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Darlington Court's Report - Convoy HX 126

Received from Roger Griffiths (his source: Public Records Office, Kew)

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, HMS Burwell's & HMS Malcolm's Reports
Norman Monarch & Harpagus Reports
Nicoya's Report

Report of an Interview with Chief Engineer A. H. Stirling of Darlington Court
Shipping Casualties Section - Trade Division
Dated June 7-1941

(Darlington Court had originally been scheduled for the previous convoy, HX 125).

We were bound from Halifax to U.K. with a cargo of 8500 tons of grain. We were armed with a 4" gun, 3 Hotchkiss, a Holman projector and a Kite. The ship was degaussed but the apparatus was not working. The crew, including 2 Military Gunners and 2 Naval Gunners, numbered 37, of whom 25 are missing. The confidential books went down with the ship.

We left Halifax on the 10th May in Convoy HX 126 bound for U.K. and proceeded without incident until the early hours of the 20th when two ships in the convoy, No.'s 91 and 93, were torpedoed (the ships in these stations were Norman Monarch and Harpagus - however, according to "Axis Submarine Successes of WW II", Jürgen Rohwer, Harpagus was sunk several hours after Darlington Court, in fact, Darlington Court was the second ship to be sunk, about 10 hours after the attack on Norman Monarch - see link to her report above). We altered course to 90° until about 06:00 when we changed course again, and at 09:00 we went back to our original course.

About 12:58 the same day, in position 57 18N 41 07W, as our Escort hoisted a signal reporting a submarine on our starboard* side, we were struck by a torpedo on the port side in the engine room, followed 2 seconds later by another torpedo in the deep tank forward of the engine room. The sea was calm, wind slight, weather was fine and visibility hazy. We were making 8 1/2 knots on Course 035°. The first explosion, which was heavier and sharper than the second, stopped the main engine immediately, and the second torpedo, which struck the deep tank, split the ship in two. The ship capsized immediately, and in about 45 seconds she was out of sight.

* Further down in his report, the chief engineer says: "The track of the torpedo was not seen by anyone, neither was the U-boat seen. I think there must have been more than one submarine in the vicinity when we were attacked, because the Escort gave us a signal to the effect that a submarine was on the starboard side at the same time as we were torpedoed on the port side". He adds, "Although I did not actually feel any concussion while in the water, the crew of the Cockaponset mentioned something about it". This last statement may be referring to a mysterious explosion which is mentioned in several reports - see Cockaponset's report.

I had only just come out of the engine room when the torpedo struck us and, finding it impossible to enter it again, I came on to the boat deck, trying to get my lifebelt over my head, when I was washed over the side. When I came to the surface I looked for wreckage but could not see anything except the blazing tanker, British Security, directly astern of us, which was torpedoed immediately after us. The flames were about 60 ft. high, and a huge column of smoke appeared to come out of the water and burst into flame. I swam about for 3 hours and about 16:00 I managed to reach our starboard lifeboat at the same time as the captain. The port lifeboats were thrown out of their davits by the explosion, and the starboard lifeboat, which the captain cut adrift, overturned on reaching the water but righted herself when the ship turned over. Within a quarter of an hour of reaching the boat we picked up 5 of our crew who were on wreckage and tried to reach some more of them, but on account of the fire from the blazing tanker spreading we could not get to them.* After that we made for the open sea to get away from the fire, and at 22:20 we found another raft with 5 more survivors, whom we picked up.

* With regard to British Security, the Commanding Officer of the escorting Aurania says the following in his report:
"There were several tremendous explosions, sheets of flame and black smoke, which went up at least 500 feet. She was about 2 cables on my port beam when struck. The men on the wreckage from the Darlington Court floated into this burning hell, their cries were ghastly and now I wish I had put my machine gun on them".

At 07:00 on the 21st we were picked up by the Hontestroom. We cruised around for 3 days, picking up survivors from Cockaponsest on the 21st and on the 24th we found a lifeboat belonging to the Peterson (he means John P. Pedersen, ref. link below), a Norwegian tanker. We were landed at Reykjavik on Monday, the 26th.

The chief engineer considered that had it not been for the captain no one from his ship would have been saved. At the time of the explosion the rest of the crew were struggling with their lifebelts, but the captain cut the lifeboat adrift himself and was not wearing a lifebelt when in the small boat.

The chief engineer also said that although they were very grateful for the assistance rendered by the Hontestroom in picking them up, there was little comfort aboard her (this complaint is also evident in Cockaponset's report, see the link below). There were 70 survivors, including the men from the Cockaponset, and they were all accommodated in the after hold 'tween deck. There were 68 beds, and owing to little ventilation the atmosphere was far from fresh. The food was insufficient; they had two small tins of bully-beef amongst 16 and dry bread, and for two days not even bread, only biscuits. No hot meal was given to them. There was also little water for cleansing purposes. He also said that the crew, who were Dutch, did not appear to have any use for them. They had plenty of cigarettes on board but would not sell them. The doctor gave them as many as he could, but there were 70 survivors and they were on the ship for five days. (In fact, Hontestroom was withdrawn from rescue service after this, because of deficient accommodation and facilities, and was later employed in the freight trade. Note that she was not the Rescue Vessel actually assigned to Convoy HX 126, but was on her way back to Clyde when she made these rescues - ref. the info about her on Page 1, which also has a complete list of ships sunk, and the U-boats that sank them, as well as Commodore's notes and names of escorts etc.)

External links ( related to text on this page:
Norman Monarch | Darlington Court | British Security | Harpagus

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To the next HX convoy in my list HX 127


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