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CONVOY HX 90 - Page 2
Advance Sailing Telegram

Received from Roger Griffiths - His source: Public Records Office, Kew.

Further details on losses have been added with the help of:
"The Allied Convoy System", Arnold Hague
"Axis Submarine Successes of WW II", Jürgen Rohwer
"The World's Merchant Fleets", R. W. Jordan.

The convoy had 11 ships upon departure Halifax, another 5 joined from Sydney on Nov. 23, and 22 from Bermuda on Nov. 24. 18 finished the trip together.

Lost touch due to weather or other cause:
Appledore, Victoria City (later sunk),
Tai Yin, Inger, Solstad, Stad Maassluis, Ulysses, Ville d'Arlon (later sunk), Rajahstan, Dunsley.
British Prince was sent to Sydney (the Commodore says Nov. 24, while date is given as Nov. 23 in Laconia's report - see text for Nov. 23 on Page 3). She later joined HX 91.

Ships sunk or damaged
(in chronological order - times in parenthesis are German times).

Dec. 1- 1940
The British Appalachee, cargo of 11 076 tons aviation gas and oil,
was sunk by U-101 (at 22:13),
7 died, 32 survived.
The British Loch Ranza was torpedoed and damaged by U-101 (at 22:14).

Dec. 2
The British Kavak, cargo of 1745 tons bauxite and 1650 tons pitch, was sunk by U-101 (04:06), 25 died, 16 survived.
The Belgian Ville d'Arlon (straggler) was sunk by U-47 (04:09). A crew list has been posted to my Ship Forum - As will be seen, a couple of them were Norwegian.
The British Lady Glanely, cargo of 2000 tons wheat and 6125 tons wood, was sunk by U-101 (05:07), all 33 died.
The British Conch, cargo of 11 214 tons FFO, was torpedoed and damaged by U-47 (05:25) and U-95 (09:05) on Dec. 2, sunk by U-99 on Dec. 3 (10:19). All 53 on board survived.
HMS Forfar became the victim of U-99 at 05:46 (this vessel had left the convoy and was bound for Convoy OB 251). 172 men died, 21 survived.
The British Dunsley (straggler) was shelled and damaged by U-47*.
The British Tasso, cargo of 1300 tons greenheart logs, was sunk by U-52 (07:25), 5 died.
The British Goodleigh, cargo of 1000 tons spelter and 8400 tons wood was sunk by U-52 (07:25), 1 died, 36 survived.
The British Stirlingshire, cargo of 7600 tons sugar, lead and refrig., was sunk by U-94 (18:25), no casualties - 74 survived.
The British Victoria City was sunk by U-140 (21:42) - all 43 died.
The British Wilhelmina, 6365 tons general cargo, was sunk by U-94 (22:16), 5 died, 33 survived.

* J. Rohwer gives U-52 as the attacker of Dunsley (at 07:35). He also suggests that the straggling British Penrose may have been shelled by U-47 on Dec. 2 - however, the object of this shelling appears to have been Dunsley.

Dec. 3
The British W. Hendrik, cargo of 1500 tons steel and 5000 tons timber, was sunk by German aircraft,
5 died, 30 survived.

Ocean Escort: HMS Laconia (local Halifax escorts are named in Laconia's report on Page 3).
Local Escort: HMS Viscount, HMS Folkstone, HMS Gentian.

Convoy arrived rendezvous on Dec. 2.

Commodore, Commander V. P. Alleyne's Reports

Thursday, Nov. 21
Sailed from Halifax 13:00 with 11 ships and HMS Laconia as escort, Commodore in S.S. Botavon.

Saturday, Nov. 23
Dirty weather. Picked up SHX (Sydney section) 5 ships at 09:00.

Sunday, Nov. 24
S.S. British Prince sent to Sydney, cargo shifted. S.S. Appledore missing. Made junction with Bermuda Section, 22 ships,
S.S. Solstad (Norwegian) missing.

Monday, Nov. 25
All present, S.S. Appledore in sight 8 miles astern, rejoined at noon. Reorganising and renumbering of convoy very difficult owing to Bermuda Section not knowing H.E.
During night blew a gale from S.E. and ship rolling very heavily.

Tuesday, Nov. 26
10:30 - Only 14 of us present. Wind S.W., glass rising. Reduced to 7 knots.
16:00 - Went on to 8 knots as we could not steer safely at 7 knots.
About 20 ships at dusk.

Wednesday, Nov. 27
Weather improving slightly. At 12:00 increased to 9 knots on account of steering.
Counted 29 ships.

Thursday Nov. 28
31 ships today in sight.

Friday, Nov. 29
Blowing hard again from South and heavy rain, visibility very poor.
10:00 - S.S. Grangepark stopped for engine trouble.

Saturday, Nov. 30
Weather fine, with heavy swell. Counted 29 ships from different directions.

Sunday, Dec. 1
Calm except for swell and some rain about.
07:00 - S.S. Ville d'Arlon fell out, steering trouble.
17:00 - Ville d'Arlon rejoined convoy. Thick drizzle. No evasive steering, hoping noon stragglers would join up.
17:00 - HMS Laconia parted company 54 25N 21 22W.
Time illegible - Convoy first attacked, 29 ships present (scroll down for a separate report on attack).
23:15 - Unknown ship torpedoed 30 miles astern.

Monday, Dec. 2
01:30 - S.S. Ville d'Arlon hoisted N.U.C. lights and fell out. These lights were very bright and could be seen for miles.
03:20? - Second and organised attack on convoy by two submarines, one on each side, lasting until about 06:00 when attacks ceased. From then on trying to collect and reorganise convoy which was somewhat scattered. S.S. Empire Kite and S.S. Rookley and one other deserted the convoy and rejoined about 11:45.
Arrived at position 9 at 11:45, air escort turned up and went to fetch sloop who turned up about noon from the North. Air escort then went off astern, presumably to help destroyers to pick up survivors. 21 ships present.
?:00 (illegible time) - Sloop hoisted "Contact" and went to Starboard, 2 Emergency Turns to Port. Resumed Mean Course at 15:20, sloop dropping depth charges.
15:25 - S.S. Stirlingshire torpedoed on starboard wing, S.S. Empire Puma went back to rescue.
Turned away for half an hour.
HMS Gentian turned up at dusk.
20:15 - S.S. Wilhelmina torpedoed on starboard wing. This was thought to be S.S. W. Hendrik as she made a signal to that effect. S.S. W. Hendrik dropped astern, presumably to rescue, when she discovered she herself was not hit.
Turned away for one hour then resumed mean course.
No more attacks that night.

Tuesday, Dec. 3
HMS Viscount arrived at daylight with 121 survivors of the night of December 1st which clarified the situation to a certain extent.
?1:00 (first number illegible) - Attacked from the air by a large 4 engined bomber. He came down Column 4 & 5 (next word illegible), dropped a bomb missing 43, S.S. Hannington Court, and then went off to attack S.S. W. Hendrik who was coming up astern about 4 miles. S.S. Quebec City, 42, had two wounded from gunning.
Plane dive bombed S.S. W. Hendrik and scored direct hit first time with aerial torpedo. Terrific explosion and ship wreathed in flames for a few seconds, ship stopped blowing off steam. I believe she was hit twice more with smaller bombs. Viscount and sloop standing by.
Several submarine alarms during the afternoon which sadly hampered making arrangements to split convoy and organise for going through North Channel.

Wednesday, Dec. 4
Lot of rain coming down North Channel.
18:00(?) - Detached myself and Ruahine(?) and proceeded for Bristol Channel at 10.5 knots.

Thursday, Dec. 5
Arrival Barry Roads, Ruahine in company 18:00, and very glad to get there.
Since junction with Bermuda, I never had the convoy together as a whole, bad weather, the gales(?) one after the other scattered them besides the ordinary machinery troubles. The only calm night we had Hitler scattered them again.

Report on attacks
(starting with Dec. 1 through Dec. 2):

Convoy in 9 columns 5 cables apart.

At 20:15 two explosions were reported on the starboard wing of convoy and gunfire. On making the bridge (less than 1 minute) I saw confused lights to starboard but certainly no gunfire. I did not see either a rocket or flare. There was a heavy rain squall and starboard wing was 2.5 - 3 miles away. When visibility improved slightly I could see the rear ship of that column apparently coming on quite Happily and no signals were made, so I concluded, and the captain agreed, that some ship had got tangled up with our right column, hence the commotion and lights. The explosions I could not account for and I did not myself hear any. Nothing was done and nothing further happened.

21:10 - An unknown ship reported torpedoed about 30 miles S.S.W. of us.
At 01:00 altered course to 073 degs. the approach course. This was an alteration of 15 degs.
At 01:30 Ville d'Arlon hoisted not under control lights and fell astern. These lights were seen for miles and although I won't say she gave us away, I consider N.U.C. lights should be dimmed.
At 03:20 there was an explosion on Port side of convoy and Lady Glanely reported being torpedoed.
03:40 - Another explosion, rockets, flares etc. on port quarter. Ship not known but possibly Tasso.
04:30 - Rockets and red lights to starboard but no reports. About this time star shells, fired in pairs, were seen nearly astern. I had a faint hope that this might be the Destroyer coming to our help.
04:37 - Goodleigh on port side went up with terrific bang.
04:43 - Heavy explosion on starboard beam, thought at the time to be Tanker Appalachee, but must I think have been Kavak.
05:30 - Ship on starboard beam apparently torpedoed and star shell fired. About this time big explosion seen and heard astern thought to be Tanker Conch about whom I have had no news at all. 6 to 8 star shells were fired now from right astern and no more attacks were made.

From information next day it seems that Appalachee was sunk in the 20:15 attack and Loch Ranza stood by, being herself torpedoed next day at 12:45. She is reported to be safe and making 6 knots. In the later attack ships torpedoed for certain are Lady Glanely, Goodleigh, Kavak, Tasso. Conch perhaps.
15:25 - Stirlingshire starboard rear ship torpedoed while escort was actually dropping depth charges in 55 42N 16 13W.
20:15 - Wilhelmina starboard wing leader torpedoed 55 50N 15 40W. This was reported by W. Hendrik as herself and she dumped her confidential books overboard.

The attack from 03:15 onwards was very well organised and was carried out by I think not more than two submarines one on each side. Whether the attack at 20:15 had any bearing on the later one I do not know but my opinion is that it was a separate submarine, otherwise why the interval of 7 hours without any attack? The star shells were in my opinion (? text missing) for signalling and not for lighting up the convoy anyhow primarily. Submarines must have surfaced after each attack and come up again on each side. Attacks ceased for no apparent reason after the last group of star shells, presumably to give themselves 3 hours darkness to leave the vicinity on the surface.

After an attack of that sort has started things get very confused and the Commodore cannot keep accurate track of things. Ships get out of station taking individual action or because they do not always hear the whistles resuming mean course after an emergency turn. Incidentally the repetition of sound signals was deplorable and conspicuous by its absence. The only leader who repeated was Solarium. The importance of this cannot be emphasized too much on all occasions.

I could not keep track of all the emergency turns as sometimes we had barely finished one when we had to go off again. We were like a helpless flock of sheep in a narrow lane with a dog each side. Had it not been for the close proximity of the escort and repeated instructions from Admiralty on the subject, I should have been sorely tempted to scatter.

Related external link:
Convoy HX 90 -'s account of this battle.
Allied Ships hit by U-boats - By entering the name of each ship sunk or damaged in HX 90, more information is available.

Back to Convoy Index

To the next HX convoy in my list HX 91


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