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HN & ON Convoys Attacked by Aircraft
and other enemy encounters
Norway to U.K. / U.K. to Norway

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

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The first air attack took place on March 8-1940 near the Fair Island area, and after this, frequent attacks took place in this area, where the HN and ON convoys passed each other, and where the Methil and Kirkwall portions of ON convoys met and HN convoys split into east and west coast portions. Also, small groups of ships were detached from ON convoys for Orkney ports, while other groups left these ports to join east coast portions of HN convoys. This meant that about every 4th day there could be up to 80 ships in 2-6 groups under escort within a radius of 40 miles. German aircraft would usually locate the convoys by reconnaissance around mid day, then attack in the afternoon or at dusk.

Convoys attacked by aircraft:
The 10 ships joining Convoy ON 18 from Kirkwall were attacked by 3 Heinkels at 13:15 on March 8-1940. No damage was done by the 2 bombs dropped. Fighter aircraft were sent to assist the escort.

A group joining HN 20 from Kirkwall, as well as both sections of ON 21 were attacked separately at dusk on March 20-1940 as follows:
6 Heinkels attacked the 15 ships on their way eastwards from Kirkwall to join ON 21. 3 of the Heinkels were driven off by 2 Skuas, which were with this section of the convoy.
At 19:15 that evening, 15-20 bombs were dropped, damaging 3 ships, which put in to Kirkwall. One of them, the Norwegian Svinta had to be towed by the tug St. Mellons - follow the link to Svinta for details.
2 Heinkels attacked the northbound Methil section of ON 21, with the result that an incendiary bomb caused a small fire in one of the ships.
A British ship, which was en route from Kirkwall with 2 others to join HN 20 for Methil, received minor damages and returned to Kirkwall. The 7 ships from HN 20 that were destined for Cape Wrath were shadowed but not bombed.
In addition to the Skuas, Gladiators, Blenheims and Hudsons were also sent out to protect these various groups of ships.

One of the ships mentioned above may have been the British tanker Daghestan? This ship is listed in Jürgen Rohwer's "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two" as damaged by a bomb hit on March 20-1940, later sunk by U-57 on March 25, 9 n. miles E Copinsay, Orkneys. ( has a page about the loss of this ship - external link).

Also, there's a note in this report saying that minor damages were suffered from air attacks whilst in convoy by the Norwegian Tora Elise and Erling Lindøe, as well as the Swedish Utklippan and the British Northern Coast. No date or convoy is given for these attacks, but according to my own text for Tora Elise and Erling Lindøe, these ships were both attacked on March 20-1940. Tora Elise is said to have been attacked by a group of Heinkel aircraft and damaged when en route to England, but she was, in fact, in Convoy ON 21 from the U.K. to Norway. Erling Lindøe is said to have been on a voyage from Casablanca to Lysaker, Norway, when attacked on the same date.

Convoy HN 22 was attacked just after it had split off Sumburgh Head. The document about convoys attacked by aircraft gives the date as March 29, while the escorting Kashmir's report (available on my page about HN 22) gives the date as March 28. 2 Heinkels attacked the eastern portion between 19:20 and 19:40 that day, and again at 20:30, while the western portion was attacked by 1 aircraft at 20:42. Attacks were driven off by HMS Cairo (cruiser escort for this convoy) and 3 Hudsons were sent in support.
When 20 miles north of Kinnaird Head, Convoy ON 23 was attacked at 19:56 (again, date is given as March 29 in the document used for the info on this page). None of these attacks caused any damage.

In the afternoon of Apr 2-1940, 3 convoys were attacked almost simultaneously as follows:
1 aircraft bombed the eastern portion of HN 23A at 14:57, 18 miles north of Kinnairds Head. Fighters were sent in support.
Also, 2 aircraft attacked ON 24 southeast of Fair Island, dropping 4 bombs.
1 aircraft attacked HN 23B at 15:15, 6 bombs dropped - no damage caused.

ON 24 was attacked again between 15:55 and 17:25 the following day, Apr. 3, when 60 miles west of Stavfjord, Norway. 6 Heinkels were in on the attack, breaking formation and carrying out singly a series of attacks from 10 000'. No damage done on ships, but 1 of the German aircraft was shot down by a Sunderland.

The merchant ships in these convoys attacked on Apr. 2 and Apr. 3 did not take part in the defence, only the British warships did - no ships were hit.

On Apr. 10-1940, 17 ships from ON 25, which had returned to Kirkwall and were continuing to Methil, were shadowed during the afternoon in Moray Firth. An attack developed at 17:32 that day; 1 German aircraft was shot down by fighters that had been sent out. No ships damaged. A report is available on my page about ON 25.

HN 25 was shadowed east of the Orkneys, Apr. 11. Fighters were sent in support, but no attack developed.

Other enemy encounters:
A document regarding attacks on HN and ON convoys states that HMS Daring, which had joined the escort for HN 12 for the Orkneys-Methil part of the voyage was torpedoed and sunk to the east of Duncansby Head during the night of Febr. 17/18-1940. Jürgen Rohwer ("Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two") lists the culprit as U-23 (Kretschmer). has a page about this sinking (external link).

Apart from this, the number of true U-boat contacts close enough to the convoys to merit attack was only 7 throughout the 5 months under review. 2 of these are claimed to be successful. Included in this assessment is Somali's attack on a U-boat on Oct. 31-1939, however, this U-boat was not "hunted to destruction" as claimed. My text for the first Narvik to Mehil convoy has more on this. The document adds that on Febr. 25-1940, U-63 was destroyed and prisoners taken by the escort with HN 14, HMS Inglefield. Both of these attacks were in the Moray Firth. (This external link, Uboat. net's page about U-63 confirms this sinking). The incident is also mentioned in HMS Escapade's report for HN 14.

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