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Convoys SC 31 and HX 126
Orders for Local & Ocean Escorts
Dated May 7-1941

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
See also:
Ships in Convoy SC 31

To be destroyed by fire when complied with and not to be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy.

All times in this memorandum are zone+3. The question marks are my own, and stem from the fact that some of the words are unclear.

Composition of escorts:
Convoy SC 31 - HMS Wolfe, (Ocean Escort), HMCS Cobalt and Collingwood (Local Escorts)
HX 126 - HMS Aurania, HMS Tribune (Ocean Escorts), HMCS Chambly and Orillia (Local Escorts)

Leaving Harbour:

Convoy SC 31:
Convoy SC 31 will sail on Friday 9th May 1941.
The leading ship of the convoy will pass Turple Head at zero hour (11:00, 9th May, unless otherwise ordered).
The local escorts HMC ships Cobalt and Collingwood will proceed at zero minus 1 1/2 hours so as to patrol to a depth of 16 miles on an arc 090° - 150° from the inner automatic buoy while the convoy is leaving harbour.
The ocean escort (HMS Wolfe) is to leave harbour about half an hour after the rear ship of the convoy.
Arrangements have been made for aircraft of the R.C.A.F. to patrol the area while the convoy is forming up.

Convoy HX 126:
Convoy HX 126 will sail on Saturday 10th May 1941.
The leading ship of the convoy will pass Turple Head at zero hour (11:00, 10th May unless otherwise ordered).
The local escorts (HMC ships Chambly and Orillia) will proceed at zero minus 1 1/2 hours, so as to patrol to a depth of 16 miles on an arc 090° - 160° from the inner automatic buoy while the convoy is leaving harbour.
The ocean escort (HMS Aurania) is to leave harbour about half an hour after the rear ship of the convoy. HMS Tribune will follow HMS Aurania out of harbour.
Arrangements have been made for aircraft of the R.C.A.F. to patrol the area while the convoy is forming up.

Disposition of escorts after convoys have formed:

Local Escort:
Local escorts will take station 1500 yards 80?° on either bow of the convoy (HMCS Cobalt to port and HMCS Collingwood to starboard, and HMCS Chambly to port and HMCS Orillia to starboard). After dark, or in low visibility, the local escorts will maintain relative bearings from the convoy, and will remain within visibility distance of it. In thick fog it will open out to a safe distance and proceed on the ? course at the speed of the convoy until the fog clears. In clear weather by day, or in bright moonlight, local escort will zig-zag at the maximum speed possible. The object of the local escort being the A/S protection of the convoy it should not normally be detached to round up stragglers.

Ocean Escort:
The normal disposition of the escort will be between columns four and five of the convoy, about one cable astern of the line of leading ships, and following the motions of the convoy. By night, the ocean escort is free to take station on the quarter of the convoy, if conditions of light or the position of the moon enhance the possibility of attack from a particular direction. On dark nights or in low visibility, the ocean escort should be in line with the leading ships to assist station keeping in the convoy. If the speed of the convoy and/or weather conditions make it impossible for the escort to remain between the two columns, her disposition is left to the discretion of the Commanding Officer.

Submarine Escort:
When local escort is present, the submarine forming part of the ocean escort is to be stationed 3 cables on the beam of the leading ship of one of the wing columns of the convoy. If due to fog, the convoy is unable to form up, the submarine is to remain in close touch with the ocean escort. When local escort is not present, and West? of 35° West, the submarine is to take station ahead of the convoy at V/S signalling distance by day, dropping back to a position 20° before the beam of the leading ship of one of the wing columns at a distance of about five cables by night, or in low visibility. If there is any indication of possible attack from a particular side, the submarine should be stationed on the appropriate bow. The submarine may zig-zag independently by day, keeping roughly in station.

Air Escort:
Arrangements have been made for aircraft of the R.C.A.F. to maintain an outer A/S patrol on the 9th and 10th May, from the time each convoy forms up until dark. A/S air patrol will be carried out on the 10th May and 11th May for as long as is practiable. Aircraft sighting a submarine near the convoy will indicate the fact as laid down in the Marchant Navy Code. If sighting takes place out of sight of the convoy, the aircraft will report the position of the base by the method laid down in S.P. 02274(4).

Action if surface forces are reported

The convoy and escort will turn if evasion appears possible. If contact with the enemy cannot be avoided, the convoy will be turned away or ordered to scatter as circumstances may require and the ocean escort will dis-engage from the convoy so as to deal with the enemy. The safety of the convoy being the object of the escort, it does not necessarily follow that precipitate action with a superior enemy force is the best way of fulfilling this object. An escort of inferior strength should endeavour to draw an enemy from the convoy, bearing in mind that the longer the enemy's attention can be occupied, the greater is the chance of escape of the ships in convoy. The tactical advantage of a position in the rear of the raider should not be overlooked. The use of smoke for screening the convoy will naturally require immediate consideration.

Action in the event of air attack

If aircraft are sighted, the duty of identification rests with the escort, who will normally remain with the convoy. The Commodore will turn the convoy as necessary to bring the ships' A.A. guns to bear, but individual ships, unless obviously being attacked, should not open fire until the ocean escort does so, thereby indicating that the aircraft are hostile. Merchant ships in convoy have been instructed not to open fire on aircraft at night when to the Westward of 07° West unless they are attacked. With this exception, any aircraft not recognized as friendly approaching within range of merchant ships' guns may be engaged immediately by day or night when in Home Waters.

Action if submarine is reported

The Commodore will turn the convoy through the appropriate safety angle. Local escort, if present, will proceed to the reported position and are to hunt and attack relentlessly. If the presence of a submarine has been substantiated without doubt, the hunt should continue for at least 24 hours. If cdoubt exists as to whether the report is well founded, the escort should rejoin the convoy when the area has been searched.

Action if convoy is attacked by submarine

Decision whether the convoy should scatter if attacked by U-boat must rest with the Commodore. The convoy should not normally scatter:
a) if a local escort is present
b) if local air or surface escort is shortly expected.
In such circumstances the decision to scatter must depend on condition of the weather, daylight or darkness, speed and manoeuvrability of convoy etc. The possible advantage of the use of smoke floats should not be overlooked.

Action if a ship of the convoy is torpedoed

The first duty of the local escort, if present, is the destruction of the submarine. When there is a local escort a ship of the convoy may be detailed to stand by to save life if necessary and circumstances at the time permit. If no local escort is present the risk of presenting another target to the submarine is unacceptable and the action taken must naturally be confined to the immediate transmission by the ocean escort of commercial distress messages on 500 kc/s H/F and 143 kc/s in accordane with the Defense of Merchant Shipping, Appendix B, paragraph 16, employing maximum power as if made by the casualty herself. It is important that W/T silence should then be resumed. If the casualty cannot be indentified as is probable at night or in low visibility, the callsign of a "token" ship in that part of the convoy must be used and the error corrected later.

Special instructions when a submarine forms part of the ocean escort and the convoy is attacked

a) U-boat attack when local surface escort or A/S air patrol is operating: Submarine is to remain with the convoy and is not to dive.
b) U-boat attacks when no local or air escort is present: Endeavour to remain with the convoy.
c) Attack by surface forces:

i) By day - Submarine is to dive unseen by the enemy and place herself between the convoy and the enemy. If two submarines are escorting, one should dive at once, laeving the other to proceed on the surface with the convoy and dive at the Commandnig Officer's discretion so as to ? the submarine between the convoy and the enemy.
ii) By night - Submarine is to attack with torpedoes. When the ocean escort is an Armed Merchant Cruiser, and the raider is of superior force, the Armed Merchant Cruiser will usually remain with the convoy.

d) Attack by aircraft: The submarine may dive for her own safety.

Recognition of submerged submarines by escort (this paragraph is extremely blurry, so I'm not sure whether I've deciphered every word correctly):
On occasions when submarines of the escorts are submerged and A/S vessels are not operating? asdic? the latter should shift their receiver settings so as to best? listen for the submarine submerged identification letter which will be transmitted on 10 kc/s. They should also keep a good lookout for yellow smoke candles(?).

Procedure for assisting stragglers

The ocean escort is not normally to leave the convoy unprotected in order to round up stragglers who she lost to sight. In the event of ships becoming separated from the convoy due to bad weather, low visibility etc., the ocean escort may break W/T silence and transmit certain specified signals on low power to enable stragglers to obtain bearings by D/F. Details of these signals are given below (under heading "D/F Procedure). This procedure is not to be used EAST of Longitude 3? 00West, and is to be used most sparingly. It is on no account to be used if an enemy raider is believed to be operating in the North Atlantic.

Darkenig of ships in convoy

Numerous reports have been received that Masters of vessels in convoy are not paying sufficient attention to this very important matter. Commanding Officers of escorts are to take the necessary steps to ensure that all ships in convoy are properly darkened. Bursts of machine gun fire have been found very effective.

Oscillation of receivers

In the event of receiver oscillations being heard on 500 kc/s of a strength considered dangerous to the safety of the convoy, the ocean escort is to endeavour to locate the offending ships by D/F and change of bearing and the names of such ships are to be reported subsequently by letter to the Rear Admiral, Third Battle Squadron and the Naval Control Service Officer, Halifax.

Period of local escort

HMC ships Cobalt and Collingwood, in the absence of other orders, will leave convoy SC 31 on Friday 9th May, half hour after sunset.
HMC ships Chambly and Orillia, in the absence of other orders, will leave convoy HX 126 half an hour after sunset on Saturday 10th May.
Convoys SC 31 and HX 126 will be met by local escort from Iceland in approximately 35° West. This escort will remain with the convoys until the inward local escort is met.

Period of ocean escort

HMS Wolfe should, in the absense of other orders, leave Convoy SC 31 when the Iceland local escort is met, and return to Halifax at the maximum speed which weather conditions and fuel remaining will allow. HMS Wolfe on the return route, if practicable, should pass between positions 40 40N 50 00W and 36 00N 46 30W in order to provide maximum cover for independently routed ships.

HMS Tribune (HX 126) is to leave the convoy half an hour after sunset on 21st May, or in 35 00W, whichever is the earlier. After leaving, a sweep is to be carried out astern of the convoy. If, due to stress of weather, engine breakdown, or other cause, the submarine is unable to maintain the speed of the convoy, she is to carry out the following procedure:
a) Report by V/S to the Senior Officer of the convoy escort that she is unable to maintain station, and, whether, in the event of complete engine breakdown, a ship of the convoy is required to stand by.
b) Report by W/T when the convoy is at least 100 miles distant from her to the Rear Admiral, Third Battle Squadron, repeated to the ocean escort, that she is delayed, including an estimate, where practicable, of the length of the delay.
Should the submarine lose touch with the convoy, she may rejoin in daylight hours. When so doing, the submarine's mast is to be raised and an ensign worn at the masthead and the submarine is to identify herself as soon as the escort is sighted. If the submarine has doubt about her ability to rejoin, she may proceed independently to Halifax, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer, reporting position, course and speed as ordered in b) above. After leaving the convoy, HMS Tribune is to proceed to the United Kingdon in accordance with instructions which will be issued by the Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches.

HMS Aurania is to leave her convoy (HX 126) with the Iceland local escort who will escort her to Reykjavik, Iceland (as will be seen by going to "HMS Aurania's report" below, she left much earlier). When well clear of the convoy, a report of the expected time of arrival at Reykjavik should be made to the Flag Officer-in-Charge, Iceland, and repeated to Flag Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol, and the Rear Admiral, Third Battle Squadron. HMS Aurania is subsequently to fuel and water at Hvalfjordur, and proceed on patrol in the Denmark Strait as directed by Flag Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol. HMS Aurana should leave Denmark Strait patrol on Thursday, 5th June 1941, so as to return to Halifax by Wednesday, 11th June 1941. Flag Officer Commanding, Northern Patrol may amend these date, if necessary.

On passage to Halifax, the area bounded by the following positions is normally prohibited to Westbound shipping:

A) 42 00N 60 00W
B) 43 10N 60 00W
Y) 42 30N 50 00W
Z) 40 40N 50 00W

Provided information concerning outgoing convoys has been received, and that due caution is exercised, there is no objection to the return route infringing on this area.

Conveyance of personnel to Iceland

HMS Aurania will be carrying 40 officers and 190 other ranks of the Royal Canadian Air Force, for onward passage to the United Kingdon from Iceland (the C.O. of HMS Aurania says she had 250 passengers - again, see link to the report below). Notwithstanding this, the object of the Armed Merchant Cruiser remains the safety of the convoy. If however other surface forces form part of the ocean escort, the actual employment of the Armed Merchant Cruiser in defence of the convoy must be at the discretion of the Senior Officer of the escort. Personnel and stores are to be disembarked at Reykjavik.

Arrival at the rendezvous in home waters

The Senior Officer of the escort is to ensure that the convoy does not arrive early at the rendezvous with the inward escort, unless enemy activity necessitates it. Early arrival at the rendezvous causes dislocation of organisation of local escorts, and also the breaking of W/T silence.

The rendezvous with the escort from Iceland is as follows:

SC 31 - 58 35N 33 30W at 06:00 GMT on 22nd May 1941
HX 126 - 58 45N 33 00W at 06:00 GMT on 22nd May 1941

If not met by local escort, the convoys are to proceed towards:

SC 31 - 60 30N 25 00W
HX 126 - 60 30N 25 00W

If either convoy expects to be more than six hours late or more than three hours early at the rendezvous, the fact is to be reported by the Senior Officer of the escort. This report should be made at least 24 hours before the convoy is due to reach the rendezvous, and consideration should be given to getting clear of the convoy before breaking W/T silence. Provided the convoy is on its correct route, no position or course is required, and the report should be made in the form - Reference number of the convoy, number of hours early or late, number of ships present, and names of stragglers, if known. If the convoy is not on its correct route, the approach course towards the rendezvous is to be included. The report is to be prefixed "Important", and is to be made in Area Cypher, Small Ship Cypher or Naval Code, addressed to the Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches, and repeated to the Admiralty, the Rear Admiral, Third Battle Squadron, and the Senior Officer of the inward local escort, if known.

Orders for steam

HM ships Wolfe and Aurania are to have steam for not less that 14 knots, and for full speed at dawn and at 30 minutes notice at other times. HMC corvettes are to have steam for maximum speed possible.

Information of own forces which may be met

The following sips on passage to Halifax should pass the convoys on or about the days shown:

Ranpura - 10th May / 11th May
Laconia - 12th May / 13th May
Salopian - 13th May / 14th May
Royal Sovereign - 13th May / 14th May
Thunderbolt - 14th May / 15th May
Derbyshire - 15th May
Revenge - 17th May
Alaunia - 17th May

HX 126 should pass through position 44 18N 44 51W at 15:00 GMT on the 15th May thence HX 126 is to take station 20 miles ahead of SC 31 by night and close distance by day if desired until rendezvous position is reached (see "Arrival at the rendezvous" above).

Information of enemy forces

Several enemy Armed Raiders are know to be operating. German Battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenhau are reported to be at Brest. Italy possesses some submarines of large endurance which might be met in the West Atlantic. There is also a possibility that HMS Seal, now in German hands, may be operating in these waters A list of German and Italaian Merchant Ships in the West Atlantic, which might be met, if attempting to break out, has been supplied to the ocean escort. U-boats have recently been operating as far West as 30°W.


Watch is to be kept from zero-2 hours as follows:

HM ships Wolfe and Aurania - In accordance with Admralty Fleet Order S.1-2/41. Listening watch on 5525 kc/s is to be kept during hours of watch of Dartmouth P.C.A.F. Station by HMS Wolfe during daylight on 9th and 10th May, and by HMS Aurania during daylight on 10th and 11th May, 1941.

HMS Tribune - In accordance with Admiralty's 1635, 17th February, except that, on the America and West Indies Station and escorting convoy, normal watch is to be shifted to 500? kc/s when in fog or out of V/S touch with Aurania.

Outwards local escort - Constant watch on 500 kc/s.

D/F procedure
(ref. paragraph under "Procedure for assisting stragglers" above)

SC 31 - 375 kc/s (800 metres( I.C.W.
HX 126 - 429 kc/s (700 metres) I.C.W.

SC 31 - 12:14, 12:23, 19:14 and 19:20 GMT
HX 126 - 11:37, 11:44, 18:53 and 190:00 GMT

SC 31 - Letter V three tmes, followed by three longs. Total duration of transmission to be 15 seconds.
HX 126 - Letter F three times, followed by three longs. Total duration of transmission to be 15 seconds.

Particular care is to be taken that these signals resemble as nearly as possible those made by an automatically controlled transmitter. Test transmissions are to be carried out by HMS Wolfe at 19:14 and 19:20 GMT on Friday 9th May 9141, and by HMS Aurania at 18:53 and 19:00 GMT on Saturady 10th May 1941. Transmissions are to be made twice through at each of these times.

General notes

a) - Enemy reports made in self evident code are not to be recoded.
b) - Commodores of convoys arrange for all ships whose receivers are not sealed in accordance with Admiralty's 1906/29th October to read Rugby and Portishead radio routines.
c) - OZ messages received subsequent to sailing will be passed out on L, BN and GA routines. Missing ones should be obtained from the inward local escort. Commodores of convoys must be kept informed of the sense of OZ messages that affect ships in convoy.
d) - Use of W/T by the ocean escort is normally to be restricted to D/F stragglers procedure within the limits laid down. If it is found necessary to promulgate a rendezvous by W/T, minimum power is to be used, and signals prefixed by name of Commodore's ship.
e) - While at Iceland, W/T watch is to be kept in accordance with N.P.C.C. 2, paragraph 3.
f) - Attention is called to Admiralty's 1805/4th March re W/T watch to be kept by merchant ships.

Signed Rear Admiral, Third Battle Squadron (name illegible).

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To the next HX convoy in my list HX 127


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