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CONVOY HN 2 – Norway-U.K.

Left Norway on Nov. 15-1939 and arrived Methil on Nov. 18
Received from Tony Cooper, England, supplemented with information received from Don Kindell (names of ships, from Arnold Hague's database).

A document listing all the Norway-U.K. Convoys states that HN 2 had 11 ships - 8 were British (only 7 are named by A. Hague), 1 Finnish, and 2 Polish. 3 were bound for the west coast.

According to A. Hague the following 10 ships were in this convoy:

Alma Dawson (British)
Carsbreck (British)
Clintonia (British)
Gottfrid (Finnish)
Otterpool (British)
Poznan (Polish)
Sheaf Water (British)
Slask (Polish)
Thurston (British)
Vestra (British) - for info, Norway also had a Vestra.

What follows is a summary of a report by Lieutenant Commander S. Thomas of HMS Impulsive, dated Nov. 19-1939 (see also HMS Isis' report on my page about Arne Kjøde):

HMS Imogen and HMS Icarus sailed from Sullom Voe at 11:40 on Nov. 14-1939 in order to meet up with Convoy ON 2, while HMS Impulsive departed at 13:10 that same day, with orders to rendezvous with HMS Imogen off Hovden Channel at 10:00 on Nov. 15. At 17:30 HMS Impulsive proceeded to search for a flying boat, which had been reported lost, but upon having been informed that the crew had been recovered, she abandoned this search. She subsequently made contact with Imogen and Icarus at 09:15 on Nov. 15.

When Convoy HN 2 sailed from Hovden Channel, Impulsive took station on the port quarter of the rear ship of the port column. It was believed that the course for the night was 246°, but when it was found that a course of 226° kept the ship in station, it was considered that the signal altering the course had not been passed to Impulsive. Position was checked by what was believed to be HMS Cairo's stern light until about 03:30, at which time it disappeared. When visibility improved, no ships were seen to starboard, and when steaming up the port column to investigate, 4 ships were found to be far astern of each other, with the leading ship (Carsbreck) burning a very bright stern light. She reported she had been steering a course of 226°, having lost touch with the rest of the convoy at 19:00 the previous night. She acted in "the most suspicious manner", first altering her course 90° to port, then about 180° to starboard, so that Impulsive had to use full speed astern to avoid a collision. Carsbreck was subsequently ordered to steer 290° at 6 knots to catch up with the convoy, which was believed to have been steering 246° during the night. W/T silence was broken and the position and action taken reported to HMS Cairo, before Impulsive closed the remainder of the stragglers and set them on the rigth course to catch up with the convoy, which was sighted at 09:35, and by dusk all the ships had rejoined. Lieutenant Commander S. Thomas considers that it was chiefly due to Carsbreck burning such a bright stern light that so many ships went astray.

There must have been some problems with this convoy, because a Naval message from the Commander in Chief, Rosyth, also dated Nov. 19, states that the following was received from the Senior Officer of the close escort for HN 2:

The Convoy was late in coming out of the channel
Great difficulty was experienced in getting the ships to follow the convoy leader.
The guide of the convoy placed himself astern of the port column instead of ahead.
The ships did not appear to know their positions in the convoy, and no attempt was made to keep any form of station in reasonably close order.
Additionally, all the ships were very slow in answering signals from International Code.
Also, great difficulty was experienced in getting the convoy to enter Firth of Forth as it seemed as if they expected to be dispersed outside.

The note requests that N.C.S.O. Bergen be informed of the above in order to ensure better conduct of convoys in the future.

Another document, dated Nov. 18 and addressed to Imogen, echoes the same complaints, saying that the ships were extraordinarily slow in forming up and straggled throughout the entire voyage despite every effort by the escorting destroyers. The ships appeared to not know what positions they were supposed to take in the convoy, none of them seemed to be in possession of the Naval Appendix, and only a few understood the signals. All of them were exceedingly slow in answering signals from the International Code or any other signals. Even the megaphone was less effective than usual "owing to the presence of Polish and Finnish ships". Also, "the time wasted in trying to turn the convoy into the Firth of Forth was a source of exasperation to the escorts and of unduly prolonged hazard to the merchant ships". The memo ends "Until improvement can be achieved the ships in convoy are extremely vulnerable to attack, since no adequate screen can be provided to ships spread all over the visible horizon, who obey no known signals".

Summary of Report from Commnding Officer of HMS Imogen to the Commander in Chief, Rosyth - Dated Nov. 18
HMS Imogen and HMS Impulsive slipped from buoys in Guttar Sound at 07:30 on Nov. 13, and joined Commander in Chief, Home Fleet at 08:30, taking station on screen. Two depth charges were dropped as a precaution when a contact was obtained at 09:30 of a "doubtful echo", possibly on tide rip or fish. HMS Icarus joined the screen at 09:45, remaining in company until detached at 20:00, in order to proceed to Sollum Voe with HMS Icarus and Impulsive. Imogen arrived Sollum Voe at 10:00 on Nov. 14. Imogen and Icarus went alongside oiler, while Impulsive anchored up. Just as they left the oiler at 11:40, HMS Colombo sounded air raid alarm and reported aircraft approaching the anchorage from 090°, believed to be hostile. Flying boat, monoplane, was sighted on the indicated bearing. The aircraft altered course directly towards Imogen, which opened fire with the port 5" multiple, as no identification signal had been made. It was subsequently identified as friendly, and fortunately the first burst of fire from Imogen had missed.

Arrived off Hovden entrance at 10:15 on Nov. 15, and eventually made contact with HMS Cairo and Imperial, though with some difficulty in the thick weather. From then on until 18:00 on Nov. 17, Imogen was in company with HMS Cairo, escorting Convoy HN 2. HMS Cairo then parted company; by then the convoy had been formed for the night and course set from 5' off Buchan Ness to follow the swept channels to Methil.

This report also mentions the difficulty in getting the ships to follow the convoy leader, although course had been passed by signal and verbally to each ship, and on arrival off May Island, all efforts to get the convoy to alter course for Methil failed, until after the island had been left to starboard, at which time "ships were individually practically forced by physical obstruction to alter course". HN 2 reached Methil Roads at 08:00 Nov. 18.

For additional info on escorts, see this document, listing escorts for all HN and ON convoys.

Also, the text under Nov. 12 on this external page, as well as text under Nov. 15 on this page, has information on escorts for this convoy.

Back to Convoy Index

To the next HN convoy in my list HN 3
To List of all Norway-U.K. Convoys


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