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Convoy HX 126
HMS Burnham's, HMS Burwell's & HMS Malcolm's Reports

HMS Burwell's Report | HMS Malcolm's Report

Received from Roger Griffiths (his source: Public Records Office, Kew).
Some text in the reports was illegible, but from Gordon Campbell I've received an E-mail which helps fill in the illegible gaps.

HX 126 departed Halifax on May 10-1941and arrived Liverpool on the 28th

Page 1 - Ships in HX 126
Orders for ocean and local escorts (SC 31 & HX 126)
Commodore's Narrative of Events (& Tongariro's Report)
General Report / Misc. Escort Signals
HMS Aurania's Report

HMS Burnham's report
To the Senior Officer of 12th Escort Group - dated May 24-1941
(in HMS Malcolm's report, the 12th has been crossed out and replaced by an 8 - in other words, it's to the 8th Escort Group)

May 20
13:00 - Received a report of the torpedoing of the British Security. Directed Mallow to take charge of trawlers and corvettes and proceeded with Burwell, course 218°. Worked up to 26 knots.
17:03 - Sighted a ship and altered course towards her on 270°. She proved to be the S.S. Harpagus. She had the crew of the Norman Monarch on board and thought most of the convoy were to the W.N.W. I directed Burwell to search in this direction while Burnham searched further south. Fifteen minutes after leaving Harpagus I received a sighting report of U-boat from S.S. Nicoya and proceeded towards the position at 26 knots at 18:15.
18:30 - Ships were sighted to the Westward but none apparently being Nicoya. I proceeded on to position given.
19:45 - Position was reached, but nothing was sighted. I swept West for half an hour and then turned North. S.S. Dorelian was sighted and I closed on her at 20:45. Set her course 037°, 10 knots.
21:10 - Sighted the tanker Elusa ahead and closed her.
21:55 - Sighted convoy, Burwell in company, 15 ships, course 044°, 8 knots. Had speed reduced to 6 knots while Dorelian and Elusa joined.

May 21
02:00 (about) - When screening on starboard bow of convoy a red flare was sighted. This proved to be from two boats and a raft with 35 survivors from S.S. Harpagus and Norman Monarch. *These were picked up and station regained at 03:15.
03:30 - A tanker in the middle of the convoy was torpedoed. Search with star shell was carried out but with only two ships escorting the convoy it was impossible to make it effective. As it was not really dark I was in some doubt as to the U-boat being on the surface or submerged, consequently after searching on the bow and beam I carried out an Asdic sweep astern. In doing this I closed the burning wreck and found three boats and a raft with survivors. Finding nothing astern, the survivors were picked up. The master was still on board and had to be taken off with a line. The tanker proved to be the Elusa, 48 survivors*. Malcom arrived as the last of the survivors was being picked up and the convoy was rejoined with her.

* Note that Burnham reported revised numbers of survivors on May 25: Elusa 49, Harpagus 16, Norman Monarch 22 - see this report.

Elusa had been hit on the starboard side and was second ship in the centre column. When the explosion occurred two ships were lit up between her and Burnham and it seems probable that the U-boat dropped down from right ahead and got among the convoy escaping afterwards either ahead or astern. No doubt before attacking she had observed the positions of the escorting ships which were 10° before the beam of the leading wing ship on either side and covering as much ground as possible at a mean distance of one mile, and acted accordingly.

Signed by J. Bostock
Commanding Officer of HMS Burnham.

HMS Burwell's report

May 20
17:29 - Sighted S.S. Harpagus steering 39° 9 knots
18:06 - Proceeded to search for merchant ships
22:00 - Convoy reformed, 17 ships on course 044° 6 knots.
22:15 - Burnham joined with two M.V.'s.

May 21
01:35 - Observed red flares on starboard side of convoy.
02:00 - Took station ahead as Burnham left to rescue survivors.
03:25 - Returning to station on port bow of convoy, observed red tracers.
03:40 - Tanker torpedoed. As torpedo appeared to come from port side turned out at 15 knots and opened fire with star shell. Observed Burnham's star shell full astern of convoy and other star shell believed to come from Mallow below Southern horizon.
04:30 - Returned to station.
05:56 - Malcolm joined.
20:35 - Masthead lookout reported object low in water bearing 322° on horizon, proceeded to investigate at 20 knots.
20:50 - Object appeared to be moving away.
21:04 - Object disappeared.
21:14 - No A/S contact but as object was possibly a U-boat fired one depth charge and sighted one M.V. bearing 250. M/V. proved to be S.S. Gretavale, straggler from HX 126. Directed her to join convoy and carried out A/S screen.
23:30 - Took station on beam distance 5 miles in case U-boat tried to shadow convoy again.

May 22
01:00 - Rejoined convoy.
07:55 - Malcolm left. Took station ahead of convoy.
09:59 - Attacked unclassified contact believed to be fish, one charge dropped.
10:12 - Trawlers King Sol and Daneman joined.

May 23
19:15 - Handed over convoy to HMS Keppel and 1st Escort Group and proceeded to Iceland with S.S. Rosewood and Heliotrope.
20:00 - Scimitar joined.
21:30 - Left S.S. Rosewood and escort and proceeded at economical speed as fuel was running short.

HMS Malcolm's report
on the subject of scattering of Convoy HX 126
From the Commander of the 8th Escort Group, to the Captain (D) - Londonderry
dated June 18-1941

The attached report has been received today from HMS Burnham at present operating from St. John's, Newfoundland. In order to avoid delay my letter of proceedings covering Convoy HX 126 for the period while I was with it was forwarded on 7th June, without waiting for HMS Burnham's report of proceedings to be received.

It is submitted that HMS Burwell did an efficient piece of work in finding and assembling fifteen vessels from the scattered units of HX 126. This nucleus provided a body on which to form other vessels which were sighted.

Thoughout the 21st May and again during the night period 21st to 22nd May there were definite indications that U-boats were shadowing, at least one on the port and one on the starbord bow. These indications came from convoy D/F's and Admiralty signals. I expected and was ready for synchronised attack as experienced by HMS Bulldog in May, but the enemy did not attempt to close and after 36 hours seemed to give it up and relinquish shadowing contact. On this occasion I had insufficient ships to afford to detach a single unit to drive off the enemy. I did however adopt a patrolling type screen, which though uneconomical in fuel did make it difficult for a submarine to attack either on the surface by night or at periscope depth by day.

Though the losses sustained by HX 126 before the escort arrived were great they would, I consider, have been still heavier had HMS Burwell not collected and formed fifteen vessel which later increased to eighteen in company.

I conclusion information is requested as to what authority ordered HX 126 to scatter.

Signed C.D. Howard-Johnston
Commander, Royal Navy
Commander (D) 8th Escort Group.

To the next HX convoy in my list HX 127


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