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CONVOY HX 95 - Page 2
Advance Sailing Telegram

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

Report on Convoy HX 95
from Commanding Officer of HMS Ausonia
to The Secretary of the Admiralty

Dated Dec. 28-1940

In accordance with Mercantile Convoy Instructions the following report is submitted for H.M. Ship under my Command during the period 10th December 1940 to 22nd December 1940, whilst acting as Ocean Escort to Convoy HX 95.

2) - The Convoy commenced to leave harbour at 13:00 Tuesday 10th December.

S/S Empire Caribou, S/S Empire Mariner, S/S Norefjord and S/S Yselhaven did not sail in Halifax portion of convoy.

HMS Ausonia sailed 15:30, 10th December 1940.

3) - Reference paragraph 129 of the Mercantile Convoy Instructions:

a) - HX 95
b) - Local Escort
HMCS Restigouche and HMCS French. HMCS French up to 17:00, 10th December. HMCS Restigouche up to 16:45, 11th December.

Ocean Escort
HMS Ausonia between columns 4 and 5 and about one cable astern of the leading ships. By night station was kept in line with the leading ships to facilitate station keeping (see remarks).

Air Escort
Two aircraft of the R.C.A.F. maintained an outer A/S patrol during daylight hours up to 14:40, 11th December 1940.

c) - Average speed maintained by Convoy over the 11 days, 14 hours, 29 minutes was 8.08 knots. Total distance 2250 nautical miles.

d) - During the period 13th to 16th December, when driving rain, heavy snow squalls and a strong Southerly sea were experienced, 6 ships lost touch, namely: British S/S Indian Prince, S/S Harbledown, S/S Gloucester City, Greek S/S Dimitirios Inglessis, Mount Pelion and Georgios P.

Owing to these severe weather conditions no particular action was taken as regards stragglers, one of which subsequently caught up and rejoined however.

I should explain that D/F procedure for stragglers was not employed owing to the full uncertainty regarding when these ships actually lost touch, as over a period of 2 days no roll call - so to speak - by the Ocean Escort was possible. If these stragglers had been "hove to" (which was more than probable) for as much as even 24 hours, there was little, or no chance of their rejoining. In these difficult circumstances, and the uncertain activities of enemy surface raiders, I decided that the use of D/F was not justified.

At Noon on the 17th (when 17 ships of a total of 23 were in company) the weather improved and I commenced to sweep to Southward for stragglers, but, at 12:30 S/S Indian Prince was sighted about 7 miles astern. This ship reported that no other ships of Convoy were in sight astern of her. I therefore decided to take no action as regards searching for the other 5 ships, as, had I done so it entailed leaving main portion of Convoy to the mercy of any enemy raiders which might appear.

Taking into consideration the bad weather conditions experienced during the major part of the voyage, station keeping was particularly good, with the exception of the 5 missing ships, 3 of whom were Greeks. Previous to losing touch the station keeping of Greek S/S Mount Pelion was extremely dangerous. On the night of 12th December this ship for no apparent reason steered across the front of Convoy and narrowly missed colliding with HMS Ausonia. I consider it was due to the bad seamanship displayed by this ship that S/S Harbledown, No. 11 and S/S Dimitrios Inglessis, No. 12 and she herself, No. 21 eventually lost touch with the Convoy.

e) - I have no criticisms to offer, as Rear Admiral O. H. Dawson handled and navigated his Convoy with the skill and precision of a sea Officer of long experience. He frequently consulted me by signal throughout the voyage on all points affecting the navigation.

f) - It is suggested that certain Allied Ships, particularly Greek should not - repeat not be given a position as column leaders. Their station keeping is invariably bad, and they are exceptionally slow repeating flag signals. Much better place all Greeks well in rear where they can do the least harm.

General Remarks
A perfect junction was made with HMS Voltaire, BHX portion (11 ships) at 07:40, 13th December. S/S Rudby from BHX having been detached to Halifax 10th December. At 08:25 HMS Voltaire parted company and HMS Ausonia proceeded to lead BHX portion into station astern of HX portion. This manoeuvre was completed by 11:30 and the whole Convoy of 23 ships proceeded on a course 028 degrees, speed 8 1/2 knots.

Except for the last 2 days, continuous snow squalls and a strong Southerly and S.W. sea were experienced. With this heavy following sea and the speed of the Convoy only 7 1/2 knots, HMS Ausonia was unmanageable and, in consequence I decided to proceed ahead of the leaders, carrying out a sweep across front of Convoy over an arc of 90 degrees at 12 knots, both by day and night. This lasted over a period 15th to 17th December. At dusk on the 17th, weather moderated and HMS Ausonia resumed station in Convoy but, at 05:00 on 18th December, with a rising wind and sea it again became necessary to proceed ahead after narrowly missing collision with S/S Pacific Grove, No. 51. This incident which occurred before dawn was due to HMS Ausonia refusing to turn at 12 knots with full port rudder and port engine stopped.

Finally I resumed station in Convoy between columns 4 and 5 at 09:30 20th December, where station was maintained until parting company on 22nd December. HMS Ausonia's instructions were to part company at 09:00 GMT 21st December, 24 hours before R/V with local escort, but orders having been received from Admiralty that R/V was to be delayed for 24 hours HMS Ausonia remained with convoy (18 ships) until 10:18 GMT 22nd December, parting company in position 61 30N 20 48W. Course was then shaped for Halifax N.S.

Darkening Ship
At the Convoy Conference held at 10:00 on 10th December 1940, I particularly cautioned the masters of all ships of the importance of being properly darkened throughout the voyage. That, in the event of lights being shown, I should give a preliminary warning of 4 flashes on a shaded torch, after which they would be liable to Machine-Gun fire over and across the offender's stern.

There were several irregularities in this respect, as follows:

At Dusk on 17th December
S/S Maaskerk - Showed light from Saloon Window.
S/S Pacific Star - Showed a steaming light and scuttle light under foremost part of bridge.
S/S Lindenhall - Bow lights burning, evidently by mistake.
S/S Baltrover - Scuttle light, abreast Mainmast.

All these necessitated flashing signals being made and also the firing of 1 round 3" H.A. Blank by the Ocean Escort.

At Dusk on 19th December
S/S Baltrover - Switched on a bright white stern light, visible many miles.

At 20:30 20th December
S/S Pacific Grove - Apparently a torch flickering for about 20 minutes aft on poop deck.

At Dawn 22nd December
S/S Indian Prince - Scuttle Light.
S/S Mangkalihat - Scuttle Light.
S/S Maaskerk - Very Bright Light from Saloon Window or door in passenger accommodation port side amidships.

Several bursts of machine gun were fired astern of him to enforce darkening, which had the desired effect - after I had drawn up alongside him and given the usual preliminary warning of 4 flashes from a shaded signal lamp. This was a particularly bad offence as day was barely breaking and Convoy was then into almost 20 degrees W. Longitude.

Defects etc.
M/V F. J. Wolfe reported degaussing gear out of action at 10:14/13.

S/S Lindenhall lost her 2 port lifeboats and S/S Pacific Grove (Commodore's Ship) one port lifeboat, on the 15th December - due to heavy seas.

S/S Pacific Star dropped out at 15:20, 20th December with spindle on steering shaft broken, but rejoined at 09:00 21st December. I consider this was a most creditable performance and informed her Commander by V/S accordingly, a point which he appeared to appreciate.

HMS Ausonia arrived at Halifax N.S. at 09:14 on 28th December 1940.

Geoffrey H. Freyberg

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