From The Commanding Officer of HMS Leith
To Captain "D", Liverpool
dated March 12-1941
Received from Tony Cooper - His source: Public Records Office, Kew.
(The text in the documents is rather faint and difficult to decipher in places, especially numbers, but I've deciphered them to the best of my ability).
14:30 - Convoy HG 54 left Gibraltar. The Greek Mount Pindus sailed late, but joined up after dark.
16:00 - Convoy formed up 180° Carnero Point 5', escorts taking up pre-arranged stations.
14:30 - Exercied emergency turns.
09:15 - Exercised emergency turns.
19:00 - HMS Fearless dropped 1 depth charge on a doubtful contact and hunted in the vicinity of it until dark, without results, then rejoined convoy.
24:00 - Fearless and HMS Fury parted company in 33 54N 13 22W, proceeding to Funchal.
09:00 - Exercised emergency turns.
15:30 - HMS Geranium dropped a pattern on a doubtful contact, then remained in the vicinity for an hour before rejoining the convoy.
08:30 - Fearless, Fury and 6 ships from Funchal joined the convoy in 34 17N 16 15W.
That morning, A.B.V. Camito was sighted.
21:00 - Fearless, Fury, Jonquil and Geranium left the convoy in 35 15N 16 55W.
In the morning, HMS Leith passed a signal to Funchal ships, as follows (from F.O.C.N.A. 1536/25):
"Instruct ships joining from Funchal that in the case of separation they are to follow standard route and not the diversion from standard route as ordered by MCSO Funchal".
12:00 - Panamanian Indra dropped astern with engine trouble in 39 38N 20 15W, stating repairs would take 1 hour.
10:30 - In contact with Orient City in 42 48N 23 09W, bound for Durban.
Also, a signal was passed to the Commodore as follows (from the Admiralty 0115/1):
"The AA armament in all merchant ships approaching or leaving U.K. is to be fully manned from dawn till dusk while ships are east of 20°W. Where necessary the number of men in watch on deck is to be temporarily increased to meet this requirement. Any necessary overtime will be paid".
11:10 - The following signal was passed to the Commodore and to Alva (from Admiralty 0018/3):
"For Commodore HG 54. Destination of Alva altered to Belfast for degaussing".
20:00 - Waldinge dropped astern with steering gear trouble, but rejoined during the night.
04:30 - Due to southwesterly gale and low visibility, the convoy was in considerable disorder, and therefore, HMS Tuna was detached in 49 30N 21 40W.
17:00 - In contact with St. Elstan, going to the assistance of Baltara, and the following signal was passed (for transmission when clear):
To St. Elstan from Leith - "Yes. Please pass following message begins: Immediate. C.-in-C. W.A. from Leith. My 1000/12/2. Do not repetition NOT hold S.P. 02348 repetition S.P. 02358 (it definitely says 48 in the former and 58 in the latter). Request your 0847/6 and 1358/6 may be repeated. My P.C. and S 52° 15'N-20° 05'W 030° 4 knots. TCC 1700. ends." (1703/6).
18:30 - Local Escort joined the convoy in 52 18(?)N 20 04W. S.O. group stationed escort.
14:15 - Sighted 1 Focke Wulf aircraft shadowing and made enemy report - 53 35N 18 41W.
14:45 - Aircraft took off to southward.
11:15 - Passed "not present" to air escort.
17:30 - Following signal was passed to the Commodore and complied (from C.-in-C. W.A. 1506/9):
"In view of estimated position and track of O.G. 55 convoy H.G. 54 is to alter course on crossing 012° 00'W to pass through 056° 00'N-010° 30'W thence to original splitting position". (Convoy OG 55 had left Liverpool on March 7 - arrived Gibraltar on the 21st).
The convoy was reorganized by the Commodore.
21:30 - Oban portion (except Margot) was detached, escorted by HMS Vizalma.
07:30 - The convoy was formed into 2 columns.
08:00 - Detached HMS Broke, Saladin and Wolsey off Altacarry to base.
10:00 - Detached Clyde portion and Margot (short of oil fuel), escorted by HMS Abelia. Escorts were re-stationed (Leith to port, Vanity to starboard).
10:20 - Estimated Time of Arrival signal was made.
14:00 - Alva was detached for Belfast, HMS Leeds United joined.
16:00 - Detached Switzerland to Barrow. The following message was signalled to Bar Light Vessel:
"E.T.A. Bar Light Vessel 1130/12".
21:30 - Rosenburgh (mis-spelling of Rosenborg?), bound for Cardiff, joined the convoy.
02:00 - Bristol Channel portion was detached, escorted by Leeds United.
12:00 - Arrived Bar Light Vessel.
13:50 - Proceeded up harbour after convoy.
16:45 - Secured alongside oiler in Liverpool.
The captain of Baron Vernon "carried out the duties of Commodore in a most satisfactory and capable manner. His staff consisted of two active service signal ratings on passage from Gibraltar".
Evasive steering was carried out on all days when weather permitted; also, alterations after dark.
Kites were flown east of 20°W when weather permitted. However, only 3 serviceable ones were left in the convoy after a day or two. It was believed that the type of kite supplied might be too sensitive to weather conditions, or the captains of the ships might need more instruction in how to fly them.
This convoy had several ships of about 1500 tons, and it was found that whenever there was a head sea, speed had to be reduced to 5 knots or less so that they could keep up.
HMS Tuna was stationed in a column of her own, 3 cables abeam of the Commodore, a position which proved satisfactory. She gave the convoy a demonstration of a submarine proceeding on the surface trimmed down, and of a submerged sub with the periscope up.
Roland C. Allen, Commander in Command
Leith, Fearless, Fury, Jonquil, Geranium, Tuna, Vizalma, Abelia, Wolsey, Vanity, Saladin, Broke, Leeds United.
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