company to Samborombón Bay, River Plate area. (3)

28 Jul 1941
HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN) and HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN) arrived in Samborombón Bay, River Plate area. There HMS Newcastle transferred the German prisoners from the Erlangen to HMS Carnarvon Castle.

Also both ships fuelled from the RFA tanker Broomdale (8334 GRT, built 1937). (3)

2 Aug 1941

Convoy WS 10

This convoy assembled in the Clyde area on 2 August 1941 destined for the middle east area.

The convoy was made up of the following troop transports; Andes (25689 GRT, built 1939), Britannic (26943 GRT, built 1930), Cameronia (16297 GRT, built 1920), Highland Monarch (14139 GRT, built 1928), Indrapoera (Dutch, 10825 GRT, built 1925), Nea Hellas (16991 GRT, built 1922), Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937), Rangitiki (16698 GRT, built 1928), Reina del Pacifico (17702 GRT, built 1931), Stirling Castle (25550 GRT, built 1936), Strathallan (23722 GRT, built 1938), Volendam (Dutch, 15434 GRT, built 1922), Warwick Castle (20107 GRT, built 1930), Windsor Castle (19141 GRT, built 1922) and the following transports; Diomed (10374 GRT, built 1922), Indian Prince (8587 GRT, built 1926), Manchester Port (7071 GRT, built 1935), Nigerstroom (Dutch, 4639 GRT, built 1939) and Phemius (7406 GRT, built 1921),

Escort was initially provided by the heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) (2 – 10 August), armed merchant cruiser HMS Worcestershire (A/Capt.(Retd.) E.H. Hopkinson, RN) (2 – 6 August), the light cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN) (2 – 5 August), the destroyers HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, OBE, DSC, RN) (2 – 5 August), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) (2 – 5 August), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN) (2 – 5 August), HMS Broadway (Lt.Cdr. T. Taylor, RN) (2 – 6 August), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) (2 – 6 August), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) (2 – 6 August), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) (2 – 6 August), HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) (2 – 6 August), ORP Piorun (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) (2 – 6 August) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. N.V.J.T. Thew, RN) (2 August – 17 August).

On 5 August, around 2200 hours, HMS Cairo, HMS Winchelsea, HMS Witch and HMS Whitehall parted company with the convoy.

On 6 August, around 2300 hours, HMS Worcestershire, HMS Broadway, HMS Gurkha, HMS Lance, HMS Legion, HrMs Isaac Sweers and ORP Piorun parted company with the convoy. Shorty afterwards the troopships Warwick Castle and Windsor Castle collided. Due to this the Warwick Castle was detached and was escorted to Halifax, Nova Scotia by HMS Worcestershire. Windsor Castle dropped astern and was brought back to the convoy the next day by HMS Jupiter who had been despached to search for her.Jupiter

Very early on the 9th HMS Jupiter was detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores. HMS Jupiter re-joined the convoy around 0700 on the 10th.

Around noon on 10 August, HMS London, was relieved by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, RN) which had departed Gibraltar on the 8th. HMS Edinburgh remained with the convoy until it reached Freetown on the 17th.

When approaching Freetown A/S escorts joined the convoy. On 14 August 1941 two destroyers and a corvette joined, these were; HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Bergamot (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR). The next day the corvette HMS Cyclamen (Lt. H.N. Lawson, RNR) also joined.

On 21 August 1941 the convoy departed Freetown for South Africa. Escort was provided by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh until 2 September 1941, when part of the convoy (Troopships Britannic, Indrapoera, Reina Del Pacifico, Striling Castle, Strathallan, Volendam, Windsor Castle and the transports Nigerstroom and Phemius) arrived at Capetown. HMS Edinburgh then went to Simonstown. On departure from Freetown A/S escort was provided until dawn on the 24th by the destroyer HMS Jupiter and the corvettes HMS Anchusa (Lt. J.E.L. Peters, RNR), HMS Clematis (Cdr. Y.M. Cleeves, DSO, DSC, RD, RNR), HMS Crocus (Lt.Cdr. E. Wheeler, RNR) and HMS Cyclamen (Lt. H.N. Lawson, RNR). The corvettes then returned to Freetown while HMS Jupiter proceed to St. Helena.

The light cruiser HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) then took over the remainer of the convoy and took these towards Durban were they arrived on 5 September 1941. These were the troopships Andes, Cameronia, Highland Monarch, Nea Hellas, Rangitiki and the transports Diomed, Indian Price and Manchester Port.

On 6 September 1941 the part of the convoy (minus Reina del Pacifico) that had entered Capetown on 2 September departed from Capetown escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN). On 8 September the Britannic split off and proceeded to Durban to embark troops that had been on the Cameronia. Britannic rejoined the next day escorted by Hawkins. The troop transport Aronda (9031 GRT, built 1941) was also with them and joined the convoy. After these ships had joined HMS Carnavon Castle then split off with the Indrapoera, Volendam, Nigerstroom and Phemius and took these ships to Durban.

The convoy (by now called WS 10B), now made up of the troopships Aronda, Britannic, Stirling Castle, Strathallan and Windsor Castle, and escorted by HMS Hawkins proceeded to Bombay where it arrived on 20 September 1941. En-route, in position 03.25’S, 51.12’E and on September 13th, HMS Hawkins had been relieved by the light cruiser HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN).

[Other ships that had been part of convoy WS 10 later proceeded to their destinations in other convoys.]

18 Aug 1941
HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN) and HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN) made rendezvous around 0630P/18, in approximate position 24°16'S, 45°18'W with HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN). HMS Newcastle then took over German prisoners from the Carnarvon Castle for transportation to Freetown.

The cruisers parted company with the armed merchant cruiser around 1000P/18. (4)

1 Nov 1941
The heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) and the armed merchant cruisers HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN) departed Simonstown for operation Bellringer.

[For more info on this operation see the event ' Operation Bellringer ' for 2 November 1941.] (5)

2 Nov 1941

Operation Bellringer.

Interception of a Vichy-French convoy off South Africa.

Around 1800B/1, a Vichy French convoy of 5 ships and one escort was sighted in position 36°04'S, 34°44'E by the South African minesweeping whaler HMSAS Southern Barrier (T/Lt.Cdr. R.L.V. Shannon, SDF).

The Vichy French convoy, en route from Madagascar to Dakar, was then intercepted in the afternoon of the 2nd in position 37°43'S, 30°16'E by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. C.C.A. Allen, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN) and HMS Carthage (Capt.(Retd.) H.L.I. Kirkpatrick, OBE, RN). The convoy was made up of the merchant vessels Bangkok (8056 GRT, built 1919), Cap Padaran (8009 GRT, built 1922), Cap Touraine (8009 GRT, built 1924), Commandant Dorise (5529 GRT, built 1917) and Compiègne (9986 GRT, built 1923). They were escorted by the sloop D'Iberville.

Five more South African minesweeping whalers were also on the scene, these were the HMSAS Florida (T/Lt. J.V. Ingram, RNVR(SA)), HMSAS Nigel (T/Lt. W.D. de la Bat van Alphen, SDF), HMSAS Steenberg (T/Lt. S.B. Petzer, SDF), HMSAS Stellenberg (T/Lt. W. Taylor, SDF) and HMSAS Terje (T/Lt. H.G. Amor, SDF).

The Vichy French escort vessel refused to divert the convoy to South Africa so the merchant vessels were boarded the following morning. The Vichy French sloop then made off being unable against the more powerful British ships to prevent the seizure of the convoy.

The crew of the Bangkok set the ship on fire and then abandoned the ship. They were picked up by HMS Colombo and HMSAS Nigel.

The Cap Padaran was immobilised by her crew which sabotaged the ships engines. She was taken in tow by HMS Carthage which took her to Port Elizabeth with HMSAS Stellenberg. They arrived there on 7 November. HMS Carthage did not enter the port though, she went on to Durban arriving there on 8 November.

The Cap Touraine was escorted by HMS Devonshire and HMSAS Steenberg to Port Elizabeth where they arrived on 6 December. HMS Devonshire did not enter the port though, she went on to Durban arriving there on 7 November.

The Commandant Dorise was escorted to East London by HMS Carnarvon Castle and HMSAS Florida. The Compiègne was escorted by HMS Colombo and HMSAS Nigel also to East London where they arrived on 5 November and 6 November respectively. (6)

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.


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.


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. (7)

19 Oct 1942
HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) departed Bathurst to make rendez-vous with the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) E.W. Kitson, RN) and the troopship Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922) that are en-route to the U.K. from Freetown, having departed there on 18 October, escorted by HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN) and HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN).

After HMS Decoy had joined HMS Carnarvon Castle in the afternoon of the 19th, HMS Brilliant parted company and returned to Freetown, arriving on 21 October.

HMS Wivern parted company with HMS Carnarvon Castle early on the 20th and proceeded to Bathurst, arriving there later the same day. (8)

23 Oct 1942
In the afternoon of 23 October, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) E.W. Kitson, RN) and troopship Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922) and their escort, the destroyer HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) were joined by the destroyer HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) coming from Ponta Delgada, Azores. HMS Decoy was then detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada. She returned on the 25th. (9)

29 Oct 1942
The armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) E.W. Kitson, RN) and troopship Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922) and one their escorting destroyers HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) arrived in the Clyde. The other escorting destroyer, HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN), had been detached earlier in the day with orders to proceed to Londonderry. (9)

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.


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.


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 approaches to Capetown the destroyer HMAS Nizam (Lt. W.F. Cook, RAN) joined the escort as an enemy submarine had been reported to be operating in the area.


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.


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.


  1. ADM 199/380
  2. ADM 234/318
  3. ADM 53/113841 + ADM 53/114787
  4. ADM 53/113842 + ADM 53/114788
  5. ADM 53/113845 + ADM 53/114104
  6. ADM 53/113845 + ADM 53/113858 + ADM 53/113963 + ADM 53/114104 + ADM 199/395 + ADM 199/2233
  7. ADM 199/1211
  8. ADM 199/647
  9. ADM 53/115540

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

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