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Updated July 2-2010
To Montbretia on the "Ships starting with M" page.
Tonnage: 925 displ.t.
Built by Fleming & Ferguson, Paisly, Scotland in 1941.
5 British built, Flower class corvettes were taken over by the Norwegian Navy in the U.K. They were Montbretia, Eglantine, Acanthus and Rose in 1941, and Potentilla in Jan.-1942. The Norwegian navy was to be responsible for supplying the crews, their salary, food and uniforms, while other expenses were to be paid by Royal Navy. They were used as escorts in the North Atlantic and carried out over 80 attacks against U-boats. When Potentilla was returned to Royal Navy in March of 1944, she was replaced by a Castle class corvette, which was named Tunsberg Castle under the Norwegian flag. Buttercup, also Flower class, was transferred after the loss of Tunsberg Castle in 1944. See individual links for details on each corvette.
Transcribed from a document received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's database.
Montbreatia and Eglantine were part of the escort for Convoy HX 156 in Oct.-1941. They are both also named in the original documents for the westbound Convoy ON 36 the following month (the Commodore's narrative is also available) - A. Hague has not included Montbretia among the escorts for this convoy; see his listing for ON 36 on the page for ON Convoy escorts.
Monbretia was one of 4 vessels in an outward bound convoy that ran aground in a storm on Jan. 21-1942, near Ballyquintin light south of Belfast (this would have been Convoy ON 58). To be on the safe side all her confidential papers were burnt. M/S Bronxville was one of the other ships; both were towed to Belfast for repairs at the beginning of February. There used to be a webpage that told the story of someone who served on her at the time, Kristian Olsen but it now appears to have been taken down (he dated this incident to the fall of 1941). He said the crew was able to reach land in a lifeboat and were put up in a church building until Montbretia was refloated 12 days later. While their ship was in dock for repairs the crew was given private lodgings in Belfast. He also mentioned a merchant vessel that had horses on board which had to be shot when the ship was wrecked in the same storm. (Additionally, the page had a picture of some of the survivors from the later sinking of Monbretia. He said there were 27 survivors).
In July/Aug.-1942 she's listed among the escorts for Convoy HX 200 (as are Acanthus and Potentilla). Monbretia subsequently escorted the westbound Convoy ON 122 (Aug.-1942), together with the British destroyer Viscount, as well as Potentilla, Eglantine and Acanthus. Several U-boats attacked during the night of Aug. 24/25, and sank 4 ships; 3 British (Katvaldis 3 died, Sheaf Mount 31 died, Empire Breeze 1 died) and the Norwegian D/S Trolla, which was torpedoed by U-438 (Franzius). 17 survivors from Trolla were taken on board Potentilla. See also the Commodore's report. The following month, Montbretia, Acanthus, Potentilla and Eglantine are named as escorts for Convoy HX 205. According to the Commodore's notes, "Escort was met at 09:00 on Sept 2 in 46 46N 51 10W", presumably referring to the ocean escort? Here are the Commodore's suggestions for improvement of the convoy system.
In the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", Issues No. 1 and No. 3 for 1977 two articles have been included, one describing the events surrounding Convoy SC 104 (with Monbretia as one of the escorts), and the other an account of Convoy ON(S) 144, both from Potentilla's viewpoint. I'm unable to tell what year these articles were written and, therefore, I'm not sure if all the information is correct (new facts may have surfaced since then). Where an error is spotted I've added the correct information in parenthesis. The articles are signed Thorleif Tobiassen who has used the SSH Veterans Magazine for reference, and they're both written in the "first person" form, but I'm not sure whether T. Tobiassen was himself an eye witness on board Potentilla. The article dealing with Convoy SC 104 can be found on my page about Potentilla, while a summary of the article on ONS 144 follows below. (Note that the correct term for Convoy ONS 144 is ON 144, as the ONS convoys were not established until 1943. The highest number for the ONS convoys was ONS 51 - they are all included on this page listing ships in all ONS convoys).
Convoy ON(S) 144 sailed from Liverpool on Nov. 7-1942 (see ships in ON convoys) and the next evening the vessels in escort group B6 took up their stations around the convoy. This group ordinarily consisted of the Norwegian corvettes Acanthus, Potentilla, Eglantine and Montbretia, as well as the British destroyers Viscount and Fame, but the 2 destroyers had been damaged while escorting SC 104 and were still in drydock undergoing repairs, so the British corvette Vervain was put in as a replacement. The Norwegian corvette Rose was also part of the escort, and Acanthus is also mentioned, but I don't see this corvette listed among the escorts for this convoy in other sources (several statements given in this article conflict with other sources). The article claims the convoy was made up of over 60 ships, while the number found in "The Allied Convoy System" by Arnold Hague is 28. Commodore, according to this account, was in the Norwegian whale factory Suderøy, and the convoy was steaming in 9 columns at a speed of 6 knots. The author adds that all the escorts had been given an over-all coat of white paint before leaving Liverpool, which might have been helpful in the misty, foggy conditions usually encountered on the New Foundland Banks, but this time the wind turned northerly resulting in exceptionally good visibility. Additionally, there was a low oily swell and moonlight, so the U-boats had all the "royal flushes" in hand, being able to see the convoy from a great distance, with the escorts standing out like "snow-covered mini icebergs".
The article continues by saying that at 22:00 on Nov. 15 the British Mont Taurus was hit by a torpedo and sank in 10 minutes (this was in fact a Greek ship, correct spelling is Mount Taurus, and she was sunk on the 17th). At 05:00 on Nov. 18 a U-boat again managed to break through the screen and fired a salvo of torpedoes, hitting the British Yaka (she was, in fact, American), President Sergent and Parissina (should be the American Parismina). The latter sank in 9 minutes, President Sergent a little later, while Yaka remained afloat until daybreak at which time she was hit by another torpedo and went down stern first. Montbretia then got radar contact with a surfaced U-boat and gave chase. I'm quoting from the article now:
"In the engagement which followed it appears that the corvette passed between 2 submerged U-boats and was hit at 6 o'clock by a torpedo in the starboard bow. A gaping hole appeared in the bow and the forecastle deck twisted upwards. All the ammo and the 4-inch gun platform exploded sending a hail of red-hot metal over the after deck killing 3 men. The roof of the asdic deck came down. The bridge distorted and the bulkheads in the wheel-house stowed in, killing the helmsman. The CO now gave order to abandon ship and 3 carleys were launched when the second torpedo struck in the boiler room, port side. The corvette now more or less fell apart and went down with 47 men. I have also been told by one of the survivors that when the first torpedo struck they remembered the Norwegian destroyer Bath* and pulled the primers out of the depth charges, making them harmless." (Monbretia was sunk by U-262 (Franke) on Nov. 18, position 53 37N 38 15W).
2 carleys and a cork net with men on them were sighted at 9 o'clock and Potentilla's whaler was manned and pulled over towards the cork net while Potentilla aproached the carleys, from which 20 men were rescued, and 5 from the cork net. Some were badly injured, 2 of whom later died and were buried at sea that same afternoon. Earlier that morning Potentilla had also spotted a number of red lights in the water, and a man was seen trying to hold another man above water. One of Potentilla's depth charge crew grabbed a line and was about to jump in to save them when the engine room telegraph rang "Full speed ahead" and they had to leave them.
That same evening a depth charge exploded prematurely, shaking Potentilla violently and damaging their radio set, but one of Monbretia's survivors was an electrician and "he must have been an expert because he stuck the set together again with paper and glue and the set worked". Before noon on the 19th they witnessed what is described as "suicide". The alarm had just sounded when they suddenly saw a periscope appear on their port bow only 15 yards away, and it was not withdrawn until it was only a couple of yards off Potentilla's side. The author says "The U-boat commander must have seen our surprised faces and maybe also the depth charges which rained down on his back. It was later verified by the British 'U-boat Assessment Committee' that this was the U-184 which was sunk in this action" (U-boat net says this attack was actually against U-264 [the date Nov. 20 is given] inflicting no damage. U-184 was listed as missing on Nov. 21, no explanation for its loss - see link to U-184 under "Related links" below).
Casualties - in alphabetical order (sources are noted at the end of this page):
Related external links:
Back to Montbretia on the "Ships starting with M" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: Articles found in "Krigsseileren", Issues No. 1 and No. 3 for 1977 by Thorleif Tobiassen, "The Allied Convoy System", Arnold Hauge and misc other. Casualty list was received from Rolf Kristensen, Norway - His sources: E A Steen: Norges Sjøkrig 1940-1945 Vol. VI section 1 & 2, Frank Abelsen: Marinens fartøyer 1939-1945, Våre Falne Vol. I-IV.