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HMS Vanoc's Report

Transcribed from documents received from Tony Cooper, England - His source: Public Records Office, Kew.

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All times are BST.

HMS Vanoc left Liverpool at 13:00 on Dec. 21-1941, entering Milford Haven at 01:31 the next day to top up with oil fuel, before proceeding at 05:00 in order to meet Convoy HG 76.

Dec. 23:
At 10:50 orders were received to attempt to intercept an enemy tanker, which had been sighted by aircraft at 09:00 that day in 45 45N 11 48W. Vanoc's postion was 47 38N 15 55W, and was approximately 220 miles from the enemy tanker's position. She proceeded at 25 knots, adjusting course to intercept as fresh information was received, anticipating she would overtake the tanker by 02:00 on the 24th.
At 20:00 speed was gradually reduced, as wind and sea were increasing from eastward and she was bumping badly.

Dec. 24:
By 02:00 she was sailing at 14 knots, when the chances of overtaking had been delayed to 08:00, by which time the tanker could easily have been in territorial waters, and the only possible hope of intercepting seemed to be by surprise at dayreak. Therefore, it was considered important not to break W/T silence in order to report the situation, or to ask for a repetition of a message sent by C-in-C. Plymouth at 23:54 on the 23rd, which had been missed and was not received until 12:21 on the 24th, when it was repeated by request ("Admiralty, C.-in-C. W.A., Stork, F.O.C.N.A. from C.-in-C. Plymouth. Unless in contact abandon search at 0400 and rejoin HG 76. 2354/23").
At daybreak, Cape Ortegal was in sight to southward about 20 miles.
At 09:40 contact was made with a Sunderland aircraft, reporting tanker in bay to southward with escort of 1 Junkers 88. 2 small merchant ships were also in sight towards the shore, but neither of them were tankers. At this time, fuel position was becoming critial, and as it was obvious that Vanoc had failed to intercept the tanker, it was decided to abandon the effort.
10:00 - Vanoc proceeded to westward, Cape Ortegal bearing 180, 10 1/2 miles.
10:23 - The Junkers 88, which had been circling them, made a dive bombing attack from ahead at a height of 2000 ft, dropping bombs at about 500 ft., 4 bombs falling about 50-75 yards off the port bow, exploding on impact (Vanoc had put the wheel hard a-starboard). The Junkers was engaged with all possibly guns, and Vanoc's commander is of the opinion that it was hit by Lewis guns as it pulled out of the dive, but it appeared unaffected.
At about 10:30, the Junkers carried out an attack on the Sunderland when about 3 miles off Vanoc's port bow, and exchange of shots was heard, before the Junkers appeared to have been driven off.
At 10:40 the Sunderland reported it was out of fuel and parted company, while the Junkers continued to circle and "Homing" signals were heard being made.
At 11:20 bombs were seen to fall in the sea about 3 miles off the port beam, thought to have been jettisoned in order to conserve fuel. "R.D.F. (Type 286M) worked well and gave ample warning of approach of Aircraft, bearings and distances being accurate".
12:50 - Received C.-in-C. Plymouth's "Proceed to Gibraltar at best speed" (1224/24), complying at 14 knots.
16:00 - W/T Office reported that they had discovered that the group for "Gibraltar" in Geographical table of Naval Code differed from the group for "Plymouth" by one adjacent figure only. As recoded this meant the difference between a "4" and a "5". It was also reported that the operator making the signal above (1224/24), had been slurring his "4's". Therefore, Vanoc's own message (1620/24) "Am proceeding Gibraltar, E.T.A. 1200/26", was made and coded without the use of the geographical table.

Dec. 26:
14:40 - HMS Vanoc arrived Gibraltar, with 5 tons of oil fuel remaining.

Dec. 30:
18:00 - Sailed Gibraltar with HMS Badsworth escorting Polish Batory.

Jan. 3-1942:
10:30 - 1 Sunderland joined.
16:45 - Made Galley Head in thick fog, which lifted later.
17:30 - Batory streamed P.V.'s.
23:30 - Parted company at Eastern end of Q.Z.F. 18 and proceeded to Milford Haven.

Jan. 4:
02:42 - Arrived Milford Haven.
10:45 - Proceeded to Scarweather to meet SS Pardo.
14:30 - Arrived Scarweather Light Vessel.
15:40 - SS Pardo arrived Scarweather Light Vessel and proceeded in company to Clyde.

Jan. 5:
14:45 - Arrived Clyde - parted company and returned to Liverpool, arriving at 12:00, Jan. 6.

Signature looks like A? Churchill.

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