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Scroll down, or click here for Roy's article one the passage of this convoy.

Misc. reports are available on Page 2

Convoy OB 288 Cruising Order
Departed Liverpool on Febr. 18-1941 dispersed Febr. 22 (Arnold Hague gives 46 ships).
List received from Roy Martin.

I have added nationality and details on loss with the help of:
Roger Jordan's "The World's Merchant Fleets" and Jürgen Rohwer's "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two".

OBV=Ocean Boarding Vessel, Br=British, Du=Dutch, Da=Danish, Bel=Belgian, Est=Estonian, Gr=Greek, Norw=Norwegian, †=died

Empire Fusilier *
sunk - 13
sunk - 43
sunk - 0
Jessie Mærsk
Stylianos Chandris
Kasongo *
Mount Kitheron
Temple Moat
sunk - 42
New York City
Anglo Peruvian
sunk - 29
Empire Steelhead *
Mount Mycale
sunk - 0
Dux *
Evgenia Chandri
Mount Othrys
Kingston Hill
bombed - 1
Svein Jarl
sunk - 22?
Elisabeth Lensen
HMS Manistee
Empire Cheetah
45 55 65
Empire Trust
Cape Nelson
sunk - 4
Duke of Athens
16 26 36
46 56
La Pampa
sunk - 31 (34?)
86 96

and Duke of Athens (possibly also La Pampa) had cancelled from the previous convoy, OB 287, while some others had been cancelled from OB 286 (follow link).

Commodore was in Sirikishna, Vice Commodore in Harberton.

* Empire Fusilier and Empire Steelhead returned, the former with steering trouble, the latter with engine trouble. Kasongo returned to adjust compass. Looks like this sealed her fate, because she instead joined Convoy OB 290 which lost so many ships. She was torpedoed on Febr. 26-1941, 6 died.

Jessie Mærsk was originally a Danish ship that had been taken over by the MOWT in 1940. Tennessee and Aarø also came under British flag in 1940.

* Roy has a notation saying that in the original hand written list it says "Bux coke", and adds that the Norwegian Dux sailed from Methil with coke on Febr. 13, so the note might be referring to this ship (not in Talbot Booth 1941).

Ships sunk:
Manistee (F 104) was a British merchant ship, requisitioned by the Admiralty and used as Ocean Boarding Vessel. Sunk by U-107, Febr. 24. Rohwer adds in a footnote: "The first hit from U-107 (at 22:42 Berlin time, Febr. 23) slowed the ship down, a second hit reported by the Italian submarine Bianchi is uncertain. The ship sank following a number of attacks by U-107 at 07:58 hrs on Febr. 24".
Anglo Peruvian was sunk by U-96, Febr. 23 - 1st Mate's report is available on Page 2
Svein Jarl was sunk by U-69 on Febr. 23, no survivors - follow link for more details. (Dux and Lista are also discussed on this website)
Marslew was sunk by U-95 on Febr. 24.
Cape Nelson was sunk by U-95, Febr. 24 - See 1st Mate's report on Page 2.
Linaria was sunk by U-96 on Febr. 24.
Temple Moat was sunk by U-95 on Febr. 24.
Sirikishna was sunk by U-96 on Febr. 24.
Huntingdon was sunk by the Italian Bianchi on Febr. 24 - Rohwer says in a footnote: "The Italians' contention that the Wayngate (he actually says Wayngard) was the ship sunk is probably incorrect. The victim may have been the Huntingdon".
Wayngate was sunk by U-73 on Febr. 24.

Related external links:
OA and OB Convoys - Chronological list, starting with 1939.

Convoy OB 288 - This site is about Sirikishna, and has a crew list for this ship, as well as a list of men lost from the various ships.

Allied ships hit by U-boats - By going to this site (, and typing each ship's name in the search field, more info on them can be found.

Empire Ships - Alphabetical list of all Empire ships.

Roy Martin's Account of the Convoy's Passage
See also his page about the history of La Pampa on his own website (external links)

In the winter 1940/1 the surface ships of the Royal Navy had only sunk two submarines in the North Atlantic(1). Whilst submarines, aircraft, mines, raiders and e-boats had already caused the loss of over 200 British merchant ships. Britain's survival depended on her merchant seamen, they brought home food, fuel and war materials; but the merchant service itself was neglected. Convoy OB288 was, like other similar convoys, only to be escorted for the first part of its trip. During the month another convoy of nineteen ships had no escort at all, that convoy, SL64s was intercepted by the raider Admiral Hipper which sank seven ships.

In 1940 Norway and France had been overrun by German troops and this enabled U-boats to have new bases and extend their range out into the Atlantic well beyond twenty west. Additionally, the Italians had a base, BETASOM, for their submarines in Bordeaux. The Luftwaffe was also operating from bases in the newly occupied countries. But it was not until that spring that the British allocated additional aircraft for the protection of merchant shipping. This only took place following an investigation ordered by Churchill.

In all thirteen German U-boats and seven Italian submarines were operating in the North Atlantic in February. Most of these were ranged against the 156 merchant ships in the four convoys bound for North America OB287- - 290.

On the 19th the ships that had arrived from the East Coast in convoy EN79* sailed from Loch Ewe to join convoy OB288 which had originated in Liverpool. La Pampa(2) was allocated the pennant number 56, which put her in the back row of the convoy about two miles astern of the Commodore’s ship the Sirikishna. A hand written sailing order [convoy formation] for this convoy is available; this may have been modified by the Commodore because there were a couple of gaps in the plan. Further gaps opened up when three ships turned back with mechanical problems; they were the Empire Fusilier, the Empire Steelhead and the Kasongo.

* webmistress' comment: It has been brought to my attention that this should probably be EN76(?), because EN79 sailed from Methil on March 1-1941.

Two ships, the Kingston Hill and the Keila, were bombed (these were escorted back to the UK by the corvette HMS Picotee and the Smit tug Thames). Captain Walter Niven(3) the Master of the Kingston Hill was killed in this attack.

By now the convoy was reduced to 41 ships. The other escorts were the destroyers Achates, Antelope, Georgetown (Senior Officer escort), the corvette Heather and the trawler Ayrshire. An "Ocean Boarding Vessel", the Manistee was also with the convoy. Both the Ayrshire and the Manistee were merchant vessels that had been requisitioned by the Admiralty.

At 1623/21 the convoy was ordered to steer 270° after passing 59 44N, 09 00W to avoid a U-boat. At 0900/22 the escort signalled "HELP" in 59 40N 12 40W because of an air attack. C in C Western Approaches to OB288 "disperse at dark" 23rd when last escort left. At 1900/22 the convoy was plotted as being in 59 20N 14 32W. At 2100/22 a course alteration to 270° was ordered [but not carried out?] and at 0900/23 a further alteration to 300°.

Despite the fact that the convoy had been attacked by aircraft and the C in C West Approaches knew that it was being shadowed by one or more U-boats, the escorts left the convoy to its fate on [the morning of?] the 23rd. From now on the convoy had no defence against submarines. For some reason the Commodore, who was lost in the later attack, kept the convoy in formation on a north westerly course, until the evening of the 23rd, it was tracked all day by a U-boat [U96?]. By then at least six submarines were converging to form a patrol line NW/SE through 59N 21W.

(1) 6th March "An important factor underlying Churchill's resounding proclamation of the Battle of the Atlantic "was the abysmal (but concealed) failure of the British military to kill U-boats" - Hitler's U-boat War - Clay Blair.

(2) La Pampa was a modern Swedish built motor ship designed for shipping bulk cargoes from Atlantic and Pacific ports to Europe; her bow was strengthened to permit winter ballast passages. She was an open shelter decker with three 60 feet long hatches; one forward of the bridge, one between the bridge and the engine room and one aft. Each hatch was served by two sets of derricks. All of her sister ships were under the Norwegian flag, they were the Kattegat, Skagerak, Eidsvold and Nordnes. She had a service speed of 12 knots and was equipped to switch to liner trades when the occasion demanded. She had spent the first two years of the war hauling bulk cargoes of grain and timber plus trucks etc. (Roy has also sent me some details on La Pampa's previous voyages - if this information is required, please contact me via the address provided at the bottom of this page).

(3) Rear-Admiral C. G. Brodie [a wartime convoy Commodore] starts his foreword to Captain Frank Shaw's book "Under the Red Ensign": "The Masters of British merchant ships, more than any other body of men, won the war."

The Commodore ordered the convoy to disperse at 2100 [BST?] that evening(4) - but told the ships to maintain convoy speed for 30 minutes after dispersal - the vessels fanned out on courses between North, through West, to South South East. At this time the weather was fair with a light wind and a moderate North Westerly swell, there was no moon but visibility was recorded as being about seven miles with the northern lights.

What happened next is summarised in the following extract from La Pampa’s log(5) and survivors reports.

LA PAMPA (4186 tons) Feb 23rd continued: -
2130 Convoy dispersed. (P. Log 67') [distance steamed since Noon]. Set Co 237° [T] in accordance with convoy instructions.
2200 Encountered enemy S/M barrage. S/S MARGALAU(6) torpedoed. Position 59 31N, 21 02W. Proceeded at utmost speed and varied courses accordingly.
2344 Observed enemy S/M at periscope depth close on starboard bow. Manoeuvred ship to ram it and passed immediately over S/M as it dived.
Posn. 59 26N 21 08W (Radio [position radioed]). Clocks retarded 1 hour(7).
Weather: Smooth sea. Mod. swell. Fine and clear.

WAYNEGATE (4260 tons)
Focke Wolf attack at 0700 22nd - 15W. In formation to 1900 Sun 23rd dispersed but told to maintain convoy speed for 30 minutes. Swung to SSE [T] with several other ships. W/T message from TEMPLE MOAT "being chased by submarine" [Waynegate says Temple Moat on W's port quarter about 5' away]. 2130 W/T message from LA PAMPA "sighted sub" [Waynegate says La Pampa about 5' away on his starboard quarter]. Altered course due South. Temple Moat still being chased. 24/0220 Course SW [T] in 50 [58 or 59°?] 50N, 21 47W speed 10.25 knots - torpedoed [elsewhere 0320]. Heavy swell, wind Southerly force 4, squally snow showers visibility variable. In boats for 6 hours, very heavy snow showers. Picked up at 0830 by Free French Ship LEOPOLD(8).

HUNTINGDON (10946 tons) [not Auxiliary Cruiser as elsewhere reported]
23/2000 dispersed: 12 knots 200° [T] zigzagging. 0235 in 58 23N, 20 23W, torpedoed. Picked up by PAPALEMOS [Gr.] 24/1130. Whilst onboard [H?] heard SSS from HARBOROUGH [not in convoy - Harberton? VC] and MARSLEW. Elsewhere 58 09N 21 16W 0309/24, but above also confirmed in ADM199/1179. (Papalemos went to Horta to land the 66 survivors from the Huntingdon; they were repatriated via Lisbon).

ANGLO PERUVIAN (5457 tons)
Wx NW f3, moderate NW'ly swell cloudy but very clear, visibility 7' + as there were bright Northern Lights. 2100/23 260° [T] x 9 knots in 59 30N, 21 00W torpedoed. Those who survived were picked up by HARBERTON [Master Vice Commodore]. See Captain's report re this rescue on Page 2

(4) Arnold Hague says that the convoy dispersed on the 22nd, no position is given.

(5) Many thanks to Billy McGee for discovering this and sending it on to me. I understand that this was included in papers that Siri Lawson received from a Canadian source, thanks to them both.

(6) No such ship was sunk that night but a sister ship the Marslew was in the convoy and was sunk. Times and positions also suggest that this may have been the s/s Anglo Peruvian that was sunk at 2100 in 59 30N 21 00W [the two ships were on different times].

(7) The British ships kept local time this was likely to be GMT - 1 or 2 hours on this day, Capt. Toder reports that clocks were retarded one hour at midnight 23rd/24th. Escorts seem to have kept UK time (BST all the year round) whilst escorting to and from 20° West. U-boats kept German time.

(8) LEOPARD Free French large destroyer

The Anglo Peruvian report adds: - "When the attack took place we had no escorts with us for 12 hours and it is noticeable that it is always during a period when we are alone that the U-boat attacks occur. The danger spot seems to be [between?] 18W and 25W. OB ----- would be so much better if the Ocean Escorts could meet a convoy when the other escorts leave".

MARSLEW (4542 tons)
2245/23 Torpedoed 59 18N 21 30W 291° [from] Rockall 272'

HMS MANISTEE (5360 tons)
Torpedoed 2145/23 58 13N 21 33W. At 0618/24th course 093° speed 7.5 knots torpedoed again and sunk in 58 55N 20 50W. HEATHER, CHURCHILL and LEOPARD proceeded to assist.

TEMPLE MOAT (4427 tons)
Being chased by submarine 59 27N 20 20W 2346/23

CAPE NELSON (3807 tons) 2100/23

Overdue ships Svein Jarl (1908 t), LINARIA(3385 t) & SIRIKISHNA(5458t)

As will be seen above nine merchant ships were lost in this encounter, plus another that had been requisitioned by the Admiralty. In all 246 Allied and Neutral seafarers lost their lives including 192 British merchant seamen, whilst the bulk of these were from the UK others came from as far afield as Canada and Aden.

The extract from the log of the La Pampa was contained in a letter written by the British Consul in Baltimore on the 25th March, that letter went on to say: -

"Captain Toder(9) is of the opinion that the long score mentioned above was caused by contact with the U-boat, and as he was half loaded with coke(10) at the time, he probably would not feel this contact - particularly as his ship vibrates a lot when not fully loaded. The U-boat was first seen 200 yards off on the surface (not at periscope depth as stated in the log) about two points on the starboard bow. Engines were immediately put to full speed and helm put over to make for the U-boat, and they machine gunned her from the bridge. The U-boat crash dived, and the ship passed exactly over the spot where the U-boat disappeared and was doing about 13 knots at the time. No number was seen on the conning tower owing to the darkness, but the conning tower was very large"(11). The interviewer added, "I attach hereto a sketch showing position of U-boat and ships. It seems to me that the action of the S.S. (sic) La Pampa probably saved the other ships in company from the waiting U-boat". (Unfortunately, this sketch does not show up correctly on this webpage).

(9) Sydney Chas Jessyman Toder, born Hesswall [Heswall], Birmingham? (Still living there 1941) on 29.5.1884. i/d 14663. Master's certificate 872 [Australia]. Other officers were C/O Oliver, 2/O Chapman and 3/O Fenny [the 3/O would have been on watch with the Master].

(10) This reads strangely now; the ship was part loaded with coke, presumably the Master was not! ( webmistress' comment: I saw this before I sent the report to Billy, and had to chuckle to myself, but thought it very strange that such a serious report would attempt to insert a joke like this - it probably has to do with the statement in the paragraph above which says "and as he was half loaded with coke").

(11) All numbers had been painted over and the boat was very dark in colour [Italian boats had noticeably larger conning towers and dark paint w/o numbers]. Marcello had not been modified to improve diving time, so a full crash dive could have taken about 65 seconds - Cristiano D'Adamo December 2003.

Submarines active in the area at some time during February: -

Italian: - Barbarigo, Baracca*, Bianchi, Dandola*, Emo, Marcello [sunk 23 Feb 41?] Morosini*, Otaria. [*=Relieved mid Feb by the others listed, before 22/2 if M sunk then] at sea 31/1/41. Italian subs had own base at Bordeaux [BETASOM]

German: - u101, u52, u94, u103, and u37. Attacking convoys in North? - U96, u68, u69, u73, u95, u123, u48 [west of Fastnet 24/2], u107, u70 [sunk by HMS Camelia/Arbutus/Wolverine 8th March SE of Iceland after being rammed and damaged by S.T. Mijdrecht (Du) 7.2.41], u47 sunk by?

La Pampa docked at Baltimore and the repairs undertaken were summarised in Lloyd’s List.

Related External links:
Italian Submarines in WW II - German U-boats

The German’s claimed to have sunk a large tonnage of allied ships in the week ending the 28th February; the British, still unaware of the full extent of the calamity, dismissed claim. In fact their total losses in that week exceeded 200,000 tons of merchant shipping – mostly from four outward convoys.

In March the British had decoded the German Ultra reports for February and knew that no U-boats had been lost, so they seem to have disregarded the La Pampa’s report. However the Italian submarine R. Smg. Marcello had failed to respond to signals after the 22nd February and had been posted as missing. Then, and for some years thereafter, the British tried to credit the sinking of the Marcello to various British naval vessels or an aircraft [A Sunderland, HMS Periwinkle, HMS Hurricane & HMS Montgomery]. By 1949 they had been forced to admit that three of their claims were not possible. They therefore informed the Italian authorities that the remaining claim, made on behalf of H.M.S. Montgomery – an old ex American four stacker, must have been the one. The Montgomery’s logbooks could not be traced at the Public Record Office, but a report filed in ADM199/2040 states "1550/22 HMS Montgomery attacked firm contact with six depth charges, there was no evidence of destruction". There is nothing to connect Montgomery with an attack on the Marcello, and the Montgomery herself makes no claim in that report to have sunk a submarine.

In contrast the Master of the La Pampa is quite specific about the time and position of his attack on a submarine. It will be remembered that he says that "No number was seen on the conning tower owing to the darkness, but the conning tower was very large". For some years I connected the loss of the Marcello with La Pampa’s action. But later examination of the Kriegstagesbuch for the U-boats involved in action against OB288 gave the following entry for U-69:

"24.2.41 0039 AL 2365. Heckangriff auf früheres norwegisches Schwergut-Spezialschiff –M.Dv.Nr. 900 Teil ll Nr. 45 Norway- angesetzt.Während des Anlaufs wurde das Nordlicht so stark, da&Mac226; die Wasseroberfläwie von Scheinwerfern tadhell erleuchtet wer. Der Dampfer dreht auf des Boot zu, vermehrt Fahrt und eröffnet auf 400 m das Feuer mit 2 cm-Geschützen. Einschläge rings um das Boot. Durch Alarmtauchen mit "AK" konnte ich eine Verletzung der Bruckenwache und Beschadidigung des Bootes verhinderen.
0135 Unter Wasser abgeluafen und aufgetaucht."

Three people on the U-boat net have helped with translations, synthesis gives:

"Commenced stern tube attack on Norwegian heavy lift carrier. M Div 900 [the book "Marine-Dienstvorschriften"] part 2 picture 45. During the approach the Northern Lights intensified, so that the water surface was coloured as if illuminated by searchlights. The steamer turned towards the boat, increased speed and opened fire with 2 cm guns at 400 meters around the boat. I was only able to avoid injuries to the bridge watch and damage to the boat through emergency dive AK at full speed.
0135 underwater cruised away and surfaced."

Thus by causing the U-69 to dive La Pampa saved herself and probably one or more of the three ships that were with her.

It is interesting to note that the U-69's logs [and the other U-boat Kriegstagebuch] are stamped "This document is Admiralty Property ---". So both the La Pampa’s report and the Kriegstagebuch were in the same establishment and should have been available to the post war committee who ploughed through these records in an effort to credit U-boat sinkings to RN ships.

We are left with several questions including who, or what, did sink the Marcello, and for that matter the U-47, and were the other attacks by merchant ships ever properly investigated? Why was the convoy abandoned by the escorts and why were the vessels kept together in formation all day giving the submarines ample time to converge and mount an attack? There was a great deal of chatter from the U-boats that, even though the British could not decode this [until March], would have alerted them to the presence of a pack. In his log the master of the La Pampa refers to encountering an "enemy S/M barrage".

It is noted that none of the escorts returned to assist the merchant ships when they heard that an attack was taking place – but three, the HEATHER, CHURCHILL and LEOPARD were able to return to assist the HMS Manistee when she sank at daybreak. It was presumably these vessels who depth charged U69 and the U96 around midday on the 24th. Could they have accounted for the MARCELLO also? Whatever they achieved they were twelve hours too late to help the convoy.

The battle was not over for the remaining 31 ships. Hurricane force winds were encountered south of Iceland on the 26th. The Papalemos had three times her usual complement, having rescued all 66 people from the Huntingdon. As mentioned, her Master made the wise decision to head south to Horta where he landed Huntingdon's crew and in doing so presumably missed the storm.

The month of February was as bad for the British as the rest of the winter had so far been. In all 75 British merchantmen had been sunk plus a further 26 Allied vessels. Official figures for OB288 show only the two ships that had been bombed as casualties, in fact the submarines sank ten ships from that convoy. Because the sinkings took place in the few hours after the convoy had dispersed they were not included in the statistics. German sources indicated that, had it not been for torpedo failures, many more ships could have been sunk.

The next merchant ship to attempt a ramming was the ss Merchant on the 1st March 1941, I have yet to find any details on this event. Another merchant ship also initiated the next sinking of a submarine, the U-70, on March 7th 1941. In this case it was the Dutch tanker Mijdrecht who, after being torpedoed, swung and rammed the U-boat which was forced under the full length of the ship. The crew of the U-70 tried to surrender to the tanker but the master, keen to save his ship, left them. Three Royal Navy ships claimed the sinking, as the submarine had "only been lightly damaged by the Mijdrecht".

The loss of the U-47 commanded by the ace Günter Prien, which happened around the same time, was never properly explained. A few Masters who rammed submarines early in the war were rewarded with OBEs; but one wonders if other merchant ships sank submarines and failed to get the credit.

"112. Support from the Air

On the 19th February an aircraft en route from Stavanger sighted a westbound convoy, OB287, 80 miles northwest of Cape Wrath (Diagram 10, Point 3). All the boats, which were then in a bunch south of Iceland (Point 2), were directed to proceed south at maximum speed to form a patrol line ahead of the reported convoy course. On the second day the convoy was picked up by two aircraft. Their reports were so inexact that searching on that day remained without result. Further patrol lines by the boats on the next day also failed to find the convoy and the operation was abandoned on the evening of the 21st February. (The diagram referred to here has not been added to this website).

Two days later [21st Feb?] an aircraft returning from Stavanger sighted another westbound convoy, OB288, 40' southeast of Lousy Bank (Point 4). Approaching the position given by the aircraft, U-73 was able to make temporary contact a few hours later. The aircraft which took off on the following morning had insufficient range to find the convoy, but the U-boat report of the previous day was sufficiently accurate for the boats to find it again east of their patrol line (Point 4a). Four boats attacked and destroyed the convoy during the night, reporting nine ships sunk, which is corroborated by the British Admiralty. In this operation, as with the simultaneous operation against OB289, torpedo failures prevented even greater results."(12)

The following copy of a telegram, sent to the Americans by the British, entitled ‘Report on military situation’ dated 2/3/41 is filed at NARA : (13)-

1. Naval. Since commencement of hostilities 54,693 ships have been convoyed, out of which 192 British ships and 31 Allied ships and 19 neutral have been lost.’

This totals 242 – 42 were lost in February alone, either whilst in convoy or within 24 hours of their escorts leaving.

(12) "The U-boat War in the Atlantic" by Gunter Hessler. English version published by HMSO
(13) Report on military situation 3/2/41

Misc. reports are available on Page 2

To the next available OB convoy in my list OB 290


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