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CONVOY HG 72 - Report
Departed Gibraltar on Sept. 2-1941 and arrived Liverpool on the 17th (Arnold Hague gives 17 ships in this convoy)

Received from Tony Cooper - His source: Public Records Office, Kew.

A 1 form is not available

Summary of HMS Maplin's Letter of Proceedings
to Commander in Chief, Western Approaches
dated Sept. 16-1941

This covers the period from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16-1941. HMS Maplin (CAM ship) had sailed at 09:30 on Aug. 20 in order to rendezvous with the Gibraltar bound Convoy OG 72, which had left Liverpool on Aug. 19. She parted company with OG 72 on Aug. 23 to join Convoy SL 83 (left Freetown on Aug. 5-1941, arrived Liverpool on the 28th), but returned on receipt of a message from C.-in-C., W.A. (1644A/23). At 23:27 on Aug. 31, she proceeded independently to Gibraltar, arriving at 08:10 on Sept. 1, then left with Convoy HG 72 the following day, Sept. 2. No incidents occurred until 11:45 on Sept. 14, and the narrative starts there:

Sept. 14-1941:
11:45 - Lookouts reported an aircraft flying at sea level, bearing 360°. At the time the visibility was about 7 miles and identification was not possible.
11:55 - The aircraft was again seen, bearing 045°. HMS Vanoc opened fire and reported a Focke Wolfe, at a distance of about 7 miles from the convoy.
11:58 - In 51 08N 11 53W, when at a distance of about 7 miles and on the same bearing, the aircraft was seen in silouhette, and Maplin identified it as a Focke Wolfe.
12:00 - The aircraft turned towards the convoy and appeared to be coming in for attack, so a Hurricane was flown off. The pilot, Sub Lt. C. Walker, R.N.V.R. saw the enemy immediately as he left the ship and went straight to meet it, carrying out a head-on attack until at point blank range. He saw that his ammunition entered the nose of the German aircraft. He then turned and carried out an attack from astern, reporting that his ammunition again hit the enemy, which subsequently entered a cloud, with the Hurricane close on its tail. This part of the encounter was witnessed from Maplin, and her commander was "very disappointed" to see that the Focke Wolfe was able to continue flying. Knowing the difficult conditions in which the Hurricane's pilot had to operate he was ordered back to the ship and was directed to intercept. He was able to do so, but due to cloud, he could not fire anything other than short bursts, after the last of which the enemy jettisoned his bomb load from above cloud before taking off towards his base. This was plotted out by RD/F to 40 miles on a course of 120°. As the bombs hit the water, the Hurricane came into view below cloud, and was again ordered to follow the Focke Wolfe, but as R/T failed at this point, it continued to orbit the convoy, and R/T contact was not regained while it was in the air.
13:54 - The pilot baled out and was picked up by HMS Rochester, then returned to Maplin at 14:17.

When the Hurricane lost sight of the Focke Wolfe, "a nice problem arose, as to how an aircrft whose I.F.F. did not function could be directed on to an enemy aircraft not possessing I.F.F. whilst two friendly aircraft not showing I.F.F. were in the vicinity; none of the aircraft being in sight and all on practically the same bearing. This was done by a process of elimination. Hurricane was ordered to orbit in sight of convoy until the friendly Sunderlands showed themselves below cloud - he was then sent after the remaining echo. This proved very successful. To add to the difficulty in fighter directing the Gyro repeater system was not working. Consequently all bearings were RELATIVE and had to be changed to MAGNETIC by the Fighter Director Officer. This wasted valuable time and great credit is due to the F.D.O. Sub Lt. G. W. Lomas for his speed and accuracy; taking into consideration the occasional unavoidable alterations of course necessitated to rejoin convoy".

The enemy's bomb load appeared to fall at about 4000 yards to starboard of the convoy, but the Hurricane's pilot felt it was further than that. It was estimated that there were 4 large bombs.

The second aircraft was shifted in 31 minutes, exluding rigging of gear and hoisting of derricks. The weather at that time was very favourable.

Sub Lt. Walker was considered extraordinarily unlucky in not shooting down the Focke Wolfe, especially as he carried out such a daring head-on attack on a heavily armed adversary. It was not known whether the enemy had returned to base or not.

Sept. 15:
20:35 - A low level attack on ships in the rear of the convoy was carried out by an enemy aircraft (off South Bishop). It was not possible to fly off the Hurricane on that occasion as it was almost dark. One ship was hit in this attack, and subsequently sank. Since I don't have the names of the ships in this convoy, I cannot positively identify the victim, but it might have been the British Daru, which according to R. W. Jordan's "The World's Merchant Fleets 1939" was indeed bombed by German aircraft in a convoy on this date, but the convoy designation is not given. Checking with "Lloyd's War Losses", Vol I, I find that she was on a voyage from Duala for Liverpool with 5152 tons of produce, including 1500 tons of cocoa, and 3000 tons of palm kernels. She had a crew of 49, including 4 gunenrs, as well as 7 passengers on board - there were no casualties. The information given for other ships sunk on that date does not fit the facts in this narrative.

The rest of the narrative deals with I.F.F. and RD/F problems. As for I.F.F., "The usual trouble was experienced from this source both in the Western Approaches and off Gibraltar. It is pointed out that I.F.F. in the Hurricane did not register". With regard to RD/F, "The installation functioned very satisfactorily until P.M. Monday 15th when serious defects arose which necessitated closing down transmissions", and it was "pointed out that a minimum of 10 days will be required to make good these defects".

Inquiries at Gibraltar showed that 3 Sea Hurricanes existed, but only 1 was servicable, and none of them were fitted with R/T type R 10A. There were no catapult charge replacements nor 3 DF(?) P. Rockets.

Maplin's Commander adds:
"If ships is to continue operating in the S.W. approaches suggest that Hurry Organisation be extended to include Aerodromes in S.W. England.

R/T - Communication with convoy escort was satisfactory. Communication with aircraft broke down owing to fault developing in aircraft set. As far as it went inter-speech between pilot and F.D.O. was very loud and clear.

Attempts were made to obtain air exercise with Hurricane fighter escort on the morning of the 16th September but this was unsuccessful. It is observed that enemy aircraft could carry out an attack on the convoy without fighter escort being aware of the fact. It would appear therefore that it would be of considerable value if quick R/T communication could be established with fighters when RD/F ship could direct them on to enemy".

Signed, Acting Commander, R.N.R., Commanding Officer
(signature is illegible - last name looks like Jaires or similar).

Related external links:
HG (& SL) Convoys - In chronological order.

HMS Maplin

Back to Convoy Index

To the next HG convoy in my list (reports only + ships sunk) HG 73


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