Re: British S/S WANDBY and RUPERRA in convoy HX-79
Posted by: Rainer Kolbicz
Date: September 26, 2017 03:41PM
Details of the torpedo attacks carried out between 2346 and 2354:
U-47 19/2346 AL0357 fired torpedo at freighter (7000grt) type "Abraham Lincoln" and reported a surface runner that hit port side aft after 1:54 (1500m) and the ship sinking very fast.
U-46 19/2346 AL6331 fired torpedo at freighter (4000grt) and reported a hit on port side after 1500m.
U-46 19/2347 AL6331 fired torpedo at freighter (5000grt) and reported a hit on port side after 1500m.
U-47 19/2354 AL0357 fired torpedo at unknown merchant in a distance of 1500m, but missed and reported a hit on a steamer (4500grt) beyond after 4:57
Both U-boats attacked from the port side of the convoy, which proceeded on course 80° again since 2255 after having carried out an emergency turn of 40° to port during the initial attack by U-38 and U-47 from its starboard bow. However, some ships had not seen the signal to return to the original course in deteriorating visibility and continued on course 40°. While it is not known which and how many ships lost contact to the main convoy, it is known that SHIRAK (#36) was one of them and she was hit by U-47 with a stern torpedo fired at 2331. Thus U-47 must have approached the convoy from the port quarter, while U-46 is known to have approached from the port bow - it actually passed the tanker JANUS which had left her station #53 deliberately after the initial attack. U-46 fired two torpedoes in quick succession from the port beam, but was unable to observe the results as it had to evade a destroyer and then retreated to chase the unescorted tanker. U-47 on the other hand sought shelter by entering the convoy.
While the two U-boat made claims for four torpedo hits between 2345 and 2400, no hits can be found in Allied reports that happened between the hits on SHIRAK and CAPRELLA, but the Admiralty analysis mentions that WANDBY and RUPERRA were both torpedoed at 20/0022, an info probably based on the report of the convoy commodore aboard SALACIA (#51) who reported that at 0022 the SHIRAK (#36) and another ship, apparently RUPERRA (#45) were torpedoed on their port side. However, according to the master of WANDBY (#26) his ship had followed both turns of the convoy and was then struck by a torpedo on port side forward of amidships at 2340, was able to continue until the engine room was flooded and eventually abandoned at 0220. This is confirmed by the commander of HMS ANGLE who observed WANDBY firing white and red flares at 2345, rescued the crew and stood by until daylight when the wrecks of CAPRELLA and SITALA were spotted to the southeast.
So WANDBY was in fact hit during the time of the four claims and possibly RUPERRA (#45). Unfortunately no details are available about the fate of the latter, probably because none of her officers survived the sinking. INDUNA (#15) was designated as rescue ship for the columns 1 to 4, stopped after LA ESTANCIA (#34) was torpedoed and picked up 7 survivors from her, but also two from RUPERRA. The remaining survivors from LA ESTANCIA and RUPERRA were rescued by HMS COREOPSIS. This indicates that RUPERRA was actually not hit at the same time as WANDBY, but around the same time as LA ESTANCIA. Their stations #34 and #45 were also close to each other. It would be great to have the reports of INDUNA or COREOPSIS for this night and I will try to find them during my visit at TNA next month.
But who hit WANDBY? The ship was on course 80° when she was hit by one torpedo on port side forward, developed a list to port but was able to continue with the convoy for 15 minutes. U-47 was on course 130° when it fired one torpedo at 2346 with a set angle of green 11.5°, compared to U-46 that was on course 190° resp. 183° when it fired one torpedo with course 170° and the other with 163°. The data from the latter is what you would expect when aimed at a ship on course 80°, the data of U-47 would fit better to a ship on course 40° - so in my opinion U-47 more likely attacked another ship that had lost contact with the main convoy like SHIRAK, possibly the TRITON (#56), which would also fit the description of the target. This Norwegian motor merchant was initially reported missing after that night and believed lost until she arrived in port undamaged, unfortunately more details what happened to her that night are lacking. WANDBY was most likely hit by the second torpedo of U-46.