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Convoy ON 181 - HMS Keppel's Report
To the Captain (D) Greenock, Albert Harbour

Received from Olaf Evertse, Holland (whose father served on the Dutch Curacao)
His Source: National Archives of Canada

Page 1 - Ships in convoy
Commodore's Narrative

Convoy ON 181 departed Liverpool on Apr. 30-1943 and arrived New York City on May 18. Cruising order is available on Page 1.

Sir, I have the honour to forward the following report of Proceedings of B3 Group for the period lst May, 1943 to l2th May, 1943 whilst providing Mid Ocean Escort to ON 181 (Commodore B. W. L. Nicholson D.S.O., R.N. in SS Tyndareus).

B3 Group consisting of HMS Keppel (Senior Officer), HMS Escapade, ORP Garland, FS Roselys, FS Renoncule, JS Lobelia, HMS Orchis and FS Aconit sailed from Noville at 03:00B on the lst May and proceeded to rendezvous with convoy ON 181 in position 270 degrees Oversay six miles; Convoy was met at 06:00B on the lst May and Keppel took over trom Kirkella the local escort.

15:30Z - SS Empire Flint was sent to the Clyde as it was found she could not maintain convoy speed. My 011823Z refers.

HMCS Napanee with two ships from Iceland (C) joined the convoy at ICOMP at 11:26 on the 4th May. HMCS Napanee remained with and formed part of B3 Group as far as Westomp.

Rendezvous was made with the Western Local Escort (W 6 Group, Senior Officer in HMS St. Albans) and S. S. Lady Rodney at 12:30Z in position 45 18N 49 45W. At that time all the convoy of 47 ships were present.

15:38Z/12 - B3 Group with HM Tug Growler parted company and proceeded to St. John's.
l5:38Z/12 - On receipt of a signal from Catalina aircraft stating that she had attacked a submarine astern of the convoy I ordered B3 Group with the exception of FS Renoncule to rejoin the convoy with all despatch. On rejoining at 17:30Z/12 several merchant ships in the rear positions were interrogated for details of the attack. No satisfactory information was obtained. SS Lady Rodney reported having sighted a large black fish shortly after the depth charge attack had been made.
18:35Z - Keppel, Escapade and Garland carried out a sweep astern to the "furthest back" position of the submarine without result.
20:45Z - Course was set for St. John's, the remainder of the Group were also ordered to proceed to St. John's, in accordance with C in C CNA's 121145, Orchis remaining with the convoy until daylight on the 13th May.
22:31Z - A submarine was fixed by H/F D/F bearings from Escapade and Garland within 30 miles on a bearing of 085 degrees (this "fix" was extremely doubtful one of the bearings being reported as 3rd class and at long range). Accordingly I ordered a search on this bearing which was carried out without result until 02:30Z/13 when course was set for St. John's.

It was not possible to comply with F.O.N.F's 122346 as by the time this signal was received, ships were already too far away from the convoy to enable them to rejoin before daylight.

The Mid Ocean passage was made in generally bad weather and with only one major incident, the loss of HMS Daneman. Other incidents of interest were
(a) Oiling at sea
(b) Communication with aircraft
(c) Ice conditions
(d) HF/DF signals.

The Loss of HMS Daneman:
During the night of 7th/8th May, HMS Daneman reported that she was in distress 8 miles astern of the convoy. I ordered FS Renoncule to join her and report the situation and closed the position in Keppel whilst investigating a contact. On receipt of a signal from Renoncule reporting that C. O. Daneman considered the situation to be grave, I ordered Growler to join her. In order to assist Renoncule in deciding what action should be taken I sent him a signal (080721) giving the necessary guidance. Shortly afterwards, a further signal from Renoncule (080815) was received, giving a more rosy view of the situation, and I therefore gave definite instructions that Daneman was to be towed back to the convoy (080920). Growler took Daneman in tow but owing to the sea was unable to pump out efficiently. The weather which had been comparatively good in the early morning of the 8th deteriorated rapidly. Fifteen hours later at about 17:00Z the tow parted and the flooding became out of control. Daneman was abandoned and the crew picked up by FS Renoncule and HM Tug Growler. During abandon ship operations 4 men were lost and two others picked up by FS Renoncule were suffering from exposure and subsequently died. Daneman was left on fire and sinking.

The loss of HMS Daneman is being investigated by a board convened by the Flag Officer Newfoundland.

A related report from the Commander-in-Chief (Rear Admiral L. W. Murray), Canadian Northwest Atlantic, Halifax to the Department of National Defence, Ottawa, dated July 7-1943, states that the only indication that U-boats were in the vicinity took place after the mid-ocean escort had been relieved in the afternoon of May. 12. After an aircraft signalled that it had attacked a U-boat, the B-3 Group (except Renoncule) rejoined the convoy and the area was searched, with no results. A doubtful S/M fix by H/F D/F was obtained at 22:31Z and the bearing searched, again with no luck. He adds that the loss of HMS Daneman on May 8, after having been taken in tow by Growler has been investigated by F.O.N.F., then says "Renoncule did well in instructing Esso Nashville in the use of the trough, thus allowing Renoncule, Roselys and Orchis to oil from the ship".

Oiling at Sea:
Owing to bad weather there was no opportunity of oiling at sea until 6th May. On this day Keppel and Escapade were topped up. Keppel took a very long time to get connected up and experienced great difficulty in grappling the oiler lines. This was largely due to inexperience in Keppel but sea conditions were very unpleasant. As I believe is a very common occurrence, the inflated buoy pulled off when grappled and the single Fisherman's buff which was then substituted proved far more satisfactory.

At daylight on 7th May Garland took in 45 tons in very bad weather but was then forced to stop for fear of damaging gear. When Garland began to oil, the sea and swell were 53 and the wind was NNW force 7. Renoncule was sent to attempt to oil from Esso Nashville but found her completely ignorant of the use of the trough. Renoncule spent the afternoon alongside giving instructions, to such good effect that she, Roselys and Orchis all oiled successfully the following day, although weather conditions had by that time deteriorated.

Fjordaas (Norw), with the canvas hose astern method, worked very hard and willingly to refuel escorts whenever required. The chief trouble experienced was with the slow rate of pumping; owing to the cold weather and the lack of heating coils, Fjordaas' maximum rate of pumping was about 45 tons/hour, and in really cold conditions less than 35 tons/ hour.

It is suggested that when oiling astern the heaving line for the hose should be stopped to the eye of the steadying manilla. After the manilla bas been secured the heaving line for the hose can then be cast off and the hose hauled across. This will reduce the principal cause of delay, namely the grappling for the lines - provided it is not found in practice that the heaving line and steadying manilla become inextricably wound round each other. Further report will be made after this method has been tried out.

Communications with Aircraft
Difficulty was experienced with communications to U.S. Army and R.C.A.F. Aircraft. On 10th May, 1943, Liberator RG 4 was using the Q code with a book not held in Keppel. Homing Procedure was employed and bearings passed in self-evident code. Communications with this aircraft and with U.S. Army Fortress RA8 was good, but these were the only aircraft during the day with which Homing Procedure was carried out successfully. U.S. Army Fortress XNZZAN, Liberator ACLL and Liberator ACLJ were never in W/T or R/T communication with Keppel, although Liberator ACLL answered out V/S once. Whilst the aircraft were observed flying in the vicinity of the convoy they were called without response both on 2410 and 3925 k/cs. Watch on both frequencies was kept the whole day in Keppel.

The f'ollowing is a summary of the watch kept by ORP Garland on 3925 k/cs on 9th May, when four aircraft were due:
WF6 was due at 05:30Z
6KO was due at 09:30Z
HU6 was due at 12:30Z
2VS was due at 16:30Z

WF6 heard when watch was set at 07:58Z but Keppel was in touch by R/T before any bearings were passed.
6KO heard at 12:30Z; bearing passed until 13:23Z. Keppel in touch by R/T at 13:30Z.
HU6 heard at 14:30Z; bearings passed until 15:35. Keppel in touch by R/T at 15:37.
2VS called at 16:30Z and at regular intervals until17:50Z. Nothing was heard by 20:00Z, when watch was closed down.
British-U.S. call signs and international Q code were used.

Ice Conditions:
A considerable amount of small icebergs, growlers and slob ice was encountered on the 7th and 8th May between positions 59 20N 35 00W and 58 30N6 44 30W and again on the 10th and 11th of May between positions 52 30N 48 40W and 47 00N 48 00W. Fortunately these berg areas were mainly traversed by day and so provided excellent gunnery targets without causing serious inconvenience or anxiety to the convoy.

H/F D/F Signals:
During the whole passage, the absence of traffic on U-Boats' HF was most remarkable, considering the number of U-Boats known to be operating in the North Atlantic. Schedule of HF guards and signals intercepted is given in Appendix II (not available).

The convoy kept excellent station throughout the passage even in the worst weathers. There were a few engine breakdowns and a small amount of half hearted stragglers which never became serious.

Page 1 - Ships in convoy
Commodore's Narrative

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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