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Convoy ON 181
Commodore Nicholson's Narrative

Received from Roger Griffiths (his source: Public Records Office, Kew)

Page 1 - Ships in convoy

"The Milford Haven, Belfast portions met at the appointed rendezvous.

Clyde portion of eight ships converged on the main body of the convoy at 03:00on 1st May and caused considerable confusion during the early hours of the morning. It would be advisable that the N.C.S.O. Gourock should warn the Clyde Commodore against a recurrence of this.

The main convoy was showing navigation lights.

The Ocean Escort and Aultbea portions were met at the appointed R.V.'s. Head winds gradually increasing to gale force were encountered from the commencement of the voyage and lasted until 6th May, by which time the convoy reached 30°W. On 7th May the weather moderated from the West and came out with considerable force from the North accompanied by heavy snow storms. On May 4th a northerly and westerly route diversion was made in accord with instructions from CINCWA which appears to have taken us clear of the submarine area. On 7th May in 59 10N 37 45W the first iceberg was passed. Several icebergs were passed on 7th and 8th which appear to have come from the East side of Greenland as none were passed until reaching the Newfoundland area, after passing to the West of the long. of Cape Farewell.

On the night of the 7th and 8th during heavy weather the trawler Daneman sprang a leak. Tug Growler and Renoncule were sent to stand by and take her in tow. She later had to be sunk and there were 6 casualties. Growler was under the orders of S.O. Escort who will have reported this misfortune (ref. link to Keppel's report at the end of this text).

May 9th - A further route diversion made to shorten route in accordance with instructions from CINCWA.

10th and 11th - Several large icebergs and growlers passed in the area 52 19N 48 31W, and 48 10N 46 48W.

May 12th - Ocean Escort relieved by W6 from Argentia in prearranged R.V. At 14:00Z a U.S. aircraft dropped depth charges astern of convoy and reported sighting a submarine. I understand S.O. Escort Keppel returned to convoy with part of Ocean Escort but the weather became thick and I was not in touch by vis. I do not think the report was at all reliable.

May 13th - Very thick weather encountered from early morning and persisted until the early hours of 14th. Leading ships kept very good station by sound signals. Signals were difficult to hear owing to the very high wind. When fog cleared, the convoy was somewhat scattered but all in touch.

May 14th - Halifax portion met at HOMP and detached.

Convoy had air cover every day with exception of 7th, 8th, 9th. At no time was the convoy threatened with attack, nor did it appear that any sighting was made by the enemy. Excellent station keeping was maintained throughout the voyage even during heavy weather. This, I'm sure, was largely due to the very steady revolutions maintained by the Commodore's ship Tyndareus. The Chief Engineer Mr. Oakley, is to be much commended for this. The ship is an admirable Commodore's ship. Captain Coates is a most reliable Master who has trained his officers well and all are very conversant with convoy work.

I would like to draw attention to the strength of the Escort force W6 who took over from the Ocean Escort, I should rather say weakness. One destroyer St. Albans and two corvettes for a convoy of 48 ships. I drew the conclusion that the area was considered safe as three ships could not possibly have afforded protection. At the time of taking over the larger portion, 37 ships, had stilll 1100 miles of the voyage to do. The Halifax portion considerably less. Halifax portion of 10 ships had one corvette.

About 2/3 of the ships of the convoy carried out target practice at icebergs with L.A. guns.

Fjordaas carried out the fuelling of the escorts very well under adverse weather conditions but she is too short and lively to make an efficient oiler.

Convoy ran into dense fog at 02:30 17th May when approaching New York. At 09:00Z convoy was stopped, when about 12 miles from outer buoy of swept channel. At 10:00Z as there appeared no likelihood of a clearance and it was not possible to hold convoy together ships were instructed to act independently. (I would imagine that those who were able to go ashore in New York from Norwegian ships upon arrival, would have celebrated more than usual, as the 17th of May is the Norwegian Constitution Day, and we Norwegians take this very seriously!).

No A.N.D. ship whose maximum speed is 10 knots nets furled should be included in a 10 knot convoy. Fortunately the convoy was not threatened; if it had been, the nets of Fort Souris could not have been streamed without reducing the convoy speed to 8 knots. As she was the only 10 knot ship fitted (the only other ship Empire Collins 13 knots) in accordance with the latest intentions of the Admiralty Fourt Souris would not have been ordered to stream any nets".

B.W.L. Nicholson, Commodore, R.N.R. (Capt. R.N. Retd.),
S.S. Tyndareus.

Continue to Keppel's Report

Page 1 - Ships in convoy
Back to Convoy Index

To the next convoy in my list ON 182
will be added, as will ON 183 through ON 201
In the meantime, see Ships sailing in all ON convoys
The next available ON convoy is ON 202 (& ONS 18)


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