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Rothermere'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
Report by the captain of Nicoya
Report of interview with the chief engineer of Darlington Court
Report of interview with the captain of Cockaponset

Report of an Interview with 3rd Mate D. M. Kennedy of Rothermere
Shipping Casualties Section - Trade Division
Dated July 4-1941

We were bound from Halifax to Loch Ewe with a cargo of 7095 tons of steel and newsprint. The ship was armed with a 4" gun, a 12 pounder, 2 Hotchkiss, 3 Lewis guns and 2 P.A.C. rockets; a kite was also fitted. The crew, which included 2 military and 2 naval gunners, numbered 55 and we had 1 passenger with us. Of the crew 22 are missing and 1 man was injured. The confidential books were all thrown overboard in a weighted bag by the Captain. The ship was degaussed and I think the apparatus was switched on at the time.

We sailed from Halifax on the 10th May in Convoy HX 126. We proceeded until the 19th May when at about midnight the Norman Monarch and the Harpagus were torpedoed (note that Harpagus was not torpedoed till much later - follow links above). We altered course, carrying out the emergency turn, and dropped smoke floats. I left the bridge about 02:00 on the 20th, and when I came on watch later that morning we had returned to our original course. The weather on the 20th was overcast but clear, slight sea and Westerly wind force 3. At 12:48 on the 20th the Darlington Court was torpedoed, and she sank in 1 1/2 minutes. Almost immediately after, the British Security was struck and she went up in flame. The Commodore then gave the signal to scatter, and we at once proceeded at full speed, about 12 knots, on a mean course of North true, but carrying out evasive steering.

At 15:20 I went below, leaving the 2nd Officer on watch with the Captain, to report the noon (ship's time) position to the Chief Engineer. I was standing in the starboard alleyway outside his room when at 15:30 on the 20th May, in position 57 48N 41 36W the ship was torpedoed. I understand that the look-out man saw the track of the torpedo, shouted, and made at once for the wheelhouse, but was too late to do anything. The torpedo struck the vessel practically amidships on the port side. There was a muffled explosion, water was thrown up, and the 3rd Engineer reported a smell of cordite. I do not know if there was any flame or smoke. The port lifeboat was smashed by the explosion, several hatch covers were blown off and the passenger accommodation on the port side was wrecked. The ship took a slight list to port immediately, but righted herself.

I at once went to my boat station on the port side but found that the bottom had been blown out of my boat. The Chief Officer's boat was lifted at right-angles to the davits and although not damaged it was hopeless to launch it. I crossed to the starboard side and saw the Captain and 2nd Officer coming down from the bridge. I did not see the Chief Officer. Someone had let go the forward fall of the Captain's boat, No. 1 starboard boat, throwing several men into the water. I went along to the 2nd Mate's boat, No. 3, to see if I could help anyone in the water, then the 3rd Engineer said he was not sure if the engines had been shut off so I went with him to the boat deck and we turned them off. Whilst doing so someone had let go the after fall of the 2nd Mate's boat; the Captain, seeing this, told me to put the rafts over. The ship had straightened herself by this time. We got as many men as we could, including the passenger, away on the first raft, and the Chief Officer's raft was also over. We had an additional raft, without skids, so we took some of the A.B.'s to the starboard side, half a dozen of them got on the raft, it was put over, then we took it along to the stern and as many men as possible got on to it. The 2nd Officer and I then put another raft over from the poop for anyone who was still in the water. In the meantime the Chief Officer had lowered the 2nd Officer's boat to the water. This was the after starboard boat, and as he had had to lower it by only one fall it was swamped immediately. We brought it along abreast of No. 5 hatch, two or three of us got into it and started to bail it out. All the stores had been washed out so the Captain told me to go with him to the storeroom to fetch fresh supplies. We collected as much food as we could, also some buckets.

We started to bail out the boat again when about 10-15 minutes after the first torpedo, the ship was struck by a second one, this time on the starboard side, practically amidships. I heard the swish a second before the torpedo struck, a column of water was thrown up which swamped our boat again, and the explosion was like a deep boom, not so muffled as the first one had been. The Chief Officer had a knife in his hand at the time and the concussion of the torpedo jammed the knife into his leg. The ship at once started to break in two and I shouted to those left on deck, including the Captain, 2nd Officer, and Senior Wireless Operator, to jump into the boat, but they took no notice and walked aft. Then someone let go the forward painter of our boat and we drifted away from the ship. The Captain threw me the confidential papers and his sextant, also a parcel of chocolates, as we passed, and I picked them up out of the water. I again shouted to them to jump and eventually they all did so.

At 15:48, about 18 minutes after first being torpedoed, the ship sank; she sagged in the middle, the stern went first, then last of all the bows. I do not think she would have gone after the first torpedo, but the Captain gave the order to abandon ship. The engineroom was full of water almost at once.

We had no ours in our boat and were drifting away pretty fast, so the only thing we could do was to bail out as fast as we could, then we made a sea anchor from one of the buoyancy tanks which was floating around, which proved fairly efficient. Meanwhile, the Chief Officer's boat had apparently drifted clear of the wreck as the ship went down. It floated by one of the rafts on which were the 4th Officer and some of the crew, and they managed to transfer from the raft to this boat, then went round the rafts collecting stores. They saw nothing of the Captain or the 2nd Officer, but everyone had their lifejackets on, so they should have been able to make one of the rafts (in fact, the Captain was among the casualties). The 4th Officer pulled over to my boat and as he had 9 oars he gave us 5. We both pulled round in circles, throroughly combing the area for survivors until dark, then both boats rode out the night of the 20th/21st to a sea anchor, making ourselves as comfortable as possible. We had some bread(?) with milk and water to keep us going. We expected the rescue ship to come along next day and that afternoon, 21st, a Merchant ship and 2 destroyers hove into sight about 4 miles off. One of the destroyers came within 2 miles but failed to pick up our flares in the daylight. We therefore decided to wait until the next day then, if nothing came, to get under way.

Nothing came, so on the morning of the 22nd both boats set sail; we fixed a rope between us so that we should keep together. At 23:00 on the 23rd we saw the lights of a small steamer approaching, we again sent up flares which this time were seen. She hove to and we rowed alongside, and were all taken on board. She was the Icelandic vessel Bruarfoss, and we could not have been better treated by her officers and crew. She landed us a Reykjavik on the 27th May.

The only comment I should like to make is regarding the 180° emergency turn; this is all right if all ships are of same class and speed, but with a mixed number of tankers and large and small cargo ships, it is impossible to keep proper station, tankers especially being very slow in turning.

See Page 1 for info on other 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 | Rothermere

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To the next HX convoy in my list HX 127


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