Summary of Report of Proceedings - Convoy HG 64
From The Commanding Officer of HMS Bideford to Captain "D", Liverpool
Dated June 20-1941
06:30A - Convoy HG 64, consisting of 23 ships, formed up in position 5 miles 180° from Carnero Point Lt. with escorts HMS Bideford (S.O.), Coreopsis, Fleur de Lys and Stella Carina. An Asdic sweep was made ahead of and around the convoy as it was forming up, and escorts were then stationed according to W.A.C.I. diagrams. Thursobank did not sail till later that afternoon (see June 5 below).
11:30 - M. Ls. 129 and 134 joined escort off Malabata Point.
12:00 - The Panamanian Indra (station 43) was straggling 2 miles astern, unable to maintain the convoy's speed of 7 knots. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar, but her captain stated he preferred to continue the voyage independently, and was told that if he did so it would be at his own risk.
22:00 - M. Ls. 129 and 134 left to return to Gibraltar, 35 20N 7 08W.
08:00A - Fleur de Lys and Bideford were spread to extreme visibility distance apart to northward in the hope of sighting HMS Woodruff and Thursobank which had left Gibraltar at 14:00 on the 4th in order to overtake the convoy. Noon position was communicated to Woodruff before rejoining the convoy, as the 2 vessels had not been sighted.
13:00 - Woodruff and Thursobank joined in 37 42N 9 08W.
Shortly after dusk alteration of course, a signal was received, stating the following: "To Bideford, Wellington, Wrestler, Vansittart from F.O.C.N.A.S. (R) Admiralty 248. It is possible that HG 64 or OG 63* have been sighted and that five Italian U-boats are concentrating" (2028A/5/6/41). Bideford in turn passed this information to the Commodore and to the other escorts, which were disposed according to an estimation of where possible attacks would take place ("down-moon").
* The Gibraltar bound Convoy OG 63 had left Liverpool on May 25-1941 and arrived Gibraltar on June 7, having lost 3 ships on June 6. 2 were believed to have been sunk by the Italian submarine Marconi; namely the British Baron Lovat and the Swedish Taberg, while the British Glen Head had been sunk by aircraft.
01:30A - When in position 34 18N 10 47W, an attack attempt was made on the convoy by a "U-boat" on the surface, but was frustrated by action taken by the trawler Stella Carina, who subsequently signalled the following (0245A/6/6/41): *"U-boat on surface sighted by Stella Carina in position 225° LLTE 57' at 0130 and chased. Contact lost and escorts rejoined convoy". The weather was fine and clear with the moon almost full, slight sea, wind NW force 2-3. It was suggested that "the appearance of a U-boat on the 'up-moon' side of the convoy may have been due to the fact that the convoy's course was altered from 258° to 288° at 2200/5, shortly after dusk". Stella Carina contacted Bideford by R/T immediately upon sighting the "U-boat", and Bideford and Coreopsis joined her "with all despatch", but when Bideford arrived on the scene at 01:55 the sub had dived and both Coreopsis and Stella Carina had carried out depth charge attacks and had since lost contact (Bideford never obtained contact). See also ** below.
03:30 - After having searched independently in the vicinity for 35 minutes without success, the escorts resumed their stations, as it was considered highly probable that further attacks would develop in view of the signal mentioned above (2028A/5).
04:00 - Course was altered to 262°.
04:30 - Starshell was fired by Coreopsis to establish the identity of a Portuguese trawler.
09:00 - Woodruff was detached in 34 18N 12 00W, as per previous orders.
10:15 - Woodruff was ordered to remain with the convoy, via a signal received from F.O.C.N.A.S. (0932A): "To Woodruff (R) Bideford - Remain with HG 64 until meridian 15° 00'W".
11:53 - Stella Carina counter attacked a contact in 34 17N 12 20W and was joined by Bideford and Fleur de Lys, while Coreopsis remained with the convoy. Stella Carina's Asdic set temporarily broke down after having dropped depth charges, and was not repaired until 18:00 that day. Bideford and Fleur de Lys classified the contact as fish and at
14:05 - all 3 escorts rejoined the convoy (Woodruff did not).
A message had been received from F.O.C.N.A.S. (1203B/6/6) stating "Catalina AH 553 call sign M9HE will reach you at 15:30 as escort. Aircraft receives on 348.8 k/c and transmits on 6666 k/cs" - however this aircarft did not arrive, believed to be due to an alteration of route ordered in a message received from the Admiralty at 11:47A (1024B/6) which stated "Failing other instructions from F.O.C.N.A.S. keep 50 miles to port of route ordered and approach position "Q" on course 318°".
* Not sure if this is connected, but there is, in fact, a note in Jürgen Rohwer's "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two" for this date, saying that Ariosto, said to be in station 41 of HG 64, observed torpedoes passing by at the time of an attack by the Italian sub Veniero at 02:15, German time, in 34N 11W (time given as 00:15 according to Allied sources).
** To Bideford - from Coreopsis (1039/6/6/41): "Your 1010. At 0130 Stella Carina was seen to open fire and reported by R/T a submarine on the surface. I followed Stella Carina round and at roughly 0140 was in contact bearing 030°, range 1800 yards. Fired two patterns at 0147 and 0201. Firm contact after second attack. At 0425 sighted light on port beam and investigated. Found Portuguese trawler on passage".
To Bideford - from Stella Carina (1345A/6/6/41): "We saw submarine like U 37 class, very fast, we forced it to turn away and attacked to ram. It kept trying to turn back towards convoy but turned away each time we altered to cut if off. We forced it to dive with gunfire and then dropped charges. Unable to regain good contact".
Convoy's course was altered 40° to port when in position 34 16N 15 40W, after having received a message from the Admiralty (1408B/7 - to Victorious, Bideford and Argus) stating "There are two or more Italian U-boats in your vicinity and it is possible one of these may have reported HG 64".
16:00 - Visibility was deteriorating from extreme to 5 miles.
19:15 - Original course was resumed on receipt of Admiralty's 1648B/7: "My 1408B/7. Further bearings give approximate position of these units in 34°N, 12°W".
03:00 - Convoy was back on original route at position "Q", and was approximately 6 hours late.
Heavy NW swell - convoy only averaging 6 1/2 knots.
01:30 - 05:00 - Dense fog. When the fog cleared, the convoy was rather scattered, though soon reformed. The Dutch sub O 21 was not in company until 11:00 when she rejoined and reported having been in touch with the Panamanian Indra at 08:10, proceeding independently in 39 27N ? 41W. The sub had offered to escort her back to the convoy but she preferred to continue alone. Weather and sea improved, and the convoy was again making 7 knots.
22:00 - Stella Carina detached as per previous orders, 40 22N 22 10W.
Patchy fog. During a clear interval in the forenoon, emergency turns were exercised and a few rounds fired from armament.
Dawn - Weather finally cleared.
13:00 - When in 50 30N ?2 06W, HMS Malvernian, returning from patrol, joined for escort to Clyde.
08:00 - Local Escort, HMS Walker (S.O.), Hydrangea and Wallflower joined in 55 40N 20 21W.
12:00 - Air Escort joined.
13:00 - HMS Skate and Lady Somers joined. Patchy fog.
23:45 - The convoy split up in 55 40N 8 37W, with Skate escorting the Oban portion and Walker proceeding to Londonderry to fuel, leaving Bideford in charge.
06:30 - Hydrangea was detached in 55 37N 6 57W, in order to take over the Oban portion from Skate, proceeding to assist SS Norfolk*.
09:30 - Walker rejoined, taking over duties as S.O.
* According to J. Rohwer, this British ship was sunk by U-552 on June 18-1941. See also this external page - this is Uboat.net's account on the attack, which states that HMS Skate did indeed pick up the 70 survivors from Norfolk.
Bideford's Commander adds:
"The conduct and station keeping of the convoy has been very satisfactory throughout, with the exception of the Panamanian S.S. Indra mentioned".
Lieutenant Commander W. J. Moore
Royal Naval Reserve.
Related external link:
Italian Submarines in WW II
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